Daily Archives: May 8, 2017

8 May 1929

Lieutenant Apollo Soucek waves from the cockpit of the Wright XF3W-1 Apache. (NASM)

8 May 1929: Lieutenant Apollo Soucek, United States Navy, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude when he flew the prototype Wright Aeronautical Doivision XF3W-1 Apache, Bu. No. A7223, to 11,930 meters (39,140 feet) over NAS Anacostia, Washington, D.C.¹ The record was certified by the National Aeronautic Association.

Lieutenant Soucek was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for this achievment.

Flight reported:

New Altitude Record Claimed

     It is announced in Washington that Lieut. Apollo Soucek, U.S.N., claims to have created a new height record of 40,000 ft. on May 8. In the course of his flight he encountered a temperature of 60 deg. F. below zero. [-51 °C.]

FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 1064. (No. 20. Vol. XXI.) May 16, 1929, Page 405 at Column 2

Wright XF3W-1 Apache, Bu. No. A7223, at NACA Langley. (NASA)

Wright Aeronautical Division XF3W-1 Apache, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number A7223 was a prototype for a single-place, single-engine fighter for the U.S. Navy. The single-bay biplane was 22 feet, 1 inch (6.731 meters) long with a wingspan of 27 feet, 4 inches (8.331 meters) and height of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters). It had an empty wight of 1,414 pounds (641 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,128 pounds (965 kilograms). Only one XF3W-1 was built.

The XF3W-1 was designed to use the new air-cooled, supercharged 1,176.036-cubic-inch-displacement (19.272 liters) Wright Aeronautical Division R-1200 Simoon 9-cylinder radial engine, which was rated at 350 horsepower at 1,900 r.p.m. The R-1200 weighed 640 pounds (290 kilograms).

Serial Number 1 Pratt & Whitney Wasp A, R-1300 (R-1340), Radial 9 Engine at the National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

After taking delivery of the prototype, the Navy installed the number two Pratt & Whitney Wasp A R-1300 (R-1340) nine-cylinder radial engine. The XF3W-1 was the first airplane to fly with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, 5 May 1926. The Wasp A had a compression ratio of 5.25:1, and a Normal and Takeoff Power rating of 410 horsepower at 1,900 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58 octane gasoline. This was a direct-drive engine. The Wasp A was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) in diameter, and weighed 745 pounds.

The XF3W-1 was also configured as a float plane. It was used by NACA to test engines and cowlings.

162 m.p.h., 38,560′

Wright Aeronautical XF3W-1 Apache, Bu. No. A7223. (NASA)

Apollo Soucek: d.o.b. 24 February 1894, Lamont, Oklahoma. Son of Johann Grothard Soucek and Ludmila Pishny Soucek

Entered USN 9 June 1917

USNA, Class of 1921

Commissioned Ensign, USN, 3 June 1921

Promoted to Lieutenant, USN, 3 June 1927

Lieutenant Commander, USN, 3 June 1937

Commander, USN,  27 August 1941

Captain (temporary), 20 August 1942

Wife Agnes Eleanor O’Connor 27 May 1930 Washington DC

1937 CO VF-2

1942 XO USS Hornet (CV-8) under Mitscher for Halsey-Doolittle Raid; Silver Star, Battle of Santa Cruz Islands

Rear Admiral 23 July 1944

CO USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) 27 Oct 1945

1946 ComCarDiv 14

1947 CO NATC Pax River

1949 Asst CNO Av Plans

1951 Naval Attaché London

1952 ComCarDiv3/ComTF77 USS Boxer (CV-21): Distinguished Service Medal

1953 Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics

retired, RADM 1 July 1955 DSC, SS, LoM, DFC, BSw/V, WW1VM,

died, 19 July 1955

Promoted to Vice Admiral, posthumously

Arlington National Cemetery

¹ FAI Record File Number 8257

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 May 1927

Charles Nungesser and François Coli, Paris, 8 May 1927.
Charles Nungesser and François Coli, Paris, 8 May 1927.

8 May 1927: At 5:18 a.m., famed World War I aviators François Coli and Charles Eugène Jules Marie Nungesser departed Le Bourget Airport, Paris, aboard their single-engine Lavasseur PL.8 biplane, L’Oiseau Blanc (“The White Bird”). Their destination was New York City, non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1919, New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 prize to the first aviator(s) who flew non-stop from New York to Paris or the reverse. It was several years before the technology had progressed far enough that this became possible.

By 1927, a number of people on both sides of the Atlantic had begun preparations for just such a flight. Coli had begun planning a transatlantic flight as early as 1923. He and a wartime friend, fighter ace Paul Tarascon, were interested in the Orteig Prize, but after being injured in a crash, Tarascon was replaced by Charles Nungesser. Coli was in charge of the flight.

Cne François Coli - Pilote de l'escadrille N 62 - Né le 5 juin 1881 à Marseille
Cne François Coli – Pilote de l’escadrille N 62 – Né le 5 juin 1881 à Marseille

François Coli, a former sea captain, had enlisted as a private in the French Army at the start of the War when no position was offered to him as captain of a French naval vessel. By 1915 he was a commissioned officer and soon promoted to the rank of captain. Severely wounded and no longer able to serve in the infantry, he became a pilot in 1916, and later a squadron commander. In 1918, Coli lost his right eye in an airplane crash. He was considered to be an excellent leader and was known as an expert navigator.

Ltt Charles Nungesser - Né le 15 mars 1892 à Paris
Ltt Charles Nungesser – Né le 15 mars 1892 à Paris

Charles Nungesser was the third-leading French fighter ace of World War I. His was a flamboyant personality. He didn’t like military discipline and was punished for it several times. But he was a highly successful fighter pilot, with an official record of 42 aerial victories. Like Coli, he had been seriously wounded on numerous occasions. He was awarded the Officier de la Legion d’Honneur, Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, and the Médaille Militaire, as well as many foreign decorations for valor.

The Sociéte Pierre Levasseur Aéronautique PL.8 was a modified naval reconnaissance airplane, built especially for the Atlantic crossing. The wings were lengthened and the fuselage reinforced. It was 9.7 meters (31 feet, 10 inches) long with a wingspan of 14.6 meters (47 feet, 11 inches) and height of 3.9 meters (12 feet, 9.5 inches). The single-bay biplane had an empty weight of 1,905 kilograms (4,199.8 pounds) and gross weight of 5,030 kilograms (11,089.25 pounds). Three large fuel tanks were installed with a total capacity of 4,000 liters (1,057 gallons) of gasoline.

L’Oiseau Blanc was powered by a liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated 24.429 liter (1,490.751-cubic-inch) Société Lorraine des Anciens Establissements de Dietrich & Cie de Lunéville (Lorraine-Dietrich) 12Ed “broad arrow” (W-12) single overhead camshaft (SOHC) engine which had three banks of four cylinders spaced at 60° angles and driving a single crankshaft. It had a compression ratio of 6:1 and produced 450 chaval vapeur (443.8 horsepower) at 1,850 r.p.m. Reduction gearing reduced propeller r.p.m. by a ratio of 1.545:1. The two-bladed forged duralumin propeller had a diameter of 3.80 meters (12 feet, 8.5 inches). The 12Ed was 1.374 meters (4 feet, 6.10 inches) long, 1.210 meters (3.970 feet, 11.64 inches) wide and 1.138 meters (3 feet, 8.81 inches) high. It weighed 363.874 kilograms (802.205 pounds).

The two aviators planned to land on the water in front of the Statue of Liberty, so they had the PL.8’s landing gear modified so that it could be dropped after takeoff, saving the unneeded weight and decreasing the airplane’s aerodynamic drag. The White Bird‘s maximum speed was 193 kilometers per hour (120 miles per hour), with a cruising speed of 165 kilometers per hour (103 miles per hour). Its range was 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles). The service ceiling was 7,000 meters (22,966 feet).

When The White Bird left Paris, it was carrying enough fuel for 42 hours of flight. It was escorted as far as the English Channel by several airplanes and crossed the coast at about 7:00 a.m.

Nungesser and Coli never arrived at New York. They were never seen again, and their fate is a mystery.

Nungesser and Coli’s Lavasseur PL.8, L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird) at Le Bourget, Paris, 8 May 1927. (Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, Paris – le Bourget)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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