Daily Archives: July 12, 2017

11–12 July 1999

Amundsen Scott South Pole Station
Amundsen Scott South Pole Station

11–12 July 1999: Dr. Jerri Lin Nielsen, a physician at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, self-biopsied a suspicious breast lump. Results were inconclusive, so the National Science Foundation decided to send additional test equipment and medications to the remote station by military transport.

Brigadier General John I. Pray, Jr., United States Air Force.
Brigadier General John I. Pray, Jr., United States Air Force.

Because of the extreme cold, adverse weather conditions and months of darkness, it was considered too dangerous for an aircraft to attempt landing at the South Pole. A United States Air Force Lockheed C-141B Starlifter of the 62nd Airlift Wing, McChord Air Force Base, Washington, was sent to stage out of Christchurch, New Zealand, in order to air drop the supplies at the South Pole.

Departing Christchurch at 2154 UTC, 11 July, with six pallets of medical supplies and equipment as well as fresh food and mail for the remote outpost, the C-141 was joined for the flight by a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker from the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, Hawaii National Guard, for inflight refueling. The mission was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John I. Pray, Jr., U.S. Air Force. A refueling took place over McMurdo Station and then the Starlifter headed on toward the Pole.

A Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker prepares to refuel a Lockheed C-141B Starlifter. (U.S. Air Force)

Amundsen-Scott station personnel set fire to 27 smudge pots arranged in a semi-circle to mark the drop zone, and turned off all outside lighting. When the transport arrived overhead, blowing snow obscured the drop zone and it took the aircrew, flying with night vision goggles, 25 minutes to locate the markers.

The first of six pallets of medical supplies airdropped by the U.S. Air force at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, 11 July 1999. (National Science Foundation)
The first of six pallets of medical supplies airdropped by the U.S. Air Force at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, 11 July 1999. (National Science Foundation)

At 2230 the C-141 flew over at an altitude of 700 feet (213.4 meters) and dropped two cargo pallets on the first pass and the remaining four on a second. It immediately departed to rendezvous with the KC-135 tanker and both returned to New Zealand. After a 6,375 mile (10,260 kilometer) round trip, the C-141 touched down at Christchurch at 1225 UTC, 12 July.

Dr. Nielsen’s lump was cancerous. She was evacuated by air when a Lockheed LC-130H Hercules of the 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, picked her up 16 October 1999. Her cancer eventually metastasized to her liver, bones and brain. She died 23 June 2009 at her home in Southwick, Massachusetts.

Dr. Jerri Lin Nielsen, 1 March 1952–23 June 2009. (National Science Foundation)
Dr. Jerri Lin Nielsen, 1 March 1952–23 June 2009. (National Science Foundation)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 July 1980

The first McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender, 79-0433, in flight. The airplane is carrying civil registration N110KC rather than its U.S. Air Force serial number. (Boeing)

12 July 1980: The first McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender, serial number 79-0433, made its first flight at Long Beach, California with company test pilots Walt Smith and George Jansen, flight engineer Leo Hazell, and flight test engineer Guy Lowery. Based on the DC-10-30CF commercial transport, this aerial tanker can carry 356,000 pounds of fuel (161,479 kilograms). Using a “flying boom” to refuel Air Force aircraft in flight, it also is equipped with “hose and drogue” system to refuel U.S. Navy and Marine airplanes. Both systems can be used simultaneously.

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433 (N110KC) seen from above. (McDonnell Douglas)
McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433 (N110KC) seen from above. (McDonnell Douglas)

The McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender is operated by a flight crew of four. It is 181 feet, 7 inches (54.347 meters) long with a wingspan of 165 feet, 4½ inches (50.406 meters) and height of 58 feet, 1 inch (17.704 meters). The tanker has an empty weight of 241,027 pounds (109,328 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 590,000 pounds (267,620 kilograms). It is powered by three General Electric CF6-50C2 turbofan engines producing 52,500 pounds of thrust, each.

The KC-10A has a maximum speed of 0.89 Mach (619 miles per hour, 996 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling is 42,000 feet (12,802 meters). Range is 4,400 miles (7,081 kilometers).

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-04333. (Mike Freer via Wikipedia)

Though over 400 of the original 732 Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers remain in service (the last one was accepted by the Air Force in 1964), the fleet of KC-10s provide greater fuel capacity and much longer range. Boeing had submitted a tanker version of its 747 commercial transport, however the KC-10 was selected primarily because it could operate from shorter runways. McDonnell Douglas built 60 KC-10s for the U.S. Air Force and 2 similar KDC-10s for The Netherlands.

Thirty-seven years later, McDonnell Douglas KC-10A 79-0433 is still in service.

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433. (Unattributed)
McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433. (31st Aviano Tail Spotters Group)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 July 1957

President Eisenhower fastens his seat belt aboard H-13J-BF Sioux 57-2729, on the White House lawn, 12 July 1957. (U.S. Air Force)
Dwight David Eisenhower, President of the United States
Dwight David Eisenhower, President of the United States

12 July 1957: President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first United States president to fly in a helicopter when a U.S. Air Force H-13J-BF Sioux, serial number 57-2729 (c/n 1576), flown by Major Joseph E. Barrett, USAF, departed the White House lawn enroute Camp David. Also on board was a U.S. Secret Service special agent. A second H-13J, 57-2728 (c/n 1575), followed, carrying President Eisenhower’s personal physician and a second Secret Service agent.

The helicopter was intended to rapidly move the president from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base where his Lockheed VC-121E Constellation, Columbine III, would be standing by, or to other secure facilities in case of an emergency.

Major Barrett had been selected because of his extensive experience as a combat pilot. During World War II, he had flown the B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bomber. During the Korean War, Barrett had carried out a helicopter rescue 70 miles (113 kilometers) behind enemy lines, for which he was awarded the Silver Star.

Bell H-13J 57-2729, flown by Major Barret, with President eisenhower and a Secret Service agent, departs the White House for teh first time, 2:08 p.m., 12 July 1957. (The White House)
Bell H-13J 57-2729, flown by Major Joseph E. Barrett, with President Eisenhower and a Secret Service agent, departs the White House, 2:08 p.m., 12 July 1957. (The White House)

The two helicopters were manufactured by the Bell Helicopter Company at Fort Worth, Texas, and delivered to the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on 29 March 1957. The presidential H-13Js were nearly identical to the commercial Bell Model 47J Ranger.

Capable of carrying a pilot and up to three passengers, the Ranger was constructed with an enclosed cabin built on a tubular steel framework with all-metal semi-monocoque tail boom. The main rotor diameter was 37 feet, 2.00 inches (11.328 meters) and tail rotor diameter was 5 feet, 10.13 inches (1.781 meters), which gave the helicopter an overall length of 43 feet, 3¾ inches (13.185 meters) with rotors turning. The height (to the top of the centrifugal flapping restraints) was 9 feet, 8 inches (2.946 meters). The H-13J differed from the civil Model 47J by the substitution of main rotor blades of all-metal construction in place of the standard laminated wood blades. The helicopter had a maximum gross weight of 2,800 pounds (1,270 kilograms).

The main rotor, in common to all American-designed helicopters, rotates counter-clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) The anti-torque (tail) rotor is mounted to the right side of an angled tail boom extension, in a tractor configuration, and rotates counter-clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.)

The main rotor is a two-bladed, under-slung, semi-rigid assembly that would be a characteristic of helicopters built by Bell for decades. The main rotor system incorporates a stabilizer bar, positioned below and at right angles to the main rotor blades. Teardrop-shaped weights are placed at each end of the bar, on 100-inch (2.540 meters) centers. The outside diameter of the stabilizer bar is 8 feet, 6.781 inches (2.611 meters). (A similar system is used on the larger Bell 204/205/212 helicopters.)

The H-13J was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 433.972-cubic-inch-displacement (7.112 liter) AVCO Lycoming VO-435-A1B (O-435-21) vertically-opposed 6-cylinder direct-drive engine. The VO-435 had a compression ration of 7.3:1. It was rated at 220 horsepower at 3,200 r.p.m., maximum continuous power, and 260 horsepower at 3,200 r.p.m. for takeoff. The VO-435-A1B weighed 393.00 pounds (178.262 kilograms).

Engine torque is sent through a centrifugal clutch to a 9:1 gear-reduction transmission, which drives the main rotor through a two-stage planetary gear system. The transmission also drives the tail rotor drive shaft, and through a vee-belt/pulley system, a large fan to provide cooling air for the engine.

Bell H-13J hovering over the White House lawn. (U.S. Air Force)
One of the two presidential Bell H-13J Sioux helicopters hovers over the White House lawn. (U.S. Air Force)

Fuel was carried in two gravity-feed tanks, mounted above and on each side of the engine. The total fuel capacity was 34.0 gallons (128.7 liters)

Cruise speed for the H-13J was 87–98 miles per hour (140–158 kilometers per hour), depending on gross weight, and its maximum speed was 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour). The helicopter had a hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of 8,100 feet (2,469 meters). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,572 meters).

Both H-13J Sioux served as presidential aircraft until 1962. They were redesignated UH-13J and continued in use for VIP transportation until 1967.

Bell UH-13J-BF Sioux 57-2729 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum National Air and Space Museum, Steven V. Udvar-Hazy Center, while its sister ship, 57-2728, is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, along with Columbine III.

The first presidential helicopter, USAF H-13J-BF Sioux 57-2729, on display at the Steven V. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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