Monthly Archives: July 2019

30 July 1939

A color transparency of the Boeing XB-15
A color transparency of the Boeing XB-15 in flight near Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, circa 1941. (Rudy Arnold Collection, National Air and Space Museum)

30 July 1939: Major Caleb Vance Haynes, Air Corps, United States Army, with Captain William D. Old, Master Sergeant Adolph Cattarius and Staff Sergeant William J. Heldt, flew the Boeing XB-15 experimental long range heavy bomber to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Greatest Payload Carried to a Height of 2,000 meters. The XB-15 carried 14,135 kilograms (31,162 pounds) to an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) over Fairfield, Ohio.¹ The flight set a second record by carrying 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) to an altitude of 8,228 feet (2,508 meters).² Both records were certified by the National Aeronautic Association, the American organization representing the FAI.

Major Caleb V. Haynes, Captain William D. Old, Master Sergeant Adolph Cattarius and Staff Sergeant William J. Heldt, crew of the record-setting Boeing XB-15. (FAI)
Boeing XB-15 35-277 at NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, 13 September 1938. (NASA)
Boeing XB-15 35-277
Boeing XB-15 35-277

The Boeing Model 294, designated XB-15 by the Air Corps, was an experimental airplane designed to determine if a bomber with a 5,000 mile range was possible. It was designed at the same time as the Model 299 (XB-17), which had the advantage of lessons learned by the XB-15 design team. The XB-15 was larger and more complex than the XB-17 and took longer to complete. It first flew more than two years after the prototype B-17.

Designers had planned to use an experimental 3,421.194-cubic-inch-displacement (56.063 liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged and turbosupercharged Allison V-3420 twenty-four cylinder, four-bank “double V” engine. It produced a maximum of  2,885 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. The engine was not available in time, however, and four air-cooled Pratt & Whitney R-1830 (Twin Wasp) engines were used instead. With one-third the horsepower, this substitution left the experimental bomber hopelessly underpowered as a combat aircraft. (The Douglas XB-19 was retrofitted with V-3420s in 1942, and re-designated XB-19A.)

Boeing XB-15 35-277, a prototype long-range heavy bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing XB-15 35-277, a prototype long-range heavy bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing XB-15 35-277. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing XB-15 35-277. (U.S. Air Force)

The XB-15 was a very large four-engine mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was of aluminum monocoque construction with fabric-covered flight control surfaces. The XB-15 had a ten-man crew which worked in shifts on long duration flights.

The prototype bomber was 87 feet, 7 inches (26.695 meters) long with a wingspan of 149 feet (45.415 meters) and overall height of 18 feet, 1 inch (5.512 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 37,709 pounds (17,105 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 70,706 pounds (32,072 kilograms)—later increased to 92,000 pounds (41,730 kilograms).

A ¼-scale model of the Boeing XB-15 inside the Full-Scale Wind Tunnel at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Hampton, Virginia. The model has a wingspan of 37.3 feet (11.37 meters). (NASA)

The XB-15’s wings used a symmetrical airfoil and were very highly tapered (4:1 from root to tip). They had an angle of incidence of 4½° and 4½° dihedral. The total area was 2,780 square feet (258.271 square meters). A contemporary aeronautical publication wrote, “The airfoil provides constant center of pressure, minimum profile drag with flaps up and high maximum lift with flaps down.” The XB-15’s wings were adapted by Boeing for the Model 314 Clipper flying boat.

As built, the XB-15 was equipped with four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-11 (Twin Wasp S1B3-G) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-11 was rated at 850 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. and 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off. They turned three-bladed controllable-pitch propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-11 was 4 feet, 8.66 inches (1.439 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 0.00 inches (1.219 meters), and weighed 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).

Boeing XB-15 35-277
Boeing XB-15 35-277

The experimental airplane had a cruise speed of 152 miles per hour (245 kilometers per hour) at 6,000 feet (1,829 meters), and a maximum speed of 200 miles per hour ( kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). The service ceiling was 18,900 feet (5,761 meters) and maximum range was 5,130 miles (8,256 kilometers).

The bomber could carry a maximum of 12,000 pounds (5,443 kilograms) of bombs in its internal bomb bay, and was armed with three .30-caliber and three .50-caliber machine guns for defense .

Only one XB-15 was built. During World War II it was converted to a transport and re-designated XC-105. In 1945 35-277 was stripped and abandoned at Albrook Field, Territory of the Canal Zone, Panama.

Boeing XC-105 35-277 in Panama
Boeing B-15 35-277 arrives in Panama (49509 A.C.)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8739

² FAI Record File Number 8740

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 July 1935

Captain Frank Peak Akers, United States Navy, commanding USS Saratoga (CV-3), circa 1945.(U.S. Navy)

30 July 1935: Lieutenant Frank Peak Akers, United States Navy, took of from the Naval Air Station San Diego, California, flying a specially-equipped Berliner-Joyce OJ-2 biplane. With his cockpit covered by a hood to prevent his seeing outside, he flew completely by reference to electronic devices on board the airplane.

The purpose of Lieutenant Akers’ flight was to locate the aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV-1) at an unspecified position approximately 150 miles to the west of the California shoreline. Then, still flying solely by his instruments, he was to land aboard the carrier.

Akers accomplished his tasks, for which the Navy awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Lt. Frank P. Akers, wearing flight helmet and goggles, explains the instrument landing equipment to Rear Admiral Ernest J. King, seated in the aft cockpit, at NAS Anacostia, circa 1934. (U.S. Navy)

The instrument flying equipment had been developed by the Washington Institute of Technology, founded by former members of the U.S. National Bureau of Standards. The Navy tested these devices at College Park, Maryland. On 1 May 1934, Lieutenant Akers took off from NAS Anacostia in the hooded OJ2 and landed, “blind” at College Park.

A Berliner-Joyce OJ-2, Bu. No. 9204, with a retractable hood over the rear cockpit and a large radio mast. (U.S. Navy)

The Berliner-Joyce OJ-2 was a single-engine two-place biplane designed as an observation aircraft for operation from U.S. Navy light cruisers. The fuselage was constructed of welded chrome moly tubing, with the forward section covered in sheet metal. The aft section and wooden wings were covered with fabric. The airplane could readily be reconfigured from a float plane to conventional landing gear.

Three-view illustration of the Berliner-Joyce OJ-1/2 biplane, (FLIGHT, No. 1324, Vol. XXVI, 10 May 1934, Page 468, Column 1)

The OJ-2 was 25 feet, 8 inches (7.823 meters) long with an upper wing span of 33 feet, 8 inches (10.262 meters) and height of 10 feet, 10 inches (3.302 meters). The total wing area was 284.2 square feet (26.40 square meters). The airplane weighed 2,323 pounds (1,054 kilograms) empty, and 3,713 pounds (1,684 kilograms), gross.

The OJ-2 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-985-38 Wasp Jr. engine rated at 400 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., at Sea Level. The direct-drive engine had a compression ratio of 6:1, and turned a two-bladed propeller. The engine was enclosed by a Townend ring.

Its maximum speed was 154 miles per hour (248 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 121 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The airplane could climb to that altitude in 12.1 minutes. The service ceiling was 15,300 feet (4,663 meters), and its absolute ceiling was 16,700 feet (5,090 meters). The maximum range of the OJ-2 was 461 nautical miles (531 statute miles/854 kilometers).

The OJ-2 was equipped with radio transmitters and receivers. It could be armed with a single fixed Browning .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun in the upper wing with 500 rounds of ammunition, and a second gun in the rear cockpit with 600 rounds of ammunition. A maximum of 500 pounds (227 kilograms) of bombs could be carried.

A Berliner-Joyce OJ-2 observation plane, Bu. No. 9197, assigned to Scouting Squadron 5B, USS Memphis, photographed at NAS San Diego, 1934. (United States Navy)

Frank Peak Akers was born 28 March 1901 at Nashville, Tennessee. He was the second of four sons of Albert Warren Akers, an attorney in private practice, and Lillian Crenshaw Akers.

Frank Akers was appointed to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. He entered as a midshipman on 12 June 1918. Midshpman Akers graduated and was commissioned as an ensign, United States Navy, 3 June 1922.

USS Sumner (DD-333), a Clemson-class “flush-deck” or “four-stack” destroyer, circa 1920s. (United States Navy)

Ensign Akers was assigned to the Clemson-class destroyer USS Sumner (DD-333, serving in the engineering department. He remained with the ship for the next two years.

In 1925, Ensign Akers was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) and transferred to NAS Pensacola, Florida, for flight training. After qualifying as a naval aviator, 11 September 1925, Lt. (j.g.) Akers was assigned to Observation Squadron Two (VO-2) aboard the class-leading battleship, USS Nevada (BB-36).

USS Nevada (BB-36), 1925. (Allan C. Green/State Library of Victoria.)
Members of Observation Squadron Two (VO-2) aboard USS Nevada (BB-36), circa 1925. The officer in the back row, second from left, may be Lt.(j.g.) Frank Akers. The next three officers are Lt. George Seitz, Lt.(j.g.) W.K. Berner, and CPO Ludika. (

In 1926, Lt. (j.g.) Akers was reassigned to Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV-1).

USS Langley (CV-1) underway, circa 1926. (U.S. Navy)

In 1927 Akers transferred from Langley to Fighter Squadron Five (VF-5 S), aircraft squadrons, Scouting Fleet, aboard USS Wright (AV-1), a former airship tender which had been converted to a sea plane tender.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Frank Peak Akers married Miss Mary Bayliss House in Sumner County, Tennessee, 25 January 1928. They would have a son, Albert Bayliss Akers, born 12 November 1928, and who would later be a major general, United States Army.

Akers served at NAS Pensacola from 1928 to 1930 as a fighter instructor. He was promoted to lieutenant 26, November 1929. Leaving Pensacola, Lieutenant Akers returned to Langley.

Lieutenant Akers was a postgraduate student in electronics at Annapolis in 1932. The Navy then sent him to Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He earned a master’s degree in electronic communications in 1933. He was then assigned to NAS Anacostia, where he was involved in experimental instrument landing systems.

In 1937 Lieutenant Akers was assigned as the communications officer, Aircraft Base Force, once again aboard USS Wright.

Akers was promoted to lieutenant commander, 23 June 1938. He was assigned to the Bureau of Engineering at the Navy Department, Washington, D.C.

Lieutenant Commander Akers took command of the USS George E. Badger (AVP-16) in 1940. This was a Clemson-class destroyer which had been converted to a sea plane tender. He was promoted to the rank of commander (temporary), 1 January 1942, with the rank becoming permanent on 30 June 1942.

During the early months of World War II, Commander Akers was the Navigator aboard USS Hornet (CV-8). He participated in the Halsey-Doolittle Raid, giving Colonel James H. Doolittle the latest position of the aircraft carrier just before he took off to attack Japan, 18 April 1942. Two months later, Commander Akers was aboard Hornet during the Battle of Midway.

USS Hornet (CV-8), Captain Marc A. Mitscher, U.S.N., commanding, 27 October 1942. The aircraft carrier is painted in Measure 12 camouflage, Sea Blue 5-S, Ocean Gray 5-O and Haze Gray 5-H. (U.S. Navy)

Commander Akers was promoted to captain (temporary) 1 April 1943. On 15 April 1945, he took command of the newly-repaired Lexington-class aircraft carrier, USS Saratoga, CV-3. He remained in command until 4 February 1946.

USS Saratoga (CV-3) under way in Puget Sound, 15 May 1945, Captain Frank P. Akers, commanding. (U.S. Navy)

Captain Akers’ rank was made permanent on 1 May 1949. Less than a year later, 1 March 1950, Captain Akers was promoted to rear admiral. He remained in the Navy until April 1963, when he retired with nearly 45 years of service.

Rear Admiral Frank Peak Akers, United States Navy (Retired) died at the George Washington University Hospital, Washington, D.C., 22 March 1988, 6 days before his 89th birthday. He was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 July 1958

29 July 1958: Dwight David Eisenhower, Thirty-fourth President of the United States of America, signed Public Law #85-568 (72 Stat. 426), the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Congress declared a requirement for aeronautics and space research, and “that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.

Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States of America. (Photographed by Louis Fabian Bachrach, Jr., 1952)

President Eisenhower had proposed civilian National Aeronautics and Space Agency to Congress in a letter sent 2 April 1958. The Bill passed on 16 July.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 July 1957

Bendix trophy winner Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, U.S. Air Force, in teh cockpit of Convair F-102A Delta Dagger 56-1196 (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Bendix Trophy winner Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of Convair F-102A-65-CO Delta Dagger 56-1196 (Jet Pilot Overseas)

29 July 1957: Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, 11th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 343d Fighter Group (Air Defense), United States Air Force, won the 1957 Bendix Trophy Race, flying a Convair F-102A Delta Dagger from O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois, to Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, D.C., a distance of 619.73 miles (997.36 kilometers).

His elapsed time was 54 minutes, 45.5 seconds, for an average speed of 679.053 miles per hour (1,092.830 kilometers per hour).

Cnvair F-102A-65-CO Delta Dagger 56-1196 with its drogue 'chute deployed on landing at Andrews Air Force Base, 28 July 1957. (From the Collection of Johan Ragay)
Convair F-102A-65-CO Delta Dagger 56-1196 with its drogue ‘chute deployed on landing at Andrews Air Force Base, 28 July 1957. (From the Collection of Johan Ragay)

The six F-102A interceptors in the race departed O’Hare at five minute intervals. Captain Chandler, flying the fifth Delta Dagger, departed at 1320.0 hours.

Captain Chandler’s commanding officer, Colonel Robert L. Gould, also flying an F-102, placed second in the race.

Chandler’s F-102 ran out of fuel while taxiing to the ramp.

Captain Kenneth D. Cahnadler's Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, 56-1196, at Andrews Air Force Base, 28 July 1957. (From the Collection of Johan Ragay, with much appreciation—TDiA)
Captain Kenneth D. Chandler’s Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, 56-1196, at Andrews Air Force Base, 28 July 1957. (From the Collection of Johan Ragay)

The Chicago Daily Tribune reported the event:


Sets New Record of 679 M.P.H.

Washington, July 28 (AP)—Capt. Kenneth D. Chandler, a Korean War jet ace, set a new Bendix Air Race record of 679 miles an hour today.

     Chandler, 33, flew a Convair F-102 delta wing interceptor 620 miles from Chicago’s O’Hare field to nearby Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in 54 minutes, 45½ seconds. Five other Air Force pilots made the race, flying F-102s.

     Second place went to Col. Robert L. Gould of Baltimore, with an elapsed time of 55:16:8.

Chicagoan Is Third

     Captain Leroy W. Svendesen of Chicago placed third with an elapsed time of 55:17:2. There was a difference of only about two minutes in the times of the first and last place planes.

     Chandler smashed the 666 mile an hour set last year by Maj. Manuel (Pete) Fernandez. Fernandez flew an F-100 from Victorville, Cal., to Oklahoma City.

     The Ricks Memorial trophy flight today also ended at Andrews. The winner of the 2,680 mile flight from Fresno, Cal., was Maj. Peter R. Phillipy, 35, of Pittsburgh. Phillipy made the trip in 4 hours, 13 minutes and 40 seconds, averaging 638 miles an hour.

Springfield Pilot 2d

     Second place was won by Capt. Shirley V. Drum, 29, of Springfield, Ill.

     Chicago area pilots in the race were Maj. Aloysius X. Hiltgen, 33, of Park Ridge, whose time was 4:31:7, and Capt. John C. Nowacki, 34, of Cicero, 4:31:36.

     The Bendix and Ricks air races were highlights of an air show sponsored by the Air Force Association, in a salute the 50th anniversary of the United States Air Force.

     A crowd estimated at more than 75,000 persons witnessed the first public flights of the Ryan X-13 Vertijet and the Republic F-105 supersonic fighter-bomber.

Chicago Daily Tribune, Volume CXVI—NO. 180, Monday, July 29, 1957, Part 1, Page 15, Columns 1–3.

The tally board shows the departure times and elapsed times of each pilot. Chandler is number five. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
The tally board shows the departure times and elapsed times of each pilot. Chandler is number five. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

Kenneth Donald Chandler was born 14 October 1923 at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the second of six children of Thomas Brown Chandler, a cabinet maker, and Gladys A. Smith Chandler. While growing up, his family lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and Compton, California.

During World War II, Chandler flew Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter bombers in the European Theater of Operations. In 1950, he flew a North American Aviation F-86A Sabre as Captain Chuck Yeager’s wingman during the filming of aerial sequences for Howard Hughes’ movie, “Jet Pilot,” which starred John Wayne and Janet Leigh. (RKO Pictures, 1957.)

While flying an F-86 Sabre with the 336th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter Interceptor Group, 18 November 1951, Chandler, flying just ten feet over the ground, destroyed four enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15s parked at the south end of Uiju Airfield, on the North Korean side of the Yalu River. He and his wingman, Lieutenant Dayton W. Ragland, damaged several others. On 13 December, he shot down a MiG 15, but his Sabre, F-86A-5-NA 49-1159, ingested debris from the damaged enemy airplane. Chandler flew the crippled fighter to the vicinity of Chŏ-do Island, where he bailed out and was rescued by two South Korean airmen in a small boat, and taken to a waiting helicopter.

Captain Chandler and 1st Lieutenant Frank Latora, both of the 343d Fighter Group, were killed when their Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star jet trainer crashed 12 miles (19 kilometers) north east of Parker, Colorado, while on a ground-controlled approach to Lowry Air Force Base on the night of Friday, 28 March 1958. Captain Chandler’s remains are buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, California.

Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, United States Air Force, with the Bendix Trophy. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, United States Air Force, with the Bendix Trophy. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Convair XF-92A 46-682 on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)

The Convair F-102A Delta Dagger was a single-place, single engine, supersonic all-weather interceptor. It featured a delta wing and was based on the experimental Convair XF-92A of 1948.

The F-102A was the first production model and was vastly improved over the YF-102 pre-production prototypes, which had first flown 24 October 1953. The redesigned YF-102A made its first flight 20 December 1954, and the first production F-102A flew six months later, 24 June 1955.

The Convair F-102A was 68.3 feet, (20.82 meters) long, including the pitot boom, with a wingspan of 38.1 feet (11.61 meters) and overall height of 21.2 feet (6.46 meters). It had an empty weight of 19,283 pounds (8,747 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 27,950 pounds (12,678 kilograms), and 31,559 pounds (14,315 kilograms), maximum inflight weight or overload takeoff.

The F-102A’s delta wing leading edges were swept aft to 60° 6′. The angle of incidence was 0° and there was no dihedral. The total wing area was 695.1 square feet (64.58 square meters).

The F-102A was powered by a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-23 axial-flow turbojet engine. The J57 had a 9-stage, low-pressure and 7-stage high-pressure compressor section, and a single-stage high-pressure turbine and 2-stage low-pressure turbine. The J57-P-23 had a maximum continuous power rating of 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.70 kilonewtons). The Military Power rating was 10,200 pounds (45.37 kilonewtons) (30 minute limit), or 16,000 pounds (71.17 kilonewtons) with afterburner (5 minute limit). The engine was 20 feet, 5.1 inches (6.226 meters) long and 3 feet, 3.8 inches (1.011 meters) in diameter. It weighed 5,045 pounds (2,288 kilograms).

Compare this overhead view of a Convair F-102A-90-CO Delta Dagger, 57-0809, to that of the prototype YF-102 at top. The "wasp waist" area rule fuselage is very noticeable. U.S. Air Force)
A Convair F-102A-90-CO Delta Dagger, 57-0809. The “wasp waist” area-ruled fuselage is very noticeable. (U.S. Air Force)

The Convair Delta Dagger was the first American production interceptor that could reach supersonic speed in level flight. Its maximum speed was 710 knots (817 miles per hour, 1,315 kilometers per hour)—Mach 1.24—at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The service ceiling was 55,500 feet (16,916 meters). The F-102A could reach 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) in 6.4 minutes from a standing start at Sea Level. It had a combat radius of 430 nautical miles (495 statute miles/796 kilometers), and its maximum ferry range with internal fuel was 1,140 nautical miles (1,312 statute miles/2,111 kilometers).

A Convair F-102A Delta Dagger launches three AIM-4 Falcon guided missiles. (U.S. Air Force)
A Convair F-102A Delta Dagger launches three AIM-4 Falcon guided missiles. (U.S. Air Force)

Armament consisted of six Hughes GAR-1D Falcon radar-homing, or GAR-2 Falcon infrared-seeking, air-to-air guided missiles, or a combination of both, carried in two internal bays. (The Falcon missiles were re-designated AIM-4A and AIM-4B in 1962.) The missile bay doors contained launch tubes for twenty-four 2.75-inch (70 millimeter) unguided Folding Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR). The Delta Dagger was not armed with a gun.

A Convair F-102A Delta Dagger fires a salvo of 2.75-inch Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

Between 1955 and 1958, Convair built 889 F-102A Delta Dagger interceptors. The F-102A remained in service with the U.S. Air Force Air Defense Command until 1973, and with the Air National Guard to 1976.

The Bendix Trophy-winning F-102A, 56-1196, was delivered from Convair to the 326th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 328th Fighter Group (Air Defense), at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, south of Kansas City, Missouri, on 2 July 1957. It later served with a number of Air Force and Air National Guard squadrons. Its last operational unit was the 157th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, South Carolina Air National Guard. Placed in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, in March 1975. 56-1196 was converted to a QF-102A target drone, and in August 1978, a PQM-102B.

The Bendix Trophy-winning Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, 56-1196, in storage at The Boneyard. The interceptor is wearing the markings of the South Carolina Air National Guard.
The Bendix Trophy-winning Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, 56-1196, in storage at The Boneyard, circa 1975. The interceptor is wearing the markings of the South Carolina Air National Guard. The interceptor’s fuselage missile bays are open.

Note: TDiA would like to express its appreciation to Johan Ragay for the use of the photographs of 56-1196, and for some additional details of its service history.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 July 1938, 04:11 GCT

Pan American Martin M-130 Flying boat, NX14714, 9 September 1935. (Glenn L. Martin Co.)
Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130 flying boat, NX14714, Hawaii Clipper, 9 September 1935. (Lockheed Martin)

29 July 1938: At 12:08 p.m., local time, the Pan American Airways System flying boat Hawaii Clipper lifted off from the waters of Apra Harbor on the west side of Guam, an island in the western Pacific Ocean. The Clipper was on a planned 12½-hour flight to Manila in the Philippine Islands. On board were a crew of nine, with six passengers.

Pan American Airways System brochure, circa 1938. (Smithsonian Institution)

Hawaii Clipper never arrived at its destination. What happened to it and the fifteen persons on board remains one of the enduring mysteries of aviation history.

The flight was designated Trip #229. It had originated at Alameda, on San Francisco Bay, California, and flew to Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands, then on to Midway Island, Wake Island, and Guam.

The Pan Am crew consisted of Captain Leo Terletzky, First Officer Mark A. Walker, Second Officer George M. Davis, Third Officer Jose M. Sauceda, Fourth Officer John W. Jewett, Engineer Officer Howard l. Cox, Assistant Engineer Officer T.B. Tatum, and Radio Officer William McGarty. The passengers were attended by Flight Steward Ivan Parker.

Captain Terletzky held a Transport Pilot’s License issued by the Aeronautics Branch of the United States Department of Commerce. He had flown more than 9,200 hours, with 1,614 hours in the Martin M-130.

Captain Terletzky's Transport Pilot License, issued 13 February 1930.
Captain Terletzky’s Transport Pilot’s License, issued 13 February 1930. (The Pan Am Historical Foundation)
Leo Terletzky (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)

Captain Terletzky (there are alternate spellings, such as Terletsky, and he was also known as Leo Terlitz) was born 18 January 1894 at Odessa, Imperial Russia (now, Ukraine).

Following the Russian Revolution, he left his native country and traveled to Omsk, Siberia, and then to Yokohama, Japan, where he embarked on S.S. Empress of Japan, on 28 March 1919. The passenger liner arrived at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 6 April. He then traveled on to Seattle, Washington, via the Canadian Pacific Railroad, arriving there on 9 April 1919.

Terletzky became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America, 15 December 1924.

On 1 July 1929, he married Miss Helen Sarepta Bowman ¹ at Miami Beach, Florida.

Canadian Pacific passenger liner S.S. Empress of Japan, passing First Narrows, seen from Brockton Point, looking north. This ship made 315 Pacific crossings. (Major James Skitt Matthews)

The airliner’s six passengers were: Lieutenant Commander Edward E. Wyman, United States Naval Reserve, of Bronxville, New York. Commander Wyman was a former assistant to Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan American Airways. He was now employed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. Pan American’s traffic manager, Kenneth A. Kennedy, was also on board.

Two scientists, Colonel Earl E. McKinley, M.D., United States Army Reserve, Dean of Medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., a bacteriologist, and Fred C. Meier, Ph.D., were collecting airborne bacteriological samples to research transocean bacterial transfer.

Wah Sun Choy

Major Howard C. French, Air Corps, United States Army (Reserve), the commanding officer of the 321st Observer Squadron based at Vancouver, Washington, was also on board.

Finally, there was Wah Sun Choy (also known as “Watson Choy”), of New Jersey. Mr. Choy, an American citizen born in San Francisco, California, in 1901, was the owner of a tea room in Manhattan, New York City, New York, and two restaurants in Jersey City, New Jersey. One of them was named “China Clipper.”

Mr. Sun Choy was believed to be transporting $3,000,000 in U.S. Gold Certificates for the Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party of China, which was headed by Chiang Kai-shek.

A United States $10,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1934. (Bureau of Engraving and Printing)

Hawaii Clipper was a Martin M-130, NC14714. It was the first of three of the type built for Pan American Airways. With the experimental registration NX14714, it had made its first flight at Middle River, Maryland, 30 December 1934. When Hawaii Clipper departed Alameda, it had flown 4,751:55 hours, TTAF. When it made its last position report, it had flown another 55 hours, 58 minutes.

The first Martin M-130, NC14714, undergoing ground testing at the Glenn L. Martin Co. plant at Middle River, Maryland, 30 November 1934. (Lockheed Martin)

The Martin M-130 was a large, four-engine flying boat of all-metal construction, designed to carry as many as 36 passengers on transoceanic flights. The M-130 was 90 feet, 10.5 inches (27.699 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 0 inches (39.624 meters). It was 24 feet, 7 inches (7.493 meters) high. The flying boat had a maximum takeoff weight of 52,252 pounds (23,701 kilograms).

The M-130 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S2A5-G two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The S2A5-G had a Normal Power rating of 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. to 3,600 feet (1,097 meters), and 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. for takeoff, using 87-octane gasoline. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The S2A5-G was 4 feet, 8.75 inches (1.442 meters) long, 3 feet, 11.88 inches (1.216 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,235 pounds (560 kilograms).

The airplane had a maximum speed of 180 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour), and a cruise speed of 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its range was 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers).

A pair of Pan American Airways Martin M-130 flying boats at Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. (Hawaii Aviation)
A pair of Pan American Airways Martin M-130 flying boats at Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. (Hawaii Aviation)

Hawaii Clipper departed its mooring at Apra Harbor at 11:39 a.m., local time (3:39 a.m., Manila time) and lifted off 29 minutes later. In addition to its six passengers, the airliner was carrying 1,138 pounds (516 kilograms) of cargo. The duration of the flight was estimated as 12 hours, 30 minutes. The M-130 carried sufficient fuel for 17 hours, 30 minutes of flight. Its gross weight was 49,894 pounds (22,632 kilograms) at takeoff, well under its maximum takeoff weight.

At 04:11 Greenwich Civil Time (12:11 p.m., local time), Radio Officer McGarty sent Hawaii Clipper‘s coded 04:00 Ded Reckoning ² position report. The deciphered message read:

Flying in rough air at 9,100 feet. Temperature 13 ˚C., wind 19 knots from 247˚ Position N. 12˚27, E 130˚40, ground speed made good, 112 knots, desired track 282˚. Rain. During past hour conditions varied. 10/10ths sky above covered by strato cumulus clouds, base 9,200 feet. Clouds below 10/10ths sky covered by cumulus clouds whose tops were 9,200 feet. 5/10ths of the hour on instruments. Last DF bearing from Manila 101˚

Great Circle line between Apra Harbor, Guam, and Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands: 1,592 miles (2,562 kilometers). (Google Maps)

This placed the Clipper approximately 582 nautical miles (670 kilometers) east-southeast of Manila. The transmission was acknowledged. When the land-based radio operator tried to make contact one minute later to provide updated weather information, he received no reply. There were no further radio transmissions from Hawaii Clipper.

When Hawaii Clipper did not arrive at Manila, a large ocean search was begun. On 30 July, the Unites States Army transport ship USAT Meigs discovered an oil slick approximately 28 nautical miles (52 kilometers) south-southeast of the flying boat’s last reported position. The slick was described as being approximately 1,500 feet (457 meters) in circumference.

No physical evidence of the Martin M-130 has ever been found. What happened to cause its disappearance is unknown. While it is assumed that the airplane went down at sea, that might not have been the case. A telephone company employee on Lahuy Island (a small island off the coast of Luzon, east-southeast of Manila) reported having heard a large airplane above the clouds at 3 p.m., Manila Time. In 1938, the number of large airplanes operating in the Philippine Islands must have been fairly limited.

As with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan the previous year, there was no shortage of “conspiracy theories.” An example is that agents of the Empire of Japan had stowed away aboard Hawaii Clipper, hijacked the airplane and it was flown to Ulithi, an atoll in the Caroline Islands, and then on to Truk. The story goes on that the passengers and crew were murdered and their bodies buried under the foundation of a hospital then under construction.

Kawanishi H6K Type 97 Large Flying Boat.

Another story is that the Clipper was intercepted by a Japanese flying boat, such as the Kawanishi H6K Type 97 Large Flying Boat, which forced it to fly to an unknown destination, similar to the story above.

Only six months earlier, another Pan American flying boat, Samoan Clipper, a Sikorsky S-42B, NC16734, disappeared about two hours out of Pago Pago in the Samoan Islands. The airliner is believed to have exploded in midair. In that case, an oil slick and wreckage were found.

Recommended: Guy Noffsinger’s “The Lost Clipper,” at

¹ Following the United States’ entry into World War II, Captain Terletzky’s widow, Mrs. Sarepta B. Terletzky, (née Helen Sarepta Bowman), a graduate of Smith College, joined the United States Navy. She was commissioned as a Lieutenant, W-VS, United States Naval Reserve, 4 August 1942. On 1 December 1945, she was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander, and to commander, 1 January 1950. Mrs. Terletzky had been born at New York City, New York, 28 September 1895. She died at Miami, Florida, 4 August 1970.

² Ded Reckoning (Deductive Reckoning), often erroneously referred to as “dead reckoning,” is a method of navigation which uses a previously known position, time of flight, estimated speed and course of the aircraft based on forecast weather conditions, etc., to estimate the current geographical position. It is the standard method of navigation in the absence of radio aids or satellite position.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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