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Posts Tagged ‘North American T-6 Harvard’

   

On Christmas Day 45 years ago, Santa left my presents at my Grandfather’s house in Manila.  My Dad watched with sparkling interest as I unwrapped my first airplane scale models, a Spitfire and a Messerschmitt.  I was 12 years old.

We had no colour TV, DVDs, internet, or computer games.  No computers, even.  The model airplanes filled my world.

     

Revell H611 Spirnarr

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It took me 45 years to fully unwrap that gift. 

   

   

    

  

My Dad’s delicious stories of World War II dogfights kindled my childhood interest in airplanes.  My son Carlo, of the TOP GUN generation, had his imagination fired up by his own Dad’s airplane stories.  Now we were in this amazing adventure together.

Our airplanes taxied line astern, canopies open, weaving side-to-side.

           

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We held short of the runway with three Cessnas.  Ardmore Tower re-sequenced all of us.  Carlo and I would take off together.  Just like the movies.  

   

  

Airborne and in formation, it was Christmas, Fathers Day and birthdays all in one.  We took photos of each other laughing out loud, tears in our eyes.  That unmistakable elliptical wing bridged us, less than one wingspan apart.

  

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

      

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Everything was perfect.  Blazing blue sky, creamy clouds edged in white gold sunlight.  Ecstatic pilots vaulting skyward in classic warbirds, streaming contrails of laughter.  Father and son.

  

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…

         

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High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there… 
I flung my craft through footless halls of air….

 

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I slipped below Carlo, echelon left.  The sun slashed our canopies.  Overhead, towering cumulus raced us to altitude.

 

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —

  

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We rolled in tight formation.  Our hearts filled to bursting.  Our faces ached from grinning like schoolboys.

  

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We were having way too much fun.  Suddenly we were over England, and it was the summer of 1940.  Bandits, break right!

  

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In the video you can hear Carlo whooping into a barrel roll.  No stiff upper lip now.  “Whoo-hoo!”  Then a loop, aileron roll and steep wingovers left and right.

  

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Mickey Mouse stretched his arms.  Time stilled.

    

Miles away, Gavin and I pulled hard Gs.  Loop, barrel roll, aileron roll, a full Cuban Eight.  We were doing 300 miles per hour, 4,000 feet per minute in vertical up-lines.  Remember, this is a 72-year old airframe that survived 89 combat missions in World War II.  

We levelled out, snarling low over the Firth of Thames, rocketing past the North Island coast.  I jinked away from flakJust like the Spitfire model in my childhood bedroom.

Then we spotted the Harvard, the Hun in the sun!  Hard climb to his 5 o’clock, bit of left rudder, and a bit of Robert Shaw in the movie ‘Battle of Britain’…

“Tak-a-tak-a-tak-a-tak-a-tak!”

  

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We snapped into a vertical bank, our wings straight up and down as Carlo and JK spiralled low, dropping far below us.  “You can run, kid, but you can’t hide.” 

We took these last two photos of each other at almost exactly the same time.

  

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It was time to return to base, ‘pancake’ in RAF slang.  In less than an hour we had flown almost 80 nautical miles. 

As a final treat we shut down at the NZ Warbirds Association ramp. 

        

I thought of Santa and my Dad, who started it all.  As the memories streamed past, a fellow from NZ Warbirds took my photo.

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A very Happy Christmas to all our readers,

Make a bucketful of dreams come true in the New Year!  

  

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Posted from Manila, Philippines

December 24, 2014

     

     

Warbird Adventure Rides

http://www.warbird.co.nz/index.htm

   

New Zealand Warbirds Association

http://nzwarbirds.org.nz/

  

Lines from High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Spitfire pilot, killed in December 1941 at the age of 19

    

Twenty Five Years of Top Gunning

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/twenty-five-years-of-top-gunning/

   

My Dad and his Delicious Airplane Tales

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2007/04/05/my-dad-and-his-delicious-airplane-tales/

 

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I didn’t look up the Spitfire school website.  I could never afford it.  For two years I just watched the video of Alex James flying the Spitfire.  Here’s a rock star who once lolled in champagne with groupies in a hotel.  And was awed to tears by a World War II fighter airplane, “The prettiest girl at the ball.”  Lucky man. 

Fly a Spitfire, pfft.  It would never happen to me.

   

        

  

  

Carlo and I found Ardmore Airport at 10am.  The Spitfire flight was scheduled for 12 noon.  Already, I didn’t want the day to end.

Ardmore is just south of Auckland, in the beautiful North Island countryside of New Zealand.  Carlo and I wandered around the ramps.  Pilots fueled Cessna 162s at the Auckland Flying Club.  Instructors hovered Schweizer helicopters over grass.  A privately-owned Strikemaster attack jet ripped around the circuit.

             

My son Carlo, who used to watch TOP GUN every day at 1 year old, still watching airplanes

             

We watched two hangars in particular.  They harboured a matched pair of North American T-6 ‘Harvards’.

   

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A pilot pushed one Harvard out.  This must be Carlo’s airplane.  Warbird Adventure Rides had offered us a Spitfire and a Harvard to fly in formation.  Carlo and I meant to toss a coin for the Spitfire.  But I had made an executive decision sans currency.  Carlo, the English Professor, agreed to become a Harvard alumnus.

         

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We hurried over.  John “JK” Kelly, with 900 hours in Harvards, introduced us to the airplane.  The Royal New Zealand Air Force once had 200 of these training airplanes.  Ours, used for gunnery training, had a .303 machine gun in the starboard wing.  That Pratt & Whitney R-1340 gulped seven litres of gas per minute.  That’s seven times what our Cessna sips.  Nomnomnom!

  

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Carlo, in his Burberry, looked the RAF ace back from leave in Blighty, keen to get his ticket re-upped in a dicky op.

Other smiling pilots arrived.  Liz Needham, CEO of Warbird Adventure Rides, is a B767 airline pilot.  She has 20,000 hours in 37 years in aviation.  She is #2 in the Harvard “Roaring 40s” flying display team and also flies the P-40E Kittyhawk.

I checked my camera batteries yet again.  Then JK called out to me from the porch.  She was here.

   

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The prettiest girl at the ball.

I could only gawk.  I took several photos.  I wish I took hundreds.  I should have walked around, propped my camera on the grass, climbed a ladder, taken close ups.  The day was going too fast.

Safety briefing.  Pull bumblebee to jettison canopy.  Egress.  Clear the aircraft.  Pull parachute ripcord D-ring all the way out there.

                 

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Instructor pilot Gavin Trethewey would fly with me.  Gavin is ex-Air New Zealand and flew military jets in the RNZAF.  He stressed that, “This is your flight.  It is all about you.  We will do what you want to do.”

We briefed the op.  Formation photo shoot.  An aerobatic routine.  And I would fly the Spitfire through a low-altitude corridor near the Firth of Thames.  Down on the deck to evade Adolf Galland’s Jagdgeschwader 26.

Then we boarded the airplanes.

                  

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I was strapped to a Spitfire, cocooned in history.  Twisting around, I watched Carlo clamber into his own cockpit.  Carlo and I, who love airplanes almost as much as each other, were wingmen in this incredible adventure.

                  

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Too soon, it was time to go.  Clear ‘round, switches on, starter button.  The iconic Merlin V-12 engine was smooth and warm, like an old favourite song record.  The headset crackled, Gavin checking in.  But what I heard was a radio call for my childhood airplane models.

“Gannic Squadron, scramble, orbit station angels fifteen, bandits two-zero miles.”

      
    

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Posted from Köln, Germany.

13 December, 2014

  

  

    

Warbird Adventure Rides, Ltd.

http://www.warbird.co.nz/index.htm

Warbird Adventure Rides

  

   

   

            

History of Carlo’s Harvard:  The Royal New Zealand Air Force flew 202 North American Harvard T-6 trainer aircraft.  This was the advanced trainer flown by pilots before moving on to high-performance fighter aircraft.  This particular Harvard, NZ1057, served from the 1940s to the 1970s, then became a playground piece.  It was fully restored to airworthiness in 1998.

http://www.warbird.co.nz/harvard.htm

Harvard NZ1057

  

             

     

    

Want to hear what a Merlin engine sounds like?  Headset and medium volume recommended.  I played this here in Köln, Germany.  I thought the air raid sirens would go off.  This is the exact same Spitfire I was about to fly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xLVRCiHEAU

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