Abrams Explorer — the beautiful aircraft overtaken and swept aside by history
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 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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.