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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creative Aeronautical Engineering

Greetings people,

I have been as busy as can be this morning with email correspondence. Along with writing this blog, which is my recreation, I am Chairman of an upcoming national convention in July. This takes an ever increasing amount of time to handle and interferes with my writing. So the release time of each new blog may vary. Please bear with me and check back later in the day if it isn't out around noon Pacific Time.

The weather guesser says beautiful downtown Fallon, Nevada, USA should see 61 degrees of Fahrenheit today and rain makes no "cents" at all... nada.

Sgt Mikki has been in good voice this morning and it was amusing to see how little effect it had on the little grey tiger striped kitty sitting two feet away from her through an iron gate. If you look up "nonchalance" in the dictionary I believe there will be a picture of that cat found there. I was obligated by duty and unwritten hearing protection rules, to open the door and ask the cat to vacate the premises, which it did immediately upon the turning of the door handle. Jessi on the other hand was completely unimpressed by the cat and wanted to come inside where her people were. Never a dull moment with these two around.

We have to saddle up and ride to Reno this afternoon to run a couple of errands and then meet up with our local Mensa crew for Supper Club at 6:00 pm.

Where else would you celebrate Fat Tuesday but Bavarian World! OK, maybe New Orleans, but that is not going to happen this year.

Since I didn't have time to write something new this morning, I will offer you this tale of boredom inspired but marvelous good times. Enjoy.

Creative Aeronautical Engineering

       The year was 1975 and it was New Year's Day. We were working the day shift at the control tower at Lawson Army Airfield, Ft Benning, GA. and it was as quiet as I had EVER seen it. The only aviation activity we had seen all day was the standby Med-Evac bird doing his turn-up and checks at 08:00, after that, nada.

    You know how inventive you get when there is literally nothing left to read, you have no television or radio to listen to, and you really don't want to get into yet another card game? We were there.

    I was sitting on the window ledge watching a bird floating on the breeze and got inspired. I would build a giant paper airplane and launch it from the control tower catwalk. We were at 95 feet AGL (above the ground) elevation and the prevailing winds would take it across a large open expanse. It could set a new record!

    The reason that my idea met with little opposition is simple, I was the guy in charge. Oh, my crew did voice some token, "We'll get in a world of sh** if it hits anything" resistance, but it was only for show, they were up for it too.

    One teensy little problem existed though, where to get paper large enough to make said gigantic flying machine? Thereupon enters the resourcefulness of the modern miscreant. I spied the tele-autowriter, which had a continuous roll of paper which might just be wide enough to work.

    For those unfamiliar with such primitive devices of the early days, the tele-autowriter was a machine which was connected to a sending device upon which the Air Force weatherman could write the current and forecasted weather. The pen he used was hooked to a control arm and it turned the movements into electrical signals which were interpreted at each receiving site. No, we didn't have computers for that stuff then.

    Anyway, I rolled off about six feet of paper and commenced to designing. I wanted to utilize the size of the paper without additional weight, but finally decided that I did have to add to the wings to give this eagle enough area to soar. I added wooden coffee stirring sticks in critical areas for strength and very lightly glued the edges of the paper with that old glue we had as kids in the clear bottle with the red rubber top. You know the stuff, you had to mash it down and drag it along the paper to get it to work.

    Two hours later we had a bird worthy of flight and checked the surrounding area. We even checked for inbound flights and any VIP departures which could cause a problem. Nothing, nada, Green light all the way!

    Out onto the catwalk and prepare for flight!

    One of my guys called over to the Base Ops crew and Field Services guys to come out and witness the "World Record" flight. They all poured out of the building and the launch was made. It was a thing of beauty, nearly six feet long and almost 18 inches wide at the wing tips, in a delta swept wing design.

    The bird held altitude really well, much better than the terse comments about calling for the crash crew seemed to indicate. The crash crew heard all of the chatter on the flight line radio and they all came outside to watch too. We were shooting for 100 yards flight distance, figuring that 3:1 would be respectable for a paper airplane, ( 100ft up x 300 ft flight distance), but it kept going.

    The soaring bird passed 100 yards, 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile and was beginning to start a graceful descent to the surface of the empty parking ramp in front of the Operations building, certainly on its way to a full mile flight. All eyes were on that fantastic glide and cheering on the attainment of a full mile mark.

    That's probably why we didn't see the black sedan pull out on the ramp flying the flags on the front fenders. Well, we didn't see it until the paper airplane and the windshield of the sedan arrived at the same place, at the same time.

    My first statement was, "Did it make it to one mile?"

    My crew on the other hand, as well as the entire population on the airfield that New Years Day, vaporized. That's the only way I can put it, they were there one minute and gone the next. They vanished so fast that if one had looked directly at the control tower when that bird & car collided, I was the only one in sight. Of course I always maintained that the car hit the airplane, in spite of what the Colonel said. Besides, powered craft have to give way to non-powered craft, it's in the rules.

    Naturally it didn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out where the paper airplane came from. Colonel Loudman was the airfield commander and walked right by the sending unit of the tele-autowriter system ever day. Even he wasn't buying it was a UFO that made an unscheduled landing at our base.

    The very next morning I had the pleasure of his company at 08:00, his office. The guy with the bird on his collar did all of the talking, but I held up my end pretty well too. I did ALL of the listening. I had a hard time not giggling as I stood with my feet in these cutesy footprints which were painted onto the carpet in front of his desk. What a power tripping egomaniacal clown. Rather than finding it intimidating, I just thought it was funny.

    Of course I did already have a tip off from the Colonel's driver, that the General who was in the car with the Colonel getting a tour of the airport, thought it was a great feat of aeronautical engineering and a super flight. So much so that he suggested that the Colonel not punish the men responsible. When a General suggests something, if you are smart, you consider that an order. So the Colonel huffed and puffed and told me to get out of his office, which I did.

    I transferred to Alaska that spring and had gotten myself established, put on another stripe and was settling in quite well. As is common with the military, we had a change of command for the base, which happens about every two years or so.

    There we were, standing formation at our little base at Ft Richardson, AK and the new Commander decides to review the troops. As it was a General, I gave little thought as to who it might be, that is until he stopped right in front of me.

    Lo and Behold, Colonel, now General, Loudman was in my face saying, "We meet again, Staff Sergeant, and now I'm the General." 

    I spent a lot of time in the field after that, but the General never did cause me any real trouble. He had enough of his own to deal with.

Note: The Colonel/General's name has been changed to protect the guilty.


If you are curious, we did determine that the airplane had actually passed the one mile mark before the collision. I also learned in 1978 upon returning to Ft Benning, GA, that the General in the car had the paper airplane hanging in his office until he retired and it is presumed that he took it with him.

As previously published in the Northern Nevada Mensa newsletter the Neva-Mind, and including the post script on American Mensa website in Bylines

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