Friday, May 31, 2013

Who is John Rud?

So who is John Rud, and what's the significance of the capitol logo on the side of the plane?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thunderbolt Inspection

All shiny are ready for inspection is this line of F-47D-30-RA Thunderbolts. The presence of "FC" buzz numbers indicate that this photo was taken after P-47s were redesignated F-47.

Anyone recognize the location? Looks a bit like Korea to me....

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lady Lex

Handwritten on the back is "USS Lexington in Norfolk Navy Yard drydock".
Since I just had the privilege of sailing onboard the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) from Norfolk, I thought it appropriate to post this photo (one of the only ones on the blog that doesn't show an airplane!) of a previous generation's floating sovereign U.S. terrirtory, the legendary USS Lexington (CV-2).

Lady Lex was originally intended to be a battle cruiser, but after her keel was laid, plans changed and she was built as one of America's first aircraft carriers. She was commissioned on 14 December, 1927.

Minor Lexington trivia: One of her young ensigns that served on board in 1929 was none other than Robert Heinlein.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Crashed Caudron

These two real-photo postcards (photographs printed on paper that had postcard markings pre-printed on the back) document the crash of a French twin-engine Caudron G.4 bomber sometime during WWI. The G.4 initially flew in 1915 and was one of the first bombers produced in large quantities, with over 1400 built. The aircraft was quite primative in design, and used wing-warping for roll control.

Initially, the G.4 was used as a day reconnaisance bomber, but as soon as Germany started lofting fighter aircraft, the slow bomber was relegated to night missions. Whether our photos show a victim of enemy fire or merely an accident is unknown.

Only one G.4 survives, and is on display at the Air & Space's Hazy Center.

Accompanying the two G.4 photos when the Archive acquired them was this photo of a landing field. The fact that it is printed on identical paper suggests that it was a WWI aerodrome in either England or France.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Three Lost Airports: Uniontown, Rockville and Miami

Buried in a pile of movie stills in the back of an antique store in southern Maryland, I found these three 8x10 prints of diverse airports. Clearly, these were printed as a series, given the text in black on the photo's border, and the store's proprietor said he thought that there were more and they'd probably been purchased. The notations in white within the image indicate that these were produced by the Army Air Corps.

Burgess Field, Uniontown, Pennsylvania - January 25, 1927 

My first stop on the research journey was Paul Freeman's invaluable website Abandoned and Little Known Airfields. For Burgess Field, though, I came up empty. A check of Google Earth shows a Burgess Field Road, which, along with the surrounding roads and features, match the old photo. Unfortunately, I could find no other information or history of this field, when it was established nor when it disappeared.

The farmland as it looks today, with Burgess Field Lane running
diagonally in the foreground.

Congressional Airport, Rockville, Maryland - August 21, 1934

Unlike Burgess Field, Freeman's website has a wealth of information on Congressional Airport. The Army notations list it as in Washington DC, although in reality it was in Rockville. The airport was established in 1928 by the Congressional School of Aeronautics, which later participated in the US' Civilian Pilot Training Program.

Google Earth's view rotated to approximate the view of the original
A couple of references state that the man responsible for founding the airport was "noted aviator" Major Harry Horton, but I've yet to find any good information as to what made him notable (he does not, for instance, appear on any of the Ace lists that I could find).

Aviatrix Helen Richey, who would go on to become the first female commercial airline pilot in the US, set an international class altitude record of 18,448 feet in May, 1936, during a flight from Congress Airport to New Market, Virginia.

The airport closed in 1957, as nearby residential development began to encroach of the airports operational area, and land values were steadily climing. It was replaced partially by a residential development which contains a street still named Congressional Lane, and a shopping and business complex (big surprise there) named Congressional Plaza. The last vestige of the airport was one of its hangars, which continued to be used as a roller skating rink until it was torn down in 1984. The location of the hangar in our photo appears to be now occupied by a US Post Office branch.

All American Airport, Miami, Florida - April 26, 1931

The photo of All American Airport, Miami, is perhaps the hardest one to reconcile with later photographs. Freeman's web entry for this airport has several early images, but it's hard to see a correlation between our photo and the later ones on Freeman's site of the airport, which became known as Master Field when the City of Miami bought the land to build the first Miami International Airport.

All American/Master Field was build right next door to the Miami Executive Airport, where Amelia Earhart set out on her ill-fated around-the-world flight. During the 1930s, the airport was the site of the All-American Air Races. In 1942, the Navy acquired both airports and folded them into NAS Miami, which then became MCAS Miami in about 1955.
Two biplanes and a dirt parking lot - humble beginnings

A Google Earth view of the region from about the same angle as our photo. A few
traces of the runways from Master Field can still be seen on the campus of Miami-
Dade Community College-North Campus.
By 1962, part of the Navy facility was turned over to Dade County and became Opa Locka Airport. Other parts of the land, including the acreage that formerly held All American, was developed into the North Campus of Miami-Dade Community College. Today, only a few fragments of the runways survive as parking lots.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Airshow at the Dawn of the Jet Age

These two snapshots, which came from a large bin of photos at a Long Beach CA antiques shop, catch a moment in time at an airshow (location unknown - comment if you recognize it!) from the late 1940s or early 1950s. The P-80A-1 Shooting Star shown, 44-85284, was one of the first 344 Block 1 production aircraft, and was later upgraded to a F-80C with an improved engine and an ejection seat.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Help Identify this B-17 Crew

A while back, the Archive acquired this WWII B-17 crew photo, which came with no other information other than the official caption (which, other than the date of September 30, 1943, I'm not sure how to decifer) and the handwritten name "Elliott Hofkin". So, I'm turning to my readership for any help in identifying all these crew members, as well as which B-17 they're standing in front of.

With the modern power of Google,  the name was sufficient enough of a clue to lead me to the several sources.

One was a forum post at Army Air Forces (link here) that discusses a photo (without showing it) of the Hofkin crew, and lists their names, but I'm not certain that these names also correspond to our photo. For the record the names as listed in the forum post of Hofkin's crew are:
Hofkin, Elliott F. 2nd Lt. Pilot 
Cronin, William R. 2nd Lt. Copilot
King, Leslie M. 2nd Lt. Navigator
Maurstad, Richard I. 2nd Lt. Bombardier
McDonald, Paul R. S/Sgt. AEG
Hagen, Wesley M. S/Sgt. ROG
Thompson, Eldon W. S/Sgt. AAEG
Sarver, Edward K. Sgt. AG
Riedinger, Lawerance D. Sgt. AROG
Guttadauro, Joseph A. Sgt. AAEG 
I was also able to learn that this photo was taken just after the crew arrived in England. According to the forum post, Lofkin's crew completed their 25th mission and their tour of duty in April, 1944.

Another source was the AAIR website which lists Hofkin as the pilot of B-17G 44-6641 (817th BS, 483rd BG, 15th AF) when it suffered a taxiing accident (the code lists it as due to mechanical failure) on October 6, 1945 at Lagens AAFB on the Azores.

According to other records I was able to find, Hofkin was born on March 2, 1922 and passed away at the age of 83 on September 5, 2005, and appears to have last resided in Hatfield, PA.

If you have any information that will help in ID'ing these crewmembers, please comment below!

(Tip o' the hat to Chip for his help!)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Martin To A 'T'

Glenn L. Martin and crew with an Army officer and the Model TT. Givin Martin's
presence wearing a flight coat and helmet, it's likely that this photo was taken
very early in the Model T program.
In the early 1910s, with aircraft accident and casualty rates quite high, the Army decided that one of the causes was the nature of the pusher aircraft of the time: in an otherwise survivable hard landing, the engine, mounted right behind the pilot, would break loose and kill the man. In 1914, the Army decided it needed to find a safer tractor-configuration trainer, and meanwhile grounded all the Curtiss- and Wright-built pushers.

Both Martin and Curtiss proposed replacement aircraft that would be safer. Martin offered their Model T (also known as the TT), while Curtiss developed two different aircraft, the Model J and Model N (the best of both would later be combined in the JN, or Jenny).

First flight of the Model T took place in 1913, and first deliveries to the Army were aircraft without engines, as the Army had a surplus handy. The Martin design was unique in that it was equipped with nose landing gear, in an era when virtially all the other aircraft were taildraggers. Subsequent aircraft were delivered to the Army with engines, and these were known as the TT. Seventeen, in all were built. In 1915, Oscar Brindley won the Curtiss Marine Trophy competition for distance flown over a span of ten hours with a Model TT, covering 444 miles.

Martin was a Ford automobile dealer who, like so many others, became enamoured with aviation. In 1909 he set up shop in an old church and, assisted by his mother, built his first powered aircraft. He used the aircraft in publicity-garnering stunts, including delivering newspapers, shooting some of the first aerial motion picture footage, and supposedly claiming to be the first aviator to take his mother flying. He sold his company to Wright in 1916, and then started a second company with the same Martin name.