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A Few of My Favorite Warbirds

by Lydia Wiff 30. April 2016 08:00
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In the distance you hear a deep hum – as it gets closer, you see a gleaming aircraft appear on the horizon and suddenly you break out in goose bumps as a gleaming vintage World War II (WWII) aircraft passes over you at top speed.  Maybe I’m the only one that gets giddy when I hear those old war birds, or maybe there are more out there that can barely contain themselves when old aircraft come to life once again.  Today, I’ll list my three favorite warbirds from WWII along with a little history about their important role in our history.


#1: The B-29 Superfortress

Quite possibly the hardest-working aircraft ever designed in WWII, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress was designed in response to a request from the United States Army Air Corps for a pressurized, long-range, bomber aircraft.  Clocking out at over 350 miles per hour (mph) in cruise, the Superfortress could attain altitudes at over 30,000 feet with a wingspan at over 140 feet long. 

The Superfortress also came equipped with four, remotely controlled turrets – the General Electric Central Fire Control System.  Among the first of its kind, these turrets were controlled via analog electrical instrumentation.  Additionally, the B-29 was the first fully-pressurized bomber aircraft providing safety and comfort for its crew.  Almost 4,000 of these “super bombers” were built by Boeing to aid in the war effort.

Today, only 22 B-29s are in existence with one still flying which you may have seen at places such as AirVenture in Oshokosh, WI – this B-29 is affectionately dubbed “Fifi”.


#2: The P-51 Mustang

Next up we have the P-51 Mustang.  This gleaming gem was used as a long-range, single-pilot fighter, and a fighter-bomber during WWII, the Korean War and various other conflicts.  Designed in 1940 by the American company, North American Aviation, it was in response to the licensing requirements of the British Purchasing Commission. 

First flown operationally by the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Mustang was used as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and a fighter-bomber.  Due to the Rolls-Royce engine in the P-51B/C model, the fighter could perform at altitudes above 15,000 feet allowing it to match or better the Luftwaffe’s fighters – I wonder what they did for oxygen up there?


Not limited to just Europe, the P-51 was flown in many conflicts including the North African, Mediterranean, and Italian theaters and was used in the Pacific War against the Japanese.  During the Korean War, it was used as the main fighter aircraft until jet aircraft took over that role with the advent of new technology.  Despite the new technology, the Mustang was used until the early 1980s in conflicts. 

Now, these amazing fighters are owned by private collectors, on display in museums, and still flown in many airshows all over the country.  It just goes to show one that after even 50 years, this amazing aircraft still exists – what a testament to American engineering!


#3: The B-25 Mitchell

Dubbed the “Mitchell Bomber” after Major General William “Billy” Mitchell, the B-25 is another bomber that served in every theater of WWII in addition to remaining in service which spanned four decades.  With nearly 10,000 of these twin-engine bombers built, like many other aircraft, this design came at the request of the Army Air Corps.

Going up against other aircraft manufacturers such as Douglas, North American Aircraft (NAA) went on to design the most military aircraft in United States history.  NAA was also the only company to simultaneously produced bombers, fighters, and trainers.  Among some of the most notable missions the Mitchell flew was the “Doolittle Raid” in 1942 led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle on the mainland of Japan four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Over the years, the B-25 had a few variants in design that included equipment for de-icing, anti-icing, and gunship modifications making it a versatile war-time platform.  The B-25 proved to be a formidable airframe and was used around the world for war-time activities in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands. 


And Your Favorites Are?

While many of these aircraft were designed to subdue our enemies overseas, I can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of American aerospace engineers and the sheer beauty of these aircraft.  My favorite part about being in Oshkosh for AirVenture is watching the reenactment of the Doolittle Raid and the tributes to aerospace egineers, not to mention all the privately restored warbirds on display.

So, what’s your favorite warbird?

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Aviation History | Lydia Wiff | Vintage Aircraft

My 2 Favorite Airlines

by Lydia Wiff 15. April 2016 08:00
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Since the beginning of airlines in the 1900s, aviation has exploded through the use of scheduled air service to transport people and goods from Point A to B.  The industry has certainly had its challenges, but remains a great example of how one invention can influence the world long after its creators are no longer around.  Today I’ll list my top picks for airlines when getting around the country, or around the world.

#1: SkyWest Airlines

While you may not see an aircraft painted in SkyWest colors, you probably have been flown by their crews more than you think.  SkyWest began in 1972 in St. George, Utah when founder Ralph Atkins bought Dixie Airlines – the operation was a little different than the airline it is today with a Fixed Base Operation (FBO), aircraft maintenance, air ambulance service, air charter service, and flight school.  The original fleet consisted of various Piper products including Cherokees and Senecas.  Fares between St. George and Salt Lake City were just $28 and in the first year, a whopping 256 people utilized SkyWest.

By the following year, the number of passengers had multiplied exponentially to over 2,000 and several destinations including Moab, UT, and Las Vegas, NV are added.  The Piper Senecas were replaced with Piper Navajos – despite these expansions, the company was still quite small which is demonstrated by the fact that Atkins’ wife wrote the customer service manual.  By 1974, almost 12,000 passengers are served (an increase of over 650%) and Atkins wondered whether or not to stay in business much of that year.  Over the next several years, SkyWest continued its journey upward in addition to facing many of the struggles many other airlines had back in the early days of the industry.

By 1982, code sharing—major carriers accepting regional partners—was born.  Code sharing became the bread and butter of SkyWest and by 1989, regional jets were being added to fleet replacing most of the turbo prop aircraft issuing in a new era of travel for this small regional.  By 2012, SkyWest had been in the business for 40 years and by 2014, it announced it would transition to an all-jet fleet which included various models of the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) and Embraer Regional Jet (ERJ).

 

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Over 40 years after it was founded, SkyWest partners with several major airlines including: Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.  According to www.SkyWest.com, With a fleet of 351 aircraft, SkyWest’s more than 11,400 aviation professionals operate nearly 1,800 flights each day to 216 destinations throughout North America. SkyWest is known for its industry-leading workforce, exceptional leadership team, and continued solid operational and economic performance.”  It boasts hubs all over the country in Chicago/O’Hare, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

So, while you may never see their signature blue and white CRJs or ERJs, you probably had many of their crews making sure you reached your destination safely and on-time.  Just remember, behind every major airline is a great regional airline.

 #2: Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines has its roots back when aviation was still new in 1924.  The Huff Daland Dusters crop-dusting operation was founded in Macon, GA and became the foundation for building one of the largest major airlines in the world.  That crop-dusting operation also became the first commercial agricultural flying company in existence.  By 1955, Delta had grown into a major airline and pioneered a route system of travel referred to as “hub and spoke” – hub and spoke worked on the principle of bringing scheduled flights (spokes) into a hub airport where passengers would then connect to other Delta flights.  This quickly became the most popular model for many airlines as it greatly increased efficiency, among many other things.

Delta had many firsts for the industry such as serving meals in-flight, offering jet service, non-stop flights from New York to Los Angeles, a cargo express service, and operating three different types of wide-body jets at once.  The airline continued to have many firsts, and relative to SkyWest, it was the first airline to use regional jets in North America through the Delta Connection program.  Fast forward to the early 2000s and Delta is still a leading major airline accomplishing many “firsts”.  Additionally, Delta has been a technological leader in the industry holding patents on many computer programs to manage the day-to-day operations of the airline and improve the overall customer experience.  By 2009, it had become the only airline (since PanAm) to serve 6 continents.

A notable day came in 2012, when Delta became the only airline to purchase its own oil refinery – this proved to be a smart move as fuel prices became volatile over the next few years.  Once again, Delta has proved to be a leader in the industry with the valuable ability to forecast future market conditions and plan accordingly.  Additionally, Delta through SkyTeam® has partnered with many airlines from around the world such as KLM, Virgin America, and many more.

What’s Your Favorite & Why?

Do you have a favorite airline that you don’t even think twice about booking through?  What is it and why is it your favorite?  Leave a comment about your favorites and your most memorable destination with that airline.

 All images courtesy of GoogleImages.

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Airlines | Aviation History | Lydia Wiff

Using Your Skills to Overcome New Challenges

by GlobalAir.com 6. April 2016 10:20
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By Greg Feuerbach – Jet Service Crew Chief
Elliott Aviation

A quality maintenance team has experienced and reliable technicians who have the knowledge to understand the basics of aircraft maintenance. The challenge comes when you transfer these fundamental skills to a new airframe. Just like basic car components are similar in all makes and models, the way a manufacturer assembles them and the types of parts they use and tools required could be dramatically different. The same idea applies to airframes. As a good car mechanic can learn a new make and model, with proper training, a quality technician can understand the fundamentals while applying his skillset to a new or different aircraft.

We recently completed our first Challenger 300 96-month major inspection and delivered it squawk free. A major reason we were able to do so is because we have a solid base of good mechanics, but have key team leads that have substantial experience with the airframe. For instance, as team lead for the project, I have extensive knowledge of the airframe, spending 15 years at a Bombardier Challenger Service Center. In addition, one of our Customer Support Representatives, Andrew Nicewanner spent 18 years with both the 300 and the 600 series. This allowed us to prepare our technicians who had never touched a Challenger. In preparation, we sent many technicians to be factory trained before the inspection.

To help technicians who did not have Challenger experience, we set clear and precise instructions with illustrations for the tasks assigned each technician, along with time for review and periodic checks of their progress. In addition, we also held a five-day onsite training with Global Jet Services before the aircraft arrived.

A quality maintenance team can learn the many differences in a new airframe. Having key members with experience on that airframe, preparation before any inspections with added training, schooling, and constant communication was key in a successful inspection.

Greg Feuerbach, Elliott Aviation’s Jet Service Center Crew Chief has 38 years of maintenance experience with 21 years in the Air Force working on F-4E Phantoms, F-16 A,B,C,&D Fighting Falcons, and the A/OA-10A Warthog. Prior to joining Elliott Aviation, he worked for 15 years at the Bombardier Challenger Service Center in Tucson, Arizona on all models of the Challenger 600 and 300 series aircraft. Thirteen of those years were as Lead Technician. In addition, he is also qualified to perform engine operations and taxi all models of Challenger aircraft.

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Aviation Safety | Maintenance

Avoiding Cognitive Biases in Aviation

by Tori Williams 1. April 2016 20:30
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The human brain is an immensely complicated and fascinating system. It has information processing capabilities far beyond that of any computer. It is impossible to understand every single process that the brain is constantly doing on a daily basis. However, there are parts of the brain process that are terribly flawed. In being so quick at information processing, some major mistakes are also constantly being made without notice.

Recently in my Crew Resource Management class we have been talking about cognition and cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are psychological tendencies that cause the human brain to draw incorrect conclusions. There is a really good video on Youtube that goes into more detail called “Cognition: How Your Mind can Amazing and Betray You.” Basically, your brain is so good at processing information that sometimes it processes the wrong information and causes terrible misunderstandings that you may never realize you have had.

The reason we have been discussing this in my Crew Resource Management class is that this can have a huge effect on pilots. They often have to make split-second decisions completely based on the information immediately available to them. It could be extremely dangerous if they are subconsciously making poor choices because of a bias.

I have compiled a few examples of cognitive biases that would have a negative effect on flight operations. It is important for pilots to understand how these work so that if the time comes that they are in a situation where a cognitive bias is clouding their judgment, they will be able to see through it and make the best choice.

Attention Bias

Humans have a tendency to pay more attention to things that have an emotional aspect to them. If a pilot has a traumatic experience during training, they will likely be more concerned about that issue rather than other issues. A good example of this is a pilot who fixates on avoiding bad weather without paying attention to the rapidly diminishing fuel supply. They likely had a bad experience during training where the weather crept up on them, but they can end up with total fuel starvation without even noticing it.

Confirmation Bias

A person will ignore facts or information that does not conform to their perceived mental model, and will only acknowledge information that agrees with their perception of the situation. This can be particularly hazardous when dealing with emergency situations in an aircraft. Perhaps a light is on that should not be, or an alarm is sounding that you have never heard before. It is easy to ignore other warning signs when you have an idea in your mind of what the issue may be.

Gambler’s Fallacy

This is the tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events, when in reality they are unchanged. Some pilots are very superstitious, and this could go to two extremes. A pilot could believe that because they have had thousands of accident-free hours then they will never have any type of accident. On the other hand, a pilot could get in an accident and assume that they are bad luck, or they will never be able to fly safely again.

Never take a dangerous gamble when you are unsure, especially in the world of aviation!

Clustering Illusion

This is the tendency to see patterns where actually none exist. When a pilot is attempting an instrument approach late at night into an airport with extremely low visibility, they are making some of the most vital decisions possible. A pilot suffering from clustering illusion may believe that they see a pattern in the approach plate and follow that when really there is none.

As stated eelier, it is extremely important for pilots to be aware of any subconscious biases that may be affecting their decision-making skills. I believe that every pilot should research cognitive biases and figure out which ones they personally experience the most. Our latest homework assignment in class was to write a paper about which biases we are most prone to and what we can do to overcome them. This is a valuable activity and one that even the most seasoned pilot could benefit from trying.

Stay safe out there, and never let your judgment be clouded by a false perception!

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Flying | Tori Williams



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