Showing posts with label History of Flight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History of Flight. Show all posts

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Commercial Aviation from the 1920’s-1930

Qantas Ltd. No. 16 aeroplane - Photo: Wikimedia
The start of scheduled passenger services in the United States was not known, according to Roger Bilstein an aviation historian.  Passengers were transported by Silas Christofferson via hydroplane from San Francisco to Oakland harbors in 1913.  A Benoist flying boat successfully flew passengers from Tampa to St. Petersburg, Florida in 1914.

Lawson C-2 was the first multiengine airplane designed for commercial air travel.  Alfred W. Lawson built it in 1919.  Since there are cheaper military airplanes available the Lawson C-2 did not become successful.  Lawson built another model called L-4; this can carry 34 passengers and about 6,000 pounds of mail.  It crashed on its test flight and discouraged the development of large planes.

Inglis Uppercu a Florida entrepreneur began scheduled international passenger flights in 1920, initially from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba.  Soon other routes were added such as, between Miami and the Bahamas, between New York and Havana.  There is also a Midwest, between Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan.  His company was named “Aeromarine airways” it has 15 flying boats and made 2,000+ flights with 10,000 passengers.  A plane crash killing four people made Aeromarine Airways lose business in 1924.

The birth of U.S. commercial air transportation and United Airlines was when Walter T.  Varney began contract airmail services from Pasco, Washington, and Elko, Nevada, through Boise, Idaho.  

Seven years after the first official airmail flight, 1925, U.S. Post Office airplanes sent 14 million letters, packages a year.   Airmail was very popular with bankers and businessmen.

It was in 1926 when the Air Commerce Act was implemented, this authorized the Secretary of Commerce to plan air routes, build up air navigation systems, test and license pilots and aircraft, and investigate accidents.  The carriers were then obliged by law to base pay to the weight of mail.  This all started with the appointment of Dwight Morrow to develop a national aviation policy.  

In the 1920s, Harry Guggenheim a multimillionaire and aviation enthusiast started a foundation, which aims at teaching aeronautical engineers and developing flight instruments.  He gave funding to the Western Air Express to check if airlines can live on passenger fares alone, but the company barely made enough money without airmail.

Investments in aviation stocks significantly rose between 1927 and 1929.  This was brought about by Charles A. Lindbergh’s solo flight to Paris.

Travelers could cross the country faster by train than by air at the end of the 1920s.  It was not comfortable to travel by plane because of the un-insulated thin sheets of metal that made noise in the wind.  The cabins were not pressurized.  In spite of this, airline passengers in the U.S. grew in number from 6,000 to 173,000 in the span of 1926 to 1929.  The majority were businessmen.



U.S.  Airlines’ planes have enough capacity for 15 passengers.  The fuselage has a corrugated design and the plane depends on a Ford Trimotor 5-AT. 

In the 1920s, manufacturers transferred near airports.  There were aeronautical schools that taught airplane engineering, design, and operation.  New technologies were being developed that gave the potential for commercial aviation expansion.

Harry Guggenheim set up a full flight laboratory, which developed very helpful navigational tools like the barometer, artificial horizon and gyroscope and radio direction beacon for landing.  In September 1929 James Doolittle a U.S. army lieutenant benefited from these tools when he had to land the plane without his vision.

Huge progress as it may seem still did not make passenger travel exclusive airlines profitable up to the 1930’s.




Tuesday, December 5, 2017

HELICOPTERS at War

Aeromedical Evacuation during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo)
From World War II, helicopters were largely insignificant in usage. While they were often used for supply and rescue missions in the China-Burma-India Theater, their limited design restricted their usage for greater depth. This continued in the Korean War, as helicopters were kept away from combat missions. Greater deployment for troop ferrying was disallowed by law, but on November 4, 1952, via an agreement signed by the Army and Air Force, the helicopter began its evolution in increasing roles played in combat zones. Significantly, before the Korean War ended, the 6th Transportation Company with Sikorski H-19s was deployed via helicopter to Korea.

The Vietnam War saw the United States greatly increase the usage of air mobility in their war strategies. Troops from the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) were sent to fight Viet Cong guerillas in 1962 using helicopters. This enjoyed initial success before the guerrillas found ways to combat this during the crucial AP BAC stand. They were taught how to shoot down the H-21 and Huey helicopters, and the air threat was greatly reduced as a result.

In spite of this, the U.S. Army broadened their scope of ground attacks via airborne vessels (in the shape of helicopters). With their increasing involvement in the Vietnam War by the mid-1960’s, the Army’s helicopters now not only ferried huge troop forces but also larger fleets combined with bomb and rocket carpeting of opposing armies by fixed-wing airplanes.

Using the helicopter, the U.S. Army could engineer rapid deployment and withdrawal of troops into, and from, enemy territory, which was a far cry from slow engagement over ground forces. It could also launch surprise attacks on enemies with less reaction time. The Ch-47 Chinook and UH-1 Huey were widely used for such purposes with great success.

Armed helicopters evolved as well, providing cover and support for ground troops against enemy troops. Helicopter gunships such as the AH-1 Cobra featured wide-ranging artillery including grenade launchers and guided missiles. Before long, the helicopter as a weapon of war was as much a fixture as the tank, armored personnel carrier, and jeep. The Vietnam War had its greatest representative weapon in the Huey.

The number of air casualties was massive during the Vietnam War. There were a total of 4,869 American helicopters lost in the war zone over the course of 1962 to 1973. Curiously, forty-seven percent of the losses came from operational mishaps, which resulted from poorly maintained war-time helicopters. The thick Vietnam jungle landscape also proved an obstacle to damaged helicopters, leading to multiple crashes.

By achieving reasonable success in the usage of helicopters in war conflict, other countries like Great Britain and the ex-Soviet Union copied the U.S.’s lead. However, most countries limited it to troop deployment over combat zones against rebel groups, primarily using U.S. helicopters. 

With the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army continued to refine its combat aviation capabilities as they became less reliant on the U.S. Air Force. The looming threat in Europe of a Soviet ground offensive became their focus, and once again, the helicopter was the primary weapon.

The HueyCobra with heavy artillery was used against deep enemy targets. Utilizing greater American technology that facilitated attacks under night cover, such as “Nap of the Earth” (NOE) flying where helicopters could fly hidden amidst trees and hills and infrared and night imaging gadgets, the Army obtained an advantage over the larger numerical Soviet ground forces and bombarded them with missiles. Helicopters equipped with sophisticated laser-guided missiles to cripple tanks became a fixture in the 1980s.

The benefits of these strategic developments were shown in all their glories in the Persian Gulf War. Iraqi ground troops and artillery were crushed through tactical maneuvers that hinged on the mobility provided by U.S. attack helicopters. These results encouraged other countries to do the same.

Helicopters have not contributed much beyond infantry warfare, due to comparative disadvantages in speed, protection, and weight management capability to conventional fixed-wing aircrafts.



From its infancy, helicopters with greatly developed navigation capabilities have been a mainstay in Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions. Notable results were achieved during the East European wars such as the Bosnia crisis and the Yugoslavia bombing in 1999, while Vietnam offered more than its share of highlight reels. 

The helicopter has also proved to be the perfect tool in submarine hunting and anti-shipping missions, over-the-horizon targeting, and deep sea mine clearing. They provide a more mobile solution compared to ships and cannot be targeted by enemy submarines. Helicopters can also escape detection by ships’ sensors as they are sited beyond the horizon, providing ally ships with target data. They are also safe alternatives to deep sea mine clearing by keeping a distance above the water.

Despite increasing military usage, the helicopter still lacks in speed, range and lifting capabilities. However, with continued research and development by aircraft manufacturers worldwide to meld its attributes with the finer points of conventional aircraft, the helicopter could see an even wider future role and greater impact in the field.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Early History of British Airways

British Airways Boeing 747-400 leaving town - Photo: Wikimedia
In 1919, as Europe emerged from the First World War, travel moved into the forefront of people’s minds.  Buoyed up on the new technologies of the day, the forerunner of BA, Aircraft Transport and Travel (AT&T), launched the world's first daily international scheduled air service.  It offered a service from London to Paris and ushered in the modern age of air travel.

Within 5 years there were already a handful of start-up airlines offering their services in Britain. In March 1924, the four best known of these: Handley Page, Instone, AT&T, and British Air Marine Navigation merged into one larger company called Imperial Airways and offered flights around the British Empire.

As Imperial Airways grew in size, it became a forerunner of a modern airline, offering flights to countries all across the world including Canada and Australia, and competed effectively with the Airships that dominated the era.

In 1935, a rival arrived on the scene.  British Airways Ltd was formed from a number of small privately owned companies and quickly developed into a company of similar size.  By 1939, just before the Second World War broke out, the British Government nationalized the two airlines and created a new, government-owned agency known as the British Overseas Airways Corporation or BOAC for short.

The final stage in these early decades of BA came in 1949 when BOAC was separated into two separate entities: British European Airways, which carried out short-haul flights into Europe, and BOAC, which continued to serve the rest of the world.  These two siblings served the world at the beginning of the jet age in the 1950s and became iconic leaders of British innovation.

By the 1970s, fuel costs and industrial concerns over economy saw the government of the day decides that the two companies had become bloated and inefficient and by 1974, after a 4 year process, the two companies came together as one: British Airways, just in time for the birth of the supersonic age with the Concorde in 1976.




Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The History of Bush Flying

Note the tires. Eklutna Lake is a popular recreational lake in Chugach State Park in South-Central Alaska -
Photo: Wikimedia
Remember pilots pictured with silk scarves fluttering in the wind, flying their vintage airplanes on adventures to dangerous corners of the world, saving people? “Busy flying” might be legendary in its illustration, but it is very much alive and true in its representation.

One of the last visages of pre-modern aviation, bush flyers are a precious commodity in Canada, Australia, Alaska and the jungles of South America and Africa, providing isolated communities with supplies of food and medicine, and communication with the outside world. Not only do their planes have to be adaptable to the tough and changing terrains and seasons in each country through periodic mechanical changes, bush pilots have to brave the same harsh elements, lack of work safety quotient and uncertain financial rewards.

The challenging life of a bush pilot was perhaps best summed up by C.H. “Punch” Dickins, a veteran Canadian bush pilot, as, “a pilot and mechanic, who is ready and willing to take any kind of a load to any destination, on or off the map, within the limits of their aircraft, and the financial resources of the customer.” 

Bush flying became a popular post-war option for the bravest and thrill-seeking veteran American and Canadian military pilots as they sought an income from their technical abilities. However, only those who could handle and maintain their aircrafts would become fixtures on the bush flying circuit, despite the relatively low barrier to entry in obtaining low-cost aircrafts for use like the Curtiss JN-4 Jennys and HS-2L flying boats. Imagine a situation where a bush pilot was to be stranded in uninhabited regions such as the Arctic tundra or empty desert with its relentless heat. Plane repair abilities would be of life-saving importance and many modern bush flights include flight engineers.

In October 1920, a fur buyer requested the Canadian Aircraft in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to fly him home to The Pas, in one of the first documented paid bush flight. The journey included harrowing flights over swirling lakes, thick jungle bushes and deep swamps and bogs, before becoming the first plane to touch the ground on the final destination.

This opened up the possibilities of exploring uncharted global territories such as the Arctic regions. It also presented greater markets for bush pilots, including oil exploration in the Arctic Circle, mine claims, forest fire patrols, timberland, and waterway aerial mapping. Bush flying extended the reach of airmail service to isolated regions and provided medical transport for the same workers and hunters.




These developments called for better and more reliable aircrafts for bush flying, in order to push the commercial viability of bush flying. The result was the 1926 creation of the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation, of a markedly improved and safer single-seat high-cabin monoplane known as the German Fokker Universal. The steady plane with strong wooden wings and a tough steel tube fuselage consisted of a revolutionary shock absorber that allowed landing on uneven terrains and simultaneous floating or skiing capabilities. On a plane driven by the Pratt & Whitney radial engine, a bush pilot would fly in an open cockpit with passengers or cargo stored in cabins built under the aircraft’s wings.

From 1926 to 1931, over half of the 44 Fokker Universals made in the U.S. were used by bush pilots, preceding wide-spread usage by U.S., Canadian and foreign airlines.

November 12, 1935, witnessed the first flight of the reliable Noorduyn Norseman from Canada, created specifically for bush flying. The aircraft facilitated long-distance flights and delivery of fuel to isolated regions with cargo room designed to accommodate an industry standard 45-gallon fuel drum and up to ten passengers. Convenience was also a key feature with pilots having ease of cockpit entry and exit without having to climb over cargo. To date, many of the 900 manufactured Noorduyn Norseman are still being flown.

Today, using aircrafts such as the Beech Staggerwings and Bonanzas and even helicopters, bush flying now includes flying big game hunters, nature photographers, and archaeologists to exotic locations, on top of the now common flights to remote settlements for supply deliveries. The sturdy and versatile de Havilland Beaver is a huge favorite of bush pilots, with its adaptability in skis, floats and wheels usage.



The dangers that bush pilots brave have made them a no-no for insurance companies. However, it is the same dangers that so attract bush pilots to take up the challenge of venturing into the unknown. In bush flying, what you do not know may kill you, but what you may find certainly enriches and brings excitement to your life.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Flight efforts during the 19th and 20th centuries

Wilbur Wright in seinem Flieger mit Fluggast Ernest Zeus - Photo: Wikimedia
The first person to plan and build a practical manned glider that can fly over long distances is a German engineer named Otto Lilienthal.  Studying aerodynamics, on 1891 he concentrated his efforts on building a glider that can fly.

Otto Lilienthal was captivated by the thought that one day there would be manned flying machines.  On 1889, he published a book on aerodynamics.  This book was conceptualized from his studies of birds in flight.  The Wright Brothers, later on, referred to this book to build their successful aircraft. 

Otto Lilienthal died tragically in a plane crash.  Strong winds made him lose control of the craft causing it to crash back to earth.  This happened after his 2,500th flight.

Another milestone in flight history is on 1891 when the aerodrome flew to nearly a mile after exhausting its fuel.  The aerodrome’s inventor is Samuel Langley.  He is a physicist and astronomer; he recognized that power was needed in man’s quest for flight. This was his greatest contribution to flight, putting up a power plant to a glider.  His experiments with whirling arms and steam-powered engine resulted in a plane model he called aerodrome.

Langley received a grant of $50,000, which was purposely given for creating a full-sized aerodrome.  This plane crashed because it was too heavy.  Langley gave up his dreams of flight because of this disappointment.  Langley was a director of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D. C.

On 1894, Engineer Octave Chanute invented the Herring - Chanute biplane.  The biplane the Wright brothers built was based on this aircraft.   Inspired by Otto Lilienthal, inventing airplanes became Octave Chanute’s hobby.

Chanute collected all technical information about aviation accomplishments and its pioneers all over the world.  This information was made into a book entitled “Progress in Flying Machines,” this was published in 1894.  Many experiments of the Wright Brothers were based on this book.  Chanute even came to know the Wright Brothers and encouraged their progress.




Orville and Wilbur Wright were standing on the shoulders of the aviation pioneers.  They spent a few years studying the pioneers' work and development with regards flight.  They read books and other materials written on the topic.  Next was challenging their theories on balloons and kites.  They learned relationships of wind with surface and flight.  Experiments followed using different shapes for gliders and how to control their flight.

To test the different wing shapes and tails it was placed inside a wind tunnel.  Tests were also done in the North Carolina Outer Banks dunes; this is where they discovered the most promising glider shape.  When this happened, they focused their attention on designing an engine and mechanism to launch and put the glider to fly.

On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, the “Flyer” was recorded the first heavier-than-air flight plane and Orville Wright as the first man to fly the plane.  It launched from ground level and flew all the way to the north of Big Kill Devil Hill in twelve seconds, covering a distance of one hundred twenty feet.  The Flyer totaled six hundred and five pounds.

Dreams of human flight now came true.  Development of more advanced airplanes was seen during the next century.  These planes were developed for various purposes like transporting people, cargo, the military, and their weapons.



All the advances in aviation in the 20th century were based on this first flight at Kitty Hawk according to Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The First MILITARY FLYER

Photo: Wikimedia

Wilbur Wright is a hero after his successful flight to France, August of 1908. The French Parliament and the Aero Club of France, the brothers awarded medals in their honor. Wilbur broke several distances, altitude and duration records before the end of that year. Wilbur allowed more than 40 passengers in altitude during that time; an old friend, prospective business leads, a young boy, and the very first female airplane passenger, Ms. Hart Berg, wife of dealmaker who The Wrights had put in contact with the government of France.

However, he resumed flights very carefully. He refused to accept any challenge to the author of the Daily Mail of London to fly across the English Channel. Instead, he stayed aloft for the record of two hours and18 minutes, 33 seconds on Dec. 31st, an adjustment to end a wonderful year. In total, he had created nine records before January 2, 1909. 

On 12 January 1909, Katharine, Wilbur’s sister, and Orville, who was leaning on his two canes because of injuries from a crash at Ft. Myer the previous year, came to France. The two brothers and their sister Katharine met with King Alfonso from Spain, King Victor Emmanuel from Italy and England’s Edward VII. Word of the achievements flew home fast to Dayton.

April 1, 1909, the two brothers were in Cento Elle, Italy to form the two pilots with the Army of Italy on the new plane that came from Ohio. During one flight, Wilbur escorted a reporter with him; he filmed the first footage of a plane in flight. 

Leaving Italy, the two brothers visited England briefly before leaving to go home, where work on the contract with the American army was awaiting them. While visiting England, they contracted an English balloon manufacturer to construct six Wright crafts for a variety of clients outside the French union.




Three brothers went to New York, May 11, where huge crowds welcomed. When they went at Dayton, May 13, the same welcome was waiting for them. President Taft also sent a message asking them to visit Washington, DC to accept a medal from the United States government. 

But in the end, they both returned to work building the first American military plane. When he finished, and with a brief break for a ceremony in honor them on June 17, the two head to Ft. Myer, Virginia, to demonstrate a military Flyer to the U.S. Army. The flyer was ready to be displayed on June 24, but they waited until certain all was right in spite of the spectators that came to watch. 

Orville took flight June 29. There was a shaky beginning and struck a tree, which damaged the aircraft. But it has repaired and he regained his calm. July 12, he started to fly without problems. On 27 July, he set another new record time, the flight of an hour 12 minutes with Lt. Lahm with him. This did exceed a requirement of the Army staying aloft for an hour with passengers on board. 

Wright Flyer of 1909 was then formally accepted on August 2, 1909, designated as Signal Corps Airplane No. 1, to be the first military plane. 

Following the approval of the plane, the Army then moved the aviation activities into College Park, Maryland, which could handle a larger field of flight. 

In October, Wilbur started giving flight lessons. Wilbur installed the addition of levers in the plane beside the student’s seat so that they would be able to take control. 

Humphreys solo, October 26 two minutes became the first "pilot". Wilbur was happy with the flights the next few days; he took Ms. Van Deman, the wife of Capt. Ralph Van Deman with the 21st Infantry



During this time, the brothers flying Foulois instructions mailed a couple of times. Early 1911, the planes were in bad condition, were ransacked by Foulois and rebuilt several different times, and were removed from service further.