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Society for Aviation History

P.O. Box 5344, Petaluma, CA. 94955

SAH General Meetings and Educational Programs

Our December 1, 2018 Meeting

The History of NAS Moffett Field

SAH President Rick Turner, speaker Tom Spink, and special guest 2011-14 SAH President Alice Hendricks

Our guest speaker, Capt. Tom Spink (USN Ret.) delivered an informative and highly entertaining presentation detailing the history of NAS Moffett Field. His talk spanned the aeronautical eras "from lighter than air, to faster than sound, to outer space".   Spink's unique perspective on Moffett Field operations is based on firsthand experience he gained there in the 1970s and 1980s serving first in VP-46 flying long-range patrol missions (as navigator) throughout the Pacific, and later as an instructor in Training Squadron VP-31.

He left active duty in 1977 and went across the field and joined the Reserve squadron, VP-91. He was there for 11 years and was commanding officer from 1986 to 1988. After the squadron, he had various Reserve command and staff jobs at NAS Alameda, CINCPACFLT in Hawaii, and SACLANT in Norfolk, VA.

He worked for many defense electronics firms and retired from Lockheed Martin, where he worked on MILSTAR, which was our nation's most secure communications satellite constellation at the time.

He is the commanding officer of the San Francisco Bay Area Squadron of the Association of Naval Aviation and is on the board of directors of the Moffett Field Historical Society and Museum, as well as editor of its Sparrowhawk Newsletter.

Our December meeting was held at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Redwood City

This meeting was also our annual Teen Toy Drive, thank you for bringing a gift for a child in need.

Our October 13, 2018 meeting

Air Racer and Test Pilot Dave Morss


The society's October meeting featured test pilot and air racer Dave Morss.

Morss has competed in more National Championship Air Races than anyone in the history of the event (250) and he's also the only pilot to compete in five classes, Biplane, Formula One, Sport Class, Jet Class and Unlimited. He's also won Gold, Silver, and Bronze trophies, and has set course records for the fastest lap and the fastest qualifying speed. Twice, he was the recipient of the prestigious Pulitzer Aviation Trophy from the National Aeronautics Association. He's also a two-time recipient of the Robert Downey Memorial Award for Most Inspirational Competitor.

Outside of Stead Field, Morss has set 13 world speed records, flown more than 300 different models of aircraft, completed first flights on 44 prototype aircraft, and received the Spirit of Flight Award from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Morss also described one of his more challenging test pilot jobs rocket plane testing. A rocket plane racing league was in development and needed test pilots to help sort out the complex liquid-fueled rocket propulsion system. Morss described the difficulty of flying these tricky aircraft which he characterized as "a 3,000-pound bomb inside of an 1,800 pound airplane". In the question and answer session, Morss mentioned that his favorite race plane was "any one that someone else pays for" but did say that for local flights from a grass field a Spitfire was his favorite aircraft.

This was our annual Canned Food Drive at this meeting, thank you for bringing what you could for those in need.

Our October meeting was held at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Redwood City

Our June 2nd, 2018 Meeting

Ron Paliughi: Finding, Restoring and Flying Vintage Warbirds

President Rick Turner (left) with speaker Ron Paliughi, and William T. Larkins, author of the San Francisco Bay Area Aviation book presented to our speakers.

Photographs by Ron Close

The Society for Aviation History held its June 2 meeting at the Moffett Field Museum. Society President Rick Turner opened the meeting by welcoming new member and guests. He then thanked the current board of directors and noted that three board members were unable to attend due to prior commitments.

Society Vice President Ron Close talked about the new cadet selected to receive the Col. Ben Donahue Scholarship Award. That young leader is Cadet Gerson Urrutia, who was unfortunately unable to attend the meeting because his father is serving in the Coast Guard and has been deployed to Hawaii due to the volcano eruption. Close mentioned that the hoped Gerson and his family would be at the October meeting. Click on this link to see our Col. Ben Donahue Scholarship page.

SAH Member Ron Paliughi had a passion for military aircraft as a young boy growing up in Fresno, California. His earliest memories include riding out to Hammer Field (now the Fresno Air Terminal) in the 1950s on his bicycle. Hammer Field was a fascinating place in those days. It had been a B-24 base but was best known as the West Coast night fighter training base for the Army Air Corps. Douglas P-70s and Northrop P-61 Black Widows were the mainstay at Fresno. Hammer field closed in 1946, but military aviation continued with the relocation of the 144th Fighter Wing (P-51s and later F-86s) from Hayward to Fresno after the war. North American Aviation also built a plant at the now Fresno Air Terminal in the 1950's, refurbing F-86's back from the Korean War as well as building over 100 T-6G trainers.

Paliughi learned to fly at Chandler Field in Fresno in an Aeronca Champ in 1960, soloing at 16 years old, receiving his private license at 18, and Commercial at 20. He graduated from Fresno State in 1965 and joined the U.S. Army months after that. He served in Viet Nam in 1967-68 as an Army commissioned officer and went through the Tet Offensive and heavy combat as a platoon leader. He became a corporate pilot for a large multi-state company flying Beechcraft twin engine aircraft. He attended Army flight school at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, in 1982. He flew as an Army Chief Warrant Officer/Master Army Aviator in the California Army National Guard logging 3,600 hours in the Bell UH-1 Huey and Shorts C-23B Sherpa. In 1979, he and a childhood friend decided to pool their very limited funds and purchased a basket case North American SNJ-5 trainer that was brought back from Japan after disposal by the Japanese Self Defense Force. This began a long-term hobby and love affair with finding, restoring and flying warbirds.

Paliughi went on to restore another North American T-6D, a Stinson L-5, a Hughes OH-6A helicopter that was shot down four times in Viet Nam and then a Ryan L-17B Navion that served in combat during the Korean War and was the subject of an article in Warbirds International magazine which was co-authored with William Larkins, renowned photographer who did the air-to-air shots. Paliughi continues to search for unique historical aircraft that should be preserved for their historical value.

Our Meeting was held at the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum in Mountain View

Our April 7th, 2018 Meeting

David Finnern - Exploring Aviation's Lost History

Expert diver and author David Finnern was the featured speaker for the society's April meeting. Finnern related stories behind aircraft losses ranging from a de Havilland DH-4 biplane to the X-15 rocket plane, as well as iconic aircraft such as a sunken World War II-era Corsair, TBM Avengers that crashed and sank, a P-40 Warhawk, a B-24 Liberator bomber, and a P-39 Airacobra.

The meeting was held at Back Forty Texas BBQ in Pleasant Hill, an excellent venue for our meetings with plenty of space and an outstanding BBQ lunch (all one can eat!) for our attending members.

David Finnern has spent more than 35 years searching for shipwrecks and submerged ruins. He has published hundreds of stories on underwater exploration, and has written on-assignment for such magazines as Skin Diver, Western and Eastern Treasures, Wreck Diver, Underwater USA, Western Diver and Immersed. He has also investigated land sites, such as lost aircraft and ghost ports, and written stories on other topics which have appeared in such publications as Nevada Magazine, The Orange County Register, and Adventure West.

Finnern is the author of several books, including the critically-acclaimed Passage Through Deep Waters, The Sport Diver's Guide to Sunken Treasure, and Lost Below, which chronicles some of the most intriguing shipwrecks, sunken aircraft, submerged ruins and undersea treasures in the Southwest. He has been a featured speaker at various functions throughout the United States and has appeared as a guest and on-air technical consultant on national and international television. He is a member and former president of both The Adventurers' Club and California Wreck Divers, Inc., and was elected a Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society in 2002.

Our Meeting was held at the Back Forty Texas BBQ in Pleasant Hill

Our February 3, 2018 Meeting

State of the B-17 World - Update

Speaker Scott Thompson (left) with Bill Larkins, author of San Francisco Bay Area Aviation, with President Rick Turner. Larkins' book is used as a thank you to our presenters.

The Society for Aviation History's first general meeting of 2018 was held Feb. 3, at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Redwood City, California. Incoming President Rick Turner opened the meeting by introducing our 2018 Board of Directors: Vice President Ron Close, Secretary Betty Veronico, Treasurer Dan Morgan, along with Directors Roger Cain, Byron May, Dave Osgood, Ron Strong and Nick Veronico. Outgoing president Veronico received a warm round of applause acknowledging his years of dedicated SAH leadership. In his new position as director-at-large, Veronico faces new challenges with "increasing responsibilities," as well as his continued duty as Program Director.

The B-17 Flying Fortress remains a popular warbird for both the general public and aircraft enthusiasts. And, it also is well represented these days with about 48 existent airframes, 10 of which remain in airworthy condition, and another two dozen on accessible static display.

There are another nine B-17s under some form of active restoration as well, and some of these airplanes will join their airworthy sisters in the next decade. But what is of particular interest these days is the effort underway to construct what are essentially new B-17s. As the supply of available B-17s and even larger subassemblies and parts has dried up, enterprising and talented individuals are creating major B-17 structure that will someday turn into new airplanes. Many recent restorations of smaller warbirds, such as Mustangs and P-40s, have incorporated increasing amounts of new construction in recent years as restorers contend with the lack of airworthy parts, and that trend is now moving to the larger and more complex construction of B-17s. It is an exciting thing to see and, given enough time and money, could produce some interesting flying B-17s.

Scott Thompson has been documenting the world of B-17s for the past 50 years and he just updated his long-running book Final Cut to the Fifth Edition. He presented a program about what is going on in the B-17 world today. What has changed in the last few years and what can be expected in the next decade. He also spent some time on these new-build projects and the challenges presented and overcome in the process.

Thompson has done several programs before for SAH in past years including a similar program back in 2011 and another that presented a forum on the filming of the movie Catch-22. Hot-off-the-press copies of Final Cut were available for purchase after the presentation for $25.

Our Meeting was held at the Spaghetti Factory in Redwood City

To see some more of our past meetings, click below

2017 meetings

2016 meetings

2015 meetings

2014 meetings

2013 meetings

2012 meetings

2011 meetings

2010 meetings

2009 meetings

2008 meetings

2007 meetings

2006 meetings

2005 meetings

2004 meetings

2003 and earlier

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