LUSAC-11: Above & Beyond.

The “Lepère United States Army Combat-11” was a two-seat fighter manufactured -less than 30 were built- during the last year of the Great War by the Packard Motor company to the design of French Captain George Lepère. The few built didn’t saw service in their intended role; some were used as liasion aircraft and others as test planes.

Over McCook Field (1919). Pictured in this magnificent photo is a specially modified LUSAC-11. Equiped with a high-compression 425hp Liberty engine and flown by Lt. Rudolph “Shorty” Schroerder it’d achieved a altitude of 28,900 ft in 1918. Modified again, this time with a General Electric turbosupercharger, Schroeder set an altitude record of 33,113 ft.

Photo: USAF.


Fokker D.VII: Men are from Mars (IV).

Like all wars, the first war in the air greatly accelerates the technological developments -that’s the way we humans are. The flimsy artifacts powered by sputtering engines rapidly evolved into strong, powerful and feisty warmachines. The aircrew personal equipment also suffered drastic transformations. Gone were the devil-might-care era of the pioneers with their hat turned backwards to be supplanted by seriously professional gear.

By 1917 things looked like this. The oustanding Fokker D.VII with its advanced thick wing profile, clever no-nonsense construction methods and highly-compresed engine and a perfectly attired “rider”. Outside the gorgeously checkered D.VII fuselage we can observe an experimental installation of the Ahrendt & Heylandt liquid oxygen apparatus with its protected flask and rebreathing bag. The pilot uses a simple pipestern-type mouthpiece and a handy nose clip to prevent him from inhaling outside air. I simple adore the pilot huge stopwatch.

Photo: National Archives.

Hanriot HD.1: Still being rejected….

This authentic Hanriot HD.1 (c/n 75) and a Farman F.40 was traded some years ago by the RAF Museum (RAFM) with Gene De Marco “The Vintage Aviator Ltd” (TVAL) for three of their superb reproductions: a Sopwith Snipe, a Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 and an Albatros D.Va. It wears the original livery of the 1e Escadille de Chasse, Belgian Flying Corps, September 1918.

The sky is always the limit.

Photo: James Fahey.

Boeing Stearman PT-17: The Iron Mask.

Image captured from “Biggles” (1986) movie. Awful is a too mild adjective to describe that film. A weak story and utterly appalling acting (Peter Cushing apart) poorly mixed with some neat aviation action sequences. (Spoilers Alert). Granted, the Stampe vs Stearman fantasy is quite hard to swallow…., and that funny Bell 206 time travel.
The best part of this disaster to me is German “Ace” Eric Von Stalhein’s headgear; a customised Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) cork and leather safety flight helmet equipped with a sort of stunning metal visor.

The “bad guys” are always the best dressed.

Parnall Scout / “Zepp Chaser”: “Begin, be bold and venture to be wise”.

The Scout was the first original aircraft of the small Parnall & Sons company. As its nickname indicated this massive fighter was built to counter the “First Blitz” over Britain that the “Zeppelin” started in 1915. Conceived as a “night flyer” this huge and powerful (250hp Sunbeam Maori II) machines incorporated some feature with that in mind: A biplane layout with quite drastic stagger -to improve the pilot’s view- and a robust undercarriage to facilitate the night operations.
Unique photo known of the only one of the pair of Scouts ordered was built in 1917. During the official tests it proved so heavy and with such a low safety factor that it was scrapped……, unflown.

Horace was right.

Breguet XIV B2: Allez !!….,Venez Maintenant !!.

Escadrille BR 111’s Mitrailleur in his Breguet 14 B2 bomber office (a twin Lewis MG’s armed TO 3 tourelle). Villeneuve-le-Roy, Aug-Sept 1918.

When they’re introduced in early 1917 the boxy XIV’s proved to be, at last, what the French crews needed, desperately. After years of archaic pushers (Voisins, Farmans and Breguet-Michelin mainly) and obsolescent Sopwith 1 1/2, they had at hand a powerful and well-armed warplane up to their reconnaissance and bomber tasks. They’re also a fair match to their various foes. This observateur-mitrailleur’s confidence clearly shows.

Photo: Imperial War Museum.