06 April 2015

Flying High This Past Week: 30 March-5 April

A day late on posting the latest edition of Flying High This Past Week, but no worries, here's what's been getting a lot of hits lately here at TAILS THROUGH TIME:
  • The Early History of the Air Line Pilots Association, ALPA: Quite obviously the latest article on TAILS THROUGH TIME is going to be getting the most hits in the past week! The early history of Northwest Airlines is weaved into the early history of ALPA as the founder of the union, Dave Behncke, was Northwest's first pilot and flew its first passengers in 1927. The early history of ALPA gives us a good look at the state of the airline industry in the 1920s which was just on the cusp of making the leap into greater technologies led off by the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-3. Despite the landmark in aviation history those aircraft were, flying for many professional pilots was still a hazardous profession in the years prior and many airline heads of the day tried to do what they could to stamp out ALPA in its early days. Fortunately a strike at a small airline that ran between St. Louis and Chicago thrust ALPA into the national spotlight and won it friends in high places. 
  • Francis Gary Powers: After the Return: Best known as the Lockheed U-2 pilot that was shot down over the Soviet Union in May 1960 that ended US overflights of the USSR, his return to the United States was less than hospitable as the Director of Central Intelligence sought to blame Powers for any number of error that resulted in his shoot down despite being cleared by a CIA damage assessment team, the USAF, and a formal board of inquiry. Recognition of Powers' integrity and bravery were finally acknowledged posthumously in 2000 on the 40th anniversary of his shoot down. Note the comment at the bottom of my article by Powers' son, Francis Gary Powers Jr, who is the founder of the Cold War Museum
  • The First Steps to a Turboprop Transport, Part Two: The Boeing YC-97J was a Stratofreighter that was modified with Pratt & Whitney T34 turboprops so the USAF could gain operating experience with the new class of engines before the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Douglas C-133 Cargomaster become operational. Two KC-97Gs were converted to use the same engines and propellers as what would be used on the upcoming C-133. 
  • Soviet Wild Weasels, Part One: Doctrine/Tactics: This was the first part of a three article series I did back in 2010 on the differences between American and Soviet SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) doctrines. The second part looked at the aircraft that functioned as the Soviet equivalent of the Wild Weasels and the third part looked at the missiles used by those aircraft. 
  • Frontier Airlines and the Boeing 737-200: In the 1970s, Denver-based Frontier Airlines (the first incarnation, not the current one flying) became one of the most significant operators of the Boeing 737-200. Originally investing in the Boeing 727-100/200, the switch to the 737-200 and its better operating economics for Frontier's route system undoubtedly helped the airline weather the economic roller coaster that buffeted the US economy in the 1970s.
The next article will be posted tomorrow night and it will cover the development of the Boeing flying boom used in air refueling. Remember, every five days a new article is posted here at TAILS THROUGH TIME and you'll never be quite sure until then where in aviation history we'll be flying!

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