Archive for the 'Aircraft' Category

Mar 15

Transatlantic Flight Record

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 1:09 AM

March, 15th 1957
Goodyear N-class ZPG-2 airship, commanded by Commander J. R. Hunt, landed at NAS Key West, Florida after a flight that began on March, 4th at South Weymouth, Massachusetts. The flight continued over the Atlantic toward Portugal, then south toward the African coast and back across the Atlantic covering 9,448 miles and remaining in air 264 hours and 12 minutes, without refueling, setting a new world record in distance and endurance.

 
Feb 20

Harriers from Nassau

Sunday, February 20, 2011 12:01 AM

On 20 February 1991 the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA4) launched four AV-8B Harriers of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 331, flight call sign ‘Magic’ just before dawn. This flight was the first combat strike by fixed-wing aircraft from the flight deck of an amphibious assault ship, and was directed at Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries and surface to air missile (SAM) sites at Az Zwar on the western end of Faylakah Island. Bad weather diverted the flight, however, and they instead hit targets near Iraq’s IJmm Qasr Naval Base on the Iraq-Kuwait border. The strike was successful, despite Iraqi opposition including at least one surface to air missile launched at the four Harriers.

The Nassau carried the 19 Harriers of Marine Attack Squadron 331, nicknamed the ‘Bumblebees’ rather than its normal mix of Harriers and helicopters in order to provide dedicated fixed-wing air support for the Marine forces floating in the Gulf as an amphibious threat during Operation Desert Storm. This use of the Nassau was not without controversy, as the relatively short range of the Harriers required the Nassau to stand in closer to shore and the danger of mines. In addition, the Nassau’s munitions storage was limited to approximately three days of strikes.

Despite these issues, the Nassau and Marine Attack Squadron 331 launched 242 combat strikes and expended 300 tons of ordnance against Iraqi targets from 20 and 27 February 1991. The strikes hit Iraqi defensive positions, anti-aircraft batteries, artillery, and armor throughout Kuwait despite bad weather and thick clouds of smoke from oil wells the Iraqis had lit on fire. On 26 February the Iraqi retreat shifted the squadron’s targets to the fleeing Iraqi columns, especially around Al-Jahrah in Kuwait.

On 27 February, while engaged in strikes against these Iraqi convoys, Captain Reginald C. Underwood was killed when his AV-8B Harrier was struck by a surface to air missile. Captain Underwood’s aircraft was the only one the ‘Bumblebees’ lost to enemy action during this first combat deployment of Harriers aboard a U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship.

 
Jan 12

First Test of Angled Deck

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 12:01 AM

On 12 January 1953, the first test landings occurred on USS Antietam’s new angled flight deck. Angling the axis of an aircraft carrier’s landing area slightly off the axis of the ship allows longer landing length (important for the first shipboard jets), affords simultaneous takeoffs and recovery, and ensures that a landing aircraft that misses the arresting gear won’t then plow into parked or launching aircraft. This British idea was originally tested by repainting the landing areas on axial-deck carriers, and the results were good enough that the U.S. Navy installed the first true angled deck on Antietam (CV 36) in the fall of 1952. Over the next four days several aircraft models landed on and took off from the angled deck under various conditions and began proving the value of an innovation that has been a part of U.S. aircraft carrier design ever since.

 
Jan 5

Variable Time Fuse’s Combat Debut

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 12:01 AM

On 5 January 1943, Task Group 67.2, commanded by Rear Admiral Mahlon S. Tisdale, carried out a bombardment against airfields and military installations at Munda, on the Japanese-occupied island of New Georgia in the Solomons. Shortly after the remainder of Task Force 67 joined up with Tisdale’s warships, Japanese aircraft launched attacks on the force—air strikes that resulted in the near miss of the light cruiser USS Honolulu (CL 48) and the damaging of the New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Achilles. During this action the light cruiser USS Helena (CL 50) became the first U.S. Navy warship to employ the new Variable Time (VT) or proximity-fused antiaircraft shells to defend the ship against the attacking planes. Her VT-armed 5-inch/38 guns succeeded in downing a Japanese Aichi Type 99 VAL carrier bomber in the fight.

The then highly secret VT shell relied on a radar fuse located in its nose to give off radio waves that bounced off the incoming plane, and when the shell came within a lethal distance of the aircraft it automatically exploded—knocking its target out of the sky. Although it was used by U.S. Navy combatants in the Pacific in the months that followed, this wonder weapon achieved its greatest role some two and half years later, in the waters off Okinawa, Japan. There, during the lengthy fighting to seize that pivotal island, proximity-fused antiaircraft shells from the quad 40mm and 5-inch/38 guns of destroyer escorts, destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the Fleet shot down hundreds of Japanese Kamikaze aircraft whose pilots were bent on hitting the American ships offshore by crashing into them. By downing these suicide planes before they could hit their targets, the VT-fused shells saved the lives of thousands of Allied sailors who otherwise would have been killed.

 
Jan 3

Frank Erickson and the First Helicopter Rescue

Monday, January 3, 2011 12:01 AM

 CDR Frank A. Erickson, USCG, struggled to keep his Sikorsky HNS-1 helicopter in the air as high winds drove blinding snow squalls and sleet into him. A fierce storm swept the Atlantic coast and forced authorities to ground aircraft and close airfields, however, Erickson persevered because men’s lives depended upon him.

Captain Frank A. Erickson, USCG

Devastating explosions ripped USS Turner (DD 648) apart as she lay anchored off Ambrose Light near Lower New York Bay, during the morning watch on 3 January 1944. The fires cooked-off ammunition and despite the crew’s gallant attempts to save their ship, she sank within hours. Rescuers brought survivors to the nearby hospital at Sandy Hook, and the wounded urgently needed blood plasma.

Erickson took off from Floyd Bennett Field in New York and fought gusting winds that tore through the corridors of downtown Manhattan. Reaching Battery Park, he picked up two cases of the precious fluid, and with the cargo lashed to the helicopter’s floats, he then delivered the plasma in the first helicopter lifesaving operation. The intrepid pilot afterward observed that the “weather conditions were such that this flight could not have been made in any other type of aircraft.”

Born near Portland, Oregon, Erickson enlisted in the Navy and became a midshipman before he resigned and enlisted in the Coast Guard. He received an appointment to the Coast Guard Academy and commissioned as an ensign in 1931. After service on board cutters before World War II, he transferred to Honolulu and witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Erickson subsequently became instrumental in the early development of helicopters and pioneered some of the techniques that the Navy and Coast Guard adapted, before he retired at the rank of Captain to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1954.

For more about CAPT Frank Erickson, click here.

 
Dec 3

Navy Ace Bill Davis and The Last Ship

Friday, December 3, 2010 8:48 AM

Bill Davis in his F6F Hellcat. The washed out rectangles on the side are actually Japanese flags, one each for his seven aerial kills.

Naval History Blog is pleased to present a guest post by author Doug Keeney about his friend Bill Davis:

In October of 1944, a young Navy lieutenant nosed over his F6F Hellcat and began a dive towards a Japanese aircraft carrier below. “I screamed down on the carrier which now completely filled my gunsights,” the pilot wrote in his memoir Sinking The Rising Sun.

“I rested my finger on the bomb release button. I kept going.” And go he did. U.S. Navy fighter pilot William E. “Bill” Davis had no idea of it then but he was just seconds from taking his place among the many great Americans that have worn a Navy uniform. The ship filling his gunsights was no less than the Japanese carrier Zuikaku, the last of the fleet that had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Unlike today, back in 1941 no one sent out a fleet directive to hunt down those ships but every sailor had a mental list and as each ship was sunk, one name was checked off. Zuikaku was the last. With his F6F Hellcat insanely past the redline, Davis triggered the release, pulled back on his stick, and promptly slumped down into unconsciousness. No, he never saw his bomb but it squarely hit its mark, the beginning of the end for the Zuikaku, closure you might say, but Bill had little time to think about any of that. When his eyes fluttered open, his off-the-charts F6F was headed squarely into the side of the destroyer light cruiser Oyodo.

I met Bill Davis in 1972 at the Los Angeles Tennis Club and we became instant friends. Bill and I were of course avid tennis players but in the greatest of all coincidences we were both from the same very small suburb of Philadelphia and in fact had grown up just blocks apart, albeit with 40 years in between us. Bill had gone to the University of Pennsylvania as had my father and we were both pilots, too, but that’s where the comparisons ended. Bill was the recipient of the Navy Cross, a fighter ace in the Pacific with seven kills, the first in a gaggle of fighter pilots that would drop the bombs that would sink the last Japanese carrier that had attacked Pearl Harbor. Militarily at least, the final revenge for Pearl Harbor would come here.

Today, 69 years after Pearl Harbor, Bill’s bombing run may be the last untold story of Pearl Harbor. He managed to pull his F6F above the gunwales of the Oyodo and he flew through an impossibly small space between the forward gun turret and the bridge; he remembers the white uniform of a Japanese admiral and perhaps he saw his life flash before his eyes as he twisted his plane into a 500-mile-per-hour knife-edge pass and cleared the destroyer. Of course this is the stuff of the Navy’s highest honor but none of this had anything to do with why Bill nosed over into a hail of anti-aircraft fire and held steady until his bomb found its mark. Neither honor nor glory rode that Hellcat down to the deck, just duty. Bill did his duty and the reward he fought for was the reward men in World War II wanted more than any medal or ribbon. They wanted to go home. That Bill could do that and provide a measure of closure for the sailors that went down on December 7th was merely the added satisfaction of a job exceptionally well done.

Doug Keeney is a widely published author including his forthcoming book from St. Martin’s Press titled 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation. Bill Davis, 90, received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. Bill began to write during his successful thirty-year career in business. His first work was optioned by 20th Century Fox.

 
Dec 1

December 1, 1921: First flight of airship filled with helium

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 1:32 PM

Blimp C-7 was piloted by LCDR Ralph F. Wood from Norfolk, Virginia to Washington, DC during the first flight of an airship filled with helium on December 1, 1921.

The design of the “C” model was based upon operational experience and was a decided advance over the “B”. The “C”s were 192 feet long and 42 feet in diameter, and had a streamlined car for the six-man crew. Speed ranged from 45-60 mph.

 

 
Nov 20

World Record Flight

Saturday, November 20, 2010 1:01 AM

On November 20th 1933, LCDR Thomas G.W. Settle, USN and MAJ Chester I. Fordney, USMC set a world record balloon flight into the stratosphere at 62,237 ft.


LCDR Settle & MAJ Fordney

The Soviet Union had captured the imagination of the world by sending men higher than anyone had ever gone before. America’s response was made shortly afterward by a naval officer and a Marine officer. Their names were not Shepard and Glenn, and the time was not the Sixties, but the Thirties. In an all-but-forgotten flight, two American military men carried their country’s colors to a world altitude record and began the race for space …

From the article; “When the Race for Space Began” by J. Gordan Vaeth printed in Proceedings August, 1963


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