Category Archives: Photography

Bomber Flight

If you’ve been here any time at all, you’ve seen our PBJ, including its first flight after 23 years of restoration.

If you’re new, it looks like a B-25 bomber, but it’s not quite the same. And by “our” I mean the Commemorative Air Force Southern California Wing (CAF SoCal), where I am on staff (my volunteer second job) as Finance Officer.

Every good WWII bomber needs a tail-gunner position, as well as a machine gun on either side. From this view you can see the starboard side machine gun just aft of the wing, the tail gunner’s position between the tails, and a big, round, open hole just aft of the starboard machine gun. Keep those in mind.

Today we had a flight with a handful of paying customers (FYI, for a very reasonable price I can get you hooked up as well…) and at the last minute (literally) a seat opened up. We hate to have empty seats if there are CAF members around who want a ride, so one of the PBJ crew stuck their head in the office to see who was there. Since I hadn’t flown in the PBJ yet, I was told to take a seat.

The view here is aft. That starboard machine gun is in my face on the left and we’re looking back toward the tail gunner’s position, all buckled in for takeoff.

Once in the air we could move around a bit, very carefully. Here’s the view out of that port side machine gun bay, about 4,500′ above Ojai.

Back there is where the tail gunner’s position is. Good thing we’re not in an incredibly LOUD aircraft that’s bouncing around a bit. Wait… (It was actually a gorgeous day for flying, very calm up there.)

I got my turn to go back to the tail gunner’s position. It’s freakin’ incredible, a view that you have never seen before to have the ground slipping past from underneath you.

From the Ojai Valley we crossed over Simi Valley. Here we’re still looking straight back toward Ventura and the ocean way off in the distance, with the 118/23 transition on the left.

The view forward from the tail gunner’s position. It’s not terribly claustrophobic at all, but there’s not a ton of maneuvering room either.

Moving up from the tail gunner’s spot, that big open port is on my right. Everyone who thinks of aircraft as being sealed aluminum and titanium tubes with no openings to the outside air – you should fly this!

Back in my aft-facing seat, we were on final approach when the tower asked us to slow down because of a Cessna in front of us. We were already as slow as we could get without doing that whole “no-speed-equals-no-lift-falling-out-of-the-sky” thing, so instead we did a couple of big 360° steep turns. Definitely an “E” Ticket!!

Someone was having a good time.

Back on the ground, we “announced our presence with authority” to the wedding reception and quinceañera going on at our hangars. (We make a big chunk of our operating income by these rentals – if you need a big venue in Ventura County we’re the biggest and I know people who know people. Hell, I AM a people!)

“Semper Fi” is the one and only true PBJ still flying. There are a couple dozen airworthy B-25s and one or two are advertised as PBJs, but they’re not. I look forward to flying “Semper Fi” again and again in the future.

Hard to stop grinning.

For the rest of the day, people will walk up to you in the hangar and immediately say, “You went flying this afternoon, didn’t you!”

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Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography

New York, New York (Pictures Day 16)

In summary: New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August 2016, I visited there for the first time. On the first afternoon we visited Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag. Day One started with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise, followed by the full two and a half hour cruise around Manhattan – south down the Hudson River into the Upper Harbor, up the East River under the “BMW” bridges, past Midtown and the UN, into the Harlem River, back south into the Hudson River, underneath the George Washington Bridge, past Grant’s Tomb, and finally back into port. To finish Day Two we had a death march to find a cab, went to the Mets game, left early only to miss the best part, and inadvertently stiffed a nice cab driver. Bright & early on Day Three we headed out toward Liberty Island – it’s hard to take a bad picture there, then went to Ellis Island.

Once back in port, we took a quick cab ride to our next destination for the day.

I “knew” that this would be an emotional visit. It wasn’t until I got there that I learned how little I “knew.”

The pools and waterfalls which outline the original twin towers are lovely. I thought that it was a magnificent space, showing how huge the buildings were, giving newcomers such as myself an excellent idea of their placement in their surroundings. We approached from the south so our first view was of the South Pool.

The new tower adjacent to the site is magnificent. As you can see from the earlier pictures from the harbor, Liberty Island, and Ellis Island, it dominates the skyline.

Around the pools of course are the 2,983 names of the victims. There are directories around which can help you find the location of individuals if you’re looking for someone in particular. I was.

Near the northwest corner of the North Pool I found the names of Mark Lawrence Bavis and Garnet Ace Bailey. They were on United Airlines Flight 175 when it crashed into the South Tower on September 11, 2001. They were scouts for the Los Angeles Kings hockey team. (If you’ve ever wondered where the LA Kings’ mascot got his name, there’s your first clue. Because of that, for the record, you can make fun of his antics and even our team, but never his name. At least it’s not advised near a Kings fan.)

RIP Mark and Ace. And Juliana. And Peter. And Robert, Carl, Andrew, Brian, MacLovio…

Entering the museum you take a very long escalator (or stairway) down toward the foundations of the World Trade Center. There are many pictures of the site as it once looked, as well as girders from the building and other artifacts.

One of the legends of the 9-11 disaster is the slurry wall. You get your first view of it near the bottom of the escalator.

You can look it up and read the whole story, but the short version is that this wall held when the towers collapsed in on it, preventing a far, far greater disaster. This underground wall keeps out the nearby Hudson River and wasn’t built for the kinds of stresses it was subjected to that day. If it had failed, the Hudson would have flooded in, undermining and collapsing other buildings nearby, as well as possibly causing truly massive flooding in the New York City subway system. That could have caused thousands and thousands more casualties as well as damage to the infrastructure that we would still be working to repair and replace.

But it held.

Coming down the escalator you first see the final beam, the last structural girder removed from the debris. You also get your first good idea of how vast this spectacular musuem is.

Walking down the ramps and seeing the story of 9-11 told, there are hundreds of artifacts that vividly portray the vast and incredible destruction of that day.

As you approach the bottom levels you see this huge art piece by Spencer Finch – each of the 2,983 panels are painted to match a memory of the color of the sky in New York City on September 11th.

At the museum’s bottom level you can start to see the structural foundations that the Twin Towers were built upon.

My first impressions up to this point were almost those of shock. It’s one thing to remember that day, with none of us ever able to forget when and where we were. It’s quite another to be there.

After the initial impressions, the shock starts to lessen and the horror begins. (To be continued…)

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Sunset Don’t Know…

…that the world’s on fire.

It’s just a sunset…

…doing what a sunset…

…has got to do.

The rabbits were out in force tonight on the lawn while I was taking these.

Do the rabbits ever look up with awe and wonder at the sunset?

We’re stuck between the rabbits and the sunsets…

…aware and intelligent enough to appreciate and recognize their beauty, but too short sighted and stupid to bother to watch because we’re busy destroying the planet and our society.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography, Weather

WE Build 2017

Last year about this time (not a coincidence) I shared pictures of our annual Habitat for Humanity WE (Women’s Empowerment) Build. This year we once again had something like 300 women out on our Santa Clarita construction site, working to put low-income veterans into homes.

There were a couple of groups pouring concrete, including this group putting in a stretch of sidewalk. Other groups poured curbs and V-ditches (for drainage).

One group was putting stucco on retaining walls.

The group I was working with all day was putting up fencing. Here’s a picture from VERY early at the beginning of the day…

…when all that was up were the posts and cross braces which had been installed earlier in the week.

We had teams of four women, each responsible for building about 40′ of fencing.

We used screws for the assembly, with the power drills being both easier to use, cheaper, and much safer than nail guns.

As with much of the work done at a WE Build, women who had rarely (if ever) done this sort of construction work were pros as it within a couple of hours.

Keep it level with the plumb lines at the top, keep the spacing consistent, keep it squared up and level.

While it may have taken a half hour or more to place the first two or three planks, by lunch time the teams had turned into lean, mean fencing machines.

By the end of the day, hundreds of linear feet of fencing were done and we had all actually moved beyond the initial goals and were well into the “bonus” section of fencing – and coming damn close to finishing it as well!

Between all of the different work teams, not only did the donations for the event add up to many tens of thousands of dollars, but the work done was worth almost $100,000 that we would have otherwise had to pay to a subcontractor!

A good time was had by all! And I might have picked up enough sun to leave me still re-radiating in the infrared as bright as a quasar.

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On this little shelf next to my desk I have a video picture frame that flips through a few hundred favorite pictures of family, friends, vacations, and so on. I also have a very special bobble head. At some point the shelf got crowded and the bottle head doll got moved behind the video picture frame.

He doesn’t seem pleased. Today I noticed that he’s just staring. And staring. And staring.

It’s pretty creepy once you notice it.

Yet strangely appropriate.

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Filed under Paul, Photography

No Context For You – May 10th

Do blurry things look they’re going really fast because that’s how we see things that are going really fast, or do things going really fast look  blurry because that’s what we expect them to look like? Is it a chicken thing or an egg thing? The egg’s going to look blurry no matter what since it’s smooth, but if the chicken is going fast enough to be blurry it must have gotten shot out of one of those chicken cannons.

Speaking of “blurry,” how ’bout that brain of mine? On a scale of 1 to 10, where does my exhausted incoherence rate tonight? About a fuchsia porcupine?

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Handles Like A Pig In A Crosswind!

Lookie what showed up on the CAF SoCal ramp in Camarillo last weekend!

It’s a Convair 240!

Well, at least it’s a big chunk of a Convair 240.

Some key pieces are missing – like the wings…

…the engines…

…the tail…

…the landing gear, and then a whole bunch of fiddly bits.

That’s gotta make it tough to control under the best of circumstances!

What’s that aerodynamic term I was looking for? Oh, yeah! “Ballistic.”

Not that this particular fuselage doesn’t have more than a bit of history. It was owned back in the 1960’s by a big movie studio. They paid the bills, but it was there for the use at will of one of the studio’s biggest stars of the day.

See that “CG” in the registration number? Let’s just say that if you were “Notorious” for wanting to go “North by Northwest” “To Catch A Thief” on “Operation Petticoat,” this would be your plane to be “Indiscreet” in while trying to avoid being “Father Goose.” And that’s no “Charade!”

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Filed under CAF, Photography