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Old 05-02-13, 11:42 PM   #1
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Exclamation Mysterious Arrows in the Utah Desert

Visitors discovering giant concrete arrows in the Utah desert were stumped. Indian artifact or ancient alien signpost?

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Turns out they are navigation markers . . . from the pioneering days of commercial aviation.

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In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the new Aeronautics Branch in the Department of Commerce established a 650-mile air route from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City to carry mail. It was designated as Contract Air Mail Route 4 (CAM-4).

Large concrete arrows were constructed on the ground along the way as visual navigational aids for the planes flying the mail route. There were built at intervals of approximately 10 miles and were about 70 feet long. Typically, there was a 51-foot beacon tower in the middle of the arrow topped with a powerful rotating beacon light. Below the rotating light were two course lights pointing forward and backward along the arrow. The course lights flashed a code to identify the beacon's number. A generator shed, where required, stood at the "feather" end of the arrow.

Western Air Express was awarded the contract for the Los Angeles to Salt Lake route. Their first flight was made in April of 1926 in a Douglas M-2 airplane.

The concrete arrows are all that remain today.
Drawing of the original site plan

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Douglas M-2 - configured for mail service

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http://wchsutah.org/aviation/navigation-arrows.php
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Old 05-03-13, 05:48 AM   #2
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interesting, thanks.
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Old 05-03-13, 09:44 AM   #3
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I can guarantee you, Bob, that, during the heyday of that type of aircraft, runways on the ground didn't look like that. Most of the time, they were grass. I learned to fly, of course, out of paved-runway airports (though my initial primary-training field was a rather poor excuse of one), and it sometimes make you wonder how early grass-field pilots easily found their landing-fields in a sea of farms and other grassy-areas, where everything, from the air, looks more or less alike. I guess arrows like the one above helped some.
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Old 05-03-13, 11:56 AM   #4
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Yeah, that's an illustration superimposed on a modern airfield. I learned to fly at 15 on the grass strip at my uncle's airfield where he based his crop-dusting company. The texture of grass gives you far better depth perception on landing, enabling you to better judge altitude just before touchdown. Yeah, I learned on a Stearman, taught by a WW2 pilot who flew P-38's in the South Pacific. Years of "hanger flying" with Johnny made me a great fan not just the biplanes, but the '38 as well. Years later as a marshaller at the Lone Star Flight Museum, I got to direct our P-38 from the flight line. Close as I'll ever get to deja-vu.
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Old 05-03-13, 01:13 PM   #5
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Yeah, that's an illustration superimposed on a modern airfield.
hehe I noticed the pilot had bailed out...
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Old 05-03-13, 01:41 PM   #6
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Yeah, I learned on a Stearman, taught by a WW2 pilot who flew P-38's in the South Pacific.
The classic Stearman PT-17/ N2N / N2S biplane? Lots of both Army and Navy/Marine pilots, during the war, got their primary-wings in Stearmans, though some started off in Piper J2 / J3 Cubs or the low-wing Stearman PT-19.


Interesting. I wonder if your instructor ever knew Richard Bong and Tommy McGuire...the top two P-38 aces, both flying in that area (General George Kenney's 5th AF, South Pacific). McGuire, sadly, before the end of the war, was killed in a P-38 in a low-altitude high-speed stall, and Bong got killed testing an early-production F-80 Shooting-Star jet fighter right at the end of the war (summer 1945). I wasn't there, of course, but what I've read about it said that Bong refused to read the F-80's Flight Manual, and also refused a briefing from a Lockheed test-pilot before he tried to fly it himself. Fighter-pilots, in those days, sometimes seemed to have more macho than common sense.........Marine ace Pappy Boyington was another good example though, fortunately, he lived. Fortunately, Chuck Yeager (who I met once at the NASM), though not timid by any means, quickly learned from his few mistakes, and went on to become one of the most able and skilled pilots in history.


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Years later as a marshaller at the Lone Star Flight Museum,
Congratulations.......looked like an interesting position or you. I worked full-time, of course for the FAA, but also found some time to serve as a part-time docent at the National Air and Space Museum downtown. I also worked part-time in the NASM's Enola Gay B-29/atomic-bomb display, involved with security and answering the public's questions on the plane, crew, and raid.


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I got to direct our P-38 from the flight line. Close as I'll ever get to deja-vu.
So you didn't get to actually fly a P-38...or ride along in a 2-seat one? The P-38, with one engine out, was considered somewhat easier to fly than other twin-engined planes because the props rotated in opposite directions, meaning that you didn't have one engine that was more critical for controllability than the other if you lost one at low speed.

Early WWII P-38s, though, had their share of problems. The plane was judged unsuitable for high-altitude operations in Europe because of inadequate heat/defrost in the cockpit, and the manual two-stage supercharger-controls were more than what could be expected of a pilot to monitor in the heat of combat, leading to some blown engines. Lockheed eventually developed fixes, but never came up with a good explanation of why those fixes were not ready until the middle of 1944.
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Old 05-03-13, 02:11 PM   #7
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hehe I noticed the pilot had bailed out...
German pilots got some crude, rudimentary parachutes before the end of WWI. To my understanding, Allied pilots never got them at all until after the end of the war.
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Old 05-03-13, 02:24 PM   #8
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Old school GPS?
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Old 05-03-13, 02:29 PM   #9
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Old school GPS?
Only up to a point.

(I know....that's a bad pun)
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Old 05-03-13, 04:26 PM   #10
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The P-38 we had on loan was "Putt-Putt Maru", named for and in the livery of Col. Charles MacDonald, Commander of the 475th Fighter Group, credited with 27 confirmed kills. If you love the P-38, you'll like the book
<u>Fork-Tailed Devil</u> Fork-Tailed Devil
, by Martin Caiden, the definitive book on the aircraft in all its versions.

I'd grown up around those old Stearmans - after the war they were being sold off for a few hundred bucks apiece. With some minor modifications, they made great crop dusters. With an engine upgrade, a set of proprietary wings with ailerons on both upper and lower wings for better control and maneuverability at low speed, Gulf Coast Dusting Company eventually grew to 26 aircraft and had a warehouse of over 400 Continental engines formerly built to power versions of the Sherman tank. My uncle and his crew extended the crankshaft (orginally too short to accept a prop) rebuilding and selling engines to most of the agricultural aircraft community for years. It was kind of a monopoly, because welding on that crank meant the aircraft had to be licensed as "Experimental", but back in the day, so were ALL 'dusters. He did sell a few to airboat operators - man those things were monsters.

As a joke, one of his aircraft did not have the hoppers or tanks installed for dusting or spraying - it was configured as a 2-seater with dual controls then finished out as the "executive" aircraft in the company colors of black and silver - with the name "Dilbert" painted on the cowling. The aircraft was an excellent trainer, and almost indestructible - as befits something a newb is going to try to fly. But the Stearman's long prop necessitated long landing gear that were pretty closely spaced. It took all your concentration not to ground loop the thing on landing.

Ten years ago I was in Lafayette, Louisiana restaurant during a local oil show, when I ran onto the pilots of the Red Baron Pizza aerial demonstration team who were performing nearby with their squadron of Stearmans. We had a great evening over dinner - and I got to hear the familiar stories of the adventures of flying "The Yellow Peril" all over again.

Now that you ask, I don't know if my instructor knew Bong or McGuire, but I'm sure their names were often mentioned during our bouts of hanger flying when weather closed the field. Oddly enough we all met Pappy Boyington who briefly owned a small flying service near what is now Pearland Regional Airport just a few miles away. He'd achieved ace status at the controls of a F4U Corsair, and as the commander of the notorious "Black Sheep Squadron".

Pappy flew a J2 Cub in for some minor engine work on a Saturday morning, and when I dashed out to the strip to see him land, he waved me on board in the front seat. Then to my amzement he had me taxi him to the ramp. I couldn't have been much more than 12 and simultaneously seeing over the instrument panel and getting my feet on the rudder pedals was a challenge. What a treat for a shirt-tail kid! Me! Chauffeuring the legendary Marine ace as he patiently talked me through the process with the little airplane's unfamiliar controls and tapping me on the shoulders when he wanted to turn or stop. I learned later he had a reputation as an obstreperous drunk, but that day, he was the greatest guy I'd ever met.
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Old 05-04-13, 09:11 AM   #11
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The P-38 we had on loan was "Putt-Putt Maru", named for and in the livery of Col. Charles MacDonald, Commander of the 475th Fighter Group, credited with 27 confirmed kills.
I've heard of the 475th. Great outfit.

The P-38 was especially suited for low-altitude conditions in the Pacific....long range, twin-engine security, and the aforementioned contra-rotating props that made single-engine operation easier. Bong managed 40 victories, McGuire 38. It was also the plane we used to get Admiral Yamamoto's bomber in a surprise sneak-attack from long-range.

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If you love the P-38, you'll like the book Fork-Tailed Devil, by Martin Caiden, the definitive book on the aircraft in all its versions.
I've read a number of Caidin's books...especially when I was a kid.

I had a lot of respect for the P-38 (even with its early faults), but, overall, was much more a fan of the big P-47 Thunderbolt.......a plane that was built so tough that it made the Rock of Gibraltar look flimsy in comparison. Later models of the Thunderbolt (Jug) were so fast, even with a high-drag radial-engine frontage, that they could, in some conditions, outfly early jets...as a number of German ME-262 or Arado 234 jocks found out when they were shot down. The P-51 was the glamour-plane in the history-books (and it was arguably the war's best air-superiority fighter), but its 6 .050" guns didn't have the power of the Jug's 8 .050"s., and its in-line Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, with liquid-cooling, couldn't take the battle damage the Jug's R-2800 could.



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I'd grown up around those old Stearmans - after the war they were being sold off for a few hundred bucks apiece. With some minor modifications, they made great crop dusters. With an engine upgrade, a set of proprietary wings with ailerons on both upper and lower wings for better control and maneuverability at low speed, Gulf Coast Dusting Company eventually grew to 26 aircraft and had a warehouse of over 400
I've seen some photos of Stearmans (or Wacos?) doing crop dusting in Louisiana.



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But the Stearman's long prop necessitated long landing gear that were pretty closely spaced. It took all your concentration not to ground loop the thing on landing.
Same thing with the famous Spitfire and ME-109 during the war, especially with Royal Navy Seafire versions on the small British aircraft carriers. I sometimes wonder how those guys managed to land crosswind in one piece, even with good aileron/rudder-skills. Of course, some of the grass airfields (as with an aircraft carrier) allows one to land into the wind no matter which direction it's blowing from.

Some of the Spits were so light at the rear that, while taxing on the ground, a crewman would jump on the rear-fuselage to help keep the rear end firmly planted.





Quote:
Ten years ago I was in Lafayette, Louisiana restaurant during a local oil show, when I ran onto the pilots of the Red Baron Pizza aerial demonstration team who were performing nearby with their squadron of Stearmans. We had a great evening over dinner - and I got to hear the familiar stories of the adventures of flying "The Yellow Peril" all over again.
I think the "Yellow Peril" refered more to the Navy N2N / N2S versions than the Army PT-17. The Navy, back then, typically painted their training planes bright yellow (or bright blue/yellow). Army versions were somewhat more subdued.

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Oddly enough we all met Pappy Boyington who briefly owned a small flying service near what is now Pearland Regional Airport just a few miles away. He'd achieved ace status at the controls of a F4U Corsair, and as the commander of the notorious "Black Sheep Squadron".

Pappy flew a J2 Cub in for some minor engine work on a Saturday morning, and when I dashed out to the strip to see him land, he waved me on board in the front seat. Then to my amzement he had me taxi him to the ramp. I couldn't have been much more than 12 and simultaneously seeing over the instrument panel and getting my feet on the rudder pedals was a challenge. What a treat for a shirt-tail kid! Me! Chauffeuring the legendary Marine ace as he patiently talked me through the process with the little airplane's unfamiliar controls and tapping me on the shoulders when he wanted to turn or stop. I learned later he had a reputation as an obstreperous drunk, but that day, he was the greatest guy I'd ever met.
A great experience for you.

Did you watch the 1980s TV "Black Sheep" series? Some good airplane-footage, but otherwise more Hollywood than true era-realism.

Pappy, BTW, already had combat experience before his days with the Corsair and Marine VMF-214. He flew a P-40 in China for Chennault's AVG (Flying Tigers). Several times, he tried to dogfight the much lighter and more manuverable Zero (against Chennault's specific instructions, which generally called for a diving attack to take advantage's of the P-40's heavier weight), and, each time found the Zero on his own tail, firing away. Fortunately, he didn't get shot down, due to the P-40's ruggedness, and, finally learned, getting a few Japanese planes to his credit. Of course, after he left the AVG, went back in the Marines, and got the Corsair, it was a far better fighter than the P-40 (which was essentially a old P-36 with an Allison in-line engine) could ever hope to be. The Japanese Zeros also sacrified armor, pilot protection, self-sealing gas tanks, and airframe-strength for range and manuverability...a couple of well-placed rounds was often all it took to knock one down.
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Old 05-04-13, 09:14 AM   #12
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Great exchange, but I think we're getting a little off the thread-topic.
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Old 06-15-13, 09:15 AM   #13
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The P-38 we had on loan was "Putt-Putt Maru", named for and in the livery of Col. Charles MacDonald, Commander of the 475th Fighter Group, credited with 27 confirmed kills. If you love the P-38, you'll like the book Fork-Tailed Devil, by Martin Caiden, the definitive book on the aircraft in all its versions.

I'd grown up around those old Stearmans - after the war they were being sold off for a few hundred bucks apiece. With some minor modifications, they made great crop dusters. With an engine upgrade, a set of proprietary wings with ailerons on both upper and lower wings for better control and maneuverability at low speed, Gulf Coast Dusting Company eventually grew to 26 aircraft and had a warehouse of over 400 Continental engines formerly built to power versions of the Sherman tank. My uncle and his crew extended the crankshaft (orginally too short to accept a prop) rebuilding and selling engines to most of the agricultural aircraft community for years. It was kind of a monopoly, because welding on that crank meant the aircraft had to be licensed as "Experimental", but back in the day, so were ALL 'dusters. He did sell a few to airboat operators - man those things were monsters.

As a joke, one of his aircraft did not have the hoppers or tanks installed for dusting or spraying - it was configured as a 2-seater with dual controls then finished out as the "executive" aircraft in the company colors of black and silver - with the name "Dilbert" painted on the cowling. The aircraft was an excellent trainer, and almost indestructible - as befits something a newb is going to try to fly. But the Stearman's long prop necessitated long landing gear that were pretty closely spaced. It took all your concentration not to ground loop the thing on landing.

Ten years ago I was in Lafayette, Louisiana restaurant during a local oil show, when I ran onto the pilots of the Red Baron Pizza aerial demonstration team who were performing nearby with their squadron of Stearmans. We had a great evening over dinner - and I got to hear the familiar stories of the adventures of flying "The Yellow Peril" all over again.

Now that you ask, I don't know if my instructor knew Bong or McGuire, but I'm sure their names were often mentioned during our bouts of hanger flying when weather closed the field. Oddly enough we all met Pappy Boyington who briefly owned a small flying service near what is now Pearland Regional Airport just a few miles away. He'd achieved ace status at the controls of a F4U Corsair, and as the commander of the notorious "Black Sheep Squadron".

Pappy flew a J2 Cub in for some minor engine work on a Saturday morning, and when I dashed out to the strip to see him land, he waved me on board in the front seat. Then to my amzement he had me taxi him to the ramp. I couldn't have been much more than 12 and simultaneously seeing over the instrument panel and getting my feet on the rudder pedals was a challenge. What a treat for a shirt-tail kid! Me! Chauffeuring the legendary Marine ace as he patiently talked me through the process with the little airplane's unfamiliar controls and tapping me on the shoulders when he wanted to turn or stop. I learned later he had a reputation as an obstreperous drunk, but that day, he was the greatest guy I'd ever met.
are you talking about the GULF COAST DUSTING on allison road in houston?
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Old 06-15-13, 11:57 AM   #14
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Indeed I am! My uncle Bill owned the company and eventually sold the place to Mel Powers, a wealthy and colorful real-estate tycoon who was supposedly mixed up in the 1964 Jacques Mossler murder case. Powers was said to be part of the plot to kill the multi-millionaire Mossler at the behest of his trophy wife, Candy, who then allegedly repaid Powers with millions for doing away with his uncle Jacques. A flamboyant and very expensive attorney, Percy Foreman, got Mel and Candy off, but the case remains part of Houston's scandalous past. http://www.aolnews.com/2010/10/19/my...-estate-mogul/

Powers wanted the airstrip for his fledgling helicopter business after his legal problems were resolved. "Powers Air" went broke in only a few years, but the building Bill used as his warehouse still stands on the property with "Powers Air" still faintly visible on the roof. I drove by there a few months ago, and the property, after many years of abandonment, has passed to a trucking company. A tornado destroyed most of the hangars that lined the runway, and the shops were eventually torn down. After his retirement and the passing of his wife, Bill moved to a beach community at Palacios, chartering his trawler yacht "Compadre" in the Gulf and Caribbean. Toward the end of his life, he moved to an eldercare facility near St. Louis to be near his daughter and her family, and passed away 20 years ago.

One of the problems with the location of that little airfield was its proximity to what is now Houston Hobby Airport. Back when Gulf Coast Dusting was flying out of the field, they'd call the tower at Hobby and controllers would work the 'dusters into the traffic pattern. It seems that a NORDO aircraft popping up unannounced on radar only a couple miles from their runway caused the Hobby controllers no end of clenched glutes. For that reason, and today's strict control of terminal airspace, it's doubtful if that little 1,500 ft. grass strip off Allison Road will ever be used again.
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Old 06-15-13, 05:34 PM   #15
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Indeed I am! My uncle Bill owned the company and eventually sold the place to Mel Powers, a wealthy and colorful real-estate tycoon who was supposedly mixed up in the 1964 Jacques Mossler murder case. Powers was said to be part of the plot to kill the multi-millionaire Mossler at the behest of his trophy wife, Candy, who then allegedly repaid Powers with millions for doing away with his uncle Jacques. A flamboyant and very expensive attorney, Percy Foreman, got Mel and Candy off, but the case remains part of Houston's scandalous past. http://www.aolnews.com/2010/10/19/my...-estate-mogul/

Powers wanted the airstrip for his fledgling helicopter business after his legal problems were resolved. "Powers Air" went broke in only a few years, but the building Bill used as his warehouse still stands on the property with "Powers Air" still faintly visible on the roof. I drove by there a few months ago, and the property, after many years of abandonment, has passed to a trucking company. A tornado destroyed most of the hangars that lined the runway, and the shops were eventually torn down. After his retirement and the passing of his wife, Bill moved to a beach community at Palacios, chartering his trawler yacht "Compadre" in the Gulf and Caribbean. Toward the end of his life, he moved to an eldercare facility near St. Louis to be near his daughter and her family, and passed away 20 years ago.

One of the problems with the location of that little airfield was its proximity to what is now Houston Hobby Airport. Back when Gulf Coast Dusting was flying out of the field, they'd call the tower at Hobby and controllers would work the 'dusters into the traffic pattern. It seems that a NORDO aircraft popping up unannounced on radar only a couple miles from their runway caused the Hobby controllers no end of clenched glutes. For that reason, and today's strict control of terminal airspace, it's doubtful if that little 1,500 ft. grass strip off Allison Road will ever be used again.
i remember bill....my dad used to work for bill at that shop...bill sent him to A&P school and my dad went on to become the best radial engine mechanic in the world....i was a kid back then and spent my childhood tearing down the engines in the back.....sandblasting...painting....even rebuilding magnetos....i do remember powers air also....but as i remember it bill sold the business to my dad....i think my dad in turn sold most of if not all of the tank engines to pete jones of air repair....like i said i was a kid and dont know the details but im pretty sure bill sold it off to my dad.....my dad leased out the warehouse to helicopter outfits in the houston area...of course i cant ask my dad any of these questions as he died in 2002 but i did a search and the trucking company there shows to be owned by power air properties with their DOT number current as of 2012....do you have any old picks of the shop and duster from back then?
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