31 October 1940

A British civilian air observer searches the sky over London for enemy bombers. (National Archives and Records Administration)

31 October 1940. “All Clear.” The Battle of Britain, which began on 10 July 1940, came to an end. It was a decisive victory for the Royal Air Force.

The German Luftwaffe began its bombing campaign against Britain with the intention of forcing the R.A.F. to defend the cities. The German leaders believed that they could destroy the Royal Air Force in air-to-air combat. It was necessary to eliminate the British air service in order to proceed with the cross-Channel invasion of the British Isles, Operation Sea Lion.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Royal Air Force, GCB, GCVO, CMG, 1st Baron Dowding (1882–1970). (Imperial War Museum)

Commander of Fighter Command, Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding, understood that he needed to choose when and where to fight. Using the secret Chain Home system of radar stations, he was able to place his fighter squadrons above the German bomber formations.

Though Germany started the Battle with a 3:2 advantage in numbers of airplanes (and most of them more modern and superior to the majority of aircraft Britain had available for its defense), the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters took a heavy toll on Luftwaffe crews.

At the beginning of the Battle of Britain, the R.A.F. and Royal Naval Air Service had a total of 1,963 airplanes, most of them obsolete. Germany had 2,550 fighters and bombers, most of them very modern. By the end, however, Britain had lost 554 men killed, 422 wounded and 1,547 airplanes destroyed. Germany lost 2,698 killed, 967 captured and 638 missing, with 1,887 airplanes destroyed. Because the Luftwaffe directed most of its attacks against the civilian population, a concept of Total War which Germany had first used when its airships bombed London during World War I, 23,002 men, women and children were killed and 32,138 wounded.

Because of a system of dispersed manufacture, Britain was able to replace the losses in aircraft and many aircrews parachuted to safety and were able to return to combat immediately. Germany’s industrial output could not keep up with its combat losses, and they could not replace the lost airmen.

Operation Sea Lion was cancelled. Hitler looked to the East.

Contrails over London during the Battle of Britain, 10 July–31 October 1940. (Imperial War Museum)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

30 October 1991

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26118 of the 12th Rescue Wing—a sister ship of Jolly 110—recovers pararescue jumpers during a training mission outside of San Francisco's Golden Gate. (TSGT Lance Cheung, U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26118 of the 129th Rescue Wing—a sister ship of Jolly 110—recovers pararescue jumpers during a training mission outside of San Francisco’s Golden Gate. (TSGT Lance Cheung, U.S. Air Force)

30 October 1991: USAF/Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26110, call sign “Jolly 110″, assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard, headed out into a hurricane that would become known as “The Perfect Storm”, to attempt a rescue 250 miles (400 kilometers) out to sea. Aboard were Major C. David Ruvola, pilot; Captain Graham Buschor, co-pilot; SSgt Jim Mioli, flight engineer; and pararescue jumpers TSgt John Spillane and TSgt Arden Rick Smith.

Due to the severity of the storm (a weather buoy located 264 miles (425 kilometers) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, reported a wave height of 100.7 feet (30.7 meters) on 30 October—the highest ever recorded in that part of the Atlantic Ocean), the Pave Hawk crew was unable to make the rescue and had to return to their base. Having already refueled from the Lockheed C-130 tanker three times during the mission, with low fuel, a fourth refueling was needed for the helicopter to make it back to shore. Because of the the to extreme turbulence and lack of visibility, Jolly 110 could not make contact with the refueling drogue trailing behind the airplane. Major Ruvola made more that 30 attempts, but finally both drogues had been damaged by the severe conditions. Finally, the crew of the Hercules tanker had to shut down one engine because of low oil pressure. Then suddenly, the airplane and helicopter were separated. It was impossible to see more that a few feet. With just twenty minutes of fuel remaining, Jolly 110 would have to ditch in the middle of “The Perfect Storm”.

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 89-26195 refuels from a Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow during a training exercise near San Diego, California. (SSGT Lanie McNeal, U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 89-26195 refuels from a Lockheed HC-130P Combat King 64-14860 during a training exercise near San Diego, California. (SSGT Lanie McNeal, U.S. Air Force)
Technical Sergeant Arden R. Smith, Pararescue Jumper, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)
Technical Sergeant Arden R. Smith, Pararescue Jumper, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)

Unable to refuel, Major Ruvola made the decision to ditch the helicopter into the sea while the engines were still running. Finally, at 9:30 p.m. the number one engine flamed out from fuel starvation. Ruvola held the Pave Hawk in a hover over the raging ocean while Buschor, Mioli, Spillane and Smith jumped. When the number two engine flamed out, Ruvola put the Pave Hawk into a hovering autorotation, its blades coming to a sudden stop when they hit the face of the oncoming wave. Ruvola was about 15 feet under water by the time he was ableeto escape from the sinking Jolly 110.

The Pave Hawk had gone down 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Montauk Point, in 100-knot (185 kilometers per hour) winds and 80-foot (130 meter) waves. After five hours in the water, four airmen were rescued by USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166), a 48-year-old former U.S. Navy fleet tug, operated by the Coast Guard since the end of World War II as a medium endurance cutter.

The search for Rick Smith continued for a week. He was never found.

USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166). (U.S. Coast Guard)
USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166). (U.S. Coast Guard)
USCGC Tamaroa (WHEC-166) pitches and rolls in heavy seas during the rescue of Satori, during "The Perfect Storm". (U.S. Coast Guard)
USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166) pitches and rolls in heavy seas during the rescue of Satori, during “The Perfect Storm”. (U.S. Coast Guard) 
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26106, sister ship of Jolly 110, at William J. Fox Field, Lancaster, California.(Alan Radecki)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26106, sister ship of Jolly 110, at William J. Fox Field, Lancaster, California. (Alan Radecki)

The U.S. Air Force HH-60H Pave Hawk is medium-sized twin-engine combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) helicopter, developed from the Army UH-60A Blackhawk transport. These helicopters were upgraded with an extendable probe for air-to-air refueling and additional fuel tanks in the cabin and given the project name Credible Hawk. These were further upgraded to the MH-60G Pave Hawk standard, which incorporated a system of inertial navigation, GPS and Doppler radar for precision navigation. Low-light television, forward-looking infrared cameras and night vision systems allowed the MH-60G to operate at night and very low altitude.  The Pave Hawk is equipped with an Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), a very sophisticated autopilot which incorporates automatic hover capability. Some of the MH-60G Pave Hawks received further upgrades for the special operations mission. Helicopters dedicated to CSAR were redesignated HH-60G. A rescue hoist capable of lifting 600 pounds ( kilograms) from a 200-foot ( meter) hover is incorporated on the upper right side.

The HH-60G is operated by a crew of two pilots, a flight engineer and gunner. For rescue operations, pararescue jumpers, the famous PJs, are added to the crew. The helicopter is 64 feet, 10 inches (19.76 meters) long and has a rotor diameter of 53 feet, 8 inches (16.36 meters). The helicopter has a overall height of 16 feet, 8 inches (5.01 meters). The empty weight is approximately 16,000 pounds 7,260 kilograms), depending on equipment installations of individual aircraft. The maximum takeoff weight is 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms).

The helicopter is powered by two General Electric T-700-GE-700 turboshaft engines mounted on top of the fuselage on either side of the transmission and main rotor mast. These engines are rated at 1,630 shaft horsepower, each.

The HH-60G has a cruise speed of 184 miles per hour (296 kilometers per hour, and its maximum speed is 224 miles per hour (361 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) and maximum range is 373 miles (600 kilometers). The hover ceiling, in ground effect (HIGE) is approximately 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and out of ground effect (HOGE) is about 6,000 feet (1,830 meters).

Defensive armament consists of two .50-caliber machine guns.

The U.S. Air Force initially purchaesd 112 HH-60G and MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, though 93 remain. Most of these are approaching the designed operation lifetime limits and several have surpassed that by as much as 3,000 flight hours. There are plans to replace them with a new “CRH-60″, a combat rescue helicopter based on the Sikorsky MH-60M.

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

30 October 1961

Major Durnovtsev’s Tupolev Tu-95V “Bear A”, carrying the RDS-220 bomb to the target. A Tu-16 “Badger” instrumentation aircraft is just behind, on the bomber’s left quarter.

30 October 1961: Major Andre E. Durnovtsev, aircraft commander of a specially modified Tupolev Tu-95V “Bear A” bomber, dropped a RDS-220 three-stage radiation implosion bomb, weighing 27,000 kilograms, from an altitude of 10,500 meters (34,449 feet) over the Mityushikha Bay test range on Novaya Zemlya. The bomb, variously known as “Big Ivan” or “Tsar Bomba” was retarded by parachute to allow the Bear to escape the blast effects. At 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above the surface, the bomb detonated.

The RDS-220 bomb just after drop. The retarding parachute is beginning to deploy.
“Big Ivan” with first stage parachute deployed.

Major Durnovtsev’s Tu-95 was approximately 45 kilometers (28 miles) away at the time of the explosion. At the same time, a secret United States Air Force KC-135A instrumentation aircraft, Speedlight, had flown closer to gather data about the air burst. It was close enough that its special antiradiation paint was scorched. After the data was analyzed by the Foreign Weapons Evaluation Panel (the “Bethe Panel”) the RDS-220 yield was estimated at 57 megatons. This was the largest nuclear weapon detonation in history. It was also the “cleanest”, with 97% of the energy yield produced by fusion. Relative to its size, very little fallout was produced.

Tsar Bomba fireball over Novaya Zemlya, 30 October 1961. The fireball has reached a diameter of 5 miles (8 kilometers).
Boeing KC-135A-BN 55-3121, the fourth KC-135 built, was reputedly the secret reconnaissance aircraft, "Speed Light Alpha." (Unattributed)
Boeing KC-135A-BN 55-3121, the fourth KC-135 built, shown here in Rivet Stand configuration, was reputedly the secret reconnaissance aircraft, “Speed Light Alpha.” (Unattributed)

All buildings in the town of Severny, 55 kilometers (34.2 miles) from Ground Zero, were destroyed. Wooden buildings as far as 200 kilometers (124 miles) were destroyed or heavily damaged. A visible shock wave in the air was seen at a distance of 700 kilometers (435 miles). The shock wave from the explosion traveled around the world three times.

Fully assembled RDS-220 three-stage radiation implosion thermonuclear bomb, with retarding parachute in place, at Arzamas-16 .

The RDS-220 was 8 meters (26.25 feet) long, with a diameter of 2.1 meters (6.89 feet). It weighed 27,000 kilograms (59,525 pounds).

The Tupolev Tu-95 is a long range strategic bomber. It is 151 feet, 6 inches (46.2 meters) long with a wingspan of 164 feet, 5 inches (50.10 meters). The wings are swept at a 35° angle. The bomber is powered by four Kuznetsov NK-12M turboprop engines, producing 14,800 shaft horsepower, each, and turning 8-bladed counter-rotating propellers. It weighs 90,000 kilograms (198,416 pounds) empty, with a maximum takeoff weight of 188,000 kilograms (414,469 pounds). The Bear has a maximum speed of 920 kilometers per hour (572 miles per hour) and an unrefueled range of 15,000 kilometers (9,321 miles). (The Bear A is capable of inflight refueling.) Service ceiling is 13,716 meters (45,000 feet).

A current production Tupolev Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
A current production Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear H strategic bomber. (Royal Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

30 October 1935

The Boeing Model 299 (XB-17), prototype four-engine heavy bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Ployer P. Hill, U.S. Army Air Corps (1894–1935)

30 October 1935: While undergoing evaluation by the U.S. Army Air Corps at Wright Field, the Boeing Model 299 Flying Fortress, NX13372, the most technologically sophisticated airplane of its time, took off with Major Ployer P. Hill, U.S. Army Air Corps, Chief of the Flying Branch, Material Division at Wright Field, on his first flight in the airplane, as pilot. The co-pilot was the Army’s project pilot, Lieutenant Donald Putt. Boeing Chief Test Pilot Leslie R. Tower and company mechanic C.W. Benton were also aboard, as was Henry Igo of Pratt & Whitney.

Immediately after takeoff, the 299 pitched up, stalled and crashed. Three men were able to escape despite injuries.

The wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, burns after the fatal crash at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)
The wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, burns after the fatal crash at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)

First Lieutenant Robert Giovannoli made two trips into the burning wreck to rescue Hill and Tower, though they both died of their injuries. Lieutenant Giovannoli was awarded the Soldier’s Medal as well as the Cheney Award (a medal for heroism) but he was killed in another airplane crash before it could be presented to him.

The official investigation determined that the flight crew had neglected to release the flight control gust locks which are intended to prevent damage to the control surfaces while on the ground. Test Pilot Tower recognized the mistake and tried to release the control locks, but could not.

Experts wondered if the Flying Fortress was too complex an airplane to fly safely. As a direct result of this accident, the “check list” was developed, now required in all aircraft.

Cockpit of the Boeing Model 299. (U.S. Air Force)
Cockpit of the Boeing Model 299. (Boeing)

The largest land airplane built up to that time, the XB-17 seemed to have defensive machine guns aimed in every direction. A Seattle Times newspaper reporter, Roland Smith, wrote that it was a “flying fortress”. Boeing quickly copyrighted the name.

After several years of testing, the Model 299 went into production as the B-17 Flying Fortress. By the end of World War II, 12,731 B-17s had been built by Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed Vega.

Cheney Award (U.S. Air Force)
Cheney Award (U.S. Air Force)

The Cheney Award is a bronze medal awarded annually to honor acts of valor, extreme fortitude or self-sacrifice in a humanitarian interest performed in connection with aircraft (not necessarily military). It memorializes U.S. Army Air Service Lieutenant Bill Cheney, who was killed in action on 20 January 1918. The award was initiated by his family. It has been called the “Peacetime Medal of Honor.”

Burned-out wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, still smoldering after the crash at Wright Field, Ohio, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)
Burned-out wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, still smoldering after the crash at Wright Field, Ohio, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

30 October 1909

J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon practices flying his Short Biplane No. 2 at the Royal Aero Club flying field, at Shellbeach, Isle of Sheppey, October 1909. (Unattributed)
J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon (1884–1964), holder of the Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate Number 1.

30 October 1909: John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon, (later, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara, GBE, MC, PC) won a £1,000 prize sponsored by the Daily Mail when he flew his Short Biplane No. 2 on a circular flight of one mile.

At the Royal Aero Club flying field at Shellbeach, Isle of Sheppey (on the northern coast of Kent, in the Thames Estuary) he took off, turned around a post that had been set at a distance of one-half mile, and returned to land next to the airplane’s launching rail.

The Short Biplane No. 2 was similar to the Wright Brothers Model A Flyer, which Short Brothers had been building under license in the United Kingdom.

The airplane was 32 feet, 0 inches in length (9.75 meters) with a wingspan of 48 feet, 8 inches (14.834 meters). Its gross weight was 1,485 pounds (673.6 kilograms). A water-cooled  548.43-cubic-inch-displacement (8.99 liter) Green Engine Co., Ltd., D.4 single overhead camshaft (SOHC) inline 4-cylinder engine produced 50 horsepower at 1,050 r.p.m. and drove two wooden 2-bladed propellers in a pusher configuration, by means of chain drive. The D.4 could produce 70 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. for a short interval.

The Short Biplane No. 2 had a maximum speed of approximately 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).

Green D.4 gasoline engine, designed by Gustavus Green, 1909. (Wikipedia)
Green D.4 gasoline engine, designed by Gustavus Green, 1909. Copper waterjackets encase the individual cast steel cylinders which are bolted to the aluminum crankcase (Wikipedia)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes