Archive | December, 2011

I’ve Lost My RIO

29 Dec

Damn, what a ride that must have been. I imagine the ejectee was a bit embarrassed…


Story from here:


I’ve Lost My RIO

by Lt. Geoff Vickers
My squadron and air wing were detached to NAS Fallon, Nevada, for strike training. Most of us attended lectures all day, but I was tasked with giving the battle-group-air-warfare commander an orientation flight in the F-14D. As skipper of the cruiser in charge of the battle group’s air defenses, he had been spending time with the air wing to better understand how we conduct our missions. He had observed a number of the strike events through the tactical-air-combat-training system (TACTS) replays, and he had flown with the E-2C and EA-6B squadrons. He was proud that the Prowler guys hadn’t been able to make him sick.

My job was to demonstrate the Tomcat’s performance and tactical capabilities. Though this flight was my first without a qualified radar-intercept officer (RIO) in the back seat, I had flown with a number of aviators who had very little Tomcat experience.

The captain arrived at the squadron a half-hour before the brief to receive his cockpit-orientation lecture and ejection-seat checkout. Once in the ready room, we briefed the flight with our wingman. I covered the administrative and tactical procedures in accordance with our squadron’s standard-operating procedures (SOP).

I told the captain that after the G-awareness maneuver, we would do a quick inverted check to verify cockpit security. Looking back, I should have recognized his anxiety when he mocked me and said, “Just a quick inverted check?” then laughed. I didn’t realize hanging upside down with nothing but glass and 11,000 feet of air separating you from the desert floor might not be the most comfortable situation in the world for a surface-warfare officer.

I continued the brief and told the captain we would do a performance demo and a couple of intercepts, followed by tanking from an S-3. I told him if, at any point, he felt uncomfortable, we would stop whatever we were doing, roll wings level, and take it easy. I was determined to avoid the temptation to intentionally make him sick and uncomfortable.

The start, taxi, and takeoff were normal. We joined with our lead and did the standard clean-and-dry checks. We pressed into the working area and assumed a defensive combat-spread formation in preparation for the G-warm. I told him what was happening, and he seemed to remember the sequence of events from the brief. After we completed the checks, I asked him, “Are you ready for the inverted check? Do you have everything stowed?”

“All set” was the last thing I heard him say.

I checked the airspeed and confirmed it was above the 300 knots recommended to do the check, and I rolled the aircraft inverted. I decided not to really put on a lot of negative G and unloaded to about .3 to .5 negative G’s-just enough to make anything float that wasn’t stowed properly. If he was uncomfortable in such a benign maneuver, it would be better to find out then, rather than when we were racing toward the earth during a radar-missile defense.

As I started to push on the stick, I heard a loud pop, followed by a roar. The cockpit filled with smoke, and we suddenly lost cabin pressure. I first thought a catastrophic environmental-control system (ECS) had failed. I said to myself, “This is new. I’ve never even heard of something like this happening.”

Time compression turned the next few seconds into an eternity. I knew the first thing I had to do was to roll the jet upright and assess the situation. About three seconds after the first indication of a problem, I had the jet upright and knew exactly what had happened.

I transmitted, “Lion 52. Emergency, my RIO just ejected.”

I was yelling into the mic, thinking I would have to make all the calls in the blind. I never would have thought I easily could communicate with all the noise of flying at 320 knots without a canopy.

As I turned the jet to try and get a visual of my wayward passenger, Desert Control asked, “Understand your wingman ejected?”

“Negative, my RIO ejected. I’m still flying the plane.”

“OK. Understand your RIO ejected. You’re flying the plane, and you’re OK?”

I almost said I was far from OK, but I just told them I was all right, except I was flying a convertible. I was relieved to see a good parachute below me, and I passed this info to Desert Control. Very quickly after the emergency call, an FA-18 pilot from the Naval Strike and Air-Warfare Center, who also was in the area, announced he would take over as the on-scene commander of the search-and-rescue (SAR) effort.

I told my wingman to pass the location of the captain because I could not change any of my displays. Once my wingman started to pass the location, I started dumping gas and put the needle on the nose back to NAS Fallon.

One of our air-wing SH-60s was in the area and responded, along with the station’s UH-1N. The captain was recovered almost immediately and transported to the local hospital for treatment and evaluation.

The only F-14D boldface procedures for a canopy problem include placing the canopy handle in “boost close” position and then moving the command eject lever to “pilot.” Obviously, the canopy already was gone, so that lever action didn’t apply, and, if the command-eject lever wasn’t already in “pilot,” as briefed, I also would have been ejected.

I slowed the aircraft and lowered my seat because that’s what I remembered from the rest of the steps in the checklist. However, after sitting at eye-level with my multi-function display for about 30 seconds, I thought it would be more prudent to see outside, so I raised my seat. Slowing the aircraft had little affect on the windblast, but, as long as I leaned forward, the wind hit only my shoulders. Because it was very cold at altitude, I decided to return quickly to base, but I needed to watch my airspeed since the ejection had occurred.

The PCL says to fly less than 200 knots and 15,000 feet and to complete a controllability check for the loss of the canopy, but I never pulled out my PCL to reference it. I figured with the way my day was going, I’d probably just drop my PCL down an intake and complicate my problems. In retrospect, I should have requested my wingman break out his checklist and talk me through the steps. Though this practice of having a wingman assist is common in single-seat communities, Tomcat crews tend to forget this coordination technique is a viable option.

I did consider the controllability check, and I directed my wingman to check for damage to the vertical stabilizers-she found none. The faster I got on deck, the faster I would get warm.

I slowed to approach speed in 10-knot increments at about 3,000 feet AGL and had no problems handling the jet. As I approached the field, I was surprised at how quiet it got. The noise was only slightly louder than the normal ECS roar in the Tomcat. I’ll admit I felt silly saying the landing checklist over the ICS when no one else was in the cockpit, but I didn’t want to risk breaking my standard habit patterns.

The landing was uneventful, and, when I pulled back into the line, I was surprised to find how many people had come out to see the spectacle. The magnitude of the situation finally set in when my skipper gave me a hug after I got out of the jet.

The captain and I were very fortunate: All of the ejection and aviation-life-support-systems (ALSS) equipment functioned as expected. Our PR1 had taken the time to properly fit the captain, using components from three different sets of flight gear. This action caused a problem after the mishap-getting everyone’s gear replaced-but it renewed my faith in our escape systems. A 48-year-old man ejected from the jet when it was inverted, at negative .5 G’s, at 320 knots, and the only injuries he had were two minor cuts to his face.

After talking to the captain at the O’Club later that night, I realized I better could have briefed elements of the flight. Though I covered all of the details, I didn’t fully consider his perspective. He said he didn’t know where to put his hands. Consequently, he just left them in loosely clenched fists on his lap, about two inches away from the ejection handle. It never occurred to me that someone would not know what to do with his hands. Obviously, I fly with the stick and throttle in my hands 95 percent of the flight, but I failed to consider his situation.

The mishap board surmised that, during the inverted maneuver, he must have flinched when he slightly rose out of the seat and pulled the ejection handle. Now, before any brief, I try to place myself in the other person’s shoes (even if they are black shoes) and imagine what the flight will be like for him. Whether it is the person who never has flown a tactical aircraft before or just the nugget pilot who never has flown with NVGs, remembering what it was like when I was unfamiliar with the environment will prevent this type of mishap from recurring.

Correlation vs Causation

22 Dec

From Bloomberg Businessweek


Correlation or Causation?


Need to prove something you already believe? Statistics are easy: All you need are two graphs and a leading question

Correlation may not imply causation, but it sure can help us insinuate it.




Christmas light viewing from a C-47

21 Dec

Here’s some background on the plane itself:

Southern Cross is part of the John L. Terry Heritage Foundation, is based at Meacham International Airport, Fort Worth, Texas.
The aircraft was ordered before WWII by TWA with Wright Cyclone engines and was completed in December 1941. Due to the attack on Pearl Harbor, many aircraft were pressed into military service and this Douglas was no exception. It’s first job in military service was as a troop carrier and paratroop trainer. Its official designation by the U.S. Army Air Corps was C-49J.
After the war, it changed hands many times. Immediately following the war, it was returned to its original purpose of passenger carriage. Chicago and Southern Airlines operated it until the airline was bought by Delta in 1953. It flew under Delta colors until later being sold to the President of Mexico. At this time the interior received a makeover to suit presidential status, including upgrades such as a wrap-around couch, a bathroom, complete galley, and the portrait windows seen on the aircraft today. The engines were also updated at this time to the higher horsepower 1820-72 engines.
Following its presidential service, it was purchased by a skydiving operator who immediately ripped out all the interior upgrades in an effort to make the plane as light as possible. The operator installed even larger engines, a pair of 1820-76Ds, the same engines that are on the HU46 Albatross.
Finally, after being owned by several private parties, it joined the Greatest Generation Aircraft family



Looking out at the wings and seeing the D-Day stripes while flying was a pretty cool experience… something I’m glad I’m doing 67 years after D-Day and not when they were actually needed.


Sorry about the bad quality. iPhone cameras aren’t too great at night.





Here are some other shots from around the hangar. A-26, B-25, Sabre, etc… LOVE IT!







Interoil – 705 mmcf per day picture

15 Dec

Old pic, but still incredible:

Jan 22, 2010

InterOil 705MMCF per day well

This is a photo of a well test last month in Papua New Guinea.

The well is making 705 MMCF/d and 11,200 BBL/d of condensate while*flowing at 1258 psi through a 4-3/8″ choke -*This is a new world record.

Notice the water curtain to keep the rig cool


** Five of these wells could beat the output of all of the wells in the hottest gas play on the onshore United States, Barnett Shale.

** Encana produced 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2008 – 6 of these wells would best Encana’s annual gas production.

And then there were four… Watson, part II

13 Dec

He’s home!

Part I here: Watson


Wifey and I brought Watson Parks Leuck home Saturday and he has been a completely awesome from day 1. After just three days he’s already getting the hang of going outside (only two accidents in the house), he’s getting used to his crate, he’s not whining through the night… basically he’s a badass. And StarZee (maltese-poodle) is being bery cool about it; sharing toys (for the most part), playing, etc.

He had his first vet visit yesterday and at 7 weeks and 11 pounds he is completely healthy and looking forward to a long super-spoiled life.

We have quite the family going over here now!

Auto-appendectomy. Think you have the balls?

10 Dec

Never. You will NEVER be this hardcore. Just stop trying.

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: case report

The ship Ob, with the sixth Soviet Antarctic expedition on board, sailed from Leningrad on 5 November 1960. After 36 days at sea she decanted part of the expedition onto the ice shelf on the Princess Astrid Coast. Their task was to build a new Antarctic polar base inland at Schirmacher Oasis and overwinter there. After nine weeks, on 18 February 1961, the new base, called Novolazarevskaya, was opened.

They finished just in time. The polar winter was already descending, bringing months of darkness, snowstorms, and extreme frosts. The sea had frozen over. The ship had sailed and would not be back for a year. Contact with the outside world was no longer possible. Through the long winter the 12 residents of Novolazarevskaya would have only themselves to rely on.

One of the expedition’s members was the 27 year old Leningrad surgeon Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov. He had interrupted a promising scholarly career and left on the expedition shortly before he was due to defend his dissertation on new methods of operating on cancer of the oesophagus. In the Antarctic he was first and foremost the team’s doctor, although he also served as the meteorologist and the driver of their terrain vehicle.

29 April 1961
After several weeks Rogozov fell ill. He noticed symptoms of weakness, malaise, nausea, and, later, pain in the upper part of his abdomen, which shifted to the right lower quadrant. His body temperature rose to 37.5°C.1 2 Rogozov wrote in his diary:

“It seems that I have appendicitis. I am keeping quiet about it, even smiling. Why frighten my friends? Who could be of help? A polar explorer’s only encounter with medicine is likely to have been in a dentist’s chair.”

As a surgeon Rogozov had no difficulty diagnosing acute appendicitis. In this situation, however, it was a cruel trick of fate. He knew that if he was to survive he had to undergo an operation. But he was in the frontier conditions of a newly founded Antarctic colony on the brink of the polar night. Transportation was impossible. Flying was out of the question, because of the snowstorms. And there was one further problem: he was the only physician on the base.

30 April

All the available conservative treatment was applied (antibiotics, local cooling), but the patient’s general condition was getting worse: his body temperature rose, vomiting became more frequent.

“I did not sleep at all last night. It hurts like the devil! A snowstorm whipping through my soul, wailing like a hundred jackals. Still no obvious symptoms that perforation is imminent, but an oppressive feeling of foreboding hangs over me . . . This is it . . . I have to think through the only possible way out: to operate on myself . . . It’s almost impossible . . . but I can’t just fold my arms and give up.

“18.30. I’ve never felt so awful in my entire life. The building is shaking like a small toy in the storm. The guys have found out. They keep coming by to calm me down. And I’m upset with myself—I’ve spoiled everyone’s holiday. Tomorrow is May Day. And now everyone’s running around, preparing the autoclave. We have to sterilise the bedding, because we’re going to operate.

“20.30. I’m getting worse. I’ve told the guys. Now they’ll start taking everything we don’t need out of the room.”

Preparation for the operation
Following Rogozov’s instructions, the team members assembled an improvised operating theatre. They moved everything out of Rogozov’s room, leaving only his bed, two tables, and a table lamp. The aerologists Fedor Kabot and Robert Pyzhov flooded the room thoroughly with ultraviolet lighting and sterilised the bed linen and instruments.

As well as Rogozov, the meteorologist Alexandr Artemev, the mechanic Zinovy Teplinsky, and the station director, Vladislav Gerbovich, were selected to undergo a sterile wash. Rogozov explained how the operation would proceed and assigned them tasks: Artemev would hand him instruments; Teplinsky would hold the mirror and adjust the lighting with the table lamp; Gerbovich was there in reserve, in case nausea overcame either of the assistants. In the event that Rogozov lost consciousness, he instructed his team how to inject him with drugs using the syringes he had prepared and how to provide artificial ventilation. Then he gave Artemev and Teplinsky a surgical wash himself, disinfected their hands, and put on their rubber gloves for them.

When the preparations were complete Rogozov scrubbed and positioned himself. He chose a semi-reclining position, with his right hip slightly elevated and the lower half of the body elevated at an angle of 30°. Then he disinfected and dressed the operating area. He anticipated needing to use his sense of touch to guide him and thus decided to work without gloves.

The operation
The operation began at 2 am local time. Rogozov first infiltrated the layers of abdominal wall with 20 ml of 0.5% procaine, using several injections. After 15 minutes he made a 10-12 cm incision. The visibility in the depth of the wound was not ideal; sometimes he had to raise his head to obtain a better view or to use the mirror, but for the most part he worked by feel. After 30-40 minutes Rogozov started to take short breaks because of general weakness and vertigo. Finally he removed the severely affected appendix. He applied antibiotics in the peritoneal cavity and closed the wound. The operation itself lasted an hour and 45 minutes. Partway through, Gerbovich called in Yuri Vereshchagin to take photographs of the operation.

Gerbovich wrote in his diary that night:
“When Rogozov had made the incision and was manipulating his own innards as he removed the appendix, his intestine gurgled, which was highly unpleasant for us; it made one want to turn away, flee, not look—but I kept my head and stayed. Artemev and Teplinsky also held their places, although it later turned out they had both gone quite dizzy and were close to fainting . . . Rogozov himself was calm and focused on his work, but sweat was running down his face and he frequently asked Teplinsky to wipe his forehead . . . The operation ended at 4 am local time. By the end, Rogozov was very pale and obviously tired, but he finished everything off.”

After the operation
Afterwards Rogozov showed his assistants how to wash and put away the instruments and other materials. Once everything was complete, he took sleeping tablets and lay down for a rest. The next day his temperature was 38.1°C; he described his condition as “moderately poor” but overall he felt better. He continued taking antibiotics. After four days his excretory function came back to normal and signs of localised peritonitis disappeared. After five days his temperature was normal; after a week he removed the stitches. Within two weeks he was able to return to his normal duties and to his diary.

8 May 1961
“I didn’t permit myself to think about anything other than the task at hand. It was necessary to steel myself, steel myself firmly and grit my teeth. In the event that I lost consciousness, I’d given Sasha Artemev a syringe and shown him how to give me an injection. I chose a position half sitting. I explained to Zinovy Teplinsky how to hold the mirror. My poor assistants! At the last minute I looked over at them: they stood there in their surgical whites, whiter than white themselves. I was scared too. But when I picked up the needle with the novocaine and gave myself the first injection, somehow I automatically switched into operating mode, and from that point on I didn’t notice anything else.

“I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders—after all, it’s showing things backwards. I work mainly by touch. The bleeding is quite heavy, but I take my time—I try to work surely. Opening the peritoneum, I injured the blind gut and had to sew it up. Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn’t notice them . . . I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin. Every 4-5 minutes I rest for 20-25 seconds. Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst and . . .

“At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber. Well, I thought, it’s going to end badly. And all that was left was removing the appendix . . .

“And then I realised that, basically, I was already saved.”

Leaving Antarctica
More than a year later the Novolazarevskaya team left Antarctica, and on 29 May 1962 their ship docked at Leningrad harbour. The next day Rogozov returned to his work at the clinic. Shortly thereafter he successfully defended his dissertation. He worked and taught in the Department of General Surgery of the First Leningrad Medical Institute. He never returned to the Antarctic and died in St Petersburg, as Leningrad had by then become, on 21 September 2000.

The boundary of the humanly possible
There are some references to auto-appendectomies in the literature. The earliest one was possibly that performed by Dr Kane in 1921 (although the operation was completed by his assistants). We know that Rogozov had not heard about it before he performed his operation.

Rogozov’s self operation was probably the first such successful act undertaken in the wilderness, out of hospital settings, with no possibility of outside help, and without any other medical professional around. It remains an example of determination and the human will for life. In later years Rogozov himself rejected all glorification of his deed. When thoughts like these were put to him, he usually answered with a smile and the words: “A job like any other, a life like any other.”

Infinity Over Zero: Meditations on Maximum Velocity (land speed racing)

5 Dec

The Land Speed Record war is an interesting thing. More interesting than Dancing With the Stars, you say? More interesting than American Idol? Absolutely. If Craig Breedlove breaking the 500 mph barrier, crashing, then laughing about it all while sitting on the half submerged wreckage doesn’t entertain you then I give up.


And Mr. Coonce… if you see this, I’m copying it with the deepest admiration and respect.

Infinity Over Zero: Meditations on Maximum Velocity
Go buy this book!

I thought this one piece was worth sharing. I’d never heard this side of the story before:


Craig Breedlove at the press unveiling of the rebuilt Spirit, 1963



500 MPH

In October of ’64, Walt Arfons makes his presence felt at the salt flats with his Wingfoot Express. With Tom Green pushing the pedals and pulling the parachutes, this bulbous, bulky flounder of a ‘liner reels off a new record of 413.2 mph at Bonneville… three days later Art Arfons and the Green Monster turns 434 mph… Breedlove clocks 468… and so it goes, a month long game if ping pong with a target speed of 500 mph.

Walt Arfons makes the mod to his wienie roaster (now dubbed Wingfoot Express II), modifying the thrust from his jet engine with JATO (jet assisted takeoff) rockets. The car is now denied sanction by United States Auto Club timing, the American sub-contractor and corollary to the FIA, because of the alteration. Just as the jets had initially caught the powers that be off guard, so had the rockets. The technology was ahead of the intellectual capabilities of the sanctioning bodies…

On the 15th, Breedlove strikes paydirt — and a telephone pole. After bursting through the 500 mph barrier on the first lap, Craig turns his SOA (Spirit of America) around and is chewing up black line in supreme fashion, easily generating enough thrust to back up his provisional record run. Through the speedtrap, however, chaos envelopes the vehicle. At 539 mph the parachutes shred like CIA phone records and, like a domino, Breedlove’s brakes melt into goo-goo muck. The barreling machine is vaccuuming up salt like June Cleaver on benzedrine, and begins swerving off axis from the infitine black stripe burnt into the salt and continues barreling towards an imminent peril. After the rampaging bull of a streamliner snaps a telephone pole into kindling, it hits an embankment which launches the race car and dunks ‘er into a brackish brine canal. Breedlove swims to the surface and climbs onto the stabilizing fin of his streamliner, the only portion of the vehicle not completely submerged. “For my next act, I will set myself a-fire,” a wet but euphoric Breedlove tells stunned camera crews. His two-way average speed is 526.61 mph.


Bill Moore's cutaway drawing of Spirit, rebuilt with a tail in 1963


Now I’m Going to Drown

The following transcript is verbatim from a portable recorder operated by voice-over announcer Jim Economides and his recording engineer, Bill Robinson. While producing a verite sound f/x record, they were station at an observation station manned by United States Auto Club timer Joe Petrali. After Craig went zooming past their stations with parachutes shredded to ribbons, Economides and Robinson gave hot pursuit in their rented vehicle, whereupon the continued to roll tape at the final rest of the SOA. This is unexpurgated documentation of the return leg of the record run, when Breedlove became the first person to eclipse the 500 mph mark.

Breedlove sounds adenoidal and likea chipmunk, giddy and vaguely bi-polar. He also sounds very glad to be alive.



USAC OFFICIAL : He’s on his way… he’s standing on it… they say he’s really standing on it now… nice and straight… he’s really rolling… into the mile…

VOICE : I see a smoke trail.

USAC : … Something fell off of the car… that must be the chute… wait a minute, something fell off the back of the car… he lost his chute…

VOICE : I hope it was his chute…

USAC : … he lost his chute…
VOICE : Before he hit the trap of after?

USAC : He didn’t say it’s out… I see him coming… he’s really coming along, he’s really pouring it on… here he comes…

VOICE : … heads up…

USAC : He’s approaching the finishing line… he’s past the finishing line…

VOICE : … he’s got no chute…



(trucks and support vehicles roll, horns honk, general commotion as reporters dictate to their machines)

VOICE : … what a thrill for the people…

VOICE : He’s in the water..

USAC : He’s in the water…

VOICE : He’s in the water…

USAC : Better roll the ambulance down here… roll the ambulance… I’ll roll down there… okay… I’ll roll

(tape rolls out)



BREEDLOVE : (deep breaths and laughter) Unnhhhh, huunnhhhh…

VOICE : Suppose you’ll get a water speed record on that too?

BREEDLOVE : I think so.

VOICE : Who do you think you are? Cobb or somebody?

BREEDLOVE : What a ride! Uhh hnnnuhhhh… “FOR MY NEXT TRICK!”

(more laughter)

VOICE : Unintelligible overlapping dialogue)

BREEDLOVE : “I’ll set myself… a-fire…”

VOICE : … son of a bitch…

BREEDLOVE : I went over the top of that 10 mile light. Did I break it? Did I break the record?

VOICE : Yeah…


VOICE : We didn’t wait to see…

VOICE : You went right over the top of it…

BREEDLOVE : If Petrali missed the time on that, boy, he’s out of business.


BREEDLOVE : I’m not doing it again!


VOICE : Jeez-us…

VOICE : Look out now…

(shutters click)

VOICE : Holy mackerel…

VOICE : See you had to swim there…That was an underwater job!

VOICE : Yeah.

VOICE : Craig, that was a tremendous run, though. It looks like you broke the record by a big margin.

BREEDLOVE : I obviously did!

VOICE : It can’t stand another one though…

BREEDLOVE : Hey, you did a pretty good job with that course old buddy…


VOICE : He was really steerin’. I thought you were going to go right by here and you might not make it in this water…

VOICE : I tell you that was the last we expected…


VOICE : … to see ol’ Craig Breedlove

BREEDLOVE : (off mic and distorted) Roy, you wouldn’t believe it!

VOICE : I’ll tell you one thing, you’re a spectacular man


VOICE : I wonder what the people are going to…


VOICE : Nobody waited to get it!

BREEDLOVE : How fast did I go?

VOICE : Let’s all get in this four-wheel drive…


VOICE : (off mic) Nobody heard, Craig.

BREEDLOVE : Hey… hey Bill… For my next trick I’ll set my self a-fire! (laughs)

VOICE : Well, you did a beautiful job on the car (laughs)

BREEDLOVE : (deep breaths) Huunnhhhh! Huuunnnhhhh… Did you see what I did to that telephone poll, Nye?

VOICE : Jeez-us…

BREEDLOVE : I damn near drowned… look at the racer!
VOICE : Craig, here’s your dad…

(commotion, heavy breathing, more commotion, unintelligible)

VOICE : Oh my God… oh my god…

BREEDLOVE : I’m okay, Pop.


BREEDLOVE : At least we went 500… (deep breaths and laughter) unnhhhhh, huunnhhhh…


BREEDLOVE : I damn near drowned in that thing! I couldn’t get out!

(commotion, overlapping dialogue)

VOICE : You know, you should get a skin diving license.

(commotion, overlapping dialogue)

BREEDLOVE : (unintelligible)… spectacular. If Petrali missed that he’s fired!

(laughter) (film camera rolls) (commotion, overlapping dialogue)

VOICE : He’s the first guy to try and set a Land Speed Record and a Water Speed Record at the same time!

BREEDLOVE : (off mic) I lost my steering at the (unintelligible) mile.

VOICE : You did?

BREEDLOVE : The brakes just burned up

VOICE : They did?

BREEDLOVE : I put my chutes out after I cleared the mile because I lost my steering.

(commotion, overlapping dialogue) (film camera rolls)

VOICE : You put out both of them didn’t you?

BREEDLOVE : Well, the first chute, I pulled it, it just went to shreds. I felt it go to a ribbon. Then I hit the… I waited for a while and I tried to hit the brakes and the brakes just wouldn’t go… I was pumping the brakes and then nothing, no brakes at all. The I hit my other chute and nothing happened. I didnt’ have any… I just took that…

VOICE : No steering…

BREEDLOVE : …steering and I turned it clear around like this. It finally started…

VOICE : (interrupts) Did you see that…

BREEDLOVE : … coming around

VOICE : … telephone poll that you sheared?

BREEDLOVE : Yeah, I know I hit the pole.

VOICE : With your right fin, or what?

BREEDLOVE : I just saw that pole coming and I went just like that…

VOICE : (whistles)!

BREEDLOVE : … and then I hit the pole. I thought I had it when I hit the pole. I saw that telephone pole coming and I went, “Ooooooh” and I gritted my teeth.

(laughter) (film camera rolls) (commotion, overlapping dialogue)

BREEDLOVE : (loud, over laughter) I gritted my teeth and that pole just sheared off like nothing. You know, “DOUMMM” and no pole! (breathes in) UUNNHHH… I looked up and I thought, “Oh boy! Another chance!”

VOICE : (giddy laughter)

BREEDLOVE : I looked up…

VOICE : (giddy laughter)

BREEDLOVE : … I hit the water and the water started slowing me down and I seen (sic) this big ol bank coming up and I thought , “OHHH NAWWW.” (laughs)

VOICES : (giddy laughter)

BREEDLOVE : I hit the bank and it just went right over the top there. I was flying there about 30 feet in the air and I thought, “NOW I’M GOING TO DROWN!”

VOICE : (uproarious laughter)

BREEDLOVE : I couldn’t get the caopy off. I tried to get my belt done. I couldn’t get my mask off and the water was filling up like that…

VOICE : … Next run scuba gear…

BREEDLOVE : … and I thought, “What a way to go! After all this and now I’m going to drown!”

VOICES : (uproarious laughter)

VOICE : Next run, scuba gear, baby!

(shutters click)

BREEDLOVE : (giddy laughter) I broke the racer! (giddy laughter) Everything’s okay… How fast did I go, dammit? (giddy laughter) (shouts) DID WE BREAK THE RECORD?!


BREEDLOVE : (shouts) WHAT WAS THE TIME? (giddy laughter)

VOICES : (commotion, overlapping dialogue)

BREEDLOVE : (clears throat) Will somebody tell me how fast I went?

(giddy laughter)

VOICE : Hey Craig, you set a boat record!

VOICES : (giddy laughter) (commotion, overlapping dialogue)

VOICE : C’mon, let’s go and (unintelligible)

BREEDLOVE : I want to find out how fast I went, man!

VOICE : Where? In the water or in the…

BREEDLOVE : Hey Al. What was it?

VOICE : 526

VOICE : 539 for the kilo.

VOICE : 535

(truck pulls up)

VOICE : 526 average. 535 coming back.

VOICE : (reading off time slip) Mile is 539 point eight nine. The kilo was 535 point four-oh. And the average for both ways was 526 point two eight. And the kilo was 527 point three three.

(tape rolls out)


Craig Breedlove & Crew with Spirit of America, Bonneville Salt Flats, 1963



This page has an embedded video clip from an old film. It has footage of Breedlove breaking the 400 mph mark.




BTW, while reading this stuff I have come across what I think is now my favorite streamliner.

Jocko’s Porting Service Special.

Pretty sure it’s the only ‘liner that actually set records on a dragstrip.



I’m not much on pushing books on people because I know everyone likes different stuff, but holy shit you have to read this one.

I think this review (or part this small part of it) sums it up best:

When I finally gave Cole Coonce’s, Infinity my full concentration, I was upset with myself for having delayed. It was something I had trouble laying down.

I had better state here that when I began reading Hot Rod, the magazine was giving pretty heavy coverage to Bonneville. A year or so later came the tremendous LSR race between Craig Breedlove and Walt and Art Arfons (as well as several other lesser characters). As a highly influence-able youngster, I sucked it all in like the proverbial human vacuum. When I could, I borrowed older magazines and read about the exploits of Mickey Thompson, Athol Graham, and others matching the efforts of highly funded, even government backed, foreigners like Malcolm and Donald Campbell and John Cobb. It seemed unbelievable that hot rodders could take war surplus engines and a few 3-ton truck bits and run over 400mph but they did and it excited me. It must have had similar effect on Cole Coonce.

Infinity over Zero helped me relive many of those feelings. Coonce describes the salt and speed happenings of the mid 60s in some detail. He also gives tremendous personal insight to the jetcar buildups that ran on the dragstrips of the time, including rarely heard anecdotes from some of the land-locked pilots. The mishaps of Jetcar Bob are possibly worth the cost of the book.

But Infinity over Zero is not a historical overview of some period of land speed racing. It is rather better described as what its subhead implies – “Meditations on Maximum Velocity.” It is instead a verbal vortex of the emotions Cole Coonce encountered while a variety of men gave their all in pursuit of dreams. And it is certainly not for me, you, or Cole to decide for others that their dreams are too costly in lives or dollars spent.



It’s a history lesson for gearheads with a perfect amount of philosophy thrown in written by an eccentric car guy who brings it all together very well.

The timeline of the book jumps around. It is a story told while the author and a friend are making thier way through the desert southwest following the 1996-1997 Land Speed Record war between Craig Breedlove and Richard Noble.

I’ve got this book dog-eared and highlighted to hell and back. Seriously, some of these stories blow my mind…

The last hurrah for the rocket went down on an abandoned Royal Airforce base in England.

“Slammin Sammy” Miller stopped the clocks at a mind warping 3.58 seconds at 386 mph in the Vanshing Point rocket funny car. Miller, who had his crotch burned off in a nitro funny car fire in the early 70’s routinely kept his foot in the throttle until he would pass out (!) from the excessiv g-forces, which was usually 660 feet into the run. According to crew members, Miller routinely got his thrills from waking up in the car after the car stopped accelerating, coasting through the speed clocks at nearly 400 mph.

(As an addendum, “Slammin’ Sammy” Miller posesses the only 1 second ET on a time slip; circa 1980, at an 1/8th mile drag strip in Holland, he actually tripped the clocks at 1.60 at 307 mph. He was relegated to Europe after an NHRA blacklisting…)

Brent Fanning explained Miller’s method cum madness thusly: “He had the brake handle rigged with a brass knuckles type grip (it was a push brake) so his hand would stay on the brake should he black out when the car ran out of fuel, which it had been calculated to do at just past the 1/8th mile. Then the deceleration would move his arm and brake handle forward applying the brakes and also releasing the chutes, which were attached to the brake handle in some manner. Thus slowing the car until he regained consciousness.”





On and on it goes. Thrust SSC ripping the chutes off the car on it’s first supersonic run then trying to get refueled and make the backup pass within an hour… saying fuck the ‘chutes, we don’t need ’em and lighing up the jets to go back the other way, only to miss the 60 minute turnaround time by 43 seconds. (A few days later they made both runs in 60 minutes to claim the official record)
More stories about drag racers cratering the pits with hyrdazine explosions, the NHRAs decision to outlaw aircraft engines, building LSR cars during the Compton riots (with guns in hand)….



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