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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 49, No. 2 - Summer 2004
Table of Contents 

Flying Aircraft Carriers of the USAF: Project FICON Section 4: Systems & Operations

      On August 1, 1950, the Headquarters of the U. S. A. F. issued Development Directive A-6-1 authorizing the Air Materiel Command to initiate project MX-1602. The project was dubbed Fighter Conveyor, which was contracted as FICON.
     The ultimate goal of Project MX-1602 was to combine the high speed and maneuverability of the Republic RF-84F Thundeflash with the long-range capability of the Convair RB-36. The mission profile of the composite aircraft would consist of long-range, high-altitude flight to the target area and high-speed reconnaissance over the objective. The parasite aircraft system provided three basic advantages, long-range in the logistics zone, high performance in the defended zone, and an aerial base for launching and retrieving the parasite. Convair designed a hydraulically operated trapeze mechanism to fit inside the bomb bay of the RB-36 carrier airplane. The trapeze mechanism could carry, release, and retrieve a parasite airplane. The carrier could take off with the parasite stowed in the bomb bay, launch and retrieve the parasite in-flight, and land with the parasite aboard.
     Convair designed a hydraulically operated trapeze mechanism to fit . . . . .

The Last Formal Act 

     At 5:02 p.m. on November 7, 1959, a delta wing Convair B-58A Hustler supersonic bomber - flying at 35,000 feet and twice the speed of sound approached the small farming community of Duncan, Oklahoma, on a south- westerly heading. As Duncan drew near, Raymond Fitzgerald, the company test pilot at the aircraft’s controls, took his feet off the Hustler’s rudder pedals and slowly placed them solidly on the cockpit floor.  Communicating via intercom with third station flight test engineer Donald Siedhof to verify that the aircraft’s special data recording/transmitting equipment was functioning properly, he simultaneously checked to make sure the aircraft was trimmed and in level flight. Moments later - after acknowledging radio contact with a ground monitoring team at Convair in Ft. Worth, Texas - he purposefully reached over with his gloved left hand and tripped a switch activating a cut-off valve that controlled the fuel flow to the Hustler’s number four engine. It was the last formal act he would ever complete. 
     Today, forty-three years after Fitzgerald’s ill-fated reach and fifty years after the Air Force’s B-58 designator was officially assigned to the Convair Model 4 project on December 10, 1952, the bi-sonic delta-winged Hustler remains the fastest dedicated bomber platform ever to achieve operational service. . . . .

Convair B-58A, 55-664 midway through flight test career

Boeing Model 40 and Its Descendants; 
the Great Mailplane of the Twenties

      The Boeing Model 40 was powered by a single 400 hp water-cooled World War One Liberty V- 12 engine. It was built for the Post Office Department as a replacement for the de Havilland As that were in use. Only one was built, msn 775. The first flight was on July 7, 1925. The Post Office purchased the single Model 40 built, but did not order any production aircraft. The aircraft had to be built to the government’s specifications that required a Liberty engine. The Douglas M series won the U.S. Post Office contract for a sailplane with orders for 50 copies.
     In 1925, the Post Office announced that it was going to turn the Air Mail service over to private operators. It first called for bids on its stubs, or feeders, to the mainline. Late in 1926, the Post Office called for bids on the transcontinental route. Bids were for either San Francisco-Chicago or Chicago-New York. They figured that no private operator was big enough for the whole route. Bids were to be in by January 15, 1927. Bill Boeing’s friend and partner in the 1919 Seattle to Victoria Air Mail service, Eddie Hubbard talked Boeing into bidding on a route between San Francisco and Chicago, CAM- 18, at about half the normal 1926 rate per mile. Boeing bid $2.88 for a pound of mail carried between Chicago and San Francisco, where as Western Air Express’ bid was for $4.25 a pound. By building Boeing 40As with the new Wasp engine and two passenger seats, Hubbard figured they could make a profit. The air cooled Wasp engine was lighter than the water cooled Liberty. This allowed for more payload to be carried, which meant more profit potential. After winning the contract on January 29, 1927, Boeing was required to post a $500,000 performance bond due to the low bid. Boeing Air Transport had to start . . . . .

Western Air Express (WAE) Boeing 40B-4, NC843M

"Flying Coffin" and "Pearl of the Sky"; the worst and at the same time best fighter aircraft of WWII

      When you hear someone say, "the best fighter aircrew of WWII,'' your thoughts immediately go to the Spitfire, the Focke-Wulf FW-190 or the P-51 Mustang with the equally well known pilots like Gabresky Galland, Malan, Steinhoff and Bader. No one will name the Brewster Buffalo and its highest scoring ace Hans Wind. It is the only aircraft that is mentioned in two books with the title "The Worst Fighter of the War".
     Looking Buffalo, in service with the RAF RNZAF, RAAF, ML-KNIL (Netherlands East-lndies Ail Force) and the U.S. Marine Corps, this assessment is correct: of 63 Brewsters B-339C and -D Buffaloes used by the ML. KNIL in the period December 1941 - March 1942, no less than 24 were shot down in air combat and 16 were strafed on the Brewster ground against 10 confirmed Japanese aircraft kills. With the RAF in just two air combats over Malaya on 22 and 24 December 1941,19 B-339E Buffaloes were lost against two Japanese fighters.
     The U.S. Marine Squadron VMF-221 lost 14 out of 20 F-2A-2 Buffaloes and two of six F4F Wildcats against two Japanese fighters and four bombers during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. The "Flying Coffin,'' as the Marines called the Brewster . . . . .

Finnish Air Force Brewster 239

D-Day and the Yoxford Boys

      By the first of June 1944, everyone in the military forces of half a dozen countries in the United Kingdom knew the Allied invasion of the continent was coming, and very soon. The French coastal population knew it, and so did the Germans. Fortunately, Allied deception tactics had been successful, and the Germans did not know the vital where and when.
     At 8th Air Force station F-373, Leiston Airfield, on the far eastern bulge of England, the 357th Fighter Group, had its first hint late in May when Colonel Donald Graham, the Group IT Commander, ordered all personnel to go armed at all times. Carbines, Thompson submachine guns, and .45 caliber service pistols appeared out of foot lockers and dusty corners. Mostly SN untrained in their use, it was fortunate that no German troops appeared.
     The 357th, with its three squadrons, the 362nd, 3631-d and or 364th, had arrived in the U.K. late in 1943, and by January to 1944, was in place at its permanent wartime base, near the to town of Leiston, in Suffolk County. Assigned to the Eighth Air Force, to provide long range escort for the 8th’s B-17s and B-24s, it was the first group in the 8th to fly the magnificent Mustang. The German propaganda radio immediately chi-is- at tuned the Group THE YOXFORD BOYS, after a nearby village of the same name. The Group has proudly borne that fr name ever since. By the end of May, after three and a half months of operation, the Group has flown 69 missions, shot down over 220 enemy aircraft, and has lost 58 pilots, dead, POWs, and a few evaders.

362nd Squadron ground crews "sweating out" a mission.

 Waco Cabin Aircraft, Part 1, 1931 to 1935, the Early Years

     In 1931, Waco introduced a series of cabin biplanes that were improved in design and performance in each of the following ten years. A. Francis Arcier, Chief Engineer and Designer at the Waco Aircraft Company, had successfully designed and produced the aviation industry’s highest performance open-cockpit biplane - the 1931 QCF-Z. The new cabin Waco was to be an all-weather, all-purpose aircraft and a companion to the popular Model :T.'' The new cabin design was to have performance characteristics typical of Waco open-cockpit planes and carry four people.
     The U.S. Economy was in a shambles in 1931 after the stock market crash of October, 1929. Waco displayed a great amount of intestinal fortitude to introduce another new model when other aircraft producers were closing their doors or just barely able to stay in business. Waco produced a superior prod- uct and their management was outstanding, the main reasons they were able to stay in business during those depression years.
     Waco's new cabin biplane designated QDC would challenge Chief Engineer Arcier and the engineering staff. Their aim was to produce a four-place cabin aircraft that retained the . . . . .

Prototype Waco QDC, NX11250

"Kindsvater Remembers" The Luftwaffe JG 27 Squadron

    Kindsvater, Proficient Pilot, Craftsman, Machinist, and a German Historian have been working on the restoration of his historic Me-109-C4K for eleven years. He has accomplished this feat for the most part by himself, with some support from a few friends and especially the 376 EAA Group in near by Fresno, California. Harold along with his wife Linda lives comfortably in the country near Clovis, California. They have a lovely home that overlooks Harold’s hangar and small dirt airstrip (about 2000 ft). His hangar contains a machine shop where he also manufactures propellers for highspeed boats of all sizes. Harold also owns and flies his Me-108 Taifun, another very rare airplane he also had restored. When he is not busy restor ing or flying one of his aircraft, he flies a club (California Warbirds loc) owned P-51D "Strawboss #2" based at the Hollister Airport in California. Harold also owns and flies a Beach Bonanza, when he has time. Harold keeps very busy and he loves to fly. 
     Back in the 1960s Connie Edwards of Texas was lured to England to help support the filming of the movie " The Battle of Britain.'' His role was to bring some of the aircraft to flying status and maintain all aircraft until filming was completed. After the film was completed Mr. Edwards obtained one of the Messerschmitt’s used in the film, Red #5 which was later traded to the CAF in Texas. In the late 1980s the CAF traded it to Harold Kindsvater for a German Storch that had also been restored by Harold.
     Harold wanted to finish his Me l09-C4K in the paint scheme and markings of the Luftwaffe JG 27 squadron that had flown this type of aircraft in the Mediteranean and North Africa. Being a German Historian he had manuals, books, and . . . .  

Me 109/HA-1112, Buchon

Cripes A’Mighty Reborn

     For about a month in the fall of 2000, the skies over Virginia and North Carolina were witness to a strange birds a state-of-the art F-16C-30 in World War 11 markings.
Believed to be the only modern fighter in such markings, the colors carried by the Virginia Air National Guard's 86- 0244 were a tribute from one generation to another. The impetus was sparked by a short article in 1998 sent to the then commander of the 192nd Fighter Wing, Virginia Air National Guard, Col. Robert O. Seifert. The article (see side- bar) was attached to a letter which asked the unit to consider its history. Of the 54 ANG squadrons with lineage linked to World War 11 units, that of the 192nd FW's 149th Fighter Squadron, is perhaps the most storied.
     The 352,nd Fighter Group of the Eighth Air Force in World War 11 was one of the premier organizations of arguably the most impressive fighter force ever. Famed for their blue noses, the "Blue-nosed Bastards of Bodney" got their name in an apocryphal story about Hermann Glaring. The rotund Reichsmarschal allegedly claimed that he "knew the war was lost when I saw those blue-nosed bastards of Bodney over Berlin."
     True or not, the Blue-nosers had much to claim. With eight aces in double-digits, the group claimed 519 1/2 enemy aircraft in the air and another 287 on the ground. The war's end saw MAJ George E. Preddy as top-scoring Mustang ace despite the fact that he was killed by friendly fire on Christmas Day 1944. Preddy’s chief competition was group mate LTC John C. Meyer. He ended the war with 24 victories to Preddy’s 25.83. Meyer went on to command the Strategic Air Command. At the end of the war, like so many other famed units, the 352nd and its composite . . . . .

Virgina ANG F-16C-30, 86-0244 in "Cripes A’Mighty" markgings