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Letters From Readers - March 2013 Aviation History

Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: January 15, 2013 
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Mighty Hercules
As a veteran of more than 5,000 hours in the C-130A and E, I thoroughly enjoyed Stephan Wilkinson's article in the January issue. The venerable old "Herc" has to be the most underappreciated of the great planes, and rarely gets the recognition it richly deserves. Having said that, I have a couple of nits that need picking about the piece.

The first concerns the Aeroproducts prop that replaced the Curtiss Electric prop on the prototype and all subsequent A models. It was not controlled by engine oil pressure as stated in the article; rather, it had its own supply of prop oil, was serviced independent of the engine and was pressurized using its own internal mechanical and electric pumps. It was a lot more reliable than the Curtiss, but I still spent a lot of time on three engines courtesy of Aeroproducts.

My second concern is with the combat-offload technique allegedly invented in Vietnam by loadmasters. The published "speed" or "combat offload" procedure called for unlocking and unloading cargo pallets one at a time while the aircraft was stopped, taxiing slowly as they were offloaded. In hazardous places like Khe Sanh, we modified the procedure: The pallets were unlocked and unloaded simultaneously while the aircraft taxied at moderate speed on the cargo ramp, not on the runway while accelerating toward takeoff speed, as stated in the article. We could unload 30,000 pounds within about three minutes, from touchdown to wheels up.

Thanks again for a great article. As a longtime subscriber, I look forward to receiving your magazine every other month.

Jack Wolfe
Cabot, Ark.

More Beauties
As you predicted, I'm sure you've been deluged with requests from aviation buffs to add their favorite to your list of "The World's Most Beautiful Airplanes" in the November 2012 issue. I have flown more than 30 different types, but the most beautiful one of all was the Grumman F11F Tiger jet, which I flew in advanced flight training as an introduction to high-altitude air-to-air gunnery. This beautiful single-seat afterburning fighter was a delight to fly. The F11 was rock stable, and student naval aviators with only 250 flight hours had no problem flying tight formations, landing and taking off. It was so beautiful that the Navy's Blue Angels chose it over several other planes for their flight demonstration team.

Alan Peterson
Commander, U.S. Navy Reserve (ret.)

I fully agree that the early-model Spitfires are the most beautiful powered aircraft of all. However, I think that if unpowered heavier-than-air aircraft (gliders/sailplanes) were included, the Bowlus-DuPont Senior Albatross [on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center] could give it a good run for its money. Thanks very much for a good article!

Leslie C. Taylor, Docent
Udvar-Hazy Center
National Air and Space Museum

I once saw a photo of a formation of North American beauties flying together—P-51, F-86 and F-100, all in polished aluminum. The icing on the cake would have been the RA-5C Vigilante, certainly the most beautiful carrier-capable aircraft ever.

Robert R. "Boom" Powell
Virginia Beach, Va.

How could you have left out the Hawker Hunter in all its single-pilot marks? The Lockheed P-80A finished in gloss light gray with the original tip tanks is also a beauty.

Art Becker
Via e-mail

Great article, but how you could omit the Lockheed P-38 is beyond understanding.

Dick Erlin
Santa Cruz, Calif.

"Magic-Carpet" Ride
I enjoyed "E-volo Takes Lindbergh Prize" in November's "Briefing," but have an addendum that will help place e-volo's achievement in historical context. Doing so, I take issue with the quote from James Chiles' engaging book The God Machine, "No helicopter has flown with so many rotors," and the follow-up comment, "Until now."

Developed in the late 1950s and flown in 1961 to 20 feet, Igor Bensen's B-12 Sky-Way (or Sky-Mat) was a VTOL aircraft strongly resembling a horizontal garden trellis with 10 10-hp West-Bend engines initially powering 10 rotors. A later refinement reduced the number of engines to eight, powering 16 rotors. Bensen described this multiengine aluminum framework as a "magic-carpet," with engine redundancy ensuring the safe operation of a small, personal rotorcraft that he envisioned for a variety of uses, ranging from low-level crop spraying to military heavy-lifts. Only one was constructed, but it was truly a "multicopter" a half-century prior to e-volo's.

Bruce H. Charnov
Hofstra University
Hempstead, N.Y.

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