01 March 2015

Flying High This Past Week: 22 February-1 March

So here's what's been getting a lot of page views this past week here at TAILS THROUGH TIME:

  • The Boeing PBB Sea Ranger: The Best Flying Boat at the Worst Possible Time: Quite naturally the most recent aviation history article for this blog is going to lead things off on this installment of "Flying High This Past Week". One of the most fascinating areas of aviation history for me are those aircraft that either never went into production like the Sea Ranger or those that never left the drawing boards like the Focke Wulf Ta 183 "Huckebein". Look for more articles in the future from me that cover either unbuilt aircraft designs or aircraft that never went into production. What are often aviation dead-ends often leave a legacy for future designs. In the case of the Boeing PBB Sea Ranger, it left an unexpected legacy with Boeing that still plays a big part of the company today. 
  • Tactics Over Technology: The Thach Weave: There's no argument that first six months of the Second World War in the Pacific that the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero was ascendant as one of the aircraft apex predators of the skies. The Battle of Midway wasn't just a turning point in the Pacific War but it also represented a turning point in the fortunes of the Zero even though the stubby Grumman F4F Wildcat was still the main fleet fighter of the Navy and definitely not in the same class as the Zero. At Midway, the skipper of VF-3, Lt. Commander Jimmy Thach, instituted a new tactical maneuver called the "Thach Weave" that gave Wildcat pilots a fighting chance against the Zero.
  • The Most Ambitious UAV Ever: Quartz/AARS: In the 1980s over $1 billion was spent on a stealthy UAV called the Advanced Aerial Reconnaissance System which was code named Quartz. It was a flying wing UAV that would penetrate Soviet airspace in times of war and search for the road and rail mobile ICBMs of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces. Boeing won the contract for the AARS over Lockheed but in 1992, Quartz was canceled, but it's believed the work that went into the design may bear fruit with a next-generation bomber to succeed the B-2A Spirit should the joint Lockheed/Boeing team be selected over Northrop Grumman. 
  • The Ultimate Superfortress: The B/RB-54: This was the ultimate evolution in the Superfortress design lineage as a longer legged, faster, and even bigger version of the B-50 Superfortress which was itself quite an improvement over the wartime-era B-29. While it never flew let alone enter production as it came on the scene just as jet aircraft like the B-47 Stratojet were entering the picture, it did leave the drawing board. The B/RB-54 prototype was 75% complete when the program was canceled with its funding shifted to the Stratojet program. 
  • One Powerful Helicopter Gunship: The ACH-74A "Guns A-Go-Go": Only four of these gunship Chinooks were built and flown into combat in Vietnam 1966-1968. To the best of my knowledge, these beast machines are the only helicopter gunships to ever go into combat with an unobstructed 360-degree field of fire.
That's all for this installment of "Flying High This Past Week". Stay tuned to TAILS THROUGH TIME- there will be a new aviation history article posted here every five days. The next one will be going up on 3 March. And don't forget last week's installment of "Flying High This Past Week"!

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