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Letters From Readers - January 2010 Aviation History

Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: November 10, 2009 
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Homesick Angel Prior to Its Nose Job
I read with great interest Dick Smith's piece concerning Offutt Air Force Base's B-17F Flying Fortress 42-3374 Homesick Angel in the November 2009 issue ("Restored"). His article prompted me to dig through some of my old files, where I came up with this photograph (above) of the F model sitting on the ground at Chino in 1980 with the E model nose still attached. (Note also that a propeller on the Northrop Flying Wing is visible to its left.) It was good to see the Flying Fort being repaired, but sad to see that it's still sitting outside in the weather—especially since F models are so rare.

Steven R. Whitby
Lake Hemet, Calif.

Long-Range Harpoons
I was pleased to see your story on the U.S. Navy PV-1 Venturas (and PV-2 Harpoons) in the November 2009 issue ("Briefing," P. 8). I served as a radio operator–gunner in B-25Js with the 77th Bomb Squadron (M), part of the 28th Composite Group headquartered on Adak, in the Aleutian Islands. From my position on the Attu hillside overlooking Casco Cove and the runway, I often watched Venturas taking off and wondered where they were headed. Now I understand that they were engaged in the same operation in which my crew and I were working.

Our targets were ordinarily limited to the two most northern islands of the Kuriles, Shimushu and Paramushiro. Our aircraft were equipped with a fuel tank that took up the top half of the bomb bay, sorely limiting our ability to carry bombs. We needed that huge tank, however, to make the roughly 1,600 miles to our targets. I question the 3,000-mile round trip mentioned in your article, although it may well be within the Ventura's range. I hope losses of the Venturas were not as high as ours.

Paul H. Werner
Kerrville, Texas

Editor's note: Just like your B-25Js, those Venturas and the improved Harpoons that followed were equipped with long-range fuel tanks.

Another Flying Saucer
Regarding the November 2009 issue's "Extremes" piece on the Canadian Avrocar, I wanted to point out that there is also an Avrocar at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Ft. Eustis, in Newport News, Va. After years of outdoor display, it is currently undergoing restoration. The museum plans to display it in its Cold War exhibit.

Ed G. Power
Elizabeth City, N.C.

Crippled Connie Over the Pacific
Stephan Wilkinson's story of the three-engine Pan Am Connie, in "Call Her Connie" (July 2009), brought back memories. On December 2, 1958, I was the copilot of a U.S. Air Force RC-121D on patrol at 4,000 feet about 500 miles off the California coast. The aircraft commander, Captain Don Parker, happened to be in the back (we swapped seats on long missions), so I was alone in the left seat with the flight engineer at his panel when suddenly and without warning the No. 2 engine tore away. The aircraft began to shake violently, and my first thought was that we'd had a midair collision—on a perfectly clear day far from land!

The aircraft commander immediately returned to the cockpit and jumped into the right seat. The violent shaking was caused by airflow disruption over the tail brought on by the No. 2 nacelle's blank firewall. We lowered 20 degrees of flaps, which moderated the vibration, put maximum power on the three good engines, and dumped fuel. Still, we descended to 400 feet above the ocean before we could hold altitude. Eventually we got light enough to climb up to 1,500 feet and reduce power as we returned to McClellan Air Force Base.

Captain Parker received a well-deserved Distinguished Flying Cross for his calm and superb airmanship during that flight.

Tom Chase
Barrington, N.H.

Channel Wing's Noise Pollution
I purchased your July 2009 issue because I was interested in the Lockheed Constellation story. But inside I found another treasure: Robert Guttman's Custer Channel Wing article ("Extremes").

While Guttman and others have covered Custer's successes and made conjectures as to his ultimate failure, I think there's another reason it failed: It was gosh-awful loud! I was a 10-year-old kid living in Oxnard, Calif., when the photo on P. 18 was taken, and I can remember seeing the CCW-5 on many occasions. Its landing approach was always announced by a tremendous racket.

My guess is that the interference between the airflow at the prop tips and the upper surface of the channel significantly amplified the sound. The plane did not land with greatly reduced throttle but at a fairly high power setting—with the props in low pitch, as I recall. If there's any test flight documentation still extant, perhaps one of your readers can corroborate this.

Geoff Sanders
Portland, Ore.

Stabilizer, Not Rudder
Regarding "Aviators" in the November 2009 issue: The photo on the top of P. 15 does not show the left rudder of Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer's Me-110G-6; it shows the left vertical stabilizer to which the rudder was attached. The text of the article confirms this.

Tim Birkett
Bartonville, Ill.

Send letters to Aviation History Editor, Weider History Group, 19300 Promenade Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176-6500, or e-mail to


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