Friday, January 18, 2013

Touchdown!

Thought for the day:  Both optimists and pessimists contribute to the society. The optimist invents the aeroplane, the pessimist the parachute.  [George Bernard Shaw]


USS Enterprise
After an illustrious 51-year career, USS Enterprise, the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was put out to pasture last month. Actor William Shatner, who captained the other Enterprise, with which most people are a lot more familiar, was invited to the December 2 ceremony, but after much bally-ho, was unable to beam in for the auspicious occasion.

(Snap fingers.) Come to think of it, you've probably seen more of this newly decommissioned carrier than you realize. Did you see the movie Top Gun? If so, you saw the Enterprise, because that's where parts of the movie were filmed. Remember those hair-raising landings? If not, take a peek...


                                                   Whew, that's something else, isn't it?

 Guess what? Know what today is? It just so happens to be the anniversary of  the first time a pilot landed an airplane onto a ship. How about that? And just how long ago do you think that might've been? Think it happened with a sleek military jet? Think again.


Meet Eugene Ely, who set his Curtiss Model D Pusher biplane down on the deck of the U.S.S. Pennsylvania while she floated in San Francisco Bay... on January 18, 1911. That's right... just eight short years after the Wright brothers made their first flight at Kitty Hawk. His biplane, equipped with a 60 HP V-8 engine, flew a whopping 50 MPH.

Just a little over two months earlier, Ely successfully completed another experiment: he took off from the deck of the U.S.S. Alabama. But landing... now landing was gonna be a lot more problematic... and airplanes wouldn't be of much use to the Navy if they couldn't take off AND land.


Before Ely could take a whack at the second experiment, a temporary 133-foot long landing strip was built above the afterdeck and gun turret.


Okay, here he comes! Notice the sandbags lining the landing strip? Ely's plane was fitted with an experimental tailhook, and the plan was to stop the plane by snagging that hook onto one or two of the twenty-two ropes strung between those 50-pound sandbags. The ropes were a foot above the deck, and the bags were spaced three feet apart. And I'll betcha Ely's heart was pounding like a jackhammer on speed.








SUCCESS!









Captain Pond, Pennsylvania's commanding officer, called it the most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to Noah's ark.








The conquering hero. (Still a little shaky, I'll bet.)





And so it was that the young Eugene Ely's name was entered into the record books. He was the first person in the world to take off from... and land on... a ship. The rest is, as they say... history.

[Unfortunately, he died in a plane crash later that year while performing in an air show at Macon, Georgia. This history-making pilot with a boatload of moxie was only twenty-four years old.]


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Landing on the ship during the daytime is like sex: it's either good or it's great. Landing on the ship at night is like a trip to the dentist: you may get away with no pain, but you just don't feel comfortable. [LCDR Thomas Quinn, US Navy]

The three best things in life are a good landing, a good orgasm, and a good bowel movement. The night carrier landing is one of the few opportunities in life to experience all three at the same time. [an unnamed... but honest...  Navy pilot]

Always try to keep the number of landings you make equal to the number of take-offs you've made. [another unnamed... but smartass... Navy pilot]

Flying is the second greatest thrill known to man. Landing is the first.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

[All of these public domain images come courtesy of the U.S. Naval History Center, the National Air & Space Museum, and good ol' Wikipedia.]

65 comments:

  1. Yeah, it was sad to hear about the Enterprise being retired. I did hear that one of the new Ford-class carriers will carry on the name.

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    1. Yeah, it's kinda funny... the Navy doesn't retire a name like athletic teams retire a star's number; they just retire the vessel, and then transfer the name to another one. (The recently retired "Enterprise" wasn't the first to carry the name, either.)

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  2. Fun and informative post, Susan! But I hope the Navy pilot who experienced "The three best things in life" simultaneously did so only while night-landing on a carrier. Could set him back socially elsewhere.

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    1. Thanks. Good point! That would be a little... messy, and I'm sure the media would make a big stink about it, too.

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  3. I found this post very educational!! The sandbag idea was a good one.

    p.s. I LOVE the George Bernard Shaw quote.

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you did.

      Shaw is a treasure trove of great quotes.

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  4. This is so interesting. It's so amazing to see what the first planes looked like as oppose to how they are now. Honestly I'm amazed anyone had the courage to try them in the first place. I'm definitely one who would have invented the parachute if I could. :D

    Have a great weekend, Susan!

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    1. I'd seen plenty of the old planes in museums before, but it never occurred to me that someone used one of those planes to land on a ship for the first time. Well, I guess SOMEBODY had to be first, but I'm glad it wasn't ME.

      You have a super weekend, too.

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    1. Dank je wel for visiting my blog. Aangenaam kennis te maken.

      Sorry... I don't understand Dutch, so I don't know what your comment says, but your fotograferan is beautiful.

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  6. Man, being the first to land on a carrier? That would just scare the poop out of me!

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    1. I know whatcha mean. I'm afraid I'd have to skip the high-fiber breakfast before attempting something like that.

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  7. Don't know if you remember, but cousin Billie was a "plank owner" on the Enterprise. That is, he was a member of the first crew to serve aboard her.

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    1. NO! I didn't remember... in fact, I don't think I ever KNEW that. Cool. Thanks for telling me.

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  8. Oh, gosh, Sus. I felt so sad to read he died in the same year -- and at 24! Still, though, looking into his eyes, I did get this sense of the suprahuman capacity to engage danger that all renegades have to possess -- particularly pilots racking up first-time feats. Oh, I would never have the stomach for it!

    Or, hmm. If I were young, unmarried, childlesss and hungry enough ... maybe I would.

    Happy Friday.

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    1. You're right; twenty-four is awfully young, but he died doing something he loved. And yes, I detect a slight tinge of renegade in you. Happy Friday to you, too.

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  9. Love the quote
    And what a big boat
    Never knew the top gun fact
    How's this for a rhyming act?
    And Shatner got to be there?
    Wow, must have been quite the affair
    Sarcasm takes its toll
    Now I'm on a roll

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    1. Glad ya liked the quote,
      But ya gotta get a grip.
      Don't ever call that a BOAT;
      That's a big bad SHIP!

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  10. Great history lesson. I enjoyed it immensely.

    Well done...great pics, and wonderful "sayings!"

    thanks

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  11. Awesome!! I know a lot of aviation history because my dad was a pilot (retired now), but I've never heard of that story. Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Thank you. I'm glad I could bring you a "new" story. (Maybe you can impress your dad!)

      Happy weekend.

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  12. Oh my gosh, the sandbags!

    Loved that Thomas Quinn quote. That's good.

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    1. I liked that quote, too, and found a lot of other really good ones... but without attribution. I liked that LCDR Quinn's name was attached to that one.

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  13. What a great post, very interesting. Hard to believe a plane landing on a ship so early after the invention.

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    1. Thanks. Glad ya liked it. Yeah, I had no IDEA the first shipboard landing took place that early on.

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  14. Absolutely fascinating. Love the quote by George Bernard Shaw.

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  15. We've come a long way, baby! Cool post :)

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    1. Yep, and it's a real good thing nobody was depending on me to get us here. Thanks.

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  16. I laughed out loud at the quotes at the end of your post. My boss has a plane - maybe I should share those with him.

    Well, maybe better not.

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    1. Well, maybe you can share SOME of them with him...

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  17. My son-in-law was on the Enterprise's last tour--he's one of those crazy pilots who fly planes off and on aircraft carriers. Scares me to death just thinking about it.

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    1. Oh, wow! It's a small world. I can imagine how scary it must be for all of you, but he's gotta be darned good at it, or he wouldn't be doing it. (I'll bet he's heard some of those quotes at the end of this post before, too.)

      Happy weekend.

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  18. That is scary stuff indeed. Loved the quotes at the end!

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    1. It'd take a special kind of courage to be the first one to attempt a ship landing, for sure. Not to mention doing it nowadays.

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  19. This is so interesting! I really like how you integrated photos in your post.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks, Glad ya liked it, and thank you so much for stopping by.

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  20. I've always had a fascination with the pilots and biplanes of WWI. Look into an American pilot named Elliott White Springs--he was quite a pilot and quite a character!

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    1. Me, too. I will definitely look him up... thanks!

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    2. Wow! He had to have been one of the best combat pilots of all time. Not to mention all those neat cars he had, and how he handled the cotton mills. Thanks for telling me about him.

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  21. Well there you go. I always thought the Brits had landed the first plane on a ship.

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    1. Who knows? Maybe his grandparents were Brits.

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  22. I don't think it is fair to transfer the name, that's like stripping her identity. They should find new names for the new ships. 24 is very young to die.

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    1. I don't know why they do that; there's probably a very good reason for it, but I don't know what it is. And yes, 24 is waaaaaay too young to die.

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  23. It's amazing that a plane was able to land on a ship over 100 years ago! It would be so much easier if they had direct flights to cruise ships now. I always love your history lessons combined with great quotes Susan.
    Julie

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    1. Yeah, I never would've guessed it happened that early. Thanks. Glad ya like them. Happy weekend, kiddo.

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  24. Wow I cannot imagine the "nerve" it would take to do this job especially the first time.
    Love the Enterprise and Star Trek reference:) B

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  25. Greetings human, Susan,

    That must be a very big pasture where they put that ship. What an informative post and my human tells me that the spaced out Canadian, Captain Kirk, is still up there sorting out the universe, eh.

    Pawsitive wishes and a happy weekend to you from me, yes me, the next 'Paw Minister' of Britain,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog! :)

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    1. Greetings dog Penny.

      Thanks for taking a paws from you busy life to stop by. You wouldn't like traveling in space with Captain Kirk. No fire hydrants up there.

      Take good care of your person. And yourself.

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    2. Greetings human Susan,

      There are no fire hydrants in England but plenty of trees. I wonder if Captain Kirk has trees on his spaceship....

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    3. Seems to me there's a garden-type ecosystem on board, but I don't know if they'll let you use it for your, um, intended purpose. It might be a good idea to take along a litter box.

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  26. That is very cool! The first Enterprise retired. And I'm sure that first landing was terrifying.

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  27. Oh my gosh, I am in love with the picture at the top. So beautiful!!! Always learn new things from you. Those old pics of the old plane and ships, way cool. LOL at the pilots descriptions! Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Hi-ya! Good to hear from you again. Glad you liked the post, and I hope you've been having a super weekend.

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  28. You're a wealth of fun, historical facts, Susan. And all the quotes are amusing. Great post!

    xoRobyn

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  29. Test pilots have always been a crazy lot. Love the wood decks of the old carrier-type boat of the day.

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    1. Test pilots are definitely in a whole new kind of crazy class all by themselves.

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  30. I'm a Navy Brat, so I really enjoyed this.

    I wrote about my Navy upbringing here.

    http://girlwithanewlife2.com/blog/rlwithanewlife.com/2010/05/happy-memorial-day-memories-of-navy.html

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  31. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Tina. I enjoyed your Memorial Day tribute, as well.

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