Blue Max Fans
After all these years, it was really great reading about how The Blue Max was made. I loved the movie the first time I saw it, I loved Jack D. Hunter’s book, I loved seeing the movie again on DVD, I love having the poster on my wall and loved Don Hollway’s article. I am going to pull out that DVD and enjoy The Blue Max once more.
One of the Fokker D.VII-65s used in The Blue Max, serial no. 003, lives at the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Ala.. The aircraft was donated in 2000 by the estate of the late Frank Ryder (Ryder Replica Fighter Museum). The Gypsy Queen III engine is on display, but the fighter has been fitted with a Mercedes replica. Its logbook includes the names Rousseau, Piggott, Miss J. Hughes and, from 1970, the author Richard Bach.
Curator, Southern Museum of Flight
I really appreciate and enjoy Aviation History, with its variety of subjects and excellent research and writing. Of course I was especially pleased that I quickly identified the July 2015 issue’s Mystery Ship, the X-31, because I had the professional pleasure of working on those two X-birds. I served as the flight control systems engineer on both the Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability (EFM) and VECTOR programs, completed in 1995 (Edwards Air Force Base) and 2003 (Patuxent River Naval Air Station), respectively. This project was easily the high point in my career, where I and many American and German colleagues perfected amazing aerial tactical and practical maneuvers. Because the project was relatively small, programmatically “flying under the corporate radar” with little interference, we often likened it to a group of enthusiasts working on a hot rod in our garage! The peak of excitement was flying our baby at the Paris Air Show in 1995. When the announcer said, “Up next, the X-31,” you could see the surge of aviation fans moving up to the fence line to see this amazing little machine perform never-before-seen maneuvers that seemed to defy the laws of aerodynamics, which of course it did using thrust vectoring. Nothing thrilled me so much as working on the X-31. I established so many friendships that still exist today. We have a reunion every five years.
Regarding the article about the latest reincarnation of the Blenheim [“Briefing,” May], I was dismayed to learn that the second restoration also crashed. I was stationed at RAF Upper Heyford from 1984-1986 and visited Duxford quite a few times. I was always amazed at the restoration work being done there. It was on these trips that I watched the first restoration progress until I left England for Germany in 1986. Attached is a photo I took during that first restoration.
It broke my heart when I learned later that the aircraft had been destroyed less than a year after that rebuild. I followed the news as the British, also devastated over the loss, managed to find enough parts to build another one. And now I read that perhaps the grossest error, running out of gas, was the cause of the second crash. How much more can the Brits take? They are beyond a doubt very tough, they keep a stiff upper lip, they keep calm and carry on, but will someone please make sure only the most qualified pilots are allowed to fly this wonderful airplane? God bless you, little Blenheim!
In May’s “Drafting Table Aces” article, the pilot in the photo on P. 39 identified as Edward Swearingen is actually Max Conrad, a native of Winona, Minn. He flew the Atlantic delivering aircraft for Piper. The Winona airport bears Conrad’s name, and he’s listed in Minnesota’s Aviation Hall of Fame.
More than 50 years ago my three young children experienced their first flight with Conrad, at no cost. He spent a Sunday afternoon doing just that for all the kids who had the desire to fly and their parents’ OK.
I have enjoyed every issue of your magazine and hope to continue to do so. At soon to be 89, I’m not sure how long that might be.
Melvin L. Hicks
The ‘real’ Ed Swearingen appears here. Thanks for the correction. –Ed.
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