Able Dog Readies for Cat Launch
I very much enjoyed “Able Dog,” the article by E.R. Johnson on the venerable Douglas AD Skyraider in the September issue. My father, Robert Whitby, had a hand in the construction of almost every AD built at the Douglas El Segundo Plant from 1946 to 1957, and ran one of the “quick fix” departments for repairs on damaged ADs that were sent back to the factory by the U.S. Navy.
Here’s one of the photos (above) I scanned from slides given to me by an acquaintance several years ago. I believe it was taken in 1967 aboard USS Coral Sea. It shows an AD-5/A-1E getting ready for a cat launch against targets in North Vietnam.
Did Saint-Ex Pave the Way?
Thank you for an excellent article on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (“Saint-Ex,” by Stephan Wilkinson in the September issue). I had al – ways thought of him as an author, not a flier.
I was a member of the 45th Infantry Di – vision, which participated in the invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944. As part of our pre-landing training we were furnished with aerial photos of the French coastline. Some of these photos were taken, they told us, by P-38s flying right down at water level and coming toward the beach areas. This gave us a photo view that we would later see from our landing craft. They were phenomenal. We could identify houses, fortifications and the general lay of the land before we ever arrived. After reading your article, I now wonder whether any of them could have been taken by Saint-Ex on one of his missions.
By the way, I was disappointed that the article did not give us the phonetic pronunciation of his name.
Sun City West, Ariz.
According to Webster’s, the phonetic pronunciation would be “sahn teg zu pay ree.”
Aerocar’s Brief Starring Role
I enjoyed the article on flying cars in the September issue, “The Road Not Taken,” by C.V. Glines, but was disappointed that it did not mention “The New Bob Cummings Show,” a short-lived TV comedy series that aired in 1961. The late Bob Cummings, who had served as a WWII pilot, played a playboy charter pilot and amateur detective. Like many shows of that era, it had a gimmick—in this case an Aerocar, probably a Molt Taylor Aerocar, that he used in his adventures.
It got some publicity at first, but the show only lasted 22 episodes and was quickly forgotten, denying the Aerocar the publicity Taylor had hoped would lead to financing and public acceptance.
No Yaks for Czechs
Robert Guttman’s Yak article, “Red Horde Over Russia,” in the July issue, was great reading, but I noticed one error. Guttman stated that Yaks were flown in WWII by pilots from many Eastern European countries, including Poland and Czechoslovakia. In fact, Czechs never flew Yaks.
As the former aircraft curator at the Czech Technical Museum in Prague, I headed a volunteer team that restored a Lavochkin La-7 and other warbirds. Two WWII Czech fighter regiments flew La-5FNs as well as La-7s. Lavochkins were also briefly used by the postwar Czech air force, but with new designations: the La-5FN became the S-95, the La-7 became the S-97 and the La-5UTI two-seat trainer was known as the CS-95.
Thanks for the correction, and for the photo (below) of Czech La-5FNs in September 1944.
As the Turret Turns
As a former ball turret gunner with the 785th Bomb Squadron, 466th Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force, I’d like to point out a problem with the caption on P. 19 of September’s “Restored” article about Champaign Lady. It gives the impression that the Sperry ball turret will be mounted in a retractable configuration. This would be possible only on the B-24J, since the B-17G fuselage is far too shallow. The B-17 installation limits the ball to move 360 degrees in azimuth only, while the guns move from 0 degrees to minus 90 degrees in elevation. Thus the turret mounting is fixed in position in the belly of the waist section.
Vero Beach, Fla.
Another German RATO
Just finished reading the excellent piece on the Arado 234 by David Ison, in the September issue. I noted the caption on P. 55 says the Smithsonian Institution Arado’s rocket-assisted takeoff units might be the only ones still extant. As a point of interest, the Air Vic – tory Museum in Medford, N.J., also has a Walter RATO pod on its original ground frame along with Jumo 004 engine serial no. 1.
Originally published in the November 2008 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.