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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 56, No. 1 - Spring 2011
Table of Contents 

Homage to the Hustler: 
Reflections on Flying the Convair B-58

      Lt. Col.s "˜BJ’ Brown, Darrell Schmidt and Ray Wagener, USAF (Ret.), tell Tony Fairbairn what it was like to fly the Convair B-58 Hustler.


     There is still a mystique about the Hustler that astounds me. Back when we were flying it, if we landed at another USAF base, folks would want to come out and see it, feel it, touch it and talk with us about it." "Just sitting parked on the tarmac it looked as though it was going supersonic." These tributes from ex-Hustler crewmen are typical of the admiration in which the B-58 was, and still is, held. With its stunningly futuristic good looks and Mach 2 performance it is hard to believe that 40 years have elapsed since the type flew into retirement after a relatively brief career (1960-70) with the 43rd and 305th Bomb Wings of the USAF’s Strategic Air Command (SAC). It had a crew of three – pilot, navigator/bombardier (nav/bomb) and defensive systems operator (DSO), seated in novel tandem ejection capsules. I invited one of each (from different crews) to give me their impressions of life with the world’s first supersonic bomber.


Darrell Schmidt – Pilot

     Schmidt joined the USAF in 1951 via the Aviation Cadet Program, gaining his wings and 2nd Lieutenant bars in 1955. Training on the Piper Cub, North American T-6 Texan, T-28 Trojan and Lockheed T-33, his first productive assignment was instructing on T-33s. He then moved on successively to the B-47 Stratojet and B-52H Stratofortress as aircraft commander, instructor and evaluator. He takes up his story:

     "In 1966 I received orders to go to Little Rock AFB, Ark., for an evaluation for entry to training in the B-58 Hustler. The evaluation consisted primarily of proving I could fit into the ejection capsule, followed by an oral evaluation plus a review of my previous training records to ensure I was sufficiently competent to command the single-pilot Mach 2 aircraft, with the emphasis on flight in instrument conditions.

     "Part of the "˜lead-in’ training included time at Perrin AFB, Tex., for instrument training in the T-33. This also . . .

Convair B-58 Hustler Firefly

American Air Operations in Sweden, 1943-1945 

    In 1945, neutral Sweden may have possessed the third-largest heavy bomber force of all nations. At VästerÃ¥s Airport, 35 miles west of Stockholm, were parked 17 B-17 Flying Fortresses and 26 B-24 Liberators, all American. These aircraft were only a portion of those from England, the U.S. and Germany that made forced landings in Sweden between 1939 and the war’s end in 1945. Numerous fighters and other types of aircraft also landed in Sweden. Their crews were interned in Sweden for sometimes extended periods. In addition to the forced landings, three major American air operations including courier flights brought numerous transport aircraft to Sweden. Despite Sweden’s official neutral status, aircraft of England, America and Germany operated there in both emergency situations and routine missions.

     What follows will deal primarily with the American aircraft and crews that made forced landings in Sweden or that participated in Operation Sonnie, Operation Ball and Operation When and Where, all commanded by Col. Bernt Balchen. The first group totaled 162 aircraft and 1,429 crew members, between July 24, 1943, and April 21, 1945. Operation Sonnie employed 22 B-24/C-87s, a C-47 and four DC-4 aircraft to make courier flights between Sweden and England, from March 31, 1944, well into 1945. Ball was a clandestine operation delivering supplies and personnel to the Norwegian resistance. Operation When and Where used 10 C-47s to transport Norwegian troops into northern Norway from December 22, 1944, until August 1945. In Sweden, the latter two operations were all known under the name Operation Ball.


Swedish Neutrality

     The Kingdom of Sweden had been politically neutral since 1815. During WWI, the policy prevailed, though there was some pro-German sentiment. After that war, Sweden strongly supported the League of Nations. Its non-aligned policy was severely tested in the 1930s when Sweden operated under the assumption that Germany and the Soviet Union were the strong Baltic powers. The hope was that they would focus their concerns upon each other and could deploy only minor forces against Sweden and other non-aligned countries.

     Nonetheless, Sweden began to build its defense forces in the late 1930s. Military spending increased eight-fold, from 1936 to 1939, and a draft was instituted. By 1940, there was . . .

B-24J Lovely Lady’s Avenger after crash landing

Visitors to Parks Air College, Part II 

[Editor‘s note - This is the second part of a photo essay on visitors to Parks Air College. The initial article appeared in AAHS Journal, Vol. 55, No. 3 - Fall 2010.]

     As the premier aviation school in the country in the 1930s and 1940s, Parks Air College attracted lots of aviation-related visitors during the Depression of the 1930s and early 1940s. Virtually every famous pilot (Jimmy Doolittle, Roscoe Turner, Amelia Earhart, etc.) during this era made Parks Air College a stopover on their trip or their destination. Therefore, a lot of interesting flight equipment came along with them. Some of their visits were captured on film.
     As far as I know, very few, if any, of the photographs of visitors to Parks have ever been published before.

Douglas O-43A visits Parks Air College

No Hollywood Stars, But some Real GHQ Air Force Stars

      In the summer of 1988 Sandy Vandenberg and I were attending the Great Western Gun Show at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, California. We had first met in 1935 when our fathers were at Ft. Leavenworth for Command and General Staff School. Sandy came to my table in Building 8 and said, "Vance, there’s a guy in Building 4 that has a photo album with a picture of your father in it." I followed Sandy to the appropriate table where Tom Britton, then president of the American Aviation Historical Society, showed me a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio research photo album dated January 13, 1937 [1938], for the movie Test Pilot. Each of the 71 pages is an 8x10-inch black-and-white photograph taken at Langley Field, Va., showing nine of the very first 12 Boeing B-17s, then officially designated YB-17s. The first YB-17 was delivered to Langley Field on March 1, 1937.1 They were shown from many angles including front views and tail views while lined up on the flight line. The YB-17s are shown singularly, taxiing, taking off one by one, flying over in single file, then in formation, and finally landing one by one. A few photos show details of the doorway, others show actors in various uniforms of the day.

     At the time only the flight line at Langley Field was paved. The ornate Albert Khan-designed brick hangars2 with brick offices and maintenance shops are clearly shown with their yellow and black-checkered roofs. The 2nd Bombardment Group HQ hangar is shown with a display of aerial bombs in front. As a preteenager, I remember playing by climbing among those 100, 300, 600 and 2000-pound bombs painted black.

     No Hollywood stars are shown. Instead doubles for Clark Gabel and Spencer Tracey are shown wearing the appropriate uniforms. But, best of all, are the Air Corps stars, excellent photos of Col. Robert D. Olds, commander of the 2nd Bombardment Group, and his Squadron leaders, Maj. Harold L. George, 96th Bomb Squadron, Maj. Vincent J. Meloy, 20th Bomb Squadron, and my father, Maj. Caleb V. Haynes, 49th Bomb Squadron. In those days these officers were the leaders of heavy bombardment of the Army Air Corps. Photos of them in flight jackets with unit patches are quite rare. They were the pilots of the General Headquarter (GHQ) Air Force that promoted, at every opportunity, strategic bombardment as an effective means of defeating an enemy in time of war.3

     From Langley all 12 YB-17s went to March Field, Calif., for the filming of Test Pilot.4 A photo in my father’s archives shows him and Vince Meloy probably discussing the fly-over scene with Victor Fleming, director of the movie. While at March, the Ritz Brothers, a Hollywood comedy team, provided many of the crew members . . . 

Boeing YB-17 No. 80 of the 49th Bomb Squadron

Great Expectations; North American’s Exotic 
Advanced X-15 Concepts - Part I 

The X-Plane Birthed

     One of the most successful ongoing NACA-NASA projects is their experimental research aircraft series. A highlight was the stunning success of the NASA/USAF backed North American Aviation hypersonic X-15 research program. The "X" program was birthed during a secret conference on December 18, 1943, in Washington, D.C., where Mr. Bob Wolf, Bell Aircraft assistant chief design engineer, made the case for a gas turbine powered "high speed flying laboratory."1

     Bell’s XP-59A twin-turbine powered jet fighter had been flying at the secret Muroc Dry Lake Test Site since September 29, 1942. (Bell test pilot Robert Stanley performed three unofficial "high-taxi" lift-offs between one and two feet above the dry lake surface - thus actually flying before the official October date.)

     Larry Bell having flown in the "up front" instrumented open cockpit and passenger seat of the XP-59A at the Muroc Dry Lake facility was pleased with the flight tests. He and his engineers were confident they could design and construct a high-speed research aircraft to confirm advanced engineering and construction techniques, and contribute to America’s high-speed aircraft database. On December 29, 1943, Larry Bell sent a letter to Dr. George W. Lewis, director of the NACA’s aeronautical research division, suggesting a high speed flying laboratory.2 Douglas Aircraft had been offered a contract to built such an aircraft but refused. So, on November 30, 1944, Bell’s Bob Woods visited Major Kotcher at Wright Field and accepted the contract for what became their Model 44 or XS-1 also known within the USAAF as Project MX-524 cum MX-653.3

     Further meetings with NACA and USAAF officers of the Air Technical Services Command at Wright Field fleshed out the airplane’s parameters; it would penetrate the so-called "sound-barrier" or high-Mach numbers to approximately 800 mph, using liquid fuel rocket engines as a power source. On December 4, 1944, Robert Woods and chief test pilot Robert Stanley took an oath of secrecy and initiated the XS-1 project.4

     The meetings included Bell Aircraft engineers Bob Woods and Benson Hamlin (a young excellent engineer engaged in designing the XS-1, who later teamed with chief engineer Casey Forrest to design the stillborn Bell X-16 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, and the exotic classified hypersonic SR-126 Robo or Rocket Bomber during the late 1950s, Hamlin . . . 

Bell model of their MX-2276 BoMi or Bomber Missile

What Could Have Been... Bendix Corporation’s Abortive Attempt at Entering the Postwar Light Plane Market 

     Vincent Hugo Bendix was born in 1881 in Moline, Ill., the son of a Methodist Minister. As a youngster Vincent was fascinated by mechanical objects but his father, a strict disciplinarian, disapproved of his son’s dream of becoming an engineer. However, Vincent was determined to pursue his dream, so at age 16, he left home to seek his future in New York City.

     Bendix worked as a mechanic for a number of different companies in New York while studying engineering at night school. In 1901 he moved to Hammondsport, N.Y., to work for Glenn Curtiss designing motorcycles. Bendix later moved to Chicago to work as sales manager for the Holsman Automobile Co. and in his evening hours designed a two-passenger automobile named the Motor Buggy. Bendix then signed a deal with a Chicago company to manufacture that vehicle and close to 7,000 were built until 1907, when he was forced into bankruptcy.

     Early on Bendix had seen the need for a self-starter to eliminate the dangers inherent in hand-cranking an automobile. Applying his talents to the challenge he designed a triple-lead screw device that was superior to existing starter drives of that time. In 1910 he signed a contract with the Eclipse Manufacturing Co. in Elmira, N.Y., to manufacture his Bendix Drive and by 1919 had sold over 1.5 million units.

     When Bendix’s father was killed by an automobile whose brakes had failed, he focused his efforts on developing an improved braking system. After meeting a French engineer who had patented a four-wheel braking system, Bendix acquired the patent rights and formed the Bendix Corp. to manufacture the new system. Within four years virtually every American automobile was equipped with Bendix brakes and in 1928 General Motors Corp. became a major investor in Bendix’s company.

     With his company now on a sound financial footing, Bendix turned his attention towards the rapidly growing aviation industry. In 1929 he changed the company’s name to the Bendix Aviation Corp. and in the years that followed bought a controlling interest in a number of major aircraft accessory manufacturers. In addition, to stimulate interest in aviation, Bendix introduced the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race Trophy to encourage engineers to develop faster and more reliable airplanes.

     Bendix Aviation survived the stock market crash of 1929 and by 1935 was slowly emerging from the Great Depression. That same year General Motors, then holding 25 percent of Bendix stock, appointed two GM executives to the Bendix board of directors. When Vincent Bendix retired in 1942 one of those GM executives, Ernest R. Breech, was elected president of Bendix. Breech was born in 1897 in Lebanon, Mo., and had attended Drury College and the Univ. of Illinois. After college he joined the Yellow Cab Co. and when that company was taken over by General Motors was named Yellow Cab’s president. In 1933, now a GM vice president, Breech negotiated a merger between General Aviation Corp. and North American Aviation, at the time controlled by GM, and was named president of North American. After he became president of Bendix, Breech began . . .

Bendix Model 51A amphibian (NX40051)

Kahuku Army Air Base, 
One of Oahu’s World War II Satellite Fields

     In 1941, Lt. Gen. Walter Short’s, CG, Hawaiian Department, request to construct a pursuit field on a plateau four miles northeast of Schofield Barrack was turned down by the War Department, with the insistence that the base be located on the northern tip of Oahu at Kahuku Point. Because the site was being used by the Navy as a bombing range, no further action was taken until December.1 Portions had been occupied by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and predecessor "Marconi Wireless" in 1914 as the site for a transmitter/receiver radio station and antenna farm. The old RCA administration building was converted to air base headquarters for the duration.2

     The military reservation was named the "Kahuku Airfield Military Reservation" also known as "Kahuku Air Base."3 General coordinates: N21.707246° - W157.972208°.

     Construction of the first of two runways was preceded by the creation of a supervising entity known as Field Area Thirteen established by Lt. Col. Theodore Wyman, Jr., District Engineer, Army Corps of Engineers, on November 25, 1941, by Order Number 101.4 The engineers of the newly created field area, which occupied the old RCA wireless transmitter building, were responsible for construction of two additional north shore airfields at Haleiwa and Kawaihapai (Mokuleia).

     Mokuleia AAF was renamed Dillingham AFB in 1948 in honor of Capt. Henry Gaylord Dillingham of the 411th Bombardment Squadron, 502nd Bombardment Group killed in action over Kawasaki, Japan, during a B-29 bombing raid on July 25, 1945.5 Captain Dillingham was the grandson of Benjamin Dillingham, founder of the Oahu Railway and Land Company (OR&L Co.), the narrow gauge (3’ 0") common carrier that ran from the port of Honolulu to Kahuku and the sugar mill.

     Construction of the airfield began on December 10, 1941, by a civilian conglomerate known as "Hawaiian Constructors" formed in Washington, D.C., on December 20, 1940. Lt. Colonel Wyman, with the approval of the Under Secretary of War, Chief Engineer and the National Council of Defense, signed a "cost plus fee" contract to build fortifications, aircraft warning stations, ammunition storage facilities, and other defense projects in the Hawaiian Islands including airfields.6

     Lt. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, CG, Hawaiian Department and his engineer, Col. Albert K.B. Lyman met with Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, CG 7th Air Force in March 1942 to discuss airfield construction in the Hawaiian Islands. It was . . .

B-24 mother ship escorts two Culver PQ-14 radio-controlled planes

Primary Light Airplane Gliding School at Janesville, Wisconsin

     As America entered WWII, we were hindered by the inability to deliver a self-contained fighting force with heavy equipment into battle behind enemy lines. In the early 1930s, the Army had banned officers from flying in soaring gliders. All existing soaring gliders were personally owned by individuals. As a result of the treaties signed at the end of WWI, Germany was not allowed to have powered military aircraft pilot training. However, the result was Germany’s development of an elite corps of glider pilots and an excellent glider pilot training program. America was not to be out maneuvered and acted hastily to establish its own glider pilot training program. While Wisconsin had established in 1939 its own Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) programs for training single-engine power pilots, it would also create its own gilder pilot training program in Janesville led by a famous Wisconsin barnstorming aviation pioneer. The Badger State would, therefore, supply only not the plywood for "Wisconsin’s Flying Trees" (AAHS Journal Vol. 53, No. 2, Summer 2009) but also the crews to man them.

     Significantly, in early 1941 the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) had no glider designs, no gliders, and no glider pilots. The Army had no real experience or idea of the direction a glider program should take. In contrast, to skirt terms of surrender after WWI, Germany had been building both primary and soaring gliders to train pilots during the 1930s. This German pilot training was not just for glider pilots but was the basic flight training for powered aircraft pilots.

     America was caught short by a stunning German raid in Belgium to capture Fort Eben Emael, but America reacted quickly! In February 1941, the head of the USAAC, Gen. Henry H. Arnold, ordered Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, to develop requirements for larger cargo glider designs. These cargo gliders would be large enough to move men and equipment into battle as a unit. By the end of March 1941, General Arnold ordered Wright Field to solicit designs from United States manufacturers based on those criteria. Maj. Frederick R. Dent, Jr. had been placed in charge of glider design, engineering, procurement and testing at Wright Field. Maj. Bruce Price was his assistant.

     Until General Arnold’s order, there were fewer than 160 civilian, Silver C licensed, glider enthusiasts and even fewer gliders in all of the United States. The gliders themselves were one and two seat sailplanes. They were soaring gliders, not large, cargo-carrying gliders for men and equipment. A few of these civilian glider pilots were appointed or conscripted into the USAAC glider program. Some were hired as civilian glider pilot instructors. One was a distinguished Wisconsin glider pilot from Wisconsin Rapids, Dick Johnson. He would become a USAAC Glider Pilot Instructor and later hold the U.S. Soaring records for altitude and distance.

     To obtain gliders quickly in 1941-42, approximately 73 privately owned soaring gliders appropriated by the Army in preparation for whatever flight training program was to be created. By December 1941 Wright Field had placed orders for soaring gliders with a number of manufacturers including the . . .

Atkinson Farm with quonset workshop

Remember When: Champion Aircraft

      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. 

Flyer promoting the Champion Aircraft

Forum of Flight

     The FORUM is presented as an opportunity for each member to participate in the Journal by submitting interesting or unusual photographs. Negatives, black-and-white or color photos with good contrast may be used if they have smooth surfaces. Send submissions to the Editorial Committee marked "Forum of Flight," P.O. Box 3023, Huntington Beach, CA 92605-3023. Mark any material to be returned: "Return to (your name and complete address)."

     Please include as much information as possible about the photo such as: date, place, names, etc., plus proper credit (it may be part of your collection but taken by another photographer).

Swearingen SA-226 Metro II, N5302M