AAHS Logo  American Aviation Historical Society

1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 50, No. 3 - Fall 2005
Table of Contents 

Tribute to Byron Calomiris 1918-2005

     We Have Lost a Dear Friend.
     On August 24, 2005, we lost our dear friend and co-worker, Byron Calomiris. Many of you know Byron as that friendly, positive person who not only answered your calls to AAHS headquarters over the years, but had that knack letting you know he cared about you and what you had to say. Byron really cared about people and he lived his life acting on that commitment. He cared deeply about his family: his late wife Catherine, whom he missed daily; his four daughters Tina, Ellen, Elizabeth, Maggie, and their families were his pride. He made friends easily and brought light into many lives. He cared about his friends, visiting many who were ill or no longer able to get out.
     Byron Basil Calomiris was born on June 13, 1918, in New York. His parents were Greek immigrants and it is a testament to Byron’s caring for others that he remained in New York until his parents had passed away and no longer needed his care, even though Catherine and the family wanted to move to California. Byron’s father was a traveling salesman, Byron and his brother Ted accompanying their father on sales trips up and down the eastern seaboard selling coffee. 
     Byron developed an early interest in aviation. He began studies in aeronautical engineering and gained a position with Brewster, being promoted to a liaison engineer position. It was here he developed a love for the Brewster Buffalo. He endured a lot of ribbing over the years for this fondness. On December 11, 1942, he enlisted in the USAAC. He was called to active duty on March 3, 1943, as an aviation cadet for the Aircraft Maintenance Program. After basic training at Boca Raton, Florida, he reported to Yale University for technical training. He was assigned to and served with the 853rd Bomb Squadron, of the 491st Bomb Group (The Ringmasters), of the Second Air Division, of the Eighth Air Force. Byron joined the squadron at Pueblo, Colorado, as engineering officer. When the group was deployed he flew, in one of their B-24s, by the Southern Atlantic route to East Anglia where they were based at Metfield and East Pickenham. After the war Byron resumed his aeronautical engineering studies, earning a degree at NYU. He gained a position with Grumman, where he was a liaison engineer. In 1968 he was able to get a transfer to Southern California. He retired from Grumman in 1977. Byron has been a member of AAHS since the first year of the society’s existence. He has been a dedicated aviation historian and was an avid archivist of three-views. He would work for days and involve others in responding to requests for specific information.
     I have had the honor and pleasure of knowing Byron for twenty-five years. I want to assure those of you who knew him, some of you for far longer than I, Byron lived the last of his 87 years as he lived the others: active, fully engaged, positive, curious, and caring for others.

Tim Williams
One of Byron’s many friends

Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

    The oldest flying B-52, the NB-52B, carrying Air Force serial 52-0008, has just been retired following the conclusion of the X-43A Hyper-X project at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB. The NB-52B and its sister ship, the NB-52A, 52-0003, were diverted to the mission of launching the North American X-15 hypersonic research airplane in 1958. The NB-52A was retired in October 1969, but the NB-52B continued to serve as the mothership for a multitude of projects over forty-five years. It accumulated less flight time than any currently operational B-52. 
     While the two Stratofortresses were engaged in the task of launching the three X-15 rocket planes, a series of rocket-powered lifting bodies were developed that utilized the existing air launch capability. At the conclusion of manned, rocket research aircraft testing in 1975, the NB-52B was almost retired, but a series of remotely piloted research vehicles required its support for their flight programs. A variety of parachute recovery system tests and unmanned rocket launches were also conducted with the Stratofortress mothership.
     The NB-52B launched the three X-15 hypersonic rocket planes and the Northrop HL-10, Northrop M2-F2/F3, Martin Marietta X-24A and Martin Marietta X-24B lifting bodies. It simulated the steep, power-off approach to landing used by the Space Shuttles. It assisted in the collection of data about wake turbulence from large aircraft. It served as an
  . . . . . . .

M2-F3 Lifting Body Launch

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan Flight to Oblivion

     Did she over-rule her expert navigator? Did she think she was a "natural direction finder" capable of directing her Lockheed 10E using a talent on loan from God? While flying from South America to Africa she must have thought she had that talent! She turned north against her navigator’s instructions and had to make an unplanned landing at a strange African airfield! 
     If she over-ruled Noonan on that Atlantic Ocean hop from Natal, Brazil to St. Louis, Senegal, (she planned to land at Dakar, Senegal), why couldn’t she again over-rule Noonan as they approached Howland Island? Imagine notes passed between the two that read as follows: 

"Come left to 67 degrees. Hold that course for 48 minutes." 

"No! I’m going straight in. I think I see the Island." 

"No! I’m telling you to turn left to 67 degrees. We’re still one hundred miles out." 

     If we knew that Earhart had again overruled Noonan, we might know why their flight ended in disaster. However, their disappearance remains a mystery after 70 years. 


     Fred Noonan was an accomplished celestial navigator. He could advance a "line of position" based on estimated latitude and a single celestial shot or he could use the more complicated and time consuming triangulation method wherein two or three heavenly bodies were used for reference. How, then could he have missed Howland Island? A close study of available information can refine speculation on what likely took place in the Howland Island vicinity in early July 1937. Radio transmissions from Earhart indicated that the weather was rainy and cloudy over mid portions of their course. The USS Ontario, on station halfway between Lae, New Guinea, and Howland Island also reported low ceilings and a wind out of the east-northeast. Many of the early long distance flyers    . . . . . . 

Amelia Earhart in cockpit

Evolution of the Liaison-Type Airplane 1917-1944, 
AAF Historical Series No. 44: Part I

     This study of the liaison airplane, which was written in the Air Technical Service Command Historical Office by Capt. Irving B. Holley, Jr., is one of a series dealing with such types of aircraft as the cargo airplane, medium bomber, and heavy bomber. 
     The history is focused primarily on the evolution of the idea of the liaison airplane as distinguished from the observation airplane, and emphasis is placed on the problems of isolating and identifying the growth of this concept rather than on the liaison airplane as a continuous engineering development. Engineering details are discussed only when they are factors that influenced and delimited the evolution of the concept. In short, the history is concerned with the gradual emergence of a clear understanding of a specific tactical function for the liaison airplane. When this had been gained, it was possible to establish engineering objectives.


     The history of observation aircraft dates back to the earliest use of aviation in warfare. Although the use of aircraft in aerial combat and as bombers was foreshadowed, almost all aerial activity prior to 1915 came under the general heading of observation. In the great French offensive of that autumn, aircraft were used both for liaison with infantry and observation for command. With the publication of the manual LIAISON FOR ALL ARMS in December 1916, after six months of intensified practical experience at Verdun, the French embodied in official doctrine the lessons learned in combat. In the United States, this document, translated and revised, became the foundation of official Air Service doctrine regarding air-ground cooperation and liaison.
     In the last years of World War I, the function of aviation was generally considered to fall into three broad categories: activities against hostile air action, activities against  . . . . . . . . .

Douglas O-31A

Herman: A Legend in His Time and Beyond

     His name refers to the Mallard duck and he flew in silhouette against the sun and moon. His name was given to him in 1948, when he was then Wisconsin Central Airlines. No one knows exactly where his name came from. Herman is the only symbol that North Central Airlines (NCA) and its predecessor used. As a "Mallard" duck, he was selected because Mallards are prized by sportsmen for their high speed on short flights. Herman became sleeker when he flew the tails of NCA’s DC-9s than he was decorating the fuselage of Wisconsin Central’s Lockheed 10A Electras,. At the time, the symbol of Herman was one of the most recognized airline logos in the country. 
     Actually, Herman and North Central started life as embryos in an unrelated predecessor company called Four Wheel Drive Auto Co. (FWD), that started in Clintonville, Wis., in 1910. It built four-wheel drive transmissions and was one of the country’s major manufacturers of heavy-duty trucks. 
     In 1939, FWD traded a company truck for a used four-place Waco biplane, since roads were poor, bus service was sporadic and slow and it was obvious that air transport was the answer. FWD soon bought a second plane, a Howard monoplane. Even though FWD’s two plane fleet was for their executives to be flown back/forth to Chicago on business, local Clintonville businessmen were hitching rides to Chicago whenever space was available. FWD decided to stop giving free rides and decided to incorporate as an airline and charge for its services. On May 15, 1944, papers were signed and a new carrier was born, called Wisconsin Central Airlines. 
     Twin-engine, five-place Cessna UC-78s replaced the original Waco and Howard aircraft and were used by Wisconsin Central in its charter and intrastate operations from 1945 to 1947. 
     On January 14, 1948, Wisconsin Central directors elected Hal Carr, Executive Vice President, with complete responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the airline. Hal Carr was a young . . . . . .

Convair 580

 Forgotten Flying Field, Ft. Bliss, Tex.

     From 1917 to 1926, the primary flying field in the vicinity of El Paso, Tex., was located near what is now the approximate center of the Main Post at Fort Bliss. As many as twenty-four military airplanes were based at the field at one time. In addition, numerous civilian planes utilized that same field for servicing, and for the "barnstorming" activities that were popular in those days.
     And from 1920 until 1926 there were two separate flying fields at Fort Bliss. Each field was on leased ground for many years before the War Department purchased the privately owned tracts.
     Airplanes were based at the first established field, which was near the "Old School of Mines" building on the then east boundary of the Post. Balloons and blimps were based at the second field, located on Camp Owen Bierne, which was two miles northeast of the airplane field.
     The field, on which the airplanes were based, was given the name of "Biggs Field" in January 1925. And when that first "Biggs Field" was closed down in July 1926, the name was then assigned to the balloon field on Camp Bierne. The latter field had been in a caretaker status since early 1922, after the Eighth Balloon Company was transferred back to San Antonio, Tex. And it continued in a comparable caretaker status until the late 1930s, when the Army Air Corps began to build up the facility.
     However, although the designation "Biggs Field" appears in most applicable Army records after January 1925, local press releases continued to refer to events at the "Fort Bliss Field" and the "Balloon Field" / "Balloon Hangar" until about 1937. Further, the military and civilian populace used those unofficial names for general reference during the same period.
     The reason for such oversight is not known and is of no real consequence - being mentioned here only as a possible indication of why so few persons recall . . . . . .

Aerobatics Team (1923), Pangborn, Lund and Yerex

C-133 Engines and Propellers

     Propulsion systems for the new Douglas C-133 Cargomaster were the result of extensive testing and evaluation by both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force. The engines were Pratt & Whiney T34 turboprops, turning Curtiss CT735 propellers 18 feet in diameter. During the course of those evaluations, the reliability and performance of both engines and propellers were improved significantly, finally attaining levels deemed consistent with fully operational conditions. Systems that initially were expected to have only 150 hours flying time between overhaul (TBO) were progressively improved so that both engines and propellers could be certified to operate in excess of 1,000 hours TBO. These accomplishments came about through the efforts of highly experienced aircrews and maintenance personnel in both services, along with manufacturers’ technical representatives. 
     In service on the C-133, however, there were continued problems with both the engines and propellers that were never totally solved satisfactorily. The T34 engine, despite various upgrades, never provided the performance that would have enabled the C-133 to fulfill its potential. In fact, below-par engine performance led to preproduction redesign to lighten the airframe, ultimately led to later structural problems and crashes. The Curtiss-Wright propeller experienced ongoing mechanical problems that often resulted in catastrophic destruction of propellers and associated aircraft damage. Despite these propulsion problems, maintenance and aircrew dedication and expertise enabled the C-133 to provide airlift capabilities simply unavailable elsewhere to the U.S. military until the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy entered service in 1971.
     Interestingly, the T34 was designated for use on the never-built turboprop version of the Convair YB-60. There were only a few aircraft that actually flew under  . . . . . . .

JT34 Servicing

Remember When. . . The Culver V

     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 were 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 . . . . .

Culver V