U.S. E-4B ‘Doomsday’ Plane Makes Airshow Debut Outside The U.S. at RIAT

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The E-4B is one of the highlights of this year’s RIAT at RAF Fairford. (Image credit: RIAT)

Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK, marks the first airshow appearance of a U.S. Air Force E-4B Nightwatch, outside the U.S.

The RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo), underway at RAF Faiford, UK, is, at least in Europe, the real highlight of the airshow season, attracting, as usual, several interesting aircraft types from all over the world. Making its first appearance at RIAT 22, the first ever at an airshow outside the U.S., is this year a very rare assets, the U.S. Air Force E-4B Nightwatch.

The E-4B is a modified B747-200 that serves as National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) providing a flying command, control and communications center to direct nuclear (and conventional) forces, by receiving, verifying and relaying EAM (Emergency Action Messages). Four E-4B are in service with the U.S. Air Force and operated by the Air Force Global Strike Command out of Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. One aircraft is usually airborne every 12 hours, with another one ready for departure with a 5-minute notice.
The one on static display at RIAT 22, registration 73-1676, arrived in the afternoon on Jul. 15, 2022 as GORDO 01. The aircraft could be tracked online on flight tracking websites as it did a holding pattern and then a low pass before coming back to landing.

The E-4B, designed to carry the U.S. SecDef as well as other U.S. top officials and always supporting Air Force One’s trips abroad, is specifically designed to keep American decision makers alive in case of nuclear wars, crisis, zombie invasions or alien attacks. Therefore, it has to be able to fly through any EMP (electromagnetic pulse) with unharmed systems. That’s why this highly-modified Boeing 747 does not feature modern glass cockpit but old fashioned, analogue-style avionics are more resilient to EMPs.

The E-4B is protected against the effects of electromagnetic pulse and has an electrical system designed to support advanced electronics and a wide variety of communications equipment. An advanced satellite communications system provides worldwide communication for senior leaders through the airborne operations center. Other improvements include nuclear and thermal effects shielding, acoustic control, an improved technical control facility and an upgraded air-conditioning system for cooling electrical components.

According to the U.S. Air Force fact sheet, the Nightwatch aircraft’s main deck is divided into six functional areas: a command work area, conference room, briefing room, an operations team work area, communications area and rest area. An E-4B may include seating for up to 112 people, including a joint-service operations team, Air Force flight crew, maintenance and security component, communications team and selected augmentees.

The following clip shows the arrival of the “Doomsday” plane in 4K.

About David Cenciotti
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.

AirVenture Almost Here; New Wings at Van’s; And a New Look for the CAP

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With Oshkosh looming—it starts on Monday, July 25—the week in news has been slow, GA-wise, as plane makers and movers and shakers usually hold on to their announcements until the festivities get underway. There was one big exception to this rule, as Van’s Aircraft created the year’s funniest release in showing the world its new high-wing plane after spy photos let the cat out of the bag.

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General Aviation Facing Great Opportunities and Challenges

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The US House Subcommittee on Aviation heard testimony on July 13th from multiple aviation industry groups, including the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) regarding the current state of general aviation, and the news was largely positive, though leaders shared challenges and future hazards to the segment.

NATA President and CEO, Timothy Obitts, told the subcommittee, “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, general aviation proved its national value by continuing to deliver vital essential services when commercial aviation shut down.” He went on to say, “Part 135 air carriers and general aviation airports provided critical medical transport, supported essential law enforcement and firefighting services, transported testing and vaccine supplies, facilitated business travel to maintain economic growth, and kept remote communities safely connected.”

However, with increased flight activity comes new entrants to the 135 charter market. Industry observers have noted that this influx of new charter companies also has led to a dangerous uptick in illegal charters.

NATA believes the prevalence of the illegal charter activity begins with inconsistent investigation and enforcement by regional Flight District Standards Offices (FSDO’s). Some of this may be related to a lack of resources at the FAA to investigate and increase enforcement against these illegal charter operators. And since the NTSB reviews and settles the backlog of appeals, additional resources for those tasked with hearing and deciding on those appeals would also assist in curbing the illegal operations in the 135 industry.

GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce also testified about the challenges that the business aviation community faces, which includes supply chain issues, the future of aviation fuels, efforts to strengthen the industry’s workforce and concerns over radio frequency spectrum allocation, to name a few.

Friday Photo: sundown separation

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Sunset with airplane

Sunset with airplane

The sight: Departure right into a setup sunlight The pilot: Todd James

The plane: Marquart Charger MA-5 The objective: To lose some tension and also unwind.

The memory: Few points in life can defeat the sight of a lovely loss sundown mounted in the wings of your favored biplane.

Intend to share your “Friday Photo?” Send your picture as well as summary (making use of the style over) to: [e-mail shielded]

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Lockheed YO-3 Quiet Star: The First Produced Stealth Aircraft

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When we think of stealth aircraft, we usually focus on low radar-signature planes like the F-22 fighter or B-2 Stealth Bomber. But, in fact, stealthy technology encompasses much more. Most aircraft also produce a heat signature, a vapor trail and, of course, the generation of power produces noise. In 1966, the Lockheed corporation combined a Schweitzer 2-32 glider airframe, a Continental 0-200 engine and the muffler from a 1958 Buick to produce what was arguably the first stealth aircraft. 

This original design, the QT-2 (Quiet Thruster), eventually morphed into the production version, the YO-3 Quiet Star, which went on to gather intelligence for the U.S. military in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam and then had a second act catching wild game poachers in the Mississippi Delta. 

Modified general aviation aircraft have been pressed into military service for a very long time. The Piper L-4 Grasshopper, Cessna O-1 Birddog and later the Cessna O-2 Skymaster all saw extensive action as artillery spotters, forward air controllers and liaison aircraft. 

However, in 1966, the U.S. Navy had a unique request. It had been tasked with finding and interdicting traffic in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. Lieutenant Leslie Horn, himself a private pilot, grew tired of the dangerous work of searching the canals in a riverboat with a set of binoculars and a starlight scope. So, he asked, what if a very quiet airplane, undetectable from the ground, could orbit over the delta for long periods of time and look for the enemy in relative safety? 

Surprisingly, the powers-that-be agreed, and soon the Lockheed Space and Missile Division had a U.S. Army contract in hand to develop a high-lift, low-noise, stealthy reconnaissance aircraft. The company, which had already been at work on a similar project, asked engineer Stanley Hall, a noted sailplane designer, to head up the project. 


Hall’s first effort, the QT-2 (Quiet Thruster Two Seats), consisted of the venerable Schweizer 2-32 glider airframe with a Continental O-200 engine mounted on top of the fuselage, just behind the pilots. To reduce propeller tip noise, a large, slow-turning wooden propeller was connected to the engine by a driveshaft that ran over the pilots’ heads. This ungainly looking arrangement was driven by a series of rubber belts to reduce gear noise. And, of course, the final stealth modification was the addition of the aforementioned 1958 Buick muffler. 

Once flight tests began, it was immediately apparent that the QT-2 was virtually undetectable on dark nights at altitudes greater than 800 feet AGL. To be sure, the QT-2 was not completely silent. However, the combination of ambient background noise, the soft, gentle surf-like sound of the large, slow-turning propeller, and the fact that the boats traveling on the river would produce their own noise made it a very stealthy platform. 

Pleased with the two prototypes’ performance, the company modified both airframes into a combat-ready airplane named the QT-2PC (Prize Crew), which was soon shipped to Vietnam. Lt. Horn, now a Lt. Commander, led a hardy band of pilots and maintainers and put the stealthy motor gliders to the test. The results were a mixed bag. The QT-2PCs were as stealthy as advertised. They managed to average 10 hours in the air each night, flying below 1,000 feet while identifying enemy traffic on the Delta, all while undetected. On the other hand, these heavily modified gliders were a handful to fly. 


The large propeller was supported by a thick pylon immediately in front of the pilot. Unfortunately, this acted as a second rudder, well forward of the center of gravity. The result was a case of serious Yaw Roll coupling, a phenomenon previously seen in Mach 2 experimental planes. Thus, any unplanned yaw had the potential to develop into a severe roll response, a liability, especially close to the ground. QT-2PC pilots soon learned to limit the aircraft to straight and level and very gentle turns. 

Handling issues aside, the test was considered a success. So, Lockheed began work on a more practical successor, the YO-3A Quiet Star. It was also based on the Schweizer 2-32 airframe. However, it featured wing-mounted retractable landing gear, a conventionally mounted Lycoming IO-360, and a large, slow-turning wooden propeller driven once again by a rubber belt drive system. The Buick muffler was retired and replaced by a sophisticated 26-foot-long acoustic exhaust system. Because of these modifications to the original concept, the Quiet Star was a safer, more capable, if slightly noisier, aircraft. 

Of the 11 Quiet Stars constructed, nine operated in Vietnam from June of 1970 to September of 1971. While three were lost to crashes, none were lost to enemy action. All turned out to be very effective at identifying enemy supply/troop movements. To ensure their stealth before setting out on their nightly missions, Quiet Star crews flew over the ramp area while the ground crew listened for any unplanned whistles or humming noises. If any were heard, the pilots would immediately land while “duct tape” was applied, and soon they were on their way. 

This is where the story usually ends. Unique military aircraft concept is designed, achieves success, then is scrapped. But not so fast! As it turns out, the same technology that allowed the Quiet Star to sneak up on enemy transports in the Mekong Delta was just as effective at tracking game poachers in the Mississippi Delta. Two of the YO-3A Quiet Stars served the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game in this role for many years. Seeing this success, the FBI eventually acquired the aircraft and used them to track down its most wanted. NASA also acquired a Quiet Star. It used its YO-3A quiet flight characteristics to measure the noise signatures of other aircraft, from helicopters and tiltrotors to the SR-71s sonic booms. 


NASA’s Quiet Star remained in service until 2015 and then found a permanent home at the Vietnam Helicopter Museum in Concord, California. Happily, most of the surviving airframes are on display in aviation museums around the country, several in flying condition. So, long before stealth was cool, military necessity, a young naval officer with general aviation roots and a Lockheed engineer with a passion for designing sailplanes created this incredible plane! 

Learn about another Incredible Plane, the V-173 Flying Pancake.

48th Fighter Wing’s New Heritage F-15E Pays Visit To Mach Loop Before Arriving At RAF Fairford

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The Heritage F-15E flying flying

with the Mach Loop on Jul. 14, 2022 (Simon Pearson-Cougill ). In package, the airplane touchdown at RAF Fairford( Stewart Jack) Here are some fascinating shots of the brand-new Heritage F-15E Strike Eagle. The U.S. Air Force 48th Fighter Wing simply introduced a brand-new heritage F-15E Strike Eagle to commemorate the Wing’s 70th year of trip procedures, along with the USAFE’s 80th wedding anniversary and also the Air Force’s 75th wedding anniversary. The jet was formally revealed at RAF Lakenheath on July 12, 2022, as well as on July 14 flew with thepopular Mach Loop in the Low Flying Area (LFA) 7, prior to touchdown at RAF Fairford for this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo.”We have actually repainted an F-15E with an unique paint plan to commemorate the abundant background of Liberty Pilots, Maintainers, as well as all Airmen of the 48 FW “, claimed the 48th FW on social media sites.”Additionally, the paint system is based upon the Skyblazers airborne demo group from the 1950’s and also 60’s, recognizing an item of USAFE’s 80-year background.”

Another shot of the Heritage F-15E in the Mach Loop on Jul. 14, 2022(Simon Pearson-Cougill)The airplane concerned is the F-15E with identification number 92-0364, appointed to the 492nd Fighter Squadron(492nd FS), nicknamed”the Bolars”as well as”the Madhatters “. The Strike Eagle landed at Fairford at around noontime, with the callsign STRIKE31 as well as accompanied by a F-35A of the 495th Fighter Squadron” the Valkyries”, after a fast air to air photo session. As you can see in the images right here in this tale, the F-15E has actually been repainted with the United States flag’s shades on the trip as well as the nose surface areas. The internal sides of the twin tails reveal the logo design for the USAFE’s 80th wedding anniversary, while the external sides reveal the logo design for the 48th FW wedding anniversary. Particularly, you can see the Statue of Liberty, which is the sign of the system and also as a result understood additionally as the” Liberty Wing “, bordered by the forms of the airplane that offered within the device. A larger recreation of the Statue of Liberty is located additionally on the rate brake, come with by the form of the United Kingdom, which organizes the device considering that the 1960s, in addition to the United States as well as UK flags. The 48th FW was initial developed in 1952 at Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base, France, and also designated the 492d,

493d, as well as 494th Fighter Squadrons. Just in 1960, when French President Charles de Gaulle required the elimination of NATO pressures from the nation, the device transferred to RAF Lakenheath, which at the time was a vacant Strategic Air Command hefty bombing plane base. Currently, as the Liberty Wing is transitioning right into the future, the F-15Cs have actuallybeen switched for new F-35As as well as designated both to the 493rd FS “Grim Reapers”and also the lately reactivated 495th FS”Valkyries “. The system is not brand-new to these type of heritage jets, with some fantastic instances seen for the 75th wedding anniversary of Operation Overlord, when each armada repainted a jet in heritage shades for the celebration. The heritage F-15E as it lands before the crows at RAF Fairford. (Photo: Stewart Jack) About Stefano D’Urso Stefano D’Urso is an independent reporter and also factor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A grad in Industral Engineering he’s additionally examining to accomplish a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions as well as OSINT strategies put on the globe of present disputes and also armed forces procedures are amongst his locations of competence.

A-10 Demo Pilot Narrates Display Routine Step-By-Step In This Crazy Cool Video

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A-10 Demo
A wide angle view from inside the A-10C’s cockpit during the demo. (Photo: Erik Johnston)

“Gator” narrates the flight step-by-step for the viewers to enjoy all the work and dedication behind the demo flights performed across the United States.

The U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II demonstration team is the unit in charge of highlighting the A-10C’s capabilities during airshows across the United States and to recruit, retain and inspire the next generation of Airmen. For the 2022 airshow season, the team, assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, is flying a special color A-10C which was unveiled last year for the 2021 season.

The Team said that the paint scheme was inspired by the F-105 Thunderchiefs that the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing (former designation of the current 355th Fighter Wing based at Davis-Monthan) flew during the Vietnam War. To honor the Prisoners of War, Missing in Action and Veterans, the starboard side of the A-10’s nose features the names of all the unit’s members who lost their lives or were captured during the conflict, accompanied by the National League of Families POW/MIA flag.

The upper surfaces of the A-10C have thus been painted with medium green, dark green and dark tan patches, while the lower surfaces have been painted with camouflage gray, in line with the same colors used by the US Air Force aircraft during the Vietnam conflict. On the fuselage the aircraft also shows the insignias of the 354th and 357th Tactical Fighter Squadrons, which have been redesignated 354th and 357th Fighter Squadrons in 1991.

Our friend Erik Johnston worked with the A-10C Demo Team during the Rose City Airfest at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, Texas, bringing us an interesting video showing the entire demo routine narrated by the pilot, Maj. Haden “Gator” Fullam, from the preflight briefing to the shutdown at the end of the show. The video was shot over two days, showing both the standard gray and the camo A-10C at work.

After the preflight briefing with the entire team, the show begins, with “Gator” boarding the “Warthog”, preparing the cockpit for the flight. The startup sequence alternates both internal and external views, showing the pilot starting the jet as the ground crew perform the checks with precisely orchestrated movements. An interesting point during the startup is the rollover check, where Maj. Fullam explains that the A-10C does not have parking brakes so, whenever the chocks are removed, he needs to hold the brakes as the aircraft with the throttle at idle has enough power to taxi pretty fast.

After performing a low departure, with the A-10 leveled off at 20 ft above the runway, “Gator” performs a quick site survey to confirm all the references on the ground, before climbing all the way to the top of the reserved airspace to build some energy. The demo is flown almost entirely on max power, with few exceptions, so it is important that the aircraft climbs to get a lot of airspeed (thanks to the exchange between potential energy linked to the altitude and kinetic energy linked to the speed) as the demo has to be flown with whatever energy the A-10 can build up before it enters the show area.

After a quick G-warmup, Maj. Fullam begins a 45° nose low dive to the show center to get as close as possible to the A-10’s max speed, which is 450 kts or Mach 0.75. The show in fact takes the jet to its limits, both for the speed and G-force (for the latter the A-10 is rated at 7.33 G), as the pilot demonstrate the aircraft’s agility. Part of the demo is also dedicated to the tactical capabilities, simulating gun runs on the runway, often accompanied by pyrotechnics.

As we already mentioned, the video continues all the way to the shutdown procedure, showing as the maintenance crew meticulously check the aircraft for any faults before shutting down the engines. These checks are fundamental to guarantee the safety of the flight, making sure that the aircraft is in top shape before the next demo.

About Stefano D’Urso
Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he’s also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

The Battle of Midway

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We recognize the 80th anniversary of one of the most significant battles of World War II. After months of demoralizing losses for the Allies, the Battle of Midway was the first major victory in the Pacific theater and halted Japanese expansion. The Battle of the Coral Sea, only a month earlier, holds the distinction of being the first battle fought entirely from aircraft carriers. However, the actions of the leaders, pilots and sailors on the carriers at the Battle of Midway shaped how future naval battles would be fought and the course of the war.

Prior to summer 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had enjoyed virtually unchallenged dominance in the Pacific. The Japanese had embraced the concept of carrier-based naval warfare for more than a decade before the war began. They invested in building and refitting their carriers, and their men had been sailing and operating carriers since the 1920s. The U.S. did not fully appreciate the strategic and tactical value of a carrier fleet in modern warfare until much later, leaving the U.S. Navy playing catchup in producing aircraft carriers and training men to operate them. 

At the outset of the war, both sides were learning the strategies and logistics of carrier warfare. The U.S. Navy was eager to try new ideas to close the gap between it and its more experienced adversary, while the Japanese, confident in their superiority, were slow to recognize that their years of carrier experience had been largely untested and the carrier battle playbook was still being written.

Battle dates: June 4-6, 1942

U.S. aircraft carriers: USS Yorktown, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise


Japanese aircraft carriers: Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū

Number of aircraft carried by fleet carriers: 35-55

Number of aircraft carried by light carriers: 30-50

Read “Plane Facts: Aircraft Carriers” to learn more about them.

U.S. aircraft involved: PBYs, Grumman TBF Avengers, SBD Dauntless dive bombers, TBD Devastator torpedo-bombers, F4F-3 Wildcats, Vought SB2U Vindicators, Brewster F2A Buffaloes, B-17 Flying Fortresses, Martin B-26 Marauders

Japanese aircraft: Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 “Zero” fighters, Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” torpedo bomber, Aichi D3A1 “Val” dive bomber, Yokosuka D4Y1 “Judy” carrier bomber, Aichi E13A “Jake” reconnaissance seaplane, Nakajima E8N2 “Dave” reconnaissance seaplane


U.S. admirals: Chester W. Nimitz, Frank Jack Fletcher, Raymond A. Spruance

Japanese admirals: Isoroku Yamamoto, Nobutake Kondō, Chūichi Nagumo, Tamon Yamaguchi

Missing from the action: Two Japanese light carriers, Zuikaku and Shōkaku, still in port for repairs and replenishing after being damaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Missing from the action: U.S. Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey was not at the Battle of Midway but in a hospital bed recovering from shingles.

Surprise appearance: The USS Yorktown, the United States’ largest and most capable carrier at the time.

Reason for the surprise: Japanese intel believed the Americans had left it to sink at the Battle of the Coral Sea.


What they really did: Yorktown returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs.

Planned repair time: 3 months

Actual repair time: Just over 48 hours of emergency repairs.

Japanese losses: Approximately 3,057 men, four fleet carriers, one heavy cruiser and 248 aircraft.

U.S. losses: Approximately 307 men, one fleet carrier (Yorktown), one destroyer and 144 aircraft.

Japanese strategy: Bringing all its available sea power to battle.

Consequence: The Imperial Navy lost four of its heavy carriers at Midway.

Number of fleet carriers before June 1942: U.S.-4; Japan-6

Number of fleet carriers after Battle of Midway: U.S.-4; Japan-2

Number of fleet carriers produced during World War II: U.S.-13; Japan-9

Number of light carriers produced during World War II: U.S.-9; Japan-5

Even more costly to the Japanese:was the loss of experienced sailors and pilots at Midway.

Number of Japanese pilots trained per year before Midway: 50

Number of U.S. military pilots trained per year before Midway: Tens of thousands (27,000 in 1941)

Japanese pilot training time: 9 months

U.S. pilot training from zero time to commission: 6 months

Total combat aircraft produced during World War II: U.S.-306,000; Japan-67,000

Nagumo’s decision to rearm the second wave of aircraft:to attack the carriers rather than Midway Island caused a delay in preparing the second wave for launch, leaving the Japanese carriers vulnerable.

Damage control: The U.S. drained refueling lines and filled them with an inert gas (carbon dioxide) to prevent additional explosions and damage.

Magic bullet: One bomb dropped by SBD Dauntless pilot C. Wade McClusky hit the upper hangar deck of the Kaga, causing a fire that rapidly consumed the ship.

Flight deck: Typically, the top deck of the carrier where aircraft are launched and recovered.

Hangar deck: A lower deck where aircraft were repaired, refueled and rearmed.

Number of elevators used to move aircraft between decks: Three

The efficiency of launch and recovery cycle are critical to battle success: Spot, launch, recovery.

Straight flight deck: Such early aircraft carriers could operate one cycle at a time because the same strip was needed for takeoff and landing.

Spot: Positioning aircraft on the carrier to facilitate current operation and allow for refueling and rearming.

U.S.N. recovery technique: Spot returning aircraft on the bow of the flight deck during the recovery cycle while aircraft continued to land.

Order: Fighters land first, taking the most forward position. Then dive bombers and torpedo bombers.

Process: They are spotted, refueled and rearmed at the bow of the carrier.

Arrangement: Aircraft spotted at the bow of the ship are moved astern, fighters in front, bombers in the rear, ready for the next wave.

Japanese strategy: Carriers at Midway rearmed their aircraft on the hangar deck.

No room at the inn: Aircraft that could not land on their own ship would have to wait, land on a different carrier in the fleet, or ditch in the sea.

Complication #1: Carriers under attack cannot launch aircraft because of the need to maneuver and the hazard of having armed and fueled aircraft on the deck.

Complication #2: Carriers must turn into the wind for aircraft to take off, which limits maneuvering options during the launch process.

Wrecks discovered: USS Yorktown on May 19, 1998; Kaga on October 18, 2019, Akagi on October 20, 2019

Where have all the pilots gone?

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I have noticed the aviation industry is once again experiencing another pilot shortage. So, let’s take a little trip back in time and see how we keep getting in to these so called “shortages.”

A long time ago—when dinosaurs ruled the earth, beer was only a nickel, and I had no gray hair—the airlines were regulated and all was well upon the land. Air carriers, or 121 operators, owned three things: the aircraft they used, the facilities they operated out of, and most importantly the routes they operated on. In the 1930s the federal government worked to develop and promote aviation by awarding profitable routes in exchange of providing service to remote and less profitable areas.

No, I did not forget the pay. For a captain flying at night on an international flight, the salary was as much as God. Everyone wanted to be an airline pilot.

What could possibly happen to upset this strong well-run industry?

Constellation cockpitConstellation cockpit

There was a time when airline captains were treated—and paid—like God.

The first announcement of the alleged pilot shortage was that the pilots from WWII would soon be reaching the then-mandatory retirement age of 60. This led to a stampede of student hopefuls to the nearest flight school and more flight schools appeared across the land. The Vietnam war was ending and military pilots concluded that flying from LAX was much better than flying out of Da Nang, so they also headed for the airlines. (Of course, as luck would have it, the shortage was temporarily offset as the retirement age was changed to 65 in 2007.)

The requirements to join one of the major airlines as a pilot suddenly became insurmountable from the competition of experienced and not so experienced pilots. After reaching all required FAA pilot ratings and having all the required flight time (see previous story), there was always one thing that was needed but you did not have.

Unlike today’s aircraft today’s airliners, such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus, many older airplanes required a “professional plumber,” i.e., a flight engineer. It was the unspoken requirement to obtaining a position as a flight crew. However, after passing the required written exams, one found the cost of taking the flight test to be rather expensive (you usually had to take the practical exam in a 727)… more expensive than some wanted to pay for the risk of maybe being hired.

Unfortunately, a plague soon infected the airlines. Something called deregulation appeared to end the shortage and then caused a surplus of flight crews.

This deregulation caused competition, which it was designed to do. The competition, which most airlines had never had to experience, caused several to simply disappear. Pan Am was out of business before they realized what was happing, followed by Eastern and National. As a side note, every airline I ever to applied to except Delta no longer exists.

Air carriers no longer had to service the less profitable routes, which they abandoned, so they retreated to what is called the hub system. This allows efficient use of aircraft along profitable routes. If you don’t live close to one of the hubs, well there were “feeder” carriers, AKA regionals, to provide air transport to the hub of your choice. These feeders paid nowhere near the major air carriers and there was no real progression to the major carriers. Flying as a passenger in one of the “feeder” carriers was not the comfortable ride one was accustomed to experiencing. Usually it was a small twin engine turboprop (lovingly referred to as an executive mailing tube) with no service, and “pack your own lunch” did not go over well with the seasoned traveler. This caused a turnover of flight crew and passengers alike.

The hub system is also the reason that when you die, you will have to go through Atlanta.

This caused what are called furloughs in the airlines. That means you are no longer working and are no longer getting paid. Which I suspect sounds a lot better that being fired.

Pilot hiring chartPilot hiring chart

Airline pilot hiring trends are notoriously turbulent.

Then came a second rallying call to arms of another pilot shortage. This dire warning appeared in the September 1989 issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology (known in the aerospace trade as “aviation leaks and space follies”). Same story as before: pilots reaching retirement, no military to fill the crew station, no engineers and technical support, same story. As you might suspect, I could not let this pass and responded to the article with a letter to the editor (AW&ST, September 11, 1989 – page 146):

I have followed with amusement your articles on the “pilot shortage” the air carrier industry is now experiencing. There is no pilot shortage. We are right here working in other industries that are less glamorous but pay good salaries. We are no longer interested in pursuing costly degrees or ratings for a questionable position in an unstable market. These positions no longer pay as well as they once did. I personally could not afford the cut in salary to start as a pilot for a major, and I certainly will not attach the now-required $25 nonrefundable administration fee for an application.

Your problem gentlemen is we are no longer willing to outlay the time and money for a minimal return as a flight officer. A similar outlay in other professional fields has a much larger financial reward. If you find this letter somewhat harsh, cold, and mercenary, you are correct. Welcome to the real world.

Yes, to apply for a position as a flight crew officer, you attached a check for $25.

On arriving home from work after the magazine hit the readership, I looked at my telephone answering machine. It displayed 35 calls received. All contained the same relative message, indicating my position was correct on the working environment and pay scale. Other supportive comments were not G-rated.

Oh yes, the pay scale. I neglected to say at this time that the major air carriers instituted what was called “the B Scale.” Simply put, you would not be receiving the previous pay scale new hires had received in the past and you would never receive any thing close to what senior captains were receiving.

So where are we now?

The next generation of young men and women who thought they might be inclined to aviation bypassed flight training all together. They can enjoy the almost fun of flight by obtaining the latest video game and skip the expensive flight training. They could fly a fighter be a navy pilot at Midway in WWII or fly a TIE fighter against the rebels.

The latest savior was the coming of the fractional charter companies, which hired the over-65 crowd, and newer pilots who obtain the new Second in Command rating as an entry into an aviation career. They found it to be a more stable and financially rewarding work environment. The sale increases of business jets also added to the employment drain of pilots available to air carriers. Their owners enjoyed corporate aviation by not having to mix with the public in today’s high-density cattle cars.

This uneasy stability continued through the 90s and in to the 2000s, until the pandemic arrived, causing airline shutdowns and furloughs which flooded the pilot community.

Flight instructorFlight instructor

A new generation has flooded flight schools over the last few years—will this time be different?

During and just before, lots of young men and women opted for flight training and entered the roles of the flight instructor—not as many as before but some, as the cost of flight training went from prohibitive to insane. This limited their progression towards higher ratings.

The answer to cost reduction in flight training and to attract new pilots and students is the advent of electric flight training aircraft. That may sound like a good idea, except for the six-figure cost of purchasing one. I am still unsure just how that was supposed to help. Most likely we are going to see the venerable Cessnas and Pipers around for a very long time.

Enter STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and the federal government. AOPA has addressed this problem by introducing STEM couched in aviation technology to high school and younger students. This allowed them to see that science is not some head-numbing subject previously taught in school. Their efforts appear to be well received. We will hopefully soon to see more young men and women hanging around the airports and attending the Young Eagles introductory flights offered at many airports around the country.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has approved The National Center for the Advancement of Aviation (NCAA) Act (HR 3482). The bill would create the NCAA and would work to guide people to careers in aviation. Their goal is to bring the industry together to address workforce shortages by shaping a generation of new pilots, aerospace engineers, UAV systems operators, and maintenance techs. I am not sure how all this would work, but I for one sincerely hope it solves the problem of boom and bust in the pilot community.

OK, so where have all the pilots gone?

Lots of pilots simply moved into engineering, retired, or ran flight schools. Several pilot friends I know left the military and worked in various field as far removed for aviation as one could get, later buying their favorite warbird, building their own experimental aircraft or spam-can to enjoy the pleasures of flight.

It’s obvious that the aviation marketplace has changed dramatically. The cost to enter professionally is restrictive. Some of those learning to fly have opted for sport pilot ratings and light sport aircraft with no desire to take it up as a career. Another group is composed of foreign nationals who will be employed by their countries’ airlines and who sent them to the US for training. The remaining few are the ones who are truly dedicated to achieving their dream and I sincerely hope they reach their career goals with the more that fair compensation they deserve.

Now if the marketplace can just get itself under control, this story will have a happy ending.

Mr. Stagg was privileged to conduct flight test research at NASA, the United States Air Force, and at aerospace companies. He was the first pilot to launch a UAV from a helicopter. He has a master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering and an MBA. His pilot certificates include Airline Transport Pilot-MEL, Commercial Pilot- SEL, SE-Sea, ME-sea, Helicopter, and Glider. His flight instructor ratings include Airplane single engine, Multi-engine, Instrument Instructor and Ground instructor and a type rating in a T-33. Additional ratings include Mechanic Airframe and Powerplant. As an experienced flight instructor, he has operated flight schools. He enjoys flying antique aircraft; his current aircraft is a 1939 Aeronca (stick) Chief.
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Categories: Get Your Pilots License


Van’s Aircraft Surrenders Amidst Spy Photos of High-Wing Model

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The globe’s most effective manufacturer of kitplanes, Van’s Aircraft, has actually revealed its most recent design, the RV-15. And also, no, it’s not flying upside down. It’s a high-wing version. Van’s is calling it a design model, however it looks plenty brightened to us. The video clip is, we will not exist, method cool. The aircraft looks right in every means, as well as equally as significantly, it seems fantastic. Simply what’s under the cowling making all that wonderful songs is an enigma. In its launch, Van’s had a blast, exposing just as long as they intended to as well as in an actually enjoyable method. From the firm:

Model: RV-15
Engine: Yes
Full Throttle: Top Secret
Ceiling: TBD
Delay Speed: You’ll See
Gas Capacity: Plenty
Seats: Yes [HA!] Luggage: Oh yes

They included this great little note when you click on “Specs.” !

Van's RV-15 Specification

The firm, which for 50 years has actually prided itself on a widely effective formula(with a couple of exemptions )of low-wing two-seat all-metal airplanes is turning out its RV-15, a 2 or possibly four-seat taildragger that adheres to the firm’s calling convention. It’s the one after the RV-14, so it’s the RV-15. (As in France with flooring numbers, Van’s sensibly missed the RV-13). The aircraft seems like it has a constant-speed prop, and also we’re concurring with the remainder of the interwebs that Van’s will certainly more than likely opt for Lycoming four-banger. Various other monitorings: the tires allow and also the flaps are as well.

The rollout was anything however smooth and also did not go as intended. On Friday, a confidential individual online published spy images of the RV-15, most likely in the pattern at Aurora State Airport in Oregon where Van’s is headquartered. The taildragger, done in bare steel and also with its wings clearly connected method up there, was disclosed to the globe. As opposed to imagining it really did not take place, Van’s, once more, did the clever point and also simply revealed the aircraft.


Spy pictures, as you may recognize, are common in the vehicle sector. To fight the leakage of that details, carmakers will certainly cover their arising lorries in plastic quirkiness as well as add phony forms to shake off the websleuths that will certainly unbox every milligram of suggesting from abovementioned spy photos, usually with frightening precision, though in some cases their positive evaluation is happily incorrect. The stealth point is not so simple with aircrafts, specifically the including incorrect forms to the important things. And also the armed force’s method of flying their brand-new aircrafts in supersecret desert areas, well, it’s a great deal of job as well as the top-secret component would certainly be tough to manage for manufacturers of little airplanes. The web has actually ruined every person’s Day One Oshkosh enjoyable. This is why we can not have great shocks.

When we initially laid eyes on the aircraft, it was last Friday. To be sincere, from a range, it stopped working to excite. You need to examine out Van’s video clip of it. It looks strong, flies like a recreational vehicle, by all outside looks, at the very least, and also includes the all-metal building that made the firm renowned. We can not wait to fly it!

A recreational vehicle Design With The Wing On Top? Mum’s The Word Ad