Wednesday, December 20, 2006

John A.Fergione 1949-

Flying experimental airplanes has always been an adventure for John Fergione. During his distinguished career, he has flown virtually all models of the F-16 for more than 26 years; most of that time spent in flight testing. Fergione joined General Dynamics, now Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, as an experimental test pilot in 1981. He spent two years as the F-16XL Project Pilot and conducted the first flights of the F-16 with the F-100-GE-100 engine, both in the F-16XL and in the F-16C. He made numerous other first flights in the pursuit of increasing the F-16’s capabilities at Lockheed in Fort Worth as well as at Edwards AFB. He was assigned to the F-16 Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB from 1985 to 2002 and was also the company’s Facility Manager for much of that time. He was the Chief Test Pilot for the F-16 (non-Block 60) programs until late 2002, when he accepted a transfer to become the F-22A experimental test pilot. Conducting many “firsts” with the F-22A, he stated, “Given the choice of every other airplane in the world, if I only had one more flight in a fighter, I would want it to be in an F-22.” A Fellow and past President of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Fergione has logged over 6,400 flight hours

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

First Jet Air Mail Flight

Saturday, December 16, 2006

LtCol Henry R. Poplawski USAF(Ret) 1914-2015

Henry Poplawski wanted to be a pilot from his teenage days. He flew kites and model airplanes that he made. Reaching his goal was a slow process. His parents were Polish immigrants and he was the second son of three boys and four sisters. He lost both his parents by the age of 12 and was living with his younger brother and sister at his oldest sister’s house. Hoping to go to college after high school was just a dream,but he had help from an Uncle who gave him $200.00 to start the first semester, class of 1939 in his hometown at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.
He worked at the college under a government program to pay for his freshman year. He did not have any money to continue and had to drop out. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps with his younger brother and went to the Air Corps Technical School and completed the airplane mechanic course and the radio operator and repair course. His next objective was a two year college equivalency exam to get an appointment as a flying cadet. He got his wings and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps in 1939.

From here on his flying life moved on swiftly. His first assignment was to Middletown Air Depot, Pennsylvania. He flew all over the USA and in all kinds of different airplanes. Some were old like the Glenn L. Martin Company first all metal bomber the B10. The B-10 came from Brazil for repairs and it is now at the Air Force Museum, Dayton, Ohio. Before the US came into WWII, the US Air Corps wanted a way to help the British in Africa. Pan American Air established an African division named PAAAfrica. The pilots for this pseudo airline came from the Air Corps. He was an assigned as a volunteer plus four other pilots and sent to Africa by a Pan American flying boat.There they pioneered an airline across middle Africa; there was a war going on in North Africa. They extended the airline over Arabia, India all the way to China. After 13 months the expanded airline was militarized and the US was totally involved in WWll.

When he came to work for the Glenn L. Martin Company in October 1942, after 13 months flying in Africa for Pan American Airways, the company was in full production of the B-26, the A-30, and the PBM-3. Although most of his test flying was on the B-26 Marauder, he did fly the other aircraft through the end of World War 11.
When WWII ended he went back to college at the University of Southern California and received his BE in aeronautical/mechanical engineering in 1948. After graduation he returned to Glenn L Martin as an aeronautical engineer in customer service. With the war in Korea he was recalled in 1951 to active duty to fly Glenn L. Martin made B-29s. The Training Command changed his orders and he went to Lowry AFB, Denver, Colorado to setup the Guided Missile Training School,where he eventually became the Director. He trained mechanics and operators for the Glenn L. Martin pilot less missiles; the Matador and the Mace.

His career field changed from flying to air/aerospace technical intelligence. His next duty was a four-year assignment to CIA in Washington, DC. He went back to the Air Force for a field assignment in Tokyo, Japan. They kept track of what the other side was doing and they kept their eyes on us. He retired from the Air Force in 1966 with 20 years of active duty and 12 years in the reserves. He changed from the uniform to Civil Service and stayed in the same job,retiring from Civil Service in 1977, at Wright-Patterson AFB.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Joseph 'Joe' Angelone 1922-2013

Joe Angelone's fascination with aviation began when he was in grade school. He became a military pilot during WWII and flew P-47 Thunderbolts in the Mediterranean Theatre diring the war. He flew various fighters and bombers,progressing into jet aircraft.

He was part of the USAF's Atomic Test Group,participating in research and development and serving as a proof test pilot on atomic bomb programmes. He left the USAF in 1953 to join Chance Vought Aircraft as an experimental test pilot. He flew tests in electronic armament,performance,stability and control,structural and photographic reconnaissance programs. These activities involved flying the F7U-1,F7U-3,F8U-1,F8U-1P and the F8U-3.

He also worked in various capacities in the Aircraft and Space Divisions. Areas included advanced aircraft designs,the XC-142 tilt wing turbo prop VTOL aircraft,spacecraft heatshields and the Apollo spacecraft environmental control system. His final years with Vought were spent with the A-7 program,working on variants such as the two-place version and the Navy and USAF forward looking infrared night attack versions.

Joe O. Engle

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Gerd Achgelis 1908-1991

Gerd Achgelis Chief Focke-Wulf Test Pilot from 1933-38

Gerd Achgelis was born in 1908 at Golzwarden. He started flying at the age of 20, and 2 years later flew inverted for 1 hour over London. In 1931 he became German Aerobatic Champion.

He joined the Focke/Wulf company in Bremen and became the Chief Test Pilot in 1933. He was World Aerobatic Champion betweem 1934-1936. Heinrich Focke and Gerd Achgelis developed the Focke-Achgelis Fa-61, the first totally successfully helicopter in 1936, which was demonstrated by Hanna Reitsch in 1936 in Berlin, Germany.

Focke-Achgelis was a German helicopter company founded in 1937 by Henrich Focke, and Gerd Achgelis. They started building helicopters in Hoykenkamp, where Achgelis flew all the prototypes.

Boris Vasilievich Sergievsky 1888–1971

Sikorsky S42 Flying Boat overhead Miami
Flown World Atltitude/Payload Record Cover signed by Boris Sergievsky and NAA Observer Heinmuller

Boris Sergievsky was one of the most colourful of the early aviators. He made his first flight less than ten years after the Wright brothers made theirs; he made his last only four years before the first Concorde took off.

Born in Russia in 1888, Boris Sergievsky learned to fly in 1912. His life of high adventure began when he fought as a Russian infantry officer, winning the Imperial Russia's highest honour for leading his infantrymen in a charge that captured a fortified enemy hilltop. He then took to the air to become a fighter pilot and combat ace against Austria-Hungary during WWI, and again, after the Bolshevik revolution, he fought in the White Army.
In 1923, he emigrated to the USA, but the first job he could find in New York was with a pick and shovel, digging the Holland Tunnel, but he soon joined Igor Sikorsky's airplane company. He became chief test pilot for the Sikorsky flying boats that Pan American Airways used worldwide, setting seventeen world aviation records along the way. Over the next ten years, Pan American Airways established routes across Latin America and the Pacific, using Sikorsky flying boats. Sergievsky tested them all and flew many of the inaugural flights.
He made pioneering flights across vast stretches of Latin America, carrying everything from mining machinery to boa constrictors. He flew Osa and Martin Johnson(famous for films in the 1930’s) across uncharted African jungles, survived a tidal wave that smashed his flying boat in mid-ocean, and escaped a blazing crash when his airplane caught fire in midair.
After 1941 he was recruited by the OSS, and eventually found himself testing captured German jet aircraft. He continued flying until 1965, when he lost his medical certificate at age 77.
There must be few men who had in one lifetime led his men in a charge and fought the enemy with a saber, flown a Nieuport, sung the principal tenor role in a performance of Rigoletto, heaved a shovel in New York, worked for the National Biscuit Corporation, became a connoisseur of fine wine and women and an authority of Russian cooking, survived, among other disasters, flying into a tidal wave, and finally, testing German jet aircraft!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Air Commodore Roger Leslie Topp AFC** 1923-2020

Roger Topp, Test Pilot and founder and leader of the Black Arrows Display Team
Roger Topp joined the RAF in 1943 and learned to fly in Canada. When he returned to England in 1944 there was a surplus of powered aircraft pilots so he transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment. On March 2,1945, he flew a Horsa Glider carrying a jeep,guns and troops in the airbornne crossing of the Rhine. In 1947 he joined 98 Sqn,flying Mosquitos in Germany,becoming a flight commander and instrument flying exami for his wing. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1950. In that year he took the course at the ETPS,and remained at Farnborough on the staff of the Royal Aircraft Establishment. He undertook tests of various experimental armament installations,including guided weapons and the new 30mm Aden cannon.

He was a leading aerobatic demostration pilot on the Canberra bomber,flying before the Emperor of Ethiopia and the Shah of Persia during their visits to Britain. In 1954,with another test pilot, shared the 100 hour of intensive flight testing on the Comet airliner undertaken at Farnborough. He was awarded a bar to his AFC in 1955 and a second bar in January 1958 for work with the aerobatic team.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Flt Lt. John.B 'Tommy' Thompson 1921-2012

Spitfite Mk9
Supermarine Seafire

Westland Welkin
Tommy Thompson started his flying career with the RAF at Stoke on Trent in August 1940 with No.5 EFTS on Magisters.In October he went to 14FTS at Cranfield to continue his training on Oxfords.This was followed by some time at 2 School of Air Navigation Specialist Air Nav Course for prospective Hampden co-pilots.(Jan-March 1941) but was switched to a Blenheim OTU (April - July 41).He went on to operations with 18 Squadron at Oulton and later to Horsham St Faith (Norwich City airport now)for Low level shipping strikes and High level Circus Raids until 21/8/41.
He was then posted to Overseas Aircraft Departure Unit Watton to collect new aircraft to ferry to the Middle East Blenheim Unit.On 27th August 1941 he suffered a forced landing at Aviero in Portugal but later escaped with R.N. assistance to Gibraltar and returned UK 8/10/41.On his return to the UK he was posted to the Test Flight at 13 M.U.Henlow. He flew Hampdens and Hurricanes on test,Hind,Prefects and Magisters on communication flights, Whitleys II and,very occasionally, Virginias drop testing parachutes. On the 18th March 1942 he switched posting to 7 Air Gunnery School at Stormy Down,Porthcawl.He flew Whitleys Mk I-V for Air gunnery training,Lysanders for drogue towing,Ansons for, Lysander for Air Sea Rescue in the Bristol Channel and Blenheims and Master I on local test flights.
A change of scene on 27th August 1943 when he was posted to 15 M.U. at Wroughton for Horsa Glider towing training with Whitley Vs, then on to 9 M.U.Cosford glider Delivery unit on 15/9/43.The unit delivered Horsas all over England and Scotland for build up for D-Day.He remained with the GDU until 8th May 1944 when he was posted to ATA FTS Thame for refresher flying on fast singles.
Tommy completed 13 hrs on Harvards, 3 hrs on Hurricanes and 3 hrs on Spitfire V before moving on to 33 M.U. Lyneham on the 21st May. Whilst with 33 M.U. he flew on test Spitfires Mk.1, 2, 4, 5, 5a, 5b, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 16, and 21.He also flew Seafires Mk.3, 15, and 17. In addition he flew Oxfords and Ansons on communication work. His last posting was to Westland Aircraft Ltd at Yeovil on 25/3/45.Here he flew Seafires Mk.3, 15, 17,Spitfire Mk.9,Welkin, Dominie, Auster V and a Miles Falcon for Comms flying.From Westlands Yeovilton factory he flew Spitfire 9s.His total number of Spitfires flown was 476 and Seafires 294. On the 7th August 1946 Tommy was demobilised,leaving the RAF with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
After the War his flying was mainly with the Portsmouth Aero Club and two private 0wners. From May 1963 to Aug 1984 there were summer time trips with The Parachute Regiment Free Fall Teams Rapides and Islander.In 1967 he joined the Flight Ops Dept at Hatfield being mainly concerned with the 125 until his retirement in October 1986.