Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Other NASM I

It was an immensely busy weekend.

Chris drove down from NYC to spend a couple of days and kill three birds with one stone: to go to a fellow intern's birthday, see my place, and go to the NASM out in Virginia.



It was Restaurant Week in DC over the past week, so most of us at the birthday dinner on Friday evening ordered from the set menus. We were at The Oceanaire, a classy art deco style seafood room only a couple of blocks from the White House.

I ordered a glass of Chilean Chardonnay and for starters I chose Caesar salad.

This was followed by a main course of grilled Arctic charr in a citrus soy sauce with sesame chili cucumber.

[Arctic charr is a very respectable, richly-colored cousin of salmon. It is extremely moist and tender in texture, contains much less mercury, and is palpably high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A favorite with the Inuit, it is generally consumed in Canada, the US, Iceland, and Scandinavia but is rare in Britain. It seems like an excellent fish to eat once a week.]

For dessert I ordered the warm cookies and whole milk, which I drank but was too full to eat the cookies, so they were boxed up for me on a doily in a reusable dish.

There were about 15 people at the dinner. I met the birthday girl N, and quite a few other people. Z who promises to invite me to see plays and performances which she seems to attend quite often, along with C who is in the army but is a dancer and very elegant. L who wants to know all about what to do on a trip to Europe, and E who shares a fine taste in food.



Chris and I went to a diner near my place for breakfast, and I won a bet. He ordered bacon with his breakfast, and I ordered sausages. After he ordered, I sat there going "bacon bacon bacon" like the dog in the Beggin' Strips commercial. After our server left, all of a sudden somehow he was sure he'd ordered sausage and I knew for a fact I'd heard him say bacon. So I said, "No, you ordered bacon" and he said, "No, I ordered sausage" and it went back and forth like this a few times. Eventually he asked, "What do you want to bet?" I replied, "I bet.....breakfast!" Both smugly nodded in agreement.

The plates came and sure enough, he had bacon. I crowed, "See? See? You got bacon! He's paying!" The poor server thought she'd made the mistake and kindly offered to take the bacon back and bring sausages, but Chris honestly conceded he must have ordered bacon, so we told her the story and she had a good old laugh.

N couldn't wake up in time for breakfast but when she did finally join us, we got into Chris's car and headed out. It took nearly an hour, as the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center is in Chantilly, Virginia, right next to the airport.

Consisting of giant hangars and an observation tower for watching takeoffs from the airport next door, there are views south towards Prince William county, west towards the Blue Ridge Mountains, east over Fairfax county towards Washington, and north to Dulles International airport and Maryland.

Today's installment is dedicated to the jet of all jets, the legendary SR-71 Blackbird. It is the very first aircraft I fell in love with as a teenager. The Vangelis in the background is the perfect accompaniment to such a magical sky flyer.

A thing of beauty - 45 years after its creation, the SR-71 Blackbird is still the highest and fastest aircraft that has yet taken to the air, even though it was decommissioned in 1991. Pilots had to wear high pressure suits, very much like spacesuits.

Think about other things designed in the 1960s. They look nothing like this, do they?

The skin is approximately 85% titanium. I got braces when I was 12 and remember thinking, "Oh wow, this is the stuff the Blackbird is made of!" Titanium is light yet strong, and has a memory for shape. The cones move back and forth to control airflow through the engines.

The great afterburners. It is the only aircraft that can fly solely on afterburn but becomes more efficient at higher speed.
The Blackbird carried no weapons or anti-aircraft missiles. It flew so high it was invisible to radar, and flew so fast nothing could catch it.

Flying over Mach 3, it took 1 hour and 54 minutes from New York to London

After that, who wants to look at bread and butter helicopters? Well, here are a couple....

Both look as though they served in Vietnam, but since I didn't make it down there to read the plaques I can only guess.

There was an afternoon talk with four of the original Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military pilots. Navigators, gunnery crews, and bombardiers were trained at other bases around the nation, but the pilots came out of Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama - nearly 1,000 between 1941 and 1946.

There was an activity for kids, but we joined in and designed our own Mission Patches.

Clockwise L-R:
1) This represents my life in the USA. The top is the flag of the District of Columbia. Below that is a failed attempt at clasped hands of friendship, which I modified into a dove (coincidentally
columba is Latin for dove). So the dove of my dreams is shown flying into the sunrise of new beginnings. At the bottom is the Lone Star flag of Texas because that's the state that made me an American, and once a Texan, always a Texan.

(Heyyyy, anyone see some potential blog titles in there...?)

2) Chris being Chris drew a dinosaur with its eyes closed beside the accidentally misspelled slogan "Dino-surs Unite!" which is still making me laugh.

3) We had just walked out of the fantastic IMAX presentation "Blue Planet", so inspired by this amazing film, N. drew our planet.

4) In honor of two pairs of old friends reuniting and one pair of new friends being made, Chris designed a mission patch with our three names at the bottom.

Stay tuned for a second installation. Teaser: the word


nikkipolani said...

Ooooooh, that Blackbird is a beauty! Such elegant swoops. Some of your photos make it look like a stingray with its thin edges.

steve on the slow train said...

I think the first helicopter is a Sikorski H-19, which was used in the Korean War and at the beginning of Vietnam. There were a lot of variations of this design, so it could be a later variant. I've always (well, since I first saw a picture of it) liked the design of this one.

The second is a Bell UH-1 Iroquois, or "Huey" as they were better known. Again, it may be a variant. This was the primary helicopter of the Vietnam War. I don't know who told me--there were so many conspiracy theories in those days--that America got into Vietnam to save the Bell Helicopter Company. Nonsense, of course. The best account of how we got into that war is still David Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest."

The Moody Minstrel said...

Steve beat me to the punch on the helicopters for the most part, but the first helicopter is actually a Sikorsky H-34, built in the UK as the Westland Wessex. Interestingly, the Westland version had a turbine engine, whereas the American H-34 had an old-style piston engine. It was a pretty popular machine for a while...until the "Huey" replaced it.

Ah...the SR-71! (fanfare)

I once heard an interesting story from someone I met who was in the Air Force. He was a radar operator based in Florida, and his job was mainly to monitor air traffic in and around Cuba. One day he detected something flying from the U.S. toward Cuba at extremely high speed. He watched, open-mouthed, as the object reached Cuba, made a circuit of it, and came a speed his equipment clocked in excess of mach 5.

When he asked his superiors what the hell it was, they informed him that he didn't have sufficient clearance (and his clearance was pretty high!). However, as it turned out, the object came back to his own base, so all he had to do was look out the window.

He saw an SR-71 on the runway coming in with its drag chute deployed.

The official top speed of the SR-71 is "mach 3.5+". Apparently it has quite some plus!

Palm Springs Savant said...

I quite enjoyed this post Olivia, although I must confess, I don't know much about these birds!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Me, me, I want to look at bread and butter helicopters...I'd love to go for a ride in one. I've been on all kinds of planes, even a very OLD, leaky cargo plane, I've been on all kinds of boats, but never a helicopter.

I like the sleepy dinosur.

Jo said...

Hey Liv! I love the photos of all the planes!

Perhaps your blog could be:

"Once around the world and still a Texan"

Or something like that? :D

I like anything Texan, by the way...

Olivia said...

Nikki - Hey, yes it does look a bit like an extra long stingray.
And I do like those swoops.

I had videoed a walkaround and put it on YouTube, but after finding the other video mine didn't seem as interesting.


Steve - thanks for your input.

Yes, the Iroquois! I haven't used that name in years.

The Sikorsky does have an appealing look.


Minstrel - if the USAF radar operator dropped his jaw at the SR-71's speed, then imagine how civilians feel when they sight "UFOs" over the desert before the military unveils whatever it is.

(Around Cuba eh? Hm.)


Rick - which is exactly why I'm tellin you about them! :)

Enjoy the flight!


GG- I've never been on a chopper either. You should join one of those tour groups that fly over the Kaietur Falls!


Jo the Texan - I knew it would be either you, Minstrel or Nikki commenting on the title ;)

Flighty said...

The Blackbird is simply the most awesome aircraft that I've ever seen or heard!
The first helicopter is a Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw and the second a Bell UH-1 Iroquois, and both were used in Vietnam. The latter is probably the most familiar of all military helicopters, especially due to its distinctive thumping sound made by the two plank-like rotor blades. The Huey has been called 'The Sound of Freedom'. Like the Blackbird it is not only one of the truly great flying machines but one of the most significant as well.
The talk by the Tuskegee Airmen must have been illuminating. I have read about their exploits.
I like the mission patches!
Looking forward to your 'Enterprise' post! xx

Glo said...

Wow! What an interesting post! I really enjoyed all of it ~ you sure see some fantastic sights and keep happily busy :) I've read through your post and looked at the video a few times, but realized I hadn't left a comment. Have to hurry up now as I'm walking to work (Day 2) and I have to get cracking. It may snow today!

Michelle G said...

ooh I enjoyed the photos

Christopher said...

I just love all of the pictures of all of the museums and such that you have been visiting...I think that museums should be free all over the USA, how I would love to go and sit in front of some paintings of value and historical note and just dream away...I am envious to my blue toenails my dear!

I am glad you are getting settled and I know I can count on you to post plenty of pictures to keep us all entertained!

I was looking the other day for that recipe that you had of watermelon soup that you made, do you remember what it was? A friend of mine in Australia was curious...
xoxo much love!

RC said...

the dino-saur unite patch cracked me up...that's great!!!

Olivia said...

Flighty - Thank you for the idents.
It's too bad the YouTube videos couldn't adequately convey the sound of the flyby - which is why I was ok with choosing a soundtracked clip.

I wanted to write the next post tonight but am getting sleepy.


Glo - I'm glad I haven't had any significant adventures since last weekend, as I am having trouble keeping up!

I hope your morning walks to work have been pleasant so far.


Mich - I suppose they appeal to your graphic design eye? :)


Kissy - Did the toenails turn green then? You could search blog in the top navbar but I will email it to you. Your Aussie friend needs to make it before summer ends!


RC - welcome to my blog and thank you for your comment. I am glad you enjoyed the Dino-sur patch!

The Moody Minstrel said...

Aw, you went and changed the name again! I guess it's back to the old template...