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: 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: 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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