You found the blog. Now find my books, articles, and music projects - LOUDFAST. Take a little trip:

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Going for the One

Most people are aware that whatever United States Air Force plane is carrying the president immediately is designated “Air Force One.” But it’s safe to say the image that comes to mind when the vast majority of people hear that designation is the massive, four-engine Boeing VC-25A.

Air Force One/VC-25A takes to the skies at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on September 17, 2022. Photo: Frank Moriarty/Aerospace Perceptions

Based on the regal and legendary Boeing 747-200 passenger airplane, the two VC-25A’s are fielded by the Presidential Airlift Group assigned to the Air Mobility Command’s 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. First entering presidential service late in 1990, the VC-25As conjure a majestic aerial presence whenever they take flight.

Last week, however, public attention turned to the future and a next generation of presidential aircraft, the new Boeing VC-25B. Based on the later generation 747s, and therefore larger than the VC-25As, the goal as always is for the new aircraft to provide dependable transportation with enhanced communications and security capabilities. As the USAF has noted in a press release, “Modifications to the aircraft will include electrical power upgrades, a mission communication system, a medical facility, an executive interior, a self-defense system, and autonomous ground operations capabilities.”

While the enhanced functional features of the VC-25B were planned all along, one aspect of these aircraft remained uncertain: their appearance.

Then-President Donald Trump revealed his plans for a revamped Air Force One in an exclusive granted to ABC's chatty Good Morning America broadcast in June 2019. Video image: ABC News

In June 2019, then-President Donald Trump revealed his vision for a complete re-vamping of the look of Air Force One, which had shared design cues stretching back to the Kennedy era. The Trump design looked more like a commercial aircraft, heavy on contrast. It called to mind the paint schemes of Trump’s pre-presidential private jets, with a strident, blood-red stripe extended nose-to-tail busily bordered above dark blue.

President Trump soon had a model built reflecting his plans for Air Force One, the replica strategically placed to hopefully generate envious glances from other world leaders such as Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, seen here with Trump in June 2019. Photo: Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Trump found the new livery to be perfect; last week the Air Force begged to differ. Pointing out that the issue of appearance did not demand final specification until this later stage of the VC-25B program’s development, the Air Force rationally pointed out an issue with the dark blue expanses demanded by Trump. “A thermal study later concluded the dark blue in the design would require additional Federal Aviation Administration qualification testing for several commercial components due to the added heat in certain environments,” noted a USAF press release issued on March 10. The bottom line is Trump’s vision will remain unrealized.

United States Air Force concept art of the final approved design scheme for the VC-25B aircraft. Image: USAF

The new final design elements – recently approved by President Joe Biden -  are far less weighty, sympathetically continuing the current design theme with minor modifications. Overall, the scheme is one that portrays the aircraft as part of the skies it travels through via cloud-white and sunny-day-blue sections, accented with a single, narrow gold center-line stripe.

The new Boeing VC-25B depicted at rest, ready for presidential flight duty. 
Image: USAF

But just don’t expect to see these new VC-25Bs in action any time soon. Delivery dates for these two new presidential aircraft have slipped from September 2026 and February 2027 to most likely some time in 2027 and 2028.

Friday, March 3, 2023

It's About Time

With a renewed focus on manned lunar missions growing in importance, what might have once been considered an interesting wrinkle is beginning to loom as a real concern: time. Specifically, how is time to be defined, measured, and recorded in lunar activities.

That's one big time zone... Photo: Frank Moriarty/Aerospace Perceptions

Will United States explorers utilize chronographs set to Houston time, Chinese crews to the clocks of Beijing? Time moves faster on the surface of the moon. 56 microsceonds a day doesn’t sound like much, but it eventually adds up, especially when precise orbital calculations depend on accuracy. And the parameters of time even vary from the lunar surface to vehicles and objects in orbit above the moon.

This dilemma is nothing new. The International Space Station was designated on Coordinated Universal Time, based on atomic clocks. But that’s just one orbital installation. The moon is obviously a much larger territory.

Buzz Aldrin prepared to track time on Apollo 11's voyage to the moon. Photo: NASA

Space agencies around the planet are beginning to exchange ideas about the creation of a universal lunar time zone – “a common lunar reference time,” described the European Space Agency’s Pietro Giordano, who engineers navigation systems.

Marcia Dunn, a highly-regarded space correspondent for Associated Press, covered this topic earlier in the week. Her reporting can be read here:

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Red Flag, Checkered Flag

NASCAR’s biggest race, the Daytona 500, takes place this weekend. And in racing, nobody wants to see a red flag before the checkered flag. But in the realm of aviation, it’s a different story.

From late last month into February, Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada has hosted one of several major exercises that take place every year under the name Red Flag. With thousands of miles of airspace on hand, Red Flag offers pilots, crews, and many other personnel the opportunity to hone their skills under realistic air combat conditions.

While there are Red Flag exercises restricted to United States military only, the iteration that has just concluded brought together international partners to team up with our aviators. Which means our skies hosted a number of aircraft rarely seen in the United States. Yesterday a flight of four Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft and a large Airbus Voyager KC tanker/transport plane took off from Las Vegas headed home on the long flight back to England.

Fortunately, these planes took a break after flying across the US, landing at Dover Air Force Base late yesterday. And with Dover located just down the road from Aerospace Perceptions headquarters, I made it a point to be on hand to welcome these special visitors to Delaware as the sun set. I hope you’ll enjoy the photos. 

Click each image to see larger sizes…

All photographs: Frank Moriarty/Aerospace Perceptions

For more on Red Flag visit:

For more on Eurofighter Typhoon visit:

For more on Voyager KC visit:

In a stroke of luck, in the moments between the Typhoon flight and the Voyager landing, a beautiful Boeing 747-400 on a freight mission for Atlas Air also arrived on the scene. I can’t let that majestic sight go undocumented!

Friday, February 10, 2023

Forget the halftime show – we want the flyover!

Traveling from Aerospace Perceptions headquarters to the practice facilities and stadium of the Philadelphia Eagles requires just a short jaunt up I-95. So, it’s easy to understand why Super Bowl fever has consumed my immediate area and – to be honest – this entire region. After the Eagles (finally) won their first Super Bowl on February 4, 2018, Philadelphia hosted a massive victory parade which included my participation and a chance to congratulate several of the players first-hand. Not surprisingly, I wouldn’t mind a repeat of that experience.

Regardless of your choice in football teams, though, one aspect of the Super Bowl that always attracts attention is the pre-game flyover. Super Bowl LVII is no exception.

Screen grab from U.S. Navy Video/Austin Rooney

Fortunately, the U.S. Navy understands how hard it is to wait until Sunday. So, they have kindly provided a tightly-produced sneak preview video of the aircraft that will be involved. I won’t list them here in case you want to maintain the element of surprise, but it’s an impressive array and I can guarantee you I’ll be ready and waiting for the flyover Sunday evening!

You can enjoy this brief promotional video at the following link:

One thing I will add is that the pilots at the controls of these aircraft are an all-female crew. Though that's news this weekend, hopefully in the days to come the skill and talents of female pilots will continue to be fully embraced and attract no more attention than the presence of male pilots.

Screen grab from ABC News/Good Morning America

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Old Dogs, New Tricks

 Aerospace Perceptions closed out 2022 acknowledging the final Boeing 747 ever built, while looking back at some of that great platform’s many variations.

So, it seems appropriate enough to start 2023 with a look at one more 747 variation – one I was happily reminded of during an early 2023 commercial broadcast during Monday Night Football.

GE Aerospace has long depended on the 747 platform for in-air engine testing. In fact, the 2018 retirement of GE’s first 747 test aircraft marked the conclusion of that plane’s 49th year in the skies, as it was the last flying example of the very first 747 model. That hardy 747-100 flew for Pan Am from 1969 until 1991, when it “retired” into a life with GE for 24 more years!


One of these engines is definitely not like the other one. The modern GE9X engine undergoes flight testing mounted to the inboard positions of GE’s Propulsion Test Platform 747 test plane. Photo: GE Aerospace


More recently – and starring in GE’s current round of broadcast commercials – the aerospace company relies on the “GE Propulsion Test Platform” seen above. Acquired by GE in 2001, this 747-400 served as the testbed for the state-of-the-art GE9X jet engine powering Boeing 777X aircraft. The expanded dimensions of this large turbofan engine are easily noted in the photograph, with the GE9X dwarfing the outboard standard-size 747 engine.

A thirsty F-35 has a rendezvous with one of Omega’s tanker aircraft. In addition to the Boeing 707 platform seen here, Omega also fields DC-10 tankers with a greater fuel capacity. Photo: US Navy


Amazingly, there are even variations of older-yet-fully-reliable aircraft still regularly pressed into service, like the above jet operated by Omega Aerial Refueling Services. Omega is the first commercial entity to offer air-to-air refueling services, and among its fleet is the “Omega Tanker” seen here. Yes, it’s based on the venerable Boeing 707, an aircraft which first entered commercial service back in 1958. Omega supplements the refueling capabilities of our armed forces, providing support to Navy and Marine Corps aircraft ranging from the F-35 to the V-22 – and even the unmanned experimental X-47B.



GE Aerospace GE9X Engine: 

GE Aerospace broadcast commercial (15 seconds):

Omega Aerial Refueling Services: 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

All Hail the Queen

The Boeing B-52 is the seemingly eternal king of the military skies for the United States Air Force. Introduced into service in 1955, the B-52H models that currently make up the USAF fleet will soon be receiving upgrades – and likely new model letter designations – that will see them continuing to serve through at least 2050, if not longer.

Equally regal – at least in the commercial realm – is the aircraft long known as the Queen of the Skies: the Boeing 747. Officially entering into service in January, 1970, the 747 has not been flying quite as long as the B-52, but the lengthy career of this aircraft is no less astonishing.

Last call for a legend. The final Boeing 747 emerges from Boeing's assembly facility on December 6, 2022. Boeing's media release made some odd choices when describing the aircraft's payload capacity, noting it's "enough to transport 10,699 solid-gold bars or approximately 19 million ping-pong balls or golf balls." Photo: Paul Weatherman/Boeing

Last week a brand new 747-8 freighter completed its final assembly phase and rolled out of Boeing’s Everett Washington plant. It was, as always, a proud moment – but also a bittersweet one, as this marked the end of the 747 program after nearly 55 years of production.

In that time the design of the 747 has been proven to be remarkably durable and flexible, adapting to various purposes.

Over 1500 747s have been produced across multiple variations of the original aircraft, with that first commercial flight for Pan Am signaling the arrival of the “Jumbo Jet” era – large jet aircraft designed to carry hundreds of passenger in comfort on long-duration flights.

A Boeing 747-400 operated by UPS soars majestically through the twilight.
Photo: Frank Moriarty/Aerospace Perceptions

The 747 proved equally valuable as a large-capacity cargo aircraft. In fact, 747 passenger usage in 2022 has dwindled to just a few aircraft for airlines including Korean Air and Air China. Lufthansa fields the largest fleet of 747 passenger jets, with more than two dozen still in service.

But despite diminished passenger flight usage, the cargo realm remains the domain of the 747. In fact, as I write these words no less than 20 Boeing 747-400s are in the air over the United States. They belong to the shippers almost everyone is familiar with – United Parcel Service and FedEx – as well as numerous specialized shipping firms like Kalitta Air, Sky Lease, Atlas Air, Magma Aviation, and Cargolux.

Revolutionizing the transport of Volkswagen Beetles. In 1972 Lufthansa shows off the cargo capacity of its then brand new 747-200 freighter. Photo: Boeing

Cargo 747s have adapted to their commercial environments, with noses that open and flip upward to allow bulky shipments to be more easily loaded into the aircraft. In the case of the 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter developed in the 2000s, the aircraft fuselage in front of the tail swings open for loading.

The Dreamlifter may appear ungainly, but it boasts an astonishing 65,000 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Photo: Atlas Air

The swing-tail variation aircraft, more casually referred to as the Dreamlifter, has a massively expanded body that increases its capacity to three times that of a standard 747-400 freighter.

Beyond the obvious passenger and cargo implementations of the 747, several unique and specialized uses have been seen over the decades.

Air Force One rises into the skies over the United States Air Force Thunderbirds at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on September 17, 2022. President Biden was traveling to the funeral ceremonies for Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Frank Moriarty/Aerospace Perceptions

Of course, the most widely recognized of these 747 variations is the VC-25A, the airplane most people immediately think of when they hear the designation Air Force One. In reality, any USAF aircraft bearing the president becomes Air Force One, no matter the size or model. Joint Base Andrews outside Washington DC is the home of the VC-25A aircraft, operated by the 89th Airlift Wing.

The test orbiter Enterprise arrives over New York in style aboard a 747-SCA on April 27, 2012. Enterprise was heading to its new home at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan. Photo: Frank Moriarty/Aerospace Perceptions

Two 747s were modified to become Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The SCA played a pivotal role in the space shuttle program development, carrying the prototype orbiter Enterprise in approach and landing tests in the 1970s. Both SCA planes had long careers carrying all five of the space-flown orbiters that came after Enterprise.

There’s even been a firefighting 747 modification. The 747 SuperTanker joins fellow wide-body passenger jet airframes including the DC-10 and MD-11 modified to battle blazes. But the 747 holds the crown as the aircraft with the greatest firefighting capability, able to haul up to 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant.

The infrared telescope of SOFIA can been seen in this 747's custom fuselage opening. Though seen here in daylight, SOFIA conducted its scientific observations in darkness. Photo: NASA

Ironically, late in 2022 as the final 747 was built in the state of Washington, another 747 with a NASA connection came to the end of its service life. Starting out life as a Pan Am Boeing 747, this aircraft took on a new purpose and a new name: Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA. SOFIA was modified to carry a special telescope to study infrared astronomy, something best accomplished from platforms high in the atmosphere. This 747 became just that platform, carrying the 38,000 pound, 100-inch telescope in search of new discoveries, including confirmation that water molecules exist on the surface of the Moon. SOFIA’s first full science flight took place on November 30, 2010.

It's somehow fitting that as the final Boeing 747 prepares for a long commercial life after marking the end of 747 production, SOFIA’s scientific career also concludes. SOFIA will soon be on display at Arizona’s Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. But really, with such a landmark existence in the realm of aviation, any Boeing 747 is worthy of such appreciation.


With that in mind, happy holidays from Aerospace Perceptions!

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Stepping on Stage

See what's under the covers on December 2, 2022. Image: Northrop Grumman

Back in early June Aerospace Perceptions covered a B-2 flyover at Dover Air Force Base as well as information about the B-2’s planned successor, the B-21 Raider.

Tomorrow, December 2, 2022, the all-new B-21 will be the star of a public unveiling at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale California facility. “This changes everything” the aerospace firm notes in a post offering a ten-second video promoting the event on Facebook, and that’s an accurate assessment. Though the B-21 may at first glance resemble the B-2, this new smaller aircraft boasts the same long-range capabilities as its predecessor now made even more potent.

It’s been more than 30 years since the U.S. Air Force implemented a new bomber aircraft, so the growing excitement over the B-21 rollout reflects that decades-long expanse. The Raider stands as a major advancement in stealth technologies and in the digital methodologies used to discover, design, and then test those enhanced approaches to masking aircraft operations. Speculation has also focused on whether the B-21 will be operational without a crew onboard, in addition to configurations hosting humans playing traditional roles.

Northrop Grumman has announced the unveiling is scheduled for 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST. The following link has been provided for viewing the event: