Letters From Readers – September 2011 Aviation History

Murphy Strikes at BuAer
The article on the “Supersonic Revolution” [by Richard P. Hallion in the July issue] was terrific. It reminded me of my days working for the Navy Department, Bureau of Aeronautics, in the early 1950s, when I developed a method for predicting transonic pressure drag. When asked by a BuAer contractor what my basis was, I told him I used D-558-2 flight test data, which had been published in a secret document and was distributed to all contractors. He later told me they had never received the data. A check revealed that the BuAer mailroom had received the reports late in the day; with no place to store them overnight, they opted to destroy them. A fast reprint was distributed.

I also visited NACA with Grumman engineers to discuss the application of the area rule to the F11F-1 with Dick Whitcomb. When the airplane began flight tests, its performance was poor, due to high drag. I asked Whitcomb what the problem was, and he said they had not used his area rule, but that of another engineer.

Bill Ligon
Lynchburg, Va.

Ugliest Airplanes
I noted the article in your May edition on “The World’s Ugliest Airplanes,” by Stephan Wilkinson. About five years ago I saw a photo of the British AD Scout and made a 1/32nd-scale balsa model (no plans) because it was certainly different (ugly). I’ve enclosed a photo of the model. Considering its aerodynamic deficiencies, I included an ambulance, nurse and stretcher!

I am still practicing medicine daily at nearly 86, and did private flying for 20 years. I also still make 1/32nd-scale balsa models from photos or occasionally old plans—but no kits. I continue to enjoy your magazine.

Dr. Richard A. Mahrer
San Jose, Calif.

Love Field Legacy
Glad to read about the Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron pilots flying out of Love Field [“They Also Served,” July issue]. It may explain why there were still a few aircraft there, so I was able to school on BT-13s on entering U.S. Air Force aircraft maintenance training. Most of our instructors were ex-AAF and still qualified. The aircraft my class worked had one “squawk” after its flight: The tail wheel would not unlock, so the pilot had to use the brakes to turn while taxiing.

Later, while I was stationed at Amarillo Air Force Base, one of my friends owned a BT. Whenever he flew over our house, he would always “exercise” the prop—and, yes, it was noisy. It was a sure way to identify him and his aircraft.

Someone here in Texas still flies a Beech 18 from the San Antonio area to Wichita Falls. I still love to hear that “round” engine sound the twin R-985s make!

Sr. Master Sgt. Frank McDonald
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Morgan Mill, Texas

Twin Trainer Confusion
The caption for the photo of three WAFS on P. 57 in the July issue has a double “howler.” First, the UC-78 was a Cessna product, not a Beech. Second, the airplane shown isn’t a UC-78. The long, rectangular window by Betsy Ferguson’s left elbow identifies it as a Beech AT-11 bombardier trainer. If Fergu­\son wasn’t in the picture, we would see an ugly, slab-sided extended nose terminating in a Plexiglas bubble with a flat bombardier’s windscreen in the lower side. The Hamilton Standard counterweight prop and the semi-buried exhaust stack further identify the bird as one of the numerous variations inflicted on the basic Beech Model 18, rather than the Cessna.

In fairness to the caption writer, the adjacent airplane, partially visible behind the AT-11’s landing gear, could be a UC-78 (Cessna T-50, Bobcat, AT-8, AT-17, Bamboo Bomber, Wichita Wobbler, Rhapsody in Glue, etc.). The squared-off chine and single fin and rudder would fit the Cessna. The short, rounded nose nearly even with the plane of the prop rotation visible between Ferguson and Florine Miller would also
support that identification. Unfortunately, those same features would also fit the Bobcat’s rival and look-alike, the AT-10 (Beech Model 26). If we could see more of that plane, the Cessna’s large square cabin windows would contrast with the Beech’s small portholes.

My kvetching aside, this was an intriguing if poignant story. It was good to see the long, tall heroine finally smiling on P. 59.

Commander Frank L. Shelley
U.S. Coast Guard (ret.)
Santa Cruz, Calif.

We received quite a few letters pointing out the caption error. Thanks to all who wrote to set the record straight.

Remembering Captain Stewart
A big mahalo for Richard L. Hayes’ article in the March issue, “Mr. Stewart Goes to War.” In reading it, I especially felt moved by the courage of our aircrews flying those daytime raids over Germany. Jimmy Stewart was one of the thousands of leaders who set supreme examples of bravery for their crews.

Enclosed is a photograph of Captain Stewart and the crew of one of his B-24s, which includes my late uncle, Putt Borden, in the front row (with an “X” on his shoulder), next to Stewart. I don’t know what Uncle Putt did aboard that Liberator, but he was one of the thousands of true heroes from the finest generation.

Mike Powers
Honolulu, Hawaii

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

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