Winged Heroes

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 13 Dec 2016, 10:43

The Italian navy lost half its big warships in one night during the raid on the docks at Taranto by Swordfish. The following day the Italian news services announced that some of their ships had been sunk `by hundreds of British aircraft'. But it was all done by 15 slow Swordfish with open cockpits, fixed undercarriage, and no armour - nothing between the crew and the enemy shells and bullets but canvas.

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by PanBiker » 13 Dec 2016, 11:50

They used modified torpedoes with extra wooden fins so they could be dropped and would run in shallow water. The dock at Taranto was only 35ft deep.This information was picked up by the Japanese and used to the same effect at Pearl Harbor. The American Navy thought that the shallow (45ft) depth of Pearl Harbor would protect the fleet from such an attack. They got that one wrong.
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 13 Dec 2016, 16:28

Thanks for that, Ian. I knew about the shallow water problem at Taranto and that the Japanese used it as a model for Pearl Harbour but I didn't know about the extra fins on the torpedoes. A typical bit of British ingenuity - unless we copied that from the Japanese!

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by PanBiker » 13 Dec 2016, 20:24

Give or take an odd day Taranto was a whole year before Pearl Harbor, plenty of time for the Japanese to adopt our ingenuity for shallow waters, they could not have done it without the modifications. Hence the U.S Navy being somewhat complacent about the anchorage. Coupled of course with the fact that the top brass did not inform the fleet commander in Hawaii of the impending attack as revealed by both British code breakers and their American counterparts with Magic intercepts. The vital information was simply not passed on, a lot of lives could have been saved. Some analysts believe that if given the intelligence as it emerged the garrison at Pearl could have beaten off the attack or at the very least minimised the damage. It certainly would not have resulted in the loss of 90% of the fleet.
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by PanBiker » 07 Jan 2017, 14:16

Further to Tizers post over in the books thread. I googled Grumman Martlet and came across this video of the Wildcat which was it's American designation. It gives the full history of the design which was the only US aircraft to serve from the start to the end of WWII.

https://youtu.be/uTautVreExs
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Stanley » 08 Jan 2017, 04:02

I knew Martlet was a bird but didn't know which one so I looked it up. Here's what I found.... 'noun. Heraldry. noun: martlet; plural noun: martlets. A bird like a swallow without feet, borne as a charge or a mark of cadency for a fourth son. Literary: A swift or house martin.
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by PanBiker » 08 Jan 2017, 10:50

As originally designed it was a fixed wing monoplane but when it became the aircraft of choice for the US carrier fleet the design was changed to add folding wings. An interesting design on some kind of universal joint. The wings pivoted through 90 degrees and were then folded down the side of the fuselage. In this configuration the aircraft was only 14ft wide. The hydraulics used to effect this turned out to be too heavy and were too detrimental to the performance so they removed them and the wings were folded and deployed manually by ground crew. It was also fairly unique by way of not having automatic undercarriage, wheels up (and down) was via a manual winder in the cockpit it took 29 revolutions to raise the undercarriage which withdrew into casements on the side of the front fuselage. Apart from these foibles it turned out be an effective fighter. Some marques were configured with 6 x 0.50 caliber machine guns in the main they had 4 but with more rounds.
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 08 Jan 2017, 11:05

Thanks for all that! Winkle Brown was saved at least twice when he ditched in the sea by the Martlet's flotation bags which inflated when water reached a switch.

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by PanBiker » 08 Jan 2017, 11:19

They had to remove them as well Tiz as they had a habit of deploying in flight, a few pilots were lost that way so they stopped fitting them. Apparently it was one of the more survivable aircraft to ditch because of design of the retractable undercarriage. Pilots generally had enough time to evacuate once on the surface. They manufactured a seaplane version as well during the designs lifetime.
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 09 Jan 2017, 11:30

The manual winding undercarriage must have been one of the reasons for the Martlet/Wildcat's reputation for being very robust for carrier landings compared with `normal' RAF fighters. In January 1942 the Navy was in a fix because the supply of Martlet's stopped due to Pearl Harbour and America declaring war on Japan. We didn't have an up to date carrier fighter to take its place and Brown was tasked with testing the second prototype of a Miles M.20 to see if it would fill the role. This had twice the range of a Hurricane and greater fire power but a fixed undercarriage! He found it `nippy' but not up to the job. Instead Hurricanes and Spitfires had to be used after fitting with hooks etc for carrier landings but their fragile undercarriage made landings more dangerous. The Wikipedia page on the Miles M.20 is worth reading and the photo is off the one in which Brown made his test flight. LINK If you ignore the undercarriage the lines look very similar to the Hawker Typhoon and Tempest which was being developed at the same time.

Have a look too at the Wikipedia page about Maxine "Blossom" Miles, British aviation engineer, socialite, and businesswoman:
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Stanley » 10 Jan 2017, 04:43

As someone who has a feeling for how machinery can suffer from violence I cringe when I see carrier landings and reflect on the engineering necessary not only in the undercarriage but in the restraint systems used. The strains in both must be enormous.
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by PanBiker » 10 Jan 2017, 09:44

The robust undercarriage on the Martlet/Wilcat was one of the reasons it was good carrier aircraft, it worked on a cantilever suspension design. On landing systems, there is a good Wikipedia article here:

Arresting Gear

Counter intuitive but surprisingly, modern jet aircraft approach a carrier landing at 85% throttle and then engage afterburners on touchdown. Some have auto engine kill when the aircraft detects a successful arrestor wire pickup or the pilot immediately throttles back. They do this in case they overshoot and have to go round again.
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Stanley » 11 Jan 2017, 04:46

frightening.......
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by PanBiker » 11 Jan 2017, 10:11

It's always seemed to me like seat of the pant's stuff, not much margin for error at all. I think it's probably time for Tiz to come forth with a classic "Winkle Brown" quote. He was the world authority on carrier landings and helped develop a lot of the techniques.
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 11 Jan 2017, 10:57

Winkle Brown said that he always felt a calm come over him when he was faced with danger while piloting an aircraft and that got him through many dangerous incidents. But he was the opposite when not in control and one of his most frightening times was having to sit in the back seat of a new two-seater plane (I think it was a Fulmar) while training new pilots. The aircraft was standard and not fitted with dual controls. He survived that period but had a near death event. One of the pilots got it wrong and went over the side with Brown in the back seat. The plane ended up suspended by the arrester gear holding onto the tail wheel, dangled over the edge of the carrier with the prop blades touching the water! He doesn't say any more about it and I wonder whether they risked climbing out or had to stay in while winched up. Either way, one slip and the plane would have plunged nose first into the sea.

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Stanley » 12 Jan 2017, 05:11

He had a splendid fairy godmother. Remember the old pilot who said "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. But there are no old, bold pilots."
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 12 Jan 2017, 11:46

He was sent to Kenley airfield to teach Royal Canadian Air Force Spitfire pilots how to land on a carrier deck. Neither he nor they were told why - the squadron was currently escorting US bombers on their raids and the training had to fit between missions. The RCAF pilots were much put out and they thought Brown had a safe job compared to theirs. In the end he got them to agree to the training by offering to go with them on a mission and he flew a Spitfire alongside the bombers. He said he enjoyed having a crack at the enemy but didn't shoot any down although he was shot at, sometimes by the US bombers! The sad footnote to this is that the RCAF pilots were being trained for covering the Salerno landings - they would have to land on carriers at the end of the mission. Unfortunately when the day came there was no wind and the carriers were converted merchant ships with slow speed. The planes had to come in far too fast and many of them went over the side, hit the island or ran into the parked planes.

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 14 Jan 2017, 12:41

Jimmy Doolittle got worried about the high losses of escort fighters at high altitude accompanying the USAAF bombers. They were diving to intercept the enemy but not getting there, just disintegrating. He asked RAE Farnborough to test out the planes because they could do it better than any US establishment. Winkle Brown and his pals had to take Thunderbolts, Mustangs and Lightnings to high altitude, get up to max speed on the level, then into a vertical dive. They had Mach meters to measure the highest safe speed which was expressed as Mach 0.7 etc. They had an Me109 and Fw190 and determined their safe max Mach speed. The Lightning and Thunderbolt both failed compared with the German fighters but the Mustang was best of the lot. From then on Doolittle demanded only Mustangs accompany his bombers.

Brown then went on to do similar tests on a Hurricane then a Spitfire. In the latter he got to 0.83, his highest Mach speed so far. He describes how the tail began to vibrate in the dive, then the wings shook and he finally had to apply about 60lb force to the stick to get out of the dive. He couldn't push it any further because, being small in stature, the 60lb was his limit. His boss, Marty Martindale, a 6-footer, later took the Spitfire and pushed it beyond that to reach Mach 0.92 - he could manage 100lb. At this Mach speed the prop came off in the dive, the change in weight distribution pushed up the nose and he shot up to 40,000 feet and blacked out. He came round and managed to land the plane on its wheels without a prop! Apparently this is still the highest speed achieved by a piston-engined plane.

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by PanBiker » 14 Jan 2017, 14:04

These lads were made of different stuff I reckon. I dare say they would have qualified for the "Right Stuff" if they had been in the USAAF. Winkle could have been up there with Neil, Buz and their like. :cool4:
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 22 Jan 2017, 12:22

Just after the war in Europe ended Winkle Brown was searching in Germany and Scandinavia for examples of German aircraft to ferry back to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. He had many exciting tales to tell about this period and much had to be done unofficially, especially because the Americans, French and Russians were all keen to find their own examples and a lot of technical information and materials had been destroyed as the war ended. He had a group of loyal German mechanics and in one case had to hide them from the Americans and French who would have put them in a POW camp if they'd discovered what was going on. He'd found one of the weird Dornier 335 fighters, the fastest piston-engined aircraft ever used by the Nazis, on a disused, snow-covered airfield in Germany and he and the mechanics had to work on it in freezing conditions while living in a shed in the woods so that it would be fit to fly to the UK. Dornier 335

Another tricky time was towards the end of the war when the Germans were making last stand. Brown was dodging about trying to find aircraft while the fighting was still in progress. He had to fly to denamrk to collect a plane and planned to break his flight at an airfield near the Danish border. When he tried to land he had to abort due to `friendly fire' and moved on to another airfield. Afterwards he found out it wasn't friendly fire - Admiral Doenitz, who took over after Hitler's death, had moved his HQ to the airfield! When he landed at the final airfield he wasn't shot at and landed safely. When he taxied to a halt he realised the airfield was still occupied by Germans but the commanding officer came over, offered Brown his sword and surrendered. Brown and his mechanics were in charge of 2000 German personnel until the Allied soldiers arrived.

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Stanley » 23 Jan 2017, 04:47

Never come across that one before! A fast machine! Eric Brown's stories are Boy's Own in real life!
Watched an interesting programme yesterday on USPB TV channel on the rebuilding of a Lysander.....
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 03 Feb 2017, 11:46

Captain Eric `Winkle' Brown's medals currently on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.

Image


And this additional information about an 11-year-old boy who wants to be a test pilot like Winkle Brown when he grows up.

Image

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Stanley » 04 Feb 2017, 04:27

Men like Brown are an inspiration to the young and that may be their greatest achievement. My heroes have always been the old engineers, particularly the lesser known ones like Murray and Nasmith. People don't realise what a mark they made on our lives.....
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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Tizer » 04 Feb 2017, 11:24

The boy referring to Brown as his hero reminds me of one of Brown's narrowest escapes. I've copied this from an article here: LINK

Eric found himself in a number of threatening situations during his career. He encountered one of the most dramatic when he was testing the jet powered SRA1 Flying Boat fighter in August 1949. When landing in the Solent, the aircraft struck a piece of semi-submerged timber and flipped over on it’s back. Struggling to reach the surface, Eric was only saved from drowning when Saunders Roe’s Chief Test Pilot Geoffery Tyson dived in fully clothed from the accompanying launch and pulled him to the surface.

The reason I was reminded of this is that Geoffery Tyson was one of Brown's great heroes during his youth. He flew as an aerobatic pilot with Sir Alan Cobham's Air displays in the 1930s. Brown had Tyson's picture on his wall. Being rescued by someone who is already your hero doesn't happen every day!

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Re: Winged Heroes

Post by Stanley » 05 Feb 2017, 04:23

'Sir Alan Cobham'.... Another name I remember from that wonderful book I mentioned the other day on the history of flight.....
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