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Consolidated PBY Catalina: the Peacetime Record

24 April 2016

Consolidated PBY Catalina: the Peacetime Record, David Legg, 2001, ISBN 1-55750-245-5, 192 pp.

Consolidated PBY Catalina: the Peacetime Record by David Legg

Consolidated PBY Catalina: the Peacetime Record by David Legg

Consolidated’s PBY Catalina, one of a handful of aircraft beloved and romanticized, and—incredibly—yet flying though approaching a century in age. What has not been written about the Catalina? Thankfully, David Legg found such a niche needing attention and he has skillfully addressed the task—Catalinas after World War II and what a history there is to tell.

Legg’s book on the Catalina is captivating. He centers not on the famous Catalina wartime exploits but on the individual aircraft histories—and their histories are fascinating as well as intriguing. Consolidated PBY Catalina: the Peacetime Record answers questions about modifications, fates and explanations of how present day Catalinas came to be where they are—amazingly all across the globe.

Every PBY which has been addressed in this blog (and there are many) is explained in this excellent book. The four engine modification of a PBY is explained as well as its “demodification”, and what a colorful career it had. Wrecks are listed as are their locations. What is not to like about this well researched book? Hardly a thing as, aside from the dozens upon dozens of black and white images (many hardly, if ever, previously published), there are 32 gorgeous color postcard-sized photos.

David Legg has written a book which belongs in the libraries of any person having an interest in seaplane history as well as the PBY Catalina. Creativity of aircraft users and modifiers are illustrated as are the whims of ownerships creating gripping stories of human endeavor.

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle—the book

22 April 2016

Unconventional, Contrary, and Ugly: the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, Gene J. Matranga, C. Wayne Ottinger and Calvin R. Jarvis with D. Christian Gelzer, 2005, Monographs in Aerospace History #35/NASA SP-2004-4535, 220 pp.

Unconventional, Contrary, and Ugly: the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle by Gene J. Matranga, C. Wayne Ottinger and Calvin R. Jarvis with D. Christian Gelzer

Unconventional, Contrary, and Ugly: the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle by Gene J. Matranga, C. Wayne Ottinger and Calvin R. Jarvis with D. Christian Gelzer

Landing on the moon seems so simple. Gravity about 17% of Earth so less engine power and fuel. No air resistance, so no need for streamlining the design. No other “air” traffic” so no need for even looking about. Just flying to a landing with a machine designed for just that one landing–once.

All the above is correct.

But it had to fly on Earth first—hence the birth of the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) leading to the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV)–see this post for images of the LLRV).

That is when the reality, the details and the physics set in.

Unconventional, Contrary, and Ugly: the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle explains the latent though significant physics which required discovery and understanding. The multitude of people who came to be involved became a management story of itself—working for the common as well as outstanding goal to put people on the moon and bring them safely back.

The authors were more than intimately involved and write details that are likely not literalized elsewhere. Their understanding and writing abilities combine synergistically for a book to be treasured by history buffs as well as those who study practical physics or managing large teams of people.

The apparent problem of simulating moon gravity was addressed by a jet engine providing about 83% of the thrust required in flight which left the rocket power to fly the craft. Fuel flow to the engine produced a yawing motion, side thruster propellant had to be balanced as it was consumed asymmetrically which increased the yaw and decreased pilot authority. Weber had to design an especially light weight zero-zero ejection seat and this is explained in detail. These seats saved three lives over three crashes so their design is iconic. Pioneering is expensive after all is said and done. Unlike other designs, these seats required each pilot’s weight, density and center-of-gravity to be calculated in order to custom make seat cushions for each pilot. Subtle physics which made the difference between life and death three times.

Flying the LLRV was much unlike a helicopter, though it would seem to be similar, since it required as much as 28º forward tilt to produce motion where a helicopter demand a mere 5º to come out of hover. All the while 4º tilt was needed to compensate for aerodynamic drag. Helicopters fly and the LLRV opposed gravity with thrust alone. Using a jet engine to counter most of Earth’s gravity was complicated as well since fuel burn reduced the LLRV’s weight during flight—so the main engine thrust had to be reduced commensurately. But how to accomplish this when the LLRV could not be weighed on a scale in real time? The clever engineering answer—accelerometers. The temperature of the hydraulic fluid also required its own calculation. These amazing insights and so much more are contained within this publication. Equally amazing is this publication is free to download here as a PDF. This story of the people who united to create a paradigm in this unique flying machine is captivating in its breadth and excitement as are the physics which had to be discovered and met.

The why of it allUnconventional, Contrary, and Ugly: the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle rear cover

The why of it all—Unconventional, Contrary, and Ugly: the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle rear cover

 

They Sailed the Skies: U.S. Navy Balloons and the Airship Program

21 April 2016

They Sailed the Skies: U.S. Navy Balloons and the Airship Program, J. Gordon Vaeth, 2005, ISBN 1-59114-914-2, 156 pp.

They Sailed the Skies: U.S. Navy Balloons and the Airship Program by J. Gordon Vaeth

They Sailed the Skies: U.S. Navy Balloons and the Airship Program by J. Gordon Vaeth

This book is much more than it appears, especially since the author is a retired Lt.of the U.S. Naval Lighter-Than-Air Division and former head of the Naval Airship Museum. Lt. Vaeth’s story is almost as incredible as the gripping history he describes of the Navy’s balloon and airship programs as well as the almost forgotten Gordon Bennett International Balloon Races (which drew hundreds of thousands of race onlookers).

Vaeth’s telling of ballooning in the early 1900s is illuminating as well as surprising. Balloonists often found themselves in trouble, had to learn the subtle physics of flying balloons in the vertical to get the best wind direction, and often found themselves stranded in wildernesses after hundreds of miles of flight. Toilet paper shreds were used since variometers hadn’t been invented.

The Navy soon began experimenting with “blimps” (Vaeth tells how the name interestingly came to be) and airships. The description of what may have been the first parasitic aircraft is a great surprise to most with his insight of the O-ship C-1 carrying a Curtiss J-4 aloft. Also noted is the first use of helium which was in the C-7 blimp during December of 1921. Also the end of the Roma in February 1921 marking the Navy’s last use of hydrogen for airships.

Vaeth’s well of knowledge does not cease with airships as he relates the facts and context of the Navy’s airship disasters as well as the Hindenburg’s which occurred at a Naval Station Lakehurst. He notes significant though often neglected facts by other authors. One example is his observation is how the United States lacked duralumin manufacturing, making itself reliant on European production as a result—leading to an airship disaster. The most complete description of the fantastic Los Angeles nose stand—how it started through how it ended—is recalled in all of its amazing happenstance.

They Sailed the Skies has remembered people who should not be forgotten to history, as well. Joy Bright Little Hancock who lost not one but two husbands to U.S. Navy airship disasters, balloon jumpers, “Tex” Settle and “Doc” Wiley are examples.

The description of the Sparrowhawk hangar bays of the Akron and Macon states their five aircraft capacity and 75′ x 60′ dimensions in lively recollection as well as many of the succesful Sparrowhawk flights. The finding of President Roosevelt while 1600 miles out to sea was a spectacular success and, alone perhaps, demonstrated the capability of the airship as a strategic asset of the time—which winged aircraft could not hope to match.

The heyday of the blimp was World War II and Veath does not disappoint describing blimp missions throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific from land bases as well as aircraft carriers. 200 blimps flew convoy escort and U-boat patrols along the Atlantic seaboard south to Brazil and east to Trinidad—all but forgotten except in They Sailed the Skies. Vaeth ends not with the Navy’s airship and balloon 45 year proud service record but with the Navy’s high altitude balloon program, Strato-Lab, which was eclipsed only by the flight of John Glenn in Freindship 7. This is the book to understand balloon as well as airship flying.

Understandably, though with a bit if regret, the days of “Up ship!” and “Let go!” are gone.

This is also the book to learn and recall the Gordon Bennett International Balloon Races. This is especially the book to recall, in detail and context, the distinguished Lighter-Than-Air service of the U.S. Navy.

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle—the images

20 April 2016

 

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle engine ground test of the hydrogen peroxide propellent rocket thrusters. The original grate used to absorb the thrust had 25% porosity but was found lacking and so increased to 80% which indicates the depth of knowledge in the publication—NASA image

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle—NASA image

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle with Bell 47G chase helicopter which also provided real time weather conditions at altitude prior to LLRV flight—NASA image

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle—NASA image

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle flying near its maximum altitude (note the B-58 with a YF-12A nose for testing)—NASA image

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle—NASA image

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle in flight—NASA image

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle—NASA image

Lunar Landing Research Vehicle under the control of U.S. Army test pilot Col. Emil “Jack” Clever. He was one of 5 LLRV test pilots and the second primary pilot after the first primary pilot, Capt. Joseph “Joe” Walker, was reassigned to the XB-70 Valkyrie Program—NASA image

Mitsubishi G3M 九六式陸上攻撃機 Rikko (Allied code name Nell)

18 April 2016

 

The Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell)—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

The Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell)—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

Mitsubishi followed the Japanese military preference for an aircraft design with range and speed above all else which meant sacrificing defensive arms as well as a structure which could absorb damage and seal sealing fuel tanks. For a bomber of the time this was not unusual as much modern thinking of the day had bombers all but invincible to flak as well as fighters—multiple engines giving them speed and altitude over single engine aircraft.

That was the thinking of the 1920s and 1930s, thinking which would prove lethally outmoded in the 1940s.  A more graceful aircraft of the day is hard to find even after modification to include gunners and their positions. Ultimately the Nell would have seven crew members which included 1 x 20mm cannon and 4 x 7.7mm machine gun positions. The Nell had long legs but was not speedy and was so prone to becoming alight from enemy fire that her crews nicknamed the type “Flying Cigar” though Nells were effective in numbers early in WW II.

Flying alongside a Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell)—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

Flying alongside a Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell)—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell) bomber formation—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell) bomber formation—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell) aircraft in attack formation—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell) aircraft in attack formation—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell)—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Rikko (Allied reporting name, Nell)—San Diego Air and Space Museum image archive

 

Dressing for Altitude

16 April 2016

Dressing for Altitude: U.S. Aviation Pressure Suits—Wiley Post to Space Shuttle, Dennis R. Jenkins, 2012, ISBN 978-0-16-090110-2, 526 pp.

Dressing for Altitude: U.S. Aviation Pressure Suits—Wiley Post to Space Shuttle by Dennis R. Jenkins

Dressing for Altitude: U.S. Aviation Pressure Suits—Wiley Post to Space Shuttle by Dennis R. Jenkins

This book enlightens the reader in regard to partial versus full pressure suits, the heroic piloting of Cold War U-2 pilots flying in partial pressure suits for hours though they were meant for minutes, and the David Clark Company which has been supremely instrumental in development as well as manufacture of these suits. The evolution of these suits parallel the U-2, SR-71 and Space Shuttle programs—indeed, one could not have happened without the other.

Dressing for Altitude is an intriguing epic of design, altitude pioneers, Cold War missions and exploration. The physiology of high altitude flight is clearly explained such as the demand to force oxygen into the body and the prevention of blood boiling above the Armstrong Line. All is beautifully as well as thoroughly explained by Jenkins.

Beginning with the ancient Greeks the story contains full context so the reader intimately understands the process, thinking and results of the many remarkable developments regarding pressure suits—as well as the advancements made possible by them.

Images of early pressure suits look like they are from the Flash Gordon Era, as they were, and are on-point. Photographs and drawings are plentiful throughout this publication and greatly help it to meet high production standards.

Dressing for Altitude takes readers from early deep diving based dry suits through suits intended for minutes worth of use as heavy bombers entered combat zones to Cold War extreme altitudes and present day high-G maneuvering in the vertical.

Download if for free as a PDF here at this NASA site—the book is authoritative and gorgeous—welcome in any library.

Russian Air Force aircraft drop in uninvited on the USS Donald Cook

15 April 2016
160412-N-ZZ999-003 BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) while the ship was operating in international waters April 12, 2016. Donald Cook is forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and is conducting routine patrols in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Russian Kamov Ka 27 “Helix” helicopter flying low-level passes near the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75)—U.S. Navy photo

12 April 2016: Russian aircraft fly past the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) playing a dangerous game of maritime brinksmanship. A Kamov Ka 27 “Helix” flew close passes and a pair of Sukhoi Su 24 “Fencer” attack aircraft buzzed the ship as well while she was sailing in international waters on the Baltic Sea. Hardly a surprise since they were on the ship’s radar once within 100 miles.

160412-N-ZZ999-005 BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

One of the two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft begins its buzz of the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) going low and going fast—U.S. Navy photo

160412-N-ZZ999-008 BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

One of the two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft buzzing the forward deck of the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75)—U.S. Navy photo

160412-N-ZZ999-004 BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The pair of Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft departing after buzzing the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75)—U.S. Navy photo

 

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