Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another "Big Iron" Saturday at the Cold War Air Museum,

We consider ourselves lucky when Mother Nature cooperates with Cold War Air Museum central planning.

Last Saturday, the weather turned clear and warmer so we were happy to bring some of our aircraft out for display and flight.

One of our associates, a former Russian Major checks the line. Later he assisted Jon with taxi and systems checks in the MiG-23 and went for a flight in one of the L-39s.

A view through the window from the Mi-2 shows the MiG-23 and the Mi-24 from a different angle.

We had a number of visitors over the weekend who took advantage of the beautiful weather and Miguel came by with some of his delightful models for more photo updates. We are looking forward, as always, to his newest work appearing on his Flickr pages.

Unfortunately, we are about to enter another cycle of cold and rain, forcing us back to work inside. Perhaps we will be able to report additional progress on some of our many projects by next weekend.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Anatomy of a MiG-23 Caution and Warning Panel

While the original Cyrillic Russian in the MiG-23's cockpit is authentic, if a red light comes on in the cockpit, we'd like it to come on in English. Labeling and placarding the cockpit for safety, and changing the altimeter from meters to feet are some of the steps necessary before we can fly the aircraft in U.S. Airspace.

The MiG-23 is part of the first generation of Soviet aircraft where cockpit ergonomics were given major consideration in the design. The layout is clean and logical but at the cost of increased complexity of the mechanical "switchology".

Like the rest of the MiG-23, the Caution and Warning panels are rugged and well thought out. The main panel shown here can be removed with a single screw, making it easy to change the 28v light bulbs behind it. The "day/night" knob adjusts the brightness of the lights and doubles as a "push to test" button that illuminates all bulbs so the pilot can check if they're burned out.

Here the panel is seen from the back with encapsulation for each light bulb so that there is no "light bleed" from one indicator to the next. The brightness adjustment knob carries through the "push to test" action to a button behind the panel. A spring returns the knob to its normal position.

The panel is continuously adjustable from fully bright "day" mode to a very dim "night" mode. Unusually, this is done with a mechanical slider that blocks the amount of light coming to the panel rather than by regulation of the voltage intensity being applied to the lights.

The slider is shown in this photo in both the fully open and fully closed positions.

The first step to converting the panel to English is to document the existing panel both for the museum's records and to facilitate translation to English terms that are familiar to pilots.

There are two primary panels, one dealing with engine issues and one primarily dealing with the six fuel tanks (plus external drop tanks) that are automatically managed for the pilot. Additionally, a panel of "trim neutral" green lights and a set of information lights on the gear tree need to be translated.

The MiG-23's unique "swing wing" design is brought up on the panel's "SPREAD WINGS" light. As it is virtually impossible to land the MiG-23 with the wings swept to any degree at all this light exists to alert pilots to the danger that the gear have been lowered and the wings are not in the full forward position.

The designers at MiG chose a panel construction that easily lends itself to conversion to English while retaining the "feel" of the original panel.

Each indicator consists of a seven-layer sandwich of frosted tiles, the label with the wording on a thin "film", copper gaskets to provide a snug (vibration proof) fit, and a glass "color" tile that is red, yellow, or green as relates to the urgency of the information being provided to the pilot. Red tiles illuminate for emergency situations (fire, loss of an electric generator, or very low fuel state), yellow for situations needing the pilot's attention (hydraulic system anomalies), and green for information not requiring action (such as when a fuel tank reaches an empty state).

Additionally a master caution annunciator and two red master caution lights are placed in the pilot's "heads up" field of view. The blinking of the master caution system can be canceled by pressing the master caution annunicator light/button.

After some discussion on translation, a final panel is created with Inkscape for laser printing on transparency film. Here Jon is shown with the translated film and scissors on the, "You want to fly it, you cut them out!" plan.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feature Associate, Johnny Stevenson

We are fortunate at the Cold War Air Museum to have a fine group of associates and volunteers. Johnny Stevenson is a great asset to the museum and we are fortunate to have him on board!

An Army veteran with 21+ years of regular service, Johnny first started working on UH-1's in 1980.

Johnny's can-do attitude is infectious. He works hard and everybody around him just naturally works hard as well.

With A&P, IA and Helicopter Pilot ratings and over thirty years of helicopter experience, Johnny is definately helping us get our projects off the ground!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Boy Scout Troop 175

Saturday's visitors at the Cold War Air Museum included a group of Scouts from Midland, Texas.

Scouting provides excellent leadership training for young men and we are glad to have such groups of visitors.

We hope the young men and their group leaders had a good time.

During their day in Dallas they visited the CAF and Cold War Air Museums before continuing to the National Scouting Museum located nearby, in Irving, Texas.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Cold War Ace, Brig. Gen. Steve Ritchie

Recently, several of the directors of the Cold War Air Museum had the pleasure of attending a meeting with General Steve Ritchie. General Ritchie was one of only two American pilots to become an "Ace" during the Vietnam conflict.

The presentation included stories about his experience.

And his Wikipedia article is linked here.

An F4 Phantom, like this one, was flown by Ritchie when he destroyed five MiG-21's in air to air combat between May and July, 1972.

Director Jon Boede took this opportunity to thank General Ritchie for his service and invite him to the Cold War Air Museum

Although American pilots in conflicts from World War One through Vietnam earned the distinction of "Flying Ace", the changing nature of warfare has decreased the number of Pilot v Pilot conflicts and added weapons operators firing missiles to the combat mix.

Regardless of the nature of the combat, we wish to take this opportunity to thank and salute all of the brave men and women of the armed services who place themselves in harm's way to protect and defend our nation.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Operation Baby Huey", delivering a UH-1 at the Cold War Air Museum

A new arrival joined the Cold War Air Museum as dawn broke today.

Most of the aircraft at the museum are owned or sponsored by individuals. Respecting their privacy and the privacy of ongoing negotiations for aircraft acquisition has given rise to some coded conversations. Such as, "do we know when the baby is due yet?". Accordingly, the acquisition of the UH-1, more widely known as the "Huey", inevitably gained the moniker above.

With so many projects ongoing, space was temporarily cleared beside Mi-2, Bord 213 for the delivery of the newest member of the Cold War Air Museum family.

As the morning progressed, help arrived from just down the road. In addition to being one of the leading aircraft recovery companies in the country, Air Salvage of Dallas is owned and staffed by guys that are genuinely knowledgeable and great to work with. As a source for aircraft parts and information, they can't be beat.

After a successful offloading, John, shown here with Museum President Bruce Stringfellow, heads back to Alabama. John not only worked with the acquisition team to make this happen, he drove through the night in order to meet the delivery schedule. One of the side benefits of working with the museum is meeting a continuous stream of interesting people.

After offloading, the Huey is bedded down for now beside one of our Mi-2s. Over the next few weeks, this acquisition will be carefully inspected and decisions will be made about how to proceed with the restoration.

A proud delivery crew poses beside the aircraft. Pete has extensively researched the history of this aircraft and we will have more posts in the future about the aircraft's history and its restoration.

One thing about this panel, we're not going to have any problem with space for radios. Even in its present condition, the cockpit is an opportunity for some of our associates to sit and reminisce.

Presented with a ceremonial role of 100mph tape, Johnny officially christens the project, "Can-do".

Monday, February 15, 2010

MiG-23 Tire Change

Following the taxi test of the MiG-23 at the Cold War Air Museum during Soviet Big-Iron Saturday, we began noticing that the port tire was losing pressure. We had anticipated replacing the tires that came with Bord 022 and fortunately, our replacement set was already on hand.

A particularly handy thing is to keep a spare tire already mounted on a spare rim to minimize the time needed to "rescue" an aircraft in case a tire should "blow", or go flat during operations. One of our "spares" was already mounted on a rim, simplifying this replacement process.

However, this did not eliminate the need to read the instructions. The MiG-23 wheel assembly consists of approximately 60 individual components, not including nuts and washers (so much for Soviet Simplicity, this time anyway). Here Jon is seen trying to figure out what does and, more importantly, does not need to be taken apart in order to replace the wheel.

The massive disk brake mechanism incorporates an anti-skid system and uses six big rotors and seven heavy-duty stators in each wheel.

The amount of heat that can be generated by the brakes poses a serious bursting issue with the tires. To prevent this, the designers at MiG incorporated two interesting features. The first is an electric fan. Mounted in the center of the axle, the fan activates when the "weight on wheels" switch signals that the aircraft is once again on the ground.

Shown with the axle fan is the nut that holds the wheel on. A keeper ring goes between the fan mounting bolts and the axle to keep the fan and the nut from turning as the tire turns. In the picture below, Jon is inspecting the electrical connection for the fan motor in the center axle.

The second feature is a solder plug that melts at 140°C, allowing pressure to escape before the tire can burst. On fast landings or after any extensive brake use, MiG-23 pilots may alert their ground crews so the wheels can be doused with water so the plug doesn't melt.

Sliding the tire on over the six rows of rotors is a little like working a combination lock, but with a little light on the subject and some patience, Jon and Sean were able to get the tire on fairly easily.

All that remains is re-mounting the mud guard, applying safety wire and cotter pins to various keepers, and... of course... next, the replacment of the starboard tire.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cold War Air Museum, cold weather day

Updates have been slow this week as we have had an unusual snowfall with up to 12 inches accumulation, bringing things to a standstill in the area. Our "thin skinned" volunteers at the Cold War Air Museum are not used to working in such cold. This morning's exercise was clearing the snow from the hangar doors so some of our intrepid aviators could take the Mi-2 out for a flight.

On arrival this morning, a brisk wind still made the windsock stand out. The farm buildings just visible behind the windsock are also visible in the picture below, from "Soviet Big Iron Saturday", just three weeks ago.

Because the Soviets (and the Chinese) are serious about cold weather warfare, the aircraft are well equipped for the rigors of winter. More so usually, than our local pilots. This picture and several others are available on the museum website for use as computer desktops or backgrounds.

A common problem for little planes that live outside, the accumulation of snow slid off the wings and the weight of the snow remaining on the tail caused this aircraft to tilt backwards. When the snow melts, the aircraft will "plop" back down onto its' nose wheel.

We are happy that our aircraft live inside now, but when they were in military service, they saw much harsher conditions and much deeper snowfall than this.

After three days of snow and overcast skies, the sun finally came out this afternoon. Within three hours, the ramp (that had 6 inches of snow this morning) is almost clear. This group of visitors, who were fascinated by the museum's aircraft, are now fascinated with the idea of a snowball fight before the rare sight of snow completly disappears.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A cold war story, 58-0787 - The "Cornfield Bomber"

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) may be all the rage today, but during the early days of the cold war, a plane, especially a jet fighter, that landed itself without a pilot was definitely an unexpected event.

In 1970, during a training flight in an F-106 out of Malmstrom AFB in Montana an aircraft and pilot got themselves into a flat spin. During his unsuccessful attempts to break the spin, the pilot lowered half flaps, rolled in takeoff trim and throttled the engine back to an approach power setting.

Since a flat spin in an F-106, was generally considered to be non-recoverable, the pilot then did the next thing the flight handbook said to do -- get out of it, i.e., eject. After the pilot did just that, aircraft 58-0787 recovered by itself and established a wings level low rate of descent

When the local Sheriff arrived on the scene above, he found an aircraft with no pilot sitting on the ground in a snow covered corn field, with the engine still running.

Despite some damage to the bottom of the fuselage, the aircraft was recovered and returned to active service, albeit with a new but inglorious nickname, the "Corn Field Bomber". In 1986, when the aircraft was retired, it was placed on permanent display at the National Museum of the Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton Ohio.

Hat's off from the Cold War Air Museum to this spirited survivor!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Current ex-Soviet Aircraft in Afghanistan

The Cold War Air Museum is happy to hear from readers who want to share their pictures and stories. Andrew has written us from Afghanistan to share some of his pictures from the "constant airshow" of former Soviet aircraft over there. A KC-135R IP in the Air National Guard, he is currently flying the Air Force's newest recon jet (the RC-700A, Global Express). In addition to being an avid student of Soviet aircraft, Andrew owns and flys a Yak 52! Thank you, Andrew!

Andrew and a Mil Mi-8MTV

Andrew and an Antonov An-32

Andrew and a Kamov 32

Antonov An-124, second largest aircraft in the world after the An-225.
(We're still looking for Andrew in this picture)

Cockpit of the An-124

Mil Mi-26

Antonov An-12

Antonov An-12 wreckage in a minefield

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More Miguel's MiG Models

Miguel, photographer and museum associate, has used the aircraft at the Cold War Air Museum as a backdrop for his work before. Our cold war era aircraft, equipment and uniforms help accent his work.

This Saturday he photographed Sarah, a professional model from the DFW area who was excited to augment her portfolio with something more unusual.


The weather was freezing, the wind was blowing, but Sarah was a real trooper. Here she is posing with one of the museum's L-39s in a cold war era uniform.

Always the professional, it's hard to tell from this photograph that she was mere moments away from becoming an ice sculpture.

Inside, Sean and Rene were able to locate some heaters and Miguel got these terrific shots with the Mi-2 helicopter and MiG-23 supersonic interceptor.


As the MiG is undergoing restoration it was possible to put Sarah in the front seat of the Sparka and let her light up the caution and warning panel without fear of her setting off the pyrotechnic charges that would normally be part of the ejection seat. The result was this very unusual photo of Sarah and the "christMiG tree" lights.

Our thanks once again to Miguel for letting us use some of his photos on the blog. A larger collection of photos can be found on his Flickr page.