Vintage aircraft are not my specialty. I know my P-51 from my P-47 but I am not too knowledgeable of the different types of the more famous aircraft and I am certainly on shaky ground when it comes to the less numerous types. Consequently, when I was preparing to go to Chino for the Planes of Fame airshow, the GAR team told me to get shots of the Curtiss P-36 Hawk that was going to be on display for the first time. I agreed while secretly wondering what a P-36 was. Fortunately, the internet is a wonderful source of information and I was able to get an idea of what it was I was looking for before it got there!
This P-36 has been restored at Chino and will shortly be heading to the UK to join a collection there. Not only was it on display in the static area but it also participated in the flying program. Therefore, I got many opportunities to get some shots of it for the GAR piece. It is an interesting looking aircraft, even if it didn’t end up being a huge seller. It looked great coming from restoration and was flown together with the AT-12 (which is apparently a two seat P-35 – so I am told). On a sunny spring day in California they looked very nice together. I hope everyone in the UK enjoys them when they arrive.
Even people how aren’t particularly into aviation have a reasonable chance of having heard of the Douglas DC-3, also known as the C-47 and the Dakota. Not only was it a hugely important aircraft in WWI but it also continued to provide the post war commercial services and, even today, to fill a niche in air transportation. Far less attention is given to one of its counterparts in the war, the Curtiss C-46 Commando. The C-46 never stuck in the public conscience in the same way and its use post war was a lot more limited.
However, they didn’t all disappear and one fine example still flies at a lot of air shows. I got to see it at Pungo in Virginia a few years back at an ISAP event. The symposium was being held in Virginia Beach and we spent a couple of days at Pungo. One was the day before their annual air show. We got to look around the collection and see the aircraft in action. The C-46 put on a few great low passes and I was at one end of the field and got a great view head on.
On the day of the show, the weather was not cooperating and the train came down heavily at various times throughout the day. The C-46 did fly in the gaps provided by the not so awful weather. They were not conditions conducive to good photos but I still got some of it. However, the practice day proved to be the better day for seeing this fine machine in the air.
There are many vintage aircraft that I have had the chance to photograph over the years. However, I have not had many opportunities to photograph a genuine First World War era aircraft. That was something that I was recently able to address. Sonoma Valley in Schellville has a variety of interesting aircraft as I have mentioned in the past. One of these is Frank’s beautiful Jenny. It is in pristine condition. I had previously been around when it was due to fly but a fuel leak in a line had curtailed activities that day.
This time the plan was to fly a couple of people in the aircraft. Eric Presten was the pilot for these flights and he needed to run a quick air test before taking anyone up so three flights appeared to be on the cards. I arrived at Schellville in the morning to be ready. Unfortunately, the weather was not looking too cooperative. There was a little mist and the cloud base was pretty low with the surrounding hills having their tops obscured. We got the aircraft ready as we waited for the cloud to lift which it progressively did.
Eric was soon able to get up for the air test. While the conditions were better for flying, they still weren’t great for photography. However, while he was up, the cloud was burning off more and more. The result was, by the time the two flights for the guest took place, conditions were ideal. For the second ride, Eric put in an overflight of the field allowing me to get something other than ground running shots, tail end departures or head on landings. The latter two were subject to a lot of heat haze so it was great to get something a little closer in.
She truly is a lovely looking aircraft and an example of something very rare to see. I will enjoy seeing her flying again. What will be even better is getting a chance to shoot her air to air. If the opportunity for that should come up, I will be a very happy boy. In the mean time, I am very grateful to Frank and Eric for including me in this. Great guys and a great plane!
When talking about vintage aircraft, I am frequently discussing aircraft that are from the Second World War era or later. However, one of the residents of Schellville is a Curtiss Jenny. This is a First World War aircraft and the example here is an original. It doesn’t get to fly very often but I was lucky to be there on a day when it was planned to take it up for a couple of sorties. We moved it out to fuel up and then took it onto the field to launch. (It should be noted that pushing an aircraft around the field quickly makes you appreciate where the gradients are. What looks like nothing when you are walking suddenly becomes conspicuous when pushing an aircraft – even a relatively light older one!)
We crewed up the Jenny and got her ready for start. Unfortunately, fortune was not on our side. She fired up willingly enough but a quick check of the engine compartment after start revealed a fuel leak and we shut her down. A trip back to the hangar to troubleshoot meant that there would be no flying that day. Once back inside, a hose was found to be split and this was the source of the fuel. Not the sort of thing you want to find out about while flying so the sound approach of everyone was justified. Fixing the hose was easy so, hopefully the Jenny will be flying again soon. Now to get some good weather and availability for everyone concerned!
I also had a little video of the start up which you can see below.
Arriving in a new part of the world means a lot of new aeronautical experiences are waiting to be had. Those who have lived here a while know where the good things are to be seen but I don’t. Therefore, it is best to take advantage of the knowledge that is already there. Fortunately, I already know a few people out this way but also, courtesy of friends back in the Midwest, I have been introduced to some new people who are very familiar with the local aviation scene.
My friend Paul was in the area for work and we wanted to take a trip out. I dropped a line to Roger, one person that I had been put in contact with, to see what he could suggest. He said Sonoma would be the place to go. There are two airfields very close to each other and we shall hear more of one of them another day. On this day, we spent our time at Sonoma Valley or, as it seems to be more familiarly known, Schellville. They hold an open day once a month and this was one of those days.
We arrived and things looked pretty quiet but it was early in the day. We weren’t sure whether we had come to the right spot at first so made a quick recce down the street. Finding nothing (at least nothing that made us feel like we were in the right place!), we came back to where we had started and there on the ramp where, only a few minutes previously, nothing had been now sat a P-40 Tomahawk. This came as quite a surprise.
As we were looking over the fence at it, out comes a P-51 Mustang and parks next to it. Towing them around was a guy called Chris who willingly told us about the day, what he was planning to fly and a good spot for us to go and put our stuff which would provide a good view of proceedings and some shade and seating! Result. We had a wander around before getting ourselves in position for the planned flight of the P-40.
A guy from Silicon Valley was having the flight as a birthday treat. We watched them taxi out and depart before running in across the field. Then they headed off to fly around the local area. Not a bad start to the day!