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 www.rickblyseth.com

Figure 4. Source Artwork by Rick Blyseth Illustration www.rickblyseth.com


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 know.....in 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 http://atlantawarbirdweekend.com/dinner.htm.

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 www.atlantawarbirdweekend.com

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 www.dixiewing.org

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.






Experience the Military Aviation Museum.

By "Fast Eddie" Simila

May 31, 2016

Standing on the side of a grass airstrip.  Heart pounding.  I can’t believe I’m seeing this. Here he comes. A small dot right now.  He’s in a turn toward the approach end of the field.  He’s dropping altitude.  He’s going to pass by nice and low.  Blossoming now, getting bigger.   I can hear the engine now.  Before I can think another thought, he’s flying past us, humming and screeching at low altitude down the strip.  I can smell the exhaust.  I hear the whine, rumble and whirr of the engine passing by at nearly 300 knots. 

I feel its vibration in the air.  I am involuntarily jumping up and down with both fists raised and pumping, and I’m screaming “AWESOME!”  I feel like a child and I don’t care.  I can’t wipe the smile off my face.  Am I crying or laughing?  I think maybe both.  I glance at the closest person I see.  I don’t know them, and they don’t know me.  We share a friendly nod and beaming smiles, and in that instant, we become old acquaintances.  We’re feeling and sharing the same exact thing.     

It’s been a week since that experience at the Warbirds Over the Beach Airshow in Virginia Beach, and I’ve been trying to come up with the best way to describe what exactly that “thing” is that I shared with a complete stranger that made us instantaneously old chums.  THE HANGARDECK PODCAST had the privilege of setting up our mobile studio at the Military Aviation Museum for their annual airshow.  We had access to its gracious founder Mr. Gerald Yagen and his remarkable staff and volunteers.  The aircraft that found me in such a child-like state as portrayed above was a Messerschmitt BF-109G, conducting its first ever flight in North America—an event characterized by Mr. Yagen’s staff and volunteers as “our Kitty Hawk.”  A truly amazing event indeed.  But I want to talk about that “thing.” That feeling.  That feeling and connection that I’ve felt before on rare occasions.  Yes, the aircraft of the Military Aviation Museum are absolutely incredible, with their wonderful restorations and true-to-life livery.  Pure gems and aesthetic marvels, machines to be gawked over by all of us aviation and military history geeks.  But there is something grander here, something that can be felt and experienced even by someone who doesn’t know a Messerschmitt from a mallard.

“No, they’re the rock stars.  The men and women flying and maintaining and supporting our current military, doing what they do every day.  They’re the rock stars.” -Pappy

So what is it, this “thing,” this “feeling?”  Several years ago, during my twilight tour as a Naval Reservist, I served as a Naval Historian for the Navy History and Heritage Command at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.  Helping out the Archives Branch one day, a mate and I were going through a collection of papers belonging to Admiral Ernest J. King, the Chief of Naval Operations during WW II.  A colorful character was King, a man described by President Roosevelt as someone who “shaves with a blow torch every morning.”  This was a collection of about 20 boxes of documents that had never been catalogued or viewed before and was in need of proper preservation.  Out of one box we pulled a handwritten letter from late 1942, addressed to “Ern” and signed simply “Doug.”    The letter still had sharp edges and crisp folds, apparently unmolested and handled sparingly over the many years.  It contained information about upcoming meetings with Roosevelt and Churchill, and moved on to small talk of family and mutual friends.  “Doug,” it soon became apparent to us, was General Douglas MacArthur. 

We shared knowing smiles as acknowledgment that we felt the same thing, the same “electricity,”  what I can only describe as an electrical current, the source of which is the energy of a person poured into something long ago, but living on.  A life-force.  The fame of General MacArthur had little to do with the feeling.  It was a connection not with a distant and unreachable famous general, a two dimensional black and white image from my sixth grade history text.  Rather a true connection to the real man.  A man, a father, a husband, a brother, just like me.  One who poured his soul into an undertaking with such passion that you can feel that energy across time by simply handling a letter he wrote.  The same type of current can connect one with the anonymous fallen, who bled and sweat with all their might on the hallowed ground of Gettysburg, or Antietam.

That is precisely the “thing” I felt alongside the runway in Virginia Beach during the historic flight of the BF-109G.  It is this living current from the past that Jerry Yagen and the Military Aviation Museum have so beautifully captured with their collection of aircraft.  They have bottled it and preserved it as a gift for all of us.  Visit the museum.  You can touch the aircraft if you’d like, and when you do, you’ll feel it.  You’ll feel the current and energy from the riveter who helped assemble the machine long ago, the maintenance crew that stroked it with TLC to keep it airborne despite its many ailments and beckoned it to bring the crew back home safely, the crew that coaxed it and flew it and gave it the name of a sweetheart from back home, the friendly soldier on the ground that praised its presence above, and the enemy on the ground that loathed and feared it.  You’ll hear their voices, all of them collectively.  You’ll know their dreams, love, fear, passion.  Their energy.  Everything they did and the energy they expended long ago that made us who we are today.

During the course of the Warbirds Over the Beach Airshow weekend, we had the pleasure of conducting an entertaining interview with one of the museum’s warbird pilots, John “Pappy” Mazza.  After Pappy regaled the audience with stories of the grace of the Spitfire and the power of the P-40 Warhawk, we commented to him and his son John Jr. (“Hollywood,” also a warbird pilot), “You know, you guys are rock stars!” 

Pappy quickly corrected us, and with a nod in the direction of the Oceana Naval Air Station and the sound of a few F/A-18 Hornets flying in the distance, he remarked, “No, they’re the rock stars.  The men and women flying and maintaining and supporting our current military, doing what they do every day.  They’re the rock stars.”  Perfect.  There it is, full circle.  “Everything they did and the energy they expended long ago that made us who we are today”-- it lives on.   It lives in the warbirds of the Military Aviation Museum, and it lives in the cockpits of the brave men and women flying and fighting for our freedom this very day.

 “Everything they did and the energy they expended long ago that made us who we are today” - Fast Eddie





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. 


Warbirds over the Beach 2016

May 10, 2016

It's been over a week since The Hangardeck Podcast announced its invitation to the Warbirds over the Beach 2016 event.  We have been planning and putting together one great weekend of great shows.

The Hangardeck team is setting up shop at the airshow with multiple tents and we are going to do the show with a live audience.  Our plan is simple, have fun and bring some first hand experiences of pilots, aircrew and maintainers as they show off these historic aircraft.   

Depending on the Hotspot activity, we might just bring some content live with our You Tube live feed software.  Stay Tuned and Comments are on so fire away on questions for the team.