RAF Cranwell – History & Current Operations

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RAF Cranwell is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England. The base was originally opened on 1 April 1916 as an RNAS training establishment (Royal Naval Air Service).

RAF College Cranwell is now the RAF’s only officer training establishment in the UK, and also provides basic flying training for aircrews.

RAF History at Cranwell

Royal Air Force Cranwell has a long and distinguished history. In 1915, with the Great War looming, the Admiralty requisitioned 2,500 acreas of farmland at Cranwell and on April 1 1916, the Royal Naval Air Service Central Training Establishment Cranwell was commissioned.

Some sources say that the original base was named of HMS Daedalus but others point out that this is a misconception due to the fact that the original naval personnel were listed on the books of HMS Daedalus, which at that time was a hulk on the River Medway.

HMS Daedalus was the original name of the Fleet Air Arm airfield at Lee-on-the-Solent. This is now a general aviation airfield renamed Solent Airport.

During the early 1920s, the RAF developed Cranwell into a centre for pilot training and it soon became one of the largest pilot training schools in the UK.

The station expanded rapidly during the 1930s, with the construction of new hangars, classrooms, and accommodation for cadets. The outbreak of World War II saw a dramatic increase in the number of cadets at Cranwell, as the Royal Air Force sought to rapidly expand its pilot ranks.

In recent years, Royal Air Force College Cranwell has continued to play an important role in training both officers and aircrew. RAF flying instructors introduce young cadets to flying and to military aviation before they eventually move on to more advanced flying courses.

Famous Names at RAF Cranwell

  • Sir Frank Whittle – Flight Cadet, 1926. His ashes were placed in a memorial at the St. Andrew Parish Church in Cranwell.
  • T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) – Aircraftman Second Class TE Shaw, 1925-1926. During his residence he wrote his book “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom“.
  • Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader – 1930s.
Jet: Frank Whittle and the Invention of the Jet Engine
Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature)
Douglas Bader: A Biography of the Legendary World War II Fighter Pilot
Jet: Frank Whittle and the Invention of the Jet Engine
Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature)
Douglas Bader: A Biography of the Legendary World War II Fighter Pilot

Royal Air Force College Cranwell Today

The college currently is now a thriving RAF station that trains many hundreds of officers every year, making it one of the RAF’s most important training establishments. A flight cadet who begins his or her basic training here can one day become the pilot of a fighter jet or transport aircraft.

Air cadets who being their elementary flying training here will be posted to other RAF bases for converting onto other aircraf types. They are given ab initio training with the option to add multi engine pilot training.

Current occupants and aircraft at RAF Cranwell:

  • RAF College Cranwell
  • Central Flying School (military flying instructor training school)
  • HQ No. 3 Flying Training School (elementary flying training for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force using the Embraer Phenom T1)
  • No. 45 Squadron (flying training using the Embraer Phenom T1)
  • No. 57 Squadron (flying training using the Grob Tutor & Prefect)
  • No. 703 Naval Air Squadron (Royal Navy training establishment providing flying training using the Grob Prefect. Operates from RAF Barkston Heath)
  • HQ No. 6 Flying Training School (University Air Squadrons and Air Experience Flights)
  • East Midlands Universities Air Squadron (Grob Tutor T1)
  • No. 7 Air Experience Flight (Tutor T1)

Key Facts About RAF Cranwell

  1. RAF Cranwell is located near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, England.
  2. RAF Cranwell was founded in 1916 as a training school for the RNAS.
  3. The base is home to the Royal Air Force College, which trains officers for service in the RAF.
  4. RAF Cranwell is controlled by No. 22 Group (Training).
  5. RAF College Cranwell is also an RAF recruitment centre.
  6. The motto for RAF Cranwell is alitum altrix trans. “We nurture the winged”.
  7. During WWII, with the Luftwaffe bombing military airfields, Herman Goering ordered the Luftwaffe not to bomb RAF Cranwell as he wanted to claim the site for his headquarters after the invasion of Britain. Thanks in part to some of the pilots who completed their basic training at Cranwell, the Battle of Britain saw to it that the planned invasion (Operation Sealion) was never launched.
The Battle of Britain memorial on the Thames embankment, London
Photo by Zaymuel on Unsplash

Key dates in the history of RAF Cranwell

  • 1916: Royal Navy Air Service Training Establishment Cranwell opens.
  • 1917: The Cranwell Flyer train starts running along a single track from Sleaford.
  • 1918: RAF established and RNAS Cranwell becomes RAF Cranwell.
  • 1920: The RAF College is established at Cranwell.
  • 1933: College Hall Officers’ Mess opens.
  • 1934: College Hall opens.
  • 1941:  Gloster Whittle Jet test flown at the airfield.
  • 1971: HRH The Prince of Wales commences training on a Jet Provost.
  • 2018: Cranwell celebrates its centenary.

Today, RAF Cranwell remains an important training establishment for the RAF, and continues to play a vital role in preparing young men and women for service in the Royal Air Force, both as a college that prepare cadets for various roles within the service, The central flying school provides only basic training but prepares air force officers for advanced training at other establishments.

Photo by Daniel Cooke on Unsplash

The Royal Air Force (RAF)

The RAF was formed in 1918, as a result of the merger of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). At the time, both organizations were responsible for the training and operation of military aircraft.

The merger created a new organization that was responsible for all aspects of aviation, from training pilots to operating military aircraft. The RAF played a vital role in the victory of the Allies in both World Wars, and it remains an important part of the British armed forces.

The RAF is organized into a number of different branches, each with its own area of responsibility. The training branch is responsible for the training of all RAF personnel, both officers and aircrew. The operations branch is responsible for the planning and execution of all RAF operations. The engineering branch is responsible for the maintenance and repair of all RAF aircraft.

The RAF operates several different types of aircraft, both fixed wing and rotary wing. These are for attack, defense, training, and transport. The current fighter aircraft is the Eurofighter Typhoon, which is used to protect British airspace and to carry out offensive operations. The RAF also operates a number of different transport aircraft, which are used to move personnel and equipment around the world.

The RAF is headquartered at RAF Northolt, in Greater London. It has a number of different bases around the UK as well as overseas.

The RAF in 100 Objects
The RAF at 100
Classic British Air Shows: Hendon: Royal Air Force
The RAF in 100 Objects
The RAF at 100
Classic British Air Shows: Hendon: Royal Air Force

The Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAAF)

The Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAAF) is a branch of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) that was formed in 1950. The RAAF is a volunteer organization, and its members are civilians who have been recruited to provide support to the RAF.

The RAAF provides a number of different services to the RAF, including airfield services, medical support, and engineering support. The RAAF also operates a number of different squadrons that provide light aircraft support to the RAF.

The RAAF is headquartered at RAF Benson, in Oxfordshire. The RAAF has a number of different bases around the UK, as well as a number of overseas bases.

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Flying in a Spitfire at Duxford: An Experience of a Lifetime

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For anyone who is a fan of flight and of warbirds in particular, flying in a Spitfire at Duxford is an opportunity not to be missed. At the Imperial War Museum Duxford you can enjoy flight experiences with some of the most iconic planes from World War II. You can fly wing to wing with these vintage aircrft or enjoy the full Spitfire experience with a flight in a two seater Spitfire, during which you’ll have the opportunity to take the controls yourself for an unforgettable experience.

Put on a flight suit and enjoy a very special flight in a two seater Spitfire, a Harvard, or a Tiger Moth. Alternatively, how about a window seat in a Dragon Rapide as you fly wing to wing with a Duxford Spitfire flying alongside?

After your pleasure flight you can round of the day with entry to IWM Duxford and marvel at the fascinating collection of famous aircraft where you can learn all about the aviation history of Britain, the USA, and elsewhere.

Flying in a Spitfire

Few two seat Spitfires exist

Few aviation experiences are as exhilarating as flying in a Spitfire. These iconic WWII fighter aircraft that played such an important role in the Battle of Britain are still revered today for their sleek design and powerful Rolls Royce Merlin and Griffon engines. And what could be more exciting than taking the controls of one of these historic aircraft?

Fortunately, there are a few companies that offer the chance to fly in a two-seat Spitfire. These flights typically last around 30 minutes but they can last longer. They’re packed with adrenaline-pumping action. You’ll get to experience first-hand what it was like to fly one of these legendary aircraft. To fly in a Spitfire is one of those flying experiences that will put a grin on your face that will last for weeks.

So if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, be sure to check out flight options in a two-seat Spitfire.

Harvard Flights

Harvard T6 at Goodwood

Harvard flights are an option at Duxford and elsewhere in the UK as I’ve explained in this post.

You step into the aircraft and are enveloped in the smell of leather, grease, and oil. You can feel the excitement in the air as you strap yourself in and prepare for takeoff. The engine roars to life, and the plane begins to vibrate as it accelerates down the runway. In a matter of moments, you are airborne, and the ground is falling away beneath you.

As you climb higher and higher, the world below seems to shrink until it is like a toy model. You can see for miles in every direction, and the sense of freedom is exhilarating. For a few brief moments, you forget all your cares and worries and simply enjoy the ride. That is the power of flight.

Tiger Moth Flights

Tiger Moth at Shoreham

You’ve always dreamed of flying, and there’s no better way to experience the joys of aviation than in a Tiger Moth biplane as I explained in this post.

As you take off in the two-seat open cockpit, you’ll be surrounded by the sounds of the engine and the wind rushing through the wires on the wing. You’ll instantly feel a sense of freedom as you climb into the skies.

And as you soar over the landscape, you’ll have a unique perspective on the world below. Whether you’re taking in the sights of a cityscape or enjoying the tranquility of a rural setting, flight in a Tiger Moth biplane is an unforgettable experience. So what are you waiting for? Book your flight today and enjoy all that aviation has to offer.

Dragon Rapide Flights

Dragon Rapide at Goodwood

You board the plane, take your window seat, and buckle your seatbelt. The two Gipsy Six engines roar to life and within minutes you’re airborne, soaring over the English countryside. The fields and hills look like a patchwork quilt from above, and you can see for miles in every direction.

As you fly, you spot landmarks in the distance or perhaps a river winding its way through the landscape. The ride is smooth and peaceful, and you can’t help but feel amazed at the beauty of it all. Before long, you’re reluctant to land back on solid ground.

This was air travel in the 1930s. Slow, elegant, and graceful.

Dragon Rapide & Tiger Moth Flights

If you can’t decide between the Tiger Moth or flights onboard the elegant flight in the Dragon Rapide then why not do both? You can select a date and time or buy a gift voucher for someone special.

Flights as a passenger aboard a de Havilland Rapide are more affordable than flights in the warbirds and you have the added advantage of the privileged position inside where you can make yourself comfortable, ready for the Duxford Spitfire flying alongside.

Formation Flights with a Spitfire

Another option for those who want the ultimate flight experience is to fly in formation with a Spitfire, either in the back of a Harvard or sitting in a passenger seat aboard a Dragon Rapide. With both options the two aircraft will fly side by side, wing tip to wing tip, giving you plenty of opportunities to take many memorable photos and create wonderful video clips.

Light Aircraft Flights

Learning to fly is an exhilarating experience, and it’s something that anyone can learn to do. It all begins with some trial flying lessons

During an introductory flying lesson, you’ll have the chance to take the controls of the aircraft and learn what it feels like to fly. You’ll learn about the basic principles of aerodynamics and how to control the aircraft in different conditions.

If you’ve ever dreamed of learning to fly, a trial flying lesson is a must. It’s an experience you’ll never forget, and it could be the beginning of a whole new chapter in your life.

Imperial War Museum at Duxford

The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is the perfect place to learn about the history of military aviation. As you explore the museum, you’ll see countless examples of both American and British aviation aircraft that played such an important role both before and during the Second World War.

The museum houses a collection of over 300 aircraft, tanks and vehicles, as well as uniforms, medals and personal memorabilia. There are also interactive exhibits, films and audio guides available. The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is a unique and fascinating place to visit.

Duxford is a working airfield and plays host to a number of events during the year. It’s well known to Spitfire fans due to the airshows held there each year. The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is located on the site of the former RAF Duxford, a Second World War fighter base.

Spitfire Gift of Wings

The memory of a Spitfire flight experience will last a lifetime. To fly in a Spitfire will make you appreciate all kinds of things; from the courage displayed by the young men who went into battle in these aircraft, to the young women who delivered them from factories to airfields in all weathers, to the pilots of today like those in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight who fly with such precision.

Continue your journey of discovery and broaden your experience by visiting the Biggin Heritage Hangar at Biggin Hill airfield in Surrey, North Weald airfield in Essex, and Headcorn aerodrome in Kent. Flights from some of these bases can reach the white cliffs of the southern coast and Beachy Head, providing the opportunity for the ultimate souvenir photograph of an iconic Spitfire set against the backdrop of the white cliffs – a timeless shot evoking the Battle of Britain.

Drop in to Solent Airport during weekdays in the summer to watch the two seater Spitfires taxi up as they take lucky passengers on flights around the Isle of Wight. These Spitfire flights begin at Spitfires.com based at Goodwood airfield. The passenger may be a very experienced pilot who is converting to the Spitfire and is undergoing training or simply someone who is enjoying a wonderful day and fulfilling a lifetime ambition to fly in a Spitfire and who knows, perhaps perform a Victory Roll somewhere over the Solent.

Points to note about Spitfire Experience & Spitfire Flying

  • Duxford Spitfire flights and others in the vintage aircraft mentioned above are provided by Classic Wings.
  • Included in the price is complimentary same day entry to the IWM Duxford.
  • All flights weather dependent so be sure to check with the team before leaving home to travel to Duxford, particularly if you have a long journey. With the journey time, the pre flight briefing, the Supermarine Spitfire flight (or whichever flight you choose), and the visit the the museum itself, you’ll be kept busy for the whole day.
  • Be sure to have enough power and memory in your phone or camera for all the video footage and breathtaking photos you will probably want to capture.
  • Actual flight time on the day may vary slightly.
  • All flights are preceded by a safety briefing.
  • All information on this page is correct to the best of my knowledge so always check with the vendor for confirmation.

Conclusion

Even if you’re not an avgeek or aviation enthusiast, to see a Spitfire flying gladdens the heart. this iconic aircraft seems to reach out to people in a way that few other type can. To fly in a Spitfire is therefore a fantastic experience and Duxford airfield is one of several places in the UK where this is possible. With its heritage and history this airfield is a very appropriate venue.

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Diecast Aircraft Models: 9 Examples For Your Collection

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Do you have a love for all things aviation? If so, you’ll want to add diecast aircraft models to your collection. These reproductions can be used as desk accessories, decorative pieces on display on shelves, or even as paperweights. Here are 9 examples that would make a great addition to your fleet.

Who buys diecast aircraft models?

These are not just toys for kids. They’re a great way to add some fun and nostalgia to any room in your house or office, and there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Diecast aeroplanes are scaled reproductions of real aircraft and generally ship fully assembled. They come in all sizes (scales), so there’s bound to be one that will fit nicely into your home decor.

Kids will love playing with them, while adults can appreciate their intricate details and the realism they bring to any room. From the flaps to the landing gear, from the nose to the tail, it’s a pleasure to see the aircraft in this amount of detail.

If you’re looking for a unique gift idea for someone who loves aviation, a diecast aircraft model is definitely worth considering. Not everyone will end bup being a collector but many would appreciate a model of a Spitfire or Concorde on their desktop or bookshelf.

F-16

A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthog

The A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthog is a favorite among diecast aircraft enthusiasts. This powerful plane was designed for close air support of ground troops, and its unique look has made it a popular choice for modelers. The A-10 is a sturdy, all-metal plane that can take a beating in the air. It’s also one of the most maneuverable planes in the U.S. Air Force fleet, making it perfect for its intended roles.

474 Reviews
1/100 A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthog Attack Plane(Painted Version) Metal Fighter Military Model Diecast Plane Model for Collection or Gift
  • The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat,twin turbofan engine,straight wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic for the United States Air Force(USAF).Commonly referred to by the nicknames “Warthog”or”Hog
  • Commodity Characteristics - Mold accurate + First-Class paint + Refined according rigorous details to the original proportion, Suitable for display and military model enthusiasts collection.
  • Material - The fighter casing is a high quality alloy, The tire and the propeller is engineering plastic
  • Size - 1:100 Scale,the weight about 210G, body length is 7inch, The Width is 7inch.
  • Product Packaging- The plane contains the bracket. package it in a well-protected model box.

F-14 Tomcat

The F-14 Tomcat Fighter Attack aircraft is another popular choice among diecast aircraft collectors. This sleek fighter was introduced to the U.S. Navy in 1974 and quickly became a favorite among pilots. The F-14 is a fast and powerful plane that can take on any opponent in the air.

75 Reviews
HANGHANG 1/100 Scale US Navy Bounty Hunter Squadron F-14D Tomcat Fighter Attack Plane Metal Fighter Military Model Diecast Plane Model for Collection or Gift
  • The F-14 Tomcat Fighter is a US type two-seat dual-speed supersonic multi-purpose carrier-based fighter, belonging to the third generation fighters in the generation.Mainly perform tasks such as fleet defense, interception, strike and reconnaissance.
  • Commodity Characteristics - Mold accurate + First-Class paint + Refined according rigorous details to the original proportion, Suitable for display and military model enthusiasts collection.
  • Material - The fighter casing is a high quality alloy, The tire and the propeller is engineering plastic
  • Size - 1:100 Scale,weighs about210g, body length is 7.4inch, The Width is 7.4inch.
  • Product Packaging- The plane contains the bracket. package it in a well-protected model box.

F-15 Eagle

The F-15 Eagle Fighter aircraft is another popular choice among diecast aviation enthusiasts. This twin-engine jet was introduced in 1976 and quickly became one of the most advanced fighters in the world. The F-15 is a fast, maneuverable aircraft that is equipped with advanced weapons systems and sensors. It has been used by the U.S. Air Force in combat operations around the world for more than 40 years.

149 Reviews
1/100 Scale F-15 Eagle Fighter Attack Plane Metal Fighter Military Model Fairchild Republic Diecast Plane Model for Commemorate Collection or Gift
  • The F-15 Eagle Fighter -It is a US Air Force single-seat double-engine swept-wing jet supersonic all-weather high-mobility air tactical fighter,belonging to the forth generation fighters in the generation.
  • Material - The fighter casing is a high quality alloy, The tire is engineering plastic, the propeller is plastic, And the engineering plastic bracket base keeps the aircraft well.
  • Size -1/100 Scale F-15 Eagle Fighter Model, The whole machine weighs about 160G/pcs, The body length is 7.4inch, The Width (the distance between the tops of the two wings) is 5.5inch.
  • Commodity Characteristics - Mold Accurate + First-Class Paint + Refined According Rigorous Details To The Original Proportion, Suitable For Display And Military Model Enthusiasts Collection
  • Product Packaging- The plane contains the bracket. We package it in a brand new and well-protected model box

F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine jet fighter that was first introduced to the U.S. Air Force in 1978. It’s a highly maneuverable aircraft that is equipped with advanced weapons systems and sensors. The F-16 has been used by the USAF in combat operations around the world for more than 40 years and is considered to be one of the most advanced fighters in the world.

83 Reviews
YEIBOBO ! F-16 Fighting Falcon - 1/100 Diecast Airplane Model Pull Back Fighter Toy (Blue)
  • 【Historical Airplane Model】1:100 Scale die-cast metal F-16 Fighting Falcon, measures 8.3in/21cm in length.
  • 【Exquisite Collection】 Realistic detail, includes a display stand, beautiful to have on display at you home, workplace, in your child's bedroom or playroom.
  • 【Awesome Toy】 Pull back fighter toy with flashing lights and real jet sound. Children love it!
  • 【Durable Material】 The fighter casing is a high quality alloy, the tail and bottom is plastic, and the display stand is plastic.
  • 【Perfect Gift】 Perfect Christmas / Birthday / Children's Day gift for kids and for display & military model enthusiast.

F-22 Raptor Fighter

The F-22 Raptor Fighter Attack aircraft is one of the most advanced fighters in the world. It was designed for air-to-air combat and has been used by the U.S. Air Force in combat operations around the world. The F-22 is a fast, maneuverable aircraft that is equipped with advanced weapons systems and sensors. It has been hailed as “the most lethal fighter jet in the world” and is considered to be the future of U.S. airpower.

96 Reviews
1/100 Scale F-22 Raptor Fighter Attack Plane Metal Fighter Military Model Fairchild Republic Diecast Plane Model for Commemorate Collection or Gift
  • The F-22 "Raptor" fighter - is a single-seat, two-shot, high-impact fifth-generation fighter developed by Lockheed Martin and the United States. The F-22 is the world's first fifth-generation fighter to enter service.
  • Material - The fighter casing is a high quality alloy, The tire is engineering plastic, the propeller is plastic, and the engineering plastic bracket base keeps the aircraft well.
  • Size - 1:100 Scale F-22 "Raptor" fighter Model, The whole machine weighs about 270G/pcs, The body length is 7.48 inch, The Width (the distance between the tops of the two wings) is 5.31 inch.
  • Commodity Characteristics - Mold Accurate + First-Class Paint + Refined According Rigorous Details To The Original Proportion, Suitable For Display And Military Model Enthusiasts Collection
  • Product packaging- The plane contains the bracket. We package it in a brand new and well-protected model box
Boeing 747

Concorde

The Concorde was a supersonic passenger jet that was operated by Air France and British Airways. It first flew in 1969 and remained in service until 2003. The plane was unique in that it could travel faster than the speed of sound, making it the fastest commercial airliner in the world. It was also known for its luxurious interior, which featured a bar and spacious seating. Unfortunately, the Concorde was retired due to high operating costs and concerns about safety.

126 Reviews
TANG DYNASTY(TM) 1:400 16cm Concorde British Airways Metal Airplane Model Plane Toy Plane Model
  • Airlines:British Airways. Aircraft:Concorde.
  • Scale:1:400,Note:The base and stand will random shipments,you may got different from the picture.
  • Material:Die-cast metal,Weight:Approx 100g.
  • Model Dimension: [Nose - Tail]: Approx. 15.5cm(1inch=2.5cm),[Wingtip Across]: Approx. 6.5cm(1inch=2.5cm).
  • Item includes box & model stand. Please refer to picture for reference.Authentic TANG DYNASTY plane model are packed in color box,please make sure there have TANG DYNASTY logo on the Box.

Boeing 747

The Boeing 747 is a wide-body, four-engine jet airliner that was first introduced to the world in 1969. It’s the largest passenger airliner in the world and has been used by airlines all over the world for more than 50 years. The 747 is known for its spacious interior, which can accommodate hundreds of passengers, depending on the configuration. It has also been used as a cargo aircraft for more than 30 years.

182 Reviews
24-Hours Boeing 747 Alloy Metal Airplane Models Die-cast 1:400
  • Material: Alloy
  • Meet your passion for aviation collectibles with beautiful design
  • Base: metallic stent with transparent plastic base (Figure)
  • 1:400 Scale Metal Die-Cast -Boeing 747 - Length: 6.3"
  • Share your passion for flight by presenting one as the perfect gift

B-17 Flying Fortress

The B-17 Flying Fortress was a heavy bomber that was used by the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. The plane was introduced in 1935 and remained in service until 1945. The B-17 was known for its durability, and many of them were able to return to base after being hit by enemy fire.

220 Reviews
Postage Stamp PS5402-3 USAF B-17G Nine O Nine 1:155 Scale Flying Fortress Diecast Display Model with Stand
  • This Die-cast metal airplane model comes in 1:155 scale with plastic stand and is approximately 5 3/4 inches long with 8 inch wingspan.
  • Incredible detail, print and accuracy.
  • Part of the Postage Stamp collection from Daron

Avro Lancaster

The Avro Lancaster was a British heavy bomber that was used by the Royal Air Force during World War II. The plane was introduced in 1941 and remained in service until 1945. The plane was also equipped with four powerful Merlin engines that allowed it to carry a large payload.

17 Reviews
Avro Lancaster diecast 1:144 model (Amercom LB-7)
  • Avro Lancaster diecast 1:144 model

Diecast Model Brands

There are several popular diecast aircraft brands on the market today. Some of the most well-known brands include:

  1. AeroClassics. They specialise in airliners in 1/200, 1/400, and 1/500 scales
  2. Century Wings. They produce military jets in the 1/72 scale.
  3. Corgi. A brand synonymous with high quality die cast airplane models in the 1/72 scale.
  4. Gemini Jets. Airliners and military transport aircraft. They also produce accessories for replicating airports.
  5. InFlight 200. They produce airliners and military transport aircraft available at retailers all over the world.
  6. JC Wings. Another producer of airliners in a variety of scales.
  7. Skymarks. Airliners in a variety of scales; 1/100, 1/130, 1/150 etc.

Buying Diecast Models

Given the wide variety of diecast models available, it’s advisable to start a collection that focuses on one particular aviation niche. For example, you could build a collection based on the fleet of your favorite airline. This might be a selection of Boeing or Airbus aircraft, for example.

It’s a good idea at first to stick to the same scale so that your collection looks right when on display. Some collectors like to display all their aircraft in the same configuration e.g. with landing gear up or down.

You might also want to order your items from the same diecast brand too. That will keep your collection consistent.

Subscribe to your supplier’s email list so that you can be notified of new arrivals, special offers, and product updates. These products evolve to reflect the changes in the aviation industry.

Example Collection Categories

  • A particular airline fleet through the years
  • The history of an air force e.g. RAF or USAF
  • Aircraft manufacturer fleets e.g. Boeing, Airbus etc
  • World War II fighter aircraft
  • World War II bomber aircraft
  • Fighter jets of the 1950s and 1960s
  • Military transport aircraft
  • Just collect your favorite aircraft

A short history of diecast airplanes

Dinky Toys was a British toy company that was popular right up to the 1980s when, due to economic conditions prevalent at the time, they company went bankrupt. They were well-known for their diecast examples, which were some of the first to be marketed as standalone collectibles.

Today, there are all sorts of different Dinky Toys circulating for collectors to choose from. Some still appear at auctions and online. Their value is determined not just by the condition of the toy but also by the presence and condition of the original box.

Mattel are known for making diecast cars, but they also have a wide variety. Their diecast models are highly detailed and accurate, and they’re perfect for anyone who loves aviation history.

The Mattel company has been in business since 1945, and they continue to produce some of the best-quality fully assembled diecast models on the market today. In fact, many collectors consider a decast model form Mattel to be works of art.

F-15
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Vulcan XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society at Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield

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In this post I introduce you to the Vulcan XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society based at Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield, near Coventry, Warwickshire, in England.

Like so many other people I was captivated by the sight and sound of a Vulcan at air shows during the past three decades. Seeing a Vulcan fly and hearing that distinctive howl leaves an impression that cannot be forgotten.

Avro Vulcan XM655

Avro Vulcan XM655 was third from last of the Vulcan bombers produced for the Royal Air Force, being delivered in late 1964, and was part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent force throughout the 1960s and 1970s. It is now owned by Wellesbourne Airfield and is looked after by the XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society, a volunteer organisation of Vulcan enthusiasts.

XM655 is one of the few Vulcans remaining in ground running condition, the only one with the most powerful of the engine variants (Bristol Olympus 301s) and the society aims to keep her running for as long as possible.

Avro Vulcan Xm655

The aircraft systems, which are powered up and exercised regularly, are available for demonstration to booked parties of visitors. Engine ground runs are carried out several times every year, and a ‘Fast Taxi’ event is carried out most summers to show off the aircraft and raise funds to support its preservation.

XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society is a small team of skilled and dedicated volunteers, many of whom are ex-RAF, (some even ex-V-Force personnel and one of whom actually worked on XM655 in service), who give up their Saturdays to preserving XM655.

Vulcan XM655 RAF Service

XM655 is an Avro Vulcan B Mk2, and the youngest Vulcan in existence. Delivered to 9 Squadron at RAF Cottesmore in November 1964, she transferred to the Waddington Wing in January 1968.

She then served with 101 and 44 Squadrons, and was with 50 Squadron when she was put up for disposal in late 1983. She was the first Vulcan to be ‘civilianised’ and was flown in to Wellesbourne Mountford about a week after a Cat 3 Check, on the 11th of February 1984.

She had flown only 5,744 hours, making her a very viable proposition for taking to the air once more. XM655 is available for visits both by individuals and by larger organised parties.

Visiting Vulcan XM655

Individual and family visitors are most welcome to come and look around the aircraft, take photographs and have a chat with the volunteers on any Saturday between 10.00am and 4.00pm. However, please check the the website or Facebook page for any temporary restrictions for visitors.

Organised visits can be arranged for parties of up to 24 participants, who will be able to see the aircraft with ground power on, and see the air-brakes, exterior lighting, bomb doors, and powered flying controls in operation in addition to cockpit visits.

Having recently been on one of these tours myself I can say that without a doubt it’s well worth arranging a visit of your own. Seeing the lights, moving surfaces, deployment of air-brakes, and watching the bomb bay doors open really brings the aircraft to life.

The cockpit tour was particulary interesting as in includes many details about the aircraft’s mission, flight operations, and crew duties. See if you can spot the soup cans which take 45 minutes to warm up a can of Heinz tomato soup!

We listened as Wing Commander Mike Pollitt (one of only 6 pilots still qualified to fly the Vulcan) described the technical and operational details of the aircraft. The electronics of the cockpit and crew area are of course of 1960s vintage, hence the need for a crew of five to monitor all the instruments.

Mike described the aircraft’s inception and her role during the Cold War as part of Britain’s bomber force. We also learned about the type of bombs that used to be carried, from Britain’s Blue Danube nuclear deterrent to the conventional bombs dropped on Port Stanley airport’s runway during the Falklands War.

Operation Black Buck

Speaking of which, another volunteer described the Operation Black Buck missions in more detail, in particular the complicated air-to-air refuelling that was crucial for the mission’s success.

Since the Vulcans were designed for medium-range missions in Europe during the Cold War they lacked the operational range necessary to reach the Falkland Islands from Ascension Island where the operations were staged. Consequently, they needed to be refuelled en route by Handley Page Victor bombers converted into tankers.

But such were the distances involved that some of the tankers themselves needed to be refuelled before they could rendezvous with the Vulcans for their refuelling.

To the rear of the aircraft we were able to mount a platform which gave us a spectacular view over the starboard wing. To see it from this angle and in the spring sunshine was a real treat.

After our tour of the aircraft we were shown to the group’s shop were refreshments were served and we browsed through the books and souvenirs on display. I couldn’t resist a copy of Vulcan Boys by Tony Blackman, particulary as it was signed by several personnel!

To find out more about her, when to visit, fast taxi events, and more visit XM655.com.

Be sure to visit soon and show your support for this important part of Britain’s aviation heritage. Once you’ve visited (or if you’ve already done so) post a comment below this video describing your reactions.

And please share this post with those you think might also be interested in seeing this aircraft.

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Vulcan Boys: From the Cold War to the Falklands: True Tales of the Iconic Delta V Bomber (The Jet Age Series)
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  • 208 Pages - 04/19/2019 (Publication Date) - Grub Street Publishing (Publisher)
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Goodwood Revival 2002 Warbird Displays – Spitfires, Mustangs

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This is the earliest footage I still have for the Goodwood Revival. Apologies for the poor quality but it gets better in parts. There are shots of the static displays of aircraft including Ferocious Frankie (P51 Mustang), Hawker Hurricanes, and the famous Spitfire MH434. Lots of take-offs and landings, and some aerobatics.

One year, about 15 years ago when it was still possible to walk the flight line of warbirds and chat to the pilots, I chatted to one of the display pilots and had the rare privilege of sitting in the cockpit of the Spitfire MH434.

It was quite something to be in the cockpit but not only that, to be in it on the grass at the former RAF Westhampnett airfield.

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Goodwood Revival 2018 – No Air Displays

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After 19 years of thrilling the crowds with spectacular air displays it seems the Goodwood Revival 2018’s aviation activities will be confined to the static displays and pre booked pleasure flights.

The days of a Goodwood Revival air show are over, for this year at least.

The 2018 Revival’s timetable contains no mention of any of the types of air displays we’ve seen in previous years, apart from short fly pasts by a solitary fighter in the early morning.

Note:  there’s a post written after the Revival here.

No Air Displays?

I sought clarification from the Revival team and was eventually informed (via Twitter) that the flying activity will be a Spitfire on the Sunday morning, a Mustang on the Friday and Saturday morning, and a Spitfire & Mustang air display on the Saturday at 19:05hrs.

Someone also called me back from Customer Services to relay the message that the flying was minimal due to safety concerns but he was unable to provide any other details.  He suggested I emailed and await a reply after the Revival.  I have done so and will update this post if I hear any more.

So, a Dawn Patrol each day and one evening slot by a pair of warbirds. Both time windows are outside of what you might call the core business hours of the event, and that may be significant from a red tape point of view.

The Dawn Patrol used to be an aperitif, a mere foretaste of the several displays that we could look forward to throughout the day.

Unless I’ve missed it there’s been no announcement about the cancellation of the air displays. Given how far in advance these types of events are planned and arranged one could imagine that the decision was taken months ago.

No Announcement?

Hawker Hurricane

So why was there no announcement for loyal Revival fans?  The air displays have always been such a popular part of the Revival. I don’t know how popular and I would guess that the Revival team’s customer surveys would reveal more on that score.

Taking into account that tickets go on sale ten months before the event it’s possible that many who bought their tickets will be as disappointed as I am that the Revival has become an almost exclusively a motor racing event.

Of course, it’s always been mainly a motor racing event featuring races on four wheels and two, but the air displays have been an integral part of every Revival since 1998 when Ray Hanna flew a Spitfire along the start line straight.

Supermarine Spitfire

That type of flying has long gone everywhere. In these safety conscious days you won’t see any Spitfires flying so close to crowds that you can feel the breeze and smell the exhaust but in the past 19 years at the Revival we’ve been thrilled and inspired by the flying skills of a generation of expert display pilots.

Over the last two decades the Revival air displays have included formation aerobatics by Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs, Warhawks, a Blenheim, and in 2010 a Bearcat.  Last year we watched a Corsair and a P-38 Lightning among others, delighting the crowds.

There have also been fly pasts by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and displays by jets such as Hunters, a Canberra, and the now retired Vulcan bomber.

The Shoreham Tragedy

It’s no secret that the rules and regulations for air shows were tightened up after the Shoreham tragedy of 2015. That was an awful sight and I’m not complacent about safety.

What made it such a tragedy was that those who were killed or injured were not spectators of the air show itself.  They were people passing by the airfield on the main road to the north.

A thorough investigation by the CAA has resulted in changes to the regulations and that is only right and proper.

Risk Averse Air Shows

Static displays = safe

Spectators who attend both air shows and motor racing events are used to seeing warning signs about the risks but they attend anyway.

They trust that those risks have been mitigated as much as humanly possible by the event organisers.  Risks are minimised but not removed altogether. The safest road racing is none at all, where cars remain parked in their paddocks.

The safest air displays are none at all, where aircraft remain hangared and wheeled out for risk-free static displays.

Are these the kind of events we want to see in the future?

Let’s hope I’m proved wrong and that the Goodwood Revival 2019 will see a resumption of air displays, if for no other reason than to pay homage to the men who served at the airfield when it was RAF Westhampnett.

It was their sacrifice that bought us the freedoms we enjoy today, whether sitting safely at home or watching motor racing and air shows.

What’s your opinion? Add a comment below and air your views.

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Chilbolton Observatory – Hampshire’s Finest Abandoned Airfield

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Chilbolton Observatory is one of Hampshire’s finest abandoned airfields. During World War II it was once home to squadrons of Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs, Typhoons, and Vampires.

Opened in 1940 as a satellite airfield for RAF Middle Wallop it was used by the RAF and USAAF. After the war it was used for flight tests before being closed in 1961.

Today it is the site of Chilbolton Observatory, a facility that carries out atmospheric and radio research.The footage in the video below was taken using a DJI Phantom Vision+ quadcopter drone in June 2014.  You can clearly see that the car park of today was once part of the main runway.

Chilbolton Observatory

By assumed USAAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The airfield was an operational base for a squadron of Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain.  The imageabove shows the airfield in 1944 when CG-4As gliders and C-47s transports gathered there in preparation for operation Market Garden.

Today, crop marks in the fields reveal the locations of two of its three runways while in this image the runways, dispersal points, and perimeter track can clearly be seen.

In 1941, with the Battle of Britain won the previous year, the airfield was designated a Care and Maintenance facility.

1944 saw the arrival of the USAAF in the form of Spitfires and Mustangs from the Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons of the 67th Reconnaissance Wing.

Hawker Tempest, RAF Fritzlar, Germany, 1945. © B Lovegrove

Between 1945 and 1946 it was back in the hands of the RAF.  The airfield saw the arrival of several more squadrons of Hawker Tempests (a derivative of the Hawker Typhoon), Spitfires, and Mustangs.

(Note: In October 2016 at Goodwood Airfield the Hawker Typhoon RB396 Restoration was launched.)

For example, 247 Squadron’s Tempests F2 andTyphoon Ibs arrived on 20th August 1945, and departed on 7th January 1946.  A few month’s later the squadron’s first de Havilland Vampire jets arrived.

When the RAF vacated in 1946 it was taken over by the Vickers Supermarine company and became the location for tests of their new aircraft which included the Supermarine Attacker, Supermarine Swift and Supermarine Scimitar.

The Folland aviation company also used it as a test area for the Folland Gnat and Folland Midge aircraft. The airfield was also used for location shots for the 1952 David Lean film The Sound Barrier.

By 1961 all major flying operations had ceased and the site was transformed into the location for atmospheric and radio research.  Civilian flying continues at the Chilbolton Flying Club grass strip.

The Chilbolton Observatory radio telescope is a prominent local landmark and it is still used as such by passing aircraft.  It is on the edge of the Middle Wallop MATZ (Military Air Traffic Zone).

Folland Midge during test flights at Chilbolton in 1954

Crop Circles at Chilbolton. Elaborate hoax or a reply from distant planet?

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Women In Aviation 1980 – Present Day

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In times of war women have always wanted to serve their country and this impulse lead to a sharp rise in the number of women in aviation, just as it did with me.

At the onset of World War I, many women pilots attempted to volunteer but were turned down. At the onset of World War II, women pilots in England (plus a handful of American pilots) joined the ATA. In America there was the WASP. Russia needed all the person-power it could ge, and women pilots actually served in combat, gaining renown as the Night Witches.  At the end of the war they were all told, “Thanks, you can go home now. We don’t want you any more”, but today women in aviation are more numerous that in many private, commerical, or military areas of activity.

Thanks to Civil Rights legislation of the late 1960s, and other legislation in the 1970s, women pilots were allowed to fly in all branches of the armed services, and once they got that chance, women jumped at it. From the late 1970s until the 2000s, many “firsts” were established. First woman pilot in the Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Navy, first African-American pilots, and so on.

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  • 64 Pages - 09/17/2019 (Publication Date) - Shire Publications (Publisher)

Women In Aviation Breaking Down Barriers

Black women had been working toward this opportunity for decades. In 1921, Bessie Coleman had had to study French and travel to France to train as a pilot – no one in the United States would teach her. Coleman, who died – while a passenger in a plane – in 1926, inspired African Americans to follow their dreams of flight. Willa Brown was the first African American woman to earn her license in the United States, in 1937. Janet Harmon Bragg, an experienced pilot, attempted to join the WASP but was turned down because of her skin color.

Amelia Rose Earhart – Pilot And Broadcaster

From the 1980s onward, minority women have set their own “firsts” in the Armed Forces, not only as ground soldiers in the Army and Marines, but also as pilots, maintenance crew and so on in all branches of the service.

Although the percentage of women pilots in the military is still only about 6%, there are now so many women in the military that an all-woman crew can be formed, strictly because of normal duty rotation, in order to fly the President of the United States on Marine One.

The militaries of other countries have followed suit. For example, Lt.-Col Nicole Malachowski became the first woman Thunderbird pilot (the US Air Force demonstration team) in 2006. The Canadian Snowbirds welcomed their first woman pilot, Lt.-Col. Maryse Carmichael in 2010. Also in 2010, the British Red Arrows welcomed Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore. Each woman had to serve for years in the regular Air Force, before being allowed to try out as a demonstration pilot.

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The Women with Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II
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  • 448 Pages - 04/21/2020 (Publication Date) - Crown (Publisher)

Even some Islamic countries now have a handful of women pilots – and *that* is at tremendous achievement in itself.

Women in the civilian piloting world have not been idle, either. The Air Race Classic, which replaced the All Woman Transcontinental Air Race beginning in 1978, has never missed a year since then. Women also fly in other cross-country events that feature both male and female pilots.

Business women fly planes, other women fly planes strictly for fun – albeit that is becoming harder and harder to do with the restrictions on air space these days.

Back in the 1930s, the National Air Races featured pylon races. Pylon racing is a dangerous sport. When a male pilot died, it was just one of those things. When Florence Klingensmith died in 1933, this was proof that women just didn’t have the skill to fly pylon, and they were banned from further races.

This changed in the 1960s, but since then only 24 women have raced pylons at the Reno Air Races to date (each returning over the course of several years). There are several classes of pylon racing – Biplane, Formula 1, Sport Class, Jets, and Unlimited – there are women pilots in each class.

As for aerobatics, women participate in competitions there as well. Russian Svetlana Kapapina is a world-renowned aerobatic pilot, as is American Patty Wagstaff.

Tragedy has not been absent from women in these dangerous events – experienced aerobatic pilot Vicki Cruze died while flying at Silverstone in England in 1910. Stunt pilot Nancy Lynn died at an airshow in 2006.

But they died doing what they loved, as with the many male pilots who have also unfortunately crashed in the many decades of sporting aviation, and the thrill and excitement of it keeps men and women coming back for more.

Bibliography and Selected Books

Websites

The Women’s International Air and Space Museum
Bessie Coleman Aerospace Legacy
Girls with Wings
WASP on the Web
99s Museum of Women Pilots

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Women in Aviation After World War II

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There were plenty of women in aviation after World War II as many had been recruited and trained as pilots in the United States. There were former WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) pilots who had flown for the Civil War Patrol and pilots who hadn’t flown at all during the war years but who were ready to take up flying again.  This posts focuses on those women in aviation after the war years and into the jet age.

Most of these pilots wanted to simply fly for recreation, but a few wanted to make a living from aviation. They applied for jobs as pilots in the burgeoning airline industry, but were turned down because it was believed passengers would not want to fly with a woman pilot.

In 1947, a few former WASP decided to put on an all-woman air show in Florida. They invited some 99s (the women pilot’s organization founded in 1929) from a California chapter to participate in a cross-country race to publicize the event.

All Woman Transatlantic Air Race

The first All Woman Transatlantic Air Race (popularly known as the Powder Puff Derby – not to be confused with the Powder Puff Derby of 1929) was hardly worthy of the name. Due to organizational difficulties only one woman actually made the flight.

But the All Woman’s Air Meet was held in Florida the next year, and this time the AWTAR would have 6 entries. Although the air meet would eventually go by the wayside, the AWTAR would continue until 1977. In its peak year over 200 women pilots participated.

This race received a great deal of publicity along its route each year. Honorary starters included actors such as Robert Stack and Martin Milner. Actress Susan Oliver actually won the race one year. Charles Schultz featured the race in some of his Peanuts strips, and Bitsy, a female pilot in Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon comic strip, was always too broke to afford the price of entry.

The AWTAR was not the only all-woman race, although it’s the one that received the most publicity. The All Women’s International Air Race, better known as the Angel Derby, was founded in 1949 by the Florida Women Pilots Association. The races would start (or end) somewhere in Mexico, Canada, or the Bahamas.

Mrs. Betty Gillies was the first woman pilot to be “flight checked” and accepted by the Women’s Auxiliary Ferring Squadron. Mrs. Gillies 33 years of age, has been flying since 1928 and received her commercial license in 1930. She has logged in excess of 1400 hours flying time and is qualified to fly single and multi-engined aircraft. Mrs. Gillies is a member of the Aviation Country Club of Hicksville L.I. and is a charter member of ’99, an international club of women flyers formed by Amelia Earhardt in 1929. U.S. Air Force photo – http://www.af.mil/News/Photos.aspx?igphoto=2000593667, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10726115

Global Aviation

Women overseas were increasing the ranks of pilots as well, albeit to a lesser extent than their American counterparts. Most of Europe had to recover from the ravages of World War II before recreational aviation could recover.

Jackie Cochran set several speed records, in unofficial competition with Diana Barnato Walker of England. Cochran was the first woman to break the sound barrier, in 1953. Walker broke the sound barrier in 1963.

The Mercury 13

In the early 1960s, several women pilots attempted to try out for NASA’s Mercury program. Because of the tiny space in the capsule, many scientists suggested that women would actually be more suitable than men to become astronauts – though of course this suggestion was not really taken seriously.

The Mercury 13 – 13 established women pilots – took the same tests as the male pilots did, and many passed with flying colors – especially Jerrie Cobb. However, the testing had been for information only, and when NASA changed the requirements so that only jet pilots were eligible to become astronauts, the testing program ended.

It was not until the early 1970s that the hard work of the women pilots up until that time began to pay off (with a little assistance from Civil Rights legislation). Bonnie Tiburzi became the first female pilot at a major airline (American) in 1973. A trickle of other women pilots soon followed (although those gates would not really open until the mid-1980s.)

Recognition for the WASP

In 1977, the Air Force accepted women pilots, and graduated its first class of ten women on September 2, 1977. A press release about the event claimed that these were the first women to ever fly for the US Air Force.

The surviving WASP, forgotten for thirty years (thanks to the fact that their program had been classified secret – *after* the war had ended!) immediately attempted to set the record straight about their own accomplishments. Since that time, many books have been written about the WASP and their exploits during the war.

The stage was then set for the 1980s and more achievements to come.

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Pioneer Women Pilots 1900 – 1945

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Both women and men had always been fascinated by the dream of flight. Women had gone up in hot air balloons soon after they’d been invented in the 1700s, and as soon as practical airplanes became available, women wanted to learn how to fly them, too.  This post introduces us to a few of the pioneer women pilots who flew between 1900 and 1945.

It cost money to learn how to fly, and the social mores of the day didn’t encourage women to seek out adventurous pursuits. Many women defied those mores, but in terms of the percentage of all pilots, there were not very many. Only 6% of pioneer pilots were female.

On March 8, 1910, Raymonde de Laroche was the first woman to earn a pilot’s license. Eleven more French women would earn pilot’s licenses between 1910 and 1914, and a further dozen or so would fly without bothering to test for a license. A handful of women in Belgium, Germany, Italy and even Russia would earn their licenses before 1914 as well.

In the United States, Harriet Quimby earned her license on August 2, 1911. Six more Americans would earn their licenses before 1914. Unlike women in European countries, who were stymied by World War I, a couple of American women earned their licenses in 1916.

It took guts to fly these early planes. There was no cockpit. The pilot sat on the leading edge of the bottom wing, his or her body exposed to the elements. In the beginning women wore dresses while flying – dresses that extended all the way down to their ankles, but eventually they began wearing trousers – much to the outrage of polite society who thought it wasn’t quite polite to be able to see a woman’s “lower limbs.”

When World War I broke out, civilians in Europe were no longer allowed to fly. A few women attempted to volunteer to serve their country in the Armed Forces, but none were accepted. In the United States, after 1916, the same restriction applied. Katherine Stinson, a renowned aviatrix known as the “Flying Schoolmarm,” spent the war years teaching male pilots how to fly.

After the war, few of the original women pioneers returned to aviation. A few had died while performing at air shows before the war (for example Harriet Quimby), most had gotten married and with husband and children to care for, no longer had time to pursue aviation.

However, new generations of women learned to fly during the 20s and 30s. Some of the more famous American pilots were Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes, Elinor Smith, Phoebe Omlie and Jackie Cochran.

Amelia Earhart By Underwood & Underwood (active 1880 – c. 1950)[1] – http://amextbg2.wgbhdigital.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/amelia_gallery_07.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57938262

Pioneer Women Pilots: ATA and WASP

During World War II, England’s Royal Army Air Force created the Air Transport Auxiliary. Civilian pilots ferried aircraft from the factories to military installations, where RAF pilots took over. Women, as well as male pilots judged unfit for military service due to age, were used.

The United States Army Air Force saw the wisdom of such an organization – especially when pressed by well-known pilots Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Davis Love. After some jockeying between the two determined women and the top brass, the Women Air Force Service Pilots were created.

Eventually, over a thousand women became WASP. In addition to ferrying planes and transporting cargo, they also towed targets for male pilots to practice their marksmanship. Thirty-eight WASP made the ultimate sacrifice – some dying in training accidents, others while ferrying aircraft across country.

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Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) of World War II
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  • Merryman, Molly (Author)
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  • 268 Pages - 12/01/2008 (Publication Date) - NYU Press (Publisher)

In late 1944, when the American top brass knew that the war was won, the WASP program was disbanded and the women sent back home – their request to be granted military status denied. Despite having proven their ability to fly over 78 different aircraft, and having safely delivering over 12,000 of them to their destination in the course of a little over a year, women would not fly for the Air Force again until 1977.

However, enough women had by now tasted flight and the stage was set for a new post-war era of aviation which would eventually see female pilots occupying both right and left seats of the airliners of the Jet Age.

Further Reading

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BJ Erickson: WASP Pilot
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Rickman, Sarah Byrn (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 132 Pages - 12/09/2019 (Publication Date) - Filter Press LLC (Publisher)
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Bomber Girls: The incredible true story of the female pilots of World War II
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Foreman, M. J. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 82 Pages - 09/29/2019 (Publication Date) - Lume Books (Publisher)
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A Short History of AirVenture Oshkosh

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Oshkosh is arguably one of the biggest events on the global aviation calendar, so in this post we thought we’d provide a history of AirVenture Oshkosh from 1953 to recent times.

Way back in 2000, Jill Rutan Hoffman, the daughter of Dick Rutan, put together a book of essays written by pilots called, “First Flights: Stories to Inspire from Those Who Fly“.  At that time, the Fly-in averaged 12,000 airplanes (about 2,000 on display, the rest flown in by folks wanting to attend the Fly-in as spectators), 750 exhibitors, and 500 forums.

Today, years later, the numbers are holding steady rather than increasing – but considering the lousy state of the economy for the last five years, to hold steady at such a high level of achievement is no mean feat.

Patty Wagstaff, who contributed a couple of essays to the book, had this to say about the attendees at Oshkosh: “For a performer, flying Oshkosh is special and unique. At most airshows we figure about 20% of the population are pilots. At Oshkosh, it’s like 100% of the people are pilots or at least enthusiasts.”

It all began in January, 1953, when aviation enthusiast Paul Poberezny and a group of his friends formed the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Its original purpose was to help people who wanted to build their own aircraft – kitplanes and the like.  At that time Poberezny lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and so when he thought of the idea to hold a Fly-in Convention, it was held at Curtiss-Wright Field in Milwaukee.

This EAA Fly-in was so successful that it continued to be held every year, with attendees gradually growing from just pilots to include those folks simply interested in aviation and its history as well, but the EAA did more than just hold these conventions. They published a newsletter, “The Experimenter” and encouraged the formation of EAA chapters around the country.

In 1958, the name of the newsletter was changed to “Sport Aviation”. (EAA eventually will publish a half-dozen newsletters, each showcasing the various classes of airplanes from ultralights to warbirds.)  So popular did the Fly-in become that in 1959 it was deemed to be too large to be held in Milwaukee, and was moved to Rockford, Illinois.

History of AirVenture Oshkosh: 1960s & 1970s

Five years later, in 1964, the EAA headquarters, which had been in the basement of Paul Poberezny’s home, got its own building in Franklin, Wisconsin. By 1966 a new museum and office complex was built to accommodate the organization.

In 1970, the EAA Fly-in Convention has become so huge, and so popular, that yet again more room is needed. Since the headquarters of the EAA was in Wisconsin, it only made sense that the Fly-In Convention be held there as well, and the city of Oshkosh was chosen to be the new, permanent host.

For the next 42 years, the Fly-in grew to almost mythic proportions, with attendance from aviation enthusiasts (as well as pilots) increasing every year. The EAA organization itself continued to grow and expand its own activities to proselytize aviation and to do their best to protect it from damaging government over-regulation (in particular after the tragic events of September 11, 2001.)

Below are a few highlights of the Oshkosh Fly-ins since 1983.

  • In 1983, the Fly-in shattered records, becoming the largest and most successful to that date. 1,521 show planes were on display, and more than 40,000 visitors came to see them.
  • The 1985 Fly-in was highlighted by the appearance of the British Airways’supersonic jet Concorde.
  • In 1986, visitors to the Fly-in saw the first North American performance given by the Italian precision military jet team, the Frecce Tricolori.
  • In 1990, the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain was honored. The F-117A “Stealth” fighter, the B-1B Bomber and the Concorde made appearances.
  • In 1992, the Fly-in had tributes to several World War II groups, including the Tuskegee Airmen.
  • In 1998, the Oshkosh Fly-in Convention was renamed Oshkosh AirVenture, reflecting the greatly enlarged organization – with its museums and forums as well as the planes on display.

At the end of 2011, Tom Poberezny retired as chairman of AirVenture Oshkosh, marking the first time since the organization’s inception that it was headed by anyone whose name did not begin with Poberezny.

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Ultimate High Flying School Move to Goodwood

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The Ultimate High flying school is now firmly established at Goodwood airfield. This post is a record of its move to Goodwood from Kemble (Cotswold Airport) in 2012.


Ultimate High
– the UK’s leading aerobatics training school, advanced flying academy and provider of flying adventures for non-pilots – is moving its operations base and aircraft permanently from the Cotswolds to the Goodwood Aerodrome in good time for the 2013 flying season.

“We are delighted that Ultimate High will be flying from Goodwood this year. It is a massively professional organisation that uses high performance aircraft flown by very experienced former Red Arrow and RAF Fighter Pilots.

Ultimate High is widely regarded as one of the top flight safety organisations in Europe and also has a great reputation in sharing the excitement of flight with people who have never flown before; its Top Gun experience was awarded “Best Adventure Experience in the UK” by the Gadget Show.

Ultimate High will join aviation at Goodwood’s brand new fleet of glass panel Cessna aircraft and established Flying School, along with the Boutlbee Spitfire Academy and Elite Helicopters, in providing a varied and exciting collection of aviation services and attractions”.

Rob Wildeboer, Goodwood Aerodrome

Ultimate High Flying School – Massive Grins

“Goodwood is such an incredible airfield with an amazing heritage and a delightful atmosphere. Most of our instructors live close to the airfield and already know the area well. The opportunity to operate from Goodwood is tremendously exciting, with its enviable reputation as a centre of excellence for flight experiences and flight training.

We have already provided high energy air displays at a number of the Goodwood Breakfast Club meetings and look forward to working closely with the team here to provide more opportunities for people who have never been in a light aircraft before to see for themselves what an enthralling and rewarding experience flying can be.

Guests who have never flown before usually end up flying aerobatic manoeuvres themselves under the close supervision of their friendly instructor, ending with a real sense of achievement and a massive grin!”

Mark Greenfield, CEO of Ultimate High

Ultimate High’s former military Bulldog aircraft are already based at Goodwood, and it will be operating the Red Bull air race-style high performance extra 300 from mid-March 2013. It will also provide air displays for weddings and events, as well as providing management training based on the Fighter Pilot Mission Cycle.

Ultimate High Review

I loved the aerobatics so much I went back for more whenever I could. I have now enjoyed six flight experiences with the Ultimate High flying school I can highly recommend them for their professionalism, enthusiasm, and attention to detail. They never lose sight of the fact that flying can be huge fun and make it their goal to give you a hugely enjoyable experience that will be remembered for years to come.

Ben Lovegrove

For more information, to book a flight experience, visit: www.ultimatehigh.co.uk

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Charlie Brown B-17 ‘Ye Old Pub’, German pilot Franz Steigler

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Look carefully at the B-17 and note how shot up it is – one engine dead, tail, horizontal stabilizer and nose shot up. It was ready to fall out of the sky. (This is a painting done by an artist from the description of both pilots many years later.) Then realize that there is a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter flying next to it. Now read the story below. I think you’ll be surprised…..

Charlie Brown B-17

Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called ‘Ye Old Pub’ and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters while on a bombing mission over Germany. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.

After flying the B-17 over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Steigler was ordered to take off in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter and shoot down the B-17. When he got near the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he ‘had never seen a plane in such a bad state’. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was all over the top of the fuselage. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere.

Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane.

Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane to, and slightly over, the North Sea towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Europe.

When Franz Steigler landed his ME-109 back at his base he told the CO that the plane had been shot down over the sea, and never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew gave a full account of the event at their post mission briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it.

More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved the crew. After years of research, Franz was found. He had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.

They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who were alive at the time, all because Franz never fired his guns that day.

When asked why he didn’t shoot them down Stigler later said,

“I didn’t have the heart to finish those brave men. I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do that. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute”.

Both men died in 2008.

B-17 Flying Fortress

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber that was used by the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. The B-17 was designed by Boeing engineer Les Tower in 1934, and it first flew in 1935.

The B-17 was one of the most important American aircraft of World War II, and it was used in raids against targets in Germany, Japan, and other countries. The B-17 was equipped with 13 .50-caliber machine guns, and it could carry up to 8,000 pounds of bombs.

The B-17 was tough and reliable, hence its name, the “Flying Fortress.” In total, more than 12,700 B-17s were built during World War II, and they served in every theater of the war. The B-17 was an important part of the American war effort, and it helped the Allies to win the war.

Messerschmitt Bf 109

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt in the 1930s. It was one of the first true modern fighters and developed into a series of highly successful variants, some of which remained in production until 1945.

The Bf 109 was flown by many of the top aces of the Luftwaffe, including Erich Hartmann, the highest scoring ace in history with 352 victories. It was also flown by several other leading air forces, including the Finnish Air Force, which used it to great effect against the Soviet Air Force in the Continuation War.

In addition to its use as a fighter, the Bf 109 was also used as a ground attack aircraft.

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