The March issue of Aviation History was excellent. I was particularly struck by Mark Wolverton’s article on the AD-1 [“Extremes”], which I saw flying many times at Edwards (and I knew many of its pilots, including Dick Gray, who sadly was killed in a spin accident in a NASA T-37).
I’m not sure Wolverton was aware of this, but NASA recently issued a book on the AD-1 that is absolutely fascinating: Thinking Obliquely: Robert T. Jones, the Oblique Wing, NASA’s AD-1 Demonstrator, and its Legacy, written by Bruce I. Larrimer. Richly illustrated with photographs and drawings, it discusses efforts to modify the AD-1 into a joined-wing demonstrator, covering the proposed F-8 program in detail (and why it was not pursued), and also chronicling many of the proposed commercial and military applications of the oblique wing. Finally, it won the prestigious History Manuscript Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Readers might be interested to know that it is available as a free download from nasa.gov/connect/ebooks.
The article by Joe Bullmer on the famous picture of the Wright brothers [“The Power of a Picture,” January] was thoughtful and raised interesting questions about early flight. If I was still teaching aviation history, I would certainly use the piece in my classroom. Bullmer did a nice job mentioning a number of pioneers who had hops in heavier-than-air craft. As he knows, there were many others. The French, of course, can claim Félix du Temple had the first powered hop in 1874. In class I challenged my students to acknowledge the great accomplishment of the Wrights, but not for what they did on December 17, 1903. I suggested that the most important moment in American and world aviation took place on October 5, 1905.
On that date, Wilbur Wright flew the Flyer III 30 circles around the field, for a total of 24 miles in 39 minutes, before landing. It was longer than all of the 109 flights made by the Wrights in 1903 and 1904. At that point, the brothers flew a real airplane in powered and controlled flight. In the words of Tom Crouch, senior curator at the National Air and Space Museum, that long flight demonstrated “one of the most extraordinary machines in the history of technology.” When you think about it, the event that occurred on October 5, 1905, makes the law passed by the Connecticut legislature seem a bit silly. The latter created “Powered Flight Day” in honor of Gustave Whitehead. And just how many miles and turns did he fly in his “aircraft”?
James K. Libbey
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Just the FACs
I was fascinated by the article on the Covey FACs in the November 2013 issue. I was a FAC in Vietnam, covering the Korean Capital Division in the last year of the war. While I didn’t have the same experiences the Coveys had flying the Ho Chi Minh Trail (my time was spent in northern II Corps, along Vietnam’s coast), I could identify with their enthusiasm on finding the huge storage area.
The tale of continuous secondary explosions reminded me of the one time I found such a target in my area of responsibility. I worked several sets of fighters on the target and got secondary explosions on nearly every pass. The fighter pilots were also highly elated in working such a target because it was unusual in South Vietnam to find one like this. We really felt like we were doing something useful.
I also find your magazine useful in my work as a lecturer on the history of aviation at the University of Delaware’s Ossher Life Long Learning Institute (Wilmington campus). I usually finish my copy in the first couple of days after receiving it. And each time I find that I have to tweak my presentation in several places because there’s something in each issue that is new and useful to me in my lectures.
I have been a fan of Scott Crossfield since his rocket ship days and the final X-15 flight. I was very fortunate to attend a meeting of the American Society for Quality Control in Los Angeles in the 1960s when Crossfield was the featured speaker. He was outstanding in describing some of his complicated X-15 flights. But the very noticeable feature of his presentation was afterward, when he opened it up for questions from the floor. People stood up and queried him, sometimes on one or more subjects in the form of one long question. He would listen carefully, then repeat the convoluted question in simple points, and answer each point very fluently. He had a twinkle in his eye and a warm presentation. Everyone in the room admired him. I appreciate the fine article you published [“Skyrocketing Through Mach 2,” January].
Sun City West, Ariz.
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