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!

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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.

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From Out of the Clear Blue of the Western Internet …

Comes Sky King!

Sky King was a television series that ran in the US in the 50’s (see the Wikipedia link above for the convoluted history of networks and run times) that was based on a radio series by the same name. It featured the adventures of the titular character, a rancher and pilot, and his niece Penny, a pretty and blonde Robin to Sky’s Batman. The plots usually involved some wayward criminals passing through the area, the local sheriff needing help, and Sky flying his airplane (first a Cessna T-50, then a Cessna 310) to the rescue, landing on a dirt road in the desert and punching the bad guys in the head.

I have a soft spot for the show since the first airplane I ever flew was a Cessna T-50, and, as my friend Glenn hates me pointing out, at Oshkosh in 1989, I not only got to fly one of the T-50’s used in the series, I waved an original screen-used Sky King cowboy hat out the window when we taxied by the crowd.

The whole series is now available on DVD, or, thanks to the good people at American Flyers, you can watch most of the episodes online here – click the logo above to watch the first episode right now.

My thanks go to my friend Bruce of BruceAir for sending the link, and for undoubtedly giggling quietly to himself about my use of the word "titular."

If you’re inspired by the flying in the show and want to take a virtual T-50 around the patch, Alphasim’s version is now freeware and can be had at Simviation. (Note: the red one is our family airplane (though ours has never been on floats to my knowledge.))

In the meantime, why not reach for Nabisco?!? After all, the bright red seal on the package end means mighty good cookin’ inside, my friend … Or at least have a look at the NabiscoWorld web site, which is almost certainly the only place on the whole Interweb where you can download a recipe for Crunchy Stuffed Zucchini Boats whilst playing a spirited round of Nut Vendor.

Posted in Egocentric | 3 Comments