Sunday, October 30, 2011

First World War Triplanes

Sopwith Triplane Versus The Red Barons Fokker Photo Chris Lord

The Fighter in the foreground is a Sopwith Triplane. This was a British single seat fighter aircraft designed and manufactured by the Sopwith Aviation Company during the First World War. Pilots nicknamed it the Tripehound or simply the Tripe. The Triplane became operational with the Royal Naval Air Service in early 1917 and was immediately successful. The Triplane was nevertheless built in comparatively small numbers and was withdrawn from active service as Sopwith Camels arrived in the latter half of 1917. Surviving aircraft continued to serve as operational trainers until the end of the war.

In the distance is a German Fokker Dr. 1 Triplane. While it remains the most famous airplane of World War One, only 320 of the Fokker Dr.1 Triplane were built (compared to thousands of Spads, Nieuports, Albatroses, and Sopwith Camels). Inspired by the devastating performance of the Sopwith Triplane, Anthony Fokker designed and built the Dr.I Dreidecker, and delivered the first triplanes to Manfred von Richthofen's Jagdgeschwader I in late August 1917. After a brief familiarization flight, the "Red Baron" took aircraft number 102/17 up on September 1, and promptly shot down a British R.E.8 of No. 6 Sqn, whose crew probably thought the three-winged craft was a friendly Sopwith. Fokker's new triplane was no mere knockoff of the Sopwith. It featured cantilever wings, supported by single interplane struts. Only the upper wing had ailerons. The initial order of twenty aircraft were numbered Dr.I 101/17 - 120/17. 300 later Dreideckers were numbered Dr I 121/17 - 220/17 and 400/17 - 599/17. Its twin, synchronized 8mm Spandau machine guns were standard firepower for the era. 

For the brief period of a year, roughly from mid-1917 to mid-1918, the triplane format suddenly came to dominate the world of fighter plane design, particularly in Germany. The triplane would have become a mere footnote in the history books were it not for the fact that one of them, the Fokker Dr.I, became one of the most famous airplanes of World War I.

It is a basic premise that an airplane with one wing is more aerodynamically efficient than an airplane with two. After all, who has ever seen a biplane bird? Nature, however, cannot always be translated into machinery in a straightforward manner. Although many of the earliest aircraft were monoplanes, they were found to possess some very dangerous characteristics. The problems were mainly structural rather than aerodynamic.

A series of fatal accidents involving wing failures in early monoplanes resulted in a ban on them by the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in the summer of 1912. One of the world's first formal aviation-crash inquiries was convened in 1913 to investigate the accidents. Despite the fact that the 'Monoplane Committee exonerated the configuration, a prejudice against monoplanes persisted for more than 20 years.

Another reason for the distrust of monoplanes as fighters in World War I had to do with pilot visibility from the cockpit. In combat, the fighter pilot who saw his adversary first was usually the victor. Before the advent of radio, pilots needed a clear view of their flight commanders, who communicated with each other visually by means of hand signals and wing-waggling. They also had to be able to see their squadron mates to avoid accidental midair collisions.

The earliest successful fighter planes, the French Morane-Saulnier N and the German Fokker E.I, were monoplanes configured with the cockpit directly over the wing. From that position, the pilot enjoyed unlimited visibility to every quarter except downward, in which direction he could see nothing at all.

In many biplanes the pilot sat with one wing directly below him and another directly overhead, impairing his vision in both directions. A typical example was the British Sopwith Pup. Produced in 1916, the Pup was a beautifully proportioned little biplane that flew as great as it looked. British pilots, however, were less than satisfied with the visibility from its cockpit. Many photographs of Pups show portions of fabric cut away from the upper wing's center section in an effort to improve the pilot's view.

In retrospect, it may be said that the Sopwith Pup set a style that persisted for more than 20 years-that of the single-seat tractor biplane with synchronized machine guns firing through the propeller. At the time the Pup first appeared, however, the optimum configuration of a fighter was still in doubt. Today, the primary considerations for a fighter plane are speed, firepower and that newest of criteria, stealth. During World War 1, however, the emphasis was on rate of climb, maneuverability and pilot visibility.

In the spring of 1916, Herbert Smith, the chief designer at Sopwith, began work on a successor to the Pup. He set out to design a plane that could climb faster, fly higher, maneuver as well as if not better than its predecessor and, if possible, afford better visibility than the Pup. Surprisingly, the prototype that emerged from the Sopwith hangar on May 30, 1916, was not a biplane but a triplane.

The triplane configuration was not exactly a new concept that spring. Such pioneer aviators as Glenn Curtiss (founder of Curtiss Aircraft Co.) and AV Roe (founder of Avro, Ltd.) had already built successful triplanes in the United States and Britain, respectively. In Italy, Count Gianni Caproni di Taliedo, founder of Aeroplani Caproni, was producing a series of large, three-engine bombers, including several triplanes. In those earlier aircraft, however, the triplane format was simply a matter of expediency-an attempt to compensate for the low-powered engines of the period by building the greatest possible wing area, and consequently the maximum lift, into a reasonably compact airframe. Because speed was less of a consideration in bombers, the increased lift offered by the triplane format made sense. Herbert Smith, however, was adapting a refinement of the triplane concept to fighters. He sought to balance the advantages of extra lift and optimum maneuverability against the inherent disadvantage of increased drag.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Steampunk Gunship

The Steam Powered Golden Flying Gunship "The Osprey" Over New York  -  Photo Art by Chris Lord

This composite is my one attempt to emulate the style of the Steampunk genre. It was created from images of an Osprey helicopter and parts of a turn of the century steam powered battle cruiser, The Cruiser Olympia,  found at Penn Landing on the river in Philadelphia. 

Return of the Gunships Photo Chris Lord
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. 

Other examples of steampunk contain alternative history-style presentations of such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace's Analytical engine.
Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.

Over New York City

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Blades

Leaping For Joy Photo Chris Lord

2011 is The Blades' sixth display season and a great one. The Blades are among the world’s best aerobatic pilots, flying the ultimate in high-performance piston aircraft. Over the past five years, The Blades have flown over 300 displays in front of more than 18 million people, carried over 1,000 corporate flying event passengers and reached hundreds of millions of people through the media.

The Aircraft
The new EA-300 LP is made from carbon fibre and is certified to +/- 10 times the force of gravity. Unlike some of its competitors, it is also certified to fly anywhere in the world. The aircraft was designed by Walter Extra. As a successful competitive aerobatic display pilot Extra decided, in 1980, to design his own aircraft with an optimum structure, weight and performance for aerobatic displays. The aircraft was so successful that the Extra sells around 40 aircraft a year from its factory in Germany.

Engine: 300HP Lycoming AEIO 540
Propeller: 3 Bladed MT propeller
Range: 350 miles
Maximum Gross Weight: 950 Kg
Standard Empty Weight: 667 Kg
FAA Certified Load Factor: +/- 10G
Never Exceed Speed: 220 Kts
Manoeuvring Speed: 158 Kts
Length: 6.94m
Height: 2.62m
Wing Span: 8m
Seats: 2   Designed by pilots, for pilots!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Blades II

The Blades Photo Chris Lord

 The Blades is a civilian aerobatic display team situated at Sywell Aerodrome in Northamptonshire, UK and is part of 2Excel Aviation Ltd. This Company provides the corporate sector with a unique suite of high-impact communications tools: unforgettable corporate flying events, exceptional air displays and a truly through-the-line flying bill-board. The Blades are also a partner with The Royal Air Forces Association.
The team flies on four Extra 300 LP aircrafts painted in light blue and black colors. Until the April 2010 the teams' aircrafts were painted in orange-black livery. All planes are equipped with white smoke generators.
Including the five full-time display pilots, there are eight ex-RAF, fully-qualified commercial pilots, who fly passengers during The Blades' corporate flying events.
Blade 1 for 2010 is Myles Garland. A former RAF Harrier pilot and Red Arrows 'synchro lead', this is Myles' second season as the Team Leader following 3 seasons as a wingman and solo pilot. Chris Carder, Andy Offer and Dave Slow share the Blade 2 slot, thus allowing some spare time to concentrate on the other expanding areas of business within 2Excel Aviation, the parent company of The Blades. Blade 3 is Andy Evans and Blade 4 (solo pilot) is Mark 'Cutty' Cutmore. Both Andy and Cutty were RAF Jaguar pilots, Red Arrows and advisors to the Saudi Arabian National Aerobatic Team "Saudi Hawks". 

The Blades aerobatic team was founded in 2005 by Chris Norton OBE DFC and Andy Offer OBE. They both left distinguished careers in the Royal Air Force as Wing Commanders to create a unique, aviation-based communications business.
Team's displays have been watched by more than 18 million people at over 150 venues across UK, Europe and the Middle East. Display highlights have included the Cannes International Advertising Festival, Her Majesty The Queen's 80th Birthday Celebrations at Balmoral, the opening of the Bahrain Financial Harbour and the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix.
The Blades have also created bespoke corporate events for many of the UK's leading companies, flying over 1,000 passengers in close formation aerobatic flights.

Aerial Excitment Photo Chris Lord


Viper: The Unofficial Nickname Photo Chris Lord
Of course the F-16 is also known by a variety of other, less commonly used, nicknames: 
Electric Jet: Obvious nickname for the first fly-by-wire aircraft to go into production. 
Lawn Dart: Caused by a higher number of mishaps experienced in the early years. 
Midnight Falcon: "Marketing" name used by General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin for the F-16C to highlight its day/night all-weather capabilities. 
Desert Falcon: "Marketing" name used by General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin for the F-16 block 60. 
Sweet Sixteen: No explanation needed.
The F-16 is often referred to as the "Viper", a nickname especially popular with people involved with the F-16. Before "Fighting Falcon" was selected as official name, pilots at Hill AFB, the first F-16 base, came up with a number of proposals, including "Viper". Lt. Col. Pat "Gums" McAdoo, USAF Ret., one of the first F-16 pilots at Hill AFB, recalls the origin of the name "F-16 Viper": At end of runway, the F-16 did resemble a cobra or something as it approached you. However, I think Northrop had already taken that name for the YF-17. We all voted, and Viper came in really high. Seems there was a series on TV that had 'colonial Vipers' flying off of Battlestar Galactica (a term later used for the Eagle). In any case, the Generals didn't want a plane 'named after some snake'! 

Falcon was a good name, and it fit in with the motif that the Eagle had created. Sort of a little brother, but still a 'Bird of Prey'. In fact, GD had a great promo out in late 70's called "Bird of Prey", and it used the Falcon as the real world model. Even when F-16 Fighting Falcon became the official name, Viper stuck around and became the unofficial nickname for the F-16. The name "Viper" is even officially used for the Joe Bill Dreyden "Semper Viper" award, which is awarded for excellent airmanship by F-16 pilots.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The F-16 Naming The Fighting Falcon

F-16 in Dutch Livery - Photo Chris Lord
 Ever wondered about the origin of the name "F-16 Fighting Falcon"? Or is it F-16 Viper? And what is wrong with F16? This article provides a short overview of the official designation and names for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and some of the commonly used nicknames. F-16 Fighting Falcon, not F16 Fighting Falcon 
The US Tri-Service Designation System for aircraft defines a standard notation for aircraft models. In its basic form, it consists of: a capital letter denoting the basic mission (e.g. 'F' for fighter, 'A' for attack) a mandatory dash '-' plus the design number (e.g. 14, 15, 16, 117, 130). According to this standard, F-16 is the only correct designation for the Fighting Falcon. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for (non-aviation) publications to incorrectly use F16 Fighting Falcon or even f16 Fighting Falcon. 
The name "Fighting Falcon" 
USAF F-16A block 10 #79-0290 at the Naming Ceremony at Hill AFB, Utah wearing a large 'Fighting Falcon' badge behind the cockpit. The U.S. Air Force officially named the F-16 "Fighting Falcon" on July 21st, 1980, during a ceremony at Hill AFB in Utah (the home of the first F-16 unit). At the ceremony F-16A #79-0290 sported a special logo painted by Salt Lake City artists Matt and Mark Waki. Four years earlier, in 1976, the Department of the Air Force had organized a "Name-the-Plane Contest" for the F-16 at MacDill AFB in Florida. The winning entry was submitted by TSgt. Joseph A. Kurdell, the Photo Sensor Shop Supervisor for the 1st TFW A&E sqn. On May 11th, 1976, TSgt. Kurdell received an official letter from the Department of the Air Force, congratulating him for submitting the prize-winning entry in the "Name-the-Plane Contest", winning him a free dinner at the MacDill NCO Mess. TSgt. Joseph Kurdell explains where he got the inspiration for the name: "Prior to being stationed at MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida and after a short tour in Korea, I was teaching at the Photographic Engineering School at Lowery Air Force Base in Colorado. Being in the vicinity of the Air Force Academy, my family and I used to visit there quite often especially during their football seasons. As you probably know the Falcon (the bird species) is the school mascot, so this is where I got the idea from when given the opportunity to name an aircraft. " The name "Fighting Falcon" also helped distinguish the F-16 from the "Falcon" series of business jets from French manufacturer Dassault.
In the early 90's the Lockheed Company acquired the Fort Worth Division of the General Dynamics Corporation, thus the right to produce and sell the F-16 Fighting Falcon. 
Lockheed then merged with Martin Marietta in the middle 90's to make Lockheed Martin, or Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems (a.k.a. LMTAS). So that's why the General Dynamics F-16 became the Lockheed Martin F-16 or LMTAS F-16. Nowadays it's simply referred to as LM (Lockheed-Martin). 

Going Up - Photo Chris Lord

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon

F-16 Fighting Falcon - Photo Chris Lord

The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force (USAF). Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,400 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Although no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, improved versions are still being built for export customers. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.
The Fighting Falcon is a dogfighter with numerous innovations including a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while maneuvering, a seat reclined 30 degrees to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot, and the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire flight control system that makes it a highly nimble aircraft. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and has 11 hardpoints for mounting weapons, and other mission equipment. Although the F-16's official name is "Fighting Falcon", it is known to its pilots as the "Viper", due to it resembling a viper snake and after the Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper starfighter.
In addition to active duty US Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, and Air National Guard units, the aircraft is also used by the USAF aerial demonstration team, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and as an adversary/aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy. The F-16 has also been procured to serve in the air forces of 25 other nations.

 Photo Chris Lord