Book Review: “Without Precedent”

Without Precedent
By: Owen Zupp
There and Back Publishing (2016)

Biography is generally not a genre I read with much frequency, but I’m extremely happy that I took the chance to read “Without Precedent” during a recent holiday. Of the biographies I have read, it is by far the most compelling and engaging I’ve read in the context of military or aviation.

Phillip Zupp (1925-1991) had a decades long career in the Australian military and became a very accomplished and respected pilot in both military and civil circles. Phillip’s son, Owen, went to great lengths after his father passed away to compile a detailed biography that not only chronicles the full span of Phillip’s life but also gives the reader a rather intimate view of his personality both in military and civilian life.

Phillip experienced bullying, poverty and privation through much of his childhood and youth. As a result, he developed a very determined and thick-skinned personality and tended to be laconic, pragmatic and stoic in the main. Very few people in his life got a full picture of the man during his lifetime, not even his closest friends and family.

This book is as much a son’s journey to know his father more fully as it is his father’s biography.

Phillip grew up in a farming community and never completed his formal education. He did not have the sort of background one might expect of someone who aspired to a career in aviation, though he was fully captivated by flying from the first time he saw an aircraft and pursued the goal of becoming a pilot with a single minded determination in the face of everything that stood in his way.

He joined the Royal Australian Air Force before the Second World War and began training as a navigator. He took to the military life very well and appreciated the structure and order it gave to his otherwise unpredictable life.

Though he had trained to be a navigator, changing operational priorities during the war resulted in Phillip taking a transfer to the army and training to be a commando. He spent the war fighting the Japanese in the jungles of New Guinea and served in the occupational force in Japan after the war ended. While he was not a particularly philosophical man by nature, standing at ground zero in Hiroshima and taking in the scope of the destruction certainly gave him pause for thought and reflection.

Towards the end of the 1940s, Phillip faced being discharged from the military during post war force reductions. It was in this period, however, that he was able to re-enlist in the RAAF and finally take up training to become the pilot he longed to be. Working his way through DeHavilland Tiger Moth basic trainers and advanced training in Wirraway trainers; Phillip ultimately found himself flying Gloster Meteor fighters in the Korean War.

During that conflict, he distinguished himself as an adept and capable pilot in the ranks of 77 Squadron. During actions in Korea, he was recommended to be awarded a Purple Heart medal by the American forces; it was the first time a member of the Australian military had ever been recommended for that award. However, it took several decades and much bureaucracy before Phillip even learned he had been awarded the medal and for that medal to reach the Zupp family.

After discharge from the RAAF, Phillip found work as an instructor pilot at a flying school near where he and his wife, Edith, had settled and started a family.

Phillip eventually trained on the Lockheed Constellation airliner and took work with the Australian national airline, QANTAS. However, Phillip’s preference for being alone in the cockpit and the strain of him being away for extended periods of time on his family life led him to cut his commercial flying career short.

Eventually, he would find his way into corporate flying and would finish his professional flying career in air ambulance service.

Phillip built up a remarkable pilot’s log through is life and this book gives good insights into many of the types he flew. The sections of the Wirraway trainer and the RAAF Gloster Meteor operations in Korea are particularly enlightening from an Australian aviation standpoint.

In his life, Phillip didn’t talk much about himself and didn’t start opening up to his family about his time in the military until quite late in his life.

It is noted towards the end of the book, that Owen found in his research that many of his father’s closest RAAF friends from Korea had no idea that Phillip had ever been a commando during WWII or had been part of the post war occupying force in Japan.

Following Phillip’s death, Owen Zupp was left with more questions than answers about his beloved father. This book is the result of Owen finding those answers and it’s very satisfying to read as the care Owen put into it is evident from cover to cover.

Phillip Zupp certainly could not have been the easiest man to know, but this book makes it clear that he was certainly worth getting to know if he had let you.

If you like a good biography, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

If you’re a RAAF enthusiast, your library isn’t complete without this book.

This link will take you to Owen Zupp’s own page and give you access to more reviews of this book:

http://www.owenzupp.com/without-precedent#trade

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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/

 

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.