How well I remember the Piper-Lycoming Project! In the early 1970s, the major airlines began eliminating service to the smaller cities, and Williamsport was a typical example. At one time, three major airlines serviced Williamsport. This new situation created a need for a commuter which could service the smaller cities and connect with the major airlines at the big city airports. Piper saw an opportunity for potential sales in a commuter and went to work on it. During a visit to their Vero Beach, Florida, facility, their chief engineer invited me to see their mockup of a twin-engine commuter aircraft. They had already given it the Indian name of Pocono. After the Cub, Piper began assigning American Indian names to each new model aircraft. Those I can recall were Comanche, Apache, Aztec, Navajo and the Pocono.
- JOSEPH DIBLIN
Many years ago, the famous movie actor, singer, dancer, comedian and musician, Danny Kaye, (1911-1987) purchased a new Beech Queenair with two Lycoming supercharged power plants. He requested that Lycoming send their chief test pilot to “properly instruct me concerning the operation of these complex engines.” My company sent me all the way to Los Angeles to meet his request.
According to a number of questions I have been getting, airline passengers are interested in knowing about the effects of altitude during flight on the high flying airlines. Although not pretending to be an expert on high altitude, I can share what I have learned from flying the big bombers of World War II up to 24,000 feet and later during civilian flight tests to similar altitudes.
This is a story of a worthy patriotic family, the six Paul brothers who served in the military. The three eldest brothers served during World War II. Growing up in the Pennsylvania coal-mining district, all served with distinction and received honorable discharges.
During a long-distance phone conversation with a fellow B-24 Liberator pilot, he asked a surprising question. We had been discussing some mutual experience flying the four-engine B-24 Liberator during World War II when he asked, “Have you ever flown the 4-engine B-17 bomber?” I replied in the affirmative and then asked, “Did you ever fly it?”
The attack on Pearl Harbor forced the Army Air Corps to execute a plan to create an air force of at least two million men and 88,000 planes. The training command had the function of training pilots, bombardiers, navigators, gunners, mechanics and ground technicians, and the basic military training of all its personnel.
There was once an article in an area newspaper about a private pilot who bombed Independence, Kansas, with rolls of toilet paper on a dare. The oddball pilot bragged that he could target the “bombs” onto the main street. He missed the street and the police arrested him. The oddball paid a fine and lost the bet.
While visiting an Air Force recruiting office, I discovered some material of interest concerning women in aviation, including women military pilots and crew members. History tells us the first licensed woman pilot in the United States was Harriet Quimby in 1911. Women flew airplanes before they could vote, but not in the U.S military.
During the years I operated the flight test facility for Lycoming, the aircraft engine manufacturer in Williamsport, we experienced two fatalities. Because some family members may still reside in the area, their names are omitted. The victims were the pilot and an engineer.
- By Joe Diblin
Once in a while I experience an unusual contact and book worth sharing with interested readers. While looking over the review of a book titled, “The Time of My Life,” authored by Adrian Swain, a few items caught my attention. The author graduated from Penn State. He went through Army Aviation Pilot training during World War II soon after myself and had retired to Florida not too far from where we were staying.
- By Joseph Diblin
When the commuter airlines were just beginning to fly, Lycoming aircraft engines of Williamsport were used in a variety of their aircraft. One of my duties for Lycoming was to assist the new organization with the proper operation of the engines.
“Grandpa Joe, what did you do in the big war of World War II?” Well, first of all, flying a number of different airplanes was fascinating and full of adventure without being shot at by an enemy. For example, at our Army Air Corps four-engine base, I was selected to do some experimental and demonstration flight. Here following are some examples of that special flying.
Would you believe that an American designed and manufactured plane is still flying years after its first flight? The Douglas Aircraft Company flew its first DC-3 in 1935.
In order to explain a phase of aviation, an aircraft manufacturer must carefully flight test a brand new plane just produced. It requires a thoroughly trained competent pilot to access a new plane just off the production line and test fly it before selling it to a customer.
Along with my difficulty in the takeoff of the PT-17 in Primary Flight School, I had two other serious problems. There was some kind of dust in our barracks. The moment I entered the building, I began sneezing. However, when out of the barracks there was no sneezing.
At the beginning of World War II, we were simulating a phase of flying in a device known as the Link Trainer.
The World War II book, Briny to the Blue, should be no stranger to the readers of this column. In reading Peterson’s book there are eyewitness accounts of what some of our people in the service endured in WWII.
I am always pleased to tell the story about those in our military who risked their lives in the service of our country. The late Donald J. Wallish was a native of Shamokin when he volunteered for pilot training in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II.
Many years ago, my aircraft engine company sent me to Alaska to fly with the last of the bush pilots and commuter airlines. The war was over and we needed to learn about operating our engines in severe weather with temperatures as low as minus-50 degrees Fahrenheit. I arrived there in January — brrrr!
December 20, 1943, was a typically cold, overcast winter day in Britain as 2nd Lieutenant Charles L. Brown’s B-17 lined up for takeoff. It was 21 year old Charlie Brown’s first combat mission as an aircraft commander with the 379th Bomb Group, with the target an FW-190 factory at Bremen, Germany. He and his crew were to become participants in an event probably unique at that time in the air war over Europe.
Readers tell me they like to read about flying, which of course initiates some reminiscing on my part. Other pilots of some experience have had similar ones, so mine are not unique, but I enjoy writing about them. So here goes …
A screaming, runaway prop on a dark night, just after takeoff, threatening to tear itself out of the wing, tends to create some excitement in the cockpit.
I am pleased and privileged to present a special military aviation article by former Bucknell president and highly regarded, Gary Sojka. He is honored and well-remembered by the Sojka Athletic Facility at Bucknell and his presidency there.
Air Force Magazine published a revealing article about the late General Billy Mitchell. He was described as the “Spiritual Father of the Air Force,” and led the fight for airpower after World War I, but he was court-martialed for his “aggressive advocacy of the cause.”
I received a welcome phone call from a World War II buddy-pilot living in Texas. “Just checking on you, Joe, wanted to make sure you are alive and well.”
In past years when we visited Florida, I always got in touch with my old flyboy friend, Joe Z., who lived at Spruce Creek, the flying community. Similar to the 500 other pilots living there, Joe had a hangar for his plane attached to the house and taxis down the street to the airport runway. A number of times during visits we had to move our car aside as a member of the community taxied his plane along the street. Before he retired, Joe was with the National Transportation Board.
It was World War II at a 4-engine air base in Tennessee, and the Christmas spirit was in the air because that wonderful holiday was just two days away. The war had been going on for four years, and finally we began to see possible victory and the end of the terrible loss of life.
Years ago while visiting Florida in the winter, I frequently noticed the single and twin-engine planes overhead, flying north or south along the coastline.
On Nov. 26, 1950, 10,000 men of the First Marine Division, along with elements of two Army regimental combat teams, a detachment of British Royal Marine commandos and some South Korean policemen were completely surrounded by more than 10 divisions of Chinese troops in rugged mountains near the Chosin Reservoir.
The challenge of flying and testing a variety of aircraft and engines in General Aviation was fascinating. Every aspect of it was different and rarely boring and sometimes exciting.
It is not my intention to mislead anyone because I used the phrase “Test Flight Experiences,” because my test flying was nothing like that of the famous Chuck Yeager.
During my 40 years of writing for the newspaper, mostly about veterans and flying, this story touched me.
It was during our monthly luncheon meeting of the Susquehanna Valley World War II Veterans organization that I sat with a Navy World War II veteran and heard his unusual stories.
Our military veteran in this presentation is Major John A. Varklet, currently residing in Lewisburg. He retired after 20 years as a pilot in our Air Force. Following military service, John entered college and achieved a master’s degree in public administration and then moved on to a position of city manager.
In a brief story from history — because World War II produced so many pilots, aircraft design engineers and pilots were dreaming of some kind of practical aircraft in every garage after the war. Manufacturers began to plan a family car of the air as the war ended.
A World War II pilot and Navy veteran wrote about his opinion concerning my article, “A dangerous flight requires nerves of steel.” “Your article was right on target. When I was 18-19 years old, I flew the back seat in torpedo bombers off the aircraft carriers Saratoga, Yorktown, Enterprise and then back on the Saratoga. Dark, early morning takeoffs were made from a deck full of planes. There were no catapults such as the modern carriers have to aid the takeoff.
My friend, former Marine World War II Captain Edward Zerbe of Sunbury, shared a splendid letter he received from the WWII Veterans Committee, “A Project of the American Studies Center.” We would like to share it with interested readers. The story is important.
Among the many examples of valor and courage by our military in the defense of our country during World War II in the Pacific area against Japan, was the Battle of Midway. As the name indicates, Midway is our island about half-way between Hawaii and Japan.
As we near the date of the Japanese “sneak attack” on our Pearl Harbor, it brought back some unusual and sad memories of the Diblin family.
A friend asked me, “When did you begin to fly, and how did it all begin?
During almost 40 years I have been writing about our veterans and their military service, I recently had two come for that purpose — I thought. Both reside in the Selinsgrove area and met in the same church. Becoming acquainted there, they began riding to church together. The eldest of these two new friends, Roger St. Germain, accepted the Sunday ride with the younger new friend, Marvin Bilger.
A few years ago, this column mentioned the former landing strip on the sportsmen’s club property at Weikert. The aviation strip was close to the privately owned boys and girls camp Nikamah. The owners had contracted with me over several summers to fly their campers locally so that they had some flight experience. A few were bitten by the aviation bug and later took flying lessons.
World War II was my vintage and here following is an aviation incident I experienced during that era. Our four-engine B-24 didn’t have the more modern Instrument Landing System (ILS) until late in World War II. Prior to that we made weather instrument approaches to our base from the radio range, or by means of our Direction Finder Station (DF).
It was early during World War II, the winter of 1942, when the Army made the decision to send some select members of the senior class at West Point through flight training. My military assignment at that time was flight instructing at the twin-engine Advanced Army Flight School located in Columbus, Mississippi.
I was pleased to receive a letter and stories by a wife about her late husband and his interesting career in our military. The wife, Becky Enders, of Sunbury, asked that her husband, William Enders, be remembered for his service. We take pleasure in remembering our veteran as follows.
My interest was considerably aroused upon meeting a military (Air Force) veteran who served in several wars during his 29 years of military duty. A.J. Grill had an outstanding career both as a pilot and an officer and after retirement from the Air Force, served as a staff member at Penn State.
This love story is unusual and heart-warming. The Associated Press gave it to the “Air Force Times.” The Times gave me permission to report it in my own words. It will bring a smile to your face as you read.
Looking back in my pilot’s logbook, two entries brought back memories. One listed, “Test flight-Arnold Palmer’s twin Aero Commander, engine surging,” and another listed, “Japanese twin Beech-oil consumption test flight.” Arnold Palmer’s first airplane was an early model twin-engine Aero Commander. He flew it to our airport facility for modification and updating the engines. Some celebrities had professional pilots along to keep them out of trouble. Arnold handled his plane solo.
I am pleased to share another worthy veteran’s record of his service to our nation when needed during war. My thanks to Thomas S. Reitz, of Winfield who gave me the official record of his father, Mark H. Reitz, during his combat duty and experiences in World War II.
My friend, Lewis Dewart, resides here in Nottingham Village in Northumberland. With a smile on his face, he commented that he had done some research long ago about a mostly forgotten event in the history of aviation, and wondered if I would be interested in seeing it. Knowing his background from a long association, I know he was a licensed pilot with a commercial license with an instrument rating attached. He was an active aviator for 65 years. Lewis has a bachelor of aeronautical engineering degree from Rennselear Polytechnic Institute and a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from Bucknell University. He was a 1st Lt. in the Air Force for the last two years of the Korean War. Here following is an example of the early history which he assembled and gave to me.
As we approach our memorable 4th of July, it brings back special memories of World War II for this ancient veteran. During that fierce war, a fellow pilot and “yours truly” were exchanging discussions of flight experiences of that era.
A pilot’s business is with the wind and weather, the night, the sky, and the land. The pilot strives to outwit the forces of nature. Readers tell me frequently that they like to read about aviation, and frankly I enjoy writing about it. After 40 years of flight, of which 35 years were involved with civilian flight instructing, university aviation teaching, and test flying, plus five years of military flight experience, a “flyboy” is bound to accumulate some unusual airborne adventures.
Flying grandfather, Max Conrad, suffered an injury to his head in saving a young lady from an airplane’s whirling prop when he was a young man. As a result, he lost his memory and ability to speak and write for more than a year. When he began to improve, he was allowed to fly again. With time, Max’s memory improved as did his ability to write and speak.
Because Memorial Day is this week, older readers might like to remember, or the younger generation learn, what it was like in December 1941, just as World War II began. In using a World War II incident, I have no intention of ignoring our veterans of other conflicts in our nation’s history.
As a student of history, I was interested in seeing a later film of “Tora, Tora, Tora,” the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It brought back some personal memories of that day of Dec. 7, 1941.
We saw it happen. It may be stretching a point but there can be some humor in an aircraft accident — as long as no one gets hurt. The scene took place at our Army Aviation Twin-engine Flying School at Columbus, Mississippi in early 1942. World War II had just exploded and the pressure to train pilots was on.
In all the years I have written about our veterans, this article is unique because it was written, for the most part, by Josh Herman, and dedicated to Maurice Herman who is a very loving and caring grandfather to his 13-year-old grandson, Josh. Digging into Josh Herman’s notes, our veteran grandfather was born on March 23, 1931. Maurice graduated from Lewisburg High School in 1948. Then Maurice was drafted into military service in 1952 at age 21 on Oct. 1.
It was amazing when I learned that so many people, as well as many organizations, have continued to search and investigate why Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared in the Pacific Ocean during an around the world flight on July 2, 1937. Over the years many books and articles have been published, guessing what happened.
Recently, I read an interesting World War II historical novel. The plot was centered on a true situation near the end of WW II with Germany. Both the U.S. and Russia attempted to grab the German rocket engineers and jet scientists. In real life, the U.S. got Von Braun, one of the top rocket scientists. The latter was brought to the U.S., where after the war he helped organize and manage our early rocket and space programs.
I am going to write about a subject entirely new to me and many others, but drones are not new to some in civilian life. However, drones have been in special uses by the military since World War I.
Here following is a personal account of a local man, Norman Minnier, of Northumberland, who served his country courageously during the terrible Vietnam War. During my years of reporting about World War II, Korea and Vietnam conflicts, I had numerous veterans in WWII and Korea who willingly gave me their stories, but very, very few who served in Vietnam came forth.
In a very interesting conversation with Tom Reimensnyder, of Mifflinburg, I was discussing the recent Olympics in South Korea. Tom, in sincerity said, “Let’s have frequent Olympics instead of wars.” Then, he used the South Korean and North Korean participation in the recent “athletic battle” in which both nations competed as one nation, instead of war.
Aviation has its share of humor like any other phase of life. During my employment with Lycoming, an aircraft engine manufacturer, I frequently represented the company as a lecturer on operation and maintenance of aircraft engines.
The mail delivered an unusual letter from a gentleman who signed his interesting communication, “James Lindberg.”
Over the years of interviewing and writing about our American veterans, a local man, George Wendt, of Shamokin Dam, whose experience in our Navy in a submarine was unusual.
This aviation incident happened during World War II. As I have indicated in earlier articles, we were training first pilots and flight instructors at a four-engine B-24 Air Base in Tennessee. A staff sergeant crew chief on an airplane I occasionally flew, told me about this scary incident with his airplane by one of our cocky flight instructors. The crew chief was fortunate to be alive to tell the story. This is how it happened.
Some of our pilots used their war-time experiences to remain in the Air Forces as a career. Col. Charles McGugan was one who remained. This incident in his military flying career in which he participated as a pilot in the Berlin Airlift, was considered by historians as “one of the most noble chapters in American history.” The 12-month airlift kept two million West Berliners alive with food and fuel, while keeping them from falling under Soviet control.
The best way I can present this moving veteran’s special story is — let him tell it. Thus here it is with my admiration and respect. He is Kevin Paterson Flynn, grandson of Robert Paterson, of Lewisburg.
Over the years, the hurricanes striking Florida have caused costly damage to our military bases there. During my military career, we had the experience of flying from two of them. Pensacola is a Navy Air Base and Eglin is Air Force operated. Most of my flying experience during World War II was at Eglin, located in northern Florida.
With Christmas here, I wanted to present something appropriate for this special holiday which might be of interest to readers. After doing some research, I became excited about writing an article combining Christianity and aviation. There are compassionate, caring Christian people and organizations in the United States who use airplanes to aid humanity, and Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is such a group.
World War II veteran, Al Hess, a Lewisburg lad, and ancient Joe Diblin, met to see if we could do something to help our ill buddy, Tom Reimensnyder of Mifflinburg. We were inspired to do something because our Korean War buddy has devoted so much to helping other veterans and their families, but now he is ill and we want to help him.
During a fierce air battle over France in 1941, a German fighter collided with and chewed the tail off a British fighter plane. The Spitfire pilot bailed out and was captured by the Germans. Taken to St. Omer, the captive was examined by a German doctor who was amazed to discover that the British pilot had no legs. Then they realized that he was Douglas Bader, a top British ace and a great fighter leader in the Royal Air Force.
During a recent long distance phone conversation with a fellow B-24 Liberator pilot, he asked a surprising question. We had been discussing some mutual experience flying the 4-engine B-24 Liberator during World War II. When he asked, “Have you ever flown the 4-engine B-17 Bomber?” I replied in the affirmative and then asked, “Did you ever fly it?” I decided to tell him about my experience because he was interested and had no experience in the B-17 during the peak of World War II aviation activity. Our U.S. manufacturers went into “high gear” and produced 6,000 more B-24 bombers than B-17s. As a result, our Air Force decided to shelf some B-17s and replace them with all B-24s at an Air Force Base in Tennessee.
As we approach Veteran's Day, Nov. 11, there are caring veterans and others who want it remembered. John Paul, of Bloomsburg, a veteran of World War II, and his wife Carol, brought together World War II veterans of the Susquehanna Valley area some years ago.
A reader contacted me and asked about a different kind of World War II article I wrote here some years ago. All the reader could recall was “something about an American sailor being given an island in the Pacific by the natives during the war.”
Although I have occasionally been asked to express an opinion concerning the cause of an airline crash, it would be just one more opinion without all the facts, so I always passed. However, a recent comment by an FBI Investigator reminded me of an experience from past flight incidents involving weapons fired at airline planes. People do shoot at airplanes! Some of us ancient pilots who used to fly out of the old Milton Airport can verify to that!
An important part of World War II history was researched by my close friend, Tom Easton, a pilot and former member of the FBI. In an unusual coincidence, both our fathers worked for General Motors during WWII. My father was District of Security at the Trenton, New Jersey Airport Division. Tom Easton’s dad was an engineer responsible for the fabrication of our TBM Avenger Torpedo Bomber there. Later Tom had the unusual experience of discussing flying the TBM Bomber with President H.W. Bush.
While interviewing Navy veteran Kermit Carnahan, of Selinsgrove, it reminded me to explain that some military veterans have life-threatening duties in peacetime. Kermit served in the Navy during 1955-58, three years and four months, assigned to Oceanography doing atomic tests in the Pacific Ocean area, mostly during 1958. He volunteered when only 17 ½ years of age.
As featured on
Joe Diblin’s friends remembered him Thursday as the consummate gentleman and storyteller. Diblin was a pilot, veteran, writer, teacher and historian and so much more. He died on Thursday morning at 103.
Jeffrey Warren Sipe, 58, of Brookfield, Ohio, passed away on Jan. 9, 2021, at UPMC Passavant, Pittsburgh. He is survived by his son, Kenneth Sipe; a sister, Darla Jordan; and three grandchildren. Private arrangements were entrusted to the Smith Funeral Home, 310 W. Neshannock Ave., New Wilmington.