WWII’s USS Arizona Memorial accepts more of her crew


After hours at the USS Arizona Memorial,  crew members that survived the sinking,  join their former ship mates. A reminder of the cost paid all those years ago.

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White Flags over the Brooklyn Bridge



White American Flags fly over New York City.

The symbology is so obvious; the operation, professional, clean and executed perfectly. The location; where it all started (for most Americans). A terrorist flag? A Russian flag? No; an American Flag bleached white. The fact the press hasn’t even picked up a sniff on this doesn’t surprise me at all, why? Because there are very few veterans in the press. And I suspect the few Vets that are in the Press Corps are smiling quietly, knowingly.

My son (an Iraq War Vet) and I were listening to the news when this story broke. We both laughed out loud when the question was asked: “Who would do this?”. We simultaneously replied: “Veterans!”.

Veterans? Yes and I will tell you why.

First the symbology; a white flag of surrender. But not a plain white flag; the team took the time to bleach out the American Flags and re-hoist them. America surrendering. This required equipment (bleach/water and a container) to be transported to the top of two bridge turrets. Next the operation; the team easily defeated security not once but twice, the lights were blocked out by a simple and effective means. Tin foil trays, like off of a steam table on a buffet, were bent around the light fixtures. The colors were struck, bleached and re-hoisted. Rinse, (literally) and repeat. The fact that the trays fit perfectly and the OP went smooth means that most likely there was a RECON mission first. OPLAN, RECON, INSERTION, ACTION and EXFIL; seamless execution. Vets; maybe even “special” ones IMO.

Why? Because America has surrendered in the eyes of many Veterans; especially those who served in the WAR on terrorism. My son was wounded while fighting with the 10th Mountain Division in the Sunni Triangle. They defeated Al Qaeda, and now that part of Iraq has been given away to a group even worse, ISIS. Afghanistan is next. Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, sub Sahara Africa; the world is in absolute chaos. Veterans as a group take exception to spilling their blood on bullshit causes. We do what we are told; stand for the Constitution first, however we will take exception when it is all for naught. When it is bungled away by incompetence or worse, lack of “give a shit”.

So yes, we are irritated: you are either in or out. You can not go half ass when lives are on the line. We will go, we will fight; but don’t make the loss and sacrifice for nothing. Don’t make it worse than it was.

But the real reason we are irritated? Because we know the world; the real world. We know the evil that is out there and we know weakness, surrender, invites it to our shores again. We are in a WAR; just because we choose to give up doesn’t mean the other side will.


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The Boeing 787 is an impressive machine. This airshow prep shows the performance of the aircraft, obviously light loaded. Still it looks fun!



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APOLLO 11; the first man on the moon was a Naval Aviator

It’s been 45 years; but I still vividly remember watching Apollo 11 land on the moon as a little boy. My family watched on a small black and white TV. When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface I didn’t know he had started as a Naval Aviator and Test Pilot. Heady days for sure. They seem so far away now. Back then it seemed Americans could do anything; now we can’t even run the Veterans Administration and NASA is on life support.

I already wanted to be a pilot by then. My uncle Bob Millhaem was flying combat missions as a 71st Special Operations Squadron Pilot in the AC-119 in South East Asia. Crew 11. Bob’s tour lasted for a year.

My Uncle Larry Menzies had returned from his combat tour and was tragically killed in S2F-1 Tracker during a training mission. He had been a Naval Aviator, a Tail Hooker, that was the route I took. Larry had flown EA-1Es in Viet Nam (VAW-11) before joining the reserves in 1966. In the video above an S2F-1 is on the bow of the USS Hornet when the Apollo 11 crew lands. Below is  super 8 video from one of his ships, the USS Kearsarge, and the S2f-1.

Here is the EA-1E Skyraider operating off one of my old ships the USS America. Check out how short the groove length is on the landing.

While Apoll 11 influenced just about every little boy in 1969; my course was set. It had been my uncles who influenced me.


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MH17 Shoot Down

Malaysian Air Flight 17 was shot down over Ukrainian airspace by a Russian SA-11 (Buk) surface to air missile yesterday; ironically on the 18th anniversary of TWA-800 exploding off of Long Island. Unlike MH370, which disappeared over the ocean, the story has unfurled almost immediately, why? Especially compared to KAL 007, the last airliner shot down by a Russian missile (1983), details have emerged in a nonstop manner since the first impact.

The real lesson in this tragedy is not that a surface to air missile can bring down a non-maneuvering and defenseless airliner; that is tragically easy. No, the lesson is that in today’s connected world you can´t hide it. The Soviet Union hide away evidence and denied 007 until 8 years after it collapsed. Certainly Putin, a Soviet throw-back, is trying. The black boxes are allegedly already in Russia. The SA-11 is being trucked to Russia as of this writing. Inspectors are being treated with hostility as evidence is damaged and removed. All for what reason?

The Soviet Union is dead; and its ability to quash the truth went with it to the grave. We already know exactly what happened; complete with recorded transcripts,  pictures of the SA-11 with one missile conspicuously missing from the launcher, electronic signatures, and over head assets recorded everything. Putin apparently intends to control the evidence. But in this age of instant access to information world wide, he simply looks like a man stuck in the past. The world already knows exactly what happened.

Posted in Airline Safety, Airlines, Crashes, Featured, Military

New Site!

After a lot of great input and hard work, (thanks Kate Logan Newbill) my site is updated! It has been renamed lelandshanle.com I hope it will be easier for my readers to find. It will still have my books and blog, we just wanted to update it. as a bonus the old domain still gets you here (www.project7alpha.com).


Let me know what you think. leland

Posted in Airline Safety, Airlines, Aviator book series, Blog, Naval Aviation Tagged with: , , , , ,

AMAZON Count-Down Deals: Project 7 Alpha, Vengeance and ENDGAME deeply discounted!

The award winning (MWSA 2012) Aviator Series (Project 7 Alpha, Vengeance, ENDGAME) E-books are deeply discounted this week! I was able to convince my publisher (Pen and Sword Books) to discount Project 7 Alpha to the lowest price it has ever been, $2.99! A huge savings of $10. I went even further with Vengeance and ENDGAME; via Amazon’s Countdown Deal they are currently .99 cents!

Get the entire series now for less than the price of one E-book!

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Old Friends and New-hires ( #BIF guest post from my friend Mark Berry)


New-hires are among us. Not since before 9/11/2001 have I seen so many bright, shiny faces and new uniforms. As airline employees, we all love to fly, but the beaming smiles of new-hires are unmistakable. It has been a long time since our furloughed brothers and sisters have had the opportunity to return to work and the next generation of airline-industry employees has begun their careers. Their collective enthusiasm is contagious.

I had an awkward moment on my most recent trip. A co-pilot strolled up to me, called me by name, and said it was great to see me again since returning from his twelve-year furlough. I recognized his face, but his name refused to pop into my head. I know we have flown together, shared the hands-across-the-throttles relationship and close quarters of the cockpit, but my mind stayed blank. He asked about friends we have in common, but still his identity remained a mystery.

Have you ever encountered someone you are supposed to know, but you just can’t place him? Admitting I couldn’t put a name to his face would have been embarrassing, so I chickened-out and didn’t ask—as much as I wanted to. It was haunting, and worse than déjà-vu. I worry that brain fart was a sign that I am growing old—as if the gray hair wasn’t already an obvious signal of that.

There is little I value more than inter-personal relationships, and I work hard to remember all who I spend significant time with in the air and on the ground–although I have no special talent for it. I heard a rumor that former Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher could remember every single one of his employees’ faces and names while his airline grew over the first twenty years. If that’s true, then it was truly an amazing feat. Relationships are what make us who we are.

A gaggle of new-hire flight attendants also caused me some recent consternation. Over a casual conversation between flights they revealed their ages, and to my surprise only one of them was even born when I was hired by TWA in 1988 (and she was only a year old). I told them I was a 727 flight engineer back when I was their age beginning my career. To my horror, one asked, “What’s a 727?” this was only topped by another who asked, “What’s a flight engineer?” It was then I remembered the salty captains I first flew with who proudly told me that I was just a gleam in my daddy’s eye when they started flying. I suddenly realized: I was now a full generation apart from my current crew.

Well, this old salt is happy to still be around to see the return of prosperity in the airline industry. I know that success is cyclical, and hope we are only seeing the beginning of long cycle. But whatever the future holds, I’m grinning along with the bright smiling faces I can only emulate but not duplicate.

Posted in Airlines, Blog, blogging in formation, Featured, Vengeance Tagged with: , , , ,

Phantom Attack (part 4)

f-4 in section

Our two Phantoms came off target in formation. Quickly I pushed my wing man back into combat spread. We weren’t done by a long shot.

“Beaver, picture between Shantini and Texaco?”

Texaco was the KC-135 inflight refueler orbiting 200 miles north. Our personal gas station.

“Section Bandits 3-5-0 for 100, HOT!”

Hot meant they were pointed at us and closing.

“Shit Ray it looks like we are going to have to fight our way out.”
“Should be fun.”

Was his emotionless response over the ICS.

“Icky say state?”

I was asking how much fuel he had.


I looked down at my state, it was close.

“Shit we don’t have the gas to screw around, Ray.”

“Icky go stealth.”

Stealth was an old Phantom trick, My options were: a. to blow through the Hornets super sonic and run away. Or b. turn with them and hope for an escape opportunity. I didn’t really have the gas for either, we definately didn’t have the gas for a. So I chose b. in stealth mode. We went to idle on one engine and minimum burner on the other. The Phantom had a nasty characteristic. It smoked like a bug truck. Long black lines of smoke would point to where you were if you had any power besides idle or burner selected. The first fighter to gain sight had a huge advantage. By going stealth we got ride of the smoke, conserved fuel and it would keep us close to cornering speed.

“3-4-0 at 55 angles 15.”
“Check ten left.”

I eased the nose down to get to 15,000 feet. We had to keep them in close to prevent giving them space to turn on us. Our speed built to 550 indicated in the descent. We were 100+ above our cornering speed, but could not come out of stealth mode this close.

“3-4-0 at 30 angles level.”

They were two minutes out at our combined closing speed. Ray and I were heads up, trying to get sight of the tiny Hornets.


We were going to pass inside of a few hundred feet at a combined 1000+ MPH. I decided to pull him into the phone booth to see what he had. I jammed both throttles to full burner and wrenched on 8 g’s in an early turn. Air combat is 80% mental, I wanted to see if this guy was a fighter pilot or just some dude who flew around in fighters. I put my nose on him and pulled; he was a fighter pilot. His F-18 turned to a ball of steam as he matched my move with a 9 g pull. The air was compressed so violently on his wing it turned to vapor. We were going to pass very close, neither surrendering in our little game of chicken. At the merge he rolled nose low and squatted with an incredible rate of turn. We passed so close we were both shaken by a huge jolt of turbulence created by our shock waves.

f-18 with vapes


Came over my ICS.

It looked grim; he was kickin’ my ass in the turn. Time to stop fighting his fight. I unloaded and snapped to wings level, then yanked the 8 g’s right back on. The sun was high, I had to get into the sun before he shot me. As the nose reached pure vertical I unloaded and held it directly in the sun. Cranking my head around I watched the Hornet complete it’s eye-watering turn. He put his nose right on us, following us up hill. I was betting that he had come to the merge at his corner speed of around 320 KIAS, I knew with a turn like I just witnessed, he was bleeding air speed like a stuck pig. I held my nose in the safe zone of the sun, also bleeding air speed like a fat stuck pig. but, he couldn’t shoot me, his heaters wouldn’t lock me in the sun and we were outside of gun range and inside of radar guided missile range. We hung nose up waiting to see who fell first. My gamble payed off the Hornet began to fall to the earth below. I took a quick snapshot of my airspeed it was 270, enough to get my nose down first. Burying the stick in my lap I gave up everything I had left in energy, to pull the nose down. The Hornet had hit zero airspeed and was now just a falling leaf. He was venting fuel which verified that. I got lucky he was falling belly up, sweeping his tail pipes toward me. With the cool ocean in the background, even if he went to idle, my heaters would track. I got tone and sent two (simulated) his way.

“Fox two, Fox two.”
“Icky’s Joker.”
“Roger, bug out north.”

Joker meant he had enough fuel to get to the tanker and re-fuel only if we left now. Other wise he would have to Bingo, emergency divert to San Clemente Island. We headed north buried the nose to let gravity give us airspeed as we ran for our lives. The second Hornet was still alive. We were betting he too was low on fuel and couldn’t give chase in burner…


Read more Naval Aviation and air combat exploits in the Aviators Series:

#3 ENDGAME #2 Vengeance #1 Project Seven Alpha

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15 years of publishing experience in 15 minutes

Traditional Publishing, Self Publishing, Indie Publishing, Hybrid Publishing: I’ve done them all in the last 15 years.

I recently spoke at the St Louis Publishers Association (SLPA) on my experience as an author in the world of publishing. It has been a long strange trip; along the way I’ve made a lot of mistakes and a couple of good decisions. I didn’t have time to answer all of the questions the other evening, so I thought I’d write a quick article for aspiring Authors and Publishers. Hopefully, it will save you time and money, mostly time.

I’m a Fighter Pilot by training and nature so I come straight to the point with no bull shit; if you want sunshine blown up your skirt (or kilt) I suggest skipping the rest of this article. If you want my unvarnished experience here it comes in a face to face, high speed pass.

First- if an Agent, Reviewer or Writing Award Nominator wants to be paid…DON’T. The biz has a shady side, a very large and profitable shady side. Don’t be a sucker.

Second- heeding the above warning, you still must spend money, EVEN if you go Traditional.

Third- you get what you pay for.

The Process
a. Writing: it has to be your best effort and complete; period.
b. Editing: you simply must get and pay for a good Editor, even if going traditional. An Agent or Publisher will not look at an unedited manuscript. Check the potential Editor’s work and sit down with them and talk.
c. Formatting/Cover: If going Traditional the Publisher will handle this, I will discuss more on each other type of publishing below and what the Author/Publisher is responsible for.
d. Marketing: I really don’t like it, but if you want to sell books you have to market aggressively. That includes a Traditionally Published Author (unless you are writing about Wizards and are from London). More on marketing later.

Traditional Publishing- or as I like to subtitle it; Kiss control, ownership and royalties good-bye.
a. Quality control: excellent for editing/formatting/printing/cover.
b. Cost: Only for the original manuscript editing and prep (oh yes, also the 10,000 copies you mailed world wide).
c. Royalties: pretty much none; the vast majority of Authors never break even with the advance. Long short, don’t count on any (8-10% for a first time Author who does write about Wizards and lives in London).
d. Ownership: you give it up in the deal for that advance and 8-10% of probably…zero.

The hyper link takes you to my first novel (second edition) that was Traditionally Published. I will admit, being Traditionally Published does massage the ego and give you bragging rights as an Author forever. However it is tough to make a living from it in this day and age. We all dream about the New York Times best sellers list. %99.999 of Published Authors will never get close.
My experience- I had no control over the cover, pricing, even the title. Project 7 Alpha is a novel; you certainly can’t tell that by the cover…and what do most people judge a book by? You guessed it, the cover. In my case I believe the cover, sub-title and cost of my first novel guaranteed I’d be in the %99.999.

My biggest mistake? Not getting an advance, that meant the Publisher didn’t have much at risk. Nothing motivates like money, or fear of losing it.

One last note on Traditional: you can’t get a Publisher with out an Agent…you can’t get an Agent unless you have been Published…..

Self Publishing- Companies that advertise they will publish your book sight unseen, crap in…crap out.
a. Quality control: wildly divergent, but for the vast majority it is wanting, unless you come with a well prepared package. Covers tend to be what I consider unacceptable. Think of this style of publisher as the mercenary; they will do or publish anything for the money.
b. Cost: high, they are a middle man who adds their profit to the printers cost thus raising the book cost. There are also associated upfront fees.
c. Royalties: You must price your book competitively with those in its genre’; due to the middleman addition to the unit cost you will either price yourself out of the market or have a greatly reduced royalty.
d. Ownership: That depends on the company and ISBN (book serial number), if you provide one and the contract allows it you can maintain ownership rights. Each deal is different, be careful.

My experience- again, strangely enough no real control over the cover. The designer I paid extra for, was rude and very hard to work with. The big positive (and only) I picked a great Editor (LaVonne Ellis) from the provided list (blind luck) and we went on to do the entire series together. Click on the hyperlink to see my first novel (first edition). The cover; well, sucks. And here is verification that it matters; the content is virtually unchanged from the Self to the Traditional. Only a couple of slang terms where changed in the manuscript and only because it was published in London (different meanings).

My biggest mistake? Probably doing it to begin with. It was great to finally hold a completed book, but it was ineffective and sold fewer copies than I have toes. Also, as you can see above, it is out there forever. Like I tell my kids; if you put it on the internet it is archived and accessible, FOREVER!

Last note: don’t!

Totally Indie- you are own your own…don’t screw it up.
a. Quality control: totally up to you, to a point. The formatting and cover must “fit” into the printer’s template, but quality is completely up to you as Author/Publisher. Printers are just that, printers. I used Lightening Source. They are used to dealing with publishers who do it daily. NOT user friendly, very hard work.
b. Cost: again, totally up to you and out of your pocket. As a minimum you need an editor/formatter/cover designer and printer. Generally, for an average size book of approximately 350 pages, the cost per unit is around $5.00. A rough guesstimate for pricing is 3 times cost. However you don’t keep that difference; the bookstore gets a hug discount off of the book, %55 is normal.
c. Royalties: as noted above, %55 of $14.95 is $8.22, subtract the unit cost of $5.00 and the Author/Publisher gets $3.22.
d. Ownership: It’s all yours, if you have your own ISBN. Bowker sells them singly or in a block.

My experience- You are the general contractor, and it is a lot of hard work. You have to start a business (LLC) and run it. Additionally if your subs aren’t up to snuff YOUR book suffers. I liked the cover of my second book (first edition) Vengeance, but I was not happy with the formatting. I was very rushed and up against a hard deadline. It was a very large pain in the…my head. I did sell, and continue to sell a lot of copies. Mostly ebooks, more on that later.

My biggest mistake? I was up against that deadline and rushed it. The Oshkosh Airshow was scheduled for the last week in July and I had been invited to the Authors Corner. Vengeance had been out since February in ebook and was doing pretty well for an Indie. Obviously, for a book signing event I needed hard copy. That ultimately forced me to accept what I was given. After all the files were corrected, formatted, submitted, re-corrected, re-formatted and re-submitted; it was finally accepted and run. I said to the young man helping me: “You must think I’m an idiot?” He didn’t laugh, he simply said: “Not at all, most people give up.” The books showed up in Oshkosh 2 days into the week long event.

Last note: forget writing you will to busy doing everything else.

A couple of years went by; Indie Published Vengeance, my second novel was doing much better than my traditionally Published novel, Project Seven Alpha. Exponentially actually. LaVonne and I had finished the third in the Aviator Trilogy, ENDGAME, and I was looking at my options for publishing. I thought about giving Traditional another try, but the cold hard facts in front of me were undeniable. I made a lot more money Independently. I read an article in the Ladue Times written by a friend, Paul Brown. The article had talked about Hybrid Publishing, basically Indie melded with Traditional. From my point of view it took the best from both worlds. I contacted Paul and he put me together with Kristina Blank Makansi of Treehouse Publishing. Kristy is also a Traditional Publisher with Blank Slate Press, I decided to go Hybrid.

Hybrid Publishing- long/short, Author buys services from a bonafide Publisher, for me sympatico!
a. Quality Control: same as traditional.
b. Cost: by the time you add everything up, roughly the same as Indie.
c. Royalties: same as Indie.
d. Ownership: all yours.

My experience- Not only did I Hybrid Publish ENDGAME, I re-branded Vengeance with Treehouse. Sales have been the best I have ever experienced. As a bonus; I had finally talked my Traditional Publisher into releasing an ebook for Project Seven Alpha, after Vengeance and ENDGAME sales took off so did 7-Alpha’s. Hard cover, soft cover sales; what I had put so much work into as an Indie years before? Almost all of my sales have been ebook.

Last note: I am publishing my fourth book by hybrid.


Ebooks are the Scepter of Power and Amazon is the King that wields it. I read an article recently by Hugh Howie; he had cracked the code on Amazon sales. According to his article, in the genre’ he tracked (Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Romance), 86% of the units sold of the top 2,500 ranked books, were ebooks. That is all units including: paperback, hardback, e-book, and audiobook. 86% of what the titles sold were ebooks. Hardcover, soft and audio combined to sell 14% of total units sold.

It doesn’t take a “Rocket-Surgeon” to realize where you need to put the effort.

In my experience, each of my novels is running a ratio between 1:150-1:300. That is 150 or 300 ebooks moved per soft or hard cover sold. Eye-watering. Granted; book #2 and #3 did not have the support of a traditional publisher and all that comes with it. However book #1 did; and it is the laggert in sales of the three (paper+ebook).

Marketing- Quite obviously if most sales are electronic then so should your marketing. Website (put in your author name not first book title), Twitter, Facebook, and mostly…AMAZON. You must get reviews to sell books, and sell books to get reviews. To do that you have to get your work read; if its good, it will then sustain itself. It is up to you to get it “out there”. Scower the internet, read the Indie articles and do your research before you press the PUBLISH button. be ready to push hard and fast. Amazon will even advertise your books when you reach a certain point. Their algorithm changes and seems to work. They are even sniffing out the bogus and self reviewers now. Get into their programs; Kindle select, Free, and more.

I am an analog man trapped in a digital world!

It is what it is; in a few days I will transition to the Boeing 777 from the MD-80. From manual cables and “steam” gauges, to digital and fly by wire. I already made the transition in publishing; you don’t have to like it, for it to be the way it is, or the way of the future.


This was quick and dirty; if you have questions feel free to ask. Again, my opinions based on my experiences over the past 15 years.


Read more on airlines, Naval Aviation and air combat exploits in the Aviators Series:

#3 ENDGAME #2 Vengeance #1 Project Seven Alpha

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