According to my mother, the first word I said was “airplane” (“oh-pane”) at around 11 months of age when a P-38 flew over the park we were in. I’ve had a love affair with airplanes and the people who are involved with airplanes ever since, which has become my career as an aviation historian and author.
I built my first model, a Strombecker all-wood P-80 (that dates me!) at age 6, after watching my father build other wood models for me. I quickly graduated to plastic models when I found Mr. Twist’s Fix-It Shop on South Gaylord Street in Denver, with its corner shelves full of wondrous kit boxes. I built my first biplane (a Hawk Models Nieuport 17 – still available from Testors) before I was old enough to know that “biplanes are hard.” With time out in the 1960s after graduating from high school for the Navy and college and “The Sixties” I returned to the hobby in 1970 and haven’t left since.
I became a screenwriter in Hollywood in the 1980s, after first getting published as an aviation author in the 1970s in Air Enthusiast Quarterly. I love the fact that William Green, who wrote the first “serious aviation book” (All The World’s Aircraft 1954) that I got my father to buy for me was the first person to publish me. I’ve flown the back seat of an F-4E Phantom for an article on the Wild Weasels in Air Force Magazine, and had 20 minutes stick time in Jim Nissen’s 1918 Curtiss JN-4D Jenny back in 1979 for an article in Plane and Pilot, and been in everything in between over the past 47 years. When I worked in politics in Sacramento during the 1970s, I was a member of a club that flew Stearman N747JR (we called ourselves in as “Boeing 747 Junior”) and got around 100 hours in that fun machine.
I’m one of the original members here of iModeler, and consider it the best model club on the planet.
Author of “Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Odyssey of Carrier Air Group 15”, “Pacific Thunder: the Pacific War from Wake island to Leyte Gulf,” “Tidal Wave: From Leyte Gulf to Tokyo Bay,” “The Frozen Chosen: The First Marine Division and the Battle of Chosin Reservoir,” “Holding The Line: the Naval Air Campaign in Korea,” and “MiG Alley: The US Air Force in Korea – 1950-53” which will be released on November 26.
You can order all of them here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Thomas+McKelvey+Cleaver&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
The ultimate Corsair to see service in the Second World War was the F4U-4. The first prototype XF4U-4 took flight on April 19, 1944, followed quickly by four other prototypes. The airplane was powered by the R2800-18W, an excellen[...]
While the Spitfire IX was both better-known and produced in far larger numbers, the Spitfire VIII represents the high-point of development of the Merlin-powered Spitfire variants.
Basically an unpressurized Mk.VII, the Spitfire V[...]
Traditionally, the hallmark of a successful aircraft manufacturing company has been that future requirements should always be the concern of the Chief Designer and the project team. In other words, when the latest project has been acce[...]
By the end of November, 1950, the Navy knew that its main fleet fighter, the Grumman F9F-2 Panther, was seriously outclassed by the opposition. LCDR William T. Ament of VF-112 had shot down the first MiG-15 confirmed by the Sovie[...]
In 1940, with the Martin B-26 bomber and Lockheed P-38 fighter on order, the US Army Air Corps knew that it was essential to begin preparations for training pilots so that when they “stepped up” to these “hot” types, they would be[...]
“Leaning Into France” - Douglas Bader and the Tangmere Wing:
In February 1941, with Air Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas having replaced Air Marshal Hugh Dowding following his successful defense in the Battle of Britain, and the execrable incompetent[...]
As William Green put it: "Many aeroplanes of the Second World War became famous; few were truly great. Greatness is a quality that cannot be instilled in an aircraft on the drawing board or the assembly line. A great aircraft must[...]
When Sydney Camm first designed what became the Typhoon in the late 1930s, not that much was known about high speed flight and heavy weaponry, with the result that the Typhoon’s wing turned out to be too thick. The result was tha[...]
Another Bosworth masterpiece.
The PB-2A, is significant for being the first fighter in United States Army Air Corps service to have retractable landing gear, an enclosed and heated cockpit for the pilot, and an exhaust-driven turbo-supercharge[...]
The Tempest, which was first called the Typhoon II, was Sydney Camm’s response to the shortcomings of the original Typhoon fighter, most particularly the Typhoon's unexpected deterioration in performance at high altitude due to it[...]