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Society for Aviation History

PO. Box 7081 San Carlos, CA 94070


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2007 SAH General Meetings, Tours,
and Educational Programs

Our last meeting - December 1, 2007

Testing the New Generation of Frontline Fighters

test pilot - Thomas A. Morgenfeld

(Thomas Morgenfeld and SAH President Nick Veronico)


The Society for Aviation History held its final general meeting of 2007 on Dec. 1st at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City. Since it was the middle of the Holiday season, attendees were treated to seasonal decorations including a wonderful inflated rubber aircraft complete with a Santa Claus pilot, which was provided by SAH member Dick Kurkowski (SAH 51). Many members had photos taken by the Santa/airplane inflatable. Also, as has become tradition for this meeting, members participated in a toy drive organized by the hotel and were given a champagne toast in return.

President Nick Veronico called the meeting to order, then Andy Melomet (SAH 57) announced that there will be a seminar on the "Great War" from April 11th through April 13th in South San Francisco (see this SAH newsletter for further details). In appreciation for his years of support to the society as a board member, library catalog'er, audio-visual facilitator (numerous meetings were a success because of Alex's efforts!), and membership committee chairman, Alex Fucile (SAH 65) was recognized with a signed copy of the book In the Hands of Fate and Diane Fucile was given flowers by the SAH. The copy of In the Hands of Fate was donated by Anna and Elton Eddy (SAH55), and the society was able to have author Dwight Messimer sign the book for Alex. If you haven't read it, In the Hands of Fate details the opening days of World War II and what happened to Patrol Wing Ten and their battles against the Japanese.

Showing that "turn about is fair play," Gela DePuter (SAH 114), and Betty (SAH 6) and Nick Veronico (SAH 4) created a "tongue in cheek" trivia contest with Bill Stubkjaer (SAH 27) as the only contestant. His prize for taking first place in his personal trivia contest was a copy of Bill Sweetman's Joint Strike Fighter, signed by our speaker, test pilot Tom Morgenfeld! This contest was enjoyed by all in attendance, however Bill soon got his revenge with his usual very challenging contest for the members and guests.

The society's December meeting featured noted test pilot Thomas A. Morgenfeld,  who has flown more than 7,000 hours in 80 different aircraft.

Morgenfeld graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and earned his wings in 1967. During his two fleet tours flying the F-8 Crusader, first with VF-62 and later with VF-191, he flew more than 120 combat missions and amassed 500 carrier landings. He later served as a test pilot on the F/A-18 program, and was an exchange test pilot with both the British and the U.S. Air Force. Subsequently he was responsible for all U.S. Navy involvement with the then-secret test flying of MiG jet fighters. At the end of that tour, Morgenfeld retired from the Navy. Attaining the rank of Captain, Morgenfeld completed his 26-year Naval career as commander of the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, Calif., reserve unit.

As a civilian, Morgenfeld joined Lockheed in December 1979 as an experimental test pilot with the Skunk Works. There he was assigned to the F-117 program where he flew almost 1,300 hours testing that aircraft. In 1989, he went on to the Advanced Tactical Fighter program where he was primarily responsible for flying the second YF-22A prototype. After Lockheed won that competition, he was named Chief Test Pilot for the YF-22A follow-on test program. In 1991, he was named Chief Test Pilot for the Skunk Works and in 1999 was promoted to Director of Flight Operations as well. He was the Chief Test Pilot on the Joint Strike Fighter program where he performed the first flight on the X-35 and tested all three versions of the airplane. He also served as an Engineering Technical Fellow of the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. until his retirement in 2004. Today, Morgenfeld is a test pilot instructor at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, Calif.

The society’s top door prize was a beautiful X-35B desk model graciously autographed by our speaker. Don Corbett, a guest of William Noll (SAH 149) won the drawing. Congratulations, Don! After completing his presentation, Tom Morgenfeld and the members and guests had a lively question and answer session.

Meeting Location:  Foster City, CA,

(Nick Veronico, Trivia host Bill Stubkjaer, and member Gela DePutter)

(some of the toys for the teenager toy drive)

(members Diane and Alex Fucile)

Click on this link to see our Policies and Procedures Page

About our last meeting: Oct. 13, 2007

Air Racing Pilots' Panel Discussion

(Left to right, Mike Luvara, Marilyn Dash, and Scotty Germain)


After a short summer hiatus the society stepped back into action with our general meeting on October 13. The lunch and Reno Air Racing panel presentations were put together by our meeting coordinator and President Nick Veronico (SAH 4) at Francesco’s restaurant in Oakland.  

Our main presentation was a Reno air race panel consisting of race pilots Marilyn Dash and Scott “Scotty G” Germain, plus Mike Luvara who developed special electronic telemetry equipment that transmits and records aircraft system and engine performance data. This information is relayed to ground crews in real-time for instant performance analysis.

 Marilyn Dash flies a Pitts S-1S Ruby, race number 4, in the Biplane Class. Dash began racing in 2004, has qualified at speeds in excess of 160 mph in her Pitts, and competed in the Biplane Bronze Class.

And speaking of Race number 4s, Scotty Germain races Unleashed, race number 4, in the Sport Class. You've probably read Scotty's column, The Hot Lap, in InFlight USA, or seen his stories and awesome air-to-air photography in Warbird Digest. Scotty also runs the website www.warbirdaeropress.com where you can find the latest in air racing news and features. Germain has campaigned a tricked-out Lancair 360 at the 2005 through 2007 air races.

Luvara took us through his development processes and several actual races on aircraft equipped with his system. Telemetry is very valuable to both ground crews and the pilot.  It is also very useful in flight test runs with the data collected used to "tweak" the aircraft and engine on the ground.  The telemetry set-up includes two-way radio communications between ground and pilot. Ground analysis of the data can shows a variety of parameters - some of which may not be optimal. This information can be transmitted to the pilot so he/she can make adjustments, whether it be to engine settings or to the flight path around the course. The information is also recorded so the pilot and ground crew can critique the entire flight later.


Mothball Fleet Tour - July 14, 2007


We viewed up-close the USS Iowa, and the tugboat Hoga that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor and more! This tour was on Saturday, July 14, and we boarded at 10:45 a.m. at the Martinez Marina.

The tour includes beverages, appetizers, and a docent who discussed the ships seen on the tour.

June 9, 2007

William T. Larkins photo

Rick Turner photo

William T. Larkins photo

Rick Turner photo

Vietnam-Era Helicopter Living History

The beautiful Bud Field Aviation Hangar at the Hayward Airport was the site of our June 9 meeting. The 43 members in attendance took up only a small corner of this pristine hangar, so large it can simultaneously house two Gulfstream 4s (their tails seemingly inches from the ceiling), a DC-3, a Cessna Citation, and the star of our presentation, a UH-1H Vietnam-era helicopter. Those in attendance witnessed a mini airshow as the DC-3 departed, an AT-6 flew in and out of the field, and other interesting aircraft were seen. And this was all before the meeting got underway!

Our meeting began with a number of business items, including Matt Mintz's announcement that the Mothball Fleet Tour on July 14 was almost full. Nick Veronico reported that donations have been made towards acquisition of a shrink-wrap machine so prizes can be protected in storage and transit to our meetings. Anyone wishing to help reach our goal by making a contribution can send a check to the chapter address.

In July, Turner Classic Movies will be showing more than 70 aviation films, some of which have not been seen on television for many years. Society member Andy Melomet provided a list of the films, which range from Frank Capra's 1929 Flight all the way to the Cold War thriller Fail-Safe from 1964. Many of the titles are familiar ones, but there are plenty of lesser-known films being presented. Be sure to check your TCM listings.

Steve Quock aced the Trivia Contest with only one wrong answer. The other winners finished several correct answers behind Steve in Bill Stubkjaer's helicopter-oriented contest.

Geoff Carr was our featured speaker as co-founder of EMU, Inc., whose goal is to preserve the history of the Vietnam-era Assault Helicopter Companies and to honor their crews. Carr brought along the ultimate prop for his presentation: A Bell UH-1H ("Huey") helicopter recreated as EMU 309 of the 135th Assault Helicopter Company. The unique characteristic of the 135th was that it consisted of both Royal Australian Navy and U.S. Army personnel supporting the infantry of the Vietnamese Army and various American units, including Navy SEALs. Carr and his partner, Peter Olesko, each served as crewchief/doorgunner with the 135th in Vietnam. Both flew with the armed attack gunships and the troop carriers known as "slicks" (believed to be so named because these helicopters did not carry weapons mounted to the exterior, though they did carry flexible machine guns in the doors). The gunships had the call sign, TAIPAN (a deadly Australian snake), while the slicks were designed EMU (an acronym for Experimental Military Unit, and not named for the flightless Australian bird).

EMU 309 was the longest serving slick in the 135th AHC with a total of 28 months, during which time both Carr and Olesko had the opportunity to crew her. In contrast, the average EMU helicopter lasted only about nine months before being shot down or damaged beyond immediate repair. Of the 147 aircraft that served the 135th in Vietnam, about 40 served less than four months, and only about 40 lasted over a year.

Following Carr's presentation, several people strapped into the EMU 309 for a ride, while the rest watched from the ground and shielded themselves from the helicopter's impressive rotor downwash.

Carr and his son, Brandon, brought EMU, Inc. caps and shirts for sale, which have the motto of the 135th, "Get The Bloody Job Done," and donations to their preservation efforts are much appreciated. For information on how you can contribute, visit their website, www.emuinc.org.

In addition to the certificate of appreciation presented to Carr for his presentation, a certificate was given to Emergency BBQ for their excellent buffet lunch catering at this and our previous meeting.

April 14, 2007

Meeting Wrap-Up: Clyde Pangborn and the First Trans-Pacific Flight & San Francisco Bay Area Aviation Book Signing


In April, the Society for Aviation History gathered at Francesco's Restaurant in Oakland for a unique double feature: The story of Clyde Pangborn and the first trans-Pacific flight plus a book signing by the authors of the latest book covering San Francisco Bay Area aviation. The featured speaker was "JR" Roberts (SAH 161), cousin to record setting pilot Clyde Pangborn.

The meeting began with a signing by authors William T. Larkins (SAH 11) and Ronald Reuther (SAH 24) of their book San Francisco Bay Area Aviation. Covering the history of Bay Area aviation in many unique photographs, the books were a big hit judging by the many members waiting in line. Plaques of appreciation were presented to Bill Stubkjaer and Bernie McDonough from the Moffett Museum in recognition of their efforts at the last meeting.

Headlining the meeting was "JR" Roberts and the story of Clyde Pangborn's first flight across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to the United States. Pangborn was a typical daredevil flyer of the 1920s, well-known in the United States by the nickname "Upside-Down" Pangborn due to his tendency to fly low over towns inverted so the locals could read his name painted on the upper wings. He had decided to try and beat the then current speed record for flight around the world held by Wiley Post. To finance the flight, Pangborn had partnered with Hugh Herndon, better known as a Princeton playboy and son of an heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Besides money, Herndon was to take navigation training and assist with mid-flight fuel transfers. In reality, Herndon skipped navigation class, got married instead, and fell asleep during the flight allowing the engine to quit following fuel starvation. Their aircraft was a Bellanca Skyrocket, named Miss Veedol, equipped with extra fuel tanks for long-range flight.

Pangborn and Herndon's around the world flight was on a tight schedule until landing during an intense rainstorm in Siberia, the Skyrocket became hopelessly stuck in the mud. By the time they were able to take off, they were too far behind to break the existing record. Instead, they flew toward Japan after hearing of a $50,000 prize being offered for the first non-stop flight from Japan across the Pacific. A mix-up in obtaining proper permission to enter Japanese airspace found them arrested as spies upon landing in Tokyo. Tried and convicted by the Japanese government on espionage charges, they were given the choice of 205 days hard labor or paying a $2,000 fine. Choosing the latter, and while waiting for the money to arrive, they prepared Miss Veedol for the trans-Pacific flight. Pangborn felt that the Bellanca had sufficient range if he could further reduce the drag by dropping the main landing gear after takeoff. He calculated that this would give them a 15 mph increase in speed and add 600 miles to their range. He rigged a system that would allow him to pull a release cable, dropping the gear free once they were safely in the air. The plane was moved to Misawa City and a special ramp left over from an earlier attempt by another team was made ready for the Bellanca's attempt. While the citizens of Misawa were generally friendly, not all supported the idea of the Americans flight and just prior to the flight someone removed all the carefully prepared navigation charts from the Bellanca.

By Oct. 2, 1931, Pangborn and Herndon were ready for takeoff. They carried no radio, no survival equipment, and minimal food supplies. They did have 915 gallons of fuel and 45 gallons of oil on board giving the plane a gross weight of about 9,000 pounds, more than 3,500 pounds above the rated gross weight. With permission from the Japanese authorities for only one take-off attempt, Pangborn used all 425 horsepower the Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine could produce and began the takeoff run. Sixty long seconds later, Miss Veedol was approaching the end of the ramp, a pile of logs looming at the end. Pangborn rocked the plane to get it airborne and barely cleared the logs. With only one takeoff approved, he was either going to get airborne or crash trying. Pangborn put the Bellanca on a course for the Aleutians and after three hours, satisfied that all was well, he released the landing gear. The main structure fell away, and the Bellanca immediately climbed to 14,000 feet, however, two bracing rods remained attached to the plane. Pangborn knew he had to release these or risk having them driven through the fuselage during landing.

As the sun went down, the plane began to encounter icing conditions so Pangborn climbed to 17,000 where the air was clear and free of ice. He decided that this was the perfect time to remove the remaining struts and turned the controls over to Herndon. Using his wing-walking skills, he climbed out onto the wing-bracing strut and holding on with one hand in the frigid air stream, removed the offending strut. He then climbed back into the plane and repeated the process on the other side. Approaching the Aleutians, Herndon nearly forgot his assignment to transfer fuel between tanks. The engine sputtered, but he was able to quickly transfer fuel and keep it going. The second time, the engine quit completely and with no electric starter forced Pangborn to dive the plane trying to keep the propeller wind milling. They dove from 17,000 feet to 1,500 feet before the engine caught and began running again.

After 30 hours of flying the pair sighted the northwest coast of Canada. Because the worst of the navigation was over, Pangborn had Herndon take the controls while he attempted to get a couple hours of sleep before landing. He instructed Herndon to wake him when they saw the lights of Vancouver, British Columbia. As he slept, Herndon again failed his assignment, missing both Vancouver and Seattle. Pangborn awoke, finding the plane heading straight for Mount Rainer. As they had passed Seattle, they elected to try and land in Boise, Idaho, which would set a new distance record. However, Boise was fogged in, so they returned to Washington, heading for Pangborn's hometown of Wenatchee. After circling to dump their remaining fuel, the Bellanca made rough landing at 7:15 a.m., on Oct. 3, 1931. They had been in the air nearly 41 hours after leaving Japan, but had become the first airplane to fly nonstop across the Pacific Ocean. The pair were greeted by a representative of the Japanese newspaper that sponsored the prize money and received a check for $50,000. Interestingly, the newspaper's representative had selected Wenatchee and the most likely place they would touch down.

Unfortunately for Pangborn, as Herndon had sponsored the trip, he claimed the majority of the prize money, only awarding $2,500 to Pangborn. As owner of the plane, Herndon also elected to sell Miss Veedol shortly after, denying Pangborn any publicity a cross-country tour would have provided. Pangborn was, however, later awarded the prestigious Harmon Trophy for his daring flight.

Our speaker, JR Roberts worked with the EAA Chapter at Wenatchee to painstakingly recreate Miss Veedol, building a near exact replica. He described finding a derelict fuselage in Alaska as a starting point. The heirs to the Bellanca Co. refused to provide any drawings of the Skyrocket, citing liability concerns thereby forcing Roberts and his team to reverse engineer much of the plane. The replica was finished in 2003 and flew to Kitty Hawk for the Wright Brothers Centennial celebration. It also participated in the recent National Air Tour until damaged in a landing accident. Roberts has about 30 hours in the new Miss Veedol and would like to recreate Pangborn's record flight, but with one slight change: He wouldn't drop the landing gear because modern navigational aids would make the flight shorter than the original. Our trivia contest was provided by Bill Stubkjaer, who stumped most in attendance with the subject; "Pacific Crossings."

Story by Dan Morgan (SAH280), Photos by Roger Cain (SAH148)


Society for Aviation History Special Event: May 5, 2007

Travis Air Force Base Museum Tour

On Saturday morning, May 5, arrangements are in place to tour the Travis Air Force Base Museum of Military Aviation History. The meeting time is scheduled for 10 a.m.

The precise meeting location will be provided to those who sign-up for the event. Due to parking restrictions, car pooling is encouraged.

The Travis Museum of Military Aviation History features an extensive collection of American military aircraft from various periods, including fighters, bombers, cargo carriers, trainers, and liaison aircraft. Its exhibits highlight Jimmy Doolittle and the Tokyo Raiders, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Berlin Airlift, as well as the history of Travis AFB, with special emphasis on the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

As a caveat, access to the base is contingent upon the security level in place at the time of the tour. You must bring a government issued photo id, such as a state driver’s license, and we may need to submit your social security number to the security office.

The lunch, including the tour, will be $20 (checks payable to SAH, and mail to P.O. Box 7081, San Carlos, 94070), and each person is asked to make a separate donation to the museum.

Click on this link to see our Policies and Procedures Page

Speakers Chris Grech and David Canepa

U.S.S. Macon Location and Investigation – 1990, 1991 and 2006

February 10, 2007 Meeting Wrap-up

The Society for Aviation History's first general meeting of 2007 was held at the Moffett Field Museum on Feb. 10. Since the guest speaker's presentation and the meeting concerned the discovery of the wreckage of the airship U.S.S. Macon, this was a very appropriate site.  The Moffett Field Museum is located next to Moffett Federal Airfield's Hangar 1, which was built to house the Macon. An over-capacity crowd of 123 attended the meeting and enjoyed an excellent presentation along with the museum's exhibits.  Bill Stubkjaer provided an unusual and fun trivia contest where attendees identified some of his identification models while touring the museum prior to lunch.

The SAH General Meeting began after a fine buffet lunch, which featured BBQ'd ribs, tri-tip, and chicken prepared by "Emergency BBQ" of Belmont.  President Nick Veronico opened the meeting by presenting outgoing President Norm Jukes with a plaque in appreciation for his services to the society.  It was announced that Ian Abbott had resigned from the board and that Alice Hendricks was appointed to replace him.  Jim Lund took first place in the trivia contest with only one wrong answer!

The rigid airship USS Macon (ZRS-5) was built in Akron, Ohio, and first flew in April 1933. After testing and shakedown at Lakehurst, N.J., she flew to her new home base, NAS Sunnyvale, arriving Oct. 15, 1933.  In April 1934, the Macon flew east to take part in fleet exercises in the Caribbean.  While returning to Moffett Field she suffered damage to a tail ring and two girders in turbulence over Texas.  The damage was soon repaired, but it was determined that the tail ring and the Macon's four tail fins would need to be strengthened. This work had only been partially completed when the airship made its final flight.

On Feb. 12, 1935, Macon was returning from fleet maneuvers when it encountered a storm off Point Sur, near Monterey.  Turbulence from the storm caused a structural failure of the top fin, which had not yet been reinforced. Two rear gas cells were punctured as a result, and the Macon began to lose lift.  The airship's captain, Lt. Cdr. Herbert V. Wiley, made the decision to ditch the Macon, under control, tail first into the Pacific.  Wiley was one of only three survivors of the crash of the Macon's sister airship the USS Akron. Largely due to his experience and the fact that life vests and life rafts were now on board, 76 out of a crew of 78 survived this ditching. This accident ended the Navy's operational use of rigid airships although the USS Los Angeles was still used for some training until she was scrapped in 1939.

Chris Grech, the meeting's guest speaker, is deputy director for marine operations at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). Grech served as co-principal investigator for the expeditions, which began in June 1990, to locate and document the remains of the USS Macon. Grech began his presentation with an excellent video of the Macon during her short period of operation.  Attempts to find the Macon's final resting place were begun by MBARI in 1988 at the behest of Dick Sands of the National Museum of Naval Aviation and Monterey Bay Aquarium founder David Packard. Grech was asked to be a leader of this search. At that time it was not known that a piece of wreckage had accidentally been recovered in 1980.

Commercial fisherman David Canepa, who first discovered the remains of the airship, found a piece of girder while fishing in approximately 1,500 feet of water three miles off of Partington Point. The girder piece was put on display in a restaurant in Moss Beach.  When the exploration by MBARI started in 1989, Gordon Wiley, son of the captain of the Macon, Lt.Cmdr. Herbert Wiley, mentioned that his sister, Marie Wiley Ross, had seen the piece of girder on display at the restaurant. Grech then started an investigation to discover where the Macon artifact came from.  Using information obtained from Canepa's LORAN log, Grech then led an expedition that found the wreckage location in 1990.

During the first expedition in June 1990, using the U.S. Navy's manned deep submergence vehicle Sea Cliff, several artifacts were recovered including a "Skyhook" from one of the Macon's Sparrowhawk biplane fighters.  This rare artifact was given to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.  During subsequent expeditions, in February and April 1991, four of the Macon's eight German made Maybach engines were found, and all four of her Curtis F9C-2 Sparrowhawk biplanes were located as well.  Also discovered were chairs, tables, the officer's cabin and the control car, much of which has collapsed over the years.  More artifacts were recovered and distributed to various museums.

In 2005, using side-scanning sonar, an expedition was mounted to determine the exact size of the various debris fields in preparation for a more extensive visit in 2006.  This next expedition extended from Sept. 18 through 21, 2006, and was to document the Macon crash site for the National Marine Sanctuary Project and the U.S. Naval Historical Center. The Research Vessel Western Flyer was used along with the remotely operated vehicle Tiburon.  It was found that many of the items documented 15 years earlier had either decayed completely or had been covered in so much silt that they were no longer visible.  An example of this would be the aluminum structure for the nose mooring cap, which has disappeared since 1991.  One more of the Maybach engines was found, making a total of five of the eight.  The remains of all four Sparrowhawks and the airship's galley are still visible.  A significant effort was made to document the location of all wreckage and to make accompanying digital images.  Based on this effort, it will be decided what to do next with the Macon's remains, either recovery or preserve as is. The airship U.S.S. Macon still belongs to the U.S. Navy and it sits in state-owned water within a National Marine Sanctuary.

It must be noted that Chris Grech accompanied his presentation with many fine images of the Macon and the Sparrowhawks taken during the expeditions. After Grech completed his talk, Dave Canepa joined him for a lively question and answer session. The Moffett Field Museum then presented two videos for those attendees who wished to stay and watch.

To learn more about MBARI and the recent expeditions, visit these websites: MBARI News and NOA News  The MBARI web site contains some of the same images that Grech used in his presentation.  ---- Rick Turner (SAH 008)

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