The President with 5 Stars Also Had Wings

President Dwight Eisenhower first president with a pilot license
President Dwight D. Eisenhower

If you are looking for a poster child for “overachiever” you might consider Dwight D. Eisenhower.

This Kansas farm boy rose from modest beginnings to become one of only five Americans to achieve the five-star rank of General of the Army and the only one of those to become President of the United States. (see note below) Continue reading

The Greatest Things Since Sliced Bread

when was sliced bread invented?

The next time you use the phrase “the best thing since sliced bread,” you might want to consider how recent of an invention that is.

The first commercially-available device that made it possible to sell pre-sliced loaves in mass quantities was developed by Otto Frederick Rohwedder. His prototype was built in 1912, but it wasn’t until 1925 that it became ready for commercial use.

The first pre-sliced loaf using the Rohwedder method was produced in Chillicothe, Missouri on July 7, 1928 by the Chillicothe Baking Company. Sales of bread throughout the United States are expected to total $23.6 billion in 2016, with packaged bread totaling about $15 billion of those sales.

Consider some of the more significant technological and scientific advancements of that era. Since television was invented in 1926, it might be a pretty incredible invention, but it is not, technically, the best thing since sliced bread.

1900 — First Zeppelin is designed

1903 — Wright Brothers fly first airplane

1907 — First helicopter is flown

1907 — Plastic is invented

1915 — Invention of the military tank

1926 — Invention of the television

1928 — First commercial production of sliced bread 

1928 — Discovery of penicillin

1931 — Invention of electron microscope

1933 — FM Radio is patented

1938 — Nuclear fission discovered

When Judgment Trumps Skill

Col. Frank Borman, USAF, Ret.
Col. Frank Borman, USAF, Ret.

“A superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of his superior skill.” — Frank Borman, commander of Apollo 8, in Flying Lessons, Federal Aviation Administration, January 8, 2008

When the Flight Attendant Tells You How to Fasten Your Seat Belt, Pay Attention

Tim Lancaster02

Captain Tim Lancaster was in command of British Airways Flight 5390 on June 10, 1990, when the windscreen failed and he was sucked out of the cockpit.

The plane, a BAC 1-11, was at 17,300 feet, one-hour into its flight between Birmingham Airport in the United Kingdom and Málaga, Spain, when incorrect retention bolts on the windscreen failed, resulting in immediate explosive decompression.

Lancaster had removed his shoulder strap and loosened his seat belt and was pulled out of his seat by the rushing air. His feet caught under the yoke of his control column. forced head first out of the cockpit, his knees snagging onto the flight controls. Steward Nigel Ogden, who had just entered the cockpit, grabbed Lancaster by the legs while the first officer, Alastair Atchison, got the airplane under control. Ogden was on the verge of being dragged out as well when a second steward reached the cockpit and secured him with a strap from the captain’s shoulder harness. By this time, Lancaster had slipped sideways from the roof of the cockpit, and his bloodied head was flailing against the left side window, battered by the 345 mph wind.

The door to the flight deck was blown out onto the radio and navigation console, blocking the throttle control which caused the plane to continue gaining speed as they descended, while papers and other debris in the passenger cabin began blowing towards the cockpit.

Atchison began an emergency descent and signaled a distress call. He was unable to hear a response from air traffic control, however, due to the sound of the rushing air. Since two-way communication could not be established, emergency clearance was significantly delayed.

From the flight deck, the first officer and the flight attendants fought to keep hold of Lancaster, whose face continuously hit the window. They could see that his eyes were open and unblinking and assumed he was dead. They did not release him, however, out of concern that his body might be sucked into the left engine, causing a fire or further structural damage.

Upon successfully completing an emergency landing at Southampton, Lancaster was examined and found to be alive. He sustained frostbite, a broken arm, thumb, and wrist, as well as significant bruising and shock, but was otherwise unharmed and was back to work in less than five months.


With a Little Help From My Friend Adversary

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
The SR-71 Blackbird was one of the greatest tools of espionage ever built. Flying at speeds of Mach 3, it could out-fly any enemy fighter or surface-to-air missile. In addition to its unmatched speed, the design of the aircraft made it nearly invisible to radar. In short, it was a technological marvel that gave the United States a decided advantage over the Soviet Union when it came to surveillance.
A key element in making sure the Blackbird could withstand the high temperatures reached during its flights was titanium. The only problem with this was that the only country to produce adequate amounts of titanium was the Soviet Union.The CIA set up several dummy corporations around the world to purchase the material and then ship it to the United States. While the Soviets undoubtedly resented the intrusion of SR-71 reconnaissance flights, they could — unbeknownst to them — take a small measure of pride and ownership in the source of their irritation.source

An Odd Bit of Odds

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II

In 2011 European bookies were putting the odds of Queen Elizabeth II abdicating and replacing Bruce Forsyth as the host of the popular BBC dance competition Strictly Come Dancing at 50,000 to 1. source

To put that in context consider the odds of the following:

  • Being struck by lightning in one’s lifetime: 1 in 12,000 source
  • Dying in a plane crash: 1 in 7,178 source
  • Dying in a car crash: 1 in 5,000 source
  • Being elected President of the United States: 1 in 10 million source
  • Being killed by a shark: 1 in 3,748,067 source
  • A well-shuffled deck of cards returning to the same order twice: 1 in 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000 source


It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s an Inflatoplane!

Goodyear Inflatoplane (GA-468)
Goodyear Inflatoplane (GA-468)

Goodyear, the manufacturer of tires, developed an inflatable airplane called GA-468, but commonly known as the Inflatoplane.

The Inflatoplane’s performance was comparable to that of a a J3 Cub. The airplane was wheeled out like a wheelbarrow and inflated in about 5 minutes using less air pressure than a car tire. The two-cycle 40-hp Nelson engine had to be hand-started and held 20 gallons of fuel. The Inflatoplane carried a maximum weight of 240 lb., had a range of 390 mi., and an endurance of 6.5 hours. Its cruise speed was 60 mph. Take off distance on sod was 250 ft with 575 ft needed to clear a 50-foot obstacle. It landed in 350 ft on sod. Rate of climb was 550 ft per min. Its service ceiling was estimated at 10,000 ft.

Twelve Inflatoplanes were designed and built in less than twelve weeks. Development, testing, and evaluation of the inflatable airplane continued through 1972 and the project was cancelled in 1973.

Apparently consumers were looking for something a bit more durable than a plan that could be brought down with a high-powered BB gun or a bow and arrow.