Thursday, September 11, 2014

An Earlier September 11th...

Approximately 5PM, Friday, September 11th, 1942...

Curtiss test pilot Jack Bertrand Purnell is behind the stick of a brand new P-40 Warhawk on a routine acceptance flight high above Curtiss Plant #2 at the Buffalo Municipal Airport in Cheektowaga, NY. All seems to be going well on this test hop until, roughly quarter past the hour, smoke begins to seep into the cockpit... then flame.


Jack Purnell...

Original image: The Buffalo History Gazette


Purnell does what he can to try to extinguish the fire but is unsuccessful. The heat, growing in intensity, becomes unbearable and he decides that it's time to hit the silk. He rolls the ship over onto its back, pulls the emergency release for the canopy, unstraps himself from the seat, and falls clear of the burning pursuit ship. Purnell is able to deploy his Irvin parachute, in spite of the agony he is suffering from the burns he has received, and begins a slow descent to the ground, eventually coming down near the intersection of Walden and Union Roads.

From: Lockport Union-Sun and Journal, September 12th, 1942
via fultonhistory.com


Meanwhile, the flaming Warhawk that Purnell has just abandoned flies on erratically for a few minutes... observers on the ground report that the ship went through several loops and other wild maneuvers, shedding a piece of itself in the process (later discovered to be the drop tank) before finally plummeting toward Earth, and crashing into the nest from which it was hatched... Curtiss Plant #2.


Your blogmeister is not certain which variant of the P-40 Purnell was flying at the time, but it was probably either a P-40F or a P-40K. Shown here is an early production P-40F with Curtiss test pilot Herb Fisher behind the stick.

Project 914 Archives (S.Donacik collection)


The aircraft struck the building's roof at an angle, shearing the wings off, while the mass of the engine carried the fuselage on through and into the workspace below, in the area of the tool crib. The impact produced a shower of shrapnel and gasoline... the latter igniting immediately in "a blinding flash", as one of the workers described it. The engine buried itself three feet into the concrete, while the disintegrating fuselage slid roughly 60 feet across the floor, continuing to spray the area with flaming gasoline, which accounted for the majority of the casualties.


From: Buffalo Courier Express, September 12th, 1942
via fultonhistory.com


This photo was taken sometime during 1943 and in a different area of Plant #2 from that in which Purnell's ship came down, but we include it here simply to give ya'll a glimpse of how the inside of this place might have looked on the day... just moments before the chaos.

Project 914 Archives (S.Donacik collection)



A total of fourteen people died as result of the accident, two of whom, Francis Ryan and Samuel Shalala, were killed instantly upon the plane's impact.

via the Buffalo History Gazette


In all, there were thirty-four others injured including the pilot, Jack Purnell.

via the Buffalo History Gazette


In the moments immediately following the crash bedlam undoubtedly ruled... but, by all accounts we've come across, the folks at Curtiss, especially the medical personnel and those of the air raid precaution teams, bounced back quickly and performed admirably in the face of what must have been a terrifying scene of utter horror.

Speaking of the accounts we've come across, contained in the images below is the full coverage given to this incident the following day by both the Buffalo Courier Express and North Tonawanda Evening News.

We shall let them tell the rest of the story...



All full newspaper pages: fultonhistory.com


Please check out this article on The Buffalo History Gazette's website. When your blogmeister first began digging online many years ago for info about this accident, that article was pretty much all he could find. Although it is mostly a transcription of excerpts from the Courier Express coverage, it does contain some unique material not found elsewhere... including a link to scans of a booklet that was distributed during a religious mass that was conducted in memory and honor of the victims. In addition, some of the comments made in response to the article are quite informative in their own right.


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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It Ain't Air Force One...

...but it's pretty dang groovy, just the same.

Your blogmeister was out at KBUF yesterday morning doing that shutterbug thing... but he was experimenting a bit, and caught nothing but a whole lotta 'fail'. Such is life...

However, an email from a friend arrived later in the day and, well, saved the day... witness this nifty shot of a groovy little Gulfstream operated by the FAA, touching down on Runway 23. Check out the registration... thanks Wayne!

Wayne Dippold photo



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Monday, September 1, 2014

Cobras in the Den

Today on BuffaloWingz we bring you a super-groovy night-time shot of some P-39s about ready to wind their way out the door of the Bell factory in Wheatfield, NY... circa 1941 we think.





This last close-up shows an interesting detail... note the large, non-standard carb air intake on top of the fuselage, behind the cockpit. Your blogmeister isn't a hardcore P-39 guru by any means, but he hasn't seen this type of scoop before. Anyone have further info?

Original image: Library of Congress



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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stormy Weather

About halfway through a short visit to KBUF yesterday morning your blogmeister was beginning to think that he should'a brought a jacket... 'twas chilly and windy. There was a solid sheet of cloud that seemed to hover above the field itself but, around the edges of the sheet, in pretty much any direction you faced, there were beautiful rolling mountains of mist...

S.Donacik/BuffaloWingz photo


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Friday, August 8, 2014

Noisemaker

A quickie today...

Your blogmeister was out at KBUF the other morning, doing that shutterbug thing, when he spied this Beech E-90 (reg N31A) lifting off from runway 14. Up to the time this photo was taken, all the traffic that morning had been on runway 23, and your blogmeister would have been caught  totally unawares had this bird not made one helluva racket while throttling up...

S.Donacik/BuffaloWingz photo



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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

King Air

Earlier today your blogmeister took a jaunt over to KBUF because his picture-maker needed a bit of exercise.
Come to think of it, your blogmeister could use some of that, too... =P

Anyhoo, this Beech King Air 90 was the grooviest bird he saw this morning...







As we said, that was the grooviest bird your blogmeister saw during today's foray outside of his home zip code. But this next shot of a GU-11 was his grooviest grab of the morning...

All photos: S.Donacik/BuffaloWingz


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Friday, July 4, 2014

Warhawk Lays on the Fireworks

Hey! It's the 4th of July!

For those in the USA, here's some fireworks courtesy of a P-40E-1 on the gun range at Curtiss plant #2, which is now the site of Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The photo is dated May 6th, 1942 but was more likely taken in March or April.


Project 914 Archives (S.Donacik collection)


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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Banker Bird

During a recent visit to Buffalo Airport (KBUF) your blogmeister caught this shot of a Bombardier BD-700 that's owned by a prominent banking firm which we shall allow to go unnamed.

Also shown in the photo is a ubiquitous GU-11...

S.Donacik/BuffaloWingz photo


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Saturday, June 14, 2014

American Airbus

Your blogmeister caught these early evening photos of an American Airlines Airbus A319-112 at Buffalo Airport recently...





All photos: S.Donacik/BuffaloWingz


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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Diamond 'Lil in the Buff

This installment of 'BuffaloWingz' is two years in the making...

or ten...

or seventy-five, depending on how you look at it.

A couple'a years back, in 2012, the Commemorative Air Force's B-24 'Diamond 'Lil' was slated to visit KBUF, and your blogmeister was rather eager to see her. Not just because he digs the B-24, but mostly because it had been, at that time, eight years since he'd last seen this particular B-24. And during those eight years, 'Lil' had undergone a significant transformation which had left her looking more like her original self. (More on that later)

Unfortunately, shortly before that planned stop here in Buffalo back in 2012, this B-24 had a bit of an 'oopsy' and never made it, instead heading back to the barn in Texas for some TLC.

We'd like to tell you 'Diamond 'Lil's whole story, but that's outside the scope of this-here cyber-rag, and we shall focus on her visit to Buffalo. However, we'll give the bare-bones of her story...

She was built as a B-24A for the USAAC in 1941 but was released for purchase to the British. Unfortunately for the Brits, but fortunately for present-day warbird lovers, she suffered an 'oopsy' and was sent back to the Consolidated factory in San Diego for repairs... never making it overseas and into combat.

Consolidated decided to retain the aircraft and subsequently used her as a testbed and also converted her to a transport. In this respect she served as the prototype for the C-87, a dedicated transport variant of the B-24.

After the war she was operated privately as a corporate executive taxi until the late 1950s, and soon thereafter came into the hands of her present-day owners, the CAF... then known as the Confederate Air Force. In 1970 or 1971 her civilian corporate paint-job was replaced with a more military-lookin' scheme meant to represent an aircraft that served in the deserts of North Africa. Also around this time she received her now well-known name and artwork which she carried, largely unchanged, for more than thirty years.


Here's a look at 'Lil' during a visit to Buffalo back in August of 2004... until yesterday, this was the last time your blogmeister had seen the 'ole gal.



Remember we mentioned a 'significant transformation' earlier? Well, roughly two years after the above photo was taken, work began to change 'Lil' back to her original configuration as a bomber. For various reasons not all of the 'required' changes were carried out, so she is still something of a hybrid. But she looks much more like a bomber these days, and less like a transport.

Perhaps in the future we'll present 'Diamond 'Lil's history in more depth over on one of our sister-blogs, 'Things With Wings'. Keep your eyes peeled, folks...


Alrighty, here we are in June of 2014... and 'Diamond 'Lil' has finally made it back to the Buff. Here's a few shots grabbed by your blogmeister yesterday. He'd initially arrived just before the gates opened in the morning but, as a photographer, was a bit discouraged by the large crowd and overall layout of the display. There were few good photos to be had, so he decided to make another visit later in the day... and the following are the fruits of that second visit.


This was the first view that greeted your blogmeister through the fence upon exiting his vehicle in Prior Aviation's parking lot...



A few more shots through the fence... 'Lil' was just about to depart for the first flight of the day.




Rolling out...



 


Here's the first takeoff of the day... it's a pretty poor photo, as it was taken from a long distance, but we've got a couple more later on that are slightly better. (Your blogmeister needs a longer lens!)



And rolling back in...



Here at BuffaloWingz we normally don't care to have any modern birds or other elements in our warbird photos, but we thought that this was a pretty neat shot... even with the barber pole in the background.



The first couple'a shots in this next series provide the only clear look your blogmeister was able to get of the current incarnation of 'Lil', which was painted by 'Mr. Nose Art' himself... Gary Velasco.








After shutdown and post-flight photo ops for the passengers, your blogmeister grabbed these next two shots before heading over to Mercy Flight (the old Flying Tigers location, for those who know the area) to catch 'Lil's second takeoff of the day.




And here's that second takeoff...


All photos: S.Donacik/BuffaloWingz



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