LAFAS - Lost and Found Aviation Sound

Originally copied and preserved from in 2003
before it disappeared
(Archived from my copy by National Air & Space Museum in 2015)

Original Posting: 2003

Update: July 2021

Eighteen years after I discovered LAFAS, the author finally found me!

Date: Sun, Jul 25, 2021
Subject: Lost & Found Aviation Sound

Dear Fred,

On your website you've archived an article and sound clips entitled Lost and Found Aviation Sounds. Well you've just made my year! Why? Because I am/was "Lost and Found Aviation Sounds". I never got much interest from the article.


Chris Frear
Grimsby, UK.

Update: August 2021

See additional links Chris Frear sent me (below original 2003 links)

The Original LAFAS Website

  Audio recordings often play second fiddle to film material in many archives. Film clips can be a nice little money earner as clips can be sold again and again to documentary makers. Audio on the other hand doesn't seem to have any use aside from being transcribed for Oral History programs.

  Lost and Found Aviation Sound is a small project/organisation set up to preserve audio recordings related to aviation and space flight before its too late and historically valuable recordings are lost for good.

  We feel that audio recordings have much to give future generations, reading a transcript or an account in a dusty old book is all well and good, but just imagine you could hear that person recounting in their own voice what happened or why they did something in a particular way. It would bring an event or situation alive allowing students, enthusiasts and historians alike to have a much clearer understanding of how and why an event happened. Recordings may also contain knowledge about obsolete aircraft or systems by the people who cared for them which may no longer be available to the aviation community.

  We recently worked on some rare wire recordings of the team that broke the sound barrier in 1947. Found in a Washington DC basement, the recordings had lain forgotten for over 25 years, until a sound engineer found them and sent them to us. What makes these recordings special are that they include not just Chuck Yeager, but other people intimately involved with the X-1 test program. Many of these people have long since pasted on, but these tapes recorded at the time; allow their voices to describe the events while they are still "raw" in their own minds. Audio extracts can be heard on the audio page of this website.

  To preserve the story of aviation, LAFAS needs your help. With just over a year until the centenary of man's first powered flight we are keen to hear from anyone, people and museums alike that might have recordings of people involved in everything from the construction, maintenance and flight of air and spacecraft.

  Once these tapes are gone, so has part of our heritage. Saving these recordings is important as tape deteriorates with age, especially if it not kept in proper conditions.

  LAFAS operates under the wing of One Voice Multimedia Ltd; but is run on a purely voluntary basis, with staff working on a voluntary basis donating their time and skills free of charge and running costs covered by the sale of CDs.

  Battle of Britain (Paper tape)

  Sounds of the Battle of Britain Found in Garage.
"There's one coming down in flames - there somebody's hit a German - and he's coming down - there's a long streak - he's coming down completely out of control - a long streak of smoke"

  A tape recording containing the sounds of the Battle of Britain as discovered in a domestic garage in Lincolnshire, England. Having gathered dust for 60 years until found by the Lost and Found Aviation Sounds team, the tape is one of only three copies of the recording known to still exist.

  The recording is also unusual as it was made of paper, not the usual plastic backing material used on tapes. "Considering the conditions we found this tape in, it should have rotted away years ago", said Chris Butterfield, of Lost and Found Aviation Sounds. "We'd gone to look at an old wire recorder and the owner had this old tape machine too, the machine was beyond salvage, but the tape looked interesting and we were asked to find out what was on it."

  "Oh boy, I've never seen anything so good as this - the R.A.F. fighters have really got these boys taped." - Charles Gardner, BBC Radio report (10th July, 1940)

  Join the BBC's veteran reporter Charles Gardner on the cliffs of Dover at the height of the battle, as he describes German dive-bombers attacking an allied convoy in the English Channel, while high above RAF Spitfires battle German Messerschmitts.

    Battle of Britain (Paper tape)

  The "Muroc Tapes"

  For 25 years the tapes from which the following extracts came, have lain forgotten in a cardboard box in a Washington basement. We'd like to know more about there history, all we know for sure is that a man walked into a recording studio sometime in the mid-Seventies and asked for a bundle of wire recordings to be transferred to tape.

  Having listened to the recordings, some were recorded in a hangar, with sound of aircraft flying by outside. Various references date the certain recordings as being made around the time of the Korean conflict.

  Even in the Seventies, wire recordings were considered out-dated, and the sound engineer assigned the job had to "jerry rig" his equipment to allow him to retrieve the recordings from the wire. He made two copies of the recordings, one for the client and one as a back up. The client came and collected his tapes, and disappeared into the mists of time, the studio closed, and the recordings lost. Until that is, the backup copies were unearthed in the Washington basement in the summer of 2002.

  Here's an extract with then Capt. Yeager describing life in and around the X-1 program.

    Muroc Tape - Yeager)

  Listen know to a short extract where Col. Al Boyd, then chief of the Flight Test Division at Wright Field explains how they chose one Capt. Charles "Chuck" Yeager as the pilot to fly the X-1.

    Muroc Tape - Boyd

  What makes these recordings special are that they include not just Chuck Yeager, but other people intimately involved with the X-1 test program. Many of whom have long since pasted on, but these tapes recorded at the time; allow their voices to describe and express the events while they are still "raw" in their own minds. Although poor by modern audio standards, for 55-year-old recordings using obsolete technology we think you'll agree it's pretty impressive.

  Audio Mystery

  Would you like to help with an audio mystery? From time to time we receive material from which the titles are missing, and unless you heard the material when it was first broadcast it is very difficult to identify. After we appeared in Plane and Pilot magazine last month, Tim Grace from Washington State sent us a cassette loaded with interesting audio material. Of prime interest to Tim was a wartime interview made with is late father, then 1st Lt. Gerald G. Grace and recorded in February 1945.

    Recording by 1st Lt. Gerald G. Grace

  Following the interview with Lt. Grace there was also a fascinating but unidentified feature dramatising the role of P47 Thunderbolt pilot in Europe. See if you can help us identify its origins.

    Mystery Recording

  Veterans' Voices, Bomber Command Aircrew (August 2003)

  In a recording made a year before his death the late Ronald Tadberry, former Navigator and member of Pathfinders, talks about flying in Halifax and Lancaster Bombers. He recalls the time he and his crew were shot down, eventually ditching in the North Sea and becoming members of the Goldfish Club.

    Ronald Tadberry

  In a recording made at the former RAF East Kirkby airfield (now the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre), veteran Ken Whiteman speaks to Liz Butterfield about his first visit there. In the early hours of 30th August 1944 he flew in a badly damaged Wellington across Europe before trying to land at Morton in the Marsh near Gloucester. But the plane was diverted to East Kirkby, finally crash landing there with one engine on fire.

    Ken Whiteman


  Do you have sound recordings of former aircrew or ground crew? Lost And Found Aviation Sounds are looking for interesting aviation oral history material to feature on this website in the coming months. For more information email us [no longer active]

  Orchestrated Hell! - Edward R. Murrow [Added 4/16/06]

  By 1943, the war was in full force. On the northern European continent it was still essentially an English war. The Allied Expeditionary Force had invaded Africa and was moving into Italy, but the British were doing most of the fighting and bombing in France, Germany and other northern countries.

  Ed Murrow and his "boys" were reporting regularly to the United States via CBS News feeds. While many of Murrow's reporters were in the countries where the main fighting was going on, CBS specifically directed Murrow to manage the whole news organization from the relative safety of London. Though he had come through much of the London blitz, Murrow was growing restless wanting to "get into the war" as reporter too.

  In 1943, the British had begun regular bombing runs into Germany giving back to the Nazis a taste of what the Nazis had given to them. And it was effective. Berlin was experiencing regular bombings with much destruction. The bombers were the English 4 engine bomber, Lancasters. Though there were many that never returned, having been shot down, many got through dropping their bombs and incendiaries and returning to English soil.

  Murrow wanting some way of getting a look at the war front begged a ride on one bombing run on the night of December 2nd, 1943. The next day he broadcast back to America his experiences on the run. The piece became well-known as "Orchestrated Hell" and was a marvelous piece on the brave men who regularly faced death to achieve victory.

  After the run, CBS explicitly forbade its star newsman to ever place himself in harm's way again. Murrow was too valuable to the organization.

    Orchestrated Hell! - Edward R. Murrow - December 3, 1943


More from Chris Frear, August 2021

Just this past week I located the minidisc containing the 2nd half of the Tadberry Interview. I haven't heard it myself in nearly 20 years now! Thank god you archived the clip. Mum (Liz) interviewed Ronald in the back room of the local pub, the lady was Ronald's daughter. She had heard we were interested in such stories and asked us to record her father's memories. He like many other veterans has since passed away. I tried to get various magazines interested at the time, with very litte success.

Back then we made radio, interviews with real English people living near us with interesting jobs/hobbies. Have a listen at either

We had to no money or backing, so to fund it we restored old audio recordings for people.

This in turn found us at East Kirkby one night. EK is home to a taxiable Lancaster Bombers. The Museum there runs night time taxi runs throughout the Winter. It was on one of these that we recorded some veterans in the hangar/museum.

Eventually the audio restoration took on a life of its own and together with illness meant we no longer had time to make radio.