DeHavilland F-88 Comet

By:      Norm Goyer

DeHavilland produced a total of five D-88 Comets. This is a restored original.

DeHavilland produced a total of five D-88 Comets. This is a restored original.

The British aviation community received a good boost with the Supermarine S-6 winning the long running Schneider Cup Trophy. There was a huge depression slowing down the commerce of the world and England thought, and rightfully so, that air racing, and winning, was a great form of promotion. The upcoming race, which caught the eye of the British aviation industry, was the newly announced MacRobertson 11,000 mile event from Mildenhall, England to Melbourne, Australia. The problem was that no single British aircraft currently flying was capable of making the trip in record winning time. The de Havilland company accepted the challenge by offering to produce a limited run of 200 mph racers, if three were ordered, by February 1934. The sale price of £5,000 each would by no means cover the development costs. In 1935, de Havilland suggested a high-speed bomber version of the DH.88 to the RAF, but the suggestion was rejected. (de Havilland later developed the de Havilland Mosquito along similar lines as the DH.88 as a high-speed fighter/bomber.

The race course had these required landing airports.

The race course had these required landing airports.

DeHavilland did receive the needed three orders and started to produce the Comet. The interior structure consisted of a wooden frame covered with spruce plywood, then covered with fabric. A long streamlined nose held the main fuel tanks. The two cockpits were set low in the central portion of the fuselage which formed an unbroken line to the tail. The engines were essentially standard Gipsy Six used on the Express and Dragon Rapide passenger planes, tuned for best performance but with a higher compression ratio. The propellers were two-position variable pitch, manually set to fine before takeoff and changed automatically to coarse by a pressure sensor. The main landing gear retracted upwards and backwards into the engine nacelles. The DH.88 could maintain altitude up to 4,000 ft on one engine.

This is the original winning Comet on display at the British Shuttleworth Museum.

This is the original winning Comet on display at the British Shuttleworth Museum.

De Havilland managed to meet the tight schedule and flight testing of the DH.88 began six weeks before the start date of the race. Three distinctively colored Comets took their places among 17 other entrants ranging from a new Douglas DC-2 airliner to two converted Fairey Fox bombers.

The first take off was at 6.30 a.m. on October 20 with Jim and Amy Mollison at the controls of their own G-ACSP Black Magic. They made a faultless journey to Baghdad, and reached Karachi at around 10 a.m. on the second race day, setting a new England-India record. Problems began for the Mollisons when their landing gear failed to retract, and after returning Karachi for repairs they were again delayed by an inability to navigate at night.

The very familiar bright red G-ACSS was the property of Mr. A.O. Edwards and was named “Grosvenor House” after the hotel which he managed. The plane was flown by Charles W. Scott and Tom Campbell Black. When the Mollisons ran into problems at Karachi, C.W.A. Scott & Tom Campbell Black took over the lead and were first into Allahabad. Despite a severe storm over the Bay of Bengal, they reached Singapore safely, 8 hours ahead of the DC-2.

The Comet used two de Havilland Gypsy Six engines with increased compression.

The Comet used two de Havilland Gypsy Six engines with increased compression.

The bright red Comet took off for Darwin, but over the Timor Sea lost power in the port engine when the oil pressure dropped to zero. Repairs at Darwin got them going again, although continuing oil warnings caused them to fly the last two legs with one engine throttled back. Their lead was unassailable despite this, and after the final mandatory stop and more engine work at Charleville they flew on to cross the finish line at Flemington Racecourse at 3.33 p.m. (local time) on October 23. Their official time was 71 hours 18 seconds.

England had done it again, captured a major air race with a specially designed aircraft which proved to be unbeatable, similar to the Supermarines in the Schneider Cup Trophy Races. DeHavilland built a total of five Comets with several now undergoing restoration. In addition, a replica was built at Flabob Airport, near Riverside, California a few years ago and thousands saw it first hand at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In my opinion the Comet was one of the most beautiful aircraft ever designed.

Specifications:

Performance

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Cessna O-2 Oscar Deuce, FAC Aircraft

By:       Norm Goyer

The 337 Super Skymaster was introduced in 1965. Cargo operators could attach an underbelly cargo pod.

The 337 Super Skymaster was introduced in 1965. Cargo operators could attach an underbelly cargo pod.

In 1961, Cessna decided to build the C-336 and fixed gear, twin-engine aircraft which didn’t have asymmetrical thrust, which many multi-engine pilots simply didn’t like to deal with. In 1965, they introduced the Super Skymaster 337 with a retractable gear. In other words there are some pilots who want two engines that act like one engine and not have an engine out condition that will send the plane skidding off to the side before falling off into a spin, that scares them a bit.  Cessna’s Skymaster series, with its twin engines in one pod, both of them working on the center line of the aircraft, corrects this condition. But there was a slight problem right out of the starting blocks, it seems that the Skymaster wouldn’t take off under some conditions, with only the front engine working. You see, you could see the prop spinning on the front engine but could not see the rear propeller, of course real pilots would look at the twin tachs and notice that only one was showing any rotation. but what hot-shot, twin-engine pilot looks at the gauges. This one sure does. So after a number of Skymasters ran out of runway and embarrassed Cessna and the pilot some new rules were suggested. It would be a good idea if the pilot started the rear engine first, warmed it up a bit, did a mag check and then start the front engine, theoretically the rear engine would then keep running. This seemed to work and most of the Skymasters then took off as planned. The FAA thought that asymmetrical thrust was so significant that it actually has a special rating for aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom and the Cessna Skymaster, their pilots don’t have a multi engine rating they have a center line thrust rating.

The C-337 Skymaster was modified for use as  a two place FAC (forward air controller) which replaced the Cessna L-19 in Vietnam, when it became available.

The C-337 Skymaster was modified for use as a two place FAC (forward air controller) which replaced the Cessna L-19 in Vietnam, when it became available.

I’m surely not knocking this type of rating because I put a few kids through college with the proceeds of converting Air Force F-4 pilot certificates to multi engine ratings. If the ex Phantom pilots wanted a job in corporate or airline aviation, they needed a multi-engine certificate with no restrictions. We kept two Piper Senecas working for many years retraining both German Luftwaffe and Air Force pilots stationed at the George AFB base in Victorville, California. I never really liked the 336 (fixed gear) or the 337 (retractable gear) Cessnas, don’t know why, but it might have been the human sandwich concept. But the aircraft does have its followers, many of the fanatical type, they love their Skymasters.

When the O-2s became surplus, they were heavily used as lead aircraft for firefighting firms.

When the O-2s became surplus, they were heavily used as lead aircraft for firefighting firms.

But what didn’t work in my opinion for Cessna in the civilian market sure worked great as Air Force O-2 Forward Air Control aircraft in Vietnam. The aircraft did have multi-engine safety, high wing visibility and a large four to six passenger civilian cabin turned into a two place very spacious two place aircraft with lots of room for avionics. Besides, the aircraft was already in service and inexpensive to buy. In all, Cessna produced 532 O-2s for Vietnam. A total of 178 were lost due to accidents and enemy action. Many surviving O-2s are prized by Warbird collectors. For many years fire fighting firms used Cessna 182s and 206s for lead aircraft during fire operations, but it was found that these planes did not have the top speed nor the safety factor of two engines and too many were involved in accidents. When the O-2s became surplus they were picked up by aerial fire suppression firms and worked for many years. They were replaced by OV-10 Broncos due to much higher speeds and rugged construction, the same reason the OV-10s replaced the O-2s in Vietnam. I guess that fire fighting is similar to fighting wars.

Specifications:

Specifications Cessna O-2

Crew: 2 – pilot and observer

Length: 29.75 ft

Wingspan: 38.17 ft

Height: 9.17 ft

Wing area: 202.5 ft²

Empty weight: 2,848 lb

Loaded weight: 5,400 lb

Engines: Continental IO-360C six-cylinder flat engines, 210 hp each

Performance

Maximum speed: 200 mph

Range: 1,325 mi 2,132 km combat

Service ceiling: 18,000 ft

Rate of climb: 1,180 ft/min

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A Rap on Liaison and Spotter Aircraft of Three Wars

By:      Norm Goyer

The Piper L-4 were produced in large numbers for use in World War II. They were even used during the D-day invasion.

The Piper L-4 were produced in large numbers for use in World War II. They were even used during the D-day invasion.

In a previous article I had written; liaison aircraft were first used during World War I, in fact drones were also first used during the “Great War.” Today, the skies over Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Mexico are patrolled by some of the most sophisticated pilotless aircraft ever flown. Today’s Predators and ******* are rewriting the way aerial battles are fought. I am most familiar with the beloved “Grasshoppers” of World War II. After my service days were over, I immediately joined the Civil Air Patrol to assist in searching for missing aircraft in the hills of Western Massachusetts. It was quite a shift in technologies from the cockpit of my SNJ-6 to the front seat of a Piper L-4, an Aeronca L-16 or my favorite, the Stinson L-5. Most aircraft in New England seem to have gotten lost during winter snow storms. This meant hours of searching in freezing weather in aircraft without heaters or heaters that worked. But the missions were successful, and many missing aircraft were found. Remarkable in some searches the occupants were still alive. The longest search I was on was flying a CAP L-4 to Berlin, NH to search for the DC-3 that was lost while letting down during a snowstorm near the Canadian border. I am sure that these experiences weighed heavily in my goal of bailing out of the northeast for a warmer Southern California.

The Stinson L-5 was the most advanced of the WWII Grasshoppers, it had flaps, slots, larger engine and bigger cabin. After the war it was used extensively as a glider tug.

The Stinson L-5 was the most advanced of the WWII Grasshoppers, it had flaps, slots, larger engine and bigger cabin. After the war it was used extensively as a glider tug.

The Piper L-4 was a J-3 with a few more windows for better visibility. the L-16 was too late for WWII but were essentially an Aeronca Champ with 85-hp and poor directional stability. Modifiers of Champs, who had replaced the 65 hp Continental with an 85-hp, soon learned that they had better increase the dorsal fin area or learn how to chase the center line when they opened the throttle. The most sophisticated liaison plane of WWII was the Stinson L-5. This was essentially a prewar Stinson Voyager enlarged with lots of glass, Flaps and slots and a larger engine and very nice flying manners. The L-5 was used in every battle zone; many finding their way to the South Pacific. General Eisenhower’s favorite eye-in- the-sky was a Piper L-4. Many firms built liaison aircraft including Piper, Aeronca, Stinson and Taylorcraft, all were revised from prewar training aircraft, all were tandem.

The Aeronca L-16 was too late for WWII but was used in Korea. It was essentially an Aeronca Champ with larger engine and windows.

The Aeronca L-16 was too late for WWII but was used in Korea. It was essentially an Aeronca Champ with larger engine and windows.

But it was during the Vietnam War when liaison/artillery spotter aircraft became an art form. The players in this game were, Cessna L-19s, (Cessna 170s with multiple changes) and the O-2 , (Cessna Skymaster conversion). Somewhere along the line, the “L” for liaison was dropped for “O” for observation. Towards the end of Vietnam, the very potent, advanced North American OV-10 Bronco, with two turbo prop engines, became the big kid on the block with its speed, armor and stores, when the observer spotted the enemy they no longer had to call for the jets to come in, they handled the \”wipe-out” themselves. The use of small spotter aircraft was over. Not only were helicopters taking over the observation and spotter duties, but drones started appearing. I am sure you saw on TV news the drone spacecraft that was in orbit for three months powered with solar panels then returning to land safely after its mission was over. “Bye bye Space Shuttle you done good”

The Cessna L-19 was used in Korea and extensively in Vietnam by both our Air Force and the Vietnam AF. It was based on the Cessna 170 aircraft with needed revisions for two-place observation use.

The Cessna L-19 was used in Korea and extensively in Vietnam by both our Air Force and the Vietnam AF. It was based on the Cessna 170 aircraft with needed revisions for two-place observation use.

Cessna L-19s were also used in Korea very successfully, as were a few L-21, Super Cubs with minor changes. But the liaison/artillery spotter of choice during Korea was the converted  AT-6 Gs. These Texans were repurchased from private owners, then converted to Dash Gs with new avionics, larger fuel tanks for longer loitering time over target and new canopies with fewer braces for better visibility. The Dash Gs were also heavier and not considered the best Texan for restoration, they were slightly sluggish, compared to the WWII versions.

Various wars shaped the future of the liaison fleet, it was a case of what goes around comes around. Prewar liaison aircraft were called Observation aircraft and they were large and complex such as the North American O-47, the Curtiss Owl and the Douglas O-38 series. When these planes were used in actual combat they were found to be ill suited for their needs. The lowly $995.00 Cub fit the bill perfectly, take off and land anywhere, low and slow for good observation, super low maintenance and cheap. Korea revealed that the emerging helicopter was far better suited for many of these missions and that aircraft were needed that could loiter over potential targets for hours then mark them with smoke rockets while the jets came in to wipe out the enemy positions. Vietnam revealed that these type of aircraft should be capable of not only spotting the enemy positions but then being able to eliminate them without calling in other aircraft.

But it was Piper and Cessna that produced huge numbers of liaison aircraft needed for three wars, aircraft that were taken from the tie-own lines at your everyday flying school and sent to the front lines with a new coat of paint and an attitude. Piper and Cessna did indeed answer the call to arms.

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Cessna O-2 Oscar Deuce, FAC Aircraft

By:      Norm Goyer

The 337 Super Skymaster was introduced in 1965. Cargo operators could attach an underbelly cargo pod.

The 337 Super Skymaster was introduced in 1965. Cargo operators could attach an underbelly cargo pod.

In 1961, Cessna decided to build the C-336 and fixed gear, twin-engine aircraft which didn’t have asymmetrical thrust, which many multi-engine pilots simply didn’t like to deal with. In 1965, they introduced the Super Skymaster 337 with a retractable gear. In other words there are some pilots who want two engines that act like one engine and not have an engine out condition that will send the plane skidding off to the side before falling off into a spin, that scares them a bit.  Cessna’s Skymaster series, with its twin engines in one pod, both of them working on the center line of the aircraft, corrects this condition. But there was a slight problem right out of the starting blocks, it seems that the Skymaster wouldn’t take off under some conditions, with only the front engine working. You see, you could see the prop spinning on the front engine but could not see the rear propeller, of course real pilots would look at the twin tachs and notice that only one was showing any rotation. but what hot-shot, twin-engine pilot looks at the gauges. This one sure does. So after a number of Skymasters ran out of runway and embarrassed Cessna and the pilot some new rules were suggested. It would be a good idea if the pilot started the rear engine first, warmed it up a bit, did a mag check and then start the front engine, theoretically the rear engine would then keep running. This seemed to work and most of the Skymasters then took off as planned. The FAA thought that asymmetrical thrust was so significant that it actually has a special rating for aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom and the Cessna Skymaster, their pilots don’t have a multi engine rating they have a center line thrust rating.

The C-337 Skymaster was modified for use as  a two place FAC (forward air controller) which replaced the Cessna L-19 in Vietnam, when it became available.

The C-337 Skymaster was modified for use as a two place FAC (forward air controller) which replaced the Cessna L-19 in Vietnam, when it became available.

I’m surely not knocking this type of rating because I put a few kids through college with the proceeds of converting Air Force F-4 pilot certificates to multi engine ratings. If the ex Phantom pilots wanted a job in corporate or airline aviation, they needed a multi-engine certificate with no restrictions. We kept two Piper Senecas working for many years retraining both German Luftwaffe and Air Force pilots stationed at the George AFB base in Victorville, California. I never really liked the 336 (fixed gear) or the 337 (retractable gear) Cessnas, don’t know why, but it might have been the human sandwich concept. But the aircraft does have its followers, many of the fanatical type, they love their Skymasters.

When the O-2s became surplus, they were heavily used as lead aircraft for firefighting firms.

When the O-2s became surplus, they were heavily used as lead aircraft for firefighting firms.

But what didn’t work in my opinion for Cessna in the civilian market sure worked great as Air Force O-2 Forward Air Control aircraft in Vietnam. The aircraft did have multi-engine safety, high wing visibility and a large four to six passenger civilian cabin turned into a two place very spacious two place aircraft with lots of room for avionics. Besides, the aircraft was already in service and inexpensive to buy. In all, Cessna produced 532 O-2s for Vietnam. A total of 178 were lost due to accidents and enemy action. Many surviving O-2s are prized by Warbird collectors. For many years fire fighting firms used Cessna 182s and 206s for lead aircraft during fire operations, but it was found that these planes did not have the top speed nor the safety factor of two engines and too many were involved in accidents. When the O-2s became surplus they were picked up by aerial fire suppression firms and worked for many years. They were replaced by OV-10 Broncos due to much higher speeds and rugged construction, the same reason the OV-10s replaced the O-2s in Vietnam. I guess that fire fighting is similar to fighting wars.

Specifications:

Specifications Cessna O-2

Crew: 2 – pilot and observer

Length: 29.75 ft

Wingspan: 38.17 ft

Height: 9.17 ft

Wing area: 202.5 ft²

Empty weight: 2,848 lb

Loaded weight: 5,400 lb

Engines: Continental IO-360C six-cylinder flat engines, 210 hp each

Performance

Maximum speed: 200 mph

Range: 1,325 mi 2,132 km combat

Service ceiling: 18,000 ft

Rate of climb: 1,180 ft/min

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