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17 December 1939: British Commonwealth Air Training Plan agreement signed

Seventy-two years ago today, representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand signed the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan agreement.  This agreement committed the countries to training 50,000 airmen per annum until the conclusion of the Second World War—the goal was roughly 22,000 aircrew per year from Great Britain, 13,000 from Canada, 11,000 from Australia and 3,300 from New Zealand.  Under the plan, the aircrews would receive introductory air training with their home air forces, then travel to Canada for advanced flight training.  More than 130,000 Allied airmen—pilots, navigators, bombardiers, wireless operators, gunners and flight engineers—had received training in Canada by war’s end.

Here are some photos of BCATP activity drawn from LIFE magazine’s online archive:

An aerial view of RCAF Station Trenton. 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

Instructor teaching a bombing course at RCAF Station Trenton. 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

Cadet screwing the fuse into a bomb, RCAF Station Trenton. 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

Squadron Leader W. I. Riddell, walking and chatting with four flight instructors. RCAF Station Trenton, 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

Mechanics checking a Fairy Battle Bomber outside of its hangar at RCAF Station Trenton. 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

A landed Harvard trainer aircraft after night flying training. RCAF Station Trenton, 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

747-8 MTOW RTO test

All right, I’m impressed.

A brand new 747-8 performs an RTO (rejected takeoff) test at MTOW (maximum takeoff weight) using fully worn brakes, without reverse thrust, and still manages to stop 700 feet earlier than projected.

Read more about it at the manufacturer’s website.

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Better to be lucky than good; though it helps enormously if you’re both

Have a look at this Tu-154B-2 being flown after 10 years in storage. The aircraft is suffering from limited aileron authority (but a fully functional rudder), which induces a classic case of Dutch roll. Somehow the pilot manages to put her on the ground and not kill himself in the process. Camera work leaves a little to be desired, though.

First video features a flypast of the crippled airliner, showing the roll oscillations.

Second video has the approach and landing from the 1:30 mark, but the flare and touchdown are obscured by trees.

Here’s a pic snagged from a Russian forum showing the aircraft just before flare and touchdown. Doesn’t look too promising, but at least it ended well.

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The Checker

Time for a palate cleanser.  Videographer Jordi Blumberg has filmed many terrific sequences of aircraft and airside operations around London Gatwick Airport; here is one featuring a runway check.

Airport operators are required to check surface movement areas (aprons, taxiways and runways) for FOD—Foreign Object Debris which can cause critical damage to an aircraft’s engines.  In practice this means that every hour, an airport utility vehicle goes bolting down the runway (with anti-collision lights flashing), looking for dangerous bits of metal that might have fallen off other aircraft and could potentially cause damage to the next departing or arriving plane.

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KLAX SADDE6 Standard Terminal Arrival

Via the esteemed Professor Flea.

If you want to try and follow along at home, here’s the chart.  As I’m not the FAA, don’t do something silly and try and use this chart (which will become outdated in a matter of days) for actual air navigation.

Los Angeles Intl (KLAX) SADDE6 standard terminal arrival

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Strike Eagle training mission

Flares are released from an F-15E Strike Eagle during a local training mission Dec. 17, 2010, over North Carolina. The F-15E is from the 335th Fighter Squadron from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

See the entire 6-image photo essay at

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Operation Christmas Drop

Senior Airman Joseph Doria and Capt. Stanley Kimball watch after pushing a box of humanitarian assistance goods out of a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules, call sign "Santa 23" to its drop-zone in Yap Islands during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 14, 2010. This year more than 60 boxes will be dropped to 55 islands weighing in at more than 20,000 pounds. Airman Doria is a 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster from Yokota Air Base, Japan. Captain Kimball is the 36th Airlift Squadron flight surgeon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nichelle Anderson)

Airmen from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, watch as the parachute deploys and a box of humanitarian goods travels to the Yap Islands below during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 14, 2010. Operation Christmas Drop is the Air Force's longest-running humanitarian which began in 1952. What started as a WB-50 aircrew returning to Guam on its final flight before Christmas has turned into the longest running humanitarian campaign in the history of the U.S. Air Force and the entire world. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nichelle Anderson)

Operation Christmas Drop’s sole purpose is to aid our fellow islanders by coordinating volunteer efforts from both military and civilian agencies and distrubute donations received from all corners of the world. It all started in 1952 when the aircrew of a WB-29 aircraft assigned to the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, formerly assigned to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, was flying a mission to the south of Guam over the Micronesian atoll of Kapingamarangi. When they saw the islanders waving to them, the crew quickly gathered some items they had on the plane, placed them in a container with a parachute attached and dropped the cargo as they circled again.

I never cease to be amazed by the generosity and compassion of our men and women in uniform.  Regrettably I learned of Operation Christmas Drop too late to be of any practical assistance, but it’s worth keeping in mind for next year.

RELATED: An account of a drop from 374AW.

Colonel Mark Hering, the 374th Operations Group commander, participated in Operation Christmas Drop in December of 2009.

“I can say that in my 20 years of flying the C-130, it was one of the most moving missions, just hearing the voices on the other side of that radio and the excitement from all the islanders, hearing that a C-130 and a bundle from the sky were coming inbound.”

— Love, 2nd Lt. Christopher.  “Operation Christmas Drop a team effort.”  374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, 17 December 2010.