In case you're new to all-things-OS2U, the Chance Vought "Kingfisher" was a seaplane charged with the job of "Observation" hence the "O." The particular airplane above, BuNo (Serial Number) 01487 flew from the battleship USS South Dakota. Launched from a gun-powder charged catapult, this little machine buzzed above, serving as the Fleet's aerial eye, helping target the 'big guns' and spotting enemy submarines.
But, what I think is especially cool about this airplane is its additional role in recovering lost pilots.
I can vividly imagine the sensation of being adrift in the ocean, rising and falling with the swells of gray, working at keeping alive in an utterly unhuman environment. Having been scared senseless by the movie Jaws, the Unknown swimming beneath my paddling feet adds to a feeling of helplessness. Ok, terror.
Until...the blat of an airplane engine, bouncing across the water's surface provides the heart-leaping word that becomes everything in moments of hopelessness - Rescue.
I then think about Ted, alighting on the waves in a spray of salt water, motoring to the dirty yellow speck of life raft, or inflatable vest and cutting the engine, letting inertia, wind and wave push him to the once-lost man. Rescue!
On one such mission, Ted had to step out onto the airplane's wing and haul up a pilot who had barely energy to stay afloat, let alone climb up into the rear cockpit.
Can you imagine how rewarding such work must have been?! To be the heart, hands and face of one who saves another?!
An emergency room doc told me, "(my work) doesn't get any more 'real.' It's the human experience in its most urgent." I bet Ted felt the same way. In fact, in a few days, I'll be interviewing Ted formally - and I'll ask him just that. Of course, I'll let you know what he says on my website.
But in the meantime, I hope this airplane...and the photos below inspire you to think about those people who play the role of Rescuer in modern life.
Special thank you to Tom Fallon and Rick Lingberg for providing me the opportunity to document this airplane and her very cool pilot.
Also, do yourself a favor and visit the website of the USS South Dakota. Rick Lingberg and his team have worked hard to create a satisfying digital monument to the most decorated capital ship in American history.
NOTE: Airplane geeks will notice the gray rudder and think, "Hey! That's not a standard paint job!" Well, the USS South Dakota went through two Pacific storms in December of 1944, damaging the exposed airplanes. The Kingfishers were repaired at the depot on the island of Ulithi using standard, primer-painted spare parts. This illustration shows Ted's airplane in between repair and the point in time where the ship's maintenance crew found time to bring the airplane up to standard.