Daily Archives: December 11, 2017

11 December 1972 19:54:58 UTC, T plus 110:21:58

Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands in front of the lunar lander Challenger (LM-12) and the lunar rover, 01:13:58 UTC, 12 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands in front of the lunar lander Challenger (LM-12) and the lunar rover, 01:13:58 UTC, 12 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

11 December 1972, 19:54:58 UTC: Apollo 17 lunar module Challenger with astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt landed at the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon.

Apollo 17 was the last manned moon mission.

Gene Cernan was the last human to stand on the lunar surface.

Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt and the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt and the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 December 1959

Lieutenant General Joseph H. Moore (1914–2007)
Lieutenant General Joseph H. Moore, United States Air Force

11 December 1959: Brigadier General Joseph H. Moore, U.S. Air Force, Wing Commander, 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record when he flew a Republic F-105B-20-RE Thunderchief, serial number 57-5812, over a closed 100-kilometer (62.137 miles) closed course at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The Thunderchief averaged 1,878.67 kilometers per hour (1,167.35 miles per hour).¹ General Moore’s fighter bomber was a standard production aircraft and it was armed with a full load of ammunition for the M61 cannon.

FAI Record File Num #8873 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 100 km without payload
Performance: 1 878.67 km/h
Date: 1959-12-11
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant Joseph H. Moore (USA)
Aeroplane: Republic F-105B
Engine: 1 Pratt & Whitney J-75

Republic F-105B-1-RE Thunderchief 54-102. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-105B-1-RE Thunderchief 54-102. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-105 was the largest single-seat, single-engine combat aircraft in history. It was designed as a tactical nuclear strike aircraft and fighter-bomber. The leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces were swept to 45° and the fuselage of the F-105B incorporated the “area rule” which gave the Thunderchief its characteristic “wasp waist” shape. The Thunderchief was 63 feet, 1 inch (19.228 meters) long with a wingspan of 34 feet, 11 inches (10.643 meters). It was 19 feet, 8 inches high (5.994 meters). The F-105 had an empty weight of 27,500 pounds (12,474 kilograms) and a maximum weight of 46,998 pounds (21,318 kilograms).

Brigadier General Joseph H. Moore with a Republic F-105 Thunderchief.
Brigadier General Joseph H. Moore with a Republic F-105 Thunderchief.

Early production F-105Bs had the Pratt & Whitney J75-P-5 axial-flow turbojet engine. Beginning with the Block 20 aircraft, the more powerful J75-P-19 was installed. The -19 engine was retrofitted to the earlier aircraft. The J75-P-19 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet engine with afterburner. It used a 15-stage compressor section (8 high- and 7 low-pressure stages) and a 2-stage turbine section. The J75-P-19 was rated at 16,200 pounds of thrust (72.06 kilonewtons), and 25,000 pounds (111.21 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

Armament consisted of one 20 mm General Electric M61 Vulcan six-barreled Gatling gun with 1,028 rounds of ammunition. The F-105 could carry up to 8,000 pounds (3,628.7 kilograms) of bombs in an internal bomb bay, or a total of 14,000 pounds (6,350.3 kilograms) of bombs, rockets or guided missiles on centerline or underwing pylons.

The F-105B had a maximum speed of 1,375 miles per hour (2,213 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 48,100 feet (14,661 meters). Maximum range was 2,200 miles (3,541 kilometers).

Republic Aircraft Corporation built 833 Thunderchiefs for the U.S. Air Force. 75 of those were F-105Bs. 372 F-105s were lost to enemy action in South East Asia.

Republic F-105B-20-RE Thunderchief 57-5812 served with the 119th Tactical Fighter Squadron, New Jersey Air National Guard and was later assigned to the 466th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 508th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. One source indicates that the the record-setting F-105B was used as a battle damage repair trainer at McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, from October 1980.

Six F-105B-10-REs (6 of 9 block 10 aircraft built) of General Moore's 4th Tactical Fighter Wing parked on the ramp. The stripes on the nose and vertical fin are green. Aircraft are (nearest to farthest) S/N 57-5779, -5780, -5782, -5784, -5781, -5778. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Six F-105B-10-REs (6 of 9 block 10 aircraft built) of General Moore’s 4th Tactical Fighter Wing parked on the ramp. The stripes on the nose and vertical fin are green. Aircraft are (nearest to farthest) 57-5779, -5780, -5782, -5784, -5781, -5778. (U.S. Air Force)
Three Republic F-105B-20-RE Thunderchiefs, serial numbers 57-5815, 57-5807 and 57-5822, begin their takeoff roll. This is the same block number as the F-105B flown by General Moore for the FAI World Speed Record. (U.S. Air Force)
Three Republic F-105B-20-RE Thunderchiefs, serial numbers 57-5815, 57-5807 and 57-5822, begin their takeoff roll. These are from the same production block as the F-105B flown by General Moore for the FAI World Speed Record. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-105B-20-RE Thunderchief 57-5812, assigned to the 466th Tactical Fighter Squadron. (Million Monkey Theater)
The World Speed Record holder, Republic F-105B-20-RE Thunderchief 57-5812, assigned to the 466th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 508th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (Million Monkey Theater)

¹ Many sources cite General Moore’s World Record Speed for the 100-kilometer closed course at 1,216.48 miles per hour (1,957.745 kilometers per hour). The FAI’s official web site gives General Moore’s speed as 1,878.67 kilometers per hour (1,167.35 miles per hour). (See above.) Also, many sources (including General Moore’s official Air Force biography) state that General Moore won the Bendix Trophy for this flight. The Bendix Trophy was awarded to the winner of an annual West-to-East transcontinental air race. The Smithsonian Institution indicates that the Bendix Trophy was not awarded for the years 1958, 1959 or 1960.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 December 1951

Test pilot William R. Murray at the control of Kaman K-225, Bu. No. 125477, with a Boeing 502-2 gas turbine engine installed, hovering out of ground effect. (U.S. Navy)

11 December 1951: The first helicopter powered by a gas turbine engine made its first flight at the Kaman Aircraft Company plant at Bloomfield, Connecticut. Using a K-225 tandem rotor helicopter delivered to the U.S. Navy in 1949, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (“Bu. No.”) 125477, Kaman replaced the 220 horsepower Lycoming O-435-A2 reciprocating engine with a Boeing 502-2E turboshaft engine. This engine could produce 175 continuous horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m. at Sea Level (output), less than the piston engine it replaced, but it also weighed considerably less.

K-225 Bu. No. 125477 was the first helicopter to perform an intentional loop, when it was delivered to the Navy at NATC Patuxent River by factory test pilot William R. Murray. It was placed in storage at Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut until 1957. The gas turbine had been removed. When the helicopter was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1957, a similar-appearing Boeing YT-50-BO-2 gas turbine engine was installed.

The K-225 was a two-place, single-engine helicopter using Kaman’s unique system of counter-rotating, intermeshing rotors (“synchropter”). Each rotor cancelled the torque reaction of the other, eliminating the need for a tail rotor. In a conventional single-rotor helicopter, up to 30% of the engine power is required to drive the tail rotor. With the counter-rotating design, the total engine power is available for lift and thrust.

K-225 Bu. No. 125477 is 22 feet, 5 inches (6.83 meters) long. Each rotor has a diameter of 38 feet (11.58 meters). It stands 11 feet, 6 inches (3.51 meters) high. The helicopter has an empty weight of 1,800 pounds (816 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 2,700 pounds (1,225 kilograms). It is a slow helicopter, with a never-exceed (VNE) limit of 70 miles per hour (112.7 kilometers per hour). This historic helicopter is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Kaman K-225, Bu. No. 125477, the first gas turbine-powered helicopter, at the Vertical Flight Gallery, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Chantilly, Virginia. (NASM)
Kaman K-225, Bu. No. 125477, the first gas turbine-powered helicopter, at the Vertical Flight Gallery, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Chantilly, Virginia. (NASM)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 December 1945

Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, the Pacusan Dreamboat. (U.S. Air Force)
Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, the Pacusan Dreamboat. (U.S. Air Force)

11 December 1945: Three days after Lieutenant Colonel Henry E. Warden and Captain Glen W. Edwards set a transcontinental speed record flying a prototype Douglas XB-42 from Long Beach California to Washington, D.C. in 5 hours, 17 minutes, Colonel Clarence S. Irvine and the crew of the B-29 Pacusan Dreamboat also set a record, flying from Burbank, California to overhead Floyd Bennett Field, New York, in 5 hours, 27 minutes, 8 seconds. The average speed for the 2,464-mile flight was 450.38 miles per hour (724.82 kilometers per hour).

Lieutenant General Clarence S. Irvine, U.S. Air Force

Irvine was Deputy Chief of Staff, Pacific Air Command, 1944–1947. He flew the Pacusan Dreamboat on several record-setting flights, including Guam to Washington, D.C., and Honolulu, Hawaii to Cairo, Egypt. He rose to the rank of lieutenant general in the United States Air Force, and served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel.

Pacusan Dreamboat was a Bell Aircraft Corporation B-29B-60-BA Superfortress, built at Marietta, Georgia. The B-29B was a lightweight variant of the B-29, intended for operation at lower altitudes. It did not have the four power gun turrets and their .50-caliber machine guns. A radar-directed 20 mm cannon and two .50-caliber machine guns in the tail were the only defensive weapons. Much of the standard armor plate was also deleted. Pacusan Dreamboat was further lightened. The tail guns were removed and the tail reshaped.

The B-29B was equipped with four air-cooled, fuel-injected Wright R-3350-CA-2 Duplex Cyclone two-row 18 cylinder radial engines and specially-designed propellers. The engine nacelles were modified for improved cooling.

The Superfortress had been lightened to an empty weight of 66,000 pounds (29,937 kilograms). A standard B-29B weighed 69,000 pounds (31,298 kilograms) empty and 137,000 pounds (62,142 kilograms) fully loaded. Additional fuel tanks installed on the Dreamboat were able to carry 10,000 gallons (37,854 liters) of gasoline.

Colonel Clarence S. Irvine (standing, left) with the crew of Pacusan Dreamboat: W.J.Benett, G.F.Broughton, Dock West, W.S. O’Hara, F.S. O’Leary, K.L. Royer, F.J.Shannon, J.A. Shinnault, G.R. Stanley. (FAI)
Colonel Clarence S. Irvine (standing, left) with the crew of Pacusan Dreamboat: W.J.Benett, G.F.Broughton, Dock West, W.S. O’Hara, F.S. O’Leary, K.L. Royer, F.J.Shannon, J.A. Shinnault, G.R. Stanley. (FAI)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 December 1941

Captain Henry Talmage Elrod, USMC. (1905–1941). Awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions in the defense of Wake Island.
Captain Henry Talmage Elrod, United States Marine Corps, was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions in the defense of Wake Island. (U.S. Navy)

11 December 1941: The last four aircraft of Marine Fighter Squadron 211 (VMF 211), led by Captain Henry Talmage Elrod, U.S. Marine Corps, attacked the invading Imperial Japanese Navy South Seas Force, consisting of four light cruisers, six destroyers, two patrol boats and two amphibious support ships with 450 Special Navy Landing Force soldiers, as they approached to invade the United States outpost at Wake Island. The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats bombed the destroyer IJN Kisaragi.

A U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in non-specular blue-gray over light-gray scheme in early 1942. (U.S. Navy)
A U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in non-specular blue-gray over light-gray scheme in early 1942. (U.S. Navy)

VMF 211 had lost two-thirds of its aircraft on Monday, 8 December:

“. . . 36 twin-engine bombers based on Roi and Namur Islands in the Kwajalein Atoll, 620 miles to the southward, executed the day-bombing missions.  The first strike, three 12-plane vees dove out of a rain squall at noon 8 December. The surf was roaring so furiously that nobody ashore heard or saw the enemy until fifteen seconds before the first bombs hit. The planes leveled out at 2000 feet altitude and made for the airfield, where 8 Wildcats were being serviced and fueled. Here 4 grounded planes disintegrated under direct hits; fire spread and destroyed 3; the eighth was hit but later salvaged; 23 Marine officers and men were left dead or dying. . . Four Wildcats now got into the battle, strafing the retreating ships and dropping their little 100-pound bombs from an extemporized release, returning to rearm, take off and bomb again. They put the torpedo battery of Tenryu out of action, hit the radio shack of Tatsuta, and started gasoline fires on a transport. One plane was badly shot up; the pilot, Captain Elrod, just managed to ground it on the beach, burning and broken, but he had already made a lethal pass at the retreating destroyer Kisaragi, which carried an extra load of depth charges. A second Wildcat was just pushing over to press home an attack on this destroyer at 0731 when she blew up and sank. There were no survivors.

History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume III: The Rising Sun in the Pacific 1931–April 1942, by Samuel Eliot Morison, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1988. Chapter XII at Pages 230 and 234.

IJN Kisaragi was sunk off Wake Island by four F4F-3 Wildcats of VMF 211, 11 December 1941. (Kure Maritime Museum)
The Mitsuki-class destroyer IJN Kisaragi was sunk off Wake Island by four F4F-3 Wildcats of VMF 211, 11 December 1941. (Kure Maritime Museum)

A few minutes earlier another destroyer, IJN Hayate, had received two direct hits in its magazines from the 5-inch/51-caliber guns of Battery L, a coast defense artillery battery of the U.S. Marines. It was hit at a range of 4,000 yards (3,658 meters), exploded and sank with all hands. The invasion force flag ship, light cruiser IJN Yubari, received 11 direct hits from the Marine gunners. Under the combined air and artillery attacks, the invasion force withdrew.

The island finally fell to the unrelenting Japanese attacks, 23 December 1941.

Captain Henry T. Elrod's Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, 211-F-11, Bu. No. 4019, shown here damaged beyond repair and salvaged for parts, took part in the attack on IJN Kisaragi. (Imperial Japanese Navy)
Captain Henry T. Elrod’s Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, 211-F-11, Bu. No. 4019 (second number series), shown here damaged beyond repair and salvaged for parts, took part in the attack on IJN Kisaragi. (Imperial Japanese Navy)

Captain Elrod’s fighter was a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, designed by Robert Leicester Hall as a carrier-based fighter for the United States Navy. The F4F was a single-place, single-engine, mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear, designed to operate from land bases or U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat

The F4F-3 was 28 feet, 10½ inches (8.801 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.582 meters) and overall height of 11 feet, 9 inches (3.581 meters). Unlike the subsequent F4F-4, which had folding wings for storage aboard aircraft carriers, the F4F-3 had fixed wings. The wings had an angle of incidence of 0°, and 5° dihedral. The horizontal stabilizer span was 13 feet, 8 inches (4.166 meters) with 1½° incidence. The empty weight of the basic F4F-3 was 5,238 pounds (2,376 kilograms), and the gross weight was 7,065 pounds (3,205 kilograms).

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat

The F4F-3 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp SSC5-G (R-1830-76) two-row, 14-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-76 had a normal power rating of 1,100 at 2,550 r.p.m., from Sea Level to 3,500 feet (1,067 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 19,000 feet (5,791 meters). It was rated at 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine turned a three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller with a diameter of 9 feet, 9 inches (2.972 meters) through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-76 was 4 feet, 0.6 inches (1.221 meters) in diameter, 5 feet, 11.31 inches (1.811 meters) long, and weighed 1,550 pounds (703 kilograms).

The F4F-3 had a maximum speed of 278 miles per hour (447 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 331 miles per hour (533 kilometers per hour) at 21,300 feet (6,492 meters). Its service ceiling was 37,000 feet (11,228 meters). Its maximum range was 880 miles (1,416 kilometers)

The F4F-3 Wildcat was armed with four air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns with 450 rounds of ammunition per gun.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat. (U.S. Navy)

The prototype XF4F-1 made its first flight in 1935. It was substantially improved as the XF4F-2. The first production F4F-3 Wildcat was built in February 1940. The airplane remained in production through World War II, with 7,860 built by Grumman and General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division (FM-1 Wildcat).

According to the National Naval Aviation Museum, F4F Wildcats held a 9:1 ratio of victories over Japanese aircraft, with 1,006 enemy airplanes destroyed in combat.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, circa 1942. (U.S. Navy)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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