July 5th, 2010

krazy koati

I've got my doubts, it's happened to me

Oddly, I didn't spend so much time in the ``and Space'' part of the Air and Space Museum this time, although I did take extended visits of the Computers In Space exhibit and marvel at a ring of something which had a warning about how it contained hazardous beryllium. When something's regarded as an environmental hazard by 1950s standards you know it's vicious stuff. Around the Pioneers Of Flight exhibit --- in perfect disarray as it's being renovated, although quite a few planes, balloons, and miscellaneties are visible between the construction --- I overheard one person arguing with a docent about the Lockheed Vega there. The visitor was rather insistent on it being the airplane Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared, while the docent was equally insistent on her flying an Electra. I'm fairly sure the visitor meant it was the model of plane flown, rather than the exact plane, but I wasn't getting involved in that dispute to clarify such a trivial point.

Within the World War II Aviation section I was looking over the P-51 Mustang dubbed ``Willit Run?'' when a kid came up and announced to me that this plane was his favorite. Good of him to have a favorite, I think. I was on the verge of asking him if he knew what the name of the plane signified, when he ran over to the Macchi C.202 Folgore, proclaimed that was the neatest plane ever, and asked his father (I assume) whether it was American. I have the feeling the love may have been a passionate yet not lasting affair.

Incidentally the Jet Aviation section is threatening to become more historical than they could have imagined, what with a section on aviation records from the various lands which peters out in the late 70s, and showing off the components of a jet aircraft with a large-size half-model of a Lockheed L-1011. I mean, it's neat seeing an airplane that's been out of production for a quarter-century now and which currently has, what, five planes in service, but having its entire niche colored in Seventies Orange? They're risking having kids who come in eager to learn about airplanes coming out flash-blinded by the ugliness.

The ``America By Air'' hall was more interesting than I expected thanks to its collection of the detritus of piloting --- models of 1920s pilots with their knee boards, uniforms from long-defunct entities such as Mohawk Airlines, a Ford Tri-Motor and a Boeing 247 trying to stand up to the DC-3 beside it, that sort of thing. They also had a fairly large floor-standing globe which was allegedly used by Pan Am and which they said was made in the late 19th century, so that if it was used for any route navigation it was done with the knowledge that it was somewhat obsolescent to start with. Given that vague dating, I wondered if I could figure out from the map just when it was made, and the mystery deepened when I noticed the far western end of Canada was labelled ``Russian America'' rather than, oh, ``Alaska''. Predates 1867, then. Poking around some more. Austria-Hungary labelled as ``Austro-Hungarian States'', well, that might be anything. Ah, divisions of the United States mainland ... the borders for Minnesota were off. Predates 1857. OOh, the southern bits of Arizona are given to Mexico. Globe can't have been designed later than 1853.

I didn't find anything more distinctive; if I could have rotated the globe to check other locations maybe I could have found a more exact date. But for a globe whose map was made at latest 1853 to be passed off as ``late 19th century'' suggests to me whoever wrote the plaque didn't notice the obvious questions to be asked there.

Now we'd gotten to about late enough, and I ambled over to the restaurant to consider something to eat. As a child, I remembered, the dining wing had this awesome (to my mind) revolving restaurant with, yes, cafeteria-style dumping of hamburgers and fries and sandwiches and whatever else was available, but wasn't that just the coolest thing ever? Sure it was. Well, that's changed now. I think the revolving restaurant part was gone by the 1990s and my last visit there, but now it's not even anything but a terribly overpriced McDonald's (also an overpriced pizza place) and if anyone's charmed by this they're probably kids and good for them, I guess. I went outside and got a pretzel from a street vendor.

Trivia: On 5 July 1908 Glenn H Curtiss flew the Aerial Experiment Association's Aerodrome Number 3, June Bug, about a half-mile out in a straight line, then turned it around and returned to the starting point with only slight damage to the front control and right wing. This was the first 180-degree flight turn seen by the public in the United States. Source: Over Land And Sea: The Dramatic Story Of The Great Aviation Pioneer Glenn H Curtiss, Robert Scharff, Walter S Taylor.

Currently Reading: Mainspring, Jay Lake.