On Saturday, 10th June, 2018, TPM’s very own Ross Sharp, was back on air, providing airshow commentary and promoting The People’s Mosquito to a diverse New England audience in the US.
Sanford is a small town in rural Maine, about 12 miles back from that State’s scenic coastline, and close to Kennebunkport, a Mecca for the well-heeled. Consequently, the airport sees more than its fair share of expensive private jets (Gulfstream 550/650, Bombardier Challenger 600, etc) which use the 6,000 ft main runway.
Wind the clock back a bit more than 70 years, though, and you would find a very different scene. Then, you would have seen arrestor wires stretched across two runways and Corsairs and Avengers performing ADDLs (Aircraft Dummy Deck Landings) – and the crews involved? Royal Navy!
The Fleet Air Arm aircrew were receiving instruction as part of a deal which saw this satellite of Brunswick Naval Air Station, Maine, become part of the vast WW2 training effort based on Commonwealth countries and the United States. This was being undertaken well away from any possible enemy action, and in many cases, in better weather conditions than those in the UK.
TPM’s late Patron, Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS, RN, flew both the Corsair and the Avenger, of course, and actually instructed the pilots of No 618 Sqn, RAF in ADDLs using the Barracuda. 618 were supposed to operate specially modified Mosquito B. Mk IV and PR. XVI from RN carriers in the Pacific, as they attacked units of the Japanese Fleet with the ‘Highball’ weapon designed by Barnes Wallis. Sadly, this plan ran into serious (non-UK) political opposition.
It was extremely pleasing, therefore, to see two types that ‘Winkle’ would have instantly recognised, parked up on the apron at Sanford. I had supplied Commander Rich Jackson, Ops. Manager at Sanford and a personal friend, with a contact inside the Collings Foundation – a TPM Affiliate and owners of a superb F4U-5NL Corsair nightfighter. There was also a PBY-5A Catalina – under restoration at the airport – on the ramp outside of one of the hangars.
Some rare exhibits
Sanford is celebrating its 250th Anniversary this year, and the airport management decided to organize a fly-in (the very first one) as part of a wider series of events in the town. This wasn’t up to an LAA rally in size, of course, but what it lacked in numbers it more than made up for in diversity. As well as the Corsair and Catalina, there was a Stinson 150 Voyager, PT-22, Globe Swift, Ercoupe 415D, WACO UMF (1934 original) and a goodly selection of more modern aircraft.
Rotary wing types included a MedFlight Agusta A109E, a U S Army UH-72A Lakota, and a Robison R44 of York County Helicopters, which was offering pleasure flights. A local skydiving team dropped in – literally. When you added to this some pretty nifty large RC model flying (in a designated area, of course), a vast collection of ‘huge trucks’ for the young folk to crawl all over, a veterans’ motorcycle rally, and sundry aviation-related stalls in one of the hangars, and this free-to-enter event was well worth the trip up from Massachusetts.
I was being ‘hosted’ by one of the local radio stations, and made a number of ‘guest appearances’ on air throughout the day, fielding a whole series of questions about TPM, of course, and giving the presenter some bullet points about the history of the airfield and the British connection. By the end of transmission, I think I had made a convert of the presenter, at least!
Spreading the word
I distributed quite a few TPM postcards, which Rich Jackson had kindly printed off, and made a useful ice breaker. I also made friends with the staff of the Pratt & Whitney display in one of the hangars. Their plant is a few miles out of town in North Berwick, and they make major modules for the F135 engine for the RAF’s new F-35.
All in all, this was a splendid effort on behalf of Rich Jackson and his support staff at Sanford. I was also made extremely welcome by Mark and everyone else at the airport’s FBO, Southern Maine Aviation. Thank you to all concerned for the warm reception. One final word… pancakes made to order with fresh Maine blueberries are out of this world!
An experience to build on.
Director of Engineering and Airframe Compliance