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December 06, 2012



And the US State Department, apparently. Part of its 230-strong air force.


Air Atlantique in Coventry. I occasionally used to hear theirs fly through the Heathrow TMA in the middle of the night when the jets weren't moving due to the noise blockade, doing short-notice parcels jobs for FedEx.

And a minor piece of Benghazi fallout was that the State Department withdrew a DC-3 they'd been using a few days before the attack. Like that one, a lot of them have been re-engined with turboprops for a substantial performance boost and an even more substantial saving of fuel and pretty much everything.

Re: Viktorfeed, I've basically decommissioned it. DXB redesigned their website again, which caused it to annoy Julian Todd and friends by hanging and wasting server resources, and given that it hadn't turned up anything interesting in over a year I decided the project had reached a natural conclusion, with Viktor in the hoosegow, the An-12 and Il-76 fleets ordered out of the UAE, Paul Wolfowitz off to obscurity, and the Iraq War over with.


At Dubai airport the other week I looked out over the flight line on the cargo side, and behold, not one An12. Last time I was there I could literally count off the BGIA fleet as they sat opposite Terminal 1.

Charlie W

LCD displays. New, and ubiquitous. Not many CRTs being made any more, if any? But a few years ago, they were getting stamped out by the million.

I think I'd prefer to see it like this: when you invent a new method, you have no say in its retirement date, and most likely not even any insight into when that might be. Pneumatic tyres: still with us, and likely to remain so. Incandescent light bulbs: maybe just about to disappear. I don't think generalisations are really possible.


I'd not realised that so many of the extant Gooney Birds had been re-engined with turboprops; a quick google suggests that a lot of these conversions were done in the 90s. Was there a spike in the price of AVGAS, or were Twin Wasp spares getting scarce?

Chris Williams

Also, was there a shortage of a new generation of IC engine fitters coming through? Alf and Moe might have been happy to work their careers out maintaining radial engines, but Darren and Jim knew that there was a future in turbines.


They're still making lots of piston-engined aircraft. Light planes and small helicopters mainly.


There are 225 active DC-3s, or rather aircraft of the Douglas Model 247 platform as there are a million subfleets. Of those, 59 have been modernised. The list is here - I think you get a few free trial lookups.

This piece in Flight International explains the conversions - before 1990, if you wanted that you had to do it yourself, but then Warren Basler made a product of it for his airline's own use, having concluded that what he wanted was something like a DC-3 but with modern engines and electronics, and nobody made one of those. The other big source of conversions is Dodson. The usual engine is the PT6A, which was originally designed in 1961 as a replacement for the Wasp series.

The State Department bird is this one, serial 33046, formerly USAF, formerly RAF, formerly RCAF, then with a dozen small charter operators, then in Basler Conversions' stockpile before the State Department paid for the conversion in 2008, basing the plane in Kabul from November.

nick s

Pneumatic tyres: still with us, and likely to remain so. Incandescent light bulbs: maybe just about to disappear.

But the declining ones (incandescent bulbs, whale oil, chattel slaves) generally do so on with the assistance of some kind of prohibition rather than simply being superseded and abandoned. Everything else shuffles off to the periphery.

Although I wonder whether that will happen so readily with modern computer bits and bobs. I know that eastern Europe kept the Sinclair and Amiga scenes going right through the 90s, but that feels a bit like a last hurrah.


But the declining ones (incandescent bulbs, whale oil, chattel slaves) generally do so on with the assistance of some kind of prohibition rather than simply being superseded and abandoned.

Surely whale oil hasn't disappeared as an energy source because whaling was banned; it disappeared because petroleum oil was easier to get and cheaper.


Wiki informs me that US car transmission fluid included whale oil until it was banned in 1972, when they switched to inferior vegetable oils. I stand corrected.

Barry Freed

A whale in your transmission case and a tiger (unleaded) in your tank. That's back when America was great.


Turboprops had advantages for airliners from the late 1940s - even before the PT6, the Dart proved it could be economical in airline service - but I wonder when the TCO of a Wasp became more than that of re-engining with a turboprop. I'd guess it depended on your load factor.

ajay: yes, but aren't they mostly flat fours and sixes? Is the problem that the amount of cross-over (especially with modern electronic engine control systems) with old piston big iron is too low to allow for easy certification on both?

chris y

I once flew a DC-3, or rather, I was allowed to sit in the captain's seat with my hands in the wheel, but since I was seven years old at the time I suspect that control had been turned over to the co-pilot in advance. Ah, those more innocent days when kids were given a tour of the flight deck instead of being molested by half trained paramilitaries in the airport.


Do BBC or Acorn computers still have a niche? I remember reading somewhere, about ten years ago, that they could certain design work which no other computers could.


The Amiga was used in special effects work (TV) until comparatively recently. They were astonishingly advanced. Never really heard of a niche for Acorn computers.

There are plenty of technologies that disappear though. Two main reasons are the infrastructure disappears (pagers anyone), or the realities of production make them uneconomic. It probably costs more to produce a CRT monitor today than an LCD monitor.


You're right, they were Amigas.

john b

Yup, sadly it was Amigas that lived a surprisingly long life. Mind, the processor Acorn invented for the Archimedes, unlike I think any other PC maker, turned out OK for all concerned, though. Everyone here probably has one, one way or another.

Alex: surely all the dubious aviation now goes out of Sharjah - my understanding is that until the new terminal comes into play, slots at DXB are about as easy to come by as slots at LHR...

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