Daily Archives: January 7, 2018

7 January 1980

A Mooney M20K, similar to the one flown by Alan Gerharter from San Francsico to Washinto, D.C., taking off at San Jose, California. The landing gear is retracting. (Rich Snyder — Jetarazzi Photography)
A Mooney M20K, similar to the one flown by Alan Gerharter from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., taking off at San Jose, California. The landing gear is retracting. (Rich Snyder — Jetarazzi Photography)
Alan W. Gerharter, ATP, CFI. (AOPA)
Alan W. Gerharter, ATP, CFI. (AOPA)

7 January 1980: In response to a challenge, Alan W. Gerhartner, Chief Flight Instructor of Logan and Reavis Air, Inc., Medford, Oregon, flew a four-place, single-engine Mooney M20K, N231LR, serial number 25-0025, from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Washington National Airport (DCA) in 8 hours, 4 minutes, 25 seconds.

This qualified as a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and U.S. National Speed Record of 486.20 kilometers per hour (302.11 miles per hour).¹

Gerharter had beaten the previous record held by a Malvern Gross, Jr., ² flying a Cessna T210, N5119V, by 3 hours, 3 minutes, 23 seconds. When Gerharter arrived at DCA, Gross was there to meet him.

Gerharter had made temporary modifications to the Mooney for this flight. He had two 25 gallon (94.6 liter) fuel tanks mounted in place of the rear seats, bringing the airplane’s total fuel capacity to 122 gallons (462 liters). The right front seat was removed and two oxygen tanks installed. In an effort to reduce aerodynamic drag, he removed the boarding step at the trailing edge of the right wing.

Waiting for advantageous weather, Alan Gerharter took off from SFO at 6:49 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, 7 January 1980. He climbed to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) and adjusted his power settings to 75%. Though he had meticulously planned a Great Circle Route, electrical problems caused his primary navigation system and autopilot to fail, so he had to navigate as he made his way across the country. The airplane used 103 gallons (390 liters) of fuel during the flight.Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 08.56.45Alan Gerharter’s World and National Records still stand.

A flight of four Mooney M20Ks. The lead airplane is teh world and national record holder Mooney 231 N231LR. (Photograph courtesy of Al Gerharter)
A flight of four Mooney M20Ks. The lead airplane is the world and national record holder, Mooney 231 N231LR. (Photograph courtesy of Alan W. Gerharter)

The Mooney M20K is an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane is 25 feet, 5 inches (7.747 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 1 inch (10.998 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 3 inches (2.516 meters). Its empty weight is 1,800 pounds (816.5 kilograms) and gross weight is 2,900 pounds (1,315 kilograms).

The M20K is powered by an air-cooled, fuel-injected and turbocharged, 359.656-cubic-inch-displacement (5.894 liter) Teledyne Continental TSIO-360-GB-1 horizontally-opposed six-cylinder direct-drive engine. It has a compression ration of 7.5:1 and is rated at 210 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. with 40.0 inches manifold pressure (1.365 Bar). The engine turns a two-bladed McCauley constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 2 inches (1.879 meters). Most TSIO-360-GB engines still in service have been converted to the TSIO-360-LB configuration. The -LB is 2 feet, 3.53 inches (0.699 meters) high, 2 feet, 7.38 inches (0.797 meters) wide and 4 feet, 8.97 inches (1.447 meters) long. It has a dry weight of 343.35 pounds (155.74 kilograms).

The Mooney M20K was marketed as the Mooney 231, a reference to its top speed of 201 knots at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters), or 231.3 miles per hour (372.25 kilometers per hour). The M20K has a Maximum Structural Cruising Speed (VNO) of 200 miles per hour (321.9 kilometers per hour), and a Never Exceed Speed (VNE) of 225 miles per hour (362.1 kilometers per hour). The airplane has a maximum operating altitude of 24,000 feet (7,315 meters).

The M20K was certified in 1979, 24 years after the original M20 entered production, and it was produced until 1998. The M20 series continued in production with follow-on models until 2008.

The transcontinental speed record Mooney 231, N231LR, covered with dust in a hangar at Clovis Municipal Airport, New Mexico, 7 January 2012. (D&D Aircraft)
The transcontinental speed record-setting Mooney 231, N231LR, covered with dust in a hangar at Clovis Municipal Airport (CVN), Texico, New Mexico, 7 January 2012. (D&D Aviation)

Mooney M20K N231LR was issued an Airworthiness Certificate on 27 December 1978. It is currently registered in Florida.

¹ FAI Record File Number 13854: Speed Over a Recognised Course, 486.20 kilometers per hour (302.11 miles per hour), 7 January 1980. Current Record.

² FAI Record File Number 965: Speed Over a Recognised Course, 352.36 kilometers per hour (218.95 miles per hour). FAI Record File Number 966: Speed Over a Recognised Course, 384.03 kilometers per hour (238.63 miles per hour). Both records were set 1 January 1977.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 January 1967

John Steinbeck aboard a U.S. Army UH-1 helicopter of D Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, at Pleiku, Vietnam, 7 January 1967. (Newsday)
John Steinbeck aboard a U.S. Army UH-1B Iroquois helicopter of D Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, at Pleiku, Vietnam, 7 January 1967. (Newsday)

During 1966–1967, author John Steinbeck was in Vietnam. He wrote a series of dispatches to Newsday which have recently been published as a book, Steinbeck In Vietnam: Dispatches From the War, edited by Thomas E. Barden. University of Virginia Press, 224 pp., $29.95.

On 7 January 1967, Steinbeck was at Pleiku, where he flew aboard a UH-1 Huey helicopter with D Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry. He wrote the following about the helicopter pilots:

“I wish I could tell you about these pilots. They make me sick with envy. They ride their vehicles the way a man controls a fine, well-trained quarter horse. They weave along stream beds, rise like swallows to clear trees, they turn and twist and dip like swifts in the evening. I watch their hands and feet on the controls, the delicacy of the coordination reminds me of the sure and seeming slow hands of (Pablo) Casals on the cello. They are truly musicians’ hands and they play their controls like music and they dance them like ballerinas and they make me jealous because I want so much to do it. Remember your child night dream of perfect flight free and wonderful? It’s like that, and sadly I know I never can. My hands are too old and forgetful to take orders from the command center, which speaks of updrafts and side winds, of drift and shift, or ground fire indicated by a tiny puff or flash, or a hit and all these commands must be obeyed by the musicians hands instantly and automatically. I must take my longing out in admiration and the joy of seeing it. Sorry about that leak of ecstasy, Alicia, but I had to get it out or burst.”

Bell UH-1B Iroquois gunship of D Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army. Vietnam ca. 1966–1967. (U.S. Army)
Bell UH-1B Iroquois gunship of D Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army. Vietnam, ca. 1966–1967. (U.S. Army)
Author John Steinbeck observes the Vietnam War from a U.S. Army UH-1B "Huey" helicopter. A gunner mans an M60 7.62mm machine gun. (Associated Press)
Author John Steinbeck observes the Vietnam War from a U.S. Army UH-1B “Huey” helicopter. A gunner mans an M60 7.62mm machine gun. (Associated Press)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 January 1948

Flight of three North American Aviation F-51D Mustangs, 165th Fighter Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)
Flight of three North American Aviation F-51D Mustangs, 165th Fighter Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)

7 January 1948: Captain Thomas Francis Mantell, Jr., 165th Fighter Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard, received a request from the control tower at Godman Army Air Field, Fort Knox, Kentucky, to investigate an Unidentified Object visible to the southwest.

The object was observed by four members of the control tower staff for approximately 35 minutes, from 2:20–2:55 p.m., Central Standard Time.¹

Prior to the sighting by Godman Tower personnel, there had been several telephone calls to the tower from the Kentucky Highway Patrol, reporting numerous sightings by people in two towns which were 147 miles (237 kilometers) apart. The reported sightings were of a large, circular craft, moving at high speed.

Captain Mantell led C Flight, four North American Aviation F-51D ² Mustang fighters, in pursuit. Two pilots broke off because of low fuel, and Mantell became separated from his wingman. He reported that he was climbing through 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) with a large metallic object in sight. He then disappeared. . . .

It is probable that Captain Mantell lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen. The wreckage of his fighter, F-51D-25-NA serial number 44-63869, was found 5 miles (8 kilometers) southwest of Franklin, Kentucky (Mantell’s birthplace), which is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south southwest of Godman Field. Captain Mantell was dead. His wrist watch was stopped at 3:18.

Occurring exactly 6 months after “The Roswell Incident” in New Mexico, “The Mantell Incident” was one of the most publicized “UFO” reports of the 1950s.

The Air Force determined that Mantell was either chasing Venus or a top secret Project Skyhook balloon, and that he had lost consciousness due to hypoxia. The fighter broke up in flight. Looking back with the advantage of 70 years hindsight, the most likely explanation for the Mantell UFO is the balloon.

Captain Thomas F. Mantell, Jr., U.S. Air Force (Kentucky National Guard)

Thomas Francis Mantell, Jr., was born at Franklin, Kentucky, 30 June 1922. He was the first of three children of Thomas Francis Mantell, a traveling salesman, and Claire Morrison Mantell.³ He graduated from Louisville Male High School in 1942.

Thomas F. Mantell, Jr., married Miss Margarete (“Peggy”) Moseley. They would have one child, Thomas F. Mantell III (1942–2007).

Mantell enlisted in the Air Corps, United States Army, as an aviation cadet, 16 June 1942. He graduated from flight school and was commissioned a second lieutenant, Army of the United States, 30 June 1943.

Lieutenant Mantell was assigned as a Douglas C-47 Skytrain pilot with the 96th Troop Carrier Squadron, 440th Troop Carrier Group, Ninth Air Force, at RAF Bottesford. He flew in combat operations during the Normandy Campaign, and is credited with 107:00 flight hours of actual combat time. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters (four awards).

A flight of North American Aviation F-51D Mustangs assigned to the Kentucky Air National Guard, circa 1947. (Kentucky Air National Guard)

Following World War II, Captain Mantell joined the new 165th Fighter Squadron, 123 Fighter Group, Kentucky Air National Guard, which had been established 16 February 1947. The group was based at Standiford Field, Louisville. Mantell transitioned from transport pilot to fighter pilot. In his civilian life, Mantell owned and operated a flight school in Louisville.

Captain Mantell had flown a total of 2,167:00 hours, with 1,608:00 as first pilot. The majority of his flight experience was in the twin-engine Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport. He had only 67:00 hours in the F-51 Mustang. Studies have shown that pilots—regardless of their total flight experience—who have less than 100 hours in type have the same accident rate as a student pilot.

There were unsubstantiated rumors that Mntell’s body had been burned or had been riddled with bullets. The actual cause of his death was described as “dislocation of the brain.”

Thomas Francis Mantell, Jr., was the first flight casualty of the Kentucky Air National Guard. He was buried at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville.

Captain Mantell’s fighter had served with the 358th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group, the “Steeple Morden Strafers,” during World War II. It was assigned to Lieutenant Halbert G. Marsh, who is credited with destroying 5 enemy aircraft on the ground, 16 April 1945. This photograph was taken at RAF Speke, Liverpool, following the War. (U.S. Air Force)

Captain Mantell’s fighter, North American Aviation F-51D-25-NA Mustang 44-63869, was a very low-time airplane, having flown just 174 hours, 25 minutes, since it came off the assembly line at Inglewood, California, 15 December 1944. Its Packard V-1650-7 Merlin engine, serial number V-328830, had the same 174:25 TTSN.

¹ Sources vary as to the time of the incident, with some citing Central Standard Time, others Eastern Standard Time. The EST and CST boundary divides the state of Kentucky, which probably explains the discrepancies.

² The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was redesignated F-51 by the U.S. Air Force in 1948.

³ Some sources identify Mantell’s mother as Elsie Mary Morrison Mantell.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 January 1931

Photograph of Guy Menzies and two other men standing beside his Avro Avian biplane "Southern Cross Junior" at an unidentified aerodrome (probably Wellington), taken in 1931 by Sydney Charles Smith.
Photograph of Guy Menzies and two other men standing beside his Avro Avian biplane “Southern Cross Junior” at an unidentified aerodrome (probably Wellington), taken in 1931 by Sydney Charles Smith. National Library of New Zealand, Reference Number: PAColl-0224-23

7 January 1931: Guy Lambton Menzies (1909–1940) flew an Avro 616 Sports Avian, G-ABCF, Southern Cross Junior, solo across the Tasman Sea from Mascot Aerodrome, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia to New Zealand.

Concerned that aviation authorities would prevent his flight, he had said that his destination was Perth, Western Australia.

While enroute, severe weather blew the Avian off course. Seeing an area that appeared to be level ground, he landed at the La Fontaine Swamp, Hari Hari, Westland, on New Zealand’s South Island. The airplane flipped over.

Guy Menzies was unhurt. His flight had taken 11 hours, 45 minutes.

Hokitika postmaster Ralph Cox with pioneer aviator Guy Menzies, notifying Menzies' parents of his arrival in New Zealand. (Photograph from The Auckland Weekly News, 14 January 1931, via West Coast New Zealand History)
“Hokitika postmaster Ralph Cox with pioneer aviator Guy Menzies, notifying Menzies’ parents of his arrival in New Zealand.” (Photograph from The Auckland Weekly News, 14 January 1931, via West Coast New Zealand History)

According to Terry Mace’s website, A Fleeting Peace: Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire (afleetingpeace.org), G-ABCF was repaired, but crashed again 21 April 1931 at Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Guy Menzies "Southern Cross Junior," an Avro Avian aircraft, upside down in a swamp at Harihari on the West Coast of New Zealand. Photographed by L A Inkster on the 7th of January 1931.
Inkster, Lawrence Andrew, 1897-1955. Guy Menzies Avro Avian aeroplane in a swamp at Hari Hari – Photograph taken by L A Inkster.. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP-Transport-Aviation-Aircraft-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22751222

The Avro 616 Sports Avian was a two-place, single-engine biplane, produced by A.V. Roe from 1926 to 1928. 405 were built. Guy Menzies’ airplane was a specially constructed variant, the Avro 616 Sports Avian IV-A, ordered by Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, M.C., A.F.C., and named Southern Cross Junior. (Sir Charles had flown across the Pacific in 1928 with a Fokker F.VIIb/3m three-engine monoplane named Southern Cross). The Avian was registered to Sir Charles, 20 June 1930.

G-ABCF was 24 feet, 3 inches (7.391 meters) long. Its wingspan had been extended to 30 feet (9.144 meters). It weighed 1,005 pounds (456 kilograms) empty and had a maximum weight of 1,523 pounds (691 kilograms).

The Avian’s standard 105 horsepower A.D.C. Cirrus Hermes engine was replaced with an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 349.89-cubic-inch-displacement (5.734 liter) de Havilland Gipsy II inline 4-cylinder direct-drive engine, rated at 120 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m.

The standard airplane had a maximum speed of 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 12,500 feet (3,810 meters).

Guy Menzies with his wrecked Avro Avian, G-ABCF, at the La Fontaine Swamp. (Archives New Zealand)
Guy Menzies with his wrecked Avro 616 Avian IVA, G-ABCF, at the La Fontaine Swamp. (Archives New Zealand)

While flying a Short Sunderland Mk.I four-engine flying boat from RAF Kalafrana, Malta, Squadron Leader Guy Lambton Menzies, No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force, was killed when his airplane was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea, 1 November 1940. Menzies had previously flown Haile Salassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, from England to Alexandria, Egypt, and was reportedly on a special mission when he was reported missing.

A Short Sunderland Mk.I, W3989, of No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
A Short Sunderland Mk.I, W3989, of No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Squadron Leader Menzies’ younger brother, Flying Officer Ian Lambton Menzies, No. 24 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, was also killed in an airplane crash, 18 April 1941, near Ravenswood, North Queensland, Australia. The airplane, a Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Wirraway, A20-117, a development of North American Aviation’s NA-16 trainer, stalled during a steep turn.

Their mother, Mrs. G.P. Menzies of Drummoyne, New South Wales (a suburb of Sydney), said, “I have given my two sons to the Empire.” —The Daily Telegraph, 19 April 1941.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 January 1785

Balloon Leaving Dover, Jean-Pierre François Blanchard and Dr. John Jeffries depart Dover, 7 January 1785, by E.W. Cocks, oil on canvas, ca. 1840 (Science Museum, London)
Balloon Leaving Dover, Jean-Pierre François Blanchard and Dr. John Jeffries depart Dover, 7 January 1785, by E.W. Cocks, oil on canvas, ca. 1840 (Science Museum, London)

7 January 1785: On a clear, calm day, Jean-Pierre François Blanchard and Doctor John Jeffries flew across the English Channel in a hydrogen-filled balloon. They lifted off from Dover Castle, Kent, England at about 1:00 p.m. The journey to Guînes, Pas-de-Calais, France took about two and a half hours.

The balloon was approximately 8.2 meters (27 feet) in diameter. A gondola was suspended beneath the gas envelope, equipped with oar-like devices that were intended to steer and propel the light-than-air craft.

With sufficient buoyancy to just lift the two aeronauts and their equipment, the Channel crossing was made at a very low altitude. During the flight all ballast, their equipment and most of their clothing were jettisoned. They crossed the French coast at about 3:00 p.m. and at 3:30, came to rest in a clearing in the Felmores Forest, near Guînes.

Balloon Arriving at Calais, by E.W. Cocks, oil on canvas, ca. 1840 (Science Museum, London)
Balloon Arriving at Calais, by E.W. Cocks, oil on canvas, ca. 1840 (Science Museum, London)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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