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Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 64, No. 1 - Spring 2019
Table of Contents

Jumbo: A Tribute to the Boeing 747

If you were a hotshot airplane designer at Boeing in 1965 there was only one place you wanted to be. The aerodynamicists, the airframe guys, the systems guys, the payload guys, the engine guys…the project they most coveted was the sexiest thing the company had ever dreamed up: the first American SST, the Boeing 2707. This was the future of commercial aviation – a true worldshrinker, triple the speed of subsonic jets.

There was, however, another jet taking shape at Boeing at the same time. The document that set out the objectives for
this airplane described “a high-capacity, long-range commercial transport…adaptable to passenger-cargo or all-cargo configurations.”

The model number was 747. Compared with the SST this seemed so boring that the SST guys would commiserate with the 747 guys that if they proved their chops they might be lucky enough to be promoted to a realm that was faster than sound. Guess who had the last laugh. The SST never materialized beyond a full-size wooden mockup. Its huge cost and thirst for fuel made it unviable and it was canceled in 1971. The mockup, which had cost $12 million, was sold to a fairground in Florida for $43,000.

The 747 grew out of a deal made between Bill Allen, the chairman of Boeing, and Juan Trippe, the imperious founder
and boss of Pan Am. Not so much a deal, more a handshake made on a yacht during a weekend of relaxation.

Trippe believed that the future of commercial aviation would be supersonic. But he thought that some time would go by before that was a reality. In the meantime he needed a stopgap, an airplane more than double the size of the Boeing 707s that he flew and that could be operated at a significantly lower cost. He told Allen that when its time was done this airplane, the 747, could revert to being all-cargo, a Mack Truck of the air.

Now, nearly 50 years later, the last two U.S. airlines to operate the 747 have retired them and elsewhere it is slowly being phased out of service. During that time no other airplane has had quite the same influence on the world. It was the first jet to really democratize air travel. Crucially, it inaugurated a universal phenomenon, the enabling of many millions of people to travel and move around the globe with an ease and economy that was quite new in the human experience.

In the summer of 1965 there was no such arching vision in the mind of Joe Sutter when he was assigned by Allen to be the chief engineer on the 747 program. Sutter had missed being drafted to the SST team because he was fixing early problems on the 737, an airplane that he had partly fathered with a more . . .

Pan American Clipper Constitution Boeing 747-121, N747PA, was the first production 747. (Boeing Photo)

Boeing 747 First Flights Over a Half Century: Challenges, Test Events, and Recollections

A major milestone event in any aircraft program is an aircraft type’s “First Flight.” While modern engineering design and pre-first flight testing methods now provide a high degree of assurance for the expected safe flying characteristics, intended performance, and reliable systems functionality, there is no substitute for the anticipation, thrill, and awareness of potential unanticipated risks that exist when actually taking an aircraft airborne for the very first time, and safely returning it back to a landing. A similar milestone reoccurs for the first flight of each major derivatives of a type, when major modifications have been introduced. For the B747 family, during mid-life, this was the case for the introduction of the B747-400, which was a major update with new engines, systems and flight deck. Decades later another first flight event occurred for the B747-8 that was yet again another significant modernization of the B747 type. The B747-8 introduced new technology engines, new fly-by-wire (FBW) controls, modern aerodynamics and could be flown at substantially higher gross weights providing higher payloads, better fuel economy and longer range capabilities. This short description shares some of the highlights of each of the three major B747 “First Flight” events. It includes the original B747-100 first flight, the midlife rebirth of the B747-400, and the “First Flight” of the latest third generation derivative, the B747-8, which is still in production, and will now likely be flying in air transport service for decades into the future.

The B747-100 First Flight
The B747-100’s successful maiden flight has to be considered as one of the most significant and memorable first flights in aviation history. It was the first wide-body “Jumbo” jet, much larger and heavier than any predecessor, and it was powered by the first new “high bypass ratio” fan jet engines that would become the benchmark for commercial air transport service. Equally significant from a pilot’s perspective, the 747 had a much higher flight deck “wheel to eye height” affecting runway and taxiway visibility, changing the takeoff and landing visual perspective, and a very long fuselage length with the landing gear located far . . . .

Boeing 747-8, N747EX, at altitude during its first flight. (Boeing Photo)

Trained for Combat

Col. Allen J. Diefendorf (Dief) spent 33 years flying aircraft first for the Army Air Corps, and then for the United States Air Force. He flew combat missions in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Included among his accomplishments are leading an attack on von Rundstedt’s castle headquarters in the waning days of WWII, and causing an international incident in 1950 when he and another F-80 pilot attacked a Soviet airfield during the Korean War.

Dief’s interest in flying began while growing up in the small village of Silver Creek, New York. On Sundays, his father would take young Allen and his brother Charles to the Buffalo airport, among other destinations, so that they could see the rows of P-40 Warhawk aircraft that the huge Curtiss-Wright plant manufactured. Bell Aircraft would soon move in and begin to turn out the P-39 Airacobra.

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Dief was at home working on a homework assignment (he was a senior in high school), when he heard a newsflash saying that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese forces. Enduring the remainder of the 1941-1942 school year was tough, knowing that the nation was at war. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sworn in in November 1942.

When it was time to report, Dief was bused to Ft. Niagara, a large replacement depot. He decided to try for the Aviation
Cadet Program, passed the tests, and was accepted. Soon after, he boarded a train to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center in Texas. There was no flying at San Antonio, but there was a lot of physical training (PT), class time, close order drill and more PT.

Upon graduation, Dief boarded a troop train and headed to Cimarron Field, Oklahoma. Cimarron Field, like many others
of its kind, was a civilian flying school with contracts with the U.S. government. The instructors were civilians with military supervisors. The aircraft were Fairchild PT-19 tandem trainers with about 175 horsepower.

Primary instruction was eight weeks, the time frame now being April-May, 1943. Dief learned the controls, airspeed control, and wind adjustments. At any time, the instructor would shout over the intercom tube, “Forced landing!” Dief would have to pick out a suitable field and set up a pattern to set down. This occurred on about every fifth flight. . . .

Diefendorf with Lady on a P-38 at ALG A-68, Juvincourt, France.

The Operational History of C-141 65-0269

This aircraft was accepted by the Air Force on July 13, 1966. The first duty assignment was with the 436th MAW at Dover AFB, Delaware. It arrived on station July 15, 1966, with 8.9 flight hours on the airframe.[1]

Operational History[2]

436th MAW, Dover AFB…
    July 15, 1966 to July 2, 1973. PCS to Charleston AFB
437th MAW, Charleston AFB…
    July 2, 1973 to June 1, 1975. TDY to Dover AFB for repairs
436th MAW, Dover AFB…
    June 1, 1975 to July 8, 1975.
PCS to Charleston AFB
437th MAW, Charleston AFB…
    July 8, 1975 to September 4, 1980. TDY to Lockheed
Lockheed & WRALC…
    September 4, 1980 to December 5, 1980. ‘B’ model conversion*3
437th MAW, Charleston AFB…
    December 5, 1980 to October 22, 1986. TDY to WRALC4
WRALC, Robins AFB…
    October 22, 1986 to February 19, 1987. PDM. Return to Charleston
437th MAW, Charleston AFB…
    February 19, 1987 to May 18, 2000. PCS to AMARC

During July, 1973, this aircraft was part of a unit move from Dover AFB to Charleston AFB. The 436th MAW at Dover gave up the 20th MAS, their ground personnel, flight crews and C-141 aircraft in exchange for the 3rd AS at Charleston, their ground personnel, flightcrews and C-5 Galaxies. Once this transfer was complete, 65-0269 remained a valuable asset of the 437th MAW until May 2000, when it was retired to the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan AFB.

On October 6, 1973, the military forces of Egypt and Syria attacked the State of Israel on two fronts setting off what would become known as the Yom Kippur War. Suffering initial heavy losses, Prime Minister Golda Meir appealed to the United States for assistance; and President Nixon ordered the resupply of Israel with tanks, ammunition, aircraft and armored vehicles.

This resupply mission became known as Operation Nickel Grass and was conducted by the Military Airlift Command from October 14, 1973 to November 14, 1973. C-141A 65-0269 flew two of the 394 C-141 sorties of this airlift operation into LOD International Airport in Tel Aviv: sortie #299 on 11/4/73 and sortie #313 on 11/5/73, bringing in a total of 122,699 lbs. of much needed war materials.[5]

On May 24, 1975, while transiting Dover AFB, a Charleston based flight crew began what seemed to be the beginning of a normal European Passenger Shuttle Mission, the European Eagle. Following a four-hour ground time to reconfigure the aircraft, the crew started engines and began taxiing. After . . .

Lockheed C-141 65-0269

The Incredible Mystery Spin: Unhurt, Three Men Survived Nick Mamer’s 1926 Crash From 2,000 Feet

Death from flying accidents was fairly common in 1926, but Nick Mamer and two passengers escaped unscathed in a seemingly impossible way from a fiery crash near Spokane, Wash., June 22, 1926.[1]

The event began a few days earlier when pilot Paul C. Vernier landed a new plane at Parkwater airfield (now Felts Field) outside Spokane, Washington. Manufacturer J. Don Alexander climbed from the craft and introduced it to pilots at the field as the “Alexander Eaglerock,” the second of a type he had first introduced in 1925. It was an open-cockpit, threeplace biplane with a Curtiss OX-5 90-hp engine.[2]

Alexander invited pilots at the airfield, including those from its National Guard unit, to fly the airplane. Mamer and the Guard’s commander, Maj. John Fancher, strapped on parachutes and put the plane through “all of the stunts it was capable of except spinning.” They declared the plane “apparently possessed a good combination of flying qualities.” The plane was flown by other pilots, who rated it similarly. One of the Guard pilots put the Eaglerock in a spin and after three rotations, recovered from the spin and landed safely.[3]

Later on, Mamer introduced two of his student pilots, Fred Moller and N. Stohr, to Mr. Alexander. The manufacturer, sensing potential sales, invited Mamer to take the trainees for a ride. After flying them around for more than a quarter of an hour, Mamer asked the passengers what they thought of the airplane. They said they were pleased and asked him to perform a spin. At a“good safe altitude of 2,000 feet” (AGL),

Mamer later recalled, “I pulled the nose up, kicked on rudder and pulled back my stick and throttle,” and the plane began to spin.[4]

After the plane had gone around twice, “I applied full opposite rudder, stick forward and away from the spin and gunned the motor. To my surprise, the nose gradually worked its way up until [the plane] was almost horizontal and the ship continued spinning faster and faster. By this time the ship settled into a steady rapid spin with the fuselage absolutely horizontal and the center of rotation between the front and rear cockpit. Again I tried to right the ship with full throttle leaving the motor wide for about four turns but the only effect was more rapid spinning.”[5]

The aircraft was now in a flat spin, rotating in a very tight circle. “Every combination of control was tried but without results. It was estimated the ship made 20 turns in 2,000 ft.”[6]

At this point, Nick realized the three men would go to the ground with the aircraft, since they were without parachutes. “Before we had dropped to the 1,200-foot mark, I knew we would hit the ground,” he said. “The ship was spinning fast, but falling comparatively slowly...I had hope that we would hit slow enough so the metal frame of the [fuselage’s] body would take the shock and save us,” he said.[7]

Moments later, “...being only two to three hundred feet from the ground, there was nothing left to do but cut the [motor’s] switch and hold the ship in the spin to reduce as much as possible the vertical speed.”[8]

Nick Mamer described the crash that followed in his July 3, 1926, letter to the Editor of Aviation as follows:“Looking to see what was below I observed we were directly in line with the high tension wires running parallel to the interurban line. Anticipating fire or electrocution if we survived the crash I planned on jumping clear after the first interruption of the fall. When this. . . .

Capt. Nick Mamar Northwest Airlines portrait.

The Pilot, the Prince and the Rescue

Lt. Col. James A. Gunn III was on his hands and knees, stuffed into a cramped, dark and cold compartment of an Me-109G-6. The space had been designed to hold radio equipment, not a large man in a bulky flight jacket, but he had squeezed in through an 18-inch-square metal door. That door was his only way out, and there was no latch on the inside. Though the plane was flying at 19,000 feet over the Adriatic Sea, Gunn had no parachute, no 0xygen equipment. His fate lay largely in the hands of the pilot, a Romanian ace — a prince, no less — credited with shooting down dozens of Allied planes, including an American B-24. Enemies only days before, the two men had now conspired to steal the Me-109 from an airfield outside Bucharest.

How a U.S. pilot came to be flying in a stolen German plane with a Romanian of royal bloodlines is one of World War II’s wildest tales. The story would end with the rescue of more than 1,100 American airmen once held as POWs. But it started with the 32- year-old Gunn, commanding officer of the Army Air Force’s 454th Bombardment Group, and the gamble he took to save his men.
Ten days earlier, on August 17, 1944, Gunn had led a squadron of B-24s in an attack by more than 200 U.S. bombers on Romanian oil refineries at Ploesti that were fueling Germany’s war machine. This was the 23rd mission against Ploesti, and more than 280 American bombers had already been lost, along with 2,829 air men captured or killed. Gunn’s plane was brought down, and he was captured and taken to a large POW compound in Bucharest.

Within a few days, Gunn and the other prisoners foundthemselves caught in the middle of a firefight — this time between Romania and Germany. Romania’s longtime fascist dictator, General Ion Antonescu, had backed Adolf Hitler in the war, supplying more troops for the Eastern Front than all of Germany’s other allies combined. But the country’s ruler, King Michael, a teenager at the war’s start, had made frequent pleas for peace and won support in his country’s military and government. By late August 1944, with Germany reeling and Soviet forces advancing on Romania, the king confronted Antonescu and demanded his resignation. “What — and leave the country in the hands of a child?” Antonescu replied. The king had the general arrested, a provisional government was formed and Romania threw its support to the Allies.

The American prisoners, assuming they would soon be free, were ecstatic when they heard the news. But they quickly realized there were new dangers. What if the Germans moved them to other POW camps? Or executed them on the spot?

When the Russians arrived in Bucharest, a fight with the remaining Germans would be inevitable, with the Americans caught in between. As if that were not enough, German aircraft launched bombing raids on Bucharest.

Some of the airmen were now held in a ski resort in the nearby Transylvanian Alps. To keep these men safe from German reprisals, Romanian soldiers moved them to a remote village, Pietrosita, where they joined the locals in a raucous celebration of Romania’s changing fortunes. Several of the men had formed a jazz band in prison and offered to play. They started with the hit song “Flat Foot Floogie,” a jazz tune even the Romanians knew, and many young women of Pietrosita jumped up to dance. “The party went on until the early morning hours,” Lt. Richard Britt rrelations were firmly cemented that night.”

There were no parties for the POWs in Bucharest. The Romanian guards returned to the Americans their guns but cautioned against wandering around town. That did not stop two lieutenants, Henry Lasco and Martin Roth. They left the compound one night despite hearing rifle shots, commands barked in German, and pounding footfalls. In the dark, Lasco banged his head against something, only to discover it was the boot of a German soldier who had been hanged from a lamppost. . . .

Messerschmitt Bf 109 that Lt. Col. Gun flew to freedom in.

Cooperative Airplanes of the U.S. Army Air Corps, 1930-1934

Today it is an extreme rarity for a manufacturer to develop and build a military type airplane for consideration by the U.S. Air Force or Navy without some commitment from the government to bear part or all of the development expenses. The risks associated with the millions of dollars required for such a development program are just too high without some guarantee of a return on the investment. In the late 1920s and early 1930s this was not the case.

Aircraft designs were progressing rapidly, particularly with fighters and trainer type aircraft. Aircraft companies were exploring new designs on their own and looking for opportunities to sell these to the military. Because of this rapidly changing environment, the standard government acquisition process using a request for proposal and competitive bidding was producing designs that were essentially antiquated before the delivery of even a prototype.

Recognizing this situation, the U.S. Congress passed legislation with the Act of July 2, 1926, that allowed the services to pursue contracts without requiring competitive bidding. The Army Air Corps chose to pursue this option on a limited basis while the Navy continued with procurements through standard bidding practices. This non-competitive bidding option was one of the driving forces behind what became the Cooperative Airplane Proposals (CAP).

The Army Air Corps during the late 1920s and early 1930s frequently received requests to consider aircraft that a company was proposing to build and submit without a specific order or requirement having been specified. In each case, the Air Corps carefully advised the manufacturer that it would offer guidance, inspect mockups, provide equipment under a bailment contract for the prototype and test the model submitted. But, that this participation was done with the clear understanding that the Air Corps had no obligation whatsoever to purchase the type or bear any part of the development costs.

By 1930, the number of inquiries made to the Air Corps Materiel Division at Wright Field, Ohio, had reached such proportions that a system was needed to identify and track each proposal. Wright Field was the focus for evaluating and testing new designs and technology. The field had in use an airplane numbering series that dated back to the organization’s earliest days when it was located at McCook Field in Dayton. The practice, started in 1918, was to assign a number to each airplane undergoing trials at the field prefixed with a “P” (P-1, P-2, etc). Around 1926 an “X” prefix had been added to indicate “Experimental” types. By 1930 these numbers had reached XP-600 and it was realized that another series of numbers was needed to control the CAP being received by the Air Corps.

Modeled off the existing numbering system, but to avoid conflict, the CAPs were started with 900 and are believed to have extended up to number 950. All type numbers were preceded with an “X”, indicating their strict experimental status. The one change made in the new designation system was to indicate by the second letter the airplane’s function, e.g. in XP-900, the“P” stood for “Pursuit.” These designations matched . . .

Thomas-Morse XO-932.

Dark Horse Running, Part IV: Bell and Martin-Bell’s Cold War Orbital Glide Bombers

During the mid-1950s Dr. Dornberger and his select Bell BoMi engineering teams continued to refining the basic BoMi concept with Air Force support and funding leading into the Bell R459L Brass Bell reconnaissance glider studies. During his tenure, Gen. Thomas S. Power commanding the Air Research & Development Command (1954-1957) was aware of and supported continued funding of Bell’s BoMi and its reconnaissance spinoff, Brass Bell.[1] On September 18, 1956, Larry Bell, suffering ill health, resigned as president, becoming Chairman of the Board, and chose Leston Faneuf as company president. Larry suffered a congestive heart failure on October 20, 1956, and died at age 62. Mr. Faneuf and his senior executives reorganized the company, and replaced the old names “Niagara Frontier,” or “Buffalo-Niagara Falls” with two new division names. They were, Aircraft and Weapon Systems Division managed by Ray P. Whitman, further divided into four subdivisions: Avionics, Rockets, Guided Missiles and Research.[2]

Bell engineers initially investigated high-speed thermal research in 1948 while designing the Mach 3 Bell X-2 research aircraft.[3] Chromium-nickel was applied as wing skins while fuselage sheets were formed of stainless steel and K-Monel, an age-hardened nickel-copper alloy, developed by International Nickel Company, Inc (INCO).[4] In 1953, the BoMi structures engineers began from scratch to develop radical thermal protection methods for BoMi. However, in 1956, their research and efforts were now focused upon Brass Bell.

The engineers reduced the glider’s empty weight by creating a basic aluminum airframe (endo-skeleton) that supported aerodynamic loads. An exo-skeleton thermal protection shield would envelope the glider thus effectively shielding it at sustained hypersonic speeds: it promised 98% heat dissipation of both fuselage and wings.5 Called the “double-wall cooling and insulation thermal protection system,” its potential was acknowledged by the USAF Flight Dynamics Laboratory of. . .

Two orbital bomers deploying their weapons.

Ireland Meteor

Following the success of the Ireland Comet, G.S. Ireland sought to develop a plane around the “old reliable” OX-5 engine, which would offer commercial concerns or private individuals a feature not currently available in any of the OX-5 based designs then on the market. Namely, carrying comfortably three passengers and pilot instead of the typical two and pilot.

This new design, which was named the Meteor, was designed by D.J. Brimm, Jr., formerly one of the engineering staff of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co., Inc., before joining Mr. Ireland’s staff. The Meteor followed the latest practices in airplane design with regards to accessories and conveniences for the pilot and used the methods and practices adopted by Army Air Service with regards to factors of safety. The fuselage, which was steel tube with fabric covering and braced along the Warren truss principle, was rectangular in section at the cockpits, changing gradually to a triangular section toward the tail, the apex of the to the triangle being the bottom longeron. This gave a very pleasing appearance in addition to having advantages from the structural standpoint.

The seating arrangements were extremely good for the time. The pilot sat in the front cockpit with one passenger, seated to his right. His view, and that of the passenger, was excellent. The rear cockpit accommodates two passengers and is very roomy. It· is entirely free of controls or wires. A baggage compartment with room for two suitcases was provided and, if desired, the whole rear cockpit may be transformed into a mail compartment, the space thus provided amounting to 30 cu. ft., or more than the capacity of the standard DH mail plane.

The control stick was offset in the cockpit located between the pilot’s feet and curved back over his knees so that there is no need for spreading them apart to operate the ailerons. The stabilizer was adjustable from the pilot’s seat in flight, with ample movement to take care of any change in the center of gravity.

The landing gear was of the axle-less type, with compression shock absorbers, thus obviating the need to re-wrap traditional shockabsorber cord every few months. The tailskid also had a compression shock-absorber and was steered with the rudder pedals, giving complete directional control of the plane while taxiing, even at low speed.

The engine mounting was quickly detachable and those parts of the cowling that needed to be frequently removed were held in place by automobile hood fasteners. The mounting was designed to be strong enough to take a Curtiss C-6 or a Hispano Suiza engine in place of the OX-5 or OXX-6 engines and any one of these engines could be installed without structural changes. The Wright Whirlwind engine installation required. . . .

Ireland Meteor

Confession Corner: Airborne Problem

In the early 1960s I was serving with SAC as a B-52 electronic warfare officer. On this particular mission we were flying a 24-hour nuclear airborne alert mission in a B-52D. It was night, high over Spain when we had a rapid cabin decompression and were forced to make a rapid descent to 10,000 feet.

I went to the lower deck and opened the small door behind the navigators that opened into an unpressurized compartment. In this compartment I noticed a fairly large piece of tubing that disconnected from the pressurization unit. With a screwdriver and clamps, I reconnected the tubing. I asked the copilot to engage the pressurization system. When he did, it blew apart again.

Shortly thereafter, the copilot announced that all the fuel tank gauges were going to zero. The pilot determined that the
fuel pumps were working so they could monitor fuel transfer from various tanks and keep track of the center of gravity by checking stall speed periodically.

Our ground contact at Moron Air Base, Seville, Spain, said they were sending up a KC-135 to give us fuel and wanted us to land in daylight. We air refueled and landed in the daytime. It was only after landing that we discovered our problem had been caused by an inflight fire.

The B-52 has 10 hydraulic packs with turbos that are run off hot engine bleed air. One engine bleed air tube to a hydraulic pack in the unpressurized equipment compartment aft of the bomb bay had blown apart and burned a very large wire bundle. This precipitated the problems we had experienced.

No warning was indicated on the copilot’s fire warning panel as those wires were in the bundle destroyed. Because the incident occurred at night, the tail gunner did not see any smoke coming from the aircraft. Also, he did not smell any fumes as his cabin was pressurized.

If he had, we surely would no have not refueled and landed earlier.

A tanker was flown in from our home base in Florida with a maintenance crew and equipment to make the repairs. The
tanker then returned to Florida. Unknown to us or the tanker crew, our wives had packed our civilian clothes, which were placed on the KC-135 – so our clothes returned to Florida. Maintenance advised it would take some time to make the repairs. For the two weeks extension to our mission, we had to purchase civilian shoes and clothes.

Forum of Flight

The FORUM is presented as an opportunity for each member to participate in the Journal by submitting interesting or unusual photographs. This issue features a combination of material. In addition to images submitted by members, the Society is scanning its slide archive contributed by members old and new, and a number of interesting shots have been pulled from the sliides that have been scanned. Unfortunately, in many cases the contributor information has been lost. Where known, we acknowledge them.

Negatives, slides, black-and-white or color photos with good contrast may be used if they have smooth surfaces. Digital submissions are also acceptable, but please provide high resolution images (>3,000 pixels wide). Please include as much information as possible about the image such as: date, place, msn (manufacturer’s serial number), names, etc., plus proper photo credit (it may be from your collection but takenby another photographer).

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 (yourname and complete address).” Or you may wish to have your material added to the AAHS photo archives.

United Airlines Boeing 737-222, N9009U.

News & Comments

Unlikely Eagles, Vol 63, No. 4 – Fall 2018

I ran across two errors in the “Unlikely Eagles” article by Capt Kanakis in the Winter 2018 AAHS Journal.

On page 269 he states that General Hap Arnold retired as General of the Air Force in 1949. This is not exactly true. General Arnold officially retired as Commanding General of the Army Air Forces (four-star general) on June 30, 1946. Later, Public Law 81-58, enacted May 7, 1949, designated Arnold as “General of the Air Force,” a five-star rank, although he had been retired from active duty for almost three years.

The second error, in my opinion, was in the caption at the lower right of page 277. The caption says that the aircraft is a North American AT-6. I believe this is incorrect for three reasons, at least. First, the landing gear has no doors over the strut, the rear cockpit canopy has a triangular section of plexiglass, and the plane was being used at Stewart AAF at a time when they were using BT-13s (see photo at top of page 278). Therefore, I believe that the “AT-6” is actually a Vultee BT-13.

Mike Hoffman
Windcrest, Texas

[Editor’s reply: I believe the eagle-eyed Mr. Hoffman is indeed correct that the aircraft in question is a Vultee BT-13.]

The Search for historical Truth by Thomas C. Pacshaw, Vol. 63, No. 2 - Summer 2018

There was another fatal accident at Bradley Field a few months later (see following). A Lockheed A-29 crashed in the vicinity of the airport on February 11, 1942, while flying a photo mission.

The pilot of that aircraft, 1st Lt. Melvin W. Schoephoester was my son-in-law’s mother’s first husband. There was one child from this marriage, who now resides in North Carolina. Schoephoester’s widow married another U.S. Army officer, who later became a two-star general, and had three children, one who is my son-in-law.

The road into the terminal at Bradley International Airport is “Schoephoester Road”, named after him.

Paul Trask

Grandbury, Conn., February 11, 1942, by Jim Ignasher On February 11, 1942, a Lockheed A-29A attack bomber (41-23340) with six men aboard was flying at 28,000 ft when the aircraft suffered a catastrophic malfunction. According to one press report, numerous people on the ground had seen the plane’s right wing fall off while it was still falling from the sky.

One witness was Gordon Hayes, an aircraft spotter on duty in the Suffield Observation Post. He described how the aircraft went into a “corkscrew spin” as it came down.

Another was Paul Hass of West Suffield, who said that at one point the plane appeared to straighten out before going into another spin, and from his vantage point one wing appeared to be missing.

Mrs. Elmer Mortensen of Bloomfield related how she saw one crewman jump from the plane. “Soon, speck came out of the heavens,” she recalled, “The as the speck grew, I saw a stream of smoke with it. I heard the motor skipping, and then the plane came down fast, straight down it seemed. While it was smoking a man bailed out with a parachute.”

An unidentified operator of a garage in East Granby also reported seeing the plane fall with a wing and a portion of the tail missing.

The plane crashed shortly before 4:00 p.m., in a gully behind the Petraitis residence at 151 South Main Street. There was no explosion or fire. State police and officials from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks responded. Hundreds of curious spectators descended on the scene and police were busy keeping crowds at bay.

The dead were identified as:

1st Lt. Melvin W. Schoephoester of Baraboo, Wisconsin.
2nd Lt. Walter C. Boyle of LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
S/Sgt. Michael M. Kaufman of Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
Sgt. Gordon Johnson of Renov, Pennsylvania.
Sgt. Thomas F. Quinn of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.
Sgt. John T. Howey, Jr. of New York City, N.Y.

Missing at the wreck site was the body of the pilot, and it was presumed he’d bailed out prior to the crash. An open parachute was later found a few miles away in East Willington, and a search was conducted there without results. Schoephoester’s body was later recovered less than two miles from the crash with his parachute. An official from Bradley offered his opinion that Schoephoester had slipped from this chute after jumping, . . .

Lockheed A-29 Hudson

President’s Message

Chris and I take every opportunity to enjoy and share AAHS aviation history with family, aviation friends and colleagues, business associates and anyone else that happens to wander into the hangar.

This year, thousands, myself included, will get to share a moment of extraordinary aviation history at the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion of June 6, 1944, at both Duxford, England, and Normandy, France. At this event, the skies over England and France will, possibly for the last time ever, be filled with C-47/DC-3s carrying paratroopers commemorating this tremendous liberation effort of WWII. As of this writing 38 aircraft, coming from all over the world will travel to Duxford to participate in the paratrooper drop across the channel, including several from the United States.

The logistics efforts alone to make this come to pass have been staggering. Participating aircraft owners in the U.S. have overhauled or replaced engines, pre-purchased thousands of gallons of fuel, staged additional engines and other critical parts along the flight route, added instrumentation and gained FAA waivers for needed changes, as well as carefullyplanning out landing options at the various airports and countries they will land at duringthe course of their epic flight to Duxford, England. Their flight path, once leaving the U.S. mainland includes Goose Bay Airport, Canada, Narsarsuaq Airport (Bluie West One of WW II fame), Greenland, Reykjavik Airport, Iceland, arriving first in the UK at Wick Airport, Scotland.

The event will include celebrations at Duxford Airport, from June 2-5, and at Caen Carpiquet Airport, in Normandy, France June 5-9. 250 paratroopers will board the aircraft in the United Kingdom to fly across the English Channel and jump into the historic drop zones of Normandy, dressed in WWII style Allied uniforms, using military round parachutes. I am currently making arrangements with the Imperial War Museum at Duxford to invite other AAHS members who will be in attendance to socialize for one of the afternoons (June 2-5), and enjoy some of this history together.

As we are spending more time at Flabob Airport, getting our new headquarters ready for our move-in, we’ve been able to wander out onto the flight line, where several of the C-47s/DC-3 variants making this historic flight are getting their last-minute preparations completed, including Flabob Airport’s Flabob Express and the C-53 D-Day Doll operated by the Riverside Commemorative Air Force unit. Yours truly had the honor of repainting the
nose art of D Day Doll and several flight crew jackets so she and her crew will look their best .

It’s a real treat to step outside the AAHS HQ office and walk into history into the making; an experience I look forward to repeating as we develop our partnership with Flabob Airport. If you are attending the 75th Anniversary of the D Day Invasion event, contact me via the AAHS email at prez@aahs-online.org, and I can provide details of the planned AAHS gettogether. It will also be posted to the AAHS Facebook page when confirmed.

Jerri Bergen
AAHS President

Nose art being applied to DC-3