79 Years Going The Wrong Way

douglas_groce_corrigan_28afdotmil29

Douglas Corrigan beside his Curtiss Robin aircraft – (Public Domain)

On July 17th 1938,  Douglas Corrigan took off in an easterly direction from Floyd Bennett field and kept on going.   Just over 28 hours later he landed at Baldonnel field near Dublin,  and until the end of his life he maintained he’d been trying to get back to Long Beach, California.  His aircraft was a nine-year old Curtiss OX-5 Robin,  partially re-engined with the best parts from two J-6-5 Wright Whirlwinds, (making it a J-1 Robin, technically)  and otherwise modified for long-distance flight.

Corrigan was a aircraft mechanic and a devotee of Charles Lindbergh.  Corrigan assisted in the construction of the Spirit of St. Louis and it was Corrigan who pulled the chocks away from the Ryan NYP at the start of Lindbergh’s solo flight in 1927.  It’s a sad irony that Lindbergh never did acknowledge Corrigan’s Atlantic crossing eleven years later. Other notable Americans from Howard Hughes to Henry Ford congratulated him.

Corrigan retired from aviation in 1950, but apparently on the 50th anniversary of his flight in 1988 allowed a group of enthusiasts to retrieve the Robin from its hangar and start it up.  There is humorous comment on the Wikipedia page that Corrigan himself, by then aged 81, may have wanted to take the aircraft up for a spin.

Douglas Corrigan

“As I looked over it at the Dublin airdrome I really marveled that anyone should have been rash enough even to go in the air with it, much less try to fly the Atlantic. He built it, or rebuilt it, practically as a boy would build a scooter out of a soapbox and a pair of old roller skates. It looked it. The nose of the engine hood was a mass of patches soldered by Corrigan himself into a crazy-quilt design.”
Knickerbocker, H.R. (1941) quoted in Wikipedia.
Corrigan and his modified Curtiss Robin “Sunshine”

Rumours persist that,  later in life,  Corrigan dispersed the parts of the Robin to prevent it from being stolen.  I haven’t managed to track down any references to dispersed Robin parts in the Santa Ana area of California although I have no doubt a few such articles exist.

There are a few nice pictures of Corrigan and the Robin at Baldonnel in the collections of the National Library of Ireland, and Bryan Swopes on This Day in Aviation has a picture of Corrigan and the Robin in 1988 at the 50th Anniversary celebrations. The the card model site Fiddlers Green has a different signed photo of Corrigan and the Robin taken at around that time.

If you’d like to see the man himself explain things,  try this public domain clip from YouTube.

I wonder if some parts of the Robin will emerge in 2018 when we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the flight?

The Sign of the Black Horse

The Sign of the Black Horse

Last month Susan and I were getting a few things at the Overland Park, Kansas branch of Whole Foods (a moderately trendy grocery store recently purchased by Amazon.com).    As we piled our stuff in the back of Susan’s car,  I quietly pointed out to her that a white roadster idling to our right in the parking lot was a Ferrari.    This is no surprise in Whole Foods,  and certainly no surprise in Johnson County, Kansas.  Susan paused to take a quick picture with her cellphone, and we pulled away.

Being the aviation geek that I am, I can never resist pointing out to anyone who’s around at the time,  that the prancing horse symbol was presented to Enzo Ferrari by the mother of an Italian flying ace after the First World War.   I first read that in a LION annual sometime in the 1960s, I’m sure.

I could not remember the name of the flyer involved. However, once I looked him up,  I thought a blog post might be in order,  since the story is quite interesting.

Count Francesco Baracca

Count Francesco Baracca, standing by his SPAD XIII fighter marked with the symbol of the the prancing horse. (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The flyer in question was Count Francesco Baracca.   He was born into a wealthy family in 1888 in Lugo di Romagna,  in the province of Ravenna. He entered the military academy of Modena in 1907,  and took up equestrianism as a release from academic study.  He was commissioned into a cavalry regiment, and like several cavalry officers in many armies of the period,  got the aviation bug. He went to Reims (France) to learn to fly in 1912.  With his newly-acquired pilot’s license  he returned to Italy and joined the Battaglione Aviatori.

Baracca converted to Nieuport 10s and was a member of the 8a Squadriglia Nieuport when Italy entered the First World War.  He subsequently  switched to the lighter single-seat Nieuport 11 Bébé  and scored Italy’s first aerial victory,  on April 7, 1916

Baracca also flew the Nieuport 17,  SPAD VII and SPAD XIII in combat. The emblem of the prancing black horse (part of his family’s coat of arms) was first seen on his Nieuport 17 in 1917.  He adopted the Griffin emblem for the 91st Squadriglia,  although several pilots used both emblems in deference to their commander.

In early 1918 Baracca was one of a number of pilots, including two other aces, ordered to carry out trials of  the Ansaldo A.1. The A.1 (later named Balilla after an Italian folk hero)  was Italy’s only contemporary fighter aircraft of domestic design and manufacture.  Baracca found his time away from the front extremely frustrating and  after some lobbying managed to return to combat.

His score had risen to 34 enemy aircraft destroyed when he failed to return from a ground attack sortie on 19th June,  1918.  There are a few conflicting stories, some of which were no doubt written for propaganda purposes on both sides,  but following research in Austro-Hungarian archives it seems likely that he was killed by the rear-gunner of an Austrian two-seater Phönix which he was attacking.

After the war, the Francesco Baracca Museum was opened in his former home.  Among other mementos such as uniforms, medals and aerial trophies (including the rudders and guns taken from shot down aircraft)  was a SPAD VII, once flown by Baracca himself.  The SPAD was removed from the Baracca museum and restored several years ago by members of  the GAVS  (Gruppo Amici Velivoli Storici – the Italian aeronautical preservation society).  The Baracca museum has a fascinating website at  www.museobaracca.it  and the GAVS at http://gavs.it/

GAVS volunteers from Turin dismantle the SPAD VII in the Baracca museum for cleaning and restoration (GAVS)

Baracca’s SPAD VII following restoration by GAVS Turin (GAVS)

A young racing driver named Enzo Ferrari had allegedly (according to a couple of websites) met Baracca during the First World War. He certainly met Count Enrico and  Countess Paolina (Francesco’s parents) in 1923.  Baracca’s mother presented the Cavallino Rampante emblem to Ferrari, telling him it would bring him good luck.   Ferrari added the yellow background of Modena, and thus another legend was born.

Since I am a product of that era I find the early 60s Ferrari 250 series racing cars to be things of great beauty, and thus feel no other excuse is necessary to include a picture or two.

I think I still have my old Corgi die-cast model of the 250LM.

Ferrari 250LM 1964

Ferrari 250LM 1964 at the Musée National de l’Automobil (Mulhouse, France)
CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Anfd finally, Willy Mairesse charging round the Nürburgring in a 250P in 1963. You can see a certain emblem quite clearly.

Willy Mairesse at the Nürburgring in a Ferrari 250P, May 1963

Willy Mairesse at the Nürburgring in a Ferrari 250P, May 1963
(Lothar Spurzem -CC-by-sa/2.0/de via Wikimedia Commons)

The Other Blog is Back

aged newspaper formation

B-24s of the 44th Bomb Group – the new title image for the revised “Joplin’s Bomber” Blog

After a lot of noises being made offstage about my long-term history project,  which I haven’t touched for some considerable time,   it’s become apparent that now is the time to do something.

Well, it’s back.

Despite having burned a couple of good domain names with the deletion of the Blogspot blog and my complete ineptness with an early version of the WordPress  platform, the  “Joplin’s Bomber” blog is back again.  This time it’s https://joplinjalopyblog.wordpress.com/

I’m hoping that what I’ve learned about blogging, WordPress and historical research may prove beneficial in the time ahead.

There isn’t much there right now (you wouldn’t believe the machinations I’ve been through in terms of styles, templates, layouts – or if you know WordPress, maybe you do – and I’m cheap so I’m using all the free stuff)  but I hope I’ll be getting some more of my eleven-year old research back into some useful form in the pages of the site.

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
http://catalogue.statelibrary.tas.gov.au/item/?id=AB713-1-2859

 

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 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale microlight category model was developed.” (Wikipedia)

Trafalgar Day

In two previous articles on the Battle of Britain, and the commemoration of Battle of Britain Day on September 15th, I have mentioned Trafalgar Day (October 21st) and opined that there was a danger that Trafalgar Day is fading from our consciousness and that Battle of Britain Day will do likewise. It seems appropriate and consistent with my opinions to mention Trafalgar Day even on an aviation-themed blog.

I think  J.M. W. Turner’s painting of the Battle of Trafalgar says more than my words ever could.

The Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the starboard mizzen shrouds of the Victory by J. M. W. Turner (oil on canvas, 1806 to 1808) (Public Domain)

7th September

Many anniversaries on this day according to Brian Swopes’ excellent This Day in Aviation site, including the first flights of the F-22 and the AH-1 Cobra.

For this Brit, however, 7th September refers to 7th September 1940,  and the day the Luftwaffe campaign against the UK – aka the Battle of Britain –  saw a very distinct change.  As the Wikipedia article on the Blitz says:  “From 7 September 1940, one year into the war, London was systematically bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London”  A couple of memorable images were taken on September 7th, including one very iconic view of an He111 directly over the London docks.

A German Luftwaffe Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over Wapping and the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London at at the start of the Luftwaffe's evening raids of 7 September 1940. Taken from a German aircraft at 1848 hrs German time. (Imperial War Museum)

A Heinkel He 111 flying over Wapping and the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London at at the start of the Luftwaffe’s evening raids of 7 September 1940. Taken from a German aircraft at 1848 hrs German time. (Imperial War Museum)

 

Smoke rising from fires in Surrey docks, following bombing on 7 September 1940

Smoke rising from fires in Surrey docks, following bombing on 7 September 1940 (New York Times Paris Bureau Collection. National Archives and Records Administration)