Monday, January 30, 2017

James McCudden



James McCudden joined his father in the Royal Engineers as a 15 year old bugler in 1910. By the time war was declared, he was an aircraft mechanic with 3 Squadron in the Royal Flying Corps. 
One of three brothers to serve with the R.F.C., he saw combat in France as an observer and gunner before returning to England for flight training in 1916. 
Flight Sergeant McCudden received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate 2745 on a Maurice Farman biplane at Gosport on 16 April 1916. 
His talents as a pilot were so extraordinary that he became an instructor within days of receiving his aviator's certificate. By the beginning of April 1918, 22 year old James McCudden was the most decorated pilot in the Royal Air Force. 
Sadly, he was killed three months later when his aircraft stalled after take off and crashed to the ground.


London—Wherever flying men or men interested in flying meet today, be it in Britain or at the British front in France, there is only one name on their lips. It is that of Capt. James Byford McCudden, who has just been awarded the Victoria cross, the most honorable decoration that British valor can win, and who, in receiving it, has been officially revealed as the greatest and most successful air fighter, living or dead, that the allies have yet produced. Captain McCudden, who is only twenty-two, has a bigger bag of hostile machines brought down than Bishop, Guynemer or Ball, or any other flying man that the war has brought forward, with the single exception of Baron von Richthofen, who recently was killed in action.
McCudden's record of hostile machines accounted for up to February 27 is 54. Of these 42 were definitely destroyed—four of them in just 90 minutes, 19 falling on the British side of the lines. Only 12 out of the 54 were driven down out of control.The Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) - Tuesday, May 14, 1918


Regarding his early service flying F.E.2Ds with 20 Squadron and DH2s with 29 Squadron. He wrote in his memoir "I was very sorry to leave my cumbersome old F.E., for those aeroplanes had certainly earned for themselves the wholesome respect of the German pilots, and with good cause too"

The 250 HP Rolls Royce engine

"One felt very safe indeed flying a Rolls F.E. At that time the F.E. with the 250hp Rolls was a wonderful machine, and the way our observers and pilots used to climb around the capacious nacelle was most amusing. In fact, on patrol, up high, I sometimes stood on my seat and looked over the tail, the machine was so steady and stable".

"My observer never liked this part of the performance, especially when one day I was doing it and one of my gloves blew off into the propeller, which shed a blade, and nearly wrecked the machine before I could reach my seat and throttle my engine down".




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Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Junkers J 1, the "Tin Donkey"



The J1 was the world's first practical all-metal aircraft. Built early in World War I, when aircraft designers relied largely on fabric-covered wooden structures, braced with struts and exposed rigging lines, the Junkers J 1 was a revolutionary development in aircraft design.

Hugo Junkers' experimental all-metal aircraft never received an official "A" nor an "E-series" monoplane designation because it was primarily intended as a practical demonstration of Junkers' metal-based structural ideas, and was officially only known by its Junkers factory model number of J 1.


After the outbreak of World War I Hugo Junkers and his company's research institute began the engineering work to realize Junkers' idea of creating all-metal aircraft designs that dispensed with drag-producing exterior bracing.

In July 1915 the Junkers firm got its first aircraft construction contract from the German government, the design of what would become the Junkers J 1 and by November 1915, the completed J 1 was ready for initial testing.


Before the Junkers J 1 could fly for the first time, the aviation administration arm of the German army, required that static load tests be done on the J 1, with the usual static loading trials carried out on the J 1's structure with sand bags.



The Junkers J 1 was a mid-wing monoplane with a cantilever wing, without exterior bracing struts or wires. External bracing was only used for support of the horizontal stabilizer and the undercarriage.
The fuselage used welded strip-steel angle stock and I-beam sections along with some steel tubing to form its main internal structure with 17 in wide sheet steel panels wrapped around the fuselage to form its covering.
The single vertical tail surface was of an "all-flying" design (with no fixed fin) and the entire tail surface structure and covering also consisted of formed and sheet steel, much like the wings.
The 90 kW (120 hp) Mercedes D.II six-cylinder liquid-cooled inline engine selected for the design had a simple, clamshell-like horizontally split cowling enclosing the engine's crankcase and lower cylinder block, and an advanced engine radiator layout.

Flight testing began on 12 December and would continue into January. After minor adjustments the in-flight handling of the J 1 was deemed acceptable and it was stable in flight. On 19 January, the J 1 flew it’s only known "high performance" flight test, which consisted of a 4.3 mi course, at varying altitudes from 660–980 ft, and managed a top speed of 110 mph. The Junkers J 1 was probably not flown again after January 1916.
The J 1 was compared to the popular Rumpler C.I two-seat armed observation biplane, which was some 19 mph slower in its top speed, even though the Rumpler biplane had the more powerful Mercedes D.III engine, but due to the lighter weight of the Rumpler's wood-and-fabric structure it had a much better climb rate than the J 1 with its experimental steel structure.

Nonetheless, Junkers was given a contract to further develop his all-metal concept which would become the basis for today’s modern aircraft.



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Monday, January 23, 2017

Georges Jules Guynemer




Guynemer was France's most beloved ace. He entered the French Air Service in November 1914 and served as a mechanic before receiving a Pilot's Brevet in April 1915. Despite his frail physical appearance, he took part in more than 600 aerial combats and was shot down seven times and survived. An excellent marksman and highly skilled pilot, with 53 victory's, he was hailed as the French Ace of Aces. 



Guynemer received letters from women proposing marriage, requests from school children for his autograph and was often followed through the streets. 
One of the first pilots to receive a SPAD VII, he called his plane Vieux Charles (Old Charles). On 25 May 1917, he engaged and shot down four enemy aircraft with Old Charles in one day. 
Looking for ways to improve the performance of his aircraft, Guynemer armed a SPAD VII with a single-shot 37 mm canon that fired through a hollowed out propeller shaft. He called this impractical aircraft his Magic Machine. Despite the fumes that filled the cockpit and the recoil of the canon, during the summer of 1917 he shot down at least two enemy aircraft with his Magic Machine. 



On 11 September 1917, Guynemer was last seen attacking a two-seater Aviatik near Poelcapelle, northwest of Ypres. Almost a week later, it was publicly announced in a London paper that he was missing in action. Shortly thereafter, a German newspaper reported Guynemer had been shot down by Kurt Wissemann of Jasta 3. For many months, the French population refused to believe he was dead. Guynemer's body was never found. (From “Knight of the Air”. New York: New Haven Yale University Press, 1918)





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Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Handley Page Heyford





The Heyford was a interwar British biplane bomber of the 1930s. The Heyford was built to meet Air Ministry specification B.19/27 for a heavy night bomber to replace the Vickers Virginia, which required a twin-engined aircraft capable of carrying 1,546 lb of bombs and flying 920 miles at 115 mph. 


The aircraft was of mixed construction having fabric-covered, two-bay metal-frame wings, while the fuselage had an aluminium monocoque forward section with a fabric-covered frame to the rear, It had a crew of four, consisting of a pilot, a bomb aimer/navigator/gunner, a radio operator and a dorsal/ventral gunner.
Although it had a short service life, it equipped several squadrons of the RAF as one of the most important British bombers of the mid-1930s, and was the last biplane heavy bomber to serve with the RAF. The aircraft was named for and first deployed at RAF Upper Heyford, near Bicester in Oxfordshire. It first flew in June 1930, and 124 of three main marks were delivered from June 1933 up until July 1936, serving with 11 squadrons. They were powered by two rolls royce kestrels, well-liked in service, easy to maintain, sturdy and agile.


At the time of the Munich crisis in 1938, the RAF still had six squadrons of Heyfords in Bomber Command; they were brought to readiness with full bomb-loads and armament during the crisis, but never dropped a bomb or fired a shot in anger in their entire careers.


The last front line Heyford did not leave No.166 Squadron at Leconfield in Yorkshire until 2 September 1939 (the day before Britain declared war on Germany), being replaced by Whitleys. This left 40 still serving mainly as bombing and gunnery trainers until August 1940.


The last two airworthy survivors flew on until April/May 1941 as glider tugs on trials with the Hotspur I assault glider.
Variants were Mk l prototypes, Mk lA with engine support changes, power-driven generator, four-blade propellers, Mk ll powered by 640 hp Kestrel IV engines and Mk lll with Supercharged 695 hp Kestrel VI engines.




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Monday, January 16, 2017

William Avery Bishop





“At 15, Bishop had his first experience with aviation: he built an aircraft out of cardboard, wood crates and string, and "flew" off the roof of his three-story house. He was dug, unharmed, out of the wreckage by his sister”.

Bishop attended the Royal Military College before joining the 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles at the beginning of the war. After serving overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in December 1915 and received his pilot's certificate in 1917.


Flying Nieuport scouts and the S.E.5a, "The Lone Hawk" was considered by some to be a mediocre pilot, but his extraordinary eyesight and consistent practice earned him a reputation as a crack shot.


As the commanding officer of the "Flying Foxes," he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross(DFC) after scoring 25 victories in just twelve days. On the morning of 2 June 1917, his single-handed attack against a German aerodrome on the Arras front earned him the Victoria Cross, making Bishop the first Canadian flyer to receive this honor. Before the war ended, he found time to write "Winged Warfare," an autobiographical account of his exploits in the air over France.



He was officially credited with 72 victories, making him the top Canadian ace of the war.
Because Bishop flew many of his patrols alone, most of his victories were never witnessed.

"[Like] nearly all other pilots who come face to face with the [enemy] in the air for the first time, I could hardly realize that these were real live, hostile machines. I was fascinated by them and wanted to circle about and have a good look at them." William Bishop




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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wooden Propellers, "how did they do that"















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Monday, January 9, 2017

“Black Mike” McEwen




Clifford MacKay “Black Mike” McEwen was born on 2 July 1896 in Griswold, Manitoba and grew up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

A graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, McEwen joined the Canadian Army in 1916. In April 1917 he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps. A founding member of 28 Squadron, he served in Italy as a Sopwith Camel pilot, scoring 27 victories. For his wartime service, McEwen was awarded the Military Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Bar, and the Italian Bronze Medal for Valour.



In 1919 "Black Mike" returned to Canada where he served as an instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Force. From 1932 to 1941 he was commander of air training operations at Camp Borden, Ontario, then at Trenton, Ontario, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
During World War II, he commanded two bomber group bases, assuming command of 6 Bomber Group in England in 1944. He attained the rank of Air Vice-Marshal and retired in 1946 but continued working as a consultant to various aircraft manufacturers. He was 69 when he died.




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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Short lived interwar aircraft.




Vickers Type 161 

 In 1930 the British Air Ministry was researching an interceptor fighter operating as a stable gun platform for the Coventry Ordnance 37mm gun. Specifications also called for a top speed well in excess of a typical bomber's cruising speed and a good rate of climb. The gun was to be mounted at 45 degrees or more above the horizontal, so that the aircraft could fly below the target bomber or airship, and fire upwards into it.

The Vickers Type 161 and the Westland Aircraft C.O.W. Gun Fighter were designed and built in reply to the Ministry’s specifications. The aircraft flew well but re-thinking in the Air Ministry saw that the increasing speed of newer fighter aircraft was reducing the window of successful use of this design and it held little or no advantage over conventional set ups and the concept was abandoned.


 Westland "Gun Fighter"



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Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Le Prieur Rocket




Le Prieur rockets were a type of incendiary air-to-air rockets used in World War I against observation balloons and airships. They were invented by the French Lieutenant Yves Le Prieur and were first used in the Battle of Verdun in 1916. 



The rocket was essentially a cardboard tube filled with 200 grams of black powder with a wooden conical head attached (by doped paper or linen tape) and had a triangular knife blade inserted in a slot across its apex forming a spear point. A square sectioned wooden stick (usually pine) was taped to the rocket with about 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) extending back from the base of the rocket and fitted snugly into a launch tube attached to the aircraft inter-plane struts.

As top French military officers had expressed concerns about fire hazard for the attacking aircraft, Yves Le Prieur first experimented with his weapon by fitting one on a short section of a Voisin aircraft wing bolted on a Piccard Pictet automobile (one of the few period cars with a genuine 120 km/h capability). As the tests went on with full success, the weapon was soon put into active service.


The rockets were fired electrically from the interplane struts supporting the wings of biplanes via a cockpit switch. The switch would launch all the rockets consecutively. The rockets were generally fired at a range of 100–150 metres with the aircraft at an inclined dive angle of 45 degrees.The steeper the dive the straighter the trajectory and the more accurate the attack. Attacks were made in the direction of the length of the balloon and against the wind, the pilot taking aim via the plane's existing gun-sight. However, the ignition and discharge of each rocket did not occur immediately and a delay varied slightly from one rocket to another. Thus the pilot had to continue to hold the target in his gun-sight and the dive continued until the last rocket discharged.


It successfully brought down observation balloons, but never managed to bring down a Zeppelin, although it was used to defend the United Kingdom from Zeppelin raids.  Wikipedia






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Monday, January 2, 2017

William George "Billy" Barker





From Rathwell, Manitoba, William George Barker left high school in Dauphin to enlist in the Canadian Mounted Rifles in December 1914. He spent eight months in the trenches before he received a commission in the Royal Flying Corps in April 1916. After starting out as a mechanic, he qualified as an observer in August 1916 and shot down his first enemy aircraft from the rear seat of a B.E.2d.


Posted to England in November 1916, he soloed after 55 minutes of dual instruction and received a pilot's certificate in January 1917. A month later, he was back in France flying an R.E.8 until wounded by anti-aircraft fire on 7 August 1917. When he recovered, he served as a flight instructor before returning to combat duty in France.
In November 1917, his squadron was reassigned to Italy where Barker's Sopwith Camel became the single most successful fighter aircraft of the war. Logging more than 379 hours of flight time, Barker shot down 46 enemy aircraft before Camel #B6313 was retired from service and dismantled on 2 October 1918. That month, he assumed command of the air combat school at Hounslow.


Although Barker was reportedly not a highly skilled pilot – suffering several flying accidents during his career – he compensated for this deficiency with an aggressiveness in action and highly accurate marksmanship.

Barker was wounded in the head by anti-aircraft fire in August 1917. After a short spell in the UK as an instructor, Barker's continual requests for front line service resulted in him being transferred to become a scout pilot, being offered a post with either 56 Squadron or 28 Squadron. He chose command of C Flight in the newly formed 28 Squadron, flying the Sopwith Camel that he preferred over the S.E.5s of 56 Squadron.



Deciding he needed to brush up on air combat techniques for his new assignment, Barker joined 201 Squadron for ten days in France. During that time, he saw no action and was about to return to England when he decided to make one more excursion over the front. On 27 October 1918, alone and flying a Sopwith Snipe, he encountered sixty Fokker D.VIIs flying in stepped formation. In an epic battle with Jagdgeschwader 3, Barker shot down four enemy aircraft despite appalling wounds to both legs and his elbow. Fainting from pain and loss of blood, he managed to crash land his Snipe within the safety of the British lines.
Snipe 7F.l
Barker returned to Canada in May 1919 as the most decorated Canadian of the war, with the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, the Military Cross and two Bars, two Italian Silver Medals for Military Valour, and the French Croix de guerre.



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