A Falcon for an Envoy

There was a lot of shuttling up and down the United Kingdom in the Summer of 2022 as the country adjusted to the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III. As TV images showed the Royal Family and sundry officials at various airfields, I noticed a strange anonymous-looking white corporate jet just out of shot most of the time. I confess, I’m not much good in spotting small corporate jets so I had no idea what it was. However it seemed to be something official, and the plain white wrapper, lack of national insignia and what was probably a UK civil aviation registration made me wonder.

Fast forward to today (please excuse the long absence from blogging, I’m temporarily teaching a lot more than usual – it’ll all be over by Christmas 2022) and my non-specific wonder achieved a focus.

Looking a lot more colorful than the plain white British examples, here is HB-JTA, a Dassault Falcon 900LX of Air Sarina AG – Photo by flybyeigenheer, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a Dassault Falcon 900 LX, the RAF has bought two of them and they’re going to be called the Envoy IV (or even Envoy IV CC.Mk.1) in British military circles. Their role is described as Command Support Air Transport (CSAT) – or basically flying the Royal Family, and the upper echelons of the UK government and military around the world as needed. The Envoy IV aircraft will replace (or have replaced) two Bae 146 which were taken out of service in March 2022.

The new aircraft will be based at RAF Northolt and operated by 32 (The Royal) Squadron RAF. In keeping with the times, there is some kind of public / private partnership going on under which the aircraft are jointly operated with a civilian contractor Centreline AV Ltd. who are based in Bristol (I love the term “mixed crew” for all the wrong reasons) although the RAF will assume full operational control in 2024.

Why Envoy IV? The powers that be are apparently paying homage to the Airspeed AS.6 Envoy (which morphed into the AS.10 Oxford) Marks I-III of beloved memory. The Airspeed products served the RAF faithfully for many years and Envoy III G-AEXX was used by the King’s Flight. The King’s Flight Envoy replaced a de Havilland Dragon Rapide, and was itself replaced by a Lockheed Hudson when an armed aircraft became more desirable at the start of the Second World War.

The Airspeed ‘ Envoy’ of the King’s Flight. Having totally failed to find a photographic image of the aircraft itself I settled for a contemporary cigarette card. George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. “The Airspeed ‘ Envoy’ of the King’s Flight.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed November 11, 2022. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-941d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

50 Shades of Standard

It’s been a while, dear reader, so let me apologize. Not only have I been getting ready for the new college semester, but I’ve also been having a lot of fun building tiny models of Panavia / BAe Systems Tornadoes in 1:144 scale (more of that anon, maybe) and very soon I’m going to build a couple of examples of the Eurofighter EF-2000 (Typhoon in RAF naming).

In this endeavour, one question has frequently arisen in my mind. It appears there is no completely satisfactory answer, depending on your degree of geekiness or need to adhere to exact specification. The question is this: Just how many pots of grey paint does one person need?

(Above) They tell me that’s BS381c/626 Barley/Camouflage Grey. 11 Squadron RAF Typhoon takes off during Green Flag 08-07 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, USA June 2008.
Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery, USAF (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

I started off with my fairly big F/A-18 and so had a good stock of American Federal Standard grays available. Tonight I was reading up on the colours necessary for my RAF Typhoons (which is apparently BS381c/626 Barley or Camouflage Grey – not that Barley is grey, the colour was apparently invented by Mr. Barley.) The questions came to me again. Have I got the right paint? How many pots of grey paint do I need? A more dangerous question flitted across my mind. Does Barley Gray or Camouflage Grey really look like FS36314? How about Light Aircraft Grey or Medium Sea Grey? (Hint: there are usually two answers to all of these questions which are diametrically opposed.)

I have already dipped my toes into the murky waters of equivalency when painting a couple of the Tornadoes. The Tornado F3 started its RAF life in two shades of grey, and then changed to a different shade of grey. The Tornado Special Interest Group of the International Plastic Modellers’ Society says:

Upper surface: Barley Grey (BS4800.18B.21) now known as Camouflage Grey (BSC381C:626)  (satin) Undersides: Light Grey (BSC381C:627) (satin) Radome: Medium Grey (matt) In the mid 2000’s F.3‚Äôs were repainted in overall Medium Sea Grey with a slight variation in the radome colour.


So that’s easy enough then, right?

(Above) Was this picture taken after it had been repainted in BS 381C Medium Sea Grey (637) overall. Or is that Barley Grey deceiving us again? RAF Tornado F3 ZE342 taxiing for take off at the Royal International Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, England. Photographed by Adrian Pingstone on July 17th 2006 and released to the public domain.

There are two broad schools of thought on the topic of equivalency. One school will not compromise and insists on the exact standard colour for the subject. The other school looks to see if certain American colors match certain British colours (see what I did there?) in the sure and certain hope that you can get something that looks about right, without having to own more than the legendary 50 shades of grey. Some of the modelling purists appear to despise the compromisers to the extent that I have seen the acronym TLAR (That Looks About Right) used in somewhat disparaging terms in Internet discussions. “There is no way a British manufacturer would use or specify a Federal Standard colour for their products!”

(Above) Wearing the “new” Tornado GR scheme of BS381c/626 Barley/Camouflage Grey. Does it look the same colour as the Typhoon in the top picture? I know the Typhoon was in Nevada and this is in England so the light’s different. RAF Tornado GR.4 of IX(B) Squadron training somewhere in NW England prior to deployment to Afghanistan, 12 October 2012. Photo: Corporal Mike Jones/MOD OGL Via Wikimedia Commons.

Maybe not, but how close is it? Coming from the world of Hex colours on the Interwebs I suppose that it might be the way of establishing whether or not there is commonality.

Ugh. So I’m no closer tonight although I have a few more ideas. I still have two Tornado GR.4 models (which are probably BS381c/629 Dark Camouflage Grey but see above) and then onto the Typhoons. Or the other way round.

Heaven help me when I get to the Dassault Rafales. ūüôā

As a footnote. I was cruising around the Web, and came across an explanation of how FS 595 numbers actually work. I had no idea there was such an explanation, and I’m happy to present it here just in case anyone else wonders.

The colors in the Federal Standard set have no official names, just five-digit numbers.

The first digit indicates the level of sheen:
1 = gloss
2 = semi gloss
3 = matt

The second digit indicates a general color classification group:
0 = Brown
1 = Red
2 = Orange
3 = Yellow
4 = Green
5 = Blue
6 = Grey
7 = Other (white, black, violet, metallic)
8 = Fluorescent

The remaining digits indicate the intensity. Lower values indicate a darker color and vice versa.

Fun Times Ahead

With the start of the new Academic Year I’ve been a little remiss in posting.¬† Part of my distraction has been because I’ve been researching the story of Lt. Col. Montagu Reaney Chidson, the pilot of the Vickers FB.5 involved in the very first air combat over the United Kingdom in December 1914.¬† It’s quite a story, and getting it into any kind of order may take a while.

In the meantime one of my colleagues at Pittsburg State University, Dr. John Daley, is teaching a course on the History of Military Aviation,¬† which I just had to join, so I’m in there auditing it.¬†¬† The textbook we’re using is¬†James L. Stokesbury’s¬† A Short History of Air Power. (London: Hale, 1986).¬†¬† It’s an entertaining book, and contains a few things with which I have had the luxury of disagreeing.¬† John Daley calls these texts a “beer and popcorn” read.¬† So I wanted to show I was ready.¬†¬†¬† I don’t like popcorn too much but this seems to be less of a problem.

Here we go then.


Accompanied by a few cans of the Tallgrass Brewery’s product, (I hope they can re-commence operations soon), is my copy of Stokesbury, James L. A Short History of Air Power. London: Hale, 1986.

Joyce Green – A Passing Shadow

“To use this waterlogged field for testing every now and then was reasonable and to take advantage of it as an emergency landing ground for Home Defence forces was credible, but to employ it as a flying training station was folly and as a Camel training station was lunacy.”
(Arthur S. Gould Lee,  Open Cockpit: A Pilot of the Royal Flying Corps. London: Jerrolds, 1969).

RAF Joyce Green Aerodrome 1917

Aerial view of RAF Joyce Green Aerodrome (6th Wing) taken on 31 Aug 1917. IWM Catalogue number Q 111411 By NASH A T (FLYING OFFICER) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m always known as a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles, and especially when researching the snippets that make up this blog.¬† While researching another forthcoming article I saw a reference to RFC Joyce Green, near Dartford, Kent

When I was writing the piece about the Barnwell brothers (https://airbornerambler.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/connections/)¬† I noted that that Harold Barnwell was killed at Joyce Green flying the prototype Vickers Vampire night fighter in August 1917.¬†¬† Vickers’ association with Joyce Green goes back to 1910 when they unsuccessfully attempted a test flight of a machine built in Crayford in association with Hiram Maxim. ¬†¬† Maxim left¬† the enterprise, but Vickers established an Aviation Department at Joyce Green in 1911, testing aircraft built in their Bexleyheath, Crayford, Erith, and Dartford factories.

Vickers FB.5 Gunbus flying replica

Vickers FB.5 Gunbus flying replica G-ATVP, painted as 2345 of the Royal Flying Corps, at Yeovilton in 1966 RuthAS (Own work) CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

After the outbreak of war in 1914, Joyce Green assumed a role in the air defense of London from bombing raids by Zeppelins. The airfield’s first occupants under No. 6 Wing were No. 10 (Reserve) Squadron, using a mixed bag of aircraft including Farmans, Vickers FB5s and FB9s, DH2s and FE8s. The role of this unit was to receive pupils from preliminary training schools for final training for their wings. Each course consisted of about 20 pupils and lasted two or three weeks. This included time spent at Lydd where aerial gunnery was practiced at the Hythe range. On gaining their wings the young pilots would get a 48-hour pass before being posted to the Front.

On Christmas Day 1914, 2nd Lt M. R. Chidson, Royal Garrison Artillery, (Pilot) and Corporal Martin (Gunner) in an FB.5 flying from Joyce Green pursued a German Friedrichshafen FF.29 seaplane of the Imperial German Navy based at Zeebrugge in Belgium. Unfortunately the FB.5s gun jammed over Purfleet, leaving the German free to drop two bombs on Cliffe railway station in Kent. Other ‘Gunbus’ sorties were mounted from Joyce Green following the Zeppelin roads of January 1915.

In October 1915  the station put up five aircraft against Zeppelins L13, L14, L15, and L16; two would land safely after the action.  2nd Lt Claude Ridley took off from Joyce Green in a BE2c and spotted the airship for a brief moment in searchlights. He fired off 20 rounds at extreme range but then lost sight of the airship.

One noteworthy arrival at Joyce Green was James Thomas Byford McCudden VC DSO (and Bar), MC (and Bar), Croix de Guerre, who came in March 1917 to take up the appointment of Wing Fighting Instructor, to instruct advanced students (including a certain M. Mannock) on combat techniques.¬† McCudden’s view of Joyce Green was that it was:

“a quiet spot near Dartford, and the aerodrome is considered a good one, although it is below the level of the Thames which flows past the aerodrome, and the ground is a little spongy”
(Flying Fury, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps, 1930)

Although the field was used operationally, it had many factors weighing against it. Arthur S Gould Lee went on to say:

“A pupil taking off with a choked or failing engine had to choose, according to wind direction, between drowning in the Thames (half a mile wide at this point), or crashing into the Vickers TNT works, or hitting one of their several high chimney stacks, or sinking into a vast sewage farm, or killing himself and numerous patients in a large isolation hospital, or being electrocuted in an electrical substation with acres of pylons and cables; or trying to turn and get back to the aerodrome. Unfortunately, many pupils confronted with disaster tried the last course and span to their deaths”
(Open Cockpit: A Pilot of the Royal Flying Corps)

McCudden’s mild opinion notwithstanding, the reputation of the field as a dangerous place for flying caused the RFC to search for other airfields south of London. Their search led them to a farmer’s field close to the village of Biggin Hill, and all flying was moved to the new Biggin Hill station by 1917.

RFC wireless testing was carried out at Joyce Green from 1915, following a lingering demarcation dispute between the Royal Engineers and the RFC¬† caused by the latter’s takeover of the Marconi facilities at Brooklands (Surrey) in 1914.¬† Wireless testing for the RFC had previously been under the authority of the Royal Engineers. It was deemed necessary to separate the staff of the two organizations, the Engineers being sent to Woolwich while the RFC relocated to Joyce Green.

Interestingly the airfield hosted some of the earliest elements of the US Army Air Service to arrive in Europe. Three flights of the 8th Aero Squadron arrived at the end of 1917 and were dispersed. It seems that pilots were attached to British units for further training.  Ground crews were attached to British training units to learn maintenance procedures. Ground crews from the 149th Aero Squadron were apparently at Joyce Green in May 1918.

Vickers continued test flying from Joyce Green. The prototype FB.27 “Vimy” was built at Crayford , taken by road and re-assembled at Joyce Green for test flying.

A dismantled Vickers Vimy on its way to Joyce Green

A dismantled Vickers FB.27 “Vimy” on its way to Joyce Green for reassembly and test flying, photographed outside “The Bear and Ragged Staff” Public House, London Road, Crayford.¬† Date unknown, circa 1917.¬† Readers may be interested to know that the pub still exists as of July 2018.¬† (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The map below gives some idea of the general topography and salient features of the area around Joyce Green. The location of the airfield is (I assume) at the top of the dark green stripe in this Google image.  the former Joyce Green Hospital (demolished in 2000) is at the right-hand edge of the dark green strip on the banks of the Thames, (sadly) close to the sewage treatment works mentioned by Arthur Gould Lee.

Area Surrounding RFC Joyce Green

Area Surrounding Site of RFC Joyce Green, screen grab from Google Map

I never was much of a local historian until now, and since I’m 4500 miles away there’s only so much I can do, but the locality is full of history and the story of the airfield is given in a little more detail at its Wikipedia page.¬† As with most little things which piques my interest there is a lot more to the story once you start digging.¬† At this point it seems the sensible thing to do is to show my enthusiasm and let yours (my handful of readers) take it from there. ¬† It is interesting to think that without Joyce Green, there may have been no Biggin Hill, which may have caused a small change in British military aviation history as we know it.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming


Mick Quaal’s Beechcraft Twin Bonanza up a big pole by the side of I-90 in Wyoming.¬† – August 2017
(Picture by Glenda Kiger, used with permission)

Today my friend Glenda Kiger posted picture on Facebook (that’s it up above)¬† that caught my eye.¬† A yellow twin-engined aircraft up a very long pole apparently somewhere in Wyoming.

A quick Google search confirmed my first thought that it’s a Beechcraft Twin Bonanza. It may be a D50E model but the differences between the models are fairly small. I’m happy to accept it’s a D50E and move on.¬† The Twin Bonanza was first flown in 1949 and production began in 1951. The United States Army adopted the Twin Bonanza as the L-23 “Seminole” utility transport, purchasing 216 of the 994 that were built. (Wikipedia)

That pole, though, is obviously pretty big. The wingspan of a Twin Bonanza is 45 feet, fuselage length about 31 feet. Google and YouTube (and my Mark 1 eyeballs)  suggest the pole is 70 feet tall.  I was also interested in what appears to be some kind of device under the aircraft that might be a pivot, which would allow the aircraft to rotate with the wind, making it one heck of a weather vane.   Other posts on the web suggest that the propellers rotate freely in the wind.

The aircraft is apparently owned by Mick Quaal (hence the big “Q” on the side – you can see the rest of the name when you enlarge the picture) and is located to the east of Sundance, Wyoming, just off I-90. I had a trundle round in Google Earth to see if I could see it, but a 45-foot yellow dot in the vast Wyoming countryside didn’t stand out, sadly. Never mind, I shall try again another time.

There is also a rather nice YouTube video of the aircraft being hoisted into its current resting place.  An article in the Sundance Times (Wyoming) suggests the aircraft was put there in the summer of 2014.

Anyway, it’s something something nicely quirky for National Aviation Day here in the United States. Thanks Glenda!

Hazardous Drones

Reading the BBC news as I do for news of the Old Country I happened to see this article http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39747042 “Plane in UK’s first double-drone near-miss case” In which an A320 approaching London Heathrow last November reported having been in close proximity with not one but two drones. This is the first reported occasion that two drones have compromised the safety of an aircraft in UK airspace. The fact that the Airbus was at approximately 5,000 (five thousand) feet on its approach makes the actions of the drone operators even less explicable, since under UK law done operators are expected to restrict their flights to an altitude of 400 feet.


Generic drone picture. We don’t know exactly what types of drones are being flown into the paths of aircraft, deliberately or accidentally, but the fact that an increasing number of airprox reports are being filed indicates the problem is increasing.
(Public Domain image via Pixabay)

The article mentions the UK Airprox Board¬† so I thought I would have a look at their website.¬† https://www.airproxboard.org.uk/home/¬† As the website says” “Airprox occurrences are near accidents, and the mission of the UKAB is: “To enhance Air Safety through prevention of airborne conflict and mid-air collision”.¬† As part of this mission, a key role is to champion, contribute and communicate an understanding of Airprox causes and mid-air collision risks amongst the wider aviation community.”

Reading the report summaries for March 2017¬†https://www.airproxboard.org.uk/Reports-and-analysis/Monthly-summaries/2017/Monthly-Meeting-March-2017/ I am amazed at the number of reported incidents overall, and I am very concerned that the last five or so incidents involve both commercial and military aircraft coming into conflict with drones or models.¬†¬† Some of the other reports are disturbingly interesting, such as the unidentified model aircraft that narrowly missed an RAF Chinook when it flew above¬† the low-flying helicopter (both pilots missed it, only a crewman observed the 1-meter white model passing above them). Also noteworthy is the interaction between an RAF Hawk and two “Foreign Military” (less than three guesses required)¬† F-15s over the Vale of York in November 2016.

When I feel inclined, I may look to see what similar mechanism exists in the USA.


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.

Support Your Local Fly-In

Today (November 5th) at the Atkinson Municipal Airport in Pittsburg, I attended a Veterans’ Appreciation Warbird Fly-in. It was nice for several reasons. I didn’t have far to go – the airport is abut two miles from where I live. I’ve never seen so many people at the airport and never seen such an interesting gathering of types. It was a very pleasant morning and my thanks to all the folks who made such an effort to put it all together. It would also be appropriate to remember all the veterans who were there, and those who weren’t.

All the photographs in this blog entry are my own work and  licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Nanchang CJ-6

A couple of Nanchang CJ-6 having fun during the morning. (Own photo)


T6 Arrival

One of the three T-6s in attendance. This one is interesting having “modern” RAF roundels and the crest of No 1 FTS (the oldest military pilot training school in the world – celebrated its centenary in 2009) on its rudder. It wears an all black scheme reminiscent of the Tucanos currently flown by 1FTS at RAF Linton-On-Ouse, Yorkshire.


Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and Cessna 0-1 "Bird Dog"

Grumman FM-2 Wildcat N551TC and Cessna 0-1/L-19A ‘Bird Dog’ 51-12167 N5242G – Veterans of different wars, together at the Atkinson Municipal Airport, Pittsburg, KS.


T-33 arrives

If this really is Lockheed T-33A-5-LO 56-3689 then it has a fairly interesting story. ¬† Joe Baugher says: “3689 assigned to NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), Ellington Field, TX. Registered as NASA 939. Assigned to NASA Langley Research Center, Langley Field, VA Sep 28, 1970 to Mar 30, 1971. Registered as NASA 513. Assigned to 155th TRG, Nebraska ANG, Lincoln, NE. Registered to Heritage Air LLC and flying again, using the old NASA registration number of N939NA.”


FM-2 Wildcat N551TC

FM-2 Wildcat Bu.47160 N551TC. This example has had quite a life postwar. According to the Warbird Registry it was used as an instructional airframe by a trade school in Montana between 1950 and 1956, at which time it was sold and converted to be a crop sprayer. It seems to have been rescued and restored again in the early 1970s.


Slepcev Storch

Slepcev Storch N78018 “The Slepcev Storch (English: Stork) is a Serbian type-certified, kit and ultralight STOL aircraft, designed by Yugoslavian-Australian Nestor Slepcev and currently produced by Storch Aircraft Serbia in several different versions. The ultralight version is a 3/4 scale replica of the Second World War Fieseler Fi 156 and is supplied as a kit for amateur construction or as a complete ready-to-fly-aircraft. The aircraft was first flown in 1994. It was originally manufactured by Slepcev’s company, Slepcev Aircraft Industry of Beechwood, New South Wales, Australia. The company was later renamed Storch Aviation Australia. The aircraft was type-certified in 1999 to the Joint Airworthiness Requirements – Very Light Aircraft (JAR-VLA) standard. Production then moved to Serbia where a F√©d√©ration A√©ronautique Internationale microlight category model was developed.” (Wikipedia)

Joplin’s Bomber

B-24 Joplin Jalopy

B24J-1-FO Liberator 42-50535 “Joplin Jalopy.” 506BS 44BG. ¬† July 1944 – April 1945

This January marks the 10th anniversary of my first serious foray into the blogosphere¬† when I launched the blog “Joplin’s Bomber”¬† on the Google Blogger/Blogspot platform.¬†¬†¬† I’d discovered that the town of¬† Joplin, Missouri,¬† 30-odd miles from here, had exhibited a combat veteran B-24 as a war memorial in the immediate post war era.¬† Not only that, but this specific B-24 was named by the city, and was one of a number of items of equipment which had been purchased from War Bond drives.

B-24J-1-FO 42-50535¬† was built on either May 5th or 6th 1944 at the massive Ford plant at Willow Run, Michigan. It arrived at Shipdham,¬† Norfolk with the 506th Bomb Squardon, 44th Bomb Group in July 1944. The aircraft carried the Codes GJ-Bar C¬† –¬† (later GJ-Bar O)¬† and was named¬† “Joplin Jalopy.”¬† She flew 66 (not the 63 often quoted) combat missions with 29 different crews up to the end of April 1945.¬†¬† She was flown home on May 31/June 1 1945. Her next public appearance was in August 1946, when a crew from the Joplin Civil Air Patrol flew the aircraft back to Joplin from Altus, OK where it was scheduled (like the B-17F Memphis Belle, another Altus resident) to be smelted.

Joplin Jalopy in Joplin

“Joplin Jalopy” Arrives in Joplin. 11 August 1946. Photograph by Mary Day, passed to me in 2006.
Note the feathered propellers, the lack of armament, and the small boys already clambering on top of the cockpit and top turret.

Joplin Jalopy and Memphis Belle shared a similar story for a few years. Both suffered the attention of vandals and souvenir hunters.  There was no money to build a covered memorial in Joplin. Memphis Belle stood on a plinth at the National Guard Armory in Memphis. The Jalopy sat forlorn on the east side the airport, and her condition deteriorated to the point where she became a dangerous eyesore. She was taken away to be scrapped sometime in the early 1950s.

In 2006 I interviewed some of the surviving crew members by email, and¬† journalist from the Joplin Globe called a couple of them up.¬†¬† With the assistance of the 44th Bomb Group Veteran’s Association, I managed to compile a list of all the missions the Jalopy flew, and with which crews.¬†¬† I think that list is complete.¬†¬† At some time I should resuscitate that blog or put my research findings into a more comprehensive site.¬†¬† I would like to acknowledge publicly the assistance I’ve received¬† over the years from Roger Fenton, one of the historians of the 44th BGVA. Roger is the son of a 44th BG Navigator¬† and his dad coincidentally flew one mission with his crew on board the Jalopy.¬† Thanks Roger.

There is much to wrote and much which I haven’t yet found, but I should record the fact that while the project may be dormant, it isn’t forgotten.

Holding Pattern

Since there may be a readership out there – and hello to both of you – let me apologize quickly for not having written anything substantial or substantive recently. I have an excuse of a kind – it’s called finding a job, and one found me. I’m lecturing part-time in History at Pittsburg State University (Yay Gorillas!) – so my leisure activity has consisted of writing numerous PowerPoint presentations on American History since 1865, the History of Kansas and the West, and trying to sleep.

There has been a lot of wonderful aviation news and several sad items. The restoration flights and auction of the Mark 1 Spitfires in the summer. 3.7 million pounds, wow. The crash of the Hunter T.7 at Shoreham in the UK¬† earlier in the summer was a particularly low point. The location of a piece of MH370 was sad but may give some of the families a little closure, although I’m fascinated to learn now the heck the wreckage drifted so far. Sadly we seem to know now that MH17 was probably downed by a Buk Surface to Air Missile although the Dutch authorities are wisely not saying who fired it.

On a happier note¬† I’m delighted to see in my Facebook feed all the pictures of Research and Development Airframes moving into the new fourth hangar at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.¬†¬† I hope to get back up there again sometime next year, preferably after June 2016 when the fourth hangar opens to the public. In the meantime, a famous aircraft and a famous pilot.

The X-15 in the fourth hangar at the NMUSAF

The X-15 in the fourth hangar at the NMUSAF

Retired NASA astronaut and the only surviving X-15 pilot, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Joe Engle sat in the X-15 cockpit one more time. The X-15 became the first aircraft to be moved into the fourth building on Oct. 2, 2015, where it will be part of the expanded Space Gallery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)