Monday, January 2, 2012

US Army Air Corps B17G Flying Fortress

US Army Air Corps B17G Flying Fortress - Photo Chris Lord
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed in the 1930s for the then-United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry outperformed both competitors and more than met the Air Corps' expectations. Although Boeing lost the contract because the prototype crashed, the Air Corps was so impressed with Boeing's design that they ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances. The B-17 was primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets.

Sally B
The United States Eighth Air Force based at Thorpe Abbotts airfield in England and the Fifteenth Air Force based in Italy complemented the RAF Bomber Command's nighttime area bombing in Operation Pointblank to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for Operation Overlord. The B-17 also participated to a lesser extent in the War in the Pacific where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields. From its pre-war inception, the USAAC (later USAAF) touted the aircraft as a strategic weapon; it was a potent, high-flying, long-range bomber that was able to defend itself, and to return home despite extensive battle damage. It quickly took on mythic proportions, and widely circulated stories and photos of B-17s surviving battle damage increased its iconic status. With a service ceiling greater than any of its Allied contemporaries, the B-17 established itself as an effective weapons system, dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II. Of the 1.5 million metric tons of bombs dropped on Germany by U.S. aircraft, 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s. As of September 2011, 13 airframes remain airworthy, with dozens more in storage or on static display. As beautiful as this aircraft appears here the realities of war should always be remembered and the fact that 46,500 young men were wounded or killed flying these machines can not be brushed over.

Battle Scarred but Heading Home - Photo Chris Lord

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Supermarine Spitfire

Supermarine Spitfire Photo Chris Lord

The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War and on into the 1950s as a front line fighter and in secondary roles. It was produced in greater numbers than any other Allied fighter design and was the only Allied fighter in production throughout the war.
Many developing countries purchased Spitfires as the industrial countries phased out propeller powered aircraft in favour of the new jet engines. As these nations too started to update their air squadrons Spitfires and other Second World War vintage aircraft were sold to the public or for scrap. In Hong Kong the Spitfires that remained there on active duty with the UK colonial wings were bulldozed into the sea when the runway was lengthened by reclaiming land from the water.
Soon the private collectors began to band together in a group of like minded individuals that became known as the Warbird Movement. Warbird companies began to spring up as hobbies and for profit companies that focused on preserving vintage aircraft. Warbird companies are often bankrolled by the film industries need for authentic craft in Second World War movies. One of these aircraft, Spitfire Mk IX, MH434, is probably the most famous Spitfire survivor with many film credits to its name. MH434 not only had a lengthy Second World War record with the RAF but saw service in the Royal Netherlands Air Force (1947) and Belgian Air Force. She was brought back to the UK in 1956 by private owners and has since starred in a number of films including The Longest Day (1962), The Battle of Britain (1969) and A Bridge Too Far (1977).
Some 22,500 Spitfires and Seafires were built between 1938 and 1946 and almost 300 of them survive in museums and private collections around the world today. Approximately 50 Spitfires and Seafires are airworthy with another 20 currently undergoing restoration to flying condition.