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

Fast company

It was always a matter of “when, not if”, according to Aerion Chairman Robert Bass. He was speaking after the September 2014 announcement that Airbus Group was staking significant resources in the development of his Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet. That backing, and a firm $2.4 billion order for 20 aircraft by FlexJet LLC certainly gives the high speed limousine a real air of inevitability. … Continue reading Fast company

Heavy going (Pt.1)

With the B-17’s brave but beleaguered WW2 service in the Pacific and its epic contribution to victory in Europe, along with the B-24’s ubiquitous duty in every corner of the conflict, it would be easy to forget that the RAF also operated both types. Indeed the British were the first to use the American heavies in anger, and their combat experience would profoundly shape the development and … Continue reading Heavy going (Pt.1)

On a String and a prayer

  Another ‘Stringbag’ story for you… Late in July of 1942, Royal Navy Sub-Lieutenant L.F. Thompson counted himself lucky to be assigned a seat in one of four Fairey Swordfish I aircraft being ferried from Halifax, Nova Scotia to San Francisco, California.  If nothing else, flying over 3,00 miles at a sedate 125 mph or so promised to be an adventure. And then there would … Continue reading On a String and a prayer

Secrets of the Sea Mosquito

    Last week, The People’s Mosquito shared a video of their patron, the irreplaceable Capt. Eric “Winkle” Brown, discussing his role in testing the de Havilland Mosquito for carrier operations. Yes, you read that right: While the largest carrier-borne aircraft in service anywhere was the 10,545 lb Grumman Avenger (a big bird by any standard), the British were working out how to get on and … Continue reading Secrets of the Sea Mosquito