By Tommy H. Thomason

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Naval Fighters Number 113: Douglas F4D-1/F-6A Skyray by Nicholas M. Williams


This is a long needed update of Naval Fighters 13 by the same author published in 1984. "Greatly expanded" doesn't do it justice. Forget page count or number of illustrations: this soft-cover monograph printed on high-quality paper weighs a little over two pounds! If you didn't know already, it clearly demonstrates that Nick is the most knowledgeable F4D subject-matter expert.

He covers the lengthy and somewhat troubled development of the F4D in detail, both words and pictures. For example, much of the the account of its nearly disastrous first flight was new to me as were the difficulties in adapting the F4D inlets designed for the J40 engine to the J57. Both the Douglas development and the unit-by-unit histories of Skyray evaluation and operational usage are accompanied by first-hand pilot descriptions of its performance and flight characteristics, warts and all. There are 13 pages of F4D color photos spanning its entire career from initial flight test to its use by the Navy Test Pilot School as in one student's observation, "an interesting and not particularly dangerous 'horrible example' (of unusual flying qualities)".

The monograph concludes with several color pages of F4D model kits that have been produced since the early 1950s. A section of illustrations from the flight and maintenance manuals and closeup photos of details like the landing gear will also be of interest to modelers.

One relatively new and welocome feature of Steve Ginter's monographs is a Table of Contents. It is actually more of a non-alphabetical index but very helpful in quickly finding a topic of interest in its 257 pages like the Test Pilot School quotation above.

I was somewhat surprised that Nick didn't dwell on one of my favorite airplane hobbyhorses, whether or not the F4D was the Navy's first supersonic (in level flight) fighter. (For my opinion, click HERE.) He does describe Douglas' attempts to so (the proposed top speed was Mach 1.2). There is, of course, no question that it could easily break the sound barrier in a descent when not burdened with external fuel tanks or other stores. I'm all but certain that all anecdotal pilot statements that they had been supersonic had done so in a descent or were looking at an inaccurate Mach meter.

Note: Both Nick and I strongly encourage you to buy his monograph directly from Steve, avoiding the middlemen who would otherwise enjoy a significant proportion of the sale price, not Steve. I don't know if he's still offering it at 20% off of the list price, shipping cost included (probably good for the US only) but you might ask him at 805-404-7156.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Douglas A3D Skywarrrior and B-66 Destroyer Differences

 The U.S. Navy's A3D Skywarrior and USAF B-66 Destroyer are very similar airplanes from the same manufacturer, Douglas, initially with very similar missions, medium-range bomber. They look very much the same to the casual observer in a dim light. Some of the differences were necessary but not obvious: the carrier-based Skywarrior had to have folding wings, an arresting hook, and catapult hooks for starters. In fact, however, it's far easier to list what didn't change between the A3D and the subsequent B-66. For all practical purposes, you could say that the B-66 had the same basic overall shape as the A3D except that is, for the forward fuselage and the inboard wing trailing edge. And possibly the wing tips.

For one thing, they had different engines as evidenced by the different engine nacelles. Douglas was lucky to get in line early for deliveries of the new, USAF-funded P&W J57 when the Navy's Westinghouse J40 disappointed. J57 production was all but oversubscribed when the Air Force ordered the B-66 from Douglas so it was saddled with the Allison J71, which had about the same performance but was somewhat inferior in other respects to the J57, as evidenced by the much shorter list of airplanes powered by it.

This is a graphic depicting the most notable external features of the A3D that differentiate it from the B-66:

This one depicts the most notable features of the B-66 that differentiate it from the A3D:

In addition to those details, the two had different radars, bombing/navigation systems, tail-gun turrets, landing gear, wing incidence, inflight refueling probe locations, etc. 

I plan to create a post on one of my aircraft modeler oriented blogs that illustrate the differences in more detail.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Flight Deck Uniform Colors


The picture above was taken of the flight deck crew aboard Shangri-La, probably in 1955. Note the colorful combinations of jerseys and "helmets". These identified the specific duties of each man, officer and enlisted. The practice reportedly began in the beginning aboard CV-1 Langley. I know for certain that the color assigned to a specific responsibility changed over time.

For example (and I apologize for not knowing who created this illustration), in 1943:

From Introduction to Naval Aviation, dated January 1946:

Note purple is assigned to the "chockmen" although the color here could easily be considered blue:

And the "Fueling service crews" are apparently to wear the standard working uniform blue shirt and only be distinguished by red cloth helmets.

 However, in this 1954 picture of F9F Panthers being refueled, it is being done by men wearing both red shirts and red helmets.

Note that they do not have a large "G" on the back of their jerseys as stated in the 1963 first edition of The Naval Aviation Guide:

Note that the catapult crew are not specifically cited as wearing green and "gasoline crews" are wearing red shirts, not yet purple. In fact, purple isn't listed.

However, by 1970 according to Stars and Stripes, fuel crews were assigned the color purple:

From the 1972 edition of The Naval Aviation Guide:

From the 1985 edition of The Naval Aviation Guide:

And "today" (click HERE for a full size image):

And/or watch a video, HERE.

Another major change to the flight deck uniform at some point (the late 1960s?) was the introduction of plastic helmets (cranials) in place of the cloth ones and the requirement to wear life vests (float coats).

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Definitive Blue Angels’ History - Volume 1


I have been remiss in not publicizing this series before, literally a labor of love by Mat Garretson. Volume One covers the years 1946 to 1955 (Volume Two is in work). It is comprehensive in scope (documents and many, many photos from the Blue Angels archives as well as interviews with former Blues), printed on high quality paper, with the photos, artwork, and illustrations in color if the originals were. It was published in two flavors, a limited number of the Plankowner Edition (hardcover, A3 format) and a Regular Edition (softcover, A4 format). The latter is available at a discount through tomorrow, 18 March 2022.

For additional information and to order, click HERE