Daily Archives: July 13, 2017

13 July 1968

General Dynamics FB-111A 67-0159, the first production aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)

13 July 1968: The first production General Dynamics FB-111A supersonic strategic bomber successfully completed a 30-minute maiden flight at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas. The FB-111A differed from the F-111A fighter bomber with the substitution of a larger wing, originally designed for the F-111B, giving the bomber a 7 foot (2.134 meter) increase in wingspan. The landing gear was strengthened, the bomb bay enlarged and it had more powerful engines.

In addition to a prototype which was converted from the last production F-111A, General Dynamics built 76 FB-111As.

The airplane’s very long nose earned the nickname “Aardvark,” but this did not become official until 1996.

67-0159 was delivered to the U.S. Air Force 4 September 1968 and assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. (The first six production airplanes were used for flight testing.)

67-0159 was later converted to the F-111G configuration. In 1980 it was sent to the Sacramento Air Logistics Center to test weapons modifications and received a spectacular white and orange paint scheme. It was retired in 1990.

General Dynamics FB-111A-CF 67-159

67-0159 is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It is on loan and now on display at the Aerospace Museum of California, Sacramento, California.

The General Dynamics FB-111A is a two-place twin-engine strategic bomber with variable sweep wings, assigned to the Strategic Air Command. It is 73 feet, 6 inches (22.403 meters) long. The wingspan varies from a maximum 70 feet (21.336 meters) with 16° sweep to a minimum 33 feet, 11 inches (10.338 meters) when swept to 72.5°. Overall height is 17 feet, 1.4 inches (5.217 meters). Normal maximum takeoff weight is 114,300 pounds (51,846 kilograms) or 119,243 pounds (54,088 kilograms), maximum overload.

The aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney JTF10A (TF30-P-7) afterburning turbofan engines producing 20,350 pounds of thrust, each.

The FB-111A has a cruise speed of 565 miles per hour (909.3 kilometers per hour)  and a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 (1,450 miles per hour, 2,333.6 kilometers per hour) at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), the service ceiling. The bomber has an unrefueled range of 4,500 miles (7,242 kilometers).

The FB-111A could be armed with six AGM-69A Short Range Attack Missiles or up to 37,500 pounds (17,009.7 kilograms) of conventional or nuclear weapons (B43, B61 or B77).

With the introduction of the Rockwell B-1B Lancer, the FB-111As remaining in service were converted to FB-111G tactical fighter bombers. They were retired by 2003.

The Royal Australian Air Force bought 15 of the FB-111Gs. By 2007, these had also been taken out of service.

Two General Dynamics FB-111s in formation, 1 December 1983. (MSGT Buster Kellum, U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 July 1919

Airship R 34 over Pulham Airship Station, Norfolk, United Kingdom, 1919.

13 July 1919: The Royal Air Force rigid airship R 34 completed its two-way crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and at 6:57 a.m. landed at Pulham Airship Station, Norfolk, United Kingdom. The airship was under the command of Major George Herbert Scott, A.F.C., R.A.F. The total complement, including passengers, was 30 persons.

The return flight from Mineola, Long Island, New York took 73 hours, 3 minutes. According to records of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the distance flown by R 34 on the return flight was 6,138 kilometers (3,814 miles).

This was the first “double crossing” by an aircraft. The round trip flight began at East Fortune Airship Station near Edinburgh, Scotland, on 2 July. The East-to-West crossing took 108 hours, 12 minutes.

Major Scott was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

This map shows the outbound and return tracks of His Majesty's Airship R 34, 2–13 July 1919.
This map shows the outbound and return tracks of His Majesty’s Airship R 34, 2–13 July 1919.

During the return flight on of the airship’s five engines suffered a broken connecting rod which damaged the cylinder block. It could not be repaired.

R 34 was based on extensive study of the captured German Zeppelin, L-33. It was built for the Royal Naval Air Service by William Beardmore and Company, Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, Scotland, but with the end of World War I, the RNAS and Royal Flying Corps were merged to become the Royal Air Force. 643 feet long (196 meters), with a maximum diameter of 78 feet, 9 inches (24 meters), the dirigible had a total volume of 1,950,000 cubic feet (55,218 cubic meters). The airship had a light weight metal structure covered with doped fabric. Buoyancy was provided by 55,185 cubic meters (1,948,840 cubic feet) of gaseous hydrogen contained in 19 gas bags inside the airship’s envelope. R 34 had a gross lift capacity of 59 tons. Useful lift was 58,240 pounds (26,417 kilograms).

The airship was powered by five water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 15.395-liter (989.483-cubic-inch-displacement) Sunbeam Maori Mk.IV dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12 engines with four valves per cylinder. The Mk.IV’s cylinder bore had been increased from 100 millimeters to 110 millimeters (3.94 to 4.33 inches), resulting in a larger displacement than previous Maori variants. The Maori Mk.IV was a direct-drive engine which produced 275 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. Each engine turned a two-bladed, 17 foot diameter (5.182 meter) propellers through a remote gearbox with a 0.257:1 reduction. The two wing engines were equipped with reversible gearboxes. With the engines turning 1,800 r.p.m., the R 34 had a cruising speed of 47 knots (54 miles per hour/87 kilometers per hour) and consumed 65 gallons (246 liters) of fuel per hour.

Airship R 34 landing at Pulham, Norfolk, 13 Juky 1919. (Getty Images/Jimmy Sime)
Airship R 34 landing at Pulham, Norfolk, 13 July 1919. (Getty Images/Jimmy Sime)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 July 1916

Colonel Raynal Cawthorne Bolling, Signal Corps, U.S. Army
Lieutenant Colonel Raynal Cawthorne Bolling, Signal Corps, U.S. Army Reserve
1st Aero Squadron, New York National Guard, mobilized for Federal Service, 13 July 1916.
1st Aero Squadron, New York National Guard, mobilized for Federal Service, 13 July 1916.

13 July 1916: The 1st Aero Company, New York National Guard, under the command of Captain Raynal Cawthorne Bolling, became the first national guard unit to be mobilized into federal service in answer to the border crisis with Mexico. The unit trained at Mineola, New York, along the 2nd Aero Company, but did not deploy to the border.

Bolling was promoted to the rank of Colonel, Signal Corps, United States Army, 8 August 1917. Colonel Bolling was killed in action near Estrées-Deniécourt, France, 26 March 1918. As of that time, he was the highest-ranking U.S. officer to be lost during World War I. Bolling Field, the Air Corps station at Washington, D.C., was named in his honor.

The 1st Aero Company is the oldest Air National Guard unit. Today, it is 102nd Rescue Squadron, New York Air National Guard.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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