Category: Flying

An Aeroflot Tupolev (Туполев) Tu-104 passenger jet in flight over a foggy, forested, winter landscape. The Tupolev design bureau logo appears at lower left.

Туполев Ту=104

Tupolev Tu-104 Camel

The Tu-104 (NATO assigned the reporting word CAMEL to this aircraft) was the second jet airliner to enter service, the British de Havilland Comet having been the first. It was the sole jetliner in service from 1956-58, when the Comet was grounded after a number of crashes. The Tu-104 carried over 90 million passengers during its service life with Aeroflot (then the world’s largest airline). The aircraft was retired in 1986.

A number of Tu-104s of various types were used for special applications, including weather research, and as a “vomit comet” reduced-gravity aircraft to parabolic flights allowing cosmonauts to experience short periods of zero gee.

Aeroflot’s need for a modern aircraft with greater capacity and performance than the piston-engine aircraft it then operated by modifying the Tu-16 Badger bomber. The wings, engines, and tail surfaces of the Tu-16 were retained with the airliner, but the new design adopted a wider, pressurized fuselage designed to accommodate 50 passengers. The glazed, bombardier nose of the Tu-16 was also retained, giving the Tu-104 a distinctly military look.

The interiors of Tu-104s built early on were said to resemble Victorian Pullman cars with ornate chandeliers, overstuffed seats, brass serving trays, and chain-flush toilets. But the aircraft, overnight transformed Aeroflot from a lowly-regarded, primarily domestic line, into a major international presence. Those Tu-104s I flew on had a much more utilitarian interior.


Another new toy! Twisted Brush Tree Studio from Pixarra. More thanks to Philip Staiger at for telling me about it. With Tree Studio you can quickly create 2D trees of several deciduous and conifer species.

A few trees made in Tree Studio added to the recently-posted image of a de Havilland Otter flying over snow-covered mountains gives it an entirely different look and feel. With a bit of work you would have a very nice forest at feet of the mountains. Tree Studio allows you to adjust the colors of the leaves as I have done here so that the birch trees can be in their autumn colors.

Click on the image for a full-size view.

For added realism a few of the png tree images generated by Tree Studio have been warped with another application.

Here is a screen shot of Tree Studio. The leaf color had been changed from the standard green to yellow. Tree Studios works with layers. A layer for the background, a layer for ground cover if, a layer for the trunk, a layer for the leaves. So that trees in the foreground will appear more realistic I suggest deleting the ground cover layer and adding another leaf layer behind the trunk as in this screen shot.

screenshot of Pixarra twisted brush tree studio

Twisted Brush Tree Studio

Here’s a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter (which you have seen before), operated by mythical Flying Moose Aviation of Talkeetna, Alaska, flying over a snow-covered mountain range. While Dogwaffle began as a 2D, raster-based paint program, Howler can model landscapes with multiple ray tracing utilities. This image, of stunning, almost photo-realistic quality, was rendered up in the 3D Designer utility. 3D Designer also has the ability to insert localized cloud formations of several types into your image. In this example you can see the leading edge of an approaching snowstorm just beyond the mountains.

outrunning an approaching blizzard

Running Ahead Of The Storm

Dogwaffle has an amazing array features – 2D, 3D, particles. There is also a large and growing number of video tutorials to help you figure out how to use them. Look here for more examples in the future including landscapes rendered with the Puppy Ray ray tracing utility.

I’m always trying to get better at what I do. It takes tome to learn new tricks and techniques and improve old ones. This rendition of a Russian AN-2 in flight somewhere over Siberia in the 1950s is much better than the one I did a few years ago. This is sort of a doodle for a couple of other images I want to do which will include an AN-2 or two. The AN-2 was built by the Antonov Design Bureau which is still in existence in the Ukraine.


As the AN-2 is a biplane, making it more complicated to portray than single-wing aircraft, I first tried out a few things I learned to do on something simpler. Two Dassault Super Mystère B2 fighter bombers from the Israeli Air Force (IAF) 105 Squadron (Scorpion) in flight over a mountainous desert landscape; circa 1967.


The Super Mystère was the result of progressive improvements in earlier Dassault aircraft which were also flown by the IAF. The Super Mystère went into production in 1957. Israel acquired its first aircraft of this type a year later. They saw service in both the 1967 Six Day War and in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. It was the first aircraft flown by the IAF which could attain supersonic speeds in level flight. IAF pilots liked the aircraft feeling it was a good match for the MiG-19.

The image of the Super Mystères is available on various products at one of my Zazzle stores. The AN-2 should appear there at some time in the near future.

Here is the squadron insignia of the 1st Polar Airlift Squadron, known as “Santa’s Own,” to which are assigned Santa’s eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. The Latin motto, “UNA NOCTA TOTIUS MUNDI,” translates as “The entire world in one night.”


And this is the night operations, arctic/polar blue, subdued camouflage version:


The First Polar Airlift Squadron (1st PAS) has a long and storied history. Based at the North Pole the 1st PAS is best known for providing airlift for Santa Claus during his annual, global, nocturnal delivery using venerable, reliable air-mobile RT-1 Reindeer (aka Caribou – Rangifer tarandus) generally deployed in teams of eight. For operations during inclement weather the squadron maintains one Reindeer equipped with a “RUDOLPH” enhanced red navigation lighting system.

For heavylift missions at other times of the year the 1st PAS also maintains a fleet of air-mobile A-1 Moose (Alces alces), one of which was featured earlier on this blog.

There are some who think I make these things up. The squadron did ask me to design the patch, so, in a sense, I did make it up. However the idea that the 1st PAS does not exist is just not true. Here’s a photo of Santa Claus on a training flight over Greenland , in the training sleigh “ICEBAT -1,” which was forwarded to me by the squadron public information officer. It is even signed by the jolly, old elf himself. What better proof could there be that the 1st PAS exists? The subdued version of the squadron patch can be seen on the left side of the sleigh.


The insignia is easier to see in this enlargement:


Not only can the unit insignia be seen, but, as Santa takes flight safety very seriously, you can see that both he and the elf in the back seat are wearing flight helmets. You might also note that Santa is not wearing the traditional red suit. Instead he is wearing caribou fur the reindeer need not be made aware of that) as it is much warmer than the red getup and does not require multiple layers of thermal underwear.

The unit insignia are available on many items at one of my Zazzle stores. Ten percent of all proceeds from these items will be donated to charity. Search for “airlift.”

Of course, the bush pilots at Flying Moose Aviation have their own, specially-designed, pilot’s wings featuring Milton, the Flying Moose, wearing a leather aviator’s helmet and goggles.

Click on image for full-size view.

flying moose aviation pilot's wings

Flying Moose Aviation Pilot’s Wings