May 23, 2014

On This Day In Aviation History

On May 23rd 1908, John Morrell prepared to conquer the skies in an airship of his own design. At 450 feet long, and filled with about 500,000 cubic feet of illuminating gas, the vessel was actually longer than any of the German Zeppelins that had flown. It was also a much more powerful ship as well, with five engines against the two in the German craft. 



In front of 15,000 citizens of Berkley California, the ship was made ready for flight. The crew of 15 boarded the vessel and manned their stations. 4 photographers were along as well to record the historic event.  With everything secured, the mooring lines were set loose.



 Morrell and his crew then sailed into aviation history.

Not only was this the largest airship built up to that time, the 20 people it took aloft were by FAR the largest number of people that had flown in single aircraft. One might note that 15 + 4 does not equal 20, but that is because the ship had another aviation first. An Australian aeronaut, a Captain Penfold, had somehow managed to sneak on board,  conceal himself (somehow) and thus became the first stowaway in the history of powered aviation!





The mighty dirigible began to cruise over the city at an altitude of 300 feet. The airship undulated regally for a while, as Morrell and his crew began to perform maneuvering tests. However,  as if to reinforce the unfortunate imagery,  after an unsatisfyingly short time, there emanated from the bow, an  Earth shattering "POP!". 





The forward end of the envelope burst open and deflated, beginning a rapid decent, while the stern remained aloft. Those in the bow had a remarkably gentle landing....for a brief moment....






...until the rest of the crew...and the engines fell  on them as the gangway became vertical. The engines equipment and crew coalesced into a modernist sculpture  of metal, blood, expletives and compound fractures.



Miraculously, although there were a LOT of broken bones, no one was actually killed. Morrell himself sustained a dislocated hip, broken leg and internal injuries. Capt. Penfold , the stowaway, was drug from the wreck with two broken ankles. 



The stern remained inflated and partially aloft for some time as a mute, Freudian testimony to the truly epic level of ignominy that Morrill and his intrepid crew of dildonauts had achieved....on this day in aviation history.

 

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May 01, 2014

Preparing the "SPLODY!"

These three videoes of nuclear tests are pretty dry, as they deal mainly with the preparations for the tests, but they are also facinating as they give a detailed oveview of how these test were conducted and how scientists were able to get a detailed picture of the progress of these horriffic explosions at intervals measured in millionths of a second. 


The first video (Tumbbler/Snapper) gives a very neat overview of the gadgets involved in monitoring these tests. It seems that a previous test had demonstrated vastly lower blast effects than predicted, indicating that their computer models, and more importantly their field manuals on how to use these weapons were completely wromg. The film goes into surprising detail about how they went about testing various theories on the cause of the anomaly and the mechanics of the devices used. Those smoke trails one sees in test footage...they were smoke rockets intended to give a visual reference for the blast wave...also the trees one sees getting all abused in test foottage are not native to the Nevada test site, but a transplanted forest. 


Two of these tests were very small (1 killoton) and aren't particularly impressive visually, but there is a satisfying 30 killoton blast at the end, so our tax dollars weren't completely wasted. Amusingly, there is a bit of audio censorship at 24:10 and 26:20. "We used a normal casing because of its...."



The second test, Teapot, three years later elaborates a bit on the techniques used to gather the data with 1950's technology and is also interesting because it is the test  that involved the metal sphere experiment that ended up inspiring Project Orion. (Stanislaw's Balls can be seen at 19:07) At the time the film was made no one knew the significance of this test and it's presented as a curiosity.



The final test lacks the engineering detail of the first two, but is also quite interesting, being a VERY elaborate civillian nuclear test by the civil defense authorities. Operation Cue was nominally one of the operation Teapot series of tests, but this particular test was administered by civil defense authorities and was intended to observe the effects of a nuclear bomb on civillian structures, provide a civil defense rescue and response drill under realistc conditions, and evaluate construction techniques to mitigate blast and radiation. Various civillian contractors were invited to test out their ideas. Operation Cue involved building a suburb and industrial park, populating it with manequins and dropping a 30 killoton bomb on it.  Cue followed on the heels of several military tests that investigated such effects as an aside and made use of lessons learned in those. 


One sobering detail is the somewhat more elaborate nature of the PPE in the Teapot tests.

One unrelated, but still interesting thing I noted thanks to Epic's tracking monitor is that when one looks at nuclear test footage on you tube one is beset by about an order of magnitude more trackers than  is normal for a you tube video. 




Hello!

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