AMERICAN AVIATION HISTORICAL SOCIETY

   1956 - 2017, Celebrating  over 60 Years of Service
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Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 57, No. 4 - Winter 2012
Table of Contents
 


America’s Local Service Airlines, Part I  

Many folks today do not realize that, in the 1950s and 1960s, the United States was blanketed by a group of air carriers that served virtually every nook and cranny of the Lower 48 states. Residents of smaller cities, such as Hazleton, Penn., Moultrie, Ga., and Gallup, N.M., could board a 24-28 passenger Douglas DC-3 at their hometown airport and be on their way to any place else in the world. The 13 airlines certificated to provide this convenience eventually wound up serving more than 580 cities in the U.S. with a fleet of more than 400 aircraft.

These Local Service Airlines, as they eventually became known, were given birth by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). In 1943, the CAB undertook a mission to investigate the possibility of extending scheduled air service to smaller cities and towns throughout the United States even if the service to some of these communities might not be economically viable. This was an incredibly progressive undertaking for a government agency. America was in the midst of WWII. The nation was becoming “air-minded” and the members of the CAB knew that, once the war was over, every city and town would want to be on the airline map with this new industry carrying the weight of importance that the railroads had shouldered in the 19th century. Providing transportation to isolated towns and implementing air service to communities near military installations in support of national defense were additional reasons for examining the potential of this new type of air carrier.

In order to make routes into smaller cities attractive to airline entrepreneurs, government aid would be offered in the form of subsidy for carrying the U.S. air mail. When the war ended there would be hundreds of freshly-trained pilots returning to civilian life looking for jobs. There would also be an assortment of war surplus aircraft available. With these three forces at work: subsidy, manpower, and affordable aircraft; the seeds were planted and the timing was right.


The CAB issued its opinion in the summer of 1944, stating that, indeed, this new level of air service should be instituted on an experimental basis. There would be a whole new set of certificated carriers to be called “Feeder Airlines” because their primary purpose would be to transport passengers from smaller cities and towns to the big airports where those passengers would be fed to the trunk airlines for their onward journeys. By this time there were already hundreds of applications on file for different forms of air service to small cities and towns. In addition to feeder airline proposals using fixed-wing aircraft, there were helicopter service presentations, plans for mail pick-up service and schemes by companies associated with railroads and bus lines for air service to be coordinated with their primary businesses. In addition, the established trunk airlines were very wary of creating a whole new set of airlines when they felt that they could handle the feeder service proposal themselves. But the CAB wisely decided that an entirely new and experimental concept should be carried out by new outfits that would have to prove themselves capable. Their operations would be scrutinized every few years to determine if their certificates should be renewed. The Board felt that large carriers concentrating on bigger markets would   . . .



Empire Airlines DC-3


Aircraft I Have Flown

In the early 1990s, I encouraged my father, Lt. Col. Charles L. Hoffman Jr., USAF (Ret.), to write about his experiences in WWII. With the help of unit histories, various publications, and his Form 5s (flying hours log) to “jog” his memory, he wrote a comprehensive “war story” about his service with the 1st Fighter Group, 94th Fighter Squadron, and it was published in the Spring and Summer 2006 issues of the AAHS Journal.

His appetite whetted by writing a “war story,” my father subsequently wrote about flying experiences in the various aircraft in which he flew, either as a pilot, copilot, or enlisted crewmember during his 23-year career between 1940 and 1963. The article below was edited and enhanced by me from a series of separate vignettes compiled by my father and placed in a binder he labeled “Aircraft I Have Flown.”

Michael P. Hoffman, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.)


Martin B-10/B-12

My father enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on July 12, 1940, at Montgomery, Ala., and was immediately assigned to Maxwell Field. His first duty assignment was as a radio repairman in the 13th Air Base Squadron and occasionally he flew as a radio operator in the Martin B-10, B-12 and the Douglas B-18 Bolo.
The Martin B-10 was the Air Corps’ first “modern” bomber. With all-metal construction, cantilever wing, internal bomb bay, enclosed cockpits, rotating nose turret, and retractable landing gear, the B-10 out-performed contemporary pursuit planes when it debuted. The B-12 varied from the B-10 by having different engines and an increased fuel capacity. By 1940, however, the B-10/B-12 had been relegated to the roles of training planes and squadron hacks:


“While stationed at Maxwell Field, Ala., in late 1940 and early 1941, I was assigned to the base communications section. My primary job was to check the operation of the airborne radios and to maintain the battery carts. The vacuum tube-type radios in those days used a lot of electrical power, so we had to use a battery cart rather than the aircraft battery.

After I completed an on-base school, the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the communications section checked me out as a radio operator on local flights. I have no record of the number of flights I made as an operator, but over a period of eight months I am sure I made 10 or 12. Half of these were in the B-10. The radio operator’s position was in the belly of the plane, just to the rear of the bomb bay. To reach the position, you entered through the rear gunner’s position and then climbed down the bomb bay wall to a small area with a fold-out table and seat. There was very little room and I had two small windows on either side through that I could see out   . . .



Cessna T-37


Fredrick M. Blakeslee, Master Aviation Pulp Artist

It is possible that more young people were attracted to aviation during the late 1920s and 1930s due to aviation pulp magazines than any other form of communication during that period. Kids, like today, just don’t pay a lot of attention to the news unless it’s something that they can relate to. But, almost every young boy during this period got a strong dose of aviation news and events, as well as flights of fancy, through publications like Air Action, Eagles of the Air, American Sky Devils, Flying Aces, and the like. During the 1930s there were over 120 titles on the nation’s newsstands and the shelves of the local drug stores.


For all these publications, one person stood out beyond all the rest when it came to capturing the eyes of this young audience through dynamic cover art. That person was Frederick M. Blakeslee who painted almost 500 cover illustrations for various pulps during this period. And, Blakeslee didn’t even start out as an aircraft magazine illustrator, nor did he stay in this profession throughout his career. Regardless, it is of interest to understand this man’s career as a pulp magazine cover illustrator in more depth.

Blakeslee was born on December 4, 1898, in Buffalo, New York. His parents, Bertha and Harland “Harvey” Manley Blakeslee, were of English ancestry and his father was employed as a skilled factory machinist. He had a younger sister that was born in 1908.

In June 1911, Blakeslee most likely got his first taste of aviation during the Buffalo Air Meet. During this event, a pilot took off from the Buffalo Driving Park for a sensational stunt flight over Niagara Falls. This park was only a short walk from the Blakeslee home. It is not a stretch of one’s imagination to envision 12-year-old Blakeslee among the crowd of more than 20,000 spectators that witnessed the first crossing of Niagara Falls in an airplane.

In conjunction with the buildup of manufacturing to support the WWI effort, Glenn Curtiss opened one of the largest aircraft factories in the world in 1916 situated on 31 acres in Buffalo. The Curtiss Aeroplane Co. would grow to employ almost 18,000 people during this period, and a 17-year-old Blakeslee was among this group. He was originally hired as an office boy in the design department, where Curtiss himself worked on a drafting table.

Blakeslee’s interest in aircraft design was nurtured by this experience and he . . .



"Dare Devil Aces" Cover by Blakeslee


Sentimental Journey,
The Air Fields of the Sixth Air Force, New France Field

This is the fourth in a series of short histories of the air fields of America’s “Forgotten Air Force,” the Sixth Air Force, which commenced in the Summer 2003 (Vol. 48, No. 2) issue of the AAHS Journal describing “Old” France Field, Canal Zone, followed by that for Albrook Field, Canal Zone, in the Spring 2005 (Vol. 50, No. 1) issue and that for Howard Field, Canal Zone, in the Fall 2009 (Vol. 54, No. 3) issue. These have been prepared with materials collected for the author’s history of Army aviation in defense of the Panama Canal and the Caribbean ‘ALAE SUPRA CANALEM: The Sixth Air Force and the Antilles Air Command’ (Turner Publishing Co., Paducah, Ky.), which were too extensive to be included in that title, and thus they are presented here as a memorial to the men and women who served in that far off land where there was truly “No Ground to Give.” There is no memorial, no marker, no surviving symbol in the region where they served, to commemorate their service in the former Canal Zone and the Caribbean where many gave the last full measure of devotion.


The original installment in this series described the first Army aviation station in the Panama Canal Zone, France Field, which dated from the WWI era. By the time the U.S. Army Air Corps elements stationed in defense of the Canal had transitioned, during the immediate pre-Pearl Harbor years, to more advanced – and much heavier - aircraft, the old land-fill airfield had become nearly untenable.

By January 5, 1942, a scant 29 days after the Japanese attack, the Chief of Staff of the Caribbean Defense Command (CDC) advised the chief engineer, CDC, that the commanding general desired a list of Canal Zone priorities whereby the highest priority should be given to preparation of France Field, as it existed at the time. It was to be improved for use as a dedicated pursuit aerodrome, as it was nearly unusable by the Douglas B-18 and early Boeing B-17s assigned to the command at the time, although they did in fact occasionally operate from the very rough surface as seemingly never-ending repairs continued to be made to the land-fill surfaces. However, even as long-overdue improvements were being made, the field lost one of its main operating units to Albrook Field as the Panama Air Depot, which had been at France Field from the very earliest days, began moving to the new, huge hangar being erected at Albrook on the southeast side by September 1942.

France Field had been surveyed in 1939 in connection with the Aviation Expansion Program. The survey revealed that the field required, as a minimum, a 5,000-foot, hard-surfaced runway for the use of medium and long-range bombers. Due to budget shortcomings prevailing at the time, it was generally felt that the very high cost of improving the field to meet 1939 requirements would be prohibitive. By the end of 1940, plans for the rehabilitation of France Field were, nonetheless, drawn up and partially approved. It was, probably to the enormous relief of all concerned, proposed that the old “any direction” landing area be utterly abandoned and that two new, 5,000-foot runways be constructed on the same reservation, but east of the Trans-Isthmian Highway, some distance from what was shortly being called “Old” France Field. Indeed, for some time after construction began and for a period after it became operational, the new eastern runways were usually simply cited as “New” Field. Although personnel assigned to the station continued to use these local designators well into the postwar years, officially, the collective station was simply France Field – later France Air Force Base (FAFB), after the USAF became a separate branch of service.

In February 1942, General Arnold himself, who had once served at France Field during WWI, approved the expenditure of $185,000 for the extension of the old landing area at “Old” France Field and for the construction of a new bypass road . . . 



Republic P-47 Thunderbolt at New France Field


Naval Air Station’s next Mission after National Defense


Dedicated in loving memory to my mother, Dorothy M. Segal, for her service to the Navy Department, Bureau of Aeronautics, Naval Air Experimental Engineering Command, in Philadelphia, Penn., as a civilian during WWII. Her work involved assisting in the preparation of confidential reports on radar, Loran and sonar.

Base closures and realignments increase efficiency.[1] 10-USC-2687 mandates evaluations of strategic and operational consequences,[2] costs, savings and redevelopment.[3] A commission provides recommendations to the President who prepares a report.[4]
Extraordinary events took place at two long-closed Navy bases that were actively used in defense of country — Dinner Key, Florida, and Glynco, Georgia.



BEGINNING OF NAVAL AVIATION IN FLORIDA
In December 1911, Glenn Curtiss, the aviation pioneer, started Miami’s first flight-training school. It lasted only one season. But in December 1916, Curtiss Flying School opened on Miami Beach.[5]

Curtiss became one of the state’s first real estate developers.[6] (His Miami Springs 1925 pueblo-style mansion is being restored.)[7]

NAVY PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
The Navy Board of Aeronautics chose Pensacola as the primary location for Naval Aviation in 1914. Then the Naval Aircraft Factory was established in 1917. WWI commenced and the United States declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917. Consequently, additional air stations were needed. One was established at Dinner Key in Coconut Grove, Florida. It was designated as an elementary flight and patrol station. Seaplanes were used.[8]

COCONUT GROVE
Coconut Grove is located in the southeast region of Florida about five miles below Miami on Biscayne Bay. Coconut Grove had an interesting beginning. Pursuant to the 1862 Homestead Act, Edmund Beasley, in 1868, filed for the first homestead in Coconut Grove. He died before he could prove it and his widow, Anna, rented the homestead to Dr. Horace Porter who claimed it for himself. Anna prevailed at the land office and Porter left. Porter had opened the “Cocoanut Grove” Post Office in 1873 and gave the community its name.
Before the City of Miami was born in 1896, Coconut Grove was the largest and most influential community in the area.

In October 1917, the Navy began construction of the air station at Dinner Key.[9]

NAS DINNER KEY
Dinner Key has been described as a little island a few inches above water, with mangrove trees and coconut palms. Boats going to Homestead from Miami stopped there for midday meals. It became known as Dinner Key.[10]

The Navy sent Lt. P. Bellinger to investigate Miami’s possibilities for a naval aviation station.[11]

The station was to be a post-graduate school for aviators who had previous training elsewhere. Upon completion of the course, they would leave for the European fighting fronts.[12]

F.R. Harris, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, opened bids for filling and dredging.[13] The purpose of the Bureau was to build air bases and provide facilities for ground and flight crews.[14]

Lt. Cmdr. A.C. Read commanded the air station.[15]

During construction, the base had to be filled to raise the land two feet above high tide. Dinner Key became permanently  . . .



Pan American Facility at Dinner Key Florida


North Star Rising, Part II: The Dream Becomes a Reality;
Croil Hunter: Grand Horizons

The second part of the saga of Northwest Airlines will focus on the incredible growth of the carrier under the splendid and innovative leadership of Croil Hunter who was born in Casselton, N.D., on February 18, 1893, the son of John Croil Hunter and Emma Adelaide Schulze Hunter of St. Paul. A few sources list his birth place as Fargo, N.D., which is incorrect, although the family moved to the city that is about 20 miles west of Casselton shortly after his birth. Hunter’s father was of Scottish-Canadian ancestry (born in Woodstock, Ontario) who arrived in the North Dakota Territory in the late 1870s and operated the Fargo Mercantile Co., a wholesale grocery firm. Graduating from Fargo High School in 1911 Hunter was accepted into the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University in 1912. Two years later he left school early to return to Fargo to take over the family business upon his father’s death.

With America’s entrance into WWI in 1917 Hunter enlisted in the army at Fort Snelling (formerly Fort Anthony) in the Twin Cities area and subsequently arrived on the Western Front on August 18 as a captain in the F Battery, 338th Field Artillery. Following the conclusion of the armed conflict he returned to the United States on January 5, 1919, and within 12 days was released from any military obligations at Camp Dodge, Iowa. He journeyed home to Fargo and for the next nine years he was the treasurer of the family-owned company. In 1928, in partnership with Lawrence J. Nelson, they formed a grain company in the city.

Being a founding partner in forming the grain company would impact Hunter’s life immeasurably when in 1928 he gained the attention of Richard C. Lilly, a prominent Twin City banker. Lilly appointed Hunter manager of the First Bank Credit Corp. in New York City, a subsidiary of the First Bank Stock Corp. in Minneapolis. In 1929, Lilly headed a group of businessmen, including Shreve M. Archer, president of the Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., and H.H. Irvine, an executive of the St. Paul lumber company Thompson Yards, Inc., who gained control of Northwest Airways, Inc., which was operating between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

One of the innovations Northwest had enacted a year before the acquisition was the coordination of air-rail service on February 1, 1928, enabling it in time to expand its route system between Chicago and Madison, Wis., via Rockford and Elgin, Ill., and Janesville, Wisconsin. Service was also authorized between the Twin Cities and Sioux City, S.D., as well as Omaha, Neb., and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

On March 15, 1932, Hunter was appointed traffic manager of the carrier and on . . .



Croil Hunter


Way Back When - The Funk B

    This series focuses on sales literature that prompted light aircraft during the Golden Age of American aviation. It will illustrate sales and marketing messages for popular, and not so well known, aircraft from the 1920s and 1930s, illuminating insight into the perspectives associated with the aviation industry of that era. 



Funk B Marketing Brochure


 

Forum of Flight

     The FORUM is presented as an opportunity for each member to participate in the Journal by submitting interesting or unusual photographs. Negatives, black-and-white or color photos with good contrast may be used if they have smooth surfaces. Send submissions to the Editorial Committee marked "Forum of Flight," P.O. Box 3023, Huntington Beach, CA 92605-3023. Mark any material to be returned: "Return to (your name and complete address)."

     Please include as much information as possible about the photo such as: date, place, names, etc., plus proper credit (it may be part of your collection but taken by another photographer).

 



Northrop P-61 Black Widow


 

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