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Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 09/11/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
The Fairey Gannet was a dedicated anti-submarine platform primarily serving the Fleet Air Arm of the British Royal Navy during the Cold War years. She was an aircraft design originating from a 1945 British Admiralty initiative (GR.17/45) requiring an advanced, carrier-based, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) platform. Both Fairey Aviation Company and Blackburn Aircraft responded with prototypes "Fairey 17" and "B-54" respectively. Both were of outwardly similar design, sporting conventional monoplane wings, stout reinforced airframes, internal bomb bays and a tricycle undercarriage. The "gannet" name was derived from the species of large seabirds common to the North Atlantic, the southern regions of Africa and the South Pacific (near Australia and New Zealand). Their predatory nature is such that they dive, at speed, upon unsuspecting prey in the water and can continue the chase of said prey while remaining submerged.
The Blackburn B-54 featured a piston engine while the follow-up prototype, the B-88, was fitted with a gas-powered turbine engine driving a large-radius contra-rotating propeller system. The internal bomb bay was affixed to the underside of the fuselage. The pilot and his observer sat in tandem under a framed canopy. The empennage was conventional, featuring a single vertical tail fin with a pair of horizontal planes. A radar scanner was mounted under the base of the empennage in a cylindrical fitting and was retractable into the fuselage. First flight was recorded on September 20th, 1949. Only three Blackburn prototypes were produced in all before the program was shelved in favor of the Fairey product.
The Fairey design (attributed to engineer H.E. Chaplin) made use of the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba gas-turbine engine in a dual configuration arrangement earning the pair the collective name of "Twin Mamba" or "Double Mamba". The arrangement showcased the engines in a side-by-side seating coupled to a single gearbox and powering contra-rotating propellers fitted to the nose of the aircraft. The engines exhausted from oblong ports along the sides of the fuselage, just above and aft of the wing trailing edges. The aircraft could be flown on just one engine in the event of a failure or to conserve fuel and could also operate with kerosene or diesel fuel as opposed to the more volatile high-octane fuel common to carrier piston engine aircraft of the time. The initial crew complement included the pilot, seated in the forward cockpit, and an observer, seated in a rear cockpit just aft of the pilot. Like the Blackburn design, the Fairey 17 also sported a retractable radome assembly under the base of the tail and an internal bomb bay compartment under the fuselage. The wings were cranked upwards outboard of the main landing gear legs. As the design was intended to be fielded from British carriers, the wings were designed to fold for optimal storage space the assemblies took on a very distinct "Z" shape as a result, folding at two hinged locations and effectively "stacking" the wing vertically upon itself. The nose landing gear leg of the tricycle undercarriage gave the aircraft a distinct "nose up" appearance when at rest.
After the prototype was developed, the design was slightly revised to include a third crewmember as an additional observer. This added a third segregated cockpit to the layout, set just aft of amidships behind the wing yet ahead of the tail assembly. Of course this addition was not without effect and it was found to disrupted the airflow along the stabilizers on the tail forcing the use of small "finlets" along the fuselage sides aft of the wing assemblies to counter the issue. First flight of the Fairey 17 occurred on September 19th, 1949. On June 19th, 1950, the prototype made her first evaluation landing on the deck of the HMS Illustrious carrier. Content with the results, British authorities ordered the type for production as the Fairey "Gannet" AS Mark 1 (AS.Mk I) before the end of 1953. Deliveries of the first 100 aircraft began in April of 1954. That same year, a modified trainer variant was flown and accepted, entering service in 1955 as the T Mark 2 (T.Mk II). The first Gannet squadron for the Fleet Air Arm became 826 NAS, stationed on the HMS Eagle.
Production ran from 1953 until 1959 to which 348 examples were ultimately delivered by Fairey.
The AS Mark 1 (AS.Mk I) was the primary 3-seat production model of which 180 examples were built. The T Mark 2 (T.Mk II) became the primary training variant of the AS 1 production model. 35 of this type were produced. The AS Mark 4 (AS.Mk 4) soldiered on as an improved anti-submarine platform with a revised engine featuring greater output and was essentially the 170th production model onwards of the AS.Mk I. Eighty-two examples were produced. The COD Mark 4 (COD.Mk 4) were AS.Mk 4 production models revised for use as carrier-based transport aircraft. The T Mark 5 (T.Mk 5) was the trainer version of the AS.Mk 4 production model though only eight of this type were delivered. The A.Mk 6 were AS.Mk 4 models fitted with new and improved radar systems and revised electronics. The ECM.Mk 6 was an electronic countermeasures (ECM) land-based Gannet variant. The last production Gannet became the AEW.Mk 3 utilized by the Royal Navy as an airborne early warning (AEW) platform beginning in 1958. Forty-four examples of this type were ultimately built with first flight recorded on August of 1958. AEW.Mk 3 equipped four flights of No. 849 Squadron.
By the middle of the 1960s, the Fairey Gannet series - and its respective tasks - was being replaced by the Westland Whirlwind series of land- and carrier-based helicopters. The primary role of the Gannet now shifted wholly to use as electronic countermeasures platforms while some were revised as dedicated transports for passengers and cargo alike. It was about this time that the system was purchased by foreign parties including Australia, West Germany and Indonesia. The last of the Fairey Gannets was retired for good on December 15th, 1978, ending her long, yet useful, tenure for multiple naval parties.
The largest operator of the Fairey Gannet was the Fleet Air Arm of the British Royal Navy. The type was fielded through 700, 703, 703X, 719, 724, 725, 737, 744, 796, 810, 812, 814, 815, 816, 817, 820, 824, 825, 826, 831, 847, 849 Naval Air Squadrons. There was also B Flight on the HMS Ark Royal and D Flight on the HMS Eagle as well as the 1840 Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
The Fairey Gannet was operated by the 724, 725, 816 and 817 squadrons of the Royal Australian Navy. The German Navy also operated the type with Marinefliegergeschwader 2 and Marinefliegergeschwader 3 up until 1963 and 1966 respectively. The aircraft was purchased in small quantities by the Indonesian Navy as well.
The Fairey Band is one of the most successful contesting brass bands in the world. Founded in 1937 by a group of employees at the Fairey Aviation Works in Stockport, the
band achieved many musical successes under the brilliant direction of Harry Mortimer, their Musical Director for over thirty years. Since those early days, the band has won every elite band event on the contest calendar, including the National Championships of Great Britain on nine occasions and the British Open an incredible 16 times.
In the early-mid 1990s, the band enjoyed the most successful period in its history, winning both the British Open and National titles in 1993, before going on to become the first band ever to complete the ‘treble’ when they were crowned European Champions in 1994. The band is also extremely proud of its successes at the annual Whit Friday marches – whilst the band took the coveted Saddleworth title most recently in 2015, its most notable performance was in 1987 when they achieved ten first prizes, two second prizes and a third prize of the 13 contests that they attended!
Although contest results have been an important factor in Fairey’s reputation as one of the world’s leading brass bands, the band is also renowned for its unique ‘Fairey sound’, a feature that has become synonymous with the famous name. The band is highly regarded for bringing a ‘touch of class’ to its concert performances and is therefore in constant demand for concerts, both at home and abroad. Overseas tours have included performances in Canada, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Since its formation, the band has worked with an illustrious line-up of conductors including Harry Mortimer, Leonard Lamb, Kenneth Dennison, Richard Evans, Walter Hargreaves, Geoffrey Brand, Major Peter Parkes, Roy Newsome, James Gourlay, Howard Snell, Allan Withington, Russell Gray and Garry Cutt. Most recently, the band has appointed Adam Cooke as their musical director in their continued drive for musical excellence on both the concert and contest stage.
The band has always welcomed innovation and in recent years has enjoyed further recognition outside the confines of the Brass Band movement, with its involvement in the ‘Acid Brass’ project. Under this banner, the band has been able to display its versatility in adapting to a very different musical concept and consequently, has performed in rock/pop festivals in the UK and overseas, bringing brass bands to a new audience.
The Band has always maintained its association with the ‘Fairey’ company, now known simply as WFEL, which provided sponsorship until 2002. After a spell of other sponsors, the band is delighted to once again have the support of its founder company. The band still rehearses at the factory in Heaton Chapel. Having survived various name changes, as the company changed hands over the years – Williams Fairey and Williams Holdings among others – these days the band is proud to revert to its roots and be known as The Fairey Band or, as is more commonly used in banding circles, Fairey’s.
Along with the Messerschmitt Me 109, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 made up the bulk of the German Air Force fighter strength during World War II. When it first came on the scene, it was superior to the Supermarine Spitfire Mk V, much to the astonishment of the British pilots. The Fw 190 was continually upgraded during the war, capable as a dogfighter and interceptor, as well as a fighter-bomber.
The Hawker Typhoon was originally intended to replace the Hawker Hurricane as a frontline fighter. It was outclassed by many German aircraft, however. It soon found its niche and became an excellent ground attack aircraft with the ability to carry rockets and bombs as part of its payload.
Juan Antonio Llantada's Red Ercoupe 415-D (PI-C331), taken at Hda. Refugio Airstrip, Menchaca Hermanos, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, Philippines in the 1950s. Photo provided by Andoni Valencia.
Filipino Ercoupe and Pilots
Juan Antonio Llantada's Red Ercoupe 415-D (PI-C331). With him are fellow pilots. Taken at Hda. Refugio Airstrip, Menchaca Hermanos, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, Philippines taken in the 1950s. Photo provided by Andoni Valencia.
Filipino Ercoupe and Pilot
This an Ercoupe 415-C (registration PI-C331) owned by Juan Antonio M. Llantada. The picture was taken in the 1950's at their private airstrip in Hacienda Refugio, Menchaca Hermanos, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, Philippines. During afternoons they would fly the Ercoupe around the hacienda, nearby islands and the city just for a hobby. During that time the Menchaca's were the only one who owned an Ercoupe in the entire city. Note the Aeromatic self-adjusting prop on this Coupe. Photo provided by Andoni Valenci.
This an Ercoupe 415-D (registration PI-C44) owned by Isaias S. Menchaca. The picture was taken in the Hacienda Refugio airstrip of Menchaca Hermanos in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, Philippines. He is a former member of the Bacolod City Flying Club. Photo provided by Andoni Valencia.
This an a view of the Engineering Research Corporation (ERCO) factory floor in College Park, Maryland. This picture was probably taken in 1946 when the factory was running three shifts a day to produce over 4000 Ercoupes in that year.
Chet Czerniak's Coupe
Chet Czerniak's Aircoupe as it was back about 1960. The picture was taken at Orange County Airport, now known as John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana California. The pilot is Chester Czerniak who now lives in Tombstone, Arizona.
First ride in N939928 on May 8, 1951
Ken Weller writes: I was just sending an English flying acquaintance the only photo I seem to have of my father's Ercoupe (friend was not familiar with them). I was so disappointed with my photo that just before the send I was inspired to try a wildshot: www.ercoupe.com, and was astonished to see your lovely site. I don't have time at the moment to write much more, but I will shove the photo through as an attachment and say my father's name was Newton Weller, flying out of Iowa City in the late 40s, early 50s. At one time he had two, one of which he personally converted to night instrumentation and aluminum wings. He used to take me down to the Link Trainer in the U. of Iowa Physics Building basement when he was learning night flying. Then he flew it across the States and back. He and I did a few trips when I was a young teenager and had a few adventures as well (I sail, I don't fly). I'm at the top of the photo behind the RDF antenna -- others are the rest of the family, Newt in the cockpit of course, doffing his Hamburg.
SOS Seasons Greetings Card
I bought this picture off of eBay. Based on the hand written inscription it appears to be a Christmas card from Mr. and Mrs. William E. Schmidt. On the back is written: Hi, Doug -- Judy and Iggy prefer the Ercoupe for sending Seasons Greetings flying your way. There is no date but the cars in the background look to date from the 1940s so I suspect their Ercoupe was fairly new at the time.
Early Ercoupe Instrument Panel
This appears to be a very early Coupe panel as the yokes are not the standard ones later used on 'Coupes (as well as early Cessna taildraggers and several other planes of the era).
John Travolta's Ercoupe
Picture of John Travolta in his Ercoupe from the Welcome Back Kotter days. I believe this was his first airplane.
Ercoupe on floats in color
According to Syd Cohen: From all that I have read in A Touch of Class and From The Ground Up, these photos are of the test airplane. After flying it in many areas, with many water landings, ERCO realized that the SeaCoups would have to have its rudders independent from the ailerons so it could be kicked straight when landing crosswind in canals or rivers. It could not touch down in a crab because it might flip. Due to this, before certifying the airplane for EDO floats, the CAA required a spin test. The plane was flown to Arizona, in my recollection, and spun there. As the old EDO guy said, the plane wouldn't come out of the spin (apparently due to the pendulum effect of the floats) and the test pilot bailed out. I don't know of any other Coupe that was flown with floats other than that test airplane.
Ercoupe on Straight Floats
Flying over New York City. Photo provided by Bob Ellis.
Ralph Arendt's Ercoupe
Ralph wrote: I chanced upon the Ercoupe.com web site and there on the home page was your 2679H. For a second, I thought it was my old Ercoupe 2479H (S/N 3103) which I sold in 1957 for $1,600. I loved that airplane having flown it solo all over the country. You have a beautiful airplane and it sure brought back good memories. I still have my instruction manual and service manual. I was living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at the time of the picture. I`m now 91 years old and have often wondered whatever happened to it as 2479H is no longer listed on an Ercoupe.
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HMS Furious was a modified Courageous class "large light cruiser" (an extreme form of battlecruiser) converted into an early aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy.
Photographed when first completed in 1917, with a single 18-inch gun aft and flying-off deck forward.
In a British port in 1918, after she had been fitted with a landing-on deck aft.
Photographed in 1918, with palisade windbreaks raised on her flying-off deck, forward.
Photographed in 1918, with palisade windbreaks raised on her flying-off deck, forward, and an airplane just behind her crash barrier, aft of the funnel.
Photographed in 1918, moored to a buoy.
With her crew manning the rails in 1918.
Photographed in 1918, with two airplanes on her landing-on deck, aft of the funnel.
View on her flying-off deck in 1918, looking forward from the bridge area.
View on her landing-on deck, looking forward from the stern, in 1918.
Photographed soon after completion of her 1921-1925 reconstruction.
Photographed after completion of her reconstruction, circa 1925.
Photographed after reconstruction, circa 1925.
Photographed from astern on 23 November 1925, following reconstruction.
Photographed after reconstruction, circa 1926.
At sea, circa 1935–36, with a flight of Blackburn "Baffin" torpedo planes overhead.
Office of Naval Intelligence ship recognition drawing, depicting Furious as she appeared during World War II.
Sketch, possibly prepared by the Office of Naval Intelligence, showing her anticipated appearance after reconstruction, as understood in May 1923.
Fairey III-F aircraft on the flight deck, with Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel standing by, circa the late 1920s or early 1930s
Fairey III-F aircraft landing on board, circa the early 1930s. Note arresting gear wires, elevated rather high above the flight deck.
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