Flying Lessons Blog

World War 2 and More At Connecticut Aviation History Center

December 6, 2021

Among the events scheduled to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, is a gathering this weekend at the Connecticut Air & Space Center. A World War 2-era warbird, a recently renovated Chance Vought Corsair, dominates the main room, on the property of the historic 1929 hangar of Curtis Wright Flying Services. The Corsair was a carrier-based fighter plane, the fastest Navy plane at the time with a range of 11-hundred miles. FG-1D with the number 92460, is an artifact and a symbol of the museum’s particular focus; Connecticut’s contribution to aviation history. Over the past century, the… Read More…

Harry Robertson, Designer of Fire Resistant Fuel Tanks Dies at 87

November 1, 2021

If safety professionals are underappreciated by the beneficiaries of their labor it could be because their work is hard to assess. Or, as retired air accident investigator Ron Schleede explains, “You can’t count the accident you prevented. You can’t calculate the lives you save.” And while that’s often true, Harry Robertson, who died on October 9th, did interrupt death. He did this by separating air accidents from the single largest consequential hazard, a post-crash fire. And he accomplished that by eliminating ruptured fuel tanks and spilled fuel the largest factors in post-crash fires. “Most severe army helicopter crashes resulted in fires, accounting for over 40… Read More…

Alec Baldwin Hollywood Shooting and Fatal Comair Crash Have Complacency in Common

October 27, 2021

Authorities in New Mexico investigating the unintentional shooting of two filmmakers last week by actor Alec Baldwin told reporters today that the actor was given a gun and told it was unloaded even though a live round was in the chamber. When Baldwin, on the set of the western film, Rust, fired the gun while rehearsing a scene, a bullet went through cinemaphotographer Helyne Hutchins and then struck Souza. “It fired from the weapon and it caused the death of Hutchins and injured Souza,” said Sante Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza. Three weapons were being used for the film, Mendoza said but only the .45… Read More…

Attorney for Forkner, Boeing Fall Guy, Begs for Insiders to Come Forward

October 18, 2021

In a quiet but urgent tone, the attorney representing Mark Forkner, Boeing’s former chief technical pilot for the design of the 737 MAX, urged insiders to come forward with information that might help his client, now facing fraud charges related to two deadly crashes. Speaking outside the Federal Courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas to “all of you who know the truth” Houston lawyer David Gerger, urged insiders to get in touch. Forkner, 47, left Boeing in July 2018 to fly for Southwest, one of the larger 737 MAX customers. Three months later, the first of two MAX aircraft designed with new flight control software, crashed… Read More…

Test Pilot May Face Prison But Prosecution of Boeing in 737 MAX Disasters is Unlikely

October 15, 2021

Mark Forkner, formerly a Boeing test pilot, was to be arraigned in Federal Court in Texas today for fraud for his role in the crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX airliners that killed a total of 346 people. Forkner is the first individual to be criminally charged for hiding Boeing’s flawed design of the 737 MAX from regulators. One might find this lone wolf prosecution curious considering that in legal documents signed by Boeing earlier this year, the airplane maker acknowledged “fifty or more employees” had “participated in, condoned or was willfully ignorant” of Forkner’s deception of the FAA. The consequences of the deception are… Read More…

TWA 800 Conspiracy Theorists, You’re Wrong

July 16, 2021

Saturday, July 17th marks the 25th anniversary of the crash of TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747 that exploded shortly after takeoff from New York, killing all 230 people on board.  While many events since that day in 1996 have eclipsed the story in size and scope (the 9/11 attacks and the Corona pandemic to name but two) the theory lives on that the official cause of the crash was covered up. “Look-backs” at the accident necessarily include the unlikely scenario that the flight from New York to Paris was felled by a missile. But the theory flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that… Read More…

Southwest 737 Max Flight Returns to Airport After Cockpit Fire Warning

July 13, 2021

A Southwest Airlines 737 Max made a rapid return to Baltimore Tuesday morning just minutes after takeoff after a fire warning horn sounded in the cockpit.  Southwest Flight 4136 left Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport headed for Phoenix at 6:43 but was in the air only briefly before the fire warning bell and airspeed over speed alert began to sound. Other people on the radio frequency could hear the audible warnings blaring as the pilots turned the plane around and landed. Emergency vehicles were waiting on the runway as the plane touched down. The pilots requested that firefighters check for smoke or signs of… Read More…

Head of FBI Probe Into TWA 800 Crash Dies, Leaves Mixed Legacy

July 6, 2021

This post has been updated to included confirmation of Kallstrom’s death and details concerning the cause of death. James Kallstrom, the 78-year old former head of the New York office of the FBI, died on July 3rd. According to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, Kallstrom struggled for six years with an illness related to his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam in the sixties. Edmond J. Boran, the foundation’s president told me Wednesday morning that Kallstrom’s exposure in 1966 and 1967 only began to trouble him fifty years later when a mysterious rash appeared on his upper torso. He was treated with chemotherapy…. Read More…

Former Delta Pilot Jailed for Making Death Threats

June 21, 2021

NOTE TO READERS: Several readers, including acquaintances of the pilot discussed in the blog post below, have criticized me for a headline since changed which asked “Was he Unstable?” In their opinion, the acts for which this person was arrested were unrelated to his work at Delta Air Lines, and occurred several years after the airline questioned his mental stability and following an extremely contentious relationship between the airline and the pilot which ended in his firing. You can read more in the comment section. In deference to the logic of these arguments, I have changed the headline. I will also remind readers that the… Read More…

Robert Francis Controversial Face of TWA 800 Investigation Dies

April 29, 2021

During the second half of the nineties, the patrician visage of Robert Talcott Francis dominated the news.  And yet, when he died earlier this month at the age of 83, few outside of the aviation press published obituaries. This is not an obituary either, but my impressions of a thin slice of the man’s career when he was caught between feuding agencies and a multinational catastrophe. In 1996, Francis, with his Oxford shirts and aristocratic manner, was the vice-chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and as such he was the face of two high-casualty, high-profile airline crashes. In May, he was in Miami when… Read More…

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