A Trip to the Bodie, California Ghostown

The “wild west” gold rush town of Bodie, California is said to be one of the best preserved ghost towns of all times.
W.S. Bodie (W.S. because his first name isn’t really known) discovered gold here in 1859 but the town didn’t really become a “boomtown” until 1875 when a large body of gold ore was found and the population skyrocketed to over 7,000. From 1877-1881 things were really lively here with as many as 65 saloons along the mile long Main Street and about 2,000 buildings in the town but as soon as the gold ran out so did all of the people. The town population dropped 41% by 1890 and Bodie was labeled as a “ghost town” in 1915. By 1942 only 3 people were left.
About $100 million dollars in gold was mined from Bodie, California.
Bodie, California 1890Click to see full view…
Bodie is located about 172 miles southeast of Reno, Nevada and about 468 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada and getting there is not easy but well worth the trip!
To get to Bodie you have to drive 13 miles East on State highway 270 just off of U.S. Highway 395 (between Bridgeport, CA and Mono Lake, CA). *The last 3 miles is a winding, rough, and unpaved dirt road.
The park is technically open all year long but because of its 8379 foot elevation for all practical purposes summertime is the best time to visit. Summer hours are 9am-6pm (April 15th to October 31st).

Entrance to Bodie, CaliforniaClick to see full view… Bodie Intersection of Green and Fuller StreetsClick to see full view…
Plaque at Parking LotClick to see full view… Methodist Church on Fuller StreetClick to see full view…
Inside the Methodist ChurchClick to see full view… David Victor Cain HouseClick to see full view…
Dan McDonald HouseClick to see full view… Charles Donnelly HouseClick to see full view…
James S. Cain HouseClick to see full view… Tom Miller HouseClick to see full view…
Miller FireplaceClick to see full view… Miller BedroomClick to see full view…
Miller BedroomClick to see full view… Miller KitchenClick to see full view…
Miller Living RoomClick to see full view… View Towards Chinatown AreaClick to see full view…
Ore Cars and Standard Stamp MillClick to see full view… Union Street Road To Standard Stamp MillClick to see full view…
Standard Stamp MillClick to see full view… Mine Lift EquipmentClick to see full view…
View Towards Main Street of BodieClick to see full view… Another View Towards Main StreetClick to see full view…
Sam Leon Saloon and BarbershopClick to see full view… Inside of Leon BarbershopClick to see full view…
Inside of Leon SaloonClick to see full view… Bodie FirehouseClick to see full view…
Harvey Boone Store and WarehouseClick to see full view… Inside Boone StoreClick to see full view…
Goods on Shelves Boone StoreClick to see full view… Center of Boone StoreClick to see full view…
More Goods on Boone Store ShelvesClick to see full view… Inside of Boone WarehouseClick to see full view…
1927 Dodge Truck/ Wheaton Building in BackgroundClick to see full view… Wheaton Hollis Hotel SaloonClick to see full view…
DeChambeau Hotel and I.O.O.F BuildingClick to see full view… Inside the DeChambeau HotelClick to see full view…
Gym Inside I.O.O.F. HallClick to see full view… View Down Green Street Towards SchoolhouseClick to see full view…
Inside Eli and Lottie Johl House on Main StreetClick to see full view… Another View of Green Street, BodieClick to see full view…
Leaving Bodie, Mono Lake in DistanceClick to see full view…

Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann

The 1963 World War II epic film “The Great Escape” is one of my personal all time favorites. The movie is loosely based on the non-fiction, first-hand-account book (“The Great Escape”) by Paul Brickhill which describes an Allied prisoners of war (POW) escape from German Stalag Luft III, on March 24, 1944. 76 prisoners managed to escape but sadly 50 were murdered by the Gestapo and only three made it to freedom.

The United Artists “The Great Escape” film has an all star cast and in one of the escape scenes Flt. Lt. Robert Hendley “Scrounger”, (James Garner) and Flt. Lt. Colin Blythe “Forger”, (Donald Pleasence) manage to steal a small trainer type airplane from a German airfield in order to fly out of Germany to freedom. I’ve always wondered what kind of airplane it was and if they really existed in WWII? The answer….Yes, they did!

The Bucker Bü 181 Bestmannn was a two seat single engine airplane built by Bücker Flugzeugbau GmbH in Rangsdorf, Germany. The prototype Bü 181 (D-ERBV) made its maiden flight in February 1939 with Chief Pilot Arthur Benitz at the controls. The aircraft was designed to be the standard primary trainer for the Luftwaffe and production began in 1940 and the airplane served the Luftwaffe until 1945. The Bucker Bü 181 was also used for courier & liaison missions and later some airplanes were converted to be “tank busters” carrying four Panzerfaust anti-tank grenade launchers from wing-mounted launchers, and some aircraft were used in night time harassment missions carrying three 50 kg bombs.
Several other aircraft manufacturers produced the Bü 181 during and after the war and they were used by other militaries into the early 60′s. Of the many original Bü 181′s built only a few are left today.

picture by "bomberpilot" author julian herzog
Specifications Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann

• Manufacturer: Bücker Flugzeugbau GmbH
• Crew: 1
• Capacity: 2
• Length: 25 ft. 8 in. (7.85 m)
• Height: 6 ft. 8 in. (2.05 m)
• Wingspan: 34 ft. 8 in. (10.6 m)
• Empty weight: 1058 lb. (480 kg)
• Loaded weight: 1653 lb. (750 kg)
• Powerplant: 1 × Hirth HM 500A or B 4-cyl. inverted air-cooled in-line piston engine, 78 kW (105 hp)
• Variants: 18
• Number built: 3400
• First Flight: 1939


• Cruise speed: 121 mph.; (105 kts)
• Maximum speed: 134 mph.; (116 kts)
• Serviced Ceiling: 16,405 feet; (5000 m)
• Range: 497 miles; (432 nm)

If you have never seen the movie, “The Great Escape” you need to check it out. Get it here: The Great Escape movie
The book “The Great Escape” by Paul Brickhill is available too: The Great Escape Paperback – by Paul Brickhill

Boeing Turns 100 Years Old!

Boeing turns 100 years old on July 15, 2016. This is Boeing Plant 1 and was located on the lower Duwamish River in Seattle, Washington.
The company was originally called Pacific Aero Products Co and on May 9, 1917, they became the Boeing Airplane Company. Boeing Plant 1 (also known as “the Red Barn” or the “Boeing Oxbow Plant”) was the home of Boeing from 1917 to 1965. Today Boeing corporate headquarters is in Chicago, Illinois and they have 159,469 employees in 65 countries worldwide. Approximately 21,744 commercial aircraft have been built as of March 2016!

Germany WWII Aircraft Carrier

Germany was a power to be dealt with during World War II but did they ever have an aircraft carrier? Well, the answer to that is yes….sort of!
Construction of Germany’s only aircraft carrier began on December 28, 1936 at the Deutsche Werk shipyard in Kiel, Germany (the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein) about 56 miles north of Hamburg. Flugzeugträger A was to be named in honor of Graf (Count) Ferdinand von Zeppelin and called Graf Zeppelin and was launched on December 8, 1938.
Graf Zeppelin was designed by a team led by naval architect Wilhelm Hadeler and was based on contemporary aircraft carriers of the time and would have an overall length of 861.2 ft with a beam of 118.8 ft and a maximum draft of 27.9 ft.
The ship was to be powered by four geared turbines with sixteen oil-fired ultra-high-pressure LaMont boilers giving the carrier a top speed of 33.8 knots. Fully loaded she would have displaced 34,088 tons and would have a projected range of 8,000 nautical miles.

The Graf Zeppelin was only 85% complete by the end of 1939 with completion scheduled by the middle of 1940.
The ship’s primary offensive power would have been its aircraft complement of 30 Junkers Ju 87 “Stuka” dive bombers and 12 Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. The ship would also be fitted with sixteen 15cm SK C/28 guns for defense against surface warships, twelve 10.5 cm SK C/33 anti-aircraft guns, twenty two 3.7 cm SK C/30 guns, and twenty eight 2 cm guns.
The ship’s flight deck was protected with 1.8 inch steel armor, a 2.4 inch thick armored under deck to protect the ship’s vitals from aerial attacks, and a 3.9 inch waterline armor belt.

As WWII got into full swing many of the Graf Zeppelin’s guns were removed and used in other combat zones and by April 1940 Admiral Erich Raeder requested (and was granted) that all work be halted on the ship’s construction. By July 1940, Graf Zeppelin was towed from Kiel to Gotenhafen, Poland and remained there for nearly a year. While there, she was used as a storage depot for Germany’s hardwood supply. In June 1941 the Graf Zeppelin was towed to Stettin, Poland to protect her from Russian air attacks and by November she was towed yet again back to Gotenhafen. On the night of August 27, 1942, while still at Gotenhaven, Graf Zeppelin was attacked by British bombers but was spared from any damage.
By now Admiral Erich Raeder realized the usefulness of aircraft carriers and was anxious to secure air protection for the Kriegsmarine’s heavier surface units and informed Hitler that the Graf Zeppelin could be finished in about a year, with another six months required for sea trials and flight training. On 13 May 1942, with Hitler’s authorization, the German Naval Supreme Command ordered work resumed on the carrier and later in December it was towed back to Kiel, Germany to resume construction. Modifications were progressing well until January 1943 when all work on naval surface vessels was ordered stopped by Hitler. Admiral Raeder was relieved of command and placed under Admiral Dönitz and the “green light” was given to redirect all naval construction work towards building U-boats.
In April 1943 Graf Zeppelin was again towed eastward, first to Gotenhafen, then to the Roadstead at Swinemünde, Poland and finally berthed (with only 18 inches of water under her keel) at a back-water wharf in the Parnitz River, two miles from Stettin. It is here where she remained for two years. In April 1945 as the Russians approached Stettin the Germans scuttled and set off demolition charges in the hull rendering her useless.
The fate of the Graf Zeppelin after the surrender of Germany was somewhat of a mystery until later it was discovered that the Russians were able to refloat the carrier in March 1946 and tow her out of Stettin in August 1947. Despite the rumors that she struck a mine while being towed to Leningrad she was actually towed out into the Baltic and used for weapons testing.
The exact position of the Graf Zeppelin was discovered by a Polish research vessel RV St. Barbara on July 12, 2006. The wreck rests at a depth of more than 260 ft below the surface 34 miles north of Władysławowo, Poland.

Specifications Graf Zeppelin

• Manufacturer: Deutsche Werke
• Crew: 2037
• Aircraft: 42
• Displacement: 33,550 long tons (34,088.4 t)
• Length: 861 ft 2.6 in (262.5 m)
• Beam: 118 ft 9.2 in (36.2 m)
• Draft: 27 ft 10.6 in (8.5 m)
• Installed power: 200,000 shaft horsepower (149,140.0 kW))
• Propulsion: 4- Brown, Boveri & Cie geared turbines with sixteen oil-fired, ultra-high-pressure LaMont boilers
• Speed: 33.8 kn (38.9 mph, 62.6 km/h)
• Range: 8,000 nmi (9,206.2 mi; 14,816.0 km) at 19 kn (21.9 mph; 35.2 km/h)
• Number built: 1

• 16 × 15 cm SK C/28 guns
• 12 × 10.5 cm SK C/33 guns
• 22 × 3.7 cm SK C/30 guns
• 28 × 2 cm FlaK guns

• Belt: 3.9 in (100 mm)
• Flight deck: 1.8 in (45 mm)
• Main deck: 2.4 in (60 mm)

Want to know more about the Graf Zepplin? Here are two books about it available at Amazon: Without Wings: The Story of Hitler’s Aircraft Carrier Paperback – by Stephen Burke
Aircraft Carrier: Graf Zeppelin (Schiffer Military History) Paperback – by Siegfried Breyer


We have been using the Appareo Stratus for some time now and have been quite happy with it but recently I read about a quickstart project by Open Flight Solutions offering a build-it-yourself ADS-B receiver so I decided to give it a try. They offer two versions of their “Flightbox” a single band and a dual band running the Stratux open source project software. The single-band version is able to receive traffic data directly from aircraft equipped with 978 MHz (UAT) ADS-B Out, and also re-broadcast traffic provided by ADS-B ground stations. Dual-band systems add the ability to receive traffic data directly from aircraft equipped with 1090-ES transponders. Traffic data includes the identity (call sign or tail number) of the target, their location, distance, heading, and speed. I elected to try the dual band “Flightbox”. (The price of this ADS-B receiver is significantly less than what we paid for the Stratus so hopefully it will work as well as advertised.)
After about two weeks the Flightbox arrived in the mail. My wife (also a pilot) and I were like two kids at Christmas time and couldn’t wait to rip open the box and start building the kit. It is supposed to be an easy build requiring only a screwdriver and needle nose pliers so my wife wanted to have the honor of assembling the Flightbox. Open Flight Solutions has an excellent assembly video online and the kit comes with easy-to-read written instructions so she breezed through the build in short order!

Our kit included:
• Custom rugged case- (It’s heat and UV ray resistent.)
• Raspberry Pi 3 Model B computer
• Pre-loaded Class 10 SD data card
• NooElec SDR receiver module(s)
• Antenna adapter cables (aka pigtails)
• Custom ADS-B whip antenna(s)
• High power USB cable
• Cooling fan
• GPS receiver
• Assembly and user’s guide
*Note, the Flightbox does not have an internal battery so you will have to provide it a power source. Open Flight Solutions has some suggestions for you on their web site. Here is the 10000 mAh battery that we picked.

Here it is fully assembled:

We are using the Aviation App “Foreflight” with our iPad and the Aviation App “Avare” with my Moto X but there are other apps that work with “Flightbox”.
Aviation Apps that Flightbox Supports:
• WingX Pro (iOS)
• FltPlan Go (iOS, Android)
• FlyQ EFB (iOS, Android)
• DroidEFB (Android)
• Aerovie Reports (iOS)
• iFlyGPS (iOS, Android)
• AvPlan EFB
• Xavion (iOS)
• Avare (Android)
• Naviator (Android)
• AvNav (Android)
• iFlightPlanner (iOS)
• OzRunways (iOS, Android)
• ForeFlight* (iOS)

Not only do we have a GPS moving map indication when used in conjunction with the apps but ADS-B also provides us with these other features:
ADS-B features:
• Air Traffic indications
• Subscription-Free In-Flight Weather
• NEXRAD radar
• TAFs
• Winds / Temps Aloft
• TFRs
• SUA (Special Use Airspace) activity

We have only used the Flightbox once so far and it did a remarkable job of showing us traffic that was in our area giving height above and below us and even in some cases the identification of the aircraft but as good as it is we still need to operate as usual and “see and avoid”.

*The Rasberry Pi 3 is a cool “gadget” and if you are interested in getting one for that next project you can find one here at a pretty good price: Rasberry Pi 3

Quadcopter Syma X5C

We have all heard of quadcopters, drones, and UAV’s, they seem to be very popular these days so I decided to purchase one to see what everyone was so excited about. What to buy was the next big question so it was time to do some research on the internet to see what would be the best pick for this soon to be “newbie” drone operator. About the only thing that I knew was I didn’t want to spend a lot of money (in case I crashed the unit) and I wanted it to be simple to fly.
It was pretty much the unanimous opinion that the Syma X5C was the perfect choice to begin learning how to operate a quadcopter with. The kits come with everything you need to get started and the cost is between $40- $50! It even has a HD camera so if you want to take photographs or video (low to medium quality) you can do that too.
The X5C weighs less than 250 grams so it doesn’t have to be registered with the FAA.

Syma X5C (2nd generation)Click to see full view… Syma X5C (1st generation)Click to see full view…

There are two editions of the Syma X5C’s available (1st generation and 2nd generation) and they come in white and black. Originally I bought the white (2nd generation) but my wife and I had so much fun flying it that we bought the black (1st generation) a week later so that we could fly them together…what a hoot!
It has been suggested that the 1st generation X5C isn’t as stable as the 2nd generation but we haven’t found that to be the case (keep in mind we aren’t very experienced though) and yes we have crashed both of them but they are super tough so they are still flying!

Box ContentsClick to see full view… Box Unpacked (1st generation)Click to see full view…

Everything comes neatly packed in a box and the only thing missing is two AA batteries used to power the control unit. There are four extra rotors, a 500 Mah battery (about 7-12 minutes flying time), an SD card reader (for the 4GB SD card in the camera), a USB charging cord, a screwdriver (some super easy assembly is required), the landing skids, rotor guards, the control unit, an operating manual ( a manual with a number 1 or 2 indicates which generation you have), and the quadcopter.

Front View (1st generation)Click to see full view… Box Unpacked (2nd generation)Click to see full view…

The 1st generation and the 2nd generation X5C quadcopters are different in minor ways for example, the 1st generation has four legs whereas the 2nd generation has two skids. The 1st generation has a somewhat larger battery bay then the 2nd generation and the power switches are in different locations but all in all they both perform well and are great learning platforms.

Front View (2nd generation)Click to see full view… Lights On (2nd generation)Click to see full view…

We are still learning to fly these quadcopters so we practice flying inside our garage before venturing outdoors. (Although we have many hours flying actual aircraft the skills developed there do not translate to flying quadcopters.) We want to learn in a contained, no wind, environment so we don’t lose the UAV’s or let them get out of range which is about 164-328 feet (50-100 meters). These UAV’s are agile and quick to respond and with a six axis controller they can really maneuver! It has really been fun flying them and if you are like us you’ll want to get extra batteries to extend the flying time as each battery takes about 100 minutes to fully recharge.

Top View (both models)Click to see full view… Bottom View (both models)Click to see full view…

The X5c’s will even do 360° rolls (we haven’t tried that yet) and can handle light winds so they aren’t toys they will truly enable you to learn how to fly drones and if you add in the extra benefit of being able to take photos and videos (1280x 720 resolution/ 30fps video) how could you go wrong?

Want to know more about the FAA requirement for registering a Unmanned Aircraft?

FAA Registration of Unmanned Aircraft (UAS) Requirements
• A small unmanned aircraft that weighs more than 0.55 lbs. (250g) and less than 55 lbs. (25kg) must be registered.
• You must be 13 years of age or older to register a UAS. (If the owner is less than 13 years of age, a person 13 years of age or older must register the small unmanned aircraft.)
• You must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident to be able to register an UAS.
• People who do not register could face civil and criminal penalties.
• It costs $5 to register a UAS which may be done via the internet. Click here to register you UAS with the FAA
• Registration is valid for three years.
• Once you receive a registration number, you must mark the registration number on all aircraft. How to label your UAS
• For complete information see the FAA Registration Guidelines Page

FAA Safety Guidelines
• Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
• Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
• Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
• Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
• Don’t fly near people or stadiums
• Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
• Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft
• For complete information see the FAA Safety Guidelines Page

Here is the white Syma X5C that we bought at Amazon: Syma X5C
Here is the black Syma X5C that we bought at Amazon: Syma X5C
Of course you will want extra batteries and a charger because the drones are just too fun! Battery charger and batteries

New Aviation Book Project- “Museums Of The Sky”

The major museums of the world house aircraft from the beginning of aviation to modern times but there are no books that feature these collections.
A fellow aviator named Olivier Catta is currently creating a book that would bring photographs of aircraft of these great museums right to you! He needs some help funding this worthwhile project and has created a kickstarter page in order to fulfill this task.
If you would like to help, please visit his kickstarter page and consider donating.

Click here to visit Olivier’s kickstarter page…

Licensed Pilots vs. Drone Operators

The FAA announced that as of February 2016 there were more registered drone operators than there were licensed pilots in the U.S. (325,000 drone operators vs. 320,000 licensed pilots). This might a little misleading because the total number of pilots in the U.S. is said to be 599,086 (student pilots + licensed pilots according to a 2013 statistic).
Of the total number of licensed pilots in the U.S. only 6% (39,621) are female.

Day Trip to A’LE’INN Rachel, Nevada

I’ve always wanted to go to the A’LE’INN in Rachel, Nevada and indulge in the mystery that surrounds Area 51 so off we went from Las Vegas to Rachel. This is a 320 mile round trip so don’t be fooled that it is just a quick “out and back” as it took over 6 hours driving time to do the trip so if you are thinking of doing the same thing, schedule a whole day to do it in….it’s a cool trip!
Take I-15 north out of Las Vegas to exit 64 (about 22 miles) and turn left at the bottom of the ramp towards Ely, Nevada. It is a good 85 miles to the next gas stop so be sure to monitor your gas gauge during the trek! Alamo and Ash Springs have gas stations (BP and Shell) so it might be a good idea to fill up before continuing on to Rachel as there is no gas in Rachel.
As you travel north you will go past Pahrangat Lake and just as you approach Alamo you’ll see a mesa with a huge “P” on the side and shortly after Alamo you will pass through Ash Springs. Just north of Ash Springs is where the intersection of 93N and Highway 318 is so plan on exiting towards the west (left turn) to continue to Rachel, Nevada.
Once you turn onto Hwy 318, about a mile west there is a “Y” in the road, some large trees, and this is where you need to cross over to the left in order to join Highway 375 towards Rachel (about 40 miles) west. There is an “Extraterrestial Highway” sign here too but it is all covered with stickers so unfortunately no more great pictures of the sign. (From the beginning of Hwy. 375 it is about 15 miles over Hancock Summit to the beginning of Groom Lake Road, 20 miles to the Black Mailbox and 39 miles to Rachel.)
This is all open range country so be vigilent for cows running across the road (especially at night) they will cause quite a bit of damage to a vehicle. About 1.5 miles east (and just before the town) of Rachel there is a dirt road off to the left, this is the road that leads to the Area 51 back gate, it is about 10.2 miles from the highway and is mostly dirt however the last mile or so is paved.
The A’LE’INN is just off the highway and it is a cool place to stop and have something to eat. (I had the world famous “Alien Burger” and my wife had a “Galaxy Wrap” they were both good.)

GPS Coordinates:
Town of Rachel N37°38.801′ W115°44.760′
Intersection of Hwy. 375 and Back Gate Road N37°38.063′ W115°43.181′
Area 51 Back Gate (Rachel Back Gate) – Here you get to see the guard shack. It is legal to drive right up to the barrier 10.2 mi from Rt 375 N37°35.641′ W115°53.924′
Intersection of Hwy. 375 and Mailbox Road N37°27.432′ W115°28.962

Exit 64 off I-15NClick to see full view… 93 North Towards Ely, NevadaClick to see full view…
85 miles North on Route 93Click to see full view… Pahranagat LakeClick to see full view…
Mesa With “P” on SideClick to see full view… Alamo, NevadaClick to see full view…
Ash Springs, NevadaClick to see full view… Approaching Route 318 IntersectionClick to see full view…
Route 318 Turnoff- Turn Left (West)Click to see full view… Route 375 Intersection (Bare Left)Click to see full view…
Route 318 & 375 Split Up AheadClick to see full view… Route 318 & 375 SplitClick to see full view…
Area 51 Main Gate RoadClick to see full view… Area 51 Back Gate RoadClick to see full view…
Rachel, Nevada (Elevation 4,840 ft)Click to see full view… A’LE’INNClick to see full view…
A’LE’INNClick to see full view… Inside The A’LE’INNClick to see full view…
Another View of InsideClick to see full view… Bar at the A’LE’INNClick to see full view…
Extraterrestial Highway SignClick to see full view… Back Gate DriveClick to see full view…

JANET Flights

Living in Las Vegas one can’t help but notice the “JANET” flights arriving and departing McCarran Airport several times a day but did you know why they call them “JANET”? According to legend the “JANET” call sign stands for Just Another Non Existent Terminal
The current fleet consists of several Boeing 737-600′s (painted white with a red side stripe) as well as Beechcraft 1900 and 200 airplanes (painted white with a blue side stripe). They operate from McCarran and fly to several locations including “Area 51″.
Interestingly enough, there were never many Boeing 737-600′s produced (only 69) with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) being the launch customer in 1995 receiving the first aircraft on September 18, 1998. The final B737-600 was delivered to WestJet in 2006.