Daily Archives: August 14, 2019

14 August 1979

Red Baron, an Unlimited Class RB51 Mustang. (Octane 130)
Red Baron, an Unlimited Class RB51. (Octane 130)

14 August 1979: Air racer Steve Hinton set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record for piston engine, propeller-driven airplanes when he flew his highly-modified North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, Red Baron, to an average 803.138 kilometers per hour (499.047 miles per hour) over a 3 kilometer course at Tonapah, Nevada.¹

Unlimited Class North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, Red Baron.
Unlimited Class North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, Red Baron. (Jon R. Wallace)
Steve Hinton

Steve Hinton’s Mustang was a Dallas, Texas-built North American Aviation P-51D-25-NT, serial number 44-84961. His company, Fighter Rebuilders, modified the airplane for racing. The most noticeable change is the substitution of the standard Packard V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 engine and its four-bladed propeller with a larger, more powerful, 2,239.33-cubic-inch-displacement (36.695 liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine and dual, three-bladed, counter-rotating propellers from an Avro Shackleton bomber. A revised engine cowling gave Red Baron an appearance similar to the Allison-powered XP-51.

Red Baron crashed 16 September 1979 when an oil pump failure caused the propeller blades to move to flat pitch, dramatically increasing aerodynamic drag. Hinton suffered serious injuries but survived.

¹ FAI Record File Number 8438

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 August 1968

Sikorsky S-61L N300Y, Los Angeles Airways, at Disneyland Heliport, Anaheim, California. (Robert Boser)
Sikorsky S-61L N300Y, Los Angeles Airways, at Disneyland Heliport, Anaheim, California. (Robert Boser)

14 August 1968: At 10:28:15 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time, Los Angeles Airways Flight 417, a Sikorsky S-61L helicopter, departed Los Angles International Airport (LAX) on a regularly-scheduled passenger flight to Disneyland, Anaheim, California. On board were a crew of three and eighteen passengers. The aircraft commander, Captain Kenneth L. Waggoner, held an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and was type-rated in the Sikorsky S-55, S-58 and S-61L. He had a total of 5,877:23 flight hours, with 4,300:27 hours in the S-61L. Co-pilot F. Charles Fracker, Jr. had 1,661:18 flight hours, of which 634:18 were in the S-61L. Flight Attendant James A. Black had been employed with LAA for nearly ten years.

At approximately 10:35 a.m., while flying at an estimated altitude of 1,200–1,500 feet (370–460 meters) above the ground, one of the helicopter’s five main rotor blades separated from the aircraft which immediately went out of control, started to break up, and crashed in a recreational park in Compton. All twenty-one persons on board, including the 13-year-old grandson of the airlines’ founder and CEO, were killed.

The Sikorsky S-61 was registered N300Y.  It had been the prototype S-61L, serial number 61031. Los Angeles Airways was the first civil operator of the S-61, purchasing them at a cost of $650,000 each. As of the morning of 14 August 1968, 61031 had accumulated a total of 11,863.64 hours flight time on the airframe (TTAF). It flew an estimated 3.17 hours on the morning of the accident.

The Sikorsky S-61L was a civil variant of the United States Navy HSS-2 Sea King, and was the first helicopter specifically built for airline use. The prototype, N300Y, first flew 2 November 1961. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. Although HSS-2 fuselage is designed to allow landing on water, the S-61L is not amphibious, having standard fixed landing gear rather than the sponsons of the HSS-2 (and civil S-61N). The S-61L fuselage is 4 feet, 2 inches (1.270 meters) longer than that of the HSS-2. The S-61L is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 16 feet, 10 inches (5.131 meters) high, with rotors turning.

The main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The tail rotor also has five blades and a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.149 meters). They each have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). At 100% r.p.m., the main rotor turns 203 r.p.m. and the tail rotor, 1,244 r.p.m. The main rotor turns counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) The tail rotor turns clockwise, as seen from the left side. (The advancing blade is below.)

The S-61L was powered by two General Electric CT58-140-1 turboshaft engines, each of which was rated for 1,400 shaft horsepower for takeoff and maximum power of 1,500 shaft horsepower for 2½ minutes. The main transmission was rated for 2,300 horsepower, maximum.

The S-61 has a cruise speed of  166 miles per hour (267 kilometers per hour).  The service ceiling is 12,500 feet (3,810 meters). 61031 had a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 19,000 pounds (8,618.3 kilograms).

Between 1958 and 1980, Sikorsky built 794 S-61 series helicopters. 13 were S-61Ls.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that most of the helicopter was contained with a small area of Leuders Park. One main rotor blade, however, was located approximately 0.25 miles (0.40 kilometers) west of the main wreckage. This blade is referred to as the “yellow” blade. (The main rotor blades marked with colored paint for simplicity, red, black, white, yellow, and blue.) Analysis found that this blade’s spindle, where it attached to the main rotor hub assembly, had failed due to a fatigue fracture. It was believed that the fracture began in an area of substandard hardness which was present in the original ingot from which the part was forged, and that inadequate shot-peening of the part during the overhaul process further weakened the spindle.

Diagram of fractured main rotor spindle. (NTSB)
Diagram of fractured main rotor spindle. (NTSB)

Los Angeles Airways had experienced a similar accident only three months earlier which had resulted in the deaths of all 23 persons on board. (Flight 841, 22 May 1968). L.A. Airways never recovered from these accidents and ceased all operations by 1971.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 August 1953

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-26 Sabre A94-101 (Royal Australian Air Force)

14 August 1953: Near Avalon Field, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, Flight Lieutenant William H. Scott, Royal Australian Air Force, the 28-year-old Chief Test Pilot of the Government Aircraft Factories, put the new Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Pty. Ltd., prototype into shallow dive from 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) over Port Phillip Bay. This was the new airplane’s sixth test flight. Scott passed 670 miles per hour (1,078 kilometers per hour) and broke the “sound barrier.” A triple sonic boom was heard throughout the Melbourne area.

The aircraft was the CA-26 Sabre, A94-101. The Australian-built Sabre had made its first flight 1 August, also with Flt. Lt. Scott in the cockpit. After about a week there were reports of sonic booms in the area around Melbourne.

CAC Sabre A94-101
Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-26 Sabre A94-101 (Royal Australian Air Force)

Based on the highly successful North American Aviation F-86F Sabre, the C.A.C. variant used a license-built Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7 turbojet with 7,350 pounds of thrust. The Sabre’s fuselage had to be extensively redesigned to allow installation of the new engine. Although it was about the same size as the J47 it replaced, the Avon needed a much larger intake duct. And because it weighed less than the J47, it had to be moved aft to maintain the Sabre’s center of gravity. Only about 40% of the original structure remained.

Other changes were replacing the fighter’s basic armament of six .50-caliber Browning machine guns with two 30 mm ADEN revolver cannon. In testing, it was found that the muzzle blast of the ADEN cannons could cause the engine to flame out. “Maxim” shock wave baffles were installed to eliminate the problem.

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-26 Sabre A94-901. (Royal Australian Air Force)

The aircraft, often called the “Avon Sabre,” was put into production as the CA-27 Sabre Mk 30. Twenty-two aircraft were built in the version. With the introduction of the Mark 31, the original Sabres were upgraded to the new standard. Sixty-nine Sabre Mk 32 fighters were built with the Avon 25 engine and increased fuel capacity.

The CA-27 was in service with the Royal Australian Service from 1954 until 1971. Several were transferred to Malaysia and Indonesia and operated for those countries until 1982.

CAC CA-27 Sabre Mk 32 A94-901
Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-27 Sabre Mk 32 A94-901 (RAAF)

The prototype CA-26 Sabre, A94-901, flew with several RAAF squadrons, including the 76 Squadron “Black Panthers” Aerobatic Team, 1961–1965. It was withdrawn from service in 1966. The Sabre was restored by Hawker de Havilland at Bankstown Airport, before being sent to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Museum (“HARS”) at Illawarra Regional Airport, south of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The airplane is again in the livery of the “Black Panthers.”

A94-901 ias it appeared when assigned to 76 Squadron “Black Panthers,” 1961–1965. (HARS Museum)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 August 1942

Lockheed P-38F Lightnings at Iceland during the summer of 1942. 2d Lt. Elva E. Shahan’s P-38F-1-LO, 41-7540, is at the left of the photograph with the number 42 on its nose. (U.S. Air Force)

14 August 1942: The 27th Fighter Squadron (Twin Engine), 1st Fighter Group, VIII Fighter Command, was ferrying its Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters across the North Atlantic Ocean from Presque Isle, Maine to England as part of Operation Bolero. Iceland was a mid-Atlantic fuel stop on the Northern Ferry Route.

Just over a week earlier, 6 August 1942, 30 Curtiss-Wright P-40C Warhawks of the 33rd Fighter Squadron had been flown off the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7). Among the 32 Army Air Corps pilots who boarded the carrier with the fighters at Norfolk, Virginia, was Second Lieutenant Joseph D.R. Shaffer, U.S.A.A.C., service number O-427002.

A Curtiss-Wright P-40C Warhawk, Iceland, 1942. (U.S. Air Force)
Major John H. Weltman, USAAF. Major weltman's P-38 Lightning was the first Army Air Forces aircraft to be hit by German gunfire during World War II. (U.S. Air Force)
Major John H. Weltman, USAAF. Major Weltman’s P-38 Lightning was the first Army Air Forces aircraft to be hit by German gunfire during World War II. (U.S. Air Force)

On the morning of 14 August, a Royal Air Force Northrop N-3PB Nomad of No. 330 Squadron (Norwegian) tracked a German Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C-4 Condor four-engine maritime reconnaissance bomber, marked NT+BY, flying near a convoy south of the island. The bomber then proceeded northward and overflew the peninsula west of Reykjavik.

Lieutenant Shaffer, his squadron now assigned to the 342d Composite Group, Iceland Base Command, one of the units responsible for the air defense of Iceland, located and attacked the Condor with his P-40, damaging one of the bomber’s engines.

At 11:15 a.m., two P-38s of the 27th Squadron, flown by Major John W. Weltman and Second Lieutenant Elza E. Shahan, followed up Shaffer’s attack. Shahan was flying Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning, serial number 41-7540.

The Fw 200 was hit in and around the bomb bay. It exploded and went into the sea approximately 8 miles northwest of Grótta Point. Its crew, F Ofw. Fritz Kühn, Ofw. Phillip Haisch, Ofw. Ottmar Ebner, Uffz. Wolgang Schulze, Ofw. Arthur Wohlleben and Ofw. Albert Winkelmann were all killed.

This was the very first U.S. Army Air Forces air combat victory in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. Lieutenants Shaffer and Shahan both shared credit for the victory. They were awarded the Silver Star for their actions.

A Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C-3 Condor, SG+KS, (Werk-Nr. 0043), similar to the bomber destroyed by Shaffer and Shahan, 14 August 1942. (Photograph by Walter Frentz. Bundesarchiv)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 August 1942

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2656, “Chief Seattle from the Pacific Northwest,” during a test flight near Seattle, Washington, March 1942. (U.S. Air Force)

14 August 1942: Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2656, Chief Seattle from the Pacific Northwest, took off from 7 Mile Drome, an airfield near Port Moresby, Territory of Papua,  New Guinea, on its first combat mission. This was a reconnaissance of Rabaul and Kavieng. Mission elapsed time, 8 hours, 40 minutes.

Crew of Chief Seattle at 7 Mile Drome, 11 August 1942. Front row, left to right, Sgt Dennis Craig, Sgt. Tomas Wood. Standing, Sgt Quentin Lakely, Pvt Philip Zumwalt, Sgt. Leslie Stewart, Lt. John Pickering, Lt. Morris Friedman, Lt. Haskell Wexler, Sgt Meyer Levin. (United Press)

Sponsored by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, citizens of Seattle contributed $230,535 in War Bonds to purchase the airplane. it was delivered to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) by the Mayor of Seattle, Earl Milliken P.G. Johnson, in a ceremony held 5 March 1942. The bomber was assigned to the 435th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 19th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Fifth Air Force, in the Southwest Pacific.

Aerial photograph of 7 Mile Drome (Jackson Airfield), 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
B-17s parked in revetments at 7 Mile Drome, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

Flown by another crew, 41-2656 was attacked by three Mitsubishi A6M3 Navy Type 0 Model 32 (Allied reporting name, “Hamp”) fighters of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was shot down at 7:40 a.m., 14 August 1942, over the Solomon Sea. Defensive fire from the bomber damaged at least one Zero, but it was able to return to its base.

The B-17E went down in the sea. Its crew were listed as missing, presumed killed in action (KIA). They were 1st Lt. Wilson O. Cook, pilot; F/Sgt. George S. Andrews, co-pilot; 2nd Lt. Hubert S. Mobley, navigator; 2nd Lt. Joseph R. Cunningham, bombardier; SSGT Elwyn O Rahier, Engineer; SSGT John J. Dunbar, assistant engineer; T/Sgt. Irving W. Michael, radio operator; Cpl. Charles M. Hartman, asst. radio; Pvt. David B. Beattie, gunner; and Cpl. Richard K. Pastor, gunner.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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