Aviation Tales

Aviation Tales are a collection of true stories from the past, some had a happy ending some did not.  But they should pique the interest of any aviation enthusiast and draw attention to any non-aviation enthusiasts.

The One-Degree Error

Many years ago at the beginning of the jet age, a jetliner was scheduled to fly from Australia to Honolulu. The technology of the day required a Navigator in the crew to plot the course as they flew.

As with many crew positions, a student Navigator was being trained by a veteran but the veteran Navigator got a little complacent like Captain Smith of the Titanic. The veteran crew member let the student do most of the work, periodically checking him. Unbeknownst to the veteran, the student had made a 1-degree error shortly after take-off.

After several hours it became apparent that the flight might be off course a little. They were off-course big-time with just a 1-degree error, so they ended having to land at Guam over 3,000 miles West of Honolulu.

While a 1-degree error did not seem like a big deal it sent the jet so far off-course that they had to land at an airport thousands of miles away from their destination.


The Hawaii Clipper

In 1938 Pan-American Airways was flying Martin M-130 flying boats (commonly called the Clipper) between San Francisco-Manila with overnight stops in Honolulu, Midway Island, Wake Island, and Guam.

On 28 July 1938 at 1139 the Hawaii Clipper took-off from Guam bound for Manila with 9 crewmembers and 6 passengers.  Nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes later the Clipper radioed that they were flying through layers of clouds and experiencing moderate turbulence, the navigator reported they were 565 miles from the Philippine coast.  That was the last radio communication with the aircraft.

The U.S. Army (USA) transport ship USA Meigs reported an oil slick about 500 miles from Manila and took samples of the oil which proved to be not of the Hawaii Clipper.  (Note:  Many times ships at sea clean out their bunkers by dumping oil overboard from time to time.)

Search for the Clipper was called off on05 August 1938.  This was the first long-range flying boat to be lost.  Two others, The Philippine Clipper in 1943 and the China Clipper in 1945 were also lost.

F-4 Phantom

Do F-4 Phantoms Collect Flies?

It was in mid-1985, and I was watching a squadron of United Staes Marine Corp (USMC) take off from Wake Island bound for Iwakuni Japan.  This was a routine movement of fighters from a base in the mainland to Japan with an overnight stop at Wake Island.

I was on a service road that paralleled the runway at Wake.  By most airport standards today this road would violate safety rules as it would be considered too close to the runway.  But because of the geography of Wake Island, it could not be helped.

My vantage point was on a slight incline, I had an excellent view of the take-off of the F-4s.    The squadron leader took off in a routine manner, the number two aircraft started his take-off roll and then suddenly it looked like a huge swarm of “flies” engulfed the aircraft.

Although the F-4 was in after-burner (routine for most jet fighters), a big fireball come out of the left engine.   The pilot continued his take-off roll as he was past V-1 (the max abort speed) and was airborne without any further incident.

However, I saw much to my surprise a tread from a tire rolling down the middle of the runway.  These events happen so fast, the mind has trouble tracking what is really happening.

What did happen was the left main tire blew up at about V-1, some of the rubber was ingested in the left engine and the tread and all parts of the tire come off the rim from the left landing gear.  The pilot continued his take-off with the landing gear left in the down position, of course.

A ground crew hurried out to clear the runway of debris so the remaining F-4s on the ground could taxi back to parking and the squadron leader could land as the Transpac ” would not be going anywhere that day.

Meanwhile, the concern was of the pilot whose aircraft had a blown tire.  He could not land the Phantom until it had burned off enough fuel for max landing weight.

Wake had an arresting gear mid-point of the length of the runway.  This was like a Hollywood produced drama as the F-4 flew around Wake Island burning off fuel, this took about 45 minutes.  One could imagine that the pilot’s anxiety was growing.  But this was pure speculation as Marines are trained well and don’t panic in emergency situations.

Finally, the drama came to a climax as the F-4 crew (2 crewmembers) lined up their aircraft with the runway, the arresting hook was down hoping to grab that life-saving cable strung across the runway.  I watched the aircraft making its approach and it looked so strange to see no rubber at all on the left landing gear, only a rim.

The pilot did a marvelous job of keeping the aircraft on the right main gear until it slowed down by then the arresting hook had grabbed the cable and the mighty F-4 came to halt about a thousand feet down slightly over on the left side of the runway.

Although this incident was certainly not an everyday happening, the training and caliber of character (remaining calm in a troubled situation) were outstanding.  I will always have the highest respect for the USMC aviation for the way they handled themselves that day.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart Last Flight

Amelia Mary Earhart was an American aviation pioneer and the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.  She received the United States Distinguished Flying Cross for this accomplishment  She helped found the Ninety-Nines an organization for female pilots.

She also was a “visiting” faculty member at Purdue University as an advisor to Aeronautical Engineering and a career counselor to females students.

Before she took her final flight, let’s take a little look at her background.  She was born on 24 July 1897 in Atchison, Kansas to a fairly affluent family   Amelia had a sister two years her junior, Grace Muriel Earhart.

The two lived a very unconventional life for those days.  For example, the Earhart girls wore “bloomers” which were looked down upon by society and their maternal grandmother.  The two girls were definitely what you would call”tomboys” as they played in the woods searching for caterpillars, and other field creatures.

Edwin Earhart, their father, found employment with the Rock Island Railroad in Des Monies Iowa.  A year late Amelia saw her first airplane at the Iowa State Fair.  She was totally unimpressed with it calling “it a thing of rusty wire and wood and not at all interesting”.

Amelia and her sister, (she now went by her middle name)Muriel) moved back to Atchison Kansas because her parents were moving into smaller quarters.

Amelia and Muriel lived with their grandparents and were home-schooled during that time. In 1909 the family was reunited in Des Moines and Amelia enrolled in the seventh-grade this was the first time in public schools.

Her dad who was an alcoholic was asked to retire from the Rock Island Railroad.  He later found work in Minneapolis with the Great Northern Railroad and Amelia went to Central High School in Minneapolis for a brief period.

Her dad having more problems became unemployed again and her mother took the girls to Chicago to live with friends.  Amelia was given the choice of high schools but declined a high school near their house because of the science department (chemistry lab was like a kitchen sink).  She chose Hyde Park High School.  She had a miserable first year but did graduate in1916.

While a volunteer, after Red Cross Training, She helped soldiers returning from World War I.   During this time she contracted pneumonia and sinus conditions that would be a life-long struggle.  Later in life, she had a drain tube in her face.

Her first experience with an airplane was at the Canadian National Exhibition in Tronto.  A World War I flying ace gave an exhibition and the pilot saw Amelia and her friend in a clearing and buzzed them   He probably expected them to run but Amelia held her ground and the “ace” buzzed her but she didn’t flinch.

Her parents were reunited in Long Beach California.  She went to visit them and got her first airplane ride on 28 December 1920.  “By the time I got to two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly”.  This was the start of Amelia Earhart’s passion.

She started flying lessons with Anita Snook.  On 15 May 1923, she became the 16th female pilot in the United States to earn a pilot’s license.  The continuing records and achievements she accomplished in the next 15 years are legendary and recorded for posterity.

The Final Flight

In 1931 Amelia married George Putnam.  She openly said that it was a marriage “in name only” as George had much stronger feelings for her than she for him.  George was a promoter, so he helped to get Amerlia funding from Purdue University for the airplane and other expenses in the “Around -The- World ” trip.

Lockheed in Burbank built the Electra 10 according to Amelia’s specifications which included the latest communications gear and extra cabin fuel tanks.  There were two navigators that were going to accompany Amelia.  Captain Harry Manning who had a shipmaster license and was the skipper of the President Roosevelt which had brought Amelia back from Europe in 1928.

The other,  Fred Noonan who had worked for Pan-American as route builder for the China Clipper from San Francisco to Manila.  He also held a ships’ Master license.

The “Around-the-World” flight was actually two parts. The first attempt was westbound as close to the equator as possible.  So Earhart took off from Oakland, California with her two navigators on 17 March 1937 bound for Honolulu.  They landed at Luke Field on Ford Island, Hawaii.

The next day during the take-off run the aircraft ground looped (this was a “tail-dragger”) the main gear collapsed and the aircraft slid on its belly along the runway until it came to a stop.  The flight obviously was canceled with damaged landing gear, broken props, and other structural damage.  The Electra 10 was sent by Ship back to California where it was repaired by Lockheed in the Burbank plant where it was built.

Electra 10

Although Putnam and Earhart did not have the ideal marriage, they did work well together in securing additional funds for the second attempt.  The Electra was repaired (maybe rebuilt) and on 01 June 1938 Earhart took off this time only with Noonan and this time heading Eastbound.

They landed in Maimi unpublicized but Amelia announced her plans for “Around-The-World” flight which again,  the plan was to be as close to the equator as possible.  Then after numerous stops in South America, Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, they arrived at Lae, New Guinea

On 02 July 1937, Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae Airfield with a very heavy Electra bound for Howland Island a distance of  2,556 miles from Lae Airfield.  Earhart reported they were at 10,000 feet at 1500 (Lae time) but were descending due to cloud cover.

Then around 1700, she reported they were at 7,000 feet and their airspeed was 150 knots.  This was the last known position report which was near Nukkuman Island about 800 miles into the flight.

However, the last known radio transmission from Earhart was at 0845 in the general vicinity of Howland Island, their destination.  However, all attempts to contact the Electra failed.

The USCGC Itasca

The Search Begins

The U.s Coast Guard Cutter Itasca (which had been giving Earhart directional steers (DF) which she did not receive very well  and the United States Navy along with two Japanese vessels begin an extensive search near  Howland Island, the Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island, Fanning Island, the Gilbert Islands, and the Marshall Islands.

Her husband George Putnam conducted a private search, generally in the same areas.  All efforts produced no results.  The search efforts by USN and USCG cost about 1 million USD and a very high amount in the 1930s.

There have been several hypothesis and theories through the early years about Earhart disappearance, such as the Gardner Island theory where the Electra turned south when they couldn’t find Howland Island and landed on Gardner Island 350 miles South-Southeast of their destination,  Howland Island.

Then there is the Japanese capture theory or shoot down of the Electra.  Even the History Channel and Unsolved Mysteries have come up with “proof” that Earhart and Noonan had landed on a Japanese held island in the Marshall Islands and were executed.

I might add that the Japanese were not at war (except in China) and were not as hostile to America as they would be in a few years.  All of these theories do not take into account that the Electra was low on fuel and it’s navigation and communication equipment was not working properly and it would be highly unlikely the flight would have wandered off into Japanese held islands which were too far away.

Remember that one of Earhart’s’ last communications stated they were “low on fuel” and that reported position put them within 200 miles of Howland Island.    The most probable explanation of what happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan they couldn’t find Howland Island and the aircraft ran out of fuel and ditched in the ocean at an undetermined distance from Howland Island and eventually sank in 17,000 feet of water.

Quoting  Tom D. Crouch Senior Curator of the National Air and Space Museum, “that the mystery (Amelia Earhart) is part of what keeps us interested.  In part, we remember her because she is our favorite missing person”.



The C-5 Galaxy by Lockheed

C-5 in Flight


The C-5 Galaxy by Lockheed is a large military transport aircraft which was originally designed by Lockheed. It provides the United Air force (USAF) with a heavy long ranged airlift capacity. The C-5 can carry oversized certified air cargo a great distance.

The C-5 Galaxy has many attributes to the small predecessor the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter and the later developed Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.such as high wing, rear (C-5 only: front opening doors for loading outsized cargo) opening aft doors for cargo loading, four engines, passenger/troop capability, and long distance flight. The C-5 Galaxy is among the largest military aircraft in the world.

The USAF has operated the C-5 Galaxy since 1969. During that time the aircraft has been supportive of U. S military operations in all major conflicts including Vietnam, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and the Gulf Wars. It also aided in humanitarian disasters around the world. The C-5 supported the United States Space Shuttle program.

C-5 aerial photo

Design and Development

The C-5 Galaxy is a large high-wing cargo aircraft with a distinctive “T-tail” fin stabilizer, it has four TF39 Turbofan engines mounted on pylons on the wing. The wings are 25-degree sweep back.

It is very similar in layout to another Lockheed aircraft, the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, but a lot bigger. Above the plane length cargo deck is the cockpit and crew quarters and in the rear is an upper area for 75 passengers which face aft. Bay doors at forward and aft provide “drive through” loading and unloading of cargo.

Some other features and items of interest are: the cargo deck length is longer than the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk, max load take-off require 8,300 ft of runway, max landing weight require 4,900 feet of runway, it has 28 wheels to distribute the cargo weight, the rear landing gear can be made to make smaller turning radius and rotates 90 degrees after take-off before being retracted.

The land gear can “kneel” to lower the cargo deck to truck level for loading/unloading cargo., it has a malfunction detection analysis to detect any component failure (“2001 Space Odysee”?), it can carry 36 463L master pallets, ramps are used to load vehicles of all types.such as five  United States Army (USA) Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 6/Boeing AH-64 Apache Helicop[ters.

C-5 with forward nose raised for front end loading in Antartic

The real story of the C-5 Galaxy beings in 1961 when several aviation manufacturers were asked by USAF to submit a proposal for a large, heavy jet transport designs that could replace the Douglas-133 Cargomaster and be a compliment transport to the C-141 Starlifter.

All users wanted higher performance than the C-133 which was a slow turbo-prop type aircraft.  The USA wanted a larger cargo bay then the C-141 had to offer for transporting tanks and helios.

A design concept called “CX-4” came out in that year.  In 1962, the concept of a 6 engine aircraft was discarded.  In 1963 a new design concept came out called CX-X which had 4 engines and an MTOW of 550,00 lbs, a max payload of 180,000 lbs, a TAS of Mach 0.75, the cargo compartment was17.2 ft by 13.5 ft high and 100 ft long, it had forward and aft access doors.

In April 1964 an official request for a proposal came out from USAF with Boeing, Douglas, General Dynamics, Lockheed, Martin Marietta,  and Curtis-Wright.  The engine proposal went to General Electric, Pratt & Whitney.

Three companies. were given 1-year “study” contracts, basically to build a design.  The three companies were: Boeing, Douglas, and Lockheed.  The cockpit had to be well above the cargo area to allow forward loading/unloading through the nose and aft loading/unloading through the tail section of the aircraft.

All of the designs had forward and aft cargo access doors for simultaneous loading and unloading through the nose and tail.  The Boing and Douglas proposal contained a conventional tail while the Llochked used a “T-Tail” concept.

The USAF said Boeings design was the best in all respects, but Lockheed was awarded the contract in 1965 based on the lowest bid..General Electric was awarded the contract for the engines to power the new aircraft with the TF-39 high ration bypass engine.

While most jet engines of the day had a 2:1 bypass ration, the TF-39 had an 8:1 by-pass ratio which allowed for more thrust and better fuel consumption.

Cost overruns and technical plagued the C-5A Galaxy and were the subject of congressional investigation in 1968 and 1969.  The C-5 development was the first development program to have a $1 billion cost overrun.  Robert F. Dorr, Aviation Historian said of the C-5 program:

“After being one of the worst-run programs ever, in its early years, it has evolved very slowly and with great difficulty into a nearly adequate strategic airlifter and unfortunately needs in-flight refueling or a ground stop for even the most routine long-distance flights.  We spent a lot of money to make it capable of operating from unfinished airstrips near the front lines when we never needed that capability or had any intention to use it”.

Wake Island, The C-5 Magnet of The Pacific
“I (author)spent over 30 years on Wake Island.  Wake is situated just about halfway between Hawaii and Guam.  The USAF had many C-5 flights originating at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii that overflew Wake en route  Anderson AFB, Guam.  During my time on Wake, we would have about 3-4 C-5s divert into Wake on an in-flight emergency a month., usually with an engine shut-down.  Since Wake had no maintenance or spare parts, the stricken C-5 had to sit before another engine was flown into Wake by another C-5, then the maintenance that came with the new engine changed engines.”

One final note:  That 8-1 By-pass ratio created a howl that you will never forget.    It has been 15 years since I worked on Wake and I can still hear that C-5 howl, there is no aircraft engine sound like it in the world.

In 1982, Congress approved funds to build 50 C-5B, which included numerous system modifications to improve reliability and maintainability.

The first C5A was delivered to the USAF at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma in 1969  The first C-5B was delivered to USAF also at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma in 1986  There were 81 C-5A and 50 C-5B built.

Photo of some of a load of a C-5 Galaxy

Operational History

The C-5’s first mission was on 09 July 1970 in Southeast Asia.  The Galaxy was used to haul, supplies, equipment, troops, USA tanks, USA helos, and many other large vehicles and equipment throughout the remaining years of the Vietnam War.

Prior to the fall of Saigon C-5s were used to help evacuate South Vietnam.  In one tragic incident a C-5 had just taken off with 313 persons on board, a rear door pressure lock failed and the aircraft was returning to Saigon but never mad as it crashed short of the runway 144 aboard were killed out of the 313 with, 78 were children in what was known as Operation Babylift.  165 children did survive along with a handful of Med crew and flight crew

During the Yom Kipper War in 1973 C-5s and C-141 Starlifters carried critical ammo and other military supplies to Israel during Operation Nickel Grass.  The C-5 performance was so good, the Pentagon decided to purchase more C-5 Galaxys.

On 24 October 1974, Space and Missle command air-launched a Minuteman missile from an airborne C-5 over the Pacific at 20,000 ft.  The Minuteman descended to 6,000 ft and lit off and ascended back to 20,000 ft before completing the test and dropping into the ocean.  Further tests of this kind were canceled due to engineering and security problems.

The last C-5A was retired on 07 September 2007 although Many C-5As became part of the of the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) and are designated C-5 AMP.  Although this aircraft had a rugged beginning, it was an able large cargo airlifter serving the United States military well.

Original C-5 Cockpit
AMP C-5 cockpit

Where you can see the C-5 Galaxy

700451 Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center Travis AFB, California

690014 Air Mobility Command Museum Dover Air Force Base, Delaware

At this time these are the only two places where the C-5 Galaxy is on public display

Tech Specs for the C-5 Galaxy

Wingspan: 222 ft 9 in

Length: 247 ft 1 in

Height: 65 ft 1 in

Weight: 380,000 lbs (empty) 840,000 lbs (MTOW)

Max Speed: 531 mph

Ceiling: 41,000 ft

Range: 5,500 nautical miles

Engine: 4/General Electric CF6-80C2 high ration bypass turbofan                                     51,000lbf each

Crew: 7 /pilot, co-pilot, 2 flight engineers, 3 loadmasters.



The Douglas A-3D Skywarrior

                            A-3 Skywarrior


The A-3D Skywarrior was designed as a strategic bomber for the United States Navy (USN). However, it was used as a utility aircraft in the roles of an electronic recon aircraft and as aerial in-flight refueling tanker. It was the longest servicing and the heaviest aircraft used on an aircraft carrier.

The A-3D Skywarrior was one of three to be intended as an aircraft carrier strategic attack bomber. The other two were the North American AJ Savage and the North American A-5 Vigilante. the Douglas B-66 Destroyer was developed from the A-3D for the United States Air Force (USAF) as a tactical bomber, electronic warfare and recon aircraft in the early 1970s

Design and Development

In the final stages of World War II USN started looking into the possibility of using a jet-powered aircraft operating from an aircraft carrier.

The jet-powered aircraft would have to be long range and deliver a 10,000-pound load or a nuclear device. In January 1948 the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) issued a requirement for this type of aircraft with a weight of 100,000 pounds and be able to take-off and land on not yet built but proposed “Supercarrier United States-class” aircraft carrier.

Ed Heinemann Chief Designer at Douglas Aircraft was concerned that the proposal for the United States Class Supercarrier could be canceled. so he proposed a much smaller aircraft of 68,000 lbs which still could operate off of existing carriers.

The USN accepted Douglas Aircraft’s proposal and issued a contract for that design on 29 September 1949. Thus the A-3D Skywarrior came about and made it’s first st flight 28 October 1952.

The first prototypes used Westinghouse J40 turbojet engines. They proved to be totally unreliable and the contract with Westinghouse was canceled. Douglas Aircraft then turned to Prat & Whitney and contracted for their J57 turbojet engines which provided to be somewhat better but the initial development of these engines took a while to straighten out.

The introduction of the Skywarrior to the USN came about in the Spring of 1956. The Douglas proposal (and production) was the smallest of all proposals of aviation companies. But it remained on active duty until 27 September 1991.

The engines hung on wing nacelles, it had hydraulic flight controls, internal fuel tanks for long range, the wings folded outboard of the engines and the vertical stabilizer folded starboard this for below deck storage. The early design was for the Skywarrior to be used as an attack bomber so only 3 crew members were planned; pilot, bombardier/navigator and tail gunner.

When the A3D was redesigned as an electronic recon aircraft 7 crew member positions were made; pilot, co-pilot, navigator, and 4 electronic systems operators.  The bomb bay in this configuration had been done away thus allowing stations for the 4 4 electronic operators.

As a weight-saving measure, the ejection seats were eliminated but had an escape tunnel as it was assumed most flights would be at high altitude.  This didn’t help much if you had to get out at low altitudes.

The USAF B-66 version of the A3D had ejection seats for all crew members. You had to remember that the B-66 had no weight restrictions like the Skywarrior as it flew from land bases.

The A3D was originally designed as an attack bomber but found to have greater use as electronic recon aircraft and that made its long service life possible. There were 282 A3D Skywarriors built, the last in 1961.

Operational History

Prior to the development of the Polaris Nuclear Submarines, the A-3 was USN chief nuclear deliver. A-3 squadrons were established into two Heavy Attack Wings (HATWINGS), one wing based in NAS North Island San Diego CA the other in NAS Jacksonville FL.

They were relocated from NAS North Island to NAS Whidbey Island WA, the other was relocated from NAS Jacksonville FL to NAS Sanford FL After 1964 the Skywarrior’s role as a heavy strategic bomber role was abandoned as the Polaris nuclear missile fired from submarines became the primary USN nuclear response.

During the Vietnam War era, the Skywarrior was used for some conventional bombing such as dropping the Mk84, a 2,000-pound bomb and mine laying from 1964-1967.

Later the A-3 was used as an ariel tanker, photographic recon and electronic recon with various models of the A-3 Skywarrior.

For most of the War, the EA-3B flew from Da Nang Air Base providing electronic recon capability over the contested area including the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the north to Haiphong harbor.

Modified A-3B were used as a photo recon aircraft squadron in Vietnam These aircraft were equipped to perform cartographic mapping where no detailed maps existed. The modified RA-3B was used to monitor night traffic down roads and trails into Laos.

The real workhorse for the air wing was the modified multitasked EKA-3B which could jam enemy radar and refuel an attack aircraft on the same mission.

There were two air refueling squadrons both had EKA-3b aircraft with the electronic equipment removed thus making them strictly KA-3B aircraft for refueling This occurred in the early 1970s and lasted until the early 1990s.

The EA-3 variant was used for critical electronic intelligence against the Warsaw Pack Missions were flow from 1956 with the EP-3 and EB-47 offering unique electronic recon capabilities in numerous Cold War conflicts and the Vietnam War.

The last fleet Skywarrior saw retirement in September 1991

Where you can see the A-3 Skywarrior:

125413 Fulton County Airport, New York

135434 Edwards Air Force Flight Test Center Museum Edwards AFB,                                 California

135418 National Naval Aviation Museum NAS Pensacola, Flordia

130361 Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona

142246 New England air Museum Windsor Locks, Connecticut

146457 Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum Mount Pleasant, South                    Carolina

138944 U.S.S. Lexington Museum CorpusChristi, Texas

147666 Oakland Aviation Museum Oakland, California

142251 USS Midway Museum San Diego, California

This is Just a Partial List of the A-3 Skywarrior on Display. Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information.

Tech Specs for the A-3B/A3D-2 Skywarrior

Wingspan: 72 ft 6 in

Length: 76 ft 4 in

Height: 22 ft 10in

Weight: 39,400 lbs (empty) 82,000 Lbs MTOW

Max Speed: 610 mph

Ceiling: 41,000 ft

Range: 1,826 nmi

Engine: 2/Pratt & Whitney J57-P-10 turbojet, 10,500 lbf (Dry), 12,400 lbf                     (Wet)

Crew: 3


The Republic Thunderjet

Introduction: The F-84 Thunderjet

The F-84 Thudnerjet was built by Republic Aircraft Company.  It was one of the early jet fighter-bombers, first flying 28 February 1946.  The United States Army AirForce (USAAF) sent a request for a “day fighter” in 1944 and Republic Aviation responded.

Although the Thunderjet entered the service in 1947, it failed to perform any of the required aspects of it’s intended mission.  This was due to an engine and structural problems.

In 1948, the USAAF considered canceling the F-84 Thunderjet program.  Now with the their “backs against the wall,” Republic came forth in 1949 with the F-84D model which kept the program alive.

The model “evolution” continued with the F-84G in 1951  In 1954, the swept wing F84F Thunderstreak along with the RF-84F Thunderflash, a recon aircraft.

The F-84 was the primary ground strike aircraft during the Korean War, destroying 60% of the assigned targets and flying 86,408 sorties.  Although no match for the Soviet MiG 15, the Thunderjet did score 8 victories over the MiGs.

The Thunderjet was the StrategicAir command (SAC) primary aircraft from 1948 through 1957.  The F-84 was the first production jet fighter to have in-flight refueling capabilities. It could carry the Mark 7 nuclear bomb.

The designation of F-84 could be a little confusing with the various models but to clarify the F-84A-F84E and F84Gmodels were straight winged and called the Thudnerjet.  Models F-84F was sweptwing and called Thunderstreak.  The RF-84F was also swept wing and called the Thunderflash.  There was an experimental model XF-84H, a straight wing turboprop called the  Thunderscreech.

The numeral designation of F-84 was retained as the difference of the swept and straight wing was a few parts difference.  There were 7,524 of all models and variants produced.


On 11 September 1944, the USAAF released and General Operational Requirement for a day fighter with a top speed of 600 mph and a range of 705 miles. Its armament would be six .50 cl or 4 .60cal machine guns and had to use the General Electric TG-180 axial turbojet which entered production as the Allison J-35.

On 11 November 1944, USAAF sent an order to Republic Aviation for 3 prototypes os the new XP-84 (P==pursuit, the designation F=fighter came later from the new United States Air Force- USAF).  The on 04 January 1945, while the P-84 was still in the stage of prototype construction, USAAF increase their order to 15 YXP-84A and 5 P-84B production aircraft.

Meanwhile, wind tunnel testing was being conducted by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics on the YP-84A revealed horizontal instability and stabilizer skin buckling at high speeds.

This preliminary testing resulted in the XP-84 prototype which was limited to a gross weight of13,400 lbs and a more powerful engine the J35-GE-15 with a thrust of 4,000 lbs.    The first flight of the P-84 was on 28 February 1946 at now-day Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The 15 YP-84s were delivered to now-day Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for further testing.  They have an upgraded J35-A-15 engine, 6 .50 cal machine guns (4 in the nose and .one in each wing root)and provision for wing tip 225 gal fuel tanks for each wing.  The new wingtip concept for the F-84 had not been thoroughly tested by the time the first production F-84s rolled out of the factory in 1947.  This would produce aircraft control problems in the time to come.

F-84 Thunderjet

Operational History

The F-84B became operational in December of 1947.  Due to structural failures in the next few months, the entire fleet was grounded on 24 May 1948.  In spite of reskinning the wings, new engine, and several other improvements, the F-84B and F-84C were taken out of service by 1952.

The F-84D had several improvements such as thicker wing skin, winterized fuel systems capable of using JP-4 type fuel and a new engine; J35-A-17D.  This still wasn’t good enough as the F-84D was phased out of service also in 1952.

Finally, the F-84E became the first effective Thunderjet of the series having the J35-A-17 engine, wing reinforcement, a 12-inch fuselage extension ahead of the wing and a 3-inch extension aft of the wing. to enlarge the cockpit, improved radar, and gunsight along with 230-gallon pylon fuel tanks to increase the range of the F-84 to 1,000 miles.

The next F-84 Thunderjet model was the F-84G which was another straight wing Thunderjet.   This model had the capability of in-flight refueling with an in-flight receptacle in the left wing, an autopilot, ILS system, and a new J35-A-29 engine.  The “G” model came out in 1951 and lasted until the mid-60’s.

The F-84 was used in Korea during that war.  Much like most of those jet fighters of that time, take-off required a long runway especially in the warm summers in Korea.  The rotation speed (when the stick was pulled back for liftoff) was 160 mph and landing/approach speeds were similar.

In comparison, today’s passenger liners land at approximately 135 mph.  The fighter flew very well on instruments and was not prone to cross-wind problems

Pilots had some amusing nicknames for the F-84: “The Lead Sled”, “The Iron Crowbar”, “The Hog”, “The World’s Fastest Tricycle”, and “Ground Loving Whore”.  The pilots also believed (tongue in cheek) that a ground sniffer device was installed to alert the pilot that the dirt at the end of the runway could be “smelt” and would allow the aircraft to become airborne.

It had an airspeed restriction of .82 Mach due to structural problems above that speed.  However, the aircraft speed could be controlled very easy allowing safe dive bombing approaches at 10,000 feet.

The top speed limitation proved to be a detriment in combat with the MiG15 as there were only eight recorded MiG kills during the war.  The Thuderjet’s mission initially at the beginning of the war was to escort the B-29 bomber, but that was given over to the F-86 Sabrejet.

The F-84 found it’s perfect role as that of a ground attack aircraft.  It flew 86,408 sorites dropping 55,586 tons of bombs destroying 60% of all ground targets in the war.

Where you can see the Thunderjet

45-59494 at the Discovery Park of America, Union City, Tennessee

45-59504 at Cradle of Aviation Museum Garden City, New York

45-59556 at Planes of Fame Museum Chino, California

47-1433 at Pima Air and Space Museum Tucson, Arizona

47-1498 at EAA Adventure Museum Oshkosh, Wisconsin

49-2285 at Texas Military Forces Austin, Texas

50-1143 at National Museum of the United States Air Force Wright-Patterson, Ohio

This is Just a Partial List of the Republic F-84Thunderjet on Display. Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information.

Tech Specs for the F- 84G Thunderjet

Wingspan: 36 ft 5 in

Length: 38ft 1 in

Height: 12 ft 7 in

Weight: 11,470 lbs (empty)

Max Speed: 622 mph; Mach 0.82

Ceiling: 40,500 ft

Range: 1,00mi (combat); 2,000 mi (ferry) (with external tanks)

Engine: 1/Allison J35-A-29 Turbojet                       


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Lockheed F-104 Starfighter


The F-104 Starfighter was built by Lockheed as a single supersonic interceptor fighter and fighter-bomber originally for the United States Air Force (USAF).  More than a dozen allied air forces of the world purchased this aircraft from Lockheed as 2,578 were built.

This first flight was on 17 February 1956 and the first Starfighter went on-line on 20 February 1958. One of the “Century Series” of fighter aircraft was designed by a Lockheed team led by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson who helped develop such Lockheed famous aircraft such as the civilian Constellation, the military P-38 Lighting,  Electra 10A, C-130 Hercules and many other well-known aircraft.

Later Kelly Johnson, the chief engineer at “Skunk Works”,  played a major part in developing a highly classified place called “Area 51” which has been used in the past (maybe the future) for testing of new, classified aircraft and other military gear.

The F-104 would set numerous speed and altitude records.  Several variants were produced for Canada,  Italy, and other nations.

The Starfighter advancement among nations was marred by a bribery scandal involving Lockheed and serval countries in Europe and Japan.  This tainted the image of Lockheed’s management.  The F-104 itself seemed to weather the storm as it was sold to many European and Asian countries.

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F-100 Super Sabre Jet by North American


The F-100 also called the Super Sabre Jet was built by North American Aviation. This aircraft was called the first of the “Century Series” of jet fighters that served in the United States Ari Force (USAF) from 1964-1971. The F-100 was a follow-on to the North American F-86 Sabre Jet with higher performance. It flew as a close air support aircraft in the Vietnam War. It also was used, besides USAF, the Turkish Air Force, Republic of China Air Force, French Air Force.

There were 2, 294 Super Sabres produced between 1953-1959 by North American Aviation. The nickname was the “Hun” for F-100.

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Lockheed C-130 Hercules

Lockheed C-130 Hercules



The C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turbo-prop built by the Lockheed Aircraft as a Cargo/Troop transport aircraft. Besides the basic role of hauling cargo and troops, it was used as a medevac, gunship, airborne assault, search and rescue, weather recon, aerial refueling, maritime patrol, aerial firefighting and a tactical military aircraft.

There have been more than 40 variants built since the early 1950s and is currently still being produced by now Lockheed-Martin. There have been over 2,500 C-130 Hercules of all varieties built. Nearly every country in the world has a C-130 for many purposes. There is a civilian version called Lockheed L-100 being used in over 60 nations.

The United States Air Force (USAF) was the first to receive a C-130 Hercules in 1954. Since then the United States Navy (USN), The United States Marine Corps (USMC), Royal Netherlands AirForce, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal Air Force (RAF) have purchased the Lockheed C-130 Hercules just to name a few users.

Design and Development

The Korean War which began in 1950 and with a peace armistice (no peace treaty has ever been signed) in 1953 showed that the piston driven transports of World War II, the Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar, the Douglas C-47, and the Curtiss C-46 Commando were outdated.

In 1951, USAF put out a General Operating Requirement for a new transport to the Boeing Aircraft company, Douglas Aircraft, Fairchild Aircraft, Lockheed Aircraft, Martin Aircraft, chase Aircraft, North American Aviation, Northrup Aircraft and Airlifts, Inc.

The transport should be able to carry 92 passengers, or 72 combat troops, or 64 paratroops in a cargo compartment that would be approximately 41 feet long, 10 feet wide and 9 feet high with a hinged folding ramp in the tail of the aircraft.

The ramp was necessary to be able to load military equipment such as Sheridan tanks, jeeps and other rolling stock. It also must be able to support the dropping of special airdrop cargo including rolling stock and even “cluster bombs”.

The aircraft also must be able to use four Allison T-56 turboprop engines which were being designed by Allison aircraft under a separate contract.

Four of the companies, Fairchild Aircraft, North American Aviation, Martin Aircraft and Northrup Aviation declined to bid for the contract. Of the remaining 5 companies, Lockheed and Douglas Aircraft were in close competition.

The Lockheed design team was headed by Willis Hawkins which included Hall Hibbard and Kelley Johnson. Hibbard who was vice-President and Chief Engineer asked Kelley Johnson what he thought of the low-speed and unarmed aircraft proposal.

Kelly remarked ..”that this aircraft would destroy the Lodhkeen Company”. Both Hibbard and Johnson signed the proposal and a Lockheed won the contract on 02 July 1951.

The first flight of the YC-130 was on 23 August 1954 with Stanley Beltz, Roy Wimmer, Jack Real and Dick Stanton making up the crew. Kelly Johnson flew a Lockheed P2V as a chase plane on the 61-minute flight from Burbank, California to Edwards AFB in Lancaster, California.

When the prototype testing was completed in the California desert, production began in Marietta, Georgia, where over 2,300 Hercules have been built. The C-130 A had Allison T56-A-9 turboprop engines with 3 bladed propellers.

The C-130B was developed to improve the range with pylon fuel tanks and Hamilton Standard 4 bladed propellers which became standard until the “J” model.

The C-130E had an extended range with large wing tanks and a more powerful Allison T-56-A-7A engines. A whole host of varieties of C-130s were developed through the years as it has been over 64 years since that first test flight.

One other variant was the KC-130F tanker used by the USMC for aerial refusing. The C-130H was introduced in 1974 and is still in use today by several nation’s military. In the 1990s, the C-130J came out with new engines and a 6 bladed propeller, digital avionics and other new systems.

Operational History

In 1956 the first production C-130A went to USAF at Ardmore AFB Oklahoma and Sewart AFB Tennessee. In time C-130s were assigned to nearly every theater around the world. The Royal Austrailian Air Force became the first non-American military to purchase the C-130 in late 1958. The Royal Canadian Air Force took delivery of C-i30s in 1960.

The USN/USMC wanted to test the possibility of using a Hercules to be a supply aircraft for USN aircraft carriers. A USMC KC-130 was used for 29 touch and go landings and 21 full stop landings on the USS Forrestal bu USN Pilot Lieutenant James Flatley who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and later was promoted to Rear Admiral.

The project was considered too dangerous for routine supply support and was canceled. The Grumman C-2 Greyhound was then developed as the official Carrier Onboard Delivery ((COD). The Grumman was a twin-engine, high-wing cargo aircraft designed to carry a limited amount of supplies from USN base off-shore to an aircraft carrier.

Some other specialized missions the C-130 was called on to perform in Vietnam was the FAC (forward air control l) over the Ho Chi Minh Trail to lead air strikes on specific targets by B-57 bombers to interdict the supply routes from North Vietnam to the South.

Hercules in the role of FAC would fly missions over North and South Vietnam looking for opportune targets for Allied strike craft to attack.

In Africa, in November of 1964, the C-130s assisted the United States and Belgium military in a hostage situation in the Belgium Congo which required the C-130 land landing and picking up of paratroops and air dropping them near the target areas. The rescue of hostages was a success and the rebels were captured.

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Pakistan Air Force modified its small fleet of C-130s to carry bombs on pallets to drop on Indian targets such as bridges, artillery placements, and concentrated troop locations. The bombs which weighted about 20,000 lbs were shoved off the ramp in the aft section of the aircraft over the designed targets.

The Commando Vault operation was to drop 10,000 bombs to clear Landing Zones or LZ for helicopter operations in 1969. They also used these bombs from C-130 Hercules on enemy (VC) base camps and other appropriate targets.

This was unusual for a transport to perform such a task as the sudden shift in weight, of the aircraft, could provide a tricky situation for the pilots.

The Heavey Tea operation was for a C-130 to drop two battery pallets with sensors near the Lop NurChinese nuclear testing area to monitor China’s nuclear weapons program.

This turned out to be a grand success but required the C-130 to fly 6 1/2 hours from Takhli, Thailand to the target area and another 6 1/2 hours at low altitude to return to base.

In Conclusion

The Lockheed C-130 was designed to haul cargo, passengers, and troops to designed locations. But the diversity of it made a great artillery platform, gunship (machine guns), even a makeshift bomber.

The Forestry Service used the C-130A, which was retired by the military,  for firefighting and other forestry observing missions. The Hercules was also used to treat oil spills on the ocean, lakes or rivers.

The C-130J is still active with new engines, new electronics, six-bladed propellers and other new systems. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules has been a workhorse for many countries throughout the world and will continue to be for many nations in the years to come.

Where you can see the Lockheed C-130 Hercules

#55-037 Museum of Missouri Military Histi9ry Jefferson City, Missouri.

#56-0518 Little Rock Air Force Base Visitor Center, Little Rock Arkansas

#57-0457 Pima Air and Space Museum Tucson, Arizona

#570453 National Vigilance Park, National Security Agency, Fort George                           Meade, Maryland

#57-0489 Empire State Air Museum Schenectady County Airport, New York

#BuNo15-1891 National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida.

#62-1787 National Museum of the United State Air Force, Wright-                                         Patterson   AFB, Dayton Ohio

This is Just a Partial List of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules on Display. Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information.

Tech Specs for the Lockheed C-130H

Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in

Length: 97 ft 9 in

Height: 38 ft 3 in

Weight: 75,800 lbs (empty); Useful Load” 72,000 lbs; MTOW 155,00 lbs                         (Max Take Off Weight)

Max Speed: 366 mph; Cruise Speed 336 mph

Ceiling: 33,000 ft (empty); 23,000 ft with a 42,000 lb load

Range: 2,360 mi

Engine: 4/Allison T-56-A-15 Turboprop engines rated at 4,5900 hp each;                   4/4 bladed propellers

Crew: 5; 2 pilots, navigator, flight engineer, and loadmaster

Load Capacity: 92 Passengers or 74 Litter patients or 64 airborne troops                                     or 6 pallets of cargo.


North American F 82 Twin Mustang


The North American F-82 Twin Mustang was designed after the North American P-51 Mustang which was a long range fighter-escort from World War II. The War ended before the F-82 units could be organized, but the post-War needs were still there as a new adversary came foth–the Soviet Union.

The original designation of the P82 now became the F-82 for “Fighter”as the design was for the F-82 to be a long range escort. It was to be a replacement for the Northrup P-61 Black Widow as an all weather day/night interceptor. Although it “missed” World War Ii, it was used in the Korean War. It was the first United States Air Force (USAFF) aircraft to operate over Korea and the first to down 3 North Korean aircraft, the first to be a Yak-11.

There were 272 F-82s Twin Mustang produced

F-82 Twin Mustang

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Beechcraft D-18


The Beechcraft D-18 also known as the “Twin Beech” is a twin engine, low wing, tailwheel aircraft that could carry 6-11 passengers built by Beech Aircraft Corporation of Wichita, Kansas.

This aircraft was produced from 1937 to November 1969, a period of 32 years. There were over 9,000 built making it one of the worlds’ most widely used light aircraft. It had many uses cargo, passenger, VIP aircraft and many uses in the military as transport.

During and after World War Ii it was used by the military besides being a great transport, navigational trainer, bombing trainer, gunnery training, photo recon, drone target puller. The aircraft identifiers when used by the United States Army air Force (USAAF) were C-45 Expeditor, AT-7 Navigator, UC-45 Navigator and with United States Navy (USN) SNB-1 and SNB-2.

In the early pre- WWII days, it was the pre-eminent “business aircraft” and “feeder airliner”. Later it was used in civil purposes as: aerial spraying, sterile insect release, aerial firefighting, air mail delivery, air ambulance, movie productions, skydiving, freight hauling, weapon/drug smuggling (when the smugglers got caught, an aircraft auction occurred) the D-18 was also a skywriter and banner towing.

Many Beech D18s are privately own in the world with 240 registered with the United States Federal Aviation Administration.

On a personal note: I got my first twin-engine time as a young pilot, flying the D-18 on FAA radar testing station in Fontana CA. It was quite a thrill.

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The Douglas DC-3

Douglas DC-3


In 1935, the first Douglas DC-3 took to the skies that began an incredible advancement in transportation in that started the world on its way to fast, reliable and safe way to travel. The DC-3 had a lasting effect on the airline industry and made it one of the most significant transport every made.

The Dc-3 was an all metal monoplane that was designed to be an all sleeper version of the DC-2. It was fast, reliable could operate off short runways. Plus it had a good range (for the time), easy to maintain and provide passengers with great comfort.

In the 1930s, the DC-3 pioneered many new routes across the country, making it possible to fly transcontinental in a matter of a few hours. It was the first airliner to make money by carrying passengers alone.

The Civil DC-3 ended production in 1942, but the military venison, the C-47 (also known as the Dakota in England) continued on in production until 1950. There were 607 Civil DC-3s and over 16,000 of the military venison of all types built between 1936 and 1950.

After World War II, as aviation technology advanced, big four-engine aircraft like the Lockheed Constellation and the DC-4 replaced the smaller DC-3. However, the DC-3 continued to service many communities through the years.

There were estimated over 2,000 DC-3s still flying as of 2013 throughout the world. Most of these aircraft were used as a “niche “role, quite a testament to the design of this popular and sturdy aircraft.

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