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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 51, No. 3 - Fall 2006
Table of Contents 

The Lockheed C-141 #66-0177, the "Hanoi Taxi"

     During the brief history of aviation a large number of aircraft types have been particularly "famous." The B-25, B-29, P-51, X-15, C-47, Mitsubishi Zero, MiG (in several flavors), U-2, the Piper Cub, and many others come readily to mind. 
     However, there have been relatively few specific airframes of any particular type that have been famous. Most of the production run of any aircraft type goes into service in near anonymity. They do what they are built to do, whether that means being used to train new pilots, fly passengers or cargo, or fight wars.
     Even if an aircraft has been part (or the center) of a major event it is highly unlikely you know the tail numbers. Think of the 9-11 crashes. How about TWA Flight 800? The collision of two 747s on Tenerife Island in 1977? Pan Am 103 at Lockerbie? Nixon in China? Do you know the tail numbers? Not likely. Can you remember the tail number of the last airliner you rode on? Even more unlikely. 
     Think of specific aircraft of any type you can remember. The list will likely be fairly short: The Wright Flyer. "The Spirit of St. Louis." "Memphis Belle." "Enola Gay." "Glamorous Glennis." "Friendship 7." The Space Shuttle "Columbia." All of these have two things in common: They were all involved in important "˜firsts,’ and all were referred to by a name, not a tail number. With famous aircraft like these it is the event that you remember more than the specific aircraft, and if you remember anything about the aircraft, it’s more likely you remember the name than the tail number.
     On May 6, 2006, another famous airframe made its last flight. At the same time it was the last flight for the type. The Lockheed C-141, tail number 66-0177. After 38 years, and almost 40,000 flying hours carrying military
. . . . .  

Lockeheed C-141, 66-0177, "Hanoi Taxi" makes final landing

Memoirs of a WWII Fighter Pilot, Part II

Gioia del Colle, Italy

     On December 9 we flew to Gioia del Colle. The field had a very small grass landing area and was almost circular with no runways. To land, we flew very close to a fence line on one side of the field and skimmed over the road on the other side. Buildings and hangars blocked out the possibility of landing and taking off in most directions.Our sleeping quarters regressed from a nice apartment building in Sardinia to a chicken coop - I’m not kidding! We had no shelter; not even tents were available, so we cleaned out a long, narrow, chicken coop located near the base. For ventilation, we raised and propped open shutters on the sides of the structure. This had to be done from the outside because there was chicken wire over the openings.
     Three of us, Jack P. Muffitt, Herschel W. J. Baird, and I, were soon "adopted" by an Italian doctor and his family. They invited us to dinner one night and it was really an education. Actually, I think they were trying to interest us in some of the young women in the family. They served a fantastic meal, the best wine and dessert. This was also my introduction to snails. The snails were cooked (barely), placed on an oyster half-shell, and floated in lemon juice. When I passed my plate to the doctor, he started heaping the snails on it. When I indicated that was enough, he replied, "No buono?" Of course I had to say the snails were "buono." As soon as I said that, he put four or five more on the plate. I don’t recall the main entr’e, but I know it must have been great after several months of "C" rations. In fact, I don’t recall the snails being too bad either. I do know that they served a different wine after each course and there were many courses.
     Following dinner, we rolled back the rug to dance. The doctor’s wife was a talented musician and Muffitt, who had played in Shep Field’s dance band before he went into the service, provided the music. Muffitt could play any instrument you put into his hands. Suddenly, the room was filled with pretty, young girls and their chaperones. We danced and attempted to communicate until the wee hours. The chaperones must have been keeping records, because the next time we visited the house, only the more popular girls and some new ones were there.
     Again, all good things had to come to an end. By the end of the year we moved to a new field. Just before we moved, we had to tell the good doctor and his family the bad news that  . . . . . .

Officers’ Club at Sasola Field, Foggia, Italy, 1944

A Gathering of Mustangs and Legends


     The largest assemblage of the most famous fighter of World War II took place April 7-10, 1999, at "A Gathering of Mustangs and Legends," Kissimmee, Florida, airport. Approximately 65 Mustangs attended this gathering that was a real challenge for the Stallion 51 organization. For the non-flying P-51 fan with a camera, this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to photograph, in one location, Mustangs from all over the United States.
     Joe Handelman, a retired dentist and long-time aviation photographer and member of AAHS, generously loaned AAHS his photos from the Gathering.

A gaggle of Mustangs at 
"The Gathering"

Nuclear Patrol - Attack Seaplane Studies, Martin Model 331

     In its continuing drive to provide aircraft platforms for performance of assigned missions, the Navy expressed a need for a water-based, nuclear-powered weapons system for patrol and intrusion. In light of high political and fiscal costs of bases on foreign soil, the Navy was determined to develop a nuclear-powered patrol attack seaplane to complement the efficient development of the aircraft carrier strike force. The long range of the nuclear seaplane would enable it to operate not only from varied and often isolated water areas, but also under the protection provided by bases located close to the zone of the interior.

The Martin Solution 

     As early as 1953, The Martin Company initiated contract studies that established the feasibility of a nuclear-powered seaplane. These studies were based on a conversion of the Martin P6M SeaMaster. In May 1955, Martin was directed by the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), to study the practicality of designing and building a nuclear-powered weapons system for evaluation in 1961. This study was charged with defining the following parameters for a water-based nuclear-powered, patrol-attack weapons system: 

  • Overall size and weight characteristics
  • Payloads - Power requirements as a function of speed and altitude
  • Details of mandatory or recommended relaxation of requirements, and their effect on performance or payload 
  • Well substantiated estimates of costs and time to design, develop, and produce the seaplane, and
  • Handling characteristics in water and on the land, including standard as well as nuclear considerations. 

This study determined that the advantages of using a converted P6M as the basis for this program are  . . . . .

Artist Concept of Martin 331

Birth of the Douglas A3D

     In 1947 the Navy laid out the specification for a twin-engine, atom-bomb carrying, attack bomber which was to operate from the new Forrestal Class "Super Carrier" for which the contract had already been signed. Ed Heinemann had already begun his plans for an airplane to fit this specification. Initial Navy estimates ranged from 62,000 pounds up to 200,000 pounds. Obviously no one in the Navy had a real idea of just exactly how big, how heavy, or how powerful this new bomber should be and it was left to the experts in the aircraft industry to design a product to fit the specifications.
     Further detail studies by the Navy of mission requirements versus carrier capability trimmed the airplane weight requirements to 130,000 pounds and eventually to 100,000 pounds that was felt by the Navy to be the absolute minimum. This weight obviously limited operations of the proposed airplane to the "Super Carrier" for which funds had been appropriated on July 29, 1948. The Navy felt that the new "Super Carrier" would operate 24 of these 100,000 pound bombers, which were to be powered by four engines, be capable of speeds between 450 and 520 mph and have the capability of delivering an atomic bomb to a target 2,000 miles away and return to land aboard the carrier.
     Ed Heinemann conducted his own investigation and came to the conclusion that, with the political undercurrent in Washington, the "Super Carrier" would be canceled, requiring the present Essex Class carriers to continue as the largest in the Navy. He also concluded that 68,000 pounds was the maximum weight of any airplane that the Essex Class carrier could accept. Even then, certain areas of the decks would have to be strengthened to accept arrested landings by aircraft of this weight. As a result, in March 1948, Heinemann made a trip to Washington where he presented drawings of an 80,000 pound turboprop and a 70,000 pound turbojet to the Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer).
     On August 16, 1948, BuAer sent out an invitation for bids for a 100,000 pound aircraft to 14 aircraft companies. As late as September 13 Heinemann was sent information on BuAer studies 65A and 65B, both of which involved turboprop-powered aircraft, indicating that the Navy did not believe that a turbojet-powered aircraft could perform to the Navy’s requirements. Regardless, Heinemann was still convinced that he could produce a jet-powered attack bomber that would meet the Navy’s requirements and stay within the 68,000 pound weight limitations of current carriers. By November 19, 1948, he had submitted three proposals for a twin-jet attack bomber. These were Douglas Models 593, 593-1 and 593-2, all of which were reviewed and returned for refinement. Designs for Models 593-3, 593-4, 593-5 and 593-6 were developed and, for  . . . . .

Douglas XA3D during an early test flight at Edwards AFB

 GeeBee Super Sportster Racer Design & Development

     The development and construction of the 1932 Gee Bee Super Sportster that Major James H. Doolittle piloted to win the Thompson Trophy Race and establish the present World’s land plane speed record of 294.31 mph at the Cleveland National Air Races was a result of considerable experience, aerodynamic research and wind-tunnel testing. Granville Brothers Aircraft Inc., the builders, have continued their habit of building along new and somewhat radically different lines, incorporating ideas and features that provoked storms of criticism from the flying fraternity. The best combination of features for low parasite drag were determined first from experience and then proven by comparative drag tests in the wind tunnel. The popular conception of an ideal racing craft has always been the long slender fuselage with as little frontal area as possible, but contrary to the generally accepted idea on this subject, we firmly believe that a radial engine can be made to go as fast as any in-line engine of equivalent horsepower, provided the cowling and fuselage were properly built.
     Working on this idea, we conducted a few experiments and the 1931 Gee Bee Super Sportster was a step in the direction of building a bulky fuselage behind an engine of this type. This job brought a hail of criticism and many authorities on the subject predicted that the ship would never fly, or if it did fly, would have neither speed nor controllability sufficient to win any races.
     The 1932 Gee Bee Super Sportster was designed principally for racing purposes and to establish a new land-plane speed record for America, but much information has been gained from its construction and general lines, useful to the designers for future aircraft development. The appearance of the airplane when first exhibited evoked much criticism from the aeronautical fraternity in spite of the fact that we had proven our point the year before on the 1931 ship.
     The new job has considerable more frontal area due to the use of the larger engine. The huge fuselage 61 inches in diameter at its thickest point and with only a 25-foot wingspan, presents an appearance that is absolutely ridiculous to the eyes of. . . . .

rtist rendering of 
Gee Bee Super Sportster

Beyond Sonic Wind: The Story of the Daisy Track, Eli Beeding Jr. and 83Gs!

     In December 1954, while conducting tests intended to provide data for the design of aircraft restraint, egress and survivability systems, Lt. Col. John Paul Stapp achieved a speed of 632 mph on the rocket sled Sonic Wind at Holloman AFB, N.M.. In the process he set a new land speed record. At the end of the run the sled was rapidly decelerated and Stapp achieved an even more astonishing first - surviving 46.2Gs of force (see Fall 2003 issue of AAHS Journal). Undaunted despite some injuries affiliated with this feat, Stapp hoped to undertake a supersonic sled ride in 1955. He never got his chance. During an unmanned, subsonic test undertaken in the weeks after the record-setting test, the Sonic Wind departed its track and was severely damaged. Shortly thereafter human tests on the Sonic Wind were put on indefinite hold.
     Stapp and his team of aero-medical researchers were "grounded," but not for long. In the summer of 1955, a new decelerator was unveiled at Holloman. Compared to the Sonic Wind, which was powered by up to twelve large rocket bottles and ran on a 3,550 ft track, the so-called "Daisy Track" didn’t look like much. The entire run was only 120 feet long, and the sled mounted on it was supposed to be accelerated by compressed air - like a BB out of a Daisy air rifle.
     The Daisy Track was the brainchild of Stapp, who even before the Sonic Wind accident foresaw the need for a highly predictable, less complex deceleration test bed - one that didn’t cost thousands of dollars or take weeks of careful planning to operate. The Daisy Track fit that bill. A typical test cost less than $200 and several could be run in a single day. And although it could not simulate wind blast or produce long deceleration durations, it could match the G-forces created by the mightiest rocket sleds. 
     To produce Gs, the Daisy Track relied on an ingenious brake. This consisted of a water-filled reservoir outfitted with a series of removable plugs and sealed with a frangible disc. During a run, the disc would be penetrated by a tight fitting, 4 ft. long, 6 in. wide probe. In the process a rapid deceleration
. . . .

Eli Beeding experiencing 83G deceleration on the Daisy Track

Boardman & Polando’s Great Adventure
"Cape Cods" 1931 Record Breaking Flight

     It was in the early twenties that Russell Boardman and John Polando met on a warm summer night at the amusement park at Revere Beach, Massachusetts. One of the most exciting concessions was the motorcycle act where Russell thundered around the silodrome to the roar of the many delighted, excited spectators who witnessed the daredevil climb up the vertical walls with speeds that made it possible to rise to the uppermost edge of the trembling wall then maneuver the descent to the dirt track below. 
     The night before, Russell had overshot his mark and, with a girl on the handlebars, had gone over the wall and dropped to the dirt in the parking area. Fortunately, neither one was seriously injured but Russell hoped and prayed that it not occur again. He was just lucky. 
     On the night John Polando was there to witness the act, he waited until the crowd had disbursed and then introduced himself to this remarkable man. They took an instant liking to each other and quickly discovered that they both were automobile mechanics and that they both had been bitten by the flying bug although neither one of them was a pilot. John’s first love affair with aviation had begun in 1920 when he met an aviator by the name of Lt. Havey on a day when John was supposed to be testing the brakes on a doctor’s car. John was working for a local dealership; that is until he returned the doctor’s car many hours late and was handed his pink slip. Now he had no job but plenty of time to get acquainted with his new-found friend, Lt. Havey. John, being an accommodating young man, volunteered to get a bottle of milk and a sandwich for his new friend. His reward was permission to caress this beautiful bird, to sit in the pilot’s seat, touch the joy stick and actually learn the process of attaching a parachute to the underbelly of the Jenny. Lt. Havey was using a grass strip on the Lynnway in the city of Lynn as his base of operation. That this would eventually turn out to be a disaster did not lessen John’s determination to pursue and conquer the art of flying. 
     Russell was the first to learn to fly and became the pilot of the of an aircraft named the "Arrabella." He rigged it so that he could broadcast advertising for some of the merchants in and around the Boston area. He was based . . . . .

John Polando and Russel Boardman with "Cape Cod"

 Eisenhower’s B-25J Postscript

     This story started when I read an article in the Spring 2004 issue of the American Aviation Historical Society Journal, The story was entitled "General Eisenhower’s Modified B 25J used during World War II." I finished reading it when suddenly I realized that 55 years ago I was closely involved with that aircraft and that I actually flew it. The article indicated that only this one aircraft had been modified. Here is the story of that long ago incident. 
     During February 1949, I was assigned to Greenville Air Force Base, South Carolina. Greenville was a Troop Carrier Command base equipped with the Fairchild C-82 Packet and I was in the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. My job was Reclamation Officer and we were charged with removing and recovering wrecked Air Force aircraft in the surrounding area. We were not too busy in that activity until we received a phone call late on a Friday afternoon. 
     The manager of the Knoxville, Tennessee, airport informed us that an Air Force B-25 was at the intersection of his two runways with a collapsed nose gear, and wanted it moved so that he could re-open his airport.
     We immediately began to gather up the necessary equipment and personnel that would be required. In short order we were on the road up through the Great Smoky National Park to Knoxville. When we arrived we were surprised to learn that this was no ordinary B-25, but one that had been modified for VIP use and belonged to the Special Air Mission Squadron at Andrews AFB, Washington D.C. The aircrew was not available, so we were not able to learn the cause of . . . .

    The Douglas A-20B: an Anomalous Havoc
Nose Section Addendum 

     In my article The Douglas A-20B: An Anomalous Havoc that appeared in the Summer 2006 AAHS Journal, I hoped to finally clarify the unique configuration of that model’s nose section. This aspect appears to have confused many enthusiasts/modelers ever since its wartime service. Part of the problem has always been that, due to its stepped glazing, it has often been compared and confused with the nose section of the earlier DB-7 and -7A export models. In fact, the two are totally different, except for this superficial resemblance. . . .

Nose section of Douglas A-20B