Daily Archives: October 5, 2017

5 October 1954

Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter 083-1002, serial number 53-7787, the second prototype, in flight near Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

5 October 1954: Chief Engineering Test Pilot Tony LeVier made the first flight in the second prototype Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter, 53-7787, at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California. This was the armament test aircraft and was equipped with a General Electric T171 Vulcan 20mm Gatling gun. This six-barreled gun was capable of firing at a rate of 6,000 rounds per minute.

The XF-104 was 49 feet, 2 inches (14.986 meters) long with a wingspan of 21 feet, 11 inches (6.680 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters). The prototypes had an empty weight of 11,500 pounds (5,216 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 15,700 pounds (7,121 kilograms).

While the first prototype, 53-7776, was equipped with a Buick J65-B-3 turbojet engine, the second used a Wright Aeronautical Division J65-W-6 with afterburner. Both were improved derivatives of the Armstrong Siddely Sa.6 Sapphire, built under license. The J65 was a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet with a 13-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. The J65-B-3 was rated at 7,330 pounds of thrust, and the J65-W-6, rated at 7,800 pounds (34.70 kilonewtons), and 10,500 pounds (46.71 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

The XF-104 had a maximum speed of 1,324 miles per hour (2,131 kilometers per hour), a range of 800 miles (1,287 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 50,500 feet (15,392 meters).

The YF-104A pre-production aircraft and subsequent F-104A production aircraft had many improvements over the two XF-104 prototypes. The fuselage was lengthened 5 feet, 6 inches (1.68 meters). The J65 engine was replaced with a more powerful General Electric J79-GE-3 turbojet. There were fixed inlet cones added to control airflow into the engines. A ventral fin was added to improve stability.

53-7787 was lost 19 April 1955 when it suffered explosive decompression at 47,000 feet (14,326 meters) during a test of the T171 Vulcan gun system. The lower escape hatch had come loose due to an inadequate latching mechanism. Lockheed test pilot Herman R. (“Fish”) Salmon was unable to find a suitable landing area and ejected at 250 knots (288 miles per hour/463 kilometers per hour) and 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The XF-104 crashed 72 miles (117 kilometers) east-northeast of Edwards Air Force Base. Salmon was found two hours later, uninjured, about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the crash site.

Tony LeVier with the XF-104 armament test prototype, 53-7787, at Edwards AFB, 1954. LeVier is wearing a David Clark Co. T-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit with K-1 helmet. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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3–5 October 1931

Hugh Herndon, jr. (left) and Clyde Pangborn in the cockpit of Miss Veedol, just before takeoff at Sabashiro Beach, Misawa, Honshu, Japan, 3 October 1931. (Aviation Museum)

3–5 October 1931: At 6:01 a.m., local time, 4 October (21:01, 3 October, Greenwich Mean Time), Clyde Edward Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, Jr., flying their Bellanca Skyrocket, Miss Veedol, took off from Sabashiro Beach, on the northern coast of the island of Honshu, Japan. Their destination was Seattle, Washington, 5,500 miles (8,851 kilometers) across the North Pacific Ocean.

Pangborn and Herndon had been on an around-the-world flight, attempting to better the time recently set by Wiley Post and Harold Gatty. The flight was sponsored by Herndon and his mother, Alice Carter Herndon, heiress to the Tide Water Oil Company. Tide Water was the producer of the Veedol line of motor oils and lubricants, so the airplane was named Miss Veedol for public relations purposes.

Delays while traversing the Soviet Union made it impossible to beat the Post/Gatty record time, however, so the pair flew on to Japan, hoping to win prize money offered by several organizations for the first Transpacific flight. They landed in Japan on 8 August, and because they had done so without authorization, were held under house arrest for seven weeks.

Miss Veedol, a Bellanca CH-400 Skyrocket, NR796W, circa 1931. (Granville Oil)

On takeoff, Miss Veedol was seriously overloaded, carrying a reported 915 gallons (3,464 liters) of gasoline and 45 gallons (170 liters) of engine oil. Miss Veedol had been modified by Pangborn so that its landing gear could be dropped, reducing weight by approximately 300 pounds (136 kilograms). The decreased aerodynamic drag resulted in an increase in the airplane’s speed of approximately 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour). Dropping the landing gear would require a belly landing at the destination, however.

When it was time to jettison the landing gear, the mechanism failed, leaving two struts still attached to the airplane. Clyde Pangborn had to go outside the cockpit to remove them.

Pangborn and Herndon flew a Great Circle Course, and the first land that they encountered was Dutch Harbor, at the outer tip of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

The Pacific Northwest was shrouded in rain and fog, so the flyers changed their destination from Seattle to Boise, Idaho. Eventually, however, they decided to land at Wenatachee in eastern Washington State.

At 7:14 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, (14:14 G.M.T.), 5 October (they had crossed the International Date Line), Clyde Pangborne flew Miss Veedol onto the ground at Francher Field, about 5 miles (8 kilometers) northwest of Wenatchee. The total duration of their flight was 41 hours, 13 minutes (1 day, 18 hours, 13 minutes).

The airplane was slightly damaged in the belly landing but was later repaired.

Miss Veedol after belly-landing at Francher Field, near Wenatchee, Washington, 5 October 1931. (Unattributed)

For their accomplishment, Pangborn and Herndo, were awarded the the White Medal of Merit of the Imperial Aeronautical Society by Consul General Kensuke Horinouchi. The presentation took place at the Japanese consulate on 21 November 1931. The United States National Aeronautic Association awarded the two men its 1931 national Harmon Trophy.

Hugh Herndon, Jr. (left) and Clyde Edward Pangborne, with the damaged Miss Veedol, 5 October 1931. (Frank Kubo Collection, Densho Digital Repository)

Miss Veedol was a 1931 Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of America CH-400 Skyrocket,¹ serial number 3004, registered  NR796W. The CH-400 was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot and could carry up to five passengers. The CH-400 was 27 feet, 10 inches (8.484 meters) long with a wingspan of 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) and height of 8 feet, 4 inches (2.540 meters). The standard airplane had an empty weight of 2,592 pounds (1,176 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,600 pounds (2,087 kilograms). Its fuel capacity was 120 gallons (454 liters). Miss Veedol had been modified to carry 620 gallons (2,347 liters) of fuel.

The CH-400 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level.² It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) in diameter, and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The production Skyrocket had a cruise speed of 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour), and maximum speed of 155 miles per hour (249 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) and the normal range was 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

Bellanca built 32 CH-400 Skyrockets.

Miss Veedol was repaired and then sold to American Medical Researches, Inc., of New York City. It was repainted and renamed The American Nurse. While on a planned non-stop New York to Rome flight, 13 September 1932, NR796W disappeared. It was last sighted by the crew of S.S. Winnebago, an Anglo-American Oil Company bulk oil carrier, approximately 900 miles (1,448 kilometers) east of New York, at 11:50 p.m., British Summer Time, on the 13th. The pilot, two passengers, and a groundhog (Marmota monax) named Tailwind, were never seen again.

Clyde Edward Pangborn

Clyde Pangborn was one of the best-known aviators of the Interwar Period. Clyde Edward Pangborn was born 28 October 1894 ³ in Douglas County, Washington. He was the second son of Max Judson Pangborn and Francis Ola Lamb Pangborn, a dressmaker. During his early 20s, Pangborn was employed as a surveyor for the B. H. & S. Smelter at Kellogg, Idaho.

Pangborn enlisted as a Private, United States Army, 11 June 1918. He was trained as a pilot and, on completion, was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Service, Signal Officers Reserve Corps. He was assigned as a flight instructor at Ellington Field, southeast of Houston, Texas. While in the Air Service, Pangborn taught himself to fly an airplane inverted for extended periods, earning himself the nick-name, “Upside-Down Pangborn.” After the Armistice brought World War I to a close, Second Lieutenant Pangborn was released from service and honorably discharged, 21 May 1919.

Through the 1920s, Pangborn was a “barnstormer,” flying demonstrations and performing stunts (such as “wing walking”) and giving rides. Major Gregory Boyington, United States Marine Corps, took his very first flight in an airplane with Clyde Pangborn as the pilot.

On 22 October 1934, Clyde Pangborn was commissioned as a lieutenant, United States Naval Reserve (Special Service). He held this commission until his death.

Clyde Pangborne married the French actress, Mlle. Jisele A. Duval (also known by her stage name, Swana Beaucaire) at Southampton, England, February 1938. They had met two years earlier when he pulled her out of a snow bank in Switzerland. They were divorced at Reno, Nevada, 3 April 1944.

During the early years of World War II, Pangborn worked for the Clayton Knight Committee, recruiting unemployed American pilots for the the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force. He then joined the R.A.F. Transport Command as a civilian pilot. Captain Pangborne ferried aircraft and equipment across the Atlantic from Canada to the United Kingdom. He made approximately 175 Transatlantic flights.

In August 1942, Pangborn flew an Avro Lancaster Mk.I, R5727, across the North Atlantic to be used as a pattern aircraft for Canadian Lancaster production. Though the Lancaster was considered to be a very long-range bomber, a fuel stop was required at Gander. Pangborn flew the Lancaster around Canada and the United States, allowing aeronautical engineers and military personnel to examine the four-engine British bomber.

Avro Lancaster Mk.I R5727 over Montreal, 1942. (Royal Air Force)

Following World War II, Pangborn was awarded the King’s Medal for Service in the Cause of Freedom by His Majesty, George VI.

Clyde Edward Pangborn died 29 March 1958, at Manhattan, New York City, at the age of 63 years. He was buried with military honors at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Hugh Herndon Jr., was born at Titusville, Pennsylvania, 3 October 1899. He was the son of Hugh Herndon, Sr., an attorney, and Alice Carter Herndon.

Herndon married Miss Mary Ellen Farley at New York, 14 June 1931. He famously “rescued her from possible death in the tentacles of a large octopus,” at Sandy Key Island in the Bahamas, 15 January 1932. They divorced in 1948. Herndon then married Ruth D. Claiborne, 22 November 1948.

Herndon was an operations manager for Trans World Airlines, based in Cairo, Egypt. He died at his residence at Zamelek, at 10:00 p.m., 4 April 1952. He was cremated and his remains turned over to Mrs. Herndon.

¹ Some sources describe NR796W as a “CH-300 J.” It was registered by the Aeronautics Branch, United States Department of Commerce, as a “CH400 Skyrocket.”

² The Pratt & Whitney Wasp C was also used by the U.S. Army and Navy, designated R-1340-7. In military service, it was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. at Sea Level.

³ Washington State Department of Health Birth Index.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 October 1930

Rigid Airship R101, G-FAAW, at mooring mast. (The Airship Heritage Trust)
Rigid Airship R.101, G-FAAW, at its mooring mast, RAF Cardington. (The Airship Heritage Trust)
Flight Lieutenant Herbert Carmichael Irwin, AFC, Royal Air Force (1894 –1930)
Flight Lieutenant Herbert Carmichael Irwin, AFC, Royal Air Force.

5 October 1930: Two days after receiving its Certificate of Airworthiness from the Air Ministry, the British rigid airship R.101, registration G-FAAW, was on its maiden voyage from Cardington, Bedfordshire, England, to Karachi, India, with 12 passengers and a crew of 42. The new airship was under the command of Flight Lieutenant Herbert Carmichael (“Bird”) Irwin, AFC, Royal Air Force, a highly experienced airship commander.

Among the passengers were Lord Thomson, Secretary of State for Air, Sir Sefton Brancker, Director of Civil Aviation, and several senior Royal Air Force officers who had been involved in the planning and development of the airship.

R.101 was the largest aircraft that had been built up to that time. Not until the Hindenburg was built five years later would there be anything bigger. Its teardrop shape and been developed in wind tunnel testing and actual flights with R33, which had been extensively modified to obtain detailed flight data.

R.101 required a minimum flight crew of fifteen: a first officer, two second officers, two helmsmen and ten engineers.

The airship was 777 feet, 2½ inches (236.893 meters) long and 131 feet, 9 inches (40.157 meters) in diameter. The airship had an overall height of 141 feet, 7 inches (43.155 meters). Built of stainless steel girders which were designed and built by Boulton & Paul Ltd., and covered with doped fabric, buoyancy was created by hydrogen gas contained in bags spaced throughout the envelope. The maximum gas capacity of the airship was 5,508,800 cubic feet (155,992 cubic meters). The hydrogen weighed 71.2 pounds per 1,000 cubic feet (32.3 kilograms/28.3 cubic meters). The airship’s fuel capacity was 9,408 gallons (42,770 liters) and it carried 215 gallons (977 liters) of lubricating oil.

R.101 was powered by five steam-cooled, 5,131.79-cubic-inch-displacement (84.095 liters) William Beardmore & Company Ltd. Tornado Mark III inline 8-cylinder heavy-oil compression-ignition (diesel) engines. These were developed from railroad engines. Each engine weighed 4,773 pounds (2,165 kilograms). They could produce 650 horsepower, each, at 935 r.p.m., but because of vibrations resulting from the very long crankshaft, engine speed was reduced to 890 r.pm., which decreased power output to 585 horsepower. The engines turned 16 foot (4.877 meter) diameter two-bladed wooden propellers, which gave R101 a maximum speed of 71 miles per hour (114.3 kilometers per hour), with a sustained cruising speed of 63 miles per hour (101.4 kilometers per hour). Two of the engines, designated Mark IIIR, could be stopped then restarted to run in the opposite direction to slow or reverse the airship.

The airship had an empty weight of 113 tons (114,813 kilograms), and 169.85 tons (380,464 kilograms) of gross lift capacity.

A  400 man ground handling crew walks R.101 out of its shed at Cardington, Bedfordshire. This photograph shows the immense size of the airship. (The Airship Heritage Trust)

R.101 departed its base at Cardington, Bedfordshire, on 4 October and soon encountered rain and high winds which continually blew it off course. The course was constantly adjusted to compensate and by 2:00 a.m., 5 October, the airship was in the vicinity of Beauvais Ridge in northern France, “which is an area notorious for turbulent wind conditions.”

At 0207 hours, R.101 went into an 18° dive which lasted approximately 90 seconds before the flight crew was able to recover. It then went into a second 18° degree dive and impacted the ground at 13.8 miles per hour (22.2 kilometers per hour). There was a second impact about 60 feet (18 meters) further on and as the airship lost buoyancy from the ruptured hydrogen bags, it settled to the ground. Escaping hydrogen was ignited and the entire airship was engulfed in flames. Of the 54 persons on board, only 8 escaped, but 2 of those would soon die from injuries in the hospital at Beauvais.

The stainless steel girder structure of R.101 is all that remains after the fire. (Wikipedia)

This was a national disaster. The dead were honored with a state funeral, and all 48 lay in state at the Palace of Westminster.

The cause of the crash of R.101 is uncertain, but it is apparent that for some reason it rapidly lost buoyancy forward. It was considered to have been very well designed and built, but as it was state-of-the-art, some of the design decisions may have led to the disaster.

The wreckage of R.101 on Beauvais Ridge, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. (The Airship Heritage Trust)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 October 1914

Sergeant Joseph Frantz and Corporal Louis Quénault. (Unattributed)
Sergeant Joseph Frantz and Corporal Louis Quénault. (Unattributed)

5 October 1914: The first aerial combat between two airplanes took place during World War I over Jonchery, Reims, France.

A French Voisin III biplane of Escadrille VB24, flown by Sergeant Joseph Frantz with observer Corporal Louis Quénault, engaged a German Aviatik B.II flown by Oberleutnant Fritz von Zangen and Sergeant Wilhelm Schlichting of FFA 18.

Voisin III. (Unattributed)
Voisin III. (Unattributed)

The Voisin was armed with a Hotchkiss M1909 8mm machine gun. Corporal Quénault fired two 48-round magazines at the German airplane, whose crew returned fire with rifles. Quénault’s machine gun jammed and he continued to fire on the Aviatik with a rifle.

The German airplane crashed and von Zangen and Schlichting were killed.

This was the first air-to-air kill in the history of warfare.

Aviatik B.II
Aviatik B.II No. B 558/15, Hangest-en-Santerre, France, circa 1915. (Unattributed)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 October 1907

Nulli Secundus (Cale & Polden Ltd., Aldershot)
Nulli Secundus (Gale & Polden Printers, Aldershot)

5 October 1907: The British Army Dirigible No 1, Nulli Secundus, flown by Colonel John E. Capper, Royal Engineers, Superintendent of the Royal Balloon Factory, and Samuel Frederick Cody, made a flight from the Balloon Factory at Farnborough to London. After circling St. Paul’s Cathedral, the crew attempted to return to Farnborough but unfavorable winds forced them to moor the airship at the Crystal Palace. The flight covered a distance of 40 miles (64 kilometers) and took 3 hours, 25 minutes.

A contemporary news article described the event:

The military airship “Nulli Secundus” made a successful trip to London from Farnborough on Saturday last. Starting at 10.40, with Colonel Capper and Mr. Cody on board, the airship—a huge sausage-shaped balloon of goldbeater’s skin of thirty thousand cubic feet capacity driven by a fifty horse-power petrol-engine—travelled to London at a rate of about twenty-five miles an hour, passing over Buckingham Palace and the War Office, and circling round St. Paul’s. On the return journey a strong head-wind brought the airship almost to a standstill over Clapham Common, and its course was altered to Sydenham, where it descended safely in the grounds of the Crystal Palace. From the spectacular point of view, the experiment was a splendid success, as the airship passed over London at a height of only seven hundred and fifty feet, and at this stage of the journey seemed to be completely master of the elements. Journalists who talk of “the conquest of the air,” however, or declare that Colonel Capper’s fifty-mile flight has completely changed the strategic position of Great Britain, will do well to note that gallant officer’s modest estimate of his achievement. The conditions of the experiment were exceptionally favourable. “At the start the pilot-balloon we sent up showed that there was no wind at all.” The slight breeze which sprang up was with them on their way to London; but the moderate head-wind at Clapham pevented them from making any progress at all. Colonel Capper summed up the lessons of the trip by observing:—”We have got a decent slow-speed airship which we can navigate if the wind is not too strong”—i.e., more than fifteen miles an hour—”and which can be raised and depressed at will without the use of ballast. We do not pretend that what we have done to-day is anything first-class, but we do say it is satisfactory as a first attempt.” We may further note that the return journey to Farnborough has been abandoned owing to the damage done to the airship by a high wind on Thursday morning.

The Spectator, No. 4,137, Saturday, 12 October 1907, at Page 515. 

British Army Dirigible No. 1. (Unattributed)
British Army Dirigible No. 1. (Unattributed)

Nulli Secundus was 120 feet (36.59 meters) in length with a diameter of 26 feet (7.93 meters). The envelope was constructed of fifteen layers of goldbeaters’ skin (the outer membrane of calf intestine) and was filled with hydrogen. The semi-rigid dirigible was powered by a 50 horsepower Antoinette engine. It was capable of 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour).

Several days later, still moored at the Crystal Palace, the hydrogen gas was vented through the relief valves to prevent it being carried away in high winds. To speed up the dirigible’s deflation, the airship’s envelope was slashed. The materials were salvaged and returned to the Balloon Factory, where they were used to construct Nulli Secundus II.

Major General Sir John Edward Capper, KCB, KCVO, portrait by Elliott & Fry, 1916. (National Portrait Gallery NPGx82404)
Major General Sir John Edward Capper, KCB, KCVO. Portrait by Elliott & Fry, 1916. (National Portrait Gallery NPGx82404)

Major General Sir John Edward Capper, KCB, KCVO, was a senior British Army officer, born in India in 1861. He served on the Northwest Frontier, South Africa, and commanded the 24th Division during the Battle of the Somme. He was also Commander of the Tank Corps.

Samuel Franklin Cody (1867–1913), photographed in 1909.
Samuel Franklin Cody, 1909. (Monash University)

Samuel Franklin Cody, born Samuel Cowdery, (1867–1909) was an American who had been an early pioneer in manned kites and gliders, airships and powered airplanes. His flight British Army Aeroplane No 1 at Aldershot, 5 October 1908—one year after the cross-country flight of Nulli Secundus—is officially considered to be the first flight of a powered airplane in Great Britain.

Cody commonly dressed in cowboy fashion, and appeared similar to “Buffalo Bill” Cody, whose name he had adopted in 1889. He had been a performer in a “wild west show” that traveled to England.

Samuel Cody was killed 7 August  1913 when a new airplane he was testing, the Cody Floatplane, came apart “due to inherent structural weakness,” at about 200 feet (61 meters).

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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