Last week marked the end of an era for a truly unique "warbird" of sorts. I’m talking about the Convair C-131 TIFS (Total In Flight Simulator) simulator aircraft. Starting out life as a Convair C-131 Samaritan in 1955, the aircraft was later significantly modified by Cornell Aeronautical Laboratories (later known as Calspan) as a unique aircraft with two completely separate cockpits — one in the standard position, and the other in an extended nose compartment that could be configured to simulate the layout and flying habits of a host of different aircraft. The extended nose section could also be configured to contain various avionics or radar test equipment as well.
The TIFS holds a special place in my heart for the fact that I grew up in the Buffalo area and frequently saw the awkward looking aircraft take to the sky from the Buffalo International Airport. I got a chance to see the plane up close when my 11th grade engineering class took a trip to the Calspan hangar — certainly a once-in-a-lifetime trip!
Apparently G. Willie, the intrepid pilot of the DC-3 displayed near Interstate 4, near Polk City, has gone missing and is feared kidnapped. G.Willie was originally displayed hanging from the tail of the Fantasy Of Flight landmark which was arranged in a nose-down orientation in 1998. Frequent calls to 911 by concerned motorists, who thought it was a real crash, prompted FoF to rearrange the aircraft in a less startling manner. G. Willie was removed from his precarious perch and installed in the much more comfortable cockpit.
G. Willie was last seen on July 17 and sometime during the night this poor fellow was removed from the aircraft by unknown thieves. Thier are currently no suspects in the heinous crime.
Warbirds-Online will report further as details become known.
The Hornell Evening Tribune in Hornell, NY reports this week on George Lucas (not the Star Wars director) of Nunda, NY and his passion for building model warbirds… FULL SIZE MODELS! Mr. Lucas has been building these “works of warbird art” for the past 35 years using only basic materials like wood, masonite, and some creative uses for common household items.
His latest aircraft, a Japanese Yokosuka MXY-7 “Ohka” (nicknamed “Baka” or “stupid” by the allies) took a little less than a year to build. Using original drawings and plans and much as possible, as well as photos and illustrations, his replicas are very accurate on the outside, but are meant to be only accurate from that view. Inside, other than the cockpit, the replicas are nothing like the original, but still they look amazing.
There are some catches though… if you win it, you have to bring it home from NM yourself! And don’t think of flying it back either… this plane is for static display only and it is sufficiently demil’ed to assure it stays that way! I apologize to our readers in Florida and New York… you aren’t eligible… shucks!