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Thread: Ferry Command

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    Default Ferry Command

    I'd be grateful for advice on the height/flight level flown by aircraft being ferried across the Atlantic to/from the UK. I appreciate this will vary depending on the aircraft type so I'm looking for a range rather than a definitive height. Just wondering if there's any information in "Ocean Bridge" by Carl Christie?

    Brian

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    Hi Brian,

    I went only quickly trough the book and found there several mentions of height in the range from 6000 to 18000 feet depending on aircraft and weather conditions.
    So what are you interested in? The height recommended officially or the real height used by the crews?
    If the first one I will suggest to check the TNA for official FC documents, if the second the best I think id to find the reminiscences of pilots flying the particular type you are interested in.
    For example in case of one C-78 of the ATC USAAF I remember the flying level from Accra to Wideawake Field was 8000 feet.
    Also from some another reminiscences of Mosquito pilot I remember they were flying often at 9000 feet to be able fly without oxygen which was ordered to switch on at 10000 feet. But when there were clouds they were flying also at 20000 feet.
    So I suppose it will be quite difficult to fin a definitive answer....

    Hope this helps a little

    Pavel
    Last edited by CZ_RAF; 16th January 2010 at 19:23. Reason: typo
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Thank you Pavel.

    My reason for asking is that I'm looking at the decision to postpone D-day from the 5th to 6th June. That was made on meteorological grounds and part of my research is looking at exactly what data the forecasters had to work with - which, in the event, proves to be not very much.

    The meteorologists were faced with gathering data from as many sources as possible and one form would have been the winds reported by aircraft crossing the Atlantic. I have a record of Flt Lt Woosley of 1402 Met Flight making a routine met ascent at Aldergrove, through 8/8 cloud, breaking cloud at 23500 ft and finding two inbound B-17s circling 3000 ft above him, totally lost.

    I assumed (never assume Lyffe) this (27000 ft) would have been a 'normal' height, or at least indicate the height range would have been something like 18000-27000 ft. Unfortunately your reply has rather put the cat amongst the pigeons.

    For the record Woosley couldn't make voice contact with the two aircraft, but using hand signals managed to indicate he'd guide them down individually through the overcast. Both landed at Nutt's Corner, breaking cloud at 800-1000 ft.

    Edit: Normally the higher the aircraft flew eastbound the greater the chance of picking up a favourable tail-wind.

    Brian

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    Brian remembr what has Resmoroh in his signature: Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art :-)

    About the case with the B-17s - I suppose they were fyling in the normal geight about 18000-20000 ft but the clouds forced them to climb to 27000 ft.

    But back to your main topic - I think that the forecasters were using more the data from Met boys for this very special operation than some incomplete reports made by the ferrying crews...

    To be honest this is not my cup of tea so I am afraid I can not help you more.

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    I was a forecaster for the better part of 40 years Pavel, and I'd never questioned the various accounts I'd read as to how the D-day forecast came about. However, whilst researching the life of one of the forecasters involved in the exercise, it quickly became apparent that the real story has yet to be told. Having traced some original met charts I am left stunned at how little information they had to play with - there were hardly any observations from the North Atlantic and, as my man was quoted as saying, the Allied forecasters had much to thank Lady Luck for.

    Brian

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    Just some general observations: the ideal altitude for a long range flight will depend on the winds aloft (as I'm sure Lyffe knows) and on the operating characteristics of the aircraft. In general, turbocharged or supercharged aircraft will get their best gas mileage at a higher altitude than a normal asperated engined aircraft. The B-17 in particular was optimized for high altitude operation. Also, icing conditions can force an aircraft to fly higher or lower than its optimum altitude.

    By the end of the war there was enough traffic on some long range routes to force assignment of cruising altitudes for seperation as well as gas economy. This came about after a few night time collisions and very near misses on the UK - Gibralter run. Left to their own, various pilots would select the same routes and target altitudes.

    From memory, several Canadian built Mosquitos were lost on ferry flight to the UK when operating at very high altitudes in the winter, to take advantage of winds aloft and their superchargers. This led to prolonged operations at much lower temperatures than the designers expected, with led to engine oil thickening and eventually building up enough pressure to rupture the systems of both engines somewhere. It took a few losses before the origin of the problem was tracked down. The short term solution was cruising at lower altitudes, and the long range solution was design changes to the oil system.

    Pilot preference also enters into it. A former boss of mine was an ex Canadian Forces helicopter pilot who started with the RCN, and wound up in a later posting commanding a Chinook squadron. The Chinook manuals clearly showed an optimum long range cruising altitude of up to 8,000 feet in some conditions, but my boss claimed he could never convince the ex-Army types to get much above tree top level. I think I read a similar story about Second World War flying boat pilots somewhere.

    I guess the answer to the altitude question is "it depends".

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    Default D-Day weather

    Gentlemen,

    While researching through files at Maxwell AFB on the 802 Recon Group (Provisional) (S), that flew meteorologic data missions over the Atlantic Ocean from Watton, I located the following information:

    "Three aircraft, one each from 517 and 518 Squadron RAF, and another from 8th HW(P) Squadron took off on 4 June on normal sorties. They had been briefed to meet an Atlantic low which had left Newfoundland close behind the previous depression then off north-west Scotland. The 50-nautical mile positions were steadily marked off. Tufted wisps of frontal cirrus came in to view, but with each excursion to sea level, pressure continued to rise. The evidence became unmistakable: A new ridge of high pressure was developing north of the Azores. Eagerly, UK meteorologist decoded the W/T messages, plotted the vertical soundings and prepared their high-level maps. At 18,000 feet the ridge became an extensive high, covering most of the Atlantic. Some hours later, the Allied meteorologic crews returned to their bases, unaware these sorties provided the date for D-Day."

    I believe the 802nd B-17 aircraft flew a track farther south than the RAF units listed above. Watton launched weather ships at 12-hour intervals: 0500 and 1700 hours. The B-17 mission reports begin 5 June 1944 (nothing prior to this date has been found) therefore, I have not been able to identify the aircraft serial numbers or crews involved.

    Norman Malayney
    Last edited by norman malayney; 17th January 2010 at 02:07.

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    Thank you Bill and Norman.

    Bill first. There were actually three teams of forecasters providing advice to Eisenhower's met advisors at SHAEF; American (code-named Widewing), Met Office (Dunstable) and Admiralty (Admiralty). The principals are no longer with us, but I'm fortunate in being in contact with the upper-air analysist at Widewing (he was a support forecaster, not one of the main players - and is over 90) and he recalls that there were sometimes wind reports from ferry flights; it was that which prompted my query.

    My hope was these would be within a particular height range, but it's clear from what you and Pavel have said that was not the case. That in itself is useful as I can indicate such data were rarely for the same height - which would have been another problem for the forecasters.

    Norman.

    A fascinating account but one, I'm afraid, that paints the wrong picture. The decision to delay D-day from 5th to 6th June had been taken during the evening of the 3rd, before any of the aircraft left their bases, and the information sent back was too late to be of material value. The description about the aircraft encountering rising pressure as they were flying towards low pressure (and it was an exceptionally deep and vigourous depression for the time of year) is a little difficult to fathom.

    I'm not being deliberately picky but I'm afraid it's another example (of many) that have tended towards a romantic (if that's the right word) account of events. It is, however, a very useful addition to my growing catalogue - thank you.

    As an aside the RAF Met Air Observer on the 8th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron B-17 that flew the 1700 hours sortie from North Pickenham, is a friend who lives in Bournemouth. He remembers the flight well, mainly because the airfields in southern England were packed with gliders and tugs that the B-17 flew over outbound - and then all being empty on the return 15 hours later. (The Americans did not have trained observers at the time.)

    My thanks to all.

    Brian

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    There is a sub chapter in Michael Kennedy's book, Guarding Neutral Ireland, published last yera which deals with weather forcasts coming from Irish met stations in the far west of Ireland, especially Blacksod. A while since I read it but I can try to send you the gist of it during the week. Basically the readings/Sightings taken along Ireland west coast made their way to London and were a contribution to such decisions.

    One internet source he gives is this in his book:
    http://www.met.ie/about/weatherobservingstations/claremorris_history.asp

    We might be a little ahead of ourselves in claims we were primary in giving info for the go ahead but its some info for you.
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    Thank you for yet another link Dennis. Despite Staggs' "Forecast for OVERLORD" there is much about the operation, in a meteorological sense, yet to be told - hence my interest.

    Brian

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