Book Review – “I’ll Take the 18”

By: Scott H. Gloodt
Independently published (2018)

The Beech 18 is easily one of the most legendary and storied of American aircraft. With a flying career that began before World War Two and saw the aircraft equally active between military and civilian operators for decades, one might be forgiven for thinking that anything that could be written about this machine already has been.

In 2018, “I’ll take the 18” was published by Scott H. Gloodt. Mr. Gloodt is an author and airline pilot with significant time at the controls of the Beech 18.

At over 300 pages, this book explores a bygone era of American aviation when the Beech 18 was the backbone of numerous small air transport companies across the nation from the 1950s to the early 1980s.

Through the length of the book, Mr. Gloodt brings across the nature of the air freight business as it was when he flew the Beech 18. Each aircraft in a company’s fleet was as much an individual as the pilots the company had on staff. Pilots had their favorite particular machine to fly as no two Beech 18s were equiped the same and no two flew exactly the same.

The author also makes clear that the Beech 18 was an aircraft that one did not stop flying until the wheel chocks were in place. It was a demanding, but dependable flying machine.

The life of the Beech 18 freighter pilots of the period was full of exhausting work schedules, strange and varied payloads along with high competition and deep camaraderie. This book brings that across on every page.

I can happily recommend this book with no reservations.

This link will take you to the official page of the book and author where you can order the book for yourself:

https://www.beechair55.com/

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New Paint for “Matylda”

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The first L-410 Turbolet, fresh from restoration to the scheme it wore on its first flight.

In my recent post about pre 2019 season activities at the Kunovice Air Museum, I mentioned the plan to restore the first Let L-410 Turbolet prototype to its first flight colours to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that first flight.

In the last few days, that restoration has been completed and the freshened “Matylda” was rolled out into the sun.

These photos show “Matylda” together with OK-JRP, the second L-410NG prototype and the youngest of the L-410 family. OK-JRP had its first flight within the last month.

All of these photos are property of the Kunovice Air Museum.

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The Turbolet Turns 50!

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An L-410 Turbolet at rest in Pardubice, Czech Republic.

April 16 of 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first flight of one of the most successful products in the long history of Czech aviation, the Let L-410 Turbolet.

Conceived as a twin turboprop commuter and transport aircraft capable of short takeoff and landing in improvised airfield conditions, the Turbolet is highly valued for its robust structure, mechanical reliability and trouble free operations in less than optimal conditions.

Over 1,200 examples of the L-410 have been built across no less than 15 versions since serial production began in 1971. Turbolets have served with dozens of Civilian and military operators in no fewer than 30 nations across five continents.

Aside of its intended transport role, the L-410 has also been used in aerial photography and survey work as well as enjoying popularity as a skydiving platform.

With five decades of flying behind it, hundreds still active on civil and military registers today and the prototypes for the new L-410NG version actively flying and ready to carry the torch; it’s safe to say that the L-410 is a long way from finished yet.

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The first prototype of the new L-410NG version seen at Kunovice, Czech Republic.

 

Happy Birthday RCAF!

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CF-18 Hornet of RCAF 433 Squadron seen at Ostrava, Czech Republic in 2017.

April 1st of 2019 marks the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

During the First World War, Canadian pilots flew in the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy Air Service.

In 1920, the Canadian Air Force was established and approval was given for the “Royal” prefix to be attached to the name in 1924. It remained that way until the unification of the Canadian military branches into the single body of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1968. In recent years, many Canadian military aircraft have systematically had their old “Canadian Armed Forces” titlings replaced with “RCAF” ones.

The RCAF has a long and proud history at home and abroad. On behalf of Pickled Wings and its readership, I wish the RCAF a happy birthday.

Sic Itur ad Astra

Kunovice Air Museum – Pre-2019 Season Update

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The first Let L-410 prototype in the colours it has worn for many years in the museum’s collection. (photo: Kunovice Air Museum)

In the past week, I’ve received emails from the Kunovice Air Museum telling me of a couple of recent developments that should make the upcoming 2019 season an interesting one.

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the prototype of the very successful Let L-410 aircraft. In honour of the event, the museum is having that prototype restored to the appearance it had for that first flight.

Here is the content of that email translated into English:

***

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The first L-410 prototype in the midst of restorations. (photo: Kunovice Air Museum)

7 March 2019: Renovation of the first L-410 fifty years after its first flight

Dear all,

Let me inform you that, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Let L-410 Turbolet, the Kunovice Aviation Museum in cooperation with Aircraft Industries, a.s., Town of Kunovice and SimplyFin company have launched the renovation of one of the museum’s exhibits: the first prototype of this very successful Czech aircraft.

For a respectable half-century since its first flight, this timeless design has been built in a wide range of variants and given many upgrades. Currently, the L-410 NG represents the latest version and has retained the best qualities of the L-410 family.

The first of the four-tens, LET XL-410 Turbolet c.n. 001, has survived to the present thanks to our forbears in the museum. However, more than four decades spent in the open air has taken a significant toll on it. It’s great that, thanks to the manufacturer’s interest, this state of affairs will change for the better. Additionally, experts from the factory who know the aircraft very well will contribute to the restoration of it. said Martin Hrabec, head of the Kunovice Aircraft Museum.

Management of Aircraft Industries, a.s. supports the restoration of the first L-410 to the appearance it had when it took to the air for the first time on April 16, 1969.

Our big thanks goes to Mrs. Ilona Plšková, General Director of Aircraft Industries, for her kind support in returning the shine to the first prototype. added Hrabec.

The two-engine LET L-410 Turbolet transport aircraft, which was designed in the Kunovice factory, is the flagship product of Kunovice’s airline manufacturer Aircraft Industries, a.s. to this day. It is an extremely rugged transport airplane with a capacity of up to 19 passengers, which has been successfully operated in the most demanding conditions in more than 60 countries on five continents worldwide. Over 1250 examples of the type have been produced and its production continues.

We hope this information is interesting to you.

Thanks for cooperation.

Sincerely, Martin Hrabec for LMKU

***

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The museum’s largest exhibit, the Tupolev Tu-154M “Nagano Express”, on display in the museum collection. (photo: Kunovice air museum)

Another exciting development at the museum was the use of their Tupolev Tu-154M as a set for some scenes in an upcoming Czech film.

***

8 March 2019: Nagano Express in the Spotlight – Movie shooting in LMKU

Dear all,

Let me inform you that on March 3, 2019 the Air Museum in Kunovice, specifically the TU-154M airplane named “Zuzana” or also “Nagano Express”, were the site of shooting scenes for a new Czech comedy based on the bestselling book by Evžen Boček, The Last Aristocrat. The film is directed by Jiří Vejdělek, director of some of the biggest Czech box office hits in the last few years. Vejdělek has directed such Czech film hits as: Účastníci Zájezdu (Holiday Makers), Ženy v Pokušení (Women in Temptation) and Muži v Naději (Men in Hope) among others.

The exterior and interior of the Nagano Express served as a set for Jiří Vejdělek’s film crew to shoot several scenes with the main characters of the film. The scenes shot in the museum were captured by the camera of Vladimír Smutný, who has the cinematography of such films as Kolja, Tobruk, Tmavomodrý Svět (Dark Blue World) and Vratné Lahve (Empties) among others to his credit. A number of famous Czech stars such as Tatiana Vilhelmová, Hynek Čermák, Yvona Stolářová, Anna Polívková, Vojtěch Kotek and Michal Isteník will appear in the film.

Filming took place from early morning until evening and was attended by 70 filmmaking staff, plus over 70 extras. Eleven members of the museum team helped the ensemble and the Slovácký aeroklub of Kunovice also cooperated by providing the use of its facilities to the film staff and extras.

In the evening, after the last shoot, director Jiří Vejledek said, “Thank you for the great helpfulness with which the museum team provided us. The professional approach of the entire museum team contributed to smooth shooting. In the end, you’ll be able to check the result in fall in cinemas.”

“Our whole team gives thanks to the filmmakers for the perfect collaboration and mostly for the respect they showed to our significant exhibit. We wish the director and the entire crew a successful finish to the filming. We are very much looking forward to going to cinema in October for the new comedy, ‘The Last Aristocrat’. We are very curious how nice our Zuzana will look in the film.” Martin Hrabec said after filming.

This precious visit was something of a gift for the museum because it happened exactly a year to the day that the “Nagano Express” was towed from the area of the Slovácko Aeroklub into the museum grounds to its current place.

The production crew of the film revealed to us that the new Czech comedy, The Last Aristocrat, will premier in Czech cinemas on October 24, 2019.

We believe this information is of interest to you.

Sincerely, Martin Hrabec for LMKU

***

A brief synopsis in English of The Last Aristocrat can be found through this link:

https://www.filmneweurope.com/news/czech-news/item/117242-production-czech-comedy-the-last-aristocrat-starts-casting

Final RAF Tornado Farewell

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A Tornado Gr.4 of 31 Squadron, one of the last two units in the Royal Air Force to use the type.

This week saw the final retirement of the Royal Air Force’s Panavia Tornado fleet. A month of formation flypasts of key RAF stations with strong connections to the type by the last remaining Tornados culminated in a final retirement ceremony at RAF Marham in Norfolk.

This week’s retirement marks the true end of the Tornado era in the RAF. The air defense variant of the Tornado, which was built to meet RAF needs specifically, was retired in 2012.

The ground attack and recconaissance versions of the Tornado entered RAF service in the early 1980s and replaced the last remaining Avro Vulcan bombers, the Sepecat Jaguar in the strike and recconaissance roles in RAF’s German operations and Blackburn Buccaneer in the maritime strike role.

The air defense version replaced the McDonnell Douglas Phantom II and the last of the English Electric Lightning aircraft in the interceptor role.

For more than four decades, the Tornado served not only the needs of the RAF, but also those of NATO and other allies.

While the air defense variant of the Tornado has already been fully replaced with the Eurofighter Typhoon, the ground attack and recconaissance versions will largely be replaced with the Lockheed-Martin F-35.

The Tornado will continue to serve with Germany, Italy and Suadi Arabia until the late 2020s or early 2030s.

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The Tornado F.3, the air defense variant, was retired from RAF service in 2012

 

Blériot XI – Pioneering Spirit

Icon of Ingenuity 

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Blériot XI replica performing at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2018.

One of the most recognisable and successful aircraft types of the pioneering era of aviation, which lasted from 1900 to 1913, was the Blériot XI. Arguably, it could also be considered one of the most influential aircraft in history.

First flown in January of 1909, the Blériot XI is most famously connected to the historic crossing of the English Channel in July of that same year by the man the aircraft bore the name of, Louis Blériot.

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot (1872-1936) was an engineer by training and achieved early success by inventing the first practical automobile headlamp and building a business around it. Though he had been interested in aviation since being a student at the prestigious and demanding École Centrale in Paris, he did not experiment in the field until after his headlamp business had generated enough profit to afford him the time and money to do so.

Blériot’s first serious steps into aviation came with a short lived and unsuccessful partnership with fellow French aviation pioneer, Gabriel Voisin (1880-1973). After the partnership was disolved, Blériot created his own company in 1906. Blériot Aéronautique, as the new company would become known, was a private company that spent the bulk of its pre World War I existence as a research facility as much as an aircraft manufacturer.

In the context of aviation history, the work done by Blériot Aéronautique established the basic methods of controlling an airplane in flight that are still in use today. A rudder to control the aircraft’s nose movements to the left and right and elevators to control the aircraft’s vertical movements first appeared on aircraft bearing the Blériot name. Wing warping, a method of twisting the aircraft’s wings to influence left and right rolling action, was also seen for the first time on European aircraft through machines bearing the Blériot name. While wing warping would soon give way to separate ailerons to control the aircraft’s roll action, the two methods worked on the same principle.

Blériot’s  flight over the English Channel in 1909 cemented not only his name, but the Blériot XI into the international conciousness of the day and history books. The flight would also ensure that his aircraft business would see continued success for some time to come.

In 1913, Blériot headed up a consortium to buy the assets of the bankrupt Deperdussin aircraft company, Société de Production des Aéroplanes Deperdussin, better known as SPAD. Upon taking possession of SPAD’s assets and absorbing them into his own company, he renamed it Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, which allowed him to continue use of the SPAD name. SPAD would become a legendary name associated with First World War fighter aircraft from France.

In the post WWI period, the company designed and built aircraft under both the Blériot and SPAD names. Blériot ceased using the SPAD name in 1921 and reverted to the Blériot Aéronautique name. The final aircraft to be built which bore the Blériot name flew in 1933 and was a large flying boat  designed to carry mail from Dakar, Senegal to Natal in Brazil.

In October of 1936, Blériot and five other aircraft companies were nationalised and merged to become Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du sud-ouest. The new company was best known by its abreviation, SNCASO, and was used to create Sud Aviation in 1957. In 1970, through more company mergers, Sud Aviation became part of Aérospatiale. Eventually Aérospatiale would become part of today’s Airbus company.

As such, it would be no form of exageration to see Blériot Aéronautique as one of Airbus’ earliest ancestors.

Over the Channel and into History 

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Blériot XI replica performing at Pardubice in 2018.

The frail appearance that the frabric on wood frame construction gave to the Blériot XI belied an aircraft of robust structural strength for the day and remarkable flexibility for modifications. In these qualities, the aircraft would find great popularity well beyond the borders of the nation that created it.

The strength of the aircraft’s construction was demonstrated at the end of the historic event it is most often connected with, Louis Blériot’s 1909 English Channel crossing. The aircraft flew through quite turbulent winds and the flight ended with a heavy landing that damaged the landing gear and destroyed one of the propeller blades. In spite of the damage and the fact that the aircraft never flew again, Blériot was able to walk away from the landing without injury.

Almost as soon as the history making flight concluded and word of it shot around the world, Blériot was inundated by purchase orders for copies of the aircraft. He also set up flying schools in both France and Great Britain within a year of the flight.

Through his historic flight and the aircraft he did it with, Blériot had ushered in a new and more accepting mentality among the public towards flight. He became an overnight sensation and the Blériot XI became the object of desire for anyone with the means to purchase one and the training to go with it.

The Blériot XI was in serial production from late 1909 to slightly after the outbreak of the First World War and total production numbers came to around 800 aircraft across more than 20 versions. As such, the Blériot XI became the most common and popular aircraft of its day.

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An Anzani three cylinder engine of the sort used for Blériot’s channel crossing.

As with all great accomplishments more than one person is usually to credit.

Blériot was assisted in the creation and success of the Blériot XI by fellow French aviation pioneer, Raymond Saulnier (1881-1964). Saulnier was an aeronautical engineer by training and, like Blériot, an alumnus of École Centrale. The bulk of the credit for the aircraft’s design can be given to Saulnier as it was he who developed the Blériot XI from the earlier Blériot VIII model.

Another Frenchman involved was propeller designer, Lucien Chauviere (1876-1966). He designed some of the first modern propellers in Europe and it was one of his designs that was used to drive Blériot’s plane for the channel crossing.

The French based Italian engine designer, Alessandro Anzani (1877-1956), was another key player in the success of the Blériot XI. The aircraft had started life with a rather unreliable engine of French origins and, on his mechanic’s advice, Blériot made contact with Anzani to secure a better power source. At the time, Anzani was developing a number of three cylinder engine designs that included the 25 horsepower W-3 engine that was fitted to the aircraft for the historic flight.

When the Blériot XI initially went into serial production, it was offered with a choice of two types of Anzani three cylinder engine. Over the course of production, the airframe was adapted to a number of other engine types with varying degrees of success.

Flying for Firsts 

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Blériot XI replica performing at Pardubice in 2017.

As one might expect, owing to its popularity in the early era of aviation, the Blériot XI was involved with many more historical firsts than the 1909 English Channel Crossing.

While it was categorised as a sports and training aircraft first and foremost, the Blériot XI had the distinction of being the first aircraft taken into military service. More than 20 nations ultimately took the type into their military air arms.

The French and Italian military flying services took on fleets of the type starting in 1910 while the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) of Great Britain took the aircraft into service in 1912. The aircraft type would serve extensively in reconnaissance, training and light bombing roles during the early stages of the First World War.

Even before the outbreak of the First World War, the Blériot XI became the first aircraft to be used in military missions when, in 1911, it was used by the Italian military in northern Africa to fly reconnaissance missions against Turkish forces in the Italo-Turkish War.

The Blériot XI was also one of the world’s first successful monoplane aircraft designs. At a time when most aviation pioneers were experimenting with biplane and other multiwing designs, Louis Blériot was an early champion of monoplanes.

Many early aviation records for speed, distance and altitude were set with the Blériot XI in the pioneering era of flight. However, as one might expect in a period of rapid aeronautical development, most of those records did not stand for very long.

In the scope of more lasting historic contributions, Blériot’s own crossing of the English Channel was just one of a number of aeronautical firsts in which the Blériot XI was the aircraft of choice.

In 1912, the aircraft was the first to fly across the Irish Sea and first across the North Sea in 1914. In 1912, in the hands of American aviatrix Harriet Quimby, it was the first aircraft piloted solo by a woman to cross the English Channel.

The aircraft became the first to fly over the Alps and Pyrenees mountain ranges.

The earliest regularly scheduled air mail routes in America, Australia and Great Britain were all first flown in the Blériot XI.

In 1913, the aircraft was central to what is generally considered to be the world’s first airshow. Adolphe Pégoud, who would go on to become the world’s first fighter ace pilot in the First World War, was the first pilot to demonstrate the aerobatic potential of the Blériot XI. Pégoud was a key organiser of the airshow and is considered by many to be the first pilot to complete a loop in an aircraft. However, this claim is contested by some who say that a Russian pilot flew the world’s first loop in a Nieuport made monoplane about two weeks before Pégoud flew his loop.

What Remains and Learning More 

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Blériot XI replica seen just after landing at Pardubice in 2017.

Flying examples of the Blériot XI, in either original or replica form, are rather a rarity. However, they are out there.

Airworthy examples of original aircraft, or airframes that contain significant original materials and structures, are known to exist in America, Great Britain and Sweden.

Significant among these airworthy originals is the one that belongs to the Shuttleworth Collection in Great Britain. Built in 1909 and powered  by an original Anzani three cylinder engine, this aircraft is at once the oldest known airworthy aircraft in the world and the oldest airframe and engine combination still flying in the world.

Stationary museum exhibits of the aircraft are rather easier to find as several are known to be on display, in either original or replica form, in museums across Europe as well as America, Argentina, Australia and Canada.

The following links will take you to websites that feature original aircraft in collections in Australia, France and Great Britain respectively. The Australian link goes quite in depth with regards to that nation’s relationship with the aircraft:
http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/objectsthroughtime/bleriot-monoplane/index.html

https://www.arts-et-metiers.net/musee/aeroplane-bleriot-xi

http://www.shuttleworth.org/collection/bleriot/

These links will take you to features on replica aircraft that exist in America and New Zealand:
http://www.kitplanes.com/issues/32_8/builder_spotlight/1909-Bleriot-XI_21314-1.html

https://bleriotxi.com/

This link will take you to a quite enlightening article about what the Blériot XI is like to fly. After reading this article, I had a whole new and elevated level of respect for those who dared to fly in the pioneering era of flight:
http://oldrhinebeck.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Flying_an_original_1909_Bleriot_XI.pdf