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One Giant Sale for Mankind: Armstrong’s Moon Mission Companions Auctioned

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Armstrong
The Gold Medal that was taken to the moon by Neil Armstrong, that eventually sold at auction for $2,055,000. (Photo credit: CCG)

From the First Walk on the Moon to the Auction Block.

In a little over a month, humanity will mark the 52nd anniversary of man’s, Neil Armstrong’s, first steps on the moon. On Jul. 20, 1969, at 10:56 p.m. EDT, Neil Armstrong plants the first human foot on another world. The situation was a little scarier than NASA had planned for. On approach to landing on the lunar surface, Commander Buzz Aldrin had to make some unexpected landing adjustments because of a computer error, and the lunar lander “Eagle” successfully landed on The Sea of Tranquility with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining. Fuel that the crew needed for their return to the orbiting command module Columbia which was being piloted by astronaut Michael Collins. Michael Collins eventually wrote an award-winning autobiography Carrying the Fire. A book I’ve read and consider one of my personal top 5 reads.

Armstrong
At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission launched via a Saturn V rocket with Commander Neil Armstrong, command module pilot Michael Collins and lunar module
pilot Buzz Aldrin from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex Pad 39A. Photo credit: NASA

As history has recorded, Aldrin and Armstrong did successfully make it back to Collins and the Columbia. After the Eagle successfully docked with Columbia, Collins, “for the first time,” “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.” The crew successfully splashed down off the coast of Hawaii on July 24 which check-marked the bottom line of Apollo 11’s remarkable and historic lunar mission, arguably one of the single most historic events in modern human time.

In doing my research for this article, one word describing Neil Armstrong’s demeanor kept surfacing: modesty. Neil Armstrong, one of the more historically significant people in human history, was a very modest man who never sought fame, nor fortune, from his lifetime of hallmark accomplishments – and there were many. From piloting the record-breaking North American X-15 rocket plane, to walking on the moon, to serving as NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for aeronautics, Neil Armstrong did not waste his time here on terra firma (or luna firma).

Armstrong descends to the ground on a parachute after ejecting from Lunar Landing Research Vehicle 1. Photo credit: NASA

Fast forward to Aug. 7, 2012.

Neil Armstrong was admitted to Mercy Health Fairfield Hospital in Fairfield, OH for severe chest pains. On August 25 Armstrong died from complications resulting from “routine” coronary bypass surgery after a nurse removed two electrical connections to his artificial pace maker a week prior. He bled profusely into the membrane surrounding his heart. A lawsuit ensued and there was a $6 million settlement to the family. The end of a hero, the launch of a valuable legacy. Five years later, the auctions began.

Michael Riley is the Director of Space Exploration for Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. Heritage Auctions was given the sole right to the Neil Armstrong estate artifacts (officially called The Armstrong Family Collection). Heritage Auctions, established in 1976, is one of the most formidable auction houses in the world. Out of curiosity, I did a Google Earth search on Heritage Auctions in Dallas, and their facility is massive. When speaking with Michael it was very obvious how proud he was that Neil Armstrong’s family had entrusted his company to disseminate these national treasures. Heritage began the Space Exploration division of their company in September, 2007. Joe Garino, who was a physical trainer for the astronauts at NASA, was the subject of their first Space Exploration auction. Many of the astronauts befriended Joe and they would bring him collectibles from their flights. The auctioning of Joe’s artifacts was the beginning of something big at Heritage Auctions.

The front of the Heritage Auctions complex in Dallas, TX Photo credit: Heritage Auctions

To date, the Armstrong Family Collection artifacts have netted the family more than $10,000,000 USD. There have been a total of six auctions with two more planned. I am truly impressed that Neil Armstrong had the foresight to bring with him on the Apollo 11 mission what he did. Fabric from the original Wright Flyer. Pieces of the original Wright Flyer’s propellers. A one-of-a-kind commemorative gold medal that ended-up selling for $2,055,000 USD. Michael provided me with these four links for the four top auctions for The Armstrong Family Collection™: link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4.

Armstrong
A certified piece of the fabric from the original Wright Flyer, and on the right is a silver Robbins Medal, both taken on the Apollo 11 trip by Neil Armstrong.Photo credit: CCG

So, if you have an extra two million dollars taking-up space as dead weight, and you want to buy a one-of-a-kind truly historic NASA artifact, Heritage Auctions just, so happens, has one on the auction block. I can’t speak for my readers, but $2,000,000 is an unimaginable amount of money to me. I could buy a really nice P-51 with that kind of money. Instead, I decide to buy a gold medal that’s been to the moon on the mission that enabled man, humanity, to place a footprint on our first other world. That kind of decision is subjective, even questionable. You wrestle with it in your mind, but passion supersedes logical cognitive thought and you hit that “bid” button. You’re probably going through a whole gambit of emotions not unlike many of us have when we bid for something on eBay. How do you know what your bidding on is a safe bet for that spare change of yours?

The Gold Medal. Photo credit: CCG

This is how we – and the world – know it’s real and your $2,000,000 investment is truly an investment. For the sake of documentation, I’m going to run through the acronyms: First, there’s the parent (company) acronym, CCG (Certified Collectibles Group). CCG is one of the world’s largest providers of expert, impartial and tech-enabled services that add value and liquidity to collectibles. The CCG companies include Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), Paper Money Guaranty (PMG), Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), Classic Collectible Services (CCS), Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG), Authenticated Stamp Guaranty (ASG) and Collectibles Authentication Guaranty (CAG). CAG is the company that certified the provenance of the Armstrong Family Collection artifacts. Since 1987, the CCG companies have certified more than 60 million coins, banknotes, comic books, trading cards, stamps, estate items and related collectibles totaling more than $40 billion (yes, that’s with a “b”). CCG has offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and China.

The Gold Medal that was taken to the moon by Neil Armstrong, that eventually sold at auction for $2,055,000. Photo credit: CCG

As life, and luck, would have it, my office is only about an hour’s drive away from CCG’s home office in Sarasota, FL. I sometimes get jealous of some of my colleagues like expert photographer Jim Mumaw and the extraordinarily talented Tom Demerly and their exposure to some amazing aviationry, because they are fortunate to be where really cool things fly over their heads. Me? Not so much (ordinarily). But I have a trump card on this one. I, figuratively, live a stone’s throw away from the single largest grading company in the world and I took advantage of it.

It was a sweltering day in South-Central Florida. My contact at CCG is Janell Armstrong who is their Marketing Coordinator. I can only describe my communications with this company as awesome. It’s a very serious company, with very serious (friendly) people doing very serious (but really fun) business. Back to the sweltering part. Janell arranged a visit to CCG at 3:00 PM on an exceptionally steamy Sarasota day. We arrived at a very professional-looking office complex guarded by a serious gate. Speaking as somebody with a significant law enforcement and security background, and as somebody who has visited some of the most secure installations in this country (both invited and…), I’ve got to say, those with ill intentions should pick another target.

Once we were on “the other side” of the security gauntlet we were met by Paul Sandler who is Director of Product Development for CCG. In an effort to avoid stereotyping somebody, I still have to acknowledge that Paul looks the part. Very intelligent, very enthused, and very excited about his company. He struck me as somebody with so much to say and so little time to say it. Paul gave us the tour of CCG and what a tour it was. Room after room (most very dimly lit) of machines, pallets of treasures beyond comprehension, and very determined and very dedicated workers. This place was surgically clean with an air of collector’s geekiness that I’ve never seen before. They have comic book artists actually physically go there to sign customers’ books to be graded.

There was an artist there while we were there but we never found out who it was. And there was a secret room. A room whose door would open quietly while the workers entered and exited. A room I didn’t even feel comfortable looking at. This was the room with the ancient artifacts. We were quickly hurried past this room. There were two white boards in the hallways where visiting comic book artists would draw their respective characters and sign the drawings. Paul stopped and looked at one of the boards, and shook his head like it was the first time he contemplated the actual collective value of the board. I think it overwhelmed him a little and he shook it off. We proceeded to the conference room.

The CCG conference room. Not a really big conference room, no windows. I think there might have even been a refrigerator in there. The conference table was a medium to dark colored wood, and was beautiful. The only thing prettier than the table were the very plush, butt-sinking-to-the-floor brown leather chairs that surrounded it. Those chairs were the perfect accompaniment to the comfort level I grew to feel during my visit. I was sitting at the helm of the company that certified, and gave credibility to, the two million dollar Neil Armstrong gold medal that went to the moon during humanity’s first physical visit there. These are the guys and gals who manifest credibility, and I was there.

Certified Collectibles Group (CCG) headquarters in Sarasota, FL Photo credit: CCG

Max Spiegel is the President of CCG. In my life I’ve tried to picture myself doing different things. I’ve got a pretty decent imagination and picturing myself as a jet fighter pilot, or a state senator, or a bartender at a swanky bar doesn’t seem too far of a stretch. I can’t even logically tap into what it must be like to be president of a company who handles the world’s most valued artifacts. Max Spiegel struck me as being really young. Maybe I’m just really old, I don’t know. He came across as being very squared away, very hospitable, and super on top of things. Paul joined us in our meeting and, between the two of them, it was impossible to avoid their enthusiasm and love for their company. These were the men whose company single-handedly certified national treasures the likes of which will never be seen again. There may be a valid argument as to the commercialization of the Neil Armstrong artifacts. There is one indisputable fact: The physical evaluation and documentation of these precious national treasures, in itself, provided an invaluable service to this country, and to history itself.

Al has been a licensed pilot for more than 38 years, enjoying both aircraft and airport ownership. He has been a published digital artist, photographer, and writer for almost 40 years. Al is currently an internationally published military aviation illustrator, writer, and photographer. He is also a web developer and currently maintain 72 websites, including his own hosting company, Blue Lion Solutions LLC. His artwork is available here: www.customaviationart.pixels.com

Helicopter escapades in the Arctic

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Helicopters depend on a complex interaction of rapidly moving parts requiring meticulous maintenance to function reliably. When it all works, the result is a magic carpet ride to places inaccessible to any simple fixed wing aircraft. At the same time, feeling comfortable in helicopters requires an unswervable belief that various key parts such as rotors, gearbox, shafting, and blades will stay connected and keep rotating long enough to make it back to earth in one piece. I was fortunate enough to have this belief and to enjoy spending hundreds of amazing hours in many different helicopters, from the iconic Bell 47 to the Sikorsky S-61. To top it off, I actually got paid for most of these experiences, using helicopters to support our Arctic sea ice research projects in Alaska, Canada, and Norway starting in the early 1970s.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I never encountered a major mechanical problem in the air apart from infrequent engine chip lights, which we took seriously. What I did encounter were numerous occasions when weather and the demands of the job pushed the operating envelope way beyond the pale. Here are a few escapades that remain etched in my memory.

Huey Adventures

Helicopter on ice

This is a bad place for a mechanical problem.

My adventures with the iconic Bell 204 and 205 “Huey” began in 1969 when the Vietnam war was full on. Rotor blades were in short supply and our Bell had been waiting for more than a month as a crack in one of the main blade roots gradually expanded. The pilot decided to ferry the 204 about 80 miles inland to the “big” town of Inuvik (pop ~3,000) and offered me a ride-along in the right seat. After a month in the tiny coastal hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk (pop ~800) in Canada’s Northwest Territories, I was bushed enough to jump at the chance to see some “city” lights.

Before leaving, the pilot proudly showed me the chalk marks tracking the progression of the crack. It wasn’t until we were trucking along about 100 ft above the muddy Mackenzie River that the true lunacy of my mission really clicked. From that point on, the flight in my mind became a race against time, with my imagination in overload. Needless to say, the feeling of relief as we settled gently onto the ramp in front of the Inuvik terminal felt like winning the lottery.

A few years later, we chartered a float-equipped Bell 205 with over 4,000 pounds sling capacity to move hundreds of barrels full of crude oil from where a barge had unloaded them into a huge heap on the beach, about five miles overland from where they were needed. This operation involved rolling about nine of these 450-pound drums into the center of a large cargo net, and then hooking up. Loading was hard physical work but hooking up was scary. The pilot hovered a few feet above my face as I crouched on top of the load to secure the short lanyard to the belly hook. For some reason, he had forgotten to bring a long line that would have allowed us to stand safely off to one side and quickly get out of the way if anything went awry. The memory of being trapped between the big rubber floats surrounded by deafening noise and gale force winds and dust with the belly hook practically in my face is one I’ll never forget.

The Huey was a great machine to fly in under normal circumstances. The jumbo-sized cabin took anything you could throw in and the characteristic thump-thump of the big twin blades announced your arrival a good ten miles away in the cold Arctic air.

Vietnam War Fallout

After the fall of Saigon, there was a surplus of amped up helicopter pilots in the US. Flying traffic in LA or Atlanta just didn’t cut it in terms of adrenalin output. Fortunately, operators in the Arctic were looking for pilots as oil and gas activities expanded. Here in the last frontier with no regulators within a thousand miles, pilots recently out of the jungles of Vietnam could continue to operate in survival mode. Much to the dismay of many non-pilot passengers, this style of flying provided moments of unwelcome terror.

BO105

Low level in a BO-105 over the Colville River in Alaska.

Standard operating procedure was to make sure we were always below 50 ft AGL even if that involved nap-of-the-earth flying, popping up over the very low, undulating, featureless terrain that characterized the Arctic coast. There was no risk of enemy fire but that didn’t matter! Another standard practice was to celebrate surviving another “mission” by heading directly for the cook tent as low as humanly possible, and then zoom climb, missing the doorway by a few feet. The grand finale was to continue the steep climb and expend all the available momentum before rolling and falling off the top while suspended in zero gravity for a few seconds. I found these antics great fun, a point of view not universally shared by the rest of the crew.

On one occasion in the early 80s, we were returning to the Inuit settlement of Sachs Harbour from a long, cold day drilling holes and making measurements about 80 miles out on the sea ice west of Banks Island in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. With four of us in the AS350 A-Star in good spirits anticipating a hot dinner, the pilot suggested a game of “how long can we stay stabilized without touching the cyclic?” The goal was to see if we could maintain level flight by using our own synchronized weight shift to control pitch and roll. By moving in unison we managed to hold attitude for a surprisingly long time—all the while bopping to the pilot’s tune track over the intercom. Zooming along in this bliss state 50 ft above the ice with pressure ridges flashing by on an intensely bright, blue-sky day was a truly meditative experience.

Gradually, these old, bold ex-military pilots faded away through attrition or age and Arctic helicopter operations in the 90s became much safer and less exciting.

Whiteouts

Whiteout presents a potentially deadly condition, especially in the endless expanse of the Arctic in winter. The horizon disappears and contours of a snow-covered surface become indistinguishable with no shadows. Depth perception is nil and there is no way to judge height. Fortunately, dark objects are still visible. I remember being in an A-Star coming in to land in a whiteout when the pilot asked me to throw a shovel out the door. At that point, I would swear that we were only a few feet above the ice. Instead, I became mesmerized counting the seconds as the shovel twirled down through the whiteness before finally embedding itself in the snow. We must have been a good 50 feet in the air. The landing was fine, once the pilot had the shovel in his view as a fixed reference.

A-Star

With whiteout a constant threat, no landing was taken for granted.

In another case of whiteout, we were returning in the Bell 206 Jet Ranger to our camp on old thick ice about 600 miles south of the North Pole. The weather came down quickly and the pilot elected to land while he still had a touch of horizon and depth perception. By the time we shut down, the whiteout was fully developed. I stepped out and literally couldn’t walk five feet without falling on my face. The inability to distinguish features on the ice surface was totally disorienting. There was no other option but to spend the night in the Jet Ranger bundled up in our survival bags—uncomfortable but safe. In the morning with visibility restored, I climbed up to the crest of pressure ridge beside our landing spot and there was our camp a few hundred feet away!

Mimicking an ICBM

As a total contrast to the usual flights blasting along on the deck, we were forced up to unheard of altitudes one day over the ice in the Beaufort Sea about 70 miles offshore of a Distant Early Warning (DEW) site called BAR-4. These radar sites were constructed in the 1950s, stretching from Alaska to Greenland as means of detecting Russian bombers and ICBMs. The radar operators cooperated by providing a range and bearing of our helicopter from the DEW station. By lifting off and staying overhead our camp, we could work out our ice drift—often several miles a day. Remember this was long before GPS and we had no LORAN, VOR, or other means of pinpointing our position.

On this particular day, the operators could not get a fix on the Jet Ranger. The 206 presented a small radar target and was notoriously difficult to see on the screens at the best of times. We kept going up and up until eventually they captured us as a target at 11,000 feet. Conditions were perfect for flicker-induced vertigo—a bright sun coming through the rotor blades and no relative motion, apparently suspended high above a frozen expanse of white in all directions. The result was a sensation of total panic that I have never experienced before or since in an aircraft. Fortunately, the pilot seemed immune and a feeling of normalcy returned at the more familiar lower altitudes. I joked afterwards that if the Russians came over the pole in a fleet of Bell 206s at low level, we would never know what hit us.

I have always loved flying in helicopters. That moment as the weight lifts off the skids, followed by the nose down translation accelerating to forward flight is amplified by seeing the world spread out beneath your feet. It truly feels like flying through space with no visible means of support. Very few if any airplanes can duplicate that sensation (except maybe the highly unusual Edgley Optica, built in small numbers). If only private helicopters weren’t so expensive! For now I’ll have to be content with our Cessna 150.

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The World War II Weekend Air Show Is BACK! And Here’s Our Report.

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World War II Weekend Air Show
B-17G “Yankee Lady” coming in for a landing. (All images credit: Author)

The World War II Weekend is one of the best air shows on the American East Coast.

Organized by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, the 30th annual World War II Weekend air show was a stunning success. After being cancelled last year, due to COVID, the June 4-5-6, 2021 show was a sign of normalcy returning. Held on the East Coast of the United States in Reading, Pennsylvania, this air show consists solely of warbirds from the Second World War, as well as a large contingent of WWII reenactors on the ground.

The show is rather unique, in that it is solely composed of warbirds from the Second World War. No fast movers, no helicopters. The only comparable shows, that I know of, would be: the Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, California and shows held at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in the United Kingdom.

World War II Weekend Air Show
Sherman tank with supporting infantry makes its way through the crowd.

Not only is the show visually stimulating, but also the sounds of various aircraft are music to one’s ears. The deep throated roar of radial engines was contrasted by the ripping/tearing sound of inline Merlin powered aircraft.

SBD Dauntless and TBM Avenger wait out the storm.

The weather cooperated for the most part with blue skies during the show’s busiest days on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday there was an intense and localized downpour which brought the show to a halt and sent people running for cover. Still, once the rain cleared, it provided for some nice photography.

Nakajima A6M2 Model 21 Zero makes a photo pass.

It was a thrill seeing a Japanese Zero, in this case a Nakajima A6M2 Model 21 Zero, for the first time. Owned by Ellenville LLC, this rare Zero is powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine. The company also flew their FG-1D Corsair as well as a P-51D Mustang.

Member of the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team prepares for the day’s jump.

The WWII Airborne Demonstration Team drops on Saturday and Sunday gave the public a small glimpse of what our airborne troops experienced. The Team is part of The Parachute School, which trains individuals in WWII military style static line parachuting. Both days the Team jumped from a C-46 Commando in two sticks of six men and women. Their authentic attention to detail in their uniforms and parachuting skills were most impressive.

Seeing and hearing heavy four engine bombers is always stunning to experience. The Yankee Air Museum brought their B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady”. Plus, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) flew in their star attraction, the B-29 Superfortress “Fifi”. Both bombers performed during the show as well as flew rides for lucky passengers.

World War II Weekend Air Show
SBD Dauntless dive bomber shows off her bomb load.

The CAF always provides numerous warbirds from various units for the World War II Weekend Airshow. Airbase Georgia, the CAF unit based near Atlanta, contributed their P-51D Mustang, SBD-5 Dauntless, FG-1D Corsair, and a very rare P-63A-6 Kingcobra. The TBM-3E Avenger “Doris Mae”, from the CAF Capital Wing, conducted rides and took part in the missing man formation.

Even though the show had fewer warbirds, as compared to past years, it was an impressive event with mostly good weather. World War II Weekend Airshow is definitely a bucket list air show for aviation aficionados. It normally takes place on or around the anniversary of the D-Day, in early June. I recommend you place it on your air show calendar for 2022.

World War II Weekend Air Show
Weather begins to clear after drenching the B-25 Mitchell “Panchito”.

Randy Jennings is the proud son of combat WWII Mustang pilot, Warner Jennings. From birth, he has been obsessed by all things aviation; past, present and future. As a photojournalist, he has covered aviation events in the United States and Europe. He lives in the Washington DC region with his beautiful wife and rambunctious daughter.

Facts About Midair Collisions

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Near-Midair Collisions Reported Each Year: Approximately 200
Actual Collisions: Between 15 and 25

Fatal: 70%

Distance From Airport Most Occur: Within 5 miles
Average Altitude: Less than 1,000 feet
Typical Meteorological Conditions: VFC
Most Common Time: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., weekends

Percent Occurring Within Traffic Pattern: Around half

During Takeoff/Climb: 10%
At Non-Towered Airports: 78%
Cases Involving No Radio Communication: About half
Cases Involving A CFI: 37%
Average Experience Of Pilots Involved: 5,000 flight hours
Common Scenario: Low-wing converging on high-wing
Less-Common: Formation flying, air-to-air photography

Collision Avoidance Technique Pushed By FAA: “See and avoid”
Critical Aspect: Traffic scanning
Also Known As: Keeping head on a swivel
Recommended Method: Block system scanning
# of Blocks To Divide The Sky: 9-12
Size For Each Block: 10-15° horizontally, 10° vertically
Minimum Area To Scan Around Intended Flight Path: 60° side-to-side, 10° up/down
Average Seconds Needed For An Effective Scan: 20

Technology Designed To Prevent Mid-Airs: Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS)
How It Works: Monitors traffic, generates warnings (TAs) and mandatory actions (RAs)
Percent Of TCAS Advisories Ignored By Pilots: 11%

Deadliest Mid-Air: 1996 Charkhi Dadri collision
Fatalities: 349
Survivors: 0
Experience Of Captain At Fault: 9,200 flight hours
Aftermath: TCAS required on commercial flights worldwide

U.S. Midair Resulting In Sole Survivor (Initially): New York City, 1960 
Aircraft Involved: United DC-8, TWA Super Constellation
Fatalities: 134
On Board: 128
On Ground: 6

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The AH-1Z Viper Performed The First Link 16 Test Flight As The H-1 Mixed Fleet Surpassed 400,000 Flight Hours

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AH-1Z
File photo of an AH-1Z Viper of the U.S. Marine Corps (Image credit: USMC)

The upgrade is part of the new Digital Interoperability suite that will be later extended also to the UH-1Y Venom.

An AH-1Z Viper of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 demonstrated for the first time the Link 16 to establish a two-way connection between a ground station and the helicopter during a test flight at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The new capability is part of the digital interoperability (DI) suite, which includes Link 16 and Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) data links used to share information across various networks. Another novelty of the DI suite is the new digital moving map which can integrate all the info shared by other assets through the datalink for a better Situational Awareness (SA).

“The H-1 has decades of battlefield experience, it has evolved to fight in numerous environments,” said Col. Vasilios Pappas, USMC H-1 Light/Attack Helicopters program office (PMA-276) program manager. “The integration of these data links aligns with this platforms’ ability to adapt to the ever-changing threat and meet the needs of current and future warfighters.”

AH-1Z
An AH-1Z Viper assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 takes off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River. During the test flight, the AH-1Z established a two way connection between a ground station and the aircraft’s Link 16 and Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) systems for the first time. (Photo by: Joy Shrum via NAVAIR)

The Link 16 system, which was provided by Northrop Grumman, is part of a defined road map of planned improvements designed to ensure the AH-1Z Viper maintains its technological edge and combat capability throughout its service life. Thanks to the datalinks, the helicopter can now rapidly share information with other weapon systems, provide greater situational awareness, accelerate the kill chain, and enhance survivability to outmaneuver and defeat the threat across a range of military operations.

“Northrop Grumman’s Link-16 system will help U.S. Marines today, and well into the future, with critical technology that facilitates coordination, collaboration, and interoperability. By enabling the display and integration of Link-16 data with the H-1 system, pilots of the AH-1Z have greater situational awareness and enhanced survivability,” said James Conroy, vice president, navigation, targeting and survivability, Northrop Grumman. “This milestone also highlights our focus on “speed to fleet,” due to the unprecedented time between demonstrating the concept and getting to first flight. Flexibility and adaptability, using next generation agile development practices, are the only ways to innovate and keep pace with changing mission needs.”

The integration effort, supported by both Bell (the helicopter’s manufacturer) and Northrop Grumman, culminated in this first one-hour test flight, during which the pilots successfully communicated with a PRC-117G Multiband Networking Manpack Radio, one of the standard medium-range encrypted radios used by ground troops to communicate with air assets and share data and images, and the Mobile Systems Integration Lab, a ground station designed by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) to validate the suite’s connection with the aircraft.

“The flight was a success and went exactly as expected,” said USMC Capt. Jason Grimes, the first flight pilot and H-1 project officer with HX-21. “There is still work to be done before fleet integration, but it was a step in the right direction in getting a much needed capability to the HMLA [Marine Light Attack Helicopter] squadrons.”

AH-1Z
A UH-1Y Venom, left, and AH-1Z Viper fly alongside the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) during a photo exercise, May 17, 2021. Iwo Jima is underway in the Atlantic Ocean with Amphibious Squadron 4 and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) as part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jessica Kibena)

According to the press release, the joint team composed by the U.S. Marine Corps H-1 Light/Attack Helicopter program (PMA-276), Bell and Northrop Grumman leveraged the best practices of Agile Development methodologies to get the DI suite from concept to vehicle design testing in 12 months. Specifically, Northrop Grumman architected and integrated a mission package for Link 16 while Bell provided all of the necessary vehicle analysis and modifications to incorporate the new mission equipment on the AH-1Z.

The complete DI suite includes a new radio, processor, and mission computer software to integrate the information from this new data link onto a new digital map interface. The flight test campaign will continue throughout the summer, with the initial AH-1Z fleet integration expected in 2022. Following the completion of the AH-1Z testing, the USMC will begin the integration of the DI suite also on the UH-1Y Venom.

The news about the first test of the new capabilities arrived just a few days after the USMC announced that the H-1 mixed fleet, composed by both the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom, surpassed the 400,000 flight hours milestone in April. The two helicopters, which are the latest variants of the AH-1 Huey Cobra and the UH-1 Huey, have been deployed around the globe since 2010. With the last UH-1Y delivered in 2018 and the last AH-1Z to be delivered in 2022, the H-1 fleet is expected to stay in service through the 2040s.

However, some of these helicopters are already headed to long-term storage at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s “boneyard”, as Captain Andrew Wood, a USMC spokesperson, confirmed to our friends at The War Zone: “As a result of Force Design 2030 squadron divestments, and pending final disposition, the Marine Corps expects to induct 53 H-1s (27 AH-1Zs and 26 UH-1Ys) into long-term preservation and storage”.

Force Design 2030 is a radical restructuring effort initiated with the goal of creating a more flexible U.S. Marine Corps with new capabilities, even if this will be at the expense of other traditional capabilities which are being downsized or totally eliminated. One of the capabilities that have been eliminated quite unexpectedly, generating some controversies, is the Main Battle Tank specialty, resulting in the almost immediate divestment of the M1 Abrams tank fleet.

Back in 2019, the Marine Aviation Plan foresaw a total of 145 Vipers and 116 Venoms in service by the end of 2022. With the confirmed retirement of 53 H-1s, which already started as the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) published the photos of the first AH-1Z being cocooned last month, the two fleets will lose about 20% of their strength.

However, there is an interesting detail. Some of the first helicopters to be retired come from the recently inactivated Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMLA-367) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Kaneohe Bay (Hawaii). The III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) confirmed that two of HMLA-367’s AH-1Zs were sent to the boneyard, while others are being sent to other units, and both of them are remanufactured AH-1Ws.

As you may know already, a small number of AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1N Hueys were remanufactured in the newer AH-1Z Vipers and UH-1Y Venoms, before the USMC decided to continue the program with only newly built helicopters. This might just be speculation, but with the detail confirmed by the III MEF, we might assume that the USMC is retiring only the remanufactured helicopters to employ its resources on the newly built ones.

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.

NotKosh—a year without AirVenture

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To paraphrase the old quote:

“When once you have tasted AirVenture, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned toward Oshkosh, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

There was no Oshkosh in 2020.

All the past weeks spent at Oshkosh under Wisconsin summer skies are memorable; some more memorable than others. I remember one Oshkosh of constant rain, ever present rumbles of thunder, ubiquitous puddles, muddy grounds, but always pleasant dispositions. That summer became known as “SloshKosh.”

Concorde low pass

Some years, Oshkosh is truly unforgettable.

Other summers held promising prospects of seeing things close up most of us in general aviation never have a chance to experience. The sleek Concorde, performing not one, but two eye-catching passes prior to touchdown; the Airbus A380 hanging, low and slow, on short final; walking through an Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport; Bob Hoover entertaining in his Shrike Aero Commander; Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, the crew of Apollo 11, appearing together on the 25th anniversary of the Moon landing; and, of course, who can forget Jet Man, one of the few attractions the summer our elected representatives (in their infinite wisdom and in keeping with their interminable rounds of political warfare) decided to reduce the Defense Dept. budget, grounding all military aircraft from performing demonstrations or participating in static displays.

Because Wittman Field stood empty and silent, the summer of 2020 deserves a name as well. I believe it is entirely appropriate to tag this particular part of the last week of July and first week of August 2020 as “NotKosh.”

We have had little control over the sometimes random, sometimes contrived, events that unfolded in front of us in 2020. A worldwide pandemic and its inevitable economic recession, a hotly contested Presidential election, peaceful protests, and out of control riots and looting. In 2020, possibly more than ever before, we needed Oshkosh.

My son and my daughter have been attending Oshkosh with me since they were little. One of our best memories, among many, was watching the afternoon air shows while reclining in the long shadow of the east side of the old control tower. The shade the tower provided, the perfect angle of the grassy hill for viewing, and the close proximity of the tower to cold drinks or ice cream, made that venue a perfect spot to spread our Tweety Bird bedsheet and relax. I had hopes that my grandson would join us at Oshkosh for the first time this past year.

The old tower is gone now. A new tower has taken its place. Change is inevitable. We have found other locations for enjoying the air shows. But even as we seek out the familiar and comfortable, we are continually amazed by the new attractions AirVenture offers each year. More aviation interests are being served and promoted and, even if you are not a pilot, there is more for you to do and see as well. One spectacular success is the Wednesday and Saturday night airshows. If you have experienced one, you know how fantastic they are.

I have always found it interesting that there are so many shared memories of AirVenture, and so many individual, personal memories as well. Oshkosh, in one sense, has always been comfortable and predictable. We all enjoy coming back to the same campsites; engaging again with groups of wonderful friends; having breakfast in the Warbird Café; visiting the Red Barn for lunch; standing three deep in front of an avionics vendor’s booth in an exhibit hangar; enjoying a bag of freshly popped popcorn in the Vintage aircraft area; drinking cool water from the tree-shaded bubblers next to the Brown Arch; delighting in “Jerry’s One Man Band;” watching the endless line of ultralights departing and arriving on the grass strip on the south end of the grounds; and sitting with a handheld radio under the wing of a DC-3 and tracking the arriving aircraft on Runway 27. “Red and blue RV, make your base turn now. Green dot, land on the green dot.” “Yellow and white Cessna high wing on downwind, rock your wings now.” “Piper Cherokee, nice job, exit onto the grass when able, and follow the flagmen to parking. Welcome to Oshkosh!”

Night airshow fireworks

The night air show has been a big hit in recent years.

I often started my mornings at Oshkosh with warm, freshly made donuts (plain, sugar, or cinnamon) and coffee. This operation, a not-so-well-kept secret, started in a tent next to the IAC display area many years ago, approximately at the corner of Wittman Road and Boeing Plaza. Several years later it was moved slightly farther north where it now shares enclosed space with several hamburger/hotdog/chicken sandwich vendors. Wooden picnic tables with colorful blue and orange umbrellas providing mostly unrestricted views of the flight line and Runway 18-36 are set out in front of the walk up windows.

When not flying, I cannot envision a better place to be than sitting under an umbrella, sun coming up, coffee and donuts within easy reach, and watching AirVenture wake up slowly in the coolness of an early morning. In the distance, the Ford Trimotor’s engines are belching and turning over. The relative calm is broken only by a few GA aircraft landing or departing, or the thunderous roar of a formation of T-6s gracefully climbing and banking their polished wings in the direction of Lake Winnebago. Delivery trucks, transmissions grinding, occasionally pass in front of me. Pilots and families at other tables smile and talk in low voices about their arrival experiences, how they spent the previous night, or formulate plans for the day ahead.

I am at a point in my life where there is no compelling need for me to buy stuff, but I want to walk through the Fly Market anyway. It would be a challenge to attempt to describe the Fly Market. Like Las Vegas, better to counsel others to walk through it and see for themselves. If you are a pilot or builder, often you can find exactly what you are looking for. To everyone else, it is a swap meet/garage sale; an outdoor museum; and sort of an open-air Walmart, offering everything from flight suits, aviation books, sunglasses, one of a kind aircraft parts, Ginsu knives, hand tools, massage chairs, aviation apparel, bed pillows, and cookware. Whatever you are looking for, you will likely find it there.

In 2020, EAA offered many virtual seminars and presentations to fill the void left by the Forums and Workshops remaining dark and empty. Online is fine, but it is not the same. No aviation celebrities on stage or sitting just a few feet away from you when you are participating only with your laptop from home. No arriving flight of F-22 Raptors in full afterburner to drown out any speaker’s voice. You can miss out by not being there.

Several years ago, I attended a talk on the Grumman A6 Intruder, the Navy’s primary attack aircraft until retired in 1997. I watched a gentleman come in and take a seat a few rows away from me. He had shoulder length, tied-back hair, and a long beard. He sported denim bib overalls and sandals. He could easily be mistaken for a member of the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame or, if holding a guitar, a member of the band ZZ Top. I surmised he was connected with a commune and probably sold dope out of the trunk of his car. He must have become lost and just wandered in.

The presenter, neat and trim, was a retired naval aviator who flew A6s off a carrier deck in Vietnam. About halfway through the presentation, the guy in the bib overalls raised his hand. He proceeded to stand up and advise that he was a Marine Corps pilot who flew A6s out of Da Nang. He wanted to correct a technical point the presenter made concerning the A6, as the presenter was apparently accurate when referring to the Navy’s aircraft, but inaccurate as it related to the Marine’s land-based ops. Once I recovered from the shock, I remembered something about not judging a book by its cover.

Oshkosh overhead

A summer with Oshkosh was a strange summer.

I missed taking the bus to the EAA Museum and the strangers you meet on the short commute. You can walk there, but it is easier to walk to the Bus Park and take the regularly scheduled transportation. Always lines, but everyone is courteous and happy. On the bus, it was not unusual to discover that the young couple in front of me flew in from North Carolina, the older couple behind me flew in from New Mexico, and the two young men sitting across the aisle, wide-eyed and excited, are from Brazil on their first trip to Oshkosh.

The Seaplane Base (96W), located on a photogenic bay on the west shore of Lake Winnebago south of Oshkosh, stood quiet and green and ready in 2020. The colorful Super Cubs, Cessnas, Lakes, de Havillands, and larger multiengine types, were not circling overhead or carving Winnebago’s placid waters last summer. They were elsewhere. The woods, always inviting for its shade, was silent, with only the faint humming of insects and the chirping birds who make their homes within. Out on the lake, a few motorboats in the distance pulled water skiers or returned from a morning’s fishing. If you went there, you found the moorings empty and the bay’s waters still.

There are ghosts who attend Oshkosh. Not scary phantoms. Not frightful spooks of disasters or mayhem, but good and endearing memories of pilots who once were and are no more. They may be a mom or a dad, a spouse, a brother, a daughter, or a good friend. If you look closely when you are on the AirVenture grounds, you can see their ethereal images sitting on a bench enjoying ice cream on a typical hot, humid Oshkosh afternoon. You can see them on the flight line, excited about being there, and proudly discussing the work and long hours they put in to build or restore their airplanes. You can see them at the Theater in the Woods enjoying the warm breeze in the company of friends while taking in the evening’s program. You can see them in Paul’s Woods, or Camp Scholler, or the North 40, relaxing on lawn chairs outside of their campers and tents, laughing and talking late into the dark and gentle night.

Some say that if you love airplanes, Oshkosh is airplane heaven.

I plan on returning to that heaven this year.

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Who Says the F-35 Can’t Dogfight? You Just Gotta Jump Out of It for the Best Shot!

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F-35 Battlefield
A screenshot of the BF trailer. (All images credit: EA DICE)

BattleField 2042 debuts with wild trailer showing pilot ejecting from F-35 to shoot down a Su-57 Felon with a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon. And gaming fans are loving it!

Well, if you still have your doubts about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s ability to dogfight, the newly released BattleField 2042 should put those concerns to rest.

The new game reveal video (a big thank you to @malgordon for the heads-up!) shows us what the Air Force can’t, the real way to dogfight in an F-35: you just have to jump out and use your shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon against the enemy Su-57 Felon, then, climb right back in and hit the afterburner!

We’re not quite sure where you put an anti-tank missile in the cockpit of an F-35, why the throttle on this F-35 suddenly appears on the right side of the cockpit, or why the pilot isn’t wearing an F-35 helmet, but hey, this is gaming. We don’t sweat the details. It’s all about the action! Besides, with a soundtrack from L.A. bad boy rockers Motley Crüe, what’s not to love?

F-35 Battlefield
The sequence of the Su-57 downing.

And speaking of action, the new game play video shows plenty of cool new weapons systems, real and imagined, some super tacti-cool uniforms and gear, and a pretty crazy face-off between some Ka-50 Hokum gunships and a souped-up Little Bird that eventually gets creamed by a guy who does an XGames ghost ride big-air off a skyscraper into the chopper. They teach this stuff at Ft. Benning now, don’t they?

The latest installment in the popular BattleField gaming series, the 2042 edition was revealed in a new game play trailer on June 9, 2021. Over 2.2 million viewers, and counting, have watched the bizarre mix of X-Games extreme sports, fantasy special operations and apocalyptic, all-out global war so far.

In a particularly weird twist, the game also gives players control over the weather. So, if you ever wondered what it would be like to wage an all-out, close quarters battle in urban terrain in the middle of a tornado, well, now you can get your answer.

In a June 11, 2021 article by gaming columnist Vic Hood, game developer EA DICE’s chief studios officer Laura Miele told techradar.com that, “We are creating epic battles at a scale and fidelity unlike anything you’ve experienced before”. The visuals in this new trailer confirm what Miele says. As outlandish as the action is, the appearance of the game is stunning.

This is the 17th edition of the Battlefield series, and the new game releases on October 22, 2021, for the PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One and good ‘ole PC platforms according to techradar.com. Pre-orders are live now. There’s no word yet if the Air Force, Marines or Navy will use the F-35 dogfight scenes to develop new outside-the-cockpit close-quarter combat tactics though..

Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.

First Leonardo TH-73A Training Helicopter Delivered To The U.S. Navy

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TH-73A delivery
A TH-73A in the U.S. Navy livery flying over Leonardo’s facility in Philadelphia. (Photo: Leonardo)

The new helicopter will replace the TH-57 Sea Ranger, allowing the introduction of a modernized training curriculum for the highest quality of training.

The U.S. Navy took delivery of the first new TH-73A training helicopter during a ceremony at Leonardo’s facilities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 10, 2021. The helicopter is the first of the 32 acquired through the initial 177 million USD firm-fixed-price contract awarded last year, out of a total requirement of 130 aircraft that will be delivered through 2024 to replace the ageing TH-57 Sea Ranger a military derivative of the famous Bell 206 Jet Ranger, after 35 years of service. Towards the end of 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense exercised options for an additional 36 aircraft in a $171 million fixed-price-contract.

“The TH-73A will be instrumental in providing higher fidelity training to our future rotary-wing and tilt-rotor aviators for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard,” said Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces. “The cutting-edge technology and advanced avionics within the Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) will enable a more seamless transition from the training aircraft to fleet aircraft, this in turn allows more focus on high end warfighting development and training.”

The new Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) of the U.S. Navy includes not only TH-73A helicopters, but also new simulators and aircrew training services, a modernized curriculum and a new contractor logistics support contract for the maintenance and flight line support requirements of the new helicopter. The TH-73A, based on the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) certified variant of the popular commercial AW119Kx,  has been fully certified  by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prior to delivery, thus bringing a ready-made solution that will transition the TH-57 platforms out of service by 2025, with the first helicopters expected to be retired during fiscal year 2022.

“This delivery signifies a new era for Naval Aviation training,” said Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff, Chief of Naval Aviation Training. “By using current cockpit technologies and a new training curriculum, the TH-73A will improve pilot training and skills, and ensure rotary wing aviators are produced more efficiently at a higher quality and are ready to meet the fleet’s challenges.”

The first TH-73A will be used to train the cadre of instructor pilots and validate the modernized curriculum efforts, which is a requirement prior to begin the training of Student Naval Aviators with the new curriculum in the new system. The AHTS has capacity to train several hundred aviation students per year at Naval Air Station Whiting Field-South (Florida), where all student helicopter pilots for the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard train along with several NATO-allied nations, accounting for the training needs of all of the Fleet Replacement Squadrons and setting up for success the students in any platform they select after the TH-73A.

TH-73A
The delivery ceremony of the first TH-73A, which can be seen in the background. (Photo: Leonardo)

“The U.S. Navy expects the highest quality of training for its future aviators,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, Leonardo Helicopters Managing Director in the press release. “We are honored to start delivery of the product chosen for this critical task. Today is just the beginning of a journey we have undertaken to support the Navy as it shapes the capabilities of future generations of aviation students.”

To support the new TH-73A fleet, Leonardo has announced the construction of a new comprehensive 100,000 sq. ft. helicopter support center at Whiting Aviation Park, located directly across the runway from NAS Whiting Field for seamless and immediate maintenance and repair support, with groundbreaking expected in December 2021. This way the company will be able to efficiently support the U.S. Navy throughout the entire service life of the TH-73A until 2050 or longer.

“The combined government and contractor team set new standards to meet much needed requirements in the fleet,” said Capt. Holly Shoger, Undergraduate Flight Training Systems Program (PMA-273) program manager. “We are proud to develop and provide these new capabilities that will improve pilot training for many years to come.”

Following the delivery, the first TH-73A will undergo the final DoD inspections before its arrival at NAS Whiting Field. According to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) press release, all the first 32 TH-73As are scheduled for delivery to the U.S. Navy this calendar year. The new helicopters will be housed in a temporary hangar until a new dedicated helicopter maintenance hangar is built, with construction to begin in 2023.

The TH-73A, initially proposed as TH-119 to the US Navy, is based on the commercial AW119 “Koala” and is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-37A engine, with a takeoff power rating of 1,002 hp and a maximum take-off weight of 6,283 lb (2,850 kg). In terms of flight performance, the TH-73 will be similar to the commercial AW119, with a cruise speed of 130 kt, 1,800 ft/min sea level rate of climb, hover in-ground-effect of 11,000 ft, service ceiling of 15,000 ft and a range of 515 NM. With these characteristics, the TH-73A will be able to be employed for both initial training flights and advanced training, as it can perform every maneuver in the U.S. Navy’s training syllabus for a seamless transition from basic maneuvers to advanced operational training.

The cockpit features an avionic suite made by Genesys Aerosystems, with four 6- by 8-inch displays, instrument-certified dual GPS/WAAS navigation system, synthetic vision system, Helicopter Terrain Avoidance Warning System (HTAWS), moving map and integrated communication and navigation systems. As already mentioned, the helicopter was also certified for IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight by the FAA. An increased level of security is provided by dual safety and hydraulic system.

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.

Total Solar Eclipse Done Right

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There’s disagreement about whether the subject of Carly Simon’s big early 70s hit titled You’re So Vain was Mike Jagger or Warren Beatty, but regardless, that dude, according to the singer, flew his “Learjet to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.” Which to be perfectly honest never sounded like a bad thing to us, but to each their own.

Regardless, this particular video of a total eclipse of the sun, what looks to be an annular eclipse, where the moon covers all but the outer ring of our home star, is awesome and is one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen. Totally Learjet worthy. 

You’ve missed the June eclipse, which was yesterday, but there’s another one this year, in December, and one company, Sky & Telescopes, is selling rides on a chartered Airbus A321 to witness the December 4,  2021 total eclipse from what it says will be cloudless skies at 38,000 feet. If you fly fast enough, you can extend your time in the path of the eclipse by a lot. Concorde did that trick back in June of 1973, managing to stay in the umbra for almost 74 minutes! An A321 can’t do that well because, well,  it’s not Concorde, but passengers could enjoy the darkness for nearly two minutes! Check it out here. Prices for a tour that includes the eclipse flight range from $4,500 to $12,000.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

Cicada Madness, A Scary FAA Reading Of A Judge’s Ruling On Flight Training, and US aircraft makers are down with future LSA and V-TOLs.

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Cicada madness has struck the United States, and the mid-Atlantic states are getting the worst of it. After being underground for the past 17 years, huge swarms of cicadas have arisen and wreaked havoc (well, minor annoyance anyways), causing a delay to an Air Force One Press Flight and showing up on radar screens around the Washington, D.C., area, where experts say there are trillions of the bugs. At least now we know how many bugs it takes to fill the Nation’l Mall.

AOPA, EAA and nearly a dozen other member organizations are baffled and angered—they said “displeased”—by the FAA’s reading of a judge’s opinion on flight training that arose from a case against Warbird Adventures, which conducted living experience flights in a Curtiss P-40 to paying students. The court ruled that such flights were illegal, and the FAA followed up with an opinion that supported that of the court. The FAA guidance, the member groups say, could have a devastating impact on training in several different categories of aircraft, including homebuilts.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has partnered with Frontier Airlines for a pilot hiring program. Frontier will make regular recruiting trips to ERAU and meet with students there who have great recommendations, high GPAs and a record of “stellar” flight performance.

In an announcement that has drawn little notice, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the SAE International, a global manufacturing standards association, have signed a cooperative agreement to work together in light GA and business aviation efforts. The partnership could have positive long-term implications for a new generation of Light Sport Aircraft-like models that could emerge within the next few years.

Genesys has introduced a big upgrade to its already popular S-TEC 3100 digital autopilot, with new hardware and capabilities, including an upgraded display and extensive V-NAV capabilities. The improvements are retrofittable to existing model 3100 autopilots.

A group of minority shareholders of Icon Aircraft have banded together to sue the manufacturer, owned by a Chinese company, claiming that Icon has passed up partnerships and other opportunities that would have improved the company’s fortunes. The suit claims the reason that Icon is doing this is so that it can transfer related technology to China.

The United States Air Force is looking into the development of a supersonic or hypersonic replacement for Air Force One and Air Force Two aircraft. The funds, reallocated from an existing program, are paltry compared to what would be needed for such development. Experts further suggest that the effort is part of a move by the Air Force to invest in the technology that China has been pursuing for the past several years.

Speaking subsonicallly, Vice President Kamala Harris was off on a multi-day trip to Central America when, only 20 minutes into the flight, the plane had to return to Andrews Air Force Base due to the landing gear not fully retracting. They swapped out planes and the Veep was on her way with minimum delay. No word on whether the mechanical issue was cicada related.

Boeing backed out on Aerion at least in part because of its great interest in the urban aerial mobility market, according to a story in Aviation International News Online. The story quotes Boeing president and CEO Dave Calhoun as saying that its joint venture with Kitty Hawk on the all-electric Cora eVTOL shows the kind of commercial promise that the Aerion Supersonic program presumably lacked.

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The future of eVTOLs is beginning to look a lot like an electrical direction for conventional helicopter operations, and the order for 50 urban air mobility craft from Brazilian helo operator Helisul from Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions adds to the perception. Eve is a subsidiary of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. It had earlier gotten an order for 200 of its craft from Halo, an urban air mobility startup.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

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