One of Those Pictures

I saw Bryan Swopes had a version of this picture in This Day in Aviation the other day but I lost the place and the reference.    A quick Google search for “Mercury 7 F-106” brought a back a slightly cropped version of the picture, which is fine since in this case we’re looking at the men, not the aircraft.

The

Standing beside a Convair F106-B aircraft in a January 1961 photograph are the nation’s Project Mercury astronauts. Left to right, are M. Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Walter M. Schirra Jr., Alan B. Shepard Jr. and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton. (Credits: NASA)

 

I did a quick check on the F-106B in question (F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart  – AF Serial 59-0158). The entry in Joe Baugher’s website makes for interesting reading.  Apparently 59-0158 still exists and may be on the gate at Edwards AFB, having had a rather picaresque service life including a sojourn at AMARC.  A pleasing footnote.

Blue Skies, Gene Cernan

Having mentioned Apollo 17 in what turned out to be the final post of 2016 on this blog, I couldn’t let the passing of Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17’s Mission Commander, go unremarked.  Captain  Eugene Andrew “Gene” Cernan, USN,  passed on January 16, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  It’s always sad when these veterans and dare I say, heroes pass.  We may not know their like again.

Captain Eugene A.

Captain Eugene A. “Gene” Cernan, USN, (1934-2017)
Gemini 9A, Apollo 10, Apollo 17
(Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Fairey Delta 2 – Part 2

I was torn whether to keep editing my blog article about the FD2 and then realized I could simply write another one, on another occasion.

I’m glad I did because a quick riffle through YouTube revealed this gem of British Movietone News.   A lovely series of shots of the Fairey Delta and an interview with Peter Twiss (1921-2011) who “happened to be the lucky chap in the cockpit”  as I think he put it. I didn’t know Twiss was a former FAA pilot,  so it’s fitting in a way that WG774 is displayed at Yeovilton.

 

I was also wondering if there were any current Public Domain or Creative Commons pictures of WG774 and WG777,  partly to remind myself what WG777 looked like when I wandered through Cosford in around 1991, and happily of course there are a couple.

WG 774 rebuilt as the BAC221

Former Fairey Delta 2 WG 774 rebuilt as the BAC221. Displayed in the ‘Leading Edge’ exhibition. FAA Museum, Yeovilton, England, May 2011.  Photo by Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Here is WG774 seen at the FAA Museum in Yeovilton in 2011.  You can see the extent of the modification of the wings  and undercarriage.   It’s noteworthy as the original photographer suggests that WG774 was selected for modification rather than WG777.  Was there an operational reason or was there some arcane political reason for modifying this airframe?  We may never know.

Fairey Delta 2, HP.115 abd Concorder 002 at the FAA Museum, 1984

FD2 WG774, “slow delta” HP.115 XP841 and Concorde 002 G-BSST,  Photographed at the FAA Museum, Yeovilton in 1984.  San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

The 1984 photograph is interesting for me as I first visited Yeovilton a year before – during a heatwave in the late summer of 1983,  and this is how I believe these aircraft were displayed at that time.   The extent of the modification to WG774’s wings  is clear.  The HP.115 was a research aircraft which explored the characteristics of delta wings in slow flight in delta configuration and to demonstrate the beneficial extent of extending the delta wing forward along the fuselage.

Fairey Delta 2 WG777 at the RAF Museum, Cosford, in 2007

Fairey Delta 2 WG777 at the RAF Museum, Cosford, in 2007 Photo by Roland Turner from Birmingham, Great Britain CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Finally,  here is WG777 looking very sleek at Cosford in 2007.  Having seen this picture I understand why I didn’t identify the polished silver machine with WG777 in its later dark blue scheme.  Such is life and memory.    But I salute both aircraft and their pilots.

Fairey Delta 2

When I was very young, and even at that age fairly air-minded,  there were two or three almost contemporary aeroplanes which inspired and enthused me, and seized the imagination of another childhood friend.  These were the English Electric / BAC Lightning,  The Bristol 188,  and the Fairey Delta 2.   All of these machines were highly angular, aggressive looking but sleekly beautiful silver birds which we could imagine ripping though the sky at enormous speeds no matter what the defence white papers of the late 50s and early 60s might have said.

Only two Fairey Delta 2s were built and, it transpires, I must have seen both of them, long after they were relegated to museums.  The first to fly, WG774  was extensively modified (and renamed as the BAC.221) as part of the aerodynamic research into the Concorde’s ogival delta (ogee) wing.  (Ogee BTW is trotted out by me in Words with Friends much too often!).   It is now preserved in the Fleet Air Arm museum in Yeovilton, Somerset and looks a lot different from the picture below.     WG777 is apparently preserved in the RAF Museum at Cosford near Wolverhampton. I have visited Cosford and looked at the research collection and have no memory, sadly.

Fairey Delta 2 WG774

Fairey Delta 2 WG774 in its original polished-metal finish. (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The first Fairey Delta 2 WG774 - 1956

The first Fairey Delta 2 WG774 in original form landing at the 1956 Farnborough Air Show using its ‘droop snoot’. (RuthAS [Own work] CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

My reasons for blogging the FD2 today are partly because I was reading about the anniversary of the Bell X-1 and its supersonic flight.   I thought about saying something about the Miles M.52,  whose technology was offered to the United States and which went in part into the X-1,  – a proposed exchange which, it is alleged, the American side did not reciprocate.   This is all too well written, and I don’t particularly want to keep blogging about anniversaries when Bryan Swopes does more frequently than me and much better.

No, let me reminisce of the days when my childhood friend Martin let me play with his second shiny metal Bristol 188 model (he’d been given two by mistake, a nice problem at age 6) and we talked of the FD2 and the Lightning.  Martin’s dad Michael, who was a Free-Flight model builder and Radio Ham in his spare time, made a lovely simple balsa wood glider using the Lightning  shape. I thought it was the best thing I’d seen for ages.

if you’re out there, Martin  (I think you are)  – all the best to you.

Another Anniversary – Crash of a “Killer”

Another Anniversary – Crash of a “Killer”

Whenever I get a spare moment,  I look through the pages of  This Day in Aviation in case there is something that catches my eye.  Today I saw an item about the crash of the second prototype DH.108 “Swallow” TG306,  which occurred 70 years ago today on 27 September 1946.   Test pilot Geoffrey de Havilland Jr. (son of Geoffrey senior,   the founder and owner of the  de Havilland Aircraft Company Ltd.) was killed.

DH. 108 Swallow TG283

The first DH. 108 Swallow, TG283, at Hatfield on 30 May 1946 (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The DH. 108  was the first British swept-winged jet aircraft and the first British tailless jet aircraft.  It was intended to test the low speed handling of swept wing jets and  in that respect was a design study for the future Comet airliner.   Its resemblance to the Messerschmit Me163 “Komet”  is striking but appears to be coincidental.   The Ministry of Supply gave the DH 108 the “Swallow” name,  which  was never officially adopted by the company.

Second Prototype DH.108 TG306

Second Prototype DH.108 TG306 (airwar.ru)

I hadn’t realized, until looking closely at pictures of TG283 and TG306,  that the forward fuselage is that of a Vampire, slightly extended, with swept wings attached.   (Train spotters will note the Air Ministry serial of the prototype Vampire F.1  was TG274 – the fuselages of the first two DH.108 prototypes were taken from the production line at English Electric).   Eric “Winkle”  Brown described the DH.108 as  “A killer. Nasty stall. Vicious undamped longitudinal oscillation at speed in bumps”.

TG306 suffered structural failure while flying over the Thames Estuary on September 27th 1946 in a dive from 10,000 ft at Mach 0.9 and crashed in Egypt Bay. The subsequent accident investigation “centered on a structural failure that occurred as a shock stall placed tremendous loads on the fuselage and wings. The main spar cracked at the roots,  causing the wings to fold backwards immediately.” (Wikipedia edited by me)

I found some interesting YouTube footage of the three Swallows including TG306 and Geoffrey de Havilland.

Egypt Bay has a personal significance for me,  since it’s located a few miles from where I grew up. The North Kent marshes have always been fairly atmospheric. They certainly inspired Charles Dickens, especially in Great Expectations, (the grave that provided Dickens with his inspiration for Pip’s dead siblings is located at Cooling church. Cooling village is visible on the map here),  but they also have their share of aviation lore too.  The last resting place of Amy Johnson is somewhere in the Thames Estuary – her Airspeed Oxford crashed in mysterious circumstances there on January 5th,  1941.

The little red Google location indicator on the map below shows roughly where I grew up, across the River Medway from Rochester, and Egypt Bay is also shown. Just to the east of Egypt Bay is  St. Mary’s Bay (not to be confused with many similarly named bays in Kent). Interestingly, searching for “Egypt Bay”  in Google Maps elicits no results at all.

The wreckage of TG306, according to Bryan R. Swopes, was found on September 28th.  Another ten days passed before Geoffrey de Havilland’s body was recovered. He had suffered a broken neck and fractured skull, probably as a result of being thrown around the cockpit as the aircraft entered its “vicious undamped longitudinal oscillation at speed”  as Brown described it.

egypt-bay

 

Demoiselle

After lunch today I wanted to watch something while I digested the pork ribs, bratwurst, coleslaw, baked beans and all the other trimmings of the household Fourth of July celebration.

I pulled out a DVD, not exactly at random. It was Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (or how I flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes) which I first saw in the cinema with my parents at the very start of my aviation craze.   There were always a couple of aircraft in that movie which never failed to get my attention – the Bristol Boxkite (apparently masquerading as a Curtiss)  and the rather lovely Demoiselle flown by the french entrant (played by Jean-Pierre Cassel)  in the fictional London – Paris air race.

I have to say I never realized until now that this rather lovely machine was not a figment of someone’s imagination – it was a real contemporary design by none other than Alberto Santos-Dumont.  That explains quite a lot really.

Santos Dumont Demoiselle (via Wikimedia Commons)

Santos-Dumont Demoiselle (via Wikimedia Commons)

It has the characteristics of an ultralight with a certain turn-of-the-century charm you associate with Santos-Dumont designs.    There seem to be a number of replicas around the world, and happily an original is preserved at the Musée de l’air et de l’espace at Le Bourget, France.   I find the wing-mounted radiators for the flat twin Darracq engine rather interesting.

Alberto Santos-Dumont

Alberto Santos-Dumont “Demoiselle” n° 21 (1909)
Flat-twin water-cooled Darracq 30 HP engine
Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace Paris/Le Bourget (France)Via Wikimedia Commons
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

 

 

 

“The Man Who Owns the Sky”

The Man Who Owns the Sky, the Master Birdman, the World’s Greatest Aviator.   How many times in the golden age of aviation were sobriquets such as these applied to the adventurers who took to the skies and burned so brightly, but for so short a time?   One such was Lincoln Beachey (1887-1915).   A pilot who, according to his Wikipedia page, was the first pilot to recover an aircraft from a spin by turning into it. Beachey started flying for Glenn Curtis.     105 years ago today in 1911 he was the first man to fly over the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara.  The Smithsonian’s Facebook page  commemorated the event.

Suzy said to me “Is that the same airplane I photographed in Albuquerque?”  and I had no idea.  On closer inspection, no it isn’t, but it’s a fairly close relative.  The Ingram/Foster was a copy of a Curtiss.  Beachey flew a genuine Curtiss.  There are some similarities.

 

Lincoln Beachey

Lincoln Beachey was the first to fly over Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls on June 27, 1911. Pictured here about to fly under the Niagara Fall Bridge. (Library of Congress Picture)

 

Another Library of Congress picture shows Beachey in his trademark business suit at the controls of his Curtiss

Lincoln Beachey

Lincoln Beachey at the controls of his Curtiss (Library of Congress)

 

And without doubt a favorite image even though I discovered it a few minutes before writing this article – Lincoln Beachey loops the loop over his home town of San Francisco  at the Exposition of 1913

Lincoln_Beachey Loops

Lincoln Beachey flying a loop over the San Francisco Exposition, 1913. (Popular Mechanics)

 

I know it has to be a composite of two pictures, but given the pilot’s position at the very front of a Curtiss pusher, I would have crowned him King of the Sky myself after this.

Beachey made his final flight at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition on March 14, 1915 in the Beachey-Eaton Monoplane. He took the plane up in front of a large crowd, made a loop, and turned the plane inverted. He may have failed to notice his altitude had dropped to 2,000 feet.  He pulled on the controls to pull the plane out of its inverted position, where it was slowly sinking. The strain caused the rear spars in wings to break, and the crumpled plane plunged into San Francisco bay between two ships. Navy men jumped into action, but it took almost two hours to recover Beachey’s body. Even then, rescuers spent three hours trying to revive him. An autopsy found he had survived the crash and had died from drowning.

His funeral in San Francisco was allegedly the largest in the city’s history until then. A Wikipedia writer estimated 30 million people saw him in his career, 17 million in 1914 alone