Daily Archives: July 4, 2018

4 July 1973

Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Manning, Major Paul M. Schaefer and Technical Sergeant Emund K. Schindler, the record-setting crew of Chuck’s Challenge. (FAI)

4 July 1973: One of the last Grumman Albatross flying boats in service with the United States Air Force, HU-16B 51-5282, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) altitude record for amphibians (Class C-3) when, at 12:33 p.m. EDT, it reached 10,022 meters (32,881 feet).¹ This exceeded the previous record set 37 years earlier by 2,417 meters (7,930 feet).²

Flown by Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Manning, Major Paul M. Schaeffer and Technical Sergeant Emund K. Schindler, 51-5282 was assigned to the 301st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Homestead AFB, Florida. After the flight, Manning said, “It wasn’t very comfortable. The outside temperature was 25 below zero.” The Air Force Times reported that the cold caused the lens of Sergeant Schindler’s watch to pop out.

Originally built as an SA-16A, 51-5282 was modified to the SA-16B standard, increasing the wingspan to 96 feet, 8 inches (29.464 meters) and altering the leading edges. Larger tail surfaces were added. In 1962 the designation was changed from SA-16B to HU-16B.

The Albatross was operated by a crew of 4 to 6 airmen, and could carry up to 10 passengers. The amphibian was 62 feet, 10 inches (19.152 meters) long and had an overall height of 25 feet, 11 inches (7.899 meters). The airplane’s total wing area was 1,035 square feet (96.15 square meters). The HU-16B had an empty weight of 23,025 pounds (10,444 kilograms), and maximum takeoff weight of 37,500 pounds (17,010 kilograms). For takeoff from water, the airplane’s weight was limited to 34,000 pound (15,422 kilograms), using rocket assist.

The SA-16A was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 826C9HD3 and -D5 (R-1820-76A and -76B) nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.80:1. 115/145 octane aviation gasoline was required. These engines were rated at 1,275 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m., and 1,425 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m for takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic full-feathering, reversible-pitch propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 0 inches (3.353 meters) through a 0.666:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-76A and -76B were 3 feet, 11.69 inches (1.211 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.95 inches (1.396 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,380 pounds (626 kilograms).

The Albatross could be equipped with two or four Aerojet 14AS1000 RATO units, which produced 1,000 pounds of thrust (4.49 kilonewtons), each, for 15 seconds.

The flying boat had a cruise speed of 134 knots (154 miles per hour/248 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 204 knots (235 miles per hour/379 kilometers per hour) at 3,700 feet (1,128 meters). The service ceiling was 23,800 feet (7,254 meters) and its maximum range was 2,410 nautical miles (2,773 statute miles/4,463 kilometers) with external fuel tanks.

Two weeks after the record-setting flight, 51-5282 was flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, making the very last USAF HU-16 flight.

FAI record-setting Grumman HU-16B Albatross 51-5282 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 3208

² FAI Record File Number 11649, 11650: 7,605 meters (24,951 feet), 14 April 1936,  by Boris Vasilievich Sergievsky, Chief Pilot, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, flying a Sikorsky S-43, with Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky and Michael Pravikov.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 July 1927

Lockheed Vega s/n 1, now marked NC2788 (SDASM)
The first Lockheed Vega 1 NX913 taking off at Rogers Airport, 4 July 1927. (Water and Power Associates)

4 July 1927: The first Lockheed Aircraft Company Vega 1, NX913, made its maiden flight with test pilot Edward Antoine (Eddie) Bellande at Rogers Airport, Los Angeles, California. The airport was at the present location of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, west of downtown Los Angeles.

Bellande was a U.S. Marine Corps flight instructor, and a stunt pilot, test pilot and airline pilot. By the time he had retired in 1943, he was second in seniority among the pilots at Trans World Airways (TWA).

Edward Antoine (“Eddie”) Bellande sits with famed motion picture hero, Rin Tin Tin, ca. 1925. (Unattributed)
Edward Antoine (“Eddie”) Bellande sits with famed motion picture hero, Rin Tin Tin, ca. 1925. (E. A. Bellande Collection)

The Lockheed Vega was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. Both men would later have their own aircraft companies.

The Vega was very much a state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of strips of vertical-grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and bonded together with cassein glue. These were then attached to former rings. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. They were built of spruce spars and ribs, covered with 3/32-inch (2.4 millimeters) spruce plywood.

Components of the first Lockheed Vega 1 before assembly at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)
Components of the first Lockheed Vega 1 before assembly at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)

The Lockheed Vega 1 was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could carry up to four passengers in the enclosed cabin. It was 27.5 feet (8.38 meters) long with a wingspan of 41.0 feet (12.50 meters) and height of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.59 meters). The total wing area (including ailerons) was 275 square feet (25.55 square meters). The wing had no dihedral. The leading edges were swept slightly aft, and the trailing edges swept forward. The Vega 1 had an empty weight of 1,650.0 pounds (748.4 kilograms) and a gross weight of 3,200 pounds (1,452 kilograms).

The Vega 1 engine was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) air-cooled Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5C Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial engine. This was a direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The J-5C was rated at 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 220 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. It was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long, 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter, and weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).

The Vega had a cruising speed of 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour) with the engine turning 1,500 r.p.m., and a top speed of 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour)—very fast for its time. The airplane had a rate of climb of 925 feet per minute (4.7 meters per second) at Sea Level, decreasing to 405 feet per minute (2.1 meters per second) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its service ceiling was 15,900 feet (4,846 meters), and the absolute ceiling was 17,800 feet (5,425 meters). The airplane had a fuel capacity of 100 gallons (379 liters), giving it a range of 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) at cruise speed.

The first Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, nears completion at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)
The first Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, nears completion at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)

Twenty-eight Vega 1 airplanes were built by Lockheed Aircraft Company at the factory on Sycamore Street, Hollywood, California, before production of the improved Lockheed Vega 5 began in 1928 and the company moved to its new location at Burbank, California.

The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars and other astronomical objects.

Lockheed Vega 1, NX913, left profile. There is no registration number painted on the rudder in this photograph. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lockheed Vega 1 NX913 was sold to George Randolph Hearst to enter in the Dole Derby California-to-Hawaii Air Race, and named “Golden Eagle.” (JMF Haase Collection, SDASM Archives)
Lockheed Vega s/n 1, NX913. (SDASM)
Lockheed Vega 1, marked NC2788. (SDASM)
The first Lockheed Vega, now marked NC2788, at Oakland, California, August 1927. (Left to right) Jack Frost, Eddie Bellande, Jack Northrop, Allan Loughead, Ken Jay. (Vintage Air)

Golden Eagle, with its pilot, Jack Frost, and navigator Gordon Scott, was lost while crossing the Pacific Ocean in the disastrous Dole Derby California-to-Hawaii Air Race, 16 August 1927

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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