Daily Archives: May 3, 2017

1–3 May 1976

Pan American World Airways' record-setting Boeing 747SP Clipper Liberty Bell, (View Liner)
Pan American World Airways’ record-setting Boeing 747SP Clipper Liberty Bell. (ViewLiner Ltd.)

1–3 May 1976: Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 747SP-21 Clipper Liberty Bell, N533PA, departed New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, on a record-setting around the world flight. Under the command of Captain Walter H. Mullikan, the airline’s chief pilot, the flight crew included co-pilots Albert A. Frink, Lyman G. Watt, and flight engineers Frank Cassaniti and Edwards Shields. The airliner carried 98 passengers. The flight set a new speed record for a flight around the world, eastbound, and three speed records for commercial airline routes.

Clipper Liberty Bell flew eastward from New York JFK to Indira Ghandi International Airport (DEL), New Delhi, India, a distance of 8,081 miles (13,005.1 kilometers), at an average speed of 869.63 kilometers per hour (540.363 miles per hour). After servicing the 747, it continued on its journey. The next destination was Tokyo International Airport (HND), Tokyo, Japan. This stage covered 7,539 miles (12,132.8 kilometers). The airliner’s average speed was 421.20 kilometers per hour (261.722 miles per hour). After refueling, the Pan American flight continued on to its starting point, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, New York. This final leg was 7,517 miles (12,097.4 kilometers). The average speed was 912.50 kilometers per hour (567.001 miles per hour).

The total duration of the flight was 46 hours, 1 second. The actual flight time was 39 hours, 25 minutes, 53 seconds. Total distance flown was 23,137 miles (37,235.4 kilometers). The average speed for the entire flight was 809.24 kilometers per hour (502.838 miles per hour).

FAI Record File Num #5670 [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 around the world. Eastbound
Performance: 809.24 km/h
Date: 1976-05-03
Course/Location: New York, NY (USA) and return (via New Delhi, Tokyo)
Claimant Walter H. Mullikin (USA)
Crew Albert A. FRINK & Lyman G. WATT (co-pilots), Frank CASSANITI & Edwards SHIELDS (Flight engineer)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747SP-21 (N533PA)
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D

FAI Record File Num #5671 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a Commercial Airline Route
Performance: 869.63 km/h
Date: 1976-05-02
Course/Location: New York, NY (USA) – New Delhi (India)
Claimant Walter H. Mullikin (USA)
Crew Albert A. FRINK & Lyman G. WATT (co-pilots), Frank CASSANITI & Edwards SHIELDS (Flight engineer)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747SP-21 (N533PA)
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D

FAI Record File Num #5669 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a Commercial Airline Route
Performance: 421.20 km/h
Date: 1976-05-03
Course/Location: New Delhi (India) – Tokyo (Japan)
Claimant Walter H. Mullikin (USA)
Crew Albert A. FRINK & Lyman G. WATT (co-pilots), Frank CASSANITI & Edwards SHIELDS (Flight engineer)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747SP-21 (N533PA)
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D

FAI Record File Num #1338 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a Commercial Airline Route
Performance: 912.50 km/h
Date: 1976-05-03
Course/Location: Tokyo (Japan) – New York, NY (USA)
Claimant Walter H. Mullikin (USA)
Crew Albert A FRINK, Lyman G. WATT, Frank CASSANITI, Edward SCHIELDS
Aeroplane: Boeing 747 SP
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D

The Boeing 747SP (“Special Performance”) is a very long range variant of the 747-100 series airliners. It has a shorter fuselage and larger tail surface than the standard model. The weight savings allows it to carry more fuel for longer flights, and it is also faster. Boeing built 45 747SPs.

The 747SP is 184 feet, 9 inches (56.312 meters) long, with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters). It has an overall height of 65 feet, 10 inches (20.066 meters). It has a maximum takeoff weight of 670,000 pounds.

The airliner has a cruising speed of 0.88 Mach (616 miles per hour, or 991 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 0.92 Mach (680 knots, 1,094 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 45,100 feet (13,746 meters) and the range is 7,650 miles (12,311 kilometers), carrying 276 passengers and baggage. The fuel capacity is 47,210 gallons. (178,709 liters).

The record-setting Boeing 747SP-21, serial number 21025, was the fourth Special Performance 747 built, and one of 10 that had been ordered by Pan American World Airways. It first flew 8 October 1975, in Boeing’s corporate paint scheme. It was retained for use in the test fleet. When testing was completed the airliner was refurbished and repainted in the Pan Am livery. It was delivered to the airline 5 March 1976 and registered N533PA.

In 1977, Captain Mullikin flew the same 747SP on another circumnavigation, but this time it was crossed both the North and South Poles. Renamed Clipper New Horizons, 21025 set a record on that flight as well, with a total flight time of 54 hours, 7 minutes, 12 seconds.

Pan American sold its fleet of Boeing 747SPs to United Airlines in 1986. 21025 was re-registered N143UA to reflect its new ownership. After twenty years, 21025 was removed from service in 1995 and placed in storage at Ardmore, Oklahoma. It was scrapped in 1997. The airliner had accumulated 78,941 total flight hours on its airframe (TTAF) with 10,733 cycles.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 May 1952

LCOL William P. Benedict and LCOL Joseph O. Fletcher in cockpit of C-47 enroute the North Pole, 3 May 1952.

3 May 1952: A ski-equipped United States Air Force Douglas C-47A Skytrain, piloted by Lieutenant Colonels William P. Benedict and Joseph O. Fletcher, USAF, was the first airplane to land at the North Pole.¹ The navigator was 1st Lieutenant Herbert Thompson. Staff Sergeant Harold Turner was the flight engineer and Airman 1st Class Robert L. Wishard, the radio operator.

Also on board was Arctic research scientist Dr. Albert P. Crary and his assistant, Robert Cotell. Additional personnel were Fritza Ahl, Master Sergeant Edison T. Blair and Airman 2nd Class David R. Dobson.

Colonel Fletcher was commanding officer of the 58th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Eielson Air Force Base, Fairbanks, Alaska. He was responsible for establishing Drift Ice Stations within the polar ice cap for remote weather observation bases. Ice Island T-3 was renamed Fletcher’s Ice Island in his honor. He became a world authority on Arctic weather and climate. Various geographic features, such as the Fletcher Abyssal Plain in the Arctic Ocean, and the Fletcher Ice Rise in the Antarctic are also named for him.

Crew and passengers of the C-47 at T-3, 3 May 1951 (fly.historicwings.com)
Crew and passengers of the C-47A Skytrain at The North Pole, 3 May 1952. (A2C David R. Dobson, United States Air Force, via fly.historicwings.com)

The airplane flown on this expedition was Douglas C-47A-90-DL Skytrain 43-15665.

The Douglas C-47 in the photograph below is similar to the Skytrain that Benedict and Fletcher landed at the North Pole, however it is a screen image from the RKO/Winchester Pictures Corporation motion picture, “The Thing from Another World,” which was released just one year earlier, 29 April 1951. Howard Hawks’ classic science fiction film involves an Air Force C-47 Skytrain crew that flies in support of a remote Arctic research station.

Screen Image of a ski-equipped Douglas C-47 Skytrain, “Tropical Tilly.” (RKO Pictures)

The Douglas C-47A Skytrain is an all-metal twin-engine, low wing monoplane transport with retractable landing gear. It was operated by a minimum flight crew of two pilots, a navigator and a radio operator. The wing is fully cantilevered and the fuselage is of semi-monocoque construction. Control surfaces are fabric-covered.

The C-47 is 64 feet, 5½ inches (19.647 meters) long with a wingspan of 95 feet (28.956 meters) and height of 17 feet (5.182 meters). Empty weight of the C-47A is 17,257 pounds (7,828 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 29,300 pounds (13,290 kilograms).²

The C-47A is powered by two 1,829.4-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) air-cooled, supercharged R-1830-92 (Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1C3-G) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines. These were rated at 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. at Sea Level for takeoff. The maximum continuous rating for normal operation was 1,060 horsepower at 2,550 r.pm., up to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters). Each engine drives a three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed full-feathering propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 6 inches (3.505 meters) through a 16:9 gear reduction. The R-1830-92 is 48.19 inches (1.224 meters) long, 61.67 inches (1.566 meters) in diameter, and weighs 1,465 pounds (665 kilograms).

The C-47 has a cruising speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and service ceiling of 24,100 feet (7,346 meters).

The C-47-DL could carry 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms) of cargo, or 28 fully-equipped paratroopers. Alternatively, 14 patients on stretchers could be carried, along with three attendants.

43-15665 crashed on Fletcher’s Ice island 3 November 1952. It has since sunk to the floor of the Arctic Ocean.

Derelict C-47A 43-15665 at T-3, Fletcher's ice Island.
Derelict C-47A 43-15665 at T-3, Fletcher’s Ice Island.

¹ At least one source states that a Soviet expedition aboard three Lisunov Li-2 transports (a license-built Douglas DC-3) landed near the North Pole on 23 April 1948.

² Data from AAF Manual 51-129-2, Pilot Training Manual for the C-47 Skytrain

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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2–3 May 1923

Lieutenants John A. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly with their Fokker T-2. (NASM)

2–3 May 1923: Air Service, United States Army, pilots Lieutenant John Arthur Macready and Lieutenant Oakley George Kelly made the first non-stop transcontinental flight with a Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek Fokker T-2 single-engine monoplane, A.S. 64233.

The two aviators took off from Roosevelt-Hazelhurst Field, Long Island, New York, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time and landed at Rockwell Field (now, NAS North Island), San Diego, California, the next day at 12:26 p.m., Pacific Time. They had flown 2,470 miles (3,975 kilometers) in 26 hours, 50 minutes, 38.8 seconds, for an average speed of 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour).

Macready and Oakley had made two previous attempts, flying West-to-East to take advantage of prevailing winds and the higher octane gasoline available in California. The first flight was terminated by weather, and the second by engine failure.

Fokker T-2 A.S. 64233 (FAI)
Fokker T-2 A.S. 64233 (FAI)

The Fokker F.IV was built by Anthony Fokker’s Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek at Veere, Netherlands in 1921. The Air Service purchased two and designated the type T-2, with serial numbers A.S. 64233 and A.S. 64234.

Several modifications were made to prepare the T-2 for the transcontinental flight. Normally flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit, a second set of controls was installed so that the airplane could be controlled from inside while the two pilots changed positions. Additional fuel tanks were installed in the wing and cabin.

The Fokker F.IV was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. The airplane was designed to carry 8–10 passengers in an enclosed cabin. For its time, the Fokker was a large airplane. Measurements from the Fokker T-2 at the Smithsonian Institution are: 49 feet, 10 inches (15.189 meters) long, with a wing span of 80 feet, 5 inches (24.511 meters), and height 12 feet, 2 inches (3.708 meters). On this flight, it carried 735 gallons (2,782 liters) of gasoline in three fuel tanks. When it took off from Long Island, the gross weight of the T-2 was 10,850 pounds (4,922 kilograms), only a few pounds short of its maximum design weight.

The Fokker F.IV was offered with a choice of engines: A Rolls-Royce Eagle IX V-12, Napier Lion II “broad arrow” W-12, or Liberty L-12 V-12. The T-2 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Ford-built Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. (Serial number A.S. No. 5142) The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine. Installed on A.S. 64233, the engine turned turned a two-bladed Curtiss fixed-pitch walnut propeller with a diameter of 10 feet, 5 inches (3.175 meters). The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

Lieutenant Oakley G. Kelly, U.S. Army Air Service (FAI)
First Lieutenant Oakley G. Kelly, U.S. Army Air Service (FAI)
Lt. John A. Macready, U.S. Army Air Service
Lt. John A. Macready, U.S. Army Air Service

John Macready and Oakley Kelley won the 1923 Mackay Trophy for this flight. Macready had previously won the award in 1921 and 1922. He is the only pilot to have won it three times.

During testing to determine the feasibility of the flight, on 16–17 April 1923, Lieutenant Kelly and Lieutenant Macready set six Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for speed, distance and duration, flying the Fokker T-2. At Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, they flew 2,500 kilometers (1,553.428 miles) at an average speed of 115.60 kilometers per hour (51.83 miles per hour); 3,000 kilometers (1,864.114 miles) at 115.27 kilometers per hour (71.63 miles per hour); 3,500 kilometers (2,174.799 miles) at 114.82 kilometers per hour (71.35 miles per hour); 4,000 kilometers (2,485.485 miles) at 113.93 kilometers per hour (70.79 miles per hour); flew a total distance of 4,050 kilometers (2,517 miles); and stayed aloft for 36 hours, 4 minutes, 34 seconds. Their overall average speed was 112.26 kilometers per hour (69.76 miles per hour) seconds.

The United States Army transferred Fokker T-2 A.S. 64223, to the Smithsonian Institution in January 1924. It is on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

U.S. Army Air Service Fokker T-2, A.S. 64223, on display at the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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