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NASCAR driver Carl Edwards couldn’t have asked for a more properly suited birthday present. The driver of the #99 Aflac Ford had little time to celebrate his 32nd birthday last Monday after rain postponed Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen by a day. But Tuesday turned into a delayed birthday reward appropriate for a man who loves speed and thrills.
As part of a promotion for the September races at Richmond International Raceway, the track staff arranged for Edwards and a small media contingent to pay a visit to the Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, the group would not make a casual gangplank entry onto a vessel at dock but instead reach the ship by means that many Navy personnel aboard had never experienced.
The Eisenhower set sail out of the Norfolk on Monday morning and by Tuesday the vessel was well underway running training missions in the Atlantic Ocean, 200 miles south-southwest of the coast. So RIR and the US Navy arranged for Edwards and company to fly out of Norfolk on a C2 Greyhound transport and make a tailhook landing aboard the flight deck. With the assistance of arresting cables, the plane quickly decelerated on the 1000 foot deck, going from 105 mph to a dead stop in two seconds.
But that was only the beginning of the fun for Edwards.
He exited the transport, traversed the narrow corridors and nearly vertical stairways of the craft to meet up with the Eisenhower’s top officers. Captain Marcus Hitchcock provided Edwards with a warm welcome then gave a quick rundown of his vessel’s current mission- training F-18 pilots to land and take off from an aircraft carrier in preparation of deployment overseas. “It’s day and night,” Hitchcock said. “We go to about 2 a.m. every morning.”
Edwards was then suited up in safety gear and escorted back the flight deck where he stood scant feet away as F-18s made tailhook landings and takeoffs via catapult launch.
On the open ocean, a steady stiff wind blows across the flight deck, trip hazards are everywhere and there is no railing to prevent someone from accidently falling, or as everyone was warned, being blown off the deck, by wind or jet turbulence. The result of which would be a 100 foot plunge to the ocean below.
Though known for his adventurous spirit, even Edwards was daunted by, not only the level of speed, but the dangers each of the sailors face in everyday life.
“They let me go up there and stand right next to the F-18s while they were landing and taking off,” an amazed Edwards said.
The experience also gave Edwards a different perspective on his own sport. “I guess in a lot of ways right now I feel like a race fan,” he said. “I saw Top Gun when I was a kid and thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life.
“I watch the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and watch shows about these aircraft carriers,” he said. “To stand there right next to the catapult launch and to stand next to the arresting cables and stuff and to see it happen, it’s got to be what the fans feel like when they stand next to the fence and seeing NASCAR for the first time.”
Because the Eisenhower is currently in and out of port on training missions there is the possibility it will be docked in time for the races at RIR.
“A lot of these guys will be out there at Richmond, which will be really cool to know that while we’re out there driving they’re experiencing our sport the same way I’m experiencing their lives,” Edwards said.
Edwards then returned below decks to the cavernous #2 hanger bay where he spent the majority of his day signing autographs and talking with each of a long line of sailors.
“It’s crazy,” Edwards said. “People have all sorts of NASCAR stuff. I saw a couple of #99 hats and I met people from all over the country. There were folks from Missouri. One guy, his sister went to the prom with my brother, so I’m almost related to guy here, that’s crazy.”
But overall, Edwards felt surprised at the level of interest in NASCAR among the Eisenhower’s crew. “It’s amazing how many of these folks follow our sport and love NASCAR.”
Nicholas Deweese easily fell into that category. In 2009, the E-6 out of Chesapeake, Va. was named the second biggest NASCAR fan in the country by the Official NASCAR Members Club. Though an avid Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, Deweese was just as happy with Edwards’ visit. “NASCAR is NASCAR,” he said. “We get a driver out here it doesn’t matter who it is.”
But even Deweese was not above a little traditional NASCAR digging. “It’s better than Kyle Busch, that’s for sure.” Deweese still holds a grudge from the 2009 race at RIR where Busch spun out Earnhardt on the final laps.
Though he holds no official NASCAR title, Mechanicsville’s Jeremy Jackson considered himself of even higher standing than Deweese. MMC Select Jackson is a nuclear mechanic that has served aboard the Eisenhower since January of 2009.
“I’m probably the world’s biggest NASCAR fan,” he said. “I’m a Jeff Gordon fan but when I was told Carl Edwards, I was giggling like a kid at Christmas…Jeff Gordon’s my favorite driver but just anybody could have come out here and I’d just be tickled pink.”
The 2002 graduate of Lee-Davis High School got his chance to talk with Edwards and have a wooden storage case autographed. “It’s awesome that they’d come out here,” Jackson said. “We have some distinguished visitors come out and stuff like that, but he is by far the coolest that’s come out here.”
Jackson tried to relate just how important visits, not only by Edwards, but also the contingent following him, are to the military. “It lets you know, out of his busy schedule and all of you taking time out of your schedule, to come out here and visit and you get to see the ship under way,” Jackson said. “See how we kind of do things under way. It means a lot to me personally. Some people really don’t approve of the military but to have you all come out here, it reminds us that people still care.”
Though the level of speed and excitement of aircraft carrier life may be the same in NASCAR, Edwards said there is really no comparison between the two. “What we do is fun,” he said. “We go out and race. We do it in weather that’s nice. We have rules and all these things. These guys are out here and they’re ready for anything. This is real. It’s a hostile environment for a number of reasons. There are a lot of similarities but this is serious, there’s a lot on the line.”
In the mess hall, Edwards was presented with a cake and the complimentary singing of ‘Happy Birthday,’ by crew members.
Edwards visit then wrapped up with his biggest thrill of the day; a catapult launch of the C2 for the trip back to Norfolk. The steam powered catapult accelerated the transport plane from zero to 128 mph in three seconds.
“They told me that plane was 53,000 pounds at take off,” Edward said. “Fifty-three thousand pounds they accelerated like that! I deal with a lot of speed and acceleration but nothing like that, that was crazy.”
Back on the ground in Norfolk with his delayed birthday surprise complete, Edwards was left with a great appreciation for the men and women who serve in the military. “It’s just spectacular what these sailors are out here doing,” he said. “They’re sacrificing and putting themselves in a very high risk environment for our country and it’s an honor that they had us here today. It’s really amazing to see.
“When I’m sitting in my racecar this week (at Michigan), I’ll be thinking about these guys watching from an aircraft carrier,” he said. “That’s pretty cool.”
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The 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial port flight assisted the C-5 Galaxy’s loadmaster crew in successfully loading an F/A-18 Super Hornet into the Galaxy’s cargo bay on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
The Hornet experienced malfunctions which caused it to divert and land at Kandahar Airfield while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom last March. Upon landing, the aircraft experienced hot brakes and upon stopping, both brakes were engulfed in flames. The Kandahar, Fire and Rescue extinguished the fire, but the right fuselage was severely damaged.
Charles Miller, the F/A-18 deputy program manager, and a team of four Defense Department civilians have been preparing to recover the aircraft in order to bring it back to the U.S. to Fleet Readiness Center Southwest to perform the necessary repairs since July.
The preparation included coordinating with senior leadership at the Navy’s Commander of Naval Air Forces and the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command in order to obtain the required certification to transport the aircraft back on a C-5 to Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif.
“Typically, an aircraft would be flown back to the states if the damage was minor,” said Miller. “But this F/A-18 sustained substantial damage which our engineering support team determined to be critical and unflyable.”
The C-5 aircrew was eager for the opportunity.
“We’re willing to help any of our sister services who need it,” said Air Force Maj. Steven Hertenstein, the pilot of the C-5 Galaxy who is deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. “Carrying cargo is what this aircraft was designed to do, and we’re glad to be a part this.”
Source: U.S. Air Force
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The F-35 integrated test force completed jet blast deflector (JBD) testing at the NAVAIR facility in Lakehurst, N.J. Aug. 13 with a round of two-aircraft testing.F-35C test aircraft CF-1 along with an F/A-18E tested a combined JBD cooling panel configuration to assess the integration of F-35s in aircraft carrier launch operations.
“We completed all of our JBD test points efficiently,” said Andrew Maack, government chief test engineer. “It was a great collaborative effort by all parties.”
The government and industry team completed tests that measured temperatures, pressures, sound levels, velocities, and other environmental data. The combined JBD model will enable carrier deck crews to operate all air wing aircraft, now including the F-35C, as operational tempo requires.
Future carrier suitability testing is scheduled throughout this year, including ongoing catapult testing and the start of arrestment testing in preparation for initial ship trials in 2013.
With this, the F-35C is another step closer to initial ship trials on an aircraft carrier at sea.
The F-35C carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter is distinct from the F-35A and F-35B variants with its larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear for catapult launch, slower landing approach speeds, and deck impacts associated with the demanding carrier take-off and landing environment.
Story and Photo: NAVAIR
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Russia’s first stealth fighter jet had to abort a takeoff at Moscow’s International Aviation and Space Show on Sunday because of what officials said was a malfunction in the right engine.
The T-50 did not leave the runway and was slowed by a brake parachute.
The twin-engined T-50 jet was traveling at 60 miles per hour (100 kph) when the pilot decided to abort takeoff because of a right engine malfunction, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing a representative of United Aircraft Building Corp., a state-controlled holding that incorporates top Russian aircraft-makers,
The T-50, which made its maiden flight in January 2010, had been kept out of the public eye before its debut at the air show on Wednesday during a visit by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The fighter is intended to match the U.S. F-22 Raptor, which entered service in 2005.
The T-50 still lacks new engines and state-of-the art equipment, and its serial production is only expected to begin in 2015 at the most optimistic forecast. Two T-50s are currently undergoing tests, and another pair is expected to join them later this year.
Russia has signed deals with India to cooperate on the aircraft’s development, and hopes that the Indian air force will become a major customer for the plane.
The six-day air show at the Zhukovsky air base outside of Moscow wrapped up on Sunday.
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The Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, has announced a contract award for 14 new Chinook helicopters, the RAF’s workhorse on the frontline in Afghanistan. The contract with Boeing to supply the Chinook heavy lift helicopters will bring a significant enhancement to the mobility of frontline forces. Already the largest fleet in Europe, this new contract will bring the UK’s overall number of Chinooks to 60.
This announcement follows the Government’s recent commitment to a one per cent a year real term increase in the MOD’s equipment and support budget from 2015. This new Chinook contract is valued at £1bn or $1.64 billion, including development, manufacture, and the first five years of support to the new Chinooks.
“From the Falkland Islands to Iraq and Afghanistan, the RAF has operated Chinooks magnificently for many years in the most demanding environments. These additional helicopters will significantly enhance our existing heavy lift helicopter capability. This fleet will support our frontline troops in current and future operations for decades to come,” The Secretary said.
The new Chinook Mark 6 helicopters will feature a cutting edge digital flight control system making them easier to operate in the most difficult conditions, including the hot and dusty environments such as those encountered in Afghanistan.
“Chinook is an exceptionally capable helicopter that in the hands of the very skilful RAF crews has proved itself time and again in many operational theatres across the globe and is the backbone of the Royal Air Force’s helicopter fleet,” Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton said.
The RAF will receive the first aircraft for initial trials and testing in 2013 and it will enter service in May 2014 making an immediate contribution to the flexibility of the UK Chinook capability. Delivery will be complete by the end of 2015.
Story and Photo: Royal Air Force
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The Pentagon has approved the requirement for an “endurance upgrade” to the U.S. Navy’s Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system, with a larger air vehicle to provide increased payload and range to support special operations forces.
After also evaluating the Boeing A160T Hummingbird and Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-Max unmanned helicopters, the program office has recommended using the Bell 407 airframe, Capt. Patrick Smith, the Navy’s Fire Scout program manager, said Aug. 17 at the AUVSI International show in Washington.
The program office’s recommendation has yet to be endorsed by Navy leadership, but Northrop and Bell are already jointly developing an unmanned version of the civil Bell 407 light turbine helicopter, called the Fire-X, which first flew in December.
“The MQ-8C endurance upgrade package started as a joint urgent operational need statement from Special Operations Command. The requirement was validated [on Aug. 16] by the office of the secretary of defense,” Smith says.
“Our recommendation is to go with the 407 airframe, based on the time frame limitations,” he says. The requirement is to develop the larger MQ-8C within 24 months, for deployment in 2014, with plans to acquire 28 air vehicles over three years.
Plans to arm the basic MQ-8B Fire Scout, which is based on a Schweizer 333 helicopter, also have been approved. The rapid deployment capability program calls for fielding within 18 months, possibly on the Littoral Combat Ship, Smith says.
The Navy has selected a laser-guided 70 mm rocket, BAE Systems’ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), as the initial weapon because it has existing safety approval for deployment on ships.
“Northrop Grumman will conduct a demonstration of Raytheon’s Griffin later this month, and we would like to become weapon-agnostic,” he says. Griffin is a 35-lb. tube-launched laser-guided mini-missile.
The Navy, meanwhile, has confirmed that an MQ-8B that went down over Libya on June 21 while operating from the USS Halyburton was “lost to enemy fire.” Communications and radar contact was lost while the aircraft was flying below cloud cover in an area where other allied aircraft had already come under heavy anti-aircraft fire.
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The U.S. Air Force has lifted a two-week-old flight ban that had grounded the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, following a power problem on a plane at Edwards Air Force Base in California. While the probe continues, engineers determined that it is safe to resume test flights, said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office.
Flight operations will resume for the rest of the planes, which are based at Edwards and at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.However, two F-35s based at Eglin in Florida will remain grounded because they lack the monitoring systems used in developmental test aircraft that can detect any problems in flight.
The F-35 is the Pentagon’s biggest procurement program at a planned $382 billion to buy 2,457 of the stealth F-35 jets in different versions for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The F-35 may be a target for budget cuts as the Pentagon is pressed to help lower the federal deficit. The Defense Department will need to find at least $325 billion in cuts over the next 10 years in the first phase of a $2.4 trillion deficit- reduction agreement approved by Congress. Another round of $500 billion in defense cuts may be imposed if Congress fails to approve enough budget savings in other areas.
The Air Force has also grounded Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor, the military’s most advanced fighter, because of reported problems with the plane’s system for supplying oxygen to the pilot. The flight ban on the F-22, in effect since May, remains until an investigation is completed in a few months, said Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes.
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TITUSVILLE, Florida – A World War II veteran relives his wartime adventure by flying the very same airplane he once did six decades ago.
Avrid Shook flew during the war and was assigned to the China, India, Burma (CBI) Theater. He flew the famous C-46 Commando and C-47 Skytrain among many others, such as the B-25, B-17, C-124, C-119 and a fabric covered bi-plane called the Tiger Moth.
So in honor of his 91st birthday, Shook requested to be able to fly again in the first aircraft he trained on those many years ago — the Tiger Moth. On Saturday, he took to the sky from the Valiant Air Command at the Warbird Museum in Titusville.
Shook was stationed around the world including Korea and Japan. He retired in 1964 and has two children, six grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.
He has been a member of the Valiant Air Command for about 5 years; often volunteering during our Open Houses to stand by our exhibits and regal visitors with stories of his exploits and experience.
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Defence Minister Stephen Smith has set a firm 2012 deadline on any decision to buy additional Boeing Super Hornet aircraft in the face of further delays in delivery of the new Joint Strike Fighter. Smith again vowed he would not allow any air combat capability gap to emerge between retirement of older F/A-18 Hornet aircraft and entry to service of the JSF.
Under current plans, Australia is looking to acquire up to 100 of the advanced Lockheed-Martin F-35 JSF at a cost around $16 billion. But so far Australia has committed to buy just 14, with the RAAF set to take delivery of the first two in the US for training in 2014-15.
The Defence Minister said the RAAF’s 71 classic Hornets were being upgraded and would remain in service until around 2020 when the JSF is expected to enter full service. Twenty of 24 new Super Hornets have now been delivered with the rest to arrive later this year. He then added that Australia prudently chose to buy the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) JSF variant rather than the more troubled carrier or short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variants.
Advice from the Defence Department indicated Australia could wait until 2013 to make a judgement about whether alternative arrangements were required to ensure there was no gap in capability, he said.
“I am not proposing to wait until the last minute. I am proposing to recommend to the government that we make that decision next year,” Smith said in answer to a question from independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
He said there was an obvious Plan B – more Super Hornets.
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Len Hodges found his wings again.
The 89-year-old Royal Air Force veteran hadn’t flown in a Harvard Mk. IV flight trainer in 68 years. But he got his chance last week, taking a ride in the swift, yellow trainer when it visited Niagara District Airport — the same airport where he learned to fly as a Tiger Moth pilot in 1943.
As he climbed down from the wing of the plane, he was grinning from ear to ear.
The Harvard Mk. IV plane was just one piece of history brought to life as six vintage aircraft were brought out to the tarmac and shown off. They were part of the Yellow Wings initiative, a program flying coast to coast to draw attention to the history of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
The airport was once part of that plan: As the former No. 9 Elementary Flying Training School, it graduated more than 1,800 pilots during the Second World War, sending them off with the basics of flight under their belts to earn their wings at more advanced schools.
Hodges is among the surviving graduates. ”It brings back a lot of memories,” he said prior to his flight.
At St. Catharines, he said, he trained in Tiger Moths rather than the Fleet Finch aircraft typically used. He moved up to the Harvard elsewhere, finding the plane easier to handle than those he flew here.
But the challenge of learning didn’t cow him. ”I wanted to fly, and I loved it,” said Hodges, who went on to fly B-24 Liberator bombers over Southeast Asia for the Royal Air Force.
Dave Hadfield, team leader of the Yellow Wings tour, said there were bound to be a few flying aces that came out of the Niagara operation.
“St. Catharines was a big operation,” he said. “One of the World War II hangars is still here, but it was a larger operation in those days.”
He said pilots did their first 50 hours in flight here, zipping about in bright-painted planes often dubbed yellow perils. They’d move up to fly Harvards elsewhere, and finally split off to fighter or bomber school.
The Yellow Wings have stopped at many of the old schools already, he said, with more on the agenda. They started their journey in British Columbia and plan to touch down at every base involved in the Air Training Plan.
In St. Catharines, they joined in a re-dedication ceremony for a monument at the airport terminal, honouring the flight school.
Hadfield said Canada started with only a handful of airmen. He said British prime minister Winston Churchill asked the country not to send 10 pilots to war right away, but to send 10,000 in a year.
“The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was likely our largest (contribution) to victory in the Second World War,” Hadfield said. “We were the aerodrome of democracy.
“We trained over 200,000 people and we did it in an incredible hurry.”
Many were pilots from the United States and other countries.
“It was a magnificent accomplishment — never been equalled in Canadian aviation. It’s not something you read about in the history books.”
It’s a history that’s being lost, Hadfield said. He noted many Second World War veterans are old, and more and more are dying.
“That whole knowledge is disappearing, but by maintaining these aircraft and flying them we can preserve that history.”
It wasn’t just flight that brought Hodges to put down roots here, though. He’s originally from Basingstoke in the U.K. but has lived here since 1947. Here, he said, he met his wife of 64 years.
“I’m a war husband,” he said.