Transonic Cat Wars

Spotted on our neighborhood message board this morning:

My kids are very worried about a black cat that we have seen roaming about for a few weeks now. They want to find its home. Does anyone know if this cat belongs to anyone. Thanks!

The black cat, which has no name, is one of our daughter Polly’s creatures, a stray she took in. What do you want to bet Sunnywood Estates is soon at war, with us at ground zero? God damn it, they were right all along … black cats are bad luck!

Moving on: I remember when Ellen DeGeneres was an up & comer known for intelligent standup, and later as a brave pioneer for coming out on TV when doing so could easily have killed her career. That’s not the Ellen I see today when Donna (who can unerringly find her on one or another of 400+ channels with no more than two clicks of the remote) takes over the TV. Ellen’s appeal now seems, to me at least, depressingly lowest common denominator: daytime TV-style celebrity infatuation, with a screaming studio audience.

I’m coming to dread what I once welcomed: the future. Specifically the looming threat of assisted living, where we all know what’ll be on in the TV room: Good Morning America, soaps, Wheel of Fortune, infomercials, Ellen in the slots between. When the men get their turn, it’ll be Fox News and ESPN.

Well, maybe I’ll be able to lock myself in my room and read … let’s hope I don’t go blind.


My interest was piqued this morning by an article headlined “Boeing’s radical ‘transonic’ wing design could mean higher, faster airplanes.” Wait a minute, I said to myself, jet aircraft have always been transonic. Some WWII prop fighters could go transonic. What’s radical about that?

I clicked the link, where I read this astonishing statement:

During development, which is still at conceptual phase, engineers have also been able to obtain an increased top speed from a planned Mach 0.70-0.75 to Mach 0.80, only slightly below the speed of sound, or Mach 1.

The fuck? Was this written in the 1940s? Every jet airliner cruises in the transonic range, Mach 0.72 to 1.0. Boeing 777s cruise at Mach 0.84, 747s at Mach 0.86. The slowest jetliners today are older models of the Boeing 737, bricks with wings that putt along at Mach 0.74.

The F-15s I flew, though capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2.0, cruised at Mach 0.9 or slightly faster. Boosting airliner cruise speeds into the Mach 0.9 range would be a significant development, and perhaps that’s what Boeing’s “radical transonic wing design” is meant to help achieve. Meanwhile, when reading about aviation and aircraft, keep a grain of salt handy … the people who write those articles often have only the haziest notions of the subjects they’re assigned to cover.

For example, the brouhaha (love that word) over the Israeli F-15D that recently lost its canopy at 30,000 feet. Media reports, like this one on the Jalopnik website, breathlessly portrayed the incident as a catastrophic emergency, one from which the crew’s safe recovery was nothing less than a miracle. Which gets clicks, and I suppose that’s what it’s all about.

In fact, though, there have been other F-15 canopy losses over the years. I once talked to a fellow Eagle driver who lost his canopy in a single-seat F-15A; he said it was no big deal. The windscreen, which is fixed to the airplane, protected him from the wind blast. He lowered the seat, pulled the throttles back, descended to a lower altitude, and found a safe place to land … which is exactly what the Israeli aircrew did in the most recent incident, the difference being they were flying a two-seat family model. The guy in back was exposed to considerably more wind blast than the guy in front, but he survived … he didn’t even lose his helmet.

As long as we’re on fighter jets and fighter pilots, get a load of this: the American Family Association is advertising a 12-disc video series it says will convince Christian men to abandon pornography by showing them men at war … specifically fighter pilots in fast jets … and a “battle plan for purity.”

I’m thinking they didn’t run the idea past any fighter pilots first. Porn was an order of magnitude harder to come by in my fighter pilot days, but whenever I sat Zulu alert, which I did in the Netherlands, Alaska, and Korea, we always had a shelf of porn videos to play when we were sitting around between scrambles. I remember a huge flap at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands when a new guy, one of the first of a wave of evangelical Christian officers from the Air Force Academy (a wave that continues to plague the USAF today), recorded Spielberg’s awful “1941” movie over all the alert shack’s Betamax porn tapes. Funny now, but an existential crisis at the time!

Speaking of Soesterberg Air Base, here’s a photo our friend Peter sent yesterday.

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Peter, who was our Dutch liaison officer at Soesterberg, took this photo one night in the American Officers’ Club bar. Donna and I are on the right, talking with two of our 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron mates, Steve Beck and Jeff Cliver. I didn’t know this photo existed until yesterday, and today memories of those days are flooding back. Thank you, Peter!

© 2019, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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2 comments to Transonic Cat Wars

  • Jennifer Jones

    A Kiwi air traffic controller ex-boyfriend of mine used would work alone one night per four-day rotating shift. He only had to deal with the odd plane flying overhead as the airport was closed from 10:00 p..m. to 6:00 a.m. and it didn’t really involve a major air corridor. He would take three films to watch on the VCR and the third was always porn because it was the only way he could keep himself awake at the end of a boring, long night. Then he would come home and wake me up at 6:00 a.m…

  • Peter E. van Oest

    Paul, more than welcome on the pics, more to follow soon, cleaning out the old filing cabinets and moving boxes (a correct description as the boxes have been moving around the globe since 1995 Zeist> Apeldoorn> Woendrecht AB > Huis ter Heide> Driebergen> Doorn> Bunnik> Wijk bij Duurstede> Zeist> Panama City Beach> Zeist. I can’t believe the now more or less historical stuff I find and you’re right overwhelming amount of memories flooding me.
    Again, more than welcome

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