29 April 2009

When the Bell AH-1 Cobra gunship was being developed, the Army's intent was to name the aircraft after an American Indian tribe as had been its long tradition. However, at the time of the development of the Cobra gunship, the Department of Defense was in a legal battle with Piper Aircraft who also named their aircraft after American Indian tribes.

In Vietnam, UH-1 "Hueys" were called "Slicks" if they were operating unarmed, "Hogs" if they were armed with rockets, and "Cobras" if they were armed with guns. As Bell's main pitch for the procurement for the AH-1 was that it was a low-risk development of the UH-1 Iroquois (to some degree true given that the original gunship proposal was called the Iroquois Warrior and had more in common with the UH-1 than the final AH-1 design), the AH-1 got named "Huey Cobra".

Source: New Vanguard: Huey Cobra Gunships by Chris Bishop. Osprey Publishing, 2006, p6-7.

27 April 2009

The Israeli air-to-surface missile Rafael Popeye was already ordered by the USAF to fulfill a long-standing requirement for a stand-off penetrator weapon as the AGM-142 Have Nap when Desert Storm began. The Air Force quickly got 24 missiles direct from Israeli Air Force stocks with the start of the air war but were never used- it was speculated that the political repercussions of using an Israeli weapon against an Arab state resulted in the missiles not being used by the B-52.

Source: Stratofortress: The Story of the B-52 by Martin W. Bowman. Pen and Sword Books, 2005, p180.

26 April 2009

The first Lockheed Skunk Works contract with the CIA wasn't the U-2 spyplane, but a spyplane adaptation of the Lockheed P2V Neptune maritime patrol aircraft. Predating the U-2 contract by several months, seven P2V-7 Neptunes were modified by Kelly Johnson's team into RB-69s. The aircraft were equipped with the first operational terrain avoidance radar (built by Texas Instruments), doppler navigation radars, a variety of ECM equipment, and in later years a large General Electric SLAR unit in a housing on the right side of the aft fuselage.

The first missions assigned to the RB-69s were the mapping of the Russian power grid in Eastern Europe. Missions were flown out of Wiesbaden AB in West Germany in 1955-1956. Beginning in 1957, missions were also flown over China from bases in Taiwan, usually with Taiwanese crews and markings.

Source: Lockheed Secret Projects: Inside the Skunk Works by Dennis Jenkins. MBI Publishing, 2001, p29.

25 April 2009

As of 2008 the largest commercial fleet of Douglas DC-3s belonged to Buffalo Airways in Canada- they have ten examples, but four are in storage at Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. They are used for personnel and cargo transport throughout the northern part of Canada.

Four Star Air Cargo of San Juan, Puerto Rico, operates six DC-3s on freighter services throughout the Caribbean.

The largest passenger operator is currently Discovery Air Tours based at Sydney-Bankstown in Australia. They also operate six DC-3s on day and night scenic tour flights of the area.

Source: Air International, March 2009. "Douglas' Time Machine" by David Willis, p57.

22 April 2009

For a brief period during the Vietnam War, Convair F-102 Delta Daggers were used in the night ground attack role- the infrared equipment designed to track Soviet bombers was used to detect Viet Cong activity in the jungles of South Vietnam. Pilots soon became adept at identifying insurgent campfires and even tracking someone smoking a cigarette. An IR missile intended for air-to-air engagements would be fired at the heat source, sometimes resulting in secondary explosions.

With the arrival of increasing number of F-4 Phantoms in theater, the ground attack role of the F-102 was short lived.

Source: Combat Aircraft, October-November 2008. "Century Series: F-102 Delta Dagger" by Warren E. Thompson, p72.

20 April 2009

On both the Northrop XB-35 and YB-49 flying wing bombers, the pilot sat in an elevated position offset to the left using a bubble canopy. The co-pilot sat lower on the right inside the wing and looked forward through windows in the leading edge of the wing just to the right of the center. On the XB-35, there was a single set of throttles with four levers and on the YB-49 there was also a single set of throttles, but with two levers- one for the three jet engines in each wing.

Unfortunately, only the pilot could use the throttles as they were out of reach for the co-pilot who sat in the lower position in the wing. That meant that the co-pilot could neither takeoff or land the large flying wing bombers.

Source: Northrop Flying Wings: A History of Jack Northrop's Visionary Aircraft by Garry R. Pape with John M. Campbell. Schiffer Publishing, 1995, p156.

19 April 2009

From the project's earliest days, Vultee test pilot Frank Davis was chosen to make the first flight of the radical XP-54 and it subsequent flight tests. As was the common practice of the 1940s, he was to get a one-time bonus for making the aircraft's maiden flight. Davis, however, had a better idea. Instead of a one-time bonus, he requested that Vultee obtain life insurance for him with his family as the beneficiaries. At that time, test pilots getting life insurance was unheard of, but the directors at Vultee managed to get Lloyds of London $25,000 coverage for the first year or first 100 hours, whichever came first, for a premium of $2500.

It soon became standard practice at Vultee to provide special insurance policies for its flight test crews.

Source: American Secret Pusher Fighters of World War II: XP-54, XP-55, XP-56 by Gerald Balzer. Specialty Press, 2008, p48.

15 April 2009

Russian airline Transaero boasts many firsts for the Russian airline industry:

First Russian carrier to introduce business class on domestic routes;
First Russian carrier to prohibit smoking inflight;
First Russian carrier with a frequent flyer program;
First Russian carrier to have e-ticketing and online check-in.

In 2001, Transaero appointed Olga Pleshakova as its General Director, making her first airline head in Russia. She has worked for Transaero since 1992 and is the wife of Alexander Pleshakov, the airline's chairman of the board.

Source: Airliner World, March 2009. "From Russia With Love: Transaero Airlines" by Richard Maslen, p93.

11 April 2009

In the 1970s the US commercial airframe manufacturers were following closely the progress of the Airbus A300's development. In the spring of 1976, Boeing proposed a joint airliner based on a Boeing wing and an A300 fuselage designated the BB10. Talks continued for sometime despite mutual suspicions in Seattle and Toulouse with Airbus eventually deciding to abandon the BB10 project. Boeing then approached British Aerospace about a risk-sharing partnership in the 757 program, but to no avail.

Source: Airbus A300 (Airliner Color History) by GUnther Endres. MBI Publishing, 1999, p56.

10 April 2009

US Navy Seabees began construction of NAS Cubi Point at the Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines and completed work on the air station in 1956. Admiral Arthur W. Radford, the C-in-C for the US Pacific Fleet, made the inaugural landing himself on the new runway. In honor of the Seabee battallion that constructed the base, Construction Battallion One (CUB 1), the base was named CUB1 Point but over the years became better known as "Cubi Point".

Source: Airports of the World, Jan/Feb 2009. "Looking for New Opportunities" by Ron Mak, 18-19.

08 April 2009

In the 1980s US entrepreneur Dennis Washington found himself frustrated that his Gulfstream II jet could not fly coast-to-coast without refueling and didn't want to have to buy a newer version of the Gulfstream to get that range. He turned to a friend who was a long time aviation industry insider, Joe Clark, who then turned to a former Boeing aerodynamicist, Bernie Gratzer. They created a blended winglet and used Dennis Washington's Gulfstream II as the testbed for their work.

Confirming the predicted savings, the team then had to sell other Gulfstream owners on the idea which came after the setting of several world records on a blended winglet-equipped Gulfstream.

The group's big break came in 1997 when Borge Boeskov, president of Boeing Business Jets, met with Joe Clark about installing the blended winglets on the BBJ. The trials would be conducted on a Hapag-Lloyd 737-800 for six weeks at Clark's expense. If the trials were successful, then the winglets would be standard fit on all BBJs and Hapag-Lloyd kept the winglets on their loaner as well.

The rest, as we all know, is history!

Source: Airliner World, March 2009. "API: Performance Enhancing Winglets" by Tony Dixon, p58-59.

07 April 2009

In the early 1960s Dassault was seeking a US partner to license build the Falcon 20 business jet for the US market. Grumman, Lockheed, North American, and McDonnell were out as they had their own business jet designs in development (Gulfstream, Jetstar, Sabreliner, and McDonnell 119/220, respectively). Douglas was already working with Piaggio on the PD-808 "Vespa Jet", Beechcraft had formed an alliance with Hawker Siddeley on the HS.125, and Convair was mired in problems with their CV-880/990 jetliners.

That left Boeing. Dassault approached Boeing and the the board of directors after careful examination of Dassault's proposal elected to not invest in the bizjet market, preferring to continue to keep its capital in its growing commercial airframe business.

Source: Flightpath, Volume 2/Winter 2003. "Dassault Falcon: Mystere Magic" by David Donald (Variant File), p84.

06 April 2009

When the Boeing X-51A WaveRider begins its flight testing (provisionally scheduled for this October), it will mark several firsts in aviation- the first attempt to fly a fuel-cooled scramjet, the first attempt to fly an aerodynamically unstable, control-augmented hypersonic vehicle, and the first liquid-hydrocarbon fueled scramjet to fly (the engine a design from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne).

The WaveRider will demonstrate sustained flight at Mach 6.5 using JP-7 fuel instead of cryogenic fuels.

Source: Aviation Week and Space Technology, March 30, 2009. "Scramjet Reality" by Guy Norris, p32.

04 April 2009

Unlike many of its Latin American competitors, the airline PLUNA Uruguay has not had a single fatal accident while carrying paying passengers since its founding in 1936.

Source: Airliner World, November 2008. "PLUNA: The Rebirth of Uruguay's Flag Carrier" by Sebastian Schmitz, p44.

03 April 2009

In 1962, the 204th IAP (fighter regiment) of the Yugoslav Air Force and Air Defense at Batajnica AB near Belgrade had the unique distinction of being the only European unit during the Cold War to operate both Soviet and US aircraft. The unit had been operating F-86 Sabres obtained as part of Marshall Tito's break from the Soviet Union but in 1962 took delivery of its first MiG-21s as they started converting to the Russian fighter.

Source: Air Forces Monthly, January 2009. "MiG-21s Over Europe, Part Two" by Holger Mueller, p80.

02 April 2009

Three Gulfstream V jets based at Andrews AFB flying for the US Army's Priority Air Transport (and designated C-37A for the G500 and C-37B for the G550) have unique serial numbers denoting dates of historical significance in the history of the Army.

The first aircraft, a C-37A, has the serial number 05-1944 to commemorate the D-Day landings on the Normandy coast during the Second World War.

The second aircraft is also a C-37A and has the serial number 02-1863 to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.

The last aircraft is a C-37B and has the serial number 04-1778 to commemorate the passage of an act of Congress that created the Army.

Source: Air Forces Monthly, May 2008. "Distinguished Airlift" by Dave Willis, p80.