All posts by Tomcatter5150

An average guy with interests in photography, aviation, 1/48th scale plastic aircraft models and cooking. I get to do some cool things and have some great friends.

New England Air Museum’s Latest Exhibit: The Kościuszko Squadron

On May 2, 2021, the New England Air Museum held an invitation only event to unveil the plans for their future exhibit titled “The Kościuszko Squadron : Defenders of Freedom”. The museum’s newest exhibit is designed to honor the heroism of the Kościuszko Squadron and the Polish 303 Squadron of the RAF.

Ron Katz, Director of Advancement & External Affairs – New England Air Museum

The Kościuszko Squadron was originally formed in 1919 shortly after Poland regained their independence after World War One. The squadron consisted of American pilots recruited to help the Polish during the Russian-Polish War. During World War Two, Poland was invaded by Germany in the early stages of the war. In the spirit of the early Kościuszko Squadron, many of the Polish pilots that managed to escape capture fled to England. The RAF formed the 303 Squadron with these pilots. The unit served with great distinction during the Battle of Britain and is credited with the most aerial victories during the battle.

Dr. David Dauwalder, Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs – Central Connecticut State University

The New England Air Museum (NEAM) has partnered with Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) to develop the exhibit. CCSU is well qualified for such a task. CCSU has an internationally acclaimed Polish Studies Program and is leading the informational development of the exhibit.

The exhibit will be permanently displayed at the New England Air Museum (NEAM) in freshly renovated space leading to the civilian hangar of the NEAM display floor. The proposed location is ideal for a large display and a high volume of foot traffic is expected.

The rendering of the proposed exhibit space

The current plans indicate a number of different multi-media exhibits to showcase a number of different artifacts and photos. Several items on early display include a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and several Polish military uniforms. Plans also include additional photos, various plastic model aircraft and other artifacts. Donations are still being accepted, which means the final display items are still being determined. No doubt that these items will produce a world class exhibit once the time to display them is upon us.

The full Kościuszko Squadron exhibit is scheduled for full public display on November 11, 2021 but may vary depending on financial ability and nature of the artifacts available.

After the event, Ron Katz sent the following in an email. “As you heard in my appeal last night, we seriously need your help to complete this exhibit. If this subject is important to you, if you believe that the heroism of the Kosciuszko Squadron has been hidden for too long, then please make your donation today. If you have already made a donation we sincerely thank you for your support. If not, you can make a donation securely online at https://ccsu.networkforgood.com/causes/17039-the-kosciuszko-squadron. All gifts are very much appreciated. For your gift of $1,000 or more you will be permanently recognized in the exhibit space, and will receive one of our special commemorative Kosciuszko Squadron coins. A list of benefits for all donation levels is attached.

If you wish to support the project but prefer not to make a donation online, you can send a check payable to the CCSU Foundation, and mail it to PO Box 612, New Britain, CT 06050-0612 and make a notation: “For the Kosciuszko Squadron.””

Other Special Guests

The United States has always had strong ties to Poland. Even today, Poland is considered one of America’s strongest allies. The large Polish population in the New England area makes logical sense for a display such as this. The proposed NEAM exhibit will be larger than a similar display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Presentation of Exhibit Design Guests

Closing Remarks

Dr. M.B. Biskupski, Endowed Chair Central Connecticut State University Polish Studies Program

This is a brief glimpse of the exciting things planned for this exhibit. Based on this small sneak peak, I am eager to see the final results in a few short months.

The History In An Image: US Navy’s Legacy Flight – The Strike-Fighter

The image above is the US Navy’s Legacy Flight from the 2017 Cleveland National Air Show. CAF Dixie Wing’s FG-1D Corsair leads a F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-106 Gladiators. Traditionally, this is always a highlight of an airshow for me when a warbird flies formation with a current military aircraft. I was exhilarated at the time since the combination of a Corsair and Super Hornet was something I rarely witnessed – along with the fact that two of my favorite aircraft were together. What I failed to recognize when I took this image is the history it captures. At the time, this photo represented the US Navy’s first strike-fighter, the Corsair, and their current strike-fighter, the Super Hornet.

The photo pass of the 2017 USN Legacy Flight

What is a strike-fighter? Some official definition may exist, but the general idea is that a strike-fighter is an aircraft primarily designed for fighting other aircraft in air-to-air combat but also has the ability to deliver air-to-ground ordinance such as bombs, rockets or other munitions when needed.

The genesis of the strike-fighter idea was born out of boredom and necessity. The VF-17 “Jolly Rogers” were a land based F4U Corsair unit deployed to the Solomon Islands. The Jolly Rogers led by Lt. Commander Tom Blackburn along with sister USMC F4U squadrons, RNZAF P-40s and USAAF P-38s eliminated the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy aircraft. The Japanese realized the Solomon Islands were lost and pulled what remained of the air fleet back to defend mainland Japan. With no aerial opposition, the fighter sweeps became hours of boredom for the fighter pilots. However, the ground battle still was long from over. Since a fighter plane escort of bomber aircraft was no longer required, Blackburn along with other members of VF-17 came up with a plan…carry a bomb and help the guys on the ground.

At the time, this was a radical idea. Aircraft were designed for a specific purpose – fighter, dive-bomber, torpedo and bomber. The aircraft did not have wiring for wing or fuselage mounted ordinance. Work was initiated and a rough bomb rack and cockpit wiring were installed. After a few modifications, a bomb rack that could safely carry and deliver a bomb was complete. Blackburn sold the idea to his superiors and the idea was tested out operationally.

This innovation and idea was eventually approved for all Corsair units. Engineering from the original VF-17 design was modified and incorporated into manufacturing at Chance-Vought and Goodyear. These modifications included permanent wing and fuselage wiring to allow external ordinance.

Ultimately, that decision to allow a fighter to carry bombs has permanently changed Naval Aviation. In the immediate future, F6F Hellcats were modified to carry bombs and rockets similar to the F4U-1/FG-1 Corsairs. Nearly every Navy/USMC fighter aircraft since has the ability to deliver air-to-ground ordinance.

A feature unique to carrier based aircraft is foldable wings. Here the FG-1 Corsair and F/A-18F Super Hornet show their similarities.

The fleet is now beginning to deploy the F-35C along with the USMC F-35B, the next generation of strike-fighters. The F/A-18 and F-35 will continue the strike-fighter duties for the next several decades.

F/A-18 Super Hornets from VFA-151 Vigilantes and VFA-2 Bounty Hunters and a F-35C Lightning II from VFA-147 Argonauts (The first active F-35C unit)

Only about 45 years separate the Corsair and Super Hornet.

VAQ-130 Zappers 2020 Cruise Video

Enjoy the 2020 cruise video from VAQ-130 Zappers. The squadron is part of Air Wing 3, based at NAS Whidbey Island and fly the EA-18 Growler. In August 2020, the squadron returned from its 206-day deployment aboard the USS Dwight D Eisenhower. The deployment broke the record for longest deployment without hitting a port.

VAQ-130 is currently the oldest electronic warfare squadron in the US Navy, with a history dating back to 1968.

Feature photo by USN MC3 Hillary Becke (released)

Remembering My Time With An Aviation Icon: Chuck Yeager

On December 7, 2020 the aviation community lost a legend of the industry. Chuck Yeager was an Ace fighter pilot in World War II, a historic test pilot, author and even had some acting experience in movies and TV commercials. When I was growing up, I idolized Mr. Yeager. He was larger than life and was the hero type for an airplane obsessed kid like me growing up in the 1970s and 80s. I read his two autobiography books, I clipped out his advertisements for AC Delco and the F-20 that were in the magazines. He had done it all in the aviation world and was the coolest pilot in the world in my eyes.

I always said if I ever had the chance to meet him, I would do so. I finally had the opportunity to meet him on August 9, 2003. At the time, the Thunder Over Michigan airshow was in its infancy. It was primarily a warbird airshow and would bring in a number of special guests to attract visitors. In 2003, amongst the special guests was Charles “Chuck” Yeager. It was announced that Mr. Yeager would be signing autographs during the Sunday show. I got in line to wait for my turn to meet my childhood hero.

Up to this point, I had never met any of my person celebrity icons. I had mixed feelings about doing so. I was always afraid that I would make a fool of myself, fumbling for something to say or that the celebrity would be rude or different than I expected. My brush with Mr. Yeager confirmed my fears!

In short, Mr. Yeager was rude to me and his personality was not what I had hoped for in meeting my aviation icon. However, I believe that there is an explanation for his actions. While in line, the guy in front of me had a HUGE bag of items. He clearly was at the show for the autographs. As we drew closer to our turn, he started grabbing out his items. A photo, a couple magazine ads, a X-1 die cast plane, etc. Meanwhile, I was in awe seeing the legend in front of me smiling and speaking with the people in front of him. Fast forward a few minutes and I was next in line. I get my item to be signed ready, confirm my camera is working and anxiously wait my turn.

Then the trouble started. I was watching the guy that was in front of me at the table. He started talking to Mr. Yeager and pointing for him to sign this and that. Also do not sign here or put his hand there while signing. Finally, Mr. Yeager yelled at him “stop barking orders and this is the last thing I am signing for you!” The guy packed his items and Mr. Yeager’s assistant asked me to step up. Mr. Yeager was now visually upset.

I handed over my photo and Mr. Yeager asked my name to personalize the photo. “It is an honor to meet you Mr. Yeager” I said. “You are my childhood hero.” Mr. Yeager grunted as a response and personalized my photo. He shook my hand and brushed my photo to the side quickly to move onto the next person. I was terribly disappointed with the experience. Crap…that was not how I wanted my time to go with him. I was in shock at that point. Excited to have met a historical figure, but disappointed.

Chuck Yeager signing my photograph
Photo after I gathered my belongings…

After time has passed, my feelings have changed about the matter. Many of my aviation friends and colleagues have met Mr. Yeager and expressed their opinion about him. Some positive, some have been negative. I chose to think that the guy in front of me tarnished the experience. He upset Mr. Yeager with his demands and bossy demeanor. Mr. Yeager did not have time to “shake it off” and get back to his normal self. Like I mentioned, most of the people before me were treated friendly and given some time with him. I wish my interaction with him was different, but I consider myself fortunate to have had the experience.

Although my time with Mr. Yeager was brief, I accomplished my goal of meeting him and shook the man’s hand. I still believe him to be an icon of the modern aviation era, and he is still one of my heroes!

My personalized photo signed by Chuck Yeager!

2018 Brantford Community Charity Airshow

The 2018 Brantford Community Charity Airshow took place on August 29, 2018 at the Brantford Municipal Airport. 2018 had several notable changes, including the name and partnership with the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM).

Mother Nature did not want to cooperate very well, with low ceilings, dark skies and a complete downpour at the climax of the event. Several aircraft were unable to participate due to poor weather conditions allowing a flight to Brantford. However, the bulk of the performers were able to get some of their displays completed.

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum DC-3 Dakota

The CWHM DC-3 opened the event with the Hamilton Sport Parachute Team onboard to bring in the colors. The low ceiling did not allow them to jump, but the aircraft made several nice passes. The aircraft displays the the markings of RCAF No. 435 and 436 Squadrons, which operated in Burma during 1944-45 and whose slogan was “Canucks Unlimited”.

Danny Richer’s BAC 147 Strikemaster

The Strikemaster is a retired light attack aircraft designed by the British and also used by several allied air forces. The design is the armed version of the Provost trainer and first flown in 1967. Danny Richer owns several warbird aircraft including the Strikemaster and a T-28 Trojan, and flies out of the Brantford airport.

Commemorative Air Force B-29 Superfortress “FiFi”

The Commemorative Air Force brought their B-29 Superfortress “FiFi” for the only Canadian appearance of the year. FiFi was the lone flying B-29 for a number of years and has been featured in several movies including “The Right Stuff”. The aircraft was rescued from U.S. Navy Proving Ground at China Lake, California and restored to flight. She flew regularly until 2006 when new engines were required. After a long 4-year re-engine project, she returned to flight.

Allied Heavy Iron

In a very rare formation, the B-29 was joined by the CWHM Lancaster. This formation showcased the USAAF and RAF/RCAF’s two largest bombers of WWII. Although similar in size, the Lancaster could carry a larger payload than the American designed B-29. The CWHM Lancaster is the only flying example in North America and is always exciting to see such a rare piece of military history in the sky. The roar of four Merlin engines is also amazing!

Allied Heavy Bomber Salute. The Allied forces two largest bombers the Lancaster and B-29 in a rare formation.

RCAF CF-18 Hornet Demo

The RCAF CF-18 Hornet demo team brought the noise with a flat show demonstration of the Hornet. This year’s demo jet is painted to in a celebration of the 60th Anniversary of NORAD.

RCAF Heritage Flight

At the conclusion of the CF-18 demo, the rumble of the Lancaster could be heard in the distance. Unknown to the spectators, the team had special plans to perform the Heritage Flight with the Lancaster! We could not believe our eyes as the two aircraft joined together in formation and made the turn towards the showline. Sadly, the weather also decided to turn into a downpour at the same time. The first pass is captured, but the rain forced the camera gear into the bag. Still, it was a special formation and one I will remember for a long time.

RCAF Snowbirds

The Snowbirds were able to take to the skies to close the show. The heavy rain from earlier passed and the cloud deck began to rise. The team was still required to perform a flat show, but it is equally impressive as the high show. The variation in the sky can be seen in several photos.

“Doug The Great”

A longtime staple of the ground portion of the Brantford show has been Doug Hunt. He stands out in the crowd for obvious reasons, but really brings a fun element to the show. Doug also resides in Brantford and is a multi-talented performer. Details about his other talents and his world record can be found at his performer website.

Doug is always happy to stop and talk to the kids and take photos. It is hard to determine who is having more fun, the kids taking photos with him or Doug himself. I always enjoy seeing him each year and the kids flocking to see him up close.

VFA-102 Diamondbacks 2019 Cruise Video

Feature photo above by U.S. Navy photo by Lt. JG Douglas Spence.

Enjoy the 2018-2019 cruise video from VFA-102 Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks currently fly the F/A-18F Super Hornet out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and are one of the forward deployed Super Hornet squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 5. The squadron regularly deploys aboard the USS Ronald Reagan.