Friday, November 13, 2009

Historical Item: 1930 Balbo Seaplane Flight Badge

Badge Commemorates Balbo's Flight from Italy to Brazil in 1930

The above badge may have hung from a ribbon or other device for military decoration.

From December 17, 1930 to January 15, 1931, 12 SM.55 flying boats led by General Italo Balbo made an historic demonstration flight from Orbetello, Italy to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a show of Italian aviation technology, and set the stage for a flight of 24 aircraft to New York and Chicago in 1933. Both events showed that the Italian military was capable of projecting power across the globe, setting world records in the process. The mostly wood SM.55 proved to be a capable aircraft, incorporating advanced engines and flight instruments.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dr. Jean Potvin Speaks at the AIAA Technical Specialist Meeting at Boeing IDS in St. Louis

Dr. Jean Potvin, Professor in the Department of Physics at St. Louis University, spoke at the AIAA Technical Specialist meeting at the Boeing IDS headquarters in St. Louis Nov. 12. His presentation, entitled "Latest Developments in the Field of Parachute Research," was well-received by the attending members and guests. Dr. Potvin's credentials in this field are unmatched:

He earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Colorado-Boulder and is a noted expert in the the physics of parachute design. Dr. Potvin also is a
n FAA Senior Parachute Rigger, USPA Parachute Jumpmaster and Instructor, a test and sport parachutist with over 2400 jumps, co-founder of the Parks College Parachute Research Group, Course Director of the H.G. Heinrich Parachute Systems Short Course, and a Member of the AIAA Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems Technical Committee.

Dr. Potvin gave an overview of the latest projects coming out of research and development and into production. The U.S. Army's new parachute system, T-11 ATPS (Advanced Tactical Parachute System) features a "muffin" shape with vents on the corners instead of the traditional rounded top. This shape reduces the swinging motion of the paratroops as they descend, and lowers their rate of descent. It is also easier to manufacture, since it is made with an overlapping cruciform shape joined at the corners without the rounded edges. The T-11 can support up to 360 pounds of load, significantly more than the 1950s era T-10 currently in use.

Another development in parachute design is the JPADS (Joint Precision Air Drop System). The revolutionary JPADS can deliver supplies to multiple locations using GPS guidance and steerable parachutes from 25,000 feet. JPADS was developed from lessons learned from the Bosnian campaign, when supplies dropped from U.S. aircraft were received by combatants on both sides of the conflict due to the lack of precision airdrop capability.

Other developments in the field of parachutes include:

The Megafly, a giant parachute system that can deliver a 30,000 pound payload from 25,000 feet. A 9,000 square foot, fully elliptical, gliding parachute (170 feet span) is guided by GPS.

LCADS (Low-Cost Aerial Delivery System) and LCLA (Low-Cost Low Altitude Aerial Resupply) are alternative parachute delivery methods using readily available materials to deliver small payloads at low cost, especially when it is impossible to recover the equipment.

Dr. Potvin also discussed the physics behind parachute design and testing. Some methods of testing parachutes include laboratory experiments (water tunnels), using paint specs on the parachute to track motion of opening action with cameras, line vertex measurements trailing airfoils, and model drops. He also demonstrated the role of CFD in the modeling of parachutes.

Please go to Dr. Potvin's website for further technical references:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Joe Steimann's F-4 Phantom II Cockpit Photo Opportunity in Florissant Oaks

The Little Pilots Authentic F-4 Phantom II Cockpit arrives at Florissant Oaks Shopping Center for cockpit photo sessions from November 10-14, 2009. Look for this outstanding display when you are in the St. Louis area, or at a regional air show in 2010. My profile photo was taken in this cockpit! Visit the Little Pilots site at for more details.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Monocoupe Fly-In Draws Boeing/Stearman Aircraft - October 2, 2009

Some Boeing/Stearman aircraft were on hand at the Monocoupe Fly-In.

Monocoupe Fly-In Draws LaFayette Foundation Aircraft - October 2, 2009

Other aircraft are featured at the Monocoupe Fly-In. Planes from the LaFayette Foundation were visiting this weekend. We regret to report that one of the LaFayette Foundation aircraft had an incident on landing yesterday in the windy conditions, but the pilot is fine. However the aircraft was trucked back to Colorado. Please visit the LaFayette Foundation website at for more information about the collection of World War I replica aircraft.

Monocoupe Fly-In at Creve Coeur Airport, Mo - October 2, 2009

The 2009 Monocoupe Club Fly-In is in full swing at Creve Coeur Airport (old Dauster Flying Field) October 2, 2009. It was too windy to fly, but some Monocoupes were already on hand.