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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 56, No. 4 - Winter 2011
Table of Contents 

Monocoupe: Speed for the Common Man

     In the mid-1920s, young advertising executive Donald A. Luscombe tired of flying his sluggish, open-cockpit Curtiss "Jenny," wrapped in goggles, leather helmet and flight suit for protection from the elements, while separated from his passenger in the front cockpit. He wanted a swift, compact, enclosed-cabin plane, so he could dress for business or pleasure, fly seated comfortably and sociably next to his passenger and arrive still dressed for work or play.
     In 1926 Luscombe designed such a plane: compact and light, a tiny cabin monoplane in an era of huge open-cockpit biplanes, with a simple, stout structure and a powerful engine. His mock-up of this sleek Monocoupe tempted colleagues in the Davenport (Iowa) Flying Club to pool $5,000 to help start Central States Aero Co., Inc. at Wallace Field, Bettendorf, Iowa. (renamed Central States Aircraft Co. in 1927).
     Luscombe, not an engineer, hired young Clayton Folkerts, a self-taught farmer-turned-engineer (later famous for hot 1930s race planes) to bring the design to life. Folkerts had already created a few tiny homebuilt planes of his own. Teaching himself welding, Folkerts crafted for Luscombe a genuine aerial sports car in just four and a half months.
     The resulting compact Mono #1 monoplane had a spruce wing frame shaped to a tame Clark Y airfoil cross-section, and welded steel-tube fuselage, all wrapped in cotton skin. The plane was everything Luscombe had hoped for: speedy, comfortable, stout, practical and easy-to-fly.
     However, sudden introduction of federal certification regulations required detailed engineering analysis and testing . . .

Moncoupe Model 113

The Douglas Model 1155 Strategic Bomber: 
Too Little, Too Late

     At the end of WWII, the Army Air Force was looking ahead toward a turbine-powered strategic bomber. The Convair B-36 design dated to 1941 and work was underway on Boeing’s B-47. In 1945, Boeing received word that the AAF wanted a long-range strategic bomber. In June 1947, a competition brought designs from four companies; Boeing, Douglas, Martin and Convair.
     Both the Douglas and Boeing entries were straight-wing aircraft. The Boeing Model 426 was initially designed with six turboprop engines. Later application of German design concepts led to the swept wing and podded jet engines, similar to the B-47. Martin’s Model 236 was a 275,000-pound airplane with a 195-foot wingspan. Convair’s entry was the most extreme, with four turboprop engines mounted on a wing with 30-degree forward sweep and an eight-degree dihedral.1 The Douglas entry was its Model 1155, a prosaic variant of the DC-6 airliner powered by four or six jet engines.

Economic motivations

     Beginning in 1938, American aircraft manufacturing grew into the country’s largest industry. By 1945, it had attained its modern configuration, in production capabilities and methods. Management was experienced in both handcrafted and serial production and was young enough to continue with the companies for years to come. There was a large body of skilled workers and plentiful, experienced engineering personnel.2
     Looking ahead to the postwar period, there was both hope and concern. Production facilities were adequate, having been built with government assistance. There were capital reserves of $117 million available for reconversion and readjustment. Bank debt was low, $13 million, and 15 aircraft companies had an aggregate capital exceeding $620 million.3
      Despite planning for the adjustments, the immediate postwar years were challenging for the aircraft industry. The military market contracted sharply. The AAF shrank from 243 groups in 1945 to a point where there was not one completely  . . .

Douglas Model 1155 strategic bomber

The Rise and Fall of the Strategic Air Command 

     I was privileged to serve as a Historian for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) during its last years. The History Office (SAC/HO) had maintained annual histories of the command every year after its creation in 1946, and I joined a small staff of experts in 1985. Professional historians were active in all major USAF commands, and every base had a history office designed to research and write annual histories at that level. In any case, I worked in Building 500, Headquarters SAC, at Offutt AFB, Neb., and my areas of expertise ranged from logistics to human resources. During that period, I worked on a number of special studies for the Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC) that dealt with most disciplines in the headquarters. In my primary role, however, I was more involved in SAC’s logistical world, and frequently traveled with the Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS) Logistics, a two-star, on his travels to the command’s bases across the country
     When I arrived at SAC Headquarters in 1985, Maj. Gen. John Doran was ending his tenure as DCS Logistics and was soon followed by Maj. Gen. Charles J. Searock, who left the headquarters after Operation Desert Storm in 1991 with three stars. Unfortunately, General Doran died shortly after his retirement from the Air Force. But thanks to General Searock’s keen expertise in logistics and outstanding leadership, the face of SAC’s supply and maintenance systems dramatically improved in quick fashion. The command’s combat readiness was greatly improved by his innovating reforms. Under General Searock’s respected leadership and logistics, readiness became more efficient for a command that had a mixture of weapons systems and missions. In a personal note, he was the best general officer whom I ever knew, and we became good friends. I greatly benefited by our close relationship, and gained considerable insight into his reforms of the command’s logistical posture. He had flown many B-52 combat missions during the Southeast Asia conflict over a decade before his assignment to SAC headquarters, and he later was commander at Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y., an FB-111/KC-135 installation.
     Today, the Strategic Air Command does not exist, now gone for almost two decades. There is no singular exclusive nuclear-dedicated command in the U.S. Air Force. SAC, created in 1946, was purely a Cold War decision that focused on the Soviet nuclear threat that lasted over 40 years. With the command’s activation, the Air Force chose to centralize its nuclear assets, both aircraft and missiles, under a four-star command at Offutt. AFB, Nebraska. Eventually, SAC constructed an underground . . .

Boeing B-50D-95-BO Superfortress, 48-096

The Other Wright Airplane Company; 
Dayton-Wright Airplanes

      Wilbur and Orville Wright and the Wright Airplane Co. are well known to most of us. What has garnered much less attention, however, is the other very successful airplane company that Orville was directly involved in. A company that in a short five-year span manufactured more than 3,500 aircraft while establishing a number of first for U.S. aircraft manufacturers. This company created one of the first cabin-class aircraft manufactured in the U.S. They created the first retractable gear aircraft built here. The first "guided missile" was developed by this company. The company’s management would go on to play significant roles in the development of the U.S. aircraft industry and military aviation services. This company was the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company.



     At the turn of the century, Dayton had become a leading industrial city in the United States. It hosted not only the earliest developments of aviation in the form of the Wright brothers’ activities but companies like the Thresher Company, National Cash Register (NCR), Dayton Electrical Laboratories (Delco) and Dayton Metal Works among others. Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering had either played significant management roles and/or helped found all of these companies. Deeds was also an early aviation pioneer.
     With the passing of Wilbur Wright in May 1912, Orville was left with managing the Wright Airplane Co. along with his inventor/designer responsibilities. Orville realized that managing a company was not something he was motivated to do, so in October 1915 he sold his interests in the Wright Airplane Co. Recognize, too, that for most of the period between 1912 and 1915, he had been embroiled in a bitter patent dispute with Glen Curtiss and the Smithsonian, which is sure to have influenced his decision to liquidate his holdings in the Wright Airplane Co. Orville sold his entire interest in the company and the patents to a group of seven eastern capitalists to form the Wright Company. This venture struggled financially and eventually merged in 1916 with the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Calif., and the Simplex Automobile Co. of N.J., to form the Wright-Martin Co.1
      An important aspect of the sale of the Wright Aircraft Co. is that most of the work relating to manufacturing was eventually transferred out of the Dayton, Ohio, area. In March 1917, the engine manufacturing headed east to New Jersey where it would go on to become a successful manufacturer of aircraft engines. Martin departed the relationship in 1917 and in 1919 Wright-Martin would be reorganized and renamed the Wright Aeronautical Co. This move left a large pool of skilled aircraft engineers and craftsmen in the Dayton area that were reluctant to move to New Jersey and left with little prospect for work. This readily available pool of skilled workers was one of the motivations that led Deeds and Kettering to form the Dayton Airplane Co. Both were already involved to some extent in . . . 

Dayton-Wright T-4 Messenger

Invasion of Japan, 1945

     Deep in the recesses of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., hidden for nearly four decades lie thousands of pages of yellowing and dusty documents stamped "Top Secret." These documents, now declassified, are the plans for Operation DOWNFALL, the invasion of Japan during WWII.
     Only a few Americans in 1945 were aware of the elaborate plans that had been prepared for the Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands. Even fewer today are aware of the defenses the Japanese had prepared to counter the invasion had it been launched.

     Operation DOWNFALL was finalized during the spring and summer of 1945. It called for two massive military undertakings to be carried out in succession and aimed at the heart of the Japanese Empire.
     In the first invasion, code named Operation OLYMPIC, American combat troops would land on Japan by amphibious assault during the early morning hours of November 1, 1945, - 66 years ago. Fourteen combat divisions of soldiers and Marines would land on heavily fortified and defended Kyushu, the southernmost of the Japanese home islands, after an unprecedented naval and aerial bombardment.
     The second invasion on March 1, 1946, code named Operation CORONET, would send at least 22 divisions against one million
Japanese defenders on the main island of Honshu and the Tokyo Plain. Its goal: the unconditional surrender of Japan.

     With the exception of a part of the British Pacific Fleet, Operation DOWNFALL was to be a strictly American operation. It called for using the entire Marine Corps, the entire Pacific Navy, elements of the 7th Army Air Force, the 8th Air Force (recently redeployed from Europe), 10th Air Force and the American Far Eastern Air Force. More than 1.5 million combat soldiers, with 3 million more in support or more than 40 percent of all servicemen still in uniform in 1945 - would be directly involved in the two amphibious assaults. Casualties were expected to be extremely heavy.

     Adm. William Leahy estimated that there would be more than 250,000 Americans killed or wounded on Kyushu alone. Gen. Charles Willoughby, chief of intelligence for Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific, estimated American casualties would be one million men by the fall of 1946. Willoughby’s own intelligence staff considered this to be a conservative estimate.

     During the summer of 1945, America had little time to prepare for such an endeavor, but top military leaders were in almost unanimous agreement that an invasion was necessary.

     While naval blockade and strategic bombing of Japan was considered to be useful, General MacArthur, for instance, did not believe a blockade would bring about an unconditional surrender. The advocates for invasion agreed that while a naval blockade chokes, it does not kill; and though strategic bombing might destroy cities, it leaves whole armies intact.

     So on May 25, 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after extensive deliberation, issued to General MacArthur, Adm. Chester Nimitz, and Army Air Force Gen. Henry Arnold, the top secret directive to proceed with the invasion of Kyushu. The target date was after the typhoon season.

     President Truman approved the plans for the invasions on July 24, 1945. Two days later, the United Nations issued the Potsdam Proclamation, which called upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or face total destruction. Three days later, the Japanese governmental news agency broadcast to the world . . .

WWII Invasion Map of Japan

Aircraft History of the Boeing Model 80, 
80A, 80A-1, 80B and 226

     The need for an all-passenger aircraft with more seating capacity was recognized by Boeing through the success of limited passenger operations of the two-to-four seat Model 40 mailplane on the San Francisco to Chicago route. The Boeing Model 80 trimotor biplane airliner was developed to meet that need. This was Boeing’s first aircraft built specifically as a passenger transport. In order to complement the Model 80s primary passenger configuration, the Boeing Co. developed the Model 95 as an exclusive mail and cargo aircraft (see AAHS Journal, Vol. 56, No. 3, Fall 2011, pp. 209-212).
     The Model 80 engines were mounted one on the nose and one on each side midway between the wings. The up to 330 gallons of fuel were carried in two tanks in the upper wing. In later models, with the addition of a 70-gallon reserve tank, capacity was increased to 400 gallons of fuel. All of the 80 series aircraft had rows of two passenger seats on the left side of the cabin and one seat on the right side. The wings were fabric covered of steel and duralumin construction with detachable wooden framed wing tips to aid storage in hangars. The upper wing had a span of 80 feet while the lower wing was shorter at 64 feet 10 inches. The wing area on all 80 versions was 1,220 square feet. The fuselage was made from welded steel tubing covered with fabric. All models of the 80s were delivered with hot and cold running water in a small rest room, forced-air ventilation, leather upholstered seats and individual reading lights. The airliner was known as the "Pioneer Pullman of the Air."
     The Boeing 80s were powered by three Pratt & Whitney Wasp air-cooled radial engines of 410 hp and could carry 12 passengers. Maximum speed was 128 mph, with a normal cruise speed of 115 mph and stall occurred at a speed of 52 mph. Range was 545 statute miles, service ceiling 14,000 . . .

Component Part Count for Boeing Model 80

One Hell of a Copter

     Pioneers of the helicopter, once considered the "unwanted stepchild"1 of American aviation, truly were evangelicals for their cause. One stated that "for most of us, the helicopter is the ancient dream of humanity."2 Another credited the "omnipotent" with a personal role in the creation, christening the helicopter a "mechanical Pegasus"3 (and indeed, the equine comparison is popular: the helicopter formations of the U.S. Army would be known as the "Air Cavalry").4 The breathless enthusiasm emerged due to two key reasons: the awesome controllability of the machine5 and its potential for universal usage.6
       Regarding controllability, the aeronautical device’s "main draw" was the ability to fly low and slow in any direction and to stop in mid-air.7 Such graceful manipulation required serious technical development that involved mastering the concepts of cyclical and collective pitch, autorotation and torque, all daunting tasks at the outset of helicopter engineering.
     Universality was even more appealing than controllability. Igor Sikorsky, one of the fathers of helicopter technology, stated that "the helicopter is the most universal vehicle of transportation ever designed or used by man."8 The proposed "Mr. and Mrs. Citizen" would like to fly it due to its "smoothness, comfort, and feeling of great control."9 Whereas private planes resulted in heavy casualty rates in the early part of the 20th century due to inadequate piloting,10 the advantage of helicopters was the ability to immediately land, eliminating the danger of accident in normal fast takeoffs and landings.11 Panting inventors thus envisioned an end to clogged city streets12 and a future time in which the "smallest city lot or top of building" could double as an aerial station.13
      In mastering both principles, WWII proved the catalyst for development. Indeed, "at the outbreak of WWII, helicopters were a marginal technology, with aeroplanes [sic] being produced in large quantity with clearly defined roles."14 While ideas had circulated about the helicopter for hundreds of years, development only picked up in the 20th century, and even then depended on a combination of national demand and personal determination, beginning with England’s Spanish import, Juan de la Cierva, then Germany’s own Heinrich Focke and finally, the . . .

Sikorsky XRA-4

The Oil Can that Started a War


     Events following the September 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident took an odd twist. The next day, I was ordered to fly to the U.S. Naval Air Station Cubi Point, Philippines, with my radar officer and some unknown naval officers as passengers in my E-1B.
     The situation became surreal. Thirteen naval officers gathered in a small conference room. While an obviously rankled Navy captain watched wordlessly at the head of a long table, we quietly took our seats around it and waited. And waited.
     The officer’s disheveled uniform looked as though he had lived in it for the past few days, and there was puckering around the buttons suggesting he had kept it in the active wardrobe since he graduated from OCS. He seemed to be overplaying his role with ill-concealed contempt for those of us gathered in the room as though we were miscreants awaiting a sentencing. The drape-lined room and hush among the assembled gave a funeral air to the scene. A casket replacing the table would not have been out of place. But now we waited enduring his accusing glare unaware of our crimes, as he looked from one to another.
     Finally, he spoke.
     "President Johnson sent me personally" " his first words.
     A short pause " he continued, saying he was investigating the incident three days ago (September 19, 1964).
     We 13 were involved.
     He then followed with a statement that shocked me " particularly coming indirectly, but as ascribed by him, from the President of the United States. The stern captain’s preamble was: "If Goldwater found out what happened that night, Johnson would lose the election." The presidential election was now just a little over a month away.
     The captain was ill-tempered; his manner elicited no discussion. None in the circle of naval officers uttered a comment. None was invited.
     After a short preamble, he glared at and pointed to each of us in turn stridently demanding, "Did " you " see " anything?"
     Each answer " mostly in croaking, untested voices " was identical. The only words each witness voiced through the entire "investigation" were "Nothing sir!" These responses fired back at the captain, with the copycat forcefulness of a plebe " 13 times.
     I wondered if my rage at this whole charade was evident to him as I answered with my obligatory brief oral outburst, tactfully holding back an entire string of torrid comments. The meeting finished abruptly on the last respondent’s fading voice.
     End of investigation.
     We filed from the room in silence; heads bowed not looking at each other, each in his personal shock, bewilderment, or rage from the circumstances in which we found ourselves. Preconception from a distant quarter overruled facts and judgment. Probably, like me, each in the assemblage of naval officers viewed the beginning of a war " a provoked war " already anticipating its surreal consequences. I knew at that moment LBJ had his provocation " the fuse was lit for exploding his Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.


     This result was pre-ordained following my top-secret briefing by the carrier air group’s air intelligence officer. This is the story:
     Events leading to this presidential investigation (sic) were surreal and are recalled from my experiences from 47 years past. It is a story I never wanted to tell. Many with strong opinions already know too much about it, or think they do. Few perhaps really want to hear anymore about this sordid war, but maybe now, we should listen to just one more tale for . . .

Grumman E-1B Tracer from VAW-11, BuNo 148138

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).


General Motors Corp. Convair 580, N5121