Friday, May 3, 2013




First successful flight of the Wright Flyer, by the Wright brothers. The machine traveled 120 ft (36.6 m) in 12 seconds at 10:35 a.m. at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville Wright was at the controls of the machine, lying prone on the lower wing with his hips in the cradle which operated the wing-warping mechanism. Wilbur Wright ran alongside to balance the machine, and just released his hold on the forward upright of the right wing in the photo. The starting rail, the wing-rest, a coil box, and other items needed for flight preparation are visible behind the machine. This is described as "the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air, powered flight" by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, but is not listed by the FAI as an official record.

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by Felicity Blaze Noodleman

Since serving in the USAF, I was exposed to the history of flight and the military aircraft that was in service in the 1970’s and the newer design which were coming along for the future.  The inspiration for this article comes from those days and the exposure to the world’s fastest and most advanced aircraft to ever fly off the drawing board and around the world!

History was made in 1903 in the remote location of North Carolina by two brothers from Dayton, OH.  There was no fan fare – no crowds and reporters.  Their craft had no colorful name inspiring flights of fancy for the imagination – it was just the Wright brothers testing their latest design and hoping it would fly.  There was no contest, no grand prize – only the satisfaction of being the first – being successful at something which men had dreamed about since before recorded history.  Illustration submitted by Roger Storm, teacher and Chairman of the Chemistry Department at Fairview Park High School, Fairview Park, Ohio  displays improvements to the Wright design.

The design for the Wright Bros. aircraft had been around for some time and was not a completely new innovation.  Many had tried with no success to put the wooden frame covered with canvas aloft.  The Wright brothers added the final and essential components for this design together in their Dayton Ohio machine shop and selected the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina as their testing grounds.

Over 1,500 Trans Atlantic flights took place before the out break of WWI  temporarily suspended their services. Their heyday was during the 1930s when the airships LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin and LZ 129 Hindenburg, depicted here over New York City, operated regular transatlantic flights from Germany to North America and Brazil. The Art Deco spire of the Empire State Building was originally designed to serve as a dirigible terminal for Zeppelins and other airships to dock.

Prior to this time flight was achieved by hot air balloons beginning in France during 1873 and advancing through today using hydrogen gas to replace the hot air.  The first commercial airliners were developed during 1910 by the German Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG) company.  These Zeppelins had carried an estimated 34,000 passengers by 1914.  Zeppelins or Blimps as they are more commonly referred to today still have some applications.

Many films have been made with aviation as the central theme, but no one single Motion Picture  chronicles the history of Aircraft development and the history of flight.   There are however a few titles I would recommend.  First is “The Great Waldo Pepper” (1975), “The Aviator” (1985 and 2004) and finally “The Right Stuff” (1983).  Between these three motion pictures the viewer will be exposed to the feel and spirit of flight as Aviation unfolded throughout the decades of the Twentieth Century.   

Major developments in aviation and the history of flight are restricted to only a few categories followed by a string of improvements and applications were developed.  These developments can be described simply as the “Bi-Plane” (double wing Air Planes - 1903), the “Mono Plane (single wing Air Planes – of the late 1930’s) and the introduction of the Jet Engine in 1939 by the Germans during the second World War, Stealth Technology (1981), and finally - Un Maned Drones (1951 ?).  Everything in between has been a steady development in these concepts.

All of the above mentioned concepts had been around for some time until practical applications could be developed making them viable under the virtual conditions which these machines would have to function under.


Aviation since 1903 has been a steady succession of improvements to the Wright brothers design.  Looking back on the original Wright Aircraft, the design seemed to be a little backwards with its engine in the back, a low fulcrum, and a front end which was pitched downward and high tail.  There was no enclosed fuselage and so forth but the important thing was that it did fly.  These design flaws would soon be corrected. 

Each innovation led to other improvements.  Technology and imagination led the way for new designs and better aircraft.  Unlike other industries, aviation in the beginning had difficulty supporting itself.  It would be some time before the commercial and military applications for the newly born airplane would be recognized.  Even after the conclusion of the First World War, the virginianing Aircraft industry would have to support itself  by the “boot straps” drumming up publicity through “Barn Storming” and exhibitions across the nation.

There were no industries, which could profit with from the early aircraft designs of the Biplanes and support the development of flight.  Development was expensive and did not lend itself to many commercial ventures and mass production such as the automobile and many other inventions of the early Twentieth Century.  It was truly the time of the “Dare Devil” and any work the pilot could dream up for themselves would finance the new improvements needed to make the industry viable.

During the First World War the European countries of England, France and Germany took the lead in Aircraft design.  The United States tried to remain neutral in the conflict but entered near the end of the War.  By this time American aircraft design was lagging behind.


 This slide shows the parts of the Wright brothers' 1903 airplane and their functions. The various parts of the aircraft were designed and perfected over four years of wind tunnel, kite, and glider flight testing, leading to the first self powered, heavier than air, man controlled flight in December of 1903.

This is the fifth plane built by Leonardville native Albin K. Longren, flown by him for one year and then sold to Philip Billard, a Topeka native who was killed in France while testing planes for the Allies in World War I.  Notice the larger engin and the addition of wheels.

The most reliable airplane in the British Royal Flying Corps in 1914 was the B.E. 2, affectionately called "The Quirk" because it was stubbornly unmaneuverable. Manufactured by the Royal Aircraft Factory, it used an RAF 8-cylinder, in-line, 90hp engine. It could lift 2100 pounds of plane, a crew of two and 224 pounds of anti-personnel bombs to a ceiling of 10,000 feet and a range of two hundred miles at a maximum sea-level speed of 72mph. Armed with only one machine gun, the crew were very vulnerable. Nevertheless, this machine carried most of the burden of photographing German trenches for the first two years of the war.

Eddi Herzog and Bennie Thrash, two “wing walkers” performing over Fresno, California, 1923

Color Autochrome Lumière of a Nieuport Fighter in Aisne, France 1917.  This Bi-plane supported a newer and rounded engine configuration which would come to dominate aircraft until the introduction of the jet engine.

Almost 100 years ago, on January 1, 1914, a small plane lifted from the water in St. Petersburg’s downtown with just one passenger, launching the world’s first regularly scheduled commercial airline flight.  The idea of the airline was Percy Fansler’s.  Percy was an engineer from Jacksonville, Florida. His vision convinced a dozen St. Petersburg business men and the Board of Trade to invest in a commercial airline to fly from St. Petersburg to Tampa, just ten years after the Wright brothers’ first flight. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line was born. 


As always, “necessity is the mother of invention”.  During the Second World War the United States found itself in a game of catch-up with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  US aircraft industries now had a substantial customer with the US Military granting contracts for a number of different aircraft.

As all-metal construction and the cantilever wing (both having been pioneered by Hugo Junkers in 1915) became common during the post-WW I period the day of the biplane passed, and by the 1930s the monoplane was fast becoming the usual configuration for a fixed-wing aircraft. Most military aircraft of WW II were monoplanes, as have been virtually all aircraft since, with biplanes relegated to specialized applications.

 Howard DGA-6  monoplane, monoplanes, high wing, race number 40, Mr. Mulligan, racer, racers, vintage, NR273Y. The Howard Aircraft Corporation DGA-15 was a single-engine civil aircraft produced in the USA from 1939 to 1944.

1927 – “The Spirit of St. Louis” was a sucessful mono plane design.  Piloted by Charles Lindbergh he left Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, and Paris, France, in 33 hours, 30 minutes. With this flight, Lindbergh won the $25,000 prize offered by New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig to the first aviator to fly an aircraft directly across the Atlantic between New York and Paris.

TWA Douglas DC-3 in 1940. The DC-3, often regarded as one of the most influential aircraft in the history of commercial aviation, revolutionized the aviation industry.

The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was a carrier-capable fighter aircraft that saw service primarily in World War II and the Korean War. Demand for the aircraft soon overwhelmed Vought's manufacturing capability, resulting in production by Goodyear and Brewster: Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured by Vought, in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history (1942–1953).
Nicknames included "Hog", "Bent-Wing Bird", and "Hose-Nose".
The Corsair served in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, as well as the French Navy Aéronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s. It quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War II, and the U.S. Navy counted an 11:1 kill ratio with the F4U Corsair. As well as being an outstanding fighter, the Corsair proved to be an excellent fighter-bomber, serving almost exclusively in the latter role throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria.


The German Heinkel “HE 178 – V1” prototype jet aircraft built by Ernst Heinkel Aricraft Industries in 1939 during WWII Nazi Germany. Dr. Frank Whittle of England patented the first turbojet engine, the Whittle W1, in 1930. Its first flight occurred in a Gloster E28/39 aircraft in 1941.

First flown in 1942, the Bell XP-59 (Pictured here on static display) was the first American jet-powered aircraft.

The North American X-15 was a rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft. The X-15 set speed and altitude records in the early 1960s, reaching the edge of outer space and returning with valuable data used in aircraft and spacecraft design. As of 2013, the X-15 holds the official world record for the fastest speed ever reached by a manned aircraft. Its maximum speed was 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h)

 The Boing 707 VC-137B/C Stratoliner is a modified version of the Boeing 707 commercial intercontinental airliner that, for many years, was the presidential aircraft. The VC-137B/C body is identical to that of the Boeing 707, but has different interior furnishings and electronic equipment. In 1962, the first jet aircraft to be specifically purchased for use as "Air Force One," a VC-137B, entered service with the tail number 26000. It is perhaps the most widely known and has the most historical significance of the presidential aircraft. Tail number 26000 is the aircraft that carried President John F. Kennedy to Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963, and in which his body was returned to Washington, D.C., following his assassination. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office as the 36th president of the United States on board 26000 at Love Field in Dallas. This fateful aircraft also was used to return President Johnson's body to Texas following his state funeral on Jan. 24, 1973. In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon made historic visits aboard 26000 to the People's Republic of China in February and to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in May.

American Airlines will configure the 777-300ER with three passenger classes, giving it seating capacity for up to 386 passengers. The jet also is equipped with Wi-Fi and “lie flat” seats in first class and business class.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes


Boeing 747 Lifts Endeavour Space Shuttle Aircraft

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- A KC-135R Stratotanker, 168th Air Refueling Wing, Alaska Air National Guard, refuels two F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 18th Fighter Squadron over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex May 29, 2007. The three aircraft assigned to Eielson flew in formation for the last time due to the deactivation of the 355th FS, and the 18th FS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Rob Wieland)


The last thing you’d expect to hear from anyone who’s flown recently is that planes are too quiet. But that’s exactly what Airbus is hearing from pilots who say the A380 super-jumbo makes so little noise they’re having trouble getting to sleep.

View from the rear cockpit of a Hawk T1 as fellow instructors from the Empire Test Pilots' School break away in jet training aircraft


 The Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft. It was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by Lockheed and its Skunk Works division. Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was responsible for many of the design's innovative concepts. During reconnaissance missions the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If a surface-to-air missile launch was detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and outfly the missile.

The "Black Bird" has been retired from service and then re instated and still holds many firsts in the world of records.  Many details of this aircraft remain classified.

The Air Force’s new stealth bomber might do more than just drop bombs, top generals said in recent days. The so-called “Long-Range Strike” plane — likely to be designated B-3 — could also carry bunker-busting, rocket-boosted munitions, high-powered lasers for self-defense and datalinks, and consoles for controlling radar-evading drones.

How do you hide an airplane behind a bird? Very skillfully. Lt. Col. William B. O'Connor (ret.) flew the F-117 Nighthawk during the Bosnia Conflict, and in Stealth Fighter, he explains the history, operation, and soul America's most advanced stealth jet.


It's very difficult to put a date on this technology because the concept isself grew out of the model airplane hobby crafts and the prototype builders for full size aircraft companies.  Radio controlled innovations developed and were refined bringing about the drones which have been developed as defense weapons of today.

A group photo of aerial demonstrators at the 2005 Naval Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Air Demo.

Amazing Unmanned Aircraft Credit: NASADrones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are used by the military in a number of ways, including missile testing, air strikes, aerial refueling, surveillance, transporting cargo, live-fire exercises and even long-range bombing. The U.S. military began experimenting with unmanned aircrafts as early as World War I, but they were called remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) at the time. Today, UAVs are used by various organizations, including the U.S. Air Force, Navy and the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The focus of this article, at best, has only been able to touch on the highlights of aviation as it has grown and diversified for more than 100 years.  From the tree tops to outer space exploration we have been able to fly higher than Eagles in our quest for flight.  Headlines and firsts are still being made even in our day and age!  I'm felicity Blaze Noodleman for the Noodleman Group.

Fusion Rockets: 30 Days to Mars?

A concept image of a spacecraft powered by a fusion-driven rocket. In this image, the crew would be in the forward-most chamber. Solar panels on the sides would collect energy to initiate the process that creates fusion – University of Washington, MSNW

The trouble with space travel is that it takes a long time and a lot of fuel to accomplish it. The reason is that space, to quote Douglas Adams, is big. Very big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. So traveling anywhere quickly isn’t exactly easy. If you find long haul flights difficult, a month-long trip to Mars is probably not for you. At least, not yet.

One exciting idea of how to accomplish speedy space travel is by using fusion powered rockets. As well as sounding, frankly, really cool, a fusion rocket could generate such a prodigious amount of power that it may well be possible to take a round trip to Mars lasting just 30 days!

The rockets we’re all familiar with are powered by chemistry. Mixtures of chemicals — hydrogen and oxygen, for instance — are ignited in a rocket engine, to release energy. That energy produces thrust and powers rockets up through the atmosphere and into space. The trouble is that chemical rockets are heavy.
No matter how much energy is stored in your rocket fuel, ready to be released on ignition, you still need to carry a lot of it. There was a reason why the Saturn V rockets used by NASA to transport astronauts to the moon were the largest ever used. They needed a huge amount of fuel. In fact, no single rocket used since is actually powerful enough to propel a repeat of the Apollo missions, because they simply aren’t powerful enough.

Needless to say, this isn’t particularly efficient. Enter the fusion rocket! Currently being developed by researchers at the University of Washington and space propulsion company MSNW, a fusion rocket would be able to do away with the weighty chemical rockets we currently use, replacing it all with small pellets of material containing deuterium and tritium. These are heavier isotopes of hydrogen — the same element but with heavier atomic nuclei.

A fusion engine would superheat these pellets into plasma, then use rings of metal in a powerful magnetic field to crush them together until eventually they achieve high enough pressure to ignite a nuclear fusion reaction. The power generated in this reaction would be used to create a huge amount of thrust. Using up one of these pellets every minute or so a spacecraft would be propelled to high speeds.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t all that different to other forms of spacecraft engine which have been suggested before. The earliest idea was nuclear pulse propulsion which, disconcertingly enough, intended to use a series of small nuclear bombs.

By directing the energy released, it was theorized that a spacecraft could reach huge velocities by riding on top of nuclear explosions. This may sound terrifying — let’s be honest, it is terrifying — but the idea was given serious thought in the late 1950s, with NASA’s Project Orion. The idea never made it to the final stages, being shut down in 1965 after the Partial Test Ban Treaty made rockets powered by nuclear fission illegal.

A similar idea was considered later on, however, in the form of Project Daedalus — a study conducted in the 1970s by the British Interplanetary Society to design an interstellar spacecraft. Led by Alan Bond, the brains behind Skylon, Daedalus was intended to use a huge nuclear fusion powered rocket, instead of the fission propulsion envisioned by Project Orion. The design is still perfectly good, and if Daedalus were to be built, it could probably reach 7 percent of the speed of light. The drawbacks are the fact that it would currently be impossibly expensive to build, and would need technology which doesn’t technically exist yet.
Now though, a workable fusion rocket is actually becoming a reality. Funded by NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, this rocket is obviously on a much smaller scale than the one suggested for Project Daedalus, but it works in a very similar way. It’s also a lot more feasible.

So feasible, in fact, that it’s being tested this year. As of last month, some of the components of the system have already been tested. The researchers developing the rocket have managed to heat deuterium plasma up to the right temperature for fusion, and they’ve managed to create powerful enough magnetic fields to  to the job. Their plans are currently to combine those two technologies to test them properly later this year, and eventually scale them up for use.

For now, it remains to be seen if nuclear fusion can actually be created in this way. Controlled nuclear fusion is still very much a work in progress, technologically speaking. All the same, the fusion rocket shows a lot of promise, and may reduce the cost of space travel too. Maybe if fusion power can be harnessed this way to propel spacecraft, it might make exploration of our solar system a lot more easily within our reach!

Image: Artists concept of a fusion powered spacecraft arriving at Mars. Credit: University of Washington/MSNW.


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