Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Squadron Prints Lithograph No. 1340 - 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Spitfire / Typhoon Synchro Display 2015.

Squadron Prints Lithograph No. 1340 - 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Spitfire / Typhoon Synchro Display 2015.

 To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the iconic Supermarine Spitfire flown by Flight Lieutenant Antony ‘Parky’ Parkinson together with the powerful Eurofighter Typhoon flown by Flight Lieutenant Ben Westoby-Brooks join to create a unique synchronised display. The stark contrast between the aircraft is highlighted in line astern formation with the elliptical wing of the Spitfire immediately pursued by the piercing delta of the Typhoon before the pair split to complete mirrored wingovers, rolls, derry turns and head-on low level passes. Though generations apart, these seemingly disparate world class fighters have a rare harmony connecting the past and the present, serving as a living memorial to ‘The Few’. Spitfire MkIIa P7350 is the oldest airworthy Spitfire in the world, and the only Spitfire that fought in the Battle of Britain still flying. P7350 is painted to represent Spitfire MkIa N3162 ‘EB-G’ flown by 21-year-old Pilot Officer Eric Stanley Lock of No. 41 Squadron. Lock became the RAF’s most successful pilot of the Battle of Britain with 21 kills during the period of the Battle. During his service with No. 41 Squadron, Lock was awarded the DSO, two DFCs and a Mention in Despatches. Sadly, Lock died on 3 August 1941, at the age of only 22, when he failed to return from a strafe attack on troops and gun positions at Calais. His body have never been found, despite extensive searches, and he has no known grave. Although Eric Lock faced the enemy for only a limited period of time, he remains one of the RAF’s top 10 Aces of World War II, credited with some 26.5 aircraft destroyed and 8 probable, most of these achieved with No. 41 Squadron. Typhoon FGR4 ZK349 ‘BZ’ wears the No. 249 Squadron markings of the Hawker Hurricane flown by Flight Lieutenant Eric James Brindley Nicolson during the Battle of Britain. Nicolson, aged 23 was to become RAF Fighter Command’s only Victoria Cross recipient.

 Available from Squadron Prints here

Typhoon at the Duxford VE Day display, May 2015. Pics by Alpha Delta 210 - more of his great pics here

Monday, 25 May 2015

"The Lost Hopes, Polish Fighters over France in 1940" - Caudron 714 GC 1/145 Recommended Aviation books

The French Minister of Air, Guy de Chambre, inspected GC 1/145 on 25 May and after hearing the litany of defects presented by the "cyclone", suspended all flying on this aircraft. He was told about the aircraft's poor climb rate, a weak landing gear and its faulty lowering mechanism, as well as an imperfect propeller's pitch-changing device, cowling's swelling during diving and unreliable dashboard instruments. While the Minister's reaction was perhaps the proper one, it served to deprive the Polish pilots in France of the only aircraft available to them. The very next day, they elected to continue flying the defective Caudrons. On June 2, the squadron moved to the airfield at Dreux. The aircraft were dispersed on the edge of the field and carefully camouflaged. Two days later, the Poles finally received the long-awaited radios. Up to that point, they scrambled at the signal of an automobile horn. To beef up GC II/10, on May 5, the squadron was ordered to patrol in the Rouen area. This was done by Flight "B". Half an hour later, Flight "A" was moved to Bretigny-sur-Orge, south of Paris, with the task of defending the French capital. The next day, the squadron was charged with the same duties. In the evening of June 6, the squadron was attached to the 42nd Fighter Group, defending a sector of the Seine between Vernon and Meulan. Two three-aircraft reconnaissance flights on the route Meulan-Magny-en-Vexin-Fleury-sur-Andelle-Vernon and along the Seine were the squadron's only activity on June 7th. The next day found the squadron with twenty-one planes in good order. The other thirteen needed a lot of fixing. Some were being generally checked after forced landings, while multiple tasks were performed on others: changing a stabilizer or rudder, replacing Plexiglas in a cockpit, a carburetor, parts of an electrical installation, and so on. That day Flight "A" was assigned to GC II/10. At 3:54 p.m., a section of five aircraft, led by kpt. Wczelik, took off to patrol over the Vernon-Meulan area. South of Rouen, the Poles attacked a group of about twenty Messerschmit 110s and had a good scrap with them. They landed at 5:10 p.m. Officers Wczelik and Czerwinski claimed victories, but none of the other pilots saw the enemy aircraft crash. Commander Kepinski recognized only one of them as probable but soon after, around the area of that clash, the wrecks of five Me-110s were found.

After a fight analysis, por. Tadeusz Czerwinski was credited with two enemy aircraft shot down, while kpt. Wczelik, ppor. Aleksy Zukowski, and ppor. Jerzy Godlewski with kpr. Piotr Zaniewski were credited with one Bf110 each. The squadron suffered no losses, but most of the aircraft were shot-up and temporarily unserviceable. At Bernay, on June 9, the squadron was joined up with Flight "B", to sweep in full force in the front-line area. Eighteen aircraft took off at 2:30 p.m. Led by maj. Kepinski were Commandant de Marmier, kpt. Laguna, kpt. Wczelik,por. Zdzislaw Zadrozinski, por. Jan Obuchowski, por. Julian Kowalski, ppor. Czeslaw Glowczynski, ppor. Jerzy Czerniak, ppor. Lech Lachowicki-Czechowicz,ppor. Jerzy Godlewski, ppor. Bronislaw Skibinski, sierz. Jan Palak, plut. Andrzej Niewiara, plut. Mieczyslaw Parafinski and kpr. Edward Uchto. Over Vernon, the squadron attacked an enemy formation of about 50 Do 17s escorted by about 20 Bf 109s. Due to the radio malfunction the attack was poorly coordinated.

 Czeslaw Glowczynski recalled;

 ".. My radio didn't work so I wasn't aware of any warnings. I soon noticed a group of about 30 BF 109s, some 3,000 feet below. Since our leader didn't react. I come close to him and waggled my wings. I pointed down; he nodded that he sees them and continued to fly straight. I gave him a sign that I will attack. I thought that at least a part of our group would follow me in this attack, but I found myself alone, with the exception of my wingman, ppr. Czerniak. Our position was advantageous since we attacked from above, with the sun behind us. With full speed, I swooped down on the rearmost Bf109. The swiftness of my attack caused the whole German formation to break up. One of them went down steeply, smoking heavily. Immediately, I went after another one, which, after few bursts, crashed in a forest south of Rouen. I was then shot at from behind. Several bullets came near my head and shattered my instrument panel. I managed to force land on a front-line strip at Evreux. Czerniak got one Bf109 as well, and he landed with me. It took the whole evening to fix my plane, and I returned to the unit the next day.."

 Jerzy Czerniak's account of this flight;

 "... The weather was beautiful and, flying in the direction of the area of operation, we were climbing slowly. At 12 or 15 thousand, we started to look for game. For over thirty minutes, the flight was uneventful, and looking at Czeslaw, I could tell that he was greatly disappointed with not seeing any Huns around. That's when I sow silver planes below us. I gave Czeslaw a sign, and we altered our course a little to have the sun directly behind us. Next, Czeslaw dived and I followed him, unlocking my guns in case there would be a scrap. It happened that there was one. We approached the Messerschmitts and Czeslaw coolly positioned himself right behind one of them and started to shoot. Others maneuvered themselves behind Czeslaw who continued spraying his wiggling victim. All this time, I flew behind my colleague, observing the scene. One Messerschmitt started to shoot at him and that's when I intervened. I jumped at the German and gave him a burst right in the cockpit. He must have got it since he flipped over, going down. I served him another portion and stayed with him till he crashed into a French farmer's yard.."

 Ppor. Glowczynski was credited with one Bf 109 destroyed and one damaged, while ppor. Czerniak got one Bf 109 destroyed. Plut. Parafinski also scored, destroying a Bf 109, while kpt. Wczelik and sierz. Markiewicz shared one Dornier 17 destroyed. Two planes crashed south of Andelys and others near Louviers. This time, the squadron suffered a loss of three pilots. Killed in action were por. Obuchowski, ppor. Lachowicki-Czechowicz and kpr. Uchto. por. Kowalski was slighty wounded, while ppor. Godlewski force landed at Villacoblay. The rest of the pilots landed at 3:50 p.m. A few aircraft were unserviceable. Godlewski tried to join his unit on a new plane but nose-dived during the takeoff. He come out of the accident unscathed, but couldn't up with the squadron. The Poles fought with German fighters from II./JG 27. The pilots from this unit claimed three Moranes shot down. Credited with victories were: Gruppenkomandeur Hauptmann Werner Anders, Feldwebel Karl Witzel and Feldwebel Karl-Heinz Bendert. In reality, the Luftwafe lost three Bf 109s. Leutnant Hans Bosch ( Hptm. Anres wingman ) and Feldwebel Karl-Heinz Kranich become POWs. Leutnant Hermann Kugler went missing. Slightly wounded, Hptm. Andres force landed near Creil.

Dominik Kościelny

Below; captioned, 'Dreux 22 July 1940'

"Tex" Johnston barrel rolls the B707 Dash 80 prototype - Jet age - Recommended Aviation books #29

Bill Allen; "what did you think you were doing ?!!"
Tex Johnston; "selling airplanes!"

As part of the Dash 80s demonstration program, Bill Allen invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association and International Air Transport Association to the Seattle's 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races held on Lake Washington on August 6, 1955. The Dash-80 was scheduled to perform a simple flyover, but Boeing test pilot Alvin "Tex" Johnston instead performed a barrel roll to show off the jet airliner. The next day, Allen summoned Johnston to his office and told him not to perform such a maneuver again, Johnston's explanations that this was a safe 1G manoeuvre assertion that doing so was completely safe. Boeing Chief Test Pilot John Cashman stated that just before he piloted the maiden flight of the Boeing 777 on June 12, 1994, his last instructions from then Boeing President Phil Condit were "No rolls"
A single click to view here


 Review of the 'Jet Age' by William Holmes

 .. The central narrative about the competition between Britain and America is clear from the subtitle, "The Comet, the 707 and The Race to Shrink the World." The British were the first to test a commercial airliner, the de Havilland Comet, in 1949. British Overseas Airway Corporation (BOAC) assigned the new aircraft to its Empire Service, and it began carrying paying passengers on regularly scheduled flights in May 1952. The American airline industry was satisfied with big, noisy, turbulent, uncomfortable propeller-driven aircraft--Boeing was the only manufacturer willing to bet the company on jet air travel, and its Dash 80 (the prototype of the famous 707) was years behind the Comet. The book is first and foremost about the race between de Havilland and Boeing, told from the perspective of national pride. From there, the story branches out in myriad directions. A second narrative summarizes the life and achievements of Geoffrey de Havilland, who endured personal tragedy (including the deaths of two of his three sons in company aircraft) to lead Britain into the jet age. The Americans in the story include Bill Boeing, who founded the eponymous company but left the airline industry in disgust in 1934 when the Roosevelt Adminstration broke his company into an aircraft manufacturer (Boeing Company), an airline (Boeing Air Transport, now United Airlines), and an engine manufacturer (today's United Technologies); Bill Allen, who bet the company on the 707 and later on the even larger 747; Howard Hughes (TWA), Eddie Rickenbacker (Eastern), and Juan Trippe (Pan Am), the leaders of the airlines who would decide whether the 707, the Douglas DC-8, or the Comet won the race to become the dominant aircraft of the jet age; and Tex Johnston, the Boeing test pilot and salesman-in-chief who famously barrel-rolled the Dash 80--twice--in a demonstration flight above Lake Washington in Seattle. The Comet was first out of the gate but turned out to be an aircraft too far ahead of its time--a fatal structural flaw caused by metal fatigure sometimes without warning caused the jetliner to disentegrate in the upper atmosphere, leading in 1952-53 to three mysterious high-altitude disasters that killed over 100 people. Part of Verhovek's story is about how the British swallowed their considerable national pride, grounded the Comet, and figured out what had gone wrong. Boeing learned from these tragic lessons and designed the 707 with a fuselage able to withstand a "guillotine test" without shredding. To tell the story of the "race to shrink the world," Verhovek disgresses to a number of interesting subtopics, including Boeing's invention of "the stewardess," (who was at first required to be an unmarried registered nurse), the first encounter between a British Mosquito and Germany's Me262 jet fighter near the end of World War II, the establishment of the American air mail industry, and the growth of commercial airlines in the United States in the 1930s. It's clear that Verhovek has a lot of passion for his subject and has taken the time to master its many interesting facets--it's as if Simon Winchester decided that he wanted to write about the aircraft. The result is a very readable book that I highly recommend.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Sea Harrier ZA 176 - an unusual 'ditching' in the Atlantic

On 6 May 1983 Sub Lieutenant Ian "Soapy" Watson was launched off the coast of Portugal in a pair of aircraft tasked with locating a French aircraft carrier under combat conditions including radio silence and radar switched off. "Soapy" was a junior Royal Navy Pilot undertaking his first NATO exercise. After completing his patrol, "Soapy" flew to a pre arranged rendezvous point with his flight lead. When Watson realised the Lead was nowhere in sight, he turned towards Invincible expecting to pick it up on the radar; when unable to locate the carrier he broke radio silence and made a radio transmission. Unable to transmit or receive, he realized his radio was unserviceable, and his NAVHARS - Inertial Navigation System had failed in taking him back to the Invicible's expected location. As his Sea Harrier began to run very low on fuel, Watson vectored the aircraft eastwards towards the closest commercial shipping lane, and made radar contact with a surface vessel at 50 miles. At 12 miles he made visual contact with a ship. It was a container ship called, Alraigo. At this point, "Soapy" was planning to eject in sight of the vessel hoping for a rescue by the ships crew. After performing an initial flyby of the Alraigo, Watson noticed the ship was carrying numerous flat topped containers similar in size to the FAA practice landing pad. The container was carrying a base plate for a telescope being delivered to the La Palma Observatory in the Canary Islands. Watson then decided to land his Sea Harrier on top of the shipping container with only a few minutes of fuel time remaining. As his aircraft touched down on top of the container, the aircraft began to slide backwards on the ocean water coated surface. Watson attempted to pull the landing gear to arrest the slide but was not successful in stopping it. The aircraft slid backwards off the container and ended up sitting upon the roof of a van parked on the deck. The van partially held up the fuselage and arrested the aircraft backward movement. Four days later amid considerable international media presence, the Alraigo sailed into Santa Cruz de Tenerife with its new cargo load, a Fleet Air Arm Sea Harrier still perched on its makeshift landing pad.

The aircraft was salvageable, and the ship's crew and owners were awarded £570,000 in compensation. Sea Harrier ZA176 was converted to the FA2 variant in 1992 and retired from service September 20, 2003. The aircraft can now be seen on display at Newark Air Museum in Nottinghamshire England in its FA2 configuration

via the Sierra Hotel Aeronautics page on Facebook

Sunday, 3 May 2015

890 NAS Sea Vixen FAW 1s on the deck of Ark Royal

posted recently on britmodeller by "Ex-FAAWAFU" and since they are so interesting I've repeated his comments verbatim! Click to view the full image..

 "..This picture from 1961 shows (amongst other things) 890 NAS Sea Vixen FAW 1s on Ark Royal's deck. Lots of interest in this evocative image; the deck for a start; every other colour picture I've seen shows Ark with a red centre line, but clearly at one stage it was yellow. As for the Vixens, they are in bright sunlight and there are issues with the angle, but they certainly look pretty faded to me - a bit lighter even than the Scimitars alongside, though that might easily be the angle of light reflections (the flat top bit of the Scimitars looks similar). But judging, say, from the deep shade of the blue on the Whirly on the back end, or even just of the dark overalls on the Grubbers walking in the foreground, then the deep dark grey colour that comes straight out to the bottle of paint needs a fair amount of fading! Note the nose (complete with red protective RBF cap) of a yellow Firestreak just peeking out on the starboard wing of 254, and also the Buddy refuelling pod clearly visible on the starboard wing of the un-identified Vixen on the right of the picture. Note that 2 of the Scimitars have their underwing serials replaced with "Royal Navy". If you look at the folded Gannets on the left, for instance (849 A flight, I think, because red tail fins), look how worn the upper surfaces are - especially the port tail of the nearer aircraft, which looks incredibly dusty. I think they were in the Med in this picture; maybe lots of Saharan sandy dust? I am also struck, not for the first time, by how tiny the target was for a deck landing. This is probably not a wildly different angle to the view of the arrestor wires when on finals. 4 wires in - what? About 25 feet, judging by the deck distance to go marks. Not a lot to aim at on a pitching deck in something doing well over 100kts.

Re the Scimitar underwing serials! .. there's a photo at the back of Richard Franks' Sea Vixen book of Fred's Five (an early Vixen display team, that flew FAW1s, unlike the later and better known Simon's Sircus that flew Mk 2s) practising from Lossie. There are 5 of them plus a Scimitar (whipper-in?) at the top of a formation loop, and that Scimitar has Royal Navy instead of serials under the wing, too.

 I agree about the Firestreaks; little point in protecting the nose of a totally inert, dummy round - I assume it had some sort of seeker head in it, but no motor and no warhead.

 Trivia moment here: the aforementioned "Simon", of Simon's Sircus, was Simon Idiens, who was Kristin Scott Thomas' step-father. The Scott Thomas family had awful luck; Kristin's Dad was killed in a Vixen crash, and her Mum re-married, this time to his best man, Simon Idiens... who was himself killed in a Phantom not long after. There is a beautiful sundial memorial to the two of them in the FAA cemetery at Yeovilton parish church, I assume donated by the family.."

"...Naval aircraft are very well looked after when it comes to salt (it being so corrosive); washed after pretty much every sortie, and coated with PX-24 (an anti-corrosion / water repellant oil). In my young, pre-flying days I went across the Atlantic in Jan 1982 in HMS Fearless. No hangar, and we had two Wessex 5s embarked. We were caught unawares by a really bad storm (forecasting being a lot less accurate in those days), so there was not enough time to really protect the two cabs before it became too dangerous to be out on deck. For two whole days these two aircraft were subjected to salt water under pressure, which reacts very cheerfully with magnesium alloy. One of them never flew again, and had to be craned off 2 months later in Devonport and used as an instructional airframe. So it matters. But the paintwork still gets faded by sun, wind and salt. If you look carefully at the starboard wing of the spread Vixen in that photo, there us a visible colour difference between static and folding section of the wing - that'll be because the folding section spent far less time exposed to direct baking sun (see the adjacent aircraft for why!). The flight deck, on the other hand, really cops it. Those streaks in the photo are probably partly from washing aircraft, and partly from compressor washing ("comp washing") them; running the engine for 30 seconds on the starter without ignition, and forcing a wash fluid through the engine under pressure - this is to wash the salt and carbon deposits off the compressor blades. It works, but makes a right mess. (As an aside, the marinised Olympus and Tyne engines used in my era ships were cleaned in a similar way by pouring sacks of ground walnut shell into them when running. It was abrasive enough to dislodge the salt and carbon, but not so abrasive as to damage the blades, and then the shells just burned up in the engine. A bit too brutal for aircraft engines!) Then add in oil spills, fuel spills, dents & scrapes from chain lashings, burning from jet engines, and rubber from tyres... and you can see why flight decks need to be re-coated regularly. Again, in that photo above, there's a diagonal darker section running from the mobile "Jumbo" crane towards the bottom right of the pic; that section has been painted more recently than the rest of the deck... but it's already just as stained and marked - though slightly less faded.."

More on the 1968 Sea Vixen aerobatic team Simon's Sircus on this blog here

More Sea Vixens on this blog here

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A visit to the Bristol Aeroplane Co. Filton, just prior to the outbreak of WWII. Bristol's chief Test pilot Capt. C.F. Uwin...