Sunday, March 29, 2009

Don't Bother

If you are interested in seeing any part of the National Air and Space Museum online...don't bother going to the official site. You will probably have better luck searching for tourist photos. Here is the world's finest aircraft collection and their IT and Website sucks. I wanted to see how the Boeing 307 Stratoliner was displayed this morning. I knew it had suffered fuel starvation and landed in Elliot Bay in 2002, but it was fixed and is preserved at the NASM. So, I wanted to see how they fixed it, what it looks like now and how they are displaying it. I live on the West Cost, so driving down to the museum is out of the question. The internet is a vital tool for this kind of curiosity. Today, however, the NASM failed me. They gave me a suvey which I filled out in anger! I did not alleviate all my need to vent, though, so here I am.

On brighter note, I recently obtained a few post 1955 crash reports. I will be posting a better, more fruitful, article in the next few days.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Information Wanted on the 99th SRW and 348th BS of the 99th BW

In the mid-1950s, the USAF was experimenting with the concept of using large bombers to ferry RF-84K Thunderstreaks extreme distances; distances that a normal F-84 would not be able to cross on its own. From these large bombers the RF-84s were intended to launch and cross into enemy territory to take pictures and then they would return to their mother ship and then home. These large bombers were B-36s. They were redesignated GRB-36Ds. The GRB-36Ds operated from Fairchild AFB, near Spokane, Washington. There were only 10 modified as such. The RF-84Ks, of which there were approximately 25 built, operated from Larson AFB. This was called FICON, short for Fighter Conveyor.
Now, I know that much. I DO NOT know what exactly these aircrft did at Fairchild and Larson. There is one experience noted in the book Magnesium Overcast about an RF-84K that experienced hydraulic failure. The pilot hooked up with a nearby GRB-36D and ended up stating that the GRB-36D was the best emergency alternate field he'd even been to. Surely, it was not all training and flight hours. There must have been some operational missions. This was a short time before the U-2...
Is there anyone out there that knows about the 99th SRW and the 348th BS of the 99th BW? What were they doing with those RF-84Ks and GRB-36Ds??? I will be persuing this eventually via the Air Force Historical Research Agency, but obviously, first hand knowledge is preferential.
I welcome your input and support! Yes, I have been to , but I want some first hand knowledge!!
Resource: Magnesium Overcast; the Story of the Convair B-36, by Dennis R. Jenkins.

UPDATE:  I had the pleasure of speaking to Richard Lynch this morning, of Charlotte, N.C.  This gentleman was a crewman aboard the GRB-36s at Fairchild.  He said he recalled two missions.  One in which they took off with the RF-84K in the bay and one in which they picked up the RF-84K in flight.  The time he was aboard to capture an RF-84K, the RF-84K was late.  He apparently got hooked up and was on fumes.  The pilot was happy to be picked up, since fuel was so low.  The GRB-36D was capable of refueling the fighter in flight.  Mr. Lynch says he was on the same flight with another gentleman whom he did not know was aboard the same flight until many years later. This is a testament to just how many men were aboard and the size of the aircraft.  Many thanks to the internet for making these connections possible! ~November 12, 2016.   

Saturday, March 21, 2009


A friend of mine who lives in the lower valley brought this to me. It is a Radiosonde. It is a balloon borne weather instrumet. The balloon began its flight in Salem Oregon and ended up in the Lower Yakim Valley. That is a distance of about 160 miles. The weather bureau says these balloons can reach 35,000 feet. They deploy a parachute when the balloon bursts. This one took a bit of a beating. While this is not strictly an aircraft related is still an airborne item that crashed in Washington. I sent it off today in the package it came with. If you would like to learn more about radiosondes, please go here to the NOAA weather service site. I offer my thanks to Dale for allowing me the chance to photograph it and share it with my readers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

She lives! And Disaster!

OK, so Cora figured out a cool way to Google and showed me...which isn't saying much, since I apparently Google from the stone age. So, I tried a Google I have tried many times before. I Googled "C-133" then clicked on "more" and "blogs." Guess what I found! A very cool Blog that showed me that I should have been Googling "C-133" more these last 8 months (I did a lot of it before our AZ trip, but not so much after). I could have known something that I didn't before.

For instance, I was under the impression that the last active C-133 had flown for the last time in 2002. I discovered this morning, that if I had been more aware things, I might have seen something that will never be seen again. I could have been at McChord on August 28th, 2008, and seen the VERY LAST FLIGHT of a C-133. This Blog, Cargomasterraster, has lots of information about the C-133 that was used in Alaska. 61999. Apparently, and I have yet to fathom ALL the details, she was fixed up, authorized for one last trip, and flown from Alaska to Travis AFB. She will apparently become part of the collection at Travis. I am still awaiting the e-mail from the curator at the Travis Museum confirming this. Here are some photos from her landing and short stop over at McChord AFB. There are more photos on this blog.

The C-133 landed at McChord to refuel, then headed on to Travis. I SO wish I had been there.

On another note of regret, two US Navy ships collided. The USS Hartford (Submarine) and the USS New Orleans collided in the Strait of Hormuz. Apparently neither suffered severe damage. Still, it drove the price of an oil barrel up. here is the story.

Here is a photo of her on the ground at Travis. (Thanks to Mark at

All in all, a good day...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My First Wreck!

Today, I met up with Gene Gould and we both located the wreck of P-38L #44-23914.

Now, I have been reading about Aircraft Archeology for about two years. I have read first hand accounts by various authors who live in California and Arizona and Oklahoma. These guys are professionals, several have been doing this for decades. They have found hundreds of wrecks. They say on their sites that it is not easy to find a wreck, even if you know approximately where it went down. I always thought they might have been blowing just a little smoke...NOW I KNOW! They are completely correct!

This is what we were looking for...and it looks strangely like the other areas of sagebrush!

Gene and I traversed an area of sagebrush the size of Kentucky, which was uphill in every direction, and full of suspicious cows. We did that several times before we decided to walk ourselves through the instructions Gene had received from someone who had once lived in the area.

Gene expects to receive the accident report for this aircraft sometime in the near future, at which time he will share with me and I will likely share it with you. That's just the kind of guys we are.

We were walking back to the cars to start again when we spotted a definite sign of aircraft...a piece of aluminum with rivets. It was most awesome to follow the pieces in an uphill direction and see the crash site. It was, as the instrucions had said, in a small indentation in the hillside. From the impact site (We assume) the wreck spread up hill in a triangular pattern. We found things that appeared to us to be parts of the landing gear, parts from the self-sealing fuel tanks, parts probably from the engine and turbocharger, and what is surely the side of a M2 Browning Machine Gun.

Some parts were surprisingly bulky, yet very light. Conversely, some of the components were remarkably heavy. No, we did not find any V-1710 pistons, that would have been cool! Considering the size of the original aircraft, there is not really very much left. It is mostly scraps of aluminum spread cross a hillside. Still, what was amazing to me was that the crash caused the aircraft to break up into such small pieces! Not one was larger than two feet, while the majority were considerably smaller than a foot. The boys from the base cleaned up the area pretty good.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Satus P-40, #40-309

Norm Gilman designed an engine for the Allison division of General Motors. It powered several US fighters in World War Two. It had twelve cylinders. These twelve cylinders had a dispalcement of 1,710 cubic inches. To compare that to the car I drove in high school, my Plymouth Valiant's 6 cylinder displaced 225 cubic inches. Of course, most cars these days are measured in liters. The V-1710-33 displaced 28 liters. A big Diesel engine in a Dodge truck (read Cummins)these days displaces 6.7 liters. With that many cylinders needing fuel, and the size of the cylinders, well, they took a LOT of fuel. Engine #41-35890 was such an engine, it was in the P-40 #40-309 on the fateful day of May 17, 1941.

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the airplane the Army Air Forces flew as a front-line fighter at the beginning of WWII, used the Allison V-1710-33. On May 17, 1941, Captain Jasper N. Durham left Hamilton Arm Air Field in California, on a mission described as "U-5," which one can assume likely to be a cross-country orientation flight. His destination, that day, was Portland, Oregon.

(Hamilton Army Air Field, Circa 1937. Submitted by Bob Rambo to Abandoned & Little Known Airfields If you are interested in discovering Army Air Fields you never knew existed, follow this link)

About 15 miles out of Eugene, Oregon, Captain Durham was flying contact (I assume this means they were following ground features, such as roads or railroad tracks) when he encountered a large rain squall "extending for a considerable distance across the flight path. It was decided to fly over the squall and follow the beam to Portland." In order to stay in clear air, they (? there is a report by 2nd Lt. Elmer Kingen that indicates he was with the Captain) flew 20 degrees to the right or the course (On a North Westerly heading, coming right would bring the pilot East). Different courses were flown, unsuccessfully, to bring the "beam" on course, but the pilot considered that to be expected. When the estimated time of arrival had been exceeded, a break in the clouds was seen about 30 degrees to the right. He descended into the break.

When he descended he did not recognize the terrain. His fuel was "very low." He flew lower observing tracks, which he "dragged" until he flew over the railroad station in Toppenish, Washington. He was unable to find Toppenish on the map, nor was he able to find a suitable landing field. "Finally, at Satus, Washington a field was located and a normal; landing was attempted." His approach was too low and his landing gear struck the bank of the creek flowing through the field. the gear folded, damaging the wing stubs and the propeller. There was about 5 gallons of fuel left in the tanks.

The P-40 was salvaged. A report was made. A decision was handed down. Colonel Davis, commanding the 10th Pursuit wing at Hamilton Field, California, approved the cause of the accident, but disagreed with a recommendation of an official reprimand and suggested showing him the results of the report and telling him that a repeat would result in "drastic action.". Basically, Durham got a slap on his hand.

The aircraft was repaired and the incident forgotten. The aircraft Durham flew was a Curtis P-40. This was the precursor to the P-40A. Deliveries of the P-40 began to Army units in June of 1940. It was eclipsed by the P-40A shortly after. By October of 1942, P-40s were barred from combat. Most were made for foreign service. In fact, the French ordered 140 of them, designated H-81A's. Unfortunately, by June of 1940, the French had capitulated to the Nazis and the order was taken over by the British.

Considering the P-40 served throughout the war in all theaters and that there were at least 19 variants, though not all produced, it must be assumed that the P-40 was an important aircraft to the allies in World War Two. P-40s rose to contest the Pearl Harbor attack forces. P-40s rose to combat German aircraft on more than one front. After the war, the P-40Q, with its unique bubble canopy, participated in the Reno Air Races. When the Flying Tigers are mentioned, an image of the P-40 springs to mind. This accident is a Washington link to the famous P-40.
(An interesting thing about this report, is it has few of the details that later accident reports contain. The accident report form itself was changed by 1943. Usually the mission is described or mentioned, here it simply was referred to by a letter designation. There was little of the extra fluff that is associated with later accident reports. The fact that this might have been a two ship flight is difficult to discern on the first reading, and even the fact that the witness was circling at 800 feet is hard to find because of copying tecniques making legibility an issue. This is the earliest report I currently have.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Harrington F-84C, 1950

The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was an early jet fighter. It came between the famous Lockheed F-80 and the awesome F-86 Saber. Originally designated the P-84, it's designation changed in 1948 from P for Pursuit to F for Fighter at the same time all Army Air Fields became Air Force Bases. This was shortly after the Air Force was created as it's own branch of the armed forces in 1947.

The F-84's engine began life as the TG-180, later re-designated the J-35. The engine was 2,500 pounds, twelve feet long, and 37 and 1/2 inches in diameter. Early jet engines had short life spans, and often suffered failures. In 1948, the engine run-time between overhauls was 45 hours. Engine production delays hampered early F-84 production, seemingly as much from developmental issues as from a change in engine manufacturers. The engines used by the F-84C developed 4000 pounds of thrust.

The F-84C followed the "B" model. The last F-84C, #47-1602, rolled off the lines at Republic Aviation in December of 1948. The 191 "C" models had a "fly -away cost of $147,699.00" per ship. This was some $16,000 less than the previous "B" models.

The early models of the F-84 suffered from various structural problems and thus each airframe had a fairly short life expectancy. Coupled with the engine problems, this could sometimes be an insurmountable challenge to pilots.

First Lieutenant Harold A. Morris mounted his steed, #47-1602, the last "C" model off the Republic line, sometime after three in the afternoon of September 24, 1950, for a local flight from Geiger Field, Spokane, Washington. He was an Air National Guard pilot assigned to the 60th Fighter Wing. He was thirty years old.

Lt. Morris was on the wing of 1st Lt. Dallas P Sartz, flying in #47-1531 at about 15,000 feet. They were 8-10 minutes from Spokane and began a 180 degree turn to the left and entering intermittent light cloud formations when Lt. Morris crossed under Lt. Sartz. When he completed the turn, Sartz began calling for Morris with no response. Sartz landed at 1625 hours.

Mr. Garske, of Spokane, was coming from Odessa, Washington on the outskirts of Harrington, when he saw an airplane in a bank. The landing gear was down and it looked to Mr. Garske like the plane would land on the road. Then the pilot apparently changed his mind and made a 45 degree bank to attempt a landing in a field somewhat off the road. Mr. Garske saw, at just the moment of impact a "great big flash and flame and everything....It seemed to burn all at once, not a lingering fire." He jumped the fence and went to the wreck, which was about 300 yards from the road. When he got there, the engine was burning. Mr. Garske did not hear the engine before the crash, and claimed the aircraft was going very slowly.

Mr. Garske looked around the field to see if the pilot had been thrown free, but a couple of truck drivers who had also stopped said they had "found part of him." There were several witnesses, all of whom seem to have seen much the same thing.

The authorities determined the crash was due to a loss of power. The cause of the engine failure was undetermined because of the extent of damage. The remains of 1st Lt. Morris were described by the commanding colonel, Col. Neece, as tiny. He further noted that cause of death was due to "severe crushing injuries involving disintegration and cremation of the body."

The location is noted as being about 2 miles from Harrington, Washington. It was a ignoble end to the last F-84C built and a sad end to First Lieutenant Harold Albert Morris.*

* Resources for this article were as follows:

1. USAF accident report for F-84C #47-1602

2. McLaren, David R., Republic F-84; Tunderjet, Thunderstreak, & Thunderflash: A Photo Chronicle, Schiffer Military/Aviation History, Atglen, PA, 1998.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

USS Turner Joy

Bremerton, Washington has a relationship with the US Navy that is about 100 yers old. It seems only right that a place with ties so deep should also be home to a spectacular museum ship. The Navy Museum, however, is a let down compared to its previous glory, so don't bother with that.

Laid down in 1957 and launched on August 3, 1959, USS Turner Joy was the last ship of the Forrest Sherman class of destroyers. She was on patrol with the USS Maddox when North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the duo and precipitated the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed LBJ to increase the number of troops sent to Vietnam. She received 9 battle stars and participated in various stages of the Vietnam War. It is said she even fired the last round of the war.
The ship is 418 feet long with a beam of 45 feet. She draws 22 feet and when empty, displaces 2800. When fully loded she displace 4050 tons. Her turbines and two propellers could push her through the water at up to 32.4 knots. When she got where she was going, she could bring her three 5"/54 guns to bear, and, if it was a ship, her six 12.75" torpedoes.
(three tubes on each beam)
The Ship is moored stern toward shore, with her bow pointing proudly toward Sinclair Inlet. She is only a short walk away from the ferry terminal. The charge is only about $10 for adults. For that you have the run of the ship. Almost all of the ship is opened up for guests to at least get a glimpse of. Some rooms separate the public from their content with plexiglass, but it is possible to lay your hands on the 55 pound five inch projectiles that are situated all around the ship.
I suspect the museum is not worried about this because it is tremendously difficult to pocket one of these rounds and NOT stumble around as though you have just thrown out your back. I hefted one, and they are not for the feint of heart. The wife frowned on my curiosity, and my pockets were the wrong size.

When you board the ship, you are on the stern, near the aft five inch turret. The door was open on our visit nd we were able to sit or stand in all the positions. The best was that of the gun captain, who sat in a plexiglass bubble at the top of the turret with all the controls in his hands. Otherwise, you could get a good look at the breech of the large naval gun, just by sticking your head in the hatch.
You can enter the ship through any of a number of entrances, each with a set of light blocking shees set up. Once inside you can choose to go forward or aft. This decision may depend on he amount of traffic, as the passage ways were built for young and fit men. You have the option of dropping down into the engine rooms and getting good look at the reduction gears meant to change the speed of the turbines into power for the propellers. One can only imagine the noise and heat in those confined spaces.
I recommend, if you are not a naval buff, taking your own personal navy person. If you do not have one, you can ask a docent to show you around. When I first visited Turner Joy, in 1998, I had with me an ex-engineer from the USS Long Beach, the shell of which is moored not too far away. He was able to explain things that were not obvious, and his descriptions, taken from his own memories of the Vietnam era fighting ships, were poignant and vivid. You can stand in front of the instrument panels and pretend you are at your station. Don't let the water disappear from the boiler glass, you will melt the tubes! But, don't let the water get too high in the glass, or you will send liquid water into the turbine blades! Seeing the massive reduction gears and the steam pipes covered with 4 inch thick asbestos insulation really helps you imagine the noise and heat.

If one is observant and has good spacal reckoning, you can envision the water tight spaces. One must go up a ladder from the engine room to move forward or aft. Only then can you descend again to after steering or forward to the paint lockers and Sonar rooms. Up one level, on the main deck, is the crew's mess and the galley. Beyond that is the officer's mess. You can walk by the pharmacy/operating room and the Ship's Store. You can also find the Exec's stateroom and the Captain's in port cabin here.

Up a level or two and you can find yourself on the ship's bridge. Here you can issue commands to an imaginery crew and con the ship. Have a companion step in the wheelhouse and you can talk to each other via the voice tubes. Step into the CIC and you can see the radar screens set up to look like they are searching the skies.

Go down to Sonar, then around the forward turret trunk and ammunition hoist, and you find yourself in the bow. Here you can see the tubes down which the anchor chains go to get to the chain lockers. Here, also, you can see various rescue and damage control equipment. The transducers for the Sonar are there and you can see the freezers for the galley nearby, too.
Overall, this is a great place to spend a few hours or all day. It is a great museum ship and you don't feel hurried to leave. You can go your own pace. There are identifying signs all over, but it may be preferable to have a friend who knows something about ships along or a docent if you want to get the full educational experience. If knowing every little detail is not necessary, then, you can go it alone. I really enjoyed my visit, and so did my wife...a noted history un-enthusiast.