Daily Archives: January 18, 2019

16–18 January 1957

The three Boeing B-52B Stratofortresses at March AFB, 18 January 1957. (U.S. Air Force)
The three Boeing B-52B Stratofortresses at March AFB, 18 January 1957. (U.S. Air Force)

16 January 1957: Operation POWER FLITE. At 1:00 p.m. PST, five Boeing B-52B Stratofortress eight-engine jet bombers of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command, 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy), departed Castle Air Force Base, near Merced, California, on a non-stop around-the-world flight. 45 hours, 19 minutes later, three B-52s landed at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California, completing the 24,325 miles (39,147 kilometer) flight at an average speed of 534 miles per hour (859 kilometers per hour).

The lead Stratofortress, B-52B-35-BO 53-0394, Lucky Lady III, was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Morris. Morris had been co-pilot aboard Lucky Lady II, a Boeing B-50A Superfortress that flew around the world in 1949. Also aboard Morris’ bomber was Major General Archie J. Old, Jr., commanding 15th Air Force.

Major General Archie J. Old, Jr., U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of B-52B 53-0394. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

Three of the  bombers were considered primary, with two “spares.” Each B-52 carried a flight crew of nine men, including three pilots and two navigators.

A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress refuels in flight from a Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker. The KC-97 had to enter a shallow dive to increase its speed, while teh B-52 flew in landing configuration to fly slow enough to stay with the tanker. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress refuels in flight from a Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker. The KC-97 had to enter a shallow dive to increase its speed, while the B-52 flew in landing configuration to stay with the tanker. (U.S. Air Force)

Four inflight refuelings from piston-engine Boeing KC-97 Stratotankers were required. More than 100 KC-97s participated in Operation POWER FLITE.

One of the primary B-52s, La Victoria, 53-0397, commanded by Major George Kalebaug, was unable to refuel in flight because of ice build-up in its refueling receptacle. The bomber diverted to Goose Bay, Labrador. A second B-52, a spare, as planned, left the flight over North Africa, diverting to an air base in England.

All 27 crewmembers of the three bombers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by General Curtis LeMay. The Mackay Trophy for “the most meritorious flight of the year” was awarded to the 93rd Bombardment Wing.

Lucky Lady III was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It was scrapped in 1984. 53-0397 went to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1966, preceded by 53-0398 in 1965.

Flight helmets of the crew of Lucky Lady III, March AFB, 18 January 1957. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.)
Flight helmets of the crew of Lucky Lady III, March AFB, 18 January 1957. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.)

This record-breaking around the world flight was dramatized in the 1957 Warner Bros. movie “Bombers B-52,” which starred Natalie Wood, Karl Malden and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Poster for the 1957 motion picture, "Bombers B-52".
Poster for the 1957 motion picture “Bombers B-52” (Warner Bros.)

The 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was the first operational Air Force unit to receive the B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B 52-8711, on 29 June 1955.

Fifty B-52Bs were built by Boeing at its Plant 2, Seattle, Washington. The B-52B/RB-52B was operated by a six-man flight crew for the bombing mission, and eight for reconnaissance. These were the aircraft commander/pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radar navigator/bombardier, electronic warfare officer and gunner, plus two reconnaissance technicians when required.

The airplane was 156.6 feet, (47.73 meters) long with a wingspan of 185.0 feet (56.39 meters) and overall height of 48.3 feet, (14.72 meters). The wings were mounted high on the fuselage (“shoulder-mounted”) to provide clearance for the engines which were suspended on pylons. The wings had a 6° angle of incidence and 2° 30′ anhedral. The wings’ leading edges were swept aft 36° 54′. The bomber’s empty weight was 164,081 pounds (74,226 kilograms), with a combat weight of 272,000 pounds (123,377 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 420,000 pounds (190,509 kilograms).

Early production B-52Bs were powered by eight Pratt & Whitney J57-P-1WA turbojet engines, while later aircraft were equipped with J57-P-19W and J57-P-29W or WA turbojets. The engines were grouped in two-engine pods on four under-wing pylons. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). These engines were rated at 8,250 pounds of thrust (36.700 kilonewtons), each, Maximum Continuous Power; 9,500 pounds (42.258 kilonewtons), Military Power (30 minute limit); or 11,400 pounds (50.710 kilonewtons) with water injection (5 minute limit). The J57-P-1WA was 3 feet, 4.5 inches (1.029 meters) in diameter, 13 feet, 1.7 inches (4.006 meters) long, and weighed 4,210 pounds (1,910 kilograms).

The B-52B had a cruise speed of 453 knots (521 miles per hour/839 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), and a maximum speed of 547 knots (630 miles per hour/1,013 kilometers per hour) at 19,900 feet (6,065 meters). The service ceiling with the maximum bomb load was 48,650 feet (14,829 meters), and 55,350 feet (16,855 meters) for a ferry mission.

Tail gun turret of an early B-52 Stratofortress

Maximum ferry range was 6,460 nautical miles (7,434 statute miles/11,964 kilometers). With the maximum bomb load, the B-52B had a combat radius of 2,620 nautical miles (3,015 statute miles/4,852 kilometers), or 3,135 nautical miles (3,608 statute miles/5,806 kilometers) with the design load. With inflight refueling, though, the bomber’s range was essentially world-wide.

Defensive armament consisted of four Browning Aircraft Machine Guns, Caliber .50, AN-M3, mounted in a tail turret with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun. These guns had a combined rate of fire in excess of 4,000 rounds per minute. (Some B-52s were armed with four M24A1 20 mm autocannons with 400 rounds per gun.)

The B-52B’s maximum bomb load was 43,000 pounds (19,505 kilograms). It could carry a maximum of 27 1,000-pound conventional explosive bombs. For strategic missions, the bomber carried one Mark 6 nuclear bomb, which had a yield ranging from 8 to 160 kilotons, depending on Mod, or two Mark 21 thermonuclear bombs, each with a yield of 4–5 megatons.

Boeing manufactured 744 B-52 Stratofortress bombers, with the final one rolled out at Wichita, Kansas, 22 June 1962. As of 27 September 2016, 77 B-52H bombers remain in service with the United States Air Force.

Boeing B-52B-35-BO Stratofortress 53-0394, Lucky Lady III. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 January 1911

Eugene Burton Ely, 1886–1911. (Portrait by J. Ellsworth Gross, Chicago, Illinois, 1910)
Eugene Burton Ely, 1886–1911. (Portrait by J. Ellsworth Gross, Chicago, Illinois, 1910)

17 January 1911: Taking off from the U.S. Army’s Selfridge Field (the closed Tanforan race track at San Bruno, California) at approximately 10:45 a.m., Eugene Burton Ely flew his Curtiss-Ely pusher to San Francisco Bay where he landed aboard the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4) as it lay at anchor.

A temporary wooden deck had been erected aboard the ship at the Mare Island shipyard. Built of wood, it was 133 feet, 7 inches (40.7 meters) long and 31 feet, 6 inches (9.6 meters) wide. Twenty-two manila hemp cables were stretched across the deck at 3-foot (0.9-meter) intervals. These were to catch hooks mounted beneath Ely’s airplane and drag it to a stop. Each cable had a 50-pound (22.7 kilogram) sand bag at each end. The bags were precisely weighed so that the Curtiss would not slew to one side.  A guideway was laid out on the deck with 2-inch × 4-inch (5 × 10 centimeter) planks, and 2-foot (0.6-meter) high barriers were at each edge of the flight deck.

Captain C.F. Pond, U.S. Navy
Captain C.F. Pond, U.S. Navy

Captain Charles Fremont Pond, commanding Pennsylvania, offered to take the ship to sea in order that Ely would have the advantage of a head wind down the flight deck, but as winds in the bay were 10 to 15 miles per hour (4.5–6.7 meters per second), Ely elected to have the cruiser remain anchored.

About ten minutes after Ely took off, he was overhead the anchored ship. He set up his approach and when he was approximately 75 feet (23 meters) astern of Pennsylvania, he cut his engine and glided to a landing. The airplane was flying at about 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour) when the hooks engaged the cables, which quickly slowed it to a stop. Eugene B. Ely landed aboard USS Pennsylvania at 11:01 a.m.

Eugene B. Ely lands aboard USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4), at anchor in San Francisco Bay, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene B. Ely lands aboard USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4), at anchor in San Francisco Bay, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene B. Ely landing his Curtiss pusher aboard USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4) at anchor in San Francisco Bay, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene B. Ely landing his Curtiss pusher aboard USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4) at anchor in San Francisco Bay, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)

This was the very first time that an airplane had landed aboard a ship. The use of arresting wires would become common with aircraft carrier operations.

Ely and his wife, Mabel, were guests of Captain Pond for lunch. Photographs were taken and 57 minutes after his landing, he took off for the return flight to Selfridge Field.

Eugene Ely with his Curtiss pusher aboard USS Pennsylvania, shortly before taking off, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene Ely with his Curtiss pusher aboard USS Pennsylvania, shortly before taking off, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene B. Ely with his Curtiss pusher. He is wearing an improvised life vest made of bicycle tire inner tubes. (U.S. Navy
Eugene B. Ely with his Curtiss pusher. He is wearing an improvised life vest made of bicycle tire inner tubes. (U.S. Navy)

Ely unsuccessfully tried to interest the Navy in employing him as an aviator. He and Mabel traveled the country, “barnstorming,” making flight demonstrations and entering aviation meets. He was killed at Macon, Georgia, 19 October 1911, when he was unable to pull out of a dive.

Eugene Burton Ely was born 21 October 1886 at Williamsburg, Iowa. He was the first of three children of Nathan Dana Ely, an attorney, and Emma Lewis Harrington Ely.

In 1907, Ely married Miss Mabel Hall at San Rafael, California.

Ely taught himself to fly using an airplane that he had repaired after it had crashed. He quickly became an recognized expert in aviation.

Soon after the formation of the California National Guard, Eugene Ely enlisted. Then in 1911, he was appointed Aviation Aide to Governor Hiram Warren Johnson of California. Eugene Ely was commissioned a second lieutenant, California, National Guard, 27 July 1911.

Mrs. Ely admires a medal which had been awarded to her husband, Eugene Burton Ely, circa 1911. (U.S. Navy)

Eugene Burton Ely was killed in an airplane accident at the Georgia State Fairgrounds, Macon, Georgia, on 19 October 1911, two days before his 25th birthday. His airplane failed to pull out of a dive. He had recently altered its configuration from a forward elevator to aft, and conjecture is that the ‘plane did not respond as Ely expected.

His remains are buried at his birthpace, Williamsburg, Iowa..

In 1933, the United States Congress passed Senate Bill 5514, authorizing the posthumous award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Eugene Ely for his contributions to aviation.

Wreckage of Eugene Ely’s airplane at Macon, Georgia, 19 October 1911. (California Center for Military History)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 January 1906

Graf von Zeppelin's LZ 2 at Lake Constance, 1906. (RAF Museum)
Graf von Zeppelin’s LZ 2 at Lake Constance, 1906. (RAF Museum)

17 January 1906: Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin’s second airship, Luftschiff Zeppelin 2, designed by Ludwig Dürr, made its first—and only—flight, at Lake Constance (Bodensee), a large lake at the base of Alps.

Ludwig Dürr (1878–1956)
Ludwig Dürr (1878–1956)

LZ 2 was 127 meters (416 feet, 8 inches) long and 11.70 meters (38 feet, 5 inches) in diameter. It had a volume of 10,400 cubic meters (367,273 cubic feet). The rigid structure was built of triangular-section girders that combined light weight and strength. Hydrogen gas contained in bags inside the airship’s envelope gave it buoyancy.

Ladislas d’Orcy described the airship:

. . . Hull-frame of aluminum-alloy lattice girders, cross-braced by wire stays, and subdivided into compartments for independent gas-cells. No ballonets. Fabric skin. Trim controlled by lifting planes. Cars rigidly connected. Gangway affording passage between the cars.

D’Orcy’s Airship Manual, by Ladislas d’Orcy, M.S.A.E., The Century Company, New York, 1917, at Page 127

The airship was powered by two 85 horsepower Daimler-Motoren-Gesellchaft gasoline-fueled engines designed by Karl Maybach. They turned four three-bladed propellers at 820 r.p.m. It was capable of reaching 40 kilometers per hour (25 miles per hour). The airship’s ceiling was 2,800 feet (853 meters).

L’AÉROPHILE reported:

Une nouvelle sortie—la derniére—eut lieu le jeudi 18 janvier 1906. Parti de son garage et parvenu à 500 mètres environ, le ballon était désemparé, et après avoir passé au-dessus de Raverasburg, Kisslegg et Sommerstadt, venait s’abattre en territoire suisse, à Allgaen. Certains correspondants assurent qu’il était monte par l’inventeur, , des officiers allemands et des hommes d’équipage qui n’eurent pas de mal. Mais, dans la chute, das avaries irréparables se produisirent si bien que le comte Zeppelin, decouragé, ne continuera pas ses essais. ¹

L’AÉROPHILE, 14º Année, Noº 1, Janvier 1906, at Page 32

THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER reported:

AERONAUT’S ILL LUCK.

CABLE TO THE ENQUIRER AND N. Y. HERALD.

(Copyright, 1906, by N. Y. Herald Company.)

     Berlin, January 18.—Count Zeppelin made a second trial to-day with hi snew airship. Starting from Lake Constance, the airship passed over Ravensberg, Kisslegg and Sommersledat and landed at Allgaen. It was seriously damaged in the storm, and further trials will be impossible at present.

THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, Vo. LXIII, No. 10, Friday, 19 January 1906, Page 2. Column 1

An engine failure forced the ship to make an emergency landing close to a small town named Sommersried, Allgäu, in southern Germany, and was so badly damaged by a storm during the night that it had to be scrapped.

Wreckage of LZ 2.
Wreckage of LZ 2.

¹ Google Translation: “A new exit-the last-took place on Thursday, January 18, 1906. From his garage and reached about 500 meters, the balloon was clueless/distraught, and after passing over Raverasburg, Kisslegg and Sommerstadt, came crashing down in Swiss territory, in Allgaen. Some correspondents assert that he was mounted by the inventor, German officers and crewmen who were not hurt. But in the fall, irreparable damage occurred so that Count Zeppelin, discouraged, did not continue his attempts.”

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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