More R-2800 Love Letters
I enjoyed your article “Piston Perfection” in the March issue. As a flight engineer for Everts Air Cargo in Alaska, I have the great pleasure of making a living in a DC-6. Everts operates a mixed fleet of C-118, DC-6A/B, C-46 and EMB-120 aircraft (they don’t count because they have those whiny engines). I absolutely love my job, and feel very fortunate to be one of the few who still coax these great machines into the air. I’ve attached a recent photo (above) of a DC-6B, serial no. 45496, Reg. N151, in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
Thomas Block, who is quoted in Stephan Wilkinson’s article, is correct: The R-2800 is a good engine, not hard to start as long as you are paying attention, especially when it is subzero outside. And I understand when he says it’s like an art form. They will purr just as long as you remember this—on a DC-6 you have four engines with their own distinct personalities. They will have your attention or let you know their displeasure.
As for being the greatest piston engine, well, there are some that produce more power, are bigger or sound better, but where are they? Correct me if I am wrong, but except for other P&W radials, the 980 for instance, I don’t know of any that are out there generating revenue on a daily basis.
Neal W. Harris
Eagle River, Alaska
I enjoyed your articles on the R-2800 radial engine in the March issue. It was great to find out more about this amazing power plant for two reasons: I’m a longtime enthusiast of WWII aviation, and I’m a longtime employee at the plant where the R-2800-C was produced for the Navy from 1943 through ’45. Although the Kansas City plant, now operated by Honeywell, is slated to be idled in 2013, it’s still involved with aerospace manufacturing for the Department of Energy. The Bendix Corp. took over the facility in 1949, and it has been in continuous operation ever since.
There are fewer and fewer old-timers here who know something about Pratt & Whitney operations, but the old “test cell” portion of the facility reminds us that we’re not the original tenants. At peak operation, over 23,000 workers were employed by Pratt & Whitney, and 7,931 engines (including a few R-4360s) were produced. The first one was delivered less than a year after Senator Harry S. Truman presided over the groundbreaking.
Yiftah Spector’s Courage
As a holocaust survivor I was greatly moved by David Zabecki’s article about Yiftah Spector (“Aviators”) in the May issue. His exemplary actions—resigning in protest over the bombing of civilians—prove it is harder to be a human than a hero. If someone killed innocent people and said “I just followed orders” as an excuse, that would be no different from the Nazis’ actions in WWII. Calling Spector a traitor, as some Israelis have, is a disgrace.
Dr. Robert O. Fisch
Don’t Forget Jim Lovell
In his “Classics” review in the March issue, Walter Boyne wrote that, to his knowledge, Jimmy Doolittle was “the only man to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” Actually, astronaut Jim Lovell, the Apollo 13 commander, holds both medals. President Richard Nixon presented the Medal of Freedom to him in 1970. In 1979 Lovell became one of the first recipients of the newly authorized space version of the Medal of Honor, awarded on the same day to Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom (posthumously).
Our Readers Keep Us Honest
Bill Edwards, of Simi Valley, Calif., wrote to point out that on P. 58 in the March issue the photo of a Northrop flying wing is an N-9M rather than an N-1M, as captioned. The N-1M has a more triangular-shaped wing, and the propellers are much closer together. He also noted that on P. 65, in the Early Carrier Jets section of “Flight Test,” the aircraft silhouette labeled “C” is a McDonnell F2H-1 or -2. The FH-1 doesn’t have tip tanks, and its shape is more angular.
Steve Blake of Mission Viejo, Calif., noted that in the Zemke’s Wolf Pack section of the same “Flight Test,” the answer to question number 4, “What fighter type did Lt. Col. Hubert Zemke fly right after transferring from the 56th to command the 479th Fighter Group?” is not, in fact, B. North American P-51 but D. Lockheed P-38.
When Zemke assumed command of the 479th FG on August 12, 1944, that unit was still flying P-38s. He flew four combat missions in Lightnings—on August 18 and 25 and September 8 and 11—before leading the group’s first P-51 mission (a mixed formation of Mustangs and Lightnings) in a P-51 on September 12.
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