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“Sally B“ – A Flying Monument

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The prototype of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress took off for the first time in 1935, deliveries to the US Air Force (at that time called US Army Air Corps) began in October 1939. Till the end of production 1945 overall 12.731 B-17 have been built in different versions, marking as well the start of mass production of big aircraft for Boeing. In peak times sixteen aircraft per day left the production facilities in Seattle, Long Beach and Burbank. The manufacture of the B-17 led Boeing from the B-17 via the B-29, B-52, B707 and B747 to the aircraft from today – and made Boeing one of the two big players in aircraft production in the world.

Today 44 B-17s still exist worldwide, 14 of those are in flyable condition – and nearly all of them have their home base in the United States. The sole exception is “Sally B”, a Boeing B-17G, which calls Duxford in United Kingdom its home.

The airframe with serial 44-85785 was delivered to the Air Force (called US Army Air Forces then) on June 19th 1945 and thus too late to participate actively in the Second World War. In operation until 1954 after conversion as a crew trainer, the aircraft was then sold to France. In the following 30 years until 1975 the plane was used as cartographic photo platform with the registration F-BGSR by the Institut Geographique National.

The transfer to Duxford occurred in 1975, when the English Business Men and pilot Ted White acquired the flyable classic aircraft and registered it as G-BDEF. The origin of the name “Sally B”, still used today, can trace its legacy to Elly Sallingboe, long term girlfriend of Ted White. Until today she is the official owner of “Sally B”. Since 1975 the B-17 was presented in flight on various airshows in England and acts as a flying memorial for 79,000 American airmen who lost their lives in operation over Europe in the Second World War.

In 1982 Ted White perished in an accident during an Air Rally in Malta with a T-6 Texan. Despite the death of Ted, Elly Sallingboe and the whole “Sally B” Team decided to continue the flying operation of the aircraft. They wanted to continue with Ted White’s vision of operating “Sally B” as a flying memorial should continue and keep her as a reminder as well future generations. To memorize the deceased owner, the cowling of the inner right engine was painted in the colours of Ted White’s T-6 Texan engine cowling. Although continued, the operations since then are plagued by reoccurring financial problems.

A boost for the project occurred in 1989, as “Sally B“ took center stage in the Hollywood classic move ”Memphis Belle“. Overall five B-17 have been used for the recordings of the movie. “Sally B” had a special role as she was the only aircraft that could emit smoke in flight – thereby being the only one allowing recordings of a (of course only simulated) damaged B-17 on return to its basis to England after an operation over Germany.

With the money earned during the recording of the film “Sally B” could be kept airborne until 1998 – and she appeared as well at various airshows in England. The mechanic team around Peter Brown managed to keep the aircraft in flying conditions, but finally a damaged engine grounded the aircraft for nine months in Guernsey. It was a nearly impossible logistic task to transfer the aircraft in the safe environment of a hangar and so “Sally B” spend the winter on the island. Once this period could be overcome with the help of sponsors and volunteers a new engine could be installed and the flight to the home base in Duxford was completed in April 1999.

Back at home the next shock was right at the door step – due to financial problems the flying operations had to be cancelled for the first time since the aircraft was taken over 25 years before. With the founding of the B-17 Charitable Trust in March 2000 a new concept was created enabling sponsors to support the operation of “Sally B”. Until today the decision has proven its value and “Sally B” excites everybody, young and old, on 20 to 25 airshows across England every year.

The photos shown in this article could be made during a special flight in July 2018 in cooperation with the Aviation Photocrew. Aim of this flight was to get spectacular Air-to-Air photos of the B-17 above important landmarks of the Second World War.

Re-purposed Warbirds and Other Classics…

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There's quite a large number of former military warplanes and civilian airliners that have taken on roles other than what they were designed to do.  A good quantity of piston and turboprop transports, and some bombers too, have recently been retired from air tanker service, with age and deteriorating equipment as main reasons. Here is a quick look at many of these re-purposed warbirds, some no longer airworthy, others still flying and fighting fires.

Aerial Firebombers: One area where warbirds, especially bombers, maritime patrol and transport aircraft have excelled at, is aerial application of fire retardant and water, to fight fires from above. Former military helicopters and some airframes that were previously  civilian airliners have also stepped into this role. Grumman S-2 Tracker twins originally were carrier-borne anti-submarine aircraft which now are modified as water/retardant bombers... some have been modified with turboprop engines, replacing radials.

Lockheed P2V Neptune patrol bombers carry larger loads, some of the former P2V-7s had jet engines to augment payloads and performance, and a few tankers used them while operational. Lockheed PV-1 and PV-2 Harpoons were utilized for a long time, but their age has grounded them over the years.  Some PV-1s were converted into executive transports, like the Howard 500 too.

Douglas Commercial/C-54/DC-4,  C-118/DC-6 and DC-7 transports have been converted into fire bombers, some into aerial sprayers against insects and for seeding projects as well.

Lockheed C-130/L-100 large transports have been adapted with large internal tanks. A few Lockheed P-3 Orions were converted to water bomber status too.

PB-4Ys, the straight-tailed version of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator WWII bomber, served for a long time as water bombers... and were retired shortly after the turn of this century - a fifty-year span! Former military helicopters, such as the Bell UH-1, Sikorsky H-3 and S-61, and the big Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe have been adapted into firefighting roles too.

Rockwell OV-10 observation/Forward Air Control aircraft and a few AH-1 Cobra helicopters have been put to use as airborne coordination and marking aircraft.      

OSH WARBIRDS IN REVIEW PART 3 Vintage Jets, the New Generation of Warbirds

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Rounding out our review of Warbirds at AirVenture 2018, we take a look at the early generation of jet aircraft. These early generation of jets are some of the first to take flight, have seen service in many different conflicts, and with many different countries around the world. These jets have now been replaced by newer and faster models making them obsolete, but have found new life after their military service, these jets are now growing in popularity with civilian owners. The Jet Warbirds that were part of AirVenture 2018, were a fascinating mix of US, Canadian, Czechoslovakian, and Polish built jets.

One of the biggest highlights was NX313Q, a 1949 built Gloster Meteor T-7. The Gloster Meteor is powered by a single Derwent MK-9 turbojet engine which gives the aircraft a top speed of 600 miles per hour. A total of 3,947 Meteor’s were built and was the only Allied Jet Fighter to see combat in World War II and served with the Royal Air Force until the 1980’s. This particular Meteor is flown by the World Heritage Air Museum based out of Detroit MI.

Making its Oshkosh debut was 1968 built Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter N685TC. A total of 2,246 F-5’s were built between 1959 and 1987 when production ended. The F-5 is powered by a pair of General Electric After burning J-85 engines which give the F-5 a top speed of 1,060 miles per hour. The F-5 is still used by many countries around the world including the United States Navy and Marine Corps.

The only flyable North American FJ-4B Fury in the world, N400FS flew in the Thursday Airshow. The FJ-4 was a United States Navy and Marine Corps version of the North American F-86 Sabre. The FJ-4 was powered by a single Wright J-65 Turbojet Engine which gave the Fury a top speed of 680 Miles Per Hour. 374 Fury’s were built and was phased out of service in the late 1960’s.

N1713P a 1960 Polish License built Lim-5, which is a variant of the MIG-17 family was also present. The Lim-5 first flew in 1956 and is powered by a single Klimov VF-1F Afterburning engine that gives the Lim-5 a top speed of 710 miles per hour. The Lim-5 flew in the daily airshow and always impresses with several passes made with the Afterburner lit.

The most popular Jet Warbird is the Czechoslovakian built Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatross. The L-39 first flew in 1968 and is used as a trainer and light ground attack aircraft. Approximately 2,900 L-39’s were built when production ended in 1996. Russia still uses the L-39 as a trainer, but has become widely available after its military service with approximately 300 now in civilian hands. The L-39 is powered by a single Ivchenko Turbofan engine which gives the aircraft a top speed of 466 miles per hour. Several different L-39’S flew in the daily airshows.

Several examples of the Canadian built CT-133 Silver Star were on hand. The CT-133 is the Canadian license built Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star. The CT-133 is powered by a single Rolls Royce Nene 10 engine giving the aircraft a top speed of 455 miles per hour. A total of 656 CT-133’S were built with the Royal Canadian Air Force officially retiring the aircraft in 2005. N433RD is painted in Royal Canadian Air Force colors. N133KK is painted in the colors of the Texas Air National Guard. NX230CF is painted in a very patriotic Red, White, and Blue color scheme. NX165KK is painted in the colors of the 443rd Bomb Wing which was based at Carswell Air Force Base Texas.

A pair of Sabres graced the sky at AirVenture this year with an example of both a US built and a Canadian built Sabre. NX188RL is an North American built F-86F Sabre, of which 9,860 were built. The F-86 is powered by a single General Electric J-47 Turbojet Engine which gave the F-86 a top speed of 687 Miles per hour. The F-86 served until 1994 when the Bolivian Air Force retired it from service. N50CJ was a Canadian built Canadair CL-13B Sabre Mk 6, of which 1,815 were built. The CL-13B is powered by a single Avro Canada Orenda 14 Turbojet engine that gave this version of the Sabre a top speed of 697 miles per hour. The CL-13 served until 1980 when the Air Force of Pakistan retired the type.

Rounding out our look at Vintage Jets are these 2 types. The first is Cessna T-37B or “Tweet”, N370WB. 1,269 T-37’s were built and was used by the United States Air Force as it’s primary trainer until its retirement in 2009. The T-37 is powered by a pair of Continental-Teledyne J-69 Turbojet engines giving the T-37 a top speed of 425 miles per hour. The T-37 is still used by 3 countries today. N287XW is a British Aerospace Corporation Jet Provost P84 MK.5. The Jet Provost was used as a basic trainer with 734 built with the type serving until 1993. A single Armstrong Siddley Viper Turbojet powered the Provost to a top speed of 440 miles per hour.

Vintage Jets continue to grow in popularity with more examples entering civilian hands every year. These Warbirds will continue to grow in importance to the Warbird Community. This puts a wrap on our Warbird coverage of AirVenture 2018, until next year’s AirVenture when these beautiful aircraft grace our skies once again. Until next time, “Blues Skies to All!”

Culpeper Air Fest 2018

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I attended the 2018 Culpeper Air Fest on October 13th for the first time. Although I had known about this show, I never made arrangements to attend as it is just over 100 miles from my home and a long travel day. I agree with their tagline that it is “The best little airshow in the east”. It is only held one day and reserves Sunday for a rain date. From their website, “The Culpeper Air Fest is funded by Culpeper Air Fest Foundation- A 501 c(3) non-profit charitable organization chartered to promote aviation education, awareness and support in Culpeper, VA.” This annual event is the biggest in the community.

Unfortunately, during a Friday night show for a limited audience, Redline Airshows had an accident for unknown reasons and pilot, Jon Thocker perished in his Vans RV-8 aircraft. The decision was unanimous that the Saturday show should go on as planned.

There was some overnight rain and the clouds were slow to move off. Winds were gusty and variable throughout the day. Culpeper Airport has a single 5,000 foot Runway 04/22. The late season sun rises in front and to airshow right and sets behind you, remaining on the right. Pictures to the North were good all day.

As a media member, I was allowed to walk the hot ramp and ended up in a spot in front of the Air Boss, who just happens to be a personal friend of mine, Anthony Svihlik. Prior to the show, there was a mandatory meeting. I had set up a chair next to an Art Nalls chalet tent. When the sun was out, it had gotten warm. When the clouds and wind came back, it was chilly. I had a zip up hooded sweatshirt in my chair bag waiting for me but as the show was starting, my chair was nowhere to be found. The two areas of Art Nalls had been roped off to become one and my chair was moved, and then disappeared along with my sweatshirt. This is a new experience for me. I do not miss the chair but someone is wearing my Airport Snow Team 2018 sweatshirt and I really miss that.

Most of the static aircraft were performers except for one Stearman in Coast Guard colors. There was a car show out front with some American Muscle, old trucks (my personal favorites) and even a Bumblebee sighting. Flying started around noon. It was still cloudy but the Flying Circus, a 4 ship of Stearmans, was already airborne. A parachutist dropped with the flag from a helicopter and the Stearmans flew circuits. One Stearman stayed aloft and performed a wingwalking act. Art Nalls performed his first demonstration in an L-39 Albatross, followed by the launch of former NASA Astronaut, Joe Edwards in his blue T-28 Trojan who would return later. A lightweight flight launched to fly the circuit which included a Cessna Skymaster, a Percival Provost, a Focke Wulf 149, and a Fuji LM-1. Manfred Radius performed in his Salto Sailplane at a slightly lower altitude due to winds.

Joe Edwards returned to perform his demonstration and then the Potomac Flight departed for a flight over Washington D.C. Nine T-6 Texans, Two C-47s and a Beech 18 composed the flight. They would return later for a few fly bys. The Warrior Flight team performed in two black L-39s and Scott Francis performed his high energy routine in his MXS aircraft. There was a helicopter demonstration that I missed completely seeking lunch.

The Military Aviation Museum brought three beautiful warbirds including a Spitfire, a Hurricane and a Yak 3 in polar white paint. They elected not to fly them due to gusty winds but did taxi them in front of the crowd. Prior to this, Art Nalls performed his second demonstration with his privately-owned Sea Harrier, or the SHAR. Finally, the Potomac Flight returned and landed after a few passes. I remained at the show into the late afternoon and captured some departures including the Coast Guard Stearman.

Although weather was a factor for the flying, this was an enjoyable airshow with thoughts of Jon Thocker and his loved ones. The small band of organizers and volunteers are commended for their efforts and their kindness to put on the greatest little airshow in the east. I look forward to next years edition.