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Jimmy Stewart

James Maitland Stewart was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on May 20, 1908 to Alexander and Elizabeth Stewart.  James’ family lived in Pennsylvania for a number of generations, where his father ran the J M Stewart Hardware Store.  Alexander hoped James would both graduate from college and take over the hardware business from him.

Stewart was shy as a child and began to develop an early interest in aviation, spending the majority of his after-school time building model planes.  His other interests included mechanical drawing and chemistry.  James wanted to be a pilot and planned to enter the United States Naval Academy.  However, his father was not in favor of Stewart pursuing the Naval Academy and insisted he enter Princeton University.  Another factor affecting Stewart’s decision was his contraction of scarlet fever, which led to a kidney infection delaying his prep school graduation.  Stewart was a model student at Princeton, majoring in architecture while being an active participant in the school’s drama and music clubs.  After graduation, he performed a number of bit parts in the University Players Productions, held at Cape Cod.  As a result of this, James went to New York to pursue an acting career.

In 1934 Jimmy took a screen test with the encouragement of his friend, actor Henry Fonda.  Stewart passed the test and was awarded a seven year contract with MGM Studios in 1935.  Landing progressively major roles during the remainder of the 1930′s, James also maintained his interest in flying, completing both a private pilot certificate and a commercial pilot license, accumulating 400 hours flying time.  In late 1940, Stewart attempted to enlist in the US Army, but was rejected due to being ten pounds underweight.  To surmount this, he trained with Don Loomis, the MGM weight coach, and was able to meet the weight requirements, enlisting on March 22, 1941.  Stewart had the distinction of being the first major American movie star to serve in the armed forces.  Though he was beyond the age limit for aviation cadet training, Stewart applied for an Air Corps commission since he was both a commercial pilot and a college graduate, receiving his commission as a Second Lieutenant in January 1942.

Jimmy’s initial duties included making recruiting films, some of which were quite successful, and training aviation cadets.  However, upon his promotion to Captain in July 1943, Stewart became concerned about reaching a dead end regarding assignment to a combat command.  He  appealed to his commander, Lieutenant Colonel Walter E. Arnold Jr., who understood the situation and was able to assign Stewart to the 445th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit about to enter final training at Sioux City Army Base, Iowa.  Stewart’s operational career with the 445th began as a squadron commander flying bombing missions for the Eighth Air Force over continental Europe.  Displaying both a calm and keen sense of leadership, Jimmy was promoted to Major in January 1944 after a successful mission against Ludwigshafen , Germany.  Stewart was later promoted to deputy commander of the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.  Jimmy was promoted to Colonel in March 1945-one of the few Americans to ever rise from Private to Colonel in only four years.

After the war, Stewart returned to the United States, arriving in New York in the fall of 1945.  Though out of active service, he continued to play a role in the Army Air Forces Reserve.  Stewart was one of twelve members who formed the Air Force Association in October 1945.  In July 1959 he was promoted to Brigadier General-the highest ranking actor in military history.  Although pursuing an acting career, Stewart remained proficient as a pilot, flying Strategic Air Command bombers such as the Convair B-36 Peacemaker, Boeing B-47 Stratojet and the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.  He even flew as an observer on a B-52 mission during the Viet Nam War.  Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of sixty, Stewart retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1968.  Upon his retirement Stewart received the United States Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, in addition to being awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom and promotion to Major General by President Regan in 1985-not bad for a man pursuing two  careers.


NOTE:  This article is the second of a series about celebrities and planes.







Ted Williams

Born Theodore Samuel Williams on August 30, 1918, Ted had an extensive baseball career with the Boston Red Soxs, with a .402 batting average during the 1941 season.

However, for all of his baseball success, Williams also served his country in the cockpit of a plane.  Shortly after World War II began, he was drafted into the military, being put into class 1-A.  A friend approached Ted and suggested he meet the adviser of the Governor’s Selective Service Appeal Agent, to contest the classification since Williams was the sole support for his mother.  The appeal was approved with Williams draft status reclassified to a 3-A.  Though the reclassification solved the immediate problem, public opinion began to take a toll, with Ted losing his primary sponsor, Quaker Oats.

Williams enlisted in the Navy Reserve on May 22, 1942, going on active duty the following year.  On May 2, 1944, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, serving as a Naval Aviator.  Though he could have played baseball for the Navy, Williams preferred a combat role and proved to be a skillful pilot, solving both technical and tactical problems more rapidly than many of his fellow pilots, who were college graduates.  Williams later served as a flight instructor at Naval Air Station Pensacola, training new pilots how to fly the F4U Corsair fighter plane, which was a difficult aircraft to fly off an aircraft carrier, due to its limited visibility.  Williams was stationed in Hawaii when the war ended in August 1945 and discharged from active duty in January 1946, though he remained in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Ted was promoted to captain in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1951.  The following year he was recalled to active duty for service in the Korean War.  Though resentful of the Navy’s policy of calling up Inactive Reservists over Active Reservists, he declined serving in a special services assignment, preferring a combat role as in World War II.  Williams then began eights weeks of flight training in the F9F Panther jet fighter.  For Williams, the transition to jet aircraft was a relatively easy one and he was assigned to VMF-311, Marine Aircraft Group 33, based at the  K-3 airfield in Pohang, South Korea.  In early 1953, Ted flew as a wingman for future astronaut and Senator, John Glenn.  Early in his assignment to K-3, Ted’s squadron was part of a thirty-five plane raid against a tank and infantry training school just south of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.  During the raid, both the hydraulic and electrical systems on Williams plane were damaged by ground fire, with him making a forced landing at the K-13 airbase, a USAF field close to the front lines.  Just after he landed, Williams plane burst into flames and he was awarded the Air Medal with Gold Stars for landing the damaged aircraft.

Ted flew over thirty-nine combat missions in Korea before withdrawn from flight status in June 1953 due to an inner ear infection.  Both Glenn and his fellow pilots described Williams as an accomplished and capable pilot.  For Williams part, though he initially resented being called to serve in Korea, he was a dedicated pilot and gained the admiration of all with whom he served.




Ed McMahon

Edward Peter Leo McMahon Jr. was born in Detroit Michigan in 1923.  Though his father traveled around the country pursuing a variety of financial ventures, Ed had a distinguished family, as his grandmother was the cousin of Rose Fitzgerald, mother of John F. Kennedy.  McMahon’s childhood ambition was to become a radio announcer, a dream fulfilled when he landed his first announcing job at age fifteen.  This experience prepared him for his ultimate career with the Tonight Show.

When McMahon graduated from high school in 1941, he wanted to serve the nation as a Marine fighter pilot.  Since the Navy’s V-5 program required two years of college, he enrolled in Boston College.  After Pearl Harbor, the Navy relaxed the two year requirement and he dropped out of college and entered flight training.  Ed was first sent to a civilian-led Wartime Training School in Texarkana, where the Navy evaluated cadet potential by testing them in a Piper Cub.  From Texarkana, McMahon went to a three-month pre-flight school at Athens, Georgia, followed by primary training at Dallas, with intermediate training at Pensacola.  Upon graduation, Ed was assigned to Marine Aviation, receiving his commission and wings in early 1945.  McMahon was then sent to the Corsair Operational Training Unit at Lee Field in Florida.  After completion of training, he was assigned as an instructor in the same unit.  On the day of the Hiroshima bombing, McMahon received orders assigning him to the Marine carrier program on the West Coast.  However, before he could report, his orders were cancelled and he was separated from the Marine Corps.

After graduation from Catholic University, Ed began a television career in Philadelphia, becoming the top personality in the area within a few years.  Just as his television career was reaching its apex, McMahon was recalled to the Marine Corps due to the Korean War.  Ed trained for several months at both Miami and El Toro, California, arriving in Korea in February 1953.  During his tour in Korea, McMahon flew eighty-five missions as an artillery spotter in the Cessna OE Bird Dog before completing his tour in September 1953.  For a few years Ed returned to television in Philadelphia, before being hired as the announcer for Johnny Carson’s Who Do You Trust? in 1958. This was the beginning of a thirty-four year relationship between Carson and McMahon.  However, Ed continued in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring with the rank of Colonel in 1966.  McMahon once stated that attaining the rank of Colonel in the Marine Corps was perhaps the greatest accomplishment of his life.


NOTE:  This article is the first of a series about celebrities and planes.






Radio control model plane engines have undergone a number of changes over the last two decades, enhancing both their performance and durability.  We’ll trace those developments, as well as reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of different types of engines available to the rc modeler.

Currently, the most popular type of radio control aircraft engine is the glow plug engine, sometimes referred to in error as a nitro or gasoline engine.  The actual fuel is neither nitro methane nor gasoline, although a small proportion of nitro methane is used in the mixture.  Engines utilizing a glow plug have a simple ignition system that does not require a spark plug-hence no magneto, points or coil.  However, glow plug engines must have a battery operated glow igniter in order to start the engine.  The igniter causes the fuel in the glow plug to heat up enough to produce combustion.  Once the engine is running the igniter is removed and the heat of the combustion keeps the fuel hot so the engine continues to run.

Similar to the bigger internal combustion engines, there are two-stroke and four-stroke model airplane engines, also referred to as two-cycle and four-cycle engines.  The essential difference between the two is that a two-stroke fires per a single revolution of the crankshaft while a four-stroke fires once per two revolutions.  Another difference between the two engines is their appearance.  A four-stroke unit has internal valves which need to be opened and closed by external pushrods, though a two-stroke engine does not.  Two-stroke rc airplane engines have been around longer than their four-stroke counterparts and produce more power for their size, as well as being much easier to maintain.  Two-stroke units cost less due to their relative simplicity to produce.  More rc training aircraft utilize two-stroke engines rather than four-stroke ones.  Because two-stroke engines produce more power for their size, four-stroke engines will have higher engine size ratings for an identical sized plane.  Four-stroke engines produce more torque at lower revolutions at a lower noise frequency, which more closely approximates the sound levels and patterns of a real aircraft.

Glow plug engines are also categorized by their method of compression.  Ringed glow plug engines use an iron ring inserted around the aluminium piston that presses against the steel cylinder wall.  This arrangement keeps the fuel/air mixture inside the compression chamber and oil out of it, as in an automobile engine.  A more recent concept, the ABC engine, doesn’t use a ring, but achieves compression by means of a tapered sleeve inside the cylinder.  The letters ABC denote the materials used; the piston is aluminium, the cylinder is brass, while the inside of the cylinder (sleeve) is chrome plated.  The sleeve is gradually tapered inward towards the top of the compression chamber and expands outward as the engine heats up.  The tolerances between sleeve and piston are so exact that a perfect seal is created when the engine is at running temperature.  However, when the engine is cold, there is an imperfect seal between the sleeve and piston toward the bottom of the combustion chamber, making cold starts difficult at times.  Though the ABC glow plug engines have a higher performance rating, there is little appreciable difference between it and the ringed glow plug engines according to most rc modelers.

Though the vast majority of rc aircraft engines are the glow plug design, there are other types worthy of mention.  Gasoline or petrol rc engines have come into wider use in recent years.  Though petrol engines have only been available in larger sizes, recent advances in technology have supported the production of smaller units, compatible in size to many of the glow plug types.  Currently, both two-stroke and four-stroke engines are available for the radio control hobbyist, while a few years ago their choice was limited to a relatively few four-stroke units, at a much higher cost.  The most recent petrol engines are using glow plug technology, making them both easier to start and maintain.  These engines offer the advantage of glow plug technology along with lower fuel costs over nitro engines.  While the initial cost of a petrol rc plane is higher than other types, this is more than offset by the fuel savings over the life of the rc model.

Diesel engines are another option for the rc modeler, though they are now rarely used.  Such engines were manufactured decades ago, before the advent of glow plug technology and were the first engines utilized in radio control flying.  Diesel engines do not use any form of plug for ignition but instead rely on the fuel/air mixture inside the combustion chamber to ignite from a process known as adiabatic heating, as the piston moves up and down.  The compression inside the chamber may be increased or decreased by turning a threaded screw on top of the cylinder head.  Increasing compression eases ignition of the fuel/air mixture, the fuel having a high ether content to insure ease of ignition.  During the last fifteen years, battery operated rc aircraft have increased drastically, due largely to the introduction of lithium polymer or LIPO batteries.  LIPO batteries are essentially a gel mixture of the two elements fitted into the rc plane.  Both the power and endurance provided by these batteries are a quantum leap over previous battery technology, often providing near gasoline power for the rc model.  The primary advantage of LIPO batteries is their relative power for a much lighter weight than their gasoline counterparts.  They are an ideal choice for the beginning rc modeler, since they are easier to control by offering adequate power instead of the overwhelming power sometimes experienced with gasoline or nitro fuels.  While LIPO batteries have become more efficient during the last five years, they still lack the endurance of glow plug or petrol engines.






My dad told me a number of stories about flying in an aircraft during World War II, in which the aircrews could transport their gear by driving a jeep up a ramp into the plane.  That plane, the Curtiss C-46 Commando, played a pivotal role in World War II, as well as Korea and Viet Nam.  During the course of this blog, we’ll follow the service of the Commando in a number of tasks for which it was uniquely suited.

Development of the C-46 began in 1937 by Curtiss-Wright as the CW-20 airliner.  The CW-20 was initially developed through private funding for the purpose of competing with the four-engine Douglas DC-4 and the Boeing Stratoliner by offering a pressurized cabin.  However, the CW-20 cabin provided an edge in pressurization over the previous two aircraft due to a figure-eight or double-bubble fuselage, which enabled it to better withstand the pressure differential at high altitudes.  This was accomplished by having the sides of the fuselage creased at the level of the floor, not only separating the two sections, but sharing the stress of each, rather than merely supporting itself.  This concept allowed the main spar of the wing to pass through the bottom section, which was designed for cargo without disturbing the upper passenger compartment.  The emphasis in the design of the CW-20 was one of simplicity coupled with economy, which dictated a twin-engine concept as opposed to a four-engine one.

After an intensive series of wind tunnel tests, the CW-20 in its final form had a streamlined fuselage with the cockpit area blended as a glazed dome.  In spite of its aerodynamic appearance, the aircraft had a large capacity for its day and could comfortably seat thirty-four passengers.  The engines featured a unique nacelle tunnel cowl, in which air was ducted in and expelled through the bottom of the cowl, reducing turbulent airflow and induced drag across the upper wing surface.  Though Curtiss-Wright approached a number of airlines to sign contracts for the CW-20, only 25 letters of intent were received.  However, CW management decided there was enough potential to begin production.  The initial configuration of the CW-20 included twin vertical tail surfaces with the aircraft powered by two 1,700 hp. Wright Cyclone engines.  After a successful test flight in March 1940, the aircraft was fitted with a large single tail to improve performance at low speeds.  As a result of tests later that year, General Henry “Hap” Arnold became interested in the potential of the twenty as a military transport and ordered 46 CW-20As  in September 1940. This order was later increased to 200 planes.  Now designated the C-46, the aircraft received enlarged cargo doors, a more durable load floor and a convertible cabin, which allowed ease of change in carrying freight and troops.  Perhaps the most important modification was the upgrade to the 2,000 hp. Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engines, giving the C-46 the ability to fly on a single engine for extended periods.

By December 7, 1941 only two of the proposed two-hundred aircraft of the 1940 order had been delivered to the USAAF.  The Commando was well suited to operations in the Pacific Theater, due to its heavier payload, longer range, faster cruising speed and higher altitude over the Douglas C-47 Skytrain.  The surface area of the Commando’s wing was also greater than either the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress or the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, the largest USAAF bombers in service at the time. With a service ceiling of nearly 28,000 ft., the C-46 was the prime mover in flying cargo over the Himalaya Mountains to troops and bases in China in desperate need.  This effort gained importance during the early phases of B-29 operations from China launched against the Japanese home islands.  While other transports had been employed in the area, the C-46 proved the most versatile and durable aircraft, in overcoming adverse weather conditions, heavy cargo loads, mountain terrain and poorly equipped runways, which remained a constant challenge.  During the course of its service in the China, Burma, India and Pacific areas, the Commando experienced a number of mechanical problems, primarily with the Curtiss-Electric pitch control mechanism on the propellers.  However, once the pitch control mechanism had been removed the incidence of mechanical problems began to decrease.  The US Marines found the C-46 (R5C) useful in both flying supplies to island bases and evacuating wounded personnel from unimproved runways.

Though the Commando played a vital role in the CBI and Pacific areas, it was not deployed in significant numbers to Europe until March 1945, when it complemented existing C-47 Skytrain transports during Operation Varsity, the airborne effort in support of Allied forces crossing the Rhine.  Though the C-46s sustained a twenty-five per cent loss rate, this was largely due to delayed upgrades of self-sealing fuel tanks with the aircraft particularly vulnerable during low altitude air drops.  While the plane overall had been successful during World War II, after undergoing a number of modifications, its airline service after the war became limited due to both higher fuel and maintenance costs over the C-47/DC-3.  However, a number of surplus C-46s were used by small airlines, such as the Flying Tigers and World Airways to carry both cargo and passengers over mountainous and jungle areas of South America, where vehicle transport would be impractical.  C-46s were flown in support of Israel’s war for independence in 1948, flying both cargo and bombing missions.  Commandos flew resupply missions for Chiang Kai-Shek’s forces in the civil war against Mao’s Communist forces in China.  In the early 1950s, C-46s flew clandestine missions in both Korea and French Indo-China, dropping both agents and supplies behind enemy lines. The CIA formed its own airline for these operations, Civil Air Transport, later renamed Air America.  The C-46 also flew supplies in support of the Bay Of Pigs invasion in 1961, as well as counterinsurgency operations in Viet Nam until being replaced in that role by the C-130 in 1968.

While the Commando experienced a number of mechanical problems during its service, such as fuel system and fluid leaks, these were primarily solved by maintenance in the field.  Though the C-46 required about 50% more maintenance hours over the C-47, the Commando was both a larger and a more capable aircraft, performing a variety of missions for our nation at a critical time.









While the problems facing the aviation industry are complex and widespread,  the problem of cyber security is now among the most pressing issues confronting aviation.  During this blog, we’ll discuss current issues regarding cyber security, as well as the means of combating current and future threats.

Confronted with the responsibility for transporting millions of passengers between global destinations on a daily basis, the aviation industry is required to maintain one of the most complex and integrated information and communications technology (ITC)  systems on the planet.  However, this electronic network is vulnerable to software glitches, hardware and network failures, as well as the ever-probing cyber-attackers.  Though a number of other industries are subject to cyber attack, the effects of a cyber attack upon aviation can have life-threatening and potentially dire consequences.  The safety of aircraft and their passengers, the operational security and fiscal well being of the airlines and related industries, in addition to the reputation of the aviation industry as a whole.  These threats range from isolated individuals simply looking to create mayhem and confusion to dedicated hackers and cyber-criminals intent on sabotage and the theft of information or intellectual property.

A number of specific threats have arose within the last ten years to include avionics systems, software glitches, control system errors and electronic flight bag failure.  The avionics threat involves thousands of attacks globally on a monthly basis.  Perhaps the most distinctive targets are the connective communication systems between aircraft and the ground.  Such avionics transmit flight data, as well as monitor and manage vessels and relay data to and from ground-based networks.  Other possible vulnerable elements are reservation systems, cargo handling and shipping, hazardous materials transportation and flight traffic management.  According to a recent study, software, design processes and related manufacturing data may soon become vulnerable.  Software glitches are another source of data vulnerability.  An incident involving an Airbus A319 taking off from Belfast in June 2015, in which corrections made by the pilot for distance and speed calculations allowing for a change in the weather were not reported back correctly by the flight bag software, resulting in data plotted for a longer runway, which left insufficient runway to abort a take-off.  Fortunately, the flight captain was able to take-off with only 656 feet to spare.  Control system errors involve irregular patterns in air traffic data programs.  For example, in April 2018 European air passengers experienced massive traffic disruptions after the Easter holiday due to the failure of the Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System, which affected approximately 15,000 flights over the continent.  Another source of cyber penetrations are electronic flight bag failures.  Electronic flight bags act as an alternative to the reams of paper flight documents carried on board by the airline flight staff.  The flight bags are tablet devices with touchscreens offering the advantages of saving fuel for the airlines due to less bulk carried aboard the plane in addition to environmental benefits.  However, these devices use wireless connectivity and mobile apps to communicate flight plans to an entire air fleet.  The only problem-any software operating the device is subject to hacking.

Though digital transformation is enabling global aviation to deliver better service to its customers, it is concurrently raising its threat exposure.  Aviation stakeholders should come together for the good of the industry, traveling population and the global economy as a whole.  Cyber security measures should not be merely a race against threat actors, but rather a proactive means of covering risks for the air transport industry.  A number of measures may be utilized by global aviation to defend against both current and future cyber attacks.  Strong and all inclusive cyber security policies should be established and enforced within the organization, taking into consideration all relevant industry standards and requirements for legal and regulatory compliance.  Procedures and policies should be put in place for the predictive monitoring of IT systems and related data chains to insure the protection of operational and customer information.  Penetration and operational testing should be conducted on all critical systems at intervals, using external contractors maintaining high standards of integrity.  Procedural and contractual steps should be taken to minimize insider risks, as well as those from supply chains, third party vendors and partner agencies.  Procedures should be formulated to expedite notifying customers, stakeholders and regulatory agencies, in the event of a security incident or data breach.  The firm should also provide training to meet cyber security best practices, in addition to proper security procedures for the protection of internal documents and intellectual property.  This training should be conducted on a regular basis, promoting a culture of proactive cyber security within the organization.  Legal and compliance teams should also coordinate their activities with local regulatory and legislative authorities.  Finally, the organization should invest in comprehensive cyber security insurance for protection against current and future liabilities.









While drones have a number of constructive applications, such as planting fields, delivering packages and monitoring the safety of factory workers, their potential use in both the military and criminal realms have become a source of concern over the past few years.  During the course of this blog, we’ll study a number of methods used to capture, disable and destroy hostile drones.

As drones wielding cameras are becoming progressively less expensive, developers of anti-drone technology have begun an industry of their own.  Israeli engineers have recently developed a technique which not only detects a drone, but determines what it is viewing.  They first create a recognizable pattern on the object to be viewed.  Once the pattern is established, the drone’s radio signals are intercepted from a remote source to search for an identical pattern in the streaming video the drone sends back to its operator.  If detected, they can determine they are being monitored by the drone.  By use of this technique, the subject is able to see what the drone sees by pulling the pattern from the radio signal-even without cracking the drone’s encrypted video.  This technique capitalizes on a video streaming feature known as delta frames.  Instead of encoding the video as a series of raw images, it’s compressed into a series of changes from the previous image in the video, which means when a streaming video displays a still object, it transmits fewer bytes of data than when the subject is moving or changing colors.  A number of tests at international sites have proven this compression feature can reveal key content of a video to the subject intercepting it.  Though an effective technique, compression stream monitoring is too sophisticated for the average drone user.

Another method of drone detection is through the radio signal between the operator and the drone.  The Aeroscope system, developed by the Chinese firm DJI, works by detecting the communication signal between the drone and its controller.  It then decodes the signal and sends the drone’s telemetry data and registration to the Aeroscope box, much like that of a GPS display.  If the owner of the offending drone is registered, an e-mail may be sent to the owner, advising them of local policies.  While the Aeroscope system is currently only able to detect DJI drones, which represent about two-thirds of the drone market, enhancements are expected in the near future.  Firmware updates will allow the Aeroscope to communicate with other drones based upon electronic signature.  These communications will be in real time, as opposed to the current e-mails, which may not be read until days after the event.  While the Aeroscope system has proven effective, it is too costly for the average drone enthusiast and primarily utilized by governmental agencies.

Another defense against drones is to capture them.  This may be accomplished by using an interceptor drone or a land launched net.  These drones use video cameras which are directed toward suspicious drones flying in unauthorized areas.  Once the interceptor drone is within range of the suspect drone, it shoots a synthetic netting which wraps around the suspect’s propellers, forcing it down.  The Tokyo Police have a fleet of interceptor drones, whose mission is to protect both public buildings and officials.  The drones, which measure 3′ by 3′, deploy netting measuring 3′ by 6′ and have been largely successful, leading to the arrest of the drone operator in one case.  Police in Britain use shoulder-mounted guns to intercept drones.  The most sophisticated of these devices, developed by the British engineering firm Open Works, is a large bazooka, the SkyWall100, which fires a net and parachute at a target while using a high- power scope for aiming.  The SkyWall system is a highly successful one, in global use by a number of security services and government agencies.

Several other methods of drone interception bear mention.  During the last few years, both the United States and China have tested laser technology which can successfully shoot down a drone within seconds of interception.  Boeing has recently developed a high energy beam that both locates and disables drones at a distance of several miles.  This device utilizes infrared cameras, which are effective in conditions of low visibility.  A novel approach was taken in the Netherlands, in which eagles were trained by Dutch police to bring down suspect drones by latching on to their propellers, rendering them ineffective.  The eagles see the drones as prey and quickly lose interest in other pursuits.  Drones may also be disabled by jamming their operating frequencies.  Two such devices have come into use, the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), scans the skies for hostile drones by use of a high-powered radio signal.  A portable system, which utilizes targeted radio signals to disrupt drone controls is the DroneDefender.  The Defender system is an electronic rifle which operates in the same manner as the AUDS device.  These currently have a range of about 1,500 ft, with more capable units under development.  The potential problem with using both the AUDS and Defender systems are their capability to jam local radar transmitters, a source of legal problems.  Finally, several drone manufacturers have collaborated to establish no fly zones for their drones.  If you add your address to their database, any drones made by these manufacturers will be unable to fly over your property due to built-in GPS restrictions.  Though a viable concept, not all manufacturers are willing to allow access to their database, as well as no law to enforce its use.









In 1938 Consolidated Aircraft was approached by by United States Army Air Corps to augment the Boeing plant in Seattle in the production of B-17 bombers.  However, after touring the Boeing plant Consolidated engineers submitted a design of their own, which would be the most versatile bomber of World War II – the B-24 Liberator.  During this blog we’ll trace the development of the Liberator, as well as the many roles it played during the war.

Capitalizing on its success in building large flying boat aircraft in the 1930′s, Consolidated based the design of the Model 32 upon a shoulder-mounted Davis wing.  This concept proved highly efficient, giving the Liberator a high aspect ratio, in addition to greater speed, load and range.  The fuselage of the Liberator was structured around its bomb bays, with the forward and rear bomb bay compartments split lengthwise with a center line ventral catwalk, which also served as the fuselage’s structural keel beam.  A unique feature of the Liberator was it’s bomb bay doors.  Instead of having flap type doors, as with the B-17, the Liberator had a set of four tambour-panel metal bomb bay doors, which retracted up the outside fuselage of the plane, closing similar to the slide action of a roll top desk.  The reasons for this concept were retraction of the doors along the fuselage minimized drag, allowing the plane to fly over the target area at a high rate of speed, while maximizing ground clearance since the Liberator design was too low to allow the use of conventional bomb bay doors.  The aft fuselage was mated to a small wing with two tails, as with the earlier Model 31 flying boat.  The Liberator also had the distinction of being the first USAAF bomber to incorporate a tricycle landing gear system.

Designated by Consolidated as the B-24 in 1939, the Liberator began operations with the RAF the following year as a transport flying equipment and civilian ferry pilots between Canada and Britain.  The Liberators serving inPB4Y P this role were modified with the removal of armament and the placement of passenger seats and a revised cabin oxygen and heating system.  Liberators also tipped the scales in the Battle Of The Atlantic.  The delivery of Very Long Range (VLR) Liberators to the RAF Coastal Command in 1941 drastically increased the range of the RAF patrol force, closing the Mid Atlantic Gap, an area of the Atlantic in which U boats could operate free from air attack due to the limited range of existing patrol aircraft.  These B-24s were stripped of non-essential armament in order to save weight and carried additional fuel tanks in the bomb bay to extend the range of the plane.  By 1942 these Liberators carried ASV  (Air to Surface Vessel) radar, which coupled with the Leigh searchlight mounted under the wing, achieved a stunning rate of success against the U boats, with many U boat crews choosing to charge their batteries during daylight when they could see approaching aircraft.

The B-24′s first combat missions as a bomber were flown by the RAF in the Middle East in early 1942.  Though the missions were successful, the RAF never deployed the Liberator in a strategic role over Europe.  While the first combat for the Liberator with the USAAF was a failed mission against Wake Island in June 1942, within a week B-24s from an Egyptian base launched a raid against the Ploesti oil fields in Romania.  Though small in scope, this raid was a precursor of things to come.  This effort was followed up by another mission against Ploesti on August 1, 1943.  Operation Tidal Wave was the B-24′s most costly mission.  In June 1943, three B-24  groups were detailed from the Eighth Air Force in England to train with two B-24 groups from the Ninth Air Force to conduct the mission.  Flying from bases in North Africa, the joint force was to approach the Ploesti complex at low altitude in order to gain surprise over enemy fighters.  However, the attack became disorganized after a navigational error alerted the defenders, lengthening the bomb run.  Though much of the refinery was destroyed, it was producing at total capacity within a few months.  This was achieved at a loss of 54 Liberators of the 177 assigned to the mission.  It would take several missions flown by B-24s of the newly formed Fifteenth Air Force to completely destroy the Ploesti refinery the following year.

In 1943 the B-24 received a significant update with nose turrets installed on the H and J models, which were just entering production.  This was a marked improvement over the earlier D model, introduced in USAAF service in early 1942, having a web type front housing with two poke guns.  The powered Emerson turret enabled the Liberator to reduce vulnerability to head-on attacks.  The H and J models also featured an improved bomb sight and fuel transfer system.  The J model offered slight improvements in the bomb sight and autopilot over the H model and became the primary B-24 production model from August 1943 through the remainder of the war.  The Liberator became the dominant heavy bomber in the Pacific due to it’s greater range, payload and speed over the B-17, which was phased out by mid 1943.  Unlike the operations of the European theater, little strategic bombing was conducted in the Pacific by the Fifth and Seventh Air Forces, with the majority of the missions flown in support of ground forces.  As with the RAF, Liberators in the China, Burma, India (CBI) area were used in a transport role.  The converted cargo version, designated C-87, was used to airlift cargo over the Himalayas from India to China.  This was of critical importance early in the war, as the Liberator was the only USAAF transport immediately available which could fly over the Himalayas fully loaded.  A tanker model of the B-24 was also utilized in the CBI area.  The C-109 became operational in the summer of 1944 as a support aircraft for Boeing B-29 Superfortress operations launched from Chinese bases.  Unlike the C-87, the C-109 was not built on the assembly line, but converted in the field from existing B-24 production.  These modifications included the addition of several storage tanks, giving the 109 a capacity of 22,000 lbs. of fuel.  When fully loaded these aircraft proved difficult to fly, which dictated leaving the forward tanks empty.  While plans originally envisioned a fleet of 2,000 C-109 tankers to support 10 B-29 groups operating from China, the capture of the Mariana Islands offered a much easier location from which to supply raids on mainland Japan.

During its service the Liberator played a number of roles.  A dedicated naval version, the PB4Y Privateer, a single-tailed aircraft, was used by the navy in both the Atlantic and Pacific areas.  The B-24 was one of the first aircraft to use a precision-guided bomb, as well as jamming radar in flight.  From service as a VIP transport to bombing U boats in the Atlantic, the Liberator was there.  The B-24 was used by at least six Allied nations with more than a dozen versions produced.  When production ended in 1945, the Liberator was both the most diverse and the most produced USAAF aircraft of World War II-with more than 18,500 examples built.









If one were to scan the progress of air travel over the past 100 years, they would view a picture of great progress.  Though at times this progress was made at a slow but steady pace, it often grew by leaps and bounds due to advances in both technology and training.  During this blog, we’ll look at several current aviation trends and their impact upon its future.

While the civil aviation industry continues to maintain both profits and growth, it is still sensitive to a number of market drivers.  For example, the world economy is expected to grow at a mid-range pace over the next twenty years.  Oil prices are now approaching the $70 per barrel price range, but they could reach as high as $100 per barrel by 2030.  Many airlines are now adopting a culture based upon financial management, in which the emphasis is on per-passenger profits.  While discount fare and other incentive programs support revenue growth, they create a situation of a high number of passengers at a low profit per passenger.  To remedy this, airlines in the future will invest in a growing number of right-sized aircraft to increase per passenger profit yields.  Over the past three years, per passenger profit yields have decreased by $3 per passenger, while net profit across the airline industry has decreased by 1% over the past two years.  The use of right-sized aircraft will partially reduce the need for sweeping fare discounts in order to fill an aircraft.

In 2016 approximately 80% of all global air routes were composed of regional air traffic.  The regional air route segment is currently experiencing the greatest growth, with increases of five per cent, per year anticipated over the next twenty years.  While these routes generate the greatest per passenger yield, they are mostly served by older aircraft having a 20 to 60 passenger capacity.  As these aircraft are retired, they will need to upgrade both their technology and capacity.  The latest trend in regional air routes is the paired city concept.  Many aircraft servicing these routes have a capacity of 100-150 seats with relatively high per passenger profit yields.  Globally, regional air traffic has increased by twenty per cent over the past two decades and is projected to increase at least that amount over the next twenty years, according a number of air traffic studies.  In China, the government encourages the city-pair concept to stimulate growth in low volume markets, while Russia and Africa have increased city-pair traffic in recent years.  Hubs will become less important as global point-to-point traffic increases.

Along with changes in aircraft, look for changes in the design of airports.  The staffing of airports could shrink due to improvements in technology and safety.  The future trend for airports is one of a travel experience, as opposed to a mere transit point.  They now offer dining, shopping, and a number of activities.  With the current technology of airport processes, passengers now have more leisure time, and this pattern is expected to increase in the future.  With increased passenger traffic, airports will increase in both size and profitability.  In the United States, the FAA mandated Next Gen system, replacing ground-based airspace navigation to a satellite-based system which uses GPS should offer more precise navigation and traffic control at major airports, streamlining air traffic.

A negative factor of air travel in its environmental impact.  Global aviation is responsible for about two per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions-a situation projected to get worse over the coming decades.  While airlines and governments are acting to reduce some of the impact, limited success has been achieved so far.  However, one must realize that fuel represents 30% to 40% of an airlines operating costs, putting airlines in the position of developing more fuel efficient aircraft.  For example, the Boeing 737 MAX series of jetliners have winglets designed to reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency by as much as 2%.  Such a small amount could add up to millions of dollars over the service life of an aircraft.  Attacking the problem from the other end, an increasing number of airlines have begun to use biofuel mixtures in their operations.  Biofuels, which are both more efficient and emit less carbon than fossil fuels, have been phased into service by several major airlines.  United Airlines partnered with the AltAir refinery to provide biofuel to the airline’s hub at Los Angeles, purchasing fifteen million gallons at a 30% blend over a three-year period.  Though not a substantial proportion based upon current airline usage, the United effort holds promise for the future.

Finally, despite the marketing tools of economy airlines and discounted fares, airlines still generate a healthy profit from business and first class passengers.  By offering the soft amenities such as meal service and amenity kits, airlines are able to market their in-flight experience.  To enhance that experience a number of airlines partner with celebrity chefs, such as Daniel Boulud (Air France) to create specialized menus or contract with outside brands, such as TUMI, to provide upscale amenity kits.  This practice will continue to grow, for those who can afford the tickets, the sky is the limit.









Ever since the wingspan of rc models exceeded three feet in length, proper storage of flying models has been an issue.  During this blog, we’ll look at several methods of storing radio control planes under different conditions.

For rc modelers who have a large number of aircraft, the best approach is to get them off the floor to prevent damage from a number of sources.  The use of hangers, while not a new idea, will serve to mount the models from the ceiling where they may hang freely out of harm’s way.  The most common hangers are designed smaller aircraft weighing under four pounds.  Heavier models will require larger hangers.  An appropriate hanger size would be a 4′ by 3/16″ steel rod, big enough to reach a ceiling beam as well as strong enough to support the plane.  Bike hooks and smaller scale hooks may also be used to mount the hanger in the ceiling, depending upon the weight and size of the model.  Suggested tools are a ruler, vise, sandblaster or sandpaper, a degreaser, drill, stud finder, and pencil.  Optional tools include 24″ by 3/16″ inside diameter tubing for padding the rod where the wings are supported in addition to glass cleaner or hairspray.

The first step to preparing the hangers is to bend the steel rods.  Find  and mark the center point of the rod, securing it to a vise then bending a 90-degree angle into the rod.  Remove from the vise and complete the bend so the rod is folded in half.  Use the vise again, if necessary to reinforce the bend.  Find the center of the bent piece, bending it again to about 45-degrees, spreading the legs out slightly wider than the plane’s fuselage.  You can work different bends which correspond to the fuselage shape.  Next, prepare the hangers for painting.  This may be accomplished by using either a sandblaster or a bench grinder with a wire wheel.  Sandpaper may also be used.  The purpose is to remove any residual oils from the metal in order to give a good surface for the paint to adhere.  A degreaser or TSP will clean up any remaining residue.  Then, spray paint the hangers, making sure to let them dry completely.  The next step is to add tubing to insulate the hanger where it contacts the wing.  Be sure the inside diameter of the tube matches the outside diameter of the rod.  This will act as a buffer between the hanger and the wing of the rc plane, advantageous for heavier planes as well as those having a delicate finish.  Hairspray and glass cleaner are good treatments for the hanger surface with hairspray acting as an adhesive as it drys.  Finally, mount the hooks in the ceiling, draping the hangers through the hooks.

Planes may also be mounted on the wall area of a garage or storage building.  If space allows, the entire aircraft may be secured with hangers draped around wall mounted hooks, as with the ceiling example.  However, if storage space is limited, the fuselage and wing components may need to be stored separately.  By using metal shelf brackets placed about two feet above the floor level supporting a wooden shelf, wings may be placed in small storage bins on the shelf.  In this mode, the wings are high enough not to be disturbed by traffic inside the area, yet low enough not to conflict with fuselage storage.  Fuselages may be hung by either the tail or propeller, with the tail preferred due to the larger surface area.  The disadvantage of tail hanging is gasoline accumulation near the engine.  Rotating fuselage positions may help in overcoming this.  Finally, if no other space is available, an appropriate rc plane makes a good decorator item for a den or rec room.

Another method of storage, which has gained favor in recent years, is the use of PVC tubing.  Its advantages are simplicity, flexibility, and a relatively low cost.  With the use of a scissors-like cutting tool, PVC tubing may be cut to any length or configuration.  While three to four-tier racks are the most popular configuration, many variations are in use.  Since PVC racks are light, they are easily transportable, allowing an rc pilot the opportunity to fly several planes at an event.  Cement is usually not necessary to secure PVC tubing, since the tubing is usually snug at the 90-degree joints.  PVC pipes may also be used with metal hangers and hooks with the PVC acting as an insulator, as well as a work stand frame for rc models.

RC model stores sell a variety of storage kits, with most priced about $50, depending upon the configuration and type of kit.  Some avid enthusiasts have even purchased outdoor buildings in which to store their planes.   With all of the possibilities, rc model storage is not a one size fits all endeavor.









Over the past 100 years, Marine Aviation has grown in both numbers and variety of missions.  During this blog, we’ll trace the history of USMC aviation from its inception to the many roles it plays in defense of our nation today.

The beginnings of Marine Aviation date back to 1912 when First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham reported for aviation duty at the Naval Aviation Camp at Annapolis, Maryland.  The camp was composed of two officers, six mechanics, and three aircraft.  Cunningham soloed on August 20. 1912 after a mere two hours and forty minutes of instruction.  During the next four years, Lts. Bernard L. Smith, William M. Mcllvain, Francis T. Evans and Roy S. Geiger were assigned to the school.  Each pilot had his own concept of how this new arm could enhance Marine Corps. operations.  This resulted in two rival concepts of Marine Aviation, one in which the sole mission of the air arm was combat support of ground forces, while the other emphasized combined operations in which Marine Aviation supported the Navy.  A training exercise in 1914 proved the value of USMC aviation.  This exercise was a test of the ability of a Marine force to occupy, fortify and defend an advanced base and hold it against hostile attack.  The air contingent was composed of two officers with ten mechanics, one flying boat and one amphibian.  As the exercise progressed, two pilots took brigade commanders on reconnaissance flights over the battle area.  The brigade officers were impressed with the speed and field of vision of the aircraft and recommended doubling the size of both the pilots and ground crew.

With the US declaration of war against Germany in 1917, Marine Aviation entered a period of rapid growth in both manpower and equipment.  The Marine Corps entered the war with 511 officers and 13,214 enlisted.  By wars end the Corps. commitment totaled 2,400 officers and 70,000 enlisted.  While the initial concept of Marine deployment to France was to send a brigade to fight alongside the Army, Marine Aviation began to assert itself to ensure that the new arm got its share of Corps. manpower, additionally providing air support for the brigade.  However, Marine Corps. Aviation found itself split between two competing missions.  Land-based planes provided artillery spotting and reconnaissance for the brigade deployed to France, as well as a seaplane unit flying antisubmarine patrols.  In addition to flying cover for ground forces, Marine Air units carried out fourteen bombing missions against railway yards, canals, and supply dumps, resulting in the destruction of four German aircraft.

After World War I ended, the Marine Corps., along with the other services, began a desperate struggle to persuade Congress to maintain prewar levels of bases, personnel, and equipment.  As a sidebar to the overall battle for military appropriations, Lt. (now Maj.) Cunningham fought for a permanent status for Marine Aviation.  He appeared before a number of military organizations, in addition to Congressional Committees.  Cunningham also wrote a number of articles emphasizing the role of aviation in future military conflicts.  As a result of his efforts and those of other military leaders, Marine Aviation had survived with Congress authorizing Marine Corps. strength at twenty percent of total Navy strength in 1920.  The Corps. found it necessary to conduct a number of well-publicized exercises in order to garner further support from both Congress and the American public.  One such exercise was conducted in 1922 in which a force of 4,000 Marines marched from Quantico, Va. to Gettysburg, Pa.  Three heavy Martin MTB bombers were assigned to support the march.  The Marine aviators flew a total of 500 hours and 40,000 air miles, carrying passengers and freight, as well as executing simulated attack missions.  Marine aviators tested both new equipment and techniques, with the first successful dive-bombing conducted in 1919.  They also made several long-distance flights, in addition to participating in a number of key air races.   Overseas deployments to the Carribean, China, and the Western Pacific in the 1930s proved the flexibility of Marine Air.

Marine Aviation experienced a phenomenal growth during World War II.  In 1936 there were only 145 Marine pilots on active duty with a gradual increase to 245 by mid-1940.  By the end of that year, it had swelled to 425, augmented by the Marine Corps. Aviation Reserve.  At the time of Pearl Harbor, Marine Aviation was composed of 13 squadrons and 204 aircraft.  By the end of the war, its strength had increased to 145 squadrons and approximately 3,000 aircraft.  To support this expansion, new bases were required in the continental United States.  New and larger bases such as Cherry Point, NC replaced the original base at Quantico Virginia, while El Toro, CA replaced the older base at San Diego on the West Coast.  The location of both bases was in close proximity to the major Marine ground bases at Camp Lejune, North Carolina and Camp Pendleton, California.  The location of these bases facilitated the doctrine of close air support of Marine ground units by Marine Aviation.  Though outnumbered, Marine pilots performed admirably in the defense of Wake Island, sinking the destroyer Kisaragi and shooting down seven Japanese aircraft.  While sustaining heavy losses at Midway, Marine aviators nevertheless played a vital role in the victory there.  They plowed their way up the Solomons from Henderson Field at Guadalcanal to Okinawa, providing dedicated ground support.  Marine aviation ended the war with 2,335 aircraft destroyed, producing 121 aces.

After World War II, Marine aviation began to emphasize operations from aircraft carriers, which actually began late in that war.  The development of the helicopter also broadened the horizons of Marine Aviation.  When the Korean War began in 1950, Marine Aviation units were alerted for combat duty.  Within six weeks, a carrier-based squadron was flying ground attack missions.  Marine air gave a good account of itself flying ground support missions for UN forces in the Pusan Perimeter, as well as providing valuable close air support for the Inchon landing from carriers and later Kimpo Airfield.  Along with the Navy and Air Force, Marine aircraft supplied the 1st Marine Division and evacuated more than 5,000 casualties during the withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir.  By the end of the war in July 1953, Marine aircraft flew more than 118,000 sorties, of which 29,500 were close support missions.  Marine helicopter squadrons evacuated approximately 10,000 ground troops during the course of the war.

Marine Aviation was at the forefront during the Viet Nam War, and both Gulf Wars.  It has a long tradition of providing close air support and material support of ground forces.  Though its missions have changed in recent years, it remains a force of readiness for the nation.