A Gathering of Square Tails, 2006
Antique Airfield is located near the small rural town of Blakesburg in the
rolling forested hills of southeastern Iowa. It is about nine miles
southwest of Ottumwa, Iowa, the closest city of any size, and just a few
miles north of the Iowa-Missouri state line. The significance of Antique
Airfield lies in that it is the home of the Antique Airplane Association
and the site of its Airpower Museum. Antique Airfield features a 2350 ft.
x 100 ft. north-south grass runway with a fairly open approach from the
south over the ever prominent Iowa corn fields and a north end that slopes
towards tree-covered gentle hills and shallow valleys.(1) To
say the least, it presents a challenge to every pilot who operates in and
out of it, demanding their utmost piloting skills and knowledge of their
aircraft. However, over the years since its inaugural in 1970 it has seen
a multitude of antique and classic airplanes routinely master its somewhat
demanding features. These have ranged from the smallest and lightest
airplanes such as Piper J-3 Cubs and Aeronca 7AC Champions through
all the classic biplanes and even to high-performance heavy aircraft such
as North American AT-6s, Beech D-18s, Lockheed 12s, Stinson Trimotors,
a GrummanFM-2 Wildcat and a North American B-25.(2)
Every year the Antique Airplane Association hosts
its annual fly-in from the August Wednesday prior to Labor Day through
Labor Day. The AAA-APM Fly-In actually is a convention, open only to its
members, and thus the general public is not invited. Nor is there an air
show of any kind scheduled. On an average about 250 to 350 antique and
classic airplanes usually attend each year with 276airplanes attending in
2006 from all corners of the UnitedStates.3 The truly dedicated antique
airplane enthusiast considers the fly-in at Antique Airfield to be Mecca
and those who attend immerse themselves in the ambiance personified by the
1930s-style headquarters building and hangars as well as bythe sights,
sounds and smells of radial engines, grease, oil, . . .
1931 Stearman C-3R
Transports: Part 1 -
Development of the Pregnant and Super Guppies
was taking a very active role in the space race, but they were having
logistical problems. They were able to lob fairly large payloads into
outer space but they had difficulties moving the things that got the
payloads up there.
The idea of an outsized transport to carry
outsized cargo had long been a popular one with John M. “Jack” Conroy,
a contractor, non-scheduled airline pilot, and California Air National
Guard pilot flying Boeing C-97Gs. The C-97 seemed to be an excellent
vehicle for configuration to an oversized transport as it lent itself to
stretching and swelling.Unfortunately, Conroy had the idea but no money.
He took the idea to Lee Mansdorf, who owned a number of surplus 377s
purchased from airlines when they were declared surplus after a short
service life. Mansdorf, figuring he would have a hard time getting rid of
his surplus white elephants on a market that was already becoming nearly
all jet, agreed to provide Conroy with airframes but no financial support.
By this time Conroy had drawings made for his
proposed transport, so he went to Washington with high hopes. The NASA
officials were skeptical but they admitted that such an airframe would be
very useful if it did exist.
With that news Conroy was more determined than
ever to construct his behemoth and he hurried back to Van Nuys to sell
everything that he had and borrowed everything he could to start
construction. The final sum was not great but he formed Aero Spacelines
and forged ahead. Due to lack of funds and the unavailability of a large
enough hangar, Conroy opened his airplane “factory” in the warm
California air behind the On Mark Engineering hangar at Van Nuys Airport,
in Van Nuys, Calif.
At that time, On Mark was busy converting A-26s
to executive configuration and the area was scattered with derelict
military A-26s, shiny new B-25 transports, the occasional P-51D and B-17G,
sections of Stratocruisers, and above all this, rising beneath a
spider-web of scaffolding was the immense bulbous shape of an aircraft
that was to become known as the “Pregnant Guppy.”
The Guppies were all based on a bloated version
of the Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser and the . . . .
Laying out bulkheads for the Pregnant Guppy
Belly Flop, The U.S.
Navy’s World War II Glider Misstep
the only practical means for aircraft to complement Marine seaborne
assaults via landing craft and amphibious vehicles. It would require
gliders to be towed aloft from the sea or hard surface fields, and then
glide free to a landing in the water. This was a bold innovation,
envisioning swarms of gliders towed into range of the objective, setting
down in the shallows, and beaching to deposit squads of Marines ashore
instead of the long and vulnerable motoring to the beach of landing craft
from ships offshore. It appears that inland landings were considered
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Maj. Gen. Thomas
Holcomb, decided in October 1940 to train one Marine battalion of each
regiment as ‘air troops.’ One company would be paratroopers while the
rest would be lifted in by aircraft to ‘airland’ into the combat zone.
With Knox’s subsequent direction, the Navy began exploring the potential
of gliders as one means of lifting the Marine air troops. While the entire
notion of United States Marine Corps amphibious gliders was not carefully
studied before program initiation, and caused many a furrowed brow, it was
certainly worth exploring considering the new tactics and shattering
victories of Germany and Japan.
The Navy was to develop and procure the gliders
while the Corps trained their own pilots and airborne troops. The
Commandant wrote the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) on May 31,
1941, stating the USMC’s desires. The assistant chief, Capt. Marc A.
Mitscher, had already initiated glider development when the effort was
announced in April - although he made no secret of his skepticism. One of
his officers, Comdr. Delmar S. Fahrney, had previously begun a bomb
glider, or ‘Glomb,’ program as an adjunct to a long-standing unmanned
drone effort, and this would run coincident with the Marine transport
glider work. On April 30, Fahrney directed the Naval Air Factory (NAF), in
Philadelphia, to perform a transport glider design study. Fahrney and the
BuAer team would continue managing contracts and guiding the overall
The NAF assigned Lt. Comdr. (soon Comdr., then
Capt.) Ralph S. Barnaby to supervise the design project. Among his team,
participating in the eventual flight testing, were Marine pilots Maj.
Richard E. Figley, Lt. (later Capt.) Robert V. Reilly, . . . .
WWII USMC glider training at Parris Island, S.C.
Emil Strasser Photographs from the 1934 National Air Races
The 1934 National
Air Races (NAR) were back in Cleveland, Ohio, following the practice of
alternating with the west coast where the 1933 NAR had been held in Los
Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the first
air race in Reims, France, the 1934 NAR were held August 31 to September
3. This event had been shortened to a four-day weekend from the 10 day
extravagances that had been the previous venue. The country was in the
heart of the Depression, which had shrunk the purses, but did not prevent
a sell-out crowd estimated at 100,000 showing up for the Labor Day “big
race” for the Thompson Trophy.
A new race was added to the 1934 NAR for aircraft
powered by restricted displacement engines. Sponsored by the Cleveland
Pneumatic Tool Co., manufacturers of aircraft landing gear components, the
race was named in honor of its president, Louis Greve. The race was
actually flown in three heats with the winner being decided by the total
number of points accumulated.
All the closed course races were flown on a race course
that had been shortened to an 8.33 mile triangular shape in order to make
the planes more visible to the grandstand spectators. Racer Doug Davis
complained to the organizers that the course was too short, forcing pilots
to make low-altitude high-speed turns that could have disastrous
potential . . . .
The Gardner Trophy Air Races - May 1929; Part 2 - The Final
than 10,000 spectators reportedly gathered at Parks Airfield in East St.
Louis, Ill., to witness the Gardner Trophy Race final on May 30, 1929. The
nine finalists had lined their multi-colored racing planes across the
southern border of the field to await the ten o’clock start. As in the
preliminaries, the race was for all-out speed, with no handicaps. The
first to round a pylon at the Indianapolis “500” races and return to
the Parks Airfield would take home the silver Gardner Cup.
No account of this unique event would be complete
without some discussion of the race pilots and of the design features of
the nine race planes. Each of the qualifying pilots had brought to the
race their own flavor of experience, charisma, and technical abilities.
Some had already achieved a meager level of fame among their flying
colleagues, while others had yet to make their mark in aviation. Some were
merely in it for the sport. Yet to others, racing was strictly business.
This unique blend of talent and enthusiasm gave the Gardner participants a
true sense of competitive flare. Each of the nine qualifying airplanes was
advanced in some way. The race rules had been set up to require the
aircraft to be of a certified type. However, experimental modifications
were allowed, as long as the plane carried proper registr
Travel Air D-4000
The Death of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.
P. Kennedy, Jr. was born on July 25, 1915. The oldest of nine children to
be born to Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, he was
groomed by the family to become President of the United States. He entered
Harvard University in 1933 and graduated in 1938. He returned to Harvard
in l940, a student in their prestigious Law School. When Japan attacked
Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the older Kennedy boys promptly enlisted
in the armed forces. Joseph Kennedy left Harvard Law School before his
final year to become a naval aviator, earning his wings in 1942. He was
assigned to coastal patrol and antisubmarine duty off the coast of
England. His group operated the Consolidated PB4Y-1 Privateer, the
Navy version of the Consolidated B-24, a long-range heavy bomber. Like his
younger brother Jack, Joe would later be awarded the Navy Cross,
posthumously in his case, for his heroism. He would also receive the Air
Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross to become one of our nation’s
most decorated naval aviators. Kennedy flew many patrols from his base in
Devon. Although a number of enemy submarines were sighted by his crew, no
kills were registered. In mid -1944, his squadron was asked to supply
volunteers for a top-secret mission over Continental Europe. Lt. Kennedy
stepped forward and was selected.
A base from which the secret mission would
operate was developed at Winfarthing-Fersfield in East Anglia. A small
number of war weary aircraft were assembled at that site along . .
Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr
in flight training
Remember When . . . Beechcraft Musketeer
those of us who recall the period, a boom in general aviation was to take
place following World War II. It was anticipated that returning airmen
would trade their wartime aircraft, flown in hostile skies, for light
planes flown over peaceful American terrain. The return of many veteran
pilots, aviators and airmen was to be the catalyst behind the figurative
statement “an airplane in every garage,” and it gave impetus to
artists’ conceptions of smiling families flying to vacation destinations
in futuristic light planes. Aviation magazines of the day reinforced this
vision by depicting modern-day housing developments with a runway and
individual taxiways leading up to each new home.
Aircraft companies and subcontractors shared this
optimism as they converted their wartime facilities into the manufacturing
of general-aviation aircraft. Soon their drawing boards were busy as they
transitioned from the manufacturing of bomber and pursuit aircraft of war
to the postwar pursuit of building light planes. In some cases, and for
expediency, their aircraft were prewar or updated designs. Other
companies, however, capitalized on wartime knowledge and transferred newly
developed technology into modern and innovative aircraft designs.
New light-plane designs and prototypes from major
aircraft manufacturers, including Douglas, Grumman, Lockheed, North
American and Republic, entered into development. Additionally, new light
planes from many other aircraft companies entered the developmental stage
at the end of the war (see listing of aircraft). Concurrently, production
was resumed on prewar aircraft, including the ERCo Ercoupe, Globe Swift,
and the Luscombe Silvaire.
However, the aviation boom was not to be. Many
war-weary pilots turned their vision from the sky to earthbound goals,
including home, automobile, family and peacetime employment. Also, the
exigencies and economic conditions at the time helped to fuel the death
knell of the aviation boom.
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