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Letters From Readers - November 2010 Aviation History

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: September 22, 2010 
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Photo Recon on Facebook
Thank you so much for publishing the article "Eyes of the Army" in the September issue. Roy Teifeld's stories brought back wonderful memories of my father, Sergeant Thomas R. Nusbickel Jr., telling us of his experiences in the 30th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the Ninth Air Force. From an early age I knew about the "dicing" missions, and I heard how they stripped down a Lockheed F-5 for those special flights. My dad worked in the camera shop, loading, unloading and repairing the cameras for the missions that brought those all-important images back to the base.

The 30th PRS now has a group page on Facebook, with more than 60 photos and details of their experiences. The attached photo shows one of the PRS F-5s fresh from the assembly line, prior to receiving its distinctive "haze blue" paint scheme.

Thomas R. Nusbickel III
Placentia, Calif.

Quiet Birdman's Colleague
Thanks for including my comments in your story about Stanley Beltz ("Aviators," September). I was surprised and thrilled to see it. At the time of the incident [Beltz's unauthorized demonstration of a slow roll into a dead engine while piloting a Lockheed P2V Neptune], I was a civilian flight test engineer assigned to the Flight Test Division of the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Md. I was not involved with the P2V program, but I was among the many who witnessed the "show" that day from our office window.

In 1953 I was employed by Lockheed as a flight test engineer, and I met and worked with Beltz and many other renowned Lockheed test pilots. When I mentioned to my colleagues that I had witnessed Beltz's demonstration in Maryland, they told me he had been severely chastised by company officials—then quietly thanked behind the scenes for dramatically showing the superiority of the P2V.

Martin A. Snyder
Dublin, Calif.

B-17E Remote Turret
The July 2010 issue was an enjoyable and educational read from cover to cover! I was especially excited to see the photo on P. 42-43 of the two B-17Es and single B-17D in flight near Mount Fuji. Both are rare early models of the B-17E with a remotely sighted Sperry belly turret, of which only 112 were built (41-2393 through 41-2504). The article identified one of the two as 41-2471, but the other remains anonymous. By the time the Japanese got the B-17Es back into the air, they had lots of experience against the manned belly turret, so I doubt the remote configuration was of much interest to them. I hope the article generates further dialogue regarding the final fate of these and other captured aircraft in Japan.

Incidentally, there is a 1943 photo of the last B-17E with a remote turret on the USAF Museum website.

Robert Taylor
Ventura, Calif.

Thanks for your letter. See "Briefing" in this issue for an item on the recovery of an early-model B-17E with remote turret.

Mastering Prohibited Maneuvers
I was one of the lucky guys who got to fly the Bearcat ("Engine With a Saddle," May), at NAS Quonset Point, R.I., between 1952 and '54. One of our jobs at Quonset was providing aircraft for the Combat Information Center schools at Newport and Boston to train shipboard air controllers. A TBM Avenger that served as a bogey would fly back and forth between Block Island and Martha's Vineyard, with an F8F at each end of the course, taking turns being vectored into position for a gunnery run on the bogey. While one F8F made a run, the other would orbit until it was time to be vectored on the next intercept.

Orbiting was very boring. One day I decided to do some aerobatics while waiting my turn. I was at about 8,000 feet when I decided to do an Immelmann. At the top of the half loop I ran out of airspeed—and there I was flat on my back at 9,000 feet. I fell off into an inverted spin (the F8F pilot's manual prohibits intentional and unintentional inverted spins). I did everything right, but the Bearcat wasn't responding. Finally it did. I pulled out at 1,000 feet.

Someone once wrote that "Mastering the prohibited maneuvers in the manual is one of the best forms of aviation life insurance you can get." The next time I did an Immelmann I made sure I had plenty of airspeed—and altitude.

Commander Jim Warner
U.S. Navy Reserve (ret.)
Atlanta, Ga.

Shuttleworth Brings the Past to Life
The article about the Shuttleworth Collection in the May issue brought back many fond memories of a four-year tour flying McDonnell RF-4Cs out of RAF Alconbury (October 1966 to October 1970). During our time in England, my family and I went to Old Warden to see the Shuttleworth Collection as often as we possibly could. We really enjoyed seeing aircraft from many different epochs flying graceful circuits around the Old Warden aerodrome. And during a return trip to England with my wife in 1998, we made sure we spent one Sunday at Old Warden.

The Shuttleworth Collection is truly remarkable. To see those old aircraft fly provides a lifetime memory.

Colonel Orin Knutson
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Schertz, Texas

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



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