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The Pilots

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Flight Operations in the United States


On the 28th of September, Colonel Watson, and Bob Anspach accompanied test pilot Jack Woolams (of Bell aircraft) on a flight of three Me 262s from Newark (via Pittsburgh) to Freeman Field.  They flew in loose V formation with Colonel Watson in lead.  During the flight, Watson's altimeter malfunctioned and instead of flying at 10,000 feet he had actually climbed to 16,000 feet without oxygen.  Woolams knew that hypoxia would soon be setting in, and attempted to draw Watson's attention with hand signals.  After  landing at Pittsburgh, Woolams told Watson why he kept signaling for him to descend. The flight to Freeman Field then continued at 8,000 feet.

Holt was the only pilot at Freeman Field with orders authorizing him to fly the captured jets.  The T-2 Division at Wright Field would send Teletype orders to Freeman Field, calling for certain tests to be performed at certain altitudes, speeds, etc.  Holt flew these missions, and forwarded the requested  data (via teletype) back to Wright Field for analysis.

Initially, Holt had four Me 262s at his disposal, and he flew them all at one time or another.  After an engine change or any major airframe maintenance, he would conduct the requisite test flights.  Between the flight tests, maintenance checks and ferrying operations, he eventually logged over 200 flight hours in the aircraft.


Mishaps continued to occur from time to time.  Once, while landing at Freeman, the right brake failed.   Holt held the aircraft straight using the rudder and elevators for control.  As the airspeed dropped, this became increasingly  ineffective, and he was forced to use the brakes. 

A large ditch was located at the end of the runway, and in an effort to avoid this, he went ahead and applied the brakes.  Only the left brake functioned and the jet abruptly swerved off the side onto the grass field. 

The ground was soaked from an earlier rainfall, and the aircraft ground-looped, skidding around in the mud before coming to a safe stop.  Minor damage was sustained to one landing strut, but the aircraft was repaired and flown on later tests.

In March 1946, Colonel Watson was also involved in a near-fatal flight at Freeman Field.  Shortly after takeoff he discovered that many of his control inputs were having the opposite effect, and he quickly suspected that the elevator trim on the jet (FE-110) had been rigged backwards.  Through skillful handling he managed to get back onto the ground safely, thus averting a major disaster.

Colonel Watson makes a low pass at 520 mph at Freeman Field.  Credit: NASM

Hal Watson, Fred McIntosh, Ed Maxfield, Bob Anspach and Ken Holt at Freeman Field with FE-4012 (now at Chino) in December 1945.  Credit: Air Tech News

FE/T-2-4012 following the reconditioning at Hughes.


By May 1946, plans were formulated to shut down Freeman Field and transfer all USAAF, German, Italian and Japanese aircraft to storage facilities. Fighter aircraft were to be stored at the 803 Special Depot, Orchard Place Airport, Park Ridge, Illinois, where the newly-promoted Captain Strobell was charged with managing the inventory.  (This collection became the source of most of the foreign combat planes that are in U.S. aviation museums.)

Meanwhile, the military formed a mobile ground display to make appearances at air shows and public events.  The display included examples of the Me 262 (FE-110) as well as the Fw 190, V-1, V-2 and certain Japanese aircraft.  Army Air Forces Base Unit 4140 (Research and Development Exhibition) was formed specifically to support these activities.

When not flying tests, Holt performed demonstration flights at several air shows across the country.   He flew the two-seater Me 262 (FE- 610) to an air pageant in Omaha, Nebraska on 14 July 1946.  During a demonstration flight on the final day, one of the engines began losing turbine blades.  He shut it down and landed without incident.  The jet was then left at Omaha until the engine could be replaced, and Holt returned to Omaha and ferried the jet back to Freeman Field. 

Once activities there began to be phased out, Holt also ferried Me 262s to Bolling Field near Washington D.C. and to Wright Field.  The last remaining Me 262 at Wright Field was the A-1a/U3 FE-4012.

This aircraft was prepared for final tests against the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star which involved removing the jet's reconnaissance nose section, and replacing it with the fighter nose section from FE-111 which was aerodynamically cleaner.  The aircraft was also given a high-gloss refinishing for the tests, and the designation changed to T-2-4012.

Following the tests, T-2-4012 was slated for a contract restoration with the Hughes Aircraft Corporation.   It was delivered there in August of 1947, and destined for Muroc Field upon completion.  Once the restoration was finished, the Air Force apparently changed its plans for the machine, and Hughes was asked to store the jet.  The company never made any attempts to fly it, and the aircraft eventually was turned over to an aeronautical school in Glendale as a static trainer.  


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