|'Fighting the Lethe'
(Hellenic Air Force out of service aircraft 2010-2011)
THIS BOOK IS NOW SOLD OUT
|A new book devoted to former Hellenic Air Force (HAF) Wrecks and Relics written by Themistoklis A. Vranas
The book's editor was Antonios Tsagaratos.
"My name is Themis Vranas and I am a teacher in the Hellenic Elementary School. I really love old and out of service aircraft and for the past 25 years I have researched their history in Greece. In June 2010 I was granted permission from HAF CinC to visit all HAF bases and photograph all the non-operational aircraft they have." This was the opening line of and email I received in September 2011, instantly Themis had grabbed my attention. From my visits to Greece I had seen for myself that the country had many discarded aircraft dispersed around its airfields, its a real aviation treasure trove. For example at Tanagra air base I found seven F-102A Delta Daggers in three locations, amazing! Themis went on to say that there were 664 former Hellenic Air Force aircraft, including eight in European museum and collections, he had photographed 99% of them.
So why are you publishing a book on your research? "A Greek is literally blind when it comes to out of service aircraft. Very few people know even the basics about them. So, from my point of view, this book is a unique chance for many HAF friends to delve in to its living history and see old planes from a different point of view and recognise their value."
I now have the printed book it is virtually A4 and has over 150 pages packed with up-to-date full colour images and serial listing of every HAF out of service aircraft, the quality is impressive. Most of the text is Greek unfortunately. Production costs prevented the inclusion of an English translation. However there are some english headings which go some way to explaining the data contained. Below is a very detailed explanation of the book's format.
I nearly forgot the book's title 'Fighting the Lethe' may need some explaining. Lethe means forgetfulness or oblivion, it comes from Greek Mythology, a river in Hades whose water when drunk made the souls of the dead forget their life on earth.
|Left to right: Fighting the Lethe (cover) and two sample pages (page 78 and 79).|
|Useful information for reading (compiled by the author)
The presentation starts with HAF Combat Wings, followed by Combat Groups and then the remaining HAF Units. After these are HAF aircraft outside HAF Units in Greece and abroad.
At each HAF Unit presentation, the name of the Unit is used as headline, together with the date (month/year) of our visit, both in Greek and English language.
A small introductory text, whenever it is needed, gives a brief description of the out of service aircraft that are hosted there and a synopsis of aircraft that were destroyed at that Unit during the period 1990-2010. As the full record of destroyed aircraft is not in the scope of this book we just mention some of the aircraft we saw in the above mentioned period or found in the archives of 201 HAF Supply Depot.
During our visits we also photographed aircraft that never served with the HAF, for example museum exhibits or aircraft belonging to Army Aviation. These are included in the Unit presentation but they are excluded from the concentrated type lists at the beginning of the book.
Aircraft that were used as spare parts sources or instructional airframes by the HAF are treated like any other non-operational HAF aircraft.
Aircraft are recorded by subtype, for example in the HAF Agrinio Detachment entry there are separate lists for F-104Gs, TF-104Gs and RF-104Gs.
All available information for each aircraft is recorded in four columns.
In the first column, the tail number is quoted (in many cases the fuselage number!). This is the number displayed when the aircraft was photographed. If that number is faded or missing, it is replaced with the number it was reported as wearing previously. It is not unusual for the original number to have been replaced by the number of another aircraft of the same type (e.g. F-84F 26361 is displayed as 26595) or the number shown to have no relevance to the original tail number (e.g. RF-84F 37682 is displayed as 626). On these occasions, the wrong or corrupted number is written in bold figures in brackets «xxxx» . If there is no clue to an aircraft’s identity we adopt the one we consider as the most likely in bold letters with a Greek question mark xxxx; . If even this is impossible, we just put full stops in a parenthesis (….) .
In the second column, the serial number used by other users/owners is quoted. If that number is unknown, only the user is mentioned. The majority of HAF aircraft after 1950 were acquired free of charge through MAP (Military Assistance Program) and MDAP (Mutual Defence Assistance Program), or were bought through the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) Program, namely low-interest US loans for buying US military equipment. That is why the USA is considered as the owner/first user. All these aircraft have been allocated United States Air Force serial numbers, which, in most cases, is the basis for the corresponding Greek number (e.g. F-5B USAF s/n 65-10582, HAF 50582). There are also instances of former US aircraft that were purchased from other countries, using their own serial system. Even these aircraft, in HAF use, display their original USAF serial number because all US technical orders and manuals refer to the aircraft with that number (e.g. RF-4E USAF s/n 69-7482, Luftwaffe s/n 3535, HAF 7482). An exception is the C-47Bs purchased from the RAF in the 1947-1949 period, which continued to display their RAF s/n (e.g. C-47B USAAF s/n 43-49479, RAF s/n KK156, (R)HAF KK156). Something really curious about second-hand aircraft purchased from Germany is the almost total rejection of that country’s serial system in Greece! If a former German aircraft had a US s/n it was adopted in Greek use, if not then the construction number c/n was used instead ! (e.g. Dornier Do28D-2 c/n 4082, Luftwaffe s/n 5807, HAF 4082). The only exception to that rule was the Nord Noratlas, which displayed a version of the German s/n (e.g. N2501D Luftwaffe 5288, HAF 52188). For all the above reasons, the USAF serial number appears first, followed by the serial numbers of subsequent users. If the owner/first user is USAF that is not mentioned, as it is apparent from the way the serial number is written: The two last numbers of the fiscal year that the construction of the specific aircraft was funded, followed by a dash and a usually four digit number denoting the funding serial number. For example, F-102A s/n 56-1007 is the one thousand and seventh aircraft for which funding was requested from the USA budget of Fiscal Year 1956.
Aircraft supplied from Germany are marked as GAF (German Air Force), irrespective if they were received before or after the unification of East and West Germany, or if they belonged to the Luftwaffe or the Marineflieger. When the Royal Hellenic Air Force was receiving Canadair CL-13 Sabres Mk.2 and Silver Stars Mk.3 in the fifties the Canadian Air Force was called the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). After 1982, its name was changed to Canadian Forces Air Command, although it has recently changed back to RCAF. To avoid any confusion, it was decided to use RCAF throughout. In the same way, when Greece received F-5As from Iran back in 1976 its Air Force was named Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF). After the Islamic revolution in 1978, it was renamed Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). Again, the name of the Air Force during the aircraft supply period to Greece is used (IIAF).
In the third column, the construction number is written. In the case of the F-104G, many aircraft were license-built by other manufacturers like Canadair, Fiat, Fokker, Messerschmitt, or MBB. For these aircraft, a letter specific to each company follows the c/n. It must be emphasized that these letters have been chosen arbitrarily by the writer for noting that information and have nothing to do with any official or unofficial practice of any of the mentioned companies. The link between letters and companies is C: Canadair, F: Fiat, K: Fokker, M: Messerschmitt, B: MBB. Unfortunately, for some aircraft types (e.g. F-84F, F-102A, RF-84F) it was impossible to locate the c/ns.
In the fourth column are remarks about movements of the aircraft from the day its operational use was finished, and information about its treatment by HAF. In this column is included info coming from several researchers’ archives and entries in aviation books, magazines or in the internet.
Before we analyze how to read the remarks column it will be useful to say a few words about the course of an aircraft after its last flight. Reaching the end of its operational life due to HAF planning, obsolescence, technical problems or an accident, HAF HQ orders it to be characterized as Category E1. This means that it is withdrawn from use and will remain out of service. If the aircraft is in good condition and the airframe still has some useful flight hours, the HAF may decide to keep it in short term storage (Category Z). A Cat Z aircraft is regularly maintained and its engine is kept operational but it makes no flights. When it is decided that there is no need for it to be kept in Cat Z it is stripped of all useful parts and dropped to Cat E1. On some occasions the HAF schedules the retirement of several aircraft of the same type and issues an order about when every aircraft must be retired, usually when completing a certain amount of flight hours. The date of this order will appear in records as the date of its retirement, regardless of the date it really stopped flying. The aircraft will be assigned to its new duty, which will be selected from a wide range, comprising Battle Damage Repair training, firefighting training, decoy, instructional airframe or, ideally, exhibit in HAF Museum, a Base Collection or exhibit in a Municipality. Sometimes, after a HAF order, this duty can change. In this case, the original retirement document is replaced with a new one which assigns the aircraft to another role.
If the movement of an aircraft from a HAF Unit to another is requested, HAF HQ approves the move and after some time the actual move takes place. What then remains is the logistical record of the move, which may take some months to be done. For example, HAF approved the move of T-33A 53-5981 to Santorini HAF Detachment on 14/4/1998. The T-33A flew there on 17/7/1998, but the paperwork trail was not completed until June 1999. Although a bureaucratic matter, this paper date nevertheless provides a date by which the aircraft can definitely be said to have moved to its new home.
When an aircraft is no longer needed for any role, it is disposed of and is characterized as Category E2, just like aircraft totally destroyed in a crash. After dropping into Cat E2 the aircraft is deleted from every HAF list except for the ones held by 201 HAF Supply Depot and the HAF Supply Directorate.
It must be emphasized that some of the published information has been given to the author by the HAF without him having the ability to examine the original documents himself. This resulted in many questions being raised without the luxury of a straight answer. After much thought, it was decided that only data that fitted into the already known history of an aircraft would be included in the book. With that in mind, it is possible that a date referred to as drop to Cat E1 might actually be that of a movement approval, a logistical entry, or the date of role changing.
All info given by the HAF is written in italics, while any date in bold denotes the exact date of aircraft movement or withdrawal from use. Two dates with an asterisk * between them show the extreme dates it was noted at that specific location. The last flight date of an aircraft, when known, is marked with a #. The date of approval is marked with the letters (ε.δ.), while the logistical entry date is marked (λ.κ.).
In the case of an aircraft is exhibited at a HAF Unit the term «Μουσείο» (Museum) is used if it is exhibited near the Unit’s Museum, or «Συλλογή» (Collection) if it is exhibited in any other location. If it is displayed near the gate, the Unit’s HQ or a specific Squadron it is appropriately marked.
Bearing in mind the huge number of aircraft, remarks for each one are restricted to the most essential, at least according to the author!
So, for example, F-104G 7090 made its last flight from 116 CW to 132 CG (Agrinio HAF Detachment) on 7/4/1993. It dropped to Cat E1 on 20/7/1993. On 20/10/2003 the HAF approved its movement to Delvinaki Municipality in the Ioannina area, district of Epirus. On 29/3/2004 it was transported at KEA Hellinikon for maintenance and on April 2005 it was mounted at Delvinaki, where it is still located.
The entry for that will be F-104G 7090 #7/4/1993 132 CG, 20/7/1993 E1, 20/10/2003 ε.δ. Municipality of Delvinaki, 29/3/2004 KEA, 4/2005 Delvinaki/Ioannina .
F-102A 56-1232 was noted in 1978 at 112 CW. Its last report there was in 1986. By August 1990 it had been transported to 110 CW, where it is still located. It is exhibited at the Base Museum.
The entry for that will be F-102A 56-1232 1978*1986 112 CW, 8/1990 110 CW, Μουσείο 110 ΠΜ .
The photographic presentation of the aircraft follows just after the text and the aircraft board of each Unit. In the subtitle are included the aircraft type, s/n and photographer’s name. The month/year of the photography is written in the Unit headline. In some cases photos taken a few months before our visit are used. The strict condition for publishing such a photo is that the aircraft is at exactly the same location and the same condition as we saw it in the headline date. If an aircraft changed colour scheme or location after our visit we try to include a second photo of it with its new colors or at its new location in the Unit. In all the above cases the photo subtitle also includes the date it was taken.
In the HAF Museum presentation, each photo has its date at the subtitle as several visits were needed to complete the task.
During the creation of the book, it was impossible for some photos to be included in their correct place due to technical restrictions of the page settings. To minimize “photo loss”, four of them are included on the same page as the aircraft of 3rd Area Control Center at Crete.
The aircraft presentation per Unit makes it difficult to realise how many and which aircraft of each type are currently surviving. So in the first pages of the book there are concentrated type lists for solving that problem. The type lists include only s/n and location, so if someone wanting to find more info for a specific aircraft can just turn to the page of its Unit. The only other info to be found here is the description “τμήμα α/φους” (aircraft part) which means that we are talking about the remains of an aircraft, in most cases following a serious accident. In total, 15 aircraft are marked with that note.
All possible effort was exerted to make the data and photos correct to October 2011. The only exclusions are 110 CW and 116 CW, flying RF-4Es and A-7Es respectively. It is my choice not to have any data update for these Bases/types because a complete list of non-operational aircraft of a type that is still active could be used to compile a list of operational aircraft. This has more to do with the operational aspect of the Hellenic Air Force than a historical study.
On a personal note
For me this is no ordinary book about aircraft, Themis is a real lover of old aircraft who wanted to produce a photographic record of all the old and obsolete aircraft that once flew with the Hellenic Air Force that can still be found. It is a labour of love a project which I personally would have been thrilled to be involved with. In fact I did play the smallest part in the production of the work. In 2010 I visited four Hellenic Air Force bases and 'discovered' for myself many aircraft relics. During my visit to Tanagra I found a collection of about a dozen discarded aircraft behind some bushed in long grass. One aircraft an F-102A (56-1024) was only spotted as I was leaving, it was some distance away from the main group and quite difficult to see. Themis had missed it himself but found my image when browsing the Internet and asked if he could use my image in his book. I was honoured to contribute and so began our friendship.
Themis has had to find out for himself exactly which aircraft survive and where they are. He discovered that dispite nearly all the aircraft still in the charge of the military there were no official records listing them. Themis had to interview his military contacts to find out the detailed data which accompanies the images. As Themis said in an email to me; "So, after much painstaking work and a very nice headache, I closed in to the truth as near as possible."