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Aviation History: September 1999 Letters

9/23/1989 • Aviation History Archives

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Aviation History
Aviation History

Un-American Ace in the RAF

In the sidebar to the story on Fred Gillet in Aviation History, March 1999, Wilfred Beaver is included among a listing of American aces in Royal Air Force service. In fact, according to Beaver’s daughter, he was born at Kingswood, Bristol, England. His parents separated in 1911, when he was 14, and he was sent to Montreal, Canada, to live with an uncle. On August 7, 1914, he joined the 1st Canadian Heavy Battery, and in 1917 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.

Beaver returned to Canada after the war, and on April 23, 1919, he was admitted to the United States for permanent residence. He became a naturalized citizen on September 21, 1926, but under no circumstances can he be considered an American ace of World War I.

The confusion may stem from his having served with the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. He joined up in June 1942 and served with the 447th Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force. Beaver was released from active duty on January 15, 1946, but served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve from 1949 to 1955. He died on August 19, 1986.

R. Ian Edwinson
Indianapolis, Ind.

Antarctica’s Hollick-Kenyon Plateau

The article “Polar Star Rising” in your March issue provides an excellent and accurate summary of the history-making flight of Polar Star in 1935. The last sentence refers to the additions to maps of the “Ellsworth Highlands” and “Ellsworth Mountains.” Lincoln Ellsworth’s appreciation for my brother Herbert Hollick-Kenyon’s piloting skills was acknowledged by also adding the “Hollick-Kenyon Plateau” to Antarctica maps. Rear Admiral Richard Byrd stated in a letter of November 29, 1954, to my brother, “Your flight was one of the greatest in all the history of aviation.”

David H. Kenyon
Eugene, Ore.

Revisiting Bennett Field

Your March “People and Planes” department about Bennett Field, written by R.A. Woodworth, brought back memories. When I was a kid in 1937-38, I lived at 38 Rubicon Street in Binghamton, about five miles by air from Bennett Field. I saw aircraft flying over my house quite often, especially in the summer.

The city of Binghamton had a bathhouse for swimming on the west bank of the Chenango River and just adjacent to the De Forest Street bridge. There I witnessed lots of flights–many of them passing over the bridge at a 40-degree angle headed southeast, so I could see the main wheels still spinning after the takeoff roll.

When the lifeguards were not looking, teenagers would climb the top of the bridge and dive into the river. Some boasted that if they had a stone, they could have hit a plane from that height. They could clearly see the pilot and passengers, and they also remarked on how dirty the bottoms of the planes were.

Late in the ’30s, the Works Progress Administration built the Tri-City Airport in Endicott, N.Y., and flights out of Bennett Field soon stopped. It was at that point that I started building and flying small gas-powered model airplanes–a hobby I have taken up once again now that I have retired. I feel sure that my lifelong interest in aviation stems from those flights I saw long ago out of Bennett Field.

Michael Zelsnack
Aliquippa, Pa.

Argentia, not Argentina

In your March “Enduring Heritage” department on the Yankee Air Force’s collection at Willow Run, you mention that “the PB-1G, patrolled the waters…as well as the coastal regions of Argentina and Canada.” I submit the logs will show Argentia (Newfoundland).

It’s not the first time this mistake has been made. When I was serving in the U.S. Navy, one of the first sea stories I heard was from an aviation boatswain’s mate who told me how excited he was to graduate from Class “A” school and get orders to shore duty in what he misread as Argentina. He thought he was getting shore duty in South America. Needless to say, he was actually transferred to Argentia, in Newfoundland.

Lt. Cmdr. Bruce F. De Wald
U.S. Navy (ret.)

Tuskegee Airmen

I hold a commercial pilot rating and have logged more than 1,200 hours. This past week one of my co-workers struck up a conversation about how he’d like to learn to fly. I told him I’d pick up some material for him to look at.

When I passed a newsstand looking for a couple of flying magazines to pass on to him, what did I see but the March issue of Aviation History featuring an article on one of the Tuskegee Airmen, Charles McGee. Well, I had to pick up that issue. First, I am a graduate of Tuskegee University (when it was Tuskegee Institute). Second, I started my flying career there at Moton Field. Third, I took flying lessons from Charles “Chief”Anderson, one of the civilian flight instructors contracted to train the Tuskegee pilots.

Your readers should know that it was he who flew Eleanor Roosevelt, not the character portrayed by Lawrence Fishburne in the HBO movie. Anyway, I enjoyed the article, and I would encourage any aviation enthusiast who has a chance to meet and talk with any of the Tuskegee Airmen to please do so. They are a very special part of aviation history.

Amoti Nyabongo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Jack Broughton’s F-84

Thank you for publishing the article on Jack Broughton in your March issue (the “Art of Flight” department, authored by artist Mike Machat). I have always admired him and am the proud owner of both his books, Thud Ridge and Going Downtown. I was impressed with Mike Machat’s painting and hope to be able to get a print sometime.

I thought your readers might want to know that Broughton’s Republic F-84 is on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz.

Michael R. Howell
Vancouver, Wash.

Support for Dioramas

I was delighted to read the editorial in your March issue. Those of us who are aviation purists may enjoy seeing airplanes in their sterile sitting-on-a-concrete-pad environment, but the not-so-aviation-oriented family may find them really boring.

In my opinion, the “contextual type of display,” showing an aircraft in a full-size diorama, greatly extends the value of an exhibit. I hope the expansion of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport, which is scheduled to open in 2003, will contain such exhibits.

I want to bring to your attention Fantasy of Flight, between Orlando and Tampa, Fla. Some who have visited this interesting exhibit have called it a little bit “too Disney,” but I disagree. Their diorama is centered on a Boeing B-17 in the setting of a World War II base in England on a winter night, with the ground crew changing an engine. The combination of the aircraft and crewmen, surrounded by tools, gives a living quality to the exhibit on a magnificent airplane.

When you enter the fuselage and go forward to the bomb bay, you see the doors open and the bombs falling to the landscape below, accompanied by the sound and feel of the rushing slipstream. Go forward to the cockpit and you hear the conversation between the pilot and co-pilot about a failing engine, including the query: “Do you think we’ll make it to the English coast, sir?”

Topping my excitement about your March issue is the article “The Flying Porcupine Earns Its Name.” Outside the hanger at Fantasy of Flight is a Short S.25 Sandringham, the civilian sibling of the Short Sunderland flying boat described in the article, sitting on landing gear designed for land operation. That aircraft is still flyable, and I understand it was flown to its new home at Fantasy of Flight, but I did not have the pleasure of seeing it get off the ground.

Keep up the good work making aviation history available to us who don’t have time to search through archives.

R. Nevin Rupp
Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas

Flying Boats Live On

I thoroughly enjoyed the story of the Short Sunderland “Flying Porcupine” (March 1999) and the sidebar about Short’s civilian flying boats. The Western Aerospace Museum has a Short Solent that is available for a tour of its flight station and the interior, which is in its original passenger-carrying configuration. I believe that it is the only one of its kind in the United States.

The museum, located at the North Field of the Oakland, Calif., airport (8260 Boeing St.), has a collection of unusual aircraft and exhibits about aviation history. It is open on Wednesdays to Sundays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. There is a small admission charge. Call (510) 638-7100 beforehand to schedule a docent to conduct a tour of the Solent.

Martin A. Snyder
Concord, Calif.

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