Mike Collins Archive

True fact about ‘True Lies’

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Remember the action comedy True Lies, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger famously hops into a Harrier, bounces off a couple of police cars, balances his daughter on the jump- jet’s nose, and dispatches a terrorist who was dangling from an attached Sidewinder missile? Nothing true about that scene.

But it is true that the movie turned 20 years old yesterday. And it’s also true that some of the flying scenes in that movie involved actual Harrier jets. Three Marine Corps AV-8Bs were rented for the filming; the producers reportedly paid an hourly rate of $2,410 for more than 40 flight hours. The article did not say whether that was a wet rate or a dry rate. Regardless, the $100,000 or so was no more than a drop in the $100 million production budget. At the time of its release in 1994, not only was True Lies the first film to have a production budget in excess of $100M, but it was the most expensive film ever made.

This and several other true facts about True Lies are circulating online this week, commemorating the film’s anniversary. They’re on the Internet, so they must be true–right?

The autopilot turns 100

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

It seems hard to believe, but the first aircraft autopilot was demonstrated 100 years ago today. On June 18, 1914, Lawrence Sperry let go of the controls of a Curtiss C-2 biplane, stood up in the cockpit, and raised his hands high above his head. The crowd below roared its approval as Sperry’s mechanic then walked out onto the airplane’s wing–and it remained in level flight.

This took place above the Seine River during France’s Airplane Safety Contest. A total of 57 “specially equipped” airplanes, featuring such innovative technologies as magnetos, self-starters, and carburetors–all still used today–competed for a prize of 50,000 francs (about $10,000). Sperry was the only one to demonstrate a gyroscopic stabilizer, and won the prize. In 2004, Aviation History presented an interesting article about the flight; it can be read online

Sperry’s father, Elmer, had developed the gyrocompass–at the time, a massive affair that had been installed on a number of U.S. warships.

Lawrence Sperry’s flight also marks the centennial of Honeywell Aerospace, which is one of four business divisions of 129-year-old Honeywell. Through organic growth, acquisitions, and mergers of legacy companies, Honeywell Aerospace can trace its heritage back to Lawrence Sperry (click the link and scroll down the page). The Sperry Gyroscope Company became Sperry Corporation, much of which moved to Phoenix in the 1950s and became the Sperry Flight Systems Company–today a part of Honeywell Aerospace.

Other firsts for Honeywell Aerospace include the first gyro horizon and directional gyro, cabin pressurization, the first gas-turbine auxiliary power unit, the first ground proximity warning system, and the first 3-D airborne weather radar. An interactive anniversary website details this evolution. Sperry’s accomplishment finds itself in good company a century later.

Goodyear narrows names for new airship

Monday, April 21st, 2014


Goodyear newest airship

After receiving nearly 15,000 submissions for its national “Name the Blimp” contest, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has selected 10 finalist names for its newest airship (pictured above). Now, fans can vote for their favorite name online, through May 9.  

The names up for voting are: Adventurer, Ambassador, Commitment, Excursion, Explorer, Goodwill, Inspiration, Pride of Goodyear, Resolute, and Wingfoot One.

The new airship, which took its first flight last month, is larger, faster, and more maneuverable than its predecessor. Technically a zeppelin, this is the first semi-rigid airship to be built in the 95-year history of Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake, Ohio, hangar. During its long operational history, Goodyear has built more than 300 lighter-than-air vehicles, including two large rigid airships–the U.S.S. Macon and U.S.S. Akron.

What do you get for voting on the new airship’s name? Nothing but the satisfaction of knowing you participated–although the person who submitted the winning name will receive access to the blimp for a day. (Yeah, now I wish I had submitted a name, too.) Goodyear will christen the new blimp this summer.

 

The importance of a washer

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Now, how important can one little washer be?

Pretty important, as it turns out. While this is not a general aviation incident, the lesson here is dramatically applicable to all of us.

The FAA prepared an analysis of what happened to a China Airlines Boeing 737-800 on August 20, 2007, after landing at Naha Airport on Okinawa, Japan. Watch these two short videos. The first is an animation that explains what happened. Then, watch the second video, which shows the consequences of one missing washer.

That’s about a $90.5 million washer, based on average 2013 Boeing list prices. The 165 people on board were evacuated with no casualties, even though it appears to take about three and a half minutes for fire trucks to arrive. Thanks to my friend Bob Punch for calling this to my attention.

 

Airline’s interesting Christmas video

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Disclaimer: This is not general aviation-related. But it’s aviation-related, and it’s worth watching.

Canadian airline WestJet apparently has a tradition of doing something big at the holidays–last year, it was a late-night flash mob in an airport terminal. This year, it’s…well, if I give away the story line, it’ll be a spoiler (and I don’t want to be accused of spoiling Christmas). Watch the YouTube video here.

Not only is the video well-produced, but it’s gone viral–with more than 6.5 million views on YouTube as of this writing. (The video’s only been online for three days.) If you want more, there’s also an outtakes and bloopers reel here.

Merry Christmas!

 

Christmas concerts with an aviation twist

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

You may have had friends e-mail you links to online videos showing so-called “flash mobs”–and maybe you’re already sick of them.

But if you’re not, watch this one, which shows the U.S. Air Force Band at the National Air and Space Museum on Tuesday. A friend who served in the Air Force shared it, and with great music in an interesting venue, it’s definitely worth watching.

If you live in or will be visiting the Washington, D.C., area, the band will perform a number of holiday concerts in the area through December 15. The full schedule appears on the band’s website.

From 35 to 36, a dark afternoon aboard Air Force One

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Like many, I spent some time last Friday watching coverage of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas. However, I didn’t come across the article that I found most interesting about that day until this morning.

The October issue of Esquire magazine includes a fascinating story, “The Flight from Dallas,” which chronicles the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963, aboard the modified Boeing 707 that then served as Air Force One–the apprehension, the fear, the loathing as the country abruptly transitioned from its 35th to 36th president. The text is a bit long, but goes quickly; don’t miss the part where the jet’s pilot, Col. James Swindal climbs higher than he’d ever flown before with Kennedy aboard to top tornado-spawning November weather over Arkansas and Mississippi. Read it here.

Built in 1962 as the first jet intended specifically for use by the president, the Air Force VC-137C aircraft known as SAM 26000 (Special Air Mission, tail number 26000) left presidential service in 1990 and was retired in 1998. It’s now preserved at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton.

 

 

Lindbergh Monocoupe returns to Lambert–cool time-lapse video!

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

A 1934 D-127 Monocoupe once owned by Charles Lindbergh has returned to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport after a two-year absence. It was removed in March 2011 to make way for terminal renovations. Originally installed in 1979, the airplane carried more than 30 years of dust.

While it was out, the Missouri History Museum conducted a historic conservation of the Monocoupe, constructed using dope and fabric. The dope shrinks the fabric, which over the years puts pressure on the framework, until the fabric tears to relieve the stress or weaker parts of the interior structure fail. In addition to a thorough cleaning, stress fractures along several seams were repaired.

In nine hours on Oct. 20, the airplane was hoisted back into position over the C Concourse security checkpoint in Terminal 1. However, you can view the entire process in this two-minute time lapse video.

The Monocoupe was one of only three airplanes built completely in St. Louis by Lambert Aircraft Corporation. Lindbergh donated it to the Missouri History Museum in 1940.

 

Goodbye, Goodyear blimp

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

I had a chance to say goodbye this morning to what, for many of us, feels like an old friend. N3A, the Spirit of Goodyear–one of the company’s three blimps and the one traditionally based in Akron, Ohio–was on her farewell tour. The airship has left Ohio for the last time, and was passing through Frederick, Maryland, on her way to Florida. There, in a few months, she’ll be decommissioned.

Goodbye Goodyear blimp

The Spirit of Goodyear in thick fog.

Thanks to recent rains, the ground here has been pretty wet. Combined with a narrow temperature/dew point spread and calm winds overnight, morning fog at the airport was guaranteed. At 8:45, you barely could see the blimp, moored in the airport’s infield.

When the fog begins to lift, it lifts quickly.

When the fog begins to lift, it lifts quickly.

A few minutes later, the fog began to lift. It lifted so quickly that you could watch it go.

As soon as the fog lifted, N3A did too--headed to Florida and eventual decommissioning.

As soon as the fog lifted, N3A did too–headed to Florida and eventual decommissioning.

The Spirit of Goodyear followed soon after, soaring skyward toward the southwest. (I’m sure the crew had to circumnavigate the Baltimore/Washington Class B airspace, just like the rest of us do.) Yes, there will be a new airship next year, but it won’t be a blimp–it will be a zeppelin. “The Goodyear Zeppelin”–that’s going to take some getting used to.

 

Around the world, by the numbers

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Many of you have asked for statistics about the trip, and some of them are starting to come in:

Number of days: 25

Number of flight legs: 30 (fit into 20 flying days; there were five nonflying days on the schedule)

Distance traveled: 26,568 nautical miles (4,930 nm greater than the circumference of the Earth). Note, this is my distance traveled; Mike Laver’s journey began and ended in Aiken, S.C., so he logged two more flight legs and an additional 907 nm.

Total flight time: 98.1 hours

Average speed: 271 knots (312 mph)

Average flight leg: 886 nautical miles (1,020 miles)

Longest flight leg: 1,232 nautical miles (1,418 miles), from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Minot, North Dakota

Shortest flight leg: 93 nautical miles (107 miles), from Straubing, Germany, to Salzburg, Austria. Why so short? We wanted to visit MT Propeller in Straubing and the Red Bull Air Museum in Salzburg–why drive between the two, especially when fuel costs less in Salzburg? The next shortest flight leg was 674 nautical miles, from Broome to Ayers Rock, Australia.

Notebooks filled: 2.5

Photographs taken: 6,903

Video recorded: 175.5 GB

We’re still working on total fuel consumption, most expensive and least expensive fuel, highest fees, and similar numbers. However, many of those costs were billed through our handler, BaseOps, or primary fuel supplier, World Fuel. It could be another month or two before all the bills make their way to Mike’s business.

In the meantime, please take a look at the October 3 installment of AOPA Live This Week; Associate Producer Paul Harrop crafted a nice segment based primarily on video that I shot during the trip. The segment starts at about 4:20 into the program.

My wife really likes the homecoming segment on the September 19 AOPA Live This Week (very early in the show, about 1:30)…I’m not sure whether it’s the video itself or just the fact that I had returned from my longest trip ever.