Daily Archives: June 2, 2017

2 June 1986

Looking southeast across the Columbia Valley toward Mount 7, Golden, British Columbia, Canada. The 1,942-meter peak is in a cloud shadow, just to the right of the center of the image. (Golden Flying Site)

2 June 1986: Randy Haney, of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, launched his Airwave Magic IV 166 hang glider from the lower launch site on Mount 7, at an elevation of 1,560 meters (5,118 feet) above Sea Level.

Mount 7 is a 1,942-meter (6,371 feet) peak on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountain Trench, a 1,600 kilometer (1,000 miles) geologic feature crossing British Columbia and the Yukon. The peak is located just southeast of the town of Golden, B.C., which marks the beginning of a southwestern segment of the trench, known as the Columbia Valley.

Haney flew along the Columbia Valley until he crossed the international boundary between Canada and the United States. He landed at Trego, Montana. The flight covered 321.5 kilometers (199.8 miles). This set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance.¹

The Airwave Magic IV 166 has a wingspan of 33 feet, 8 inches (10.26 meters). The leading edge of each wing is 19 feet, 8 inches (5.99 meters) long. The chord at the wing root is 7 feet, 10 inches (2.388 meters) at the root. The hang glider weighs 62 pounds (28 kilograms).

Haney later founded Winds Italia and designed its Raven and Orbiter powered hang gliders.

¹ FAI Record File Number 1670

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 June 1957

Captain Joseph W. Kittinger II, U.S. Air Force, seated in the gondola of Project Manhigh I, 2 June 1957. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., U.S. Air Force, seated in the gondola of Project MAN-HIGH I, 2 June 1957. Captain Kittinger is wearing a slightly-modified David Clark Co. MC-3A capstan-type partial-pressure suit (S836) and ILC Dover MA-2 helmet for protection at very high altitudes. (U.S. Air Force)
Project Manhigh I balloon and gondola. (U.S. Air Force)
Project MAN-HIGH I balloon and gondola. (U.S. Air Force)

2 June 1957: At 6:23 a.m, Captain Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., United States Air Force, lifted off from Fleming Field, South Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the gondola of a helium balloon designed and built by Winzen Research Inc. Captain Kittinger ascended to an altitude of 97,784 feet (29,805 meters).

Project MAN-HIGH I was intended to test various equipment and human physiology in a near-space condition. This was the first of many high-altitude research balloon flights that Kittinger would make.

“… A Winzen crew conducted the launching, as provided by the Man-High contract, in collaboration with members of the Aeromedical Field Laboratory and other units at Holloman. The 475th Air Base Squadron, Minneapolis, provided additional helicopter support. The vehicle was a two-million-cubic-foot plastic balloon, 172.6 feet in diameter, which quickly reached the planned ceiling altitude of 95,000 feet, setting a new record for manned balloons. Test specifications called for a twelve-hour flight. However, because of an oxygen leak (due to an improperly connected valve) and also certain communications difficulties, Colonel Stapp and Mr. Winzen decided that Captain Kittinger should come down after not quite two hours at altitude. The balloon pilot was not happy with the decision, replying by radio, “Come and get me.” But he did come down, and landed successfully at 1257 hours none the worse for his experience.

History of Research in Space Biology and Biodynamics, Part II, Chapter 3, NASA History Office, December 1958.

Kittinger landed next to a stream approximately 7 miles (11.3 kilometers) south-southwest of Alma, Minnesota. The total duration of his flight was 6 hours, 36 minutes. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Ground track of Project MAN-HIGH I balloon, 2 June 1957.
Ground track of Project MAN-HIGH I balloon, 2 June 1957. (U.S. Air Force)

A fighter pilot, Joe Kittinger flew three combat tours during the Vietnam War for a total of 483 combat missions. On 11 May 1972, while flying a McDonnell F-4D-29-MC Phantom II, 66-0230, in pursuit of a MiG-21 Fishbed fighter, Kittinger was shot down by an Atoll air-to-air missile fired by another MiG-21. He and his Weapons System Officer, 1st Lieutenant William J. Reich, were captured and spent 11 months at the Hanoi Hilton.

Captain Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., United States Air Force.
Captain Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., United States Air Force. Captain Kittinger is wearing the wings of an Air Force Senior Pilot and an Air Force Basic Parachutist Badge. The red, white and blue striped ribbon represents the Distinguished Flying Cross. (U.S. Air Force)

Joe Kittenger holds six Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for distance set with balloons. Three are still current.¹ In 2012, he was technical advisor for Felix Baumgartner as he set a new world record for the highest parachute jump from the Red Bull Stratos balloon and gondola.

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 1045, 1046, 1047

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 June 1941

Consolidated Model LB-30, Liberator B Mk.II AL503 (Consolidated Aircraft Corporation)
Consolidated Model LB-30, Liberator B Mk.II, AL503 (Consolidated Aircraft Corporation)

2 June 1941: Great Britain had been at war with Germany for 21 months. Its need for military equipment far exceeded the capacity of British industry, so the Empire looked across the North Atlantic Ocean to its former colonies, the United States of America.

The Royal Air Force ordered 140 Liberator B Mk.II bombers from Consolidated Aircraft Corporation of San Diego, California. The Consolidated Model LB-30 was a variant of the U.S. Army Air Corps B-24 four-engine long-range heavy bomber, but was built expressly for the RAF and had no direct Air Corps equivalent.

AL503 was the first Liberator Mk.II. It had made its first flight 26 May 1941, and was ready to be turned over to the Royal Air Force.

AL503 crashed on its acceptance flight, 2 June 1941. The aircraft was destroyed and all five on board were killed.

Consolidated LB-32, Liberator B Mk.II, AL503, photographed 2 June 1941—the same day it crashed. (Consolidated Aircraft Corporation)
Consolidated Model LB-30, Liberator B Mk.II, AL503, photographed 2 June 1941—the same day it crashed. The four-gun upper turret is visible. The bomb bay is open. (Consolidated Aircraft Corporation)

The Associated Press reported the accident:

Big Bomber Made for Britain Crashes in San Diego Bay; Four Members of Crew Perish

SAN DIEGO, Calif., June 2—(AP)—A $250,000 four-motored Consolidated bomber crashed and sank in San Diego Bay today, shortly after taking off from Lindbergh Field. Consolidated Aircraft Corp. officials said four of the crew members apparently perished.

The 25-ton craft was camouflaged and ready for delivery to Great Britain.

William B. Wheatley, 39, Chester, N.Y., chief test pilot for the Consolidated Aircraft Corp., apparently was at the controls. The Navy had taken over rescue operations, and details and names of crew members were not immediately available.

Witnesses said the huge plane left the airport on what appeared to be a normal takeoff, but that the bomber pulled up steep into a vertical climb instead of leveling off. At about 500 feet the plane apparently was in a stall.

The bomber then fell off to the left, and nosed down and the pilot, using the throttle appeared to have recovered. This difficulty was experienced over the airport, but by the time the pilot apparently had regained control of the craft it was flying over the water an an altitude of about 100 feet, the bomber again fell off to the left and the wing struck the water.

A Consolidated spokesman said the crash had “evidence of sabotage.”

The spokesman said the $250,000, 25-ton land bomber had been “thoroughly tested, and things like that just don’t happen.”

Believed dead were:

William Wheatley, 39, Chester, N.Y., chief test pilot for the company.

Allen T. Austen, 28, Kansas City, Mo., assistant test pilot.

Bruce K. Craig, 27, Chicago, engineer.

William H. Rieser, 33, Cambridge, Mass.

Lewis M. McAannon, 25, Woodstock, Ill., chief mechanic, was seriously injured. ¹

The bodies of Wheatley, Craig and Austin had not been recovered from the shattered bomber.

The impact with the water shattered the bomber, witnesses said, and it sank. Navy and small fishing vessels went to the rescue. The plane went down in an area between the San Diego shoreline and the naval air station.

The bomber, called “Liberator” by the Royal Air Force, was of all-metal construction, and its type is regarded as one of the most advanced military weapons. The Liberator can travel 230 miles an hour with a full bomb load over a 3,000 mile range. Orders for the huge land bomber originally were placed by the French, then taken over by the British.

The first B-24 was delivered to the British last Feb. 15 when the craft Consolidated Aircraft officials said established a record non-stop transcontinental flight of 9 hours, 57 minutes for planes of more than 5,000 pounds gross weight.

—The Eugene Guard, Vol. 50, No. 152, Monday, June 2, 1941, at Page 1 Column 6 and Page 2, Column 2

This aerial photograph of Lindbergh Field, San Diego, California, shows the location of the PB4Y-2 crash site, and nearby, the position where the outer wing panel was found. (U.S. Navy)
This is a 1944 aerial photograph of Lindbergh Field, San Diego, California, part of an investigation of the crash of a brand-new Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer. The Pacific Ocean is at the upper left corner of the image. (U.S. Navy)

The Consolidated B-24 had first flown 29 December 1939. Chief Test Pilot Bill Wheatley was in command. Designed as a long-range heavy bomber for the U.S. Army Air Corps, it was a high-wing, four-engine monoplane with dual vertical fins and rudders. It had retractable tricycle landing gear. The bomber was flown by two pilots, with the crew including a navigator, bombardier, radio operator and several gunners.

The Royal Air Force Liberator B. Mk.I was essentially a B-24A. The Liberator Mk.II, though,  was lengthened by extending the nose in front of the cockpit by 3 feet (0.914 meters). It was equipped with two power-operated gun turrets, one at the top of the fuselage, just aft of the wing, and a second at the tail.

The Liberator Mk.II was 66 feet, 4 inches (20.218 meters) long with a wingspan of 110 feet, 0 inches (33.528 meters) and overall height of 18 feet, 0 inches (5.486 meters). It was heavier than the Mk.I as a result of the longer fuselage and the heavy power turrets. The maximum gross weight was 64,250 pounds (29,143 kilograms).

Consolidated LB30 Liberator II
Consolidated Model LB-30, Liberator B Mk.II

The LB-30/Mk.II was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged 1,829.4-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S3C4-G (R-1830-33) two-row fourteen-cylinder radial engines. These had a normal power rating of 1,100 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. to 6,100 feet (1,859 meters) and 1,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m at 14,500 feet. The takeoff/military power rating was 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). The engines drove three-bladed Curtiss Electric variable-pitch propellers through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-1830-33 was 4 feet, 0.06 inches (1.221 meters) in diameter and 5 feet, 3.48 inches (1.612 meters) long. It weighed 1,480 pounds (671 kilograms).

The Liberator Mk.II had a maximum speed of 263 miles per hour (423 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). Its service ceiling was 24,000 feet (7315 meters).

As was common with British bombers, the Liberator Mk.II was defended by Browning .303 Mk.II (.303 British/7.7 × 56 mm) machine guns. Four were installed in the upper power turret and another four guns in the tail turret. Left and right waist positions each had two guns. One gun was mounted at the nose and one in the belly of the aircraft. This was a total of fourteen. The tail turret carried 2,200 rounds of ammunition and the top turret had 600 rounds.

The second Liberator Mk.II, AL504, became the personal transport of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who named it Commando. In 1944, the aircraft was modified to the single vertical fin configuration of the PB4Y-2 Privateer. Commando disappeared over the Atlantic in 1945.

Prime Minister Churchill's personal transport, "Commando," teh second Consolidated LB30 Liberator Mark II, AL504 © IWM (CH 14142)
Prime Minister Churchill’s personal transport, “Commando,” the second Consolidated LB30 Liberator Mark II, AL504. Its fuselage has been lengthened and tail surfaces from the PB4Y-2 Privateer installed. © IWM (CH 14142)

William Ballantine Wheatley was born at Chester, New York, 17 December 1902, the first of three children of William A. Wheatley, a public school superintendent, and Mabel Ballantine Wheatley. He was twice married, first, about 1927, to Esther C. Wheatley, of Massachussetts. His second marriage was to Miss Grace Lenore Ray, 18 April 1935, at Washington, D.C. They would have a son and two daughters.

After two years of college, Wheatley joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, 3 March 1925. He trained as a pilot at Brooks Field, Texas, and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant, 13 March 1926. On 4 May 1927, Lieutenant Wheatley was assigned to the 118th Observation Squadron, 43rd Division, Air Service, at Hartford, Connecticut, as a pilot and observer. He served in the Air Corps Reserve until 1937.

In 1928, Wheatley went to work for the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company as a test pilot. He was an air mail pilot in 1928-1929, and then, in February 1929, he became a test pilot for Reuben H. Fleet’s Consolidated Aircraft Corporation at Buffalo, New York. In 1935, Consolidated moved to its new headquarters at Lindbergh Field, San Diego, California. Wheatley moved with it. He and his family lived in a 3 bedroom home about three miles northeast of the airport. In 1940, his salary as chief test pilot of Consolidated was $50,000 per year. ²

Following Wheatley’s death, Beryl Arthur Erickson was assigned as chief test pilot for Consolidated.

William B. Wheatley, 1902–1941, (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
William Ballantine Wheatley, Chief Test Pilot, Consolidated Aircraft Corporation. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

¹ Lewis McCannon also died as a result of the crash.

² Approximately $862,500 U.S. dollars in 2017.

© 2017 Bryan R. Swopes

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2 June 1937

Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart board the Electra at San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2 June 1937. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

2 June 1937: After an overnight stay at San Juan, Puerto Rico, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan continued on Leg 6 of their around-the-world flight, to Caripito, Venezuela, approximately 750 miles (1,207 kilometers) southeast. They arrived at 1:18 p.m., local time.

“I rolled out of bed at a quarter of four in the morning, hoping to make a dawn take-off from San Juan, but actually the Electra did not lift her wheels from the runway until nearly seven o’clock, with the sun well above the horizon. . . I flew at 8,000 feet most of the way, bucking head winds of probably thirty miles an hour. . . The coast of Venezuela in the hazy distance was my first glimpse of South America. As we drew near I saw densely wooded mountains and between them wide valleys of open plains and jungle. I had never seen a jungle before. . .  close-knit tropic jungles are in a pilot’s eyes about the least desirable of all possible landing places. . . A muddy river wound through the mountain pass we followed, a reddish-brown snake crawling among tight-packed greenery. A few miles inland lay the red-roofed town of Caripito, with squat oil tanks on the outskirts. There was a splendid airfield, with paved runways and a well-equipped hangar. It is managed jointly by Pan American Airways and the Standard Oil Company.

—Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart is greeted on her arrival at Caripito, Venezuela, 2 June 1937.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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