22 March 2015

Flying High This Past Week 16 March-22 March

First a bit of housekeeping. This week I switched this blog over to have its own domain name at www.tailsthroughtime.com. The previous address of aviationtrivia.blogspot.com still works and you'll get a redirect notice if you use the old link that will take you to the new URL. Now, without further ado, here's what's been getting a lot of page views this past week here at TAILS THROUGH TIME:
  • Two's Company and Three's a Crowd: The Boeing 737-200 Flight Crew Controversy: Quite naturally the latest post to the blog would be the most popular in the past week! The question of whether the 737-200 required two flight crew or three created quite a bit of acrimony in the late 1960s when the aircraft was introduced. Nowhere else was the dispute more pronounced than at United Air Lines, one of Boeing's key customers for the new jet.
  • The Crazy Cats: The Lockheed Neptunes of the US Army: Yes, you read that right. The *Army*. In Vietnam, the Army found that it needed a bigger and longer ranged aircraft for the SIGINT/COMINT role that today's Guardrail aircraft perform. Intraservice rivalries being what they were then, the Navy stepped up to help the Army and offered some P-2 Neptunes from stateside Reserve squadrons for modification so the Army wouldn't have to deal with what was then a very prickly USAF. The AP-2Es (a spurious designation to avoid antagonizing the USAF) were the heaviest and most complex Neptune variant to take to the skies. Many of the SIGINT/COMINT equipment used on the Army Neptunes would influence the development of the Guardrail system used today by the Army. 
  • The N-20 Program: Switzerland's First Indigenous Jet Aircraft: The Federal Aircraft Factory (FAF) N-20 Aiguillon was an attractive flying wing fighter design that only got as far as taxi tests and some very short hops short of a true first flight before being canceled. The Aiguillon had two flying forebears, though, that contributed to the flight test program and development of this aborted fighter design.
  • Tupolev's Own Tristar Design: It's not unusual for the Russian design bureaus (called OKBs) to reuse designations. The Tu-204 that flies today is actually the third use of that designation. The first use was for an enlarged T-tailed jet development of the Tu-134/Tu-154 and the second use of the designation was for a widebody trijet that looked very much like the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar. 
  • The Rocket-Boosted P-51 Mustang: In 1945 the USAAF's Mustangs were besting the Messerschmitt Me 262 jets over their German bases where the jets were most vulnerable. As a result of augmented airfield defenses, work turned to a rocket-boosted P-51 that would have the speed to catch the Me 262 at altitude and not have to run the gauntlet of airfield defenses.
  • The Legend of Half-Moon Bay: In this day and age when most of us are jaded to air travel and complaints about airlines are the norm, from the 1962 Christmas season is a unparalleled story of ingenuity and a can-do spirit by airline employees to go the extra mile. I won't spoil it here, but let's just say we'd all be hard pressed to come up with anything that equals what a small California airline pulled off that year, creating the "Legend of Half Moon Bay"!
The next TAILS THROUGH TIME article goes up tomorrow night, 23 March. Stay tuned! 

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