Moments in History

Big Bad Blackbirds

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The alternate title for this post should probably be Bill Weaver: The Biggest Badass You Might Not Know. What most of you likely do know is that the SR-71 was a) awesome, and b) developed after/with the single-seat A-12. Mr. Weaver’s tale harkens back to the early days of testing and wringing out the kinks of the SR-71. I don’t want to retell the entire tale, just wet your whistle and send you over to read for yourself, but let me assure you, the whole story is definitely worth reading!

The flight in question, which Weaver calls his “most memorable”, occurred on Jan. 25, 1966, and along with him was Jim Zwayer, who was a Lockheed flight test reconnaissance and navigation systems specialist. Those recon and nav systems were one test focus, and the other bits of beta testing were “procedures designed to reduce trim drag and improve high-Mach cruise performance. The latter involved flying with the center-of-gravity (CG) located further aft than normal, which reduced the Blackbird’s longitudinal stability.” Reducing stability usually doesn’t sound like a good idea, but it can offer performance enhancements in certain flight regimes, much like having a racecar drive “loose” can make a car a faster on a given track.

After in-flight refuelling for the second leg of their flight, and accelerating to Mach 3.18, they initiated a 35 degree banked right turn. It was at this point they experienced a benign sounding “inlet unstart”. That unstart was actually a bit of a big deal. In Weaver’s words, “the right engine inlet’s automatic control system malfunctioned, requiring a switch to manual control. The SR-71′s inlet configuration was automatically adjusted during supersonic flight to decelerate air flow in the duct, slowing it to subsonic speed before reaching the engine’s face. This was accomplished by the inlet’s center-body spike translating aft, and by modulating the inlet’s forward bypass doors. Normally, these actions were scheduled automatically as a function of Mach number, positioning the normal shock wave (where air flow becomes subsonic) inside the inlet to ensure optimum engine performance.

Without proper scheduling, disturbances inside the inlet could result in the shock wave being expelled forward–a phenomenon known as an “inlet unstart.” That causes an instantaneous loss of engine thrust, explosive banging noises and violent yawing of the aircraft–like being in a train wreck. Unstarts were not uncommon at that time in the SR-71′s development, but a properly functioning system would recapture the shock wave and restore normal operation.”

What if the aircraft was in a relatively hard right turn and the right engine unstart did not clear? Here is your teaser: “AS FULL AWARENESS took hold, I realized I was not dead, but had somehow separated from the airplane.” Got you curious to read the rest? Hit the jump and follow the link, plus bonus SR-71 links!!

Continue reading Big Bad Blackbirds

Shutdown

Shutdown: Easy!

If Asimov says it’s easy, it’s easy, okay?!

Image via the Tumblr Dinosaur’s Pen.

[As a side note, we may not have exciting new content on a daily basis, but we’ll try to give you a place for discussion! As always, off topic conversation is not only tolerated, but […]

Spaceheads

Digital Monkeys

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Unless you have been living under a rock, or perhaps have a cold empty heart devoid of emotional excitement for space adventures (coincidentally, space is also a cold empty void), you probably noticed NASA very recently conducted a successful test launch and recovery of the new Orion capsule. (Still not to be confused with this other, more atomic Orion.) Once upon a time, such tests would have been conducted using happy, energetic little monkeys, but now we live in a digital, monkey loving world, a world where we could likely take bets on who will receive sentient being legal status first, a computer or a monkey. NASA went the computer route, sending a robo-monkey to shoot video out the Orion window. Most of that was streamed ‘live’, but not the critical phase involving superheated plasma during re-entry. Luckily the digital monkey had a nice steady hand, so hit the jump and check out some plasma!

Continue reading Digital Monkeys

A-T Whatsit

Name That Plane!

Some time ago, I signed up for access to the government’s surplus auction website, which had changed a little since then but is now govliquidation.com. What hasn’t changed are the fun emails that they send me daily highlighting newly posted auctions. I have actually yet to purchase anything just yet, despite want to […]

Genius Innovators

Chertok’s Mustache

Hopefully you all got the chance to read the article linked in yesterday’s post, about the Soviet mission to resuscitate the Salyut 7 Space Station. In the comments of that article, the author, Nickolai Belakovski, mentioned this little story from Boris Chertok, a senior official at Energiya, a major Russian space company. (“Formed […]

Covet Thy Neighbours' Swag

Other is a Very Broad Term

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The great thing about the “Other” categories on eBay Motors is that occasionally, instead of getting some random suspension parts that someone just listed poorly, instead you get something really out there. An example, a recent listing for a narrow gauge locomotive pair. What is better than one stream engine? Two.

The ad is for Baldwin Locomotives engines Halawa and Sister engine Manana . Selling as Pair. From the ad:

The engines were built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, of Philadelphia, for plantation service on the island of Oahu. Delivered in 1899 and 1916 respectively.
Sold to a sugar plantation in the Philippines in 1947, the engines worked there until 1998 when they were set aside. Recovered in 2004, these two steam locomotives represent some of the very few Hawaii engines to have survied.
The 1899 engine was nameed”” Halawa” and is an 0-6-2 tank engine of 18 tons- her sister engine, named “” Manana” was built in 1916 to the exact same design. Both ran on the Honolulu Plantation Co operation near Pearl Harbor until 1947, when they were sold to the Hawaiian-Philippine Surgar Co, of Silay City, Island of Negros, Phillippines. To have located a matched pair of Baldwin engines with Hawaii History is a major feat.

Both engines are 36″ gage. Manana was in operating condition when we purchased it from the Philippines, but I think the boiler will need to be replaced. Halawa will need a new boiler for sure. Also the tops of the cabs were cut off for shipping.

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Is there certain information that seems to be missing? Do the pictures look like cell phone photos of a computer screen showing images of previously taken photos? Is $275,000 a whole lot of money to spend on something you would have to build a special railway for? Yes on all counts!

Continue reading Other is a Very Broad Term

Startup

Startdown: A Real Airport!

 

And, somehow solar-powered!

 

Image via Dark Roasted Blend.

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #24: Steam-Hydraulic Forging Presses

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 The Mesta Machine Company made large, and I daresay even huge, hydraulic forging presses for a great many years while they were in operation, and were widely used in industry. A while back I wrote a post about the 50,000 ton Mesta hydraulic forging press The “Fifty”, which was built several decades after the dinky little 8,000 ton steam-hydraulic press pictured above. Back in the day, however, an 8,000 ton forging press was a pretty big tool, and the largest that Mesta made at the time (circa 1919) was “only” 15,000 tons.

These machines were the workhorses of many forges through the years as the most efficient way of producing large forgings. I think that they’re wonderful.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #24: Steam-Hydraulic Forging Presses

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #23: Rope Drives and Flywheels

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A large-ish rope drive wheel being turned on a pit lathe.

Following on to the last post about the giant frikkin’ gears that the Mesta Machine Co. used to make, this time we’ll take a quick look at their rope drives and flywheels which are also predictably huge.

As it states above, rope drives are used where quiet and smooth transmission of power is required and belts are either not strong enough or too cumbersome. A good example is the drive mechanisms used by most elevators used in buildings. Could you imagine riding a chain-driven elevator up to the 50th floor of a building? I can, unfortunately, and it makes me want to go outside and sit on the nice, safe gravel of my front yard.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #23: Rope Drives and Flywheels

Technostalgia

What Ever Became of…Laserdisc Players?

I will readily admit that there are some weeks when I have come across some sort of remembered technology item that I thi9nk would be great for this little feature–and then there are weeks like this one, in which I have vapor lock of the brain and a hard time thinking of much of […]

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