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Flight Paths
May 21  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Germany's 88-millimeter cannon terrorized Allied pilots One of Germany’s most respected weapons was the 88-millimeter cannon. This powerful gun was much-feared by Allied flyers, tankers and infantry men. In the air, fighter pilots were instructed to change course every seven to ten seconds to keep an 88 shell from exploding nearby. Bomber pilots, stuck in big formations, had no way to move away from the 88’s 22-pound shells spraying jagged metal through the skies. On the ground, one wrong move and tankers could fall into the...

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May 13  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Tough planes were designed to take a beating The FHC is fielding some of its biggest bruisers for Paine Field Aviation Day this Saturday, May 16. Flying in the Pacific Theater was the F6F Hellcat. Flyers joked that Grumman made the plane from discarded steel girders from New York’s recently-dismantled Second Avenue elevated railway. In Western Europe, the P-47 Thunderbolt roamed the skies, looking for trouble. There are accounts of a P-47 striking a church steeple and coming home. Another plane even flew into a German...

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April 30  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Pilots use a clever trick to keep damaged planes in the air Aircraft with variable pitch propellers can "feather" their props if needed. The term comes from rowing, when you can turn the blade of your oar so that it cuts through the water with the least resistance. The propeller is similar; a pilot can rotate the blades of the dead prop so that they are parallel to the airflow. This allows single engine planes to glide farther and multi-engine aircraft, like this battered B-24 Liberator, to continue to soldier on even after being...

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April 23  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
'Kommandogerät:' the complicated box that was revolutionary for flying Mechanics are currently doing an annual inspection on the FHC’s rare German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5. As the panels and parts come off, it gives one a chance to see a fleeting glimpse of a critical and revolutionary part of the plane. On the right side, behind the plane’s BMW 801 engine is the "Kommandogerät" (command device). This complicated box, covered with wires, tubes, and fasteners, is an electro-mechanical computer that sets the fighter’s fuel...

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April 16  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Three inches of glass separated WWII pilots and machine gun fire How much glass does it take to stop a speeding .50-caliber bullet? Judging from the Messerschmitt Me 163 B Komet, I’d say a little more than three inches — eighty millimeters to be exact. The Komet was built as a bomber destroyer. And plunging into formations of American B-17s and B-24s meant having a whole arsenal of Browning machine guns pointed right at you. As a German pilot worked to quickly do his job, feisty bomber crews showed their displeasure by peppering the...

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April 2  |  Corey Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Propellers make an overseas voyage for regular inspection The propeller on the Spitfire just got back from an overseas trip. All the propellers in the collection need to be periodically removed and sent to a prop shop for inspections and sometimes overhaul. The Spitfire's prop gets removed, packed in a crate, and sent to England. Don't worry, the prop is now back and has a clean bill of health. FHC mechanics currently are fitting it to the aircraft for this year's Free Fly Days!

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March 26  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Yellow circle on seat kept crew breathing easy Some have joked that the yellow circle on the pilot’s seat of the Avro Lancaster gave German pilots something to aim for — seemingly very sporting of the English, but not true. The paint had a practical purpose. The odd-colored orb contained pigment sensitive to poison gas. When a crewman saw a shade other than bright yellow, there was big trouble. And this warning was not only for gas that might potentially be used by the Germans. The UK was fully prepared to employ its...

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March 12  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Planes were eyes in the sky for battleship's guns As the crew of the M.Y. Octopus explored the wreck of the long-lost Musashi, their submersible passed over the catapults used to launch the battleship’s squadron of scout planes. Aircraft were critically important to the functionality of the vessel during naval engagements because Musashi’s massive 46 cm (18.1 in) guns could fire such long distances. The crew of the battlewagon could hurl salvos up to 26 miles. However, they couldn’t see targets that far away.

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March 5  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
A simple system keeps a tank crew safe What’s that bump in the barrel of an Abrams tank 120 mm gun? It’s a bore evacuator. Some people call it a fume extractor. It works to pull harmful fumes from the gun barrel after firing, keeping the poisonous gasses from entering the crew cabin when the breech is opened to load the next shot. It’s a simple system actually. In that split second when the shell passes through the barrel, gasses are stuffed into the cavity through holes at massively high pressure.

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February 20  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Try this on for size: an 8-ton German halftrack If you are like me, you have been building models of tanks and planes for longer than you’d like to admit.  A tiny model is one thing, but the real thing is sometimes startlingly huge.  The first time I climbed up on the wing of an Avenger torpedo plane, I thought; "If I slip and fall off, I might die."  Nothing is more stunning in real life than the German Sd. Kfz. 7.  It was an 8-ton halftrack that quickly ballooned to over 22,000 pounds...

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February 12  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Take a look inside a German WWII tank In order to work on the Jagdpanzer 38(t) "Hetzer," mechanics have pulled off the tank destroyer’s armored roof. They are in the process of pulling the vehicle's drive unit at the front of the cab. This "convertible" look offers us a rare peek into the interior of the vehicle. Four crewman worked in this cramped little compartment. The vehicle's driver, gunner and loader sat in a line down the left side. The right side was dominated by the big 75 mm gun.

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January 29  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
WWII cannons could use a brake What is that odd-shaped thing on the end of the barrel of the FHC’s 17-pounder (and many other WWII cannons)? It’s not a flash suppressor, it’s a muzzle brake. These slots, vents, hole, or baffles redirect propellant gasses sideways, allowing for a simpler, less hefty recoil system in the gun. The brake also helps keep the weapon accurately pointed at the target, should a second round be needed to finish the job. You’ll notice that most modern tank cannons no...

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January 23  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Spacious American cockpits puzzled foreign pilots during WWII While the size of the average man stayed about the same, the size of the average fighter plane, and its cockpit, increased during World War II. This image shows the spacious working space in the Flying Heritage Collection’s P-47 Thunderbolt. It’s not surprising that the interior of America’s biggest single engine fighter of the war would have the largest cockpit too. It was so commodious, in fact, that it caused pilots of all nations to take notice. Pilots who...

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January 15  |  By Cory Graff
Massive V-12 engine kept Soviet tanks going By pulling off the armored access panels at the back of the FHC’s T-34/85 tank, mechanics have revealed the vehicle’s burly transmission and the aft part of its diesel engine. The Kharkiv model V-2 engine was designed at the Kharkiv Locomotive Factory in the Ukraine.  The monster V-12 (you can see its circular cooling fan behind the transmission) produces about 500 horsepower.  Versions of the engine were not only used in the massively successful...

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January 1  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Why do some plane engines look so weird? What are all those ridges on the cylinder heads of some airplane (and motorcycle) engines? Air-cooled engines, without a radiator or coolant, use the atmosphere all around them to transfer heat. It doesn’t take a brilliant designer to know that, the more surface area you can offer, the more heat you can push out into the world.  However, plane engines have to be very compact, so builders have to be smart about getting their additional square footage. The result: an odd-looking...

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December 25  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
WWII Russian planes use air over electronics Many Russian WWII aircraft ditched electric or hydraulic systems and replaced them with … air. Pneumatics — to operate the flaps, push down landing gear, or start the engine — have a lot of advantages. First of all, air-based systems in combat planes don’t burn. Or at least they don’t burn any different than all this other lazy, non-working air that surrounds us every day! It’s also a relatively light system compared to hydraulics. Pneumatics...

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December 18  |  By Cory Graff, Flying Heritage Collection
Plane panels pose perplexing puzzle Working on a plane is sometimes a bit of a puzzle. Here we see the confusing mass of cowling panels from the FHC’s B-25J Mitchell. Putting them back in the proper places does, in fact, sometimes give the mechanics pause. However, there are a lot of hints. First, laying them out properly when you pull them off the aircraft helps immensely. The exhaust stacks, of course, point aft, giving a big hint to orientation. Paint on the panels lets you know if they go on the top or...

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December 11  |  By Cory Graff Flying Heritage Collection
Shturmovik's rudder pedal helped pilots maintain control The simple rudder pedals on the FHC’s Iluyshin Il-2M3 Shturmovik have one little, useful addition. Unlike most combat aircraft in the collection, the Il-2’s pedals have leather straps that slip over the top of a pilot’s feet. The straps would help a flyer stay in control through violent maneuvers, but considering the Shturmovik is not the fastest or most deft of aircraft, there may be another solution. A more grim reason for the addition of straps to the pedals of...

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