In 1939 the Cessna Airplane Company produced a light twin engined airplane designated the T-50 “Bobcat” (sometimes known as the “Bamboo Bomber”) because of the wood wing structure. I remember it as the airplane that “Sky King” flew on TV; it was one of my favorite shows as a kid!
It was the lightweight, low cost, wood and tube framed, fabric covered, personal use multi-engined aircraft alternative to the heavier and more expensive Beech 18. It featured a cantilevered low-wing with electrically actuated retractable main landing gear and trailing-edge wing flaps, and (yes) laminated spruce spar beams with spruce and plywood ribbed wing structures. The fixed tailwheel is non-steerable but full-swivelling. The prototype T-50 made its maiden flight on March 26, 1939.
Shortly after its initial production World War II began and the airplane was pressed into duty as a light trainer and transport for the military.
Military variants were designated as follows:
United States Army Air Corps: AT-8; Military trainer version of the T-50 with two 295 hp (220-kW) Lycoming R-680-9 radial piston engines.
United States Army Air Corps: AT-17 AT-17A-G; AT-8 powered by 245 hp (183 kW) Jacobs R-775-9 (L-4) engines, gross wt. 5300 lbs (2,400 kg).
United States Army Air Forces: C-78 and UC-78; Military transport version for the United States Army variable-pitch propellers.
United States Navy : JRC-1; Navy light transport version of the UC-78 with two Jacobs R-775-9 engines.
Royal Canadian Air Force: Crane and Crane 1A; Royal Canadian Air Force designation for T-50s with minor equipment changes, delivered as light transports.
Although the Bobcats had many nicknames during the course of their service, (Bobcat, Bamboo Bomber, Useless 78, The Wichita Wobbler, Brasshat, Double Breasted Cub, Boxkite, Rhapsody in Glue, San Jaoquin Beaufighter), by the end of World War II Cessna had produced more than 4,600 Bobcats for the U.S. military and 822 Bobcats for the Royal Canadian Air Force as Crane 1′s; they certainly played an important role for the military.
After the war, surplus AT-17′s and UC-78′s could be converted by CAA-approved kits to their original T-50 civilian Type Certificate and saw further use by small airlines, charter and “bush” operators, and private pilots. Slowly the number of airworthy aircraft have dwindled to a point that only a handful are in operation today. There are only 378 T-50′s, 10 AT-17′s and 30 UC-78′s listed in the FAA registration database but as to how many are still airworthy is unknown.
|Cessna “Bamboo Bomber” Cessna T-50 Characteristics
• Crew and Passengers: 5; (2 pilots, 3 passengers)
• Maximum speed: 169 kts; 314 km/h (195 mph)
To all of the gamers out there…. a group of designers are working on a WWI/ WWII mobile game for apple and android phones. They are in the development stage right now so anyone interested in helping them out visit their website and check it out: Kickstart Dogfight Elite
In October 1933 the U.S. Navy contracted Consolidated, Martin, and Douglas to build competing prototypes for a patrol flying boat. Consolidated Aircraft’s design designated XP3Y-1 won the competition. It was powered by two 825 hp (615 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-54 Twin Wasp engines mounted on the leading edge of a pylon mounted, externally braced, parasol wing. The wingtip stabilizing floats retracted in flight to form streamlined wingtips, and a cantilever cruciform tail all combined to give this aircraft better performance than earlier designed flying boats.
Armament consisted of four .30 caliber Browning AN/M2 machine guns and up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs.
The maiden flight of the XP3Y-1 was on March 28, 1935, after which it was transferred to the U.S. Navy for service trials. In October 1935, the prototype was returned to Consolidated for further work, including installation of 900 hp (671 kW) R-1830-64 engines to bring the aircraft into the category of patrol bomber. The aircraft was redesignated XPBY-1.
The XPBY-1 made its first flight on May 19, 1936, where it achieved a record non-stop distance flight of 3,443 miles (5,541 km). The PBY-1 was delivered to navy squadron VP-11F in October 1936 and over the next three years the Catalina design was refined with an estimated 4,051 units being built at a cost of $90,000 each. (That’s about $1,497,397.83 in 2013 dollars.) The PBY Catalina would be the workhorse of maritime patrol for more than 20 years.
Probably the most famous PBY patrol was “Strawberry 5″; Strawberry 5 was the first PBY, US patrol aircraft, to spot and report the unknown location of the Japanese Naval Armada as it approached Midway Island on June 4, 1942. LT Howard P. Ady, Jr., flying with VP-23 began sending back radio reports:
0534 Enemy Carriers
0540 ED 180 sight 320
0552 Two carriers and main body of ships, carriers in front, course 135, speed 25
The call ” Many planes heading Midway ” at 0544 allowed the airfield to be cleared at Midway. The 10 air strikes that would follow, culminated in the most spectacular six minutes in United States Naval history, when Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu were hit by SBDs from Enterprise and Yorktown between 1022 and 1028 being perhaps the decisive turning point of WWII in the Pacific theater.
|Specifications PBY Catalina
• Crew: 10 — pilot, co-pilot, bow turret gunner, flight engineer, radio operator, navigator, radar operator, two waist gunners, ventral gunner
• Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 km/h)
The United States of America was attacked by the nation of Japan on December 7th, 1941 and it was quickly realized that aircraft and aircraft carriers would be vital weapons of warfare in the Pacific. The Navy needed pilots, and they needed them as soon as possible.
The Secretary of the Navy approved an expansion of the pilot training program from the existing schedule of assigning 800 students per month to one calling for 2,500 per month. There still remained the question as to how to qualify these new pilots for taking off and landing from an aircraft carrier. It would be one thing to teach the necessary skills required to fly but quite another to teach the skills needed to be combat qualified in carrier operations, especially since all available carriers were busy at sea and in order to be proficient you need to actually land on a carrier! Even if the carriers would have been available for training purposes early in the war, the waters around the United States were infested with enemy submarines and considered unsafe.
Before pilots could be assigned to combat duty on aircraft carriers, they had to demonstrate a proficiency for underway flight operations. The Navy stipulated that trainees had to take off and land a minimum of ten times (later reduced to eight) in order to become qualified.
The answer to the problem had strangely enough already been suggested (and largely ignored) by the U.S. Bureau of Ships early in 1941 by Commander Richard F. Whitehead, ignored that is, until after the devastating attack in December. He advocated using training carriers on the Great Lakes and Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, liked the idea. Very soon the Navy was on a fast-track to create a pair of fresh water training carriers!
Beginning in March 1942 the Navy requisitioned two side-paddle-wheeled steamers to be converted into training aircraft carriers. One was the SS SeeandBee, which became the USS Wolverine (IX-64) and the other was the SS Greater Buffalo which became the USS Sable (IX-81). Both of these vessels were a number of years old, built largely of wood and were coal-burning, steam-powered twin side-wheelers; capable of carrying hundreds of passengers on America’s Great Lakes.
The Wolverine was completed first and began flight operations in August 12th, 1942. The Sable was in operation by May 8, 1943. Operating out of a pier in Chicago Harbor, the two Carriers trained 17,820 pilots flying from NAS Glenview and had 116,000 landings on their decks. They were very limited ships for reasons of cost, with no elevators or hangar deck for planes so they needed to store all their planes on deck, which could present a problem if too wrecks occurred. Another problem was the ships weren’t fast enough to generate the minimum 20 knots wind over deck (WOD) to land the higher performance combat warplanes on their own, so if the weather was calm for extended periods of time pilots had to qualify using SNJ Texan trainers.Together, the two improbable paddlewheel carriers qualified pilots and trained flight deck crews in large numbers, just as Commander Whitehead had envisioned.
|Specifications Freshwater Carriers
USS Wolverine (IX-64)
• Length: 550 ft (170 m)
USS Sable (IX-81)
• Length: 535 ft (163 m)
Some photo courtesy of NavSource.org, Click here to visit them.
Here is a video of Great Lakes carrier operations.
The Chinook CH-47 helicopter is named after the Pacific Northwest “Chinook” Native Americans that were non-nomadic and lived in long cedar plankhouses. The helicopter was developed by Boeing Vertol and designs as early as 1957 were started but the YHC-1B made it’s initial hover flight on September 21, 1961. The Chinook CH-47, as it is known today, is still in production and 1,179 have been built to date. Boeing Rotorcraft Systems is the current manufacturer and the cost of each aircraft is $35 million.
Chinook HC-1B HC-1B in flight during testing and evaluation.
In 1962 the HC-1B was redesignated the CH-47A and was named “Chinook”.
Initially the CH-47 was powered by two 2,200 hp turboshaft engines, mounted on each side of the helicopter’s rear end and connected to the rotors by driveshafts. Currently models are fitted with engines of 4,733 hp. The CH-47 uses counter-rotating rotors which eliminate the need for an anti-torque vertical rotor, allowing all power to be used for lift and thrust. The ability to adjust lift in either rotor makes it less sensitive to changes in the center of gravity, important for the cargo lifting role. If one engine fails, the other can drive both rotors.
The US Army adopted the CH-47 as it’s standard medium transport helicopter and by November 29, 1965 it had arrived and was in use in Vietnam.
The Chinook has a cavernous 42 cubic meter cargo bay which can accomodate 33-55 troops.
Chinooks were sometimes used for casualty evacuation but due to very heavy demand for the helicopters they were usually overburdened with wounded beyond the 24 litter norm.
The Army soon learned that the CH-47 would be invaluable for artillery and heavy logistics movement to the point that it was seldom used as an assault troop carrier.
The Chinook uses a triple hook external payload system providing stability to large or multiple external loads. Artillery equipment such as 155mm howitzers could be transported to remote positions (which would be inaccessible by any other means) and then resupplied with food, equipment, and ammunition. Multiple external loads could also be delivered to two or three separate destinations in one sortie. Downed aircraft recovery is also possible with this system.
The modern CH-47F has a 21,000 lb load capability (nearly twice the Chinook’s original lift capacity) and a 26,000 lb center sling load capacity.
21 countries currently operate CH-47 Chinooks today.
|Specifications CH-47 Chinook
• Crew: 3 (pilot, copilot, flight engineer)
• Maximum speed: 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h)
I recently received an email about a B-17 bomber crew that overcame the odds and survived to tell about it. I would like to share it with everyone. (This happened 70 years ago.)
A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943 between a B-17 named “All American” of the 414th Squadron, 97BG and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II.
An enemy fighter attacking the 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot, and collided into the rear fuselage of the Flying Fortress named “All American” piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg. Although the fighter broke apart, it left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the B-17 and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines quit and one of the engines on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder were damaged and the fuselage had a 16 foot by 4 foot gash splitting it all the way to the top gunner’s turret connected only by two small parts of the airframe. The radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged as well.
The tail bounced, twisted, and swayed in the wind when the plane turned. All of the control cables were severed except one single elevator cable, which fortunately still worked, and the aircraft still flew on…. miraculously!
The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.
When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes but four crew members managed to pass him ropes from parachutes to pull him back into the forward part of the plane. They tried to do the same for the tail gunner but the tail flapped so hard that it began to break off. They found that the weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section so he went back to his position.
The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time “All American” was attacked by two more Me-109′s but despite the extensive damage all of the machine gunners were able to respond which drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.
Allied P-51 fighters intercepted “All American” as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They radioed to base that the empennage was “waving like a fish tail” and that the B-17 probably wouldn’t make it; boats should be dispatched to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been “used” so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.
Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. Amazingly it descended and made an emergency landing with a normal roll-out on its own landing gear.
The ambulance was waved off when it pulled alongside the airplane because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft was able to fly in such a damaged condition. After the last crew member exited the fuselage the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.
The V1 (Vergeltungswaffen 1) flying bomb was another secret weapon that was supposed to turn the war around for Germany in 1944.
Codenamed “Kirschkern” (cherry stone) and designed by Lusser and Gosslau, it had a 25 foot long fuselage constructed of welded sheet steel with 16 foot long plywood wings. It was powered by a simple pulse jet engine which pulsed 50 times per second, sounding like buzzing insects which gave rise to nicknames of “buzz bomb” or “doodlebug”, its 2000 pound warhead however gave this “bug” a deadly bite.
The V-1 could not take off under its own power and had to be launched by catapult or from a modified bomber aircraft. Once launched the V1 was capable of cruise speeds of 230 to 420 mph with 350 mph being the most typical. Most of the V1′s crossed the English coast between 3000- 4000 feet but some crossed at higher altitudes. (The flight guidance system was crude and inaccurate at best.)
The V1 was first launched in June 1944 shortly after D-Day and from then until March 29, 1945, a total of 9,251 V1 flying bombs were used against England. A total of 2,419 of them made it to their intended target the rest were either shot down by anti-aircraft guns, ran into obstacles, or were downed by the Royal Air Force. (2000 were credited to the Royal Air Force fighters.)
At first V1′s were shot down by gunfire but since the optimum range was under 600 feet the margin for survival was slim at best. In addition, machine guns had little effect on the V-1′s sheet steel structure, and if a cannon shell detonated the warhead, the explosion could destroy the attacker. There had to be a better way….
Spitfire pilots eventually learned that by placing the wing tip of their fighter plane underneath the V1′s outer wing, that this would often upset the missile, tumble the gyros, and send it crashing out of control into the English countryside. This maneuver was called “tipping off”. Because this practice sometimes caused damage to the pilot’s wing tip a later tactic of disrupting the airflow by placing a wing as close as possible to the V1′s wing, causing it to topple (“toppling”) was used.
At night this was not possible, the flame from the V1 blinded the pilot to everything else, though some Mossie pilots flew past closely in front of the V1, again causing it to topple. A very “gutsy” move!
It has been 71 years since the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and occasionally photos “pop up” that haven’t been seen before, take a look at these!
Would you believe that there is an airport that covers an area of only 494 square feet and yet cost $4.8 million and took seven years to build?
I should admit that this airport is a miniture airport and is part of a model railway and airport exhibit at Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany.
It is the world’s largest model airport/ railway and is called “Knuffingen Airport” which is based on the real life airport in Hamburg. There are 40 airplanes (Cessnas to Airbus and Boeings) and 90 vehicles that move about this incredible model. They all operate autonomously via 40 computer directed systems of wires and guided tows which really makes you think you are viewing an actual airport and its “beehive” of activity.
It is a total airport experience including passengers in the terminals and jetways, flashing lights on airport vehicles, luggage carts, and much more! The airport was completed and opened May 2011 and cycles between daytime and night time every 50 minutes.
Miniatur Wunderland on You Tube….
I have been flying for over 33 years and in all that time I was never shown how to change spark plugs in an airplane. I guess there was always a mechanic around and it was never an issue and besides that up until a few years ago I had always rented and never owned an airplane so it wasn’t even an option.
I decided that it was about time to learn a new skill so I asked my mechanic how to correctly check, clean, and inspect the spark plugs in my airplane. FAR (Federal Aviation Rule) part 43.3 allows certified pilots that own and operate their own aircraft to do preventative maintenance as long as the aircraft is not operated under FAR part 121, 127, 129, or 135 so here is what he showed me.
|Spark Plug Check
Get aircraft ready to remove spark plugs
Remove any cowling necessary to gain access to the spark plugs.
The cylinders are numbered (stamped on the case); there should be a plug wire running from the right magneto to one set of plugs and a plug wire running from the left magneto to the other set of plugs.
Normally a 3/4″ wrench is needed to loosen the large nut while you hold a 7/16″ wrench on the smaller nut (this prevents twisting and damaging the ignition lead).
After the plug leads have been removed, and before removing the spark plugs, check the ends for any damage and wear. Avoid touching the connector or harness spring with your fingers which can cause contamination from dirt or grease which could cause misfiring of the plug.
Normally a 7/8″ deep socket is used to remove the massive electrode spark plugs (pictured here) but be sure to check the size needed to remove your spark plugs. Champion has a great manual to help figure out what kind of plugs you have and the wrenches you will need to service them click here and download AV-14… Be careful not to drop the plugs as this can crack the ceramic core and render the spark plug unusable. Also take note when removing the plug to see if there is a temperature probe ring (CHT gauge) installed which may not require the plug to have a copper spark plug gasket.
It is handy to use a spark plug caddy to transport the spark plugs that you remove from the cylinders. Place them in order on the tray, electrode side up. Check the condition of each plug. What does it look like? Champion has a chart that shows some common plug wear descriptions with photos.
Click here and download AV6-R…
Don’t be too aggressive here because you also have to protect the ceramic core which is against metal and can be cracked easily. For really oily or dirty plugs you might need to soak them in MEK. (Check to see why this condition is present with your mechanic.)
Spark plug limits are between .018- .022 Gap limits are noted on the tag that comes with the spark plug or you can look it up in the service manual from the plug manufacturer.
For best results use a gap setting tool because the electrodes are easy to overset and it is dangerous to try to expand the electrode back out due to the fragile nature of the ceramic core.
Clean the threads with a stainless steel brush or wire wheel and make sure to check for electrode erosion. If the electrode can pass through the 1/4″ hole on the gauge it should be discarded.
This is an expensive tool which tests the spark plug so you might want to have your mechanic check this for you. It’s “solid state” ignition system produces a very stable ignition test voltage for greater accuracy and reliability; it tests the spark from each electrode of the spark plug.
The gaskets must be changed each time a spark plug is pulled for inspection so place a properly sized copper gasket on the plug threaded end (new plugs come with these already) or if you intend to reuse the old gaskets anneal (heat treat) them before using them again.
Just a short line of compound should be applied to the second and third threads of the spark plug end. This prevents galling and seizure of the plugs. Be careful to not contact electrodes as it could short out the plug. Do not apply to shielding barrel threads.
Remember not to place the spark plug tray anywhere where it can fall or drop the plugs and ruin all of your hard work. Place the plugs in the cylinders and hand tighten them first then use a torque wrench to tighten them (420 in/pounds) in place. Remember to reset your wrench to the lowest value when storing it so it remains calibrated correctly.
Engine Manufacturer Ft/pounds In/pounds
Lycoming 30-35 360-420
TCM 25-30 300-360
Pratt & Whitney 25-30 300-360
Wright 35-40 420-480
Franklin 25-30 300-360
Re-install the plug leads, hand tight at first then use your 3/4″ wrench in combination with the 7/16″ wrench and tighten with just a 1/8 turn to finish the job.
Place a logbook entry in the Aircraft Logbook, do a magneto check, okay the aircraft for return to service, and you’re done. The FAA has a free video which includes a sample logbook entry click here to view it…