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Aviation, or air transport, refers to the activities surrounding mechanical flight and the aircraft industry. Aircraft includes fixed-wing and rotary-wing types, morphable wings, wing-less lifting bodies, parachutes, as well as lighter-than-air craft such as balloons and airships. Aviation began in the 18th century with the development of the hot air balloon, an apparatus capable of atmospheric displacement through buoyancy. Some of the most significant advancements in aviation technology came with the controlled gliding flying of Otto Lilienthal; then a largest step in significance came with the construction of the first powered airplane by the Wright brothers in the early 1900s. Since that time, aviation has been technologically revolutionized with the introduction of the jet which permitted a major form of transport throughout the world.

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Microburst schematic from NASA. Note the downward motion of the air until it hits ground level, then spreads outward in all directions. The wind regime in a microburst is completely opposite to a tornado.
Wind shear, sometimes referred to as windshear or wind gradient, is a difference in wind speed and direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere. Wind shear can be broken down into vertical and horizontal components, with horizontal wind shear seen across weather fronts and near the coast, and vertical shear typically near the surface, though also at higher levels in the atmosphere near upper level jets and frontal zones aloft.

Wind shear itself is a microscale meteorological phenomenon occurring over a very small distance, but it can be associated with mesoscale or synoptic scale weather features such as squall lines and cold fronts. It is commonly observed near microbursts and downbursts caused by thunderstorms, weather fronts, areas of locally higher low level winds referred to as low level jets, near mountains, radiation inversions that occur due to clear skies and calm winds, buildings, wind turbines, and sailboats. Wind shear has a significant effect during take-off and landing of aircraft due to their effects on steering of the aircraft, and was a significant cause of aircraft accidents involving large loss of life within the United States.

Sound movement through the atmosphere is affected by wind shear, which can bend the wave front, causing sounds to be heard where they normally would not, or vice versa. Strong vertical wind shear within the troposphere also inhibits tropical cyclone development, but helps to organize individual thunderstorms into living longer life cycles which can then produce severe weather. The thermal wind concept explains with how differences in wind speed with height are dependent on horizontal temperature differences, and explains the existence of the jet stream.

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B-1B over the pacific ocean.jpg
Credit: Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III, U.S. Air Force

A B-1B Lancer drops back after air refueling training over the Pacific Ocean September 30. The B-1B is deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, as part of the Pacific Command's continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region, enhancing regional security and the U.S. commitment to the Western Pacific. The B1 is from the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.

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Did you know

...that Luftwaffe ace Erich Rudorffer flew more than 1000 missions during World War II, and was shot down sixteen times by enemy flak and fighters?

...that Pepsi offered a Harrier fighter jet in their Pepsi Billion Dollar Sweepstakes game and the Pepsi Stuff game for people accumulating a certain number of points?

...that Royal Brunei Catering, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Royal Brunei Airlines, was named as Best Regional Caterer 1995/1996 by Singapore Airlines?

Selected Aircraft

Colour avrocar 59.jpg

The VZ-9 Avrocar (full military designation VZ-9-AV) was a Canadian VTOL aircraft developed by Avro Aircraft Ltd. as part of a secret U.S. military project carried out in the early years of the Cold War.[1] The Avrocar intended to exploit the Coandă effect to provide lift and thrust from a single "turborotor" blowing exhaust out the rim of the disk-shaped aircraft to provide anticipated VTOL-like performance. In the air, it would have resembled a flying saucer. Two prototypes were built as "proof-of-concept" test vehicles for a more advanced USAF fighter and also for a U.S. Army tactical combat aircraft requirement.[2] In flight testing, the Avrocar proved to have unresolved thrust and stability problems that limited it to a degraded, low-performance flight envelope; subsequently, the project was cancelled in 1961.

  • Diameter:18 ft (5.486 m)
  • Height: 3 ft 6 in (1.1 m)
  • Engines: 3 x Turbomeca Marboré Continental J69-T-9
  • Max Speed: 300 mph (482 km/h)
  • First Flight: 12 November 1959
  • Number built: 2
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Francis Gabreski color photo in pilot suit.jpg
Francis Stanley "Gabby" Gabreski (Franciszek Gabryszewski) (28 January 1919 - January 31, 2002) was the top American fighter ace in Europe during World War II, a jet fighter ace in Korea, and commanded numerous fighter squadrons, groups, and wings during his Air Force career.

Assigned as a P-40 pilot with the 45th Fighter Squadron of the 15th Fighter Group at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 2nd Lt. Gabreski witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but did not become airborne in time to engage the attackers.

In March 1943 Gabreski became part of the 56th Fighter Group, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt, and in May was promoted to Major and named commander of the 61st Fighter Squadron, which included six Polish nationals as pilots in 1944. He made his 28th kill on July 5, 1944, passing Eddie Rickenbacker's record from World War I to become America's top ace (although several pilots passed him by the end of the war).

Col. Gabreski flew combat again during the Korean War, as commander of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, piloting an F-86 Sabre. He was credited with 6.5 MiG-15 kills, making him one of seven U.S. pilots to be aces in more than one war (the others are Col. Harrison Thyng, Col. James P. Hagerstrom, Major William T. Whisner, Col. Vermont Garrison, Major George A. Davis, Jr., and Lt.Col. John F. Bolt, USMC).

He ended his career as a commander of several tactical and air defense wings, his last assignment being commander of the 52d Fighter Wing at Suffolk County Air Force Base in Westhampton Beach, New York.

In the news

Today in Aviation

August 30

  • 2012 – Two Indian Air Force Mil Mi-17s collide during a training flight 12 km from the Jamnagar airbase, all nine on board the two helicopters died.
  • 2012 – Human Rights Watch alleges that in the previous three weeks Syrian government airstrikes and artillery fire have struck at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo as people lined up to collect bread, killing dozens, with one attack on 16 August alone killing 60 and injuring 70 people.[3]
  • 2009 – A Belarusian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker was lost during Radom Airshow 2009, Poland. The plane crashed near the Małęczyn village, outside the military air base the event took place on. No civilian was injured. There was no damage reported on the ground. The crew of two did not eject and were found dead by the rescue teams.
  • 20082008 Conviasa Boeing 737 crash: A Conviasa Boeing 737-291 Advanced (registered as YV-102 T) ferry flight from Maiquetia, Venezuela to Latacunga, Ecuador crashed into Illiniza Volcano. The aircraft had been stored at Caracas and was being ferried to a new owner. There were 3 crew on board, none of whom survived.
  • 2007 – Boeing B-52H Stratofortress, accidentally loaded with six W80-1 nuclear-armed AGM-129 advanced cruise missiles flies from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, where the unguarded aircraft sits on the tarmac for 10 hours undetected. Officers responsible for the security lapse at Minot are disciplined.
  • 1984Cameroon Airlines Flight 786, a Boeing 737, with 109 passengers and 7 crew on board, suffers an uncontained engine failure during taxi for take-off at the Douala, Cameroon airport, starting a fire; two persons die as the plane burns to the ground.
  • 1984 – Launch: Space Shuttle Discovery STS-41-D at 12:41:50 UTC. Mission highlights: Multiple comsat deployments; first flight of Discovery, test of OAST-1 Solar Array.
  • 1984 – UA United States Navy North American T-2C Buckeye crashes into the Chesapeake Bay shortly after take-off from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, killing the student and seriously injuring the instructor.
  • 1983 – Launch: Space shuttle Challenger STS-8 at 06:32:00 UTC. Mission highlights: Comsat deployment, first flight of an African American in space, Guion Bluford; test of robot arm on heavy payloads with Payload Flight Test Article, First night landing.
  • 1982 – First flight of the Northrop F-20 Tigershark 82-0062
  • 1978 – In the LOT Flight 165 hijacking, two East German citizens hijack a Tupolev Tu-134, and force it to land at Tempelhof Airport; there are no casualties to the 63 passengers on board.
  • 1975Wien Air Alaska Flight 99, a Fairchild F-27, crashes into Seuvokuk Mountain, Alaska while on approach to Iliamna Airport, killing 10 of 32 on board.
  • 1974 – Maj Wendy Clay, a doctor, qualified as a pilot six years before the pilot classification is opened to all women.
  • 1967 – American aircraft bomb North Vietnamese road, railroad, and canal traffic in an attempt to isolate Haiphong.
  • 1967 – The Spanish Navy acquires the second aviation ship and first true aircraft carrier in its history when the United States loans the light aircraft carrier USS Cabot (CVL-28) to Spain under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program; Spain will purchase the ship outright in 1973. Renamed Dédalo (R01), she will serve in the Spanish Navy until 1989.
  • 1956 – Sabre Mk.VI fighter aircraft of the No. 1 Overseas Ferry Unit, Royal Canadian Air Force, based in St. Hubert, Quebec, set a new record for the flight from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
  • 1955 – Vought F7U-3 Cutlass, BuNo 129592, of VF-124, misses all the wires during a landing aboard USS Hancock, operating off of Hawaii, and hits the barrier. "Although reported to have suffered only slight damage, it was struck off charge and never flew again."
  • 1953 – Second prototype SNCASO SO.9000 Trident I -002 makes first and last flight, crashing and being a total write-off.
  • 1952 – As a pair of Northrop F-89 Scorpions perform a flypast, Northrop F-89C-30-NO, 51-5781, disintegrates in flight during a display at the International Aviation Exposition at Detroit, Michigan, killing the Scorpion pilot, Major Donald E. Adams, the radar intercept officer, Captain Ed F. Kelly, and one spectator.
  • 1950 – The 1950 Mason-Dixon Line F-84 crash was an aircraft accident of a single Republic F-84 Thunderjet during a routine weather training mission of two jets. After passing southbound near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the F-84 C exploded in mid-air at tree height, left a large crater in a field, and scattered wreckage over 3 acres of the Hilbert cornfield near the Maryland intersection of the Harney and Bollinger School roads. Along with small parts of the aircraft, a few remains of the pilot were recovered; and the element leader in the lead F-84, 1st Lt. William L. Hall, reported “Alkire had not radioed of any difficulty before the explosion. ”
  • 1943 – A Qantas Empire Airways PBY Catalina flying boat on the “Double Sunrise Route” from Ceylon to Perth, Australia, completes the longest non-stop scheduled airline flight in history. From mooring buoy to mooring buoy, the flight takes 31 hours 51 min.
  • 1942 – One-off General Aircraft G.A.L.45 Owlet, DP240, ex-G-AGBK, a tandem, two-seat primary trainer with tricycle undercarriage, impressed by the RAF 1 May 1941 to train Douglas Boston pilots with tricycle techniques, of 605 Squadron at Ford, crashed this date near Arundel, Sussex.
  • 1933 – Air France, France’s national airline, is formed.
  • 1921 – Three Short aircraft of the naval aviation branch of the Chilean Army air corps carry out a successful mock raid from Valparaiso on Coquimbo. This will influence the eventual Chilean decision to separate naval aviation from army aviation.
  • 1914Paris is bombed by a German aircraft for the first time – An Etrich Taube flown by Lt Ferdinand von Hiddessen.
  • 1913 – American inventor Lawrence B. Sperry successfully demonstrates the first gyroscopic automatic stabilizing device for powered airplanes when Lt. Patrick N. L. Bellinger pilots a U. S. Navy flying boat designated C-2 and relinquishes full control to the autopilot.


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