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A Republic RC-3 Seabee

16 June 2021
Republic RC-3 Seabee in one hangar of the Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Republic RC-3 Seabee—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
The Republic RC-3 Seabee’s doors (or hatches, if preferred) with the one on the bow used when on the water and the other when on the land—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Starboard wing float of this Republic RC-3 Seabee—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

A Thud’s RAT and a bit more

1 June 2021
Republic F-105D Thunderchief at the Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Republic F-105D Thunderchief with its extended RAT (Ram Air Turbine) which is an airflow driven emergency electrical generator for vital flight operations if the engine quit—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Republic F-105D Thunderchief showing its refueling probe—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Memorial Day 2021

30 May 2021
Vintage 1943 Douglas SBD-5N Dauntless (SN 36291) displayed at the Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Current news of U.S. Navy WW II Warbird Restoration

29 May 2021

Taras Lyssenko continues to be effective in restoring U.S. Naval Aviation heritage from World War II. He has recovered almost too many to count Wildcats, Daintlesses, Avengers and a Hellcat and Helldiver as well as the sole Vindicator on display. His achievements, through A & T Recovery, are legendary and A & T’s partnership with the National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation has restored a plethora of World War II aircraft now displayed throughout the U.S. as well as the world. He success is stellar—to the point he has miffed the Naval History and Heritage Command by handing them their hat in preventing loss of the Navy’s history (use the search window for the story).

Much of the recovery story, actually stories and all as exciting as they are individual, are in his book, The Great Navy Birds of Lake Michigan (see the review). Aircraft are not only recovered but family as well as former flight crew are found and become part of the recovery. A & T Recovery, as well as Taras, always include the human dimension in their laudable efforts.

Taras also shared some recent news…

He was just published in Michigan History:

Courtesy Michigan History
Courtesy Michigan History

He also relates that, excitingly, yet another Douglas SBD Dauntless may soon be sent to Kalamazoo’s AirZoo for restoration and prominent display elsewhere. It is an unusually early model, an SBD-1, and its story involves much personal loss.

Additionally, he will present a highlighted presentation at EAA’s AirVenture 2021, Warbirds in Review on Monday, 26 July 2021 in Oshkosh WI (or course)—where the focus was asked to be on The Great Navy Birds of Lake Michigan.

(Warning: Taras always surprises with excitement and justified incitement in his talks—they rarely go to plan but are always worth the attending).  

An original Canberra—kinda

26 May 2021
English Electric Canberra B.2 originally but converted to target tug TT.18 at the Valiant Air Command (Titusville FL) and note the the direct air porthole in the forward portion of the canopy—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

The English Electric Canberra revolutionized aviation and largely replaced the de Havilland Mosquito in nearly all respects. Quite an achievement—especially when it was one of the company’s first original designs. The Canberra concept began in late World War II and became the RAF’s (Royal Air Force) first jet powered bomber (medium). Its defense against fighter interception was its speed and altitude (á lá the DH Mosquito)—flying without defensive armament or gun positions.

English Electric Canberra B.2 originally but converted to target tug TT.18 at the Valiant Air Command (Titusville FL) observe the crew entry hatch just behind the aircraft number—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

The last one in the RAF’s inventory retired after 57 years of service and two are flying high altitude missions for NASA to this day. Canberra bombers (B-types) had three to a crew and photo recon recon (PR-types) variants had two. The pilot and navigator sat in tandem under a canopy which was not used for entry, only exiting after jettisoning if the ejection seats were activated. Two odd looking round porthole-like windows in the forward canopy allowed air into the cockpit when on the ground.

English Electric Canberra B.2 originally but converted to target tug TT.18 at the Valiant Air Command (Titusville FL) with its clean aerodynamic lines more than evident—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

The circular cross section of the fuselage provided volume for three fuel tank while ranks of circular rods deployed from the upper and lower wing surfaces to act in lieu of conventional air brake panels. As the only jet bomber of high performance in its time it was sold to many countries and built under license by Martin for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) as the B-57 Canberra. It served in many conflicts by both the RAF and USAFt—as late as the Vietnam War as well as Kosovo.

English Electric Canberra B.2 originally but converted to target tug TT.18 at the Valiant Air Command (Titusville FL)—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

In the early 1950s special Canberras flew recon missions deep in Soviet territory (Project Robin) and this specific Canberra was part of that mission, later being converted to a target tug duty (TT-type). It was restored by the Valiant Air Command and is on display there.

Grumman’s Tiger

20 May 2021
Grumman F-11F Tiger exhibited at the Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Grumman set to work improving the performance of their Panther in the 50s. While improving the Panther, to get the U.S. Navy its first supersonic fighter the design, improvements became a redesign—so much so an entirely new aircraft resulted and one with area rule—the F11F Tiger (redesignated F-11F Tiger, in 1962).

The sleek look of Grumman’s F-11F Tiger—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

The Tiger was successful but not hugely so. It served on the front line for a handful of years but was relegated to training with the introduction of Vought’s F-8 (pre-1962 F8U) Crusader as well as McDonell Douglas’s F-4 Phantom II. Famously, the Blue Angles flew Tigers for many years after they were replaced by the Crusaders and Phantoms on aircraft carrier assignments. I recall clearly seeing one on a supersonic pass at a Corpus Christie NAS airshow in the late 60s! What child at that time didn’t draw a jet fighter along the lines of Grumman’s Tiger? Overall, the Tiger was an advance though not a leap foreword. Unusually, it didn’t have folding wings with only the wing tips folding downward.

This Grumman F-11F Tiger has a sharp looking shark mouth motif but it is Herb Hunter’s name on the canopy which is significant as he was a former Blue Angel pilot who died in 1967 while bringing his battle damaged aircraft aboard the USS Oriskany—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Yes, the Tiger is a gorgeous design with its sleek look which is pleasing to the eye. Armed with 4 x 20mm cannon it is infamous for a pilot shooting himself down while practicing a gunnery pass. He initiated a 20 degree dive at 20,000 feet and fired…11 seconds later he pulled up but under the trajectory of the cannon shells and suffered three hits—a dramatic one to the windscreen and a significant one to the right engine air inlet which damaged some of the forward compressor blades. At 85% power he could not quite make the field and crashed a mile short but, happily, he survived.

The starboard side gun bay showing a pair of the Tiger’s 20mm cannon—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

This Grumman Tiger was restored by the Valiant Air Command (a warbird museum in Titusville FL) and in a remarkable livery.

Twin Mustang Visited

17 May 2021
North American XP-82 Twin Mustang in one of the Valiant Air Command Museum’s hangars—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

The recently rebuilt XP-82 Twin Mustang’s home is currently in the Valiant Air Command (the warbird museum in Titusville FL). There wasn’t a for sale sign on it when seen last week, but it may be and at a selling point north of $10 million. Looking up the N-number doesn’t mention which type of Allison engine it has (the original XP-82 had Merlins which were license built by Packard—the V-1650) but production P-82s beginning with the Charlie model had the Allison V-1710 (less power making the training Twin Mustangs, which were the early models with redundant twin cockpits, faster and higher flying). A YouTube interview with the restorer mentions only Allison engines—so…is it the V-1650 or the V-1710?

Regardless, the Twin Mustang was an entirely new aircraft!

An authoritatively written academic article states the Twin Mustang had 20% commonality with the P-51H Mustang though the two designs intuitively appear to have much more in common. The same article refers to the aileron boost motor being problematic and possibly contributing to a fatal Twin Mustang crash which had spiraled into the ground. No references were given in each case, unfortunately.

North American XP-82 Twin Mustang in one of the Valiant Air Command Museum’s hangars—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Though the YouTube interview, mentioned previously, states only five parts were in common—with even the canopies being different. Although not mentioned in the interview the engines would have been identical. The Twin Mustang’s propellers rotate in opposite directions (propeller tips traveling downwards toward the center wing section) with one engine having an engine reduction gear box reversing the rotation direction. Interestingly, the propeller directions were originally reversed (propeller tips traveling upwards toward the center wing section) but it was found that the lifting force of the center wing section (25% of the total wing area) was cancelled using that configuration.

North American XP-82 Twin Mustang in one of the Valiant Air Command Museum’s hangars—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Further reading of a portion of the flight manual (found in Google Books) indicates surprisingly little adverse yaw if an engine were to go out. It’s been often said a twin engine aircraft gets to the crash site faster than a single engine aircraft when losing an engine. Generally adverse yaw is the culprit (the Grumman Mohawk requires an immediate 300 pounds of opposite rudder force when losing an engine while taking off, for example). The manual states that detecting an engine out situation may be difficult as there is little adverse yaw (pivoting into the dead engine)—so little that the needed trim adjustment could be mistakenly required by poor airmanship or crosswind effect. Windmilling of the propeller would still drive the pumps and keep up manifold pressure for a few minutes—so the engine gauges would not immediately tell the story, either.

Why the twin fuselage design, though?

Fuel and security.

More fuel meant more range and late in World War II the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) were losing too many P-51 Mustang pilots over the Pacific Ocean—the cruising speeds of the B-29 Superfortresses they were escorting were substantially greater than the preferred efficient cruising speed of the Mustang. Which brutally increased the odds of engine failure and loss of the Mustang’s sole engine. Missions from the Philippines to Japan also stretched the range of the Mustang to its limit at 2000 miles—adding to the brutal math equation.

General “Hap” Arnold wanted a solution and North American (NA) chief designer, Edgar Schmued, already had an idea. It was an idea used by Heinkel as well as Messerschmitt (their reasons were to increase power for glider towing purposes) though I cannot verify if North American coincidentally had the same idea. I think so since the German designs occurred during World War II and NA would likely have been unaware of them at the time. The engine-airframe of the Mustang was a tremendously successful combination with much of the volume aft of the cockpit occupied by the radiator and supercharger cooling plumbing (see in the comments…thanks to George, this point was amended). So…joining a pair of these airframes together by way of a central wing section as well as a common elevator made not only great aerodynamic sense but engineering and production sense, as well. Recall: a war was on and time, as well as lives, were precious.

North American XP-82 Twin Mustang’s 6 x 0.50 caliber machine gun ports and main landing gear bays in the center wing section—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Schmued didn’t stop improving the design. He brilliantly countered asymmetric thrust, should an engine go out, by increasing the vertical stabilizer area as well as adding more dorsal strake. Adding 57-inch plugs aft of the cockpit was another significant design change. The six 0.50 caliber machine guns were two more than escort Mustangs possessed (the outer machine gun on each wing of a six-gun Mustang often jammed during high-G maneuvering, in any event) though a bit light as compared to the Mosquito and Lightning—though Imperial Japanese fighters generally did not require cannon caliber weapons to be destroyed during a dogfight.

Each fuselage of a Twin Mustang had a 57-inch plug “inserted” aft of the cockpits as compared to a P-51H Mustang as well as refined canopies—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Another difference with the Mustang is the main landing gear of the Twin Mustang being fuselage mounted (retracting inward)—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

The Twin Mustang was built for 2000 mile range in the days before aerial refueling with two pilots sharing the workload on long missions. The war it was designed for ended before it could be tested but, later, it proved itself during the Korean War and early SAC days. Though less than 300 were built its crews carved a significant niche in aviation’s history with its uncommon beauty and excellent flying characteristics.

Avenger after the soft landing

16 May 2021

On April 17th, during an airshow, the Valiant Air Command’s TBM-3 Avenger was in flight and wowing the crowd at Patrick AFB. Beachgoers at nearby Cocoa Beach got an extra bit of excitement that day when the Avenger’s pilot was forced to make a soft landing in the waters offshore. What a landing! It was picture perfect with no one left injured or killed while the aircraft looked to sustain largely cosmetic damage, plus whatever fault caused the pilot to make the water landing—but closer inspection of the airframe as well as engine will tell. Just shy of a month later I saw this Avenger at the Valiant Air Command (Titusville FL) sans its radial engine and main wheels—but looking good if not a bit bedraggled with torn or warped bits of metal here and there.

Here are photos taken May 14th:

General Motors built Grumman TBM-3 Avenger (shortly after forced water landing off Cocoa Beach FL) at the Valiant Air Command Museum—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
General Motors built Grumman TBM-3 Avenger (shortly after forced water landing off Cocoa Beach FL) showing the well-buckled oil reservoir as well as a few scrapes—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
General Motors built Grumman TBM-3 Avenger (shortly after forced water landing off Cocoa Beach FL) with wing damage evident—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
General Motors built Grumman TBM-3 Avenger (shortly after forced water landing off Cocoa Beach FL) note the deformed metal on the wing but overall excellent appearance—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
General Motors built Grumman TBM-3 Avenger (shortly after forced water landing off Cocoa Beach FL) at the Valiant Air Command Museum—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Valiant Air Command

16 May 2021
Grumman F-11F Tiger, General Motors built Grumman TBM-3 Avenger and Republic F-105 Thunderchief at the Valiant Air Command Museum—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

I recently visited the Valiant Air Command Museum (Titusville FL)…more later…

Just for fun — Plane Tags

9 May 2021

Plane Tags are from MotoArt and are a creative way to recall a bit of history. The company removes metal from fuselages and wings to make luggage tags.

Recently bought were this pair for example: