Ed­i­to­rial

Flight Journal - - CONTENTS - BY BUDD DAVIS­SON

Yep, that’s right. We thought we’d take a break from the fighter ac­tion and do a few things that are to­tally dif­fer­ent—maybe even un­ex­pected. For in­stance, when was the last time you read a learned dis­course on the Ilyushin Il-2? Or de­voured a photo es­say on the Stinson L-1 Vig­i­lant? In both cases, you would be war­ranted in say­ing, “What? Never heard of ’em!” If this is­sue has a theme, that’s it: talk­ing about air­planes that aren’t of­ten talked about.

One of the air­planes that dances around the edges of avi­a­tion’s con­scious­ness is the Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik. Peo­ple know it was around, but it’s one of those planes that not many know any­thing about. For that rea­son, it plays dual roles in this is­sue. First, it’s the fea­tured player on our “The Most Pro­duced: Icons in Big Num­bers.” Why only a fea­tured player? While it was the most pro­duced mil­i­tary air­plane of all time, to put it in con­text, the ar­ti­cle runs down the en­trants, and you may find it sur­pris­ing what is—and what isn’t—on that list. The take­away from this piece is the amaz­ing amount of en­ergy and in­tel­lect that went into air­craft pro­duc­tion (among other things) dur­ing wartime.

Since the Il-2 was the most pro­duced, we thought it only right that we de­vote an en­tire story to it, and Ge­orge Mil­lenger was the man to write it. More than that, we wanted to be among the first pub­li­ca­tions to show off John Dibbs’s pho­tos of the Fly­ing Her­itage & Com­bat Ar­mor Mu­seum’s (FHCAM) Shturmovik restora­tion that be­gan fly­ing a year or so ago. In­ci­den­tally, FHCAM is Paul Allan’s well-known Fly­ing

Her­itage Col­lec­tion, now re­named to rec­og­nize its ex­pan­sion into ar­mored ve­hi­cles. In fact, as you read the ar­ti­cle, you’ll see that the Shturmovik it­self could eas­ily be con­sid­ered a form of com­bat ar­mor due to the amount of steel plate it in­cluded.

At the op­po­site end of the me­chan­i­cal scale from the Il-2— which es­sen­tially had the del­i­cate na­ture of an anvil—were the L-birds of WW II. Here, their fragility (mean­ing “light weight”) was one of their strong points. Most were dragged around by no more than 65hp, which still let them go places re­served only for he­li­copters in this day and age. The L-birds and their pi­lots are largely un­rec­og­nized to­day, but their con­tri­bu­tions to bat­tle via ar­tillery spot­ting, re­con, res­cue, and haul­ing wounded were in­valu­able. For that rea­son, we de­cided to have con­trib­u­tor Jim Busha, him­self an L-bird owner, run down the list and, us­ing a pa­rade of grasshop­pers, ed­u­cate the rest of us as to the types of the breed that bear men­tion­ing.

It wouldn’t be Flight Jour­nal with­out at least one com­bat tale, and this is­sue’s is an un­usual one, if noth­ing else be­cause it dis­pels the leg­end of Ge­orge Gay be­ing the lone sur­vivor of Tor­pedo Squadron Eight dur­ing the bat­tle of Mid­way. What has evaded com­mon pub­lic knowl­edge for gen­er­a­tions is that VT-8’s then­new TBF “Avengers” (a name they picked up af­ter the bat­tle) flew di­rectly to Mid­way and launched off the atoll’s Eastern Is­land to join the at­tack. Only one Avenger, al­though badly mauled by Ja­panese gun­fire, stag­gered back to base, its pi­lot and one gun­ner the “other” lone sur­vivors of Mid­way. It is a grip­ping tale.

Park your­self in your fa­vorite chair. Crack open a cool some­thing. Lean back and en­joy.

(Photo by John Dibbs/planepic­ture.com)

VT-8 (Tor­pedo Eight) had started to ex­change its TBD Dev­as­ta­tors for TBF Avengers, but hadn’t fin­ished the tran­si­tion, when their car­rier left for Mid­way. The Avengers were vastly su­pe­rior to the Dev­as­ta­tors and were based on Mid­way Is­land for the bat­tle. Only one sur­vived.

The Ilyushin Il-2 was the most pro­duced air­plane of WW II, with 36,183 rolling off of their be­lea­guered pro­duc­tion lines. (Photo by John Dibbs/Fly­ing Her­itage & Com­bat Ar­mor Mu­seum)

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