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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 2nd Aug 2014, 11:20
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The C119 picture brought back some very happy memories for me. In the mid 50's, as an ATC cadet, we often cycled out to RAF LLandow to unofficially help to refuel the Vampires of 614 Sdn Aux. One particular weekend we got there to discover that 614 had gone away for the weekend. The whole place, including the parachute section was closed up.

We were just about to leave, having made a nuisance of ourselves playing in some derelict Mosquitos and Lancasters when 3 USAF C119's came into land and a lorry loads of paratroopers appeared on the tarmac. They were about to do drop over Fairwood Common so we set about scrounging a ride. First, we needed parachutes (not that we would be jumping out too) but, as mentioned, the section was closed. So we approached the Army in the form of the RSM to be told firmly that there would be no passengers on this trip.

So, very disappointed, we watched as everyone embarked until one of the crew came to the door and asked us if we were coming. We explained that we didn't have parachutes and, to our delight, he appeared with two parachutes and in we got. Fortunately it was not the aircraft with the RSM on board.

What an amazing experience for an ATC cadet, taking off with 32 more passengers than we landed with, watching a Landrover drop from one of the other aircraft, enjoying the roomy cockpit with well used ashtrays all over the place, standing at the open rear door looking at the ground about 800' below and feeling somewhat airsick.

I had never heard of reverse thrust in those days so, as we landed back at LLandow, I thought that the nose wheel had collapsed as there was a terrible noise and the nose pitched down. A fantastic experience.
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Old 2nd Aug 2014, 21:18
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I had no idea of the colour of the ground
I think Warmtoast would agree with me, you have got it just right. I have not flown over Rhodesia as much as him but to me it looks just like the bush in the dry season.
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Old 2nd Aug 2014, 22:31
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I had no idea of the colour of the ground (brown/red), but it looked quite rich. Would be happy to fix it!
After all these years difficult to remember, but ISTR in the dry season grass had a particularly straw / brown colour, foliage on trees remained green I think. Once the rains came in October / November, new grass was lush and green for a while.

..and yes Hempy I remember that you'd used your Photoshop? skills on my original photo (I kept a copy, but posted my original) - thanks for your expertise in colouring, it looks much better.
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Old 2nd Aug 2014, 22:37
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(Your #6015): The first shot (the close-up of the heater) hardly fills you with confidence ! As Smudge says, you were dicing with death with that thing stuck onto the side. There seem to be two holes for intake, was the left one routed to the back seat ? In that case, perhaps it was either/or, who got the warm air (and/or CO) and who froze (and it gets quite nippy in Canada). No prizes for guessing who it might be when dual !

The thing was, being on the stb'd side, you didn't get around there much, and pilots did not pay much attention to this heater - indeed I myself, after 75 hours on them training in US and a fair bit more all over the place afterwards, never really examined it as closely as I'm doing now .....D.


Nice to know that my offerings are causing interest further afield ! I think the Harvard is over S. Rhodesia. No idea what colour the soil would be there (Yamagata Ken would know). ....D.

Deepest Norfolk,

So now we've got the Final Solution to the Belgian/Butter mystery - and it wasn't confined to Leeming, after all.

(Old Russian "Salt" saying: "Na Stolye, Na Stalye" (Lit: "On the table - On the back"). Interpretation: "If the wife has put too little salt in the borcht- why, it's "on the table", you can put some more in. If there's too much - she gets it "on the back" with a stout stick !)

[Told me by an old RAF pal on Russian Language Course in Paris - all errors his - take it with a pinch of salt !].

Were you in Leeming ATC ? (I left end of '72). And was our No.1 Hangar Ghost still around ? ....D.

Chugalug and MPN11,

For whatever reason, engines often break off in forced landings. Either the top mountings break first and the rest hangs on grimly (more likely on smooth, level ground, I should say). Or in rough stuff, break off entirely (as in my case) and go Lord knows where. On 20 Sqdn we had a chap who'd had to put down an old style Typhoon somewhere in Malta. The giant Napier Sabre broke out and was gaily bounding along beside him like a playful dog, while he cowered in terror in the cockpit ! (Down, Rover, Down Sir !). No, it didn't hit him, you'll be pleased to know. ....D.

Cheers, all. Danny.
Old 2nd Aug 2014, 23:25
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There seem to be two holes for intake, was the left one routed to the back seat ? In that case, perhaps it was either/or, who got the warm air (and/or CO) and who froze (and it gets quite nippy in Canada).
ISTR that the pipe was routed inside along the starboard side to serve both seats with a simple butterfly flap by each footwell to regulate the warm airflow as required.

Southern hemisphere winters even in S. Rhodesia could be cold at night and with the airfield elevation of RAF Thornhill at 4,600ft a cross county navigation flight flown at 3,000ft AGL for example, meant the aircraft was in a chilly 7,000ft plus height band.
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Old 3rd Aug 2014, 08:24
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As I explained to Warmtoast previously,-----when I was a young lad in short pants looking at a Southern Rhodesian Air force Harvard at Kumalo I was told that it was a silencer to stop the game being frightened.
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Old 3rd Aug 2014, 16:34
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Pas devant les enfants !


Ah, the tales they told us when we were young ! ("What are those two doggies doing, Mummy ?")
Old 4th Aug 2014, 09:47
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Small nephew: "Uncle Noel, what are those two doggies doing?"

Noel Coward: "The little one in front has just gone blind, and his friend is pushing him all the way to St Dunstan's"
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Old 4th Aug 2014, 15:36
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Pas devant les enfanis !


Olé ! I'd quite forgotten that one (couldn't be bettered). Merci bien !...D.
Old 4th Aug 2014, 15:52
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Heater muffs (or whatever)

Warmtoast, Danny et al - Surely this was a commonplace method of heating piston-engined aircraft? The Dakota had a similar set-up, still does in fact as can be seen by a glance at any specimen still flying now, and during 700 + hours on type never (to the best of my knowledge, anyway!) leaked noxious vapours into my aircraft.

Presumably the maintenance schedules called for regular inspection, but quality of material used would have been the most important factor. I suppose stainless steel would have been best, though doubt this was used as the visible parts were always of rusty appearance.
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Old 4th Aug 2014, 21:44
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Aircrew Funerals

Not all the photos I took at RAF Thornhill were photographic masterpieces or light-hearted descriptions of 'prangs' that one walked away from totally unharmed.
Death and destruction were never far away at RAF Thornhill as I recorded a couple of years ago in an earlier PPrune thread of the night back in 1952 when three Rhodesian Air Training Group Harvards crashed killing four crew.
If you haven't seen it, it can be read here:


Last edited by Warmtoast; 5th Aug 2014 at 09:32.
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 01:10
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Danny has an Extra-Terrestrial Experience.

It must have been in the summertime, but I'm not sure which year. One of the training Squadrons was on the first night of a night-flying session. The first (dual) phase of the programme had been completed. Up in the top Tower we relaxed. Approach and Talkdown were in the Approach Room. Upstairs there was a F/Sgt on Local, the Duty Instructor, an Assistant and I. The tea had just come up.

I saw it first. Gently sipping my Typhoo Tips (well, I can dream, can't I ?), I gazed absently through the West panel of the octagon across to Londonderry (yes, Geriaviator , we have one of those in North Yorkshire, too, just off to the side of Leeming). At the end of the few street lights was a very tall poppy indeed. Leeming village lights gave a pretty fair horizon. 16 statute miles West the ground rises quite steeply to some 1700 ft, the skyline 1º 9 min above the Horizon. (Great Whernside [2500 ft] lies, like a great stranded whale, about the same distance, but more SW). Directly West, the Dales and Pennines lie lower in the line of sight (0º 55 min elevation).

What interested me was a tiny, fuzzy white light. It was 2º or 2½º above the horizon, clearly in the air above the hills. Could it be the tail light of an aircraft? No, it didn't move an inch. I watched it for a half minute through the binoculars (there was little or no apparent magnification). It didn't twinkle, it wasn't a star. There were no planets low in the Western sky at this time. I turned to Local: "What d'you reckon that is, Chief ?" He looked at it for a few moments, then brightened "Oh, it's the Met Cloud Light, sir".

At all permanent flying Stations (IIRC) there is installed a small powerful spotlight, about half a mile from the Met Office (which is normally in the ground floor of the Tower), fixed to shine a narrow beam vertically into the sky. If there is low cloud over the airfield at night you'll see this little patch of light reflected from it. Met man has a simple sextant, knows the accurate distance to the light, a bit of trig, it's easy. And my spot did look exactly like a Cloud Light reflection. The only thing was, at the elevation of my spot, it would be indicating cloud at 50-100 ft - and I could see stars in the sky round it !

I called Radar below, to see what was on the AR-1. "Take the MTI out", I said, "the thing isn't moving". In or out made no difference. Nothing out in that direction up to max range - not even an owl.

Duty Instructor came in with a useful suggestion: "Let's ask the Cowboy". Whenever a solo Bloggs is in the air, there must be a solo Instuctor in the air too - the "Cowboy". His task is to "ride the range" around the Station, to warn of any "nasties" - lowering cloudbase, a wandering snowstorm, the ominous Cu-nim, which might be coming at us down the wind, or (at night especially) any signs of fog forming in the known hollows. We called the Cowboy. Yes, he could see our spot all right. What did he think it was ?:

"It's the Moon", he said, "a scrap of Moon peeping out from behind clouds". The difficulty with that explanation was - there was no Moon that night (as he might have learned, had he been paying attention to the Met man at Briefing).
Clearly there was no help to be expected from that quarter. I now had to recap: It wasn't an aircaft. It wasn't the Moon. It wasn't a star or a planet. It wasn't the Met Cloud Light. One last hope remained - Call in the Experts ! I squawked the Met box; "Would you mind coming up here, please - we've something we'd like to show you".A slightly out-of-breath young man came puffing in. Wordlessly we pointed out our spot and handed him the binoculars.

He looked long and hard: "Ah", he said, "Mmmn", he said, and laid down the binoculars decisively. "Well ?", we said, "It's a sort of little white fuzzy spot", he said. "When you have exhausted all other possibilities", said Sherlock Holmes (or words to that effect), "whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". We had a UFO.

But it wasn't behaving as any well-brought-up UFO was supposed to do. It didn't flash from one end of the firmament to another, or whizz round like a Catherine Wheel, or flash multicoloured lights. It just sat there, motionless, and did nothing.

I realised everyone was looking at me - it was my problem ! I had no way of estimating its range. The Thing might be sitting over Londonderry at 200 ft, for all I knew. Suppose it suddenly came into Leeming and landed ? Suppose a posse of little green men were coming up the stairs ? What is the Protocol for that ? Suppose they displayed hostile intent - what defences have we ? (only the Verey pistol, and it is not a Good Idea to discharge this in a confined space). If I cannot fight, I must surrender. I have no sword to offer. Perhaps my Chinagraph pencil would do in token of submission ?

Local crystallised my unenviable predicament: "Shall we log it, sir ?" That was the $64 question. "Hang on a moment, Chief", I said, took the Hand Bearing Compass out its box on the inner wall of the Tower, went through the little door at the back onto the flat roof outside, and took the most careful bearing of my life. For if I log it, I must do something about it.

The D.I. must tell OC Night, he cannot allow take-offs till this is sorted out. I must tell (now long closed) Preston Flight Information Centre. This might not be well received. Our Powers that Be do not like pilots and ATCs who report UFO - it gives rise to Alarm and Despondency all round, and brings Contempt and Ridicule on the RAF.

And suppose I do report it, and cause maximum chaos, and then my UFO just switches off and vanishes ? (I still bore the mental scars from Manby'56 and the Horse that Never Was). But I had a pistol to my head, there was no way out. "We'd better tell S/Ldr (?)", I said to the D.I. And to the Asst: "F.I.S, please". He handed me the phone: "Hello, Leeming", said a cheery voice, "what can we do for you ?"

Falteringly, I told my story and passed my Bearing. "Oh", he said, "don't worry about that. Valley and Prestwick have already reported the object. We've got a good long baseline; we've triangulated it; it's about 100 miles West of Ireland, out in the Atlantic, and by the way, we've just plotted your QTE, it gives a nice little tight "cocked-hat. Thanks, Leeming". "Hang on", I said "What does your Met man say it is ?"... "Oh, he says it's just a little (etc)........!".

With one bound, Danny was free ! "Tell S/Ldr (?) it's all right, let the second Phase go, the thing's hundreds of miles away"... What is it ? ..."We don't know". Fortunately we hadn't told the SDO: if he'd turned the Station Commander out of bed on this wild-goose chase, I wouldn't be SATCO's blue-eyed boy in the morning !

Ten minutes later, F.I.S. rang back: "We thought you'd like to know; we've found out what it is, it's a Noctilucent Cloud". It seems that, in the summer months, a cloud of ice crystals can form at immense heights (I roughly reckoned : 80,000 ft at 450 miles at 2º) ,in defiance of the laws of physics, and remain for hours, illuminated by the setting sun, after dark in the night sky. We passed the news around: our Met was very interested.

The Second Phase passed off without incident: "we counted them out, and we counted them in".

Goodnight, all.


"... Then felt I like some watcher of the skies. When a new planet swims into his ken..."
Old 5th Aug 2014, 06:30
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a cloud of ice crystals can form at immense heights (I roughly reckoned : 80,000 ft at 450 miles at 2º
Somebody must have pulled the chain in a Concorde.
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 08:20
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Danny, no doubt those on duty at Valley and Prestwick suffered similar feelings of angst as you in making their observations official.

A colleague of mine was flying into a deserted London area down R1(?) from CLN at 00 very early hours. He and his Herc crew saw a bright light that wasn't moving relative to them. It wasn't Venus or any of the usual heavenly bodies. Tentatively he called ATC and asked if they had any traffic in his vicinity. "Negative", came the reply. "Well we have something on a constant bearing showing a bright light and...", at this point the light source took off at an incredible rate, now moving in an accelerating arc across their intended track, "... now it's changed direction and accelerating away out of sight", he finished lamely. London, using that polite note of dubiousness which airtraffickers are no doubt taught in training repeated that he had no known traffic that was aware of or could see. Luckily a USAF pilot bound for Mildenhall confirmed the sighting, so an official report was filed on arrival.

The following morning his crew was told to report to MOD London to be debriefed. Having told all and sundry of their sighting previously, they now had no comment to make whatsoever...

As you say, Danny, strange lights seen can seriously affect one's career!
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 19:08
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As most of my war service was spent in lands where heat was a dirty word, I've never given much thought to heaters in aircraft. And now I come to think of it, I can't remember one in a Spitfire, or a Hurricane or Master, (certainly not in a Vengeance !), nor in a Meteor 7. Vampire ? (probably, as it was pressurised, and the only source of pressurised air had to be a bleed from the compressor, and that would be pretty hot to start with - but can't rememeber any heater controls, only a cool-air intake). After many lifts cadged in Dakotas, it is news to me that there were heaters in the things, but I suppose the DC-3s had to have them to keep the paying pax from freezing, and it was carried over into the C-47 as being too much trouble to take out. Another case of YLSNED ! (you learn something new every day).

My point about Warmtoast's specimen (his #6015) is that it looks a real lash-up. It seems as if they've ignored the proper hole (on the left). This is the one which I mistakenly guessed to lead to the rear cockpit, but as Warmtoast tells me that both front and back fed off the same supply, you would only need one input. The one in use looks to have been gnawed out by rats, and there is a joint at the input point which looks like a bit of old hosepipe secured by two jubilee clips. I'd hesitate to trust my life to that, but suppose I must have done.

Agreed, harrym, I'd be happier with copper pipe - the metal visible does not look in too good condition, and it makes you wonder what it might be like inside the main pipe. And can anyone explain the weird front end of the exhaust pipe ? (Beats me).

As for heaters from engine exhausts, I think the liquid-cooled engines we had would make it impossible, I can't see it working in the lines of stubs on a Merlin, a Griffon, an Allison or a Kestrel. The only way they could keep us warm would be to tap into the coolant, car-fashion, and as the coolant plumbing was always an Achilles Heel in the first place, you wouldn't want any more of it.

Cheers, Danny.
Old 5th Aug 2014, 20:10
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At least your colleague's UFO did something for its money, but our (supposed) one was bone idle, just sitting there and doing nothing to justify its existence. You wouldn't go to bat for a thing like that, now would you !

I wonder what sort of a work-over your two chaps were given at the MOD ? It calls to mind the scene in which poor Galileo, in front of Torquemada at the Inquisition (red-hot tongs at the ready in the background) decides that discretion is the better part of valour and recants, while murmering to himself "Eppur si muove" (and yet it [the Earth] does move).

UFO ? What UFO ? Nobody said anything about any UFOs !

As I had no career to imperil, should've sold my story to the Daily Mail. Might have made a bob or two !

Regards, Danny.
Old 6th Aug 2014, 21:35
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As there have, to date, been no new posts on this thread today I'll add my contingency piece.

Herewith details from the log book of a distant relation of mine, taken from a CD of the content. Unfortunately some of the right-hand pages are curtailed and missing information.

He started his career in mid-Nov 1941 at RAF YEADON flying the DH82 Tiger Moth, starting from basic flight experience and effects of controls to taxying, straight-and-level flying, stalling, spins, take-off into wind, CFI Test and glide approach and landing. This amounted to 4hours 30mins airborne instruction.

He next appeared at the US Army Air Corps detachment Carlstrom Field, Florida in February 1942 on the USAAC Primary Course, flying the PT17.Syllabus was similar to Yeadon's, and he solo'd on 24th March after 10h 13m then continued dual/solo until 21st April.The log indicates training consisted of 'All elementary manoeuvres with accuracy stages, chandelles, lazy 8s, stalls, spins, pylon 8s, loops, half rolls, slow rolls, snap rolls, vertical reverses, Immelmans, 20-hour, 40-hour and Final Check rides.'This amounted to dual 32h29m and solo 27h31m.'

May 1942 he started USAAC Basic Course on the BT13 at USAAC Trng Det., Gunter Field, Alabama.The same basic flying initially, then progressed to Formation (28th) and Cross-Country (23rd) (Gunter -?further details missing).June began with Night Flying, Formation Landing and T/O and ends with X/C (Gunter-Greenville-Ozark-Gunter).

The next stage was from July 11th to Aug 30th on the AT17, AT6 and AT9 at Turner Field, Albany. Day and night X/Cs were GP5-Havana-Jasper,GP5-Cochran-Waycross-GP5, GP5-Blountstown.Interesting entries are NF1 "Blitz", 'Interception' and 'Rendezvous'. Total flying hours after this phase was 224h 10m.

This was the last part of his US training and Wings Parade occurred on September 6th 1942.
The bare bones of this episode may appear uninteresting but could awake memories among some esteemed members.

Next time will begin back in England.

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Old 6th Aug 2014, 23:36
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Danny et al,

Interesting your discussion of heating in various aircraft. I know from experience (gliding) that altitude equals frostitude. I well remember getting airborne in a glider, sans shorts and tea shirt, attaining 5 thousand feet, and arriving back on the ground with teeth chattering. I believe the dry adiabatic lapse rate is around 3 degrees per thousand feet, so even at relatively low levels, the cold will be felt. I wonder at the heating systems on aircraft like the Lancaster, Mosquito and Halifax, if they had any, and if not, how did the crews overcome the cold- Irvine suit ? Someone must know, and perhaps might give an insight into wartime privations when flying.

Danny, love the UFO story, and my surprise at the eventual explanation. I suspect its basic geometry, but I never considered a high level cloud would reflect light, after dark, on the ground. Awesome, as they say. Except I should understand that having landed gliders on hangar flights, from good viz to very dusk !

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Old 7th Aug 2014, 00:44
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Your: "The bare bones of this episode may appear uninteresting but could awake memories among some esteemed members". No, they're not uninteresting ! - and they awake memories among this member (esteemed ? - matter of opinion !).

Your man would have been in (Arnold) Class 42I, I reckon. They started with 519 and graduated 507 (2.4% scrubbed, killed, whatever *). The average losses for Courses 42A-42D was 40%, for 42E-43B (the end), 1.6%. So what happened about November '41 (when 42D started) - Pearl Harbor ?; Grading Schools introduced in UK ?

* "Losses" would include (mainly) "Washouts" for all reasons, plus a few (sadly) killed. Whether the 577 (total all Courses) "Creamed Off" Instructors (at the end) were included (as we didn't get them back - at least not until much later - in UK, I do not know). I did Carlstrom-Gunter like your relation, but then he went to Albany (Georgia), for the AT-9 (twins), I stayed on singles and got the AT-6A (Harvard) at Craig Field (Selma, Ala.).

All the USAAC Exercises he listed were given to me to do. I finished with 207.40 hrs and silver US wings, then the RAF (back in Canada gave me "drab silk" ones and a Sgts' stripes). Back in UK they gave me the Master and Spitfire (and a few hrs Hurricane).

Glad his story doesn't end there - let's have some more, please.

Cheers, Danny.
Old 7th Aug 2014, 08:45
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Danny et al,

The heater on the Harvard is actually a highly technical device that has a secondary effect. The original short exhaust outlet pipe is replaced by a much longer unit. This extended pipe is then shrouded by a jacket made of stainless steel or a similar heat resistant metal. The front of the shroud has a small diameter ram inlet pipe, and the outlet(s) are fed into the cabin. Very simple and generally very effective. The secondary effect? Due to the increased length of the exhaust pipe, the noise signature is considerably reduced and the sound is of a deeper note.

The Dakota / DC3 / C47 utilises the same principle on each exhaust. The heated air is then routed through the top of each undercarriage bay and under the floor of the fuselage. The choice of hot air routing is controlled by half a dozen plunger controls behind the co-pilots seat. Oh, and most of the ducting is (was) wrapped in asbestos in order to prevent heat damage to surrounding structure.
Post-war light civil single-engined aircraft still employ the same system, which is known as heat-exchanger cabin heating. The Piper PA22 of the early 1950's even had the option of separately controllable rear cabin heating. Sheer luxury.

The air-cooled Volkswagen range of vehicles including the Beetle, and also the Citroen 2 CV employ the same technology. I suspect the air-cooled Porsche range of high performance cars were similarly equipped.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real threat, and in the civil world in the UK, there is a mandated Annual inspection requirement to pressure test the exhaust mufflers, hopefully identifying any suspect sources of the silent killer. Many aircraft owners and operators fit CO detectors similar to those used in caravans etc.

Civil twin-engined aircraft generally don't use the engine exhaust method. Instead, it has been decided and agreed by various manufacturers that far more entertainment can be gained by setting fire to the aircraft fuel supply while flying. Seriously, most of this type of aircraft employ heaters that burn fuel from the aircraft supply, and have shrouded heat-exchangers that work in the same way as mentioned above. The Shackleton amongst others also employed the on-board fire method, the Dragonair heater units being capable of producing 100000 BTU per hour each. And just to make sure, the MR2 had four installed. The later AEW II had the forward number one heater removed due to the installation of the AN/APS 20 radar under the nose.

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