Bell P-39N Airacobra – Little Sir Echo – Small Fry

Bell P-39 Airacobra - Little Sir Echo

This is P-39N-5 “Little Sir Echo / Small Fry” Serial Number 42-19027 which served with the USAAF 5th Air Force (AF), 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group (TRG), 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS), from June 1943 to July 16, 1944. It was abandoned at Tadji, Papua New Guinea, a Japanese airfield that was liberated by the US Army on April 26, 1944. Tadji became a major Allied air depot for American and Australian forces, and the resting place for this P-39 for the next thirty years. It is now on static display at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA.

This specific P-39 was delivered to the US Army on April 28, 1943, and sent to the Pacific in May. Lyndall W. Tate was assigned to this aircraft. Lyndall was born Oct 20, 1920 in Texas, and passed away Sept 15, 2008. He served over 28 years in the military. If anyone else has any further information on Lyndall, please let us know more about this hero. The aircraft was recovered from Tadji in a 1974 salvage operation funded by David Talichet’s Yesterday’s Air Force (MARC). It currently is on static display at the Planes of Fame museum. It still supports its original markings of Olive Drab over Neutral Grey with White New Guinea theatre markings on tail unit, wing leading edges and spinner (thin White band on nose). In addition it features an interesting shark mouth on the center drop-tank.

The Bell P-39 was one of the US’s main-line fighters when war first broke out in the Pacific at the beginning of World War II. It was unique at the time for having a tricycle undercarriage and a mid-mounted engine located behind the pilot. This arrangement was due to the proposed installation of a powerful 30 mm cannon in the nose. Ultimately, the P-39 was unable to achieve the same performance of later US and European fighters, mainly due to a lack of a turbo-supercharged engine which greatly limited the P-39’s ceiling and speed. However, its low-altitude performance, mid-mounted engine, and armor plating allowed it to become a great ground-support aircraft, most notably used by the Soviet Air Force. In the end, the Bell P-39 became Bell’s most successful fixed-wing aircraft that they ever produced.

Bell X-2 StarBuster Replica

Replica Bell  X-2 at Planes of Fame

In the back lot of the Planes of Fame Museum located in Chino, CA is a full-size replica of the Bell X-2 StarBuster research aircraft (s/n 46-674). The replica was built and used as a prop in the 1989 pilot episode of the NBC TV series “Quantum Leap”. It was also used in several other movies, including “Space Cowboys”.

Constructed out of fiberglass and foam in less than 10 days, it now sits, wingless, on a wheeled dolly poking its nose between two trees. Even after sitting outside for many years, it is still in remarkably good condition.

The X-2 was a very significant test vehicle, and was instrumental in advancing high-speed aerodynamic research. On 27 September 1956, Capt. Milburn G. “Mel” Apt, flying the real X-2, became the first man to fly faster than three times the speed of sound (Mach 3.196). Unfortunately, he lost control of the aircraft when returning to Edwards and died in the escape capsule. The wreckage was recovered, and although many of the engineers wished to rebuild it, it was ultimately buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on Edwards Air Force Base.

For more information on the real Bell X-2, visit A SHADOW OVER THE HORIZON, THE BELL X-2 by Robert W. Kempel with Richard E. Day

Bell X-2 with no wings

A-10 Thunderbolt II by Fairchild

Great shot of an A-10 over Afghanistan.  In this picture, Capt. Andrew Quinn flies his OA/A-10 Thunderbolt II observation/attack aircraft to a refueling position behind a KC-135 Stratotanker.  This picture was taken  on Sunday, March 26, 2006 by U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung.  Captain Quinn is currently deployed to the 355th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.   The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twin-engine, straight-wing jet aircraft designed to provide close air support (CAS) of ground forces.

It was the first U.S. Air Force aircraft, designed in the 1970’s, exclusively for close air support . The A-10’s official name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II, a fighter that was particularly effective at close air support. The A-10 is more commonly known by its nickname “Warthog” or simply “Hog”.

Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel – Beast of Kandahar


The US Air Force today confirmed that it is using a drone named the RQ-170 Sentinel, in Afghanistan. The stealthy unmanned aircraft system is developed by the Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division, the same company that developed the F-117 Stealth Fighter. However, the RQ-170 looks like a scaled down version of the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber. The USAF confirms that the RQ-170 Sentinel is in development, and is expected “to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward-deployed combat forces”, according to a statement released on 4 December.

This announcement comes after a series of images of a jet-powered, stealthy aircraft have appeared on the internet last April, including a clear shot of the aircraft that circulated widely in early December. Besides describing the RQ-170 as stealthy, the USAF released no further technical information about its new UAV, or any photos. This plane has also been rumored to be called the “Beast of Kandahar”. The main purpose of the drone has been reported to be providing aerial and strategic information to the ground forces battling in Afghanistan. “RQ” represents that the aircraft is unmanned and unarmed, which is different from other drones named with “MQ” which are loaded with laser guided weapons.

The aviation authorities coined the name of the aircraft as “Beast of Kandahar” after its 2007 pictures were released which showed the aircraft in action in Afghanistan. The pictures gave the description of an aircraft that resembles a drone that has the ability to cheat radar and has the shape which resembles that of a stealth aircraft. Several aviation journals have made speculations about this mysterious aircraft and have published its pictures. The presence of “Beast of Kandahar” in the region has questioned why the U.S. is using such technology in a warzone where there are no radar systems available to militants. This has pointed towards the possible us of the drone over Iran and Pakistan. According to reports, the U.S. air force has targeted many terrorists in Pakistan with the help of Predators and Reaper drones.

Close plane encounter over Tampa

Southwest 737 on final approach to Tampa

Southwest 737 on final approach to Tampa

Great view while landing today at Tampa International Airport.   As we came in, we had another plane join us on approach.   While this friend looked like he was right next to us, it was not as close as it seemed.   However, it got me thinking on what the requirements for plane separation actually are now.

After some research, I found the following information for lateral separation, airplanes that are en route between airports must have at least 5 nautical miles between them. When the airplanes enter the approach controller’s airspace, that requirement goes down to 3 nautical miles.  When the airplane is finally in the control of an airport’s tower controller, planes can be spaced much closer if that controller has visual contact with the airplanes or if at least one pilot reports they have the other aircraft in sight.

This visual separation doesn’t apply when airplanes are in the clouds, in which case the controllers keep airplanes spaced about 2 and a half nautical miles apart, more if the preceding aircraft is a heavy (over 250,000 pounds, which would be a 757 or larger) and the following aircraft is not.  This limitation is a function of the wake turbulence generated by larger airplanes.

However, because of some technology improvements to corporate jets and airliners, most of the world has adopted the Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) standards. This allows aircraft flying above 29,000 feet to be spaced at 1,000 foot intervals. In the past, that number was 2,000 feet apart.

Tondelayo – The Collings Foundation B-25 Mitchell

Gary1 060
The famed “Tondelayo” of the 345th Bombardment Group known as the “Air Apaches” as it served in the 500th BS. The Tondelayo was one of three B-25Ds that sunk a 6,000-ton freighter in the South Pacific during World War II. Its story was unique in the fact that During the battle, the Tondelayo’s engine was shot out and for over an hour it combated 50 Japanese fighter planes as it headed down the New Britain coast. The other two accompanying B-25s were shot down during the battle. The plane’s turret gunner was given credit for shooting down five Japanese fighters and the crew earned the Distinguished Unit Citation and Silver Stars. Despite tremendous damage “Tondelayo” was returned to service after it was repaired… like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Tondelayo was named after the sexy actress Hedy Lamar’s character “Tondelayo” in the 1942 film White Cargo.