Happy Holidays and a Joyous New Year!   12 comments

Hey! It's Rudolf the Red Nosed Tréner!

Hey! It’s Rudolf the Red Nosed Tréner!

Rudolf the Red Nosed Flying Machine!

This will likely be the last post at Pickled Wings for 2014. I’d like to wish all my readership a great and safe holiday season full of joy with family and friends and thank you for following the blog.

I’m look forward to bringing you more in 2015.

While I was looking through my pictures to find something appropriate to the season, I was inspired by an idea from the “Warbird Tails” blog to use red nosed aircraft for the purpose:

http://warbirdtails.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/rudolph-the-red-nose-aeroplane/comment-page-1/#comment-26

Here’s a few more red nosed flying machines for you:

red nose 2
red nose 3
red nose 4
red nose 5
red nose 6
red nose 7
red nose 8

Zlín Z-50 – Keeping a Hand on Glory   1 comment

Z-50LS preserved at the Kbely Air Museum, Prague, Czech Republic in 2014.

Z-50LS preserved at the Kbely Air Museum, Prague, Czech Republic in 2014.

A Torch to Pass

Through the 1960s and early 1970s, international aerobatics competitions were largely ruled by successive members of the Zlín Tréner family of aircraft from Czechoslovakia. To this day; aircraft of this line remain popular for general aerobatics, training, glider tug and general aviation duties.

Zlín, at the government’s request, set about designing an all new aerobatics machine in the early 1970s that could carry on the winning tradition of the Tréner line before it. The new aircraft, which flew for the first time in 1975, was designated the Z-50 and it would spend the next decade or so successfully defending the company’s reputation in world class aerobatic competition.

The Z-50 made its competition debut at the 1976 World Aerobatic Championships and Czechoslovak pilots placed a very respectable third in solo competition and second in the team category. At the next championships in 1978, Czechoslovak flown Z-50s took first and third place in the solo category with a German flown Z-50 taking fourth place and Czechoslovakia winning the team competition.

The 1980 and 1982 World Aerobatic Championships were not so successful for the Z-50 pilots; however, Czechoslovak Z-50 pilots returned to winning form to take the 1984 and 1986 editions of the competition.

As it had been for the Tréner series of aircraft before them, the Z-50’s primary competition in aerobatics came from Yakovlev built machines.

The Z-50 was significant not just in competition; technologically, it represented a large change in aerobatic aircraft design methods and philosophies. Computers were used in refining and optimizing the design with great care being taken to ensure that the aircraft could meet the stringent requirements of international competition standards which included, among other requirements, that the aircraft be able to have a usable life span of 1,000 flight hours of demanding aerobatics.

The Zlín Z-50 story is one of passion, determination and pride. A skilled team took the aircraft from concept to first flight in a remarkably short two years. The end result was not only a winning machine, but also the world’s first serial produced aerobatics aircraft.

Four Z-50LX of the Flying Bulls team perform at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2014.

Four Z-50LX of the Flying Bulls team perform at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2014.

Hurdles to Clear

In spite of its relatively short developmental period, the designers of the Z-50 had a number of technical obstacles to overcome in order for the aircraft to be of world class competition quality.

The first hurdle was the question of how to power the Z-50. Unlike the Tréner, which had a Czech designed and built engine, there was no appropriate class of engine for the Z-50 available from domestic sources. Ultimately, a six cylinder engine from the American manufacturer Lycoming was chosen for the Z-50 and an “L” was placed in the name to reflect that.

The design team also had to strike a balance between airframe strength and saving weight. The Z-50 was of primarily metal construction for strength, but was designed to be dismantled into a few large components to save weight. The wing was built as a full span unit which the fuselage could be attached to by screws; the benefits of this type of wing design included the strength of a continuous wing spar, a reduction in materials used which translated into reduced weight and reduced time required for assembly and dis-assembly of the aircraft.

The weight savings continued in the design of the main landing gear legs which were made of a single, continuous strip of titanium. As with the wing, this resulted in a reduction of construction materials and assembly time.

Other design aspects of the Z-50 included the omission of landing flaps from the wings in favour of two part ailerons on each wing which covered the full wingspan and gave the aircraft an astounding rate of roll as well as a one piece cockpit canopy which gave the pilot an excellent all round view.

Z-50LS at Čáslav, Czech Republic in 2010.

Z-50LS at Čáslav, Czech Republic in 2010.

Dynasties in Parallel

From the inaugural World Aerobatic Championship competition in 1960 until the mid 1980s, the aircraft of the Zlín and Yakovlev companies were dominant forces. The various members of the Tréner series competed against various incarnations of the Yak-18 while the Z-50 found its contemporary in the Yak-50. With a very few exceptions across those two and a half decades, the championship was taken by either Zlín or Yakovlev machines.

While the Tréner and Yak-18 had much in common, primarily that they both started as training aircraft that had been reworked to bring their aerobatic qualities to the fore; the Z-50 and Yak-50 were very different beasts in every regard.

The Yak-50 was developed from the Yak-18 while the Z-50 was a clean sheet design bearing no design commonalities with its own forbear. As such, the Z-50 was a much more refined and modern aircraft in design than its Yakovlev counterpart and benefited from contemporary design philosophies and trends in a way the Yak-50 could not. In fact, after a series of accidents, the Yak-50 required a wing spar strengthening program to keep it not only competitive but airworthy at all.

Perhaps fittingly, Zlín and Yakovlev faded from top tier international aerobatics competition in the same manner they had entered: together. With the debut of The Sukhoi Su-26 from Russia and the French made Mudry CAP 230 in the mid and late 1980s, the writing was on the wall for Z-50, Yak-50 and their respective manufacturers as far as top level world aerobatic supremacy was concerned.

Z-50LX at Čáslav in 2010.

Z-50LX at Čáslav in 2010.

The “Fifty” Family

The Z-50, by virtue of being a serial produced aircraft, has its own pedigree that is worth a look. The “Fifty”, as many pilots refer to it, was built in five major variations over a span of nearly 20 years when production ended in the mid 1990s:

Z-50L
This was the first production version and fitted with a 260 horsepower Lycoming engine. 25 were made and several were converted to later LA and LS configurations.

Z-50LA
Upgraded variant introduced in 1980, most were converted from L versions.

Z-50LS
A more powerful variation, fitted with a 300 horsepower engine, introduced in 1982. over 30 of the LS version were built, several were conversions from earlier variants.

Z-50M
A total of five aircraft were made to the M standard. The M had a Czech made engine of 180 horsepower and was intended to replace the aging Z-526 Tréner version.

Z-50LX
The final variant of the family debuted in 1991. It was optimized for airshow performance and was fitted with additional internal fuel tanks as well as a smoke generating system.

Z-50LX of the Flying Bulls team at Pardubice in 2014.

Z-50LX of the Flying Bulls team at Pardubice in 2014.

The Show Goes On

Though its top tier competition days are well behind it, the Z-50 is still a very active flyer at the time of writing. Several of the type are active on flying registers around the world and can be found on aircraft sales websites.

It is still appreciated for its excellent aerobatics qualities and remains popular in some levels of competition, general aerobatics flying and airshow performances.

The Z-50 still has plenty to give as an exciting performer and doesn’t look set to have its wings permanently clipped anytime soon.

The following links make up a fascinating and exciting two part write up of a pilot’s journey to being certified to fly the Z-50. It gives a good overview of what it’s like to actually fly the Z-50 and gives an insightful comparison between the Z-50 and the two aircraft types the pilot passed through while training for the “Fifty”:

http://www.snap-and-roll.com/articles/others/item/627-how-do-you-get-started-flying-a-single-seat-aerobatic-plane-part-i.html

http://www.snap-and-roll.com/articles/others/item/647-how-do-you-get-started-flying-a-single-seat-aerobatic-plane-part-ii.html

Canadair Sabre – Swords in the North   5 comments

Sabre Mk.1 seen at Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Canada in 2012

Sabre Mk.1 seen at Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Canada in 2012

The Sharpest of the Sabres

The North American F-86 Sabre, which first flew in 1947, is among the most legendary of post Second World War fighter aircraft. Heir to the equally storied P-51 Mustang fighter, the Sabre’s success in the Korean War easily put it in league with its forbear.

In 1948, the Royal Canadian Air Force selected the Sabre as its new fighter. Part of the deal was a license to produce the aircraft in Canada; production of the Canadian Sabres would be carried out by the Canadair company of Montreal and would total 1,815 airframes.

Initially, the plan was simply for Canadair to assemble Sabres to the American standard using components shipped from North American Aviation in California. By the time Sabre production at Canadair concluded in 1958; it was a unique machine with several differences to set it apart from American versions. Indeed, the final Mk.6 version of the Canadair Sabre is widely considered to be the best and most capable of any Sabre dog fighter variant built anywhere.

The Canadian chapter of the Sabre legend is a story in itself and worth looking at on its own to highlight its significance in the larger history of the type not only in RCAF service but also in relation to the role it played in the air defense of NATO nations in Europe during the early days of the Cold War.

Early Marks – Following the Plan

Canadair would produce six variations on the Sabre; the first of them, the Mk.1 and Mk.2 differed little from their American counterparts. The sole Mk.1 was built to the F-86A standard with parts provided by North American.

Canadair’s first major production version was the Mk.2. In keeping with the conditions of the license contract, this variant was built to an F-86E standard. A total of 350 Mk.2 aircraft were built between 1951 and 1952.

The RCAF squadrons equipped with the new Sabres were mostly deployed to support NATO forces in Europe and initially operated from bases in France, Germany and the UK. Significantly, the Canadair Sabres became the only swept wing fighter available to European NATO air forces through the early 1950s; a combination of the aircraft’s stunning performance and the proficiency of the RCAF pilots was a critical factor in the choice of several NATO air forces to select the type as their primary fighter during that time period.

Sabre Mk.1 at the Alberta Aviation Museum in 2012.

Sabre Mk.1 at the Alberta Aviation Museum in 2012.

Sixty Mk.2 Sabres were purchased by the U.S. Air Force due to a shortage of the type in the Korean War. These aircraft were delivered to California in early 1952 and deployed to Korea after some American specific modifications had been made to them.

The Middle Children – Mk.3 and Mk.4

As with the Mk.1, only a single example of the Sabre Mk.3 was constructed. The primary intent of the Mk.3 was to explore how the Sabre would function with the Canadian designed and built Orenda 3 engine. The intent to power the Sabre with a Canadian made engine had existed from the moment the license was granted to produce the type in Canada. The Mk.3 really was a proof of concept machine.

The Sabre required some internal modifications to accommodate the Orenda engine as it was slightly larger in diameter to the original General Electric unit; however, it was a successful marriage of aircraft to engine and laid the groundwork for the later Mk.5 and Mk.6.

Beyond proving the Orenda engine could work in the Sabre, it was also used to set some new speed records. Between May and June of 1953, with Jacqueline Cochrane at the controls, the Mk.3 Sabre was used to set a new speed record for women. While the Mk.3 was on loan to her, Cochrane also used it to become the first woman to break the sound barrier.

The hope of the Mk.3 was that the Orenda engine would be ready for the Mk.4 which entered production in 1952. However, the engine was not ready for service and the Mk.4 became very much and intermediary variant which retained the General Electric engine and, with the exception of some internal upgrades, was identical to the Mk.2.

The RCAF used some Mk.4 aircraft to fill the gap between the Mk.2 and Mk.5 while the Royal Air Force took the bulk of the Mk.4 production to replace the aging DeHavilland Vampire and Gloster Meteor fighters while waiting for the new Hawker Hunter and Supermarine Swift to enter service.

When their brief time in the RAF was finished, many of their Mk.4 Sabres were refurbished and found their way to other air forces, primarily Italy and Yugoslavia.

C-GSBR, a Mk.5 Sabre active on the Canadian civil register seen at Edmonton in 2012.

C-GSBR, a Mk.5 Sabre active on the Canadian civil register seen at Edmonton in 2012.

A Cut Above – Mk.5 and Mk.6

The Canadian Sabre truly came of age with the Mk.5 which debuted in 1953. powered by an Orenda 10 engine, the Mk.5 could reach 40,000 feet in half the time a Mk.2 could. Structurally, the Mk.5 required a strengthened rear fuselage to accommodate the larger engine; also, as it was optimized for high speed and high altitude missions, the Mk.5 was initially fitted with what was known as a “hard wing”. This meant that the wing lacked a movable slat on the wing leading edge that allowed for better low speed handling. Later, some Mk.5 aircraft were fitted with slats on the wings.

The Mk.5 quickly replaced remaining Mk.2 and Mk.4 Sabres in RCAF squadrons; as it did so, many of the older RCAF machines were refurbished and sold on to Greece and Turkey.

Late 1954 saw the first Mk.6 roll off the assembly line. This mark came to be seen by many as the ultimate dog fighter variation of the Sabre; with an Orenda 14 engine powering it, the Mk.6 had a significantly higher service ceiling than an American standard F-86F.

Most Mk.6 aircraft were built with slats on their wings; in conjunction with the power output of the Orenda 14, the combination of power and aerodynamics the Mk.6 possessed resulted in a machine of speed and maneuverability that was in a class by itself as far as day fighters of its era were concerned.

In 1956, West Germany reformed the Luftwaffe. By that time, the Sabre Mk.5 was well known and respected in the hands of Canadian pilots over the skies of West Germany and it was an easy decision for the Luftwaffe to choose the Mk.6 as the new fighter to equip its day fighter squadrons. An order was placed in December of 1956 for 225 factory fresh Mk.6 aircraft for the Luftwaffe.

In the meantime, the Luftwaffe was supplied with 75 ex RCAF Mk.5 Sabres so they could be trained on the Sabre while waiting for the Mk.6. The responsibility for training the Luftwaffe Sabre pilots would be carried out by the RCAF.

Back in Canada, the Mk.5 and later Mk.6 served as the mounts for the RCAF air demonstration team, the Golden Hawks, which existed from 1959 to 1964.

Mk.5 Sabre at Edmonton in 2012.

Mk.5 Sabre at Edmonton in 2012.

Further Afield

Canadian Sabres were popular and in demand beyond NATO users in both factory fresh and second hand forms. Other users of the Canadair Sabres included: Bangladesh, Colombia, Honduras, Pakistan and South Africa.

Argentina and Israel both ordered batches of Canadair Sabres, though both orders were cancelled before any aircraft were delivered.

Beyond the use of the Mk.2 Sabres which the U.S. Air Force purchased for use in Korea, the Canadian Sabre did see some combat in other areas of the world in its years of service.

In the late 1950s, a Yugoslavian air force Sabre shot down a Hungarian MiG-15 near the border between the two countries.

In 1963, five Sabres from the Italian air force were deployed to the Belgian Congo as part of UN peace keeping operations there.

Sabres of the Honduran air force, obtained from Yugoslavia in 1967, were used in the 1969 Soccer War between Honduras and El Salvador.

The Canadair Sabre also saw action with Pakistani pilots during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. Many of these aircraft came from ex-Luftwaffe stocks purchased in 1966, after the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965.

Mk.5 Sabre at Edmonton in 2012.

Mk.5 Sabre at Edmonton in 2012.

Survivors and Learning More

Legendary machine that it is, the Sabre has done very well in retirement with many preserved in museums worldwide and many of those being Canadair built examples.

Of the several airworthy Sabres known, my research pointed to possibly 15 of them being Canadair Mk.5 or Mk.6 machines on Canadian, South African and U.S. registries. How many of those are regular flyers and how many are in storage is another matter.

The following links will take you to further reading about the Canadian Sabre story:

These two sites have some very good period information and photos of RCAF and Luftwaffe Sabres:

http://www.canadianwings.com/Aircraft/aircraftDetail.php?SABRE-2

http://www.vintagewings.ca/VintageNews/Stories/tabid/116/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/41/Achtung-Saberjetz–Teaching-the-New-Luftwaffe.aspx

This site will tell you all about C-GSBR, the Canadian based airworthy Mk.5:

http://blog.hawkone.ca/

For print based reference on the Canadair chapter of the Sabre story, though it is out of print and expensive when you find one, you’ll do no better than Larry Milberry’s exhaustive volume on the subject:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Canadair-Sabre-Larry-Milberry/dp/0969070373

Yakovlev Yak-3 – Petit with a Punch   Leave a comment

A Yakovlev Yak-3M at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2014

A Yakovlev Yak-3M at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2014

Big Things from a Small Package

When the Yakovlev Yak-3 made its service debut in 1944, it was one of the smallest and lightest fighter types fielded by any combatant in the Second World War.

Below altitudes of 13,000 feet, where most air combat over the Eastern Front occured, the Yak-3’s small size and excellent power to weight ratio enabled its pilots to fly circles around the larger Messerschmidt Bf-109 and Focke-Wulf Fw-190 fighters which the Luftwaffe sent up to fight Soviet forces. The Yak-3 could out climb and out turn either of the German fighter types and there are many accounts of dogfights between units of Yak-3s and larger groups of German fighters in which the Luftwaffe came out distinctly on the losing end.

So devastating was the effect of the Yak-3 against German fighters in low altitude combat, that orders were issued to Luftwaffe pilots to avoid engaging the aircraft in combat below heights of 13,000 feet.

The Yak-3 was not only a menace to German forces in the air; with a 20mm cannon firing through the nose, it was also very effective against German armor and ground forces

Finding its niche as a low level tactical fighter and working as an effective companion piece to the larger Yak-9 and Lavochkin La-5 and La-7 fighters, the Yak-3 quickly proved that its small size was nothing to be taken lightly.

Let’s take a closer look at this bantamweight with a bite:

A Yak-3M at Pardubice in 2014.

A Yak-3M at Pardubice in 2014.

A Fortunate False Start

The Yak-3 which entered the history books could have been a very different aircraft had it not been for a false start in its development.

In summer of 1939, the Soviet government presented the Yakovlev design bureau with a specification for a new fighter. Yakovlev replied with two prototype aircraft known as I-26 and I-30. The I-26 was chosen as the basis for the new fighter and re-designated Yak-1. Development of the I-30, re-designated Yak-3, was discontinued in Autumn of 1941.

While the Yak-1 was a success, the pressures of war were driving attempts to improve it. 1943 saw the emergence of the Yak-1M variant, a downsized development of the Yak-1 design with significantly reduced weight, a more powerful engine and other revisions including large sections of the fuselage made of plywood construction.

Two Yak-1M aircraft were built and were given the Yak-3 designation. The new Yak-3 was an impressive aircraft from the start and production proceeded very rapidly after it entered service in 1944. It quickly replaced the earlier Yak-1 and Yak-7 fighters in many units.

This false start in the Yak-3’s story certainly allowed the aircraft to be more than it might have been had it developed directly from the I-30. It allowed the aircraft’s designers to incorporate many of the lessons learned from the Yak-1’s development and service and apply them to the aircraft that we recognise as the Yak-3 today.

A Yak-3M at Pardubice in 2014.

A Yak-3M at Pardubice in 2014.

Popular Appeal

The Yak-3 proved to be a very popular aircraft with those assigned to operate it. It was a ruggedly built aircraft which was neither difficult to fly nor to service.

As fast and maneuverable as it was, it also was known to be a forgiving aircraft. This made it popular not only with experienced fliers but also with novices.

For its size, the Yak-3 had a respectable armament of a 20mm cannon and two 12.7mm machine guns. All three guns were placed close together in the nose of the aircraft for a very effective concentration of fire against targets.

While popular, the aircraft was not without its flaws. Small size translated into short range, engine reliability issues were common, plywood sections of the fuselage occasionally separated when recovering from steep dives; additionally, the aircraft’s pneumatic system for operating the landing gear, wheel brakes and wing flaps was less than reliable.

These shortcomings were seen as reasonable trade offs given the aircraft’s excellent qualities as a fighter.

From a standpoint of popular culture, the Yak-3 is most closely associated with the Normandie-Niemen fighter group who operated the type between July of 1944 and May of 1945.

The Normandie-Niemen group was a highly decorated unit of the Free French Air Force which served alongside the Soviet military on the Eastern Front for the bulk of World War Two. Collectively, the pilots of the group scored nearly 100 aerial victories while equipped with the Yak-3.

A Yak-3M at Pardubice in 2014.

A Yak-3M at Pardubice in 2014.

Life After War

The Yak-3’s story did not end with the conclusion of the Second World War, the type saw post war service with France, Poland and the former Yugoslavia in the immediate post war period. The last Yak-3 left military service when the Yugoslav air force retired the type in 1950.

A radial engine powered version of the aircraft was in development during the war, but was not completed until after the end of hostilities. This variant was designated Yak-3U and while it did not enter production, the addition of a second seat turned it into the prototype for the Yak-11 trainer which would serve as the standard trainer for Soviet influenced countries through the 1950s.

In the 1990s, Yakovlev produced a small number of full scale flying Yak-3 replicas for the vintage warbird market. The replicas were built from original plans and utilised original construction jigs and tooling to build them. The major difference between the replica aircraft and originals is that an American built Allison engine powers the replicas as opposed to the originals’ Klimov engine. The replica aircraft were given the designation Yak-3M to differentiate them from the original line.

After their retirement, a number of Yak-11 trainers came into civilian ownership and were converted to single seat configuration. These sometimes appear at airshows and other flying events to represent the Yak-3.

A converted Let C-11, Czechoslovak built Yak-11, representing a Yak-3 at Pardubice in 2010.

A converted Let C-11, Czechoslovak built Yak-11, representing a Yak-3 at Pardubice in 2010.

Learning More

At least a few Yak-3 of the original 4,848 aircraft are preserved in museums, so there certainly are chances to get up close to the real thing.

This link will take you to the site of a company which operates a Yak-3M and several other vintage aircraft in Europe:

http://classicaircraftdisplays.com/en/aircraft/warbirds/yak-3

This link will take you to a lengthy but very interesting recollection of a Soviet fighter pilot in World War II who spent some time flying the Yak-3. While the aircraft is not the prime focus, it does get some mention:

http://english.iremember.ru/airmen/37-vladimir-markov.html?q=%2Fairmen%2F37-vladimir-markov.html%3Fq%3D%2Fairmen%2F37-vladimir-markov.html%3Fq%3D%2Fairmen%2F37-vladimir-markov.html

The Bee that Didn’t Bumble   2 comments

A Z-37 Čmelák landing at Brno.

A Z-37 Čmelák landing at Brno.

While I’m putting together the next larger entry, here’s a picture and its story for your enjoyment:

On Wednesday this week, I had an unexpected free afternoon and decided to hop a bus out to Brno’s Tuřany airport to see what might be flying around. It turned out to be fairly quiet, but a bit entertaining too.

Mostly, it was just Cessna 150s and 172s coming in and out and a Piper 28 which did some passes over the runway but never did land while I was there.

There was a good crosswind in the area and it was easy to see how much the Cessna pilots had to work against it. Their wings were wobbling and most landings were of the one wheel on the runway with a wingtip pointed down sort.

By the looks of things, the crosswind was giving the Piper 28 pilot an even more difficult time. I never could figure out if he was simply practicing approaches with no intent to land or if he really did want to put the plane down but the crosswinds were making things that hairy for him.

In the midst of all this, the Z-37 Čmelák (Bumblebee) of the local flying club came in low and slow and set down on the runway in a deliberate and decisively solid manner that made the crosswind look like a complete non issue for it.

For the tossing around that the Cessnas and Piper were getting, the Bumblebee seemed to just thumb its nose at the wind and land as if it was the calmest of summer days.

As I waited at the bus stop for the ride back into the city, I watched the Piper wobbling in the distance and coming around for yet another approach to the runway.

I trust he made it down…..

Eventually.

Anatra DS Anasal – Reconnaissance and Revolution   Leave a comment

Anatra DS Anasal preserved at the National Technical Museum, Prague, Czech Republic in 2014

Anatra DS Anasal preserved at the National Technical Museum, Prague, Czech Republic in 2014

Early Eastern Wings

For their part in the First World War, pilots of the Russian Empire largely flew foreign designed aircraft. The Odessa based Anatra company, which existed from 1913 to 1918, started by producing aircraft from the Farman, Morane, Nieuport and Voisin companies under license. However, the company also produced aircraft of its own design.

The Anatra DS Anasal, which first flew in the summer of 1916, was developed as a replacement for the Anatra D Anade reconnaissance aircraft. The Anatra D, in spite of several design flaws, was taken into service in May of 1916.

The Anade was used as a starting point for the Anasal design, but many refinements were made to increase the strength and stability when creating the Anasal. A major change was the Anade fabric on frame fuselage being replaced by wood panel construction. This change was dictated largely by fitting the Anasal with a much more powerful engine than the one in the Anade.

The engine of the Anasal was a 150 horsepower Salmson radial design which unusually incorporated liquid cooling and the bulky radiator which that process involved. This configuration would appear to go against one of the major principles behind the radial engine; negating the weight penalties of liquid cooling in favour of using air flow around the engine to cool it. Some references indicate that this arrangement was unique; however, Salmson produced a series of liquid cooled radial engines between 1908 and 1920 which powered over 30 different aircraft types.

The Anasal was a definite improvement over the undependable Anade, not only in responsive flying qualities but also in trouble free maintenance and ground handling. It was considered an acceptable aircraft for its time period and role though inferior to the best British and German designs of the day.

While the Anasal had reconnaissance as its primary mission, it could also be used for light bombing. The aircraft could carry between 50 and 80 kilograms of bombs aloft and the observer could drop them manually from his station behind the pilot. For its own defense, the Anasal had a single forward firing Vickers machine gun for the pilot while the observer station could be fitted with a variety of machine gun types on a ring mount arrangement.

Anasal at Prague, 2014

Anasal at Prague, 2014

Uprising and Upheaval

1917 was year of tremendous change in Russia; Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and a short lived provisional government came to power. With the Bolshevik Revolution in Autumn of 1917, Russia was thrust into a state of civil war that would last until Autumn of 1922.

It was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed in March of 1918, which saw the Anasal come into the service of non Russian forces. The treaty ceded significant Russian held land to the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey) and recognized Ukraine as an independent state.

With the Russian army largely collapsed and ineffective in Ukraine, German and Austro-Hungarian forces entered the country with ease and found a wealth of aircraft at the Anatra factory when they reached Odessa. Over 200 finished aircraft, including over 100 Anasals, were found stored in warehouses; in the factory itself, there were over 100 more Anasals in various states of completion.

Upon evaluation, the Anasal was not deemed suitable for work directly in battle though was seen as quite suitable for training purposes. This situation allowed aircraft factories in Austria-Hungary to concentrate all of their efforts on combat aircraft rather than building more trainers.

In the context of the Russian Civil War; both the White (anti-Bolshevik) and the Red (pro-Communist) sides of the conflict employed the Anasal. Further notable use of the Anasal in the conflict was made by Czechoslovak and Polish legions who fought on the White side of the war.

At the end of the First World War, Anasals had found their way to several parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and were divided between the now independent Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Austria and Czechoslovakia were equipped with around 20 aircraft each while Hungary had roughly half that number.

Between 1918 and 1920, Hungary saw a series of political revolutions and found itself engaging in hostilities against some of its neighboring nations. Notable among these was a brief battle in Spring of 1919 against Czechoslovakia in which the Anasals of both nations were involved.

Anasal at Prague, 2014

Anasal at Prague, 2014

What Remains and Learning More

Through the 1920s, many Anasals were used for educational purposes. Initially as flying trainers and later as ground maintenance trainers. Eventually, the bulk of them were retired and scrapped through the course of the decade.

Of the more than 350 Anasals built between 1917 and 1918, only one is known to remain in existance. It is kept in the collection of the National Technical Museum of the Czech Republic in Prague.

A full scale replica of an Anasal can be found in the collection of the State Aviation Museum of Ukraine in Zhulyany.

These links will take you to brief summaries of the Prague and Zhulyany aircraft respectively:

http://www.ntm.cz/en/en-heslar/anatra-ds-anasal

http://aviamuseum.com.ua/en/ekspozitsiya/historical-collection/reconnaissance-aircraft-qanatra-anasalq.html

This link will take you to a lengthy article about the use of the Anasal, particularly in the Russian Civil War. It’s a bit difficult to follow in translated form, but informative all the same:

http://translate.google.cz/translate?hl=en&sl=ru&u=http://www.airwar.ru/enc/other1/anasal.html&prev=/search%3Fq%3DAnatra%2BAnasal%2Bairwar.ru%26espv%3D2%26biw%3D1152%26bih%3D751

The End of an Era – The A-7 Corsair II Flies Into the History Books   7 comments

The Last Stronghold

October 17, 2014 will mark the retirement of the world’s last operational A-7 Corsair II strike aircraft. An aircraft which is seeing its final retirement just short of five decades of service worldwide and just under forty years with the type’s last remaining operator, Greece.

The A-7 served a total of four nations over its lifetime:

USA: 1967 – 1993

Portugal: 1981 – 1999

Thailand: 1995 – 2007

Greece: 1975 – 2014

The A-7 and Me

My own exposure to this particular aircraft has, to this point, been limited to two occasions.

In 1987, I saw one one refueling on the tarmac of the US Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island in Washington state. I had wanted to get closer to it, but it wasn’t possible due to the itinerary of the base tour I was on.

At an airshow in my native Canada in the early 1990s, I finally got a chance to get up close to an A-7 which was in the static park. It was a US Air National Guard machine from South Dakota and I was immediately struck by how solidly built the aircraft seemed from every angle.

Particularly memorable about the A-7 I saw at the airshow was that it was parked next to a Grumman A-6 Intruder from the US Navy. The history shared by these two types is immense and spans from the Vietnam conflict to the Persian Gulf war of the early 1990s.  I imagine if the two could be personified, they’d have been like a pair of near retired rugby thugs reminiscing about “Back then”.

Many have called the A-7 “Ugly”, I’ve never seen it as such. Its looks are purposeful for certain, but not ugly to my eyes.

Sadly, I will not be able to add the final retirement ceremony of the type to my short list of experiences with it.

Links and Learning More:

This is a ink to the A-7 retirement page, detailing what the day’s activities will be:

http://airforce.gr/cms/index.php/hellenicairforceunits/250-a-7retirement

This is a documentary of about 45 minutes in length that details the A-7’s development, history and service; it was made when the aircraft was still active in the American military:

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