Let’s talk about airplanes.

I’ve been reading the new biography of Nevil Shute and the account of his trip by single engine airplane to Australia and back to England in 1949. Shute was an engineer and novelist. I think he is the best writer about engineers and one of the best about businessmen.

That got me to the subject of airplanes. A couple of years ago, I read a a book about restoring a Hawker Hurricane that was discovered in pieces in India and brought back to England (after a struggle with Indian bureaucracy) and completely restored. During the restoration, they found bullet holes in the wing tanks that had been sealed by the tank sealant system. It is back in flying condition and is the only flying Hurricane that saw the Battle of Britain.

This is R 4118 flying in 1941. It is the third below the wingmates

Surviving pilots and the families of those no longer alive were notified of the restoration. Some were able to come and see the plane. A few were even able to fly.

Wing Commander Bob Foster shot down three German planes while flying R 4118

The restoration involved disassembling the structure and here they found evidence of its history.

Here are the bullet holes found when the plane was restored in 2004

The story is amazing and the best part is that they were able to find men still alive who had flown it in battle.

Another historic aircraft has been restored. An an FW 190 D. The story is just as amazing. The pilot bailed out and the plane landed on a snowy mountain top in Norway. It was found and displayed in Norway.

Subsequently, it was brought to the US and has been partially restored. It is on static display but it will be restored to flying condition by Collings Foundation.

The FW 190 in static condition in Texas

The Director of the Museum actually found the pilot who had bailed out on the last flight and that man traveled to Texas to sit in the cockpit one more time.

The last pilot Hans Orlowski. He bailed out over Norway.
.Here is Orlowski in 2001. He has since visited the FW 190D in Texas

The Collings Foundation does a great job with restored warbirds. I have flown in their B 17 and B 24. Sadly, the director of the museum has died and the museum has sold the FW 190 to Collings which will do a great job restoring it to flying condition.

Sorry but I prefer this to politics these days.

19 thoughts on “Let’s talk about airplanes.”

  1. It is amazing – given the number of WW2 aircraft right after the war, how few survive today. Our club magazine had a wonderful article on the DB-600 series of aircraft engines – developed by Daimler-Benz (a version powered the Me109) and because they were destroyed en masse by the allies, only a handful survive.


    Somewhere in the family archives is a slide – taken my my grandfather in Japan post August 1945 – of hundreds of Zeros stacked up – ready for the cutter.

    So today the few survivors are treasured.

  2. An interesting historical irony: the first real fighter used by the Israel Air Force was the ME-109…more precisely, the Czech-built variant that unfortunately (for this use) did not have as good an engine as did the classic Messerschmitt.

  3. Great stories.
    A Battle of France and Battle of Britain vet Hurricane has recently arrived in France and will be returned to flight (last flew in NZ around 2006).

  4. There is an old guy in West Texas by the name of Connie Edwards that has a ME-109 in flying condition, along with numerous other WW2 warbirds. He and his brother flew it for the Battle of Britian movie made in the late 60’s.

  5. I had long read about “self sealing” fuel tanks but thanks to Wikipedia I finally was able to figure out how they worked.

    There used to be a huge fleet of run-worthy aircraft near Phoenix Arizona. They moved it near Seattle and it is called


    They had a fly worthy FW 190 and a host of amazing aircraft and docents that could answer detailed questions.

    I was there w/my wife and she groaned when she realized that I was going to spend about 20 minutes at every aircraft asking a million questions. I could have spent a week in that museum.

    This was before the internet and everyone had a camera or I’d have a lot of pictures.

  6. Ha now it makes sense why that museum moved to Seattle and was able to own all those awesome planes and keep them in fly-worthy condition.

    It is owned by Paul Allen of Microsoft.

  7. The photograph of the FW190 is an “A” model not a “D” model. The FW190D had a liquid cooled inline V12 engine not a radial engine as was used on the “A”, “F” and “G” models.

  8. Carl – the Aerospace Museum of Seattle is first class, too. The best exhibits (outside the Smithsonian) of WW1 and WW2 aircraft I have ever seen.

  9. FYI….the Dayton Air Show is coming up later this month:


    Planes scheduled to be there include F-86, B-29, MIG-17, F-4U Corsair, and P-51. Also a flyable variant of one of the original Wright Flyers…though they used regular ailerons in place of the original wing-warping method.

  10. There used to be an air show at El Toro before the politicians closed it. There was an F86 and a MiG 15 that did mock dogfights but one year the MiG wasn’t there. The F 86 owner decided to do his own aerobatics and crashed it. He was trying to do a loop at too low an altitude.

    An F 18 pilot did the same thing a few years later but survived. Late in the video you can here the cockpit warning voice saying “altitude”. Both pilots were too low for the maneuver.

    The F 18 pilot came into my hospital after the crash. He was retired after he recovered. He did not have clearance for the aerobatics and was a senior guy. They were celebrating him as a hero over at Power Line the other day and he was, but not as an aerobatic pilot. He was showing off.

  11. “If I had Paul Allen’s money I would have a military museum too.”

    There is one in the Bay Area that collects tanks and vehicles that was started by a very rich guy but he died a couple of years ago. They have organized it as a foundation now and I’m planning a drive up there this summer. It was his home and they had to figure out how to separate it from the residence of his family.

  12. Which are your favorite Shute books or which one would you recommend as an introduction to the writer?

    I remember the movie about the structural flaw in an airliner based on one of his books. Very gripping and even plausible.

    “On the Beach” (the movie) was less plausible though.

  13. “Which are your favorite Shute books or which one would you recommend as an introduction to the writer?

    I remember the movie about the structural flaw in an airliner based on one of his books. Very gripping and even plausible.”

    One reason why “On the Beach” frightened me so much was that two of his books were prophetic. “Ordeal” also published as “What Happened to the Corbetts” described the effects of aerial bombing and preceded the Blitz by a couple of years. The other was “No Highway“, one of my favorites.

    His best, I think, are No Highway., A Town Like Alice, The Far Country and Round the Bend.

    Alice is about the war in Malaya and after the war in Australia. It was his first book about Australia, before he moved there.

    The Far Country is about Australia and why he left England. A lot of it is a bleak picture of post war England and the glory of Australia to him.

    Round the Bend is a bit odd as it is about flying and about his concept of a new religion based on working on airplanes. It’s hard to explain but I like it a lot.

    Alice is probably the best place to start. I had my daughters read it and they loved it as it is about a young woman in the war and after.

    Most Secret is also very good and is about his war work which was quite secret.

    His pre-war books are not as good but the wartime ones are, especially “Pastoral.”

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