Archive | November, 2011

Pitt’s Dirty Dozen

30 Nov

A brutal sufferfest dreamed up by two time RAAM winner Danny Chew. Take the 13 steepest hills in a very hilly city and link them all together in a one day ass kicker of a ride.

His site, with all of the details:


And a 30 min documentary on the spectacle.



Canton Ave… 37% grade.

Defying the Dirty Dozen: Cyclists take on steepest of Pittsburgh’s steep hills
Sunday, November 27, 2011
By Sean D. Hamill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bob Stumph had just finished 4th in the race to the top of Canton Avenue, the steepest of 13 hills cyclists tried to race up Saturday during the 29th running of the  Dirty Dozen BIke Race.

But that’s not what Mr. Stumph, 24, a barber from Beaver, wanted to talk about with his band of supporters, who cheered him as he took on the hills, each of them at least a 20 percent grade.

“I’m so glad you came,” he shouted to his girlfriend’s mother, Becky Gannon, over the cacophony of cow bells, air horns, and shouts of “Go! Go! Go!” Nearly 200 spectators lined both sides of the 100-yard-long cobblestone street to cheer on other cyclists trying — many in vain — to climb the 37 percent grade hill. “This is what the Dirty Dozen is all about.”


That was the sentiment of the day for the 300 or so riders who came out trying to fulfill the goal the race founders had when they started in 1983 with just five participants: the three co-founders and two friends.

“The whole thing back then was to try to do outrageous rides,” said Bob Gottlieb, 52, a Squirrel Hill resident who still rides the race occasionally. “Whether it was a 150-mile ride in the Laurel Highlands, or to ride the steepest dozen hills in Pittsburgh in one day, we just wanted to do rides that we could challenge ourselves and hang out with our friends.” There were 12 hills that first year, and there have been as many as 15, but this year it was a baker’s dozen.

While the race still has that quirky, grass-roots feel to it — it has a $15 registration fee, it doesn’t take out permits with the cities it runs through, there’s no title sponsor, and the 13 finish lines are hand-drawn orange chalk lines on the streets — Saturday’s turnout may eventually change all of that.

Though the race has grown steadily, its previous record attendance from 2009 was still just 185 participants — already making it Pittsburgh’s biggest bike race.

But last year the race caught the attention of WQED public television’s famed documentarian, Rick Sebak. He brought two cameramen to the 2010 race and produced a show that ran on WQED’s “It’s Pittsburgh” series in January.

Mr. Sebak, who won a regional Emmy for the piece, said he was drawn to document the race for a basic reason: “Its spirit seems to be very Pittsburghian. It demonstrates how we love our hills.”

Largely as a result of that publicity and the great fall weather, Saturday’s race broke the previous record by more than 60 percent with about 300 riders.

Many of those people who have helped support the race and spread the word of its insane beauty over the years believe that popularity means it will soon have to change. The hills they race up are narrow streets designed two centuries ago, and it was already getting tight with 185 racers. And with 300 cyclists, the peloton is that much longer and unwieldy on even the main roads.

“It’s getting to the point where now it really needs a title sponsor and some formal organization,” said Mr. Gottlieb, who owns a scrap metal plant on Neville Island. “Because, eventually, something is going to happen as it gets bigger.”

Glenn Pawlak, owner of Big Bang Bicycles in West Mifflin and a sponsor of the race for the last two years, agreed that having 300-plus cyclists in one race could be a tipping point “or a breaking point.”

“It’s getting big enough that it’s going to need to be dealt with in a higher, more professional fashion,” he said.

Pittsburgh Police had already let race organizer Danny Chew — one of the co-founders and by all accounts the reason the race has grown like it has — know that it was becoming unwieldy two years ago. They asked him to not take the cyclists through the Liberty Tunnel on the way back into the city near the end of the race.

“So I stopped [going through the tunnel] because I want to be on good terms with them,” said Mr. Chew, a nationally renowned long-distance cyclist who has twice won the Race Across America.

Still, he has resisted the idea of making it an officially sanctioned race.

“They know I do it,” Mr. Chew, 49, of Squirrel Hill said of the police. “I tried to get a permit [from Pittsburgh] last year, but it cost too much.”

This year, anticipating more riders, Mr. Chew rounded up more volunteer marshals to help control traffic and watch the cyclists at each of the 87 intersections they cross during the six hours they are out on the streets of Pittsburgh and several surrounding suburbs.

And he asked his two supporters, Big Bang Bikes and Eat’n Park, to help out a bit more with funding and contributions.

Brooks Broadhurst, vice president of Eat’n Park and a cyclist, came out to help as a marshal and contributed Smiley Cookies, peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and hot chocolate.

He said he and his company have taken note of the race’s unique quality already, in part because the course goes past two of its restaurants.

Like everyone who is part of the race, he recognizes that in addition to the grueling hills and quirky fun, it’s Mr. Chew who makes the race what it is.

“He’s a unique character,” Mr. Broadhurst said. “No one else could do it.”

With his high-pitch, staccato voice and endless championing of the Dirty Dozen, Mr. Chew’s infectious enthusiasm seems to have impressed everyone who has done the race — despite the pain it causes.

“Well, racing this is like hitting yourself with a hammer: When you stop, it feels real good,” said Jim Switzer, 56, a high school automotive technology teacher from Dimock, Pa., who came out for his first race Saturday. “Only Danny could get this many people out to do something like this.”

Only a couple dozen riders ever hope to score a point in the race — the top 10 men and top five women up each hill get points in descending order. The rest of the racers are merely trying to complete each hill. That’s a tall order when walking up hills — a compelling option on most of them — doesn’t count as completing a hill.

Ann-Marie Alderson of Etna won the women’s race for the first time, one of only three women to finish every hill out of 13 women who competed.

In the men’s race, Steve “Steevo” Cummings, 31, a Howard Hanna real estate agent from Lawrenceville, won the men’s race for the eighth time in a row.

Before the race he insisted he was “scared” because it was “so much pain” to contemplate doing the race again — a sentiment he couldn’t completely let go, even after winning.

“I don’t want to come back,” he said with a smile while leaning on his bike, still breathing heavily after completing the last hill on Tesla Street in Hazelwood. “I hope it snows a lot next year so we don’t have to do it.”

But with all of Saturday’s success, the question remains, would Mr. Chew allow it to become more professionally run with a title sponsor and all that that means?

He would, though he conceded, “It is a little upsetting, because it started so small, and it was kind of nice when I knew everybody in the race, but there’s something nice about having hundreds of people trying all of these hills.”


Cyclecars – Relics from the era of awesomeness

28 Nov

Take an engine from something like a WWI biplane, put it in a chassis full of splinters and tetanus, strap on a helmet and give ’em hell.

As someone else said, “I wonder how they get their legs and their balls to fit in the same pair of pants?

This is a GN cyclecar from the 1910’s.

seen racing on sunday…….5 litre (302ci) air cooled, JAP V8…total loss oiling system (it just runs out all over the car/driver/floor) engine from before Louis Blereo (think you spell it like that) first flew across the English channel … well before ww1….
The guy drove it like a bastard, opposite lock on every corner, smoking the tyres as he was sliding…..and no front brakes

Oh and it’s road legal too!! Don’t ask me how i have no idea

I think I want one of these things

Here is “Thunderbug.” This is another GN from the same era. (same black/yellow car from above)

“The Hornet Special”

Nash and Godfrey hated cogs

Built a car with chains and dogs

Would it work I wonder if

It was fitted with a diff?

Holy F’ing shit…

Turns out he only broke a collarbone, but DAMN. 😮

And then take one in the mud?!

No kits. Get to work!

I’ll stop soon, I swear 😮 I can’t get over the details on this car.

As someone else very aptly pointed out it’s like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… in race car form. Very Victorian. The patina, the oily ash, the copper and brass, the exposed valvetrain on the Prestwich engine, the artwork… It’s just fucking awesome in every sense.

Just a couple more that popped up


23 Nov

Watson, our new Rhodesian ridgeback will be coming home Dec 10 and I absolutely can’t wait.

Anyone that knows me also knows of my love for Indy roadsters and my plan to build one when I finally get time. One day I’ll pull the blueprints back out of the safe, start beding tubing, learn how to work sheetmetal, etc and you’ll see me cruising a copy of the Ken Paul Spl around town, but until then I’ll settle for having just a little more testosterone in the house 😀 . As a compromise between a great dane and a yorkie we settled on a Rhodesian ridgeback and after some searching we finally found a breeder we are very comfortable with and trusting of and we have picked out the newest memeber of our family. 


Here’s our new little guy:



We are naming him Watson in honor of the great Indy roadster builder, chief mechanic and all around legend AJ Watson. AJ’s cars won the 500 seven times, tying him for first on that list and making him the dominating force during the Indy roadster era.


Some history:  

Watson got his big break at the end of the 1954 season when he became chief mechanic for the team run by John Zink, Jr., the son of a magnate in industrial heating from Oklahoma. He modified a Frank Kurtis-built roadster for the 1955 Indy 500, and with it Bob Sweikert won the race.

For the 1956 Indy 500, Watson built a roadster of his own design, offsetting the engine and driveline some 12 inches to the left to improve weight distribution for faster cornering speeds. Pat Flaherty set a new one-lap speed mark to sit on the pole at a record 145.596 mph in the first Watson-designed roadster, and then went on to win the race. Watson roadsters monopolized the front row for the 1958 Indy 500, and Watson went to work for Bob Wilke’s Leader Card team (named for the envelope company owned by Wilke’s father)

In the end, Watson built some 23 roadsters, including the cars that won the 500 in 1959-60, 1962 and 1963. When A.J. Foyt, Jr., recorded the last 500 victory for a front-engine car in 1964, he, too, was driving a Watson roadster.


AJ Foyt’s ride… pure mechanical beauty:



Here’s a Sports Illustrated article from May 1960:

May 30, 1960

The Wizard Of Indy

He’s car-builder A. J. Watson, and he has 11 chances to win next week’s ‘500’

Alfred Wright

It is almost axiomatic to report each year that the cars are running faster at the Indianapolis Speedway. A fortnight ago, for instance, the cars that qualified for the first 22 of the 33 positions available in the 500-mile race on Memorial Day averaged 145.513 mph. That is 2.5 mph faster than last year. Then just last weekend, Indianapolis newcomer Jim Hurtubise of Lennox, Calif. averaged 149.056 mph for the 10-mile qualifying run to beat the record 146.592 set the week before by Eddie Sachs. By Indianapolis standards, Hurtubise’s performance was remarkable and was greeted almost in disbelief. But by other standards it was one more step forward, typical of the way these fastest of all racing cars get better, by decimals sometimes and by leaps at others.

Everyone concerned with Indianapolis takes for granted the inevitability of higher speeds. Although the engines are periodically reduced in size, as they were most recently in 1958, still the speeds go up. The drivers, albeit a year older, are almost invariably the same fellows who drove a bit slower the previous year. The alterations in the cars from year to year—and particularly this year—are usually almost imperceptible.

Last weekend, while everyone at the speedway was standing around on one foot and then the other, waiting for the wind and the rain to go away, A. J. Watson tried to explain the improvement in this year’s cars. Watson is the quiet and unassuming Californian who built the Indianapolis winners of 1955, 1956 and 1959 and from his blueprints came this year’s fastest qualifier, the Travelon Special driven by Hurtubise. “I don’t know,” A.J. said without any false modesty. “The cars are about the same. Maybe it’s the tires.”

Tires, to be sure, are terribly important at the speedway, more important than at any other race. It is on the four gradually banked turns of this rectangular track’s two-and-a-half-mile course that a driver is most apt to pick up the fractional seconds that make a difference. And it takes a special kind of tire to withstand the speed at which today’s race cars go into the corners. Firestone, which has had a monopoly at the Brickyard for years, is constantly tinkering to make the speedway tires (used nowhere else in the world) faster, stronger and more adhesive. This year they have added a couple of grooves to the tires, and it is these, along with some minor alterations in the compound of the rubber, that Watson was referring to.

However, with the 1960 race still a week away, it was not Firestone but Watson himself who seemed to dominate the event. Of the 65 cars at the track trying for the 33 starting positions, 11 of the certain starters will be Watson cars, either built by him or built from his blueprints. Remarkably, all of the Watson cars figure to be in contention at the end of next week’s “500.” Of the eight fastest cars to qualify so far this year, six of them are A.J.’s.

It is generally conceded around racing people that the driver of a car is 50% of the race, and the car and mechanic are the other half. The folks in the stands at Indianapolis think largely in terms of the men in the cockpit—Sachs, in the pole position, Jim Rathmann, in second place, Rodger Ward, last year’s winner and national driving champion, Tony Bettenhausen, Johnny Thomson, Jim Bryan, Hurtubise and the other big names. Around the garage they talk about Watson and George Salih, Quinn Epperly, Eddie Kuzma, Frank Kurtis and the others who build the best of the cars.

Talking piece

Watson, of course, is the chief topic of conversation. His accomplishments and his reputation have been mounting steadily ever since Bob Sweikert drove Watson’s first winning car in 1955. Last year, during the 47th lap when Thomson (in a non-Watson) made a pit stop, the cars in the first five positions were all built by Watson, and those driven by Ward and Jim Rathmann finished first and second.

“Simplicity personified,” says Fred Agabashian, the elder statesman of the veteran Indy drivers, in accounting for Watson’s success. “A. J. never hangs a lot of superfluous metal on his cars. Everything has a function and is easy to fix. The workmanship is first class, and A. J. has a reason for each little thing he does. And don’t forget that A. J. is right there at the track working on his cars every year. He is always up to date. A lot of the fellows who build cars don’t ever get to the track, so they have to depend on hearsay and theory.”

A handsome man with just a sprinkling of gray in his crew-cut hair, Watson is almost deferential about his work. He makes no claims for himself as an engineering genius. About all he will say to define his success is, “I come back here and race cars all the time, and that’s where I may have a little edge on the other builders.”

If you wanted to buy a new Watson car for next year’s race it would cost you about $15,000, roughly $5,000 less than other top builders charge for just the chassis and skin, as racing people call the body. You would, of course, want to install the standard Meyer-Drake four-cylinder Offenhauser, the engine almost everybody uses in Indianapolis cars, but you would have to buy that separately for another $10,000 or so and install it yourself in your own garage.

Perfection in a small garage

As he did with the four new cars he built last winter for this year’s race, Watson would construct the car at the small garage he owns in Glendale, Calif. Much of the work there is done at night, since Watson’s labor is semi-voluntary. The four or five assistants who help him work for the love of the craftsmanship and racing. Most of them hold down daytime jobs at nearby plants like Lockheed and have a loose arrangement with Watson concerning their pay. Naturally, Watson’s wife, Joyce, and his two daughters, aged 6 and 2�, are not particularly enthusiastic about this way of life, for they don’t get to see very much of Daddy. But Watson, like most perfectionists, has a priestly dedication to his work. Aside from a little water skiing now and then, there is hardly anything that distracts him from the year-round occupation of building and racing automobiles.

Come April, Watson will have finished building whatever new cars he has contracted to deliver (the four he built last winter were the most he can produce at one time). At that point he packs up his family and heads for Indianapolis  where he owns a house in the little township of Speedway, on the outskirts of Indianapolis and near the race track. Watson sets up his headquarters at the Speedway in adjoining garages Nos. 16 and 17. From the day he moves in until the end of the racing season, he is the full-time mechanic for Bob Wilke, a machine card manufacturer from Milwaukee who runs an auto racing stable under the name Leader Card, which is also the name of his business. While A. J. is getting the Leader Card Specials ready for the big race, he also helps out his many other customers and friends.

There is a deceptive casualness about Watson’s operation, as if everything he did was a kind of afterthought. Speaking of the four new cars he built last winter for the 1960 race, he said, “I kind of promised Aggie [ J.C. Agajanian, the southern CAlifornia pig farmer and racing promoter] that I would build him a car if I had time, and then Wilke wanted a new one if I was going to build one for somebody else. The first thing I knew I was building four of them.” All four of these cars qualified the first day at speeds of better than 144 mph. One, the Leader Card Special, is being driven by Ward, one by Jim Rathmann, one by Len Sutton and Aggie’s car by Lloyd Ruby.

Watson had to turn down an order for a fifth new car last fall from Al Dean, a southern California trucker whose Dean Van Lines Specials have been contenders at Indianapolis for years. So Watson lent a set of his blueprints to his friend and fellow-mechanic, Wayne Ewing, one of the many car buffs who hang around Watson’s shop in Glendale. Ewing went ahead and built the car on his own and turned it over to Clint Brawner, the talented mechanic who masterminds Dean’s racing cars. On the first day of qualifying this car broke, with Sachs in the cockpit, all the records at the speedway. It set a new single-lap record of 147.251 mph which was later broken by Hurtubise’s 149.601.

Although Sachs, at the age of 33, has been one of the top dirt track drivers in the East since 1953 and ranked among the first 10 drivers in the national championship for the past two years, he has never finished a race at Indianapolis  Sachs is a fellow with a large and determined jaw and a keen sense of survival, and he has been heard to say that if he can win the big race this year, that will be it. He will be perfectly happy to make a full-time job of his cocktail lounge at Center Valley, Pa., just outside Allentown, near the New Jersey border. Despite his fast qualifying run, Sachs’s strategy, he has said, will be to lay back within hailing distance of the gang busters and avoid the free-for-all that usually characterizes the early stages of the “500.” The $150 that goes to the leader at the end of each of the 200 laps can be mighty attractive bait and can even mount up into big money over a period, but experience proves that the early-lap winners rarely drive their cars into the victory lane.

A hairy scramble

Among the front runners one can expect to find Jim Rathmann and his brother Dick. Jim, the younger of the two, is a saturnine blond and a truculent competitor who has three times finished second at Indianapolis  Naturally he has every intention of shaking the bridesmaid role this week. Rodger Ward in Watson’s No. 1 car is another front-running type. (The other Leader Card Special, for which Watson will also be the chief mechanic, is the car in which Ward won last year. It will be driven this time by Chuck Stevenson.) Along with Rathmann and Ward you can expect to find Tony Bettenhausen and Johnny Thomson, both of whom like the hairy scramble that goes on for the lap prizes, and, probably, the amazing Hurtubise, who, as a rookie, is still something of an unknown quantity.

Around Gasoline Alley, as they call the garage area at the speedway, it is customary to find most of the cars lying in a thousand parts inside their crowded stalls whenever they aren’t on the track for practice. An occupational disease of every Indianapolis mechanic is the urge to make just one more adjustment, no matter how well a car has performed up to that point. However, in adjoining stalls, numbered 62 and 63, the disarray and confusion is caused by something more serious than a mechanic’s persnicketiness. It is there that the two Novi Specials are parked, and this year, as quite frequently in the past, they are not well.

Ever since the war, the Novis have been almost as much a part of the Indianapolis scene as the brick paving on the homestretch. The deep-throated roar of their supercharged V-8 engines sends a thrilling shiver through the grandstands. Although today they are virtually the same machines that first arrived at Indy so many years ago and have since set their share of records, they can still travel faster on the straightaway than the very latest four-cylinder Offenhauser. It is the determination of Lew Welch, the Michigan air-conditioner manufacturer who owns them, that one day one of his Novis is going to win the race.

No day for the Novi

Unhappily, this is no more likely to be the year of the Novi than previous ones. No. 49 Novi was scarcely able to get on the track at all. First it was the impeller on the supercharger which broke into pieces while turning at something like 40,000 rpm. Then, on a practice run last Saturday, the engine blew completely beyond repair—for this year’s race. With young Dempsey Wilson at the wheel, Novi No. 47 seemed to be doing better and was turning laps at 143 or so last Saturday when it started spouting oil. At nightfall it was again in pieces, and only the most optimistic man in the garage would dare predict it would be ready to qualify, which it wasn’t.

The absence of the Novis will be a loss to the race. As Wilson said after one exciting practice session, “With the Offies you watch your tachometer to see how fast you’re going. With the Novis you watch it to find out when to slow down.” At 7,800 rpm, the Novis turn up about 630 hp. At a little better than 6,000 rpm, the recommended top speed, the Offies produce only 375 hp.

Yet it will most surely be an Offie that ends up in front next Monday, and if there is anything to the law of averages at the Brickyard, the Offie will be riding in a car that A.J. Watson built. It is hard to figure the race any other way.

Drag racing pioneers or suicidal nutjobs?

21 Nov

This is basically a tribute to the crazy bastards who risked life and limb for that last bit of speed… and were willing to play with untold amounts of self-igniting, super toxic, incredibly unstable and deadly rocket fuel to get it.

Warning: It’s long, and I won’t Cliff’s Notes it.

Hydrazine was first used as a rocket fuel during WWII for the Messerschmitt ME163B. Hydrazine is also used as a low-power monopropellant for the maneuvering thrusters of spacecraft, and the space shuttle’s auxiliary power unit.

I’ve been doing some entertaining reading this morning. Mostly about the early days of drag racing… and more specifically, the use of hydrazine as a fuel additive. It all started when I came across a thread about a guy who found a 20lt drum of hyrdazine in the shop of a local drag racer who passed away.

He got responses like this:

Labratory Mice get Cancer just thinking about Shit like this.


DON’T FUCK AROUND WITH THIS STUFF!It is HIGHLY TOXIC! It is of the family of fuels that are known as.”oxygen scavengers” their latent heat value increases dramatically in the presence of oxygen.DO NOT BREATHE it in!It is very corrosive to non-ferrous metals when combined with water.It was banned in the 60’s from drag racing because some people were mixing it with nitromethane and getting a crude and very unstable form of nitroglycerine!I think Chris Karamesines still holds the “altitude record” for lofting a GMC blower when an engine he was running with a nitro/hydrazine mix exploded.I think it’s still used as an ingredient in liquid-fueled rocket engines.BAD NEWS SHIT!


The MSDS sheets read like a horror movie (sidenote: the racer who had the barrel stashed away… died of cancer )

Well that piqued my interest, so I did some more searching.

I’ll quote the stories word for word. Maybe they’ll be as entertaining to someone else as they were to me:

First an article, then some personal accounts.

The Doomsday weapon of the sixties

By Steve Reasbeck

Alton, Illinois, Sunday, April 4, 1960; on a typical spring Sunday in the Midwest – cool, crisp, and clear. The local drag strip is hosting a match race between one of the heaviest hitters of the day, Chris Karamesines Chicago based slingshot, powered by what was becoming the standard powerplant of fuel racing, the 392 Chrysler Hemi. The nickname for the hemi headed engines that were production equipment in big Chryslers was Chizlers, and the Golden Greek had named his state of the art slingshot after the engine itself.

On this particular Sunday, the Golden Greek’s Chrysler was ready to go in a manner that was a bit unprecedented. When the car was push started; many knowledgeable and seasoned watchers noted that the engine sounded a bit different – the cackle a bit louder, crisper. Don Maynard, the exceptionally sharp crew chief of the Chi-town star, appeared to have really done his homework.

The Greek left in the manner typical of dragsters of the day, the two rear tires throwing off a rooster tail plume of smoke. However, the car started to pull at mid range – hard –much harder than ever before. After a brief period of silence, the announcer read off the timers’ reading to the crowd – 8.82 @ 204.50 – a good 30 mph faster than the typical time of the day. The Greek did not back up the astounding mph that day, and did not in the immediate years afterward. However, a 199 mph clocking in Kansas a couple of weeks later indicated again that the Chizler had indeed come upon something.

What was the difference this time? Over the years, dark accusations and less than complimentary statements were made concerning the driver, the facility, and the pass itself. A hoax, it was called a PR stunt. Maybe…but, then again, maybe it was not.

The Greek had a secret that day and it was a dangerous, volatile secret. It was the same secret that would launch the USA’s Titan Rockets into space to put mankind into space orbit. The secret that the Soviet Union would use to power their ballistic missiles designed to thwart the threat of US aircraft. That secret was Hydrazine. Over the years, Hydrazine would prove to be the additive to use to put one’s name on the map, to make the “1320 news” as one of the players. It would also prove to be one of the most dangerous products that one could run, and would result in the destruction of equipment, and the injury of competitors

Hydrazine, technically named anhydrous hydrazine (N2H4) is basically designed as an oxygen-scavenging agent, and is primarily used in rocket technology. It has the aroma of ammonia, but is clear and colorless – and is extremely caustic. If absorbed through the skin, it would make one extremely ill, and in NASA environments one must use protective clothing to work with it. Its oxygen scavenging capabilities were so powerful that it was generally used at only 10cc per one gallon of nitro.

A monopropellant, (which means that it does not require an oxidizer to be a propellant) it uses a catalyst for ignition. It is typically used on spacecraft thrusters to adjust attitude and trajectory. Used also in liquid fueled rockets, often mixed with “hypergolic” fuels such as nitric acid, it requires no ignition source and combusts spontaneously. Nitromethane is also a “hypergolic” fuel, which is where its use in fuel dragsters came in.

Jim Miller, a Texas based Super Stock racer who has an extensive background with Hydrazine through both his military and NASA careers, states that it’s use in an internal combustion fuel motor is a bad combination.

“Since nitro (CH3NO2) carries oxygen with it already, and hydrazine needs that oxygen it makes for a bad combination. That would make a ready made bomb mixed in the right proportions.”

A 70’s era crew chief once told Miller that he set a record with only 2% hydrazine mixed with 90% nitro and 8% methanol.

Although relatively stable to store and transport, its reaction with other chemicals were unknown and could be extremely dangerous. A spokesman for one of the nation’s largest producers, appalled that hot rodders were messing with it in internal combustion engines, commented, “There is no way to pinpoint every phase of the reaction between hydrazine and nitromethane”, and went on to state it could easily “result in unexplainable engine explosions. You have got to remember that hydrazine can burst into flame when merely spilled on iron oxide (rusted metal)!”

Its use had been with drag racing since the early years. Not used until the use of hot fuels began early hot rodders in Southern California soon figured out that hot fuels would increase the performance of their early dragsters.

Miller added, “I would not think it would mix well with gasoline.”

Some were involved with the fledgling space program out at Edwards Air Force base, and soon they discovered that this magic elixir might indeed make their already developed out flatheads push the envelope just a bit more. Among early users were Jack Chrisman, as well as carburetor and fuel injection pioneer Holly Hedrich. What they found was that Hydrazine would push the flatties to about 380 horsepower, up about 90 from a state of the art, fully prepped nitro powered flattie. The down side, however, is that they generally only lasted for one or two nitro runs, and then became instant junk. The main webs and rods had a tendency to blow apart, taking everything else with them. As a result, its use was pretty much shelved after this sobering discovery.

The quest for speed, though, is addictive, so the success of the use of Hydrazine would prove too tempting. This would cause racers to tempt fate and use it to get those big numbers that would launch them into the record books. The Ramchargers 65 altered wheelbase Dodge cracked the eight-second barrier for the first time at Cecil County Maryland in the summer of 65, thus becoming the first stock bodied car into the eights. When driver Jim Thornton tripped the timers at 8.91, the Moon tank had been topped off with a dose of Hydrazine mixed in with the alcohol/nitro.

In 1967, Ed Schartman’s flip top Roy Steffey Enterprises Comet dominated the Indy Nationals, clocking a jaw dropping 8.28 on the FC final. Crew Chief Roy Steffey’s secret – you guessed it – Hydrazine. Along with the record setting performances, though, was continuing carnage. The Cleveland based SCS Comet was the last widely known use of hydrazine, however, and although

it was used off and on in years to come its use began to wane.

As the technology of the sport progressed, it became apparent that the engines were at the point where the good old nitromethane/methanol mix was capable of producing enough usable horsepower to make the cars run quick and fast. The technology was developing in other areas, and it was simply getting to the point where it was not a cost-effective option.

Every sport and every endeavor grows through innovation. Drag racing was and is no exception. However, one only needs to spend some time with some of the true pioneers of our sport to realize the extent of innovation attempted, and its subsequent cost in both dollars as well as physical injury. However, the use of Hydrazine propelled early racers to phenomenal performances, which resulted in big headlines throughout the racing world. Those early 200 mph times, however controversial, helped develop the quarter mile into a major motorsport, so perhaps it is just another reminder of the debt that today’s competitors owe those that came before.

PS. As you read the personal accounts, think about this. These days, this is what it takes to handle this stuff.

Operators in scape suits make adjustments to the monitoring equipment in preparation for the hydrazine fueling activities for the Herschel spacecraft.

And now for some personal accounts from guys that were there.

Hat’s off to these fucking crazy sonsofbitches.

One of my Viper brothers, the late and sorely missed, John Hogan, used to work for Chris Karamazines, the Golden Greek. This was way back in the sixties, I know if we say we remember the sixties we weren’t really there, whatever. The Greek used to try every and anything to go faster and quicker. One of the craziest things was using hydrazine as an exciter and oxigenator for Nitro. John said he used to have to keep the 8oz of hydrazine in a box full of ice, covered with a towel. The Greek would do his burn out and after he backed up John would open the fuel tank and add the stuff while they took off the throttle stop and switched the pump to the high side. As soon as the pump picked the mixed potion up the engine started heaving and barking and making a hellacious noise. Started throwing big GREEN flames in the air. Then the green light would go on and the car would launch like nothing ever seen before. The deal was that they had to run the whole tank out or it would become hypergolic and blow a crater in the track. So they idled the car back down the return road until the tank was used up. Of course NHRA got wind of this shit and banned hydrazine in competition. Those were the days. The saying went something like: “If the ground is shakin; and the flames are green, he must be using that Hydrazine.” And that’s the inspiration for my calling my chili the Hydrazine Flash!


Once upon a time in the south……yea, some of us used Hydrazine….

Every now and then we would add a drop or two……kept it in a vinegar bottle in the glove compartment of our push truck…..

One of our “competitors” insisted that we give him some of our “special sauce”…we did, along with instructions……”DO NOT PUT IT ALL IN AT ONE TIME”…….he did not heed our warnings……heard this horrible sound…a certain hemi, with the front wheels sitting up on the trailer, just started up…something was definately going on there……looked over and saw him running around the car, pulling wires off, it still ran…..sounded like 10,000 rpms…..then the crank blew out on the ground……..we left.

That stuff was hell on parts, but was good for a while. I tried some in an old panhead…..big mistake.


“Wait, I’m old….I remember….I think!! If it’s burnin’ green–It’s hydrazine. One night at the “beach” I noticed a jr fueler(remember REAL jr fuel–850 lbs & the whole can) runnin’ kinda green. They came back to the pits to cool it down where the hoses and mud were. They parked it and walked away to get some hot-dogs or something. About 5 minutes later there was a loud explosion, and the cylinder heads had blown OFF the SBC and were just layin’ in the cool-down area.ANHYRDOUS ‘ZINE…exciting and unpredictable!I’m a professional….Don’t try this at home!!”

Shows what a crazy thing it really was…


I used to hang with a lot of heavy hitters from the 60’s that had top fuel dragsters. Most of them never messed with hydrazine. It was added to the tank in very small quantities right before the run. If it was allowed to remain in the tank or fuel system after the run; it began to gel and turned into a Class A explosive. If you tried to fire the car after it sat for awhile there was a possibility that the engine would explode similar to hydraulicing a motor. There was at least one pit death and some injuries that resulted from this.


Well, I have CRS real bad, but I do remember one story from Indy “68 or “69 about when nobody wanted to admit they used it.
I had reunited with Walton/Anderson for a few races and went to help. As anyone who ran the stuff knew, there was a story that anything over 5% of the stuff would turn the mix to a class A explosive within 20 minutes! Nobody knew if it was true or not, but did NOT want to find out!
I think I remember 65 T/F cars shooting for 32 spots. In the first three pair, there were oildowns, they didn’t do as good of a job as today, and were pretty quick clean ups but were almost 25 minutes behind from when the session started.
When the next pair BOTH blew up and oiled both lanes, Walton and I looked at each other and panicked ! Off came the nose, out came the tank and main line and a rush over to the grass area to dump it. While it was draining, I looked up to see about six or eight other guys also draining theirs.


Hydrazine it what the Germans powererd the Me 163 Comet with. They occasionaly blew up in flight as they flew through turbulence. Unstable shit.
These planes killed more than 50% of their pilots, they never lost one to enemy action.


A great friend of mine who passed away last year, James “Boston” Smith had some good hydrazine stories. He grew up traveling during the summers with Ezra Boggs and the Moby Dick funny car team in the 60’s and 70’s. Pretty good summer vacations for young kid. The original funny car summer.
Part of his job was pulling the drain plug on the fuel tank when the car got back to the pits when they were running a special fuel mix. Drain it into the ground and purge the system with methanol. According to his tales, every second counted. Said you could tell someone was running hydrazine when they’re car would “mysteriously” blow up in the pits after a run, or on the way back. If you knew someone was running the stuff, you took your time staging. One day he commented to me how he was another victim of hydrazine cancer. Apparently the stuff is extremely carcinogenic.
Here’s to all those who can’t be here, a round for the house


I have a good friend “dick belfattii- The Shadow” who was one of the original “greek fleet” fuel cars in the early 60’s. he played with hydrozine in his fuel car anlong with buddies karamasinis & don maynard and later payed a heffty price for it ,burned the skin off his legs after his engine exploded at a match race in York pa. that explosion made him a team owner and he had bobby vodnick do the driving after that. see the pics of the engine after the explosion (nitro/alky/hydrozine) dick said the hydrozine was good for about 10 mph on the top end (if you got the mix right?)


I once saw a sbc top fuel motor blow the valve covers and oil pan off the still running motor while staging(back when they push started toward the starting line and crossed over). Hydrazine was the accepted reason and it was later banned. Lots of unbanned stuff is found while trying to gain “maximum competitive advantage” and later made illegal. If you have not crowded the line on the rules, you have never raced sucessfully


Hydrazine however – nasty nasty stuff.

I heard that at nationals one year everyone was running ‘zine and there was a LOT of engine explosions. And after the third one everyone was running back to the pits and dumping their tank onto the grass before the stuff got too unstable and blew up the car!

I also heard of one digger that was sitting there after they drained the tank not running, and suddenly the engine blew one of the cylinder heads and blower right off of it because of the hydrazine laced nitro left in the injector lines and cylinders from cutting the mag while it was running.

If you ever look at some of those old color night photos of the md 60’s fuelers, some of them are blasting out green flames! Thats hydrazine!

“If the ground is a-shaken, and the flames are green, they is-a runnin’ that hydrazine!”

A few more…


Just a word of advice…if you get something on your hands and can immediatly taste it in your mouth….you have just screwed up big time.

Just make sure you have a will and your family is provided for


What do you get when you mix Nitromethane and Hydrazine?

Burned pistons. Cylinder heads that clear the grandstands. Vaporized superchargers. In other words, carnage.

If you use it quick, you get gobs of power. If you let it sit more than 5 or 10 minutes, you get a class III explosive that will detonate if you sneeze to hard…


It’s really not too surprising that when you take a nitrated(oxygen bearing)fuel and mix it with an,”oxygen scavenger”(a fuel whose latent heat value rises dramatically in the presence of oxygen),you are essentially left with a very crude(and unstable)form of nitroglycerin.You get about the same result mixing potassium permanganate and red fuming nitric acid although if you pour one into the other the wrong way it explodes.Bad mojo.


Hydrazine is extremely nasty shit. It is what is used in the space shuttle’s attitude control thrusters.

It’s a mono-propellant, which to the layman means it can go boom all by itself, no second reactant needed

It’s also highly carcinogenic.

It’s clear and smells like ammonia. Don’t ask how I know.


From what i hear it killed a lot of engines at the drags too untill it was banned. Stories of engine blocks falling in half. Another story relayed to me was of maybe tom senter or one of the early flathead pioneers running a stock flatmotor on it it made amazing HP for about 30seconds
then let go


There were a couple of deaths in the pits, I heard. NHRA won’t talk about it though. Liability issues, I guess. I remember a Jr Fueler the blew the heads off in the pits at Lions.


I think they’re STILL trying to clean up some stuff like that that they spilled around here back during the space race in the early 50’s…


Not positive, but I THINK it was Sneeky Pete who found out the hard way-
that it’s so highly oxygenated that it will burn back up the fuel line like a fuse and make your Moon tank into a car bomb.


I had access to hydrazine in the 50’s when I worked at Boeing.
I can tell you, It REALLY makes a flathead go fast.

(the post-it note is from David Freiburger to Gray Baskerville). Rumored to be a hydrazine related “failure”

From an article called “Great Race: 1969 US Nationals”

During the hey-day of N2H4 fun.

Contributing to the fun of watching what were essentially full-size street car look-alikes snake down the track to low seven-second, 200-mph times was the reliability of the automatic-transmission-equipped Funny Cars. Mixed in with the Top Fuel dragsters’ great times were more destroyed engines, superchargers, and centrifugal clutches — the result of hydrazine in the nitromethane and the fatiguing heat generated by the still new centrifugal-clutch technology — than any previous NHRA national event in memory.

If you can find this issue, there’s a piece in it called “A Look at Hydrazine.”

Can you imagine if they tried printing that today?

Need to focus? Here’s a tree.

17 Nov


“In God’s wilderness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and the wounds heal ere we are aware.”
John Muir


It’s November 17… National Take a Hike Day.


Taking  break from your day to watch these won’t kill you. In fact, it might make the day a little easier.

“A 2008 study by University of Michigan psychologists found that walking outside or even just looking at pictures of natural settings improved directed attention, the ability to concentrate on a task. Put another way: nature restores our ability to focus.” 

– Outside Magazine, Dec 2011



Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

Time Lapse Tour of Yosemite National Park from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.

Landscapes: Volume One from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

Timescapes Timelapse: Mountain Light from Tom Lowe on Vimeo.

Earth – Time lapse flyovers from ISS, auroras from orbit

16 Nov

Just some completely, insanely, amazingly incredible video. No big deal.

Auroras, thunderstorms, city lights… how much are those Virgin Galactic seats going for these days?

Shot from ISS expeditions 28 and 29 form August to October 2011.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.



Some more aurora shots from orbit:








Empty Space

16 Nov

This whole space thing… it’s big… and it’s full of nothing at all.

I can’t actually put the code in this post, so you have to go to the link for the actual pic/scale

And you thought there was a lot of empty space in the solar system. Well, there’s even more nothing inside an atom. A hydrogen atom is only about a ten millionth of a millimeter in diameter, but the proton in the middle is a hundred thousand times smaller, and the electron whizzing around the outside is a thousand times smaller than THAT. The rest of the atom is empty. I tried to picture it, and I couldn’t. So I put together this page – and I still can’t picture it.

The page is scaled so that the smallest thing on it, the electron, is one pixel. That makes the proton, this big ball right next to us, a thousand pixels across, and the distance between them is… yep, fifty million pixels (not a hundred million, because we’re only showing the radius of the atom. ie: from the middle to the edge). If your monitor displays 72 pixels to the inch, then that works out to eleven miles – making this possibly the biggest page you’ve ever seen (I personally have seen one that was set up to be even bigger, though its exact size did not seem to represent anything specific).

I recommend trying to scroll from here to the right a screen at a time, just to see how long it takes the little thumb in the scrollbar to move visibly. True masochists can try to scroll through the whole eleven miles – but the scenery along the way is pretty bleak.

I used to think that things like rocks and buildings and my own skeleton were fairly solid. But they’re made up of atoms, and atoms, as you can see here, contain so little actual material that they can barely be said to exist.

We are all phantoms.

(Note: users of older versions of Internet Explorer may not be able to scroll manually all the way to the right edge. If you want to actually see the electron, you may need to click HERE. Oddly, for some other users, this link will not work. Hopefully there is no one for whom both are true.)

If you don’t want to actually scroll through it…

Here’s the proton.

Now… the electron is ONE PIXEL… 11 miles away.

Bonus points if you can name what that “proton” is actually a picture of.

From Discover mag…

20 Things You Didn’t Know about Nothing

1. There is vastly more nothing than something. Roughly 74 percent of the universe is “nothing,” or what physicists call dark energy; 22 percent is dark matter, particles we cannot see. Only 4 percent is baryonic matter, the stuff we call something.

2. And even something is mostly nothing. Atoms overwhelmingly consist of empty space. Matter’s solidity is an illusion caused by the electric fields created by subatomic particles.

3. There is more and more nothing every second. In 1998 astronomers measuring the expansion of the universe determined that dark energy is pushing apart the universe at an ever-accelerating speed. The discovery of nothing—and its ability to influence the fate of the cosmos—is considered the most important astronomical finding of the past decade.

4. But even nothing has a weight. The energy in dark matter is equivalent to a tiny mass; there is about one pound of dark energy in a cube of empty space 250,000 miles on each side.

5. In space, no one can hear you scream: Sound, a mechanical wave, cannot travel through a vacuum. Without matter to vibrate through, there is only silence.

6. So what if Kramer falls in a forest? Luckily, electromagnetic waves, including light and radio waves, need no medium to travel through, letting TV stations broadcast endless reruns of Seinfeld, the show about nothing.

7. Light can travel through a vacuum, but there is nothing to refract it. Alas for extraterrestrial romantics, stars do not twinkle in outer space.

8. Black holes are not holes or voids; they are the exact opposite of nothing, being the densest concentration of mass known in the universe.

9. “Zero” was first seen in cuneiform tablets written around 300 B.C. by Babylonians who used it as a placeholder (to distinguish 36 from 306 or 360, for example). The concept of zero in its mathematical sense was developed in India in the fifth century.

10. Any number divided by zero is . . . nothing, not even zero. The equation is mathematically impossible.

11. It is said that Abdülhamid II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s, had censors expunge references to H2O from chemistry books because he was sure it stood for “Hamid the Second is nothing.”

12. Medieval art was mostly flat and two-dimensional until the 15th century, when the Florentine architect Filippo Brunelleschi conceived of the vanishing point, the place where parallel lines converge into nothingness. This allowed for the development of perspective in art.

13. Aristotle once wrote, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” and so did he. His complete rejection of vacuums and voids and his subsequent influence on centuries of learning prevented the adoption of the concept of zero in the Western world until around the 13th century, when Italian bankers found it to be extraordinarily useful in financial transactions.

14. Vacuums do not suck things. They create spaces into which the surrounding atmosphere pushes matter.

15. Creatio ex nihilo, the belief that the world was created out of nothing, is one of the most common themes in ancient myths and religions.

16. Current theories suggest that the universe was created out of a state of vacuum energy, that is, nothing.

17. But to a physicist there is no such thing as nothing. Empty space is instead filled with pairs of particles and antiparticles, called virtual particles, that quickly form and then, in accordance with the law of energy conservation, annihilate each other in about 10-25 second.

18. So Aristotle was right all along.

19. These virtual particles popping in and out of existence create energy. In fact, according to quantum mechanics, the energy contained in all the power plants and nuclear weapons in the world doesn’t equal the theoretical energy contained in the empty spaces between these words.

20. In other words, nothing could be the key to the theory of everything.

More food for thought re: scale of the universe

Award winning astrophotographer Thierry Legault wanted to image the Hubble Space Telescope and space shuttle Atlantis traveling together around Earth.
But how? The pair wouldn’t fly over his hometown in France during the ongoing servicing mission. To catch the rare meeting of spaceships, he decided to do some traveling of his own–all the way to Florida. Yesterday, from a location 100 kilometers south of the Kennedy Space Center, he pointed his telescope at the sun and there they were:

“I took this picture of Atlantis and HST transiting the sun on May 13th at 12:17 p.m. EDT. It was just before the shuttle reached out with its robotic arm to grapple Hubble,” says Legault. “The two spaceships were at an altitude of 600 km and they zipped across the sun in only 0.8 seconds.” He captured the split-second transit using a solar-filtered Takahashi 5-inch refracting telescope and a Canon 5D Mark II digital camera.

Shooting the Canyon

11 Nov

My desire for a pilot license has suddenly been rekindled.

This is in a Marchetti SF260

“This is your captain screaming…”

8 Nov

An official inspects the hole in the British Airways jet where the windsreen used to be

February 5, 2005The plane was packed when, at 17,000 feet, the windscreen blew and the captain was sucked out. Nigel Ogden, who saved him by hanging on to his legs, tells his story for the first time to Julia Llewellyn Smith.

It was like something from a disaster movie and I still find it hard to believe I was at the centre of it all. An aeroplane full of passengers, out of control at 17,000 feet, with the captain stuck outside the aircraft.

I think about what happened every day. It was Sunday June 10, 1990. It was a beautiful morning and I was up early because I was working on the British Airways 7.30am flight from Birmingham to Malaga in Spain. I was 36, had been an air steward with British Airways for 12 years, and loved my job with a passion.

I expected that day to be especially enjoyable. It was a holiday flight, so the 81 passengers would be relaxed, and the crew – Captain Tim Lancaster, stewards Simon Rogers and John Heward, and stewardess Sue Prince – had worked together, on and off, for years. The only member of the crew new to us was the co-pilot, Alistair Atcheson. The aircraft was a 43-tonne BAC 1-11, which was known as the jeep of the skies, because it was a workhorse – reliable and easy to maintain.

The flight was delayed for an hour, so I wandered up and down the plane, making sure everyone knew what was going on. Tim made an announcement – “You’ll be pleased to know the weather is sunny and dry in Malaga and we should be on our way shortly.”

It was 13 minutes after take-off and we had just reached 17,300 feet, 5000 feet beneath our assigned altitude. I went onto the flight deck and asked if they’d like tea. I was just stepping out, with my hand on the door handle, when there was an enormous explosion and the door was blown out of my hands. I thought, “My God. It’s a bomb.” Explosive decompression made the whole cabin mist up like fog for a second – then the plane started to plummet.

I whipped round and saw the front windscreen had disappeared and Tim, the pilot, was going out through it. He had been sucked out of his seatbelt and all I could see were his legs. I jumped over the control column and grabbed him round his waist to avoid him going out completely. His shirt had been pulled off his back and his body was bent upwards, doubled over round the top of the aircraft. His legs were jammed forward, disconnecting the autopilot, and the flight door was resting on the controls, sending the plane hurtling down at nearly 650kmh through some of the most congested skies in the world.

Everything was being sucked out of the aircraft: even an oxygen bottle that had been bolted down went flying and nearly knocked my head off. I was holding on for grim death but I could feel myself being sucked out, too. John rushed in behind me and saw me disappearing, so he grabbed my trouser belt to stop me slipping further, then wrapped the captain’s shoulder strap around me. Luckily, Alistair, the co-pilot, was still wearing his safety harness from take-off, otherwise he would have gone, too.

The aircraft was losing height so quickly the pressure soon equalised and the wind started rushing in – at 630kmh and -17C. Paper was blowing round all over the place and it was impossible for Alistair to hear air-traffic control. We were spiralling down at 80 feet per second with no autopilot and no radio.

I was still holding on to Tim but the pressure made him weigh the equivalent of 500 pounds [about 200 kilograms]. It was a good thing I’d had so much training at rugby tackles, but my arms were getting colder and colder and I could feel them being pulled out of their sockets.

Simon came rushing through and, with John unwrapped Tim’s legs and the remains of the doors from the controls, and Alistair got the autopilot back on. But he continued to increase speed, to lessen the risk of a mid-air collision and to get us down to an altitude where there was more oxygen. He dived to 11,000 feet in 2 minutes, then got the speed down to 300kmh.

I was still holding Tim, but my arms were getting weaker, and then he slipped. I thought I was going to lose him, but he ended up bent in a U-shape around the windows. His face was banging against the window with blood coming out of his nose and the side of his head, his arms were flailing and seemed about 6 feet [1.8 metres] long. Most terrifyingly, his eyes were wide open. I’ll never forget that sight as long as I live.

I couldn’t hold on any more, so Simon strapped himself into the third pilot’s seat and hooked Tim’s feet over the back of the captain’s seat and held on to his ankles. One of the others said: “We’re going to have to let him go.” I said: “I’ll never do that.” I knew I wouldn’t be able to face his family, handing them a matchbox and saying: “This is what is left of your husband.” If we’d let go of his body, it might have got jammed in a wing or the engines.

I left Simon hanging on to Tim and staggered back into the main cabin. For a moment, I just sat totally exhausted in a jump seat, my head in my hands, then Sue came up to me, very shaken. In front of all the passengers, I put my arms around her and whispered in her ear: “I think the Captain’s dead.” But then I said: “Come on, love, we’ve got a job to do.”

By now, Alistair was talking to air traffic control, who were talking him through landing at Southampton Airport. All pilot training is done on the basis of two pilots, one to fly and one doing the emergency drill, but Alistair was alone, with a crew he didn’t know and relying on memory, because all the manuals and charts had blown away. He asked for a runway of 2500 metres because he was worried that the plane was so heavy with fuel, a tyre would burst or it would go off the runway, but all they could offer was 1800 metres.

Over the intercom he told the passengers we’d lost the windscreen. Some of them could see Tim out of the window but the cabin was silent as the grave. We walked up and down, preparing the passengers for an emergency landing. People gasped as they saw the blood on my face. The plane was very shuddery, very rocky. I remember one man at the very back, with a little baby on his knee, saying to me: “We’re going to die,” and I said, “No, we are not,” lying through my teeth.

All I could see out of the windows was a line of trees, and I thought we’d either smash into those or into the housing estate beyond. I had a partner, Jean, and a stepson, Jamie, but I was thinking most about my Mum. She’d lost my brother in a car crash the year before, and I couldn’t bear to think how she’d take the news. But, in spite of everything, Alistair did the most amazing landing, what we call a greaser – completely smooth and stopping the aircraft only three-quarters of the way down the runway.

There wasn’t even any need to use the emergency chutes. We got all the passengers down the steps in an orderly fashion, although I did have to shout at a couple of people who were trying to get their handbags from the lockers. The whole time from the explosion to the landing had been 18 minutes, but it seemed like hours.

I got back on board to check everyone had left. The paramedics had Tim in the cockpit on a stretcher and I went in to see him.

He was lying there, covered in blood, but to my amazement I heard him say: “I want to eat.” I just exclaimed: “Typical bloody pilot.” Luckily, he’d been in a coma throughout the ordeal, his body had just shut down. I went out onto the front steps, and shouted at the others “He’s alive!” and then I cried my eyes out.

Air steward Nigel Ogden was left with a dislocated shoulder, frostbitten face and some frostbite damage to his left eye. Amazingly, Captain Tim Lancaster suffered only frostbite, fractures to his arm and wrist and a broken thumb. Within five months he was flying again and today he’s a pilot for easyJet.

Ogden returned to work after a break but suffered post-traumatic stress and took early retirement in 2001 on the grounds of ill health. He is now a night watchman at a Salvation Army hospital.

In 1992, a report was published showing that a BA engineer, working under pressure, had fitted a new windscreen with bolts that were too small.


British Airways pilot Tim Lancaster in Southampton hospital in 1990 with the crew members who rescued him.


Video of the blowing of Condit Dam and freeing of White Salmon River

7 Nov

“The 125-foot tall dam, built in 1913 on the White Salmon River​ in Washington State, emptied the contents of its reservoir in just over two hours.”

Seattle Times:

Located three miles from the river’s confluence with the Columbia, taking out the dam is expected to reopen about 33 miles of habitat for steelhead and about 14 miles for chinook, depending on how well different runs of fish contend with natural falls in the river.

Thanks to 98 years of silt depositing the power output of the hydroelectric dam has been slowly decreased over the years… to the point that the local utility company decided it was more economical to take it down than to bring it up to modern environmental standards.

“Well folks, October 26th, 2011 is certainly a day that will go down in history. After the Blaster in Charge yelled “fire in the hole!” and ignited the charges, the White Salmon was explosively set free for the first time in 100 years.  The lake took less than 2 hours to drain, carrying an incredible amount of sediment and debris downstream to the Columbia.  Now, a more gradual process begins–the erosion of millions of cubic yards of trapped silt, the return of threatened salmon and ultimately the complete removal of Condit Dam.”

Explosive Breach of Condit Dam from Andy Maser on Vimeo.

Some notes on the immediate aftermath and ecological rebuilding:


And Andy Maser’s site with tons of detail, pics, info, etc:

%d bloggers like this: