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…
Movies that are based on true stories, or inspired by true events, normally make good movies and stories, especially when it involves warfare or survival.
But as we know, or how we should know, sometimes those movies based on true stories get distorted for one reason or another. Sometimes it occurs to make the lead characters more interesting. Sometimes it occurs to help push a message or political statement.
Sadly, such a thing occurs frequently in the 2012 World War 2 aviation movie, Red Tails.
Red Tails begins in the skies of Europe during World War 2.
We see a group of German Bf 109 fighters making a hit-and-run attack on a squadron of Allied B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. The bombers’ escort fighters suddenly peel off and chase the fighters, just as the Germans intended. One of the B-17 pilots expresses anger as the Allied fighters leave the bomber formation unprotected again, chasing glory instead of protecting the bombers.
Sure enough, the German Bf 109s return and wreck havoc on the unprotected bombers. A few B-17s are shot down. We see crew members get killed while bombers tumble from the skies in burning wreckage.
Gee, if only those white fighter pilots had stayed with the bombers and protected them instead of chasing glory and inflating their egos! It’s hard to imagine that the Allied forces won the won with such arrogant pilots. I hope some other pilots can step up to the plate and actually do their jobs correctly!
Red Tails (2012) – (c) Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Red Tails then cuts to a scene of four black pilots flying a patrol mission. These men from the Tuskegee training program are part of the racially segregated 332d Fighter Group. As we learn, these pilots (“Easy” (played by Nate Parker), “Lightning” (played by David Oyelowo), “Ray Gun” (played by Tristan Wilds), and “Joker” (played by Elijah Kelley)) are bored. Some of them struggle to see the point of their patrol missions as they’re intentionally kept well away from the front lines of the war. Read more…
Our review of Pearl Harbor-themed films concludes with the biggest (and probably most disappointing) film of them all — 2001′s blockbuster Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor is an epic war film that follows two American fighter pilots before and after the Japanese air raid on December 7, 1941. One pilot volunteers to fight with England’s Royal Air Force while the other is sent to a squadron in Pearl Harbor. They’re reunited just prior to the attack, and during the air raid they use their P-40 Warhawks to shoot down several enemy aircraft. Several months later they fly with James Doolittle and his historic bombing of Japan. There’s also a love story involving the two pilots and their affections for a nurse.
Directed by Michael Bay, Pearl Harbor was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The film stars Ben Affleck as Lieutenant Rafe McCawley. Co-starring in the film are Josh Hartnett as Rafe’s best friend, Lieutenant Daniel Walker; and Kate Beckinsale as Nurse Evelyn Johnson. Supporting them are a variety of Hollywood celebrities including Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, and Alec Baldwin.
Pearl Harbor (2001) – (c) Buena Vista Pictures
Pearl Harbor begins at a Tennessee farm in 1923.
Rafe McCawley and Daniel “Danny” Walker are best friends. Rafe’s father is a crop duster pilot while Danny’s father is a farmer. One day after Rafe’s father returns, the boys climb into the aircraft and pretend to fly it. As they flick the switches and play with the controls, the engine suddenly comes to life. A moment later the biplane is roaring down the dirt runway and it briefly flies in the air. The biplane lands and the boys bring it to a halt. They’re exhilarated by the flight but Danny’s catches hell from his father who witnessed the incident.
Fast forward to January of 1941.
War is raging in Europe and it’s just a matter of time before America finally joins the fight. In the meantime, the American military continues training its pilots and sharpening their skills.
At Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York, both Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) are first lieutenants in the Army Air Corps and pilots of the P-40 Warhawk. At the end of one of their training sessions, both of the pilots do a little showboating in front of their peers. They aim their aircraft at each other and then suddenly break away at the last second in a game of “chicken.” The maneuver thrills their colleagues but it lands them in hot water with their commanding officer, Major James “Jimmy” Doolittle (Alec Baldwin). Read more…
On December 7, 1941, the nation of Japan launched a sneak attack at the U.S. naval base headquartered at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The attack was carried out with complete success, and the end result was a massive blow to the U.S. naval fleet. This attack sparked massive outrage throughout the country. The following day the U.S. declared war on Japan. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S., and those declarations were reciprocated by the U.S. the same day. Because of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was now involved with World War 2.
Tora! Tora! Tora! tells the story about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The story is told from both the American and Japanese perspectives, and we learn more about why the attack was carried out. The film exposes historical errors which helped Japan achieve a complete tactical success with their attack. It was only a stroke of luck that the U.S. aircraft carriers were out at sea, and none of them were attacked or sunk on that day.
The film was directed by Richard Fleischer, and the music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Tora! Tora! Tora! itself doesn’t star any well-known Hollywood stars. This decision was made so that the viewers would pay more attention to the story rather than the actors starring in it.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) – (c) 20th Century Fox
Tora! Tora! Tora! begins in 1941 on a Japanese battleship as Vice-Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Sō Yamamura) arrives to take command of the Japanese combined fleet. Admiral Yamamoto officially receives command from Admiral Zengo Yoshida (Junya Usami), and the two admirals discuss the need to have a strong navy and not get swayed by the politics that control Japan’s army. 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.
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…