For this month’s Blogging in Formation post, we formation bloggers decided to write on the topic of “Truth is Stranger than Fiction.”
Yikes – talk about wide open… and considering I talked about my most memorable (read: strangest) flight a couple of months ago (you remember – really boring, long flight gets exciting really quick when a meteorite nearly shoots us down?), I decided to take a bit of a departure from MY flights, and talk about some of aviation history’s (and aviation TODAY’S) strangest facts.
What follows is a list of 11 insane (but true) things about aviation – and I’ve upped the ante by adding one (1) FALSE aviation “fact,” for a total of 12. And I’ll be running a contest… leave your guess in the comments as to which one of the below “facts” is actually “fiction,” and I’ll select one person who answers correctly (random selection) to receive an issue of a vintage aviation magazine!
Now for the rules (not that I can enforce them) – please don’t use Google or any of the other interweb searching technologies available to us in this fantastic day and age we live in. This will be on the honor system, so simply read the items below, and based on your knowledge of aviation trivia, pick out the one that is false (or make an educated guess as to which one you think is false). This will not be as easy as you may think. I’m giving one week to read and comment, so as this post went live on Sunday, August 4th, 2013 at 12:01am eastern time, you have until midnight eastern time on Saturday, August 10th, 2013 to comment. I will post a follow up giving the correct answer, as well as announcing the answer and winner on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, so click the links above (or below) to follow Smart Flight Training there so you don’t miss the results! You can also subscribe to the Smart Flight Training blog in your favorite RSS reader (I suggest Feedly).
UPDATE: While the contest is over, please feel free to continue to comment and take your guess at the false item on the list. If you are impatient and want to see the answers, they can be found on the post “And the Winner is…“
Now – on with the show!
11 Insane (but true) things about Aviation
1) Man files flight plan from New York, NY to Long Beach, CA – but ends up in Ireland!
In 1938, Douglas Corrigan flew from Long Beach to New York, and filed a flight plan to return to Long Beach, but instead flew to Ireland – earning him the nickname “Wrong Way” Corrigan. Corrigan had been denied permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and he blamed his directional “mistake” on a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass.
2) The first pilot’s license did not belong to one of the Wright brothers!
Pilot Certificate number 1 was actually issued to William P. MacCracken, Jr., the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics, and not until 1927 (even though the Wright Brothers’ first flight was in 1903). The story goes that Mr. MacCracken offered the honor to Orville Wright, who declined since he was no longer flying.
3) The first aircraft to be intentionally shot down by another aircraft went down on October 5, 1914, when the observer in one plane shot the pilot in another plane with a hand gun.
Prior to this, military aviation was more a “gentleman’s game” – with pilots on opposing sides waving and saluting each other as they passed.
4) The remains of Bert Hinkler’s glider CANNOT BE DESTROYED!
Alright – grab a piece of paper and a pencil for this one… it’s a little convoluted: Bert Hinkler was the first person to fly solo from England to Australia, and to the first to fly solo across the southern Atlantic Ocean. He practiced flying in gliders he built himself. He died in 1933, crashing in a second England to Australia flight attempt. Now for the weird: a piece of wood from one of Hinkler’s gliders was given to U.S. astronaut Don Lind as a token of appreciation for visiting Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia (where the Hinkler Hall of Aviation is). The piece of wood was in turn given to Dick Scobee, the captain of the space shuttle Challenger mission. The piece of wood was on the Challenger, in a plastic bag, in Scobee’s locker when the Challenger exploded in 1986. The bag and the wood were recovered from the sea, identified, mounted, and later returned to the Hinkler Hall of Aviation in Bundaberg.
5) The deadliest accident in aviation history actually occurred on the ground!
On Sunday, March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 aircraft collided on the ground, killing 583 people and destroying both aircraft. Due to low visibility and other factors, one 747 was attempting to take off while the other was still on the runway.
6) Inspiration can come from anywhere: My Little Pilot: Flying is Magic
Oklahoma’s Vance Air Force Base has a pilot training unit that has adopted a pink, My Little Pony-inspired patch (as opposed to the typical scorpions, skulls, and other “manly” (and more typical) options. I guess the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has also allowed the bronies in the military to come out of the closet, er, stable.
7) In the “Man Bites Dog” Category – Someone actually ATE a Cessna 150
It took him two years, but Michael Lotito literally ate a Cessna 150. Apparently Lotito was a french entertainer who deliberately ate indigestible objects, such as bicycles, beds, shopping carts, chandeliers, a coffin, and the aforementioned Cessna 150, among other things. He said these things were not a problem, but bananas and hard-boiled eggs gave him indigestion.
8) A Hopping Rocket?
SpaceX has created a rocket that is capable of launching straight up (as all good rockets should), and of returning to the ground – also straight up and right back to it’s original position on the launchpad! Called the Grasshopper Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle, it’s most recent test had the rocket take off, hover momentarily at about 820 feet, then return safely to the lauchpad, still in it’s original upright position, allowing the rocket to be reused. Take THAT North Korea.
9) An over-under, makeshift four-engine biplane
In 1940, two Avro Anson airplanes from an air base in New South Wales, Australia were training together. During the training, they collided and stuck together, one on top of the other, killing the engines of the upper plane, and the controls of the lower. Both crew members bailed out of the lower aircraft, and the navigator bailed out of the upper aircraft. The pilot of the upper plane realized he still had control, so flew on for five more miles before making an emergency landing. The upper aircraft was actually fixed and flew again!
10) The Bungle Award – an award you DON’T want to win
Pilots are good at what they do, and generally take flying very seriously, but we are also fond of jokes and humor! In that vein, the Bungle Awards were created to “honor” the inexcusable, “dumb” mistakes that get made sometimes (like taxiing into a parked airplane, dragging your wing down the length of a hangar, or taking off with too little fuel and having to lang off airport out of gas). Some Air Force Bungle Awards can be seen in museums, though since they were unofficial, no one knows to whom they belonged, when they were given, or for what, exactly, they were awarded!
11) The Hughes H-4 Hercules – a.k.a. The Spruce Goose
Howard Hughes’s H-4 Hercules is the largest flying boat ever built, and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history. Due to wartime restrictions on using aluminum, the aircraft was built out of wood, earning it the nickname “Spruce Goose” (even though it was actually made out of birch). It had 8 engines, each producing 3000 horsepower. It only flew one time, for about a mile and at about 70 feet above the water, on November 2, 1947.
12) Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need “roads.”
The elusive flying car we have all been waiting for is finally (nearly) here. A company founded by attendees of MIT called Terrafugia is flight testing and working on FAA (and DOT) approval for their “Transition” flying car (but don’t call it that when they’re around – they insist that the Transition is a “roadable aircraft,” NOT a “flying car”). With two seats and folding wings, the Transition falls under the “light sport” category of aircraft. Terrafugia doesn’t even have final approval on the Transition yet, but word is, they are already looking into the future at a vertical takeoff and landing, self-flying aircraft that would truly allow anyone to avoid the ground-bound traffic and commute above the fray. Does anyone else find that just a little frightening (yet awesome)?
Check out all the Blogging in Formation posts:
Saturday, August 3: Dan Pimentel (Airplanista)
Sunday, August 4: Andrew Hartley (Smart Flight Training)
Monday, August 5: Brent Owens (IFlyBlog)
Tuesday, August 6: Karlene Petitt (Flight to Success)
Wednesday, August 7: Eric Auxier (Adventures of Cap’n Aux)
Thursday, August 8: Ron Rapp (House of Rapp)
Thanks for reading the Smart Flight Training blog – I hope you enjoyed this post, and don’t forget to leave your comment about which “fact” above you think is actually “fiction” for your chance to win an issue of a vintage aviation magazine! Tailwinds, and have a great week!
Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor in Columbus, Ohio.