Looking to buy? See our books on amazon.com Get Reading Now! Age of Aces Presents - free pulp PDFs

How the War Crates Flew: Tricky Ships

Link - Posted by David on June 8, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the November 1932 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

Tricky Ships

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, November 1932)

POWERLESS to do a single thing about it, the members of the 23rd pursuits watched the lone Camel flatspinning down to total destruction. Its pilot was plainly visible, battling the controls. But his frantic efforts were to no avail. Seconds later the nose struck, flames leaped skyward, and another pilot was added to the long list of tricky ship victims. . . .

And that, fledglings, was the way more than one Hun-getter checked in his chips during the late war . . . a victim of a tricky ship, not Spandaus lead. Now, don’t go getting the idea that those lads were dumb pilots, else they wouldn’t have allowed their crates to throw them. That’s not the idea at all. More than a few crack pilots got into trouble with a tricky ship and lost the decision. What we are going to try and point out this meeting is that during the late war a peelot had to be a heads-up peelot for reasons other than those manufactured in Germany.

Present day ships are so well designed and constructed that you can almost go to sleep and let them fly on by themselves. They are steady as a rock even in pretty punk weather, and when anything does happen there is always the good old ’chute-pack on your back. All you have to do is step overboard, count six and pull the ring. But the war crates? Ah, there you have something different . . . mighty different, and don’t you forget it! In the first place, they were all designs of 1914-1918 vintage, naturally. Designers didn’t know as much then as they do now. And, there were no parachutes for pilots. The Germans started using ’chutes during the last year of the war, but the Yanks, English and French never had them except for balloon work.

That statement may surprise you, after some of the war-air yarns that you’ve been reading. But it happens to be a fact, and any war peelot will check on that statement.

But to get back to the business of these tricky ships. That questionasking fledgling over there in the corner looks like he’s ready to burst with curiosity, so I’ll talk fast and maybe choke him off.

JUST for the heck of it, we’ll take some of the war crates, one by one, and elaborate on their tricky features and peculiarities.

Of course, the Sopwith Camel is the first on the list. Of all the tricky ships that crossed over No-Man’s-Land the Camel was the trickiest of them all. A wonderful stunting crate, and great stuff in a dog scrap, but my, my, how you had to watch that baby and check its tendency to throw you for a flock of wooden kimonos!

The Camel was powered with a Clerget, Le Rhone, and later for high altitude work, with a 210 Bentely. All three were rotary engines. And all three gave the ship its nasty desire to flip over and down on right wing and into a tight spin. It was propeller torque that did that. As I explained at another meeting, propeller torque is a tendency for a ship to go in the opposite direction to the rotation of the propeller blades. In a Camel the prop rotated from right to left (standing in front of the prop). Therefore the ship would try to swing to the right (the pilot’s right when in the cockpit). Naturally, the way to counteract that was to keep on a bit of left rudder all the time. In other words, when you wanted to make a right bank you really eased up a bit on left rudder and let the torque carry you around, instead of actually putting on right rudder. The Camel was also rigged to whip around on a dime, and that helped the engine torque idea all the more. There was no dihedral on the top wings, but there was about two degrees on the bottom ones.

What’s that? What’s dihedral?

Well, Fledgling, dihedral of airplane wings is the angle of a wing upwards and outwards to the horizontal. In other words, if a wing is pefectly flat it has no dihedral, but if it tilts upwards it has. No dihedral reduces the horizontal stability of a plane, and in this way. The area under a tilted flat wing is the same on either side of the fuselage. But when there is dihedral the area (called horizontal equivalent) becomes increased on the down-tilted side and increased on the up-tilted side. Therefore the natural reaction is for the plane to right itself to an even keel.

Naturally the dihedral on the lower wings of a Camel was put there so that the ship wouldn’t fly completely wild, but still be a fast maneuvering ship. Never having experienced such a thing, I can’t go on record definitely, but I would say that flying a Camel with no dihedral on any of the wings would be just like going down a mountain road at midnight, with both headlights on the blink. You’d just hang on and pray that you didn’t hit anything.

WHENEVER a pilot slipped up in alertness and engine torque whipped a Camel over on its right wing, it always fell into a tight spin. Now a spin is nothing to get grayhaired about, even in a Camel, if you have altitude. BUT, the camel was so darn sensitive to the controls that when you took it out of a spin you had to be mighty careful lest it didn’t flip right over into a spin in the opposite direction. In case you don’t know, you stop a plane from spinning by moving the controls as though you wanted the ship to spin in the other direction. But as soon as the ship stopped spinning the original way, you checked its tendency to flop over on the opposite side, and began to get the nose up. In a Camel split-second checking was in order. You couldn’t take your time about it. The instant the ship stopped spinning you had to check and get the nose up, else you went spinning down in the opposite direction, and had the whole darn job to do all over again.

THERE was also another tricky feature of the Camel, and one which cost many lives. That was the tendency of the ship to go past the vertical when diving.

You would start a steep dive in a Camel and unless you watched the ship the nose would start to swing back to the rear, and before you knew it you were diving backwards as though you were going to pull an outside loop. The way to get out of that was to pull the stick back so that the nose would start moving forward, and then when you got vertical again to slowly ease the nose up. But it was right at that moment when a lot of chaps checked out of the world, and for this reason. When a Camel’s nose starts back toward the vertical, after being past it, it comes slowly at first but as it reaches the vertical it develops a vicious tendency to whip upward in a zoom. If you don’t check that and hold the ship steady in a vertical dive, and ease up slowly, why, the result is that you lose your wings. The savage up-thrust of the plane, with the top surfaces of the ship broadside to the line of motion, just wipes the wings off as though they were so much paper.

Now, if you’ve been listening to me, instead of falling asleep like that fledgling over there, why, you’ll realize that both of the principal tricky features of a Camel can be hooked up together. But, in case you don’t, it’s like this. You’re buzzing along, and start to make a right bank, a split-arc turn. You take off too much left rudder, and zowie, engine torque whips you over to the right and into a spin. You start to take it out, don’t check it in time and zowie, it flops over into an opposite spin. You start to take it out, check it this time, but before you realize it you’re diving past the vertical before you’ve had time to start getting the nose up. Well, you try to get the nose forward to the vertical, and then when it gets to the vertical you don’t hold it steady. Zowie the plane zooms up, the wings come off, and zowie . . . no more peeloting for you in this world! Now, do you get the idea?

ANOTHER tricky ship that Sopwith also made was the Sopwith Pup. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t what you’d call a dangerous ship. It was simply a crate that made you stay awake if you cared anything about seeing the girl friend again. It was a very small job, and naturally very light. And being light, it floated like a feather. And as it floated like a feather, the job of landing was just that much more difficult. Time and time again (until you got the hang of things) a greenhorn pilot would overshoot the field. Of course that’s okay provided the engine is still functioning. You simply feed it the hop, go around and try again. But in the event of a forced landing, why, the story was different. You only had one chance then, and if you didn’t make good you were just out of luck. The Pup came out before the Camel but was used mostly for training purposes. It was so small and light that it couldn’t stand the gaff in a dog-scrap.

In the early part of 1918 the Sopwith outfit came out with a ship called the Snipe. It was an improvement on the Camel, and was intended for high altitude work. Only two Snipe squadrons got out to France before the Armistice, and those only for a few weeks. But they certainly knocked the pants off the Fokkers, which proves what swell ships they were. The first model was known as the Unmodified Snipe. It was the tricky job. The fuselage was barrel shaped and the rudder and tail surfaces a bit too small. The result was that when you got into a spin it was the task of your life-time to get it out. The reason for that was this. The fuselage being so big and the tail surfaces so small, the slip-stream didn’t strike all of the surfaces. When the ship went into a spin an air-lock would be formed between the rudder and the elevators. That would practically render the controls useless. In other words the tail surfaces were so blanketed by the size of the fuselage that they wouldn’t get the proper grip on the air. (Fig. 2.) Once the ship got into a spin it was difficult to present a flat spin developing when you tried to take it out. It was practically impossible to come out of a flat spin. What you had to do was go back into a tight spin again and make another try to get past the flat spinning point. Just so’s you won’t be too confused about my jabbering, a tight spin is when the wings revolve about the fuselage as the axis. And a flat spin is when the plane pivots around the nose in a gyroscopic motion. In other words, the plane is at a slight angle to the vertical and the whole plane goes swinging around in a circle, sidewise.

Yeah, no fooling, a spin in an Unmodified Snipe was not so hot. We speak from experience about that item. One day during a joyhop we slipped into a spin at ten thousand feet, and it took us just eight thousand feet to get out of it. Another two thousand feet and yours truly wouldn’t be here chinning with you fledglings.

Later that fault was corrected in what was called the Modified Snipe. The elevators were made a bit bigger and the ship had a balanced rudder and balanced ailerons. And if you don’t know what those things are, why, just take a look at Fig. 3.

THE well known Spad might be called a tricky ship because it was more or less a flying brick, and didn’t have much of a gliding angle. Naturally, all that means that the Spad was heavy, and it was, darned heavy in proportion to the wing surface. Under full power it was a sweet ship, but when you cut the gun you had to look out. The nose just plopped right down and you started diving hellbent. In the event of a forced landing you had to decide on your field mighty quick, because you didn’t have much time to think it over. You just naturally lost ground too fast. We once had a Spad forced landing. The engine konked at two thousand feet and we were just able to make two and one-half gliding turns to get into a field. But, of course, maybe a GOOD pilot could have made five. Now, you know what we think of us!

Speaking of landing reminds me of the Sopwith Dolphin, a high altitude scout that came out in 1918. The cockpit was right under the top wing. In fact we got into it through an opening in the wing. It was a smooth job until it came time to land . . . then, hold her Newt! If you ground looped it was just too bad. Why? Well, you usually went over on your back, and there you were, head down in the cockpit and no way to get out because the opening in the top wing was right smack against the ground. And if the ship caught fire . . . well, you can figure that out for yourself! After several chaps got burned alive or had their necks broken, braces were put on the top wing so as to give the peelot exit room when he needed it.

A LOT of your heros in this mag fly the good old S.E.5 and S.E.5a, but we can’t list either as a tricky ship, because it was only tricky when the peelot was just plane dumb. We mean this. The S.E. had what was known as an adjustable tail plane. In other words, from the cockpit you could adjust the tail plane (section to which the elevators are attached), so that it would tilt up or down. In other words, you could make the ship nose heavy or tail heavy, just as you wished. When taking off you would tilt the tail plane upward and that would help you get into the air sooner. And in landing you’d do the same thing because the reaction would be for the nose to go up, and thus you would have less trouble getting the tail down for a nice three point landing. But when you forgot about that tail-plane the ship got real tricky. For instance, you might pile into an S.E., slam home the juice and go tearing across the field. If the tail-plane happened to be tilted down you’d probably dig your prop into the ground. Another case is when you’re landing and over-shoot the field. Well, you feed the hop to go around again, and pull back the stick to get more altitude. Well, if the tail plane has been tilted up, as it should be for a landing, why, you’ll just go zooming up quicker than you expected, and if you don’t re-adjust the tail plane you’ll find yourself on your back at a rather low altitude for that sort of thing. So, of course, S.E. peelots remembered that they had a tail-plane just like they remembered they had an engine in the nose!

WELL, here comes that hard-boiled C.O. of this mag, and the look in his eye says, scram. But before I do, just let me lip another word or two. Don’t get the idea that we bohunks who flew the war crates were supermen. Far from it, believe you, me! But some of the ships were tricky, as I’ve been explaining, and the war peelot who went to sleep on the job, or didn’t keep his mind on the race, was asking for a lot of trouble that wasn’t German-made, either. But even a dumb peelot could handle them okay, if he paid attention to his knitting. And the very fact that we used to fly them, and are still alive, proves the above statement beyond all possible argument.

And the same to you! S’long!

“Mannock, The Mad Major!” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on March 1, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the December 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Major Edward Mannock gives his all

Mannock, the Mad Major!

th_FA_3212FROM the war have come many nicknames which have since been applied rather freely to others besides those who originally earned them. “Crashing Colonels,” “Red Barons,” etc., are now commonplace, and to definitely determine the originals of these titles is almost impossible. However, there is one man, who, if we judge by the consensus of opinion in those places where airmen gather, enjoys his soubriquet without argument or question.

He was a man who started the war as a prisoner of the enemy, was repatriated because of defective eyesight, and lived to prove his eyes the most deadly, searching, and accurate of those of all the airmen who flew for the British, while his irrepressible humor and daredevil recklessness earned for him the name of the “Mad Major.”

On May 7, 1917, the failure of Captain Ball to return from a patrol held the attention of the Allied world. On the same day, unnoticed, the reports show the destruction of an enemy balloon by a Lieutenant Edward Mannock of Squadron 40. No one cried, “The King is dead, long live the King!” Yet well they might have, for this was the first victory of “Micky” Mannock, the “Mad Major,” one of the mysteries of the World War.

Micky, who was to tear through the skies of France like a thunderbolt, leaving a trail of victories surpassing even Captain Ball’s. Micky, who was to become Britain’s ace of aces, with 73 planes to his official credit, and who was to die, known only to his comrades, unfeted and unsung, with only an M.C. as a decoration from his country.

To be sure, the D.S.O. was going through at the time, and posthumously two bars and the V.C. were finally awarded, but even to this day this great ace is little known to the public at large, and it is difficult to learn a great deal about him.

Mannock’s comrades knew that he had been imprisoned by the Turks at the beginning of the war. He had been repatriated, and enlisted at once with the British, serving first with the R.A.M.C., then with the engineers in France, and coming finally to Squadron 40 in April, 1917.

It was soon evident that he was a Hun-hater, one of the few among all the aces. He was not the sportsman type, to whom war was just a game with death as the stake. Nor was he the hunter type, seeking only the joy of the kill. To him the war was “open season” on Germans, and he was out to exterminate them as he would rats or other vermin. He asked no quarter nor gave any, and yet his irrepressible sense of humor and love of a joke was constantly bobbing up.

He it was who, after failing for several days to get the Germans to engage him in battle, dropped a pair of boots on their airdrome with the note attached, “If you won’t come up and fight, maybe you can use these on the ground.”

With his M.C. came his captaincy, and he was made squadron commander. He was older than most aces, being thirty at his death, and he was noted for the care he took of his “new” men. He watched over them carefully, and tried to arrange it so that they would get a victory the first time over. Failing this, he would take them out alone and, finding their victim, he would maneuver the German into a good position for the new pilot’s fire. Then, making sure by a few bursts from his own guns, he would return to the drome, where he would enthusiastically congratulate the fledgling on getting his first German. It is said, in fact, that more than one ace-to-be had his first victory handed him by Micky.

IT IS told, also—and this story is pictured on this month’s cover—that on one of these excursions he gave the mud-covered Tommies in the trenches the thrill of their lives. He and his fledgling had spotted their victim and after some maneuvering Micky had finally forced the German into a position for his youngster to make the kill.

At this instant from the clouds dropped a red Albatross—motors on, and its-tracers already reaching hungrily for the new pilot below. A yank of the stick and Micky had thrown himself square into the line of the Albatross’ fire to save his companion. Bullets crashed through his cockpit and seared holes in his wings, but the German’s dive had been headed off, and a moment later, coming out of a mad vrille, the little S.E.5’s nose was square on the red tail with the black cross.

The Vickers rattled, and the German sped on down to pile up in a trench, while Micky turned back to the battle above. The youngster had failed to get his opponent at the first burst, and the more experienced German by clever flying had gotten himself into a good position for attacking the kid pilots.

However, seeing Micky return to the fray, the German decided to run for it, and turned toward Germany, but little did he know his opponent. The Irishman seemed to go wild. He flung his little S.E.5 after the fleeing Boche and quickly overtook him. Then, to the astonishment of those who watched below, Micky held his fire. Steeply he dived in from the side, forcing the German to turn. But again the Vickers were silent. Apparently the German decided that Micky’s guns were jammed, for he made a desperate attempt to turn to the attack.

Immediately, however, the twin Vickers spoke, spitting hot lead, and forcing him to swing back around. Then to the watching Tommies the game became evident. Like a cat with a mouse the Irishman was playing with the German. Slowly he was forcing the Albatross down.

Lower and lower they came. They were scarcely 100 feet up, and below them was the wrecked remains of the first plane, when suddenly the twin Vickers began chattering. The desperate Jerry swung right and left, only to be met by the deadly hail of bullets from the S.E.’s gun. Then one last burst and those below saw the German jerk from his seat, clawing the air madly in his death agony as his plane crashed, its wings touching the wreckage of the first Albatross.

Two more for Micky! No wonder they called him the Mad Major! And so it went, until, on a similar expedition in July, a machine-gun bullet from the ground found him. At least that’s one version. A second story says that he crashed a German to save one of his fledglings. It was another mystery, but the fact remains that no more would his comrades see him tuck his violin under his chin, and while they sat enthralled, play, “Where My Caravan Has Rested.” For the Mad Major had led his last caravan home.

The Ships on The Cover
“Mannock, The Mad Major!”
Flying Aces, December 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Sky Birds, March 1935″ by C.B. Mayshark

Link - Posted by David on May 20, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS May we’re celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. The lower corner presenting a play-by-play of that month’s maneuver with the remainder of the cover illustrating it. For March 1935 issue Mayshark gives us “Top Gun Triumphs!”

Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots:
Top Gun Triumphs

A BRITISH S.E.5 is on reconnaissance th_SB_3503 duty high above the shell-torn contours of the Rhine. As it skims along on the dead air, its pilot is suddenly struck with a feeling of loneliness. Even the sun, which is covered with a thick, murky haze, affords no companionship.

With his observations well in mind, the British pilot banks his ship around and heads for home, thinking that maybe this war flying is not such hot stuff, after all, especially when even the sun isn’t friendly. But suddenly the sun is a great deal less than friendly. A German Hannover drops from out of its glittering depths with a screech and a thunderous roar, and the S.E.5 finds its wings being splintered with Spandau tracer.

In panicky excitement, the British pilot sends his ship up into a steep climb and veers off in a mad effort to shake off the German. As he finds himself momentarily clear of the murderous machine-gun fire, the Britisher feels like a rat without a hole into which to crawl. With both ships out of firing range of each other, the S.E. pilot has time to think, and he grimly determines that he will not go down without firing a shot.

However, extreme difficulties must be overcome in order to down a German Hannover two-seater. This ship is noted for its practical immunity to single-ship attack, and its only blind spot is hard to get at. With a rear gunner who controls a wide arc of fire, it is almost impossible for one to dive upon the ship—that is, if life is to be considered. Attack from the rear is also hazardous because of the specially constructed tail assembly. With the lifting and elevator surfaces built in biplane form, the lateral dimensions are greatly reduced, thereby providing for a much greater arc of fire on either side of the fuselage than on ships of conventional style.

Also, the narrow fuselage enables the gunner to fire down at a very steep angle. Of course, the pilot’s guns firing through the propeller cover anything ahead which is in the ship’s line of flight. The Hannover is fast and maneuvers easily. All in all, it is a ship with a very high efficiency rating.

Knowing all these facts, the S.E. pilot plans his attack shrewdly. Waiting for a moment while the Hun plane comes upon him again, the Britisher continues flying in a straight line. The instant the German opens fire, our pilot fakes being hit and stalls, nose-up. As the S.E. falls away in a flutter to the rear of the Hannover, the Hun gunner, with a yell of triumph, smacks his pilot on the back. But his rejoicing is short-lived, for suddenly the S.E. comes to life. It gathers speed like a streak and is below the German in an instant. The Britisher handles the Lewis gun mounted on the top plane with cool precision, and as he pulls the handle down, he fires up almost vertically. A few short bursts are enough, and then the S.E. ducks out while the ducking is good. A moment later, the German two-seater careens crazily and then dives for earth in a mad spin. The British have won again!

The S.E.5 (S.E. meaning Scouting Experimental) was one of the best single-seaters in the Allied service during the war. It was designed by the engineers of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and numbers of them were built by several different airplane manufacturers in England.

The Story of The Cover
Sky Birds, March 1935 by C.B. Mayshark
(Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots: The Story Behind This Month’s Cover)

“Sky Birds, September 1934″ by C.B. Mayshark

Link - Posted by David on May 14, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS May we’re celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. The lower corner presenting a play-by-play of that month’s maneuver with the remainder of the cover illustrating it. For September 1934 issue Mayshark gives us “Death For The Decoy!”

Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots:
Death For The Decoy

THIS month our cover depicts a th_SB_3408 maneuver used many times during the latter months of the war, but not greatly exploited in story or illustration. It is not known who originated the decoy idea, but a defense for it was perfected by the British.

The painting shows two unusual ships, a German L.V.G. scout and the British Austin “Greyhound” two-seater fighter. It is improbable that either of these ships ever reached the Front and saw squadron service, but it is known that two or three were sent out and tried by the service-test pilots, whose duties were to flight-test new machines in actual combat, after they had been passed on construction, maneuverability and performance. The faults that lie hidden while ships are undergoing tests over friendly soil are usually brought out in the heat and flame of aerial warfare.

So, in order to give you new models to study, we show the British Austin “Greyhound” getting the D-type L.V.G. scout. We know of no better way of giving you accurate detail pictures, and at the same time explaining some of the intricate maneuvers used on the battlefront.

In this case, we have the original move of the German Staffel commander in sending down the unfortunate decoy. This ship was usually flown by a smart pilot who not only knew how to fake a “greenie” in the air, but was expected to be able to entice the Allied ships down and keep them occupied until the Staffel above could get down and come to his “rescue.” He not only had to be a game pilot, but he had to know every trick in the game. It was necessary that he know every inch of his Front, too, so that if his ship was damaged and he had to make a forced landing, he could cut into the bend in the line and be certain he was well inside his own territory.

This time, the British two-seater leader spots the move. It is possible that the lurking German scouts above have not made full use of the sun, or else they have been spotted as they tore through a hole in their cloud hideout. At any rate, the British commander gives his sub-leader a signal, and the pilot fires a red light, indicating that he is having engine trouble and wants to go back.

Instead of cutting into Allied territory, however, the decoy-destroyer cuts back at the first opportunity, slides into the L.V.G.’s blind spot and works his way into a position where the gunner can get in a terrible burst. If all goes well, the decoy is caught napping, or at least is made to fight, thus drawing the attention of the lurking Germans above.

Down they come, to protect their bait, not noticing the other two-seaters that have withdrawn to a suitable position beneath the Staffel. Once the big formation is on its way down, the British two-seater dives and reverses the role of decoy. The Germans go after him, but put themselves where the British can chop down on them before they have an opportunity to win back a better position. And, in 1918, two sets of guns against one was bad medicine.

The “Greyhound” is really an adaptation of the S.E.5 or the Nieuport Night-hawk in two-seater form. It had an A.B.C. Dragonfly radial engine of 320 h.p. and could do 130 m.p.h. at 10,000 feet. It landed at 45 m.p.h. and climbed to 10,000 feet in 11 minutes.

Little is known of the L.V.G. except that it used the 230-h.p. Benz, and had unusually clean lines. It probably had a speed of about 118 m.p.h.

The Story of The Cover
Sky Birds, September 1934 by C.B. Mayshark
(Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots: The Story Behind This Month’s Cover)

“Sky Fighters, November 1933″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on October 3, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the November 1933 cover, It’s the S.E.5 vs the Phalz D-3!

THE ships pictured on this month’s th_SF_3311 cover are the S.E.5 and the Pfalz D-3.

The Pfalz was a single-seater chaser manufactured by the Flugzeugwerke firm founded by two famous pioneers of the German aviation industry, the Everbusch Brothers.

Germany built many types of planes during the World War. The Pfalz was one of her outstanding successes. Its motor was a 160 h.p. Mercedes, capable of swinging the plane through the air at 102½ m.p.h. when at a height of 10,000 feet. Low down its 160 horses could pull it along at a slightly increased speed. It was stable laterally, but unstable directionally and longitudinally. It answered to its controls obediently, but always had a tendency to keep turning to the left in flight.

The pilot from his office gets a good view of all that’s going on in all directions except where the top wing interferes with his vision.

The heavy Mercedes made this ship nose-heavy and many an ambitious German pilot got into plenty of trouble in putting his Pfalz into a dive and keeping it there too long. He had a difficult job in yanking the front end of his sky steed into level flight. He also had to watch his step when landing or he was likely to roll up in a ball.

The single-bay “V” struts were probably adopted from the early Nieuport design. The Germans, instead of connecting the lower part of the “V” placed a short member against the lower wing, hoping to get additional strength and to be able to anchor the bracing wires somewhat apart.

Two ships coming together in the air usually means curtains for both. Boelke, the famous German Ace, was killed when his plane was barely grazed by a ship being flown by one of his pupils. Many other airmen have cracked up in this way.

In the picture on the cover it is a toss up whether the Allied pilot will get his ship down safely. His undercarriage has snapped clear of its moorings. If he can keep control of his ship for a split second, he will be able to clear the tail of the German ship and possibly bring his own plane down for a pancake landing. If he can find two trees with a gap between them of about twenty feet he can sheer off his wings and slow up his smash. In the case of the German in his wing-wrecked Pfalz there is not a doubt of his end. He is through.

The S.E.5 single-seater scout (the S.E. stands for Scouting Experimental) was about the smoothest job in its class }hat the British turned out. It was a product of the Royal Aircraft establishment. It was powered by a Hispano-Suiza 220 h.p. motor. It could do around 120 miles an hour. The downward visibility was improved by cutting away a portion of the lower plane close to the body. A Lewis Vickers gun was parked on the left side of the hood in front of the pilot. A Lewis gun was mounted on a track arrangement above the top wing. The pilot was able to pull the butt end of his gun down till he could shoot at a vertical angle at any ship which got above him. This gave him a decided advantage over the single seaters of the enemy’s ships.

The dihedral of the wings was noticeably greater than any other British ship of its time. Landing, the pilot had to be mighty careful, as did the Pfalz pilot in his ship—both ships were nose-heavy.

Major Jimmie McCudden, the British Ace, who downed fifty-three enemy planes before a Spandau bullet carrying his initials snuffed out his glorious career, swore by the S.E.5s. He claimed, as did other of his brother pilots, that it was the finest ship produced during the war. It could hold its own in any maneuver that a Boche ship might force it into and nine times out of ten come out top dog.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, November 1933 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Westland N-17 Seaplane and a German submarine!

“Sky Fighters, September 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 18, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the September 1934 cover, It’s the Pfalz Triplane vs the indomitable S.E.5!

The Ships on the Cover

THE Pfalz Triplane was th_SF_3409 one of the neatest looking jobs among the number of multi-wing planes which all European countries experimented with during the late fracas Over There. The fuselage was exceptionally slick in proportion and line. If you can imagine the two top wings removed and the bottom wing having a much greater chord you will see a strong resemblance between this tripe of bygone war days and the Lockheed Sirius of modern times.

Those designers of a sixth of a century ago did some sweet visualizing far in advance of their time. If they’d have had engines as efficient as those of today to yank their stick and wire jobs through the clouds there’s no telling what the outcome of the air campaigns might have been.

Three Winged Crates

But we’re not as interested in the fuselage as in those three wings which make our Pfalz a Triplane or Dreideckcr. In building this type of ship the hope was for greater efficiency in all ways. They got it in some and lost it in others. In using three instead of one or two wings the chord and span could be reduced. Then the tail assembly could be pushed up closer to the wings, giving compactness and maneuverability. A single interplane strut could be used on each side, instead of the conventional double struts. The Pfalz used a combination of V strut and straight single strut. The top wing did most of the lifting work as the lower wings had a very narrow chord.

The Nieuport, Sopwith, Albatross and Fokker firms experimented with the triplane idea. Fokker undoubtedly was influenced by the Sopwith “tripe.” Some other manufacturers even went in for quadraplanes, and not to be outdone, one stuck on five planes which made the crate look like a flying stepladder.

On the cover the Pfalz tripe in the foreground with the red belly has been tearing in and out of the ring-sights of the S.E.5. That fight started down low and gained altitude as the two ships circled and sparred with left and right guns.

Even Steven

The famous S.E.5 of British origin, one of their outstanding successes, has the edge on the tripe in many of their in and out maneuvers, but a triplane has a much reduced period of inertia in the horizontal plane; so therefore is able to slip from one dodging tactic to another quicker than the S.E.5. So it was about “even Steven” in this climbing fight.

Suddenly another Pfalz tripe hove into the scrap with spitting Spandaus. Just about the time it looked like curtains for the S.E.5 her pilot flopped his ship into a trick skidding turn and sprayed a drizzle of slugs into the second ship. Down it went smoking, out of control. Not contented with his one victory he repeated his maneuver on the surprised Boche in the foreground Pfalz. One quick burst from the Vickers sent bullets thudding into the German pilot. He died instantly with his nerveless hands and feet still holding his plane in a climbing circle.

The S.E.5 pilot followed for a moment then eased his plane aside and headed for home. Once he turned, raised his right hand in salute as he watched the triplane, now a tiny speck far above, still gracefully climbing into the blue dome of heaven.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, September 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Halberstadt C.L.2 and the Avro Spider!

“Hell On Wings” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on June 1, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. . . .

th_DDA_3403THE cover this month shows an S.E.5 diving on the tail of a Fokker which is on the tail of another S.E. A split second later—

Early in 1918 there appeared at a British squadron a group of replacements, among them a youngster whom we shall call Jones. After several practice flights near the lines, Jones eventually took his place in a formation that was out for real trouble. As they crossed the Front, archie was particularly active and very accurate. Shells burst close to the formation, too close for comfort, and Jones proceeded to zigzag madly. The patrol leader turned about to pick him up, but Jones was headed for home at full speed.

When the patrol returned an hour later, the leader proceeded to read the riot act to Jones. He was told that it was a pilot’s duty to keep formation, not only for his own sake, but for the sake of the rest of the flight. If the patrol got into a scrap, one machine missing would be serious— perhaps fatal. He was also told what became of stragglers, who were the Boche’s favorite dish. He was threatened with all manner of unpleasant things if he broke formation again. The lad promised to do his best.

That same day he was again a member of the flight. He kept formation despite archie—which was not as severe as earlier—and completed the patrol.

The next day, however, when archie plastered the sky a little more vigorously, Jones again broke formation and sped for home. This time the lack of one ship missing had serious consequences for the flight. They ran into seven Boches and the battle raged for half an hour. When the flight drew off for home, one of their number had gone to the happy hunting ground.

The straffing Jones received from the entire squadron is history. After long deliberation, the youngster was given one last chance to save himself from disgrace.

The flight left the field with Jones the next day. He had been moved in position to give him confidence and he stayed in place during the usual archie. Some half hour later the flight leader saw several Pfalz scouts 8,000 feet below. After a look around he gave the signal and down they went, Jones with them. During the fight two of the Germans were shot down, one in flames.

Them from above dove three Fokkers. One of these got on the tail of the flight leader, and before he realized what had happened he received a burst of Boche lead that put his Vickers out of action. He put his plane through every maneuver he could think of—and some he didn’t think of—but one of the Fokkers always clung to his tail.

There was nothing he could do but spin down and try to hedge hop home.

Down he went in a spin. At fifty feet he flattened out and with throttle wide open, streaked for home. But he was not alone. The Fokker still rode his tail, pumping steel into his S.E.

Nothing, apparently, could save the Yank. His Vickers were out of action and his Lewis drum was empty. Gas was getting low, also. As he turned, a burst went through the fairing back of his head just missing his shoulder. In desperation he swung in a steep right turn. Just as the Fokker turned to follow, out of the sky hurtled an S.E. The flight leader recognized the number—Jones . . . .

—the S.E. crashed into the Fokker; the wreckage dove deep into the ground. And so Jones died, that a comrade might live.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Hell On Wings: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (March 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.