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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:

Good news! Dauntless to be Restored!

6 May 2021
Courtesy Classic Wings Magazine, Issue 118

The Book on The Emily

6 May 2021

Kawanishi H8K “Emily” Type 2 Flying Boat, Aero Detail 31 Production Team, 2003, ISBN4-499-22801-8, 104 pp.

Kawanishi H8K “Emily” Type 2 Flying Boat (slipcover)

Kawanishi’s H8K (Allied code name Emily) is often named as World War II’s most succesful as well as most elegant flying boat design. It was long ranged and well armed while possessing a sweet flying disposition. A few survived the war, at least initially, though with only one still in existence—thankfully this Emily is on public display. Its trip from the South Pacific to the U.S. and its return to Japan (as a gift from the United States) is epic. There is only the one Emily now and there is only this one book on the Emily—and both are spectacularly done.

Aero Detail 31 Kawanishi H8K “Emily” Type 2 Flying Boat explains the aircraft as well as her restoration. Photos are plentiful both in the exterior as well as interior. These photos completely cover the aircraft and in intimate detail as its restoration is also documented. There are fold out line drawings as well!

Curiously, Emily’s were shot down by USN PB4Y patrol aircraft during World War II. It’s not explained in this book, nor anywhere else, how the Emily’s 20mm cannon were defeated by .50 Browning machine guns—and on more than one occasion. I assume the Browning’s much longer range was a factor.

The book ends with the sole existing Emily displayed outside the Maritime Science Museum in Tokyo (on Honshu Island) though it was subsequently relocated to the Kanoya Air Base Museum (in Kanoya Japan on Kyushu Island).

Kawanishi H8K “Emily” Type 2 Flying Boat (front cover)

Shooting Star á lá HDR

29 April 2021

27º 13′ 11″ N / 81º 52′ 24″ W

Arcadia FL

Please see the previous post for an explanation of HDR and why it is useful when taking photographs on a bright, clear Florida day (a situation usually to be avoided). Long time blog readers have seen this particular T-33 Shooting Star before. Though, after Hurricane Charley, the canopy was lost. I wondered if it had found its way to the nearby pond?

Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star in Arcadia FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star in Arcadia FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star in Arcadia FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Thunderstreak in HDR

29 April 2021

27º 32′ 55″ N / 81º 48′ 45″ W

Wauchula FL

Republic F-84F Thunderstreak (á lá USAF Thunderbird livery) in Veteran’s Memorial Park of Wauchula FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a post processing photo technique which nears the image’s ability to sense as well as a human’s eye. As wonderful as today’s cameras are the film, or the sensor, just cannot handle the same breadth of visible light’s spectrum as our eyes. Photographers in harsh or direct light have to select exposure settings to lose the detail in highlighted areas (i.e., “blow out”) to gain detail in the darker areas or get the highlights right while accepting that the dark areas will go black. HDR solves this with multiple pictures, each with its own exposure–normal, overexposed for dark areas and underexposed for dark areas. Back home the computer application takes the best information form each image and integrates them and–voilá–an image with no loss in detail!

Naturally, like autotune in songs, it can be purposely overdone for artistic effect to get that posterized-like effect. Another decision in HDR post processing is about handling objects in motion during the photographing. Combined they produce partial exposures (i.e., “ghosting”) if kept but the HDR application can eliminate the artifact. In these photos the artifacts were kept since they add the feeling of the wind at the time these photos were taken. Usually it is better to avoid noon time’s too direct sunlight when taking outside photos but the HDR technique allows for this condition–which is handy when the travel schedule doesn’t allow for morning or afternoon image captures.

Republic F-84F Thunderstreak (á lá USAF Thunderbird livery) in Veteran’s Memorial Park of Wauchula FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Republic F-84F Thunderstreak (á lá USAF Thunderbird livery) in Veteran’s Memorial Park of Wauchula FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Republic F-84F Thunderstreak (á lá USAF Thunderbird livery) in Veteran’s Memorial Park of Wauchula FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Republic F-84F Thunderstreak (á lá USAF Thunderbird livery) in Veteran’s Memorial Park of Wauchula FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Fu-Go 風船爆弾: the Curious History of Japan’s Balloon Bomb Attack on America

28 April 2021

Fu-Go: the Curious History of Japan’s Balloon Bomb Attack on America, Ross Coen, 2014, ISBN 978-0-8032-4966-0, 280 pp.

Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan’s Balloon Bomb Attack On America by Ross Coen (front cover)

The fire bombing of Japan by the United States is an epic event in the annals of World War II. Though the fire bombing of the U.S. by Japan is most often dismissed—almost anecdotally. This is a mistake if done, however. A mistake since it dismisses the sociology Japan experienced as it was increasingly isolated from trade during the war’s progression. A mistake to not recognize the inspired engineering of these non-piloted balloons to carry and deliver a payload over a period of days (iterative increasing and decreasing envelope size had to be addressed via unmonitored ballast changes). And a mistake for the counter-propaganda effort mounted by the U.S. civil authorities to deny information about the threat to U.S. citizens—as well as air defense assets dedicated to countering Japan’s fire balloon missions.

Coen researched this fascinating work effort which begins with the discovery of the jet streams by Japan’s scientists over a decade before becoming known to the Western world during World War II strategic bombing missions (suprise—the ground speed is ~100 mph less than it should be). His description of the young girls manufacturing the balloon envelopes mainly out of Mulberry tree derived paper, and why, is heart rendering. How the engineers and technicians in Japan used basic physics to automatically drop ballast as needed until the ordinance was sequentially dropped (typically a handful of incendiary devices as well as one high explosive bomb) is amazing (no microchips, no electronics).

Imperial Japan’s intention was to ignite massive forest fires in the American West with these balloons but, fortunately, the jet streams relied upon to transport these balloons eastward across the Pacific Ocean coincide with the American West’s wet season. Many balloons were lost for unknown reasons before reaching American shores but many also arrived, usually undetected and untraced, and carried as far as the American mid-West. An amazing amount are unaccounted for but must have landed in remote locations—presumably still hung in trees or sunk beneath lake waters—with their ordnance not only intact and viable but becoming increasingly unstable as aging progresses.

Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan’s Balloon Bomb Attack On America by Ross Coen (back cover)

Burning Japan: Air Force Bombing Stategy in the Pacific

27 April 2021

Burning Japan: Air Force Bombing Strategy Change in the Pacific, Daniel T. Schwabe, 2015, ISBN 978-1-61234-639-7, 222 pp.

Burning Japan: Air Force Bombing Strategy Change in the Pacific by Daniel T. Schwabe

Daniel Schwabe writes an excellent book on a significant turning point both in the war against Japan as well as the seismic shift in the nature of strategic bombing. He, of course, tells the story of General Curtis LeMay’s command decision to abandon the B-29 Superfortress flight profile of conventional high altitude bombing entirely. The accuracy of the Norden bombsight was a well exposed myth by that point in time and it could not compensate for the variety of wind shears bombs dropped from 30,000 feet experienced during their free falls. During the long range air offensive against Japan more B-29s were lost to engine failures (which resulted in distastrous wing destroying fires if the magnesium engine mounts ignited)—not climbing to high altitudes would extend engine life and reduce in-flight engine fire potential.

How LeMay developed and implemented this new strategy is the story Schwabe tells well. It is a story of LeMay working toward a fire bombing strategy though higher brass in Washington DC were not for it. Schwabe’s detailing of LeMay’s logistic operations tells the tale of LeMay’s bureaucratic three card Monty manipulation-like amassing of incendiary ordnance defying DC orders, at least initially.

Much to his credit the author thoroughly addresses the U.S. Armed Forces incendiary munition types as well as testing accomplished at Utah’s Dugway Proving Grounds (a typical German architecture urban section as well as a typical Japanese urban section were built to measure destructive effects of various munition mixes). He does as well explaining the lack of effectiveness regarding Imperial Japan’s medium altitude flak capability. Both of these synergistically combined into shifting from high altitude high explosive bombing to medium altitude incendiary bombing (using some high explosive to open structures to the incendiaries).

Schwabe also does well bringing the reader into the moments of various discussions as well as LeMay’s thought process. He does not address the significant influence of LeMay’s aide Thomas Power who effected LeMay’s wishes (the difference between theory and application). But this book centers on LeMay and the effectiveness of the shift to fire bombing Japan—which it does well and completely.

A new seaplane book released!!!

21 April 2021

Well known author Leslie Dawson writes excellent history books as we’ve often seen in this blog. His skill relates not only the facts but the context, as well as the all important human dimension and all with his smoothly flowing style of writing. Dawson has previously written two books on seaplanes with his third just released in the UK (Pen & Sword Books) this month—but this title will be released in the USA by the Naval Institute Press next month (books have available for pre-order, as you may have noticed). It is entitled, 20th Century Passenger Flying Flying Boats and well compliments his previous books. If ordering from the USA I suggest the option of using the Naval Institute Press to save on overseas postage from the UK, which is prohibitive.

Other posts regarding Leslie Dawson and his seaplane books:

+ Fabulous Flying Boats: a history of the World’s passenger flying boats

+ Wings Over Dorset: Aviation’s story in the South

+ Leslie Dawson interview

Flying Boats, 2019

16 April 2021

25º 43′ 48″ N / 80º 14′ 09″ W

Flying Boats, 2019 by artist Will Hemsley V (in this case a Martin M-130)—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Coconut Grove FL has a long history with the Pan American Airways (PAA) flying clippers of aviation’s romantic era. Many of the street names in “the Grove” reflect the era, Miami’s City Hall is located in PAA’s repurposed art deco style terminal building (yes, in Coconut Grove), PAA’s old seaplane ramps (this area and a former hangar are now boat storage) and another one of PAA’s renovated servicing hangars is now a Fresh Market store. Naturally—the city hall, renovated historic hangars and the Fresh Market adjoin one another.

Another building has been recently erected on the property and it is one which carries a vivid visual reference to this PAA legacy the Grove still cherishes. It is the multi-tiered Regatta Harbour Parking Garage with its ground floor devoted to retail and office space—on the corner of Pan American Drive and South Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove FL. It can’t be missed.

You likely are asking, “But what is that Regatta Harbour did?”

Well…Regatta Harbour engaged artist Will Hemsley V—who then created striking and immense images á lá silhouette of PAA’s flying clippers on the stainless steel mesh which all absolutely surrounds the car parking levels. The effect is evocative and the history it reminisces is recalled equally artistically with the on-site sculpture.

Flying Boats, 2019 by artist Will Hemsley V (in this case a Boeing 314)—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Flying Boats, 2019 by artist Will Hemsley V (in this case a Martin M-130)—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Flying Boats, 2019 by artist Will Hemsley V (in this case a Martin M-130)—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Flying Boats, 2019 by artist Will Hemsley V (in this case a Boeing 314)—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
Flying Boats, 2019 by artist Will Hemsley V (in this case a Boeing 314)—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography
PAA’s history in Coconut Grove and the Flying Boats, 2019 by artist Will Hemsley V installation recalled in this sculpture—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Airpower in the War Against ISIS

11 April 2021

Airpower in the War Against ISIS, Benjamin S. Lambeth, 2021, ISBN 9781682475591, 305 pp.

Airpower in the War Against ISIS by Benjamin S. Lambeth

Lambeth’s book captivatingly makes a complicated and revolutionary new dimension of aviation’s history into an easily understandable, fully comprehensible story. During this fantastically expensive and greatly asymmetric four year war to defeat ISIS he worked as an analyst as well as advisor to those who advised the Chiefs of Staff at the time. His accuracy as well as objectivity is highly acute as are his opinions. To Lambeth’s special credit, he clearly defines his historic material from his opinions so as to not mislead his readers. The depth and breadth of his strategic understandings are impressive and he brings the reader from the strategic decision makers to the person in the cockpit, or the grunt on patrol, illustrating ramifications as well as describing unintended consequences.

His thesis is that airpower in this war was initially underutilized (to be kind) by the Obama administration as well as the Department of Defense (DoD). Politically as Obama was voted into his presidency in part due to his candidacy of withdrawing the U.S. from the war in Iraq. He faults the DoD for fighting an insurgency war—as had been done in Iraq for the previous decade—when ISIS was a de facto nation-state with strategically targetable infrastructure like logistic and training centers, research laboratories, factories as well as a command and control network. Incredulously, these targets were ignored for several months and some even for years. It is difficult to refute his thesis. Slowly the administration and the DoD inched toward prosecuting the war proper. Later in the time line Lambeth equally and objectively addresses the Trump administration’s pros and cons in relation to this war with the same style of cold, objective, analysis.

And the war only got worse. Instead of airstrikes being counted in the high thousands per month (as in previous wars with Iraq) they numbered in the low hundreds. ISIS controlled Syrian territory was ignored as were the northern Iraqi oil fields now owned by ISIS. These fields generated huge sums of money on the petroleum black market ($500M during a profitable month)—gifting ISIS time to consolidate, recruit and build.

This, of course, changed especially with the anti-ISIS impetus created by that organization’s increasing cruelty—notably the many public beheadings. As this airwar progressed it became less micro-managed by U.S. based commands and precision weapons became the norm to limit civilian casualties and overall structural damage. Still, billions of dollars were spent waging this war and tens of billions worth of damage was caused by the coalition countries. Lambeth has the numbers and the interviews—impressively, always with highly placed people or greatly experienced people—and he does not miss much at all in his analysis.

Then Russia enters the war. This development created a complex environment—one which had not previously existed anywhere—an alternately shared airspace with shared (exchanged) air superiority. Coalition aircraft remained separated from Russian and Syrian aircraft for the most part though at times coalition assets would roll out to leave the airspace to non-coalition aircraft only to roll back in. This meant not only bombers and fighters but also ISR (Information/Surveillance/Reconnaissance), airborne control, tankers and drones—usually only with short warning. Potentially opposing aircraft each flying well within “no escape zones” of air-to-air missile envelopes at hundreds of miles per hour demanded a decentralizing of control to those in the cockpits. Deconflicting the airspace, as it came to be known. Lambeth describes several harrowing accounts vividly through combatant interviews and quotes.

Lambeth’s understanding of weapons systems and techniques (e.g., Russia’s limited but successful use of precision weapons) is insightful and on point. He does not mince words or omit material in his analyses. For example: noting the superiority of the F-22’s awareness of the airborne situation as well as its supercruise and stealth capabilities but lack of active targeting systems (e.g. laser designation or video imaging).

Lambeth underscores an additional lesson—aside from not entering a war unless going in it to win it—of not leaving an unstable country prematurely, in this case the result allowed Russia a return to Syria. Lambeth also discusses how the airpower lessons learned a decade earlier in Iraq had been forgotten when this war began, having to be relearned.

The author addresses ISIS equally as well as he does the coalition air forces (emphasizing the U.S. efforts) in terms of their strategies on the ground. There are revelations such as ISIS possessing heavy weapons captured due to the previous collapse of the Iraqi Army which included M1 Abrams main battle tanks. Although ISIS did not possess air forces or significant surface-to-air missile capability, save man portable items, Lambeth describes their innovative use of commercially purchased drones for remote viewing as well as delivering 40mm grenade-type munitions—giving ISIS a microscopic air superiority in the world of a platoon on a mission.

Several individuals from all sides are mentioned as are sources of information as well as organizations. Quotes and citations as well as page notes give tools enabling the reader to dive deeper into any of the many aspects of this war. Airpower in the War Against ISIS is a treasure chest laden with knowledge, experience and insight. It is also well and accurately written.