25 November 1940: Glenn L. Martin Company’s test pilot William K. (“Ken”) Ebel, co-pilot Ed Fenimore and flight engineer Al Malewski made the first flight of the first B-26 Marauder, Army Air Corps serial number 40-1361.
The B-26 was a twin-engine medium bomber designed with high speed as a primary objective. Production of the new airplane was considered so urgent that there were no prototypes. All aircraft were production models.
The Marauder was 56 feet (17.069 meters) long with a wingspan of 65 feet (19.812 meters) and height of 19 feet, 10 inches (6.045 meters). The bomber was powered by two 2,804.5-cubic-inch-displacement (45.97 liter), air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney R-2800-5 Double Wasp two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines, which produced 1,850 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. and 2,700 feet (823 meters). They turned 13 foot, 6 inch (4.115 meter) diameter four-bladed Curtiss Electric propellers. 40-1361 had a maximum speed of 315 miles per hour (507 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). Its service ceiling was 25,000 feet (7,620 meters).
When the B-26 entered service, it quickly gained a reputation as a dangerous airplane and was called the “widowmaker.” The airplane had relatively short wings and a small area for its size. This required that landing approaches be flown at much higher speeds than was normal practice. With one engine out, airspeed was even more critical. Some changes were made, such as a slight increase on wingspan and the size of the vertical fin and rudder, and an emphasis on airspeed control during training, made improvements. The Marauder had the lowest rate of combat losses of any American bomber.
Glenn L. Martin Co. produced 5,288 Marauders between 1941–1945. It served in the Pacific, Mediterranean and European combat areas. When it was removed from service at the end of World War II, the “B-26″ designation was reassigned to the Douglas A-26 Invader, a light twin-engine bomber.
The first Martin Marauder, B-26-MA 40-1361, was written off after a belly landing at Patterson Field, Ohio, 8 August 1941.
25 November 1940: De Havilland Aircraft Company’s Chief Test Pilot, Geoffrey Roal de Havilland, Jr., made the first flight of the DH.98 Mosquito prototype, E-0234, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. The multi-role combat aircraft was constructed primarily of layers of balsa covered with layers of birch, then a layer of cotton fabric. It was powered by two Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engines.
It had been predicted to be 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) faster than the Supermarine Spitfire, but was actually much faster. In testing, the prototype reached 437 miles per hour (703 kilometers per hour). The construction materials took advantage of plentiful supplies of wood, and also made workers who were not in the standard metal aircraft industry to take part.
The prototype had a wingspan of 52 feet, 6 inches (16.002 meters). It was powered by two liquid-cooled, supercharged, Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.21 engines, producing 1,460 horsepower, each, and driving three-bladed propellers. Its gross weight was 16,000 pounds (7,257.4 kilograms). The top speed was 392 miles per hour (631 kilometers per hour) at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). This made it the world’s fastest operational airplane at the time.
6,411 DH.98 Mosquitoes were built in England, 1,134 in Canada and 212 in Australia.
W4050 (the prototype’s Royal Air Force identification) remained at de Havilland and was used to test different engines, armaments and versions. After a series of tests conducted in December 1943, the first Mosquito was permanently grounded. It was used as an instructional airframe and later placed in storage.
In September 1958 W4050 was turned over to the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre. Today, the restored prototype DH.98 Mosquito is at the museum at London Colney, Hertfordshire, England.
25 November 1920: Lieutenant Corliss C. Mosely, U.S. Army Air Service, won the first Pulitzer Trophy Race flying an Engineering Division-designed-and-built Verville-Packard R-1, serial number A.S. 40126. The race, the first of a series, started at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. Turning points were at Henry J. Damm Field, near Babylon, and Lufberry Field at Wantagh. The total length of the race was approximately 132 miles (212 kilometers).
Weather was cold and cloudy, with a threat of snow. The New York Times reported that, “With the sun for the most part of the time concealed behind snow clouds, it was possible to watch the contest without suffering eye strain. . . .”
Still, more than 25,000 spectators watched the race at Mitchell Field, and several thousand more at each of the turns.
The race began at 11:30 a.m. The 34 entrants took off at intervals for spacing. They would race against the timer’s clock. The first to take off was Captain Harold E. Hartney, U.S. Army Air Service, flying a Thomas-Morse biplane.
Again, from the New York Times:
“The interest to the spectators seemed to centre in the much heralded Verville-Packard, which has been undergoing secret tests. . . This machine was the last to start. A cheer went up as the dark gray machine with lightning-like speed mounted into the air, its course being marked by a stream of smoke several hundred feet in length. For a few moments it was lost in the haze and then the powerful craft swooped again into view, crossed over the starting line headed for the Henry J. Damm Field.”
Of the 34 airplanes to start, 11 dropped out from mechanical trouble and 1 was disqualified.
Lt. Moseley’s airplane covered the first lap “in eleven minutes six and seventy one hundredths seconds.” The Verville-Packard R-1 won the race with an elapsed time of 44 minutes, 29.57 seconds, for an average speed of 178 miles per hour. Captain Hartney finished second with an elapsed time of 47:00.03.
The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote: “At last the pride of the Army air service, the Verville-Packard chasse biplane, has established its worth by romping ahead of thirty-four starters in the first Pulitzer trophy aeronautical race, held Thanksgiving day at Mitchel field, Mineola. . . Never in the history of official flying in America has a man traveled with such great velocity. . . .”
Corliss C. Moseley rose to the rank of major. In 1924, he was assigned as the first commanding officer of the 115th Observation Squadron based at Clover Field, Santa Monica, California. This was the first aviation unit of the California National Guard. Mosely left the military and in 1925, he founded Western Air Express at Los Angeles, which would become Western Airlines.
The Verville-Packard R-1 was developed from an experimental fighter, the Verville-Clark Pursuit (VCP-1), designed for the Army by Alfred Victor Verville, and was the first racing airplane built for the U.S. Army. A single-place, single-engine biplane, it had a plywood monocoque fuselage with wood wings covered with fabric. The R-1 was 32 feet (9.75 meters) long. (Other dimensions are unknown at this time.)
In the original configuration, the VCP-1 was powered by a liquid-cooled Wright Hispano-Suiza V-8 engine producing 300 horsepower. The R-1 Racer substituted a Packard Motor Car Company 1A-2025 engine. The 1A-2025 was a 2,025.44-cubic-inch-displacement (33.177 liter) liquid-cooled, 60° single overhead cam (SOHC) V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder. The engine was rated at 540 brake horsepower (b.h.p.) at 1,800 r.p.m. at Sea Level, 379 horsepower at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and 299 horsepower at 15,000 feet (4572 meters). The total dry weight of the 1A-2025 was 1,142 pounds (518 kilograms).
Two VCP-1 airplanes were built but the second, A.S. 40127, never flew.
24 November 1971: In the early afternoon a man who gave the name “Dan Cooper” purchased a one-way ticket for Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, a non-stop flight from Portland, Oregon (PDX) to Seattle, Washington (SEA). Flight 305 departed on schedule at 2:50 p.m., PST, with a crew of 6 and 37 passengers, including Cooper. Captain William A. Scott was in command with First Officer William Rataczack as co-pilot and Second Officer Harold E. Anderson, flight engineer.
The airliner was a six-year-old Boeing 727-51, c/n 18803, registered N467US. On this flight, it was approximately one-third full. The trip from PDX to SEA was estimated to take 30 minutes.
Shortly after takeoff, Cooper gave a handwritten note to Florence Schaffner, a flight attendant who was seated nearby. The note read that the airliner was being hijacked and that Cooper had a bomb in his briefcase. Schaffner asked Cooper to show her the bomb. He opened the brief case and she later described having seen eight red cylinders with red-insulated wires attached, and a cylindrical battery. Cooper closed his briefcase and gave Schaffner his demands: $200,000 in United States currency, four parachutes and a fuel truck to be standing by on their arrival at Seattle. She then relayed Cooper’s demands to the flight crew.
Once over Seattle, Flight 305 circled for approximately two hours while officials on the ground arranged to comply with Cooper’s demands. The 727 landed at SEA at 5:39 p.m. Ransom money had been gathered by the FBI from several Seattle area banks and consisted of 10,000 $20 bills. The notes were not marked but all were photographed to record their serial numbers.
The money was carried to the airliner by a Northwest employee, along with the requested parachutes. These were given to flight Attendant Tina Mucklow at the 727’s aft boarding stairs. She carried these to Cooper, who satisfied that his demands had been met, allowed the 36 other passengers as well as flight attendants Schaffner and Alice Hancock were allowed to leave the airplane.
Refueling was delayed because of trouble with the fuel truck, and eventually three trucks were used.
Cooper informed the flight crew that he wanted them to fly the 727 south to Mexico, and gave very specific instructions. he told them to fly as slow as possible, to leave the landing gear extended, flaps lowered to 15°, and to remain below 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) with the cabin unpressurized. He also demanded that the airliner takeoff with its ventral stairs lowered but this was refused as being unsafe.
At 7:40 p.m., N467US took off from SeaTac with the flight crew and cabin attendant Mucklow still on board. Cooper required that Mucklow remain with him in the passenger cabin. It was followed by two Convair F-106 Delta Dart interceptors from McChord Air Force Base.
An intermediate fuel stop had been planned for Reno, Nevada, and the airliner headed in that direction, flying along a standard airway, Victor 23.
Cooper told Mucklow to go forward and join the rest of the crew in the cockpit. At 8:00 p.m., a warning light in the cockpit came on indicating that the ventral stairs had been activated. At 8:13 p.m., the aircraft pitched nose down, and required that the flight controls be re-trimmed for a level attitude. At 10:15 p.m., the airliner landed at Reno. After a search, it was determined that Cooper, the money and two parachutes were no longer aboard.
In 1978, a hunter discovered a placard from a 727’s aft stairs near the known path of the hijacked 727. In 1980, a young boy found three deteriorated packets containing $5,800 in $20 bills along the banks of the Columbia River, downstream from Vancouver, Washington. The serial numbers matched currency included in the ransom.
Dan Cooper has never been located. There have been a number of persons considered as suspects, however it is probable that Cooper did not survive the jump from Flight 305.
N467US remained in service with Northwest Orient Airlines until June 1978, when it was sold to Piedmont Airlines and re-registered N838N, and christened Mt. Mitchell Pacemaker. From 1982 through 1984, it was operated by United Technologies Flight Dynamics testing navigational equipment. In September 1984 the 727 was again sold, this time to Key Airlines, with a third registration N29KA. During this period, c/n 18803 was operated on daily charter flights from Nellis Air Force Base to the Tonapah Test Range, a restricted Department of Energy installation which is managed by Sandia National Laboratories. Later, the 727 was placed in storage at Greenwood-Leflore Airport (GWO) near Greenwood, Mississippi. It was scrapped in 1996.
C/n 18803, a Boeing 727-51, is now considered to be a 727-100, a medium range civil transport. It was operated by a flight crew of three and could carry up to 131 passengers. The airliner was 133 feet, 2 inches (40.589 meters) long with a wingspan of 108 feet (32.918 meters) and overall height of 34 feet, 3 inches (10.439 meters). Empty weight was 87,696 pounds (39.8000 kilograms) and maximum ramp weight was 170,000 pounds (77,200 kilograms). Useable fuel capacity was 7,680 pounds (26,069 kilograms). Power was supplied by three Pratt and Whitney JT8D-1 turbofan engines rated at 14,000 pounds of thrust, each. Two of the engines were in nacelles at either side of the aft fuselage, and the third was mounted in the tail. Its intake was above the rear fuselage at the base of the vertical fin. The 727s were very fast airliners with a maximum speed of 632 miles per hour (1,017 kilometers per hour). The maximum cruise speed was 570 miles per hour (917 kilometers per hour) or 0.92 Mach. (During testing, a 727 achieved 0.965 Mach in level flight.) The service ceiling was 36,100 feet (11,003 meters) and the range was 3,110 nautical miles (5,005 kilometers).
Boeing built 572 of the 727-100 series and 1,260 of the longer 727-200 variant from 1963 to 1984.
24 November 1969: The Apollo 12 command module Yankee Clipper, carrying astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr., Mission Commander; Richard F. Gordon, Jr., Command Module Pilot; Alan L. Bean, Lunar Module Pilot; landed in the Pacific Ocean at 20:58:24 UTC, approximately 500 miles east of American Samoa. Mission Time: 244:36:23.