rocketdyne f-1: Mighty motor that conquered the moon
Spitfire vs. Junkers WWII’s highest aerial combat
SUPER SPYPLANE After 60 years of service, Lockheed’s high-flying U-2 still REVEALS SECRETS
Dutch treat: ’Splash-and-go’ in a combat veteran PBY Catalina American ace shoots down a U.S. transport… and earns a medal for it
9/30/16 1:05 PM
SIMON SMITH ‘Commemorating the Allied liberation of Europe’
THE SPOILS OF WAR
The men of Easy Company reflect on their recent action after overpowering two companies of battle-hardened German SS troops in Holland, 5 October 1944. The edition is personally signed by Easy Company and 101st Airborne veterans who fought in Holland.
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DEPARTMENTS 5 MAILBAG 6 BRIEFING 12 RESTORED
The 300th PBY Catalina built is the oldest airworthy example extant. By Jon Guttman
view from on high Ice forms around the canopy of a U-2 flying over California in 2016.
20 DRAGON LADY
Lockheed’s venerable U-2 is still providing valuable intelligence 60 years after entering service. By Stephan Wilkinson
30 T HE LUFTWAFFE’S HIGH-FLYING DIESEL
Junkers Ju-86s flew with impunity over England and Egypt until the British modified Spitfires for high-altitude interception. By Pete Lehmann
36 THE DREAM OF STEAM
William and George Besler made history in 1933 when they achieved practical steam-powered flight. By John J. Geoghegan
The pilot provided the sole source of power for William Gerhardt’s Cycleplane. By Robert Guttman
How a Phantom pilot ended up in Neil Armstrong’s boots. By Mike Murphy
18 L ETTER FROM AVIATION HISTORY 58 REVIEWS 63 FLIGHT TEST 64 AERO ARTIFACT
42 APOLLO’S STALLIONS
The most powerful engine ever built, Rocketdyne’s F-1 underwent trial-and-error development before it launched astronauts to the moon. By Mark Carlson
52 TRIPLE-AXIS ACE
Victorious over German, Italian and Japanese opponents, U.S. fighter pilot Louis Curdes next downed an American transport. By Don Hollway
ON THE COVER: A Lockheed Martin U-2S of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing flies over the desert near Beale Air Force Base in California. The high-altitude U-2 spyplane, which entered service in 1957, has most recently been used to locate and track ISIS fighters in the deserts of the Middle East. Cover: Lockheed Martin/Kevin Robertson.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: U.S. AIR FORCE; JOHN REDEKER; NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM; NASA
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W O R L D
H I S T O R Y
G R O U P
C O M P A N Y
MICHAEL A. REINSTEIN CHAIRMAN & PUBLISHER DAVID STEINHAFEL ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER ALEX NEILL EDITOR IN CHIEF
A U-2F refuels.
You’ll find much more from Aviation History on the Web’s leading history resource: HistoryNet.com
DRAGON LADY DOWN
Mike Hua pulled off a remarkable deadstick landing at night during a training flight in a Lockheed U-2A.
AMERICA’S ACE OF ACES
In the course of 500 combat hours in P-38 Lightnings, Dick Bong racked up 40 victories and seven probables.
ACROSS THE HYPERSONIC DIVIDE
Bridging the gap between the air and space ages, the North American X-15 tested the limits of speed and altitude for winged aircraft.
ONLINE BONUS Follow our step-by-step instructions to build this issue’s dual “Modeling” project, the Junkers Ju-86R-2 and modified Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX featured in “The Luftwaffe’s High-Flying Diesel” (P. 30). Let’s Connect Like Aviation History Magazine on Facebook Digital Subscription Aviation History is available via Zinio and other digital subscription services
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JANUARY 2017 / VOL. 27, NO. 3
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Ike’s Connie courteous and generous to a fault, and this additional knowledge from your article adds to the respect I have for the memory of this fine officer and gentleman. R. Bruce Robillard Danville, Va.
n 2008 a friend and I flew down to the Marana, Ariz., airport for breakfast. On leaving we noticed a boneyard with several old four-engine types (DC-6s or -7s), so we taxied over. I took a few photos and would have explored a bit further, but the wasps were more aggressive than I was. At any rate, your September “Restored” article about Columbine II was very interesting. Attached is a photo I took that day. John Lee Sun City, Ariz.
I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Guttman’s fascinating article in the November issue, “Drones: The Hollywood Connection.” In the 1930s as a boy living in Newark, N.J., I was entranced, as were many of my friends, with the whole concept of aviation and model airplanes. As young model builders, we longed for the day when we could replace our rubber band–powered models with the newly emerging gas-powered model engines. The two most reliable engines we yearned for were one of the Brown Junior series or the elegant Class C Dennymite. However, they were completely beyond our reach as they sold for the then-astonishing price of $21.50. I never held a Dennymite, but I looked at them in the glass display case at the model shop and wondered if I would ever own one. As it turned out, I ended up owning and flying more than a dozen different engines, but not the
Dennymite, a fact I still fret a bit over. Even today they are virtually unavailable on the collectors’ market. Your article filled in some longmissing gaps in the treasure of my memory bank. Gordon H. Millar Port Orange, Fla.
Toko-Ri Flight Leader
Upon reading your September issue [“The Real ‘Bridges at Toko-Ri’”], I was amazed to learn about the role my friend, the late Cmdr. Bob Schreiber, played in this battle. I knew he had flown in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but like most heroes of his generation he never spoke about the specifics of his service. Upon his retirement from the Navy, he indulged his love of the sea, and many times single-handed his 42-foot sloop all along the West Coast from the Sea of Cortez to the Inside Passage. In his 80s he enrolled in the National Maritime Academy and earned an unrestricted Master’s ticket—any vessel, any ocean. He was always
The article on Addison Pemberton’s Grumman Goose [“Briefing,” November] and mention of Charles Blair’s Antilles Air Boats prompted me to send the attached Grumman Goose image [above]. The aircraft pictured is a former U.S. Coast Guard JRF-5G. It was U.S. Navy BuNo 84816 prior to transfer to the Coast Guard. My photograph was taken at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on February 28, 1971. At the time the aircraft was registered as N7777V. Sadly, on September 2, 1978, Charles Blair lost his life while piloting N7777V due to a loss of power in the left engine and subsequent ditching.
The picture of “Sully” and instructor standing in front of the Aeronca 7DC in 1968 reminded me of a picture of me in front of the same airplane in 1943. The story speaks for itself—it couldn’t be better. The Major Herrick story [“A P-38 Pilot Remembered”] brought back fresh memo ries of my P-38 experience in the Philippines in 1945. Your November issue was a winner for me, as I’m sure it was for many others. Thank you. Keep the best flying magazine “flying.” Robert L. Wieman St. Paul, Minn.
Minutes, Not Seconds
Enjoyed (as usual) your September 2016 issue. Lots of interesting articles—most on older stuff that appeals to me since I am an older U.S. Air Force retiree. Your article on the F7U [“Vought’s Visionary Fighter”] was a little confusing, however, when it stated on page 43, “despite its twin engines, the Cutlass possessed too little thrust,” yet on page 40 the specs indicate that it was capable of climbing at a phenomenal 865,200 feet per minute (14,420 feet per second)! Sounds pretty powerful to me.
Joseph G. Handelman Annapolis, Md.
Keep it Flying
The November issue was a masterpiece of aviation history—exactly what you’re all about. The interview with Chesley Sullenberger [“Sully Speaks Out”] was of great interest to me because we were in the same business (me about 30 years earlier).
Jack Wolfe Cabot, Ark.
Yes, that is mighty powerful. We meant 14,420 feet per minute, of course, and are chagrined to have made the same error in the specs for the Horten Ho IX in the November issue. Thanks to all who brought the errors to our attention; we won’t make that mistake again.
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low pass Jon Blanchette’s MiG-17PF flashes past the crowd during the Community Days airshow at Lancaster Airport in Pennsylvania.
hen Jon Blanchette tired of restoring cars, he turned to airplanes. A retired General Motors mechanical engineer, he had already restored a number of automobiles—“whatever came along,” he says—including the famous EX-122 1956 V8 Corvette prototype, which was the very first ’Vette able to do a burnout. So when Blanchette turned to aviation, he started at the top: a Polish license-built MiG-17PF
radar-equipped interceptor. The aircraft broker in Poland who found the jet for Blanchette in a scrapyard said the airplane “would need a little work” before it was flyable, but that was a major understatement. (Admittedly, Blanchette paid only $16,000 for the basket case.) “They disassembled it for shipping on one of the coldest days of the year, and the guys couldn’t do the job fast enough,” reports Blanchette. “They did enough damage in an hour that it took me years
to fix. They just cut everything, didn’t unbolt anything, and threw it into the shipping container with a lot of parts left behind where they’d fallen into the snow. They even twisted the fuselage, because it came off the shipping fittings during the 100mile trip from the air base to the port over very rough roads. But I’m like a dog with a bone and just went through it piece by piece.” For 17 years, Blanchette did most of the work himself, with the occasional assistance
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OPPOSITE: JOE OSCIAK; ABOVE RIGHT: U.S. AIR FORCE; TOP FAR RIGHT: BOEING; BOTTOM FAR RIGHT: RAYTHEON
of two ex–Polish air force technicians who came in for a week at a time to handle the hard-core stuff. Buzz number 620 is actually one of four MiGs that Blanchette has owned—a MiG-15UTI twoseater, two radar-equipped -17PFs and a -21. Though he only restored the one -17PF, he did plenty of maintenance work on the others. “This airplane had been built in 1960, and by 1966 it was out of active service, on its seventh engine and at a training base, where students worked on it,” Blanchette says. “They put a lot of graffiti on the airplane, which I love—their names and their love poems scratched into the aluminum. I left them all, natural finish. If I had painted the airplane, it would just look like a plastic model.” For his efforts, Blanchette was awarded the Best Jet prize in the Warbirds Division at the EAA’s AirVenture 2016, plus two other trophies as well. He’s not a pilot, so he’s never flown his MiG. Blanchette leaves that job to MiG-17 airshow specialist Randy Ball. “I sweat right down to my waist when I watch Randy fly. I know every bolt in the thing, and I know that stuff happens. I’ve Magnafluxed or Zygloed every crucial part in the airplane, but when I see Randy pulling 8Gs in a turn and I know the wings weigh a ton apiece, I’m saying to myself…jeez!” Sometimes watching is harder than flying. Stephan Wilkinson
next-gen trainer Above: Boeing hopes its new T-X trainer will replace the T-38 Talon. Below right: Raytheon’s T-100 is also vying for the contract.
Boeing Unveils T-X Trainer
n September 14, Boeing unveiled the first two demonstration prototypes of its contender to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging jet trainer— designed and built in St. Louis in collaboration with Saab. Flight testing will proceed in St. Louis for the remainder of the year toward an $11 billion contract for 300 aircraft. Powered by a GE 404 engine and featuring twin vertical stabilizers and a software system that is integrated with ground training equipment, the Boeing T-X will compete with the Raytheon/Leonardo T-100, the Lockheed Martin T-50 and a design yet to be announced by Northrop Grumman. The airplane they are meant to replace, the Northrop T-38 Talon, entered service in 1961 and is one of the few supersonic training aircraft in the world. By the time production ceased in 1972, 1,187 had been built and they have served as advanced trainers for more than 50,000 USAF pilots—and counting. Portuguese, Taiwanese and South Korean pilots trained on them until the 1990s, and German and Turkish pilots still do.
“I WAS A PILOT FLYING AN AIRPLANE, AND IT JUST SO HAPPENED THAT WHERE I WAS FLYING MADE WHAT I WAS DOING SPYING.” –U-2 PILOT FRANCIS GARY POWERS
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BRIEFING By the Numbers
Jerry L. Ross and Franklin Chang-Diaz
days Valeri Polyakov Mir, January 9, 1994, to March 22, 1995
LONGEST SOLO SPACEFLIGHT
LONGEST TIME ON LUNAR SURFACE
days, 16 hours Samantha Cristoforetti International Space Station, 2014-2015
days, 23 hours Valery Bykovsky Vostok 5, June 14-19, 1963
hours, 59 minutes, 40 seconds Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt Apollo 17, after landing on December 11, 1972
FASTEST HUMAN FLIGHT
OLDEST PERSON IN SPACE
John Glenn STS-95, on October 29, 1998
totaling 77 hours, 41 minutes Anatoly Solovyev
mph Eugene Cernan, John Young and Thomas Stafford Apollo 10, on May 26, 1969
days over 5 missions Gennady Padalka
LONGEST SINGLE FLIGHT BY A WOMAN
MOST TIME IN SPACE
RED BARON’S REDLETTER DAY
ne hundred years ago, on January 12, 1917, Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen of Jagdstaffel 2 was awarded the Orden Pour le Mérite—the “Blue Max”—for having shot down 16 Allied aircraft since September 1916. Four days later, the late Oswald Boelcke’s star pupil received orders to replace Rudolf Lang as commander of Jasta 11, which had not scored a single victory since its inception on October 11. After Richthofen took charge, however, the squadron’s fortunes would take an abrupt turn. Its pilots went on to score a German record of 350 confirmed victories by November 1918— 64 of them racked up by the “Red Baron” himself.
ALL SPACEFLIGHT PHOTOS: NASA, EXCEPT VALERY BYKOVSKY: BUNDESARCHIV BILD 183-T0905-107, PHOTO KLAUS FRANKE; ABOVE: COURTESY OF JON GUTTMAN
MOST FLIGHTS IN SPACE
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B LL Bu ig -NE tt ge W on r s
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BRIEFING airship revival Lockheed’s P-791 makes its maiden flight in 2006 (left), and Hybrid Air Vehicles’ Airlander 10 makes a hard landing in 2016 (below).
ockheed Martin’s famous Skunk Works, developer of such high fliers as the U-2 and speed demons as the SR-71 Blackbird, has been playing it low and slow lately—by bringing back the long-abandoned airship as a new means of economical air transport. Among its latest products is the LMH-1, a 300-footlong hybrid airship consisting of three conjoined cells full of helium; four articulated computercontrolled motors for
takeoff, landing or maneuvering; and an air-cushion landing system. Originally designed for the U.S. Army as a Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, the P-791 demonstrator made its first flight at the Palmdale, Calif., plant on January 31, 2006. After the Army canceled the LEMV project, however, it was modified as a civil cargo carrier capable of toting a two-man crew and either 12 passengers or 20 tons of cargo to remote locations and remaining airborne
for at least five days. At the Paris Air Show in June 2015, Lockheed announced that the LMH-1 had passed all FAA certification requirements and its marketer, Hybrid Enterprises, was accepting orders. This past March, Straightline Aviation signed a letter of intent for
Future american Bomber’s Name Honors Past
new long-range bomber—currently in the engineering and manufacturing development stage to reequip a U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command whose most current equipment is 27 years old—has been given a name inspired by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle’s April 1942 carrier-launched B-25 Mitchell raid on Japan. On September 19, 2016, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced that the new bomber will be designated the B-21 Raider and mentioned three people who submitted the “winning” name: Lt. Col. Jaime I. Hernandez, Tech Sgt. Derek D. White and retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Doolittle’s former copilot and at age 100 the sole living participant in the Tokyo Raid.
b-2 replacement Northrop Grumman’s B-21 heavy bomber, currently under development, has been named the Raider.
LEFT: U.S. AIR FORCE; TOP: LCOKHEED MARTIN; BOTTOM; ©PA IMAGES/ALAMY
Airships Duel For Potential Market
12 airships for a total of $480 million. In September plans were announced to operate the first LMH-1 over Alaska. Meanwhile, the winner of the LEMV competition, the HAV-3, developed by Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. at Card lington, England, has also reemerged in civilian guise as the HAV 304 Airlander 10. Differing from its American rival in having two hulls instead of three—giving its rear an appearance that has earned it several nicknames, including the “Flying Bum”—the Airlander completed its first test flight around Cardlington Airfield on August 17, 2016. At 302 feet long, the Airlander is the largest aircraft flying today. During its second flight, the airship garnered unwanted attention in the press after an agonizingly slow-motion hard landing north of London. While neither of these aerial rivals approaches the size of the zeppelin Hindenburg, one, the other or both may just revive the airship concept for a new generation. Jon Guttman
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ou are a man of the wilderness. The only plan you have is to walk up that mountain until you feel like stopping. You tell your friends that it’s nothing personal, but this weekend belongs to you. You’ve come prepared with your River Canyon Bowie Knife sheathed at your side. This hand-forged, unique knife comes shaving sharp with a perfectly fitted hand-tooled sheath. The broad stainless steel blade shines in harmony with the stunning striped horn, wood and bone handle. When you feel the heft of the knife in your hand, you know that you’re ready for whatever nature throws at you. This knife boasts a full tang blade, meaning the blade doesn’t stop at the handle, it runs the full length of the knife. According to Gear Patrol, a full tang blade is key, saying “A full tang lends structural strength to the knife, allowing for better leverage ...think one long steel beam versus two.” With our limited edition River Canyon Bowie Knife you’re getting the best in 21stcentury construction with a classic look inspired by legendary American pioneers. What you won’t get is the trumped up price tag. We know a thing or two about the hunt–– like how to seek out and capture an BONUS! Call today and you’ll outstanding, collector’s-quality knife that also receive this genuine leather sheath! won’t cut into your bank account. This quintessential American knife can be yours to use out in What customers are saying the field or to display as the art piece it truly is. But don’t wait. about Stauer knives... A knife of this caliber typically cost hundreds. Priced at an amazing $49, we can’t guarantee this knife will stick around for “First off, the shipping was fast long. So call today! and the quality is beyond what Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. Feel the knife in your I paid for the knife. Overall I hands, wear it on your hip, inspect the craftsmanship. If you don’t feel like we cut you a fair deal, send it back within 60 days am a satisfied customer!” for a complete refund of the sale price. But we believe that once — D., Houston, Texas you wrap your fingers around the River Canyon’s handle, you’ll be ready to carve your own niche into the wild frontier.
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9/14/16 11:46 AM
Dutch Cat’s Nine Lives
THE OLDEST CONSOLIDATED PBY-5A CATALINA CELEBRATES ITS 75TH BIRTHDAY IN AIR AND ON WATER BY JON GUTTMAN
lying boats are a relative rarity today compared to their heyday, the 1920s through ’40s, when passengers traveled the world aboard Boeing Clippers, and Short Sunderlands hunted U-boats in the Bay of Biscay. Arguably the most iconic was the versatile and reliable Consolidated Cata lina, of which approximately 3,750 were built in both flying boat and amphibious configurations between June 1937 and May 1945. On the 75th anniversary of its debut, the oldest surviving PBY recently resumed passenger service with the Stichting Exploitatie (Foundation Operating) Catalina PH-PBY, after six months of overhaul and winter maintenance. For flights from Lelystad Airport, in the Netherlands, passengers pay 180 Euros for a 30-minute trip that includes a “splash-and-go” on the Ijsselmeer artificial lake, in which the amphibian almost alights, skips along on its hull step and then lifts off again. Also offered this year is a special flight for 205 Euros that includes a full-stop landing, after which passengers exit through a side blister and are picked up by motorboat.
It is undoubtedly a novel experience to fly aboard a 75-year-old amphibian, but even as Catalinas go, this one has a unique history. Emerging from the factory on November 15, 1941, PBY-5A Bureau No. 41-2459 was the 300th Catalina built, and it’s the oldest fully airworthy example still in existence. Assigned to U.S. Navy patrol squadron VP-73 and first bearing the identification code 73-P-9, the Cat was operating from Reykjavik on August 20, 1942, with Lt. j.g. Robert B. Hopgood
joy ride Top: PBY-5A No. 41-2459 skims the Ijsselmeer during a “splash-and-go” flight. Above: Passengers board the historic amphibian at Lelystad Airport.
in the pilot’s seat when it attacked U-464, a Type XIV “Milchkuhe” (“milk cow,” as the Germans called their 10 specialized supply submarines), southeast of Iceland, killing two men and rendering it unable to submerge. That compelled its skipper, Otto Harms, to scuttle the
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PHOTOS: JOHN REDEKER
sub, after which he was subsequently taken prisoner with the surviving 51 crew men. They were more fortu nate than the 46 men aboard U-582—caught southwest of Iceland by 2459 on Octo ber 5, it went to the bottom with all hands. Around that time VP-84 arrived to relieve VP-73 at Reykjavik, but 2459 transferred to the new unit as 84-P-7. On April 28, 1943, the Catalina seriously damaged U-528, which was subsequently sunk on May 11 by a Handley Page Halifax in collaboration with the Royal Navy sloop HMS Fleetwood. On June 24, 1943, Lieutenant Joseph W. Beach, piloting 2459, located U-194 and used a homing torpedo to sink the sub with all 54 hands. U-194, which had just tested the latest Balkon (“balcony”) sonar gear, was only 12 days into its first combat cruise when it fell prey to Beach’s Cat. On September 1, 1943, 2459 was relived of patrol duties, spending the rest of the war as a transport until it was struck from the Navy rolls on October 31, 1945. By then its combat record made it the war’s single most successful sub-killing PBY. That was far from the end of the story, of course. Rio Ten Airways operated the Catalina as a civilian airliner until 1953, when it was sold to Canada and registered in Field Aviation as CF-HHR. In 1963 it made its film debut, appear ing in the movie version of Flipper. Converted to a water bomber in 1972, it fought fires in Canada and South America for Avalon Aviation until 1988, when it was retired and stored at Parry Sound, Ontario. In 1995, however, the veteran Cat got yet another lease on life. Bought by a pri
by the time it was struck from the navy rolls, this pby’s combat record made it the war’s most successful sub-killing catalina. vate group of Dutch inves tors, it was overhauled and reconfigured as a passenger transport, refinished in pre1942 Royal Netherlands Navy markings and trans ferred to the Netherlands in April of that year. On February 6, 1997, it was registered as PH-PBY, and in 2004 was given 1950s Dutch markings (code Y-74). As such it was operated by
Stichting Catair until the company folded. It was then that the Dutch Neptune Association stepped in to preserve the Cat as a living historic mon ument. Taken to Naval Air Station Valkenburg for full restoration, it was assigned the code 16-218 and chris tened Karel Doorman by the late rear admiral’s widow. Among the problems that surfaced during that fouryear process was a heavy oil leak in one of the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines. The troublesome radial was ultimately replaced by a spare found in Canada. Arrangements also had to be made for a permanent home for the amphibian, resolved when work was completed on a new hangar at Lelystad in October 2010. The Cat now shares that space with DDA Classic Airlines and its two Douglas DC-3s. On April 3, 2013, the
Dutch Catalina founda tion was authorized to resume commercial flights in PH-PBY, and the old amphib was soon carrying sightseers on daytrips, lunch flights and 30-minute splashand-go hops in, around and over the Ijsselmeer. A recent overhaul in the winter of 2015-16 has breathed new life into an old water bird that shows no sign of quitting. Looking far less martial with its front machine gun turret removed, PH-PBY represents a wealth of civil aviation history in itself. One can only speculate how many of the passengers who help finance its continued flying career fully grasp just how much history has been witnessed from the side blisters in this PBY-5A’s truly remarkable lifetime. For more information, including details on booking a flight, check out catalina-pby.nl. J
looking forward The Catalina’s side blister provides a panoramic view of the Dutch countryside.
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disaster ahead William F. Gerhardt’s Cycleplane taxis toward celluloid immortality.
Dreams of HumanPowered Flight THE EXPERIMENTAL GERHARDT CYCLEPLANE MADE HISTORY IN 1923, BUT TODAY IS BEST REMEMBERED AS AN ICONIC AVIATION FAILURE BY ROBERT GUTTMAN
ost everyone has seen the film clip of a multi-winged airplane trundling toward the camera, with a couple of men supporting its flimsy-looking wings until the towering contraption suddenly collapses in a heap. The footage has become symbolic of early aviation failures, endlessly played back as an example of the lengths to which some pioneers went in their efforts to achieve flight. Few are aware, however, that the flying machine featured in that comic clip was not the half-baked creation of a crackpot but an experimental human-powered airplane designed by
the head of the Aeronautical Department at the University of Michigan. William Fred erick Gerhardt built and flew his Cycleplane, as he called it, in 1923 at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio, then the home of the U.S. Army Air Service Engineering Division’s avia tion experimentation and flight-testing station. Even after powered controlled flight became a reality early in the 20th century, a few aircraft designers still sought to emulate birds by achieving human-powered flight. But compared with other forms of propulsion, developing a flying machine powered solely by its pilot presents a daunting challenge. The average human can generate only about 1 hp, and sustain that for a limited amount of time, depending on how physically fit the person is. Thus a human- powered aircraft must be
extremely lightweight but have wings that develop a great deal of lift. Reducing structural weight invariably results in airplanes that are relatively flimsy. The human-powered British SUMPAC and Puffin of the 1960s, as well as the American Gossamer Condor and Gossamer Albatross, created by Paul McCready in the 1970s, managed to get airborne by means of state-of-the-art engineering, modern high-tech materials and, perhaps most important, the application of plenty of money. The little-known Gerhardt Cycleplane of 1923 beat them all into the air. And yes, there is evidence that it actually flew. Records indicate that on several occasions it was towed aloft behind a car and released, then briefly maintained level flight. In one instance it also report-
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PHOTOS: HISTORYNET ARCHIVE
edly became airborne under its pilot’s power, albeit for a distance of only about 20 feet at an altitude of 2 feet—a modest accomplishment, to say the least, but sufficient for its creators to claim the distinction of building the first human-powered aircraft to fly. The Cycleplane was the subject of an article in the October 1923 issue of Popular Science Monthly, accompanied by a photograph purportedly showing it airborne. It was also referenced in the February 21, 1924, issue of Flight magazine in an article by Mathew B. Sellers, “The Requirements of a ManPropelled Airplane,” which mentioned “The recent success achieved by the Gerhardt ‘cycleplane’ in flying off the ground with a propeller actuated by foot power.” Gerhardt created the Cycleplane as an experiment, to see if it would be possible for a human-powered airplane to attain level, stable flight. He and a few colleagues constructed it in a hangar at McCook Field during their spare time, while Gerhardt was attached to the Engineering Division. The flying machine’s airframe consisted mainly of wood, covered with paper rather than fabric to save weight. The peculiar-looking
arrangement of its seven narrow-chord wings was based on a design previously patented by Gerhardt and Isaac M. Laddon for a larger powered multiplane. They claimed their design would solve “problems of vision, performance, stability and controllability.” Since neither the text of the patent nor the appended design drawings indicate provision for either ailerons or wing-warping, it is unclear exactly how lateral control could have been achieved. And while the Cycleplane appears to have had a controllable rudder, surviving photos don’t show whether or not the horizontal tail surfaces were movable. As a result of its seven- winged configuration, the Cycleplane was actually taller than it was long, about 19 feet high and 12 feet long. Its wingspan was approximately 40 feet, but the chord of each wing was only about 18 inches. The entire aircraft was said to weigh 95 pounds. The pilot sat in an open cockpit with his head just above the fuselage top, working pedals that drove a two-blade propeller. Photographs of the Cycleplane indicate it had a rather roughly finished appearance, not surprising since it was fabricated out of odds and ends. For many years the sole
legacy of Gerhardt’s Cycle plane has been that one sad bit of film that has amused audiences for generations. In retrospect, perhaps his invention should be remembered with more respect. After all, it can be seen as a precursor to more successful efforts, specifically those achieved by Southampton University and the Hatfield Man Powered Aircraft Club in Britain in the early 1960s, as well as by Paul MacCready’s AeroVironment in the United States during the 1970s. On November 9, 1961, at Lasham Airfield in Britain, Derek Piggott made the first officially recognized takeoff and landing of a human-powered aircraft. His longest flight in Southampton University’s Man Powered Aircraft stretched 650 meters, more than 100 times the distance of the Cycleplane’s
keeping it light With paper-covered wooden wings stacked 19 feet high, the Cycleplane was an accident waiting to happen (below).
alleged 1923 hop. But it would remain for Mac Cready’s Gossamer Condor to truly demonstrate controlled, human-powered flight on August 23, 1977, by completing a figure-eight course over a distance of 1.35 miles. Today that aircraft hangs above the main concourse at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Its sister aircraft, the Gossamer Albatross, which flew across the English Channel in 1979, is on display at the museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. J
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aviators phantom fliers Mike Murphy (right) poses with pilot W. Drex Bradshaw aboard USS Kitty Hawk. Below: Neil Armstrong dons a pressure suit and boots—though not the ones Murphy inherited.
Neil Armstrong’s Boots
A FORMER PHANTOM CREWMAN REMEMBERS THE PRICELESS ARTIFACT HE INHERITED AS A NAVAL OFFICER, AND LAMENTS LOST TREASURES BY MIKE MURPHY
he other night a trailer for the new Batman v Superman movie sparked memories of my long-lost collection of comic books, including a Superman first issue from 1938, and piqued my curiosity about what they might be worth today. A quick search online revealed that a first issue recently sold for $3.2 million. I brushed aside a tear as I recalled the fate of my collection, and was reminded of another great treasure I acquired during my U.S. Navy days—also long since gone. As a youngster in the early 1950s, I actively traded and collected comic books, and that’s how I ended up with a Superman first issue. By the time I outgrew trading comics,
I had a stack about a foot high sitting in my closet. There they sat, all through high school and college, bugging my mom. When I left for the Navy, she marched that horrible eyesore out to the trash. I know there was absolutely no malice, but I also know it made her day. In the 1960s I served as a radar intercept officer flying
McDonnell F-4 Phantom IIs, stationed at Miramar Naval Air Station, near San Diego. Three months before I was due to leave the Navy, I fell into an unusual mission. My pilot that day was also a friend, Joe Jerhoff—a minor celebrity in our circle because he had been the first and youngest naval aviator selected to fly the Phantom.
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OPPOSITE: (TOP) COURTESY OF CDR. W. DREX BRADSHAW (U.S. NAVY, RET.), (BOTTOM) NASA; RIGHT: COURTESY OF MIKE MURPHY
Jerhoff had two nicknames: “Jet Joe” for his flying skills, and “Motor Mouth” for his constant chatter. We had just returned from a 10-month Pacific cruise on USS Kitty Hawk, having spent four months in the South China Sea off Vietnam, and we both thought we were pretty salty. In truth we were just a couple of kids—I was 23, Joe 24—when the Navy sent us off in a $7 million state-of-the-art jet, the premier fighter in the world. Our mission was pretty straightforward. We were to launch from Miramar and fly out over the Pacific in order to calibrate the land radar. But there were a couple of catches. First, we would take off at 4 a.m. to ensure the minimum number of aircraft were in the area during our flight. Second, since the mission profile called for altitudes over 50,000 feet, we had to wear full pressure suits. The Navy, being the thrifty organization that it was, provided us with handme-down suits. I must have been about the same size as Neil Armstrong, since I got his gear, including his flight boots, which were emblazoned with his name in gold letters. Those boots needed to be a couple of sizes larger than regular flying boots to accommodate the full pressure suit, and they had soft rubber soles and a zipper on each side to make them easier to put on or take off. Our plan was to have an early dinner at the officers’ club and get to bed around 9, so we’d be ready to rise at 1:30 and suit up for “the hop.” But we were having so much fun that we forgot about the bed part. Leaving the bar around 2 a.m., we headed straight to the flight line, where about a dozen enlisted men helped us get into our pressure suits and
Even though the boots I wore that day were two sizes too large for me, I loved them because they had Armstrong’s name in gold lettering. poured us into the aircraft. Luckily we always flew breathing 100 percent oxygen, so we sobered up in a real hurry. Once we were ready to fly, Joe was all business. About halfway down the runway he hit full afterburner, and those twin GE J79 engines wound right up to their maximum 16,000 pounds of thrust each. The aircraft was clean—meaning we carried no external tanks or ord-
nance—plus we had less than a full load of fuel, so we left the earth like a Titan rocket. In no time we were cruising at 45,000 feet over the Pacific. Navigating by TACAN (tactical air navigation) and making precise speed and altitude adjustments, we flew patterns as directed by ground control. The mission went off without a hitch, and we even got that Phantom up to 70,000 feet. Our return was uneventful, and as we were getting out of our pressure suits at about 6 a.m. our skipper, Commander Joe Konzen, arrived on the flight line and gave us a “thumbs up” and “well done.” Konzen was a genuine war hero who had logged more than 70 missions during the Korean War, so that amounted to the highest praise one gets in the service. Even though the boots I wore that day were two sizes too large for me, when I left the Navy I kept them as a trophy of sorts. I loved them because they had
Armstrong’s name in gold lettering. I carried them to New York, where I attended graduate school, and later back to California. They sat in my closet until I went on a spring-cleaning binge sometime in the late ’90s. I can remember looking at them that day and wondering how the hell I could have dragged them twice from coast to coast. Why was I was still hanging onto them? Without a second thought I deposited them in the trash bin. Of course I long ago realized my mistake. When I pass on and arrive in heaven—or more likely in that other place—I expect to find Neil Armstrong’s boots sitting there waiting for me, right on top of my first-issue Superman comic. J
waterlogged logbook Murphy’s logbook includes an entry for his high-altitude flight with pilot Joe Jerhoff.
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Propulsive Force BY CARL VON WODTKE
O fired up Top: An F-1 rocket engine’s gas generator is tested after decades in storage. Above: Members of the team that brought it back to life shake hands in front of the gas generator at Marshall Space Flight Center.
ne horsepower versus 32 million horsepower. That’s the difference between the power generated by the average human being and the approximate power output of a Saturn V rocket’s F-1 first-stage engine. In this issue we cover both ends of that spectrum, and several waypoints in between. In its simplest form, as seen in a rocket or missile, heavier-than-air flight requires thrust—a propulsive force sufficient to lift the weight of the vehicle by overcoming gravity and atmospheric drag. In an airplane, lift works to overcome weight while thrust works against drag. These are the classic four forces of flight, but in a sense thrust is the most important, because without it the aircraft is going nowhere (unless it’s a glider, which ultimately goes in only one direction: down). The earliest would-be aviators imagined they could emulate birds, flapping attached wings to provide lift, but they ran up against the physi cal laws governing power-to-weight ratios—not enough power, too much weight—often with fatal consequences. Early man-powered flight attempts faced the same challenge, and in one effort to maximize lift with multiple wings, yielded comical results (story, P. 14). The first successful powered flight experiments involved small, unmanned steam-driven models in the late 19th century, but it would not be until 1933 that two brothers demonstrated practical steam-powered flight (story, P. 36). Later, Hugo Junkers experimented with diesel power, producing the high-flying Ju-86P and R during World War II (story, P. 30). Ultimately, of course, reciprocating gasoline engines and turbo-
jets prevailed by supplying the thrust and powerto-weight ratio necessary for everyday flight. Which brings us to the mighty Rocketdyne F-1, the most powerful single-chamber rocket engine ever to fly. (The Soviet RD-170/171 of the 1980s generated slightly more thrust, but employed four separate combustion chambers and nozzles.) Five F-1s powered the first stage of the Apollo program’s Saturn V, producing a combined 7.5 million pounds of thrust for 2½ minutes—enough to lift the 3,000-ton vehicle 40 miles above the earth’s surface, where the second stage took over. As Mark Carlson writes in “Apollo’s Stallions” (P. 42), the story of its development “is a saga worthy of the Wright brothers or Charles Lindbergh, but on a far grander scale.” Yes, it literally involves rocket science—not the usual Aviation History fare—but Carlson has succeeded in making this technical subject accessible to even the most technologyaverse. It’s a fascinating saga of trial-and-error experimentation in a pre-digital age that will be of special interest to anyone who followed NASA’s Apollo-era achievements. Although developed more than 50 years ago, the F-1 remains a marvel of engineering—so much so that it has recently been studied by a new generation of engineers working to design rocket engines to power America’s future Space Launch System. To learn the F-1’s secrets, a team at Mar shall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., completely disassembled and digitally modeled a flight-ready example that had been intended for Apollo 19. They also “borrowed” an F-1 formerly displayed at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, and in 2013 actually fired up its gas generator, which powered the engine’s 55,000-hp turbopump. The full story of that effort, found at arstechnica.com (search “F-1 engine”), is a great read, and serves to connect Carlson’s piece to the present. J
LETTER FROM AVIATION HISTORY
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LATEST MODEL Built in 1982, Lockheed TR-1A 80-1070 was transferred to Warner Robins Air Force Base in 1995, where it was reconfigured as a U-2S.
DRAGON LADY SIXTY YEARS AFTER ITS INTRODUCTION, LOCKHEED’S U-2 SPYPLANE CONTINUES TO SERVE AS AMERICA’S EYES IN THE SKY OVER DISTANT BATTLEFIELDS BY STEPHAN WILKINSON
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HIGH SPY U-2A 56-6703 entered service in 1957 and flew over Vietnam before crashing in Arizona on September 18, 1964, killing pilot Bob Primrose.
BEHOLD THE LOCKHEED U-2, AS IMPERFECT AN AIRPLANE AS HAS EVER FLOWN.
A hastily designed stopgap intended to fly for two or perhaps four years at most, its fragility and truculence a destroyer of airframes and killer of pilots at an unprecedented rate. An airplane so difficult to land that YouTube is filled with videos of careening U-2s being chased by landing coaches in Camaros and Firebirds. A quasi-military spyplane that was originally ordered and paid for by civilians—that in fact was largely postulated and laid out by MIT and Harvard academics and a Cambridge entrepreneur, nary a pilot nor aeronautical engineer among them. Some in the U.S. Air Force called it the Useless Deuce, yet the U-2 became one of the most important aircraft ever to fly. The U-2 kept us out of World War III with the Soviet secrets it revealed during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. And though its Soviet overflights ended in disaster—the infamous Francis Gary Powers shootdown in May 1960—the U-2 had already proved that Americans needn’t have worried about Soviet bombers targeting us. Mutually assured destruction, if it ever came to that,
meant the U.S. would assuredly destroy the USSR. Sixty years after the U-2A entered service, the latest model, the U-2S (an improved version of the highly modified U-2R), continues to fly carrying sensors undreamed of during the U-2’s photorecon glory days. Its intended successor, the SR-71, quickly came and went at Mach 3, and is today parked in museums. Surveillance satellites that supposedly could read license plates from space have yet to fully replace the U-2, and this remarkable reconnaissance platform’s real successor will be a drone—a UAV based on, yes, the U-2R.
uring World War II, renewed interest in photoreconnaissance led to the conversion of fighters and bombers to specialized recon ships. Yet there was still no such thing as a dedicated U.S. reconnaissance design, though Howard Hughes’ XF-11 single-seater and Republic’s four-engine XF-12 Rainbow were benighted attempts to fill that role. In the mid-1950s, strat egic aerial reconnaissance near and sometimes over enemy territory was still carried out by converted bombers, the most specialized of them being the Martin RB-57D and F—big-wing, high-altitude versions of the English Electric Canberra. Still, the B-57 had to fly at altitudes in the mid-50,000s (the final RB-57F version could under ideal conditions cruise at 65,000 feet), which left it vulnerable to interception. Enter the Lockheed U-2, the very first dedicated U.S. recon type ever to go into production. Its genesis can be traced back to a paper written in 1953 by a mid-level officer at the Air Force’s WrightPatterson development center, Major John Seaberg. He
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PREVIOUS PAGES, OPPOSITE TOP & ABOVE RIGHT: LOCKHEED MARTIN; OPPOSITE BOTTOM: GUY ACETO COLLECTION; RIGHT: U.S. AIR FORCE
postulated that rapidly improving turbine-engine technology plus high-aspect-ratio wings on a very light airframe could achieve cruise altitudes high enough to be—at least at the time— immune from interception. Successful WWII reconnaissance aircraft such as the de Havilland Mosquito and PR Spitfire had relied on speed as their salvation, since they couldn’t fly any higher than specialized German fighters. Piston engines and the propellers they drove met immutable altitude limitations at about 45,000 feet for an operational airplane. But jets would continue to breathe every molecule of oxygen that existed in the stratosphere. Seaberg believed that jet engines would soon achieve high enough power outputs that even though only a tiny percentage of their sea-level thrust would be available at extreme altitudes, just 7 percent of total power could sustain an optimized high-altitude jet aircraft. If a jet produced 10,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, 700 pounds at altitude would be enough to power a light, low-drag airplane with a high-altitude wing and airfoil, and to power it at what in the U-2 turned out to be 0.80 Mach. Three key elements of Seaberg’s proposal were that light weight could be achieved by ignoring military requirements, since a high-altitude recon airplane would have no air combat mission; by building the aircraft to very low load standards, for the same reason; and by eliminating the heavy landing gear entirely. Lockheed Skunk Works engineers, led by the innovative Kelly Johnson, remained true to the first two missions and tried to attain the third by designing the simplest possible single-strut main gear, which ended up weighing just 206 pounds. It was thought the U-2 would fly too high for Soviet radar to track it. How could this be, since the U-2 would be flying just 13 miles up—certainly within the range of even the most primitive radar? But surveillance radar points at the horizon, not straight up, and the CIA figured the top of its sweep was about 11 degrees above horizontal. Sixty miles out, coverage was about 5,000 feet of altitude per degree, or 55,000 feet, and the closer an airplane got to the radar station, the more that ceiling lowered. Unfortunately for the U.S., the Soviets were improving their radar faster than anticipated, at least in part by using captured German technology. Ranges of 80 miles and more were being achieved, which would have put the top of the scan at U-2 altitude. So U-2 overflights of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were tracked from the very beginning. Lockheed tried a variety of radar-foiling measures on the LOCKHEED LEGEND Kelly Johnson chats with Powers.
FIRST DOWN Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 was downed by a Soviet SAM in May 1960.
THE U-2 KEPT US OUT OF WORLD WAR III WITH THE SOVIET SECRETS IT REVEALED DURING THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS. U-2, from radar-absorbent foam-rubber coatings to networks of antenna wire tuned to specific radar frequencies, but none worked. If nothing else, it convinced Johnson that the only way to achieve true radar invisibility was to design an airframe from the outset for stealth, which is exactly what Lockheed would do with the A-12/SR-71 Blackbird.
erhaps the most persistent myth about the U-2 is that it was based on Lockheed’s F-104, which was being proto typed just as U-2 design efforts were gaining traction. The Air Force had asked Bell,
Fairchild and Martin to submit proposals for a high-altitude recon platform, figuring that smaller companies would give the project more serious attention and that Lockheed had plenty on its plate, what with the C-130 Hercules and F-104 programs both active. Kelly Johnson inevitably got wind of the deal, however, and submitted a Lockheed concept: the CL-282. Never called U-2, it was a stripped XF-104 fuselage, cockpit and T-tail empennage fitted with sailplane-size 10:1-aspectratio wings and using the 104’s powerful GE J73 engine, albeit shorn of its afterburner. The Air Force had already accepted the Bell design, called the X-16 to make snoops assume that it was just another Bell research X-plane. They rejected the CL-282, largely because of doubts about the suitability of its unproven J73 engine. The blue-suiters insisted on the Pratt & Whitney J57 that Bell had chosen to power the longwing, twin-engine X-16. The X-16 was a twin because the Air Force looked upon it as a multi-mission aircraft—a “real airplane,” in
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TECH NOTES LOCKHEED MARTIN U-2S
INTAKE COMPRESSOR FACE ECM AERIAL
WINGTIP SENSOR POD
WING INTEGRAL FUEL TANKS
OUTRIGGER WHEEL LEADING-EDGE NOSE RIBS
UHF EQUIPMENT ASTROINERTIAL NAVIGATION SYSTEM CANOPY EJECTION SEAT ADC EQUIPMENT RADAR TRANSMITTING AND RECEIVING EQUIPMENT
SIDE-LOOKING RADAR ANTENNA
MAIN LANDING GEAR
CAMERA PACK EQUIPMENT BAY
SPECIFICATIONS ENGINE One General Electric F118-101 turbofan generating 17,000 lbs. of thrust WINGSPAN 103 feet
WING AREA 1,000 square feet LENGTH 63 feet HEIGHT 16.7 feet FUEL CAPACITY 2,950 gallons
WEIGHT 16,000 lbs. (empty) 40,000 lbs. (maximum)
CEILING Above 70,000 feet
PAYLOAD 5,000 lbs.
RANGE More than 6,000 miles
CRUISING SPEED 475 mph
Loading an A-2 camera on a U-2A.
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FIN TOP SENSORS
GE F-118-101 TURBOFAN
TAILCONE ECM EQUIPMENT BAY
TURBOFAN EXHAUST CASE COMMUNICATIONS EQUIPMENT BAY LEFT AIRBRAKE STEERABLE TAILWHEEL UNIT
WING TORSION BOX ASSEMBLY
GLASS-FIBER NOSE CONE
SUPER POD INSTALLATION
MAIN NDING GEAR
Q-BAY CAMERA PACKS OUTRIGGER (“POGO”)
TYPE B 36-INCH CAMERA PACK
ILS MULTISPECTRAL CAMERA PACK
RC-10 WIDEANGLE METRIC CAMERA
ITEC PANORAMIC (HORIZON-TOHORIZON) OPTICAL BAR CAMERA
HR-732 HIGHRESOLUTION CAMERA ILLUSTRATION: ALEXANDER PANG PHOTO: U.S. AIR FORCE
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THE MARGIN OF AIRSPEED AT ALTITUDE BETWEEN STALLING AND OVERSPEEDING WAS ONLY 7 KNOTS.
SEA DRAGON Above: A U-2R undergoes takeoff and landing tests aboard the carrier America in 1969. Opposite: The wreckage of a U-2 flown by Major Rudolph Anderson Jr., the sole fatality of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
their view, with an armored and pressurized cockpit and sturdy tricycle landing gear. Perhaps someday it could carry guns and bombs. But the second engine added weight and doubled the chance of a flameout or engine failure. In either eventuality, the airplane would have been lost over Soviet territory, since it would have had to descend to MiG-21 altitude—probably around 35,000 feet—either to cruise on half power or to attempt a restart. This, in fact, remained a concern with the singleengine U-2. Its chosen power plant was susceptible to flameouts at altitude. A number of U-2s disappeared over China during the 1970s, and flameouts could well have been the reason. In any case, Johnson and his small team of Skunk Works engineers went back to their drawing boards and designed an all-new airplane, which became the U-2. They threw out everything F-104–derived, and as Johnson later wrote in his autobiography, “The only equipment we might retain from the F-104 might be the rudder pedals.” The Air Force continued to resist the Lockheed proposal. But the U-2 had fans at the CIA, though the civilian agency’s top leadership still needed some convincing. The spooks had learned to their dismay that the Air Force had little interest in launching recon flights in answer to the CIA’s needs or schedules. The spies needed their own air force. What turned the odds in Lockheed’s favor was a consensus among some influential scientists who had the ear of the Eisenhower administration. Key among them was the Beacon Hill Study Group, a coterie of MIT and Harvard academics plus engineer/entrepreneur Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera. In June 1953, the Beacon Hill band urged the government to develop a vehicle to surveil the Soviet Union from a very high altitude with a good turn of speed, carrying the highest-resolution cameras possible. CIA director Allen Dulles helped persuade President Dwight Eisenhower that Soviet overflights would be safe because if a
U-2 was shot down, the crash from such a height would render the wreckage unidentifiable and the pilot would never survive. Powers’ downing in 1960 proved Dulles wrong on both counts, but it is baffling to think that he somehow assumed every dataplate, serial number and manufacturer marking would be vaporized. Nevertheless, Ike bought into the story. Actually, U-2s that were shot down or experienced airframe failures typically mapleseeded down in a flat spin, with one wing gone and the other intact, and hit the ground with low forward speed and a relatively low rate of descent, leaving lots of instantly identifiable pieces for Dulles and his gang to ponder. The U-2 had three equally important major components: a light and low-drag single- seat airframe, an engine that could produce sufficient thrust to keep it airborne at extreme altitude and a camera-suite payload that would make the mission worthwhile. Harvard astronomer James Baker,
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designer of the U-2’s optical systems and lenses, told Johnson that without superb cameras the U-2 was nothing more than a powered sailplane. Johnson in turn reminded Baker that if Lockheed couldn’t keep the gross weight under control, the finest cameras in the world wouldn’t be going anywhere. The Eisenhower administration had become galvanized by the Soviet Union’s explosion of a hydrogen bomb in August 1953, long before anybody expected them to. Less than a year later, the existence of the Myasishchev M-4 intercontinental bomber, NATO code-named Bison, became public. The Bison was assumed to be the equivalent of the Boeing B-52, and rumors spread that the Soviets had hundreds of them (they actually had 20). This plus the Beacon Hill report persuaded Eisenhower to approve development of the U-2, since he needed to know for sure whether there truly was a bomber gap between Soviet and U.S. fleets. And it was the president who ordered that the CIA control the airplane. Air Force chief of staff General Nathan Twining was furious. He demanded that Strategic Air Command run the show, but Eisenhower pointed out that if a USAF pilot flew over the Soviet Union, it would be an act of war. Lieutenant General Curtis LeMay, then in charge of SAC, said he had no interest in any case in an airplane that didn’t have bombs or guns.
OPPOSITE: LOCKHEED MARTIN; ABOVE RIGHT: U.S. AIR FORCE; RIGHT: BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES
he CIA initially tried to train NATO pilots to fly the U-2. The first—and last—batch were Greek, and they turned out to be untrainable, lacking the high-perform ance background required to fly such an enormously demanding airplane. Ultimately, the only foreign pilots who would ever fly U-2s were a group of talented Nationalist Chinese ex–F-86 pilots and a small number of RAF aviators. The CIA’s U-2 pilots initially came from the Air Force Reserve and SAC, which at the time had its own fighter escort wings flying Republic F-84s; their pilots were experienced at long-range solo navigation. Since they couldn’t be military but didn’t want to throw away their Air Force careers, the chosen pilots officially resigned from the Air Force and were hired by Lockheed as civilian “test pilots” but secretly kept their military seniority. When they were done flying the U-2, their resignations were revoked and they rejoined the Air Force at whatever rank, salary and seniority they would otherwise have attained. The ruse was called “sheep-dipping.” The U-2 required extreme finesse in cruise, for the margin of
PHOTO PROOF An early U-2 flight revealed the Tyuratam SS-6 missile site in the Soviet Union.
airspeed at altitude between stalling and overspeeding— called “coffin corner”—was typically only 7 knots, sometimes as little as 4. At 70,000plus feet, simply turning a U-2 was a feat. Bank just slightly too steeply and the inside wing would stall while the outside wing went through never-exceed speed. Either a stall or busting maximum Mach would almost certainly lead to the airplane’s shedding its wings or empennage, the latter a unit held to the tailcone by three five-eighthsinch bolts. The wings were also bolted to the fuselage, like many a sailplane’s, without a through-spar, and they were ribless, which is one reason they were so light and fragile. A U-2 wing consisted of three spars, some aluminum tubing to stiffen the structure and thin skins. On some parts of the fuselage, the skinning was just 0.02 inches thick—the thickness of three sheets of printer paper. The lack of a continuous wing spar allowed the original U-2 to have a substantial and unobstructed payload bay
for big cameras right on the airplane’s center of gravity. One of the simple but imagi native features of that camera bay was that the film—a very light Mylar-based stock developed by Kodak for the U-2— unspooled in one direction for the right-side oblique cameras and in the opposite direction for the left cameras. Since there was more than a mile of film on each side, that would have meant a drastic CG change during a flight without the counterbalancing payout. U-2 pilots wore the world’s first spacesuits, and they were both pioneering and imperfect. Initially made of unyielding rubberized fabric, those partial-pressure suits created rubbing points all over a pilot’s body, particularly on the neck, where the helmet attached to the suit. Since every high- altitude mission required an hour and a half of pre-breathing pure oxygen to purge the body of nitrogen, a U-2 pilot could easily spend 12 hours totally sealed into his suit and helmet. The suits had no provisions for urinating or defecating, so some pilots wore
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7 12 8
LOCKHEED MARTIN U-2S COCKPIT 1. Up-front control/display (UFCD) 2. Center multi-function display (MFD), currently displaying the primary flight display (PFD) page 3. Standby flight display (SFD) 4. Left MFD, currently displaying the moving map page 5. Right MFD, currently displaying the engine system page 6. Main/tail gear indicators (there is no pogo indicator;
mobile pilot observes pogos from chase vehicle) 7. Left/right canopy thrusters (for canopy ejection) 8. Landing gear control lever 9. Cabin climate control 10. Light control panel w/angle of attack (AOA) indicator 11. Fuel control panel 12. Electrical shed handle 13. Left/right rudder pedals 14. Nose pressure handle 15. Emergency gear release handle 16. Flaps control
17. Throttle quadrant 18. Spoiler manual trim power switch 19. Pilot yoke housing 20. Bus control display unit (BCDU) 21. Throttle handle with speed brake, spoiler and mic switches 22. Autopilot ORIGINAL ARTICLE A U-2R cockpit prior to avionics upgrades.
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OPPOSITE PHOTOS: U.S. AIR FORCE; ABOVE RIGHT: NASA
diapers, while others used a catheter. (The suits were improved and are today far more comfortable full-pressure suits.) The U-2 was famously demanding to land, in part because it came at the end of a long, difficult flight, in a blister-making suit and a cockpit with minimal visibility, trapped in a fishbowl helmet. But even at idle, the J57 had enough thrust in ground effect to keep the U-2 flying forever. One pilot reportedly said it was “like trying to land a potato chip.” The only way to do it was to throw out as much drag as possible—landing gear, but there wasn’t much of it, and four big single-slotted Fowler flaps—and then gently tickle the airplane into a high-drag stall angle of attack, but as close to the ground as possible. A full-stall classic taildragger landing was ideal, although in a U-2 it would be two points rather than three. The U-2 was fragile enough that dropping it in from several feet could break the airframe, either at a wing root or the empennage-to-fuselage juncture. Touching down on the forward main gear first and then lowering the tail— what a tailwheel pilot would call a wheel landing—would inevi tably result in porpoising, the hop-skip-and-jump amplitude increasing until the only cure was a go-around. Another U-2 challenge was dealing with fuel balance. Nearly all its fuel was carried in wet-wing sealed cavities that extended to within six feet of the tips. Depending on how it fed to a central sump, the fuel had to be pumped back and forth to keep the airplane in trim, which meant the U-2 had no single howgozit fuel gauge. A simple fuel totalizer showed the exact amount of fuel consumed, but it required being set to the amount of fuel on board at the beginning of a mission, which assumed knowing exactly how much fuel remained at the end of the previous mission. Errors could—and did—cascade. One fatal U-2 accident was caused by a pilot disengaging the autopilot in preparation for hand-flying an approach and landing. He failed to notice that the airplane was badly out of trim because of a fuel-pump problem, and the autopilot had been increasingly compensating for the imbalance. When the A/P relinquished control, the heavy wing dropped and the resulting roll caused the airframe to fail. U-2 fuel itself was a bit of a problem. Ordinary jet fuel would have boiled off and evaporated at the U-2’s extreme altitude, so Kelly Johnson called on his friend Jimmy Doolittle, who had become a vice president of Shell Oil. Doolittle committed to developing a low-volatility, low-vapor-pressure fuel that smelled like lighter fluid; Lockheed consequently designated it LF-1A. A small number of U-2s were fitted with aerial-refueling receptacles. Air-to-air gassing was tried, sometimes with disastrous results. It’s one thing to maneuver a 9G fighter into trail behind a tanker, but the U-2 was stressed to only 2.5 positive Gs, so even the briefest encounter with a KC-135’s wingtip vortices could, and twice did, tear it apart. But why would anybody want to refuel in flight an airplane with a single pilot already at the limit of his endurance? So Lock heed built several carrier-capable U-2s with tailhooks, thinking that at least there could be a crew change as part of at-sea refueling. It was interesting that the difficult-to-land U-2 had little trouble making traps aboard a carrier, though its wingspan made careful attention to the centerline crucial. Perhaps all that conventional U-2s needed was a tailhook and some arresting wires rather than talk-down coaches in Camaros bringing the airplane to what all too often resulted in a groundloop anyway. The U-2 is the only U.S. military aircraft ever to re-enter pro-
ONE PILOT REPORTEDLY SAID THAT LANDING THE U-2 WAS “LIKE TRYING TO LAND A POTATO CHIP.” duction, which happened in the mid-1960s after 40 of the original 55 U-2s had been lost to accidents and shootdowns. Johnson had been prescient enough to squirrel away all the U-2 tooling and jigs in a warehouse, and when more U-2s were needed, he was ready to fire up the Skunk Works production line again. Some say the U-2R and re-engined U-2S constitute a third reopening of the U-2 line, but they are entirely different airplanes despite their resemblance to the original U-2. Nevertheless, the U-2S is universally referred to today as “the U-2.” Although the basic U-2 concept is already 60 years old, the U-2S and its descendants will be with us for the foreseeable future. As sophis-
COCKPIT SELFIE NASA pilot Tom Ryan photographed himself during a test flight in an ER-2 U-2 variant in 2011.
ticated as spy satellites are, it takes time to alter their orbit if reconnaissance of a specific site is needed. Nor can satellites fly complex tracks; they are limited to straightline surveillance. U-2s can be deployed rapidly and fly whatever course is needed. It should come as no surprise then that the Air Force recently admitted U-2s are operating against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, probably flying out of the United Arab Emirates. Nothing else, they have decided, can as effectively track and find the rebels amid tens of thousands of square miles of deso late desert, not even the big Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drones. John Seaberg, the Boston boffins and even Kelly John son couldn’t have imagined what they started. J For further reading, contributing editor Stephan Wilkinson recommends: Spyplane: The U-2 History Declassified, by Norman Polmar; Lockheed U-2, by Jay Miller; and Dragon Lady: The History of the U-2 Spyplane, by Chris Pocock.
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THE LUFTWAFFE’S HIGH-FLYING DIESEL A RUSSIAN PRINCE PILOTING A MODIFIED SPITFIRE FOR THE RAF TARGETED A JUNKERS JU-86R DURING WORLD WAR II’S HIGHEST AERIAL COMBAT BY PETE LEHMANN
n the summer of 1940, a challenging new opponent appeared in the skies over Britain. A prototype German reconnaissance airplane, it flew at a leisurely 200 mph but could climb to an altitude of 41,000 feet—well out of reach of the Royal Air Force’s best interceptor, the Supermarine Spitfire. The Junkers Ju-86P flew so high that the Germans considered defensive armament unnecessary. These diesel-powered recon planes made sporadic overflights of Britain, but by early 1941 they had been transferred to Eastern Europe to conduct covert operations over the Soviet Union in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of June 1941. By the late summer of 1942, however, they were back over Britain, this time carrying bombs. The high-flying Junkers’ reappeargoing up A crewman ance in the West, and their deployment over climbs aboard a Junkers Egypt at that critical juncture in the war, had been Ju-86P prior to taking prompted by two very different imperatives: off on a reconnaissance propaganda-driven revenge over England, and mission over England. strategic reconnaissance in the Middle East.
The high-altitude Ju-86 variants had their beginnings in an innovative but ultimately medio cre twin-engine bomber of the mid-1930s. That aircraft’s technical distinction lay in its 600-hp Junkers Jumo diesel engines, which Hugo Junkers spent years developing. Diesel power plants offered excellent fuel economy but were heavy, resulting in a very poor power-to-weight ratio in aviation applications. To solve that problem, Junkers created a two-stroke design that used opposed pistons in a single bore. His weight-saving measures made it possible to produce diesel engines only marginally heavier than their gasoline-powered equivalents. Despite Junkers’ innovative design, the new diesel was the primary reason for the Ju-86’s lackluster performance during its introduction to combat in the Spanish Civil War. The diesel power plant proved to be unreliable, requiring careful maintenance to avoid seizing pistons and exhaust port erosion. As a result, most Ju-86s had been relegated to training units by the time World War II began. Junkers had also been at the forefront of high- ja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
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HIGHER AIMS On September 12, 1942, Sergeant Horst Götz (top) and 2nd Lt. Erich Sommer (above) were surprised to find their Ju-86R-2 (below) intercepted at altitude by an RAF Spitfire.
altitude research during the 1930s, building two experimental aircraft in an effort to develop pressurized cabins. In addition, by 1939 the company was developing a high-altitude version of the Jumo 205 diesel engine, the 900-hp Jumo 207A equipped with two superchargers. Seeking a market opportunity for their now obsolescent bomber airframes, in September 1939 Junkers proposed to the German Air Ministry a modification of the basic Ju-86D bomber for use at high altitude. The prototype featured the new diesels driving three-blade propellers and the military world’s first pressurized cockpit. The self-contained cockpit seated a two-man crew and maintained pressure equivalent to that at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Bleed air from the port engine’s supercharger was used for pressurization, and warm air ducted between the cockpit’s sandwiched windows prevented their frosting over at altitude. In early 1940, two prototypes flew to test the new systems. They were soon joined by a third version equipped with wings extended by 10 feet. With its nearly 84-foot wings, the third prototype was capable of reaching 40,000 feet. Though the pressurized cockpit and new engines worked well, the extremely low temperatures at those unprec edented altitudes resulted in numerous equipment problems. Airspeed and climb rate indicators, altimeters and engine instrumentation all failed due to icing and cold. The extreme operating altitudes also brought the very slow Junkers into contact with jet-stream winds that considerably
reduced their range. Still, the success of the proto types resulted in a contract for the conversion of 40 Ju-86Ds into two variants of the P model: the P-1 bomber, capable of carrying four 551-pound bombs, and the P-2 unarmed reconnaissance version. Both could reach just 186 mph at altitude, but like the much later Lockheed U-2 (story, P. 20), they relied on their high-altitude performance for immunity from interception. During the summer of 1940, one of the proto types was assigned to the Luftwaffe high command for operational trials, in the course of which it reached 41,000 feet during a sortie over England. Throughout the winter of 1940-41, both the re connaissance and bomber versions flew a handful of missions over Britain without notable success. By the spring of 1941, most of those aircraft had been transferred to the East, where they conducted reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union. Development of the high-flying Ju-86 continued in anticipation of better-performing enemy interceptors. The further improved R model boasted more powerful engines and a tapering wing extension that increased the span to 105 feet. The use of nitrous oxide injection at altitude enabled the diesels to produce more power at 40,000 feet than had the P model’s engines at 32,000 feet (750 hp vs. 680 hp). With the addition of four-blade propellers, the new engines and wings allowed the Ju-86R to fly as high as 47,000 feet. Like its predecessor, the R model appeared in both bomber and reconnaissance versions.
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OPPOSITE PHOTOS & BOTTOM RIGHT: AFIRSOV; TOP RIGHT: FLY AWAY PRO
fter most Ju-86 units had been diverted to support preparations for Operation Barbarossa in the winter of 1940-41, Britain enjoyed a prolonged respite from the overflights. By mid-1942, however, with Germany increasingly targeted by British raids, the Luftwaffe sought to retaliate, if only symbolically. In August it began sending Ju-86R-2 bombers over southern England, never more than two at a time. The single 551-pound bomb each plane carried was meager retribution for the havoc wrought by the RAF’s night bombing campaign, which on May 30 had reached a milestone with the first thousand-bomber raid on Cologne. The Germans began their nuisance bombing campaign on August 24, when two Ju-86R-2s took off from Beauvais, France, for a meandering survey of England’s south coast. Two bombs, dropped on Camberley and Southampton, did little appreciable damage, but the Spitfires of a Polish RAF squadron scrambled to intercept the Ju-86s failed to curtail their malicious tourism—a propaganda boon for the Germans that they touted without mentioning the operation’s small scope. During the ensuing three weeks, the R-2s conducted 10 more missions over England. In view of the Junkers’ light bombloads and ineffective bombing from the stratospheric altitudes at which they flew, the British at first implemented a policy of not sounding air raid sirens for single aircraft. Then, during the morning rush hour of August 28, a Ju-86 dropped a bomb in the heart of Bristol, wrecking several buses, killing 48 civilians and wounding 56—and providing further impetus for the development of a defense against the raids. The primary British interceptor, the Spitfire Mark V, simply couldn’t reach the altitude necessary to attack the bombers. The Mark IX, which had recently begun to enter squadron service, enjoyed a considerably improved service ceiling due to its new Rolls-Royce Merlin engine with a two-stage supercharger, but even that fighter could not reach the Ju-86s. As part of its campaign to intercept the highflying Junkers, the RAF established a Special Serv ice Flight at RAF Croydon, outside London. Six pilots were selected for a unit commanded by Flight Lt. Jimmy Nelson, an American member of the Eagle Squadrons who had chosen to remain in the RAF after the U.S. entered the war. The unit’s most colorful member, Pilot Officer Emanuel Galatzine, was an expatriate Czarist Russian prince. The pilots received specialized highaltitude training, including sessions in an altitude chamber and lectures on high-altitude physiology. Meanwhile, two Spitfires were specially modi fied in an effort to increase their ceiling. Each plane’s weight was reduced by 450 pounds by installing a wooden propeller and removing all armor and the four .303-caliber machine guns.
THE JU-86P FLEW SO HIGH THE GERMANS CONSIDERED DEFENSIVE ARMAMENT UNNECESSARY.
CUSTOMIZED SPIT The light blue Spitfire Mark IX (top) in which Emanuel Galatzine (above) intercepted Sommer and Götz had been specially modified for the task.
That left only two 20mm cannons as armament. The fighters were given a coat of lightweight light blue paint for camouflage. Galatzine recalled that the modified Spitfire was a delight to fly. During his sole training flight, he attained 43,000 feet, enjoying spectacular views of southern England and across the English Channel into occupied France. On September 12, Galatzine set out on his first operational flight in the refurbished Spit after radar detected an aircraft climbing to great height over the French coast before crossing the Channel and penetrating British airspace. At 9:27 a.m. Galatzine scrambled from Northolt and, climbing rapidly, was vectored south toward Portsmouth. He was still climbing through 40,000 feet when he spotted a gray-blue Ju-86 with an enormous wingspan slightly above him. At 42,000 feet it became apparent that the German pilot, Sergeant Horst Götz, had seen the Spitfire. Götz, a veteran of missions in which Spitfires had attempted interception but failed, was shocked to see that this one could reach his altitude. The German immediately jettisoned his bomb and injected nitrous oxide into the engines to boost power, trying to outclimb the Spit. But after Galatzine dropped his 30-gallon external tank, he still had a climbing advantage over the bomber. The RAF pilot began his attack from slightly above and 200 yards astern. But soon after he opened fire, his left cannon jammed. The resulting asymmetric force of his functional starboard weapon caused the fighter to yaw to the right and into the Ju-86’s contrail, which instantly frosted the Spitfire’s canopy and sent the plane out of control. After the canopy cleared, Galatzine renewed his attack three times against the highly maneuverable German aircraft, climbing as high as 44,000 feet. But each attack ended the same way: with his canopy frosted and the Spit out of control. After 45 minutes, with his fuel running low, the frustrated RAF pilot broke off the engagement and the Ju-86 disappeared into clouds over the Channel. Thus ended the highest combat engagement of WWII. Götz made it back to France, landing at Caen to assess minor damage to his aircraft’s left wing from a 20mm shell before returning to Beauvais. ja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
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TECH NOTES But now that the Luftwaffe realized the Ju-86s were vulnerable to interception, they were never sent across the Channel again.
HEIGHT 15 feet 5 inches
CEILING 47,000 feet
ENGINES Two 1,000-hp Junkers Jumo 207B-3/V diesels
WEIGHT 14,800 lbs. (empty) 25,420 lbs. (max)
RANGE 980 miles
WINGSPAN 105 feet
MAXIMUM SPEED 260 mph above 30,000 feet
WING AREA 883 square feet LENGTH 54 feet
CLIMB 900 feet per minute
ARMAMENT Two cameras (R-1) 1,000 kg. bombs (R-2) Three MG 15 7.92mm machine guns
n comparison to their nuisance raids over Britain, Ju-86s presented a far more tangible strategic threat in the eastern Mediterranean. The summer of 1942 represented the nadir of British fortunes in that theater. Two years of seesaw battles across the deserts of northern Egypt and Libya had culminated in a temporary stalemate at El Alamein, 60 miles west of Alexandria. During the desperate battles around El Alamein, as both sides attempted to reinforce and resupply their armies, the Luftwaffe relied on the Ju-86P-2 for reconnaissance. The Ju-86s ranged far and wide behind enemy lines, providing the Germans with vital intelligence on the pace and scope of the frantic British buildup. Flying from Kastelli, in occupied Crete, the Ju-86s of the 2nd Squadron of Long-Range Reconnaissance Group 123 had begun operations over North Africa in May, as the fighting moved from Libya to El Alamein. The squadron’s opera tions over Egypt remained unchallenged by the RAF until late August. Attempts by local RAF commanders to counter the enemy recon planes were handicapped due to the scarcity of the Spitfire Mark IXs that had been used to defend England. But since the Germans were still using the relatively less capable P model in Egypt, an atmospheric quirk allowed even the Mark Vs a chance to reach the high-flying Junkers. That atmospheric quirk had to do with the tropopause, the boundary between the lowest atmospheric layer—the troposphere—and the higher stratosphere. Below the tropopause, the
STRETCHED WING In addition to a 105-foot wingspan, the Ju-86R featured nitrous oxide injection and four-blade propellers, to increase the performance of its diesel engines at altitude.
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OPPOSITE: ©PF (SDASM3)/ALAMY; ILLUSTRATION: STEVE KARP; ABOVE RIGHT PHOTOS: LUFTKRIEG.NET
ever-cooler air remains relatively dense as altitude increases, providing adequate oxygen for engines as they climb. But upon reaching the stratosphere, aircraft performance rapidly dwindles. Since the altitude of the performance-robbing tropopause varies inversely with latitude, at Egypt’s lower lati tude the tropopause occurs at a higher altitude than it does over England. That meant the Mark V’s maximum ceiling was considerably higher over Egypt than it was over England. As in Britain, significant modifications were required to increase the Spitfire’s performance. The RAF’s 103 Maintenance Unit made the modifications at Aboukir, near Alexandria, where three Spitfire Mk. Vbs were stripped of all extraneous equipment, beginning with their armor. The four machine guns were removed, and the heavy 20mm cannons replaced with two lighter .50-caliber guns. A four-blade propeller took the place of the standard three-blade prop, and the engine’s compression ratio was increased. Finally, the wings were extended by fitting the Mark VI’s pointed tips. On August 24, one of the modified Spits, flown by Flying Officer George Reynolds, encountered a Ju-86 near Cairo at 37,000 feet. The German plane climbed to 42,000 feet in an attempt to evade the Spitfire, which managed to get close enough to open fire with its machine guns—apparently without effect, as the Ju-86 escaped. While that inconclusive confrontation seemed like a promising start, it also suggested the need for additional modifications. The Spits were further lightened by removing the heavy radio and its drag-inducing antenna masts. A lighter battery was installed, and the already short-ranged interceptors would take off with 30 fewer gallons of fuel. To direct the now-radioless Spitfires, the RAF
THE SPITFIRE MARK V’S MAXIMUM CEILING WAS CONSIDERABLY HIGHER OVER EGYPT THAN OVER ENGLAND.
EYES IN THE SKY Above left: The camera ports (top) and pressurized hatch (bottom) of the Ju-86P. Above right: Luftwaffe personnel stand beside a Ju-86R undergoing testing in Germany.
employed them as part of a two-aircraft team. Each fully lightened “Striker” would be accompanied by a lighter but radio-equipped “Marker” aircraft. Flying as a team, the Striker would shadow the Marker from several thousand feet above until he was in visual contact with the target aircraft. The first test of this new stratagem came on August 29, when Pilot Officer George Genders got into position below a Ju-86 just long enough to fire a short burst before his weapons jammed. While Genders made no claim, German records indicate he must have damaged the enemy aircraft, since it eventually ditched in the sea short of Crete and its crew was rescued. A week later Genders again encountered a Ju-86 at altitude, beginning a chase that led 80 miles out over the Mediterranean. The RAF pilot fired on the enemy plane, forcing it to descend to an altitude where the trailing Marker aircraft, flown by Pilot Officer Arthur Gold, could inflict further damage. The Ju-86 crash-landed in the desert behind German lines. Genders’ extended pursuit had exhausted his fuel supply, however, forcing him to ditch off the Egyptian coast—followed by a 21-hour swim to shore. The next month saw two more inconclusive encounters between the Spitfires and Ju-86s. But by downing two of the three operational Ju-86s on Crete, the Spits had effectively negated the German reconnaissance planes’ value and stopped their sorties over defended targets. The high-flying Junkers’ war was over. J Pittsburgh-based writer Pete Lehmann is a hang-gliding and sailplane devotee who has pursued his passion for 30-plus years on five continents. Further reading: War planes of the Third Reich, by William Green; and Spitfire Mark V Aces of 1941-1945, by Alfred Price. ja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
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THE DREAM OF STEAM THE BESLER BROTHERS BUILT AND DEMONSTRATED THE FIRST PRACTICAL STEAM-POWERED AIRPLANE ENGINEâ€” THEN MOVED ON TO MORE LUCRATIVE STEAM PROJECTS BY JOHN J. GEOGHEGAN
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FULL HEAD Steam shrouds the Besler brothersâ€™ modified Travel Air 2000 biplane before its first public flight on April 17, 1933, at Oakland Municipal Airport, Calif.
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BY THE TIME THE SUN ROSE OVER OAKLAND MUNICIPAL AIRPORT ON MONDAY, APRIL 17, 1933, NEARLY A HUNDRED PEOPLE HAD GATHERED TO WATCH HISTORY IN THE MAKING.
HOT STUFF George (left) and William Besler pose with their steam engine, which powered the Travel Air.
Newspaper reporters, newsreel companies and aviation execuÂ tives were on hand to witness what William Besler and his brother George had promised would be the first sustained flight of a steam-powered airplane. Aviation had come a long way since the Wright brothers made their first powered flight 30 years earlier. The internal combusÂ tion engine had shrunk in weight and increased in horsepower to the point where steam engines seemed a relic of the past, suitable for powering lumbering locomotives but certainly not modern aircraft. As a result, many of the reporters assembled in Oakland that day were skeptical that a steam-powered airplane could fly. Some even speculated they might be writing about
an air disaster rather than a record-making flight. But there were plenty of reasons to consider steam propulsion for aviation. Steam engines were less complex than internal combustion engines, making them cheaper to maintain and operate. Internal combustion engines lost power at altitude, while a steam engine actually gained
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PREVIOUS PAGES & OPPOSITE: HISTORYNET ARCHIVE; ABOVE RIGHT: ©CLASSIC IMAGE/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
in efficiency. Finally, steam’s reliability and fuel economy— combined with reduced vibration, fire hazard and noise—seemingly promised significant commercial benefits. There were obstacles to steam-powered flight, however, chief among them the fact that steam engines were heavy. Yet as the only practical form of mechanical propulsion during the 19th century, steam power had dominated the early days of aviation. Given steam’s successful use in ships, trains and automobiles, it was only natural that aviators would experiment with it. The first navigable aircraft to fly was Henri Giffard’s steampowered dirigible in 1852. Clement Ader’s steam-powered monoplane was incapable of sustained flight, but Ader demonstrated as early as 1890 that steam could propel a heavier-thanair craft. Smithsonian director Samuel P. Langley’s early experi ments with steam-powered models ended in failure, in part because his engine was underpowered for his aircraft’s weight. On May 6, 1896, however, Langley’s steam-driven Aerodrome No. 5 made two successful flights after being catapulted from a houseboat on the Potomac River, and that November a similar model, his Aerodrome No. 6, flew for approximately 4,790 feet. When a gasoline engine was finally developed that generated more horsepower per pound than a steam engine, the death of steam-powered flight was assured. So it was surprising that in 1933 anyone would try to revive what was by then a white elephant in terms of technology. But nobody had anticipated the groundbreaking work of the Besler brothers or their mentor, Abner Doble. Doble was a second-wave steam evangelist who by 1922 was working with his brothers to build and market high-end steam-powered cars to wealthy clients. The performance of Doble’s cars exceeded that of most automobiles of the day, demonstrating that he and his brothers were nothing short of mechanical geniuses. Doble was an outlier, though. The Stanley Motor Carriage Company, maker of the famous Stanley Steamer, was ready to close its doors by the time he began marketing his own steampowered car. In other words, Doble was attempting to singlehandedly revive what was essentially a dying industry. He also believed in the potential of steam-powered aviation. In 1917 Doble boasted to The New York Times that he could “unquestionably reduce the weight of our steam plant” enough to make it viable for flight. Since no one had as yet managed to develop a steam engine with a sufficient power-to-weight ratio to be practical for airplanes, that was a remarkable claim.
n 1929 Doble hired William J. and George D. Besler, two brothers from New Jersey who had a lot in common with him. Like Doble, the Besler boys came from a wealthy family. They were also fascinated by steam, not surprising given that their father, W.G. Besler, served as chairman of the board of the New Jersey Central Railway. The family also had a financial interest in the Davenport Locomotive and Manufacturing Corporation, which built steam locomotives. The Beslers were eager to learn everything they could about state-of-the-art steam technology, and Doble Steam Motors must have seemed like the ideal place for that. As children, the Besler brothers looked so much alike that they were sometimes mistaken for twins. Both attended Princeton, where they played polo, learned to fly and owned an airplane. George, the oldest by two years, graduated with a geology degree,
IT WAS SURPRISING THAT IN 1933 ANYONE WOULD TRY TO REVIVE WHAT WAS BY THEN A WHITE ELEPHANT IN TERMS OF TECHNOLOGY. while brother William earned a degree in engineering. Around 1929 the Besler boys traveled to Emeryville, Calif., where they worked alongside Abner’s brothers Warren and Bill to reduce the weight of a Doble steam engine for aviation applications. The Beslers also became officers of Doble Steam Motors, apparently thanks to their large investment in the firm. Since the enterprise was bleeding money and Abner was playing fast and loose with company stock, their funds
UNMANNED SUCCESS One of Samuel Langley’s steampowered Aerodromes makes a flight, in an 1897 illustration from The Strand Magazine.
helped keep the firm afloat. Word of the Beslers’ involve ment soon appeared in the press. In May 1930, the Oak land Tribune reported, “With a specially designed steam engine nearing completion in an Emeryville factory, [the] test flight of [an] airplane propelled by steam will be made in the near future.” But the “near future” would prove to be three years away, and due to a bitter dispute between Abner Doble and Beslers, the steam airplane almost didn’t get off the ground. That disagreement resulted in the Beslers’ being ousted from Doble Steam Motors. George and William then sued, claiming Abner was bankrupting the firm. The Beslers prevailed in court, and after the company was forced into receivership in 1931, they wrested control from the Dobles. Out of the original firm’s ashes rose a new com-
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FROM SHOP TO FLIGHT Clockwise from top left: Bill Besler poses with the steam engine’s boiler; Bill (right) and a mechanic carry part of the engine assembly; the Travel Air makes a pass during its demonstration flight; Bill stands next to the aircraft after its public debut.
pany dubbed Besler Systems (later Besler Corporation), with George serving as business manger and William as engineer and chief pilot. Surprisingly, despite their dispute with Abner, the Beslers continued to collaborate with him on the steampowered aircraft engine. By this time, however, the Beslers had competition. In 1932 Harold C. Johnson, proprietor of an Akron, Ohio, welding shop, announced his plans to build a steam-powered plane and fly it from Akron to Los Angeles. The Great Lakes Aircraft Company in Cleveland was also reportedly working on a steam-powered biplane in conjunction with General Electric. In addition, rumors circulated that French, Swedish and Italian designers were in various stages of completing their own steam-driven airplanes. Though nothing came of these efforts, William and George must have felt the competition breathing down their necks.
fter three years of secret experiments, the Beslers were at last ready to unveil their invention. When they arrived at Oakland Municipal Airport on April 17 in their steam-powered Buick, the brothers were instantly mobbed by reporters. Photographers and newsreel cameramen asked them to pose with their aircraft, a Travel Air 2000 biplane with Besler Systems stenciled on its cowling. George, 31, looked very serious in a three-piece suit and hornrimmed glasses, while 29-year-old William appeared jovial and easygoing. As Hearst and Pathe newsreel cameras rolled, Bill donned his leather flying helmet and climbed into the rear cockpit, his overcoat flapping in the wind. Then he turned a switch to ignite the steam engine’s boiler. 40
It took only five minutes for the Besler engine to generate sufficient steam for flight, and there was no need to hand-start its propeller—it started turning on its own. As the Travel Air sped down the runway, a thick white ribbon of water vapor trailed from its exhaust. The steam engine was eerily silent. According to the reporters, all they could hear was the whine of the propeller and the wind in the biplane’s rigging. At least one observer expressed concern that the plane didn’t have enough power to lift off, but all doubts were erased when it winged skyward. In fact, it wasn’t Bill’s first flight in the steampowered Travel Air; he had actually piloted it five days earlier in a seven-m inute trial flight that was certified by the National Aeronautical Association. Besler banked over San Francisco Bay and then circled back toward the field. Flying 200 feet above the reporters, he called out, “Well, how does it look?” The engine was so quiet they could hear him clearly. Bill later remarked that conversation in the aircraft’s cockpit was as easy as in an open-air car. Three times Besler took off and landed, whizzing low over the excited crowd at 100 mph and remaining aloft for a total of 15 minutes. On his final landing, he pulled a lever and the steam engine immediately shifted into reverse, demonstrating its powerful braking action. With the propeller spinning backward, Bill came to a stop in less than 100 feet. The Besler airplane engine was remarkable for its time. A reciprocating 2-cylinder V-type, it weighed just 480 pounds (180 pounds for the engine and 300 for the boiler and condenser). Only a small amount of vaporized fuel oil
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OPPOSITE: (TOP LEFT & BOTTOM RIGHT) HISTORYNET ARCHIVE, (TOP RIGHT & BOTTOM LEFT) VIRTUAL STEAM CAR MUSEUM/STEWART ARCHIVE; ABOVE RIGHT: HISTORNET ARCHIVE
TECH NOTES was required to heat its 10-gallon water tank to 750 degrees. Once steam pressure reached 1,200 pounds per square inch, the engine delivered up to 150 hp, turning the propeller at a healthy 1,625 rpm. Incredibly, the steam-powered Travel Air could fly 400 miles on 10 gallons of water. Given that the engine burned only 40 cents’ worth of fuel oil for every 100 miles of flight, it was every bit as economical as the Beslers had predicted. The brothers had succeeded in building a lightweight and efficient steam aircraft engine, far superior to any that had ever flown. The Travel Air’s flight made headlines across the nation, with newsreels of the demonstration playing for weeks in theaters. Reporters speculated that Besler engine–powered transports would soon be carrying 400 passengers across the Atlantic at 400 mph, and Popular Science Monthly noted, “Experts are watching the progress of the inventors with keen interest.” But neither of the Besler boys was interested in promoting Buck Rogers fantasies. They didn’t take risks, and they didn’t make extravagant claims. “We do not know just what will develop from this initial experiment,” Bill told reporters. “It may be something big or something small. Although convinced we have something remarkable…we hesitate making predictions.” In the days before radar, an airplane that could avoid detection by acoustic location had strong appeal for the military. The U.S. Army expressed an interest in the Beslers’ plane, even sending a representative to tour their factory, but nothing came of it. Despite all the publicity, the Beslers never publicly demonstrated their steam-powered airplane again, and they didn’t pursue a commercial application for their engine aside from filing a few patents. Two years later, George was in Europe stirring up interest in their main business: building rail car equipment. In 1937 the Besler aircraft engine was sold to Japan and thereafter lost to history. The brothers’ modified Travel Air was destroyed in a storm. The Beslers would continue to work on steam-powered transport for the rest of their lives, making a fortune in the process. Three years after their historic flight in California, they designed and built the Blue Goose passenger train (also called the Besler) for the New Haven Railroad. During the 1950s, Besler Corporation built a second steampowered aircraft engine for a U.S. Navy STOL project. The engine was bench-tested but never flew, and was later converted to propel a boat. Bill eventually reconfigured it as a facsimile of the original Besler steam airplane engine and donated it to the Smithsonian Institution. Today it is part of the National Air and Space Museum collection. The Beslers’ engine may have beeen a white elephant as far as aviation is concerned, but there’s no denying the brothers developed an elegant solution to a challenge that had stumped engine designers for decades. As Bill remarked to reporters after his 1933 flight: “We have proved the practicability of the steam power plant in the air. We do not say we will be flying across oceans tomorrow…we do say, however, that a steam-propelled plane can be operated successfully and at much lower cost than one driven by internal combustion.” In hindsight it seems a shame nobody ever commercialized the Besler engine, especially since it produced no emissions other than water vapor. The Beslers didn’t just invent a radically efficient power plant, they designed one of the greenest aircraft engines ever built. Given the current emphasis on reducing
OIL BURNER BOILER
CONDENSER RECOVERS WATER FROM USED STEAM
EXHAUST VAPOR FROM BURNER
REFINED DESIGN Based on Abner Doble’s groundbreaking steam automotive engine, the Beslers’ motor featured a greatly improved power-toweight ratio that for the first time made steam-powered flight practical.
AS THE TRAVEL AIR 2000 SPED DOWN THE RUNWAY, A WHITE RIBBON OF WATER VAPOR TRAILED FROM ITS EXHAUST.
global emissions to combat climate change, it could have come in handy. J Author John J. Geoghegan specializes in unusual inventions that fail in the marketplace despite their innovative nature. Further reading: Steam in the Air: The Application of Steam Power in Aviation During the 19th and 20th Centuries, by Maurice Kelly. To view a newsreel of the Beslers’ steam-powered flight, search “Besler steam plane” on YouTube.
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FIRST FLIGHT Apollo 4 blasts off from Kennedy Space Center on November 9, 1967, in the unmanned first launch of a Saturn V rocket. Opposite: Engineers install Rocketdyne F-1 Saturn V engines on the test stand at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
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APOLLOâ€™S STALLIONS HALF A CENTURY AFTER IT FIRST FLEW, THE AMAZING ROCKETDYNE F-1 REMAINS THE MOST POWERFUL ENGINE EVER CREATED BY MARK CARLSON ja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
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TO THE MOON Neil Armstrong waves as he and Apollo 11 crewmates Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin prepare to board a van for transport to their Saturn V rocket.
Far atop the huge Saturn V launch vehicle, three men began a journey that has been unmatched since the end of the Apollo program. Their flight to the moon took two days, but it was the first 165 seconds that made it all possible. At the very base of the mighty Saturn rocket were five massive engines, each of which produced a little over 1.5 million pounds of thrust. Together their 7.6 million pounds of thrust lifted that huge 3,000ton vehicle away from earth’s gravity and into the boundaries of space itself. The Rocketdyne F-1 was, quite literally, the driving force that took mankind to the moon. It represented a quantum leap in size and power from anything built before. Prior to the F-1, the largest and most powerful liquid-fueled rocket engine in development was the E-1, with 188,000 pounds of thrust. This was woefully inadequate for the task that lay before NASA in early 1961. How
the F-1 was conceived, designed, built and tested is a saga worthy of the Wright brothers or Charles Lindbergh, but on a far grander scale. Rocketdyne was founded by North American Aviation with a team of skilled rocket engineers from the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. In 1958 the Air Force contracted with Rocketdyne for an engine that would become the F-1. Based in Canoga Park, Calif., the company built and first tested components at its facility in the Santa Susanna Mountains north of Los Angeles. Jerry Butsko, who joined Rocketdyne right after graduating from the University of Washington, described the tests as impressive. “You really felt it when that thing went off,” he said with a laugh. Butsko worked on the nozzle, the bell-shaped cone from which the rocket’s force was expelled. “We called that nozzle ‘King Kong.’ It was huge. During one test that thing just exploded.
ALL PHOTOS: NASA
ONE OF THE DEFINING IMAGES OF THE 20TH CENTURY IS OF APOLLO 11 ASCENDING ON A PILLAR OF INCANDESCENT FIRE FROM PAD 39A AT KENNEDY SPACE CENTER ON JULY 16, 1969.
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Everybody in the entire region heard it.” After that Rocketdyne moved the testing to Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, where the company built a massive test stand. The huge structure’s legs were solidly anchored into California bedrock. The Air Force soon canceled the project when it became apparent there was no military need for such a huge engine. But in July 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and took the first serious steps toward a moon landing. When John F. Kennedy was inaugurated in January 1960, the lunar program was well into the concept stage. NASA had chosen lunar orbit rendezvous as the method to reach the moon. The fully loaded Saturn V launch vehicle would weigh in at 6.2 million pounds. The first stage, known as the S-IC, had to lift this immense burden off the launch pad and take it out over the Atlantic Ocean. Then the second stage, the S-II, would take over and bring the crew closer to orbit. Although it would take 11 minutes from ignition to orbital insertion, those first 165 seconds were the most important. Wernher von Braun’s team at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville calculated that an engine for the S-IC first stage would need to generate 1.5 million pounds of thrust. The only existing rocket engine capable of such power was the unproven F-1. In April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Then American Alan Shepard made his 15-minute suborbital flight on May 5. The Redstone rocket he rode produced only 78,000 pounds of thrust. Twenty days later Kennedy asked Congress to support the national goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” It was an audacious decision to go with the unproven F-1. Just before Gagarin’s flight, a proto type F-1 combustion chamber was tested and achieved 1.64 million pounds of thrust, proving
TEST FIRE The five F-1 engines of a Saturn V’s S-IC first stage spew flame and smoke at Marshall Space Flight Center.
THE F-1 ENGINE WAS, QUITE LITERALLY, THE DRIVING FORCE THAT TOOK MANKIND TO THE MOON.
ALL PHOTOS: NASA
VISION REALIZED On November 16, 1963, Wernher von Braun (center) shows off the Saturn V launch system to President John F. Kennedy at Cape Canaveral, soon to be renamed for the assassinated president.
the design. But this was a very brief test, far from what a production F-1 would have to reliably attain. No one knew for certain if it could be done. Even the Russians, with their proven heavy-lift rockets, had not attempted to construct anything that powerful. Some members of Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee said the engine was just too big to work. While the F-1 was a vast leap forward in size, it still used the same basic technology that Rocket dyne had tried and proven on several previous engines. From the Army’s Redstone to the Air Force Atlas and many others, the technology was basically the same. But no one had ever successfully built a rocket with more than a million pounds of thrust. By mid-1962, the Rocketdyne team was ready for a sustained test of the F-1 combustion chamber. At the Edwards test stand on June 28, they lit the igniters and started the turbopumps. Then, as the assembled engineers and NASA officials watched, the engine destroyed itself in a quarter of a second. What went wrong? A rocket engine is actually a very simple machine, at least in concept. Turbopumps inject fuel and oxidizer into a combustion chamber in the presence of a flame. The mixture ignites, creating pressure, which becomes thrust by driving upward against the top of the engine as it vents down out the nozzle. If the thrust is greater than the weight of the vehicle, it lifts off. The interior of the combustion chamber is a hollow cylinder with an injector plate near the top. Hundreds of holes are drilled into the plate, through which the two liquids are pumped to combine to form a mixture that is then ignited. But in order for the engine to work properly, two things must happen exactly right. The fuel and oxidizer must be mixed in the proper proportions, and they must burn smoothly. The F-1, like many ja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
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other rocket engines before and since, used RP-1 (a form of kerosene) as fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) as an oxidizer. With nearly every rocket engine built up to that time, if combustion was unstable or the flow uneven, it was usually a simple matter to rectify. That would not be the case with the F-1. The problem was in scale. The F-1’s combustion chamber was a barrel-shaped cylinder nearly 3 feet in diameter. The injector plate was 4 inches thick and weighed 1,000 pounds. Exactly 6,300 holes, each no larger in diameter than a soda straw, were drilled in the plate, through which the liquids were injected. The holes were arranged in groups of five, with two holes for the RP-1 and three for the LOX. They were designed to combine the streams in two fans at an exact distance from the bottom of the plate, where they would combust. At the moment of ignition, the chamber’s temperature shot up to nearly 6,000 degrees, with pressure soaring from zero to 1,015 pounds per square inch (psi), creating the desired 1.5 million pounds of thrust. The problem the Rocketdyne engineers faced in June 1962 wasn’t simply a bad part or faulty weld. It involved something that had rarely been an issue with smaller engines, combustion instability. Ideally the injectors and igniters created a “smooth flame front,” in which the RP-1 and LOX burned at a uniform temperature and pressure under the entire face of the injector plate. But the F-1’s great size made that virtually impossible. If too much LOX was injected on one side of the chamber, it caused the temperature at that point to be far higher than on the other side. This formed a pressure wave that rebounded from one side to the other, creating a “racetrack” effect with the heat and pressure running out of control in milliseconds, often destroying the engine. Virtually anything could trigger a runaway instability, such as a brief fluctuation in the turbopumps or the thermal shock from the sudden temperature increase. For NASA and Rocketdyne, this was no small problem; it was a major crisis. At that point Rocketdyne propulsion engineer Paul Castenholz
TRAIL OF FLAMES Apollo 6’s F-1s propel the 3,000-ton rocket during the second flight of a Saturn V.
THE SOLUTION WAS TO PUT A BOMB IN THE COMBUSTION CHAMBER.
STANDING TALL Opposite: In NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), Apollo 4 is readied for transport to Pad 39A. Left: A Boeing worker installs an F-1 at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, La.
and Daniel Klute, a mechanical engine researcher, entered the picture. Along with the Marshall Space Flight Center’s Jerry Thompson, a liquid fuel systems specialist, they headed a team of 50 skilled and motivated engineers and technicians to fix the problem. Designated the Combustion Devices Team, they were tasked with making the F-1 reliable. According to Castenholz, the team had the highest priority in the company. “They got what they needed, who they needed and when they needed it,” he said. Early on the team hoped the problem could be fixed without a full redesign of the combustion chamber, something that would set the timetable back months. They worked on adjusting the liquid flow rates, the hydraulics and the angle and pattern of the holes. Each fix was then tested on the Edwards stand, and each time the instability reemerged. The testing had destroyed two engines by the beginning of 1963, but the engineers were still confident they would eventually fix the problem. They all knew that the future of the lunar program, and possibly of NASA and manned spaceflight, hung in the balance. The most difficult task was to determine what caused the instability, as it proved to be both intermittent and unpredictable. “There was no consistency,” Thompson said. “It would happen for reasons we never quite understood.” This of course was in an era before sophisticated computer modeling and analysis. At that point the team hit upon a radical idea. As Castenholz explained, “We had to be able to initiate instability at our command.” They needed a way to consistently create combustion instability to design a fix that worked every time. The solution was to put a bomb in the combusja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
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TECH NOTES ROCKETDYNE F-1 MAIN OXIDIZER (LOX) VALVE GIMBAL BEARING
OXIDIZER (LOX) DOME FUEL INLET MANIFOLD COMBUSTION CHAMBER
GIMBAL OUTRIGGER ARM
MAIN FUEL VALVE ENGINE INTERFACE PANEL HIGHPRESSURE OXIDIZER (LOX) DUCT HIGH-PRESSURE FUEL DUCT TURBOPUMP (FUEL & LOX) GAS GENERATOR TURBOPUMP TURBINE
SPECIFICATIONS LENGTH 19 ft. WIDTH 12 ft. 4 in. MAXIMUM NOZZLE EXIT DIAMETER 11 ft. 7 in. *THRUST 1,500,000 lbs. (sea level)
HEAT EXCHANGER THRUST CHAMBER
RATED RUN DURATION 150 seconds OXIDIZER FLOW RATE: 3,945 lbs./second (24,811 gpm) FUEL FLOW RATE: 1,738 lbs./second (15,471 gpm)
TURBOPUMP EXHAUST MANIFOLD
CHAMBER PRESSURE 1,015 psi WEIGHT FLIGHT CONFIGURATION 18,500 lbs. maximum COMBUSTION TEMP. 5,970° (thrust chamber) 1,465° (gas generator) * Uprated to 1,522,000 lbs. thrust for Vehicle 504 and all subsequent operational vehicles.
ILLUSTRATION BY STEVE KARP, WITH THANKS TO TIMOTHY KARPIN
MIXTURE RATIO 2.27:1 oxidizer to fuel
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ILLUSTRATION BY STEVE KARP, WITH THANKS TO TIM KARPIN
tion chamber. During a firing test, they would hang a small, heavily insulated black powder explosive in the chamber under the injector plate. This radi cal step required some serious brainstorming. Castenholz said they first tried to insert it up the nozzle during firing, but that didn’t work. By plac ing the explosive in the chamber prior to firing, with an insulated wire so it could be detonated at the desired time, the team was finally able to achieve combustion instability when they wanted it. Far beyond trying to develop an F-1 that would run normally, the Combustion Devices Team was striv ing to make it run even after a bomb exploded in the chamber. The real challenge was for the engine to quickly reach what was called “dynamic stability,” meaning it would correct itself in 400 milliseconds. By the spring of 1964, as the Gemini Program was making headlines, Thompson, Castenholz and Klute’s team had accepted that a perfect fix seemed unattainable. For the next 24 months, the team concentrated on the injector plate, the heart of the system. They installed copper baffles to break up the rebounding shock waves. The first ones were thin, and Thompson noted the shock waves bent them over like a tornado had gone through. The next baffles were two inches thick at the base and cooled from RP-1 in the injec tor plates. “They did help,” Thompson said, “but they failed to stop the instability. We tried every trick we could think up, at least 40 or 50.” Each time they tested a new idea it sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. It got to the point where they were repeating ideas they had already tried weeks earlier. Months passed without a solid solution. Sometimes the F-1 became unstable after the bomb went off and petulantly refused to settle down, but sometimes it did. Each time the team was a bit closer to success. In the summer of 1964, the engineers decided to change the angle of the holes in the injector plate so the liquids would impinge slightly farther down in the chamber. This decreased efficiency by a few percent, but the instability also became less frequent. More adjust ments were made until the incidents of instability decreased and at last ceased entirely. In each test the bomb detonated, the pressure shot up and then the combustion stabilized in 100 milliseconds. That was the turning point for Rocketdyne. On April 16, 1965, nearly three years after the original engine prototype had been tested, five F-1s were mounted on the Huntsville test stand and fired together for the first time. A searing yellow-white column of flame shook the ground like a sustained earthquake. All the engines worked perfectly, gen erating 7.5 million pounds of thrust for 6.5 sec onds. Although the team didn’t yet know it, they had finally fixed the problem. The F-1 never failed to work perfectly from then on. The November 9, 1967, flight of the unmanned Apollo 4 Saturn V
BLAST FURNACE An F-1 is test fired at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
A SEARING YELLOW-WHITE COLUMN OF FLAME SHOOK THE GROUND LIKE A SUSTAINED EARTHQUAKE.
was a total success. Thirteen months later the F-1 made history. On the morning of December 21, 1968, three astronauts sat in the Apollo 8 Command Module atop Saturn V SA-503. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were about to leave earth to become the first men ever to reach the moon. The 363-foot-tall Saturn V stood on the concrete pad, nestled in the steel embrace of the 500-foot red launch tower. The Saturn’s S-IC first stage was a giant 33-foot-diameter cylinder containing two propel lant tanks and five F-1 engines. The turbopumps had to reliably force huge quantities of fuel and oxidizer into the five combustion chambers. The five new F-1 engines waited like restless stallions, ready to devour the 534,000 gallons of RP-1 and LOX in the tanks. Driven by a 55,000-hp turbine, the fuel would be pumped at 15,471 gallons per minute and the LOX at 24,811 gallons per minute, or five tons of RP-1 and 10 tons of oxidizer every second—enough to fill a 25-foot swimming pool in 27 seconds. The structure on which the engines were mounted weighed 21 tons and was designed to distribute the 3,750 tons of thrust against the rocket’s base. Just before 12:51 p.m., at T-minus 8.9 seconds, ja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
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the launch sequence began with the lighting of four igniters in each engine, burning the fuel-rich mixture in the turbine-powering gas generators. Five huge clouds of black smoke and orange flames from the gas generator erupted from the engine nozzles and engulfed the base of the rocket. LOX sprayed into the main combustion chambers, where it combined with an explosive charge of igniter fuel, touching off an inferno at T-minus 6.4 seconds. As pressure in the combustion chambers reached 20 psi, the main fuel valves opened. The fuel first ran through a web of tubing in and around the combustion chamber walls to help cool it during firing. The turbopumps spooled up to full power. In each engine a ton of RP-1 and two tons of LOX were forced through the 6,300 holes so painstakingly drilled into the injector plates. As the mixture burned, pressure reached 1,015 psi and the roaring inferno shot from the 12-foot-wide exhaust nozzles into the wide flame trench beneath the launch pad. An incandescent fireball erupted from the base of the rocket. The five engines were timed to reach full power at slightly staggered intervals to prevent a single massive shock wave from slamming into the rocket. By T-minus 0.0, the combined thrust had reached 7.5 million pounds, and four huge hold-down arms released the straining monster while the upper five umbilical arms connecting the rocket to the tower swung away. In a third of a second the Saturn V was free. The ponderous rocket, as long and heavy as a World War II destroyer, began to climb. The roar of a Saturn V’s engines entering main stage was, next to a nuclear detonation, the loudest manmade sound on earth. Three miles away at the public viewing areas, the sound first came through the ground like an approaching earthquake and then hammered spectators’ ears like a volcanic eruption. Slowly at first, as if reluctant to leave the earth, but then gradually gaining speed, the Saturn ascended on five blinding white pillars of flame. As it cleared the tower the sound roared and
HISTORIC JOURNEY In the first manned launch of a Saturn V, the Apollo 8 crew ascends from Kennedy on their mission to orbit the moon.
THE MIGHTY F-1S CONTINUED TO BURN PERFECTLY, GULPING 15 TONS OF FUEL AND LOX EVERY SECOND.
APOLLO’S GENESIS Opposite: Apollo 8’s S-IC stage awaits final assembly at the VAB. Left: On December 21, 1968, the Apollo 8 crew prepares to become the first to leave earth orbit.
rebounded for miles. It was several hundred feet in the air before the searing column of flame cleared the launch pad and the rocket started to head out over the Atlantic. Still the mighty F-1s continued to burn perfectly, gulping 15 tons of fuel and LOX every second, until the Saturn was streaking through the azure sky at 5,400 mph at an altitude of 36 nautical miles and 50 miles downrange. At 12:53:30, 150 seconds after ignition, the F-1s shut down. They had done their job. With a bang of pyrotechnic charges the S-IC first stage was jettisoned and fell away into the ocean, carrying the F-1s to a watery grave. The S-II second stage’s five J-2 engines ignited for their role in taking Apollo 8 into space. While the people at Kennedy Space Center and Mission Control in Houston, Texas, cheered, the Apollo 8 crew began their historic flight to another world. Forgotten in the excitement was the job done by the exquisitely designed machine that made it possible. Yet for the men and women of Rocketdyne who designed, built and perfected the F-1 through all those frustrating months of toil and sweat, their triumph had finally come. It is not a stretch to say that without the Rocket dyne F-1, there would likely be no human footprints on lunar soil. J Mark Carlson is the author of two books on aviation history and an avid fan of NASA’s golden age. Recommended reading: Apollo: The Race to the Moon, by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox; The Saturn V F-1 Engine: Powering Apollo Into History, by Anthony Young; and Saturn V Flight Manual, a NASA publication. ja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
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PHOTOS: XXX XXXXXXX
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TRIPLE-AXIS ACE PHOTOS: XXX XXXXXXX
AMERICAN LOUIS CURDES SHOT DOWN GERMAN, ITALIAN AND JAPANESE AIRPLANES, THEN ADDED A U.S. TRANSPORT TO HIS TALLY BY DON HOLLWAY
mixed bag Captain Louis E. Curdes shows off his victory tallyâ€” including an American flag representing the C-47 he downed.
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BAD ANGELS Curdes poses with his ground crew in front of his P-51D Mustang of the 4th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Air Commando Group.
And just one, Louis Curdes, scored an Axis trifecta plus an American plane to boot. Curdes’ unusual story has gone viral online, where it was embellished with distortions and half-truths. Here are the facts. In late April 1943, 2nd Lt. Louis E. Curdes of Ft. Wayne, Ind., flew his first mission in a Lockheed P-38G Lightning for the 95th Fighter Squadron, 82nd Fighter Group. Over Cap Bon, Tunisia, his flight ran into a group of Messerschmitt Me-109s. Curdes got behind one. “I could see my tracers curving right into his nose,” he said. “I broke off at 100 yards and passed in front of the ’109, which nosed over and went straight in. There was a big splash and an oval of white foam.”
Separated from his flight, Curdes spotted three Messerschmitts chasing a Lightning just above the water. He attacked the right-hand plane. “My tracers went into him, puffs of black and white smoke came out and he did a wingover straight in,” he reported. The remaining Germans were still pursuing the struggling P-38. “I made a 30-degree deflection shot at the leader, closing to 20 degrees and making about 350 mph. The ’109 burst into flames, exploded and flopped into the water.” With three kills on his first mission, Curdes named his P-38 Good Devil, adorning its nose with an image of Lucifer wearing a halo. On May 19, after the 82nd escorted B-25 Mitch ell bombers to Sardinia, eight Me-109s engaged
PREVIOUS PAGES: U.S. AIR FORCE; ABOVE & OPPOSITE BOTTOM: COURTESY OF VALERIA WHITNEY; OPPOSITE TOP: USAF317THVET.ORG
OF ALL THE AMERICAN PILOTS WHO FLEW AND FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR II, ONLY A HANDFUL MANAGED TO SHOOT DOWN AIRCRAFT FROM ALL THREE AXIS COUNTRIES.
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the Americans over the Mediterranean. “My leader chased one ME 109 off the tail of the first element and another came in at about a 30-degree angle,” Curdes recalled. “I shot him down. We were attacked again and everyone seemed mixed up.... these MEs were fast and persistent and three dived at us from the rear.” Curdes turned into their attack. “I fired at the first ME and missed, but he took off. The second one I shot into the sea.” After just two missions and a little over a month of combat, he had five swastikas painted on his P-38. Curdes opened his account against a second Axis power on June 24, shooting down an Italian Macchi C.202 over Sar dinia. (Some online sources claim the Macchi on display at the National Air and Space Museum is the one he downed, but curators have cast doubt on that assertion.) In August he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, but later that month his luck ran out. On August 27, the 95th tangled with 50 enemy fighters over Naples. Curdes claimed two before his Lightning was hit. He crash-landed in enemy territory and was captured. That should have been the end of his fighter pilot career. Days later, however, Italy withdrew from the war and the Italian prison guards simply went home, leaving the prisoners to fend for themselves. Curdes made his way south, and on May 27, 1944—nine months to the day after being shot down—he met up with the advancing British Eighth Army. Regulations forbade a former POW to risk fighting on the same front, lest he be recaptured and tortured to reveal the details of his escape and evasion. But the war wasn’t over, and Curdes had plenty of fight left. He transferred to the Pacific.
unlikely target In February 1945, Curdes (left) downed a C-47 of the 317th Troop Carrier Group, similar to those being fueled above, that was about to land on a Japanese-occupied island.
PREVIOUS PAGES: U.S. AIR FORCE; ABOVE & OPPOSITE BOTTOM: COURTESY OF VALERIA WHITNEY; OPPOSITE TOP: USAF317THVET.ORG
n January 6, 1945, U.S. forces landed at Lingayen, in the Philippines. Flying with the 4th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Air Commando Group, Curdes named his P-51D Bad Angel. On February 7, 30 miles southwest of Formosa, the lieutenant completed his hat trick, downing a Mitsubishi Ki-46 twin-engine reconnaissance plane. Just three days later Curdes made history during an attack on a Japanese airstrip on Batan Island, in the Formosa Strait (often confused in retellings with Bataan). His flight of four Mustangs shot down two enemy fighters and got three others on the ground. After his section leader was hit by flak and bailed out over the water, Curdes sent his no. 4 home to bring more fighters and ordered his wingman up to 15,000 feet to radio for a flying boat rescue. Then he headed back down to strafe the airfield, to keep any remaining enemy fighters on the ground. When Curdes came up again, he spotted a twin-engine transport approaching the field at low level from the east. Noting the American stars on what appeared to be a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, he at first thought, “Those damned Japs have patched up one of our buggies, and didn’t even have the grace to take the markings off.” “The P-51 pilot had to decide whether it was one of our own planes that was lost or a Jap-built DC-3 [Showa/Nakajima L2D], with American insignia,” explained General George C. Kenney, commander of Allied air forces in the Southwest Pacific Area. “He flew up alongside and satisfied himself that the pilot was not a Jap.” Curdes also recognized on the Skytrain the markings of the “Jungle Skippers,” the 39th Military Airlift Squadron of the 317th Troop Carrier Group. The transport had taken off
THE C-47 CREW DIDN’T REALIZE THE ISLAND THEY HEADED FOR WAS ENEMY-HELD BATAN. from Leyte for Manila with eight passengers, including two nurses. Rough weather had carried it far off course, and after almost five hours
in the air the C-47 was low on fuel and couldn’t raise any help via radio. According to the after-action report: “We received no bearings or response of any kind. The airplane continued until 1150 hrs, and was still over water. The pilot then informed his passengers that he was in trouble and would set the airplane down on the first land he saw.” Unfortunately, the crew didn’t realize the island they headed for was enemy-held Batan. “I tried to contact the pilot by radio,” Curdes noted. “This failed.” “[Curdes] then dived in front of the transport to keep it from landing on the Japheld strip,” related Kenney. “The pilot of the transport circled again and again started to glide in for a landing. The P-51 pilot then decided on a desperate measure.”
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“The gear was put down,” the report continued, “and at 150 ft altitude, with the airplane at half flaps and about to be put down, six strings of tracers came up in front of us.” “I shot across the nose of the ship,” Curdes said, “but still he came on.” In what he later referred to as a “last resort,” he then closed to 20 yards, took careful aim and used his machine guns to take out the Skytrain’s right engine. Still the transport held course. The passengers and crew inside must have been horrified to see the Mustang then sideslip over to port and shoot up their left engine. That did it. “We ditched 300 yards from shore,” they reported. “…Four rafts were put out. One was perforated by bullets and sank. The 12 of us got into the three rafts. The P-51 circled us for an hour but did not fire again.” Curdes dropped them a message: “For God’s sake, keep away from shore. Japs there.” By then, however, everybody had figured that out. “We were out about a mile when machine guns and rifles opened up on us from the shore,” the crew noted. “We were out of range, but the shooting continued for 30 minutes.” Curdes and his wingman flew back to base, but returned to Batan before dawn to find the life rafts, including that of their section leader, still bobbing in the waves west of the island. The P-51s flew cover until a PBY-5A Catalina arrived and picked up everybody. “They were all quite put out at the action of the P-51 lad until the situation was explained to them,” remembered Kenney, “but from then on the kid was the greatest hero of the war as far as they were concerned.” Back at base, Curdes was shocked to discover on the C-47 56
CURDES DROPPED THEM A MESSAGE: “FOR GOD’S SAKE, KEEP AWAY FROM SHORE. JAPS THERE.” passenger manifest the name of a nurse he had dated the night before. “Jeepers,” was his comment—or at least that’s what the reporter who wrote up Curdes’ story for the August 1945 issue of Air Force magazine recalled—“seven
109’s and one Macchi in North Africa, one Jap, and one Yank in the Pacific—and to top it, I have to go out and shoot down the girlfriend.” In most retellings, Curdes goes on to marry that nurse and they live happily ever after together. Not quite. “My dad might have been dating a nurse on the plane that was shot down,” said his daughter, Valeria Whitney, “but he went out on a blind date with my mom in Los Angeles. Love at first or second date!” They were married in 1946. “The P-51 lad already had painted on the nose of his airplane seven Nazi swastikas and one Italian insignia…as well as a Jap flag for a victory in the Pacific,” Kenney recalled. “He added an American flag in memory of his latest exploit.” But since the C-47 was not counted as an official victory, Louis Curdes’ final score stands at nine. In recognition of his quick thinking and sharp shooting he received an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross. General Kenny said, “I awarded him an Air Medal for the job and told him I hoped he wouldn’t feel called on to repeat that performance.” J Frequent contributor Don Hollway thanks Valeria Whitney for sharing her photos and memories of her father. Further reading: P-38 Lightning Aces of the 82nd Fighter Group, by Steve Blake. More at donhollway.com/curdes.
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF VALERIA WHITNEY; ILLUSTRATION: DON HOLLWAY
happy endings Curdes receives a hero’s welcome (far left) in Fort Wayne, Ind., after returning from the Pacific, and walks down the aisle with Svetlana Brownell (left) in 1946. Below: A profile of Bad Angel pre–U.S. flag addition.
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A COMPLETE HISTORY OF U.S. COMBAT AIRCRAFT FLY-OFF COMPETITIONS
also-ran fighter North American’s F-107 lost out to the Republic F-105 in a 1950s tactical fighter fly-off.
Winners, Losers, and What Might Have Been by Erik Simonsen, Specialty Press, 2016, $44.95.
In an insightful prologue, aerospace industry special-effects expert Erik Simonsen discusses the profound influence of confiscated German aeronautical technology at the end of World War II. > > The development of sweptwing jet aircraft and early rocket engines was destined to influence the design of postwar combat airplanes and missiles. Simonsen goes on to describe competitions for contracts to build some of the most important fighters and bombers of the Cold War and beyond. Nearly forgotten designs 58
like the North American B-45 Tornado medium bomber receive recognition along with better-known warplanes such as the Boeing B-47 Stratojet. Simonsen’s renowned artistic talents are on full display, with each aircraft type depicted not only in classic photos but also in computer-generated color imagery, which adds
immensely to the lively narrative. A specifications table at the end of each chapter provides vital performance data. This book makes you wonder how unsuccessful concepts and prototypes like the North American F-107A and Northrop YA-9A might have performed in combat over the jungles of Vietnam or the deserts of the Middle
East. The final chapters do an excellent job of recounting the hotly contested fly-offs that resulted in the selection of Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. The ever-shrinking number of projects and airframe companies to bid on them today can only be lamented. Simonsen’s fascinating review of key procurement programs is sure to engender nostalgia for the time when many grand old companies offered fresh designs for frequent competitions. Philip Handleman
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AMONG THE HEADHUNTERS An Extraordinary World War II Story of Survival in the Burmese Jungle by Robert Lyman, Da Capo Press, 2016, $25.99.
Several recent World War II histories portray decidedly unglamorous birds: multi engine transports. Gregory A. Freeman’s The Forgotten 500 chronicles how Douglas C-47s airlifted downed U.S. airmen out of Serbian terri tory. Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La recounts the ordeal of C-47 passengers trapped in New Guinea. Now Robert Lyman’s Among the
Headhunters shifts the focus to the China-Burma-India Theater and the Curtiss C-46 Commando. The C-46, aptly nick named the “Curtiss Calam ity,” arrived fresh from the production line largely untested. Even factory repre sentatives feared to ride in it. Despite its teething troubles,
the aircraft added cargo heft to flights across the “Hump,” a 700-mile journey from northeast India to China over soaring Himalayan peaks. The Hump proved to be the war’s most dangerous cargo air route; between June and December 1943, for example, 135 major aircraft accidents resulted in 168 deaths. On August 2, 1943, a C-46 carrying four crewmen and 18 passengers, including CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid, crashed in the Patkai Range, on the boundary between India and Burma, home turf for tribes of Naga headhunt ers. Lyman chronicles the C-46 party’s quest for sur vival and ultimate rescue. Like The Forgotten 500 and
Lost in Shangri-La, Among the Headhunters is not primarily an aviation book. The author “strands” the Sevareid party a third of the way into the book to inject a lengthy account of a prewar British colonial expedition to punish renegade Naga tribes, even tually resuming their story. Still, that earlier drama gives context to the C-46 saga. The survivors hacked their way back to civilization through rugged terrain. Their story made headlines while highlighting the plight of air crews that were daily risking their lives flying the Hump, prompting the formation of the Army Air Force’s first-ever air search and rescue unit. David Sears
The Giant Handley Page Bombers of the First World War by Rob Langham, Casemate Publishers, 2016, $34.95. During World War I, Handley Page bombers formed the back bone of Independent Force, the portion of Britain’s Royal Air Force that later evolved into Bomber Command. The H.P. bombers were neither the first large multiengine bombers to see operational service during the war nor the largest. But when they were introduced they were by far the largest air planes in Britain. Produced in great numbers, they saw widespread service on night raids over the Western Front and the Middle East. Ironically, the RAF’s first strategic bombers did not originate from a requirement issued by the RAF or that service’s predecessor, the Royal Flying Corps. It was the Royal Navy that requested a “bloody paralyser of an airplane” with which to try to stop the German army in late 1914. That requirement was fulfilled by Frederick Handley Page, who had already con structed one oversized airplane specifically to fly nonstop across the Atlantic, though it never flew. It took Handley Page almost two years to develop the O/100 and get it to the Western Front. That was a long time by WWI standards, but considering the plane’s unprecedented size, it was a remarkable achievement. A total of 46 O/100 bombers were completed before the type was superseded by the improved O/400 model, of which 600 more were built, including 107 manufactured under license in the U.S. The last but by no means least of the wartime H.P. bombers was the enormous four-engine V/1500, designed to bomb Berlin, of which 63 were built but none fielded before the armistice. Bloody Paralyser recounts the nearly forgotten story of how the H.P. bombers were developed and used, including many quotes from firsthand accounts of those who flew them. Meticulously researched and well written, it is a must for anyone interested in comprehending the nature of the WWI air war. Robert Guttman
The Best AirVenture Photography By Hal Bryan, James P. Busha and Dick Knapinski, Voyageur Press, 2016, $24.99. As its subtitle proclaims, this book contains the very best photography of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual sum mer airshow and fly-in at Oshkosh, Wis. Over the years, it has mushroomed into one of the world’s big gest aviation gatherings. During that week, the air port’s control tower becomes the busiest in the world, guid ing more than 10,000 aircraft as half a million aviation enthusiasts congregate. The book is packed with 240 spectacular color images. Each aircraft type is repre
sented, from ultralight to modern warbird, captured in every imaginable angle and time of day, as if the photog raphers were sleepless aerial gymnasts. To their credit, the organizers of this paean to Oshkosh’s wonders have also included pictures of the vol unteers and attendees whose warmth and enthusiasm dominate the atmosphere. EAA founder Paul Poberezny is rightly credited with hav ing the vision to make such a thing happen, and his son Tom receives recognition for building the event into such a huge success. Current EAA CEO Jack Pelton notes in his foreword that it is a “family reunion” where attendees get to live the dream of flight. This gorgeous book will leave you breathless, either reminding you of your own Oshkosh experience or show ing you what it’s all about if you’ve never been. Either way, you’ll want to own this visual feast. Philip Handleman ja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
9/29/16 4:45 PM
REVIEWS CLASSICS THE FINAL HOURS
A German Jet Pilot Plots Against Goering by Johannes Steinhoff As a Luftwaffe officer, Johannes “Macky” Stein hoff flew 993 missions and chalked up 176 aerial victories, making him the 26th highest scoring ace of all time. A recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, Steinhoff was the first commander of Jagdgeschwader 7, Germany’s first operational fighter wing to fly the Messerschmitt Me-262 jet. He ended the war as a flight leader in Lt. Gen. Adolf Galland’s Jagdverband 44, the legendary wing of jet aces. Though many today might not be able to identify Steinhoff by name, he is instantly recognizable as the man with the deeply scared face
who accompanied President Ronald Reagan and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl during their controversial official visit to the Bitburg German Military Cemetery on the 40th anniversary of V-E Day. Steinhoff’s book The Final Hours: A German Jet Pilot Plots Against Goering, originally pub lished in 1974 in Germany, is one of the most objective and introspective of all mem oirs written by a World War II German senior officer. It focuses primarily on the period from October 1944 to the end of the war, when swarms of Allied bombers pummeled the Third Reich on an almost daily basis. Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring, who once boasted
that if a single Allied bomber ever appeared over Germany “You can call me Meier,” tried to make his fighter pilots the scapegoats for his own leadership failures and inabil ity to provide the Jagdwaffe with the right resources and equipment, especially the Me-262. Well into 1945, Adolf Hitler and Göring insisted that the Me-262 was primarily a tactical bomber rather than a fighter. The veteran pilots refused to take it sitting down, and
Steinhoff’s book is an insider’s account of what became known as the Fighter Pilots’ Revolt. Along with his close friend Günther Lützow, Steinhoff was one of the lead ers of that revolt. They were supported by Galland, who by that time was Göring’s number-one whipping boy. As a result of their rebellion, Galland was fired as the general of fighters and all the veteran pilots were ostracized and reassigned to ground jobs. Then in March 1945, in an act of final desperation, Hitler allowed Galland to form them all into JV.44, fly ing the Me-262. Lützow was shot down and killed on April 24, six days after Steinhoff’s Me-262 blew a tire on take off, crashed and caught fire. The man who was once called the “handsomest man in the Luftwaffe” crawled out of the wreck with his face and hands horribly burned. The only thing wrong with this book is that the reader longs for more. Steinhoff’s earlier experiences in the cockpit would make for mes merizing reading, and the rest of his story would be even more captivating. Steinhoff overcame his terrible injuries to fly again, becoming one of the Bundesluftwaffe’s found ing leaders. He played a key role in developing the techni cal and training solutions that resolved the F-104 Starfighter crisis of the early 1960s, and in 1966 he became the German air force’s chief of staff. From 1971 to 1974, he served as the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, the second German officer to hold that top position. General Johannes Stein hoff is one of Germany’s greatest heroes on more than one level. His classic book is essential reading. David T. Zabecki
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by Jon Guttman, Osprey Publishing, 2015, $22.95.
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9/15/16 10:33 AM
“SCRAMBLED EGGS” WAS THE WORKING TITLE OF THIS HIT BEATLES SONG
- Penny Lane - Eleanor Rigby - Yesterday - Ticket to Ride
For more, search DAILYContact QUIZusattoHistoryNet.com. put your advertisement in front of thousands of history enthusiasts! 800.649.9800 firstname.lastname@example.org
YESTERDAY. PAUL MCCARTNEY WROTE THE MELODY WITH NO WORDS, SO HE CALLED THE SONG “SCRAMBLED EGGS.” THE WORKING OPENING LINE WAS “SCRAMBLED EGGS/OH, YOU HAVE SUCH LOVELY LEGS.”
For information on placing a Direct Response or Marketplace ad in Print and Online contact us today: Aviation History 800.649.9800 / Fax: 800.649.6712 / email@example.com / www.russelljohns.com
One of the more unusual titles in Osprey’s “Aircraft of the Aces” series, this book by World War I expert (and Aviation History research director) Jon Guttman showcases a different group of aces and their aircraft. We tend to think of air aces flying single-seaters, alone in the sky facing off against enemy fighters. But quite a few flew multiseat aircraft. Often the pilot and his observer/gunner shared credit for kills, and just as often the gunner or pilot shot down opposing aircraft on his own. In addition to its many unusual photos and well-done cover illustration by Mark Postlethwaite, the book features color profiles by expert Harry Dempsey that showcase a satisfying lineup of aircraft rarely seen in such detail. French Caudrons and Breguet bombers, British Sopwith 1½-Strutters and de Havilland D.H.9s, Americancrewed Salmson 2A2s, along with German Rolands, Albatroses and Hannovers plus Austro-Hungarian Brandenburg C.Is—all appear in their wartime colors. Of particular interest is the first profile of a Caudron G.4, whose crew nacelle carried a red cocotte that resembled a piece of origami. That paper bird was an affectation of Captain Joseph Vuillemin, who made it the insignia of the squadron he led, C.11, as well as his personal motif on the Breguet 14B2 in which he led mass bombing raids and was credited with seven victories. Guttman has opened up an entirely new and rarely discussed area of WWI aviation. His new book should please both historians and modelers. Peter Mersky
9/26/16 12:04 PM AVHP_170100_REVIEWS.indd 62
9/15/16 10:33 AM
9/29/16 4:46 PM
1. W hat was the first manned rocket-powered aircraft to fly? A. Lippisch Ente B. Bereznyak-Isayev IS-1 C. Opel RAK.1 D. Messerschmitt Me-163
Can you identify this floatplane freighter? See the answer below.
MIXED BAGS A. Werner Mölders B. Saburo Sakai C. Clive Caldwell D. Hans-Ekehard Bob E. Günther Rall F. Pierre Le Gloan G. Wolfgang Falck H. Constantin Cantacuzino I. Toshio Sakagawa J. John Voll
1. Soviets, British, Chinese, Americans 2. Belgians, British, Yugoslavs, Soviets 3. French, British, Soviets, Americans 4. Germans, Hungarians, Romanians 5. Soviets, Americans, Germans 6. Chinese, Dutch, Australians, Americans 7. Germans, Italians, Japanese 8. Poles, British, Danes 9. Spanish, French, British, Soviets 10. Germans, Italians, British
3. W ho was the first woman in space? A. Ellen Ochoa B. Sally Ride C. Valentina Tereshkova D. Eileen Collins 4. W hat did Julie Payette insist on bringing along on her 2009 space flight? A. Canadian flag B. Sweater signed by Maurice “The Rocket” Richard C. Book of Canadian aviation achievements D. Maple syrup 5. W hat distinguished Liu Yang from previous Chinese astronauts? A. Being married B. Former fighter pilot C. Former transport pilot D. Having a child
ANSWERS: MYSTERY SHIP: Fleet 50K. Learn more about it at HistoryNet.com/aviation-history. MIXED BAGS: A.9, B.6, C.7, D.2, E.3, F.10, G.8, H.5, I.1, J.4 ROCKET SCIENCE: 1.A, 2.D, 3.C, 4.B, 5.C
LEFT: CANADA SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY MUSEUM; RIGHT: NASA
Match the fighter ace with his opponents.
hat was the first rocket 2. W to send a satellite into space? A. Titan II B. Proton-K C. Atlas LV-38 D. Sputnik-PS
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AVHP_170100_FLIGHT TEST.indd 63
9/30/16 1:14 PM
Out of Cold Storage
moon mitts Neil Armstrong wore these gloves during his twoplus hours on the lunar surface. Inset: Armstrong’s iconic photo of lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin.
NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM; INSET: NASA
or preservation purposes, the spacesuits worn by astronauts are generally stored in a cold, dark, controlled environment due to their fragility. Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign launched by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, however, Neil Armstrong’s recently conserved helmet and extravehicular gloves were placed on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Northern Virginia last summer—47 years to the day after he became the first man to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 (learn the fate of another Armstrong artifact in “Aviators,” P. 16). The gloves and helmet, last publicly exhibited during 2012, will remain on view through July 2017.
ja n ua ry 2 0 1 7
9/29/16 4:49 PM
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9/19/16 AM 9/15/16 11:17 2:33 PM
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8/31/16 1:10 PM 9/14/16 AM 9/12/16 11:43 2:42 PM