Blog 5th Anniversary Survey Results

All Quiet on the Survey Front

After a month of having the reader surveys open for both my blogs, I have to say the amount of feedback was rather less than I hoped for. However, there was enough to indicate where the blogs are succeeding.

Looking at Pickled Wings question by question:

1: How well does Pickled Wings meet your needs?

The responses to this question all fell into the “Very well” and “Somewhat well” brackets with the majority in “Very well”

2: How easy was it to find what you were looking for on Pickled Wings?

Responses were spread across “Somewhat easy”, “Very easy” and “Extremely easy” with a majority in “Very easy”

3: Did it take you more or less time than you expected to find what you were looking for on Pickled Wings?

Responses ranged from “About waht I expected”, “A little less time” and “A lot less time”. While there was not a large majority, slightly less than half the respondents voted “A little less time” putting it a bit ahead of the other two.

4: How visually appealing is Pickled Wings?

By a wide margin, “Extremely appealing” got the majority here with “Very appealing” and “Somewaht appealing” taking smaller shares.

5: How easy is it to understand the information on Pickled Wings?

Happily, the responses here were split between only “Very easy” and “Extremely easy” wit h”Extremely easy” getting a majority.

6: How much do you trust the information on Pickled Wings?

Responses were split between “A moderate amount”, “A lot” and “A great deal”. There was a tie between “A lot” and “A great deal” with both cioming in at just under half with the rest going to “A moderate amount”.

7: How likely is it that you would recommend Pickled Wings to a friend or colleague?

Just over half of respondents said they would recommend Pickled Wings while smaller percentages were passive or said they would not recommend it.

8: Do you have any other comments about how we can improve our website?

Not much was said in this area, but here’s a couple of comments:

“I am partial to Soviet aircraft, so please add more articles about Tupolevs, Yaks, etc.”

I will do that as the opportunities present themselves. I prefer to use my own photos in posts, so that does limit what I can present to the aircraft I can gain access to. Also, Soviet aircraft do present a research obstacle in that a great deal of information about them is still tainted by biases of the Cold War era, so greater care must be taken in researching them.

I currently have articles on the Ilyushin Il-28, Yakovlev Yak-11 and Yakovlev Yak-40 in the works, so you can be assured of more Soviet aircraft articles in the coming year.

 

“None really. I Love reading the posts along with the wide range of photos. All very good!”

This is good to hear. 🙂

 

9: How did you learn about Pickled Wings?

Most respondents found the blog via the WordPress reader section or through an internet search.

A smaller number found it through following a link from another site.

 

While the results of the surveys certainly aren’t scientific, I’m happy to have them.

Thanks all who responded.

 

 

 

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Aero Ae-45/145 Revisited

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Further to my goal of revising and improving upon some of my older existing posts, I’m happy to announce the completion of revisions to my article about the Aero Ae-45 and Ae-145 aircraft family.

This was one of the blog’s earlier articles and in the interim I’ve had several opportunities to see the two examples that remain airworthy in the Czech Republic and talk to the owner of one of them.

I’ve also been able to find some extra online reference sources to help me make significant expansions to the text and give you a more rounded insight into this remarkable aircraft.

The revised article has more text, mostly fresh pictures and is waiting for you:

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/aero-ae-45-and-ae-145-success-in-the-wake-of-war/

Kunovice Air Museum Update

I very recently received an email from the Kunovice Air Museum with some very exciting news to see out the 2017 season and give good reason to eagerly anticipate the start of the 2018 season.

As regular followers of Pickled Wings will know, the museum took on a former Czech air force Tupolev Tu-154 in 2016 for restoration and eventual display. Not only did the museum set a national record for the most successful crowd funding project in the country to date in order to achieve the goal of moving the aircraft by road from Prague to Kunovice, they also received some very generous help from the Kunovice town council.

The help from the town council includes the expansion of the museum land in order to accomodate the Tu-154 in close proximity to the rest of the museum’s collection.

Here, I provide for you an English translation of the content of the email I received from the museum:

***

The Kunovice town council has prepared and approved the extension of the land of the Kunovice Air Museum.

Dear friends,

We are pleased to inform you and your readers about the fact that the Kunovice town council, headed by Mayor Ivana Majíčková, has prepared and approved the extension of the museum’s land. This will not only save us a lot of work, but it will also allow for a more appropriate exposure of our new eagerly awaited exhibit, the Tupolev TU-154M, and free up space for other exhibits.

Bez názvu

Image: Proposed design of the presumed location of the TU-154M in the extended area of the museum. (image credit: Kunovice Air Museum)

Apart from the extension of the land, the town of Kunovice also offered help with the preparation of the area for the Nagano Express. Thanks to this, the aircraft will have a dignified place in the Kunovice Aircraft Museum.

Museum Head, Martin Hrabec, said:

“This unexpected and generous offer was a very pleasant surprise for our team and we are very happy about it. Immediately we started to prepare everything needed to build a paved spot at a new location so we did not incur a significant time deficit and have been able to prepare a place for the airplane before it starts to freeze. The primary goal is to keep to the planned airplane movement which is scheduled for the beginning of next year, when we assume that the soil will be sufficiently frozen.”

Moving the Tupolev will be followed by the finishing work on the airplane and its surroundings, so that it can be publically unveiled and made available for viewing in the 2018 season.

***

 

For all the latest updates of museum activities, you can visit the museum’s web page:

http://www.museum-kunovice.cz/

You can also visit their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/leteckemuzeumvkunovicich/?fref=pb&hc_location=profile_browser

Pickled Wings Turns 5!

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The Five Year Flypast

I started Pickled Wings in November of 2012. That means November of 2017 will mark a full five years of this blog’s existence.

When I started blogging, at the urging of a friend, I had no idea that I would enjoy it as much as I do or that anyone would enjoy what I choose to blog about as much as it seems they do.

I most certainly didn’t imagine myself still blogging after five years.

Flying Straight and True

Reflecting on five years of this blog and the current content of it, I can happily say that I have largely stayed true to my goal for it to be a general interest level aviation history resource with the focus on the human end of the aircraft rather than technobabble and jargon.

In the course of creating articles for individual aircraft types, I have also experimented with additional features to keep things fresh. Happily, going by the blog stats page, most of what I’ve added as new features has been well received by the readership.

On the matter of the information available through the stats page, let’s take a look at some Pickled Wings trivia (all figures current as of October 2017):

Number of followers: 305

Top 5 visited posts:

Sukhoi Su-7 “Fitter” – Fast and Fiendish (Total views: 1,443)

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 “Farmer” – The Forgotten MiG (Total views: 1,117)

Bucker Bu-131 Jungmann – Germany Returns to the Sky (Total views: 938)

Let L-13 Blaník – Gliding Globally (Total views: 694)

The MiG-15 – The Plane that Made MiG (Total views: 685)

Top 5 visitors by country:

United States of America (Total visitors: 9,863)

Czech Republic (Total visitors: 5,200)

United Kingdom (Total visitors: 3,581)

Germany (Total visitors: 2,244)

Canada (Total visitors: 1,749)

Of course, the stats page only gives numbers and general ideas of what works and what doesn’t in the content. It says nothing for how individual visitors actually feel about the website.

After five years, I’d like to know this.

Your Place to Speak

I’m grateful for everyone who takes the time to visit Pickled Wings, even if they decide not to become followers.

I’ve put together this short and informal survey to give me some additional information about the readership that the stats page doesn’t give.

I hope you will take a bit of time to fill it out and give me the information I need to continue making this blog an enjoyable place and useful resource for you.

The survey is annonymous and I’ve set the deadline for responses as November 8, 2017 at 14:00 Central European Time. I plan to post the results on the blog shortly after that deadline.

Please take care when responding as you will not be able to edit your responses once you leave the survey page.

Please follow this link to the survey and thank you in advance for taking the time to fill it in:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GM6WX39

Book Review: “Tornado F3 in Focus”

Tornado F3 in Focus: A Navigator’s Eye on Britain’s Last Interceptor
By: David Gledhill
Fonthill Media (2015)

“All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics. TSR2 simply got the first three right.” – Sir Sydney Camm

No truer words can be spoken about modern aircraft development than the above famous quote from the legendary aircraft designer, Sir Sydney Camm, when reflecting on the 1965 cancellation of the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) TSR.2 tactical strike and reconnaissance aircraft program.

Politics will always hold some sway in procuring new military technology of any sort. A shift in power resulting from an election can utterly hamstring a much needed and well progressing project while those who control the flow of money will often get their way at the expense of the needs and safety of those charged with operating the equipment in the field.

Thus began the story of the Panavia Tornado F3…

The Tornado Air Defence Variant (ADV) program which would eventually lead to the F3 was quite controversial and well under many microscopes before the first prototype flew in 1979. It courted even more criticism when the lacklustre interim Tornado F2 variant entered RAF service in the early-mid 1980s.

From the first prototype flight in 1979 to the final retirement of the F3 by the Royal Saudi Air Force in 2014, the members of the Tornado ADV family would become both maligned and appreciated by various parties.

It was an aircraft that, in spite of its many detractors and early setbacks, would mature into a credible and valuable air defence asset which provided the Royal Air Force with a quarter century of service before they retired it in 2011.

In this book, David Gledhill lays out the Tornado ADV story in the RAF context from start to finish and covers in great detail all of the various road blocks in the aircraft’s development that held it back as well as the various incremental improvements that pushed it forward during its life.

Mr. Gledhill is a uniquely qualified voice to speak on matters of the Tornado ADV variants. He was one of the very first Tornado F2 navigators trained for the aircraft and his subsequent RAF flying career was dedicated to Tornado F3 operations as both an instructor navigator and an operational one.

Prior to his time as a Tornado navigator, he did the same job in the F-4 Phantom. As such, his knowledge and expertise of the air defence arena is extensive and he is well placed to not only compare the various stages of Tornado ADV development, but also to compare the Tornado and the Phantom in the the air defence role in a first hand and meaningful way.

Where this book really shines, in my view, is in Mr. Gledhill’s inside knowledge of the politics and other bureaucracy inside the halls of the Ministry of Defence that so often held the Tornado F3 back but kept the media and most other outsiders quite ignorant of why the aircraft seemed lacking.

The author is able to give us such an insight as he did two non flying tours of duty at the Ministry of Defence and was directly involved with many of the upgrades made to the Tornado F3 during that time. He relates tales of various projects jockeying for funding, his own extensive experience with the aircraft being placed second by those of higher authority who knew far less about the aircraft and perhpas nothing about the needs of the crews operating it.

The sections on procurement are particularly eye-opening and give a look at the intricacies of the development and procurement process of complex military technology that some who are keen to discredit contemporary military projects, such as the Lockheed-Martin F-35, but are dubiously informed about them might do well to read before going on a tirade in cyberspace against them.

The author also describes squadron deployments to the Middle East, the Balkans and the Falkland Islands in good detail.

Along the way, Mr. Gledhill also dispells many of the lingering myths and misconceptions about the Tornado F3 that followed it through its service life.

While there are a few typographical errors peppered through the book, they are not major impediments to undertsanding the text of the book.

If there is a more authoritative and well rounded book on the Tornado F3, I’m not aware of it.

Here is the book’s profile on the publisher’s website:

http://fonthillmedia.com/epages/a72b332e-5c82-4e84-ad34-4c5316ee7a6b.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/a72b332e-5c82-4e84-ad34-4c5316ee7a6b/Products/978-1-78155-307-7

Buy with confidence.

Medlánky Oldtimer Weekend, 2017

September 9th of 2017 saw me out to the Brno-Medlánky airport, on the north side of Brno, to attend an Oldtimer Weekend event hosted by the Medlánky Aeroclub.

Medlánky is a sailplane airport in the main, so there were quite a few rare and vintage Czech sailplanes to get up close to and watch perform.

I’d been meaning to attend one of these events for a long time and I’m very happy I finally managed to get out to one. I’ll certainly be going back when they have others.

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This is one of a few Zlín Z-25 Šohaj sailplanes that were on hand for the day. The Šohaj is a Czech design that first flew in 1947 and was made in three versions. This picture is the Šohaj 3.
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Another Czech product is the Let LF-109 Pionýr, which first flew in 1950.
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Looking down the line of vintage gliders in the morning light.
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Another Czech type on display was the Orličan VT-116 Orlík II. The Orlík family of sailplanes dates to 1959. 
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A true rarity is this L-13 B Bačostroj. It’s an experimental single seat motorised version of the L-13 Blaník. Only one L-13 B exists.
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A pleasant surprise visitor was this rare Aero Ae-45S. The Ae-45 family was the first Czech aircraft designed after WWII and it first flew in 1947. Worldwide, only a handful still fly. Here, it taxis towards the line of vintage gliders shortly after arriving.
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The Let L-23 Super Blaník is a descendant design of the famous L-13 Blaník sailplane. The L-23 first flew in 1988.
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One of two Zlín Z-24 Krajáneks on hand at the event. The Z-24 was a Czech built variation of the German designed Schneider Grunau Baby IIb which first flew in 1931.
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Another Czech rarity was the VSB-62 Vega. It first flew in 1966 and only one was ever made.
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The Letov LF-107 Luňák is a Czech aerobatics sailplane dating to 1948.
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What would a Czech sailplane exhibition be without the inimmitable Let L-13 Blaník? Here’ an L-13 AC comes in to land.
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The Scheibe Bergfalke III is a German design which first flew in 1951.

Tupolev Tu-154 “Careless” – Tupolev’s Trijet

Gaps to be Filled 

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This Slovak Government Flying Service Tu-154M was seen over Kunovice, Czech Republic in June of 2017. This was one of its last flights before retirement.

The former Soviet Union had great success in the early years of jet based airliner service with their Tupolev Tu-104. The Tu-104 was the world’s second jet to enter regular airline service after Great Britain’s DeHavilland Comet. While both machines had their share of imperfections associated with being the first of a new breed of aircraft, the Tu-104 had more success than the Comet in providing sustained and dependable service during the 1950s due to the British aircraft being grounded from 1954 to 1958 after a series of accidents. For a period in the late 1950s, the Tu-104 was the only jet airliner in regular scheduled service and was a message, wherever it went, that the west was falling behind in the jetliner stakes.

With the return of the Comet to the skies in 1958 and the arrival of France’s Sud Aviation Caravelle to airline service in 1959, the jetliner race was back on.

By the early 1960s, two new Soviet airliner designs had flown for the first time. The twin jet Tupolev Tu-134 had short haul routes as its target while the four engine Ilyushin Il-62 was designed for the long range intercontinental routes. Both aircraft entered airline service in 1967 and the Tu-154 flew for the first time in 1968.

The Tu-154 was introduced to airline service in 1972, filling the medium range gap between the Tu-134 and Il-62 and becoming a workhorse for Aeroflot and many other carriers in nations which came under Soviet influence in the Cold War period and continued to serve many of them well past the fall of Socialism.

Neither a Copy nor a Competitor 

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Another angle on the Slovak Tu-154M; showing the trijet arrangement, T tail and landing gear pods on the wings that are hallmarks of the design.

As was the western habit in the prevailing “us and them” mindset of the Cold War; there was no shortage of people dismissing the Tu-154 as an “inferior copy” of western trijets such as the Boeing 727 from America and the Hawker Siddeley Trident from Great Britain. Indeed, when the Tu-154 prototype made an appearance at the 1969 Paris Air Salon, western observers were brutally critical of every aspect of it. In the NATO codenaming system for Soviet aircraft, the Tu-154 was dubbed “Careless”.

However, such comparisons were an extreme case of the west grasping at straws to discredit the east. The Tupolev trijet was really in a class by itself and was produced for much longer than either the 727 or Trident.

Beyond having a similar general design, the three aircraft had nothing in common. The American and British trijets had both been in airline service for at least half a decade before the Tu-154 first flew and had been designed specifically to compete in the burgeoning short haul feeder line market that was opening up in the early 1960s. By comparison, the Tu-154 was designed as mid range liner to most immediately satisfy projected requirements of the Soviet national airline, Aeroflot, before anything else.

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The Tu-154 had six wheel main landing gear units to better distribute the aircraft’s weight on improvised and unprepared surfaces.

The Tu-154 was designed and built to rigorous specifications that included the ability to operate from austere or improvised runways in the most remote regions of the former Soviet Union. Even before it first flew, things were being asked of it that had not been asked of jet airliners before. For a jet airliner to operate from a gravel or packed earth strip was unthinkable at the time the Tu-154 was being designed, and yet such abilities were specified for it.

Part of why the Tu-154 had such abilities in its specification was so it could replace the Antonov An-10 and Ilyushin Il-18 turboprop airliners which had been serving those remote areas.

The Tu-154 was built as a trijet for no other reason than that it didn’t need four engines to do what was wanted of it. Aeroflot’s four engine jetliner requirement was well filled by the Ilyushin Il-62.

The Tu-154 also put performance ahead of efficiency. With a top speed of 975 kmh, the Tu-154 was one of the swiftest airliners ever put into regular scheduled service. It also could operate at altitudes above most other civilian air traffic.

Further testament to the Tu-154’s flight performance was the choice to use it as a landing trainer for cosmonauts preparing to crew the failed Soviet space shuttle, the Buran. The Tu-154 was capable of the same steep angle descents that the cosmonauts would face when landing the Buran.

In short, the Tu-154 was a much more specialised aircraft than initial appearances let on and the west simply had nothing that was fully comparable.

Moving the Masses 

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Tu-154 B2 seen preserved at the Aeropark museum in Budapest, Hungary in 2015.

It did not take long for the Tu-154 to find its way into widespread service after its first Aeroflot passenger flight in 1972. The aircraft formed the backbone of not only Aeroflot, but also a number of airline fleets in the Eastern Bloc and in Soviet friendly states.

In a flying career spanning approximately three and half decades, the Tu-154 served the militaries and numerous airlines of no fewer than forty countries.

In airliner form, the Tu-154 cabin could be configured for two class, single class or high density passenger arrangements. The high denisty layout was accomplished by removing the aircraft’s galley.

A number of the aircraft were also converted for air freight duties.

In military circles, the Tu-154 found favour as a VIP transport and many Eastern Bloc leaders used the type as their personal transport.

Even after the fall of Socialism, the Tu-154 remained in regular airline service for some time. The final scheduled Tu-154 flight from Europe was conducted by Belavia in 2015, from Geneva, Switzerland to Minsk, Belarus.

The very last European based Tupolev Tu-154s belonged to the Slovak Government Flying Service and these were retired in summer of 2017.

As of 2017, the only confirmed airline to still be using the Tu-154 for passenger service is North Korea’s Air Koryo.

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The very powerful, but very inefficient, Kuznetsov NK-8 engine which powered early members of the Tu-154 family

Increased availability of more efficient airliners through the 2000s and 2010s and increasingly strict international regulations on exhaust and noise emmissions made Tu-154 operations financially unappealing in many markets and most operators divested themselves of the type in that period.

Later in its life, the aircraft came to world attention in the wake of some very high profile accidents. However, in the bigger picture, for an aircraft of which more than 1,000 were produced and served for more than 30 years, the Tu-154 has an average safety record and is not considered an unsafe aircraft. In fact, a significant number of accidents involving the aircraft were attributable to non-technical factors such as human error, poor weather or runway conditions as well as highjackings. At least five Tu-154s are known to have been shot down.

As airliners go, the Tu-154 is a very solidly built aircraft that has withstood emergency landing situations intact and with no loss of life that would have torn some other airliners apart and most certainly have resulted in fatalities.

The Tu-154 Family 

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Flight deck of the Tu-154 B2 preserved at Aeropark, Budapest.

With a production run spanning from 1968 to 2013 ans 1,026 of the type made, the Tu-154 family consists of four main branches:

Tu-154

The baseline Tu-154 debuted in 1970 and had a capacity for 164 passengers. Production totalled around 40 aircraft.

Tu-154 A

Appearing in 1974, the Tu-154 A improved on the baseline model through increased fuel carriage, more powerful engines, refined flight controls and avionics as well as more flexibility in cabin configurations.

Tu-154 B/B1/B2/S

Produced from 1975, the Tu-154 B and its subvariants featured a new wing of higher strength to replace the wings of earlier variants which were cracking from fatigue. The B series improved the Tu-154 further through an increased maximum take off weight. Several baseline and A models were converted to B standard through wing replacement.

The real drive behind creating the B series of the aircraft was to make it more economical to operate. The Kuznetsov NK-8 engines were very thirsty regardless of the variant being used and the only answer to better ecomonics was to increase passenger load.

The B1 variant was specifically for Aeroflot to increase profits on domestic routes within the Soviet Union. Beyond some minor modification to some systems, it differed little from the B model.

The B2 model was designed to have the high density cabin option via a removable galley. The B2 brought with it additional increases in maximum take off weight. A number of B models were converted to B2 standard. The B2 found favour as a VIP transport as well as an airliner.

The Tu-154 S was a cargo conversion variant based off the B model that featured a strengthened floor and large cargo door on the forward fuselage. A very small number were converted to S standard.

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Former Czech air force Tu-154 M arriving at Kunovice, Czech Republic in 2016 for restoration as a museum exhibit.

Tu-154M

A major change to the Tu-154 came in 1982 with the first flight of the M version.

With the M came new, more efficient engines in the form of the Soloviev D-30. The D-30 gave the aircraft economic performance through lower fuel consumption and increased range that the NK-8 engines had always denied it. The aircraft’s performance was further enhanced by aerodynamic refinements nose to tail. The lower operating costs of the M model gave the Tu-154 a new lease on life with many operators.

The new engines also allowed the Tu-154 to be fitted with hush kits to reduce engine noise. This was something that could not be done with the NK-8 engine and kept the Tu-154 flyable into areas that had increased restrictions on noise emissions. The M models were still allowed to operate, for a while, in places where the B models no longer were permitted.

As with the B model, the M model was liked as a VIP transport and was often referred to as Tu-154 M Lux when configured as such.

The M model formed the basis of some minor versions of the aircraft family that include an electronic intelligence gathering variant, the aforementioned cosmonaut trainer and a one-off variant for exploring alternative fuels.

What Remains and Learning More 

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Former Czech air force Tu-154 M seen partially restored at Kunovice in June of 2017.

As of 2017, less than 50 Tu-154 aircraft are known to still be active on civil or military registers and they are primarily in Russia with a handful scattered between China, Kazakhstan and North Korea. As such, your chances of seeing an active example of the type these days are quite slim and not getting better.

Preserved examples are known to exist in museums in Belarus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Iran, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

Unfortunately, it seems for the present that a good deal of English language information to be found online about the Tu-154 is conflicting, biased or focused on accidents that involved the type. Hopefully, that will change one day.

In the meantime, these articles will give you a couple of first hand insights into what it’s like to fly on the Tu-154 as a passenger:

http://www.airlinereporter.com/2014/05/slovak-force-one-my-first-flight-on-a-russian-tu-154/

http://www.airportspotting.com/tupolev-tu154-scheduled-flight-europe-trip-report/

This article was published in conjunction with the delivery of the very last Tu-154, in 2013, and gives a short historical overview of the aircraft:

http://www.airlinereporter.com/2013/02/last-tupolev-tu-154-delivered-today-six-years-after-production-ceases/