Monthly Archives: October 2017

31 October 1959

Colonel Georgy Konstantinovich Mosolov
Colonel Georgy Konstantinovich Mosolov

31 October 1959: At Joukovski-Petrovskoe, U.S.S.R., Гео́ргий Константи́нович Мосоло́в (Georgy Konstantinovich Mosolov), chief test pilot for Mikoyan-Gurevich, flew a prototype of the MiG-21 interceptor identified as the E-66, to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 15/25 Kilometer Straight Course. His speed averaged 2,388 kilometers per hour (1,483.8 miles per hour).¹

The МиГ-21 prototype identified by the symbol E-66  is known at the Mikoyan Design Bureau as the E-6\3. Its first flight took place in December 1958. It is powered by a Tumansky 11F-300 afterburning turbojet engine. (A Wikipedia article suggests that this airplane was rebuilt to different configurations several times, with designations changed accordingly.)

Mosolov’s FAI altitude record of 28 April 1961 was also flown in a MiG-21 prototype called E-66. (FAI Record File # 8661) Photographs and motion picture film of that airplane show it marked with red numerals “31” on the forward fuselage.

This photograph from the web site Wings of Russia is described as showing the Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-6T/1 prototype, "31 Red", flown to a world record altitude, 28 April 1961.
The airplane in this  photograph from the web site “Wings of Russia” is described as showing the Mikoyan-Gurevich E-6T\1 prototype, “31 Red,” flown to a world record altitude by Colonel Mosolov, 28 April 1961.

Colonel Mosolov was interviewed for an article in Air & Space Smithsonian Magazine. He told writer Tony Reichhardt that after completing the speed record course, he was 125 miles (201 kilometers) from base at 44,000 feet (13,411 meters). Low on fuel, he shut down the turbojet engine and began a long glide. He twice unsuccessfully attempted to restart the engine for the landing, but was forced to glide all the way to the runway. After landing, the fuel system was drained. Only 8 liters (2.1 gallons) remained.

Colonel Georgy K. Mosolv, Soviet Air Forces. Hero of the Soviet Union.
Colonel Georgy Konstantinovich Mosolov, Soviet Air Forces. Hero of the Soviet Union.

Georgy Konstantinovich Mosolov was born 3 May 1926 at Ufa, Bashkortostan, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He was educated at the Central Aviation Club, where he graduated in 1943, and then went to the Special Air Forces School. In 1945 he completed the Primary Pilot School and was an instructor at the Chuguev Military Aviation School (Kharkiv, Ukraine). In 1953 Mosolov was sent to the Ministry of Industrial Aviation Test Pilot School at Ramenskoye Airport, southeast of Moscow, and 6 years later, to the Moscow Aviation Institute. He was a test pilot at the Mikoyan Experimental Design Bureau from 1953 to 1959, when he became the chief test pilot.

Georgy Mosolov set six world speed and altitude records. He was named a Hero of the Soviet Union, 5 October 1960.

On 11 September 1962, an aircraft that Colonel Mosolov was flying suffered a catastrophic compressor failure at Mach 2.15 and began to break apart. Severely injured, Mosolov ejected from the doomed airplane at Mach 1.78. He survived but his test flying career was over. His recovery took more than a year, and though he was able to fly again, he could not resume his duties as a test pilot.

Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-152A, one of the MiG-21 prototypes flown by Georgy Mosolov.
This Mikoyan-Gurevich E-152A, NATO code name  “Flipper,” is one of the many MiG-21 prototypes flown by Georgy Mosolov.

¹ FAI Record File Number 9062

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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31 October 1940

A British civilian air observer searches the sky over London for enemy bombers. (National Archives and Records Administration)

31 October 1940. “All Clear.” The Battle of Britain, which began on 10 July 1940, came to an end. It was a decisive victory for the Royal Air Force.

The German Luftwaffe began its bombing campaign against Britain with the intention of forcing the R.A.F. to defend the cities. The German leaders believed that they could destroy the Royal Air Force in air-to-air combat. It was necessary to eliminate the British air service in order to proceed with the cross-Channel invasion of the British Isles, Operation Sea Lion.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Royal Air Force, GCB, GCVO, CMG, 1st Baron Dowding (1882–1970). (Imperial War Museum)

Commander of Fighter Command, Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding, understood that he needed to choose when and where to fight. Using the secret Chain Home system of radar stations, he was able to place his fighter squadrons above the German bomber formations.

Though Germany started the Battle with a 3:2 advantage in numbers of airplanes (and most of them more modern and superior to the majority of aircraft Britain had available for its defense), the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters took a heavy toll on Luftwaffe crews.

At the beginning of the Battle of Britain, the R.A.F. and Royal Naval Air Service had a total of 1,963 airplanes, most of them obsolete. Germany had 2,550 fighters and bombers, most of them very modern. By the end, however, Britain had lost 554 men killed, 422 wounded and 1,547 airplanes destroyed. Germany lost 2,698 killed, 967 captured and 638 missing, with 1,887 airplanes destroyed. Because the Luftwaffe directed most of its attacks against the civilian population, a concept of Total War which Germany had first used when its airships bombed London during World War I, 23,002 men, women and children were killed and 32,138 wounded.

Because of a system of dispersed manufacture, Britain was able to replace the losses in aircraft and many aircrews parachuted to safety and were able to return to combat immediately. Germany’s industrial output could not keep up with its combat losses, and they could not replace the lost airmen.

Operation Sea Lion was cancelled. Hitler looked to the East.

Contrails over London during the Battle of Britain, 10 July–31 October 1940. (Imperial War Museum)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 October 1991

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26118 of the 12th Rescue Wing—a sister ship of Jolly 110—recovers pararescue jumpers during a training mission outside of San Francisco's Golden Gate. (TSGT Lance Cheung, U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26118 of the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard, recovers pararescue jumpers during a training mission outside of San Francisco’s Golden Gate. (Technical Sergeant Lance Cheung, U.S. Air Force)

30 October 1991: United States Air Force Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, 88-26110, call sign “Jolly 110,” assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard, headed out into a hurricane that would become known as “The Perfect Storm,” to attempt a rescue 250 miles (400 kilometers) out to sea. Aboard were Major C. David Ruvola, pilot; Captain Graham Buschor, co-pilot; Staff Sergeant James R.  Mioli, flight engineer; and pararescue jumpers Technical Sergeant John Spillane and Technical Sergeant Arden Rick Smith.

Due to the severity of the storm (a weather buoy located 264 miles (425 kilometers) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, reported a wave height of 100.7 feet (30.7 meters) on 30 October—the highest ever recorded in that part of the Atlantic Ocean) the Pave Hawk crew was unable to make the rescue and had to return to their base. Having already refueled from the Lockheed HC-130 Hercules tanker three times during the mission, and with low fuel, a fourth refueling was needed for the helicopter to make it back to the mainland. Because of the the extreme turbulence and lack of visibility, Jolly 110 could not make contact with the refueling drogue trailing behind the airplane. Major Ruvola made more than 30 attempts, but finally both drogues had been damaged by the severe conditions. With just twenty minutes of fuel remaining, Jolly 110 would have to ditch in the middle of “The Perfect Storm.”

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26109, sistership of "Jolly 110", ready for refueling from a C-130. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26109, a sistership of “Jolly 110,” ready for refueling from a Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow, 69-5828. This helicopter was destroyed 7 January 2014, when it crashed off the coast of England following multiple bird strikes at 130 knots. The four-man crew was killed. (TSGT Justin D. Pyle, U.S. Air Force)
Technical Sergeant Arden R. Smith, Pararescue Jumper, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)
Technical Sergeant Arden R. Smith, Pararescue Jumper, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)

Unable to refuel, Major Ruvola made the decision to ditch the helicopter into the sea while the engines were still running. Finally, at 9:30 p.m., the number one engine flamed out from fuel starvation. Ruvola held the Pave Hawk in a hover over the raging ocean while Buschor, Mioli, Spillane and Smith jumped.

When the number two engine flamed out, Ruvola put the Pave Hawk into a hovering autorotation, its blades coming to a sudden stop when they hit the face of an oncoming wave. Ruvola was about 15 feet (4.6 meters) under water by the time he was able to escape from the sinking helicopter.

The Pave Hawk had gone down 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Montauk Point in 100-knot (185 kilometers per hour) winds and 80-foot (25 meter) waves. After five hours in the water, four airmen were rescued by USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166), a 48-year-old former U.S. Navy fleet tug, operated by the Coast Guard since the end of World War II as a medium endurance cutter.

The search for Rick Smith continued for a week. He was never found.

USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166). (U.S. Coast Guard)
USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166). (U.S. Coast Guard)
USCGC Tamaroa (WHEC-166) pitches and rolls in heavy seas during the rescue of Satori, during "The Perfect Storm". (U.S. Coast Guard)
USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166) pitches and rolls in heavy seas during the rescue of Satori, 29 October 1991. (U.S. Coast Guard) 

The U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk is medium-sized twin-engine combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) helicopter, developed from the Army UH-60A Black Hawk transport. These helicopters were upgraded with an extendable probe for air-to-air refueling and additional fuel tanks in the cabin and given the project name Credible Hawk. They were further upgraded to the MH-60G Pave Hawk standard which incorporated a system of inertial navigation, GPS and Doppler radar for precision navigation. Low-light television, infrared cameras and night vision systems allowed the MH-60G to operate at night and very low altitude. The Pave Hawk is equipped with an Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), a very sophisticated autopilot which incorporates automatic hover capability. Some of the MH-60G Pave Hawks received further upgrades for the special operations mission. Helicopters dedicated to CSAR were redesignated HH-60G. A rescue hoist capable of lifting 600 pounds (272 kilograms) from a 200-foot (60.7 meter) hover is incorporated on the upper right side of the fuselage.

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, 88-26107, sister ship of 88-26110, which was lost in "The Perfect Storm".
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, 88-26107, sister ship of 88-26110, which was lost in “The Perfect Storm.” (U.S. Air Force)

The HH-60G is operated by a crew of two pilots, a flight engineer and gunner. For rescue operations, pararescue jumpers, the famous “P.J.s,” are added to the crew. The helicopter has an overall length of 64 feet, 11 inches (19.787 meters) with rotors turning. The fuselage is 49 feet, 10 inches (15.189 meters) long and 7 feet, 9 inches (2.362 meters) wide. Overall height (rotors turning) is 16 feet, 11 inches (5.156 meters).

The fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of  53 feet, 8 inches (16.358 meters) and turns counterclockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) The main rotor turns 258 r.p.m., resulting in a blade tip speed of 725 feet per second (221 meters per second). The four blades have a chord of 1.73 feet (0.527 meters) and 18° negative twist. The blade tips are swept back at a 20° angle. The four-blade tail rotor assembly is mounted on the right side of a pylon in a tractor configuration. The tail rotor plane is inclined 20° to the left to provide approximately 400 pounds of additional lift. The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor has a diameter of 11 feet (3.353 meters) and each blade has a chord of 0.81 feet (0.247 meters). The tail rotor has a tip speed of 699 feet per second (213 meters per second).

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26106, sister ship of Jolly 110, at William J. Fox Field, Lancaster, California. (Alan Radecki)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26106 at William J. Fox Field, Lancaster, California. (Alan Radecki)

Power is supplied by two General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshaft engines which are mounted on top of the fuselage on either side of the transmission and main rotor mast. They have a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,662 shaft horsepower, each, at Sea Level on a Standard Day. Maximum Power (10 minute limit) is 1,890 shaft horsepower, and the One Engine Inoperative (OEI) rating is 1,940 shaft horsepower (2½ minute limit.) The -701C is 3 feet, 10 inches (1.684 meters) long), 1 foot,3.6 inches (0.396 meters) in diameter and weighs 458 pounds (208 kilograms). The helicopter’s main transmission is rated for a maximum 3,400 horsepower.

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 91-26403, 33rd Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, 2001. (MSgt Val Gempis, United States Air Force)

The HH-60G has a cruise speed of 184 miles per hour (296 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed is 224 miles per hour (361 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) and maximum range is 373 miles (600 kilometers). The hover ceiling, in ground effect (HIGE) is approximately 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and out of ground effect (HOGE) is about 6,000 feet (1,830 meters).

Defensive armament consists of two GAU-18A .50-caliber machine guns.

The U.S. Air Force initially purchased 112 HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, though as of May 2016, 96 remain in service. Most of these are approaching their design airframe lifetime limit of 7,000 flight hours and several have surpassed that by as much as 3,000 hours. There are plans to replace them with a new HH-60W, a combat rescue helicopter based on the Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk. Currently, 21 U.S. Army UH-60Ls are being modified to replace HH-60G losses. The next version, the HH-60W, based on the Sikorsky UH-60M, is expected to enter the U.S. Air Force inventory by March 2020.

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 89-26212. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Marisa Catlin, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, flies a Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, 89-26212, over the Kunar Province, Afghanistan, 9 February 2011. (Captain Erick Saks, U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 October 1961

Major Durnovtsev’s Tupolev Tu-95V “Bear A”, carrying the RDS-220 bomb to the target. A Tu-16 “Badger” instrumentation aircraft is just behind, on the bomber’s left quarter.
Tupolev Tu 95 carrying Tsar Bomba
Tupolev Tu-95V carrying the RDS-220 bomb.

30 October 1961: A specially modified Tupolev Tu-95V “Bear A” bomber, under the command of Major Andrei E. Durnovtsev, dropped the RDS-220 thermonuclear bomb from an altitude of 10,500 meters (34,449 feet) over the Mityushikha Bay test range on Novaya Zemlya. The bomb, a three-stage radiation implosion device weighing 27,000 kilograms (59,525 pounds), variously known as “Big Ivan” or “Tsar Bomba,” was retarded by parachute to allow the Bear to escape the blast effects. At 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above the surface, the bomb detonated.

Major Durnovtsev's Tupolev Tu-95N Bear A, carrying the RDS-220 bomb to the target. A Tu-16 instrumentation aircraft is just behind, on the bomber's left quarter.
Major Durnovtsev’s Tupolev Tu-95V “Bear A,” carrying the RDS-220 bomb to the target. A Tu-16 instrumentation aircraft is just behind, on the bomber’s left quarter.
The RDS-220 bomb just after drop. The retarding parachute is beginning to deploy.
“Big Ivan” with first stage parachute deployed.

Major Durnovtsev’s Tu-95 was approximately 45 kilometers (28 miles) away at the time of the explosion.

At the same time, a secret United States Air Force JKC-135A instrumentation aircraft, Speed Light Bravo, 55-3127, had flown closer to gather data about the air burst. It was close enough that its special antiradiation paint was scorched. The airplane was later scrapped because of the damage it sustained.

After the data was analyzed by the Foreign Weapons Evaluation Panel (the “Bethe Panel”) the RDS-220 yield was estimated at 57 megatons. This was the largest nuclear weapon detonation in history. It was also the “cleanest,” with 97% of the energy yield produced by fusion. Relative to the size of the explosion, very little fallout was produced.

Tsar Bomba fireball over Novaya Zemlya, 11:32 a.m., 30 October 1961. The fireball has reached a diameter of 5 miles (8 kilometers). Shock waves reflecting off of the ground caused the slight flattening of the bottom of the fireball.

All buildings in the town of Severny, 55 kilometers (34.2 miles) from Ground Zero, were destroyed. Wooden buildings as far as 200 kilometers (124 miles) were destroyed or heavily damaged.

A visible shock wave in the air was seen at a distance of 700 kilometers (435 miles). The shock wave from the explosion traveled around the world three times.

Fully assembled RDS-220 three-stage radiation implosion thermonuclear bomb, with retarding parachute in place, at Arzamas-16 .

The RDS-220 was 8 meters (26.25 feet) long, with a diameter of 2.1 meters (6.89 feet). It weighed 27,000 kilograms (59,525 pounds).

The Tupolev Tu-95 is a long range strategic bomber. It is 151 feet, 6 inches (46.2 meters) long with a wingspan of 164 feet, 5 inches (50.10 meters). The wings are swept at a 35° angle. The bomber is powered by four Kuznetsov NK-12M turboprop engines, producing 14,800 shaft horsepower, each, and turning 8-bladed counter-rotating propellers. It weighs 90,000 kilograms (198,416 pounds) empty, with a maximum takeoff weight of 188,000 kilograms (414,469 pounds). The Bear has a maximum speed of 920 kilometers per hour (572 miles per hour) and an unrefueled range of 15,000 kilometers (9,321 miles). (The Bear A is capable of inflight refueling.) Service ceiling is 13,716 meters (45,000 feet).

A current production Tupolev Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
A current production Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear H strategic bomber. (Royal Air Force)

Following the test, Major Durnovtsev was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and named Hero of the Soviet Union. He died 24 October 1976.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 October 1935

The Boeing Model 299 NX 13372 (XB-17), prototype four-engine heavy bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing Model 299 NX13372, designated XB-17, at Wright Field, Ohio, 1935. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing Model 299 NX13372, designated XB-17, at Wright Field, Ohio, 1935. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Ployer P. Hill, U.S. Army Air Corps (1894–1935)
Major Ployer P. Hill, U.S. Army Air Corps (1894–1935)

30 October 1935: While undergoing evaluation by the U.S. Army Air Corps at Wright Field, northeast of Dayton, Ohio, the Boeing Model 299 Flying Fortress, NX13372—the most technologically sophisticated airplane of its time—took off with Major Ployer P. Hill as pilot.

Major Hill was the Chief of the Flying Branch, Material Division at Wright Field. This was his first flight in the airplane. The co-pilot was the Air Corps’ project pilot, Lieutenant Donald Leander Putt. Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot Leslie R. Tower and company mechanic C.W. Benton were also aboard, as was Henry Igo of the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company.

Immediately after takeoff, the 299 suddenly pitched up, stalled and crashed, then caught fire. Three men, Igo, Benton and Putt, were able to escape from the wreck despite injuries.

The wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, burns after the fatal crash at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)
The wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, burns after the fatal crash at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)
Lt. R.K. Giovannoli
Lt. Robert K. Giovannoli

First Lieutenant Robert K. Giovannoli saw the crash and immediately went to help. He made two trips into the burning wreck to rescue Hill and Tower, though later they both died of their injuries.

Lieutenant Giovannoli was awarded the Soldier’s Medal as well as the Cheney Award, a medal for heroism. The citation for the Soldier’s Medal reads in part: “. . . Lieutenant Giovannoli, who was an onlooker, forced his way upon the fuselage and into the front cockpit of the burning plane and extricated one of the passengers. Then upon learning that the pilot was still in the cockpit, Lieutenant Giovannoli, realizing that his own life was in constant peril from fire, smoke, and fuel explosions, rushed back into the flames and after repeated and determined efforts, being badly burned in the attempt, succeeded in extricating the pilot from an entrapped position and assisted him to a place of safety.”

Lieutenant Giavannoli was killed 8 March 1936 when the right wing of his prototype Boeing P-36 fighter came off at Logan Field, near Baltimore, Maryland.

The official investigation determined that the flight crew had neglected to release the flight control gust locks which are intended to prevent damage to the control surfaces while on the ground. Test Pilot Tower recognized the mistake and tried to release the control locks, but could not reach them from his position in the cockpit.

Experts wondered if the Flying Fortress was too complex an airplane to fly safely. As a direct result of this accident, the “check list” was developed, now required in all aircraft.

Cockpit of the Boeing Model 299. (U.S. Air Force)
Cockpit of the Boeing Model 299. (Boeing)

Lieutenant Putt remained in the service and eventually achieved the rank of Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force. He died in 1988.

The largest land airplane built up to that time, the XB-17 “seemed to have defensive machine guns aimed in every direction.” A Seattle Times newspaper reporter, Roland Smith, wrote that it was a “flying fortress.” Boeing quickly copyrighted the name.

Cheney Award (U.S. Air Force)
Cheney Award (U.S. Air Force)

After several years of testing, the Model 299 went into production as the B-17 Flying Fortress. By the end of World War II, 12,731 B-17s had been built by Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed Vega.

The Cheney Award is a bronze medal awarded annually to honor acts of valor, extreme fortitude or self-sacrifice in a humanitarian interest performed in connection with aircraft (not necessarily military). It memorializes U.S. Army Air Service Lieutenant Bill Cheney, who was killed in action on 20 January 1918. The award was initiated by his family. It has been called the “Peacetime Medal of Honor.”

Burned-out wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, still smoldering after the crash at Wright Field, Ohio, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)
Burned-out wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, still smoldering after the crash at Wright Field, Ohio, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)

Hill Air Force Base, north of Salt Lake City, Utah, was named in honor of Major Ployer Peter Hill, U.S. Army Air Corps.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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