Daily Archives: August 1, 2017

1 August 1977

Wreckage of KNBC television's "Telecopter", Bell JetRanger N4TV. Pilot Francis Gary Powers and cameraman George Spears were killed when the helicopter crashed at Sepulveda Basin, Van Nuys, California, 12;48 p.m., 1 August 1977. (Joe Kennedy, Los Angeles Times Staff Photographer)
Wreckage of KNBC television’s “Telecopter,” Bell 206B JetRanger N4TV. Pilot Francis Gary Powers and cameraman George Spears were killed when the helicopter crashed at the Sepulveda Basin, Van Nuys, California, 12:48 p.m., 1 August 1977. (Joe Kennedy, Los Angeles Times Staff Photographer)
Francis Gary Powers with KNBC's Bell 206B JetRanger, N4TV, (Unattributed)
Francis Gary Powers with KNBC’s Bell 206B JetRanger, N4TV. (Check-Six.com)

1 August 1977: Francis Gary Powers, a pilot and news reporter for KNBC Television (Channel 4) in Los Angeles, California, was flying the company’s “Telecopter,” a camera and transmitter-equipped Bell Model 206B Jet Ranger, N4TV. He and a cameraman, George R. Spears, had been reporting on the aftermath of the disastrous Sycamore Canyon Fire in Santa Barbara County and were returning to their base, the KNBC Heliport at the television studios near the Ventura Freeway in Burbank.

At approximately 12:35 p.m., PDT, (19:35 UTC), the JetRanger was eastbound, about 1 mile southwest of Van Nuys Airport (VNY). Powers called Van Nuys Tower and requested to land there as the helicopter was low on fuel. The last transmission was: “TV Four just lost—”

Francis Gary Powers was a highly-experienced airplane pilot. At the time of the crash, Powers had 7,193 total flight hours, with 381 hours in the Bell 206. He had attended the Bell 206B Pilot Transition Training course at the Bell Helicopter Training School at Fort Worth, Texas.

When TDiA attended the Bell Helicopter Training Academy in 1981, the crash of Power’s Jet Ranger was discussed by the school’s instructors in great detail. The high-profile accident involving Bell’s leading civil product had been thoroughly investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and by Bell’s own experts.

TDiA requested the official NTSB accident investigation report nearly two years ago, and though the request received immediate acknowledgement, the report has not yet been provided.

Powers, returning from covering the fire in Santa Barbara for Channel 4 News, flew past the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA), Oxnard Airport (OXR), and Camarillo Airport (CMA), all of which were almost directly along his course, and all of which could have provided fuel for the Bell 206.

Power's Bell 206B JetRanger was completely destroyed when it crashed August 1977. (CBS News/AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Power’s Bell 206B JetRanger, N4TV, was completely destroyed when it crashed 1 August 1977. (CBS News/AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Powers passed those airports, but just a few miles short of his destination, 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) to the southwest of Van Nuys Airport (VNY), the busiest General Aviation airport in the United States, the helicopter’s turboshaft engine stopped because of fuel starvation. The JetRanger crashed in an open field. Both Powers and his cameraman, George Robert Spears, were killed.

Examination of news photographs of the wreck show that the JetRanger was completely destroyed on impact. It appears to have struck the ground in a nose-down attitude. Surprisingly, damage to the main rotor assembly is slight, with no twisting, tearing, or failure of the doublers at the blade root, as are commonly seen.

An engine failure over a large, level open space, should have resulted in no damage to the aircraft or injuries to its occupants. The autorotation characteristics of the Bell 206-series helicopters are excellent, among the best of any helicopter. The extent of the damage to the airframe, though, when compared to the relatively slight damage to the main rotor assembly, convinces TDiA that the helicopter was not in autorotation, but in free fall. The main rotor blades were not turning within the autorotation r.p.m. range of 355–440 r.p.m.

There are reports that Powers turned the helicopter away from a group of children playing in the open field, but this would not have been possible with the main rotor turning at the very low rotational speeds demonstrated by the lack of twist damage.

Recent satellite image of the open area where Power's JetRanger. crashed (Google)
Recent satellite image of the open area where Power’s JetRanger crashed: “. . . vacant field. . . 1000 feet North of Oxnard and 941 feet East of Shoshone – Tarzana. . . .” Van Nuys Airport (VNY) is about one mile to the north east. (Google)

This crash was caused by pilot error.

Abstract of NTSB Report LAX77FA060. (National Transportation Safety Board)
Abstract of NTSB Report LAX77FA060. (National Transportation Safety Board)
Francis Gary Powers at Milligan College, 1949.

Francis Gary Powers was born 17 August 1929 in Letcher County, Kentucky. He was the son of Oliver Windfield Powers, a mortarman in the coal industry, and Ida Melinda Ford Powers.

Powers attended Milligan College at Elizabethton, Tennessee, from 1947 to 1950. He studied biology. He was a member of the school’s pre-med club, and was junior class manager of the intramural council. He was also on the varsity track team.

Francis Gary Powers entered United States Air Force in 1950, trained as a pilot and was commissioned in 1952. He flew the Republic F-84G Thunderjet fighter bomber with the 468th Strategic Fighter Squadron, 506th Strategic Fighter Wing, at Turner Air Force Base, Albany, Georgia. He received special training in delivery of the Mark 7 tactical nuclear weapon at Kirkland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Republic F-84G Thunderjet fighter bombers of the 506th Strategic Fighter Wing, 1954. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-84G-25-RE Thunderjet fighter bombers of the 506th Strategic Fighter Wing, 1954. (U.S. Air Force)
Francis G. Powers, Civilian pilot of the U2 American jet plane shot down over Russia. The photo was taken some years ago when he was a U.S. Air Force pilot. Powers resigned his Air Force Reserve commission in 1956. The State Department admitted, May 7, 1956 that a high altitude U.S. jet plane made an intelligence flight over the Soviet Union, but said it was not authorized in Washington. (AP Photo)
1st Lieutenant F.G. Powers with a swept-wing Republic F-84F-50-RE Thunderstreak fighter bomber. (U.S. Air Force)

In 1956, 1st Lieutenant Powers was released from the U.S. Air Force to participate in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Project Aquatone. He was now a civilian government employee, although he was promised that he could return to the Air Force and that he would keep his seniority and would be promoted on schedule.

Francis Gary Powers gained world-wide notoriety when the Lockheed U-2A he was flying,  “Article 360,” (USAF serial number 56-6693) was shot down over Russia, 1 May 1960. Powers was captured and held prisoner at the notorious Lubyanka Prison where he underwent 62 days of interrogation at the hands of the Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (the Committee for State Security, or simply, the KGB). Powers was placed on trial in Moscow and was convicted of espionage. He was sentenced to prison for ten years.

The trial of Francis Gary Powers, August 1960. Mr. Powers is standing in the prisoner's dock at the right side of the image. (Getty Images/Popperfoto)
The trial of Francis Gary Powers, August 1960. Mr. Powers is standing in the prisoner’s dock at the right side of the image. (Getty Images/Popperfoto)

After almost two years, he was exchanged for William August Fisher, (AKA Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher) a long-time Soviet intelligence officer that had been caught in the United States in 1957. [This story was recounted in the recent motion picture, “Bridge of Spies,” which starred Tom Hanks. The film received six Academy Award nominations in 2015.]

After his release from the Soviet Union, Powers was employed as a test pilot for Lockheed, 1962–1970. He then became an airborne traffic and news reporter for several Los Angeles-area radio and television broadcast stations.

CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers, in partial pressure suit, with a Lockheed U-2. Date and location unknown.
Lockheed pilot Francis Gary Powers, wearing a David Clark Co. MC-3 partial-pressure suit and International Latex Corporation MA-2 helmet, with a Lockheed U-2F high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, N800X, (Article 342, serial number 56-6675) at Burbank Airport, circa 1963–1966. (Lockheed Martin)

Gary Powers and his first wife, Barbara Gay Powers, divorced in 1963. He then married Claudia Edwards Downey at Fraquier, Virginia, 26 October 1963. This was also her second marriage. They would have a son, Francis Gary Powers II. (Mrs. Barbara Powers remarried in 1964.)

On 24 November 1986, the Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded posthumously to Powers “For Extraordinary Achievement While Participating in Aerial Flight 1 May 1960.” After reviewing his record at the request of his son, Francis Gary Powers, Jr., on 15 February 2000, the U.S. Air Force retroactively promoted him to the rank of Captain, effective 19 June 1957, and further credited his military service to include 14 May 1956–1 March 1963, the time he was with the CIA. The award of the Prisoner of War Medal was also authorized.

On June 15, 2012, General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, awarded Captain Francis Gary Powers the Silver Star (posthumous).

news photographer
News photographer George R. Spears in the left rear seat of a Bell 206. (Associated Press via Newseum)

George Robert Spears was born at Chicago, Illinois, 17 July 1934, the fourth of five children of William E. and Nora Neelom Spears. He married Annette A. Montalbano in Chicago, 26 May 1956. They had three children and lived at Northridge, California. He had worked for KNBC since June 1976.

N4TV was built as a Bell Model 206A JetRanger, serial number 433, at Hurst, Texas, in 1969. It was first owned by the Los Angeles, California, independent television station KTLA (Channel 5), and registered N555TV. The helicopter was later upgraded to the Model 206B standard with the installation of a more powerful Allison 250-C20 engine. When purchased by KNBC, a National Broadcasting Company affiliate, 433 was reregistered N4TV.

The Bell Model 206B JetRanger is a 5-place, single-engine, light civil helicopter based on Bell Helicopter Company’s unsuccessful OH-4 entrant for the U.S. Army’s Light Observation Helicopter (LOH). It is flown by a single pilot in the right front seat. Dual flight controls can be installed for a second pilot. The helicopter is 39 feet, 8 inches (12.090 meters) long, with rotors turning. On standard skid landing gear, the overall height is 9 feet, 4 inches (2.845 meters). The main rotor has a diameter of 33 feet, 4 inches (10.262 meters) and turns counterclockwise (as seen from above) at 394 r.p.m. (100% NR). The empty weight is approximately 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms), depending on installed equipment, and its maximum gross weight is 3,200 pounds (1,451.5 kilograms).

The 206A was powered by an Allison 250-C18 turboshaft engine rated at 370 shaft horsepower at 6,016 r.p.m., and derated to 317 s.h.p., the transmission’s limit. The later 206B and 206B-2 had a 400 horsepower 250-C20 engine, and 206B-3s had 250-C20B, -C20J or -C20R engines installed, which produced 420 shaft horsepower. The helicopter’s transmission, however, is limited to 317 horsepower input.)

The JetRanger has a maximum speed of 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour). Its best rate of climb is at 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) and best glide distance is at 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 13,500 feet (4,115 meters) and maximum range is 430 miles (692 kilometers).

Note: The Model 206A-1 was adopted by the U.S. Army as the OH-58A Kiowa. Though very similar in appearance to the Model 206A and 206B, the OH-58A differs significantly. Few of the parts are interchangeable between the types.

Three view drawing of the Bell Model 206A/B JetRanger with dimensions. (Bell Helicopter TEXTRON)
Three view drawing of the Bell Model 206A/B JetRanger with dimensions. (Bell Helicopter TEXTRON)

Between 1967 and 2010, Bell Helicopter built 4,491 JetRangers and 2,275 OH-58 Kiowas. Nealy 1,000 more were built under license by other manufacturers.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 August 1955

Right profile illustration of the first Lockheed U-2. Image courtesy of Tim Bradley Imaging, © 2015
Right profile illustration of the first Lockheed U-2, Article 341. Image courtesy of Tim Bradley Imaging, © 2015

1 August 1955: Test pilot Anthony W. LeVier made the first flight flight of the Lockheed U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance airplane at Groom Lake, Nevada. LeVier was conducting taxi tests in preparation for the planned first flight a few days away, when at 70 knots the U-2 unexpectedly became airborne.

LeVier later said, “I had no intentions whatsoever of flying. I immediately started back toward the ground, but had difficutly determining my height because the lakebed had no markings to judge distance or height. I made contact with the ground in a left bank of approximately 10 degrees.”

On touching down on the dry lake, the U-2’s tires blew out and the brakes caught fire. A landing gear oleostrut was leaking. Damage was minor and the airplane was soon ready to fly. Tony LeVier was again in the cockpit for the first actual test flight on 4 August.

The Lockheed U-2A is a single-place, single-engine aircraft powered by a turbojet engine, intended for very high altitude photographic reconnaissance. Thirty U-2A aircraft were designed and built for the Central Intelligence Agency by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s secret “Skunk Works” under the supervision of Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson.

The company designation for the proposed aircraft was CL-282. Its fuselage was very similar to the XF-104 Starfighter and could be built using the same tooling. The reconnaissance airplane was produced under the code name Operation AQUATONE.

The U-2A was 46 feet, 6 inches (14.173 meters) long with a wingspan of 80 feet (24.384 meters). Its empty weight was 10,700 pounds (5,307 kilograms) and the gross weight was 16,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms). The engine was a Pratt and Whitney J57-P-37A which produced 10,200 pounds of thrust. This gave the U-2A a maximum speed of 528 miles per hour (850 kilometers per hour) and a ceiling of 85,000 feet (25,908 meters). It had a range of 2,200 miles (3,541 kilometers).

Because of the very high altitudes that the U-2 was flown, the pilot had to wear a David Clark Co. MC-3 partial-pressure suit with an International Latex Corporation  MA-2 helmet and faceplate. The partial-pressure suit used a system of capstans and air bladders to apply pressure to the body as a substitute for a loss of atmospheric pressure. Each suit was custom-tailored for the individual pilot.

Robert Sieker
Robert Sieker

On 4 April 1957, Article 341 was flown by Lockheed test pilot Robert Sieker. At 72,000 feet (21,946 meters) the engine flamed out and the cockpit pressurization failed. Parts of the U-2 had been coated with a plastic material designed to absorb radar pulses to provide a “stealth” capability. However, this material acted as insulation, trapping heat from the engine inside the fuselage. This lead to a number of engine flameouts.

Sieker’s partial-pressure suit inflated, but the helmet’s faceplate did not properly seal. He lost conciousness and at 65,000 feet (19,812 meters) the U-2 stalled, then entered a flat spin. Sieker eventually regained consciousness at lower altitude and bailed out. He was struck by the airplane’s tail and was killed. The first U-2 crashed northwest of Pioche, Nevada and caught fire. Robert Sieker’s body was found approximately 200 feet (61 meters) away.

Because of the slow rate of descent of the airplane while in a flat spin, the impact was not severe. Portions of Article 341 that were not damaged by fire were salvaged by Lockheed and used to produce another airframe.

The first Lockheed U-2A, Article 341. (Lockheed)
The first Lockheed U-2A, Article 341. (Lockheed)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 August 1943

Second Lieutenant Lloyd herber Hughes, United States Army Air Corps.
Second Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes, United States Army Air Corps.

Medal of Honor

Lloyd H. Hughes (Air Mission)

Rank and Organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S Army Air Corps, 564th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 389th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force.
Place and Date: Ploetsi Raid, Rumania, 1 Aug 1943.
Entered Service At: San Antonio, Tex.
Born: Alexandria, La.
G.O. Number 17, 26 February 1944.

Medal, Medal of Honor, United States Army, largeCitation: For conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On August 1943, 2d Lt. Hughes served in the capacity of pilot of a heavy bombardment aircraft participating in a long and hazardous minimum-altitude attack against the Axis oil refineries of Ploesti, Rumania, launched from the northern shores of Africa. Flying in the last formation to attack the target, he arrived in the target area after previous flights had thoroughly alerted the enemy defenses. Approaching the target through intense and accurate antiaircraft fire and dense balloon barrages at dangerously low altitude, his plane received several direct hits from both large and small caliber antiaircraft guns which seriously damaged his aircraft, causing sheets of escaping gasoline to stream from the bomb bay and from the left wing. This damage was inflicted at a time prior to reaching the target when 2d Lt. Hughes could have made a forced landing in any of the grain fields readily available at that time. The target area was blazing with burning oil tanks and damaged refinery installations from which flames leaped high above the bombing level of the formation. With full knowledge of the consequences of entering this blazing inferno when his airplane was profusely leaking gasoline in two separate locations, 2d Lt. Hughes, motivated only by his high conception of duty which called for the destruction of his assigned target at any cost, did not elect to make a forced landing or turn back from the attack. Instead, rather than jeopardize the formation and the success of the attack, he unhesitatingly entered the blazing area and dropped his bomb load with great precision. After successfully bombing the objective, his aircraft emerged from the conflagration with the left wing aflame. Only then did he attempt a forced landing, but because of the advanced stage of the fire enveloping his aircraft the plane crashed and was consumed. By 2d Lt. Hughes’ heroic decision to complete his mission regardless of the consequences in utter disregard of his own life, and by his gallant and valorous execution of this decision, he has rendered a service to our country in the defeat of our enemies which will everlastingly be outstanding in the annals of our Nation’s history.

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1 August 1943

Major John Louis Jerstad, United States Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)
Major John Louis Jerstad, United States Army Air Corps.

Medal of Honor

John L.  Jerstad (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army Air Corps, 9th Air Force.
Action: Ploesti Raid, Rumania, 1 August 1943.
Entered service at: Racine, Wis.
Born: 12 February 1918, Racine, Wis.
G.O. No: 72, 28 October 1943.

Medal, Medal of Honor, United States Army, largeCitation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. On 1 August 1943, he served as pilot of the lead aircraft in his group in a daring low-level attack against enemy oil refineries and installations at Ploesti, Rumania. Although he had completed more than his share of missions and was no longer connected with this group, so high was his conception of duty that he volunteered to lead the formation in the correct belief that his participation would contribute materially to success in this attack. Maj. Jerstad led the formation into attack with full realization of the extreme hazards involved and despite withering fire from heavy and light antiaircraft guns. Three miles from the target his airplane was hit, badly damaged, and set on fire. Ignoring the fact that he was flying over a field suitable for a forced landing, he kept on the course. After the bombs of his aircraft were released on the target, the fire in his ship became so intense as to make further progress impossible and he crashed into the target area. By his voluntary acceptance of a mission he knew was extremely hazardous, and his assumption of an intrepid course of action at the risk of life over and above the call of duty, Maj. Jerstad set an example of heroism which will be an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces.

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1 August 1943

Lieutenant Colonel Addison L. Baker, United States Army Air Corps
Lieutenant Colonel Addison Earl Baker, United States Army Air Corps

Medal of Honor

Addison L. Baker

Rank and Organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S Army Air Corps, 93d Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force.
Place and Date: Ploetsi Raid, Rumania, 1 Aug 1943.
Entered Service at: Akron, Ohio.
Born: Chicago, Ill.
G.O. No. 20: March 11, 1944.

Medal, Medal of Honor, United States Army, largeCitation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy on 1 August 1943. On this date he led his command, the 93d Heavy Bombardment Group, on a daring low-level attack against enemy oil refineries and installations at Ploesti, Rumania. Approaching the target, his aircraft was hit by a large caliber antiaircraft shell, seriously damaged and set on fire. Ignoring the fact he was flying over terrain suitable for safe landing, he refused to jeopardize the mission by breaking up the lead formation and continued unswervingly to lead his group to the target upon which he dropped his bombs with devastating effect. Only then did he leave formation, but his valiant attempts to gain sufficient altitude for the crew to escape by parachute were unavailing and his aircraft crashed in flames after his successful efforts to avoid other planes in formation. By extraordinary flying skill, gallant leadership and intrepidity, Lt. Col. Baker rendered outstanding, distinguished, and valorous service to our Nation.

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