Hosho (Flying Phoenix)

Hosho (Flying Phoenix)

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Hosho (Flying Phoenix)

The Hosho was the first aircraft carrier to be built for the Imperial Japanese Navy, and was one of the few to survive the Second World War intact. When she entered service at the end of 1922 she was one of the first recognisably modern through-deck aircraft carriers, although she was not the first aircraft carrier to have been built as such from the keel up.

The Hosho was laid down on 16 December 1919 as the fleet auxiliary Hiryu, an oil tanker. In 1920 it was decided to complete her as a combined aircraft and seaplane carrier, and at this point she was renamed Hosho (Flying Phoenix). On 13 October 1921, exactly one month before the Hosho was launched she was redesignated as an Aircraft Depot Ship, and by the time she was completed on 16 December 1922 she had emerged as a through-deck aircraft carrier, capable of carrying 21 aircraft in her 300ft hanger.

When first built the Hosho had a small starboard-side island and three folding smoke stacks. These remained vertical during normal operations, but could be folded flat during flight operations. Both of these features were eventually modified. The island was found to interfere with aircraft operations on the narrow flight deck, and in 1923 it was removed. After that the ship was controlled from two platforms mounted just in front of the hanger. The view from these platforms was limited by the flight deck. After the Second World War, when the Hosho was being used as a repatriation ship, part of the forward flight deck was cut away to improve the view.

When she was built the Hosho was armed with four 5.5in/50 guns and two 3in antiaircraft guns mounted on the flight deck. By the mid 1930s it was clear that the antiaircraft armament was inadequate, and the 3in guns were replaced by twelve 13.2mm Hotchkiss antiaircraft machine guns in three quadruple mountings. In 1941 these were replaced by four double 25mm antiaircraft gun mountings, and in 1942 the main 5.5in guns were replaced by four more double 25mm mountings. Only six of these guns were still in place when the ship was handed over to the Americans at the end of the war.

The Hosho saw active service during the Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1940. From 1941 to the end of the Second World War she served as a training carrier, apart from during the battle of Midway, where she accompanied the battleships of the Main Body. After the war she was used for repatriation duties, before being broken up in 1947.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



21 when new
11 by 1939


551ft 5in max

Crew complement



13 November 1921


16 December 1922

Broken up



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Phoenix, in ancient Egypt and in Classical antiquity, a fabulous bird associated with the worship of the sun. The Egyptian phoenix was said to be as large as an eagle, with brilliant scarlet and gold plumage and a melodious cry. Only one phoenix existed at any time, and it was very long-lived—no ancient authority gave it a life span of less than 500 years. As its end approached, the phoenix fashioned a nest of aromatic boughs and spices, set it on fire, and was consumed in the flames. From the pyre miraculously sprang a new phoenix, which, after embalming its father’s ashes in an egg of myrrh, flew with the ashes to Heliopolis (“City of the Sun”) in Egypt, where it deposited them on the altar in the temple of the Egyptian god of the sun, Re. A variant of the story made the dying phoenix fly to Heliopolis and immolate itself in the altar fire, from which the young phoenix then rose.

The Egyptians associated the phoenix with immortality, and that symbolism had a widespread appeal in late antiquity. The phoenix was compared to undying Rome, and it appears on the coinage of the late Roman Empire as a symbol of the Eternal City. It was also widely interpreted as an allegory of resurrection and life after death—ideas that also appealed to emergent Christianity.

In Islamic mythology the phoenix was identified with the ʿanqāʾ (Persian: sīmorgh), a huge mysterious bird (probably a heron) that was originally created by God with all perfections but thereafter became a plague and was killed.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Matt Stefon, Assistant Editor.

An International Phenomenon

In the 1950s, �s and �s, triangular UFO reports hailed from across the U.S. and beyond. During the 1960s, at the height of Cold War UFO fever, mysterious flying triangles were reported over Connecticut, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas𠅊s well as London, Madrid and Czechoslovakia. In 1969, two National Guard pilots tailed a “triangular shaped object, 50 feet in diameter” for 20 minutes over San Juan, Puerto Rico, until they ran low on fuel and had to return to their base. Many of these incidents would be attributed by officials to atmospheric conditions, weather balloons or other everyday sources, but some remained unexplained.

An illustration depicting a triangle UFO.

Between 1983 and 1986, a notable rash of mass sightings occurred in New York’s Hudson Valley, some 50 miles north of New York City. One witness, Kevin Soravilla, a retired lieutenant from the Yorktown Police Department, described a huge, silent craft, 100 yards from wingtip to wingtip, hovering low, which banked and made a 45-degree turn before abruptly speeding off. Soravilla said he called Stewart Air Force Base in nearby Newburgh to determine whether one of its C-5 transport planes—then the world’s largest and heaviest aircraft—had been in the skies that night none had. Later that year, a hulking triangular UFO hovering over a stretch of New York’s Taconic Parkway prompted a huge traffic pile-up as scores of motorists stopped to get a better look. Similar incidents continued in the region for several years.

WATCH: Full episodes of Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation online now and tune in for all-new episodes Saturdays at 10/9c.

What Does the Phoenix Look Like?

The Phoenix was known to be one of the most beautiful and perfect creatures by those who recognized it – likely because the creature was associated with Paradise where all things are perfect. Most accounts of the Phoenix describe it as being red and yellow in coloration, though there are many variations. All that is known is that the appearance of the mighty bird was unlike any other and that it stood out because of is feathers.

In Greek mythology, there is also an association with the color purple – possibly because of their city, Phoenicia. The city of Phoenicia was known for their brilliant purple dyes that were used for royal robes. It is thought that giving this mythical creature the name ‘Phoenix’ is a way of referencing the purple coloration that could also be found in the bird’s feathers. Many works of art inspired by the Greek version of the myth show birds with brilliant yellow, red, and purple feathers.

There are also several variations on the eyes of the creature. Some sources claim that the eyes of the Phoenix are a brilliant shade of yellow, while others claim that they are like two shining sapphires.

All accounts of the bird emphasize the size of the creature, leading some to wonder if the Phoenix could have been inspired by a species of giant bird.

Additional Facts

There are also several variations in the myth of the Phoenix concerning the age at which the creature is reborn. Some legends claim that the bird lives up to 1,461 years, while others claim that the bird lived for 1,000 years. Other sources estimate the bird’s lifespan at a significantly smaller number.

Regardless of the version of the story that is being told, it appears that no records claim that the Phoenix dies before the age of 500 and the general cap for the life cycle of the mighty bird is typically less than 1,500 years. This can possibly be explained by the symbolism of the particular story in question and what the Phoenix was supposed to represent in the tale.

It was considered good luck in many cultures to spot a Phoenix. It was considered to signify that a good leader who was very wise had been given ruling power. It was also considered to be the sign of a new era.

The Phoenix was also known to have regenerative powers and was considered to be both invincible and immortal – excluding the end of its natural life cycle when it was necessary for the next Phoenix to be reborn. Because of this power, the Phoenix was known to be a symbol of fire and divinity that was often used by powerful leaders. The tears of the bird are also thought to have regenerative abilities that can be harnessed by humans. Additionally, new mythology concerning the Phoenix claims that it is impossible for a person to tell a lie if the creature is nearby.

Lastly, the Phoenix is known to have a different diet than the birds of this world. Instead of eating fruits and nuts, the Phoenix was said to have consumed frankincense and aromatic gums. It is unknown if this plays into to its impressive lifespan. The bird doesn’t collect normal herbs or spices until it is preparing for its cycle to come to an end and the new Phoenix to emerge. When it is time for this, the bird will gather cinnamon and myrrh to construct its funeral pyre, though it is unknown if it consumes either of these materials before its death.

Phoenix Bird Chinaware

According to Egyptian mythology, the phoenix bird lived in the Arabian desert for 500 to 600 years, consumed itself in fire, and then arose from the ashes to begin life anew. The phoenix became a symbol of immortality and long-life.

The phoenix has a variety of meanings for the Japanese—energy, harbinger of affection, friendship, and happiness, good fortune, and good government.

The Phoenix Bird pattern features a phoenix bird facing back over its left wing, its chest spotted, and its wings spread upward. Secondary patterns include the Mikado two crests—the underside of a chrysanthemum (kiku, in Japanese) and three leaves from blossoms of the Paulownia imperialis (kiri). Although produced primarily in blue and white, pieces have been found in celadon (green).

The 1914 and 196 catalogs of A. A. Vantine, Inc., a New York wholesale, are the first mention of Phoenix Bird Chinaware. Over 50 pieces are pictured. A 1921 Morimura Brothers’ New York catalog illustrated over 80 pieces of the Flying Dragon and Howo patterns. Wholesale orders contained a variety of Phoenix Bird patterns.

The Phoenix Bird pattern continues to appear on ceramics, glass, and other accessories.

The 1990s

Southwest inaugurated its first Boeing 737-500 in early 1990. The airline billed it as the newest, most technologically advanced, and quietest aircraft in the world at the time. In May 1990, the airline added its 100th airplane, also a Boeing 737-500.

Much of the early 1990s was devoted to growth. The airline inaugurated services to Baltimore– now one of the airline’s largest operating bases– and grew heavily in the Midwest and West Coast.

By the end of 1995, Southwest had 224 aircraft in its fleet and had grown its recognition in the United States. Continuing its trend from the previous decade, Southwest maintained high customer satisfaction.

By 1996, Southwest expanded further into the southeastern United States with new flights to Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando.

The airline also renamed “The Company Club” to the now-infamous “Rapid Rewards.” Later in 1996, the airline introduced the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Card.

In 1997, Congress enacted the Shelby Amendment. This provision to the Wright Amendment allowed flights from Dallas-Love to expand to Mississippi, Alabama, and Kansas. Also, in 1997, Southwest accepts its first Boeing 737-700 Next Generation. The airline is the launch customer for the type.

In 1999, Southwest added its 300th Boeing 737 as it continued to expand on the East Coast, adding services out of Connecticut and North Carolina. By the end of the year, the carrier had 312 aircraft in its fleet and flew over 840,000 trips that year.

The 𠆌ombat fatigue’ explanation

An illustration depicting the December 22, 1944 encounter with &aposfoo fighters&apos during a daylight bombing raid on Germany during World War II.

An Associated Press reporter broke news of the foo-fighter sightings on January 1st, 1945, and theories about their origins quickly abounded: The sightings were flares, or weather balloons or St. Elmo’s Fire𠅊 phenomenon where a light appears on the tips of objects in stormy weather. But the members of the 415th rejected all those theories. Flares and weather balloons can’t track planes like these objects could, and they𠆝 seen St. Elmo’s fire and could distinguish the two.

Then there were those who claimed that the airmen were suffering from 𠇌ombat fatigue,” a polite way of saying that war stress was driving them insane. But there was scant evidence to suggest collective psychosis: The 415th had an otherwise excellent record, and when a reporter for American Legion Magazine went to report on the squadron he described them as “very normal airmen, whose primary interest was combat, and after that came pin-up girls, poker, doughnuts and the derivatives of the grape.”

Lt. Krasney’s son, Keith Krasney, says his late father didn’t fit the stereotypical profile of a UFO theorizer. In fact, he never even suggested that the glowing wingless cigar-like object that flew next to his plane was extraterrestrial in origin.

“He was very level-headed, very analytical,” says Krasney of his father, adding that he kept a notebook where he wrote about (and drew) his foo-fighter sighting. But although he never seemed prone to conspiracy theories, Krasney says his father was open to one: “He entertained the idea that it could be late-breaking German technology. He did express the view that there were a lot of things during the war that were kept quiet.”

The featured image of the Sopwith Camels of the U.S. 148th American Aero Squadron at Petite Sythe (today part of Dunkirk), France, on 6 August 1918, is taken from the National Archives and is in the public domain.

The Sopwith Camel became one of the most iconic aircraft in WWI due to its well-earned reputations, both good and bad, with the pilots who flew it. Though the fighter pilots flying Sopwith Camels accounted for the most kills of any WWI aircraft (1,294 – an average of 76 kills a month for the 17 months it was in service) 3 , it also killed almost as many of its own pilots as the enemy did. 7 Unlike its predecessor, the Sopwith Pup, or the Boeing-Stearman biplane that would come out decades later, the Sopwith Camel was not a gentle instructor, but those pilots who became proficient behind its controls were the deadliest in the skies. In fact, Canadian fighter ace Roy Brown was flying a Sopwith Camel when he credited with shooting down Manfred von Richthofen – The Red Baron. 7 (Though Brown gets the credit, there is debate regarding who actually fired the shot that killed Richthofen, with many believing that it was most likely a shot fired from the ground. Not coincidentally, the Camel is also the airplane that comic strip beagle Snoopy imagines he flies when he faces off against his nemesis, the Red Baron.)

History of the Sopwith Camel

The Sopwith Pup was introduced in 1916 and though it had good maneuverability and “pleasant” 1 handling characteristics, it was quickly outclassed by German fighter planes like the Fokker Dr.I. 2 The engineers at Sopwith Aviation Company knew they needed to build a faster, more heavily armed fighter, and soon, the Sopwith Camel was introduced to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917. At first, the Camel was known to the troops as the “Big Pup,” but quickly earned the nickname Camel because of the hump created by the metal fairings over the guns to prevent them from freezing at high altitudes. 1

Captain GF Malley, Australian Flying Corps standing next to his Sopwith Camel in 1918. Image is in the public domain.

General Characteristics of the Sopwith Camel

The Sopwith Camel was a single-seat biplane with staggered (upper wing forward) wings of equal area, the lower of which featured a three-degree dihedral, whereas the top had none 1 . It featured conventional landing gear and was constructed wood with fabric covering, with some light alloy skinning over the fuselage toward the engine 4 .

The original Camel was armed with two 7mm Vickers machine guns that were synchronized to fire through the propeller (a feat of engineering that is still impressive, especially given the time) and had the ability to carry up to four 25 lb (11 kg) Cooper bombs fastened on a rack underneath the fuselage. 2 Other variants moved the position of the guns, some up to the wings, and experimental ground attack specific versions angled the guns downward for more effective strafing and added armor plating, but it never saw production.

Note: The specs provided are for the F.1 Sopwith Camel. 1, 4, 5

Empty Weight 930 lbs (421.84 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight 1453 lbs (659 kg)
Fuel Capacity 26-30 gallons
Wingspan 28 ft (8.53 m)
Length 18 ft 9 in (5.72 m)
Height 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Total Wing Area 231 sq.ft. (21.46 sq.m.)

Performance Specifications of the Sopwith Camel

The Sopwith Camel was initially powered by a 110 horsepower (82 kW) Clerget engine but was shortly upgraded to a 130 HP (96.9 kW) Clerget 9-cylinder rotary engine connected to a wooden two-blade propeller. The Clerget engine had a tendency to choke and quit if the fuel-air mixture was not properly leaned, and being fairly tail heavy in level flight, the Camel would tend to stall and spin without power. 5 Because of the Camels’ design, spins did not usually end well for the pilot.

Though there’s no specifics available regarding ground roll on takeoff and landing, warbird buffs seem to agree the takeoff distance for the Sopwith Camel to be no more than 700 or so feet, saying the WWI pilots would see a 1,000 foot-long (300 m) pasture as “the height of luxury” 7 . Recreations of the original Camel design can be seen in videos getting off the ground in less than that, but there’s no accounting for historical accuracy.

Maximum Speed 113 mph/98.2 kts (182 kmh)
Stall Speed 48 mph (77 km/h)
Range 300 miles (485 km)
Ceiling 19,000 ft (5791.2 m)
Climb Rate 1,085 ft/min (5.5 m/s)

Handling Characteristics of the Sopwith Camel

As mentioned earlier, the handling of the Sopwith Camel was less than pleasant. The fighter pilots who flew it said that it could get you three things a wooden cross, the Red Cross, or a Victoria Cross 1 . The Victoria Cross is the highest honor available in the United Kingdom, awarded for gallantry “in the face of the enemy” to members of the British armed forces. Luckily for Sopwith Camel pilots, it can be awarded posthumously.

I’m only slightly kidding. During WWI, 413 pilots died in combat, and 385 died from non-combat causes while flying a Sopwith Camel. 7 The biggest detriment to its handling was its intense torque and forward center of gravity.

“In practice, the Camel proved a handful to fly, particularly with novice pilots, so much so that it gained the nasty reputation of killing off the less-than-capable aviators.” 4

A Sopwith Camel coming in for landing on an aircraft carrier. Image from the British Air Ministry, under the public domain.

The Camel turned slowly to the left and put it into a nose-up attitude, which then caused sinkage and bled off the airspeed. 1 Contrarily, its right-hand turns were a sight to behold. The powerful torque caused the Camel to turn right sharply, and it tended to end up in a nose-down attitude, which increased airspeed. According to some sources, 1 the Sopwith Camel turned so much faster to the right that pilots who had to turn left would choose to do a 270-degree turn to the right.

However, the powerful torque created by the Clerget engine and the forward positioned center of gravity that killed off the pilots also gave them the advantage of quick, sharp right-hand turns which could prove beneficial in close-quarters dogfights. 4

Variants of the F.1 Sopwith Camel

In addition to the original Sopwith Camel model, the F.1, there were five variants, including experimental models. The two most interesting and influential of which were the 2F.1 Ship Camel and the Comic Night Fighter Camel.

The 2F.1 Ship Camel

The Ship variant was designed to launch from the decks of aircraft carriers, and were modified to include a more dramatic lower-wing dihedral (5.5 degrees), floatation bags inside the rear fuselage, one of the Vickers guns replaced with an overwing Lewis gun, and a fuselage made two parts, which allowed it to be separated and stowed on a ship 8 . Experiments using the 2F.1 Camel as a parasite fighter were also conducted in 1918 but didn’t come to fruitition. 1

The Comic Camel

The Comic night fighter variant on the Sopwith Camel was designed to defend the home front against the Germans night raids. This Camel was modified significantly. The pilot sat farther back, and the two Vickers guns were replaced with twin Lewis guns fixed to the upper wing, which could fire incendiary ammunition without blinding the pilot.

Final Thoughts on the Sopwith Camel

Unfortunately, there are only eight surviving Sopwith Camels, none of which are for sale. They cost approximately $2,300 back in 1917, and inflation skyrockets that to around $163,000. 7 You could probably quintuple that to account for historical and collector value, and that might still be too low of an asking price. Companies like Airdrome Aeroplanes design kits for replica WWI aircraft, and if you’re just itching to own a Camel of your own, you can now build a very historically accurate one. The kit is available for just under $14,000 (no engine included) for those history buffs out there.

The Sopwith Camel was an intimidating airplane to many new pilots, and for very good reasons. Luckily for the Allies, it was more dangerous to their enemies than it was to their own pilots. The surviving eight remain ground-bound in rightfully earned museum displays, 6 but their impact on the war effort is felt to this day. Without the Sopwith Camel and the brave pilots who managed to fly them, the world might be a very different place.

Resources and References :

3 – Sopwith Camel, The Learning History Site, Retrieved 7-11-17

4 – Sopwith Camel Single-Seat Biplane Fighter Aircraft, Military Factory, Retrieved 7-10-17

6 – Sopwith Camel, National Naval Aviation Museum, Retrieved 7-10-17

8 – Sopwith 2F.1 Ship’s Camel, Their Flying Machines, Retrieved 7-09-17

The Life and Accomplishments of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker

Rickenbacker proved himself as a determined pilot, and he graduated after training for 17 days. His first assignment was as a lieutenant for the 94th Aero Squadron, a team based out of Toul, in France.

Flight of the River Phoenix

Hard to know which is worse: running out of gas over water in a landplane or doing it in a flying boat over a jungle, but in March 1939, crewmen of a four-engine Imperial Airways Short Empire flying boat found them- selves with exactly that Hobson’s choice. Utterly lost over East Africa with just 15 minutes’ fuel remaining, they fortunately found a small, remote river barely wider than the airplane’s wingspan and managed to at least land.

Thus began a little-known epic of aircraft recovery—but let’s back up a bit.

In the late 1930s, the British had developed a short-lived but effective way to stitch together their far-flung empire, much of which lay the length of Africa, plus the vast subcontinent of India and the island continent Australia. Mail, particularly, needed to move between these outliers and the home islands, so commerce and government could function. Passengers as well, but they were the icing on the air transport cake. So Imperial Airways (later to become British Overseas Airways Corporation—BOAC—and ultimately today’s British Airways) had contracted with seaplane builders Short Brothers to develop a flying boat that was roughly comparable to America’s better-known and substantially larger Pan Am Clipper, the Boeing 314.

Shorts called them Empires, but Imperial dubbed them their C-class aircraft, and each was given a name beginning with C. Our unfortunate lost boy was dubbed Corsair.

On March 14, 1939, Corsair had taken off at first light from the vast inland sea of Lake Victoria, northbound from South Africa to Southampton, England, on what was normally a five-day trip. What followed was a spectacularly inept piece of aviating, never mind that the captain in charge was Edward Alcock, younger brother of the sainted Sir John Alcock, one of the two pilots who participated in the first-ever nonstop transatlantic flight.

Soon after its second takeoff of the day, bound for Juba, in the Sudan, from a Ugandan harbor also on Lake Victoria, Alcock the younger had gone aft for a lie-down, leaving a first officer, a radio operator and an autopilot in charge. When Alcock came back two hours later, reports have it that the copilot was lounging with his feet up on the panel, Sparks had his headset casually cocked over one ear and George was doing the flying.

“So where are we, then?” Alcock asked. “Take a bearing on Juba.”

“Huh. We’ve already passed it,” said the radioman after checking the DF needle’s swing.

In fact they were flying steadily away from Juba, having for some reason headed northwest after takeoff rather than north. History has placed the blame on a direction-finding radio that was improperly replaced by technicians at their last overnight stop, but in fact the finger points straight at lazy crewmen who apparently never bothered to correlate their heading with a course line on a chart. To them, situational awareness seems to have meant knowing the way to the hotel bar.

They were supposed to land on the White Nile, a major river that should at some point have appeared under them, pointing toward their destination. But below them now was unbroken jungle and rapidly increasing fog.

For two more hours, Corsair stumbled back and forth across the void, hoping to find something recognizable. At least they spied what later turned out to be the little-known Dungu River in the Belgian Congo.

Alcock somewhat redeemed himself by putting Corsair down on the Dungu, barely wider than the boat’s wingspan, but he hit a submerged boulder on the runout, putting a 26-foot gash in the hull. With Corsair about to sink, Alcock powered the aircraft onto the steep riverbank and held it there long enough for his crew to chop a hole in the fuselage to let the 13 passengers out onto relatively dry land. (Some had been asleep, and Alcock decided neither to wake them nor to let the others know they were about to land, perhaps out of embarrassment.) Then the flying boat slid back down into the shallow, muddy river, as its waters flooded the fuselage.

Though Corsair was a bargain by jet airliner standards, a replacement aircraft would have cost the equivalent of $3.8 million in today’s dollars. But that was irrelevant. Shorts wasn’t making any more Empire boats. With the prospect of war looming, the company was then totally committed to manufacturing Stirling bombers and Sunderlands—essentially heavily militarized and uprated Empire boats for Coastal Command. Corsair needed to come home under its own power.

Shorts sent a 26-year-old engineer, Hugh Gordon, with a team of mechanics to haul Corsair ashore and patch its hull. It was an enormous job that required hundreds of native laborers and, ultimately, involved constructing a village to house the recovery team. That settlement is known to this day as Corsairville. (Gordon’s 2009 obituary in one UK newspaper reported that “Gordon and his team had to eat snake sandwiches, and Gordon remembered the local Belgian health official being carried through on a sedan chair, followed by his African mistress, who was carrying a tin kettle and naked but for a trilby hat.”)

After spending three months drilling thousands of rivet holes by hand and patching the hull, the crew refloated the flying boat. Alcock fired up Corsair and thundered off down the river.

This time it was serious. The Dungu had passed its flood stage and was getting increasingly shallow, more a swamp than a river. Congo weather would ruin the flying boat before the water was again high enough for the twice-repaired Corsair to attempt yet another takeoff. So an Imperial Airways civil engineer, George Halliday, was sent down from Cairo to dam the Dungu and create an artificial lake.

On January 13, 1940, 10 months to the day after Corsair first force-landed, the battered boat was ready for one more try. Halliday’s dam had begun to collapse during the night, and the water level was growing dangerously low. But now Imperial had its top pilot in the left seat, Irishman John C. Kelly-Rogers. (Kelly-Rogers got all the important assignments. There’s a famous photo of Winston Churchill in the left seat of a BOAC Boeing 314, a cigar the length of a Coney Island hot dog clamped in his jaws, headset atop his balding dome and the flying boat’s enormous yoke in his hands as he makes a stab at flying the Clipper. Kelly-Rogers was the captain on that flight, from Virginia to Bermuda. He’d of course left his copilot in the right seat, having quietly ordered him to make control corrections only if the prime minister did anything dumb.)

“When we started,” Kelly-Rogers recalled, “the river was only 50 yards wide and Corsair spanned 38 yards. We took careful soundings, adjusted the load and let her go. When she started lifting, I knew somehow we were going to make it. But I don’t think anyone else did.”

In the end, Imperial Airways got its money’s worth. Refurbished, Corsair soldiered on, eventually in BOAC livery, until the big flying boat was scrapped in January 1947. It was a relic of an era that long-range landplanes and concrete runways had ended forever—but it also remains a symbol of one of the most remarkable aircraft salvage efforts ever undertaken.

For further reading, frequent contributor Stephan Wilkinson suggests Corsairville: The Lost Domain of the Flying Boat, by Graham Coster.

Originally published in the March 2013 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.

It’s so hot in Phoenix that airplanes can’t fly

There are certain truths that accompany summer in Phoenix: Triple-digit temperatures persist well past sundown. It’s not considered abnormal to drive with oven mitts or ice packs in the car. And after a certain threshold, even the “it’s a dry heat” jokes cease being funny.

Usually, the hot season is met with a certain amount of pearl-clutching disbelief by people outside of Arizona. Meanwhile, locals shrug, knowing simply to stay indoors as much as possible or escape to the cooler climes of Northern Arizona.

But this week has felt different, even for seasoned desert-dwellers. As the Capital Weather Gang reported, the Southwest is experiencing its worst heat wave in decades. Excessive heat warnings have been in effect from Arizona to California and will be for the remainder of the week.

How hot has it been? On Monday, temperatures in Phoenix hit 118 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, which announced the record-tying heat against a stock image of a flaming ball of fire.

On Tuesday, Phoenix recorded its fourth-hottest day ever, reaching 119 degrees.

To mark the occasion, the National Weather Service in Phoenix helpfully offered the following advice:

“At least we weren’t in Death Valley today,” NWS Phoenix said on Twitter, noting that Tuesday’s national high, in the California desert, was 127. “Still, tomorrow will be hot again … ”

On Wednesday, officially the first day of summer, the forecast for Phoenix is “sunny and hot, with a high near 117,” according to the National Weather Service.

It’s been so hot that even veteran local meteorologists are appending their tweets with #makeitstop.

And it was so hot that dozens of flights have been canceled this week at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

American Airlines alerted its customers over the weekend, offering fee-free changes to upcoming flights that were departing or arriving at Phoenix between 3 and 6 p.m., when temperatures peak.

Monday and Tuesday, the Fort Worth-based airline canceled 50 flights in and out of Phoenix, according to American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein. Delays were expected for at least seven more flights to Sky Harbor on Tuesday, he said.

Regional flights on American Eagle were the most affected, because they use Bombardier CRJ planes that can only operate at temperatures of 118 degrees or below, Feinstein said. Flights on larger Airbus and Boeing planes were not canceled because they are able to operate at higher maximum temperatures: 127 degrees for Airbus and 126 degrees for Boeing.