Vichy Air Force At War by Jon Sutherland and Diane Canwell

This fascinating history looks at a less known aspect of the war.  Starting with an overview of Armee de l’Air performance in the Battle of France, and then exploring operations in a variety of far flung and minor theaters for the next couple years.

Join me for a brief look at a unique (?) history. Continue reading

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Another Day at The Museum of the United States Air Force

I last visited the US Air Force Museum two years ago and wrote about it here.  This is a place I could enjoy quite often, so when they provided the excuse of opening a new building this summer I had to go!  As always happens I was distracted by the World War I and II building before I even got to the new part, so I had a lot to document once again.

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I couldn’t skip the older parts of the museum, I can’t help but love the antiques. A line up of important aircraft, and they’re all originals (not replicas). The Bleriot in front was built in 1910 in Chicago from the original design. Next is a J-1 trainer with the more famous JN-4 trainer (Jenny) behind. An impressive line up of very old airframes.

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I don’t remember seeing this original Wright B before. It was built in 1910 and was used as a test and demo aircraft by the Air Corps until after World War I. Its the only Wright Flyer I’ve seen with ailerons. I’m not sure if the Wrights switched away from their patented wing warping for this, their final production model; or if this is purely an odd mod. If you can see it up in the dark rafters…

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This Colorful Nieuport 24 was a type used early on by American pilots in World War I.

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This Caproni Ca36 is the look of heavy bombing in World War I.

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This Curtiss P-6 is another original artifact. I believe its the only P-6 remaining in the world. I love how you can see the advance from World War I designs, but its obviously a long way from the World War II era.

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A-36 Apache. An early member of the Mustang family.

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I love how the V-1 and V-2 are right next to each other, I just wish I could have found a better angle to show the difference in size and shape. I also noticed this time that this isn’t really a V-1, the shape of the forward engine mount reveals this as an American JB-2 Loon.

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“You can run, but you’ll just die tired” is the motto of one operator of the AC-130A. I can’t imagine a more fitting thing for this type. I didn’t notice how badly the lighting flared in this picture, but maybe that’s right for the “Specter”.

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I wanted to include this F-22 Raptor since I could only get a few distance shots when I saw one fly at Thunder Over Michigan a couple weeks ago.

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I finally did make it to the new building! Its dual themes are experimental and Presidential aircraft. This P-75A Eagle is a beast of an airplane. Conceived early in World War II it was meant to reuse as many “off the shelf” components as possible. It was powered by an Allison V-3420 engine, which is really just two V-1710s in tandem. It is armed with ten .50 machine guns (!); that’s three in each wing and four in the cowling around the propeller. To say this was terrible idea and deficient design is severely understating it.

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A view of the experimental side of the building. The XB-70 Valkyrie dominates. Its sort of a signature part of the Museum’s collection, even the cafe is named “Valkyrie”. I would have loved to have seen it wheeled into its new spot, I’m sure it doesn’t often see the light of day! This thing is just huge and awesome. And as a “Chuck” fan I just have an affinity for valkyries…

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Presidential aircraft are at the other end of the building, with a few large cargo types in between.

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The VC-54 “Sacred Cow” built for FDR. This was the first presidential aircraft. The box structure underneath is the lowered elevator that could lift the president and his wheelchair aboard. FDR only flew this plane for the Yalta conference, but Truman used it for several years. It was on board this plane that Truman signed the executive order creating the US Air Force (from the old Army Air Force).

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This will always be the definitive “Air Force One” for me and many of my generation. It was on this plane that Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president. It carried every US president from Kennedy to Reagan.

Well that was fun, I think I’ll go again some day…

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Thunder Over Michigan – 2016

Today was a grey and muggy day in southeast Michigan, so I was concerned at how much of a show we’d even see.  And for the second year in a row we left my wife’s good camera at home due to the threat of rain.

But the rain did hold off and we got a good show.  Some of the acts, mainly high performance military acts, did switch to their “low” shows.  On the plus side, high-G maneuvers in high humidity means lots of highly visible shock waves!

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A fun look at some of what we saw fly today.  F-18 demo team at left, F-22 demo team on the right, and eight Breitling Albatrosses lined up behind.

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This year’s land battle included a pair of Sd.Kfz 231 armored cars, both 6-rad and 8-rad models.  Cool!

I saw the Breitling Jet Team for the first time.  They really put on a terrific show!  They fly a tight seven ship formation with Czech Albatross trainers.  We also saw good performances by a MiG-17, F-18 and F-100.  There was a noticeable absence of World War Two aircraft this year, bummer.  But the highlight was spectacular, an F-22 Raptor demo.  It is fast, powerful and unbelievably nimble.  Seriously, it can twist and tumble in ways that aerodynamics should never allow; the benefits of thrust vectoring are obvious!

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I have no idea what this was doing there…

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Heritage flight. P-51 and F-22.

I apologize for not many pictures this year.  That’s why you should all go for yourselves!

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Thunder Over Michigan – 2016

A reminder for everyone in southeast Michigan, or anyone who can get there on a day trip.  Thunder Over Michigan, the annual air show put on by the Yankee Air Force is this weekend, August 20 and 21.  I think the biggest headline for this year is a tactical demo by the F-22 Raptor.  This will be the first time I’ve seen one fly, so I am very excited!  Other things of note will be an F-18 demo, the Breitling aerobatic team (in Albatross jets), MiG-17, F-100, Hind helicopter, WWII land battle and many others.

Thunder Over Michigan is always a ton of fun, and plenty loud.  Check it out if you can!

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Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator

This dive bomber was one of the first generation monoplanes in Navy service and was thoroughly obsolete at the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific.  Yet a small number served in Marine squadrons until the Battle of Midway.

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Join me for a look at an early dive bomber. Continue reading

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Fire and Fury by Randall Hansen

This is a fascinating and well written book on the combined bomber offensive, that is, British and American strategic bomber operations against Nazi Germany.

Join me for a brief look a thoughtful and well researched study. Continue reading

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Programming Note

It looks like I jinxed myself a couple weeks ago by saying I expected to get so much work done this summer!  Family emergencies, in addition to more normal summer chaos have made this a difficult time to get anything done.

My next post will be the SB2U Vindicator, I have about five days of work remaining on it.  What I can’t say is when I’ll find those five days.  So keep watching this space…

Posted in Administrative | 10 Comments