Category Archives: vintage

Douglas Dragon

Moses Lake was the last stop on my road trip.  There were a few things I was hoping to see while I was there but one thing I saw I was not expecting at all.  A Douglas UC-67 Dragon, a conversion of the B-23.  There weren’t many built at all and I have come across a couple in museums.  However, this one looks like it might be airworthy.  There aren’t a ton of photos of it online but it has been shot flying a couple of years ago so I hope it is still flyable.  It was very close to the fence in nice afternoon light so a great surprise to add to the day.

Spirit of St Louis Replica

Arlington is the current home of a replica of the Ryan Monoplane flown by Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic.  This is a detailed replica built over many years by a guy called Mike Norman.  It has flown a few times and they are increasing the hours on the airframe prior to taking it further afield.  I hadn’t seen it before but my friend, Bob, advised that it was due to fly on a recent Sunday morning.  The weather was looking nice if a little warm (heat haze) so I made the trip up to Arlington early on the Sunday.

They taxied out a little later than planned but not by much and certainly not when you are working with an experimental airframe.  They took off to the north and flew a couple of circuits.  We were a bit distant from it but not too bad.  I figured I would head to the approach end for the next circuit.  I got there just as they were on short final so too late to get a shot but I figured I would get the next one when they climbed out again.  However, the next approach turned out to be for the cross runway.  They flew close by while downwind but I was on the wrong side for the light when they were on final.

On the next climb out they left the circuit to fly up towards Bellingham.  This left a problem.  By the time that they were due back, the light would almost definitely be tail on down the runway.  I discussed with Bob the options and we decided to go to the south of the runway and hope they came that way.  As it was, they arrived back at exactly the time the light was aligned with the runway so the worst of options.  However, we were not far from the threshold and had a mountain backdrop on final approach so not too bad.  It is a lovely looking replica.  I hope to see it fly again, maybe in nice evening light.  I suspect it is easier to fly when the air is a bit less bumpy!

Wildcat Has Looked Better

In 2012, A Grumman Wildcat was raised from the bottom of Lake Michigan.  The lake has numerous wrecks scattered across it as a result of the training that was undertaken during the Second World War with students ditching their aircraft.  Many have been raised over the years with some being restored to flight and others ending up in museums.  The one that was raised in 2012 was the subject of a piece I put together for Global Aviation Magazine.

The airframe was moved to a hangar under the control of Chuck Greenhill (who had financed the recovery) at Kenosha Airport after it was raised from the water and this was where I got to see it.  Opening the hangar door was quite a shock because the smell was pretty overpowering.  The airframe was covered in various creatures that had attached themselves over the years and they were not doing well in the air of the hangar.  It was a tough smell initially.  You got used to it a bit and having the hangar door open helped to get some fresh air in there.

The airframe was in several parts.  The wings were laid out in place and the tail section, which had separated at some point during the accident, was laid out behind it all.  Obviously, there was lots of damage to the aircraft given that it originally had crashed and then spent decades underwater.  The recovery process was delicate to avoid inflicting any further damage.

The airframe remains the property of the US Navy.  It was originally going to go to Pensacola for restoration but ended up going to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo MI in the end.  It is currently undergoing restoration there.

Douglas World Cruiser

I first saw the Douglas World Cruiser when Hayman and I were were skulking around Boeing Field prior to an ISAP symposium.  The aircraft was being worked on by a restoration team  and we chatted to them for a while.  When I moved it up, it had moved too and now it lives at Renton.  I have seen it plenty of times as it sits in its open ended hangar at Renton.  However, it clearly is moved as, on a recent visit, the nose was pointing out of the hangar rather than in.  It is not in a great place to shoot but a bit of live view and holding the camera above the wall and you can get a shot.

Avro York

The Avro Lancaster is a very famous bomber from the Second World War but its transportation derivative is a lot less well known.  Outside the aviation community, it is probably totally unknown.  It is the Avro York (War of the Roses comments are welcome) and it takes the flying surfaces and power plants of the Lancaster and mates them to a larger fuselage for transporting people.  It was an important type in the latter stages of the war and immediately afterwards.  This example is in the main hangar at the IWM Duxford.

Hamilton H-47 Metalplane

This is not a great shot but it is a rare airplane.  I was out and about when I heard what sounded like a vintage aircraft engine rumbling nearby.  I took some long shots and only checked them out when I got home.  It turns out it is a Hamilton H-47 Metalplane.  This aircraft used to operate on floats – that would have been good to see – but it now is on wheels.  Apparently it lives someone in the area so I am going to try and track it down at some point.

Another Rapide!

I posted some shots of John Sessions’ Dragon Rapide in this post.  I was pleased to see another Rapide show up at Fairford for RIAT.  I managed to get a few shots of it.  It was painted in a nice color scheme and looked very elegant as it pottered by.  Not a speedy plane (despite the name) so plenty of time to enjoy it.

Farewell Nine-O-Nine

A text message from a relative let me know that the Collings Foundation’s B-17 had crashed in Connecticut.  Such a terrible shame for those who died or were injured and those associated with them.  The loss of an historic airframe is also very sad.  I have seen the Collings Foundation tour on a number of occasions are different locations including earlier this year.  I hope they will continue with the other aircraft because it brings so much joy to so many.  Here is a selection of my shots of Nine-O-Nine.

Collings Foundation at BFI

The Collings Foundation made its annual visit to the Seattle area recently including flights from Boeing Field.  The weather had been rather uninspiring but I figured I would head along and hope for some gaps in the clouds.  The Mustang and the P-40 didn’t fly while I was there.  The B-24 and the B-17 did though.  Sadly, the B-24 only flew once.  The discussion was whether Seattle being a Boeing town meant that everyone wanted to fly on the B-17, despite the rarity of the B-24.  The clouds had a habit of parting at just the wrong time and place with good light up the approach and down the runway but not where I wanted it to be.  Even so, it was still nice to see these vintage planes again.

Curtiss-Wright XP-55 Ascender

Do you ever see an airframe and think to yourself “That isn’t a real aircraft.  It looks like something left over from a movie shoot.”  That was exactly what was in my mind when I visited the Air Zoo museum in Kalamazoo MI.  They have the sole remaining XP-55 Ascender.  It looks like something that was included in Raiders of the Lost Ark with its unusual configuration.  However, it is a genuine program that was part of US experimentation with unusual configurations in the hope of boosting performance.

A number of types were developed for this program but the arrival of the jets soon rendered the concept moot and they were cancelled.  This sole example found its way to Michigan where it is kept in great condition (at least it was years ago when I visited so I hope that is still the case).  It has a really cool look to it and, while that era is not my specialty, I am still pleased that you can come across some surprises from that period.