Monthly Archives: August 2013

First “solo” flight!

My instructor had kept saying to me in the previous lessons “one of these days I’ll release you for the first solo flight” (but then in French). Today, August 30th 2013, the time has come.

I arrived today at the aéroclub René Barbaro, in the aerodrome Toulouse-Lasbordes (LFCL), at about 18:15 (16:15 UTC… to keep it #avgeek). When being asked what would be then plan for today, my instructor, Thierry, immediately answered “est-ce que ça te marche si on fait trois tour de piste et aprés je te lâche?.” To that question one can only answer: “oui, bien sûr!“.

Thus, we took the Robin DR-400-120 Petit Prince with matriculation number F-GNNI (Fox(trot) Golf November November India). A mainly wooden French plane which is quite popular in France. The aircraft has a piston engine which delivers 120 HP, cruises at about 200 km/h, has an empty weight of about 600kg (573kg as per the latest rapport de pessée)… you can see it below:

Robin DR-400 F-GNNI.

Robin DR-400 F-GNNI.

As Thierry proposed, we first made 3 tours de piste, that is 3 laps around he aerodrome circuit.

Despite of some comments on the landings, one take-off performed with flaps retracted (see #Jk5022), at the end of the third landing Thierry got off the aircraft, got his walkie-talkie to hear and intervene in the communications if needed (which was not needed) and went to aéroclub office.

Then, I was finally alone in the plane.

Message to the radio (the tower was not working by then, thus I sent a message to other aircraft in the frequency, 122.7): “Toulouse-Lasbordes, DR-400 au parking Airbus, je roule au point d’arrêt piste 34“. I then went through the different check lists, going through each step in a mixture of Spanish and French (I normally proceed with the list in French but then it felt strange to talk to myself in French thus: “giro al sur y la bille va a la derecha, el cap y el compas decrecen…”).

At about 17:35 UTC, I finally pronounced the words “Fox November India, je m’aligne et je decolle, piste 34“, and with that there I went! (I had to align and take off rather quickly as there was another airplane about to announce its entry in finale).

Aerial view of the aerodrome Toulouse-Lasbordes, LFCL (note that today evening the runway in use was the 34, thus, what you see closer is the end of the runway).

Aerial view of the aerodrome Toulouse-Lasbordes, LFCL (note that today evening the runway in use was the 34, thus, what you see closer is the end of the runway).

From then on, an easy flight around the aerodrome that did not take very long but meant a big step for me ensued; a big reassurance. Let’s go through it. Come on board with me…

Take-off: even if I could have taken off at a lower speed, due to the heat and as precaution, I was going to rotate at about 110km/h. Up until then I repeated “the runway is cleared, la vitesse monte, the runway is cleared, all parameters are green…“. I saw some birds flying low and crossing the runway, so I gave myself some seconds before pulling the stick backwards… “je décolle!“.

Climb: immediately after taking off, I had to push the right pedal to compensate the engine effects. During the first phase of the climb I ascended at about 130 km/h (a bit faster as I was alone in the plane) and at 760ft, or 300 pieds sol, I proceeded with the check list après décollage: “volets (flaps) de premier écran à rentrées, pompe électrique off and check that all parameters are still green“. Proceed with the climb now at 150km/h.

Integration in the aerodrome circuit: You can see in the pictures below the aerodrome circuit, both as it appears in the aeronautical chart [PDF, 644KB] and with a satellite image.

Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) carte of the aerodrome (Carte VAC).

Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) carte of the aerodrome (Carte VAC).

View of the "circuite de aérodrome".

View of the “circuite de aérodrome”.

As soon as I had passed the village of Balma I turned East still ascending (following the green line upwards and to the right as per the satellite image). Then, just between Balma and Pin-Balma (blue circles in the satellite image) there is a farm which serves as starting point for the aerodrome circuit.

There, I announced myself again: “Fox(trot) November India au début de vent arrière piste 34“. I then reduced the gas from 2,500rpm to 2,000rpm, switched on the electric pump, the carburetor heating and deployed the flaps to the first position (10º)… with those settings the speed should come to 150km/h. I then noticed that while performing these actions I had gained some 200ft (above the 2,000ft of the circuit), which I proceeded to lose quickly and, once corrected, I trimmed the aircraft for 150km/h at 2,000ft QNH.

When I spotted the Château de Pechestier (see carte VAC above), I turned right following the ligne à haute tenstion, reduced the power from 2,000rpm to 1,500rpm (keeping the speed at 150km/h) while losing altitude from 2,000ft to about 1,100ft when over flying the commercial centre at the turn between the sectors étape de basse and finale.

Final approach: “Fox(trot) November India en finale pour un complet“. I then deployed the flaps to the landing configuration (60º) and fixed my sight on the number 34: “vitesse (> 120km/h) – le plan (3.5%) – vitesse – l’axe – …“.

Landing: I believe that one has been the best landing I have performed so far. I guess I was so concentrated that I definitely did my best… I slowed down, exited the runway, “Fox(trot) November India la piste est dégagée, je roule au parking et quite la radio“. I then proceeded with the different check lists, went to the parking of the aeroclub, turned off the airplane… and that was it!

Thierry: “Well, How does it feel the first solo flight?”… the first solo flight.

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The Museum of Flight (Seattle)

The Museum of Flight, in Seattle, is yet another great aerospace museum. It reminded me very much to the National Air and Space Museum in DC both because of the wealth of aircraft and artifacts in display and the variety of explanations provided (videos, sounds, readings, gadgets to play with…).

The museum is divided in the following areas:

  • Boeing Model 1.

    Boeing Model 1.

    T. A. Wilson Great Gallery (named after Boeing CEO from 1969-1986): this is the first gallery you face when you enter the museum. It hosts:

    • a replica of Boeing Model 1 (first Boeing airplane),
    • a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird plus a cockpit for visitors to enter in it,
    • a 737 converted into a theater with movies being played inside,
    • an exhibition of the bush pilots of Alaska and the development of air mail,
    • some flight simulators,
    • a DC-3, a Bell “Huey” UH-1H Iroquois, etc.
  • Bill & Moya Lear Gallery (Space Exhibit, named after the founder of Lear Jet Corporation): located at the side of the Great Gallery it has a diorama of the Apollo 17 landing site, with rover included, a replica of the International Space Station Destiny Research Laboratory, etc.
  • The Tower: with direct view over the runway.
  • William E. Boeing Red Barn (named after Boeing founder): in my point of view this is “the” highlight of the museum (allow yourself over an hour for this part alone). It explains both:
    • the birth of aviation: with models and panels explaining the contributions of many of the aviation pioneers (see this blog post in which I went through some of them), and,
    • the history of Boeing: from the moment in which the timber businessman, Bill Boeing founds the company, the first Boeing Model 1 (see replica in the picture above), the tools, materials and processes used at the time, how did the factory look, the great aircraft programmes which meant different breakthroughs for the company and the great engineers behind them…
  • Charles Simonyi Space Gallery (named after the Microsoft executive who became in 2007 the 5th space tourist and who in 2009 travelled to the International Space Station): which highlight is the Space Shuttle Trainer used to train Space Shuttle astronauts at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
  • Airpark: with the Boeing 747 “City of Everett” (first ever 747, first ever wide-body aircraft), a Boeing 707 Air Force One, a Concorde, a Lockheed Constellation…
  • J. Elroy McCaw WWI and WWII galleries (named after a broadcasting magnate): unfortunately I did not have time to properly visit these galleries before the closing of the museum… a reason to come back again.

See some of the pictures I took at the museum:

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I definitely recommend to visit this museum if you happen to be in Seattle. It is located in the South of Seattle at Boeing Field / King County airport. I would suggest to take no less than 5 hours to visit the museum and to arrive before noon, otherwise there will be some parts that you will not be able to visit properly (as it happened to me with the WWI and WWII galleries).

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B-36 Peacemaker

In a previous post about the Pima Air & Space Museum, I mentioned that I viewed the (Consolidated) Convair B-36 Peacemaker bomber as one of the highlights of the museum.

The B-36 was a strategic bomber which operated at the beginning of the cold war. The design of the aircraft started prior to the entry of USA in the WWII. The US Army Air Corps was seeking a bomber with an un-refueled intercontinental range, that is, that could fly from the US East Coast to Europe, drop bombs and fly back to the USA without being refueled. That mission was out of the range of the bombers being used at the time, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator.

A bit less than 400 aircraft were built and it was retired from service at the beginning of the 1950s, when the B-47 and B-52 started to take over its role.

XB-36 prototype with single-tyre landing gear legs (and without jet engines).

The development of the aircraft showed some pitfalls that are curious to reflect on. For example, initially the main landing gear consisted of two legs with a single (huge) tyre each (see picture in the right). That caused significant pressure to be stood by the runway resulting in it being able to operate only from 3 runways in the USA (!). In the pictures below you can see that the series production has 4 wheels per leg.

Another interesting point is that of the engines. The B-36 initially had six 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-4360 “Wasp Major” radial engines (see the internal movement of a piston radial engine in this post, with a video taken at National Air and Space Museum in Dulles, DC). Each engine drove a three-bladed propeller, 5.8m of diameter (for comparison, A400M propellers have a 5.3m diameter), mounted in the pusher configuration. This configuration led to some engine fires due to engine-overheating. The aircraft also was very slow in taking off and thus from the version B-36D Convair added 4 General Electric J47-19 jet engines, two in each outer part of the wings. This improved take-off performance, however in normal cruise, to reduce fuel consumption the jet engines were shut off, and some louvers covered the air intakes to reduce drag (see pictures below). This made the B-36 have in the end 10 (!) engines: 6 piston engines and 4 jet engines (“six turnin’ and four burnin’ “, as described by Airmen Magazine, the official US Air Force magazine).

See some of the pictures of the Convair B-36 Peacemaker that I took at Pima in the slide show below:

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To put things into perspective, some of the technical specifications:

  • Length: 49.42m >> A380 length is 72.73m (much longer)
  • Wingspan: 70.12m >> A380 wingspan is 79.75m (~)
  • Wing area: 443.5m2 >> A380 wing area is 845m2 (almost 2x)
  • Empty Weight: 75,530kg >> A400M empty weight is 76,500kg (~)
  • Maximum Take Off Weight: 186,000kg >> A400M MTOW is 141,000kg (lower)
  • Combat radius: 3,465nm >> B-52 combat radius is 3,890nm, or 787 range of ~8,000nm (note radius vs. range) (~)
  • Armament: 39,000kg of bombs >> B-52 carries ~31,500kg of bombs (lower)

Finally, you may see below the first part of a 30-minute documentary about the B-36, the requirement behind it, its prototypes, development, etc.:

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Confidence in institutions: UK vs. Spain

Evaluation of institutions, entities and social groups (source: Metroscopia for El País, 25/08/2013).

The Spanish newspaper El País published yesterday a survey it had commanded to Metroscopia about the confidence that Spanish people had in different institutions (see the complete article, in Spanish, “Por qué no se hunde España“). See a summary of the results in the graphic to the right.

Following an exercise during a training module last year, I published a post discussing a similar survey which is yearly made in Britain by the consultancy Ipsos Mori, the Veracity Index (see in the link results from 1983 to 2011).

I thought that it could be interesting to show the results of both surveys side by side to try to spot some commonalities and some differences of how the different groups and institutions are perceived in Britain and in Spain. I did the comparison even if the questions used for the survey are not exactly the same in both cases and if one survey dates from 2011 and the other from 2013. See the comparison in the picture below.

Another difference is that the Spanish survey is including up to 36 different groups versus 16 being evaluated in the UK, but this is not impacting the comparison as each group is rated individually.

Let’s see the similarities:

  • 4 institutions / groups are very well-regarded in both countries, with a rating over 70% in both cases: doctors, teachers, professors and scientists.
  • 4 institutions / groups are very badly regarded in both countries, with a rating of around 30% or lower in both cases: unions, business leaders, government and politicians.

The biggest differences:

  • 3 groups are much better perceived in Spain than in the UK: the police, civil servants and journalists.
  • 2 groups are much worse perceived in Spain than in the UK: judges and clergyman/priests (especially bishops).
Comparison of confidence polls in Britain (2011) and in Spain (2013) (sources: Ipsos and Metroscopia for El País).

Comparison of confidence polls in Britain (2011) and in Spain (2013) (sources: Ipsos and Metroscopia for El País).

How would you rate these groups? (my rating is published in the post from some months ago)

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Lowell Observatory

I believe that the first time I heard about Percival Lowell was reading the book “Marte y Vida, ciencia y ficción” (in Spanish; by Bartolomé Luque Serrano and Álvaro Marquéz González, the former being a teacher I had while at the university – “Mars and Life, science and fiction”). The reference to Lowell in the book was due to his drawings of the canals of Mars which promoted the idea of intelligent life in the planet. Thus, I mistakenly did not take the person very seriously at first.

Percival Lowell observing through Alvan Clark telescope at Lowell Observatory (public domain image).

Percival Lowell descended from a wealthy family from Boston (1), graduated from Harvard and dedicated a great part of his life to astronomy. Lowell founded the Lowell Observatory in 1894 in the city of Flagstaff (AZ). He made several observations of Mars, Venus, searched for Planet X and set out the non-profit which operates the observatory till today.

Even if not by Lowell, Pluto was discovered in his observatory in 1930 by  Clyde Tombaugh near the location expected for Planet X. The name and monogram for Pluto are partly a recognition to Lowell.

Today the observatory counts with several telescopes in different locations and employs about 20 full-time researches (PhD students included). It can be visited daily (12$ / adult) and with the visit some guided tours performed by the researchers are included. I definitely recommend the visit to the observatory for the science and history behind it.

The picture above is quite famous and shows Lowell in the Alvan Clark telescope located at Mars Hill. This telescope is part of the visit. There you will be able to see that chair, the wheels moving the dome, etc. The staff of the museum will operate some of the systems to move the telescope for the delight of the visitors. See some pictures below:

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Observing the sun.

Observing the sun.

During our visit it was possible to observe the sun through a telescope (see picture at the right) during the day and more observations were to be organized during the evening. Thus, even if we did not do it like that I recommend planning the visit to the museum in the afternoon or at least staying over at Flagstaff the day you visit the museum (you can leave the museum and return in the evening with the same ticket for the observations).

Comparing pictures to detect planets (at Rotunda Museum).

Comparing pictures to detect planets (at Rotunda Museum).

The tour we joined ended up with a visit to the Rotunda Museum (within the Observatory) where we were given more explanations and we were shown artifacts from Lowell’s time.

There is an area in the museum used for temporary exhibitions, which in the days we visited it was dedicated to the evolution of space suits used by astronauts.

Finally, we found it funny this humourous touch we found at the museum: at the time of asking for support for the observatory, 4 different boxes are presented to the visitor enabling her to vote with the wallet on “What should Pluto be called?” (2):

IMG_2764

I do recommend the visit to the museum whenever you happen to be in Flagstaff (good stop over when visiting the Grand Canyon).

***

(1) As per the “Boston Toast” by Harvard alumnus John Collins Bossidy:

“And this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God.”

(2) Recall that in 2006 the International Astronomical Union established some conditions for an object to be considered a “planet” and Pluto failed the test and was “downgraded” to “dwarf planet”.

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Pima Air and Space Museum

Pima is a county in the South of Arizona, where the city of Tucson is located. Tucson is home of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where the US Air Force’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), known as “The Boneyard”, is located. I wrote about the Boneyard in a previous postIn order to visit the Boneyard, you need to visit the Pima Air & Space Museum and that is how I got to know about the museum.

The description of the museum from their website states (the emphasis is mine):

“The Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the largest aviation Museums in the world, and the largest non-government funded aviation Museum in the United States. You’ll see more than 300 aircraft and spacecraft including many of the most historically significant and technically advanced craft ever produced, both from the United States and throughout the world.”

Pimar Air & Space Musem (Tucson, AZ).

Pima Air & Space Museum (Tucson, AZ).

The museum has 6 hangars and one space gallery, plus an impressive exhibit outdoors, which can be visited with a tram or on foot (or both). You can see in the map below the arrangement of the museum:

Pima Air and Space Museum map.

Pima Air and Space Museum map.

Together with the plan the visitor is handed an inventory of the aircraft on exhibit and where are they located (in which hangars):

Pimar Air and Space Museum inventory.

Pima Air and Space Museum inventory.

As you can see from the inventory above, the list of aircraft exhibited at the museum is simply impressive, overwhelming. Add to that, that in this museum you can get as close to the aircraft as you wish.

In the website of the museum you can find brief explanations of each of the aircraft on exhibit (here). This aircraft index can be surfed very handily ordering the aircraft by different criteria. The information about them includes some technical specifications, a brief historical explanation and a picture of the aircraft (I would almost say that it makes up for a visit of the museum). A very good job on the part of the museum curators.

Some of the highlights (in my opinion) of the museum:

Find some pictures I took of some of these aircraft and others in the slide show below:

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The Pima Air & Space Museum has also facilities to restore the aircraft they get and bring them to a decent status to be put on exhibition. Some of the aircraft are on loan from the US Air Force Museum.

Within the museum there are plenty of US armed forces veterans willing to share with you detailed explanations or anecdotes from any of the aircraft. The tram visit of the outdoor exhibit is guided by one of these veterans… no need to say that the experience is fantastic.

It goes without saying it, that I strongly recommend to visit this museum as it is one of the best aerospace museums that I have ever visited. Couple that with the visit to the Boneyard and it is definitely a must for aerospace aficionados.

Finally, some tips to visit the museum:

  • plan your visit as early as possible (doors open at 9am),
  • allow yourself no less than 5 hours to comfortably visit the museum,
  • if the visit is in summertime, bring a bottle of water with you (which can be refilled in any of the many sources inside the museum),
  • plan to have lunch in the museum,
  • book yourself a place both in the tram to visit the outdoor exhibit and in the bus to visit the Boneyard (for this a photo ID will be necessary), as tickets sell out, be there at 9am.

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Our daughter is born!

Some months ago we announced that we were expecting a baby, today we proudly announce that yesterday, 11th August 2013, at 18:38, our daughter was born in Toulouse.

The delivery went moderately smooth (my words, better wait to hear Luca’s) and both mother and child enjoy good health at the moment, recovering in the clinique.

Family Irastorza Van Veen with the coolest newcomer: Andrea (design from uncle Jaime).

Family Irastorza Van Veen with the coolest newcomer: Andrea (design from uncle Jaime).

Andrea weighed 3,610 grams at birth and measured 50cm tall.

Connie, inscribed today in the Toulouse registry as Andrea Irastorza Van Veen, seems to have light grey/blue eyes, already shows passion for aviation and Real Madrid, and asked us to thank you all for the interest and good wishes, and said that is looking forward to meeting you in the following days, weeks, months and years.

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