Aviation Photo Challenge of the Week – 2

Here’s an Aviation Photo Challenge pulled from my archives. Can you identify the aircraft (manufacturer and model)?

Small passenger jet on ramp.

Bonus question: What aircraft was this design based on?

The winner, the first to correctly identify the aircraft, will get a free e-book copy of my short story collection Rather Shorts: Six Tales of Crime in a Small Texas Town (either Kindle or EPUB format, your choice).

Post your guess below as a comment.

Pearl Harbor Day in the CBI

Rough War coverAs today is December 7, Pearl Harbor Day (the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy”), is seems appropriate to remember what Paul Eastman was doing on that anniversary during his 20 months flying combat in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II.

Here are a couple of extracts from Rough War: The Combat Story of Lt. Paul J. Eastman, a “Burma Banshee” P-40 and P-47 Pilot.

From Chapter 9: Into the Fray:

The 7th of December 1943 found Paul again on alert…two years after the Pearl Harbor attack. In his diary, Paul reminisced about “the day that will live in infamy”—when he was a civilian at Claire and Ethel’s Tavern playing cards. “Now I am in Upper Assam—the wettest spot on Earth—waiting for an alert to fight in the sky. I certainly hope and pray we shall not have to witness another infamous anniversary while engaged in war.”

From Chapter 18: A New Year in Burma:

3 December 1944: We took off on a 12-ship fighter sweep to Mandalay today. The city itself sure looks neat, but we were too high and traveling too fast to really see it. We had to strafe gun emplacements by a bridge so B-25s could destroy the bridge later. We dove in a loose circle from 18,000 feet, and hit the area, guns blazing, at 500 miles per hour. I could hardly pull out—but did—as anyone can plainly see!!

Three days later, he flew in an eight-ship sweep to attack gun emplacements on a river between Lashio and Mandalay. About the raid, he wrote, “Just as we came over the target, large puffs of black Ack-Ack burst seemingly right outside my cockpit—Boy, I sure did some tall moving for a while, but wasn’t even touched.”

He also noted that so many of the squadron mates had already gone home that he would soon be the “senior member in this outfit.” He wrote that he expected to head home no later than March. With no letters from Joyce for the preceding 39 days, he wrote that he was “worried stiff—sure wish she would write!”

Thankfully, the war ended before Paul had to spend another Pearl Harbor Day in the CBI!

T-37 Icing

T-37B in flight from left front

USAF Cessna T-37B (photo from “Cessna Warbirds” 1st edition)

My first assignment after earning my Air Force wings in August 1970 was to stay on at Webb AFB (Big Spring, TX) as an instructor pilot in the primary jet trainer, the Cessna T-37 Tweet. It was not the assignment I wanted, but Mother ATC (Air Training Command), in her infinite wisdom, decided that was where I could best be used.

Webb AFB closed in 1977.

I then spent four months at Perrin AFB (Sherman-Denison, TX) for T-37 Pilot Instructor Training and returned to Webb to start training student pilots in January 1971.

Perrin AFB closed later in 1971. (Sounds like a trend. My first two bases closed soon after I left… But I tried to make up for it by helping re-open a closed base in 1973.)

We always knew the Tweet, with its big fat wing (typical of all Cessnas of the era) would take a lot of ice buildup and keep on cruising along, although flying it in known icing conditions was a no-no (it had no de-icing equipment). On February 10, 1972, I had a personal demonstration of just how much ice you could have on a Tweet and still fly safely.

On that date, my flight commander Maj. Officer (that was really his name) and I departed Webb AFB on a planned proficiency sortie down to San Angelo and back. Weather at Webb on departure was less than great and not much above approach minimums. The forecast, however, indicated a slow improvement.

So much for forecasts.

As we climbed out of San Angelo following a radar approach, intending to head for home, Center informed us that Webb had just dropped below minimums, as had Dyess AFB (Abilene). Oh, and the runway at San Angelo was closed.

They wanted to know our intentions. As if we had many choices.

You see, the T-37 had one significant problem for cross-country purposes. It didn’t carry much fuel. Typical sorties lasted about 1.3 hours, and a flight of 400 nm was pushing the limits for going anywhere.

We asked for clearance to higher altitude immediately and direct from our present position to Randolph AFB (San Antonio). That would result in stretching our fuel, but San Antone was warmer with only mid-level clouds. We got our requested clearance and headed south.

As we leveled off at FL230, still solidly in the clouds, we noticed ice starting to build up on the leading edge of the wings, as well as on the engine inlet lips. The highest we could legally fly (in our unpressurized cockipt) was FL 250 and that was not available (and wouldn’t have made much difference anyway). If we descended to lower altitudes, where the air was warmer, we wouldn’t make it to Randolph.

Maj. Officer assured me that there was no cause for concern since the T-37 icing was not much of a problem and it could handle a lot of ice. I accepted his assurance as he had a lot more experience in the little jet than I did.

Then the left engine flamed out. I looked out and saw that the ice on the inlet lip was gone. It had apparently broken off, was ingested in the engine, and caused the flameout. The engine restarted easily, but ice soon began building up on that inlet again.

A few minutes later, the right engine flamed out. Same cause, and it also restarted easily.

As we neared San Antone, we were informed that Randolph AFB was now PPR (Prior Permission Required) for some unknown reason. We elected to divert to Kelly AFB on the SW side of San Antone. Meanwhile, the left engine flamed out again and again restarted.

T-37 icing might not be much of a problem for the airframe but wasn’t very good for those old cast iron, turbojet engines.

Ice on the wing’s leading edge looked to be very thick, and we estimated it at close to 2″. That’s a lot of ice and was certainly going to affect the little jet’s handling and stall speed.

We requested, and received clearance for, a straight-in descent to radar final at Kelly. As we dropped into warmer air, the leading edge ice began dissipating, albeit very slowly.

As we let down to Kelly, we discussed how much to adjust our final approach and touchdown speeds for the unknown effects of all that ice. We finally, somewhat arbitrarily, settled on an extra 20 knots down final and planning a touchdown at not much less than that. After all, Kelly has a runway about 3-4 times longer than a Tweet would need under normal conditions, and there was no reason to suspect that the brakes wouldn’t work normally.

So, we flew down final at 120-125 KIAS with Maj. Officer at the controls. The aircraft seemed to behave fine. Officer touched down in a flat attitude, no reason to flare out and find out where the stall speed was with all that ice, and let it coast until almost to the last turnoff.

We taxied back to the transient ramp, a long taxi in 40-45° temperatures and the Fuel Low Level light glaring steadily at us. After climbing out of the aircraft, I chipped off a piece of ice from the wing’s leading edge.

It was a good 1″ thick, despite the taxi back in the relatively warm air. That’s a lot of ice. I wish I had had a camera to take a picture of it.

The transient maintenance crew inspected the engines later that day and found them fully operational. The ice ingestion had done nothing but put out the fire as it melted.

So, T-37 icing might not have been a big problem, but it was certainly something to be avoided. After all, those flameouts could have occurred on final approach at a much slower airspeed, maybe even an airspeed below the iced-up stalling speed.

Just one more lesson learned and filed away for future reference.

Aviation History – First All-Jet Air Combat

P-80 in flight from above left .

P-80 with under-slung tip tanks. (Lockheed Martin photo)

Following successful first flights of the Bell XP‑59A Airacomet and the German Messerschmitt Me‑262, later to became the world’s first operational jet fighter, General H. H. “Hap” Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Corps, approved a contract for a new jet fighter prototype in June 1943 – the Lockheed XP‑80.

Lockheed built the new jet, with its experimental deHavilland H‑1 Goblin engine and laminar flow wing, under tight security in a temporary structure in Burbank, California, under the guidance of now-legendary Lockheed engineer Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson. This Lockheed facility later became famous as the Skunk Works and eventually relocated to Palmdale (where it continues to do cutting-edge research).

The XP‑80 first flew on 8 January 1944 – a short 203 days after contract award.

The Army Air Corps liked what they saw and ordered a 13‑aircraft production run of YP‑80A fighters using a General Electric version of the British Whittle engine (the I‑40, later renamed the J‑33). In April 1945, USAAF deployed two YP‑80As to England and two to Italy in hopes . Due to weather and other problems, the England‑based jets never flew in combat. The Italy‑based aircraft did fly some combat missions but failed to encounter the Me‑262s before VE Day.

So, unfortunately, no jet-on-jet combat occurred in WW II.

Head shot of Lt Russell Brown in uniform

Lt Russell Brown (via Air Force Times, 1951)

However, the new jet did impress the Army Air Corps, which ordered 4,390 P‑80As with wingtip fuel tanks that reduced drag and increased aileron effectiveness. When the war ended, the P‑80A order was reduced to 525. Lockheed also produced 240 ejection‑seat‑equipped P‑80Bs and 798 P‑80Cs. Many A‑ and B‑models were converted to C‑model configuration, and the aircraft was redesignated F‑80C in 1948. The US Navy operated 50 F‑80Cs as TV‑1s.

On November 8, 1950, USAF Lt. Russell J. Brown of the 16th Fighter Interceptor Squadron shot down a MiG‑15 over Korea.

Brown’s victory entered the record books as the world’s first all‑jet air combat engagement. It would also be Lt. Brown’s only aerial victory.

The age of the jet had truly arrived!

Cessna Timeline December 1879

Today’s Wednesday, so here’s a tidbit from the Cessna timeline of history.

On December 5, 1879, Clyde Vernon Cessna was born in Hawthorne, Iowa, launching a chain of events that eventually changed the future of aviation.

The following is extracted from Chapter 1 of the upcoming Cessna Warbirds, second edition.

Clyde Cessna taking off in "Silver Wings."

Clyde Cessna, in his 1911 Bleriot “Silver Wings,” taking to the air on April 14, 1911.

In February 1911, while working as an Overland automobile dealer in Enid, Oklahoma, the 31-year-old Clyde witnessed an exhibition by the Moisant International Aviation Air Circus in Oklahoma City, an experience that changed his life. He gave up the automobile business and briefly moved to New York to work for the Queen Aeroplane Company to learn about aircraft construction. Returning to Oklahoma, he began work on his own monoplane, based on the French Bleriot XI monoplane, using linen to cover its spruce frame. For power, he used a modified two-stroke, four cylinder Elbridge boat motor producing 40 horsepower.

He took the aircraft to Oklahoma’s Great Salt Plains near Jet, in Alfalfa County, for testing. After 12 failed attempts that resulted in various accidents and aircraft damage, he managed to become airborne for a few seconds before hitting trees while trying to turn. Frustrated, he allegedly said, “I’m going to fly this thing, then I’m going to set it afire and never have another thing to do with aeroplanes!”

In June 1911, Clyde Cessna finally completed his first sustained flight, becoming the first person between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River to build and fly his own airplane. Over the next few months, as was common in those early years of aviation, he taught himself to fly and in December finally completed a five-mile course, landing safely back at his departure point.

By the end of the year, he had made four successful demonstration flights and became known as the “Birdman of Enid.”

Cessna T-50 Bobcat Overview

The Cessna T-50 Bobcat started out as a civilian plane to meet a perceived demand for a family transport. When World War II intervened Cessna quickly adapted the T-50 to military needs.

Here’s a quick overview with text and photos extracted from the T-50 chapter of the upcoming second edition of Cessna Warbirds!

The Bobcat earned many nicknames during its military service, among them:

  • Bamboo Bomber (a reflection of its mostly wood and fabric construction due to higher priority needs for metal)
  • Useless 78 (based on the UC-78 utility cargo transport version)
  • Double Breasted Cub (another reference to the wood-and-fabric construction, which it shared with the Piper Cub)
  • Kite (from the Navy and Marine versions, the JRC-1)

Stay tuned. More to come.

My First Flight

Two Piper Cubs on a Grass Strip. Painting by Kerrie Shiel (my wife). Click the image to buy your own print of it.

Two Piper Cubs on a Grass Strip. Painting by Kerrie Shiel (my wife). Click the image to buy your own print of it.

In truth, I don’t actually remember my first flight. You see, I was just a baby whom Mom held me in her arms while Dad piloted the Stinson that he and Uncle Tommy owned. So, I’m going to have to skip that one. I’m also going to skip the seemingly interminable flight in a C-54 from Guam to Hawaii and then on back to the good ol’ USA at the end of the Korean War (Dad, a WW II navigator, had been recalled to navigate WB-29s through typhoons roaming the western Pacific during that conflict).

My first true recollection of the magic of flight came later.

In the summer of 1955, Dad decided to do some private flying out of a small grass airstrip in Mississippi. He hadn’t flown as a pilot since before his recall. We were at Biloxi while he completed his electronic warfare officer (EWO) training at Keesler AFB. After checking out in a Piper J-3 Cub and regaining his long-unused piloting skills, he offered me a ride. Eight at the time, I thought it sounded like a great fun. Of course, I hadn’t taken into account my brother Bruce, then closing in on three years old. The little rat had a fit when I climbed into the seat and he realized he’d be left behind on the ground. He wanted to go, too.

And as usual, he got his way.

Dad undid my seat belt, plopped the toddler in my lap, and fastened us in together. A hot, muggy day on the Mississippi coast in a Cub bouncing through thermals is probably not the best introduction to the wonders of aviation. Add a squirming, whining toddler on your lap and…well, you get the idea.

I remember being on the verge of throwing up through the whole flight.

But as the countryside unrolled beneath us, something clicked in my junior brain: this was the way to see the world.

***

A short while later, Mom decided she would get her private pilot’s license, too. In retrospect, I suspect it was more to please Dad than because she really wanted to be a pilot on her own.

Within a few weeks, she soloed in the Cub. I remember Dad, Bruce, and I standing along that grass strip watching as she completed the obligatory two touch-and-go landings followed by full stop landing, the latter involved some interesting non-standard gyrations and bounces. But she successfully brought the Cub to heel, taxied up in front of the WW II-era hangar, shut down the engine, and sat there as we gathered round to congratulate her.

Mom climbed out through the Cub’s big clamshell side door and stood there for a moment. My recollection is that she seemed just a bit shaky, but maybe that recollection is due mostly to my own excitement.

A few weeks later, after a couple more flights with her instructor pilot (usually referred to as an IP — “eye-pee”) and one more short solo hop, her IP suggested to Dad that Mom really needed some practice on her simulated forced landings. He said they could save a few bucks if Dad took her up and let her work out the techniques before her next dual lesson.

Dad agreed, thrilled I imagine that the IP entrusted that bit of training to him. In all truth, Dad always did consider himself God’s gift to powered flight. I’ve only flown with him once since that first flight, in my own 1946 Aeronca 7AC Champ out of Hondo Airfield, Texas, in 1975. Despite having not flown anything for quite a few years at that time, and probably having less than total 1,000 flight hours in his logbook, he did a good job with the Champ.

Anyway, one weekend afternoon a few days later Mom and Dad drove over to the grass strip to launch into the skies for that recommended forced landing practice.

***

Pilots practice forced landings, of course, in preparation for one of those unfortunate days when the engine decides it’s done flying for the day while you’re still airborne. Pilots are taught always to keep an eye out for a field of some kind where they can glide their powerless aerospace vehicle to a controlled and, they hope, safe landing.

During training, the IP will, without warning, pull the throttle back to idle and announce, “Forced landing.”

A student pilot, if he has been paying attention, already knows which field to head for. In reality, more often than not, the whole thing takes you by surprise because, well, just flying and navigating is using most of your brain’s synapses, at least during early training. So, you scan the area around the plane while slowing to the published best-glide speed (defined as the airspeed that yields the least altitude lost per distance traveled, in other words it’s the speed that gets you the farthest over the ground before you impact that ground you’ve been cruising around gawking at). Finding a suitable field that you’re sure you can make, you trim the airplane to hold your best-glide speed and determine the best way to get down there in one piece.

Usually, the worst choice would be a field dead ahead and close to the limits of the distance you glide. What if you miscalculate, or you find an unanticipated headwind and can’t quite make it? No, far better to pick a field close by and set up an approach pattern that will leave you with some excess altitude as you turn toward final approach. Trust me, it’s much less nerve-wracking to lose that extra altitude on final than to turn final and realize you screwed up and can’t quite make it to that nice, level field you’d selected but, instead, are faced with dropping into the big drainage ditch just short of it.

For normally aspirated engines (pilot-speak for an engine with a carburetor rather than fuel injection), you have to periodically “clear” the engine during extended glides. Clearing the engine consists of advancing the throttle sufficiently to a low-cruise setting and then pulling it back to idle. This accomplishes two things: one, it helps to prevent the build-up of icing in the carburetor that might result in engine failure; and two, it ensures you that the engine is still operating and will accelerate for the climb-out from your approach to the chosen forced-landing field. Oh, you didn’t think this forced-landing practice continued all the way to touchdown, did you? During routine training, the IP will direct the student to initiate a go-around and abort the approach, typically at an altitude from which the IP can ascertain whether the student could make a successful touchdown and from which a safe acceleration and climbout can be completed.

Unless briefed otherwise, when the IP reduces the throttle to idle he is also responsible for activating the carburetor heat (which diverts heated air to the carburetor to combat that previously mentioned carburetor icing). Carb heat provides no absolute guarantee of keeping ice out of the carburetor, and its effectiveness does depend on the atmospheric conditions (temperature and humidity, for example).

***

Okay, enough explanation. Back to that story about Dad giving Mom some forced landing practice.

While they went out to the field to fly, I stayed home to babysit Bruce. Although I was only eight myself, this wasn’t as dubious as it might sound. We lived in government housing, albeit located off base, in a duplex. The officer and his wife who lived in the other half of the duplex (whose name I don’t recall) agreed to keep an eye on us until our folks returned. As I recall, one of them popped in frequently to make sure everything was copacetic and I hadn’t succumbed to the temptation to throttle the little jerk.

So, Bruce and I watched TV and ate whatever sweets I could find in the kitchen. The folks had assured us they would call us when ready to leave the airport and would be home in plenty of time to make dinner.

Dinner time came. No folks.

I figured maybe they’d had car trouble of something.

A half-hour past our usual dinner time. Still no folks. And no phone call.

I went next door and asked our duplex-mates if they knew what was going on. The wife took me back home to wait with Bruce in case they called there. Meanwhile, the husband called the airfield. A short while later, he came over and had a whispered conversation with his wife. Then they broke the news.

Seems Mom and Dad had had an accident while flying the Cub and had to land in a muddy field some miles from the airfield. They were both okay, but wouldn’t be home for a couple of hours yet.

The nice lady fed us and assured us Mom and Dad really were just fine. She said they had to take care of some paperwork because the government officials (doubtless the FAA) needed a full report.

When they finally did get home, mud still covered their clothes. Mom went straight to the bathroom for a soak in the tub. Dad explained to me what had happened, but I’ll admit that it wasn’t until years later that I actually understood it. He also told me the Cub was pretty beat up, and he planned to drive out to the field where they’d put down and help the owner of the flight school get the Cub onto a trailer.

***

What actually happened that day serves as an object lesson on why it can be dangerous to provide flight instruction if you have not been properly trained as an IP. It also points out the importance of a good preflight briefing so both student and IP understand their respective responsibilities during both normal and emergency situations, including simulated forced landings.

Dad had pulled the throttle to idle and announced, “Forced landing.” What he failed to do was turn on the carburetor heat, assuming Mom would do that since she was flying. He also neglected to clear the engine during the glide, again assuming she would take care of that. The field she selected looked fine from the air, flat and clear of obstacles. On short final at about 300 feet altitude, Dad directed her to go around. She advanced the throttle…and they both heard the engine cough a bit before going silent. Dad took control and continued the approach and touchdown.

What they couldn’t see from the air, in the late afternoon’s long shadows, was that the chosen field was mostly mud from recent rains.

Mud deep enough to hide tree stumps.

Dad flared for landing. The mud sucked the little puddle-jumper deep into it. The tail started to rise in an incipient nose-over.

That’s when they hit the tree stump.

The stump ripped off the right main landing gear and brought the Cub to an abrupt stop within a few feet, propeller nose down in the mud. After determining that neither of them were injured, they crawled out.

Into mud well above their knees.

They struggled out of the field. Many years later, I learned that Mom, in no uncertain terms, repeatedly stated that she would never again fly with him no matter what, while they made their way slowly to the gravel road on one side of the field. By the time they got there, the sun had set and the Mississippi mosquitoes had come out to feed. This did not improve Mom’s outlook one bit.

They flagged down a passing car, and the driver took them to a nearby gas station. From there they called the airfield, and the owner said he’d pick them up straightaway. While waiting, they called our neighbors, deciding it would be best to explain the situation to them rather than get me worked up on the phone.

***

That night was when I first realized that aviation can be dangerous. But it was far from the last time I dealt with its dangers and their aftermaths.

Oh, and Mom never did fly in a lightplane again, with Dad or anyone else.

Grow and Give for Prostate Cancer

Walt on Nov 1 - Clean Shaven

Here I am on November 1, clean shaven and ready to start growing those ‘burns!

I am a Regional Champion (UP region) for ZERO-The End of Prostate Cancer (a national non-profit).

I have signed up with ZERO’s Grow & Give fundraising campaign to grow some facial hair during the month of November and encourage folks to contribute to the cause. With ZERO, 98¢ of every dollar donated goes directly to prostate cancer research and legislative advocacy.

I have elected to grow the longest, bushiest sideburns I can in one month (no doubt they’ll be gray). I’m not growing a mustache or beard because my dear wife hates them…and I don’t want to go a whole month without kisses! (I’m also not going to cut what hair I have on my head for the whole month, not that I expect a lot from that.)

Please check out my ZERO Grow & Give Fundraiser page and share this post with your social media friends (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

I’ve set a modest $250 goal but would love to exceed that.

Metz Wildfire Audiobook and Video

DEVIL IN THE NORTH WOODS is an historical novel based on the 1908 Metz, Michigan, wildfire that decimated almost two million acres of northeastern lower Michigan. The photos in this video are historical photos taken shortly before or immediately after the fire.

The 1908 Metz, Michigan, fire is an historical fact. DEVIL IN THE NORTH WOODS accurately traces its beginnings, progress, and devastating results. Newspaper accounts and documented interviews record the names and actions of those who survived, as well as those who did not, and formed the basis for much of the history in this book.

Some of the characters in this book are either composites of real people or have been created solely for the fictional purposes of this book. Most of the conversations, details, emotions, and motivations have been fictionalized, although much has been drawn from 90 years of hand-me-down Hardies family stories.

This book, previously available in print and e-book editions, is now available as an audiobook.

Audiobook Sample – Rough War

Here’s a great sample from the audiobook edition of Rough War: The Combat Story of Lt. Paul J. Eastman, a “Burma Banshee” P-40 and P-47 Pilot. Emil Galena, the outstanding narrator, put it together using photos from the book.

You can find out more about the book on the Rough War website, including many of the dozens of photos and other images from the book.

If PTSD had been recognized back then for the destructive nature of this affliction, Paul doubtless would have been diagnosed with it.

The book is available in print, e-book (both Kindle and ePub), and audiobook formats.