Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Polar Navigation and POW

Today started just as any other normal day. I got to school for an 8AM annual mandatory winter operations briefing. Apparently it is mandatory by Transport Canada for each Air Operator, including our school to have ground instruction or refreshers on Winter Operations every year. Or so I think/heard.

After that, we had Aircraft Design class where we handed in our fuselage design.
Our fuselage was a long range aircraft capable of 365 passengers in 22 First Class, 70 Business Class, and 273 Economy class seating configuration.

After that, I was about to kick and complain about the upcoming French class when I remembered that it wasn't class today but instead, we had two war veterans come in to talk to us while our Professor baked us a cake shaped in an airplane...more or less.

First was a WW1 Royal Canadian Air Force veteran that worked as a gunner in the Halifax and Lancaster for some time. He told us about a story in 1943 where he had been on a bombing mission somewhere over Germany and was shot down by the left wing of the airplane. 5 of the 7 occupants of the aircraft safely jumped with parachutes into German territory where they were eventually captured. He then talked about his time over at the German prison camp where "The Great Escape" had occurred and how he helped create the tunnels and how secretive everything was. He said he was fortunate that he wasn't chosen as one of the 200 to go out that night, which only 76 successfully escaped but 50 of which had been caught later on and killed.

A second slightly younger, RCAF navigator whom flew in the Korean and Vietnam wars talked to us afterwards. He was talking amongst pilots so he was allowed to use jargons, most of which we understood. One question he asked actually surprised me. He mentioned that he had done a lot of flying around the North Pole and asked us this:

What would your track be if you were to fly from the North Pole to Vancouver, and the class gladly said...well south! 180 degrees.
He said yes that's right, how about if you want to go to Halifax...and slightly confused we answered SOUTH?

And that was the problem...over the north pole...all directions was SOUTH! And so it required a completely different grid system for navigation. They have used a lot of "ancient" navigation ways, since they didn't have the convenience of the GPS back then. They actually used a grid system which used the Prime Meridian and parallel lines to it, and used that as a north and they flew grid tracks instead of true/magnetic tracks.

He also told us about his time flying in the C130 Hercules, where he was...if it wasn't for chance...would've been shot down by a SAM fired by someone which actually killed the airplane that had taken off 30 seconds before them.

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