About the B-36 Peacemaker and other Convair aircraft

Discovered an article about the history of Convair today that discusses the XF-92A, the XFY Pogo, the F2Y Sea Dart, the F-102 Delta Dagger, the F-106 Delta Dart, the CV-240s, 880 and 990 Coronado jetliners, B-36 Peacemaker, B-58 Hustler.  Also suggests some aircraft books which I know must be good ones because Ewan has them and uses them.

I remember seeing some of these aircraft at what was then Chanute AFB.  I think there is still a static display museum there outside Rantoul, IL.

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Hat in the Ring Squadron

When I blogged about the Hat in the Ring Squadron the other day, I forgot another statement about it by Eddie Rickenbacker.  (No, I don’t plan to quote Rickenbacker forever.   I want to get back to some things about the Wrights, Fuchida, von Braun, etc.  It’s just that there are so many things in Rickenbacker’s book that explain how the Air Force became what it did.)

I was named commanding officer of the Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron.

I was simultaneously proud and humble.  I thought of the great pilots who had made their contribution to this fighting squadron – Raoul Lufbery, Jimmy Hall, Dave Peterson, Doug Campbell, Walter Smyth.  Now only three of those who had served in the 94th since the early days were left on active duty – Reed Chambers, Thorne Taylor and I.

The 94th had led all other squadrons in victories.  On the day I assumed command, however, the 27th, thanks to Frank Luke’s magnificent string, was six victories ahead of us.  That situation was not going to continue.  I do not like to come in second.

- Edward V. Rickenbacker, Rickenbacker: An Autobiography(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1967), 147-148

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Pilots without parachutes – part 2

I am afraid, if I’d been around in WWI, I would have agreed with the argument that parachutes would tempt pilots to abandon their aircraft before it was needed.  It’s one of those things that sounds backwards enough that it might be true.  Here’s Rickenbacker’s response to that idea:

A major in the Paris headquarters of the Air Service told me that the service did not believe in parachutes.  “If all of you pilots had parachutes,” he told me coldly, “then you’d be inclined to use them on the slightest pretext, and the Air Service would lose planes that might otherwise have been brought down safely.”

I got so mad that I started hollering at him.  Other officers came in and broke it up.  It was a good thing that I had a few ribbons on my chest by that time, for otherwise I would probably have been court-martialed.

- Edward V. Rickenbacker, Rickenbacker: An Autobiography(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1967), 143

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Pilots without parachutes

I was amazed when I learned that WWI pilots had no  parachutes.  I guess it just seemed obvious to me the man is worth more than the machine, considering all the time the USAF spends in training pilots.  But when the history of flight wasn’t much longer than anyone’s experience flying, there wasn’t much to teach someone new.  It seems they either trained themselves, or died.  Meanwhile, the airplanes were valuable, if for no other reason than that any aircraft that landed behind enemy lines could be reverse-engineered.  But still…no parachutes?

We Americans had no parachutes.  Some German pilots and all their balloon observers were equipped with parachutes, and often I was pleased to see an enemy bail out of his burning plane or balloon and escape being burned alive.

- Edward V. Rickenbacker, Rickenbacker: An Autobiography(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1967), 127

With parachutes, both of those fine young men would have lived.  It was absolutely criminal for our higher command to withhold parachutes from us.  Men who could have lived on to serve America both in war and in peace perished in agony because of the lack of a parachute.  What reward did Raoul Lufbery gain for his role in helping to develop American air mastery?  Death on a picket fence when a parachute would have saved his life.

- Ibid, 142

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Aircraft blueprints and sounds

I am working on an article about the history of blueprinting.  That reminded me of a site to recommend: Aviation Shoppe.  They sell blueprints of airplanes and they know what blueprints are (many people think bluelines are blueprints.)

The link is to their page of blueprints for WWI fighters.  They also have a place on the site where you can listen to aircraft sounds.  But if you like aircraft sounds enough to wait for a long download, you should listen to this recording we made of a 1909 Bleriot when we were visiting the Shuttleworth Collection in England in April a couple years ago and they just happened to be starting up the Bleriot.

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Manfred von Richthofen scores a victory

Long quote, from Manfred von Richthofen, about what it was like to score a victory.  No comment from me; what could I possibly say about it?

I was very proud when I heard that the Englishman I had shot down on the twenty-third of November 1916 was the man we called “The English Immelmann”: Major Lanoe G. Hawker.

I was on patrol that day and observed three Englishmen who had nothing else in mind than to hunt. I noticed how they ogled me, and since I felt ready for battle, I let them come.  I was lower than the Englishmen; consequently, I had to wait until they came down to me.  It did not take long before one dove for me, trying to catch me from behind.  After a burst of five shots the sly fellow had to stop, for I was already in a sharp left curve.  The Englishman attempted to get behind me while I attempted to get behind him.  So it went, both of us flying like madmen in a circle, with engines running full out at three-thousand-meter altitude.  First left, then right, each intent on getting above and behind the other.  I was soon acutely aware that I was not dealing with a beginner, for he did not dream of breaking off the fight.  He had a very maneuverable crate, but mine climbed better, and I finally succeeded in coming in above and behind him.

We had by this time come down to two thousand meters without having reached an outcome, and my opponent must have realized that it was now high time for him to make himself scarce.  The wind was working in my favor and we were circling more and more over our positions until finally we were nearly over Bapaume, about a kilometer behind our Front.  My opponent waved to me quite cheerfully as we were at a thousand meters altitude as if to say:  “Well, well, how do you do?”

The circles that we made around each other were so narrow that I estimated them to be not further than eighty to a hundred meters.  I had time to view my opponent.  I peered perpendicularly at him in his cockpit and could observe every movement of his head.  If he had not had his flying helmet on, I could have seen what kind of face he made.

Gradually this got to be too much for the brave sportsman, and he finally had to decide whether to land on our side or fly back to his own lines.  Naturally, he attempted the latter, after trying in vain to evade me through looping and such tricks.  In so doing, my first bullets flew by his ears, for prior to that I had not fired a shot.  At about a hundred meters altitude he tried to escape toward the Front by flying zigzag, making his plane a difficult target to hit.

It was now the given moment for me.  I followed him from fifty down to thirty meters altitude, firing steadily.  The Englishman had to fall.  A jam in my guns almost cost me success.

About fifty meters behind our lines he plunged down with a shot through the head.  His machine gun was pulled out of the ground and now graces the entrance over the door to my house.

–Manfred von Richthofen, The Red Baron: The Fabled Ace’s Story in His Own Words, ed. Stanley M. Ulanoff, trans. Peter Kilduff (New York: Ace Books, 1969), 61-62

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Hat in the Ring Squadron – origin of the insignia

A few weeks ago, I saw the Hat in the Ring insignia on a box of children’s toys.  I’m not sure what the connection is, but I think there must have been one, because the Hat-in-the-Ring insignia has too much history to be used casually.  However, it seems to be mostly unknown today.

I myself learned its history from visiting the Vintage Aero Flying Museum, which exists to honor the Lafayette Escadrille, the US contribution to WWI air warfare before the US “threw its hat in the ring”.  Eddie Rickenbacker commanded the squadron in WWI, and was instrumental in getting the old insignia back in WWII.  Here’s how it came about:

Surely now we would be the first American squadron to go into action against the enemy.

The honor deserved a distinctive insignia.  One of the pilots, Lieutenant Johnny Wentworth, was an architect, and he was asked to design it.  We all threw out ideas. Major Huffer, the CO, suggested Uncle Sam’s stovepipe hat with the stars and stripes for a hatband.  Our flight surgeon, Lieutenant Walters from Pittsburgh, mentioned the old American custom of throwing a hat into the ring as an invitation to battle.  And thus one of the world’s most famous military insignia, the Hat-in-the-Ring, which became a part of my entire life from then on, was born.

- Edward V. Rickenbacker, Rickenbacker: An Autobiography(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1967), 122

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The thought processes of engineers and pilots

Ewan noted the other day that there are two kinds of engineers, as illustrated by Robert Stanley and Richard Frost, both of whom worked with Chuck Yeager at some point, and both of whom Ewan’s father worked for.

One kind of engineer, illustrated by Dick Frost, who founded Frost Engineering, gets into engineering out of curiosity about how things work.  The other kind, illustrated by Bob Stanley, who founded Stanley Aviation, is an engineer so as to find out how to fix the thing he just broke.  There are uses for both attitudes in engineering, but they probably aren’t going to work well together for long.  You can read more family stories about these two aviation engineers here.

Pilots enter their profession for different reasons too.  Another observation about fighter pilots is that Rickenbacker, Richthofen, and Udet seem to be in agreement that the top aces weren’t necessarily the best pilots; they were the best hunters.  Love of flying and ability to do stunts were not essential in an ace and could be distracting from the main job.

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Manfred von Richthofen salutes the English

“Ace of Aces” Manfred von Richthofen is still (thanks in large part to Snoopy’s duels with the Red Baron) one of the few names commonly remembered from WWI.  As much as anyone does know anything about WWI today, he is still a fascinating figure.  But he was respected and considered worth studying even in his own time, on both sides of the war.  The respect was shown in the honor paid to the Red Baron at his death by fellow fliers on both sides.  The fascination in his abilities and techniques is shown in his statement (from close to the end of the war, and of Richthofen’s life) regarding his book Der Rote Kampfflieger (The Red War-Flyer, or The Red Fighter Pilot), being published in England:

Two English publishers want to bring out Der Rote Kampfflieger in England.  Both have gone to the London Patent Office because it deals with the publication of books in England that are in violation of international copyright agreements.  The representative of the authorized English body did me a great honor.  He explained that the book has both great general and professional interest and that its publication in English would be useful, for it describes the method in which the best German fighter pilot had shot down Captain Ball, the most famous English flier.  Therefore, Der Rote Kampfflieger will appear in England when both publishers have come to terms.

God save the King!

–Manfred von Richthofen, The Red Baron: The Fabled Ace’s Story in His Own Words, ed. Stanley M. Ulanoff, trans. Peter Kilduff (New York: Ace Books, 1969), 111

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Update on Ewan’s aircraft t-shirts

Sorry for lack of posts recently; have been sick.  Trying to get page showing new line of t-shirts up today.

10PM: It’s up.  You can get to it here: http://www.aeroenthusiast.com/aviation-art-tshirts-b52-b29-f4u-f22.htm

Here is the final decision of t-shirt design and color for the Wings Over the Rockies grand opening:

B-52 Stratofortress t-shirt

Silver on cardinal red for adults; blue on kelly green for children

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