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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 56, No. 2 - Summer 2011
Table of Contents 

Aerial Refueling and the Douglas C-132 

Aerial Refueling Comes of Age

     By 1951, when the Air Force asked Douglas Aircraft Co. to design what eventually became the C-132, aerial refueling was already a standard part of the Air Force’s operational repertoire. The Strategic Air Command (SAC) had been using B-29 tankers and receivers since 1948 and activated its first two aerial refueling squadrons on June 30, 1948. The cumbersome "looped hose" refueling system was proven, though with serious limitations, and enabled the B-50 "Lucky Lady II" to fly around the world in 94 hours and one minute. The new jet-powered Boeing B-47 bomber posed greater challenges to aerial refueling technology. The probe and drogue system, first tested in 1949, enabled a Gloster Meteor jet fighter to remain airborne for 12 hours and three minutes. Subsequently, large formations of fighters made transoceanic deployments using the system. In Korea, on July 6, 1951, aerial refueling was first used in combat, allowing fighters greater time in the combat area. Consequently, tanker aircraft that could operate at jet speeds, altitudes and off-load requirements were clearly needed. The tanker version of the Douglas C-132 was one possible answer to this requirement. A brief history of aerial refueling into the 1950s is useful to place the C-132 in context.

Why Aerial Refueling?

     Aerial refueling has two primary functions. The first is to increase endurance. Second is to extend an airplane’s operational range. The main distinction between the two is that an endurance flight requires only a few, perhaps one or two, tanker aircraft to keep another airplane airborne in a relatively limited geographical area. Range extension, on the other hand, calls for a much larger fleet of tankers located in several locations to support the receivers. A third variation is aimed at increased load-carrying capacity. In this application, an airplane takes off with a maximal load but insufficient fuel to reach a destination. Enroute, after more fuel has been burned off, an aerial refueling enables mission completion. In its historical development, aerial refueling worked first for endurance; range extension followed, as technical advances permitted.
     In the early days of aviation, airplanes were limited simply by their primitive technology. Engines were unreliable, airframes not always robust and fuel was of variable quality. The earliest reasons for some sort of aerial refueling were simply to prove . . .

Artist concept of Douglas C-132

The Short but Spectacular Life of the Gee Bee Model Z "City of Springfield" Air Racer 

    The Gee Bee story began in Madison, N.H., where Wilfred and Belle Granville raised seven children, five boys and two girls. The brothers, Zantford (Granny), Robert, Tom, Edward, Mark and sisters Pearl and Gladys made up the family.
     The oldest child, Granny, was a self-taught automobile mechanic with an eighth-grade education and an affinity for anything mechanical. Granny moved to Boston at age 17 where he took a job selling cars. A year later he established an auto repair business in Arlington, Mass., where he sold Chevrolets and did service work. When Granny was 20 he exchanged his services as a mechanic for flight instruction at East Boston Airport.
     In 1922, Granny went to work as a mechanic for the Boston Airport Corporation. His brother Tom took over the auto repair business in Arlington. With the experience Granny gained working on aircraft at the Boston Airport Corp., plus his own mechanical ability, he decided to start his own aircraft company. He established the Granville Brothers Aircraft Co. and his three remaining brothers soon joined him in this new enterprise.
     Granny and his brothers designed and built a small, single cockpit, side-by-side seat biplane they called the Model A. Their Model A made its first flight on May 3, 1929.
     Searching for adequate facilities to manufacture their Model A biplane, the Granvilles contacted the Chamber of Commerce of Springfield, Mass., on May 17, 1929, and on July 6 finalized plans to locate at the airport there. The brothers attempted to raise money to build their Gee Bees by entering their first air meet at Springfield on July 10.
     Here they met the four Tait brothers, James, Harry, Frank and George, owners of Springfield’s biggest ice cream and dairy business as well as developers of the Springfield airport. A few weeks later the Granville Brothers were incorporated, building planes in an abandoned dance pavilion formerly named the Venetian Gardens at the Springfield Airport.
     Granny hired three college trained engineers, Bob Hall, Bob Ayre and Bob Dexter, all of whom went on to successful careers in aviation. Using Kinner K-5 engines, nine of the Model As were built and sold before the full weight of the Great Depression dried up their business. The new company was on the verge of collapse when the All American Flying Derby was organized and sponsored by American Cirrus Engines Inc.
     This was to be the longest air race held in the world at the time – a 5,541 mile course that took the contestants from Detroit, Mich., to Texas, west to California, and back to Detroit. All the aircraft in the race were powered by one of the engines . . .

Gee Bee Model Z "City of Springfield"

Great Expectations: North American Aviation’s Exotic Advanced X-15 Concepts, Part II 

     North American engineers comprising the Weapon System Advanced Design Department attempted to improve upon the basic intra-atmospheric X-15 layout, hoping to quickly provide the USAF with a vehicle capable of operating in low-earth orbit, even offering a stretched airframe to accept a military reconnaissance suite. Updating and improving the airframes with high-heat sustaining metals would hopefully transform a generic X-15 into the Orbital X-15A and B variants able to sustain the high thermal temperatures of reentry.
     A refrigeration system was proposed to cool the cockpit and equipment bay although, it goes without saying, that the astronaut-pilot wore a full-pressure suit. The B model would operate with updated electronics and oxygen equipment for extended flight durations. Since Murphy’s Laws operate in the vacuum of space and within the earth’s atmosphere, not one, but two auxiliary power units would provide independent electrical and hydraulic power. The alternating current system would generate 4 kva/115-200 volt, 400 cps, three-phase power, while the direct current voltage would be generated by 100-ampere silicon diode rectifiers.  Hydraulic power would be provided by 3,000 psi variable-displacement hydraulic pumps operating irreversible flight control features.
     Further design changes in the X-15B were a five percent-thick wing with a 2.5 aspect ratio, flaps, but no ailerons and all-moving horizontal stabilizers. The lower vertical surface could be jettisoned by the pilot immediately prior to landing.1 Internal structures modified with still unproven ceramic materials were designed to withstand short duration temperatures peaking at 3,500 degrees F in stagnation areas. Rene-41 would replace aluminum and titanium applied throughout the generic X-15’s primary internal structure, yet retain its high-strength high-temperature steel alloys already installed; the airframe would endure 1,600 degree F temperatures, if the whole vehicle was externally coated with a special black finish.
NAA engineers also considered the application of the advanced metals Haines-Stellite or Hastealloy R235 and the heat-sink materials Beryllium Oxide, Zirconium Silicate, Titanium Carbide and Zirconium Boride.2 Advanced X-15, X-15A and X-15B would be equipped with generic X-15’ssidestick controller system and retained Bell Aircraft’s miniature reaction control motors generating 43 and 113 pounds of thrust; Bell Aircraft could have provided updated variants giving the pilot control of the aircraft’s pitch, roll and yaw attitudes during an orbit. The vehicles would carry 300 channel sensing and recording systems, cartographic equipment or intelligence and motion picture reconnaissance packages. A suggested reconnaissance suite consisted of high-resolution . . .

North American X-15A HTV artist concept

The Day Japan Bombed Oregon

      September 9, 1942: The I-25 Japanese submarine was cruising in an easterly direction raising its periscope occasionally as it neared the United States coastline. Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor less than a year ago and the captain of the attack submarine knew that Americans were watching their coast line for ships and aircraft that might attack our country. Dawn was approaching; the first rays of the sun were flickering off the periscope’s lens. Their mission; attack the west coast with incendiary bombs in hopes of starting a devastating forest fire. If this test run was successful, Japan had hopes of using their huge submarine fleet to attack the eastern end of the Panama Canal to slow down shipping from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Japanese Navy had a large number of I-400 submarines under construction, each capable of carrying three aircraft. Pilot Chief Warrant Officer Nobuo Fujita and his crewman, Petty Officer Shoji Okuda, were making last minute checks of their charts making sure they matched those of the submarine’s navigator.

     At the same time, Nebraska forestry student Keith V. Johnson was on duty atop a forest fire lookout tower between Gold’s Beach and Brookings, Oregon. Keith had memorized the silhouettes of Japanese long distance bombers and those of our own aircraft. He felt confident that he could spot and identify, friend or foe, almost immediately. It was cold on the coast this September morning, and quiet. The residents of the area were still in bed or preparing to head for work. Lumber was a large part of the industry in Brookings, just a few miles north of the California-Oregon state lines.

     Aboard the submarine the captain’s voice boomed over the public address system, "Prepare to surface, aircrew report to your stations, wait for the open hatch signal." During training runs several subs were lost when hangar door were opened too soon and sea water rushed into the hangars and sank the boat with all hands lost. You could hear the change of sound as the bow of the I-25 broke from the depths, nosed over for its run on the surface. A loud bell signaled the "All Clear." The crew assigned to the single-engine Yokosuka E14Y float equipped, observation and light attack aircraft sprang into action. They rolled the plane out its hangar built next to the conning tower. The wings and tail were unfolded, and 176 pound incendiary bombs were attached to the hard points under the wings. This was a small float plane was crewed by two and powered by a nine-cylinder 340-hp radial engine. It was full daylight when the captain ordered the aircraft to be placed on the catapult. Warrant Officer Fujita started the engine, let it warm up, checked the magnetos and oil pressure. There was a slight . . . 

Yokosuka E14Y

Visitors to Parks Air College, Part III

     When "Visitors to Parks Air College, Part I" (AAHS Journal, Vol. 55, No. 2, Summer 2010) was published, the author received some great feedback on the photographs. One of the feedback commentators was Ed Powers. He attended Parks Air College in 1943 and 1944. He took some photographs while he was at Parks. Part III is composed of some of the photographs Ed Powers took during his stay at Parks. All photographs are courtesy of Ed Powers and none have ever been previously published.

Fairchild PT-19

First In - Last Out, Story of the F-4 Phantom II Wild Weasel, Part II

[Editor‘s Note: Part 1 of the Wild Weasel story, covering the early development of surface-to-air missile suppression appeared in AAHS Journal Vol. 55, No. 3, Fall 2010. Part I covered early trials and tactical deployment of F-100s and F-105Gs line aircraft converted to support the Wild Weasel roll. This Part II takes up the story with the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II development as a SAM suppression system.]

Wild Weasel IV

Work commenced on the WWIV EF-4C Phantom II program in January 1966 with the Class 5 Modification Program (No. 1778). This program included the removal of the AIM-7 Sparrow III AAMs from the forward missile wells and replacement with an ECM pod (typically the AN/ALQ-119 Noise and Deception ECM pod); and the installation of the ER-142 ECM receiver. (Anthony Thornborough cites the initial WWIV-A included the special, long-range IR-133.) This rewiring modification limited the EF-4C’s ability to carry all available ordnance. There were four 33 TFW Block 23 F-4Cs assigned to the program: 64-0781, 64-0787, 64-0790, and 64-0815. The WWIV program included a planned mid-1966 deployment of four aircraft to the combat theater. However, technical problems (namely the inability to link all of the antennas together) forestalled this deployment until September 1972.  WWIV was formalized on June 29, 1966. The Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) work was conducted at Nellis AFB where the EF-4Cs were assigned to the 4538 FWS/4525 FWW. At some point in time this training unit was dubbed the "Willie Weasel" college. The 4538 FWS/4525 FWW was replaced in place on October 15, 1969, by the 414 FWS/57 FWW. On October 15, 1971, the 414 FWS passed their inventory of six to 10 F-4C/EF-4Cs to the 66 FWS/57 FWW. One of the limitations discovered during testing was heavy vibration of the panoramic receiver pod mounted in the right rear Sparrow III missile well.

The following is a brief service history for these four aircraft between the years 1966 and 1968:

F-4C 64-0781

  • 33 TFW, - ?? (June) 1966. McAir St. Louis plant for modification, ?? through August 1, 1966. Undated Mod.

  • 1778F involved internal avionics installation in place of the EW pod in the missile wells. 33 TFW, August 1 through September 2.

  • 4525 FWW, Nellis AFB, September 2, 1966, through . . .

McDonnell Douglas F-4G Phantom II

Alexander Kartveli: The Aircraft Designer 
Who "Suffered" Greatness

     "It’s a very nervous type of work: you get stomach ulcers, you don’t sleep nights, you don’t eat and you don’t drink. But the final satisfaction that you get out of seeing your thing fly is a tremendous reward, which makes up for all the suffering which you are undergoing because of your work."1

     These words were spoken by Alexander Kartveli at the very end of an extended interview held in New York City in April 1960. Kenneth Leish of the Oral History Research Office conducted the session on behalf of Columbia University and the New York Times Oral History Program. Kartveli’s comments contributed to a much larger body of work on the history of aviation published by American Heritage.2
     And, frankly, any such survey must include a reference to Kartveli. He served as Vice President and Chief of Engineering for Seversky Aircraft and its successor, Republic Aviation. In this position, he played a key role in producing America’s first modern fighter aircraft, the P-35. Moreover, he was ultimately responsible for the development of the P-47 Thunderbolt, F-84 Thunderjet, and F-105 Thunderchief.3
     Considering the fact the latter three military airplanes played standout roles respectively in the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War, Kartveli must be counted among individuals in the upper tier of aircraft designers. While he may not have equaled the reputation of the "Blackbird’s" Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, he certainly matched DC-3’s Arthur Raymond.4
Naturally, when Kartveli was born in 1896, powered, heavier-than-air craft represented but a faint glimmer in the human experience. His nativity occurred almost exactly three months after Samuel Pierpont Langley and his friend Alexander Graham Bell launched Aerodrome No. 5 on May 6. A powered model, the tandem-winged monoplane flew slightly more than
. . .

Republic XR-12

The Bendix Aircraft Story, Addendum 

     This is a follow-up to the article on Bendix Aircraft that appeared in the AAHS Journal, Vol. 56, No. 1, Spring 2011. In 1942 Charles and Anne Lindbergh had moved to the Detroit area after Lindbergh had accepted a position as engineering consultant on the Ford B-24 bomber program at Willow Run. At a business meeting in mid-1945, Bendix president Ernie Breech invited Lindbergh to visit the Bendix shop in Detroit to view the Bendix airplanes then under construction. That visit took place in the fall of 1945. Lindbergh closely inspected the partially completed two-place Model 52 and was favorably impressed with what he saw. He gave a brief pep-talk to the assembled employees and predicted that the Bendix family of private airplanes should sell well in the expected postwar sales boom. Lindbergh, like many aviation executives of that time, anticipated a tremendous period of expansion in the postwar years, especially in the light plane field. His predictions reinforced the Bendix employees’ conviction that they were working on a winning product.
     In the original Bendix article there was a photo of the Model 51A amphibian but it showed a partially completed airplane minus the wing tip floats. A new photo now available shows Model 51A in its final configuration with tip floats attached as it was being prepared for its maiden flight. Test pilot Casimir Szamagaj, an ex-Navy PBY pilot, was scheduled to start test flying the airplane in early August. He had been assigned to do all of the flight testing on the Model 51A but when Bendix closed down all work came to a halt and the airplane was never flown. Artist Ted Williams has created an excellent three-view drawing of the Model 51A and it is included with this up-date.
     Also mentioned in the original article was the fact that Bendix had made a serious effort to sell the design rights, the tooling and all of the existing airplanes to a potential buyer. At the time it was not known who those potential buyers were but closer examination of some cryptic notes in test pilot Al Schramm’s log book has revealed their identity. On September 27, 1946, Schramm gave a 45-minute demonstration ride to a representative from McDonnell Aircraft. The next day he made four demo flights with representatives from Convair. Then on October 2 Schramm gave a 30-minute ride to a rep from Lockheed Aircraft and seven days later, on October 9, a rep from North American Aviation visited Willow Run for a 45-minute flight. And finally, on October 18, 1946, Schramm gave a 30-minute demo flight to a rep from Hughes Aircraft. As mentioned in the article none of those manufacturers expressed . . .

Bendix Model 51A

U.S. Navy Boeing NKC-135As

     Between 1977 and 1996 the U.S. Navy operated two former USAF NKC-135As. These rather elusive aircraft were used as electronics training aircraft, initially augmenting the other dedicated aircraft that were in use with VAQ-33, who used the EC-121K and EA-3B. Following a short operational career as tanker aircraft, both NKC-135As enjoyed a long and eventful career as dedicated test aircraft with the USAF, and both received a number of unique modifications over the years. Both aircraft were, at times, operated from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. In 1975 the Fleet Electronic Warfare Support Group (FEWSG) was activated at NAS Norfolk, Va., with the intention to operate a number of Boeing 707-type aircraft in the electronic "aggressor’ role.
     The two aircraft in question, 55-3134 and 56-3596, were officially transferred to the U.S. Navy on December 16 and 17, 1975, respectively, and were modified for U.S. Navy needs over the next two years. The aircraft finally entered Navy service in 1977 and 1978. FEWSG’s previous aircraft, two B-47Es, were retired to MASDC at Davis-Monthan AFB in October 1977. The NKC-135As received the code name "˜Navy King Crow’ (NKC-135). While in service, they simulated electronic threats and provided jamming practice for their customer, who needed a means to train and evaluate fleet units (most of these were ships) to identify, defend and intercept simulated hostile electronic threats in a controlled environment. The aircraft were capable of providing realistic training by simulating a variety of hostile and friendly electronic signatures. To accomplish this, they carried a large variety of underwing electronic countermeasure (ECM) pods on pylons and were equipped with chaff dispensers as well. The results of the mission were recorded and available for subsequent analysis. According to one of the trainees, these exercises were "maddeningly realistic!" Apart from this ECM and ECCM training, the aircraft were involved in some general electronic warfare research as well.
Both aircraft had been extensively modified to be able to carry out their missions. Previous USAF test work had brought about numerous changes in configuration. Both aircraft had long since lost their refuelling booms, and both aircraft were incapable of being refuelled in flight. A number of fuselage fuel . . .

USN NKC-135A, 55-3134

United Airline’s Queen of the Fleet, the Boeing Stratocruiser, 1949 to 1954

     The Stratocruisers, Boeing model 377, was a commercial development of the military C-97 Stratofreighter, which was the Boeing model 367. The Stratocruiser aircraft was certified September 3, 1948, under Approved Type Certificate (ATC) 812 by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The aircraft was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Majors. Each 28 cylinder "Corn-Cob" engine produced 3,500 hp on takeoff, for a total of 14,000 hp. Four-blade Curtiss Electric propellers were used.
     An unusual feature of the B-377 was that of the folding vertical tail, which allowed the aircraft to be placed in hangars of the day. The vertical stabilizer was 10 feet taller than the DC-6’s. The fin was 38 feet 3 inches tall and when folded it was 26 feet 7 inches above the ground.
     A total of 56 Stratocruisers were built in Boeing’s Seattle, Wash., Plant 2. Many reports say that only 55 were built, but the prototype N90700 was delivered to Pan American Airways after being converted to an airline configuration. This low total production figure was due to the high cost in comparison to the many C-54s available after WWII.
     The UAL aircraft were delivered from February 1949 to March 1950 at an average cost of $1.5 million per copy (some sources list $1.75 million). United Airlines’ seven B-377-10-34s and Northwest Airlines 10 B-377-10-30s had rectangular cabin windows instead of the standard Stratocruisers circular windows. Airlines that bought new B-377s from Boeing included Pan American World Airways with 21, British Overseas Airways (BOAC) (now British Airways) with 10, Northwest Airlines with 10, American Overseas Airlines with eight and United Air Lines (name changed to United Airlines after 1950) with seven for a total of 56. TWA ordered 10 but the aircraft order was canceled and the aircraft were not built. The Boeing manufactures serial numbers for TWA’s orders were 15984 to 15993.
     On July 2, 1946, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) granted United Airlines (UAL) authority to operate the San Francisco-Honolulu route. On August 1, 1946, UAL purchased seven B-377s, at a total cost of 11 million dollars, for service on their new California to Honolulu, Hawaii, service. Pan America Airways introduced Stratocruisers on its Hawaiian service in April 1949. United started DC-6 service from San Francisco to Hawaii on May 1, 1947, and upgraded the flights to Stratocruisers on January 15, 1950. The CAB, on August 4, 1950, awarded UAL the route between Los Angeles and Honolulu. The new service started on October 9, 1950, with Stratocruisers from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
The United aircraft had 55 first class seats and a lower deck lounge that could seat 14 comfortably. The lounge seats were not sold, but were used by the 55 upper deck passengers. Access to the lower deck lounge was via a circular stairwell . . .

Boeing B-377 of United Airlines

      Way Back When - Howard Aircraft Co.

    This series focuses on sales literature that prompted light aircraft during the Golden Age of American aviation. It will illustrate sales and marketing messages for popular, and not so well known, aircraft from the 1920s and 1930s, illuminating insight into the perspectives associated with the aviation industry of that era.

Howard Aircraft Co. Brochure

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).

Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas, F-BIAP