Flying the Corsair from a World War II aircraft carrier


From Norman Hanson’s Carrier Pilot:

The [Corsair] fighter had originally been ordered by the US Navy for carrier use to replace the Grumman F4F, the Wildcat (Martlet to the Royal Navy); but it had proved to be such a handful in Fleet trials—particularly in deck-landing—that the new Grumman F6F—the Hellcat—had been adopted instead. The F4U—the Corsair—could now go to the shore-based squadrons of the US Marine Air Corps; and to the Royal Navy, if they wanted it. The Royal Navy accepted it willingly. The only alternatives in sight were the Seafire and Sea Hurricane—RAF production models fitted with arrestor hooks—and these just weren’t carrier material.

What was it like to fly a Corsair? It is no easy matter to describe it to someone who has never handled a fast aircraft; who has never known the thrill of three-dimensional high speed. Once tasted, that thrill remains with a pilot for the rest of his life. He climbs up on the high wing of the Corsair and lowers himself into the cockpit. The seat is a concave bowl of steel, designed to fit a packed parachute on which he sits. Between his backside and the parachute itself is a one-man dinghy, carefully stowed into a canvas case and attached to the parachute harness by a webbing lanyard. He straps himself, first, into the parachute harness, then into the safety harness. Now he dons his helmet and goggles and connects the R/ T lead and oxygen pipe. He’s ready to start up. In front and to either side are ranged the controls, levers, switches, dials—in all, about 110 of them. He goes through his check-off list … Magneto switches off. Control locks off; and check, too, that rudder, elevators and ailerons are all turning ‘the right way’ in response to movement of the controls. (They have been known to have been reversed, with dire consequences.) The wing-lock lever is in neutral and the manual lock engaged. Tail wheel unlocked. … The propeller control is in fully fine pitch. The angle of attack of the blades on the air is adjustable hydraulically; fully fine pitch, offering least resistance to the air, gives maximum horsepower and is always used for take-off. Once in flight, the coarser the angle, the lower the speed, the less wear and tear on the engine and the more economical its petrol consumption. (Consumption, as a matter of interest, is about 60 gallons per hour at cruising speed and no less than 100 at operational speeds.) Mixture control to full rich, to give the engine plenty of petrol to get her started. Elevator and aileron trimming tabs in neutral. Six degrees of right rudder trim. At maximum horsepower the engine torque is enormous and will try to tear the aircraft round to port. The pilot’s own strength on the rudder pedal would be insufficient to resist that force and the trimming tabs help him to overcome it. Cooling gills, round the front of the big radial engine, oil coolers and intercoolers open. Petrol cock turned on to main tank. This large container, holding 350 gallons, is surrounded by self-sealing material and is positioned immediately in front of the cockpit, behind the engine. All this sounds quite a handful. In fact, it took only a few seconds. Now the pilot confirms to the fitter, standing to one side below him, that the magneto switches are off. The fitter grasps the propeller blade nearest to him and rotates it once or twice ‘the wrong way’, blowing out; tough going, this, against the compression of 18 cylinders. Now he moves back and looks towards the pilot who turns on the master electrical switch, rendering all systems ‘live’. He gives the priming switch two or three short but decisive squirts, injecting a shot of neat petrol into the cylinders. Again he looks to his fitter, who signals to him that no one is standing within range of the great propeller. The pilot turns the magneto switches to ‘on’ and presses the starter switch, firing the Koffman starter which ignites a slowly expanding gas to hit the pistons under enormous pressure. The starter has a deep-throated tiger’s cough. It jerks the propeller into life, back-fires once, then settles into the comforting roar which signifies a good, clean, fire-free start. He moves the mixture control to auto-rich and advances the throttle to give 500 revs per minute on the rpm indicator. He leaves it there until the oil pressure gauge awakens and climbs to normal. Whilst waiting, he has another look around. Hydraulic pressure is normal. Oil temperature is rising to normal. The blind-flying ‘artificial horizon’ is dancing around slightly, showing that it, too, is awake and healthy. He switches on the radio and the crackling and unintelligible natter from miles away tells him that the set is functioning satisfactorily. At last the oil temperature and pressure gauges show normal. He opens up the throttle steadily to 1,000 revs and, keeping an eye on the rev counter, turns off one of the magneto switches. The revs drop by 50. He switches back to ‘Both’. A pause; then he turns off the other. Now the drop is only 30. Both are acceptable, for anything up to a loss of 100 is safe. Everything is OK for him to move. He throttles back and crosses and re-crosses his hands before his face. The fitter and rigger nip below the wing and behind the lethal propeller to pull away the wheel-chocks. The fitter gives a ‘thumbs-up’ sign. The pilot advances the throttle a little and taxies out to the downwind end of the airfield runway.

Today there would be at least a month of transition training before a pilot moved into a different aircaft. Back then?

After the Sabang operation, Joe Clifton from Saratoga and I exchanged aircraft for a local flight. It was my first experience of the Grumman Hellcat and, despite my fanaticism for the Corsair, I was certainly enamoured of it. Its cockpit was similarly roomy and efficiently laid out. Its performance, too, was much the same but in landing particularly I found it a lot safer and easier to handle largely, I think, because of its superior visibility and better stall characteristics.

Imagine an F-15 pilot just jumping into an F-18 for a $100 hamburger ($10,000 hamburger?) run!

Hanson does not describe anyone having qualms about killing enemies, even when an individual, such as a flak gunner, was targeted by strafing. War, it seems, came naturally to this group of young men.

We were searching out ahead, weaving all the time like bastards, when tracer flew past us, fired from astern. There in my mirror was an Oscar—it looked as though it was sitting on my elevators—with guns flashing along its wings. I had time neither to shout nor to break before it dived beneath us, only to reappear in a split second, pulling up in front of us, the length of two cricket-pitches away. We all heaved back on our sticks and gave it the works; no need for gunsights. The silly bastard was half-stalled, sitting there like a broken-down old whore. Its port aileron took off and sailed over our heads. What looked like a section of flap fell away to our right. Someone must have hit the engine. The aircraft fell, smoking, down on the port side and Matt Barbour must have nearly flown through it. God knows how he missed it. I yelled and did an aerobatic turn to port where another fighter—a Tojo?—was boring in. No—it was another Oscar. We gave it a long burst, tearing chunks out of the back end of the fuselage and tail section, and it sheered off to starboard. Jesus! Business was brisk and we were tearing around like frustrated virgins!

It must have been about 1630 as we crossed the town, flying at about 8,000 feet. Glory be! There was a parade ground! What was more, it was pretty full with all the licentious soldiery drawn up in serried ranks. One of the Corsair’s drawbacks as far as the enemy was concerned was that the exhaust roar from its 18 cylinders was all behind it. There was virtually no noise from the engine apparent until the aircraft was almost overhead. It was said that the Japanese called it the ‘whispering death’ for this reason. So when I decided to attack this juicy target, they broke formation only when it was too late for most of them to find cover. There were three possible angles from which to attack, only one of which was dangerous. After an afternoon of sheer frustration, monumental stupidity born of weariness and a touch of ‘twitch’ chose for me the route which in normal and more carefree times would clearly have indicated—‘ A sticky death this way’. In my eagerness to get in amongst it without losing the invaluable element of surprise, I gave the boys no warning at all. I banged the stick over to the right and down, leaving them to follow as best they could. It was providential that I did so, for had I led them down in an orderly formation, at least two of them would have bought it. As it was, they had scarcely made their move to follow me down when they realised that I had made a hash of things, giving them time to alter their own approach to something much safer and more airmanlike. Certainly I wrought a bit of death and destruction, there was no doubt about that. With that enhanced, falcon-like vision which fiercely pumped adrenalin produces at moments of high excitement, I could see soldiers fairly bouncing away from the sledgehammer impact of the .5 shells. It needed only a touch on the rudder-bar to cover square yards of the parade ground and there was a fair number of bodies lying motionless as I levelled out and pulled away. And then I saw it. Rising sharply from the back of the military area was a sheer cliff-like eminence which I had completely missed in my haste to get to ground level. Now, as I approached it at 300 knots, it looked like the North Wall of the Eiger. Taking my life in my hands I pulled on the stick for all I was worth. I can only remember thick streamers springing from my wingtips before I blacked out good and true. The black-out hit me like pentothal—there was no greying-out, no fuzziness. I went out like a light. When I recovered I was out at sea, climbing gently at about 150 knots, safe and sound. The others had formed up on me again and were gazing at me with uncomprehending eyes. Well they might. They had all been enthralled by the spectacle of their senior and most stupid bastard of an officer busily trying to kill himself.

Hanson crashes into the ocean during a landing mishap and is rescued by a destroyer. This turns out to have been common:

John Winton, in his book The Forgotten Fleet, now regarded as a classic history of the operations of the British Pacific Fleet, counts the casualties suffered by the Fleet Air Arm in the two operations [against an oil refinery in Indonesia]. Forty-one aircraft were lost from the four carriers: 16 in actual combat, 11 in ditchings near the Fleet and 14 from deck-landing crashes. As Winton says, this works out at roughly one aircraft for every ten sorties flown; and he adds his own significant commentary: ‘a casualty rate which would have made even Bomber Command flinch’. Against these losses, it was estimated that we had destroyed 68 enemy aircraft—38 on the ground and 30 in the air, not taking into account several ‘probables’. Palembang, whilst not completely destroyed, was effectively put out of the war for a long time to come.

Why don’t fighter pilots do a lot of damage by pressing the wrong buttons? It turns out that they do…

Coming in to land for the second time, I was clueless enough to forget to flick off the gun switches. Having taxied up to the forward round-down, switched off the engine and unharnessed myself, I heaved myself up to get out of the cockpit, pulling on the joystick with my right hand for a bit of assistance. My six guns roared out with a fine, uninhibited two-second burst. A destroyer keeping station on us two cables ahead promptly turned up the taps and proceeded to belt off at high speed in the general direction of Australia. I didn’t blame her for one moment. A seemingly endless succession of chunks of armour-piercing steel, half an inch in diameter and about two inches long, scudding smartly above one’s head is sufficient encouragement to push off for any destination—even Australia. I walked down the flight-deck wearing as nonchalant an expression as I could muster. But I couldn’t fool Captain Lambe. As I passed close beneath the flying bridge, trying to avoid attention, I heard ‘Hans!’ in unusually soft tones. I looked up. His face bore the suspicion of a grin and his right index finger beckoned me. He listened to my feeble excuse without interruption. Then: ‘I’m sure it’s easily done, Hans—probably too easily on a day like this has been. But you know, you really shouldn’t frighten people like that.

It seemed to Hanson that the war would last forever, but of course it did not:

The enemy had a seemingly endless supply of flak ammunition and the more aircraft we flew over his islands, the better his practice became. We drove ourselves to attack him through all the hours of daylight and he never failed to greet us with his withering fire of deceptively slow-climbing balls of red and green as the flak rose to bracket us.

[on the way home to England in 1945] The Port Said of those days abounded in touts of every description, probably exceeded only by those of Cairo. Hawkers roamed the streets with anything from hair-combs to ‘feelthy pictures’ and small boys of unbelievable precocity touted for the girls, usually ‘My sister! You come see my sister! Pink inside, just like white girl!’ The story was told of a ship’s Captain who, landing at one of the quays and striding purposefully for the administrative offices, was waylaid in such a manner by a scruffy little urchin. ‘Run away, little boy!’ said the Captain, testily. ‘It’s the harbour-master I want!’ ‘OK, Captain!’ was the unabashed retort. ‘OK! Come, please! Can arrange!’

What awaited us when we reached port [in England]? I don’t suppose many of us gave it a thought. So far as we knew, Illustrious would undergo a pretty thorough refit. We would probably find ourselves in some less exacting jobs for a spell—and then? Back to the Pacific without a doubt, for the subjugation of Japan itself promised to be another Thirty Years’ War. (The destruction of Hiroshima, however, to astound the world within a few short weeks, would resolve all our problems. It would also pose a bagful of new ones.)

More: read Carrier Pilot

Life onboard a carrier in World War II


From Norman Hanson’s Carrier Pilot:

Illustrious wasn’t merely an aircraft carrier. She was a legend, a ship which, in her short life, had already made history. Built by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness, she was launched on April 5 1939, commissioned on April 16 1940 and joined the Fleet at Spithead six weeks later. … a brief description of the ship; one of three of her class. The others were Victorious and Formidable. She had a nominal displacement of 23,000 tons, although it was popularly believed that additions and modifications had brought this to something nearer 30,000 tons. Three propellers, driven by turbines each developing 37,000 hp thrust her through the water at 31 knots. The centre propeller was situated directly forward of the rudder, whose action was thereby greatly enhanced. She could turn on a sixpence. The overall length was 740 feet, with a maximum flight-deck width of 95 feet. She was at once a mighty warship, a floating airfield and a seaborne anti-aircraft artillery regiment. Eighteen hundred officers and men lived within her steel walls.

To operate aircraft, the flight-deck was equipped with eight arrestor wires—strong steel hawsers stretched at intervals laterally across the deck. At each end they disappeared round pulleys through the armour-plated deck into the hangar, where they were wound round great spools on which tension, under hydraulic pressure, of varying strength according to the physical weight of aircraft being operated, could be imposed. As a wire was engaged by the aircraft’s arrestor hook, so the self-centring wire was pulled from the spools, decelerating the aircraft to a standstill. The G force exerted on the pilot was between two and three, depending upon which wire was engaged. Some 60 feet forward of the centre of the deck were two safety barriers (a euphemistic term which fooled nobody—to us they were crash barriers). These consisted of hinged steel stanchions at both sides of the deck, which were raised or lowered to allow for the passage of aircraft across them. They were connected by two steel hawsers of enormous strength, about three feet apart; and they themselves were linked together by three or four vertical hawsers, like a huge net. These hawsers, too, were capable of being stretched—though only slightly—under hydraulic tension. Six-ton aircraft at 70 knots appeared to go through No 1 barrier like a knife through butter; but it must have taken some of the way off them, for No 2 always brought them up solid. Forward on the port side was the hydraulic catapult, capable of launching an aircraft to flying speed within a matter of 100 feet.

Slick work, too, is demanded of the flight-deck parties. As soon as an aircraft hooks a wire, members of those parties must rush from the nets to disengage the wire, to allow the aircraft to taxi forward. The wire operator must quickly rewind the wire in readiness for the next landing; and the barrier operators must lower both barriers as soon as an aircraft is hooked and then re-erect them immediately the landed aircraft has taxied across them to the forward end of the deck. With every man concerned doing his job efficiently and with squadrons at peak performance, aircraft in our ship could take off at intervals of 12 seconds and land at the incredible rate of one aircraft every 22 seconds.

As far as aircraft maintenance was concerned, it was naturally the hangar where there was most activity. In temperate latitudes this armour-plated box, capable of holding 30-odd aircraft, was a pleasant enough workshop for the boys. In the tropics it was hell upon earth. In a daytime temperature of anything up to 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit, the slightest movement produced a stream of perspiration. When an aircraft was flown regularly without mishap, its servicing was a straightforward, uncomplicated procedure. Every 30 hours it underwent an ever-increasingly rigorous overhaul culminating—if it lasted long enough!—in a truly major one which was tantamount to taking the whole thing apart and re-building it. It was also subjected to a daily check—tyre pressures, oil, hydraulic and air pressures, the correct functioning of ignition, instruments, radio and guns. If an aircrew was fortunate and their aircraft was in the right place at the right time, this daily check could conveniently be carried out on the flight-deck. If they were not so lucky, however, the daily check had to be done in the hangar, that ill-lit, unbelievably noisy, unbearably hot dungeon where aircraft were lashed down cheek by jowl, surrounded by straining, swearing mechanics clad only in a pair of shorts—wringing wet from perspiration—and gym-shoes. Here they toiled, fuming at obstinate nuts, red-hot pipes and sparking plugs; and with the roll or pitch of the vessel calling constantly for a change of balance. Their hands never ceased to clear sweat from their eyes and within ten minutes their faces were covered in greasy filth and grime, rendering them almost unrecognisable.

Accidents were common:

In the early evening, off Alexandria, we were caught with our pants down when a German reconnaissance Ju 88 flew very high and fast over the Fleet. I cannot now remember if our radar boys had been asleep or if some blind spot in signal reception had caused us to fail to locate him. The fact remains that he was overhead when Wings scrambled the standby Corsair flight; tragically, too quickly for our young man Monteith. In his rush to become airborne, he failed to lock his wings properly in the ‘spread’ position, with the tragic result that, when he retracted his undercarriage as he passed over the destroyer screen, his wings folded and the aircraft plunged into the sea. He was only 20 and had become engaged, whilst at Stretton, to a charming young girl from his native Glasgow, who in that short time had captured all our hearts. It was a sad way to go.

The two main landing wheels of the Corsair were made of aluminium alloy and carried large tyres inflated to a pressure of 120 lb per square inch. To inflate these, our ratings used compressed air bottles of a pressure of 1,300 psi; not the sort of thing for children to play with. One rating—I think in Victorious—in recent weeks had inflated a tyre and had elected to guess its pressure rather than go to the trouble of fetching a pressure gauge. In fact, he had inflated the tyre to such a pressure that the wheel had broken in two under the strain. Half of it flew straight for his abdomen, cutting him neatly into two portions. Not surprisingly, he was very dead before he knew what had hit him. So the gipsy’s warning went out—don’t blow up tyres without having a pressure gauge in hand.

Weather could be unfriendly by Royal Caribbean standards:

Soon after we left Cape Town en route for Ceylon, the weather worsened and our met officer, Norman ‘Schooly’ Jenkins, began to look thoughtful. It seemed that a typhoon lay ahead of us, astride the Equator. Its position was foxing, for he couldn’t decide whether it would turn out to be a ‘north’ or a ‘south’. They have different patterns, according to which side of the Equator they occur. We spent two days and nights trying to dodge it, but it won in the end and on October 26 it hit us with all the force of Nature gone stark, staring mad. It continued to hammer us for three days and I have no desire to experience another. Everything about it was terrifying. The sky, for one thing, was a dull, yellow blanket that covered us from one horizon to the other. The wind: we had 115 knots blowing down the flight-deck. The seas: from my cabin, down aft near the stern of the ship, the waves could be heard hitting the bows like the blows of a sledgehammer. The ship’s speed was pulled down to the minimum, just sufficient to keep her head into wind. We crawled along and took fearful punishment. The sailors up in the forepart were sick in their hundreds; and, as no one could possibly survive on the weather-decks, a breath of fresh air was out of the question. Our deck-park of 14 aircraft required continual vigilance and sailors were held by lifelines as they moved gingerly from the island on to the deck to fix and check extra lashings. The wind was actually turning the propellers of these aircraft—and that against the compression of 18 cylinders! Everyone had to use the starboard passage to reach the island and to stand on the compass platform was an awesome experience. Outside was a mad, mad world of elements gone crazy, where the noise of the wind was that of the endless high-pitched whistle of a steam locomotive. On the evening of the third day the sky began to clear. Next morning we had sunshine, although the sea still retained its gigantic, terrifying swell. Two off-duty Petty Officers, sitting on the forward round-down in the agreeable sunshine after being so depressingly cooped up in the bowels of the ship, were swept away by a gigantic wave of 50 or 60 feet. One was never seen again. The other one, luckier, fetched up in the forward starboard gun turrets with broken ribs and limbs.

True heroism is not always appreciated:

One act of cold-blooded courage must be recorded. When the Kamikaze appeared, we had two Corsairs ranged on the centre line, all set for take-off. Churchill was leading, Parli astern of him, both with engines turning and ready to go. Suddenly the after 4.5-inch guns commenced to fire, simultaneously with a red warning over the Tannoys. The two pilots ‘baled out’ and, together with the mechanics who had been holding the chocks, ran to the island for cover. The steady, shattering thump of the 4.5s, ear-splitting in the painful explosions from their muzzles, and the whip-like crack of the Bofors and Oerlikons on all sides made incoherent all thought and speech. Parli, on leaving his aircraft, had found time to pull the mixture control back to ‘automatic cut-off’ which stopped the engine instantly. Churchill hadn’t lingered and the engine of his Corsair was still ticking over at about 300 revs. Now the engine’s vibration, the tremor of the deck as the gunfire shook the ship and, finally, the ship’s leap into the air as the suicider exploded—all these proved sufficient to dislodge the aircraft’s chocks; and the Corsair slowly moved forward and slightly to port. In a matter of seconds it would reach the port nets and plunge over them into the sea. £ 75,000, apart from any injuries it might cause on its way. There might be Kamikazes about, although I couldn’t see any as I emerged on to the flight-deck. All I could see were shells exploding at a great height and a strung-out flight of Hellcats tearing upwards towards a bank of cumulus way up above us. A tug on my sleeve brought me back to ground level. From the door to the island, where he had sought shelter, came Demaine, our high-diving electrician, running swiftly towards the moving Corsair, completely disregarding Kamikaze and gunfire. He leapt on to the wing and climbed into the cockpit, where he managed to hit the foot-brakes in the nick of time, just as the wheels reached the three-inch deck-edge. He switched off the engine and sat there, cool as a cucumber, until two lads ran across with sets of chocks. I tried in vain to get a DSM for him, for his was a deed of true bravery in the middle of an action. He was, however, mentioned in despatches which showed at least that his courage had been recognised by the hierarchy.

The financial destruction of war (and wealth transfer to military contractors) was apparent to the young aircrews. A verse from one of their songs:

When the batsman gives ‘Lower’ I always go higher;
I drift off to starboard and prang my Seafire.
The chaps up in goofers all think I am green,
But I get my commission from Supermarine!

More: read Carrier Pilot.

My Trump-hating friends are delighted about the French Trump?


My Facebook friends are excited about the election of a new leader in a country with the same level of manufacturing output as one city in China.

France rejects extremism: a proud day for France and for Europe.

Here’s to you and the election in France. Listen to macron’s speech, got about 90 percent of it despite my really broken French… and started crying… Vive Le France

Congrats to France. I love your country and can’t wait to return.

Merci, la France. Grateful for the French nation’s collective sanity. A potential refuge for expat Americans should things go even more sour here? [what better lifestyle than gringo in Bordeaux? (“Gringeaux”?) Note that this move would likely be unwise for a potential American divorce, alimony, or child support plaintiff (French family law is a whole different animal)]

Obviously in style this Macron guy is different from King Donald I. What about substance? Trump proposes cutting the U.S. corporate tax rate to 15 percent. Add in a state tax, e.g., California’s of 8.84 percent, and a company would be paying close to 25 percent. Trump says that the government has too many employees and could function as well or better with a smaller headcount.

How does that compare to Macron? TIME says the following:

his campaign promises, which include cutting 160,000 positions in France’s mammoth public-service sector, cutting corporate taxes from 33% to 25%, and cutting the huge payroll taxes, which economists (like Macron) believe keep companies from hiring more people.

Readers: if we strip away empty rhetoric, are Macron and Trump actually proposing the same changes? If so, and Facebookers love Macron and hate Trump, does that prove that empty rhetoric is all that matters for political success?

Transgender hostility disguised as sensitivity?


I called to make an appointment with a doctor. This being the U.S., since I wasn’t bleeding out at the time of the phone call, the appointment was for three weeks in the future. Listening to my voice and learning that my first name is “Philip,” the receptionist asked “Do you identify as male or female?”

Initially I thought “What a wonderfully sensitive medical office.” Then it occurred to me that I had been given only two gender ID options and therefore the question was offensive to those who identify as neither male nor female. Furthermore, since the appointment was three weeks in the future, to respond those with fluid gender, the receptionist should have asked “What’s your best estimate of your gender ID at the end of May?”

Aircraft carrier training in World War II


From Norman Hanson’s Carrier Pilot:

After training on American aircraft, it was now necessary to make a few minor adjustments to the mechanics of flying. Instead of applying hydraulic brakes with the upper part of the rudder pedals, we now operated air brakes with a lever incorporated in the joystick. The engine power gauge was no longer calibrated in ‘inches of mercury’; on British aircraft the measurement was in ‘pounds of boost’. (Both systems, incidentally, gave an indication of the pressure of the combustible air/ petrol mixture being forced through the carburettor venturi.) The ‘turn-and-bank’ indicator was no longer ‘needle-and-ball’. Now it comprised two needles.

A deck-landing must be safe, slow and in a ‘nose-up, tail-down’ attitude, primarily to ensure a slow approach and also to facilitate the picking-up of an arrestor wire by the aircraft’s arrestor hook. Approaching to land in this attitude calls for a considerable amount of engine power, maintained until the last moment when the batting officer gives the mandatory signal—CUT!—by crossing the bats before his face. There were, of course, no arrestor wires on the runways on which we practised; but there was an area marked approximately to the length of a carrier’s flight-deck on which landings are made. Into this area the instructor aimed to bring us to touch-down. His signals were simple enough to follow: Bats held horizontally: ‘You’re doing fine—just keep it like that.’ Bats held upwards in a V pattern: ‘You’re too low—put on more throttle to gain height.’ Bats held downwards in an inverted V: ‘Now you’re too high—reduce throttle a bit.’ Both bats rotated: ‘You’re becoming too slow—put on more urge!’ One bat held out, the other concealed behind his back: ‘You’re too fast—go easy on the throttle!’ Left arm raised 45 degrees above the horizontal, right arm lowered: ‘You’re not lined up on the deck—come to port!’ Right arm raised 45 degrees above the horizontal, left arm lowered: ‘You’re too far to port—come to starboard!’ Bats crossed before the face: ‘Cut the throttle!’

The drill was quite simple. Argus had six arrestor wires strung across the after end of the deck. She had no ‘island’ in the accepted sense, only a rather comical structure somewhat reminiscent of a submarine’s conning tower at the forward port side of the deck, which could be raised or lowered at will. She had no crash barriers. Instead, standing near the island was a very brave young officer who vigorously waved a red flag if an aircraft failed to engage any of the wires with its arrestor hook. The pilot was thus energetically exhorted to open the throttle and take off again, to make another circuit and another approach to the deck. We were each to do six landings, preceded by two dummy runs with the wires in the down position and with arrestor hooks up. The batsman would bring us on as though for a normal landing and, at the last moment, would then wave us off. After the second of these dummy runs, if satisfied with his performance, the pilot would waggle his wings. Thus he signified that his next approach would be ‘for real’ with hook down, to be batted into the wires for a landing. Jimmy Robertson and Bill Laidlaw duly did their six in copybook style without any trouble. Then Johnny Adams climbed out of the ‘nets’ and walked across to the Fulmar, where a fitter was reloading the magazine with starter cartridges. Johnny was resplendent in a new suit of flying overalls—black, with Royal Navy buttons. It was very much the ‘in’ thing at the time and had been duly admired as it was the first one we had seen. He climbed into the cockpit. His two dummy runs were classic. He waggled his wings as he went over the bows for the third time and we saw him drop his hook as he came down wind on his circuit. He had less than two minutes to live. In the last 200 yards to the deck, he drifted to port ever so slightly. The batsman slanted his bats to correct him, more and more energetically as Johnny failed to react. As the aircraft came in over the side of the deck and supported only by fresh air, the batsman dropped for his life—and we, standing in the nets, dropped with him. The port wheel went into the nets, and the Fulmar, at about 65 knots, slewed to port and fell into the sea. As she went, we could see Johnny making the greatest and last mistake of his life; he was casting off his harness and climbing out of the cockpit. Then he and the Fulmar were gone. An attendant corvette came up at the rush and hove-to over the spot. Only Johnny’s helmet rose to the surface—nothing else. He had been married just three days earlier.

More:  Carrier Pilot

Avni Khatri wins at the 2017 Women in Open Source Award


If you voted for Avni Khatri (see Women in Open Source Award) you’ll be pleased to know that she was one of two winners at the 2017 event.

Avni does so much good that the rest of us can be completely selfish! By day she is at Amazon, making our lives easier through software. By night and on her vacation days she is in Mexico helping kids in Internet-free areas gain access to offline Wikipedia, etc.

Life as a carrier-based pilot in World War II


The intersection of people who can write and people who can fly is a much larger set in England than in the U.S. Based on my history of reading books by or about Louis Zamperini, Amazon suggested that I read Norman Hanson’s Carrier Pilot. I’ll devote a few posts to this book.

On a 1938 family visit to Germany, the person who would set in motion Hanson’s career as a military pilot didn’t seem too scary:

However , on the following day we saw some indications of the coming conflict as we watched , in awed silence , a brigade moving up the left bank on its way to the Eifel area . Everything was there — motorised infantry , artillery , tanks , camp kitchens , AA guns , anti – tank weapons and ambulances ; all moving on pneumatic tyres at 30 mph . My brother’s only comment — he was currently engaged in building airfields in the south of England — was that our own manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain with cavalry , horse – drawn vehicles and the usual leisurely approach of peace – time Britain to matters military , seemed pretty silly by comparison . That very morning , too , we had seen Jews scrubbing pavements in Cologne’s shopping streets , supervised and encouraged with the occasional kick in the ribs by large , fat characters dressed in khaki . Wearing black jack – boots and swastika armbands , they carried cudgels in a manner which suggested that they hadn’t learnt that sort of thing in Sunday School . But we were young and carefree , with plenty of good , solid British pound – notes to change into cheap Reichmarks ; and food and drink — everything , in fact — was cheap enough in Germany in 1938 . We considered Hitler to be a rather comical character who took himself frightfully seriously and did the hell of a lot of bawling ; but hardly a major contender for the European Handicap . How wrong can you be ?

Today, 27 years on the planet is seldom sufficient to move out of one’s parents’ home. Back then, 27 was too old:

A batch of forms fell from the envelope ; and each one was stamped in large capitals — PILOT OR OBSERVER . I handed them to my wife Kathleen without a word . ‘ You ? ’ she said with a grin . ‘ You , at your age ? I thought you said you were going to be a mechanic ? ’ I had to believe her . In my own eyes , I certainly didn’t fit in at all with the image of an aircraft pilot . For one thing , I was approaching 27 . I wasn’t one of the eagle – eyed , dashing young daredevils who were already writing history in the skies over London .

Hanson goes to Florida to train with U.S. Navy cadets. You couldn’t fall behind in ground school because there was a written test every week. Also two hours of physical training every day (why do we think we can get into shape on less time than this?).

The basic aircraft — our trainer — was the N3N – 3 , a 235 hp dual – controlled biplane , built by the US Navy. It was remarkably uncluttered and had fixed undercarriage and no flaps.

The instrumentation was simple enough. A ‘needle-and-ball’—an Americanism for a turn-and-bank indicator; a ‘rate of climb’, in feet per minute; an altimeter; an instrument which showed how much power the engine was exerting, calibrated in inches of mercury; a simple compass; an oil pressure gauge; and, probably from our point of view, the most important, an airspeed indicator. To stay alive, you must keep an aircraft flying above its stalling speed. If you drop below that danger mark the aircraft will, with a degree of rapidity which varies according to the particular type of aeroplane, go into a spin. You will then be in lots of trouble and all you can do is to call on your experience. The snag is that, as a learner, you haven’t got any. The instructor occupied the front seat where he had a duplicate set of controls and instruments. He had a rear-view mirror—and a good instructor spends most of his time, in the initial stages, watching you through it. He wants to see that you are enjoying flying. If you don’t, there is no point in carrying on. You either love it or you don’t—there are no half-measures. And if you don’t fall in love with it at the very outset you are wasting your time and everybody else’s in trying to get used to the idea. The only sensible thing to do is to walk away from it and take up embroidery or flower arranging. You will be much happier and you won’t kill either yourself or anyone else. The instructor also had a speaking tube, known in the US Navy as a Gosport, for all the world like a length of flexible gas-tubing, with a mask and mouthpiece for him to speak through and a pair of earphones at your end. He could, therefore, chat to you until he was blue in the face in the comfortable knowledge that you couldn’t argue. In the business of learning to fly, there is only one guy who should be doing the talking—and he shouldn’t do any more than is strictly necessary.

The cockpits of those days, of course, were open; and flying hasn’t been the same since lids were put over them. The beating roar of the engine and the rush of the slipstream from 120 knots were music to my ears. After a while Culp told me to place hands and feet lightly on the controls and to ‘follow him through’ several gentle manoeuvres: straight climbs and glides, level turns, turning climbs and glides. He then told me to try some myself. The results were most ham-fisted. As in learning to drive a car, everyone overcontrols to begin with. Then the period was up. Learning to fly is a mentally exhausting business in the early stages and a little goes the hell of a long way. But no sooner are you down than you itch to be off again. It becomes an obsession.

Instrument flying hadn’t yet been idiot-proofed by the GPS and moving map:

We sweated for hours and hours under the hood of a ground-based Link trainer, practising ‘flying’ on radio beams, making timed approaches to ‘airfields’ and controlled let-downs in simulated bad weather. Then we were off in a Harvard dual trainer, sitting in the rear cockpit with a hood over us, preventing even a chink of light from reaching us. The instructor, acting also as safety pilot, sat in front. He flew the aircraft until we were within radio distance of a small civil airfield; then turned on our radio and left us to it. We had to find the beam, track down it at the right altitude and speed; and finally to put the aircraft in an exact position to let down on to the duty runway. Our ears had to make sense of the radio signals flowing in to them. We had to read our instruments and stopwatch intelligently. And our hands and feet had to transmit all this correlated information to the aircraft controls. This time we were listening to real live radio and aiming for a real live airfield. No Link trainer nonsense! Flying blind made great demands on concentration; keeping at steady heights on steady courses at set speeds; listening, listening all the time to the high-pitched drone of the beam; losing it, finding it again. Then doing the let-down, feverishly watching the stopwatch, trying to keep an even rate of descent; getting the correct beam for final approach, crossing the ‘cone of silence’. Now! Airfield ahead! Waggle your wings! The instructor snapped up the blind-flying hood. Is the airfield ahead? Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. This time, nothing but the Gulf of Mexico as far as the eye could see. Last time it had been a forest. Christ! Where did I go wrong? ‘OK, OK, I got it. We’ll go out north again and have another crack at it.’

How did sex and money intersect before Florida’s child support guidelines established an official price for out-of-wedlock sexual encounters?

After a quiet drinking session one night at the Battle House Hotel in Mobile, we decided at midnight that it was time we started to wend our way back to the station, using the method by which we had come—hitch-hiking. The four of us stood on the pavement of the main street, in the direction of Pensacola, and waved our thumbs. A big open Oldsmobile cruised to a standstill. ‘Pensacola, boys? OK, climb aboard!’ The driver, a man of about 45 years of age, was cheerful—nay, downright jovial. This was not surprising considering the amount of alcohol he seemed to have put away. His joviality was somewhat blurred and his driving slightly erratic. He crawled along for a minute or two, then stopped again. ‘Hey! Any o’ you fellers want a piece of ass before we get going? On me, boys—my treat. How’s about it?’ What on earth was a ‘piece of ass’? We looked dumb—he thought so, too. ‘You Limeys don’t know what a piece of ass is? You don’t want a jump? Hell! You know! A woman! A good whore! How’s about it?’ To a man we declined. His opinion of Limeys had hit an all-time low. What sort of fellers were these? ‘Well, I’m having me a blow-through before I leave town. Only keep you waiting ten minutes, boys. Hey! Officer!’ (This to a policeman, patrolling the street.) ‘Hey! Officer! Where’s the nearest whorehouse?’ The policeman wasn’t at all put out by the request, the inflammable breath or the bleary bloodshot eyes. ‘Second left, third house on the left. Good house, too. OK?’ We drove down. He pulled up the car with a screech of brakes outside the brothel; a good-looking three-storey house in a nice enough district. ‘Sure you won’t join me in a piece of ass, boys? Round your evening off nicely.’ He leered. Then he stood up in the car. ‘Hey! Mother! Bring out your whores! Bring out your whores!’ He was bawling at the top of his voice. ‘Goddammit! Woman! Bring out them whores, for Chrissake!!’ I wondered how much longer he would create a disturbance before someone did something about it. Then suddenly a first-floor window opened. A middle-aged woman, hair in curlers, stuck out her head. Her voice was equally refined. ‘Now you just git the hell out o’ this. My girls have had a long, hard day and they’re all tuckered out! Git the hell out of it!’ ‘Ah! The hell! You just git them whores o’ yours down again and open this goddam door! I’ve bin pinin’ for a piece of ass for the last two hours and I just ain’t goin’ home!’ ‘Mister, you can just fuck off. All my gals are in bed and you ain’t gonna see one of ’em!’

Florida was already home to, um, gentlemen’s clubs:

Pettigrew and I were at the Villa Venice, one of the better night-clubs on the Beach, with a very good, well-dressed floor show. We had sat through two shows but Jim, whose whole world revolved round girlies, insisted on seeing the third and last performance. … The last show gave him his chance, for the girls appeared clad only in wonderful head-dresses, gauntlets, high-heeled shoes and G-strings. Jim shook me back to life. ‘They’re on.’ So they were. And Jim was right—she was a honey. Blonde, about 19; and everything came out and went back again in exactly the right places. She smiled at him and made his day. We were cold and shivering outside, despite our greatcoats. … Eventually she emerged, looking lovely enough to eat. Her hair under the lamplight was beautiful. She wore a mink coat which she must have earned the hard way. Her legs beneath it were the pride of Florida. As Jim moved towards her, she declaimed—from 20 yards, in a rasping voice which can’t have done a thing for Jim’s ego: ‘It’ll cost you 30 bucks!’ It must have been a hard life for a high-kicker in Miami. ‘Thirty bucks?’ said Jim, incredulously. ‘Thirty bucks? Jesus! I only want to borrow it, not buy it!’ She swept past us with a look of contempt. Her perfume and the swish of her mink wafted over me. Strange things, girls, I thought. And how bloody awful to be so hard at 19! Already she must be sick to death of men. She isn’t young any more. Boys, young men, have been left far behind, and the wallets of the well-to-do—men of any age, shape or colour—are her only interest.

Society was stratified in more obvious ways (though very likely less segregated):

We boarded a bus in Pensacola town one afternoon—five or six of us—to go out to some beauty spot on the coast. We clambered in, saw the back seat—right across the full width of the bus—completely unoccupied and, naturally enough, parked ourselves in it. Departure time came and went. No activity. Then one of us asked a passenger in front of us what was the cause of the holdup. ‘The driver’s waiting for you to get off that seat,’ said the lady addressed. ‘This seat? Why? What’s wrong with it?’ ‘That seat’s for black folks.’ ‘Well—there aren’t any on board.’ ‘Don’t matter. That seat’s for black folks and that driver ain’t gonna go ’til you boys gets off it.’ Sure enough, as soon as we stood, the bus departed. We called that just plain bloody ridiculous! Now, in Miami, we found things even more droll. Blacks had to clear the streets of the Beach by a certain time each evening and get off to their shanty town outside Miami City—a curfew, if you like. The segregation wasn’t confined to blacks and whites either. Miami provided visible signs of segregation between Jews and Gentiles, which surprised us even more. The first sign I saw was a black-and-white painted noticeboard outside the main entrance to a fashionable golf club on Miami Beach where I was invited to play. It read, starkly and uncompromisingly, GENTILES ONLY ALLOWED HERE. There were night clubs and restaurants similarly labelled.

After inverted spins in Pensacola, Hanson was released to fighter training per se.

Some 14 miles north of Miami lay the Navy’s airfield at Opa Locka, its fighter training station. So far, our progress; had brought us to the stage where we could fly an aircraft. Now we were to learn to use it as a lethal weapon of war. We trained hard, too; eight days without a break, and with a fine disregard for Sundays. At the end of eight days, peace descended for a while with one full night of liberty and the whole of the following day until 9.30 pm. The North American Harvard—SNJ-3 in US Navy terminology—was the first aircraft we used for this fighter course. We liked this modern advanced trainer; all-metal, dual-controlled and highly manoeuvrable. It was fully equipped with retractable undercarriage, constant-speed propeller and flaps. The 700 hp engine pulled the Harvard along in great style and in fully fine pitch for take-off it gave a screaming whine which no one could fail to recognise. It should be said at this stage that, in a matter of a week or two, our flying had rapidly become more sophisticated. For one thing, with heavier and more powerful aircraft, whose higher wing-loading would not permit them to maintain a glide with the same ease or for anything like the distance of a lighter aircraft with lower wing-loading, it became necessary to make powered approaches and landings. Instead of cutting the throttle as the final crosswind turn was made, engine power was maintained, propeller pitch was adjusted to give increased revolutions and flaps were lowered by ever-increasing degrees until the ‘flare-out’ point was reached.

By day, we covered all aspects of fighter training: ground strafing on semi-submerged rocks off the coast; air-to-air firing on drogues towed over the Everglades; gun camera attacks on individual aircraft or on simulated bomber formations, flown by our own classmates. We persevered more and more with formation flying, but now in much more open formation, giving us time and space to search for ‘enemy’ aircraft. Close formation is pretty and impressive at air displays, but hopeless for fighters avidly looking for enemies. Then we started the course all over again. We graduated to Brewster Buffaloes (F2A), fighters which had lately been discarded by the US fleets as obsolete. They were short, chunky machines with a 1,200 hp Wright Cyclone engine.

In other words, kids who had just recently learned the basics were flying 1,200 hp taildraggers!

More: read Carrier Pilot.

Does the health care bill that the House passed result in more or less liberty?


The U.S. sometimes brands itself as Land of Liberty (TM). Obamacare cut that way back for individuals and employers, who were now required to purchase products from the insurance industry (and therefore, indirectly, from the U.S. healthcare industry), even if they didn’t want those products. Health insurance companies lost the liberty to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, right? But they retained the liberty to withdraw from the Obamacare exchanges and write coverage only to groups?

What about this latest bill? It seems to restore liberty to individuals and employers, but does it take away liberty from insurers? Are they now required to sell insurance to people who are already ridiculously sick? Or can they withdraw from the individual market, at least, and say “we’re only underwriting groups”?

Neither Obamacare nor the new proposed system gives an American living in State X the liberty to purchase insurance from a company in State Y, correct?

I’ve scanned some news articles and Facebook and nobody seems interested in this perspective. Does that mean it is the wrong perspective? Another thing that seems missing from the articles is the idea that we could spend money on something other than health care. If we spend 17 percent of GDP instead of 20 percent, for example, there are mostly “losers” who don’t get certain health care services. There is no discussion of how Americans might be “winners” because now we have 3 percent of GDP to spend on things that we value more than these additional health care services. Less spending = more losers.


  • my 2009 health care reform proposal (kind of similar to the UK, except that the government doesn’t run hospitals/HMOs directly; citizens don’t have the liberty to refuse to pay taxes, but they do have the liberty to buy whatever health care services they want if they don’t like what they get as a default from the government)

Dumb question: How can a computer manufacturer troubleshoot a laptop if the hard drive is encrypted?


I was unwise enough to purchase a Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (see previous postings: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review (Bluetooth, touchscreen, and WiFi failures) and How can a computer company lose data that it gathered only a minute earlier?). After more than 20 hours of technical support efforts via phone and remote login they came up with the idea of me shipping the $2,400 doorstop back to them. This process is supposed to take 2 business days where they decide whether or not to provide “express” or “standard” service (2+ weeks). So if you call them on a Friday and they decide on express/regular on the following Tuesday, the computer doesn’t leave your house until Wednesday. [In the case of this particular XPS 13, however, I called Dell on a Sunday and they didn’t make up their mind on the express/standard issue until Thursday (and even then they didn’t supply return labels), so a minimum of one week was spent in limbo.]

Let’s suppose that this computer eventually does land on a technician’s desk. Given that the hard drive is encrypted with my Windows password/fingerprint, how can it be debugged? The touchscreen, trackpad, Bluetooth, WiFi, and stuck-in-tablet-mode failures tended to be intermittent and were often fixed (temporarily) by a reboot, suggesting that they were software-/driver-related. What can a technician do without the consumer’s password? Test each component individually and say “no fault found” and box the computer back up? Aren’t they actually in a better position to debug a problem if they can remotely log in and poke around with Windows running?

Louis Zamperini on recovering from trauma


Hundreds of thousands of Americans endured experiences during World War II that are unimaginable by our modern standards. Louis Zamperini explains how people thought about recovery at the time. From Devil at My Heels:

TO HELP POWS readjust, the army passed out a small red pamphlet published by the Army Air Forces Headquarters, at the command of General Hap Arnold, for “distribution to AAF returnees.” Titled Coming Home, it had simple graphics and straightforward, friendly language. Here’s how it began:

Good? Bad? Mixed up? Or can’t you tell? That’s O.K., though. It’s exactly the way thousands of men have felt who have come back ahead of you. Some of them wanted to talk it over. But some of them didn’t even want to think about their feelings. If that’s the way you feel right now, it’s perfectly all right; don’t turn another page. We suggest that you stick this away in your flight bag or some other place where you can get at it later. It may come in handy.

The story followed a typical soldier, John Brown, through his home-coming, through the fear, the strange feelings of having changed, of being treated differently, and gave tips on how to go along and get along. The advice pretty much came down to this:

No matter how much help John Brown got, though, in the final analysis it was up to him. The real, permanent solution, he found, lies with the individual man himself. But it sure is a big help to understand what is going on inside and why.

Zamperini doesn’t recovery well at first:

ME? I FOUND my own way of “controlling” the hate that had revealed itself as recurring nightmares about the Bird. I’d had the same angry dreams in prison camp, but there I also had to deal with the horrible reality of his presence, meaning that awake or asleep I couldn’t get away from Watanabe. Even after my release, when I was caught up in the excitement of going home, the dreams didn’t stop. I kept hoping they’d pass, but when they didn’t, my solution was alcohol. I thought if I got drunk enough, I’d sleep like a baby.

To dull the pain and memories, I roamed from bar to bar accepting drinks on the house or from bighearted strangers. I told my stories and wallowed in the term “war hero” until I actually believed it myself.

ON THE SURFACE I looked like I was having the time of my life, but the laughs were more and more a cover-up for the conflicts and tensions I’d brought home from the Pacific. After being confined to a raft, then a makeshift dungeon, and finally a series of prison camps, I was less and less able to sit still or tolerate a quiet moment.

I should have reread my Coming Home pamphlet, which described my symptoms exactly. Memories of war kept running around my head. I couldn’t concentrate. I tossed all night. And yet I had so much nervous energy I couldn’t slow down. The section on fear was especially relevant— in my case fear of what to do with my life, of personal failure, of not being able to run again, of the media sobering up long enough to realize that despite my running trophies, war medals, and headlines, I was just a guy who’d done nothing more heroic than live.

It turned out to be Christianity, as explained by Billy Graham, that enabled Zamperini’s recovery. The forgiveness process was complete within five years following the end of the war and Zamperini returned to Japan to forgive his tormentors and spread the word about Christianity.

[at a prison for war criminals] I gave my usual talk but never with more conviction. When I came to the part about how I’d been treated in Japanese prison camps, I again thought to temper the details and emotions so as not to appear too angry, but I didn’t because otherwise my forgiveness would lack true meaning. Afterward, I invited the men to become Christians and asked for a show of hands. Sixty percent raised them high. “This will in no way shorten your sentence,” I explained. “I am not a part of the army and not part of SAC headquarters. It will not help you that way in the least.” Then I asked for hands again. Some who had been tempted or misunderstood withdrew, but many others in search of a new life persisted. The colonel said, “Those of you who were Louie’s guards and heads of his prison camps, he’d like to speak with you. You may come forward if you wish. Without hesitation they did. The moment had finally arrived. I waited onstage, watching men walk down the aisle and faces emerge from the mists of memory. I recognized each vividly: Sasaki, Admiral Yokura, Conga Joe, Shithead, Weasel, Hata the cook, Kano, and others. But not the Bird. Without even thinking I jumped off the stage, ran to the group, and threw my arm around the first guard. He pulled back at my friendliness; I don’t think he understood my intention. My sign of affection was unfamiliar in Japanese culture. It was probably also the last reaction he expected from me. The colonel ushered us into a small room. There I continued to press the issue of salvation, and a few made a decision for Christ, but others didn’t understand or rejected my invitation, particularly the Quack, the medic from Ofuna who had so badly beaten Bill Harris. He remained a committed Buddhist. During my talk I had praised guards like Kano, who had treated us kindly, like human beings. And yet here he was in the room, a prisoner. I couldn’t understand why. When I asked, he explained that despite letters written by former POWs attesting to his kindness, he had been confused with the sadistic Kono and sentenced to several years. I told him I would try to help.

Admiral Yokura’s file indicated he was a kind, personable guy. I’d met him at Ofuna and again at Omori. When I read the transcripts of his trial, it shocked me. The evidence showed him innocent of every accusation. On the next-to-the-last page it said, “Innocent”— and yet the final page read, “Sentence: 10 years.”

Zamperini on old age:

EVEN THOUGH I no longer ran, I made it my priority to stay in shape. Today [2003, age 86] I’m still in great condition. I fly planes, ski doublediamond runs, trail-bike, and climb, though I gave up skateboarding a few years ago, just to be on the safe side. To this day, people ask me how, after all I’ve been through, I managed to do it. It’s a valid question. I say I eat right and exercise— both are necessary and true— but really, it’s all about attitude. The war, the raft, prison camp, drinking— they took ten years off my life. I simply made up my mind to get those ten years back.


What I’ve learned is that the more you help people, the longer you live. The good feelings are a healing process. If you’re madly in love, the same thing happens. I could go into depth about this, but let’s just say that you get flooded with white corpuscles and it boosts your immune system. You’ll even get over a cold more quickly. I haven’t been sick for twenty years. Call my life charmed, and I would agree. At almost ninety-four years old I am an example of the blessings of a beneficial lifestyle that is a combination of exercise, diet, cheerful attitude, and charity.

Today [2011, age 94] I am licensed, accomplished, or an expert in eighty-four fields: Scuba diving and skiing instructor. Lifeguard. Glacier climber, skier. Flier.

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