Monthly Archives: September 2014

Douglas C-124 Globemaster II “Old Shaky”

A few days ago I saw the tweet below that reminded of an anecdote that I wanted to blog about since some time ago.

Last year, when we visited the Pima Air & Space Museum, one of the aircraft at the outdoors exhibit was the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II “Old Shaky”. Our guide during the tram tour, an US armed forces veteran, explained how the aircraft had a crawlway to access and service the engines in-flight!

Once the tram tour concluded, I went for a walk around the aircraft to inspect it.

As you can see the aircraft have the inner engines located at the same wing cross-section than the main landing gear. And since the landing gear doors were opened I checked and found a small hole which I deduce that leads to the crawlway by which the flight engineer had to access to the engines. Not a very comfortable passage indeed.

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See below a comment I found in a specialized forum on the use of this crawlway by veteran in the 1950s (Barry de Vries):

Flew “Old Shakey” out of TCM (McChord) from the spring of ’55 until July of ’57 after 4 or 5 months on the C-54. On my first trip as a C-124 A/C we had #4 engine generator overheat light come on just past the PSR between Travis and Hickam. That required an engine shutdown due to the proximity of the generator to the carburetor. The F/E crawled out through the wing and verified that the generator was hot, returned to the flight deck for about 20 minutes while it cooled down and then went back out there to remove it and put a pad over the hole. Sometimes, we had a spare generator in the “fly-away” kit but we did not on that day. After he returned to the flight deck, we fired up #4 again and proceeded, without further incident, to Hickam. In later years, jet engines had CSDs (Constant Speed Drives) which would disconnect the generator with the flick of a switch. Those 124 days were interesting to say the least………. wouldn’t trade them for anything.

On the other hand, after sharing this anecdote with some work colleagues they noted that in earlier times of aviation the accessing to the engines during flight for inspection or servicing was rather common.

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Filed under Aerospace & Defence

Boulevards de Colomiers 2014

The race “Boulevards de Colomiers” (10km) is a classic of the return from summer holiday session in Toulouse area. This is the 3rd time I have run it. Last year I already wrote a post about it. I then broke the barrier of 45 minutes for the first time and made a personal best. I have since broken the “barrier” twice, setting new PBs.

This time I came to it with more or less the same preparation as last year, as I am following the same training plan, but I have not softened the training schedule to accommodate the race and thus I knew my legs would feel rather heavy.

Classic picture with Andrea before the race.

Classic picture with Andrea before the race.

I started ahead of the 45′ pacer but was caught by him around the 5th km. I then let him go away some metres, as I was not feeling my best due to the heat. In the last kilometre I catched him again and took some lead in the last 400m, being able to finish just below 45′ of net time, 44:49 as per my Garmin, about 20″ slower than last year despite the heavy legs (45:02 official gross time).

I quite happy with th result, being the 4th 10k race in a row under 45′.

Running the first km.

Running the first km.


Filed under Sports

Benefits from space exploration

If you are not an aerospace enthusiast I guess that probably you have questioned once or twice the motives and the benefits for society from space exploration. Luckily, with the widespread use mobile technology the GPS quickly comes now to mind when such questions arise.

I just stumbled upon the latest outreach campaign from NASA and I wanted to share some of its features here.

Let’s go first to aviation. See in the tweet below the different contributions that NASA has made to commercial aviation and which today enable your cheap, safe, reliable, on-time flights in holidays:

Then, there is a series of videos under the theme “International Space Station Benefits from Humanity“.

The series covers, among others, water purification technologies or tooling used in neurosurgery developed from robotic arms at the ISS. Here I wanted to share a video on how the Vessel-ID System has contributed to make navigation around the oceans safer, as ships emit an Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal very much like airplanes do with air traffic control. The signal is received by the European Space Agency (ESA) Columbus module at the ISS and then sent to a centre in Norway which continuously evaluates them.

See in the video below how this technology works and has contributed make navigation safer and safe lives:

NOTE: Compare this scenario with the disaster of the Titanic.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence

The Age of Sustainable Development

A few months ago I took a massive open online course (MOOC) on Coursera platform titled “The Age of Sustainable Development” of which I wanted to talk in the blog. The course is taught by Jeffrey Sachs, an American economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. 

Jeffrey Sachs’ main fields of work include the challenges of economic development, environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, debt cancellation, and globalization. Sachs is the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and a Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia’s School of Public Health, previously he was a professor at Harvard where stayed for 19 years. He is Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The objective of the course as presented in coursera:

This MOOC provides an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of sustainable development, and draws upon the most recent developments in the social, policy and physical sciences. It describes the complex interactions between the world economy and the Earth’s physical environment, and addresses issues of environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive development. By the end of this course, students will gain a broad overview of the key challenges and potential solutions to achieve development in the 21st century.

Taking this course was a very good experience. It took 14 weeks (rather long for my taste with MOOCs), in which a good variety of topics were presented. It called my attention the abundance of materials reviewed in the course, the many sources and online applications which we had to work with along the course (1), the course-specific text book that had been put in place (between 25-35 pages per week), the videos with lectures by professor Sachs, etc.

The syllabus of the course departed with an introduction to sustainable development, economic development to then tackle poverty and the millennium development goals, where it reviewed the progress on some of them and lack of progress in some others. Finally it presented the sustainable development goals, which the UN shall adopt next year.

As these sustainable development goals give the name to the course, let me list them below as they are proposed by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

  1. End extreme poverty including hunger.
  2. Achieve economic development within planetary boundaries
  3. Ensure effective learning for all children and for youth for their lives and their livelihoods.
  4. Achieve gender equality, social inclusion, and human rights for all.
  5. Achieve health and wellbeing at all ages
  6. Improve agricultural systems and raise rural productivity.
  7. Empower inclusive, productive and resilient cities
  8. Curb human-induced climate change and ensure sustainable energy
  9. Secure ecosystem services and biodiversity and ensure good management of water and other natural resources
  10. Transform governance for sustainable development. The public sector, business and other stakeholders should commit to good governance

I definitely recommend this course, of which a new edition is about to start next week!

Statement of Accomplishment of the course.

Statement of Accomplishment of the course.

(1) To name just a few of the online resources used during the course: World Bank data indicators, Gapminder World data, The Economist’s Big Mac Index, Population Pyramid, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs data, World Health Organisation data, UN data


Filed under Education

My Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

A couple of days ago, a friend, Alvaro, nominated me for the famous Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS (or ELA in Spanish). In this post I wanted to share the following video [in Spanish] with my subsequent challenge:

In summary,

  1. I contributed to the cause by making a donation to the Spanish foundation FUNDELA (Fundación Española para el Fomento de la Investigación de la Esclerosis Lateral Amiotrófica),
  2. I then dedicated my 30-kilometre running training session of today to the cause,
  3. After the training, I poured the so-called ice bucket, and
  4. I nominated my marathon buddies to complete the challenge, Jose Serna, my brother Jaime, Manu Vidal and Juan Hurtado.

See the below the home site of FUNDELA, as you can see making a contribution is going to take you no more than 1 mouse click:

FUNDELA foundation website.

FUNDELA foundation website.

See below the data recorded by my Garmin GPS-watch of the running training session I dedicated to the cause:

My 30km Ice Bucket Challenge run.

My 30km Ice Bucket Challenge run.

NOTE: If you feel already in the mood of contributing to charities, NGOs, etc., please, check out this other blog post with the other organizations that I am supporting in this year 2014.


Filed under Helping others