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Living Aviation History Day Features History of Racing Planes

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Reno 2015, the Unlimited Gold line up. ( Photo by D. Ramey Logan)

Noted aviation racer Thom Richard will relate his experiences and discuss the history of air racing in the final Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing Living Aviation History Day program for 2017. The presentation will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Museum hangar, 1200 Echo Ct., Peachtree City, Ga., adjacent to Atlanta Regional Airport – Falcon Field. Admission is $10, with veterans and active military members admitted free. Click HERE for details.

Air racing has been an exciting spectacle since the early 1900s. Early challenges like the Schneider prize for seaplanes, launched in 1911, were meant to encourage progress in civil aviation but became contests primarily about speed. The Schneider trophy was a primary influence in increasing aircraft speeds from 150 mph at the end of the First World War to more than 400 mph in 1931. In the 1920s, air racing spurred aircraft development with major events such as the Cleveland Air Races, and proved to be a test of the nation’s strengths in aviation technology.

Richard, a citizen of the United States and Sweden, has flown several aircraft types in air races around the United States, including the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev. Richard will share his experiences in modifying, maintaining and flying various warbirds in the demanding air race circuit. He started Warbird Adventures, Inc. with a business partner in 1998, and the business grew to three T-6s and a small air museum (Kissimmee Air Museum) at the Kissimmee Gateway Airport in Florida. Richard now owns the operation and has about 15 airplanes, most airworthy, on display. Various other collections are available to the public, including some of his Air Racers.

‘I set my sights on Unlimited Air Racing when I was seven years old after reading a magazine article about the 1979 Reno Air Races,” Richard said. “I did not have the means or time to start racing until 2008. I managed to fly two Formula 1 racers in 2009 and won both the Gold and Silver that year, which apparently had never been done before in the National Championships.”

Richard moved to racing jets in 2010 until he had the opportunity to climb into an Unlimited racer, P-51 Precious Metal, In 2011. He teaches warbird and helicopter flying throughout the United States and England, and flies at numerous aerobatic shows in the P-40 Warhawk, P-51 Mustang and F-4U Corsair. He won the 2015 World Cup (U.S., Africa and Europe) in air racing with Hot Stuff, the world’s only 3M1C1R. He has more than 11,500 flight hours in general aviation flying, of which nearly half is in warbirds.

For more information about Living Aviation History Days or the CAF Dixie Wing Warbird Museum, please go to www.dixiewing.org.

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A VETERAN’S STORY: Targeting the Big Apple

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Me 264 V1 Fernbomber, Aufklärer 1942. Werkfoto Messerschmitt (MBB)
2/264

According to legend, in the year 1307 the bailiff/agent of the Hapsburg Duke of Austria placed a Hapsburg hat on a pole in the town square of the small village of Altdorf, Switzerland. Once the hat was in position, he demanded anyone walking by to uncover their hats before it. As a local hunter/farmer and his son passed by, the older man refused to obey the decree.

Infuriated, the Hapsburg representative ordered the hunter, William Tell, to place an apple his son’s head, mark off 120 paces, then shoot the arrow off his son’s head. If William failed, he and his progeny would be executed. William marked off 120 paces, loaded and aimed his crossbow, and let loose the arrow. A perfect hit, the apple fell.

“Your life has been spared,” the bailiff stated. “But why did you place a second arrow in your jacket?”

William Tell replied, “If my first arrow had killed my son I would have shot the second at you, and I would not have missed.”

As folklore alleges, the apple was an easy target for William Tell because he never missed. Fortunately, William never targeted the Big Apple: New York City.

In the eyes of friends and foe alike, The Big Apple epitomizes the United States of America, more so than Washington, D.C. The city is a genuine melting pot, a multinational potpourri of race, creed, color, Libertarians and liberals, communists and conservatives. New York City is who and what we are. Thus the target rationale for 9/11. Its significance as a political bull’s eye has never been lost on our enemies.

Adolf Hitler was 8 years old in 1897, the same year the German military first seriously considered the continental United States as a target. Future wars and war planning would heighten that interest. In 1903 German Vice Admiral Wilhelm Bushsel merrily boasted, “A landing on and the occupation of Long Island with a resulting threat to New York from the western end of this island now seems feasible.”

During the late 1890s and early 1910s, the finishing touches on the “surprise attack” on New York called for: “Two sizeable naval units blocking access to the harbor, one at the eastern end of Long Island Sound and the second in New York’s lower bay. A battalion of engineers and several battalions of infantry would land on Long Island, assemble, and attack Manhattan the next day.”

During the Roaring ’20s an aspiring young German naval officer studied these plans for an invasion of New York. The ambitious officer was Karl Donitz, the future commander of Hitler’s U-boat fleet and, after Hitler’s suicide, the last fuhrer of the Third Reich. In 1901, German Kaiser Wilhelm advocated an invasion of Cuba so bases could be established for the future invasion of the United States.

The plans were shelved until World War II. A strike against New York, similar to the American air raid on Tokyo by Jimmy Doolittle, became an obsession with Hitler and the German military hierarchy. Damage was not the actual goal, but like Doolittle’s air raid on Japan, a psychological shot in the arm for the German people while spreading “terror” among the American population. Plus, the notion that such a raid on the United States mainland would force America to spend precious money, time, and resources to upgrade its coastal defenses was not lost on the Nazis.

A long-range attack across the Atlantic Ocean presented large, but not insurmountable, problems. Stratagems hit the drawing boards. Innovative aircraft called the America Bomber were designed and built. The Italians, desiring a piece of the action, jumped into the planning stage for the strike against New York. In truth, the Italians had the most reliable means and combat experience to actually pull off an attack.

First, the Germans. The America Bomber favored by most in the Nazi hierarchy was Willy Messerschmitt’s Me-264. Initially flown on Dec. 23, 1942, the four-engine bomber was approved for the long-range mission after necessary improvements were made on engine upgrades, armaments and midair refueling capability. The wingspan was slightly over 141 feet, about the same as an American B-29, and over 30 feet longer than a B-24. Fortunately for New Yorkers, on June 18, 1944 Allied bombers destroyed the prototype and two other partially completed Me-264s.

Me 264 V 1, Fernbomber, Aufklärer. Werkfoto Messerschmitt (MBB) 6/264

The Junkers Company built an enormous aircraft, the Ju-390. First test flown on Oct. 20, 1943, its wingspan was 40 feet wider than a B-29 and the fuselage 11 feet longer. The Ju-390 was powered by six 1,700 BMW engines and supposedly made a test run to the east coast of the United States. Two were built, both destroyed by Allied bombers or blown up by retreating Germans.

Ernst Heinkel’s company built the He-277. First flown in December of ’43, the company built at least eight He-277 America Bombers before production was halted in favor of fighter protection against Allied bombing. All eight bombers were lost to Allied air raids.

Focke-Wulf’s brainchild was the Ta-400. Focke-Wulf’s fighter aircraft, the Fw-109 and Fw-190, were legendary. The Ta-400 never flew, but had Germany spent the time and resources to take the Focke-Wulf design beyond the wind tunnel model, the American east coast would have fallen victim to its tremendous 22,000 pound payload. Powered by six big BMW radial engines, later altered with two Jumo 004 jet engines, this beautifully designed plane would have wreaked havoc on American cities.

Had the war continued, no doubt Wernher von Braun and his scientists could have easily targeted New York with their highly successful rocket program. The slow V-1s and supersonic V-2s had rained destruction on London and other European cities near the end of WWII. Plans were in the works for the A-9 and A-10, rockets with extended range including two or three stage capabilities. After the war, von Braun admitted to American interrogators that studies had been conducted for construction of the A-11, basically a booster rocket attached to an A-9/A-10 combination that due to its orbital capabilities could hit any target on earth.

V-2 rocket on Meillerwagen at Operation Backfire near Cuxhaven in 1945.

A scheme for German submarines to haul, actually tow, V-2 supersonic missiles enclosed inside a launcher for use against New York City came very close to reality. The predecessor for submarine launched ballistic missiles, one canister as they were called, was completed and two more near completion when the Soviets overran the project complex in Stettin in early 1945. The canisters and everything else at the complex were sent back to the Soviet Union.

German engineering was no doubt advanced enough to hit New York City or other east coast targets in the United States if for no other reason than a morale booster for the German people. Luckily for our East Coast, Hitler’s priorities bounced around like a rubber ball near the end of the war. Perhaps we should also be grateful Hitler was a candidate for a rubber-padded cell as well.

Now, the Italians. My grandparents came over on a boat from Sicily to start their new life as patriotic, hard-working American citizens. Albeit, a few folks of Italian lineage during WWII had plans to ride pigs into the Big Apple.

A “Pig” was a remarkably successful weapon used by the Italian Navy’s assault teams, the most famous being the Tenth Light Flotilla. The men of the Tenth were responsible for sinking or severely damaging 31 ships for an aggregate loss of 265,000 tons. These warriors used speedboats, miniature subs and manned torpedoes.

Manned torpedo, called Maiale ( pig), at the Museo nazionale della scienza e della tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci of Milan.

The Tenth called their manned torpedoes “Pigs.” Twenty two feet long and 21 inches in diameter, two men sat astride the weapon with their feet in stirrups to guide the torpedo to the preselected target, attach a 661-pound explosive device with timer, then hopefully slip away.

On Dec. 18, 1941, the Italian submarine Scire released three “Pigs” near the entrance to Alexandria harbor. Evading at least three British destroyers, the “Pigs” sank two British battleships, a fully loaded tanker, severely damaged a destroyer, and lived to tell the tale as POWs.

Bigger and better plans were drawn up, including an attack in New York Harbor. Carried to outside the harbor by four engine Cant Z.511 float planes, four “Pigs” would be released, the men would pick their targets in New York Harbor, then return to a designated pickup point. The plan did not have enough time to materialize.

However, a strike by Italian miniature subs was given approval. Limited in range, Italian submarine mother ships planned to transport the mini subs to within range of New York Harbor. The mini sub crews spent over a year in training for the New York mission. Once inside the harbor, each sub would release two torpedoes and a wide assortment of limpet mines.

The strike date was set for December of 1943. The attack was canceled in September, three months short of the attack date after the Italians signed an Armistice with Allied forces. The men of the Tenth were heartsick. These men believed in their mission, and most military historians agree the Tenth would most likely have succeeded.

After all the planning and feasibility for success, our enemies never hit the Big Apple. William Tell would have been disappointed.

Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran. For story consideration visit his website at aveteransstory.us and click on “contact us.”

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Tactical fighter, parachute team to perform at air show - Torrington Register Citizen

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Tactical fighter, parachute team to perform at air show
Torrington Register Citizen
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — A tactical fighter and a parachute team will join previously announced attractions at an Ohio air show next year. Dayton Air Show officials say the U.S. Army Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter and the U.S. Army Golden Knights will ...

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Memphis Belle Restoration Report and Exhibit Plans at NMUSAF

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The National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio will be holding a three-day series of events next May to celebrate the unveiling of their Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress 41-24485 known as Memphis Belle. As all of our readers will surely know, Memphis Belle is an iconic aircraft, being the first Army Air Forces heavy bomber to return to the United States following the completion of 25 bombing missions over Axis Europe. While a handful of other bombers and their crews could lay claim to being the first to complete their 25 missions, Memphis Belle and her crew were chosen to celebrate the feat with a War Bonds tour of the USA soon after their final combat mission together.

Memphis Belle War during her War Bond Tour stop at what was then Patterson Field in Dayton, Ohio. The base later merged with nearby Wright Field in 1948 to become what we know today as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is adjacent to this base, with some of its facilities, such as the restoration hangar, actually within its grounds. (photo via NMUSAF)

Museum officials will formally reveal the Memphis Belle in her new exhibit within the WWII Gallery on May 17th, to coincide to the day with the 75th anniversary of her crew completing their 25th mission together. The Memphis Belle flew her final combat mission on May 19th, 1943. According to a recent museum press release, the public ceremony next May will be the opening salvo in a “three day event (May 17-19, 2018) to include a WWII-era aircraft fly-in, WWII reenactors and vehicles, memorabilia and artifact displays, music from the era, related guest speakers for lectures, book signings and films, including both Memphis Belle films in the Air Force Museum Theatre. Activities will be both inside and outside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.”

The preliminary schedule of events is as follows:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

  • B-17F Memphis Belle Exhibit ribbon cutting
  • WWII aircraft on static display on the runway behind the museum
  • WWII reenactors and vehicles
  • Air Force Museum Theatre Living History Event ($)

Friday, May 18, 2018

  • B-17F Memphis Belle Exhibit open
  • WWII aircraft on static display on the runway behind the museum
  • WWII reenactors and vehicles
  • Glenn Miller Concert


Saturday, May 19, 2018

  • B-17F Memphis Belle Exhibit open
  • WWII aircraft flyovers throughout the day
  • WWII reenactors and vehicles
  • Air Force Museum Theatre Living History Event ($)

Details are still being finalized, and the schedule is subject to change, so please do check with the Museum ahead of time before making your own plans.  Outdoor activities are weather dependent.

Restoration Report:

The restoration team at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has spent more than a decade returning the famous aircraft back to pristine condition. She is very close to completion, with a team spending the best part of November applying the paint scheme to the combat veteran bomber. We thought our readers might enjoy seeing some of the highlights of the painting process so far.    

Museum restoration specialist Brian Lindamood, cleans the B-17F Memphis Belle in preparation for painting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Memphis Belle out in the sunshine after her wash. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Museum restoration crews and 88th ABW civil engineers work to install the upper turret of the B-17F Memphis Belle in preparation for the exhibit opening. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force restoration crews continue the painting process on the Boeing B-17F Memphis Belle. At this stage, the undercoat layers are mostly finished. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the topcoat over the silver-doped fabric on Memphis Belle’s control surfaces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the topcoat over the silver-doped fabric on Memphis Belle’s control surfaces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Applying the finishing touches to the olive drab paint on Memphis Belle’s fabric-covered control surfaces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the final coat of grey under the starboard horizontal stabilizer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the undersurface of the starboard horizontal stabilizer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the gray coat on the under side of Memphis Belle’s No.4 engine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
With masking in place on the engine, and exhaust system, among other components, the paint team gets to work on Memphis Belle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Laying down the olive drab topcoat on the Memphis Belle’s vertical stabilizer. Note the fuselage in the background is the museum’s unique Boeing B-17D model of the Flying Fortress, The Swoose, 40-3097. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Another shot showing the restoration team painting the olive drab topcoat on Memphis Belle’s fin. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
A team of painters lay down the olive drab top coat on Memphis Belle’s port wing, while another technician touches up the gray paint on the No.1 engine nacelle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

 

 

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Captain Robert “Hoot” Gibson to speak at Huntland today - Winchester Herald Chronicle

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Winchester Herald Chronicle

Captain Robert “Hoot” Gibson to speak at Huntland today
Winchester Herald Chronicle
Posted on Monday, December 11, 2017 at 8:58 am. Captain Robert “Hoot” Gibson will speak at Huntland School today from 8:30-9:15 (Elementary) and from 9:30-10:15 (Middle and High). Gibson has been described by the Smithsonian's Air & Space Magazine as ...

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Night Fire

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A U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom strafes a practice target (note the ricochets)—U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez
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