Thursday, November 29, 2018

New Photos From Croydon

Amazing images from April, 1937 as the Kamikaze-go landed at Croydon, London. From my new friends at the HCAT Archives, Peter Skinner and Ian Forsyth.

Record breaking flight from Tokyo. Can you spot Tsukagoshi climbing out of the airplane in the first picture? That's the easy one. Finding Iinuma in the last image may be more difficult, what with all the London policemen escorting him. He smiles a lot, holding on to a bunch of flowers, and is rather sun burnt from the long flight over the desert. Don't you think he was the happiest man on earth, that day. It inspired my wish to write about his long flight from Japan to Europe.

And you can order my novel about it here, Kamikaze to Croydon.

Bonus image: I took this photo of Iinuma Masaaki's pilot licence at his museum in Nagano:

Friday, November 16, 2018

WW1 Pilot Harry Ohara Remembered

First time I heard of this guy and his great story. Harry Ohara was born in Japan, studied at Waseda University in Tokyo, went to British India and worked for a newspaper. When war broke out, he joined the British Army. Later he flew after having started as a mechanic.

Kyodo notes that he is thought to be the Royal Air Force's first - and only - Japanese pilot:

O'Hara applied to become a pilot at exactly the right time, according to RAF Museum curator Peter Devitt. A portrait of an intense looking O'Hara stands out among the heroes -- the only Asian among the portraits -- that decorate the wall at the RAF Museum.

More details at the Great War London blog, that notes (correctly) that he must have been flying for the Royal Flight Corps, not the RAF (RAF was formed on 1 April 1918):

In March 1917, O’Hara transferred to the RFC as a 2nd-class air mechanic (the basic rank for RFC men – equivalent to his rank of private in the Middlesex Regiment).  He was soon undergoing flying training, though, and living in London at 25 Fitzroy Square, a boarding-house run by Jukicki Ikuine, another Japanese man living in London. In 1911 Ikuine and his English wife had run a boarding-house entirely populated by Japanese men (servants, cooks and waiters), so perhaps his properties were a standard place for Japanese men to board.
O’Hara qualified as a pilot on 21 July 1917 at the London and Provincial flying school in Edgeware, and was immediately promoted to Sergeant by the RFC.  It is not clear where he was stationed between then and March 1918, when he was posted from France to the No 1 School of Military Aeronautics (in Reading), but at some point he became engaged to Norfolk-born Muriel M McDonald. They married in Lewisham in September 1917.

No 1 Squadron with their SE5As and dog

Top photo showing the handsome young pilot, proudly posing in front of his SE5A, which has become known as "the Spitfire of Word War One."

Harry Fusao O’Hara died in Hampstead in 1951.

Thanks Our Man in Abiko, Patrick, for finding!


Thursday, November 08, 2018

Imperial Airways in 1937: Hanno at Al Mahatta Airport in UAE

If you have read my novel, Kamikaze to Croydon, you know that our two Japanese flyers went straight from Karachi to Basra. Their Mitsubishi Ki-15 had that much power.

Out in the desert, there were many other established aerodromes or airfields, but what were conditions there and what did they actually look like?

You can order Kamikaze to Croydon here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook.

I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Here is an excerpt:

Our altitude was again near 3,000 metres, which the Ki-15 seemed to find most agreeable, no matter what the conditions were. We had Iran on our right, and there was Arabia proper and Oman, according to the new maps. Tsukagoshi read the names. We reached Musandam and the Strait of Hormuz, which was just 54 kilometres wide.

I clearly recalled all we had back a few months ago was a terrible old chart, with no elevations indicated, and Charles Lindbergh’s new maps were such a revelation. “These maps,” Tsukagoshi muttered, “I have to say, are rather detailed.” He was thinking aloud, and clearly not sure what he was seeing from his windows, compared to the maps in his lap. “My oh my.” I waited for the next burst of intelligence from my trusted navigator, hoping he was not becoming too immersed in his musings.

He slowly continued: “Interesting way to deal with elevations. Would be useful for military missions in these parts of the world. Nothing like the tourist maps we saw before. I am not sure we are allowed to have them.”
“Better keep quiet about them, then.”
“Every oil field is indicated. Topographic profile... It is explained here: 'One type of profile that helps visualize topographic data aids the pilot to understand the topography of rivers is called a longitudinal profile. A longitudinal profile allows you to visualize the changing gradient. A longitudinal profile is a graph of a river's elevation versus its length.' How about that. Applies to flying over deserts, too, apparently. And...”
“Very well. Tsuka? Enough of that. You have any thoughts about how we might get to our next destination, without any of that, whatever you call it.”
“Navigation? It is such an art, and a science. The map here, it is amazing. Such details. You should study it.”
“I might, if you got on with the task of getting us to Basra.”

Our direction now was a smooth curve, I knew that much. West north-west up towards Europe, and compared to the small ships down below, I had no such troubles that they must have, navigating that narrow strait.

Once we were again over land, Tsukagoshi easily found Basra, the desert town in Iraq. We landed promptly at 9:45 am, local time. That was a fine runway, it was very good to land on, we should have that in Japan. They called it bitumen or tarmac, I noted that in my notebook. That stretch over the deserts took us about 4 hours. We were now further in towards the central British possessions, with clear signs of civilization all around, in spite of the remote location. Clearly, they were doing very well there due to their oil wells, according to Tsukagoshi.

I suspected he took a brief nap back there over the Persian Gulf. It was hard to fly yesterday with the sun setting in the west, right in front of me. The small curtain helped. This morning, the sun was behind me and rising. It didn’t bother me much except for the glare from the instruments. If they really wanted pilots to do these long flights on a regular basis, they would have to sort out all such issues, and more.

Tsukagoshi was paying attention to all he saw below, and gave me updates: “Basra is 2,000 km from Karachi, are you tired up there in the front, you Japanese pilot in a rush to get to London?” But I was not tired. It was more the rush of the adrenaline that kept me up and happy. It was a kind of joy that I could not help but feel, as if it was pumping in my blood vessels and veins and recharged each time it hit my heart. “I am a civilian aviator from Nagano, Japan,” I said. “...Who flies with his heart on his sleeve,” shouted Tsukagoshi, explaining the English idiom.

I got it, I got it, I told him I did get it, but he was in one of his splendid moods and had more to explain.

He was such a dear, suddenly he started quoting in his very best English what he said was from Othello:

It is as sure as you are Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago:
In following him, I follow but myself;
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end:
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.

From Shakespeare's Othello (1604)

We both rolled over laughing, well, not literally of course, and he could not hide his exuberance: “'I am not what I am'! You hear that down there, all of you Moors!?”
“Hahaha, yes, we all got it, so who are you?”
“I am air, I am sky! And you would be Roderigo, captain.”
“So am I, we are one and the same.”
“’Heaven is my judge’!”
“Whatever that means. Hey, Tsuka. We may just have reached Arabia, on our little trip, can you believe that?”
“I cannot, Iinuma-kun, I truly cannot believe my eyes. I thought to myself, that this is a magic flying carpet, and we are about to wake up from an ancient dream, straight out of the Arabian Nights stories.”
“You woke up alright. Do admit it. I think you had a nice nap back there while I was busy getting us from there to glorious here.”
“Oh, I might have closed one or two of my eyelids for a second or two, be that as it may…”
“Just joking, dear old chap, we made it all this way.”
“Isn’t the view just marvellous?”
“Not much for me to see, I am just here to fly straight and make sure we land and get to our next destination. But I do dip a wing once in a while to look out of my windows, I will admit to that.”
“Admit all you like. This might be the best flying carpet I have ever had flown on, except for your landings.”

Watch the 1937 video below for an amazing journey back in time. If you were rich enough, the Imperial Airways would take you there - or if you had an important diplomatic mission. Or, as in the case of the Kamikaze-go, owned by the Asahi Newspaper, there was a record to break. To fly from Japan to Europe in less than 100 hours...

This is such a great video of the Imperial Airways and its Handley Page four engine passenger plane, back in 1937.

We get to visit the Al Mahatta Airport (that the Kamikaze-go by-passed).

The Al Mahatta Fort was built in 1932 as the route from Croydon (London) was established. Also, advanced weather report balloons and proper British officers, making sure everything is ready when the Imperial Airways passengers arrive on their way to Singapore or Australia.

The Hanno was a British-made, four-propeller Handley Page HP42 biplane, the first plane to land at Sharjah's airport, known as Al Mahatta. Jupiter engines.

Hanno first flew in 1931 (and was named after Hanno the Navigator, who explored the Atlantic coast of Africa in 570 BC).

Top image from the front cover of Vogue Magazine, June 1937.

That airplane is a Fairchild 24C-8F:

Thanks Pandabonium for help with the research.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The First Air Force One, the Lockheed Constellation, Restored

Update: And wrong I was. It was President Truman who had to deal with General MacArthur, as Pandamonium kindly points out in the comments. 

Original post: Great video of the project to save the Columbine II and get it to fly again in 2018:

...Because this is the plane that took President-elect (correct me if I'm wrong) Dwight D. Eisenhower to South Korea in 1952, in order to stop General MacArthur, who was proposing atomic bombs all over the border inside Communist China, 

Later in 1955, Eisenhower was promoting much the same as the New Look, a policy to expand American nuclear weapons, now against the Soviet Union.

Image (left) from Ladies Love Taildraggers (Kurashi loves blog names like that!)

Known as the Columbine II, this beautiful aircraft, a Lockheed Constellation, was the very first "Air Force One" and now it has been restored and flies again.

From Warfare History Network:

After World War II, Eisenhower went on to serve two terms as President of the United States. MacArthur rendered outstanding service as military governor of postwar Japan but then fell victim to his own ego and defiance of President Harry S. Truman during the Korean War and was removed from command of United Nations forces.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Pan American Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Japan Travelogue - 1952

Back when flying was a luxury, or at least a lot more comfortable than today (except for the smoking!). The destinations were a lot more exotic too...

The Stratocruiser was flying from the US to Honolulu, Wake Island, and arrived at Haneda in Tokyo. Pan Am started flying DC4s to Japan in 1947 and the B-377 was introduced in 1949. 10 years later in 1959, they introduced the B-707 jets which were much faster than the old propeller planes.

Here is a longer promotional film about the Stratocruiser, with some interesting history about the civilian mail services that started flying in the late 1920s.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Potter Simon Leach Talks About Stuff

UK potter Simon Leach is active in the US and holds workshops there, in addition to making great videos. Here is his view on how kids and everyone these days are losing skills (because of spending too much time on their iPhones and whatnot) rather than using their hands.

Interesting that he notes that youngsters cannot hold a pair of scissors, or even a pen, right. Even young surgeons cannot make the required stitches...?

I have noticed the same with young Japanese people when it comes to penmanship. And he says, "instructors are not allowed to criticize their students."

My pottery teacher here in Japan has mentioned similar trends, but not that severely.

As Simon says, if we are learning a craft, constructive criticism must be a part of the process...