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More Spies in the Sky (Jan. 4, '00)

LONDON -- A device designed to nab speeders by cutting off the car's fuel supply with the aid of  space satellite signals was proposed by scientists here Tuesday.

The gadget, called an ``intelligent speed adapter,'' uses satellite technology to signal the driver he has exceeded the posted limit.  If the driver continues to break the speed limit,  the device would then shut down the engine by cutting its fuel.

The so-called ``spy in the sky''  would save up to 2,000 British lives a year by one estimate.  Edmund King, of the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) Foundation, said in an interview that the scheme would be extremely expensive and sounded like something out of a George Orwell novel.

``Do we really want Big Brother in the sky, the spy in the sky, to actually track all of our 32 million motorists?'' he said.

Finally a Real Contract for the F-22 (Jan. 4, `00)

Lockheed Martin Corp. received a $1.23 billion contract to build what is hoped will be six stealth fighters--all test aircraft.  The Air Force , which wants about 340 of the aircraft, wants to bring them in at an average cost of $84 million, making the F-22 the most expensive fighter ever made.

New India-designed Fighter to Fly (Jan. 4, `00)

NEW DELHI, Jan 4.  Indiaīs first ever fighter plane, which many were beginning to think would never fly because of numerous delays, will take to the skies in January, according to an Indian defense official.

The Press Trust of India news agency quoted A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, scientific adviser to the government, as saying a first flight will come before the end of this month, although no firm date was given.

The Indian light combat fighter is several years behind schedule and doubts have been raised over whether it would ever fly.

X-ray Vision: Airports Get New Scanners (December 30, 1999)

As part of a massive Customs Service makeover, airports will get new body scanners that can show not only guns, knives, bombs, drugs, and other contraband but also the size, shape and proportions of your birthday suit.

Reacting to renewed concerns over terrorism after the TWA 800 explosion and the approaching threats surrounding Y2K, the Customs Service began installing the leading-edge devices in airports around the country several months ago.

Though passengers will be given a choice as to whether to stand before the screen or get patted down by an inspector, privacy advocates are worried that the machine may violate passengers constitutional privacy rights, since the search is even more invasive than being frisked, which of course takes place while fully clothed.

Customs Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a report in the Washington Post that the body scanners now give travelers a choice: a search at the hands of a human inspector or the scanner.

"The option is that we can pat you physically," he said, "or you can step in front of this machine. You don't have to do it." Kelly said  that the recording of images would not be permitted, and that the scanner operator is always the same sex as the person being scanned.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Gregory T. Nojeim, has been fighting the technology since TWA flight 800 exploded off Long Island. Cries for enhanced security following that calamity, which early on was assumed to be an act of terrorism,  prompted the development of new systems, of which the X-ray vision scanner is the spookiest example.

Nojeim declares the body scanner will reveal even the most intimate bodily details: [You can see] "underneath clothing and with clarity, breasts or a penis, and the relative dimensions of each."

He went on to tell the audience at an aviation safety conference shortly after the TWA 800 crash that "The system has a joystick-driven zoom option that allows the operator to enlarge portions of the image."

Robert Peters, vice president of American Science & Engineering, of Billerica, Mass., which makes the BodySearch device says that the concerns are overblown and that you can’t actually see a photographic-quality picture. "You don't get a sharp line image.” But he added that scanning private areas is necessary because "that's one of the places where people hide stuff."

Kelly ordered the body scanners installed as part of a major overhaul of inspection procedures at Customs because of  charges of racial profiling, especially of Black women, who complain that they are disproportionately singled out for a frisking. One Chicago group has filed a class action lawsuit against the agency.

So far, scanners have been installed in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago at a cost of about $125.000 each.) Back To Top

John W. R. Taylor, Editor of Janeīs All the Worldīs Aircraft Dies (Dec. 26, 1999)

LONDON - John W. R. Taylor, former editor in chief of Jane's All the World's Aircraft, has died at the age of 77.

According to death notices, which did not include the cause of death, Taylor died Dec. 12 in Kingston, Surrey.

Jane's, required reading for many in the aerospace industry, is famous for its accuracy and the tremendously detailed descriptions of modern aircraft. Jane's reputation is largely attributed to the leadership that Taylor brought to the job during his 30-year tenure.

One of his greatest gifts was his penetrating observation of photographs and television pictures, the Times newspaper said in an obituary last week. He could judge the capacities of new Soviet aircraft from photographs. When the first Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles were paraded in Moscow, he was able to give accurate figures for their dimensions and likely performance by estimating their length against markings painted at regular intervals on the Red Square military parade area, the Times recalled.

When statistics for the Vostok space launcher were eventually released in 1967, they were within inches of the data that had been published in Jane's.

Taylor was born June 8, 1922, and became an aeronautical engineer before joining Jane's in 1955. He became its editor in 1959 and editor in chief in 1985. In 1989 he became an emeritus editor and continued to contribute as an adviser until his death.

In 1991, Taylor was awarded an Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

He is survived by his wife, Doris, a son and a daughter.

Hubble Telescope Gets New Brain (DEC. 24, 1999)

If all goes as planned, the Hubble Space Telescope will be released back into its lonely orbit around 6 p.m. EST on Christmas day--with a brand new brain.

"Most excellent!" said astronomer-astronaut John Grunsfeld as the 70s-era computer was replaced and a newer, faster one was plugged in. "The brains of Hubble have been replaced."

Outside, spacewalkers Michael Foale and European Space Agency Astronaut Claude Nicollier installed an overhauled guidance sensor, a high-precision optical instrument about the size of a refrigerator that keeps the Hubble locked on a target so that it can gather the faint signatures of far-off galaxies.

The success of this spacewalk marks the successful completion of the mission's highest priority, which was to return the ailing Hubble Space Telescope to operational status.

Interestingly, the new computer, costing about $7 million, is designed around a now relatively slow Intel 80486 DX2 processor running at 25 megahertz. Yet the new component runs twenty times faster than the 80386 it replaced, a unit that was also an upgrade installed on a 1993 mission.

Providing things continue to go well, the crew will separate from the Hubble tomorrow and make for home two days later, in plenty of time to meet the Y2K landing deadline that NASA set for December 27.)Back To Top

Japanīs Next-Generation Fighter Delayed (Dec. 20, 1999)

Japanīs F-2  next-generation fighter, being developed jointly with  partner Lockheed Martin Corp., will be delayed until next June, the Defense Agency said today.

The F-2 jet is already a year behind schedule because of wing defects. Projected cost to the U. S. is already  $2.78 billion

Originally slated for completion in  March 1999, the plane failed several test flights in  October, which revealed weakness in the tail-plane when the aircraft sustained inverted flight, said agency spokesman Shunichi Hatano.

Begun in 1988, the aircraft has been modified many times, including being reconfigured for stealth capability. The F-2 is meant to replace the 51 F-1s now in Japanīs air force. However, the F-2, like its predessessor, will never play more than a supporting role to the US-built F-15, of which Japan has 199.

Discovery to Rescue Hubble

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Dec. 21)  Space shuttle Discovery and its sevenman crew should reach the Hubble space telescope by this evening and begin the $69 million repair job, which is their prime mission.

Four of the six gyroscopes have failed because of corroded wiring and will be replaced when the astronauts seize the malfunctioning telescope with the shuttle's robot arm and stow it in the cargo bay for three days of work.

NASA's $3 billion observatory has floated idly in space since Nov. 13, missing some 150 scheduled astronomical observations. The Hubble costs the space agency $25 million a month whether its working or not.

Besides replacing the gyroscopes, astronauts will replace a data recorder, radio transmitter, fine guidance sensor and an array of batteryvoltage regulators.

The Hubble should be back on line by the second week of January.

Del Smith Gets Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy (Dec. 18, 1999)

Evergreen International Aviation founder Del Smith was awarded the prestigious Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy by the National Aeronautics Association yesterday.

Not coincidentally, the ceremony, held at the Marriott Wardman Park, was held on the 96th anniversary of Wilbur and Orville Wrightīs historic feat--flying the first powered aircraft.

Wayne Handley to Retire After Mishap (Dec. 10, 1999)

Air show pilot Wayne Handley is recovering from injuries received when his Oracle-sponsored Turbo Raven impacted the ground at the bottom of a loop on takeoff, a signature Handley maneuver.

The accident occurred at the California International Airshow in Salinas on October 3.

Handley, who had one of the most exciting aerial acts on the airshow circuit, has recovered enough to reenter the cockpit. However, though he will continue to coach and remain active in the airshow arena, he has said he plans to retire from exhibition flying.

Rhulin A. Thomas Dies. First Deaf Pilot to Fly Solo Across the Country (Dec. 9, 1999)

Rhulin A. Thomas, 89, died of pancreatic cancer at the Hospice of Northern Virginia, near his home in Alexandria, on December 6.

In 1947, Thomas became the first deaf pilot to fly solo coast-to-coast--without crashing along the way. The first deaf pilot to make it across the country was Calbraith Perry Rodgers, who made the trip in 1911. But Rodgers survived several crashes--and rebuilds of his airplane--along the way, only to die in another crash the following year.

Rodgers and his feat faded rapidly into oblivion, and it was Thomas who became the inspiration for deaf pilots to come, according to Clyde C. Smith, president of the International Deaf Pilots Association.

Thomas, who learned to fly at historic College Park airfield, in College Park, Maryland, took off October 26 from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in his 65-horsepower Piper J-4. He landed thirteen days later in Van Nuys, California.

Thomas was honored at a White House reception, and he received a medal for courage from the National Association of the Deaf and the Missouri Association of the Deaf. )Back To Top

Mars Had Oceans (Dec. 9, 1999)

New data gathered from the Mars Global Surveyor, which still orbits the Red Planet using its laser-fired cameras to capture high-resolution details of the planetīs topography, indicate the existence of a vast oceanīs shoreline.

Astronomer James W. Head III of Brown University and his colleagues reported the findings in the Dec. 10 issue of Science.

The data suggest that an ocean covered the northern third of the planet. Specifically, terracing of the surface along the shoreline suggests that waves of liquid water rolled onto an ancient Martian beach hundreds of millions of years ago.

Moreover, the scarcity of craters within the area circumscribed by the shoreline can be interpreted to mean that erosion caused by ocean currents wiped out craters that otherwise would surely be visible. Craters are abundant elsewhere on the surface.

It was the main mission of the failed Mars Polar Lander to find evidence of existing water. The question of whether Mars had water in the past now seems answered. What remains a mystery is why Mars, which scientists believe had an atmosphere, climate and oceans just like Earth, became barren.

Rescue of Hubble Space Telescope Delayed (Dec. 8, 1999)

NASA shuttle managers again delayed the launch of the Discovery by at least one day until engineers can decide if a badly dented fuel line should be replaced.

The mission, previously slated for Saturday, December 11,  is already two months behind schedule becaue of a massive rewiring project begun late last summer.

Mars Polar Lander Fails to Phone Home (DEC. 3, 1999)

PASADENA, Calif. (Dec. 3)  The $165 million Mars Polar Lander, scheduled for a 3 p.m. EST touchdown near the Red Planet's south pole, failed to make its first appointed communication with NASA scientists here.

No one knows yet whether the 157 million-mile journey ended with a bang, meaning it crashed onto the planet's surface, or a whimper, as the problem could be as simple as a badly positioned antennae or some other unaccountable software or circuitry glitch.

Only last summer the Mars Climate Orbiter, a $125 million endeavor, met an ignominious fate when it crashed into Mars because of a failure to convert English to metric units in the navigational software.

Five of Six Newly Discovered Planets May Support Life (December, 1999)

Astronomers announced  the discovery of six new planets, five of which orbit their respective stars in the “sweet spot,” that just-right distance from the star that allows for liquid water—and possibly life as we know it.

With this find, a total 28  planets outside our solar system have been found  by astronomers over the past five years.

"Planet hunting is a lot like making wine," said Steven Vogt of the University of California at Santa Cruz, one of the team of astronomers collecting and analyzing data provided by Hawaii's Keck I Telescope, the sharpest optical telescope in the world.

"You have got to plant the grapes, you have got to be patient, and at some point they ripen and are ready for harvest," Vogt said. "We have a lot of star systems that we have been looking at, and now are ready for harvest."

The newly discovered planets are all very un-Earthlike, ranging in size from just smaller to several times larger than Jupiter, the largest planet in our own solar system. Like Jupiter, they are gigantic gaseous balls of mostly helium and hydrogen. None is hospitable to human life.

But the fact that five out of the six are in what astronomers call the "habitable zone," where temperatures allow for liquid water, raises hopes that a more Earthlike planet is waiting in the wings to be discovered.

Vogt said there’s a greater chance life could exist on the moons of the titanic gas planets rather than the planets themselves.

Along with Vogt, the discovery team also included Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley, Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., and Kevin Apps of the University of Sussex in England. Their findings will be published in the Astrophysical Journal, according to a report in Reuters. ) Back To Top

Enola Gay Bombardier Thomas Wilson Ferebee Dies (March 24, 2000)

WINDERMERE, Fla.—Thomas Wilson Ferebee, 81, bombardier on the Enola Gay, which on Aug. 6, 1945, dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, ending World War II, died here March 16. The cause of death was not reported.

Ferebee  was an Air Force major with 64 missions when the B29 "Superfortress" Enola Gay took off for Japan on its historic flight, with then-colonel Paul Tibbets at the controls. The Enola Gay was named after Tibbet’s mother.

Retired Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets, hand-picked Col. Ferebee for his crew,  calling him "the best bombardier who ever looked through the eyepiece of a Norden bomb sight."

According to interviews with Ferebee, he slept most of the 13-hour flight to the target. He said he didn't hear Tibbets when he explained to the rest of the crew over the intercom just what they were carrying.  So he was profoundly shocked, when, 43 seconds after releasing the bomb, he witnessed the world’s first atomic device detonated in anger.

"At first, I saw this boiling on the ground and the stem [of the mushroom cloud] was going up, and you could see buildings going up in the stem," Col. Ferebee said years later in an interview with the Charlotte Observer.

Both Ferebee and Tibbets were blinded temporarily because they neglected to wear their dark glasses.

Col. Ferebee, who retired from the Air Force in 1970, said he never felt guilty but was sorry the bomb killed so many.  In fact, the initial blast and heat killed 70,000 people instantly. Some of those closest to the ground-zero, were reduced to  blackened shadows on walls or sidewalks.

"I'm sorry an awful lot of people died from that bomb, and I hate to think that something like that had to happen to end the war," he said in a 1995 interview on the 50th anniversary of the bombing.

"Now we should look back and remember what just one bomb did, or two bombs," he said. "Then I think we should realize that this can't happen again."

Three days after the Hiroshima raid, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki by bombardier Kermit Beahan, who died in 1989. Japan surrendered on Aug. 14, 1945, five days after the Nagasaki bomb was dropped.

Now only four members of the Enola Gay's crew remain: Tibbets, navigator Ted Van Kirk, weapons officer Morris Jeppson and radio operator Richard Nelson.

Colonel Ferebee  flew in both the  Mediterranean and European theaters in World War II and saw a great deal of action, including  the first U.S. bombing raid on Nazi-occupied France in 1942. He was the lead bombardier for the Allies' first 100plane daylight raid in Europe.

He stayed in the new Air Force after the war, where he served as a deputy commander for maintenance in several B47 "Stratojet" bomber wings. He also flew on B-52s during the Vietnam War, but only as an observer.

Highly decorated, Ferebee held the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Bronze Star. A native of Mocksville, N. C, he is survived by his wife and four sons.

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