Monthly Archives: June 2017

30 June 1975

The last operational U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrain, on display at NMUSAF. (U.S. Air Force)
The last operational U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrain, 43-49507, on display at NMUSAF. (U.S. Air Force)

30 June 1975: The last operational Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport in the United States Air Force, 43-49507, was retired and flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. A C-47D, it is on display in the World War II Gallery, painted and marked as C-47A-80-DL 43-15213 of the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group, World War II. At the time it was withdrawn from service, 43-49507 had flown a total of 20,831 hours.

43-49507 (Douglas serial number 26768) was built as a C-47B-15-DK Skytrain. The C-47B differed from the C-47A in that it was powered by Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S3C4-G (R-1830-90) engines. These engines were equipped with two-speed superchargers for improved high-altitude performance. Following World War II, the second speed (“high blower”) was either disabled or removed. Following this modification, the airplane was redesignated C-47D.

The Douglas C-47 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 airplane’s control surfaces are covered with doped-fabric. The primary differences between the civil DC-3 and military C-47 airframes was the addition of a cargo door on the left side of the fuselage and a strengthened floor in the cabin.

Two Douglas C-47 Skytrains. Nearest the camera is C-47A-90-DL 43-15661. The further airplane is C-47A-65-DL 42-100550. (U.S. Air Force)

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).

The C-47A was 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 with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. These were rated at 1,060 horsepower at 2,550 r.pm., up to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters), maximum continuous power, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. at Sea Level for takeoff. 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 specifications of the  Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S3C4-G (R-1830-90) installed on the C-47B were nearly the same as the -92 engine of the C-47A. Displacement and compression ratio were identical. The engines’ diameters were the same, though the -90 was very slightly longer than the -92—1.85–2.74 inches (4.699–6.960 centimeters), depending on specific variant. Also, the -90 was heavier than the -92 by 25–30 pounds (11.34–13.61 kilograms), again, depending on the specific variant. The R-1830-90 could maintain 1,000 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 12,500 feet (3,810 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters), a significant increase over the -92.

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 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.

C-47 Skytrains in Vee-of Vees formation.

On D-Day, The Sixth of June, 1944, a formation of C-47 Skytrains, nine airplanes abreast, 100 feet (30 meters) from wing tip to wing tip, 1,000 feet (305 meters) in trail, stretching for over 300 miles (483 kilometers), airdropped 13,348 paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, United States Army, and another 7,900 men of the British Army 6th Airborne Division and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, behind the beaches at Normandy, France.

During the Vietnam War, 53 C-47s were converted from their transport role to AC-47 Spooky gunships. These were armed with three fixed, electrically-powered General Electric  GAU-2/A .30-caliber (7.62 NATO) Gatling guns firing out the left side of the fuselage. These aircraft were highly effective at providing close air support. The three Miniguns could fire a total of 12,000 rounds per minute.

Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship, 45-0927, 4th Special Operations Squadron, Nha Trang, Republic of Vietnam, September 1968. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 June 1971

Soyuz 11 cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolski, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev. (Keystone, Getty Images)
Soyuz 11 cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolski, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev. (Keystone, Getty Images)

30 June 1971: The Soyuz 11 crew, Cosmonauts Georgiy Timofeyevich Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Nikolayevich Volkov and Viktor Ivanovich Patsayev, ended their 22 days aboard the Salyut 1 space station in Earth orbit and began their return to Earth. At 2128 hours on the 29th, they undocked and completed three more orbits while they prepared for reentry.

At 0135 hours, the Soyuz spacecraft retrorockets fired to decelerate the ship so it would drop back into the atmosphere. 12 minutes, 15 seconds later, at an altitude of 104 miles (168 kilometers), a series of explosive bolts which connected the descent module to the service module detonated. They were intended to fire individually to limit the force on the capsule. Instead, they all fired simultaneously. The impulse caused a seal in a pressure-equalization valve to fail and the capsule depressurized. Within 3 minutes, 32 seconds, the capsule’s atmospheric pressure had dropped to zero.

The cosmonauts were not wearing pressure suits. They died in less than one minute.

Georgiy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev are the only people from Earth to have died in space since manned space flight began, 12 April 1961, with the flight of Yuri Gagarin.

 V. I. Patsayev, G. T. Dobrovolskiy, and V. N. Volkov train for their mission (Tass from Sovfoto)
V. I. Patsayev, G. T. Dobrovolskiy, and V. N. Volkov train for their mission (Tass from Sovfoto)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 June 1968

The prototype Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, 66-8303, at Marietta, Georgia, 30 June 1968. © Bettmann/CORBIS
The prototype Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, 66-8303, at Marietta, Georgia, 30 June 1968.  (Bettmann/CORBIS)

30 June 1968: At Marietta, Georgia, the first Lockheed C-5A Galaxy transport, serial number 66-8303, took off on its maiden flight with  Chief Engineering Test Pilot Leo J. Sullivan and test pilot Walter E. Hensleigh, flight engineer Jerome H. Edwards, and E. Mittendorf, flight test engineer. U.S. Air Force test pilot Lieutenant Colonel Joseph S. Schiele was also on board.

The C-5A weighed 497,000 pounds (225,435 kilograms) at takeoff. After a 3,800 foot (1,158 meters) takeoff roll, it lifted off at 123 knots (142 miles per hour/228 kilometers per hour). It remained in takeoff configuration while it climbed to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) at 140 knots (161 miles per hour/259 kilometers per hour). The flight lasted 1 hour, 34 minutes. On landing, the Galaxy’s touchdown speed was 116 knots (133 miles per hour/215 kilometers per hour)

Lockheed C-5A Galaxy during its first flight. (Code One Magazine/Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed C-5A Galaxy 66-8303 during its first flight. (Code One Magazine)

The Lockheed C-5A Galaxy (Lockheed Model L-500) is a long-range, heavy lift military transport with high, “shoulder-mounted” wings and a “T-tail.” It has a flight crew of two pilots, two flight engineers and three loadmasters. The airplane’s cargo compartment can be accessed by a ramp at the rear of the fuselage, and the nose can be raised to allow cargo to be loaded from the front. The wings’ leading edges are swept to 25°.  Four turbofan engines are mounted on pylons beneath the wings. The landing gear has 28 wheels in five units, and can “kneel” to bring the cargo deck closer to the ground for loading and unloading.

The C-5 is a truly giant aircraft. It is 247 feet, 1 inch (75.311 meters) long with a wingspan of 222 feet, 9 inches (67.894 meters) and overall height of 65 feet, 1 inch (19.837 meters). The cargo compartment has a height of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters) and width of 19 feet (5.791 meters). It is 143 feet, 9 inches (43.825 meters) long. The C-5A has a maximum takeoff weight of 840,000 pounds (381,018 kilograms) and a maximum cargo weight of 270,000 pounds (122,470 kilograms).

A McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender refuels a Lockheed C-5A Galaxy. (U.S. Air Force)
A McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender refuels a Lockheed C-5A Galaxy. (U.S. Air Force)

The C-5A, C-5B and C-5C are powered by four General Electric TF-39 high-bypass turbofan engines, rated at 43,000 pounds of thrust, each. The C-5M uses four General Electric F138 engines rated at 51,250 pounds of thrust, each.

The Galaxy has a cruise speed of 0.77 Mach and maximum speed of 0.79 Mach. Its service ceiling is 35,700 feet (10,881 meters) and its unrefueled range is 2,400 nautical miles (3,862 kilometers).

Lockheed produced 81 C-5A Galaxy transports for the U.S. Air Force between 1969 and 1973. These were followed by 50 C-5Bs. Two C-5As were modified to C-5Cs to carry larger “space cargo.” Remaining C-5s in the fleet are being modified to an improved C-5M Super Galaxy variant.

The first prototype C-5A, 66-8303, was destroyed by and explosion and fire after being defueled at Dobbins Air Force Base, 17 October 1970. One person was killed.

An M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank on the forward cargo ramp of a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy. The transports nose has been raised to provided loading access from the front of the airplane. (U.S. Air Force)
An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank being loaded on the forward cargo ramp of a Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy. The transport’s nose has been raised to provide loading access from the front of the airplane. The tank weighs 139,081 pounds (63,086 kilograms). (Roland Balik/U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 June 1956

United Airlines' Douglas DC-7 City of San Francisco, sister ship of Mainliner Vancouver.
United Airlines’ Douglas DC-7 City of San Francisco, N6301C, sister ship of Mainliner Vancouver. (UAL)

30 June 1956: At approximately 10:32 a.m., two airliners, United Airlines’ Douglas DC-7 serial number 44288, Mainliner Vancouver, Civil Aeronautics Administration registration N6324C, and Trans World Airlines’ Lockheed L-1049-54-80 Super Constellation serial number 4016, Star of the Seine, N6902C, were over the Grand Canyon at 21,000 feet (6,400 meters).

Both airliners had departed Los Angeles International Airport shortly after 9:00 a.m. TWA Flight 2 was headed for Kansas City Downtown Airport with 64 passengers and 6 crew members. United Flight 718 was enroute to Chicago Midway Airport with 53 passengers and 5 crewmembers. The airplanes were over the desert southwest, which, at that time, was outside of radar-controlled airspace. They were flying around towering cumulus clouds to comply with regulations that they “remain clear of clouds.”

The airplanes collided at about a 25° angle. The accident report describes the impact:

“First contact involved the center fin leading edge of the Constellation and the left aileron tip of the DC-7. The lower surface of the DC-7 left wing struck the upper aft fuselage of the L-1049 with disintegrating force. The collision ripped open the fuselage of the Constellation from just forward of its tail to near the main cabin door. The empennage of the L-1049 separated almost immediately. The plane pitched down and fell to the ground. Most of the left outer wing of the DC-7 had separated and aileron control was restricted. . . .” 

This illustration depicts the collision. (Milford Joseph Hunter/LIFE Magazine)

It is possible that the DC-7 was maneuvering to avoid the L-1049.  The Constellation struck the ground near Temple Butte at an estimated 475 miles per hour (765 kilometers per hour). The DC-7’s left wing was so badly damaged that it went into an uncontrolled left spin and crashed at Chuar Butte. All persons on both airliners were killed.

This, as well as other accidents, resulted in significant changes in the United States air traffic control system.

A Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, sister ship of Star of the Seine, photographed over the Grand Canyon. (TWA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 June 1937

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.

30 June 1937. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are delayed at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.

“Everyone has been as helpful and co-operative as possible—food, hot baths, mechanical service, radio and weather reports, advice from veteran pilots here—all combine to make us wish we could stay. However, tomorrow we should be rolling down the runway, bound for points east. Whether everything to be done can be done within this time remains to be seen. If not, we cannot be home by the Fourth of July as we had hoped, even though we are one day up on the calendar of California. It is Wednesday here, but Tuesday there. On this next hop we cross the 180th Meridian, the international dateline when clocks turn back twenty-four hours.” —Amelia Earhart

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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