Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Blackburn Kangaroo

In 1916, the Blackburn Aircraft Company designed and built two prototypes of an anti-submarine floatplane designated the Blackburn G.P. or Blackburn General Purpose. 
The Royal Flying Corps showed no interest so Blackburn developed a landplane version as the Blackburn R.T.1 Kangaroo (Reconnaissance Torpedo Type 1).  

The first aircraft was delivered to Martlesham Heath in January 1918. Test results were disappointing, with the rear fuselage being prone to twisting and the aircraft suffering control problems, which led to the order for fifty aircraft being cut to twenty, most of which were already partly built. Corrections were made and engines were updated from the 250 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon II to the more powerful 275 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon III. 

Twenty-four Kangaroos were built and 10 of these were issued to No 246 Squadron (the only unit to operate the type) at Seaton Carew, on the Durham coast. 
Operations began on 1 May, the Kangaroos flying more than 600 hours on anti-submarine patrols over the North Sea between then and 11 November. During that time they were credited with 12 U-boat sightings and 11 attacks, one of which, on 28 August, resulted in the shared destruction of UC 70 with the destroyer HMS Ouse. They were withdrawn from service in May 1919.

Wingspan of 74 feet, height of 17 feet and maximum takeoff weight of 8,017 pounds. Capable of a maximum speed of 98 mph at 6,500 feet.

The Kangaroo had a crew of 3, armed with two Lewis machine guns and was capable of carrying up to 920 pounds of bombs.

Monday, August 28, 2017

German Ace, Ernst Freiherr von Althaus

Althaus was born in Coburg, Germany and was the son of the Adjutant to the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. At age 16, he joined the 1st Saxon Husaren-Regiment Nr. 18 as an ensign in Grossenhain in 1909 and was serving in that unit at the outbreak of war.

In the spring of 1915 he transferred to the Fliegertruppen and trained at FEA 6 at Grossenhain. Here he acquired the nickname Hussar Althaus.

Oblt. Ernst Freiherr von Althaus strikes a casual pose with Ltn. Rudolf Trentepohl, one of his former observers at FFA 23”

He was promoted to Oberleutnant August 1915 and posted to FA 23 on 20 September where he led long distance reconnaissance flights. Two months later he joined Kampf Kommandos Vaux and by April he became an ace. In July 1916, he notched his eighth win, thus earning the Pour le Mérite. He was one of the original Fokker Eindekker pilots who became known collectively as the Fokker Scourge.

He was wounded, for the second time, in March 1917 and after recovering was posted to Jasta 14 shortly before Manfred von Richthofen selected him to command Jasta 10. With this unit he flew an Albatros D.V with his personal marking, the letters H and A (for Hussar Althaus), spelled out along the fuselage in morse code. 

He scored one more victory with this aircraft in July 1917 but the following month, due to failing eyesight, he was forced to relinquish command of Jasta 10 to Werner Voss. He then assumed command of Jasta 11 but his eyesight worsened and he returned to the army, commanding a company of infantry near Verdun. After a battle in which his company was reduced to fifteen men, he was captured by Americans in October 1918, and not repatriated until September 1919.

Althaus was credited with nine confirmed aerial victories, as well as eight unconfirmed ones. 

He was awarded; the Military Order of St. Henry, the Iron Cross, second class, the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern and the Pour le Mérite.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Wight Quadruplane prototypes

The aircraft was built by J Samuel White & Company Limited, a boat manufacturer who specialised in seaplanes during WW1. They were located at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, hence the name Wight Aircraft. The Quadruplane prototypes, built in 1916, was the only aircraft in the fighter category they built.

Design chief Howard T. Wright was inspired by the multi-wing aircraft of the time and like others before him may have felt that a fourth wing would be an improvement.

Designated N546, the plane had an unusual arrangement in which the fuselage was placed between the middle two wings with upper and lower wings attached by struts. Another remarkable feature was that its wingspan was less than the overall length. The wings were cambered on the leading and trailing edges with a flat middle section. This wing design proved to be very inefficient. Power was provided by a 110 hp (82 kW) Clerget 9Z nine-cylinder air cooled rotary engine and it was to be armed with two 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns.

The original version had two cabane struts of long chord length supporting the upper wing. Four similar type interplane struts were used between the upper three wings, all of which had ailerons. The bottom wing had a shorter span with pairs of struts and cut outs for the landing gear wheels. Because the axle was the same height as the lower wing, the tail skid was very tall to prevent that wing trailing edge from contacting the ground. When tested in mid 1916 the aircraft had difficulty taking off due to shallow wing incidence and displayed dangerous tendencies because of a lack of yaw control and a major redesign was required.

In February 1917 the second version was ready for testing. The single thick struts were replaced with more conventional parallel wire braced struts and the landing gear was lengthened. The new wings were of varying chord and the overall diameter of the fuselage was increased. Most importantly, a larger dorsal fin and rudder were installed. After several disappointing flights at Martlesham Heath the machine was, once again, returned to the aircraft production facilities in Cowes for another rework.

The final version had new wings of decreasing span from top to bottom and ailerons only on the upper two wings. At Martlesham Heath in July 1917, flight testing again revealed an unsatisfactory lack of control. In February 1918 the Quadruplane crashed into a cemetery and was written off.

References for this blog may come from Wikipedia, WW1, Warplanes of the First World War, The Complete Book of Fighters, The British Fighter since 1912, and others.

Monday, August 21, 2017

French/American Ace, Gervais Raoul Lufbery


There are various accounts of his childhood and young adulthood most differ in some particulars but all agree that he was born in France on March 14, 1885. His mother, a French woman, his father, Edward Lufbery, an American.

1908 found him in San Francisco, where he enlisted in the US Army. He spent his service in the Philippines. After his enlistment expired he traveled the far east and in 1912 while visiting India he met pioneer French aviator, Marc Pourpe. Their resulting friendship determined the course of Lufbery’s life. He became Pourpe’s chief mechanic and the duo spent the next two years demonstrating the mystery of manned flight to crowds in India, China, and Egypt, before returning to France in the summer of 1914.

At the outbreak of WW1 Pourpe enlisted in the French air service, while Lufbery, a US citizen, joined the Foreign Legion and later transferred into the Aéronautique Militaire as a mechanic. Pourpe's death in a crash ignited Lufbery's desire for revenge and he sought and was granted permission to enlist in aviation school. He initially trained on two-seaters and flew missions with a bomber squadron before transferring to combat fighter school in April 1916, where he learned to fly the standard French combat aircraft, the Nieuport.

The following month, in May 1916, Sergeant Lufbery joined a newly formed squadron of American volunteer combat pilots, the Escadrille Lafayette (No.124), or Lafayette Escadrille.
The squadron consisted of 38 American pilots and four French officers.
At first his encounters with his unit members did not go smoothly. Lufbery spoke English with a thick French accent and had little in common with his comrades, most of whom were from wealthy families and were Ivy League educated. Once in combat, though, his dogged determination and success earned him the respect and admiration of his peers and in October 1916 “Luf” became the first recognized American air ace after downing his fifth enemy aircraft.

R to L, Edmond Charles Clinton,  Lufbery, Gervais Raoul, McConnell, James Rogers  Soubiran, Robert,  France, Lafayette Escadrille.

Luf’s fame continued to rise as the number of his “kills” grew following America’s entry into the war in April 1917. Ultimately, Lufbery was credited with 17 confirmed enemy aircraft shot down, though aviation scholars generally believe that the actual number was considerably higher.

In November 1917, Lufbery was commissioned into the US Army Air Service. Promoted to major in January 1918, and was chosen to become the commanding officer of the yet-unformed 94th Aero Squadron. His duties were to instruct the new US pilots for combat. One of those pilots, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker who would later consistently laud his former mentor, “Everything I learned, I learned from Lufbery.”

On 19 May 1918, Lufbery took off in his Nieuport 28 in an attempt to intercept a German reconnaissance plane near to the 94th's home airfield. As Lufbery closed in to attack, the German gunner's fire hit the Nieuport which suddenly flipped over and Lufbery was seen falling from the aircraft, with no parachute. He fell to his death. 

In his lifetime he was awarded; The Legion of Honor, The Médaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, Military Medal (GB) and Montenegro Silver Medal for Bravery.

In 2004, eighty six years after he was killed in action, Raoul Lufbery was posthumously awarded the American Purple Heart.

References for this blog may come from Wikipedia, WW1, Warplanes of the First World War, The Complete Book of Fighters, The British Fighter since 1912, and others.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Siemens-Schuckert D series fighters

When the French Nieuport 17 fighter, reached the front lines in March 1916, it proved superior over existing German fighters. Soon captured examples were whisked away to German aircraft manufactures with the request to produce an improved craft.

The D.I

The Siemens-Schuckert Werke produced their version of the Nieuport 17 designated the D.I. The most important difference was the powerplant - instead of the Le Rhone 9J of the Nieuport , Siemens-Schuckert chose to use their own 110 hp Siemens-Halske Sh.I rotary engine. Visually, instead of the Nieuport 17's circular, fully "closed" cowling the D.I had a small, close fitting, semi-circular cowling with an open bottom, to allow adequate cooling for the slow revving rotary engine. This gave the D.II the appearance of the earlier Nieuport 11. The wing area was a little less than the Nieuport, the gap between the wings was reduced slightly and the interplane struts were of different design. Late production models were fitted with modified tail skids, and had large pointed spinners on their propellers. An An order for 150 aircraft was placed on 25 November 1916, deliveries were slow and the D.I was obsolete before it was available in numbers, being outclassed by the Albatros D.III. Only 95 were produced with most being sent to the fighter training schools.

The D.II
D.II undergoing stress testing

Development work on the D series aircraft continued with the introduction of the new Siemens-Halske Sh.III engine, which developed 160 hp. The new engine was fitted to a series of original prototype designs from Siemens, the D.II, D.IIa and D.IIb. These featured a much rounder and wider front fuselage to hold the larger engine, leading to a rather stubby-looking aircraft which pilots later referred to as the flying beer barrel. Flight tests started in June 1917, and while the aircraft did not have a very high top speed, they showed outstanding rates of climb. The only serious concern was the extremely long landing gear needed to keep the huge 2-bladed prop clear of the ground.
Three more prototypes were ordered, two D.IIc with longer span wings and one D.IIe, with the original sized wings. After completion in October 1917, the design proved promising and in December an order for twenty D.IIc was placed with a smaller 4-bladed propeller, that allowed for shorter landing gear legs. A second order of 30 aircraft in February 1918.


First production D.III

The D.IIc were designated the D.III. Approximately 41 D.IIIs were delivered to frontline units between April and May 1918. Most aircraft were supplied to Jasta II, whose pilots were enthusiastic about the new aircraft's climbing ability and was well-received by its pilots, evaluating it as the ideal fighter for dogfight. In tests against the Fokker D.VII and Albatros D.V, the D.III was the faster of the three.
However, after only seven to 10 hours of service, however, the Sh.III engines started showing serious problems with overheating and piston seizure.
In late May 1918, the D.III was withdrawn from service for upgrading and Jasta II replaced its D.IIIs with the older Fokker Dr.I.

In the words of the Jasta.II commander, Hptm Rudolf Berthold, "The Siemens fighter must be made available again for front-line use as quickly as possible for, after elimination of the present faults, it is likely to become one of our most useful fighter aircraft.",
The engine problem was later traced to the Voltol mineral oil that was used to replace the now-scarce castor oil.
Furthermore, the close-fitting engine cowling provided inadequate cooling to the engine.
All remaining D.III aircraft were returned to the Siemens-Schuckert factory, where they were retrofitted with new Sh.IIIa engines and cutaway cowlings that provided improved airflow. A further 30 new production D.IIIs incorporated these modifications. Total production amounted to about 80 aircraft.

The D.III never returned to front-line duty and finished the war as an interceptor with home defense squadrons.

The D.IV

A D.III wing redesign by Heinrich Kann, a new young member of the design team, resulted in three prototypes being built early in 1918.
The new aircraft, which would be designated D.IV, was faster than the D III (although only by 6 mph). Its main advantage was its time of climb to 16,400 feet or above, where it overtook the D III and it could reach 19,680 feet nearly five minutes quicker than the D III.
A production order was placed in March 1918, and eventually 280 machines were ordered (only 123 were completed). The first aircraft went to operation units in August, starting with Jasta 14 and Jasta 22. Only about fifty D IVs reached operational units before the end of the war.
The D IV was popular with the pilots. Staffelfuhrer Lt Lenz, the first pilot at Jasta 22 to receive the new aircraft wrote a glowing report on it in October 1918. He described it as the best single seater at the front, with superior climbing ability and maneuverability was good. It was especially useful above 4,000 meters, where it out-flew the Fokker D VII and he suggested using the Fokker aircraft at lower levels. He did acknowledge that engine overheating was still a problem and recommended that it should be used as an interceptor rather than on patrols. He also thought it was best used by more advanced pilots.

Production of the D.IV continued after the cease-fire, with many being sold to Switzerland where they operated into the late 1920s.

References for this blog may come from Wikipedia, WW1, Warplanes of the First World War, The Complete Book of Fighters, The British Fighter since 1912, and others.

Monday, August 14, 2017

American Ace, Field Eugene Kindley

Kindley was born March, 1896, at Prairie Grove, Arkansas.
After he completed his education, he moved to Coffeyville, Kansas where he became a motion picture operator. In May of 1917 he joined the Kansas National Guard.
He volunteered for a transfer into the aviation branch of the United States Army Signal Corps and here he attended the School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Illinois.

Kindley established himself as an unlucky and somewhat untalented flier, with a series of accidents, mechanical failures, and landing mishaps. He became part of the first group of American pilots to be transferred to England for combat training in 1917. In the spring of 1918, he completed training and commissioned as a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Service.

On his first flight, he was assigned to ferry a Sopwith Camel from England to the western front, but crashed on the White Cliffs of Dover. Kindley was sent to hospital to recover. After his release, he was assigned to the Royal Air Force's 65 Squadron on the Western Front on 22 May 1918. Here he scored his first victory, flying a Sopwith Camel, on June 26th, 1918 over Albert, France, a Pfalz D.III of Jasta 5.

In July 1918, he was reassigned to the newly former 148th Aero Squadron as a flight commander where in the same month he scored the units first victory, an Albatros D.V near Ypres.

On the 13th of August Kindley's patrol engaged Jasta 11. That day he scored his fourth victory, shooting down a Fokker D.VII possibly flown by Lothar von Richthofen who was wounded in the battle.

September proved to be a busy month as he scored four more victories and on the 24th he led a flight of Camels in a successful attack on seven Fokkers near Bourlon Wood, France. Three days later, found him dropping bombs on and strafing German infantry, destroying a German observation balloon, taking out a German machine gun nest, shooting down an enemy airplane, and scaring two Fokker biplanes away from fellow fliers even after his ammunition had been exhausted.

These missions in late September 1918, earned him the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), an Oak Leaf Cluster (DSC) and the British Distinguished Flying Cross. 

While with the 148th Aero Squadron, flying a Camel, he scored 11 confirmed kills, ending the war with a total of 12 confirmed.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Sopwith Scooter and Sopwith Swallow, two Sopwith designs that never went past the prototype stage.

In June 1918, the Sopwith Aviation Company flew an unarmed parasol monoplane derivative of the Sopwith Camel, the Sopwith Monoplane No. 1, also known as the Sopwith Scooter. It used a normal Camel fuselage, with the wing mounted just above the fuselage, with a very small gap. The wing was braced using RAF-wire (streamlined bracing wires) to a pyramid shaped cabane above the wing. It was powered by a single 130 hp (97 kW) Clerget 9B rotary engine.

The Scooter, which was used as a runabout and aerobatic mount by Sopwith test pilot Harry Hawker, demonstrated excellent manoeuvrability, and formed the basis of a fighter derivative, the Monoplane No. 2, and later known as the Sopwith Swallow.

Like the Scooter, the Swallow used the fuselage of a Camel, but it had a larger, slightly swept, wing of greater wingspan and area, which was mounted higher above the fuselage to allow the pilot to access the two synchronised Vickers machine guns. It was powered by a 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhône engine.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Belgium Ace, Jan Olieslagers

Before the Great War, Jan Olieslagers was already a very well known person as the motorbike world champion and later as very successful record holding pilot in his Bleriot monoplanes. 

When the Germans invaded Belgium, he and his two brothers joined the army as volunteers and donated their three Blériot XI monoplanes to the war effort. Jan was promoted to Sergeant, then commissioned before the end of 1914.
January 1915 saw him flying a Nieuport 10 and his fighter-pilot skills became evident and on September 12th, 1915 he became the first Belgian pilot, as well as one of the first pilots overall, to claim an aerial victory, when he forced down an Aviatik C.I.

He then had a string of four unconfirmed claims before he traded his Nieuport 10 for a Nieuport 11. He scored his second confirmed victory on 17 June 1916, destroying a Fokker D.II over Pijpegale, Belgium. Seven more unconfirmed claims of aerial victories, while flying the Nieuport 11, closed out 1917.

Olieslagers habitually took the fight to the Germans and was indifferent to the paperwork to staking claims and he usually did not bother with claims for wins behind the German lines. All this lead to his poor record of approvals that was sufficient to keep his scores low.
He seldom took leave and tended to busy himself around his home aerodrome and the airplanes assigned to him. He would spend hours with rookie pilots, helping to ease their entry into the deadly art of aerial warfare.

On November 4, 1917, he fainted while landing and crashed onto Les Moeres aerodrome. He was taken to hospital in a coma, but aroused a few days later.

He returned to flight duty in January 1918 flying his newly acquired Hanriot HD.1, but would not score again until May 8th, on that day, he had one of two claims confirmed. On the 19th, a Albatros D.V became his last official victory, although he would have one more unverified win.
On November 9th, 1918, engine problems brought Jan Olieslagers down in a field near Eeklo. It was his 518th and final combat sortie. He had fought in 97 dogfights over a four-year stretch.
He finished the war with a stunted tally of six confirmed victories but this total could have been much higher had he took claiming victories seriously.

His awards included; Order of Leuplod (Belgian), Croix de Guerre (France), Legion of Honor (France), Order of Saint Stanislas (Russian) and Belgian War Cross.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Tarrant Tabor

Walter G. Tarrant was a well-known woodworking contractor at Byfleet, Surrey. His company supplied countless structural components to other aircraft manufacturers during WW1. In 1917 Tarrant along with Marcel Lobelle from the nearby company of Martinsyde, and by W H Barling from the Royal Aircraft Factory set about designing and building the world's largest bomber aircraft.

Construction was primarily in wood with conventional biplane strut-braced wings and a monocoque fuselage built up from ply veneers. The monocoque construction gave a large open space within the fuselage. The pilots were situated in the nose, with a partition separating them from the engineer's station and the engine controls mounted on either side of the opening in the partition. The fuel tanks were in the top and sides of the fuselage to maintain the clear internal space.

The original design was to be powered by four 600hp Siddeley Tigers, arranged in tandem pusher/tractor pairs at midgap. It soon became evident, however, that the Tiger would not be ready in the timespan required so in order to maintain a comparable power/weight ratio, Tarrant elected to fit six 450hp Napier Lions instead, at the same time adding an upper, third wing with the same dimensions and structure as those of the bottom wing, transferring the support for what became the central wing's large overhang to the top wing. The two additional Lion tractor engines were mounted directly above the lower pairs.

The intended bomb load was twenty 230 pound bombs carried under the lower wing center section. Diagonal center section struts passed from the upper wing, through the central wing and fuselage meeting on the lower wing. This in effect, created a huge Warren truss of great strength. This structure design would thus have distributed the bomb load to all the wings without compromising the cylindrical fuselage structure.

The fuselage was a finely-streamlined, cigar-shaped structure which carried a biplane tail unit, comprising two tailplanes, the lower of which incorporated a horn-balanced elevator, and the upper a trimming surface operated by handwheel in the pilot's cockpit. A second elevator was mounted in the tailplane gap.
The landing gear was huge, as you can see, with each wheel assembly being attached by struts designed to distribute landing loads equally to the three wings. 

The wingspan was of over 131 ft (40 m), overall height of 37ft 3in compared, for instance, to 20ft 8in of the Bristol Braemar triplane bomber. Loaded weight would have been 44,672 pounds.

Work on the aircraft briefly stopped at the end of the War, when it was no longer needed as a bomber. The design was altered to allow it to be used as a commercial or transport aircraft and construction resumed.
The Tabor was readied for its maiden flight from the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough on 26 May, 1919. With two pilots and five passengers the plane was taxied around the landing field using only the four lower engines. Satisfied with the behaviour of the aircraft the crew decided to take-off. The tail was off the ground but it was still running on the main wheels, intermittently lifting off.
When the pilots brought both of the upper engines to full power the aircraft pitched forward, causing the aircraft to nose over into the ground and to inflict fatal injuries on both men.

Later analysis suggested that the upper engines were so far above the fuselage that they forced the nose down when full power was applied.

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