Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blue Angels Rockin' The A-4 Skyhawk!

DateMe trying on the A-4 Skyhawk cockpit at the Hiller Museum in San Carlos California

 Technically my wife and I are on vacation right now in California to visit my mom, but you always gotta squeeze some aviation in whenever you can. We actually planned to spend our first day seeing the tourist sights in my birth city of San Francisco before we headed up farther north to where she lives, but since it was raining in the city we decided we'd make a quick stop by the Hiller Aviation Museum on Wednesday. We stumbled onto the museum location on Tuesday night when we went looking for dinner shortly after we arrived at SFO... I honestly didn't realize that the museum was so close to where I had lived for a while when I was a kid back in the 60's. All I knew was that it was somewhere in California.
 This great little museum is located on the San Carlos airport about 10 miles south of San Francisco International Airport, and it's well worth the time and effort to stop in. I'll put up a detailed post on the museum before long, but for now I have two interesting things to share. First, I didn't even know that my avgeek friend @adamcanfly had a trip to SFO in the works, but I found out via twitter shortly after we arrived that he had just departed from SFO headed back to home. How weird that we just missed each other when we were both so far away from our homes in Indiana and Kansas. But imagine my surprise when on Wednesday, after we made a last-minute decision to go to the Hiller Museum (which I didn't even realize was in the area we were gonna be) and we sign their guestbook at the entrance we see the entry before us is Adam's from his visit the day before! The randomness of this occurrence is hard to wrap my head around! The only thing that could have been better of course is if we had both been there the same day rather than one day after the other.
 The other thing to share is my simple opportunity to sit in the A-4 Skyhawk cockpit that's not only on display at Hiller but is set up so you can hop in and give its fit a try. So I hopped in to see how it felt. I was surprised how snug it was, but that really gave me an awesome thought for how much this jet fighter must have felt like something you were wearing rather than a big machine you were sitting in. The short nose and snug cockpit made me realize the amazing feel of power that a pilot of such an airplane must have. Most of us never get this kind of extreme experience, especially as the sole occupant of a jet fighter. All I can say is: wow.

 So to drive that awesomeness home a little more, here's a sweet old school video of the Blue Angels flying the A-4 Skyhawk. The video appears to be from 1986 when the Blues turned 40 and were preparing to retire the A-4 and bring the F-18 onboard. I remember seeing some of the A-4 performances back in the day, but watching this video makes me realize that the Skyhawk rocked as an aerobatic platform for the amazing U.S. Navy Blue Angels!

To The Edge Of Space & Back On The Solid Rocket Boosters (Must See)

 This video has been very popular in the last week but with my vacation to California I didn't get around to posting it here. In fact, I didn't even get around to watching it myself until just now. Wow. This is one of the coolest videos I've seen in a long time. You just never know how people will react to an experience like this, but for me, seeing video images from multiple cameras (and truthfully from two different launches) that show both the ascent and the descent of the Solid Rocket Boosters is simply stunning. It amounts to a real-time experience to the edge of space and back (about 145,000 feet) while getting to see the Shuttle and Main Tank from several points of view as well as the other separated SRB at times.

Video screenshot showing the Shuttle and main tank after SRB separation
 The standout visual for me in the video is the deployment of the three recovery parachutes. I really enjoyed seeing some of the reefing process used on the parachutes to control the rate at which they fully inflate. As a parachute guy in a past life, that's really cool stuff. This is just something you never get to see from this perspective... and actually, the whole SRB recovery process has been a bit of a mystery thru the Shuttle era. It's really cool to have so much of the process shown in this video.

Screenshot of the awesome SRB recovery parachutes deploying
 For more interesting SRB info check out my post from a year ago: NASA Releases First-Ever HD Footage of SRB Recovery Mission that includes another great video.
 And for this video, it doesn't hurt that the sounds accompanying it have been tweaked by the folks at Skywalker Sound (Lucasfilm) to maximize the experience. According to the video description tho, these are the actual sounds picked up by the camera mics, they've just been optimized to take it all to a much higher level. Anyway, I hope you take the time to experience all eight and a half minutes of this spectacular video!

Monday, March 26, 2012

F-35 Carrier Flight Test and Tom Cruise?

Cruise Is In For Top Gun 2 - But F-35 Is The Scientology Star! (CoolPix + Video)

(click pic for hi-res)   VTOL F-35B during carrier suitability testing in October 2011

The confirming news is now a little over a week old about the reality of a Top Gun 2 movie project with Tom Cruise coming back as Maverick. And with the 'anytime baby' F-14 Tomcat smoking cigars in an easy chair these days, the F-35 Lightning II gets a chance to show off its ability to turn cash into an incredibly slow fighter jet. Of course I'm speaking of its VTOL capabilities.

Tom Cruise as Maverick waaaay back in 1986 in the original Top Gun movie

 Regardless of how you feel about the whole F-35 project (cost, schedule, capability), when you watch the video below, it's pretty hard not to be exceedingly impressed with what this little beast can do. I love watching the control surfaces and the vectored thrust nozzle on those rolling, short carrier takeoffs! (the 1:50 mark is a good example) - I hope the onboard computers have chips that are well cooled as I'm guessing there's some serious processing going on there.
 So, whenever the Top Gun 2 movie actually hits the big screen, the scientology star for me will be the F-35, not Tom. The F-35 is all about applying science and technology to produce the ultimate fighter, so I figure if I'm gonna have to talk about scientology, I'm gonna apply it all to the Lightning II.
 I'm guessing Tom is hoping people focus on the F-35's scientology too : )

(click pic for hi-res)  Another awesome CoolPix view of the F-35B doing carrier VTOL
(F-35 images from Lockheed Martin)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Scale RC Thunderbirds Turbine Powered Jet!

The Amazing Thunderbirds T-33 (RC) Built By Graeme Mears Flies!

Gorgeous 110" wingspan RC T-33 recently made its first flight - and it flies great!

 Here's a quick update from Graeme Mears' facebook page concerning the first flights of the turbine powered RC T-33 project he recently completed:
Here are a couple of pictures of the T-33 at Florida Jets taken by David Hart. We only got two flights on during the event as the weather did not fully co-operate. The model was awarded "Critics Choice" and "Best Craftsmanship" trophies. Ali is very please with how it flies.. apparent by how he rang-it-out after only two patterns the first flight.
 To see the other picture, go here on Graeme's facebook page (scroll to the bottom of the gallery), and to see the other posts I've done about the project, check out:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Marvelous RC Cam Fun Over Germany - Must See!

Marvelous RC Cam Fun Over Germany - Must See!

 It used to be that really great RC videos meant you just watched a really cool model do its thing, but the days of small HD cameras have opened up the experience to put all of us in the pilot's seat. The challenge however is to make a video compelling enough to be worth watching.

 Well here's one from youtuber muethenmetz (aka crazy horst) that's worth way more than the almost 8 minutes is takes to watch it all. With multiple camera views on a simple little Graupner 'Rookie' electric airplane, this video mixes excellent video quality with a great sense of humor and loads of awesome views over Germany. I've rated this as an absolute 'must see' and the screenshots below help to show you why. Watch this video! : )

Screenshot of rear facing cam showing a launch from an elevated balcony in town

Sreenshot from front facing cam over a beautiful German building on a foggy day

Screenshot approaching hot air balloon with the RC pilot in the basket!

Screnshot of the big 'catch' at the end of the video - great stuff!