06.22.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Aircraft that relies on ground effect to stay aloft


06.22.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Demand for airline pilots set to soar

From USA Today reporter Charisse Jones



06.21.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Statement on the recent B-17 crash

From Ray Fowler, the chief pilot for the Liberty Foundation: 


Statement from Liberty Foundation Chief Pilot:

June 14, 2011 – First, let me start off by sincerely thanking everyone for the outpouring of support that we are receiving. I am sorry that I have not yet had the opportunity to return the many phone calls, text or e-mails that I am receiving offering to help. Again, thank you for all of the kind words that we are receiving and for incredible offers to help emotionally, financially and/or with the recovery process. I hope this statement will help fill in a few details that everyone is wondering about that led to the loss of our “Liberty Belle”.

Yesterday (June 13, 2011) morning, both our P-40 and B-17 were scheduled to fly from Aurora, Illinois to Indianapolis, Indiana. We were in Aurora for the weekend as a part of our scheduled tour. Over the course of the previous week, we completed a scheduled 25-hour inspection on the B-17 which was completed by Saturday. On Saturday, the weather stayed below the required ceiling to give any passenger flights, however the B-17 flew in the morning on a routine training proficiency flight, performing several patterns. Following the flight, other maintenance issues arose that required us to cancel our Sunday flying schedule for repairs. The maintenance performed has not been, in any way, associated to the chain of events that led to Monday’s fateful flight, but is being considered in the preliminary investigation. However, due to the media’s sensational (mis)reporting, there is a large amount of misinformation that continues to lead the news.

Here is what we do know… Flying in the left seat of the B-17 was Capt. John Hess. John has been flying our Liberty Belle since 2005 and one of our most experienced B-17 pilots. He is an active Delta Air Lines Captain with over 14,000 hours of flying experience and flys a variety of vintage WWII aircraft. In the right seat was Bud Sittig. While Bud is new to the Liberty Foundation this year, he is also incredibly experienced with over 14,000 hours of flying time in vintage and hi-performance aircraft. He is a retired Captain with Delta Air Lines.

The news misidentified the P-40 as flying chase during the accident. I was flying our P-40, however I had departed 20 minutes prior to the B-17’s takeoff on the short flight to Indianapolis to setup for the B-17’s arrival. The aircraft flying chase was a T-6 Texan flown by owner Cullen Underwood. Cullen is one of our rated B-17 Captains and an experienced aviator tagging along as a support ship.

The takeoff of both aircraft was uneventful and proceeded on-course southeast. Prior to exiting Aurora’s airport traffic area, the B-17 crew and passengers began investigating an acrid smell and started a turn back to the airport. Almost immediately thereafter, Cullen spotted flames coming from the left wing and reported over the radio that they were on fire.

As all pilots know, there are few emergency situations that are more critical than having an in-flight fire. While an in-flight fire is extremely rare, it can (and sometimes does) indiscriminately affect aircraft of any age or type. In-flight fires have led to the loss of not only aircraft, but often can result in catastrophic loss of life. It requires an immediate action on the flight crew, as the integrity of aircraft structure, systems and critical components are in question.

Directly below the B-17 was a farmer’s field and the decision was made to land immediately. Approximately 1 minute and 40 seconds from the radio report of the fire, the B-17 was down safely on the field. Within that 1:40 time frame, the crew shutdown and feathered the number 2 engine, activated the engine’s fire suppression system, lowered the landing gear and performed an on-speed landing. Bringing the B-17 to a quick stop, the crew and passengers quickly and safely exited the aircraft. Overhead in the T-6, Cullen professionally coordinated and directed the firefighting equipment which was dispatched by Aurora Tower to the landing location.

Unlike the sensational photos that you have all seen of the completely burned B-17 on the news, you will see from photos taken by our crew that our Liberty Belle was undamaged by the forced landing and at the time of landing, the wing fire damage was relatively small. The crew actually unloaded bags, then had the horrible task of watching the aircraft slowly burn while waiting for the fire trucks to arrive. There were high hopes that the fire would be extinguished quickly and the damage would be repairable. Those hopes were diminished as the fire trucks deemed the field too soft to cross due to the area’s recent rainfall. So while standing by our burning B-17 and watching the fire trucks parked at the field’s edge, they sadly watched the wing fire spread to the aircraft’s fuel cells and of course, you all have seen the end result. There is no doubt that had the fire equipment been able to reach our aircraft, the fire would have been quickly extinguished and our Liberty Belle would have been repaired to continue her worthwhile mission.

Let me go on the record by thanking the flight crew for their professionalism. Their actions were nothing short of heroic and their quick thinking, actions and experience led to a “successful” outcome to this serious in-flight emergency. John and Bud (and Cullen) did a remarkable job under extreme circumstances and performed spectacularly. While the leading news stories have repeatedly reported the “crash” of our B-17, fact is they made a successful forced landing and the aircraft was ultimately consumed by fire. Airplanes are replaceable but people are not and while the aircraft’s loss is tragic, it was a successful result.

This leads me into discussing the exceptional safety record of the Boeing B-17 and to hopefully squash the naysayers who preach we should not be flying these types of aircraft. Since we first flew the “Liberty Belle” in December of 2004, we have flown over 20,000 passengers throughout the country and if you count our historic trip to Europe in 2008, worldwide. Of the other touring B-17s, some of which that have been touring for over 20 years, they have safely flown hundreds of thousands of people. The aircraft’s safety record is spectacular and I am certain the overall cause of our issue, which is under investigation, will not tarnish that safety record. In fact, as many of you know, other B-17 have suffered significant damage (although not as bad as ours!), only to be re-built to fly again. From a passenger carrying standpoint, I can think of few aircraft that offer the same level of safety as the 4-engine “Flying Fortress”. As mentioned earlier, in-flight fires are extremely rare and certainly could affect any powered aircraft under certain circumstances. I would put my children today in any of the other touring B-17s to go fly. I suggest to anyone that was thinking of doing so when a B-17 visits your area to do so without giving our loss any thought.

There is wild speculation going on as to the cause of our fire and the affect to other operators. Please let the investigation run its course and report the findings. The NTSB and FAA were quickly on the scene and we are working closely with them to aid in the investigation. As soon as we receive some additional information, we will release it via the website.

The ultimate question remains, where does the Liberty Foundation go from here? After the investigation and recovery, we will determine our options. We are still committed to the restoration and flying of World War II aircraft. Again, we appreciate the support and people offering to help get us back flying.

Please check back for updates. I will close by thanking everyone that made our tour so successful. From the first day of the B-17’s restoration, thank you for all of you who labored to get her flying over the initial restoration years and to everyone that has worked on her out on tour since. Thank you to the crewmembers, tour coordinators and volunteers who gave up weekends and countless hours to support her on the road. And finally, thank you to the passengers, donors and media patrons that flew aboard and everyone who supported our cause. Hopefully, this will not be the end of the story, but a new beginning.

Ray Fowler
The Liberty Foundation, Chief Pilot

06.11.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Fighter pilot Virgine Guyot’s historic flight


The 2010 squadron is lead for the first  time by a woman, Captain Virginie Guyot. The eight-jet Patrouille is one of the best precision jet teams in the world and in the elite company of the United States Air Force’s Thunderbirds and Britain’s RAF Red Arrows. Its tight formation aerobatics is breath-taking, daring and unforgettable. Every Bastille Day their flight over the city of Paris is one of the highlights of the parade.

06.11.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

An incredible event in aviation history

In October, 1942, the XP-59, the USA’s first jet aircraft, rolled out of Bell Aviation at Edwards AFB.




05.31.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Teamwork at High Speed

From former Air Force test pilot Danny Cox


Only a few feet separate the lead pilot’s tailpipe from the nose of my supersonic fighter as we rip through the sky at speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour.  I feel the blast from his engine vibrating through my feet on the rudder pedals and through my right hand on the control stick.  There are seven more jets behind me packed just as tight in our nine-ship formation.

Sonic Boom Salesman breaks the barrier once more.



Almost with one motion, the nose of each fighter gently drops below the horizon.  The airspeed builds until the lead pilot pulls back on the stick.  The nose of every fighter rises in perfect symmetry as the “g” forces build.  I feel the blood being forced into my legs and feet.  All nine of us are now experiencing the same 5 “g” force ––5 times our body weight.  We tighten our leg and abdominal muscles to keep blood in our upper extremities to avoid blacking out.

I concentrate on keeping my hand on the throttle.  If it slips off, the “g” force will push it down between the side panel and my ejection seat.  I will lose my ability to make minor throttle adjustments and hold precise position.  As we curve over the top of our perfect loop, the world switches places with the sky.  The “g” forces diminish down the backside.  I steal a millisecond glance at the two rear view mirrors.  Everyone is still tucked in tight.  The “g” pressure builds again as our lead pilot pulls the nose back up to level flight and eight pilots follow in perfect unison.

The lead pilot takes us through a series of horizon tumbling rolls followed by a formation shift to a nine-ship diamond.  It’s my turn to fly center position as we make a high-speed, low-level pass over the airfield.  The noise of eight other jets in front and back, and on both sides, flying two to three yards from wingtip to wingtip is deafening.  It’s high performance flying right to the edge.  There is only one word to describe it: exhilarating.  WOW!  How I love it!

It’s the ultimate team experience.  The difference between life and death can be how well we learn from our successes and failures.  Our synergy comes from courage, creativity, and being there for each other, no matter what.  After leaving the Air Force and entering the corporate world, I had to transfer the principles of individual and team high performance to new challenges.

I had to make some tremendous adjustments, but my drive to again be a part of a high performance team was strong.  I sought out advice and counsel from the most successful people I could find in various industries.  What they taught me, along with some innovations of my own, put my new team into a supersonic climb.  In five years, we increased production 800 percent, morale soared and turnover dropped to nearly zero.

So now it’s your turn. You’re clear for take-off followed by an afterburner climb.

Photo below:  Danny preparing for a supersonic flight in a F-16 with the 113th Air Wing,
Andrews AFB, Maryland.



05.30.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Around the World in Two Days

In 1873, Jules Verne wrote about Phileas Fogg, his valet Passepartout, and their trip Around the World in Eighty Days.

In 2011, Dan Poynter roughly followed the same route and circumnavigate the globe in 2 days. And Dan made the trip on regularly-scheduled commercial airliners.

The trip began in Los Angeles (LAX) on Tuesday, May 17, fly to Washington (IAD), Dubai (DXB), Singapore (SIN), Taipei (TPE), and ended in Los Angeles (LAX) on Thursday, May 19.

Twelve time zones were covered on United Airlines in 19 hours and the next twelve were on Singapore Air and EVA Air.

Dan Poynter loves to fly. He has circumnavigated the globe 20 times, flies more than 6,000 miles each week, toured 52 countries so far, and skydived into the North Pole.

The world will shrink by 78 days.



05.28.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

A Cool Aviation Event in Memphis

From Don Hutson


This past Saturday evening I had the pleasure of emceeing a unique event entitled “Wei Around the World Gala”. Wei Chen is featured on the cover of BizJet Advisor’s China Report and is becoming a media sensation in China and was a real hit here in Memphis!
My friend, Wei Chen, a sharp Memphis entrepreneur of Chinese descent, wanted a good send-off for his around the world trip in a single engine aircraft. If he makes it he will be the first Chinese to complete this accomplishment, and China helped him make the Gala special by sending over some 50+ dancers and entertainers for the event! They have also assured him Chinese airspace clearance as needed and much good P. R. at each stop.

There were some 400 attendees on hand for this special Gala which was a fund-raiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We had live auction items, heart-warming stories of kids’ lives being saved, and a terrific tribute to our citizen who will spread Memphis good will throughout the world.

Wei Chen departed last Sunday, May 21st  for his first stop and P. R. event in Washington D. C. He and his co-pilot lifted off in his Socata TBM-700 turbo a couple of hours late as they waited for thunder storms to pass through. The Socata is manufactured in France by a 100 year old company that prides itself in producing exceptional aircraft. He bought it two months ago in preparation for the trip. I have been concerned about the volcano eruptions disrupting his itinerary, but I called to get an updated weather report today (he had to layover in Canada) and the forecast is for the volcanic clutter to be clear of his route of flight by the time he gets to Iceland. Wei is a 500 hour pilot, so he doesn’t need any unexpected challenges on this trip. He has a high time, internationally experienced co-pilot in the right seat, which got him insured and more peace of mind for the endeavor!
Wei will make some 40 stops and be gone 70 days on his trek around the world. The Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper has given him great coverage over the past few weeks and I’m sure he will spread our Southern Good Will throughout the world. Let’s all wish him luck!

Don Hutson

More about Wei Chen’s trip click here: http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/may/04/memphis-businessman-wei-chen-

Chinese Aviation History Event in Memphis, TN!


05.28.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Aviator Amanda Franklin succumbs to injuries

From Speaking Eagle Mark Sanborn:

Amanda Franklin passed away yesterday after battling burns sustained in an emergency landing over two months ago. She was a wing walker married to husband Kyle and as many know part of legendary air show family. I met Kyle and Amanda at ICAS in December of 2009. They were an enthusiastic couple in love with each other, flying and life.

From examiner.com

Kyle is dealing with massive medical bills and many in the air show community are stepping up to help.

Kyle Franklin, of Franklin’s Flying Circus and Airshow, announced last night that his wife and team partner, Amanda, passed away at 10:10 pm Friday night. Amanda had been hospitalized at the Brooke Army Medical Center since the March 12th accident where the airplane she was wing-walking crashed and caught fire after an engine failure. Amanda suffered third degree burns to over 70% of her body along with multiple bone fractures. Kyle was also hospitalized and released March 28th to receive outpatient care and still faces a long rehabilitation. They have been performing their wing-walking act since the summer of 2009.

Through the difficult time, Kyle kept fans and friends updated with daily notes on the team’s Facebook Page. On May 26th, Kyle made a post about having just made the difficult decision to remove Amanda from life-support and provide ‘comfort care.’ Doctor’s had informed Kyle and the family that they did not believe that Amanda would survive the two weeks until her next skin graft surgery. Amanda was suffering from multiple infections of her burn injuries which were not responding to the antibiotic treatment, near complete failure of her kidneys and her liver was beginning to fail as well.

In the May 26th note, Kyle stated, ‘I made the hardest decision of my life today and put her on Comfort Care. They have taken her off most everything with the exception of the ventilator, sedation meds and pain meds. They placed her in a more comfortable position and are doing everything to make her as comfortable as possible… Amanda my love, I love you with all my heart, soul and everything I am. Our life together here was supposed to be seventy years not seven, but I look forward to seeing you in my dreams every night my love.’

On May 27th, Kyle posted the update following update to the team’s fans, ‘It is with a broken heart that I tell you that my beautiful girl Amanda passed away at 10:10 central time this evening. Beside her was her adoring husband Kyle, her mother Jeanie, her brother Matt, her sister-in-law Michelle and her devoted mother-in-law Audean.’

Kyle and Amanda had been friends since childhood and were dating when both their fathers, Jimmy Franklin and Bobby Younkin, were killed during a 2005 air show. On July 10, 2005, while performing at the Saskatchewan Centennial Air Show in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, their planes were involved in a fatal mid-air collision. Kyle and Amanda were married a few months later, in October of 2005.

Two funds have been established to support the Franklin’s with their mounting medical bills. To donate to the Franklins’ funds, you may do so via the Moonlight Fund, a nonprofit that provides assistance 24/7 to burn survivors and their family members in their time of need, by specifying the Kyle & Amanda Franklin Fund; or through the International Council of Air Shows Foundation, by specifying the Kyle & Amanda Fund during the donation process.

The Chairman of Air Fiesta, David Hughston, stated that a scheduled June 4 fundraiser for the Franklins will go ahead as planned. The fundraiser will be at the Commemorative Air Force RGV Wing headquarters at the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport. Air Fiesta was the air show during which the Franklin’s tragic accident occurred.

The fundraiser will have a silent auction of over 50 items, live music, family activities. Some of the items in the silent auction range from appliances to fishing trips and even weekend getaways to South Padre Island. A mobile blood bank will also be on handfor anyone who wishes to donate blood in Amanda’s name.

The fundraiser will be from 3 to 9 p.m. and will have a $10 admission charge for everyone over the age of 12.

Even if not attending, tax-deductible donations can be made to AIR FIESTA, P.O. Box 8190, Brownsville, TX 78526. For more information visit www.AirFiesta.org or Air Fiesta’s Facebook page.

Continue reading on Examiner.com Amanda Franklin succumbs to injuries suffered in March air show crash – National General Aviation | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/general-aviation-in-national/amanda-franklin-succumbs-to-injuries-suffered-march-air-show-crash#ixzz1NfZgU38f

Continue reading on Examiner.com Amanda Franklin succumbs to injuries suffered in March air show crash – National General Aviation | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/general-aviation-in-national/amanda-franklin-succumbs-to-injuries-suffered-march-air-show-crash#ixzz1NfZJPRAf

05.27.2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Flying the JATO-Assist Cobra

Not many folks are likely to have flown a “JATO-Assisted” helicopter. I did, just one time.

JATO stands for jet fuel assisted takeoff. The most famous demonstration of this system is the Blue Angels C-130, known as Fat Albert.



It works great on airplanes, such as the C-130, for reducing the length of takeoff rolls or providing steep climb outs, but who ever heard of putting JATO on a helicopter?

In April 1969, I was flying a combat mission in the Republic of South Vietnam as an aircraft commander in an AH-1G Huey Cobra gunship. I was the wingman in a two-ship formation. An infantry company from the 101st Airborne Division was in a nasty firefight with an unknown-sized enemy unit.

Because the American unit was trapped in a tight valley, we had to confine our rocket and machine guns passes down that valley—making our flight path highly predictable (bad idea, but no other options available). On each run down that valley, I was firing 3-4 pairs of 2.75 inch folding-fin aerial rockets (FFARs) from my inboard rocket pods. (These rockets had 17-pound warheads, which made them the equivalent of a 105 howitzer round.)

As I pushed the nose over to begin our fourth pass, my copilot was firing the mini-gun (in the turret) in response to tracers coming from half way up the mountain slope on our right. I armed the outboard pods and was flying at near redline airspeed (190 knots) and suddenly found myself pinned to the right side of the cockpit. Out of my peripheral vision I could see an enormous fireball on the right side of my Cobra. I then experienced one of those rare moments when everything seems to slow down. What seemed like a long time actually occurred in about 2-3 seconds, or less:

• I realized my right outboard XM-19 rocket pod (loaded with 13 2.75 inch FFARs was engulfed in a fireball
• I reached for the pod eject switch on the enter console between my knees
• I actually thought about switching to “outboard only” (we flew in the “both position” (inboard and outboard)
• I decided to dump all four pods, and in one motion lifted the cover and flipped the switch
• Instantaneously, the Cobra went from what seemed like a 30 degree crab left from the forward track of the helicopter back to proper alignment

My mission was over, and I returned home without further incident. Since the bad guys were known to use unexploded 2.75 FFAR as land mines, the infantry unit eventually recovered all four pods. One had a large bullet hole in the side and was extensively damaged by the fire.

Apparently, the bullet had jammed a rocket in the tube just as it was launched (or perhaps, it ignited the rocket motor and also caused the jam). Either way, I had one or more rockets—a JATO-assist—on the starboard side of my Cobra. The stress on the tail boom from redline airspeed with the nose 30 degrees off of the relative wind must have been incredible. Thanks to the folks at Bell Helicopter, I made it back to Camp Eagle—still shaking, but happy to have survived a short flight in a JATO-assisted Cobra. I was still too young to buy a can of beer, but do recall drinking a few (perhaps many) that night.

Lessons learned:

• Don’t put JATO-assist on a helicopter
• If you do, make sure it is on both sides, it is very uncomfortable when it is just on one side

Randy Larsen
Dragon 31D
4/77 Aerial Rocket Artillery
101st Airborne Division