UNARMED and ALONE-BUT UNAFRAID*

(*most of the time)

 

Turkish Army AOP flights

For twenty years Turkish Army Artillery spotting and reconnaissance pilots flew their fragile underpowered Piper Super Cubs in some of the world’s most hostile terrain - the 15,000 feet high snow covered mountains and rugged isolated valleys of the Eastern and the scorching hot plains of Southern Turkey.

 

Until 1944 the Turkish Air Force was a part of the army. On 31.January that year the air force became an independent command.

From 1948 the United States assisted the Turkish Armed Forces into becoming an up to date military organization. Large amounts of equipment were transferred so to make the force more effective. Among the initial equipment arriving was 15 AOP (Air observation post) L-4J aircraft. These aircraft were intended for spotting and direction for the Army’s artillery units and an organization had to be formed for their use. The U.S.Army system was adopted under which small flights were attached directly to Army Corps and Division artillery units.

 

 

L-4J at Polatli                                                               L-18B on delivery to the Turkish Army

 

Thus was the “Kara Ordusu Topçu Havaciliği (The Army Artillery Aviation)” formed in 1948 and a number of officers from artillery regiments were posted to the Türk Hava Kurumu in order to be provided with flying training. Basic training was given on Magister trainers and operational on the L-4Js. From 1948-52 210 officers were trained. Operational training and initial operations were conducted by theTopçu Okulu Hava Grubo (The Artillery School’s Air Group)” at Polatli which was given the first 15 L-4Js. Parallel with the training, AOP-Flights called “Topçu Alayi Hava Kismi” were formed with the various Corps and Division artillery units. Overall command was exercised by the “Hava Grup Komuntanliği (Air Group Command)” at Polatli. In 1950 two Turkish L-18B aircraft, with national markings, were detached to the Turkish Brigade in Korea later being replaced by L-19As. Two crew members were killed there performing their duties.

From 1950 onwards hundreds of Piper Super Cubs of the marks L-18B(40), L-18C(127) and L-21B(125) were received and distributed to an increasing number of “Hava Kismi”.

In 1958 the Headquarters and Flying School was moved to Ankara’s former civil airfield at Güverçinlik. Further, in 1959, the flying school was renamed “Kara Havacilik Okulu (Army Flying School)” as a start of unit consolidation. In June 1961 a re-organisation started which saw the formation of Hava Bölükler (Air Companies) under major formations and Hava Gruplar (Air Groups) under Divisions, Brigades and some special units.

 

 

Super Cub replacements:  L-19A                                    U-17A

 

OH-13                                                                                   AB-204B

 

This reorganisation was the start of a modernisation of the force in the sixties. First Super Cubs were replaced by O-1Es and U-17A/Bs in 1963 and 1965 and helicopters were included in 1966 when Bell OH-13S spotting and TH-13T training helicopters and AB.204B transport helicopters were delivered.

The next consolidation of units started in 1971 when Bölükler and Gruplar were paired into Hava Taburu (Air Battalions) and a year later a “Hava Alayi (Air regiment)” was formed under each of the three Armies and a “Hava Taburu (Air Battalion)” under each of nine Army Corps. At Güverçinlik/ Ankara a Helicopter Battalion was formed with more transport helicopters rapidly arriving. In 1974 the helicopter units were active in the Cyprus operations and the Helicopter Battalion was assigned to the 2nd Hava Alayi deploying 22 helicopters, some modified as gunships, with 44 pilots. The same year the flying school was formed into a large organisation comprising the Helicopter Battalion, an Air Liaison Group with gradually a large number of light transport aircraft and the flying school itself with fixed-wing trainers and helicopters. By 1979 the Super Cub was finally  replaced in the training role by 40 Bellanca Citabrias and 25 Cessna T-41Ds.

 

 

Bellanca Citabria                                                                    Cessna T-41D

 

 

Dr. Murat Canger writes:

“My father Ahmet Hamdi Canger was trained by Turk Hava Kurumu in 1950 at their Ankara/Etimesgut base.

 

 

 

Here he is photographed before a flight with one of the Miles Magister trainers made on license in Turkey. The next photograph was taken during the graduation ceremony with Sabiha Gökçen who had been my father's control pilot in the THK pinning on his wings and obtaining Arrmy pilot license no.58. The training was ended with a flyover ceremony.

 

 

 

Having received their wings the graduated Army pilots then in 1951 progressed to operational training on newly delivered L-18B Piper Cubs. This was conducted at the Army’s Artillery Center which also housed the newly formed Army Flying School at  Polatli.

 

 

Soon after passing his operational artillery spotting course Lt. Canger was sent to his first pilot posting with the 51st Division Artillery Regiment Air Group at Dumlu/Erzurum in Eastern Turkey. Here three pilots applied as volunteers to go to Korea, however before being sent there my father's friend Lt. Edip Durgun lost his life in an accident at Dumlu (Photo) whereas the third applicant Serif Sumlu lost his life in Korea. Of the three volunteers only my father survived.

 

 

 

While in Korea the Turkish AOP pilots supported the Turkish Brigade’s Artillery Regiment in what was called "Türk Tugayı Hava Grubu" (The Turkish Brigade Air Group) initially flying L-18C Piper Super Cubs with Turkish markings soon to be replaced with American L-19A Bird Dogs (Photos)

 

 

(Note: American markings on the fuselage and serial number on the tail, but with Turkish white crescent and star on the tail of the L-19A . The officer next to my father is fellow first Lieutenant Azmi Isıklar.)
After having returned from Korea Lt.Ahmet Hamdi Canger served in the 1st army Division Artillery Division Air Group’s Topcu Hava Grubu between 1954-1961. They flew a small number of L-18C's painted in trainer yellow as well as L-21B’s in a olive-drab camouflage scheme.

 

 

 

 

A special assignment for my father came in 1956 when at Harran Meadow/Urfa in Southern Turkey  the Turkish Army Aviation participated in crop spraying operations.

 

 

He then served in Elazığ and Erzurum between 1961-1967.

During winter they flew with skis which had been mounted under the wheels and were manually interchangeable with the wheels. Also in at that period Turkish Piper Cub were carrying smoke-bomb dispensers mounted under the wings.

 

 

L-21B in the old markings                                                L-21B in the markings after 1972

 

An interesting postscript about army aviation in Turkey is that after having operated tail-draggers (e.g. aircraft with a tail wheel) for more than 60 years (since 1948)  it is finally totally adopting to only nose wheel aircraft. Since early April 2009 the first of 46 Cessna T.182T Skylanes have arrived among other things to replace the U-17B (the last tail-dragger type) in the training and liaison role.

 

>>