The Flare Path: Needs A Hip Replacement

Thanks to Flanker and its successors, for the last two decades virtual Caucasians haven’t had a moment’s peace. The overlapping outbursts of jet engines, cannons, bombs and missiles have frayed nerves, murdered sleep, and made activities like meditation, card tower construction, and butterfly whispering all but impossible. The good news is things are about to improve for the long-suffering residents of cities such as Krasnodar and Batumi. Eagle Dynamics are in the process of trialling a new DCS World soar space. The release of an alpha build of the Nevada Test and Training Range means it’s now the turn of Las Vegans to have their siestas spoiled and stucco cracked.

Flare Path Sky Tours Ltd. may not fly the newest aircraft or operate from the swankiest aerodrome (we’ve been based at a Boulder City parking lot since the red-tape brigade at McCarran International began insisting on public liability insurance and no smoking during refuelling) but we guarantee to take you to the places the other companies can’t or won’t visit. Climb aboard Hilda, our quinquagenarian Mi-8, and on your seat, along with an accident waiver form (please sign and hand to the steward, Roman, before take-off) and generously proportioned sick bag, you’ll find a map showing today’s itinerary.

That shuddering and the grating sound? Nothing at all to worry about. Just the, um, transverse radial sub-spindles finding their natural resonance. If you look to your left as we climb you’ll see a settlement that didn’t exist a hundred years ago. Boulder City was built by the US Government in 1931 to house workers constructing the nearby Hoover Dam. David Icke claims the distinctive moth-shaped street plan was an attempt by civic planner Saco Rienk de Boer to communicate with giant lepidoteral aliens.*


In a moment we’ll be descending into Black Canyon and heading north. As a few of Hilda’s seats have developed itinerant tendencies during recent years, gripping the nearest bulkhead or bit of cargo webbing might be sensible at this point.

Everyone tickety-boo back there? Splendid. Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare to gawp. Around the next bend is A) the widest concrete arch in the Western Hemisphere and B) a 700ft-high hydroelectric reservoir bung that provides eight million Americans with power and prevents poor, homesick London Bridge from being tsunamied into oblivion.

Behold NTTR’s version of the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and the Hoover Dam.

Under one and over the other brings us to Lake Mead, the most capacious reservoir in the US. If there’s time on our homeward run I’ll show you the spot where Howard Hughes almost lost his life in a 1943 flying boat crash and the place where a B-29 engaged in top secret missile guidance research pranged and sank five years later.

We fly north-west now towards Las Vegas and SHITABRICK!

Sorry. That powerline always catches me out. Bally hard to spot against the horizon haze. Now where was I? Oh yes. We’re making for the ‘city’ of Henderson, Las Vegas’ southern suburb. Henderson is another Nevada settlement that was nothing but dirt, greasewood, and scorpions a hundred years ago. It owes its existence to wartime America’s insatiable appetite for magnesium. The stuff was a vital ingredient of early incendiary bombs, and combined with aluminium, it made very light, very strong aircraft skins. The vast majority of P-51s and B-17s that glittered European skies in the latter years of WW2 would have contained Mg processed in Henderson.

The 18,400 acre Basic Magnesium Inc plant was just down there. The spot was chosen because it was relatively close to ore deposits, had a major power and water source close-by (huge amounts of both were required for the electrolytic process) and was sufficiently distant from the west coast to soothe worried War Department planners.

Another manufacturing firm that chose Henderson as a home was the Pacific Engineering and Production Company of Nevada. Their plant was over yonder. PEPCON made ammonium perchlorate, the oxidizer used in the Space Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters. On May 4, 1988 a fire broke out on site, and spread to a large stockpile of ‘AP’ (the drum stack had been growing since the Challenger disaster two years earlier). The resulting explosions were real mountain shakers. They broke windows ten miles away. Roman has some amazing photographs of the mushroom clouds in his folder. Looking at them it’s hard to believe the disaster only claimed two lives.

Time to switch off the radio, I think. We’re approaching McCarran International and their tower tends to get a bit hot under the collar when we trespass. My favourite McCarran story involves a Cessna and a pair of extraordinary amateur aviators. On December 4, 1958, Robert Timm, a casino slot machine technician, and John Wayne Cook, an aircraft mechanic, lifted off from McCarran in ‘Hacienda’, a specially modified Cessna 172. The plane’s wheels wouldn’t touch tarmac again until February 7, 1959.

Refuelled and provisioned by a speeding support truck, the pair were able to stay aloft, meandering around – and manuring – the sparsely populated Southwest for a record-breaking 64 days, 22 hours, and 19 minutes. Roman is in the process of turning the Hacienda story into a screenplay. If you want to know further details, he’s the man to ask.

Hang on. I’m about to execute a sharpish starboard turn. For the next five minutes or so we fly northward up the famous Las Vegas Strip.

That’s the Stratosphere Tower at one o’clock (FAA concerns meant its designers had to rein in their lofty highest-freestanding-structure-in-the-world ambitions) and Nellis Air Force Base (the home of the USAF Thunderbirds) at two. Nellis grew like Topsy during WW2. Together with Indian Springs/Creech, another AFB on our itinerary, it was a key part of the USAF’s gunner training programme. Many of the men that manhandled Ma Deuces in B-17s, B-24s, B-25s, and B-29s would have learnt their craft at Nellis.

You usually started out potting clay pigeons with buckshot. Show a modicum of ability and you’d eventually find yourself blazing away at speeding rail targets from the back of a turret-equipped Chevy truck. The remains of the target trackways are still visible in the desert north-west of Nellis. See those big triangles?

Feel free to doze for the next ten minutes. The run up to Creech AFB and the edge of the Nevada Proving Grounds isn’t exactly gripping. Apparently, Eagle Dynamics are working on improving ground clutter. With so much of the NTTR scenery, featureless desert, it’s a sagebrush initiative.

That grey shimmer in the middle-distance is Creech AFB, the airfield formerly known as Indian Springs. Today it’s a hotbed of UAV research and training. In WW2 it was the place where aspiring gunners went after graduating from the turret trucks. On proving you could plug towed drogues from the backseat of a T-6 Texan, you’d finally be let loose in a real bomber.

Hmm. I’m not sure Camp Desert Rock should look quite so lively or verdant. According to Google this army village established in 1951 to billet the hapless human guinea pigs involved in the Desert Rock exercises is now nothing but scrub and concrete footings. ED are planning to add detail and extra airfields to central areas of NTTR in coming months. Here, perhaps, they need to remove some.

Breakout the Geiger counters, Roman. That last outpost was Mercury. Next stop is Frenchman Flat, the site of the America’s first post-Manhattan Project continental nuclear detonation. An underground aquifer meant most subsequent atomic tests were conducted further north on – or rather under – Yucca Flat, but evidence of Frenchman’s role in the atomic age is there if you know where to look. I think I’m right in saying those are the ruins of buildings constructed for blast damage assessment purposes and that geoglyph marks the spot where an M65 Atomic Cannon was emplaced during ‘Grable’.

Ok Roman, time for track 4. Skinhead Moonstomp.

Hilda is now hurtling across Yucca Flat. Between 1951 and 1991, this godforsaken corner of the Silver State was shaken, scorched, and irradiated by 827 separate nuclear blasts, not all of which went according to plan. While it was the handful of atmospheric explosions that left the most memorable images…

…it was the myriad subterranean ones that created the spectacular landscape now unspooling beneath us. In a moment or two we will arrive at, and descend into, Yucca’s biggest and most bizarre hellhole, the Sedan Crater.

“Digging large holes with mechanical excavators and TNT is a slow and labour-intensive business. I wonder if we could save time and resources by using buried thermonuclear devices?” It took Operation Plowshare over ten years to answer this question and the answer when it arrived was fairly predictable: “Yes. But the labour-saving benefits are probably offset by the thousands of cancers caused by fallout contamination”.

Onwards! Onwards! The most exciting destination on our itinerary is now a mere twelve miles away. Anyone mind if I play American Truck Simulator enroute?

Intrepid Flareopaths, beyond the next hill is a location that’s guaranteed to knock your socks off. Heard of Groom Lake? No? How about Area 51 then? They’re one-and-the-same place. Just over that brow is one of the most restricted Restricted Areas on the planet. Last time Hilda, Roman and myself rambled in this direction, we saw something parked next to one of the hangars that left us utterly speechless. Picture a 50ft-long… Actually don’t picture anything. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Not long now, folks. I’ll just take us down a little lower and… SWEETJESUS!

SAM launch at two o’clock!

Speak to me, Hilda!

Ladies and Gentlemen. On behalf of everyone at Flare Path Sky Tours I’d like to apologise for the unexpected curtailment of today’s tour. In the unlikely event that any of you survive the imminent impact, I hope you’ll consider flying with us again, and refrain from mentioning this completely unforeseeable mishap in any TripAdvisor reviews you decide to write.


* * * * *


The Foxer

The fox at the centre of last week’s foxer wore a mask and flourished a rapier. AFKAMC cornered him after an hour-long chase over the rooftops of 1840s (at a) Los Angeles.

theme: Zorro (defoxed by AFKAMC)

a. Rapier (AFKAMC)
b. Johnston McCulley (phlebas)
c. Fox (AFKAMC, Rorschach617, Beowulf, unacom)
d. Tornado (Matchstick)
e. Fray Felipe (phlebas)
f. Los Angeles (Beowulf, Matchstick)
g. Z (phlebas)
h. Juan Cortina (Llewyn)
i. Don Diego de la Vega (eeldvark)
j. Guy Williams (unsolved)

* * * * *


Foxer Fact #1009

The 1975 disco smash ‘The Hustle’ was originally called ‘The Foxer’. Semi-professional vulpinologist Van McCoy was persuaded to change the song’s title and sole lyric (”Do the foxer!”) by his record company, Avco, who were concerned about radio stations boycotts in anti-foxer states like Tennessee and Kentucky.

All answers in one thread, please.


  1. Matchstick says:

    Foxer Answers:

    Plane Left-handside looks like a MiG-17 Fresco (though I want to check it’s not actually one of the chinese copies)

    • Matchstick says:

      Chart Bottom left is one of the Pie Charts (or Polar Area Diagrams)Florence Nightingale created showing mortality rates during the Crimean War

    • Stugle says:

      Ship looks like a Hunt-class minesweeper of the Royal Navy.

      • Stugle says:

        The Royal Navy currently has the following ships in service: Brecon, Ledbury, Cattistock, Brocklesby, Middleton, Chiddingfold, Atherstone, Hurworth, and Quorn. The Greeks sail former HMS Bicester and Berkeley, while the Lithuanians have former HMS Cottesmore and Dulverton.

      • Stugle says:

        The picture matches the first picture search result for HMS Quorn.

        Quorn, Fresco, pie chart… Food theme, anyone? Or did I just not eat a big enough breakfast this morning? :)

        • unacom says:

          Unless you happen to like barbecued centaurs… probably not.
          However I still don´t know if its a coin, medal, tondo or plate.
          So maybe… yes?

    • Shiloh says:

      The Japanese prison guard is Sergeant Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a.k.a. The Bird – accused of war crimes but evaded arrest and never tried in court.

      (Reposted in correct part of thread…)

      • paranoydandroyd says:

        His most famous prisoner was Louise Zamperini whose parents are both natives of Verona.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      The car at bottom middle looks to be a 1971 Dodge Challenger (possibly an RT?)

    • AbyssUK says:

      Also reposting to correct place (sorry!)
      The odd globe thing is the chamber of hell from Dante’s Divine Comedy by Antonio Manneti

      link to

    • AFKAMC says:

      Possible link…?
      Antonio Manetti was from Florence.
      Florence Nightingale was born in Florence.
      Florence is renowned for its frescoes?

      • Matchstick says:

        Antonio Manetti the created of the map of hell lived in Florence and it’s based on the Divine Comedy by Dante who was born there as well.

      • paranoydandroyd says:

        I think maybe cities in Italy, with the biplane being a Romano R.82.

    • Matchstick says:

      Coin partly obscured top right looks like it’s a Gold Sovereign of some kind.

    • unacom says:

      Very shaky guess on the biplane: Pitcairn PA-8. The two-seater version.

      • AbyssUK says:

        Pitcairn PA-8 As owned by Steve McQueen.. also the 1971 Dodge Challenger…

        • AbyssUK says:

          On crumbs wait the Dodge picture is actually from Vanshing Points movie poster starting Steve McQueen…

          • Premium User Badge

            phuzz says:

            Steve McQueen wasn’t in Vanishing Point, that pic is from the poster though (which explains why I couldn’t find it in my search of Dodge advertising)

        • Matchstick says:

          There’s a picture of Steve McQueen’s PA-8 here
          link to
          Doesn’t look quite right to me.

          The foxer shows the fuselage tapering in somewhat towards the engine (which has a cowl) and the tailplane has notch cut out of it to accommodate a tail wheel mounted at the very end of the fuselage.
          Amd I’m not seeing those features in the photograph

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        That looks to be closest match so far.
        Trivia: Steve McQueen owned a PA-8

      • Rorschach617 says:

        I was just about to tentatively ID the biplane as a Romano R.82,
        link to

    • Rorschach617 says:

      So, recap? We have…

      A Mig 17 Fresco
      Antonio Manetti’s map of Hell, from Dante’s Inferno
      Mutsuhiro Watanabe, “the Bird”, prison guard linked to Louis Zamperini
      A coin/medal of St George
      A Romano R82
      A pixellated island? maybe from a game?
      A Dodge Challenger
      A Polar Area Diagram (or Pie Chart)
      A Hunt-class Minesweeper id’ed as HMS Quorn

      and Moustache Wearer of the Year 1032?

      • Shiloh says:

        I thought the “pixelated island” was actually a “pixelated icon” or “pixelated character” from a game – running from left to right, with a hat or big collar on and with its arms in the air.

        Your idea sounds more reasonable when I put it like that…

        I’ve also seen more monumental brass (the practice began in the late 13th/early 14th centuries, fact fans) than is good for me, but so far I’ve drawn a blank on that as well.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Now that you mention it, when I look at it, it does look like a running character. :)

          • unacom says:

            …running carrot?
            Turn it left by 90 degrees and it has something elephantine.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            … Turnip with a mohawk.

            *mental note* start work on platform game “Tony the Turnip Punk”

        • Stugle says:

          A saw a runner, but after your comment I cannot unsee the running turnip. When you make your game, make sure to give the Punk some kind of “Turn it up!” catchphrase.

      • Shiloh says:

        Hmm… St George was patron saint of the Arti dei Corazzai e Spadai – that’s the Florentine Guild of Armourers and Swordmakers to you and me.

      • mrpier says:

        The Dodge Challenger has a (very) tenuous link to Italy and maybe florence, as it was an italian Guidobaldo del Monte who apparently coined the term “vanishing point” in a treatise about perspective.

        Otherwise there’s Florence (Nightingale), Dante, Romano plane, Mercenary guy, Fresco, what might be a Florin with St. George on it, guard with italian prisoner, no idea about the pixelated chap or HMS Quorn.

      • Aphrion says:

        This is extremely tenuous, but perhaps an Alcatraz/Al Capone link? We have “the Bird” and an island, though I don’t know enough detail about either to link the other clues. Just wanted to throw in my 2¢, since AFKAMC seems stuck for once, somehow.

        • Aphrion says:

          EDIT: Looked again and AFKAMC’s isn’t stuck so much as not yet put the pieces together. Also I’m probably wrong.

    • larpsidekick says:

      The Medieval chap in the centre is Sir John Hawkwood, who led a mercenary group in Italy in the fourteenth century, including serving Florence, ending his life thee in 1394

      • Rorschach617 says:

        You’re right!

        I was about to say that a google image search of the tomb of Edward the Black Prince was close, but you nailed it.

        The book, Medieval Mercenary, uses that image for a cover.

    • AFKAMC says:

      There seems to be a general link with Italian city states, if not Florence in particular.

      I’m wondering if the Romano reference is to Ezzelino III da Romano, Italian feudal lord in the March of Treviso (in the modern Veneto). He was around a century or two before Hawkwood, though. In Dante Aligheri’s Divine Comedy (the Chamber of Hell reference), da Romano’s soul is consigned to Hell.

    • Tim Stone says:

      This foxer is still at large.

      Helpful advice from Roman:

      1. Tarry awhile in Tuscany
      2. Trace Turnip Boy
      3. Trust strong links only

      • AFKAMC says:

        OK, pretty sure the link is the Italian painter and mathematician Paolo Uccello (1397-1475).

        Uccello is the Italian for BIRD, and became his nickname because of his fondness for painting birds.
        He had an interest in perspective, including the VANISHING POINT.
        He was taught geometry by ANTONIO MANETTI.
        His works include:
        The Battle of San ROMANO
        A number of FRESCOES, including one of SIR JOHN HAWKWOOD
        The HUNT
        He Died in FLORENCE in 1475.

        • AFKAMC says:

          His works also included SAINT GEORGE AND THE DRAGON – which I guess is the gold sovereign clue.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Much better than my last hypotheses which were:

          The Renaissance in general (too vague)
          Leonardo Da Vinci (used perspective at the time)
          and, by far the most time consuming to try to prove…
          The Count of Monte Cristo (Monte Cristo island in Tuscany, there was a prison guard in the foxer, I was desperate)


  2. AbyssUK says:

    Vallo della Infero : The Chamber of Hell (odd globe thing)

    link to

  3. Shiloh says:

    The Japanese prison guard is Sergeant Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a.k.a. The Bird – accused of war crimes but evaded arrest and never tried in court.

  4. GernauMorat says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this Flare Path. 10/10 would fly in ageing soviet deathtrap again.

    • unacom says:

      Make it an MI-2 so it gets cosy in there.

    • Little_Crow says:

      Agreed, I read the Flare Path religiously despite never having played or being likely to play the games featured, and having nothing to offer up for the foxer.

      I don’t know if it was because the tour covered so many places I ‘know’ from Fallout: New Vegas, but it and the wiki links were a seriously engaging read – more of this kind of thing.

      • Shiloh says:

        Heh, I was thinking exactly the same thing – McCarran Airforce Base, you say? The REPCONN, er I mean, PEPCON facility?

        • Stugle says:

          So That’s why ‘PEPCON’ had such a familiar ring to it… Yes, great fun clouding my perception of the actual area with all my New Vegas recollections.

      • MiniMatt says:

        Exactly the same, the Boulder City story, the B52 in Lake Mead – video games have taught me more history than Ms De’arth (yes, she was particular on pronunciation – in the playground we called her something else) did in the 90s.

        Civilisation, Fallout, Tim Stone – the greatest history teachers of our time.

    • Tim Stone says:

      Thanks all.

      There’s no hope for Hilda but Flare Path Sky Tours will definitely fly again.

  5. Stugle says:

    Thanks for the enlightening entertainment! I’ll never play that helicopter sim, but your writeup has already given me more entertainment than half the games I bought in the Steam winter sale.

  6. Synesthesia says:

    That was brilliant. Now I want to get back to the Huey. The Mi-8 is a proper nightmare to fly, isn’t it?

    • unacom says:

      Haven´t flown one. I´m tempted for the Huey alone. I wish there´d be an MBB Bo 105.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Friend of mine took his IT contracting money to teach himself to fly heliflopters. Once he’d got his first licences he got one of the oil companies to fund his others and last I spoke with him he was flying to rigs in the North Sea.

      He tried, over the course of many pints, to explain to me how to…. go forward in a heliflopter.

      As I remember (pints were involved, you’ll recall) – you move the stick forward. Moving the stick forward shifts the main rotor assembly to pull the craft forward. But now you’ve got slightly less lift because the main rotor is not at a perpendicular angle to the ground, so you have to increase the pitch of the blades to accommodate. So you use your other hand to pull up on a lever (kinda like a car handbrake apparently) to increase the blade pitch to accommodate the exact loss of lift realised by aligning the rotor assembly forward. But, thanks to adjusting the rotor pitch the torque reaction is now out of balance and you have to adjust the output of the tail rotor to prevent you spinning left (or is it right?). So you increase the speed (or is it the pitch? many pints, remember) of the tail rotor with your feet to cancel out that torque reaction.

      Congratulations. You’ve moved forward. Now land on a 90 sq foot landing platform in the middle of the North Sea, in a storm force gale.

      Anyway, long old story the tldr of which is – helicopters are freaking wierd, and flying them is the practice of witchcraft.

      • Zenicetus says:

        You forgot the part (or he did) where adding foot pedal to increase the tail rotor speed to counteract the main rotor torque, means that you’ve now got a sideways-facing fan that pushes the whole contraption sideways. So as you add tail rotor, you have to GENTLY tilt the main rotor to the off-side in order to counteract that sideways motion. It’s like learning how to juggle while balancing on a big rubber ball.

        If the sim is realistic enough, you really need foot pedals, and a separate throttle (collective) and joystick so you don’t go nuts while building the muscle memory to fly smoothly.

  7. Niente says:

    Reading those wiki links the insanity of the Fallout world seems only a small shift of the mirror from our own.

    Project Plowshare was just sheer lunacy. I love the Atomic Cannon though.

  8. buzzmong says:

    Lovely Flare Path.
    Tim, could you please share your DCS .miz file as well :) Looks like a good tour route.

  9. puninnabun says:

    The beautiful hip pun in the title made me shed a tear and moved me so much that I still haven’t been able to read on… *sniff* ..beautiful.