Sunday 28 October 2012

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker Talks to The Royal Aeronautical Society

Captain and Mrs. Eddie Rickenbacker with Capt. Mike O'Donovan. Whilst in Southern Rhodesia, the Rickenbackers flew to Livingstone and toured the Falls.

 The Salisbury Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society was honoured by a visit from Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the famous American First World War fighter ace who addressed the Branch on Friday. May 15, 1964

 Captain Rickenbacker, who was accompanied by his wife, came to Salisbury via the Continent and East Africa and was going on to South Africa before returning to the U.S.A.

 The reason for his visit, he said, was twofold. Firstly he had never been to Africa before and secondly he wanted to see first hand exactly how "garbled" a story the American press was publishing about affairs on this Continent.

 Captain Rickenbacker went on to describe his early days in aviation and motor racing—his two loves. One amusing incident concerned a visit to England in 1916 when he was arrested as a foreign agent. He related how he would drive over to watch the Wright brothers building their first flying machine, the machine that was to change the face of the world.

 Captain Rickenbacker's first flight took place in 1911 in a Glenn Martin bomber, an open cockpit  machine built for the U.S. Navy. Passing on to World War I he told members that he trained on a Curtis Wright machine powered by an 80 h.p. engine.

 Captain Eddie went to France with 94 Squadron and then came the days of the Nieuport 28. He recalled that such was the temperament of this machine that the French would not fly it. "If you pulled out of a dive too quickly," he said, "the leading edge of the wing came adrift." This in fact happened to him twice.

 From the Nieuport Captain Rickenbacker turned to the Spad 13, powered by a 100 h.p. rotary engine. "To fly these you opened the tap and it stayed open To land you cut the ignition on three cylinders."

 Captain Rickenbacker referred to the transition from 100 m.p.h. to 1,000 m.p.h. interceptors and rockets. The old saying "reach for the sky" was finished. We had now gone through the sky. Air Transport would continue to grow and this was particularly true in the United States as the railways had given up and more passengers were being carried by air over sea routes than were carried by  the shipping companies.

 People were no longer satisfied with subsonic transport, said Capt. Eddie. They wanted supersonic  transport and were willing to pay for it, although it was the taxpayers' problem as no single airline  could afford to pay for it. At the moment the projected American SST would cost in the region of a  billion-and-a-half dollars, but due to inflation the finished cost would probably be between 40 and  45 billion dollars. The whole project, he said, was one of prestige and prestige was a very dangerous thing.

 Captain Rickenbacker told members that the Lockheed A. 11, a study in Titanium, would fill the gap between the I.C.B.M. and manned aircraft. At present, rockets were not the real answer; once released they had gone forever and could not be diverted. With the bomber the pattern was different  as it could be sent anywhere and, in spite of heavy defences, some would return.

 Captain Eddie concluded his address with reference to the rocket race. He said that man was reaching further and further into space and the possibility of reaching the planets was no longer a dream. The whole matter had become a national gamble and it was very evident that the country who controlled the orbit controlled the world. At the end of the evening Captain M. O'Donovan, Chairman of the Branch, thanked Capt. Eddie and presented him with a copper coffee set on behalf of the Salisbury Branch.


 Extracted and recompiled by Eddy Norris form the June 1964 SCAANER which was made available  by Dave Vermaak (Air Rhodesia). Thank you Dave.

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