22 September 1966

Ansett-ANA Vickers Vicount Type 832, VH-RMI. (The Airways Museum & Civil Aviation Historical Society)
Ansett-ANA Vickers Vicount Type 832, VH-RMI. (The Airways Museum & Civil Aviation Historical Society)

22 September 1966: Ansett-ANA Flight 149, a Vickers Viscount Type 832 medium-range airliner, registration VH-RMI, departed Mount Isa Airport (ISA) at 12:08 p.m., enroute to Longreach Airport (LRE), both located in Queensland, Australia. Captain John Kenneth Cooper was in command, with First Officer John Gillam. The two flight attendants (“air hostesses”) were Beverly Heeschen, aged 24, and Narell Davis, 19. There were twenty passengers aboard.

At 12:52 p.m., Flight 149 reported, “Longreach this is Romeo Mike India on emergency descent.” Two minutes later it reported that there were fire warnings for both the Number 1 and Number 2 engines. Captain Cooper radioed, “I have an engine on fire. The other is stopped and I can’t feather it. Request permission to divert to Winton.” [Winton Airport, WIN]

While descending between 4,000 and 3,500 feet (1,200 and 1,067 meters) above ground level (AGL) at 170 knots, the airliner’s left wing failed between the Number 1 and Number 2 engines. The wing folded up and over, striking the top of fuselage which was cut open by the propeller of the Number 1 engine. The mid-cabin structure above the floor was torn away and the rear of the fuselage broke off. Air Hostesses Davis and Heeschen, along with several passengers, were pulled out of the cabin by the slipstream.

The remainder of the airplane—the forward fuselage, lower mid fuselage, right wing with engines 3 and 4 impacted the ground 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) west southwest of Winton, Queensland. The wreck was engulfed in flames. All those aboard were killed.

The accident investigation determined that the probable cause of the crash was:

The means of securing the oil metering unit to the no.2 cabin blower became ineffective and this led to the initiation of a fire within the blower, which propagated to the wing fuel tank and substantially reduced the strength of the main spar upper boom. It is probable that the separation of the oil metering unit arose from an out-of-balance condition induced by rotor break-up but the source of the rotor break-up could not be determined.

Captain Cooper had flown Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats with the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. He joined Ansett-ANA in 1951. At the time of the accident, he had a total of approximately 14,300 flight hours. Captain Roland E. Black, who had conducted Cooper’s last airline proficiency check, described him as a “well above average pilot.”

The Vickers Viscount was a four-engine turboprop-powered civil transport which first flew in 1948. It was in production from 1948 to 1963 with 445 airplanes built. VH-RMI was a  Vickers Viscount Type 832, built for Ansett-ANA in 1959 by Vickers-Armstrongs, Ltd., at Bournemouth-Hurn Airport, Dorset, England. It was operated by a flight crew of 2 and had 56 seats, of which 4 were in a rear lounge.

The airliner was 85 feet, 6 inches (26.060 meters) long with a wingspan of 93 feet, 8 inches (29.464 meters) and overall height of 26 feet, 9 inches (8.153 meters). Empty weight of the similar Type 810 was 41,276 pounds (18,723 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 67,500 pounds (30,618 kilograms) It was powered by four Rolls-Royce RB.53 Dart Mk.525 turboprop engines which were rated at  1,910 shaft horsepower, each, derated to 1,800 s.h.p. for takeoff. They drove four-bladed Rotol constant speed propellers which had a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters).

The Viscount had a maximum speed of 352 miles per hour (567 kilometers per hour), range of 1,380 miles (2,221 kilometers) and service ceiling of 25,000 feet (7,620 meters).

In the seven years since its first flight, 8 April 1959, VH-RMI had accumulated 18,634 total flight hours.

Wreckage of Ansett-ANA Flight 149 at Nadjayamba Station, Queensland, September 1966. (Unattributed)
Wreckage of the tail section  Ansett-ANA Flight 149 at Nadjayamba Station, Queensland, September 1966. (Unattributed)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

22 September 1902

Stanley Spencer’s airship over London.

22 September 1902:

First flight of an airship over London. This afternoon, countless Londoners were thrilled to see a navigable balloon in the sky. The strange device was piloted by well-known aeronaut Stanley Spencer, who has spent the past three months making trial flights from the Crystal Palace. In this, the first flight by a powered aircraft in Britain, Spencer took off from the palace grounds in south-east London at 4:15 p.m., passing over Tulse Hill and then setting course north-west to Clapham and Chelsea. He finally came to earth at Eastcole, west of Harrow, having covered 30 miles in three hours. Spencer’s airship is 75-feet long and is driven by a 30-hp Simms gasoline engine, turning a propeller made of pine wood.”

—a contemporary newspaper account.

Mr. Stanley Spencer, with his family.

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

21 September 1964

North American Aviation XB70A-1-NA 62-001 takes off for the first time, 21 September 1964. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation XB70A-1-NA 62-0001 takes off for the first time, 21 September 1964. (U.S. Air Force)

21 September 1964: The North American Aviation XB-70A-1-NA Valkyrie, 62-0001, flown by Chief Test Pilot Alvin S. White and Colonel Joseph F. Cotton, U.S. Air Force, made its first flight from Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, to Edwards Air Force Base.

Originally a prototype of a Mach 3 strategic bomber, 001 and it’s sister ship, XB-70-2-NA 62-0207, were built and used by the Air Force and NASA as high-speed research aircraft. The third Valkyrie, XB-70B 62-0208, was never completed.

Major Joseph F. Cotton, USAF, and Alvin S. White, North American Aviation, with the XB-70A Valkyrie. (Autographed photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, TEST & RESEARCH PILOTS, FLIGHT TEST ENGINEERS)
Colonel Joseph F. Cotton, USAF, and Alvin S. White, North American Aviation, with an XB-70A Valkyrie. (Autographed photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, TEST & RESEARCH PILOTS, FLIGHT TEST ENGINEERS)

The B-70 was designed as a strategic bomber armed with nuclear bombs. The XB-70A is 196 feet, 6 inches (59.893 meters) long with a wingspan of 105 feet (32.004 meters) and is 30 feet, 8 inches (9.347 meters) high at the top of its two vertical fins. The XB-70 weighs 231,215 pounds (104,877kilograms) empty and has a maximum takeoff weight of 534,792 pounds (242,578 kilograms).

The XB-70A is powered by six General Electric YJ93-GE-3 afterburning turbojet engines, each of which produce 19,900 pounds of thrust, or 28,800 pounds with afterburner.

The prototype bomber has a maximum speed was Mach 3.1 (2,056 miles per hour, 3,309 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) is 1,254 miles per hour (2,018 kilometers per hour), and 1,982 miles per hour (3,190 kilometers per hour) at its service ceiling of 75,550 feet (23,012 meters). The planned combat range for the strategic bomber was 3,419 miles (5,502 kilometers) with a maximum range of 4,290 miles (6,904 kilometers).

This Valkyrie has made 83 flights and has a total of 160 hours, 16 minutes flight time. It is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

North American Aviation XB-70A Valkyrie 62-0001 lands at Edwards Air Force Base at the end of its first flight, 21 September 1964. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation XB-70A-1-NA Valkyrie 62-0001 just before landing at Runway 4 Right, Edwards Air Force Base, at the ending of its first flight, 21 September 1964. A Piasecki HH-21B rescue helicopter hovers over the adjacent taxiway. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

21 September 1961

Boeing Vertol YCH-1B 59-04984, the number three prototype. (U.S. Army)

21 September 1961: Boeing Vertol YCH-1B, serial number 59-04983, a twin-turboshaft, tandem-rotor helicopter flown by test pilot Leonard La Vasson, made its first flight at Morton Grove, Pennsylvania. This aircraft was the number two prototype of the U.S. Army’s heavy lift transport, the CH-47 Chinook, which is still in production 53 years later.

The 100th Boeing CH-47F Chinook was delivered to the United States Army in August 2013. (Boeing)
The 100th Boeing CH-47F Chinook was delivered to the United States Army during August 2013. (Boeing)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

21 September 1942

Edmund T. (“Eddie”) Allen

21 September 1942: At Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, the Boeing Model 345, the first of three XB-29 prototypes, XB-29-BO serial number 41-002, took off on its first flight. Edmund T. “Eddie” Allen, Director of Aerodynamics and Flight Research, was in command, with Al Reed, Chief of Flight Test and Chief Test Pilot, as co-pilot. They climbed to 6,000 feet (1,828.8 meters) and began testing the XB-29’s stability and control, control power and response, and stall characteristics. The flight was uneventful. Landing after 1 hour, 15 minutes, Allen is supposed to have said, “She flew!”

The XB-29 was 98 feet, 2 inches (29.921 meters) long with a wing span of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.053 meters), and 27 feet, 9 inches (8.458 meters) high to the top of its vertical fin. The prototype bomber had a gross weight of 105,000 pounds (47,627.2 kilograms). Four 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.84 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Wright Duplex-Cyclone R-3350-12, twin-row 18-cylinder radial engines produced 2,200 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. for takeoff, each. These engines drove 17-foot-diameter (5.182 meters) three-bladed propellers on the prototype. Reduction gearing turned the propellers at slightly over one-third of engine speed. The XB-29 had a maximum speed of 368 miles per hour (592.2 kilometers per hour) and cruised at 255 miles per hour (410 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 32,100 feet (9,784 meters). The airplane was designed to carry 20,000 pounds (9,071.9 kilograms) of bombs. Though the prototypes were unarmed, the production aircraft were defended by 10 Browning M2 .50-caliber machine guns in four remotely-operated power turrets, with 2 more machine guns and a single M2 20mm autocannon in the tail.

The B-29 Superfortress was the most technologically advanced—and complex—aircraft of the War. It required the manufacturing capabilities of the entire nation to produce. Over 1,400,000 engineering man-hours had been required to design the prototypes. It would be manufactured by Boeing at Seattle and Renton, Washington and at Wichita, Kansas; by Glenn L. Martin Company at Omaha, Nebraska; and by Bell Aircraft Corporation, Atlanta, Georgia. There were three XB-29 prototypes, 14 YB-29 pre-production test aircraft, 2,513 B-29, 1,119 B-29A, and 311 B-29B Superfortress aircraft. The bomber served during World War II and the Korean War and continued in active U.S. service until 1960.

The first prototype, 41-002, was scrapped in 1948.

Boeing XB-29-BO 41-002. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes