While researching some old images of mine from the experimental hangar at the USAF Museum in Dayton OH (the collection of which has since been moved into a new, custom build display hangar which is far more spacious), I saw some shots of something which, to be honest, I had no idea what it was. I took a look at the website of the museum to try and identify the type. It is a Fisher P-75A Eagle.
I did not knew Fisher existed and discovered it was part of General Motors. The configuration of the aircraft is quite unusual. The engine is mounted in the middle of the aircraft driving a contra-rotating propeller. The cockpit is further forward that on other single-engined fighters of the era since there was no space allocated to the engine up front. The underside includes a pair of inlets. The airframe is finished in polished metal rather than paint. Overall, it looks quite impressive. From what I read, another type was not deemed as necessary so development was terminated and they used the airframes for engine development work. Funny how I saw it on the visit and took photos and then promptly forgot about it.
The 777X wasn’t the only thing I got to see on my Sunday at Paine Field. A buzzing from a distant plane was the announcement of the impending arrival of a Cessna 3337 Super Skymaster. This is an unusual aircraft with two engines in a push-pull configuration. It is a noisy thing and is often banned at airports that otherwise allow piston twins. I understand it is a bit of a pain to maintain too! I haven’t seen one for ages so was glad to get it on approach.
Even better, it didn’t stay too long so we. Got it taxiing out and taking off too. Quite a novelty to get to photograph one these days.
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.
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!
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.
Tucked inside the fence at Renton was something I don’t think I have seen before. It was a Piper Aztec on amphibious floats. No reason why an Aztec wouldn’t be on floats but it isn’t something I have seen before. I would certainly like to see it on the water at some point. Sadly, because it was tight to the fence, my best option was to use the phone to get the shot!
Another jump back to just before things got locked down and a visit to Log Boom Park in Kenmore. I was hoping for either some interesting wildlife or some Kenmore Air activities. The only floatplanes I ended up with were a couple of Cessnas. However, the light was nice and the evening was calm so this actually proved to be a good alternative. They may not be as neat as a de Havilland Canada beast but they are still fun to shoot.
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.
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.
The Slingsby T-67 was a design that was quite popular when I was younger. They were aerobatic and were used for training by a number of establishments. I didn’t think of it as a plane that got much traction outside the UK market but maybe they did okay. Seeing one in the US was a bit of a surprise. This example was taking off at Paine Field. I wondered whether it was an ex-military example that had been sold to the civil market. If anyone knows the background, do let me know.