A Little Quiet Recently

My fault.   Mostly just getting caught up with the daily life of an adjunct professor and occasionally doing some teaching.   We’re into the 1960s next week, which means about three weeks of the semester remains and then into the long-ish summer break.  I do have a little prep work for the Fall Semester, in which I assume I’m still teaching.

In the meantime.   I want to pause and remember that we have just passed the 20th Anniversary of the crash of ATL-98 Carvair N83FA in Griffin, Georgia on April 4th. On that day I actually did sit back for a moment and took a moment for prayer and reflection.    I never for a moment imagined that a blog article which was born from reading a John Le Carre novel and thinking “huh?” would generate so much interest.  Looking at the WordPress statistics for the blog, it always seems to get a couple of hits most weeks. I was touched and honored to have received comments from Kris Whittington, son of pilot Larry Whittington who was killed in the crash of N83FA, and recently Vanessa Presley, who as a child in Griffin saw and heard the crash and who suffers from the after effects to this day.  My deepest thanks to everyone who contributed to expand a little piece of aviation history here.

HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip board an ANA C-54 (VH-INY) at Western Junction, Tasmania. Feb 20, 1954. This C-54 would seven years later be converted into a Carvair which, with the registration N83FA, would crash on take-off at Griffin, Georgia in April 1997


My research project,  the history of B-24J-1-FO  42-50535  “Joplin Jalopy” got a boost this month.  For some reason an article appeared in the Joplin Globe a couple of weeks ago (which I have managed not to read) but which, I am told, listed the correct number of operations the Jalopy flew.  This would then indicate that someone read some of the research material I forked over to the globe in 2006.     Shortly afterwards I received an email from Ray Foreman from KODE12  TV in Joplin  (Hi Ray!)  who had seen my January 2016 post commemorating the anniversary of the start of the now defunct “Joplin’s Bomber”  blog.   Apart from being a military aviation history enthusiast Ray has some connection with the Joplin Civil Air Patrol so I hope to have a chat with him, and them in the near future.  This has been a timely prod not to let all that information  go to waste.

B-24 Joplin Jalopy

B24J-1-FO 42-50535 “Joplin Jalopy” – 506BS / 44BG

I was relating all of this to one of my colleagues at Pittsburg State who then said “you ought to write this up for a journal article”  (in one of the local academic journals) ,  so given a long enough period of rest  I may actually do that.

In the meantime I will continue to be fascinated by little snippets that float into my field of vision from the world of aviation.


N83FA / VH-INY – A Brush With Fame.

Dedicated readers (of which I’m sure there is one) will have noticed a lot of posts about C-54s and Carvairs. One example in particular caught my attention. It was first known by Douglas as construction number 10365 when it was built in 1944. This aircraft had a variety of military and civilian identities before its demise in a crash in Georgia (USA) 1997.  A good potted history of the aircraft can be found at http://www.aussieairliners.org/dc-4/vh-iny/vhiny.html  A much more detailed history (with the exception of its service in Australia) can be found in William Patrick Dean’s nearly exhaustive book on the Carvair – see the bibliography for more details.

The Aussie Airliners website notes that VH-INY (as 10365 was at that time) was one of two C-54s which Australian National Airways set aside for the Royal Tour of Australia in 1954 (the other being VH-ANB). I wondered if any pictures existed of the Queen with either of the Skymasters and ‘INY in particular.  Standard image searching turned up nothing. After a while I had a look on Trove, the catalogue of the National Library of Australia, and I hit the jackpot.  

HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip board an ANA C-54 (probably VH-INY) at Western Junction, Tasmania. Feb 20, 1954 http://catalogue.statelibrary.tas.gov.au/item/?id=AB713-1-2859

HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
board an ANA C-54 (probably VH-INY) at Western Junction, Tasmania. Feb 20, 1954

Her Majesty visited Tasmania on February 20th, 1954, and a couple of pictures in the State Archives of Tasmania show two Skymasters which flew her and the Royal Household back to Melbourne. One of the photos shows her waving to the crowd from a very highly polished C-54 as she was leaving Western Junction in Tasmania. The aircraft registration letters VH-IN are clearly visible. – so if the other aircraft was ‘ANB then this must be ‘INY.

These are the catalogue records and URLs for the other images I found.

In addition to the royal connection,   It is also possible that when 10365 was serving with Matson Airlines in the late 40s as N58003, she may have been flown by the American author Ernest K. Gann, who was a pilot with Matson at that time.  Patrick Dean makes the point that Gann had an interesting scrape in another of their C-54s and wrote about it his autobiographical work Fate is the Hunter.

So that’s interesting. I don’t suppose that anyone at Aviation Traders or indeed any of its subsequent owners or pilots had much idea that 10365 had carried British Royalty or may have been flown by a famous author. These little details make research just a little bit more personal.