Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mark Hanna 1959 - 1999

Following the recent post of Mark Hanna's article on flying for the Empire of the Sun film in Warbirds Worldwide, [here] I thought it might be appropriate to give a bit of background.

Mark Hanna was the son of the legendary Ray Hanna, ex-Red Arrows leader and doyen of warbird pilots. After service in the RAF, Mark joined his father in the Old Flying Machine Company and with a core of staff and a variety of interesting aircraft operated in displays across the UK, and occasionally Europe - and even Ray's native New Zealand. Additionally, they undertook a huge number of contracts flying for the screen - film, TV and even advertising. Given the ephemeral nature of these events, the story behind the film is often lost, but as seen in the Empire article, the story of the filming can be fascinating.

Mark was one of the most enjoyable warbird pilots to watch when he was operating warbirds, but it seems that his preference extended more to the early jets as well as the piston types his father was famous for flying. A full profile is on the Old Flying Machine Company website here.

Mark was both the most rewarding and frustrating of operators from the point of view of an editor. Mark was a remarkably good writer for a practitioner - someone who actually did what was written about - but getting him to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard was a battle; not surprising as he led a full and very active international life. I should add that I understood from Paul Coggan, the editor of Warbirds Worldwide that Mark was a generous correspondent who always was keen to help - but getting him to deliver the text was a challenge. Nevertheless, the few articles he did pen for Warbirds Worldwide were among the most popular that we published, and should be treasured not just for their rarity but also for their insight and wry humour.

Sadly, Mark, Paul Coggan and the Journal itself are no longer with us. Hopefully people will enjoy seeing the Empire of the Sun article that prompted this posting, and may well encourage further articles to be mined from the archives.

Last word must go to Mark's sister Sarah Hanna of the Old Flying Machine Company for her prompt and gracious permission to reproduce Mark's article. The Old Flying Machine Company are still very much in business, and their details are here.

Mark Hanna gets out of Hawker Fury G-BTTA after the first flight in the UK. [James Kightly]

Skip-Bombing P-51s in ‘Empire of the Sun’

Buried in one of the first issues of Warbirds Worldwide Journal, is an article by the late Mark Hanna on flying Mustangs for Spielberg's 1987 movie 'Empire of the Sun'. After receiving permission from Sarah Hanna of the Old Flying Machine Company to reproduce the feature this is a straight reproduction of the account; an interesting insight 'above' rather than 'behind' the scenes, and only just above... It is a period piece from Issue No.2, 1987, and things have moved on since and sadly the pilots are no longer with us, nor is Warbirds Worldwide or Editor Paul Coggan. It would be a pity for this to vanish as well. More on Mark here.

The article is reproduced with the text as published, and copyright for images and text rests with the Old Flying Machine Company.

So please read on - over to Mark:

Skip-Bombing P-51s in ‘Empire of the Sun’

The middle of May saw the deployment of three P-51D Mustangs to Southern Spain for the filming of Steven Spielberg's film Empire of the Sun. The Mustangs involved were the Old Flying Machine Company’s G-HAEC/A68-192, The Fighter Collection's N51JJ/44-73149, and G-PSID/44-63788. Pilots for the filming were Ray Hanna (who acted as overall Mustang consultant) ‘Hoof’ Proudfoot and myself. Engineering expertise was provided by Paul Mercer who had been released from The Fighter Collection’s Hurricane project for the duration, ably assisted by Hoof’s son Lee. Aerial coordinator for the film was John 'Jeff’ Hawke.

All Mustangs ready to go.

The film sequences, set in the CBI (China-Burma-India) Theatre in 1944 and '45 called for airfield attacks, strafing and bombing (if deemed feasible). Spielberg is renowned for his attention to the minutest detail in his films. To that end all three Mustangs were painted in the spectacular markings of the 118th Tactical Recce Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group of the 14th Air Force, which operated in the Pacific during the closing stages of World War II.

13th Mav 1987 saw G-HAEC and G-PSID set off for Biarritz and beyond with both Hannas flying, ‘Hoof’ was to bring up the rear in N51JJ as soon as the paint had dried, or at least gone 'tacky'!

The flight southward was uneventful, with excellent weather the whole way. Navigation through Spain became much easier once having rendezvoused with 'Jeff’ Hawke and Paul Mercer flying Stephen Grey's Beech Baron, at Biarritz.

Our initial operating base was Jerez in Spain, which is a joint civil/military airfield about ten minutes flight time from the film set, although the actual film set (which was dressed as a pseudo Japanese airfield) was available as an option. En-route to Jerez we took a look at the filming location and livened the place up a little! It was very interesting to see the airfield; it looked extremely operational with Zeros and light, communications aeroplanes parked along the strip. Flak towers, hangars and an array of military vehicles completed the illusion. Though we initially considered operating out of the film set airstrip (the ex Spanish Air Force T-6s modified to look like Zeros were operating from there) and it was long enough to take a P-51, we decided against it. The strip itself was largely crushed rock and dirt and having inspected it we decided the risk of dinging a propeller blade or damaging a radiator was too great. Our base would continue to be Jerez.

Once established at Jerez the film people added the final touches to the paint-work on the three aeroplanes. All received genuine World War II names, these being; Tugboat for G-PSlD, My Dallas Darlin' for N51JJ when it arrived and Missy Wong from Hong Kong for G-HAEC. Missy Wong also received a painting of a rather unattractive Chinese girl on the rudder.

Line abreast en route Jerez.

Having briefed with Steven Speilberg and 'Jeff’ Hawke it became obvious that the flying involved would be considerably more demanding than the average airshow routine, the main problem being accurate line-ups for camera angles and timing which would have to fit in with the acting, and of course the actors! An initial trial sortie ensured it became clear that our preferred operating speed of 250-300 knots would be too fast for the movie so we ended up opting for 200-250 knots. Flying was ultra low-level and very close to buildings, Zeros etc. After a little practice it was easy to get right in the groove. Formation was standard battle formation on the transit flight to and from the film set, moving into fighting wing or arrow formation over the set itself. All the flying was done at cruise power settings.

An authentic bombed up Mustang (Mark Hanna photos).

The next step was to evaluate the bomb dropping capability of the Mustangs. The film company had provided near perfect replicas of 500lb bombs. These were made up from plastic shells and consequently only weighed about 25 lbs each. Fed up with seeing bombs tumbling crazily in previous films it was decided to increase the weight of the shells by adding plaster, which was duly added along the length of each bomb. This increased the weight to a more realistic 150-200 lbs. Having weighed each individual bomb on scales the next problem was loading them without bomb trolleys - hard work! With the aircraft loaded with their deadly cargo we were presented with the very satisfying and rare sight of two fully bombed-up, authentically painted Mustangs.

The team hard at work loading bombs.

Take-off performance was noticeably less impressive whilst carrying the bombs, and once airborne cruise power gave approximately 10-15 knots less speed. The intent was for Missy Wong to drop the first trial bomb at 3000 to 4000 feet altitude so that I could observe its fall and check the trajectory. We were slightly concerned about the bombs hitting the flaps or tail immediately following release. Speed for the drop was to be 200 knots. Jeff Hawke and his boys set up a 12' x 12' orange target marker a mile or so parallel to the film set. Ray Hanna’s initial bomb drop was superb: the bomb separated cleanly from the aeroplane, wagged its tail slightly and fell perfectly.

Tugboat formating on (the camera ship) Dallas Darlin’.

Next was my turn. G-PSID – Tugboat - has an electric bomb release which pickles both bombs simultaneously. Being an Air Defence pilot with no bomb dropping experience since my 1980 Hunter Weapons Unit course, I thought I had better try what I know and set up an academic 10° dive attack As the target disappeared under the nose I pickled, paused and pulled and got a couple of 100 yard short bombs - considerably better than my aimed averages on the Hunter back in 1980 I might add! The next trial was Ray’s remaining bomb. This, we had decided, would be from a level skip-bomb attack. with the release height being 25 to 30 feet, a-la-Venom Pilot Attack Instructors Course of 1956 I believe. The result was a bomb skipping once, bouncing to about 10 feet and then straight through the target. Having explained to the film people that skip-bombing was an approved World War II tactic they eagerly took up the suggestion that we could place bombs right through the front doors of any target they chose - with the mock Japanese hangars being the preferred targets!

A superb and unusual shot of Ray Hanna in Missy Wong from Hong Kong.

The next day Hoof Proudfoot arrived with his son Lee in N51JJ. Another bomb dropping rehearsal ensued with all aircraft scoring direct hits or brackets from level skip bombing runs.

We were then ready for the first film takes. These consisted of a complicated attack pattern with accurate timings. The plan was for me to attack first, strafing a hangar and a Zero. Five seconds later, and from an angle 40° to that of my attack path, Ray was to skip bomb another hangar, closely followed (3 to 5 seconds later) by Hoof who would strafe straight down the runway, avoiding the debris from our attacks. After four or five 'dry runs’ the actual take was on. Once the bombing and strafing pyrotechnics were set off there was no return of course and the take would have to be perfect!

Line abreast en route Jerez. Note the Kill marks.

As we ran in the flak started! Air bursts were being mortared up into very realistic looking black puffs making one nestle a little lower to the ground and snuggle down behind the engine. Flashing in between buildings and suddenly seeing explosions walking all over a hangar and a Zero, supposedly as a result of my actions. the feeling that all this was real was quite strong. Lumps of phosphorous over the wing, then up and over the hangar. dumping stick to hug the ground on the egress, looking back to see Ray and Hoof emerging from a huge fireball and oil cloud - having scored two direct hits right through the front doors of the hangar - very, very exciting! Once clear of the airfield we all pulled up and checked each other over for coolant leaks and dents. This was SOP and we did not leave the filming site for our base until we were sure temperatures and pressures had stabilised. Transit home was at low-level and in standard battle formation.

Top shows the Mustangs ‘deadly’ cargo – plaster filled bombs.

Subsequently we moved to another airfield at Tablada near Seville. This was also a joint civil/military airfield and a delightful environment to operate from. A great deal of help was provided by the Spanish Air Force in the form of Engineering Officer Major Carlos Saldana and also by the Royal Aero Club of Seville who do some of the best flying club lunches I've ever had. They also have a huge swimming pool, large patio and dance floor. Not at all like the average fly-blown UK flying club. With the Mustangs parked under some trees, 50 yards from the bar the setting was idyllic!

We flew every day, sometimes twice per day. Sorties were all similar in that they were ground attack biased. However, there was a requirement for two other shots. One involved Hoof chasing and shooting down a Zero flown by Tom Donahue, an American gentleman who shot down the last aeroplane of World War II! The other requirement was for one Mustang to fly past the child-star at 150 knots with the hood open and the pilot waving. Having already had some banter with Stephen Grey and my father about them being in the background of any close-up shots, due to their advanced age, I was flabbergasted when Steven Spielberg picked father, personally, for this shot. Something to do with looking paternal I believe!

Father and son formation. Ray tail chases Mark home from the film set.

All too soon the flying was over despite our attempts to write into the script some 2 V 2 air combat sorties. Mustangs V Zeros (to no avail I'm sorry to say). I have to say that Empire of the Sun provided some of the most demanding and satisfying flying I have ever had apart from the odd air combat sortie in the RAF. Over a beer in the hotel bar each evening we would say to each other 'Well, not too many people have dropped bombs from P-51s today!'

The aeroplanes performed superbly during the film despite the very hot weather conditions. The only snags were one flat tyre, one radiator door failing fully open (luckilly) and a coolant leak, fortunately on G-HAEC's last sortie. Three minor problems for over 60 hours total flying.

The Empire of the Sun team. Left to right Mark Hanna, his father Ray Hanna, engineer Paul Mercer, Hoof Proudfoot and son Lee. Ray Hanna acted as the Mustang consultant to the film makers. Paul Mercer is currently rebuilding The Fighter Collection's Hurricane and Hoof is a Director of the same organisation.

I am told that Stephen Spielberg thought the flying sequences wore fantastic. Personally, having seen the rushes I think they are very exciting, and if you like the idea of P-51s blowing up dust and taking washing off clothes lines then this film could be for you. Of course I should point out that the film is not about aeroplanes, they are incidental. Roll on the next ground attack film! As I understand it Stephen Grey is collecting a complete Squadron of Typhoons right now, to participate in the next epic movie about the Falaise gap. I hope he lets me fly one! WW Mark Hanna.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The AWM's Hudson Turret

I was pleased to see a report [here] on the rebuild of the Australian War Memorial's Lockheed Hudson Turret, a rare example of Boulton Paul's work.

It is a Type C Mk.II turret, and the development of it from the Type C Mk.I nose turret for the Handley Page Halifax to the Mk.II for the dorsal Hudson position took only nine weeks, involving re-routing the services from the top-entry on the Halifax and adding a glazed rather than solid back to the cupola. Despite its massive egg shape on the Hudson, it was not as draggy as might be thought. I've not got figures of speed-loss for Hudsons fitted with it compared to without, but when fitted to the Halifax as a dorsal turret it 'only' cost 6 mph, according to Wallace Clarke's British Aircraft Armament Vol.1.

Here's a couple of photographs I took in 2010 when it was at an earlier stare of restoration, than the recent shots on the AWM blog with the Perspex now fitted.

As can be seen, it's a complex piece of machinery, and owes more in appearance to steam engineering than aero, but they were an effective unit.

I look forward to Jamie's report on the even rarer ventral bathtub position.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kiwi Butcher Bird

Much anticipated for the Classic Fighter airshow at Omaka, New Zealand last Easter, the Flug Werk FW 190 (Focke Wulf lookalike) unfortunately ran into some technical issues on a test flight before the show.

These images were taken on one of those unfortunately truncated test flights. Note the prop vortices above.

Those problems have now been fixed, and it is hoped it will be up and flying again shortly.

Olympic Aviation - 1936

Although aerobatics have never been an official part of the Olympic competition, in 1936 there was a significant range of surrounding events as aviation was being heavily promoted by the host nation. Laudable though that may have been in that fascinating era of aviation development, there was in fact a darker reason - the host was Nazi Germany.

I think because of this dubious agenda, little seems to have been published that is reliable on the aviation events then. While much of the Nazi era has been dissected and examined since, overcoming the period propaganda, this does not seem to be the case in this aspect of aviation, which is a pity, given what must really have happened would be interesting, and pretty much a unique conjunction of aviation and the Olympics - albeit tarnished with the Nazi's 'perverted science'.

(Thanks to Brad O for the pointer to the image.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Awaiting the sound of the Bell

One of the several airworthy restorations I'm very keen to see completed, the Planes of Fame Bell P-59 Airacomet, seen here at the 2011 airshow with a sectioned engine alongside, and the Grumman F3F behind. It will be a remarkable and significant flyer when it gets there.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

From a correspondant...

This pic and text came in from 'Old Fokker' and it was too good not to share.

Something for the CV (or straight to the pool room !)

The notam tolls the knell of airshow day,
The Lowy herd towed slowly o'er the lea,
The media men homeward plod their weary way,
And leave the hangar to darkness and to me.
(with apologies to Thomas Gray)
Stewart Wilson on the left, yours truly right.

Showthrough P-40

During Alan Arthur's practice display at Temora on the Friday for the Warbirds Down Under airshow this last weekend, I noticed due to him being up sun in the evening, how much you can see through all the control edges of the P-40. Note the unusual show-through in the Frise ailerons above

An almost plan view (above) and a fair amount of control input in the roll (below).

It was a nice display to see in a quiet evening, as the sun was well over the yardarm.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The View from Space

I found this article, discussing 'How the Airplane got its Shape', interesting by virtue of the fact that it comes at the topic from an unusual angle - the view of a space historian; and that it touches on some of the less acknowledged drives of this arena of design.

From the featured article, a NACA Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane with a model wing suspended beneath it. 1921. [NASA?]

People in aviation would have you believe that aviation is all about form from function, but it is far from so, most obviously from an examination of the more baroque aspects of aircraft design as exposed by the passing of time. There's an article about that, too, to be written.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spi... Hurricane Women

While looking up other books at the State Library (SLV) I found this book and was amused to note that the overly specific title was contradicted by the back cover, where these Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) women are photographed next to a late mark Hawker Hurricane - one of the many other types they flew.

Another example of 'Spitfire Snobbery'

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Measure of the Man - Gary Austin

Gary Austin at the Flight Engineer's position on the CAF's B-29 'Fifi'. His good friend, Brad Pilgrim, has since taken these throttles on. 'cusrey'.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of the untimely death of Gary Austin. He was a remarkable man who became well known internationally in the warbird world via the WIX forum when he was working for the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) as an engineer. He was, of course, already well known to the many who'd come across him in the US in real life. But those two statements are the least of someone who was clearly a remarkable personality, an inspiration and a gentleman in his dealings on the web. As Taylor Stevenson said on WIX when recording Gary's demise we lost "a true artist in the Warbird Community".

Some details are available via this obituary:
Gary Austin, 39, of Midland passed away on October 26, 2009 at his home.
...Gary was a well-known, loved and respected war bird aircraft mechanic, pilot and humorous storyteller. He was always ready to be of service to anyone at any time sharing his loved and extensive knowledge and experience in promoting the safety, repair and preservation of all war birds. Gary's war bird career began with his work at Peeler Aviation DeWitt Spain Airport in Memphis, TN. He moved to Breckenridge, TX to work with Nelson Ezell doing war bird restorations at Ezell Aviation in Breckenridge, TX. For the past several years he has worked for the CAF as a aircraft mechanic and B29 FiFi Flight Engineer/Crew Chief with extensive restoration of the B24 Ol' 927 (Diamond Lil). He was known all over the world for his skills in aircraft maintenance and repair.

And Gary tells his own story on the EAA's Timeless Voices interview videos here, (obviously made before he passed away).

Gary was responsible for one of the most remarkable stories in warbird preservation, when he responded to a question on WIX "What's The Plan For Diamond Lil?" 'Lil' was the CAF's LB-30 / B-24A Liberator, which Gary was in the process of converting back from her freight-hauling configuration to something more appropriate to this rare and historic aircraft. This discussion became one of the longest running threads on WIX, and provided a remarkable insight (available in no other format I'm aware of) into the reality of warbird restoration and operation - and was communicated in a remarkably accessible, positive and friendly way.

The net result was that many were able to understand what went into a restoration, and as a direct result of Gary's approach, many were inspired to do everything from making small donations to changing their life's course to take on some of these kind of jobs. Somewhere in between was the inspiration for the donation of the new nose art (by Chad Hill, 'Django' and team) that took 'Diamond Lil' to becoming 'Ol 927' and took a lot of the aircraft's fans along with her in understanding the need and detail of this change; and the fact that this transport Liberator was equipped with a set of guns with funds raised by WIX and other friends.

Gary in the middle - in action, in conversation. Walking and taking are as vital for warbird organisations as wrenching - and Gary did all three. via Ryan Short, from the 'Gary Austin in Pictures' thread here.

I could write all day about that, and the many other stories that Gary shared on WIX, (posting as 'Retro Aviation - watch out for the 'In Memoriam stickers around) and that went out into the wider warbird community and other, more formal publications, my own among them. But more important to note is that Gary's old time courtesy, good manners and positive attitude made up a remarkable personality that got Gary - among may other things regular credits as 'the best ambassador for the CAF' and, not incidentally, the warbird world.

Just as important is the image I have in mind of another piece of bent metal heading to the bin after some tinbashing went awry. One of the best things Gary shared was that even for the best of us, the plan doesn't always go by the recipe, and overcoming the mistakes and hiccups we all face is part of being an achiever, rather than just a talker.

Much has been written by others about Gary, and the closest account is by his long-term friend Brad Pilgrim - one of Brad's tributes is here. I never knew Gary, although I corresponded with him, and we shared a couple of online jokes on WIX. However, despite the length of time he has gone, we are still finding evidence of his works and inspiration are out there. Certainly he's not forgotten here.

The Writing Wrench
What hasn't been said about Gary often enough, I think, is that he was (as well as remarkable warbird mechanic and inspirational role model in that job) a remarkable writer. I get to sub-edit and work on a huge number of aviation articles and books, and it's axiomatic that those aircraft engineers with the best stories to tell are impossible to get those stories out of - and if you can, those stories are a nightmare to knock into shape.

But Gary was a complete exception to this. His posts on WIX were remarkably clean and polished, and like many other great artists, you don't notice the real skill was making the very hard look easy. His writing was remarkably clear, grammatically correct and well spelled, and his style, while deliberately not formal in most cases, managed to convey sometimes difficult or emotive concepts in a accessible way that treated his reader as a peer. Frankly, I'd be proud to communicate as well as Gary at times.

Sadly, thanks to Photobucket, we have lost most of Gary's images he used to illustrate his stories and posts, but I think that it is a remarkable measure of the man that so many of his stories stand well even without that apparently crucial element.

If you want to read some writing that in the warbird environment is, I think, the equal to that of those recognised as 'great writers' (whatever that may be) I commend grabbing a cup of tea, cocktail or preferred light brew, and sitting down to one of the following:

Rookie school in a Cassutt.

2007 Reno Air Races...A Rookie's Adventure

Flying a Tiger Moth

The WIX Light Bulb answer

Not essays in the same mould, the massive 'Ol 927' thread is here. Not all Gary's own work by any means even a short read of a few pages gives and insight into his approach and the effect that has on the warbird environment.

Gary's endless fund of stories were visual as well as verbal. Here's he's being chased by the Sea Fury, thankfully not 'lost' due to being in Jack Cook's collection. Gary Austin, via Jack Cook.

While Gary was the kind of guy who would 'give you the shirt off his back' tragically there was one person he ultimately short-changed; himself. He faced the terrible demon of depression, and in the end it got the better of him. His loss and the manner of it is part of his story (the tribute thread from two years ago is here) but what I hope will be better remembered is his huge contribution to the warbird world, and it is clear that for many, even now (as seen in this thread) his inspiration lives on.

Gary in Cassutt 'Maybee's Baby'. Gary Austin, via 'N3Njeff'.

The heading is a reference to a comment by 'Locobuster' on WIX here "I have heard it said the measure of a man's greatness is best witnessed in the good influence he had on those around him". I certainly agree. His legacy is one that most of us would be proud to be within acres of. Attempting to write this tribute, something I've been trying to do for two years, shows just how hard it is to try and encompass such a remarkable life - it may be a poor effort I've made, but it is, I think worth the try.

Thanks too, to those who candidly shared their thoughts on Gary and kept and shared the pictures seen here and in the linked threads.

Gary Austin's view.

Thank you Gary, and blue skies.

Aviation Journalist Insight

You may have wondered what it is like to be an aviation journalist, and interview a well known or respected aircraft engineer or restorer.

This video, from Franklin Poole of the Fort Worth Vintage Flying Museum is exactly like the interview experience. He is outlining how they have come up with some rather significant improvements, using a rare but important 1940s invention, for the Wright-Cyclone R1820-97 on their B-17G.

Improvements to the R-1820 Wright Cyclone engine (Turbo Encabulator) from Franklin Poole on Vimeo.

Having viewed the video, all you need do is write up your understanding of this magnificent achievement in no more than 500 words and by next Tuesday, and be prepared for any corrections sent in by the well-informed readers. And the not well informed ones too.

Should you find the material difficult to summarise accurately, further research will lead you to this video, and this web-page.

Whatever else you note, remember that side fumbling must be effectively prevented.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


A news item (in Russian) about the return to the air of one of W.W.II's most important aircraft, as well as the most produced - the Ilyushin Il-2:

Add another to the 'rare & unique fliers' list.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Battle of Britain film books

This is a selection of the main books that relate to the 1969 Battle of Britain film and related cinema and television depictions of the battle.

The Battle of Britain on Screen. 'The Few' in British Film and Television Drama. S P Mackenzie. Edinburgh University Press. 2007. 9780748623907. Seven 'essays' one on the film.

The Burning Blue. A New History of the Battle of Britain. Ed Paul Addison & Jeremy A Craig. Pimlico. 0712664750. 2000. Five parts, one on film & media, one essay in that on the film.

From the Wright Brothers to Top Gun. Aviation, nationalism and popular cinema. Michael Paris.Manchester University Press. 0719040744. 1995. Passing refs and an entry.

The contemporary 'making of':
Battle of Britain The combined story of Harry Saltzman's production 'Battle of Britain' and the supremely dramatic events of 1940. With 16 pages of full-colour photographs. Leonard Mosley. Pan Books. 330023578. 1969

The modern 'making of':
Battle of Britain The Movie. Robert J Rudhall. Ramrod Publications. 0951983296. 2000. (Note I understand there has been a subsequent edition with changes not made by the late Robert Rudhall, and some of these have added errors. However that is secondhand information.)

Battle of Britain Film The Photo Album. Robert J Rudhall. Ramrod Publications. 0953853934. 2001.

The books by my friend the late Robert Rudhall are particularly treasured; one being signed and dedicated to me, the other with a letter regarding the (very little) help and encouragement I gave Robert when he was writing the books.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Spitfire from the cockpit

Thanks to the retired Colonels (and no doubt Wing Commanders) of Tonbridge Wells' favourite paper, The Telegraph, you can see the pilot's view from the Spitfire I discussed in the previous post here.

Meantime, with background narration from Andy Saunders and John Romain, here's the Spitfire's flight.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spitfire I P9374

Two images of early Spitfires at Duxford, 1939 (above) and 2011 (below). [BBC & Brian A Marshall.]

The newest, oldest flying Supermarine Spitfire. [Brian A Marshall]

Undoubtedly one of the most exciting aircraft restorations is the rebuild of Spitfire I P9374, the earliest configured Spitfire now flying. A great deal of interest has been shown on the early test flights (as yet, no public flying display) and it is clearly a symptom of the health and desire for authenticity that this rare Spitfire has been restored to as original condition as is possible; including awkward systems like the early 'wobble' handle for the undercarriage, as well as the ultra-rare 'bracket' type de Havilland airscrew.

As well as the 'chassis' pump on the right-hand wall (centre of the image) the single strap rudder pedals can be seen on the left, with the 'Supermarine' stamp. [BBC]

The rare and re-engineered de Havilland Bracket type airscrew. [BBC]

John Romain of Historic Flying Ltd, the restorers of this machine, referred to this aircraft in a BBC News audio slideshow programme (where many of these images come from) here in August 2010:

John Romain explaining the process in front of a Hispano Buchon. [BBC]

This BBC broadcast is a good quick insight into some of the detail of restoration. A recommended listen.

And as a guide to the level restorations are at in terms of recovery of very degraded airframes and simultaneous recognition of the achievement in accurate reconstruction, this Spitfire also sets an important benchmark.

As well as of warbird 'benchmark' interest, we must congratulate to John and the team, and not least the owner for funding such a remarkable project.

Here's a sequence of images of the aircraft 'beached' (via Spitfire expert Peter Arnold, and Andy Saunders - who is working on a book about the aircraft with Grub Street. Details of the book here):

Circa 1940, with two German soldiers in their travel postcard. [via Peter Arnold]

Sinking into the Calais sand. [Via Andy Saunders.]

Some of the remains after being disinterred. [Via Andy Saunders.]

Meanwhile, here's a couple of stunning images of this machine in action over Duxford, from Brian's blog here (thanks Brian!).


PS: Long discussions on the aircraft here on Key and here on WIX.

PPS: For a pilot's eye view, see the follow up post here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Airplanista Article

I recently assisted colleague Kathy Mexted with an article in a US aviation magazine, Airplanista, about flying (and its history) in Australia.

Head on over here to read more in the August issue - it's free. And Kathy's blog is here.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wet 'Bou Signs Out

The DHC Caribou A4-152 retired to the RAAF Museum arrived with some ceremony on the 26 November 2009. Here are some photos from the day.

On taxi-in, with an arch provided by Point Cook CFA, and Rob Fox's Birddog, a fellow 'Vietnam Vet' in the foreground.

Pilot Squadron Leader Victoria Rookyard showers the crew with champagne.

While the traditional military dousing of the crew is carried out by RAAF Museum staff.

RAAF Caribou A4-152’s first pilot joins it's last crew - Flight Engineer Warrant Officers Rod Cairns and Peter Ryter; 38 Squadron’s Executive Officer, Squadron Leader Victoria Rookyard; -142’s first RAAF pilot, Des Lovett, and lastly, Co-pilot Squadron Leader Ross Benson.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Macchi Mc 72 - Aircrew

Following up on the current Aircrew feature in Aeroplane magazine for October 2011, here's a couple of the online items that can't be presented in print.

Perhaps the most important online offering is this link here which gives what is claimed to be the sound of the Mc 72 - a spine-tingling sound.  If you've read this far the link is just above.  Stop. Go back!

This video above from BomberGuy, has a good selection of period footage of the aircraft, pilot Francesco Agello, and engine, at 52 seconds after an intro of general still shots.

The surviving, record-breaking Mc 72 in the Italian air Force Museum. James Kightly.

And here's a link to the reference in the period issue of Popular Mechanics. For particular - and now odd-seeming - reasons, this magazine never mentioned manufacturer or trade names.

Emphasis on the propellers, but also how little frontal area the aircraft has. James Kightly.

The original team, pilot and aircraft.

The Fiat AS.6 engine:

And joint between the fore and aft halves:

[Aeroplane's monthly Aircrew feature is built around a specially commissioned central illustration by my artist colleague Ian Bott (his website here) while I write and compile it.]