Aviation Historian 11
D.Stern - Sub-zero Inc. (1)
A motley collection of USAAC aircraft at the Cold Weather Test Detachment (CWTD) at Ladd Field. Among the types are a Curtiss P-40 and a pair of North American P-51 Mustangs (foreground), a North American AT-6 and Noorduyn Norseman (centre right), a Republic P-47 undergoing maintenance in a shelter, two Curtiss C-46 Commandos, a Consolidated B-24 and Boeing B-17.
A B-17 undergoes maintenance on its No 1 engine with the help of a CWTD-devised engine shelter, while space-heaters pump out generous amounts of moisture, adding to the ice-fog already enveloping Ladd Field. The wing covers, custom-made by the base’s seamstresses, protected the aircraft’s wings from snow and frost.
An early aerial view of Ladd Field looking south, with the serpentine Chen a River looping across the northern end of the airfield. The most notable feature is the large hangar at the eastern end of the runway. Several B-24s are just visible on the ramp.
North American P-51H Mustang 44-64461, named Ah’m Available, cruises over a typically snowy Alaskan landscape. Following the successful completion of its cold-weather testing programme at the CWTD, the light­weight P-51H was selected to equip three fighter squadrons in Alaska, the 65th FS being based at Ladd Field.
A ski-equipped Lockheed P-38 during testing at Ladd Field. CWTD pilot Randy Acord recalled: “I had the P-38 on retractable skis for the whole of March 1944, and I made 165 take-offs and landings on skis ... sliding 7,000ft [2,130m] on each landing”.
The Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines of a Northrop P-61 Black Widow are simultaneously heated by ground heaters at Ladd towards the end of the war. The long lines on the wing covers were used to picket the aircraft during windy conditions.
Serial 38-481, the tenth of the 13 Curtiss YP-37As delivered to the USAAC, is assembled at Ladd Field after its delivery in 1941. The aircraft operated with the CWTD for four months, but the sub-zero temperatures in which it was operated took their toll, and it was was out of commission for two months awaiting a new engine.
The Curtiss XP-37 was essentially a modified P-36 with an inline engine. The prototype, seen here, made its first flight in April 1937. The aircraft was fast, reaching 340 m.p.h. (547km/h), but the pilot’s view forward was poor and the turbocharger proved troublesome. Nevertheless 13 YP-37s were ordered and delivered in March 1939.
Six of Arnold’s Martin B-10s are inspected at a primitive airfield in south-east Alaska during the 1934 expedition to the far north. The ten B-10s were collectively worth some $518,000.
The CWTD’s Commanding Officer, Dale V. Gaffney (third from left), is interviewed beside a B-17B by radio journalist Bud Foster of Fairbanks-based radio station KFAR. Note the CWTD’s motif - a polar bear holding a bomb - applied to the B-17B’s fuselage. Gaffney was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal in 1946.