One of the stranger events in aviation history
November 8, 2015 10:11 AM   Subscribe

What do you do when the Japanese bomb your airfield and smash the right wing of your only airplane? The strange tale of the DC-2 ½
posted by pjern (19 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
That site is a blast from the past. Warning: autoplay music
posted by thecjm at 10:14 AM on November 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh man, re-engineering airframes on the fly. It's the kind of thing you wouldn't believe in a novel or film, and yet in the real world it happened all the time (probably not with today's airframes, though). Thanks for the post.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:31 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


There certainly is some language in that piece that is troubling to the modern reader. Great story though!
posted by Paladin1138 at 10:35 AM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


' I said to Hal, that we ought to test fly it--his answer was, "You said it would fly, so that won't be necessary".'
posted by mwhybark at 10:38 AM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the meantime, P.Y. and I went into the bar. (In Hong Kong, we had a bar in the hanger--the British like their comfort)--had a couple, and all the time the wheels were spinning in my head.

Different times indeed!
posted by monotreme at 10:41 AM on November 8, 2015


The DC-3 was rolled out, Pottschmidt and I took it up for the test flight. "Potty" like the rest of our pilots was good, and this day we felt like a little excitement.

I love the understated way he describes leaving the ground in a lopsided, patched-together airplane with no idea not only how the thing was gonna fly, but whether it was going to hold together. A little excitement.
posted by Nelson at 10:53 AM on November 8, 2015


Another interesting footnote to this: The DC-3 was introduced in 1935, and a very large number of them have survived, including several that are still flown in regular service by a handful of commercial airlines, as well as quite a few military operators.
posted by schmod at 11:08 AM on November 8, 2015


' I said to Hal, that we ought to test fly it--his answer was, "You said it would fly, so that won't be necessary".'

It also says that once they bolted on the replacement wing (that was five feet shorter than the left wing), they flew a full load of passengers (1000 kilos over gross) from Chunking to Hong Kong. I wonder if any of the passengers were told about the replacement wing that was held on with only half of the bolts?
posted by Dip Flash at 12:22 PM on November 8, 2015


Thank you for the post - I really enjoyed this bit of history!

My research group uses DC-3s restored by Basler and operated by Kenn Borek to collect data in Antarctica. Alongside Twin Otters, DC-3s are used for the bulk of non-military logistics and survey flights in Antarctica.
posted by Metasyntactic at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Whisky-first aviation engineering. Those were the days.
posted by ardgedee at 1:11 PM on November 8, 2015


There certainly is some language in that piece that is troubling to the modern reader. Great story though!


presumably not 'we would all be dead if not for our awesome Chinese engineers' though
posted by Sebmojo at 2:14 PM on November 8, 2015


More than once I've heard someone say "can you imagine what it would be like if aircraft engineering were done like software engineering?" The next time someone says that, I'm pointing them to this article.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:24 PM on November 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


There certainly is some language in that piece that is troubling to the modern reader. Great story though!

At the risk of sounding like an idiot...what, exactly?
posted by nzero at 2:56 PM on November 8, 2015


nzero: I cannot speak for Paladin1138 but I cannot praise our Chinese mechanics enough. Once trained and well led, they could be compared to the very best. reminded me of the old racist “compliments” about Indian/African-American troops making great troops when led by white officers which I've seen respectively attributed to British and American officers during the imperial or Civil War eras.
posted by adamsc at 3:32 PM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's also the recurring use of "Jap" for "Japanese". The text was written in 1972, when there wasn't the sort of social pressure there is today against such usages.
posted by ardgedee at 5:05 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you scroll down to the fleet photos showing the aircraft before wing conversion, you will note some interesting large closed-cabin biplanes that appear to be Curtiss T-32 Condors.
posted by mwhybark at 5:29 PM on November 8, 2015


ardgedee: I'm embarrassed to say that barely registered since it's so common in WWII accounts. Thanks for point it out.
posted by adamsc at 5:43 PM on November 8, 2015


It turns out that this isn't really the official homepage of CNAC.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:13 PM on November 8, 2015


infinitewindow: now that you use the phrase "on the fly", I think it's more appropriate to say they re-engineered it on the ground.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:24 PM on November 9, 2015


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