For those in the USA, here's some fireworks courtesy of a P-40E-1 on the gun range at Curtiss plant #2, which is now the site of Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The photo was taken in April or May of 1942.
This installment of 'BuffaloWingz' is two years in the making...
or seventy-five, depending on how you look at it.
A couple'a years back, in 2012, the Commemorative Air Force's B-24 'Diamond 'Lil' was slated to visit KBUF, and your blogmeister was rather eager to see her. Not just because he digs the B-24, but mostly because it had been, at that time, eight years since he'd last seen this particular B-24. And during those eight years, 'Lil' had undergone a significant transformation which had left her looking more like her original self. (More on that later)
Unfortunately, shortly before that planned stop here in Buffalo back in 2012, this B-24 had a bit of an 'oopsy' and never made it, instead heading back to the barn in Texas for some TLC.
We'd like to tell you 'Diamond 'Lil's whole story, but that's outside the scope of this-here cyber-rag, and we shall focus on her visit to Buffalo. However, we'll give the bare-bones of her story...
She was built as a B-24A for the USAAC in 1941 but was released for purchase to the British. Unfortunately for the Brits, but fortunately for present-day warbird lovers, she suffered an 'oopsy' and was sent back to the Consolidated factory in San Diego for repairs... never making it overseas and into combat.
Consolidated decided to retain the aircraft and subsequently used her as a testbed and also converted her to a transport. In this respect she served as the prototype for the C-87, a dedicated transport variant of the B-24.
After the war she was operated privately as a corporate executive taxi until the late 1950s, and soon thereafter came into the hands of her present-day owners, the CAF... then known as the Confederate Air Force. In 1970 or 1971 her civilian corporate paint-job was replaced with a more military-lookin' scheme meant to represent an aircraft that served in the deserts of North Africa. Also around this time she received her now well-known name and artwork which she carried, largely unchanged, for more than thirty years.
Here's a look at 'Lil' during a visit to Buffalo back in August of 2004... until yesterday, this was the last time your blogmeister had seen the 'ole gal.
Remember we mentioned a 'significant transformation' earlier? Well, roughly two years after the above photo was taken, work began to change 'Lil' back to her original configuration as a bomber. For various reasons not all of the 'required' changes were carried out, so she is still something of a hybrid. But she looks much more like a bomber these days, and less like a transport.
Perhaps in the future we'll present 'Diamond 'Lil's history in more depth over on one of our sister-blogs, 'Things With Wings'. Keep your eyes peeled, folks...
Alrighty, here we are in June of 2014... and 'Diamond 'Lil' has finally made it back to the Buff. Here's a few shots grabbed by your blogmeister yesterday. He'd initially arrived just before the gates opened in the morning but, as a photographer, was a bit discouraged by the large crowd and overall layout of the display. There were few good photos to be had, so he decided to make another visit later in the day... and the following are the fruits of that second visit.
This was the first view that greeted your blogmeister through the fence upon exiting his vehicle in Prior Aviation's parking lot...
A few more shots through the fence... 'Lil' was just about to depart for the first flight of the day.
Here's the first takeoff of the day... it's a pretty poor photo, as it was taken from a long distance, but we've got a couple more later on that are slightly better. (Your blogmeister needs a longer lens!)
And rolling back in...
Normally your blogmeister doesn't care to have any modern elements in his warbird photos, but thought that this was a pretty neat shot.
The first couple'a shots in this next series provide the only clear look your blogmeister was able to get of the nose art.
After shutdown and post-flight photo ops for the passengers, your blogmeister grabbed these next two shots before heading over to Mercy Flight (the old Flying Tigers location, for those who know the area) to catch 'Lil's second takeoff of the day.
And here's that second takeoff. These ain't the best, as the sun was in front of your blogmeister, but a little fiddling in Photoshop brought out some detail...
During a visit to Britain in 1941, Major General Henry H. Arnold witnessed a demonstration of the Gloster E.28/39, Britain's first jet-powered aircraft. 'Ole 'Hap' said, "Me likey... gimmee one". They said, "Nu-uh, mate, but here's the plans to the engine... build your own". (slight embellishment)
So 'Hap' took the plans back across the pond, got General Electric on the horn, and said, "I've got these-here blueprints for a Whittle jet engine... build me a couple, would'ja please?" to which they replied, "How whittle is this engine?". *Ba-da-doo-chhh!* (more embellishment) Then he rang up Larry Bell in Buffalo and said, "I gots me some jet engines comin'... make me an airplane to put 'em in".
And here's the result... the Bell XP-59A Airacomet.
USAF photo via NMUSAF
The whole show was supposed to be hush-hush... so, early on, to hide the true nature of this new bird whenever it was out in the open, a dummy prop was stuck on its nose and the forward half of the ship covered up with tarps to hide the intakes and exhausts. Also, as there was an earlier, slightly more conventional Bell project
that was designated 'P-59'... one that never took off (pun intended)...
the designation 'XP-59A' was chosen in order to make it look, on paper
at least, as though this were simply a continuation of that earlier
Project 914 Archives (S.Donacik collection)
The XP-59A was shipped from Buffalo, NY by rail and truck out to Muroc Army Air Field, California... chosen for testing 'secret' aircraft chiefly because of its remote location within the Mojave Desert and because of its proximity to Rogers Dry Lake, which is one of the world's best natural runways. Also, Mother Nature provides excellent flying weather pretty much all year 'round.
Anyhoo, on October 1st, 1942, while conducting high-speed taxi tests on the 'Lake', Bell test pilot Bob Stanley felt the XP-59A float up off the ground... and America's first jet aircraft made its first flight. The first 'official' flight took place the next day, with USAAF Colonel Laurence Craigie behind the stick.
USAF photo via edwards.af.mil
We'll present more on the Airacomet in future installments of 'Buffalo Wingz'.
Here's something appropriate for the here and now in WNY... a fairly recent (January 2014) view of the deicing crews doing their thing at KBUF. Front to back we have a Southwest 737, Delta CL600, and a Delta MD-90...