Today we’re going to review The Blue Max, a 1966 film about a World War 1 German fighter pilot eager to shoot down 20 enemy aircraft and earn the prestigious Blue Max medal, the highest military honor in the Kingdom of Prussia.
Directed by John Guillermin, The Blue Max stars George Peppard as Bruno Stachel, a young fighter pilot who will risk it all to shoot down enemy aircraft. His aggressive actions earn him a negative reputation amongst his fellow pilots, but his success makes him a hero in the eyes of the commanding generals. Co-starring in the film are Jeremy Kemp as Willi von Klugermann, the squadron’s commanding officer, James Mason as General Count von Klugermann, Willi’s uncle, and Ursula Andress as Kaeti, the general’s wife and a woman who has affairs with some of the pilots.
The Blue Max begins in 1916 as German Corporal Bruno Stachel (George Peppard) is one of thousands of infantry soldiers fighting in the trenches on the Western Front. He knows that fighting in the trenches is a losing battle. One day he looks into the sky and sees two fighter aircraft fighting each other. Suddenly Bruno is inspired to join the air service and become a combat pilot. Read more…
When looking back at the battles during World War 1, many people are aware of the countless slaughters as men were forced to go over the top of the trench and straight towards the enemy’s trenches.
This was a continual problem as the generals and commanders fought to find a way to break the stalemate. The generals would form a battle plan, and those orders were passed down the chain of command to the battalion commanders, the platoon leaders, and ultimately the soldiers themselves. No matter how pointless or suicidal the plan sounded, the men were expected to attack when ordered to.
Of course, it wasn’t only the soldiers in the trenches who had to deal with the orders from generals who were safely positioned far from the action. This was also a problem for the bomber and combat pilots as well.
The 1938 film The Dawn Patrol addresses the problem of generals issuing orders and continually sending inexperienced pilots into dangerous situations. The squadron commanders were forced to carry out those orders, knowing that many of the replacement pilots would be killed. The 1938 version of the film is a remake of the original version released in 1930. From what I understand, most of the dialogue is the same between the two versions, and most, if not all, of the flight scenes were taken straight from the original film.
Directed by Edmund Goulding, The Dawn Patrol stars Errol Flynn as Captain Courtney, the leader of A Flight. Co-starring in the film are Basil Rathbone as Major Brand, the commanding officer of the squadron, and David Niven as Lieutenant Scott, one of the pilots in A Flight.
The Dawn Patrol takes place in 1915 at a Royal Flying Corps‘ airfield in France.
The movie begins with an action scene showing British combat pilots in a dogfight against the Germans. We later learn that two of the British pilots, new replacement pilots in the squadron, were shot down and killed.
Back at the airfield, Major Brand (Basil Rathbone) is the commanding officer of the 59th Squadron. He’s been under increasing pressure by headquarters to have his pilots produce better results on their missions, or he’s going to be transferred to a less important position. Major Brand is nearing his breaking point as he has already lost 16 pilots in the last two weeks, nearly all of them replacement pilots with little to no flight or combat experience.
A Flight returns from its dawn patrol and lands at the airfield. Flight leader Captain Courtney (Errol Flynn) and his good friend Lieutenant Scott (David Niven) have survived the mission, along with Lieutenant Hollister (Peter Willes), another experienced pilot, but they lost two of their replacement pilots. Hollister is shaken up as one of the pilots that was shot down and killed was his best friend. When Courtney tries to talk to Hollister and boost his spirits, it only makes him more depressed. Read more…
Today we’re taking a look at Wings, a 1927 silent movie that tells a story of two rivals who fight over a woman, join the Army Air Service and become pilots, and later fight in World War 1.
Directed by William A. Wellman, Wings stars Clara Bow as Mary Preston, Charles “Buddy” Rogers as Jack Powell, Richard Arlen as David Armstrong, and Jobyna Ralston as Sylvia Lewis. Gary Cooper has a brief role as Cadet White, and El Brendel plays the role of Dutch-American Herman Schwimpf. Music for the film was composed by J.S. Zamecnik.
Wings begins in a small American town in 1917.
Jack Powell (Charles “Buddy” Rogers) is an average guy who knows how to work on cars and he dreams of one day flying airplanes. His neighbor Mary Preston (Clara Bow) is in love with him, but he rejects her advances. When he repairs his car and renames it “Shooting Star,” he drives away and asks Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston) to go with him for a ride. This move annoys David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) as he was trying to romance Sylvia. Read more…
One of the fascinating aspects of World War 1 was the rapid advancement in technology and tactics used in what would ultimately become modern, mechanized warfare. Between 1914 and 1918, military aviation saw tremendous leaps and bounds as armies recognized the true strengths and advantages of air power.
Released in 1930, Hell’s Angels takes a look at World War 1 combat pilots, from their life outside of the combat zones to the harrowing missions themselves. This film follows along as two brothers and their friend all join the air service, two of them for England and one for Germany. We see them go through training, fight against a Zeppelin during a night time bombing raid, go on a dangerous bombing mission in a captured German bomber, and then become captured and face death after being branded as spies. Before the war and between the combat missions, the two brothers fight each other for the love of a woman.
Directed and produced by Howard Hughes, Hell’s Angels stars Ben Lyon and James Hall as the British brothers Monte and Roy Rutledge. Supporting them in the film is Jean Harlow as the young woman Helen.
Hell’s Angels begins in Germany some time before the outbreak of war. British brothers Roy (James Hall) and Monte Rutledge (Ben Lyon) are enjoying the company of their German friend, Karl (John Darrow), while they spend time in a tavern. The guys tease Roy and try to get him hooked up with a young lady. Read more…
Back in 2006, Walt Disney Pictures scored a major hit with Cars, an animated film that depicted cars and other vehicles as being alive with their own personalities.
The follow-up question was simple: How could they expand the Cars universe?
That’s where the 2013 animated movie Planes comes into play. Set within the Cars franchise, Planes is a spin-off film that takes a look at the high-speed world of air racing. The story involves a crop duster airplane that dreams of doing something bigger with his life. The crop duster gets involved in an international air race around the world and discovers that it’s going to take more than just horsepower and fancy flying to win this dangerous race.
Directed by Klay Hall, Planes stars Dane Cook as the voice of Dusty Crophopper, a crop duster with so much to prove. Co-starring in the film are the voices of Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Cedric the Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gabriel Iglesias and John Cleese. Even Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards lend their voices as Navy fighter pilots (Top Gun, anyone?).
Planes begins high in the skies as Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook), a crop duster, races through the skies against two hotshot Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet fighters. Just as Dusty makes a pass and takes the lead in the race, all of a sudden Dusty wakes up from his daydream.
It turns out that Dusty is just an ordinary crop dusting airplane. He and Leadbottom (voiced by Cedric the Entertainer), a biplane, are out spraying the farms around their home airfield of Propwash Junction, a small airport in the middle of nowhere. Although Dusty dreams of one day racing in the prestigious Wings Around the Globe rally, Leadbottom thinks that Dusty spends too much time with his head in the clouds. According to Leadbottom, the good life is really right there at Propwash Junction where it’s always sunny and quiet.
At Propwash Junction are Dusty’s friends, Chug (voiced by Brad Garrett), a fuel truck, and Sparky (voiced by Danny Mann), a forklift. Inside one of the hangars is Dottie (voiced by Teri Hatcher), a forklift and mechanic. Also at the airport is Skipper Riley (voiced by Stacy Keach), an F4U Corsair from World War 2. Read more…
It was five days ago when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777-200ER airliner with 227 passengers and 12 members of the flight crew, simply disappeared from its flight path.
What should have been an ordinary flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China has quickly turned into perhaps the biggest mystery right now in the world.
Flight 370 departed from Malaysia at 12:41 AM local time on March 8, 2014. As far as we know, everything seemed to be normal as the airliner flew to the north-northeast on its course to Beijing, China. When the pilots acknowledged the radio communications being handed off to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, before the aircraft entered Vietnamese airspace, that was the last that anybody heard from the aircraft. The airliner ceased communicating with air traffic control, and there was no more signal from the Boeing 777’s transponder.
This loss of communications occurred about an hour after take-off as Flight 370 was still over the Gulf of Thailand. The airliner was at its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, and cruising speed of 471 knots.
There was no bad weather anywhere near the vicinity of where Flight 370 disappeared. Nor are there any reports of the aircraft’s ELT (emergency locator transmitter — a device that sends out a distress call / homing beacon after a crash landing). There are also no signs of any wreckage despite a large, multinational task force searching for the missing aircraft.
Right now there are many theories about what might of happened to the missing airliner. Before we take a look at some of the theories, let’s examine some of the evidence that we know for a fact.
EVIDENCE Read more…
Earlier today it was reported by Aviation Week that the RQ-180 is allegedly flying test flights.
The classified unmanned aerial vehicle is being developed by Northrop Grumman for “. . . intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.” Operated by the U.S. Air Force, the RQ-180 will also carry out missions for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
As one would expect with this being a classified aircraft, right now the details are few and far between. Based on the artist’s drawings, the RQ-180 looks like a smaller version of the B-2 Spirit flying wing stealth bomber still in use by the U.S. Air Force. Allegedly the RQ-180 has a wingspan of around 130 feet while the B-2’s wingspan reaches 172 feet. While the B-2 Spirit carries a crew of two and a payload of up to 50,000 pounds of ordnance or other equipment, the RQ-180 is unmanned and rumored to only being developed for intelligence and reconnaissance missions.
The RQ-180 is scheduled to be in production soon and could be operational just a year from now in 2015.
Could a drone such as the RQ-180 be modified and used for stealth bombing missions? It wouldn’t surprise me at all. Then again, it looks like Northrop Grumman is already focusing on building a bomber version of the RQ-180 drone out of the X-47 project. Read more…
Imagine if one day you were suddenly transported back in time.
In addition to that, imagine that not only were you transported to a point back in time just prior to a key event in American history, but you also had the capability of changing history.
That’s the premise behind The Final Countdown, a 1980 science-fiction film that transports a modern aircraft carrier back in time to December 6, 1941. The ship’s captain is faced with the ultimate decision: Do you destroy the Japanese fleet and prevent the attack at Pearl Harbor?
Directed by Don Taylor, The Final Countdown stars Kirk Douglas as Captain Matthew Yelland, the skipper of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier. Co-starring in the film is Martin Sheen in the role of Warren Lasky, a civilian observer who works for the Department of Defense. Supporting them are James Farentino as Carrier Air Wing Commander Richard T. Owens / Mr. Richard Tideman; Katharine Ross as Laurel Scott; Ron O’Neal as Commander Dan Thurman, the Nimitiz’s executive officer; and Charles Durning as Senator Samuel Chapman.
The Final Countdown (1980) – (c) United Artists
The Final Countdown begins with Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen) arriving at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Before departing on his mission for the Department of Defense, he’s seen off by a mysterious man named Mr. Tideman. Allegedly Mr. Tideman knows Lasky, but nothing more is mentioned about it at this point in the film. Lasky boards a naval SH-3 Sea King helicopter and he’s flown out to the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier. Read more…
On November 5, 2013, the country of India launched a Mars Orbiter Mission probe into Earth orbit.
The satellite, operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation, orbited the Earth seven times before successfully burning its engines to escape Earth orbit and placing it on a heliocentric trajectory towards Mars. This flight path through space will send the Mars Orbiter Mission around the sun and have it slingshot and pick up speed for its flight to Mars. If the four trajectory course corrections are also successful, then the space probe should arrive at Mars on September 24, 2014.
If this mission is successful and the Mars Orbiter Mission is able to orbit Mars and communicate with home base back on Earth, then India will be the fourth country / organization to have orbited Mars, after the U.S., Russia, and Europe.
launching of the Mars Orbiter Mission on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)
Launching of the Mars Orbiter Mission was carried out on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). This rocket, designed and constructed in India, uses four stages to lift payloads into Earth orbit. So far the PSLV has carried out 25 launches, with 23 of those launches successfully reaching their target orbit. Read more…
Early this morning we were treated to another feeling of pride as the Curiosity rover for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory made a successful landing on our neighbor in space.
I was part of the many who chose to stay up late and watch the coverage live on NASA’s website. It was fascinating watching the footage from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and seeing the scientists and technicians in action while Curiosity made its historic descent and landing.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – descent and landing of Curiosity rover
Of course, Curiosity is not the first U.S. rover to successfully land on the Martian surface. The Sojourner rover as part of the Mars Pathfinder mission successfully landed and operated on Mars from July 4 – September 22, 1997. The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity both landed on Mars in January of 2004. Spirit‘s wheels became stuck in the sand in January of 2010, and communication with it ended on March 22, 2010. As far as Opportunity, that rover is still operating on the surface of Mars. Read more…
Thanks to the tremendous success and popularity of 1980′s comedic genius of Airplane!, two years later a sequel was released.
Airplane II: The Sequel was released in December of 1982. The movie cashes in on the popularity of the previous movie along with the nation’s sudden interest in NASA’s Space Shuttle program. The problem though, is that Airplane II doesn’t really offer viewers anything new (or really good for that matter).
Airplane II begins several years after the first movie. Technology has advanced to the stage where there is a colony on the Moon, and regular passenger service to there is about to begin. Airplane II follows the maiden launch of the Lunar Shuttle Mayflower One, the first spacecraft designed to carry passengers to and from the Moon. Naturally, the Mayflower One spaceship looks a lot like NASA’s Space Shuttle.
It turns out that things didn’t turn out too well between Ted Striker (played again by Robert Hays) and Elaine Dickinson (played again by Julie Hagerty) since the events in Airplane!. Elaine is in a new relationship with Simon Kurtz (played by Chad Everett), an engineer who helped design the Mayflower One. They’re engaged to get married soon.
Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) – (c) Paramount Pictures
Meanwhile, we see a couple of business executives (one of them played by Rip Torn) discussing the launching of Mayflower One. It turns out that the engineers are being pressured to rush and have the Lunar Shuttle launch its scheduled service on time. Read more…
Today’s movie review takes a step over thirty years back in time to one of my favorite comedies, Airplane!
A king of the spoof films, Airplane! doesn’t just take jabs at disaster movies, but it follows closely to the 1957 film, Zero Hour!. If you love Airplane!, try to see Zero Hour! if you can. I saw it a couple of years ago on TCM. Just be warned that if you’re an Airplane! addict, it’ll be hard to watch Zero Hour! with a straight face.
Airplane! stars Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty in the lead roles. Although neither of them had a really shining Hollywood career, they’re still great in this movie. Airplane! also has a great supporting cast with Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, and of course, the great Leslie Nielsen.
Airplane! is a comedic love story wrapped around a disaster in the air.
Former fighter pilot and current taxi driver, Ted Striker (played by Robert Hays) is traumatized with a fear of flying after fighting in a recent war. His wartime girlfriend, Elaine Dickinson (played by Julie Hagerty), is a flight attendant (called a “stewardess” back in the day) ready to leave Ted and make a new life for herself in Chicago. Striker tries to convince her to stay, but she refuses and boards the flight. Ted summons the courage to purchase a ticket on her cross-country flight from Los Angeles to Chicago.
Meanwhile, we’re also introduced to Captain Clarence Oveur (played by Peter Graves) as he’s checking out a nude magazine at a news stand. Captain Oveur (pronounced “over”) receives a phone call from a doctor in Chicago. It turns out his flight will have a special passenger — a young girl flying across the country to receive a heart transplant. The doctor wants the girl to remain calm during the flight.
Airplane! (1980) – (c) Paramount Pictures
Soon everybody is boarding the flight to Chicago. Elaine is helping the passengers get seated, Ted Striker is nervous as ever, and the flight crew is preparing the aircraft for takeoff. Yes, that is basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing the role of co-pilot Roger Murdock. Read more…
Christmas Eve has finally arrived.
Later this evening children will be tucked into bed, trying desperately to sleep before the arrival of Santa Claus.
Tomorrow morning will involve the unwrapping of presents and watching as joy is spread between families and friends.
In today’s modern times, it’s easy to forget just how fortunate we are to be able to celebrate such a holiday. Here in the U.S., times are peaceful. It’s not like artillery barrages are flattening buildings, or massive armies of soldiers are sweeping through the countryside, killing everybody who stands in the way.
One of my favorite examples of humanity and the Christmas spirit dates back to December 25, 1914 in Belgium. Read more…
As most of you probably know by know, the college sports world was rocked once again by the announcing of the deaths of Oklahoma State University women’s basketball head coach, Kurt Budke, and assistant coach, Miranda Serna, from a plane crash that occurred around 4 pm Thursday afternoon.
And as it’s been posted by the news media and sports history buffs, this is the second time in ten years that Oklahoma State has lost part of its basketball program in a plane crash. In January of 2001, ten people affiliated with players and coaches of the OK State men’s basketball team died after their plane crashed in Colorado following a basketball game.
Budke and Serna were en-route to Little Rock, Arkansas, on a recruiting trip when their single-engine plane went down and crashed in mountainous, heavily-wooded terrain. It’s also been reported that the pilot of the aircraft was eighty-two years old.
Personally, I have no idea who Budke and Serna were. I don’t follow men’s or women’s basketball programs, college or professional. However, from what I’ve seen so far, it sounds like both people were well-liked and respected in their field, and this is a tough loss and serious blow to not only Oklahoma State faculty and students, but fans of the sport in general.
For the crash, I haven’t seen any details yet about the make or model of the aircraft, or any other conditions of the flight. It was reported that the aircraft was built back in 1964. For anybody who’s flown general aviation, you know as well as I do that this is a moot point. Most Cessna trainers were built in the early 1970s, and many aircraft from the 1960s are still very much flyable as long as the aircraft’s owner(s) keep up with the required maintenance.
It was also reported that the pilot himself was eighty-two years old. The pilot’s age may have very well been a factor. Hunters in the area reported that they heard the aircraft’s engine sputter before it took a nosedive and crashed into the hilly terrain. So far I haven’t heard any reports of pieces of the airplane falling away from the aircraft. Was the engine sputtering and presumed engine failure caused by a mechanical issue, or was it related to pilot error? Read more…
Ah, the joys of airline travel.
From the hassles of security checkpoints in the airports to incompetent workers to the excessive fees for checked luggage, traveling by air these days can be a royal pain in the ass.
I’ve loved aviation since my early youth. Boarding an aircraft and experiencing the thrills from takeoff to landing still entertain me, despite all of the changes that have effected the industry over the past ten years. Back in high school I earned my private pilot’s license and completed most of my instrument training. Alas, the high costs of training and some minor medical issues have kept me out of the cockpit, but that love of aviation is still there.
So when it comes to choosing an airline and taking a commercial flight, whether it’s for business or pleasure, what characteristics do you look for in an airline? Is price the main consideration? Is luxury and personal attention more important? Is a major carrier with more flights better than a regional airline that may operate from a smaller airport closer to your home or destination?
More importantly, when seeing TV commercials for airlines, do they really inspire you to consider them for your next flight?
Let’s take a look at some of 2011’s best and worst airline TV commercials and see how well they sell themselves to us, the general public.
British Airways — To Fly. To Serve.
Right off the bat this is my favorite airline commercial. Read more…
The death toll from last Friday’s tragic crash at the Reno Air Races has officially reach eleven; seven dying at the crash site and four more succumbing to critical injuries and dying in the hospital.
So what happened to the aircraft?
Why did the veteran pilot suddenly pitch up in his modified P-51 Mustang, The Galloping Ghost, roll inverted and slam nose first into part of the spectator viewing area?
Right now the videos of the crash and its horrific aftermath don’t yield a whole lot of clues. People recording the race were focused on many of the racing aircraft, and it’s hard to find a clear video of The Galloping Ghost. And from what I’ve seen in the news, personal accounts of the accident match what little we can see in the amateur videos.
Fortunately for the NTSB and anybody else looking for answers, a few photos have surfaced and they actually shed quite a bit of light as to the final moments of The Galloping Ghost and veteran pilot, Jimmy Leeward.
Taken some point before its final race, here we can see The Galloping Ghost on the taxiway at Reno. Inside the red circle you can clearly see pilot Jimmy Leeward sitting in his seat. As a whole, cockpits for fighter aircraft are usually cramped with just enough room for the pilot to effectively move the controls and safely maneuver and navigate the aircraft. Read more…
It’s hard to imagine that this day has finally arrived.
From Columbia‘s first flight in STS-1 on April 12, 1981, to Atlantis‘s final mission in STS-135 on July 8, 2011, the space shuttle launches and landings have both thrilled viewers and inspired future astronauts for over thirty years.
Since the early days of childhood I’ve been fascinated by flight and the space program. I remember being in elementary school and receiving word over the P.A. system about the Challenger disaster. I remember looking at newspapers lying on a table talking about the Columbia disaster while helping my brother move between college residences in February of 2003.
And now, sadly, I’m sure I’ll remember where I was as Atlantis took to the skies on the final space shuttle mission.
Launching of STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011.
This past weekend I had a travel opportunity to once again visit the great city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Well, it was more of a pack-an-apartment-and-move-the-contents-back-to-Georgia-type trip rather than traveling for business or pleasure. Come to think of it, we really didn’t have any free time at all on this trip.
The journey began bright and very early as my friend and I flew from Atlanta to Pittsburgh on a CRJ200. The aircraft itself was pretty sweet, but when it comes to riding on the regional aircraft, I definitely prefer turboprops. I flew on a Dash 8 this past November, and that was definitely a lot more fun.
One of the benefits to traveling first thing in the morning is that in addition to shorter lines going through security, the wait for takeoff is kept to a minimum. In our case the pilot told us that we were first in line for takeoff. We cruised along the taxiway, made the turn onto the runway, and then went to full power for takeoff. We were airborne within a short moment and on our way north to Pittsburgh.
Well, folks, in a few hours I’ll be heading down to Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport for a non-stop flight to Pittsburgh, PA.
It’s simple. My friend’s sister had a successful dual-lung transplant, and now it’s time to move everything in the temporary apartment back down here to Atlanta. We moved her up there at the end of November. The fact that someone can have a major operation like that and then be essentially dismissed and allowed to move back home in such a short time frame is amazing.
This time my flight will be aboard a CRJ200 regional airliner. It’s not as glorious as riding in a turboprop, but cruising with a pair of jet engines will still make this an entertaining flight. I’m already looking forward to the acceleration of takeoff and the thrill of a (hopefully) smooth landing. This is going to be a sweet ride.
The fact that snow is in Pittsburgh’s weather forecast this Sunday is an added bonus. I’m sick of this extreme pollen here in Atlanta, and the breath of cold, fresh air is going to be great.
In the meantime, it’s time to sleep for a couple of hours before heading down to the airport.
Earlier today the Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) touched down at Kennedy Space Center, concluding its 39th and final mission into Earth orbit.
I was fortunate enough to be in central Florida during the launch of Discovery. The Florida trip was a planned family vacation to theme park land, and the launching of the space shuttle was just a bonus.
So the big question — Can you really see a rocket launch from central Florida?
Just don’t expect to see any details. It’s basically a tiny black dot cruising high into the sky and leaving behind a massive exhaust plume in its wake. It’ll look quite a bit different than the normal airliner contrails that sometimes cover the sky.
I was in Epcot on the day of the launch, and (as predicted because I tend to have bad luck) the sky was mostly cloudy that afternoon. We had nice and sunny skies for most of the week, but that afternoon was mostly cloudy with only a few pockets of blue sky. In other words, you just had to keep scanning the few holes in the cloud and hope to be looking at the right one at the right angle during the launch.
I wasn’t so lucky.
The camera was ready, but I picked the wrong hole in the clouds. Shouts were heard as the rocket suddenly climbed high into the sky. By the time I spotted it there was nothing but an exhaust plume. Oh well. Read more…