Inspired by an Electra
I read with interest the March issue’s “Briefing” story about the Lockheed 12A Electra Junior, N18137, the oldest surviving ex-TWA aircraft. That plane belonged to my father, Andy Hotton, from 1962 until 1968. At the time it was based at Willow Run Airport in Detroit, serving as the corporate aircraft for Dearborn Steel Tubing, which supported Ford Motor Company’s special vehicle projects. Here’s a photo of it in 1962:
I spent about 50-60 hours in the Lockheed’s right seat while I was in college, learning to talk on the radio, run checklists and operate the flaps and gear. It hooked me on flying. After a trip in N18137 to Florida and back in 1965, I joined the Navy to become a pilot. It was great to see the “ole bird” again.
Radials Still a Turn-on
Thanks for the great article about the R-2800 engine in the March issue. Stephan Wilkinson’s piece was well written and informative. I’ve flown with the R-2800, several other radial engines, flat opposed, turbo-prop and fanjet, but nothing turns me on like the deep, thunderous sound of the big radials. The engineering and innovation put into the last radials—power recovery turbines and other high tech devices—was amazing for the time.
As a retired professional pilot, I appreciate the engines that hauled me around these last 40 years. I’m looking forward to reading more about these amazing engines in future issues.
Your R-2800 article solicits opinions on other engines, and I’m sure you’ll receive many. As a former naval aviator (1958 to 1980), my career spanned the transition from recips to turbines, and I flew both types operationally.
I was an instructor at Corpus Christi, Texas, in the 1960s, teaching advanced students in carrier qualifications in the TS-2A, a twin-engine, carrier-based antisubmarine warfare plane powered by two R-1820s. On one flight flown by two students, they heard a big bang, which was followed by a loss of power in one engine. They went through their single-engine procedures and feathered the starboard engine, then made a radio call about their situation and continued downwind for a full stop. Then they informed the landing signal officer that their good engine was running rough, and they were having trouble maintaining 250 feet above the waves at rated power. They continued around and dropped the landing gear at the last possible moment, landing successfully.
I flew out to investigate. You guessed it: They had feathered the good engine and flown the pattern on the bad one. The starboard engine had thrown an outboard cylinder and was running just fine on eight. The cylinder had come right through the cowling and dropped clear of the plane; there was only a connecting rod flapping around in the breeze where that cylinder had been. But since it was an outboard cylinder, the students couldn’t see it from the cockpit.
In over 4,000 hours of pilot time with the R-1820, I can honestly say I never lost an engine, though I did feather a few for precautionary reasons. I can’t say that for the R-3350.
Aviation History is one of the few magazines that I read cover to cover.
Lt. Cmdr. Robert A. Shaver
U.S. Navy (ret.)
North Kingstown, R.I.
New Monument to an Old Tragedy
I was thrilled to see the vibrantly colored British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines poster on P. 66 in the March issue—especially since its appearance was nicely timed. For more than five years now members of the Flight of the Resolution Committee have been working to create a monument to commemorate the passengers and crew of the BCPA DC-6B Resolution (above), which crashed on approach to San Francisco on October 29, 1953. All 19 aboard were killed, including concert pianist William Kapell. Owners of property near the crash site on King’s Mountain just recently agreed to allow us to install a granite plaque at the trailhead off Skyline Blvd. Unveiling and dedication of the new memorial should take place later this year.
I invite Aviation History readers to visit the Web site flightoftheresolution.org to learn more about the crash. I also urge anyone who would like to share their memories of BCPA or that tragic accident to contact me at vhbpe @yahoo.com.
San Mateo, Calif.
Mighty Mars Nearly Torpedoed
Regarding the January issue’s article “The Mighty Mars,” by E.R. Johnson, I was on a crew at the Naval Mine Warfare Test Station at Solomons, Md., across the Patuxent River mouth from NAS Patuxent, in July 1945 when the first JRM-1 flying boat was being moored there. We were testing what was at the time a secret weapon, hydrophone-equipped air-dropped torpedoes. Ordinarily, these “fish” headed toward a sound-emitting float about a quarter mile away. But when the JRM-1 was running up its four engines, the torpedoes headed for the Mars instead of the sound float. Fortunately, the fish were outfitted with positive buoyancy noses instead of torpex-filled explosive chambers—and they ran out of fuel just before reaching the JRM.