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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 51, No. 2 - Summer 2006
Table of Contents 

The Story of Early Wichita Aviation, 1910 - 1930


     Every now and then one is asked to explain how it came about that Wichita, Kansas, (pop. 114,000), has produced approximately one-fourth the commercial airplanes manufactured within the United States. 
     With one eye, figuratively speaking, on the fact that the building of airplanes, like the production of automobiles, furniture, shoes or clothes, machine equipment, etc., is a manufacturing process rather than a direct reaping of natural resources, and with another eye on the fact that, except for airplanes, Wichita is not generally known as a manufacturing center, the inquisitor usually wants to know something about the "industrial evolution" leading to the effect involved. 
    How is it, the inquisitor asks, that this comparatively small mid-plains city ranks alongside of New York, Detroit, or Los Angeles in the manufacture of the world’s newest vehicle of transportation? How is it the mighty millions of Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, St. Louis and Kansas City have been surpassed by the 114,000 of Wichita? Why is it that Wichita has had 16 or more airplane factories, at least four of which have been leaders in commercial aviation? Why does this Kansas town have more than 1,640 acres devoted to flying fields, one of the 11 fields being a 640-acre tract operated by the City of Wichita as one of the finest airports in this country? How come that Wichita has been able to boast of six airplane engine factories, even though still in the experimental stage? What created the city’s 13 schools teaching flying, or some allied trade? How do you account for nine air transport concerns, 25 or more firms either manufacturing or handling aeronautical accessories or supplies, seven firms devoted to airplane or airplane engine service, five aeronautical investment houses, the $5,000,000 or more it . . . . .  

Travel Air 4000, NC5427, of 1928

The Douglas A-20B: an Anomalous Havoc

     Of the 7,478 Douglas DB-7/A-20s constructed during World War II, the 999 B models were out of the mainstream in four significant respects: - They were all built at Douglas’ Long Beach plant, whereas most others were produced at Santa Monica, except for the 380 Boston IIIs that emerged from the Boeing Renton facility in 1941. 

  • Of the pre-G models, only the B was armed primarily with .50 caliber, rather than 0.30 caliber machine guns. 
  • Use of .50 caliber machine guns in the buried cheek positions forced redesign of the nose section, including lengthening from the 67 1/2 inches of the A and C models to 75.8 inches. This, featuring stepped clear panel framing, was the most distinguishing feature of the B model. 
  • The Bs were regressive in not being factory-fitted with self-sealing fuel tanks. Another external recognition feature of most was the large filter carburetor air intake atop each engine cowling - shared by many C models, the P-70, and by the four-20mm nose cannon-equipped A-20Gs. This was replaced in later models by the over-wing fairing for the non-ram filtered carburetor intake. 

     Some equipment differences from other models were also evident in the cockpit. 
     The most distinguishing differentiating feature of the A-20Bs was the stepped-glass arrangement in the nose. As mentioned earlier, this was similar to the configuration of the DB-7 and DB-7A models, but can  . . . . . . .

Douglas A-20B Havoc 

Memoirs of a WWII Fighter Pilot, Part I

     I’m a lucky guy. I flew 50 combat missions in "The Big One" and lived to tell about it. Many of my buddies weren’t so lucky. I was also fortunate to fly one of the sweetest fighters ever built - the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
     My story, unlike many sagas that have come out of World War II, doesn’t take place in "jolly olde" England. Rather, the scenes of my experiences are the deserts of Tunisia and Libya, the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, the craggy spine of Italy, the Alps of Italy and Austria, the south of France, the jumble of the Balkans, and the omnipresent Mediterranean Sea. Few movies were made about the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) and even fewer movie stars served in this area.

Transitioning to Fighters

     My combat career started while I was still an aviation cadet at Craig Army Air Field (AAF), Selma, Alabama, in May 1943. The Army Air Force was testing a program to see how well aviation cadets with about 35 hours in the North American AT-6 Texan could do in a fighter plane. Consequently, when I showed up on the Craig Field flight line one morning for a normal training mission, I found that ten of us were to report for Curtiss P-40 Warhawk transition training. We had seen the well-used Warhawks on our flight line, but hadn’t imagined we would be using them.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The Air War in Korea: A Russian Perspective

     In June 1950, I did my service in Mig-15s at Moscow. Suddenly, Commander of the Moscow PVO, General-Colonel K. Moskalenko, brought us a top-secret order about a new, unknown conflict in the Far East. Urgently, an alarm was declared! By night we took a very long and very secret train to the unknown Far East. Far Eastern weather was very bad, tropical with heavy downpours. I had not seen this in all my life! It was ghastly! Many ducks were swimming on our future airfield. A new alarm for our unknown war was starting for us. First we operated from Mukdan airbase, and after a few days our 18th Aircraft Regiment was flown to Andun airbase.
     Our first flight was the whole regiment and staff: 24 Mig-15s in three groups, eight in each group. We had an order that in-flight radio communication was prohibited. Be silent! We dressed in Chinese uniforms and our aircraft were marked with Chinese markings. It was to have been a very top secret action, but for us it was especially bad because our orders were: "In combat speak only Korean." We spoke only a Korean vocabulary (specialized for combat flying).
     Our attitude towards American pilots were complicated. During WWII, both the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. were allied opposite Hitler. In the Korean War, both Soviet and American pilots were not seen as enemies - we were only opponents. Our principle in the air was, "competition with whomever," but we were soon sorry for . . . . .

North American F-86 Sabre

Northwest Airlines - The Northern Region, War in Alaska

     Although born of necessity for the transport of military supplies and personnel across the globe during World War II, U.S. domestic airlines, having answered their nation’s call, paved the way to a successful global air transportation system after 1946, making all parts of the world available to air travelers. This is how it happened and the role Northwest Airlines played. 
     In the late 1930s, General H.H. "Hap" Arnold and his staff in Washington knew that in the event of war, battlefronts around the world would be cut off from supply and reinforcement. The routes were blocked either by huge oceans with the threat of submarine interception, high fog-shrouded mountain ranges or large and sometimes unfriendly continents. China was virtually cut off; supplying Russia was nearly impossible; and for aiding the English on the border of Egypt, it meant crossing both oceans and continents. The Philippines, where a huge number of American military personnel were stationed, was half a world away. The war department realized that one of the most sensitive areas of the world in the event of conflict with Japan, was Alaskan territory, and in particular, the 2000 mile-long chain of islands that reached out into the Pacific to within 600 miles of the Japanese home islands. 
     The Japanese were also well aware of the situation; indeed, had their own designs on the North Pacific. To protect their homeland, they had decided on occupying territory at the end of the Aleutians from which they could intercept attacks on their northern flank, and at the same time, use this as a means of tying up American forces in the . . . . .

Curtiss C-46 with engine hut installed for pre-heat

 Republic Aviation’s F-105 Thunderchief 

     The United States Air Force (USAF) began design work on a new fighter during the Korean War, an advanced, long-range, supersonic, singe-seat aircraft capable of delivering tactical nuclear weapons. The USAF during the 1950s believed its primary mission was to fight and win a nuclear exchange against the Soviet Union if the "Cold War" escalated into a hot war, avoided during the Korean War. Interestingly, there was an implied threat by the United States against the Communist Chinese in North Korea to drop atomic bombs by Strategic Air Command (SAC) atomic delivery capable aircrews assigned to the Far East Command (although atomic weapons were not pre-positioned within the combat theater). The United States also publicized a live atomic warhead firing of the U.S. Army’s 280mm atomic cannon at the Nevada atomic proving/testing grounds, another implied threat to the Communist Chinese their troop positions in Korea could be attacked. The weapon was not delivered to Korea. The USAF published an ambitious set of performance requirements for the new aircraft.

  • Supersonic maximum speed
  • Single-seat cockpit
  • Dual role fighter-bomber mission
  • Nuclear weapons delivery capability
  • Conventional weapons delivery capability
  • Maximum weight not to exceed 52,840 pounds
  • Maximum speed: 1,385 mph
  • Maximum ferry range: 2,070 miles

     Republic Aviation Corporation, Farmingdale, Long Island, New York, designed a fighter-bomber to meet specification Model AP 63-31. It was a follow-on to the company’s F-84F Thunderstreak. Republic wanted . . . . .

Republic F-105G Thunderchief

1930s U.S. Army Air Corps, 
U.S. Navy and Marine Aircraft Photographs 

     During the 1930s, the U.S. Army Air Corps held summer maneuvers at public airports in Bakersfield, Fresno, Delano and other locations in the San Joaquin Valley of California. U.S. Navy and Marine aircraft on training flights stopped at Bakersfield to refuel. During those days of the depression, the arrival of the U.S. Army and Navy aircraft was quite an occasion for the people of Bakersfield where Russ grew up.
     Russ borrowed cameras of various film sizes. All things considered, his photography was very good. Let’s go back to those days for a little while and look at his pictures.
     Russ Hiatt was raised in Bakersfield, Calif., and was an "airplane nut" all his life. The U.S. Army Air Corps had summer maneuvers in Bakersfield, Fresno or Delano in the 1930s, and the U.S. Navy used Bakersfield as a refueling stop on training flights between the San Francisco area and San Diego. During these times, Russ would borrow a camera and hustle over to Bakersfield Airport and photograph as much of the activity as he could, film being the limiting factor.
     Russ Hiatt, a Life Member of AAHS, a USAAF veteran of WWII, aviation photographer and a great guy passed away in early 2005. Because of the generosity of Bob Kennedy who now has the Hiatt Collection and Gerald Liang who did the darkroom work, we can share these photos with the AAHS Membership.

Northrop A-17 attack bombers

Remember When...Globe Swift

     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 was 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 from many other aircraft companies entered the developmental stage at the end of the war (see listing of aircraft). Concurrently, production was resumed on prewar aircraft, including the Erco Ercoupe, Globe Swift, and the Luscombe Silvaire.
     However, the aviation boom was not to be. Many war-weary pilots turned their vision from the sky to earthbound goals, including home, automobile, family and peacetime employment. Also, the exigencies and economic conditions at the time helped to fuel the death knell of the aviation boom.

Globe Swift brochure