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“Knights of the Nieuport” by Andrew A. Caffrey

Link - Posted by David on August 18, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another story from one of the new flight of authors on the site this year—Andrew A. Caffrey. Caffrey, who was in the American Air Service in France during The Great War and worked for the air mail service upon his return, was a prolific author of aviation and adventure stories for both the pulps and slicks from the 1920’s through 1950. For the second issue of Sky Birds, Caffrey tells the story of Lieutenant Mike Harris—a.k.a. “Coupe Mike” due to his proclivity to overuse the coupe button during his training—fresh up from Issoudon after extensive training.

Caffrey himself gives a vague bit of the background for the tale while praising Hersey on his great line of aviation titles in a letter in the Ailerons column from the same issue:

From the February 1929 issue of Sky Birds:

“Coupe Mike,” they called him. He was named a Lieutenant by the War Department, and Michael by an adoring mother. However, Fate dubbed him a Black Cat for luck until Fate changed his mind and so furnished the material for a bang-up air novelette.


As a bonus, here’s a brief autobiography of sorts by Andrew that ran in the April 1928 New McClures Magazine:

MY LONG-LOAFING experience was started back in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on the coldest March the eleventh that 1891 knew. That makes me twenty-one by actual count.

Early in May, 1917, I talked the War over with a recruiting sergeant in San Francisco and he promised that it would last long enough. Well, before I was in that uniform for one full lay I knew that the War had lasted too long. And it was more than three years before I gazed at a bird in a mirror of a New York automat and wondered why he looked back at me, and like me. It was so long since I had seen me in civvies that I was startled, as someone has said, to stillness. Yet, for the first time in a long while i liked me.

After the War I was with air mail in San Francisco. Later I went as a civilian employee to McCook Field, Dayton. There I worked with the cross-country section and flew much over the East. When Clover Field, Santa Monica, came into existence I came here as Chief Mechanic. Out of Clover Field I flew on much long-distance work; coast to coast and north and south. We were trying to prove that aviation had arrived. It hadn’t and it hasn’t: and I, for one, know that there’ll be lots of good flying ten years from now. And wanting to be in on some of the good flying, I gave the thing up till such time as some great skill unfolds the future of air. Over periods of years at a time we followers of air lose track of old pals. But sooner or later we always find them, and in the same place—in the crashed and killed news. As long as that is true flying has not arrived. The game today is just as dangerous as it was when the Wrights hopped off at kitty Hawk. That’s why the one living Wright, Curtiss, Martin and the old men of the air stay on the ground. They know, and better than anybody else realize, that the patron saint of aviation is the Fool Killer.

Fact is, I am one of an ex-army of broken men. And I tell you what: it’s been a hard quiet war for a lot of us boys ever since a certain long lank kid clapped a cool blue eye to a periscope and found Paris. . . Find Paris! Say, isn’t it just possible that a lot of us should get off the controls and let somebody fly who can fly? . . . But it’s tough to be running around with clipped wings and have no willing ears to tell it to. Lindy has done a lot for aviation, but look what he’s done to the rest of us!

Well, I’m sure sorry for the rest of the boys, but just so long as McClure’s will let me fly now and then I’ll try to keep a stiff upper lip and the rest of the fixings.


* The above picture of Andrew A. Caffrey is cropped from a picture that accompanied Caffrey’s article “West is East (Or Delivering the General’s Nickel-Plated Dog Kennel)” that appeared in the pages of the December 1923 issue of U.S. Air Service.

“The Sky Joker” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on June 9, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from Raoul Whitfield. Whitfield was a prolific pulp writer primarily known for his hardboiled crime fiction published in the pages of Black Mask, but he was equally adept at lighter fair that might run in the pages of Breezy Stories. We’ve featured a number of his Buck Kent stories that ran in Air Trails, but this time we have a WWI tale!

The Thirty-ninth was located pretty far up front, for a squadron field. The enemy had bombed them out of two fields, and the third one that Staff had assigned them was just a little worse than the other two had been. Worse for landings and take-offs, and considerably worse in the matter of camouflaging from the enemy. The Boche had already come over several times to say hi—they didn’t do very much damage, just raised hell in general. But the morale of the outfit took a sharp drop. It was into this humorless squadron that Lieutenant Bill Roberts and his very large sense of humor was transferred and the Thirty-ninth wanted none of it!

From the February 1929 number of Over The Top, it’s Raoul Whitfield’s “The Sky Joker!”

He brought a sense of humor to a hard-boiled squadron, this laughing lieutenant, but it took the squadron a long time to appreciate his wisecracking.

“Mushing Down the Air Trail” by Frank Richardson Pierce

Link - Posted by David on January 7, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another exciting air adventure with Rusty Wade from the pen of Frank Richardson Pierce. Pierce is probably best remembered for his prolific career in the Western Pulps. Writing under his own name as well as two pen names—Erle Stanly Pierce and Seth Ranger—Pierce’s career spanned fifty years and produced over 1,500 short stories, with over a thousand of these appearing in the pages of Argosy and the Saturday Evening Post.

This time around, gold has been found at an old claim up north and Rusty’s in a race with an unscrupulous pilot to reach the site and stake the claim and get back first to register said claim. Can Rusty outwit and outfly Pratt and get Old Man Dorsey back to the registrar’s off first. From the pages of the February 1929 Air Trails, it’s Frank Richardson Pierce’s “Mushing Down the Air Trail!”

High-powered planes and battling pilots above the snow fields of Alaska!


And as a bonus, here’s “The Landing Field” column from the January 1930 number of Air Trails where we get to know more about Frank Richardson Pierce, Rusty Wade, Alaska and the Air Musher!


AIR TRAILS • January 1930 v3n4

IN THESE crisp winter days with snow streaking through the sky, it seems right and proper to introduce Frank Richardson Pierce to you folks. Pierce lives up in the Northwest, up in Seattle, Washington—and he spends a good deal of his time hopping around Alaska. He is an outdoor man in every sense of the word. There are few writers in America who can catch the spirit of the frozen North as he can. His interests lie out under the open sky, with snow fields, fir forests, Canyons and great rivers. It was natural, therefore, that he took to flying.

For the past year you’ve been reading the “Rusty” Wade stories by Pierce. They’ve made a hit with Air Trails readers all over the country. The reason is that they ring as true as the roar of a Whirlwind motor on the nose of a new sport model ship. Pierce knows all about the Rusty Wade country.

He just recently came back from a trip over Alaska. Here’s what he says: “I get a great kick out of flying over some place I’ve walked. It gives me a chance to laugh at myself in comfort. But mostly I prefer flying in Alaska—the walking is tougher there.

“Alaskans lead the nation in air-mindedness. They have been flying for years—not for sport, but for business reasons. Why should a miner pole a boat for days up a river and fight mountains and glaciers when he can fly there with his outfit for a few dollars and still have the whole season ahead of him in which to prospect? Where in previous years it required weeks and months to bring out a load of fur, now it comes out in hours.

“An Eskimo may be popeyed when he arrives in Seattle and sees street cars, automobiles and skyscrapers, but he’ll not even blink at an airplane. He’s seen them before and probably has ridden in one.

“Rusty Wade is a typical Alaskan pilot. Landing fields are few and far between. If a pilot is forced down he has to walk out and it may take him days. And yet, right now, I can’t recall a single crash in which any one was killed. There may have been some, you understand, but I can’t recall them.

“At times, in Rusty Wade stories, I have tried to describe Alaska from the air. Thus far I have failed utterly. I doubt if there is in the whole world, anything more beautiful than flying over ice fields and glaciers studded with mighty peaks and set with lakes of the rarest blue. If any of the readers make a trip next summer, cable ahead to Juneau and make arrangements to see a bit of Alaska from the air while the steamer is lying over.

“At the present time a surveying party is working out of Juneau in planes. They are surveying a waterpower project discovered by the Alaskan air-mappers—a navy outfit. The lake is two thousand three hundred feet above the sea in a rough country. It would take many hours of the hardest work to reach the spot with equipment. The plane leaves Juneau and is on the lake within twenty minutes. It has even taken up a fourteen-foot skiff to the lake.”

A NUMBER of readers have written in, wanting to know what type of plane the Air Musher that Rusty Wade uses is. Well, that’s easy, and it gives us a chance to do a little “ground flying” here in front of the hangars. There’s nothing that a pilot likes so much as to talk about different types of ships.

The Air Musher is a Fokker Universal Monoplane equipped with ski landing gear. It is a type of plane that has stood the test of time. Ask any flyer what he thinks about the Fokker Universal. It has been used for prospecting, forest fire patrol, exploring, crop dusting, and for mail and passenger transportation on most of the air routes of this country and Canada.

With a pilot, four passengers and eighty pounds of mail or baggage, the Fokker Universal can carry enough gas to cruise for six hundred miles. It is generally powered with a Whirlwind motor, and, carrying a fair load, can reach a ceiling of sixteen thousand feet. Fully loaded, the landing speed is forty-five miles per hour and the high speed one hundred and eighteen m.p.h. One of the good things about this crate is the perfect vision provided for the pilot. He sits ahead of the leading edge of the wing and can look forward, right, left, overhead and downward. This is a big feature when you have to set down in rough Alaska country, where landing fields are not made to order.

The Fokker Universal will almost never spin or nose dive when stalled. It glides downward on an even keel while remaining under full control. With its wings of semi-cantilever construction and its strong cabin the Fokker Universal is just the type of ship for work in rough country where flights are made in all kinds of weather. There are bigger ships, more powerful ones, and faster ones; but there are few that can stand up under all conditions like the type of which Rusty’s Air Musher is representative.

If the Air Musher ever cracks up against the side of a glacier, Rusty Wade will probably be getting one of the Fokker Super-Universals to take its place. They are slightly larger ships, with a wing span of fifty feet seven inches, and powered with a Pratt & Whitney four hundred h.p. motor. They can carry as many as eight passengers, and, with a fair load, can reach a service ceiling of eighteen thousand feet. Their top speed is one hundred and thirty-eight miles per hour.

“Deliver or Destroy!” by Ralph Oppenheim

Link - Posted by David on February 20, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

“Let’s Go!” Once more, The Three Mosquitoes familiar battle cry rings out over the western front and the three khaki Spads take to the air, each sporting the famous Mosquito insignia. In the cockpits sat three warriors who were known wherever men flew as the greatest and most hell raising trio of aces ever to blaze their way through overwhelming odds—always in front was Kirby, their impetuous young leader. Flanking him on either side were the mild-eyed and corpulent Shorty Carn, and lanky Travis, the eldest and wisest Mosquito.

Were back with the third of three Three Mosquitoes stories we’re presenting this month. This week Kirby is hand-picked to to currier valuble war plans from Paris to Colonel Drake at his own drome. Sounds easy enough—but nothing is ever easy when there are more spys from imperial inteligence than frenchmen on the route. And Kirby is told he must either deliver the plans or make sure they are utterly destroyed if they fall into enemy hands! It’s another exciting tale of Ralph Oppenheim’s The Three Mosquitoes that originally ran in the February 1929 number of War Birds magazine!

That simple mission that Kirby was on suddenly turned into a seething cauldron of intrigue and mystery. Death and the sinister shadows of the Imperial Intelligence crossed his path, and there was the wily von Hertz who always did the unexpected.