#3142 – 1997 32c Classic American Aircraft

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U.S. #3142
1997 Classic American Aircraft

Issue Date: July 19, 1997
City: Dayton, OH
Quantity: 161,000,000
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method:
Photogravure
Perforations:
10.1
Color: Multicolored
 
Classic U.S. Planes take flight on 20 Mint Stamps
 
P-51
Originally built for Britain’s Royal Air Force, the North American P-51 emerged at the end of World War II as the finest all-around piston-engine fighter in service. Affectionately referred to as the Mustang, its nickname was a suitable choice – referring not only to the plane’s American beginnings, but also its untamed power.
 
Although the basic design of the P-51 was sound, tests soon proved that the Mustang’s greatest disadvantage was its engine. In the RAF’s opinion it was “a bloody good airplane” needing only “a bit more poke.” Engineers on both sides of the Atlantic contemplated the problem, and eventually it was suggested that a Rolls Royce Merlin engine be installed – a modification which dramatically improved the P-51’s performance and revolutionized its potential.
 
Able to fly long range, the Mustang could now reach beyond Berlin, as far as Austria and Czechoslovakia. Known for accompanying the B-17s on their longest raids, the P-51 was also employed as a fighter, fighter-bomber, dive-bomber, and reconnaissance aircraft. Following the war it continued to be used by numerous foreign countries, including France, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, and Israel. After 40 years of service, the Mustang was finally retired in 1983.
 
Wright Model “B”
Forever yearning to soar with the birds, man first became airborne in 1783. However, the fickle wind, not man, powered and controlled flight. Then, on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers’ engine-driven, heavier-than-air Flyer lifted into the air and traveled 120 feet in 12 seconds. The Age of Flight had dawned.
 
By modern standards, the Flyer was not impressive. Its double-tiered wings and frame were made of balsa, plywood, and fabric, wired together for rigidity. A 12-horsepower petrol engine, strapped to the platform beneath the wings, catapulted the contraption down a wooden monorail to become airborne. The pilot lay beside the engine and held on. The craft was primitive and unstable. It had no seats, no wheels, and no flaps to control lateral movement. Nonetheless, an engine had powered it into the air. 
 
Using a methodical scientific approach, the Wrights tackled these problems. Eventually they were able to improve stability and control, add seats and wheels, and most importantly, they could design more powerful engines. With each improvement, their aircraft set world speed, height, and distance records. In 1910, the potential of flight received official recognition when the U.S. Army purchased two Model “Bs” for pilot training.

Piper Cub
Highly sophisticated supersonic jets are so awe-inspiring it is easy to forget that the great majority of aircraft, at least in America, are small, simple machines. 
 
William Thomas Piper was the first to manufacture airplanes for private use and is affectionately called “the Henry Ford of Aviation.” Since his small, economical two-seater Cub was introduced in 1929, many Americans have learned to fly. Today, more than a quarter of a million people own, and are licensed to fly, single- and twin-engine airplanes.
 
Although the low-wing Cherokee replaced the high-wing Cub in the 1960s, overall features remained the same. Both have a minimum number of parts to simplify production and reduce costs. Both are powered by simple piston engines, have fixed landing gears, unpressurized cabins, and relatively simple instruments. The Cherokee’s 1,200 parts are assembled in sections by three men with pneumatic hand tools. They can assemble the fuselage and cabin superstructure in four hours. With a few more hours, they can attach the wings and tail, install the engine, and wire the instrument panel. 
 
Though “general aviation” aircraft are simple, they have all the system control features that larger aircraft do and can execute the full range of flying maneuvers.

Lockheed Vega
For a few years after World War I, aircraft designers concentrated on developing military aircraft. After Congress withdrew funding, they turned their energies to designing aircraft for civilian use. 
 
During the 1920s, aviation was the new frontier and each year, Americans and Europeans tested their ideas in national and international races. Seeing what worked, they went home and tried again. 
 
Lockheed incorporated two German designs in its six-passenger Vega – Hugo Junkers’ cantilever wing and Rohrbach’s “stressed-skin” construction. Entering the 1928 National Air Races’ transcontinental derby, the Vega flew coast to coast in 24 hours and 9 minutes, winning hands down. The record was bettered again and again, making the Vega the finest transport monoplane of the time. In 1929, Amelia Earhart and her Vega competed in the first womens’ transcontinental races, coming in third behind two other Vegas. 
 
“Stressed-skin” construction is like a lobster claw in that the shell and wings bear the weight rather than an internal skeleton.  This structure not only reduced drag and weight, it also increased cabin space by 35%.   The Vega was so successful, it inspired world-wide development, and influenced the design of larger transport aircraft.
 
Northrop Alpha
Despite its simple appearance, the Alpha fairly bristled with innovations in aircraft design and construction, setting a new pattern for transport planes. The first in a long line of “Northrop” high performance airplanes, the Alpha 2 was developed by John K. Northrop, a true pioneer and a self-made engineer.
 
Originally employed by Douglas Aircraft, Northrop later moved on to Lockheed where he designed the first of the Vega series. In 1928 he left Lockheed to form his own company. With his imagination fired by the semimonocoque (single shell) construction theories of Adolf Rohrbach, Northrop made detailed studies of all-metal aircraft and experimented with the practical application of “stressed skin” covering. In 1930 he built America’s first metal plane of semimonocoque construction for the U.S. Air Corps. The results were stunning.
 
Built for maximum performance, the Alpha was not only faster, but more economical as well. Powered with the Pratt & Whitney “Wasp” C engine, this sleek, low-winged monoplane plane could carry up to six passengers, and had removable seating for hauling large loads of mail and cargo. In fact the Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 that followed were so successful, that other companies quickly turned to building only all-metal monoplanes.
 
Martin B-10
The Martin Company is an old-timer in the relatively young aviation industry. As early as 1909 the company produced military bombers for the U.S. Army. And its MB twin-engine bomber of 1918, the first American bomber to sink a battleship, became a standard post-war type for several years. The company was even manufacturing all-metal airplanes for the Navy as early as 1922. 
 
In 1932, the company produced a twin-engine, mid-wing monoplane bomber. Two years later, it began testing the use of Wright Cyclone engines and Pratt & Whitney Hornet engines. In 1935, the company finally came up with a winner – the B-10 (“B” designating bomber).
 
The B-10 was fitted with 740-horsepower Cyclone engines, Sperry automatic pilot, wing flaps, constant-speed propellers, and de-icers, as well as continuous cockpit enclosures. After adding a Browning machine gun in the nose turret and two in the rear cockpit, top and bottom, it was ready for wartime service. 
 
The B-10 revolutionized bomber design both here and abroad. Its new features allowed pilots to hear more, see more, and do more. Best yet, its powerful engines allowed it to outfly the fastest U.S. fighters by 100 miles per hour – an important lifesaving feature.
 
Chance Vought F4U Corsair
Initially dubbed a failure, the Vought Corsair eventually proved its superiority over the Grumman Wildcat, becoming the most important naval attack fighter of World War II. In fact, by 1943 all Pacific-based Marine fighter squadrons had been re-equipped with the Corsair. And as testament to its outstanding service, this fighter remained in production for 13 years.
 
Conceived in 1938, the Corsair’s design started with the basic idea of marrying the most powerful engine available – the new 2000-hp Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp – with the smallest compatible airframe. The use of this engine, whose greater power necessitated the largest propeller of any contemporary fighter, resulted in adopting an inverted gull wing. This unique feature kept the main landing gear legs reasonably short, while allowing adequate ground clearance for the air crew.
 
Early trial flights not only revealed a number of problems, but also promised great potential. At 404 mph, the Corsair was the first US fighter to exceed 400 mph. With its distinctive engine note and high “kill ratio” it soon earned the nickname “Whistling Death” from its Japanese opponents. In the Pacific Theater alone, the Corsair shot down 2,140 enemy aircraft with only 189 losses, earning a reputation as the very best of its kind.
 
Boeing B-47 Stratojet
Introduced in 1939, the first jet-powered airplane revolutionized the aviation industry. Significantly eliminating the limitations imposed by the propeller, the jet engine paved the way for increases in aircraft speed, size, and operating altitudes. But with the outbreak of World War II, further development of this new technology came to a halt as resources were poured into producing military aircraft.
 
Not surprisingly though, countries on both sides of the war were eager to take advantage of the jet engine. And finally in 1943, Boeing, in response to U.S. Army Air Force interest in a turbojet-powered bomber, began preliminary studies into creating such an aircraft. The result was Model 450, better known as the Stratojet.
 
Incredible for its time, the B-47 Stratojet featured six engines, sweptback wings, a bombardier’s station in the nose, remote-controlled tail armament, and two groups of nine Aerojet JATO rocket units to provide extra thrust for takeoff. Making its first flight on December 17, 1947, this high-performance bomber entered service in the early 1950s, equipping a large part of the USAF’s Strategic Air Command. Modified for Tactical Air Command and later for weather reconnaissance, the last B-47s in service were retired in 1969.
 
Gee Bee Super Sportster
Following World War I, money was given out sparingly by the government for the research and development of aircraft. Finally in 1925, Congress completely withdrew funding, little realizing how cheaply and quickly technical perfection could be achieved.
 
During the war, air forces never ceased to want faster, higher-flying, and more superior aircraft. But in peacetime perhaps the greatest need to increase performance was the urge to win races. Large purses and the desire to earn fame and glory produced groundbreaking innovations. Within a few short years the superiority of the monoplane had become obvious. And by the early 1930s, the winning U.S. racers were little more than big engines with a tiny monoplane fixed behind them. One such racer was the Gee Bee Super Sportster.
 
Nicknamed “Bumble Bees,” “Flying Barrels,” and “Silos” because of their huge fuselage, the Gee Bees dominated the early 1930s speed races. From these early racers, valuable knowledge was gleaned about wind vibration and aircraft design. Their efforts produced controllable pitch propellers, popout hatches, and lighter, air-cooled engines. Ironically, the designs and lessons learned on the race courses were eventually incorporated into many of the planes that served in World War II.
 
Beech Staggerwing
Beech Aircraft Corporation was established in 1932. The first airplane it produced was a four-passenger Model 17 biplane. Unlike former biplanes, its wings were staggered; that is, its upper wing lay slightly behind the bottom wing, and it proved to be a fine flyer. 
 
America was in the depths of the Depression at the very time when aircraft and engine designers were producing a profusion of technological ideas. Because it was costly to translate those ideas into reality, established businesses, especially oil companies, sponsored the fledgling aviation industry. Thus it was that the Ethyl Corporation bought Beech’s Model 17, and in 1933 entered it in the Texaco Trophy races in Florida. Not surprisingly, it won. 
 
Meanwhile, Beech engineers continued their refinements. In 1937 they put aileron-type full-length flaps on the lower wings, and ailerons on the upper wings. These increased the aircraft’s controllability and maneuverability enormously, establishing the norm for all future airplanes. Famous aviator Jacqueline Cochran, seen on Scott #3066, owned a Model D-17W.
 
During World War II, several versions of the Staggerwing were used as utility transports and communications aircraft by the Army and Navy.
 
B-17 Flying Fortress
Before World War II began, some aviation experts claimed long-range bombers, capable of wiping out cities, and destroying an enemy’s ability to go on fighting, were the most advanced weapons in the world.
 
But the flimsy, lightly armed B-17s supplied to the Royal Air Force for high-altitude bombing raids hardly supported that theory. Later versions, however, heavily armored with turrets and guns, could take enormous punishment – thus earning the nickname “Flying Fortresses.” By 1943, B-17 armadas were taking the war to the heart of the enemy around the clock. The price was high – the 8th Air Force alone lost 4,148 B-17s during the war. But American industry kept churning them out – producing nearly 13,000 in 1944 alone. And pilots kept flying them until the experts were proven right – more than any other airplane, the B-17 symbolized American aerial might.
 
The 90-foot-long, all-metal strategic bomber went through many versions and thousands of modifications before achieving its final form. Engineers learned how to supercharge its four 1,000-horsepower engines so that it could carry 5,000 pounds of bombs over a thousand miles. But perhaps its most innovative feature was its one-piece, molded, clear-plastic nose cone, with room for two .50 caliber guns to defend against frontal attacks.
 
Boeing-Stearman Kaydet
Most American and Canadian pilots who served in World War I learned to fly on a Curtiss Jenny. Three decades later, the Stearman Kaydet served the same role during World War II. Its military designation was preceeded by a PT, the “P” indicating a pursuit or fighter plane, the “T” indicating that it was a trainer. 
 
The Stearman Kaydet was developed as a two-seat biplane trainer in 1934 by the Stearman Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas. Later that year, Boeing purchased the company and entered the Kaydet into the Army Primary Trainer Competition. The Kaydet won and the Army put in an order for several. When war threatened a few years later, the Army purchased additional planes. By the time Boeing stopped production in 1945, it had turned out over 10,000 Kaydets. 
 
The Stearman Kaydet was a throwback to an earlier age of baling wire and fabric biplanes. An excellent introduction to handling large aircraft, the Kaydet was a sturdy plane, withstanding the many mishaps of inexperienced pilots. However, its size and high center of gravity made it prone to ground looping, a flight characteristic difficult to handle. Consequently, the Kaydet was nicknamed the “Washing Machine” because of the number of would-be pilots that got “washed out” of flight training.
 
Lockheed Constellation
The original Constellation was developed in 1939 as a commercial airliner for Transcontinental & Western Air – later Trans-World Airlines (TWA). Designed to be the “fastest, high performance airplane in the world,” its specifications called for a 3,000-mile range and a maximum 18,000-pound payload capacity.
 
The outbreak of World War II however, caused the plane to be modified as the C-69 military transport – the first example of which was flown on Jan 9, 1943. As war demands increased, the planes were commandeered (seized for military use) as they came off the production line. But despite new features, which included hydraulically powered controls and a thermal de-icing system for wing- and tail-unit leading edges, it wasn’t until after the war that the Constellation made its impact on air transportation. 
 
TWA flew its first Constellation on October 1, 1945.   The following year Pan-Am Airways introduced the “Connie,” as it affectionately became known, on the company’s New York-Bermuda route. Extremely efficient with its streamlined fuselage and triple fins and rudders, the Constellation also offered the advantages of a pressurized cabin and more adequate range for transatlantic operation. Before long it was operating in round-the-world services.
 
Lockheed P-38 Lightning
When the US Army Air Corps issued specifications for a high-altitude interceptor in 1937, Lockheed was already aware of the qualities demanded: speed, ceiling, and firepower combined with the ability to carry enough fuel for superior range were essential. Built to meet these requirements, Lockheed’s P-38 Lightning became one of the most feared and respected aircraft to fly in the Axis skies. Its firepower was lethal and its long range allowed it to accompany bombers to Berlin and beyond.
 
The Lightning entered service in 1941 and was deployed in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific during 1942. Throughout the war it gained steadily in performance, demonstrating remarkable versatility. Although it achieved its ultimate effectiveness as an escort, the    P-38 was also used extensively as a ground-attack aircraft, as well as during night raids, photograph reconnaissance missions, and to drop smokescreen layers.
 
It was this combination of power and versatility that gained the P-38 a formidable reputation among the Japanese and Germans, who dubbed it the “fork-tailed devil.” In fact, the Lightning ended the war with more Japanese aircraft to its credit than any other type. And it was the only American fighter built before WWII to still be in production on VJ Day.
 
Boeing P-26A Peashooter
In the 21 years between the two World Wars aviation technology progressed at a remarkable pace. By the 1930s the biplane had become obsolete, replaced by the speedy new monoplane. Utilizing improved concepts of fighter design, the monoplane achieved a new level of high performance.
 
This change – from biplane to the monoplane – was marked in 1934 by the entry into service of the Boeing P-26. Nicknamed the “Peashooter,” because of its bulbous lines and its stubby radial engine, the P-26 was the result of close collaboration between Boeing and the U.S. Army. The prototype made its first flight in 1932, and although the P-26 retained an open cockpit, wire-braced wings, and a fixed undercarriage, it was a major step forward in airplane construction. For it was the first plane to feature an all-metal construction, as well as monoplane wings.
 
With modifications and larger engines, the Peashooter went into service at the beginning of 1934, making the U.S. Air Corps one of the first air forces to use monoplane fighters. For almost five years it represented the front-line equipment of fighter units. And when World War II erupted, about a dozen P-26s were thrown into battle. One of them brought down one of the first Japanese aircraft of the war.
 
Ford Tri-Motor
In the 21 years between the two World Wars aviation technology progressed at a remarkable pace. By the 1930s the biplane had become obsolete, replaced by the speedy new monoplane. Utilizing improved concepts of fighter design, the monoplane achieved a new level of high performance.
 
This change – from biplane to the monoplane – was marked in 1934 by the entry into service of the Boeing P-26. Nicknamed the “Peashooter,” because of its bulbous lines and its stubby radial engine, the P-26 was the result of close collaboration between Boeing and the U.S. Army. The prototype made its first flight in 1932, and although the P-26 retained an open cockpit, wire-braced wings, and a fixed undercarriage, it was a major step forward in airplane construction. For it was the first plane to feature an all-metal construction, as well as monoplane wings.
 
With modifications and larger engines, the Peashooter went into service at the beginning of 1934, making the U.S. Air Corps one of the first air forces to use monoplane fighters. For almost five years it represented the front-line equipment of fighter units. And when World War II erupted, about a dozen P-26s were thrown into battle. One of them brought down one of the first Japanese aircraft of the war.
 
Douglas DC-3
When the first DC-3 rolled down the runway in 1934, few knew it was destined to become the most famous commercial airplane ever built. Though not the first low-wing monoplane in a world still dominated by biplanes, it was immediately popular with airlines in America and Europe. It was easy to fly and had the passenger comforts so lacking in the Tri-Motor. 
 
With the outbreak of World War II, the Douglas Aircraft Corporation went into immediate mass-production. Altogether, 10,000 DC-3s ferried thousands of U.S. and British servicemen as C-47 Skytrains, and Dakotas respectively. Converted to civilian use after the war, the DC-3 became the world’s principal airliner and biggest moneymaker in its class. As late as 1965, DC-3s still outnumbered all other types of airliners.
 
More than anything else, the DC-3 was an indestructible workhorse because it was a stress-skinned “fail-safe” airplane. Prior to DC-3s, airplanes had a lifespan of about 6,000 hours and had a tendency to come apart at the seams when a structural member broke. When a wing spar in the DC-3 broke, the weight was picked up by alternate spars. This type of construction eliminated catastrophic chain reactions and reduced fatigue, which in turn, enormously increased its safety and its lifespan.
 
314 Clipper
In most minds, Pan American Airlines and “Clipper” are synonymous. Though not the first American international airline, Pan Am was perhaps the most successful, and was certainly a leader in the industry. 
 
The company got its start in 1927, flying mail between Key West, Florida and Havana, Cuba. Scheduled passenger service followed the next year. And by 1929, with Charles Lindbergh’s help, it had mapped out a 12,000-mile route between North, South, and Central America.
 
By 1936, Pam Am was ready to develop its transoceanic service. Boeing was recruited to build a comfortable 74-passenger airplane with a range of 3,500 miles – a monumental request. Although Boeing considered declining the offer, instead it took the XB-15 high-wing – predecessor of the Flying Fortress – and added a luxurious double-decker hull. In order to lift the craft, crew, and payload, it installed four of the most powerful engines available – Wright Twin Cyclone 14-cylinder engines.
 
The six glamorous 314 Clippers that began service in 1939 flew only a few short years, but garnered many firsts. Not only did they fly the first transpacific flight in 1936, but also the first transatlantic flight in 1939, and the first round-the-world flight in 1947.
 
Curtiss Jenny
Bicycle manufacturer Glenn Curtiss began his career in aviation design developing seaplanes. In 1915 he was awarded the first contract to build U.S. Navy planes. Believing in the future of flight, he sought to design an airplane that could be mass-produced. The result was his eight-cylinder OX-5 engine combined with features from a British aircraft designer. Designated the JN-4, it became affectionately known as the “Jenny.”
 
Created at the onset of World War I, the Jenny played a major role in the fighting – the only American mass-produced aircraft to do so. During the war years, Curtiss manufactured more than 6,400 units for the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Navy (at $5,000 each) as well as over 2,000 units for other Allied governments, including Great Britain and Russia.
 
Because of the quantities produced, 95% of all American and Canadian WWI pilots earned their wings in a Jenny. Hundreds were sold as surplus after the Armistice. Barnstormers quickly combed the country performing daring feats, thereby introducing ordinary Americans to the thrills of aviation. Many more became familiar with aviation when the U.S. Post Office issued the 24¢ Jenny stamp to inaugurate the world’s first regularly scheduled transportation of mail by air.
 
Grumman F4F Wildcat
The Grumman Aerospace Corporation was founded by Leroy Grumman, a U.S. industrialist and master designer of U.S. fighter planes. During the 1930s Grumman’s inventions – retractable landing gear and a folding wing later used on the Wildcat carrier fighter – earned him countless U.S. Navy contracts. In 1938 negotiations between the Navy and Grumman led to the development for the XF4F-3 (“X” designating “experimental”). Officially dubbed the “Wildcat,” it became the first of the famous Grumman “cat” family.
 
By December 1941, 245 Wildcats had entered U.S. service, and for the next two years they served as the main U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighter. In addition to an increased wingspan, the F4F also sported “squared” wing and tail tips. Necessary for additional lifting surface required by heavier aircraft, this feature eventually became a “trademark” of the Grumman aircraft.
 
Although not particularly outstanding in terms of performance, the Wildcat was staunchly rugged and well-armed. And in the hands of an experienced pilot, it proved the equal of the highly effective Japanese Zero. Able to compile a distinguished combat record, Grumman aircraft reportedly shot down more than 60% of enemy aircraft in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
 
 
 
 
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U.S. #3142
1997 Classic American Aircraft

Issue Date: July 19, 1997
City: Dayton, OH
Quantity: 161,000,000
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method:
Photogravure
Perforations:
10.1
Color: Multicolored
 
Classic U.S. Planes take flight on 20 Mint Stamps
 
P-51
Originally built for Britain’s Royal Air Force, the North American P-51 emerged at the end of World War II as the finest all-around piston-engine fighter in service. Affectionately referred to as the Mustang, its nickname was a suitable choice – referring not only to the plane’s American beginnings, but also its untamed power.
 
Although the basic design of the P-51 was sound, tests soon proved that the Mustang’s greatest disadvantage was its engine. In the RAF’s opinion it was “a bloody good airplane” needing only “a bit more poke.” Engineers on both sides of the Atlantic contemplated the problem, and eventually it was suggested that a Rolls Royce Merlin engine be installed – a modification which dramatically improved the P-51’s performance and revolutionized its potential.
 
Able to fly long range, the Mustang could now reach beyond Berlin, as far as Austria and Czechoslovakia. Known for accompanying the B-17s on their longest raids, the P-51 was also employed as a fighter, fighter-bomber, dive-bomber, and reconnaissance aircraft. Following the war it continued to be used by numerous foreign countries, including France, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, and Israel. After 40 years of service, the Mustang was finally retired in 1983.
 
Wright Model “B”
Forever yearning to soar with the birds, man first became airborne in 1783. However, the fickle wind, not man, powered and controlled flight. Then, on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers’ engine-driven, heavier-than-air Flyer lifted into the air and traveled 120 feet in 12 seconds. The Age of Flight had dawned.
 
By modern standards, the Flyer was not impressive. Its double-tiered wings and frame were made of balsa, plywood, and fabric, wired together for rigidity. A 12-horsepower petrol engine, strapped to the platform beneath the wings, catapulted the contraption down a wooden monorail to become airborne. The pilot lay beside the engine and held on. The craft was primitive and unstable. It had no seats, no wheels, and no flaps to control lateral movement. Nonetheless, an engine had powered it into the air. 
 
Using a methodical scientific approach, the Wrights tackled these problems. Eventually they were able to improve stability and control, add seats and wheels, and most importantly, they could design more powerful engines. With each improvement, their aircraft set world speed, height, and distance records. In 1910, the potential of flight received official recognition when the U.S. Army purchased two Model “Bs” for pilot training.

Piper Cub
Highly sophisticated supersonic jets are so awe-inspiring it is easy to forget that the great majority of aircraft, at least in America, are small, simple machines. 
 
William Thomas Piper was the first to manufacture airplanes for private use and is affectionately called “the Henry Ford of Aviation.” Since his small, economical two-seater Cub was introduced in 1929, many Americans have learned to fly. Today, more than a quarter of a million people own, and are licensed to fly, single- and twin-engine airplanes.
 
Although the low-wing Cherokee replaced the high-wing Cub in the 1960s, overall features remained the same. Both have a minimum number of parts to simplify production and reduce costs. Both are powered by simple piston engines, have fixed landing gears, unpressurized cabins, and relatively simple instruments. The Cherokee’s 1,200 parts are assembled in sections by three men with pneumatic hand tools. They can assemble the fuselage and cabin superstructure in four hours. With a few more hours, they can attach the wings and tail, install the engine, and wire the instrument panel. 
 
Though “general aviation” aircraft are simple, they have all the system control features that larger aircraft do and can execute the full range of flying maneuvers.

Lockheed Vega
For a few years after World War I, aircraft designers concentrated on developing military aircraft. After Congress withdrew funding, they turned their energies to designing aircraft for civilian use. 
 
During the 1920s, aviation was the new frontier and each year, Americans and Europeans tested their ideas in national and international races. Seeing what worked, they went home and tried again. 
 
Lockheed incorporated two German designs in its six-passenger Vega – Hugo Junkers’ cantilever wing and Rohrbach’s “stressed-skin” construction. Entering the 1928 National Air Races’ transcontinental derby, the Vega flew coast to coast in 24 hours and 9 minutes, winning hands down. The record was bettered again and again, making the Vega the finest transport monoplane of the time. In 1929, Amelia Earhart and her Vega competed in the first womens’ transcontinental races, coming in third behind two other Vegas. 
 
“Stressed-skin” construction is like a lobster claw in that the shell and wings bear the weight rather than an internal skeleton.  This structure not only reduced drag and weight, it also increased cabin space by 35%.   The Vega was so successful, it inspired world-wide development, and influenced the design of larger transport aircraft.
 
Northrop Alpha
Despite its simple appearance, the Alpha fairly bristled with innovations in aircraft design and construction, setting a new pattern for transport planes. The first in a long line of “Northrop” high performance airplanes, the Alpha 2 was developed by John K. Northrop, a true pioneer and a self-made engineer.
 
Originally employed by Douglas Aircraft, Northrop later moved on to Lockheed where he designed the first of the Vega series. In 1928 he left Lockheed to form his own company. With his imagination fired by the semimonocoque (single shell) construction theories of Adolf Rohrbach, Northrop made detailed studies of all-metal aircraft and experimented with the practical application of “stressed skin” covering. In 1930 he built America’s first metal plane of semimonocoque construction for the U.S. Air Corps. The results were stunning.
 
Built for maximum performance, the Alpha was not only faster, but more economical as well. Powered with the Pratt & Whitney “Wasp” C engine, this sleek, low-winged monoplane plane could carry up to six passengers, and had removable seating for hauling large loads of mail and cargo. In fact the Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 that followed were so successful, that other companies quickly turned to building only all-metal monoplanes.
 
Martin B-10
The Martin Company is an old-timer in the relatively young aviation industry. As early as 1909 the company produced military bombers for the U.S. Army. And its MB twin-engine bomber of 1918, the first American bomber to sink a battleship, became a standard post-war type for several years. The company was even manufacturing all-metal airplanes for the Navy as early as 1922. 
 
In 1932, the company produced a twin-engine, mid-wing monoplane bomber. Two years later, it began testing the use of Wright Cyclone engines and Pratt & Whitney Hornet engines. In 1935, the company finally came up with a winner – the B-10 (“B” designating bomber).
 
The B-10 was fitted with 740-horsepower Cyclone engines, Sperry automatic pilot, wing flaps, constant-speed propellers, and de-icers, as well as continuous cockpit enclosures. After adding a Browning machine gun in the nose turret and two in the rear cockpit, top and bottom, it was ready for wartime service. 
 
The B-10 revolutionized bomber design both here and abroad. Its new features allowed pilots to hear more, see more, and do more. Best yet, its powerful engines allowed it to outfly the fastest U.S. fighters by 100 miles per hour – an important lifesaving feature.
 
Chance Vought F4U Corsair
Initially dubbed a failure, the Vought Corsair eventually proved its superiority over the Grumman Wildcat, becoming the most important naval attack fighter of World War II. In fact, by 1943 all Pacific-based Marine fighter squadrons had been re-equipped with the Corsair. And as testament to its outstanding service, this fighter remained in production for 13 years.
 
Conceived in 1938, the Corsair’s design started with the basic idea of marrying the most powerful engine available – the new 2000-hp Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp – with the smallest compatible airframe. The use of this engine, whose greater power necessitated the largest propeller of any contemporary fighter, resulted in adopting an inverted gull wing. This unique feature kept the main landing gear legs reasonably short, while allowing adequate ground clearance for the air crew.
 
Early trial flights not only revealed a number of problems, but also promised great potential. At 404 mph, the Corsair was the first US fighter to exceed 400 mph. With its distinctive engine note and high “kill ratio” it soon earned the nickname “Whistling Death” from its Japanese opponents. In the Pacific Theater alone, the Corsair shot down 2,140 enemy aircraft with only 189 losses, earning a reputation as the very best of its kind.
 
Boeing B-47 Stratojet
Introduced in 1939, the first jet-powered airplane revolutionized the aviation industry. Significantly eliminating the limitations imposed by the propeller, the jet engine paved the way for increases in aircraft speed, size, and operating altitudes. But with the outbreak of World War II, further development of this new technology came to a halt as resources were poured into producing military aircraft.
 
Not surprisingly though, countries on both sides of the war were eager to take advantage of the jet engine. And finally in 1943, Boeing, in response to U.S. Army Air Force interest in a turbojet-powered bomber, began preliminary studies into creating such an aircraft. The result was Model 450, better known as the Stratojet.
 
Incredible for its time, the B-47 Stratojet featured six engines, sweptback wings, a bombardier’s station in the nose, remote-controlled tail armament, and two groups of nine Aerojet JATO rocket units to provide extra thrust for takeoff. Making its first flight on December 17, 1947, this high-performance bomber entered service in the early 1950s, equipping a large part of the USAF’s Strategic Air Command. Modified for Tactical Air Command and later for weather reconnaissance, the last B-47s in service were retired in 1969.
 
Gee Bee Super Sportster
Following World War I, money was given out sparingly by the government for the research and development of aircraft. Finally in 1925, Congress completely withdrew funding, little realizing how cheaply and quickly technical perfection could be achieved.
 
During the war, air forces never ceased to want faster, higher-flying, and more superior aircraft. But in peacetime perhaps the greatest need to increase performance was the urge to win races. Large purses and the desire to earn fame and glory produced groundbreaking innovations. Within a few short years the superiority of the monoplane had become obvious. And by the early 1930s, the winning U.S. racers were little more than big engines with a tiny monoplane fixed behind them. One such racer was the Gee Bee Super Sportster.
 
Nicknamed “Bumble Bees,” “Flying Barrels,” and “Silos” because of their huge fuselage, the Gee Bees dominated the early 1930s speed races. From these early racers, valuable knowledge was gleaned about wind vibration and aircraft design. Their efforts produced controllable pitch propellers, popout hatches, and lighter, air-cooled engines. Ironically, the designs and lessons learned on the race courses were eventually incorporated into many of the planes that served in World War II.
 
Beech Staggerwing
Beech Aircraft Corporation was established in 1932. The first airplane it produced was a four-passenger Model 17 biplane. Unlike former biplanes, its wings were staggered; that is, its upper wing lay slightly behind the bottom wing, and it proved to be a fine flyer. 
 
America was in the depths of the Depression at the very time when aircraft and engine designers were producing a profusion of technological ideas. Because it was costly to translate those ideas into reality, established businesses, especially oil companies, sponsored the fledgling aviation industry. Thus it was that the Ethyl Corporation bought Beech’s Model 17, and in 1933 entered it in the Texaco Trophy races in Florida. Not surprisingly, it won. 
 
Meanwhile, Beech engineers continued their refinements. In 1937 they put aileron-type full-length flaps on the lower wings, and ailerons on the upper wings. These increased the aircraft’s controllability and maneuverability enormously, establishing the norm for all future airplanes. Famous aviator Jacqueline Cochran, seen on Scott #3066, owned a Model D-17W.
 
During World War II, several versions of the Staggerwing were used as utility transports and communications aircraft by the Army and Navy.
 
B-17 Flying Fortress
Before World War II began, some aviation experts claimed long-range bombers, capable of wiping out cities, and destroying an enemy’s ability to go on fighting, were the most advanced weapons in the world.
 
But the flimsy, lightly armed B-17s supplied to the Royal Air Force for high-altitude bombing raids hardly supported that theory. Later versions, however, heavily armored with turrets and guns, could take enormous punishment – thus earning the nickname “Flying Fortresses.” By 1943, B-17 armadas were taking the war to the heart of the enemy around the clock. The price was high – the 8th Air Force alone lost 4,148 B-17s during the war. But American industry kept churning them out – producing nearly 13,000 in 1944 alone. And pilots kept flying them until the experts were proven right – more than any other airplane, the B-17 symbolized American aerial might.
 
The 90-foot-long, all-metal strategic bomber went through many versions and thousands of modifications before achieving its final form. Engineers learned how to supercharge its four 1,000-horsepower engines so that it could carry 5,000 pounds of bombs over a thousand miles. But perhaps its most innovative feature was its one-piece, molded, clear-plastic nose cone, with room for two .50 caliber guns to defend against frontal attacks.
 
Boeing-Stearman Kaydet
Most American and Canadian pilots who served in World War I learned to fly on a Curtiss Jenny. Three decades later, the Stearman Kaydet served the same role during World War II. Its military designation was preceeded by a PT, the “P” indicating a pursuit or fighter plane, the “T” indicating that it was a trainer. 
 
The Stearman Kaydet was developed as a two-seat biplane trainer in 1934 by the Stearman Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas. Later that year, Boeing purchased the company and entered the Kaydet into the Army Primary Trainer Competition. The Kaydet won and the Army put in an order for several. When war threatened a few years later, the Army purchased additional planes. By the time Boeing stopped production in 1945, it had turned out over 10,000 Kaydets. 
 
The Stearman Kaydet was a throwback to an earlier age of baling wire and fabric biplanes. An excellent introduction to handling large aircraft, the Kaydet was a sturdy plane, withstanding the many mishaps of inexperienced pilots. However, its size and high center of gravity made it prone to ground looping, a flight characteristic difficult to handle. Consequently, the Kaydet was nicknamed the “Washing Machine” because of the number of would-be pilots that got “washed out” of flight training.
 
Lockheed Constellation
The original Constellation was developed in 1939 as a commercial airliner for Transcontinental & Western Air – later Trans-World Airlines (TWA). Designed to be the “fastest, high performance airplane in the world,” its specifications called for a 3,000-mile range and a maximum 18,000-pound payload capacity.
 
The outbreak of World War II however, caused the plane to be modified as the C-69 military transport – the first example of which was flown on Jan 9, 1943. As war demands increased, the planes were commandeered (seized for military use) as they came off the production line. But despite new features, which included hydraulically powered controls and a thermal de-icing system for wing- and tail-unit leading edges, it wasn’t until after the war that the Constellation made its impact on air transportation. 
 
TWA flew its first Constellation on October 1, 1945.   The following year Pan-Am Airways introduced the “Connie,” as it affectionately became known, on the company’s New York-Bermuda route. Extremely efficient with its streamlined fuselage and triple fins and rudders, the Constellation also offered the advantages of a pressurized cabin and more adequate range for transatlantic operation. Before long it was operating in round-the-world services.
 
Lockheed P-38 Lightning
When the US Army Air Corps issued specifications for a high-altitude interceptor in 1937, Lockheed was already aware of the qualities demanded: speed, ceiling, and firepower combined with the ability to carry enough fuel for superior range were essential. Built to meet these requirements, Lockheed’s P-38 Lightning became one of the most feared and respected aircraft to fly in the Axis skies. Its firepower was lethal and its long range allowed it to accompany bombers to Berlin and beyond.
 
The Lightning entered service in 1941 and was deployed in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific during 1942. Throughout the war it gained steadily in performance, demonstrating remarkable versatility. Although it achieved its ultimate effectiveness as an escort, the    P-38 was also used extensively as a ground-attack aircraft, as well as during night raids, photograph reconnaissance missions, and to drop smokescreen layers.
 
It was this combination of power and versatility that gained the P-38 a formidable reputation among the Japanese and Germans, who dubbed it the “fork-tailed devil.” In fact, the Lightning ended the war with more Japanese aircraft to its credit than any other type. And it was the only American fighter built before WWII to still be in production on VJ Day.
 
Boeing P-26A Peashooter
In the 21 years between the two World Wars aviation technology progressed at a remarkable pace. By the 1930s the biplane had become obsolete, replaced by the speedy new monoplane. Utilizing improved concepts of fighter design, the monoplane achieved a new level of high performance.
 
This change – from biplane to the monoplane – was marked in 1934 by the entry into service of the Boeing P-26. Nicknamed the “Peashooter,” because of its bulbous lines and its stubby radial engine, the P-26 was the result of close collaboration between Boeing and the U.S. Army. The prototype made its first flight in 1932, and although the P-26 retained an open cockpit, wire-braced wings, and a fixed undercarriage, it was a major step forward in airplane construction. For it was the first plane to feature an all-metal construction, as well as monoplane wings.
 
With modifications and larger engines, the Peashooter went into service at the beginning of 1934, making the U.S. Air Corps one of the first air forces to use monoplane fighters. For almost five years it represented the front-line equipment of fighter units. And when World War II erupted, about a dozen P-26s were thrown into battle. One of them brought down one of the first Japanese aircraft of the war.
 
Ford Tri-Motor
In the 21 years between the two World Wars aviation technology progressed at a remarkable pace. By the 1930s the biplane had become obsolete, replaced by the speedy new monoplane. Utilizing improved concepts of fighter design, the monoplane achieved a new level of high performance.
 
This change – from biplane to the monoplane – was marked in 1934 by the entry into service of the Boeing P-26. Nicknamed the “Peashooter,” because of its bulbous lines and its stubby radial engine, the P-26 was the result of close collaboration between Boeing and the U.S. Army. The prototype made its first flight in 1932, and although the P-26 retained an open cockpit, wire-braced wings, and a fixed undercarriage, it was a major step forward in airplane construction. For it was the first plane to feature an all-metal construction, as well as monoplane wings.
 
With modifications and larger engines, the Peashooter went into service at the beginning of 1934, making the U.S. Air Corps one of the first air forces to use monoplane fighters. For almost five years it represented the front-line equipment of fighter units. And when World War II erupted, about a dozen P-26s were thrown into battle. One of them brought down one of the first Japanese aircraft of the war.
 
Douglas DC-3
When the first DC-3 rolled down the runway in 1934, few knew it was destined to become the most famous commercial airplane ever built. Though not the first low-wing monoplane in a world still dominated by biplanes, it was immediately popular with airlines in America and Europe. It was easy to fly and had the passenger comforts so lacking in the Tri-Motor. 
 
With the outbreak of World War II, the Douglas Aircraft Corporation went into immediate mass-production. Altogether, 10,000 DC-3s ferried thousands of U.S. and British servicemen as C-47 Skytrains, and Dakotas respectively. Converted to civilian use after the war, the DC-3 became the world’s principal airliner and biggest moneymaker in its class. As late as 1965, DC-3s still outnumbered all other types of airliners.
 
More than anything else, the DC-3 was an indestructible workhorse because it was a stress-skinned “fail-safe” airplane. Prior to DC-3s, airplanes had a lifespan of about 6,000 hours and had a tendency to come apart at the seams when a structural member broke. When a wing spar in the DC-3 broke, the weight was picked up by alternate spars. This type of construction eliminated catastrophic chain reactions and reduced fatigue, which in turn, enormously increased its safety and its lifespan.
 
314 Clipper
In most minds, Pan American Airlines and “Clipper” are synonymous. Though not the first American international airline, Pan Am was perhaps the most successful, and was certainly a leader in the industry. 
 
The company got its start in 1927, flying mail between Key West, Florida and Havana, Cuba. Scheduled passenger service followed the next year. And by 1929, with Charles Lindbergh’s help, it had mapped out a 12,000-mile route between North, South, and Central America.
 
By 1936, Pam Am was ready to develop its transoceanic service. Boeing was recruited to build a comfortable 74-passenger airplane with a range of 3,500 miles – a monumental request. Although Boeing considered declining the offer, instead it took the XB-15 high-wing – predecessor of the Flying Fortress – and added a luxurious double-decker hull. In order to lift the craft, crew, and payload, it installed four of the most powerful engines available – Wright Twin Cyclone 14-cylinder engines.
 
The six glamorous 314 Clippers that began service in 1939 flew only a few short years, but garnered many firsts. Not only did they fly the first transpacific flight in 1936, but also the first transatlantic flight in 1939, and the first round-the-world flight in 1947.
 
Curtiss Jenny
Bicycle manufacturer Glenn Curtiss began his career in aviation design developing seaplanes. In 1915 he was awarded the first contract to build U.S. Navy planes. Believing in the future of flight, he sought to design an airplane that could be mass-produced. The result was his eight-cylinder OX-5 engine combined with features from a British aircraft designer. Designated the JN-4, it became affectionately known as the “Jenny.”
 
Created at the onset of World War I, the Jenny played a major role in the fighting – the only American mass-produced aircraft to do so. During the war years, Curtiss manufactured more than 6,400 units for the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Navy (at $5,000 each) as well as over 2,000 units for other Allied governments, including Great Britain and Russia.
 
Because of the quantities produced, 95% of all American and Canadian WWI pilots earned their wings in a Jenny. Hundreds were sold as surplus after the Armistice. Barnstormers quickly combed the country performing daring feats, thereby introducing ordinary Americans to the thrills of aviation. Many more became familiar with aviation when the U.S. Post Office issued the 24¢ Jenny stamp to inaugurate the world’s first regularly scheduled transportation of mail by air.
 
Grumman F4F Wildcat
The Grumman Aerospace Corporation was founded by Leroy Grumman, a U.S. industrialist and master designer of U.S. fighter planes. During the 1930s Grumman’s inventions – retractable landing gear and a folding wing later used on the Wildcat carrier fighter – earned him countless U.S. Navy contracts. In 1938 negotiations between the Navy and Grumman led to the development for the XF4F-3 (“X” designating “experimental”). Officially dubbed the “Wildcat,” it became the first of the famous Grumman “cat” family.
 
By December 1941, 245 Wildcats had entered U.S. service, and for the next two years they served as the main U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighter. In addition to an increased wingspan, the F4F also sported “squared” wing and tail tips. Necessary for additional lifting surface required by heavier aircraft, this feature eventually became a “trademark” of the Grumman aircraft.
 
Although not particularly outstanding in terms of performance, the Wildcat was staunchly rugged and well-armed. And in the hands of an experienced pilot, it proved the equal of the highly effective Japanese Zero. Able to compile a distinguished combat record, Grumman aircraft reportedly shot down more than 60% of enemy aircraft in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.