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Friday
Sep072012

Aviation Ancestry - September 2012

Constellation, Part III

By Scott Schwartz

Flown into Chino Airport from Camarillo in January, 2012, EC-121T, serial number 53-0548 is awaiting further restoration at the Yanks Air Museum. (Scott Schwartz)Known to aircrews as the “Willy Victor,” the WV-2 became the EC-121K in Navy parlance, after aircraft designations became standardized among the services in 1962. One hundred, forty two of these aircraft were ordered for the Navy, and the first of them were delivered in 1953.

Thirteen of the EC-121Ks were converted into EC-121M “electronic intelligence” aircraft, while another nine were modified to become WC-121N weather-reconnaissance machines. Other EC-121s were used by Navy training squadrons – and one of these aircraft served until 1982.

For its part, the USAF received 84 EC-121s; the first of these came from the Navy contract, with deliveries to the Air Force beginning in 1953. Ten of these aircraft – RC-121s – became TC-121C trainers. Most of the remainder were used as electronic-monitoring or as radio-broadcast aircraft for use in psychological warfare.
The reader should consider that the WV-2/EC-121 aircraft were operated primarily during an era when satellite surveillance was in its infancy or was non-existent.

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Tuesday
Aug142012

Aviation Ancestry - August 2012

Seeing Stars- The Military Constellation – Part II

By Scott Schwartz

VC-121E “Columbine III”, which was used by President Eisenhower. Presumably, this photo was taken prior to the complete restoration of the aircraft. (Courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Air Force)Since the first flight of a Constellation didn’t take place until Jan. 9, 1943, it should come as no surprise that the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) was very interested in this fast, high-flying transport aircraft.  World War II was well under way and, after all, the Constellation could out run the Mitsubishi Zero fighter in level flight (theoretically, anyway).

Well, the initial plan was to allow the 80 Constellations being built for the airlines to be delivered to those airlines, but the airplanes themselves would actually be owned by the government.  The USAAF would then receive another 180 Constellations (designated as C-69s) directly.  In reality, the USAAF decided to take all of the Constellations that were already on the production line, and ordered more.  A total of 313 Constellations were ordered, but only a fraction of these were ever delivered to the Army. This is because the Wright R-3350 was turning out to be far from reliable.

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Tuesday
Jul102012

Aviation Ancestry - July 2012

Above the Weather – The Lockheed Constellation

By Scott Schwartz

A Lockheed C-69 Constellation in flight; the C-69 was the initial military version of the Constellation.With the end of World War Two, the Lockheed Company already had an advanced airliner in production in the form of a military variant, which was used by the Army Air Corps under the designation C-69. Most readers will know this aircraft as the Constellation.

The Lockheed Constellation, however, was not designed as a military airplane, and in truth, relatively few C-69s were produced for the Army. The aircraft was intended from the outset to be an airliner, and its origins lay in design studies that were begun in 1938. At the time, the twin-engine Douglas DC-3 reigned supreme in the airline market, which left competing Lockheed aircraft in the shadows. What’s more, Douglas was about to unveil its DC-4 (which was eventually referred to as the DC-4E – “E” for “Experimental”), which was a four-engine aircraft that could carry 42 passengers. The DC-4E also featured three short vertical stabilizers that enabled the aircraft to fit into most airline maintenance hangars of the time. Those who are familiar with the DC-4 may be scratching their heads, at this point. Three vertical stabilizers? Well, the DC-4E was not a resounding success, so it was not put into production (the single-fin derivative was). In fact, the Japanese bought the DC-4E (the Pearl Harbor attack was still a few years in the future) and, with a little reverse engineering, converted the design into the Nakajima G5N Shinzan bomber. The G5N wasn’t a resounding success, either.

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Tuesday
Apr102012

Aviation Ancestry - April 2012

B-29 Eagle Wing – Part IV

By Scott Schwartz

The Eagle “wing” radar antenna can be seen in this photo. The An/APG-7 radar enabled bombardiers to hit targets that were blanketed with overcast. (Courtesy of the USAF)Within three days of the North Korean incursion across the 38th Parallel, Guam-based B-29s were sent to attack enemy tanks, trucks, supplies, and troops.  Much like its later cousin, the B-52, the Superfortress was a strategic bomber that was being used in a tactical role.  Not surprisingly then, bombing results were mediocre.  B-29 losses were fairly light, though, for at this stage, anti-aircraft fire and the occasional interception by World War Two vintage, Soviet-built piston-engine fighters were the only hazards faced by B-29 crewmen.  Sadly, these days were short-lived.

Within a few months, the first Soviet-built, jet-powered MiG-15s were seen parked at enemy air bases.   Further, several of these new fighters attacked an RB-29 in November, 1950.  Heavily damaged, the RB-29 crash-landed en route back to its base, and its tail gunner was given credit for shooting down the first MiG ever to be shot down….by a B-29 gunner.

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Monday
Feb272012

Aviation Ancestry - March 2012

B-29 Superfortress-Part III

By Scott Schwartz

Pilots-eye view of B-29’s dropping incendiary bombs over their targets. (Photo courtesy of the United States Air Force)Despite the inauspicious start to B-29 bombing operations during WWII, raids on Japan itself were being flown by June, 1944.  The first of these were flown on the 15th of that month, when 94 China-based Superfortresses bombed the Imperial Iron and Steel Works in Yawata, Japan.  This raid was merely a harbinger of things to come.  With the successful invasion of the Marianas, B-29s based there would now be able to strike at the heart of Japan itself. And so it was, that on Nov. 24, 1944, more than 100 B-29s departed from the Marianas and struck the Musashino Aircraft factory in Tokyo. 

From then on, things only became worse for the Japanese. 

During the months that remained until the atom bombs were dropped on Japan, most of Japan’s major cities were the targets of bombing with high explosive and incendiary bombs. 

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