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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 52, No. 3 - Fall 2007
Table of Contents 

Douglas DC-5, the Unknown Douglas Commercial 

     For several decades Douglas Commercial Aircraft and the letters DC stood for successful commercial aircraft, which served all over the world to the general satisfaction of companies, pilots and passengers. There was one exception, however – the Douglas DC-5, of which only 12 were built and only four were used for commercial service. This sometimes led to the assumption or even verdict that the DC-5 was not a good aircraft. This assertion is contradicted, however, by those who flew it, and generally liked it. If the war had not intervened, the DC-5 might have been as successful as the other DC aircraft.
     The DC-5 was conceived in the summer of 1938 on the underlying idea of providing airlines with a "feeder-liner" to bring passengers from secondary airports to a place where they could change to the DC-3s that were by then providing most of the transcontinental air transport in the United States. The DC-5 was consequently to have a shorter range than the DC-3.
      The design was entrusted to the Douglas design bureau at El Segundo, Calif., as the main office at Santa Monica was too much engaged in the DC-3 and DC-4E programs. The main responsibility lay with Ed Heinemann, who was also responsible for the Douglas 7B, a twin-engine bomber developed from the Northrop 7A, that would become famous as the DB-7/A-20 Havoc or Boston. This relationship is clearly visible, in that the DC-5 was also a high-wing monoplane with a tricycle gear, departing from the low-wing configuration of earlier Douglas designs, though introduced already on the DC-4E of 1936. It is interesting to note that in the case of the DC-5, the military aircraft was more successful than its civilian counterpart, whereas the bombers developed from the DC-2 and DC-3 – the B-18 Bolo and B-23 Dragon - never achieved wide acceptance.
     The DC-5 made its first flight on February 20, 1939, at El Segundo, with Carl Clover at the controls. The prototype (c/n 411) was registered NX21701 and flew originally with two Wright GR-1820-F62 engines of 90  . . . . 

Douglas DC-5, PH-AXB

Elephantine but Silent: U.S. Army Cargo Glider Development, Part II 

     With the development of the 8- and 15-place cargo transport gliders well in hand, the Army turned its attention to larger aircraft with twice or more the payload capacity of the Waco CG-4A. The first officially enunciated desire for a 30-place machine was communicated in July 1942. The larger gliders were to be configured for unloading within 15 seconds of landing. Despite their size, the aircraft still had to be capable of being disassembled and crated for shipment overseas. Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-54 Skymaster aircraft were soon to become available for tow, making such large gliders practical, provided they had a tow speed to match.

     Air Materiel Command’s Colonel Fred Dent had seen the Horsas and Hamilcars the British were building and, given the rapid growth of the U.S. Army airborne forces, expressed the conviction in late 1941 that gliders had to be acquired capable of transporting such cargo as 30 troops, two jeeps, a jeep towing a 75-mm gun, or other bulky cargo. The Army’s 105-mm howitzer had been redesigned to fit inside the CG-4 and C-47, reducing its dimensions and cutting weight to 2,500 lbs (1,134 kg).
     Tests in August 1943 demonstrated that a C-47 could tow a normally loaded Horsa "¦ just barely. The British used second-echelon bombers. These results encouraged use of the glider by the U.S. Army for lifting large-caliber weapons needed in invasion beachheads to deter an initial German counterattack. Consequently, more than 300 Airspeed AS.51 Horsas were acquired and the pilots initially trained in March 1944. As a measure of comparison against American counterparts, the Horsa seated 25 troops and two pilots, and was towed at up to 160 mph (139 kts). Maximum loading for  . . . . . .

Chase XCG-14 Cargo Glider

T-28 Trojan Hidden Desert Bone Yard

     All aviation enthusiasts have heard stories of hidden bone yards of vintage aircraft. Some of us have spent days and sometimes weeks chasing these elusive stories in hopes of being the first to find a moment of history. On occasion, when talking with groups of enthusiasts, I have heard stories of a field of WWII aircraft secretly stored somewhere in the desert near Las Vegas, Nevada. Since my interest has always been in heavy-lift aircraft, my imagination often ran away to an assortment of B-17, B-24, or B-29s that somehow escaped the scrap man’s smelter. After all, a B-29 was recently found at the bottom of Lake Meade which is only 35 miles from Las Vegas.
     After some research and vague third party directions, I decided to take the challenge. After interviewing several individuals claiming to have seen these elusive aircraft I enlisted two friends as driver and navigator. Equipped with our cameras and GPS we drove southeast out of Las Vegas. After about 50 miles of following vague directions we ended up on a meandering dead-end road. We passed a group of small houses in the high desert as we drove into Eldorado Canyon. This is an area that time forgot, a throwback to the 1800s. Believing that we were on the wrong trail our driver began looking for a place to turn around. I was thinking this is another one of those stories created from a wishful imagination.
     As we passed the old gold mine and ghost town of Techatticup I spotted the remains of a Grumman OV-1 Mohawk standing on its nose in a dirt mound. This definitely was not WWII but since there is no airfield for miles and no reason for an aircraft to be in a canyon this was a good sign. We had to be on the trail of the obscure bone yard. As the road curved and we passed the dirt mound, to our surprise, there was a field of aircraft. They were not WWII vintage as we had been told and not even heavy lift but North American T-28 Trojans from the 1950s. We counted over 50 mostly in U.S. Navy colors with a few in . . . . .

North American T-28 Bone Yard

Charlie Forty Six, Some Exploits Told, Part 1

     The least glamorous events of aviation history involving man-machine relationships, concern the stodgy lumbering transport airplane. In WWII, transport aircraft hauled cargo, priority freight, mail, soldiers and performed medical evacuations, all necessary to sustain and win battles.
     Since WWII, reluctant participants in disasters, despotic regime changes, resistance fighters, and military troops surrounded and assaulted by enemy forces, greatly appreciated the transport aircraft, knowing that rescue or extraction plus supplies were being delivered.
     In WWII Europe, C-47, LB-30, Lysander and other aircraft dropped commandos, delivered and extracted agents, retrieved German V-2 rocket components and air-dropped vital supplies to the French Maquis, Norwegian Milorg, the Dutch Onderduikers, and Belgium’s well-organized Group G and Armee Secrete resistance forces. To resistance groups, transports were greatly appreciated since they were often their only means of support.
     In the China Burma India (CBI) Theater, General Claire Chennault’s American Volunteer Group (AVG), popularly known as the "Flying Tigers," later part of the 14th AF and other in-theater operations were supplied by cargo transports. The effort following the Japanese seizure of the Burma Road, left a trail of wreckage and dead airmen lost to the treacherous turbulence and cloud-hidden peaks of the Himalayan Mountains. (Himalaya is Sanskrit for "abode of snow").
     Pacific-based USAAF and Marine Commandos delivered essential personnel, provisions and equipment to soldiers engaging the enemy in the hard-fought ground war. They also flew seriously wounded combatants to major medical care facilities far from the front line.
     Throughout its service in World War II and the early post-war years, "Charlie Forty-Six" earned . . . .

Curtiss CW-20, C-46 prototype

Aircraft Photos from the Sid Bradd Collection

     Sid Bradd has been an AAHS member for many years. He is an accomplished artist that has contributed his work to the AAHS Journal. His racing aircraft paintings add interest and a professional touch to the Journal. 
     Sid’s photos are from the 1920s and 1930s and show the progress in aircraft design during that period. We thank Sid Bradd for sharing his collection with the AAHS.

Boeing XB-15

 Gull One Down

     At 0746 Zulu (Z) (14:46 p.m.) on 25 February 1966, a surface-to-air missile (SAM) struck and crippled RB-66C serial 54-0457 "˜Gull One’. The engagement occurred 10 miles northwest of Vinh, 
North Vietnam, while heading 270 degrees at 28,000 feet. The following best-case scenario details 
the mission and "accidental" rescue of its crew

     In 1965, continued communist attacks against U.S. troops and facilities in the Republic of South Vietnam forced president Lyndon Johnson to order a retaliatory bombing offensive against enemy targets in the southern panhandle of North Vietnam. The air strikes were directed at fuel depots, ammunition dumps, railroads, and highway supply routes within a narrow corridor between the Demilitarized Zone to a demarcation line below Vinh. Johnson refused unrestricted bombing and imposed constraints on targets attacked. On February 25, he authorized Operation ROLLING THUNDER to forcefully persuade Hanoi to halt its insurgency.
     The air strikes began March 2 and continued until May 8, when the president ordered a bombing halt to offer Hanoi truce terms. However, communist attacks killing U.S. troops continued unabated. On May 13, 1965, he resumed the bombing attacks.
     President Johnson opposed halting further air strikes without a reciprocal move by the communists to decrease attacks. He therefore pledged to withdraw U.S. troops within six months if North Vietnam withdrew its troops and ceased infiltration of South Vietnam.
     Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, believed, "...the previous bombing pause too short and too hastily arranged to be effective. The conditions t . . . .

Douglas RB-66C, 54-0457,
"Gull One"

The American Gyro AG-4 Crusader

     America’s great economic depression was at its lowest ebb in 1933. It was hardly a time to design and build a revolutionary new airplane. An abandoned garage located on Arapahoe Street in downtown Denver, Colorado, was hardly a place to build the revolutionary new aircraft. Notwithstanding these debilitating factors, Thomas Miles Shelton designed and built the new Gyro Crusader. This 1934-"˜35 "one off" was an unusual ship in many ways with twin tail booms, twin vertical fins and rudders and a tear-drop fuselage. Power was provided by two Menasco C-4 engines, each rated at 125 hp.
     Early publicity indicated the ship would reach a top speed of 233 mph and a cruising speed of 210 mph while landing at 55 mph. Flight testing in early 1935 showed an indicated top speed of 180 mph at 8,000 feet, roughly equivalent to 209 mph at sea level. Landing speed was 60 mph with flaps extended. If these numbers were factual, Crusader was a great performer for its time.
     Shelton was a self-educated aeronautical engineer. In 1933, he was 32 years of age. He has been described as "trusting, affable and mild mannered." Shelton never married so far as is known to the author. His mother exerted a great influence on him throughout his life.
     For many years, he had planned a truly tail-less airplane with rudders and vertical fins at the wing tips. In finalizing the design for his Crusader, he bowed to conventional wisdom and placed a trailing tail section on two tail booms. The ship would resemble the designs built for Jack Northrop by Avion in the late 1920s and early "˜30s.
     Because of its unique shape, the Crusader was often called the "Shelton Flying Wing" but its resemblance to a flying wing, as generally perceived, was slight. Another term for the plane was "Gyroplane" and this reference probably referred to the company that built it rather than the configuration of the machine. Some considered the design to be a precursor to the Lockheed P-38 fighter of WWII. However, it was  . . .

American Gyro AG-4 Crusader

The Gardner Trophy Air Races, May 1929, Part 1

     First conceived as a promotional event to bolster the enterprises of Parks Air Lines, Inc., the Gardner Trophy Race became one of the major aerial events of 1929. Sanctioned by the National Aeronautic Association, the race had just one restriction; engine sizes were to be held under 800 cubic inches displacement. It was an "all-out" speed dash, with no handicaps. Prize offerings of over $10,000 attracted pilots from across the United States. What resulted was a most unique air race featuring some of the biggest names in the business and a wide variety of airplanes. 
     The Gardner Trophy Air Race consisted of two phases. The first phase was a preliminary qualifying event consisting of five races of approximately 700 miles. The first and second placers in each of these five heats would qualify to compete in the second phase, a final event of 468 miles. The winner of this final was to receive the Gardner Trophy Cup and $5,500 in prize money.


     The Gardner Races were created to promote Parks Air College, dubbed the "World’s Largest Flying School," and Parks Aircraft Company, a newly formed aircraft manufacturer in East St. Louis, Ill. With the introduction of a line of four new airplanes for the spring of 1929, Parks Aircraft was looking to stir the interest of the flying public. The Parks people, masters at the game of publicity, felt they could showcase their school and airplane factory by inviting the public to Parks Airfield to see and participate in aviation for themselves!
     It was decided to hold an air race on a date which coincided with the Memorial Day holiday and with two major aviation events already scheduled for the host city of St. Louis. Memorial Day was to fall on May 30, a Thursday. Many aviation notables would be in town that week for the Annual St. Louis Aviation Exhibition and for the third National Meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. It would be a great opportunity to associate some of the biggest names in aviation with the Parks event.
     The event was inspired by Oliver L. Parks and by Russell and Fred Gardner. Parks had become well known for creating the college, the airfield, and the aircraft manufacturing plant, all of which were under Parks Air Lines, Inc. The "Gardner Bros.," as they were known, were owners of the . . . . .

Waco ATO, NC8584, "Waxbird"

 Remember When - Taylorcraft BC 12 D

     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.

Taylorcraft BC 12 D  brochure