Friday, April 18, 2008

:::.. SPIED... in the Sky

MY CAMERA.... everywhere ~


… one of the BEST MOVIES of all-time.

A Guy Named Joe.

Looking back, I doubt if many of the “mobley-heads” I built model planes and tanks during the “wonder-years” would appreciate this eternal movie. But that’s their poverty, not mine.

The story’s hero Pete ( Spencer Tracy) discovers he’s died (yup!) and struggles to come to terms with his former life, and also his new existence.

Joe is lost in the past and is not able to see the “big picture”.

The best moment in the movie is when Pete finally does see the “big picture”.

Pete learns that love is just as much about loss, and letting go, and soldiering on alone… when it’s the right thing to do.

The original purpose of the 1943 movie was to recognize the personal loss millions of Allied families were experiencing in WW II… and to embrace them in their sorrow.

NOT YET available on DVD because “those bastards” at Turner Entertainment can’t pull it together and continue to turn out other stuff that is so beneath this film.

Gentlemen, its NOT JUST about the profits, although that “devil” on your shoulder may think otherwise.

WATCH THIS MOVIE! Readily available on VHS.

APPROPRIATE for viewing on Valentine’s Day!

You and your loved one won’t be disappointed, behind your river of tears–

I will warn you! It’s an old-fashioned love story and a tearjerker (as my dad used to say)…

AND yes, there is a FEMALE P-38 pilot in this flick, Suz.

Was this the BEST BRITISH Fighter of… WW II?

Was the P-51 Mustang the best British fighter plane of WW II?


The P-51 was an American fighter produced by North American Aviation of California!!


Not, exactly.


But for first 117 DAYS of her infancy, only the British were interested in her!

WORLD WAR II was really heating up in March of 1940, and more P-40s were needed for the war effort. Desperately.

Curtis Aircraft, who manufactured the P-40 Tomahawk, was already at full capacity, so North American Aviation (NAA) was asked by Sir Henry Self of the British Government Purchasing Commission if they would tool-up to produce more P-40s for the RAF.

One task, among Self's many assigned tasks, was to organize the development and manufacture of American fighter aircraft for the RAF.

NAA President "Dutch" Kindelberger who had approached Sir Henry in the high hope of selling their new medium bomber, the B-25, to the British… was blindsided by Self’s request for P-40 production.

“Dutch” took the British request to his chief designer.

Ed Schmued, then Chief of Preliminary Design at North American didn’t think much of that.

"A Curtis aircraft produced in our buildings? Nope."

Since it would take 120 days to tool-up for the P-40, Ed assured “Dutch” that the team at North American could produce a BETTER aircraft, from scratch, with the same engine, in less time.

The British mulled this one over.

Sure NAA had produced countless Harvards as needed, and North American’s facilities were underutilized, but a new fighter in less than 120 days? That seemed delirious, to put it kindly.

Well, someone in the British High Command thought NORTH AMERICAN AVIATION could do it because the go-ahead was given.

NAA received a call from Sir Wilfred Freeman of the British Ministry of Aircraft Production and his order for 320 units of the “new” aircraft ensured the aircraft would go into production. The aircraft, then known as the NA-73X, was to be called “the Mustang” by British request.

Trouble in the hen house.

The USAAC (United States Army Air Corps), of course, got word of the new fighter, and it had the veto power to block any foreign sales it viewed as not being in the interest of the Republic. And it did.

Now, what would the British do?


The British proposed the terms and the USAAC eventually accepted.

The USAAC would get two free Mustangs for evaluation purposes, and the RAF would get their 320 (plus 300 more) Mustangs without any delivery interruptions.

BRITISH INVOLVEMENT later improved the Mustang design because the British altered their Mustangs with better engines (aftermarket Merlin 61s) and added aftermarket “Malcolm Hoods” (or the bubble canopies) that were already appearing on their late model “Spits”, Tempests and Typhoons. Then the British demanded the Americans follow suit.

Afterall, better meant much faster (433 mph) and bubble canopies meant the pilot could see behind himself as well.

After putting British Merlins (Packard Merlin V-1650 engines) into production P-51Bs by replacing the Allison engines… North American Aviation adapted the “Malcolm Hoods” with their own elongated teardrop canopy design. This eliminated the back decking which had proven to be a blind spot, and was previously found behind the pilot's canopy.

The "evolved" P-51, the P-51D was thus born (see the photo above) and became the definitive P-51 design we all know and love.

The Americans and their Allies knew the P-51 was a clear "winner". It was everything the USAAF had hoped, and had been waiting for. It could even be the long-range fighter escort American bombers needed over Reich territory.

So with a resolve seen from no other nation on earth, America quadrupled production of their Mustang until 15, 000 P-51s (all variants) were eventually produced.

Hermann Göring, Head of the German Luffwaffe noted,

"When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up."

I guess so.

On a lessor note, many of the 158 P-51s still flying today came into the civilian market from the RCAF.

The Way We Were ::: 1940 ::: CANADA

THE YEARS leading up to WW II were rough for Cessna.

To offset this, Dwane Wallace, then president of Cessna, took a gamble and decided to design an aircraft for the military market.

The T-50 Cessna Bobcat, a light twin-engine transport, was designed in 1938 and test flown by the “Dwane” himself on March 26th, 1939. Success! It flew admirably and without a hitch.

Dwane (spelled without the “y”) decided it was now or never. He went on a huge marketing and lobbying campaign to sell the Bobcat to everybody and anybody. But the US Congress wasn’t budging, money was tight (especially for military spending) and no orders came in for his Cessna Bobcat.

Finally, in May 1940, there was a breakthrough.

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced 50, 000 aircraft would be produced for the British war effort!

Two months later in July, Cessna was awarded a contract to build 33 Bobcats for the US Army. Not bad. Still, not good considering the money that had already been invested in the production of this aircraft.

Let the nailbiting begin.

But wait… there was another summertime knock on Cessna’s door.

This time it was the RCAF.

Well, the RCAF evaluated the Bobcat and found that it met their desperate and timely wartime requirements. Bobcat construction foremost minimized the use of steel and aluminum. Additionally, the aircraft was simple to maintain and also cheap to operate. Cessna had, as well, already positioned itself for large-scale aircraft production in the event it actually got some military orders!

Good news for the RCAF.

There was only one problem.

The RCAF needed 180 Bobcats, not just 33.

Dwane was floored by the generous order. Some say he babbled nonsensically for days.

Large-scale production was no longer needed, but rather grand—scale just to meet the RCAF's needs!

The RCAF order was the largest order Cessna had ever received. And, of course, Canada wanted their aircraft immediately!

So Dwane had two military orders on the books, but didn’t have the operational facilities or the capital to complete the enormous building task!!

However, signed contracts from big “players” like these were good as gold in those days, and with financing quickly put in place, Cessna was able to go on a two month construction blitz to expand their operational facility to 80, 000 square feet!

The photo above is of an RCAF Crane, which became the Canadian designated name for the Cessna Bobcat. The inset photo, found on e-Bay recently, shows the 1940 Cessna ad, as it appeared in colour, but not original magazine size which then was 11” x 16”. Canadian Bobcats are depicted flying in formation, and in the RCAF’s BCATP colour scheme.

The Cessna ad byline read, “Cessna, the World’s Most Efficient Airplane!”

The RCAF eventually bought 822 Cranes from Cessna.

SKY KING was a 50s TV series that initially starred a Cessna Bobcat.


WHEREVER you are in Canadian aviation… you’re never far from the Arrow.

The Way We Were ::: 1944 – 1945 ::: CANADA

1944 – 1945 CANADA builds 1,134 De Havilland Mosquito Fighter-Bomber aircraft for the British war effort.

The fuselages were built at the General Motors Plant in Oshawa, Ontario and were shipped to De Havilland of Canada at Downsview, in Toronto. Engine assembly, instruments, radios, radar, fuel systems, engine controls and radio navigation aids were added at Downsview. Test flights of the newly assembled Mosquitos, nicknamed “Mossies” were also conducted there.

All 7, 781 De Havilland MOSQUITO FUSELAGES were built by forming up plywood layers made of 3/8" sheets of Ecuadorean balsawood that were sandwiched between sheets of CANADIAN BIRCH.

Strange BUT True!

MOSQUITOs produced in Toronto had to land, passing over Dufferin Street at car windshield height. A sentry was posted on Dufferin Street to control a manual traffic light that stopped traffic when a “Mossie” came in to land (See my photo of the TAM display above).

The runway was extended in 1944 and Dufferin Street was closed off to accommodate this extension.

A Mosquito IX also holds the record for the most missions flown by an Allied bomber in the Second World War.

Designated LR503, and "F for Freddie", this Mosquito first served with 109 Squadron and later with 105 Squadron. She flew 213 successful operational sorties during the war over occupied Europe.

TWO DAYS after VE DAY she crashed on the 10th of May 1945 at RCAF Station: Calgary (YYC) in Alberta, ironically, during a victory tour.

The Mosquito was doing celebratory high-speed low passes around the airport when it struck a balloon releasing pole that sheared off its port wing and some of the “Mossie” tail.

Both crew were killed, and the accident was attributed to pilot error.

INCIDENTALLY, the USAAF ordered 40 Canadian built Mosquito bombers (B Mk XX version) and all 40 were converted to photo-reconnaissance aircraft and were delivered as F-8s.

Some Downsview De Havilland staff were quite surprised to see these “Mossies” when they rolled out of the factory in American air force (USAAF) markings!