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Conserving Point Cook’s Spitfire AIRSHOWS Oshkosh ✪ Blakesburg ✪ Jersey ✪ Midland ✪ Legends NEWS New Aussie Spitfire ✪ Norseman ✪ Fairey Battle ✪ Caproni 100


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Contents Volume 27, Number 2, November 2015 – January 2016

Features

18 “We Are Lost” Michael Claringbould tells the tragic tale of the disappearance of a Free French Air Force Blenheim in North Africa.

24 Victorian & Interstate Airways Ltd From the archives of the Aviation Historical Society, Roger McDonald’s story of the Essendon-based airline formed in 1936.

27 Freda Mary Thompson Neil Follett’s profile of an Australian aviation pioneer.

30 Recovering Lacy Smith and his Spitfire Alf Batchelder and Andy Wright pay tribute to Henry Lacy Smith and the RAAF Museum’s conservation of his Spitfire.

36 Avro Cadet Mike Shreeve looks at Kermit Weeks’ ex-Australian Avro 643 Cadet II at his Fantasy of Flight facility in Florida.

38 The last Metalplane Philip Makanna of GHOSTS .com presents a pictorial portrait of the last flying Hamilton Metalplane

44 Wildfire Bombers Roger Cain looks at some of the modified old military and propliner aircraft used to help control the wildfires in North America.

48 Martian Twilight? James Kightly brings us up to date with the Coulson Group’s Martin Mars water bombers in Canada.

52 Hercules & Thor in Australia James Kightly outlines the current use in Australian of two historic and rare versions of the perennial Hercules family.

54 A Fateful Ferry Andy Wright details a W.W.II flying accident that would continue to affect the pilot for decades to come.

62 Unwelcome Intruder Michael Claringbould reviews the Rikujoh teisatsu-ki, an obscure type that scoured Australian skies in W.W.II.

68 Fly low, fly fast, turn left…in a jet For the past fourteen years, the fastest aircraft around the Reno pylons have been from the Jet Class. Editor Rob Fox reports on the Australians that have been in the thick of it.

72 ‘Hoot’ Gibson wins at Reno Roger Cain reports on the 52nd National Championship Air Race won by retired NASA astronaut Robert ‘Hoot’ Gibson in ‘Strega’.

COVER: The Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hurricane Mk XIIa 5711 (G-HURI). For the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain it was repainted as P3700, a Hurricane MkI, of No 303 (Polish) Sqdn. Picture, Philip Makanna, GHOSTS.com

Regulars

4 News 42 Poster 60 Personal Effects 74 Airshows F L I G H T PAT H | 3


News The Spitfire Mk.IXb (MH415) coming apart on ‘Connie’ Edwards’ Texas ranch. Disassembly of the Spitfire for shipment to Pay’s Air Service in Scone NSW began in early October 2015. [Platinum Fighter Sales]

Editor: Rob Fox Ph: (03) 9580 7436 Email: mail@robfoxphotography.com Contributing Editors: Michael Claringbould, James Kightly, Ron Watts, Andy Wright All letters and contributions should be sent to the editor: PO BOX 253 Bentleigh Victoria 3204. Research: Monica Walsh, John Hopton ADVERTISING National Sales Manager: Andrew Murphy, 17–21 Bellevue Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010. Tel: (02) 9213 8272, Email: andrewmurphy@yaffa.com.au Advertising Production: John Viskovich Email: johnviskovich@yaffa.com.au Marketing Executive: Robert Bozek Email: robertbozek@yaffa.com.au

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Spitfire & Buchon destined for Australian Skies The much-discussed Spitfire from renowned collector Wilson ‘Connie’ Edward’s ‘barn’ is heading for Australian skies. This combat veteran, Mk IXb MH415, was built under the same order as the Old Flying Machine Company’s well-known MH434. Both aircraft flew operationally together with 222 Squadron RAF and continued their association post-war with the Royal Netherlands Air Force in Java (where it again saw combat and was damaged in a forced landing) and then the Belgian Air Force. In civilian hands they both flew before the cameras for the movies ‘The Longest Day’ (1962) and ‘Battle Of Britain’ (1968). Acquired by Edwards, Chief Pilot for the filming of the ‘Battle of Britain’, in lieu of payment for his services, MH415, along with another Spitfire and some of the movie’s

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At the same time, Ross Pay acquired the Hispano Buchon (c/n 165). It will be restored in the UK before being sent to Australia. [Ross Pay]

Hispano Buchons, was shipped to Texas (see Flightpath Vol.26-No.1). Despite having taken a shine to this particular aircraft, Edwards flew it for a mere 36 hours before placing it in dry storage in 1973. MH415, a part of the Edwards collection for a record 47 years, is thought to be the last complete and unrestored Merlin-powered Spitfire in private ownership. The Spitfire was sold by Platinum Fighter Sales (www.platinumfighters.com) to the Australian syndicate Warbirds Flight Club, Australia. The group have commissioned Pay’s Air Service, of Scone, NSW, to complete its restoration. The aircraft will undergo an IRAN inspection and be sympathetically restored to as close to original W.W.II flying condition as possible. Rob Fox


News The CWH’s Norseman over the varied landscape it spent its working career. [Eric Dumigan]

CWH gets a Norseman On 25 September 2015, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum took delivery of the latest addition to their growing fleet of flying aircraft – Noorduyn Norseman Mk. V (CFGSR). Obtained from Ernie & Donna Nicholl at Huron Air & Outfitters as a part donation – purchase in early 2014, CF-GSR had previously served several operators including Canadian Forest Products, Austin Airways, Slate Falls Airways, Silver Wings Air Service, Ilford-Riverton Airways and Bearskin Airlines. Most of its life was spent on floats but it was configured over to wheel landing gear

before being ferried to Hamilton Airport. The Noorduyn Norseman ranks as probably one of the most important designs in Canadian aviation history. An eight seat general purpose bush aircraft, it was the first Canadian designed and built aircraft to see worldwide use. Designed by Mr. R.B.C. Noorduyn, the design incorporated the specific requests and suggestions of Canadian bush pilots and good performance on wheels, floats and skis was considered a prerequisite. At the outbreak of World War II, the RCAF placed orders which eventually totalled 99

aircraft of various models. The utility of the design ensured its post-war use. The last RCAF example was retired in 1957 although numerous civilian examples soldiered on long after this date. Although CF-GSR never saw service with the RCAF, in keeping with the Museum's mandate, the Norseman will be painted in a RCAF scheme at some point in the future. No decision has been made yet on the actual paint scheme. After some winter maintenance, the Norseman will be added to the flying schedule and ride program for the 2016 season. Eric Dumigan

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News From Wagga Wagga, NSW, Tony Middleton’s Cessna C190 ‘Businessliner’ (VH-BIS). [all Phil Vabre] RIGHT: The period leather upholstered cockpit of the Hornet Moth.

Antiquer’s Spring Outing The Antique Aeroplane Association of Australia held their mid-year Spring Fly-in at the central NSW town of Cowra this year. The popular event tempted 35 aircraft to make the pilgrimage to the annual but nomadic event. “Cowra Airfield, once again, is a picture perfect airfield at this time of year, well presented and prepared for the event by the Cowra Council who continue to provide overwhelming support for aviation events,’’ said AAAA President Matt Henderson. New attendees included Tony Middleton’s Cessna C190 from Wagga Wagga. This was the first public appearance for this Continental radial powered aircraft. The People’s Choice Award went to the Auster Mk.6 (WJ401) owned by Jack Vevers. The Auster was making its first excursion outside the Tyabb circuit in forty years. This Auster (VH-BGL) saw service in Singapore and the UK with the British Army. Always a popular participant was the rare DH 87B Hornet Moth flown in by Geoff Wills. The historic type made the long trip to Cowra from coastal Barwon Heads in Victoria. Rob Fox ABOVE RIGHT: Geoff Wills and his rare DH 87B Hornet Moth. RIGHT: The People’s Choice Award was won by the Auster Mk.6 (WJ401) owned by Jack Vevers. 6 | F L I G H T PAT H


News Graham Hosking’s F4U-5N Corsair over RAAF Point Cook after its IFD display at the RAAF Museum. [Rob Fox]

Point Cook increases air displays The much-anticipated biennial Air Pageant, hosted by the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, has been cancelled indefinitely. The success of the 2014 event, which was massively expanded to celebrate the Centenary of Military Aviation, highlighted a number of areas which argue against the viability of continuing to conduct the air show. RAAF Williams is an integral part of a growing community, and organisers have had to consider the ongoing urban growth in the area and, significantly, the lack of major upgrades to road infrastructure. A crowd of several thousand will disrupt local traffic and requires substantial assistance from a vast range of local and state government authorities. The Museum, however, intends to replace the Air Pageant with a significant series of regular events. “Instead of conducting biennial Air Pageants, commencing this year, and continuing through 2016, the Museum will conduct around four to six special event Interactive Flying Displays (IFDs) per year”, said Museum director David Gardner. “As part of our normal operations, the RAAF Museum conducts IFDs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays throughout the year and have demonstrated that when popular display elements, which would have been included in an Air Pageant, are displayed in isolation at an IFD, they draw crowds in the vicinity of 1,500 to 2,000 which can be managed within the normal staffing and logistical capacity of the Museum and RAAF Williams.” A recent example of the potential of the ‘special IFD’ was the well-attended public display debut of Graham Hosking’s F4U-5N Corsair in late October 2014. The Museum is hoping to include future displays by the RAAF Roulettes, and conduct themed events featuring W.W.I aircraft or W.W.II fighters and trainers. Andy Wright 0153-C AVB Quart Pg March 2015.qxp 23/03/2015 12:39 pm Page 1

Battle milestone The Fairey Battle, as a pre-war bomber, is relatively numerous when compared to the Handley Page Hampden or Vickers Wellington, with five surviving airframes. The South Australian Aviation Museum (SAAM) recently achieved a major milestone in the restoration of their example when the completed centre wing box was mated to the fuselage on 26 September. The Battle, N2188, was donated to the SAAM in 1987. It had been recovered from the mangrove swamps off Port Pirie where it had been rediscovered in 1974. It had force landed there in May 1943 and only been partially disassembled due to the site’s inaccessibility. At the time of its crash, the Battle had been serving with 2 Bombing and Gunnery School (BAGS) and flying out of RAAF Port Pirie. The RAAF used 366 Battles during W.W.II for mainly training purposes. The centre section, part of the fuselage and starboard wing were initially recovered. Everything else was simply too difficult to get out of the swamp, although other components were later recovered. A set of wings was later donated by the RAF Museum, Hendon. A grant from the RAAF Association’s SA Division enabled the project to begin in 1999. It has since made steady progress. The fit for the wing box only requires minor adjustments. With it in place, the size of this single engine aircraft is readily apparent, as is the amount of work left to be done. The rear fuselage frames are to be manufactured next and then the fuselage can be skinned before work moves on to the wings and tail surfaces. Once complete, N2188 will be the only Battle on display in the southern hemisphere, and a testament to the skill and dedication of the SAAM team. Andy Wright

The centre wing box ready to be mated to the fuselage on 26 September. [Mike Milln]

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News Catalina A24-25, of 11 Squadron RAAF, in flight. [via Mike Mirkovic]

Catalina A24-25 found A Consolidated Catalina wreck discovered in 2013 by a recreational diver has been formerly identified by the RAAF as A24-25. The 11 Squadron RAAF PBY-5 was lost on 28 February 1943 during an anti-submarine patrol. Reports from that night suggested the Catalina and its eleven crew had come down north-east of Green Island (28 kilometres north-east of Cairns). The subsequent threeday search focused on this area and moved further north but no wreckage or survivors were found. Kevin Coombs, the man responsible for the initial discovery, found the wreck, in more than thirty metres of water, near the Frankland Islands (about 45 kilometres south-east of Cairns). The dives to survey the wreck were delayed by weather and the availability of all parties required on site. Everything came together in August when members of the Navy Clearance Dive Team from HMAS Cairns, the RAAF MIA Investi-

HARS opens new museum The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) opened its new satellite museum in Parkes, New South Wales, in late September. It intends to showcase its static exhibits while ensuring its airworthy aircraft regularly use the historic airfield. Parkes airport, more than 350 kilometres west of Sydney, was a busy RAAF navigation and gunnery training airfield during W.W.II. After the war it was used as a migrant camp. One of the remaining Bellman hangars was used as storage for de Havilland Vampire spares in the 1970s. HARS has used the hangar for general storage since the midnineties. As the facility at Albion Park is run8 | F L I G H T PAT H

ABOVE: One of the Catalina’s Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines. [via Australian Defence Image Library]

LEFT: The broken hull of the Catalina. [via Australian Defence Image Library]

gations Team and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority located the wreck and completed three dives. “Due to the highly decayed state of this wreckage the diving team was not able to identify the aircraft via engine serial numbers, tally plates or hull numbers”, said a Defence spokesperson. Photographs of the wreck show a very broken airframe with the hull lying on its side. “With the additional

information collected from these dives, combined with previously collected photos and data gathered by the RAAF MIA Investigation team, the RAAF was able to positively confirm that this wreckage was indeed the RAAF Catalina A24-25.” The wreck had been investigated and photographed, at the request of the RAAF, in November 2013 by an archaeological team working for the Australian National Maritime Museum. The aircraft will not be recovered as a sign of respect to the men who are likely to be entombed in the wreckage. Andy Wright

ning out of space, and due to CASA requirements regarding the storage of airworthy and non-airworthy components in an approved workshop, the old Bellman has been cleaned out, its contents stored elsewhere in Parkes, and the beginnings of a museum moved in. At present, there are four aircraft – a Gulf War veteran Huey Cobra, a GAF Jindivik, a Lockheed 12 and a PZL TS-11 Iskra – on site along with several Neptune engines and Swiss Air Force Vampire test and service equip-

ment. The intention is to increase the already strong central west membership base and employ these members to restore and display the exhibits. The first project will be Sidney Cotton’s Lockheed 12 (the former VH-FMS). HARS intends to occasionally open the museum to the public and will use the airfield for crew training. The Society is currently looking for photos of the airfield during the war, or during its time as a migrant camp. Andy Wright The Lockheed 12A VH-BHH Silver Star (later VH-FMS), in better days, at Wyndham, WA, c.1955. [Colin Hayes via CAHS]


News

Mareeba Corsair progresses Mike Spaulding of Warbird Adventures in Far North Queensland reports good progress on the restoration to flight of Vought Corsair F4U-1D BuNo 82640. As the only example of this model under restoration to have seen actual combat (Okinawa and elsewhere in 1945), this is a highly significant aircraft. The metal component of the outer wings, and the empennage, is already complete. For a 400 knot (740 km/h) aircraft, a surprising proportion of the airframe is fabric-covered (all control surfaces and the outer wings aft of the main spar) and it has been a bonus for there to be an engineer licenced in this category based at Mareeba. Mike has been successful in sourcing the required parts, mostly genuine and original, from the USA. Recent work by engineer Paul Knox has focused on completion of the complex centre section which has now been placed in a jig so that the remaining structure of this part of the wing can be completed. The next milestone in the life of this historic aircraft will be the mating of the centre section to the fuselage and the fitting of the undercarriage, allowing it to rest on its wheels, hopefully by the end of this year. More detail on this aircraft’s history can be found in Flightpath Vol 26-No 1. Ron Watts

Paul Knox works on the distinctively-shaped wing centre-section of the Corsair prior to its placement in a jig for completion. Note the extent of fabric covering required for the outer wing sections. The rudder has already been completed. [Ron Watts]

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News

Harvard F-AZCM wears a new paint scheme that represents a Curtiss H-75A3. [All images Eric Janssonne]

The French Scene The historic aviation scene in France is very active, and the variety of aircraft can be favourably compared to that of Australia and New Zealand, with the added bonus of many locally-built aircraft from all eras of French aviation. As one would expect, there is always something happening. The association Le Cercle des Machines Volantes has added a Fairchild 24W-46 to its already impressive collection of airworthy aircraft based at Compiegne airfield north of Paris. Built in 1946, the Warner Super Scarabpowered aircraft was restored for an American collector, after 36 years in storage, by Fairchild specialist Bob Woods in North Carolina. It flew on the US register as NC81273 before being acquired by the association. It is now registered F-AYSE and is one of four Fairchild 24s based in France (and one of two radial engine examples). The Fairchild joins a collection with a strong trainer theme – Jodel D112, Aéro 45, Stampe SV-4 and Morane-Saulnier 181 and 230 among others – and will be an interesting ‘mid-range’ addition to the lighter aircraft and the association’s North American T-6 and Yakovlev Yak-11. At nearby Plessis Belleville airfield, an UTVA Aéro 3-F arrived recently after being acquired by new owners Rémy Pétri and Jérôme Delarive. The Aéro, F-AZJE, was a long time resident of an airfield at Saint-Yan in east central France. It was found there by its current owners. The type is a Yugoslavian primary trainer design of all wood construction that first flew in 1954. This example was built by UTVA, a Serbian aeronautical manufacturer based near Belgrade, in 1958. It served in the former Yugoslav Army as JRV40174 before being retired and flying on the country’s civilian register. It was first registered in France in 1995. 10 | F L I G H T PAT H

ABOVE: Plessis Belleville airfield is the new home for UTVA Aéro 3-F F-AZJE. LEFT: Fairchild 24 F-AYSE is now based at Compiegne airfield.

One hundred and ten Aéro 3s were built, and only three of this rare type call France home. At the heavier end of the scale, an example of the perennial Harvard/T-6 family, Patrice Lombard’s Mk 4M AT6 F-AZCM, has been subjected to a major facelift to honour a prestigious fighter unit of the Armée de l'air. The aircraft has been painted to repre-

sent a Curtiss H-75A3 of Fighter Group GC II/5 Lafayette during the early stages of the Second World War. The Harvard was built in 1953 by Canadian Car and Foundry Co, and flew with the Italian Air Force as MM53802. It was owned by a succession of British collectors as G-BJMS, and arrived in France in 1982. Lombard purchased the aircraft in 1992. Eric Janssonne


News

Cape to Cape

Johan Wiklund flying the Moth prior to setting out on the Cape to Cape flight. [via www.capetocape.net]

A Swedish airline pilot is undertaking an ambitious flight, from North Cape, Norway, to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, in a de Havilland DH.60 Moth. Johan Wiklund began his adventure in July but, due to work commitments, embarked on the flight proper on 2 September from Barkaby airport near Stockholm. This is the same airfield from where pioneering Swedish aviator Gösta Andrée began his own flight, in a Cirrus Moth, to South Africa in 1929. Andrée’s flight is Wiklund’s inspiration and he is attempting to fly the same route where possible. flight across Unfortunately, due to security the country, concerns, the flight has had to bybattling headJohan Wiklund and his faithful pass Libya, South Sudan and the winds that Moth. [via www.capetocape.net] Democratic Republic of the Conforced him to go, and take a more easterly path fly “at a very through Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. low altitude”, before he reached the northern The altered route has not been without its corner of Kenya. While the low flying was problems however. Delays were experienced conducive to sightseeing, it is not a favoured in Egypt due to military preparations for naoption in this war-torn part of the world. tional celebrations, among other things, and After an annual inspection in Nairobi, landing permissions were not provided by care of the East Africa Aeroclub, Wiklund Ethiopian authorities in late September deand the Moth will continue south through spite the best efforts of Swedish embassy Tanzania before returning to Andrée’s origstaff. This forced Wiklund on a seven hour inal route in Zambia and reaching South Af-

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rica via Botswana. It is hoped he will have completed the flight by the time these words are read. Upon arrival in South Africa, Wiklund will meet the children of Red Hill Township on the outskirts of Cape Town. The Cape to Cape flight, as well as proving that such a thing can still be achieved today, is raising funds to provide the children with resources to assist with reading and learning. The ‘Make Reading Cool’ project is a joint effort by Rotary Skellefteå Sweden and the Children's Book Network in South Africa. A blog of the flight can be read at www.capetocape.net. Andy Wright

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News

Lake Como Caproncino

The Caproni flying over Lake Como during the ‘Giro aereo dei sei laghi’

ABOVE: The 1935 Caproni I-ABOU (s.n. 3992) over Lake Como. It was built by Macchi Varese and delivered to the Aeronautica Militare in June 1935 as MM 65156. [all via Marco Di Pilato] LEFT: Gerolamo Gavazzi, on board the historic Caproni Ca.100 on Lake Como for the ‘Giro aereo dei sei laghi’. A Caproni Ca.100, with original wooden floats and arguably the oldest flying seaplane in the world, was the star of a recent event on Lake Como, Italy. The ‘Giro aereo dei sei laghi’ (Air race of the six lakes), following the success of the 2014 event (the first race since 1972), was held on 19 September and saw Aero Club Como member Gerolamo Gavazzi take part with his Caproni I-ABOU. This 1935 Caproni, known as ‘Caproncino’, was painstakingly restored by Gavazzi. “My father owned a ‘Caproncino’ before the war and when I was a child he spoke about it with great passion. After the war, I had my first flight experience with my father in a Ca.100”, he said. “When I was finally old enough to fly, I joined the Aero Club Como in 1962 and started right on I-ABOU, the same plane that I restored many years later. I flew it until 1967, when it was retired.” The biplane was left outside behind the Lake Como hangar and, exposed to the elements, it quickly deteriorated. Gavazzi took six years to restore the ‘Caproncino’ to flying condition. “The starting point of the restoration was a pile of half-rotten wood and rusty iron”, he added. For the Air Race he carried a bag of envelopes and postcards to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Aero Club Como in 1930. Rob Fox 12 | F L I G H T PAT H

ABOVE: The authentically restored cockpit of the Caproni Ca.100


News LEFT: Jim Whalley taking-off in his CAC Boomerang A46-63 (VH-XBL) for his part in the display [Phil Hosking]. BELOW: The Sorensen’s CAC Wirraway A20-722 was flown in from Tyabb. [Phil Hosking] BOTTOM: The Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre displayed the ongoing restoration of their Avro Anson W2364. [Ron Watts]

Nhill turns 75 A fine day, thousands of visitors and plenty of action overhead made for an excellent airshow on 10 October, marking 75 years since the go-ahead for work to commence on the Nhill RAAF base in the Wimmera district of western Victoria. Since 2008 the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (NAHC) has been instrumental in conserving what remains of this former training base. The painstaking and ongoing restoration of Avro Anson W2364 has provided a focus for this larger vision, and the aircraft, which now rests on its own wheels, is housed in the spacious, purpose-built ‘Ahrens Hangar’. The crowd was treated to a range of air displays – Chris Sperou in the Pitts, a

unique fly-by showcasing the evolution of the Cessna range of light aircraft, handling demonstrations by Stinson Reliant, Wirraway, DC3, Tiger Moth, C337 and, interspersed with a number of other innovative routines, further aerobatics from Boomerang, Mustang and the full RAAF Roulettes team to round out the day’s flying. Families were well catered for with plenty of attractions and activities on the ground (not all aviation-related) in addition to what could be seen in the sky above. The hard-working Management Committee of NAHC is to be congratulated on the standard of this wellrun event held, as it was, in a reasonably remote corner of Australia. Ron Watts

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F L I G H T PAT H | 13


Thirty-four Cessna C195 ‘Businessliners' were flown in from all over the USA and Canada to Chino CA. [all images Rob Fox]

Celebrating a Classic Operating complex classic aircraft that are more than sixty years old can be a challenging experience. With an ever-shrinking technical and operational knowledge base, it seems there has never been a more important time for type-specific clubs and associations. One such association celebrates a revered classic - Cessna’s last radial-powered single, the C190/195 ‘Businessliner’. The International Cessna 195 Club was founded in 1969 by American Dwight Ewing. It was one of the first ‘type clubs’ created as this was only fifteen years after the last C195 rolled off the production line in 1954. Today, the mission of the club is simple: “to promote the use and enjoyment of the Cessna 195 series and other classic Cessna aircraft”. The club holds a number of events, and this year held its Annual Fly-In at Chino, California in early September. Thirty-four ‘Businessliners’ were flown in from all parts of the USA and Canada for the five-day event. The international aspect was further enhanced with owners attending from Switzerland and Australia (the largest foreign contingent). The club also hosts air-

craft maintenance clinics throughout the year. “These clinics are the best way to learn about the particular needs of the Cessna 195,” noted Club President Aubie Pearman from Mississippi. “One of the most important functions of the ‘type club’ is to keep our members updated about maintenance issues that may impact older airplanes. This is very important as the airplane is vintage and our website and forums are hugely popular. In April 2014 we held our first clinic in Australia.” This was held at Wagga Wagga, NSW, and several long time 195 experts from the US took the time to share their knowledge and expertise with local owners. The Chino Fly-In held a maintenance clinic on the Friday but, as the members are all about using their aircraft, several massed fly outs of attendees were organised. These saw members flying down to visit the USS Midway at San Diego, up to the Palm Springs Air Museum, and over to Catalina Island for a Buffalo Burger and to set the taste buds for the 2016 Fly-in. If you would like to know more about the club visit www.cessna195.org. Rob Fox

BELOW: Co-organiser of the Chino Fly-in Jeff Pearson behind the controls of his 195.

ABOVE: After returning from San Diego, Californian Charlie Quilter parks the propeller watched on by Mark Thurstan from Albion Park NSW. LEFT: Darren Butcher from Tennessee in his ex-military LC-126 taxiing out for the flight to Palm Springs. FAR LEFT: Bill Milton from The 195 Factory securing his 195 after flying in from Johnstown in upstate New York. 14 | F L I G H T PAT H


Arup to fly again The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum (MAAM) in Reading, Pennsylvania, has acquired an aircraft designed in the 1930s by a podiatrist. The Arup S-2 was developed from the S-1 that, in turn, had originally been a glider. The Arup (derived from Air and Up) aircraft were the brainchild of Dr. Cloyd Snyder, of South Bend, Indiana, who was inspired by the gliding properties of heel lift inserts for shoes. All of the designs clearly resemble a D-shape with a straight leading edge and round trailing edges that met under the vertical tail. The low aspect ratio – short, wide wings – aircraft had low take off and landing speeds and could fly at significant angles of attack, up to 35 degrees, without stalling. The sole S-2 was widely demonstrated after its first flight in April 1933 but attracted little commercial interest. Arup only built four aircraft - S-1 to S-4. The original S-2 was sold to a stuntman, Frank ‘Bowser’ Frakes, who specialised in deliberately crashing aircraft at fairs. The MAAM’s S-2 is believed to be a replica built in the 1970s. It is now in shortterm storage pending restoration. Russell Strine, president of the museum, said “It is

LEFT: The D-shape of the S-2 is evident in this 1934 photo. The pilot entered the aircraft through a hatch in the bottom of the fuselage. [via NASA Langley Research Center]

BELOW: The Arup S-2 loaded on a trailer for delivery to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum during August. [via MAAM]

the museum’s intention to restore the Arup to flying status in the not-to-distant future. The project will likely take several years as the aircraft has been subject to some vandalism and deterioration over the years.” Whatever the timetable, the completion of this project will return a unique shape to the skies of Pennsylvania. Andy Wright

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“We Are Lost” International Correspondent Michael John Claringbould tells the tragic tale of the disappearance of a Free French Air Force Blenheim crew. Lost in the desert of North Africa, this is the first time their story has been told in English.

T

he aircraft was a Blenheim Mk IVF assigned to Groupe Réservé de Bombardement No. 1 (GRB-1) and the target was the remote Italian airfield at Kufra, Libya. The French term ‘réservé’ actually means an attached unit, not a reserve one. It was placed under the direct authority of the local Army Commander. GRB-1, after forming in Great Britain in November 1940, immediately sent two detachments to Africa. The first arrived at Fort Lamy in Chad with a squadron of six Blenheims. The second was sent to Maiduguri (northwest Nigeria) and consisted of eight Blenheims under the command of Lieutenant Pierre Tassin de Saint-Péreuse. The desert was a thankless and alien theatre in which both Allied and Axis units suffered equally. It was similar to the Pacific theatre insofar as campaigns revolved 18 | F L I G H T PAT H

around isolated bases. Navigation, conducted by dead-reckoning, was a risky business. Although the weather was generally less problematic for aviators than the Pacific, the fluctuations of heat and cold were extreme. Such temperature variations and sandstorms played havoc with systems and engines. Command rivalries loom high above the tragedy. GRB-1 was placed at the disposal of Colonel Philippe de Hauteclocque, better known by his French resistance name of ‘Leclerc’, who later became a famous general and was renowned for his ambitions in North Africa. ‘Leclerc’ had limited sympathy for the strategic value of aircraft in ground campaigns. As a result, he placed unrealistic expectations on the aerial forces at his disposal revealing a lack of understanding of what aerial forces were actually capable of, or their purpose. When he de-

manded that the Italian-held airfield at Kufra be bombed, he was told that the Blenheims were incapable of safely navigating such a vast distance. ‘Leclerc’ angrily demanded that an attempt be made nonetheless. His resentment towards his airmen stemmed from the lack of French air support during the German invasion of France. Relations between him and the Free French Air Force deteriorated rapidly after this, and the strikes against Kufra were ordered. Thus it was that on 2 February 1941, eight GRB-1 Blenheims bombed Kufra. The attack was considered successful although technical difficulties and persistent sandstorms along the way suggested future raids would be equally, if not more, challenging. Nonetheless, another attack was ordered by ‘Leclerc’. Only four Blenheims were serviceable, and on 5 February 1941 these departed


Ounianga Kébir at 10:20 hours led by Lieutenant Tassin de Saint-Péreuse. The other three Blenheims were commanded by Adjudant Grasset and Sous-lieutenants Hirlemann and Claron. Finding Kufra, let alone bombing it, was always challenging. The terrain lacked discernible landmarks save a series of three elongated cliff fault lines close to the departure point. Post-war analysis of the ensuing tragedy concluded that on the return journey the difference of the sun’s altitude changed the shadows of these fault lines and gave substantially more prominence to some than others. Critically, one of the fault lines that pointed the way to the small Lakes of Ounianga and the nearby French airfield had all but disappeared in the mid-afternoon sun. Sensibly, de Saint-Péreuse ordered that each Blenheim carry generous emergency

MAIN: Blenheim T1867 came from the first batch of Mk IVFs, that arrived from England via Takoradi in 1940, delivered in RAF brown/green camouflage. For the newly-formed GRB-1, the move to Africa constituted an unplanned transition. The unit was called forward from England with equipment designed for the European theatre. Upon arrival in Africa, aircraft markings had to be ad-libbed, including national identification markings, camouflage and squadron insignia. No two aircraft received the same markings. T1865 had its RAF green camouflage painted over by a light sand-coloured paint that gave a rough brown on brown camouflage pattern. The RAF roundels were replaced with French ones and, on the fuselage, a white Cross of Lorraine was painted over modified RAF roundels, previously changed to French colours. [Artist’s impression by author] TOP: On 6 December 1941, these crew members of GB ‘Lorraine’, formerly GRB-1 and GB-1, are seen two hours before a mission during which Sandre, De Meltcharsky and Lann would be killed. Shortly after their return they would

learn of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Standing, left to right are: S/Lt Patureau, Lt Rozay, Cne Tassin de Saint Pereuse, S/ Lt Binaut, Lt Thegesy, S/Lt De Meltcharsky, S/C Tournier, Sgt Lann, Adj Johanny, Adj Morel, Sgt Licou, Sgt Puison, Sgt Touvray, Adj Duprat, S/Lt Desser, Sol Carre, S/C De Dieu, Sgt De Guilhem, F/O Smith (RAF). Sitting left to right are: Sol Soliphan, Lt Sandre, Lt Du Boisrouvray, Lt Charbonneaux, Cne Roques, Lt Quesnec, Sgt Bauden, Lt Ezanno, S/C Vergerio, Sgt Barrat, Lt Guigonis and S/C Lagatu. [via Etablissement Cinématographique et Photographique des Armées]

ABOVE: Captain Fasseur ponders his morbid find in the late afternoon of 29 March 1959 when he led a French army patrol of four trucks to the lost bomber in northern Chad. The nomads who guided his patrol chanced upon the Blenheim when hunting several months prior. Fasseur’s final task before leaving the scene was to destroy the aircraft with a petrol-fuelled fire. The remains of the aircraft’s radio are nearby and signify the last but futile hope to which the trio clung. [Fasseur expedition] F L I G H T PAT H | 19


provisions. These were loaded aboard in the form of cans of water and survival rations including biscuits, tomatoes, milk, cake, jam and corned beef. The long distance and heat would also affect the limitations of the Blenheims’ engines. Grasset’s Blenheim returned to base at 14:30 hours with engine problems. It was the only one of the four to return safely. On the way home he flew over the Blenheim flown by de Saint-Péreuse. It had force-landed, due to mechanical problems, on a track about sixty kilometres north of Tekro. Meanwhile, the two Blenheims flown by Hirlemann and Claron continued home after bombing Kufra. We are not privy to the radio communications between these two returning bombers, if there were any, but Hirlemann became lost and landed wheels down near the outpost of Guro, about 110 kilometres west of base. They had decided to cut their losses and put down while they could. The tired crew returned to base four days later on the back of a truck. Claron’s Blenheim, serial T1867, continued following the wrong fault line that led to nowhere. At 15:26 hours, and approaching the limit of their fuel, the lost Blenheim transmitted its first distress signal, “We are lost”. The same transmission continued intermittently for the next 22 minutes. At 17:15 hours, the Blenheim, fuel exhausted, made a wheels-up landing on a wide desert plain at some 2,000 feet altitude. It was in the middle of nowhere. To their comrades, the aircraft had simply disappeared. The squadron had a Lysander reconnaissance aircraft that was put to good use by the C.O., Commandant Jean Astier de Villatte, who flew many search missions. The Lysander was joined by ground troops in vehicles but over the next few days they found nothing and the search ceased. The war continued, and ended, and time marched on until 29 March 1959 when a French army patrol of four trucks was led to the bomber by nomads in northern Chad, 20 | F L I G H T PAT H

ABOVE: Jean Astier de Villatte appears on the right in November 1941 when he was commanding the newly formed Groupe de Bombardement ‘Lorraine’ with the rank of Lieutenant-colonel (equivalent Wing Commander). The two other men, left to right, are Commandant (Squadron Leader) Corniglion-Molinier, the Group’s executive officer, and RAF Pilot Officer Van Weyck, Group intelligence officer. De Villatte searched for the lost Blenheim using the unit’s Lysander. [via Service Historique de l’Armée de l’Air]

Georges le Calvez guides his Blenheim on its final approach low over the North African desert for a flaps-down wheels-up landing at 17:15 hours on 5 February 1941. For 22 minutes prior to landing, radio-gunner Fernand Devin broadcast “We are lost” over the radio to no avail. The Blenheim put down in the middle of nowhere. It is ironic that the Cross of Lorraine, recently and proudly painted on the fuselage, would mark the crew’s graves for the next eighteen years. [Artist’s impression by author]


Final photos are taken before the Blenheim is put to the torch in the late afternoon sun. [Fasseur expedition]

F L I G H T PAT H | 21


RIGHT: GB-1 Blenheims about to launch for a combat operation. Prior to March 1941 its predecessor unit, GRB-1, struggled to dispatch even modest numbers of aircraft. [via Credit Service Historique de l’Armée de l’Air] BELOW RIGHT: One of the founding GRB-1 crews seen shortly after activation of the group. From left to right are Sergent Fifre (on wing), Capitaine Pierre Fenaux de Maismont (standing) and Sergent Henri Soulat (in front of the dorsal turret). Fifre, the pilot, was killed on 5 December 1941 in a flying accident. Fenaux de Maismont, the observer-navigator, died on 15 October 1944. He was a former infantryman who began his career as a Lieutenant in the Foreign Legion. Only Soulat, the radio-gunner, survived the war. [via Service Historique de l’Armée de l’Air]

Our provisions are exhausted and we await death near the Libyan border. The nomads had previously chanced upon the wreck when chasing a deer several months prior. Led by Capitaine Fasseur, the search was arduous, and came close to being called off when they could not find the alleged wreck, but a square-search pattern eventually located the aircraft. The patrol recovered numerous items from the aircraft including three rifles and the sole turret machine gun. Tellingly, however, no personal possessions, which were high on Fasseur’s list of priorities, were found. The remains of the three crew - pilot Sergent Georges Le Calvez, observer/commander Sous-lieutenant Gérard Claron, and radio gunner Sergent Fernand Devin were retrieved and laid in the back of one of the trucks. A communications log and instructions were found next to the aircraft’s radio which had been removed from the airframe. Extra batteries had been removed from the fuselage and connected to the radio to boost its capacity. All had been in vain. Missing pieces to the jigsaw surfaced in 1995 when the Historical Service of the French Air Force received letters, a diary and miscellaneous belongings sent from a French outpost in Chad. The articles had been handed in by a nomad whose tribe had recovered the items from the Blenheim prior to Fasseur’s 1959 expedition. For unknown reasons the family had withheld them for nearly four decades. The letters and diary left no doubt as to their origins. All letters bore Devin’s handwriting and signature except for the final one dated 3 March 1941. It is clear from the context that Devin had dictated this last letter to his wife with Claron acting as scribe. Included in the package of returned possessions were some banknotes and an RAF watch still in running order. 22 | F L I G H T PAT H

Devin’s diary reveals the lacklustre, hopeless and elongated final days of the men. Le Calvez perished 24 days after putting down while the other two perished shortly afterwards, exactly when we will never know. The stranded men, clearly aware of the seriousness of their situation from the outset, consumed their rations and water sparingly. The hand-written entries are sparse and note that both Claron and Devin intermittently conducted independent reconnaissance patrols. The longest was conducted by Claron over three long days, between 17 and 19 February 1941, during which all he saw was one deer. A frequent entry is “extreme heat”. On 24 February 1941, their nineteenth day of survival, the entry records, “water ran out at noon”. The next three days contain simple words, each entry with a subtle difference in French syntax, “we are still alive”. Claron and Devin buried

their pilot in front of the fuselage. Their remains were found under the port and starboard wings respectively, wrapped in their parachutes in a desperate attempt to keep warm during the freezing nights. No author could portray the desperation of those final days better than what was written for Devin’s wife, Myrtle, by him, hoping one day the letter would somehow reach her: “a cruel fate awaits me, a sad end; death by thirst with only hours to live. I flew to England during the Armistice and rallied to General de Gaulle. I was later sent to Cameroon and then French Equatorial Africa. On February 5, during a bombing mission we got lost. Our provisions are exhausted and we await death. I desperately wanted to return to France to continue our peaceful life, but our happiness was short-lived. I have left you some money which I hope


BELOW: The three lost crew are, left to right, Gérard Claron, born in 1916, who fought on the Loire in June 1940, then evacuated to London where he joined the Free French Air Force. Claron was technically aircraft commander of the lost Blenheim as well as observer-navigator. His French rank of Sous-Lieutenant was the equivalent to an RAF Pilot Officer but he was promoted to full Lieutenant in mid-February 1941, ten days after he disappeared. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre and Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, the latter being the highest French military award. Sergent Fernand Devin escaped from France aboard a floatplane to join the Free French Air Force in England. He flew Blenheims during the liberation of Gabon before joining GRB-1. The radio-gunner in Blenheim T1867, Devin was posthumously promoted to the rank of Sergent-Chef (equivalent of Flight Sergeant) and, alongside le Calvez, was posthumously awarded the Medaille de la Resistance and Medaille Militaire, the latter constituting the highest distinction ever awarded to a French NCO. Georges le Calvez, born 11 October 1918, was a student at the navy training base in Toulouse at the time of the Armistice. He was immediately sent to Dakar after joining the Free French Air Force in London. This photo of le Calvez painting the Croix de Lorraine on the fuselage of a Blenheim was taken at Fort-Lamy during the winter of 1940-41 (and is not the Blenheim in which he was lost).

you will receive at the end of hostilities. I hope you will receive a pension to help your life. My last thoughts are for you and both our parents. I keep thinking of the few years of happiness we had, and the sadness of death. Alongside some banknotes, I have placed all my belongings in my canteen. My last kisses are for you.”

Epilogue

On 27 February 1943, the Free French Army seized Kufra airfield and the isolated Italian garrison there surrendered two days later. ‘Leclerc’ continued to hold scant regard for aviation during the remainder of his military campaigns, a fact often bitterly recalled in post-war years by aviators who had served under his command. The funeral for the three men was held in Paris on 5 February 1960, nineteen years to the day after they disappeared. During the

ceremonies medals were placed on each of the three coffins before vans took away the deceased to bury them separately. A flight of three Mirage fighters from ‘Lorraine’ squadron, the successor to GRB-1, conducted a flypast. How many undiscovered W.W.II aircraft wrecks still lie in the North African desert? The 2012 discovery of an intact RAF Kittyhawk underlines this question. Other accounts of crews dying of exposure in Africa’s deserts include those from three RAF Blenheims, the USAAF B-24 Liberator ‘Lady Be Good’ [See Flightpath Vol.24 No.3] and a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 which was lost on 21 April 1941 trying to find Benghazi after an attack on British ships. It was found on its wheels with the remains of four crew in 1960. The fifth airman was found nearly 90 kilometres away and had perished while trying to reach help.

Devin’s possessions, including his still functional RAF fob watch, are today on display in the Invalides Military Museum in Paris. The 2008 class of the French Air Force NCO academy of Rochefort-surMer named their class in honour of Fernand Devin. The location of the Blenheim was 19.17’N 22.50’E. The last act of Fasseur’s 1959 French patrol was to destroy the aircraft by fire so that it could not be mistaken as an undiscovered wreck in the future. Sources: Particular thanks to French author/historian Bernard Baeza, the book “Nous Avons Tant Vu” 1993 (Jean de Pange). GRB-1/GB-1 logs/ missions, 1959 diary and photos of Captain Fasseur, archives of Etablissement Cinématographique et Photographique des Armées, and Service Historique de l’Armée de l’Air. . F L I G H T PAT H | 23


Victorian & Interstate Airways Ltd T

his Essendon-based airline company was formed by F.L. Roberts in 1936 to operate regular air services into southern New South Wales. Victorian & Interstate Airways (VIA) was formed out of his earlier company, Roberts Airways Pty Ltd, which he, along with partner G. Lawrence, had formed in 1935 with a similar aim of operating air services to the same area. To bring his plans to fruition, Roberts imported a Miles Merlin (VH-UXN) from England, had it assembled at Essendon Airport by Hart Aircraft Service Pty Ltd, and commenced his airline service to Hay and Deniliquin on 20 July 1936. The company gained 24 | F L I G H T PAT H

a subsidised mail contract effective 3 July 1939 but the Second World War caused the contract to be terminated from 28 July 1940. Following the loss of this subsidy, the company ceased the air service. About fourteen months after the service commenced, Roberts had acquired Hart Aircraft Service which was maintaining the Merlin and various aircraft for VIA and other operators. The original timetable allowed for the aircraft to depart Essendon at 7.50am, arrive at Deniliquin at 9.10am, depart at 9.25am and arrive at Hay at 10.00am. After a fifteen minute turnaround, departure was at 10.15am and, after a stop at Deniliquin, the

aircraft arrived back at Essendon at 12.25pm. The timetable was unique in that it operated without alteration for the life of the airline operation except that, shortly after the service commenced, provision was made for a similar afternoon service with a 1.15pm departure if demand warranted it. The operation continued to be flown by the Miles Merlin which had been joined by a Desoutter Mk II (VH-UPR). The Hart aviation maintenance business was expanded considerably at Essendon by offering its maintenance facilities to other aircraft operators and owners and appears to have lost its identity soon after being acquired by VIA. In September 1937, the company assembled a Lockheed 10 Electra (VHAAU), for Adelaide-based Guinea Airways Ltd, following its importation from California by ship. Apart from the growing maintenance business, VIA also became, in 1939, an approved organisation to train RAAF pilots. It appears that the company became a public company and issued shares to raise money to expand its aviation activities (including the acquisition of training aircraft). Following the cessation of airline services, VIA became a substantial contract aircraft maintenance and repair organisation for the RAAF. This work soon led to an expansion into manufacturing aircraft parts at Essendon and at new factories established in Footscray and Burwood in Melbourne. The company overhauled and


LEFT: VIA’s first aircraft was Miles Merlin VH-UXN. It operated the Melbourne to Deniliquin and Hay services. [all images via AHSA unless noted] ABOVE: Desoutter, VH-UPR, which supplemented the services of the Merlin. The restored aircraft is now displayed at the Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin Airport. BELOW: The Percival Proctor, VH-ARV, in front of VIA’s hangar at Essendon Aerodrome. RIGHT: Essendon in the late 1930s with the RVAC’s Miles Whitney Straight in the foreground. [CAHS]

F L I G H T PAT H | 25


Victorian & Interstate Airways’ Merlin ‘Wilcul’ sporting the Royal Mail motif.

repaired large numbers of Anson and Tiger Moth aircraft during the war years and became expert in this activity. As the war came to an end, aviation activities wound down considerably but an agency was taken up for Percival Aircraft Ltd. A Proctor 5 (VH-ARV) was imported and assembled at Essendon in February 1946. Manufacturing continued on a smaller scale. VIA’s main product was aircraft seats which appear to have been fitted to many civilian conversions of ex-RAAF Ansons. No consideration was given to resuming regular airline services as both Hay and Deniliquin were serviced by other operators. The overhaul and repair of many aircraft with wooden components gave VIA considerable expertise in using this material. As aviation activities waned, the company used this expertise to become a specialised wood supply company. They still served the aviation industry, mainly with wooden items, while the housing construction activity that increased considerably after the war also brought business for VIA in the form of roof trusses end other specialised mouldings. By late 1948, all direct aviation activities appear to have ceased. An October 1949 advertisement published in an aviation magazine lists the activities of VIA: “Manufacturers of Aircraft Parts, wood or metal, De Luxe passenger equipment and furnishings. Skin stressed plywood panels and partitions, plywood mouldings.

Suppliers to all major operating companies and Government Departments. Inquiries to VICTORIAN & INTERSTATE AIRWAYS LIMITED, Aerodrome, Essendon. Sometime later, the company changed its operating name to VIA Limited with its shares listed on the Melbourne Stock Exchange. A profile published in the 8 January 1953 issue of The Financial Review listed activities as “fabricating wood and light metal for buildings, panels for motor bodies and aircraft, joinery and aircraft parts”. The report noted company profits were increasing and dividends were likewise increasing. The company came under the control of the Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd in June 1976 as part of a plan to expand their timber activities. A reminder of this historic company greeted travellers heading south on the Tullamarine Freeway until recently. A large “VIA Limited” sign was painted on the roof of the old manufacturing building in Essendon, just to the west of the freeway, opposite the aerodrome. The building had been moved off the airport to company-owned land in 1952. Compiled by Roger McDonald using his own collection and notes and material extracted from VIA records at the Australian Archive Office by the late Christopher O’Neill.

The Lockheed 10, VH-AAU ‘Salamaua’ owned and operated by by Guinea Airways. [CAHS, Len Dobbin Collection]

26 | F L I G H T PAT H

ABOVE: A VIA advertisement that appeared regularly in Aircraft magazine in the 1950s. Victorian & Interstate Airways’ original timetable.

THE AVIATION HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA The Aviation Historical Society (AHSA) was formed in 1959 and has members in all Australian states and in several overseas countries. Part of our Statement of Purpose is: To encourage and assist the research and writing of Australian aviation history. To record the achievements of Australian aviation and its people. To produce journals relating to Australian aviation history. Since the inception of the AHSA, a journal has been produced. Now titled “Aviation Heritage”, and published quarterly, it covers all aspects of Australian civil and military aviation and is now in its 45th volume. A quarterly newsletter gives information on current events and short historical articles. Visit www.ahsa.org.au for further information and to download a membership application form or email: editor@ahsa.org.au


VH-UUC at Essendon Aerodrome with its Brisbane to Adelaide Air Race number 14 painted on the rudder.

Freda Mary Thompson by Neil Follett

F

reda Mary Thompson was born on 5 April 1906 in the affluent inner Melbourne suburb of South Yarra. Her education was at nearby Toorak College from 1911 until 1923. Early in 1926, with her parents and younger sister Claire, she sailed to Europe on the type of trip that was in vogue at the time among young people from well-to-do families. It was on this trip that she had her first flight, flying from Paris to London with Imperial Airways. This sowed the seeds for her interest in flying but it was not until 1930 that she persuaded her parents to allow her to join the Victorian Aero Club, at Essendon Aerodrome, to begin flying training. She gained her ‘A’ or private licence on 16 September 1930 and, in doing so, became only the fifth Victorian woman, and the twentieth Australian woman, to gain such a licence. She was a true pioneer airwoman. Her ‘B’ or commercial licence was earned in 1932. In September 1933 Freda became the first woman in the British Empire to hold an instructor’s rating, but she never put it to use. She did, however, excel at aero club and

air pageant competition flying and won many trophies. In 1934 Freda ordered a new de Havilland DH.60 Moth Major and travelled to England to take delivery and fly it back to Australia. At that time her flying experience was about 250 hours. She left Lympne, on the southern coast of England, on 28 September 1934. As night fell on the third day of her flight she was only 24 miles from her destination of Athens and, having been wrongly informed of no night landing facilities there, decided to land in a small clearing. A successful touchdown was achieved but her landing run finished by crashing into an olive tree. Freda only suffered slight bruises but the aircraft’s undercarriage and one wing were damaged and the propeller bent beyond repair. Imperial Airways flew a new propeller out from England and the Shell agent in Athens arranged for the undercarriage and wing repairs. Three weeks were spent in Greece before she was able to continue.

Freda, in her usual flying gear, standing in front of her Hornet Moth in the late 1950s. [Neil Follett] At the time of her flight, the 1934 MacRobertson London to Melbourne Air Race was on and she met many of the competitors during her flight. Freda arrived in Darwin on 6 November, 39 days after leaving England. After a short stay, she departed for Newcastle Waters but became lost and landed just before nightfall in inhospitable spinifex country. This time there was only slight damage to the leading edge of one wing. She was found the next day by a mounted policeman who had been searching for her. F L I G H T PAT H | 27


She eventually arrived home in Melbourne having spent 155 flying hours getting there and becoming the first Australian woman to fly solo from the United Kingdom. When war was declared in September 1939, Freda sold her Moth Major, which she had lovingly christened ‘Christopher Robin’, to the Broken Hill Aero Club. She helped establish the Women’s Air Training Corps (WATC) and became its Victorian Commandant in February 1940. The WATC was disbanded in October 1941 so Freda joined the Australian Women’s Army Service and served as an ambulance driver in Melbourne. She purchased a Hornet Moth from her friend, Miss Nancy Lyle, in May 1945. Nancy Lyle learned to fly at Essendon in 1929 and was the twelfth Australian woman to gain an ‘A’ licence. She was the second owner of DH.60 VH-UKV which she christened ‘Diana’. She later purchased Hornet Moth VH-UYO in July 1937.

Por trait of Freda in her open cockpit

flying apparel.

Freda made many long-distance flights in her Hornet. An around Australia flight in 1950 was followed by a New Guinea flight in 1952. During her flying career Freda won numerous trophies competing at airshows and club events. She had many firsts in her aviation life including, in 1948, that of the first woman President of the Royal Victorian Aero Club. She was awarded an OBE in 1972 for her services to aviation. Apart from her altercation with the olive tree in Greece, Freda’s only other accident was when she was a passenger in Percival Proctor VH-SAS on 10 October 1954. After taking off from Moorabbin, with owner Jack McKean at the controls, the engine lost power and a forced landing was made on nearby Mordialloc Beach. In an effort to miss bathers on the beach the Proctor hit a breakwater and overturned in shallow water. Freda escaped with no injuries but McKean was trapped and it was ten minutes before he was rescued by cutting a hole in the fuselage. He suffered shock and abrasions. Freda was a foundation member of the Australian Woman’s Pilots Association (AWPA) and for many years her memory was perpetuated by the Freda Thompson Aerial Derby which was an annual solo race around Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne. The aerial derby is no longer held and the trophies now reside in the Stockman’s Hall of Fame at Longreach, Queensland, on loan from the AWPA. She is currently remembered by the “Freda Thompson and Claire Embling Award” donated by Claire and Ken Embling. Claire was Freda’s younger sister who, before earning her ‘A’ licence in 1936, enjoyed a spot of parachute jumping. The award is administrated by the AWPA and provides financial assistance to female pilots, with

more than fifty hours of powered experience, for the advancement of practical and theoretical flying training. I first met Freda in late 1957 when I used to help her push her Hornet Moth out of its hangar at Moorabbin and stare with aeronautical desire at the vacant seat when she went flying solo. It must have worked as my records show I had four flights with her between December 1957 and December 1958. The first of these was listed as my seventeenth flight with a note that I was “flying for 25 minutes”. It was the first time I had handled the controls of an aircraft in the air and for a thirteen year old that was exciting stuff. I can remember her saying one day that she was not superstitious and always tried to fly on a Friday the thirteenth. None of my flights were on that date but I guess on Fridays school kids were at school. Her last flight was in a Tiger Moth from Point Cook to Tullamarine Airport in June 1980. During her flying career of fifty years she logged around 2,646 hours. She died in December of 1980 at the age of 74 and her ashes were scattered over Port Phillip Bay within sight of Moorabbin Airport. ‘Goggles and God Help You’, a book on Freda’s life by Joan Palmer, was published in 1986.

Her aircraft

De Havilland DH.60G Moth Major, c/n 5084, G-ACUC, VH-UUC In simple terms a Moth Major could be described as a Gipsy Moth with a Tiger Moth engine. This aircraft was built at Stag Lane in August 1934. For the flight to Australia the fuel capacity was increased to approximately 66 gallons with the addition of two extra fuel tanks. One was in the luggage locker and the other in the front cockpit.

Aircraft at the May 1935 Empire Day aerial pageant at Essendon Aerodrome. G-ACUC in the foreground. [via Civil Aviation Historical Society] 28 | F L I G H T PAT H


Hornet Moth VH-UYO at Moorabbin in 1958. [Neil Follett]

G-ACUC soon after arriving in Australia. [via The Collection p1234-0066]

Also installed in the front cockpit was an additional oil tank that increased the oil capacity to four and a half gallons. A two bladed metal propeller was also fitted and the front cockpit was faired over to help streamline the aircraft. She named the Moth Major ‘Christopher Robin’ because “I loved the books written by A.A. Milne, and it was most appropriate as the robin is a bird of flight and St. Christopher had been adopted by pilots as their guiding star.” After arriving in Australia, ‘Christopher Robin’ was added to the Australian register as VH-UUC. Freda entered it in the 1936 Brisbane to Adelaide air race as race number fourteen. This was the race that Reg Ansett won in his Porterfield (VH-UVH). The Moth Major was sold to the Broken Hill Aero Club and registered to them on 2 October 1939. In the 1940s its Certificate of Airworthiness expired and in August 1945 the Aero Club advised DCA that “we intend to make VH-UUC airworthy when manpower becomes available, anticipating by the end of the year”. It appears that this was never done and it was struck off the register on 10 October 1947. Despite extensive research, its fate is not known. De Havilland DH.87B Hornet Moth, c/n 8111, VH-UYO On the application for the C of A for this aircraft, dated 4 June 1937, the place and year of construction is listed as England 1936, Australia 1937. In the accompanying Aircraft Inspection Report on the same date, under the heading of ‘mainplanes’, the following notation was made - “All covered surfaces manufactured at works Mascot. Inspected and certified correct before covering 2.6.37”. The application for its C of A was in the name of The de Havilland Aircraft Ltd, Mascot. On 15 July 1937 the registration was transferred to Miss Nancy Lyle, of Toorak, Victoria. On 6 February the port wingtip was damaged while taxiing at Coode Island but the aircraft was flown to Essendon for repairs.

Proctor VH-SAS on Mordialloc Beach after its forced landing. The hole cut in the fuselage, through which pilot McKean was rescued, can be seen forward of the wing root. In May of 1945 Freda purchased VH-UYO from Nancy and also named it ‘Christopher Robin’. On advising DCA that she had purchased the aircraft, she also wrote, “would you please issue me with a petrol ration book, so I can fly the machine.” In 1961 the Hornet Moth was sold to Charles Sears who in turn sold it to Alan Mahoney who was the managing director of Bee Aircraft Co. The second ‘Christopher Robin’ ended its days on 22 June 1964 when it crashed in fog

two miles south of Ballarat Aerodrome. The burnt out wreckage and the bodies of the owner and passenger were not found until the next day. In 2014 as part of the Legends Of The Skies 2 dramatic production at the Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin Airport, Freda Thompson was one of the aviators portrayed and provided the audience with an insight of aviation in its pioneering days from the perspective of one of its female pioneers. F L I G H T PAT H | 29


Recovering Lacy Smith and his Spitfire In 2010, the wreckage of a Spitfire was lifted from a French river. The remains of its Australian pilot were still in the cockpit. Alf Batchelder and contributing editor Andy Wright pay tribute to Henry Lacy Smith and examine the RAAF Museum’s ongoing conservation project to preserve the Spitfire for future generations.

F

ABOVE: Conserver Emily Constantine cleans and inspec ts the condition of the ammunition feed drum from the Hispano 20mm cannon. [via Australian Defence Image Library]

light Lieutenant Smith, generally known by his second given name, was finally laid to rest in April 2011. As the familiar but always moving notes of ‘The Last Post’ echoed across the village of Ranville and its War Cemetery, the thing that had protected his body for decades, his Spitfire, remained submerged. It would not be recovered again until everything was ready for its long journey to Australia. Almost 67 years before, on 11 June 1944, Lacy Smith was leading A Flight of 453 Squadron RAAF on a patrol over the Sword Beach area. He was a vastly experienced Spitfire pilot having joined 66 Squadron RAF in September 1942 after completing his training in Canada. At the time of joining his first operational squadron, Lacy had been away from Australia for the best part of a year. Despite understandable bouts of homesickness, he married in January 1943 and was posted to 132 Squadron RAF in April. During the year he flew with the squadron, the nature of operations began to take on a tactical element. Supplementing the regular escort of bombers attacking French trans-

port infrastructure, the Spitfires flew many dive-bombing sorties (including against V-1 launch sites). Lacy managed to survive this dangerous time to join 453 Squadron barely a month before the Normandy landings. It was, of course, a busy time for the squadron, and Lacy was heavily involved. East of Ouistreham, on 11 June, he was hit by flak. Turning towards the British lines, he was seen to come down in the estuary of the River Orne. Reports from his colleagues indicated there was little chance he would have survived the crash. His wife’s birthday was the very next day. The circumstances of his loss were known to the investigators who attempted to find his remains after the war. Given the time of his loss, there was no German record of the crash or the recovery of a body. The Orne estuary is subject to strong tides and with the number of cases at hand, the post-war search teams would have had only a limited time to investigate. Lacy Smith was declared to have “no known grave”. Time, however, would eventually correct that most saddest of outcomes.

BELOW: Lacy and his spaniel Butch. The censor has deleted the squadron code in the corner of the image.

ABOVE: The cockpit, where Lacy Smith lived his final moments, is surprisingly complete despite being subjected to decades of tidal movement. Some of the instruments on the blind flying panel still contained sand. [Rob Fox] 30 | F L I G H T PAT H


The mysterious wreck

Over the years, locals around Ouistreham occasionally mentioned the existence of a wrecked aircraft in the mouth of the Orne, but whether it was Allied or German remained a mystery. Some maintained that, not far from the wreck of a wooden boat, a propeller blade could be seen rising from the water. According to the magazine ‘Patrimoine Normand’, fishermen claimed that, during the fifties, it was possible to walk at low tide on ‘a bomber wing’, while others even spoke of cutting the wing with an axe to remove a machine gun. It was also suggested that the remains of an undercarriage could be seen. Nevertheless, definite conclusions remained elusive, because whatever the water concealed was visible only for about an hour during exceptionally rare tidal conditions. In 1999, Monsieur Guy Marie, the president of the Merville-Franceville war veterans’ group, told Fabrice Corbin, curator of the Museum of the Atlantic Wall at Ouistreham, about his unsuccessful attempt to interest local authorities in the existence of an unidentified aeroplane wreck that had once been “quite visible”. In pointing out the approximate location of the aircraft, Marie supported earlier reports by linking its position to that of the wrecked boat that was easily identifiable at low tide.

Confident that Marie’s information was reliable and accurate, Corbin made five attempts to find the aircraft, only to be thwarted by the tides and the strong currents that continually caused a sandbank to move. However, a professional fisherman explained that the incoming tide and the level of the water depended on the coefficient existing between the tide, the wind and the season. Armed with the knowledge that, while the ideal times for a search were short, they were also identifiable, Corbin organised a sixth attempt and sighted an aircraft part, about ten centimetres high, that appeared to be made of wood or metal. Since it was only briefly exposed by the tides, it was not possible to verify the exact nature of the object, but, on the following day, Corbin’s team decided that it appeared to be the rear wheel axle of a fighter. Over the years that had passed since 1944, the aircraft had been enveloped by sand which gave it a measure of protection against the elements. As Corbin and his team proceeded to uncover the wreck, they discerned from the wing and undercarriage that it was a Spitfire. Though that was undoubtedly a step forward, the problem was that, of the 4,158 aircraft that had crashed in Normandy, 294 were Spitfires. Of those, 144 had been lost in the Calvados depart-

ABOVE: The substantial section of wing structure, seen here, is not commonly seen in images of the wreck. [Rob Fox]

The wreck of MJ789 as recovered from the Orne estuary in 2010. [via Australian Defence Image Library]

F L I G H T PAT H | 31


RAAF Museum conservers Brett Clowes, Terry Roberts and Gary Walsh flushing fresh water through the fuel tank forward of the firewall. The state of preservation of the wreck, still in its transport cradle, is evident. [via Australian Defence Image Library]

ment of Lower Normandy where this wreck had been discovered. Consequently, a positive identification could only be made after extensive research. While efforts to recover the Spitfire continued, André Bars, from the Museum of Brussels, forwarded a dossier to Corbin, in which it was suggested that the aircraft he had uncovered had been flown by a Belgian pilot. Although the Belgian’s crash was similar to that involving the wreck located by Corbin, the propeller on his aircraft had only two blades. Thus, when Corbin found that the wreck in the Orne Estuary was a four-bladed Spitfire Mark IX, it was clear that further research was required. For this, André Bars directed Corbin to Philippe Dufranne, an expert in World War II aircraft losses. From thirty years of research, Dufranne had compiled a database that listed 100,000 incidents involving all the air forces that had taken part in the fighting in Western Europe. He quickly informed Corbin’s team that, from the data they had provided, they had found the Mark IXb flown by Flight Lieutenant Henry Lacy Smith.

Recovering Lacy

Fabrice Corbin outlined the wreck with wooden posts. Since the aircraft had turned over in the attempted crash landing, he suspected that it might contain the pilot’s remains. Eventually, after the mud was dug out from around the Spitfire, the wreck was 32 | F L I G H T PAT H

RIGHT: After its sojourn in Fabrice Corbin’s garden, the wreck was placed back in the water to slow its decay. It was removed on 30 June 2011, seen here, when everything for its journey to Australia had been arranged.

raised to the surface with flotation bags and taken to the yacht club at Merville-Franceville where, as anticipated, Lacy’s remains were found in the cockpit. They were placed in an improvised coffin and, on 8 November 2010, Australian Embassy officials “arranged for the remains to be collected and stored by the Commonwealth War Grave[s] Commission in France, pending positive identification of the pilot”. Madame Brigitte Corbin hoped that Lacy would be buried with full military honours in France, saying, “We feel as French people that we owe this to his family. He died for us.” As Fabrice Corbin and his assistants examined MJ789, they were “astonished at how well preserved its fuselage and wooden propeller were”. Moreover, several brass identification plates which confirmed the identity of the aircraft “were in almost mint

condition while many of the instruments were still clearly readable”. Shortly afterwards, Lacy’s 78-year-old nephew Dennis Dostine was contacted by Sydney aircraft enthusiast, Ray Treasure. Mr Dostine recalled the telephone call: The caller said “I have some rather exciting news for you.” He asked if I was related to Gwennie Dostine. She was my mother. He said the remains of her brother had been located in France. It was out of the blue. I was absolutely astonished and quite emotional. A month later, Australia’s Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Warren Snowdon, defended the fact that Lacy’s remains had been recovered “by members of the public without following military protocols”: It’s not unusual in Europe where so many people have died over two world


Lacy, seated third from right, mounted this photograph in his logbook among the pages that detailed his time at No 52 Operational Training Unit, Aston Down, in mid-1942.

Lacy Smith looking very much the experienced fighter pilot.

A carefully composed publicity photograph. Lacy is third from right. Note the second Spitfire has had its squadron code masked by the censor.

ABOVE: Conserver Emily Constantine shows the tail wheel component of the Spitfire to RAAF Museum Director David Gardner OAM. Part of this structure was the first item discovered sticking out of the mud by the French recovery team.

wars to find people in these sort of circumstances … The fact that we’re now able to identify and now give this person the honour that they are due is the important thing. We don’t control French soil, it’s not up to us to dictate to the French how they manage their country. Mr Snowdon said it was more important to honour the contribution of servicemen and women who fought for Australia. When we’re able to find them we like to make sure we treat them with the honour that they properly deserve as Australian heroes…Finding Flight Lieutenant Smith after over 66 years is an outstanding result for all concerned, particularly the family. Any pride that Fabrice Corbin might have derived from the success of his efforts was dimmed in the weeks that followed. Initial-

ly, French authorities had offered MJ789 to Australia but, as the aircraft had been on loan to 453 Squadron, it was felt that the aircraft should first be offered to Britain. It was only after the British authorities indicated that they did not require the Spitfire that their Australian counterparts accepted the wreck which consisted of the engine, forward fuselage and portions of the mainplanes. On 11 February 2011, the Melbourne ‘Age’ reported that, after agreeing to hand the Spitfire to Australian authorities, “Mr Corbin apparently had a change of heart and this week was threatened with 48 hours’ jail if he failed to stick to the agreement”. Corbin’s dealings with officialdom left the museum owner upset and angry. “After what happened, I think I should not have done it,” he said. “I respect the Australian people, but not the Australian bureaucrats.”

However, the French authorities maintained that Corbin had forced their intervention. Archaeologist Olivia Hulot, from the French Ministry of Culture, said that, after its recovery in November, the wreck of MJ789 had been in Corbin’s garden. Consequently, she said, “it was necessary to get the aircraft for conservation reasons”, since its fragile condition meant that it “desperately needed to be submerged to slow down the rate of decay”. She also stated that Corbin had told her that the wreck “was his and he would like some money for pulling the aircraft out of the water”. Fortunately, the Spitfire was soon re-immersed in a basin on the Canal de Caen à la Mer that links Caen and Ouistreham. Meanwhile, in her 11 February 2011 article, ‘Age’ reporter Bridie Smith indicated that MJ789 would be transferred to the RAAF F L I G H T PAT H | 33


ABOVE: Another view of the conservation team flushing out the rubber fuel tank forward of the firewall. LEFT: The headstone of Henry Lacy Smith in Ranville War Cemetery. ABOVE: Members of Lacy Smith’s family examine some of the artifacts recovered with the wreck. Left to right: Mr Roger Bullman, Mrs Joy Bullman, Mr Brett Dostine, Mrs Anne Dostine and Mr Dennis Dostine. [Rob Fox]

Museum at Point Cook but it was not until 25 March that then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed that the recovered aircraft would eventually be displayed at the Museum. Two months later, the wreck was raised again and handed over to Soflog-Telis, an industrial packing company, who prepared it for its journey aboard a container ship from Le Havre to Australia. When the remains of the Spitfire arrived at Point Cook in September, RAAF Museum Director David Gardner OAM said that, while the museum was delighted to receive MJ789, its conservation would pose “significant challenges prior to eventual display of the aircraft”. Museum technical and curatorial staff proceeded to clean the wreckage mechanically to ensure that the effects of salt in the metal would be neutralised during the relic’s long immersion in a freshwater tank. To Collections Curator Gary Walsh, the remains of the Spitfire were more than just pieces of metal. He found that working on the aircraft was a poignant, even sacred, moment, as Lacy Smith had lost his life in the service of his country: “It’s almost a grave site and that’s something we are extremely conscious of”.

The memory of Lacy Smith

Lacy Smith was laid to rest in Ranville War Cemetery as members of his family looked on. The ceremony included many poignant moments. Though Garth Chapman never knew his great-uncle, he saw Lacy as representing ‘the ordinary young Australian and the very finest’. His eulogy provided many affectionate glimpses of Lacy, not just as a pilot, brother or husband, but as the hapless youth who lost his first job in a pharmacy after dropping a box of glass bottles, the 34 | F L I G H T PAT H

snappy dresser who attended dances in his white jacket and bow tie, and the good-looking man-about-town who wore a tailored uniform during his brief Army career. The memory of Lacy Smith will always be strong with his family. Through a somewhat convoluted process of acceptance and delivery, the wreckage of his Spitfire, however, once stabilised and preserved, will ensure his memory is shared with thousands of Australians and visitors to the world-class RAAF Museum. The conservation team, like the French who recovered the wreck, were surprised at the level of preservation of many of the Spitfire’s remaining parts. Labelling and instruments in the cockpit, in particular, can still be read and the internal mechanisms of some components, once cleaned, almost look new. It was not, however, an easy process when the aircraft arrived. An insect infestation was found when unpacking the cases in which the wreckage was shipped. The subsequent fumigation caused an unplanned delay to what was to be a four-week cleaning and preparation process. Besides the fumigation required by quarantine authorities, the approximately 3,000 kilograms of protective gel, and encrustations and other foreign material and contaminants that came with the wreckage, had to captured and stored for disposal. The aircraft has been placed in a freshwater tank. David Gardner said that it is a long, painstaking process to ensure the wreckage is stabilised. “The conservation treatment involves desalination and the subsequent treatment of the aircraft. This process is extensive because of the large, composite material artefact that was exposed to the elements for almost seventy years and is composed of ma-

terials with incompatible conservation requirements. The process will identify and compare various conservation treatment paths that have been undertaken on similar artefacts. The final product of the treatment will take into account the conservation techniques required for the interpretation and long-term stable display of the aircraft.” Henry Lacy Smith’s Spitfire has made the journey that, sadly, its pilot could not. As its conservation treatment continues, we can look forward to the day when the hard work of the RAAF Museum’s staff comes to fruition and the aircraft is displayed in an ‘as found’ condition. As David Gardner said, “It will not happen overnight but it will happen”. When the Spitfire does go on display it will be a poignant memorial to all Australian airmen who did not return home.

This article includes an edited extract from Alf Batchelder’s ‘On LaughterSilvered Wings’. The book is available from the RAAF’s Air Power Development Centre and the RAAF Museum.


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Avro Cadet Kermit Weeks’ ex-Australian Avro 643 Cadet II is one of a dozen or so aircraft kept in flying trim at his Fantasy of Flight facility in Polk City, Florida. Mike Shreeve looks at its story for Flightpath.

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ermit’s Cadet is one of 34 examples constructed at Avro’s Manchester factory and exported to Australia in January 1939, and served as a trainer with the RAAF as A6-25, initially as a basic trainer, then later to train instructors at the Central Flying School until the surviving examples were retired and placed in storage in late-1944. A6-25 was one of seventeen remaining Cadets sold as surplus onto the civilian market in 1945, passing initially to the Newcastle Aero Club at Broadmeadow Aerodrome, NSW, registered as VH-AEI. It subsequently passed through a number of owners, and was reregistered as VH-PRU in 1958, also spending a spell in the early-1960s as a cropsprayer with a single-cockpit configuration. It remained operational until coming to grief in a forced landing at Albury NSW in March 1967. Subsequently stored, a rebuild was started, but the project was then sold to Steve Merritt of Milton, NSW in March 1990. He enlisted the services of Greg and Nick 36 | F L I G H T PAT H

Challinor’s Mothcair at Murwillumbah NSW to get the aircraft back in the air again. The restoration of A6-25 at Mothcair took four years, with the Cadet returning to flight in the hands of Nick Challinor on 2August 1994, once again in a silver RAAF scheme. It did not fly a great deal over the next three years, spending much of that time on loan to the RAN’s Fleet Air Arm Museum at Nowra. In late 1997 it was purchased by avid US collector of eclectic aeroplanes, Kermit Weeks, crated up at Nowra and shipped to his facility in Florida, where it was put on the US register as N643AV (‘Avro 643’) reassembled and reflown. On a visit to Fantasy of Flight shortly before it was downscaled, I happened to ask Kermit whether the Cadet was currently airworthy. His answer was an enthusiastic “Sure, I’ll fly it for you if you like!” After a short pause for thought he added “It will have to be after the weekend when my guys are back in”, mentioning that this was due to

what he called “the English feudal system.” He then went on to explain that most of his aircraft are set up ‘on the button’ for him to get in, start up unaided and go flying. However the Cadet requires three people to start it. One in the cockpit, one to hand swing the prop to start the engine, and one by the forward fuselage to hand crank the booster magneto. On the appointed day, I arrived back to be greeted by the sight of the Cadet sitting out on the hangar hardstanding ready to fly. After the engine was started (including the aforementioned vigorous cranking of the booster magneto by one of the ‘serfs’)


ABOVE LEFT & RIGHT: Kermit takes the Avro Cadet around the Fantasy of Flight circuit. RIGHT: The fixed pitch wooden prop on the Armstrong Siddeley Genet Major 1A. RIGHT LOWER: The Handley Page slat. RIGHT BOTTOM: The ‘feudal system’ start! ABOVE: Taxiing back in. MIDDLE LEFT: Owner pilot Kermit Weeks. [All images Mike Shreeve] and run-ups were completed, Kermit took off from the grass strip at Fantasy of Flight and flew a nice routine including several flypasts. He then slowed the aircraft right down on final approach before overshooting and going around again for a landing. After taxiing in and shutting down, he explained that this was to get the leading edge slats (on the upper wing) to pop out, and then see how much he could slow the Cadet down with them open. His (unsurprising) comment in the talk which he made to the assembled audience after landing? “You can’t slow it down as much as the Storch!” F L I G H T PAT H | 37


Hamilton Metalplane – a rare airliner A pictorial report by Philip Makanna - GHOSTS.com

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he all-metal Ford Tri-Motor of the 1920s was revolutionary. It caught the attention of a young aircraft designer who had started his own business, Hamilton Aero Manufacturing Company, in 1910 when he was sixteen. Thomas Hamilton spent the war years running the aviation division of Matthew Brothers Furniture. When the military contracts ended with the armistice, Matthews Brothers folded but Hamilton bought the inventory and continued to build propellers for which he gained an enviable reputation. As aviation technology progressed, so did the speed of the aircraft. Hamilton, upon realising that his wooden products just weren’t up to the job, became a pioneer in the design and manufacture of metal propellers. The Ford Tri-motor convinced him that the future lay in all-metal aircraft and, thus, the Hamilton Metalplane Company was formed. The company’s first design, the H-18, turned as many heads as the Tri-Motor. Although only a single engine aircraft, its thick wing and crimped (by a hand-operat-

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ed roller) aluminium skin were reminiscent of the Ford design. It first flew in April 1927 and proved itself during several well-publicised events. It failed, however, to find any buyers. A redesign resulted in the H-21 but this again proved a one-off. Prospective customers found the fuselage to be too narrow. Enter the H-45 and H-47. The only difference between these two types was the powerplant. The H-45 was powered by a 450 hp (336 kW) Pratt & Whitney Wasp while the H-47 received a 525 hp (391 kW) Hornet. Both types were rugged aircraft and attracted the attention of several airlines. The Metalplanes soldiered on and their solid reputation led to a strong second-hand market for the type. Single-engine airliners were eventually banned by the US authorities so the Metalplanes retreated to rugged parts of the world where they proved more than a match for harsh environments. Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS), in a company report, stated that the Metalplane was “particularly adapted to winter flying as it can be left out in the elements.”


TOP: Flown by Chuck Wentworth, the Meatlplane cruises over a fog bank near Paso Robles, California. ABOVE: The Hamilton logo. LEFT: Large controls wheels dominate the cockpit of the big heavy airliner. FAR LEFT: Merrill Wein flying the Metalplane. His father Noel made the first North America-Asia flight in a Metalplane in 1929. [All images Philip Makanna, GHOSTS.com]

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The only surviving Metalplane, an H-47, was originally sold to OPAS in 1930 and fitted with floats. It spent fourteen years servicing a large number of north-western Ontario communities. It then spent another few years, as N875H, as an Alaskan bush plane before being retired. A Northwest Airlines captain heard about the Metalplane and, knowing its significance to his employer, brought it back to the US for restoration. Little progress was made and the aircraft was placed in storage. It was purchased by Jack Lysdale in 1972 and restored to flying condition. The Metalplane flew again in August 1975 but its registration was changed to NC879H to replicate an example flown by Northwest. The aircraft turned heads, and won awards, wherever it went but, after only 41 hours of flying, it was pushed to the back of Lysdale’s hangar and parked. It did not fly again until 2010. By then the Lysdale estate had auctioned the Metalplane and it had been purchased by the principal of Pole Pass Airways (based in Orcas Island, Washington), H.S. Wright III. The Metalplane was returning to its, and Thomas Hamilton’s, roots in the Pacific Northwest. Wright is a keen floatplane man and was amazed to learn that the original floats for his H-47 survived. “The Trustee for the Estate who sold the aircraft at the auction told me that the floats were last known to be in Alaska”, he said. “They told me to start with Everts Air in Fairbanks. I contacted Everts in Feburary 2012 and was told, ‘Call back in the spring after the melt, we think they are underneath a snow bank.’

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Surely enough, we were able to acquire the original set of floats for this aircraft. They are a pair 1929 EDO YC-6400s. They look like flying boxcars.” The floats have since been restored and fitted to the aircraft although they are removed and replaced by wheels as winter approaches. The Metalplane, while built as an H-47, is now powered by the engine that made the H-45, the Pratt & Whitney Wasp. The lack of parts for the Hornet, the H-47’s engine, is why. The Wasp is still widely used and is a common sight and sound in the region as it powers the ubiquitous de Havilland Beaver. Spare parts and engines are readily available as many Beavers have been converted to turbine power. Wheels or floats, the Metalplane will attract attention wherever it goes and is still more than capable of exploring the waterways of the Pacific Northwest. Long may it continue to do so.

The Metalplane is large and was finished in Northwest Airways colours. The airline was the largest user of the type. ABOVE LEFT: H.S.Wright III operator of Pole Pass Airways, and keeper of the sole flying H-47 Metalplane.


ABOVE: The interior of the H-47 Metalplane has been faithfully restored with period wicker and leather seats. LEFT: Looking like a single engine Ford Tri-Motor, the Metalplane came from an era when corrugated metal began replacing wood, tube and fabric aircraft construction.

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Hurricane Mk XIIa 5711 (G-HURI). Picture, Philip Makanna, GHOSTS.com


Wildfire

Bombers As California experiences its fourth year of drought, firefighting resources have been stretched to the limit. A familiar sight during the North American fire season is large fixed-wing firefighting aircraft. Roger Cain looks at some of the modified old military and propliner aircraft still used to help control the blazes. 44 | F L I G H T PAT H

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he 2015 fire season has been particularly bad along the length of the west coast of Canada and the United States. Along with thousands of acres of woodland, hundreds of homes and structures have been lost and, tragically, several firefighters have been killed. The fixed-wing aircraft employed during California’s 2015 fire season ranged from the purpose-built single engine Grumman AT802 Fireboss to the Douglas DC-10. With the exception of the Fireboss (and perhaps the OV-10 Bronco since its ‘Bird Dog’ role is very similar to its military Forward Air Control application), it is fair to say none of the designers of the aircraft could have envisaged the role their designs now perform. Despite issues with airframe fatigue, causing the Consolidated PBY Catalinas and PB4Y-2 Privateers’ withdrawal from the role and the collapse of several companies, there are still a number of vintage aircraft working the


LEFT: Working on a small fire at the Santa Rosa Airport, a CalFire Grumman S-2T drops a load of retardant. BELOW: Erickson Aviation operates three Douglas DC-7s for firefighting. This example was seen at Paso Robles, California. RIGHT: Conair is still using Convair CV-580 turboprop tankers for retardant drops.

FAR LEFT: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Hawaii Marsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, built in 1945, is seen working at Lake Shasta, California, a few years ago. It briefly returned to service in Canada this year for a one-month contract. See page 48 for more on its uncertain future. LEFT: Minden Air of Nevada operates a number of Lockheed SP-2H Neptunes. This one, N355MA, experienced a partial landing gear failure in June 2012. BELOW: Due to losing a firefighting contract in 2011, Aero Union closed its doors and its fleet of Lockheed Orions still sits at McClellan Airport, California. The aircraft were offered at auction but failed to sell. [Photographs Roger Cain]

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The CalFire OV-10 Broncos are used as lead aircraft and use their smoke systems to mark the target for a following fire tanker. A pair of Canadair CL-215s seen at Chino Airport earlier this year.

fires as tankers. Lockheed Neptunes, Douglas DC-7s, turboprop Convairs and turbinepowered Grumman Trackers have all been seen at work this year. The tanker fleet is routinely supported by specially-equipped Lockheed Herculesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and dozens of helicopters from various arms of the United States military. Meanwhile numerous ex-water bombers have moved on to heritage warbird roles or museum preservation. The Grumman S-2T Turbo Trackers used by CalFire were completely rebuilt by Marsh Aviation in Mesa, Arizona, and have proven to be capable aircraft. Marsh has also performed conversions for the Brazilian and Argentinian navies. Conair, in Canada, began converting Trackers for firefighting in the late 1970s and their equivalent turbinepowered version, the Turbo Firecat, has been an effective asset in the provinces and across the Atlantic in France. Hercules transports are more modern additions to aerial firefighting with civilian operators proving the typeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s effectiveness. Former extended range U.S. Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft are currently being converted for the U.S. Department of Forestry and will be based at McClellan Airport in Sacramento, California. The first conversion went straight from testing to the fire line this year while still wearing most of its old USCG scheme. The Coulson group have converted two examples which are also being used in Australia.(see page 52) The days of the piston radial engine air tankers are numbered but, as proven by the Tracker conversions, older airframes can be modernised to soldier on. Aerial firefighting will always be dominated by older airframes but, with the big piston-pounders slowly making way for the turbines and turbofans, it is certainly developing a more modern image, and the assets based in California are an excellent example of this evolution. 46 | F L I G H T PAT H

An original Grumman S-2 Tracker sits forlornly at its previous California Department of Forestry (pre-CalFire) base at Mather Airport.


A Sonoma Air Attack-based Grumman S-2T makes a demonstration drop along one of the airportâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s runways.

With the desperate need for fire tankers, this Grumman S-2T was pressed into service before being fully repainted. Still wearing most of its original USCG paint scheme, this Lockheed HC-130H is the first of seven to be converted for firefighting.

Minden Airâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Lockheed SP-2H, wearing a new colour scheme, has working Westinghouse J34 jet engines outboard of its Wright R3350 radials.

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Martian Twilight? Contributing Editor James Kightly brings us up to date with the Coulson Group’s Martin Mars water bombers in Canada, including an interview with Wayne Coulson.

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he monsters of Vancouver Island are the last two Martin Mars flying boats. Hawaii Mars, C-FLYL and Philippine Mars C-FLYK have had several changes of ownership, but have been based at Sproat Lake since the sixties. Converted back then from their original role of transports for the US Navy, by an innovative organisation of forestry companies, Flying Tankers Inc, in 2007, the facility and Mars aircraft were acquired by The Coulson Group. The new owners decided to upgrade the Mars with the latest technology suite to be competitive in the fire fighting environment. In 2009, Coulson installed a Garmin EFIS Glass Cockpit system in the Hawaii Mars, enabling additional displays of GPS, Synthetic Vision Terrain Avoidance, Traffic Collision Avoidance, and Weather data to the primary flight instrumentation, now on the new ‘glass’ cockpit. Comms were upgraded too, with multiple FM radio fittings 48 | F L I G H T PAT H

and multiple sat phone connections, enhanced by the newly developed ‘Coulson Air Tanker Information System’ that transmits real time event data over the iridium satellite network. The Mars has been busy in Coulson ownership. Wayne Coulson stated “We took the Hawaii Mars to the October, 2007 San Diego fire storm in Southern California. In 2008, we spent the summer at Lake Shasta in Northern California when the State declared a National Emergency after thousands of lightning strikes. 2009 led us to Southern California with a USFS Exclusive Use Contract, where we spent 160 days in the Los Angeles basin at Lake Elsinore.” He went on to add: “In 2011, we got out early and performed a 20-day contract in Mexico that was featured on a Discovery Channel show, Mighty Planes.” But support from the local British Columbia (B.C.) provincial government has been lacking, with the Mars contract being cancelled in


LEFT: The Philippine Mars in action in earlier times. [FIFT via J Kightly]

RIGHT: Coulson pilots Hugh Frasier (left) and Dev Salkeld in the new glass cockpit of Hawaii Mars. [Coulson] BELOW: Hawaii Mars drops on a fire using its bottom drop doors. [FIFT via J Kightly] BOTTOM: The two Coulson Martin Mars on the water of Sproat Lake, Vancouver Island, recently. [Carolyn Jasken]

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Hawaii Mars set a record at a fire on 2 August, dropping 108,000 litres of water in an hour The Mars is a large, impressive machine from any angle, but especially close up. [Coulson]

2014 and a switch to a competitive tender process that excluded the Mars despite some remarkable questions outstanding about political independence of the decision. In 2015, the Mars were not on the governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s list to be used to defend B.C. But in the high summer, with three large fires burning in the local area to the Marsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; base, a popular campaign, including a 17,000 signature petition, finally got the provincial government to contract the Mars for 30 days. In that period, Wayne Coulson stated they dropped over one million litres (260,000 US gallons) of water, gel and foam, at a cost to the Province of 60 cents a litre (65 cents Australian). The Hawaii set a record for B.C. at a fire near Harrison Lake on 2 August, dropping 108,000 litres (28,500 US gallons) of water in an hour. In

the contracted period, the Hawaii Mars went on forest fire fighting missions all over B.C. Even so, the contract was not renewed. When operating close to a large lake the Mars can deliver up to 91,000 litres per hour (24,000 US gallons). At Lake Shasta, California in 2008 the Mars produced 436,000 litres (115,000 US gallons) in a seven hour flight period, several days in a row. There has been other work. In early August, Coulson instructed twelve Chinese pilots in large aircraft water handling techniques using Hawaii Mars. These pilots will be flying China's AVIC TA-600 series of four-engine flying boats, currently under construction, which will be used for SAR and aerial fire fighting. What does the future hold? The Coulson Group is looking to the longer term and was able to strike a deal to enable the American National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida to obtain a Mars. Philippine Mars, C-FLYK, which had been placed in reserve by Coulson in 2012, was selected. What seemed a straightforward deal to return one of the two remaining

Illustrating the two eras of the Marsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; career, Hawaii Mars has its wing (with the lift spoilers fitted) over the repainted Philippine Mars, now back in the US Navy scheme. [Carolyn Jasken]

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The four active Mars, in US Navy service, with Philippine Mars in the foreground. With Coulson as C-FLYK, it is destined to go to the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola Florida, next year. [J Kightly Collection]

examples to a most appropriate museum was bizarrely queried by the Canadian government. In May 2015, the Canadian Heritage minister, Shelly Glover, had staff tell Coulson the plane may be Canadian ‘cultural property’. True enough, but with one Mars still in Canada, this did seem a remarkable position. After a good deal of clarification and negotiation, Wayne Coulson was able to tell Flightpath that a permit has been arranged, and that the current plans are for the Philippine Mars to be flown down to Pensacola in the second quarter of 2016. The Mars was stripped of its high-visibility red and white scheme, which it had worn for half a century, and has been repainted in the US Navy’s Midnight Blue transport scheme, making a remarkable contrast to Hawaii Mars when seen briefly together on the water in early September 2015.

Speaking in 2014, Wayne explained: “The trade will allow us to acquire two C-130 Hercules aircraft, currently located at the [Pensacola] Museum, which will become a significant parts supply.” As outlined in this issue, Coulson’s commitment to the C-130 is growing. He also noted other potential aircraft, which are of greater interest to historic aviation aficionados: “Other aircraft that will be part of this trade will be a Grumman F6F Hellcat”, and an “NK 1 Japanese Rex which was built in 1943 as a float plane fighter.”

While the lack of Canadian provincial government support for the Mars as fire fighters is disappointing, The Coulson Group are optimistic that there may well be work for Hawaii Mars in in the USA in 2016. At the time of writing, there are 120 wild fires burning in Washington State alone. With a longer service period as a fire fighting aircraft than any other, and state of the art Next Gen avionics, the last of the Mars still stand ready with unique capability. Seen at dusk on Friday, 26 October, 2007, and looking like a throwback to the thirties airliner flying boats, the Hawaii Mars is prepared for another day of firefighting from Lake Elsinore, California, USA. [Joe Fanaselle]

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The end of a full demo load from C-130Q N130FF. [J Kightly]

Hercules & Thor in Australia Contributing Editor James Kightly outlines the current use in Australian bushfire fighting of two historic, rare versions of the perennial Hercules family.

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t the end of 2014, a very rare model Lockheed Hercules arrived at Avalon airport in Victoria. It was the Coulson Group’s newly converted ‘next generation’ water bomber, and was to see countrywide use over the Australian summer before returning to North America. Known as ‘Tanker 309’, N130FF, and named ‘Hercules’, the aircraft has a fascinating history, as well as being a pioneer of a new approach to the water bombing of bushfires. A C-130H model, it was converted on the production line to the highly secret EC-130Q version, to be used as a key component in the Americanmilitary’sTACAMO(TakeChargeand Move Out) emergency communications systems that would be activated in the event of a nuclear war. As an airborne communications relay station, the twelve EC-130Q Hercules flew relay racetrack patterns in turn, providing continuous coverage between 1969 and 1993 when they were replaced by Boeing IDS E-6B Mercury TACAMO aircraft. Their primary mission was to receive, verify and retransmit the US government’s ‘Emergency Action Messages’ to US strategic forces, and to do this they were able to use an remarkable range of frequencies from very low (VLF) up through super high frequency using a variety of modulations, encryptions and networks. 52 | F L I G H T PAT H

The first Hercules, a tanker, was adapted in the early sixties, fitted with a VLF transmitter and trailing wire antenna to test communications with the US Navy’s ballistic missile submarines, developing a new 'stalling' technique to get the long trailing antenna to drop to the long vertical antenna position required. The program was expanded in 1966 using modified C-130 Hercules designated Lockheed EC130G or Q and carrying a VLF system built by Collins Radio Company, with the aircraft also carrying a number of ‘hardening’ protections, and many of the systems used remain classified. The first US Navy squadrons, VQ-3 and VQ-4 were established in 1968. Lockheed Hercules 4901 was built in 1981 as US Navy 161495 EC-130Q, and served in this secretive role before going to serve with NASA at Wallops Island, Virginia, as N427NA in 1991. In 2004 it was retired to static display at Kenosha Military Museum in Wisconsin, but remarkably, in August 2013, it was selected and acquired by the Coulson Group to be the pioneer of the next generation Hercules air tankers that they were developing. Completed in 2013, it saw testing in North America before coming to Australia for the last fire season where, between December and February 2014-15, it made over eighty drops in action over Victoria, Tasmania,

South Australia and Western Australia. It was completely refurbished by Coulson, with a complete depot level check, and re-certification as well as having an all-new avionics suite fitted to meet the latest civilian requirements. The heart of the fire fighting system is the RADS-XXLtankthatdropsthe15,900litre(4,200 gallon) load through a long 5 metre (17 feet) ‘slot’ type drop door in the bottom of the fuselage. The drop is controlled on the pilot’s command by the fixed control unit in the fuselage which allows a drop using water, gel or a retardant mix (a 15,140 litre / 4,000 gallon load of this being carried) the tank being emptied – to a saturated target line – in 2.2 seconds. The tank (weighing 1,000 kg / 2,300 lbs) can be removed on its own detachable wheels from the fuselage, in 30 minutes, leaving the entire cargo hold available for the traditional transport role of the Hercules. The second Hercules converted is a very rare civil L100-30 model (most Hercules being built and used in military roles, though a few, like this, have been built for civil buyers) and was construction number 5025 from the Marietta Plant going, as N4276M, to Lynden Air Cargo. As a model -30, it is one of the stretched versions, being significantly longer than a standard Hercules at 34.35 metres (112 feet 9 inches). It changed registration a couple of times, but remained with Lynden until it was recently acquired by Coulson and re-registered as N405LC, tanker number ‘132’ and named ‘Thor’. At the time of writing, contracted by NSW and Victorian governments through the National AerialFirefightingCentre,‘Thor’arrived at RAAF Richmond, NSW, in August, and sister aircraft ‘Hercules’ is due to return to Victoria in early December.


ABOVE: The C-130Q making a demonstration (water only) drop to the assembled Australian firefighting coordinators at Avalon, Victoria on 12 December 2014. [J Kightly] LEFT: The Hercules’ flight deck was fully refurbished for the new role. [J Kightly] FAR LEFT: One of the EC-130Q’s of TACAMO’s VQ-4 US Navy unit in 1984. [J Kightly Collection]

ABOVE: Coulson’s second Hercules 132 ‘Thor’ undertaking a demo drop in NSW on 5 September 2015. [Wayne Rigg]

LEFT: Brand new tanker 132 transiting through the Anchorage, Alaska airport on the way to Australia in August this year. [Kevin Fortney]

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A Fateful

Ferry

Cyril Johnson passed away on his 95th birthday in January 2015. A severe back injury ended his flying career during the war. Kate Johnson and contributing editor Andy Wright detail the accident that would continue to affect Cyril for decades to come.

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is childhood was marred by the early death of his father and several bouts of illness that, later, initially prevented him from joining the RAF but by sheer will, hard work and perhaps a little string pulling behind the scenes, he was finally accepted and eventually earned his wings. Unlike many of his colleagues, he was not sent to an Operational Training Unit. Instead, Cyril was posted to RAF Kemble and trained to fly a variety of aircraft from Hurricanes and Tomahawks to Blenheims and Marylands. Classed as competent to fly these types, although his experience amounted to only several hours on each, he was shipped out to Takoradi, in the ‘armpit’ of Africa, to ferry aircraft, via the famed Takoradi Route, to Egypt. The flying was not for the faint-hearted and a somewhat macabre joke at the time was that pilots could navigate their way east by following the aircraft wrecks that littered the route. When Cyril flew his first ferry in early November 1941, his Hurricane and several others were escorted by a Blenheim with a navigator on board. Cyril suffered his first bout of malaria in February 1942. He recovered sufficiently to return to flying several weeks later and, on 17 March, was ferrying a Blenheim from Egypt to Iraq. Arriving in Habbaniya, the focus of a recent uprising that was famously defeated with the assistance of the airfield’s hastily armed training aircraft, Cyril discovered his return flight to Cairo had been postponed due to a strong headwind. 54 | F L I G H T PAT H


ABOVE: The Blenheim nosed over in soft sand as it completed its landing roll. Note the depression in the sand at bottom left where the nose hit the ground. While the nose section bore the brunt of the impact, Cyril had a front row seat. LEFT: Cyril, in his pyjamas, on his makeshift bed on the tailplane. The hard surface proved to be the least painful for his back injury. FAR LEFT: A studio portrait of Cyril Johnson in RAF uniform. [All images via Kate Johnson]

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ABOVE: Cyril’s identity card gave him priority passage. He used it to obtain seats for himself and Rennie back to Egypt. In doing so, and not without amusement, he displaced a General and a colleague from the flying boat.

My first flight in ‘The Gift to Singapore’ was very short as the sliding canopy slid right off East to Singapore

I returned to the mess hall. The next thing I noticed was that the few people in the anteroom suddenly and quietly left by the back exit. I should have realised there was a reason. Someone, it turned out to be the Adjutant, approached me from behind, saying, “You fly Blenheims, don’t you?” His message was that someone was needed to fly a machine to Singapore and I appeared to be that someone. I didn’t even know where Singapore was except that I would head south towards India and then turn left. I made my way to the hangar where the Blenheim was parked. By asking the ground crew, I was able to piece together the story which, somehow, the Adjutant had forgotten to mention. It happened that during the uprising a field gun had done more damage than I had imagined. Several aircraft had been hit, some very badly. The news of the Japanese invasion of Malaya back in 8 December 1941 had inspired the ground crews. The men had reconstructed this machine using salvaged parts from three victims of the shelling. They did it in their spare time. It was to be their gift to Singapore because they felt that Singapore needed all the support and encouragement it could get. At this stage I had not yet heard the news that Japan had invaded Singapore the month before. My first flight in ‘The Gift to Singapore’ was very short as the sliding canopy slid right off and went on a cross-country flight by itself. Then, on the second, the starboard engine developed an unhealthy drop in oil pressure. I enquired about the crew and it seemed they had all found other jobs. I asked if there was, at least, a navigator and a radio operator I could take. For one reason or another no crew could be found. However, the Adju56 | F L I G H T PAT H

RIGHT: The newly-fledged Cyril at home in August 1941, during the final days of his leave, before reporting to RAF Kemble.

tant later told me he had found a volunteer radio operator, Flight Sergeant Rennie. He seemed a pleasant fellow but pointed out he would be no more than a passenger as the radio did not actually work! The Adjutant was determined to get rid of this machine and me, presumably, before I came to my senses. He rushed in with the news that several flights of Blenheims were about to refuel here on their way to the Far East. “If you leave now, you can tag along with them”, he cheerfully announced. The first flight had just landed so I made myself known to Squadron Leader Monroe and he told me to fly on the starboard wing of the formation. I did but that flight was short lived as, on takeoff, the oil pressure dropped below 35 lb so I had to return with one engine out. (Ed: this was Squadron Leader John Sydney Monroe DFC who was a very experienced Blenheim pilot. He earned his DFC in April 1941, with 82 Squadron RAF, when he attacked shipping off the Frisian Islands in the North Sea. His bombs hit a 3,000 ton ship but a shell burst in the cockpit, killed his observer and wounded Monroe in the ankle. Monroe was sadly killed in a Hudson crash in late October 1942 and is buried in Khartoum War Cemetery, Ethiopia.) All was not lost. I could join the other flight that was about to arrive and go on the next

day. I duly made myself known to the leader, Flight Lieutenant King. He was less communicative than Monroe. They were terrible formation pilots and I could seldom see more than one of them at a time from my position, and sometimes none, but, as they all had working radios and operators, they were not worried. To make matters worse the formation leader liked to map read in his own particular way. I had no radio but my operator sat beside me and fed me sandwiches, coffee and some Palestinian wine! Socially, I was better off, I suppose, but, physically, I think I would have been better flying the clapped out old biplane in the other direction back to Egypt!

East and lost

We stopped the night at Bahrain and left for Sharjah, Oman, on 26 March (Ed: Monroe and his lead flight arrived in Lahore on 26 March to begin re-equipping the decimated 60 Squadron RAF. Monroe took command and was soon promoted to Wing Commander). The weather was not good and most of the way we flew along the coast at a few hundred feet. After a somewhat sandy lunch at Sharjah, we took off and climbed to get over the mountains on the peninsula then down again to a few hundred feet along the coast of Iran. As the visibility got worse, we flew


Flight Sergeant Rennie adds a sense of scale to the destroyed nose. Recovering the aircraft must have been an ordeal in itself. BELOW: Cyril with his mother on the last day of his leave in August 1941.

lower. It was difficult to follow King’s formation as he twisted and turned along the coastline. I seldom saw any machine other than my immediate neighbour until apparently King suddenly came to a headland, evident to me when he suddenly did a steep 180-degree turn. I had to do a lot of evasive action to avoid him while trying to keep him in view. I followed, occasionally losing them in the mist along the shoreline. The formation, or what I could see of it, suddenly turned inland. My first reaction was that we must have reached Karachi but that was impossible as we were going the wrong way and the landscape definitely did not match the map! Almost immediately, we were surrounded by high rocky hills which loomed up out of the mist. I could see cloud enshrouded hills on each side. We had snaked our way through a sort of valley and avoided the rocky hills by trying to fly under the cloud, and winding around the lower bases, but it was all a game of chance. The mist made rock formations and cliffs invisible until the last seconds. I felt we should reverse as best we could. Now, separated from our convoy, I did the steepest turn I had ever managed in a Blenheim and flew back to the coast and continued eastwards. I remained at about fifty feet, any higher and the ground was difficult to see. It was about half an hour after our estimated time of arrival and we were expecting to see the mouth of the river at Karachi. I could recognise nothing positively until eventually I saw a possible river estuary. I thought we may have gone past where we should have turned inland to the airfield. I decided that we would have to land while there was some light and ask where we were. It was a desperate measure in any event. Rennie agreed it was worth the risk to land with the wheels down as it looked like firm sand and it was the best chance of ensuring the aircraft would be able to take off again.

Using a pile of rocks as a marker I did a circuit, three legs of which were blind in low cloud, accomplished using my watch. My course keeping must have been good because our base leg brought us exactly over the pile of rocks! The landing was perfect except for a problem when we had almost come to a standstill. We struck a patch of soft sand and the aircraft suddenly put its nose into the ground. Rennie was unhurt except for a scratch on his hand. I slid forward and past the end of my seat as the nose dug into the soft sand. When the tail bounced back down, the harness pulled me back tight and the bottom of my spine connected very painfully with the end of my metal seat pan. Against all my natural urges, and the pain that reverberated throughout my body, I had to get out.

The nose of the Blenheim looked like I felt with broken and dented parts everywhere. She was damaged beyond repair. We had no idea where we were but it was obvious we had been observed because a group of native people was approaching along the beach. Not knowing how welcome we would be, I left Rennie seated in the machine gun turret (although it was pointing the wrong way and into the air by this stage). I staggered forward to meet them. I was relieved to be greeted by a friendly “Salaam”. We shook hands but we were unable to converse except by hand signs and some very broken English. They indicated that we were welcome to go to their village but we declined which seemed to worry them. We asked them to take a message to Karachi which they promptly did. F L I G H T PAT H | 57


They left us and we prepared for the night. My back injury had now become very painful. It meant that I could not make myself comfortable lying in the sand or in a variety of other positions in the cockpit. Eventually, I tried to use a parachute slung from the tail plane to the wing like a sort of hammock. That was not a success either and in the end I slept across the tail plane, the surface of which was hard, but with some parachute padding was tolerable. The next day a Hudson and a Blenheim flew over us and, fortunately, they saw us. The Hudson soon circled back and dropped some brown spotted bananas which were not improved by the landing! Attached to the bananas was a note asking if the aircraft was okay and telling us that a minesweeper was on its way and due about 7:30pm. We waited for the rescue vessel. When it failed to arrive we decided, as it may be looking for us, that now would be the time to use the distress signal from the aircraft’s dinghy. In the course of looking for that, we discovered that we did, in fact, have a few machine guns on board with some ammunition. The instructions on the distress signal said to pull the tab. That took a lot of energy and contortions and it did occur to me that holding it between one’s knees while pulling the tab could result in an unfortunate injury! The flare successfully went off. Having no reply, we settled down for another night on the beach but, this time, inside the aircraft to avoid the cold. Two of the village elders remained with us and they were armed. Rennie eventually slept on the beach wrapped in a parachute while I tried to make myself comfortable on the pilot’s seat Cyril with grand-daughter Kate Johnson.

in a semi-vertical position. Then I tried the tail plane again which was probably the right thing for such an injury. As the first light of day came, I woke up and scanned the horizon. Imagine my joy when I saw, in the distance, a dull grey shape shrouded in mist. I saw it turn as if coming towards us and decided to set off our remaining signal flare but there was no reply. The ship was going away from us. We felt pretty down so we made some tea in total silence. As the morning wore on the sun became a merciless fire. We draped the parachutes over the wing again with our local guardians under the other wing. We continued our endless games of cards, occasionally looking out to sea. A couple of days later, the minesweeper appeared again. This time we had no distress signals left so we took the cartridges from the machine gun in the turret and soaked them in petrol before setting them alight. We soon had a signal fire. The ship replied and, as they came closer, we stood waiting in the sun. A small boat was lowered and we were soon aboard the minesweeper. Once on board, we traded some of our ammunition and a couple of spare machine guns for a crate of beer! We proceeded along the coast to where we picked up the crew of another Blenheim who had walked back to the beach. Shortly after, our minesweeper arrived at Karachi. It was interesting to notice that we had almost made it to Karachi several days earlier. The station commander asked if we needed to see the medical officer but we both felt a good night’s sleep was what we most needed although my back was very painful. Rennie and I later got a taxi and went into the city and sampled the nightlife of Karachi in a hotel with good beer. The more we caught up with the world news, the more we realised just how lucky we were that we never made it to Singapore.

A fortunate ending

Cyril had actually embarked on his ferry flight to Singapore more than a month after the island had fallen to the Japanese. He and Rennie would have made it as far as India, Squadron Leader Monroe’s destination, where the Blenheim (V5577) was desperately needed to hit back at the Japanese surging through Burma. Like Cyril, the Blenheim apparently lived to fight another day as it served with 113 Squadron RAF before being lost. Cyril returned to Africa, ferry flying and, unfortunately, hospital as he succumbed to a variety of maladies common to the region. He was ordered home in September 1942 but did so via a circuitous route as part of a security detail escorting 500 German prisoners to San Francisco on board the Cunard liner Mauretania. He began flying bombers in April 1943 and worked up to Lancasters before being posted to 576 Squad58 | F L I G H T PAT H

ron RAF. His first operation was to Berlin on 1 January 1944. By the night of 5/6 January he was flying his third. After each trip, however, often flown in considerable pain, it took longer and longer for Cyril to exit the aircraft and, effectively, straighten up. He coped, and stubbornly refused to stop flying, until April when he was grounded for good. He retrained as an intelligence officer and, after spending the final months of the war in Scotland, finally made it to Burma when he was posted there to assist with POW repatriations and other administrative duties. He returned home in 1946 and became a qualified engineer before moving with his wife and children to Australia, where they raised a very aviation-minded family. He was told his injury was temporary but it proved otherwise and he eventually underwent an eight-hour operation in his seventies to halt the deterioration. This article contains an edited extract from Wings of the Dawn by Kate Johnson. The book is available from www.wingsofthedawn.com.au.


ABOVE: Flight Sergeant Rennie poses with the two armed guards from the nearby village. They saw off a stranger who made his intentions clear when he unslung his ancient rifle as he approached the men and the Blenheim. LEFT: Flight Sergeant Rennie in front of Blenheim V5577 after its accident on the beach near Karachi. Note the amount of oil that has dripped on to the port tyre.

F L I G H T PAT H | 59


Personal Effects

Shot Down Twenty-year-old Sergeant Alex Kerr had been operational with 115 Squadron RAF as a second pilot for less than a month when, on 10 May 1941, a night fighter attacked his Wellington. The West Australian was seriously wounded and the crew had to bail out. After months in German hospitals, Kerr was incarcerated in Stalag IIIE, then Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI and Stalag 357. In the final months of the war, he trudged across Germany in the Long March. After narrowly escaping death when the column was strafed by Allied aircraft, he and a mate escaped to Allied lines and freedom. Based on his wartime diary, the book includes enough training and operational details to satisfy any aviation enthusiast—his last op is sheer, nailbiting, storytelling magic. Kerr also recounts little known aspects of captivity in Europe. For example, at Stalag IIIE, he and 51 other prisoners tunnelled out of Kirchhain. He was on the run for ten days. The breakout was the largest, most successful escape attempt at the time, yet, surprisingly, little has been written about it. Kerr’s account is thus a valuable addition to escape literature and, because of Australian involvement, our military history. So too is his description of life in Stalag Luft III. Rather than the officer-centric focus of the popular narratives, Kerr offers a rare NCO perspective of that famous prisoner of war camp. 60 | F L I G H T PAT H

Shot Down is a fascinating memoir, told with a uniquely Australian voice. (reviewer: Kristen Alexander) Alex Kerr, $24.99 plus p&p, www.bigskypublishing.com. au

Men of the Battle of Britain The new and updated edition of this renowned book, first published in 1989, was released at the end of June. It is a coffee table book but you may want to reinforce said coffee table! The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust is behind this new edition that includes recently discovered photos, new aircrew entries and additional information for the original men listed. Almost 3,000 aircrew (pilots, air gunners and observers) are listed. All of this is contained within a large format hardback of more than 600 pages. Reading the book is like catching up with old friends. There are many familiar names, but it is those they share the page with that Wynn’s work is at its most important. For the most part, these men are otherwise just a name in a photo caption, ORB or casualty list. The layout is straightforward. The listings are alphabetical with full names, service number, nationality and postings during the Battle. Each entry is at least fifty words long and most include a photo although it was interesting to note how many still don’t. A short photo appendix

appears to indicate image research is ongoing. The writing is of a high quality despite its brevity and, being a “Biographical Directory”, the men’s pre-war and post-Battle lives are detailed well. It is fascinating to read of an airman’s actions during the Battle and then hope he survived the war. So many didn’t. It is an encyclopedia, a Who’s Who and a bible all in one. (reviewer: Andy Wright) Kenneth G Wynn, £48.00 plus p&p, www.pen-andsword.co.uk

GHOSTS 2016: A Time Remembered & The Great War Internationally renowned aviation photographer, and a favourite contributor to Flightpath, Phillip Makanna has produced another two stunning calendars to adorn the walls of our studies and offices in 2016. GHOSTS’ W.W.II types in ‘A Time Remembered’ are a faithful representation of some of the best aircraft the warbird movement has to offer. This year the venerable P-40F Warhawk heads up this great selection of rare warbirds. These include the B-25, C-47B, Me 262 and Avro Anson to name a few. Additionally, the W.W.I – Great War Calendar presents further enduring images that are led off by the Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5a. Other

rarities include a Sopwith Tabloid, Sopwith 7F.I Snipe, Albatros D.II and many more to admire for each month of 2016. (reviewer: Rob Fox) Phillip Makanna, $25 plus p&p, www.aviationart.com. au, phone 03 9592 1943, PO Box 2311, Nth Brighton, Vic 3187

An Alien Sky

The life of Andrew Wiseman is one of unlikely survival. Born in 1920s Berlin as Andre Weizman, he was refused membership in the Hitler Youth and emigrated to Britain to become an air bomber only to be shot down in 1944 and taken prisoner. He arrived at Stalag Luft III just weeks after The Great Escape. His stories of pre-war Berlin, aircrew training, learning the English language, and daily life on 466 Squadron (RAAF) are fascinating. He easily relates the journey that led to him becoming a ‘kriegie’. Co-author Sean Feast adds historical notes where needed. Wiseman was one of the countless POWs who took part in The Long March. His position as a translator fluent in several languages meant he was privy to a range of interesting - and sometimes humorous - events among the remains of the German war machine. I was surprised to find that the end of the war came before the book’s halfway point. Wiseman’s postwar careers with the BBC and Home Office are then recounted over a few dozen pag-


Personal Effects

es but could easily have been a lot longer. The final forty or so pages are appendices and include biographies of Wiseman's crew, diary extracts from mid-upper gunner Bill Lyall, a brief history of 466 Squadron, and its ops record from March to April 1944. While this book was shorter than expected, I am immensely grateful Wiseman recorded his story for posterity and our enjoyment. An Alien Sky is highly engaging and worth adding to any enthusiast's library. (reviewer: Zac Yates) Andrew Wiseman, £20.00 plus p&p, www.grubstreet. co.uk

good deal of research, Martin Garrett of RAM Models has managed an accurate, detailed and unusual result. Included are schemes for P-51D-25NA Mustang N51JJ 44-73149 ‘Moose Candyman’; P-51D20NA Mustang G-BIXL 44472216. ‘Miss L’; Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-18 Mk.22 Mustang G-HAEC A68-192 ‘Ding Hao!’; P-51D25NA Mustang N167F 44-73877 ‘Cisco’; P-51D-25NA Mustang, G-SUSY 44-72773 ‘Susy’ - all as seen at IWM Duxford in 1989. Future decal sheets will include other preserved and film aircraft of note. (reviewer: James Kightly) RAM Models, 1/72 (RAM 72-004) £8.99, 1/48 (RAM 48-004) £11.99, 1/32 (RAM 32-004) £13.99, plus p&p, www.rammodels.co.uk

‘Memphis Belle’ Movie Model Mustangs Adventures of Markings the 4th Fighter Something very different to our normal coverage is a set of Group decals featuring the P-51D Mustangs from the 1990 film ‘Memphis Belle’ (See Flightpath Vol.20 No.4). At the time the film is set, USAAF Mustangs were not operational in the European Theatre of Operations (and the ‘D’ model was later still) so a later style scheme was chosen, resulting in Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses with the ‘Star’ marking being escorted by Mustangs with the ‘Star & Bar’ insignia. As a film scheme, the details of these markings was difficult to capture exactly but, after a

The USAAF’s 4th Fighter Group was established in October 1942 around a core of experienced pilots already flying with the RAF's ‘Eagle’ Squadrons. Initially flying Spitfires, the ‘Debden Eagles’ went on to fly the P-47 and P-51 becoming, in July 1943, the first Eighth Air Force fighter group to penetrate German air-space. The author skilfully combines personal recollections of veterans, pilots then and now, in a book about the adventures of the keen young men of the 4th

FG. Readers are taken on a journey from the clandestine training in Canada and the early days of the legendary ‘Eagle’ Squadrons to dogfights over Europe and the final victory. Packed with first-hand accounts and combat histories, it is lavishly illustrated by many personal contemporary photographs and the author’s own artwork. Found among the cameos of 4th FG luminaries, that include Don Gentile, Ralph “Kidd” Hofer and Jim Goodson to name a few, are many of the other pilots’ gripping stories which appear in print for the first time. In a book covering the thrills, spills and lucky escapes of this most famous fighter group in W.W.II, Troy White uncovers new ground with a work that is obviously close to his heart. The book is available in colour or black and white and hard or soft cover. (reviewer: Rob Fox) Troy White, www.blurb. com/b/6381658-adventuresof-the-4th-fighter-group

The Man Who Saved Smithy P.G. Taylor is a great Australian aviation pioneer. His name generates some measure of recognition, although less so than his great friend Kingsford-Smith. Born in 1896, his childhood was idyllic, but punctuated by a smothering education. He joined the RFC at twenty and flew Sopwith Pups over the Western Front.

Post-war, Taylor decided his future lay in aviation and that aircraft would soon be crossing the oceans. He set his mind to mastering navigation from the air. He began a decade-long friendship with Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford-Smith when he applied for a job with their Australian National Airways. He proved his mettle during failed attempts to win airmail contracts and then flew the first west to east crossing of the Pacific with KingsfordSmith in the Lockheed Altair ‘Lady Southern Cross’. A year later, 1935, Taylor was risking his life during the failed airmail flight to New Zealand in the ‘Southern Cross’. He began his long association with the Consolidated Catalina when one was chartered to survey an alternate route across the Indian Ocean. With war imminent, Taylor turned his eyes to the Pacific. After spending much of the war ferrying aircraft across the Atlantic and the Pacific, his South Pacific survey proposal was finally approved. This was followed by a second after the war and another dalliance with airline work. This well-written and illustrated book is as good as any adventure tale with the added bonus that the quiet, intelligent, unassuming hero of the story receives the modern-day attention his life deserves. (reviewer: Andy Wright) Rick Searle, $32.99 plus p&p, www.allenandunwin. com F L I G H T PAT H | 61


Unwelcome

Intruder International Correspondent Michael John Claringbould

L

ike the Spitfire, the Japanese ‘Babs’ land-based reconnaissance aircraft evolved from a proven civilian pedigree. This obscure type not only scoured Australian skies from Katherine to Cairns, it also played an instrumental role in the Japanese decision to use a carrier force to deliver the knockout blow to Darwin on 19 February 1942. Allocated the codename ‘Babs’ by Allied intelligence in mid-1942, the Japanese called it the Rikujoh teisatsu-ki, abbreviated by its crews to Riku-tei. Manufactured by Mitsubishi, its sleek lines betrayed the close design relationship it had with its famous cousin, the ‘Zero’ fighter. Indeed, the Navy version of the ‘Babs’ shared the same reliable radial engine. In a rigid system where the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy zealously determined which purpose-built designs they adopted, and then refused to share them, the admired ‘Babs’ was operated by both services - surely a compliment to its superior performance. The Imperial Army called it the Ki-15, and the Navy the C5M, although, for contract reasons, the Army and Navy used different engines. Unarmed, and crewed by a pilot and observer, the aircraft’s fuselage housed vertical and oblique reconnaissance cameras. The observer had the option of using an additional hand-held camera. The prototype Ki-15 was commissioned by the Army and, despite its fixed undercarriage, was found to be remarkably fast. Following initial flight-testing, the newspaper Asahi Shimbun purchased the second prototype and later christened it ‘Kamikaze’ before that term took on its later ominous meaning. In 1937 ‘Kamikaze’ attracted worldwide attention when it became the first Japanese-built aircraft to fly to Europe. As a gesture of diplomatic goodwill, after logging more than 51 hours flight time in four days, it arrived at Croydon Airport, London, England in time for the coronation of King George VI. The celebrated flight 62 | F L I G H T PAT H

also established a world record and, as a result of its reputation, a handful of Ki-15s were sold to other newspapers and civilian mail operators in Japan. The Imperial Army pressed the Ki-15 extensively into military operations in China/ Manchuria prior to Pearl Harbor. Before the Japanese declaration of war against the U.S., both the 3rd and Tainan Naval Air Groups operated the aircraft on clandestine flights over the Philippines. Their base was the large occupied island of Tainan (modern-day Taiwan) and the first of these espionage flights was flown by a 3rd Air Group Ki-15 on 1 December 1941. Similar missions were conducted on 2, 3, 4 and 5 December, including overflights of Clark and Del Carmen airfields. On these missions the Tainan Group focused on reconnoitering the Luzon Straits for Allied shipping, while the 3rd Group focused on Philippine air bases. As these missions ran contrary to international law, all participating aircraft had their markings, including the rising suns on both the fuselage and wings, painted over.  Poignantly, and in Japanese acknowledgement of the illegality of their operation, aircrew were issued cyanide tablets in case of capture. The first Ki-15 to operate over Australia did so on 10 February 1942 when the 3rd Air Group, then based at Namlea Drome on Ambon, dispatched one to reconnoiter the port of Darwin. It departed at 12:20 hours and throttled back to loiter in Australian airspace for nearly an hour. This landmark flight was unobserved and, after nearly a nine-hour flight, the crew of PO1 Takeshi Takahashi and PO2 Yoshimaru Kizaki touched down at Namlea at 19:10 hours. The tired men reported that the harbour contained one aircraft carrier, one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, one hospital ship and thirteen cargo ships. In addition, they provided a detailed breakdown of the thirty or so aircraft spread over the airfield. Such bounty was considered a worthy target for a


LEFT: Junior naval trainees in Japan receive instruction on the workings of a C5M1. The performance and reliability of the aircraft’s engine was such that when reconnaissance units in the Dutch East Indies and Rabaul received replacement twin-engine reconnaissance J1N1 ‘Irvings’, they discovered the new twin’s high altitude performance was no superior to that of the ‘Babs’. BELOW: A rare photo of the squadron artist painting a wolf’s head on the cowl of Poleschuk’s P-40E Warhawk ‘HuYebo’, allocated squadron number 95 [Ziegler collection via Bob Alford]

This is where it all began. The second prototype Ki-15 was acquired by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun and was named ‘Kamikaze’. The 1937 diplomatic goodwill flight from Tokyo to London landed in time for the British Empire King’s coronation and established the pedigree and credentials of the type.

F L I G H T PAT H | 63


Japanese carrier strike force and planning to obliterate the port began. Meanwhile, the recent deployment of the USAAF’s 49th Fighter Group’s (FG) P-40E Warhawks to the Darwin area meant that future incursions, if discovered, would no longer be immune from attack. Thus, on 22 March 1942, the first Ki-15 was shot down over Australia with assistance from the leading edge technology of radar. Two enemy missions were conducted over Australia’s top end on this day. The first was a raid against Katherine, by G4M1 ‘Betty’ bombers of the Takao Naval Air Group, and the other was a separate reconnaissance of the Darwin area. At 08:00 hours a composite formation of a single 3rd Air Group C5M2 escorted by three, possibly four, A6M2 ‘Zeros’, led by Lieutenant Takeo Kurosawa, departed Koepang for Darwin. One of the ‘Zero’ pilots is identified in Japanese records only by the

surname Tokaji and is listed as failing to return to base. This indicates that four fighters were originally rostered for the mission. We do not know whether Tokaji was lost to mechanical problems or the weather. This same day was also the one that saw the new radar technology come into play in the form of No. 31 RDF (Radio Direction Finding). Positioned at Dripstone Cliffs, overlooking the Timor Sea on Darwin’s northern coast, it was well located to monitor aerial intrusions into Australia’s north. The culprit C5M2, crewed by pilot/ commander FPO1/c Shigeki Mori and observer FPO3/c Shinobu Nagasawa, was first sighted about 12:00 hours by a coastwatcher based on Bathurst Island. Shigeki Mori had just been assigned to the 3rd Naval Air Group. The appearance and bearing of the aircraft was transmitted to Darwin which in turn quickly relayed the information to a

The ‘Babs’ was deployed all over Southeast Asia. This Ki-15, Mitsubishi constructor’s number 3177, served with the 8th Sentai in Burma. RIGHT: C5M2, tailcode V-18, of the Tainan Naval Air Group, on the ground somewhere in the northeastern sector in 1942. The lettering is white with red piping. Note horn balances on the elevators. [Jim Lansdale collection]

ABOVE: During the combat over Northern Australia on 22 March 1942, Poleschuk (who was of Russian origin) flew his P-40E named ‘HuYebo’. The word reflects an approximate pronunciation of Russian slang which translates as “nothing of worth” which is what his Commanding Officer, Major Paul Wurtsmith, thought about Poleschuk’s landings when he was first assigned to the unit. [Ziegler collection via Bob Alford] 64 | F L I G H T PAT H

49th FG combat air patrol comprising four P-40Es. Heavy thick cloud had meanwhile separated the American flyers into two twoaircraft sections. Locating a solitary aircraft in such vast space was a technological achievement of the time but, remarkably, the new radar set did not also establish the three or four ‘Zero’ fighters that must have been close by. This could be explained by the distracting arrival, at the same time, of nine G4M1 ‘Betty’ bombers, led by Lieutenant Yoshinobu Kusahata, whose target was Katherine airfield, a further sixty kilometres inland. However, there may be a better explanation. The fighter pilots were confident of no enemy challenge that day. None had been encountered on previous missions and they had no reason to expect them now. Thus they had likely calculated there was no threat to their charge so, half an hour before reaching the


Australian coast, they broke off in search of prey at a lower altitude and, therefore, accidentally escaped radar detection. The fighters strafed the civilian airfield at Parap but no damage was reported. They returned to Koepang where they landed at 15:20 hours after a lengthy mission of just over seven hours. Meanwhile, the Warhawk duo of Second Lieutenants Clyde Harvey and Steven Poleschuk intercepted the lone reconnaissance aircraft at 20,000 feet and shot it down in flames. It splashed into the water offshore Port Patterson. Poleschuk later reported, “We sighted one Nakajima, Type 97 [sic]. I do not think our approach was observed. I delivered a 30 [degree] beam attack at less than 200 feet [and] fired one hundred rounds. The enemy made a 180 diving turn to left and then shallow climbing turn to right…and was shot down in flames.” Harvey’s report is

F L I G H T PAT H | 65


Lt Clyde Harvey, flying a P-40E Warhawk with the squadron number 95, pulls up from a firing pass on the aircraft flown by FPO1/c Shigeki Mori on 22 March 1942. Both he and fellow pilot Steven Poleschuk later submitted incorrectly that they had dispatched a “Nakajima, Type 97”. This was excusable. At this early stage of the war no USAAF pilots knew the type existed, let alone what it looked like. [Artist impression by author]

more succinct; “We were on patrol at 20,000 feet – time 10.00 am - We sighted a Nakajima Serial #3 (sic) at 19,000 feet. I made a diving attack on the enemy and he started a steep turn. The Nakajima started burning and pilot jumped in chute. We then returned to our base.” The crewmember who reportedly jumped from the stricken aircraft was never found and Japanese unit records simply report the aircraft as missing. Back at Darwin there was a critical matter to settle however. As both pilots had fired at the ‘Babs’, and as neither wanted a shared victory, they flipped a coin to secure the prize. Poleschuk won.

Unobserved Over Cairns

In the first few weeks of June 1942 at the forward base of Lae, recently arrived C5M2 ‘Babs’ assigned to the Tainan Naval Air Group conducted familiarisation and training sorties, somehow weaving their arrivals and departures in between Allied air raids. The first reconnaissance mission for the group’s New Guinea ‘Babs’ detachment was a solo reconnaissance of Horn Island conducted on 17 June 1942. Two days later, another ‘Babs’ reconnoitred Kieta on Bougainville Island. Their next sortie was a dual mission to Cooktown and Cairns over the northern Australian mainland on 24 June 1942. Two aircraft commanded by Lt(jg) Kiizuka Shigenori and WO Hasegawa Kameichi were air66 | F L I G H T PAT H

as neither wanted a shared victory, they flipped a coin to secure the prize borne from Lae at 08:05 and 08:45 hours respectively to reconnoitre the two towns. They loitered over Cairns for twenty minutes, from 11:20 hours, and Cooktown for 35 minutes from 11:50 hours respectively. These seven-hour missions were taxing on the crew but minimal commentary on the mission sheets indicates they were both routine. There is no indication in Australian records that Allied air defences detected these early flights to Cairns and Cooktown. Surprisingly, the direct route to both targets crossed the Papuan coast near Kairuku where there was an Australian observation post. The outpost apparently failed to sight these pioneering flights. Other Tainan pilots who also made flights over Australia on

these early reconnaissance missions include FPO2c Shimizu Eisaku, FPO2c Kamipeppu Yoshinori, FPO2c Iwayama Takashi and FPO2c Kudō Shigetoshi.

First ‘Babs’ Loss in New Guinea

The first ‘Babs’ to be lost in New Guinea occurred on 4 August 1942, courtesy of the RAAF, when a battle unfolded between four Tainan Naval Air Group ‘Zeros’, one ‘Babs’ from the same unit, and eight 76 Squadron RAAF Kittyhawks. Flight Lieutenant P.H. Ash, returning from a patrol, jumped the ‘Babs’ and was credited with shooting down a “dive-bomber” to the north-west of the strip. His Kittyhawk was slightly damaged by machine gun fire. The combat claim marked 76 Squadron’s first kill and, while other kills were credited to Flying Officer M. Bolt, with another shared equally between Sergeants Dempster and Carroll, these claims are unsubstantiated, as all ‘Zeros’ escaped unscathed. The Australians descended swiftly onto the Japanese from a height of 23,000 feet. In the fierce combat the four Japanese pilots claimed five enemy shot down – a serious exaggeration for the day as total RAAF losses comprised Flying Officer Grosvenor’s badly shot up Kittyhawk, and Kittyhawk A29-98 ‘N’ of 75 Squadron destroyed on the ground. In the confusion of combat, the four Rabaulbased Japanese fighter pilots became separated and used much precious fuel. At 15:45


C5M2, tail code X-14, from the 3rd Naval Air Group cruises over the Northern Territory in early 1942. Apart from its Darwin missions, a solitary aircraft from this unit also accompanied the strike force of nine A6M2 ‘Zero’ fighters on the 3 March 1942 mid-morning attack against Broome, staging from the Celebes via Timor. The 3rd’s aircraft were coded X-10 to X-18 while those from the Tainan Naval Air Group bore V-10 to V-18. Unfortunately the Japanese unit records reveal no tail code data for any of the missions over Australia. [Artist impression by author]

hours FPO1c ōta Toshio and FPO3c Endō Masuaki landed at Gasmata, short of Rabaul, where they were able to topup and proceed home. Also short of fuel was FPO2c Matsuki Susumi who landed at Lae at four o’clock where he would overnight before returning to Rabaul the next day. At 16:25 hours WO Takatsuka Tora’ichi, who had trailed behind the other three, topped up at Gasmata before following ōta and Endō back to Rabaul. During the battle, at 13:20 hours, Australian troops reported a fighter going down in smoke some miles away in the foothills. This was Ash’s victim, FPO2c Hanahiro Keiry ū’s C5M2 ‘Babs’, not the “dive-bomber” as credited. Its wreckage was first located by an Australian patrol three days later in the Stirling Range near Warpie village. A more exhaustive search of the crash site was conducted on 20 August 1942. This exercise turned up target maps of the Port Moresby and North-east Australian areas. Confirmation that the wreckage was that of a ‘Babs’ is summarised in the report’s statement that the aircraft was, “a two seat monoplane manufactured by Mitsubishi”. Limited remains of the crew included, “one hand only on the grip of the machine gun”, indicating the remains of WO Hasegawa Kameichi, who was Hanahiro’s observer for the mission, and

likely the one who had inflicted damage to Ash’s Kittyhawk. As to the type itself, there is a sad ending. Not one intact example of this fine Mitsubishi aircraft survives anywhere. Sources include inter alia, kodoshocho No. 3 Kokutai, kodoshocho Tainan Kokutai, microfilm 49th FG, and special thanks to research by Luca Ruffato, Bernard Baeza, Rick Dunn and Bob Alford.

ABOVE: A Tainan C5M descends towards Lae after photographing Cairns on 24 June 1942. The flight was unobserved by any Australian authorities as the ‘Babs’ loitered over the town for twenty minutes. Not surprisingly, details of this landmark flight appears in no Australian histories. [Artist impression by author]

F L I G H T PAT H | 67


Fly low, fly fast, turn left… in a jet M

ention the Reno Air Races and everyone will immediately think of the Unlimited Class and the modified racers like ‘Strega’, ‘Rare Bear’, ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Precious Metal’. For the past fourteen years, however, the fastest aircraft around the pylons has been from the Jet Class and, since 2011, Australians have been in the thick of it. The Jet Class came in to being in 2002 as an invitation- only race featuring L-39 Albatros aircraft. Two years later, with growing sponsorship and interest, the class was opened up to any qualified pilot and aircraft. It was further expanded in 2007 to allow participation by any non-afterburning jet with less than fifteen degrees of wing sweep. This enabled many classic jets, such as the de Havilland Vampire, Fouga Magister, BAC Jet Provost and North American T-2 Buckeye to be seen around the pylons. With the recent retirement from military service of the latter, it is hoped more will be seen at future events. As with the other classes, the requirements placed upon race pilots and prospective race pilots, are strict with the pilots having to prove themselves, and their mounts, at Pylon Racing School (PRS) several months before Reno. Pilots must have a

certain amount of flight time under their belt and, importantly, at least 25 hours on the jet they are to race. Completing the PRS successfully is the only way a pilot will race at Reno in September. Even then, the aircraft must undergo its technical inspection and the pilot will not become a fully certified jet racer until he or she qualifies or participates in a race heat. To race jets at Reno is a serious undertaking, so the Australians in the field are, of course, serious operators. That said, they face the extra challenge of making the pilgrimage each year from the southern hemisphere. “As a spectator at the Reno air race from 2005 we started planning on competing at the races. As anyone could imagine this is not easy from the other side of the world,” said Mark Pracy, owner of the Hunter Valley adventure flight company Jetride Australia. Pracy Racing is perhaps the best known of the Australian jet outfits that compete at Reno. Six years after his 2005 visit, Mark took out ‘rookie of the year’ in 2011 racing his first L-39 ‘Blank Czech’. In 2014, his fourth consecutive year of racing, he finished third in the Jet Gold race flying his L-39C ‘True Blue’ at 448.4 mph (722 km/h). This year he placed fourth at 449 mph (723 km/h). The 2015 winner,

Mark Pracy and Pracy Racing’s Crew Cheif Mick Poole discuss last minute tactics before Sunday’s Gold Race. [Rob Fox]

68 | F L I G H T PAT H


Onslaught Air Racing’s Lachie Onslow in the TS-11 Iskra ‘Hot Section’ leads Race 39 around the Reno circuit. [Frank B Mormillo]

Going for Gold... L-39 s head down the chute at the start of Sunday's final race. The eventual winner, the DH Vampire was high and just out of the frame. [Rob Fox]

Charlie Camilleri in the L-29 Delfin rounds the race pylon in Sunday’s Silver finals. [Roger Cain]

Best placed Australian in 2015 was Mark Pracy in his L-39 Albatros 'True Blue’. [Rob Fox] Marck Pracy in Race 66 ‘True Blue’, low and fast past Reno’s finish line. [via Matt Henderson]

F L I G H T PAT H | 69


Pete Zaccagnino in his first generation jet, the DH Vampire, rounds up Sean Cushing in the L-39 , Race 8 'Fast Company' to take the Gold Race title. [Rob Fox]

a de Havilland Vampire flown by Pete Zaccagnino, just beat the second-placed L-39 Albatros at a speed of 502 mph (808 km/h). Although ‘True Blue’ slipped back slightly in the placings this year, despite the improved speed, the Pracy Racing support team won the inaugural Jet Crew Team Award. When Pracy started competing in 2011, he joined an experienced Formula 1 class racer who was also in his first year of jet racing. Lachie Onslow is another New South Walesbased aviator who runs Fleet Helicopters, Onslaught Air Racing and Fleet Warbirds. The latter is another adventure flight business that can offer flights in a Boeing Stearman, T-6 Texan or L-39 Albatros. His first outing in the Jet Class, flying a TS-11 Iskra named ‘Hot Section’, resulted in a sixth place in the Gold race. He repeated this effort in 2012 and placed second in the Silver race in 2014. This year, still flying the Iskra, he was third in the Bronze race, at an average speed of 414 mph (666 km/h) and sixth in the Silver. Former RAAF engineer Charlie Camilleri didn’t have a great event in ‘Race 61’, an L-29 Delphin named ‘Miss Independence’, as he was disqualified during the Bronze and Silver races for flying too high and too low respectively. Nine of the seventeen competing jets were penalised in some way during the event which indicates just how hard it is to fly these fast aircraft around the pylons. Camilleri placed fourth in the 2014 Bronze 70 | F L I G H T PAT H

and Silver races so, as one of Australia’s elite cadre of jet racers, and one of only 27 qualified Reno jet pilots, he would have been disappointed with this year’s result. He attended his first Reno in 2011 when he was crew chief for Mark Pracy and Pracy Racing jet team before flying at the PRS in 2013. He then raced his part-owned L-29 Delphin under the CCTRacing banner in 2014. Prior to retiring from the RAAF, Charlie completed his commercial pilot training and established an aircraft maintenance and charter operation in Bathurst, NSW, and has operated and expanded the business over the past 23 years. The business also offers aerobatic flights, in one of two L-39 Albatros, over Mount Panorama in Bathurst or the Whitsunday Islands in Far North Queensland. The 2016 races will see a different ‘Miss Independence’ in the circuit. “We are planning to do a number of speed modifications this year and will be looking at streamlining the canopy”, said Charlie. It is guaranteed that Mark Pracy and Lachie Onslow are already working hard on similar modifications and, with Charlie, are no doubt eagerly awaiting the pace plane’s call of “Gentlemen, you have a race” to start their 2016 campaigns. All three have a longer road to travel than most to make the races each year but it is only a matter of when, not if, an Australian will take the Gold in the Jet Class at Reno. Rob Fox

The Pracy Racing support team won the inaugural Jet Crew Team Award. From Left; Mick Poole, Estelle Paterson, Matt Henderson, Mark Pracy and Karen Henderson. [via Pracy Racing]


Winner of the 2015 Gold race was the de Havilland Vampire flown by Pete Zaccagnino. [Roger Cain]

BELOW: Charlie Camilleri and his L-29 Delphin ‘Miss Independance’. [Rob Fox]

Mark Pracy rounds the pylons in his patriotic L-39 'True Blue’. [Roger Cain]

ABOVE: Lachie Onslow placed third in the Bronze race, in the Iskra ‘Hot Section’, at an average speed of 414 mph (666 km/h). [Rob Fox]

F L I G H T PAT H | 71


Airshows Robert ‘Hoot’ Gibson won owner Bill Destefani his thirteenth Championship title with ‘Strega’. The highly modified Mustang is the former RAAF A68-679. Its name is Italian for ‘Witch’. [Roger Cain] INSET: Robert ‘Hoot’ Gibson and Strega after taking out the 2015 title. [Rob Fox]

‘Hoot’ Gibson wins at Reno T

he 52nd Reno National Championship Air Races at Stead Field in Nevada, USA, now has a new Unlimited Gold race champion. Retired NASA astronaut and ex-test pilot, Robert ‘Hoot’ Gibson won the Gold race on Sunday, flying Bill ‘Tiger’ Destefani’s P-51D Mustang ‘Strega’ around the eight-mile course at a speed of 489 miles per hour (787 km/h). The previous six consecutive years of Unlimited wins had been flown by young Steven Hinton in the highly modified P-51 Mustangs ‘Strega’ and ‘Voodoo’ but this year, Hinton in ‘Voodoo’, while running strong, was unable to finish due to engine issues. Stewart Dawson, in Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat ‘Rare Bear’, finished a close second. The Bearcat currently has eight Gold wins at Reno to its credit but this year finished behind ‘Strega’ at 472 mph (760 km/h). Third place went to Dennis Sanders in Sanders Aeronautics’ Pratt & Whitney R-4360-powered Hawker Sea Fury ‘Dreadnought’ at 471 mph (758 km/h). Finishing behind these were three more Sea Furies: Curt Brown in ‘Sawbones’, Korey Wells in ‘924’, and Mark 72 | F L I G H T PAT H

Watt in ‘Argonaut’. Each of the Sea Furies in the race had a different type of engine with only ‘924’ powered by a Bristol Centaurus (the type’s original powerplant). Two of the race pilots were flying in their first Unlimited races. Sal Rubino shared flying duties with veteran pilot Dan Martin to fly Rubino’s Mustang ‘Grim Reaper’ while John ‘Dusty’ Dowd Jr. flew a Yak-11. Sadly, one of the most popular racers was unable to make the event. After a year of preparing the Griffon-powered P-51 Mustang ‘Precious Metal’ for the races, the aircraft caught fire, and was severely damaged, at a fuel stop during its flight from Florida. There were only thirteen Unlimiteds on the field, so there was a Silver race but, again, no Bronze. Rookie Sal Rubino in ‘Grim Reaper’ placed first in the Silver, at 341 mph (549 km/h), followed by Doug Mathews in his P-51D Mustang ‘The Rebel’ and ‘Dusty’ Dowd in the Yak-11 ‘Layla’. Three more Mustangs rounded out the field: Dan Vance in ‘Speedball Alice’, Brant Seghetti in ‘Sparky’, and Rob Gordon in ‘Lady Jo’. Roger Cain

John Muzala brought Max Chapman’s P-51B Mustang for the National Aviation Heritage Invitational competition. It won top honours and three trophies. [Roger Cain]


Airshows

Sanders Family Sea Furies in action during a Reno Unlimited Heat Race with Mark Watt flying “Argonaut” and Korey Wells at the controls of #924. [Frank B Mormillo] ‘Voodoo’, trailing smoke, being pursued by “Rare Bear” in Sunday’s Breitling Unlimited Gold Championship Race. [Frank B Mormillo]

RIGHT: The crew of Voodoo check the oil level post-race, in the previous heat the P-51 reportedly landed with less than a gallon of oil left. [Rob Fox] LEFT: Although it hasn’t won a Championship since 1986, ‘Dreadnought’ is always in the Gold race and flying up front with the fastest of the racers. [Roger Cain]

The Hawker Fury ‘Sawbones’. Curt Brown fires up the Wright Cyclone R-23350-26 for Sunday's Unlimited final Race. The Fury finished 5th. [Rob Fox]

F L I G H T PAT H | 73


Airshows

Blakesburg 2015 T

he 62nd annual Antique Airplane Association and Airpower Museum (AAA/APM) 2015 Invitational Fly-in is the largest Iowa Fly-In held on a grass runway. This event hosted more than 360 aircraft at the private field just a few miles southwest of Ottumwa. It is a five to six day event, held in early September, with mostly vintage and classic aircraft arriving from around the United States. This year’s theme was record-breaking aircraft with the Curtiss Robin and Stinson 108 as the featured aircraft. The Curtiss Robin’s claim to fame was the endurance record set in 1929 when the ‘St. Louis’ remained in the air for seventeen days. Two Robins attended the fly-in. The all-grass field has a museum, along with several hangars of vintage aircraft, and boasts a flea market where lots of good aircraft parts can be found. Pilots and non-pilots enjoyed the event, as always, and with good, but hot, weather, there was constant flying from sunrise to sunset. Food and drink, along with a ‘Pilot’s Pub’ and movies RIGHT: One of three Meyers OTWs on the field, Greg Schildberg’s Warner-powered biplane is from nearby Casey, Iowa. BELOW: While aircraft were parked by type where possible, a flight or late arrivals added a bit of variety to the lines.

74 | F L I G H T PAT H

in the evening ensured the participants were well catered for. This is a radio-free event and pilots are encouraged not to use the sets installed in their aircraft. With a runway of approximately 2,100 feet (640 metres), red and green flags are used to communicate whether aircraft can land or have to go around. There was no shortage of different types on the field. There were lots of Travel Airs, Boeing Kaydets, Wacos, Luscombes, Stinsons and Pipers. Fairchilds, Howards, Culver Cadets, Meyers OTWs, and Cessnas of different classic models were present in smaller numbers. Some of the sole aircraft types included a Davis, a Spartan Executive, an Interstate Cadet, an Alexander Eaglerock, a New Standard, and a Ryan SCW to name just a few. Kept as a ‘grass roots’ event just for members, the volunteers do a great job and the fly-in, considering all of the aircraft are flying around without relying on their radios, remains a safe and well-managed event. Roger Cain

From Webster, Minnesota, Chuck Doyle performs a pass in his Travel Air E-4000.


Airshows LEFT: Dick Jackson’s 1934 Waco S3HD Super Sport is the only one of its type flying. BELOW: Taking a few friends up for a ride is this spacious 1929 New Standard D-25 from Brodhead, Wisconsin.

ABOVE: Several Travel Airs and an Eaglerock head up this nice row of vintage radial powered aircraft.

Besides the vintage and classic biplanes, there were a number of newer experimental homebuilt biplanes that fit right in with their vintage look.

ABOVE LEFT: As a Piper L-4 lands with a green flag, a red flag is held up signaling the next aircraft in line that it is not yet cleared to land. LEFT: Marlin Horst brought his 1929 Fairchild 71 from Bird In Hand, Pennsylvania. This aircraft was restored to “as close to original” as possible.

F L I G H T PAT H | 75


Airshows

Jersey International Air Display

ABOVE: Lufthansa’s Junkers JU52/3M D-CDLH ‘D-AQUI’. LEFT: The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota filling in for the Lancaster.

T

he island of Jersey, in the Channel Islands has much that makes it unique, and the organising team at the International Air Display go out of their way to find acts that are not often seen at shows elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Vintage debuts at the show included the fantastic Travelair Mystery Ship reproduction built by Ron Souch, the CAC Boomerang from Belgium and Will Greenwood's Yak 3M. One aircraft that has a significant part in the history of Jersey is the Junkers 52/3m. Lufthansa brought their German-built example to represent the type's civil use, but it was Junkers 52s that supplied the island during the German occupation. Vintage jets featured heavily in the show. First up was the Sea Vixen, followed by some rare formations. The Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron MiG 15UTI and the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight (SwAFHF) Saab J29 Tunnan displayed and, whilst the MiG displayed individually, the Tunnan went off and joined up with the other three aircraft of the Flight, the Saab SK60, Draken and Viggen. Norwegian Cyrus Brantenburg's amphibious DHC Beaver made some water landings in the bay. This is an interesting airframe, having served in Laos with Air America or, as the commentator put it, "the illegal trading arm of the CIA". It was an excellent show and was blessed with some lovely weather. If you happen to be in the UK during the first weeks of September next year, the Air Display is well worth a visit, and the island itself is a fascinating place to spend some time. Melvyn Hiscock

The de Havilland Sea Vixen, low and smoky. The T-6-based Boomerang replica.

Former Air America Beaver did ‘touch and goes’ in the bay.

French-based North American Bronco illustrating the role of Forward Air Control in Vietnam.

The Swedish Air Force Historic Flight – left top, Saab SK60, SAAB Tunnan below, Draken, top and Viggen at rear. 76 | F L I G H T PAT H


Airshows

AIRSHO 2015

A

lthough the Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF) headquarters has moved from Midland, Texas, to Dallas, Texas, the former still hosts the organisation’s annual AIRSHO. Now produced by the CAF’s Midland-based High Sky Wing, AIRSHO 2015, held over the weekend of 29-30 August, essentially featured the same flying routines as previous AIRSHO productions, though the number of participating aircraft was reduced. Among the notable warbirds in action were the P-39Q Airacobra from the CAF’s Centex Wing, the PBJ-1J Mitchell from the CAF’s Devil Dog Squadron and the Centex Wing’s B25J Mitchell ‘Yellow Rose’. Other heavy metal included the CAF Gulf Coast Wing’s C-60A Lodestar ‘Goodtime Gal’ (see Flightpath Vol 26, No. 4), the Cavanaugh Flight Museum’s AD-5 Skyraider and T-28 Trojans, belonging to John Cotter and the High Sky Wing, along with a host of other trainers, transports and liaison aircraft. Featured warbird scenarios included an ‘America Trains for War’ display, ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ W.W.II air combat reenactments and a Vietnam Air War display. Though the number of participating warbirds was slightly lower this year, the crowd on Saturday alone reportedly nearly matched the total weekend attendance of previous years. Frank B. Mormillo

TOP: The P-39Q Airacobra from the CAF Centex Wing in action during the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ scenario. ABOVE: Trainers and liaison aircraft in flight over Midland, Texas during the ‘America Trains for War’ scenario. [All images Frank B. Mormillo] The Stinson Reliant assigned to the CAF Headquarters taking off from the Midland International Airport to fly in AIRSHO 2015.

ABOVE: ’Yellow Rose’, the B-25J Mitchell, and ‘Devil Dog’, the PBJ-1J Mitchell, on the bomber ramp at Midland. BELOW: The T-50 ‘Bamboo Bomber’ from the CAF's Rio Grande Valley Wing and the Cavanaugh Flight Museum's AD-5 Skyraider on the ramp.

F L I G H T PAT H | 77


Airshows Dean Cutshall’s NAA F-100 Super Sabre (N2011V) won the Judge’s Choice Jet Fighter award. It was a crowd favourite as well and flew some brilliant flypasts and was notable for landing while using a drag chute.

OSHKOSH 2015 A

irVenture 2015 saw an all-time record for aircraft movements over the week, the numbers of visitors reached over half a million and there were several other firsts for the world’s largest aviation event. Most notably, it was the first time the USAF had landed a Boeing B-52H Stratofortress there. The runway lighting had to be removed to accommodate it. Warbird numbers were up with, among others, 22 P-51 Mustangs, five F4U Corsairs and large formations of Texans, Mentors and Trojans filling the sky. It was a good year for W.W.II bombers too as the Confederate Air Force’s B-29 Superfortress was joined by the world’s only flying Consolidated Privateer, the Canadian Warplane Heritage’s Avro Lancaster, numerous B-25 Mitchells, a newly-painted and colourful A-26 Invader and a PV-2 Harpoon. The Texas Flying Legends also attended and the ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’ displays were, as always, well-received. This year also saw a good selection of Cold War-era aircraft with an A-4 Skyhawk, F-100 Super Sabre and an F-4 Phantom II complementing the static B-52, while the lighter end of the scale was represented by a Cessna O-2, L-19 Birddogs and Hughes 500, Bell Iroquois and Mi-2 ‘Hoplite’ helicopters. Camping is a popular form of accommodation at Oshkosh and the ‘North 40’ filled early. The Seaplane Base also had many visitors. There is always something for everyone at Oshkosh. John Freedman 78 | F L I G H T PAT H


Airshows LEFT: Paul Ehlen received the Reserve Grand Champion WWII Warbird for his P-51D Mustang ‘Sierra Sue II’ (N1751D). Air Corps Aviation won a Gold Wrench for the restoration. BELOW: Dan Murray received the Silver Age (1928-1936) Champion for his 1928 Travel Air 4000 (NC6464).

Brian Reynolds of Olympia, Washington, won Grand Champion Post W.W.II for the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair (NX72NW). Airpower Unlimited LLC of Jerome, Idaho, earned the Gold Wrench for the restoration.

A very popular performer was the USAF’s QF-4E Phantom II (74-1626) AF-309 from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron.

Most Authentic Restoration went to Max Chapman and John Muszala for their P-51B Mustang ‘Berlin Express’ (N515ZB). They invited the re-enactors to pose around the aircraft for photos.

The de Havilland Canada FB.26 Mosquito (N114KA) took out the Grand Champion WWII Warbird award for Jerry Yagen and a restorer’s Gold Wrench for Avspecs of New Zealand.

The CAF’s B-29 Superfortress sparkles under the Saturday night fireworks display.

F L I G H T PAT H | 79


Battle of Britain 75 O

ver the years there have been many significant commemorative events for the Battle of Britain, but 2015 saw the staging of three seventy-fifth anniversary events in the UK, all unlikely to be surpassed. All the veterans of the conflict are now well into their nineties, so this was essentially the last chance to thank them while remembering those lost.

'The hardest day,' Biggin Hill 18 August 2015

The day dawned grey and overcast, but Peter Monk of the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar and his team had amassed 22 Spitfires and Hurricanes at the historic airfield. The aircraft were arranged into three flights named after RAF aces involved in the conflict, ‘Grice’, ‘Mortimer’ and ‘Hamlyn’. Each flight took a different route to overfly significant locations of the Battle. ‘Grice’ headed south-westerly, taking in Surrey and Hampshire, before rounding the Isle of Wight. ‘Hamlyn’ headed down through Kent before overflying the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Ferne, while ‘Mortimer’ overflew the local airfields of Kent and Surrey including RAF Kenley, which suffered significant damage during the air attacks on that day of the Battle.. ‘Mortimer’ then returned to mount a ‘standing patrol’ over the skies of Biggin Hill while waiting for the return of ‘Grice’ and ‘Hamlyn’ flights, and when they did, the three flights ran in for a mass formation pass over the airfield. With public attendance limited to 3000, it was a pity that this magnificent event was not offered to a wider audience, as several thousand more spectators had amassed around the airfield.

Goodwood 15 September 2015

15 September is officially Battle of Britain day in the UK, with the day’s events recognised as a turning point in W.W.II. The fifteenth is the Royal Air Force Association's annual ‘Wings Appeal’ day, and in 2015 the UK's largest ever gathering of Spitfires and Hurricanes. Goodwood (or RAF Westhampnett as it was then known) was a Battle of Britain aerodrome active from July 1940. Goodwood is now the home of the Boultbee Flight Academy, which organised the event in cooperation with Lord March and his team. The event attracted some thirty Spitfires, Hurricanes (and the Blenheim) to the aerodrome, a new record for the Spitfires and Hurricanes in the modern era. The poor 80 | F L I G H T PAT H

UK weather in the morning unfortunately curtailed some arrivals but miraculously the weather cleared in the afternoon to allow the aircraft to get airborne and head off in nine separate flights to again overfly significant Battle locations. With the patronage of HRH Prince Harry, through his Spitfire Scholarship programme for injured service men and women, the event was well covered in the media and it was great to see positive press coverage for historic aviation, following the recent Hawker Hunter crash at Shoreham which claimed several lives. Battle of Britain Veteran Wing Commander Tom Neil was in the rear seat of the first Spitfire T9 (SM520) which led a tremendous stream of takeoffs that lasted well over thirty minutes. Although there was no mass flypast, the spectacle of so many fighters getting airborne from the grass runway was a memorable sight and sound. With no charge for tickets, some 30,000 pre-booked visitors thronged to the aerodrome to attend this amazing spectacle.

The IWM’s recently acquired Spitfire Mk.I N3200, flaps down, comes in to land at Duxford.

Duxford’s September Show

Duxford could have easily been upstaged by the events at Biggin Hill and Goodwood, with Goodwood Spitfire numbers being greater. But the event was sold out weeks earlier and the capacity crowd were not disappointed, with some of the finest flying I have witnessed at the Cambridgeshire airfield in over thirty years of visits. Duxford was another Battle of Britain airfield, albeit in 12 Group, and played a key role in the latter stages of the Battle. The display included an airfield attack by a brace of Buchons and a licencebuilt Me 108, countered by Peter Vacher's Mk.I Hurricane and the IWM's own Mk.I Spitfire, joined in the air by two more Hurricanes and the Blenheim – the latter displayed in a very spirited fashion. The RAF staged its own salute to the veterans of the Battle of Britain that were in attendance, as the Red Arrows were joined by the two Hurricanes and four Spitfires of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) in a formation flypast. Despite restrictions being placed on minimum display heights, Brian Smith in MH434 led the Spitfire flypast finale that featured some seventeen aircraft in a deeply moving series of passes. The formation then broke up for an awe-inspiring tail chase. For spectacle, Duxford’s Battle of Britain display cannot be praised highly enough. Gary R Brown.

David Arnold’s newly restored Seafire Mk.III PP972, operated by Air Leasing, seen here landing back at Duxford.


Airshows The Fighter Collection Spitfire Mk.XIV MV293 sweeps in from Duxford’s Royston end. It currently wears the markings of Johnnie Johnson

LEFT: Mass Flypast at Duxford led by Brian Smith in Sptfire IX MH434.

[All images: Gary R Brown]

Spitfire Tr 9 PV202 displays over Goodwood

Seafire Mk.XVII SX336 owned by Tim Manna is seen here at Duxford G-CBOE, Hurricane Mk.XII, wears the markings of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force and is based in Germany with new owner K F Grimminger. It’s seen here at Goodwood.

The BBMF Hurricane IIc PZ865 has one extra shot of the Kigas

F L I G H T PAT H | 81


Airshows

Flying Legends 2015

J

uly’s Flying Legends airshow at Duxford did not suffer the weather problems of last year’s event, so the full complement of European attendees was able to make the trip to the UK. Highlights included the Bf 109G-4 ‘Red 7’ (operated by Airbus in Germany), the debut of newly-restored Seafire III PP972, John Sessions’ Spitfire IX SL633 in Czech Air Force colours (spending the summer in the UK instead of its usual base at Paine Field, Washington), and a trio of Hawker biplane fighters including two Nimrods and the Legends debut of the Historic Aircraft Collection’s magnificent Fury. As well as the three Hawkers flying together, the Fury flew an energetic routine in the hands of the eminently capable Charlie Brown. From the opening eleven Spitfire tail chase (including a rare gathering of four Griffonengined examples) to the final ‘Balbo’ formation, it was non-stop action throughout the

afternoon. The P-51 Mustang section was particularly impressive with three aircraft making fast passes in front of the crowd (flown by seasoned display pilots Lars Ness, Marc Mathis and Nick Grey) while Frenchman Frédéric Akary performed aerobatics in his ‘Moonbeam McSwine’ over the runway. The magnificent Flying Bulls P-38 Lightning, always an impressive sight when flown by Chief Pilot Raimund Reidmann, made its first appearance at Duxford in three years. The Fighter Collection showcased their unique selection of Curtiss Hawks – the radial-engined Hawk 75 and newly-arrived P-36C (flown by Steve Hinton), and the early P-40C and Merlin-engined P-40F – in a unique formation and then individually. With a good crowd attending on the Saturday, this year’s event, despite the rain affected Sunday display, will go down as one of the best Flying Legends of recent years. Mike Shreeve

Gloster Gladiators. [Frank B Mormillo]

Bristol Blenheim and a Spitfire pair. [Frank B Mormillo] Bf 109 trio. [Gary R Brown]

82 | F L I G H T PAT H


Airshows

The trio of Hawker biplane fighters including two Nimrods and the Legends debut of the Historic Aircraft Collectionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s magnificent Fury. [Mike Shreeve]

Hawker Sea Furys honouring the RAN. [Mike Shreeve] The P-51 in 112 Squadron RAF colours. [Gary R Brown]

The impressive Flying Legends flightline of former W.W.II aircraft. [Gary R Brown] F L I G H T PAT H | 83


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