Daily Archives: November 2, 2017

2 November 1953

Air Force officers examine the wreck of teh prototype Convair YF-102, 52-994, near Edwards AFB, 2 November 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Air Force officers examine the wreck of the prototype Convair YF-102, 52-7994, near Edwards AFB, 2 November 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

On 2 November 1953, the Convair YF-102 prototype, 52-7994 was severely damaged when its Pratt & Whitney J57-P-11 engine flamed out during a test flight. The cause was traced to the engine’s Bendix fuel control. Dick Johnson was unable to restart the engine and was forced to make a gear-up landing in the desert, not far from Edwards Air Force Base. Johnson was seriously injured. The prototype was written off.

Wreck of Convair YF-102 52-7994 near Edwards Air Force Base, 2 November 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Wreck of Convair YF-102 52-7994 near Edwards Air Force Base, 2 November 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 November 1947

Nov. 2, 1947: The Hughes Aircraft H-4 Hercules "Spruce Goose" during short flight in the Long Beach-Los Angeles Harbor. This photo was published in the Nov. 3, 1947 LA Times. (Los Angeles Times)
“Nov. 2, 1947: The Hughes Aircraft H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose” during short flight in the Long Beach-Los Angeles Harbor. This photo was published in the Nov. 3, 1947 L.A. Times.” (Los Angeles Times)

2 November 1947: Howard Hughes’ Hughes Aircraft Company H-4 Hercules flying boat, NX37602, made its first and only flight at the harbor of Los Angeles, California. The new media called it “The Spruce Goose” due to its strong but lightweight wooden construction. As with the famous de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito fighter-bomber, the use of wood freed up valuable metal alloys during World War II.

Conceived by Henry J. Kaiser, the airplane was initially called the HK-1. It was designed to carry as many as 750 fully-equipped soldiers on transoceanic flights.

Hughes H-4 Hercules NX37602 in San Pedro Bay, 2 November 1947. Two U.S. Navy heavy cruisers and a fleet oiler are in the background. On the horizon is Santa Catalina Island, "Twenty-six miles across the sea...." (LIFE Magazine)
Hughes H-4 Hercules NX37602 in San Pedro Bay, 2 November 1947. Two U.S. Navy heavy cruisers and a fleet oiler are in the background. On the horizon is Santa Catalina Island. (LIFE Magazine)

The H-4 is 218 feet, 8 inches (66.650 meters) long with a wingspan of 320 feet, 11 inches (97.815 meters). Its height is 79 feet, 4 inches (24.181 meters). The Hercules’ designed loaded weight is 400,000 pounds (181,437 kilograms).

Eight 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.489 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major VSB11-G (R-4360-4A) four-row 28-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 7:1. The R-4360-4A had a Normal Power rating of 2,500 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), 2,200 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. to 14,500 feet (4,420 meters), and a Takeoff rating of 3,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. The Military Power rating was also 3,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., to an altitude of 1,500 feet (457 meters), then decreased to 2,400 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. to 13,500 feet (4,115 meters). The engines turned four-bladed Hamilton Standard propellers with a diameters of 17 feet, 2 inches (5.232 meters) through a 0.425:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-4A was 8 feet, 0.75 inches (2.457 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,390 pounds (1,538 kilograms).

On its only flight, the H-4 Hercules traveled approximately one mile (1.6 kilometers) at 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour), remaining in ground effect. It never flew again, and its estimated performance was never verified through flight testing.

Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., in the cockpit of the H-4 Hercules, 6 November 1947. (J.R. Eyerman/LIFE Magazine)
Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., in the cockpit of the H-4 Hercules, 6 November 1947. (J.R. Eyerman/LIFE Magazine)

The airplane is on display at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 November 1944

Second Lieutenant Robert Edward Femoyer, Air Corps, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)

2 November 1944: The 8th Air Force sent 638 B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bombers, escorted by 642 P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning fighters from their bases in England, over 500 miles to attack the I.G. Farben Leunawerke synthetic oil refinery at Leuna, a 3-square-mile facility a few miles from Merseberg, Germany.

The Leuna refinery used a hydrogeneration process to produce aviation gasoline from coal. This was the most heavily defended target in all of Germany, surrounded by more than 1,700 88 mm and 105 mm antiaircraft guns (“flak”) in 36-gun batteries. According the the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, “Aircrews viewed a mission to Leuna as the most dangerous and difficult assignment of the air war.

One B-17 pilot described it: “When I describe the flak over Leuna as a cloud, I don’t mean just a wall of smoke; it was a box, the length, width, and depth of our route to the ‘bombs away’ point.”

On the 2 November attack, the bombers were under “intense” anti-aircraft fire for 18 minutes, and heavy fire for 30 minutes. They were also attacked by a record 700 Luftwaffe fighters including the new Me 262 twin-engine jets. The 8th Air Force lost 38 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers and 28 fighters. An astonishing 481 bombers were damaged.

Second Lieutenant Robert E. Femoyer was the navigator on one of those B-17s, commanded by Second Lieutenant Jerome Rosenblum. B-17G-25-DL Flying Fortress 42-38052, Hotshot Green, of the 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy) based at RAF Rattlesden, was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire and fell out of formation.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor

The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
to

FEMOYER, ROBERT E.

(Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, 711th Bombing Squadron, 447th Bomber Group, U.S. Army Air Corps.

Place and date: Over Merseberg, Germany, 2 November 1944.

Entered service at: Jacksonville, Fla. Born: 31 October 1921, Huntington, W. Va.

G.O. No.: 35, 9 May 1945

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty near Merseburg, Germany, on 2 November 1944. While on a mission, the bomber, of which 2d Lt. Femoyer was the navigator, was struck by 3 enemy antiaircraft shells. The plane suffered serious damage and 2d Lt. Femoyer was severely wounded in the side and back by shell fragments which penetrated his body. In spite of extreme pain and great loss of blood he refused an offered injection of morphine. He was determined to keep his mental faculties clear in order that he might direct his plane out of danger and so save his comrades. Not being able to arise from the floor, he asked to be propped up in order to enable him to see his charts and instruments. He successfully directed the navigation of his lone bomber for 2-½ hours so well it avoided enemy flak and returned to the field without further damage. Only when the plane had arrived in the safe area over the English Channel did he feel that he had accomplished his objective; then, and only then, he permitted an injection of a sedative. He died shortly after being removed from the plane. The heroism and self-sacrifice of 2d Lt. Femoyer are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

B-17 Flying Fortress bombers under anti-aircraft artillery fire over Merseberg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force)
B-17 Flying Fortress bombers under anti-aircraft artillery fire over Merseberg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force)

Robert Edward Femoyer was born 30 October 1921 at Huntington, West Virginia. He was the first of two children of Edward Peter Femoyer and Mary Elizabeth Kramer Femoyer. After graduating from St. Joseph’s Central Catholic High School in Huntington, Femoyer attended Marshall College for one year before transferring to the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute (better known as Virginia Tech), at Blacksburg, Virginia, as a member of the Class of 1944.

In February 1942, when he registered with the draft board, Femoyer was an employee of the Hercules Powder Company, a manufacturer of explosives. He was described as having brown hair and eyes, was 6 feet tall and weighed 150 pounds. Femoyer joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps at Roanoke, Virginia, 11 November 1942. He enlisted as a private in the Air Corps 4 February 1943 at Miami Beach, Florida, where he received basic military training.

Aviation Cadet Robert Edward Femoyer, Air Corps, United States Army, 1943. (Imperial War Museum)

After aircrew training at the University of Pittsburgh, March through June, 1943, Aviation Cadet Femoyer was sent to the Mississippi Institute of Aeronautics, Jackson, Mississippi, for flight training. He did not qualify as a pilot but was recommended for training as a navigator. He trained at Selman Army Airfield, near Monroe, Louisiana, and attended aerial gunnery school at Fort Myers, Florida. On graduation, 10 June 1944, Robert Edward Femoyer was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Following combat crew training at Lincoln, Nebraska, he was deployed to England in September 1944. Lieutenant Femoyer was assigned to the 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy) at RAF Rattlesden, southeast of Bury St. Edmunds Suffolk, England.

Second Lieutenant Robert Edward Femoyer’s body was returned to the United States in 1949, and buried at the Greenlawn Cemetery, Jacksonville, Florida. A residential building at Virginia Polytechnic Institute was built following the war and named Femoyer Hall.

Douglas B-17G-25-DL Flying Fortress 42-38052, 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy), RAF Rattlesden, Suffolk, England. At the time of this photograph, the airplane carried the name, Lucky Stehley Boy. (Mark Brown, U.S. Air Force)
Douglas B-17G-25-DL Flying Fortress 42-38052, 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy), RAF Rattlesden, Suffolk, England. At the time of this photograph, the airplane carried the name, Lucky Stehley Boy. (Mark Brown, U.S. Air Force)

B-17G-25-DL 42-38052 was one of 2,400 B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bombers built by the Douglas Aircraft Company at Long Beach, California from 1943 to 1945. 2,395 of these were the “G” variant, with its distinctive “chin” gun turret. -052 was delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1943. In January 1944, the new bomber was assigned to the 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based at U.S. Army Air Forces Station 126 (RAF Rattlesden), Suffolk, England. The new bomber flew its first combat mission 4 February 1944.

The B-17G was camouflaged with the standard U.S.A.A.F. olive drab sides and upper surfaces, with neutral gray underneath. The vertical fin and wing tips were painted yellow and two vertical green stripes circled the aft fuselage. The four engine cowlings were painted blue, and a blue chevron was painted on the top of the right wing, indicating that this B-17 belonged to the 711th Bomb Squadron. The 447th’s group identification, a white letter “K” surrounded by a black square, was painted on the upper portion of the fin. Below this was its abbreviated serial number, “238052.” A black capital “L”, identifying the individual airplane, was painted at the bottom of the fin.

42-38052 was a replacement aircraft and was flown by several crews. It carried the names El Mal Centavo (“The Bad Penny”) and Lucky Stehley Boy, (“. . . so named in honor of Dr. Stehley of Cumberland. . . .”—Grant County Press, Petersburg, West Virginia, Thursday, 31 August 1944, Page 1, Column 6.)

This Vega Aircraft Corporation-built B-17G-105-VE Flying Fortress, 44-85784, seen at Rotterdam, May 1985, is painted in the markings of the 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy). (Jan Arkesteijn)
This Vega Aircraft Corporation-built B-17G-105-VE Flying Fortress, 44-85784, seen at Rotterdam, May 1985, is painted in the markings of the 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy). (Jan Arkesteijn)

On 27 March 1945, -052 crash-landed at B-53, a forward airfield near Merville, France, when its left main landing gear failed to extend. It was repaired and survived the war.

B-17G-25-DL 42-38052, with one main gear extended, just before crash landing at B-53, 1340 hours, 27 March 1945. (U.S. Air Force)
B-17G-25-DL 42-38052, with one main gear extended, just before crash landing at B-53, 1340 hours, 27 March 1945. (U.S. Air Force)

The veteran bomber was flown back to the United States and on 15 August 1945, arrived at the reclamation center at Kingman, Arizona. It was scrapped 8 November 1945, after less than two years of service.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 November 1922

Qantas' first passenger, Alexander Kennedy, at Longreach, Queensland, Australia, 2 November 1922. (Qantas)
Qantas’ first passenger, Alexander Kennedy, at Longreach, Queensland, Australia, 2 November 1922. (Qantas)

2 November 1922: The first scheduled airline passenger to fly aboard the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited was Alexander Kennedy. The pilot was Hudson Fysh (later, Sir Hudson Fysh, KBE, DFC). The engineer was W. Arthur Baird. The trip was from Longreach to Cloncurry, Queensland, Australia.

Qantas’ web site describes the event:

An 84-year-old outback pioneer named Alexander Kennedy became the first Qantas passenger on a scheduled flight. He had agreed to subscribe some cash and join the provisional board provided he got ticket No.1. His flight, on 2 November 1922, was on the Longreach-Winton-McKinlay-Cloncurry section of the inaugural mail service from Charleville to Cloncurry.

Alexander Kennedy's airline ticket, Number 1. (Qantas)
Alexander Kennedy’s airline ticket, Number 1. (Qantas)

Hudson Fysh recalled the event in his book, Qantas Rising, “The Armstrong Whitworth was wheeled out of the hangar at the first streak of dawn, many willing hands helping to push her to the then uneven surface of the stony ‘tarmac’. The 160hp Beardmore engine sprang to life after Baird and his helpers had given the propeller a few turns, and flickering flames jetted from the exhaust stubs.

“I climbed into the cockpit and ran the engine up. Yes, she gave her full revs and all was in readiness. Kennedy climbed in, brushing off assistance as he groped for the foot-niches in the side of the fuselage, and then he was settled with safety belt adjusted. Baird was aboard too. The chocks were pulled away from the wheels, and out we taxied to the far corner of the aerodrome.

“The wind was light and fitful, coming from the north-east in warm puffs. It was going to be a scorching western day. When I opened up the throttle with a roar we gathered motion, careering towards the far fence, but we did not seem to be getting the usual lift, the revs were down a shade, and the old AW refused to come unstuck. I shut off and taxied back for another try.

“After three attempts with the same result I taxied back to the hangar again and running up the engine found that we were 50 revs down, just enough to make the difference. The other machine, old G-AUDE, which the day before had opened the service with McGinness, was hastily got out, our load transferred, and we were out for another try.

“No doubt about it this time as we rose in the morning air and headed over the still sleeping town for Winton, our first stop, 35 minutes late on our departure time.”Qantas

Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service, Ltd., Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 G-AUDE. (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)
Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, Ltd., Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 G-AUDE. (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

The Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 was a World War I-era general purpose biplane which had been designed by Dutch engineer Frederick Koolhoven. It was 32 feet, 0 inches (9.754 meters) long, with a wingspan of 43 feet, 8 inches (13.310 meters) and height of 10 feet, 10 inches (3.302 meters). It had an empty weight of 870 kilograms (1.,918 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight of 1,275 kilograms (2,811 pounds).

The F.K.8 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 16.629 liter (1,014.74-cubic-inch-displacement) Beardmore Aero Engine, Ltd., 160-h.p. inline six-cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 4.76:1. Although the engine was identified as “160 h.p.”, it produced 174 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m., and during a maximum power test, 208 horsepower. The engine weighed 620 pounds (281.2 kilograms).

The F.K.8 had maximum speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 13,000 feet (3,960 meters). Qantas operated three of these biplanes, G-AUCF, G-AUCS and G-AUDE.

Qantas’ Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8, G-AUDE, c/n 69, was formerly Royal Air Force F4231. The airplane had been purchased as surplus equipment by Simpson, Tregilles Aircraft and Transport, Ltd., Perth, Western Australia, and was first registered 28 June 1921. It was sold to Quantas in 5 September 1922. The airplane was damaged beyond economical repair in a forced landing near Blackall, Queensland, 13 September 1923. The pilot was not injured. The airplane was dismantled and later burned.

The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited's Armstrong Whitworth FK8 at Longreach, Queensland, Australia, 2 November 1922. Alexander Kennedy, the first scheduled passenger, is third from the right. (National Library of Australia)
The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited’s Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 at Longreach, Queensland, Australia, 2 November 1922. Alexander Kennedy, the first scheduled passenger, is third from the right. (National Library of Australia)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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