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Abrams Explorer — the beautiful aircraft overtaken and swept aside by history

18 February 2015

Abrams Explorer — the beautiful aircraft overtaken and swept aside by history

Abrams Explorer — National Air & Space Museum photo

Abrams Explorer — National Air & Space Museum photo

Talbert Abrams was instrumental in regard to aerial photography and photogrammetry development during most of the 20th Century. There is an award in his name as well as a mountain range and a mountain named for him. Abrams even developed a sun compass for use by downed aircrews in World War II North Africa where the landscape defining iron-rich rock formations relegate conventional magnetic compasses to the trash heap. Abrams had an innovative talent which recognized few bounds as he guided the development of the Abrams Explorer, first flying in 1938. The Explorer was purpose-built for aerial photography due to hermetically sealed ports for the cameras and the forward position for the photographer who had a nearly panoramic view.

Abrams Explorer — National Air & Space Museum photo

Abrams Explorer — National Air & Space Museum photo

Abrams envisioned Explorers flown for governments and large businesses making quick and accurate work photographing the lands as much as 20,000 feet below. World War II brought a premature end to this excellent aircraft  since it could not survive an environment populated with opposing fighter aircraft. By World War II’s end aerial cameras had gotten smaller as well as more sophisticated leaving the Explorer and its on-board photographer in history’s pile of the what-could-have-been. The sole Explorer which was built happily exists though stored in a National Air & Space Museum warehouse.

Handley Page Heyford

16 February 2015

Handley Page Heyford

Handley Page Heyford — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

Handley Page Heyford — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

Last of Britain’s biplane bomber aircraft the Heyford unusually had the fuselage and upper wing directly attached to one another while the lower wing’s thickened midsection’s bomb bay was capable of a 2500 pound/1134 kg bomb load. The open crew compartments as well as fabric covered wings and aft fuselage belie the modern metal monocoque forward fuselage and metal wing structure. Defensive armament was not overly intimidating with three .303 Lewis machine gun positions but the Heyford’s best defensive strategy was in flying missions at night at speeds up to 142 mph/229 km/h.

Asymmetric Formation Flight

11 February 2015

Asymmetric Formation Flight

Fat Albert and Team Oracle's rare Oracle Challenger III  (Sean Tucker piloting) fly in close formation over San Franscisco Bay — U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec. 3rd Class Andrew Johnson

Fat Albert and Team Oracle’s rare Oracle Challenger III (Sean Tucker piloting) fly in close formation over San Francisco Bay — U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec 3rd Class Andrew Johnson

 

 

Caproni Ca.20 — a rare “garage find” in aviation’s history

9 February 2015

Caproni Ca.20 — a rare “garage find” in aviation’s history

Built about a decade after the historic Wright Brothers flight at Kittyhawk, Giovanni Battista Caproni’s Ca.20 presaged the modern monoplane fighter design in 1914. Novel for the time with its streamlined metal engine cowl it was also armed with a Lewis 0.303 caliber machine gun mounted above the propeller arc.

Caproni Ca.20 — photo by Joseph May

Caproni Ca.20’s metal streamlined engine cowling was an innovation in 1914 — photo by Joseph May

The Italian government ordered Caproni to concentrate on bomber aircraft designs and abandon the Ca.20 fighter. Oh what could have been! The Italian government’s decision all the more incredible since the Ca.20 was faster than German and French aircraft which were the standards of the day.

Caproni Ca.20 — photo by Joseph May

The Caproni Ca.20 in the Museum of Flight — photo by Joseph May

Caproni stored the only Ca.20 for 85 years until sold to the Museum of Flight where it resides today—all original in a conserved state, slight fabric tears and all, except for the tires. This handmade aircraft is a wonder to behold in its century old condition.

Caproni Ca.20 — photo by Joseph May

Caproni Ca.20 armament was this single 0.303 caliber Lewis machine gun — photo by Joseph May

There was little protection from the wind for the pilot or but the view from the cockpit was outstanding for its time. Power developed from a Le Rhône 110 horsepower rotary engine.

Caproni Ca.20 — photo by Joseph May

Caproni Ca.20 in wide-angle lens perpsective — photo by Joseph May

A Piece of History Lost — Ed Saylor, Doolittle Raider who did the impossible, passes away

3 February 2015

A Piece of History Lost — Ed Saylor, Doolittle  Raider who did the impossible, passes away

Ed Saylor passed away at 94 on 28 January 2015 near Seattle.

 

Symbol of the Doolittle Raiders — Gene Fioretti photo

Symbol of the Doolittle Raiders — Gene Fioretti photo

Edward J. Saylor and his rare exploit have been written of in this blog. He was the engineer/gunner on “TNT” which was in the 15th slot for taking off aboard the USS Hornet on her way to launch the now famous Doolittle Raid during the USA’s early and desperate days of World War II. Famous now, but at the time considered by most of the flight crews on the mission a one way trip. What Ed Saylor did was nothing less than extraordinary by performing heavy engine maintenance on a rolling flight deck — maintenance performed in hangars normally. It was Ed who kept TNT in the mission instead of being pitched over the Hornet’s side. His exploit is written about in the post, Doolittle Raider Ed Saylor — Plane No. 15 (TNT) would have been pushed over the side except for him

Ed Saylor signing memorabilia Gene Fioretti photo

Ed Saylor signing memorabilia — Gene Fioretti photo

We are fortunate that Gene Fioretti has recorded this achievement otherwise this incredible story might have been lost. He has kindly provided his written work, retaining the copyright, for us to read about Ed Saylor’s journey leading to his flying on the Doolittle raid and after. It is quite a story! The entire story can be read here 9CCC VOL.9, 2.0 THE DOOLITTLE RAID FINAL VERSION (1.2Mb file size PDF) — thanks to Gene Fioretti at gino.fioretti@comcast.com.

Ed Saylor during World War II — photo provided by Gene Fioretti

Ed Saylor during World War II — photo provided by Gene Fioretti

 

Reposing Blue

28 January 2015

Reposing Blue

Av Tech 1st Class Ben Jones on duty as safety observer during the morning turn of a  Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornet — U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec. 3rd Class Andrew Johnson

Av Tech 1st Class Ben Jones on duty as safety observer during the morning turn of a Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornet — U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec. 3rd Class Andrew Johnson

 

 

Aeromarine 75 in sculpture

26 January 2015

Aeromarine 75 in sculpture

25° 45′ 42″ N / 80° 15′ 48″ W

Vacation Store Aeromarine 75 art — photo by Joseph May

Vacation Store Aeromarine 75 art — photo by Joseph May

Aeromarine West Indies Airways began flying paying passengers this day in 1920 on the Key West–Havana route. The company flew mail for the U.S. Postal service and well as business people and tourists in a seaplane modified by the parent company, Aeromarine Plane and Motor Company, portending the future of the airline industry as we know it today. Most famously they used what became known as the Aeromarine 75 — getting its designation “75” from the time to fly to Havana, just 75 minutes. The Aeromarine 75 had an interesting full circle history beginning with Curtiss as the H.12, then improved by Felixstowe into the F5L and finally to Aeromarine Plane and Motor Company after WW I for conversion to the airliner known as the Aeromarine 75 as well as the first international airliner of the United States.

The Vacation Store on the corner of SW 42nd Ave/LeJuene Rd and SW 11th St in Coral Gables/Miami has artwork reminiscent of the Aeromarine 75 which is fitting since it flew in Florida in our first international airline eventually to be bought by Juan Trippe launching Pan American Airways with much of its business run from Miami.

Vacation Store Aeromarine 75 art — photo by Joseph May

Vacation Store Aeromarine 75 art — photo by Joseph May

Additional history and photos of this aircraft can be found in this post :)

But to really experience the aircraft stream or rent the 1977 film The People that Time Forgot. A highly realistic model (albeit with only a pusher engine, not the inline tractor and pusher engines) as well as set, along with expansive aerial photography, do an excellent pre-CGI job of seeing this aircraft aboard the HMS Polar Queen, flying through narrow mountain passes and realistically force landing onto inhospitable volcanic terrain (á lá the Canary Islands where much of the film’s location shooting was done). 

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