History

Time Capsule: Leighton Collins flies an early 707 to Europe

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From time to time, we revisit an original Air Facts article that we think would make enjoyable and worthwhile reading today. So it is with Leighton’s “Flight 700,” his story of flying with iconic Captain Robert Buck in a 707 at the beginning of the Jet Age. This is a detailed description of a flight, and like us, you will no doubt marvel at how much has changed.

Fields of vision: carving hills into airports

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When the Wright brothers finally had a flying machine that could take off and fly under complete control, they still had no place to fly it from. Phil Scott shares the fascinating history of how airports came to be, from grass fields to WPA airports in the 1930s.

The production T-37 “Tweet” serves up an enduring mystery

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In very early 1952, I was an undergraduate working part time in Cessna’s Flight Test, Aerodynamics and Preliminary Design Group when a request for proposal for the TX came in from the Air Force. The TX was to be the first, that is the primary, trainer in a series of three new trainers which would finish with the TZ, a supersonic one.

Geraldine Mock and the Spirit of Columbus

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Ask the average person on the street, “Who was the first woman to fly around the world solo?” and you’ll likely hear, “Amelia Earhart.” Of course, they would be wrong. Ask that same question of a pilot and you’ll get a blank stare. That’s because most pilots know that someone must have done it, but they aren’t sure who.

Defining the Cessna 310

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The author played a key role in designing and testing the ground-breaking Cessna 310. In this one-of-a-kind article, he shares some of the struggles that went on behind the scenes, including issues with stability and performance. He also shares his suspicions, untold for over 50 years, about a unsigned drawing he discovered.

The chocolate bomber

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They were ragged and starving, these kids who had gathered, amid the ruins, to watch airplanes bring food to Berlin. It was mid-July 1948. Twenty-seven-year-old Lt. Gail Halvorsen had been on the airlift for two weeks, flying an exhausting three round trips each day.

Assessing necessity – wind tunnels at Cessna

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Our Vice President of Engineering at Cessna during my time there in the Golden 1950s was sort of a contrary guy. He was absolutely sure that wind tunnel tests were a waste of time. But after heartfelt discussion, he reluctantly agreed to let us do it on the proposed Cessna 620.

Two Ford Tri-motor flights – 75 years apart

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In 1935 I was six years old, and we were living in Ponca City, Oklahoma. One day a Ford Tri-motor flew into our grass airfield and offered rides, at a price, to our “city’s” inhabitants. I was completely hooked on aviation from that moment on, and determined that I wanted to be part of it.

Designing the Cessna 180

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Former Cessna engineer and test pilot Harry Clements shares his personal history of designing the Cessna 180. As you might expect, not everything went smoothly during this bush plane’s development.

12 aviation books I like

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Here is a brief list of my favorite aviation books, making special note of the practical hands-on airplane knowledge they impart. And what’s more important, they’re all in easy-to-understand English. Do you have a favorite aviation book? Add it to our list.

WWII Watson’s Whizzers

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It was a mission late in the war. Lieutenant Robert Anspach was flying cover in his P-47 Thunderbolt for a group of B-26 Marauders near the Messerschmitt factory airfield at Lechfeld, Germany. From out of nowhere an enemy airplane rocketed past, blasting off a few rounds. It looked like nothing they’d seen before. Ever.

Blackbirds and the Colored Air Circus of 1931

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More than two decades after the Wright brothers made history, only one African American, Bessie Coleman, possessed an international pilot’s license. That didn’t sit well with William Powell, who sought to expose more African Americans to the art of flying. In the process he inspired blacks to take a greater role in aviation, and along the way he formed history’s first all-black aerobatic team.

Crappy runways

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It’s known as the Pucker Factor, and everyone contracts it at that particular airport where, frankly, it sucks to land. Phil Scott reviews some of the worst, from Catalina Island to the Himalayas. Read his list, then add your own nominees.

Bob Hoover and I share a secret

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Did this sixteen year old notice what no one else did–the great Bob Hoover making a mistake at the Reading Air Show? New author Cragg Utman tells the story, including his conversation with Hoover years later.

Cessna’s 620 – the stillborn prodigy

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The Cessna 620 was unique because it was a small version of the modern airliner of the day, sized to carry half a dozen or so executives in luxury accommodations, above the weather, in pressurized, air conditioned comfort. Why did it get canceled? Harry Clements worked on the project, and shares his opinion.

Mnemonic Devices: words to fly by

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Who can forget how much there is to remember piloting an airplane? FARs, cockpit procedures, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t recall right now. To make it worse, after age 26, the brain starts shrinking to the tune of two grams of tissue each year. Sometimes I’m just happy to remember to put on socks in the morning. Luckily for pilots, there were the ancient Greeks.

When was general aviation’s golden age?

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What era would you consider general aviation’s golden years? A fellow pilot asked me this question recently and it was quite thought provoking. Today’s glass cockpits, avionics, and electronic charts are wondrous devices that make technology from the 1990s seem positively quaint. But what about the exciting and innovating days of the 1950s and 1960s, or the early 1970s when gas was still cheap, airplanes were abundant, and the interiors oh so groovy?

My time machine: a trip to a WWII training ground

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I crossed mid- field, announced my intentions, and entered the pattern on the 45 for runway 13. Runway 13 is an expansive 5000 feet long and 150 feet wide. More than enough needed for my rented 1985 Piper Warrior. More than enough indeed, after all, this airfield wasn’t built for my Warrior but rather for a warrior of another type.

My friend George, the Stuka pilot

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In late 1952, the sole Royal Australian Air Force contribution to the defence of Darwin was two Wirraways, a Lincoln bomber and a Dakota. A few weeks before my first arrival at Darwin, one of the Lincoln pilots, Warrant Officer Jack Turnbull, a former Spitfire pilot, wrote off a Wirraway in a crosswind landing. The Wirraway was tricky to land in crosswinds and Jack had lost control and ground-looped seconds after touch down. He exited stage left quickly as it caught on fire.