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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Aviation: Netflix for Pilots

History Channels: Dogfights

Over the holiday’s I’ve had time to search through Netflix’s extensive instant movie library for films that feature flying.  I’ve run across a few gems that I think you would enjoy dear reader.  Obviously the mail order side of Netflix has a larger inventory of cool flying movies but the selection for instant viewing isn’t bad.  So if you are weathered in someplace with nothing to do but wait, fire up Netflix pour yourself a cool drink and get ready to enjoy the ride.

I love the History Channel.  They have a number of documentaries about flying.  I know many documentaries are a real snooze fest but this one will really get your blood pumping.  Dogfights Seasons 1 and 2 is a wonderful mix of real historic film footage, actual pilot testimony, and cutting edge computer graphics.  They have painstakingly and in startling detail recreated histories most incredible dogfights.  You will be placed in the cockpit of a gleaming F-86 Saber Jet hunting in Mig Alley.  The tactics and maneuvers are explained in graphic detail.  You can almost smell the cordite as you fire 50-Caliber  guns  into Mig 15’s flown by Russian ‘Honcho’ pilots.  Every episode will plunge you into the aircraft and battles of every major air battle since WWI.  You will hear the pilot’s themselves give first person accounts in the background while you see planes engaged in mortal combat.  If you are stuck in front of the tube with little to do try Dogfights.

Another documentary that is quite interesting is Nova’s Battle of the X-Planes which has some rare footage of the competition for the new Joint Strike Fighter.  This is definitely ‘Must See’ TV for pilots.

The Magic of Flight: IMAX is a fun movie documentary that is almost entirely filmed in the air.  Expertly narrated by Tom Selleck.  This is a good film for young people as well.

All pilots have a fascination with the Write Brothers and I am no different.  If you are like me you will certainly enjoy Nova’s Wright Brothers Flying Machine.  This show even goes so far as building a replica of a Wright Flyer and shows real film footage of it’s first flight.

The next films you are likely familiar with but that’s okay, these are the movie equivalent of comfort food for pilots.  Next on our list is The Spirit of St. Louis.  I hadn’t seen this movie since I was a kid and when it magically appeared on Netflix a couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to watch it again.  It holds up surprisingly well to my eye.  James Stewert gives the great performance that he is known for.  I especially enjoyed the montage in the Ryan factory of the Spirit being built.  That montage shows almost every aspect of building a plane even down to the rib stitching.   Who could forget Jimmy Stewart’s screeching drawl out of the window of Spirit “Hey where’s Ireleand?”

Another great Jimmy Stewart Flying movie is Strategic Air Command.  This may be one of the most accurate flying movies Hollywood has ever produced and darn good ride to boot.  Having worked for SAC myself in years past I give this one two thumbs up.

This next entry is something new.  The Red Baron is surprisingly good and plunges you into the world of the famed German ace.  The special effects are on par with Flyboys and it is just as good a time.  The story does get a little slow at times but it doesn’t beleaguer the movie much.  The courtesy the German and allied pilots show each other harkens back to the age of chivalry.

The next two movies I list together because they have much in common.  They even use a lot of the same historic battle footage.  These are of course Tora! Tora! Tora! and Midway.  If you want to get your war in the pacific fix you could do a lot worse than these two epic films.  Both movies are blissfully free of Ben Affleck.

You Seaplane pilots out there will enjoy Flight from Ashiya.  Michael Anderson’s masterpiece about The Air Rescue Service featuring Yul Brynner.

The final two films are documentaries.  They are a little dry but have excellent film footage and interviews.  I would save these for those nights that you just can’t sleep; these will send you off with dreams Merlin Engines dancing in your head.  Empires of Industry: War Planes of World War II and Memphis Belle are two films every pilot should partake in.

Well dear reader I have given your hours of Netflix viewing for pilot’s I am sure there is more in there and as they add to the instant library I will keep you posted.  For example I am still waiting for them to give us ‘Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines’!  It’s available on DVD but as of this writing still not instant.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Aviation: Where Have the Models Gone?

I was in the Wal-Mart the other day and noticed that they weren't carrying plastic models anymore.  They used to carry model cars and planes mostly from the Testors company.  I spoke with the manager about it and he said kids just aren't interested in that stuff anymore.  This made me feel sad and angry.  Frankly I blame video games.  Most kids just don't have the attention span anymore to sit and build a plastic model.

Folks this has major ramifications for flying!  I was always told growing up, and I believe, that if you can build a model plane you can build a real plane.  It is just a series of small steps that if done properly results in a plane. 
Author some 30 years ago building a B-52.  Don't tell mom and dad about the paint on the carpet.

Building planes and flying planes have much in common.  Every aircraft has a checklist usually pre-flight and on the taxiway.  The checklist is just a series of small steps that if done properly usually results in a safe flight.

Children with no attention span may end up as adults with no attention span.  Adults with no attention span are incapable of flying.  Dear reader if you have a child I urge you strongly to turn off the T.V. and the game console.  Take the cell phone from their chubby little fingers.  Put the I-Pad away.  Buy a plastic model and some glue and paint and spend an hour or two a week building it with your child.

Ben Charvet and his Son with Pietenpol Model, photo used with permission.

Some of my fondest memories are me and my dad building model planes.  First plastic, then rubber powered balsa wood planes like the SIG cub.  We steadily worked our way up to R/C sailplanes and eventually powered R/C planes.  Ultimately I would help dad restore an antique Stinson Voyager.  My love of flight began in small craft of paper and balsa making lazy circles around the yard.
Author way back when with his award winning SIG Cub

Nowadays most R/C planes come packaged completely built, you just charge them up and go flying.  I admit this is fun.  But we are creating little by little an instant gratification culture.  The new generation wants it all and they want it now.  Furthermore they feel entitled to it.

I had a neighbor a couple of years ago say hi to me while I was replacing the water pump on my wife's Dodge Durango.  He was probably a good ten years younger than me.  I had a Haynes manual for the vehicle and was following it step by step, just like a model.  He told me he would never try something like that!  He asked where I learned to work on cars.  I told him well my Dad and my Grandfather taught me most of it but the rest I just learn in the car's maintenance manual.  It seemed such a mystery to him that I was shocked. 

They all will be this way eventually if we don't do something about it.  It's up to you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Aviation: The Stunning KR

So dear reader you've browsed my articles to this point and you say to yourself hey he forgot this plane or that plane am I right?  Well unlike a traditional magazine, this is a blog and I LOVE to write about airplanes so I can just keep adding to the list.  What list?  Well in short let's call it the airplanes for the next century list

What I am looking for are airplanes that can be built or bought by folks of modest means.  The materials for the plane should be available locally, ideally at the nearest lumberyard.  The tools and skills required should be within reach of the average do-it-yourselfer.  The overall cost of the aircraft should be within reach of the multitude of working people.  Well what does that mean?  Let's say ideally you can get the next century plane airworthy for around the cost of a KIA automobile or less.  My final tenet is that the aircraft should have a very good community of builder/pilots who will keep it alive. 

You likely have noticed that I favor plans built planes over kit built aircraft.  This is because often kit aircraft are prohibitively expensive.  Remember we are thinking KIA here, not Lamborghini.  But we shouldn't rule kit planes out, especially if they are within the price range of the KIA.

Till now I've shown you the Bowers Flybaby, the Colomban Cri-Cri, the BUG and GOAT gliders of Mike Sandlin, and the venerable Pietenpol. 

But let's say you want something that is a little bit bigger.  Maybe you want something a little more slippery, without all those pesky struts and cables to slow things down.  Something fast and yet still within the parameters of the 'next century' aircraft.
Mark Langford's KR, Used with Permission 

With all this in mind I present to you the iconic KR line of aircraft.  This legend was born in 1972 when visionary aircraft designer Ken Rand built and flew the KR-1.  This single seater has very clean lines and would set the trend for most modern composite aircraft we see today.  What sets the KR apart? Well for one thing it pioneered a revolutionary new approach to aircraft construction.  In the industry they call it foam and fiberglass composite. 

I know many of you who have read my blog till now will say 'oh no' he has gone over to the composite kit dark side!  Rest assured dear reader I am not so worried about the means that I forget the ends.  This kit is still provided by a couple of manufacturers and many subcomponents can be built from local materials.  Also even a fairly comprehensive kit at the time of this writing is well beneath the cost of a KIA.  So if you are looking for something a bit more trim and modern and quicker to build the KR is a very good option.

One of the things that impresses me about the KR-1 in particular is it can be flown with a Volkswagen engine.  This means a very inexpensive and easy to maintain power plant.  Obviously the larger KR-2 and KR-2S would benefit from a more robust engine.

Where the KR really shines is It's incredible versatility.  It can be built with one seat or two.  It can be built as a tail dragger, tricycle, or even with retractable landing gear.  You can use the same fuselage and put a different wing on it to make it a very nice motor glider.  In short Ken Rand has given us a plane for any pilot!

With so many different configuration options and power plant options there is no easy way to tell you the performance specs for this aircraft because no two are quite the same.  I can say that properly equipped she could wax the tail of any plane in the Lamborghini price range!

The KR is supported by a very avid owner/builder/pilot community who is always willing to lend a hand.


Works Cited:



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aviation: God Bless Pietenpol

 The Pietenpol is the plane that started it all.  It's importance to the homebuilt aircraft culture cannot be overemphasized.  You will notice that she is of a particular type known as a Parasol, that is a high wing aircraft with only struts attaching the wing to the fuselage.  This is a plane for pilots who love open cockpit flying.

Bernard H. Pietenpol was born in 1901 and died in 1984.  He quite literally lived through the rise of the airplane and especially during the Golden Years of flight between WWI and WWII.  For the better part of his life he lived in Cherry Grove Minnesota.

In 1928 Mr. Pietenpol built and flew his prototype the Pietenpol Air Camper.  The first plane was designed to fly with an Ace water cooled engine.  Many early Piet's flew with ford Model A and Model T engines.  More recent Piet's fly with a variety of aircraft and automobile engines; I’m told that Bernard favored the Chevy Corvair engine.  Like most aircraft of the period she was designed to fly in and out of unimproved fields and pastures and she is good at it.

Corvair Powered Piet "BP's Last Original".

Among her other qualities the Piet is designed to be built by anybody.  Her materials are spruce, plywood, and cloth just as God intended.  Her introduction sparked the homebuilt aircraft craze that still endures today.  She is relatively easy to build and especially enjoyable to those who like working with wood.  Because she can be built out of common materials she is a fairly affordable aircraft to build and own.  She definetely belongs on my list of aircraft for the next century.

Ford Model A Powered Piet, notice the interesting radiator location.

Her flying qualities are suitable for a student tail dragger (conventional) pilot.  She has two seats so it's a great plane to learn in and to give rides to young people.  Her max speed is 100 mph which is pretty darn good for an open cockpit strut braced plane that only stalls at 35 mph.

Last but certainly not least.  The Pietenpol designs have been built and loved for a very long time this means she has a very massive support community.  The importance of community in flying cannot be overemphasized.  We cannot rely on the government or manufacturers to pull private flying out of the death spiral it's in.  In the end we must rely on one another and our boundless love of flight.

Works Cited: 

For Support:

Aviation: Making the Cut

Authors Note:  After reading my article please try to find some 2 and even 4 place aircraft that fit within these parameters.  Write an article about one and I will happily post it here under your own by-line.
Ragwing Heath Replica RW5

Well folks, in my odyssey to find the aircraft for the next generation I have searched high and low.  I have spent hours upon hours at the library, searching the internet, visiting air museums, and of course attending air shows.  I have read magazines articles by the dozens and even large hardbound books.

Many aircraft come and go from my attention and frankly don’t make the grade for my list.  Some of these aircraft are quite popular, such as the ubiquitous Cessna 172.  It doesn't make my list because frankly it's boring.  It's the same Cessna they have been building for years and years with slight cosmetic improvements and ever more expensive power plant and avionics.  I realize it's the workhorse of General Aviation and it deserves a place of honor but frankly it just doesn’t stir my blood.  In the next century of flight many, many planes that we are so excited about today will ultimately fall by the wayside.

What does it take to make this elite list?  Well first of all, the airplane should be fun.  I know that sounds rather lighthearted but dadgumit, flying should be fun.  If you aren't having fun, then what's the point?  The plane should be not only fun to fly but fun to build and maintain.  Your time with your plane should lower your stress not elevate it.

Ragwing Special II RW26 by Roger Mann has 2 seats!

 The plane should be pleasing to the eye.  Now I know some of you will think back to my article on the Colomban Cri-Cri and perhaps raise an eyebrow.  I agree the Cri-Cri defies convention and does not have classical lines.  But in the air, in its natural element it's as graceful a thing as I have ever seen.  Other planes such as the beloved Bowers Flybaby look good from any angle.  The BUG and GOAT gliders of Mike Sandlin have a grace that reminds me of the very first days of flight when all a pilot had to judge his speed was the sound of wind hissing through the wires.

Cri-Cri vs. Mirage, my moneys on the Cri-Cri.

The plane should be something that any person can obtain and afford.  This category eliminates 99% of all current aircraft.  You could buy an old airplane and fix it up but the restore can get into tens of thousands of dollars rapidly.  But at least you can spend those dollars if and when you have them and you aren't necessarily beholding to a bank.

Kitplanes are another path but unfortunately the kits nowadays cost nearly as much as certified aircraft.  When one looks at it a kit is just building your own plane with a few shortcuts added to make it easier and faster.  This perceived ease and speed come with a big outlay of money.  I hope you dear readers have this kind of money but alas, I do not.

This leaves the humble plans built aircraft.  Not just any plans built aircraft though.  You see it should be a plans built aircraft that is designed with simple ordinary materials that can be found affordably most anyplace.

Mike Sandlin's GOAT glider.
Materials like wood and not always so called 'aircraft grade' spruce.  Many different kinds of wood can safely build an aircraft.  Take the time to learn about them.  Another material is steel, good old steel.  Yes it takes some extra tooling and learning to work with it.  But nothing out of the range of the average garage tinkerer.  Cloth coverings work just fine and have since the dawn of flight.  Many record setting aircraft are covered in fabric, this material of yesterday is still valid and for the same reasons.  It's lightweight, inexpensive, and fairly user friendly.  I personally think that the Wright brothers sorted out the best materials to build an aircraft right out of the gate.  We have been fine tuning ever since.

Aluminum is fine and is on most planes.  Titanium, leave it for those fellows at the Lockheed Skunkworks.  We need that stuff to fight the evil terrorists so don't waste it on your airplane.  Composites, well I believe that composites can build an affordable plane I just see little evidence of it in the real world.  I tell you what, if you are building an affordable composite plane write an article about it and I will post it here for my thousands of readers to judge.  You never know, you might become the next Burt Rutan.

My final prerequisite for an airplane for the next century is community.  An airplane ought to have a group of kind folks who love it and spend time helping others.  You cannot really rely on a manufacturer for community.  You see those of us who have been watching the aircraft industry for a while have noticed that unfortunately these companies often come and go.  Aircraft designers, no matter how great, are mere mortals and they pass on.  Hopefully they leave the legacy of their work to a community of people who love it.  People and companies are born, grow old, and die, but community is forever.

N500F the prototype Bowers Flybaby stolen from Ron Wantajja's site.  These guys are community!

People who are getting it right:

Pietenpol Aircamper





Monday, December 19, 2011

Aviation: Jessica Rabbit Flying

From the movie 'Who Framed roger Rabbit'

You ever find yourself looking at one of those new composite aircraft?  You know the ones with more curves than Jessica Rabbit.  They have performance numbers that rival commercial airliners.  They have glass cockpits that allow you to fly blind.  You daydream about flying one and then one day you look up what it cost to actually purchase one.  The numbers are suitably in the stratosphere.  Who can afford such a plane?  A better question is why?  Why would you buy such a plane?  What can that plane do that a cheaper one couldn't? 

What if you’re the kind of pilot who just likes to go up on weekends maybe fly to another local airport and get a hamburger.  Just about any aircraft can do this and furthermore just about any other aircraft can do it cheaper.  At what point does the expense of the aircraft cut into the fun value of owning it? 

What if  you're the kind of pilot who does a lot of cross country work?  Well I admit the composite Jessica Rabbit plane with the glass cockpit that is more advanced than the space shuttle would probably be a good choice.  But to me the cost still seems dear.  I mean just how far are you flying that you need this navigational capability?  Are you flying from New York to Paris?  I know a plane that was steel tube and fabric fuselage and humble wood and cloth for wings that flew it once.  It had little more than a compass, altimeter, and airspeed indicator.  In fact as I recall she didn't even have a windshield.

Nowadays you can purchase GPS for less than $100.  It might even have a little tiny piece of glass on it so you can brag about your 'glass' cockpit.  This little cheap GPS has more navigational capability than all the instruments that pilots had in WWII combined.

Is it fair for me to pick on you weekend pilot with Jessica Rabbit plane?  No it's not fair.  In fact the people I want to aim this at are not the consumers of airplanes but the manufacturers of airplanes.  You folks should be trying to make flying affordable but every year I see showcased another curvy plane that nobody can afford.  I don't know about you reader, but I don't want to fly an airliner around on weekends.  I don't want to have to contend with countless computerized gizmo's just to hop from A to B.

Recently I read an article where the venerable WACO has a glass cockpit now, "making it enjoyable for cross country flying."  It seemed so out of place seeing the computer displays in that beautiful grand old bird.

Computers have made a lot of things better.  As an IT person by trade I must admit this, but who wants to fly one?  I would bet most of us fly to get away from them!  So Mr. or Ms. Aircraft manufacturer if you want to really impress me build a plane that cost less than a KIA and is so fun I never want to land.  No computer needed.  I can put in a magnetic compass, cheap altimeter, cheap airspeed indicator, cheap GPS, and my wristwatch will do for time.  Given fuel reserves I could fly around the world in such an aircraft and I wouldn't think about computing or Jessica Rabbit once.


How to: Increase your Cars Gas Mileage

With today's gas prices, it is in your best interest to make your car as fuel efficient as possible. Any car or truck fuel efficiency can be improved; you need not trade your car for a more efficient one. Your family sedan might never be as efficient as a hybrid but you can improve it and, in doing so, put a few dollars back into your pocket.

Believe it or not the biggest determining factor in your gas mileage isn't your car, it's you! The way you drive your car can have a huge impact on its mileage. Most modern cars have a very accurate computer that shows their gas mileage. If the sticker on the car says it gets 24 miles per gallon, by adjusting your driving habits you can routinely get 33 miles per gallon! Here are some tips to improve your mileage.

Read More:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Aviation: Look at that thing GO!

What single place, multiengine, and fully aerobatic airplane has been flown with piston engines, jet engines, and even electric motors?

The answer:  The amazing, irrepressible, astounding Colomban Cri-Cri!

The MC-10 and MC-15 Cri-Cri is the brain child of French aircraft designer Michel Colomban.  In French the name means Cricket and is the nickname that Mr. Colomban has for his daughter.  The diminutive aircraft holds a number of world records including smallest multiengine aircraft.

Most Cri-Cri's sport twin JPX PUL 212 single-cylinder piston engines which are only 15 hp each.  What the aircraft can do with this 30 horsepower staggers the mind.  Just to give you a taste:

Maximum speed: 140 mph
Cruise speed: 120 mph
Range: 288 miles
Service Ceiling: 12,139 ft
Rate of climb: 1,300 ft/min

*Note: Other engines have been used successfully with this aircraft.

These cold numbers, as impressive as they are, do not prepare one for the site of this tiny, shiny, dynamo looping and rolling with reckless abandon across the sky.  The high pitched sound and small size seem almost R/C aircraft like till you realize that there is a pilot in that little plane. 

In the Cri-Cri you have a small affordable homebuilt aircraft with a couple of single cylinder motors that could give the legendary Pitt's Special a run for its aerobatic money.  In spite of its small size the Cri-Cri gives good all weather performance and handles even heavy crosswinds with aplomb.  The key to this handling is it's relatively high wing loading of 11 ib/sq ft.

The first thing you notice when you get a closer look at this aircraft is that it is a rugged all aluminum plane.  The visibility out of the cockpit is phenomenal as the canopy is quite large to afford the pilot some room.  That being said this is a plane you truly strap on.

When Colomban first released the Cri-Cri design it was a sensation and many examples are flying worldwide.  Unfortunately some 'litigation' in North America has caused this good man to refuse to offer his plans in North America.  If you live in North America the only way to get them is through an intermediary on another continent.  I can find no fault with Mr. Colomban, he offers a superior design and for his trouble someone takes him to court.  This is the very essence of why aviation is going right down the crapper in the United States.  So change my standard rant from less regulation to less regulation and less litigation to save our aviation industry.

So enter a new wrinkle.  Americans really don't like having cool things like aircraft plans denied to them.  A small number of websites and forums have sprung up to provide plans of this aircraft in North America.  The author cannot speak to the validity or accuracy of these plans or whether or not Michal Colomban is approving of this or not.  One hopes he is enthused about his aircraft flying here.  I can say this fellow reader, please ensure that if you purchase plans from anybody besides Michal Colomban that they are 100% safe to build from. 

You should really try to get plans from the man himself first.  Here is his address:

Michel Colomban
37 Bis Rue La Kanol
92500 Rueil Malmaison
Fax: 0033 147 51 8876

If this doesn’t pan out for you.  The following websites is providing plans and support:


Folks I have the utmost respect for Mr. Colomban and I also have the utmost respect for any person who attempts to continue his good work.  I will not choose sides.  My mission here is to INFORM you the reading public about the aircraft that can carry private aviation out of its currentstate of freefall.  We need this plane!  A gem like the Cri-Cri should not be allowed to fade away here in North America.


Works Cited:

Military Nonfiction: The Economics of Fighting Evil

*Authors Note:  As I post this according to the news the last units are being pulled out of Iraq and should be home for the holidays.  I just want to express my heartfelt gratitude to every person who has served in the military and particularly to you men and women who have done multiple tours 'over there'.  Merry Christmas to you all and Brava Zulu for a job well done.

Thank a Veteran:  http://www.veteransforum.us/

The United States entered WWII only after the massive Japanese attack on our bases at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The war in Europe had begun over six years before the attack on Pearl Harbor and yet the United States had remained neutral. Our economy languished in a state of depression with unprecedented levels of unemployment. Between 1929 and 1939, the American unemployment rate averaged 13.3 percent (calculated from "Corrected BLS" figures in Darby, 1976, 8). December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked us and when the dust settled from the attack 2,390 Americans were dead. The attack has been considered one of the most successful military actions in history until it was finally eclipsed by Al Qaeda terrorists September 11, 2001.

The War mobilization effort was immense and involved not only the government but also the people. The entire country was behind the troops and wanted victory. Nearly every man, woman, and child would contribute to the war effort. Able bodied men and women would join service and see action in every theater of the war. Those who remained contributed by entering employment with the war machine building aircraft, tanks, and other necessities in the war movement. Children often helped out by gathering every bit of scrap metal they could find for the war. Factories that had been producing household appliances began producing vital equipment for battle. The textile industry shifted large resources and workforce from making civil clothing to making uniforms and even parachutes. The American economy that was so depressed before the war was suddenly booming. Unemployment rates dropped to their lowest in decades.

It was not all roses for America during this time though the lives lost in this war would break all records:
*406,000 killed (including 6,000 merchant marine civilians)
*600,000 Wounded
*5,600 American civilians where killed in this war, mostly of them Merchant Marine Sailors that died in convoy wars, and ammo accidents.

These numbers more than the dollars and the percentages tell a solemn message that fighting evil has a price and that the cliché, freedom is not free will always be true.

A snapshot of the American economy during World War II.

Nominal GDP Federal Spending Defense Spending
Year total $ % increase total $ % increase % of GDP total $ % increase % of GDP % of federal spending
1940 101.4 9.47 9.34% 1.66 1.64% 17.53%
1941 120.67 19.00% 13.00 37.28% 10.77% 6.13 269.28% 5.08% 47.15%
1942 139.06 15.24% 30.18 132.15% 21.70% 22.05 259.71% 15.86% 73.06%
1943 136.44 -1.88% 63.57 110.64% 46.59% 43.98 99.46% 32.23% 69.18%
1944 174.84 28.14% 72.62 14.24% 41.54% 62.95 43. 13% 36.00% 86.68%
1945 173.52 -0.75% 72.11 -0.70% 41.56% 64.53 2.51% 37.19% 89.49%

September 11, 2001 a deceptively simple terror attack took the lives of 2,740 Americans, mostly civilians. This beat the previous Japanese record by 350 lives. As in World War II, the United States had remained a largely neutral player in the War on Terror until 9/11. We had received numerous smaller attacks in previous years, hijacked airliners, car bombs, embassy bombings, a car bomb in the World Trade Center, and even attacks on military targets such as the U.S.S Cole and the military barracks at Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.*

Unlike World War II America did not enter the Terror War in a state of economic depression. The mid and late nineties saw the rise of the internet and e-trade. American commerce was booming as a myriad of new technologies enticed and employed the American people. In spite of the incredible economic growth President Clinton would spend his term slashing spending on defense believing that the Post Cold War world didn't need the massive military that had been growing for the last thirty years.

The Gulf War had been brief and was considered a success. In my opinion the U.S. simply became complacent believing that we were going to be the last great superpower and immune from attack. We were wrong. In the days leading to 9/11 the country experienced a minor recession partly because of the implosion of several over inflated dot.com companies. We had new technology but were still learning how to harness that capability make money responsibly. Government spending during the War on Terror would rapidly eclipsed World War II spending.

Our weapons today are vastly more expensive than the state of the art in World War II. By way of an example most powerful bomber in World War II was the B-29 Superfortress, it costs $639,000. The best bomber we have nowadays is the B-2 stealth bomber; it costs an estimated 2.1 billion dollars (exact numbers are classified).

The next table shows spending during the first few years of the War on Terror.

As in World War II the United States must pay another cost, the cost of human lives.
In Iraq 3,123 killed as of Feb. 2007
In Iraq 45,798 wounded as of Feb. 2007
In Afghanistan 357 killed as of Jan. 2007
In Afghanistan 1,071 wounded as of Jan. 2007
Total killed in the War on Terror 4,194
Total wounded in the War on Terror 46,869

These numbers when compared to World War II are infinitesimal. I can think of no better way to contrast the numbers than to quote the D-day museum regarding the battle at Normandy on D-day:

"Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces. Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces), 125,847 from the US ground forces. The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded. The Allies also captured 200,000 prisoners of war (not included in the 425,000 total, above). During the fighting around the Falaise Pocket (August 1944) alone, the Germans suffered losses of around 90,000, including prisoners."

The economics of fighting evil are simple; throw every resource you can get your hands on into the fight. Our grandparents understood this, when will we?










Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beekeeping: The Original Homesteader Bee Hive

The Original Homesteader Bee Hive
By: Earnie Schmidt

      The Warre Bee Hive was developed specifically to be a homestead hive. Abbe Emile Warre of France spent the early 1900’s experimenting with over 350 different hive designs and methods to produce the Warre.  He named it The People’s Hive, but over the years it became known as the Warre Hive. The hive is making a resurgence on homesteads around the world, partly because of the current crisis in the beekeeping industry today.  Even in his lifetime, Emile knew well of the framed commercial hives, their challenges, the level of investment and intensive management they needed.  He was also aware of the life style of the 1,000’s of single family farms in his region of the country.  Many of these family farms were the definition of homesteads.  Many were off the grid, everything thing the family needed was grown or made on the farm.  What they couldn’t grow or make, they would obtain by selling or trading surpluses from the farm.  He wanted to develop a hive that fit into the homesteader’s lifestyle. The hive had to be easy, inexpensive to build and require minimal addition to the sun up to sun down chores on the farm. Emile also cared enormously for the health and well being of the bees themselves.  Spending many years he worked a fine line making the hive the best of both worlds.  He summed up his objective in developing the hive as simply- “Happy Bees and Happy Beekeepers”.

      Basically the way the hive is designed and managed it emulates the natural behavior of honey bees in the wild.  When a wild swarm finds a tree hollow, it begins building comb at the top of the cavity.  The queen lays eggs in the new comb, she will follow the newly built comb down.  As the eggs hatch and new bees emerge above, the bees will start putting honey in the empty comb.  The downward progress of building new comb, laying eggs, new bees emerging, and storage of honey continues until fall.  When it  becomes cold, the queen stops laying eggs, the bees stop collecting honey, and they form a cluster for warmth.  This cluster will slowly move up the comb during the winter living off of the honey stores.  Come spring they will begin the same process down again.  The Warre hive management method of keeping bees allows the bees live in the hive in this same natural process. Emile wanted the bees to be bees, naturally as they have been for millions of years. The hive requires less management then framed hives.  It also lets the keeper harvest honey and wax easier with minimal intrusion into the hive.  Emile perfected a hive that as closely as possible imitates the natural behavior of honey bees and still allows the keeper access to the extra bounty of the bees. 

     The complete hive consists of the floor, or bottom board, 4 identical boxes, each with 8 bars inside, a condensation box, also referred to as a quilt, then the roof.  The Warre has been described as a vertical Top Bar hive because it has bars instead of frames, but the similarity ends there.  The management style of Emile’s hive makes it even easier to keep bees then the Top Bar.  A new hive is started with 2 of the 4 identical boxes with a swarm or package of bees.  The new colony starts in the top box and as in the wild begins building comb and moving down.  When they have the second box nearly filled with comb, the keeper places a 3rd box under the first two.  When the bees have filled 3 boxes by fall, the top box is usually filled with honey and is removed as harvest.  The colony will winter well in two full boxes under usual seasonal conditions.  Then in the spring another empty box is placed under the two that wintered over.   

     I could never give more information for getting started with Warre beekeeping in this article then you can get visiting these websites. 

They are dedicated completely to the Warre hive, providing detailed free plans for constructing a hive, caring for the bees, and much more.  My advice to new keepers is to build your Warre just as the plans and instructions indicate on this site.  Sometimes it is hard to resist changing and redesigning as one is building their hive.  One does not have to be an experienced carpenter to build a hive.  Minor inaccuracies in construction make little difference to the bees. They will not be overly affected by slightly out of square or a fraction of an inch difference here or there.  I also would highly recommend joining the Warre Yahoo group at http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/warrebeekeeping This site will give you the opportunity to read from experienced keepers around the world and ask questions about your Warre hive.  It is an excellent source for information, support and is a very friendly group.  Just a side note about this site- the picture of the Warre hive on the home page of this group is one of my personal hives.

      I live in the Pacific Northwest, Washington State.  Bees have been an important part of my farm for many years.  I keep bees in Top Bars, Langstroths, and Warres.  The Warre is my favorite, it is the easiest of the three styles of hives and there is just something magic about the Warre colonies.  Watching the bees living naturally as they have since the beginning of time, I feel the Warre isn’t just a bee hive it is a bee home. 

I would be happy to assist anyone as much as I can that is interested in Warre beekeeping.   I can be reached at email  Foxglovewarre@aol.com <mailto:Foxglovewarre@aol.com> 

Some final thoughts;

   Keeping bees isn’t easy.  Like caring for any kind of livestock it requires a certain level of knowledge and effort.  It is easier to keep bees in a Warre then a commercial hive, it is designed that way.  This hive is not the answer to the challenges of industrial beekeeping, that is not its purpose.  It was created specifically for the homesteader.

Exploded view of Warre hive

Active 3 box Warre hive 
Photo: David Heaf


Article originally in Countryside Magizine reproduced here by permission of Earnie Schmidt.

Update:  New Warré Hive Forum is open for business!