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    Profiles In Aviation: Karl Richter Was An Unstoppable THUD Pilot Who Loved Flying And His Fellow Airmen

    Karl Wendell Richter was born on October 4th 1942 in Holly, Michigan. Karl was the youngest of Ludwig Richter’s three children. By all accounts Karl was an all-around standout at Holly High School. He lettered in football, ran track, and played varsity basketball. He was also class president for four years. But Karl was, by his own admission, not a scholarly student. Karl’s prospects for a college education seemed slim. One of things he enjoyed immensely was aviation. His older sister Betty May helped him pursue his interest in aviation and by the time Karl was getting ready to graduate from high school he was an experienced pilot.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    Because Karl wasn’t looking forward to more school at a regular college, Betty May talked him into applying for admission to the Air Force Academy. Although Karl figured he probably wouldn’t be accepted, he completed the admissions process anyway. To Karl’s great surprise two Michigan Congressmen made him their primary appointee to the Academy. Just nine days after graduating from Holly High School, Karl Richter became a cadet in Squadron 8. Karl didn’t magically become a better student at the Air Force Academy, but the word is he excelled at sports. He enjoyed intramurals such as rugby, football, soccer, and boxing. Karl graduated from the Air Force Academy and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on June 3rd 1964.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    Karl’s pilot training wasn’t anything unusual for Air Force pilots in those days. He spent 53 weeks at Craig Air Force Base (AFB) in Alabama completing his Undergraduate Pilot Training. From there Karl went to Nellis AFB in Nevada for 26 weeks to complete the Combat Crew Replacement Training syllabus for the Republic F-105D Thunderchief. It was normal, even expected, for a pilot having just completed a little bit more than a year and half of intensive training to take some leave at that point, but Karl decided instead to ferry a replacement F-105D over to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base (RTAFB) in Thailand. Karl then became the newest member of the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW).

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    Four days after arriving in Thailand Karl flew his first mission over North Vietnam. Karl was one of those pilots who wanted to be in the air whenever possible. He quickly became an excellent Thud pilot despite his lack of previous experience in the cockpit. He would fly anything he could, anytime he could. He once turned down a trip to the exotic destinations of Hong Kong and Bangkok only to spend his leave flying combat forward air controller (FAC) missions in Cessna O-1E Bird Dogs instead.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    Karl bagged a MiG-17 on September 21st 1966. He was flying as an element leader designated Ford 03 near Haiphong in North Vietnam sniffing for surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites. When Karl found a SAM site he was getting ready to clobber it when he spied a section of MiG-17s making a firing pass on another Thud in the lead element. Karl maneuvered into firing position and employed his 20 millimeter M61A1 Vulcan cannon to saw a wing off of one of the MiGs forcing the pilot to eject from his stricken jet and the other to bolt for home. Karl was 23 years old when he shot down his MiG, making him the youngest American pilot ever to down a MiG. Richter went to Saigon to receive congratulations and decorations, but he wanted to fly.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    There was simply no stopping him. He quickly piled up his first 90 missions, which usually meant that he would fly another ten “soft” missions and rotate back to the world. But not Karl. Karl wanted another 100. He had to glad-hand a bit and do some politicking. Meanwhile, Karl was winning medals for his extraordinary bravery and initiative in the air. He led a Wild Weasel (defense suppression) mission on April 20th 1967 that resulted in the destruction or distraction of a large number of enemy SAM and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) crews. This allowed the strike force with whom Richter was working to eliminate an important railroad target even though Richter’s group experienced  intense enemy fire and dealt with weather that hindered navigation. Because he had already received the Silver Star, was awarded the Air Force Cross for his skill and heroism that day. And those next 100 missions? He got them too.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    Karl kept flying missions into North Vietnam and Laos, many of which put him in the teeth of what has been described as the most intense air defense network ever created by man. Flying incredibly risky missions didn’t bother him though. Karl Richter completed his 200th mission and returned safely to Khorat in July of 1967. The Seventh Air Force was ready to send him packing. 200 missions. A MiG kill. Karl’s knowledge would have been a valuable asset were he able to share more of it with new pilots and crews coming in-country. The war, although nobody knew it at the time, still had a long way to go.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    But Karl was determined to fly a tour in North American F-100 Super Sabres and another tour as a FAC after that. When asked why, he would say that if he added those in-country tours to the experience he already had he would become the most qualified expert in the Air Force in the kind of air war being fought in Southeast Asia. Perhaps then he would have gone back to “the world” and passed along all that knowledge. But on July 28th 1967 Richter, then 24 years old, was flying over Route Package I (supposedly a relatively safe area) with a new pilot when Karl sighted a bridge. Karl told his wingman, along for his initial check ride, to orbit and observe.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    Karl rolled in on the bridge. An unseen AAA emplacement found the range quickly and hit Karl’s Thud hard. Richter initiated a climb to egress south of the DMZ but the F-105D just wasn’t going to make it back to Korat. His May Day call was received loud and clear. Forced to eject, Richter made it out of his stricken jet and was under a good chute when he disappeared under a low cloud deck. Karl’s beeper was operational and the Sandys and Jolly Greens that scrambled when his May Day call went out were on-scene quickly. The terrain into which Richter descended in his chute was rocky and as best as can be determined Karl W Richter was severely injured, breaking his neck, when he landed. Although the Jolly Green pulled him out he passed away on the way back to the hospital.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    When First Lieutenant Karl Richter died he had flown 198 missions into North Vietnam- more than any other airman at the time. Karl was always willing to do the hard thing; the thing worth doing. He exemplified the kind of selfless dedication to his fellow airmen and comrades in arms that had become so rare during that time. Karl was posthumously awarded the 1969 Air Force Jabara Award for Airmanship. In 2005 he was named the Exemplar for the Air Force Academy Class of 2008, thereby joining some elite company. Other Academy Class Exemplars have included men like Jimmy Doolittle, Billy Mitchell, Lance Sijan, Dick Bong, Eddie Rickenbacker, George Patton, Tooey Spaatz, and Gus Grissom.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    Lieutenant Richter’s decorations and service awards include the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star, Air Medal with 21 oak leaf clusters, and the Purple Heart. A cafeteria located in Arnold Hall, the cadet social center at the Air Force Academy, is named in honor of Lieutenant Richter. The schools administration building in Karl’s hometown of Holly, Michigan was named after him. Statues of Karl Richter have been erected on the Mall of Heroes at the Air Force Academy and at Maxwell AFB in Alabama.  At Maxell the statue is inscribed:  “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Here am I. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8). No quotation could be more appropriate for First Lieutenant Karl Richter United States Air Force.

    The Air Force Cross (Official US Air Force Photograph)

    On April 20, 1967, First Lieutenant Richter was awarded the Air Force Cross. His citation reads:  “The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to First Lieutenant Karl W. Richter for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as the leader of a flight of F-105s on a mission over North Vietnam on 20 April 1967. The target, a very important railroad facility, was defended by several hundred antiaircraft artillery emplacement and SA-2 missiles. Lieutenant Richter’s mission was to destroy or limit fire from these defenses immediately before a strike on this facility by fighter bombers. Arriving over the approach to the target, he found clouds obscuring navigational references and increasing the danger from unobserved SAM launches. Despite weather conditions, Lieutenant Richter, with great professional skill and undaunted determination, led his flight through a barrage of missiles to the target. Braving the heavy concentrated fire of the antiaircraft artillery, he positioned his flight and attacked the defenses, causing heavy damage. As a result of his efforts, the fighter bombers of the main strike force encountered only limited defensive fire and destroyed this vital railroad facility. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, First Lieutenant Richter reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”

    Here’s a short video segment uploaded by Aviation Technology Space Channel about Thuds in Vietnam.

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    Air India A320neo Crew Forgets To Raise The Gear, Lands Safely Short Of Destination

    How does this even happen?

    Two Air India Airlines pilots have been grounded for forgetting to retract the landing gear on their spanking-new Airbus A320neo and flying 693 miles (1,115 kilometers) from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU) in Kolkata in eastern India to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport / Sonegaon Air Force Base (NAG) at Nagpur with the gear extended on Saturday July 22nd 2017. The pilots didn’t put it together that the gear was in the wind when they were unable to climb higher than 24,000 feet (7,315 meters), which is about 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) lower than their usual assigned altitude of 36,000 feet (10,972 meters). They didn’t figure it out when their jet wouldn’t fly faster than 230 knots (264 miles per hour or 426 kilometers per hour) either.

    The Air India A320neo, as flight 676, was supposed to fly from CCU all the way to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM) in Mumbai on the western coast of India- essentially a cross-India trip. But the higher than normal fuel consumption due to the added drag of the extended landing gear used up fuel a lot faster than normal. They made it roughly 2/3 of the way before they were forced to divert and land at NAG. It was only when preparing to land at NAG about an hour and a half into their flight that the flight crew realized their faux pas. There were 99 passengers aboard the flight.

    Photo courtesy of Airbus

    The pilots, both of whom were women according to the original report, expressed incredulity when they became aware of their error. One pilot was surprised that the cabin crew and passengers didn’t express concern about the added noise and vibration cause by flight with the landing gear extended. Speculation is that the pilots may have chalked the noise and vibration up to monsoon-caused turbulence aloft over India that day. But there is a post-takeoff checklist which was obviously poorly executed. This story was first reported by The Times of India.

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    Qatar Airways CEO Pisses Off Most Of Airline Industry With Comments; Delta Responds

    Qatar Airways has been even more controversial than usual recently. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker is evidently quite proud of the fact that his airline employs flight attendants who average (only) 26 years of age. What Al Baker doesn’t mention is that a cabin crew averaging 26 years of age cannot possibly possess the skills or experience a cabin crew really should have to ensure passenger safety and service. Qatar Airways crews are also grossly underpaid when compared to cabin crews working for other airlines. Qatar Airways achieves this young average cabin crew age at least in part by hiring young and inexperienced “talent” and then releasing said talent after only a few years on the job. They can do this because the cabin crews are not hired as employees but as contractors. And for other reasons we’ll get into later. But they are hired and released early to keep the cabin crews young.

    Original Al Baker comments (uploaded by Travelextra Ireland)

    I spoke with a flight attendant (and friend) who has been serving drinks and dealing with passengers with American Airlines for 30 years. Of course she does much more than that, but for all you perspective fans out there that means essentially that my friend has more experience than some, perhaps even many, of the entire cabin crews working for Qatar Airways. All by her experienced, capable, and talented self. And don’t fool yourselves- experience, capability, and talent count. Perhaps not at Qatar Airways, but ask yourself what’s more important- how smoothly your flight crew handles their essential tasks on your flight, or how they look while they perform them? With experience comes perspective, and my experienced friend shared some of that perspective with unsuspecting me.

    Delta Airlines Response to Al Baker’s comments (uploaded by Canal Plus Finance)

    Some of the deltas (pun intended) between American and many other international carriers and Qatar Airways stem from cultural differences. I am told that the contract rates of those contractors who work flights for Qatar Airways and the other ME3 carriers (Etihad and Emirates) are ridiculously low. That’s the culture of the region working against the flight attendants at least to some degree. Couple that with the likelihood of said flight attendants being kicked to the curb just when they reach true competency would seem to be extremely bad business, but who’s protesting or posting rants on social media about that? If it weren’t for Al Baker’s comments in Dublin the rest of the world might not even know about it.

    Partnership for Open & Fair Skies Response to Al Baker’s comments (uploaded by Partnership for Open & Fair Skies)

    About Al Baker

    He’s been making sensationalist comments about the world’s airlines for quite some time now. The man has talked about rubbing salt in airline “wounds” when he inaugurates a new Qatar Airways destination for some time now. Delta got the salt when he started flying into Atlanta; Lufthansa when Qatar Airways began flying into Frankfurt. Al Baker has also said that missing out on their play for Miami as another destination wasn’t a blow.  He sounds like a blowhard when he perceives a win and a sore loser when he doesn’t get his way, doesn’t he? Now Al Baker’s rhetoric and manipulation are not unique to Al Baker, or Qatar Airways, or the region, or the ME3, or any industry. There are people like him running businesses in many industries. But would you trust him? Can you trust him?

    Photo Credit: Tomas Del Coro

    Qatar Airways is a member of the oneworld Alliance. The oneworld Alliance members are AirBerlin (Germany), American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair (Finland), Iberia (Spain), Japan Airlines, LATAM (Latin America), Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas (Australia), Sri Lankan Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines, and S7 Airlines (Russia). These airlines have agreed to do more than paint the same logo on their equipment and share some codes but the details aren’t really pertinent here. What is extremely pertinent is what could be, and is believed by many to be, Al Baker’s master plan.

    Photo courtesy OneWorld Alliance

    American Airlines is a publicly traded company. Anyone can buy their stock. Including Al Baker. In what would seem to a simpleton like me to be an extremely audacious move, it is not inconceivable that Al Baker, the CEO of one airline, could acquire 4.75 percent of the stock in a different airline. That 4.75 percent of the other airline would land him on the Board of Directors of American Airlines…one of those airlines he himself says are “crap American carriers” and a member of the same “alliance!” What has flight attendants and airline industry people concerned is that were Al Baker to land on the Board at AA, he would then be in a position to make comments that people cannot just ignore or dismiss as misogynist rantings. He could potentially force concessions by the flight attendants working not only in the airliners flying in American Airlines colors but many other American and world carriers as well. The unions would of course fight tooth and nail to keep Al Baker from forcing concessions by the flight attendants, but it would be a truly ugly fight that should, it seems at least to me, be avoided at all costs. So far at least it appears there has been no move by Al Baker to acquire the necessary stock needed to buy a chair in the AA Boardroom.

    Photo Credit: Kambui

    Doesn’t this all sound like something nobody should do? Like something that should be illegal, and if not in point of law illegal, then at least preventable? Here’s the thing, and this is not unique to Al Baker, or Qatar Airways, or the region, or the ME3, or any industry either. Just because a person, in this particular case Al Baker, can do something that does not mean he should do that something. Qatar Airways, along with the other ME3 airlines, is considered by many paying passengers to be a step up from even the most prestigious airlines not only based in the United States but the rest of the planet. However, the subsidies and financial backing received by the ME3 from the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates violates existing Open Skies world aviation agreements. We do know that what’s going on behind the scenes at Al Baker’s airline is changing people’s opinions and perspectives. So is his inflammatory rhetoric.

    Photo Credit: Tomas Del Coro

    Delta Airlines, one of the “crap” American carriers mentioned by Al Baker during his comments in Dublin, posted a video response to his comments. So too did the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies. We have included links to all three videos in this piece, and all three are equally deserving of your attention, albeit for different reasons. And we would like to hear from you Avgeekery Nation! What’s going on in Akbar Al Baker’s noggin anyway? He’s got to know American laws won’t allow him to fly Qatar Airways flights within our borders…doesn’t he? If he’s really trying to influence American Airlines and other American carriers from afar wouldn’t that be transparent enough that everyone would see right through it?

    Screenshot courtesy Travelextra Ireland

    It was reported recently that Qatar Airways wants to buy $808 million worth of American Airlines stock. Why? Is Akbar Al Baker really just disrupting an industry that’s grown weary of the status quo and burdened by questionable service, overcrowded planes, and tired equipment? Or is his airline categorically stepping over laws and ethical standards to win at any and all costs? And can someone please tell me what difference it makes how old (read experienced) your flight attendant is if your drink isn’t what you asked for? Were you offended by his comments? Was his released apology for his remarks enough? Or should we all just get over our righteous indignation and keep grinding? What do you think?

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    Space Station to Perform Three Orbit Chase of Solar Eclipse

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Astronauts aboard the International Space Station may have the best windows for viewing the Great American Eclipse as they photograph and record August’s astronomical event during three consecutive orbits.

    Soaring 255 miles above, the six person crew of Expedition 52 will have detailed observation objectives in place as they point cameras from the Cupola’s windows while they trek across North America once every 91 minutes. They will also be the first humans to witness this solar eclipse thanks to orbital mechanics.

    In May 2012, NASA astronaut Don Pettit witnessed a solar eclipse from Earth orbit. “It is amazing to see an eclipse from orbit,” Pettit recalled. “The shadow on Earth looks just like what you see in the physics and astronomy books.”

    Newly released ground tracks by NASA provided to AvGeekery.com show the space station’s three positions as it passes through the Moon’s penumbra during the midday hours of August 21 — the height of solar eclipse across America. Astronauts will attach special solar filters to their 400 mm and 800 mm cameras as they approach their first observation’s over the Pacific Ocean.

    “Our flight team is tracking opportunities for the astronauts on board the station to photograph both the eclipse and the Moon’s shadow on the planet,” NASA spokesperson Dan Hout explained to this aerospace journalist from the Johnson Space Center near Houston on Monday. “With the current calculations, the station should have three passes to view the eclipse.”

    During the first transit across the United States, the space station’s crew will experience a partial solar eclipse with only 37% of the Sun covered by the Moon at about 12:41 p.m. EDT. Hout noted that as the station crosses the California coastline at this time, the eclipse will not have begun for those on Earth, however, a partial eclipse will be in progress and observed by the crew of six aboard the orbital outpost.

    The station’s second pass over North America will observe a greater view of a partial solar eclipse. The crew will again train cameras on a totality of 44% of Sun coverage by the Moon at 2:24 p.m.

    “At the closest approach, ISS will be just south of Hudson Bay while the Moon’s umbra shadow is located in southwestern Kentucky just over 1700 km away,” Hout added from his NASA office. “While ISS does not pass near the location of the Moon’s umbra, the Moon’s umbra should still be easily visible near the horizon.”

    As the orbital laboratory sails into an orbital sunset during its third orbit of the eclipse timeline, the station’s crew will witness their best viewing of the celestial ballet. As the space station passes over the central Atlantic Ocean at 4:18 p.m., the crew will observe a partial solar eclipse of 85% for only seconds as their orbital velocity of 17,450 m.p.h. takes them into a golden sunset about five minutes later.

    “This pass offers the opportunity to see the Sun with horns as it sets into the atmosphere assuming an appropriate filter is used to block the Sun’s brightness,” said Hout poised with an orbital tracking map before him. “At sunset, 27% of the Sun will be covered by the Moon.”

    Photographs taken from the space station will appear on NASA.gov soon after the orbital passes.

    Closer to home, NASA will launch two aircraft from Ellington Field near Houston to observe the American eclipse. NASA’s twin WB-57 aircraft will fly together at an altitude of 50,000 feet loaded with both visible and infrared telescopes to gather solar eclipse data during an eight minute window. The twin aircraft plan to be over the Carbondale, Illinois region during the short totality window.

    “The eclipse will provide a unique opportunity to study the sun, Earth, moon and their interaction because of the eclipse’s long path over land coast to coast,” NASA spokesperson Brian Dunbar added. “Scientists will be able to take ground-based and airborne observations over a period of an hour and a half to complement the wealth of data and images provided by space assets.”

    NASA is informing the public who plan to observe the eclipse to check the safety authenticity of glasses labeled for eclipse viewing sold online or in stores. The space agency stated this week that eclipse viewing glasses and solar viewers should have a designated ISO 12312-2 certification, and that the manufacturer’s name and address is printed somewhere on the product.

    The space agency will provide live video streaming of the solar eclipse from earth bound NASA centers based on cloud coverage. The space station’s own HD video camera may provide a rare real time view of the moon’s shadow.

    (Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)

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    NASA Wants to Put a Deep Space Gateway in Lunar Orbit

    This decade is a time of transition for the U.S. space program. NASA is fostering development of commercial services for orbital spaceflight to launch both the agency’s resupply and (soon) crewed missions to the International Space Station (ISS), while the agency itself focuses on deep space crew exploration with their Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft starting in the early 2020s. Continue reading

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    When B-29s Rumble And F-86s Whistle Over Oshkosh, The Best Airshow Is About To Get Started

    Aircraft have been arriving at Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the beginning of the 65th version of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Oshkosh. For the week AirVenture is in town KOSH becomes the world’s busiest airport and hosts upwards of 10,000 aircraft and close to three-quarters of a million visitors. The video below is a great look at a cross-section of the aircraft that have arrived at Oshkosh so far (with more arriving every hour). We’ll be doing our best to keep Avgeekery.com Nation on top of the events at Oshkosh for the next week. Thanks to YouTuber airailimages for uploading this video!

    The Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Doc”, a couple of Douglas C-47 Skytrains, a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, a North American P-51D Mustang, a Beech T-34 Mentor, a Douglas B-26 Invader, a Boeing MH-47G Chinook special operations helicopter, and a liberal smattering of Cessnas, Pipers, Beechcrafts, and other civil registered aircraft all appear in the video. Doc’s landing is shown again in slow motion at the end of the video. That is one impressive-looking aircraft! We can’t wait for the video of the two operational Boeing B-29s in the world, “Doc” and the Commemorative Air Force B-29 “Fifi”, flying together- a sight that hasn’t been seen by human eyes for decades. You can be sure we’ll bring to you!

    Here’s a video by Airshowsfuff.com shot on Friday highlighting arrivals from late last week. Watch for the section of North American F-86 Sabres followed by a Canadair CT-133 Silver Star landing late in the clip. Things get a little hectic with civil aircraft using both sides of runway 36 and the adjacent taxiway simultaneously, but hey…that’s Oshkosh during the last week of July! Thanks to Airshowstuff for posting this one, and watch Avgeekery.com for many more!

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    Oshkosh: Military and Civilian Aircraft to Highlight America’s Largest Airshow

    OSHKOSH, WI — America’s largest aviation gathering begins on Monday as aerobatic performances by top civilian and military aircraft — including the Navy’s Blue Angels — highlight the seven day EAA AirVenture Airshow.

    Known as Oshkosh around the globe, AirVenture is a mix of airshow and open house with nearly 500 hundred thousand expected to descend upon the comunity near Lake Winnebago. Aerobatic, commercial, and private pilots will join the military’s finest during what many deem as the best airshow in the world.

    “The Greatest Show on Earth”

    “There’s no other event in the world like Oshkosh ,” U.S. and world champion aerobatic pilot Patty Wagstaff told this aerospace journalist on Thursday. “When you get so many people in one place focused on something they love, airplanes like music creates its own energy that is hard to describe but brings people today in a very positive way.”

    Patty is a crowd favorite across America’s airshows as she pilots her Extra 300S aircraft during her dizzying aerobatic performance. She is poised to perform during the afternoon airshow.

    “It’s really something to see,” Wagstaff added as her smile grew in the golden light of Florida’s setting sun. “I’m thrilled to be a small part of it, and I tell people that flying the airshow at Oshkosh is like flying in front of 100,000 of your best friends!”

    As attendees arrive inside the front gates, exhibit hangers and aerospace-related workshops will await them as they make their way down Celebration Way and towards the airfield. Dotted along the airstrip near the airshow crowd line are aircraft poised to perform in the days ahead.

    Aeroshell Aerobatic Team performs aboard four North American advanced trainer AT6 Texan aircraft, nicknamed the pilot maker, by the Greatest Generation of pilot during World War II. The team is midway through their 24 city schedule this year which includes three international visits.

    “Oshkosh AirVenture — the greatest show on earth — it doesn’t get any better,” said Steve Gustafson, Team Aeroshell pilot and true Oshkosh fan. “Every time I go to AirVenture, I’m in awe. Every year there’s something different, so even if you go to Oshkosh each year, you’ll discover it will be different.”

    Aeroshell’s warbirds perform many of the maneuvers flown by the pilots of the Army’s air corps. as they trained to pilot the P-40 Warhawk and P-51 Mustang fighters. Today, Steve looks at Aeroshell as a centerpiece at Oshkosh bridging the aircraft of yesteryear with that of today’s top jet aircraft. He also appreciates the interest of the crowds attending the annual show.

    “Good people, good fun, and good family entertainment,” Steve told AvGeekery during a candid visit on Thursday. “You go to Oshkosh and people are so polite and they don’t throw trash on the ground. They just enjoy airplanes, and enjoy the freedoms we should never take for granted in this country. And, Oshkosh is the perfect example of one of those freedoms to never even take for granted.”

    Blue Angels First Full Oshkosh Performance

    Oshkosh 2017 will mark the Blue Angels first full team performance at EAA AirVenture. Their 54 minute performance will begin with a demonstration flight by their popular C-130T cargo transport aircraft nicknamed Fat Albert.

    The U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron’s jets will then display many of the maneuvers performed by today’s naval pilots as they fly during the last five days of Oshkosh. Their F/A-18 Hornets will first scream across the skies above Wittman airfield on Wednesday afternoon as the squadron arrives behind Fat Albert.

    The Blues diamond formation will depart on a brief flight Thursday at about 5:05 p.m. to familiarize themselves with the area. The two solo jets will perform their own orientation flight on Friday morning as they flyover the airfield and surrounding region and perform a few airshow maneuvers of their own. Fat Albert’s all-Marine crew will take the C-130T up for their own familiarization flight.

    On Friday, the Blues will perform their practice demo at 4:05 p.m.on Saturday, their flight demos will begin at 5:05 p.m.; and on Sunday, the squadron will fly a non-aerobatic performance beginning at 3:30 p.m.

    The Blue Angels will also participate in public outreach during the week. Right wing pilot LT. Damon Kroes will address attendees on Thursday at Warbirds in Review. On Friday, members of the Blues flight team and maintenance personnel will sign autographs and answer questions beginning at 1:00 p.m. at the Welcome Center.

    Breitling’s Historic DC-3 to Attend Oshkosh

    Whittman’s runway 18/36 runs due north and south and will become center stage on Monday as various types of aircraft arrive each day, including Breitling’s own DC-3. The Swiss-based DC-3 is currently two-thirds into a flight around the world, and is scheduled to visit the popular airshow as a static display for 10 days.

    “This aircraft played such an important role in American history and it is a privilege to share it with American aviation fans,” Breitling DC-3 Captain Francisco Agullo said. “We look forward to seeing this country’s rich culture and passion for aviation.”

    The historic DC-3 is poised to become the oldest aircraft to fly around the world once it completes its circumnavigation of the globe on September 13.

    Great weather is forecast during most of AirVenture in the week ahead, allowing attendees a chance to witness great aircraft and receive a stronger appreciation of the aerospace industry.

    (Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)

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    Pilots Prepare Special Charters To Chase The Great American Eclipse

    ATLANTA — Pilots will team up with eclipse chasers in August for special flights above the clouds as a rare solar eclipse blazes a trail across the United States from the Pacific waters to the Atlantic coastline.

    The eclipse’s line of totality on August 21 will be visible beginning over Oregon’s coast and continuing in a diagonal 73 mile-wide path to the South Carolina coast during a 93 minute period. It is along this route which has photographers and astronomers eager to board a special eclipse flight.

    Private pilots have already begun preparing detailed flight plan as they prepare to go up with an astronomer or photographer to capture the sights as our moon passes directly before the Sun. This will be the first solar eclipse exclusive to the majority of the United States in 99 years, and millions are preparing to document the event high above the dust and possible clouds for a unique view.

    “A full eclipse is a rare event, and I hope to get a rare view of it from a small plane,” said Andrew Kalat, a private pilot and aviation photographer from Atlanta. “Flying two miles above the surface will hopefully give me a very interesting view of the moon’s shadow as it moves across the earth.”

    Andy’s flight plan will provide him with only three or four minutes of eclipse totality as he soars southeast over the last 55 miles of Tennessee. He adds that his Cessna is not a stable platform for direct photography of the eclipse, and will instead capture the sights of the celestial event using multiple camera in a unique way.

    “I look forward to very quickly flying from day to night and back to day again,” Kalat explained. “To capture and share this, I plan to video with an aircraft mounted GoPro, and capture still images with a digital SLR. I’m going to focus more on capturing interesting images of the ground during the eclipse.”

    He is not alone. Many pilots are working with airports along the path of totality to prepare their own flight plans for special charters in what maybe a busy, narrow path — including one commercial airliner.

    Of the major commercial airlines, Alaska Airlines has announced they will fly a private charter of invited guests and VIP’s off the Oregon coastline providing the first views of the eclipse from an altitude of seven miles.  Alaska has organized trips like this in the past too.

    “As an airline, we are in a unique position to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for astronomy enthusiasts,” Alaska Airlines vice president of marketing Sangita Woerner states. “Flying high above the Pacific Ocean will not only provide one of the first views, but also one of the best.”

    In addition to flying during the eclipse, many eclipse chasers will charter private aircraft to fly into airfields along the arc of totality. A few pilots confirmed to Avgeekery that if the weather is overcast, they can quickly take-off and relocate to an airfield with clearer visability.

    (Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)

  • , ,

    Smithsonian’s ‘Art of the Airport Tower’ Captures their Unique Architectural Designs

    ATLANTA — Poised over looking the runways of the world’s airports — both large and small — the air traffic control tower is a beacon calling forth aviators to their destination and they provide an informative send-off.

    Often under appreciated by the general public, a new traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has captured the most unusual and fascinating designs of the world’s air traffic control towers.

    Composed of 85 stark photographs, Smithsonian Museum photographer Carolyn J. Russo’s beautiful hard cover book, Art of the Airport Tower (Smithsonian Press 2015), is now a striking exhibition capturing the architectural beauty of many of the airport towers across the globe.

    Fifty of the book’s artistic images and informative captions have been lifted from its pages and placed on display. The exhibit is a treat and the coffee table book is a must-have for the aviation geek.

    In the midst of a nationwide tour, the Tellus Science Museum near Atlanta is currently hosting the exhibit until September 17. The Smithsonian affiliate is home to many aviation and space flown hardware.

    “This is a fascinating exhibit – it combines photography, architecture, and aviation in unexpected ways,” Tellus Science Museum Executive Director Jose Santamaria said on Sunday. “It is very unique and the images are stunning.”

    As one focuses on Carolyn Russo’s photographs, the subject of her work becomes very intriguing to the viewer as the architectural design stands out from a close range. Russo spent nearly seven years touring the planet, visiting 23 countries and photographing the designs of control towers of nearly 100 airports.

    “Airport traffic control towers have a powerful presence — they watch over the vastness of the airport and sky, are a nonjudgmental cultural greeter, a choreographer or conductor of the aircraft dance, a mother bird caring for her flock and an omniscient, intelligent structure keeping humans safe,” Russo points out as she gazed across her work. “I saw them as the unsung heroes of the airport landscape and tried to elevate them beyond their height and amazing architecture.”

    The control tower located at Edwards, AFB in the California desert is famous for pioneering military aviation; and assisting NASA in the landing of the space shuttle orbiters. Today, KEDW control tower rises above the dry lakebed supporting a well trained staff overseeing the air navigation of around 40 different types of airframes at any given time.

    The aerodynamic architecture of Edward’s white tower leads the exhibit as guests arrive.

    “I’m trying to pick up a vibe from the tower and looking for an aspect of it to show its best trait,” Russo explained as we stood focused on one of her photographs. “It’s kind of like making a portrait, your looking for a component that defines the structure.”

    Many of the towers she visited required special provisions by the country’s government or by airport officials. “For instance, with the JFK tower, for me to be on that airport property I had to have an insurance certificate of $10 million,” she said. “And with that experience they were some of the first towers I photographed.”

    At the Stockholm Arlanda airport in Sweden, Russo photographed its control tower from directly below providing an dynamic, three dimensional visual not seen as you travel past on the taxi way. The air traffic control at ESSA supports over 80 airlines flying in and out of Scandinavia’s busiest airport. The photograph is a favorite on the tour.

    “Carolyn sees things that other people don’t see,” said U.S. and world aerobatic champion pilot Patty Wagstaff on Sunday. “Her eye for detail is amazing, and she’s able to take something beautiful but big — like an airplane or a control tower — and focus in on the details that give the piece character.”

    The two have known each other for over 20 years, and Russo refers to Wagstaff as her dear friend. “She has a really unique viewpoint, and it’s this that makes her one of the great modern photographers,” Wagstaff added.

    Russo loves each of her photographs and will not select a favorite; however she does have a favorite back story from her travels, “The best one was when I was photographing the Jakarta (Indonesia) tower, that was a very quick trip, and when I arrived they did not know what to think of me,” she recalled. “They said we need to look at every one of your images before you leave here to make sure I wasn’t up to some tricks.”

    Russo adds that during her visit, Jakarta’s officials went from, “what do you see in our tower” to being very supportive of her after seeing a few of her own views of their control tower. “They felt very proud to be apart of this project.”

    Art of the Airport Tower will travel next to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, opening on October 9 and remaining on display until December 29.

    (Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)