APOD: Howard 500

Today’s APOD comes to you from Oshkosh 2013.

The Howard 500 is a striking aircraft. A beautiful twin-radial taildragger, the 500 is a golden-age executive transport, the Gulfstream of its time. Rumor has it that the interior is relatively spacious, and quite nicely appointed in leather and wood, though I cannot independently confirm that.

Of the original production run, only a few airframes remain, and last I knew only two are still flying. Both of these beautiful birds were at Oshkosh, and I vividly remember their pass over the show line sending chills down my avgeek spine. Aircraft like this are a treasure, and the fact that they can still ply the skies puts a smile on my face.

Due to some unfortunate technical limitations I couldn’t get a good action shot of the 500’s flying. But my camera has been substantially upgraded, and I have high hopes for Oshkosh 2014!

Until then, enjoy this photo of the Howard 500 taxiing down the show line, and think back to the glory days of general aviation.

Howard 500 taxiing, Oshkosh 2013

Howard 500 taxiing, Oshkosh 2013


APOD: Bayflite

Medical helicopters are a great asset for EMS providers. When every second counts, when the time to transport a critically injured human being by ground would prove fatally long, helicopters come to the rescue. 


In my career in the hospital, I’ve seen countless lives saved by the gift of air transport. Many patients would not have survived their traumas, or would have had much lower chances of survival, were it not for the men and women who fly these fantastic machines.


As with anything aviation, it is a calculated risk. There have been mishaps, but the ratio of lives saved to lives lost leaves no doubt that medical helicopters are invaluable assets for EMS providers, and by extension for the public at large.


So next time you hear the clattering thunder of rotor blades in the sky, look up and say a  thank you to an EMS pilot for the life-saving work that they do.

APOD: Piper 4923T


Today’s APOD is a gorgeous PA-28R departing runway 25 at KSPG, Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Piper 4923T

Piper 4923T

Last spring I was planning to earn my high-powered/complex endorsement in an Arrow similar to this one. Unfortunately financial problems intervened and prevented me from flying that machine. I still lack my high-powered/complex endorsement.

One of these days the cashflow will improve and I will be back in the sky, hopefully earning endorsements and moving to my instrument and commercial ratings. Until then I take photos and wait. So it goes.

APOD: T-28’s at Temora

Today’s APOD comes courtesy of Mr. David Foxx, editor of Airscape Magazine.

This is a line up of T-28s facing the dawn for the recent Warbirds Downunder Show at Temora Aviation Museum, November 2nd, 2013. The sound when they all started up was bowel-loosening!
What a fantastic weekend it was! We camped on the airport with a couple of thousand other absolute aviation geeks – and I swear I could still smell avgas in my nostrils the day after I got home. Temora itself is a friendly little town in country New South Wales, Australia, that’s population trebles during the show. They take it all in their stride, with a welcome smile for all comers.
The Trojans are (from closest to farthest):
• T-28D “Mekong Moon” – registered VH-ZUK, cn 174-374, first assigned #51-7521
• T-28D “Just Dreamin’” – registered VH-ZUC, cn 174-429, first assigned #51-7576
• T-28B “Miss Stress” – registered VH-ZSH, cn 200-106
• T-28A “Littl Juggs” – registered VH-VBT, cn 171-27, first assigned #50-0221
• T-28D “DP-232” – registered VH-DPT, cn 200-303, first assigned #55-138232
YTEM T-28's; photo courtesy David Foxx.

YTEM T-28’s; photo courtesy David Foxx.

Truly the T-28’s are thunderous machines. I can feel my whole body rumble when they fire those massive radials up…thanks to Mr. Foxx for the submission, and be sure to check out Airscape Magazine, which is available through a lovely app on iOS and Android devices.


Do you have a photo to submit for APOD? Shoot me an email to airplanology@gmail.com with your photo and how you’d like to be credited!

APOD: T-28 Burst

Formation flying never ceases to impress me. To fly an aircraft takes concentration; to fly an aircraft at speed in close formation with many other airplanes requires intense focus and dedicated training. Every formation routine is practiced before a show, and every flight is debriefed after landing to analyze what went right and what could have been better.

Some GA pilots occasionally fly loose formation. I’m a cautious flyer and would prefer to receive formation training before forming up with another aircraft.

Anyway, today’s APOD comes from Oshkosh 2013. It’s a formation of T-28 Trojans, some of the most impressively loud airplanes I’ve ever seen. The photo was taken right as the formation flew a bomb burst, so each pilot is breaking off in a different direction. Fun to watch and it makes good pictures, too. Next time I’m at an airshow I’ll have my improved camera and lens for better effect.


T-28 bomb burst


APOD: T-6 in repose

Today’s APOD, as so many do, comes from the Oshkosh archives. This beautiful white T-6 sat parked where God intended, in a green grassy field under sunny blue skies surrounded by kin. When they can’t be airborne, these machines should at least be treated to the feeling of grass under their wheels now and again.

T6 as God intended.

T6 as God intended.

Potentially, a T-6 could be within my reach someday. I’m a fellow of modest means, and likely to stay that way. But if I played my cards right there’s a non-zero chance I could obtain one of these machines. The market for used T-6’s seems to bottom out around $150,000, which is a pretty humongous chunk of change but is potentially manageable (and worth every damn penny I’d bet.)

Whether or not I could afford to fly it and maintain it…well, that’s a whole different story. But a man can dream. And on my budget, that’s more or less all I can do for now.

APOD: B-17 Detail

Today’s APOD: a lovingly restored Boeing B-17G.


Beautiful, isn’t she? These old war machines have such character. The notion of flying them into combat is widely glamorized, though the missions they flew were highly dangerous, often difficult, and usually full of mortality. That said the B-17 did have an amazing reputation for durability, with tales and photos of airframes returning home missing large sections of wing and body.

The surviving airframes are living history, infused with personality and still ready to take wing even after the long stretch of years between WWII and today. I don’t know how much longer these wonderful machines will be able to fly, so I take every chance I get to appreciate them and reflect on their legacy and the history of the era from which they hail.

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APOD: Balloon Launch

Hot-air ballooning is a beautiful way to experience flight. Lofted up on nothing more than hot air, you are sitting still in a basket below a canopy of colors, watching the world move by below you. The occasional WHOMPF of the balloonist firing propane gas into the envelope is the only noise you’ll hear as you glide above the landscape, free in the open air.

A red balloon readying for launch at Oshkosh 2013.

A red balloon readying for launch at Oshkosh 2013.

Ballooning must take patience and diligence. Your only control is altitude: burn gas to rise, open the envelope to let out air and sink. But despite the simplicity of the controls ballooning takes knowledge and skill. Getting aloft takes hours of unrolling the envelope, attaching the baskets, blowing air into the balloon and getting upright before loading passengers and floating away. Once aloft, you are at the mercy of the winds, climbing and descending through different layers to ‘navigate’ to a safe landing zone. You must be very careful not to land in high-tension power lines or lakes. You must communicate with your ground crew to coordinate a safe recovery after the flight. I am sure that my basic understanding of this work leaves out many key details; the art of ballooning probably holds many secrets to which I am not privy.

But it also holds many rewards. Floating slowly above the treeline as the sun rises, drifting silently through the sky as the world wakes up, being detached from the ground but not hearing the noise of engines and radios; ballooning is an ethereal form of flight, and one that every pilot should experience at least once.


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Heck of a panel, dude.

This wonderful collection of switches, knobs, and gauges is the panel from a beautiful Stinson Reliant spotted at Oshkosh 2013. Observe that while the switches, radio, and wood are clearly all new, the owner has kept the gauges in what I assume is their original configuration.

What a panel!

What a panel!

I half wonder if a glass panel would look good in a classic aircraft like this. I suspect that there are as many opinions about that as there are pilots, but I think a modern glass panel could look really cool if it were retrofitted correctly. I envision the classical lines of an airplane from the golden days of aircraft aesthetics combined with the convenience of modern avionics.

Stinson Reliant.

Stinson Reliant

APOD: 3 L-39s

Who doesn’t like the L-39?

A trio of Aero Vodochody L-39's.

A trio of Aero Vodochody L-39’s.

Fast, nimble, and (relatively) cheap for a fighter-style jet, the L-39 is the kind of jet I would buy if I won the lottery. Sure, you could buy a Citation or a Gulfstream, but the L-39 makes more of a statement than a bizjet ever will. And while I have no stick time in one, I’d bet it’s a lot more fun to fly, too.