Friday pictures: Blaze of Glory

The Portland Airport is home to the 142nd Fighter Wing, which is part of the Oregon Air National Guard. Equipped with McDonnell Douglas, er, Boeing F-15 Eagles, the Redhawks provide air defense for the Pacific Northwest. They also attract a dedicated group of photographers on Flickr, who chronicle the unit’s operations in wonderful detail. Chief among them is Flickr member vector1771, whose photstream is full of hundreds of vivid pictures of F-15s in their element. I am a continent away from Portland, but by now I have watched this unit’s planes for so long I have begun to recognize tail numbers.

Today’s image naturally comes from vector1771 and captures the final flight of an Eagle driver, callsign Tug, as he lifts off and accelerates for his last unrestricted climb atop the Eagle’s two F100 engines. While I am sure this was a bittersweet day for Tug, I hope that he could set aside those thoughts while putting the plane through its paces for the last time. My thanks to Tug for his years of service to the nation, and my thanks to vector1771 for sharing his work so generously. You really want to click this and see it big. Really.


If you like this, I encourage you to check out this summary of all of the aviation photography I have featured here.

Further serious Lego planes

366thWG (1)

Originally uploaded by Mad physicist

Follow the link to see an amazing brick homage to the former residents of Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Note that all three planes in this shot are built to the same scale (1:36). What dedication to execute these so perfectly.

These creations build on the earlier planes found here.

Bears buzz Nimitz

In the past few months, I’ve had a few posts about Russia’s stepped up Tu-95 patrols – first near Norway and the UK, and then more recently when they met up with Alaskan F-22’s for the first time. Such interaction among the world’s air forces was a routine occurrence during the Cold War, but the past few years have seen a lull in this sort of activity.

I suppose that explains the nervous nellie coverage (e.g., a, b, and c) one can see in the news relating to the overflight of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz this past week by a Tu-95. Crossing twice at around 2,000, with no verbal communications on either side, this seems to me so be standard cage rattling behavior. Still, the Gertz’s of the world fret about the Navy’s wimpy leadership in the face of such provocations. I don’t buy that. I think this sort of restraint represents maturity. Russia and its aircrews are under no illusion that the JASDF F-15s and USN F-18s couldn’t have downed all four Bears had they so wished.

Still, it does make for some good pictures.


If you like this, I encourage you to check out this summary of all of the aviation photography I have featured here.

Lego F-15


Originally uploaded by Mad physicist

I nearly overlooked the Mad Physicist’s fourth magnificent creation – a scale Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) F-15E Strike Eagle. I love Eagle’s speed brake and it’s recreated perfectly here. Amazing detail.

Other works by the same builder here (B-1B), here (Su-27), and here (E-2C). More scale Lego planes here (SR-71 and F-111).

Update: Gizmodo interviews the builder here.

USAF F-15 in-flight breakup animation

Text from Recreating the Eagle’s final moments
By Graham Warwick

Using eyewitness reports, HUD camera video, debris analysis and the pilot’s own testimony, Boeing’s Phantom Works research organisation has recreated the break-up of the US Air National Guard F-15C in the skies of Missouri on 2 November.

“This is as close as science can get us to what actually happened,” says Gen John Corley, commander of US Air Force Air Combat Command, commenting on the computer-generated animation. “We are lucky the pilot is still alive.”

The animation, which is slowed to one-fifth the speed of the actual event, shows the in-flight break-up of the F-15 from five different views. Each segment runs from the initial nose shimmy as the longeron fails to the pilot’s ejection from the tumbling cockpit – a sequence of events that lasted mere seconds in the real event.

When the upper right longeron breaks, the other three longerons cannot carry the load and the forward fuselage structure begins to fail. As the cockpit separates from the rest of the aircraft, it “wins the tug of war” and takes the canopy with it.

The pilot is thrown forward as the separated cockpit slows from 450kt with an “eyeballs out” force of 4-10G. At this point, disoriented by the brutal deceleration, he is still unaware his aircraft has broken in two.

As the cockpit tumbles, windblast rips off the canopy, the transparency fragmenting. The departing canopy rail strikes and shatters the pilot’s upper left arm. “There are paint marks on his flight suit,” says Corley.

Unable to initiate a two-handed ejection, but not knowing why his left arm will not respond, the pilot ejects using his right hand. Although almost inverted when he ejects, the Aces II seat “works as advertised”.

Now “headless”, its landing gear deployed by gravity after the departing cockpit pulled the cables releasing the uplocks, the stricken F-15 enters its final moments. The two sections of the aircraft came down a quarter to half a mile apart.