AMERICAN AVIATION HISTORICAL SOCIETY

   1956 - 2016, Celebrating  over 60 Years of Service
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Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 54, No. 2 - Summer 2009
Table of Contents 


The Douglas DC-4E Super-Sleeper

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Douglas Aircraft Company’s Douglas Service, third quarter of 1986, and has been reprinted with the permission of Boeing Aircraft Company.  The author was a long-time AAHS member and former Journal Editor Bob Williams.  Many of the photos that appeared in the original article have been included, along with additional photos from various sources.

     By the latter part of the 1930s, Douglas had achieved worldwide recognition as the builder of fine, dependable, economical transport aircraft. The clean, distinctive lines of the DC-2 and DC-3 were very familiar to millions of people around the world, and these aircraft were the backbone of world air transportation. However, two transport aircraft designs, the DC-4E and the DC-5, remain largely unknown to the general public. Both were innovative designs with features well in advance of their day, and it was because of these features that the aircraft fell short of success. (The DC-5 was featured in the AAHS Journal, Vol. 52 No. 3, Fall 2007.) 
      Once the airlines began operating aircraft that produced a profit, it was inevitable that they would start planning for broader horizons. Their chief intention became nonstop transcontinental service. Even before the DC-3 made its first flight on December 17, 1935, studies were being made to determine the requirements for such a vehicle. At the forefront of these planners was W.A. Patterson, president of United Air Lines. 
     In 1935, Mr. Patterson called upon Donald W. Douglas to inform him that United wanted to have the largest, most modern transport in the world — larger than any other aircraft in production, and more luxurious than any alternative method of travel. Douglas told Patterson that such a plane was not only possible, but had been in the minds of Douglas engineers for some time. He explained that the cost of developing and building such an experimental model was so great that it would be quite an undertaking for any aircraft manufacturer, even if the cost was shared with one airline. Douglas suggested that a group of interested airlines combine their ideas of just what was required in a plane of this size, comfort and safety. If all these specifications could be combined in one great plane, the burden of cost could be shared among these airlines. Patterson returned to his Chicago offices and initiated a very unusual conference: at his bidding, competitors who fought for every passenger sat around a conference table and jointly developed specifications for the new super transport. 
     A set of specifications acceptable to all was finally completed. On March 23, 1936, an agreement was signed between the Douglas Aircraft Company and United Air Lines, Eastern Air Lines, American Airlines, Trans World Airlines, and Pan American. All five airlines committed . . . .



Douglas DC-4E performing fuel dump tests


“Many Planes Heading Midway” 

Editor’s Note: Carmel Valley Village Quiet Birdmen member Wilbur “Bill” Roberts (QB #11337) went West on March 17, 2009, after a brief illness. Roberts was born on April 17, 1915, in Dearborn, Mich. Following graduation from the University of Michigan, he entered flight training at Pensacola, and after receiving his wings, was posted to PearlHarbor in 1940. Roberts retired from the Navy with the rank of Rear Admiral. He then worked as an aeronautical engineer and instrument test pilot for Hughes Aircraft Corporation. In 1986, when he moved to Carmel, Calif., he demitted from the Santa Monica Hangar to the Carmel Valley Village Hangar of the Quite Birdmen. Roberts was involved in many local civic activities and was an accomplished photographer winning numerous awards for his black-and-white photographic work. 
      Bill Robert’s wife, Lois, has generously shared Bill’s well written remembrance of his Navy flying activities during the Battle of Midway.

Task Force 16, consisting of the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and USS Hornet and their accompanying ships, was steaming to the southwest at high speed, headed for the Coral Sea which adjoins Australia on the northeast. The mission was urgent - American and Japanese fleets in the Coral Sea were dueling, using airplanes as weapons in the first naval battle in history in which the opposing ships never saw each other. The carriers Yorktown and Lexington needed help during this battle in early May 1942.
     Despite its high speed, Task Force 16 was too far away to be of help. The battle ended before it could participate, leaving the Lexington sunk and the Yorktown badly damaged. The Japanese suffered also, with one small carrier sunk and a large one, the Shokaku, severely damaged. The Japanese troop ships and carriers turned northward, temporarily abandoning their planned occupation of Port Moresby on the island of New Guinea. The Japanese lost so many planes and air crews in the Coral Sea battle that their huge, modern carrier, the Zuikaku, could not take part in the coming attack on Midway Island. If it had, the outcome at Midway might have been different.
     Vice Admiral W.F. “Bull” Halsey, commanding Task Force 16, greatly disappointed at not having had a crack at the Japanese carriers, took his fleet northward, hoping that the search planes which he sent out 200 miles twice each day would find the retreating Japanese ships, but they found nothing. Halsey soon had a more urgent mission. He received orders from the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) to return to Pearl Harbor. A second message was soon received which said simply:

“EXPEDITE RETURN”

The United States had learned that the Japanese planned an attack on Midway Island with the purpose of occupying it. The information had been gained from Japanese radio messages and by the use of a clever ruse. Unbeknown to the Japanese, the U.S. had deciphered their radio codes and was able to read some of their messages. The messages repeatedly referred to the target as “AF,” but the meaning of AF was not . . .



Lt. W.E. "Bill" Roberts, USN prior to the Battle of Midway


The Quest to Conquer the Pacific Ocean’s Vast Horizon; Magellans of the Air: Clyde Pangborn, Hugh Herndon and Harold Bromley 

  It is the widest, it is the deepest and it is in some ways the most treacherous of the oceans as well as the last to be spanned by airplane in the twentieth century. Three pioneers of Pacific aviation included Clyde Edward Pangborn, Hugh Herndonand the Canadian born Harold Bromley. These men hoped to fly across a vast expanse of water much as Charles Lindbergh had accomplished in 1927, but in the end they remained in the shadow of the “Lone Eagle.” This paper presents the stories of these three men and then, perhaps, the reader can determine the importance and lasting impact of their aerial exploits and courage.

Clyde Edward Pangborn

     Clyde Edward Pangborn, son of Max Pangborn and Opal Lam Pangborn, was born in Bridgeport, Wash., on October 28, 1896, where his parents ranched on the upper Columbia River. When Pangborn was two they separated and he remained with his mother. Growing up in the lumber camps of Idaho and graduating from St. Maries High School in1914, he continued his education with extension courses in civil engineering from the University of Idaho. These studies eventually allowed him to secure a position as assistant to the chief engineer with the Bunker Hill and Sullivan Mining Company. While at the university he also worked as a forest ranger and in 1915 was a deputy sheriff in Shoshone County, Idaho. 
     With the entry of the United States into WWI, Pangborn enlisted in the aviation section of the Signal Corps on December 19, 1917, in the hope of fulfilling a life-long dream of learning to fly. After completing his flying courses at EbertsField, Ark., and Love Field in Dallas, Tex., he received his rating as a pilot in November 1918. Pangborn was not sent overseas but completed his advance training at Ellington Field in Houston, Tex., and subsequently became an Air Corps instructor. After his discharge from the military on March 20, 1919, he returned to the Pacific Northwest where he became a well known barnstormer in the region. His barnstorming activities extended as far south as California, and he also performed exhibition flying for the Northwest Aircraft Corporation based in Spokane, Wash. 
     In 1921 Pangborn joined Ivan R. Gates as a partner in the formation of the Gates Flying Circus. For the next nine years, as half owner and chief pilot, he barnstormed across the country during which time he carried approximately 500,000 passengers and flew nearly 125,000 miles. The Flying Circus prospered throughout the 1920s but with the onset of the depression it quietly ended operations in the spring of 1929 after a tour in the southeast part of the country. In those years he was given the nickname of “Upside-Down” Pangborn as well as “Pang” for all of his aerial tricks and his slow rolls forcing the airplane to fly upside down for a considerable amount of time. Pangborn’s only serious injury came before his venture with Ivan Gates. On May 16, 1920, at Coronado Tent City, Coronado Beach, Calif., he attempted . . . . 

Complete Bibliography for this article (PDF document)



Hugh Herndon and Clyde Pangborn


“Sighted Sub, Sank Same”

     Sighted Sub, Sank Same.” This terse message from a patrolling U.S. Navy plane over the North Atlantic on January 28, 1942, electrified the nation. At the controls of the Lockheed PBO-1 Hudson was Aviation Machinist’s Mate First Class Donald F. Mason, an experienced 28-year-old enlisted naval aviation pilot. Mason and his three-man crew had spent two hours flying over the broad reaches of the icy sea from their Argentia, Newfoundland, base. Their mission: Find and sink German U-boats.
     Spotting the periscope and wake of a possible sub, Mason prepared for action. He approached it descending to about 25 feet altitude at 165 knots airspeed and cut across its course from astern. His aircraft released two 325-lb depth bombs which straddled the target. After two huge bursts subsided, the boat’s conning tower emerged momentarily. To the delight of Mason and company, the U-boat sank out of sight. A spreading oil pool seemed to confirm the kill. As Mason prepared to land, Aviation Ordnanceman Second Class Keith Neuneker recalled, “We were very surprised when he returned to base after ‘Sighted Sub, Sank Same.’ We thought he was going to take the top of the hangar off!”
     This was not the U.S. Navy’s first encounter with a U-boat, nor indeed, with a German vessel. Shortly after war began in Europe in September 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the navy to form a Neutrality Patrol 200-300 miles offshore in the Atlantic. Later he extended this zone to 26 degrees West Longitude. This inevitably led to unneutral contacts between American naval forces and the German Kriegsmarine.
     Atlantic Squadron units formed patrols approaching the German war zone. This had been established from 50 degrees West Longitude below Greenland, slanting south to 20 degrees West in the Bay of Biscay. On May 17, 1941, the Kriegsmarine U-203 spotted the battleship USS Texas (BB-34) and escorts in what appeared to be the war zone. Despite orders to avoid contact with American warships, the sub began tracking Texas with hostile intent. However, in increasingly heavy seas it broke off.
     A week later an epochal sea engagement took place in the waters between Iceland and Greenland when the German battleship Bismarck accompanied by heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen encountered the British battle-cruiser HMS Hood and battleship HMS Prince of Wales. In an exchange of fire, Hood took an eight-inch hit from Prinz Eugen which ignited ammunition near its mainmast. Bismarck’s 15-inch guns scored another hit in the same area. This set off a great blast of fire from Hood’s magazines which blew the ship apart. Thus perished the pride of the Royal Navy, a great icon of the British people.
     Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy joined in the search for Bismarck with flights by Argentia-based PBYs of Patrol Squadron 52. Long and difficult searches through foul, stormy . . . . .



Two Lockheed PBO-1s of VP-82 flying in echelon


The Flying Tiger Mosquito

     The end of the WWII witnessed a resurgence of air racing in America. The U.S. government offered thousands of surplus military aircraft for disposal at give-away prices. The availability of high-performance fighters, such as the P-51, P-39, P-38 and Corsairs piqued interest of returning veterans in this venture. One of these men was Robert Swanson Swanson, a former Army Air Force, Air Transport Command pilot, went into partnership with another veteran, James P. Garvey, and operated Skyways International. This Miami-based airline operated Lockheed Lodestars and Curtiss civilianized C-46 aircraft worldwide hauling freight and passengers.
     The first postwar air race sponsored by the National Air Races was held at Cleveland, Ohio, on August 30, 1946. Swanson purchased a North American P-51D, 44-12140, and registered it NX66111. The dismantled aircraft arrived in crates at Newark, N.J., and mechanics reassembled the components. The men previously modified 8th Air Force Mustangs to chase Luftwaffe jets and promised to increase the Merlin’s power once Swanson was ready to race. 
     Swanson flew the assembled Mustang to Miami for further preparation. Here, all groves and gaps were filled with compound, and then the airframe was painted and polished to reduce aerodynamic drag. During the first qualifying lap at Cleveland the Merlin engine ‘blew-up’ and sprayed oil on the windscreen. Too low to bailout, Swanson pulled back the canopy and executed an emergency crash landing in a ploughed field, demolishing the aircraft.
     Undaunted, he purchased another aircraft, a P-51D, 44-12116, NX79161, from Hobbs Field, N.M.  It arrived the day before the race without the 85-gallon fuselage fuel tank. Quickly, his men fabricated a smaller 45-gallon tank for installation behind the pilot. The lower fuel capacity limited the aircraft’s race endurance. Lacking time to perform drag reducing measures he entered the Thompson Trophy Race in stock-military configuration. The mechanics proceeded to adjust the Merlin by placing a two-inch broomstick section against the automatic boost-control aneroid, eliminating its function. He now controlled fuelconsumption manually. 
     During the qualifying run, the 130-octane fuel detonated at 65 inches of manifold pressure. To overcome this problem, the Shell Petroleum representative donated a ‘super fuel’ containing a triptane additive. The fuel tanks were drained and filled with the new mixture. Throughout the race, Swanson kept pace with Cook Cleland and Woody Edmundson — 5th and 6th positions — rationing his fuel over the 10-lap, 300-mile course. He maintained this position until the final lap and then applied the throttle. The engine was now drawing 92 inches which he estimated was only 70% full power.
     As he recalls, “The engine purred like a kitten and held together. In fact, the other P-51s in the race burned their stacks off while mine were in good shape. I later sold my stacks so other pilots could fly their aircraft home.”
     Swanson placed fifth and recorded the fastest speed for that lap and a reward of $2,500 prize money. Mr. Thompson of  Thompson Products approached him to purchase the P-51 for display in a museum. Swanson sold it for $4,500 to exhibit in the Crawford Auto Museum, Cleveland, Ohio.

Mosquito Purchase

Having experienced the wonderment of the triptane additive, Swanson theorized what two Merlin engines could do . . . . . 



Dianna Bixby and the Flying Tiger Mosquito


    The Curtiss TS-1 and the Engines of Charles Lanier Lawrance 

     Among the most noteworthy of post-WWI naval aircraft was the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF)/Curtiss TS-1. The late Hal Andrews, noted aeronautical engineer, honorary naval aviator, aviation historian, associate (and Verville Fellow) at NASM, AIAA Fellow, and friend; once asked me if I knew what the “TS” stood for. I told him I didn’t know (and I’m still not sure) but there were obviously many possibilities. Just before the “TS,” the NAF had built the “TF,” which is known to have stood for “Tandem Fighter.” However, the most likely explanation is an allusion to the designation in a 1922 article in Aerial Age (see below) which indicates that “TS” may have actually stood for: “Twin Float Single Seater.” Described in the pages of Aerial Age (Vol. 15 No. 20, November 1922, "Navy TS and TR Planes," pp.557-558); the TS/TR (“TR,” apparently standing for “Twin Float, Racer,” was a developed racing version of the TS, and not a service aircraft, per se. See note below from The Speed Seekers, p.462, which states that the “S” stood for “Standard” airfoil and that the “R” stood for “Racing” airfoil). Whatever the case, the TS/TR series was designed by Cmdr. Jerome Clarke Hunsaker, head of the USN’s Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) design section.
      Hunsaker, born at Creston, Iowa, on August 26, 1886, was an Annapolis graduate in 1908 and had attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) to obtain an advanced degree in Naval Architecture in 1912. While there, he translated much of Gustave Eiffel’s work on aerodynamics into English. This was the first of many scholarly technical articles he was to author, including one of the first statistical analyses of aircraft accidents, published in 1920 (Department of the Navy, Bureau of Construction and Repair. Aircraft Technical Note No. 190. Accident Percentage, p.1). He was part of the design team that worked on the transatlantic Curtiss NC flying boat design (the NC-4 successfully crossed the Atlantic in May 1919, and was the first aircraft . . .



Curtiss TS-1 power by the
Lawrance J-1


Allied Aerial Defenders of the Philippines 

     The date was December 2, 1941. The scene of action was Batangas Airfield, home base of the 6th Pursuit Squadron (PS), Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC), on the island of Luzon. The aerial arena was dominated by 27 Mitsubishi G3M2 Type 96 bombers and their 41 escorting Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighters. The bombers were busily engaged in unloading their lethal cargo onto the hangars, runways and parked aircraft below. Harassing this large force like a swarm of mosquitoes were five small Boeing P-26A “Peashooters” flown by Filipino pilots. 
      Two days before, the members of the 6th PS had been attending an air defense briefing at Zablan Field in Rizol, the home base of the 1st School Squadron, PAAC, when Japanese bombers attacked around noon. Although the 6th PS was no match for the escorting Zeros, its unit commander, Capt. Jesus A. Villamor, had scrambled his P-26s, which had managed to harass the Japanese enough to prevent them from causing further damage. Unfortunately for the tiny 5-year-old PAAC, most of the parked aircraft were destroyed, including several Stearman PT-17A Kaydet primary trainers, a Keystone B-3A bomber, a Martin B-10 bomber, a Stinson SR-R Reliant and a visiting Boeing P-12E pursuit aircraft. 
       Now, for the second time in two days, the 6th PS was in the air, this time in a brave but futile attempt to defend its home base against crushing odds. Flying alongside Villamor were Lts. Godofredo M. Juliano, Jose Mondigo, Cesar Basa and Jose Kare. During the ensuing melee, members of the 6th PS became separated from each other. Villamor had gone directly for the bombers and severely damaged one of them before being driven off by the Zeros. The other four pilots were less . . .



Philippine Army Air Corps
Boeing P-26s engaged in combat


Remember When - The Lockheed 60

      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 deathknell of the aviation boom. 



Lockheed Model 60 "Bush Transport"


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