AMERICAN AVIATION HISTORICAL SOCIETY

   1956 - 2016, Celebrating  over 60 Years of Service
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Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 53, No. 3 - Fall 2008
Table of Contents 

Boeing 707: The World Changer 

    The Boeing 707, the world’s first successful commercial jet, is a milestone in commercial aviation history representing the point in time when propellers once and for all gave way to jets, and air travel, having become affordable and available, eclipsed travel by sea and rail.
     The 707 also represents one of the most important business decisions in history. Boeing Company president William Allen and his leadership team had a vision for the future and the courage to take the necessary risk to advance toward that future. The result went beyond their greatest expectations as the 707 pioneered a new commercial airplane business for the Boeing Company as well as a family of world changing commercial jets that continues to grow, 50 years later, with the revolutionary 787.

The Roots of the 707 – Swept Wings and Podded Engines

     When the leadership of the Boeing Co. decided to go forward with the development of a jet transport, revolutionizing the science and technology of flight was not a new concept to the people of Boeing who had earned a reputation of progressive aeronautical thinking and taking risks with new technology. What Boeing Senior VP, Wellwood Beall called “a tradition of pioneering.” That tradition went back to Bill Boeing’s command: “Let no new improvement in flying and flying equipment pass us by.” That philosophy shaped the world’s first modern airliner, the Boeing 247 of 1933, the legendary B-17 Flying Fortress, the cutting edge B-29 Superfortress, and the revolutionary B-47 Stratojet – the world’s first swept-wing jet bomber.
     The B-47’s sleek design introduced the combination of swept wings and engines in pods, and set the optimum design for a subsonic jet. The design of the Stratojet is still the basic pattern followed today in the design of nearly all subsonic jets including the C-17, A-380 and the 787.
     The success of the B-47 lead Boeing and the Air Force to expand the concept into a larger plane with a greater range and payload resulting in the venerable B-52 Stratofortress. The innovative B-47 not only contributed to the B-52 but also had sparked some interest in the feasibility of a jet transport. In 1948 Boeing launched an internally funded study of jet transports based on the B-47 design known as the Model 473.
     The Model 473 was from the start a passenger jet. It began by using elements of the B-47 and the B-52 and in its final configuration, known as the Model 473-60, had adopted a low wing configuration with a double lobe fuselage similar to theC-97.
     In May 1952, while Bill Allen and the Boeing board were debating the decision to fund the development of jet transport . . . . 



First Boeing 707 at Seattle-Tacoma Airport


1935 National Air Races

      The 1935 National Air Races (NAR) were held in Cleveland, Ohio, August 30 to September 2. This year’s event might best be described as the “Benny Howard year,” as we will see later in this article.

Bendix Trophy Race

The Bendix Race departed from Burbank, Calif. On the morning of August 30 with eight aircraft lining up at the starting line. Disaster would strike almost immediately with the modified Granville Brothers Gee Bee R1/R2 flown by Cecil Allen crashing on takeoff. Allen was killed and the aircraft was destroyed.
     Roy Leonard flying QED was forced out at Wichita, Kan., with a broken oil line and Earl Ortman flying a Keith Ryder made it as far as Kansas City, Kan., before being forced out with a loose cowling. Benny Howard with Gordon Israel as copilot flying “Mister Mulligan” and using oxygen for the first time in a Bendix Race were able to climb over the weather.
     They beat Roscoe Turner in his Wedell-Williams by a mere 23.5 seconds to take first place. Russell Thaw, who would later become a Douglas test pilot, took third place in a Northrop Gamma. The rest of the field was made up of Roy Hunt in a . . . . 
 



Benny Howar greets Roscoe Turner while Vincent Bendix looks on


Trans World Airlines: 
The Creation of a Global Airline by Jack Frye and Other Founders

     Entering this world far from what he will come to know and influence, William John “Jack” Frye was born in Sweetwater, Okla., (some sources note he was born in Sulphur, Okla., where his mother was visiting) on March 18, 1904, to William Henry and Nellie Cooley Frye. In the years that followed he would become an aviation visionary and who, along with Paul E. Richter and Walter A. Hamilton, created and formed Transcontinental & Western Airlines (T&WA, but more commonly referred to as TWA). TWA would eventually grow into a 17,000 employee, $70 million corporation, with both a domestic and international route network while evolving into the seventh largest airline in the world.
     At the age of eight, Frye’s mother died and he was raised by his father and grandparents on the family’s 15,000 acre ranch in the Texas Panhandle near Wheeler. At the age of 14, while skating on a pond, three Army pilots flying Jennies made an emergency landing nearby, and the rest of the day he ran errands for these airmen. From that event his interest in aviation never ceased. Dropping out of high school at the age of 17, he enlisted in the Army Corps of Engineers in 1921, but was discharged a year later. Frye would join the Naval Reserve in 1934 and eventually achieve the rank of lieutenant commander before resigning his commission in 1952.
     The year 1923 found Frye in Los Angeles, still struck by the desire to be a part of aviation, working as a soda jerk and waiter and saving his money to take flying lessons at a local airfield on Western Avenue. Burdett “Pop” Fuller was taking passengers on 15 minute flights for $5.00 and, upon meeting Jack Frye, convinced him to take flying lessons for $20.00 per hour. Frye used all of his savings and within seven hours had soloed. Shortly thereafter he took an innocent customer for a flight that was against civil air regulations but the passenger never knew of his pilot’s lack of flying experience. Frye had previously asked his grandparents for a loan and got an emphatic no. With money borrowed from his younger brother Patrick (known more commonly as Don) and the promise he would teach him to fly, Frye bought half interest in “Pop” Fuller’s flying school that had the total asset of one Curtiss Jenny.
     Like his older brother, Don had also joined the army, and followed him to California. He lived with Jack and his first wife, Debbie Greer. The Frye house would add more residents . . . .

Complete Bibliography for this article (PDF document)



TWA Lockheed L-049 Constellation


Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (Minnesota): 
Transition and Change

   Major airports are places of constant change, constant metamorphosis, constant teardown and rebirth. But, while this story is specifically about only one of those airports, it is surely representative of most large airports around this country, perhaps the one in the reader’s hometown.  Most current major metropolitan airports began as grass strips, serving barnstormers, then progressed over the years to serve a wide range of general aviation, ag-applicators, airlines, military and corporate operations. Perhaps the municipality outgrew its original 40 acres and was reborn across town in grander style. I am emotionally close to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), and have a historian’s sense of its growth, having watched it over the course of its last 55 years. I am fortunate to have a record from its infancy and adolescence. But, though the following portrait is about one major airport, in truth, MSP is only one of many with such a colorful transitory background.

The Early Years

     The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport really began in 1915 as Twin City Motor Speedway, a two mile, high-banked oval auto speedway paved with concrete. Left to its intended purpose, the track would today be a rival of Indianapolis or Daytona. The original owners, some of them board members of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, recognized in the early 1910s the need for additional tracks for competitors to race on. In the days of board racetracks and dirt road courses, paved super-speedways such as Indy (paved with bricks,) were an anomaly. An additional paved high-speed track would create further fan interest and foster the growth of American motor racing. 
     There was just one problem. In Minnesota, winter temperatures drop far below zero and in the spring, frost in the ground heaves up roadways, sidewalks, and any other shallowrooted structure - such as a concrete racetrack. By 1916, the track was virtually useless, the concrete pavement a mass of uplifted sections, wide cracks and crumbling banks. In a fervor to build it in a few short months, no re-bar was used, nor was that technology even well understood. A few short races and demolition derbies were held in 1916 and a motorcycle event in 1917, but the track had become a liability and the . . . . .



Wold-Chamberlain Field in 1929


George Jansen

     George Jansen was the Chief Test Pilot of the Douglas Aircraft Company’s flight test facility at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) from the late 1940s into the 1960s. As a Douglas test pilot, he was my boss - a damned tough boss to work under for which I’ve always been grateful. When I was handed a test flight on my A3D and Jansen had signed the test card, I knew I was good to go. He saw not only the test to be accomplished from the test pilot’s perspective, but also knew the history of each aircraft that flew in his stable. And his stable consisted of ADs, A2Ds, F3Ds, A3Ds, F4Ds, A4Ds, B-66s, C-133s and T-33s. How he accomplished this I could never understand other than his entire life was devoted to knowing both the test aircraft and the pilot who would fly the test. As a grunt test pilot I considered George Jansen a magical figure.
     I was an ex-fighter pilot from WWII and I always thought that Jansen would have been a natural in a fighter cockpit with his calculating mind that was usually ahead of his tongue. It was as though he purposely controlled his slow speech to keep his mind from running away. But he decided early to go multi-engine. Maybe a single-engine fighter was just too simple for him.
     Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, Jansen was flying from what he called “a pea patch” in Willows, Calif., where he accumulated some 250 hours in small airplanes and a private pilot’s license. When he applied for the Aviation Cadet program, the U.S. Army Air Corps grabbed him. After cadet training he ended up in heavy bombers – Boeing B-17s and Consolidated B-24s. 
     Jansen didn’t talk much about his military flying days. What we do know is that after his flight training he was assigned to the 68th Bomb Squadron of 44th Bomb Group, known as the “Flying Eight-Balls.” The group was transferred to England in 1942 and on to Africa in mid-1943. Jansen participated in the Polesti Raid on August 1, 1942, for which he would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The group would be transferred back to England in early 1943. On May 14, 1943, his squadron participated in a 21 ship follow-on raid on Kiel, Germany. The B-24s were to drop incendiary bombs on the rubble created by a 100-plus B-17 raid. The group arrived over target with only 19 ships, with 1st Lt. George R. Jansen in command of a B-24D, 41-24009, “Margaret Ann.” The group was attacked by fighters and encountered heavy flak both inbound and outbound. Of the 19 . . . . . 



George Jansen & the Douglas XA2D-1


    112 Victories: Aerial Victory Credits of the Tuskegee Airmen

The only African-American pilots in combat with the Army Air Forces during World War II believed they had something to prove. They knew that if they performedwell in battle, the decision to accept them in a role from which they had previously been excluded would be vindicated. Excellent combat performance would also contribute to expanding opportunities for African Americans, not only in the armed forces of the United States, but in American society as a whole. Later known as “Tuskegee Airmen” because they had trained to fly at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, members of the 332nd Fighter Group and its four squadrons, the 99th, 100th, 301st and 302nd, more than met the challenge.  They shot down 112 enemy aircraft in flight. This paper describes that important part of their story.
     Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. served as the most famous of the 332nd Fighter Group commanders. His father had been the first African-American general in the U.S. Army. Partly because he was a graduate of West Point, Col. Davis had already been commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron, the first black flying unit in the Army Air Corps. The squadron was more than a year older than the group.
     The 99th Fighter Squadron deployed from Tuskegee, Ala., to French Morocco in April 1943. Originally flying the P-40 Warhawk aircraft, the 99th Fighter Squadron began combat operations from Tunisia on June 2. While serving under the Twelfth Air Force, the 99th and other fighter and bomber squadrons attacked enemy installations in Tunisia and Sicily and on the island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean Sea. The defenders of Pantelleria, heavily bombarded from the air and sea, surrendered on June 11 without the need for an invasion.
     On July 2, 1943, 99th Fighter Squadron pilots escorted North American B-25 medium bombers in an attack on Castelvetrano, Italy. Enemy Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters rose to intercept the bombers, and the Tuskegee P-40s intervened. On that day Lt. Charles B. Hall scored the squadron’s first aerial victory. Never before had an African-American fighter pilot in the U.S. armed forces . . . .



Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. in his business office.


Leo Barnum Kimball

     Leo Barnum Kimball’s father was Erastus S. Kimball who was born in Illinois, and at the age of two came to Connecticut with his mother, eventually settling in New Haven, where he worked for many years at the Winchester Arms Company. On March 5, 1890, he married Anna Barnum. Erastus and his wife Anna had three children, Leo Barnum, born April 3, 1896, Norma Alpihene Kimball and Anita Gardner Kimball.

The Early Years

While a student in Strong Grammar School, Leo Kimball attained quite a reputation as a builder of model gliders, and for a time he had one of his models on display at the library building. He attracted considerable attention when he won a gliding contest at the school in 1911.  It was predicted by the local newspaper (Journal-Courier) that Kimball would attempt flights in a machine of his own design.
     Kimball’s interest in airplanes and flying dates back to when he was just 15 years old. In 1911 he and his friend, John Andrews, designed and built their own full-size biplane glider. It bore a similarity in configuration to the Wright brother’s early gliders. Kimball first flew the glider on April 11, 1911, and again on May 8, 1911, when he made five successful flights. He did not have much control of the glider in the air, and had to bend . . . . 



Leo Kimball’s 1912 airplane


Remember When . . . Bellanca Cruisair Senior 

     For 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.     



Bellanca Cruisair Senior


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