Daily Archives: September 16, 2017

16 September 2011

Unlimited Division racer The Galloping Ghost just before impact. The pilot is not visible in the cockpit. (AP photo/Grass Valley Union/Tim O’Brien via The Press Democrat)

16 September 2011: In the late afternoon, six highly-modified World War II-era fighters were competing in a preliminary heat for the Unlimited Division championship of the National Championship Air Races, being held at the Reno-Stead Airport (RST), about 12 miles (19 kilometers) northwest of the central business district of the city of Reno, Nevada. The field elevation is 5,050 feet above Sea Level (1,539 meters). The races were being flown over an 8.4-mile (13.5 kilometers) ovate course, marked by ten pylons. All turns were made to the left.

The competitors for Heat 2A were three North American Aviation P-51D Mustangs, a Goodyear F2G-1 Corsair, a Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, and two Hawker Sea Furies.

The Galloping Ghost taking off at Reno-Stead Airport in 2010. (Shawna Malvini Redden, the bluest muse)

The Galloping Ghost, race number 177, was flown by its owner, James Kent Leeward. On lap number three, Leeward was 4.5 seconds behind the second-place P-51, Voodoo, and 8.8 seconds behind the heat leader, Strega, also a radically-modified Mustang. The airplane was at approximately 445 knots (512 miles per hour, or 824 kilometers per hour) as it rounded Pylon 8 in a steep left bank.

At 16:24:28.9 Pacific Daylight Time, The Galloping Ghost‘s angle of bank rapidly increased from 73° to 93° in just 0.83 seconds. (The NTSB refers to this as a “left-roll upset.”) (Wake vortices from the leading air racers may have been a factor in this left-roll upset. Investigators found that they could not exclude the possibility.) The air racer, corrected by its pilot’s aileron input, rolled back to the right, but then violently pitched up. The airplane essentially flew itself into an inside loop, then crashed into the ground directly in front of a seating area.

The left elevator trim tab falls away from The Galloping Ghost. (Julia Kirchenbauer, from NTSB Accident Brief AAB-12/01)
177 rolls inverted. The left elevator trim tab is missing. (AP photo/Grass Valley Union/Tim O’Brien via The Press Democrat)
The Galloping Ghost in its final dive. (Ward Howes/The Los Angeles Times)
Impact 1 (Ward Howes/The Los Angeles Times)

The Galloping Ghost was totally destroyed. Jimmy Leeward and 11 spectators were killed, with at at least 69 others injured.

The Galloping Ghost had been built in 1944 as a P-51D-15-NA Mustang, serial number 44-15651, by North American Aviation, Inc., at its Inglewood, California factory. Following World War II, the very low-time fighter was sold off as surplus equipment. Registered NX79111 and carrying the race number 77, it was flown by Bruce Raymond in the 1946 Thompson Trophy Race, finishing in fourth place.

North American Aviation P-51D-15-NA Mustang NX79111, The Galloping Ghost, photographed in 1948. (Classic War Birds)

The airplane was later raced as Miss Candace and Jeannie.

On 18 September 1970, N79111 crash landed near the Reno-Stead Airport following an engine failure during a race. The P-51 was substantially damaged.

Jimmy Leeward purchased the fighter in July 1983. After racing it for years, the airplane was placed in storage. Then, beginning in 2007, the airplane underwent a series of radical modifications. Some of these were similar to those made to other Unlimited Division racing planes, however, there was no evidence of engineering before, or flight testing, following these mods.

The most obvious modifications were made to the profile of the P-51D’s fuselage. The standard windshield and bubble canopy were removed and replaced by a much smaller unit. This was smoothly faired into a raised dorsal “razorback” which carried aft from the cockpit to the vertical fin. The lower fuselage, with its Meredith Effect radiator scoop and cooling ducts, was completely removed and a new fuselage belly constructed.

The standard Mustang cooling system was replaced by a “boil off” system in the aft fuselage. Rather than radiators which remove heat from the engine coolant by the passage of air, heat exchangers were immersed in a solution of water and methanol. A 150 gallon supply was in a tank in the left wing.

The Mustang’s wings had been shortened from the standard span of 37 feet, 0 inches (11.278 meters) to 28 feet, 10 inches (8.788 meters). The ailerons were each shortened from about 7 feet (2.1 meters) to 3 feet (0.9 meters). The horizontal stabilizer span was shortened from 14 feet, 10-5/32 inches (4.525 meters) to 12 feet, 1 inch (3.683 meters), and its angle of incidence increased from +0.5° to +0.91°. The vertical fin was offset to the right of the airplane’s longitudinal axis, instead of to the left, as built by the factory. The ailerons were not properly adjusted, which required the pilot to use constant pressure to the right on the control stick to keep the wings level.

On the standard Mustang, both elevators are equipped with adjustable trim tabs on their trailing edges, which the pilot uses to adjust the flight controls’ neutral positions. On The Galloping Ghost, the right elevator trim tab had been deactivated, placing increased load on the left trim tab. The elevators and rudder used weighted counterbalances. These, too, had been modified. The total weight for both elevator counterweights had been raised to 53.5 pounds (24.3 kilograms), nearly four times the maximum allowable weight of 13.75 pounds (6.24 kilograms). Similarly, the rudder counterbalance weight was increased to 25 pounds (11.3 kilograms). The maximum allowable weight was 16.6 pounds (7.5 kilograms).

According to its maintenance records, at the time of the accident, N79111 had flown a total of 1,453.6 hours. Its Packard V-1650-9A Merlin V-12 engine had been overhauled to military specifications at 1,428.9 airframe hours. The four-bladed Hamilton Standard 24D50 propeller had just 24.7 hours on it. The modified airplane had an empty weight of 6,474 pounds (2,936.6 kilograms). Accident investigators estimated its weight at the time of the upset as 7,760 pounds (3,202,4 kilograms).

Wrinkles in fuselage of The Galloping Ghost during the first lap of Heat 2A, 16 September 2011. (Florian Schmehl, from NTSB Accident Brief AAB-12/01)

Photographs taken during the first lap showed significant diagonal wrinkles in the fuselage of The Galloping Ghost, just behind the right wing, which were not present before the race started. A photograph taken during the third lap showed similar wrinkles on the left side of the fuselage. It is apparent that the modifications to the Mustang’s fuselage had significantly weakened its structure.

The left and right elevator trim tabs are attached to their hinges by three screws, each. These are secured by locknuts. NTSB investigators found that two of these screws had broken due to overload during the flight. (One screw was found to have had a pre-existing fatigue fracture.) All of the screws were loose in their locknuts and could easily be turned by hand. All six locknuts were worn beyond limits and were incapable of maintaining torque.

The loose trim tab attachment allowed the trim tabs to flutter because of the aerodynamic loads of very high speed flight. This flutter produced loads beyond the strength of the trim system. These loads caused the linkage to the left tab to break. Without the linkage, flutter increased the movement of the tab beyond its limit and the hinge broke. The left tab moved beyond its normal limit, and caused the the linkage to bend and then fracture. Withe left tab  uncontrolled, the flutter was transmitted to the right elevator tab which had been fixed in place with a steel rod. The vibrations caused its fixed link assembly to fracture.

The loss of the downward force which the left trim tab applied to its elevator caused the elevator to move upward. This caused the airplane to violently pitch upward. Investigators calculated that Leeward would have been subjected to an acceleration of 17.3 Gs, far beyond human tolerance. He was immediately incapacitated.

With its pilot unconscious and the airplane traveling at such high speed, it went completely out of control. It flew inverted into a “helical” pattern and then, with the Merlin engine still at wide-open throttle, crashed into the ground at a very steep angle.

The National Transportation Safety Board reported:

3. PROBABLE CAUSE

          The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the reduced stiffness of the elevator trim tab system that allowed aerodynamic flutter to occur at racing speeds. The reduced stiffness was a result of deteriorated locknut inserts that allowed the trim tab attachment screws to become loose and to initiate fatigue cracking in one screw sometime before the accident flight. Aerodynamic flutter of the trim tabs resulted in a failure of the left trim tab link assembly, elevator movement, high flight loads, and a loss of control. Contributing to the accident were the undocumented and untested major modifications to the airplane and the pilot’s operation of the airplane in the unique air racing environment without adequate flight testing.

—National Transportation Safety Board. 2012. Pilot/Race 177, The Galloping Ghost, North American P-51D, N79111, Reno, Nevada, September 16, 2011. NTSB/AAB-12-01. Washington, DC.

James Kent (“Jimmy”) Leeward with his Unlimited Division racer, The Galloping Ghost. (Marilyn Newton, The Reno-Gazette Journal)

James Kent Leeward was born at Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, 21 October 1936, He was the son of Albert James Leeward and Mary Virginia Leeward. Jimmy Kent was educated at the Culver Military Academy, a college-preparatory boarding school at Culver, Indiana. He graduated in 1952.

In July 1959, Leeward married Miss Bette L. Hofacker in Dade County, Florida. They had four children.

At the time of his death, James Kent Leeward was 74 years old.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 September 1999

NASA 008, known as “Balls 8,” a modified Boeing RB-52B-10-BO Stratofortress, serial number 52-008, with NASA 824, a Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter, N824NA. The DAST 1 drone is under the bomber’s right wing. (NASA)

16 September 1999: 44 years, 3 months and 6 days after its very first flight, NASA’s airborne launch aircraft, or “mothership,” Balls 8, completed its 1,000th flight.

Balls 8, so-called because of the double zeros in it U.S. Air Force serial number, 52-008, is a Boeing NB-52, modified as a drop ship from its original configuration as an RB-52B-10-BO Stratofortress reconnaissance bomber assigned to the Strategic Air Command. It made its first flight 11 June 1955 and was reassigned from SAC to Edwards Air Force Base to support NASA flight testing operations, 8 June 1959. Balls 8 served NASA until 17 December 2004, when it was replaced by a newer NB-52H Stratofortress.

52-008 was altered at the North American Aviation facility at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. A pylon was mounted under the bomber’s right wing. A large notch was cut into the trailing edge of the inboard flap for the X-15’s vertical fin. A 1,500 gallon (5,678 liter) liquid oxygen tank was installed in the bomb bay. A station for a launch operator was installed on the upper deck of the B-52 at the former electronic countermeasures position. A series of control panels allowed the panel operator to monitor the X-15’s systems, provide electrical power, and to keep the rocketplane’s liquid oxygen tank full as the LOX boiled off during the climb to launch altitude. The operator could see the X-15 through a plexiglas dome, and there were two television monitors.

The NB-52B was used during the X-15 Program and carried the three hypersonic research aircraft aloft on 159 of their 199 flights. (NB-52A 52-003, The High and Mighty One, made the other 40 launches.) It has also been used to carry the X-24 and HiMat lifting body research aircraft and to launch Pegasus research rockets.

At the time of its retirement, Balls 8 was the oldest B-52 in service, and also the lowest time B-52. It is on display near the north gate at Edwards Air Force Base.

Balls 8, Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress 52-008, as seen from a KC-135A Stratotanker. (NASA)
Balls 8, NASA’s Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress 52-008 “mothership”, as seen from a KC-135A Stratotanker. (NASA)

Of the 744 B-52 Stratofortresses built by Boeing, 50 were B-52Bs and 27 of these were RB-52B reconnaissance bombers.

The airplane was 156 feet, 6.9 inches (47.724 meters) long with a wingspan of 185 feet, 0 inches (56.388 meters) and overall height of 48 feet, 3.6 inches (14.722 meters). The wings were mounted high on the fuselage (“shoulder-mounted”) to provide clearance for the engines which were suspended on pylons. The wings’ leading edges were swept 35°. The bomber’s empty weight was 164,081 pounds (74,226 kilograms), with a combat weight of 272,000 pounds (123,377 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 420,000 pounds (190,509 kilograms).

Early production B-52Bs were powered by eight Pratt & Whitney J57-P-1W turbojet engines, while later aircraft were equipped with J57-P-19W and J57-P-29W or WA turbojets. The engines were grouped in two-engine pods on four under-wing pylons. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). These engines were rated at 10,500 pounds of thrust (46.71 kilonewtons), each, or 12,100 pounds (53.82 kilonewtons) with water injection.

The B-52B/RB-52B had a cruise speed of 523 miles per hour (842 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed varied with altitude: 630 miles per hour (1,014 kilometers per hour) at 19,800 feet (6,035 meters), 598 miles per hour (962 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) and 571 miles per hour (919 kilometers per hour) at 45,750 feet (13,945 meters). The service ceiling at combat weight was 47,300 feet (14,417 meters).

Maximum ferry range was 7,343 miles (11,817 kilometers). With a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) bomb load, the B-52B had a combat radius of 3,590 miles (5,778 kilometers). With inflight refueling, the range was essentially world-wide.

This "score board" painted on the side of Balls 8 shows many of the missions that it flew as a "mothership" for NASA. (NASA)
This “score board” painted on the side of Balls 8 shows many of the missions that it flew as a “mothership” for NASA. (NASA)

Defensive armament consisted of four Browning Aircraft Machine Guns, Caliber .50, AN-M3, mounted in a tail turret with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun. These guns had a combined rate of fire in excess of 4,000 rounds per minute. (Eighteen RB-52Bs were equipped with two M24A1 20 mm autocannon in the tail turret in place of the standard four .50-caliber machine guns.)

The B-52B’s maximum bomb load was 43,000 pounds (19,505 kilograms). It could carry a 15-megaton Mark 17 thermonuclear bomb, or two Mark 15s, each with a maximum yield of 3.8 megatons.

Balls 8 lands on a runway marked on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The drogue parachute helps to slow the airplane. (NASA)
Balls 8 lands on a runway marked on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The drogue parachute helps to slow the airplane. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 September 1975

Mikoyan Design Bureau E155MP 83/1 (Mikoyan)
Mikoyan Design Bureau E-155MP 83/1 (OKB Mikoyan)
Alexander Vasilyevich Fedotov (1932–1982)
Alexander Vasilyevich Fedotov

16 September 1975: Alexander Vasilyevich Fedotov, Mikoyan Experimental Design Bureau’s chief test pilot, took the Product 83 prototype, E-155MP 83/1, for its first flight.

Project 83 was a two-seat, twin-engine, Mach 2.8+ interceptor, designed as a successor to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 25 “Foxbat” and would be designated the MiG 31. The Soviet Ministry of Defense assigned odd numbered designators to fighter-type aircraft, while NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, gave them identifying names beginning with the letter F. NATO calls the MiG 31 “Foxhound.”

The E-155MP is 22.69 meters (77 feet, 5 inches) long with a wingspan of 13.46 meters (44 feet, 2 inches) and overall height of 5.15 meters (16 feet, 11 inches). Its empty weight is 20,800 kilograms (45,856 pounds), normal takeoff weight 40,600 kilograms (89,508 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight of 46,000 kilograms (101,413 pounds).

Mikoyan Design Bureau Ye-155MP, 83/1, first prototype of the MiG-31 Fox Hound. (Mikoyan)
Mikoyan Design Bureau E-155MP, 83/1, first prototype of the MiG-31 Foxhound. (Mikoyan Experimental Design Bureau)

The aircraft is powered by two low-bypass-ratio Soloviev Design Bureau D-30 F6 turbofan engines, producing 91.00 kN (20,458 pounds of thrust), each, and 152.00 kN (34,171 pounds thrust), each, with afterburners.

The E-155MP had a maximum speed of Mach 2.82 (2,995 kilometers per hour/1,861 miles per hour) at 17,500 meters (57,415 feet) and 1500 (932 miles per hour) at low altitude. The prototype’s service ceiling was 20,000 meters (65,617 feet), and it had a range of 2,150 kilometers (1,336 miles).

The aircraft is unsuitable for air combat manuevering. The airframe is limited to a load factor of 5 Gs.

Mikoyan Design Bureau E155MP 83/1 (Mikoyan)
Mikoyan Design Bureau E155MP 83/1 (OKB Mikoyan)

The production MiG 31 is armed with one Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-6 23 23mm six-barrel rotary cannon with 260 rounds of ammunition. Four Vympel R-33 long-range air-to-air missiles are carried in fuselage recesses, and various combinations of short and medium range missiles can be carried on pylons under the wings.

The MiG 31 was in production from 1979 until 1994. Beginning in 2010, a modernization program to bring the up to the MiG 31BM configuration. It is believed that approximately 400 MiG 31 interceptors are in service.

A Russian Air Force MiG-31. (Dmitriy Pichugin)
A Russian Air Force MiG 31. (Dmitriy Pichugin via Wikipedia)

Alexander Vasilievich Fedotov born 23 June 1932 at Stalingrad, Russia (renamed Volgograd in 1961). He graduated from the Air Force Special School at Stalingrad,  and in 1950, entered the Soviet Army. Fedotov attended the Armavir Military Aviation School of Pilots at Amravir, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, graduating in 1952, and then became a flight instructor. In 1958 he attended the Ministry of Indutrial Aviation Test Pilot School at Zhukovsky. He was a test pilot for the Mikoyan Experimental Design Bureau from 1958 to 1984. In 1983, Alexander Fedotov was promoted to the rank of Major General in the Soviet Air Force.

On 22 July 1966, Fedotov was honored as a Hero of the Soviet Union. He was named an Honored Test Pilot of the Soviet Union, 21 February 1969. He was qualified as a Military Pilot 1st Class. Fedotov was twice awarded the Order of Lenin, and also held the Order of the Red Banner and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.

During his career as a test pilot, Major General Fedotov had been forced to eject from an airplane three times. He had also set 15 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for speed, altitude and time to altitude. One of these, FAI Record File Number 2825, in which he flew a Mikoyan E-266M to 37,650 meters (123,534 feet), 31 August 1977, remains the current record. The FAI has also honored him three times with The De la Vaulx Medal (1961, 1973 and 1977), and in 1976 awarded him the FAI’s Gold Air Medal.

Major General Alexander Vasilyevich Fedotov and his navigator, Valerie Sergeyvich Zaytevym, were killed when the second MiG 31 prototype, number 83/2, crashed during a test flight. Neither airman was able to eject.

Major General Alexander Vasilyevich Federov, Hero of the Soviet Union.
Major General Alexander Vasilyevich Federov, Hero of the Soviet Union

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 September 1951

Actors Kirby Grant and Gloria Winters with a Cessna 310B, N5384A, the Songbird. (Photograph by Hal McAlpin)
Actors Kirby Grant and Gloria Winters with a Cessna 310B, N5384A, the Songbird. (Photograph by Hal McAlpin)

16 September 1951:  “Out of the clear blue of the western sky comes. . . SKY KING!” The television series “Sky King” debuted on the NBC Television Network.

“Schuyler King,” owner of the Flying Crown Ranch in the fictional town of Grover, Arizona, was portrayed by actor Kirby Grant. His niece, “Penny,” was played by actress Gloria Winters. The television program (developed from an earlier radio series) was a juvenile action-adventure series set in the American Southwest. The lead character, Sky King, was a former naval aviator-turned-rancher who was frequently called on to deal with criminals and spies, and to rescue his niece, all while using his airplane.

The first songbird was this Cessna T-50, N ( productions)
The first Songbird was this 1943 Cessna T-50, N67832. (Jack Chertoff Television Productions)

Several airplanes were used during the filming of the television series. Initially, “Uncle Sky’s” airplane was a twin-engine Cessna T-50, N67832, owned by Paul Mantz. This airplane had been built as a U.S. Army Air Corps UC-78B Bobcat 43-32179 (Cessna serial number 6117). In 1946 it was sold as surplus by the War Assets Administration and registered under Cessna’s T-50 type certificate.  N67832 is currently registered to an owner in Clinton, Missouri.

The best known Flying Crown Ranch airplane, though, was a Cessna 310B, serial number 35548. In the title sequence of later episodes, Songbird is clearly seen with FAA registration N5348A one the bottom of its left wing as it banks away from the camera plane. After filming of the “Sky King” came to an end, Cessna sold N5348A. It crashed near Delano, California, 4 August 1962, and its pilot was killed.

Some sequences filmed from inside the Songbird show a partial N-number of “-635B” on the upper surface of the right wing. This airplane was probably Cessna 310B 35735, registered N6635B. It was destroyed when it crashed while on approach to Van Nuys Airport (VNY) at 11:49 a.m., 17 December 1969. All three persons on board were killed.

N5348A was painted white, yellow and gold. Cessna owned the airplane and it was usually flown by the manufacturer’s pilot. A fuselage which had been used for static testing was also provided by Cessna for use in closeup and interior cockpit scenes.

The Model 310 was a 5-place light twin. It was the first airplane built by Cessna to have retractable tricycle landing gear. It was also the first Cessna design to be tested in a wind tunnel. The airplane was 27 feet (8.230 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet (10.668 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). Its empty weight was 2,850 pounds (1,293 kilograms) and gross weight was 4,600 pounds (2,087 kilograms).

The Cessna 310B was powered by two air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 471.239-cubic-inch-displacement (7.722 liters) Continental Motors O-470-M horizontally-opposed six-cylinder direct-drive engines with a compression ratio of 7:1. They were rated at 240 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for takeoff (5-minute limit), using 91/96 octane aviation gasoline. The O-470-M weighed 410 pounds (186 kilograms). The engines drove two-bladed Hartzell full-feathering propellers with a diameter of 7 feet, 0 inches (2.134 meters).

The 310B a maximum structural cruise speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed (Vne) of 246 miles per hour (396 kilometers per hour). The light twin had a service ceiling of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) and range of 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers).

This still image from the television series, "Sky King", shows teh Songbird parked at "the Flying Crown Ranch", actually, a location near Apple Valley, California.
This still image from the television series, “Sky King,” shows the Songbird parked at the “Flying Crown Ranch”— a filming location in Apple Valley, California. (Jack Chertoff Television Productions)

According to an aerodynamicist who worked for Cessna at the time, the 51-gallon (193 liters) wing-tip-mounted fuel tanks were the main design feature of the 310. Company management insisted on them as a safety measure, even though they caused some handling difficulties and slowed the airplane by nearly 10 miles per hour (16 kilometers per hour). In the early 310 models, all the fuel was in the tip tanks, with none in the wings. It was felt that keeping fuel as far from the passenger compartment was safer in the event of an accident.

The Model 310 was in production from 1954 to 1980. A total of 6,321 of all variants were built.

The Songbird, Cessna 310B N5348A. The Flying Crown Ranch logo is absent. (Jack Chertoff Television Productions)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 September 1931

Supermarine S.6B S.1596 (BAE Systems)

16 September 1931: Flight Lieutenant George Hedley Stainforth of the Royal Air Force high-Speed Flight, was flying the second Supermarine S.6B, S.1596, to test an alternate propeller before attempting a 3-kilometer speed record. As he landed on the water following the test flight, his foot became caught in the rudder bar. The S.6B skidded across the surface, and then capsized. Stainforth was able to escape with only minor injuries.

While it was being towed back to the seaplane station at RAF Calshot, the racer sank to the bottom of Southampton Water.

Divers were called in to locate the sunken airplane and to rig it for recovery. The following day, the 17th, a Royal Navy salvage ship recovered the airplane.

Supermarine S.6B S.1596 is hoisted from the sea onto a Royal Navy salvage ship, 17 September 1931. (FLIGHT)

The S.6B had sustained damage to one float and the cockpit, but was otherwise in reasonably good condition. It was returned to the Supermarine works for repairs.

S.1596 was the second of two Vickers-Supermarine S.6B Monoplanes, designed by Reginald Joseph Mitchell, who would later design the legendary Supermarine Spitfire fighter of World War II. The racer was developed from Mitchell’s earlier S.4, S.5 and S.6 Schneider Cup racers, and was built at the Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers), Ltd., Southampton, on the south coast of England

The Supermarine S.6B was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with two fixed pontoons as an undercarriage. It was of all-metal construction and used a high percentage of duralumin, a very hard alloy of aluminum and copper, as well as other elements. The float plane was 28 feet, 10 inches (8.788 meters) long, with a wingspan of 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters) and height of 12 feet, 3 inches (3.734 meters). The wing area was 145 square feet (13,5 square meters). The S.6B had an empty weight of 4,560 pounds (2,068 kilograms) and gross weight of 5,995 pounds (2,719 kilograms).

Supermarine S.6B S.1596 (BAE Systems)

In an effort to achieve the maximum possible speed, aerodynamic drag was eliminated wherever possible. There were no radiator or oil cooler intakes. The wing surfaces were constructed of two thin layers of duralumin with a very small space between them. The engine coolant, a mixture of water and ethylene glycol, was circulated between these layers, which are known as surface radiators. The engine had a high oil consumption rate and the vertical fin was the oil supply tank. The skin panels also served as surface radiators. The fuselage panels were corrugated for strength, and several small parallel passages transferred lubricating oil from the fin tank to the engine, and further cooled the oil.

S.1596 was powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 2,239.327-cubic-inch-displacement (36.696 liter) Rolls-Royce Type R single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine, number R25. The Type R was a racing engine with 4 valves per cylinder and a compression ration of 6:1. In the 1931 configuration, it produced 2,350 horsepower at 3,200 r.p.m. It used a 0.605:1 reduction gear and turned a Fairey Aviation fixed-pitch airscrew with a diameter of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters). A special fuel, a mixture of benzol, methanol and acetone with TCP anti-detonation additive, was used. Engine R25 was specially prepared for the 3-kilometer speed runs.

The world record-setting Supermarine S.6B, S.1596, race # 7. (BAE Systems)

George Hedley Stainforth was born in 1899, the son of George Staunton Stainforth, a solicitor, and Mary Ellen Stainforth. Stainforth was married to Gladys Imelda Stainforth.

Staunton was a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and served with the British Army. In 1923, he transferred to the Royal Air Force.

Flight Lieutenant George Hedley Stainforth, 1929. (Stainforth Historical Archive)

In 1929, Staunton won the King’s Cup Air Race, and on 10 September, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course, averaging 541.10 kilometers per hour (336.22 miles per hour) while flying a Gloster Napier 6 powered by a Napier Lion VIID borad arrow W-12 engine.¹

Stainforth would set another 3-Kilometer world speed record on 29 September 1931, at 655 kilometers per hour (407 miles per hour).² He was the first pilot to fly faster than 400 miles per hour. For this accomplishment, Stainforth was awarded the Air Force Cross.

During World War II, Wing Commander George Hedley Stainforth, A.F.C., commanded No. 89 Squadron in Egypt. The New York Times reported that he was “the oldest fighter pilot in the Middle East.” On the night of 27–28 September 1942, while flying a Bristol Beaufighter near the Gulf of Suez, Stainforth was killed in action. He was buried at the Ismailia War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

¹ FAI Record File Number 11829

² FAI Record File Number 11831

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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