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  • Australian Flying Corps.
    A history of Australian aviation from 1914-1919 and much more.
    Another picture from the Champlin Fighter Museum before the collection was taken to Seattle. A Sopwith Triplane in the Black Flight's markings.

    The Canadian ace Raymond Collishaw flew Black Prince.
    Another picture from the Champlin Fighter Museum before the collection was taken to Seattle. A Sopwith Snipe in post-war silver doping.

    I was in Mesa, Arizona last week and stopped by the Champlin Fighter Museum - which was no longer where it used to be. I recall hearing that Paul Allen of Microsoft fame had bought up the WWI aircraft collection, but it appears he bought up the entire museum as I couldn't find it. Fortunately I visited the museum in 1999, so here is a picture of a Pup from that collection back then.

    It is a beautiful little aeroplane in the flesh.

    This aircraft was flown by Captain Thomas C.R. Baker on two operational flights, one resulting in a victory over a Fokker DVII on October 26th, 1918.
    The aircraft of WWI did not have electronic ignitions and the method of getting the engine running was similar to how you would start a manual car by putting it in gear, rolling it down the hill, and the dumping the clutch. The difference was ground crew would swing the propeller to engage the engine. But 180hp and 200hp engines have a great deal of compression; and it often took more than the muscle of one person to get the propeller turning.

    Richard Williams writes that hand starting was practical for the 90hp and 160hp engines in the BE2 and Martinsyde's but the 200hp engines of the squadron's Bristol Fighter meant hand-starting was difficult. The Bristol Fighter and SE5a were fitted with magneto type self starters. Williams describes it:

    An explosive charge was drawn into the engine cylinders by rotating the airscrew by hand and that having been done the ignition was switched on and a small magneto type apparatus was rotated to create a spark in the cylinders and fire the charge.

    When Williams took over 40 Wing RFC he noticed that the aircrew of No.111 Squadron RFC were still hand starting the SE5a. He writes:

    It was obvious the mechanics felt the same way [as Williams who wouldn't have liked to hand start a 200hp engine] and I asked the squadron commander why it was being done. He said the starters were useless.

    We had gone through this in No.1 Squadron [AFC] and had found that when properly adjusted the starter was very good. I was able to arrange attachment of No.1 Squadron's senior electrician to the SE squadrons, starters were properly adjusted and swinging the airscrew by hand was stopped to the delight of the little chaps who had been doing it. Most of them really were little chaps.

    The photo at the top of this article is of an SE5a squadron in Palestine. It is likely this picture was taken before Williams and No.1 Squadron's Electricians spent time with No.111 Squadron.

    Another solution, in the ongoing absence of an electrical starter, was to make a mechanical one. The Hucks Starter was one such solution. It hooked up to a truck and rotated the propeller mechanically, substituting mechanical power for human power.

    However the Hucks starter had similar limitations to hand starting and could not deal easily with the increasing compression of more powerful engines as horsepower output grew.

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    The Army is saying goodbye to the UH-1H Iroquois better known as the Huey. The Iroquois joined the RAAF in 1962 with No.9 Squadron who were deployed to Vietnam while No.5 Squadron was deployed to Malaya.


    AWM Collections ID P04546.005.
    9 Sqn RAAF Huey in Phuoc Tuy Province.
    Photo by Max Thomas.

    The Huey gunships were named "Bushrangers" while an RAN flight of Hueys deployed to Vietnam were called EMUs as in Experimental Military Unit. By the late 1980s all rotating wing aircraft were consolidated under Army command and control rather than all aviation assets being under the RAAF. Since then the Hueys have been with the Australian Army.
    It is my contention that the Royal Navy and the French Army won World War I. The Royal Navy were past masters at blockading, it is how they dealt with all continental wars in the centuries past and only the American Revolutionary War slipped past their grasp using this strategy. The British sea blockade and their halting of the German ability to source materials through neutral nations placed direct pressure on German ability to expand their war economy.

    The French Army was important as it bore the brunt of the fighting and the largest amount of the front. The French ability to absorb the German offensive in March of 1918 and stop it from reaching Paris or the coast is what saved the allied cause. After that the German back was broken and the pressures of lack of manpower, materials and food all came together to collapse Germany's ability to conduct war.

    William H. McNeil writes in The Pursuit of Power that France was also the arsenal of democracy in World War I. (more)
    One of the questions that pops up often is which flag did the Australian Flying Corps use as the national flag? Was it the British Union Flag (Union Jack), the Blue Ensign (the current national flag) or the Red Ensign? The RAAF history page has an interesting photo:

    Note that the top flag is kind of pale in colour, while the bottom flag is really dark - almost black. The orthochromatic film of the day made warm colours, such as red and yellow, show up as black, while the cool colours, such as blue, show up as pale. There is a good probability that the top flag is the Australian Blue Ensign while the bottom flag is the Australian Red Ensign. (more)
    Not aviation, however, kind of amusing as well as newsworthy for museums. Leopord tanks are available for 'gifting to veteran and historical organisations'. Presumably for display only.

    Photo: Defence Gallery item 20070314adf8099240_011
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