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Torpedo Bombers 1900–1950: an illustrated history

11 October 2021

Torpedo Bombers 1900–1950: an illustrated history, Jean-Denis Lepage, 2020, ISBN 978 1 52676 347 1, 394 pp.

Torpedo Bombers 1900-1950: an illustrated history by Jean-Denis Lepage

Defeating opposing ships by-way-of underwater explosions near, or against, a warship’s hull has always been heavily sought after. Water is powerful. The force of water rushing back into the volume created by the gas of the explosion can cripple or fracture a hull. Ensuing reverberations sent through and along the hull can rupture pipes, circuits and even frames, rudders and screws. The foregoing damage can quickly immobilize, even sink, a ship in mere minutes—but such a hit can surely taking it out of the fight as the crew swarms to control the resultant fires and flooding instead of fighting the ship (as the USN says when the ship is in an engagement).

The preferred weapon of choice in this regard is the torpedo and it was the torpedo bomber which ruled naval aviation warfare for a time—especially in concert with the dive bomber. Little has been written to explain the subject. Even less about the contribution of countries which applied some of their best designers to produce aircraft capable of delivering a one punch knock out. That is until Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage applied his knowledge and artistic talent in Torpedo Bombers 1900-1950: an illustrated history.  

Lepage is as handy with his pen in writing as well as drawing. All manner of countries and their aircraft are captured in this well organized and friendly book to read. It would be hard pressed for the reader to find a torpedo bomber aircraft not mentioned or illustrated—even a few pressed into torpedo bomber service as needs dictated. Torpedo Bombers is the book for the subject, bar none.

The author avoids reciting aircraft types with their vital statistics. He easily guides the reader to clear understandings of both the torpedo and the torpedo bomber, their evolving tactics and the incredible bravery of their flight crews as they flew straight, predictable courses at steady, slow, airspeeds for minutes on their runs-ins. Lepage’s writing especially impresses as readers are transported to a torpedo bomber on its attack run.

Nowhere to hide. No way to dodge. Plenty of time to get shot at by primary and secondary armaments as well as the dedicated antiaircraft cannon and machine guns. Amazing that crews could be found to man these machines.

Nearly every page has a drawing or sketch or two—or more—of his drawings. Lepage brings life to these aircraft as most drawings are done in shaded relief and of varying perspectives. Innovative designs. Puzzling designs. Failed designs. All seem to be contained concisely and accurately in this soon to be salient book on the age of the torpedo bomber. 

His brief essays on torpedo bomber-borne weapons are interesting to read as well as accurate. Additional essays on tactics and specific aircraft carriers bring historical spice and the context of the times.

After the end of World War Two aircraft engines became so powerful that aircraft did not have to segregate into dive bomber or torpedo bomber as either mission could be performed by the aircraft of the day. By the, torpedo attacks against combatant ships had fallen out of the mainstream and replaced by missile launches. Though torpedoes still were paramount for certain land targets (e.g., dams) as well as against submarines—so attack aircraft, helicopters as well as flying boats and amphibians all became torpedo bombers. Lepage smoothly addresses this mission evolution as well as the more remarkable aircraft types of the waning torpedo bomber days. His closing drawings are also wonderfully accomplished artwork:

  • The UK’s Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 (daring aircraft design of a turbojet powered flying boat fighter/bomber)
  • Japan’s Shin Meiwa PS-1 (essentially a Grumman HU-16 Albatross design on steroids with STOL performance)
  • The USA’s Martin P6M Seamaster
  • The USSR’s Beriev Be-12
  • The Republic of China’s AVIC TA-600

Lepage’s bibliography as well as comprehensive index enhance and orient this encompassing reference on the aircraft type which was paramount during the 1930’s through the mid 1940s. The brief but meteoric phase of naval aviation that was held by the torpedo bomber and its crews. 

20th Century Passenger Flying Boats

10 October 2021

20th Century Passenger Flying Boats, Leslie Dawson, 2021, ISBN 978 1 52674 420 3, 91 pp.

Leslie Dawson’s superb authorship and more than capable detective work of history has, again, paid off. His previous book—Fabulous Flying Boats: a history of the World’s passenger flying boats—has been extremely well received since it is jam packed with unique photos as well as researched stories giving the flavor as well as the adventure that was the world of flying boats in their heyday.

Fabulous Flying Boats: a history of the World’s passenger flying boats is a fantastic read and required by any who follow aviation history—but it just could not hold all the amazing images brought to light by Dawson. So…20th Century Passenger Flying Boats was written, and happily so. The author has liberated treasures of poignant moments captured on film from many private collections and albums. Another of the author’s talents is relating the reader to the human dimension of this history. Yes, the human dimension—not the dry recitation of numbers and dates, or the description of events with none of their context or feel. It is viscerally telling how, back in the day, men and the women muscled or finessed, whichever was required at the time, these fantastic flying machines through the air and along the water. The stories and photographs are excitingly placed in the backdrop of one of aviation’s most adventurous periods, through the wartime of World War II, as well as after.

My favorite chapter is the fourth one, C-class to Africa. It was such a pleasure to read coming entirely unexpectedly and so brilliantly written in Dawson’s silky hand. Here, the author took me vicariously on a luxurious series of flights aboard a Short Brothers Empire Class Flying Boat. The travel began with the arrival with at London’s Empire Terminal Building for the weighing-in and then hopping onto one of the specially designated last two cars of the train, destination Southampton. My imagined journey into yesteryear was an experience of several plush days of flying, dining and overnighting. Flying first from the historic English waters of Southampton to a final landing in culturally resplendent Durban South Africa—with refueling and rest stops along the way at intriguing, exotic locales. Getting on and off the aircraft—in to and out of hotels of varying types—the food service—the maintenance at stopovers—and, of course flying at vista viewing altitudes in the Empire class flying boat are described so well that I could sense the anticipation and enjoyment of flying as so few were able to afford to do back in the day.

Naturally, post-World War I flying boats begin the book as this is the time when flying boats developed into revenue passenger business vehicles. And Dawson does not solely concentrate on the United Kingdom’s contribution but also those of Italy, the United States, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Norway.

Indeed, the author does not focus on Great Britains passenger flying boats, as could easily be done, but concisely addresses those of other countries in chapter-by-chapter order. The Pan American Airways flying clippers are noted in charming detail, as expected. Though, it is the flying boats produced elsewhere where this book luminesces. For example, the description of France’s magnificent Latécoère 631 and the cockpit illustration of it has to be seen to be believed. It should not be missed. 

Dawson’s recollection of the tremendous international competition to fly across the Atlantic Ocean is excellent and includes both the North Atlantic as well as the South Atlantic. Notably, he did not forget João Riberrio de Barros who piloted the first private non-stop flight spanning the South Atlantic in the Jahú, the wildly beautiful twin hulled Italian Savoia-Marchetti S.55 flying boat (photo included of course).

Pioneering efforts using Short Brothers aircraft in aerial refueling as well as the Short Mayo Composite to transit the North Atlantic were nearly like science-fiction in their day and Dawson gives readers the thrill which existed in the era. Wartime during World War II is ably described as is the post war period. Finally, Dawson leaves readers with an enticing end chapter where the remaining great passenger flying boats can be seen today—whether in museums or in flight. An added bonus is an appendix listing passenger flying boat fleets of the past.

This book will be enjoyed by the casual reader as well as enthusiast for its embracing writing as well as its images, the vast majority of which cannot be seen elsewhere. It is an absolute treasure as are his previous books on flying boats, Wings Over Dorset: Aviation’s History in the South and Fabulous Flying Boats: a history of the World’s passenger flying boats.

20th Century Passenger Flying Boats can be obtained at the Naval Institute Press quite reasonably (even more so when a member which is economical as well as rewarding). Or, you can give your money to Amazon. But it’s, perhaps, best to support book publishers so authors like Leslie Dawson can continue their work producing great books, niche books, intelligent books.

Explorer Aircraft Hybrid Powerplant Plans

27 September 2021

A highly interesting press release arrived first thing in the morning. It shows another facet of the Explorer Aircraft development–showing the company continues moving its innovative yet robust designs into the coming future of professional aviation.

Prologue

Pursuant to a recent study by NASA, which indicated strong growth in the near future of electric powered (i.e, hybrid) aircraft, Explorer Aircraft has continued to improve the design or their aircraft–the 500T and the 750T. Recently, the cockpit has been redesigned after testing input. Additionally, the wing has been dissected and examined after a thorough series of flight testing.

Points from the press release

First…Explorer Aircraft and magniX have signed a memorandum of understanding for the provision of the electric propulsion for a new electric hybrid light-utility aircraft.

Second…Explorer Aircraft is developing the next generation high efficiency utility aircraft, designed by award winning engineers Graham Swannell and John Roncz. The aircraft will play an important role in replacing the tens of thousands of more than half century old utility aircraft still in service all over the world.

Third…“Explorer Aircraft is thrilled to have magniX, the leading electric aircraft propulsion manufacturer, on board the Explorer Program.” said CEO Bryan Lynch. “No one else has done as much to push the profile and reality of electric aircraft in our industry.”

Bryan continued, “It is critical that we work together to develop a viable replacement for the thousands of obsolete, inefficient aircraft in service all over the world. This is only possible working together with the best, leading-edge suppliers. magniX is a perfect fit for us.”

“We are thrilled to be powering the next generation of utility aircraft,” said Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX. “The new Explorer aircraft offers operators a real path to cleaner flying–be it for passengers or cargo.”

Bryan Lynch continued, “Explorer Aircraft are developing the only aircraft designed for powerplant options, (battery, electric hybrid, fuel cell) and future autonomous flight systems. Through a combination of high efficiency aerodynamics, composite materials technology and inclusion of leading technology suppliers and developers in the design process we are future-proofing our aircraft.”

“Through a holistic approach of high efficiency and integration of latest and future technology we give ourselves the ability to indefinitely reuse high value aircraft products. We can reduce our impact on the environment and help in the fight against climate change.”

magniX has a strong and inclusive identity, covering not just their commercial goals but also the spirit of the people and community they form together. The aviation industry must reinvent itself by offering greater flexibility and little or no emissions. magniX is leading that change.

Explorer Aircraft is dedicated to creating the next generation, low impact, utility aircraft

Additional contacts:

Explorer Aircraft contact:

Bryan Lynch
Chief Executive Officer Explorer Aircraft, Inc.

+1-713-412-3418 

B.Lynch@ExplorerAircraft.com

magniX contact:
Simon Roads
Head of Sales, magniX

(541) 203 0552 

Simon.Roads@magnix.aero

Aircraft brokers and those seeking fleet applications contact:

Taras Lyssenko
Chief Business Development/Government Relations
(305) 794-4457

Taras@ExplorerAircraft.com

Explorer Aircraft nearing production!

17 September 2021

September 15, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Explorer Aircraft has Engaged Castle Placement as Exclusive Placement Agent to Finance the Next Generation of Utility Aircraft

Explorer Aircraft is developing the next generation utility aircraft, designed by award winning engineers Graham Swannell and John Roncz. The aircraft will play an important role in replacing the tens of thousands of more than half century old utility aircraft still in service all over the world. Explorer’s 500T prototype, featured on the cover of NASA’s regional air mobility study (https://sacd.larc.nasa.gov//sacd/wp- content/uploads/sites/102/2021/04/2021- 04-20 RAM.pdf), underlines how Explorer’s versatile aircraft will serve multiple markets.

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Explorer 500T Prototype Aircraft

Bryan Lynch Chief Executive Officer Explorer Aircraft, Inc.

+1-713-412-3418

B.Lynch@ExplorerAircraft.com

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“Explorer Aircraft is excited to announce our partnership with Castle Placement. Castle brings avast amount of financing experience to the company.” said Bryan Lynch, CEO. “We are building a world class team of engineers, partners and suppliers, and Castle aligns with our drivefor outstanding results and high integrity.”

“Castle Placement is delighted to work with Explorer Aircraft, which exemplifies the forward looking, ecological and innovative projects and programs we love to support.” Steve LeFavour, Managing Director said. “It is great when a company like Explorer comes along to disrupt a large, high value, global market served with obsolete inefficient products.”

“Explorer Aircraft has studied the global market and demand for light-utility aircraft, and our world-renowned design and engineering team have designed a technologically advanced aviation platform to meet and exceed requirements for the next 50 years.” stated Bryan Lynch. “When the existing utility aircraft fleet was designed it was not anticipated they would be in service for 50, 60 or even 70 years. Our aircraft is designed to upgrade power and flight systems, and our composite airframe is as fatigue and corrosion free as today’s technology allows. We have developed what we believe is a future-proof aircraft that will efficiently and effectively serve markets for the next 50 years or more.”

Explorer Aircraft’s 750T is a new, low drag, high performance, all-composite, light-utility aircraft. With a 4000lb useful load and 200kts cruise it is designed for cargo, passenger, medevac, and military/special missions.

As the newest high-performance aircraft designed for the light utility market, Explorer is making sure that its customers can minimize their impact on the environment with an efficient hybrid electric power system that can be used in small rural airports all over the world, with no need for expensive infrastructure improvements.

Explorer 750T Hybrid Production Aircraft Concept Design

About Castle Placement: Castle Placement is the premier private capital investment bank, with over 600,000 accredited investors and 64,500 institutional, private equity, venture capital and strategic investors, family offices, pension funds, foundations, endowments, sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds and lenders. Experienced investment bankers with significant personal relationships. Robust, data-driven technology platform. Member FINRA/SIPC. CPGOapp.com provides unparalleled and transparent access for issuers and investors.

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Additional contacts: Investor contact:

Steve LeFavour
Managing Director, Castle Placement (469) 301-4894 slefavour@castleplacement.com

Aircraft brokers and those seeking fleet applications contact:

Taras Lyssenko
Chief Business Development/Government Relations (305) 794-4457
Taras@ExplorerAircraft.com

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.