More about Shapes

“If it looks right, it flies right. It’s a polite way of saying that anything that looks under-powered or short of lift-generating aerodynamics probably is.”
(, June 2016)

For me, this is the definitive shape of the F-100. This example, F-100D-30-NA 55-3754 was used by the USAF “Thunderbirds” from 1964 until 1968 and later by the South Dakota Air National Guard. Following its retirement from the ANG 55-3754 was restored to its original team appearance by Thunderbirds maintenance personnel at Nellis AFB. The aircraft was flown to Dayton, OH and presented the National Museum of the United States Air Force in July 1977 (NMUSAF)

There are several aircraft shapes that please me immensely, although I can’t explain why. The Spitfire, the T-33, the T-38 (both more than their single-seat ancestors the F-80 and the F-5). The T-38 still says “modern” to me despite having first flown in April 1959. I also find the quirky functional shape of the A400M Atlas weirdly pleasing. Here is an aircraft that looks suited to the job in hand.

The North American F-100 Super Sabre is another one of those aircraft. I like its lines, but until quite recently I didn’t realize what a comparatively ugly duckling it was at first, and that several problems resulted from that very ugliness.

The first of the so called “Century” Series of fighters (F-100 to F-106), the F-100 was the first jet fighter capable of exceeding the speed of sound in level flight. It was introduced to the United States Air Force in 1954, and wasn’t retired completely until 1979 when the last Air National Guard units gave up their aircraft.

Three North American F-100A-5-NA Super Sabre fighters (s/n 52-5770, 52-5773, 52-5778) at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1955. On the left is NACA High-Speed Flight Station’s F-100A (52-5778) with a modified vertical fin. On the right is the USAF F-100A (52-5773) with the original vertical fin configuration. NACA added a larger vertical fin to the airplane in December 1954, adding 10 percent more surface area. Later North American installed an even larger fin, having 27 percent greater area, as well as wingtip extensions. These modifications solved the dangerous directional stability and roll coupling problems that the F-100 was experiencing.
(text: NASA. Image NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

North American Aviation submitted an unsolicited proposal to the USAF at the beginning of 1951. NAA referred to its proposal as the Sabre 45 as a hat-tip to its earlier F-86 and because of the 45 degree sweep of the new design’s wings. The Air Force accepted North American’s proposal after some modifications. Two YF-100A prototypes and 280 production F-100As were ordered by the end of 1952, so clearly the Air Force must have liked what they had seen.

First YF-100A prototype 52-5754 in flight (USAF, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The story starts to get a little odd after that. The first production F-100A flew in October 1953. The USAF operational evaluation ran from November 1953 until December 1955. The first F-100A unit was equipped in September 1954 but was not operational until September 1955. The evaluation found the F-100A to have superior performance, but also said that it was not ready for wide-scale deployment due to various deficiencies in its design.

Those deficiencies were pretty serious. The Wikipedia article on the F-100 talks about yaw instability, in which the aircraft would yaw and roll in flight so quickly that the pilot would be unable to recover the situation. This could result in over-stressing and the eventual disintegration of the airframe. A different control problem was caused by the handling characteristics of the swept wing. Loss of lift on the wingtips near stalling speed caused a violent pitch-up which became known as the “Sabre Dance”. The consequences of this could also be disastrous.

January 10, 1956. F-100C-20-NA, 54-1907 displays yaw instability and the pitch-up known as the “Sabre Dance” while attempting to land at Edwards AFB. First Lt. Barty Brooks, United States Air Force Reserve, aged 27, was killed.

In early October 1954, North American’s chief test pilot George Welch was killed when his F-100A (52-5764) disintegrated attempting to recover from a dive from 45,000 feet at Mach 1.55 over the Mojave Desert. By November 1954, F-100As had suffered six major accidents due to flight instability, structural failures, and hydraulic-system failures. The Air Force responded by grounding the entire fleet until February 1955. It seems that the deficiencies were never fully rectified and the F-100A was withdrawn from service starting in 1958, with the last aircraft leaving active duty in 1961. In that time, 47 aircraft had been lost in major accidents.

However, as students of history and those dwindling few who lived through the time will recall, the Cold War reached new heights in the late 50s and early 60s. The Berlin Crisis of 1961 forced the USAF to recall as many operational aircraft as possible. Operation Stair Step saw the deployment of 200 ANG aircraft (aging F-84 and F-86s) to Europe. As a result the F-100A fleet was recalled to service (along with the recently-retired F-84F Thunderstreak) in early 1962. The F-100A acquired a new lease of life and was finally retired in 1970.

While the F-100A was designed as an interceptor, Tactical Air Command (TAC) had requested that all future versions of the F-100 should have fighter-bomber capabilities including the ability to deliver nuclear weapons The F-100C entered service in this role in 1954. Operational testing in 1955 revealed that the F-100C shared all the flaws of the F-100A despite (or just simply even with) an uprated engine. However the because of its high speed the F-100C was regraded as an excellent platform from which to “toss” nuclear weapons

The “definitive” Super Sabre, the F-100D was intended to be a ground attack aircraft first and a pure fighter second. The “final” (and most pleasing for me) shape was achieved when the aircraft’s wingspan was extended by more than two feet, and the vertical tail was increased in area by more than 25%. Even then there was considerable tinkering. Various post-production “fixes” created a significant diversity of capabilities between individual aircraft. Joe Baugher says

“By the early ‘sixties, the F-100D had been subjected to so many in-service modifications to correct its obvious deficiencies that no two F-100Ds were alike, making for a maintenance and spare parts nightmare”

Joe Baugher –

Around 700 F-100D and an unspecified number of C and F models underwent system modifications under a program known as Project High Wire which ran continuously from 1962 to 1965. Another modification program saw the original afterburners of the F-100’s J-57 engines replaced with more advanced units taken from retired F-102 Delta Daggers.

Through the early sixties, the United States had committed itself to fighting a conventional war in Vietnam. Joe Baugher notes that by June of 1967, only five squadrons of F-100s remained at home in the USA. Most of the rest had been transferred to Vietnam as the war escalated. The F-100D was surprisingly adaptable to rough-field operations in Southeast Asia and had an excellent maintenance record.

Unusual heraldry for SE Asia before camouflage paint became standard. F-100D Super Sabre (s/n 56-3101) of the 429th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 474th Tactical Fighter Wing, on temporary duty at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam, in 1965. (USAF – Public Domain)

The two-seat F-100F also saw combat in Vietnam. The F-models supplemented or replaced the Cessna O-1, O-2, and North American OV-10 in the Forward Air Control (FAC) role following heavy losses of the lighter aircraft in well-defended areas. Detachment 1 of the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, flew F-100Fs in the FAC role. The unit was better known by its radio call sign “Misty” – the favorite song of its commander, Medal of Honor recipient Major (later Colonel) George “Bud” Day.

Much larger fin, and that characteristic tail with its paint burned off. A U.S. Air Force North American F-100F (s/n 58-1213) of the 352nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam, in 1971. (Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

F-100s served with the USAF and the air forces of France, Denmark, Turkey and the Republic of China. Denmark and Turkey kept their F-100s in service until 1982.

Over the lifetime of its USAF service, 889 F-100 aircraft were destroyed in accidents, involving the deaths of 324 pilots. The worst year for F-100 accidents was 1958, with 116 aircraft destroyed, and 47 pilots killed

Of the 2294 F-100s built, a large number still survive. The F-100 seems to be the “must-have” airframe of aviation museums around the world. Apart from those in the United States, examples can be found in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

YF-100A 52-5755 photographed in 2016. This is the second prototype ‘Hun’ and still has the original short fin. The fact that it has survived at all is quite remarkable. Part of the AFFTC Museum, it can be found on display in ‘Century Circle’ at the West Gate to Edwards AFB, CA, USA. Photo and caption information by Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK
CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Additionally around the world the viewer can find 17 x F-100A, 15 x F-100C, 38 x F-100D, (thirty-eight!?!) and 20 x F-100F.

The F-100 is not confined to museums, however. There are four privately owned F-100Fs (F-100F 56-3948 shown below) which are kept in airworthy condition and make star appearances at air shows around the United States.

I recalled seeing an F-100 with a US civil registration on TV years ago. My British VHS cassette won’t play over here, but a memorable segment on jet engines in the TV series Coltrane’s Planes and Automobiles showed the late Robbie Coltrane being persuaded by his director to toast a marshmallow (on a VERY long stick) in the afterburner of a jet aircraft. This aircraft turned out to be 56-3844 aka N415FS, an F-100F formerly of Flight Systems and now owned and flown by the Collings Foundation in Stow, MA.

That silhouette would be him. A screen grab showing Robbie Coltrane getting very close to the business end of F-100F 56-3844 aka N415FS during the filing of Coltrane’s Planes and Automobiles in 1996/7 (Screen grab – Fair Use – educational or commentary purposes)

I must have seen the two F-100s at the National Museum of the United States Air Force during my visit in 2002, but I don’t have any pictures. I must go back and look again next time I am in Ohio. During my 2015 scavenger hunt in Nebraska I was unreliably informed (by a Google book viewed on my cellphone) that there was an F-100 at the municipal airport in Fairbury, NE, but all I saw was a very beaten up T-33. Wikipedia informs me that there is an F-100F (56-3825) at the Municipal Airport at Aurora, NE. Is this the example that was at Fairbury or did a compiler just get the locations wrong? I have no idea. Ironically Aurora is not very far from York NE, where I spotted my RF-84F. 56-3825 will remain the one that got away. I missed it by 25 miles. Maybe some day I’ll retrace my steps in Nebraska.

Dakota Noses in London

I was watching a DVD of “The Lavender Hill Mob” again recently, and noticed something I had previously forgotten. There is a scene in which Stanley Holloway (playing “Al” Pendlebury) returns from France by air. “Dutch” Holland (played by Alec Guinness) meets his flight, presumably at Croydon. Visible briefly is a Dakota with the British Civilian registration G-AGYX.

Frame grab from my DVD. Alec Guinness in “The Lavender Hill Mob” – G-AGYX in the background.

Naturally enough I thought I’d look it up. I assumed it would be an ex-Transport Command aircraft and wondered about its history. Naturally, again, I discovered the path had been well beaten before me. My interest was piqued when I read that the nose of G-AGYX still exists. I thought I’d seen it on a visit to London, but it transpired that what I’d examined was a different Dakota, at a different museum.

Bomber Command Museum, Hendon

The “Lavender Hill Mob” Dakota was Douglas C-47A-10-DK c/n 12472, built at the Douglas Plant at Oklahoma City, OK and given the US military serial 42-92648. It passed directly to Britain where it became Dakota Mk.III KG437 with 233 Squadron at RAF Blakehill Farm in Wiltshire. KG437 saw action in September 1944 as part of operation MARKET III – the resupply of British Airborne forces at Arnhem. I had a quick Google for 233 Squadron and found the photograph below.

Douglas Dakotas of No. 233 Squadron RAF (and who knows if KG437 is one of them) lined up on the perimeter track at Blakehill Farm, Wiltshire, for an exercise with the 6th Airborne Division, 20 April 1944.
Bridge (F/O), Royal Air Force official photographer – This is photograph CH 12833 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

I also happened to find a photograph of a 233 Squadron Dakota.

Douglas Dakota C.III (FZ692, ‘5T-UK’ “Kwicherbichen”) of No. 233 Squadron RAF based at Blakehill Farm, Wiltshire (UK), in flight, returning to the United Kingdom with wounded from the Normandy battlefront. (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Post war as we know KG437 became G-AGYX when it was sold to BOAC in 1946. Its British career also included a stint with BEA (in whose markings it was filmed), then charter airline Autair (an ancestor of Court Line) and then to United Libyan Airlines when Autair disposed of its piston-engined aircraft in the mid 1960s. Its final flying engagement was as 5N-ATA somewhere in Sudan. It was noted as being derelict in Malta sometime later. I’m not clear how, but seemingly someone intended to refurbish the derelict Dakota as a restaurant, club, or bar. This clearly didn’t happen and eventually KG437 was passed to the RAF Museum, who sent the nose section to be restored by the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society in my hometown of Rochester. The nose was returned to the Bomber Command Museum at Hendon in 2006. I assume the rest of it (depending on what actually existed by then) was scrapped.

After restoration by the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society in my hometown of Rochester. The nose of KG437/G-AGYX was returned to the Bomber Command Museum at Hendon in 2006.

Science Museum, London

When I heard that the nose of KG 437 had been preserved, I thought “oh, that’s the one I walked through several years ago.” I was of course wrong. Firstly, the nose of KG437 wasn’t installed in Hendon until 2006, and I was long departed from Britain by then. Secondly, I remembered that the Dakota nose I had looked at was located in a completely different Museum. The colourful and slightly larger remnant below is located in the Science Museum, South Kensington, London.

There is a lot more nose here, and the paint scheme shouts “Royal Canadian Air Force” to those who recognize it from countless other post-war C-47s and Lancasters – so whose nose are we looking at here?

The Science Museum Dakota is C-47B-30-DK Dakota, originally allocated AAF serial 44-76586. This aircraft was also a product of the Douglas plant in Oklahoma City, OK.

Joe Baugher says “(MSN 16170/32918) to RAF as Dakota IV KN448 Mar 1945. Transferred to RCAF Apr 8, 1946.” Baugher doesn’t note it, but apparently 448 was scrapped at Trenton, Ontario, sometime after 1968. The front fuselage was acquired by the Science Museum, where it went on display in 1970. All records suggest that it was owned and operated by the the RCAF until its demise, so the truncated word suggestive of “AIRLINES” is a bit of a mystery although the font is a pretty good match for the “ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE” legend frequently seen on RCAF C-47s. Go figure. People in museums wield paint brushes in strange ways. I don’t have any information relating to 448’s RAF or RCAF service, but I’ll keep looking.

Postscript and Digressions

RAF Blakehill Farm, where KG437 was based, is located just to the South-West of Cricklade in Wiltshire. To the North-East of Cricklade, over the border, lies RAF Down Ampney in Gloucestershire. The village of Down Ampney, besides giving its name to a well known British hymn tune (written by Ralph Vaughan Williams and familiarly set to “Come Down O Love Divine”), was also the location of a Transport Command base, housing 48 and 271 Squadrons and a number of other service units.

On the afternoon of 19 September 1944, at the same time that KG437 was flying from Blakehill Farm, Flight Lieutenant David Lord, DFC, of 271 Squadron flew from Down Ampney in Dakota KG374 “YS-DM” as part of operation MARKET III. The squadron had been ordered to fly at 900 feet to ensure proper delivery of supplies to the embattled troops below. Very shortly before the drop, KG374 was hit by Anti-Aircraft fire which started a fire in the starboard engine and wing. Lord apparently decided to proceed with the drop, and had completed one pass with his despatchers dropping supplies from the burning Dakota. Lord was making a second pass to get rid of a couple of containers which had hung up when the aircraft broke up and crashed. Lord’s navigator was thrown clear but the rest of the crew perished. David Lord was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.

No photographs exist of Lord’s aircraft, although the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Dakota ZA947 was painted to represent Lord’s aircraft some years ago. Coincidentally it’s now painted to represent “Kwitcherbitchen” of 233 Squadron (see above!)

Researching MARKET III I happened to come across this photograph, complete with crop marks, from the IWM collection:

Operation MARKET III: air re-supply of British airborne forces in the Arnhem area, 19 September 1944. Burnt-out Douglas Dakota Mark III, KG401, of No. 48 Squadron RAF based at Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, which crash-landed in a field near Kessel, Holland, after parachuting supplies over Arnhem. The aircraft had just dropped its supplies from 700 feet when it was met with intense anti-aircraft fire. The tail unit, rudder, port aileron and engine, the starboard auxiliary fuel tank and all the gyro instruments were either damaged or put out of action, and one of the Army despatchers was mortally wounded. The captain, Flying Officer L R Pattee RCAF and his co-pilot, Flying Officer A C Kent RAF, flew the crippled aircraft back to the British lines, through three more areas of enemy flak, where they sustained further serious damage, including a five foot hole in the starboard wing which caught fire, and complete electrical and communications failure. Once over the British lines, Pattee gave the crew and despatchers the opportunity to bale out, but they refused and the pilots then made a successful belly-landing in the field. No sooner had they all quit the Dakota, than it was engulfed by flames. The unfortunate despatcher died soon after the landing, while the others were taken to Brussels and the crew returned to Down Ampney. Sixteen aircraft of 48 Squadron participated in MARKET III, flying through intense flak with no fighter escort. Many aircraft were hit and two, (KG401 and KG428), failed to return. Over the following four days the Squadron lost another six Dakotas on re-supply missions to Arnhem. This is photograph CE 165 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t

Last year I looked at a few aircraft which were at or around Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack in 1941. I ran across another one on the Web as I carried out one of my stored searches.

It’s not this one, but one (or two) of its siblings which may have been in the air at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 . Waco UIC NC13702 seen in July 2012. Photo by FlugKerl2, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Our story concerns a Waco UIC biplane with the registration NC13408. In 1941 it was owned and operated by a company called K-T Flying Service in Honolulu. The substantial version of the story says that Robert ‘Bob” Tyce, (part owner of K-T, being the “T” part) was flying in NC13408 when he and another individual in another Waco were bounced by Japanese aircraft on the morning of December 7th. The second Waco was hit and the pilot bailed out. Tyce, so the story goes, managed to evade the attackers and landed, although he was killed on the ground following the landing, becoming one of the first, if not the first civilian casualty of the Japanese attack. It gets a little complicated because some sources say it wasn’t Tyce flying the aircraft, and yet another source disputes the claim that NC13408 was in the air at all on December 7th.

Whatever the truth is about NC13408, records that Robert Horatio Tyce, born 11 May 1903 at Częstochowa, Śląskie, Poland, died on 7 Dec 1941 at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu County, Hawaii, United States of America.

Miracle on the Hudson

It seems like it was only yesterday, but it was on January 15th, 2009 that US Airways Flight 1549, an Airbus A320-214 with the US civil registration N106US, ditched in the Hudson River, having lost power to both engines following a collision with a flock of Canada Geese.

US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, New York, USA on 15 January 2009 Photo by Greg L, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t have anything unusual to say about the events because like everyone else I am simply in awe of the skill of the pilots – Chesley B. Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles – not to mention the three flight attendants on the flight who conducted a successful evacuation.

‘Cactus’ 1549 was on a scheduled flight from New York – LaGuardia (LGA) to Charlotte Douglas (CLT), North Carolina with 150 passengers. We’ve seen a variety of video clips and still images, and some people (not me, for whatever reason) will have seen the 2016 movie Sully directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks.

Apparently after being salvaged, N106US was offered for sale for two years without any takers, until in 2011 it was obtained by the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, NC where it remains on display sans engines. It’s fitting that it should be displayed at the intended (initial) destination for that flight.

N106US on display at Carolinas Aviation Museum Photo by RadioFan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A Tale of Two (or Three) Kitties

On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor I was searching for a picture of the Pearl Harbor survivor Curtiss P-40B 41-13297.   I was riffling through Wikipedia looking at all the surviving Warhawks / Tomahawks / Kittyhawks when my geeky eye lit upon an entry for a Kittyhawk 1A

What it said was:
ET573 – based at Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Here it is – Jerry Yagen’s Military Air Museum is the owner of this Curtiss P-40E (Kittyhawk1 1A) painted as Tex Hill’s P-40E 41-5658 ‘108’ of the 3rd Fighter Squadron, American Volunteer Group. The MAM Kittyhawk never flew with the Flying Tigers, being an RAF example that was re-exported to the Soviet Union in 1942. Seen here on November 28, 2008. Photo by Michael Rehbaum, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Wikipedia page for the MAM says:

Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk – This particular aircraft, serial number 41-35918, was built in 1941 and sent to the UK as a Lend-Lease item; it was passed along to the Russians in April, 1942, and lost in action while protecting Murmansk. It stayed on the tundra where it had landed for almost 50 years, and was recovered in 1992; acquired by the Museum’s founder in 1996, it finally flew again in 2003

Those of you who know me, know what a sucker I am for registration and serial numbers.  It is a talent I have acquired over the last fifty-something years.  Bear with me when I say I suddenly got interested, because I knew there had been another ET-serialled Kittyhawk in the news recently.

Oh yes dear reader, it is ET574, the 260 squadron P-40E (Kittyhawk 1A)  which was discovered in the Egyptian desert in 2012 by a group of Polish oil company workers.   As a Wikipedia author quite succinctly puts it: “As of 2018, displayed at a museum in El Alamein in a faux paint scheme.”  See another blog entry.

It’s a romantic or sentimental thought that two neighbors on the Curtiss production line could be survivors, in very different forms. Emboldened, I went to consult Joe Baugher’s database, and found the following:

41-35927 (MSN 18448) to RAF as ET573 but delivered to USSR.  Lost in action near Arctic Circle where it lay on frozen tundra for 50 years.  Recovered from crash site near Murmansk c.1992.  Brought to USA at Griffin, GA and underwent restoration.  There is an RAF record card which has this plane as going to the RAF as ET573 and later becoming an instructional airframe Oct 1943 as 4181M.

41-35928 (MSN 18449) to RAF as Kittyhawk IA ET574.  Missing during ferry flight Jun 28, 1942 from LG.85 (Amriya South, Egypt) to an RSU near Wadi Naturun which was used as a maintenance group facility (53RFU).  The aircraft flew with its undercarriage locked down due to damage.   An incorrect course was set and the aircraft was thought to have crashed in the Egyptian desert due to fuel exhaustion. Pilot listed as missing.  The aircraft wreckage that was located in March 2012 by oil company workers in nearly intact form may be this plane.   Pilot still missing,

Something is wrong here.   This is very much a geek point,  but the former USAAF identity for ET573 is unlikely to be 41-35927 (Joe Baugher) and 41-35918 (MAM / Wikipedia).  I think the first (and easiest) theory is that someone at Wikipedia has got their wires crossed.  It would not be the first time that erroneous or misleading information had been posted on Wikipedia, after all. Alternatively the confusion may lie somewhere else.

So what about 41-35918? Back to Joe Baugher, who clarifies the question of RAF identity.

41-35887/35925 (MSN 18408/18446, ET533/ET571) were to have gone to RAF as Kittyhawk IA but diverted to USSR Apr 1942

41-35918 (MSN 19751, production no. 1025 on data plate) to RAF as ET564.  To USSR Apr 4, 1942.  Shot down Jun 1, 1942 in area of Pyal-Yavr Lake.  Recovered in 1992 and brought to USA and restored by the Fighter Factory. Now on display at the Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach, VA

Whoa – hold on. So Joe Baugher seemed to be saying the MAM example is actually ET564 whereas someone else in Wikipedia thinks it’s ET573. Joe Baugher’s record says ET573 did return to the States and was being restored in Georgia.

A little further riffling around the Web retrieved an article and a photo from which seems to answer my question: [my additional notes in square brackets]

Military Aviation Museum – Ex USAAF 41-35927, RAF ET573. Gerald Yagen acquired two P-40E Warhawks, both recovered from Russia in 1992. Both aircraft had gone to the Soviets in 1942 on lend-lease. They were c/n 18439 (ex USAAF 41-35918, RAF ET564 and Soviet AF 1025) and this one [c/n 18448 ex-USAAF 41-35927].   [Yagen’s flyer was assumed to be 41-35918, but] research, confirmed by the company in New Zealand that did the actual restoration in 2001-2003, showed that it is in fact the other one, 41-35927.

So it’s not a matter of one recovered P-40, It’s two. No doubt this is where the confusion arises. The question which remains in my mind is this. If the flyer really is the former ET573, (as the restorer in New Zealand seems to confirm) are there any substantial remains of ET564 or were they consumed in the restoration of the other one?  How did the identities get swapped? In the words of an old TV series: “Confused? – You will be!”

If you look up Jerry Yagen’s P-40E on the Web you’ll see histories of both of his machines with photographs of the same aircraft.   They’ve both been to the USA, and possibly both to a restoration facility in Griffin, GA. They’ve both been to New Zealand (or have they?) but seemingly only one has emerged from restoration to flying condition. I suppose I could always email someone out there and ask them. No doubt some of you are saying “why didn’t you do that in the first place?”

In conclusion.  I first had a romantic thought about the survival of two neighbors on the Curtiss production line in Buffalo sent to very different destinations. Then my little internet paper trail made me wonder if the identity of the Soviet P-40 was correct, but now it seems possible that, after all, the P-40s in Virginia Beach, USA and El Alamein, Egypt really are construction numbers 18848 and 18849, 41-35927 and 41-35928, ET 573 and ET 574.   One is considerably better preserved than the other – neither look very much the way they did when flying in the Second World war, but each have a story to tell. 

A footnote about Lend-lease P-40s in the air forces of the USSR

An assembly plant for American fighter warplanes destined for Russia, somewhere in Iran. March 1943 – Public Domain via Wikimedia – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID fsa.8d29407.

There is a fascinating article written in 2019 by Valery Romanenko entitled The P-40 in Soviet Aviation

I was curious as to how the two Soviet P-40s probably went to the USSR. Romanenko says that the southern lend-lease route began (through Abadan, Iran and/or Basra, Iraq) began to operate in June 1942, but Kittyhawks were received from this source starting in November.  This means Yagen’s  P-40s probably arrived in the USSR on one of the (in)famous Arctic Convoys to Murmansk, possibly either PQ13 (arrived Murmansk 3/31/1942)  or PQ14 (arrived Murmansk 4/19/42).  See

On a related literary meander, if you haven’t read Alistair MacLean’s 1955 debut novel HMS Ulysses or Paul Lund and Harry Ludlum’s PQ17 – Convoy to Hell you might consider a visit to your local library or bookstore.

Mark Sheppard’s article on P-40 recoveries from Russia on the same site Mentions that 47 Tomahawk IIBs arrived in the USSR  in September 1941. They probably arrived in the test Convoy “Dervish” which arrived at Archangel on 8/31/1941. The P-40s were assembled by an RAF detachment at Yagodnik and flight- tested by a couple of American USAAC officers by the names of Lts. Allison and Zemke – the latter better known later as as Colonel  ‘Hub’ Zemke, 56th  Fighter Group. The timing is a little interesting since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was still three months away. It’s interesting to know that ‘Hub’ Zemke was getting involved even before the USA was officially at war.

Lady Be Good

I am grateful to the social media presence of the National Museum of the United States Air Force for a reminder.  I would never have realized that November 9th  is the anniversary of the day in 1958 when some British oil prospectors, flying over the Calanscio Sand Sea in Libya, spotted the wreck of an aircraft lying on the surface of the desert below.  It would take another four months to confirm that what they had seen, as they suspected, was the wreck of a B-24 Liberator, but what galvanized the US Air Force was the fact that the Liberator on the desert floor had been reported missing in April 1943 from a raid on Naples, Italy.

The ill-fated crew of the Lady Be Good photographed in front of a different B-24. From the left: 1st Lt. W.J. Hatton, pilot; 2nd Lt. R.F. Toner, copilot; 2nd Lt. D.P. Hays, navigator; 2nd Lt. J.S. Woravka, bombardier; Tech Sgt. H.J. Ripslinger, engineer; Tech Sgt. R.E. LaMotte, radio operator; Staff Sgt. G.E. Shelley, gunner; Staff Sgt. V.L. Moore, gunner; and Staff Sgt. S.E. Adams, gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The Wreckage of Lady Be Good discovered in Libya, November 1958
Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lady Be Good was a Consolidated B-24D-25-CO Liberator with AAF serial 41-24301, allocated to the 541st Bomb Squadron / 376th Bomb Group based at Soluch Airfield, Libya (also known as Benina, after the adjacent town) 12 miles east of Benghazi. Having been ferried across the Atlantic by a brand-new crew, the B-24 arrived at Soluch on March 25th 1943.  The crew which would fly it on the raid to Naples, commanded by 1st Lt. William J. Hatton, had arrived a week earlier, on March 18th.  The Naples raid would be the Hatton crew’s first combat mission.  

The attack was intended to be carried out by two formations of twelve aircraft. A sandstorm caused eight aircraft from the second wave to turn back to Soluch, leaving four aircraft, including Lady Be Good to complete the attack.  Visibility over Naples was poor.  Two aircraft bombed a secondary target and the other two jettisoned their bombs while heading back to North Africa. 

Hatton apparently radioed his base around midnight asking for directions and reporting his Direction Finder was inoperative.   People on the ground at Soluch reported hearing an aircraft flying overhead which continued South.  It was assumed that Hatton’s B-24 had crashed in the Mediterranean on its way back from Naples. A brief search launched over the sea from Soluch the following day failed to find any wreckage or other indications. Strangely, no connection was made between the aircraft flying overhead and Lady Be Good.

The discovery of the wreck in 1959 upset this narrative.   In March 1959 a British oil exploration crew examined the wreckage and the surrounding area, and started taking souvenirs from the aircraft. The B-24 was in a remarkable state of preservation, and there was enough evidence in the form of maintenance records and logs to name the crew members, but no trace of the crew themselves.  One of the oilmen was on friendly terms with the USAF officer commanding  Wheelus Air Base near Tripoli, and wrote a long letter detailing the discovery. This information was passed to USAF Europe in Frankfurt. The wheels of officialdom ground into motion.

Wreck of the Lady Be Good in the Libyan Desert – from “History and Units of the United States Air Forces In Europe”, CD-ROM compiled by GHJ Scharringa, European Aviation Historical Society, 2004. Image source listed as United States Army Air Forces via National Archives (via Wikimedia) This photograph is said to date from “approximately 1957” but the tire tracks around the wreck suggest the photograph was taken sometime after March 1959 when the first ground exploration located the remains of the aircraft.

In February 1960, the U.S. Army conducted a formal search of the area for the remains of the crew.  The search discovered piles of discarded equipment and trail markers cut from parachutes, weighed down with small rocks, indicating the presence of a group of people, specifically the crew of the Lady Be Good.

Five bodies – those of Hatton, Toner, Hays, LaMotte, and Adams – were found on February 11, 1960 at a location 81 miles from the crew’s post bail-out assembly site.  The searchers found evidence, specifically diaries,  which recorded the crew’s suffering on the walk northward. None of the men were aware they had been flying over land when they bailed out, or how far inland they had flown. As they walked, the group left behind footwear, parachute scraps, Mae Wests and other items as markers to show searchers their path.

A prayer service at the location of the bodies of the “Lady Be Good” crew members in the Libyan Desert provided a simple but solemn commemoration. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William G. Woods, Chief of Wheelus Chaplains, conducts the service while members of the US Air Force investigating party and oil exploration personnel listen in silence. Local ID: 342-B-ND-075-4-92672AC (National Archives)

The diaries also recounted that the group survived for eight days with only a single canteen of water, a few energy sweets, and no other survival equipment.  Three of the strongest surviving crew members – Ripslinger, Shelley, and Moore – continued walking. The ninth crew member, Lt. Woravka had never joined up with the other eight.  Significantly they had also never found the wreckage of the B-24 which had continued south after they bailed out. 

In the summer of the 1960 the U.S. Army and Air Force commenced a joint operation – Climax – to search for the remaining bodies, although ironically it was another British oil crew who discovered the body of Sgt. Guy Shelley on May 11.  Shelley’s body was found 37.5 miles beyond the group of five.  Sgt. Ripslinger’s body  was discovered 26 miles from the main group on May 17th by the US search teams.

Image from Operation Climax. Local ID: 111-CC-17245 (National Archives)

Operation Climax never found the body of Sgt. Moore. However, it is possible that a body which was discovered by a British Army patrol on a desert exercise in 1953 may have been his.  Since the patrol had no inkling that allied aircrew were missing in the area, the remains were recorded, photographed and buried.  The photographs came to light in 2001 but no conclusive evidence could be drawn from them.

The body of Lt. Woravka, the Bombardier,  was discovered in August 1960, 16 miles North East of the crash site of the B-24 by yet another British oil crew and recovered from its resting place by officers from Wheelus Air Base. Woravka’s parachute had failed to open and the body was covered in shroud lines and the partially deployed parachute when found. While in the area, the recovery team almost literally stumbled upon a pile of discarded parachute harnesses, flight boots and signal cartridges. This was the crew’s assembly point after the bale-out, whose location was previously unknown.   It was less than half a mile from the point where Woravka’s body had been lying. By a cruel twist of fate one of the items on Woravka’s body was a canteen of water which was still more than half-full after 17 years in the desert.

Propeller from Lady Be Good – ex Wheelus AB,Libya, now at Lake Lindon, MI. June 2020. Photo by Kairotic, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the years that followed, the wreck of the Lady Be Good became a navigational point and target for military and civilian explorers.   The wreck was systematically stripped by numerous visitors over the intervening years and no doubt hundreds of individual pieces are in the hands of private individuals around the world. Several pieces were removed by the US Air Force during its examination of the wreck, which are now mostly to be found in the NMUSAF and the Army Quartermaster’s museum in Fort Lee, VA. One of the propellers was taken to Wheelus Air Base.  Another was said to be at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  The propeller which had been at Wheelus was sent back to the USA and is now outside the village hall in Lake Linden, MI which was the home town of Robert LaMotte  

In 1968 an RAF team removed one of the engines from the wreck. Following examination my McDonnell Douglas it was passed to the NMUSAF where I photographed it in 2002. It has since been joined by another propeller although I’m not sure which one this is.  

Fascinating picture of an RAF Vulcan overflying the wreck of Lady Be Good which I believe was taken in the late 1960s in a navigation exercise. It is worth noting that the tail of the aircraft has been re-aligned with the fuselage, all the engines have been removed – the left horizontal stabilizer (tailplane) is partly missing and the port vertical stabilizer / fin is missing entirely. The nose of the aircraft is now also completely severed from the rest of the fuselage.

The B-24’s broken tail section was moved and re-aligned with the rest of the fuselage by visitors to the wreck, and in some of the last photographs I saw, the entire port vertical stabilizer had been hacked off and removed. Its location is a mystery.   Finally, in 1994 the wreck was sectioned and removed from the crash site by a team of Libyan archaeologists.  It sat for a while in a compound in Tobruk, although it may have been moved again to another location in Libya, which I believe to be Gamal Abdel Nasser Airbase (aka RAF El Adem in a previous life).  I don’t suppose anyone is going over there to take a look in the foreseeable future.  

Sectioned wreck of Lady Be Good is removed from its resting place by Libyan Archaeologists, 1994. The wreck by this time had been thoroughly stripped with only the bare frame remaining. Even one of the vertical stabilizers had been removed by souvenir hunters.

In Memoriam:
1st Lieutenant William J. Hatton, Pilot – Whitestone, NY
2nd Lieutenant Robert F. Toner, Copilot – North Attleboro, MA
2nd Lieutenant Dp Hays, Navigator – Lee’s Summit, MO
2nd Lieutenant John S. Woravka, Bombardier – Cleveland, OH
Technical Sergeant Harold J. Ripslinger, Flight Engineer – Saginaw, MI
Technical Sergeant Robert E. LaMotte, Radio Operator – Lake Linden, MI
Staff Sergeant Guy E. Shelley, Gunner/Asst Flight Engineer – New Cumberland, PA
Staff Sergeant Vernon L. Moore, Gunner/Asst Radio Operator – New Boston, OH
Staff Sergeant Samuel E. Adams, Gunner – Eureka, IL

A visit to the Doc

Well this is exciting. I’ve written a lot about B-29s before and about 44-49972 Doc on a few occasions. I saw it gleaming over in the distance when I visited the wonderful Kansas Aviation Museum a couple of years ago. Now it appears that the aircraft is actually accessible to the public in its new dedicated hangar.

The YouTube video below is from the Doc’s Friends website

News about the hangar opening is at

From the Doc Website and YouTube

The B-29 Doc Hangar and Education Center is located at Eisenhower National Airport 1788 S. Airport Road, Wichita, KS

Apparently you can visit the airplane (admission prices are all on the site) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays each week starting on March 12 when Doc isn’t on tour.

I think I know where I’ll be going when the Kansas weather improves.

The Oldest Meteor

Have I mentioned the Meteor before? I ought to look through the annals of this blog but I don’t honestly think I have. My friend Paul Bird the architect used to talk about form following function when we were students together, and to a certain extent the early jet aircraft were expressions of that philosophy. The Meteor is another of those iconic aircraft shapes which I associate with my childhood, or youth, and I do remember being excited when Airfix and Frog released their models of the F.3 and F.4 respectively.

(Above) White-painted Gloster Meteor F.3 EE239 ‘YQ-Q’, of No. 616 Squadron at B58/Melsbroek, Belgium. A flight of Meteors was detached from 616 Squadron to 2nd TAF to provide air defence against the Messerschmitt Me 262, being joined by the whole Squadron in March 1945. During the initial deployment, the Meteors were painted white to aid identification by other Allied aircraft. Royal Air Force- 2nd Tactical Air Force, 1943-1945.

The reason for this particular ramble is that my sister Hilary referred me to a UK news item about the retirement of an airworthy Meteor night-fighter at Bruntingthorpe over the weekend. I still haven’t worked out which one it is / was although there can’t be too many contenders. I have a feeling it must be NF.11 / TT.20 WM167 but I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.

I am struggling to remember if I’ve ever seen a Meteor flying around. I did take a photo of a very rusty example stored on the outer fringes of Duxford airfield in the early 80s. It was either F.4 VT229 or F.4 VT260, both of which are preserved in the USA. There was a Javelin next to it, if I recall correctly.

So that got me thinking. Where are the oldest Meteors located? I know I’ve seen the prototype DG202/G at Cosford, and someone on Wikipedia is at great pains to point out it’s the prototype F9/40 and was never actually called a Meteor. OK, fair enough, but after that?

Gloster F9/40 prototype (can you call it a Meteor?) DG202/G on display at the RAF Museum London in November 2011 Photo by Nick-D CC BY-SA 3.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons
  • F9/40 DG202/G, first prototype with the RAF Museum. Picture above
  • Meteor F.4 EE531, noted at the Midland Air Museum located at Coventry Airport near Baginton, Warwickshire. If you’re going to be strict about the F9/40, then this is the oldest complete production Meteor in the UK.
  • Meteor F.4 EE549 at the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum (on the site of the former RAF Tangmere) Chichester, W. Sussex. EE549 was the “Star Meteor” which set the world absolute speed record of 616 mph on 7 September 1946.

Argentina? I know that the Fuerza Aérea Argentina received a number of ex-RAF and newly built Meteors. It turns out several of them are preserved and many of them are very old. Here’s a list of the older examples in the order of their former RAF serials, remixed from the Wikipedia page:

  • Meteor F.4 I-027, ex-EE527, Museo Regional Interfuerzas, Santa Romana, San Luis. Four digits senior to EE531 at Bagington, this is in my view the oldest complete production Meteor extant.
  • Meteor F.4 I-025, ex-EE532, displayed on plinth on the Avenue of the Air Force, outside the Escuela de Aviación Militar, Córdoba.
  • Meteor F.4 I-029, ex-EE537, being restored for the Museo Regional
  • Meteor F.4 I-019, ex-EE553, displayed on plinth at the Northern Roundabout of the Avenue Spinetto Santa Rosa, La Pampa. Painted as I-021, condition poor.
  • Meteor F.4 I-014, ex-EE575, displayed on plinth in Goya, Corrientes.
  • Meteor F.4 I-038, ex-EE587, Junin Aeroclub, Junin, Buenos Aires.
  • Meteor F.4 I-041, ex-EE586, Museo Nacional de Aeronáutica de Argentina, Morón, Buenos Aires.
  • Meteor F.4 I-031, ex-EE588, Either at the Liceo Aeronáutico Militar de Funes, Funes, Santa Fe, or Aeroclub Las Parerjas, Las Parjas.
Gloster Meteor F.4 C-041 (ex-RAF EE586) taken at the Museo Nacional de Aeronautica in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2006 Photo by Francisco Infante via Wikimedia Commons
Gloster Meteor F.4 C-025 (ex-RAF EE532). Third oldest extant production Meteor displayed on plinth on the Avenue of the Air Force, outside the Escuela de Aviación Militar, Córdoba in 2012. (Arqueologia Aeronautica)

For the benefit of the American readership there are actually four preserved Meteors as follows:

  • Actually airworthy is Meteor T.7 N13Q, ex-G-BWMF, ex-WA591 at the World Heritage Air Museum in Detroit, MI
  • Wouldn’t you know it. Kermit Weeks has Meteor F.4 N229VT, ex-VT229 under restoration or at least in storage at Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, FL.
  • Meteor F.4 VT260 – (I must dig out my photo) is at Planes of Fame in Chino, California. (Picture below)
  • Meteor NF.11/TT.20 WD592 is at the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum, Edwards Air Force Base, CA.
Gloster Meteor F.4 VT260 on display in the ‘Jet & Air Racers’ hangar at the Planes of Fame Museum, Chino, CA, USA. February 2016. Photo by Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK. CC BY-SA 2.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons

We then come to the issue of bits of old Meteors. I tracked down a couple in the UK just as I thought I’d finished writing this article.

The Imperial War Museum has what it describes as a cockpit section of F.3 EE416. This aircraft was delivered to Martin-Baker in November 1945, and it was from EE416 that the very first live ejection test in the UK was carried out on 24 July 1946.

The Jet Age Museum in Gloucester has the cockpit and nose undercarriage leg of F.3 EE425 which was presented to the museum by the son of the former Chief test Pilot at Gloster Aircraft.

How about Australia? I came across a reference to Meteor F.3 EE427 was sent to Australia post war and re-serialled A77-1. Unsurprisingly it made the first flight of a jet aircraft in Australia, but was damaged in a heavy landing in Darwin in early 1947. (Written off 2/14/47 after heavy landing at Darwin, NT. Broken up 5/21/47. Struck off charge 5/11/49). From what I can gather only a few odd bits survive at the Darwin Aviation Museum, previously known as the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre. You can see some photos of the aircraft itself in complete and derelict state (and indeed the piece that’s on display in Darwin) at