30 September 1982

H. Ross Perot, Jr. and Jay W. Coburn with Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II, N3911Z, after their 29-day around-the-world flight. (© Bettman/Corbis)

30 September 1982: H. Ross Perot, Jr. and Jay W. Coburn completed their around-the-world helicopter flight when they landed Spirit of Texas at their starting point at Dallas, Texas. They had flown the single-engine Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II, serial number 45658, civil registration N3911Z, more than 26,000 miles (41,843 kilometers) in 246.5 flight hours over 29 days, 3 hours and 8 minutes.

They had begun their journey 1 September 1982. Perot and Coburn traveled across twenty-six countries. They established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) record for helicopter speed around the world, eastbound, having averaged 56.97 kilometers per hour (35.399 miles per hour). (Class E-1d, FAI Record File Number 1254). They also established a series of point-to-point records while enroute, with the highest speed, an average of 179.39 kilometers per hour (111.47 miles per hour), taking place on 7 September 1982, while flying Spirit of Texas from London to Marseilles (FAI Record File Number 10018).

The Bell Helicopter Company Model 206L-1 is a 7-place light helicopter powered by an Allison 250-C28B turboshaft engine. This engine produces 500 shaft horsepower but is de-rated to 435 horsepower, the limit of the main transmission. Lift is provided by a two-bladed main rotor and a two-bladed tail rotor counteracts torque. The LongRanger II is designed to be flown by a single pilot and is certified for Visual Flight Rules (VFR). The 206L LongRanger series helicopters are stretched versions of the earlier 5-place Bell Model 206B JetRanger.

Perot had purchased the LongRanger, call sign “November-Three-Nine-One-One-Zulu”, for $750,000 specifically for this flight. Modifications started immediately and over the next three weeks an additional 151-gallon fuel tank was added giving the helicopter approximately 8 hours’ endurance. “Pop-out floats”—inflatable pontoons that can be deployed for emergency landings on water—were installed. The helicopter also carried a life raft and other emergency equipment and supplies. Additional communication, navigation equipment and radar was installed.

During the circumnavigation, the helicopter burned 56,000 pounds (25,400 kilograms) of jet fuel and made 56 fueling stops, including aboard a pre-positioned container ship in the North Pacific Ocean.

The helicopter was donated to the Smithsonian Institution and is on display at the Steven V. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum.

Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II, N3911Z, “Spirit of Texas”, on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

30 September 1949

A U.S. Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster on final approach to Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)

The Berlin Airlift officially ended on 30 September 1949, after fifteen months. In total the United States Air Force, Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force delivered 2,334,374 tons, nearly two-thirds of which was coal, on 280,290 flights to Berlin. At the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.

101 airmen lost their lives.

A Douglas C-54 Skymaster on final approach to Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof. (Smithsonian Institution)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

29 September 1965

After decades sitting outside, the Strategic Air Command’s very first operational Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B-15-BO 52-8711, is now in a protected environment.

29 September 1965: Ten years after it entered service, the first operational Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B-15-BO 52-8711, was retired to the Strategic Aerospace Museum, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

The first operational B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B-15-BO 52-8711. (U.S. Air Force)
The first operational B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B-15-BO 52-8711. (U.S. Air Force)

52-8711 had arrived at Castle Air Force Base, California, 29 June 1955, and was assigned to the 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy). It later served with the 22nd Bombardment Wing (Heavy) at March Air Force Base, California.

Boeing RB-52B-15-BO Stratofortress 52-8711, 22 Bombardment Wing (Heavy), March AFB, 1965. Compare this photograph to the image above. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

29 September 1954

McDonnell F-101A Voodoo 53-2418. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418 parked on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Left front quarter view. (U.S. Air Force)

29 September 1954: At Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation test pilot Robert C. Little made the first flight of the first F-101A-1-MC Voodoo, 53-2418. During this flight, the new interceptor reached 0.9 Mach at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters).

The F-101A was a development of the earlier McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo and all were production aircraft. There were no prototypes.

This is an autographed photo of test pilot Robert C. Little standing in the cockpit of the McDonnell F-101A Voodoo, 53-2418, after its first flight, 29 September 1954. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers.)
This is an autographed photo of test pilot Robert C. Little standing in the cockpit of the McDonnell F-101A Voodoo, 53-2418, after its first flight, 29 September 1954. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers.)

Robert C. Little flew P-51 Mustang fighters during World War II. He joined McDonnell Aircraft Corporation as a test pilot in 1948. He flew the FH Phantom, and made the first flights of the F3H Demon, the F-101A Voodoo and the F-101B. He was next assigned as McDonnell’s chief test pilot and base manager at Edwards Air Force Base. He the made the first flight of the YF4H-1 Phantom II and conducted the early company tests of the airplane, then became the F4H program manager. Outside the cockpit, Little rose through the company’s ranks and after the merger with Douglas, became a corporate vice president, overseeing the operations of McDonnell-Douglas at St. Louis and McDonnell-Douglas Helicopters at Mesa, Arizona.

mcDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right front quarter view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right front quarter view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right profile. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right profile. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right rear quarter view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right rear quarter view. (U.S. Air Force)

The McDonnell F-101A Voodoo was a single-seat twin engine supersonic interceptor. It was 67 feet, 5 inches (20.549 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 8 inches (12.090 meters) and overall height of 18 feet (5.486 meters). It weighed 24,970 pounds (11,326 kilograms) empty and had a gross weight of 48,120 pounds (21,827 kilograms). Power was supplied by two Pratt and Whitney J57-P-13 turbojet engines, producing 10,200 pounds of thrust each, or 15,000 pounds each with afterburner. The F-101A had a maximum speed of 1,009 miles per hour (1,624 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Its service ceiling was 55,800 feet (17,008 meters). The Voodoo was armed with four 20mm M39 autocannons with 200 rounds of ammunition per gun.

Of 807 F-101 Voodoos built, 77 were F-101As.

McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2416 in flight, bottom view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418 in flight, bottom view. (U.S. Air Force)

F-101A 53-2418 was transferred to General Electric for testing of the J79 afterburning turbojet engine which would later power the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II. General Electric returned the Voodoo to the Air Force in 1959. Now obsolete, it was used as a maintenance trainer at Shepard Air Force Base, Texas. It was next turned over to a civilian aviation maintenance school and assigned a civil registration number by the Federal Aviation Administration, N9250Z. The airplane was sold as scrap, but was purchased by Mr. Dennis Kelsey. In 2009, Mrs. Kelsey had the airplane placed in the care of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon.  After being partially restored by Evergreen Air Center, Marana, Arizona, 53-2418 was placed on display at the Evergreen Museum.

McDonnell JF-101A 53-2418, general Electric's test bed for the J79 turbojet engine. (Unattributed)
McDonnell NF-101A 53-2418, General Electric’s test bed for the J79-GE-1 turbojet engine. (Unattributed)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

29 September–1 October 1946

The world record-setting flight crew of The Turtle, left to right, Commander Eugene P. Rankin, Commander Thomas D. Davies, Commander Walter S. Reid and Lieutenant Commander Ray A. Tabeling. (FAI)
The world record-setting flight crew of The Turtle, left to right, Commander Eugene P. Rankin, Commander Thomas D. Davies, Commander Walter S. Reid and Lieutenant Commander Ray A. Tabeling, at Perth, Western Australia. (FAI)

29 September–1 October 1946: The third production Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (Bu. No.) 89082, departed Perth, Western Australia enroute to the United States, non-stop. The aircraft commander was Commander Thomas D. Davies, United States Navy. Three other pilots, Commanders Eugene P. Rankin and Walter S. Reid, and Lieutenant Commander Ray A. Tabeling, completed the crew.

The purpose of the flight was to demonstrate the long-distance capabilities of the Navy’s new aircraft. A memorandum from Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, to the Secretary of the Navy suggested:

“For the purpose of investigating means of extension of present patrol aircraft ranges, physiological limitations on patrol plane crew endurance and long-range navigation by pressure pattern methods, it is proposed to make a nonstop flight of a P2V-1 aircraft from Perth, Australia, to Washington, D.C., with the possibility, weather permitting, of extending the flight to Bermuda.”

FAI Record File Num #9275 [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: Distance in a straight line
Performance: 18 081.99 km
Date: 1946-10-01
Course/Location: Perth, WA (Australia) – Port Columbus, OH (USA)
Claimant Thomas D. Davies (USA)
Crew Eugene P. Rankin, Walter S. Reid, Ray A. Tabeling
Aeroplane: Lockheed P2V- 1 Monoplane
Engine(s): Wright R-3350 Duplex Cyclone

Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle, at Perth, Australia. (FAI)
Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle, at Perth, Western Australia. (FAI)

The Lockheed Aircraft Corporation P2V Neptune was a twin-engine, long-range patrol bomber normally operated by a crew of eight. The first production variant, the P2V-1, was 75 feet, 4 inches (22.962 meters) long with a wingspan of 100 feet (30.48 meters) and overall height of 28 feet, 6 inches (8.687 meters). Empty weight was 33,720 pounds (15,295 kilograms) and gross weight was 61,153 pounds (27,739 kilograms). The Neptune was powered by two 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.84 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Wright Aeronautical Corporation Duplex-Cyclone R-3350-8A, two-row 18-cylinder radial engines which produced 2,300 horsepower, each, and drove four-bladed propellers. These gave the P2V-1 a maximum speed of 303 miles per hour (488 kilometers per hour) at 15,300 feet (4,663 meters). The service ceiling was 27,000 feet (8,230 meters) and range was 4,110 miles (6,614 kilometers). Standard armament consisted of six .50-caliber machine guns, two torpedoes carried in the internal bomb bay, conventional bombs or up to twelve depth charges. Nuclear weapons could also be carried. Sixteen rockets could be carried under the wings.

The Turtle was modified by Lockheed to achieve the maximum range. All armament was deleted including the nose gun turret. Additional fuel tanks were installed in the bomb bay and rear fuselage and the outer wings. Wing tip fuel tanks were also added. These would be jettisoned when empty to reduce weight and aerodynamic drag. Most electronic and other unnecessary equipment, such as crew oxygen, were also removed. An additional lubricating oil tank for the engines was installed in the nose gear bay. The standard configuration R-3350-8A engines were replaced with two R-3350-14 Duplex Cyclones. Four Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) rockets were added, with two on each side of the fuselage.

The Turtle, Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082 demonstrates a JATO takeoff. The airplane is not carrying wingtip fuel tanks in this photograph. (U.S. Navy)
The Turtle, Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082 demonstrates a JATO takeoff. The airplane is not carrying wingtip fuel tanks in this photograph. (U.S. Navy)

The flight began at Pearce Aerodrome, six miles inland from the Indian Ocean, north of Perth, Western Australia. Because of concerns that the landing gear might collapse with the extreme overloaded condition, The Turtle was only partially fueled when it taxied to Runway 27. Once there, the fueling was completed, bringing the Neptune’s all-up weight to 85,561 pounds (38,810 kilograms)—24,408 pounds (11,071 kilograms)—12 tons beyond its normal gross weight.

At 6:00 p.m., the two Duplex Cyclone engines were started and warmed up. With Commander Davies flying in the left seat and Commander Rankin in the right, the engines were advanced to Full Military Power while Davies stood on the brakes. With instruments reading normal, he released the brakes and The Turtle began its takeoff roll. The time was 6.11 p.m., local.

As indicated airspeed reached 87 knots (100 miles per hour/161 kilometers per hour) the four JATO rockets were fired. Reaching 115 knots (132 miles per hour/213 kilometers per hour) the nose wheel lifted off the runway followed a few seconds later by the main wheels. With just 5 feet (1.5 meters)altitude the landing gear was retracted. By the time the JATOs burned out, the P2V-1 had climbed to 20 feet (6 meters) and reached 130 knots. (150 miles per hour/241 kilometers per hour) Once over the Indian Ocean the four JATO rockets were jettisoned.

This was the heaviest takeoff by a two-engine airplane up to that time.

The overweight airplane very slowly gained altitude as it crossed over Australia and crossed over the Coral Sea. The planned route was a Great Circle Course which crossed over New Guinea and then the Solomon Islands. With four pilots aboard, they rotated positions every two hours.

U.S. Navy Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune, Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle. (U.S. Navy)
U.S. Navy Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune, Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle. (U.S. Navy)

By dawn of the second day airborne, The Turtle crossed over the Hawaiian Islands chain at Maro Reef, between Midway and Oahu. Headwinds were pushing the patrol bomber southward of the intended course, but Commander Davies elected to allow the airplane to drift as correcting for it would have slowed their flight by turning more directly into the wind and cost additional fuel. The planned route would have crossed the West Coast of the United States near Seattle, Washington, but the actual landfall was several hundred miles to the south, along the northern California coast. The empty wing tip tanks were jettisoned before they crossed the shoreline just north of San Francisco at 9:16 p.m., 30 September.

As The Turtle flew across the western states with the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains, it encountered severe weather with turbulence, freezing rain, snow and ice. They passed Salt Lake City, Utah at dawn of the third day and weather conditions improved. The weather had cost additional fuel and calculations indicated that the intended final destination of Washington, D.C., was now beyond their range. Commander Davies decided that the flight would end at NAS Columbus, Ohio.

The Lockheed Neptune’s wheels touched down at 1:28 p.m, 1 October. The four Naval Aviator’s and their “truculent” bomber had flown 18,081.99 kilometers (11,235.63 miles). The duration of the flight was 55 hours, 17 minutes.

The Turtle taxiing. (U.S. Navy)
The Turtle taxiing. (U.S. Navy)

Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal awarded each pilot the Distinguished Flying Cross.

P2V-1 Bu. No. 89082 was used as a test aircraft until it was retired in 1953 and put on display at NAS Norfolk, Virginia.

The last operational antisubmarine warfare flight by a Lockheed Neptune, an SP-2H, was flown 20 February 1970. The co-pilot on the mission was Rear Admiral Thomas D. Davies.

The Turtle, Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082 is a part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. It is on loan to the National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida.

Lockheed P2V-1 neptune Bu. No. 89082 at the Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida. (Greg Goebel)
Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle, at the National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida. (Greg Goebel)
This cartoon and the name, The Turtle, was painted on each side of the nose of Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082. (U.S. Navy)
This cartoon and the name, The Turtle, was painted on each side of the nose of Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082. (U.S. Navy)

Note on the name of the airplane: The Turtle was named after Operation Turtle,  a joint U.S. Navy/Lockheed project to maximize the range and endurance of the P2V Neptune patrol bomber. The name with a cartoon of a turtle with a naval officer’s cap and a cape, smoking a pipe and pedaling to turn a propeller was painted on the airplane’s nose. U.S. Navy press releases called it “The Truculent Turtle” and newspapers picked up this nickname, by which the airplane is generally referred to. There is no evidence that the airplane’s crew ever described the airplane as “truculent”:

“. . . having a bad state of mind, or behaving in a threatening manner. . . .”

 Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary.

A more detailed account of the flight of The Turtle can be found at :

http://www.maritimepatrolassociation.org/documents/heritage/Truculent_Turtle_1946.pdf

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes