After missing 2020 for obvious reasons, Thunder Over Michigan was back this year! The format was different, it was a drive in event. You simply set up chairs, blanket or whatever right next to your parked car. There were concessions (and port-a-potties!) available on site. All things considered it was a fun way to do things. It certainly made it easier to bring along supplies (some home made desserts, check! rain coat? Might need it, so, check! Cooler with our own choice of beverages, check!) and locating your car after was much easier. I do think the price points were badly fumbled, it was really only a bargain if you had four or more people in your car. But then they broke the show into two halves that were not the same and required their own tickets. I understand the capacity was MUCH less than normal (I would guess less than 1/10th normal) and the Yankee Air Museum was likely scrambling to make sense of the whole thing. But there were hundreds (thousands?) of unsold tickets and they will need to rethink this if things aren’t back to normal next year.
But it was so good to have this show again. And it was really well loaded with things to see.
This may be the most photos I’ve ever put in one post, and I deleted everything on the iPhone… There was more we didn’t shoot. Before the Navy Legacy Flight the EA-18G Growler did a demo, as did the A-10. The Mustang “Mad Max” did a brief aerobatic display. They really did a good job of putting something in the air all day long. Except for maybe one year in Dayton I think that was the most after-burners I’ve ever seen (and heard!) in one day. The re-enactors’ land battles were missed, but with so many cars it would have been tough to see anything on the ground. Hopefully that part will return next year.
My wife, her parents and I spent a few days out of town this last week, and I wanted to share some things relevant, at least tangentially relevant, to this website.
First day was at that long time favorite destination of mine, the Museum of the United States Air Force. It seemed funny to visit there just a day after I posted the Memphis Belle here! I’ve done enough longer posts on that Museum I won’t worry about rehashing too much of it again.
The next day was spent at the 2021 Dayton Air Show. At four hours long it was a bit on the short side this year, and traffic management in and out seemed much worse than I recall. But that said, after a whole year of nothing, it was awesome to see an air show again!
The next day I wasn’t even planning on mentioning here, but much to my surprise it proved relevant both to my love of history AND scale modeling!
I think most often when we think of prototype aircraft its as the first example of some famous type. But of course the term actually has much broader usage. There are actually four completely different sorts of prototypes I’ll look at for this theme build.
One will be exactly that most expected sort. But I’ll also do one that’s an established type’s alternate. Any time there was a significant change to an airframe it could lead to a new prototype. One famous example comes to mind is the P-51 Mustang, when two early examples were held back for conversion to a new Packard built Merlin engine they became “XP-51B”, test beds for the new power-plant. Later yet, the rear fuselage was cut down for an improved visibility bubble canopy; the first experimental build was tagged “XP-51D”. Which is all to say any major aircraft type may have several “prototypes”. In US usage this meant an “X” in front of the designation. In German usage this usually meant a “V” suffix. Every nation’s services had their own ways of tagging these things.
I will also build what was known as a service test, or pre-production prototype. Often with more unusual new designs a number are ordered before the main production run. In US use this is a “Y” prototype. These aircraft are often assigned to a test squadron that is trying to identify all service needs in addition to the best ways of using the new aircraft. Often, the various “Y” prototypes aren’t even all built the same way, and may have different features too. This is all about figuring out what’s going to be the best way to build, maintain and use the aircraft. Often these service test types do not lead to a production type, I suppose from a manufacturer’s perspective that means they failed the test. But the military user may still feel valuable lessons were learned that can be applied to whatever comes next.
Another prototype I’ll look at is straight up test aircraft. For my use here this is still stopping short of what we think of as pure “X” craft today; that is, at some point they were considered as a possible new combat type and are given a military designation. But before the prototype ever flies the operator has decided it will not lead to a production order. They are looking at experimental data, something that may impact another aircraft in development or an idea that’s not fully formed yet. Usually, if an aircraft technology is rendered obsolete before it ever flies the project dies. But in many cases, really more often that you might expect, someone feels there is still a lot to learn from a design they know will never advance. Several of the aircraft I looked at in my previous “Hypotheticals” theme were derived from this sort of project. But this time I will only look at things that were built and flown.
The four prototypes I will build are for a Mitsubishi A6M, Grumman F4F, Blohm und Voss Bv 141 and Curtiss P-55.