A Shadow over the Horizon - The Bell X-2
the mid-twentieth century, Bell Aircraft
Company's Mach 3 experimental X-2 rocket
airplane was an amazing vehicle. The technological
challenges that were met and overcome by
designers and flight test teams resulted
in an impressive vehicle. The story
should be recorded in the history
The engineers and pilots assigned to the X-2
program were the best flight test and engineering talent available. They
were a dedicated and intrepid group of professionals intent on
accomplishing the program objects of aeronautical exploration. Their
objectives were to fly the X-2 higher and faster than any previous piloted
aircraft. This was a spirited, steadfast and resolute team - not
capricious or foolhardy. The X-2 program had suffered years of delay due
to rocket and flight control technical difficulties and it was time to get
on with completing the program objectives.
By July 23, 1956, the X-2 flight envelope had
been expanded to Mach 2.87 and several problems resulted in pilot
difficulties. These pilot problems were items of desired airplane
improvement but not felt absolutely necessary, to accomplish desired
results. These problems included areas of low control effectiveness, poor
dynamic stability and rocket thrust-line misalignment. It was thought that
with adequate flight planning, understanding and pilot training, the most
serious could be avoided by judicious in flight handling. The pitfall was
in the form of a possible dynamic instability base on extrapolated
aerodynamic data projections at Mach 3 and elevated load factor. This
potential pitfall had been recognized, the problem analyzed, the results
discussed, options weighed and piloting techniques developed to avoid any
possible precipice. The test team decided that this was one of those
calculated risks that were part of the exploratory nature of the task at
hand. The decision was made to proceed. Unfortunately, the most
pessimistic set of flight conditions and circumstances that could occur
did just that on the X-2's flight of September 27, 1956. This flight . . .
Bell X-2 in flight from chase plane
of Night Air Combat World War II
Pioneers of Night Flight-Man
has been endowed with many attributes which allow him to exist in this
Considering the many restraints which man must
acknowledge and adjust to, it is quite amazing that he or she does so
well. The ease with which man endures the physical hardships of life is
quite wonderful. He seems to handle walking, running, skiing and all sorts
of sports activity with aplomb.
The dexterity demanded in throwing a football,
running, swimming, diving or balancing on a gymnastic bar is beautifully
demonstrated for all to see today. The first steps of a child or the
labored ones of the older person, clearly require a sense of balance and
an awareness of space, distance and timing.
The human body is admirably equipped with devices
which allow it to do many things, like being able to see. hear, touch and
somehow sense the objects and forces in which it lives. Man can keep
himself oriented to his surroundings pretty well, indeed.
When a man or woman leaves the familiar
conditions of earth life and ascends into the air in an aircraft, new and
sometimes frightening sensations result. In clouds, rain, snow and
darkness the pilot at the controls of an aircraft encounters a whole new
set of feelings.
The forces experienced in this three dimensional
environment causes unexpected senses of balance involving turning, . . . .
Northrop P-61, only WWII US aircraft specifically designed as a night fighter
Armand J. Thiebolt, Aircraft Designer
Thieblot was born in Paris, France, on December 10, 1903, the son of Jules
and Aline Chalumot Thieblot.
Thieblot (pronounced tea-blow) studied
aerodynamics, physics and math at the Paris University. He started his
career in aviation with Liore and Oliver Aircraft Company and at the
Breguet aircraft factory, where he was assigned to stress analysis
In 1927, a self-proclaimed multi-millionaire
"junk dealer," Charles A. Levine became "the first
transatlantic air passenger" in the Wright-Bellanca, Columbia,
piloted by Clarence Chamberlin. The flight was made in June 1927, only a
few weeks after Lindbergh's famous feat, and after some 3900 miles
resulted in a landing in Eisleben, Germany. Interestingly, Levine had
refused to sell the Bellanca to Lindbergh after negotiating with him in
something less than good faith. The resulting publicity from the
record-breaking flight prompted promoter Levine to announce plans to build
transatlantic transports and establish a regularly scheduled passenger
service. From Germany the . . . . . .
Armand J. Thieblot
Aviation Division of The Texas Company, Part I, 1928-1945
Recognizing the growing importance of the commercial aviation market for
petroleum products, the Texas Company started an aggressive policy for
securing its share of business from this field. They purchased a Ford 4-AT
tri-motor for delivery on or about February 15, 1928. Texaco's No. 1, Ford
4-AT14, NC3443's mission was to advertise the Company, promote good public
relations, stimulate aviation progress and experiment with and test Texaco
aviation fuels and lubricants.
Captain Frank M. Hawks, an Army-trained pilot
with more than ten years varied flying experience and a record of more
than 7,300 hours in the air was hired on December 5, 1927, to be Aviation
Division Superintendent. He was very much in the public eye as a
several-times prize winner in various aerial competitions. He had also
owned and operated a payroll flying service and could bring to his Texaco
position, an understanding of the commercial aspects of aviation.
In January, 1928, Captain Hawks and Texaco No. 1
were given wide coverage in American and Mexican newspapers when Hawks
flew a Texas delegation from Houston to Mexico City and back on the first
goodwill trade extension air tour from the U.S. to Mexico.
Later in the same year. Hawks made a nationwide
goodwill tour, visiting more than 150 cities and covering approximately
51,000 miles. It was estimated that 500,000 people had welcomed the plane
at the various landing points.
Early in the following year, Hawks was seeking
transportation to New York. Lockheed had a new aircraft, the Air
Express, equipped with the new NACA cowling that they wanted to show
off at a New York aircraft show. Hawks and Lockheed reached a mutual
accommodation. Lockheed could . . . . .
Stinson SM-2, Texaco No. 3
As early as November 25, 1918, a patent was applied for
"aircraft" by E. B. Cams, Aircraft. The title page of this
patent has not been found - the application was filed in Detroit,
Michigan. The invention related to aircraft construction and more
particular reference to a structural frame for wind-exposed surfaces. It
was approved June 15, 1920, and issued number 1,343,707.
Beginning on March 5, 1927, Edmund B. Cams
of New York, N.Y., assignor to Cairns Development Company, of Wilmington,
Delaware, a corporation of Delaware, applied for a patent, "Wings for
Aircraft." It was approved as of November 3, 1931. The patent number
is 1,829,922. Notice that the spelling of his name is Cams, which is
consistent on all of the existing patents seen by this writer. Existing
ones date from 1918 thru August 1, 1929.
There are a total of 31, although he
apparently applied for more than 80. On all of the patents, the company
name is spelled Cairns. On one patent, dated June 10, 1929, "Design
for an Airplane," his residence was listed as Omaha, Dodge County,
All of the patents are for aircraft
components, such as fuselages, wings, aerofoils, sheet metal forming and
structural members etc., and methods for shaping curved sheets of metal,
and special locking nuts. Also included are boat hulls among other clever
ideas, working with metal.
Sometime in 1926, Cams (known then as Major
Cams) was headquartered at 33 W. 34th Street, New York City. He was
planning on building a special airplane to fly the Atlantic Ocean, from
New York to Paris (Orteig Prize ?). It would be designated the Cairns C-1,
a newly designed flying boat, with . . . . .
Cairns AW-5 on exhibit at the Legion Air Show, 1930 in New York City
Flying and Radio Navigation, The Early Days
Starting when I was
sixteen, aviation has been my life. It really began before that, I was
hooked when I read the letters my older brother sent to my father during
his World War II Air Corps training.
September 1944, the local airport was
reopened. All of the "unnecessary" airports were closed during
the war for fear, real or imagined, that the Japanese would steal a plane
and bomb some military establishment.
A Cub flew over the car while I was
driving home from school one evening and I followed it to the airport.
There was a sign on the office door that read "PLANE RIDES
$2.00." I had been saving a two dollar bill for just such an
occasion. At the end of my ride, the instructor, Clarence Gallagher, of
Antioc, Illinois, said, "If you decide to take flying lessons, this
flight will go into your logbook as your first lesson." Swish, the
arrow hit me right in the heart and it is still there, fifty six years
later. I'm pleased it carried an incurable disease. I quit high school in
my junior year, not being a good student, I spent the remainder of the
year working for Wayne Carpenter at his airport in Waukegan, Illinois.
Wayne, now 90 years old, resides in Ojibwa, Wisconsin.
In the fall of 1945,1 enlisted in the
Marines and after completing boot camp in the spring of 1946, was
transferred to the Naval Air Station at Atlanta, Georgia. There I was
enrolled in classes at the Link Instrument Trainer Instructors School.
LITIS was a very concentrated program that provided me with an education
that I feel equal to a commercial license with an instrument rating. It
covered all of the normal ground school subjects, including Navigation,
Meteorology, Civil Air Regulations, Morse Code, ATC procedures and radio
communications. The Instrument flight training, included cross country
navigation flights that were made using instructor simulated ATC
Clearances. (Currently, using advanced simulators, these flights are
called LOFTs, Line Oriented Flight Training.) The courses were on a
parallel with the regular CAA commercial pilot flight training. The main
difference was that all of the flying for the trainee was done in the
NAVBIT-45, Link trainer. In May 1946,1 graduated from that school while my
. . . . .
Pilots radio control panel for the ARN-7 ADF
In January 2003,
BBC TV Scotland, was preparing a six-part programme, "Weather
Permitting," to illustrate the many variables in weather that affect
our lives. The author was asked to research the B.O.A.C.
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser and in particular, the
accident which took place at Prestwick Airport, Scotland, in the early
hours of Christmas Day, 1954, to G-ALSA/# 15943, "Cathay." In
researching this event, the opportunity was taken to bring the "Stratocruiser"
file up-to-date. These items are noted here.
Built : 888, including 56 civil versions. The rest
were C-97 military transports and air-refueling tankers.
One prototype and
Twenty plus the prototype
4, to BOAC before delivery
8, later to PanAm
United Air Lines:
7, later 6, to BOAC
Stratocruisers Delivered and in
The first Boeing
Stratocruiser to be delivered to BOAC was G-ALSA "Cathay," which
arrived at London/Heathrow on October 28, 1949, after a non-stop flight
from New York, cruising at 25,000 feet at 350 mph.
The BOAC inaugural flight from London to New
York, via Prestwick, using "Cathay," commenced on December 6,
1949, landing at Idlewild Airport, New York, the next morning. Weekly
services were continued until the following month, when twice-weekly
services were introduced and by the end of February, with eight
Stratocruisers delivered, a daily service was operated. The last of the
ten BOAC Stratocruisers was delivered at the end of March 1950.
BOAC G-ALSA (#15943) at London Airport, 1954
Aircraft Photos by Emil
Part IV of the Emil Strasser collection will take us back through the
years to 1930s with visits to Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale,
CA, and Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank, CA. We will also go to
the Cleveland, OH, and the National Air Races and to Emil's home town
airport of Akron, OH. This Collection is truly a treasure of
aviation history, thanks to Gerry Liang for making it available to the
American Gyro Crusader AG-4, NX14429, at Glendale, CA on June 20, 1936
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