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Aviation History

Aviation History

July 2021

Aviation History Magazine is an authoritative, in-depth history of world aviation from its origins to the Space Age. Aviation History offers air enthusiasts the most detailed coverage of the history of manned flight, with action-packed stories and illustrations that put the reader in the cockpit with pilots and military (army, navy, and marine)aviators to experience aviation’s greatest dramas.

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United States
6 Issues

in this issue

1 min
daughter flies her father’s wwii fighter

Last October the daughter of a former Royal Air Force fighter pilot went up in a two-seat restoration of her father’s Hawker Hurricane. The two-seater is unique among the fewer than 25 Hurricanes now in existence, and its maintenance is partially financed by taking up paying passengers. During World War II, Flight Sgt. John William Brooks of No. 174 Squadron flew the Hurricane Mark Ib, attacking German shipping and coastal installations along the English Channel from March 1942 to April 1943, when the unit was re-equipped with Hawker Typhoon Mark Ibs. During that time Brooks earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Flying Medal. Brooks died in 1993, but in September 2019 a team from Hawker Restorations spent the next year returning his Hurricane to the air for the 80th…

2 min
dizzying heights

The new science of aerology took off in the 1890s, as scientists from several European countries conducted high-altitude balloon experiments to decode the mysteries of the upper atmosphere and its effects on the weather. Efforts led by German physician and meteorologist Dr. Richard Assmann in Berlin led to a series of 65 flights, both manned and unmanned, from 1893 to 1899 to measure climatic data high above the Earth. On July 31, 1901, 120 years ago, German meteorologists Arthur Berson and Reinhard Süring, both colleagues of Assmann’s and seasoned veterans of the previous decade’s experiments, entered the open gondola of the balloon Preussen for the most ambitious high-altitude flight to date. Loaded with scientific instruments to measure air temperature, moisture, air pressure and radiation levels and with its 300,000-squarefoot envelope filled…

1 min
high roller

The story of Convair’s B-36 (see P. 26), produced from 1946 to 1954, is one of size and superlatives. With a length of 162 feet, a wingspan of 230 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of 410,000 pounds, the bomber still holds the record as the world’s largest and heaviest production piston-engine airplane. Superlatives continue with its massive tires—the biggest aircraft tires ever produced—that served as the prototypes’ main landing gear. Built by Goodyear, they were 110 inches (9 feet 2 inches) in diameter, a yard wide and weighed 1,320 pounds—the equivalent of about 60 car tires. By comparison, the Cessna 172’s 6.00-by-6-inch tire (bottom left, to scale) measures about 17 inches across. In the inset photo below, diminutive Convair employee Grace Purcelly tightens a completed B-36 prototype wheel’s axle…

15 min
caution to the wind

CROSSING THE ATLANTIC OCEAN HAS PROVEN AN IRRESISTIBLE CHALLENGE TO BALLOONISTS FOR MORE THAN 150 YEARS. In the summer of 1970 Rodney Anderson, his wife Pamela Brown and British balloonist Malcolm Brighton were convinced they had the skills and the balloon necessary to become the first to complete the epic journey. But their efforts came up short when the likable trio underestimated or disregarded the risks involved. The three adventurers launched their balloon, The Free Life, from Long Island on a beautiful September day, sipping champagne to the cheers of friends and family, hoping to reach Europe in five days. They were never seen again. The transatlantic crossing idea came to 32 year old Rod Anderson in the mid-1960s. The New York commodities broker became intrigued by the notion that no…

16 min
the peacemaker

THE SOVIETS HAVE TRADITIONALLY HELD PRIMACY AS AVIATION’S GIGANTISM SPECIALISTS. Igor Sikorsky’s Ilya Muromets, a vast stork of an airplane famously photographed with two crewmen strolling atop its fuselage, first flew in 1913. It was followed by a succession of Russian giants, including the Tupolev ANT-20 Maxim Gorky, TB-3 bomber and Kalinin K-7. Even today, the world’s heaviest airplane is the Antonov An-225 Mriya, with a maximum takeoff weight of 705 tons. But there was one interruption amid the steady stream of Soviet behemoths and it flew at a time when the United States’ archest enemy was that evil empire. When America needed a club with which to threaten the Russians, Convair produced the six-engine—eventually 10—B-36 longrange heavy bomber. It was the largest and heaviest piston-engine airplane ever to go into production. The…

2 min
farewell to the dc-7

The world’s last flying Douglas DC-7 was parked, probably forever, on October 14, 2020. Owned by Erickson Aero Tanker of Hillsboro, Ore., and outfitted as a 3,000-gallon firefighting-retardant bomber, the 1956 DC-7B Tanker 60 was flown from Medford to nearby Madras and made one final local flight, putting paid to a long career that began with Eastern Airlines. Erickson owns three DC-7 tankers, all of them now out of business: The U.S. Forest Service won’t issue contracts to operate large, elderly piston-engine aircraft, and Erickson’s final state contract, with Oregon, ended last September, when Tanker 60 helped to kill the Ritter Fire, a small lightning-strike burn that was spotted early and quickly shut down. It was the end of the 2020 fire season for Tanker 60, which had dropped more than…