Daily Archives: September 5, 2017

5 September 1984

Space Shuttle Discovery landing on Rogers Dry Lake, 0637 PDT, 5 September 1984. (NASA)

5 September 1984: Space Shuttle Discovery, OV-103, completed its first space flight, STS-41-D,  when it landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, at 6:37 a.m. PDT (13:37:54 UTC), 5 September 1984. It had completed 97 orbits of the Earth. The total duration of its flight was 6 days, 56 minutes, 4 seconds.

The purpose of the mission was to place three communications satellites into orbit, and to deploy an experimental solar panel array. Various other experiments were also carried out.

The Mission Commander was Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr., making his second space flight. Shuttle Pilot Michael L. Coats was on his first. Three Mission Specialists, Richard M. Mullane, Steven A. Hawley, Judith A. Resnick, and Payload Specialist Charles D. Walker, were all on their first space flight.

A highlight of this mission was the onboard filming by the crew of footage for the IMAX film, The Dream Is Alive.

Discovery is the space shuttle fleet leader, having made 39 orbital flights, more than any other shuttle.

Mission Specialist Judith Arlene Resnick was a crew member of shuttle mission STS-51-L. She was killed when Challenger was destroyed shortly after launch, 28 January 1986.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 September 1983

Captain Robert J. Goodman's Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker refuels and tows a crippled McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II over the North Atlantic. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Robert J. Goodman’s Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker refuels and tows a crippled McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II over the North Atlantic. (U.S. Air Force)

5 September 1983: A Strategic Air Command Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker of the 42nd Air Refueling Squadron, Loring  AFB, Maine, was sent to rendezvous with a flight of McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II fighter bombers crossing the Atlantic Ocean enroute to Europe. As they began to refuel the fighters, one F-4E began to lose power in one of its engines, and also lost part of its hydraulic system. The Phantom’s pilot had difficulty maintaining speed and altitude as he tried to hook up with the tanker, and the second engine began to overheat. The two aircraft flew at just above the Stratotanker’s landing speed so that the Phantom could keep up, but as it slowed further, the Phantom’s angle of attack had to increase to maintain lift. This exceeded the mechanical limits of the refueling boom and the two airplanes separated without the fighter having received a full fuel load.

LCOL Robert J. Goodman, USAF (1943–2011). (U.S. Air Force)
LCOL Robert J. Goodman, USAF (1943–2011). (U.S. Air Force)

The crew of the F-4E was in serious danger. It was unlikely that the airplane could remain in the air for much longer. It was decided to head for Gander, Newfoundland, the closest place to land, 500 miles (806 kilometers) away. Captain Robert J. Goodman, U.S. Air Force, aircraft commander of the Stratotanker, decided to escort the crippled fighter which continued to lose altitude. It was necessary to try to refuel it three more times, and on occasion, the tanker actually towed the fighter back to altitude.

With the help of the tanker, the Phantom II finally arrived at Gander and landed safely.

For their efforts to save the lives of the crew of the F-4E, Captain Goodman and his crew, Captain Michael F. Clover, 1st Lieutenant Karol F. Wojcikowski and Staff Sergeant Douglas D. Simmons, Crew E113, were awarded the Mackay Trophy “For outstanding achievement while on a routine refueling mission involving F-4E aircraft, saving a valuable aircraft from destruction and its crew from possible death.

SAC Crew E113, left to right: 1st Lieutenant Karol F. Wocjikowski, Captain Michael F. Clover, Captain Robert J. Goodman and Staff Sergeant Douglas D. Simmons. (U.S. Air Force)

The Mackay Trophy which is awarded annually for “the most meritorious flight of the year by an Air Force person, persons, or organization.” It is kept at the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.

The Mackay Trophy.
The Mackay Trophy.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 September 1960

LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC with the record setting McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II. (McDonnell)
LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC with the record-setting McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II. (McDonnell Aircraft Corporation)

5 September 1960: Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Miller, United States Marine Corps, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 500 Kilometer Closed Course Without Payload with a McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu.No. 145311. The fighter averaged 1,216.78 miles per hour (1,958.2 kilometers per hour)¹ over the triangular course in the California and Nevada desert.

Diagram of course flown by LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC, 15 September 1960. (McDonnell)
Diagram of course flown by LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC, 15 September 1960. (McDonnell)

Lieutenant Colonel Miller took off from Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California. The McDonnell F4H-1F carried three external fuel tanks. Miller climbed in full Military Power to 38,000 feet (11,582 meters), then dropped the two wing tanks over the Salton Sea. The Phantom II continued to accelerate with both engines in afterburner while climbing to 48,000 feet (14,630 meters). At Mach 1.6, 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) from the starting gate over Edwards, Miller dropped the empty 600 gallon (2,271 liters) centerline tank. He crossed the gate at 42,200 feet (12,863 meters) at Mach 1.76 and continued to accelerate.

Miller entered the first turn near Lone Pine, California (just east of Mount Whitney) at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) at Mach 2.04. The second turn was over Beatty, Nevada, the location of a radar and telemetry facility that was operated as part of the NASA High Speed Flight Station’s High Range. The F4H had descended slightly to 49,000 feet (14,935 meters) while accelerating to Mach 2.05.

Colonel Miller was now headed back toward Edwards and the gate on the longest leg of the triangular course. He crossed the finish line at 46,000 feet (14,021 meters) and Mach 2.10.

The total time on the course, gate to gate, was 15 minutes, 19.2 seconds. The Phantoms’ two engines were in afterburner for 25 minutes, 30 seconds. The duration of the flight, from takeoff to landing, was one hour.

When the airplane crossed the gate over Edwards, only 900 pounds (408 kilograms) of fuel remained. Later, Colonel Miller said, “The only way to get on the ground with the engines running was a split-S maneuver with a near-vertical dive, speed brakes out and engines at idle power. This provided positioning for a straight-in approach to the runway at Edwards AFB. Flaps and wheels were lowered at the last minute when I knew I had the runway made, even if the engines quit. Fortunately, they didn’t flame out until I touched down.”

While the FAI credited Tom Miller with a World Record speed of 1,958.2 kilometers per hour (1,216.769 miles per hour) for the 500 kilometer course, a McDonnell Aircraft Corporation publication points out that as the F4H actually flew outside the course lines to make the high-speed turns, it flew 23 miles (37 kilometers) farther than required, and therefore the actual average speed was 1,305 miles per hour (2,100.2 kilometers per hour).

McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 145311. This probably the Phantom flown by Jeff Davis for the 100-kilometer record. (U.S. Navy)
McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 145311. This is the Phantom flown by LCOL Thomas H. Miller for the 500-kilometer world record, 5 September 1960. (U.S. Navy)
LGEN Thomas H. Miller, USMC
LGEN Thomas H. Miller, USMC

Lieutenant General Thomas H. Mitchell flew combat missions in the Pacific with VMO-155, flying the Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, and missions during the Korean War with VMFA-323 (Death Rattlers”), flying the Vought F4U-4 Corsair. During the Vietnam War, he commanded VMFA-513, flying the McDonnell F-4B Phantom II. Promoted to Brigadier General, he was Chief of Staff, III Amphibious Group, then Commander, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. In 1975, he took command of the Fleet Marine Force Pacific. After serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation, Headquarters, Marine Corps, Miller retired from active duty in 1979.

Lieutenant General Miller died in 2007 at the age of 84 years.

John H. Glenn, Jr., General David M. Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Miller Jr., at Marine Corps Headquarters, 15 September 1960. General Shoup holds a scale model of the McDonnell F4H Phantom II. (Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections)
John H. Glenn, Jr., General David M. Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Miller Jr., at Marine Corps Headquarters, 15 September 1960. General Shoup holds a scale model of the McDonnell F4H Phantom II. (Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8857

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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