Niaga Ton!

In my continuing quest to vent my irritation at the mistakes of everyone in the world but me, I’ve written here about strange messages from machines (mojay and NO2), and, more recently, about things that are printed backwards by people who should know better. Sitting here in my glass house, it’s my duty to throw more stones, this time at yet another Swiss watch company.

The culprit today is Torgoen watches, though given their propensity to reverse things, they may actually be called Neogrot, which is much more fun to say. They first caught my eye in this month’s issue of the Smithsonian’s always enjoyable Air & Space Magazine. They have a full page ad, scanned and shared here, that shows one of their watches in the foreground with a grainy, monochrome, slightly fish-eyed airplane  behind it. I’m about 95% certain that this is a CP-121 Tracker on display outside somewhere (note the anti-bird mesh riveted over the engine … maybe the museum at Trenton or Comox?) though the distortion makes ID a little tricky. I am about 104% certain, however, that the image is … wait for it … backwards: note the words "RESCUE" and "DANGER" in the detail blowup, not to mention the pitch of the prop.

To make matters slightly worse, when I went to their website to snarkily try to find some text about how proud they are of their attention to detail, I found no less than three other pictures that were also reversed. I don’t make watches, nor do I make advertising, but, in the words of laymen everywhere … come on, why not just do it right?

Oh well, at least Torgoen watches cost about 98.5% less than their IWC counterparts, about which I ranted previously.

And now back to all the things I was supposed to be doing.

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Yeah, What He Said

I’m not normally a big fan of writing something here just to tell you to go look over there, but in this case, I’m happy to make an exception. My friend and esteemed once-and-future* colleague Mike Singer has written two great pieces that deserve all the attention they can get. In the aftermath of the closure of our studio at Microsoft and the fact that our jobs "went kablooee", as he so eloquently put it, Mike offers some fantastic perspective.

First, he reminds us what every pilot needs to remember when faced with a crisis: Fly the Airplane. When things go bad, you have to prioritize, and his insights are a wonderful and I daresay inspirational refresher course.

In his follow-up, It’s a game, it’s a simulation, it’s a … platform!, he offers the best and most concise encapsulation of what this whole Flight Simulator thing has been about for the past 27+ years that I’ve come across.

With both of these articles, it’s as if Mike took the words right out of my mouth. Then, after taking them out of my mouth, it’s as if he dried them off, looked them over, replaced them with good ones in a different order and then published them.

Do give them a read if you haven’t seen them already.

*-Mike and I have too much fun scheming about things for this to be the end of our professional collaboration!

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Welcome to Surreal, Population: Me

Earlier this morning (and, by "earlier", I mean "much earlier than I would have liked") I had trouble sleeping. (It seems there’s a lot of that going around lately.) Because of the way my mind works (and, by "works" I mean … well, I don’t really know what I mean) trying to get (back) to sleep is usually an uphill battle between a body that wants to crash and a brain that wants to go sprinting off in every direction at once like a dog chasing a swarm of bees. This isn’t always a bad thing, as I get a lot of ideas this way.  Unfortunately, this is also when I tend to do my best worrying, with visions of unemployment and dead franchises dancing in my head.

So, I have a number of revolving strategies that, if they don’t actually keep my mind in check, at least restrain it from getting too wildly unchecked. These usually involve math problems of some kind, my current favorite being stepping through the Fibonacci sequence in my head, which works fairly well: there seems to be about a one in three chance that I’ll start dozing by 4181 or so. This morning, though, it was more like 0,1,1,2,3, how am I going to pay the mortgage in March, 5,8, what was the number of that truck driving school, 13, 21, do places actually buy blood, 21, no, wait I did that one, blast, 0,1,1, etc.

Clearly, it was time for plan B: external distraction. Television wasn’t an option – my eyes were too tired, and there’s only so many times I can stand hearing people say "Sham-wow!" before I run the risk of believing it. So I grabbed my AT&T Fuze / HTC Touch Pro Windows Mobile Phone (I hear WinMo is hiring!), fired up the RSS reader and decided to listen to a podcast – in this case, it was today’s Aero-Cast special feature from Aero-News

And what I heard was … me.

In the wake of all of the things that have been euphemistically going on lately, they decided to air an interview that my colleagues Brett Schnepf and Mike Singer and I did with ANN back in ‘Ought Six. So, instead of an interesting story that would distract the front of my mind (while the back of it snuck up from behind, threw a bag over its head, and smacked it until they both dozed off), I listened to myself. (And the other guys, of course, but that wasn’t nearly as weird …)

It is perhaps needless to say that I didn’t go back to sleep,  but maybe you will. Click the banner image just south of here if you’d like to give it a listen, and enjoy the sounds of three of us waxing optimistic back in what we had no idea were the good old days:

Posted in Flight Sim Centric | 3 Comments

All Things Must Pass …


Or, if "Star Trek" is more your cuppa … "All Good Things …"


Posted in Flight Sim Centric | 19 Comments

It’s a Hoax, a Fake, a Flim-Flam, a Humbug, a Canard, even!

So there’s an email floating around the Intertubes that purports to show a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress being transported on an aircraft carrier. The image is accompanied by the following text:

While this may look like a gag shot, it is actually a "transport of a transport" necessity. The B-52 was in Beirut, Lebanon undergoing routine fuel tank cleaning. Workmen accidentally damaged the bladder system and had to install the bladders from smaller C-130s temporarily. The plane was flown to nearby McCollough air base where it was lifted upon a barge bound for Tyre on the Mediterranean. Once there it was off-loaded onto the carrier deck for transport to Crete where the appropriate tank bladders were installed. It was then flown back to Beirut. Military cooperation in action.

Even before seeing the picture, I was skeptical – and not just because it came from the Internet (over and over and over.) There’s a lot wrong in just the text – the US has no military bases in Lebanon (in Beirut or Tyre), there is no McCollough air base as far as I can tell, I highly doubt that anyone could or would install C-130 fuel tank bladders in a B-52, etc.

An inspection of the picture yields even more evidence: the shadows are incorrect – the B-52 is lit from the upper right, while the rest of the scene is lit from a point closer to center or lower right. Then there’s the height problem – there’s no way that the (mysteriously unshadowed) F-14 would fit under the right wingtip of the B-52, nor would the F-18 fit under the nose like that, not to mention the EA-6B and the S-3 just outboard of the #4 engine. This led to the single biggest giveaway which was one of scale: according to some organization that refers to itself as the United States Navy, the width of CVN-68, the USS Nimitz, is 252 feet. As anyone (and by anyone I mean my brother Chris, who is a bubbling cauldron of B-52 trivia, among other things) will tell you, the wingspan of a B-52H is 185 feet, which means that, as pictured, the airplane is roughly 36% too big (or the ship is the same percentage too small.)

Oh, and finding the original, undoctored photo didn’t hurt either.

Posted in Egocentric | 7 Comments

The Devil is in the (Inattention to) Details

Last year, I was beset (if something happens twice, I can say it beset me, right?) by strange messages from vending machines – a gas pump that asked me to remove my NO2 and a stamp machine that prompted me to insert more mojay. This year, the universe is expressing its contempt for my stability by (among other things) occasionally showing me things that are backwards.

Thank You For Flying Arganap
First, there was the Antonov AN-2 biplane in the film Indiana Jones and They Should Have Quit While They Were Ahead. The magnificent Russian biplane was decked out in Pan American-Grace Airways colors and was shown in a traveling shot, superimposed over a map. For some reason, I was completely willing to forgive the fact that Panagra never flew AN-2s, even though the idea is every bit as preposterous as pretty much everything that happened before and after that scene in the film. What I couldn’t forgive, however, is that the scene was printed backwards. I can almost understand a lazy editor thinking that the "PAA" logo looked fine as "AAP", or even that Arganap was a real-sounding name for an airline, though I have more trouble with the use of the word "Ecarg" in the "PAA Grace" logo. But certainly the reversed letters would have jumped out at … anyone?

As an aside, here’s a bit of trivia from the same scene that is coincidentally flossy, in a spine-tingling sort of way: The registration number used on the AN-2 in the film is N48550. In real life, that number belongs to a 1939 Grumman Goose, currently owned by Larry Teufel of Hillsboro, Oregon. Larry’s Goose was the one that we used for the majority of our photo shoots, sound recordings, and flying research for Flight Simulator X. His airplane’s beautiful blue and gold paint scheme, complete with prominent "N48550" on the fuselage and in the cockpit, is the default livery. Click here for a screenshot, and here for an article about this airplane in particular.

Why I Won’t Buy a $14,000 Watch
The next incident happened in Orlando, Florida (watch this space for more on that trip shortly.) I was in a shopping mall, looking for a watch, and I happened on a display case featuring a number of watches by the plainly-named International Watch Company (IWC) of Schaffhausen, Switzerland. I remembered IWC from their peculiar nine minute commercial starring John Malkovich as a pretentious bellhop, and featuring some nice flying scenes with two (real) Spitfires and an awkwardly CG’d Ju-52. You can watch the film here, and even (speaking of pretentious) a "making of" featurette here.  IWC used the film to launch their collection of pilot’s watches and they continue to use an image of a Spitfire in their advertising and store displays.

Did I say "image of a Spitfire?" Sorry – I meant "backwards image of a Spitfire!"

This is a company whose "undisputed specialty" lies in crafting "unmistakeable (sic) originals of chronometry", a company who promises watches that take you "…from the No-Longer to the Not-Yet," and enable you to "…experience the Right-Now in the form of a mechanical work of art" without a hint of irony … prints their advertising materials backwards. Click the image for a closer look at the not-great camera-phone picture I snapped.

Swiss watchmakers are stereotypically synonymous with precision, quality, and detail (and, in my mind, most of them look like Charlie Watts, but that’s neither here nor there.) If they can’t be counted on to get things just right, especially when they’re trying to sell me a watch that costs more than I make in … a while, who can?

Et Tu, Disney?
Apparently not the Imagineers behind the Mission: SPACE ride at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center. (Note: Yes, I know they changed the name and call it "Epcot" now, but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s still an acronym, and will always be the Experimental Prototype Community Of To-MORROW!) I’m sure most of you (both of you?) are gasping in disbelief as you read this, but it’s true: Disney made an ekatsim, to coin a term.

In the queue for the ride, there are a number of stage-setting props and displays that, admittedly, do a pretty good job  of melding real history with the fictitious future (is that redundant?) timeline of the ride itself – pictures of astronauts from the early ’60’s through 2038, a real lunar rover on loan from the Smithsonian, etc. One of the display cases shows plausibly mocked up spacesuits with the "Mission: SPACE" emblem patch on the front. Just below the patch on the suits are switch panels for "environmental controls" and the text is, as you’ve no doubt surmised, backwards. (Another grainy camera-phone pic to the right.)

Granted, this didn’t ruin the ride for me (the fact that I was *not* selected as Pilot in my four-person crew did that), but still … Disney should know better. In fact, Leonard Mosley’s thoroughly discredited biography Disney’s World states that Disney’s apocryphal interest in cryonics was based on his desire to be revived " …in time to rectify the mistakes his successors would almost certainly start making at EPCOT the moment he was dead."

Should Walt be thawed and return to clean things up, this should be tops on his list … right after shutting down every incarnation of the horrific "It’s a Small World" attraction, but that’s neither here nor there.

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G L O R-I-A!

The latest post from Fearless Widget, a video homage to an airplane I know well – the lovely Miss Gloria!

Posted in Fly-y | 1 Comment

On Yellow Wings


Last summer, I had the good fortune to meet Rob Kostecka while I was visiting the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, ON. Rob noticed my Tiger Moth lapel pin (yes, I’m aware that I have a problem) and introduced himself. It turns out the Rob flies Moths as well – in his case for Vintage Wings of Canada out of Gatineau, QC. VWOC’s collection also includes a Harvard, a P-51, a Spitfire, a Fairey Swordfish, and a de Havilland Fox Moth, and they fly the lot, which is, of course, fantastic. Anyway, Rob has written a wonderful piece for the VWOC web site called "On Yellow Wings", about his summer as a Moth pilot. It’s a great read, and, like all of the rest of the site, it’s beautifully photographed and presented. Click the image and have a look.

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First Moth Passengers – A Happy Thanksgiving, Indeed!


From L-R: Me, my wife, Muffy, and my dad, Hal. (Photo by Al Gay.)


Earlier this month, my wife Muffy and my dad (who also goes by "Hal" but I’m not "Hal Jr." – it’s complicated) and I spent the weekend in Guelph, Ontario, my home-away-from-home-with-better-airplanes. Among other things, we celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving with an outdoor feast, the sort of dinner that starts before noon, and gets bigger and bigger as more people showed up and / or flew in. In addition to Thanksgiving, I was celebrating having flown my first Moth passengers – my wife and my dad. They’d both flown with me a number of times before over the years, but giving them rides in a Moth let finally and fully claim the title of "barnstormer."

In addition to the usual suspects in Guelph, my friend Al Gay of Flight Ontario came out for a visit, and was kind enough to take the picture that kicks off this piece.

There were, as always, lots of other adventures on that trip – starting with AVIS having no record, whatsoever, of me having reserved a rental car (they even let me use their computers to try to prove them wrong) and ending with a sunset that was maddeningly beautiful, almost offensive in its brilliance. Here are some pictures to tell a bit more of the tale (photos by Muffy and Hal Bryan):

An AVIS Preferred Customer at work. Giving my dad the 50-cent (CDN) tour. A Fleet Finch and Woody the Tiger Moth holding short. Miss Gloria overflying the circuit.
Me on takeoff. Me slipping in on very short final, while dad snaps pictures. Tiger Boy Steve Gray beating up the field in the 5/8 scale Hurricane. Aeronca-tack! Rotten and Tiny on a low and over.
Rotten – Over the moon. On final with dad.
The aerodrome at dusk. The moon rises over the Yale. Debriefing at Tim Hortons: (L-R: Dad, Glenn, Bob, Don, Michelle.) Snapped out the car window, this picture perfectly fails to do the scene justice.
Posted in Fly-y | 3 Comments

Things You Don’t See Everyday

First of all, here’s a clip of a 747 doing a "low and over" in Portugal. Not quite "acrobatic" as the original YouTube post suggests (though the climbing turn at the end might break through 60 degrees of bank …), but certainly right down in the weeds, as they say:


Next up is an airplane, a Tiger Moth, as it happens, that ended up stuck in some trees after an engine failure on takeoff. The pilot (according to the story he’s one year older than the airplane) looks to have done everything right – landing straight ahead, even though "straight ahead" was full of trees. It worked – the pilot and the passenger came through unscathed, and the airplane suffered only minor injuries. Click the pic for the whole story, including the local news broadcast.

Posted in Fly-y | 3 Comments