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.

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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

 

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.

American shapes

I recently commented how much I liked the appearance of the F-104 “Starfighter,” especially in its early USAF liveries.  It made me think a little about some other forms that have been inspirational to me over the years.   I spent a wonderful few minutes looking at pictures of the English Electric / BAC Lightning, and I promise I’ll put something together in a future post.

One aircraft which I find immensely pleasing to look at, and which bears a small resemblance to the F-104, is the T-38.  It must the the short stubby low-aspect ratio wings.  There’s something about a white painted T-38 that I find very satisfying.

I did some image searching and had my breath taken away by this US Air Force image from 1961 – there is a T-38 in there somewhere.

X-15 being carried by its NB-52B mothership

X-15 being carried by its NB-52B mothership (52-0008), with T-38A chase plane.
San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives catalog #00043417.
United States Air Force [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The T-38 in this view reminds me incredibly of the Orion Spacecraft in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – so much so that I can almost hear the strains of “The Blue Danube” as it cruises alongside the venerable NB-52B  / X-15 combo.

Which led me to yet another ramble.   The B-52 has never been a shape I’d call attractive,  but it’s symbolized American air power probably more than any aircraft has since the B-17.  I was curious why this specific aircraft was an NB-52 but I haven’t found that explanation yet.  What I did find was another very pleasing image which completes a little circle for me.

A NASA Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter flies chase on the NASA Boeing NB-52B

A NASA Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter (serial N824NA) flies chase on the NASA Boeing NB-52B during a DAST ARW-1 captive flight on 14 September 1979.
By Bob Rhine, NASA (NASA photo EC79-11687) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s the same B-52, 18 years later, with a former Luftwaffe TF-104G flying chase.   The NASA civilian scheme for the F-104 is very pretty.   The story of the B-52 itself is interesting and as usual I defer to the “W” website for the text.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balls_8

“Balls 8 (52-0008) is a NASA Boeing NB-52B mothership, retired in 2004 after almost 50 years of flying service with NASA. The aircraft is famous for dropping the X-15 aerospace research vehicle on 106 of the 199 X-15 program flights.

Balls 8 was originally an RB-52B that was first flown on June 11, 1955, and entered service with NASA on June 8, 1959. It was modified at North American Aviation’s Palmdale facility to enable it to carry the X-15.

The modified bomber flew 159 captive-carry and launch missions for the X-15 program from June 1959 until October 1968. It was first used to launch the X-15 on its fifth flight, January 23, 1960. It also flew missions for the X-24, HiMAT, Lifting Body vehicles, X-43, early launches of the OSC Pegasus rocket and numerous other programs.

At its retirement on 17 December 2004, Balls 8 was the oldest active B-52 in service, and the only active B-52 not of the H model. It also had the lowest total airframe time of any operational B-52. It is on permanent public display near the north gate of Edwards Air Force Base in California.”

A further footnote from the image notes –  “The TF-104G was produced for Germany with the USAF s/n 63-3065, Luftwaffe serials 27+37. It was transferred to NASA in 1975 as N824NA. After retirement it went to the California Polytechnic Institute and is today on display at the Estrella Warbirds Museum, Paso Robles, California.”