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Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 48, No. 1 - Spring 2003
Table of Contents 

A Shadow over the Horizon - The Bell X-2

 Foreword"In the mid-twentieth century, Bell Aircraft Company's Mach 3 experimental X-2 rocket airplane was an amazing vehicle. The technological challenges that were met and overcome by designers and flight test teams resulted in an impressive vehicle. The story should be recorded in the history of aviation.
     The engineers and pilots assigned to the X-2 program were the best flight test and engineering talent available. They were a dedicated and intrepid group of professionals intent on accomplishing the program objects of aeronautical exploration. Their objectives were to fly the X-2 higher and faster than any previous piloted aircraft. This was a spirited, steadfast and resolute team - not capricious or foolhardy. The X-2 program had suffered years of delay due to rocket and flight control technical difficulties and it was time to get on with completing the program objectives.
     By July 23, 1956, the X-2 flight envelope had been expanded to Mach 2.87 and several problems resulted in pilot difficulties. These pilot problems were items of desired airplane improvement but not felt absolutely necessary, to accomplish desired results. These problems included areas of low control effectiveness, poor dynamic stability and rocket thrust-line misalignment. It was thought that with adequate flight planning, understanding and pilot training, the most serious could be avoided by judicious in flight handling. The pitfall was in the form of a possible dynamic instability base on extrapolated aerodynamic data projections at Mach 3 and elevated load factor. This potential pitfall had been recognized, the problem analyzed, the results discussed, options weighed and piloting techniques developed to avoid any possible precipice. The test team decided that this was one of those calculated risks that were part of the exploratory nature of the task at hand. The decision was made to proceed. Unfortunately, the most pessimistic set of flight conditions and circumstances that could occur did just that on the X-2's flight of September 27, 1956. This flight . . . . .

Bell X-2 in flight from chase plane

History of Night Air Combat World War II

Pioneers of Night Flight-Man has been endowed with many attributes which allow him to exist in this world.
     Considering the many restraints which man must acknowledge and adjust to, it is quite amazing that he or she does so well. The ease with which man endures the physical hardships of life is quite wonderful. He seems to handle walking, running, skiing and all sorts of sports activity with aplomb.
     The dexterity demanded in throwing a football, running, swimming, diving or balancing on a gymnastic bar is beautifully demonstrated for all to see today. The first steps of a child or the labored ones of the older person, clearly require a sense of balance and an awareness of space, distance and timing.
     The human body is admirably equipped with devices which allow it to do many things, like being able to see. hear, touch and somehow sense the objects and forces in which it lives. Man can keep himself oriented to his surroundings pretty well, indeed.
     When a man or woman leaves the familiar conditions of earth life and ascends into the air in an aircraft, new and sometimes frightening sensations result. In clouds, rain, snow and darkness the pilot at the controls of an aircraft encounters a whole new set of feelings.
     The forces experienced in this three dimensional environment causes unexpected senses of balance involving turning, . . . . . 

Northrop P-61, only WWII US aircraft specifically designed as a night fighter

Armand J. Thiebolt, Aircraft Designer 

     Armand Jean Thieblot was born in Paris, France, on December 10, 1903, the son of Jules and Aline Chalumot Thieblot.
     Thieblot (pronounced tea-blow) studied aerodynamics, physics and math at the Paris University. He started his career in aviation with Liore and Oliver Aircraft Company and at the Breguet aircraft factory, where he was assigned to stress analysis research.
     In 1927, a self-proclaimed multi-millionaire "junk dealer," Charles A. Levine became "the first transatlantic air passenger" in the Wright-Bellanca, Columbia, piloted by Clarence Chamberlin. The flight was made in June 1927, only a few weeks after Lindbergh's famous feat, and after some 3900 miles resulted in a landing in Eisleben, Germany. Interestingly, Levine had refused to sell the Bellanca to Lindbergh after negotiating with him in something less than good faith. The resulting publicity from the record-breaking flight prompted promoter Levine to announce plans to build transatlantic transports and establish a regularly scheduled passenger service. From Germany the . . . . . .

Armand J. Thieblot

Aviation Division of The Texas Company, Part I, 1928-1945

     Recognizing the growing importance of the commercial aviation market for petroleum products, the Texas Company started an aggressive policy for securing its share of business from this field. They purchased a Ford 4-AT tri-motor for delivery on or about February 15, 1928. Texaco's No. 1, Ford 4-AT14, NC3443's mission was to advertise the Company, promote good public relations, stimulate aviation progress and experiment with and test Texaco aviation fuels and lubricants.
     Captain Frank M. Hawks, an Army-trained pilot with more than ten years varied flying experience and a record of more than 7,300 hours in the air was hired on December 5, 1927, to be Aviation Division Superintendent. He was very much in the public eye as a several-times prize winner in various aerial competitions. He had also owned and operated a payroll flying service and could bring to his Texaco position, an understanding of the commercial aspects of aviation.
     In January, 1928, Captain Hawks and Texaco No. 1 were given wide coverage in American and Mexican newspapers when Hawks flew a Texas delegation from Houston to Mexico City and back on the first goodwill trade extension air tour from the U.S. to Mexico.
     Later in the same year. Hawks made a nationwide goodwill tour, visiting more than 150 cities and covering approximately 51,000 miles. It was estimated that 500,000 people had welcomed the plane at the various landing points.
     Early in the following year, Hawks was seeking transportation to New York. Lockheed had a new aircraft, the Air Express, equipped with the new NACA cowling that they wanted to show off at a New York aircraft show. Hawks and Lockheed reached a mutual accommodation. Lockheed could . . . . .

Stinson SM-2, Texaco No. 3

Cairns Aircraft

     As early as November 25, 1918, a patent was applied for "aircraft" by E. B. Cams, Aircraft. The title page of this patent has not been found - the application was filed in Detroit, Michigan. The invention related to aircraft construction and more particular reference to a structural frame for wind-exposed surfaces. It was approved June 15, 1920, and issued number 1,343,707. 
      Beginning on March 5, 1927, Edmund B. Cams of New York, N.Y., assignor to Cairns Development Company, of Wilmington, Delaware, a corporation of Delaware, applied for a patent, "Wings for Aircraft." It was approved as of November 3, 1931. The patent number is 1,829,922. Notice that the spelling of his name is Cams, which is consistent on all of the existing patents seen by this writer. Existing ones date from 1918 thru August 1, 1929.
      There are a total of 31, although he apparently applied for more than 80. On all of the patents, the company name is spelled Cairns. On one patent, dated June 10, 1929, "Design for an Airplane," his residence was listed as Omaha, Dodge County, Nebraska.
      All of the patents are for aircraft components, such as fuselages, wings, aerofoils, sheet metal forming and structural members etc., and methods for shaping curved sheets of metal, and special locking nuts. Also included are boat hulls among other clever ideas, working with metal.
      Sometime in 1926, Cams (known then as Major Cams) was headquartered at 33 W. 34th Street, New York City. He was planning on building a special airplane to fly the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris (Orteig Prize ?). It would be designated the Cairns C-1, a newly designed flying boat, with . . . . .

Cairns AW-5 on exhibit at the Legion Air Show, 1930 in New York City

Instrument Flying and Radio Navigation, The Early Days

       Starting when I was sixteen, aviation has been my life. It really began before that, I was hooked when I read the letters my older brother sent to my father during his World War II Air Corps training.
      September 1944, the local airport was reopened. All of the "unnecessary" airports were closed during the war for fear, real or imagined, that the Japanese would steal a plane and bomb some military establishment.
      A Cub flew over the car while I was driving home from school one evening and I followed it to the airport. There was a sign on the office door that read "PLANE RIDES $2.00." I had been saving a two dollar bill for just such an occasion. At the end of my ride, the instructor, Clarence Gallagher, of Antioc, Illinois, said, "If you decide to take flying lessons, this flight will go into your logbook as your first lesson." Swish, the arrow hit me right in the heart and it is still there, fifty six years later. I'm pleased it carried an incurable disease. I quit high school in my junior year, not being a good student, I spent the remainder of the year working for Wayne Carpenter at his airport in Waukegan, Illinois. Wayne, now 90 years old, resides in Ojibwa, Wisconsin.
      In the fall of 1945,1 enlisted in the Marines and after completing boot camp in the spring of 1946, was transferred to the Naval Air Station at Atlanta, Georgia. There I was enrolled in classes at the Link Instrument Trainer Instructors School. LITIS was a very concentrated program that provided me with an education that I feel equal to a commercial license with an instrument rating. It covered all of the normal ground school subjects, including Navigation, Meteorology, Civil Air Regulations, Morse Code, ATC procedures and radio communications. The Instrument flight training, included cross country navigation flights that were made using instructor simulated ATC Clearances. (Currently, using advanced simulators, these flights are called LOFTs, Line Oriented Flight Training.) The courses were on a parallel with the regular CAA commercial pilot flight training. The main difference was that all of the flying for the trainee was done in the NAVBIT-45, Link trainer. In May 1946,1 graduated from that school while my . . . . .

Pilots radio control panel for the ARN-7 ADF

Boeing Stratocruiser

     In January 2003, BBC TV Scotland, was preparing a six-part programme, "Weather Permitting," to illustrate the many variables in weather that affect our lives. The author was asked to research the B.O.A.C. 
     Boeing 377 Stratocruiser and in particular, the accident which took place at Prestwick Airport, Scotland, in the early hours of Christmas Day, 1954, to G-ALSA/# 15943, "Cathay." In researching this event, the opportunity was taken to bring the "Stratocruiser" file up-to-date. These items are noted here.

Number Built : 888, including 56 civil versions. The rest were C-97 military transports and air-refueling tankers.


One prototype and 55 production.


Twenty plus the prototype


SILA (Sweden):

4, to BOAC before delivery 








American Overseas: 

8, later to PanAm


United Air Lines:

7, later 6, to BOAC





BOAC Stratocruisers Delivered and in Service

     The first Boeing Stratocruiser to be delivered to BOAC was G-ALSA "Cathay," which arrived at London/Heathrow on October 28, 1949, after a non-stop flight from New York, cruising at 25,000 feet at 350 mph.
     The BOAC inaugural flight from London to New York, via Prestwick, using "Cathay," commenced on December 6, 1949, landing at Idlewild Airport, New York, the next morning. Weekly services were continued until the following month, when twice-weekly services were introduced and by the end of February, with eight Stratocruisers delivered, a daily service was operated. The last of the ten BOAC Stratocruisers was delivered at the end of March 1950.

BOAC G-ALSA (#15943) at London Airport, 1954

Aircraft Photos by Emil Strasser

     Part IV of the Emil Strasser collection will take us back through the years to 1930s with visits to Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale, CA, and Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank, CA.  We will also go to the Cleveland, OH, and the National Air Races and to Emil's home town airport of Akron, OH.  This Collection is truly a treasure of aviation history, thanks to Gerry Liang for making it available to the AAHS.

American Gyro Crusader  AG-4, NX14429, at Glendale, CA on June 20, 1936