I begin this issue’s column with a sad heart. This past week, Al Harris, father of our office manager Jennifer Melton, passed away. Al learned to fly at Hermitage Airport in Richmond and would rise to the rank of Captain with Eastern Airlines where he served as a line pilot and training Captain. Al was active nationally as head of the safety committee for the Air Line Pilots Assoc. and filled the same role on Eastern’s ALPA council. An integral part of Al’s safety committee work was accident investigation and his efforts contributed to the identification and correction of safety deficiencies that had plagued the industry for years. Al’s career spanned a time of great technological change in airline aviation and he was instrumental in setting the standards that have given the United States the safest airline system in the world. He did important work and he is rightly honored as a member of the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame.
In April the Society hosted our annual spring party and fund raising auction. We enjoyed a great evening at the Virginia Aviation Museum and through the generosity of our sponsors and guests raised an impressive amount of money that will go directly to supporting the VAHS in our mission. Special thanks are due to our long time sponsors Brinks Inc., Phillip Morris USA, and USI Insurance and Phoenix Aviation Underwriters for their generous support. Additional thanks go out to Delta Airport Consultants, Talbert and Bright, and Campbell and Paris for their support. If you joined us this year thank you for your support. If you missed out we urge you to attend next year and join in the fun.
As you may know the director of the Virginia Aviation Museum, Mike Boehme, retired in March. Mike’s tenure at VAM was marked with many improvements in the museum and it’s program offerings. One would be hard pressed to find a director more dedicated to the museum’s success than Mike. On behalf of the Society I want to wish Mike all the best in his retirement which I am informed will be anything but “retiring”.
The Science Museum of Virginia has begun a search for a new director and I have been asked to assist in the interview process. While the VAHS is separate from the VAM we do have a vested interest in VAM’s success. Being asked to participate in the interviews recognizes this interest and I appreciate SMV director Rich Conti’s offer to be a part of the selection process. Interviews were conducted in early April and of the six candidates interviewed from over 200 submissions, 2 were selected for final screening by Rich Conti. Our first choice proved a very capable and enthusiastic young woman with education and practical experience to round out her qualifications. Unfortunately she decided to remain with her current museum employer and so the process begins again. I will keep you updated on the progress.
The Society has once again provided support to the VCU School of Engineering and two teams of students engaged in engineering competitions with direct impact on aviation. The first team is competing in June for recognition in the design and operation of an Unmanned Aerial System vehicle. The second team is designing a new type of shock absorbing occupant seat for aircraft use. We have a report from the second team later in this edition. While these projects are not aviation history in the strict sense of the term, the VAHS board believes that these are worthy projects to support. The comment was made during discussion that perhaps because of our support we may see one of these engineers go on to provide great service to aviation and perhaps be nominated to the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame.
The Reed I. West Aviation History Project continues to produce DVD recordings of our Hall of Fame members. We have recently added the production of a DVD containing all biographies completed to date and these are available by contacting the Society office. While all current biographies can be viewed on our website, the DVDs provide an additional outlet for these incredible stories and serve as an introduction to the society and our mission.
This report is being finalized from San Francisco. Out of the hotel window to the west the Pacific marine layer is doing it’s best to overcome the coastal hills and sweep into the San Francisco Bay. If this happens it would greatly complicate our two Los Angeles round trips to be flown beginning later this morning. San Francisco is an interesting airport with an aviation history dating to the 1920s. In April 1935 PAA Captain Edwin Musick departed here in a Sikorsky S-42 bound for Hawaii and, eventually, Manilla, on the first survey flight for PAA’s new trans-Pacific service. Today KSFO plays host to many Pacific Rim carriers, some flying the new Airbus A-380 “Super Jumbos”, a far cry from the stripped down S-42 of Captain Musick. The SFO airport has an interesting layout of 4 runways set in parallel pairs, each pair crossing at 90 degrees. Runways 1L and 1R are typically used for departures and 28L and 28R for arrivals. During VFR operations takeoffs are inserted between landings and some pilots have commented that the operation, when at peak, resembles a Friday night “Figure 8” race at the local fairgrounds. For departures two airplanes are cleared for takeoff simultaneously and the result is a drag race to the airport boundary where northwesterly and easterly headings are picked up for separation and vectors to the departure tracks. Landings are similarly choreographed and result in wing tip to wing tip formation flight down the final approach to runways separated by 750’. All of this is great sport and when the spectacular scenery of the Bay area is added it makes for some memorable flying.
As always, thank you for your support of the
Tom Woodburn, Chairman