1 September 1983

A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor armed with R-98MR air-to-air missiles. (Department of Defense)

1 September 1983: At approximately 1826 hours UTC, Lieutenant Colonel Gennadiy Nikolayevich Osipovich of the V-PVO, (Soviet Air Defence Forces—Войска ПВО, Voyska ProtivoVozdushnoy Oborony) flying a Sukhoi Su-15TM interceptor, fired two Kaliningrad R-98MR air-to-air missiles at a Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 which was in international air space over the Sea of Japan at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Both missiles’ 40 kilogram (88 pound) warheads were detonated by proximity fuses 50 yards (45 meters) behind the airliner and blast fragmentation shrapnel caused severe damage. Over the next twelve minutes, the 747 spiraled downward until it crashed into the Sea of Japan near Moneron Island. All 269 persons on board were killed.

The airliner, KAL Flight 007, had departed Anchorage International Airport enroute to Seoul, Republic of Korea. In command was Captain Chun Byung-in. The co-pilot was First Officer Son Dong Hui and the flight engineer was Kim Eui Doing. There were a total of 29 crew members and 240 passengers on board.

After leaving Anchorage airspace, the airplane, a 12-year-old Boeing 747-230B, registration HL7442, continuously deviated from its planned route to the north. It entered Soviet airspace, crossed over the Kamchatka Penninsula, and then flew over Sakhalin Island. Based on these two airspace incursions, the Soviet military chain of command specifically ordered Lieutenant Colonel Osipovich to shoot down the airliner, even if it was over international waters.

A Korean Alr Lines Boeing 747-200, HL2464, similar to the aircraft flown as KAL 007. (Wikipedia)
A Korean Air Lines’ Boeing 747-2B5B, similar to the 747-230B flown as KAL 007, 1 September 1983. (Wikipedia)

It is believed that the KAL 007 flight crew had placed the autopilot in the heading mode when it should have been in the Inertial Navigation Mode. From review of cockpit voice recorder tapes that were later recovered, it is not believed that the crew was ever aware that they were flying north of their course.

The intended and actual track of KAL Flight 700.
The intended and actual track of Korean Air Lines Flight 007.

When interviewed by The New York Times for the 9 December 1996 edition, Colonel Osipovich, by then retired, said, “I saw two rows of windows and knew this was a Boeing. . . I knew this was a civilian plane. But for me this meant nothing. It is easy to turn a civilian type of plane into one for military use.”

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

1 September 1974

Lockheed SR-71A-LO 61-7972 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

1 September 1974: Major James V. Sullivan, USAF, Pilot and Major Noel F. Widdifield, USAF, Reconnaissance Systems Officer, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over A Known Course when they flew a Lockheed SR-71A-LO, serial number 61-7972, from New York to London in 1 hour, 54 minutes, 56.4 seconds. They averaged 2,908.026 kilometers per hour (1,806.964 miles per hour).

Lockheed SR-71A-LO 61-7972 FAI speed record certificate

This same SR-71 set numerous speed and altitude records during its career. It is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

1 September 1968

Lieutenant Colonel William A. Jones III, United States Air Force, in the cockpit of of a Douglas A-1H Skyraider, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)

1 September 1968: Two U.S. Air Force McDonnell F-4D Phantom II fighters were on a pre-dawn strike against the Ho Chi Minh Trail, near the Ban Karai Pass. Both Phantoms, call signs CARTER 01 and CARTER 02, were hit by anti-aircraft gunfire and their crews had to eject. Both pilots from CARTER 01 were quickly picked up, but the aircraft commander of CARTER 02 was hidden by the jungle. The Weapons System Officer was never seen again.

A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission was immediately sent out to locate and rescue the missing airmen.  Two Sikorsky HH-3 Jolly Green Giant helicopters, the recovery team, were escorted by four Douglas A-1 Skyraiders to help in the search and to suppress any enemy gunfire that was trying to shoot down the rescue helicopters. The Skyraider was a Korean War era carrier-based attack airplane originally in service with the U.S. Navy. It had been replaced by modern jet aircraft, but the Air Force found that its slow flight and ability to carry a heavy fuel and weapons load were ideal for the CSAR escort mission. These four Skyraiders were from the 602nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhom Phanom, Thailand. They operated with the call sign SANDY. Lieutenant Colonel William A. Jones III, the squadron commanding officer, on his 98th combat mission, was the on-scene commander flying SANDY 01, an A-1H, serial number 52-139738.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor


Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Air Force, 602d Special Operations Squadron, Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand

Place and date: Near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam, 1 September 1968

Entered service at: Charlottesville, Virginia

Born: 31 May 1922, Norfolk, Virginia

LCOL William A. Jones III
LCOL William A. Jones III, U.S.Air Force

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Col Jones distinguished himself as the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider aircraft near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. On that day, as the on-scene commander in the attempted rescue of a downed U.S. pilot, Col. Jones aircraft was repeatedly hit by heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. On 1 of his low passes, Col. Jones felt an explosion beneath his aircraft and his cockpit rapidly filled with smoke. With complete disregard of the possibility that his aircraft might still be burning, he unhesitatingly continued his search for the downed pilot. On this pass, he sighted the survivor and a multiple-barrel gun position firing at him from near the top of a karst formation. He could not attack the gun position on that pass for fear he would endanger the downed pilot. Leaving himself exposed to the gun position, Col. Jones attacked the position with cannon and rocket fire on 2 successive passes. On his second pass, the aircraft was hit with multiple rounds of automatic weapons fire. One round impacted the Yankee Extraction System rocket mounted directly behind the headrest, igniting the rocket. His aircraft was observed to burst into flames in the center fuselage section, with flame engulfing the cockpit area. He pulled the extraction handle, jettisoning the canopy. The influx of fresh air made the fire burn with greater intensity for a few moments, but since the rocket motor had already burned, the extraction system did not pull Col. Jones from the aircraft. Despite searing pains from severe burns sustained on his arms, hand, neck, shoulders, and face, Col. Jones pulled his aircraft into a climb and attempted to transmit the location of the downed pilot and the enemy gun position to the other aircraft in the area. His calls were blocked by other aircraft transmissions repeatedly directing him to bail out and within seconds his transmitters were disabled and he could receive only on 1 channel. Completely disregarding his injuries, he elected to fly his crippled aircraft back to his base and pass on essential information for the rescue rather than ball out. Col. Jones successfully landed his heavily damaged aircraft and passed the information to a debriefing officer while on the operating table. As a result of his heroic actions and complete disregard for his personal safety, the downed pilot was rescued later in the day. Col. Jones’ profound concern for his fellow man at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of this country.

This is the Douglas A-1H Skyraider flown by LCOL Jones, 1 September 1968. Though it was extensively damaged by anti-aircraft gunfire and the subsequent fire, 52-139738 was repaired and returned to service. On 22 September 1972, -738 was shot down over Laos. It was the last Skyraider shot down during the Vietnam War.

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

1 September 1953

Captain Harold E. "Tom" Collins, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of the FAI World Speed Record setting North American Aviation F-86D-35-NA Sabre 51-6145. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots and Flight Test Engineers)
Captain Harold E. “Tom” Collins, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of the FAI World Speed Record setting North American Aviation F-86D-35-NA Sabre 51-6145. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots and Flight Test Engineers)

1 September 1953: Captain Harold E. Collins, United States Air Force, flying North American Aviation F-86D-35-NA Sabre, 51-6145, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 15/25 Kilometer Straight Course of 1,139.219 kilometers per hour (707.878 miles per hour) at Vandalia, Ohio.

FAI Record File Num #8869 [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 straight 15/25 km course
Performance: 1 139.219 km/h
Date: 1953-09-01
Course/Location: Vandalia, OH (USA)
Claimant Harold E. Collins (USA)
Aeroplane: North American F-86 D
Engine: 1 G E J47

This same F-86D, flown by Lieutenant Colonel William F. Barnes, set an FAI World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Straight Course of 715.697 miles per hour (1,151.803 kilometers per hour), 16 July 1953 at the Salton Sea, California. (FAI Record File Number 9868)

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, the record-setting Sabre 51-6145 was transferred to NATO ally, the Royal Hellenic Air Force.

North American Aviation F-86D-35-NA Sabre 51-6145, FAI World Speed Record holder.
North American Aviation F-86D-35-NA Sabre 51-6145, FAI World Speed Record holder.

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

1 September 1952

Convair B-36 Peacemakers damaged by a tornado, 1 September 1952. (U.S. Air Force)

1 September 1952: On 6:42 p.m., Monday, Labor Day, a tornado struck the flight line at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas. 76 Convair B-36 Peacemaker intercontinental heavy bombers of the 7th and 11th Bombardment Wings, Heavy, were damaged, knocking out nearly two-thirds of the Strategic Air Command’s bomber force. The air base was left awash in thousands of gallons of aviation fuel from ruptured fuel tanks. An assessment team from the the Air Material Command was immediately sent to begin repairs. One bomber, B-36D-10-CF serial number 49-2051, of the 98th Bombardment Squadron, had been blown across the air base and into a ravine over a mile away. Its fuselage was broken in half and its tail and left wing were missing. Of the 76 damaged Peacemakers, this was the only one that was damaged beyond repair. All the others returned to service by 11 May 1953.

Damage to tail of B-36H-5-CF 50-1095. (U.S. Air Force)
Damaged aircraft and buildings at Carswell AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes