Tuesday, 25 September 2012

70th anniversary of the famed Normandie Niemen

The French Air Force (Armée de l'air ) has just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the famed Normandie Niemen at Mont de Marsan as it reforms on the Rafale. Present at the ceremony was this Yak-3 along with Normandie veteran Georges Masurel, 91 years old, a former Yak mechanic who served in Russia from November 1942 to October 1943. While a Yak-3 and a Mirage F-1 were present, of the other aircraft flown by the Normandie Niemen there was no NC-900 (French version of the  FW-190) nor Mosquito, a type that the unit flew in Indo-china. 

Along with the Cigognes, the Normandie-Niemen must be one of the most "symbolic" of all Armée de l'air units today. As an aside the group has also recently acquired a balalaïka presented in 1960 by General Zakharov to Héléne Pouyade, daughter of former Normandie wartime CO Pierre Pouyade...

More pics of the aircraft at 

Potez 63.11 rebuild

 ..it flies ..or almost !
A Potez 63.11 rebuild in the US made its first hop earlier this summer. Financed entirely by French pilot Jean-Marie Garric who lives in the US, this rebuild has been constructed from original factory plans. The aircraft is powered by modern and reliable 
P&W engines rather than period GN engines...
Jean-Marie has painted his machine in the colours of n°641 of GAO 515 (aerial observation group) which was adorned with a distinctive 'Grumpy' dwarf on its nose in a fine tribute to the men and aircraft of the groupes aériens d'observation.

from Avions magazine Facebook page courtesy Matthieu Comas and Michel Ledet

Monday, 17 September 2012

Fire breathing Dragon! De Havilland Rapide catches fire at Duxford September air show

" ....Fire broke out in the starboard engine of a 1930s aircraft at the September Duxford Air Show.
No one was injured during the incident, which happened while a de Havilland Dragon Rapide was on the tarmac on Saturday morning. Fire crews were able to get to the plane before the fire could spread.
Barry Starling, of Greenleas, Histon, said: “It was before the air show officially started and I happened to be in the crowd when all this black smoke billowed up into the air...."


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Budd RB C-93 Conestoga -Rare Birds (1)

Here's a rare type that I failed to identify on the aviation quiz pages of the world affairs board - the Budd /RB C-93 Conestoga. The Conestoga was a transport built by the Budd railroad car company and constructed of spot welded stainless steel sheet metal as an insurance against shortage of light alloys. The first prototype flew on 31 October 1943. About 800 aircraft were ordered by the US Army and US Navy but there never was an aluminium shortage, so the need for the RB disappeared and only 17 aircraft were built. 

" ....During an Easter week-end motorhome trip back in the 1980's our families stayed overnight at the Douglas Muni AP. In the morning we went for a hike out to an old relic abandoned far out away from the runways. Neither my friend nor I, despite long careers in the airplane business had any idea what this airplane was. A few months later when in Wash DC I stopped in at the Air Museum to inquire about it. They ushered my back to the working area and introduced me to an old timer who listened to my story. He knew almost instantly (how many stainless steel two engine cargo airplanes were there after all?). He copied some old newspaper articles and gave them to me. I subsequently sent them to the Pima Air Museum. I don't recall ever hearing back from them but this may have been the link that saved the old relic which is now on display at the Pima Museum, presuming that it's the same S/N.."

More at 

Point Cook's Lucky Star - Lockheed PV-1 Ventura 13 Sqn RAAF (ex-RCAF )


The RAAF Museum's Heritage Flight Ventura VH-SFF based at Point Cook near Melbourne, Victoria is a Canadian Wolf in sheep's clothing, the machine having seen service in its original guise in the RCAF. Lockheed produced some 2,475 Venturas between 1941 and 1945 and this particular aircraft was built at the Burbank, California plant of the Vega Airplane Co., a Lockheed subsidiary during 1943 to US Navy contract as PV- 1 BuAer 33369. It was transferred to the RCAF under Lend-Lease and given the serial number 2221. Canada received 149 Venturas diverted from British contracts. In late 1943 2221 was posted to 115 (BR) Sqn at Patricia Bay, British Columbia but the squadron was disbanded in August of that same year and the Ventura was transferred to stored reserve..

via Tony O' Toole's Photobucket page



Below; a couple of rare 'internal' views'  - Rob Fox photography first published in Aeroplane Monthly January 1995


Jean Demozay 91 'Nigeria' Sqn Hawkinge - a 'modest and exemplary hero..'

Above; S/Ldr Jean Demozay (second from the left) leaning against the prop of one of 91 Squadron's Spit Vbs, September 1941. (photo credit via Peter Hall of Ashford. Peter's history of 91 'Nigeria' Sqn in the Osprey Aviation 'Elite' series is still the best English-language reference on Demozay)

Just read the neat bio of Jean Demozay over on the Hawker Hurricane Facebook page. However the first paragraph contained a number of errors which I thought I'd comment on...a French friend of mine, Many Souffan, just happens to be working on a bio of Demozay and has already published an in-depth review of his career in 'Avions' magazine  issue 176.

".. Nice story ....but the real facts are even more improbable! Demozay never joined the l'Armee de l'Air and  never trained as a pilot pre-war - apparently he just 'pretended' he had in order to try and get into the Air Force. He stated that his birth year was 1912 ..in actual fact it was 1915 (..and not 1916) And he was turned down - he finally joined up with the 19e Train des Equipages (French army) on 9 September 1939. He was then posted to the RAF's 'Advanced Air Strike Force' as an interpreter - his English was fluent as he had spent a number of his teen years at boarding school in Southsea near Portsmouth where a family friend was a teacher. His first flights were in the liaison Magister used by No. 1 Squadron and it was the British pilots that taught him to fly circuits in their off-duty hours. He was indeed one of the first French 'pilots' to reach the UK arriving on 17 June 1940 having piloted a Bristol Bombay across the Channel, but at the time he didn't even possess a (car) drivers licence! He then managed to wangle his way into operational training unit 5 OTU which as luck would have it was commanded by his 'old' Squadron CO 'Bull' Halahan, proving the old adage 'its not what you know...'. He started his first 'real' flight training course on 20 June 1940 - but really there is no way he should have been there. His CO in 'E flight' 5 OTU was another former 1 Squadron Hurricane ace, Pilot Officer 'Boy' Mould, the first RAF pilot to shoot down a Luftwaffe aircraft over France on 30 October 1939. Demozay finished his training in October 1940 and joined 1 Sqn at Wittering and flew several sorties before 31 October 1940 - the 'official' Battle of Britain cut-off date. As such he was one of just thirteen French pilots that officially participated in the Battle of Britain and his name is inscribed on the memorial wall at Capel-Le-Ferne, between Folkestone and Dover. As for his achievements in combat - well it is a matter of record that he commanded 91 'Nigeria' Squadron at Hawkinge and there is a street named after him in the village..officially he returned some 19 victories although many of his claims were made when flying alone out over the Channel and over France..."

This well known image of Jean 'Moses Morlaix' Demozay was taken on 16 November 1941 at Hawkinge. At this time Demozay had around 11 victories and four probables. One month previously he had been awarded the DFC, presented to him by Leigh Mallory Trafford. A few months later he received a bar and a DSO. The Spitfire behind him is the Mk V of his S/L J N Watts Farmer W3175/ DL.W. Under his wings you can see (from L to R) the ribbons of Ordre de la liberation (Green & black) the 7 palms of his Croix de Guerre and his new DFC

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