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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 55, No. 1 - Spring 2010
Table of Contents 

Remembering the Lockheed YF-12A

     The fastest, highest-flying reconnaissance aircraft in the world, designed in the late 1950s by the Lockheed Corporation, also became the highest, fastest, air-to-air interceptor in the world, then and now. The A-12 program proved concepts of Mach 3-plus flight at operating levels exceeding 80,000 feet, while its variant, the YF-12A program successfully proved the design and also provided the supreme "look-down-shoot-down" capability unmatched then or today. Torrey Larsen, senior flight test engineer for the YF-12A, and others remember the many obstacles overcome and the validation of its hard-earned technical success. 

YF-12A Beginnings
     The YF-12A was a progression of the A-12 program, created by legendary Lockheed Corporation design leader Kelly Johnson, Vice President and first Director of the Lockheed Advanced Development Company in Burbank, California. In 1955, Lockheed had provided the U.S. government with a high-flying spy plane, the U-2 "Dragon Lady" that collected detailed fly-over military data over the Soviet Union until May 1, 1960, when Major Francis Gary Powers was shot down near Sverdlovsk, Russia. Overflights of the Soviet Union ceased, but other world conflicts continued to raise the need for valid, accurate reconnaissance information.
     A higher and faster flying aircraft was needed to outrun the increasingly powerful surface-to-air missile threat (Jenkins, p.6). Efforts were initiated to design aircraft with much lower radar signatures, thus lowering targetability (Pace, p.154). Lockheed’s A-12 design was selected over a Convair design called KINGFISH, and in August 1959 Project OXCART began. By the end of January 1960, Lockheed had proven the reduced radar signature of the A-12, and they were authorized to begin production (Suhler, p.182).
     The Air Force contracted with Lockheed to develop three interceptor versions of A-12 on October 31, 1960 (ibid, p.168). Kelly Johnson realized the A-12 airframe, powerplant and flight characteristics had the potential to outperform the Air Force’s existing and proposed air-defense
. . .

Lockheed YF-12A

Douglas DC-8 Enters Service 

This article is second of a series being prepared to record the history of this durable jet transport. The first appeared in AAHS Journal Vol. 54, No. 1, Spring 2009.

     The fiftieth anniversary of the entry of the Douglas DC-8 into regular passenger service occurred recently. The DC-8 entered service with both Delta Air Lines and United Air Lines on September 18, 1959, the first day the FAA permitted the DC-8-11 to be operated in passenger service. By this date only eight DC-8s had been delivered. United had six DC-8s on hand. Delta had only two, the second being delivered four days before. Delta’s first DC-8 service was from New York’s Idlewild Airport to Atlanta. United’s first service was from San Francisco to New York (IDL). Unlikely though it was, the "little-guy," Delta was first to operate a DC-8 revenue passenger flight. Through a series of happenstances, United Air Lines, who led the list of DC-8 customers, was the second to operate a revenue passenger flight. In this article we will take a look at the DC-8s involved in the first day of service for the type, with particular emphasis on Delta N801E, Ship 14.

Delta DC-8-11 N801E becomes the first to enter service
     Although few in the industry would have predicted it, Delta Air Lines was the first to put the new DC-8 jet transport into passenger service. In 1959 Delta was not the giant it is today. It was essentially a regional carrier, operating in the southeast. Delta had started as a crop dusting operation, Huff Daland Dusters, in 1924. This led to the formation of Delta Air Service in 1928, Delta Air Corporation in 1930 and Delta Air Lines in 1945. On May 1, 1953, Chicago & Southern Air Lines merged with the growing carrier. Delta was not among the early customers for the DC-8. It was only because another customer had changed its mind about the domestic version of the DC-8 that Delta acquired the relatively early delivery positions. The DC-8 that operated the very first revenue passenger flight was N801E (Ship 14, msn 45408), a DC-8-11, equipped with Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6 engines and was  . . .

Delta DC-8-11, N801E

Airborne Photography of the Solar Eclipes of the Quiet Sun; 
Project APEQS

     Project APEQS (Airborne Photography of the Solar Eclipse of the Quiet Sun) was an expedition that gave a large group of astronomers an opportunity to observe and record various phenomena during the total eclipse of the sun on July 20, 1963, from a stratosphere vantage point over the Northwest Territories of Canada. The expedition was undertaken jointly by the National Geographic Society and the Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc.
     1964 was designated the Year of the Quiet Sun. It was one of the mid-century efforts at international scientific cooperation. The quiet sun meant a period of minimum sunspot activity. And, while the Year of the Quiet Sun officially began on January 1, 1964, there were no total solar eclipses in 1964. As it happened there was to be a total solar eclipse in western Canada on July 20, 1963, and this was within the quiet sun period. The opportunity to study the July 20, 1963 solar eclipse was not to be missed. The Douglas Aircraft Company’s Advanced Research Program proposed and developed an airborne solar eclipse observation project. 
     One of the major hurdles in the realization of the project was engaging an aircraft to serve as a platform for the instruments and scientists. Aircraft were not available because airlines were building their jet fleets as rapidly as they could. Delta had scheduled the return of Ship 14 to Douglas, in Long Beach, for conversion to DC-8-51 standard in July 1963. Douglas and National Geographic were able to negotiate a lease of the aircraft within the month of July. The lease covered a period of days. Indeed, N801E was redelivered to Delta, as a DC-8-51, on July 25, 1963, five days after the eclipse flight.

Modifications Required to Accomplish the APEQS Mission

In commercial operation stratospheric flight, first generation airliners experienced oscillation amplitudes of plus or minus 2 degrees on all three axes with periods . . . . 

Delta DC-8-51 has been temporarily converted as a flying laboratory

Naval Aeronautics in the Civil War: 
Naval-Associated Operations of Observation Balloons, Part II

      As noted in Part I (AAHS Journal Winter 2009, Vol. 54 No. 2), at the start of the Civil War a number of civilian balloonists volunteered their service as aeronauts to the Union and Confederate armies. On the Union side, this included John La Mountain, who in August 1861 became the first person to ascend in an observation balloon from a ship, and Thaddeus Lowe, appointed as Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army. The latter had the support of Major General George B. McClellan, Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac, who obtained resources from the Army for Lowe to build a number of balloons for the Aeronautic Corps. Included in the funding was the construction of mobile hydrogen-gas generators, which Lowe had built at the Washington Navy Yard. The aeronaut also acquired from the Navy the services of a coal barge, the George Washington Parke Custis, which the Navy Yard converted into a balloon barge, the world’s first vessel specifically constructed for aeronautical purposes. 
     Lowe operated the first of his new balloons off the G.W.P. Custis on the Potomac River near Budd’s Ferry, Maryland, in November 1861. As additional balloons became available, and at the request of General McClellan, several were deployed to other theaters of operations, manned by assistant aeronauts hired by the Aeronautic Corps. Balloons ultimately went to South Carolina and Illinois, where the latter would operate with naval forces on the Mississippi River.

Balloon Operations in Georgia and South Carolina
     The first of the Aeronautic Corps’ balloons to be deployed outside of Washington, D.C., went to Hilton Head, S.C., to support Union troops intent on blockading the Confederate port of Savannah, Georgia. Union forces seized Hilton Head and Beaufort, S.C., in mid-November 1861, and on November 24, assistant aeronaut John Starkweather and the balloon Washington were loaded onto the G.W.P. Custis, bound for Fortress Monroe. From there they eventually moved onward to Hilton Head, arriving on January 3, 1862. Unfortunately, Starkweather then cooled his heels for four months, ignored by the Union commander, who had not requested his services.(1)
     A change in commanding generals in April quickly resulted in the Union seizure of Fort Pulaski, which dominated the mouth of the Savannah River and effectively shut down the port of Savannah, 10 miles up river. Shortly thereafter the new commander, Brig. Gen. Henry W. Benham, called for Starkweather’s services and in early May the aeronaut moved his balloon to Fort Pulaski, tasked to observe Confederate activity in and around the city. 
     According to a New York Times reporter on scene, the most effective means of doing this was by placing the balloon on a ship and running it up the river. According to Starkweather, throughout the month of May he actively engaged in ascensions from either the deck of the steamer May Flower or . . . 

Configuration of the G.W.P. Custis

A Lost Squadroon, VMF-422’s WWII Misadventure

     VMF-422, the "Leatherneck Buccaneers," took off from Hawkins Field at Tarawa at 0930 on the morning of January 25, 1944. It was to be a simple 463-mile flight heading southeast along the Gilbert Islands and then they would turn almost directly south for Nanumea (frequently referred to during WWII as Nanomea), which was the northernmost of the Ellice Islands. This entailed an overwater flight of about a 190 miles. After a lunch on Nanumea the flight would continue south to Funafuti, which was to be the Squadron’s base for the next few weeks. In aviator parlance it would be a piece of cake. 
     Nanumea was a small arrow head shaped island with one long runway, which was being used by B-24s and a couple of fighter squadrons. The island had been bombed by the Japanese a couple of times in the past and, as a result, they were a bit wary of large flights of aircraft. The Navy had a radar defense unit on the island that served as an early warning site.
     There were 24 Corsairs in the VMF-422 squadron, but only 23 managed to get into the air. One aircraft went down in the chocks for a broken starter shaft. This was in the days when they used shot gun starters.
     Despite the incredible loss of life expended in the taking of Tarawa, it was but a stepping stone to the main Marshall Islands Campaign (Operation FLINTLOCK). Saipan and Tinian would be the next of the so-called unsinkable Japanese aircraft carriers to be taken on the march toward Japan. Both of those islands would provide bases from which the Army Air Corps B-29s could bomb Japan.
     Rear Admiral J.H. Hoover, who commanded that area, did not have actual operational control over the disposition of VMF-422, but requested that they fly south to the Island of Funafuti. This was because he was running out of room at Hawkins Field. Hawkins Field was not yet completed and he needed space for the Army Air Corps B-24s that were coming in to fly some of the pre-invasion bombing missions on Japanese airfields in the Marshall Islands.
     Major John S. MacLaughlin, a Naval Academy graduate, had commanded the squadron since July 1943 as they conducted fighter defense missions off of a strip on Midway. In January the Squadron sent 25 aviators back to Hawaii and acquired 24 brand new F4U Corsairs at Pearl Harbor. After a short period of indoctrination they embarked upon the escort carrier USS Kalinin Bay (CVE-68) on January 17, 1944, bound for Tarawa. They were catapulted off of the Kalinin Bay on January 24 and landed at Hawkins Field. It was an exciting morning for the pilots in that the Navy catapult officer was inexperienced. He had once shot two . . . 

Vought F4U-1 Corsairs

U.S. Naval Aircraft of the Golden Age, 1919-1941

     The years between World War I and World War II were an exciting and colorful period of rapid development for Naval Aviation. Airshows and air races, record flights, daredevil pilots and technological advancement captured the imagination of the American public.
     In July 1921, the capabilities of airpower against capital ships were demonstrated through a series of operations conducted by both the Army and Navy. These operations included the attack on and sinking of several WWI German ships including the battleship Ostfriesland, the light cruiser Frankfurt, the submarine U-117 and the destroyer G-102. In a separate test, Navy aircraft were able to locate and attack the radio-controlled battleship USS Iowa in less than two hours. The Navy originally proposed the tests to help validate design concepts that would enable ships to survive bomb damage. The Army’s objective was to demonstrate the superiority of airpower over sea power. With the divergent purposes, the results were hotly debated and became a bone of contention between the services. The only firm conclusion that could be drawn was that unopposed aircraft could sink capital ships. This conclusion would have a profound effect on the Navy’s decision-making process on aircraft and aircraft carriers in the years to come.
     The U.S. Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley, CV-1 was commissioned on March 30, 1922. In 1925 the Bureau of Aeronautics invited manufacturers to submit proposals for ship-based aircraft. Martin, Curtiss, Douglas and Vought responded with aircraft which were the ancestors of prominent WWII aircraft.
     A general disarmament conference was held in Washington, D.C., on November 12, 1921, to set limits on warships of the U.S., Japan, Great Britain, France and Italy. The U.S. Navy was building six very large battle cruisers. According to the terms of the conference, four would be scrapped. Their construction was halted on February 8, 1922.The Washington Treaty allowed two ships to be converted to aircraft carriers of up to 33,000 tons each. On July 1, 1922, authorization was given to complete the battle cruisers Lexington (33.8 percent complete) and Saratoga (35.4 percent along) as aircraft carriers. As the "Lex" and "Sara" took shape it became evident that they would be the largest and most powerful warships afloat. Each ship measured . .

A Berliner Joyce XFJ-2

From Air Taxi to Airline: The Embry-Riddle Company of Cincinnati  

      In the 1920s, a number of small airlines appeared throughout the United States trying to capitalize on the technological aeronautical advances, the general excitement over aviation and passage of government laws designed to benefit aviation. One such entity was The Embry-Riddle Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, which formed Embry-Riddle Airline in 1927. Talton Higbee Embry and John Paul Riddle were brought together by a mutual interest in aviation. Born in 1901 in Pikeville, Ky., Riddle earned his wings as a United States Army Air Service cadet in 1922 before becoming a barnstormer in Kentucky and Ohio. His path crossed with that of Embry in 1923 when the latter paid Riddle $20 for an airplane ride. Born in Cincinnati on May 17, 1897, and educated in Cincinnati and Asheville, N.C., Embry was interested in automobiles from an early age, but at some point in his youth, set his eyes on the sky.[1] He had already spent $10 for a five minute ride in a Curtiss Jenny which left Embry, in his words, "perfectly satisfied."[2] After receiving seven days of instruction under Riddle, Embry soloed in the Waco (Weaver Aircraft Company) No. 9 that he had purchased.[3] 
     Riddle and Embry became fast friends. On December 17, 1925, they formed a company in their names with Embry as the president, and his mother, Susan Embry, as vice president. Riddle was listed as secretary, treasurer and general manager of the company. Although Riddle should have been vice president, this arrangement reflected the reality that Embry and his mother had the money, and Riddle was the man with the aviation expertise. The Embry-Riddle Company opened with a total capitalization of $15,000, much of it Embry’s money. As Riddle admitted years later, "there wouldn’t have been an Embry-Riddle without Higbee."[4] The company also secured investments from such people as John W. Pattison, vice president of the Union Central Life Insurance Co., who purchased a Waco aircraft and learned to fly with Embry-Riddle. Embry preferred to acquire money locally in order to make the company more of a community enterprise. With the help of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, the company borrowed money from the Fifth-Third Union Trust Company. Another major investor and aviation enthusiast was Col. William Cooper Proctor.[5] 
     Initially, Embry-Riddle’s business activities were quite limited. Besides taking people on short rides or cross-country trips, the company had to resort to aerial advertising including  . . . .

Embry-Riddle Flamingo G-2

Golden Age Remembrances

     There was a young boy who came upon the term: The Golden Age of Aviation. He asked his father for the meaning of this statement and, without hesitation, his dad took the obvious 21st century action – he "Googled" the term.
     To his son’s delight, they found a chronology of aviation events defined as the Golden Age of Aviation. Now the young boy found everything he wanted to know regarding the meaning of aviation’s golden age. Or did he? What made that period of time a "Golden Age"? Certainly there were many aeronautical achievements during that period, but does that qualify it as a golden age?
     His curiosity regarding the Golden Age of Aviation remained with him. Then, weeks later, while visiting his grandfather, the curious boy asked his grandfather the same question. Surprisingly, the response he got was totally unexpected.
     The elderly grandfather looked fondly at his grandson and a smile came upon his aging and time-worn face. The grandfather gently held his grandson’s hand and said: The true meaning of the Golden Age of Aviation cannot be adequately described in a history book or found on a Web site. He stated that Aviation’s Golden Age is more than a technological or historical event. He explained that it was a time when the spirit, the imagination, and fascination became one. In fact, it included all of the senses nature gave us.This metaphor confused his grandson. Observing this reaction, the grandfather simply said: "Let me explain." 
. . . .

Lockheed Constellation and Constellation Survivors  

     The Lockheed Constellation represented the ultimate refinement of piston-engine airliner design when the final aircraft rolled off the Lockheed assembly line in 1958. Fifty-two years later at least 50 of the 856 aircraft produced survive, with a handful still airworthy and many examples preserved in museums. This article provides an overview of surviving aircraft with a brief description of each aircraft’s current status. 
     By the mid-1960’s jet airliners had replaced most piston engine airliners on long-haul routes, including not only Constellations but also sizeable fleets of DC-6s and DC-7s. These redundant airliners flooded the used aircraft market and mass scrappings resulted during the 1960s and 1970s in places like Kansas City, Mo., Lancaster, Calif., Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Much like the warbird movement, the historical value of these aircraft was eventually realized resulting in many being saved from extinction. 
     I’ve been interested in all propliners since working for Saturn Airways at John F Kennedy Airport (JFK) during the summer of 1967 as an apprentice mechanic. While Saturn flew DC-7C’s across the Atlantic from its JFK base, it was the Lockheed Constellation that caught my eye that summer. Along with the military EC-121s being serviced at Lockheed Air Service’s Hangar 7, there was still a fair number of Constellations operated in and out of JFK that summer by American Flyers, Capitol, Eastern, and even Flying Tiger. By the next summer, propliners had pretty much disappeared from New York City airports marking the end of an era. 
     The Constellation Survivors Website, www.conniesurvivors.com was established in February 2004 and has been actively tracking "survivors" ever since.. The information included in this article comes from a number of sources including Peter J. Marson’s 2007 book The Lockheed Constellation, my own observations over the past 10 years and from the many reports received from visitors to the website. The article is organized starting with those aircraft that are airworthy, ranging to those that only exist in pieces and parts. Additional information or corrections you might have regarding the survivors is very much welcomed. Please forward this information to me via email at connieman@comcast.net 

Airworthy and Regularly Flown 
     Of 856 Constellations and Super Constellations produced from 1942 to 1958, there are only two airworthy examples that are flown regularly. Both are former USAF military C-121C transports. Even more amazing is that they are one serial number apart with both coming very close to being scrapped before being "rescued" and restored by their respective organizations. C-121C – c/n 4175, HB-RSC - The Super Constellation Flyers Association’s (SCFA) Super Constellation HB-RSC is an active participant in the European airshow circuit and avid European enthusiasts ensure that it is most photographed . . . .

The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society’s (HARS) Super Constellation C-121C

Remember When - Sky Gem

      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. 

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