Sunday, December 4, 2011

De Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen

Sea Vixens at Play Photo Chris Lord
The de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen was a twin boom 1950s–1960s British two-seat jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm designed by de Havilland. Developed from an earlier first generation jet fighter, the Sea Vixen was a capable carrier-based fleet defence fighter that served into the 1970s. Initially produced by de Havilland it was later known as the Hawker Siddeley Sea Vixen when de Havilland became a part of the Hawker Siddeley group.

The aircraft was originally known as the DH.110; a twin-engined all-weather fighter, development of which started in 1946 following discussions with the Admiralty of its requirements for jet all-weather fighters. De Havilland's design shared the twin-boom layout of the de Havilland Vampire, had an all-metal structure and featured swept wings. It was to be powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon engines, each capable of 7,500 lbf (33 kN) of thrust, which would allow the aircraft to be supersonic in a shallow dive. Armament was to be four 30 mm ADEN cannons. In January 1947, specifications N.40/46 and F.44/46 were issued by the British Air Ministry for similar night-fighters to equip the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and Royal Air Force (RAF), with nine prototypes being ordered for the RAF (together with four of the competing Gloster Javelin) and four prototypes for the Fleet Air Arm. In 1949, however, the Royal Navy decided to buy the de Havilland Sea Venom, which as a development of an existing type was cheaper and available quickly to meet its immediate needs for a jet-powered night fighter to replace its piston-engined de Havilland Sea Hornets, while the RAF cut its order back to two prototypes. Despite this, de Havilland continued with the project.

The prototype took to the skies on 26 September 1951 piloted by John Cunningham; the aircraft's performance exceeded expectations, and by the following year it was regularly flying faster than the speed of sound. However, tragedy struck while the aircraft was being demonstrated at the Farnborough Airshow on 6 September 1952. Following a demonstration of its ability to break the sound barrier, the aircraft disintegrated, killing 31 people, including the crew of two: test pilot and record breaker John Derry and Tony Richards. The failure was traced to faulty design of the end sections of the main spar, which resulted in the outer ends of the wings shearing off during a high-rate turn. The subsequent shift in the DH.110's centre of gravity caused the aircraft to lurch violently, creating forces of over 12 g, resulting in the cockpit and tail sections breaking away and the engines being torn from the airframe. One of the engines hit an area crowded with spectators at the end of the runway, causing the majority of casualties. Other spectators were injured by debris from the cockpit landing close to the main spectator enclosures alongside the runway. This incident led to a major restructuring of the safety regulations for air shows in the UK and since this crash no member of the public has died as a result of an airshow accident in the UK.
Owing to this incident, modifications were made to the second prototype, including the fitting of an all-moving tailplane, the modified aircraft not flying again until July 1954. By this time, the RAF had abandoned its interest in the DH.110, choosing instead the Javelin but the Fleet Air Arm decided to adopt the DH.110 to replace its interim Sea Venoms. The Sea Vixen became the definitive aircraft to dispense with guns, being armed with de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles as apart of an integrated weapon system. In 1955, a semi-navalised variant was produced as a prototype, including changes of the leading edge profile and strengthening of the wings, making its first flight that same year. The following year, the aircraft made its first arrested deck landing on the fleet aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. The first true Sea Vixen, the Sea Vixen FAW.20 (fighter all-weather, later redesignated FAW.1), first flew on 20 March 1957; and on 2 July 1959, the first Sea Vixen equipped squadron formed.

The Sea Vixen had a twin-boom tail, as used on the de Havilland Sea Vampire and Sea Venom. The Sea Vixen became the first British aircraft to be solely armed with missiles, rockets and bombs. The Sea Vixen FAW.1 was armed with four de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles, two Microcell unguided 2 inch (51 mm) rocket packs and had a capacity for four 500 lb (227 kg) or two 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs. It was powered by two 11,230 lbf (50.0 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Avon 208 turbojet engines; had a speed of 690 mph (1,110 km/h) and a range of 600 mi (1,000 km). The original DH.110 design as offered to the RAF had cannons fitted; however the cannons were soon removed and an all-missile armament was developed.
The pilot's canopy is offset to the left hand side. The observer is housed to the right completely within the fuselage, gaining access through a flush-fitting top hatch into his position.

The Sea Vixen FAW.2 was the successor to the FAW.1 and included many improvements. As well as Firestreak missiles, it could carry the Red Top AAM, four SNEB rocket pods and the air-to-ground Bullpup missile. An enlarged tail boom allowed for additional fuel tanks in the "pinion" extensions above and before the wing leading edge, and there was an improved escape system along with additional room for more electronic counter-measures equipment. However, the changes in aerodynamics meant that the 1,000 lb bomb was no longer able to be carried. Visually the FAW.1 and FAW.2 may be distinguished by the tail booms which extend forward over the leading edge of the wing on the FAW.2.
The FAW.2 first flew in 1962 and entered service with front line squadrons in 1964, with 29 being built and a further 67 FAW.1s being upgraded to FAW.2 standard. The FAW.1 began phasing out in 1966. In 1972, the career of the Sea Vixen FAW.2 came to an end. It was planned to replace the Sea Vixen with the F-4 Phantom II, with both HMS Ark Royal and Eagle to be refitted to take the new aircraft. In the event, due to defence cuts and following the decommissioning of HMS Eagle, only Ark Royal was converted to take the new aircraft.
A small number of Sea Vixen subsequently saw service in the less glamorous roles of drone, being redesignated Sea Vixen D.3. Only four were converted to the D.3 standard. Three more were sent to Farnborough for conversion but not converted. The last remaining airworthy Sea Vixen (XP924) was a D3 conversion. Some other Sea Vixens became target tugs and were redesignated as TT.2.

The aircraft did not take part in any true wars during its career with the Fleet Air Arm though it took part in many operations. In 1961, President Abdul Karim Kassem of Iraq threatened to annex the neighbouring oil-rich state of Kuwait. In response to Kuwait's appeal for external help, the United Kingdom dispatched a number of ships to the region, including two fleet carriers. Sea Vixens aboard the fleet carriers flew patrols in the region, and Kassem's aggressive actions wilted in the face of the strong naval presence, thus averting a Gulf War over Kuwait.
In January 1964, trouble flared in the East African state of Tanganyika after the 1st and 2nd Tanganyika Rifles mutinied against the British officers and NCOs who, despite Tanganyika being independent, still commanded the regiment. The mutineers also seized the British High Commissioner and the airport at the capital Dar-es-Salaam. The UK responded by sending the light fleet carrier HMS Centaur, accompanied by 45 Commando, Royal Marines. The Sea Vixens, flying off Centaur, performed a number of duties including the providing of cover for the Royal Marines who were landed in Tanganyika by helicopters. The operation "to restore Tanganyika to stability" ended in success. That same year, Sea Vixens of HMS Centaur saw service once again in the Persian Gulf, including the launch of air-strikes against rebel forces, this time supporting British forces fighting against locals disgruntled by the loss of tolls in the Radfan. Later in 1964, HMS Centaur's 892 Squadron Sea Vixens stationed off Indonesia, helped to prevent an escalation of President Sukarno's Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation.
Sea Vixens saw further service during the 1960s, performing duties on Beira Patrol, a Royal Navy operation designed to prevent oil reaching landlocked Rhodesia via the then Portuguese colony of Mozambique. The Sea Vixen also saw service in the Far East. In 1967, once again in the Persian Gulf, Sea Vixens helped cover the withdrawal from Aden. There were a number of Royal Navy warships involved, including the carriers HMS Albion, Bulwark and Eagle (carrying the Sea Vixens) and the LPD (Landing Platform Dock) HMS Fearless.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fairey Swordfish II LS326

Fairey Swordfish II LS326 Photo Chris Lord

The Fairey Swordfish was a torpedo bomber built by the Fairey Aviation Company and used by the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Affectionately known as the "Stringbag" by its crews, it was outdated by 1939, but achieved some spectacular successes during the war, notably the sinking of one and damaging two battleships of the Regia Marina (the Italian Navy) in the Battle of Taranto and the famous crippling of the Bismarck. It was operated primarily as a fleet attack aircraft; however, during its later years, it was also used as an anti-submarine and training craft. Designed in the 1930s, the Swordfish outlived several types intended to replace it, and remained in front line service until VE Day.

The Swordfish was based on a Fairey Private Venture (PV) design; a proposed solution to the Air Ministry requirements for a spotter-reconnaissance plane, spotter referring to observing the fall of a warship's gunfire. A subsequent Air Ministry Specification S.15/33, added the torpedo bomber role. The "Torpedo-Spotter-Reconnaissance" prototype TSR II (the PV was the TSR I) first flew on 17 April 1934. It was a large biplane with a metal frame covered in fabric, and utilized folding wings as a space-saving feature for aircraft carrier use. An order was placed in 1935 and the aircraft entered service in 1936 with the Fleet Air Arm (then part of the RAF), replacing the Seal in the torpedo bomber role.
By 1939, the Fleet Air Arm (now under Royal Navy control) had 13 squadrons equipped with the Swordfish Mark I. There were also three flights of Swordfish equipped with floats, for use off aircraft catapult-equipped warships. One - from HMS Warspite — spotted fall of shot (i.e., radioed gunnery corrections back to the ship) during the Second Battle of Narvik in 1940 and subsequently sank the U-boat U-64. The Swordfish pioneered the use of Air to Surface Vessel radar ( ASV ), by carrier borne aircraft to locate surface ship targets at night and/or through clouds.

Swordfish flew from merchant aircraft carriers ("MAC ships"), 20 civilian cargo or tanker ships modified to carry three or four aircraft each, on anti-submarine duties with convoys. Three of these ships were Dutch manned, flying Swordfish from 860 (Dutch) Naval Air Squadron. The rest were manned by pilots and aircrew from 836 Naval Air Squadron, at one time the largest squadron with 91 aircraft.
Almost 2,400 had been built, 692 by Fairey and 1,699 in Sherburn by the Blackburn Aircraft Company, which were sometimes dubbed the "Blackfish". The most numerous version was the Mark II, of which 1,080 were made.

The primary weapon was the aerial torpedo, but the low speed of the biplane and the need for a long straight approach made it difficult to deliver against well-defended targets. Swordfish torpedo doctrine called for an approach at 5,000 ft (1,500 m) followed by a dive to torpedo release altitude of 18 ft (5.5 m). Maximum range of the early Mark XII torpedo was 1,500 yd (1400 m) at 40 knots (74 km/h) and 3,500 yd (3200 m) at 27 knots (50 km/h). The torpedo travelled 200 yd (180 m) forward from release to water impact, and required another 300 yd (270 m) to stabilise at preset depth and arm itself. Ideal release distance was 1,000 yd (900 m) from target if the Swordfish survived to that distance. Swordfish — flying from the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious — made a very significant strike on 11 November 1940 against the Italian navy during the Battle of Taranto, Italy, sinking or disabling three Italian battleships and a cruiser lying at anchor. In the aftermath, Taranto was visited by the Japanese naval attache from Berlin, who later briefed the staff who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. Swordfish also flew anti-shipping sorties from Malta. In May 1941, a Swordfish strike from HMS Ark Royal was vital in damaging the German battleship Bismarck, preventing it from escaping to France. The low speed of the attacking aircraft may have acted in their favour, as the planes were too slow for the fire-control predictors of the German gunners, whose shells exploded so far in front of the aircraft that the threat of shrapnel damage was greatly diminished as did the fact that some at least of the Swordfish flew so low that most of the Bismarck's flak weapons were unable to depress enough to hit them. The Swordfish aircraft scored two hits, one which did little damage but the other jammed Bismarck's rudders with 15° port helm on. making the warship unmanueverable and sealing its fate. The Bismarck was destroyed less than 13 hours later. 

The problems with the aircraft were starkly demonstrated in February 1942 when a strike on German battleships during the Channel Dash resulted in the loss of all attacking aircraft, partly because only ten of the promised eighty-four fighters turned up to escort the six Swordfish. With the development of new torpedo attack aircraft, the Swordfish was soon redeployed successfully in an anti-submarine role, armed with depth-charges or eight "60 lb" (27 kg) RP-3 rockets and flying from the smaller escort carriers or even Merchant Aircraft Carriers (MAC) when equipped for rocket-assisted takeoff (RATO). Its low stall speed and inherently tough design made it ideal for operation from the MAC carriers in the often severe mid Atlantic weather. Indeed, its takeoff and landing speeds were so low that it did not require the carrier to be steaming into the wind, unlike most carrier-based aircraft. On occasion, when the wind was right, Swordfish were flown from a carrier at anchor.
Swordfish-equipped units accounted for 14 U-boats destroyed. The Swordfish was meant to be replaced by the Albacore, also a biplane, but actually outlived its intended successor. It was, finally, however, succeeded by the Fairey Barracuda monoplane torpedo bomber.
The last of 2,392 Swordfish aircraft was delivered in August 1944 and operational sorties continued in to January 1945 with anti-shipping operations off Norway (FAA Squadrons 835 and 813), where the Swordfish's manouvreability was essential. The last operational squadron was disbanded on 21 May 1945, after the fall of Germany; and the last training squadron was disbanded in the summer of 1946.

Origin of the Stringbag Nickname

The Swordfish received the Stringbag nickname not because of its construction, but because of the seemingly endless variety of stores and equipment that the aircraft was cleared to carry. Crews likened the aircraft to a housewife's string shopping bag which was common at the time and, which due to its having no fixed shape, could adjust to hold any shape of packages. Like the shopping bag, the crews felt that the Swordfish could carry anything.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hawker Hunter F58 "Miss Demeanour"

Hawker Hunter F58 "Miss Demeanour - Photo Chris Lord
The Hawker Hunter is a subsonic British jet aircraft developed in the 1950s. The single-seat Hunter entered service as a manoeuvrable fighter aircraft, and later operated in fighter-bomber and reconnaissance roles in numerous conflicts. Two-seat variants remained in use for training and secondary roles with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy until the early 1990s. The Hunter was also widely exported, serving with 21 other air forces; 50 years after its original introduction it is still in active service, operating with the Lebanese Air Force. On 7 September 1953, the modified first prototype broke the world air speed record, achieving 727.63 mph (1,171.01 km/h). Hunters were also used by two RAF display teams; the "Black Arrows", who on one occasion looped a record-breaking 22 examples in formation, and later the "Blue Diamonds", who flew 16 aircraft. Overall, 1,972 Hunters were produced by Hawker Siddeley and under licence. In British service, the aircraft was replaced by the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and the McDonnell Douglas Phantom.

At the end of the Second World War, it was apparent that jet propulsion would be the future of fighter development. Many companies were quick to come up with airframe designs for this new means of propulsion, among these was Hawker Aviation's chief designer, Sydney Camm. The origins of the Hunter trace back to the Hawker Sea Hawk straight-wing carrier-based fighter, which had originally been marketed towards the Royal Air Force rather than the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy; however the demonstrator Hawker P.1040 did not attract the RAF's interest. The Sea Hawk had a straight wing and used the Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine, both features that rapidly became obsolete. Seeking better performance and fulfilment of the Air Ministry Specification E.38/46, Sydney Camm designed the Hawker P.1052, which was essentially a Sea Hawk with a 35-degree swept wing. First flying in 1948, the P.1052 demonstrated good performance and conducted several carrier trials, but did not warrant further development into a production aircraft. As a private venture, Hawker converted the second P.1052 prototype into the Hawker P.1081 with swept tailplanes, a revised fuselage, and a single jet exhaust at the rear. First flown on 19 June 1950, the P.1081 was promising enough to draw interest from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), but further development was stalled by difficulties with the engine reheat. The sole prototype was lost in a crash in 1951.

The Hunter was a conventional all-metal monoplane with a retractable tricycle landing gear. The pilot sat on a Martin-Baker 2H or 3H ejector seat, while the two-seat trainer version used Mk 4H ejection seats. The fuselage was of monocoque construction, with a removable rear section for engine maintenance. The engine was fed through triangular air intakes in the wing roots and had a single jetpipe in the rear of the fuselage. The mid-mounted wings had a leading edge sweep of 35° and slight anhedral, the tailplanes and fin were also swept. The aircraft's controls were conventional but powered. A single airbrake was fitted under the ventral rear fuselage on production models.

The definitive version of the Hunter was the FGA.9, on which the majority of export versions were based. Although the Supermarine Swift was initially viewed more favourably politically, the Hunter proved to be far more successful, having a long life due to its low maintenance and operating costs. The Hunter served with the RAF for over 30 years, and as late as 1996 hundreds were still in active service in various parts of the world.

The single-seat fighter version of the Hunter was armed with four 30 mm (1.18 in) ADEN cannon, with 150 rounds of ammunition per gun. The cannon and ammunition boxes were contained in a single pack that could be removed from the aircraft for rapid re-arming and maintenance. Unusually, the barrels of the cannon remained in the aircraft while the pack was removed and changed. In the two-seat version, either a single 30 mm ADEN cannon was carried or, in some export versions, two, with a removable ammunition tank. A simple EKCO ranging radar was fitted in the nose. Later versions of Hunter aircraft were fitted with SNEB Pods; these were 68 mm (2.68 in) rocket projectiles in 18-round Matra pods, providing an effective strike capability against ground targets.
Hawker Hunter F58 "Miss Demeanour" Takes Off - Photo Chris Lord
The rear fuselage can be removed to gain access to the engine for maintenance. The P.1067 first flew from RAF Boscombe Down on 20 July 1951, powered by a 6,500 lbf (28.91 kN) Avon 103 engine from an English Electric Canberra bomber. The second prototype was fitted with a 7,550 lbf (33.58 kN) Avon 107
turbojet. Hawker's third prototype was powered by an 8,000 lbf (35.59 kN) Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 101. Production Hunters were fitted with either the Avon or the Sapphire engine. Early on in the Hunter's service the Avon engines proved to have poor surge margins, and worryingly suffered compressor stalls when the cannon were fired, sometimes resulting in flameouts. The practise of "fuel dipping", reducing fuel flow to the engine when the cannon were fired, was a satisfactory solution. Although the Sapphire did not suffer from the flameout problems of the Avon and had better fuel economy, Sapphire-powered Hunters suffered many engine failures. The RAF elected to persevere with the Avon in order to simplify supply and maintenance, since the same engine was also used by the Canberra bomber. The RAF sought more thrust than was available from the Avon 100 series; in response Rolls-Royce developed the Avon 200 series engine. This was an almost wholly new design, equipped with a new compressor to put an end to surge problems, an annular combustion chamber, and an improved fuel control system. The resulting Avon 203 produced 10,000 lbf (44.48 kN) of thrust, and was the engine for the Hunter F.6.

Friday, November 25, 2011


The Breitling Wingwalkers Photo Chris Lord

Very familiar to European airshow visitors this is the world's only aerobatic formation wingwalking team. UK based AeroSuperBatics have been specialists in display flying for over 27 years and operate one of the best known and loved civilian air display acts in Europe. This wingwalking team has performed at over 2500 different events successfully representing several large brand names in the form of very high profile sponsorship deals. The wingwalkers are seen live by over 6 million spectators each year in the UK alone. They perform a breathtaking sequence of acrobatic manoeuvres and handstands whilst strapped to the top wings of the team's beautiful Boeing Stearman biplanes. The team pilots fly the aircraft through a well rehearsed energetic routine of dazzling aerobatics and close formation flypasts as the wingwalkers wave at the crowd. These manoeuvres include, loops, rolls, stall turns and even inverted flight! During all of this, the wingwalkers experience speeds of up to 150 mph and 'G' forces of up to 4G! The world famous AeroSuperBatics team also make regular appearances on local, national and international TV channels. They also often feature on radio programs, in newspapers and in many magazines. All of this publicity helps generate over £5 million of media exposure for their sponsor each year!

Three of the Brave Girls Posing Before The Show Photo Chris Lord

Simply getting airborne at the start of the 20th century was an achievement, but getting back down to earth without ending up in a pile of broken wood and linen was an even greater one. Plenty of intrepid aviators met their end in homemade machines that managed one take off and no successful landings. Spectators in their thousands would turn up at the early airfields to watch young aviation pioneers pushing the limits of their flying machines.
Then came the Great War and with it galloping strides in aircraft development and flying skills. By the end of the war aircraft could fly higher and faster, were more reliable and their pilots more skilled. When the war was over there were hundreds of aeroplanes lying around that were no longer needed and that could be snapped up for peanuts by young daredevils who had caught the flying bug and weren’t very keen on spending the rest of their days working in an office. And so the flying circus was invented.
Airshows were staged at which members of the public could take joyrides for a few shillings or dollars. There were displays of terrifying loops and rolls and tricks like flying upside down. Naturally, the more outrageous and dangerous the stunt, the more the crowd enjoyed it, so if a young pilot wanted to make a living out of flying he had to come up with something a bit different Something that pushed the edges of the envelope a little further out.
In 1918 an American flier called Ormer Locklear came up with a stunt that was guaranteed to wow the crowds: he would climb out of the aeroplane and walk along the wing and even climb from one aeroplane onto to another. Apparently Locklear first clambered out of the cockpit to fix a technical problem while training during the war. A normal person would have landed and then sorted out the problem. Pretty soon you couldn’t operate a flying circus that didn’t have a wing walking act and Locklear was soon joined by numerous other daredevils including the wonderfully named Ethal Dare, the world’s first female wing walk who like Locklear would walk from plane to plane.
Not surprisingly there were a few mishaps. Ormer himself came a cropper while working on a film. These wing walk pioneers were operating without a safety net: no parachutes, no safety wires tethering them to the aircraft. A slip of the foot and it was the high dive for our brave showman or showgirl. In 1938 the authorities in America decided that parachutes had to be worn though by that time war was on its way and the show was about to close anyway.
Flying changed after the war. There were new goals like breaking the sound barrier, space exploration and the development of quiet, fast and comfortable airliners so that we could all go on foreign holidays relatively cheaply. In other words we’d got used to flying and some of the magic had gone out of it. There were still airshows with amazing displays of flying skills and some truly incredible modern jet fighter aircraft shattering greenhouse windows on high-speed fly pasts. But a little bit of the between-the-wars glamour had gone out of it.
But those barnstorming days of the ’20s and 30s and the characters who manned the flying circuses hadn’t been forgotten by those with a deep love of flying and a passion for its history. A few wing walking teams operated in America in the 1970s but it wasn’t until frustrated barnstormer Vic Norman founded his famous Aerosuperbatics wing walking team in the early 1980s that the sight of dare devils handstanding and flying upside down on the wing was seen in Europe.
Yes, the wing walkers are safely tethered to their Boeing Stearman biplanes, but the glamour, spectacle, sounds and atmosphere is just the same as it was when young and brave Ormer Locklear went for a dramatic 10ft stroll along the wing of his warplane in 1918.

Go That Way Said The Navigator! Photo Chris Lord

Friday, November 18, 2011

Museum Piece

Museum Piece Photo Chris Lord

I took the original image of this aircraft (this picture was the first in my "Flights of Fancy" series) during a visit to the Science Museum in London where it was hanging from the ceiling. This was many years ago and unfortunately I neglected to find out or makes notes as to it's identity. A Google search for images from the museum brings up several photographs of the plane and it's environment in the Hall of Progress but nobody bothers to mention what this plane actually is. So I am unable to enlighten you as well. Perhaps if anyone reading this knows the identity of this plane you might email me with it or leave a comment here on the blog. I would appreciates that. Meanwhile I fooled around with this picture some time ago and here it is for your viewing pleasure.


Well after all this time I finally have an answer to the mystery. Many thanks to Dave Godden who has pointed me in the right direction and informed me that this is a Beech 18.

The Beechcraft Model 18 (or "Twin Beech", as it is also known) is a six to 11-seat, twin-engined, low-wing, tailwheel light aircraft manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation of Wichita, Kansas. Continuously produced from 1937 to November 1969, (over 32 years, the world record at the time), over 9,000 were produced, making it one of the world's most widely used light aircraft. Sold worldwide as a civilian executive, utility, cargo aircraft, and passenger airliner on tailwheels, nosewheels, skis or floats, it was also used as a military aircraft.

During and after World War II, over 4,500 Beech 18s saw military service -- as light transport, light bomber (for China), aircrew trainer (for bombing, navigation and gunnery), photo-reconnaisance, and "mother ship" for target drones -- including United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) C-45 Expeditor, AT-7 Navigator, AT-11 Kansan; and United States Navy (USN) UC-45J Navigator, SNB-1 Kansan, and others. In World War II, over 90% of USAAF bombardiers and navigators trained in these aircraft.

In the early postwar era, the Beech 18 was the pre-eminent "business aircraft" and "feeder airliner." Besides carrying passengers, its civilian uses have included aerial spraying, sterile insect release, fish seeding, dry ice cloud seeding, aerial firefighting, air mail delivery, ambulance service, numerous movie productions, skydiving, freight, weapon- and drug-smuggling, engine testbed, skywriting, banner towing, and stunt aircraft. Many are now privately owned, around the world, with over 300 in the U.S. still on the FAA Aircraft Registry in December 2014 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Flying Into San Diego

Unlike most airports built miles outside of their respective cities San Diego International Airport, sometimes referred to as Lindbergh Field, is situated right in this town of ravines and hills. Aircraft coming in seem to fly down the steep hillside to land. This means that aircraft fly really low over the houses and buildings in the area near the airport making for some great photo opportunities.
The Commuter Terminal at San Diego International Airport
Passengers Deplane From A Commuter Aircraft at San Diego Airport
A Southwest Airlines Aeroplane Flies Over Downtown As It Prepares To Land

 All Photos Chris Lord

Monday, November 14, 2011

North American Aviation T-6 Texan

North American Aviation T-6 Texan Photo Chris Lord

The North American Aviation T-6 Texan was a single-engine advanced trainer aircraft used to train pilots of the United States Army Air Forces, United States Navy, Royal Air Force and other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II and into the 1950s. Designed by North American Aviation, the T-6 is known by a variety of designations depending on the model and operating air force. The USAAC designated it as the "AT-6", the US Navy the "SNJ", and British Commonwealth air forces, the Harvard, the name it is best known by outside of the United States. It remains a popular warbird aircraft. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Another Look at The Red Arrows

 Photos Chris Lord
The Reds Celebrate 50 years of Displays in 2014

Consolidated PBY Catalina

Catalina Flying Boat Photo Chris Lord

The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat of the 1930s and 1940s produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II. PBYs served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other nations. In the United States Army Air Forces and later in the United States Air Force their designation was OA-10. A Canadian-built PBY would be familiarly called a Canso. During World War II, PBYs were used in anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escorts, search and rescue missions (especially air-sea rescue), and cargo transport. The PBY was the most successful aircraft of its kind; no other flying boat was produced in greater numbers. The last active military PBYs were not retired from service until the 1980s. Even today, over 70 years after its first flight, the aircraft continues to fly as an airtanker in aerial firefighting operations all over the world. The initialism of "P.B.Y." was determined in accordance with the U.S. Navy aircraft designation system of 1922; PB representing "Patrol Bomber" and Y being the code used for the aircraft's manufacturer, Consolidated Aircraft. The PBY was originally designed to be a patrol bomber, an aircraft with a long operational range intended to locate and attack enemy transport ships at sea in order to compromise enemy supply lines. With a mind to a potential conflict in the Pacific Ocean, where troops would require resupply over great distances, the U.S. Navy in the 1930s invested millions of dollars in developing long-range flying boats for this purpose. Flying boats had the advantage of not requiring runways, in effect having the entire ocean available. Several different flying boats were adopted by the Navy, but the PBY was the most widely used and produced. Although slow and ungainly, PBYs distinguished themselves in World War II as exceptionally reliable. Allied armed forces used them successfully in a wide variety of roles that the aircraft was never intended for. They are remembered by many veterans of the war for their role in rescuing downed airmen, in which they saved the lives of thousands of aircrew downed over water. PBY airmen called their aircraft the "cat" on combat missions and "Dumbo" in air-sea rescue service.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Red Arrows

Red Arrows Photos Chris Lord

The 1950s and 1960s were the heyday of Royal Air Force jet aerobatic display teams. By the mid-60s almost every Flying Training School, and several operational squadrons, had their own teams. So much time, effort and money was being expended on these non-established tasks that the Royal Air Force eventually decided to disband them all and form a single, full-time professional team. Thus, in 1964, the Red Pelicans flying six Jet Provost T Mk 4s became the first team to represent the Royal Air Force as a whole. In that same year a team of five yellow Folland Gnat jet trainers, known as the Yellowjacks, was formed at No 4 Flying Training School at Royal Air Force Valley in north Wales, led by Flight Lieutenant Lee Jones. The following year Jones was posted to the Central Flying School (CFS) to form the Red Arrows. The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT), the formal name of the Red Arrows, began life at RAF Fairford in Glouces­tershire, then a satellite of CFS. Initially there were seven display pilots and ten Gnat jet trainers. The name ‘Red Arrows’ was chosen to combine the appeal and expertise of two earlier teams, the famous Black Arrows and the Red Pelicans.

In their first season, 1965, the Red Arrows flew 65 displays in Britain, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Germany, and the Team was awarded the Britannia Trophy by the Royal Aero Club in recognition of its outstanding contribution to British prestige in the field of aviation. When the Royal Air Force decided to retain the Team for 1966, two spare pilots were established but the Team continued to fly just seven aircraft in most displays. The first display with 9 pilots was in July 1966 for the benefit of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The practice of carrying spare pilots proved unsatisfactory because the display was so specialised that each position had its own demands. To be of any use at all, the spare pilots had to be capable of filling any position at very short notice. Thus, they required more training than any other member of the team and, as a result, became more skilled. Not surprisingly the spares became dissatisfied with their roles as reserves.

The Red Arrows flew nine aircraft in displays from time to time from mid-1966 onwards, but it was not until 1968 that the Team was officially increased in size to nine. Although there was nothing new in flying nine aircraft in a diamond-shaped formation, the Red Arrows’ perfectly symmetrical Diamond Nine quickly came to represent the peak of precision flying and it was eventually registered as an official trade mark.

The Red Arrows took delivery of the British Aerospace Hawk trainer in the autumn of 1979 and during that winter the pilots converted from the Gnat and worked up a display using the new aeroplane in time for the 1980 display season. Since being introduced into service with the Red Arrows, the Hawk has taken the Team on tours of eastern and western Europe, the USA and Canada, the Middle and Far East, Africa, the former Soviet Union and Australia. The 4000th display flown in the Hawk was at Royal Air Force Leuchars' Battle of Britain Airshow in September 2006.
Since the Team’s creation in 1965, the Red Arrows have flown over 4,000 displays in 52 countries. Today the Red Arrows are renowned throughout the world, acting as ambassadors for Great Britain when displaying overseas. They also support UK industry by demonstrating the capabilities of British equipment and expertise.

Friday, November 4, 2011

P51 Mustang

P51 Mustang - Photo Chris Lord

Among one of the most famous fighters of World War II, the P-51 Mustang has its roots in both Britain and the USA. Originally overlooked by the USAAF, the P-51 did not see action with American forces until March 1943. Once its full potential had been developed, the USA realized that this aircraft had been ignored for far too long a time. With the forging of the American airframe with the British Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, it would be unmatched by any other piston aircraft of World War II. 

In late 1939, with the likelihood of full scale war in Europe a major concern, the British Royal Air Force was looking seriously at methods of quickly increasing its fighter strength. In April 1940, the British Air Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation with the intent of having them build P-40's for the RAF. Since the P-40 design went back to 1933, James H. "Dutch" Kendelberger, the president of North American offered to build an entirely new advanced fighter using the same Allison V-1710-39 engine, used on the P-40. It was said that "Dutch" got his inspiration for the P-51 after a 1938 tour of aircraft industries in Great Britain and Germany.1 North American's only previous fighter experience was with the NA-50A, but Dutch collaborated with J.L. "Lee" Atwood2 to formulate an outline for the project. The British agreed on the new type, NA-73X, only on the stipulation that a prototype be on hand within 120 days. North American designers Raymond Rice and Edgar Schmued, the latter had worked for Fokker and Messerschmitt in 1925, immediately set about meeting the requirements. A prototype was finished in 117 days minus the engine. Wheels also had to be borrowed from an AT-6 trainer. Six weeks later, and after several modifications, the aircraft took to the air October 26, 1940

With Vance Breese at the controls, who was one of the most famous test pilots in his day, the XP-51 reached 382 mph, exceeding the P-40's top speed by 25 mph. The P-51 was an immediate success and it even outperformed the Spitfire.6 Unique to the P-51 was the laminar flow wing design which was developed by the US National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Contemporary aircraft wings featured a wing cross-section with maximum thickness about a fifth of the way across the wing from the leading edge, with most of the camber on the top of the wing. The laminar flow wing, in contrast, has its maximum thickness well aft from the leading edge, and has almost as much camber on top as on the bottom. This feature reduced turbulent flow across the wing, thereby, reducing drag and increasing speed and range. Drag was also reduced by positioning a ventral radiator underneath the rear of the fuselage, to present the smallest possible fuselage cross section. The British Purchasing Commission was enthusiastic about the plane, and confirmed a production order for 320 Mustang Is. This was later increased by 300 for NA-83s, which differed only in minor details; the British designation was Mustang IA.7 Powered by the 1,100 hp Allison V-1710-39 (F3R) engine, the airplanes performance was only impressive up to 15,000 ft. However, performance would be dramatically improved once the airframe was matched with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. This is not to say that the Allison wasn't a good engine as it performed very well on the Lockheed P-38. The problem with the Allison had more to do with the USAAF's heavy reliance on turbosupercharging. This requirement was impossible to meet for all aircraft, due to a shortage of metal alloys, such as tungsten. There was some experimentation with turbosupercharged P-40s by designer Donaldson R. Berlin and these planes outperformed the Spitfire and Messerschmitt Bf 109

With the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine installed in the P-51B, the performance of the Mustang was dramatically improved . During the design stage, on May 4, 1940, the US Army released the design for export with the condition that two of the planes be delivered to them for evaluation. At this time the NA-73 was assigned the XP-51 designation. The first and tenth airframes were sent to the Army for testing; these were given the serial numbers 41-38 and -39. An order for 150 P-51s followed which was to satisfy the RAF request as part of the Lend Lease legislation. After Pearl Harbor, 53 of these were kept back as reconnaissance aircraft. Initially, the P-51 was named "Apache" for a short time, but the name "Mustang" was later adopted. The British designation would be Mustang I. Most of the first 20 Mustangs to arrive in England were used for test and evaluation.

It wasn't until 1942 that the USAAF decided to order 310 P-51As and 300 ground attack/bomber A-36A Mustangs. The reason for the delay in procurement of the type was for somewhat murky reasons, uncovered during an inquiry known as the Truman Report. The demand for kick-backs was refused by Dutch Kindelberger in order to get a production award. "Ultimately, even those who sought to block the procurement could not sustain their position, because of the obvious qualities of the airplane."10 The P-51A had an Allison V-1710-81 (F20R) engine which developed 1,200 hp for takeoff and increased maximum speed to 390 mph. The British designation for the P-51A was the Mustang II and fifty were delivered late in 1942. 

North American P-51H-5 Mustang
With the limitations for fighter duties due to the Allison engine, nevertheless, the Mustang had good ground attack potential, and its high speed at low altitude, made it ideal for tactical reconnaissance. To enhance altitude capabilities, a mockup was devised in England to use the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine in the P-51 airframe. One concept was to locate the new engine behind the cockpit, but this idea was rejected and the Merlin was mounted in the conventional position in the nose. Four airframes were adapted in England to take the Merlin engine. These four planes known as Mustang Xs had deep intakes below the engine for carburetor air. The results of the British tests were passed on to North American. In the meantime, North American had undertaken a similar conversion project and was building two Packard Merlin-powered Mustangs. Level speed improvement was increased 51 mph, to 441 mph. The airframes were strengthened to accommodate the extra power, the ventral radiator was deepened, and the carburetor intake was moved from above the nose to below, to accommodate the Merlin updraft induction system.11 Even before the Army's Merlin powered Mustangs had flown, The US Army ordered 2,200 of the more powerful fighters. For a short time, this model was designated P-78, then redesignated as P-51B. 25 P-51Bs and 275 P-51Cs were given the British designation Mustang III. The California Mustangs were known as the P-51B-NA and the Dallas, Texas facility produced the P-51C-NT. The Merlin-powered P-5lB and its Dallas-built twin, the P-51C, began operations in December 1943. A further improvement to the Mustang was introduced when a graceful teardrop canopy was installed to eliminate the dangerous blind area created by the faired cockpit. First tested on two P-51Bs, they became standard on the P-51D and all later models. 280 P-51Ds were given the RAF designation Mustang IV. The P-51D became the version produced in the greatest quantities, 7,954 being completed. The P-51D model carried six .50 cal. machine guns instead of the four mounted in the P-51Bs. Other refinements, such as moving the wing forward slightly and providing for rocket launchers, were included. The first P-51Ds types were delivered without dorsal fins, but this feature was added to compensate for keel-loss when the bubble canopy was adopted.

Later developments to the P-51 series included the final production type, the P-51H with several changes which made it the fastest production variant with a maximum speed of 487 mph at 25,000 feet. Five hundred fifty-five P-51H's were delivered before VJ Day out of an original order for 1,445 machines.

The P-51D with the dorsal fin, represents the most typical Mustang configuration. It had a 37-foot wingspan with an area of 233 square feet and was 32 feet 3 inches long. Height was 13 feet 8 inches. The Packard-built Merlin V-1650-7 was capable of delivering 1,695 hp which provided a speed of 437 mph at 25,000 feet. Weights were 7,125 lbs. empty and 10,100 lbs. normal gross, but an additional 2,000 lbs. could be carried. Internal fuel capacity was 105 gallons, giving a range of 950 miles at 362 miles per hour at 25,000 feet. Armament was six .50 cal. wing-mounted machine guns with a total of 1,880 rounds.

To say the Merlin Mustangs were successful would be an understatement. The P-51 became one of the aviation world's elite. The total number of 14,819 Mustangs of all types were built for the Army. American Mustangs destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in Europe to make them the highest scoring US fighter in the theater. They were used as dive-bombers, bomber escorts, ground-attackers, interceptors, for photo-recon missions, trainers, transports (with a jump-seat), and after the war, high performance racers.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

First World War Triplanes

Sopwith Triplane Versus The Red Barons Fokker Photo Chris Lord

The Fighter in the foreground is a Sopwith Triplane. This was a British single seat fighter aircraft designed and manufactured by the Sopwith Aviation Company during the First World War. Pilots nicknamed it the Tripehound or simply the Tripe. The Triplane became operational with the Royal Naval Air Service in early 1917 and was immediately successful. The Triplane was nevertheless built in comparatively small numbers and was withdrawn from active service as Sopwith Camels arrived in the latter half of 1917. Surviving aircraft continued to serve as operational trainers until the end of the war.

In the distance is a German Fokker Dr. 1 Triplane. While it remains the most famous airplane of World War One, only 320 of the Fokker Dr.1 Triplane were built (compared to thousands of Spads, Nieuports, Albatroses, and Sopwith Camels). Inspired by the devastating performance of the Sopwith Triplane, Anthony Fokker designed and built the Dr.I Dreidecker, and delivered the first triplanes to Manfred von Richthofen's Jagdgeschwader I in late August 1917. After a brief familiarization flight, the "Red Baron" took aircraft number 102/17 up on September 1, and promptly shot down a British R.E.8 of No. 6 Sqn, whose crew probably thought the three-winged craft was a friendly Sopwith. Fokker's new triplane was no mere knockoff of the Sopwith. It featured cantilever wings, supported by single interplane struts. Only the upper wing had ailerons. The initial order of twenty aircraft were numbered Dr.I 101/17 - 120/17. 300 later Dreideckers were numbered Dr I 121/17 - 220/17 and 400/17 - 599/17. Its twin, synchronized 8mm Spandau machine guns were standard firepower for the era. 

For the brief period of a year, roughly from mid-1917 to mid-1918, the triplane format suddenly came to dominate the world of fighter plane design, particularly in Germany. The triplane would have become a mere footnote in the history books were it not for the fact that one of them, the Fokker Dr.I, became one of the most famous airplanes of World War I.

It is a basic premise that an airplane with one wing is more aerodynamically efficient than an airplane with two. After all, who has ever seen a biplane bird? Nature, however, cannot always be translated into machinery in a straightforward manner. Although many of the earliest aircraft were monoplanes, they were found to possess some very dangerous characteristics. The problems were mainly structural rather than aerodynamic.

A series of fatal accidents involving wing failures in early monoplanes resulted in a ban on them by the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in the summer of 1912. One of the world's first formal aviation-crash inquiries was convened in 1913 to investigate the accidents. Despite the fact that the 'Monoplane Committee exonerated the configuration, a prejudice against monoplanes persisted for more than 20 years.

Another reason for the distrust of monoplanes as fighters in World War I had to do with pilot visibility from the cockpit. In combat, the fighter pilot who saw his adversary first was usually the victor. Before the advent of radio, pilots needed a clear view of their flight commanders, who communicated with each other visually by means of hand signals and wing-waggling. They also had to be able to see their squadron mates to avoid accidental midair collisions.

The earliest successful fighter planes, the French Morane-Saulnier N and the German Fokker E.I, were monoplanes configured with the cockpit directly over the wing. From that position, the pilot enjoyed unlimited visibility to every quarter except downward, in which direction he could see nothing at all.

In many biplanes the pilot sat with one wing directly below him and another directly overhead, impairing his vision in both directions. A typical example was the British Sopwith Pup. Produced in 1916, the Pup was a beautifully proportioned little biplane that flew as great as it looked. British pilots, however, were less than satisfied with the visibility from its cockpit. Many photographs of Pups show portions of fabric cut away from the upper wing's center section in an effort to improve the pilot's view.

In retrospect, it may be said that the Sopwith Pup set a style that persisted for more than 20 years-that of the single-seat tractor biplane with synchronized machine guns firing through the propeller. At the time the Pup first appeared, however, the optimum configuration of a fighter was still in doubt. Today, the primary considerations for a fighter plane are speed, firepower and that newest of criteria, stealth. During World War 1, however, the emphasis was on rate of climb, maneuverability and pilot visibility.

In the spring of 1916, Herbert Smith, the chief designer at Sopwith, began work on a successor to the Pup. He set out to design a plane that could climb faster, fly higher, maneuver as well as if not better than its predecessor and, if possible, afford better visibility than the Pup. Surprisingly, the prototype that emerged from the Sopwith hangar on May 30, 1916, was not a biplane but a triplane.

The triplane configuration was not exactly a new concept that spring. Such pioneer aviators as Glenn Curtiss (founder of Curtiss Aircraft Co.) and AV Roe (founder of Avro, Ltd.) had already built successful triplanes in the United States and Britain, respectively. In Italy, Count Gianni Caproni di Taliedo, founder of Aeroplani Caproni, was producing a series of large, three-engine bombers, including several triplanes. In those earlier aircraft, however, the triplane format was simply a matter of expediency-an attempt to compensate for the low-powered engines of the period by building the greatest possible wing area, and consequently the maximum lift, into a reasonably compact airframe. Because speed was less of a consideration in bombers, the increased lift offered by the triplane format made sense. Herbert Smith, however, was adapting a refinement of the triplane concept to fighters. He sought to balance the advantages of extra lift and optimum maneuverability against the inherent disadvantage of increased drag.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Steampunk Gunship

The Steam Powered Golden Flying Gunship "The Osprey" Over New York  -  Photo Art by Chris Lord

This composite is my one attempt to emulate the style of the Steampunk genre. It was created from images of an Osprey helicopter and parts of a turn of the century steam powered battle cruiser, The Cruiser Olympia,  found at Penn Landing on the river in Philadelphia. 

Return of the Gunships Photo Chris Lord
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. 

Other examples of steampunk contain alternative history-style presentations of such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace's Analytical engine.
Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.

Over New York City

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Blades

Leaping For Joy Photo Chris Lord

2011 is The Blades' sixth display season and a great one. The Blades are among the world’s best aerobatic pilots, flying the ultimate in high-performance piston aircraft. Over the past five years, The Blades have flown over 300 displays in front of more than 18 million people, carried over 1,000 corporate flying event passengers and reached hundreds of millions of people through the media.

The Aircraft
The new EA-300 LP is made from carbon fibre and is certified to +/- 10 times the force of gravity. Unlike some of its competitors, it is also certified to fly anywhere in the world. The aircraft was designed by Walter Extra. As a successful competitive aerobatic display pilot Extra decided, in 1980, to design his own aircraft with an optimum structure, weight and performance for aerobatic displays. The aircraft was so successful that the Extra sells around 40 aircraft a year from its factory in Germany.

Engine: 300HP Lycoming AEIO 540
Propeller: 3 Bladed MT propeller
Range: 350 miles
Maximum Gross Weight: 950 Kg
Standard Empty Weight: 667 Kg
FAA Certified Load Factor: +/- 10G
Never Exceed Speed: 220 Kts
Manoeuvring Speed: 158 Kts
Length: 6.94m
Height: 2.62m
Wing Span: 8m
Seats: 2   Designed by pilots, for pilots!