PHOTO FROM A FORMER JUNIOR BIRDMAN
I am an old airplane buff who enjoys reading each issue of Aviation History
Magazine. In your March issue, the article “Forgotten Golden Age Daredevil,” by Paige W. Christiansen, brought to mind the time when I met Art Goebel in the mid-1930s.
A few of us Junior Birdmen Model Aircraft Club members were at Peoria Airport when Goebel passed through there. He posed for us in the cockpit of his Howard Hughes–modified Boeing Model 100, and I am enclosing that photo (above).
Many years later I met Frank Brisco, who was then employed by Phillips Petroleum Co. to do skywriting over Peoria. The plane he used for that job was the Howard Hughes Boeing. It had, however, been modified with I-struts instead of the N-struts between the wings, and also had a 650-hp engine.
BRISTOL F.2B VARIATIONS
I enjoyed Robert Guttman’s article on the Bristol F.2B (“The Fighter Built for Two”) in the January issue. Perhaps you can answer some questions I have. The photo on P. 25 shows Lieutenants Andrew McKeever and Harry Kent standing in front of an F.2B with a four-blade propeller. All the other photos I’ve seen of F.2As and F.2Bs have had a two-blade prop. Was the four-blade prop used with specific engines? What was its effect on the aircraft’s performance? I also noticed, on P. 26, that Hugh Polder’s painting shows a bullet-shaped prop hub. Was this an option for the aircraft?
Robert Guttman responds: I believe the choice between two- and four-blade props on Bristol Fighters had to do with the type of engine installed. The standard engine specified for the F.2B was the Rolls-Royce Falcon, but alternative engines were also installed, none of which were considered as satisfactory as the Falcon.
In addition, Rolls-Royce apparently produced a number of different versions of the Falcon engine, equipped with different reduction gear ratios. I believe the engines with slower-turning propeller shafts used the four-blade prop. Of course, it goes without saying that the use of the four-blade prop meant the synchronizing gear for the pilot’s machine gun had to be altered as well. Otherwise firing the gun would have shot off two of the four prop blades.
I’m not sure what specific effect the use of the different reduction gear ratios and props had on the performance of the aircraft. Bear in mind that both the aircraft and the props of that period were fabricated out of wood and were largely made by hand. There were often marked discrepancies in performance between individual aircraft built to the same design and by the same manufacturer. Many of the aces of that day were known to have tinkered with their planes in order to make them more formidable.
I have also noticed that some F.2Bs appear to have a small spinner on the propeller boss, but I doubt it could have had much effect on performance. Bristol Fighters were produced by several other companies under license, and I can only presume that whether or not they had the spinner depended upon which company built them. The exhaust stacks varied in length and shape as well.
GETTING THE RUDDER RIGHT
I look forward to reading every issue of Aviation History, and I enjoyed reading about the U.S. Army Air Forces’ use of the Bristol Beaufighter (“Battling With Borrowed Beaus,” by Braxton Eisel, in the January issue), especially since this is one of the often overlooked aspects of the Air Forces’ history. But I do have to nitpick a little. The article stated that the Beau’s propellers turned to the left, and all American military aircraft, as well as most others, turned to the right. This is correct—but the Beau therefore needed a bootful of LEFT rudder.
I am privileged to be able to fly the de Havilland Chipmunk, which requires the same thing. The transition was not difficult, but having to use a bootful of left rudder rather than right was definitely different. Using the hand brake on a tail-wheel plane was also strange for someone taught to fly in American aircraft.
LANCE WADE’S LAST RIDE
I recently acquired the back issue with the article about Wing Cmdr. Lance Wade (“Forgotten RAF Ace,” by Michael Montgomery, in November 2004). I very much enjoyed the excellent article. He is indeed a forgotten ace.
I did, however, note an error concerning Wade’s fatal crash. He was not killed spinning in an Auster but rather while trying to slow-roll a Spitfire on the deck. A friend of mine who was a pilot with the 64th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group, was an eyewitness. Wade had just taken off in a Spitfire Mark V. Immediately after retracting his gear, he did a slow roll. He then made a 180- degree turn, remained low and made a pass parallel to the runway, attempting another slow roll. He fell out of the roll, with his left wing hitting the ground first. The spot where he hit was right between my friend’s tent area and the runway. It happened right before his eyes! In a book on the 57th, there is a photo of the wreckage, with the 64th tent area visible in the background.
Originally published in the July 2006 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.