One Day in December – Tom and Wally meet Jim and Frank

Whenever I get a quiet moment I go and look at Bryan Swopes’ excellent This Day in Aviation,  and frequently find something I would like to re-broadcast. Sometimes I just share the entry on my Facebook page,  and sometimes I want to expand or amplify something he’s written usually because I find something interesting that I’ve looked up in addition to the original article.   This is one of those occasions.

 Gemini 7 spacecraft photographed from Gemini 6

This photograph of the Gemini 7 spacecraft was taken from Gemini 6 during rendezvous and station keeping maneuvers at an altitude of approximately 160 miles above the Earth. Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 launched on December 15, 1965 and December 4, 1965, respectively. Walter M. Schirra, Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford on Gemini 6 and Frank Borman and James A. Lovell on Gemini 7 practiced rendezvous and station keeping together for one day in orbit. (NASA – Public Domain)

December 4th 1965  was the launch date of Gemini VII  with Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, both on their first space flights.  Gemini VII was a long-duration mission, and although they were to be target,  they would be part of the first rendezvous in space with another manned spacecraft, in this case Gemini VI, which by a series of mischances would be launched later than its sequential successor.

I wanted to know who was in Gemini VI,  since Bryan Swopes recorded the date simply as the launch of Gemini VII.   The information was forthcoming from Wikipedia.  The crew of Gemini VI was Wally Schirra, on his second space flight,  and Tom Stafford, on his first.

Gemini VI was scheduled for launch on October 26th 1965 and was supposed to rendezvous and dock with an Atlas-Agena rocket which was launched shortly after the astronauts boarded their craft.   Apparently something went horribly wrong in staging, and the Agena exploded on separation from the Atlas booster.  Gemini VI was canceled.

The Gemini VI-A mission  was conceived after Gemini VII was launched – Stafford and Schirra in VI would rendezvous with Bormann and Lovell in Gemini VII.   The next putative launch of VI was scheduled for December 12, 1965 and failed when the main engines shut down prematurely.   Standard procedure should have been for the Astronauts to eject, but Schirra declined to do so, as he didn’t feel the booster was vibrating or showing signs it was liable to explode.  He also had considerable doubts about ejecting through the hatch of the Gemini capsule which had also been on 100% oxygen for some considerable time.  “”We would have been two Roman candles going out, because we were 15 or 16 psi, pure oxygen.”

Eventually Gemini VI launched on December 15, 1965. The rendezvous was made on that day. The Gemini spacecraft got as close as 1 foot. They were not equipped to dock, but clearly would have been able to do so had it been feasible.

Gemini VI re-entered and splashed down on December 16th, 1965.  Gemini VII returned on December 18th, 1965. According to Borman the last couple of days of the mission were “bad.” The novelty had worn off after 14 days in orbit in a Gemini capsule.

If you’re in my part of the world, you might be interested to know that the  Gemini VI capsule is  currently on display at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.  Gemini VII is  at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Thomas P. Stafford (left), pilot, and Walter M. Schirra Jr. Gemini 6

Astronauts Thomas P. Stafford (left), pilot, and Walter M. Schirra Jr., command pilot, pose during a suiting up exercise in preparation for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Gemini VI two-day mission. Image ID: S65-56188

James A. Lovell, Jr (left) and Frank F. Borman - Gemini VII

James A. Lovell, Jr (left) and Frank F. Borman, II, Prime Crew of Gemini VII (NASA – Public Domain)

 

Stars In The East

I was perusing a couple of news articles earlier in the week relating to the Word Trade Organization’s latest intervention in the Boeing / Airbus spat.

A sentence or two hiding at the very bottom of an article by Simon Jack in the BBC News website caught my eye.  The United States and Europe, he says, are not the only countries who are giving questionable subsidies to aircraft manufacturers.  Bombardier, he says,  receives governmental subsidies from the Canadian government. An even bigger threat to the A+B (Airbus and Boeing) duopoly is making itself known, not necessarily for the right reasons, in the east.  It’s a company I’d never heard of previously, but I’m not terribly familiar with the highly competitive world of commercial civil aviation.

Jack thinks the least regarded threat to A+B comes from COMAC, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd.  Established in 2008, COMAC is currently engaged in the production of a couple of aircraft, which are intended for China’s rapidly expanding internal airline market.

COMAC ARJ21

COMAC ARJ21 Xiangfeng “Flying Phoenix”
By Peng Chen (Flickr: China ARJ-21)
CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The first jet to be marketed is the ARJ21, originally developed by Aviation Industry Corporation of China, and which looks very much like a scaled down (some sites less charitably say “warmed over”) DC-9 / MD-90. This may be partly due to the fact that the factories producing the ARJ21 are the same factories that participated in the abortive attempt to build the MD-90 in China, which ceased after two examples (of the 40 proposed) were completed in 2000.  COMAC’s claims for the ARJ21 as a wholly indigenous product are further undermined by its wing, which is a product of the Antonov Design Bureau in the Ukraine, and the engines and avionics, which are are predominantly American.

The ARJ21 was a key project in the 10th Five-Year Plan of China which began March 2002. The fact that by December 2016 only six aircraft have been produced, and only two of these are in airline service in China, is perhaps indicative of the struggle that the project has encountered. COMAC has been trying for several years to gain American FAA type approval for the ARJ21, a necessary step for its products to operate globally, and that this has not been forthcoming.

COMAC’s other product, The 168-seat C919, is intended to be a direct competitor with A320 and venerable Boeing 737 families.  Although looking good at its roll-out  (see the YouTube video below) with a projected first flight in 2017, the development path may conceivably be as rocky as the ARJ21.

It’s certainly very tempting to think COMAC is waiting in the wings for some kind of coup, but one also needs to consider that the competition is in some cases very well established already. Embraer and Bombardier, while admittedly competing for third place behind A+B. demonstrate that COMAC has a longer march to market than our amorphous fear of Chinese business may suggest, however justified we may feel considering their near stranglehold on multiple sinews of world manufacturing.

A quick look through Wikipedia will produce the following figures of aircraft which its editors (reasonably) feel to be comparable with the ARJ-21 and C919.

Boeing 737 family (9,247 units produced) – 737 MAX forthcoming
Airbus A320 family (7,297 units produced) – A320neo forthcoming
Embraer E-Jets (1158 units produced)
Bombardier CRJ700 series (788 units produced)
Bombardier CSeries (10 units produced)
Sukhoi Superjet 100 (114 units produced)
Antonov An-148 (39 units produced)
Mitsubishi Regional Jet (4 units produced)
Irkut MC-21 (1 units produced)

Of particular interest are the recognizably Russian types produced under the umbrella of UAC, the United Aircraft Corporation.

Sukhoi Superjet 100

Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B EI-FWA of Irish regional airline CityJet crew training at Prestwick Airport, UK, June 2016. The Sukhois are intended to replace the airline’s Avro RJ85s
By Mark Harkin (EI-FWA Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B) CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Vladimir Putin created UAC in 2006 by merging governmental holdings of Ilyushin, Irkut, Sukhoi, Tupolev, and Yakovlev into a new company in which the Russian government holds a majority stake. UAC effectively consolidates Russian private and state-owned companies engaged in the production of commercial and military aircraft. While some western journalists may perceive a commercial threat from COMAC, it would seem to be that a star rising slightly nearer in the east might also bear scrutiny.

Articles mentioned in the text are listed below.

Simon Jack at http://www.bbc.com/news/business-38131611 Exclusive: WTO rules Boeing’s state subsidies illegal (28 November 2016). The article discussed the subsidies paid by the State of Washington to encourage Boeing to build the wings of the 777x aircraft there.

A later article (in the same day) http://www.bbc.com/news/business-38131617 Boeing tax break ruled unlawful by WTO said that the United States government has been given 90 days to drop the special tax exemption or subsidy.

The New York Times mentioned http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/28/business/international/world-trade-organization-rules-against-boeing-tax-break-for-new-jet.html? that this was the latest volley in a spat between Airbus and Boeing dating back 12 years in which each side has accused the other of raking in millions of dollars in special governmental aid.

Forbes’ article http://www.forbes.com/sites/scotthamilton5/2016/11/28/wto-boeing-ruling-gives-airbus-good-pr-but-its-meaningless/#1a1e8c0c4a3c was interesting in that it pointed out that
the WTO has no enforcement powers, the United States was likely to appeal the ruling and that this particular case will be echoing round the courts for at least two more years.

Support Your Local Fly-In

Today (November 5th) at the Atkinson Municipal Airport in Pittsburg, I attended a Veterans’ Appreciation Warbird Fly-in. It was nice for several reasons. I didn’t have far to go – the airport is abut two miles from where I live. I’ve never seen so many people at the airport and never seen such an interesting gathering of types. It was a very pleasant morning and my thanks to all the folks who made such an effort to put it all together. It would also be appropriate to remember all the veterans who were there, and those who weren’t.

All the photographs in this blog entry are my own work and  licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Nanchang CJ-6

A couple of Nanchang CJ-6 having fun during the morning. (Own photo)

 

T6 Arrival

One of the three T-6s in attendance. This one is interesting having “modern” RAF roundels and the crest of No 1 FTS (the oldest military pilot training school in the world – celebrated its centenary in 2009) on its rudder. It wears an all black scheme reminiscent of the Tucanos currently flown by 1FTS at RAF Linton-On-Ouse, Yorkshire.

 

Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and Cessna 0-1 "Bird Dog"

Grumman FM-2 Wildcat N551TC and Cessna 0-1/L-19A ‘Bird Dog’ 51-12167 N5242G – Veterans of different wars, together at the Atkinson Municipal Airport, Pittsburg, KS.

 

T-33 arrives

If this really is Lockheed T-33A-5-LO 56-3689 then it has a fairly interesting story.   Joe Baugher says: “3689 assigned to NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), Ellington Field, TX. Registered as NASA 939. Assigned to NASA Langley Research Center, Langley Field, VA Sep 28, 1970 to Mar 30, 1971. Registered as NASA 513. Assigned to 155th TRG, Nebraska ANG, Lincoln, NE. Registered to Heritage Air LLC and flying again, using the old NASA registration number of N939NA.”

 

FM-2 Wildcat N551TC

FM-2 Wildcat Bu.47160 N551TC. This example has had quite a life postwar. According to the Warbird Registry it was used as an instructional airframe by a trade school in Montana between 1950 and 1956, at which time it was sold and converted to be a crop sprayer. It seems to have been rescued and restored again in the early 1970s.

 

Slepcev Storch

Slepcev Storch N78018 “The Slepcev Storch (English: Stork) is a Serbian type-certified, kit and ultralight STOL aircraft, designed by Yugoslavian-Australian Nestor Slepcev and currently produced by Storch Aircraft Serbia in several different versions. The ultralight version is a 3/4 scale replica of the Second World War Fieseler Fi 156 and is supplied as a kit for amateur construction or as a complete ready-to-fly-aircraft. The aircraft was first flown in 1994. It was originally manufactured by Slepcev’s company, Slepcev Aircraft Industry of Beechwood, New South Wales, Australia. The company was later renamed Storch Aviation Australia. The aircraft was type-certified in 1999 to the Joint Airworthiness Requirements – Very Light Aircraft (JAR-VLA) standard. Production then moved to Serbia where a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale microlight category model was developed.” (Wikipedia)

One Hit Wonder

There are certain anniversaries that I would like to cover, and I haven’t looked at This day in Aviation yet. On 2nd November 1947 the world witnessed the first and only flight of the Hughes H-4 “Hercules” NX37602 better known as the “Spruce Goose” even though it was largely made of birch. Intended to carry 750 troops across the Atlantic, it was revolutionary in its construction, being of birch and resin composite, and aroused much controversy and speculation as the project lagged.

Hughes H-4 Spruce Goose

First and only flight of the Hughes H-4 “Hercules” (aka Spruce Goose”)
at Long Beach, California on 2 November, 1947

It’s probably a measure of Hughes’ capricious nature that having proved the concept, the H-4 was shelved after its first and only flight. A Hughes crew maintained the aircraft in flying condition in a climate-controlled hangar, but this crew was reduced in size over the years and disbanded entirely after Howard Hughes’ death in 1976.

The Aero Club of Southern California put the aircraft on display in 1980 in a large dome adjacent to the RMS Queen Mary. The Walt Disney Company acquired both attractions and some years later told the aero club it no longer wished to display the Hercules. The aircraft was transported by barge, train, and truck to its current home in McMinnville, Oregon at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, where it arrived on February 27, 1993.

Hughes H-4 Hercules flying boat, the

Hughes H-4 Hercules flying boat, the “Spruce Goose” at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, Oregon
By Drew Wallner (Own work) CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Some nice footage exists of the H-4 on YouTube, including this documentary excerpt.

Farewell to Bobby

Just occasionally,  my casual browsing dredges up something unexpected, interesting, and aviation-related.

A couple of days ago, on Saturday (October 29th) it seems that Lufthansa flew their last commercial flights using the Boeing 737.  The 737 is known as ‘Bobby’ or ‘Bobby Boeing’ by Lufthansa, who were the launch customers of the type in the late 1960s. ‘Bobby’ is being replaced by what Lufthansa describes as “quieter and more fuel efficient” equipment produced by Bombardier and Embraer. Lufthansa press releases also mention the present and future line of Airbus products as replacements for ‘Bobby’ on some routes.

This Ken Fielding photo from 1972 shows a Lufthansa 737 in an early livery and, as Ken says,  it’s notable for the logo of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games  on the aft fuselage.

Lufthansa Boeing 737


Lufthansa Boeing 737-130 D-ABEA Seen at Manchester airport (UK) on July 31st 1972. 
It first flew on May 13th 1967 and was delivered to Lufthansa on April 24th 1968.
After later service in the USA and New Zealand it was scrapped in the USA in 1995.
(Photo by Ken Fielding http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfielding CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Should you desire to brush up on your German,  here’s a YouTube video from a group of German plane-spotters commemorating the event.  Its is, as they say a slightly sad event as an original customer retires a machine that was once the backbone of its short-haul fleet This is not simply auf wiedersehen, it’s farewell, Bobby.

Trafalgar Day

In two previous articles on the Battle of Britain, and the commemoration of Battle of Britain Day on September 15th, I have mentioned Trafalgar Day (October 21st) and opined that there was a danger that Trafalgar Day is fading from our consciousness and that Battle of Britain Day will do likewise. It seems appropriate and consistent with my opinions to mention Trafalgar Day even on an aviation-themed blog.

I think  J.M. W. Turner’s painting of the Battle of Trafalgar says more than my words ever could.

The Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the starboard mizzen shrouds of the Victory by J. M. W. Turner (oil on canvas, 1806 to 1808) (Public Domain)

Fairey Delta 2 – Part 2

I was torn whether to keep editing my blog article about the FD2 and then realized I could simply write another one, on another occasion.

I’m glad I did because a quick riffle through YouTube revealed this gem of British Movietone News.   A lovely series of shots of the Fairey Delta and an interview with Peter Twiss (1921-2011) who “happened to be the lucky chap in the cockpit”  as I think he put it. I didn’t know Twiss was a former FAA pilot,  so it’s fitting in a way that WG774 is displayed at Yeovilton.

 

I was also wondering if there were any current Public Domain or Creative Commons pictures of WG774 and WG777,  partly to remind myself what WG777 looked like when I wandered through Cosford in around 1991, and happily of course there are a couple.

WG 774 rebuilt as the BAC221

Former Fairey Delta 2 WG 774 rebuilt as the BAC221. Displayed in the ‘Leading Edge’ exhibition. FAA Museum, Yeovilton, England, May 2011.  Photo by Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Here is WG774 seen at the FAA Museum in Yeovilton in 2011.  You can see the extent of the modification of the wings  and undercarriage.   It’s noteworthy as the original photographer suggests that WG774 was selected for modification rather than WG777.  Was there an operational reason or was there some arcane political reason for modifying this airframe?  We may never know.

Fairey Delta 2, HP.115 abd Concorder 002 at the FAA Museum, 1984

FD2 WG774, “slow delta” HP.115 XP841 and Concorde 002 G-BSST,  Photographed at the FAA Museum, Yeovilton in 1984.  San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

The 1984 photograph is interesting for me as I first visited Yeovilton a year before – during a heatwave in the late summer of 1983,  and this is how I believe these aircraft were displayed at that time.   The extent of the modification to WG774’s wings  is clear.  The HP.115 was a research aircraft which explored the characteristics of delta wings in slow flight in delta configuration and to demonstrate the beneficial extent of extending the delta wing forward along the fuselage.

Fairey Delta 2 WG777 at the RAF Museum, Cosford, in 2007

Fairey Delta 2 WG777 at the RAF Museum, Cosford, in 2007 Photo by Roland Turner from Birmingham, Great Britain CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Finally,  here is WG777 looking very sleek at Cosford in 2007.  Having seen this picture I understand why I didn’t identify the polished silver machine with WG777 in its later dark blue scheme.  Such is life and memory.    But I salute both aircraft and their pilots.