The Military Aviation Museum has a P-39 Airacobra!


May 17, 2019

Hangardeck Exclusive - The Fighter Factory has just received the MAM Bell P-39 Airacobra from New Zealand. This is the 4th airworthy Airacobra to be based in the United States. This weekend is also Warbirds over the Beach 2019 at the MAM and will be flying and showing off this awesome collection of Warbirds. Jerry Yagan’s P-39 AiraCobra is equipped with a Allison V-1710-85 engine.


The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of the principal American fighter aircraft in service when the United States entered World War II. The P-39 was used by the Soviet Air Force, and enabled individual Soviet pilots to collect the highest number of kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type flown by any pilot in any conflict.  Other major users of the type included the French, the Royal Air Force, the United States Army Air Forces, and the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force.

The MAM P-39F (41-7215) was restored by Pioneer Aero Ltd at Ardmore, Auckland. Its based on the wrecks of two aircraft recovered from Russia and restoration started at Wangaratta, Australia.


The Hangardeck has participated at WOB for the last 4 years witnessing a first of many incredible flights from the MAMs collection. Andy and Sean were there to record the unveiling of this incredible and rare Warbird. For more on this weekends WOB19 events and exclusives check out the Hangardeck Facebook page.

The last Doolittle Raider, Lt. Col. Richard "Dick" Cole passes at 103.

by Pete Bruno

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, the last of World War II’s Doolittle Raiders, passed away in San Antonio according to accurate reports. Cole was 103 years old. Arrangements are being made for a memorial service at Randolph Air Force Base, and Cole will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

One of Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle's B-25 bombers takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet for the initial air raid on Tokyo, April 18, 1942. (US Navy, File)

One of Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle's B-25 bombers takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet for the initial air raid on Tokyo, April 18, 1942. (US Navy, File)

The 103-year-old Lt. Richard Cole was the last survivor of the 80 U.S. Army Air Corps airmen who flew the Doolittle Raid, a one-way airstrike over Japan during World War II. The raid, on April 18, 1942, came 133 days after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and involved 16 B-25 crews trained primarily out of Eglin Auxiliary Field in Eglin, Florida.

Cole was the co-pilot of aviation pioneer and raid architect Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle. Their modified B-25 Mitchell bomber was the first to leave the flight deck of the USS Hornet at 8:25 a.m. One-by-one 15 others followed flying independently to bomb 10 military targets and industrial targets in Tokyo, and targets in Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka.

For a little more than two weeks in March 1942, they trained at Eglin Field for their incredible mission: launching stripped-down B-25 bombers off the deck of an aircraft carrier and flying hundreds of miles across the Pacific Ocean to bomb Japan. Less than a month after leaving Eglin Field, on April 18, 1942, the Doolittle Raiders, all volunteers, boarded 16 B-25 bombers on the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet in the Pacific to start their mission.

Two members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, seated front, and retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, seated left, receive the Congressional Gold Medal (photo from Associated Press)

Two members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, seated front, and retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, seated left, receive the Congressional Gold Medal (photo from Associated Press)

Three Raiders died trying to reach China after the attack, and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed, and a fourth died in captivity. Cole parachuted, and he and other Raiders were helped to safety by Chinese partisans. Recently, the 80 Raiders were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their “outstanding heroism, valor, skill and service to the United States.”

The bold raid is credited with lifting U.S. spirits and helping change the tide of the war in the Pacific.  The flag is at half-mast.  Lt. Col. Cole was a humble American hero that will be missed by all.

The Short, Storied History of the Convair XP5Y/R3Y Tradewind

by Sean Sims.

In 1943 the Vultee Aircraft Company and Consolidated Aircraft Corporation joined to form Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation which later became known as Convair. Consolidated built the United States Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator and the United States Navy PBY Catalina. With more than 18,000 copies, the Liberator was the most produced United States military aircraft of all time. Consolidated was also well known for their good track record of developing flying boats in the 1920s and 1930s.

Figure 1. Consolidated PBY Catalina by Sean Sims.

Figure 1. Consolidated PBY Catalina by Sean Sims.

During World War II the United States Navy relied on a large number of patrol/bomber flying boats (PBY/PBM models). As the war wound down the Navy saw a continued need for flying boats and desired an aircraft larger than the PBY Catalina and PB2Y Coronado aircraft which were heavily used during the war.

In 1945 the United States Navy issued a formal request for a large flying boat. They wanted manufacturers to take advantage of new technology developed during WWII…specifically laminar flow airfoils and the still evolving turboprop/turbojet technology. The P-51 was the first aircraft developed intentionally with laminar flow airfoils. However research showed the Mustang airfoils were not manufactured with sufficient surface quality to produce true laminar flow on the wing.

Figure 2. Martin PBM Mariner by Sean Sims.

Figure 2. Martin PBM Mariner by Sean Sims.

The new aircraft’s primary mission would be over-water patrol from temporary forward bases. Secondary roles would include air-sea rescue, anti-sub patrol, and bombing of merchant shipping. The Navy intended to combine very new technology, the turbine (jet) engine, with very old technology, the seaplane.

Seaplane hull development had been underway at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) for many years. Convair was also doing in-house testing under direction of Ernest G. Stout, the "seaplane admiral" since 1943. Stout had been using model aircraft similar to full-scale aircraft for development since 1938 and added radio/remote control aircraft about five years later.

Between the NACA/SIT work and Convair’s in-house development a revolutionary new hull design was developed which had improved hydrodynamic stability such as reduced skipping and porpoising, minimized spray and improved rough-water other words, a more seaworthy flying boat.

Three companies submitted proposals in response to the Navy’s request, Convair, Martin and Hughes. Hughes design, the H-4, better known as the “Spruce Goose,“ was the largest, slowest and most expensive (which was subsequently eliminated first). The Convair and Martin designs were essentially equal, but Convair won due to better performance and logistic superiority (requiring less fuel for a given mission).

The first American jet fighter was the Bell P-59 Airacomet which first flew 1 October 1942. However, during production it was determined the P-59 under-performed the North American P-51 Mustang in both top speed and range. This lead to the P-59 never reaching combat.

Rather than face a similar fate of the Bell P-59 Airacomet, Convair proposed powering the new aircraft with a turboprop. A turboprop is a turbine (jet) driving a propeller shaft. This would allow them to provide better fuel economy leading to a longer range than a pure jet. Convair would go on to be the first company in US to fly a turboprop aircraft with their XP-81, a single seat, long range escort fighter that combined use of both turbojet and turboprop engines on 21 December 1945.

The Navy issued a Procurement Directive in May of 1946 and issued the XP5Y-1 designation to the project. The contract that followed called for one bare aircraft in 26 months with a second complete aircraft ten months later. This was the 2nd time the P5Y-1 designation was assigned by the Navy. The first aircraft given the P5Y-1 designation was a proposed twin-engined version of the Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberator in 1942. This aircraft was dropped in favor of the Lockheed P2V Neptune.

Figure 3. XP5Y-1 First Flight Takeoff Run by US Navy.

Figure 3. XP5Y-1 First Flight Takeoff Run by US Navy.

Initially the XP5Y-1 was designed as a large, long-range recon flying boat powered by four Westinghouse 25D (T30) engines. The T30 was selected simply because it was expected to be first suitable, available engine that could drive the Hamilton Standard Super-Hydromatic props which would be 15-ft 1-in in diameter.

In April 1946 Westinghouse workers walked out due to an industrial dispute. This delayed the T30 availability estimate until 1949 well after the July 1948 deadline for the first prototype. Alternatives were sought from Allison and Pratt & Whitney. Convair selected the experimental Allison XT40 paired with six-bladed contra-rotating propellers simply because the T40 would be available first. The T40 was two gas-powered turbines (the Allison T38) mounted side-by-side and coupled via a set of reduction gears to drive a single prop shaft. The Douglas A2D and North American A2J were developed with the Allison T40-A-6. The Tradewind was using the T40-A-10 which was essentially the same with minor accessory relocation.

Convair had initially considered a four prop aircraft using T-40s inboard and T-38s outboard, but settled on quad T-40s to provide logistic commonality. The T-40 was rated at 5,100 shaft horsepower and was designed so that either T-38 could independently drive the six-blade propeller assembly. Once airborne, one T-38 unit could be shut down for maximum fuel economy.

The Tradewind is the only T-40 powered aircraft to reach production. The decision to employ the T-40 would ultimately be the downfall of the R3Y. The first sign of trouble occurred when every non-flight test encountered numerous problems with the initial Allison XT40-A-4 engines.

Convair’s extensive model testing program completed 2000 test runs between 1947 and 1950. Twenty-seven models were tested during this time to arrive at the final XP5Y-1 design. The second prototype was redesigned to be an Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft with aerial mine-laying (16,000 carried in the nacelles) capability. The first two prototypes built were armed with 8,000 pounds of munitions (bombs, mines, depth charges, torpedoes) and five pairs of 20-mm cannon with forward and aft side turrets and a tail turret.

First Flight and Retasking

The XP5Y-1 prototype first flew on 18 April 1950 in San Diego. In August of that same year the XP5Y-1 set a turboprop endurance record of 8 hours 6 minutes. Due to the delay in design and construction of the prototypes, the initial patrol boat mission was no longer valid. The Navy instead requested a passenger/cargo version be created to replace the Military Air Transport Service’s Martin Mars seaplanes. This version would be designated the R3Y. Convair returned with two new designs, the R3Y-1 was a passenger transport aircraft with a side loading door and the R3Y-2 was an assault/cargo aircraft with an upward-opening nose loading door similar to the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy. The transport/cargo variants had all armament removed, sported a lengthened fuselage, redesigned engine nacelles (moving them atop the wing rather than within), the addition of cabin soundproofing and pressurization, air conditioning and an additional ten foot wide port-side access hatch.

Figure 4. R3Y-1 vs R3Y-2 Comparison.

Figure 4. R3Y-1 vs R3Y-2 Comparison.

The R3Y achieved a maximum takeoff weight of 165,000 pounds. It had a length of 139-ft 8-in, stood 51-ft 5-in tall and had a wingspan of 145-ft 9-in which is similar in size to the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. It sported a thin 15:1 beam ratio which allowed it to slice through the water similar to a high-speed boat.

The Tradewind’s twin hull assembly weighed 1,000,000-lbs and had four work levels during assembly. 65,000 specialty tools were required to construct the aircraft. The R3Y-1 had 77 bulkheads (all located below the cargo deck) with some weighing 800-lbs.

Figure 5. R3Y-2 at Dock by US Navy.

Figure 5. R3Y-2 at Dock by US Navy.

The R3Y was designed to carry 100 passengers, 24 tons of cargo, or 92 stretchers with a 2,000 mile range. With 24 tons of cargo capacity, the R3Y-2 could carry four 155-mm towed howitzers or six jeeps or three 6x6 2Vi-ton trucks. Convair intended to market the R3Y-2 as a flying LST (landing ship, tank) as naval LST ships were crucial to many battles in World War II. However, in testing it was determined that pilots could not hold the Tradewind steady enough to nose on to the beach and deploy the vehicles and personnel safely.

In February of 1953 the Navy ordered five R3Y-1 troop transports and six R3Y-2 cargo aircraft. Meanwhile, testing continued of the XP5Y-1 prototype. Forty-two flights with more than 100 flight hours occurred before a non-fatal accident claimed the first prototype on 15 July 1953. While completing contracted testing at 115% of the design limits the elevator torque tube failed and the aircraft began to oscillate through a series of near-vertical dives and climbs. The crew attempted to recover the aircraft for almost 25 minutes before bailing out. The second XP5Y-1 prototype never flew. It was quietly discarded near in 1957.

The R3Y-1 was officially revealed on 17 December 1953, the 50th anniversary of Wright Brothers first flight, but it’s first flight wasn’t until 25 February 1954. The R3Y-2 soon followed on 22 October 1954. Seven of the eleven R3Y Tradewinds built were named for major bodies of water. The fourth-built R3Y, named the “Coral Sea”, set a transcontinental seaplane record of 403 mph that same year by utilizing the speed of high-altitude jetstream winds. The Tradewind flew from San Diego, California to Patuxent River, Maryland in six hours. This record still stands today.

The “Coral Sea” remained at Patuxent River for six months where it conducted thirty test flights including dropping paratroopers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina and the longest flight of nine hours and six minutes. Three additional Tradewinds made the flight to Patuxent River for testing over the following two years.

All aircraft were delivered to USN Air Transport Squadron Two (VR-2) based at NAS Alameda, California starting 31 March 1956 through 28 November 1956. The Tradewind was replacing the unit’s Martin Mars flying boat, the only seaplane larger than the Tradewind. The unit was tasked with flying between San Diego, California and Oahu, Hawaii. The first Tradewind to be delivered was the final built, a R3Y-2 model, and was named the “South Pacific.”

Figure 6. R3Y-2 Quadruple in-flight refueling by US Navy.

Figure 6. R3Y-2 Quadruple in-flight refueling by US Navy.

 In September of 1956 two R3Y-2 aircraft were modified as in-flight refueling tankers. The first trials were conducted using McDonnell F2H Banshees from VF-23 at NAS Moffett Field, California. The converted Tradewind was the first in-flight refueling aircraft to successfully refuel four other aircraft

simultaneously when four Grumman F9F Cougars from VF-111 at NAS North Island, California connected at the same time. The in-flight refueling trials went so well that all remaining Tradewind aircraft were slated for conversion. Ultimately only one additional R3Y-2 and two R3Y-1 aircraft were converted prior to the aircraft’s retirement.

Beginning of the End

The Tradewind’s short service life can be directly attributed to the unreliability of the Allison T40. The T40 engines experienced power deficiency at altitude with poor balance between the dual power sections. Coupled with the 15-ft 1-in diameter propellers and long drive shafts this caused the props to oscillate, overheat and go out of sync. Two problems arose from this condition, gearbox failures and more alarming propeller failure in flight.

In June of 1956 the Tradewind “Caribbean Sea” lost her number one prop while 175 miles off the California coast. The crew was able to continue to Alameda where a safe, three engine landing was completed. Then in May of 1957 the Tradewind “Coral Sea,” of transcontinental seaplane record fame, experienced a runaway number three engine during a training flight. The crew returned to Alameda and attempted a normal landing but found the aircraft to be uncontrollable under 180 knots. The captain elected to perform a 200 knot landing which resulted in a large hole developing in the hull and the aircraft sank in the bay. The famous aircraft was stripped of salvageable equipment, refloated and subsequently scrapped.

Troubles with the T40 occurred so often that maintenance personnel developed a special stand allowing removal of the engine and prop assembly in just 15 man hours. Previously two craning operations were required. With reliability lacking, plans to extend the San Diego to Oahu service on to the Philippines was cancelled.

The penultimate mishap involved another famous Tradewind known as the “Indian Ocean.” This aircraft set a Honolulu to Alameda record of 6 hours 45 minutes. This bested the current record held by the aircraft it replaced, the Martin Mars, by an astonishing 3 hours 46 minutes. Sadly, this aircraft was also lost in an engine-related mishap which occurred on 24 January 1958 when the “Indian Ocean” was completing a night flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. Over 350 miles off the coast of California, the number two engine’s gearbox failed and the propeller suddenly sheared off, slashing the fuselage just forward of the left wing. The crew completed an emergency landing in San Diego only to find that the number one engine controls were cut by the failed prop and it remained fully throttled up. The uncontrollable engine veered them into the seawall. The “Indian Ocean” went out on a high note securing a new Honolulu to Alameda record of 5 hours 54 minutes, bettering it’s previous record while severely damaged by 51 minutes!

All R3Ys were grounded by the end of January 1958. In an effort to salvage the program, Convair proposed replacing the engines with a more reliable Rolls-Royce turboprop (something they also suggested near the start of the program). The eleven aircraft compiled only 3,302 flight hours an average of just over 132 hours (12 hours per aircraft) per month they were in service.

Tradewinds Sunset

Despite the Navy’s critical need for tanker capabilities, the abysmal engine/propeller reliability lead to the termination of the Tradewind operations on 16 April 1958 when Air Transport Squadron VR-2 was decommissioned. All remaining aircraft were officially stricken in March of 1959. Late that year an order was issued to cut the vertical fins off the grounded and stricken aircraft as if just seeing them was a painful embarrassment. The final R3Y was cut up and hauled away by rail in the spring of 1960.

Ironically, and sadly, the last remnants of Convair’s massive, short lived sea plane are a few of the troubled Allison T40 engines in museums. For 25 months of service, the Navy had expended over $250 Million in design and production costs. This amount does not include the operational and replenishment costs of such a maintenance hungry aircraft.

Short-Lived Jet-Powered Seaplanes

Figure 7. Convair F2Y Sea Dart by US Navy

Figure 7. Convair F2Y Sea Dart by US Navy

The Navy attempted to replace the Tradewind with a jet powered seaplane. In 1948 Convair began work on a supersonic interceptor aircraft. The Navy was concerned about operating supersonic aircraft from carriers. Ernest Stout, the “seaplane admiral”, proposed redesigning the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger to include water skis in place of it’s landing gear. The design was given the designator F2Y Sea Dart. In 1951 the Navy ordered two prototypes followed by twelve production aircraft before the prototype even flew, similar to the Tradewind.

The Sea Dart project suffered a setback when it was discovered the aircraft was underpowered with it’s Westinghouse J46 engines and was unable to achieve supersonic level flight. The aircraft was able to exceed Mach 1 in a shallow dive and holds the achievement of being the only supersonic seaplane. On 4 November 1954 tragedy struck when the prototype aircraft disintegrated in flight during a demonstration killing the Convair test pilot. The project was subsequently cancelled.

Figure 8. Martin P6M SeaMaster by US Navy.

Figure 8. Martin P6M SeaMaster by US Navy.

Martin designed the P6M SeaMaster, powered by four jet engines in nacelles above the wing, which was marketed as a high speed minelayer but was really intended to be a strategic bomber. The Navy initially placed an order for 30 SeaMasters in 1956 but the order was subsequently cancelled due to cutbacks, related to the deployment of the Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile, the following year.

The A-36 by any other name.

Photo provided by Tom Griffith.

Photo provided by Tom Griffith.

Article by Tom Griffith.

There has been a great discussion about a rather fine point for several years in the warbird community.  It’s not a “what aircraft in WWII made the greatest contribution to the Allies winning the War?”  or “What aircraft engine in WWII made the greatest contribution to the Allies winning the War?”.  Yes those are pretty much “parallel situational questions” (and, yes, I made up that term!).  It’s not even, “if the War would’ve raged on in Europe, would B-29s have been used to bomb the Nazis?”.  On this last one, I have read that many of the fields in England that were used by B-17s and B-24s were long enough to handle B-29s as far as the needed number of feet for a safe takeoff run, so it WAS, at least, possible.  But for once, I’ll not digress.  Like they say, “that’s history.”

That discussion concerns the A-36A aircraft.  The question has nothing to do the number built (500), or where did it serve overseas in WWII (in the MTO and China), its effectiveness (very effective on ground targets), dates used in service (1943 and 1944, mostly) or how many airframes are known to still exist (3 or 4).  The evolution of its development is also not the bone of contention in warbird circles these days, either.

Nope, it has to do with the official name, is it “Apache”, “Mustang”, or “Invader”?  That should be easy to find out, just go to the Internet, Google search for “A-36” or “A36” or “A-36A.” The last time I checked, it got something like 8,000,000 hits.  Many have nothing to do with the North American Aviation (NAA) aircraft.  Many search results will be about the excellent Beech A36 Bonanza which is close but no cigar!  But nearly everyone that does relate to this warbird will come up with “A-36A Apache.” Back before Google, we could look it up in books, and “Apache” was the name we seemed to find most often (and still is, it seems!).   So, you have checked millions of references on the Internet and maybe dozens of references in books, so “Apache” it is.  If you search for “Apache,” aside from references to the tribe of Native Americans (we called them “Indians” in the “old days,” but it was not a pejorative term back in the “old days”), you'll also find the Piper Apache light twin aircraft, the excellent Boeing AH-64 “Apache” attack helicopter and the Chevrolet “Apache” pickup truck from the late 1950s, along with A36As.  But most that are aviation-related will say that “Apache” is the name given to NAA's A-36A dive bomber aircraft.  Another fact that is stated very often is that it's a derivative of the P-51A Mustang.

So that question and a second unasked question as to what its position is in the evolution of aircraft in the NAA “Mustang Family,” a term I’m using for this article and one that is certainly not an official name, are the issues.

The answer to my original question, “what is the ‘great discussion’ in some warbird circles,” has to do with the NAA A-36A dive bomber.  It’s a fact: warbird aficionados LOVE to read and especially, to read about their beloved warbirds – I know that I do!  But, thanks to social media, where some of the discussions develop into heated debates, it becomes very un-sociable at times!  There are also forums and discussion groups dedicated to the Mustang Family.  I belong to one of the best ones out there: “The P-51 Special Interest Group.” The subject of this article might make some of those folks ask themselves these questions:

  • What’s the conflict all about?  and,

  • Did we not clear up that issue clarified long ago? 

Many warbird nuts have visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF) at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH.  I finally did in October 2018!  There’s a restored A-36A there and I finally got to see it.  Like every display there, it has a sign in front of it with its United States Army Air Force (USAAF) or United States Air Force (USAF) or other US military branches’ or foreign nations’ military branches' designation and official name, followed by a description that includes several paragraphs describing the role of the aircraft type, where it served, as well as “Technical Notes.”  It has a sign that uses to state, “North American A-36A Apache” in very large and clear letters. 

 So, my friends always told me and a small number of other folks, that the name is “Apache,” period, end of sentence!  I mean, after all – this is the official USAAF/USAF Museum!  The name was “set in stone” – well, at least painted/printed on an official sign.  Furthermore, the very first sentence in the description on the sign had the same name. Below is a crop from a photo supplied to me by Brett Stolle, a Curator and Project Manager, at the NMUSAF, and it was very clear.  Someone at the Museum took the photo with their iPhone on 9/25/17 for Brett to send to me, after I emailed him concerning the display and sign.  I had already seen photos of this sign countless times by my “unseen Internet friends” who used photos of the sign to tell yours truly, “Shut up, you dummy, it’s ‘Apache’ – the USAF even has it in their National Museum, and they should know what their own aircraft are called.” But did they?

Photo of the signage that was in front of the A-36A at the National Museum of the US Air Force until early in the Fall of 2018 .

Photo of the signage that was in front of the A-36A at the National Museum of the US Air Force until early in the Fall of 2018.

and so, I begin, but first, an oft-told story to refresh the history behind this subject:

 When the British Aircraft Purchasing Commission came to North American Aviation in 1940 and said, in so many words, "build us many P-40s for the RAF, under license from Curtiss, because Curtiss cannot provide enough of them, quickly enough." The UK's Spitfire and Hurricane output was not keeping up with the RAF’s increasing need for fighter aircraft. They'd had experience with P-40s and wanted more, but Curtiss could not supply extras for them, because they were busy building them for the US Army Air Corps. The leadership at NAA believed that they could design and build a better aircraft. They had been working on a fighter – or “pursuit” - aircraft for over six months, so they had something to “start with” along these lines.  In response to the request, in April 1940, NAA promised a "sample" to the Brits within 120 days after they accepted NAA’s design which had not yet begun.  Once the design was accepted, it took NAA a little longer than 120 days for their new aircraft to be test-flown. This was because even thought the airframe was completed days ahead of schedule, NAA had to wait for GM to free-up an Allison V-1710. These engines were all destined for P-38s, P-39s and P-40s at that time.  The Brits were already familiar with NAA’s excellent AT-6/SNJ trainer, called the "Harvard" by the RAF, as well as the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, so they were aware of the quality of NAA's work.  The RAF therefore did not need to approve construction methods, quality, etc at each phase of design, engineering, testing, etc.  They needed fighters and they needed them ASAP!  They agreed to pay up to $40,000 per unit and this was before the Lend-Lease Act so money was a concern for the Brits.  As many warbird aficionados already knew, (and is mentioned above) for what it’s worth, I’ve read that the folks at NAA, for some time, had been playing with the idea for a sleek, single-engine fighter with an “inline” engine.

In aircraft terminology if cylinders, regardless of the number of banks, ran basically front-to back in a straight line, they were referred to as “inline engines,” which to automotive folks, usually means a “straight 8” or “straight 6” but not a V8 or a V12, but I digress).

Since this RAF aircraft that Dutch Kindelberger and his chief designer, Edgar Schmued, was not being built for a United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) or Unites States Navy (USN) military contract in the US, NAA did not give the aircraft an official name during its design, building, and test flights. NAA did not even use an official name, even after the British received first shipments of their beautiful little fighter aircraft and, had named it “Mustang Mk I.” Those first group of Mustangs supplied to the RAF were referred to by the NAA designation of “NA-73” – more about that designation system later.  The second group, identical to the NA-73 except for replacing the “tubular” exhaust stacks with “flared” exhaust stacks, was designated as “NA-83.”

 Only the USAAC had to give approval for NAA to provide an aircraft for a foreign power. On documents, engineering drawings, etc., NAA designated all their new designs and significant changes to existing NAA designs as "NA-" followed by a number (and occasional a suffix letter) that was, as far as I know, sequential by date.  This number was therefore, based on all aircraft design/modified before that particular aircraft. For instance, the prototype B-25 was called "NA-40" by NAA, and follow-on NAA aircraft were designated “NA-41,” “NA-42,” “NA-43,” and so on.  For examples of just how this “NA-number/letter” designation was used, consider this:  an interim model of the B-25D was designated “NA-100” and in NAA’s numbering sequence, “NA-99” was none other than the P-51A.  There were also other in-between NA numbers on interim models of the B-25…and we also see this in what is going to be called the “Mustang Family,” which is a term I use simply to help me talk about a disparate group of aircraft that basically were all derived from the same prototype.  Specifically, the different members of this family go from NA-73 and, of course, the prototype, NA-73X up to NA-126 which was the P-51H.  Of course, as just mentioned, other NAA aircraft had “NA-” designations in this range, so there were not over 50 different versions of aircraft in the Mustang Family!

 OK, all that said, the prototype aircraft built for the RAF order was finished basically on time, and it flew, performing very well.  It was test-flown by NAA test pilots.  I mention this only to document that once again, no military pilots were involved in flying NA-73X, as stated in various reliable sources.  Once again, note that NAA, with NO official name for this beautiful little fighter, simply called it "NA-73X" - the "X" suffix meant prototype in this instance.  It did have an NAA Construction Number, and a civil registration “Tail Number,” NX19998, but according to some references, it had no serial number, since it was NOT for use by any branch of any military service.  Yes, there was a crash of this aircraft when setting up for a landing after the 5th test flight, but it was traced to pilot error (the pilot failed to switch from an empty fuel tank to one that still contained fuel).  NA-73X was one hot little ship, was the conclusion of NAA’s test pilots who flew it.  For a historical note, there are two different versions of what happened to the aircraft after the crash.  Some say that it was scrapped right away, but the more believable ones, based on NAA documentation, state that the prototype was rather quickly rebuilt, and test flown several times, starting several months later. Also, not related to the A-36A name story, there was also a second airframe with a wing, a “static prototype,” if you will, designated something like “XX-73X or “XX-73.”  I’ve seen, in writing, each designation once, so either or both might be “iffy”.  That static airframe/wing was used for testing the strength of the wing itself and the wing-to-fuselage attachment setup.

 By the way, as briefly mentioned above, the USAAC, or the USN had to "approve" the sale of any aircraft to a foreign country, making sure that it would not be detrimental to the US national security - which only makes sense, then, and today.

The Brits liked the design and received a few production "samples" (it is believed that the number was three NA-73s, Serial Numbers AG345, AG346 and AG347).  NA-73X, it’s noteworthy to repeat, still had no name at that time.  North American called them simply by their NAA model designation, "NA-73.”  The RAF gave it the name "Mustang.”  It was the first operational version of the Mustang, so they followed their system of following the name with a “Mark Number” – it was therefore "Mustang Mk I" or "Mustang I."  It is worth mention that Roger Freeman, in his “Mustang at War” book, tells the story about where, it is believed, the Brits got the name “Mustang.”  He says it’s from this popular song from a few years earlier: 

  •  “Saddle Your Blues to A Wild Mustang”.written by George Whiting/Buddy Bernier/Billy Haid in 1936.

 The USAAC had, while evaluating whether they would approve its sale to a foreign government, looked at the performance, armament, range, etc of the aircraft.  Remember: none of their pilots, only company pilots had flown NA-73x or any of the NA-73s. The USAAC was somewhat interested.  So, they requested, and received, two NA-73s (said to be the 4th and 10th production models) for them to try out. These were designated by the USAAC as the “XP-51."

There is actually new information that says that the two USAAC “sample” NA-73s  were not actually part of the British allotment but sort of “factory samples, with only NAA “Construction Numbers” and no actual serial numbers so, in this article, the mention of the “fourth” and “tenth” NA-73s produced as of this late date, may not be accurate and it doesn’t affect the purpose of this article, so we’ll let it slide.

One of these, SN 41-038, believed to bee the fourth NA-73 built for the RAF, resides in the EAA Museum in Oshkosh.  In 2002, I saw it the first night I was in Oshkosh for the whole week of AirVenture 2002. I never had time to return to the Museum, so photos of 41-038 were never taken by me, much to my chagrin.  I remembered it as we were leaving Oshkosh. By the way, the 2nd sample to the USAAC was given the USAAC serial number, “41-039.”

 In 2017, the folks at Pacific Fighters rebuilt the Frankenstang, “Polar Bear,” to very closely resemble the second XP-51 prototype and and it still retains a D-wing with a doghouse intake that is more like the A-36A and P-51A [THIS divergence from “correctness” was for safety reasons – one of the builders told me in an online message], but is otherwise very close to SN 41-039. It is beautiful, regardless, as rebuilt by Pacific Fighters. “Polar Bear” was part P-51A, part P-51D and who knows what other parts came from other Mustangs. The USAAC liked NA-73, basically the aircraft as supplied to the RAF.  The Mustang Mk I, was armed with a .50 Cal Browning Machine Gun (BMG) in each wing, with two .30 Cal BMGs “outboard” of the .50 Cal in each wing. There were also two .50 Cal BMGs in the nose, firing through the prop arc. 

It is noteworthy to mention the Brits were fans of 20 mm cannon in the wing of aircraft that would be intended to chase, catch, and shoot down enemy bombers. 

They wanted their “samples” to be thusly equipped, but due to a supply problem, NAA was unable at the time to get any cannons to install in the Mustangs, so the mix of .30 and .50 Cal BMGs were substituted. NAA therefore remembered the Brits really liked the idea of 20 mm cannons in aircraft, and upon receiving a supply of these 20 mm cannons, the aircraft’s wing was adapted to accommodate two of these rather large cannons (canted to clear the height of the receivers of the cannons) in each wing (and no nose guns or other guns of any kind). Modifying the inside of the wing structure was the only modification to the basic NA-73/NA-83 Mustang Mk I. The resulting aircraft was designated NA-91 by NAA. The RAF called it "Mustang Mk IA." The NAA test setup was adopted in the production NA-91s, so the armament was changed to "only" four 20 mm Hispano cannons, two in each wing. It’s worth noting that from NA-73X until the last P-51Ds were built by NAA in California and Texas, the wing’s thickness was never changed. I mentioned this because so many references have the wing being “thickened” by NAA for the D/K models to allow for the .50 Cal BMGs to be stood up instead of canted as on previous wing installations of the same BMGs.

Only the inside structural parts of the wing had to be changed, but the external wing shape and profile never changed. The USAAC, which became the USAAF about this time, liked what they saw and they repossessed 57 of the 150 NA-91s that were built. This occurred around the time of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Now these aircraft were official USAAF (I'll call it "AAF" after this) aircraft, an official designation and name was assigned. The “P-51 Apache" was the designation/name combination given by the AAF to these cannon-armed warbirds.  The British had already given the name "Mustang" to that line of aircraft, so the RAF stuck with their name.  In an almost-unique "turn," the AAF and NAA ultimately changed the official name of the Apache to Mustang, but not yet at this point in the story.

Something that is new to me is reportedly, the RAF had issues with the 20 mm cannons installed in the NA-91 by NAA. I believe they were Hispano-Suiza 20 mm cannons built under license by Oldsmobile and the RAF replaced these 20 mm cannons with an improved cannon that utilized the same 20 mm ammo and is reported that this replacement performed well and jammed less. 

Also, according to Robert Grinsell, author of “P-51 Mustang” (with artwork by Rikyu Watanabe), for the NA-91 aircraft to be “lent” to the UK under the terms and requirements of the Lend-Lease Act, which became law in 1940, that aircraft provided had to be one that was “in use” or “supplied” to a member of the US Armed Services, and the “P-51 Apache” designation and name came about to fulfill that requirement.  Furthermore, the aircraft had to have US military serial numbers too, and this requirement was also met.  I do not know how much of that is true but it’s interesting and would make sense.  Maybe I’ve read it before and did not remember it?

 As an aside, the AAF official designation-name of the cannon-armed aircraft was the "P-51 Apache" with no suffix letter after the "P-51."

You'll see photos of these beauties in books and on the 'net and they're all-too-often called P-51As, and this is inaccurate because the P-51A did not come along until 2 Mustang variations later. Nearly all these cannon-armed P-51s were later equipped with K-24 cameras and became photo-reconnaissance aircraft. And yes, unlike photo-recon P-38 Lightnings (F-4/F-5 designations in AAF), which had their cameras in the nose where, normally, its guns “lived”, thereby leaving no room for the Lightning’s four .50 Cal BMGs and its 20 mm cannon, the photo-recon "Apaches" retained their 20 mm cannons and therefore, could shoot with cameras and/or cannons! How's that!

In the US, the official name of the NA-91 aircraft, from both NAA and the AAF, remained "Apache" until mid-1942, when they both officially changed it to "Mustang."  Not really associated with the A-36 issue, but for informational purposes since the role of the P-51, as it existed in the AAF inventory, was not a pure pursuit/fighter role, the photo-recon version officially became the P-51-1-NA after the addition of two K-24 cameras, to differentiate if from the P-51 (no suffix). Shortly after the change of designation, because normally, photo-recon aircraft had an "F" prefix, the AAF designation was then changed to the "F-6A” designation. 

Ray Wagner, in his book, “Mustang Designer: Edgar Schmued and the P-51,” states that the F-6A was changed to “P-51-2-NA” in October 1942.  I’m not 100% sure about that, but it’s OK.  Most authors say that it was changed to “F-6A” and that it stayed that way. You need a score card to keep up with NA-91! 

What happened to the two P-51s that did not get converted into camera ships?  They became the prototypes for the P-51B and were designated “XP-51B” upon completion of modifications necessary to swap out their Allison V-1710 engines with Packard Merlin V-1650 engines. Their serial numbers were 41-37350 and 41-37421. NAA gave the project the company designation NA-101.  Don't get distracted – that's not the subject of this article!

The A-36A (only model ever produced was the "A" and I might use “A-36” or “A-36A” – it makes no difference – they NAA made 500 total, and did not build a prototype as such) was officially called "Mustang" (the F-6A, and subsequent models of the F-6 were also called "Mustang,” by the way) from the start.  That “Mustang” name, regardless of what they had as an official designation never changed.  

The NAA model designation for the A-36 was "NA-97,". The main theater of operations of the A-36, the first AAF Mustangs in combat, was in the 12th Air Force in the Mediterranean.  A-36s also operated in China-Burma-India Theater, and most accounts state that they were the first Mustangs to fight in the CBI Theater. The A-36s in the Mediterranean had a great record as far as wreaking havoc on the Nazi/Italian armies. Aside from the dive-bombing the enemy, the A-36s also shot down Axis aircraft (one A-36 pilot even became an ace in the A-36).  The A-36, it is worth noting, was equipped with six .50 Cal BMGs:  two in the nose, as on the RAF Mustang Mk I, and two more in each wing.  There were other differences (stronger wing, bombing “racks,” etc) between it and previous Mustangs (I feel “safe” in calling the whole line of the A-36’s predecessors “Mustang,” even those that were built before it had an official AAF name), but the most noticeable one was the presence of a pair of hydraulically-actuated dive brakes in each wing of the A-36 – one brake that deployed above, and one below, each wing, just outboard of the .50 cal BMGs in the wings, about mid-chord. 

As an aside, the P-51A Mustang, for the score-keepers out there, the P-51A was given NA-99 as its model designation by NAA, shared the same strengthened wing and wing gun arrangement, but deleted the dive brakes and the nose .50s of the A-36, to name a couple of the external visual differences between the two aircraft. 

Unrelated to the gun armaments, but directly related to the dive brakes (when deployed), the A-36 was unique among the Mustang Family in another external feature:  the Pitot mast.  On every other bird in the Mustang Family, the Pitot mast is L-shaped and is mounted on the underside of the right wing, well outboard of the wing guns, maybe ¾ the way towards the wingtip. 

 For informational purposes, but important to the reason for the type and location of the A-36’s Pitot, it’s worth mention that while all of the other Mustangs had their Pitot tube/mast assemblies located in the same location on the underside of the right wing, the mast on the production “razorback” Mustangs (all of them up to, and including the P-51C) had a longer vertical aspect of the “L,” than those of the production “bubble-canopy” Mustangs.  The A-36’s dive brakes, when deployed, caused airflow issues around the L-shaped Pitot, so the resulting Pitot tube assembly on A-36s was a rather long “spear” projecting out of the leading edge of the right wing (similar to, if not the same, assembly as seen on the NAA AT-6 Texan advanced trainer), as stated above, is about ¾ of the way towards the wingtip, to allow it to give more accurate airspeed readings in “cleaner” air, regardless of the position of the dive brakes. They were either fully-deployed or retracted, with no in-between “stops”.  

What the heck -  here’s another bonus fact in this article:  another external feature, however unrelated to the name of the A-36, but related to identifying one in a wartime photo or one of the three restored ones known to exist today. The landing/taxi light assembly consisted of two bulbs behind a single Plexiglas lens, outboard of the left wing .50 Cal BMGs.  No other aircraft in the Mustang Family had their landing/taxi lights in this arrangement.

Well, we are over halfway through this article, and we are finally getting to the reason for the article!

The A-36 pilots in the Mediterranean believed that "Mustang" was not an appropriate name for this aircraft, and they pretty much always called it the "Invader" in theatre, because like they said, they were always 'invading' enemy territory.

Sidenote: Just like today's USAF pilots refer to the F-16 "Fighting Falcon" as the "Viper," the 12th AAF pilots in WWII developed their own name for their aircraft because of the role that it performed so well.  

The A-36 pilots went so far as to petition the AAF to rename their A-36, the "Invader," but naturally, it was shot down because, as a great number of warbird nuts already know, the "Invader" name had already been given to the Douglas A-26 Medium/Attack Bomber another great aircraft in its own right.

So, at this point in my doctoral dissertation, and more importantly, at this point in 1940s warbird history, the name "Apache" had been a name for a US aircraft, only with the NA-91 “constellation” of aircraft from mid-late 1941, until mid-1942.  This time ended before the A-36 was being built, let alone operational.  I believe, from doing some research and fact-checking with Bill Marshall, that the need for an “attack” aircraft was called for by the AAF just before the "Apache" name was officially changed to "Mustang.” 

Some accounts say that a modified NA-91, not a modified NA-83, was the test bed for the features that would be needed for a dive-bomber (dive brakes, strengthened wing, bomb attachment points on the underside of the wing, etc).  It’s not a big deal since, as stated before, the NA-91 was basically an NA-73 or NA-83 with no .50 Cal BMGs in the nose and 20 mm cannons replacing the mix of .30 Cal and .50 Cal BMGs in the NA-73/83s. This is one of the contributors to the misnaming of the A-36 and it's rather easy to see why confusion exists, but, people who are actual historians somehow, conflated the relationship of the A-36 and the name "Apache," and this is part of the story.  The only “Apache” aircraft, aside from the first name given to the NA-91 in the 1940s, was, AFAIK, given to the Piper Apache light twin aircraft that came onto the US market in the 1950s and the Hughes/McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing AH-64 attack helicopter in the 1970s.

The other part of the story is that so much of what we call “history” (this is not going to surprise anyone and is not meant to attack any person or group) is written by people who know little or nothing, or who don't really care, about so many areas of history. I’ve learned and re-learned and re-re-to the nth factor, what is called “history,” and guess what? I admit that I’ll be re-learning for a long time, if I live long enough.  My coming over to this side of the A-36 argument was long in its journey and had a pit-stop in between “Apache” and “Mustang,” and that was the confusion brought on by the “Invader” name which is an unofficial nickname that we should now all know was used for a name for the A-36 during the War, but now we know why.

The production Allison Mustangs all pretty much had the same nose profile.  They had a “thinner, sleeker” nose than the Merlin-engined Mustangs and had their air intakes on top of the nose, instead of underneath the spinner, as seen on Merlin Mustangs.  The ones with Allisons all had 3-bladed props, too.  And once again, wartime ads for the aircraft were mostly artists’ conceptions and the planes depicted during early WWII years showed aircraft that pretty much all looked alike.  The “Apache” misnomer for the A-36A might have been due to an identification problem based on advertisements in magazines, etc.

 For what it's worth, I've even read and heard that the name "Apache" referring to the A-36A did not show up in print until the 1950s when folks started writing more and more books about WWII. Now, you might say, does anyone who really knows stuff agree with me? The question makes me look like I’m calling myself an authority, but I am simply an “observer” with a big interest in all Mustangs!

What is the Piper Cub is like to fly?

Piper 3.jpg

By Richard Haynes


William T Piper built the J-3 variant, all 10,000 of them, as a plane for the everyday person. Seventy years on, the same qualities hold true.  In 1937 the cost of a new Piper J3 was $1300.  It was less than a new car.  That is $22,600 in today's dollars.  A quick scan at the aviation classifieds shows that the average for a J3 Cub today sits at around $35,000.  You will probably pay a least 30% more for the L-4 military variant.

The Piper Cub salesman of the 1930's would fly a Cub to a local field and get the flying school owner to pick out any person standing at the fence.  To demonstrate how easy the Cub was to fly, he would have them solo by the end of the day.  That was their sale pitch.  They even had a “build it yourself Cub Pilot Trainer” to practice on between lessons.  More a marketing tool than simulator.  Though it does look kind of neat.

As you walk out to the Cub the first thing that comes to mind is it is a relatively small aircraft, remember you can pick it up with a handle near the tail and maneuver it around.  And it’s big thick USA35-B airfoil STOL (short takeoff Landing) wing.

The second thing that comes to mind is how the hell am I going to get in it!  You fly from the rear seat when solo. The military L-4 version was flown from the front seat, the radio on the rear deck substituting for a passenger.

But with two on board you can fly from either seat.  Designed before the term 'Ergonomic' existed, it does take some practice to enter and exit gracefully.  My wife never wears that pretty summer dress we bought her last Christmas.

The first thing you will notice when you slide in and rest your back against the rear seat slings is the steep tail down angle and lack of any forward visibility.  Though the L-4 “birdcage” does gives you unprecedented visibility in all other directions, even straight up.  Throttle set, heels on brakes, a prime or two, Mags on, and contact!  You must use the “Armstrong Starter”.  That is your buddy standing out front to swing that prop, remember, no electric system. At 65hp she is not too hard to swing.

Stick back and away you taxi.  The Cub we must remember was designed in the days of the all over field.  The design of the brakes reflects this.  They are heel brakes, tucked to one side of the rudder pedals.  Tricky at first, but you soon get used to them.  You soon find out the only time you need brakes on a Cub is for the engine run up.  The lack of forward visibility is negated by 'S' turns whilst taxing.

Applying power for takeoff the Cub accelerates away nicely.  True to the Continental engine companies catch phrase of the day " As Powerful as The Nation".  As soon as you have full power, center the stick, the tail comes up, visibility and control are good.  You're now at 40mph (35kts) and 300ft down the strip, she wants to fly.  You peg 55mph (48kts) for the climb.  With the 65hp engine you can expect 300fpm climb.  It is possible to upgraded to 75hp, 85hp, and 90hp engines.  I upgraded some years back, and you notice the difference!

The only downside I am told, is that I no longer supply entertainment to those on the aero club verandah as they gather to watch me try and clear the trees.  No matter what engine you have, and there are many options, you’re not going too high, as the Cub is designed to be flown low.  I rarely go above 1500'.  Leveling off the speed will settle at 70-80mph (60-70kts).

The controls are standard for the 1930’s, a series of pulleys and cables.  She responds in proportion to the amount of stick you use.  Lead with rudder in the turns to counteract any adverse yaw.  Simple.

With 12 gallons (45 liters) in the nose tank and using 4 gallons per hour, with a cruising speed of between 75-80mph (65-70kts), you sure do not go too far.  That was OK back in the day when you could land pretty much anywhere.  These days an optional 12 gallons in each of the wing is available, so your rear-end will go numb long before you run out of fuel.

It is noisy. Back in the day there was no intercom or Gosport style communication system. With the instructor sitting in front, it was a series of hand signal and some shouting. Most Cub pilots will fly with both upper and lower doors open. In summer there is no better sensation. My kids love flying with me, especially in the warmer months. The sun glints off the wooden prop, looking straight down at farmers cutting their crop, the smell of freshly cut grass wafts up.


If you put your hand outside, just below the door line, you can feel the hot exhaust from the engine. The kids love it when we slow down and watch cars on the freeway pass us.  Ah, Life in the slow lane.

The Cub can descend faster, at a slower forward speed than anything else I have flown.  So, a close circuits are normal. Crank the trim handle (that looks suspiciously like a 1930’s window winder off a Ford), to set up 55mph for approach.  It will now fly the approach itself. If you do get high on approach, the Cub has no flaps, so a forward slip gets you back in the slot.

Landing the Cub happens at a slow pace.  At 35mph (30kts) the touchdown feels like your just on your pushbike.  A wheeler or three-point landing is your choice, both works well.  The landing gear absorbs most of any bounce through the bungee cords.  Like any tailwheel you must be tracking straight.  If you touchdown running straight, then very little rudder is needed.  By the 500-foot mark you are taxiing off the runway

If you are looking for a fast-paced plane fitted with all the modern equipment, then the Cub is not for you. But if you’re the type of person who wants to experience aviation as it once was, fly an honest aircraft for not much more than the price of a new car, and enjoy life in the slow I know a plane for you!

Seeing Double: The Short Yet Storied Career of the P-82 Twin Mustang

by Sean Sims

Many of us have seen the recent news of North American XP-82 Twin Mustang #44-83887 returning to the skies after nearly 70 years (the only remaining airworthy example in the world), but few of us know the storied, short service career of the Twin Mustang. This amazing aircraft amassed an intriguing history during the half decade it took to the skies for the United States.

Birth of the Twin Mustang

Figure 1. P-51D “Mad Max” by Sean Sims

Figure 1. P-51D “Mad Max” by Sean Sims

In the early 1940s, as World War II raged on, the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) saw the need for a new very long range (VLR) fighter aircraft that would be used to escort the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers on missions exceeding 2,000 miles. One of the superstars of World War II, the North American P-51 Mustang had a range of only 1,650 miles with external tanks.

In all probability the designers at North American said, “The Mustang is great. What would be better? Two Mustangs!” and began researching bolting two Mustangs together in 1943. In theory that would be a pretty simple approach. In practice they determined many modifications would be necessary. In the end the Mustang and the Twin Mustang shared only 20% commonality.

The first change was made when the designers calculated the extra fuel necessary for the VLR mission, this required increasing the length of the fuselage by 57 inches for additional fuel storage. The added weight of the extra fuel required a stronger wing. With all of the above mentioned modifications, the undercarriage also underwent a full redesign.

The central wing was used to consolidate the P-51s standard six 50-caliber Browning heavy machine guns. The tail surface was joined inboard with no external horizontal stabilizer and the vertical stabilizers were enlarged to provide extra command over the increased thrust.

Two cockpits were included to combat pilot fatigue on the VLR missions. The pilot in command sat in the left cockpit and the co-pilot sat in the right cockpit similar to all other two pilot aircraft. In later models, a radar operator replaced the co-pilot.

Figure 2. P-82 US Air Force Photo

Figure 2. P-82 US Air Force Photo

North American’s proposal was approved by the USAAF on 7 January 1944 and two prototype aircraft were started. By March of 1944 the USAAF was so impressed by the design proposal alone (the first prototype didn’t fly until 15 April 1945!) they issued a contract for five-hundred P-82B-model aircraft. They requested the addition of an optional gun nacelle to be mounted under the central wing section containing eight 50-caliber heavy machine guns bringing the total to fourteen. The USAAF also called for four underwing pylons capable of carrying jettisonable fuel tanks, up to twenty 5-inch rockets or 4,000 pounds of bombs (which was roughly the same payload as a World War II medium bomber, e.g. North American B-25 Mitchell or Martin B-26 Invader).

The Twin Mustang was competing against several other aircraft development projects such as:

  • Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning, an enlarged version of Lockheed P-38 Lightning, intended to be a long-range fighter

  • Fisher XP-75 Eagle, initially designed as a fast climbing interceptor, utilized co-axial contra-rotating propellers

  • Consolidated Vultee XP-81, a combined turbojet and turboprop fighter intended to serve as a long-range escort

  • Updated Northrop P-61E Black Widow, which eventually became the Northrop F-15 Reporter photographic reconnaissance aircraft

  • McDonnell XP-67 Moonbat, a technologically advanced, twin-engine single-seat fighter intended to serve as a high-speed, long-range interceptor

World War II Draw Down

World War II in Europe ended in May of 1945 with Japan surrendering later that year in August. This caused a reassessment of all on-going military projects with many being cancelled as the post-war draw-down of forces began. North American saw their Twin Mustang project production order cut from 500 to just 20 airframes.

Initially the Twin Mustang utilized the same engine as the P-51 Mustang, the V-12 Rolls-Royce Merlin V-1650 (built under license by Packard). However, the USAAF had to pay a licensing fee for every Merlin installed. In an effort to reduce costs, in August 1945, they approached the Allison Division of the General Motors Corporation and requested a new version of the Allison V-1710-100 engine (the same engine used in the P-38, P-39 and P-40). The Allison-powered P-82 models demonstrated a lower top speed and poorer high-altitude performance than the earlier Merlin-powered versions. The Allison engine was also less reliable and less serviceable. Allison engine versions of the Twin Mustang started being delivered in November 1947. In the end, the Allison-powered P-82 cost 35% more than the Merlin version. This gives the Twin Mustang the rare achievement of being one of a few aircraft in United States military history to be slower in its production version that its trainer/prototype.

Saving grace for the Twin Mustang project came from the Northrop P-61 Black Widow. Developed in the early 1940s, the Black Widow was seen as a stopgap aircraft filling the night fighter/reconnaissance role until a suitable jet-powered aircraft could be produced. Development delays impacting the Northrop XF-89 Scorpion (a jet-powered interceptor which finally entered service in the 1950s) and Curtiss-Wright XF-87 Blackhawk (which lost the jet-powered interceptor role to the Scorpion) projects meant the Black Widows had to remain in service and were rapidly reaching the end of their designed operational timelines. Procured and built for wartime duty, no long-term plans for use had been made; spare parts for example were being supported by cannibalization of Black Widows stored at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and other storage depots across the US.

Figure 3. P-82C US Air Force Photo

Figure 3. P-82C US Air Force Photo

North American convinced the USAAF that the P-82 Twin Mustang could fill the night fighter/reconnaissance role. A pair of P-82Bs were selected for conversion to the night fighter role and these became the P-82C and P-82D models. The primary difference between these models was the radar system. The C-model used the SCR720 series radar while the D-model had the newer APS-4 series (both mounted in nacelles under the center wing section and extending past the propeller to avoid interference). Many P-82Bs were already built and their engine-less airframes were sitting in storage at North American Aviation’s production facility in Inglewood, California.

Operational Status

The first Twin Mustangs began to reach squadrons during 1948. In June of that year, the United States Army Air Forces became the United States Air Force and all P-designated aircraft (for pursuit) were changed to F-designated aircraft (for fighter), and the Twin Mustang became F-82 rather than P-82.

The final Twin Mustang rolled off the North American production line in March 1949. What started as a 500 aircraft order in 1944, based on a plan alone, resulted in a mere 273 P-82/F-82s produced.

  • The F-82 E-model was manufactured as an all-weather day fighter with a total of 100 produced.

  • The F-model was outfitted with the APS-4 radar and was a dedicated night fighter with a total of 100 produced.

  • The G-model was equipped with the SCR720 radar and was similarly a dedicated night fighter with a total of 50 produced.

With the beginning of the Cold War in the mid-1940s the USAF established the Strategic Air Command (SAC), responsible for strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the Air Defense Command (ADC) responsible for defense of the United States through the use of radar stations and interceptor aircraft.

The first E-model was delivered to SAC’s 27th Fighter Wing (552nd, 523rd, and 524th Squadrons) at Kearney Air Force Base, Nebraska in March of 1948. With an internal fuel range of greater than 1,400mi the E-model Twin Mustang was capable of flying from London to Moscow, loitering for 30 minutes, and returning when equipped with external fuel tanks; the only American fighter capable of such a feat at the time.

F-model Twin Mustangs entered service with ADC’s 325th Fighter Group (317th, 318th, and 319th Squadrons) at Hamilton Field, California and McChord Air Force Base, Washington along with the 51st Fighter Group (16th, 25th, and 26th Squadrons) and the 52nd Fighter Group (2nd and 5th Squadrons) at Mitchel and McGuire Air Force Bases, New Jersey in September of 1948.

The final production model, the F-82G, an all-weather radar-equipped night fighter, started service with the 347th Fighter Group (4th, 68th and 339th Squadrons) in Japan as part of the Far East Air Forces (FEAF).

Unsung Hero of the Korean War

Figure 4. F-82G NMUSAF US Air Force Photo

Figure 4. F-82G NMUSAF US Air Force Photo

On 27 June 1950 Twin Mustang G-models assigned to FEAF were the first assets to respond to North Korea’s invasion of South Korea and claimed the first three air kills of the Korean War. The Twin Mustang was the only fighter aircraft assigned to FEAF capable of reaching the entire Korean peninsula from bases in Japan. While assigned to provide fighter cover for C-47 and C-54 transports flying American personnel out of Kimpo Airfield in Seoul, F-82G #44-383 assigned to the 347th Fighter Group, 68th Fighter Squadron, piloted by Lieutenants William Hudson and Carl Fraser shot down a North Korean Yak-7U. Not only was this the first air kill of the Korean War, it was also the first aerial victory by the newly-formed United States Air Force.

Luck had brought the Twin Mustang to service, and luck had placed the Twin Mustang in Japan as the only asset capable of reaching Korea. As the only long-range fighter in the area, the Twin Mustang saw extensive service in Korea through November of 1951 when the air war in Korea became increasingly dominated by new jet-powered fighters on both sides.

On 10 July 1950, F-82s participated in one of the biggest strikes of the war against ground targets in North Korea. Joined by Douglas B-26 Invaders and Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars, the aircraft hit massive amounts of North Korean road traffic. An estimated 117 trucks, 38 tanks and seven personnel carriers were destroyed, along with a large number of enemy troops killed when the B-26s destroyed a bridge at Pyongtaek causing a massive traffic jam.

Twin Mustang Sunset

A short two years after joining SAC, in February 1950, the F-82E Twin Mustangs were retired from bomber escort duty in favor of the Republic F-84E Thunderjet (with aerial refueling capability). A small number were modified to G-models and sent to Korea (as replacement aircraft) and some were modified to H-models and sent to Alaska as replacement aircraft while the remainder were stricken as surplus. Twin Mustangs assigned to ADC started to be replaced by the Lockheed F-94A Starfire as well in June 1951.

Starting in the early 1950s, Twin Mustangs (filling the night ground-attack role) in Korea were phased out in favor of Douglas B-26 Invader and Northrop F-89 Scorpions. Some were sent to Alaska, but sadly most were sent to a reclamation storage depot. One reason many Twin Mustangs were sent to the depot was a direct result of USAF planning. The Twin Mustang, from the beginning, was selected as a short-term stop-gap aircraft. No provision had been made for an adequate supply of spare parts, as the aircraft was not expected to remain in operational service once jet-powered aircraft were available.

F-82s sent to Alaska were converted to fly in cold weather, re-designated as F-82Hs, and were assigned to the Alaskan Air Command, 5001st Composite Group (449th Squadron) at Ladd Air First Base. Twin Mustangs assigned to Alaska operated further north than any other USAF fighter aircraft of the period. By 1952 they were escorting SAC B-36 Peacemaker bombers near the most northern tip of Alaska a mere 1,000mi south of the North Pole.

At the same time, due to the lack of an established supply chain, Twin Mustangs were limited in flight time. Occasionally F-82s were tasked with long-range, highly dangerous reconnaissance flights over the Bering Sea given that the range of the Twin Mustang was much greater than that of the F-94. The H-models were not outfitted for the photo reconnaissance mission, so the radar operator took photos from the right cockpit using handheld cameras. Later on, rather than a radar operator in the right seat, the aircraft normally carried an experienced flight mechanic. Many pilots were forced to land in remote locations on crude landing strips due to high-hour aircraft being kept flying with salvaged parts. Having the mechanic in the right seat meant they could usually repair the aircraft well enough to get airborne again and return to base.

The final operational Twin Mustang #46–377, originally configured as a G-model that served in Japan then converted to an H-model at Ladd Air Force Base, Alaska, was officially retired at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska on 12 November 1953 ending the Twin Mustang’s short five year career.

Other Twin Cockpit Aircraft

Throughout World War II several aircraft manufacturers explored mating two fuselages of existing aircraft together, but only two notable projects resulted in an actual aircraft being produced. The North American P/F-82 Twin Mustang (which we just discussed above) and the Heinkel He 111Z “Zwilling” (which translates to twin) based on the He 111 medium bomber.

Figure 5. Heinkel He 111Z Public Domain

Figure 5. Heinkel He 111Z Public Domain

This experimental aircraft was essentially two He 111 airframes joined together by a new center section wing and powered by five Junker Jumo 221F engines. Initially designed to tow the Messerschmitt Me 321 glider it was subsequently modified in the Z-2 and Z-3 variants to be a heavy bomber that could carry nearly 4,000 pounds of ordinance 2,500mi.

The He 111Z was piloted from the port fuselage which also carried the first mechanic, radio operator and a gunner. The starboard fuselage retained flight controls and related essential equipment but carried the observer, second mechanic and another gunner. The aircraft had a very short service career with only 9 confirmed aircraft all of which were shot down or destroyed.

Twin Mustang Achievements

The Twin Mustang has many noteworthy achievements. Not only was it the first aircraft to score an aerial kill in Korea, but that same kill was the first of the United States Air Force (formerly the United States Army Air Force). The F-82 is also the last propeller-driven fighter acquired in quantity by the U.S. Air Force.

Figure 6. P83B “Betty Jo” at NMUSAF by Sean Sims

Figure 6. P83B “Betty Jo” at NMUSAF by Sean Sims

The Twin Mustang is also responsible for the longest non-stop flight of a piston-powered/prop-driven military fighter aircraft. F-82B “Betty Jo” (#44-65168) flew from Hickam Field, Hawaii to New York, a distance of 5,051mi over 14 hours and 33 minutes on 27-28 February 1947. Betty-Jo averaged a top speed of 347mph (faster than the top speed of most World War II fighters). Four oversized, jettisonable 310 gallon fuel tanks were required to achieve this range. Flight dynamics were somewhat hampered when three of the fuel tanks refused to release. "Betty-Jo" was named after pilot Lt Colonel Robert Thacker's wife. LtCol Thacker was aided by copilot Lt John Ard.

Remaining Twin Mustangs

Sadly all but five F-82s were eventually scrapped.

Two are at the National Museum of the USAF:

  • F-82B Twin Mustang “Betty Jo”, AF s/n #44-65168, is currently on display in the Cold War gallery.

  • F-82B (modified and marked as the G-model that scored the first aerial kill in Korea) Twin Mustang, AF s/n #44-65162, is on display in the Korean War gallery.

The USAF History and Traditions Museum in San Antonio, Texas maintains an E-model, AF s/n #46-0262, which is currently on display as a “gate guard” at Lackland AFB.

And two are privately held and undergoing restoration:

  • XP-82 Twin Mustang, AF s/n #44-83887, recently returned to flight status with the B-25 Group based in Georgia and led by Tom Reilly. This aircraft, a single fuselage and parts of the second XP-82, were located for many years on the farm of Walter Soplata in Newbury, Ohio. Tom Reilly took possession in April 2008 and moved everything to Douglas Municipal Airport in Douglas Georgia. Additional airframe parts were sourced from Alaska, Colorado, and Florida; a left-turning engine was located in Mexico City; control components from California; and other items fabricated were fabricated in Georgia as part of the restoration.

  • F-82E Twin Mustang, AF s/n #46-0256 is currently under restoration to flight status by James Harker in Anoka, Minnesota. This aircraft was an intact airframe formerly located at the Walter Soplata farm in Newbury, Ohio.

The big issue with flying the F-82 is that the two engines spin in opposite directions. The left rotating engines are all but impossible to find, and the left hand propellers are no longer available.


Series Model Variants

  • XP-82 - Prototype Designation; two aircraft produced with the Merlin engines

  • XP-82A - Third Experimental Prototype Designation; single aircraft produced with the Allison engines

  • P-82B - Base Production Fighter Version; based on XP-82 prototypes; 20 aircraft produced of the 500 originally ordered

  • P-82Z - P-82B models set aside for testing and pilot training; 20 aircraft produced

  • P-82C - Prototype night fighter; center nacelle housing SCR720 radar system

  • P-82D - Prototype night fighter; center nacelle housing APS-4 radar system

  • P/F-82E - All-Weather Day Fighter/Escort; first four designated P/F-82A used for testing; 100 aircraft produced

  • P/F-82F - Night fighter; center nacelle housing SCR720 radar system; 100 aircraft produced

  • P/F-82G - Night fighter; center nacelle housing APS-4 radar system; 50 aircraft produced

  • F-82H - Cold Weather Model converted from E, F and G models for use in Alaska

Special Electronic Mission Aircraft (SEMA) - Part 1.

Airborne Radio Direction Finding

by Andrew Rodriguez

Perhaps you’ve seen SEMA aircraft before, transiting your local airport on their way to parts unknown. Some of them of course, are a bit obvious, flat gray painted aircraft, festooned with black antennas and unusual bulges looking like a cross between a flying porcupine and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Maybe you’ve seen them but never even realized it as they are far more discrete, blending easily with the other business aircraft on the ramp, right down to the painted pinstripes along he sides of their fuselage.  In both cases, these types of aircraft belong to the family of SEMA flown by the various Military Branches and the Federal Government and some of them are owned, flown and operated by private contract firms on behalf of nations around the world that require their unique services.

 In the Beginning

Figure 1. Source Photo by Sakk Frankenfield

Figure 1. Source Photo by Sakk Frankenfield

In 1963, the US Army had a problem, the Communist insurgency in Vietnam was ramping up, and in an environment where the enemy blended into the local populace, and hiding under thick jungle canopy, sometimes the only way to locate the enemy was to listen for them. Guerilla units like the Viet Cong, as well as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) relied on High Frequency (HF) radios, often using Morse Code, to coordinate logistics and operations with their higher ups.  In all previous wars, the tried and true way to locate these transmitters was to go into countryside where the enemy units operated and set up Radio Direction Finding (DF) equipment and wait for the transmitters to go on the air, so that a line of bearing to the transmitter could be determined.  

Of course, DF is all about triangulation, so one needs at least 3 lines of bearing in order to determine the location of the transmitter.  This kind of work was performed by highly trained specialist and was usually in a very high-risk situation.  In December 1963, Specialist 4 James T. Davis, a Morse Code Intercept Operator working clandestinely with a South Vietnamese Army DF Team was ambushed and killed while out on a DF mission.  President Lyndon Johnson would later refer to Specialist Davis as the first American to die in the Vietnam War.  

‘There had to be a better way to get a “fix” on the situation.’

 The Aircraft

Figure 2. Source Photo by Lee Croissant

Figure 2. Source Photo by Lee Croissant

The Army Security Agency (ASA) was the organization that managed all Signals Intelligence operations around the world on behalf of the US Army and the National Security Agency (NSA).  Based on the ASA’s early experience in Vietnam, work began on building systems in which Radio DF could be conducted from the relative safety of the air.  One of the very first aircraft to be tested for this purpose was the venerable De Havilland U-6A Beaver.  Installed in the aircraft would be a Collins R-390 receiver, and twin dipole antennas would be attached to the leading edges of the wings.  This configuration would allow the operator to tune in to a target transmitter, and the operator would direct the pilot to fly the aircraft in such a way by making a series of turns so that when the radio signal was nulled, or cancelled out, the target would therefore either be on a line directly in front of, or behind the aircraft.  

 Once this line of bearing was achieved, the pilot would firewall the throttles and fly as fast as they could, (no small feat in a lumbering RU-6A Beaver) far enough away to establish a second, then a third line of bearing, thereby establishing a fix.  There were many shortcomings of this process, among them, the transmitter had to remain on the air long enough for the location to be fixed. Another issue was that the aircrews had to know precisely where they were, relative to the transmitter, so typically they flew over known landmarks on the ground so they could overlay the lines of bearing on maps sitting in the laps of the pilots and operators.  This made for a heavy workload, but the results of their efforts were proving successful as the information gleaned from these missions were passed along to allied commanders in the field in near real time to assist with planning artillery fire missions, to include Naval gunfire from ships just off the coast, to helicopter assaults against the enemy.  Later in the war, entire B-52 strike packages could be redirected while in route to bomb positions over the jungle based on the intelligence provided. 

Figure 3. Source Photo by Ken Bowman

Figure 3. Source Photo by Ken Bowman

As the war escalated, and the technology advanced, larger aircraft with longer flight duration came on the scene such as the Beachcraft RU-8D and RU-21D.  Systems that utilized Doppler Navigation and Inertial Navigation Systems helped with the operator’s plotting of the targets without having to fly over known landmarks, let alone overfly the targets themselves. By the end of the war, the US Army, skiriting the spirit of the Key West agreement with the US Air Force regarding the size of Army aircraft, had “borrowed” P2 Neptunes from the US Navy and configured them for the SEMA mission.  

One of the last systems developed for Vietnam was the Cefirm Leader project, a system that for the first time would utilize multiple aircraft flying together and would combine Intercept and Collection, Direction Finding and Jamming into one deployable package.  Because the Case Fire and Withdrawal of US Forces from Vietnam Cefirm Leader would not see service in Vietnam, but as a unique stand alone system in the US Army’s inventory, Cefirm Leader aircraft and aircrews would go on to have great success serving in other hotspots of the Cold War, and would finally see its combat debut during Operation Desert Storm.

Figure 4. Source Artwork by Rick Blyseth Illustration

Figure 4. Source Artwork by Rick Blyseth Illustration


The RAAF Piper L-4H

by Richard Haynes

The History of Piper Aircraft 44-759595

Figure 1. Source Richard Haynes

Figure 1. Source Richard Haynes

On the morning of May 8th, 1944, a young lady working at the Piper Aircraft factory, Lockhaven, Pennsylvania, commenced construction on a Piper L-4H, military serial number 44-79595. A sunny afternoon four days later the completed Cub rolled off the production line. The country was at war and 44-79595 was one of 5424 Piper L-4's built especially for the U.S. Army.

Figure 2. Source National Archives

Figure 2. Source National Archives

Within a month it was loaded on a Navy ship in Oakland, California bound for a place called Finschhafen, on the northern coast of New Guinea. A far cry from the green rolling hills in Pennsylvania. Assigned to the 33rd U.S. Army Infantry Division it flew artillery spotting missions. The original Bird Dog, it shaped the doctrine for Army aviation up until Vietnam. Moving and living with the front line troops 44-75959 battled along the northern coast of New Guinea, took part in the Invasion of the island of Morotai. Then onwards with General Douglas MacArthur in his invasion of the Philippines.

Figure 3. Source National Archives

Figure 3. Source National Archives

By 1946, with the war over and a distinguished front line military record behind her 44-79595, along with hundreds of other Cubs became surplus to requirements. It wasn't worth the cost to take these small combat veterans home and it was purchased by an American Coffee plantation owner in Tacloban. And so she worked in the Philippines for the next 40 yrs. Eventually being abandoned, along with three others. A good friend heard of these aircraft rapidly deteriorating in the harsh tropical climate and decided to save them. Arriving in the mid 1980's I purchased her a few years later.

Figure 4. Source National Archives

Figure 4. Source National Archives

William T Piper built the J-3 variant, all 10,000 of them, as a plane for the everyday person. Seventy years on and the same qualities still hold true. The Piper Cub salesman of the 1930's would fly a Cub to a local field and get the flying school owner to pick out any person standing at the fence. To demonstrate how easy the Cub was to fly, he would have them solo by the end of the day. That was their sale pitch.

The U.S. Army found it easier to teach an Artillery Officer to fly the Cub than to teach a Cub pilot to be an aerial artillery observer. Maybe the Army knew something we have all known for a while, that Pilots aren't necessarily as smart as they think they are.

Figure 5. Source National Archives

Figure 5. Source National Archives

The L-4 is based on the William T Pipers J-3 design of 1937. The military Cub varies only in its plexiglass birdcage, rear desk and military style instrument panel. Used in many varying ways.  Primarily as an Aerial Observation Post, but also to drop supplies and paratroops, medevacs, and rescues, just to name a few, on top of its general Liaison duties. The appeal to those that flew her was in the simplicity of the aircraft, that basic stick and rudder flying. As with most vintage aircraft of that era, you have to fly the L-4, and any mistakes you make she lets you a nice way. 

Figure 6. Source National Archives

Figure 6. Source National Archives

The U.S. military selected the Cub for the same reasons I would some 60 years later. It fly’s low and slow.  A perfect platform for aerial observation. It could take-off and land pretty much anywhere, under 250 feet if need be. It can run with skis or floats. Uses Avgas at a rate of 4 gallons per hour.  No electrical system. Easy to maintain (the fuel gauge is a cork on a piece of wire! ) and cheap to operate.  It was such a versatile and indispensable asset that they even used them off aircraft carriers. The USS Ranger (CV-4) launched them during “Operation Torch” in the Mediterranean.  And again, in the Pacific, using LST’s with a purpose built deck. This was further explored with the use of the “Brodie” device. Which was a trolley the aircraft attached to, that ran along an elevated cable, hanging over the water on one side of the ship between two overhanging masts.  For landing, all you had to do was fly past and snag the same cable with your overhead hook. LST-776, launched three Piper L-4’s during the invasion of Iwo Jima and it was used again as forces prepared to invade Okinawa. 

Figure 7. Source National Archives

Figure 7. Source National Archives

I am in the process of returning my L-4 to how it was when serving with the US 33rd division in the Pacific. A tribute not only to the aircraft, but to those that served with her. In the meantime, it is painted to represent one of six Piper L-4B’s operated by 4 Squadron Royal Australian Airforce in New Guinea in 1943/44.

The L-4 was never officially taken on 4 Squadron strength, simply "borrowed" from the “Yanks”.  They were willingly handed over at the request of an Aussie Army Liaison Officer, at Finschhafen, New Guinea in December 1943.  They may have been "a Christmas present". Though I do remember a pilot saying something about a “.....truck full of beer and some scotch....” changing hands.  The Cubs supported the 7th and 9th Divisions AIF. The duties mainly consisted of flying Officers over the forward troop positions when wireless communication was near impossible between division headquarters and forward patrols due to the mountainous terrain. They would be used as a relay from the troops back to HQ. Pilot log book entries also record a few landings behind enemy lines, on sandbars etc to pick up downed American airmen.

Figure 8. Source National Archives

Figure 8. Source National Archives

F/Sgt Norm Pagett seems to be the pilot credited with claiming the "Tony" fighter in the Ramu Valley in early 1944.   He saw the aircraft coming and turned into the “Tony” fighter at tree top level, before the Jap got into firing range. The very frustrated Japanese pilot finally attempted a very tight steep turn, which resulted in a high-speed stall and crash into the jungle.

I have a copy of a RAAF 4 squadron pilots log book in which he flies 43-1199 for most of January 1944. He has made some great entries against his hours, things like;

" .....twice shot at by Jap sniper...promptly liquidated by a patrol"

"....sniffing out Jap store dumps under coconut trees along river, caught in low level B25 raid not briefed about, A/C holed by shrapnel from bombs". 

My favourite is “......tracking coastal and was passed by American PT boat!”  

The tropics is a very harsh environment, on men and machines. The perspex windows of the 1940's would buckle under the intense heat and humidity.  They would be replaced by wood or metal sheets.  Furthermore, the fabric did not fair very well.  Pilots have told me that on many occasions, while airborne there would be a splitting sound as the fabric, usually on the top of the wing would tear off and trail behind. On one occasion a US 6th Division pilot stated that while picking up the aircraft by the handles near the tail, the entire assembly came apart.

Not having the official service backup for the Cub's, the RAAF had to improvise, and these aircraft gradually turned into "homebuilt" aircraft. They had makeshift fabric, locally designed windows and an all-over grey finish using the paint used to paint the boxes in the Quartermaster's store.  

Ending up with nose art and names like “ Bullshit Bomber” and “Crap Crate”.  By 1945 many of the RAAF cubs had fallen into disrepair and forgotten at Nadzab, New Guinea.  The local natives started a fire in the long Kunai grass at Nadzab airfield in New Guinea.  They tell me that the choice was save the Cub's or the Ammunition dump...... so the Cubs went to their grave in one huge bonfire.

RAAF 4 Squadron Poem

"Who'd ever think these little chaps

Would someday swat marauding Japs,

Then scuttle off 'midst palms and ferns

And laugh like hell as Tony Burns"

History of the Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD)

The Grumman Lineage

Figure 1. Source US Navy

Figure 1. Source US Navy

by Sean Sims

Carrier Onboard Delivery, commonly referred to as COD, is the process of delivering personnel, mail, supplies and more to an aircraft carrier. The United States Navy currently relies on the workhorse Grumman C-2 Greyhound which has held the COD role since 1965. The Greyhound is a derivative of the world famous Grumman E-2 Hawkeye (a purpose built electronic warfare aircraft). The Greyhound, with a widened fuselage, can carry up to 26 passengers, 10,000 pounds of cargo or a mixture of both for up to 1,300 nautical miles.

Figure 2. Source Steve Straiton via Flickr under CC License

Figure 2. Source Steve Straiton via Flickr under CC License

Prior to the Greyhound, COD duties were fulfilled by the Grumman C-1 Trader. The Trader is also a derivative aircraft, pulling it’s lineage from the Grumman S-2 Tracker which was the first purpose built anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The Tracker was also modified to provide the E-1 Tracer, the first purpose built airborne early warning aircraft, which was ultimately replaced by the E-2 Hawkeye.

The Trader entered service as the TF-1 in January 1955 and was redesignated the C-1A in 1962. It provided the ability to carry 9 passengers, 3,500 pounds of cargo or a mixture of both for up to 1,100 nautical miles. When the Trader was retired in 1988 it was the 2nd to last radial engine powered aircraft used by the Navy.

Figure 3. Source Pete Markham via Flickr under CC License

Figure 3. Source Pete Markham via Flickr under CC License

The first aircraft to be formally assigned the COD role was the Grumman TBM-3R Avenger. The Avenger entered service in 1942 as a torpedo bomber. In an interesting turn of events, Grumman opened a new manufacturing plant and revealed the Avenger to the public on December 7th, 1941. The event was overshadowed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Grumman delivered 100 aircraft to the Navy in June 1942. The TBM-3R variant was first used operationally in July 1951 off the coast of Korea. The Avenger was modified to carry 6 passengers by removing the rear gun turret, adding seats between the turret and pilot, and adding seats in the lower rear section of the aircraft. Additionally, the torpedo bay was converted to carry up to 3,000 pounds of cargo up to 1,000 nautical miles.

Prior to the Avenger, the Navy utilized the aircraft it had to transport items and personnel to/from the carrier. An extra seat or a bomb bay were utilized to transport the necessary cargo.

Attempts to Dethrone Grumman

There have also been several notable non-Grumman aircraft that have been tested for the COD role. Most notably, in 1963, the United States Marine Corps lent a Lockheed KC-130 Hercules to the United States Naval Testing Center. The Naval Testing Center took that Hercules and completed numerous touch and gos followed by 21 unarrested landings and unassisted (without catapult assistance) takeoffs from the deck of the USS Forrestal (CV-59).

Figure 4. Source US Navy

Figure 4. Source US Navy

The Hercules, aptly named “Look Ma, No Hook”, was tested with cargo load outs varying from 85,000 up to 121,000 pounds. The manufacturer modified the aircraft with a smaller nose landing gear opening and an improved anti-skid braking system. The underwing refueling pods were also removed.

At 85,000 pounds, the Hercules came to a stop in a mind-boggling 267 feet of the Forrestal’s 1,046 foot flight deck. Even at the maximum payload (121,000 pounds), the Hercules used only 745 feet of flight deck for takeoff and 460 feet for landing. To accommodate the aircraft’s 132 foot 7 inch wingspan a special line was painted down the middle of the deck. This allowed the starboard wingtip to clear the Forrestal’s island by just under 15 feet!

The Naval Testing Center determined that the optimal specifications would be for the Hercules to carry 25,000 pounds with a range of 2,100 nautical miles.

Three other aircraft were tested throughout the formal COD timeline. The Navy very briefly experimented with a modified AD-5 Skyraider. The fuselage was widened allowing for a total of 4 seating positions. They also partnered with the Fokker Aircraft Corporation to test the Fokker F-28 in 1983. The testers indicated the F-28 provided the cargo capacity of the Grumman C-2 Greyhound with the range of the Lockheed S-3 Viking.

Figure 5. Source US Navy

Figure 5. Source US Navy

The Navy originally tested using the Lockheed S-3 Viking in the COD role during the 1970s. Lockheed modified the aircraft to carry 6 passengers plus cargo pods (called blivets) on the external pylons. The Viking brought a 2,400 nautical mile range to the table with the added benefit of in-flight refueling capability. The major downside was that the Viking was incapable of transporting large items such as jet engines.

In the 1980s Lockheed proposed a highly modified version of the Viking known as the US-3A. This version had a wider and longer fuselage with seating up to 30 passengers or internal cargo space for up to two large jet engines. The Navy balked at the idea and the US-3A never entered production. The Navy did however have Lockheed convert a handful of existing S-3 Vikings for the COD role.

End of an Era

Grumman’s reign as COD king is coming to an end. The Navy recently held trials for a Greyhound replacement. Grumman provided details of an upgraded C-2 and competed against the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey and the Lockheed S-3 Viking for COD replacement. In February 2015 the Navy formally announced the selection of the Osprey as the next COD aircraft which will be known as the CMV-22B. Deliveries of the CMV-22B are expected to start in 2020 with the Greyhound retiring by 2024.

Figure 6. Source US Navy

Figure 6. Source US Navy

Top 10 WWI Aircraft of the German Air Service.


World War I pushed aerospace engineering to its limits.   New technologies to include new engine designs and aggressive air-frames were developed to new military specifications.  Many designs proved pioneering in their nature and solidified both the fighter and the bomber as awesome weapons of war.  The Fighter Ace was born where it was proved just as important to outmatch your opponent through power than pilot skill alone.

The D.VII entered squadron service with Jasta 10 in early May 1918. When the Fokker D.VII appeared on the Western Front in April 1918, Allied pilots at first underestimated the new fighter because of its squarish, ungainly appearance, but quickly revised their view. The type quickly proved to have many important advantages over the Albatros and Pfalz scouts. Unlike the Albatros scouts, the D.VII could dive without any fear of structural failure. The D.VII was also noted for its high maneuverability and ability to climb at high angles of attack, its remarkably docile stall, and its reluctance to spin. It could literally "hang on its prop" without stalling for brief periods of time, spraying enemy aircraft from below with machine gun fire. These handling characteristics contrasted with contemporary scouts such as the Camel and SPAD, which stalled sharply and spun vigorously.

The D.VII also had problems. Several aircraft suffered rib failures and fabric shedding on the upper wing. Heat from the engine sometimes ignited phosphorus ammunition until cooling vents were installed in the engine cowling, and fuel tanks sometimes broke at the seams. Aircraft built by the Fokker factory at Schwerin were noted for their lower standard of workmanship and materials. Nevertheless, the D.VII proved to be a remarkably successful design, leading to the familiar aphorism that it could turn a mediocre pilot into a good one, and a good pilot into an ace.

Manfred von Richthofen died days before the D.VII began to reach the Jagdstaffeln and never flew it in combat. Other pilots, including Erich Löwenhardt and Hermann Göring, quickly racked up victories and generally lauded the design. Aircraft availability was limited at first, but by July there were 407 in service. Larger numbers became available by August, when D.VIIs achieved 565 victories. The D.VII eventually equipped 46 Jagdstaffeln. When the war ended in November, 775 D.VII aircraft were in service.

U.S. Navy Super Hornet Tragedy

By Bill Paisley


The Super Hornet we lost in Key West yesterday and the loss of the pilot and weapons systems officer is weighing heavy on me today. I don't know how many times I've been down there to Key West for a weapons detachment or an air combat det - 4 or 5 times, perhaps a half dozen, doing the exact same thing these aviators were doing. Probably everyone who has strapped on a fighter or an aggressor aircraft has spent time there. The flying is fantastic, the liberty is great, the views incredible, the colors breathtaking, the memories last your lifetime.

This tragic crash, though, is a reminder of that job we did then and still do today. A "routine" hop, heading out for some high-G air combat, the exhilaration of learning how to fight that jet, to fly it to the absolute edge of its envelope. "Knock it off, knock it off" is the radio call used to end the dogfight, perhaps followed with a "We're bingo...RTB." meaning, in that typical naval aviation radio jargon, you are almost out of fuel so its time to go home..."return to base."

Something happened on that flight. We won't know all the details until the Navy Mishap Board finishes its investigation, but the early reports are that at some point the jet had to shut down one of its two engines and was making a single-engine approach back to the naval air station at Boca Chica field in Key West. A single-engine approach is not always a huge emergency - we train for those occasions often and most times you put the jet back on deck without much of a problem.

A mile from the runway, though, a mere mile from relative safety and landing and climbing out of that jet and shaking hands with your pilot and saying "Helluva job, dude!", something happened. All we know is that the aircrew ejected, pulling the handles on those rocket seats that have saved thousands of lives over the years. But not this time. I never had to pull those handles, but you always think about the old saying..."There but by the grace of God go I."

We've all done that countless times...single-engine approaches. You are keyed up, attentive to every detail in that cockpit and around that jet, ready for anything. Even then, though, as evidenced by this heartbreaking event, you can still come up short.

Its been almost 30 years since I was down there, doing this, climbing into that big jet and loving every second of those hops. I remember my wife and daughter back home in Virginia Beach, we'd talk at night, share our days and plans and what went on and talk about those projects around the house that we'd get to when I got home. No different than what was going on today. We've been there. "Thoughts and prayers" are mocked by some today around this country, but I'd ask you to pass some on to those back home who have suffered the most heartbreaking loss.

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air.


The Tuskegee Airman at the Atlanta Warbird Weekend.


Hangardeck Podcast - September 15, 2017

Press Release:  CAF

The Original Tuskegee Airmen veterans will share their fascinating experiences and stories at the Atlanta Warbird Weekend (AWW) “Dinner with the Tuskegee Airmen,” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 at the 57th Fighter Group restaurant, Dekalb-Peachtree Airport. This is a rare event to hear first-hand about WWII from some of the dwindling number of heroes who flew the aircraft and experienced the battles. Five fighter pilots plan to attend, including Col. Charles E. McGee, LT. Col. Robert J. “Bob” Friend, Lt. Col. Harold H. “Buick” Brown, Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart, Jr., and Lt. Col. James H. Harvey, III. They all earned their wings at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama in 1943 and 1944. For tickets, go to

AWW is adding a new feature this year, an outdoor movie night for families on Friday, Oct. 6. Enjoy the projection of an aviation documentary right on the airport ramp. the documentary, "In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen," will be featured along with a question-and-answer session with original Tuskegee Airmen. Gates open at 6 pm, with a pre-show presentation beginning at 6:30 pm. The 45-minute show will begin at 8 pm.

“In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen,” tells the exciting and heroic story of America's first black fighter group from the beginning of their journey. This exclusive documentary event features a panel discussion with Tuskegee Airman George Hardy, granddaughter of Alfred Anderson (Chief Flight Instructor of the Tuskegee Airmen) Christina Anderson, Producer Bryan Williams, and Director Denton Adkinson. Watch as the Airmen recall being part of the beginning stages of the civil rights movement, and what it was like to see their contributions make changes that continue to resonate today. The projection will take place in the unique setting of the Epps Aviation ramp at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport. A $5 cash donation is requested. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs; no seating will be provided. Refreshments and popcorn will be available for purchase.

About Atlanta Warbird Weekend

The Atlanta Warbird Weekend (AWW) is an annual event now in its fourth year, dedicated to the remembrance and celebration of the men, women and machines of The Greatest Generation. In metro Atlanta, there are significant historical resources and AWW is the catalyst to bring together the organizations, aircraft and people that keep this history alive and engage families and businesses that want to keep this spirit alive. Our goal is to elevate awareness of historical organizations in Metro Atlanta, raise funds to “Keep ‘em Flying”, and promote the sponsors and the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport - who make the event possible. For more information visit

About the CAF Dixie Wing Warbird Museum The CAF Dixie Wing, based in Peachtree City, Ga., was founded in 1987. One of largest units of the Commemorative Air Force, the unit maintains and flies seven WWII aircraft including a P-51 Mustang, FG-1D Corsair and rare types such as the SBD Dauntless dive bomber and P-63A Kingcobra. The Dixie Wing organizes two large events a year; WWII Heritage Days and the Atlanta Warbird Weekend. The unit, composed of 300 volunteers, is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. For more information visit

Look for the Hangardeck Podcast on site at this event.

Hangardeck Podcast new advertiser: Aviators Hot Line.

The Hangardeck Podcast is in a cross-promotion agreement with Aviators Hot Line.

About our new friends:

Aviators Hot Line – Bringing Buyers and Sellers together for over 30 years!

Aviators Hot Line has been and continues to be the trusted monthly source the aviation industry has relied upon to help in the buying and selling of single, twin engine piston aircraft, and parts and services. Published monthly, in print and digital format, Aviators Hot Line is distributed monthly to subscribers, qualifying FBOs and aircraft owners worldwide. Aviators Hot Line is positioned to become your true marketing solution provider with multimedia choices.

Aviators Hot Line® is published by Heartland Communications Group, Inc. of Fort Dodge, Iowa. Heartland has been bringing buyers and sellers together by developing creative marketing solutions for its customers for over 50 years. Founded in 1966 as a family owned business and publisher of Contractors Hot Line, Heartland has become a leading communication, e-commerce, advertising, marketing and publishing company. Today Heartland serves customers worldwide in four industries; Agriculture, Construction, Industrial and Aviation with over 20 publications and internet services.

Stay tuned for some great aviation stuff from Aviators Hot Line.

The Hangardeck Podcast at Leonardtown High School

by Pitchlock Pete

Today I was invited to Leonardtown High School to introduce Podcasting techniques to Juniors and Seniors at the School Media Center.  I was hosted by Ms. Brenda Hager and Mr. Michael Denny and both are enthusiastic and energetic Teachers that lead the Global Diplomacy Class.  The students are tasked with creating a podcast on specific topics approved by the Teachers.

My day was full discussing software and hardware for the beginner to advanced podcaster.  I had such a great time letting the students try out the gear and watching the excitement on their faces the first time they heard themselves on the condenser mic.  This was such a fun time and I am so happy to help teens explore the world of podcasting.  I look forward listening to their podcasts after they are done. 

Jeremiah O’Keefe, WWII Ace, Dies at 93

Jeremiah Joseph ""Jerry"" O'Keefe, III, 93, of Biloxi, MS died August 23, 2016. Mr. O'Keefe was born in Ocean Springs, MS in 1923 and was schooled at St. Alphonsus Elementary School and later Sacred Heart Academy in Biloxi.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Jerry enlisted, hoping to become a pilot. He received his wings from the U.S. Marines in May, 1943. In 1944, before leaving for his assignment with the Pacific Fleet, he married his childhood sweetheart, Annette Saxon, and started what would be a family of thirteen children.

During combat, Jerry earned the status of 'ace' fighter pilot and was later awarded the US Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, Gold Star and, in 2015, the Congressional Gold Medal for American Aces.   Jeremiah J. O’Keefe, shot down seven Japanese pilots in one week in World War II.

The Hangardeck Podcast at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum.

By Pitchlock Pete

The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum officially opened the doors to the new Museum facility outside of the Gate to Naval Air Station Patuxent River.  The Museum facility has a 20,000 square-foot exhibit hall and theater and is a landmark state of the art facility in Southern Maryland. 

The Museum focuses on the heritage of naval aviation’s research, development, test and evaluation for the U.S. Navy.  The building roof-line takes on a very familiar shape of an aircraft and the local St. Mary's County community is very proud of this addition.

As the Museum grows from opening in 1978, the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum now proudly boasts three buildings and includes the adjacent flight line of 14 unique U.S. Navy aircraft that are one-of-a-kind aircraft that are rich with Test and Evaluation History at NAS PAX River.

The Hangardeck Podcast would like to announce the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum is now a proud sponsor of The Hangardeck Podcast!  We recently met with the Museum President, Mr. George Hill and Manager, Mr. Dan Bramos, and set the wheels in motion to produce The Hangardeck Podcast show monthly from the Museum Theater.  Stay tuned as our first Patuxent River Naval Air Museum show is in the works.  Look for the official Press Release from the Museum and The Hangardeck Podcast team soon.






Antonov AN-225 lands in Australia.

May 15, 2016

About 20,000 Australians came out to watch the world’s biggest jet, the Antonov AN-225, land in Perth.  The Cold War, Soviet-designed cargo plane fought crosswinds while touching down on Sunday morning.

The Ukrainian Antonov An-225, also the heaviest plane in the world, measures over 275 ft from nose to tail and 290 ft from wing tip to wing tip.  It can carry twice as much as the Boeing 747 freighter.

 The plane’s top speed is 528 miles per hour and it’s so big it can comfortably accommodate a space shuttle on its roof.  This is what is was originally designed to do for the former Soviet Union.  An amazing site for any aviation enthusiast.