Friday, June 28, 2013

The Pride of Hollywood

Note the catwalk mounted just behind the engine, so that the crew could service
the engine while in flight. Behind the Pride is TAT's Ford 4-AT-C Trimotor NC8411.
As historian, I find nothing more intriguing than a good mystery, and today's aircraft certainly presents it. These two photos come from a small collection that the Archive recently acquired which were shot by William H. Alman in the late 1920s and early 1930s. A student at Pasadena City College, Alman was both an aviation and a photography enthusiast. Later, Alman went on to a career with AiResearch, retiring in 1976. The photos which the Archive acquired were all taken at local Southern California airports, and these two were shot at Glendale, California in late 1930.

I was initially led down a rabbit trail by several sources that list the Pride of Hollywood as one of the names carried by the Mason Greater Meteor, a plane built by students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a plane which has a very convoluted and confusing history. The Meteor had been modified at one point and was intended to be used in a flight endurance record attempt. I could find only one photo of the Meteor (here), taken after it had crashed. The over-wing aerial refueling manifold and the cockpit position make the two aircraft look similar, but the Pride  had a much longer fuselage and a completely different tail (not to mention the different registration number), so clearly these are not the same aircraft.

The guy on the left appears to be Reinhart. Note the open hatch
in which a crewman is standing...during the flight, one of the
crew would stand in the hatch and catch the hose lowered from
the refueling aircraft above. Also note that they man on the
ground has "American Eagle" written on the back of his cover-
Old registration records list NR-331E as an "Albatross B", with serial number 101, and other references note it as a "Albatross B-1" and "Zenith Z-5 Albatross". In researching the Pride, it didn't help that the history of Zenith Aircraft, which started in 1927 in Santa Ana, was fairly convoluted. After operating for a couple of years (resulting in the single Z-12 trimotor and several production Z-6 airliners) they experienced a bit of a management shakeup in 1928, changed their name to American Albatross and moved to Long Beach. Their lead designer, the colorful Charlie Rocheville (who was passionate, maybe even obsessed, about designing aircraft capable of very long endurance flights) left to start his own company with brother Henry, but seems to have not severed ties completely (again, records from that era are murky), because we see him again involved with Albatross building a plane, the B or B-1, that is very similar to the old Z-12, but a single-engine aircraft rather than a trimotor. Albatross built two of these, the first was NX-6227 (serial 100) and the second was the Pride.

Building on what he'd learned with the Z-12 project, Rocheville was hoping that the B-1 design would be capable of up to a 90-hour endurance. Serial 100 was sold to Al Ebrite Aero, a charter operator, who sponsored an endurance record attempt with it in 1929, flown by Johnny Guggliemetti and Lee Schoenhair. On the first try, the plane was damaged during takeoff, but after some quick repairs, the record attempt got underway. They made it to the 43 hour mark, but then had to land due to lack of fuel: some mis-calculations had led to much higher-than-expected fuel consumption, and Rocheville's 90-hour goal was just too lofty, of course, the fact that Al Ebrite had re-engined it with a larger motor might have had something to do with it. The plane went on to fly cargo in Mexico, and quietly disappears from history.

The Pride of Hollywood team had a bit of a different approach to their endurance flight. Rather than try to set the record for unrefueled flight, they intended to go for an absolute endurance record, and utilize in-flight refueling. Pilots Loren W. Mendell and Roland B. "Pete" Reinhart had together set an endurance record of 246 hours, 43 minutes and 22 seconds in July 1929 flying a Buhl named Angeleno. Their record was quickly eclipsed, and so they set out to recapture it, starting in September 1930, using the Pride. They were joined by R. V. "Doc" Howard onboard. The few references I found on the record attempt neglect to mention where it was flown, but these photos show that at least some of the project was based at Glendale's Grand Central Air Terminal.

Four times the crew took off to attempt to set the record. The first was on September 21, but the attempt was abandoned after only ten hours in the air. The next try came on September 25, but on the following day,  a section of fabric tore from the wing after 29 hours and the flight was again scrubbed. The third flight started on October 1, and lasted for 66 hours until the 300 hp Wright J6-9 engine started acting up and forced the crew to land. The final try came on October 5, but was again cut short by engine problems after only 20 hours and 53 minutes. On each of the flights, the refueling crew was made up of James C. "Jimmy" Angel and C. L. "Bud" Hussey, and during the first flight, they used a Pasadena Javelin (NR-469E), but switched to a Buhl for the rest of the attempts.

After October 1930, the Pride of Hollywood disappears from the record. Mendell, though, had an interesting history: he served in the Army's 31st Balloon Co. during WWI, and later served with the US Treasury Department as a liquor smuggling patrol pilot. Smuggling got into his blood, though, and he was later arrested for smuggling illegal aliens into the US from Mexico and served a year in a Los Angeles jail. He was killed on January 17, 1935 when he crashed into a mountainside 25 miles north of LA while flying in fog, returning from Barstow. His girlfriend was also killed in the accident. (More on Mendell can be found here.)

Reinhart flew on a number of movie productions, including Hell's Angels. When Howard Hughes decided to switch the movie from silent to talkie mid-way through production, rather than re-shoot aerial scenes, he recorded audio of Reinhart's plane (along with audio from Pancho Barnes' Travel Air) and then dubbed it into the film. Reinhart went on to fly for a number of airlines before ending up at Delta, where he flew for years, retiring as a Convair 880 captain in 1962. He then hired on at Convair as a B-58 Hustler test pilot, and also flew the F-111. (More on Reinhart can be found here.)

In 1929, American Albatross was bought out by EMSCO of Downey CA, and Rocheville came back full-time, as one of their chief designers. Rocheville's tendency was to use older designs as the basis for newer ones, and the EMSCO B-3 (Aerofiles shows this photo of a B-3) clearly shows the design lineage.

(Big tip o' the hat to Joyce Franzman for allowing me to preserve her father's photos!)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lining up for the Globemasters

These two Korean War-era photos are a bit unusual in that it's fairly rare to find large-format official 11x14 prints. Both appear to have been taken on the same day, and feature C-124s that are dedicated to carrying soldiers - "Troop Carrier" is emblazoned on the fuselage along with the US Air Force markings. (If you recognize the squadron logo, please comment below!)

The big double-deck Douglases could carry 200 fully-equipped soldiers in the Troop Carrier configuration. First introduced in 1950, the last was retired in 1974, a respectably long career for a round-engined post WWII design.

The C-124 was an outgrowth of the Douglas C-74 Globemaster (itself based on the DC-4), designed during the war to meet the military's need for a long-range, trans-oceanic cargo aircraft. After WWII, though, the 50-aircraft C-74 order was slashed with only 14 built. With the project cancelled, Douglas set about redesigning an even bigger version, to over come some problems that had come to light during the Berlin Airlift (such as the C-74's inability to carry some of the army's bigger pieces of heavy equipment). The result was an aircraft of roughly the same length and wingspan, but twice the height. When the first C-124 was flown at its 100,000 pound gross weight, it was the heaviest object ever to leave the surface of the earth.

To lift its heavy loads, the Globemaster II was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engines - each of which had more horsepower that two standard Diesel railroad locomotives of that era.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bill Boeing's Big Trimotor

When Bill Boeing decided to get into the airmail act, he designed and built his Model 40, a single-engine biplane which could also carry passengers, though the mail was the priority and thus comfort was secondary.

With business booming, Boeing followed with their much larger Model 80, a trimotor, in 1928. Because of harsh operating conditions on some of the Rocky Mountain airports along the San Francisco - Chicago airmail route, Boeing elected to go with a biplane configuration, as instead of the monoplane used by Ford and Fokker. With the demand for passenger service growing quickly, the Model 80 could carry 12 people in relative luxury (a lavatory with running water was even included.

After building only four of these, Boeing stretched the fuselage and installed more powerful engines so that up to 18 passengers could be carried in the 80A. To care for all these folks, Boeing Air Transport hired a small crew of registered nurses, who became the industry's very first airline stewardesses. The 80As were originally built with just the main vertical stabilizer, but the longer fuselage wasn't enough to compensate for the more powerful engines, so in 1930, Boeing added two supplemental stabilizer/rudder units to each horizontal stab, and the plane became the Model 80A-1.

Boeing Air Transport was merged into United Airlines in 1931, and the Model 80A-1s continued to be operated until they were replaced in 1934 with the much more modern Model 247s. Though retired from main line passenger work, the big Boeings continued to be used, and a number of them found their way to Alaska, where they were operated by famed Alaskan bush pilot Bob Reeve for the Morrison-Knudsen Construction Company. By cutting large doors in the slab side of the fuselage, Reeve could haul up to 11,000 pounds of cargo, more than twice the load that the Boeing engineers designed it to carry.

NC-229M (Boeing c/n 1087) was the seventh Model 80A built and, along with sister aircraft NC-224M (a rare color photo of 224M can be seen here), became part of the MK fleet. At some point, 229M became damaged, then when 224M was wrecked at Anchorage on Marcy 21, 1943, parts of 229M were used to get 224M back in the air. After WWII, 224M was retired in 1946 and sat in storage outside Reeve's hangar, and eventually ended up derelict in an Anchorage dump, and in 1960 it was salvaged and beautifully restored (presumably still incorporating parts of 229M), and is now on display at Boeing's Museum of Flight in Seattle; it is the only surviving Model 80.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Attack of the Kansans

To produce the thousands of crews needed by the Army Air Forces to man the B-17s, -24s, -25s and -29s pounding Europe and various Pacific islands, over 1,500 bomber trainers were ordered from Beechcraft. Designated the AT-11 Kansan, they were based on the AT-7 navigator trainer, itself based on the civilian Beech Model C18S.

The nose was modified to accommodate the bombardier, a gun turret was added to the roof, and a  tunnel gun served to train the tail gunner. Before moving into the bigger aircraft, bomber crews would learn the art of high- and low-level formation bombing, and defending themselves against attacking fighters.

Our photo is an official AAF 11x14 print, shot on an unidentified bombing range (presumably Deming Army Airfield in New Mexico; if you recognize it, let me know!) complete with miniature ships, a port, towns and industrial buildings. A formation of five Kansans are  dropping 100-pound sand-filled practice bombs. In order to move on in their training, crews had to demonstrate a 22% on-target proficiency rate. By war's end, over 90% of the more than 45,000 bomber crews had trained in the AT-11.

An interesting article on Deming can be found here. Between when the first class graduated in March 1943 and the school closed in September 1946, over 12,000 cadets received their training at Deming. If you're one of them, please use the comment section below and tell us about your experience there!

(Many thanks, once again, to Brother Eric for finding and acquiring this remarkable image!)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hi-Way Ford

"Hi-Way" was the name of NC5492, the 21st Ford 4-AT built. Larkin's encyclopedic book on Trimotors lists the initial owner as Air Cruises Inc. of Detriot, as shown in our photo, with NC5492 being delivered on June 22, 1928. From May 1931 until June 1932, it was operated by Belle Fourche Air Lines, of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, before going back to Air Cruises for a short time.

One internet reference suggests that the plane was operated by Detroit's Kohler Aviation (who showed up on this blog a few weeks ago, in our Loeing article), but other than being in the same city, I can find no direct connection between Air Cruises and Kohnler.

NC5492's time in the US was relatively short, sinc in June 1933, the plane was purchased by the Government of Peru and shipped to South America, where it disappears from history after 1940.

The University of South Florida also has a photo of this Trimotor in their collection, and the notes from their photo indicate that four names, Perry, Hutton, Edward, Hamilton were also painted on the front of the plane, although they don't appear in our image.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hoisted Duck

The Grumman Duck was Roy Grumman's second major aircraft project, following the success of his FF-1 fighter. While working for Loening, Grumman and his engineering team had built the OL, which was used by the Navy, but by the early 1930s, was clearly outdated. Pleased with Grumman's work, they asked him to develop a successor, and result was the JF Duck, which took its maiden flight at the hands of Grumman test pilot Paul Hovgard on April 24, 1933.

After building 48 of the JFs, Grumman updated the design in 1936 with the development of the J2F. Very similar to the JF, the successor's main differences are a longer hull and 200 more horsepower under the cowling. Almost 550 updated Ducks were built, and served in a number of roles, from reconnaissance to search and rescue to target towing. They even served as an early form of COD, or Carrier Onboard Delivery.

A number of Ducks have survived and been restored, including one owned by Chuck Greenhill. This particular Duck actually survived the December 7th bombing of Ford Island, and its story can be read here. Warbird collector Kermit Weeks also has a beautifully restored J2F, which can be seen here. Another one, which had been license-built by Columbia Aircraft Corp., was owned by the famed Tallmantz company after it had completed its years with the Navy. After going through several other owners, it was donated to the EAA museum, and with the help of Grumman, was restored to flying condition, and can be seen here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Seven-Wing Monstrosity

Sometimes, in order to understand how designers come up with their strange approaches to solving problems, you have to put yourself back into their mindset at the time. Such is the case with the Johns Multiplane, which appears from this and other photos to be a colossal jumble of wings and wires.

So how did engineers in the early 20th century deal with the need for bigger and stronger when machines had their limits? String several together. Need to get a heavy train up a hill? Hook up multiple locomotives in tandem. Need to haul heavy waggons of ore? Use 20 mules lashed together. Need to pull heavy sections of pipe to remote locations for the Los Angeles Acqueduct? Use several early Caterpillar Tractors in tandem.

With the Multiplane, this only comes into focus when you see the patent drawing. Taking a cue from the above common solution to the problem of "more", Herbert Johns, Charles A. Herrmann (the patent holder) and crew at the American Multiplane Company of Bath NY, seem to have taken a similar appoach: design a larger plane by building two biplanes and a triplane together in tandem. Since this is three airplanes combined, it was natural to power it with three engines, in this case the readily available Liberty V-12. One was mounted in the traditional nose position, and the other two used as pushers, mounted between the wings.

The thing was humongous (as can be seen in this comparison photo) , but but bigger isn't always better, and the Johns Multiplane only made a few short flights, some ending very ungracefully. Our photo appears to show how one such flight ended. Note that the plane is not sitting on its landing gear, and that the aileron on the bottom wing nearest the camera is rather crunched. The orginal patent was filed n October 3, 1916. Records of the building are sketchy, but it appears that the testing on the Mulitplane took place between about 1918 and 1920, and that Johns' crew eventually gave up and scrapped the beast.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Demonstrating the Nieuport to America

Early in World War One, France had lept ahead of the US in airplane technology development, by need of necessity in the face of German aggression, so when America needed to catch up, it was natural that we turned to the French to show us the way. Today's pair of images come from a stereo card published by the Keystone View Company that shows the French demonstration of the Nieuport 17 fighter to US Army officials at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. The Library of Congress has another photo that is said to be at Langley Field, but also appears to be of the same occasion, which would indicate that the American officer shown is Capt. J.C. Bartolf.

The card's caption, on the back, reads:

Birg. Gen. George O. Squires, the chief Signal Service officer of the army, says: "Aeroplanes will put the Yankee punch in the war. The way to beat Germany is to flood the air with aeroplanes. Take the war out of the trenches and put it into the air." 
The Allies are looking to the aerial contribution of the Unites States as the most important that can be made. Both England and France have sent some of their aviation specialists to the United States for the purpose of instructing American officers. Recently twelve famous French aviators arrived here to help in the training of the 10,000 men needed to conduct aerial opeations against the German fleet and U-boat bases. These twelve famous Frenchmen are: Capt. Boyrive, Lieuts. Montariol, LeMairre, Leffly, Beausire de Seyssel, Gautier, Ducas, Prevost, Mairesse, de Mandrot, Marquison and Tabuteau. Many of these men wear decorations received for exploits in naval battles and some bear scars from encounters with German aeroplanes. 
LeMaitre is here seen explaining the mechanism of a Nieuport aeroplane. The Nieuport is the smallest, fastest rising, fastest moving biplane in the French service. It is a one-passenger machine, equipped with one 110 horsepower LeRhone motor, and can travel at 150 kilometers per hours. It is equipped with a Vickers or Lewis machine gun, which is fired by the pilot with one hand while he controls his machine with the other hand and feet. The French call the Nieuport pilots the "aces" of the air. 
Tests of the standardized United States aeroplane motor have been very satisfactory. These motors were designed and built under direction of the recently created Aircraft Production Board.