Speed for the Common Man
In the mid-1920s, young
advertising executive Donald A. Luscombe tired of flying his sluggish,
open-cockpit Curtiss "Jenny," wrapped in goggles, leather helmet
and flight suit for protection from the elements, while separated from his
passenger in the front cockpit. He wanted a swift, compact, enclosed-cabin
plane, so he could dress for business or pleasure, fly seated comfortably
and sociably next to his passenger and arrive still dressed for work or
1926 Luscombe designed such a plane: compact and light, a tiny cabin
monoplane in an era of huge open-cockpit biplanes, with a simple, stout
structure and a powerful engine. His mock-up of this sleek Monocoupe
tempted colleagues in the Davenport (Iowa) Flying Club to pool $5,000 to
help start Central States Aero Co., Inc. at Wallace Field, Bettendorf,
Iowa. (renamed Central States Aircraft Co. in 1927).
Luscombe, not an engineer, hired young Clayton
Folkerts, a self-taught farmer-turned-engineer (later famous for hot 1930s
race planes) to bring the design to life. Folkerts had already created a
few tiny homebuilt planes of his own. Teaching himself welding, Folkerts
crafted for Luscombe a genuine aerial sports car in just four and a half
The resulting compact Mono #1 monoplane had a
spruce wing frame shaped to a tame Clark Y airfoil cross-section, and
welded steel-tube fuselage, all wrapped in cotton skin. The plane was
everything Luscombe had hoped for: speedy, comfortable, stout, practical
However, sudden introduction of federal
certification regulations required detailed engineering analysis and
testing . . .
Moncoupe Model 113
Douglas Model 1155 Strategic Bomber:
Too Little, Too Late
At the end of WWII, the Army
Air Force was looking ahead toward a turbine-powered strategic bomber. The
Convair B-36 design dated to 1941 and work was underway on Boeing’s
B-47. In 1945, Boeing received word that the AAF wanted a long-range
strategic bomber. In June 1947, a competition brought designs from four
companies; Boeing, Douglas, Martin and Convair.
Both the Douglas and Boeing entries were
straight-wing aircraft. The Boeing Model 426 was initially designed with
six turboprop engines. Later application of German design concepts led to
the swept wing and podded jet engines, similar to the B-47. Martin’s
Model 236 was a 275,000-pound airplane with a 195-foot wingspan. Convair’s
entry was the most extreme, with four turboprop engines mounted on a wing
with 30-degree forward sweep and an eight-degree dihedral.1 The
Douglas entry was its Model 1155, a prosaic variant of the DC-6 airliner
powered by four or six jet engines.
Beginning in 1938, American
aircraft manufacturing grew into the country’s largest industry. By
1945, it had attained its modern configuration, in production capabilities
and methods. Management was experienced in both handcrafted and serial
production and was young enough to continue with the companies for years
to come. There was a large body of skilled workers and plentiful,
experienced engineering personnel.2
Looking ahead to the postwar period, there
was both hope and concern. Production facilities were adequate, having
been built with government assistance. There were capital reserves of $117
million available for reconversion and readjustment. Bank debt was low,
$13 million, and 15 aircraft companies had an aggregate capital exceeding
Despite planning for the adjustments,
the immediate postwar years were challenging for the aircraft industry.
The military market contracted sharply. The AAF shrank from 243 groups in
1945 to a point where there was not one completely
. . .
Douglas Model 1155 strategic bomber
The Rise and Fall of the Strategic Air Command
privileged to serve as a Historian for the Strategic Air Command (SAC)
during its last years. The History Office (SAC/HO) had maintained annual
histories of the command every year after its creation in 1946, and I
joined a small staff of experts in 1985. Professional historians were
active in all major USAF commands, and every base had a history office
designed to research and write annual histories at that level. In any
case, I worked in Building 500, Headquarters SAC, at Offutt AFB, Neb., and
my areas of expertise ranged from logistics to human resources. During
that period, I worked on a number of special studies for the Commander in
Chief, Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC) that dealt with most disciplines in
the headquarters. In my primary role, however, I was more involved in SAC’s
logistical world, and frequently traveled with the Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS)
Logistics, a two-star, on his travels to the command’s bases across the
When I arrived at SAC Headquarters in 1985, Maj.
Gen. John Doran was ending his tenure as DCS Logistics and was soon
followed by Maj. Gen. Charles J. Searock, who left the headquarters after
Operation Desert Storm in 1991 with three stars.
Unfortunately, General Doran died shortly after his retirement from the
Air Force. But thanks to General Searock’s keen expertise in logistics
and outstanding leadership, the face of SAC’s supply and maintenance
systems dramatically improved in quick fashion. The command’s combat
readiness was greatly improved by his innovating reforms. Under General
Searock’s respected leadership and logistics, readiness became more
efficient for a command that had a mixture of weapons systems and
missions. In a personal note, he was the best general officer whom I ever
knew, and we became good friends. I greatly benefited by our close
relationship, and gained considerable insight into his reforms of the
command’s logistical posture. He had flown many B-52 combat missions
during the Southeast Asia conflict over a decade before his assignment to
SAC headquarters, and he later was commander at Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y., an
Today, the Strategic Air Command does not exist,
now gone for almost two decades. There is no singular exclusive
nuclear-dedicated command in the U.S. Air Force. SAC, created in 1946, was
purely a Cold War decision that focused on the Soviet nuclear threat that
lasted over 40 years. With the command’s activation, the Air Force chose
to centralize its nuclear assets, both aircraft and missiles, under a
four-star command at Offutt. AFB, Nebraska. Eventually, SAC constructed an
underground . . .
Boeing B-50D-95-BO Superfortress, 48-096
The Other Wright
Wilbur and Orville
Wright and the Wright Airplane Co. are well known to most of us. What has
garnered much less attention, however, is the other very successful
airplane company that Orville was directly involved in. A company that in
a short five-year span manufactured more than 3,500 aircraft while
establishing a number of first for U.S. aircraft manufacturers. This
company created one of the first cabin-class aircraft manufactured in the
U.S. They created the first retractable gear aircraft built here. The
first "guided missile" was developed by this company. The
company’s management would go on to play significant roles in the
development of the U.S. aircraft industry and military aviation services.
This company was the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company.
At the turn of the century, Dayton had become a leading industrial city in
the United States. It hosted not only the earliest developments of
aviation in the form of the Wright brothers’ activities but companies
like the Thresher Company, National Cash Register (NCR), Dayton Electrical
Laboratories (Delco) and Dayton Metal Works among others. Edward Deeds and
Charles Kettering had either played significant management roles and/or
helped found all of these companies. Deeds was also an early aviation
With the passing of Wilbur Wright in May 1912,
Orville was left with managing the Wright Airplane Co. along with his
inventor/designer responsibilities. Orville realized that managing a
company was not something he was motivated to do, so in October 1915 he
sold his interests in the Wright Airplane Co. Recognize, too, that for
most of the period between 1912 and 1915, he had been embroiled in a
bitter patent dispute with Glen Curtiss and the Smithsonian, which is sure
to have influenced his decision to liquidate his holdings in the Wright
Airplane Co. Orville sold his entire interest in the company and the
patents to a group of seven eastern capitalists to form the Wright
Company. This venture struggled financially and eventually merged in 1916
with the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Calif., and the Simplex Automobile Co. of
N.J., to form the Wright-Martin Co.1
An important aspect of the sale of the
Wright Aircraft Co. is that most of the work relating to manufacturing was
eventually transferred out of the Dayton, Ohio, area. In March 1917, the
engine manufacturing headed east to New Jersey where it would go on to
become a successful manufacturer of aircraft engines. Martin departed the
relationship in 1917 and in 1919 Wright-Martin would be reorganized and
renamed the Wright Aeronautical Co. This move left a large pool of skilled
aircraft engineers and craftsmen in the Dayton area that were reluctant to
move to New Jersey and left with little prospect for work. This readily
available pool of skilled workers was one of the motivations that led
Deeds and Kettering to form the Dayton Airplane Co. Both were already
involved to some extent in . . .
Dayton-Wright T-4 Messenger
Invasion of Japan,
Deep in the recesses of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., hidden
for nearly four decades lie thousands of pages of yellowing and dusty
documents stamped "Top Secret." These documents, now
declassified, are the plans for Operation DOWNFALL, the invasion of Japan
Only a few Americans in 1945 were aware of the
elaborate plans that had been prepared for the Allied invasion of the
Japanese home islands. Even fewer today are aware of the defenses the
Japanese had prepared to counter the invasion had it been launched.
Operation DOWNFALL was finalized during the spring and summer of 1945. It
called for two massive military undertakings to be carried out in
succession and aimed at the heart of the Japanese Empire.
In the first invasion, code named Operation
OLYMPIC, American combat troops would land on Japan by amphibious assault
during the early morning hours of November 1, 1945, - 66 years ago.
Fourteen combat divisions of soldiers and Marines would land on heavily
fortified and defended Kyushu, the southernmost of the Japanese home
islands, after an unprecedented naval and aerial bombardment.
The second invasion on March 1, 1946, code named
Operation CORONET, would send at least 22 divisions against one million
Japanese defenders on the main island of Honshu and the Tokyo Plain. Its
goal: the unconditional surrender of Japan.
With the exception of a part of the British Pacific Fleet, Operation
DOWNFALL was to be a strictly American operation. It called for using the
entire Marine Corps, the entire Pacific Navy, elements of the 7th Army Air
Force, the 8th Air Force (recently redeployed from Europe), 10th Air Force
and the American Far Eastern Air Force. More than 1.5 million combat
soldiers, with 3 million more in support or more than 40 percent of all
servicemen still in uniform in 1945 - would be directly involved in the
two amphibious assaults. Casualties were expected to be extremely heavy.
Adm. William Leahy estimated that there would be more than 250,000
Americans killed or wounded on Kyushu alone. Gen. Charles Willoughby,
chief of intelligence for Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of
the Southwest Pacific, estimated American casualties would be one million
men by the fall of 1946. Willoughby’s own intelligence staff considered
this to be a conservative estimate.
During the summer of 1945, America had little time to prepare for such an
endeavor, but top military leaders were in almost unanimous agreement that
an invasion was necessary.
While naval blockade and strategic bombing of Japan was considered to be
useful, General MacArthur, for instance, did not believe a blockade would
bring about an unconditional surrender. The advocates for invasion agreed
that while a naval blockade chokes, it does not kill; and though strategic
bombing might destroy cities, it leaves whole armies intact.
So on May 25, 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after extensive
deliberation, issued to General MacArthur, Adm. Chester Nimitz, and Army
Air Force Gen. Henry Arnold, the top secret directive to proceed with the
invasion of Kyushu. The target date was after the typhoon season.
President Truman approved the plans for the invasions on July 24, 1945.
Two days later, the United Nations issued the Potsdam Proclamation, which
called upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or face total destruction.
Three days later, the Japanese governmental news agency broadcast to the
world . . .
WWII Invasion Map of Japan
Aircraft History of the Boeing Model 80,
80A, 80A-1, 80B and 226
The need for
an all-passenger aircraft with more seating capacity was recognized by
Boeing through the success of limited passenger operations of the
two-to-four seat Model 40 mailplane on the San Francisco to Chicago route.
The Boeing Model 80 trimotor biplane airliner was developed to meet that
need. This was Boeing’s first aircraft built specifically as a passenger
transport. In order to complement the Model 80s primary passenger
configuration, the Boeing Co. developed the Model 95 as an exclusive mail
and cargo aircraft (see AAHS Journal, Vol. 56, No. 3, Fall 2011, pp.
The Model 80 engines were mounted one on the nose
and one on each side midway between the wings. The up to 330 gallons of
fuel were carried in two tanks in the upper wing. In later models, with
the addition of a 70-gallon reserve tank, capacity was increased to 400
gallons of fuel. All of the 80 series aircraft had rows of two passenger
seats on the left side of the cabin and one seat on the right side. The
wings were fabric covered of steel and duralumin construction with
detachable wooden framed wing tips to aid storage in hangars. The upper
wing had a span of 80 feet while the lower wing was shorter at 64 feet 10
inches. The wing area on all 80 versions was 1,220 square feet. The
fuselage was made from welded steel tubing covered with fabric. All models
of the 80s were delivered with hot and cold running water in a small rest
room, forced-air ventilation, leather upholstered seats and individual
reading lights. The airliner was known as the "Pioneer Pullman of the
The Boeing 80s were powered by three Pratt &
Whitney Wasp air-cooled radial engines of 410 hp and could carry 12
passengers. Maximum speed was 128 mph, with a normal cruise speed of 115
mph and stall occurred at a speed of 52 mph. Range was 545 statute miles,
service ceiling 14,000 . . .
Component Part Count for Boeing Model 80
One Hell of a Copter
of the helicopter, once considered the "unwanted stepchild"1 of
American aviation, truly were evangelicals for their cause. One stated
that "for most of us, the helicopter is the ancient dream of
humanity."2 Another credited the "omnipotent" with a
personal role in the creation, christening the helicopter a
"mechanical Pegasus"3 (and indeed, the equine comparison is
popular: the helicopter formations of the U.S. Army would be known as the
"Air Cavalry").4 The breathless enthusiasm emerged due to two
key reasons: the awesome controllability of the machine5 and its potential
for universal usage.6
Regarding controllability, the
aeronautical device’s "main draw" was the ability to fly low
and slow in any direction and to stop in mid-air.7 Such graceful
manipulation required serious technical development that involved
mastering the concepts of cyclical and collective pitch, autorotation and
torque, all daunting tasks at the outset of helicopter engineering.
Universality was even more appealing than
controllability. Igor Sikorsky, one of the fathers of helicopter
technology, stated that "the helicopter is the most universal vehicle
of transportation ever designed or used by man."8 The proposed
"Mr. and Mrs. Citizen" would like to fly it due to its
"smoothness, comfort, and feeling of great control."9 Whereas
private planes resulted in heavy casualty rates in the early part of the
20th century due to inadequate piloting,10 the advantage of helicopters
was the ability to immediately land, eliminating the danger of accident in
normal fast takeoffs and landings.11 Panting inventors thus envisioned an
end to clogged city streets12 and a future time in which the
"smallest city lot or top of building" could double as an aerial
In mastering both principles, WWII proved
the catalyst for development. Indeed, "at the outbreak of WWII,
helicopters were a marginal technology, with aeroplanes [sic] being
produced in large quantity with clearly defined roles."14 While ideas
had circulated about the helicopter for hundreds of years, development
only picked up in the 20th century, and even then depended on a
combination of national demand and personal determination, beginning with
England’s Spanish import, Juan de la Cierva, then Germany’s own
Heinrich Focke and finally, the . . .
The Oil Can that Started a
following the September 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident took an odd twist. The
next day, I was ordered to fly to the U.S. Naval Air Station Cubi Point,
Philippines, with my radar officer and some unknown naval officers as
passengers in my E-1B.
The situation became surreal. Thirteen naval
officers gathered in a small conference room. While an obviously rankled
Navy captain watched wordlessly at the head of a long table, we quietly
took our seats around it and waited. And waited.
The officer’s disheveled uniform looked as
though he had lived in it for the past few days, and there was puckering
around the buttons suggesting he had kept it in the active wardrobe since
he graduated from OCS. He seemed to be overplaying his role with
ill-concealed contempt for those of us gathered in the room as though we
were miscreants awaiting a sentencing. The drape-lined room and hush among
the assembled gave a funeral air to the scene. A casket replacing the
table would not have been out of place. But now we waited enduring his
accusing glare unaware of our crimes, as he looked from one to another.
Finally, he spoke.
"President Johnson sent me personally"
— his first words.
A short pause — he continued, saying he was
investigating the incident three days ago (September 19, 1964).
We 13 were involved.
He then followed with a statement that shocked me
— particularly coming indirectly, but as ascribed by him, from the
President of the United States. The stern captain’s preamble was:
"If Goldwater found out what happened that night, Johnson would lose
the election." The presidential election was now just a little over a
The captain was ill-tempered; his manner elicited
no discussion. None in the circle of naval officers uttered a comment.
None was invited.
After a short preamble, he glared at and pointed
to each of us in turn stridently demanding, "Did — you — see —
Each answer — mostly in croaking, untested
voices — was identical. The only words each witness voiced through the
entire "investigation" were "Nothing sir!" These
responses fired back at the captain, with the copycat forcefulness of a
plebe — 13 times.
I wondered if my rage at this whole charade was
evident to him as I answered with my obligatory brief oral outburst,
tactfully holding back an entire string of torrid comments. The meeting
finished abruptly on the last respondent’s fading voice.
End of investigation.
We filed from the room in silence; heads bowed
not looking at each other, each in his personal shock, bewilderment, or
rage from the circumstances in which we found ourselves. Preconception
from a distant quarter overruled facts and judgment. Probably, like me,
each in the assemblage of naval officers viewed the beginning of a war —
a provoked war — already anticipating its surreal consequences. I knew
at that moment LBJ had his provocation — the fuse was lit for exploding
his Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
This result was pre-ordained following my top-secret briefing by the
carrier air group’s air intelligence officer. This is the story:
Events leading to this presidential investigation
(sic) were surreal and are recalled from my experiences from 47 years
past. It is a story I never wanted to tell. Many with strong opinions
already know too much about it, or think they do. Few perhaps really want
to hear anymore about this sordid war, but maybe now, we should listen to
just one more tale for . . .
Grumman E-1B Tracer from VAW-11, BuNo 148138
Forum of Flight
The FORUM is presented as an opportunity for each member to participate in
the Journal by submitting interesting or unusual photographs. Negatives,
black-and-white or color photos with good contrast may be used if they
have smooth surfaces. Send submissions to the Editorial Committee marked
"Forum of Flight," P.O. Box 3023, Huntington Beach, CA
92605-3023. Mark any material to be returned: "Return to (your
name and complete address)."
Please include as much information as possible about the photo such as:
date, place, names, etc., plus proper credit (it may be part of your
collection but taken by another photographer).
General Motors Corp. Convair 580, N5121
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