Book Review: “Carrier Pilot”

Carrier Pilot
By: Norman Hanson
Patrick Stephens Ltd. (1979)
Silvertail Books (2016)

This book is considered by many notable authors and critics to be one of the best pilots’ memoirs of the Second World War.

The author, Norman Hanson, served in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) as a pilot of Vought Corsair fighters in the Pacific Theatre of Operations and this book follows him from recuitment into the service to commanding officer of a fighter squadron.

He gives very good insights into the various aircraft he flew from the basic trainers he experienced in America to the Fairey Fulmar that he trained and qualified for carrier operations in. Ultimately, the Corsair fighter itself gets the spotlight and it’s a very enlightnening look at real life operations with the legendary carrier borne fighter in both shipboard and land based operations.

The book balances levity and poignancy particularly well. Efforts made to break up off duty boredom are interspersed well against sad tales of losing friends in battle or to accidents.

The unforgiving nature of the Corsair fighter is highlighted many times. Very clearly, it was not a machine that tolerated a lot of cockiness or complacency from the pilot.

The book is a very enjoyable read overall; the only thing I can bring against it is that it contains a fair bit of slang that is either period or service specific and some explanatory footnotes would not have gone amiss for those not familiar with it.

I definitely recommend this book for carrier aviation fans, Fleet Air Arm fans and those who like a well written combat memoir.

This link will take you to the book’s page on the Silvertail Books website:

http://www.silvertailbooks.com/portfolio-post/carrier-pilot/

 

A Museum in Need of Some Help

This post is most specifically aimed at my readership in the United Kingdom. However, if you’re from points further afield you may still be able to help.

I’ve just become aware that on June 25, 2017, vandals broke into the East Midlands Aeropark and did damage to the museum shop and hangar.

While I have not visited the museum myself, I am aware of the very good reputation it has and one day hope to pay it a visit.

Having done volunteer work at museums in the past, I’m well aware that the museum business is difficult enough without vandals making things harder.

The museum has a crowdfunding project underway to raise funds for repairs. They have a goal to reach GBP 5,000 and, at the time of writing this, there are 19 days remaining on the crowdfunding project for them to achieve that goal.

Here is a link to the crowdfunding project if you wish to help:

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/eastmidlands-aeropark?utm_source=facebook

This link will take you to the East Midlands Aeropark website where you can learn more about them and their collection:

http://www.eastmidlandsaeropark.org/index.html

Kunovice Air Museum – 2017 Update

Following up on my visit to the open day event hosted by the Kunovice Air Museum and Slovácký Aeroklub last weekend, I’ve put together this summary of some of the more visible progress that the museum has made between my last visit, in autumn of 2016, and now:

Bringing in the New 

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Public roll out of the Museum’s newest exhibit, the Let/Zlín Z-37 TM.

The museum used the open day event to give the public their first view of the newest addition to the museum collection, a freshly restored Let/Zlín Z-37 TM.

The Z-37 TM is a truly one of a kind aircraft that you won’t see anywhere else. In the mid 1980s, a Z-37 T agricultural aircraft was modified for testing the type’s suitability for military close support missions. The tests were unsuccessful and the aircraft was reverted to agricultural configuration and returned to cropdusting work.

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The Z-37 TM in autumn of 2016, shortly after arrival from Hungary.

After several years of flying on the Czech Register as OK-PJD, the aircraft was transfered to Hungary and languished in outdoor storage there.

In recent years, the museum has successfully worked towards locating and returning the precise aircraft used in the Z-37 TM tests to the Czech lands for restoration.

Over the break between the end of the 2016 season and start of the 2017 season, museum workers have transformed the faded and tired looking assemblage of components that they brought back from Hungary into a first rate restoration of a unique and not so well known chapter of Czech aviation history.

The Nagano Express

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The “Nagano Express”, standing on her own legs in 2017.

The big story of both 2015 and 2016 for the museum was the mind-boggling logistics and bureaucracy of securing and transporting a former Czech air force Tupolev Tu-154 airliner from Prague to Kunovice. This particular airliner was named “Nagano Express” as it was used to fly the gold medal winning Czech hockey team home from the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan

Through a lot of weekend trips to Prague by museum volunteers over a two year period to prepare the aircraft for dismantlement and ground transport and the most successful, to date, internet crowdfunding project in the Czech Republic to ensure not only the costs of transport but many costs relating to further restorations, the aircraft arrived at Kunovice in September of 2016 and placed on supports by a pair of cranes.

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“Nagano Express” upon arrival at Kunovice in 2016.

As one would expect of a larger aircraft, work on the “Nagano Express” will take some time to complete.

Since arriving in Kunovice, the aircraft’s inner wing sections with main landing gear units have been attached and she’s now off support blocks and standing on her own three landing gear legs.

Additionally, the aircraft’s vertical tail fin has been attached and I have no doubt that quite a bit of internal work has also taken place since arrival in 2016.

Meeting an Old Friend 

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Zlín Z-126, OK-IFG, on display in the museum in 2017.

During the 2014 season opening day at the museum, I purchased a sight seeing flight in a 1954 vintage Zlín Z-126 training aircraft known as OK-IFG on the Czech civil register.

OK-IFG and I spent 20 minutes or so flying over the local countryside and a couple of the more well known tourist attraction of the area. I even got about five minutes of “stick time” controling the aircraft.

After being built in 1954, OK-IFG spent much of the earlier part of her flying career in the Olomouc flying club. She was put in storage for an approximate ten year period before being brought back to flying status in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

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Myself and OK-IFG just after landing in spring of 2014.

OK-IFG spent the bulk of her later flying years in the hands of the Slovácký Aeroklub in Kunovice and was eventually painted in  pseudo-military colours.

All aircraft must stop flying at some point and OK-IFG was struck from the register in early 2015 and given to the museum by the flying club.

The 2017 open day was the first time I’d seen OK-IFG since the 2014 flight. While her paint is looking rather faded, she looks quite solid and well looked after in all other aspects.

The Fresh Look is No Ilyushin 

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Refinished section of the Avia Av-14’s interior.

One of the museum’s longer term and most visible residents is the Avia Av-14 transport, the Czechoslovak license built version of the Ilyushin Il-14, that greets visitors just inside the museum’s entry gate.

Through the 2016-2017 off-season, museum workers gave the aircraft’s VIP configured interior a much needed refurbishment. Everything from the passenger cabin to the kitchen, lavatory and flight crew stations was refreshed.

For many years, the interiors were looking tired. Upholstery and carpets were looking tattered, faded, stained or otherwise less than presentable while the kitchen, lavatory and flight crew stations all needed a good clean up and fresh paint in places.

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The passenger cabin seen in 2016, prior to refurbishment.

Walking through the aircraft interior in 2017, the visitor is presented with a much cleaner and brighter look that befits a VIP.

Fresh carpets, uphostery and paint are in and years of dreariness are out. The flight crew stations look appropriate to an aircraft that is still in service and awaiting the next mission.

Also important ot note. Improvements to the Av-14 didn’t stop with the interiors, both propellors got a much needed fresh coat of paint in the off-season.

Bombing Up 

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Cold War era bombs presented on a new concrete platform for the 2017 season.

Another long term exhibit at the museum is a selection of Cold War era bombs that sit between a pair of Sukhoi Su-7 strike aircraft and represent weapons typically carried by that aircraft type in service.

Prior to the 2016 season, when the bombs recieved a much needed restoration and repaint, they were a said sight indeed. Up until then, they had all been showing signs of corrosion and were positioned in a rather haphazard arrangement between the aircraft.

In 2016, after the repaint, they were arranged in a more orderly fashion based on size. However, they were still sat upon some unpresentable and deteriorating wooden loading pallets.

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The bombs in 2016. The repaint done and waiting for the concrete.

Happily, the 2017 season sees the collection of bombs presented on a very nice, new block of concrete that fits their recently refreshed appearances.

I have no idea what the plans for the Sukhois either side of the bombs are, but the only thing that could make the bombs look better would be to freshen their associated aircraft.

I hope one day to see that happen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this update of the Kunovice air museum. In the near future I will be updating my main article on the facility.

Kunovice Military Day, 2017

Yesterday saw me pay my first visit of 2017 to the Kunovice Aviation Museum in the south east of the Czech Republic.

The museum and local flying club organised a special event called Military Day. The day invloved exhibitions of Second World war uniforms and equipment by historical reenactment clubs, tactical demonstrations by the Czech army, rescue and fire fighting demonstrations by airport emergency services, sightdeeing flights by the flying club and the roll out of a newly restored aircraft in the museum’s collection.

It was also a chance to see a lot of locally designed and built aircraft as Kunovice has, for many years, been a significant centre of Czech aircraft production.

The event was much more than the advertising led me to expect and I was astounded by the scale of it and it was a real challenge to choose just 12, that’s my rule for myself when making primarily photographic posts, pictures to give you a taste of the event.

I sincerely hope the museum and flying club will be making this an annual event, it’s worth it!

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The Evektor EV-55 Outback is a locally designed and built twin turboprop design.
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Another local product is the BRM Aero Bristell ultralight. I took a 30 minute sightseeing ride on this very one.
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Flying over the Morava river and Baťa canal, two prominent features of the Slovácko region of which Kunovice is a part.
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The turnaround point of the flight was the Zlín aircraft factory in the small city of Otrokovice. Zlín has been a presence in Czech aviation since the 1930s.
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This Beech Duke from the German register was available for close inspection.
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Not born in Kunovice, though still a proudly Czech product, this Tatra fire engine from the airport fire brigade arrives.
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An Aero C-104, a Czech variation of the German Bucker Bu-131 Jungmann trainer.
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A Zlín 381, a Czech version of the Bucker Bu-181 Bestmann trainer.
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Roll out of the museum’s freshly restored Let/Zlín Z-37 TM for public viewing. The Z-37 TM was an experiment in the mid 1980s to test the suitability of the Z-37 T agricultural plane for military close support missions. The experiments were unsuccessful and the prototype was returned to agricultural service and found its way onto the Hungarian civil register. In recent years, the museum located and recovered the aircraft and brought it home for restoration.
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The Slovak governmental Tupolev Tu-154 did a few low overflights of the museum. This was one of the last chances to see a Slovak Tu-154 in action, after this weekend they will be retired.
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Another local product, this Let L-23 Super Blaník made a few low passes over the exhibition site.
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Looking at the museum and army demonstration area beyond from atop the airport fire brigade’s cherry picker vehicle.

Stop the Props and Cool the Engines!

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Three weekends out of the past four have seen me at aviation events, two full air shows and a smaller event at Prague’s international airport to mark its 80th anniversary.

Happily, that has given me lots of new pictures to freshen existing articles with as well as to build new articles around.

On the other hand, it’s left me rather tired an needing a break before the next planned aviation related activity.

Most immediately, the following articles have had partial refreshment of photographs:

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/bucker-bu-131-jungmann/

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/lisunov-li-2-the-dakota-goes-east/

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/yakovlev-yak-3-petit-with-a-punch/

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/orlican-l-40-meta-sokol-taking-the-falcon-farther/

 

On a more protracted timescale, my existing article on the Let L-200 Morava will be subjected to both photographic and text updates through the year.

Partly, this is because I’ve recently made contact with a pilot of the type in the Czech Republic who has kindly provided me scans of some original marketing brochures from the 1960s that will no doubt help to expand the article.

Additionally, 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the Morava’s first flight. The air museum in Kunovice has put together a special exhibition relating to this and I plan to visit it during the summer months.

Watch this space:

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/let-l-200-morava-the-kunovice-taxi/

Pardubice Aviation Fair, 2017

June 3 and 4  of 2017 saw the annual air show in Pardubice, Czech Republic.

As usual, the event was civilian focused with replica and restored aircraft from several eras in aviation history in attendance.

The weather was hot and sunny with a lot of heat haze and the sun directly overhead and a bit behind the display line most of the day. As such, most of my flying shots weren’t really presentable.

A lot of regular performers for the event made their returns and a few new performers were in the mix:

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This preserved OV-10 Bronco, formerly of the Luftwaffe, came in from France.
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The Red Bull B-25 Mitchell gets a pre show polishing. Red Bull also brought their Douglas DC-6, T-28 Trojan and an Alpha Jet to the event.
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One of two T-28 Trojan aircraft in attendance.
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One of a Pair of Yakovlev Yak-3 fighters at the event. This particular one was built in 1944.
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This was the first time I’ve seen a Pilatus PC-7 at the event.
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This German registered Orličan L-40 Meta Sokol was a pleasant surprise when it arrived, it’s not the most common of GA types to see.
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One of the most attractive GA types, in my view anyway, is the Let L-200 Morava. As always, it was lovely to see one at the event.
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Spitfire TE184 is a regular at the event. It’s always interesting to see as the markings seem to change a bit every year.
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This locally based Let L-410 Turbolet was part of the official show opening flypast.
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The Bleriot XI replica seen just after landing.
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The Red Bull Douglas DC-6 touches down after a spectacular performance. Initially, the DC-6 was not scheduled for the event. However, it did a very good job of filling in as a last minute replacement for the scheduled Lockheed Constellation which had to cancel for technical reasons.

Book Review: “Ol’ Shakey”

Ol’ Shakey: Memories of a Flight Engineer
By: Byron Gene Fish
Outskirts Press (2013)

Through the 1950s and 1960s, the distinctive looking Douglas C-124 Globemaster II was the primary heavy lift aircraft of the U.S. Air Force. It was a bulky, hulking aircraft that was difficult to mistake for anything else on a flightline of the period.

It was also a very distinctive aircraft from a standpoint of operating it and had a habit of keeping crew members, particularly flight engineers, alert and busy with a myriad of mechanical idiosynchrasies.

This book gives one a very good overview of the training involved to become a flight engineer on “Ol’ Shakey” as the C-124 was nicknamed in service. It also examines how crews had to have complete trust in each other to operate the aircraft effectively and what could happen if that trust was compromised.

The book also details a range of scenarios that were typical  when working with the aircraft, such as crawling through a maintenance tunnel that ran through the wings in order to examine and service the engines in flight.

Beyond the aircraft itself, the book also gives the reader an idea of what the crews experienced at the various spots around the world they flew the aircraft into. It also gives one a feel for what the inter-service and inter-unit politics and rivalries of the time could be like.

Most of what is in this book are solid flying stories, though there are a few stories of off duty clowning about to add comic relief to the mix.

As it deals with the transport mission, it’s not the most exciting book you’ll find. Nonetheless, it is an accessible and informative read from a very qualified voice on the subject.

The author, Byron Gene Fish, spent the bulk of his professional life in aviation with many of those years spent at the flight engineer station of the C-124 aircraft.

This link will take you to the book’s profile on the publisher’s website:

https://outskirtspress.com/webpage?isbn=9781478716907#details