The Ponce Chronicles: The Work Force Awakens, Pt. 3

It’s 3 a.m. here in Ponce, and I just heard my daughter Jayce take off for home. That is, I heard the rumble of a JetBlue Airbus take to the skies from Mercedita Airport, which I used to be able to see from the hilltop here, before some trees downslope got too big and blocked the view. (You can still see it beautifully from our next-door neighbor’s lovely rooftop terrace.)

The reason I know it was Jayce taking off is not only that I just took her to the airport a little while ago, but because the only airline serving Ponce is JetBlue, and they have exactly two flights in and two flights out every day—and they are all in the middle of the night. The one to Orlando, connecting to Boston, leaves at 3 a.m.; and the one to JFK, connecting to Boston, leaves at 5:50. Okay, I suppose that’s not really the middle of the night (though it is to me), but it’s definitely the middle of the night when you have to arrive at the airport.

There isn’t a lot of other traffic from there, as far as I can tell. I once flew a Cessna 150 from that same runway, back when I was still active as a private pilot. It was great. I rented a plane and an instructor on one of my visits, and we flew around over the city and over the hill where the house is, before heading back. That was one well-worn Cessna, let me tell you. I described it as “quaint” to the family when I got back, but refrained from mentioning the peeling paint and the aluminum patches on the fuselage. I guess I can say it now. I wonder if that little one-man flight school is still in business. I hope so.

Only a couple of days left, and then we’ll be getting on one of those middle of the night flights home. Wait—does that make it a fly-by-night airline? Hmm.

 

Best Father’s Day Ever!

How about a ride in a restored Stearman biplane for Father’s Day? Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

The Collings Foundation is a national organization that restores and maintains historic aircraft and automobiles. One of their locations is west of Boston in Stow, Massachusetts. They have a hangar full of gorgeously restored airplanes and race cars, including early biplanes, a World War II Avenger, a race car once owned by Paul Newman, a Rolls Royce Phantom, and lots more. They only open to the public a few weekends a year, and Father’s Day weekend is one of them.

T-6 trainer at Collings Foundation

Avenger at Collings Foundation_med

Stearman coming in for low approachThey also offer rides in a pair of Stearman biplanes, and a T-6 trainer, taking off and landing from a lovely grass airstrip behind the hangar. We arrived late, but not too late for Allysen to hustle me over to the table where they sold the biplane rides. Yes, I could still get a ride.

I actually hold a private pilot’s license, but it’s been many years since I’ve flown, owing to a discrepancy between the cost of flying and the family exchequer. But really—a chance to fly in an open cockpit and feel the wind on my face? Not to be missed! (Alas, due to a nonfunctional intercom between passenger and pilot, I did not get a chance to take the stick and rudder. I would have liked that.)

Allysen took what video she could from the ground, and I took what I could from the cockpit, fiercely holding onto my cellphone, lest it go flying on its own. This is what I culled from our efforts. Let me just say, it was fantastic. I have the best family in the world.

 

 

 

Blue Angels Over My Town

And I missed it!

I’ve always wanted to see the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s precision flying squadron. Yesterday I had my chance—except I didn’t know about it! I was in the shower when I heard a thunderous roar of aircraft flying nearby. It sounded right overhead, which is occasionally the case with traffic out of Boston’s Logan Airport. But this didn’t sound like commercial airliners; it had the distinctive crackle of jet fighters. I tried to look out the bathroom window, but saw nothing in the sky but clouds. The last time I’d heard that sound in real life, it was a pair of F-15s flying over Fenway Park.

An hour later, I read in the online edition of the Boston Globe that the Blue Angels (flying their gorgeous blue and yellow FA-18 Hornets) had been in town for a photo shoot, and had just made several passes above the city, including over Fenway Park. It’s entirely possible that they did fly over my house, while I was in the shower.

I was fit to be tied. But I thought, at least I should be able to see some good video footage of it, from the local TV stations. Forget it. As it turns out, about the only videos I’ve found online have been clips from private citizens, probably shot on their cell phones. Here’s a still, though, from the Boston Globe. It’s pretty cool: the six-plane squadron plus a photo plane, passing behind Boston’s Prudential Center.

Another Flying Car on the Horizon!

This story made me immediately think of my Slovenian-made moped, a Tomos. Well, the wily Slovakians are giving my neighbors the Terrafugia people a run for their money on the race to develop a practical flying car. (A race that’s been on for, what, sixty or seventy years? About as long as the race to develop practical fusion power.)

Take a look at this beauty, the Aeromobil 3.0.

(Best viewed at full-screen size.)
View on Washington Post

Estimated to cost only a few hundred thousand dollars! (But I’ve already got the pilot’s license, so I’m partway there.) Woo-hoo!

Ballooning to the Edge of Space

I’m watching the live coverage of Felix Baumgartner’s balloon flight to the edge of outer space. He’s presently at 127,000 feet and still ascending, well past the previous record for manned balloon flight. The plan is for him to jump in his specialized pressure suit and freefall through the sound barrier before parachuting to the ground. 

Live shot of capsule at nearly 128,000 feet

He’s having problem with the heat not working in his faceplate, but they’ve just announced that he will jump regardless. They’re beginning now to depressurize the capsule, preparatory to his stepping out of the capsule and jumping…

Stay tuned!

Spaceship Two Does the Wobble Dance

Here’s a video of a recent test flight of Spaceship Two, which by this time next year could be offering rides into space to the public. (Got $200,00 I could borrow? I’m good for it. I promise.) The amazing thing about this video isn’t the test flight per se; it’s the mode of reentry. Watch it, and you’ll see the spaceship raising its tail feathers and bobbing like a badminton shuttlecock—intentionally!

I’m going to try to tweak this so that it’ll fit on my page here. But if you want to read it with some explanation, view it here, again courtesy of the Bad Astronomy blog.

1 2 3