February 06, 2004

Did You Know About This?

i just checked out CW's blog, nosuchblog. He has a post about a disturbing occurrance that i hadn't heard about before. A Boeing 727 disappeared last year and no one knows where it is.

When last seen, the 727 was being taxied to the runway without clearance by a known airplane "repo man" from Miami named Ben Padilla.
Padilla? Shit, i hope it's no relation to the other . . .

Whew, apparently not.

There are actually a lot of jetliners out there being operated "on a shoestring" by various fly-by-night charter operators . . . . Occasionally the charter operators default on the lease, and the owners will send an airplane repo man to get the jet back.

. . .

But what makes this case unusual is the 727 never showed up anywhere in the world. Despite a concentrated search by the world's security services, there hasn't been a trace of the missing airplane since it took off from Luanda. What makes this case more interesting is the economics of old 727s. They generally aren't worth much. The cost of stealing one, flying it around the world, repainting, and refitting it is generally more than it is worth. You'd be better served to simply buy a nicer one close to where you are.

That's what makes me suspicious. i'm not generally a conspiracy nut, but a stolen jetliner sure would help a terrorist get around the flight 93 problem. Apparently, before this plane was taken, it had been refitted to hold extra fuel.
A big suspicion, because of the extra internal fuel, was that terrorists had procured the aircraft to use in a Sept 11-style attack. This is why just about everyone in the world was looking for this plane.
Be on the lookout, they haven't found it yet.

Update: At Freedom of Thought, Claudia posted this e-mail, supposedly from Mr. Padilla's brother, and this update back in August.

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February 05, 2004

GWB's Airplane

Without entering the fray on the AWOL controversy, (You probably can guess where i come down on that one, anyway.) i wanted to shed some light on the plane George W. Bush learned to fly back in the day. Kind of a bookend to my famous post on his father’s plane (and this gives me an excuse to recycle that link yet again).

Truth be told, the F-102A was almost obsolete by the time George W. Bush began flying them. But in it’s day, Convair’s Delta Dagger was pretty badass. It was billed as the first supersonic all weather fighter. It first flew in 1955 and began operational service about two years after the Korean armistice. Nine hundred and seventy-five were built by the Convair division of General Dynamics between 1955 and 1960. It was used sparingly in Vietnam. Later, some planes were sold to The Greek and Turkish air forces, and it flew during the Cyprus conflict of 1974.

It was big. If i’m not mistaken, i think it was the biggest fighter we’ve ever had. At over 68 feet long, it was almost six feet longer than the F-4E Phantom, which was no midget itself. But with only one engine, the Delta Dagger weighed half as much as an F-4.

f-102.jpg

The weight difference makes sense when you consider the mission of the F-102A. It’s kind of misleading to call it a fighter, because that’s a term that encompasses a wide variety of planes that were designed to do vastly different things. It’s more accurate to call the Delta Dagger an interceptor.

To understand the job of an interceptor, as opposed to a pure air superiority fighter, you have to remember what we were afraid of back in the Fifties and early Sixties. These were the early years of the Cold War, before intercontinental ballistic missiles. If a nuclear war happened, it would have been fought by long range bombers penetrating the enemy’s homeland to drop bombs just like in World War II.

To defend against these long range bombers, the superpowers relied on early warning radar to detect an attack and interceptors to stop it. The idea was to shoot down the bombers as far away from the homeland as possible. Early warning radars needed to detect the bombers while they were still far enough away for the defending interceptors to take off and get within range.

Thus, speed was the one overwhelming requirement for a true interceptor. Maneuverability was not so important. These planes were like dragsters, not formula one cars. They needed to get within range of the bombers fast, so they could shoot them down before the bombers crossed into homeland territory or got near their targets. The Delta Dagger had no guns; interceptors weren’t intended for dogfighting.

We had the Delta Dagger, and it’s unbelievably fast successor, Convair’s F-106 Delta Dart. The Russians came up with the Yakovlev Yak-28 and the huge Tupolev Tu-28 Fiddler. Perhaps since it was the first of its kind, Bush’s Dagger was relatively slow compared to the Delta Dart and the Russian Fiddler. The Dagger’s top speed was only 825 mph, while the Dart went 1,587 mph.

The strategy was for interceptor units to be ready to scramble on a moment’s notice, in the event of a nuclear attack. They would race towards the incoming bombers and fire air-to-air missiles as soon as they came into missile range. i would guess that the range of an interceptor was important, but then the range of the air to air missiles would be added to the aircraft range.

i don't want to sound like i’m minimizing the contributions of the brave pilots who flew the F-102A. Those men stood guard so my parents could sleep at night during a very dangerous period of the Cold War. Still, flying the F-102 was not the same as flying a Phantom over Vietnam. Interceptor pilots sort of pointed their plane in the right direction and stomped on the gas pedal. The radar automatically guided the plane into attack position and fired the missiles.

Thankfully, we never discovered whether interceptors would have been enough to stop a nuclear bomber attack. There was a period of time when military planners thought that the wave of the future would be faster and faster bombers. But that ended in the early 1970s when strategic planning had abandoned the idea of nuclear bombers penetrating enemy territory. The new method of nuclear war relied on inter-continental ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and submarine launched missiles. Obviously the interceptor was no defense against these newer strategic weapons. The nuclear missile made the long range bomber obsolete. And when the bomber was no longer needed, the interceptors became extinct too.

Although the Delta Dagger remained in service until 1974, the U.S. Air Force began moving its interceptors to National Guard units at the end of the sixties. So by the time George W. Bush graduated from his T-33A trainer into an F-102A at Ellington AFB, his unit’s mission had already begun the transition from air defense on 24 hour alert status to pilot training.

It’s a tricky thing to try to place a value on one individual’s service in the Armed Forces. Who am i to judge? i have a friend who has the seemingly cushy task of serving on the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman as an administrative clerk. Besides the fact that she’s sitting in a gigantic floating target, she’s doing a hell of a lot more to serve her country than i am doing, even if her duties are somewhat mundane. i would never denigrate her service, because she volunteered and every person in the military is there to protect me.

Obviously, flying an obsolete plane in a training squadron is different than driving a boat in the Mekong Delta. Still, they also serve who only stand and wait. Bush had the misfortune (or good fortune, depending on your perspective) of being born a few years too late for his chosen mission. We shouldn’t hold it against him that he became an interceptor pilot at a time when that mission was winding down for reasons he probably was not aware of when he joined. If he had served in the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group a few years earlier, he would have been on the front lines of the Cold War, a far more important and potentially dangerous war than Kerry’s Vietnam. i don’t think that lessens the value of his service to our country one bit.

Bonus trivia question: What is the plane in the picture doing?

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February 01, 2004

Supermarine Spitfire

You gotta see this video of a Supermarine Spitfire in flight. It's hilarious.

"Fuck me!" LOL.

Just watch it.

Thanks for the link Matt. It's best viewed on a high speed connection. But if, like me, you are on dial up, just click the link to save it (right click: select target as . . .), then after it's downloaded it should run in the Windows Media Player without all those annoying pauses.

Posted by: annika at 11:03 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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