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Henderson State University

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Contact Information

1100 Henderson St, Arkadelphia, AR 71999
870-230-5000 or 800-228-7333
[email protected]

Program Types

Aviation Degree, Flight Training


From Henderson State: Henderson’s Department of Aviation is Arkansas’ only university program that offers a four-year Bachelor of Science degree specifically in aviation. We prepare students for the professional aviation workplace.
* The Professional Pilot Track provides students with zero flight experience with the education and flight training required to become a professional pilot for an airline or corporation.
* The Aviation Management Track is for students interested in working at the management level in the aviation industry without being a commercial pilot.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

An altimeter tried to kill me

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In the late 1970s I was based at Manassas, Virginia. I flew a Piper Turbo Air III in my travels for Flying magazine.

The Arrow was due for its 24-month altimeter check. As some shops do, an exchange altimeter was tested and certified on the bench. After that altimeter was properly tested and tagged it was installed in the Arrow and only a simple static system leak check was required to complete the recertification.

s l600 285x300 - An altimeter tried to kill me

What does “encoding” mean anyway?

The altimeter was an encoding type, meaning the internal mechanism drove an optical device to encode pressure altitude for the transponder to report. With this type of altimeter the transponder would send the controllers the same information that I would see on the face of the instrument. And that was the rub.

The next flight after the altimeter exchange was, as usual for me in those days, out to Wichita. I needed to be there mid-morning the following day so I decided to fly to Evansville, Indiana, the evening before. Evansville was a little more than halfway to Wichita, and there was an excellent FBO on the field, and a hotel to short walk away. A great overnight stop I used often.

I departed near sundown. In those days Manassas was a very basic one-runway field with no control tower. The drill was to depart VFR when the weather permitted and immediately call nearby Washington Dulles approach control for your IFR clearance. Which I did.

The only unusual aspect of the departure was that when the Dulles controller gave me the altimeter setting it was way off what I had dialed in before takeoff. I was sure I had set field elevation into the altimeter as was checklist procedure. There were no automatic weather reporting stations then, and weather observers who could provide an actual altimeter setting were confined to larger airports like Dulles, or to some remote fields in the hinterlands where the weather service needed observation data.

I blamed the big change in altimeter setting I received from Dulles on myself for mistakenly setting the wrong field elevation before takeoff. It was my last and only chance to have prevented the near disaster that was ahead.

It was a great evening for flying IFR. I was on top of a solid overcast nearly all the way to Evansville. The air was smooth and frequencies quiet and perennial headwinds rather light.

The overcast at Evansville was just above visual approach minimums and the controllers cleared me to 3,000 feet and provided a vector directly to the airport. I popped out of the clouds before reaching 3,000 feet into clear night air. Jeez, the ground looked close. I brushed off the sensation as normal after spending a couple hours in the dark, out of sight of anything on the ground.

At the time there was a bunch of strip mining activity in the area and the enormous shovels that dug up the earth all had red obstruction lights. I flew past one of those lights and it looked really close.

A little panicked, I started looking around at other lights and towers and realized I wasn’t anywhere near the 2,500 feet above ground I should have been with the altimeter showing 3,000 feet. I spotted the airport and flew over to intercept the ILS and track the glideslope to the runway. When I landed the altimeter showed I was more than 1,800 feet above the pavement.

The next morning the altimeter showed the Arrow sitting more than 3,000 feet above the ramp elevation. If the weather conditions had been worse I could have flown into something with the altimeter showing me precisely at a safe altitude.

In some ways even more alarming, I had flown hundreds of miles in the dark at some unknown altitude under IFR. The separation the controller thought I had from other traffic was mythical. Because it was an encoding altimeter, the transponder sent down the same information it showed me on the altimeter dial. We had both been doing our jobs perfectly with unknown separation from other traffic.

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It’s a bad sign when you’re looking up at a red obstruction light.

TCAS collision avoidance systems didn’t exist then, but even if they had, they would have offered no protection because they rely on the Mode C altitude reported by nearby traffic to detect a collision threat. My transponder would have been reporting a non-threatening altitude when who knows what my real altitude was.

The altimeter has occupied a sacred place in basic instrument flying. It’s the only one in the “six pack” of instruments with no backup. No combination of the other five instruments can reveal your altitude in the way comparing the others can cross check on their function.

Larger airplanes have two altimeters so if they disagree you can be alert to a problem. Jets have three altimeters so you can compare and ignore the odd man out. But in light airplanes most of us flew blissfully along believing what those three hands on the altimeter dial showed us.

The situation is better now for several reasons. First, encoding altimeters are virtually all gone. The extra friction of moving the encoding system as well as the instrument hands on the dial doomed them to a relatively short life because of hysteresis so they couldn’t pass the 24-month check.

Development of low-cost digital electronic pressure sensors brought the price of blind encoders—so called because they don’t display their output on an instrument—down to a few hundred bucks. With a blind encoder, the controllers will see something different if your regular altimeter fails because they are not connected in any way. You may not know why there is a difference between your altimeter display and Mode C the controller sees, but you will be alerted rather than flying along fat dumb and happy as I did on that night.

The digital electronic altimeters that are part of the primary flight displays and other electronic instruments so many of us now have in light airplanes are not immune to failure, but they have a decent level of monitoring. You’re likely to get a flag warning if something goes wrong.

And most fundamentally, at its root ADS-B transmits a GPS measured height. In any system I’ve flown you can use menus to find that ADS-B altitude info, and equally important, the controllers can see that independent of your Mode C.

But, back in the bad old 1970s we had none of those stay alive advantages. So I bought a high quality, pocket-size altimeter built for the hiking/climbing market. For years when at cruise in a non-pressurized airplane I’d pull that thing out, set in the current baro, and compare its reading to the altimeter in the panel.

Never did a see a significant discrepancy between that little altimeter and the real one. But on that night I learned it only takes once. If I hadn’t been so lucky I wonder what the NTSB probable accident cause would have read. Pilot error, no doubt.

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Up Close And Personal With The The German Air Force Eurofighters Of The ‘Bavarian Tigers’

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Two Eurofighters of the Bavarian Tigers during an air-to-air shooting session (All images: Author)

Air To Air With The Eurofighters of The Tactical Fighter Wing 74 (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 74)

Located along the Danube in Bavaria, Neuburg is not only home to approx. 30.000 people, but as well to tigers – the Bavarian Tigers. You find their airbase in the southwest of the town, close to the village of Zell, equipped with a 2.440 meters long runway, shelter areas, hangars and QRA facility. The Tactical Fighter Wing 74 (TktLwG74), as they are known with their official name, operate since 2008 all their missions with the Eurofighter and have so far as main mission the control of airspace in the South of Germany, but are currently training for the air to ground role too.

For the TktLwG74, May 17, 2016, is remembered as an important milestone, as on that day the wing was officially accepted as full member within the NATO Tigers Association and integrated in the Tiger Spirit. Being a full member, the Bavarian Tigers are always invited to participate to the NATO Tiger Meet, one of the largest high value exercises scheduled in Europe every year. This right of participation was initially one of the key drivers and is considered as a highly important, stated by Wing Commander Gordon Schnitger in an interview: “Once per year, a big exercise is organized where you fly and train with and against each other and exchange on experiences. And all participants identify themselves with this Tiger Spirit of training together and exchanging experiences!”

As with the NATO Tigers itself, the membership of the Wing in Neuburg with the NATO Tigers started as an idea of officers within the unit. In 2012, Squadron Commander Marc ‘Turbo’ Grüne and Commander Flying Group Jan Gloystein saw an opportunity arising, as the decision had been made by the German Government in 2011 to stand down the neighbouring Fighter Bomber Wing 32 (JaBoG) at Lechfeld south of Augsburg in 2013 as part of the general military reform. The JaBoG 32 included two flying squadrons – 321 Lechfeld Tigers and 322 Flying Monsters – and the first one was a full member in the NATO Tigers Association since 1994. With the disbandment in near future, Jan Gloystein and Marc Grüne developed the idea to take over this tradition and apply for full membership, highlighting the benefits for the squadron with the regular participation to the Tiger Meet.

- Up Close And Personal With The The German Air Force Eurofighters Of The ‘Bavarian Tigers’Close up on one of the Eurofighters of the Bavarian Tigers.

On Mar. 18, 2013, during a ceremony at Neuburg, the Bavarian Tigers formally took over the Tiger tradition from the Lechfeld Tigers, which disbanded at the end of that month. After this takeover, a formal request had to be launched to become full member at the NATO Tiger Association. Supported by higher echelons and to demonstrate and express their motivation, Major Rafael ‘Klax’ Klaschka led a detachment consisting of three Eurofighters and 13 pilots and soldiers to the NATO Tiger Meet in June 2013 in Orland, Norway. Underlining the engagement and interest, the tail of one of the dispatched aircraft was painted only for that weekend in a tiger design, realised within a very short timeframe by a highly motivated team at Neuburg.

- Up Close And Personal With The The German Air Force Eurofighters Of The ‘Bavarian Tigers’The Eurofighter 30+29 with special tail in 2013.

During the exercise in Norway, they were welcomed as observers during the weekend while at the same time handing their formal request for probationary membership. In contrast to other members, the request listed the full wing at Neuburg, as both squadrons already inherit a tradition as 741 ‘Falcons’ and 742 ‘Zapata’. The idea in requesting membership for the whole wing was not only to create an overall tradition (next to the squadron specific ones) and benefit from the Tiger Spirit, but as well create an integrative element for the wing and its squadron itself. Wing Commander Schnitger explained: “We try to really express the Tiger Spirit, which we took over from Lechfeld.  By this we generate integration, a cohesion and connection – expressed by the special painted aircraft and with the specific connection of the Tiger Spirit”. Having and supporting a tradition and fostering integration was also the rationale behind the creation of a club for the Bavarian Tigers, which is not only open to current and past members of the wing, but as well to civilians. This club is in existence and active till today and keeps growing to already more than 600 club members.

With the request for probationary membership approved, the Bavarian Tigers achieved the regular invitation to the Tiger Meets in the following years. For the annual exercise 2014 in Jagel, the Bavarian Tigers again wanted to express their commitment and interest. The fully painted Eurofighter 30+09 in bronze and gold plus eight other Eurofighters deployed to the base in Northern Germany, clearly demonstrating the motivation and at the same time winning them their first award at a Tiger Meet with the “Bronze Tiger” as best painted aircraft. This first success was followed in 2019 by another best painted aircraft award for the Ghost Tiger. Besides these award winning designs, the Tigers realised the Atlantic Tiger in 2017 for the Tiger Meet in Landivisiau, France and the Cyber Tiger in 2018 for the exercise in Saragoza, Spain.

- Up Close And Personal With The The German Air Force Eurofighters Of The ‘Bavarian Tigers’The Bronze Tiger.

Bearing in mind the highly visible aspects with the painted aircraft and the large high value exercise, the wing received from the NATO Tiger Association membership much more than initially expected. “Tiger Spirit are not only us, there is a community behind, other nations and countries with their wings” as explained by Wing Commander Schnitger. This was as well expressed by the second president of the Bavarian Tiger club, who highlighted next to the experience exchange and collaboration between the NATO forces as well the social aspect, the formal and informal exchange with the other nations during the exercise as something the wing didn’t know about but value today very high and likewise important as the exercise. One expression of this social part are the Tiger Games performed during the weekend at every Tiger Meet where teams from all participating wings / squadrons compete their against each other in sport and fun games. The Bavarian Tigers managed to secure the third place in 2018 and even win this competition at the XTM in Kleine Brogel in 2021, enlarging their collection of tiger trophies won in these first years of membership.

- Up Close And Personal With The The German Air Force Eurofighters Of The ‘Bavarian Tigers’Another stunning air-to-air image of the two Eurofighters.

Taking in consideration all these milestones and achievements, the 5th anniversary of the full membership in coincidence with the 60th anniversary of the TktLwG74 in 2021 had to be celebrated accordingly. Both of these anniversaries are important, as Wing Commander Schnitger explained: “You get a symbolic recognition for the wing, you generate cohesion”. COVID19 left its mark and prohibited any large public events like the planned but cancelled Day of the German Military scheduled for June 2021. At least a formal roll call was performed in May with 74 members representing the whole wing and several overflights with other aircraft from the German Air Force performed, but no honourable guests or even the public could attend.

- Up Close And Personal With The The German Air Force Eurofighters Of The ‘Bavarian Tigers’Two Eurofighters, including the 60th Anniversary special color, flying close to the camera ship.

As an expression of the anniversaries, the Eurofighter with registration 31+01 received a special colour scheme integrating both milestones in a combined design. Based on the colours blue and white the fuselage depicts tiger eyes and stripes on the wings, which at the same time form a mountain with snow if looked from top. A large wing badge on the underside of the aircraft and a tiger on the tail combined with the wing badge complete the design of the ‘Bavarian Tiger’. This special coloured aircraft was scheduled for the Tiger Meet in Beja, Portugal, but COVID19 again left its mark and the Bavarian Tigers couldn’t attend there. In September, the specially painted Eurofighter was at least on display at the anniversary Tiger Meet in Kleine Brogel, Belgium.

- Up Close And Personal With The The German Air Force Eurofighters Of The ‘Bavarian Tigers’The special color that celebrated the 60th Anniversary of TaktLwG 74.

“Especially in times of COVID, where everything is highly limited, an anniversary aircraft generates commonality and identification” as Wing Commander Schnitger confirms. Exchanging with members of the wing clearly showed this motivation and the Tiger Spirit – the Bavarian Tigers already plan for the Tiger Meet 2022 in Araxos.

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Florian Szczepanek is a contributor for “The Aviationist” based in Munich, Germany. Working full-time in the Aerospace Industry, he uses his free time as enthusiastic aviation photographer and journalist on The Aviationist, and various other channels.

Photo Of The Recovered Wreckage Of The British F-35B Leaked Online

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The wreck of the F-35B as seen in the leaked photo. (Photo: anonymous source)

The aircraft has been recovered last month and it looks like it is still pretty much intact.

An image, taken by an unknown photographer, showing the wreckage of the British F-35B that ditched in the Mediterranean Sea and was recovered by a chartered salvage ship, was leaked and started circulating online on Jan. 21, 2022. As we already extensively reported, the aircraft crashed while taking off from the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier on November 17, 2021, as it couldn’t achieve enough speed to lift off reportedly because the engine ingested a “cheap plastic rain cover” or an air intake cover.

The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence announced on December 7 the completion of the operations for the recovery of the aircraft, which happened with the support of the Italian Navy and U.S. Navy. It took two weeks to locate the wreck and another week to bring it up, according to defence sources mentioned by British newspapers. The recovery effort was complicated by the location where the F-35 ditched, as it happened in open water with depths that can exceed, in some areas, over 3,000 meters (about 10,000 feet), and by rough sea conditions while the operations were taking place.

Looking at the photo, which shows the wreck upside down on the deck of the salvage ship as it was being transported to an unspecified port, it seems that the F-35B is still partly intact. Some panels are broken or missing, with the engine nozzle and vertical tail fins possibly broken too (they can’t be seen clearly), but the airframe was not made in pieces by the crash. As the leaked video showed, the F-35 left the ski jump with a very low speed, so the impact forces on the surface of the sea were not enough to detach major sections of the airframe.

This also confirms the official statements about all the wreckage being recovered and “no danger or compromise to sensitive equipment on the aircraft”. Even if the chances of another country finding and exploiting any of the plane’s remains were small, the UK MoD didn’t want to take any chances for a good reason. National Security Adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove, as reported by the UK Defence Journal, told the Commons Defence Committee on Dec. 6, 2021:

“The recovery of the flight data recorder and the wreckage are really vital for an accurate investigation to determine the causes of the crash. […] We are aware of Russian undersea capabilities, and you are quite right to identify them as being state of the art. The kinds of precautions and operations that we are undertaking at the moment are designed at least in part to ensure that the technology of the F-35B remains as confidential as you would like it to be. Those security aspects are very much at the top of our mind. My understanding is that the experts know where the aircraft is.”

- Photo Of The Recovered Wreckage Of The British F-35B Leaked OnlineTwo F-35Bs during operations on the HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Photo: Royal Navy)

It is worth noting, however, that while the aircraft might appear somehow intact, the damage done by salt water while the aircraft was submerged for weeks might have made unusable most of the aircraft’s systems, reducing the risks of adversaries gathering useful data in the hypothetical event they managed to get to the wreck before the Royal Navy.

The lost F-35B was identified as ZM152, with modex 018 and construction number BK18, and the leaked photo appears to confirm this, as the serial can be seen near the tail despite the quality of the image. The aircraft was reportedly one of the most recently delivered British F-35B, with its first flight reported in June 2019. The same info was also found in the F-35 aircraft database hosted by the website

The photo was initially posted on Twitter by few users who later removed it claiming that they were not involved in taking the photo in the first place nor being the first to leak it online. The photo is however still being shared on Reddit, Facebook and other socials. The fact that many users later deleted the photo might be related to the consequences of the leak of the crash video, which led a male crew member of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s ship company to be arrested.

1c874047463801220adcba061ba371a3?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Photo Of The Recovered Wreckage Of The British F-35B Leaked Online
Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

This Week’s Photo Of The Week Is Everything!

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POW jan 22 2022 640x312 - This Week’s Photo Of The Week Is Everything!

This week’s Photo of The Week was taken by professional pilot Jeff Goin from an altitude of 36,000 feet. For starters, it’s gorgeous—we’d even say ethereal. Regardless, it’s also kind of a puzzle; most people see only one thing when they look at it, at least at first. It takes repeated viewings to see what is really going on, and even then, it’s hard to know for sure.

We won’t spoil it for you, but do check out the high-res version of this most amazing photo. And many thanks, Jeff, for letting us share this amazing photo with our readers!

Miss last week’s Photo of the Week? Click here: Air To Ground: Colorado Winter Wonderland By Steve Zimmermann

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

Aviation Pioneer Flies West, 5G Havoc And A Novel New Safety Feature

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Screen Shot 2022 01 21 at 12.18.07 PM - Aviation Pioneer Flies West, 5G Havoc And A Novel New Safety Feature

Former Tuskegee airman Brig. Gen. Charles McGee died at the age of 102. He was a highly decorated veteran combat pilot of three wars, and a squadron commander, in addition to being part of the famous segregated World War II Red Tail squadron, which was composed almost entirely of Black men who previously could not have flown for the military.

In happier news, fighter ace Colonel Bud Anderson celebrated his 100th birthday last weekend, an event feted by many friends and fans. Happy birthday, Colonel!

One of the largest airplanes to ever fly, the Stratolaunch twin-fuselage mother ship,flew for the first time since 2019. The company’s founder, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, died in 2018, putting the company’s future in question.

The 5G rollout in the United States by Verizon and AT&T caused disruption across business and commercial aviation, with numerous reports of false radar altimeter readings causing false alerts and much confusion. The telecommunications firms separately announced they would not activate service at towers near airports, at least temporarily.

Airbus distributed a 20-item list of potential problems that pilots of its aircraft might encounter with anomalous radar altimeter readings, some but not all of which could be rectified by hand-flying the aircraft.


Enstrom Helicopters closes its doors today after announcing earlier this week that it was shutting down operations and entering bankruptcy. The Menomonee, Wisconsin,-based helicopter maker had been in continuous operation since 1959. It wrote in a press release that it was aware of a number of other businesses interested in buying the company’s assets and resuming operations. 

In the good-news-can-also-be-bad-news category, sales of used business jets smashed previous records, according to Asset Insight. The analyst’s findings included that inventory was lower by half and that sales prices were at an all-time high, with many aircraft being sold above asking price.

The NTSB recommended to the FAA that it require carbon monoxide detectors in all enclosed cabin aircraft with reciprocating engines. Accidents believed to have been caused by carbon monoxide infiltration of the airplane account for slightly less than one per year. The FAA can choose to act upon the NTSB’s recommendation in whole, in part or decline altogether to make new rules.


Pipistrel announced a new model, the Explorer, already certified by the European Union, including approvals for commercial operations, including glider towing. The Explorer has a novel feature, a haptic stall warning alert to warn pilots about an impending stall. Unlike stick shakers, which vibrate the entire control device—usually a control column—Pipistrel’s ingenious device gets the same message across cheaply and with no potential effect on the flight controls.

One in a million: a chance aerial encounter in Laos

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In the heart of the Vietnam War, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base was the home of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, “the Wolfpack.” The Wolfpack had around a hundred F-4D aircraft in four fighter squadrons; it was a 24-hour-a-day sorties machine, responsible for emplacing the sensors comprising McNamara’s electronic fence across southern Laos and part of North Vietnam. Sensor planting operations carried out by one squadron were almost exclusively conducted around sunrise, low level along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. One of the squadrons flew almost exclusively at night, the bellies of their Phantoms painted flat black. Very important for flying at night; not so good during the day.

The other two squadrons flew about three quarters of their sorties during the day. They had the only capability in theater to drop laser guided bombs (LGB) or electro-optical guided bombs (EOGB). These weapons were game changers, especially the LGBs, usually hitting less than 20 feet from their targets. Truck drivers and AAA gunners hated the LGBs.

Ubon was thought of as a fighter base, but there was much more going on than fighter ops. The Thais had T-28s used in counter-insurgency operations. They did their own thing, certainly, since it was their country. About the only thing we knew about their ops was they took off with full rocket pods and gun magazines charged, and they came back empty. I believe their ops were focused on some of the communist overflow out of Laos and Cambodia into Thailand. The Thai pilots would also occasionally use our officer’s mess, mostly the back room where games of chance may have been played.

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Ubon was a busy place during the Vietnam war.

There were other operations at Ubon. Elements of the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS) were on the airfield. They flew the Cessna O-2 Spymasters performing visual reconnaissance along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and forward air control of interdiction sorties in some pretty highly defended areas. Tchepone was one of those spots where AAA was concentrated to protect supply dumps, truck parks, and key stretches of road. It was sort of a chicken and egg thing: which came first, the AAA or the fighters? The Nails flew both night and day, using white phosphorous rockets to mark targets during the day and “logs” at night, dropped on the ground near a target providing reference for fighters to strike: “bomb 50 meters north of my smoke, during the day, and log during the night.”

The O-2s, call sign, Nail were an on-the-fly adaption of a commercial aircraft. Chock full of radios, UHF, VHF, FM, and HF, they served as eyes, ears, and voices with fighters from Thailand, as well as Air Force and Marine units in South Vietnam, called away from their primary job of providing Close Air Support (CAS) for US and South Vietnamese ground forces. CAS got priority, as it deserved, but occasionally F-4s, F-100s, and A-4 would be tasked to add to the interdiction activities “out of country.” The Nails usually flew with one pilot during the day and with a navigator on board at night, using a Starlight Scope to search along and adjacent to the trail for mostly “movers” in convoys traveling to resupply Viet Cong or North Vietnamese forces engaging friendlies in South Vietnam.

The O-2 did good work but as the threat increased, especially as the enemy introduced larger AAA guns and handheld heat seeking missiles, the Nail mission became increasingly difficult. The answer was the introduction of the OV-10 Bronco in the hot areas during the day. It was a considerable improvement, but the intensity of the threat, especially along the Laotian-North Vietnamese border, made life for the OV-10 difficult. This caused the introduction of jet FACs flying F-100s, F-4s, and in the case of the Marines, two-seat versions of the A-4 Skyhawk. AAA-mad SAMS made life hard for the Fast FACS, but speed and maneuverability were advantages; on the other hand, dwell time in the target area and the difficulty of acquiring targets under jungle canopy and camouflage were disadvantages. Tradeoffs were made to support the out of county interdiction campaigns in Laos and in North Vietnam when the Washington leadership decided to carry the war to the North, or not.

I must not forget Ubon got some other aircraft on the field, including the first AC-130 gunships in theater, a major improvement on the AC-47 and AC-119 gunships used with great effect for night CAS in South Vietnam. Spooky AC-47s and AC-119 Shadows and Singers were loved by the ground troops: long time on target, side-firing miniguns were really effective in the South; not so much where the AAA was much more intense.

So the answer was a highly modified C-130 Hercules, which was transformed to Spectre, a step up in capability with a much more robust airframe, avionics, and sensors effect at night and more muscle, including multiple 20mm gatling guns, a 40mm cannon, as well as good old (I do mean old) Army 105mm cannon. Heavyweight armament, better performance in terms of speed/altitude, and avionics allowing night ops made it more efficient than F-4s with dumb bombs and CBUs for relatively wide area coverage of AAA and soft targets like trucks. The Spectres typically flew as singles, but with one or more F-4s escorting and providing suppression of AAA, often firing on the blind side of Spectre when he was in a turn searching for targets or engaging with one or more of his side firing armament. The night escort, call sign Owl, came out of Ubon’s night sorties.

I had a full-time job in the 433rd, one of the F-4D squadrons, flying around four out of every five days. But I still had some days off and here wasn’t much to do—no TV, no internet, only one movie a day (maybe the same one for several days in a row)—it was not easy to make-up softball teams. I had time on my hands and looked for things to do. One thing was bagging rides with the Nails on their day missions in Laos. Unless they were checking out a new guy, the right seat was empty. I don’t remember the number of O-2 missions I had, but I remember two very well.

O 2 Skymaster 1 cropped 300x203 - One in a million: a chance aerial encounter in Laos

The O-2 had great visibility, but not many defensive options.

I often flew with Jim, a medium senior captain who’d gotten a FAC assignment out of the C-130. He was a pro, and I learned a lot watching and listening, searching for targets, communicating with airborne control agencies (like Cricket, a C-130 configured as an Airborne Command and Control node), talking the fighters onto the target and eventually marking with one of his willie pete rockets, and then making corrections on the bombs dropped by the fighters. Later on, when I was an F-4 Wolf FAC I benefited from the very valuable O-2 OJT.

On one of my first sorties, we were in orbit near Tchepone awaiting inbound F-100s from Tuy Hoa. Even with helmets on the cockpit was hot and noisy, especially with several radios on for comm or just to monitor, so the back windows on the O-2 were open. They were the kind like you’d have in an old coupe auto: angled and hinged at the front so they would partially open into the slipstream, providing some ventilation (and noise) in an otherwise warm to hot cockpit. So, I leaned back and shut the window on my side.

Jim, my pilot, responded immediately: “get that GD window open.”

“OK,” I replied.

The he replied, “that’s my RWR gear!” Explanation—no Radar Warning Receiver on the O-2 but with the windows open you could hear the AAA popping when it went off behind you. Oh, I get it. Most gunners, especially those without radar-aided tracking (which you can hear in an RWR) would miss with their first burst, typically three or seven rounds depending on the gun. They would not pull enough lead, but quickly correct, like a hunter shooting a clay pigeon or bird. Hearing the pop, pop, pop, the pilot would jink to a new heading and change altitude. He also almost always flew in a slight crab or in a bank, to throw off the gunner’s aim. That was my first vivid memory of an O-2 ride: pop, pop, pop, then dirty smoke puffs hanging behind the twin tail booms.

The second memory was different. I was on another sortie in the Tchepone area when Jim got a call from Cricket that there was a single Navy A-6 Intruder inbound with a full load of Mk82 bombs. The Intruder had range and payload comparable to the Air Force’s F-111, which had a faster top speed, but they were comparable in many ways, both having state of the art avionics and true all-weather, night capability. Intruders seldom showed up in our part of the war, Laos being a long drive from the carriers on Yankee station off North Vietnam, so this was an unexpected resource for our mission.

The A-6 was a few minutes out and Jim had time to pick out an area suspected as a truck park off the trail, hidden under jungle canopy, all telltale tracks off the road swept clean. Jim was planning on the Intruder making two passes across the area, increasing the chance of a hit with two sticks of MK82s. The Intruder checked in on UHF, giving his call sign as Cupcake 503 (the noun was assigned to a specific squadron, the number reflected the last three digits of the aircraft’s tail number). I wasn’t familiar with Navy call signs, but Cupcake was different. Most AF call signs were autos (Buick, Rambler, Ford) or often fish (Shark, Barracuda, Skate, and so forth)—no Cupcakes.

Note: this was before Top Gun, before every pilot or weapons system operator had his one personal call sign, particularly for use in interflight communication or on the ground. Back in the day we had Leftys, Puds, Dustys, and so forth but now everyone has their own.

Cupcake checked in with his play time and ordinance. Lots of play time, but he had a time to be in the cue for landing on his carrier, and plenty of ordinance. Strangely, even in the static of UHF radios, I recognized Cupcake’s voice. I asked Jim if I could give him the brief, he OKed it, so I got on the mic and provided target type and coordinate, safe area for bail out, preferred run-in heading and threats observed—light weapons, 37mm and 57mm, no SAMs observed or thought to be in the area.

1065px Grumman KA 6D Intruder of VA 34 in flight in 1988 300x203 - One in a million: a chance aerial encounter in Laos

An A-6 and an O-2 meet over the skies of Laos. What are the chances the pilots know each other?

Then I paused, and said, “You ever live on Debolt Street?” He rogerd, and I knew it was a guy who’d been my neighbor for around fifteen years of my life. He’d graduated a year before me, gone to Yale, and ended up a Navy ROTC grad and a Navy pilot. So breaking protocol I said, “well your bombs better be good, because I’m going to make a personal report to your parents.”

Short pause, and he said, “that you Steve?”

I said, “Yes, and you’re cleared in hot.”

During this short exchange Jim had put down two willie petes and directed Cupcake to hit his smoke. First pass in and off target, picking up some small arms fire and “light 37mm” optically-directed AAA, we could see the puffs as he rolled in, and the sparkle of gunfire on pull-off. He was well above the four thousand foot above ground level we stayed above, honoring the intense small arms fire on almost any bombing pass. Good bombs, “now make another pass, come in from the west this time.” He did and as he rolled in there were some secondary explosions from the target area—probably from ammo storage or a truck or two hit by frag from Cupcake’s first pass.

Another good pass, then he was off target and headed back to the carrier. I read the coordinates of the target and assessment of the attack: 100% of bombs on target, several fires and explosions, likely from stored ammo and POL. “Nice work, Navy.”

Independently we both wrote home to our parents, still neighbors in our hometown, and it made the Republican Times as “Two high school friends meet over Laos.”

A few weeks later he and his bombardier/nav came to Ubon via a Carrier on Board Delivery (COD) off the carrier, through Saigon, and C-130 rides for an overnight. I enjoyed introducing my Navy guests to my squadron as the Cupcake I had over Tchepone.

Many years later a mutual friend asked about the odds of our meeting, saying probably a million to one. I thought about that, and replied, “No, much worse than that. Me on a bag ride on a given day and time in an O-2, he on a weather divert into Southern Laos, over a place smaller than our hometown and with more AAA than we had shotguns, a place few Navy jets ever ventured into, both a half a world away from our home—no, much more than a million to one.”

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Formula One Bans Military Aircraft Flyovers To Reduce Carbon Emissions

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Formula One Bans Military Aircraft Flyovers To Reduce Carbon Emissions
The Frecce Tricolori carry out the Imola GP airshow in 2021 (Image credit: Italian Air Force)

We won’t see the Frecce Tricolori or Red Arrows flying over the tracks during pre-race displays because they pollute the air.

Beginning in 2022, the Grand Prix organisers will no longer be able to use military aircraft for air displays before the start of the races because they pollute and they are no longer in line with the CO2 emissions reduction objectives of F1 which aims to eliminate the environmental impact by 2030. As reported by the Corriere della Sera on Jan. 19, 2022, local organizers of Gran Prix races all around the world were informed of the ban.

While military aircraft will not be able to take part in GP opening flyovers to support the sustainability goals of F1 organizers, civilian wide-bodies, that have often taken part in pre-race displays in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, as well as some historical aircraft remain permitted, under certain (yet unclear) conditions. For this reason, some believe the cause for the ban might not be related to environmental concerns but prompted by the will of F1 to avoid that the airshows can be considered as “shows of force” and exploited by some countries to flex muscle and fuel propaganda.

As a consequence of the ban, the flyover of the Italian and British Grand Prixs will not take place. In Italy, the flyovers at Imola and Monza (Apr. 24 and Sept. 11) are traditionally carried out by the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force aerobatic display team. In the past, other Italian Air Force aircraft including the Tornado and the Eurofighter Typhoon have carried out the flyovers of both Formula 1 and MotoGP races: as we already reported back then, on Sept. 13, 2020, four Eurofighter Typhoon jets, two belonging to the 4° Stormo (Wing), based at Grosseto Air Base, and two belonging to the 36° Stormo, from Gioia del Colle, flew over the starting grid of the Grand Prix at the Ferrari-owned track in Mugello, near Florence, in central Italy, to celebrate the 1000th Formula 1 race of the Ferrari racing team.

- Formula One Bans Military Aircraft Flyovers To Reduce Carbon EmissionsThe Frecce Tricolori perform the Imola GP flyover in 1980 (with the G-91). (Image credit: Italian Air Force)

In the UK, the Red Arrows performed at Silverstone ahead of the British Grand Prix. In the US the 2021 Formula 1 US Grand Prix flyover at Circuit of the Americas was opened by a formation of Dutch helicopters based at Fort Hood (Texas), including AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinooks: with the new ban such flight would not be allowed. It’s a pity, considered that in some cases, such flyovers were the most exciting part of the race….

Anyway, the ban of the flyovers is not the only measure put in place to reduce the environmental impact of F1 races: this season a new petrol with 10% ethanol of natural origin will be introduced while in recent years campaigns have been launched to eliminate plastic and reduce waste.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Formula One Bans Military Aircraft Flyovers To Reduce Carbon Emissions
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

Airbus Issues Alert To Pilots Of 5G Failure Modes. It’s Terrifying.

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airbus issues alert 5g failures - Airbus Issues Alert To Pilots Of 5G Failure Modes. It’s Terrifying.

The rollout of  5G cellular phone service has started affecting operations around the country—a terrific story in The Air Current by Jon Ostrower detailed the confusion at Palm Beach International yesterday, writing, “The aircraft’s radar altitude abruptly ran down to zero, causing repeated loud aural warnings: PULL UP WHOOP WHOOP DON’T SINK TOO LOW GEAR. The flight landed without incident in good weather, but it wasn’t the first time. ‘Exact same location multiple times the past two weeks,’ the pilot, who was on the flight deck for both anomalies, told The Air Current.”

And now Airbus has issued guidance to pilots that details the many things that could go wrong with their planes’ systems if the radar altimeter, built into a handful of systems, including Autoland and Ground Proximity Warning Systems, were to get erroneous readings.

To summarize the findings, the systems might give what Airbus calls “erroneous” readings and callouts, many of them during the most critical phases of flight, including several phases of flight on or close to the runway.

The following is guidance to Airbus pilots from the manufacturer. This is not for guidance, and we have printed it verbatim without correction:

Observed impact on A320Family/A330/A340 Systems with 5G Emissions Beyond RTCA Limits



Flight Instruments (PFD, HUD, Callouts)

  • The A height indication on the PFDs and HUDs may be inconsistent alongside with untimely RA callouts (unusual or untimely sequence of RA audio messages and/or indications: e.g abrupt decrease in height or erratic sequence)
  • Untimely MINIMUM callout may occur (if RADIO Decision Height is selected in the FMS)
  • The AUTOLAND warning light may flash
  • The Ground Reference on the PFD altitude scale may be erroneous.

Auto Flight System (AFS)

  • For A320Family NEO, during TakeOff or Go-Around, the tail strike protection may br inoperative or operate prematurely. However the pilot retains full authority on the pitch control.
  • THS may freeze due to untimely activation of the Flare law: In the event of a Go-Around, the pilot may temporarily need additional sidestick input as the auto-trim function is inhibited by flare law mode
  • During autoland, very small pitch oscillations may be observed in FLARE mode.
  • Untimely RETARD callouts may occur
  • With AP engaged, LAND / FLARE / THR IDLE modes may untimely/early engage.

Note: As per Airbus design, when AP is OFF the pilot retains full authority on thrust reduction (automatic engagement of RETARD mode is inhibited)

Surveillance Systems

  • Untimely GPWS / TAWS alerts may occur
  • Windshear detection systems (predictive and reactive) may be inoperative
  • Aural TCAS alerts (“TRAFFIC” messages) may be inoperative.



Flight Instruments (PFD, Callouts)

  • The RA height indication on the PFDs may be inconsistent alongside with untimely RA
  • callouts (unusual or untimely sequence of A audio messages and/or indications: e.g.
  • abrupt decrease in height or erratic sequence)
  • Untimely MINIMUM callout may occur (if RADIO Decision Height is selected in the FMS)
  • The AUTOLAND warning light may flash

Auto Flight System (AFS)

During autoland, very small pitch oscillations may be observed in FLARE mode

With AP engaged, LAND / FLARE / THR IDLE modes may untimely/early engage



  • Untimely GPS / TAWS alerts may occur
  • Windshear detection systems (predictive and reactive) may be inoperative
  • Aural TCAS alerts (“TRAFFIC” messages) may be inoperative

Several readers have asked why aircraft in Europe, which rolled out 5G sometime ago, haven’t experienced such disruptions to safe operations, and the best explanation that we’ve seen is that the FCC gave permission to both Verizon and AT&T to use a slightly more expansive slice of the C Band that 5G employs than European cellular providers are granted.

This is a fast-developing story. We’ll keep you apprised.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

Crossover: Air Travel as History

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MLK Balcony 1024x650 - Crossover: Air Travel as History

January 20th, 2022

THIS PAST MONDAY was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. January 15th marked the cilvil rights leader’s 93rd birthday.

King was murdered in April of 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. You have all seen the famous photograph (actually there is a series of them) taken by Joseph Louw, showing the desperate scene on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, seconds after King was struck by the assassin’s bullet. It appears above.

Including King, there were seven people on the balcony, including Jesse Jackson, Ralph Abernathy, and Andrew Young. But it’s the one closest to the camera that interests us — the girl with the white socks. She is an 18 year-old college freshman and activist named Mary Louise Hunt. She had taken part in one of the marches in support of the striking Memphis sanitation workers. The night before, she had sung in the choir at the Mason Temple, standing behind King as he made what would be his final and, arguably, most famous speech.

Unlike some of the others in the photo, she never was famous. What makes her interesting, though, is that she later became one of the first African-American flight attendants hired by Pan American World Airways.

Maybe that strikes you as a pointless non-sequitur that detracts from the gravity of the photo, and perhaps you’re right. Nonetheless I find it fascinating. I call these “crossovers” — those moments when history, culture, art or politics intersect unexpectedly with commercial aviation. They underscore the many ways, often hardly recognized, that air travel manages, one way or another, to affect our lives.

MLK Balcony 2 1024x647 - Crossover: Air Travel as History

We see Ms. Hunt in another of Louw’s photos, snapped moments after the more iconic one. Here she’s looking back at us with a look of grief and anguish. Flying around the globe in 747s was the furthest thing from her mind, but that’s what she’d be doing not long afterward.

Hunt worked at Pan Am only for a short time before moving to a start-up delivery company called Federal Express. She died young, from cancer, in 1992.

And shown below, incidentally, was the plane that carried MLK’s body out of Memphis a few days after he was killed. It’s an American Airines Lockheed Electra, a workhorse of the 1960s. There’s nothing like a vintage airplane photo when it comes to building context. We see it more clearly now: the place, the time, the era; the evolution of air travel itself a constantly running backstory to history at large.

AA Electra MLK - Crossover: Air Travel as History

Is that too romantic? Am I pushing it?

Here’s another tie-in…

Back at the Lorraine Motel, Andrew Young was out there next to King, Jesse Jackson, Hunt and the others. Young later became a U.S. Congressman, the mayor of Atlanta, and a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In 2018, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines commemorated Young’s 80th birthday by dedicating a Boeing 767 in his honor. Aircraft N16065 still bears his name, painted on both sides along the lower front fuselage.

Screen Shot 2022 01 20 at 2.01.06 PM - Crossover: Air Travel as History


767 photo courtesy of Javier Gonzalez.