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

23 October 1934

Warrant Officer Francesco Agello, Regia Aeronautica. (FAI)
Warrant Officer Francesco Agello, Regia Aeronautica. (FAI)

23 October 1934: At Lago di Garda, Brescia, Italy, Warrant Officer Francesco Agello, Regia Aeronautica, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) absolute World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course when he flew the Macchi Aeronautica M.C. 72 float plane, serial number MM 181, to an average speed of 709.21 kilometers per hour (440.683 miles per hour).

FAI Record File Num #4497 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-2 (Seaplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 1 : internal combustion engine
Type of record: Speed over a 3 km course
Performance: 709.21 km/h
Date: 1934-10-23
Course/Location: Desenzano-Garda (Italy)
Claimant Francesco Agello (ITA)
Aeroplane: Macchi M.C.72

Front view of Agello's record-setting Macchi M.C.72. Note the counter-rotating propellers. (FAI)
Front view of a Macchi M.C.72. Note the counter-rotating propellers. (FAI)

A contemporary news article described the event:

FLYING the Machi-Castoldi 72 seaplane (3,000 h.p. special 24-cyl. Fiat) at Lake Garda on Tuesday of last week, Warrant-Officer Francesco Agello, of the Italian Royal Air Force, raised his own world’s air speed record by putting up a mean speed (subject to homologation) of 709.202 km./hr. (440.677 m.p.h.) for the usual four flights. His previous record stood at 682.403 km./hr. (423.76 m.p.h.)

The weather conditions under which the attempts were made were ideal, there being just sufficient breeze to take the glassiness off the water, so assisting the takeoff. Temperature was suitable, and the air was free from bumps.

Just before 3 p.m. Agello took off and made four runs over the three-kilometre course, clocking as follows:—

[Direction]         Secs.               km./hr.          m.p.h

North-South     15 29/100        705.882        438.614
South-North     15 19.2/100     710.433        441.423
North-South     15 18.1/100     711.462        442.081
South-North     15 23.4/100     709.034        440.738

Warrant Officer Francesco Agello with his Macchi M.C.72. (FAI)
Warrant Officer Francesco Agello with his record-setting Macchi M.C.72, MM 181. (FAI)

After the successful attempt a banquet was held in the Officers’ Mess at Desenzano in Agello’s honour. The speeds were announced, and Col. Bernasconi, who is in command of the High-speed Flight, stated that Signor Mussolini had honoured Warrant-Officer Agello by promoting him to a full lieutenant.

Only a few modifications had been made to the Macchi-Castoldi since the previous attempt, chief among them being the substitution of wooden floats for the metal ones previously used.

Illustration of the Fiat AS.6 V-24 aircraft engine, right side.
Illustration of the Fiat AS.6 DOHC V-24 aircraft engine, right side. (Old Machine Press)

As is well known. the most interesting feature of the machine is the extremely unconventional power-unit, the Fiat A.S.6. The problem of frontal area for such a powerful unit as was specified was solved by placing the twenty-four cylinders (totalling in capacity over fifty litres) in two rows, forming a 60 deg. “vee,” and further, arranging them in two mechanically independent groups.

Each group has its own crank shaft, but a single crank case is used for both. The crank shafts, which rotate in opposite directions, are coupled in the centre by spur-gear reduction units, which drive two airscrew shafts. One of these shafts is hollow, and the other operates within it. The two shafts run forward through the “vee” of the front unit, and each carries an airscrew; so that there are two of the latter, close together, but revolving in opposite directions.

Each engine unit has independent camshafts (two per engine), water pump and dual Marelli magnetos, but a common induction system is used, an eight-jet carburetter being mounted behind the rear unit and mixture being drawn from it passed to the cylinders by a supercharger geared up to 20,000 r.p.m. An interesting point is that this supercharger absorbs 200 h.p., and, since it is driven by the rear engine, the blades of the front airscrew (which the rear engine drives) are given different inclination to correct for the slight difference in power.

The power units develop 3,000 h.p. at 3,200 r.p.m., and weighs 2,045lb., giving a weight per h.p. of 0.706lb. The all-up weight of the machine, with pilot and full tanks, is 6,670lb.

British equipment figured in the success, for Castrol oil and K.L.G. plugs were used.

FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 1349, Vol. XXVI, November 1, 1934, at Page 1152.

Warrant Officer Francesco Agello, Regia Aeronautica, with the record-setting Macchi M.C.72, 23 October 1934.
Warrant Officer Francesco Agello, Regia Aeronautica, with the record-setting Macchi M.C.72, 23 October 1934. (Historic Wings)
Left rear quarter view of the Macchi M.C.72. (FAI)
Left rear quarter view of a Macchi M.C.72. (FAI)

The Macchi-Castoldi M.C.72 was designed by Mario Castoldi for Aeronautica Macchi. It was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane float plane constructed of wood and metal. It was 8.32 meters (27 feet, 3.5 inches) long with a wingspan of 9.48 meters (31 feet, 1.25 inches) and height of 3.30 meters (10.83 feet). The M.C.72 had an empty weight of 2,505 kilograms (5,512 pounds), loaded weight of 2,907 kilograms (6,409 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight of 3,031 kilograms (6,669 pounds). It was powered by a 50.256 liter (3,067 cubic inch) liquid-cooled, supercharged Fiat S.p.A. AS.6 24-cylinder 60° dual overhead cam (DOHC) V-24 engine with 4 valves per cylinder. The engine produced 3,100 horsepower at 3,300 r.p.m. and drove two counter-rotating metal two-bladed fixed pitch propellers with a diameter of 8 feet (2.56 meters). The counter-rotating blades cancelled the torque effect of the engine. Surface radiators were placed on top of each wing and surface oil coolers on the floats.

Radiators were placed on the upper surface of each wing. (Aeronautica Militare)
Radiators were placed on the upper surface of each wing. (Aeronautica Militare) 
The Henry De la Vaulx Medal.
The Henry de la Vaulx Medal.

Five Macchi M.C.72 float planes had been built for the 1931 Schneider Trophy race, but problems with the Fiat AS.6 engine, which was essentially two AS.5 V-12s assembled back-to-back, prevented them from competing. Four test pilots, including Francesco Agello, had been selected to fly the airplanes for speed record attempts. Two were killed while testing the M.C.72, and the third died when another airplane crashed. The cause of the accidents were explosions within the engines’ intake tract. Though they ran perfectly on test stands, in flight, they began to backfire, then explode. It was discovered by Rod Banks, a British engineer who had been called in to develop a special high-octane fuel, that the Fiat engineers had overlooked the ram effect of the 400 mile per hour slipstream. This caused the fuel mixture to become too lean, resulting in predetonation and backfiring. A modification was made to the intake and the problem was resolved.

Macchi M.C.72 at Aeronautica Militare
Macchi M.C.72 MM 181 at the Museo Storico dell’Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force Museum) in Vigna di Valle, Italy. (Unattributed)

Francesco Agello was twice awarded the Henry De La Vaulx Medal by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, and also awarded the Medaglia d’oro al valore aeronautico. In part, his citation read, “A high speed pilot of exceptional courage and, after competition in difficult and dangerous test flights during the development of the fastest seaplane in the world, twice he conquered the absolute world speed record.” Captain Agello was killed in a mid-air collision, 26 November 1942, while testing a Macchi C.202 Fogore fighter.

Medalglia d'oro al valore aeronautico
Medalglia d’oro al valore aeronautico

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

22 October 1975, 05:13 UTC

Image of the surface of Venus captured by the Venera 9 lander, 22 october 1975. (NASA)
Digitally enhanced image of the surface of Venus captured by the Venera 9 lander, 22 October 1975. (NASA)
Mosaic of images of the surface of Venus captured by the Venera 9 lander, 22 October 1975.
Mosaic of images of the surface of Venus captured by the Venera 9 lander, 22 October 1975. The rocks are estimated to be 30–40 centimeters across.

22 October 1975, 05:13 UTC:  The lander from the Soviet space probe Venera 9 touched down on the surface of the planet Venus, at approximately 32° south latitude, 291° east longitude.

Venera 9 lander. (nasa)
Venera 9 lander. (NASA)

The images and other data was transmitted to an orbiting section of Venera 9 for relay to Earth. The lander sent signals for approximately 53 minutes before the orbiter traveled out of range.

Venera 9 orbiter. (NASA)
Venera 9 orbiter. (NASA)

Venera 9 had been launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Proton-K rocket, 8 June 1975. The space probe weighed 4,936 kilograms (10,882 pounds).

Once in orbit around Venus, the spacecraft separated into the orbiter and lander. As the lander descended to the surface, data was collected about the planet’s atmosphere. A 40-kilometer (25-mile) deep layer of clouds was studied. The cloud bases were about 35–40 kilometers (22–25 miles) above the surface. The clouds contained hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid, bromine and iodine.

At the planet’s surface the atmospheric pressure was 90 times that of Earth’s. The temperature was measured at 485 °C. (905 °F.).

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

22 October 1956

Bell XH-40 5549 with cowlings and rear doors installed. (U.S. Army Aviation Museum)
Bell XH-40 55-4459 with cowlings and rear doors installed. (U.S. Army)

22 October 1956: Bell Aircraft Corporation Chief Pilot Floyd W. Carlson and Chief Experimental Test Pilot E.J. Smith, make the first flight of the Bell Model 204, XH-40-BF, serial number 55-4459, at the Bell factory at Hurst, Texas.

The XH-40 was designed with a primary mission of battlefield medical evacuation. It was 42 feet, 8 inches (13.0 meters) long with a main rotor diameter of 44 feet (13.4 meters). Empty weight was 3,693 pounds (1,675.1 kilograms) with a maximum gross weight of 5,650 pounds (2,562.8 kilograms). The prototype was powered by a Lycoming XT53-L-1 turboshaft engine rated at 700 horsepower. This gave the helicopter a maximum speed of 138 miles per hour (222 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 17,500 feet (5,334 meters) and its range was 212 miles (341.2 kilometers).

The Bell XH-40 prototype hovering in ground effect at the Bell Aircraft Company plant at Hurst, Texas. The helicopter's cowlings are not installed in this photograph.
The Bell XH-40 prototype hovering in ground effect at the Bell Aircraft Company plant at Hurst, Texas. The helicopter’s cowlings are not installed in this photograph.

This aircraft was the prototype of what would be known world-wide as the “Huey”. The helicopter was originally designated by the U.S. Army as HU-1, but a service-wide reorganization of aircraft designations resulted in that being changed to UH-1A. Produced for both civil and military customers, it evolved to the Model 205 (UH-1D-UH-1H), the twin-engine Model 212 (UH-1N), the heavy-lift Model 214, and is still in production 56 years later as the twin-engine, four-bladed, glass-cockpit Model 412 and UH-1Y.

Left rear quarter view of teh bell XH-40 hovering in ground effect provides a good look at the Lycoming T53 turboshaft engine. (U.S. Army)
Left rear quarter view of the Bell XH-40 hovering in ground effect at the Bell Helicopter Company plant at Hurst, Texas. (U.S. Army)
Sources differ as to the date of the first flight, with some saying 20 October, and at least one saying 26 October, but most cite 22 October 1956. This individual aircraft is in storage at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama.

The first prototype Bell XH-40, 55-4459, hovers in ground effect. (U.S. Army)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

22 October 1955

The first of two Republic YF-105A-1-RE Thunderchief prototypes, 54-098, on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1955. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic Aviation test pilot Russell M. "Rusty" Roth. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Republic Aviation Corporation test pilot Russell M. “Rusty” Roth. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

22 October 1955: Republic Aviation Corporation YF-105A-1-RE Thunderchief, serial number 54-098, the first of two prototypes, makes its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base, California with company test pilot Russell M. (“Rusty”) Roth at the controls. Though equipped with an under-powered Pratt and Whitney J57-P-25 interim engine, the new airplane was able to reach Mach 1.2 in level flight. Aerodynamic improvements to the engine intakes and redesign of the fuselage to incorporate the drag-reducing “area rule”, along with the more powerful J75-P-5 turbojet engine allowed the production model F-105B to reach Mach 2.15.

The YF-105A was 61 feet, 5 inches (18.72 meters) long, 17 feet, 6 inches (5.33 meters) high, with a wing span of 34 feet, 11 inches (10.64 meters). Its empty weight was 21,010 pounds (9,530 kilograms). During testing, the prototype’s maximum speed was 857 miles per hour (1,379 kilometers per hour) at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters), and 778 miles per hour (1,252 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The ceiling was 49,950 feet (15,225 meters).

Two Air Force sergeants load belts of linked 20-millimeter cannon shells for the F-105's M61 six-barreled Gatling gun. (U.S. Air Force)
Two Air Force sergeants load belts of linked 20-millimeter cannon shells for the F-105’s M61 six-barreled Gatling gun. (U.S. Air Force)

The YF-105A Thunderchief was armed with a 20 mm General Electric M61 six-barrel rotary cannon with 1,028 rounds of ammunition. 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms) of bombs could be carried in an internal bomb bay or external hardpoints.

On 16 December 1955, YF-105A 54-098 made an emergency landing at Edwards AFB after one of its main landing gear was torn off when it was left extended during a high speed flight. Rusty Roth was severely injured but survived. The prototype was extensively damaged and was shipped back to Republic for repair, but the cost was prohibitive.

The Thunderchief is the largest single seat, single engine aircraft ever built. It was a Mach 2 fighter-bomber, designed for NATO defensive tactical nuclear strikes with a nuclear bomb carried in an internal bomb bay. Of 833 Thunderchiefs built by Republic, 334 were lost to enemy action during the Vietnam War. Though designed for air-to-ground attack missions, F-105s are officially credited with 27.5 victories in air combat.

Republic F-105D-5-RE Thunderchief 58-1173 carrying a bomb load of sixteen 750-pound M117 general purpose bombs. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-105D-5-RE Thunderchief 58-1173 carrying a bomb load of sixteen 750-pound M117 general purpose bombs. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes