Tag: history


Runways, large and small

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The majestic Opera House in Sydney Harbour should have attracted my total gaze but I was more interested in catching a glimpse of the nighttime runway lights at Charles Kingsford Smith Airport as our Ansett Airbus banked steeply for its final approach. The bright lights welcomed our arrival and my jump seat (two months before 9/11) offered a fabulous view of our final approach. Try to explain that to someone not involved in flying!

I will never forget the sights of Sydney, but the excitement of “finals” always gives a powerful thrill. Two weeks later the sight of a DH Beaver taxing towards me on the sand of Airlie Beach in the Great Barrier Reef was another sight to behold, as it slipped onto the runway of the watery inlet in the Whitsunday Islands and took off into the glaring sunlight. Runways can appear in strange places!

Some days later I had the pleasure of taking off at Cairns International Airport behind a Qantas 747 to gaze down on that reef from a Cessna 152. Having enjoyed that awe-inspiring view, we turned for home and there ahead lay the inviting sight of runway 15 as we turned finals and joined the queue for final approach. Moments later I did a decent landing on another continent. Magic!


Not all runways are paved, or even dry!

My home airfield at Coonagh (EICN) has a short tarmac runway and on my first solo it was even shorter. The landing was average but it was my first one and that never leaves you. A few months later I arrived at a proper airport and confused the controllers and myself by lining up on the wrong runway! But I survived the embarrassment to fly another day. Was it the layout or the vast expanse of concrete?

Some years later a friend and I almost missed Ronaldsway on the Isle of Man, UK, and the sight of their runway was almost a beautiful experience. The weather is often frustrating but when it behaves it reveals that sometimes long or short level strip of land, be it concrete, grass, or other as it announces our arrival at another distant place not visited before, always a secret thrill.

Runways have been marked out on beaches, deserts, mountains and on water. Many companies still operate out of impossible airstrips perched on mountain tops at high elevations, while others fly out of jungle airstrips in remote areas. These are often the only way in which people have access to the outside world, like in Alaska and Canada. I live not far from the former seaplane base at Foynes in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland, where the great seaplanes used the port as their base for crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Just across the estuary, Shannon Airport was established to cater for the new but limited endurance piston-engined airliners that welcomed the sight of that airport’s runways after the long transatlantic flight. Many still do.

The view from Concorde’s tiny windows was most disappointing on a fast and furious circuit at Shannon as Air France rushed around the circuit back in 1984. A few weeks later, the contrast could not have been greater as I throttled back in a Rallye 150 on finals to the Aran Islands off Ireland’s West Coast, their runway’s edge meeting the Atlantic. This was followed a few days later by a first for me at a brand new regional airport, which offered a superb new runway. A few years ago I had the great pleasure of receiving priority clearance to land on a golf course in the UK while the golfers stood aside. Not too often do you receive that kind of permission!


Not much pavement, but it’s home.

Malta’s airport won the award in recent times as the most scenic in the world and some years ago I taxied out and lined up on runway 06 at Luqa International. In my mind, thoughts of the heroic defense of this vital island in World War II came to the fore as I lifted off and mixed with the holiday traffic as we headed out towards Gozo, another island nearby. I had explored the war rooms and aviation museum the day before, and I tried to imagine the bombed out runway below as Spitfires struggled to retain control of the skies back then. But now I was turning finals and there ahead lay another unfamiliar piece of land that beckoned in the glorious sunshine and as I throttled back I was about to add a new place to my collection of airports visited.

The cross country flights we do are not always idyllic and are quite often a combination of anxiety mixed with elation at arriving safely at our destination. The weather is the dominant factor in our decision to go. It deserves great respect and needs to be treated with caution. That day, though, in 1987 when the forecaster told me that there was “a possible front due next week—you will have no problems this weekend,” I somehow felt a slight unease as we headed off into perfect flying conditions.

But the next morning when I saw the disturbed grey sky overhead Donegal Airport, I urged my colleagues to return south instead of north and I endured their wrath as we just barely made it onto that welcoming runway at Sligo (EISG) we had left that morning, as the totally unexpected storm hit Ireland and the UK. The forecasters had a lot of explaining to do on that one, as the damage was horrendous.

A few days later we experienced a very bumpy flight home and as we approached the circuit I was more than relieved to see our short, black “defined rectangular area” as it welcomed us back, looking almost beautiful as we landed after an eventful flight. It might not be a thing of beauty, but to me it’s our place and as they say there is no place like home!

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Categories: Get Your Pilots License


Wolfgang Langewiesche on pilot proficiency

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A Ladder to Climb

By Wolfgang Langewiesche

Editor’s note: We’re diving into the Air Facts archives for another thought-provoking article from legendary pilot and author Wolfgang Langewiesche. In “A Ladder to Climb,” which first appeared in the the August 1970 edition of Air Facts, he argues that pilots need to step up their game and offers a suggestion for how they might do that—with a nod to the world of gliders. Might this be easier with modern technology?


We have a problem – no doubt about it – of pilot incompetence. The Art moves on: instruments, more traffic, more radios, higher performance, longer trips, more serious use of the airplane – but the skill of the newly-minted private pilot is still very much what it was 35 years ago. And we are surrounded by newly-minted pilots. And we hope it stays that way. It means growth. But we do have a problem: How can we raise the skill level in private flying, fast?

AF cover, 8-70

This article first appeared in the August 1970 edition of Air Facts.

We can’t raise the license requirements very much, for two reasons. One, we would make the private license too hard to get and too expensive. We would choke off the public’s use of the public air. The private pilot has a sort of right to be turned loose as soon as he is reasonably safe under favorable conditions. We must leave it to time and experience to smarten him up and make him more skillful. The other reason is: we don’t really know how to turn out a better pilot by any bearable addition to the training curriculum. Suppose we added 20 hours of required flight time, and doubled the ground school: would it really help? I doubt it. Our flight school system is, like most school systems, scholastic. It smells of school, not life. As an airline captain has remarked – what it takes to fly an airplane, and what it takes to pass a test is not the same thing. And perhaps this is inevitable. School is school, and life is life, and in most fields, people learn a lot after they have come out of school. It’s normal.

Our problem therefore is – how can we encourage the new pilot to keep learning after school, and to set himself high standards? Here is a suggestion: we might imitate what is done in soaring.


You get a glider pilot’s private license, at age 16 if you want it, on almost nothing: a few flights, a written test that does not touch on aerodynamics, stability and control, nor on instruments, navigation, weather, radio, oxygen or parachutes; a simple flight test: then the government is through with you. But the soaring people have a system of their own, international in scope, that takes a hold of people at this point and urges them on. They award a silver badge to the pilot who 1) stays up 5 hours, 2) gains 3281 feet above point of release or subsequent low point of a flight, 3) flies a distance of 31.1 miles (the tiddly numbers are the expression in feet and miles of international requirements laid down in meters).

They award you a gold badge if you make, 1) 5 hours, 2) an altitude gain of 9842 feet, 3) a distance of 186.4 miles.

You get a diamond each, to put on the rim of your badge, if you make, 1) a distance of 310.7 miles, 2) a flight to a pre-announced goal distant 186.4 miles, 3) an altitude gain of 16,404 feet.

And that’s all! A silly little thin, a pin for your button-hole which you will probably never wear. If you wore it, few people would know what it stands for. It gives you no privileges. But it is pretty well what makes the soaring world go ’round.

The moment you have your license, in fact, the moment you have soloed, you know perfectly well what you have to do; go after silver, then after gold. It wouldn’t occur to many people not to do so. And in doing so, how you stretch yourself, how hard you work, and how much you learn! The performances required are not easy, and are cleverly scaled so that the set of them constitutes a sort of course of programmed instruction. You need silver-level skill to make gold in most cases. Few people get a diamond except on a gold badge.

Most performances take more than one try. The weather fades out on you, or you goof, or your will power sags, and you secretly wish that the thermals would quit. The moment that happens, mysteriously, you begin to come down. Sometimes you are up for a practice flight, a performance falls into your lap, but you have no barograph. And also cases where some poor guy forgets to turn his barograph on. But somehow when you fail, it does not feel like failure. More like “this has been fun. Next time, I’ll ring the bell.” And the next time perhaps the weather is kind, and the performance effortless. But meanwhile you have done a lot of flying with a purpose. You have cussed and discussed, analyzed your faults, asked advice, read books, developed and discarded theories and techniques. By the time a man is flying for diamonds, he is sophisticated and a pro.



How does a simple badge motivate so many glider pilots?

Could we devise a similar system for general aviation? I believe we could. We would have to recognize one difference: in gliding they can measure the pilot’s success directly – the results he gets. We can’t do that. A powered flight of 400 miles is no more difficult than one of 200 miles. We can only measure some of the factors which we think make for success. About this, more below.

In soaring, official observers – every member of the Soaring Society of America is qualified as observer if he has at least one leg of at least one badge. But airport managers and people in similar positions are also qualified as observers. The soaring people use sealed barographs and a sealed camera. Before a distance flight you write a declaration on a blackboard stating the date, and time, the destination, turn-points, N number of the airplane, etc. The pilot signs this, and so does the observer. He then photographs the declaration and hands you the sealed camera. The pilot subsequently photographs his turn points. In the end the observer photographs the declaration again, unseals the camera and has the film developed. Also admissible evidence is a “landing card,” stating place and time of your landing, signed by two witnesses, with addresses. The whole system is pretty cheat-proof. In our kind of flying, we would need the cooperation of Towers, Flight Service Stations, Flight Instructors, Airport Managers, Fixed-Base Operators, etc. We would of course need an organization to run the scheme. But that is a minor problem.

The major problem is: Can we think up a set of tasks that could serve as a good test of pilot skill? They would have to be progressively more difficult. They would have to be directly useful, realistic – as a chandelle or a figure eight is not: each would have to be a recognizable piece of real-life flying. And they would have to be solo. A flight test, or check-ride, with an observer in the right-hand seat, is not what we need. It costs too much to set up a time when all the factors are available: the checker, the checkee, the weather, the airplane. Also, while some pilots get checkitis, others relax because they figure that in a pinch, the check-pilot, by seniority, would take over. They thus resign from the captaincy – and that’s unrealistic. A big element of any real-life situation, in flying, is that it’s up to you. I would add another condition. Our requirements, while difficult, should be fun. Each task should be a challenging game, so that in any case would not count his time lost. This in turn requires that the pilot himself must be able to tell whether he’s making it or not. No subjective judgement; no fine points on which the pilot might win without knowing it (“a good short landing, but you forgot to apply carburetor heat”).

Our requirements, therefore, would certainly need much discussion, and some experimentation. One would have to send new pilots out to do these things, and see what happens. At any rate, I think that a set of meaningful tasks can be developed. Here, just to put something on the table, is a sketch of one set.

(1). A performance where, 10 times out of 12, the airplane lands on a mark or within 50 feet beyond it, touching on main wheels first, with the nosewheel off the ground. Perhaps the approach should be over a 35-foot barrier. The U.S. Army uses a low-strength, easy-to-burst barrier for landing practice. Perhaps we should do the same. It might be fun from time to time to hold a meet where pilots could try for this performance.

(2). For this requirement we would need a simple flight recorder which the pilot could borrow or a rent – a barograph combines with a recording directional gyro. I believe such a gadget could be made available. Then: with the recorder in the ship, the pilot flies 3 “snakes” of one hour each – i.e., three flight paths at prescribed, varying headings and altitudes, each snake returning close to the point of departure. During these flights, the prescribed altitudes to be kept within say 50 feet, the prescribed headings within say, 2 ½ degrees. Resetting of pilot’s gyro allowed every 20 minutes.

Video still

Might modern technology like GoPro cameras make it easy to record such a proficiency flight?

We might require, or allow, this to be done under the hood, with an Instrument Flight Instructor certifying the performance instead of a recorder. Then it could be, for the pilot a valuable part of his training for an Instrument Rating. It would be less burdensome financially. But there is a particular need for improvement in ability to fly straight and level in visual flight.

(3). Three flights of four hours each, at cruise, during which the airplane’s radio navigation equipment is off and sealed. These flights to a pre-announced destination, with turn-points, if any, preannounced, time enroute and fuel consumption predicted, check-points photographed, and actual performance very close to prediction. We would have to allow these flights to be out and return, or triangle, although we really would like to push the pilot further away from home. But we should not burden the pilot with overnight expenses, and should get the airplane back to its owner as soon as possible.

Stop here a minute and consider. This requirement might seem easy, but it would induce the pilot to go into dead reckoning and effective map reading. He would have to study winds aloft, and perhaps sometimes go up first and establish winds aloft. He would have to swing his compass. If the requirements as to prediction were rigid enough, he might have to try several times before he got an accurate-enough flight! It would be interesting to require one of these flights to be made by radio-chart only, i.e., by pure dead reckoning, with almost no terrain shown. But such a task could perhaps be attacked as careless flying.

(4). Three night flights, each in a triangle with no side shorter than 100 miles, and a landing at each corner. Perhaps with some devilish formula which would require the flights to be made at different seasons.
Here again the pilot would probably have to do more night flying than just those flights. He would probably not do these flights cold, but would lead up to them by short local flights, study night landings, the problems of locating an airport at night, the ins and outs of cockpit lighting, map reading at night and so forth. He would probably have to give up once or twice on account of weather. We would measure not only his skill, but his determination. He might have to give himself a little push.

(5). A number of arrivals and departures, say four each, at 3 different really busy airports. This performance to be certified by each tower as satisfactory – no goofs, no undue delays. Obviously, we could not try to push this traffic into our busiest airports, but we might specify the class just below – really busy places. We would need the cooperation of the Towers; but I believe we could get it, in view of the aim. Here again, the pilot would probably (had better!) do some preparing – spend some time at a Tower, review and improve his radio habits, study airport charts, get with it in general. He would come out of this task smarter than he went in.

(6). One difficult problem remains: How can a pilot prove real proficiency with VOR and ADF? One could perhaps set up a task along these lines: With a flight recorder aboard, and under rigid requirements as to heading and altitude, stay on a prescribed heading for a prescribed time. Then, holding the heading, prove your position, note it on your map, together with bearings and time; proceed still on the same heading to the next identifiable check-point and photograph it. From there, proceed with minimum delay to a point given to you only as an intersection of two VOR bearings. Photograph the landmark located there. Then…and so forth. Using a trick from soaring, the pilot could “notch” his barograph trace (with a short, sharp decent and re-climb) to mark the times at which he passes over the various points. In this way could probably create a record which is checkable, the way the old explorers’ notes were checkable and cheating and fantasy detectable. But it might be hard work to check it.

GTN 750

For a real challenge, pilots could (gasp!) turn off the GPS.

It may be better to make an exception and make this a checkride, with an observer who puts the pilot through the wringer on VOR and ADF, with a set of tasks, which we would prescribe; ADF interception of inbound and outbound tracks; VOR estimation of distance from the station by change of bearing, VOR approaches where a pond, or other landmark symbolizes an airport, and the checkee does not know what landmark is the one – to simulate an emergency landing in murky weather and so forth. Perhaps this flight would not be much harder if made under the hood. In that case it could serve as a valuable part of the pilot’s work toward an instrument rating. This would ease the economics of the thing. Certain it is that at about 500 or 100 hours after being licensed, the pilot should be challenged to show that he really understands all the angles of ADF and VOR, and he can really use these devices in flight. I believe we keep turning out pilots who are quite shaky in this respect. Not so long ago, a pilot called the Westchester County Airport and said he was lost. He said he had Omni and DME, and his Omni read 270 degrees “from” the Carmel, N.Y. range (the VOR associated with that airport) and the distance shown was 22 miles. But he was lost! They referred him to La Guardia radar.


Somewhere around here, we could give our man his silver badge. We know that he can land an airplane, he can fly straight, he can behave in traffic, he can use his radio, he can navigate and read a map. He is not panicked by the approach of night. He is now, really and solidly, that which we only wish he were when he gets his license. Also, in going to the trouble of delivering the performance required for his badge, he has shown that he takes his flying seriously.

Gold? One thinks of course of a long trip, coast-to-coast and back again where the pilot would encounter all sorts of strange terrain and weather. But such a trip would not serve as basis for a badge. It would require too much time and money in one hunk. We could not require the pilot to go alone, because it would be uneconomic. But a copilot might give him undue help and advice. Also, a long flight as such, is nothing. The question is what style it is made in, and we cannot monitor the style. Our pilot might push weather, break VF, make his landings on his nosewheel, blabbermouth on the radio, do all sorts of poor flying. We need a performance that is more compact and objective.

As a VFR pilot, our man is short of experience in one field: High altitude, high-elevation airports and mountain flying. A gold badge might require 12 sport landings, nosewheel off the ground, at each of say 3 airports at 7000 feet or better, with the temperature 80 or more and the airplane at no more than 90% of gross weight – or some such formula. Or we could just simply require X landings and takeoffs at Leadville, Colorado, elevation nine thousand nine hundred and some. A gold badge might also require a climb to 17,500 feet and two hours cruise at that altitude.

These two requirements would mean more than appear at first glance. In preparing for them, the pilot would have to come to grips with many points of Theory and Practice – oxygen, moisture control, performance at altitude, the Koch Chart, mountain weather, types of turbulence, uphill landings, etc. He would probably do more high flying than the bare test performance. For the man from the East, it would mean a long trip. Is that fair? Perhaps not; but the aim of such a system is not to dispense social or geographic justice, but to certify pilot-skill and experience. And a pilot who has never flown off high airports lacks something. Pilots from Hawaii and Alaska might also have some problems with some of the requirements one might set up. Also, no doubt, the man with more money and time has an advantage. All these special advantages and handicaps would have to be accepted. In soaring, too, they exist. Because of weather, an Englishman has a harder time getting a silver badge than a Texan has getting a gold. This does not seem to interfere with soaring pilots’ acceptance of the system.


Apps like CloudAhoy make it easy to log flights in exquisite detail.

The second requirement for a gold badge might be 30 hours on IFR flight plan, solo, in any weather the pilot chooses, including wide-open VFR. Since this involves getting an instrument rating in the first place, it is a big hump. It would go beyond the rating in that it would push our man strongly toward use of his rating. He would certainly become well acquainted with the system and its communications and usages and procedures.

A hood on these flights? It would mean a safety pilot, and that might mean all sorts of undue help, from refolding the map for the pilot to telling him just what it is the ground has just said. Once a pilot has done instrument flying, it does not make so much difference, for the enroute part of the flight, whether he has a hood or can see. The work comes to much the same. Our man would probably also get quite a bit of enroute flying in clouds. And he could make low approaches and low departures if he chose.

The final requirement for a Gold Badge might be, say, 10 IFR departures and 10 IFR arrivals in pretty low weather – the weather being somehow specified (for instance – ceiling no more than 200 feet higher than the minimum). No more than 7 of the departures and no more than half of the arrivals to be at the same airport.

I think this would be quite a tough requirement except perhaps for West-Coast pilots who can slip in and out of ocean fog in weather that is otherwise benign. Arizona pilots would have to fly quite far from home to find the kind of murk the rest of us have to deal with. In fulfilling it the pilot would have to do quite a lot of instrument flying. He would definitely break the Actual-IFR barrier. And we could then give him his Gold Badge.


Diamonds? I would give 3 each to Max Conrad and Mrs. Hard and a few other star performers of long-distance flights. I would give a diamond to anyone who has tooled an airplane to a point 6000 miles away and brought it back. I would limit this to ships of less than 12,500 pounds, or even to those of less than say 7,000. But there are people in this country who quietly, year after year, slip in and out through almost any weather in small airplanes on just ordinary business over ordinary distances. I would form a committee to search out such people, evaluate their flying and hand out diamonds on the basis of long-term performances.

But really these highly accomplished pilots don’t need our applause. It is the new pilot who needs our system. We must show him a ladder to climb. He now, once licensed, lives in a world in which there are no standards of performance. If he gets there, it’s good enough. If he doesn’t get there it’s ok too – he can claim to have shown “good judgement” and “respected his limitations.” If he lands on his nosewheel, he has no Chief Instructor to call him on it. If he wants to improve, he has no next-step definite goal. He needs to have performance standards set for him and he needs recognition when he lives up to such standards. The insurance companies might also recognize his efforts. The experience of the soaring would seem to show that, once a genuine, tough-but-attainable, standard is set, a lot of people will try to attain it “because it is there.”

Worth discussing?

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Categories: Get Your Pilots License


Overlooked pioneers in women’s aviation

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When the 737-700’s engine suffered a catastrophic failure at 32,000 feet, fragments tore into the fuselage causing an explosive depressurization of the cabin. Oxygen masks dropped down and the 149 souls onboard felt severe vibration. The aircraft yawed and began an uncontrolled roll to the left. The flight crew fought to control the aircraft.

While the first officer quickly worked through the emergency checklist, the 56-year-old captain, a former Navy fighter pilot, realized that the Philadelphia airport was best equipped to handle their emergency. Learning that a passenger had sustained critical injuries, the captain chose to make an expedited approach and landing to KPHL. Skill, judgement and a remarkable presence-of-mind enabled Captain Tammie Jo Shults to guide Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 safely back to earth. Her story became part of a long and proud history of women in aviation.

While observing Women’s History Month this month, the names of Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes, and Bessie Colman come easily to mind, but the achievements of many less well-known women aviators are also worth celebrating. What follows is simply a place to start…

Harriet Quimby was the first American woman to earn a pilot certificate.

Harriet Quimby, a successful journalist and screenwriter, became the first American woman to earn a pilot’s certificate in 1911. Her new passion led to her professional debut as a member of an aviation exhibition team that drew crowds wherever they appeared. She competed in meets and races across the country, actively promoting the economic potential of commercial aviation. On April 16, 1912, she flew a Bleriot monoplane from Dover to Calais, becoming the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Eighty years later, the US Post Office issued a commemorative stamp featuring her picture and the Bleriot monoplane along with the simple statement “Harriet Quimby: Pioneer Pilot.”

At the age of 41, a Phoenix photographer named Ruby Wine Sheldon, accepted a challenge from her coworkers and learned to fly. She became one of the organizers and a participant in the Air Race Classic. Sheldon ultimately logged over 15,000 hours during a distinguished career working for US Geological Survey, flying remote-sensing missions from Alaska to the Panama Canal. She also held the first helicopter instrument instructor certificate ever issued by the FAA. Ruby Sheldon was honored in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and was inducted into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame.

In 1932, Jackie Cochran, known for audacity, force of will, and what she described as her “can’t sit still buzz,” earned her pilot’s license in three weeks, displaying a natural affinity for flight. Finding herself grounded by fog, she immediately threw herself into instrument flight training. Jackie broke records at break-neck speed, winning the Los Angeles to Cleveland Bendix Trophy in 1938 and setting a new women’s world speed record. Before the US joined WWII, she ferried American-built aircraft to Britain, becoming the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic. After the war, while serving in the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel, she received three Distinguished Flying Cross awards. She became the first woman to break the sound barrier in 1953. At times referred to as the “Speed Queen,” Cochran at one time held more speed, distance, and altitude records than any other pilot in aviation history.

Nancy Harkness Love was a founder of the WASPs.

Thirteen-year-old Nancy Harkness Love was at Le Bourget Airport in Paris to witness Charles Lindbergh’s historic arrival. At 16, she earned her pilot’s license. By 1937 she was competing in air races and working as a test pilot, helping to develop the first tricycle landing gear. During WWII, she and Jackie Cochran formed what became the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) to help transport aircraft from factories to bases. Love became certified in 19 military aircraft. She was later accorded the rank of lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force Reserve. In 2005, Love was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, OH.

US Air Force Colonel Eileen Collins, a military flight instructor and test pilot, was selected for astronaut training in 1990 and made aviation history as the first female commander of a Space Shuttle in 1995. She has flown four shuttle missions, logging 38 days, 8 hours, and 20 minutes in space. She is one of more than 60 women who have traveled into space as astronauts/cosmonauts.

Tracy Pilurs secretly began flying lessons in 1942, logging three hours and 20 minutes before her mother found out and made her quit. It wasn’t until 1957 that she got back to serious flight training, completing her check ride in March, 1958. A few months later, she was introduced to aerobatics by Duane Cole. Among the ratings she eventually earned were ground instructor, commercial pilot, free balloon pilot, flight instructor and airframe mechanic. As a single mother of six, she participated in the Powder Puff Derby, flying a Bonanza in the coast-to-coast race in 1962 while her children enthusiastically monitored her progress on ham radios. A year later, she borrowed a clipped wing Cub and won the Women’s National Aerobatic Championship. Over a four-year period, Pilurs, with help from her children, built a Smith Miniplane in her garage and flew it to the EAA Fly-In in Rockford in 1964. She won her second aerobatic championship in the Miniplane the following year. She later wrote extensively for aviation magazines, including a monthly column in Private Pilot.

Jerrie Mock received an award from President Johnson in 1964.

In 1964, Jerrie Mock, the only woman in her aeronautical engineering class at Ohio State, became the first woman to fly solo around the world in an 11-year-old, single engine Cessna 180. A mother of three with just 750 hours of flying, she flew east from Columbus, Ohio. She had never flown over open water before. The route took her through the Azores, North Africa, the Middle East, Asia. and through the Pacific Islands, covering nearly 23,000 miles. It included 21 stops and took 29 days and accomplished what her heroine, Amelia Earhart, had died trying to do. At the time, the media dubbed her “The Flying housewife.” After her historic flight, the Cessna Aircraft Company gave her a Cessna P206, but the taxes and fees made keeping it unaffordable. Several charitable groups helped raise funds so that the plane could be transferred to a group of priests working in remote villages in Papua New Guinea. Mock flew it there in 1969, setting a number of speed and distance records along the way. It was her last flight as a pilot. In 2019, Jerrie was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame for her accomplishments in women’s rights, freedom, and aviation. Her Cessna 180 hangs in the National Air and Space Museum.

Showcasing the many stories and helping to preserve the history of women in aviation is the mission of the International Women’s Air and Space Museum, located at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. Though the building is temporarily closed to visitors due to the pandemic, the museum’s website offers an extensive list of resources for anyone interested in the many achievements of women in aviation and space exploration.

Categories: Get Your Pilots License


The story of a winged boot, and the men who wore it

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Although this story began nearly 75 years ago, it was only recently that my wife and I found out about a very interesting part of the tale. My wife, Susan, and I are both “brats;” her father served 22 years in the US Air Force, retiring as a chief master sergeant, while my father served 32 years in the US Army, retiring as a colonel. We both experienced the typical “brat” life—attending many schools and living around the globe and across the US.

A unique patch—what does it mean?

We have a lot of memorabilia from both of our fathers and recently Susan’s sister gave us some additional items, to include his aerial gunner wings. However, one unique item she gave us really grabbed our attention. It is a small (1.5” high x 2.5” wide) patch featuring an embroidered boot with a single wing on it (see picture at right). Susan and I wondered what the significance of a winged boot was and why it was part of her father’s memorabilia. I searched the Internet and was stunned by what I learned.

I found that winged boots meant a great deal to the men who wore them as well as how they came to be authorized to wear them, and how they were obtained. It’s an interesting story, but first, some background on Susan’s father and how that led him to acquire a winged boot.

During World War II, Susan’s father, Ralph “Yountsy” (YON-tsee) Younts, was a sergeant serving as a B-17 top turret gunner and flight engineer. Shortly before his crew flew their new Flying Fortress, dubbed The Reluctant Dragon, to England, they posed for a picture (at right) at their training base in Nebraska. Sergeant Younts is in the back row, second from the right. Upon arrival in England, the crew was assigned to the 336th Bomb Squadron (Heavy) of the 95th Bomb Group, flying out of Horham in Suffolk, England.

The crew of The Reluctant Dragon, with the author’s father-in-law in the back row, second from right.

On the 28th of September 1944, the 95th BG flew its 196th mission of the war; however, it was just the 2nd mission for the crew of The Reluctant Dragon. The target that date was an oil refinery at Merseburg, Germany (just west of Leipzig), and the mission debrief noted the formation encountered “heavy and accurate AAA in the target area.” Yountsy’s crew could attest to the “accurate” part of the debriefing, as their aircraft was crippled by German flak, forcing them to drop out of the formation immediately after “bombs-away.”

They radioed that they were going to try and make it to Free France, but, as luck would have it, they ran out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas while still over German-occupied territory. They delayed bailing out while attempting to reach a safe area and ended up having to ride their trusty, rugged steed through a crash landing in an open field. Fortunately, all 10 crewmen emerged from the wreckage unharmed; however, they were immediately captured by German troops.

The intrepid airmen were quickly placed on trains and shipped to POW camps. The NCOs ended up in Stalag Luft IV in northeast Germany (now Tychowo, Poland), where they were held with over 8,000 other Allied airmen. Life was not easy in the camp: rations were meager and their treatment was harsh. In 2005, Susan and I attended a reunion of Stalag Luft IV POWs in Denver hoping to meet someone who might have known her father. Although we didn’t find anyone who knew her father, we learned how terrible their treatment was when one of the former POWs recounted how a young airman was climbing out of a barracks window on a lark and was shot by a German guard.

Life was hard in a German POW camp.

As Russian forces advanced from the east, the Germans began evacuating the prison camps near the front, intending to consolidate POWs from several camps in central Germany. This was done to keep them as a “bargaining chip” with the Allied Powers. The evacuation from Stalag Luft IV began on February 6th, 1945 in groups of 250 to 300 men. The POWs’ westward march lasted 86 days and covered some 600 miles—nearly 10 times longer than the infamous Bataan Death March. It became known as the Black March because of the conditions under which it was made as well as the severe treatment the prisoners experienced.

The men were forced to march under guard about 15–20 miles per day during the worst winter in Germany in over 100 years. It was reported the temperature was ten degrees below zero when they began their march. Their treatment was very brutal with the sick receiving little care as dysentery and diarrhea set in. Some prisoners were bayoneted while others were kicked and hit. Shelter overnight was sometimes in a barn or whatever structure was available, or they slept in the open, in spite of the rain or the snow. As for food, a bushel or two of steamed potatoes for a barn full of men was the best they ever received at the end of a day. Often, the food was placed in the barn in the dark of night for the men to get what they could. The German government provided no clothing. The men carried two blankets and an overcoat (if they had one) for bedding.

The average POW lost a third of his body weight after capture and those on the Black March continued to lose weight. They drank water, often contaminated, from ditches beside the road, or they ate snow. They bartered with cigarettes, watches, rings or whatever they had to get food from the farmers along the way. However, in doing so they risked both their own lives as well as those of the farmers. The POWs ate charcoal to help stop dysentery, and they all became infested with lice, while pneumonia, diphtheria, trench foot, and other diseases ran rampant among the men.

Prisoners on the Black March endured brutal conditions.

Acts of heroism were virtually universal, with the stronger helping the weaker. Those fortunate enough to have a coat shared it with others, to include the guards, comprised mostly of older men and teens. The Germans sometimes provided a wagon for the sick. However, horses were seldom available, so teams of POWs pulled the wagons through the snow. When a wagon was not available and a POW fell out along the road, a German guard would drop back and a single shot would ring out. The guard would then come back into formation alone. However, not all Germans were hated; a guard nicknamed ‘Shorty’ by the POWs was carried by several prisoners after he could go no further on his own.

Like all of the POWs, Susan’s father was desperate. He decided to try to escape. Signaling a guard that he needed to relieve himself, he received a nod to go into the woods alongside the road. He went a short distance into the woods, counting on the guards not wanting to chase him and risk losing additional POWs. Once he saw the guards weren’t watching him closely, he mustered his remaining strength and began running. A few shots were fired at him, but he quickly disappeared from view behind the trees.

For the next several days, he wandered aimlessly while also losing track of time. Eventually, he passed out in a ditch beside a road and later awoke to the sound of armored vehicles. Believing he was either going to die of exposure and/or starvation or else be shot, he decided to step out with his hands in the air. Fortunately for him, he was greeted by a column of British armor and was repatriated.

Upon admission to a hospital in England, he weighed all of 82 pounds. He was well cared for and eventually returned to the U.S. where he married his sweetheart and became an aircraft mechanic in the newly formed USAF. When he retired from the Air Force in 1964, he was the line chief for the B-52s stationed at McCoy AFB, which is now Orlando International Airport in Florida.

Now, about that winged boot discovered among the memorabilia belonging to Susan’s father. My research revealed that it was from WWII and that it originated with RAF airmen. They were worn by those aircrew shot down over occupied Europe who either evaded capture or else escaped from imprisonment and evaded being recaptured (E&E’d). In both cases, the airmen eventually were successful in returning to England. Upon arriving home, they were debriefed about their E&E experience by British intelligence personnel.

For the lucky ones, survival meant a return home to family.

One of the first things these aviators did after being released from their debriefing was to make a visit to Hobson and Sons in London (established in 1850 and still in business). Once there, the escapee would have a wire (or bullion) “Winged Boot” badge made for themselves. This signified they were now members of the Order of the Winged Boot, a fraternity comprised of those who had successfully returned to friendly territory after being shot down. Although the insignia was titled and often awarded in a light-hearted and humorous way, the fact is, aviators were well aware of the experience that it represented.

The winged boot was commonly worn on the left pocket flap of the RAF service uniform coat, below the airman’s wings and ribbons. Because they were not regulation, US airmen wore theirs under the left lapel of either their service uniform or their Eisenhower jacket. The threads on her father’s winged boot would blend with an olive drab uniform and that, combined with the fact her father was a known “straight shooter,” led Susan and I to believe “Yountsy” proudly wore his winged boot under the lapel of his service uniform.

Now you can tell others about the “Winged Boot.”

The sketch below depicts Susan’s father in front of the B-17 in which he was a crew member. I commissioned it as a present for Susan. with copies made for her two siblings as well as for her mother, “Sammy.” Together, Susan and I gave copies of the sketch to Yountsy and Sammy’s five grandchildren and their nine (soon to be ten) great-grandchildren.

Categories: Get Your Pilots License


From jars to jets: the forgotten story of the Jetwing

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It’s that time of year. Crisp autumn weather means it’s harvest time. Backyard gardens enjoyed a good growing season hear in the Midwest, leaving us with an abundance of produce. What hasn’t been used already is being saved by drying, freezing or canning. There’s even a shortage of canning supplies at the local hardware store.

That got me thinking about glass jars and outer space. Stay with me and I’ll explain.

A few years ago, I visited the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver, Colorado. Our daughter and her family live in Denver, so it’s a regular stop for us when traveling. The museum is housed in one of the historic hangars that were once part of the former Lowry Air Force Base. Much like the Glenview NAS, the area has now been redeveloped with housing, restaurants, and other businesses replacing the runways. Today, a B-52 bomber sits outside the hangar’s main entrance.

What is that logo doing on a jet?

While exploring the museum, a familiar logo caught my eye, but it was in an unaccustomed place: the nose of an experimental jet airplane. It was the Ball logo that I had seen on canning jars over the years.

So, how does a company go from glass jars to jets?

Curiosity lead me to doing some research. I learned that the company founded by five Ball brothers in Buffalo, New York, in the 1880s had a fascinating history. Family owned for 90 years, the four main components of their core product, canning jars and lids, were glass, zinc, rubber, and paper. This lead to expansion. The brothers purchasing a zinc rolling mill to manufacture lids and then a paper mill to fabricate the necessary packaging. In time, they also acquired tin, steel, and plastic companies.

During World War II, the company shifted their manufacturing facilities to producing shells and machine parts for the military. Near the end of the 1940s, Ball’s businesses became the focus of an antitrust case that ultimately hindered their ability to acquire other glass manufacturers and glass-making machinery, leading to the company’s first ever net operating loss. It became clear that the company needed to diversify in order to grow.

In 1956, the company formed the Ball Brothers Research Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, to build pointing controls for sounding rockets that carried scientific apparatus aloft in sub-orbital flights. The company eventually built seven of NASA’s early earth-orbiting satellites, making them a member of the aerospace industry.

Around the same time, the company was joined by a talented engineer, biplane enthusiast, and skilled aerobatic pilot by the name of Otto “Pete” Bartoe. In 1973, Bartoe (by then President of Ball Research) convinced the corporation to enter into a joint venture with his alma mater, the University of Colorado, to build what became known as the Ball-Bartoe Jetwing, an oddly shaped, single-engine, single-place aircraft with a stubby wingspan of only 21’9”. Bartoe designed it as a “low-key, low-cost” research vehicle that utilized unique design concepts along with conventional aircraft parts that included a Cessna tailwheel, Bonanza wingtips, and a Citation air intake. The idea was to entice military and commercial contracts with its unique technology.

The Jetwing was a jet powered taildragger with a “blown wing” that diverted the exhaust through wing root nozzles over the top sections of the wing’s leading edge to improve short field takeoff and landing capabilities. Its single Pratt & Whitney engine produced 2,050 pounds of continuous thrust. Tests proved that the “upper blowing surface” technology produced twice the lift of a conventional wing of the same shape and size. A secondary “augmentor” wing mounted just inches above the main wing added a low-pressure slot to guide the exhaust across the wing and draw in additional air to increase lift. Large flaps on the trailing edge effectively created a “bend” in the airstream above the flaps, providing a simple use of downward thrust that enabled the Jetwing to fly as slow as 40 mph. Notably, the aircraft lacked a tailpipe.

It looks odd, but it did fly.

The first flight took place in 1977 at the Mojave Airport, with test pilot Herman “Fish” Salmon at the controls. At low speed, the aircraft flew so slowly that Bartoe used his Super Cub as a chase plane.

Following a number test flights, Bartoe himself flew the Jetwing back to Boulder for more testing. The belly tank only held 106 gallons, which required eleven fuel stops to be made enroute. Because of a scarcity of jet fuel along the way, a mechanic chased the flight in a pickup with a container of Jet A in the back.

In Bartoe’s words, “As long as the engine was running, you couldn’t stall it. Landings were interesting: The jet blast came off the deployed flap, bounced off the ground, and forced the tail up. If you reduced power, the tail would come down suddenly, just as the wing was losing lift. But everything happened at such a slow forward speed that it was manageable.”

In 1978, after being unable to attract outside investment, the Jetwing was donated to the University of Tennessee Space Institute. However, interest in the aircraft increased in 1980 when the Navy considered developing it for use on short aircraft carriers. A new series of test flights were carried out. Despite its top speed of 350 mph, the Navy was able to land the Jetwing in a mere 300 feet.

Ultimately, the Navy discontinued blown-wing research in favor of vectored thrust technology. The Jetwing was returned to its original home in Colorado, where it took its place in history among other aircraft at the Wings Over the Rockies museum.

Continued success at Ball led to its expansion into avionics and aerospace systems. In the early 1990s the Ball Corporation spun off its home canning business. An independent company now retains the license to use the Ball trademark on its own canning product line. Now headquartered in Westminister, Colorado, the Ball Corporation no longer makes glass but is a leading manufacturer of plastic and metal food and beverage containers.

Meanwhile, in 1995, Ball Brothers Research Corporation became Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ball Corporation. Today, Ball Aerospace continues to develop innovative equipment and services to the aerospace industry.

Long-time EAA member Otto E. “Pete” Bartoe was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Historical Society Hall of Fame on October 30, 2004. He lives along the front range mountains of northern Colorado.

Epilogue: The Skyote biplane

Bartoe designed an aerobatic airplane (foreground) in addition to the Jetwing.

As an aerobatic pilot, Pete Bartoe dreamed of the ideal biplane. Something with the responsiveness and strength of a Bucker Jungmeister and the low-speed characteristics and fuel economy of a Rose Parrakeet. In the early 1970s, Pete designed and built his dream and named it the Skyote (rhymes with “coyote”). Its first flight was in 1976. Stressed to +9G and -6G, it can fly as slow as 38 kts and fast as 137 kts, with a 1,500 fpm rate of climb and a gross weight of 900 lbs.

In 1976, none other than Bob Hoover took it for a test flight and reviewed it for Sport Aviation. He offered this assessment: “I can only say that it was a rare experience to fly an airplane that exhibited such delightful flying qualities, along with an immense amount of creature comfort. The slow flight feature also provides short field performance that makes any little grass strip quite suitable. The Skyote gets off as quickly as a Super Cub—maybe quicker!”

Pete Bartoe’s personal Skyote is on display next to the Jetwing at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. Plans and components for Skyotes are available from Aircraft Spruce, and an active Skyote type club is based in Grayslake, Illinois. At 2016’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, a Skyote built by John Roberts won the Homebuilt Plans Champion Award. Further information and photos can be found at Skyote.org.

Categories: Get Your Pilots License


From the archives: Checkout in a Spitfire

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The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the most beautiful airplanes to ever take to the skies, and an effective one too, with a sterling record during the Battle of Britain. In this trip into the Air Facts archives, Nancy Miller takes us inside the famous Spit for a look at what it was like to fly one. She should know—she logged nearly 1,000 hours ferrying airplanes for the RAF.

Once upon a time, as the war clouds threatened but before the storm had broken, the prototype of the now famous British Supermarine Spitfire was flown – in March 1936. This plane, more then any, has captured the imagination of most people and has licked the pants off many Germans. It is credited, with its close pal the Hawker Hurricane, with having saved Britain in 1940. It has always aroused the admiration and awe of any pilot or aviation enthusiast. The very clean lines, the graceful elliptical wings, its appearances in all attitudes has moved many people into saying it is one of, if not the most graceful, beautiful aircraft in the world.

Now there isn’t much that can be said about military aircraft – you know why. But since there are so many American military pilots (and no doubt many others) who want to fly it (the greatest compliment), I might be able to give an idea of how the Spitfire behaves without giving away any important secrets. After all, the German test pilots probably know more about it than I do.

This article first appeared in the May 1945 edition of Air Facts.

Getting in isn’t bad except on a muddy or icy day. You step directly onto the port wing and draw yourself up by grasping where the small hinged door swings down. The cockpit is narrow and a 200-pounder would have a tight squeeze. There are metal runners beneath the rudders so that you can rest your feet. The rudders themselves are double-deckered and you can use either level. They are adjustable but being an awkward operation, I often curse long-legged test pilots. The seat is adjustable up and down only. The cockpit is fairly full of gadgets but not nearly so much as American fighters with all their little switches. There are two main operations which upset most Americans, (1) the brakes, and (2) the landing gear lever.

The stick in the Spit is topped by a circular rim about an inch in diameter, with a lever just behind it. Using your right hand, you pull the lever like a squeeze-grip and this operates the brakes. The harder you pull, the stronger the brakes. You differentiate which brake is to be used by applying slight rudder. Full rudder is not necessary and you don’t have to stretch your feet out of shape.

Those who have never used this system find it confusing at first, but once used to it, it is excellent, as you can feel the whole action. British pilots usually dislike hydraulic toe brakes at first and find them quite confusing. Both systems have their merits.

As to number two, the landing gear lever, this is on the right side of the cockpit and necessitates a change of hands to operate. This explains the little up and down jerk a Spit sometimes does just after takeoff. More embarrassing is when the throttle slips back just when you put the left hand on the stick and the right on the lever. The throttle tension wheel, unfortunately, is poor and the throttle may be tight half-way and loose at full travel.

The instrument dashboard isn’t too overloaded. Dead ahead is a full blind – flying panel, the six instruments well set out and the big master compass below the dash. The few engine thing-a ma-jigs are at the right, and the flap control, elevator trim tab indicator, landing gear lights, mag switches, at the left. The flap control indicator is unusual. It’s just a flat piece of metal and moves either up or down on a pivot. There is no intermediate position.

The throttle and pitch levers are on the left in a good position. On most Marks, the mixture control is automatic and there’s a cut-out lever outboard the throttle, which is moved forward when starting and for automatic running, and back to shut off.

There is no tail wheel lock, the wheel being strongly self-centering. Two wheels left of the seat are the trimmers. There is no rudder indicator, one turn from either end being neutral. The elevator trimmer, the larger wheel, has an indicator like a rate of climb, the middle position being neutral. There are other gadgets around, radio, emergency air bottle for the landing gear, jettison equipment, oil dilution, etc., but all we’re trying to do is check out, not fight in it.

With parachute on, harness fastened, cockpit check completed, you call “all clear” and “contact.” Starting isn’t difficult but you certainly wish you had another pair of hands! Switches on, throttle cracked, wobble pump (if fitted), doper, press two buttons (booster coil and starter), catch the engine on the doper (right hand), plop the mixture lever into automatic and use the throttle with the left hand. It’s a hectic few seconds! The full-throated roar is sweet music. It doesn’t take too long to warm and run-up, and it’s difficult to taxy far on a warm day (if any!) without the radiator (glycol) temperature zooming to 120 degrees Centigrade, at which time the engine must be shut off and left to cool. To run up, it is necessary to have two men lie on the stabilizer so that the plane won’t nose over.

That wing…

Taxying calls for care as the long-nosed Merlin and Griffon engines block the forward view. Zig-zagging is easy by use of coarse (full) rudder, and a bit of throttle, and very little brake is needed except in a cross-wind. The narrow landing gear scares most newcomers, but it is absolutely amazing how well the gear stands up to all sorts of landings especially in a cross-wind. I have taken them in with 20-25 mph winds at 45-50 degrees off the runway and with the proper correction they have set down three–point quite nicely. There’s only a slight tendency to weathercock and it can be corrected by coarse rudder or a touch of the squeeze brake.

The take-off has need of a gentle, firm hand, not that used for a B-24 Liberator. The elevators are very sensitive. You can open up quickly except in later Marks where the torque is more pronounced. Very little rudder will keep a straight course and only the slightest forward pressure on the stick will pout the Spit “on its mark.” There is no forward view but I never had any either when my 200-pound instructor sat in the front of my Piper Cub!!

You open up to plus eight- or ten-pounds boost, which is around 48 to 52 inches of manifold pressure. I have taken some off at plus four, but it isn’t so nice. I have also taken one off at full boost, and my! did she jump! You can feel the power of the engine, like most fighters. If there’s a nice long runway, it’s a marvelous feeling to keep her smoothly on the ground until she just refuses to be a groundhog any longer. She wants to fly, so you let her ease off the ground without a ripple. Just a bare tip-of-the-finger sends her airborne; there’s no need of hugging the stick or pulling back firmly. The Spit likes to fly. All you have to do is give her a hint and she’ll do the rest.

As you leave the ground you switch left hand to stick, and right hand to the “C”-shaped landing gear lever. You press down a second, then left, up, right, and release. The wheels flatten out in the wings very quickly and the lever snaps automatically into an “idle” position. The Spit builds up to 160 mph rapidly, and the throttle and pitch can be adjusted to plus four and 2600 RPM. She climbs well, although the nose is a bit high.

On any takeoff, crosswind or otherwise, the Spit unsticks at an amazingly slow speed and it’s almost impossible to drag it off too slowly or drop a wing.

Adjusting the throttle to zero boost (30 inches) and 1900 RPM, you can relax and look around. Since you aren’t out to lose yourself in Britain, we’ll change the routine from the ferry job to some turns and a landing. By the way, the British call the practice of takeoffs and landings, “circuits and bumps,” and it’s strangely accurate. Bumps indeed!

Now remember, finger-tip touch is all that is necessary, and most of the time you don’t need rudder as the aileron gives a good turn. In a medium turn, little back pressure is used, but a tight turn requires a firm hand. When you bank there’s a feeling of remote control, almost as if your unconscious leaning into the turn did it instead if the stick. Aerobatics are pleasant but stalls and spins need plenty of altitude.

Coming into the circuit, you drop your boost a bit to slow down to 160 mph. Then change hands, push the gear lever up a second, left, down, right, and release. As the gear comes down, you check the green light, and the lever which slips into “idle” position. The nose drops a bit, but the trimmer is handy. Because of the blind nose, the Spit, as with other fighters, should be brought in at an angle to the runway so that the pilot may judge his approach and have a clear run. The Spit has a flattish, nose-up glide with flaps up at slow speed. Flaps bring the nose down but not enough for a straight approach. A nice 180 degree “U” approach can be started at 800 feet. If you find yourself coming in high and straight, you can make gentle S-turns with confidence.

An ad from the same issue shows what civilian aviation looked like in 1945.

Well, you are buzzing in at 110 and you just don’t think it should be any slower. But a bit of pressure soon changes your mind, as you zoom up. For Spits I to V, you can approach with a bit of motor at 85-90 mph, with a slight increase on later Marks, as they are heavier. Initial approach 95, slowing to 85-90 the last 200 feet of altitude. Quit jerking the stick—looks like a porpoise! Just relax and use only a couple of fingers on the stick. Break the glide gradually, using the same light touch and as she nears the ground, slide your hand around the stick and brake lever. You can feel the ship want to keep flying, and on a rough day, you must be quick on the controls in order to judge the actual “touchdown.” Just as she settles, you must pull back firmly, but not too far. Due to the high nose, most people don’t like to see it too high, and thus a tail first landing is rare. It’s somewhat like a Fairchild 24. You break the glide and continue to pull back, but just at the end you must suddenly pull in order to get the tail down. That’s about the only quick motion ever needed in a Spit.

As she touches and rolls, she rocks slightly. Directional control is excellent by slight, quick, firm use of the rudder. A touch of brake can be used but it’s usually not necessary—especially if you’re not used to that type of brake. The nose blocks the forward view, but you can keep straight by glancing off about 30 degrees to each side. The run is not long except for later, heavier Marks in a calm wind.

Now if you had decided, as most newcomers do, that 85-90 mph felt too slow and brought it in a 95-100, you’d be glad of a long runway. The Spit doesn’t want to sit down and if you give her a bit of rope, she’ll float all the way down the runway. You’ll make a half-dozen porpoising up and downs two feet off the runway before touching. It’s surprising how easy it is to land a Spitfire safely, even on its wheels, but how difficult it is to make a perfect three-pointer.

So you taxy zig-zag back to dispersal, after flaps up, radiator open (mechanical on some, automatics on later Marks), gyro caged, clear the engine at 1000RPM for 30 seconds, then pull the cut-out ring or bring the mixture lever into idle cut-out. Switches off, petrol (gas to you) off, and that’s that. The engineer will disconnect the battery, as there’s no main battery switch in the cockpit.

Nearly always someone asks “How does the Spit compare with the P-51 Mustang?” Well, I’ve flown many more Spits than P-51’s, and naturally I’m a bit prejudiced. There are other aircraft like a 51 in the air, such as the Grumman Hellcat (F6F) and Corsair (F4U), both being light and yet with a similar touch to the 51. But there’s nothing like a Spitfire!

Looking up in Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft for 1943-4, I see where the Allison-powered P-51 had a top speed of 370 mph, and the Spit V was 369. Spans had a difference of about two inches, horsepowers were within 100 of each other. The P-51 weighed about 1400 pounds more loaded, had less wing area, was longer in the snout, and landed faster. The Spit is rounded and graceful, the P-51 clipped and proud. There should not be any comparison because it just depends on the individual pilot whether he likes one better than another.

You may never see or fly a Spitfire but if you do, look at it and treat it as the high-spirited trusty thorobred that she is. She likes to fly as much as we do.

Categories: Get Your Pilots License


Charles Lindbergh flies virus serum to Quebec

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In recent years, the reputation of Charles Lindbergh has taken a number of hits. Many people who were alive just before World War II have not forgiven him for his praise of Nazi Germany and all his anti-war efforts on behalf of the America First movement. To Lindbergh’s credit, he abandoned the anti-war activities right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and went on, as a civilian, to fly combat missions in the South Pacific. Much more recently, we learned of Lindbergh’s separate German family—a secret kept for many years after his death and one that was never mentioned by his principal biographer, Scott Berg. Very few people approve of bigamy.

But whatever his personal flaws and shortcomings, there are some traits of Lindbergh’s that have never been questioned: he was a brave, distinguished, and incredibly capable aviator and he always demonstrated enormous loyalty to his friends—especially friends who were fellow pilots. These characteristics were on full display on April 24, 1928 (not quite a year after his historic flight to Paris), when Lindbergh flew anti-virus pneumonia serum to Quebec City, Canada, in an attempt to save the life of his aviator friend, Floyd Bennett, who was desperately ill in a Quebec hospital. He made the flight through heavy snow in blizzard conditions with gale-force winds in a single-engine, open cockpit Army biplane, the Curtis Falcon. He landed in early evening, not at an airport, but on the Plains of Abraham in downtown Quebec. The story is a fascinating one, but it does not have a happy ending.

The Mission

The decade of the 1920s was one of the most important in world aviation history. Flying records were being set on a near-daily basis. Pilots were often lionized by the press and the general public. In the mid- to late-1920s there was an unending fascination (we might now call it almost an obsession) with trans-Atlantic flight. Lindbergh was the most prominent of these aviators for his 1927 west to east solo crossing of the Atlantic, but there were many others, prominent then but largely forgotten today.

Floyd Bennett was a decorated Navy pilot.

This story begins with a flight by German aviators that crossed the Atlantic east to west (recall Lindbergh’s 1927 flight was the easier west to east route) in a German single-engine Junkers W-33 airplane named “The Bremen.” Even that flight had a multi-national component. The two pilots, Ehrenfried Gunther Freiherr von Hunefeld and Herman Kohl, were German but their navigator, James Fitzmaurice, was an Irish Army major. The Bremen flight departed Baldonnel Aerodrome in Ireland around 5 am GMT on April 12, 1928, and after some considerable navigation error that nearly doomed the flight, landed on Greenly Island just off-shore the Canadian province of Quebec around 5 pm GMT on April 13. The Bremen itself was damaged and unflyable. After giving up on trying to repair their airplane, the Bremen crew was flown off the island to Quebec City in a Ford Trimotor piloted by Bernt Balchen and Floyd Bennett.

The trans-Atlantic flight was confirmed as successful. The three Bremen aviators were celebrated in North America and Europe for their achievement. Sometime later, President Calvin Coolidge awarded the US Distinguished Flying Cross to the three Bremen crew members. But tragically, one of their rescue pilots, Floyd Bennett, became gravely ill and was hospitalized in Quebec City. Bennett was himself a distinguished US Naval aviator who flew a number of sometimes controversial Arctic missions with Admiral Richard Byrd. For his Arctic flying with Byrd, Bennett was awarded the Medal of Honor (for non-combat achievements) and the Navy’s Distinguished Service Medal. He was serving as a Naval aviator warrant officer during the flight to evacuate the Bremen crew.

There is some question as to exactly when Bennett contracted the pneumonia that eventually put him in the Quebec hospital. Bennett was apparently quite ill even before he left to do the Bremen flight and became even sicker when he returned to Quebec City. There are a few totally erroneous reports that he died in flight while rescuing the Bremen crew. Learning that Bennett was seriously ill, a call went out to John D. Rockefeller and the Rockefeller Medical Institute in New York City for serum to treat Bennett’s pneumonia. Mr. Rockefeller had directed that all possible assistance be given to help Bennett.

The original plan was to send the serum by train, but it was quickly determined that the train would take far too long. Rockefeller then reached Lindbergh, who was in New York and asked him if he would be willing to fly the serum to Canada. Lindbergh did not hesitate. He simply said, “I’ll go, if it will help Bennett.” Back then there was a loyalty and affinity among aviators that those of us pilots alive in the twenty-first century can only guess at.

Twelve bottles of the virus serum and three white mice were delivered to Curtiss Airport on Long Island from the Rockefeller Institute by a principal assistant to Rockefeller, Thomas P. Appleget, who then flew on to Quebec as Lindbergh’s passenger. The white mice were to be sacrificed in Quebec to determine exactly what type of pneumonia Bennett had contracted. The serum would then be administered.

The Airplane and the Departure Airport

The Curtiss Falcon was not exactly an all-weather airplane.

In New York, Lindbergh had his own airplane, the Spirit of Saint Louis, but apparently decided that it would be better to fly to Quebec in a Curtiss A-3 Falcon. This “unequal span” biplane with an aluminum tubing fuselage and a wing-span of 38 feet was powered by a Curtiss V-12 liquid cooled engine turning a two-blade fixed pitch propeller. The A-3 model was eventually sold to both the US Army and Navy and after some modifications was re-named the “Helldiver,” becoming the Navy’s first dive bomber. It was a two-seater with a cruising speed of around 100 knots, a range of about 650 miles, and a 14,000-foot ceiling. Lindberg’s Falcon was borrowed from the United States Army at a point in time when then-Colonel Lindbergh could have just about anything he wanted from the Army.

The departure airport, Curtiss Field, was then a civilian dirt strip near Mineola, New York, immediately adjacent to the much more prominent Roosevelt Field. Roosevelt Field was named in honor of Quentin Roosevelt, the son of President Theodore Roosevelt. Quentin had been killed as a US Army pilot in France during World War I. Lindbergh had flown from Roosevelt Field to Paris less than a year earlier and was very familiar with it. Roosevelt Field and Curtiss Field were consolidated by the Army during World War II and closed in 1951. As of September, 2020, the site comprises commercial buildings and shopping malls.

The Route and the Weather

The route from Mineola, Long Island, to Quebec is roughly 440 miles on a direct magnetic heading of about 020 degrees. Contemporary newspaper reports suggest that Lindbergh first flew directly north towards Albany, New York, and then took a slight dogleg right to Quebec. Lindbergh took off a little after 3 pm local time, anticipating a flight of around 3 hours 30 minutes to Quebec City. The weather was atrocious. He encountered gale force winds, snow with blizzard conditions at times and freezing cold in an open-cockpit airplane. The Falcon’s instrumentation was minimal, with Lindbergh relying almost entirely on his magnetic compass for navigation.

To try to test all of this out, I flew this same route in my flight simulator, trying as best as I could to replicate Lindbergh’s flight. I’m only an amateur pilot with slightly over 1000 hours of flying time, but I doubt I could have made it in real life. For a pilot like me, the trip would have verged on the suicidal. I suspect most pilots, even high-time professionals, might have refused to go. But recall, Lindbergh’s good friend, Floyd Bennett, was dying of pneumonia in a Quebec hospital. Charles Lindbergh went.

Lindbergh’s Arrival in Quebec City

Lindbergh was greeted as a hero when he arrived in Quebec.

Lindbergh made it in slightly less than four hours, landing on the snow-covered grass of the Plains of Abraham, a large park in central Quebec City, now known as “Battlefield Park.” The Plains of Abraham was the site of a crucial 1759 battle fought between the French and British forces during the French and Indian War in which both commanding generals were killed on the field.

The landing area, a section of the park known as “The Playing Field,” appears on modern maps to be around 1000 to 1500 yards in length. In the hands of Lindbergh, the master aviator, the Falcon—clearly a well-designed, well-engineered airplane—had no trouble handling the landing or the subsequent takeoff a day later. The serum was immediately rushed to Jeffery Hale Hospital in downtown Quebec with the highest hopes, only to have these hopes dashed for medical reasons, notwithstanding Lindbergh’s heroic efforts.

The Sad Conclusion

As it turned out, there were several types of deadly pneumonia virus in existence back then. The sacrificial white mice disclosed that Floyd Bennett had virus type three; the serum carried by Lindbergh worked only to treat virus types one and two. Lindbergh had carried a treatment that was useless and was not administered to Bennett. There was nothing more to be done, given the state of medicine in 1928. Even though he was in an oxygen tent, Bennett was told that Lindbergh had arrived and apparently smiled at him when Lindbergh was permitted to look into Bennett’s hospital room. But they had no conversation.

Bennett died a day later in the hospital, at 37. His wife and Admiral Byrd were with him at the time of his death. Bennet’s death made national headlines. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

Lindbergh’s efforts to save Bennett triggered separate newspaper headlines and his bravery was given a good deal of recognition. His landing on the Plains of Abraham was greeted by a large crowd. While still in Quebec City, the city fathers hosted a dinner for him. He spent the night in one of the suites at the famous Hotel Frontenac in Quebec and flew the Curtiss back to New York the next day.

And before you finish reading this article, spare at least a few ounces of gratitude and appreciation for Lindbergh’s passenger, Mr. Appelget. He was there under direct orders from his employer, John D. Rockefeller. He was not a pilot. This was probably his first time in an open-cockpit biplane. He flew four hours through a blizzard. He probably held the vials of serum and the three white mice on his lap the whole time to keep them from freezing. There are no further reports on Mr. Appelget’s activities, but my guess is he took the train back to New York City.

Shortly after Bennett’s death, New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia identified a site in Brooklyn for New York City’s first fully functional commercial airport, to be named “Floyd Bennett Field.” Floyd’s wife was present at the dedication of the airport in 1930. Before and during World War II, Floyd Bennett Field was one of the busiest airports on the East Coast. It now comprises a helicopter pad and a short runway for radio-controlled aircraft.

Eighty years later, in 2008, as part of a celebration marking the 100th anniversary of Battlefield Park, Charles Lindbergh’s grandson, Erik Lindbergh (himself an outstanding pilot), was flown in a helicopter to the exact spot on the Plains of Abraham where Charles set the Falcon down in 1928. During this ceremony, the City of Quebec unveiled a plaque commemorating Lindburgh’s virus serum flight. The plaque can be seen while walking along the northern edge of Battlefield Park, near the middle of the park.

Categories: Get Your Pilots License


The magical Mooney

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Richard Collins often told me that the Mooney was a cult airplane. And he was right.

While all pilots would brag about how fast their airplane was, and how much it could carry, and how fast it climbed, and how far it went on full tanks, Mooney owners focused on one thing. How fast they flew on so little fuel.

Fuel efficiency matters to every pilot. Even in the days when avgas sold for well under a buck a gallon. But pilots also balanced fuel efficiency against cabin room, payload, runway performance, and cruise speed.

Not Mooney owners. They traded all that stuff for fuel efficiency. Tiny cabin? Of course. Anemic runway performance and not much climb? Yes, kind of. Weird landing characteristics? Yes, unless you know how. Not really the fastest cruise speed? But look how little fuel it burns.

A cult? I think Richard had it right.

But that all changed with development of the Mooney 201. And also following two oil embargo shocks that left us wondering if there would be any avgas at any price. Suddenly the Mooney looked more like mainstream pilot religion than a cult.

The original M20 series Mooney is a truly tiny airplane. It has four seats, but anybody in the back two better be shorter than 5 ft. 3 in. And pilot and copilot need to be OK with sitting on the floor. Well, almost on the floor. There are a very few inches of seat bottom between your bottom and the cabin bottom.

The 180 hp Mooneys were fast for their limited horsepower. But still, realistic cruise is 130 to 135 knots. Maybe they can outrun a Cessna Skylane on a good day, but not by much. And the Skylane pilot and passengers will be able to stand up straight after a four hour flight.

When the Mooney Super 21 was introduced with a 200 hp injected Lycoming in 1964, cruise speed increased noticeably. Under perfect conditions the Super could threaten 150 knots true, and 145 knots was realistic.

Better yet was the “F” model Executive introduced in 1967. Mooney stretched the Exec cabin by about 10 inches, an enormous improvement in cabin comfort and usability. Maximum takeoff weight also went up by 165 pounds, so you could use the extra space.

Members of the Mooney cult were convinced that the short body 200 hp model—named Chaparral—was faster than the longer Executive. I don’t think so, if both airplanes were flown at the same weight. The cabin stretch simply didn’t add much in the way of drag.

As a company, Mooney was always interested in increasing cruise speed. After all, speed and fuel efficiency were its only claims to fame. Sometime in the early 1970s Mooney engineers took a hard look at how to get more speed out of the basic airframe without adding more power, which would erode the efficiency goal. Legend has it that early attention was on the short body model because maybe it could gain the most speed with a drag reduction program. Fortunately more logical thinking prevailed and the focus was placed on the long-body Executive.

The result was the Mooney 201, introduced late in 1976. The 201 stood for maximum speed in mph. At Flying magazine we got the very first one, N201M.

I never could get N201M to 170 knots true airspeed—which is the equivalent of 201 mph—but it came close when conditions were just right and everything was firewalled. The vibration with the prop up to its maximum 2,700 rpm and full throttle didn’t make for a comfortable ride.

But 160 knot cruise was dependable in the 201, and that was far faster than anything else with only 200 hp. And that speed was within 10 knots or so of the single engine speed leader, the Bonanza, which had 285 hp and cost about double the price of a 201.

The aeronautical achievements of the 201 would have made the airplane a success in their own right. But they were helped along enormously by Roy LoPresti, who joined Mooney late in the 201 development and became the airplane’s human face, and its greatest cheerleader.

Roy was undoubtedly an accomplished aerodynamicist, but he was an even better salesman. He didn’t talk about reducing form drag, or laminar flow, or propeller efficiency. He humanized the 201 design program. He once told a gathering of pilots that he would lay on a shop creeper and roll around under the Mooney “imagining I was an air molecule and how I would flow around the airplane.” That, he said, helped design the shape of the secondary gear door that helped seal the main gear in the wells.

At the time, Stancie Lane was a familiar figure in aviation. She ran the air show exhibits and show publications for Flying and Business and Commercial Aviation, so was at all the shows. I remember at one Mooney press conference, in 1978 as I recall, Roy was announcing the new upswept wingtips for the 201 that replaced the traditional Mooney “chopped off” straight edge tip.

Ever the showman, Roy told the gathering of aviation press types, “I patterned the new wingtip after Stancie Lane’s nose. I always thought she had a very pretty nose.” Even in today’s “me too” environment I guess it’s still alright to compliment a woman on the shape of her nose. But what the shape of Stancie’s nose (full disclosure: Stancie and I have been married since 1980) has to do with aerodynamics, is a mystery. The crowd loved it.

The real “magic” of the 201 drag cleanup was primarily the cowling and the windshield. The windshield on earlier Mooneys is nearly upright. So upright, in fact, that there are access panels on the nose forward of the windshield so mechanics can reach the avionics and instruments. Sloping and reshaping the windshield on the 201 was worth several knots of drag reduction.

The other big gain was getting rid of the old Mooney cowling with its huge, gaping air inlet. The 201 cowling inlets are a fraction of the size, and designed to recover ram air pressure from the slip stream, instead of just holding out a bucket to catch the passing air.

Among the quirks of the Mooney is a ram air engine inlet. In clean air above the runway, you pull a knob that opens a hole in the cowling to ram air directly into the engine induction, bypassing the inlet filter. In earlier Mooneys, opening the ram air would increase manifold pressure a full inch. In the 201 the ram air raised manifold pressure fractions of an inch. You had to watch closely to see an increase at all. The reason is the original cowling and engine air inlet was so bad, the ram air really helped. The 201 was done so well the ram air didn’t matter much.

The secondary main landing gear doors recovered a couple knots of drag, and so did the improved gap seals for the control surfaces. Even the cabin step redesign helped a little. And it all added up to an airplane that seemed like a free lunch. The 201 was still the efficiency leader by a lot, but also came close to the fastest in cruise speed.

Jillions of words have been written about the efficiency of the Mooney laminar flow airfoil. And its smooth, thick wing skins, which were, of course, plywood in the original. But it’s been hard to measure how much the shape of the Mooney airfoil matters. Objective testing shows the more conventional airfoil of a Bonanza, or 210, have very similar degrees of laminar flow, and about the same drag.

But there is no question the Mooney, particularly the 201 and later models, has very low overall drag. Over the years Richard Collins and I proved that to ourselves over and over by flying air-to-air photo missions when the Mooney was the subject airplane.

We most often used an A36 Bonanza for the camera airplane because the rear doors come off easily to give the photographer an unobstructed shooting opening. We would take off in formation, if runway width allowed, or in close trail. The Bonanza would leave the Mooney in the dust in seconds. The only way the Mooney could catch up was to turn inside the Bonanza to cut the radius.

And when you were flying the Mooney in formation, the real problem—after catching up—was how not to overshoot. With the power at idle the Mooney would keep closing on the Bonanza. But you had to be quick to add power as soon as the gap opened because nothing much happened to the Mooney’s speed with more throttle. Slippery is the right word for the Mooney.

Mooney has gone on to put ever more powerful engines into the same basic airframe and can claim to be the speed king of singles. But that’s more about power. The magical Mooneys are the ones that go fast on little fuel, and the 201 was the champ of that game. It was the right airplane for its time. And perhaps even for today. Going faster and farther on less fuel is always a good thing.

Categories: Get Your Pilots License


Aerobatics & Spin Recovery: “The Inverted Spin” 1943 US Navy Pilot Training Film

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The Inverted Spin – Intermediate Acrobatics Part VII. "Points out the difference between an accidental spin and an inverted spin; and demonstrates the procedure of executing an inverted spin."

US Navy flight training film MN-1325f.

Public domain film from the US Navy, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).


A spin is a special category of stall resulting in autorotation about the vertical axis and a shallow, rotating, downward path. Spins can be entered intentionally or unintentionally, from any flight attitude if the aircraft has sufficient yaw while at the stall point. In a normal spin, the wing on the inside of the turn is stalled while the outside wing remains flying; it is possible for both wings to be stalled but the angle of attack of each wing, and consequently its lift and drag, will be different. Either situation causes the aircraft to autorotate (yaw) toward the stalled wing due to its higher drag and loss of lift. Spins are characterized by high angle of attack, an airspeed below the stall on at least one wing and a shallow descent. Recovery may require a specific and counterintuitive set of actions in order to avoid a crash.

A spin differs from a spiral dive in which neither wing is stalled and which is characterized by a low angle of attack and high airspeed. A spiral dive is not a type of spin because neither wing is stalled. In a spiral dive, the aircraft will respond conventionally to the pilot's inputs to the flight controls and recovery from a spiral dive requires a different set of actions from those required to recover from a spin.

In the early years of flight, a spin was frequently referred to as a "tailspin"…

Entry and recovery

Some aircraft cannot be recovered from a spin using only their own flight control surfaces and must not be allowed to enter a spin under any circumstances…

Spin-entry procedures vary with the type and model of aircraft being flown but there are general procedures applicable to most aircraft. These include reducing power to idle and simultaneously raising the nose in order to induce an upright stall. Then, as the aircraft approaches stall, apply full rudder in the desired spin direction while holding full back-elevator pressure for an upright spin. Sometimes a roll input is applied in the direction opposite of the rudder (i.e., a cross-control).

If the aircraft manufacturer provides a specific procedure for spin recovery, that procedure must be used. Otherwise, to recover from an upright spin, the following generic procedure may be used: Power is first reduced to idle and the ailerons are neutralized. Then, full opposite rudder (that is, against the yaw) is added and held to counteract the spin rotation, and the elevator control is moved briskly forward to reduce the angle of attack below the critical angle. Depending on the airplane and the type of spin, the elevator action could be a minimal input before rotation ceases, or in other cases the elevator control may have to be moved to its full forward position to effect recovery from the upright spin. Once the rotation has stopped, the rudder must be neutralized and the airplane returned to level flight. This procedure is sometimes called PARE, for Power idle, Ailerons neutral, Rudder opposite the spin and held, and Elevator through neutral. The mnemonic "PARE" simply reinforces the tried-and-true NASA standard spin recovery actions—the very same actions first prescribed by NACA in 1936, verified by NASA during an intensive, decade-long spin test program overlapping the 1970s and '80s, and repeatedly recommended by the FAA and implemented by the majority of test pilots during certification spin-testing of light airplanes.

Inverted spinning and erect or upright spinning are dynamically very similar and require essentially the same recovery process but use opposite elevator control. In an upright spin, both roll and yaw are in the same direction but that an inverted spin is composed of opposing roll and yaw. It is crucial that the yaw be countered to effect recovery. The visual field in a typical spin (as opposed to a flat spin) is heavily dominated by the perception of roll over yaw, which can lead to an incorrect and dangerous conclusion that a given inverted spin is actually an erect spin in the reverse yaw direction (leading to a recovery attempt in which pro-spin rudder is mistakenly applied and then further exacerbated by holding the incorrect elevator input)…


Helicopter Pilot Training: “Transition to the H-19” 1956 US Army Training Film

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"Helicopter Flight Training: Part I – Transition to the H-19… This film covers the H-19's preflight inspection, taxiing, normal takeoff, hovering, autorotations, normal and steep approach, and engine shutdown." Also seen in the film: Army helicopters H-21, H-34, and H-13.

US Army training film TF46-2423

Reupload of a previously uploaded film, in one piece instead of multiple parts.

Public domain film from the National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and equalization.

The Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw, (also known by its Sikorsky model number, S-55) was a multi-purpose helicopter used by the United States Army and United States Air Force. It was also license-built by Westland Aircraft as the Westland Whirlwind in the United Kingdom. United States Navy and United States Coast Guard models were designated HO4S, while those of the U.S. Marine Corps were designated HRS. In 1962, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Marine Corps versions were all redesignated as H-19s like their U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force counterparts…

The H-19's first flight was on November 10, 1949 and it entered operations in 1950. Over 1,000 of the helicopters were manufactured by Sikorsky for the United States. An additional 550 were manufactured by licensees of the helicopter including Westland Aircraft, the Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du sud-est (SNCASE) in France and Mitsubishi in Japan.

The helicopter was widely exported, used by many other nations, including Portugal, Greece, Israel, Chile, South Africa, Denmark and Turkey.

In 1954 the Marines tested an idea to assist the rotors lift better in hot or high climates and if the helicopter was overloaded, by installing a rocket nozzle at the tip of each rotor blade with the fuel tank located in the center above the rotor blade hub. Enough fuel was provided for seven minutes of operation.

Operational history

The H-19 Chickasaw holds the distinction of being the US Army's first true transport helicopter and, as such, played an important role in the initial formulation of Army doctrine regarding air mobility and the battlefield employment of troop-carrying helicopters. The H-19 underwent live service tests in the hands of the 6th Transportation Company, during the Korean War beginning in 1951 as an unarmed transport helicopter. Undergoing tests such as medical evacuation, tactical control and front-line cargo support, the helicopter succeeded admirably in surpassing the capabilities of the H-5 Dragonfly which had been used throughout the war by the Army.

The U.S. Air Force ordered 50 H-19A's for rescue duties in 1951. These aircraft were the primary rescue and medical evacuation helicopters for the USAF during the Korean War. The Air Force continued to use the H-19 through the 1960s, ultimately acquiring 270 of the H-19B model.

France made aggressive use of helicopters in Algeria, both as troop transports and gunships, Piasecki/Vertol H-21 and Sud-built Sikorski H-34 helicopters rapidly displaced fixed-wing aircraft for the transport of paras and quick-reaction commando teams. In Indochina, a small number of Hiller H-23s and Sikorsky H-19s were available for casualty evacuation. In 1956, the French Air Force experimented with arming the H-19, then being superseded in service by the more capable Piasecki H-21 and Sikorsky H-34 helicopters. The H-19 was originally fitted with a 20-mm cannon, two rocket launchers, plus a 20-mm cannon, two 12.7-mm machine guns, and a 7.5-mm light machine gun firing from the cabin windows, but this load proved far too heavy, and even lightly armed H-19 gunships fitted with flexible machine guns for self-defense proved underpowered.

The H-19 was also used in the early days of the Vietnam War before being supplanted by the Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw, which was based on the H-19…


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