Brass Monkeys

Brass Monkeys

Traditionally the phrase Brass Monkeys goes hand in hand with weather so cold that only a naughty sounding description like, “It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey,” will suffice.  If, however, you were the crew member a NATO aircraft in Europe during the tense times of the Cold War, Brass Monkeys meant something very specific!  It was a code phrase that everyone knew of and listened out for on the Guard frequency just in case it was broadcast.  Two or three minutes into the flight Rikki was super-sonic and climbing through twenty thousand feet or so when the first “Brass Monkeys” call came over the radio: “Brass monkeys, brass monkeys, aircraft heading east at high speed fifty miles east of Gutersloh, brass monkeys”. He ignored it!

The true origin of Brass Monkeys has been lost in time


The identification papers of defector Viktor Belenko


Map of the East/West German airspace


An F84


West German Navy Sea Hawk


A Lightning F3 landing


Mig 21s chasing


Returning safely


Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to Louis-Philippe Crépin, images in the Public Domain, the CIA, the RAF, Rosario Van Tulpe, Milborne One and Mike Freer.


RAF Form 414, Vol. 21

RAF Form 414, Vol. 21

Life on 77 Squadron had settled down to a routine, if it ever really could on a fighter squadron. There was certainly plenty of variety to our flying. In one month I flew some practice bombing attacks, both day and night, on the Evans Head weapon’s range north by 230 nm. This was followed by a 4 ship formation demonstration of ground attack on our own airfield as part of an Open Day celebration for the public.  Then night radar bombing on the Beecroft range at Jarvis bay about 150 nm south. Then we bombed and sank a tug boat before flying off to New Zealand.


The Squadron hours board


A head on view of the FA18A


Our Hornets in close formation


A MK82 low drag general purpose bomb


A 77 Sqn Hornet landing


RNZAF Strikemasters AKA the Bluntie


The RNZAF A4 Skyhawk


Landing at Ohakea


My old buddy John




Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to Myself and Greenshed.

Fifteen Hundred Hours

Fifteen Hundred Hours

Marvin and Rebecca’s first two flights of the day were cancelled due to high winds at Newark so they both waited in the crew room until their company dispatch released them for flight 3407 at 6pm, 4 and a half hours after their initial report time.  Certainly for Rebecca, it had been a long time since she had done more than nap in a chair.  Their flight to Buffalo was due to take 53 minutes and they were carrying 45 passengers which, along with their two cabin attendants meant that they had 49 souls onboard their Q400 aircraft. The pilots’ performance was likely impaired because of fatigue but to what extent could not be conclusively determined.  However, they boiled down to the flight crew’s failure to monitor airspeed, the flight crew’s failure to adhere to sterile cockpit procedures, the Captain’s failure to effectively manage the flight and Colgan Air’s inadequate procedures for airspeed selection, management during approaches in icing conditions and training.  This is the story of Colgan Air Flight 3407.


A Bombardier Q400


The SAAB 340


The DH Dash 8


Examples of wing icing


Stills from the NTSB accident report


Stills from the NTSB accident report


Stills from the NTSB accident report


The wreckage of Flight 3407


Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to Lord of the Wings, Bill Abbott, Steve Fitzgerald, NASA and the NTSB.

Great Uncle Baz

Great Uncle Baz

With thanks to listener Sam Dawson who has such interesting relatives and to Betty Goerke, the author of a book about Baz Bagby, A Broken Propeller. I am pleased to present the story of Sam Dawson’s Great Uncle Baz.


Stunt pilot Lincoln Beachey at Niagara


The 1st Aero Squadron


Early Aerial Reconnaissance


The 88th Aero Squadron



General Billy Mitchell


The start of the Great Transcontinental Air Race


Great Uncle Baz


Images under creative commons licence with thanks to the Library of Congress, the USAAC, the USAF, the RFC, the US Army, the National Archives and SADSM.


RAF Form 414, Vol. 20

RAF Form 414, Vol. 20

The continuation of my log book tales, otherwise known as RAF Form 414, and we are up to Volume 20.  Apart from other asides, this tale deals with my accidental overflight of a very secret satellite surveillance base run by the Australians and the CIA!


Overflying Uluru (Ayres Rock)


My arrival at Alice Springs airport


My ‘circumnavigation’ of Australia


My aircraft being impounded on arrival at RAAF Pearce


Seeing my father at the 1881 Resturant


The Great Australian Bight


Passing through RAAF Edinburgh


Looking back through the fins


Heading home to Williamtown

Images under creative commons licence with thanks to Myself, Nachoman-au and Google Earth.