History

Five dollar Frank and the poor man’s flying school

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“Five Dollar Frank” was his moniker, as he owned Thomas Flying Service and gave sightseeing tours of the area for $5. Each flight was a half hour, with his sister sitting beside the Esso gas pump next to the stone “terminal” waiting to gas up the plane upon arrival. Thousands flew with Frank over the years, and his name still brings a smile to those with history in the area.

From the archives: the 1968 Reading Show

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Before Oshkosh was the big show, the annual gathering in Reading, Pennsylvania, was the center of the aviation universe. In this article from the June 1968 edition of Air Facts, you’ll see what general aviation looked like during the heyday of the late 1960s. From the new airplanes to the celebrity pilots, it was a thrilling time to be a pilot.

From the archives: Richard Collins goes behind the scenes at Center

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Aviation technology has changed rapidly over the years, and yet Air Traffic Control works much the same as it did during the booming 1960s. In this article from 51 years ago, Richard Collins goes behind the scenes at Washington Center to explore the technology at work, from flight plan routes to weather deviations. It’s a fascinating time capsule.

Battling G forces at Holloman Air Force Base

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There is another Air Force base not having the notoriety of Elgin or Nellis – Holloman AFB, in the southeastern corner of New Mexico. Along the way, it has served as weapons development establishment – about ninety miles south of the Trinity site where the first atom bomb was detonated, a test base for early versions of ballistic missiles, training for Air Force and Allied aircrews, a stateside station for German Air Force units, and an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle.

From the archives: Bob Buck on low approaches

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This article, published 50 years ago in Air Facts, shows how the fundamentals of instrument flying remain constant. While the technology has changed dramatically since Bob Buck wrote these words, the practical lessons are as valid today as they were in 1969.

What doomed the Beech Lightning?

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Given its string of success in evolutionary model design it was natural for people at Beech to continue to look for more ways to evolve their airplanes in new directions. In the early 1980s somebody, or perhaps a small group of people, realized they had the basis for a very good single-engine turboprop.

From the archives: Wolfgang Langewiesche on quiet airplanes

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In this prescient article from 50 years ago, legendary pilot and writer Wolfgang Langewiesche considered the role of general aviation airports in a world of ever-expanding suburban communities. He saw the need for a quieter breed of airplanes in order to prevent a public backlash. Now, with electric airplanes tentatively finding a foothold, this article seems as relevant as ever.

From the archives: Len Morgan on the personal stories a pilot sees

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Most airline flights involve simply moving people and things from point A to point B, but sometimes an airline pilot gets a view of the human side. In this touching article by Len Morgan, the legendary pilot and authro shares a memorable flight that shows how powerful air travel can be and the lives it can connect. This article originally appeared in the November 1956 edition of Air Facts.

Remembering a Christmas tragedy 50 years later

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During the holiday season of 1968, in an isolated Pennsylvania community, Allegheny Airlines’ professionalism, safety culture and luck would abandon the airline to a sequence of events no fiction writer could invent. And the echo of those tragedies continues to resonate a half century later.

A brief history of single-engine solo circumnavigation flights

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Earth Rounders currently document 231 single-engine circumnavigations by more than one pilot and 124 solo circumnavigations. The range of single-engine airplanes that have made circumnavigations is amazing: Long EZs, RVs, a Stearman, a Searey. Unbelievable! Of course Mooneys, Bonanzas, Pipers, several Cessna 182s and all kinds of homebuilts have made the trip.

From the archives: Bob Buck on radar

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While datalink weather is all the rage these days, some 60 years ago, Captain Robert N. Buck thought another hot weather technology, onboard radar, was ready to change the world. This article originally appeared in the November, 1956 edition of Air Facts, and it’s still a fascinating look at how pilots interact with new technology.

Who controls the navigable airspace?

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There were two theories on the status of airspace for international air navigation. One argued for freedom of airspace much like the freedom of the seas, by which the countries underlying the airspace exercised no sovereignty in the airspace and flight was free. The other argued that the airspace above national territories was not free, but subject to the sovereignty of the underlying country.

Tom Neil, One of Two Living WWII RAF Aces, Flies West

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On July 11, 2018, Tom Neil, one of only two living RAF aces from the Battle of Britain, died a few days short of his 98th birthday. He flew an astonishing 141 combat missions in the Battle. His very long career in the RAF (he did not retire until 1964) also included such things as the Battle of Malta, and intercepting jet-powered V-1 “buzz bombs” over Britain in 1944.  

Beech X700: The Starship that could have been

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Beech, as every successful company does, had ongoing efforts to design improved and replacement airplanes for the company line. In the late 1970s John Pike had his preliminary design group perform configuration studies on airplanes that could supersede Beech’s King Air 90 and 200 stalwart turboprops. The X700 seemed to be the best idea, but it was never made.

From the archives: Flying W Ranch

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In this trip through the Air Facts archives, we stop in June, 1963, where Richard Collins reported on a new airport just east of Philadelphia with a unique community atmosphere. The airport is still around, but the idea never caught on. Why not?

Archie Trammell, the man who set airplane standards

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Archie Trammell died in early February at age 89. Archie accomplished much over decades in aviation, including being a foremost expert on use of airborne weather radar. But I think his greatest contribution was making it possible to compare airplane performance, weight and price using a constant standard.

Why the Starship was such a disaster

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When one examines a failure of such monumental scale as the Beech Starship program, the inevitable question is, “Why did they do that?” As in almost every instance where things go badly wrong, it was a series of decisions made under shifting circumstances that led to the ultimate disaster.