Somme 101

The battle above Today marks 101 years since the first day of the Battle of the Somme. And, while the bloody hours of July 1st, 1916 have become a by-word for military disaster, the operation above the trenches was an absolute triumph. Compared to the British Army’s 57,470 casualties and the German Army’s approximately 12,000, the Royal Flying Corps finished the day with just one airman … Continue reading Somme 101

On Spitfires (Part One)

‘Indicator’ tells all ‘Indicator’ filed a long series of impressions of Allied aircraft for Flight magazine in the years after World War 2. While Flight didn’t give his identity away (most likely because he was still in uniform) he was definitely a test pilot – probably at the RAF’s Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down. Mind you, he also seems to have done some … Continue reading On Spitfires (Part One)

The loss of ‘Old Bag of Bolts’

“…But Bolts couldn’t make it back with the remaining fuel. She headed towards an island for an emergency landing. Her position was radioed to aid in the rescue of her crew. Then Bolts gave out of gas. She sat down in the water a few hundred feet off shore… Members of her crew swam to safety and later were rescued by a submarine. Beyond saving … Continue reading The loss of ‘Old Bag of Bolts’

Wright Savers

They were ex-fishermen mostly, but to say they’d chosen a safer life ashore would be a lie. The Surfmen of the 19th century United States Life Saving Service were the forerunners of today’s US Coast Guard, a service that’s still renowned for helping aviators in need. History’s first ground crew A hundred years ago, those brave men lived in windswept stations along the worst stretches … Continue reading Wright Savers

Leader of the revolution

Of all the great aviation stories out there, my favourites are the ones that take me completely by surprise. And so it was with this. I assume you’ve seen the footage of legendary German test pilot Hanna Reitsch flying the twin-rotor Focke-Wulf Fw.61 inside Berlin’s Deutschlandhalle sports stadium during February 1938. If not, here it is: It begs the question – where were “our” helicopters? … Continue reading Leader of the revolution

Death of an airliner

It came up during a documentary on the jumbo jet. While reviewing the handful of 747 accidents caused by airframe failings, the narrator mentioned that the United Airlines 747-122 – which had lost its cargo door out of Honolulu on February 24th, 1989 – was repaired and returned to service. That’s not surprising in itself. Alarming as the post-accident images appear, the actual damage to the … Continue reading Death of an airliner

Santos-Dumont

  On a breezy Paris afternoon in 1901, more than two years before the Wright Brothers even invented the airplane, the only real contender anywhere set out to claim aviation’s first great prize. That visionary aviator was Brazilian emigré Alberto Santos-Dumont, and his goal was the 100,000 franc Deutsch Prize. When people ask you who invented the airship, please don’t say ‘von Zeppelin’. The idea of … Continue reading Santos-Dumont