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Society for Aviation History

PO. Box 7081 San Carlos, CA 94070


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2008 SAH General Meetings, Tours,
and Educational Programs

Our December 6, 2008 Meeting

"The X-Hunters" Peter W. Merlin and Tony Moore

Tony Moore, Nick Veronico (SAH President), and Peter W. Merlin

Our Holiday meeting was in Foster City at the Crowne Plaza. This year 71 members and guests participated again in the hotel's toy drive for teenagers, and the hotel hosted a holiday champagne toast.

Our speakers were "The X-Hunters," Peter W. Merlin and Tony Moore, who have located more than 100 crash sites of exotic aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base and Area 51. Together, they have recovered parts of supersonic rocket planes, stealthy spycraft, and vehicles that have reached the edge of space. They will discuss many of the unusual aircraft and the men who flew them. Some of the planes and crash sites they'll discuss include the YB-49 and a pair of N9M flying wings, X-1A, X-1D, XB-51, XB-70, SR-71, YF-12, U-2 prototype, and many more.

Together, The X-Hunters have chronicled their exploits in a new book titled, X-Plane Crashes: Exploring Experimental, Rocket Plane & Spycraft Incidents, Accidents & Crash Sites, which was released on October 15. Copies will be available at the luncheon.

Peter W. Merlin is an archivist and historian at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, under contract to TYBRIN Corporation. He is the author of Mach 3+: NASA/USAF YF-12 Flight Research, 1969-1979 and Archangel to Senior Crown: Design and Development of the Blackbird, and co-author of Donald L. Mallick s autobiography The Smell of Kerosene: A Test Pilot s Odyssey. Tony Moore is a museum assistant at the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum at Edwards Air Force Base. He is also a graphic artist and previously served as an audiovisual archivist at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. He is a founding member of the X-Hunters Aerospace Archeology Team and a member of the Flight Test Historical Foundation.

Our Presidents from the past eleven years 

Norm Jukes (2005-2006), Nick Veronico (Current), and John Symons (1997-2001)

Below, some of our members and guests at the luncheon


Meeting: October 11, 2008

Hub Zemke: Tactics and Leadership


Hub Zemke, Jr.

Following the traditional summer break, the society’s fourth meeting of 2008 was held at the Alameda Naval Air Museum where a crowd of 70 members and guests gathered to learn about one of the truly great Fighter Group leaders of World War II. Presented by his son, Hub Zemke Jr., his story is one of the most interesting to come out of the European Theatre of Operations.

President  Nick Veronico called the meeting to order by announcing that annual elections are approaching for the board of directors, with one seat being open. Also open for the coming year is the head of the tours committee, and volunteers are still needed for the video committee who would be willing to record our lunch meetings for addition to the society’s library. The society is such a success due to the strength of our members, so if you can help, please call  Nick to discuss these opportunities.

            Following lunch, catered by Emergency BBQ who as always provided the group with a tasty menu, Bill Stubkjaer (SAH 027) produced this meetings trivia contest appropriately covering P-47 history. Fortunately, this was only a single page in length, thereby keeping the pain to a minimum.

Hub Zemke was one of the greatest Fighter Group CO's of the ETO, along with his counterpart at the 4th FG, Don Blakeslee. Zemke's 56th Fighter Group, the "Wolfpack," was credited with 665 aerial victories, leading all fighter groups in the ETO. Zemke himself had 17.75 confirmed victories in 154 combat missions.

He developed the Zemke Fan and helped to persuade the 8AF generals to let fighters roam more freely around the bomber formations, rather than keeping them in close. In August 1944, Zemke took over the 479th Fighter Group, equipped with P-38 Lightnings but converting to P-51 Mustangs. The 479th's record had not been good. Zemke soon restored the group's morale while earning three more victories himself, including one of the first Allied shoot-downs of an Me-262 jet. He and his wingman attacked what they thought was a Bf-109, which they shot up and saw go down. Only when the gun camera footage was developed did they learn that they had downed a jet.

In October 1944 on a mission over Germany, his P-51 lost a wing. Parachuting from the wreckage, Zemke was soon taken prisoner and ended up in Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany, on the Baltic Sea. Colonel Zemke found himself Senior Allied Officer, responsible for 7,000 Allied prisoners. Zemke provided excellent leadership to the POWs in the camp and took charge of the difficult transfer of authority at Stalag Luft I when Germany surrendered.

Zemke's career, his tactics, and his outstanding leadership principles were presented by Hub Zemke Jr., who has presented this same material to the Air Force Academy staff.

Our June 14, 2008 Meeting:

The History of Tallmantz Aviation

This history of Tallmantz Aviation and its two well known founders was presented in words and pictures by Scott Thompson (above photo) at the June 14th meeting of the Society of Aviation History. Tallmantz Aviation was the well-known Orange County aviation company that merged the assets and talents of two prominent Hollywood precision movie pilots, Paul Mantz and Frank Tallman. Mantz was the King of the Hollywood film pilots since the 1930s, and his reputation remains so even four decades after his last tragic flight. Tallman, sixteen years the junior of Mantz, had his own reputation as a stunt pilot and a substantial antique airplane collection. Tallman brought new energy and a renewed vision to the unique partnership of two very different but complimentary men.

Formed in 1962, the partnership of Mantz and Tallman melded together two large collections of vintage aircraft. These formed the backbone of their business in providing Hollywood with airplanes for films, and also was the basis of the Movieland of the Air museum that opened in late 1963 at the southeastern end of what was then the sleepy Orange County Airport. Probably best known for its pair of distinctive B-25 camera planes, Tallmantz Aviation enjoyed several years of prosperity until the middle of 1965. In the late spring of that year, Frank Tallman suffered a non-aviation accident that eventually cost him his left leg. And, on July 8, 1965, Paul Mantz was killed while filming a scene for "Flight of the Phoenix" in the California desert west of Yuma. With the incapacitation of Tallman and the loss of Mantz, and with the threat of lawsuits over the Mantz crash looming, the survival of the young company was very much in doubt. To raise cash, Tallman was forced to sell a large part of his prized aircraft collection, and the investors that purchased the collection were themselves forced to auction it at the famous May 1968 auction held at Tallmantz Aviation. Tallmantz eventually recovered to a measure of its former potential, and the company remained a primary source providing pilots, planes, and camera platforms for Hollywood through the 1970s. The museum and the company soldiered on but suffered the death of Frank Tallman in an April 1978 airplane accident and the gradual collapse of the aviation film industry. In 1985, Tallmantz Aviation was sold to new investors and the remaining aircraft collection, still substantial, was sold to Kermit Weeks, where much of it remains to this day.

Scott Thompson has long followed the history of Tallmantz Aviation, having grown up just a few miles from its Orange County base. He well recalls the thunder of "Catch-22" B-25 formations roaring over his house in the fall of 1968 as Tallmantz gathered and rebuilt eighteen of the beasts for the movie. He has written several books and over a hundred articles on different aspects of aviation history, including his first article entitled "Hollywood Mitchells," not coincidently about Tallmantz B-25s, that appeared in the September 1980 issue of Air Classics magazine. In the real world, he flies FAA Lear 60s and Beech King Airs for the FAA doing airborne navaid calibration and flight inspection and is based at Sacramento. He lives in Lincoln with his wife Lisa and, as his three sons have grown up and moved on, is in the initial stages of building an RV-8. His website at www.aerovintage.com has an extensive section on Tallmantz Aviation.

Our last was held at the Oakland Aviation Museum, CA

June 14th, 2008  -  11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


About Our April 12, 2008 Meeting

The History of BIG SAFARI

"The History of BIG SAFARI" was  presented by Jerry Knotts at the April 12th meeting of the Society for Aviation History. BIG SAFARI is the USAF program responsible for sustainment and modification of specialized special mission aircraft. Big Safari provides a unique process of acquisition and contracting management that supports 20-24 projects at any one time and includes responsibility for logistics sustainment for over 50 aircraft worldwide.

Jerry Knotts served as Project Engineer and Program Manager for many Big Safari programs. In these positions, he was responsible for the design, production, flight test, acceptance, and "cradle to grave" support for many special purpose aircraft.

He also co-authored a book for the USAF on "The History of Big Safari".

The Big Safari Program is an innovative engineer's dream. Supporting national defense requirements, the projects varied in complexity, the quick reaction solutions allowed the use of "off the shelf" equipment and minimum application of Mil-Specs. Recently, Congress declared Big Safari as the recommended approach for military projects.

Jerry Knotts retired from the USAF in 1984 after 24 years of service with the rank of Colonel. His military experience included more than 14 years with a unique USAF program called BIG SAFARI where he acted as Project Engineer and Program Manager for many special application aircraft projects with General Dynamics, E-Systems, Lockheed Corporation and numerous other aerospace companies.

He completed 112 combat missions as an F-105F WILD WEASEL and RYAN RAIDER over North Vietnam. His awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Defense Commendation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with three Oak Leaf Clusters), Air Medal (with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters), and numerous other service awards. After retirement from the Air Force, he served as Vice-President/General Manager, Defense Electronics Division, California Microwave and later as Vice-President for Programs Development at American Nucleonics Corporation. As a business consultant, he provides strategic and financial planning services to small and medium sized companies through his Strategery Management Consulting firm.

He is the President the California Coast Venture Forum, Inc., Santa Barbara and is a business plan reviewer and mentor with both the Los Angeles Regional Technology Alliance (LARTA) and the Southern California BioMed Council (SoCALBIO). Jerry serves as Chairman of the Board for BioQuip Products, Inc., and as a member of the Board of Directors for Qualified Technologies Inc.

His presentation provided a glimpse of the Big Safari Program, the program's purpose, and discussed a few of the many programs alive and operating today.

Meeting Location:  Foster City, CA, April 12, 2008

Feb. 2, 2008 meeting

Victory Through Air Power

Andy Melomet and Nick Veronico

The Society for Aviation History held its first general meeting of 2008 on Feb. 2 at Cattlemen’s Restaurant in Newark, Calif. President Nick Veronico called the meeting to order right after lunch and presented a plaque to outgoing board member David Osgood (SAH 102) in thanks for his service to the society. Darlene Cain (SAH 94) will take David’s place on the board of directors. It was also announced that Andy Melomet (SAH 57), had transferred many of the society’s previous meetings to DVD discs for a lending library. Andy reminded those in attendance that The Great War Society will be holding its 15th Annual Seminar, April 11-13, 2008, at the South San Francisco Conference Center. Andy will be serving as film festival programmer and lecturer for the seminar.

Bill Stubkjaer (SAH 27) has at past meetings consistently come up with challenging trivia contest questions and he didn’t let the members and guests down this time. The theme for this meeting’s trivia contest was Zeppelins and Art Cohen (SAH ?) came in first with 13 correct answers.

Following the trivia contest, President Veronico announced that the society’s membership goal for 2008 is to increase membership by 10 after attrition. The society is offering a program where any member who recruits five new members will receive free membership for one year. The society will track your sign-ups, so just bring your friends to a meeting, and they’ll certainly join after seeing the quality of our meetings and speakers!

The society's February 9th educational program showed and discussed the aviation classic based upon the writings of Alexander P. de Seversky. Victory Through Air Power was withdrawn from distribution after World War II, and has been unseen by the general public for more than 60 years. Member Andy Melomet (SAH 57)  presented the film and discussed its prophetic suggestions for how World War II was won - a "victory through air power."

Melomet was born in Washington, D.C., in January 1952, and raised in New York City. He is an alumnus of the Bronx High School of Science, class of 1969, and graduate of Fordham University, Rose Hill Campus with a B.A. in Communications. He subsequently attended the Graduate School of the Arts at New York University for Film Production. With those qualifications, he worked for many years in the film and video industries in distribution, sales, and marketing. He made a mid-life career change in 1996 to work for the City and County of San Francisco, and is currently employed as a senior eligibility worker determining and providing benefits to catastrophically ill clients.

He served as a DVD reviewer for Home Media Retailing (formerly Video Store Magazine) from 2001-2006. In November 2002, he participated in the New York Military Affairs Symposium Fall Conference, where he presented: "Celluloid Wars: American Feature Films and the Experience of War." Since November 2003, he has been the media reviewer/columnist for The St. Mihiel Trip-Wire, the on-line newsletter of "Trenches on the Web" and "The Great War Society."

Melomet is a prolific contributor to the Great War Society, and is now serving as film festival programmer and lecturer for the upcoming April 2008 National Seminar of The Great War Society in South San Francisco (see our calendar)

Meeting Location:  Cattlemans Restaurant - Newark, CA, February 2, 2008

To see some of more of our past meetings, click below

2007 meetings

2006 meetings

2005 meetings

2004 meetings

2003 and earlier

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