Saturday, September 23, 2006

C-5A Galaxy and a Talk with TSgt Brandon Ives

Subscribe to Airspeed at iTunes or by using the RSS feed: Listen online at

We’re going large this time on Airspeed. Large as in the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, the largest aircraft currently in use by the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command.

It’s 247 feet long, 223 feet wingtip to wingtip, and 65 feet tall at the tail. Its cargo compartment is 13.5 feet tall, 19 feet wide, and 144 feet long. It’ll haul 270,000 pounds of cargo and get it all off the ground in only 8,300 feet of runway. And if you think that’s quick, try the 4,900-foot landing distance at that same weight.

The C-5 is powered by four TF39 turbofan engines that produce 43,000 pounds thrust each. The air intake diameter of each engine is more than 8.5 feet. Each engine pod is nearly 27 feet long.

The landing gear consist of a total of 28 wheels and the landing gear will “kneel” to adjust the cargo deck to allow loading and unloading at various heights off of the ground.

You just don’t get a sense of the size of the C5 until you walk up to it. For starters, you can see it as you drive up to the airport. Then you get out of the car and walk toward it and you get the sense that you’re not getting any closer to it. By the time you get close enough to really get a sense of its size, it fills your entire field of view. So much so that it’s hard to get a picture of the aircraft that conveys a sense of its size. Too close, and you’re just shooting pictures of parts of the aircraft. So you walk a few hundred feet away, but by then the objects to which to compare the C-5A are too small to be good comparisons.

I got up close and personal with a C-5A this summer at the Muskegon Air Fair in Muskegon, Michigan. Toward the end of the day, they actually set up a band and all of its equipment in the back of the cargo compartment and had room to spare.

Anyway, it’s a technically complex and interesting aircraft and we talked to USAF TSgt Brandon Ives about it. Sgt. Ives is a crew chief with the 439th AMXS – 439th Air Wing – Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts.


Thank you TSgt Brandon Ives and thanks also to the 439th Air Wing in Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts. We really enjoyed having your C-5A in Michigan for the weekend and we hope that you’ll send it back again next year!

USAF Fact Sheet on the C-5:

Westover Air Reserve Base:

Hear the audio at

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Yankee Air Force Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Yankee Lady"

Subscribe to Airspeed using iTunes, visit us at, or use the following RSS feed.

A few weeks ago, I was on duty with the Civil Air Patrol at the Oakland County International airport for its annual open house. Lots of great aircraft, including an F-16 from 127th Fighter Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base and an A-10 Warthog from the 110th Fighter Wing at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.

Parked just down the flight line from the CAP communications trailer was the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady” from the Yankee air Museum at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan, about 25 miles away as the bomber flies.

The Boeing B-17G is 74 feet long, has a wingspan of 104 feet, and stands 19 feet tall at the tail. It weighs about 36,000 pounds empty and has a max gross takeoff weight of nearly 66,000 pounds, leaving a lot of room for crew, fuel, and munitions. The crew included two pilots, a bombardier, a radio operator, and five gunners: One in the nose, two at the waist, one in the ball turret, and one in the tail. The aircraft carried 11 to 13 machine guns and up to 9,600 pounds of bombs.

It’s powered by four Wright R-1820-97 engines, each developing about 1,200 horsepower. It has a range of about 2,000 miles, cruises at about 130 knots, and is can do a maximum of 249 knots.

Boeing built a total of 6,981 B-17s in various models, and Douglas and Lockheed collaborated to built another 5,745.

Yankee Lady is a beautiful aircraft. She’s polished silver and makes beautiful noise when she has all four bird shredders turning. She’s a tail dragger, which makes her look like a fighter from a distance. But when you get up close, you see how massive its wings and other superstructure are. The leading edges of the wings are amazingly thick and the wings are really broad. It’s a muscular-looking aircraft.

Yankee Lady is a movie star, too. She was used in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!

On a break in the action, I had a chance to talk to Paul Scholl, who flew Yankee Lady in for the show.

[Interview Audio.]

You heard us mention the fire. On October 9, 2004, the hangar that housed the museum caught fire and burned to the ground. All of the flyable aircraft made it out but the museum did lose virtually all of the tooling, equipment, and spare parts for all of the aircraft plus all of the office and display fixtures.

You can visit the Yankee Air Museum’s web page at and find out about visiting the museum and donating to help fund recovery after the fire.

To see a list of needs and to find out how to donate to the museum, visit

You can also donate directly to the Yankee Air Museum's recovery fund at

More information about the 127th Fighter Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base:

More information about the 110th Fighter Wing at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base:

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Snowbirds: The CT-114 and No.3 Pilot Maj. Cory Blakely

Listen to the audio and subscribe to the podcast at or subscribe to the podcast using our RSS feed:

[Check-in audio]

You may remember that check-in from our coverage of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds on an episode earlier this year as part of our survey of the premier jet demonstration teams so that you’d be prepared as airshow season started later in the year. Lest anyone think that we at Airspeed are all talk, we braved menacing cloud cover and horrible road coffee to go and stalk the Snowbirds in their native setting – The airshow.

In this show, we’re going to do two things. First off, I don’t think that many people understand how special the Snowbirds’ aircraft are, so we’re going to go a little more in depth on the CT-114 Tutor. Second, and by no means less important, we’re going to actually talk to Maj. Cory Blakely, who flies the No. 3 aircraft in the inner left wing position.

So let’s get going. The Snowbirds are the Canadian Forces 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, based in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. They train primarily in Saskatchewan and do their pre-season training over different terrain in British Columbia, then thrill audiences all over North America over the course of one of the longest demonstration seasons undertaken by any jet team.

The Snowbirds fly the Canadair CT-114 Tudor and have done so since 1971. A predecessor team, the Golden Centennaries, flew the Tudor beginning in 1967. Canadian-designed and built and claiming a heritage that goes back to preliminary design in 1955, the Tutor was the primary Canadian Forces military jet trainer up until 2000. 22 Tutors continue to fly for the Canadian government and they’re divided between the Snowbirds and the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment.

The Tutor weighs in at about 7,150 pounds and its J-85 engine produces about 2,700 pounds of thrust. It’ll do more than 400 knots, even with the smoke tanks attached. It’s 32 feet nose to tail, about 36 feet from wingtip to wingtip, and about nine feet tall at the tail. It’s pressurized and air-conditioned and has a service ceiling of 38,000 feet.

The Snowbirds’ Tutors were among 50 that received updates under a Depot Level Inspection and Repair (DLIR) program and an Avionic Update program that rewired the aircraft and installed a DC starting system, among other things Those updates were to extend the rated life of the aircraft to 2015, but the Canadian Airworthiness Review Board never formally ruled on the program.

In addition to routine maintenance, the aircraft require a consolidated inspection package every 400 hours and the engines are rated for 1,600 hours TBO. As of the Tutor’s retirement by the Canadian Forces in 2000, the fleet aircraft had averaged almost 8,000 hours with a low of about 5,400 hours and a high of 12,300 hours.

It seats two side-by-side. I don’t know what training is like in tandem aircraft, but I can’t help but believe that the side-by-side configuration is much better for training. . . . Although it does make it easier for the instructor to whack you in the head if you line it up on the hangars on an ILS. But it’s primarily radio and new media hosts that do that, right? In any case, it’s a nice-looking cockpit.

The No. 1 jet, and possibly others, have convex rear-view mirrors across the top of the cockpit frame. I had often wondered whether the boss gets lonely not being able to see the other aircraft in the formation, but it’s got to be pretty cool to see up to eight other aircraft in your upper peripheral vision. That’s a lot of red in the rearview and it all hangs on with beautiful precision.

The Tudor is a great training aircraft. It’s very stable and very maneuverable, which gives students the opportunity to experience a broad envelope of flight characteristics. Unlike many other jets, the Tutor actually glides pretty well. Those who have flown it say that it “scales” well, which is to say that it models very well at its size the performance and handling characteristics of the larger and more powerful military aircraft to which Canadian military pilots transitioned from the Tutor.

There are apparently many other Tutors in civilian hands and a little searching on the net will bring up several forums for discussions by those rebuilding them. It’s really worth the time to read a couple of those boards. The posters are amazingly knowledgeable and are really passionate about their restorations and about flying the aircraft. There’s one registered in the US on Mercer Island in Washington State under an experimental type certificate. I checked the registration database of Transport Canada to try to determine how many were registered in Canada, but found none. It may be that civilian-owned Tutors in Canada either don’t have to be registered in that database or are registered under some designation other than C-114.

So on to the interview. We caught up with the Snowbirds at the Battle Creek International Balloon Festival and Field of Flight Air Show in July on the day they arrived. It took only a few minutes with public affairs officer Navy Lieutenant Petra Smith before we met Maj. Cory Blakely.

The major is 38 and flies the No. 3 jet in the formation. That’s the inner left wing of the formation. The No. 3 pilot flies to the left of, and a little behind, the lead jet in many of the team’s formations. As such, much of the left half of the formation lines up on his aircraft and depends on his consistency and skill for its integrity and safety.

He’s in his third year with the squadron. Prior to joining the Snowbirds, he was stationed at “The Big 2,” the 2 Canadian Forces Flying School in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, instructing in the CT-156 Harvard II, a turboprop trainer that offers an initial climb rate in excess of 3,300 feet per minute and handles sustained 2G turns at 25,000 feet. The Big 2 trains more than 150 pilots every year through the NATO Flying Training in Canada program. The Big 2 is also home to the Flying Instruction and Standards Section, the unit responsible for training military flying instructors.

Prior to that, he served with the RCAF 434 Squadron in Stan Rogers country – Greenwood, Nova Scotia. The 434 squadron, nicknamed the Bluenose after the schooner by that name that you can see on the back of Canadian dimes, has been formed and disbanded several times between its initial formation during World War II and the present day. It was most recently disbanded with the retirement of the CT-133 Silver Star (which Maj. Cory flew) and CE/CP-144 Challengers. I mention this bit of history because, in spite of meticulous research, I managed to miss the retirement of the Silver Star, but mentioned it in the interview.

Let’s talk to Maj. Blakely.

[Interview audio]

Libsyn Transition Complete!

The transition to Libsyn is pretty much complete! The new rss feed is:

We moved all of the files over to Libsyn last weekend and, as nearly as we can tell, we didn't lose anyone in the transition. We're going to submit the above picture in case Libsyn will take a "celebrity endorsement" from good ol' Capt. Force.

Please let us know if you've had any difficulty making the jump.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Yet More Transitions: Airspeed Moves to Libsyn!

I hope you're not here because you're having trouble with our feed. In fact, it'd be great if you're here because you're thrilled about the speed, efficiency, and reliability of the feed!

In any case, here's the skinny.

I finally got (1) fed up with the existing RSS manager for the podcast (2) fed up with the file host that I had been using for some of the episodes (1&1's front end and just about every other element of its services are constantly broken and I'm tired of talking to tech support! Net Voce, ( and Daniel McNew on the other hand, rock!), and (3) enough time to fully migrate the podcast to another RSS provider!

So here's what is supposed to happen. 22 episodes are already migrated over to Libsyn. I have another five episodes that 1&1 lost that I need to find on my local hard drive and make available using Libsyn. Then I'll have all of the Airspeed and Airspeed in Brief episodes (almost 30!) available in one RSS feed and from one website!

Note that I'm not posting the two Airspeed in Brief episodes that were merely parts of the full Airspeed episodes. But all other episodes will be available.

Once I get the remaining five episodes transitioned, I'm going to put a redirect in the old feed. My present RSS provider says that "Enabling redirection will cause the [current-RSS-manager-who-will-not-be-named] server to return a 301 error and redirect to the new location when receiving a request for the old feed. Doing so will cause both the iTunes Music Store and the iTunes clients that have subscribed to your podcast to pick up the new feed URL."

If the redirect works (and I have grave doubts about whether it will), you should be transitioned over to the Libsyn feed automatically without any action on your part.

If it doesn't work, you will need to update the RSS feed that you use for Airspeed to:

I apologize in advance for any inconvenience. Please e-mail me at with any questions or if I can be of assistance. Even if we only successfully transition the iTunes users, that will still give us an 83% transition rate automatically. I apologize to users of other podcatchers if we lose them. Please find us and re-subscribe if we lose you!

The transition should allow us to deliver the podcast more reliably and also provide a means of accessing the entire Airspeed library from one convenient feed and web location. Additionally, the transition should give us better metrics so that we can show sponsors and potential providers of orientation flights the reach of the podcast. That should come around to benefit you, the listeners, as we obtain better and better opportunities to bring you cooler and cooler content.

Thanks in advance for your patience!

- Steve