Pardubice Aviation Fair, 2023

The 2023 edition of the Pardubice Aviation Fair took place on May 27 and 28. The show is a primarily civilian show with a strong focus on vintage aircraft.

This year’s show was to the usual high standard and the weather was sunny all day. Photography was a challenge due to the sun travelling parallel to the runway and being overhead all day. It caused a lot of photos to be backlit and heat distortion played havoc with distance shots on the ground.

However, I managed a good set of shots that gives a taste of the event:

Čáslav Base Open Day – 2023

On May 20 of 2023, the Czech air force base at Čáslav hosted an open day.

It was the base’s first open day in four years, and it was very much worth the wait.

The weather was fantastic for the most part and the program was pleasantly varied.

Here’s a taste of what was there:

Happy Birthday, Aeronautica Militare!

In a few days, March 28 to be exact, the Italian air force will be celebrating 100 years.

The Aeronautica Militare, the modern Italian air force, was formed as the Regia Aeronautica in 1923. It was given its modern name following the Second World War.

Here’s a few photos of modern Italian air force aircraft I’ve snapped here and there:

Douglas DC-6 at 77!

February 15 of 1946, 77 years ago today, the Douglas DC-6 took to the air for the first time.

The DC-6 is considerd by many to be the pinnacle of propliner aircraft. The last of the piston engine driven airliners before turboprop and jet airliners took over. Even after its days as an airliner were finished, the DC-6 soldiered on for many more years as a freighter and even a firefighting aircraft.

A small handful of DC-6s are still flying today, including the immacualtely maintained example owned by Red bull in the photos below:

To learn more about this legendary propliner, visit my Douglas DC-6 article.

Hawker Sea Fury – Tempest tossed

A Sea Fury FB.11 at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2022.

Piston Powered Purity

Few names in British aviation history are more legendary and storied than Hawker.

Co-founded in 1920 by Harry Hawker (1889-1921), an Australian aviation pioneer who relocated to the United Kingdom in 1911, H.G. Hawker Engineering was created from the liquidated assets of the Sopwith Aviation Company following the end of the First World War. In fact, the principal people in both companies were the same and the new company was effectively a continuation of Sopwith.

The company changed its name to Hawker Aircraft Limited in 1933 and built a name for itself in aviation worldwide until 1963, when it was absorbed into other companies through a series of business mergers that reduced the British aviation industry from many to a handful of companies during the 1960s.

Today, the Hawker legacy is held by BAE Systems.

In the interwar period, Hawker was a primary supplier of combat aircraft to the Royal Air Force. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Royal Air Force’s primary fighter was the Hawker Hurricane.

While the Sea Fury came too late to have a role in the Second World War, it served as a very important intermediary fighter between piston and jet driven types for the Royal Navy of Great Britain and the air arms of nine other nations.

The Sea Fury would be the last piston driven fighter operated by the Royal Navy and is representative of the apex of piston driven fighter development.

Driven by an 18 cylinder Bristol Centaurus radial engine of 2,480 horsepower, the Sea Fury had a maximum speed of around 740 kmh (460 mph) at an altitude of 5,500 metres (18,000 feet). This performance gave the Sea Fury a place in history as one of the fastest piston driven aircraft put into mass production.

Let’s spend some time with the Hawker Sea Fury:

A Sea Fury FB.11 at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2022.

Building the Storm

As the Second World War progressed, Hawker created the Typhoon ground attack aircraft and developed the Tempest fighter from the Typhoon.

It is in the Hawker Tempest that we find the origins of the Hawker Sea Fury.

Designed by the legendary Sydney Camm, the Hawker Typhoon entered service in Autumn of 1941. Widely remembered as one of the best ground attack aircraft of the Second World War, the Typhoon had initially been intended as a medium to high altitude fighter. Due to a number of design flaws, the Typhoon had poor high altitude performance and could not carry out the air-to-air fighter role it was intended for.

The Hawker Tempest entered service in early 1944 and was the result of much redesign work to address the shortcomings of the Typhoon.

The biggest change between the Typhoon and Tempest was a completely redesigned wing that was thinner and broader than the Typhoon’s wing. With the new wing and other adjustments to the design, the Tempest was a fearsome low altitude fighter-bomber and interceptor.

The Tempest was heavily armed, agile and powerful. Tempest pilots scored a number of victories against Germany’s Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighter and made many successful intercepts of V-1 flying bombs that Germany launched at Great Britain from the European mainland.

While the Tempest was a definite improvement on the Typhoon, it had the drawbacks of being too big and heavy to be a truly well-rounded fighter aircraft.

Even before the Tempest had entered service, Sydney Camm and his design team had begun work on a lightened version of the aircraft. The new aircraft used a shortened version of the Tempest wing and had a redesigned fuselage that was much lighter than the Tempest’s. Additionally, the new aircraft had the cockpit raised to give the pilot a better view outward than with the Tempest.

The efforts of Hawker to improve the Tempest were noticed by the Air Ministry. In early 1943, the ministry was so impressed by the new aircraft that it issued a specification designed especially for it. The initial specification was for a land based fighter for the RAF, a different specification was issued for a carrier based fighter for the Royal Navy.

The two specifications were eventually merged into one after Sydney Camm showed that the new aircraft could satisfy both the air force and navy requirements.

The air force prototype, named the Fury, first flew in Autumn of 1944. The naval prototype, the Sea Fury, took to the air for the first time in early 1945.

Responsibility for design and development of the Fury remained with Hawker, while Boulton Paul Aircraft were contracted to develop and produce the Sea Fury.

A Sea Fury FB.11 at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2022.

Saved by the Navy

In spring of 1944, orders were placed for 100 examples of the Fury for the RAF and 200 of the Sea Fury for the Royal Navy.

However, with the Allied victory in Europe, the RAF order was cancelled completely and the navy order was reduced by half.

The result of losing the RAF order was that Bolton Paul’s contract for the Sea Fury was cancelled and further work on the aircraft was consolidated at Hawker.

While the RAF was in the process of introducing jet fighters and reducing the number of active squadrons it had in the post war period, the Royal Navy had a much smaller air arm and did not have time to wait for a new jet fighter to use on their aircraft carriers.

At the time, the Royal Navy’s carrier based fighter fleet was made up of Supermarine Seafires, a navalized variant of the legendary Spitfire fighter, and Vought Corsair fighters that were received from America via the Lend/Lease agreements that America had with other Allied nations.

Both the Seafires and Corsairs were war weary machines that desperately needed replacing. The Seafire had always been an aircraft of compromise; while it functioned, it showed that the Spitfire design did not adapt well to the rigours or the aircraft carrier environment. An ongoing issue with the Seafires was the tendency for their landing gear to collapse upon landing on the carrier.

In accordance with the Lend/Lease agreements, any equipment sent to an Allied nation from America had to be returned to America, or purchased or destroyed by the borrowing nation at the end of hostilities. The Royal Navy Corsairs were well used by the end of the war, America did not want them back and Britain did not have the means to buy them. Most of the Royal Navy Corsairs were pushed overboard from their aircraft carriers or scrapped when the war ended.

The Sea Fury entered Royal Navy service in 1947. It also entered service with the Royal Netherlands Navy, the type’s first export customer in the same year.

While the Royal Navy would place jet fighters on their carriers before the 1950s were out, the Sea Fury was an appealing interim type that would give them a capable and relatively modern fighter type to see them through the late 1940s and early 1950s

A Sea Fury FB.11, formerly of the Royal Canadian Navy. Seen preserved in 2019 at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

Sea Furies Abroad and in Anger

The Sea Fury not only bridged the gap between piston and jet fighters on Royal Navy aircraft carriers; it also served the same purpose on the aircraft carriers of the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy.

Beyond naval users, the Sea Fury was used by the air forces of Burma, Cuba, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco and Pakistan.

In addition to military users, a fleet of Sea Furies was operated by Deutscher Luftfahrt-Beratungsdienst (DLB), a civilian firm in the former West Germany that was contracted by the military to carry out target towing duties.

In addition to Hawker built examples of the aircraft, a production license was granted to Fokker to produce some of the aircraft for the Dutch navy Sea Fury fleet.

The non-naval users of the aircraft received versions with a significant amount of carrier specific equipment, such as tail hooks and launching gear, removed.

While the Aircraft used by Burma, Cuba, Egypt and West Germany were Former Royal Navy aircraft that had beeen refurbished by Hawker, the Sea Fury fleets of other users were factory fresh machines.

As mentioned earlier, the Sea Fury came too late to have a role in the Second World War. However, it did see its share of combat.

The first combat use of the Sea Fury was by the Dutch navy against insurgent forces in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, in 1947. The Dutch attempt to hold onto the colony ended in December of 1949, when the Netherlands officially recognised Indonesia as an independant nation.

Sea Furies of the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy were very effective ground attack aircraft in the Korean War. They were a difficult target for enemy jet fighters as well as ground based anti-aircraft crews due to their speed and agility. Those factors in combination with the Sea Fury’s ability to carry a significant amount of armaments on a mission made the aircraft a threat not to be taken lightly by North Korea and its allies.

On August 9 of 1952, a formation of four Royal Navy Sea Furies were attacked by a group of North Korean MiG-15 jet fighters. While none of the Sea Furies were lost in the ensuing air battle, one of the Royal Navy aircraft was successful in shooting down one of the MiGs. In doing so, the Sea Fury became one of the very few piston driven fighters after World War Two to claim an aerial victory over a jet fighter.

The next major combat that involved Sea Furies was the Cuban Revolution and the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. The Cuban military took delivery of the Sea Fury in 1958, shortly before the dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by revolutionarly forces led by Fidel Castro.

Due to a lack of experienced pilots and ground crew, the Cuban Sea Furies proved difficult to keep in servicable condition after Castro took over. However, the few that were kept in running order gave a good account of themselves against the American CIA backed ships, aircraft and ground forces that made up the force sent to take Cuba back from Castro in April of 1961. Cuban Sea Furies were credited in part for the sinking of two major ships and shooting down of a number of attack aircraft of the invasion force.

Through much of the 1960s, Sea Furies of the Iraqi air force were used against frequent Kurdish uprisings during the First Iraqi-Kurdish War. The conflict lasted from 1961 to 1970 and ended in a stalemate.

Sea Fury T.20S seen at Čáslav, Czech Republic in 2013. This aircraft has a four blade propeller, typical of aircraft refitted with American engines.

Off to the Races

The Iraqi air force was the last military user of the Sea Fury, replacing their fleet with the Soviet built Sukhoi Su-7 attack jet between 1967 and 1969.

However, the end of military service was not the end of the Sea Fury. By the mid 1960s, the Reno Air Races had been inagurated in Reno, Nevada, USA.

A growing interest in restoring and maintaining historic aircraft, known popularly as the Warbird Movement, began to take hold in many places around the world at the same time.

It wouldn’t take long after the last Sea Furies were retired from military service for the air racing and warbird communities to take an interest in them.

A number of Sea Furies with a good amount of flying hours left in them had found their way into civilian hands before the 1960s were out.

By the mid 1970s, Deutscher Luftfahrt-Beratungsdienst were selling off their T.20S Sea Furies to civilian buyers and replacing them with North American OV-10 Bronco aircraft.

In the late 1970s, several former Iraqi air force Sea Furies were recovered from Iraq and shipped to America and sold off to different buyers. Many of these aircraft were able to be restored to airworthy condition as the dry desert air they’d been kept in since retirement had kept corrosion to a minimum.

In the context of the Reno Air Races, the Sea Fury has proven popular in the Unlimited category. The basic requirements for an aircraft to be in the Unlimited category are that it must be piston driven, able to sustain a speed of 805 kph (500 mph) and be able to withstand turns of at least six times the force of gravity.

The Sea Fury is not only popular in air racing due to its flight performance, it’s also popular for being adaptable to engines other than the Bristol Centaurus it was originally powered by. Any Sea Fury entered into the Reno Air Races has been refitted with an American engine comparable to the Centaurus and a four bladed propeller designed to work with the American engines.

Most racing Sea Furies are refitted with the 18 cylinder Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone or the 28 cylinder Pratt and Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major.

The primary reason for the engine change was one of availability of not only spare engines and parts, but also availability of skilled technicians to work on the engines. Air racing is incredibly hard on aircraft engines, so a reliable source of replacement engines and parts is essential. As Centaurus engines were never used in American aircraft, both they and people knowledgable in working with them are rare in America.

Sea Fury T.20S seen at Čáslav, Czech Republic in 2013.

The Sea Fury Family

Approximately 860 examples of the Sea Fury were built across nine variants:

Sea Fury F.10

This was the initial single seat fighter version delivered to the Royal Navy

Sea Fury FB.11

The FB.11 was a fighter-bomber version. It had many improvements over the F.10, including better weapons and hydraulically operated wing folding mechanisms.

The FB.11 was the most numerous of the Sea Fury variants, with over 600 being built. They were used by the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Canadian Navy.

Former Royal Navy FB.11 aircraft were refurbished by Hawker and used by the air forces of Burma, Cuba and Egypt.

Sea Fury T.20 and T.20S

The T.20 was the two seat trainer version of the Sea Fury that was made for the Royal Navy. As with the FB.11, a number of T.20 aircraft were refurbished and taken into service with Burma, Cuba and Egypt.

Ten former Royal Navy T.20 aircraft were converted to the T.20S version. The T.20S was a target towing version specifically used by Deutscher Luftfahrt-Beratungsdienst in the former West Germany.

Sea Fury F.50 and FB.51

These versions were built for the Dutch navy. The F.50 was a single seat fighter and the FB.51 a single seat fighter-bomber.

Fury FB.60 and and T.61

These were designations for the single seat fighter-bomber and two seat trainer versions built for Pakistan. They were built factory fresh with most of the navy specific gear deleted.

Fury I and Fury Trainer

These were designations for the single seat fighter-bomber and two seat trainer versions built for Iraq. Like the Pakistani versions, they were built factory fresh with most of the navy specific gear deleted.

Iraq donated a small number of their Furies to Morocco for use in their air force. However, those aircraft were not in a good state when delivered and the Moroccans ultimately did not use them.

A Sea Fury FB.11 performing at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2022.

What Remains and Learning More

The Sea Fury has done very well for itself in its post-military life and of the 860 or so built, upwards of 50 are know to still be surviving as museum exhibits, active flyers, restoration projects, or in storage.

With its large size, high speed and agility relative to other single engine piston driven fighters, the Sea Fury is an unimissable presence on the ground or in the air at any show it appears at.

If you see a Sea Fury with a five blade propeller flying at a show, take time to savour the sight and sound and appreciate that you’re seeing one of the very small handful of Sea Furies that still fly on a Centaurus engine.

The majority of Sea Furies flying today are fitted with American engines and four blade propellers. While that does not make their performance any less spectacular, the sound is quite different from the original Centaurus and a little less authentic.

There’s a good amount of information on the Sea fury online:

This link will take you to the dedicated Hawker Fury and Sea Fury page on the BAE Systems website.

This link to a write up about the Sea Fury on the Royal Australian Navy website will give you some insights into the aircraft in the Australian context.

Similarly, this link will take you to an article about the Sea Fury in Canadian service. This article has lots of good pictures too.

This link to the Britain’s Small Wars website will take you to a very interesting first hand account of the Sea Fury victory over the MiG-15 in the Korean War. For many years after the event, it was a contested point who the credit for the victory should have gone to.

This link will take you to a condensed historical article about the Sea Fury at the Afterburner Aviation Magazine website.

In print media, “Sea Fury in British, Australian, Canadian and Dutch Service” by Tony Buttler is an excellent and well illustrated volume to read more about the Sea Fury in those air arms.

The MiG-15 hits 75 Years

Like its western counterpart, the F-86 Sabre, the MiG-15 needs no introduction.

December 30 of 1947 saw the maiden flight of the legendary Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighter.

To mark the occasion, here are some pictures of MiG-15 variants I’ve taken here and there over the years:

Rudolf the Red nosed Airplane – 2022 Edition

December is upon us and Christmas not too far away. For those of you who have followed Pickled Wings for a few years, you’ll know I have a Christmas tradition of posting a gallery of aircraft with red noses or significant red trim in the nose area.

Over the last couple of years, due to COVID restrictions, opportunities to photograph aircraft up close were reduced and I had to improvise a bit to create decent sized galleries. That included flexing for noses in the darker end of the orange range as well as a retrospective gallery with photos covering several years.

Happily, 2022 was a different story and I can give you a gallery of proper red noses all taken in 2022.

Some of these aircraft will be familiar, as I’ve shown photos of them before, but others were new to me.

At that, sit back and enjoy this year’s selection of Rudolfs:

Book Review – Gloster Javelin: An Operational history

Book cover image (credit: Pen and Sword Books)

Gloster Javelin: An Operational History

By: Michael Napier

Pen and Sword Books (2016)

First flown in Late 1951, the Gloster Javelin was a distinctive design and quite large for its intended roles as a fighter and interceptor. With its large delta wing and horizontal stabilizer set at the top of the tail fin, the Javelin was an unmistakeable shape among its contemporaries.

As British military aircraft of the Cold War go, the Javelin often gets downplayed as an “also ran” type with mediocre qualities where flight performance was concerned.

On the surface of things, it’s not difficult to see how history might record the Javelin in that rather dim light. The Javelin had no export success and only served the Royal Air Force for around 12 years. It always seemed to be something of a “work in progress” as no fewer than eight different versions of the aircraft were developed and put into service in that relatively short window of time.

Additionally, the Javelin was introduced to RAF service in 1956 and was gone from the front line of air defense of the United Kingdom by 1964, the last four years of its service life being spent fulfiling RAF committments abroad. As such, the Javelin never had much time to work its way deeply into the hearts and minds of the British public.

Last but not least was the aircraft that replaced the Javelin, the English Electric Lightning. The Lightning was a true performer from the start; capable of twice the speed of sound with a reputation of being a “missile with a man in it” the Lightning was a showstopper wherever it went and was able to capture the the imagination of the British public in ways the Javelin could never hope to.

To this day, among aviation enthusiasts far and wide, the Lightning has a large fan base while the Javelin is rather more of a niche interest.

All of this is borne out further by the fact that while over 430 Javelins were built, a respectable production run, only ten remain intact in museums today and none of them will ever fly again.

In spite of the rather lacklustre hand that many historians have dealt to the Javelin, it was a significant aircraft in many regards for the Royal Air Force and was an essential stepping stone to higher performance aircraft like the aforementioned Lightning.

The Javelin was an aircraft of “firsts” for the Royal Air Force; it was their first true all weather fighter, it was their first missile armed fighter, the first type in RAF service with the ability to be refuelled in flight, it was also the first type in RAF service with afterburner equipped engines.

If there was ever a military aircraft, British or otherwise, from the 1950s that deserved a fair hearing and reevaluation of its importance, the Javelin certainly qualifies.

Happily, this book gives the Javelin that fair hearing.

This book, as the title indicates, focuses on the service life of the Javelin and begins when the first squadrons of the aircraft were activated. A total of 19 squadrons used the Javelin during the type’s years in service.

The author does not shy away from the shortcomings inherent to the Javelin’s design and the fact that the aircraft was in a continual state of development throughout its service life to overcome many of those shortcomings.

However, the author also makes sure not to lump shortcomings of other systems associated with the Javelin in with those of the aircraft itself.

The Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engine, two of which were used to power the Javelin, was a typical fuel hungry turbojet engine of its era. Any perceived lack of range in the Javelin must be laid, at least partially, upon the fuel guzzling nature of the engines.

An additional, and much more serious, problem in the engine was that the Sapphire was prone to a phenomenon called centre-line closure. This disasterous phenomenon occured when the aircraft was flown through thick clouds and the temperature of air going into the engines lowered enough to cause the engine casing to shrink enough to make contact with the spinning turbine blades inside.

When contact was made between the turbine blades and engine casing, the affected engine ripped itself apart and typically took the other engine and a good sized part of the back end of the aircraft out with it.

A number of Javelins and their crews were lost to centre-line closure incidents.

The author also discusses the shortcomings of the DeHavilland Firestreak missile, which the Javelin was equipped with. The Firestreak represented the first generation of heat-seeking missiles and had all of the limitations that its contemporaries did. those limitations included the fact that it could only be fired at a target from behind and could only be fired at a maximum angle of around 20 to 30 degrees off the target to ensure a reasonable chance of a hit.

This book does a good job of showing that the Javelin was generally well liked by those who worked with it. It was a well handling and reliable aircraft with a roomy cockpit.

Some of the most important work the Javelins were involved in did not happen while flying from British soil, and this book does a very good job of detailing this aspect of the aircraft’s service.

While the Javelin never fired a shot in anger, it proved its worth as a projection of both NATO and British military airpower in some key hot spots through the late 1950s to the late 1960s.

Squadrons of Javelins were based in the former West Germany from 1957 to 1966 as part of the United Kingdom’s committment to NATO for the shared defense of the country.

A squadron of Javelins was based on Cyprus from 1963 to 1967 and turned back a number of Turkish air force fighters coming into the island’s airspace during the volatile years between Greek and Turkish Cypriots immediately after the island attained independence from British rule in the early 1960s.

A squadron of Javelins was dispatched to Zambia after Rhodesia announced its Unilateral Declaration of Independence in late 1965. Zambia had attained its independence from British rule in late 1964 and the Javelins were stationed there to ensure the country was protected from any attacks by the Rhodesian air force.

Javelin squadrons were based in Asia as part of the RAF’s Far East Air Force (FEAF) from 1961 to 1968. It was in this area of operations that they perhaps carried out their most critical work as it was also the time of the Indonesia – Malaysia Confrontation that lasted from 1963 to 1966 and the Cultural Revolution in China, launched by Mao Zedong in 1966. Javelins based in Singapore and detached other points on the Malay Peninsula were part of ensuring that Indonesian air force bombers were kept out of the area and the nation of Malaysia could be established. At the same time, Javelins based in Hong Kong guarded that colony’s airspace from possible incursions by Chinese military aircraft.

This book is a well researched and thought out volume on the Javelin and has a good balance of pictures to go with the text.

The book is also a timely one given that the generation that worked with the Javelin directly is certainly an aging one and many who did know the aircraft best are no longer with us to give first hand account of it. For those who are still with us, and the families of those who are not, this book is an affirmation that the Javelin and those who worked with it are not forgotten and are indeed appreciated.

If you like the Javelin, or would like to know more about it, this book will definitely give you a good starting point. It’s accessible reading that brings the nature of the Javelin across well without getting bogged down in unexplained technobabble.

Buy with confidence.

You can follow this link to the book’s page on the Pen and Sword Books website.

This link will take you to the book’s page on the Author’s website. If you have Facebook, the authour has this dedicated page for the book.

NATO Days, 2022

September 17 and 18 saw the 2022 edition of the annual NATO Days show in Ostrava, Czech Republic take place.

I attended on the 17th. Despite the weather being overcast most of the day and making photography of flying displays tricky, it was an enjoyable show as always.

The 2022 show marked the first appearance of Brazilian and Latvian participants at the NATO Days event. It also marked the first time a Dassault Rafale fighter was in the static park, previous editions of the show have had Rafales in the flying program, and it was quite interesting to get up close to France’s most modern fighter.

On a somewhat bittersweet note, the 2022 edition of the show was the last public airshow appearance of the Czech air force Mil Mi-35 “Hind” helicopter. An iconic aircraft from the height of the Cold War to the present, the “Hind” is scheduled to be retired from Czech air force service in late 2022 or early 2023.

At that, here’s a selection of what was on view at the show in 2022: