When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Thrill Rides

Sabrina Gordon during Navy serviceThe point of thrill rides is to scare riders half to death. But this one in California (where lots of guns already are outlawed) went the whole way. The victim was a 31-year-old married woman and former Navy signals intelligence veteran.

Sabrina Gordon, 31, fell from the top of the Free Drop attraction at the San Bernardino County Fair on Thursday, appearing to hesitate before taking the deadly plunge, witnesses and police said.

The Hesperia woman dropped about 28 feet, hitting the concrete ground instead of the cushion that is part of the Victorville fair’s cordless and harness-free bungee jump-like attraction, according to local reports.

“I’ve never felt heartache like this before,” Gordon’s father Lyle Bell told the Daily News. “She was afraid of heights. I have no clue why she went on that thing.”

via Navy veteran dies after plunging from Calif. free-fall ride – NY Daily News.

Heights can’t kill you. Even falls can’t kill you. But that sudden stop at the end…. Ave atque vale, Sabrina Gordon.

Veterans Affairs Doc: “Gun owner? Kill yourself!”

VA-veterans-affairsA gun-owner-hating doctor at the Philadelphia (where else?) Veterans Affairs Medical Center made his personal gun-control point a little bluntly. When he saw someone had posted the old comment on Facebook, “I am all for gun control. If there is a gun in the room, I want to be in control of it.” Dr Greg Gorton’s snappy comeback?

“Off yourself, please.”

The bloodthirsty quack in question is a VA psychiatrist who says he’s “worked 30 years to treat psychiatric patients. I teach about suicide prevention…” and once he was called on it, said he regretted his comment, deleted it from social media, and wished he could take it back.

You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to recognize the very human behavior on display here: I’m sorry… sorry I got caught. 

Of those 30 years, 11 have been at the embattled Philadelphia facility, which is so rotten with neglect and corruption that several senior managers could face “discipline,” which apparently stops short of firing or denying automatic “performance” bonuses, for systematically cheating veterans out of the benefits claims.

We can’t imagine needing or wanting a pshrink, but can you imagine plunking down on a couch before this insecure little bundle of anger, for a guided tour of the iniquities of your childhood? Intercourse that. The VA’s axon mechanics are not getting anywhere near our brain housing group.

They now say that Gorton’s “status is under review,” which we translate as, “We’re waiting for all this to blow over, because a VA job is a precious entitlement, while actual veterans are a pestiferous inconvenience for the workers who are our real clients here.”

What’s the over-under on Gorton seeing exactly zero consequences? We’d put our money on 100%.

And, what’s the probability that Gorton is a vet himself? We’d put our money on 100% less than that.

It has been a casual observation of ours over the years that many if not most people who study psychology, psychiatry or psychoanalysis tend to be high-IQ basket cases seeking the skills to attempt self-diagnosis and -treatment.

Going to a psychiatrist probably won’t do anybody any good. Going to a VA psychiatrist is some kind of self-malpractice.

If You Had Only One 5.56mm Carbine?

We have an entire safe full of 5.56mm ARs (well, there’s also an old AR-10 in there) along with the safe of other stuff. But for a lot of people one AR is a major investment, and any more than that take food off the table or otherwise crimp the family budget more than practicable. If you could only have one service rifle, what would it be?

This Larue PredatOBR is a fine gun, but its features (like a quick-change barrel) and price (over $2k before optics) mean it's not Everyman's one and only AR.

This Larue PredatAR is a fine firearm, but its features and price (over $2k before optics) mean it’s not Everyman’s one and only AR. Unless Everyman is well heeled.

Depends, of course, on what you want it for. Hunting has a variety of needs, depending on where you are and what your quarry is; and those needs are different than target shooting or self-defense. Even all target shooting is not the same: competing in 3-gun is different from competing in service or high-power rifle bullseye events. And all of these are different from just having an AR for fun, which in turn is different from home defense.

If you don’t know what you want an AR for, you might be in the same position as someone who wants an AR for multiple purposes. You’re looking for one all-around AR. And yes, trust us on this: you really want an AR, not an AK or G3 clone or Valmet or AUG or Tavor. You want simplicity, reliability, and commonality with the greatest quantity of parts, accessories, information, and ammunition: you want a 5.56mm AR.

For the average Joe’s Everyman’s Carbine, we’d recommend the following:

  1. a good name-brand gun, with
  2. a telescoping stock (it doesn’t matter which one, these are readily customized for short money when you want or need a change);
  3. a 16″ chrome-lined barrel — if you just want one gun, you don’t need a stamp, and chrome-lined has advantages in durability and heat management;
  4. a good single-point optic, not Chinese junk;
  5. a practical sling;
  6. at least six spare magazines, ruthlessly destroyed and replaced when they begin to malfunction; and
  7. nothing too exotic.

By Point 7 we mean don’t need bizarre alloys, trick billet construction, ambidextrous controls (unless you’re left-handed, but try a righty AR first and see if you can run it OK), quick-change barrels, and locavore organic anti-walk pins (if the receiver is drilled and reamed right and the springs are in the right places, pins don’t walk. Ever). That stuff is all marketing. It’s supposed to make you want to spend more money.

Want to spend more money, anyway?

Spend it wisely. Buy ammo and get training. That gives you two things that can never be confiscated, experience and knowledge.

As we were thinking about this a friend flagged us to a Kyle Defoor Instagram posting on a very similar subject — the simple carbine Kyle has been using lately.

Defoor BCM Carbine

Apart from being an SBR, it’s similar to our 7 points above. It’s a minimalist, lightweight approach. Here’s how Kyle describes it:

I was asked a few months ago if I could have only one carbine what would it be/what is a good all around carbine for most people? This would be my answer to both with the only caveat being barrel length as I know some don’t want to deal with ATF stuff. It doesn’t get any lighter, more reliable, or smaller than this keeping the ability to engage realistic targets (IPSC B/C) out to 200. I now have about 5k through the barrel so I’m confident it recommending it now. All other parts are proven, affordable, and easy to attain;

BCM 11.5″ ELW w/KMR rail [ELW = “enhanced light weight”; KMR=”keymod rail” — BCM likes three-letter acronyms –Ed.]
BCM buttstock (defoor version- not rubber) w/rigger band
Aimpoint Micro T w/Bobro Q/D mount
Kyle Lamb sling mounted mid and castlenut w/ Q/Ds
Streamlight TLR-1HL custom mounted at 1 o’clock
Bobro Lowrider sights.

Many people spend more that that and wind up with less gun for their money. Note that the Quick Detachable mounts Kyle recommends only make sense if you’re going to be removing and reinstalling the sight, maybe to go with a scope sight for longer range or a NV sight for the time your area of operations faces away from the sun. But most of your one-gun practical shooter guys are, for the same reasons they have one gun, one-optic guys, too. So, what advantage does QD buy you?

With the sling, you need to ask how you are going to use the sling. Part of being a Real MP5 Guy back in the day was learning what seemed to be 113 different ways to use the H&K sling. But most guys, even when they learned the whole Teutonic sling drill, would find one or two ways they’d use the sling. You might use it as a tactical sling, a shooter’s stability aid, or a handy way to give you two hands to work on something with without using your gun, but you probably won’t use it as all three.

The light is optional, depending on the probable use of your gun. Home defense? Get the light, because crimes take place on criminals’ schedules, and by and large they’re up and active when the honest folks are asleep. But if you’re going to lock it in the safe and take it out a couple times a year for a trip to the range, a light is just a container for dead batteries.

If money is really tight, you can build your gun or buy it a piece at a time. But it’s usually cheaper to buy one that already has most of the features you will want. These are not extensively customized guns of the sort that require just the right customer; if saving money is important to you, you can probably find some used guns in the classifieds of your favorite forums, or on gunbroker, that will meet your needs.

Rummy on Pollard

Recently, we expressed our dismay that the Administration has offered the release of traitor and spy Jonathan Pollard as a consolation prize to the Israelis, for getting Tel Aviv nuked at some future date, which is the intended outcome of his Iran deal. (Intended, at least, by the Iranians, who are not being subtle or dissembling about their intentions, at least, by Iranian standards of dissembling, which are at variance with those of the civilized world).

Now, the President does not read WeaponsMan.com (although rather a lot of his underlings come here, some to support us, some looking to undermine us). And he probably doesn’t much care what former Secretaries of Defense say, but the last President who was looking to spring the egotistical turncoat got this letter:

pollard letter

Even Nixon’s relatively ineffectual SecDef, Mel Laird (never to be forgotten in SF circles over the initial Green Weenie for the Son Tay Raid participants) signed the thing.

In the early days of the Bush Administration, Israel lobbyists tested the waters again, producing another letter, this one from Rummy alone:

pollard letter2

We were reminded of the letters by the brusque, abrasive — and brilliant — former SecDef Don Rumsfeld himself, who tweeted:

Releasing Pollard was a bad idea in 1998 & 2001. It is not a better idea today.

Warming to the idea, and perhaps missing the Snowflakes he used to distribute to his stressed minions at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld tweeted again:

Releasing spy Jonathan Pollard doesn’t make the any less of a disaster for Israel & the free world.

And again:

WRT release of notorious spy, Jonathan Pollard, remember: if u want more of something, reward it & if u want less of something, penalize it.

That is a sentiment that anyone who has ever been in the beaten zone of Rumsfeld has heard a few (dozen) times. (We have a friend who was at the Pentagon and loathed Rummy as a person even as he mostly agrees with him on policy).

And again:

Spying ought not to be rewarded.

You know, Washington never had anyone bugging him for the release of #MajJohnAndre
As Rummy might put it, If you penalize something (like, say, letting spies live) you get less of it (as Americans grow weary of those with divided or foreign loyalties pleading for spies, and take more resolute action against future spies); if you reward something (say, arguendo, hanging them, removing them as a symbol for the disloyal) you get more of it.
And the incentives work another way, also. It’s indisputable that if you make the penalty for espionage a short walk off a long platform, attenuated only by a noose affixed to a solid object overhead, or the opportunity to personally close a high-voltage circuit, you get less spying from that individual and from any other rational actors who are paying attention.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Hot Coals

carbon_monoxide2_0Even the most innocent of things can punch your ticket, as this Canadian country singer and his Australian girlfriend could tell you, if only they could tell you.

On Sunday, June 7, Derek [Kehler] and Helena [Curic] were camping in Sydney’s Blue Mountains. Being wintertime in Australia, a cooking pot of hot coals kept by the bonfire was brought inside their makeshift cabin to stay warm. That night, they died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Helena was 31. Derek was 32.

via The End: Remembering Derek Ryan Kehler, 1982-2015.

This happened in Australia, where guns — interesting guns, anyway, like semi-auto rifles — are already outlawed. The promised eternal life for Australians (or anybody else) has yet to appear in the wake of gun control, and WeaponsMan.com suggests as a matter of metaphysics that you may wish to place your faith in one of the world’s more traditionally established religions instead.

Carbon monoxide is interesting stuff. It is one of the most common combustion products and is created by anything that burns. The things that make an oxygen (O2) molecule look attractive to a red corpuscle make a CO molecule even more attractive, and the carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in one’s bloodstream rapidly. Then, when the corpuscle arrives at a capillary where cells are desperate for oxygen, it has none to give them, just this cuckoo’s egg of a molecule that the cells can’t take and use. The oxygen atoms in CO might as well be in another galaxy for all the good they do the human organism. Absent oxygen, the cells die. One cell at a time, the organism cascades into death — very rapidly. It’s supposed to be a quiet and peaceful way to go, but no one has yet come back to tell us for sure, and so you probably don’t want to roll those particular dice.

It’s summertime up here in the Northern Hemisphere, and we’ve also had carbon monoxide camper deaths in New England and in Colorado this month as people made some bad decisions about how best to get warm after previous bad decisions about how to equip themselves (actually, in the Maine accident, some subgenius put a generator indoors to run a refrigerator. They died, but they had cold beer for the recovery team). Since education has segued into indoctrination in the Western world, we have an amazing number of people who can list all the luminaries of the history of this or that minority group, or who know some other of our equivalents of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine claptrap Soviet schoolboys used to suffer through. But these keenly aware social justicians, as we’ve seen, don’t understand that a two thousand pound wild animal is not a big shaggy dog. And they don’t know how temperatures drop at night in the mountains. They often, then, thin their blood with alcohol, and, shivering in their tents, with a number of complaining kids, they make some unwise choices.

No one, in their formal or informal education, has ever told them that Death attends bad choices. A summer working on a ranch, or a tuna longliner, in a machine shop, or even on an airport ramp around the spinning propellers would teach that, but most people raise their kids to be (in Apple’s 1980s gag-me phrase) “knowledge workers in a post-industrial economy” — soft, delicate flowers, liable to be shredded by the first gust of real-world wind.

The human organism is a weak and fragile one, prone to various malfunctions and easily disrupted by mischief from without.

And in the end, the scythe harvests us all.

Domestic Jihad’s Tennessee History

The incredible exploding deal.

What do most of the world’s terrorists have in common? The FBI confesses complete and utter puzzlement.

Writer James Kitfield has a remarkable article in Politico (not least, remarkable because an unsparing look at jihad seldom appears in such a reflexively partisan and multiculturist outlet) that ties the most recent Sudden Jihad Syndrome shooting to a much earlier one (2009), and casts superficial blame on Tennessee, an easy layup for Politico’s Beltway, Acela Corridor, and wannabe audience. He also makes the unsupported allegation that the 2009 incident was the first, which would be news to Nidal Hasan on death row

But it also looks into how an ordinary American kid was cut out of his family and radicalized, turned against his own people and acculturated to the most extreme and febrile strain of the death cult of Mohammed.

It notes something that the US media, which always prefers the pre-Islamic names for American jihadi converts/reverts1, seems loath to recognize: Carlos Bledsoe really did become Abdulhakim Mujahid Mohammed. Mohammed was the guy who shot up a recruiting office before, on 1 Jun 2009, killing one and maiming one soldier (Privates William Long and Quinton Ezeagwula respectively).

The Partisan Political Police formerly known as FBI remained utterly flummoxed by Mohammed’s motivation (as they are by the latest case of Sudden Jihad Syndrome, Abdulazeez’s — “maybe it was a domestic?”), and political appointees in the Pentagon displayed their contempt for Long and Ezeagwula by denying the victims recognition that they suffered their mortal and serious wounds in a terrorist attack, and spitefully withholding the Purple Heart medal from Ezagwula and from Long’s next of kin until Congress forced their unwilling hands.

Yet long before the five U.S. service members were murdered this past week in Chattanooga, before the Boston Marathon bombers, the Fort Hood shooting or the rise of the Islamic State, it was another troubled teenager from [Tennessee] who embarked on a journey of jihad and ended in the first deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil after 9/11.

The road to jihad began here, where Highway 40 bisects the state Abraham Lincoln once called the “keystone of the southern arch”….

Somehow, in ways that a heartbroken Melvin Bledsoe even now doesn’t fully comprehend, his beloved son Carlos was transformed into a murderous jihadist, a hate-filled man who called himself Abulhakim Mujahid Mohammed.

Carlos, to a certain extent, was patient zero in the phenomenon of homegrown, lone-wolf terrorism, a scourge that struck the nation once again this past week, when another young man went on a shooting spree at a recruiting station in Tennessee. The parallels between the life stories of that alleged shooter, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, and Carlos Bledsoe’s are chilling and, perhaps, instructive.

via Tennessee Is the Capital of American Jihad – James Kitfield – POLITICO Magazine.

The whole thing is long, and quite good, so good it’s a puzzlement why Politico ever published it. (Maybe the editor just skimmed it, and saw Kitfield’s dishonest description of Mohammed’s SKS as an “assault rifle,” and tagged him as a political fellow-traveler?). So do Read The Whole Thing™.

And take care to keep your distance from, and your eyes and your gun muzzle on, American practitioners of the terror cult of Salafi/Wahhabi Mohammedanism.

Note

  1. The term “revert” is often used by extremist converts, and may be a flag for extremism of the Sunni variety (Salafi/Wahhabi/Deobandi — the distinctions matter not, they’re all hostile to civilization, militant and violent). It is based on the theological conceit that all men are born moslems, but some are misguided into other faiths until they “revert” to extremist, murderous Mohammedanism.

ATF Shadow-Bans 40mm Practice Ammunition

Well, that’s going to make conducting our planned M203 class hard impossible. The ATF, pushing the limits of what can be done with a stroke of the pen, is declaring previously approved illumination and training-practice rounds (the orange chalk marking rounds) to be “explosives”. They’re following this up with trips out to individuals to confiscate the ammunition for their approved, stamped Destructive Device 40mm launchers, unless the owner happens to have an explosives license and an ATF-approved bunker.

M992 IR round

Ammunition they have confirmed they are confiscating is M992 infrared illumination and the M781 training practice round (seen below on the range, as featured in a WeaponsMan.com story last year).

m203 Firing

The practice round has a plastic shell and contains a day-glow orange (and naturally degradable, environmentally friendly, even) chalk filling. It’s supposed to be a ballistic match for the HEDP round.

Here are some comments from an Arfcom thread on the subject. The original post:

Apparently the 40mm M992 IR flares are considered to be a explosive round. This is news to me. They got my name from the dealer I purchased them from, apparently they didn’t know either. Any one have any info on this. I’ve been googling it for a couple of hours now and can’t find anything.

He left his card on my front door. He said he was going to bring a copy of the explosives tech branch ruling.

The follow-up after the ATF visit, emphasis ours:

Ok so a update. The agent that showed up was an actual bomb tech. I surrendered the rounds under protest per the advice of a attorney. The bomb tech was a really cool guy. He agreed that it was pretty stupid and he hated to do it but he was being forced to help out with the case. He did also tell me that they had sent him out to take 40mm chalk rounds under the same case. I walked out to the truck with him and watched him place the rounds in the explosive magazine in his truck. When I told him I was surrendering the rounds under protest he looked at me and said “good I hope you can fight it and get them back because this whole situation is stupid.” I’m not sure if I will go to court over it or not. I’m not out enough money for it to be a big deal but it’s an issue that has me concerned. I know there are not enough people out there with registered DD M203’s for this case to ever become a big deal but it is really shitty that as far as I can tell all 40mm rounds are considered to be Low Explosives and can not be owned unless you have a explosive licence.

Note that the “explosives tech branch ruling” has not been furnished, although this letter is circulating. It was addressed to the original Arfcom poster’s dealer, the one that had sold him the rounds.

40mm M992 Confiscation Letter.pdf

And, a comment in the same Arfcom thread by a different user:

I just contacted my Senator and OMB concerning this. My Senator is very concerned and OMB’s response was interesting in that they say ATF is citing one section of law while ignoring others that define what makes a DD. OMB believes that ATF may be outside of the law on this and will be contacting my Senator tomorrow. After a nice discussion with an investigator there, it appears ATF is fudging the language of the applied section of code to make a determination to allow them to confiscate. The investigator with OMB believes that this may warrant action against FTB in BATFE. We shall see what happens if anything. But there is absolutely no doubt that BATFE is deliberately incorrectly interpreting the section of code and is pursuing illegal action.

Meanwhile, another user’s comments show that ATF’s capricious volte face on this ammo is having the desired chilling effect:

This is some terrible news. I just got my 40mm LMT launcher approved last month and have been looking forward to getting chalk rounds and illumination. I guess I will have to wait and see what happens next. Total bummer.

Our friends inside ATF say that the initiative was conceived and planned in the Chief Counsel’s Office. That way, managers have explained to the rank and file, they won’t have to answer questions to the public, press or Congress “because everything is under lawyer-client privilege.” They seemed to split on whether Acting Director Thomas Brandon initiated this policy or merely signed off on it. “It wasn’t his idea,” one told us flatly. “He’s not that bright. It came from the lawyers, or from DOJ through the lawyers.”

The Chief Counsel’s Office is in an unusual position in the ATF org chart, coequal on the chart (but more powerful in practice) than the Chief of Staff, and superior to the Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: N6CC

What’s that? It sounds like a ham callsign? And we think that’s what N6CC.com stands for, although the site breaks it out as Navy 6 Combat Coms. But what we were flagged to was the site author, Tim Sammons’s, stories of his service in the Navy on a forgotten class of small combatants, the Trumpy class PTF patrol boats. The boats were American-made licensed copies of the Norwegian Nasty class boats that were used by the maritime operations wing of SOG in the Vietnam War. Tim has great stories of the Trumpys he knew, PTF-17, -18, and -19, boats that resembled in style, construction and size the classic Elco PT boats of World War II.

cropped-PTF17-Wtrmrk1

The names? The source of Nasty is not clear; during their brief service in the US Navy they were known only by numbers. Trumpy is easier to figure out; the American boats were built to the Norwegian plan by now-defunct yacht builders John Trumpy & Sons.

 

They were powered by the bizarre and tremendous Napier Deltic diesels, strange engines with three crankshafts arranged triangularly, with cylinders in between, and two pistons in each cylinder — one coming in from each end, until they’d compressed the charge enough to fire. The Deltics were turbosupercharged, put out a staggering 3100 horsepower each (the boats had two) and could drive the wooden Trumpys to 45 knots, sea state permitting.

 

They were also armed with a small arsenal of 40mm, 20mm, .50 caliber guns and an 81mm mortar. Tim has a page specifically on armament — you guys might like that.

In Tim’s day, he patrolled the Great Lakes, but he has some interesting information about the Trumpys’ predecessors, the Nastys, in Vietnam, and the Trumpys’ ill-fated successors, the Osprey class (whose aluminum hulls were found to be too fragile for the mission).

If you want more info on the boats’ wartime adventures, see pftnasty.com and warboats.org where there are a lot of firsthand stories of these fast little combatants.

It isn’t just boats. Naturally, there’s a lot of cool commo gear on his website, including a clever hack that uses a VFO to stand in for a crystal in an AN/GRC-109 radio. (If you don’t know what that is, just crank this generator while Tim and I tune the antenna….). The hack will work with the OSS/Agency clandestine RS-1, too, which is a very close sibling of the 109.

Other cool stuff on Tim’s website include camouflaged or covert antennas and many other communications rigs, and annotated photos of the communications gear from the commo wing of the museum that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam made of the Presidential Palace of once-free Vietnam. Poor Thieu’s, or maybe by then it was Big Minh’s, situation map still is stuck to a wall in there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

At Cu Chi, he laid out $17 to fire 10 rounds out of an AK. The NVA fought capitalism before succumbing to it.

VietnamTSAK47-2-2048x1536

There’s also an interesting exploration of the wreck site of a rare B-17C (no B-17 that old survives intact).

When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Bison

Mr Bison says, "It takes a special kind of stupid to crowd me, and then turn your back on me."

Mr Bison says, “It takes a special kind of stupid to crowd me, and then turn your back on me.”

Buffalo demand respect. So what happens to today’s tee-ball narcissus generation? You know, the ones for whom life has been a constant featherbed of praise without challenge or accomplishment? The Unique and Special Snowflakes™? The sublime selfie squad who respect only their own image, graven or otherwise?

Yellowstone National Park officials are warning tourists to keep their distance after a bison flipped a woman into the air as she posed for a selfie with the massive beast.

The dangerous encounter was the fifth run-in between park-goers and buffalo this year.

Looks like she got buffaloed.

Park officials said the 43-year-old Mississippi woman turned her back on the animal to get a photo with it near the Fairy Falls trailhead just outside Old Faithful.

Someone nearby saw the woman and her daughter about 6 yards from the animal and warned they were too close just before it came at them.

They tried to run, but the bison caught the woman and tossed her with its head.

Does that make her The Bisonic Woman? And the sound when she hit, a bisonic boom?

The woman’s family drove her to a nearby clinic where she was treated for minor injuries.

“The (woman) said they knew they were doing something wrong but thought it was OK because other people were nearby,” park spokeswoman Amy Bartlett said. “People are getting way too close.”

They “were doing something wrong but they thought it was OK.” Great Googly Moogly, is there ever going to be a better marker for Unique and Special Snowflake™-hood?

In separate incidents earlier this year, bison gored a 68-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl and tossed an off-trail teenager and an Australian tourist into the air.

Well, bison are herd animals. It could just be one rogue bull, of course. Egged on by the cows: “Bill, do that thing you do with the flying tourist again, please!”

Five bison encounters resulting in injuries is unusual during a tourist season, Bartlett said.

“We typically have one or two per year,” she said.

via Bison injures woman posing for selfie at Yellowstone Park – NY Daily News.

It’s a good job they’re not sentient, or they’d know your great-great-great-Uncle Tony was the guy who whacked their great-great-great-grandfather Lemuel, just to eat his tongue. Sure, this year the score may be Buffalo 5, White Man 0, but the buff could keep this up for centuries and not even things up.

Why did the Viper Centerpunch the Cessna?

The NTSB and Air Force are investigating a 7 July midair between an F-16CM Viper and a Cessna 150. Two aboard the Cessna died, the fighter pilot was uninjured, both planes were destroyed.

The NTSB and Air Force are investigating a 7 July midair between an F-16CM Viper and a Cessna 150. Two aboard the Cessna died, the fighter pilot was uninjured, both planes were destroyed.

It seems clear that the father and son in the Cessna 150 didn’t suffer. The F-16CM was traveling at over 200 kts over South Carolina 7 July, when it flew through the center of the 1670 pound light plane (and its two occupants). The damaged jet continued briefly, but three minutes after the collision, the pilot ejected. Most of the jet landed in a single crater, where it exploded and burned itself out. The little Cessna and its pilots came fluttering down in pieces; some of the larger ones, like the plane’s 100-horsepower engine, never were found. The jet pilot was, thanks to dumb luck, completely uninjured, neither by the midair nor by the ejection. Any other roll of the die and this would have been a mishap with three fatalities.

As is usually the case with midair collisions, it was 11 AM on a clear day (there were scattered clouds, but they were over 1000 feet higher than the collision) with excellent visibility. As is often the case, both aircraft were clearly on radar. However, only one of them was flying under positive air traffic control, under instrument flight rules. That was the Air Force jet.

Both aircraft were on the screen and known to the controller at the time of impact, as the F-16 pilot practiced instrument approaches (these are flights down electronic beams or pathways that are used for landing in bad weather. Because they’re a perishable skill, pilots practice them routinely in good weather, as this man was doing). He was very busy; he was vectoring to start his third approach in a flight that began only 40 minutes prior, this time a TACAN approach — a military electronic beam of 1950s vintage, conceptually similar but technically different and more precise than the VORs used by civilians. Instrument flying, and especially setting up instrument approaches, demands that the pilot be head down in the cockpit to some degree (you can fight the F-16 through the HUD, but you can’t set up an approach that way. You have to set a bunch of knobs and dials inside the jet). When civilians and most multi-crew military pilots fly practice approaches, they usually have the second pilot looking out of the cockpit as a safety pilot. In a single-seat fighter, that’s not an option. The pilot began to look for the Cessna when the controller called it out to him. He didn’t see it.

The controller made several calls to the F-16 as it became clear that the jet was on a collision course with the light plane. The pilot didn’t seem to react at first, and then, when told to turn immediately, he slowly began a wide sweeping turn that was too little, too late. The Cessna was not talking to approach control (and wasn’t required to); it did have a radar transponder squawking the Mode III code (1200) for an aircraft flying under visual flight rules.

Here’s a hasty transcript of the radio traffic, reconstructed from the NTSB preliminary. CHS is the Charleston approach controller; N3601V or 01V is the Cessna, not that it appears; we’ll use F16 for the jet’s callsign. The jet was heading about 215 degrees at about 200 knots, and the Cessna about 110 degrees at about 90 knots, so they were closing rapidly.

1100:18: CHS->F16, Traffic 12 o’clock, 2 miles, opposite direction, 1,200 indicated, type unknown.
1100:18: F16->CHS, Roger, looking for traffic.
1100:26: CHS->F16, Turn left heading 180 if you don’t have that traffic in sight.
1100:26: F16->CHS, Confirm two miles?
1100:32: CHS->F16, If you don’t have that traffic in sight turn left heading 180 immediately.
1100:49 (last radar return received from Cessna)
1100:52: CHS->F16, Traffic passing below you 1,400 feet.
1101:19: F16 (transmitting blind), Mayday!
1103:17 (last radar return from F-16, indicating 300 feet, near crash site).

The NTSB preliminary does contradict itself. It says, after the 1100:32 call demanding a turn from the F-16:

Over the next 18 seconds, the track of the F-16 began turning southerly.

However, it also indicates that:

At 1100:49, the radar target of the F-16 was located 1/2 nautical mile northeast of the Cessna, at an indicated altitude of 1,500 feet, and was on an approximate track of 215 degrees.

As we noted above, 215 degrees was the jet’s heading before the commanded turn; yet it was still tracking 215 on impact, it says here. However, after the collision the F16 was observed (on radar) to track “generally southerly”.

One thing that’s very clear from this is how quickly this situation developed and went thoroughly pear-shaped. When the controller says “immediate” or “immediately,” that’s a word that gets every pilot’s attention; they only use it when time matters. And from the first traffic call to the “immediately” call was about 14 seconds. Another 17 or so seconds after that, all opportunity to avoid the crash had been lost, two men were dead and one was about to take to the silk. A little more than a half minute elapsed from the controller’s first expression of concern to the collision. A little over three minutes had passed since the Cessna lifted off its runway and was immediately picked up by the ATC radar.

NTSB will have a final transcript with the final report, months from now.

Speculation Follows

The next couple of paragraphs are speculation about a possible contributing factor in this mishap. Speculation based on early reports, while it is the bread and butter of CNN, is often unwise in aviation mishaps, because early reporting is almost always as wrong as reporters can get. But nonetheless, we’ll go ahead and speculate. Therefore, to control the depth of speculation, the only source that we have used is the preliminary report from NTSB. –Ed.

When the radar images merged and the radar image of the shredded Cessna disappeared, the planes were reporting different altitudes. The transponder of the fighter said it was at 1500 feet (albeit descending); the transponder of the Cessna showed it at 1400 feet (and climbing), seconds before the collision. Because air pressure varies from time to time and place to place, a pilot uses a knob and a dial called a Kollsman window (after its 1930s inventor) to adjust the barometric pressure. A standard day’s pressure is considered to be 29.92 inches of mercury at sea level; locally, there was high pressure (that good sunny weather!) and the setting then and there should have been 31.15.

If the pilot of the jet mistakenly set his altimeter to 31.05, his altimeter would have read 1500 feet when he was actually at 1400 (or, if the pilot of the Cessna had set his to 31.25, he’d have been 100 feet higher than his reported altitude). We’re not sure that the F-16 transponder uses the pilot’s Kollsman setting like the civilian one does. We are fairly confident that if the two planes were correctly reporting that they were both at the same altitude, the controllers would have had much more of a sense of urgency (and automatic features of the system would have flagged their attention) much earlier.

What the Investigation Can and Will Determine

The investigators may be able to tell how the altimeters were set in both planes. On the Cessna, it’s a physical knob and dial, and should preserve its last setting if it was not physically destroyed in the impact. That may have happened. Here’s what the investigators found of the wreckage:

The wreckage of the Cessna was recovered in the vicinity of its last observed radar target, over the west branch of the Cooper River. Components from both airplanes were spread over an area to the north and west of that point, extending for approximately 1,200 feet. The largest portions of the Cessna’s airframe included a relatively intact portion of the fuselage aft of the main landing gear, and the separate left and right wings, all of which were within 500 feet northwest of the airplane’s final radar-observed position. Portions of the cabin interior, instrument panel, fuel system, and engine firewall were found distributed throughout the site. The engine, propeller, and nose landing gear assembly were not recovered. The lower aft engine cowling of the F-16 was also recovered in the immediate vicinity of the Cessna’s aft fuselage, while the F-16’s engine augmenter was recovered about 1,500 feet southwest. Small pieces of the F-16’s airframe were also distributed throughout the accident site.

Just to give you an idea how thoroughly even the F-16 was parted out inflight, here is the “engine augmenter” referenced above:

midair engine augmenter

Yeah, it landed on a trailer/RV park.

On the Viper, the altimeter setting should be retained in the data recorders, which were recovered in good order from the pilot’s ejection seat and the wreckage of the airplane.

The investigators were last seen dragging the river for missing parts of aircraft and people.

The investigators are likely to recommend that the Board note, among any other findings, that there are inherent limitations to the “see and avoid” principle, but, ultimately, the crew of the two aircraft failed to see and avoid one another.