CAF Carrier

Here’s something interesting from the ‘Norfolk Virginian-Pilot’:

Confederates in Bid for Aircraft Carrier

In a surprise move, a group of aviation enthusiasts calling themselves the Confederate Air Force (CAF) has announced that they are submitting a bid to buy the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal when it is officially retired from Navy service at the end of this year.

The Midland, Texas, based organization operates a large fleet of restored World War Two vintage fighter and bomber aircraft for display at airshows around the country. The organization takes it’s role of educating people about the war years very seriously, but the move towards jet-era aviation is thought to be a new departure.

The 54 years old USS Forrestal (CV-59) is currently used to train young naval aviators for carrier deck landings at sea, and will soon be surplus to requirements as the Navy continues to down-size. It had been expected that the ship would be offered to one of the South American navies. Both Argentina and Brazil operate ageing aircraft carriers that need replacing. The Department of Defense has confirmed that a serious CAF bid for the carrier has been submitted.

The group has initial funding thanks to a substantial endowment from a former naval aviator, and is currently negotiating sponsorship deals with a number of large corporations. The Tailhook Association and the Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola have also been invited to participate in the project.

The Confederates intend to maintain the carrier in fully working condition, as a living museum and a tribute to the Navy servicemen and women of the Cold War era. “This will be a fully active ship, unlike the USS Intrepid in New York, which is just a floating display cabinet,” said CAF spokesperson Kay Rendall. “It will be crewed by volunteers and retired ex-mariners. We plan to operate cruises all along the eastern and western seaboard of the States and over-winter in Norfolk, Virginia,” says Rendall. “The carrier will put into port when possible, to allow the public to tour the ship.”

According to the CAF, the ship will be restored to its full 1967 Vietnam War configuration as far as possible, and will include a fully representative carrier air group ranged on deck and in the hangars. Suitable F-4 fighters and A-4, A-6 and A-7 bombers are still being held at a vast government storage facility in the Arizona desert. Most of these aircraft will be non-flying, but it is hoped that one example of each type will be eventually restored to flying condition, to operate in authentic markings from the carrier. In connection with this, it is reported that a Florida-based syndicate is currently negotiating to buy an F-8 Crusader fighter plane from the French Navy, which retired theirs last year.

“On special occasions, paying visitors will be ferried out to the carrier by boat or helicopter and invited to experience a range of naval aviation demonstrations not normally open to the general public,” explains Rendall. “The climax of the visit would be a spectacular series of catapult launches and arrested landings of naval aircraft. The drama and awesome power of modern naval aviation will be made accessible to the public for the first time, in a unique way.”

“Obviously, several modifications will be required to make the ship suitable for civilian visitors. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we expect to be able to welcome the first visitors on April Fools day, 2003.”


Red Arrows

Here’s an excerpt from the ‘Lincoln Advertiser’ that may be of interest:

Red Arrows to Relinquish Hawks

As a result of a shortage of training aircraft, the Royal Air Force’s aerobatic team, The Red Arrows, are likely to give up their Hawk aircraft at the end of this year. The Red Arrows, based locally at RAF Cranwell, fly nine red-painted Hawks at air displays throughout the country. Many of the RAF’s fleet of Hawk aircraft are currently suffering from a gradual structural weakening, known as fatigue, due to age and the stresses induced during pilot training. The Hawk aircraft were originally built by British Aerospace in the 1970s, and each aircraft will now have to be rebuilt by the manufacturer, a process that takes several months. Taking several aircraft out of service at a time will cause a severe reduction in the number of Hawks available for pilot training. The RAF is thus planning to send the Hawks presently flown by the Red Arrows to training units, to replace those temporarily withdrawn for rebuild. The Red Arrows will continue flying, but with a new aircraft type.

The aircraft type that will replace the Hawk has not yet been officially announced. Potential contenders are the propeller driven Shorts Tucano trainer, already flown by the RAF, or the Franco-German Alpha Jet, which is similar to the Hawk and there are a number in storage with the French and German air forces. However, sources at Cranwell indicate that another all-British type is the current favourite, the Gnat. The Red Arrows flew Gnat trainers between 1965 and 1979 and made the diminutive trainer famous. After their retirement in 1980, the RAF sold off it’s Gnats to enthusiasts and private collectors, and many are still flying today. Sources indicate that the RAF is currently negotiating with a number of private owners to lease ten Gnats for the 2000 and 2001 display seasons. Apart from repainting in Red Arrows colours the aircraft shouldn’t need any extra work – they are already equipped with smoke generators for example. The RAF was reportedly impressed by the condition of the Gnats it has inspected so far.

While the contractual aspects are still waiting to be finalised, Red Arrows team members are excited by the possibility of displaying the famous British trainer to the public next year, and they are likely to be the highlight of the Farnborough 2000 Millennium Airshow. When contacted, an official spokesperson for the Red Arrows, F/O O.L. April, was unable to comment on the report.


RFC Book


The Royal Flying Corps In Colour Photographs
by Raymond L. Rimler

This new title will include over one hundred genuine colour photographs of the men and machines of the Royal Flying Corps, in action on the Western Front in early 1918.

A previously unknown collection of glass plate images was recently discovered, during the cataloging of the British archives of the
photographic company Eastman Kodak. According to documents that were found with these photographs, Kodak had been working during the First World War on a pioneering chemical process, to capture colour images on the conventional glass plate negatives of the time.

The War Department in Whitehall where interested in the potential of this process, for better aerial reconnaissance of the German trenches and forward positions. Accordingly, Stanley West, a civilian employee of Eastman Kodak, was seconded to No.16 Squadron, RFC, in France in early 1918. There, he flew as an observer on several missions over the front and took a series of colour photographs of the trench system in the area. West also took many pictures of the R.E.8 aircraft he flew in, the fighters that escorted him, and of visiting RFC aircraft from other units. The War Department was disappointed with the results of the trial and abandoned its support, leaving the development of colour photography to languish for another decade.

Although faded by age, these remarkable images have now been computer enhanced, to present a stunning new glimpse into the world of 1918.

One unusual sequence of photographs deserves particular mention. During a reconnaissance mission over enemy lines, West’s aircraft was suddenly attacked by an all-red Fokker Triplane. The lumbering R.E.8 aircraft was no match for the German fighter, but amazingly the German’s guns jammed and he was unable to complete the kill. The German pilot then flew alongside the British crew and saluted them, before diving away. West recorded the attack and flyby with his camera. Only a few weeks later, the Red Baron met his death.

This title will be a major publishing event for 1997, and an essential reference source for all World War One aviation enthusiasts and historians. Captions are written by the well known aviation historian Ray Rimler.

Publication date is 1st April 1997. Price £19.95. For more information talk to April at Foolsday Publications on Tel 0192-010497.

Vulcan Bomber

Here’s a press report you might be interested in:


A full size replica Avro Vulcan bomber is currently being readied for its maiden flight at an airport in Minnesota. Externally identical to the British delta-winged nuclear bomber of the nineteen-sixties, the white painted replica has recently completed a series of high speed taxi runs at Avra Valley, near Minneapolis. Avra Valley is the home of several vintage jet fighters now preserved in flying condition.

Built by the Avra Valley Replica Organisation (AVRO), and constructed from glass fiber, kevlar and aluminium materials familiar to kitplane builders, the replica weighs less than one third of the original.

The project is funded by Lithuanian born millionaire Loof Lirpa, owner of Lirpa Communications and self-confessed Vulcan fanatic, to the tune of some $850,000. Lirpa says “I first saw the Vulcan perform at a display during a business trip to England. I was absolutely knocked out by its looks and performance.” Having failed to buy the last flying example, when it was grounded by the Royal Air Force in 1992 and put up for sale, he resolved to build and fly his own.

Progress has been good, Lirpa says. “Taxi trials have gone well, with only a couple of minor problems. Now we just need to fly her”. The Vulcan is expected to take to the air on April 1st. After thorough flight testing, it is hoped the aircraft will be ready in time for a debut appearance at the massive airshow at Oshkosh in the summer.

A number of design tweaks are planned before the aircraft is seen by the public. “The main problem is getting the right feel and sound for the
display,” explains Lirpa. The distinctive ‘charging bull elephant’ roar during take-off, for which the Vulcan is famous, will be achieved by acoustic tuning of the engine air intake ducting. “At the moment it sounds more like a household vacuum cleaner” Lirpa admits. The engine exhausts are also too clean – measured amounts of industrial die will be automatically injected into the exhaust pipes to reproduce an authentic smoky trail. The replica is actually powered by four General Electric J85 engines, purchased as military surplus, and last used in Navy Northrop F-5 fighters.

The spectacular highlight of the display routine will be the mid-air launch of a replica Blue Steel nuclear missile from the aircraft’s bomb-bay. A initial batch of six of these replica missiles is currently being assembled by AVRO.

As for future plans, Lirpa refused to comment on reports that AVRO employees have been seen measuring and photographing the huge six-engined Convair B-36 bomber on display at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

John Hayles