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Old 04-06-2008, 10:37 AM   #76
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 4, 1884 - Isoroku Yamamoto




Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Combined Fleet during World War II, a pacifist opposed to war with the Unites States, and one of the first architects in the development of naval aviation.


Yamamoto was born as Isoroku Takano, the son of a Nagoka samurai but took the name Yamamoto as tradition dictated when he was adopted into the family of another Nagoka samurai in 1916.

He was fundamentally opposed to war with the United States by virtue of his studies at Harvard University (1919–1921), his tour as an admiral's aide, and his two postings as a naval attaché in Washington, D.C. He was promoted to captain in 1923. In 1924, at the age of 40, he changed his specialty from gunnery to naval aviation.

His first command was the cruiser Isuzu in 1928, followed by the aircraft carrier Akagi. Yamamoto was a strong proponent of naval aviation, and (as vice admiral) served as head of the Aeronautics Department before accepting a post as commander of the First Carrier Division.

Yamamoto personally opposed the invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the subsequent land war with China (1937), and the Tripartite Pact (1940) with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. As Deputy Navy Minister, he apologized to United States Ambassador Joseph C. Grew for the bombing of the gunboat USS Panay in December 1937. These issues made him a target of assassination by pro-war militarists. As a result, he was transferred from his Ministry postings to C-in-C of the Combined Fleet in 1939 to lessen the threat.

He proved himself a very capable commander and earned the devotion of the men who served under him. As commander-in-chief during the decisive early years of the Pacific War, he was responsible for major battles such as Pearl Harbor and Midway. Yamamoto was responsible for a number of innovations in Japanese Naval Aviation. Although remembered for his association with aircraft carriers due to Pearl Harbor and Midway, Yamamoto did more to influence the development of land-based naval aviation, particularly the G3M and G4M medium bombers. These formed the backbone of Yamamoto's land-based 11th Air Fleet, which would neutralize American air forces in the Philippines and sink the British Force "Z".

His demand for great range and the ability to carry a torpedo was intended to conform to Japanese conceptions of attriting the American fleet as it advanced across the Pacific in war. The planes did achieve long range, but long-range fighter escorts were not available. These planes were lightly constructed and when fully fueled, they were especially vulnerable to enemy fire. This earned the G4M "Betty" the sardonic nick-name "the Flying Cigarette Lighter."

Thus was born the need for great range in escorting fighter aircraft and the birth of the A6M Zero which was as noteworthy for its range as for its maneuverability. Both qualities were again purchased at the expense of light construction and flammability that later contributed to the A6M's high casualty rates as the war progressed.

He correctly predicted that the aircraft carrier would play a role in the "decisive battle" with the United States. Yamamoto approved the reorganization of Japanese carrier forces into the First Air Fleet, a consolidated striking force that gathered Japan's six largest carriers into one unit. This innovation gave great striking capacity, but also concentrated the vulnerable carriers into a compact target; both boon and bane would be realized in war.

US military intelligence had cracked the Japanese codes and were able to intercept a flight with Admiral Yamamoto on board. On April 18, 1943 the G4M Betty T1-326 took off from Vunakanau near Rabaul. Escorted by six Zeros, the formation was intercepted by American P-38 Lightnings of the 339th Fighter Squadron from Guadalcanal. Around 8am his plane was shot down by either or both of Thomas Laphier and Rex Barber, and crashed into the jungle of Bougaineville. His body was recovered by Japanese forces the next day and a post-mortem performed before creamting him and sending the ashes back to Tokyo for interment.
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:55 AM   #77
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 5, 1894 - Larry Bell



Lawrence Dale "Larry" Bell (April 5, 1894 - October 20, 1956) was an American industrialist and founder of Bell Aircraft Corporation.


Bell was born in Mentone, Indiana and lived there until 1907, when his family moved to Santa Monica, California. He joined his older brother Grover and stunt pilot Lincoln Beachey as a mechanic in 1912. Grover Bell was killed in a plane crash the following year, and Bell vowed to quit aviation for good; however, he went to work for the Glenn L. Martin Company after friends convinced him to return to the industry. He became Martin's shop foreman at age 20, and later the company's general manager.

He left Martin in 1928 to join Consolidated Aircraft in Buffalo, New York, eventually becoming vice president and general manager. When Consolidated relocated to San Diego, Bell stayed in Buffalo and founded his own company, Bell Aircraft Corporation, on July 10, 1935.

Bell Aircraft built the P-39 "Airacobra" and P-63 "Kingcobra" fighter aircraft during World War II. Their P-59 "Airacomet" was the first jet powered fighter built for the U.S. Army Air Force, but it was not successful, and did not see combat. His company also produced B-29 "Superfortress" bombers, aircraft gun mounts, radar-controlled remote flight systems, the XP-77 interceptor and the XP-83 twin-jet fighter. Postwar, they produced the Bell X-1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in level flight.

The company began developing helicopters in 1941, with the Bell 30 taking its maiden flight in 1943. This early model evolved into the first commercially-licensed helicopter - the Bell 47, one of the most recognizable aircraft in history. This was followed by the widely-used "Sioux" and "Iroquois" series helicopters. Bell also developed guided bombs, missiles and rocket engines, as well as the XV-3 "Convertiplane" and the X-14 vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

For his role in the X-1's first supersonic flight, he shared the 1947 Collier Trophy with pilot Chuck Yeager and John Stack, a research scientist with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (now NASA). He was awarded the Society of Automotive Engineers' Daniel Guggenheim Medal in 1944, and was posthumously inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame (1977), the Army Aviation Hall of Fame (1986), and the International Aerospace Hall of Fame (2004).
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Old 04-06-2008, 11:11 AM   #78
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 6, 1892 - Donald Douglas



Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. (April 6, 1892 – February 1, 1981) was an aeronautical engineer and the founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company (later the McDonnell Douglas Corporation).

Donald Wills Douglas, the second son of an assistant cashier of the National Park Bank, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and at age 17, entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he spent much of his time building and testing model airplanes. Douglas' family, fellow midshipmen and professors thought his interest in aviation would pass. They were very surprised when he left the Naval Academy before graduating in 1912 to look for work in aeronautical engineering!

He soon realized he needed to learn more about his chosen career field and completed the four-year bachelor of science program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in only two years. Because of his academic performance, Douglas was immediately hired at MIT as an assistant professor in aeronautics.

In 1915, he became a consultant to the Connecticut Aircraft Co. and helped build the first Navy dirigible. In August of the same year, he joined the Glenn L. Martin Co., then in Los Angeles, as chief engineer. In 1916, he served briefly as chief civilian aeronautical engineer for the Army Signal Corps Aviation Section in Washington DC, before marrying and moving to Cleveland, Ohio, where Martin had relocated. As chief engineer, Douglas was in charge of building for the U.S. Army the MB-1 twin-engine bomber, which first flew Aug. 17, 1918.

In chilly Cleveland, Douglas and his family missed the balmy California climate, so in 1920, they settled back in Los Angeles. Douglas was determined to make it on his own in aviation, despite of having only $600 to his name. To provide for his family, he worked as a laborer, hoeing potatoes and washing cars. His first aircraft order was from millionaire sportsman David R. Davis, who put up $40,000 to build an airplane to make the first nonstop, coast-to-coast flight.

The Davis-Douglas Co. was formed to build The Cloudster, which did not complete the flight, but did become the first aircraft to lift a useful load exceeding its own weight. It ultimately became the flagship of Claude Ryan's San Diego-to-Los Angeles airline. Davis lost interest and sold out to Douglas, who incorporated The Douglas Co. in July 1921. He finally landed his own Navy contract -- to build torpedo bombers, starting with the DT-1 (Douglas Torpedo, First).

By 1922, the company had delivered six aircraft for $130,890. Douglas leased the abandoned buildings of the Herman Film Corp. at 2345 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, where he built the Douglas World Cruiser. By the fall of 1928, the company was worth $25 million.

Despite the 1929 crash that started the Great Depression, Douglas kept his company alive and financially sound by building military aircraft. In 1932, he started building the DC-1 and launched his career as a builder of transports. The world would never be the same! By 1940, sales of DC-2 and DC-3 transports and their military derivatives rose to nearly $61 million.

To keep up with World War II production, Douglas built plants at Long Beach and El Segundo, Calif., and leased facilities in Chicago, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The leased plants were closed at the end of the war, but Douglas continued to produce commercial and military transports, jet fighters, missiles and rockets.

Donald Wills Douglas Sr. was company president until 1957, when his son, Donald Douglas Jr., took over that position. Donald Douglas Sr. remained chairman of the board. On April 28, 1967, at the age of 75, Douglas merged his company with the McDonnell Aircraft Co. and retired. He remained honorary chairman of the McDonnell Douglas board until his death on Feb. 1, 1981.

He lived for almost a century and presided over the birth, the growth and the evolution of the aerospace industry.
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Old 04-07-2008, 08:20 AM   #79
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 7, 1897 - Erich Löwenhardt




Erich Löwenhardt was the 3rd highest scoring German ace of WWI with 54 victories.

Born in Breslau in 1897, Löwenhardt enrolled in cadet school when the war broke out and was posted in the infantry to the Eastern Front. Wounded early on, he stayed with his unit and was promoted to Leutnant for bravery. He earned the Iron Cross 1st Class for gallantry and leadership, and by June 1915 he transferred to Austro-German Alpine Corps for service on the Italian front. During this campaign, he fell sick and was deemed unfit for further military service.

After a period of recuperation he passed the physical to join the Imperial Air Service, qualifying as a pilot in March 1917. He was posted to Jasta 10 in July, where he rose to command by May 2, 1918. He initially flew in Albatross biplanes (18 kills) before Jg 10 was equipped with the new Fokker D VII machines at the time he took command. He quickly pushed his count to 24 and was awarded the coveted Blue Max - his country's highest honour.

Over the next few months, he and Ernst Udet strove for the honor of being the top ace of JG I. On August 8th, he claimed five Allied planes, among them his 50th aerial victory - a milestone that, among WWI German pilots, only he, Manfred von Richthofen, and Ernst Udet would achieve.

On August 10, Löwenhardt, leading a dozen planes from Jastas 10 and 11 in his bright yellow Fokker, spotted a flight of British aircraft over Chaulnes a little after noon; when one of the British planes strayed, Löwenhardt quickly nosed down to attack the isolated scout. Several inexperienced, new pilots unecessarily followed in his wake. He shot the English plane down but then collided with one of his trailing comrades. Both bailed out but Löwenhardt's parachute failed to open and the 21-year-old fell to his death.



April 7, 1922 - Lothar Sieber



Lothar Sieber was a German test pilot and the first human to (inadvertently) break the Sound Barrier.


Lothar Sieber was an airline pilot who flew as a test pilot for Nazi germany during the war. He flew the Arado Ar 232 before becoming a test pilot for Bachem. The war was going badly for Germany with massed daylight bombings. Early attempts to build surface-to-air missiles were plagued by problem with guidance systems.

The SS charged Bachem with building a piloted rocket interceptor that could be piloted by an inexperienced pilot under radio-guidance steering from the ground; the result was the Bachem Ba 349 "Natter". Upon approaching the bombers, the pilot would jettison the plastic nose-cone and fire a salvo of rockets into his target from below, then fly on above before ejecting and parachuting to safety after guiding his falling aircraft into another bomber!! The aircraft was made from inexpensive wood and did away with the need for airfields by being the world's first vertical launch interceptor.

In February 1945 the SS funders decided that the program was not going fast enough, and demanded a manned launch later that month. On 1 March, at Lager Heuberg, Sieber entered the Natter Ba 349A M23 for the first manned vertical take-off of a rocket. The experienced test pilot was told to execute a half roll if the Natter should veer off course. The start worked as planned, Sieber executed the roll maneuvers as soon as the Natter changed its course, but one of the jettisonable Schmidding boosters failed to release and the Natter got out of control. At 500 m the cockpit canopy pulled off as Sieber intended to bail out. He was instructed by radio to keep trying to shake off the booster.

Eyewitness reported that the main engine kept firing and the Natter disappeared into the clouds. It appears that Sieber became disoriented in the clouds and the plane rolled over into a vertical dive with the rocket still firing. Additionally, the brake parachute did not open due to the stuck booster. Soon, the Natter reappeared plummeting vertically from the clouds and hit the ground at high speed. All eyes searched for Sieber appearing with his parachute from the clouds, but to no avail. The impact crater was 5 metres deep and various body parts were discovered at the site.

Sieber's remains were buried with full military honours 2 days later and he was posthumously promoted to Oberleutnant. Modern calculations point to Sieber having exceeded the sound barrier during his descent



Footnote: As an experienced test pilot had failed to control the Natter, which was intended to be operated by many inexperienced pilots as an interceptor, the SS cancelled the project. Sieber's fatal flight of March 1, 1945 was the only manned launch of the Ba 349.
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Old 04-08-2008, 08:49 AM   #80
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 8, 1889 - Blanche "Betty" Stuart-Scott



The first US female pilot.

Blanche Stuart "Betty" Scott was born April 8, 1889, in Rochester, New York where her father had a patent medicine business. Impetuous by nature, she soon attracted the attention and ire of the local authorities. The Rochester City Council objected to a thirteen year old driving an automobile about their city. However, there was not yet a minimum age for driving; Blanche was able to continue with her motoring trips.

A few years later, she would again make headlines behind the wheel of a car. In 1910, after attending finishing school, Scott became first woman to drive an automobile cross-country, travelling over 6,000 miles from New York to San Francisco. At the time, there were only 218 miles of paved road in the USA outside of the cities.

The trip had given Scott a taste for adventure and publicity. She saw the Wright brothers aircraft in Dayton, Ohio and had her first flight in California. She also caught the eye of the Curtiss Flyers' manager who persuaded Glenn Curtiss to give her flying lessons.

She would be his first and last female student as he was firmly against women flying. After 2 days theory training she was allowed into the 35 hp Curtiss pusher, but Curtiss had wedged a wooden chock into the throttle to prevent her getting enough speed to leave the ground. The penny dropped and the next day, Sept 6, 1910, she adjusted the situation and flew 40 feet into the air before making a perfect touchdown.

She joined Glenn Curtiss's Exhibition Team and made her first public appearance on October 24, 1910. She was undoubtably America's first female professional flier and flew inverted under bridges and performed 4,000 feet "death dives", earning up to five thousand dollars a week! In 1911 she inadvertently set a women's long distance flight record when on a whim she took off and flew for 60 miles before returning.

Not long after, Scott became the first female test pilot. After contracting to fly for Glenn L. Martin in 1912, she flew Martin prototypes before the final blueprints for the aircraft had been made. After flying with several exhibition teams, she retired from active flying in 1916, without ever having obtained a pilot's license in that time!

Married three times, she led a full life becoming an actress, screenwriter, a radio commentator, and a special consultant for the Air Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB.

On September 6, 1948, Scott was once again achieving distinction. On a flight with pilot Charles E. Yeager in a TF-80C, she became the first American woman to ride in a jet. For the pleasure of his passenger, Yeager included some snap rolls and a 14,000 foot dive.

Blanche Stuart Scott passed away on January 12, 1970. She was a member of the 'Early Birds', the 'OX-5 Club' and the 'Long Island Early Fliers Club'.
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Old 04-11-2008, 11:17 AM   #81
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 9, 1828 - Samuel Archer King



Samuel Archer King was a pioneer American aeronaut who helped create the first aerial photographs in America (and the oldest surviving in the world).


Samuel King had a love for heights even as a small boy in his native Pennsylvania. He made and flew his first balloon at age 23 and ended up being dragged into a dam! His next flight was more successful and he went on to make many ascensions around the United States. On one notable occasion he had taken 5 young ladies aboard his balloon for some moonlit sightseeing at night when it lost its mooring. All landed safely a few miles away!

He made 2 notable world-first contributions - in 1860, the first aerial photographs taken in America were 2 pictures of Boston taken by James Wallace Black from the balloon "Queen of the Air", piloted by Archer. The photos can still be seen at the Boston Public Library.

The second mark in history was his production of the world's first adhesive airmail stamp.
The world's first adhesive airmail stamp was issued in 1877 for a private flight by American balloonist Samuel Archer King. The stamp, designed by J.H. Snively, was issued by John F.B. Lillard, a reporter in Nashville, Tenn., for use on mail to be carried on a flight from Nashville on June 18, 1877:

The Buffalo was not a powered balloon and was dependent on air currents for lateral movement. King reportedly dropped some of the letters that he carried over the side, in hopes that they would be found by someone along the route and deposited into the regular mail system. The wind carried the Buffalo to Gallatin, Tenn., 26 miles from its starting point. The rest of the mail that was not thrown overboard during the flight was posted in Gallatin after landing.

Of the 300 stamps printed, 23 are reported used. The Scott catalog value for this cinderella stamp is $7,500 unused or $10,000 for a never-hinged example.

Although King believed it would be possible to cross the Atlantic by balloon, he never made the attempt. He made close on 300 ascents during his career from every major American city on the eastern seaboard and traversed the whole country east of the Mississippi.


April 9, 1871 - Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont



Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont was a French-Brazilian financier who built the legendary pioneering airline Aéropostale. He helped establish the South American aviation industry.

Born in France, but established in Brazil as a banker, Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont built his name as a giant in aviation when he bought out the struggling infant French airline, Lignes Aeriennes Latecoere. The tycoon backer obtained a majority interest in the airline in 1927 and changed the name to the Compagnie Générale Aéropostale, shortened to simply Aéropostale.

He invested a substantial amount of money into the company; its infrastructure soon improved, and radio equipment and landing-strip lights were added over time. His main goal was to set up Aéropostale subsidiaries in all parts of South America. Using secondary lines, mail was shipped to major cities, and from these points, on to Africa and Europe.

Although the company took the world's imagination with it's daring and adventurous image, it was short-lived. The Wall Street crash impacted heavily on a company with an expensive 15,000 km air-route infrastructure to service. Bouilloux-Lafont's enemies pushed the advantage when a political scandal involving French governmental assistance for mail services broke and, in 1931 the company filed for bankruptcy.

The Paris-Santiago route was kept open, and in 1933 the company was merged with with four other major companies: Air Union, la Société générale de transports aériens Farman, CIDNA and Air Orient to form the nationalised airline, Air France.

At its height in 1930, the Compagnie Générale Aéropostale operated a fleet of 218 aircraft, 21 ships and 8 seaplanes over a network of 17,000 km. She employed 80 pilots, with several legendary aviators such as Jean Mermoz, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Henri Guillaumet numbered among their ranks. Bouilloux-Lafont died in South America in 1944. The name of his company lives on in a modern boutique clothing company.
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Old 04-11-2008, 12:15 PM   #82
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 10, 1908 - Alexandru Manoliu



Alexandru Manoliu was a Romanian fighter pilot who became an ace in WWII.

Born in Moldavia, Manoliu entered Air Force Officer School in Bucharest in 1930. In 1939 he was posted to the 1st Fighter Flotilla based at Pipera airfield, near Bucharest, but was transferred to the newly-formed 57th Fighter Squadron, equipped with Bf-109E's from Germany. He was promoted to Squadron Commander in 1941.

His first 4 victories were against Soviet planes caught on the ground and his first and only air kill was was on 18 August 1941, on the front near Odessa, against a Soviet I-16 fighter. He was awarded the Virtutea Aeronautica Order Gold Cross class and the Steaua Romaniei Order with Knight class. The group was sent again to the front near Stalingrad at the beginning of September 1942. On Sep 12, his aircraft was rammed by a Russian LaGG-3 fighter and he crashed into the city of Stalingrad.


April 10, 1879 - Giovanni Agusta



Giovanni Agusta was one of the pioneers of the italian aeronautical industry and established one of the enduring helicopter manufacturing giants.

Giovanni Augusta came from an aristocratic family in Parma and built his first plane in 1907. He was highly regarded as an aeronautical engineer and invented a drag chute to rescue a plane should it suffer engine failure. In 1923 he founded Construzione Aeronautiche Giovanni Augusta (CAGA) and set up a factory for the production of small aeroplanes near Varese, not far from Milan. But traditional flying, with fixed wings, didn't entirely satisfy him. He had the idea of using a rotating wing, i.e. the helicopter. This was the beginning of a long journey, which would take Agusta, on the eve of the Second World War, to designing and realising the first prototypes.

With his early death in 1927, his son Domenico took over the business but bombing in WWII razed the factory to the ground. After the war was over, there were not the resources to start over. Rather than give in, an agreement was made in 1952 with American Bell to manufacture helicopters under license as Augusta-Bell. The result was the AB47 - the first helicopter produced on a wide scale in Europe. Independent research and development saw the production of the wholly-Italian designed and built A109 in the 1970's. A decade later, the A129 Mangusta was born, the first combat helicopter designed and built entirely in Europe. In the following years many international collaborations were formed to produce many successful designs.

In 1994 Agusta became part of the Finmeccanica group, and a new company formed - AgustaWestland. Agusta subsequently took this over completely, thus becoming the world's leading helicopter manufacturer. Today, Agusta has a turnover of around € 2.5 billion, with almost 9000 employees and orders worth over € 6 billion. Count Giovanni's grandson, Count Riccardo Augusta, is now a billionaire with many diverse business interests.
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Old 04-11-2008, 12:38 PM   #83
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 11, 1900 - Donald Croom Beatty



Donald Croom Beatty was a military aviator, air explorer, engineering test pilot, aerospace executive, and inventor.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Beatty's aviation career began in 1916 when he made his first solo flight at his grandfather's farm in a self-built plane. He joined the Alabama National Guard air unit as flying officer in 1922.

Beatty organized and led an air-ground expedition into interior of South America 1929-1930 to evaluate feasibility of airline travel on that continent. He pioneered numerous new routes over uncharted territory for Pan American Airlines. The D. C. Beatty Latin American Expedition (1931-32) among the headhunters in Ecuador and Peru earned him membership in the prestigious Explorers Club of New York, the Royal Geographical Society of London and the medal of the Smithson Society of the Smithsonian Institution, which honored him for "the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."

During those years, while flying in the Andes of South America, Beatty set up the first system of voice communications, plane-to-ground, considered by many to be his greatest contribution to international aviation. He also developed the concept of seasonally varying flight altitudes and routes; reporting at five-minute intervals on grid-type, alphabetic-numerical coordinates, enabling ready location of downed planes; and he pioneered and surveyed many trans-Andean air routes.

He also conducted engineering test flights of several successful commercial seaplanes and was senior air safety investigator for CAB 1938.

In World War II, Beatty directed operations of the Ferry Command under the code name "Consairway," ferrying bombers into all areas of the war zone. The effort developed from a one-man rescue mission to the world's most efficient, trans-oceanic airline. He pioneered development of barometric route selecting, a more efficient method of air navigation for long, over-water flights. He also articipated in the design and development of U.S. Army's first successful helicopter in 1944.

Beatty's documented inventiveness began with a patent for the refinement of a crystal radio. During his lifetime, he obtained many patents, most concerning electronic communication equipment. Among commonly used devices, he held the first patents on the telephone answering machine, the automatic dialer, and the "hands-free" telephone. Other patents include "GAALT", a solid state vario-amplifier instrumental in the development of pioneer space satellites that are now used on every continent. As owner of the frequency, Beatty built the first voice radio stations in Alabama, WIAG and WSY, which broadcast weather reports to aid in flight safety.

Donald Croom Beatty died in Birmingham, July 12, 1980 and was inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame in 1992.
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Old 04-12-2008, 09:29 AM   #84
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 12, 1906 - Al Mooney



Albert W. Mooney was a self-taught aeronautical engineer that founded Mooney aircraft - twice!!!


In a fine example of the adage “if at first you don't succeed, try, try again,” aircraft designer Albert W. “Al” Mooney founded the company that bears his name, not once but twice, with vastly different levels of success. His persistence and vision resulted in the production of the highest performance single engine aircraft ever manufactured while the trademark Mooney forward-swept tail remains instantly recognizable at airports the world over.

Al Mooney was born in Denver in 1906, the son of a railroad bridge engineer. By the age of 19, he had established himself as a draftsman and assistant to the chief engineer of Denver's Alexander Aircraft Company, builders of the legendary Curtiss OX-5-powered Eaglerock. Soon promoted to Alexander's chief engineer, he developed the Bullet—a low-wing, high-speed monoplane that featured Mooney's revolutionary retractable landing gear.

Teaming with his brother Art, Al Mooney left Denver and Alexander to form the Mooney Aircraft Corporation in Wichita, Kansas, in early 1929. The Mooney brothers' first venture was an airplane similar to the Bullet, an efficient low-wing monoplane dubbed the Mooney A-1. Unfortunately for the brothers, the Great Depression arrived at about the same time as the Mooney A-1, and Mooney Aircraft Corporation was unable to survive, closing its doors in 1931.

The initial failure of Mooney Aircraft did not dissuade Al Mooney from pursuing his passion for designing quality aircraft. In 1934, he became the chief engineer for Bellanca Aircraft Corporation and contributed significantly to the design of Bellanca's successful line of low-wing wooden "Airbus" aircraft. Another small aircraft company, Monocoupe Aircraft, quickly recognized Mooney's genius for design and convinced him to join the company as vice-president and chief engineer, resulting in the development of its Model G “Dart” and the Monocoach.

Culver Aircraft, another aircraft firm, purchased the design rights and tooling for the Dart in 1938, and Al Mooney accompanied his creation to the new firm. As he did with both Bellanca and Monocoupe, Mooney set out to design a classic aircraft, creating the aerobatic two-seat Culver Cadet featuring an elliptical-shaped wing and retractable landing gear. More than 350 Cadets were built in the months before World War II.

After the War ended, the Mooney brothers partnered with C.G. Yankee and W.L. McMahon to resurrect Mooney Aircraft Corporation of Wichita in June 1946, with Al serving as the firm's general manager and his brother Art acting as production manager. Their first product, introduced in 1947, was an all-wood single-seat airplane with retractable landing gear and the trademark forward-swept “backwards” vertical tail (which actually helped the airplane recover from spins).

Officially designated as the M-18, but known everywhere as the Mooney “Mite,” it became the smallest and most inexpensive airplane ever mass-produced, costing only $1,995. The Mooney Mite's size was matched only by its fuel efficiency and cargo capacity—the Mite burned only 3.5 to 4 gallons per hour (13 to 15 liters per hour) to cruise at about 125 miles per hour (201 kilometers per hour), but models equipped with a battery could carry only 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of baggage in addition to its single passenger.

Everything about the Mooney Mite was austere but functional. Landing gear was retracted by a temperamental hand-crank system—a feature that occasionally resulted in a belly-landing by embarrassed pilots who forgot to crank-down the landing gear. A Plexiglas “porthole” in the aircraft floor allowed the pilot to observe the nose-wheel, and the shock absorbers were fitted with nearly indestructible rubber disks. Later models featured a plaid reflective paint scheme on the vertical fin and a larger fuel tank that allowed it to fly farther without refueling.

Mooney moved the company headquarters and manufacturing capability to Kerrville, Texas, in 1953 to be closer to the family's dairy farm. Tragically, his partner and financier Charles Yankey died of a stroke that same year—before funding had been arranged for the next generation of Mooney aircraft. After Yankey's untimely death, Al and Art Mooney were forced to sell their Mooney Aircraft stock to finance the Mark 20's development. Shortly thereafter, the Mooneys left the company they founded and that still bears their name to work as aircraft designers at the aviation giant Lockheed, contributing heavily to the Lockheed JetStar.

Al Mooney retired from the aircraft business in 1968 and died in 1986 at the age of 80, The Mooney aircraft line and name still endures–-a legacy to the Mooney brothers' talent, vision and determination to “try, try again”. In 1995, Mooney achieved a milestone—the production of its 10,000th aircraft.
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Old 04-13-2008, 11:57 AM   #85
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Re: Today's Birthday...

apologies - gotta get some sleep! Birthdays for April 13 will be posted tomorrow.
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Old 04-14-2008, 11:15 AM   #86
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 13, 1912 - Torolf Eklund



Torolf Eklund was a Finnish aircraft designer, who designed and built the first of Finlands few locally-produced aircraft after WWII.


Born in Helsinki, Torolf Eklund graduated from the University of Technology there with a Masters degree in aviation. As a student he formed the aviation club Polyteknikkojen ilmailukerho, which still exists today. He was a reserve officer in the Finnish Air Force and was working for the aircraft industry during WWII at the state aircraft company, Valtion Lentokonetehdas, which would later become Valmet.

Finnish aviation suffered badly as a result of WWII. Finland fought with Germany and after the war was charged with war reparations to the Soviet Union so that all the aircraft factories made for a while were articles to pay war debt. He was involved in the design and production of the Karhu-48 commercial airliner but the availability of cheap war surplus planes ruined the viability of the project.

Eklund managed to design and build the TE-1 amphibian privately in 1949 but, like most Finnish designs, did not go onto large scale production. The Eklund TE-1 was a single-seater, high-wing braced monoplane of wooden construction powered by a Continental A40-5 four-cylinder horizontally-opposed air-cooled engine providing a top speed of 165 kmh.

He was also involved in the design of some of Valmet's other post-war planes (such as the Tuuli) but very few were taken up outside of Finland and the aviation industry there has mostly been confined to assembling foreign designs (from Britain, USSR and Europe) under license. Finland currently manufactures components of the flap assembly for the A380.

Eklund was also the chairman for the Finnish Aviation Engineer's Club between 1953 and 1954 and continued to work as a design engineer until 1962. Therafter he remained active in the local aviation scene and Rotary.





April13, 1897 - Werner Voss



Werner Voss was a German flying ace of WWI whose flying skill was perhaps matched only by von Richthofen. He perished in one the most memorable dogfights in history at age only 20.

At 48 kills, Werner Voss is ranked fourth among Germany's aces of the Great War and around 14th among all World War I aces. This in itself is a remarkable feat but when you realize just how short his career was, the remarkable becomes amazing in the annals of aerial combat. Voss achieved his 48 victories in just over ten short months. It took von Richthofen, the Red Baron two years to achieve his 80 victories. At the time of Voss's death, he was just 12 kills short of von Richthofen's record. Von Richthofen had shot down 9 planes before Voss had made a confirmed Kill. In other words - plane for plane, Voss had shot down 48 to von Richthofen's 51 kills during the same time period.

Like most of his countrymen, Voss joined the war in the cavalry, enlisted with the 2nd Westphalian Hussar regiment, but joined the German Air Service when it was formed and demonstrated himself a natural flier. He was appointed as a flight instructor before being sent to combat duties but had to endure a period as an observer before being given his pilots wings.

He scored his first victory as an 18 year-old flying the Albatross which was painted in distinctive yellow with a heart, swastika and iron cross painted on the sides for good luck. The swastika adorned planes from almost every country as a good luck talisman in those days, before it was appropriated as a Nazi symbol. He was quickly promoted to command positions and earned Iron Crosses first and second class, as well as the Blue Max.

He later tested and flew the Fokker dreidecker triplane as part of von Richthofen's Flying Circus. He was a loner and his aircraft was painted a silver grey with eyes, brows and a moustache on the front cowling. With 48 victories to his name he was patrolling solo when he spotted 2 RAF SE.5's and forced both down. During the manoeuvre he was spotted from above by 56 Sqn of the Royal Flying Corps, who set upon him.

Rather than turn, he engaged the 7 SE.5's and fought a protracted dogfight of amazing daring and skill, damaging them all before his engine failed and he was, in turn, shot. It would appear that he was fatally injured because his plane seemed to right itself before going into a dead nosedive, disintegrating on impact.

What Voss did not know was that all 7 pilots of 56 Sqn were themselves aces and many would become the greatest British aces of the war. Among their number was Major James McCudden, a recipient of the V.C. who would become a leading English ace of World War I before being himself killed in an aircraft accident. McCudden said of Voss after the dogfight:

"His flying was wonderful, his courage magnificent and in my opinion he was the bravest German airman whom it has been my privilege to see fight."

Unlike von Richthofen who received a full state military funeral, Voss' remains were buried without fanfare almost anonymously in a war cemetery in Belgium. An excellent account of his last battle can be read at the following site.

7 To 1 Odds
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Old 04-14-2008, 11:38 AM   #87
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 14, 1914 - Hans "Assi" Hahn



Major Hans Hahn was a Luftwaffe ace of WWII, credited with 108 victories. Almost everyone would recognise his Bf109 from the Western Front.

Hans “Assi” Hahn was a gifted athlete, and was selected to participate in the Pentathlon of the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. Unfortunately, he had to withdraw due to illness. Hahn enlisted as an officer-cadet in the infantry in 1934 and was quickly promoted, but transferred to the Luftwaffe the following year. He completed pilot training and went on to become a flight instructor with several more promotions.

As a Staffelkapitän, Hahn claimed the first of 5 victories during the Battle of France in 1940 in his first encounter with enemy Huricanes. He had further success in the Battle of Britain and his 20th victory on 20 September 1940 earned him the Knights Cross. Promoted to Hauptmann, Hahn was awarded the Eichenlaub in August 1941 for 41 victories. He recorded his 50th victory in October 1941 and his 60th in May 1942. All up, he had 66 victories on the Western Front, mostly against Spitfires.

Hahn was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 54, based on the Eastern front, on 1 November 1942. In the space of three months, he claimed a further 42 victories. He was promoted to the rank of Major and continued his success with 7 kills in one day - his 100th victory on 27 January 1943. The next month, with 108 kills to his name, his Bf109 overheated and he was force to land behind enemy lines where he was taken prisoner of war. The Soviets claimed he had been shot down by one of their aces, Pavel Grazhdanikov. He was not released until 1950 and later went into commerce. He died of cancer in 1982.
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Old 04-15-2008, 08:05 AM   #88
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 15, 1452 - Leonardo da Vinci



Leonardo, the greatest mind of the Renaissance, is often credited as being the Father of Aviation.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452~1519), the great Italian artist, architect, and man of science, made the first scientific experiments in the fields of aerodynamics and aviation. His work might have changed the entire history of flight, if it were not for the fact that his manuscripts lay undiscovered for 300 years after his death.

Prior to da Vinci's work, no scientist had conducted a detailed examination into the mechanics of flight, nor had anyone approached the notion of powered flight. Da Vinci was the first man to do both. He devoted many years of his life to understanding the mysteries of flight, studying birds' wings, their shape and form, and the flight of birds in the air. He drew out his ideas of flight, including designs for multiple manned ornithopters, planes with flapping wings for a human to operate.

All up, he left the world 160 pages of descriptions and sketches of flying machines. Among these descriptions and pictures are the world's first known designs of the parachute and the helicopter - really an air screw designed to be turned by 4 men on a platform. From his notes, it appears that he made models of both and may have flown them successfully. He understood and wrote about the importance of the center of gravity, center of pressure, and streamlining. These principles are vital in designing and building modern aircraft and spacecraft. It seems certain that if he had only concentrated his research in these areas he possibly could have built a workable manned glider 400 years before the first one was actually built and flown.

Unfortunately, like most of da Vinci's work, his aerodynamics ideas were purely that: ideas. His concepts were never realized during his time, and his notions of what humans were able to do was more than slightly unrealistic. He believed that humans had the strength to lift a plane into controlled flight, which humans do not have, without mechanical assistance. Although his earliest attempts to tackle the problem of flight may seem laughable by today's standards, in the context of his world it is nothing less than remarkable that Leonardo was even able to conceive of his flying machines.

His flying machines were not only an impressive feat in terms of design and conception, but also a display of intellectual courage. The Roman Catholic Church was very powerful in Leonardo's day, and even proposing the notion that humans could fly came dangerously close to committing heresy. Yet Leonardo was never one to shrink from danger. Nor was he one to accept defeat lightly. The fact that the flying machine would weigh in excess of 500 pounds if ever constructed did not stop Leonardo from continuing to investigate flight. Despite the reliance on human-powered flapping, da Vinci's designs for planes are very similar to those for modern lightweight aircraft.

Hundreds of years later, Da Vinci’s ideas inspired other inventors to take the original ideas, improve upon them, and create workable inventions. The major airport of Rome, Italy is named for him - Rome Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport.
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Old 04-16-2008, 06:39 AM   #89
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 16, 1867, - Wilbur Wright



Today's birthday boy almost needs no introduction such is the claim to fame. Wilbur Wright was one half of the brotherly duo that claimed the first controlled heavier-than-air powered flight when their Flyer lifted into the skies for a short hop at Kitty Hawk, NC on December 17, 1903.

Readers of this thread will know that there are many valid claims for manned, heavier-than-air, powered machine flights that pre-date the Wright brothers, some of which probably were controlled too. Nevertheless, the Wrights were successful in developing their design into an established success and were able to make flying a practical reality that would spark the aviation industry into life.

The elder of the "Wright Brothers", Wilbur was the 3rd of 7 children born to Bishop Milton Wright and was from the outset the quieter and brighter of the duo. Whist at school, he had his 2 front teeth knocked out by a hockey stick and he became quiet and reserved thereafter, but an avid reader. The dint in his confidence changed his plans for university studies at Yale. Instead he went into business with his younger and entrepenurial brother, Orville, running a printing press and later a bicycle shop.

Both brothers became fascinated with flight after their father brought them home a toy "helicopter" based on a design by the French aeronaut, Penaud. When it broke they made their own. Later they would be fascinated by the published accounts of Otto Lillienthall's gliding career. Wilbur began to voraciously read everything he could about aviation, from newspapers articles to a collection of aeronautical writings obtained from the Smithsonian. He devoted years of thought and research into solving the problem of controlling and steering a flying machine and the brothers began building gliders.

Wilbur was almost certainly the main driving force of the pair and did most of the early gliding. They used their bicycle shop to design and build an engine for powered flight but their main contribution was the development of wing warping to be able to control and steer their aircraft. This was refined as "three axis control" and the brothers used wind tunnel modeling and drew heavily from the ideas of other early aviation pioneers in their work.

This cumulated in their historic flights in the first Wright Flyer from the sand dunes near Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903 which were witnessed by 5 others. The aircraft was destroyed by a gust of wind after the 4th flight (but was later restored and now resides in the Smithsonian Institute National Air and Space Museum). They made subsequent machines and believed that airplanes would eventually be used to transport passengers and mail. When the Wrights first offered their machine to the U.S. government, they were not taken seriously, but by 1908 they closed a contract with the U.S. Department of War for the first military airplane.

They later became feted heroes in both America and Europe with their displays of flying. Their hero status was severely tarnished because they had patented the concept of controlling wing surfaces no matter by what method and Wilbur spent most of his time from 1910 traveling to various court cases. Other pioneers of aviation found their attitude mean-spirited as they had drawn extensively from other peoples work, the knowledge having been shared freely, but without any credit or recognition being given. Their patent was seen as being selfish and restrictive and it was fought passionately by Glenn Curtiss over a number of years.

Wilbur contracted typhoid fever in 1912 and died shortly thereafter at age 45. His father wrote of him:

"May 30, 1912

This morning at 3:15, Wilbur passed
away, aged 45 years, 1 month, and 14 days.

A short life, full of consequences.

An unfailing intellect, imperturbable
temper, great self-reliance and as
great modesty, seeing the right clearly,
pursuing it steadily, he lived and died."


Myself, I will never forget visiting the Smithsonian as an 8-year old and looking up at the pictures of Wilbur and Orville (although Wilbur is the face I remember) and feeling the same fascination for things that fly...
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Old 04-17-2008, 09:27 AM   #90
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Re: Today's Birthday...

April 17, 1915 - Joseph Foss



Joe Foss was a leading USMC "ace" fighter pilot during World War II, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, a general in the Air National Guard, the 20th Governor of South Dakota, and the first commissioner of the American Football League.


Born to a farming family, Joseph jacob "Joe" Foss was 11 when he saw Charles Lindbergh fly near Sioux Falls and 5 years later watched Cpt. Clayton Jerome lead a dazzling Marine display squadron. His education was interupted when his father died in 1933 and he had to take on the running of the family farm. Undeterred, he eventually put himself through university and managed a civilian's pilot license before enrolling in the Marine Corps as an aviation cadet to become a NAval Aviator.

When the US entered the war in 1942, Joe found himself posted to an aerial photography unit and at 27 told he was "too old" to be a combat pilot. With determination he had himself transferred to flying the F-4F Grumman Wildcat and was soon on his way to Guadalcanal in the Solomons where he was made XO of VMF-121, flying Wildcats. He had spectacular success with 14 kills in 13 days although he was lucky himself to have brought badly damaged planes home on many occasions and once he nearly drowned when he was shot down over water and rescued by Australian missionaries.

As XO he led many flights of Wildcats between October 1942 and January 1943. His unit, known as "Foss' Flying Circus" enjoyed spectacular success with 72 victories and 5 aces amongst its number. When Foss' personal tally reached 26, equalling Eddie Rickenbacker's record in WWI, he was recalled from active duty as the USMC's leading ace. He was awarded the US Congressional Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt and appeared on the front cover of Life Magazine.

After the war, Foss was commissioned in the South Dakota Air National Guard, which he helped organize. Joe then turned to politics and was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives. In the Korean War, he returned to active duty as an Air Force Colonel. Then he became chief of staff of the South Dakota Air National Guard with the rank of Brigadier General. In 1954, Foss was overwhelmingly elected Governor of South Dakota and two years later was elected to a second term. After that, he was elected the first commissioner of the American Football League and served until 1966. He was president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) from 1988 - 1990.

In 2002, Foss, then in his mid-80s, gained renewed fame when he was stopped at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport because he was carrying his Medal of Honor (which has pointed edges), along with a clearly marked dummy-bullet keychain and a penknife on his way to giving a speech to a class at West Point. He missed the flight and became an urban legend, highlighting the shoddy treatment of passengers by airport security.

Joe Foss died on New Year's Day 2003 following a severe stroke and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.
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