Frontier Former Editor

April 9, 2008

Happy birthday Big Tom . . .

No, no. no, not that Big Tom . . . .


This Big Tom, whom you may know better as . . . .


Tom Lehrer!

Everyone in the world will be posting YouTube clips, so I’ll just save the bandwidth and point you here and here . . .


April 3, 2008

Of great white hopes . . . .

Filed under: ancient history, Cold War, dumbasses, history, tragedy — Tags: , , , , , , — Frontier Former Editor @ 3:54 pm


As my Canadian acquaintances will note, the Avro Arrow was a world-beater of a design which died an abrupt and painful death because the United States had something cheaper and supposedly better available.

And so did something American, cheaper and supposedly better help kill the TSR. 2.

The TSR. 2 died its rather brutal, quick and typically British bureaucratic death because of a combination of factors, although the promise of the American F-111, a clapped-out modification of the F-4 Phantom, and leftover Royal Navy S2 Buccaneers helped push along the process.

Granted, the TSR. 2 probably would have suffered its share of technological teething pains if the project had stayed alive. But those problems would not have been any worse than those suffered by the F-111 or many other contemporary military and civilian aircraft.

And if its development had continued . . . . what a world-beater it would have been.

Sadly enough, the gentleman exiting the cockpit at the end – Roland Beamont – helped preside at the gestation of two legendary British aircraft: the Hawker Typhoon and the English Electric Canberra and was poised to the be midwife for another if the TSR. 2 had survived. 


Google some of the histories of the TSR. 2 or, better yet, go find some books on the subject. If one compares it to the development and acquisition of the Hawker Hunter and other postwar British types, it makes one wonder if Britain as an institution was aiming for technological suicide.

On a lesser scale, my personal disgust for Dick Cheney began long before that scumbag declared himself vice president. As Secretary of Defense in 1988, he helped scuttle the F-14D Tomcat – what the Tomcat could have been 15 years earlier and what could have kept the U.S. carrier fleet a viable instrument of power as opposed to a deck full of short-ranged jets. 

It would have been a bargain, since the cost of remanufacturing more than 400 Tomcats and producing about 200 new F-14D’s would have been, per plane, about a third of the cost of a now-new F-18E Super Hornet. But Cheney pushed for its demise and for the development of a new fighter which, in one of its big selling points in advertisements and literature by McDonnell Douglas, could bring back more underwing stores than could the F/A-18C Hornet.

 But I digress . . .

“All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics. TSR-2 simply got the first three right.”

-Sir Sydney Camm, designer of the Hawker Hart, Fury, Hurricane, Typhoon, Tempest, Fury, Sea Fury, Sea Hawk, Hunter, Kestrel, Harrier . . . .

April 2, 2008

The Airworks

Filed under: history, old times, Uncategorized — Tags: , — Frontier Former Editor @ 3:40 pm


I have an affinity for the Royal Air Force, having grown up on an RAF station in the 1960’s,  and I wonder just how I missed yesterday’s anniversary . . .

Even though British politicians kicked the props from under the ‘Airworks’ by stunts like:


keeping a World War One fighter in service as a colonial peackeeper through the early 1930’s,


killing the TSR. 2, one of the most spectacular aircraft of the 1960s, and . . .


creating a climate of indecision and hesitancy that allowed this plane to become better than the F-86 Sabre – about two years after Sabres were being phased out as front-line USAF equipment – there have been times of legend in the Royal Air Force . . .











One can go on at great length (or short length – it doesn’t matter) about Spitfires and Hurricanes and Lancasters and Canberras and Vulcans – oh my – but I’ll let Pilot Officer Prune‘s comment on RAF founding leader Sir Hugh Trenchard stand as a closing tribute:


“I’ll bet he’s been in the Airworks since Pontius was a pilot.”

March 31, 2008

Nothing new under the sun

Filed under: ancient history, doomed to repeat, history, humanism — Tags: , , — Frontier Former Editor @ 12:29 am

No humor in this.

With all the relatively recent hue and cry over Darfur, Kosovo, Iraq and other places, I have to let my head drop a bit at the idea of young folk acting if somehow they have single-handedly discovered genocide as they wear their ‘save Darfur’ shirts and shout anti-war invective. All fine and well that they may be developing social conscience, but this obituary in Sunday’s International Herald Tribune is a reminder of how change remains the same.

Dith Pran, a photojournalist for The New York Times whose gruesome ordeal in the killing fields of Cambodia was re-created in a 1984 movie that gave him an eminence he tenaciously used to press for his people’s rights, died in New Brunswick, New Jersey on Sunday. He was 65 and lived in Woodbridge, New Jersey

The cause was pancreatic cancer, which had spread, said his friend Sydney Schanberg.

Dith saw his country descend into a living hell as he scraped and scrambled to survive the barbarous revolutionary regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, when as many as two million Cambodians — a third of the population — were killed, experts estimate. Dith survived through nimbleness, guile and sheer desperation.

Many of us have probably thought we discovered cruelty in our world, but the true discovery is that cruelty has been around as long as we have.

It doesn’t mean the young – or the old for that matter – shouldn’t fight it, but making the fight a fad eventually creates numbness and short attention span.

When younger folk start protesting China’s behavior in Tibet this spring, they might want to consider just how long repression has been a part of life under the Chinese Communists and pretty much every regime and dynasty before them.

And, given mankind’s general record around the world, that’s just for starters.

March 6, 2008

No more jokes on this topic for a long time . . . .

Filed under: Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, history — Frontier Former Editor @ 7:38 pm


February 29, 2008

The real USS Enterprise (revised)

Filed under: Authentic Cold Warriors, Big E, carrier, history, naval aviation, Newport News, Star Trek, USS Enterprise — Frontier Former Editor @ 12:10 am

As big a fan of Star Trek as I may be, it’s really, only because Gene Roddenberry seemed to have captured something that was very real in the eyes of thousands of the breed known as Navy brats.

Being a Navy brat myself,  I got hit with a double whack of nostalgia this week, starting with this:

Impressive as it may be, the second and hardest whack came when I got a call at work and the discussion progressed to the caller’s mailing address: USS Enterprise CVN-65. We started swapping stories, since I spent a significant chunk of my childhood just across the inlet from his ship’s pier.


The Big E is less than a year older than me.  She is one of 14 supercarriers built just across from where I grew up. The father of one of my good friends sailed around the world on her in 1962 I didn’t get to see her physically until the early 1990’s, when she was finally homeported in Norfolk for the first time since the early 1960’s.

Three carriers suffered major onboard fires during Vietnam, including the Enterprise:

The fact she’s still in the fleet four decades later speaks as much to her crew as it does her construction

The sailor mentioned earlier was burtsing with pride as he told me that the Big E had been fitted with old destroyer screws instead of her standard speed propellers because her reactors were too powerful for her hull to stand the strain.

“She still outran our battle group,” he said.

“Not bad for a ship almost 50 years old,” I said.

“She’s still got the same reactors,” he added.

With that conversation rattling around in my head, I’ve got to wonder why American popular culture is so fixated on a fictional class of starships when there’s a whole series of Enterprises that somehow have eluded the grasp of at least two generations.

So, when the neighborhood geek starts prattling on about Enterprise A, Enterprise B, Enterprise C and so forth, gently shush the little twit and remind him that Enterprise H is alive and well and that her crew and generations of American carrier sailors made green, blue, red and yellow shirts fashionable long before Desilu Studios did.

Just for reference, here’s the real Enterprise A:


and Enterprise C:


And Enterprise G – the original Big E long before Elvis claimed the the initial:


and the Big E off the Solomons (the music isn’t quite appropriate, but the crew wasn’t shaking their own chairs and the director wasn’t shaking the camera to fake the action):

February 5, 2008

The banality of evil

This is pretty much how I’ve imagined conversations in the Oval Office, the Justice department and the Naval Observatory the last seven and a half years

December 6, 2007

We live in a truly enlightened age . . . . my ass

Things have been a little off in my world lately, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that Barbara Walters has done a great service to the world – she’s shown just how low the state of education in this country has fallen.

Case in point, Sherry Shepherd . . . .


Ms. Shepherd’s recent observations that Christianity predates even Greek and early Roman civilization and quite possibly man and dinosaurs is a great relief to me.  I was wondering just how stupid that American society has become, and Shepherd has graciously provided a quantifiable benchmark to measure that stupidity.


October 7, 2007

Band festivals – an irony-rich environment!

Filed under: band festivals, Cold War, cool stuff, Fred Thompson, history, humor, Hunt for Red October, October — Frontier Former Editor @ 11:31 am

I missed Junior’s band festival Saturday, seeing that I was working overtime to help prop up the crumbling U.S. banking system, but I was related a story so rich in its multilayered ironies that I had to share.

One of the bands in the competition chose as its performance suite this year, “Music from Hunt for Red October.” The climax of the set? The Soviet National Anthem. Of course, it was described in the festival program as ‘Hymm from Hunt for Red October.’

While I’m no Marxist-Leninist (unlike the unintentional Bolshevist emulators in neo-fascist’s clothing in the national Republican organization), I have to admit that, as national anthems go, the Soviet entry is pretty catchy.

 Where else but in Southwest Virginia? I suspect that the band’s director was a secret Fred Thompson agitpropnik . . . .

Unfortunately, I have no video or audio of the event, but now, a blast from 1989 . . . .

 do svidaniya Rodina!

C’mon everybody! Sing along!

Soyuz nerushimy respublik svobodnykh

Splotila naveki velikaya Rus’!

Da zdravstvuyet sozdanny voley narodov

Yediny, moguchy Sovetsky Soyuz!


September 9, 2007

Call the ball . . . .

Filed under: call the ball, history, landing signal officer, naval aviation, old times, paddles — Frontier Former Editor @ 10:22 am

Another tidbit I recovered last night was this little cartoon:


(Smithsonian Air and Space magazine, May 1995)

The guide-dog image was hilarious enough, but this all belies the legends and sea stories I grew up on about landing signal officers as a Navy brat.

‘Paddles’ comes from this:


and this:


The classic LSO of literature has and always will be Beer Barrel – go read The Bridges at Toko-ri and see the movie. It’s funny and a deeper truth all at once.

Screw the idea of Tom Cruise crooning ‘call the ball.’

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