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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 48, No. 4 - Winter 2003
Table of Contents 

The Birth of the Delta Wing

     The development of the delta wing planform was a significant aerodynamic innovation in the advancement into supersonic flight. The concept was known since before World War II but propulsion had not been available for the higher speeds in which the delta wing's advantage lay. When World War II ended, the Allies acquired considerable German aerodynamic data on swept wings, some delta wing and supersonic aerodynamics, and data on jet and ramjet engines. This data spurred considerable interest on the part of the military, and many design studies and advanced aircraft competitions were initiated soon after the war ended aimed at exploring these new technologies. One of these Air Force procurements, a transonic interceptor, was won by Consolidated Vultee - the XP-92.Their proposed aircraft was conceived as a radical and imaginative leap of technology utilizing an advanced ramjet propulsion concept and a planform that evolved to a delta wing configuration. This aircraft program fell short and was ultimately cancelled because of immature technology and cost, however, an aerodynamic demonstrator aircraft was continued becoming the genesis of scores of delta wing aircraft. The world's first delta wing aircraft, the XF-92A, took to the air on 18 September 1948.
     This article documents the innovations and difficulties encountered in Consolidated Vultee's XP-92 development . . . . .

Full scale mockup built for USAF inspection

Katherine Stinson: Pioneering Aviatrix

      Dressed in boyish clothing, the 22-year-old aviator Katherine Stinson wore a bulky, red sweater and a brown choke collar around her neck. On her head she donned her trademark blue-and-white checkered tweed cap with an inverted brim worn backwards. Dark knickerbockers fastened with buckled beige leather and a leather waist jacket completed her outfit for protection against the cold. Spectators watched as she meticulously inspected her Wright B airplane, climbed onto the hard seat, strapped herself in, revved the motor and pulled back on the stick. Raising her right hand above her curls, the mechanics understood the gesture and released their hold. The plane moved over the earth on thin bicycle wheels for 100 yards, before she pulled it into the sky and circled the field. Waving to the spectators, she looped the loop and climbed to 1,000 feet. Suddenly, she slowed her engine to half speed, performed a flawless spiral and sailed to the ground for a perfect landing. The people shouted and stomped their approval. They waved as she jumped from her plane, removed her cap with a sweeping bow, shook her curls, and smiled gleefully.
     Katherine Stinson had wowed the crowds again. This particular flight occurred in 1913, but it might as well have been anytime during 1912 to 1919, the span of Katherine Stinson's influential aviation career. It was during this era that Katherine Stinson became a household name. Anyone could tell you about "The Flying School girl." She set new horizons for women at a time when they were barely driving cars, let alone flying airplanes. 
     Katherine Stinson was a pioneer in aviation, unafraid to fly to fulfill her dreams. A daring aviator, she achieved recognition as the "first" to accomplish many aviation feats. She was the first woman to fly at night, to loop the loop, and the first person to sky write. Additionally, she set endurance and distance records and brought the spectacle of air travel to both Japan and China. Furthermore, she was the first woman in the United States, as well as the first person in Western Canada, to officially deliver airmail. Stinson proved by example that flying was not limited by gender. She represented the feminist position by her daring actions rather than her words. At a time when women were not allowed to vote, Stinson . . . . . . 

Candid of Katherine Stinson

Flying Aircraft Carriers of the USAF: Project FICON, Section 2: Thunderstreak

     In early 1951, the Republic RF-84F Thunderflash was selected to be the parasite component of the FICON composite aircraft system. The Air Force wanted to conduct flight tests of a swept wing variant of the F-84 parasite as soon as possible, but it would be three years before Republic would produce the first Thunderflashes. The F-84F Thunderstreak was not in production yet, either.

Prototype YF-84F Thunderstreak. 49-2430

     An Air Force team inspected the FICON mockup in May 1951 and recommended that the swept wing YF84F prototype, 49-2430 should be utilized for the FICON test program. The Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) directed the Air Materiel Command (AMC) to modify the YF-84F to the parasite configuration for interim FICON flight tests.
     In 1949, Republic Aviation Corporation in Farmingdale, New York began development of a swept wing version of the F-84 to improve the high-speed performance of the fighter. To expedite the flight tests of the swept wing configuration, Republic installed swept wings and tail surfaces on a standard F-84E airframe. The extensively modified swept wing variant of the F-84 was designated YF-96A. It was named Thunderstreak in recognition of its increased top speed.
     Originally ordered as the last airframe of the first batch of F-84Es, 49-2430 served as the prototype of the swept wing Thunderstreak. Republic used company funds to pay for its modifications.
     The wings and tail of the YF-96A were swept back by 38.5 degrees. Although the span of the swept wing Thunderstreak was reduced from 36 feet 5 inches to 33 feet 7 inches, the area of its wing was increased from 260 square feet to 325 square feet.
     Republic converted the airplane from straight wing to swept wing in 167 days. Company engineers estimated that the production model of the F-96A would use 55% of the tooling used to build the F-84E.
     The YF-96A was equipped with a 5,200-pound static thrust Allison XJ35-A-25 engine. Its empty weight was 12,150 pounds. It weighed 23,350 pounds fully loaded.
     The pilot's windshield initially had a V-shape, much like early models of the F-86 Sabre. By early 1951, a flat armored glass panel similar to that on other models of the F-84 replaced the V-shaped windshield.
     Initial taxi tests of the YF-96A were performed at the Republic plant in Farmingdale, New York- on May 4, 1950. It was disassembled for shipment to Edwards Air Force Base in a Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter and a Fairchild C-82A Packet.
     Oscar P. "Bud" Hass, Republic Aviation's Director of Flight, made the one-hour long first flight in the Thunderstreak at the Edwards AFB on June 3, 1950. Hass flew the YF-96A nineteen times and completed its Phase I operational suitability testing in twenty-nine days.
     The low-altitude performance of the YF-96A was significantly improved over the straight wing Thunderjet. Its top speed was increased to 693 miles per hour, about 80 miles per . . . . .

Major Clyde Good climbing out of the YRF-84F cockpit and working his 
way along catwalk of GRB-36F.

Buy A Thunderbolt!

     Although the nicknaming of aircraft goes back to the dawn of flying, military pilots have since brought the practice to a fine art in every war involving airpower. In World War II unofficial names were extremely popular adornments on airplanes but 'official' names were far less common. As the war progressed, aircraft began to be 'bought' by public contribution and the name of the donor(s) recorded on the fuselage. With several combat types, particularly fighters such as the Spitfire and P-47 Thunderbolt, this individualizing became widespread. In England public money was collected and processed through schemes such as the Spitfire Fund. Other aircraft types were paid for and suitably inscribed but the famous Supermarine fighter was by far the most numerous in this respect.
     In the United States similar drives to raise funds for war materiel were launched by the sale of government-issued war bonds. Some elements of the aircraft industry responded enthusiastically to the scheme, including Lockheed which built Hudsons and Venturas with fuselage inscriptions noting details of financial contributions by the workforce. In terms of fighters, Republic Aviation of Farmingdale seems to have led the field with presentation aircraft.
     Soon after Pearl Harbor, company employees on Long Island clubbed together to pay for the seventh P-47B off the production line and present it to the government without charge. This aircraft (s/n 41-5901) named 'Lucky Seven! Gift of the Republic Aviation Employees' was the first of several dozen Thunderbolts donated by company employees purchasing bonds. Other P-47s were paid for by individuals, schools and business groups, as well as donations made by American counties and states.
     The total number of P-47s purchased under these schemes is uncertain although photographic evidence proves that there were at least 65 examples. But without any kind of Republic and/or Army Air Forces listing-of presentation aircraft, it is hard to put a definite figure on the number of P-47s 'personalized' in this fashion. It is assumed however that someone, somewhere maintained a record of who made the purchase and perhaps, which unit or war theatre the aircraft in question were assigned to. On the other hand, the recipient unit may have been an entirely random selection.
     A few examples of the 'War Bond Planes' that saw front line combat service are listed below. Republic stenciled the . . . . . .

P-47D-5 "Spirit of Atlantic City"

The Red Rippers:  1927 - 2002

     In 1927, during the Golden Age of Naval Aviation, Navy pilots added to the luster of their service with a number of record breaking flights. Lt. George R. Henderson of Fighting Three's Striking Eagles reached 22,178 feet in a float-equipped Vought O2U Corsair for a new altitude record for C-class seaplanes on 14 April. More headlines were made by Lt. C.C. Champion's climb to 38,149 feet in a Wright Apache experimental fighter on 25 July. In mid-August Lts. B. J. Connell and H. C. Rodd set new distance and time of flight records in a PN-10 patrol plane equipped with twin Packard engines by flying their plane over 1,500 miles during a period of 20 hours 45 minutes and 40 seconds.
     These records pointed to the increasingly important role of aviation in the Navy, a role emphasized by the decision to convert two World War I designed battle cruisers to aircraft carriers, USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Saratoga (CV-3). By late 1927 construction of the huge new ships had been completed.
     To provide their air complements, the Navy ordered the formation of a number of new squadrons, among them Fighting Squadron Five. This unit was to be the forerunner of Fighter Squadron Eleven, the Red Rippers. LCdr. Issac Schlossbach placed his new unit, VF-5, in commission at Naval Air Station Hampton Roads on 1 February 1927. Fitted at the outset with the very maneuverable Curtiss F6C-3 Hawk biplane, its aviators and enlisted technicians prepared for service aboard Lexington. Their airplanes were capable of a speed of 134 knots (154 mph) at sea level and had a standard armament of two .30 caliber machine guns and a small bomb load.
     The insignia Schlossbach's men adopted, the Red Ripper, was a combination of heraldry and boisterous Naval Aviation humor. Topping the badge was a fierce boar's head, reputedly taken from the label on a bottle of imported Gordon's gin. This was imposed upon a scroll as a squadron scribe explained:
     The scroll effect under the head is a string of link sausage, a good line of bologna which all members of the squadron were to be adept at 'shooting.' The balls on the shield might be called balls of fire: actually, they were supposed to typify good strong masculinity. The bolt of lightning was the bar . . . . . .

Martin XPBM-1 Mariner prototype