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Letters From Readers - July 2011 Aviation History

Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: May 11, 2011 
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Warbirds of Delaware owns this MiG-23, the world's fastest privately owned airplane. (Courtesy of Joe Gano, president, Warbirds of Delaware)
Warbirds of Delaware owns this MiG-23, the world's fastest privately owned airplane. (Courtesy of Joe Gano, president, Warbirds of Delaware)

Fastest MiGs
Stephan Wilkinson's article in the May issue's "Briefing," announcing the flights of the first two civilian MiG-29s and stating that they are "the world's fastest private planes," was not wholly accurate. Warbirds of Delaware has been flying the world's fastest private planes for several years. While older and certainly not as capable, the Warbirds of Delaware MiG-23s [see photo, above] are faster than the MiG-29s.

We also operate the world's fastest planes in terms of racing. Curt Brown, a former space shuttle commander, holds the Reno Air Races absolute record of 543 mph in the world's fastest Aero L-29, our Rolls-Royce-powered Viper. Right behind him we have Pipsqueak, the world's fastest L-39, with a best time of 525 mph. If anyone really feels the need for speed, Warbirds of Delaware is the place to visit.

Joe Gano
President, Warbirds of Delaware

More on the 'Screech
In the March issue I noted the letter from J.R. Moran about the Bakersfield Thunderscreech gate guard. I flew into Bakersfield as a United 727 pilot in the '70s, and always wondered about the turboprop F-84. At the time, I was flying F-84Fs as a pilot in the Ohio Air National Guard.

In the late '90s, after I retired from the ANG, the U.S. Air Force Museum contacted our retiree group, seeking volunteers to restore FS-059 for display in the Experimental Hangar at Wright Field. A group of highly qualified maintenance specialists volunteered, as did several retired fighter pilots who had flown F-84Fs for many years. The XF-84H was in sad shape after sitting outside for 40-plus years. Fortunately, we had access to several Fs and RFs for parts. We got the aircraft back on its landing gear and restored the interior, which had been gutted. The museum's restoration shop made an all-new Plexiglass canopy and side panels.

After nearly 4,000 hours of labor, the aircraft was ready for display. In attendance at the rollout ceremony was Hank Baird, who flew the XF-84H on all 12 of its flights. He told me that he had experienced at least one emergency on every flight! Also on hand was Ed von Wolffersdorf, Hank's crew chief and head mechanic. They both worked for Republic Aviation, and Hank later was lead test pilot for the F-105 program. Sadly, Hank and Ed have since both passed away.

Lt. Col. Robert E. Schneider
U.S. Air Force Reserve (ret.)
Loveland, Ohio

Beauty's in the Eye…
The instant I saw "13 Ugliest Airplanes" on your May cover, I thought of the Airtruk. You forgot to mention that it's a movie star. My introduction to the Airtruk was Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. If ever a plane looked like it had been patched together from a dozen wrecks found at a post-apocalyptic airfield, that was the Airtruk. I thought at the time that it was a Flight of the Phoenix build for the movie.

I see the poor little XF-85 Goblin gets one more bad rap. The Goblin failed because the original "trapeze" was too weak, test pilots were not trained in Air Force formation flying and in-flight refueling was developed before these problems could be properly addressed. As a close-order escort the F-85 would have proven a match for the La-15 and an unpleasant annoyance for MiG-15s slowing down to take aim at the bombers.
Finally, I think the Curtiss-Goupil Duck is kind of cute.

Cliff Runkle
Carson City, Nev.

Look for an article by Stephan Wilkinson on airplanes in the movies in an upcoming issue. –Ed.

My son sent me your issue with the article about ugly airplanes, including the Delanne 10-C2 Duo-Mono. I built a 1/4-scale RC model of that airplane, along with a 1/4-scale RC model of another plane mentioned, the Westland Lysander P.12. My 10-C2 has a wingspan of 8 feet 8 inches, is 7 feet long and weighs 30 pounds. It took 14 months to complete.

Edward B. Hess
Molalla, Ore.

Grand Canyon Crash
I found Tim Queeney's article "Midair Over the Grand Canyon" (March) very compel­ling. My late father, Alfred Noble Klaäs, was supposed to have been aboard United's Flight 718, en route to Chicago, where his firm, Klaäs Brothers Painting Contractors, had a big job underway. The day before his scheduled departure from LAX, his business partner brother asked him to stay in L.A. to sign a contract. So my dad asked his secretary to book him on another United flight for the following week. For days after the disaster my dad was very shaken.

M.D. Klaäs
Sedona, Ariz.

I found an error in the chart on P. 42, listing the 25 deadliest U.S. airline crashes. Regarding the accident in the Chilkoot Moun­tains, Alas­ka, on September 4, 1971, your chart states an Alaska Airlines Boeing 727 departing Juneau crashed, killing all 111 passengers and crew. The 727 was actually on a long final approach to Juneau from Anchorage when it crashed. Due to erroneous signals from the Sisters VOR, the aircraft descended too early and flew into the mountains. As a pilot for Alaska Airlines, I knew the entire crew on that plane. The crew was absolved of blame.

Captain Jim Polley
Tieton, Wash.

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

One Response to “Letters From Readers - July 2011 Aviation History”

  1. 1
    KIP CARSON says:

    Hi Captain Jim Polley
    My dad was Jim Carson on that flight.

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