Monday, 20 July 2015

Planes wot I have flown on

Been travelling quite a bit recently and have decided to try and keep some records on the planes that are ferrying me around and also to do a little digging on their history.

Airbus A330-300, code G-VGBR
McDonnell Douglas MD88, code N945DL
Boeing 757, code N17128
Saab 340, code N343AG
Embraer ERJ-145, code N834HK


Airbus A330-300, code G-VGBR, Spring 2017
Listed on as being delivered in 2012, this A330-300 is a rather new and shiny plane with a lot of UK content, most notably in the Trent 7000 engines and the wings which are made in the Airbus UK Broughton facility in North Wales.


Rolls Royce Trent 7000

Trent Image Source


Delta McDonnell Douglas MD88, code N945DL, Spring 2017 reveals that this is a pretty old plane, having been manufactured way back in 1989, and is powered by the venerable P&W JT8D-200 engine, introduced in 1980.

If you have ever wondered what an airline flight manual looks like, you can read one for the MD80 here.

MD88 flaps at various settings

NSB's view from the window....


United Boeing 757, code N17128, Summer 2015 states that it is a 757-200 that first flew in Mar 1998 and was number 795 on the 757 production line with construction number 27560. adds that the engines are a fine pair of Rolls Royce RB211-535E4B's It turns out that this was a transformative engine for Rolls. The International Aviation Services Group comments that :

"The longevity of the -535E4 version is well known, with one engine on an America West Airlines’ Boeing 757 accruing 2,047 days on-wing, flying over 12 million miles (the equivalent of 25 return trips to the moon) over 24,100 hours of operation..."

B757 N17128, soon to begin a flight from the US to the UK

Always keen to get this "OMG, you can see right through the wing!" shot on landing

Incidentally, an incredible site called "" allows you to watch recent flights of any specified plane - together will information on all the other planes that were flying at the same time. Here, for example, is how the skies over Northern Europe look on a typical afternoon.....

That is a LOT of planes.....


Silver Airways Saab 340, code N343AG, Winter 2014/5
A check on the Wiki entry for this type reveals another example of this plane type had its undercarriage mistakenly raised whilst on the ground, and that the pilot had died in a later accident. The final report section for that latter incident is something best read after, not before, flying on a small regional airline.

One might imagine that propeller aircraft are more fuel efficient than their jet powered cousins. To investigate this, NSB dug out the stats for the Saab 340, which revealed that, for a 300nm flight with 34 passengers, it consumed around 0.059kg fuel per passenger nm.

A little digging reveals that, inevitably, Wikipedia has a page with some useful data. It shows that, for example, the Boeing 757-200 (mentioned above) with 190 passengers consumes around 0.044kg fuel per passenger nm.

A smaller jet aircraft, such as the A320neo with 144passengers, consumes just 0.030kg fuel per passenger nm.

To get down to a jet engined plane with similar passenger capacity to the Saab, one needs to look at planes like the 37seat ERJ135. This plane consumes around 0.093kg fuel per passenger nm - about 50% more than the Saab!.

Saab 340


Embraer ERJ-145, code N834HK, Summer 2015
Spookily, the next plane on this post is an Embraer ERJ-145. Manufactured back in 2000, this plane has passed through a number of hands before arriving, in 2013, at United. One of its owners along that way was Brazilian regional airline Passaredo Linhas AĆ©reas, who are based in a part of Brazil that has an interesting agricultural history and is nicknamed the "Brazilian California".

ERJ 145

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum - Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center

Recently had the opportunity to visit the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center (one of the two Washington sites of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum). It was very Wow. Here are some pictures of a few of the exhibits (most images are clickable to get to a higher resolution version).....

First up, and the biggest card in this metaphorical deck, is the Space Shuttle Discovery:

TheSpace Shuttle Discovery, veteran of 39 space missions

Looks like the discussion about the shape of the main wheel door was on a Friday.
NSB imagines an engineer saying  "Look, just make it a rectangle dude" 

Very surprised to see that the surface is not at all smooth.... you can clearly see in this close up.

Black heat resistant tiles individually shaped and marked... can be seen in this close up

The business end of Discovery.
Second in line for a mention is the legendary SR-71 Blackbird, one of the fastest planes of all time. You can read a fascinating history of the planes development, written by Peter Merlin, here:

The SR-71 Blackbird

Very 50s look from this angle

The pointiest shock cones in aviation history

Always been intrigued by the downward pointing leading edge 

Rear of the plane makes a big statement

Don't be standing here at engine start time.

Here is a couple of pictures of an Air France Concorde, a plane that is without doubt the most beautiful airliner of all time, and was born from a joint venture between the UK and France.

The very clever and complex inlets on Concorde

Wonder why the edge of the  wing root / fuselage fairing  isn't a smooth line...

Now moving briefly to WW2....

WW2 German Arado Ar234 jet bomber...

...whose small size can be seen when compared to the FW190 next to it

Quick trip to the 1920s...

NSB thought this incredibly stylish 1920s Ballanca CF biplane must
 have been designed by an italian.... and it was! 

And now, rotorcraft:

The Hiller YROE is a very small helicopter indeed.

The reason some early 1950 helicopters have very bulgy noses
 is that this was where the engine was, as in the case of the Sikorsky H-19

Lastly, was very interested in the examples of "general aviation" and homebuilt aircraft that were on display, some of which are shown below:

The Beck Mahoney Sorceress, one of the most successful air racers of all time.

The Rutan Quickie, which has its landing wheels built into its front wings

The Rutan Vari-eze ("very easy" - geddit?) home build plane.
(It does have a nosewheel, which has been  retracted in this display)

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