All posts by Elaine Paniszczyn

Elaine Paniszczyn earned a degree in Journalism with English as a second major from East Texas A&M in Commerce. She taught journalism in Midland and Lewisville for 23 years. After retiring last year, she put her skills to work for Rambler Newspapers. Her pastimes are reading, dancing, traveling, and spending time with friends and her dog Prissy.

Boeing grant helping museum enhance STEM programs  

 

Frontiers of Flight Museum Chief Executive Officer Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones announces a $50,000 grant from The Boeing Company. Also pictured are Dr. Jason Treadway, Director of  Education, Jay Sutorius, Program Manager of the Dallas Division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, and former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. / Photos by Elaine Paniszczyn
Frontiers of Flight Museum Chief Executive Officer Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones announces a $50,000 grant from The Boeing Company. Also pictured are Dr. Jason Treadway, Director of
Education, Jay Sutorius, Program Manager of the Dallas Division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, and former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. / Photos by Elaine Paniszczyn

With the help of a $50,000 grant from The Boeing Company, Dallas’s Frontiers of Flight Museum has plans to expand its classes and programs emphasizing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Their new education initiative titled “Flight Path: Awareness to Achievement” was announced by Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones, Frontiers of Flight Museum Chief Executive Officer and Jay Sutorius, Program Manager of the Dallas Division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security at the museum Mon., May 12.

They were joined by museum supporters, representatives from the aviation industry and the Dallas philanthropic and business communities, including one of the Frontiers of Flight Museum Founders, former United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Director of Education, Dr. Jason Treadway, explained how the museum will merge STEM and history.

“Aviation, history and STEM are all interrelated,” Treadway said. “It’s hard to imagine one without the other. Everywhere you look in our museum, STEM is present. Think of the many innovations in materials, avionics, propulsion, design, manufacturing that have advanced technology.

“Right here, behind me, we have the 1903 Wright Flyer,” Treadway said. “Next to that…is the Apollo 7 command module. Only 65 years span these two great achievements. Without STEM, neither of these would have been possible. This is one of the true assets of our institution. STEM is everywhere. It’s part of our fabric, part of our DNA.”

Boeing’s partnership with the museum is in effort to engage more students in STEM.

“Aviation is a critical part of our economy in Texas,” Sutorius said. “The nearly 5,000 Boeing employees across Texas work on everything from space exploration, aircraft maintenance and electronic assembly, to flight training management.

“We would like to see more (workers) come into that pipeline and be part of all the good things that we do,” Sutorius said. “It’s a great career path. It’s exciting to be involved in aviation and aeronautics, and as an aeronautical engineer, I’ve been living it 30 years myself, and I look forward to getting more kids into it.

“One of the significant ways the museum is addressing this is being grounded in history and using a new forward thinking approach to teaching for experience and hands-on approach,” Sutorius said. “This vision will help inspire the next generation of aerospace workers. Boeing invests in programs where students can practice and apply themselves in real and relevant ways.”

Sutterfield-Jones said that 20.4 percent of all workers in DFW hold STEM positions and that one-third of those are imported from outside the state.

“This is where we can excite kids about the opportunities of a STEM education,” U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutcheson said. “The technology companies that I’m involved with could hire every engineering graduate in every engineering university in Texas and still have to go outside to get their requirement every year for engineers. That is a recipe for action. Many of the STEM requirements are technical in nature and do not require an engineering degree or college degree, and those are great paying jobs for our community.”

Sutterfield-Jones said the museum’s goal is to help the community fill those jobs by inspiring students to go into STEM careers.

“The education begins at all levels from the youngest child that walks into the museum all the way up to high school and college,” Sutterfield-Jones said. “We want children to catch that awe when they walk into the museum.

“Because of a generous contribution from Boeing, we are ready to roll out a new strategically focused education program that squarely looks at STEM and these needs in our community,” Sutterfield-Jones said. “STEM is more than a buzzword. STEM is an interdisciplinary approach to education.

“This museum is STEM – anything we do, we are all about STEM,” she said. “We take that academic concept and couple that with real world lessons and end up with a dynamic and inspiring program for students. In the short term, students increase their technical literacy. In the long term, we end up being the pipeline of STEM workers that our community desperately needs.”

“We are committed to putting best practices in place and putting resources behind it…to provide jobs from everything from ground workers, flight attendants, pilots and engineers,” Sutterfield-Jones said.

The museum is creating advanced programs for high school students with components that focus on girls and diversity while providing multiple exposures to content.

“As an institution of informal education, we offer the ability to bridge the gap between theory learned in the classroom and practice, by applying students’ knowledge to real life application,” Treadway said. “As a father of two young girls, I am most passionate about attracting more young women to STEM education.”

During spring break, a week-long program at the museum is planned for children with older girls serving as mentors through an internship program during the camp.

World’s smallest jet makes stop in Dallas  

At Frontiers of Flight Museum, Justin Lewis poses with his FLS Microjet which he flies at  air shows around the country. / Photo by Elaine Paniszczyn
At Frontiers of Flight Museum, Justin Lewis poses with his FLS Microjet which he flies at
air shows around the country. / Photo by Elaine Paniszczyn

It’s a bird.

It’s a plane.

It is a plane – the world’s smallest jet – the BD-5J FLS Microjet was on static display at Frontiers of Flight Museum May 10-11.

The precursor of this tiny jet became famous in the 1983 James Bond film, “Octopussy,” when 007 flew the world’s smallest jet through a hangar during the opening scene. Jim Bede originally designed the jet in the 1970’s as a low cost, home built, jet aircraft. It was difficult to build and Bede Aircraft soon closed its doors with only a few examples to show for their efforts.

The BD-5J FLS Microjet is an upgraded version of the original design with modern navigational equipment and control surfaces, as well as, a new engine for extended range. It can reach speeds in excess of 300 miles per hour and weighs 416 pounds without fuel. Highly maneuverable, the aircraft is only 13 feet long with a wingspan of 17 feet. The original airplane was propeller driven.

Its pilot, Justin Lewis, was born in Texas, raised in Virginia, and now lives in Oklahoma City. Lewis started flying at age 14 and received his pilot’s license at 17. A graduate of the University of North Dakota with a BS in Aeronautical Studies, Lewis joined the Navy where he completed Navy flight school in 2001, graduating at the top of his class. He was assigned to fly the F-14D “Tomcat”, and in 2007, began training carrier pilots in the T-45 “Goshawk”.

Lewis joined the Arkansas Air National Guard in 2011 and flies the A-10C “Warthog.” Last year, he served in Afghanistan.

He flies the FLS Microjet at air shows around the country.

“The designers thought they would be able to put a jet engine in it without changing the shape, and it would be even more high-performance,” Lewis said. “(About) 1971, they started talking about doing that, and they came up with the BD-5J with a jet engine inside of it. They marketed and sold a bunch of those, but they never delivered any of the kits.

“They had too many problems with the business at the time, so the only BD-5J’s ever built were the ones built in the factory,” Lewis said. “There’s a few exceptions out there where people rebuilt them on their own after one crashed. Today, there are only two BD-5Js that still exist. After the company went out of business, the ones that did exist were very popular on the air show circuit.”

Those were the Coors Lite Silver Bullet jet team also known as the Bud Light Air Force.

“By the mid-1990’s, you didn’t see them anymore,” Lewis said. “The technology was getting old; the parts to replace them were getting old; the people flying them were getting old. Their safety record had been bad, and only a few still remained.

“Today, two of the original Coors Lite Silver Bullets are the only ones remaining and they currently do Department of Defense (DOD) contracts with the government,” Lewis said. “They act as cruise missiles. They’re so small that they look like radar targets that are the same shape and size as cruise missiles. The DOD rents them out and they fly around and get tracked by radar to train people how to intercept cruise missiles. They no longer do air shows.”

Lewis is one of the pilots that fly the old Silver Bullet for the DOD.

“About eight or nine years ago, I started this project right here,” Lewis said gesturing toward the ‘world’s smallest jet.’“This is a BD-5, but we started it from scratch. This is the very first successfully built BD-5 microjet outside of the factory from scratch. We essentially took the BD-5 and went head-to-toe through the whole aircraft and we said, ‘How can we improve the safety record of this aircraft and bring it up date and more in line with today’s technology?’

“This is the very first one of the new microjets out there,” Lewis said. “We call it the FLS Microjet. We want to recognize that we upgraded the old BD-5J design, but we also want to stand off a little bit from (it) to show that this is born out of the BD-5J design, but it’s a very different aircraft because of the redundancy in the safety record of this.

“There is a plan for me to build a second one, and you can actually have people build these up in Oregon at BD Micro-technologies, the company I work with to re-engineer this kit aircraft,” Lewis said. “They sell it now as a builder assistance program. You go to Oregon, and you build it with them over the course of a year. Very few will ever be built.

“It’s a pretty exclusive type of customer that has the kind of high performance experience to build something like this. You’re looking at close to $200,000 to put this together,” he said.

The company predicts they will sell about 10.

“That’s just with the stockpile of parts they have,” Lewis said. “That should be enough to get them out there and reinvigorate the microjet community and get them flying.”

“I was the person that test flew this airplane and I hadn’t flown a BD-5 in the past,” Lewis said. “There was a little bit of knowledge out there from people like Bob Bishop, who is a very famous airshow pilot who flew the old Coors Light Silver Bullet. The other piece of the puzzle is that I have a lot of other experience in high performance jet aircraft, general aviation aircraft and experimental aircraft where I built another airplane.

“So, you take all the pieces of experience that may not be with the microjet, but when you sum them all up together, your experience leads you to make a really good decision on how the microjet is going to fly before you ever step into it.”

In the future, people who build the aircraft will have to work with Lewis and get flight instruction from him.

“The FAA will make those people go through me to get checked out on this aircraft.”

He said there will be no trainer airplane built.

“A trainer isn’t necessary, but the right kind of experience to be able to come to me is,” Lewis said. “If someone has about 1,000 hours, and most of that is in high performance type aircraft – it doesn’t even have to be jet aircraft – but high performance type aircraft, then I think (they’re) a good candidate for being able to fly this airplane.”

It took Lewis five years to build the aircraft.

“We did all the research and development together,” Lewis said. “I pretended to be their first customer and we went through that process. I built it; I test flew it; I created the test program, the flight training program and now I bring this to airshows all over the country.

“The wings come off with a single bolt,” he said. “(It) is about as big as a human being, so we put them in sleeping bags. We can put it in the trailer in about 20 minutes after a flight. It will still be warm from the flight it did.

“That makes it very neat for bringing it to venues where we can inspire kids to get into aviation,” Lewis said.“I like using this for getting kids into science, technology, engineering and math. It’s not just aviation; it’s all those things that are important for getting kids involved with something extraordinary in the future.”

He said he did think of what educators now call STEM skills when he was in middle school and high school. He and his brother Braxton Lewis, who is an engineer today, would both skip study hall and lunch to go to extra physics and math classes.

“We wouldn’t necessarily do that well, but it wasn’t because we weren’t paying attention, it was because we were out exploring so much stuff, that it was hard to do all we were being told to do,” Lewis said. “It’s neat when you look back when you get a little older and you put the logical conclusion on how you arrived at being the BD-5 guy. I know I’m lucky to be here, but you also have to look at how the stars aligned.

“I loved aviation,” Lewis said. “That was the root of that. Part of my love of aviation was doing anything I could before I was old enough to fly. Around the time I was 14 … Experimental Aircraft Association was an organization I got involved in. They were very encouraging. I flew through them. People let me help them build their airplanes. I probably wasn’t helping, but they were teaching me. That was a big influence, and that carried on with my parent’s encouraging me to fly.

“Going into the military was a big deal and provided that high performance jet background,” Lewis said. “So when you look back at all of this – me being a flight instructor, having general aviation, civilian experience, military, building the airplanes – you put it all together, and then I can see how I arrived at this spot. I could probably take any one of those things out and I don’t think I would be in this position today.”

Lewis said when he talks to children at airshows he tells them to go out and create their own opportunity.

“Don’t be at home when you’re interested in aviation,” he said. “Go to the airport, and don’t even have a plan. If you don’t know what you’re doing there, just stand there, you’ll figure it out. There are people you can talk to. Get more and more information. Get involved in your community, with what you want to do, and if you have a passion for it, it should be pretty easy to do that.

“I think the most important thing to tell kids is … the biggest thing you need to do is try,” Lewis said. “When you see somebody that’s elevated to a high position, and it looks like it’s a long way from where you are, and it’s an extraordinary step to make, what you don’t realize is: it’s a series of small steps to get there and all you really need to do is try. So many people see that as such a drastic step that they won’t even try.

“I think when people give something a shot, even when they’re not going to do well at it, if they just try, they are already 90 percent of the way there,” he said. “When you look back on it, you realize this was not as hard as I thought it was going to be.

“Have the confidence to just go out there and risk failing,” Lewis said. “It’s okay.”

Lewis has not flown his microjet in the Dallas area, but he said he is hoping to be invited to an airshow in the Metroplex.

 

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After 56 years of flight, pilot yearns to go into space

Wally Funk. Courtesy of The Ninety-Nines, Inc.
Wally Funk. Courtesy of The Ninety-Nines, Inc.

When pilot Wally Funk was five years old, she tried to fly by jumping off her family’s barn in the Superman costume her parents gave her for her birthday. That short flight ended in the hay, but she did not give up. She soloed at 16 and in her 56 year career has flown 18,600 hours and has trained over 2,000 pilots.

She made history three times as a female: the first civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Okla.; the first Federal Aviation Agency inspector; and the first National Transportation Safety Board air-crash investigator. Going into space is the only goal that remains on her to-do list.

Funk spoke April 25 to the Happy Warriors, a group of mainly World War II veterans, who meet every fourth Friday at Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. She told them stories about growing up in Taos, New Mexico and about her quest to become an astronaut.

“My father had a business and my mom was too busy with social engagements, so I did all the things the (local Indian) kids did: shooting guns, riding horses – all the fun stuff at five and six years of age,” Funk said. “The Spirit of the Taos Mountain gave me the knowledge to know what to do – how to fix a tractor, a Model T when I was 10 – and I have had a wonderful, fabulous life. The Taos Indians are fantastic in the way they teach their kids and I was just one of their kids.”

She said she her parents let her do just about anything she wanted to do.

“I had great, forward thinking parents,” Funk said. “I was taught early to have no fear – to deal with whatever came up in my life and fix it. And I did. I’m impulsive. I’m spontaneous. I’m very practical. I’m bold. I’m always on time. I’m precise. I’m responsible. I’m a risk-taker – not to the point I would ever lose my life or hurt anybody – but I’ve done a lot of cockamamie things in the air. I march to my own drummer and that’s what keeps me going.”

She must have gotten her courage and love of flying from her mother who also dreamed of becoming a pilot. Funk said in the early 1920’s a barnstormer landed at her mother’s school in Illinois.

“She told the pilot she wanted to fly,” Funk said. “He said, ‘It will be a dollar a minute.’ She went back to school and came back with $10. She got her 10 minutes. That pilot did loops and rolls. She was elated running home to tell her father, ‘I want to be a pilot.’ In those days in Illinois, people were very stern. Her father looked at her and said, ‘You will never fly. Those girls wear britches.’ He was okay by the time I started to fly at Stephens College.”

She said when she became a pilot and she was teaching, the word astronaut had not come into existence.

“I had gone to the head of the class, so to speak, in aviation and teaching, so when the astronaut program came up and Jerrie Cobb asked me if I wanted to be with the program, I said, ‘Yes! Get me up there. You write to Dr. Loveless (Dr. William Randolph “Randy” Lovelace II).’”

She was accepted in 1961 and volunteered to be a part of the Women in Space Program as one of 25 women in the Mercury 13 Program.

“There were 100-and-something guys who took the test,” Funk said. “Seven made it. There were 25 girls that took the same tests, and 13 made it. They tested every part of my body possible. They weren’t sure what was going to happen to the nose, the ears, or the tongue in space. Nobody had an idea what space was going to do to our body. They strapped me in a dentist chair and injected 10 degree water – below freezing – in my ear for 30 seconds. You cannot imagine the tests they made up to do to us.”

Thirty minutes later, they brought her in and injected the freezing liquid into her other ear. She said the women’s tests were harder, faster and longer than the men’s.

“Our bodies could withstand more than the guy’s did.”

“That was 1961, but nobody knew anything about us until 1995 when “Dateline” came out with the story,” Funk said.

The women competed toe-to-toe with John Glenn and the other men, but in the end it was politics, not pilot error, that kept them grounded.

“Eisenhower had put into a record of some sort that only military men could be picked,” Funk said. “Many of the Mercury 13 girls were upset about it, but I knew I had to go on. I knew I would go into space one day.”

She is still waiting.

In 2005 she paid $20,000 to train with Russian cosmonauts at Gagarin Astronaut Training Center 20 miles northeast of Moscow. There she experienced weightlessness aboard an Ilyushin 76 cargo plane. The plane went to 35,000 feet and then nosedived to 10,000 feet to create weightlessness called Parabolic flying. She passed all the same test as the cosmonauts, but she is still waiting to go into space.

Funk is on the list to fly on Sir Richard Branson’s space vehicle.

“But I might not get that chance,” Funk said. “My number is over 100, and he can only take six people at a time.”

Funk expressed regret at not getting a degree in engineering.

“If I had gotten an engineering degree, I would have been on with NASA very early,” she said. “I’ve known all the girls that have gone up, and I’ve been at all the launches. Eileen Collins is one of my very best friends.”

Funk lectures around the country encouraging school systems to make the STEM Program – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – part of their curriculum.

Today, all of her students are teenagers who want to go into the military or be airline pilots.

“They know exactly where they want to go, so I’m helping them get there,” Funk said.

She flies out of Northwest Regional Airport.

Did you know?

 Wally Funk invented the Wally Stick when she was with the FAA NTSB. She investigated about 450 accidents in her career, and she said there were too many accidents where props had broken off. She used the Wally Stick to test propellers. The front of the propeller should have a ping to it, and the back should have a thud when struck with the stick. If there is a dull thud at the front of the prop, it is cracked.

New tech could revolutionize search and rescue in wake of Malaysia Flight 370

Based on satellite photos 17 days after Malaysia Flight 370 went missing, officials reported the Boeing 777’s 239 crewmembers and passengers perished in the southern Indian Sea. The Boeing 777 left Kuala Lumpur Sat., March 8 headed for Beijing.

The announcement narrowed the search area, but the mystery remains why the aircraft flew to such a remote part of the world. The United States Pacific Command was reportedly on its way to the area with a black box locator designed to listen for the signal emitted from the aircraft’s Black Box.

If the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would mandate that airlines have a better data collecting and streaming system, Malaysia Flight 370 might be the last aviation mystery, according to University of North Texas professor Dr. Krishna Kavi.

Since the crash of Egypt Air Flight 990 in 1999, Dr. Kavi has promoted a new technological concept that would replace or accompany the Black Box that searchers must recover in order to know what really happened to the missing Malaysian airliner. He believes that his conception, “Glass Box”, could have prevented the mysteries surrounding Malaysian Airlines flight 370.

“The Black Box may be the greatest single invention in the history of safety engineering,” Kavi said. “Nevertheless, technology has moved on, and we can–we must–improve on it.

“We talked to NTSB and tried to understand what kinds of data Black Boxes collect, and then we wanted to see how much information can be streamed down to ground stations so they could be collected,” Kavi said. “Once we had the data, we did a feasibility study, and then we asked could we explore building a prototype for this one. In order for us to build the prototype we need money … to build infrastructure and to support students. We never got anywhere after that.”

He said they had been hoping to get a grant to support the project.

“Also, we needed from L-3 Communications, (who) builds these flight data recorders, what kinds of interfaces are available and how you stream the data,” Kavi said. “Then we could use the interfaces to redesign the Black Box. We needed them to work with us. Without any of that, we couldn’t go any further.”

Although they were unable to build a prototype of the Glass Box, they did develop a design for screening data.

“What we needed was how the Black Box stores and reads back,” Kavi said. “So we had two choices. One is after the data is stored in the Black Box, you read it and send it back to ground immediately, or while you are storing the data, at the same time you can also screen. So depending on which way you want to go, the actual interface to the airplane would be different. Those kinds of things we could not do without those companies telling us how they operate.

“We know how it differs (from the Black Box) in the sense that we are not saving the data; we are sending the data to ground, so that on the ground you can analyze them in real time rather than waiting to recover from the Black Box,” Kavi said.

He said airlines might continue to use the Black Box along with the Glass Box.

“You could, if you want, because you might not want to stream all (the) data down because it would be too expensive,” Kavi said. “Some of the information is not as essential to send immediately. Some … you can analyze later. Those are all the things you have to investigate based on the actual implementation.”

Some of the information stored in the Black Box is not needed for safety purposes and would not need to be streamed, Kavi said, discussing how the Glass Box would have worked had it been on Malaysia Flight 370 when it made an unexpected turn over the Indian Ocean.

“We don’t know what happened, but the plane traveled for another six or seven hours after that (turn),” Kavi said. “If you were getting the data from the plane saying that everything’s okay–the flight is operating fine–but the pilots are not talking to you, then, you can ask the cockpit voice recording to be streamed down to find out if the pilots are dead inside the plane or what they are doing. You would know immediately if there is something wrong.

“Right now we don’t know where the flight is or anything,” Kavi said. “(With the Glass Box) you would have the information immediately. If (FAA) says this (Glass Box concept) is required, then airlines will do it. Otherwise, they will not.”

He compared the situation to automobile companies refusing to put airbags in automobiles until the government required them.

“(Governments and airlines) see what the options are, so they should be willing to make the investment,” Kavi said. “The technology is here. It’s feasible. It can be done. Most airlines have Wi-Fi inside the plane. If you can provide streaming services for passengers, why can’t you send service to ground?

“It would be a different technology, but the technology is already there because you have Wi-Fi, so you can use Wi-Fi type of communication through satellite to ground,” Kavi said.

“Whether I do it or somebody else does it, the technology is already here, and we’ve been talking about it since 2000,” Kavi said. “We’ve shown that it is feasible to do it, and it doesn’t take a lot of bandwidth to do it or a lot of technology to build it. There would be some initial cost … but people are still saying it is too expensive.”

Kavi said it will take the public getting behind the idea and pressuring Congress and the FAA to take action.

“So I’m hoping that at least now that more and more people are talking about it, maybe there will be some movement in that direction,” Kavi said. “It would be nice to know that what I’ve been talking about is getting recognition. I don’t really care whether I or somebody else does it. I just want this to be done.

“I’m a professor. I’m not trying to make money out of it. I don’t have a patent on it. All I did was publish papers on it. (I am) interested in doing research and pushing technology. People talk about it being too expensive–let’s investigate how expensive (it is), first, rather than knocking it down as being too expensive. One of the things people miss is that if you have this kind of technology of streaming the data, there will be many more things you can do that you cannot do today with the Black Box.”

The Glass Box could also be used to detect trends on planes and provide data to improve efficiency and generate revenue for airlines, Kavi said.

Wings of Freedom flies into Dallas

Warplane enthusiasts get a close look at the only still-flying B-24 Liberator, on the tarmac outside Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. Photo by Elaine Paniszczyn.
Warplane enthusiasts get a close look at the only still-flying B-24 Liberator, on the tarmac outside Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. Photo by Elaine Paniszczyn.

 

Cloudy, overcast skies and chilly winds did not prevent warplane enthusiasts from touching and being touched by the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour, March 19-20 at Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. Visitors toured World War II legends the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator and P-51 Mustang, along with the foundation’s UH-1 Huey, a lifesaving helicopter used during the Vietnam War. Some guests even paid for rides in the aircraft.

Aviation historian Tom Harrison gave a scientific explanation of how the B-24s of the 445th Heavy Bombardment Group became isolated from their fighter and bomber stream protection, during WWII, leading to an attack by over 120 German fighters equipped with 20 and 30mm cannons. Twenty-five of the 35 bombers were destroyed within a period of 3-4 minutes.

Harrison said the fight was the most intense aerial combat encountered, with the greatest percentage of losses recorded, in military aviation history. Of the 10 aircraft that survived the battle, six crashed trying to limp back to base in Tibenham, England. Only four made it back safely.

The attack caused the deaths of 117 airmen and 18 German fighters. The official conclusion, penned Oct. 23, 1944, blamed the lead bomber crew for the navigational error. That crew did not make it back to defend their honor.

Harrison’s book, “Kassel”, gives a scientific and technical analysis of what happened and explains why the lead bomber crew was blamed in order to conceal the truth that the group was led into harm’s way because of a typing mistake regarding the attack zone coordinates.

The B-24 on display at the museum during the Wings of Freedom Tour is the only one in the world still flying.

Highway in the sky remains on shelf, for now

Elaine Paniszczyn, Stacey Starkey

Time and again futurists and science fiction visionaries have disappointed the waiting public. The year is 2014 and I have no robot maid, no instant ever-youth injections and most distressing no flying car. These were the bare bones of the future as foretold by writers, scientists and crackpots throughout the past century, so where are my personal rocket ship and Moon condo?

While some of these ideas may still be off in left field, the time for my long promised flying car may have already come and gone. NASA’s Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS), a six year project ended in 2005 anticipated something akin to flying highways would be initiated by 2008.

According to NASA’s website, the SATS concept of operations uses small aircraft for business and personal transportation for on-demand, point-to-point travel between smaller regional, reliever, general aviation and other landing facilities, including heliports. NASA says SATS would leverage Internet communications technologies for travel planning and scheduling. SATS would operate within the National Airspace System.

Joe Tilton of Lawton, Okla. talked about NASA’s shelved SATS at the Texas Rotorcraft Association (TRA) meeting at Don Antonio’s Restaurant in Olney on Sat., Feb. 22. Tilton was on NASA’s 12-member SATS Team.

“I met Dr. Bruce Holmes who wrote the book on SATS, and we spent quite a bit of time talking about SATS – what needed to be created,” Tilton said. “He liked my ideas, and he realized I was rather versed in transportation systems, so he asked me to be on the committee. I was the only non-pilot on the committee, but that was a positive for him.”

Tilton, who spent 30 years owning and operating radio stations, also holds a certified engineer’s license.

“Joe was a promoter of gyros (gyroplanes) as one of the main aircraft for the Personal Aircraft Vehicle (PAV),” said Bob R. O’Dell, program chairman of TRA. “Joe advocated a system where you pulled your aircraft out of your garage, told it where you wanted to go and sat back for the ride. That sounded really far out 15 years ago, but now (it) is considered plausible.

“The system was tested in 2001, and it worked very well, even way back then,” O’Dell said. “The committee disbanded when the project was finished, and they ran out of money. Needless to say, air control run by computers did not sit too well with the FAA.”

“We anticipated it would be implemented in ’08, but things happened (to prevent it),” Tilton said.

Tilton said that in 2001, well-thought-out predictions for 2008 showed the speed of delivery by trucks carrying perishable foods would drop from the national average of 45 miles per hour (mph) to 35 mph.

“Today, it is still 45 mph from the point a truck picks up perishable foods until delivery,” Tilton said. “That includes stopping for fuel, stopping to sleep, picking up goods, delivering them, and speed limits inside towns.”

The prediction was based on projected increased automobile traffic.

“We’re not building any new interstates (highways),” Tilton said. “The last new miles of interstate were built in California; it was an eight mile stretch. When they cut the ribbon and opened it for traffic, it instantly became a traffic jam.

“Between 2001 and 2007, predictions were going quite well,” Tilton said. “Then, the economy began to slow; meaning the needs for SATS was diminishing.

“Private jet sales and travel has increased over the past two years. For example, Houston’s Sugarland Regional Airport and Lone Star Executive Airport in Conroe report fuel sales are back to pre-2009 levels. Lone Star’s management reports 200 operations a day. Suffice it to say, the rich are flying again.

“So the proverbial tug of war between government flight control and personal computer controlled flight continues,” he said.

“SATS depends on computers using tested and stable systems with triple redundancy. Since dramatic increases in flight, even the highway in the sky corridors would be more than radar observation systems could handle.

“Talk of automation sophisticated enough to allow virtual driver’s license level permission to be in the skies with thousands of other aircraft was more information than FAA wanted to comprehend,” Tilton said. “It just did not meet the established technology paradigm.”

Tilton said the SATS system is on the shelf, still waiting for the market to demand it.

“However, the market is damaged,” Tilton said. “As long as we have food delivered before it is spoiled, SATS will likely stay on the shelf. Personal income averages are going down; meaning the ability of the public to trade their surface vehicles for aircraft is diminishing. What I’m counting on is technology to outpace prices to make personal flight from garages not only possible but obviously affordable and practical.

“What I fought for in the planning process was that we be able to use anything that flies, all the way from the Javelin jet … all the way down to parachutes,” he said. “We assigned altitudes depending on the speed of the aircraft. The slowest of the slow are the guys next to the ground, and Javelins get the top.”

O’Dell said the SATS goal is for the public to roll some kind of vehicle out of their house, get into it and tell it where they want to go. Similar to a drone, the vehicle would fly the traveler to their destination.

“All of this is computerized,” O’Dell said. “With GPS the way we have it now, they know where you are within a foot, and it can be completely on computer. It just takes someone sitting back and watching. I know that sounds wild and crazy, but … (it) is not unreasonable at all.”

Tilton said after the SATS program was shelved, he got calls from Alaska and Florida wanting to implement it.

“Both states wanted to be first,” Tilton said. “Ohio was expressing a great deal of interest as well. I talked to Dr. Holmes recently about how we can let Alaska have this system. (NASA) want(s) Alaska to have it, but we still have a mindset blockage.”

DFW International Police Report

Theft
Feb. 12
An Irving search warrant recovered multiple items believed to have been stolen at DFW Airport. The owner of a Black Apple iPhone 4 8GB ($450) reported his phone was pinging at a specific address. The phone was located in a closet in the bedroom at that address. The suspect had been employed since from October 2013 and had security access up until his arrest Wed., Feb. 12. The victim said he left his phone on an aircraft Jan. 11.

Theft
Feb. 17
Somebody broke into storage units at 3497 S. 20th Ave. Two GFS Texas company vehicles were also broken into and tools were missing. The suspects cut a lock on the chain link fence which surrounded the area. They cut locks on tool storage boxes, truck tool boxes and a Conex unit. One lock was cut with what appeared to be a saw and the rest were cut by bolt cutters. The suspects used a forklift to move the tool storage boxes and to remove equipment behind them. An electrical extension cord was connected to a portable generator and had been run to a neighboring storage area to power a saw to cut copper pipe. Crime Scene Officers dusted for fingerprints. Approximate value of missing tools: $15,380.

Theft
Feb. 17, 8:47 a.m.
An employee of Intex Construction reported that somebody possibly used one of the machines at 1160 Mustang Drive to break into a green Conex container on the property. They did $1,000 damage to the door and stole $3,000 worth of copper wire.

Theft
Feb. 17, 5:16 p.m.
A catalytic converter was stolen from a pickup truck parked in the Terminal D parking garage, Level 1, Row E. The owner said when he arrived back from his travels and started his truck; the vehicle did not sound right. He noticed loose nuts lying on the ground, and when he looked up at his exhaust system, he noticed the catalytic converter was missing. His truck had been parked about five days.

Theft
Feb. 18, 2:30 p.m.
A traveler said she checked her luggage in Mexico and did not visually inspect it until she arrived home at Midnight. A small jewelry bag, as well as the following items were missing from inside her luggage: Gold Kenneth Cole bracelet ($60); silver necklace/earring set w/ cubic zirconium stones ($100); black/silver Michele watch (Tahitian Jelly Bean) ($345); multi-colored Juicy Couture ring ($98); black, leather Brighton necklace w/silver medallion ($45); silver Brighton necklace with charms ($45); silver Brighton necklace with cross & heart ($45); silver Brighton earrings w/cubic zirconium stones ($40); Kenneth Cole hoop earrings ($20): silver Kenneth Cole hoop earrings ($40); gold Kenneth Cole necklace with amber stone ($50); small pink paisley print bag ($10). Total: $898.

Feb. 18, 2:38 p.m.
Another pickup truck owner reported when he returned to his truck in Terminal E garage, Section C, Level A, Gate 18, his vehicle did not sound right after he started it. His truck dealer said the exhaust system had been cut and the catalytic converter removed. Estimated damage: $5,000.

Theft
Feb. 18, 4:40 p.m.
On the secure side of Terminal D, Checkpoint D23, a woman reported that her tailored, black, Gucci leather jacket ($2,300) that she had bought the day before was missing. She said she placed all items in a plastic tub as required and placed the jacket on top of the bin. During the screening process, she was selected for secondary screening and stepped away from the X-ray. Afterwards, she gathered her possessions and went to her departure gate, where she realized her jacket was missing. She returned to the checkpoint to get it, but it was missing.

Theft
Feb. 18, 5:43 p.m.
A woman called to say the catalytic converter was stolen from her husband’s pickup parked at Terminal D. The truck was parked less than 24 hours.

Public Intoxication
Feb. 18, 6:11 p.m.
Officers went to Terminal D, Gate 18 to check on a person removed from the aircraft due to his intoxication. The man was accusing an airline supervisor of keeping his cell phone, driver’s license and credit card. He said he was not leaving the counter until his property was returned. One officer interrupted his line of talk and identified himself as a police officer. The man turned to look at him, a police officer in uniform, ignored his presence and turned back to the supervisor. When officers finally got him to move away from the counter, they noticed his balance appeared unsteady, and his eyes were dilated and bloodshot. He had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, and he slurred some of his words like “Massachusetts.” Then, he began to accuse the police officers of taking his property. They arrested him for Public Intoxication. He had an empty bottle of Oxycodone, which could have contributed to his erratic behavior. Throughout his detention, he was confrontational and argumentative. He continually grew angry with officers and had to be restrained multiple times.

Warrant Arrest
Feb. 19, 8:59 p.m.
Officers assisted U.S. Customs to remove a wanted person from an outbound flight from DFW to London, departing Terminal D, Gate 27. They escorted the wanted person off the aircraft and up to Customs. His outstanding warrant was for Failure to Stop and Render Aid in Arlington. Bond: $50,000.

Theft
Feb. 19, 10:36 p.m.
A flight attendant left her roller bag and a shoulder bag in the hallway and entered a sleeping room with the door shut. The area has a hallway, two rooms (sleeping and quiet room) and serves as a rest area for American Airlines employees. When she returned, she realized she was missing a wallet. She was positive she had it with her as she entered the break room in Terminal A, Gate 34. There were no other items missing from her bags. Property list includes: Brown/red wallet ($150); MO Driver’s license ($35); NASB checkbook, unknown # of checks; NASB ATM card; Dillard’s AMEX card; Citibank Visa credit card. She said her wallet could have been dropped as she was rolling her carry-on.

Public Intoxication
Feb. 20, 6:45 a.m.
In Terminal E, a man had bloodshot, watery eyes and spoke with slurred speech. The man could not keep his balance as an officer escorted him away from the ticket counter and admitted to drinking Miller Lite beer all night. He had booked his flight for the incorrect date, and the airline was not going to change it due to his intoxication. He said he had made the reservation about 10 hours prior to arriving at the airport and that he had been drinking when he made the reservation. He was arrested for Public Intoxication.

Theft
Feb. 20, 2:30 p.m.
The owner of Lobster Harvest International reported somebody stole a trailer ($2,000) from his business location. It is a black, 12-foot short bed trailer with designs on the front rail. It also had ramp entries on three sides, electric brakes, a spare tire, hardwood floors, 18 inch fence with engraved tie down straps and a master lock. He said he has had several inquiries from by passers but has always said it was not for sale. The trailer was locked with a master key, and the only person with a key to the trailer is his estranged wife who said she did not take it.

Theft
Feb. 20, 5:46 p.m.
A traveler reported his iPod touch ($400) missing from a vehicle he had left with airport valet. He said he makes 35-40 flights a year out of Terminals A and E and uses the valet every time. He said he has never had an issue before and has left iPods and other electronics in the vehicle in the past. His radar detector, which was on his dashboard, was not taken.

Theft
Feb. 23, 11:53 a.m.
A tailgate was stolen from a pickup truck in the Terminal E parking garage.

Public Intoxication
Feb. 23, 12:25 a.m.
While on foot patrol in Terminal D, an officer heard a male voice say “That’s f**king bulls**t,” and located a lone man sitting in a chair at Baggage Claim D16. He was the only person in the area, and he was not on a cellphone. The officer called for backup, approached the man and asked if he was okay. He replied, “No, just take me in.” The officer asked what he had done to go to jail. He said, “I’m just a drunk idiot.” He said, “I’m trying to get home to f**king Vegas.” He said he was traveling with his brother and their flight had a layover here, and he decided they should “get wasted.” He, his brother and a woman were all drinking at DFW Airport, he continued, but the brother decided to fly home and leave him at the airport. The man was unable to provide any flight information. He said he missed two flights and had been walking around the terminal for hours trying to find someplace to go. When asked how much alcohol he had consumed, he said, “I don’t know 15, 20 shots of Vodka.” He smelled of alcohol and slurred some of his words. His eyes were glassy and watery. He was unsteady on his feet and could not walk in a straight line. He was arrested for Public Intoxication.

Theft
Feb. 23, 2:24 p.m.
At Terminal B, Gate 9 around 5:30 a.m. Feb. 22, a man changed seats and forgot to pick up his phone. After a few minutes, he realized he did not have his phone and went back over to where he had left it, but it was no longer there. Lost and Found did not have it, but his phone showed to be at the airport based upon a GPS ping. By 11:18 a.m., his phone had moved from the airport and last pinged at an address in North Richland Hills. Surveillance video showed a cart driver stop in the Gate 9 area around 5:50 a.m., and the driver was seen sitting in the area for a few minutes and then getting up to leave.

Weapons Violation
Feb. 23, 2:53 p.m.
At Terminal D, Gate 30 Checkpoint, TSA located the image of gun parts and ammo inside a bag still in the X-ray machine. Police located the owner of the bag. They searched the bag and located a handgun and a loaded magazine. The owner was placed under arrest for Places Weapons Prohibited.

Theft
Feb. 24, 10:55 a.m.
A worker arrived at the Servisair garage to start their shift and noticed some tools and one of the two NAPA heavy duty jacks was missing. Also missing were a Honda 500hp, gas-powered generator, a Mac Ball Joint Remover tool and a Walt cordless drill along with its charger and two batteries.

Feb. 24, 1:18 p.m.
A traveler reported somebody took her company issued Apple iPad Air while it was inside a grey TSA container, as she was going through TSA screening at Terminal E, Checkpoint 18. After the screening, she realized the iPad was missing from the container. TSA personnel searched but did not find it.

Theft
Feb. 24, 2:09 p.m.
When a traveler arrived in Cancun via a connection at DFW on Sun., Feb. 9, she realized her phone ($450) was missing. She said she had it when she boarded the plane. AT&T said the telephone was at a specific address in Carrollton, Texas.

Theft
Weapons Violation
Feb. 25, 11:12 a.m.
At a TSA checkpoint in Terminal B, officers saw an image of two pistols inside a carry-on bag on the X-ray screen. Officers recovered the pistols and arrested the owner for Places Weapons Prohibited.

Theft
Feb. 27, 2:30 p.m.
A tailgate theft was reported at the Terminal B, Gate 8, Level D parking garage.

Happy 40th Birthday DFW

Photo by John Starkey
Photo by John Starkey

Milestone marks new era of growth, economic impact for region.

Forty years ago, the first flight into what was then called DFW Regional Airport landed just after midnight from Little Rock, Ark. on the final leg of a cross-country trip that started in New York City on Sun., Jan. 13, 1974.

Monday afternoon, Jan. 13, 2014, American Airlines’ flight from Little Rock, Ark., was designated Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s anniversary flight and greeted with a shower from an affectionate water cannon salute, and passengers received yellow Texas roses, commemorating the greeting that DFW’s first arriving customers received.

One employee who has worked at the airport all 40 years compared the experience to watching a tree grow.

“I’ve always looked at the airport as a tree–a pretty tree, a nice tree–you want to watch it grow, and it finally turns out to be something unbelievable,” said Jim Wardlow, Pavements, Signs and Markings Supervisor. “That’s the way the airport’s turned out to me. It’s a beautiful tree–it’s been very rewarding.”

Wardlow started work at DFW when he was 19.

“I’ve come up through the ranks,” he said. “I started as a general laborer, doing whatever I was asked to do and worked my way up to supervisor.

“I came here as a teenager, and I’ve grown into a man with a family–a wife, daughter and a son–that I have supported from DFW Airport,” Wardlow said. “I was a military brat–I lived all over the world. I was actually born at an airport many years ago. I guess I went full circle and came back home.”

DFW’s Chief Financial Officer, Chris Poinsatte, said the commitment of employees like Wardlow is indicative of the spirit at the airport.

“They represent our pledge to continue to make DFW Airport one the best airports in the world,” Poinsatte said. “Although a great deal has changed here at the airport and in the region since DFW opened, what has remained is DFW’s role as an economic driver for this region (with) $31 billion of economic activity every year.

“The founders of DFW had a big dream–DFW would serve as the foundation of the regional economy for decades. Not only were Dallas and Fort Worth leaders true visionaries, their vision has established the basis for the future still. We want to make DFW the pre-eminent global hub airport in the world. So with the help of our outstanding team and support of our customers and airline partners like American Airlines, we plan to do just that.”

Poinsatte said the airport’s 40th year will be filled with more progress and achievements including DART light rail service from Terminal A to downtown Dallas, which has been in the plans for decades. He said in this year, flights will be added to China to Shanghai and to Hong Kong, plus further service to the Middle East.

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Two new airline carriers, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, plan to launch new flights this year to Abu Dhabi and Doha, respectively.

“We are continuing to grow now with 58 international destinations,” Poinsatte said. “We have a lot to be thankful for. From a simple beginning 40 years ago, we are in a position to become a super-global hub–one of the largest in the world.”

Former Irving Mayor Dan Matkin was mayor when the airport opened. He remembered some hesitations about the airport from local people in the early days.

“Our feelings about the airport at that time were somewhat mixed,” Matkin said. “In one way, they took a large amount of property located within Irving’s city limits, which was planned for future growth, and that was a bit of a setback in our overall planning. Also when the airport was announced, there was sort of an edict that required Dallas and Fort Worth to come up with a better airport which obviously is what DFW was designed to do.

“The long term benefits for Irving have been that we are one of the closest metropolitan cities to have access to an airport that was destined to be a major international airport. It has been a driving force in the North Texas growth since its opening 40 years ago. There is no question of that.

“The downside is that Irving was a little bit misled by the planners and developers on the cross-wind runway. The numbers we were shown back in those days did not indicate it was going to be as big a nuisance as it is to the numerous households under its flight path. As it has turned out, there is not much that can be done about it. You just have to kind of learn how to not pay attention to the overall flight noise. In the long term, I guess that has been somewhat of a minimal nuisance.

“Be that as it may, the overall impact of the airport has been magnificent for the whole area even with all its faults. I don’t know of any one entity that could have done more,” Matkin said.

American Airline’s Tim Skipworth, Vice President of Airport Facilities, said that since American’s first flight into DFW 40 years ago, the airport has grown to become the carrier’s largest hub, serving as the central gateway to their domestic and international network. The airline operates more than 800 flights daily to nearly 200 destinations worldwide from DFW.

“It’s been a wonderful 40 years at DFW Airport, and we’re looking forward to a bright future ahead,” Skipworth said. “Forty years ago today was a momentous day to the citizens of Dallas and Fort Worth. The two cities embarked on a 10-year program to plan and build and operate DFW. It was the world’s largest airport at the time. Believe it or not, total construction costs for four terminals and all the infrastructure was $800 million. It seems like a small number today, but then it was a record airport construction project.”

The airport’s growth has meant job security for 40-year employee Larry Dowis, who is in charge of keeping the pavement on runways and roadways in working order. He acknowledged how unusual it is nowadays for an employee to spend 40 years with the same company.

“I started when I was coming out of college and enjoyed it–good benefits,” Dowis said. “I enjoyed working here; the people were great to work with, and that’s how you do it.”

He said he thought the growth of the airport is the biggest change he has seen.

“We started out with three runways, and now we have seven,” Dowis said, remarking on the increased job security each new runway brought him.

On opening day, DFW Airport was served by 12 airlines and had three runways, three terminals and 56 gates. Today the airport has 23 passenger airlines, five terminals and 155 gates and is home to the world’s largest airline, American Airlines.

“The founders of DFW Airport had a big dream, that it would serve as the foundation of our regional economy for decades,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “With that dream realized, the vision of those great Dallas and Fort Worth leaders has now become the basis of our goal to propel DFW into becoming the pre-eminent global hub in the world.”

Some information provided by DFW International Airport.

 

 

Bizarre fighter returns after eight-year restoration

Dubbed the “Flying Pancake” and resembling a UFO, the Vought V-173, designed by Charles Zimmerman, took off over Long Island Sound more than 70 years ago on Nov. 23, 1942. Now restored, the prototype resides at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, two years into its 10-year loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

With the peculiar airplane as a backdrop, Charles Foreman, a 37-year employee with Vought Aircraft (now Triumph Aerostructures), described the aircraft’s eight-year restoration process to an audience at the Museum on Sat., Jan. 11. Using a multi-media presentation that included original footage from the test flight program, Foreman described the project that was completed by 65 members of the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation (VAHF), an organization of Vought retirees who have restored several of the company’s aircraft.

Foreman regaled his audience with stories from the craft’s development process including how the V-173 would not turn when test pilot, Boone Guyton, tried to land on that historic day in 1942.

“Using all of his might, he finally managed to get it into a shallow turn and got it back and landed,” Foreman said. “By making some changes to the control system … flaps and so forth, they were able to get it to handle much better.”

“It flies! Charlie, it flies! Although it doesn’t turn very well,” Guyton told Zimmerman when he got back to the airport.

Ninety-one-year-old Hank Merbler, Chairman of the Board and C.E.O. of VAHF was a young aeronautical engineer when he witnessed the V-173’s first flight.

“I have the distinction of being the only one here that’s seen that fly,” Merbler said. “It was absolutely amazing.”

Merbler said he never doubted the V-173.

“I knew it would fly,” he said. “I was an aeronautical engineer that started with Chance Vault in 1941. I met Charlie Zimmerman … out in a park flying his little airplanes. The man was a seasoned aeronautical engineer, and this was his design.

“He was interested in designing an aircraft that would not stall and perhaps take off like a helicopter and fly like a fighter,” Merbler said. “Charlie had a knack for doing things in a different way. When that was flown in November 1942, I happened to be at the airport with 15 or 20 others.

“I remember Boone Guyton getting into the aircraft, and Charlie said, ‘I hope this flies,’ and Boone said, ‘It will.’

“He went up and didn’t go very high and circled the field a couple of times,” Merbler continued. “I think about 15 minutes. When he came in, much to my surprise, he came in kind of like a helicopter and appeared to me to hover there like a leaf, and then finally dropped.”

There was no bounce, he said.

“It just dropped and stayed there.”

Merbler saw the V-173fly over 20 times, and that his wife saw it fly 50 or 60 times.

“It was a good aircraft,” he said. “The work that these fellows did (to restore it) is just absolutely incredible – beyond the challenges that I could visualize.”

Mebler took the time to congratulate Dick Guthrie, the project manager for seven years of the eight-year restoration.

“He is the man that made it happen despite insurmountable challenges,” Merbler said. “I thought we would never get there from here, but he made it happen. When this aircraft arrived, it was tattered and torn.”

Guthrie said they had to document everything or they would not know how to reproduce it, and he said he was proud to have been a part of leaving the historical legacy.

“It was a terrific airplane and a great project,” Guthrie said. “The restoration was a challenge but rewarding.”

The aeronautics behind the V-173 proved to be every bit as interesting as its colorful history that included at least one flight by Charles Lindberg in 1943.

“(The V-173) expanded the knowledge of low aspect ratio aerodynamics,” Foreman said in his presentation. “This is about as low as you can get, with an aspect ratio of about one. It demonstrated the power shafting and gear boxing.

“This is one of the first aircraft that used a lot of gear boxes because of its unique powertrain…Later, this was put to use in helicopters and other aircraft like XE-142 and the Bell V-22. This aircraft was also the prototype for the Navy XF5U (Flying Flapjack) which would have been a high-speed fighter plane.

“The whole body of the aircraft is the lifting body – the aerodynamic lifting surface…It has stabilizers in the back called ailevators (a coined word) that function as an elevator and an aileron. It has twin vertical tails, and huge ‘flapping’ props. The wingspan is 23 feet, and the span with the ailevators is 35 feet, and it is 26 feet 8 inches long. The weight is 2,670 pounds empty and 3,050 ready for takeoff.

“It was projected to have a top speed of 460 mph,” Foreman continued. “In the 1941 timeframe, the Navy was very interested in that speed for its fighter planes. Zimmerman wanted the real aircraft to have enough power to hover and land from that. The first taxi test was in 1945, about the time (World War II) was over. By this time, the technology had been bypassed by other aircraft.”

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The XF5U fighter aircraft was built and was ready to test fly, but it never saw active service. The Navy canceled the contract and ordered the plane destroyed.

 

Dubbed the “Flying Pancake” and resembling a UFO, the Vought V-173, designed by Charles Zimmerman, took off over Long Island Sound more than 70 years ago on Nov. 23, 1942. Now restored, the prototype resides at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, two years into its 10-year loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

With the peculiar airplane as a backdrop, Charles Foreman, a 37-year employee with Vought Aircraft (now Triumph Aerostructures), described the aircraft’s eight-year restoration process to an audience at the Museum on Sat., Jan. 11. Using a multi-media presentation that included original footage from the test flight program, Foreman described the project that was completed by 65 members of the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation (VAHF), an organization of Vought retirees who have restored several of the company’s aircraft.

Foreman regaled his audience with stories from the craft’s development process including how the V-173 would not turn when test pilot, Boone Guyton, tried to land on that historic day in 1942.

 “Using all of his might, he finally managed to get it into a shallow turn and got it back and landed,” Foreman said. “By making some changes to the control system … flaps and so forth, they were able to get it to handle much better.”

“It flies! Charlie, it flies! Although it doesn’t turn very well,” Guyton told Zimmerman when he got back to the airport.

Ninety-one-year-old Hank Merbler, Chairman of the Board and C.E.O. of VAHF was a young aeronautical engineer when he witnessed the V-173’s first flight.

“I have the distinction of being the only one here that’s seen that fly,” Merbler said. “It was absolutely amazing.”

Merbler said he never doubted the V-173.

“I knew it would fly,” he said. “I was an aeronautical engineer that started with Chance Vault in 1941. I met Charlie Zimmerman … out in a park flying his little airplanes. The man was a seasoned aeronautical engineer, and this was his design.

“He was interested in designing an aircraft that would not stall and perhaps take off like a helicopter and fly like a fighter,” Merbler said. “Charlie had a knack for doing things in a different way. When that was flown in November 1942, I happened to be at the airport with 15 or 20 others.

“I remember Boone Guyton getting into the aircraft, and Charlie said, ‘I hope this flies,’ and Boone said, ‘It will.’

“He went up and didn’t go very high and circled the field a couple of times,” Merbler continued. “I think about 15 minutes. When he came in, much to my surprise, he came in kind of like a helicopter and appeared to me to hover there like a leaf, and then finally dropped.”

There was no bounce, he said.

“It just dropped and stayed there.”

Merbler saw the V-173fly over 20 times, and that his wife saw it fly 50 or 60 times.

“It was a good aircraft,” he said. “The work that these fellows did (to restore it) is just absolutely incredible – beyond the challenges that I could visualize.”

Mebler took the time to congratulate Dick Guthrie, the project manager for seven years of the eight-year restoration.

“He is the man that made it happen despite insurmountable challenges,” Merbler said. “I thought we would never get there from here, but he made it happen. When this aircraft arrived, it was tattered and torn.”

Guthrie said they had to document everything or they would not know how to reproduce it, and he said he was proud to have been a part of leaving the historical legacy.

“It was a terrific airplane and a great project,” Guthrie said. “The restoration was a challenge but rewarding.”

The aeronautics behind the V-173 proved to be every bit as interesting as its colorful history that included at least one flight by Charles Lindberg in 1943.

“(The V-173) expanded the knowledge of low aspect ratio aerodynamics,” Foreman said in his presentation. “This is about as low as you can get, with an aspect ratio of about one. It demonstrated the power shafting and gear boxing.

“This is one of the first aircraft that used a lot of gear boxes because of its unique powertrain…Later, this was put to use in helicopters and other aircraft like XE-142 and the Bell V-22. This aircraft was also the prototype for the Navy XF5U (Flying Flapjack) which would have been a high-speed fighter plane.

“The whole body of the aircraft is the lifting body – the aerodynamic lifting surface…It has stabilizers in the back called ailevators (a coined word) that function as an elevator and an aileron. It has twin vertical tails, and huge ‘flapping’ props. The wingspan is 23 feet, and the span with the ailevators is 35 feet, and it is 26 feet 8 inches long. The weight is 2,670 pounds empty and 3,050 ready for takeoff.

 “It was projected to have a top speed of 460 mph,” Foreman continued. “In the 1941 timeframe, the Navy was very interested in that speed for its fighter planes. Zimmerman wanted the real aircraft to have enough power to hover and land from that. The first taxi test was in 1945, about the time (World War II) was over. By this time, the technology had been bypassed by other aircraft.”

The XF5U fighter aircraft was built and was ready to test fly, but it never saw active service. The Navy canceled the contract and ordered the plane destroyed.

Replica of JFK’s Air Force One lets visitors relive history

Sights and sounds inside the mockup of President John F. Kennedy’s Air Force One take visitors to Frontiers of Flight Museum back 50 years to the afternoon JFK was assassinated on Fri., Nov. 22, 1963. The Air Force One replica is created from the fuselage section of an actual Boeing 707, similar to the VC-137C aircraft number 26000 that became the first jet-powered Air Force One in 1962.

“When Kennedy took office, the presidential airplane was still the four-engine Lockheed Constellation Columbine Three, a piston engine airplane that President Eisenhower flew in,” said Museum Director Bruce Bleakley. “JFK decided that Air Force One should be a jet powered airplane. Just about the time that the Bowing 707 had entered commercial service, they took the Boeing 707 design and made it into what would become Air Force One.

“The fuselage section that we have here is from a Boeing 707, and … they’ve taken the first 47 or 48 feet back from the nose of the airplane,” Bleakley said. “All the things that are interesting to people aboard Air Force One are actually in the back of the real airplane – the presidential stateroom, the bedroom, the staff assistants’ station. In the forward part of the (actual) airplane is airline-like seating for the staff, media, and all the aides that accompany the president on a trip like that.

“They compressed all the interesting parts into the forward part of the airplane,” Bleakley said. “Each of the compartments is also compressed smaller than the actual so they have room to show it all, but you get the experience and feel for what you are looking at.”

The 47-foot fuselage section features representations of the crew seating area, the presidential stateroom, and the compartment where Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) took the oath of office, becoming the only president to do so aboard an airplane. The mock-up also includes an accurate and detailed re-creation of the aircraft’s cockpit as it was when Col. James Swindal and his crew flew President Kennedy to Dallas.

The flight deck has seats for the pilot and a copilot, a flight engineer, and a jump seat for someone to ride along. Visitors can hear actual recordings of radio traffic that came in and out of Air Force One that day.

The representation of the communications station is about one-third the actual size, but everything used is 1960’s vintage. Visitors hear the actual radio chatter recorded when Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson telephoned Rose Kennedy, JFK’s mother, to tell her about her son’s death and to offer their condolences.

The mockup’s telephones have push buttons similar to the ones they would have used. Included is the Red Telephone which JFK and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had agreed upon as a quick way to get in touch with each other so they wouldn’t accidentally start World War III.

Inside the representation of the bedroom, a 1962 RCA Victor Black and White television with its original tube is hooked up to a DVD player that loops Channel Four’s coverage of Kennedy’s arrival on Nov. 22. A recreation of Jackie’s pink outfit with her red bouquet of roses is also in the bedroom.

The morning of Nov. 22, 1962, LBJ along with his wife and entourage flew into Love Field aboard Air Force Two.

“When the president was declared dead at 1 p.m., they withheld public notification until about a half hour later because they wanted to get Lyndon Johnson as acting president back to Love Field and Air Force One while they were trying to sort things out as to what they were going to do,” Bleakley said. “If you read the book Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly and a couple of other accounts, Johnson came into this bedroom and sprawled out on the bed just for a minute, and then he got up and went over to a telephone and called Bobby Kennedy to tell him that his brother had been shot and also asked him for advice on the wording of the oath of office and where he thought Johnson should take the oath – wait until he got back to DC or what. There is some controversy as to what they said to each other because that was not recorded.

“LBJ and Lady Bird got back here about 1:45 p.m.,” Bleakley said. “At 2:15 the rest of the presidential entourage with Jackie, the casket with the president, the rest of the Secret Service, the aides and so forth arrived. They decided not to put the casket in the hold but to put it in the cargo compartment. They had to find a casket in a real hurry. I believe it was from O’Neal’s Funeral Home close to Parkland. It was a nice bronze casket, and it was heavy.

“They were having to manhandle the casket up the stairs into this fairly narrow door of the airplane, and prior to that they realized they needed to take out a couple of rows of seats and a small bulkhead so that the casket would fit,” Bleakley said. “They had to break the handles off the casket so that it would go through the opening.

“To get away from it all for a minute, Jackie went back to the bedroom and was distressed to find LBJ, Lady Bird and a couple of the staff people in there,” Bleakley said. “They left, and she sat down and smoked a cigarette. She was a chain smoker, smoking three packs a day. The steward offered her one of the Air Force One towels to clean the right side of her suit but she declined to do that.

“Meanwhile, LBJ is telling everybody to find Judge Sara Hughes who he had appointed to the bench,” Bleakley said. “She was a longtime family friend of the Johnsons’. In the stateroom, forward of the bedroom is where the swearing in took place at 2:38 p.m. Cecil Stoughton, the White House photographer, stood on a couch to photograph the event. At 2:47 p.m., Air Force One lifted off to go back to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington D.C.”

Bleakley said the mockup was created by Jim Warlick of America Presidential Experience and that Warlick thought it fitting that the display be at Love Field for the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. JFK’s real Air Force One is in a hangar at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

While waiting to board the Air Force One mockup, visitors can view a short documentary about activities at Love Field on Nov. 22, 1963. They will also be able to take advantage of a photo opportunity as they exit the forward door with the Presidential seal on the fuselage beside them.

Admission prices are $10 for museum members, $12 for non-members and $7 for children 3-17. Children under three are admitted free. Regular prices apply for museum admission only. The Frontiers of Flight Museum is at 6911 Lemmon Ave, Dallas.