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Aviation History March 2020

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.

United States
6 Issues

in this issue

1 min
aviation history online

GOLDILOCKS FIGHTER Designed by Grumman to be flown by “200-hour farmboys,” the workmanlike F6F Hellcat carrier fighter was “just right” for the U.S. Navy. It arrived in the Pacific theater in 1943 and went into combat straight out of the box, racking up the highest kill-versus-loss ratio of any airplane in U.S. service during World War II. BAT OUT OF HELL Germany’s Me-163A Komet—part rocket, part glider—blasted onto the scene in 1944 with an unmatched maximum speed of 550 mph. But the Messerschmitt interceptor’s highly combustible fuel, dangerous climb rate and risky unpowered skid landings made it more of a threat to its pilots than to its opponents. THE FLYING FLEA Early French airplane designer Henri Mignet found controlling an airplane with a rudder, elevator and ailerons too complicated, so he built the Pou de…

3 min

THUD FANS In the article “Thud” [January] about the Republic F-105, Stephan Wilkinson wrote, “Nobody knows for sure where the nickname comes from.” It was my understanding and personal experience that it came from the sound of the large single-stage afterburner igniting on takeoff, producing a huge “thud!” I had the pleasure to be a Cessna A-37 forward air controller during the last F-105 exercise from Hill AFB before they were retired. Sitting in the cockpit of my diminutive A-37, a mere airplane length away from a Thud taking off, I experienced the ka-BOOM as the afterburner lit off a few feet away from me. I’m not sure if it’s the main reason for the moniker, but I was impressed, to say the least. Steve Cawthon Las Vegas, Nev. Having read the great “Thud”…

2 min
new home for saigon lady

As his country collapsed in August 1975, South Vietnamese air force pilot Pham Quang Khiem spirited his entire family and closest friends—more than 50 people—to safety in Singapore aboard a Lockheed C-130A Hercules. It was one of the last aircraft to leave Saigon before it fell. That very airplane today sits in Geneseo, N.Y., at the National Warplane Mu-seum. It is being cleaned up, repaired and repainted in preparation for its role as the centerpiece of the mu-seum’s new Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, scheduled to open this spring. The ancient Herk, dubbed Saigon Lady by the museum, was delivered to the U.S. Air Force in 1958 and later transferred to the South Vietnamese. After Khiem’s freedom flight, it returned to the USAF and in 1989 ended up parked at Dulles International Airport…

1 min
gene bullard statue unveiled

Following the U.S. Air Force announcement that it was naming its newest jet trainer in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen (see P. 8), on October 9 a statue was unveiled at Warner Robins, Ga., of a half-black, half-Cherokee pilot from nearby Columbus who flew in combat a quarter-century before those celebrated African-Americans. Eugene Jacques Bullard’s remarkable, peripatetic life from 1895 to 1961 encompassed such varied vocations as prize fighter, infantryman in the French Foreign Legion, jazz drummer, Paris nightclub owner and spy. But to aviation historians he is best known for entering the French air service through the Lafayette Flying Corps, qualifying as a flier on May 5, 1917, and serving in Escadrilles N.93 and Spa.85. Between August 27 and November 11 of that year, he claimed two unconfirmed aerial victories.…

1 min
tuskegee-inspired trainer

As the U.S. Air Force prepares to receive its first new jet trainer in 57 years, the new airplane’s name was announced at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., on September 16. The Boeing T-7A Red Hawk honors the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black combat pilots in American service, with a nod to the red tail that identified the 332nd Fighter Group during World War II and the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, in which the first black American unit, the 99th Fighter Squadron, made its combat debut in North Africa in 1943. Among the attendees at the presentation was Colonel Charles McGee, a Tuskegee Airman who flew combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The first batch of 351 T-7As, contracted at $9.2…

1 min
smooth sailing

On March 22, 1910—110 years ago—history’s first powered seaplane took to the air from Étang de Berre, a lagoon west of Marseille, France. Designer and engineer Henri Fabre’s half-ton Hydravion (right) flew several short hops, totaling about 1,600 feet at approximately 50 mph, never rising more than 10 feet above the water. Describing his initial flight, Fabre wrote, “I am in the air, perfectly stable…. My machine does not cause me the least apprehension.” The next day Fabre flew almost four miles across the southern end of the lagoon. Fabre’s Hydravion, called Le Canard (duck), was a unique contraption nearly 28 feet in length, with a 46-foot wingspan and a horizontal stabilizer in front. Powered by a 50-hp Gnôme Omega rotary engine, the floatplane’s twobladed wooden propeller was positioned in pusher…