3 September 1954

Major John L. Armstrong, U.S. Air Force, standing on the wing of his record-setting F-86H-1-NA  Sabre.

3 September 1954: At the Dayton Air Show, being held for the first time at the James M. Cox Municipal Airport, Major John L. (“Jack”) Armstrong, U.S. Air Force, flew his North American Aviation F-86H-1-NA Sabre, 52-1998, to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record over a 500 kilometer course, averaging 649.461 miles per hour (1,045.206 kilometers per hour).

FAI Record File Num #8860 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 500 km without payload
Performance: 1 045.206 km/h
Date: 1954-09-03
Course/Location: Vandalia, OH (USA)
Claimant John L. Armstrong (USA)
Aeroplane: North American F-86 H
Engine: 1 G E J73

Similar to the F-86H-1-NA Sabre flown by Captain Armstrong, this is F-86H-10-NH 53-1298. (U.S. Air Force)
Similar to the F-86H-1-NA Sabre flown by Captain Armstrong, this is F-86H-10-NH 53-1298. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-86H was a fighter-bomber variant of the famous Sabre Jet day fighter. It was equipped with a much more powerful General Electric J73-GE-3 turbojet engine. The engine was larger that the J47 used in previous F-86 models, and this required a much larger air intake and airframe modifications. The fuselage was 6 inches deeper and two feet longer than the F-86F. This accommodated the new engine and an increase in fuel load. The tail surfaces were changed with an increase in the height of the vertical fin and the elevators were changed to an “all-flying” horizontal stabilizer. The first F-86Hs built retained the six Browning .50 caliber armament of the F-86F, but this was changed to four 20mm M39 cannon.

Another view of North American Aviation F-86-10-NH Sabre 53-1298. This fighter bomber i similar to the airplane flown by Colonel Armstrong to set a world speed record. (U.S. Air Force)
Another view of North American Aviation F-86-10-NH Sabre 53-1298. This fighter bomber is similar to the airplane flown by Major Armstrong to set a world speed record. (U.S. Air Force)

Major Armstrong had been a fighter pilot during World War II, flying Lockheed P-38 Lightnings and North American P-51 Mustangs with the 79th Fighter Squadron, based at RAF Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire, England. On 28 August 1944, his P-51 was shot down by anti-aircraft gunfire while he was attacking a railway locomotive in Germany. Armstrong was captured and held at Stalag Luft I.

Two days after setting the speed record, Jack Armstrong was attempting to increase it. His Sabre broke up in flight and Major Armstrong was killed.

This exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, ohio, commemorates Major Armstrong's record-setting flight. His flight helmet is included in the display. (U.S. Air Force)
This exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, commemorates Major Armstrong’s record-setting flight. His flight helmet is included in the display. Visible behind the display case is North American Aviation F-86H-10-NH Sabre 53-1352.  (U.S. Air Force)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 September 1932

James H. Doolittle with his Gee Bee R-1, NR2100, at the Cleveland National Air Races, 1932. (National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division)

3 September 1932: At the Cleveland National Air Races, James H. (“Jimmy”) Doolittle won the Thompson Trophy Race with his Granville Brothers Aircraft Company Gee Bee Super Sportster R-1, NR2100. At the same time, he set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record over a 3 kilometer course, averaging 294.42 miles per hour (473.82 kilometers per hour).

Jimmy Doolittle crosses the finish line at Cleveland, 1932.

FAI Record File Num #8751 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: General
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a 3 km course
Performance: 473.82 km/h
Date: 1932-09-03
Course/Location: Cleveland, OH (USA)
Claimant James H. Doolittle (USA)
Aeroplane: Granville Brothers Aircraft Co. Gee Bee
Engine: 1 Pratt & Whitney Wasp Senior

The Gee Bee was a purpose-built racing airplane. It was a very small airplane, with short wings and small control surfaces. It gained a reputation as a dangerous airplane. A number of famous racers of the time were killed when they lost control of the Gee Bee. However, Doolittle had a different opinion: “She is the sweetest ship I’ve ever flown. She is perfect in every respect and the motor is just as good as it was a week ago. It never missed a beat and has lots of stuff in it yet. I think this proves that the Granville brothers up in Springfield build the very best speed ships in America today.”

The Gee Bee Super Sportster R-1 was a single-seat, single engine, low-wing monoplane with fixed conventional landing gear. It was 17 feet, 6 inches (5.334 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet (7.620 meters) and height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,840 pounds (834.6 kilograms), gross weight of 2,415 pounds (1,095.4 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 3,075 pounds (1,394.8 kilograms). The air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.8-cubic-inch-displacement (22.01 liter) Pratt and Whitney R-1340-T3D1 single row 9-cylinder engine produced 730 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. and drove a two-bladed U.S. Smith Engineering Co. adjustable-pitch propeller with a diameter of 8 feet (2.438 meters). This gave the airplane a cruise speed was 260 miles per hour (418.4 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed was more than 300  miles per hour (482.8 kilometers per hour). The highest speed attained by Doolittle during his four passes over the 3-kilometer course was 309.040 miles per hour (497.352 kilometers per hour). Stall speed was rather high at 90 miles per hour (144.8 kilometers per hour), as a result of optimizing the airplane for high speed. The Gee Bee R-1 had a range of 630 miles (1,014 kilometers) at full throttle.

Jimmy Doolittle was one of America’s greatest pioneering aviators. He is probably best remembered today for planning and leading the Halsey-Doolittle Raid against Japan, 18 April 1942, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Gee Bee Super Sportster R-1, NR2100

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 September 1977

The first 10 female officers to graduate from the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training Program, Class 77-08, with a Northrop T-38A-50-NO Talon, 63-8111, 2 September 1977. (U.S. Air Force)

2 September 1978: The ten women in this photograph, members of Pilot Undergradute Training Class 77-08 at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, along with their 36 male classmates, received their Silver Wings on 2 September 1977. They are Captains Connie Engel, Kathy La Sauce, Mary Donahue, Susan Rogers and Christine Schott; First Lieutenants Sandra Scott and Victoria Crawford; Second Lieutenants Mary Livingston, Carol Scherer and Kathleen Rambo.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 17.59.55© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 September 1953

Colonel J. Stanley Holtoner with his FAI record-setting F-86D Sabre, 51-6168. (FAI)

2 September 1953: Colonel J. Stanley Holtoner, U.S. Air Force, flew a production North American Aviation F-86D-35-NA Sabre, serial number 51-6168, to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record over a 100 kilometer course at Vandalia, Ohio, averaging 1,110.75 kilometers per hour (690.188 miles per hour). Colonel Holtoner was the commanding officer of the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. He was awarded the Thompson Trophy.

FAI Record File Num #10428 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 100 km without payload
Performance: 1 110.75 km/h
Date: 1953-09-02
Course/Location: Vandalia, OH (USA)
Claimant J. STANLEY Holtoner (USA)
Aeroplane: North American F-86 D
Engine: 1 G E J47

On the previous day, Captain Harold E. Collins flew another F-86D Sabre, 51-6145, setting an FAI World Speed Record over a 15 kilometer straight course of 1,139.219 kilometers per hour (707.878 miles per hour). (FAI Record File Number 8868)

The F-86D was an all-weather interceptor developed from North American Aviation F-86 Sabre day fighter. It was the first single-seat interceptor, and it used a very sophisticated—for its time—electronic fire control system. It was equipped with radar and armed with twenty-four unguided 2.75-inch (70 millimeter) Mk 4 Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR) rockets carried in a retractable tray in its belly.

The F-86D was larger than the F-86A, E and F fighters, with a wider fuselage. Its length was increased to 40 feet, 3 inches (12.27 meters) with a wingspan of 37 feet, 1.5 inches (11.32 meters). The day fighter’s sliding canopy was replaced with a hinged “clamshell” canopy. The F-86D was equipped with a more powerful General Electric J47-GE-17 afterburning turbojet engine, producing 5,425 pounds of thrust, or 7,500 pounds with afterburner. The F-86D had a range of 330 miles (531 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 49,750 feet (15,164 meters). Its rate of climb was 12,150 feet per minute (61.7 meters per second).

Between December 1949 and September 1954, 2,505 F-86D Sabres (sometimes called the “Sabre Dog”) were built by North American Aviation. There were many variants (“block numbers”) and by 1955, almost all the D-models had been returned to maintenance depots or the manufacturer for standardization. 981 of these aircraft were modified to a new F-86L standard. The last F-86D was removed from U.S. Air Force service in 1961.

After its service with the United States Air Force, F-86D 51-6168 was transferred to the Greek Air Force. In 2009, it was photographed, stripped and sitting on its belly, at Agrinion Airport (AGQ), Greece.

North American Aviation F-86D-35-NA Sabre 51-6168, FAI World Speed Record holder. (FAI)
North American Aviation F-86D-35-NA Sabre 51-6168, FAI World Speed Record holder. (FAI)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 September 1953

Captain Russell M. Dobyns, United States Air Force, with his YH-21 Workhorse. (FAI)
Captain Russell M. Dobyns, United States Air Force, with his YH-21 Workhorse. (FAI)

2 September 1953: At the Dayton Air Show, Captain Russell M. Dobyns, U.S. Air Force, flew a Piasecki YH-21-PH Workhorse tandem rotor helicopter to an altitude of 6,739 meters (22,110 feet), setting an Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude Without Payload for reciprocating-engine helicopters. This record still stands.

FAI Record File Num #2185 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: E (Rotorcraft)
Sub-Class: E-1 (Helicopters)
Category: General
Group: 1 : piston engine
Type of record: Altitude without payload
Performance: 6 739 m
Date: 1953-09-02
Course/Location: Dayton, OH (USA)
Claimant Russel M. Dobyns (USA)
Rotorcraft: Piasecki YH-21

Two days later, Captain Dobyns flew his H-21 over a 3-kilometer course. Making four passes, two in each direction, he averaged 236.19 kilometers per hour (146.76 miles per hour).

FAI Record File Num #13102 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: E (Rotorcraft)
Sub-Class: E-1 (Helicopters)
Category: General
Group: 1 : piston engine
Type of record: Speed over a 3 km course
Performance: 236.19 km/h
Date: 1953-09-04
Course/Location: Vandalia, OH (USA)
Claimant Russel M. Dobyns (USA)
Rotorcraft: Piasecki YH-21

Piasecki Aircraft Company built 18 pre-production YH-21-PH helicopters. A  1,823-cubic-inch-displacement (29.88 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Wright Aeronautical Corporation R-1820-103 Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engine producing 1,150 horsepower drove the rotors. The angle in the fuselage was intended to provide adequate vertical clearance between the intermeshing fore and aft rotor assemblies. (Later tandem rotor helicopters use raised pylons.)

The U.S. Air Force immediately ordered 32 H-21A helicopters for Search and Rescue operations. The Workhorse was well suited to cold weather operations and it was widely used in Alaska, Canada, and the Antarctic. Another 163 H-21B models were ordered as a troop transport. The U.S. Army ordered a similar H-21C variant.

In 1955, Piasecki became Vertol and eventually Boeing Vertol. The company would continue to produce tandem rotor helicopters such as the H-46 Sea Knight and the CH-47 Chinook, which is still in production.

Russell Dobyns retired from the Air Force in 1964 with the rank of Major.

Piasecki YH-21-PH Workhorse, 50-1235, FAI World Altitude Record holder. (FAI)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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