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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

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Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 66, No. 4 - Winter 2021
Table of Contents

  • SAVE THE DATE - 2022 AAHS Annual Meeting
  • When Pigs Flew: The TFX Affair - Chris Hansen
  • Hollywood, the Memphis Belle and the “Interpretative” Documentary - Lawrence Karson
  • Northrop Gamma 2A: Hawks Dreamed of it, Northrop Did it - Alain Pelletier
  • Kaman HH-43 Huskie; First USAF SAR helicopter used in the Southeast Asia Conflict - Johan D. Ragay
  • The Invisible Aviation Revolution - Dr. Allen Fuhs
  • New AAHS Website - Hayden Hamilton
  • Forum of Flight
  • News & Comments from our Members
  • AAHS at AirVenture 2022 - Call for Volunteers
  • President’s Message - Jerri Bergen

  • SAVE THE DATE - 2022 AAHS Annual Meeting

    Sunoma Valley (Fairmont, CA)
    June 10-11-12, 2022!

    SAVE the DATE - June 10-12, 2022 AAHS ANNUAL Mtg.


    When Pigs Flew: The TFX Affair

    October 1962 – Few who were alive back then have forgotten the Cuban Missile Crisis. Certainly not me; because for a boy just turned seven, nothing was more exciting than the prospect of nuclear war, and I spelled my way through the newspapers for clues as to when the fun might start. I was a bit miffed when, after a couple of weeks, it seemed like things had returned to what passed as normal then.

    What I did not know about, and hardly anyone alive today remembers, was the task President John F. Kennedy and his Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara turned to next. With as much care, effort and trepidation as they seemed to have devoted to Nikita Khrushchev’s missiles, they decided upon, and finally announced, the “winner” of the TFX “fighter” competition. The words in quotes were a bit imprecise, as we shall see.

    The TFX (tactical fighter, experimental) was NOT just another aircraft program. It was a project expected to revolutionize flight and point the path for decades to come. Whoever won that first contract stood to become “the Ford” of aviation. Soon, though, some modified this to “the Edsel” of the skies.

    The TFX saga is a long one. It began in wartime Germany. You could fairly say it ended with the retirement of the last F-111 aircraft in Australia in 2010 – although to be sure, some other variable-geometry (“swing-wing”) aircraft are still flying.[1] This short article will be restricted to the crucial events in 1962-63 when the TFX affair produced big headlines after triggering a ferocious Senate investigation. That probe threatened the very survival of President Kennedy’s administration. Kennedy’s death ended the “real” TFX probe. When it restarted, it focused on Secretary McNamara’s mishandling of the F-111 project. Readers interested in the entire story – and it contains many surprises – are welcome to read my book, When Pigs Flew: The TFX Affair.[2]

    Though originally inspired by the captured Messerschmitt P.1101 prototype, the TFX project per se had begun in 1959. It was fiercely promoted by two men who both officed at Langley, Virginia.[3] One was NASA’s Dr. John Stack, who had already shepherded numerous swing-wing models through his transonic wind tunnel at NASA Langley. The other was Gen. Frank Everest, chief of Tactical Air Command, who thought the new concept was just what he needed to strike back effectively at the Warsaw Pact in the event of nuclear war.

    The project was about to go out for bid when Defense Secretary Thomas Gates decided – in a measure of either prudence or uncommon courtesy – to allow the incoming Democratic administration the honor of the go-ahead. That was the last time the TFX followed its flight plan. After Robert McNamara settled into the Pentagon, the plane seemed to defy all regular predictions. It would become an immense debacle for not just him, but for the U.S. Navy, the military at large, and indeed for the Kennedy brothers. The initially highly admired super-manager from Ford was undone by Vietnam – but the TFX ran a close second and in crucial, telling ways, the program resembled McNamara’s Asian nemesis.

    Instead of competing the already finished Request-for-Proposal and Work Description, which described a medium-range nuclear interdictor for the Air Force, McNamara and his . . .

    Lockheed proposed their model CL-580 for the TFX

    Hollywood, the Memphis Belle and the “Interpretative” Documentary

    Since the earliest films of the Wright Brothers flying their motorized aircraft, cinema and aviation have had a connection that continued throughout the following decades as Hollywood quickly recognized the allure of aviation to its audiences. As sound editor and four-time Academy Award winner Ben Burtt remarked years later, “Aviation has always offered three words: speed, daring and romance. Those are three items the cinema loves to feast on.”

    The first Oscar for best picture went to the aviation silent film Wings in 1929. A story of the horrors of WWI, its director, William Wellman, successfully used his own combat flying experience in its creation. The millionaire aviator Howard Hughes would shortly follow with his own multimillion-dollar aviation epic, Hell’s Angels, in 1930. Seen as courageous, adventurous and independent, aviators in the early 20th century were admired as modern-day paladins, possessing a certain élan and a distinctive style. And Hollywood contributed to that image through the narratives and interpretations of their films.

    Washington leaders recognized, even prior to the entry of the United States into WWII, the capabilities of the American film industry to aid in the nation’s eventual war effort. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, understood the power of the cinema, appointing Lowell Mellett, a former journalist, as a liaison to Hollywood. Hollywood was seen as a source of influence and mythmaking via the silver screen, able to “sell” the reasons for war embedded in a form of entertainment that spanned the nation as over 50 million Americans [about two-fifths of the 1940 U.S. population] attended movie theaters every week.

    Along with Hollywood cinema propagandizing the war effort to the public through its feature films, a second need was for training films to instruct a new army being mobilized – possibly the most famous being Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series – as well as providing film clips to address the needs of the ubiquitous newsreels that preceded the main feature at most theaters. All led to the use of Hollywood’s expertise in the war effort.

    Part of that use of expertise included the addition to some of the military cinematography units of professional directors and cameramen from Hollywood. They brought with them their concepts, ideas and skills derived from their years of directing and filming Hollywood movies for the commercial market. They offered the ability to make a narrative out of a series of film clips that was not only informative but also entertaining to the audience. They knew how to connect with their American audiences. They knew how to tell a story through film.

    William Wyler
    William Wyler, a successful director known for films such as Jezebel (1938) and Wuthering Heights (1939), was one of them; his most recent production prior to Memphis Belle being Mrs. Miniver. Volunteering to serve, he was commissioned a major in the Army in 1942 and deployed to London, assigned to the Eighth Air Force. By January of 1943, he was at Bassingbourn Air Field 50 miles out of London. His orders were simple. To make films “to portray the U.S. Army Air Force carrying . . .

    Crew of the Memphis Belle

    Northrop Gamma 2A: Hawks Dreamed of It, Northrop Did It

    It was in 1918, in Santa Barbara, Calif., with brothers Allan and Malcolm Loughead, that John Knudsen Northrop took his first steps in aviation. He was then 23 years old. A few years later, after partnering with Douglas Aircraft Co., Northrop took an active part in the design of several of the brand’s military aircraft and subsequently designed the architecture of a wooden monoplane, under the name of Vega, that would soon be a worldwide success. It was around this time that Jack Northrop[1] had teamed up with businessman William Kenneth Jay who, sensing the potential offered by the concept of the Vega, had been the driving force in an agreement with Allan Loughead’s company, which in 1926 had taken the name of Lockheed Aircraft Co. Logically, Jack. Northrop became the chief engineer of this new company which, less than a year later, began to produce the Vega in series.[2] It was characterized in particular by its cantilever wing with plywood cladding and its monocoque fuselage. After production of the Vega and Air Express had started, Northrop and Jay left the Lockheed Aircraft Co. in 1928 and established the Avion Corporation, which soon became the Northrop Avion Corp., a subsidiary of the United Aircraft & Transport Corporation (UA&TC) industrial group created in 1929 on the initiative of William Boeing and Frederick Rentschler.

    Mass production of aluminum parts
    As the chief engineer of his own company, Jack Northrop was able to work on some of the topics close to his heart. One of these related to the use of aluminum in the design of aircraft cabins. Indeed, Northrop remained convinced that in order to make the best use of aluminum in structures, it was necessary to adapt this metal to the most modern production methods allowing the production of parts in large series. In this field in particular, Northrop developed a process for manufacturing aluminum parts by stamping, a method that he tested on wing profiles, on tapered bodies and finally on an aircraft that he called Flying Wing No. 1, and from which he was to draw valuable lessons for some of his future projects.[3]

    This experimental work, carried out in 1928, culminated in the Northrop Alpha low-wing monoplane, a six-passenger commercial transport aircraft that appeared the following year. Of all metal construction, its structure had, among other features, a low cantilever wing of multicellular design developed by Northrop himself and a tapered cabin with perfectly smooth skin.

    Shortly after the UA & TC leadership moved the plant from Northrop to Wichita, Kansas, Northrop and Jay decided to return to California in January 1932 to establish a new business there, the Northrop Corporation, in association with . . .

    Hawk flying his Northrop Gama

    Kaman HH-43 Huskie; First USAF SAR helicopter used in the Southeast Asia Conflict

    Developed as a “Local Base Rescue” (LBR) helicopter in the early 1960s, the Kaman HH-43B was dispatched to northern Thailand and Vietnam in June and August 1964 (respectively). With the Urgent need to rescue downed pilots out of Laotian and North Vietnamese jungles, the HH-43B was pressed into a new role as Aircrew Recovery (ACR) aircraft.

    First SAR helicopters in SEA
    The first bit of history that needs to be highlighted is the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
    “On August 4, 1964, President Johnson announced that North Vietnamese boats had fired on U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam. The U.S. Navy retaliated by flying strikes into North Vietnam, bombing naval bases and an oil facility. Two U.S. aircraft were shot down. Three days later, on August 7, Congress passed the
    Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It became Public Law 88-408 on August 10.”[1]

    In this remarkable resolution, Congress charged that the North Vietnamese had deliberately and repeatedly attacked U.S. naval vessels operating lawfully in international waters. Congress further charged that this was part of systematic campaign of aggression being waged by North Vietnam against its neighbors. As a consequence, Congress gave the President sweeping powers to “take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.” The resolution was to expire when the President had determined that “the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured.”

    During the period of 1960-1963, there was a growing importance to the U.S. of tactical air transport and tactical air attack operations in Vietnam and Laos at levels far below the nuclear exchange threshhold. The implication of this increased activity was that a search and rescue (SAR) capability was needed. However, there wasn’t any serious SAR capability in the theater during these years.

    In March 1963, three U.S. military aircraft were shot down over Laos and two of them had launched from an air base in South Vietnam.

    SAR suddenly bubbled to the top of many priority lists. The USAF was unprepared to deal with it and the Navy would only perform such missions along the coast line and over water. So the U.S. had a real problem.

    Maj. Alan Saunders, USAF and a HH-43 Huskie driver, did a study in August 1963 that said the HH-43 helicopter, heretofore used for local base firefighting and crash recovery operations, should be modified for combat operations and be used for the SAR mission.

    General Anthis was assigned to Vietnam in 1961 as the commander 2nd Advanced Echelon (ADVON), then the commander of the 2nd Air Division. This ultimately became the 7th Air Force, the air component of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), the joint command responsible for the U.S. war effort in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. General Anthis approved the HH-43 SAR plan promptly.

    As the study climbed the bureaucratic ladder, the Army said it could do the job with its helicopters and CIA said it could do the job in Laos with its Air America forces. The USAF said this is “my job” and accepted the thrust of the Saunders study. By April 1964 the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) settled the Army question, assigned the SAR mission to the USAF, and it seemed as though the Huskies would be ready to go.

    But, the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), Adm. Harry D. Felt, was not ready. It is now May 1964 and CINCPAC had still not authorized introduction of USAF SAR forces.

    CINCPAC finally approved introduction of USAF SAR forces. The plan was to initially deploy HH-43 Huskies to Da Nang near the border with North Vietnam, to Bien Hoa . . .

    Kaman HH-43F in Vietnam

    The Invisible Aviation Revolution

    Four words as used in this article need defining: visible, invisible, evolutionary, and revolutionary. Sixty years ago a revolution in commercial aviation occurred as the logjam of advanced technology from WWII was released. Comparison of a DC-7 with a DC-8 showed dramatic changes that were plainly visible to the general public. A revolution occurs when today’s performance is superior to yesterday’s technology. Revolution involves a short time span. Evolution occurs as slight incremental changes are made day by day finally culminating in a huge change over a longer time span.

    Technology for composite materials has been evolving since the late 1960s. Yet a revolution is occurring with the transition from aluminum (B-737) to composite (B-787) airframes. In a short time span, the standard for performance has taken a jump. For the flying public, the revolution is invisible. Compare a 50-year old Boeing 707 with a Boeing 787. The two aircraft look much the same. Both have long circular fuselages with swept wings and jet engines.

    Aviation Revolution; Piston to Jet
    (Incompressible to Compressible)
    In the late 1950s and early 1960s a revolution occurred in aviation technology with pure jet engines replacing piston engines driving whirling propellers. Also the swept wing replaced the straight wing. Technically, the revolution was the transition from flying in incompressible air to flying in compressible air. The changes were evident to the flying public and resulted in 1) more speed, 2) less noise, and 3) smoother stratosphere cruising. A graph for each change appears below in sequence. A by-product of the piston-engine to jet revolution was cockpit automation, which eventually led to the demise of the flight engineer position.

    More Speed
    We start with a graph:

    To the left side of the vertical dashed line, the speed for piston-powered aircraft is plotted. To the right side, the turbojet years are shown. From a to b, the cruise speed of piston-powered aircraft slowly increased from DC-3 to DC-8. The transition from piston to jet occurs at line b to c. In a short time span, speed jumped from 350 to 550 mph, and this jump is one of the key features that defines the aviation revolution. These are nominal or typical values for speed and not for any specific aircraft. The flight time from SFO (San Francisco) to IAD (Washington DC) dropped from approximately seven hours to five hours. This is a major change that the passengers noticed and loved.

    From c to d, the typical aircraft speed remains flat. With the OPEC oil crisis in the 1970s, the price of jet fuel increased by a factor of four or more. Due to fuel costs, airlines backed off being the fastest to a slower and more fuel economic speed.

    Transonic drag rise, which can be explained by physics and aerodynamics, forced the change. The jet aircraft in the 1960s and 1970s were flown higher throttle setting and higher cruise speeds than today’s jet aircraft. This changing in operating practice was dictated by economics associated with fuel costs more than efficiency of design. After the OPEC Crisis, airlines throttled back to save fuel. Extensive computer codes have been developed to provide the correct set of input variables to achieve a defined optimum result. Before OPEC, the desired optimum was minimum gate-to-gate time. After OPEC, the desired optimum was emphatically minimum fuel consumption.

    The transonic drag rise sits like a mountain between subsonic and supersonic speeds. As the sonic speed Mach 1.0 is approached from subsonic, drag increases as much as 10 times the subsonic value. Higher cruise Mach number . . .

    Controlling sound attenuation

    New AAHS Website

    We have made some substantial changes and enhancements to the AAHS web site that we believe will improve access to content. The biggest change is that all the primary areas of content on the web site are now accessible from the top navigation bar (found on each and every page). This includes both search and login options, as well.

    In addition to the updated user interface, we’ve expanded access to back issues of the AAHS Journal to include all but a handful of articles left to be scanned and posted. The photo archives content has almost quadrupled in size (from about 65,000 entries to over 250,000 entries) with large thumbnail scans available for more than 85% of the entries. And this collection is growing rapidly through volunteer photo identifiers helping catalog our collection via AAHSPlaneSpotter.com (see advert on next page). We’re looking for more volunteers to help with this effort.

    Some of the unique capabilities now available are in the area of the search tool. There are actually two versions. The default search is restricted to the public area of the web site, but also includes Centennial of Flight and AAHSPlaneSpotter. Members should log in to the site before searching. Once you have logged in, the search tool expands to search the complete content of the AAHS site, as well as Centennial of Flight and AAHSPlaneSpotter. This includes searching the content of individual AAHS Journal articles, newsletters and contents in the e-library. You also have the ability to restrict searches to specific areas (journal articles, Table of Contents, etc.). This search engine works very similar to Google, but without the advertisements.

    You’ll also find that you can log in and log off the web site. Under the old web site, once you had logged in, the only way to log off was to close your browser. Now you can enter and exit as you wish.

    For those doing research the web site has been expanded to include two additional tools. The first is a catalog of published aircraft 3-view drawings. While the drawings themselves are not online, you can search for aircraft make and model and find the publications in which 3-views appeared. Members may also request scans of these drawings. Publications range from the early 1930 up to the early 2000s. Another handy tool is the beginnings of a literature finding aid. Member Tom Butz has provided us with a catalog of his personal library of books and periodicals (almost 40,000 entries) in a searchable database organized by aircraft make and model. Search results include the periodical, issue, date of the publication and page number.
    The AAHS e-library is being expanded to include not only digital versions of publications useful to aviation history research, but also technical documentation . . .

    Forum of Flight

    The FORUM is presented as an opportunity for members to participate in the Journal by submitting interesting or unusual photographs. 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 taken by 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 (your name and complete address).” Or you may to wish have your material added to the AAHS photo archives.

    Monte-Copter Model 12

    News & Comments from our Members

    AAHS Journal, Fall 2021, Vol 66, No. 3
    Having been born in the UK on May 21, 1927, the day Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, it was almost inevitable that I was bound to have a life in aviation. This included working for Vickers Armstrong, Weybridge (1945-1949), Armstrong Whitworth, Coventry (1949-1953), Bristol Aeroplane Co. (Concorde program, 1953-1967), Sikorsky Aircraft (1967-1986) and United Technologies VP (1986-1992).

    With that background, the cover painting of the two Sikorsky CH-53s obviously caught my eye.  Then I turn a couple of pages and there is Bill Paul, as far as I know still alive and well, living in the the same town as I.  We were great friends, and were actually moved up to UTC together but into different parts of the business in 1986.  I wonder if anyone sent him a copy of this issue? [Editor’s note:  I am aware that the author is trying to do this]

    Then, on page 239, is a photo of the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy, which I sure didn’t know any were ever exported to the U.S.  How lucky can one man get.  I must admit that the issue damn near brought tears to my eyes.  Aerospace people use to be a very special set of folks, simply because if you cut corners or made a mistake, people could die.

    Thank you for bringing a bit of joy to this old timer.

    Colin Green
    Trumbull, CT

    The Fall 2021 Issue Vol 66 No 3 ....just excellent!
    Much history about the C-46 that Dad flew ....that I never knew.
    The Non-Skeds ...fond memories... albeit also a few painful memories. I used to meet up with one of those DC-8 freighters late at night, on the Butler ramp at KORD, while I was flying night freight in Beech 18s, Senecas, Aztecs, C310s, and C421s out of Dayton (moonlight flying at nights, while I was stationed at WPAFB).
    The WWI Curtiss boats... never knew a lot of that flying boat history either ...remarkable stories.... all leading up to the key technical know-how later incorporated in the Navy’s WWII big boats.

    Keep up the terrific work!

    Tom Imrich


    What Bert Acosta Did and Probably Didn’t Do: Through 1922, Vol 66, No 3, Fall 2021
    To any readers of my paper in the Fall 2021 AAHS Journal: Bert Acosta’s third place finish in the 1920 Pulitzer Air Race and his win in the 1921 Pulitzer were two of the most important events in his life.  I wrote about them and put the draft away in the computer.  Not until I read the published paper did I realize I had not included the story of Bert and the Pulitzers in the version I submitted to the Journal.

    Michael Gough 

    The Curtiss CW-20, The Airliner Destiny Forgot, Vol 66,
    No 3, Fall 2021

    I have been enjoying reading through the journal. One thing I noticed in the Curtiss Commando article is that the author seems to be a little bit confused about the airplane’s technical design. He writes that the Commando lacked the fuel drains that other airplanes have to drain fuel out of the wing, which resulted in the C-46 being more susceptible to fires from fuel collecting inside the wings.

    As far as I know (and I’m not certain of this), but what made the C-46 sensitive to engine fires was that they lacked a firewall between the engine and the rest of the wing. Yes, the . . .

    What the heck is it?

    AAHS at AirVenture 2022 - Call for Volunteers

    July 25-31

    AAHS has reserved a display booth at this year's EAA AirVenture, and we need your help!
    We're looking for AirVenture attendees to volunteer at our booth, sharing AAHS's mission
    and membership opportunities with other aviaition enthusiasts. We also need a Booth Manager, who will attend AirVenture for the full week and can oversee the volunteer schedule, supplies, and setup of the booth. AAHS will provide the Booth Manager free entry to AirVenture for the whole week, a vehicle pass, and a discount on housing.

    AAHS has rented a home in Oshkosh for th is epic event, with three private rooms and one
    shared room, for members wanting to enjoy a week of ful l aviation immersion! Rates for the
    rooms/beds are set on a weekly rate, averaging $100-$150 per night. Priority wi ll be given to
    members who volunteer at the booth. Those same members who commit a few hours each day
    of the event may also receive a week pass (limited avai lability).

    Will you accept the challenge? Help AAHS reach more members at the EAA AirVenture
    Oshkosh Airshow! For more information about volunteering and housing availabil ity, contact
    us at membership@aahs-online.org or (714) 549-7818. See you there! .
    . .

    AAHS members at AirVenture 2017

    President's Message

    Are you, like me, looking to the months ahead, blocking out dates for the must-do events on your calendar (getting the Porterfield annual completed, the foot surgery I put off) and then fantasizing about what other fun things you can get to this year with whats left?

    Here in the AAHS office our calendar is filling up with events we are hosting, activities we are supporting, and you’re invited to participate in them all! You’ll see in this issue our official 2022 Annual Meeting Invite for June 10-12, in the wonderful wine country of Sonoma Valley. We’ll have three days of vintage airports and airplanes, good food, and good company. Its just one low price for a weekend of outdoor, masks-optional, aviation fun. Sign up now for an early bird discount! We’ll be adding more details, such as attendee gifts, speakers and aircraft rides on the website (www.aahs-online.org) and in upcoming issues of the Journal.

    Soon after our Annual Meeting AAHS will be going to Oshkosh! July 25-31, at EAA AirVenture. AAHS will have an official booth staffed by AAHS volunteers for the week. We are arranging group lodgings via a rented home, with costs shared by the renters. We’re also investigating speaking as a presenter at Airventure on our PLANESPOTTER app. If you plan to attend AirVenture 2022, why not schedule a few hours to chat with visitors, and get to know your fellow AAHS members and history buffs? More details as we know them will be published both on the website and in the upcoming AAHS Journal. Think about adding this event to your calendar, too.

    We are making a commitment to become a valued partner at historic Flabob Airport, and we’re starting that partnership with the publication of a small airport newsletter, the Flabob Flyer that will provide some regular news of airport happenings to tenants and local neighbors. This will be publish quarterly, if you’re a Flabob local, and have some time to share a story or news update, drop by AAHS headquarters and . . .

    Flabob Flyer