Sunday, June 16, 2013

TFH 6/16: The Most Decorated Single Aircrew of World War II

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, serial number 41-2666 and possibly named "Lucy" at one time, was originally assigned at delivery to the 435th Bombardment Squadron of the 19th Bombardment Group. The bomber was known as a "hard luck" plane. A mission it flew in November 1942 resulted in the accidental deployment of one of the life rafts aboard, destroying the radio aerial and wrapping itself around the horizontal stabilizers. By early 1943, 41-2666 had such a reputation for being shot up that it was abandoned as a parts hulk at the airfield at Port Moresby, New Guinea.

Jay Zeamer, Jr. was born on July 25, 1918 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve while still a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in 1940. Zeamer was discharged, accepted into the United States Army Air Corps (forerunner of the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Air Force) as an aviation cadet, and recommissioned after completing pilot training in March 1941. Zeamer flew combat missions in the Pacific during 1942 in Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers. He was transferred to the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) in November 1942 and assigned to group headquarters.

Zeamer began flying missions on B-17s as a fill-in pilot on other crews, but didn't have a plane or a crew of his own...until someone told him where he could find a plane.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Bridges Too Far

Anybody who drives - I'm guessing most of the people reading this - is probably receptive to the meme of "our nation's infrastructure is crumbling". Yet, though billions of dollars are spent annually between all levels of government as soon as one thing gets fixed or improved, another starts falling apart. What's the real story of America's infrastructure? Frankly it's us, the taxpayers, getting screwed.

A couple of weeks ago, a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Jon Schmitz, "Pennsylvania bridges better, but still need work", caught my eye. The article mentions how in the last three years the number of "structurally deficient" bridges in Pennsylvania has dropped by 1,100. Before you breathe easy, that still leaves about 4,500 in the Commonwealth that need some TLC ("structurally deficient...does not mean they are unsafe but that they are showing signs of deterioration that, if unaddressed, could lead to weight limits or closings").

Later in the article, Mr. Schmitz points out that one of the most important bridges in the Pittsburgh area is on the needy list:
One of the biggest bridges on the deficient list, the Liberty Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh, is in need of rehabilitation that will cost an estimated $40 million to $60 million, he said. Final design of the project is expected to begin this year but construction funding is not yet available. More than 16,500 vehicles use the bridge on an average day. 
The bridge superstructure is marred with patches of rust and there are areas of corrosion and deterioration in the steel, but Mr. [Dan] Cessna said the span is safe. It is currently undergoing an in-depth inspection. 
The best-case scenario has rehabilitation starting in 2015 if funding becomes available. The department will make interim repairs as necessary until then, Mr. Cessna said.
Dan Cessna is the executive of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 11, comprising Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence counties. Everybody in Pittsburgh knows the Liberty Bridge, the tunnels that join the bridge to pass under Mount Washington, the lengthy traffic jams during rush hours on both, and what a complete pig's breakfast transportation around here would be if the bridge failed or had to be closed for safety reasons. $40-60 million seems like a bargain to keep the bridge safe and sound. But is it?