Thursday, October 06, 2005
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Mr. Ventolo is the former curator for the USAF museum at Wright Patterson AFB and co-wrote a couple of books with Jeannette Remak including A-12 Declassified about the very type of aircraft we're trying to save from the USS Intrepid. Joe spoke about the reasons for Archangel #122 winding up on the Intrepid, along with the various difficulties in enforcing the loan agreement with the USAF museum which governs how the aircraft is to be cared for. More on that later...
Joe's presentation included pictures which you've seen on this blog which drew gasps from the assembled Road Runners. Actually, he didn't even need the pictures. Joe was recounting the very beginnings of the effort to save #122. Jeannette Remak had contacted him to advise the USAF museum of the plight of the aircraft. There were problems with water entering the aircraft through the open refuelling door, pooling in the engine spaces (no engines back there now), the pitot had been broken off, and a maintenance stand which was placed to allow the public to view the cockpit was impacting the airframe as it bounced under the weight of the visitors. At every detail you could hear the assembled Road Runners, the very men who had designed, built, flew, and maintained this aircraft, groan with emotion at the tragic state that it had fallen into.
Efforts were made to bring #122 back to her former glory and plans were made for periodic maintenance. Things were looking up until a change of management on Intrepid, but more on that later as well...
I have to apologize for neglecting this blog and this cause for as long as I have. To those who have visited and signed the guestbook or emailed the SaveArchangel122 Team, I apologize to you especially. I had thought that I had made the appropriate arrangements to forward the emails from that account to my normal account which I check at least daily. I have corrected those problems now and I will make sure to reply much more promptly in the future!
Make no mistake, Archangel #122 WILL BE SAVED!!! We will not tire, we will not falter, we will succeed. Archangel #122 is too important of a piece of history to be left to rot in salty air. She defended us during the cold war and it is now our turn to preserve, protect, and defend her and her legacy. If her current home cannot or will not do this, then it is our duty to do it for them!
Please send your thoughts on the subject to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the links on the front page of this blog to contact the Intrepid Museum and the USAF museum. Let's save Archangel #122!
Monday, May 30, 2005
To see larger versions of one of the pictures above, just click on it and it will open in a new window. As always, thanks for taking the time to read our blog!
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Have a look at their web page for A-12 #122, http://www.intrepidmuseum.org/intrepidmuseum/aircraft/item.php?id=2. Do you notice anything wrong here? I saw a few things and Jeannette showed me a few that I had missed.
The A-12 Blackbird was the fastest, highest-altitude manned aircraft in the
world when it first flew in 1962. Three decades later, it still is.
I noticed one big problem with this statement. The problem is that they claim that it still is the fastest, highest flying manned aircraft. I now refer you to Space Ship One, designed and constructed by Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites. Space Ship One is manned, flew to outer space and back (much higher than a Blackbird), and at about the same speed as an A-12. Back in the 1960s there was another manned aircraft that also flew higher and faster than the A-12 - the X-15. The X-15 reached speeds in excess of Mach 6 and altitudes of over 300,000 feet. The major difference is that the A-12 "breathes air" or uses atmospheric oxygen, while Space Ship One uses nitrous oxide and rubber for propulsion with the nitrous providing the oxygen for combustion. The X-15 used liquid fueled rocket motors which didn't need atmospheric oxygen for operation. Because it used the oxygen in the air rather than oxygen in its fuel, the A-12 had a much longer operational range than either of these other airplanes. Several other distinctions set the A-12 apart from the X-15 and Space Ship One. While both of these other manned aircraft have flown higher and (in the case of the X-15) faster than the A-12, neither were operaional aircraft. The A-12 flew regular missions where Mach 3+ at over 80,000 feet were the normal cruising speed and altitude. This was done day in and day out as a normal part of operating these aircraft. The X-15 and Space Ship One were both experimental aircraft with specific testing goals to be accomplished on each flight. Those aircraft expanded our ideas of what was possible in manned flight. The Archangels did all that and then continued to out perform all other operational aircraft in missions that mere angels wouldn't dream of.
Flying over 15 miles above the earth’s surface at speeds literally faster
than a speeding bullet, the Blackbird needs no armament to defend itself.
Although initially presented to the public as a fighter / interceptor to hide
its true function, the A-12 was designed from the beginning to be a pure
surveillance plane, capable of shooting nothing but high-resolution film. In
that role it continues to excel, although details of its performance and
missions remain classified.
True enough, the A-12 flew that high and that fast. No arguement there. My problems with this paragraph start with the second sentence. The aircraft that was presented to the public back then was the YF-12A. While these two aircraft are very close relatives, they are still different aircraft. A couple of differences between them are the fact that the A-12 has a crew of one while the YF-12A carried a crew of two and the fact that the YF-12A had a much different nose to accomodate a fire control radar and thermal sensors on either side of the nose. The YF-12A also had a rather large ventral fin located on the centerline of the rear of the fuselage. Make no mistake, the YF-12A was no reconnaisance plane! Instead of carrying cameras and sensors like the rest of its siblings, the YF-12 was to carry three or four nuclear tipped missiles with a range of nearly 100 miles to intercept and bring down formations of attacking Soviet bombers. As an added bonus, the YF-12 had the same high speed and altitude performance capabilities as the rest of the Blackbird fleet, so no fighter could have cought it and no surface to air missile could have shot it down. It would have been able to choose the time and place of any aerial engagement with impunity. For more information on the YF-12A, please visit TD Barnes' web page.
The Intrepid museum is right again when it says that the A-12 was designed as a reconnaisance platform from the very beginning, but after that we experience yet another departure from reality. From the way the Intrepid has written their website, one might think that the A-12 is still in service. Unless we're missing something, the A-12 fleet (all twelve aircraft) was retired back in 1968. If anyone has any information to the contrary, we'd certainly appreciate hearing it!
If you look at the schematic, or three view drawing on Intrepid's webpage, you'll see that the aircraft depicted there is actually an SR-71. The differences are subtle, but are still visible in the Intrepid's illustration. First, you'll notice that the aircraft in Intrepid's drawing has two cockpits - one behind the other. Since the nose isn't rounded like a YF-12A's, we know it's an SR-71. The tail is different as well.
Actually, there are many more differences between these aircraft than most would imagine.
TD Barnes has done a wonderful job of making declassified documents available online for the public. One of those documents is a study conducted by the National Reconnaisance Office (NRO) of the differences between the A-12 and the SR-71. Jeannette has also obtained a wealth of declassified documents relating to the A-12. Looking at the data from these declassified documents and comparing them to the specifications listed by the Intrepid, we can see that once again, the Intrepid gets it right only part of the time and the performance of the plane has come farther out of the black than ever before - if you know where to look. Click here to see copies of the actual declassified NRO documents discussing the differnces between the A-12 and SR-71.
Intrepid's specifications for the A-12 as presented on their web site:
Height: 18' 3"
Wingspan: 55' 7"
No. of Engines: 2
Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney J58 turbo ramjets
Thrust (each): 32,500 lbs
Max Speed: 2,269 mph
Service Ceiling: 84,978 ft
A-12 specifications from NRO documents:
Length: 99 feet
Span: 56 feet
Height: 18.45 feet
Engine Thrust: 32,500 Pounds
Basic Weight: 52,700 Pounds
Fueled Weight: 122,500 Pounds
Unrefueled range: 2,700 Nautical Miles
Payload: 2,500 lbs / 64 Cubic Feet
*From Jeannette's archives of declassified CIA datasheets for #122:
Confirmed altitude reached: 94,000 Feet
Engine operating limit: Mach 3.2 at 100,000 Feet
Cost summary for 12 aircraft without engines: $96.6 million
Construction: Titanium monocoque with some super-high-temperature plastics
The NRO documents also list the specifications for the SR-71.
Length: 107.5 feet
Span: 55.6 feet
Height 18.5 feet
Engine Thrust: 34,ooo Pounds
Basic Weight: 60,995 Pounds
Fueled Weight: 141,605 Pounds
Unrefueled range: 2,800 Nautical Miles
Payload: 4,000 Pounds / 147.8 Cubic Feet
Note: The NRO documents have the maximum altitude and speed blacked out.
After comparing the statistics, it looks like the Intrepid has mixed in some SR-71 data with some A-12 statistics.
The names listed by Intrepid are also quite intreguing. Yes, these aircraft were designated A-12 and were also known as "Blackbirds". They were also known as "Oxcarts", as "Oxcart" was the US Government's codename for the A-12 program. A-12s were also commonly referred to as "Articles". This non descript reference to the aircraft is no doubt due to the aircraft's secret status. To this day, classified aircraft are still referred to as "Articles" as the term describes nothing at all about the topic of conversation. Lockheed had a couple of different names for the A-12 program. "Cygnus" was one of the names that Lockheed used with the A-12. "Cygnus" is the constellation of the Swan in the night sky and seemed much more suited to such a high flying and graceful being as the A-12. It seems that the designers, workmen, pilots, and groundcrew all thought that the A-12 was almost insulted by having such an unfitting name as "Oxcart." The other name Lockheed used for the A-12 was "Archangel." "Angel" was the Lockheed name for the U-2 program whose official US Government codename was "Aquatone." The A-12 was designed to succeed the "Angel," flying higher and faster than a mere "Angel." Lockheed asked themselves what could possibly out-do an "Angel" and the only thing they could think of was an "Archangel." "Dragonlady" was and is the designation for the U-2. How anyone could confuse a U-2 for an A-12 is beyond my comprehension.
I have one last bone to pick with the Intrepid's web page. One of the photographs on the page is of an SR-71. Take a close look at the picture of the black jet over the snowy mountains. Once again, the dead giveaway that this is a picture of an SR-71 is the aft cockpit for the Reconnaisance Systems Officer (RSO). I thought this was supposed to be a page about the Lockheed A-12.
The lack of proper research on the part of the Intrepid here is disappointing, but given the lack of care given to an historic aircraft such as #122, I'm sorry to say that it's not surprising. The mixing of A-12, YF-1A, and SR-71 data might be acceptable if it was presented by an amateur enthusiast or a model company. The problem here is that the Intrepid museum isn't just an amateur enthusiast or a model company. The Intrepid museum is supposed to be an institution for the preservation of History for posterity. Intrepid was tasked to care for #122 and all of the exhibits onboard. Sadly, the only way the name "Intrepid" seems to fit these days is with regard to the attitude the museum has taken toward those who care about #122 and the other aircraft onboard.
Please take the time to leave us a note in the guestbook or a comment with a post. The contact information for Intrepid and the USAF Museum are in the sidebar on the right. Please write to these museums and make your opinion known!
As always, thank you for taking the time to visit our page about #122!
Thursday, April 07, 2005
#122 is the second of the A-12s to be created by Kelly Johnson of the Lockheed Skunk Works. All of the 13 A-12s that were manufactured were actually jigged by hand. What that means is that they were hand built, not done the usual production line method. Even if you look at A-12s today, you can see that the rivet holes are not mass produced. What makes 122 unusual is that she was the A-12 that received many modifications directly from her pilots. A-12 pilots were relied on to give their ideas regarding cockpit layout, and anything else that they thought would inprove the aircraft. #122 was the flight test vehicle for the rest of the A-12's. Her construction contained composite materials that were used on her rudders. Some of the other
A-12's received titanium rudders. The spike assembly for #122 consists of titanium alloy substructure, with exterior surfaces and some of the internail componenets made of silicone-asbestos-reinforced plastic composite material. Her cockpit was configured to be what the next A-12 upgrade would have looked like had the program not been cancelled.
To give you an idea of just how advanced the A-12 was, the A-12 carried the unique "BirdWatcher" system. This allowed ground handlers to be in contact with the aircraft's system without transmission from the pilot, thereby keeping radio silence so crucial in reconnissance missions. "Birdwatcher" utilized an HF transmitter. This monitored not only the aircraft systems but equipment functions, too. The "Birdwatcher" keyed and modulated the HF tramsitter with a coded signal. The coded signal was a multiplexed sample of each of the monitored items."Birdwatcher" would trigger three short, consecutive half second bursts, each separated by five seconds of silence. during this half second burst, the condition of all items monitored along with the aircraft identity would be transmitted. This is only a sample of the systems that she carried.
What all means is this: The Lockheed A-12 Blackbird is a 21st century design in aircraft that served in the 1960's,the middle 20th Century. Her unique design has not been matched. Her mission changed the outcome of the Cold War. She served in silence as did her pilots. She went out "Alone, Unarmed and Unafraid". Her pilots risked their lives not only flying at Mach 3, but flying over denied territory. An A-12 on mission would be shot at by SAM missiles and tracked on radar, but never, ever was she caught by the enemy. The A-12 always brought home the photographic reconnissance needed to protect the United States during the Cold War. The A-12 served during the Vietnam War in a program called "Black Shield" The A-12 also flew over North Korea to find the USS PUEBLO that had been captured by the North Koreans.
The Legacy of the OXCART program and the A-12 Blackbird needs to be preserved and protected. All A-12s need to stand as the sentinel of the vital Cold War and Aviation history that they created. There is no reason for #122 to rot on the deck of an aircraft carrier that has nothing to do with her history. There is no reason for #122 to suffer abuse and damage because of the political miscreants and USAF Museum panderers allow the Intrepid Museum to reneg on the loan agreements that they signed for fear of retribution. There is no reason that #122 should deteriorate past the point of restoration so that the Intrepid Museum directors, CEO's and the Fisher Family ( the Museum was started by the late Zachary Fisher) can book every Las Vegas circus act and boxing match they can find to run wheelies around historic aircraft with no thought to the signifigance of the Intrepid deck where men in WWII have died and historic aircraft stand.
Legacy means "something that is handed down from the past or a previous generation" Museum means " a building or institution where objects of artistic, historical or scientific importance are kept, studied and put on display." Somehow, both the USAF Museum and the Intrepid Museum have lost the direction of both these words. Unfortuantely, "extinct is forever" and that is what happens when a historic aircraft is left to die.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
I didn't know until last year that all of the modern US military aircraft you see in museums actually belong to that respective service's museum and are just "on loan" to whichever museum you happen to see them at. For example, the A-7 Corsair on the Intrepid still belongs to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida and the A-12 we're working to save belongs to the US Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. While these aircraft may still belong to their service's museum, maintenance and upkeep are the duty of the museum to which they are on loan. Unfortunately, the A-12 is under the care of the USS Intrepid.
The most helpful thing anyone can do right now is to contact both of these museums and make their opinion known to those in charge. I have listed their contact information in the sidebar, but I will also post that same information at the end of this post. The Intrepid can be reached by telephone, snail mail, or email. The US Air Force Museum doesn't have an email address, but they can still be reached by phone or snail mail. No matter which method you choose to contact these institutions, every person's contact counts!
Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum
Pier 86 12th Ave and 46th St
New York, NY 10036
Attn: Col Tom Tyrell USMC (Ret)
Chairman and CEO
General Charles Metcalf (Ret)
Director USAF Museum
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright Patterson AFB, OH 45433-7102
Friday, April 01, 2005
I still can't believe what has happened to the pitot from this aircraft. From what I understand, #122 was missing her pitot when she showed up at the Intrepid. A suiable SR-71 pitot was located and obtained through proper channels and the aircraft once again looked the way she should. Unfortunately, the general public was allowed too much access to #122 and the pitot was damaged. Appearantly, one of the ways it was damaged was by someone doing "chinups" on it! The Intrepid has used a couple of prosthetic pitots for #122 over the years, but the current substitute is, in my opinion, an outrageous monstrosity and an insult to the aircraft.
Here's a picture of the Intrepid's current substitute for a pitot...
...and this is what they have used in the past.
This is an example of what happens to the composites when they're exposed to the elements. This section of the aircraft is literally crumbling away. Oh, by the way, there's asbestos in that stuff!
What happens when an "aircraft mechanic" is hired to work on a jet he knows nothing about? This is a good example. That vertical stabilizer is made out of composites containing asbestos. TD poses a good question when he asks how many museum volunteers have been exposed to asbestos because they were sanding on composites without the knowledge of the potential hazards?
Here you can see just how high the main gear are jacked up. The bottom of the gear door should be just about even with the wheel hub.
This picture is from NASA. The aircraft you see here is an SR-71, a later design with two seats instead of one. Overall, it's very difficult to tell the difference between an SR-71 and an A-12 aside from the SR-71's rear cockpit. If you look closely, you can see the proper position of the gear doors in relation to the wheel hubs on the main gear. Now look at the previous picture for a comparison. For a larger version of this picture and other SR-71 pictures in NASA's Dryden image collection, click on the links below:
Contact sheet #1 Contact sheet #2 Ultraviolet Experiment
This jet most likely had to fly through Surface to Air Missile (SAM) fragments in the course of its duty with the CIA. It never suffered damage like this back then. This is what happens when you try to keep an aircraft on a carrier deck that was never meant to be there. I have it on good authority that this happened while the museum's deck crew was moving the jet and not looking where they were going. I'm just glad it hasn't gone over the side of the boat!
Here's a picture of what happens when an A-12 cockpit isn't properly sealed and the aircraft is left right on the ocean. The crazing on the inside of the windshield is caused by moisture getting into the cockpit.
While some parts of this jet are composite, most of the aircraft is titanium. OK, quick quiz here. Who here would use latex house paint on their car? OK, how about on a titanium aircraft? The Intrepid did and it shows in this picture!
I could go on and on posting pictures, but TD has already done a wonderful job of that! I think you can see the damage and neglect in these pictures. For larger versions of the pictures from TD's website, please visit Area51specialprojects.com's page about A-12 #122
Stay tuned because we'll be posting the proper addresses to send your correspondence regarding this aircraft soon! Until then, please feel free to sign the guestbook, email us at email@example.com, or leave a comment with a post.
As always, thanks for taking the time to visit this site!