February 1941 Flying AcesTable of Contents
Some things never grow old. These pages from vintage modeling magazines like American Aircraft Modeler, American Modeler, Air Trails, Flying Aces, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, & Young Men captured the era. I will be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
It's kind of hard to think of a 'modern plane' being something that was new to the aviation scene in 1942 (1941, actually, since this is from a February 1942 edition of Flying Aces). Most likely, when this column was written the U.S. had not officially been drawn into World War II. Seeing the Messerschmitt Me. 109 included in the lineup is amazing, especially the comment about the most recently modified version having a retrofit with an engine so large that German engineers used heavy steel cables to help hold it to the firewall!
Modern Planes Album
British Fairy Swordfish
A matter that should be cleared up, particularly for American readers who have been bombarded with arguments for and against a unified Air Service, is the explanation of the British Fleet Air Arm. As is well known now, the British have the only truly unified Air Service in the world and they seem to be doing very well with it. They do have, however a Fleet Air Arm, which is a small separate unit manned and controlled by the Royal Navy. The history of this group is long and varied, but the actual situation is that the Fleet Air Arm is a small but efficient Naval Air Service under full control of the Admiralty. It consists of special Naval fighter groups, catapult seaplane units, and some torpedo-bomber sections. It does not command the flying boats, long-range bombers, or other machines of the land-based Coastal Command. This is a most important point when this unified air-service argument comes up.
The Fairey Swordfish is a typical torpedo-spotter-reconnaissance seaplane. It is not a beautiful machine by any stretch of the imagination, but considering the varied program of duties it has to perform it is remarkable that the designers could even keep it looking like an airplane. As a matter of fact, the Swordfish is being replaced by the Blackburn Roc and Skua, but there are still plenty of them with the British Fleet.
The Swordfish is a two or three-seater biplane powered with the Bristol Perseus engine rated at 690 h.p. It is also produced as a landplane with deck arrester gear and wheels. As a spotter, it carries a pilot, gunner, and Navy observer who is a specially-trained man and has wide authority over the pilot. The wings of the Swordfish are made to fold for storage aboard battleships.
Italian Caproni Ca. 101
The Italian Air Force, on the strength of its showing so far in this war, seems to be justifying the statements of many air experts who declare that air strength is more reliant on the man-spirit of the personnel than the quality of the aircraft available. On paper, the machines of the Italian Air Force appear to be equal to any in the world, and it is still a puzzle to air experts why they haven't put up a better showing against the British and the Greeks. Italy has splendid fighters, well-designed bombers, and seaplanes of worthy categories, but somehow, at least from neutral reports, the Italian pilots do not seem to be making the most of their opportunities.
The Ca.101 was used with great effect against the Ethiopians and in those days it was produced as a colonial type, especially fitted for overseas desert work. It is not a high-speed aircraft, being rated only at 155 top, but it uses light, easy-to-service Piaggio "Stella VII" engines rated at 370 h.p. apiece. Thus we see they had well over ,1,000 h.p. available for a loaded weight of 11,317 pounds. The empty weight of the Ca.101 is 7,577 pounds. The load, then, including fuel, oil, and a crew of at least four is about 3,740 pounds. The colonial model could be used as a light bomber or a special transport-ambulance plane. The straight bomber is now used for night-bombing.
The general accommodation is as follows: The pilots' compartment, seating two side-by-side, is set in line with the wing leading edge. Behind this is a large cabin which may be outfitted for several duties. The main bomb racks are carried beneath the fuselage. The gunners have three machine guns, one in a special retractable turret firing over the tail and two more in a mounting set in the floor .
German Messerschmitt Me. 109
We can now present some satisfactory and reliable data on the much publicized German Messerschmitt Me. 109. A number of these machines have been shot down and captured by the British and we are fortunate in having access to their fair-minded findings.
According to RAF research engineers who have studied these machines, the Me. 109 is a fine fighter, which only just missed becoming a great weapon. It appears now that the original machine was designed to fly on the power of the 750-h.p. Daimler-Benz engine, but with the great demand for speed figures the heavier D-B 601-A engine of 1,150 .h.p. was installed. Higher speed was obtained but at a great sacrifice in fighting maneuverability. A feature noted in practically all Messerschmitts captured so far is a heavy wire cable which is attached to the fuselage, passes around the engine, and which appears to have been fitted to prevent the engine from falling away from the light alloy supporting members. This same safety device has also been found on several other single-engined machines. It is hardly a token of confidence in the design or structural invincibility.
On the other hand, the Messerschmitt is not a slip-shod job. It is well built and carries as many instruments as the fighting craft of the British. It has two-way radio covering a single wave band of 2.5 to 3.7 megacycles, but the frequency cannot be altered by the pilot while in the air. The radio set is not considered to be very efficient or up-to-date.
The Messerschmitt generally carries two rifle-caliber machine guns set under the motor hood and synchronized to fire through the propeller. There are two more machine guns in the wings well outside the propeller arc. In some cases, but very rarely, these rifle-caliber guns in the wings are replaced by Oerlikon 20 mm. shell guns. They are loaded with explosive bullets. The much-publicized 20 mm. gun set to fire through the propeller boss has not as yet materialized. The Me. 109 is said to do 354 m.p.h. Some carry 8 mm. armor plate behind the pilot's head.
TThe fuselage is all-metal, of monocoque design, and is flush-riveted. Wing panels are cantilever, all-metal stressed skin, and flush-riveted. Handley Page slots are built into the leading edges. The outer portions of the trailing edge flaps act as ailerons and the inner segments as flaps. The landing gear is hydraulically operated and folds into special wells in the wing.
U.S. Ryan Seaplane Trainer
With the advance of the great effort to build up national defense, it is easy to forget the many angles that come up in aviation training. The man on the street sees only a program of bombers and fighters being built in production line numbers, along with the pilots and mechanics to man and service them. The great problem of training with all its many angles and requirements seldom gets into the picture.
Take the training of Naval airmen, for instance. Few think that their training is any different from that experienced by Army pilots. But it is vastly different because of the surface medium they have to contend with.
Navy men must consider the problems presented by water, and for this reason their training must include some seaplane work - and seaplane training requires a certain amount of primary training with light, easy-to-handle equipment before they can advance to heavier and faster types.
To meet this classification, Ryan has redesigned their famous ST trainer, fitted it with floats, and tagged it with the name STM-2. The floats are all-metal and produced by Edo. Whether these machines will be supplied to the U.S. Navy has not been made public, but an "undisclosed" foreign government has already ordered some.
According to publicity, the STM-2 has been test flown by the factory staff. They declare it to be "the finest acrobatic training seaplane" they have ever flown and that "its performance is comparable to that of the conventional landplane S-T used by the U. S. Army Air Corps." Such statements, of course, mean absolutely nothing, since they offer nothing that could be called official.
Posted August 8, 2015