Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Review of the Museum of Flight, Seattle Washington

Today I had some time before the Heroes Virtual Launch began ( this will be the subject of a future blog entry) so I spent a few hours at the Museum of Flight.

Overall this is one of the best aviation museums I have ever attended.

I would rate the museum as follows:

Public Education B+
Interactive Exhibits A+
Cleanliness A+
Staff A+
Fixed Wings A+
Lighter Then Air B
Rotorcraft D-
Rockets/Space A+
History B+
Home Building/Experimental B+
Rare Birds B+
Food/Cafeteria A+

(History and Public Education would have been A+'s if they had not completely excluded Rotorcraft and lighter than air concepts and history)

Public Education

The Museum really goes out of the way to explain the concepts of flight to all age and experience levels.

The exhibits are close, not often behind glass and you really have the feel you are not separated from the exhibits as you are at most museums.

When you walk through Air Force One only portions are covered with plexiglass most of the interior is not separated from the public. There are plenty of 'do not touch' signs but you don't have to look at everything 'behind glass' like at the United States Air force Museum in Dayton.

There are dozens of small rooms with movie screens showing documentaries and films throughout the museum.

Interactive Exhibits

This museum has the best interactive exhibits I have seen in not only aviation museums but also any Science and Technology Museum I have ever been to.

They have the usual 'open cockpits' that you can climb into but they also have REAL experimental aircraft that the kids (and you) can climb into and all over. They have DOZENS of flight simulators. Some of them just show the basic controls for kids as they control a wood model in a 'wind tunnel' while others are full-immersion 3-D simulators for jets, Bi-Planes, WWII missions, and more.

All of the simulators were 'free' (no additional cost), clean and working. The simulators I have seen at other museums are often well worn, not entirely functional or require an additional fee.

Built into the museum is a "Control Tower" that looks over Boeing Field ( a real active airport ) the tower is equipped with radios playing traffic calls and the basic ATC equipment.

One station has silhouettes of aircraft that when you spot them at the airport you can identify them on the interactive chart.


The museum was very clean from the exhibits to the halls and the restrooms. Everything had a well cared for look and feel.


The museum has a very enthusiastic staff of what I guess are volunteers that give tours and generally make themselves available to answer questions and explain exhibits. Two of the staff I spoke to were Vietnam vet pilots. I found there frank way of speaking refreshing and all of them had an in-depth knowledge of what the spoke about.

Fixed Wings

This is definitely a Fixed-Wingers museum. Outside of the rockets that is about all they have. They explain all of the dynamics of flight, history, building and each interactive exhibit is all about fixed wing aircraft. In the summer they offer Bi-Plane rides right from the front of the museum.

Lighter Than Air

The forgotten step child of most aviation museums does not get much coverage at the Seattle museum of flight either. Balloons and airships get some brief candids in the history photos but they at least have a better showing then rotorcraft.

The best Lighter Than Air exhibits are both interactive. One has a 10 foot hot air balloon that when you press a button is raised to the ceiling buy a vent of hot air from below. The other is a basket suspended from the ceiling that you can walk into and look down on a lower level of the museum.


Rotorcraft are nearly non-existent according to the Museum of Flight.

They have one small, single person tip-jet helicopter suspended by cables from the ceiling in the corner of the main hangar. If you were not looking for it you would miss it. The only other rotorcraft in the museum is a Rotorway Scorpion in the child's section which ironically had a 'exhibit closed' sign on it (the only closed exhibit I saw anywhere during my visit). There were two small 2 inch models in a 40 foot glass case in the WWII hall and somes rotors on a model roadable car.

No history exhibit mentioned Cervia, Pitcairn, Bell, Sikorsky or any snippet of rotorcraft history at all. As I did not have all day to spend at the museum there might be a small blurb somewhere but I was looking and unable to find any text during my visit.

If you want to assure yourself that helicopters and autogyros exist you have to go to the museum gift shop to find rotorcraft models and foam r/c choppers.

When I filled out my customer comment card I mentioned there lack of rotorcraft.

At least the one helicopter they have is a unique one.


Rockets of all kinds and from all nations get great representation at this museum. The exhibits are up to date, educational and well done. In particular I liked the walk-through space station module, mars rover displays and meteorite/moon rock displays.


Lots of good historical exhibits for WWI and WWII as well early flight with the Wright brothers. The real shining history exhibits is the actual original Boeing factory with original tools, workings, artifacts and old planes in mid-assembly.

Home Building/Experimental

A number of Experimental aircraft are at the museum and in the interactive exhibits. The home-builder will also enjoy the many cut-away exhibits and wing spars built right into the architecture of the museum. The real joy for the home builder is touring the original Boeing "Red Barn" the factory where it all started. You can see not only the tools and early aircraft in mid-assembly but also engine assembly.

Rare Birds

If you are looking for one-of-a-kinds the museum is worth the trip to Seattle. I won't spoil all of the fun but the 1st fighter plane is my favorite. She is original and in an unrestored state with some of the cloth hanging off of her wings. Also, the have an SR-71 with a reconnaissance DRONE attached. To my knowledge not even the Museum of the Air force does not have one of these or even displays a model of one.


While the Cafe' is not large it has some great features such as... Micro-brew Beer!! The Cafe' looks right out to the taxiway and runway of the airport and some of the outside exhibits. They only have one menu item with an aviation name, Barnstormers Chili. Well, that hits home for me so that is just what I ordered and it was better than any fast-food chili I have ever had.

I look forward to going back to the Seattle Museum of Flight someday with more time to visit and hopefully more rotorcraft exhibits.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A gift in the mail...

Yesterday I found a CD in my mail box from Chuck Beaty. To my great surprise it contained video footage from Japan's testing of the Autogiro ( Autogyro ) during the second world war.

Footage appears to include:

Kellett KD-1A operating off of the Akitsu Maru Carrier in the Sea of Japan

Kayaba Ka-1a flight testing

Kayaba Ka-2 Flight Testing

A good companion to this video clip is:

Pages 207-210 in Chapter 10, The Autogiro Goes to War: The Axis

in From Autogiro to Gyroplane,
The Amazing Survival of an Aviation Technology
by Bruce Charnov

Some of these little puppies were fitted with 132-pound depth charges for submarine hunting duties....

About 95 Japanese Autogiros were produced, all variants of the Kellett.

One was fitted with experimental rocket-powered rotor blades. Small solid-fuel rockets at the rotor tips over-speed the rotors for jump-take off.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Favorate Photos of 2007

Photo Post

Being winter I have not had the opportunity to take many photos so far this year. I did get some great winter photos last year but so far by the time the week end comes the beautiful snowscapes have turned into slush.

What I will do in this post is a retrospect of some of my favorite photos of 2007.
I am finding that uploading photos to this blog site is a real pain in the butt. Even though the insert cursor is place at the end of the text window (or anywhere else) the photos when uploaded appear at the top of the window and all of the text in the editor is displaced and re-arranged. Very annoying!

This photo is of Balluminaria held at Eden Park in Cincinnati Ohio.
The tethered hot air balloons light up to music next to mirror lake (that is actually it's name).

Ironically, this photo took 1st place in the prestigious AVWeb photo contest. I say ironically because I have been submitting photos of my gyroplane flights to AVWeb for a number of years (and taken runner up almost a dozen times). This was the first and only non-gyroplane photo I submitted and it took 1st place.

This photo shows the tyre of my autogyro as I pass over a park that is giving static line balloon rides.

The Jolly Green Giant's Basket?
This strange sight is actually the factory and office building of a basket making company. My friend Ed Newbold introduced me to it. You can see it clearly between two hills over ten miles away from Newark Ohio's airport.

This picture was taken flying over East Fork Lake during the late summer drought. You can see what looks like a beach going around the lake shore. That is actually exposed mud from the receding shoreline. The boatramp is almost out of the water and the island is now connected to the shore.

Not a very scenic photo but this photo reminds me of what gyro flying is all about. Low and slow, safely and with extreme maneuverability.
This is the scene a few moments later as I cross the tree line.

You see lots of stuff in back yards around southern Ohio. This one in particular had a great assortment of vintage cars.

These are the smoke stacks of a power plant on the Ohio River. On a trip to Lee Bottom one morning the ground fog covered the river and made a strange mystical landscape.

This is another morning shot of mystic ground fog.

A late fall sunset over East Fork Lake.
Now arriving at Lee Bottom the ground fog starts to clear from the Ohio River
A sunset tail shot from my Twinstarr Autogyro.

This is the I-71 bridge over the Little Miami River. This photo won best of category and is currently displayed at the Dayton Art Institute and the Cincinnati Museum Center.

I love those ground fog photos!
This mid-summer photograph was taken while following the Little Miami River
Late fall, the leaves are down and things are grey around Clermont County Ohio.
The shadow of my autogyro on the trees as I pass over...

Pristine snow on the farm fields of early 2007. Rick Markle is piloting my autogyro as I take photos from the back seat.
This is an old southern mansion near Baton Rouge. My friend Rudy took me for a tour in his gyroplane when I was down there on business teaching. It was great to see new terrain and to get to fly while out of town.
I have been boating and flying over the Ohio River for decades and NEVER have I seen the river as calm and placid as I did this day. The river was like a great glass mirror, still and unrippled.

I did not take this photo. It was sent to me by my friend Doug Gaudette. It is a stylized shot of me and my Twinstarr.
This is the private GE airport and Jet Engine testing lab in Southern Ohio.
A tail shot of my gyro while flying the farmland in the spring.
The terrain is rough and dangerous to fly over on the way to Portsmouth Ohio so you have to get some altitude to be safe. Here you can see I am approaching some scattered clouds.
This little plot is a graveyard in the middle of miles and miles of farmland in central Ohio. This small plot is likely the only undamaged original earth for several square miles.

Here I can get low on the trip to Portsmith as there are some fields to land in.
Bridge Out!

This is a photo of the Great Miami River west of Cincinnati Ohio.

This will be the last photo of this post.
If you look closely you can see a turkey buzzard flying over the trees.
It may seem like an easy task to take photos of large birds while flying but it is not so. They are quick and difficult to photograph without a zoom lens.

Monday, February 11, 2008

eDVR Camera Experimentation !

This week when I arrived home from teaching in Indy I found the camera's I ordered while in Redmond had come in.

I ordered 2 under $100 solid state video cameras.

The first one I am testing is the eDVR. It is a micro video camera with 640x480 resolution at 30 frames per second.

The advantages of the "5 in 1" eDVR are its small size, light weight and internal Li-po battery.

I was able to easily mount it to my Blade CX-2 Electric R/C Helicopter and fly it around the livingroom and the back yard.

I posted the video on YouTube but the quality of YouTube SUCKS so I also posted the videos on a sharepoint site .

The direct link to the videos is here:

Here is the YouTube link but the quality is poor :

I then attached the camera to the end of one of my Autogyro's rotorblades. I was amazed at the quality of the video and the fast frame rate. I did use the lower resolution setting for this video though.

This video is also on the gyrowiki site link above and here is the link to the low-quality YouTube version:

My last project for this weekend was to build a Jacob's Ladder. If you are a fan of old Sci-Fi films you will recognise this little gem.

Here is the video of the Jacob's Ladder in operation :