Thursday, November 26, 2009

Midway SBD

This past week, I had the opportunity to pass through Chicago's Midway airport. Nice little airport. As I walked out of Concourse A, I was surprised to walk under a WWII era SBD Dauntless dive bomber.

This model aircraft was the US Navy's primary bomber aircraft when the war started. It is extremely rare these days - not very many survived the war and subsequent scrapper's torches. It was not a popular aircraft with post war aviation folks, so there just weren't many that were saved.

This particular aircraft was located in Lake Michigan in 1989, and brought to the surface in 1991. It was shipped to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, where it underwent a full restoration. Initially, it was displayed at the USAF Museum in Dayton, painted as an Army A-24.

The aircraft had been ditched in the lake on December 14, 1944, by Ensign Albert O'Dell, who had run out of fuel while practicing carrier landings on the USS Sable. Ensign O'Dell was recovered with minor injuries. His aircraft, BuNo 10575, sat on the bottom of the lake, preserved remarkably well by the frigid waters for 47 years.

In 2004, the SBD 10575(Scout Bomber Douglas) was repainted to represent one that had flown during the Battle of Midway. It was enshrined above the entrance to Concourse A, along with a very nice display honoring the Battle of Midway. (Midway Airport was given its current name in 1949 by the City of Chicago to recognize the Battle of Midway.)

SBDs played a key role in the Battle of Midway, sinking 4 Japanese carriers with dive bombing attacks, and turning the tide of the war. Having one pulled from Lake Michigan, then being restored and displayed at the airport named for the battle, is very zen-like, don't you think?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our New Breed of Aviator Warriors?

Drones have become an important part of our aerial might, there is no doubt about it. Global Hawks, Predators, Reapers, and more are becomming an integral component of aerial forces, particularly in recon tasking.

Uninhabited Aerial Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Unmanned Aerial vehicles, Uninhabited Combat Aviation Systems .... the names keep changing to make them seem more complex and capable. Notice Uninhabited is replacing Unmanned - PC is even invading the drone world ....

The Obama Administration, Deense Secretary Gates, and some of the Pentagon's brass is infatuated with these radio controlled things. They see them as cheap (with cheap being a relative term!) vehicles that can do jobs without risking pilots (which is a good thing). They see them as the perfect weapon to wage a low intensity war against widely scattered, poorly armed terrorist types. They also see a future expansion of drone operations, to include fighter and bomber missions, and aircraft landing on carriers at sea - I have heard quotes from several officials stating they want to see a completely pilotless aerial force.

There are mutliple problems with these things. We lose a lot of these things, and they do cost multiple millions of dollars each. Most of them are completely reliant upon radio communications through satellites to ground control stations that may be half a world away. While most of them are under live operator control, the operator only has as much information on the situation as he can get from the vehicle's sensors, and other observors, if any.

A big problem I see is with the pilots who control these things. Currently, they are fully trained aviators who have been 'demoted' to flying a joystick from an armchair. These pilots are pissed off at this. The government has spent upwards of a million dollars for each of these pilots for training. Pilots who spend time in 'the chair' are unlikely to fly a real airplane for the military again - there are simply too many pilots for too few airplanes these days, and it's going to get worse for them.

Pretty soon, the government is going to figure out they don't have to have fully trained pilots for drones, and they will begin training drone operators - not pilots. Very sad.

Cockpit of the future:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Give Me A F'ing Break - Forwarded

I'd like to share some thoughts from Outlaw13, posted over at threedonia, concerning the hazards faced by those flying drones over the war zones. Being a combat aviator in Iraq on his third tour, he is certainly entitled to this opinion ....

"I post this story from the newspaper for purely selfish reasons. It boils my blood to read about a person who wakes up every morning in their own bed, drives their car to work, flies an Uninhabited Aerial System (UAS) from a work station for several hours and at the end of the day returns to their home and then complains about how hard that is for them to deal with. I have been to Iraq three times for a grand total of 31+ months now, at last count I have lost at least 15 friends I have known over the years to this conflict. I have been mortared, rocketed and shot at with machine guns and assorted weapons of all types. In this article you will read of Airmen who will tell you how they have heard the sound of gunfire over the radio as they responded to attacks against our troops. I have as well, and I can tell you it has added meaning to you when you know you are going to be flying over that gun fire in minutes if not seconds and they are likely to be shooting at you next. "

You can read the rest at this link, if it is of interest .....