25 October 1979

McDonnell Douglas F-4E-67-MC Phantom II, 78-0744, the last of 5,057 Phantoms built at St. Louis, 25 October 1979. (McDonnell Douglas)

25 October 1979: The 5,057th and very last Phantom II—an F-4E-67-MC, serial number 78-0744—was rolled out at the McDonnell Douglas Corporation plant, Lambert Field (STL), St. Louis, Missouri, and the production line was closed.

78-0744 was transferred to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) under the Foreign Military Sales program Peace Pheasant II and assigned to the 17th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Cheongju International Airport (CJJ). One source says that it was “written off,” but details are lacking.

McDonnell Douglas F-4E-67-MC Phantom II 78-0744 in United States Air Force markings. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell Douglas F-4E-67-MC Phantom II 78-0744 in United States Air Force markings. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

24–25 October 1928

Harry Tucker’s Lockheed Vega, NX4769. (Unattributed)
Captain Charles B.D. Collyer
Captain Charles B.D. Collyer

24–25 October 1928: Captain Charles B.D. Collyer, U.S. Army Air Service, and Harry J. Tucker flew Tucker’s Lockheed Vega, NX4769, from New York to Los Angeles, non-stop, in 24 hours, 55 minutes.

A contemporary newspaper article reported the event:

YANKEE DOODLE SETS NEW MARK

Monoplane Flies Across Continent to Los Angeles in 24 Hours, 55 Minutes

Mines Field, Los Angeles, Oct. 25—(AP)—Setting a new record for a trans-continental non-stop airplane flight from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, the monoplane Yankee Doodle arrived here at 2:12 p.m. today from New York.

The unofficial time of the flight as announced by Capt. C.D.B. Collyer, pilot and Harry Tucker, owner and passenger, was 24 hours 55 minutes. The best previous time for the westward flight was 26 hours and 50 minutes, made in 1923 by Lieutenants John MacReady [John A. Macready] and Oakley Gelley [Oakley George Kelly].

530 Gallons Carried

The Yankee Doodle hopped off at Roosevelt Field at 4:16:35 p.m. Eastern Standard Time yesterday. The little cigar-shaped white-winged plane was loaded with 530 gallons of gasoline, just about enough for a 24-hour flight, and a check began shortly after landing to determine how much of the fuel was left.

The westward flight covered approximately the course flown over by Col. Arthur Goebel when he piloted his plane to a new West-East non-stop trans-continental record of 18 hours and 55 minutes several weeks ago.

This was the fourth time Tucker has sent his plane into a coast-to-coast grind. The first West to East attempt was unsuccessful but on the second attempt Goebel piloted the machine through to the record.

The Cornell Daily Sun, Ithaca, New York, Friday, October 26, 1928, Volume XLIX, Number 29 at Page 1, Column 5

Harry Tucker
Harry Tucker

The Lockheed Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

The airplane was flown by one pilot and could carry four passengers. It had a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters), a length of 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters), and a fully loaded weight of 2,900 pounds (1,315.4 kilograms). The engine was a 787.3-cubic-inch-displacement (12.90 liter) air-cooled Wright Whirlwind J-5 (R-790) 9-cylinder radial engine producing 225 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., giving the Vega a cruising speed of 118 miles per hour (189.9 kilometers per hour) and a top speed of 135 miles per hour (217.3 kilometers per hour)—very fast for its time. The airplane’s range was 900 miles (1,448.4 kilometers). It could fly at an altitude 15,000 feet (4,572 meters).

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

25 October 1925

Brigadier General William Mitchell, United States Army Air Service. (U.S. Air Force)

25 October 1925: The court martial of Colonel William (“Billy”) Mitchell, United States Army Air Service, began at Washington, D.C. (Mitchell had been returned to his permanent rank of colonel after completing his term as Assistant Chief of the Air Service, during which he retained the temporary rank of brigadier general that he had held during World War I.) For his criticism of the U.S. Navy’s leadership in regard to a number of deadly aviation accidents, he was charged with eight counts of insubordination.

Billy Mitchell had been the senior American air officer in France during World War I. He was a determined advocate for the advancement of military air power and encouraged his officers to compete in air races and attempt to set aviation records to raise the Air Service’ public profile. He gained great notoriety when he bombed and sank several captured German warships to demonstrate the effectiveness of airplanes against ships.

His outspoken advocacy resulted in the famous Court Martial of Billy Mitchell, in which a military court consisting of twelve senior Army officers found Mitchell guilty of insubordination. He was reduced in rank and suspended for five years without pay.

Major General Douglas MacArthur (later, General of the Army, a five-star rank) said that the order to serve on the court was “one of the most distasteful orders I ever received.”

Mitchell resigned from the Army and continued to advocate for air power. He died in 1936.

After his death, President Franklin D. Roosevelt elevated Billy Mitchell to the rank of Major General on the retired officers list. The North American Aviation B-25 twin-engine medium bomber was named “Mitchell” in recognition of General Mitchell’s efforts to build up the military air capabilities of the United States.

Colonel William Mitchell during the 1925 court martial. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

25 October 1923

Captain Lowell H. Smith and First Lieutenant John P. Richter, U.S. Army Air Service. (U.S. Air Force)

25 October 1923: Captain Lowell H. Smith and First Lieutenant John P. Richter, U.S. Army Air Service, flew a DH-4B from Suma, Washington to Tijuana, Mexico, non-stop.

The 1,280 mile (2,060 kilometer) flight was made possible by two air-to-air refuelings from tanker airplanes pre-positioned over Eugene, Oregon and Sacramento, California. The DH-4B tanker over Eugene was flown by First Lieutenants Virgil Hine and Frank W. Siefert. The Sacramento tanker was flown by Captain Robert J. Erwin and First Lieutenant Oliver R. McNeel. At both locations, Smith and Richter made two refueling contacts before proceeding on their route.

On arrival over Mexico, they circled the Tijuana Customs House, then landed at Rockwell Field, San Diego.

The flight took approximately 12 hours.

On 27 June 1923, Captain Smith and Lieutenant Richter stayed aloft over Rockwell Field, (now, NAS North Island) at San Diego, California, with multiple refuelings. This photograph shows the DH-4B tanker, A.S. 23-467, and receiver on that endurance flight. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

24 October 1953

Convair YF-102 52-7994 on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force base, California.
Convair YF-102 52-7994 on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair Chief Test Pilot Richard Lowe Johnson.
Convair Chief Test Pilot Richard Lowe Johnson.

24 October 1953: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Convair’s Chief Test Pilot Richard Lowe Johnson took the first prototype YF-102 Delta Dagger, serial number 52-7994, for its first flight. Dick Johnson was a former U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and a leading military test pilot.

The YF-102 was a delta-wing interceptor developed from the earlier experimental Convair XF-92 Dart. It was designed as an all-weather, missile-armed, Mach 2 fighter. The single-seat, single-engine fighter was powered by an interim Pratt and Whitney J57-P-11 afterburning turbojet engine, which was rated at 10,900 pounds of thrust, or 14,500 pounds with afterburner.

The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, was completed at the Convair plant in San Diego, 2 October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, was completed at the Convair plant in San Diego, 2 October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)

The prototype had finished assembly at the Convair plant in San Diego, California, on 2 October 1953, and was then shipped to Edwards AFB for final preparation and testing.

NACA wind tunnel testing with scale models of the YF-102 had found that it produced significant shock waves at near-sonic speeds. Surprisingly, shock waves were created at the trailing edge of the delta wing. These created very high drag that would keep the aircraft from reaching Mach 1, even with the more powerful engine planned for production models.

The Republic YF-105 fighter bomber had similar problems, though it did pass the speed of sound. Both aircraft were significantly redesigned to incorporate the “Area Rule.” Rather than considering the aerodynamics of the fuselage independently, the frontal area of the wings and tail surfaces had to be included to reduce drag. This produced the “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape that the production models of these two fighters were known for.

Convair built two YF-102s before the design was changed, resulting in the YF-102A prototypes and the production F-102A Delta Dagger.

The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, on Rogers Dry Lake, October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, on Rogers Dry Lake, October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)

Several problems showed up on the YF-102’s first flight. Severe buffeting was encountered at high sub-sonic speed. As predicted by NACA, aerodynamic drag prevented the YF-102 from reaching Mach 1 in level flight. There were problems with the landing gear and the fuel system and the J57 engine did not produce the rated power.

On 2 November 1953, just nine days after the first flight, the Pratt and Whitney J57-P-11 engine flamed out during a test flight. Dick Johnson was unable to restart it and made a forced landing in the desert. The  YF-102 was severely damaged and Dick Johnson badly hurt. The flameout was traced to a problem with the the Bendix fuel control system. The prototype was written off.

Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger 52-7994. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger 52-7994 just before touchdown on Rogers Dry Lake. (U.S. Air Force)
Wreck o fConvair YF-102 52-994 near Edwards Air focre Base, 2 Novemnber 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
Wreck of Convair YF-102 52-7994 near Edwards Air Force Base, 2 November 1953. (U.S. Air Force)

Dick Johnson had been a bomber pilot during World War II. Following the war he was selected to enter test pilot training. On 15 September 1948, he had set a World Speed Record flying a North American Aviation F-86A Sabre to an average speed of 670.981 miles per hour (1,079.84 kilometers per hour).  He was the second U.S. Air Force pilot to be publicly acknowledge for breaking the “sound barrier.” During the Korean War, Johnson was sent to supervise field installations of improvements to the F-86 and was “caught” flying “unauthorized” combat missions. He was sent home.

Lieutenant Colonel Johnson resigned from the Air Force in 1953 to become the Chief Test Pilot for Convair. He flew the YF-102, the F-106 Delta Dart (which had originally been designated F-102B) and the B-58 Hustler supersonic strategic bomber. He was Chief Engineering Test Pilot for the F-111 “Aardvark.” In 1977, Dick Johnson, now the Director of Flight and Quality Assurance at General Dynamics, retired. He died 9 November 2003.

Compare this overhead view of a Convair F-102A-90-CO Delta Dagger, 57-0809, to that of the prototype YF-102 at top. The “wasp waist” area rule fuselage is very noticeable. U.S. Air Force)
Compare this overhead view of a production Convair F-102A-90-CO Delta Dagger, 57-0809, to that of the prototype YF-102 at top. The “wasp waist” area rule fuselage is very noticeable. U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes