left: David Falconer via US National Archives. | middle: US Department of Defense via Wikimedia. | right: Bethany Lindley via Facebook.

First hand observations from times I thought the world would stop turning.

My mother and I took Wardair to the UK in late 1973 to visit my still hail and hearty grandparents. The same could not be said for the UK itself which was suffering high inflation, pervasive labour unrest and a growing malignant malaise which would beset the nation for years. None of that had any effect whatsoever on a 12 year old living it up in the Pythonesque, quirky home of his ancestors while having the unalloyed attention of his doting grandparents and mother.

I spent my days ‘working’ at my grandparents clothing factory on London Road in Manchester. Getting on the factory workers’ nerves more likely, but my grandfather would brook no complaining about my bad behaviour. I received a few pounds sterling in an official pay packet at the end of each week, which seemed like all the money in the world back then. I believe it was the first pay I ever received. In my spare time I blew that money at the paper shop across the street from my grandparents house on Kingsway. My shopping list consisted of exactly two things: the latest edition of the Beano comic, still printed on newsprint at the time, and Cadbury’s chocolate. It tasted different, and much better, than back home in Canada. …

Passengers on a Trans-Canada Airlines DC-8 have pre-dinner drinks in the lounge. (image/caption: AirlineRatings.com)

Getting back on a plane may look more like the past than the future.

If I was an airline executive — I’m not even remotely close — I would spend all of my waking hours thinking about what my airline is going to do to ensure every passenger who gets on every one of my flights is as 100% COVID-free as humanly possible. Pre-flight blood tests, nasal swabs, quarantines, COVID contact tracking apps or whatever other newly invented magic is available are all on the table. Whatever it takes. I absolutely would not be waiting for new regulatory requirements to come down the pipe. They may well be in the ‘risk reduction’ realm as opposed to ‘risk elimination’. …

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An image of a real NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets. The digital crowd is courtesy of Visual Concepts’ NBA 2K20 video game.

A modest proposal for rebooting spectator sports in the COVID era.

Before I go any further let me clearly state that not being able to watch sports on TV is a concern not even remotely close to the trials routinely faced by health care and other essential workers in the time of COVID-19. We already owe them a debt we cannot hope to repay. Also, it almost goes without saying it’s not even in the same universe as those who have already lost loved ones to the diabolical virus or may be suffering with the disease itself. Compared to these things, not getting the see how the Raptors’ season turns out is a paltry and inconsequential triviality. Not many would argue with that including, I like to think, the NBA players themselves. …

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In the movie “There Will Be Blood”, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) contemplates his terrible luck prospecting for oil in 1898 Texas. He didn’t realize everything was just about the change. (©2007 Paramount Pictures)

Who would have ever thought it would come to this?

It has been a long time since our last Ignition Sequence Start article here on Medium. We kicked off the publication with a couple of articles and dewey-eyed hopes that an oil & gas industry still reeling from the 2016 price crash would be interested in taking advantage of the latest in IT to make their operations more efficient. It’s not an exaggeration to say these articles landed with a dull thud layered over the the sound of crickets.

Then recently, as well all now know, everything changed in an instant.

To anybody who will listen, we tell a story of the only time even the least crazy of our crazy, tech-related ‘efficiency’ ideas received any sort of hearing was when the price of oil was $26. That was way back in 2016. That lasted for what seemed like no more than a couple of weeks. During that glorious fortnight, though, we thought our time had finally come. There wasn’t a single idea that wasn’t worthy of consideration as “we all looked into the black abyss and thought seriously about tossing ourselves into it”. …

Left: The Dream Flight Alula. Middle: Jack Northrop standing with his XB-35 flying wing. Right: the Guillows Javelin which started it all (and is still available!)

In the second article in this series, abstract ideals are turned into concrete goals.

In the first article in this series, I kicked off The Sailplane project with the story of how it all began. On the face of it, that was September of 2019 at Pacific City, Oregon after a stunningly beautiful day of skimming my Dream Flight Ahi a few metres above the dunes rising from the beach. But this story of creating an entirely new sailplane design really begins 50 years earlier with a Guillows Javelin when my late father, brother and I stood “beside the Trans-Canada highway in suburban Montréal…as it curled into the summer sky." …

Pacific City Triptych by Michelle Klement

This was the time and the place.

I have built and flown model aircraft for over 50 of my 58 years. They have provided all manner of rewards punctuated with some hard lessons which have served me well in life. For an avowed and unapologetic avgeek, they offer a connection to aviation, an unmatched creative outlet and an endlessly intriguing intellectual challenge.

The type of model aircraft in which I’m most interested are gliders, which are controlled from the ground by the pilot with a radio link to the airplane. Gliders, or sailplanes as they are often synonymously called, are like any other aircraft absent any means of propulsion other than gravity. …

Pacific Electric Railway cars awaiting destruction on Terminal Island, California in 1956. (image credit: UCLA Library Digital Collections)

Some thoughts on a failed Olympic bid and what it tells us about the shocking randomness of how we build our cities.

Although it has been many years since I last wrote computer code ‘to save my life’ I still vividly remember the five basic phases of the Cost of Change Curve associated with software development projects. While the fine details are now dim and distant the basic idea is this: the cost of making a given change rises exponentially as we work our way from the first phase, Requirements, through the intermediate Analysis, Coding and Testing phases and then finally to the Production phase. …

Amy Johnson at the controls of ‘Jason’ in Australia in 1930. Pioneering Australian aviator Frank Follet is in the front passenger seat. (image credit: Ted Hood via State Library of New South Wales)

A remarkable life and the enduring mystery of her tragic death.

The late arrival of the inbound flight she had piloted from Hatfield, in Hertfordshire, prevented Amy Johnson from departing Prestwick, Scotland any earlier than 4.00 pm on that afternoon in early January of 1941. Darkness was already beginning to fall. The most direct route from Prestwick to her eventual destination of Royal Air Force base Kidlington, near Oxford, took Amy Johnson right over Blackpool where Amy’s sister Molly and her husband Trevor lived in nearby Stanley Park. The thought of a meal, spending time with family and a decent night’s sleep must have had a lot of appeal rather than slogging further southeastwards in thoroughly awful conditions and at night. She landed the Airspeed Oxford twin-engine trainer at RAF Squires Gate just south of Blackpool proper, and secured the plane for the night. …

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Barron Shurn prepares to launch his model sailplane at a Seattle Area Soaring Society contest in June of 2008. This would have been very similar to the competition described in the essay. (photo credit: Bill Kuhlman / RC Soaring Digest)

Dad did his fair share of dreaming big. Particularly when it came to his kids.

On a whim in the summer of 1976—no doubt in part because he wanted to drive his shiny silver Alfa Romeo on the twisty and dangerous road through the mountains—my father suggested I have a stab at the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada National Championships held that year in Calgary, Alberta. This was on the strength of some spotty success at similar local model airplane competitions. Dad did his fair share of dreaming big. Particularly when it came to his kids.

For my part, I thought it was a perfectly fine idea, and duly registered to compete in the ‘Standard Sailplane’ category. These were models of around eight foot wingspan, without any sort of motor, controlled by the pilots located safely on the ground and connected to their plane by radio link. The gliders were towed aloft by a winch which spooled up the towline and the small, graceful aircraft rose into the sky like a kite. Once free of the towline, competitors demonstrated their ability to perform a series of pre-determined maneuvers. The pilot demonstrating the greatest competence in these events won the competition, which typically ran over a series of days. …


Terence C. Gannon

Not There Yet.

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