I very much enjoyed Stephan Wilkinson’s article “Game Changers” [January 2012] on the 15 most influential aircraft designs in history. I wonder how many of the aircraft in the photos are visible to the public today. I know of one—the Windecker Eagle on P. 28 is the centerpiece of the Lake Jackson (Texas) Historical Museum [see photo above]. This beautiful airplane and its working cockpit simulator are among the most popular exhibits in the museum. Lake Jackson is 50 miles due south of Houston—y’all come on down!
Lake Jackson, Texas
I want to thank you for not going overboard in your description of Igor Sikorsky’s VS-300 [“Game Changers”]. Sikorsky’s design did influence the layout of the modern helicopter, and was truly a game changer. Unfortunately, in many articles he gets credited for inventing the helicopter (which, like many things, was invented through the efforts of many visionaries) as well as for building the first helicopter, which he did not do. However, I have to disagree with the author’s assessment of the Fa-61. It was indeed a true helicopter, not an autogyro.
The Fa-61 was fully capable of sustained hovering flight. The fact that the two large counter-rotating rotors were on outriggers on the side of the craft makes it little different in function from such helicopters as the venerable CH-46 and CH-47 family. The author may have been confused by the conventional use of a radial engine placed in the front of an airplane-style fuselage. Yes, this aircraft did have a propeller on that engine, but its diameter was not much larger than that of the radial itself, and was used to cool the engine, not provide thrust. There were many helicopter designs before the Fa-61, but years before the VS-300 was developed it was the first to demonstrate fully controlled hovering capability.
Lt. Col. Rodger T. Duncan
U.S. Army (ret.)
As always I enjoyed the excellent January issue. You probably have received numerous comments about the picture on P. 25 that was wrongly labeled as a J-3; therefore, enough said. The beautiful DC-3 on the same page is Jon Phelps’ corporate airplane Esther Mae. I found her for him and subsequently had the pleasure of being his first chief pilot. This aircraft was built by Douglas with extra C-47 parts shortly after the end of World War II. She has never served as an airliner or military C-47, which makes her quite unique among old Dougs. Though Esther Mae is presently quite well equipped, the black radar nose cone is an affectation that was probably added in the 1950s. Since Jon’s ownership, she has regularly crossed the continent and made several trips to Alaska and Mexico.
Yes, several readers wrote to point out that the photo we ran with the Piper J-3 Cub item in “Game Changers” was not of a J-3. We liked Paul Bowen’s shot of a PA-18-150 Super Cub, and intended it to be representative of the Cub family, but we can see how it led to confusion.
Dornier Test Pilot
With pleasure I have read your very good article on the Dornier Do 31 and Drury Wood’s experiences with these four flying machines [“VTOL Jet Transport’s Swan Song,” January 2012]. I was rather closely involved in the first phase of testing at least the small hover rig. I had 43 flights on it when Drury arrived, and parallel to him I made 29 further flights, including the very last one.
Regarding the Do 29, I am the last living pilot to have flown the two airworthy ones of the three that were constructed. The props could be tilted not just 90 but 110 degrees. In this position I made a lot of approaches at about a 20-degree angle of descent. The lowest flyable speed, on the other hand, was much higher than given by you, about 33 knots, due to decreasing efficiency of the horizontal empennage. Note that the last remaining Do 29 hangs today in the Dornier Museum at Friedrichshafen.
Kudos From a TBM Fan
Thanks for the story of the TBM restoration [“Restored,” November 2011]. In 1955, one year after enlisting in the Navy Reserves, I was assigned to the TBM line at Naval Air Station Niagara Falls, N.Y. Then 18, I was overwhelmed at the prospect of working around one of my favorite airplanes. Many years later, in October 1992, my neighbor and I flew in his Mooney to the Leeward Air Ranch to visit Jim Girard. When Jim took us around the development, one of the garages we visited housed the fuselage of the most beautiful TBM I had ever seen—the plane featured in your article. When folks at the hangar showed me the pictures of it in the Connecticut woods, I couldn’t believe it could be the same airplane. The plane was not complete at that point, but the restoration work was just fabulous. Thanks so much for the update on this great example of a great airplane.
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