Words Versus Military Tuskegee Top Gun Actions

By Scott Spangler on August 22nd, 2022 | What do you think? »

President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948. It mandated the desegregation of the US military. Truman stood firm in the face of pushback from politicians and military officers of all ranks from all branches who opposed an integrated military. “I am asking for equality of opportunity for all human beings, and as long as I stay here, I am going to continue the fight,” he wrote in response.

The order concluded: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.”

The United States Air Force was not even a year old when Truman signed his Executive Order, but its inaugural secretary, W. Stuart Symington, supported it. In December 1949, the Air Force reported that the number of integrated units had doubled between June and August of that year. Ebony magazine wrote that this effort represented the “swiftest and most amazing upset of racial policy in the history of the US military.”

In January 1949, the Air Force held its first aerial gunnery competition, then called Top Gun, at Las Vegas Air Force Base, now known as Nellis, said Lt. Col. James Harvey III (above), in the AARP Reporting for Duty YouTube episode, The Untold Story of the First Top Gun Competition. Now 98, he wears the red blazer of the Tuskegee Airmen, of which he was one, and ball cap embroidered with “1st Top Gun Winner – 1949 P-47.”

The competition was open to all fighter groups; they would send their top three pilots and an alternate. The 82nd Fighter Group team flew P-51 Mustangs. The teams from the 27th, 52nd, and 325th fighter groups flew the hot, new P-82 Twin Mustang. The team from the 332nd, Harvey, Alva Temple, Harry T. Stewart Jr., and Halbert Alexander, flew the obsolete P-47 Thunderbolt.

Being phased out of active duty, and with no war to fight, the Thunderbolts competed in a gunnery contest with no gunfights. But the pilots were motivated, Harvey said. Before the team left for the contest, the squadron commander, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., said, “If you don’t win, don’t come back.”

The teams would compete in four events: aerial gunnery, shooting at a towed target; strafing a fixed ground panel; dive bombing, skip bombing, and rocket firing. The P-82s of the 27th won the aerial gunnery event with 34.720. Sighting down the Thunderbolt’s nose, and the 332nd was right behind them 32.840.

The P-51s of the 82nd took the lead by winning panel strafing, with the Tuskegee P-47s second. Dive bombing was next, and “No one did good that day,” Harvey said. The positions did not change and the scores of the top two teams were 170.567 to 153.255. Skip bombing was another story. Each member of each member of the 332 team had a perfect score of 6 for 6, putting them in the lead with 353.255.

The 332nd won the final event, rocket firing, giving the team an overall score of 536.588. Behind them were: 82nd 515.010; 27th 475.325; 52nd 253.189; 325th 217.550. When 332nd was announced as the winner, Harvey said, “The room was quiet. No one expected us to win. It was the last time the public would see the trophy for 55 years,” said Harvey, who went on to fly 126 combat missions in Korea and retired in 1965. “Our victory was swept under the rug.”

Historian Zellie Rainey Orr uncovered the trophy and it was put on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in 2004. Working with the Tuskegee Airmen, AARP’s Wish of a Lifetime learned of Harvey’s story and his wish to visit Nellis and see the 332nd listed first on roster of top gun winners. Working through the Air Force Foundation, AARP realized Harvey’s wish, and on January 11, 2022, a plaque was unveiled at Nellis AFB honoring this historic moment in Tuskegee Airmen history.

Actions speak louder than words in every instance. It took 73 years for the Air Force to recognize the 332nd victory, but the group’s commander, Benjamin O. Davis became the branch’s first black general officer in 1954. He earned his second star in 1959, and a third in 1965. President Bill Clinton awarded a fourth 1998. Tuskegee Airman Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. became the Air Force’s first four star general in 1975, when the branch was just 26 years old. General Charles Q. Brown Jr. became black Air Force chief of staff in 2020, first for any service.

Roscoe Robinson Jr. became the Army’s first black four-star general officer in 1982. Admiral Joseph Paul Reason earned his fourth star in 1996. The Marines promoted their first black officer to general when Michael Langley got fourth star in August 2022, just months before the Corps’ 247th birthday. – Scott Spangler, Editor.

Wings Set Aviation Movie Standard in 1927

By Scott Spangler on August 8th, 2022 | Comments Off on Wings Set Aviation Movie Standard in 1927

Much has been made of the actors portraying naval aviators in Top Gun: Maverick being filmed in the aft seat of an F-18 Super Hornet to capture the sagging distortion of real-life g-forces. Compare that to the challenges faced by Charles “Buddy” Rogers who, in 1927, learned to fly so the camera operator, sitting backwards in the front cockpit of a World War I-era biplane, could capture him stick-and-ruddering his way through the dogfights choreographed for Wings. (And he kept flying and was a World War II Navy flight instructor.)

Wings was the last of the great silent movies and the first to win the Oscar for Best Picture at the inaugural Academy Awards in 1929. To recoup its $2 million cost ($33 in 2022 money), Paramount released it three times in three different years: The New York premiere in August 1927, in Los Angeles in January 1928, and across the United States in January 1929. Paramount released it a fourth time in 2012 with the restored original.

Available from several different sources, I recommend the DVD because it includes a special feature. To more fully appreciate this remarkable film, watch the special feature before the 144-minute restoration. While Rogers learned to fly for his role, the film’s director, William A. Wellman (right), and Richard Arlen, the other male lead, were already pilots. Wellman was a World War I pilot who saw no combat but earned the nickname of Wild Bill. Arlen flew with the Royal Canadian Flying Corps.

The drama focused on the two men, one rich, the other middle class, who were in love with the same woman, who was not Clara Bow, who had top billing. It introduced the world to Gary Cooper, whose first 90 seconds on film as a flying cadet who perished on a training flight flying figure eights, led to his star-crossed career. But the real star was Harry Perry, the cinematographer who figured out how to overcome the challenges of air-to-air movie making. And then there was the squad of “stunt pilots,” led by Rod Rogers. One of them, Hoyt Vandenburg, credited only in IMDb, taught Rogers to fly for Wings and went on to become the U.S. Air Force chief of staff from 1948 to 1953.

Vandenburg was a lieutenant stationed at Kelly Field in San Antonio, where Wellman filmed Wings with War Department support. Thomas-Morse MB-3s stood in for most of the good guys and Curtiss P-1 Hawks wore the Iron Crosses of the bad guys. More than 300 pilots participated in the aerial sequences, most of them active-duty Army aviators. And so did more than 3,500 soldiers from Fort Sam Houston (now part of Joint Base San Antonio), who recreated the epic Battle of Saint-Mihiel, on the five-acre training range it lent to the film. To prepare the battlefield, the army dug trenches and used the range for artillery training to give it an authentic shell-cratered surface.

Filming Wings took nine months, mostly because of the weather, specifically the lack of cumulus clouds that provided the necessary contrast and scale for the spectacular aerial footage. All the aviation films that have followed have been mere shadows of what Wings pioneered. And it might all have been lost, like the film’s originals negatives, had not Paramount found and restored a spare negative found in its vaults.

In 2012 Paramount released a meticulously restored hi-def version of the film on DVD and Blu-ray. They remastered and re-orchestrated the original score (remember, this is a silent movie). There’s also a pipe organ music option, which played around the nation’s smaller theaters. Skywalker Sound used archived audio tracks for the sound effects and the restorations includes the Handschiegl color process for the fires that consumed the aerial casualties. If you haven’t seen this masterpiece, treat yourself. You won’t regret it. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Finding Fisk During AirVenture

By Scott Spangler on July 29th, 2022 | Comments Off on Finding Fisk During AirVenture

For an unincorporated community in the Town of Utica and Winnebago County, Fisk, Wisconsin, is without a doubt the most well-known small town in the world of aviation. Also known as Fisk Corners, its concise Wikipedia page explains its notoriety in three words: Fisk Approach Control.

As “a temporary FAA approach control facility guiding planes visually toward the active runways at Wittman Field during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh,” over the years millions have flown over Fisk, but few have ever found their way to the small white trailer on top of a hill on the way into the center of town.

In the shade of the trailer’s blue awning sit three pink-shirted FAA air traffic controllers, two scoping the sky to the south with binoculars and the man sitting between them talking almost nonstop to the pilots of the planes buzzing overhead.

It’s like the three of them are connected by some Vulcan mind meld. Both lookers are voicing instructions to the separate airplanes they have in view and the talker conveys them over the radio.

Establishing the arriving airplanes in a line at the proper speed and with the necessary separation is the goal. “RV up high, rock your wings. Piper, too fast, too high; lower your gear and flaps and come on down; there’s no one below you.” A fourth member of the team follows the Piper announces that its gear and flaps are in transit. “Good job listening,” says the first looker, and “Good job listening,” said the talker, “Welcome to Oshkosh.”

Another pink-shirted is talking to a husband and wife who found their ways to Fisk from Oshkosh. Eavesdropping on their conversation I learned that he was the facility supervisor who, along with an operation’s manager, spends the week at Fisk. Everyday starts at 0630 so the team of four controllers is ready to go when AirVenture opens for arrivals at 0700. Without any numbers, he said “it’s been a record year, and Sunday was a big day!”

Getting ready for the shift change at 1230, keeping his eyes on the sky and ears attuned to the lookers’ and talker’s steady flow of instructions, he works in answers to the visitors’ questions and prepares the charcoal grill so the incoming shift can prepare its lunch. All of the controllers seem to have developed multitasking to an impressive artform.

As AirVenture volunteers, during the week, each of the four-controller teams rotate among the four ATC facilities: Fisk Approach Control, the World’s Busiest Control Tower at Wittman Regional Airport, the temporary tower at Fond du Lac Airport (the closest divert field), and the two “Moo-Cows” (pink-shirt shorthand for mobile operating controller). Stationed on platforms adjacent to the runways, these pink shirts flag pilots on their way home into streams of arriving traffic.

With moderate winds this Thursday, controllers were using Runway’s 9/27 and 18/36 and their parallel taxiways as runways. The Moo-Cows work with a waivered hold-short line that’s closer to the active runway, so departing aircraft can safely and efficiently fill the open space in the arriving traffic flow. If something big is arriving, like the C-17 or the Boeings and Airbuses hulking over Boeing Plaza, Moo-Cows keep everyone at the everyday hold-short lines painted on the pavement, and the tower shuts-down arrivals to the parallels so the bigger arrivals have the necessary safety space.

When this situation arises, or like it did this Thursday, and the tower dedicates a runway or two to shortening the line of departing aircraft, it is up to Fisk to adjust the flow of arriving aircraft so they find their way to the arrival runways at a constant rate. When a runway is dedicated to departures, the lookers and talker barely have time to take a breath, but their tone of voices doesn’t change or resonate with any sense of stress. But when departure backlog has shrunk and is again ready for arrivals, the pink shirts can again take deep breaths between their instructions to follow the railroad tracks to Oshkosh. –Scott Spangler, Editor

Egrett & Perlan 2, AirVenture’s High Flyers

By Scott Spangler on July 27th, 2022 | Comments Off on Egrett & Perlan 2, AirVenture’s High Flyers

Attracted to unusual and unknown aircraft, I walked past the record-setting Airbus Perlan 2 stretching its 84-foot wingspan across AirVenture’s Boeing Plaza to find out what the large, white turboprop was and why its fuselage was a series of lumps and protrusions.

Grob built the composite G520/G520T Egrett in the late 1980s, when the US government wouldn’t sell the German government any U-2s, said Roberta Vasenden of Av Experts LLC, which own the airplane, and is based at North Texas Regional Airport, just outside of Dallas.

Like the U-2 and Perlan 2, the Egrett, with its 108.25-foot wingspan, is just a big glider, she said. Powered by a Garrett 1759-shp TPE-331-14F-801L derated to 750 shp so it will deliver full power at altitude, this airplane will carry a 2,000-payload to 50,000 feet and stay there for 8 hours. And that’s why it is the Perlan 2’s tow plane. (The duo did a demonstration during the air show.)

The Airbus Perlan 2 is optimized for flight at 50,000 feet and above, and the Egrett is the most efficient and expedient way to get it there, Vasenden said. With conventional tow planes, it would take hours for the glider to find a mountain wave to lift to 50,000 feet and more time for its pilots to find a stratospheric wave that would lift it toward its 90,000-foot goal.

During the 2018 season, Perlan 2 climbed to a record 76,124 feet on September 2, 2018, higher than the published altitude record set by the U-2, and the team hopes to reach 90,000 feet, which surpasses the SR-71’s published record altitude, in 2023.

The Perlan 2 isn’t the only record holder. Signs propped up against its right main gear leg listed the Egrett’s records for Class C-1c turboprops. In September 1988 it set records for absolute altitude and horizontal flight without a payload at 53,574 feet, and time to climb to 15,000 meters (49,213 feet). And in March 1994 it set a couple of absolute altitude records when it sustained an altitude of 51, 024 feet.

The name of the pilot who flew these records was given on the National Aeronautic Association certificate of record that recognized them, Einar Envoldson, who is the founder of the Perlan Project. Not only could the Egrett tow the Perlan 2 to its optimum starting altitude of 50,000 feet, its payload and equipment bays allowed for a reel to collect the towline after the glider let go of it. As the Egrett’s pilot said, “Having a towline flopping around at 50,000 feet is not good.”

Like the Perlan 2, the Egrett is pressurized, Vasenden said. “At 50,000 feet it maintains an 18,000-foot cabin.” The pilot does not need a pressure suit, but the aviator is masked with a pressure demand oxygen system. When not towing the Perlan, the Egrett is carrying all sorts of novel payloads and new technology to altitude.

Its newest effort is the Airbus UpNext Project. One aspect of it is Blue Condor, which will take modified Arcus-J jet sailplanes, one powered by hydrogen and the other by conventional kerosene, to 33,000 feet to analyze the contrails impact on the atmosphere. After release, the Egrett, packed with emission sensors and instrumentation provided by the DLR, Germany’s aerospace center, will follow in the glider’s contrail.

Basically, Vasenden said, the project will determine if the water vapor contrails produced by the hydrogen engine is good for the atmosphere. The tests are upcoming, she said, but in May the Egrett flew the sensors and related instruments, which have never been used before, so stay tuned. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Super Cubs Fly In for Ice Cream Before AirVenture

By Scott Spangler on July 25th, 2022 | Comments Off on Super Cubs Fly In for Ice Cream Before AirVenture

In between airplane spoon scoopfuls of his Runway Sundae at Kelley’s Country Creamery, the group’s pilots explained what attracted 15 aviators and their backcountry capable airplanes to an alfalfa field in Eden, which is just south of Fond du Lac and Oshkosh: “We’re just a bunch of pilots who get together at New Holstein every year for AirVenture and to fly around Wisconsin and eat ice cream.”

What brings these pilots together is SuperCub.org, an online community formed in 2000. An interactive community of some 12,000 registered users from across the United States and around the world who have made more than 400,000 posts, the group’s motto is “Any Plane, Any Adventure.”

SuperCub.org organizes a number of fly-in gatherings around the United States, said Rick Ness, places like Johnson Creek, Idaho, Winifred, Montana, and one or two others. New Holstein is where the group gathers for EAA AirVenture.

For the past three years (skipping the shutdown horror that was pandemic 2020), flying down to Kelley’s for dessert has been a traditional after cookout dinner activity at New Holstein. If Mother Nature cooperates, they have four opportunities starting the Friday before AirVenture officially commences.

SuperCub.org members “Paul and Dana Osmanski from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, saw that we had this nice alfalfa field,” said Karen Kelley, owner of the eponymous creamery, “and said that it might make a nice landing strip. Jeff Russell, from Madison, is a member of the group, and they came out, looked at the field and its layout with my husband, and decided what they could do for people to land and take off safely.”

After walking off the field with a measurement wheel, and outlining the hazards (powerlines along County Road B and a couple of perimeter barbwire fences that corral the black and white Holstein cows that call the Kelley family farmstead home) on an aerial view, they felt ready to go.

“The FAA knows what we are doing, but we didn’t have to do anything special with them or any other authorities,” Karen said. “They said they were fine with it. We don’t charge [the pilots for flying in]. They like to come and have ice cream at night.”

And they aren’t the only ones. Kelley’s announces the Super Cub dessert dates and times on the creamery’s Facebook page. And they prepare for it by mowing the alfalfa field, scattering a squadron of picnic benches around its white-trimmed red clapboard structure, and attiring its outside staffers in fluorescent orange vests to keep the spectators separated from the airplanes until all of them have landed and shut down.

Once the planes are secure and the pilots have had their desserts, they welcome the crowd to have a look at their planes, ask all the questions they like, with many of the pilots hefting youngsters up on the big bush wheels and into the front seats of not only Piper Super Cubs and 21st century Carbon Cubs but amateur-built Bearhawk Patrols, American Champion Scouts, and a mid-century Cessna 170B.

Like the SuperCub.org motto says, “Any Plane, Any Adventure.” Scott Spangler–Editor

Don’t Pass the Historic Wendover Airfield By

By Scott Spangler on July 11th, 2022 | Comments Off on Don’t Pass the Historic Wendover Airfield By

During World War II the US military carved thousands of airfields into the American landscape. Of the hundreds that still serve our aerial infrastructure, few maintain a general connection to their original mission. An exception might be Utah’s Wendover Army Airfield, a heavy bomber training base, established in 1940 because it was surrounded by desolate desert, perfect for needed bombing ranges. Many people, not just aviation history geeks, might know of it because it is frequently mentioned in the history of America’s use of nuclear weapons. Wendover is where the 509th Composite Squadron came together and trained for its missions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Situated just across the Nevada border, about 400 miles down Interstate 80 from Reno, it is 120 miles west of Salt Lake City. On a 1974 motorcycle trip home to Chicagoland, I passed the exit for this small city (with the 2010 census counting 1,400 residents) because of Above and Beyond, the 1952 film about Paul Tibbets, the commander of the 509th. His wife accompanied him to Wendover, and the bleakness of these scenes led me to believe the base was miles distant in the surrounding desert, so I kept riding east. (It turns out that Davis-Monthan AFB stood in for Wendover.) Yesterday, when I learned about the relatively new Historic Wendover Airfield Museum, Google maps added another line item to my life list of missed opportunities.

Given its remote location, the airfield has served various military units off and on since VJ Day. Declared surplus for the final time in 1976, the government deeded most of the base, including runways, taxiways, hangars, hospital complex, and several warehouses to the City of Wendover for a civil airport (ENV).

The airfield made the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the year after I passed by. Then, just a few more than 100 of its 668 World War II structures remained. Exploring them would have been more than worth the time I would have spent off the road. But the good news is that today, there are almost 90 surviving buildings, including the now-restored “B-29 Hangar” named for its most famous occupant, the Enola Gay, and the museum has a multiphase plan to restore them. Supporting this effort is the “Save Where They Walked” capital campaign.

No one knows whether I’ll pass that way again, but until then, I’ve already made a number of virtual visits on the first-class Historic Wendover Airfield Museum website, and once I’ve gotten this story scheduled for its JetWhine debut tomorrow morning, I’m spending the rest of the afternoon on the museum’s virtual tour. – Scott Spangler, Editor

A Practical Solution to Airline Service Hell

By Robert Mark on July 5th, 2022 | 1 Comment »

Everyone knows airline flying stopped being fun 20 or 30 years ago once a deregulated industry realized just how cheaply they could package and sell their product.

Along with searching for a low-price fare these days, we’ve all had to get used to the generally lousy customer service that comes with packed airplanes. When was the last time an airline employee listened to anything you said without responding there was nothing they could do about it?

Then flying went from bad to worse when COVID-19 hit in the early months of 2020 and demand fell off the edge of the planet. It didn’t take the airlines long to solve the problem as they tried to rid themselves of staff they wouldn’t need to pay as hundreds of aircraft were grounded. They offered thousands of pilots the opportunity to take early retirement, despite the $54 Billion the U.S. government shelled out to keep layoffs to a minimum. Many accepted the deal before the airlines realized they’d collectively shot

Courtesy IMGFLIP

themselves in the foot. Near Labor Day 2020, the airlines also collectively began to realize they were going to need more pilots soon … much sooner than they’d ever thought.



Since Memorial Day this year, the need for pilots became dire as the airlines began canceling 10s of thousands of flights, stranding passengers everywhere. My daughter was on her way home from JFK to ORD that weekend when American canceled her flight after she and her fellow passengers sit at JFK for nearly four hours without so much as a sandwich or a cup of coffee. It took her two and a half days to finally make it to ORD. On July 3rd, the airlines canceled about 1,500 flights.

Just when most travelers thought airline flying could not possibly get worse, it did as inflation saw ticket prices skyrocket. Strangely, at least to me, people kept buying overpriced tickets, although I have a feeling that’s about to end. In addition to higher fares, packed airplanes, and lousy customer service, the airlines have now descended to another new low spot … they’ve become unreliable.

But at least the U.S. airlines are still safe with almost no passenger fatalities in more than a decade. But how much longer can they continue raising prices on a product they often can’t even deliver? Read the rest of this entry »

Indestructible: The Rest of the Pappy Gunn Story

By Scott Spangler on June 27th, 2022 | Comments Off on Indestructible: The Rest of the Pappy Gunn Story

During a bimonthly recon of a used bookstore hoping that some unexpected title would catch my eye, Indestructible: One Man’s Mission That Changed the Course of World War II arrested my scan with the image of a red Beech 18 wearing prewar US red-dotted star roundels and red and white tail stripes. “A True Story,” it said, so I was curious about the Beech 18’s unusual livery. Pulling John R. Bruning’s 540-page tome from the shelf to find a back-cover explanation, the book explored the life of Paul Irving Gunn, better known during World War II as Pappy, engineer of the famed B-25 gunships that ravaged Japanese vessels with their low-level strafing runs.

My mistake was not buying this book. My mistake was starting to read it after dinner. Bruning is an efficient, clear, concise, and comprehensive writer telling a compelling story. Every page leaves you wanting to know what happens next, so you turn the page again and again and again. I didn’t get much sleep that night, or much work done the next day. If your curiosity compels you to open this book, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Before World War II and his trial-and-error engineering that turned a pirated Dutch B-25 into the gunship scourge of the South Pacific in 1942, Gunn was known by all, including his family, by his initials, PI. Those letters also represent the Philippine Islands, which is where the Gunns lived when World War II started, because PI was the driving force behind the nascent Philippine Air Lines, whose fleet consisted of four Beech 18s, all painted red, the favorite color of his wife, Polly.

With some of the only flyable aircraft in the area after the Japanese attacked the Philippines in 1941, PI was flying the Beech 18s for the Americans when the Japanese invaded Manila and interned his wife and their four children two boys, Paul and Nathan, and two girls, Connie and Julie. Bruning employs a nuanced organization that reveals the family’s existence at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp and PI’s efforts to reach Manila and free them.

This alternating narrative shows how PI became Pappy and how his life experiences led to his legendary accomplishments. In all of the other accounts I’ve read about him, people called him Pappy because he was older than those he served with, and that’s it. These presentations never explain what was behind this age difference. Pappy was older because he’d served 20 years as an enlisted Naval Aviation Pilot.

As a member of Fighting Squadron (VF) 2, known as the Flying Chiefs because many of its pilots held that rank, PI flew from the Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley, and several that followed, including the USS Lexington and USS Saratoga. But he also flew float-plane scouts launched from cruisers and participated in simulated airborne attacks on Navy ships and stations. The make-it-up-as-you-go environment of this aviation era, when aviation, naval and otherwise, was fighting tradition unimpeded by progress, is what made Pappy such an innovator. And pervasive interservice rivalries perhaps explain why other accounts do not include this essential information.

Before catching up on my sleep after finishing the book, it was clear that Indestructible would make a great movie. And it turns out that it almost was. Sony acquired the movie rights to Bruning’s book in 2014. Mark Gordon is listed as the producer, and the only other information the interweb revealed is that the film is in “development.” All we can do is hope. –Scott Spangler, Editor

Reporting for Duty: AARP Studios Shares Veterans’ Stories

By Scott Spangler on June 13th, 2022 | Comments Off on Reporting for Duty: AARP Studios Shares Veterans’ Stories

The bait dangled by AARP Studios was the 10-minute Reporting for Duty documentary about Lt. Carey Lohrenz, who in 1994 became one of the first female aviators to fly the F-14 Tomcat. The latest of eight episodes so far produced, the YouTube channel offered another tantalizing aviation morsel, “The Untold Story of the First Top Gun Competition,” with a P-47 Thunderbolt thumbnail that made it even more intriguing. The other episodes tell the stories of how service in the Marines and Army and Air Force changed the course of their lives.

The episode is titled “Flying an F-14, I Can’t Believe it Was Legal,” and it wasn’t until our elected officials finally surrendered their stereotypical prejudices. Lohrenz says in the documentary’s opening minutes that she always knew she wanted to fly. She graduated from Aviation Officer Candidate school in 1991 and wanted to fly fighters “because they were the cream of the crop,” but at the time the law prevented females from pursuing combat roles.

Women were flying for the Navy, but not in combat billets. Naval aviation training takes about two years, she explained, and maybe the law would be repealed by the time she finished her primary training and proclaimed her top six preferences among the Navy’s aviation pipelines, tactical jets, helicopters, and multiengine. The Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, she said, lifted that restriction on the day her class filled out their dream sheets. A top performer in her class—one of five women selected to fly combat aircraft—Lohrenz reported to the replacement air group in 1994 to begin her transition into the F-14.

Learning a new airplane, especially one as complex and challenging at the Tomcat, is never an easy evolution. With an unspecified number of men (who saw women as unwanted, unqualified interlopers in their y chromosome domain) actively working to make her transition harder than it needed to be, one wonders how they would have performed had the stereotypes been reversed. Lohrenz’s success is a tacit spotlight of her superior abilities and resilience. She put it this way, “If you don’t work through the hard stuff, you’re never going to get to the awesome.”

Providing perspective on flying the F-14 is Ward Carroll (see Review: Ward Carroll, F-14 RIO), who explained the relentless scrutiny all carrier aviators face, including grades for every carrier landing (of which she logged 172). It should surprise no one that the men in charge employed a double standard for female aviators, imposing restrictions on them and not their male peers who tallied similar grades. The challenge of being a pioneer, said Carroll, is that these women “are carrying the weight of an entire gender on their shoulders, because if they failed it would set American female status back decades.”

This situation led to a Naval Inspector General investigation that revealed (big surprise) “that the Navy was ill prepared to integrate female pilots into carrier-based flight crews.” As a consequence, Lohrenz continued to fly, but not in the F-14. But, as Carroll pointed out, she paved the way to female aviators, whose numbers continue to increase and who fulfill squadron missions without stigma.

Lohrenz now employs the lessons she’s learned as a strategic planning consultant and keynote speaker. “Not taking a risk is the biggest risk you can take,” she says. “Courage is not the absence of fear, it means you feel the fear and go for it anyway.” And that should be a lesson for us all. –Scott Spangler, Editor

AirVenture Notice Announces Start of Summer

By Scott Spangler on May 30th, 2022 | 1 Comment »

Some may say the transition to Daylight Savings Time is the harbinger of warmer weather, but depending on where you reside (and Mother Nature’s unpredictable climate), this is little more than a chronological tease that primes the wanton emotional relief of winter. (It doesn’t help that my thermostat is still in heat mode at the end of May.) The real start of the summer season of sunny, warmer weather is the release of the year’s EAA AirVenture Notice.

The new nomenclature is but one of this year’s changes. For too many years the AirVenture NOTAM came and went with so few changes that too many pilots relied on rote muscle memory to make it from their home drome to Fisk, where they followed the tracks to Wittman Regional Airport. If memory serves, with Mother Nature’s spiteful mood, this rote reliance resulted in a rough arrival in 2019. Say what you will about the pandemic cancelation of OSH 2020, the break gave the powers that be time to make some long-needed improvements.

Perhaps the best measure of success of the changes were the record number of people who arrived in such a measured way that the controllers in the world’s busiest control tower had time to actually have brief two-way conversations with a number of the arriving aviators. Or maybe the ATC audio shared on the flight line PA pylons was a hallucination. Either way, change is good, and by tweaking the procedures detailed in the AirVenture Notice, pilots not wanting to be publicly embarrassed by their rote reliance will read it before they arrive for AirVenture 2022, July 25-31.

Early birds hoping to avoid the arrival procedures take note! The 32-page AirVenture Notice takes effect at Noon, Central Daylight Time, on Thursday, July 21, and remains in effect until 6 p.m. on Monday, August 1. It also itemizes some of the bigger changes on the cover, starting with Notice replacing NOTAM. The last bullet point announces that camping is not allowed at Appleton International Airport (ATW).

Between these bullet-point bookends are decommissioned VOR-DME waypoints at Rockford, Illinois (RFD), where EAA held its annual convention until it moved to Oshkosh in 1970, and Manistee (MBL), in Michigan’s upper peninsula, for those crossing over the top of Lake Michigan instead of across it. Rounding out the decommissionings is the Victor 9 airway. And just to make things interesting for those working their way north, Milwaukee is holding its annual Air & Water Show July 22-24, which comes with its own TFR.

The notice not only guides pilots in their preflight planning and the various VFR, IFR, NORDO, Turbine/Warbird, Helicopter, Ultralight, and Seaplane arrivals to Oshkosh, and the Fond du Lac diversion procedure. It also itemizes the various arrival/departure procedures for Fond du Lac (FDL) and Appleton (ATW).

For a pilot’s eye view of the procedures, follow this link to the AirVenture Flight Procedures page of the EAA website. This page also links to the notice, NTSB Major Fly-in Tips, and FAA Graphic NOTAM/TFRs. For the latest skinny on this year’s procedures, mark your calendar for the EAA-hosted webinar on Flying to AirVenture, which starts at 7 pm Central Daylight Time on June 22. With proper planning, we all can contribute to what (we all hope) will be another banner pilgrimage to Oshkosh. See you there! –Scott Spangler, Editor