22 June 2009

On 25 September 1909 the Exposition Internationale de Locomotion Aerienne opened its doors at the Grand Palais near the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Present at the exposition were 380 exhibitors who displayed their latest aviation products to over 100,000 visitors. Many of these exhibitors formed the first aviation industry organization, the Chambre Syndicale des Industries Aeronautiques. Taking place less than six years after the Wright Brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, the exposition was the forerunner of today's premier aviation industry show, the Paris Air Show. Many historians point to this exposition as the birth of the modern aerospace industry as well. This year's Paris Air Show marks its 100th Anniversary dating back to that first exposition.

Source: Aviation Week and Space Technology, June 15, 2009. "1909-2009- Le Bourget Then and Now" by Anthony L. Velocci, Jr, p80.

17 June 2009

The first atomic bomb to be mass produced by the United States was the Mk-6. Designed for carriage by bombers only, it was intended for use against area targets. With a 40 kiloton warhead, the Mk-6 was carried by the B-29/B-50 Superfortress, B-36 Peacemaker, B-47 Stratojet, B-52 Stratofortress, and the Navy's AJ-1 Savage. Deployed in 1951, it was the first new strategic weapon since the Fat Man that was dropped on Nagasaki during World War II.

The Mk-6 had its nuclear materials in a special capsule that was inserted into the bomb unit by the bombardier before it was dropped. Designed as a safety measure, having the nuclear material in a separate capsule undoubtedly prevented several accidental detonations in the early 1950s.

Being an early fission weapon, the Mk-6 required a lot of nuclear material to produce its desired yield. With the advent of thermonuclear weapons in the late 50s it then became possible to have the same explosive yield with less material and the Mk-6 bombs in the inventory became a valued source of nuclear material for the newer generation of smaller weapons, with the last Mk-6 being withdrawn from service in 1957.

Source: Nuclear Weapons of the United States; An Illustrated History by James N. Gibson. Schiffer Publishing, 1996, p89.

15 June 2009

In 1977 TWA responded with some ingenuity on a request from Farhad Azima of Global Airlines on behalf of the Shah of Iran. He desired the expeditious transport of over one-thousand head of cattle (specifically two year old heifers) from Missouri to Tehran within a 24 hour period at a price of $1000 per head of cattle.

Due to the problem of moisture buildup and waste material, specially constructed cargo pallets were laid in the main deck of TWA's cargo 707s constructed of cellotex moisture barrier, four inches of wood chips, and standard cattle farm pens. A specially constructed loading chute allowed the cattle to walk on board and disembark themselves. Special fans were also installed to dissapate the moisture from the breath of all those cattle as well as the body heat. Each load consisted of 80 head of cattle and the first shipment took place on 28 August 1977, the average flight taking 13 hours to Tehran with an average load of 73,500 lbs.

Source: TWA: An Airline and Its Aircraft by R.E.G. Davies. Palawdr Press, 2000, p106.

12 June 2009

In 1946 a Pan Am Lockheed Constellation departed New York La Guardia bound for London when an engine fire developed soon after takeoff. The Constellation belly-landed on a 4500 foot grass strip in Connecticut with no injuries to the crew or passengers. The engine fire burned through the engine mounts and by the time the Connie came back over land, the engine and its prop fell off completely before the aircraft landed. With stainless steel firewalls, an engine fire could be contained within the nacelle for 30 minutes.

Pan Am repaired the aircraft and lightened it as much as possible with minimal fuel and it was able to take off from the grass strip in only 2000 feet. Back at La Guardia, the burnt out nacelle was faired over the three-engined aircraft ferried to Lockheed in California for rework. Until the arrival of the Boeing 727, that was the fastest flight yet by a three-engined aircraft.

Source: Aviation History, July 2009. "Call Her Connie" by Stephen Wilkinson, p26.

11 June 2009

Twice in the Canberra's operational history has it been simultaneously used by opposing sides, though not in direct confirmation. In the Indo-Pakistan Wars of 1965 and 1971, Pakistan used Martin B-57 Canberras in the night intruder role against Indian targets while India used the B(I).58 interdictors against Pakistan.

In the 1982 Falklands War, Argentina used Canberra B.62s armed with bombs and rockets to attack British positions around Port Stanley after an abortive anti-ship mission resulted in one Canberra getting shot down by one of the HMS Invicible's Sea Harriers. British PR.9 Canberras operated covertly in the reconnaissance role by No.39 Squadron in Chilean markings to cover Argentinian military instillations and it is rumored, also the cruiser General Belgrano.

Source: English Electric Canberra, Warpaint Series No. 60 by Charles Starfrace. Warpaint Books, 2008, p72-75.

10 June 2009

In the spring of 1962, there were reports of low-flying aircraft at night in the South Vietnamese Central Highlands that raised concern about the Viet Cong receiving supplies via clandestine flights using aircraft in the class of the Antonov An-2 Colt. In response, the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked the USAF and the US Navy to come up with the best aircraft in their inventory to intercept the suspected night flights.

The USAF selected the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger. The Navy, on the other hand, selected an armed version of the Douglas AD-5Q electronic warfare Skyraiders. Ten years earlier in Korea, the USMC used radar-equipped Skyraiders in night intercepts. Though the night-attack AD-5Ns were since phased out, the AD-5Qs now used in the EW role were converted from AD-5Ns.

Project Waterglass involved F-102s and AD-5Qs alternating deployments to South Vietnam. The last Waterglass deployment took place in the fall of 1963, by which time the AD-5Qs were redesignated EA-1Fs. No intruders were ever intercepted or detected.

Source: US Navy A-1 Skyraider Units of the Vietnam War, Osprey Combat Aircraft #77 by Richard R Burgess and Rosario M Rausa. Osprey Publishing, 2009, p11-12.

06 June 2009

During Eugene Cernan and Jack Schmitt's second moonwalk during Apollo 17, they used their moon rover to go five miles away from the lunar module, the furthest any human being has been during an EVA from their spacecraft. If the rover had broken down, NASA had calculated that Cernan and Schmitt had enough oxygen and cooling water in their spacesuits to walk back to the lunar lander if they averaged a speed of 1.7mph.

Source: Air & Space Smithsonian, July 2009. "Step Outside: How Humans Learned to Walk in Space" by Tony Reichhardt, p35.
The wake vortices of the Antonov An-225 Myria are so powerful that 15 minutes must be allowed for the vortices to disappate before another aircraft can follow it on final approach or departure. As such, the aircraft is routed by operator Antonov Airlines preferentially to less-congested airports to avoid disrupting aircraft operations.

Source: Flightpath, Volume 2. "Special Operations: Antonov Airlines" by Thomas Withington, p34.

04 June 2009

In the summer of 1967, the USAF was conducting a captive carry flight of the Lockheed D-21 reconnaissance drone over Nevada when a damaged attachment bolt in the B-52's pylon that held the D-21 sheared, resulting in the drone and its booster rocket dropping away. The automatic start sequence of the D-21 began and the booster rocket ignited, accelerating the D-21 away. Since the inertial navigation system hadn't been programmed, the D-21 flew unguided until it crashed in the Railroad Valley outside of Area 51.

A local rancher and his wife came upon the scene and took several pictures. Once the Air Force had arrived on scene, as much of the still top secret drone's wreckage was collected and spirited off back to Area 51. The USAF/CIA officer in charge of the clean up, Col. Frank Hartley, found out about the rancher's pictures and not wanting to intimidate the rancher into giving up the photos, he instead asked him if there was anything he wanted in exchange for the film. The rancher told Hartley he had a "hankering" for some cream pie. Hartley made some phone calls to Area 51 and soon a helicopter arrived with a fresh cream pie and Col. Hartley got the film in exchange.

Source: X-Plane Crashes: Exploring Experimental Rocket Plane, and Spycraft Incidents, Accidents, and Crash Sites by Peter W. Merlin and Tony Moore. Specialty Press, 2008, p99.

03 June 2009

The nearest thing to a confrontation between two pure jets in World War II wasn't air combat- on 19 March 1945, four Arado Ar 234 bombers of KG 76 took off to attack targets around Brussels, Belgium. One of the Arados attacked the Melsbrock airfield and dropped a cluster bomb on a parked Gloster Meteor belonging to the RAF's No. 616 Squadron. Only minor damage resulted.

Source: International Air Power Review, Volume 24. "Air Combat: The Arado Ar 234, the short-lived combat career of the world's first true jet bomber" by Dr. Alfred Price, p116.

02 June 2009

The first, direct, unrefuelled Atlantic crossing by a jet aircraft took place between RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland to Gander, Newfoundland on 21 February 1951 by an RAF English Electric Canberra on its way to Washington, DC, for flight demonstrations to USAF senior officers at Andrews AFB. The 1,785 nm flight was made in 4 hours, 40 minutes. A competition was being held to select a new interdiction bomber to replace the aging B-26 Invader.

The record-breaking flight effectively silenced critics of having a foreign design in the USAF inventory.

Source: Martin B-57 Canberra: The Complete Record by Robert Mikesh. Schiffer Publishing, 1995, p17.

01 June 2009

Once the AC-47D gunship proved itself in preliminary trials in action over South Vietnam, the USAF pressed ahead to convert more C-47s into gunships. However, the 7.62mm minigun used on the AC-47D was just starting production and were in short supply. As an interim measure, it was decided to use as an interim gun the Browning M2 .30 caliber gun which were in storage at a warehouse at McClellan AFB in Sacramento. The firing solenoids for the guns were in very short supply, so for the M2-armed prototype AC-47, the solenoids from the B-24 "Strawberry Bitch" on display at the USAF Museum were borrowed. It's been said that that B-24 is still missing those solenoids.

Source: Gunships: The History of Spooky, Shadow, Stinger, and Spectre by Wayne Mutza. Specialty Press, 2009, p30.