North to Alaska

Climbing out of Seattle-Tacoma Airport on its scheduled late afternoon departure time in the Spring of 1959, Pacific Northern Airlines Constellation wings its way over downtown Seattle. Its final destination is Anchorage, but with a few stops along the way: Ketchikan, Juneau, Yakutat, and Cordova. Cost of the ticket from Seattle to Anchorage: $165.

Peter O. Knight Airport, 1938

Still busy today with general aviation, Peter O. Knight opened in 1935 as Tampa’s principal airport and remained so until 1945. One of many airports built under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the field boasted multiple paved runways, could handle seaplanes, and had a very nifty art-deco terminal seen in the foreground (unfortunately, now long-gone). When this photo was taken in March of ’38, the main attraction was the bevy of Air Corps planes dotting the field: B-18s, P-26s, P-35s, and a lone B-10.

92nd Fighter Squadron, 1947

As the jet aged dawned other USAAF squadrons were transitioning from props to “stovepipes” (as the jet engine was commonly called), the 92nd in Hawaii was defending the islands with the tried and true P-47 Thunderbolt. In fact, the “Jug” provided Hawaii’s air defense until well into the 1950s. This is not at all surprising: jets were needed in Korea, and besides, were someone to launch an aerial attack on Hawaii, it could not have been with jets (there were as yet no Soviet jet bombers, and the MiG-15 posed no threat to far-off Hawaii).

The BT-9 and BT-14

Post-War Props

The USAF’s first decade

U-2 in Panama, 1966

Men of the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (SRW) on deployment to Albrook AFB, Panama Canal Zone, pose for a group photo before heading home. The reason for their trip to Albrook was classified: they were monitoring French nuclear tests in the South Pacific. When this photo was taken in ’66, the 100th SRW was new to the “spy plane” world – they had just gained the mission, personnel, and aircraft of the deactivated 4080th SRW (the men are wearing that patch, not the 100th).

Thunderjets and Streaks

“Miss Bombshell of the 65th”

The lucky dogs of the 65th Bomb Squadron pose with the individual they have ascertained to best represent the unit’s interests, Miss Myrna Dell. The date is July 21, 1950, the place, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, the aircraft, a Boeing B-50. When not fulfilling her role as “Miss Bombshell”, Myrna Dell was a regular in Hollywood films of the era (she once co-starred with Ronald Reagan).

This week in aviation history: “Operation Power Flite” in 1957 – 45 hours and 19 minutes around the world

1st Pursuit Group, 1937

Here we have one of those fantastic panoramic photos that was widely popular back in the day. Taking such a shot was not in the realm of most photographers and so one had to call on the experts: the National Photo & News Service of San Antonio, Texas. It was one of their photographers (E. L. Rothwell) that made the journey to Selfridge Field, Michigan in the summer of ’37. His tool of choice was a “Cirkut” camera, a truly ingenious device that, while pivoting on a level axis, exposed a roll of film which advanced in synchronised movement to the horizontal action of the camera. Capturing for posterity the 1st Pursuit Group required five feet of film (the photo measures 5 feet x 10 inches).

 As stated, the photo was taken in 1937. Summer time, if one takes in to account the many open windows and the fully-leafed trees (and, according to the clock on the operations building, it was 9:10 AM). The squadrons are the 17th, 27th, and 94th Pursuit, the aircraft, of course, is the P-26.

Most of these buildings seen 84 years ago are still in use today.

P2Y of VP-19, circa 1939

Some eighty years ago, the Consolidated P2Ys of Patrol Squadron 19 were a familar sight skimming across the waters of Lake Washington along whose banks was located Naval Air Station Seattle. The P2Y was an ungainly looking contraption, but looks belie the fact is was a very sturdy and reliable performer. 


Many of the officers and men in this photo were local reservists. On the men’s cap is a ribbon which states they are part of “Patrol Squadrons, USN” (one man is from the USS Teal, a seaplane tender assigned to the base). 

A visit to Selfridge Field, c. 1932

KC-135A, circa 1957

This is one of the early bird KC-135s – the 15th one built, to be exact – and the paint scheme reflects this (the almost obligatory 1950s day-glo orange). This particular tanker, 55-3132, had a long life but not one that involved much aerial refueling. Like many of the early 135s, it was converted into a test bed and spent the majority of its career as an airborne electronic warfare labatory. Last I checked, the aircraft is on display at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. Note: I purposely did not crop this slide. Sometimes its nice to remind folks that not everything was created as a digital image. The word “Kodachrome” should always remain part of an aviation buff’s lexicon.

Airshow time, circa 1979

There was something for everybody at this open house back around 1979: Phantoms, Voodoo, Thunderchief, Vulcan, and the USAF Thunderbirds in their T-38s. Not 100 percent certain of the location, but I believe it is Whiteman AFB, MO. The photographer was not using the best of equipment, but I’m glad he took the pictures.