Daily Archives: July 4, 2017

4 July 1973

Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Manning, Major Paul M. Schaefer and Technical Sergeant Emund K. Schindler, the record-setting crew of Chuck’s Challenge. (FAI)

4 July 1973: One of the last Grumman Albatross flying boats in service with the United States Air Force, HU-16B 51-5282, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) altitude record for amphibians (Class C-3) when, at 12:33 p.m. EDT, it reached 10,022 meters (32,881 feet),¹ breaking the previous record which had been set 37 years earlier by more than 4,000 feet (1,219 meters).

Flown by Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Manning, Major Paul M. Schaeffer and Technical Sergeant Emund K. Schindler, 51-5282 was assigned to the 301st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Homestead AFB, Florida. After the flight, Manning said, “It wasn’t very comfortable. The outside temperature was 25 below zero.” The Air Force Times reported that the cold caused the lens of Sergeant Schindler’s watch to pop out.

Originally built as an SA-16A, 51-5282 was modified to the SA-16B standard which increased the wingspan to 96 feet, 8 inches (29.464 meters). In 1962 its designation was changed from SA-16B to HU-16B.

The Albatross was operated by a crew of 4 to 6 airmen, and could carry up to 10 passengers. The amphibian was 62 feet, 10 inches (19.152 meters) long and had an overall height of 25 feet, 10 inches (7.874 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 22,883 pounds (10,380 kilograms), loaded weight of 30,353 pounds (13,768 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 37,500 pounds (17,010 kilograms).

The SA-16A was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 826C9HD2 (R-1820-76) nine-cylinder radial engines rated at 1,275 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m., and 1,425 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m for takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed propellers through a 0.666:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-76 was 3 feet, 11.69 inches (1.211 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.95 inches (1.396 meters) in diameter. It weighed 1,360 pounds (617 kilograms).

The flying boat had a cruise speed of 124 miles per hour (200 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 236 miles per hour (380 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 21,500 feet (6,553 meters) and its maximum range was 2,850 miles (4,587 kilometers).

Two weeks after the record-setting flight, 51-5282 was flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, making the very last USAF HU-16 flight.

FAI record-setting Grumman HU-16B Albatross 51-5282 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 3208

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

4 July 1927

The first Lockheed Vega 1 taking off at Rogers Airport, 4 July 1927. (Unattributed)

4 July 1927: The first Lockheed Aircraft Company Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, made its maiden flight with test pilot Edward Antoine (Eddie) Bellande at Rogers Airport, Los Angeles, California. The airport was at the present location of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, west of downtown Los Angeles.

Bellande was a U.S. Marine flight instructor, stunt pilot, test pilot and airline pilot. By the time he had retired, he was second in seniority among the pilots at Trans World Airways (TWA).

Edward Antoine (“Eddie”) Bellande sits with famed motion picture hero, Rin Tin Tin, ca. 1925. (Unattributed)
Edward Antoine (“Eddie”) Bellande sits with famed motion picture hero, Rin Tin Tin, ca. 1925. (Unattributed)

The Vega was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. Both men would later have their own aircraft companies.

The Vega was very much a state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of spiral strips of vertical-grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and bonded together with glue. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

Components of the first Lockheed Vega 1 before assembly at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)
Components of the first Lockheed Vega 1 before assembly at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)

The Lockheed Vega 1 was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could carry up to four passengers in the enclosed cabin. It was 27 feet, 8 inches (8.738 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and height of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 1,875 pounds (851 kilograms) and a gross weight of 3,470 pounds (1,574 kilograms).

The engine was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) air-cooled Wright Aeronautical Division Model J-5C Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial engine. his was a direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The J-5C was rated at 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 220 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The Wright J-5C was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long and 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter. It weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).

The Vega had a cruising speed of 118 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour) and a top speed of 138 miles per hour (222 kilometers per hour)—very fast for its time. The airplane’s range was 900 miles (1,448 kilometers) and it’s service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,572 meters).

The first Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, nears completion at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)
The first Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, nears completion at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)

Twenty-eight Vega 1 airplanes were built by Lockheed Aircraft Company at the factory on Sycamore Street, Hollywood, California, before production of the improved Lockheed Vega 5 began in 1928 and the company moved to its new location at Burbank, California.

The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars and other astronomical objects.

Allan Haines Loughead with a Lockheed Vega 1, NC7162, circa 29 August 1928. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Golden Eagle, with its pilot, Jack Frost, and navigator Gordon Scott, was lost while crossing the Pacific Ocean in the disastrous Dole Derby California-to-Hawaii Air Race, 16 August 1927

Lockheed Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, right profile. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lockheed Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, right profile. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather