Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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The only birding I did down Miami way actually was on the trip down there, I having gone down by way of Tampa just to see a little more of the country. Going over the Tamiami trail by bus I could see a bit of the Everglades now and then and many water birds. Water Turkeys and Florida Ducks were the only new ones, though the first also added a new family being indeed a very peculiar bird, its extraordinarily long neck and bill and dark plumage making it resemble an exaggerated cormorant. The duck looked just like a lighter version of the black duck, which is exactly what it is.

Before leaving Miami a little incident that nearly concerned me should be mentioned. Another instructor by the name of Richards was “chasing” a navigation flight over the Bahamas, but before leaving interpreted the problem to his students quite wrong, using minutes instead of miles. The result was almost disastrous, several forced landings from a shortage of gas, including the instructor’s plane, taking place in various parts of the Bahamas and the two remaining planes just making it back to the mainland at Fort Lauderdale. A confusion of names almost resulted in my being reported missing. Happily everyone showed up unhurt eventually, though “Cousin” what’s his name got a quick change of duty.

Soon after getting back to Jacksonville the bunch of us were sent to Lee Field Lee Field as assistant instructors. By this time Lee had become a pre-operational training base for students in their next to the last stage of carrier plane training, the equivalent of Miami. Some of these students were cadets; others were ensigns. We checked them out in SBC–4s, the last of the Navy’s biplane dive bombers, first giving them a demonstration and then swapping places and hoping for the best. Instructing in biplane dive bombersThat was perhaps the most interesting of our several jobs. In the rear cockpit we did have a stick, but seems to me that was about all, so when the student came in for his first landing in a comparatively heavy and powerful (950 H.P.) plane, it was quite exciting for the passenger. The old “Helldiver” wasn’t a bad plane as a matter of fact, though it was perhaps the noisiest the Navy’s ever had. a “fun” plane It was great fun to zoom and do wing-overs in, but I never tried to really stunt it. As a dive bomber it was only fair. Diving flaps slowed it up well enough, but it had a slight tendency to yaw. Checking the students out in diving we first took them up as passengers, but after that usually followed a bunch of them out to the target and circled it at low altitude watching their dives and scoring the hits of their little practice bombs. The most disconcerting thing about the SBC–4 was its tendency to head for the ground at a steep angle when the landing flaps were lowered, something, however, that could be easily checked if one first rolled a little back elevator tab and then used [less] or more as was needed after the flaps went down.