24–27 April 1929

Sqadron Leader A.G. Jones-Williams and Flight Lieutenant N.H. Jenkins at RAF Cranwell, June 1929. (Flight)
Squadron Leader A.G. Jones-Williams, MC and Bar, with Flight Lieutenant N.H. Jenkins, OBE, DFC, DSM, at RAF Cranwell, June 1929. (Flight)

24–27 April 1929: At 0937 GMT on the 24th, Squadron Leader Arthur Gordon Jones-Williams, MC and Bar, and Flight Lieutenant Norman H. Jenkins, OBE, DFC, DSM, both of the Royal Air Force, departed RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire, England, aboard the Fairey Long Range Monoplane, J9479, enroute Bangalore, Kingdom of Mysore, British Indian Empire, on a long-range flight record attempt.

Fairey Long Range Monoplane J9479, front view.
Fairey Long Range Monoplane J9479, front view.

Their departure had been delayed for several days while waiting for favorable conditions for takeoff. It was decided to limit the Monoplane’s takeoff weight to 16,000 pounds (7,257.5 kilograms) and wait for at least a 10 mile per hour (16 kilometers per hour) headwind before attempting to takeoff.

After 16½ hours, Jones-Williams and Jenkins were overhead Istanbul, and reached Baghdad 10½ hours later. After another 22 hours airborne they were overhead Karachi, Sindh, in the Bombay Presidency (now, Pakistan). With an estimated 6 hours fuel remaining they were unable to reach Bangalore, and elected to land at Karachi while it was still daylight. The duration of their flight was 50 hours, 37 minutes. They had flown a distance of 4,130 miles (6,646.6 kilometers) on their non-stop flight.

Fairey Long Range Monoplane J9479, right side view.
Fairey Long Range Monoplane J9479, right side view.

Arthur Gordon Jones-Williams (1888–1929) was a second lieutenant in the Welsh Regiment during World War I. He was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as a fighter pilot. He shot down 11 enemy airplanes and was awarded the Military Cross, followed by a Military Cross Bar (second award). Jones-Williams was promoted from Flight Lieutenant to Squadron Leader in the list of New Years Honors, 1 January 1928.

Flight Lieutenant Norman Hugh Jenkins, DFC, DSM, Royal Air Force, was appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire on 3 June 1925.

The Fairey Long Range Monoplane was an experimental airplane designed and built in 1928 by Fairey Aviation Company, Ltd., at Hayes, Middlesex, England, for the Royal Air Force to investigate methods of increasing the range of airplanes. The agreed price was £15,000. It was flown by two pilots and had a bed for crew rest. It was a high-wing monoplane with a wing built of wood and covered by fabric. The Monoplane was 48 feet, 6 inches (14.783 meters) long with a wingspan of 82 feet (24.994 meters) and height of 12 feet (3.658 meters). The maximum takeoff weight was 17,500 pounds (7,937.9 kilograms). J9479 was powered by a 1,461.6-cubic-inch-displacement (23.95 liter) liquid-cooled Napier Lion XIa double-overhead-cam (DOHC) “Triple Four” or “broad arrow” (three banks of four cylinders with a common crankshaft), now generally referred to as a  W-12 engine. It produced 580 horsepower at 2,585 r.p.m. and drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The cruise speed was 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour). The fuel tanks in the wings had a capacity of 1,043 Imperial gallons (1,252.6 U.S. gallons/4,741.6 liters).

Fairey Long Range Monoplane J9479, left front quarter.
Fairey Long Range Monoplane J9479, left front quarter.

Because of headwinds encountered the April flight was short of the record. Another attempt was made, this time with a destination in South Africa. On 16 December 1929, however, J9479 crashed at Djibel Lit, Zaghaouan, Tunis, Africa. The airplane was destroyed and both A.G. Jones-Williams and N.H. Jenkins were killed.

Fairey Long Range Monoplane. J9479, right front quarter.
Fairey Long Range Monoplane. J9479, right front quarter.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

27 April 1911

Curtiss Type IV Model D, S.C. No. 2, 1911. (U.S. Air Force)
Curtiss Type IV Model D, S.C. No. 2, 1911. (U.S. Air Force)

27 April 1911: At Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps accepts its second airplane, a Curtiss Type IV Model D. The airplane was built by Glenn H. Curtiss’ Curtiss Aeroplane Company, Hammondsport, New York. It was known as a “Curtiss pusher”, as it was propelled by a propeller behind the engine. The aircraft was a canard configuration with the elevators mounted in front. It had tricycle landing gear. The engine was a 40-h.p. 8-cylinder Curtiss Vee. The airplane’s top speed was 60 m.p.h.

The airframe was primarily spruce and ash, with flying surfaces covered with doped fabric. It was easily disassembled for transport on Army wagons. The Wrights had patented their “wing-warping” system of flight controls and refused to allow Curtiss to use it. The Model D used ailerons instead, which was a superior system.

The Model D Type IV had a length of 29 feet, 3 inches (8.915 meters) with a wingspan of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters) and height of 7 feet, 10 inches (2.388 meters). Its empty weight was 700 pounds (317.5 kilograms) and loaded weight was 1,300 pounds (589.7 kilograms). The engine was a 40-horsepower 8-cylinder Curtiss Vee. The airplane’s top speed was 60 miles per hour (96.6 kilometers per hour). Endurance was 2½ hours.

The Signal Corps assigned serial number S.C. No. 2 to the Curtiss. Intended as a trainer, it was in service until 1914.

A reproduction of S.C. No. 2 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

26 April 1995

Roman Taskaev holds his FAI record certificate. (FAI)
Roman Taskaev holds his FAI record certificate. (FAI)

26 April 1995: Mikoyan test pilot Roman Taskaev flew a MiG-29 to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Altitude Record of 27,460 meters (90,092 feet) at Aerodrome Akhtubinsk, Russia. This record still stands.

FAI Record File Num #2554 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1h (Landplanes: take off weight 12 000 to 16 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 27 460 m
Date: 1995-04-26
Course/Location: Jasmine – aerodrome, Akhtubinsk (Russia)
Claimant Roman Taskaev (RUS)
Aeroplane: Mikoyan/Gurevitch MiG-29
Engines: 2 Klimov RD-33

Mikoyan MiG-29A
Mikoyan MiG-29A

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

26 April 1966

Major Paul J. Gilmore and 1st Lieutenant William T. Smith with their McDonnell F-4C Phantom II, 26 April 1966 (vnmilitaryhistory.net)
Major Paul J. Gilmore and 1st Lieutenant William T. Smith with their McDonnell F-4C Phantom II, 26 April 1966 (vnmilitaryhistory.net)

26 April 1966: Major Paul J. Gilmore, aircraft commander, and First Lieutenant William T. Smith, pilot, flying McDonnell F-4C-23-MC Phantom II 64-0752, shot down the first Vietnamese People’s Air Force Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21 destroyed during the Vietnam War.

Douglas RB-66B-DL Destroyer 53-422. (U.S. Air Force)
Douglas RB-66B-DL Destroyer 53-422. (U.S. Air Force)

“. . . on 26 April, Maj. Paul J. Gilmore, in the front seat of the lead F-4C, and 1st Lt. William T. Smith in the back, downed the first MiG-21 of the war. They were part of a flight of three F-4s flying escort for two RB-66s. Launching from Da Nang, they rendezvoused with the RB-66s and proceeded north to the Red River, where one RB-66 and one F-4 split off for a separate mission. Gilmore, flying the other F-4, and the other RB-66 proceeded north east of Hanoi. Almost at once they spotted two or three MiGs coming high in the 2 o’clock position and closing rapidly. Gilmore and his wingman jettisoned their external tanks, lit their afterburners, and broke into a hard left descending turn while the RB-66 departed the area.

“Gilmore pulled out of his vertical reversal at 12,000 feet [3,657.6 meters], with his wingman flying a tight wing position. They pulled up after the MiGs, which were in afterburner, heading northwest at 30,000 feet [9,144 meters].

Vietnam Peoples' Air Force Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21PF, 1972.
Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21, 1972.

“The second MiG was descending very slowly, trailing white vapor toward the east. The F-4 aircrews lost sight of this aircraft as they closed rapidly on the first, which was making gentle clearing turns as he climbed away. Gilmore had several boresight lock-ons but was out of range for a good Sparrow shot. At a range of 3,000 feet [915 meters], Gilmore fired one Sidewinder with a good tone; he then maneuvered to the left to gain more separation and as a result did not see his first missile track.

“Later, Gilmore reported that he had not realized that he had scored a victory with his first missile: ‘My wingman, flying cover for me, told me later the MiG pilot had ejected after I fired the first missile. I didn’t realize I’d hit him the first time. My wingman wondered why I kept after him as I had hit him the first time and the pilot ejected.’ Because of radio difficulties, his wingman could not inform Gilmore of his success.

U.S. Air Force ground crewmen prepare to load four AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared homing air to air missiles (top row) and four AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided air-to-air  missiles (bottom row) aboard an F-4C. This aircraft, F-4C-23-MC Phantom II 64-0793, is teh same type fighter flown by Major Gilmore and Lieutenant Smith, 26 April 1966. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force ground crewmen prepare to load four AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared-homing air-to-air missiles (top row) and four AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided air-to-air missiles (bottom row) aboard an F-4C. This aircraft, F-4C-23-MC Phantom II 64-0793, is from the same production block as the fighter flown by Major Gilmore and Lieutenant Smith, 26 April 1966. (U.S. Air Force)

“After his maneuver to gain separation, Gilmore pulled up behind the pilotless MiG-21 again and fired another Sidewinder without effect. He again rolled left, pulled up, and fired his third Sidewinder at a range of 3,000 feet. ‘After missing [he thought] twice,’ Gilmore later told a newsman, ‘I was quite disgusted. I started talking to myself. Then I got my gunsights on him and fired a third time. I observed the missile go directly in his tailpipe and explode his tail.’

“The two F-4 aircrews  then descended to watch the debris impact. As Gilmore commenced his pull-up he spotted another MiG-21 tracking his wingman and called for a defensive split. He broke to the left and down while his wingman broke to the right and up.

“When Gilmore emerged from the roll, he sighted the MiG ahead, in afterburner and climbing away. He rolled in behind this aircraft and climbed in afterburner until he was directly behind. He fired his fourth Sidewinder, but the range was too short and the missile passed over the MiG’s left wing. Because of low fuel reserves, both F-4s then left the battle area. The 6-minute aerial battle was Gilmore’s first encounter with an enemy plane ‘after twelve years in the tactical fighter business.’ “

Aces and Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1965–1973, by R. Frank Futrell, William H. Greenhalgh, Carl Grubb, Gerard E. Hasselwander, Robert F. Jakob and Charles A. Ravenstein, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1976, Chapter II at Pages 27–29.

According to Vietnamese Peoples’ Air Force records a fighter was lost 26 April 1966, though it is described as a MiG-17. The pilot, First Lieutenant Tràn Vặn Triém, ejected after being hit by friendly fire.

The Phantom II flown by Gilmore and Smith on that date was written off 6 August 1967.

F-4C 64-0752. Ngày 06/08/67 chiếc F-4C này bị PK bắn rơi ở Quảng Bình.
F-4C 64-0752. Ngày 06/08/67 chiếc F-4C này bị PK bắn rơi ở Quảng Bình. (vnmilitaryhistory.net) [A Vietnamese historical website describes the aircraft in this photograph as Major Gilmore’s F-4C.]
© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

26 April 1962

Lockheed A-12 60-6924, "Article 121" at Groom Lake, Nevada. (Central Intelligence Agency)
Lockheed A-12 60-6934, “Article 121,” at Groom Lake, Nevada. (Central Intelligence Agency)
Lockheed test pilot Louis W. Schalk, Jr. (Lockheed)
Lockheed test pilot Louis W. Schalk, Jr. (Lockheed)

26 April 1962: At a non-existent location in the desert of Nevada, Lockheed Chief Test Pilot Louis Wellington (“Lou”) Schalk, Jr., was scheduled to take the first Oxcart for a high-speed taxi test on the specially constructed 8,000-foot (2.44 kilometer) runway. However, he received secret specific instructions from designer Kelly Johnson to take the craft, known as “Article 121,” airborne.  Lou Schalk roared down the runway and lifted off. He flew at about 20 feet for two miles. The super-secret aircraft was oscillating badly so he set it down straight ahead on the dry lake bed and disappeared into a cloud of dust and flying sand. Johnson said that it “was horrible to watch.” A few minutes later, the needle nose of Article 121 appeared out of the dust as Schalk taxied back to the runway. It turned out that some equipment had been hooked up backwards. Subsequent flights were made without difficulty.

This was the actual first flight of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Top Secret A-12 reconnaissance aircraft. The official first flight would come several days later. Designed as the successor to the Agency’s subsonic U-2 spy plane, the twin-engine  jet was capable of flying more than Mach 3 (over 2,000 miles per hour/3,218.7 kilometers per hour) and higher than 80,000 feet (24,384 meters). Designed by Lockheed’s “Skunk Works,” the new airplane wasn’t “state of the art,” it was well beyond the state of the art. New materials were developed. New equipment designed and built. New manufacturing processes were invented. The A-12, developed under the code name “Oxcart,” was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. The first A-12 was referred to as Article 121. “A” = “Article”. “12-” is for A-12. “-1″ is for the first production aircraft. So you get “Article 121.” What could be simpler?

The A-12 was so fast and could fly so high that it was invulnerable to any defense. No missile or aircraft or gun could reach it.

Thirteen A-12s were built for the CIA.  Two M-21 variants, built to carry the Mach 4 D-21 drone, were also produced. An interceptor version was developed for the Air Force as the YF-12A. 93 Lockheed F-12B interceptors were ordered though Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara  refused to release the funding. After three years, the order was cancelled. The Air Force liked the A-12, however, and ordered 32 of the more widely known two-place SR-71A “Blackbird” reconnaissance ships.

Today, Article 121 is on display at the Blackbird Airpark, an annex of the Air Force Flight Test Museum, Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Lockheed A-12 60-6924 at the Blackbird  Airpark, Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. (© 2012, Bryan R. Swopes)
Lockheed A-12 60-6934 at the Blackbird Airpark, Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. (© 2012, Bryan R. Swopes)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather