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18 October 2019


While stationed in the Panama Canal Zone in the 1970 time frame as an Air Force JAG, I did a lot of flying with the U.S. Air Force helicopter unit. The Air Force had the responsibility for Medevacs throughout Panama and as far south as the border with Colombia. The Hueys didn’t have the range to fly to some of the Indian villages and back so the Air Force H-3s took fuel drums and positioned them at some of these remote villages so the Hueys had a fuel supply available for the return trips. They would periodically check these drums to insure they were still full.

On these trips into the jungle, aircrews would barter with the native peoples to get parrots, macaws and Japanese fishing floats. On one of the trips I made, we were getting ready to leave to return to the Canal Zone when one of the aircrew appeared with a big wicker basket that was bouncing around and had a terrible odor. When asked what it contained he told us he had acquired a young jaguar and was going to tame it. When he started to put it in the passenger compartment he was told “no way” in no uncertain terms.

There was a small hatch in the tail boom of the helo so he opened the hatch and squeezed the basket into the tail boom. When we landed at Albrook AFB two hours later, the aircrewman opened the hatch to discover there was one very agitated jaguar loose in the tail boom. He told the pilot he would get a shotgun and shoot the cat, this drew a very negative response: “Hell no, you’re not firing a shotgun in the tail boom of my aircraft!”

It was then decided to get a can of ether from the dispensary, throw it in the tail boom and when the cat was rendered unconscious to remove it. We got the ether, pulled the cork, threw it through the hatch and waited ten minutes. When we opened the hatch, the jaguar was even more agitated. The tail boom had so many holes in it that the ether dissipated quickly and had no effect on the jaguar.

We adjourned to the NCO Club bar, which was up the hill from the air field, to consider our options over a cold beer. There was a slightly drunk fire fighter at the bar who overheard our conversations and volunteered to “…get that damn cat out of the helo.” He proceeded to the fire station and donned a padded silver fire fighting suit with hood and gloves and met us at the helo. In the interim, we acquired a wire cage to put the jaguar in.  

We opened the hatch and the fire fighter grabbed the cat, after a significant struggle, turned around and dropped the jaguar in the cage. Mission accomplished! However, the fire fighting suit looked like it had been through a shredder. As I was the officer that signed off on lost, damaged or destroyed Air Force property, the pilot turned to me and said: ”Ed. That fire fighting suit was destroyed in training. Right?” To which I replied: “Definitely, you never know when you are going to have to get a jaguar out of the tail boom of a helicopter.”

Charles E. (Ed) Ellis

Captain, JAGC, USN (Ret)


Ed Ellis (L) chats with a qualified warbird pilot on the floor of the National Naval Aviation Museum (TBM Avenger on the deck, Interstate TDR-1 drone above and SB2A Buccaneer high to the left)—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography


Ed Ellis is currently serving with the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation (Director of Planned Giving/Membership) and it is more than kind of him to share this unique (hopefully) experience. Ed also has helped in many other ways. For example, touring me through their wondrous National Flight Academy which was reviewed here.


Moon Coin—and help too!

17 October 2019


Front of the Moon coin with a reminder of the more-than-famous “Blue Marble” photograph—NNAMF image

I recall that day. I was a young lad in Savannah GA (before it was a travel destination) enraptured with helicopters though interested in NASA’s extraterrestrial venturing. And there it was—Neil Armstrong walking the Moon!

The U.S. remains the sole country to place humans on the Moon (or anywhere else off Earth) and the National Aviation Museum Foundation celebrates this unique feat with this commemorating coin only asking a small donation to aid them their great work.

The other side of the Moon coin with the pertinent numbers—NNAMF image

Solid aviation art at the Texas State Fair

9 October 2019

D-Day landing at Point du Hoc diorama by Lee Washburn at the Texas State Fair—©2019 Marty Davis

KC-135 Stratotanker wooden model by MICrafts at the Texas State Fair (with a C-47 and B-17 below)—©2019 Marty Davis

AH-64 Apache wooden models by MICrafts at the Texas State Fair—©2019 Marty Davis

Variety of scale wooden models of the AH-64 Apache by MICrafts at the Texas State Fair—©2019 Marty Davis

C-130 Hercules wooden model by MICrafts at the Texas State Fair—©2019 Marty Davis

AC-130 gunship wooden model by MICrafts at the Texas State Fair—©2019 Marty Davis


The Great Navy Birds of Lake Michigan—Homeland Magazine’s View

2 October 2019

Review of the Great Navy Birds of Lake Michigan in September’s Homeland Magazine—Homeland Magazine

The stories in this book continue gaining attention in the aviation community and beyond. Irony, humor, history and heroism are defining elements within the stories of this fine book.

Navy Art!

1 October 2019

“Yellowshirt” bronze by Robert Rasmussen—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

I had the pleasure of meeting Capt. Robert “Bob” L. Rasmussen (USN, ret) not long ago. Spry and mentally agile befitting a former Blue Angel pilot (he also designed their livery), artist and former director of the National Naval Aviation Museum. These statues and painting are some of his artwork and are exhibited by the National Naval Aviation Museum.

“Sailor Pride” bronze by Robert Rasmussen—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

“Aircrew” bronze by Robert Rasmussen—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

“Hornet Stinger” painting for the 40th Anniversary reunion at the NNAM by Robert Rasmussen—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

An Historic F3F-2 and the Navy’s final combat biplane aircraft

30 September 2019

Galer’s Grumman F3F-2 as he last flew it with its 950 hp Wright R-1820-22 radial showing well—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

Clearly, this aircraft is the ancestor to the Grumman F4F Hellcat with its stout barrel-like fuselage and narrow track retractable landing gear á lá Loening and Grumman—but with two wings. This particular aircraft was saved from the scrap heap due to a forced water landing by its pilot, Bob Galer (then a 1st Lt in the USMC). He would later be awarded the Medal of Honor as well as retire as a Brigadier General.

This aircraft wasn’t restored by the NNAM but by the San Diego Air & Space Museum (then known as the San Diego Aerospace Museum). This aircraft is in the optimum condition as flown by Galer of VMF-2 coming aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-3) when a malfunction forced him into the water.

The National Naval Aviation Museum has an F3F-2 page and this F3F-2 virtual cockpit page.

The F3F-2’s cockpit—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The F3F-2’s cockpit—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The F3F-2’s cockpit—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The F3F was the Navy’s last biplane fighter design since maneuverability had given way to speed for combat—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography





Experimental Helldiver Deconstructed

25 September 2019

The deconstructed Curtiss XSB2C-2 Helldiver on the flight line of the National Naval Aviation Museum. An experiment in 1942. As it turned out, the Navy’s Seabees built airfields so quickly and aircraft carriers became plentiful that floatplane design became obsolescent—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography