24 October 2003: At 4:05 p.m. BST, the final commercial flight of the British Airways Concorde came to an end with the landing of G-BOAG at London Heathrow Airport. It landed third in sequence with G-BOAE and G-BOAF after all three supersonic airliners had made a low pass over London.
G-BOAG had flown from New York under the command of Captain Mike Bannister, with First Officer Jonathan Napier and Engineer Officer David Hoyle. There were 100 celebrity passengers on board.
“Alpha Golf,” British Aerospace serial number 100-214, was the final Concorde built in Britain, and, at its retirement, was the lowest-time Concorde in British Airway’s fleet. It first flew at Filton, 21 April 1978, registered G-BFKW. It was delivered to British Airways 6 February 1980. In 1981, 100-214 was re-registered as G-BOAG. During the early 1980s, it was taken out of service and used as a source for parts for the other Concordes, but returned to airworthy status in 1985.
After a series of farewell flights, G-BOAG was retired to The Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington. It had flown 16,239 hours, made 5,066 takeoffs and landings and had gone supersonic 5,633 times.
24 October 1953: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Richard Lowe Johnson, Chief Test Pilot for the Convair Division of the General Dynamics Corporation, took the first prototype YF-102 Delta Dagger, serial number 52-7994, for its first flight.
The YF-102 was a single-seat, single-engine, delta wing fighter designed as an all-weather, missile-armed, Mach 2 interceptor. It was developed from the earlier, experimental, Convair XF-92 Dart. The F-102 was planned for a Westinghouse XJ67-W-1 engine, but when that was not ready in time, a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-11 afterburning turbojet engine was substituted. 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). The J57-P-11 was rated at 10,000 pounds of thrust (44.482 kilonewtons), and 16,000 pounds (71.172 kilonewtons) with afterburner.
The prototype had finished assembly at the Convair plant in San Diego, California, on 2 October 1953. It was then shipped by truck to Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California where final preparations and testing was carried out.
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) had tested scale models of the YF-102 in the 8-foot HST wind tunnel at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical laboratory and found that significant shock waves were produced at near-sonic speeds. Surprisingly, shock waves were created at the trailing edge of the delta wing. The shock waves caused very high drag that would keep the aircraft from reaching Mach 1, even with the more powerful engine planned for production models.
The Republic YF-105 fighter bomber had similar problems, though it did pass the speed of sound. Both aircraft were significantly redesigned to incorporate the “Area Rule,” developed by NACA aerodynamicist Richard T. Whitcomb. Rather than considering the aerodynamics of the fuselage independently, the frontal area of the wings and tail surfaces had to be included to reduce drag. This produced the “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape that the production models of these two fighters were known for.
Convair built two YF-102s before the design was changed, resulting in the YF-102A prototypes and the production F-102A Delta Dagger.
Several problems showed up on the YF-102’s first flight. Severe buffeting was encountered at high sub-sonic speed. As predicted by NACA, aerodynamic drag prevented the YF-102 from reaching Mach 1 in level flight. There were also problems with the landing gear, the fuel system, and the J57 engine did not produce the rated power.
The production F-102A was considerably larger than the YF-102. The fuselage was lengthened, the wing area and span were increased, and the vertical fin was taller. A more powerful J57-P-23 engine was used. These and other changes increased the F-102A’s gross weight by nearly 1,800 pounds (815 kilograms).
On 2 November 1953, just nine days after the first flight, the Pratt & Whitney J57-P-11 engine flamed out during a test flight. Dick Johnson was unable to restart it and made a forced landing in the desert. The YF-102 was severely damaged and Dick Johnson badly hurt. The flameout was traced to a problem with the the fuel control system. The prototype was written off.
Richard Lowe Johnson ¹ was born at Cooperstown, North Dakota, 21 September 1917. He was the eighth of nine children of Swedish immigrants, John N. Johnson, a farmer, and Elna Kristina Helgesten Johnson, a seamstress.
Dick Johnson attended Oregon State College at Corvallis, Oregon, as a member of the Class of 1943. He was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (ΣΑΕ) fraternity.
Dick Johnson was a pitcher for the college baseball team, and later, played for the Boston Red Sox “farm” (minor league) system.
On 18 June 1942, Johnson enlisted as a private in the Air Corps, United States Army. On 5 November, he was appointed an aviation cadet and assigned to flight training.
Aviation Cadet Johnson married Miss Juanita Blanche Carter, 17 April 1943, at Ocala, Florida. The civil ceremony was officiated by Judge D. R. Smith.
After completing flight training, on 1 October 1943, Richard L. Johnson was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Army of the United States (A.U.S.).
Lieutenant Johnson was assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group, Twelfth Air Force, in North Africa, Corsica, and Italy, flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. He was promoted to first lieutenant, A.U.S., 9 August 1944, and just over three months later, 26 November 1944, to the rank of captain, A.U.S. On 14 May 1945, Captain Johnson was promoted to the rank of major, A.U.S. (Major Johnson was assigned a permanent rank of first lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army, on 5 July 1946, with a date of rank retroactive to 21 September 1945.)
During World War II, Major Johnson flew 180 combat missions with the 66th Fighter Squadron. He is officially credited with one air-to-air victory, 1 July 1944. Johnson was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters (3 awards), and the Air Medal with twelve oak leaf clusters (thirteen awards).
In 1946, was assigned to the Air Materiel Command Engineering Test Pilot School at the Army Air Forces Technical Base, Dayton, Ohio (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base). He was the second U.S. Air Force pilot to be publicly acknowledged for breaking the “sound barrier.”
A few weeks after arriving at Dayton, Major Johnson met Miss Alvina Conway Huester, the daughter of an officer in the U.S. Navy. Dick Johnson and his wife Juanita were divorced 8 January 1947, and he married Miss Huester in a ceremony in Henry County, Indiana, 10 January 1947. They would have three children, Kristie, Lisa and Richard.
Dick Johnson set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course,² flying the sixth production North American Aviation F-86A-1-NA Sabre, serial number 47-611, at Muroc Air Force Base, California (renamed Edwards AFB in 1949).
During the Korean War, Major Johnson was sent to the war zone to supervise field installations of improvements to the F-86 Sabre. He was “caught” flying “unauthorized” combat missions and was sent home.
Lieutenant Colonel Johnson resigned from the Air Force in 1953 to become the Chief Test Pilot for the Convair Division of General Dynamics. He made the first flights of the YF-102 and the F-106A Delta Dart, 26 December 1956. He also made the first flight of the F-111 on 21 December 1964.
In 1955, Johnson was one of the six founding members of the Society of Experimental test Pilots.
Dick Johnson was Chief Engineering Test Pilot for the General Dynamics F-111 “Aardvark.” In 1967, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots awarded Johnson its Iven C. Kincheloe Award for his work on the F-111 program. In 1977, Dick Johnson, then the Director of Flight and Quality Assurance at General Dynamics, retired.
In 1998, Dick Johnson was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor at Lancaster, California. His commemorative monument is located in front of the Lancaster Public Library on W. Lancaster Boulevard, just West of Cedar Avenue. ³
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Lowe Johnson, United States Air Force, (Retired), died 9 November 2002 at Fort Worth, Texas. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, on 7 January 2003.
¹ Several sources spell Johnson’s middle name as “Loe.”
² FAI Record File Number 9866
³ Various Internet sources repeat the statement that “Richard Johnson has been honored with. . . the Thompson Trophy, Mackay Trophy, Flying Tiger Trophy, Federation Aeronautique Internationale Gold Medal and Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. . . .” TDiA has checked the lists of awardees of each of the appropriate organizations and has not found any support for the statement.
24 October 1947: First flight, prototype Grumman Model G-64, the XJR2F-1 Pelican. This amphibian would become the Grumman UF-1 Albatross. (In U.S. Air Force service, the Albatross was designated SA-16A. In 1962, this was changed to HU-16A for Navy, Coast Guard and USAF.)
Interestingly, several months earlier, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) conducted landing tests using a 1:7-scale model XJ2RF-1 in a test tank at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. Wave heights of 4.4 and 8.0 inches (11.2 and 20.3 centimeters) were used, with wave lengths between 10 feet and 50 feet (3–15 meters). Tests indicated that the amphibian could be expected to experience a maximum of 8.5 gs.
The Albatross was operated by a crew of 4 to 6 airmen, and could carry up to 10 passengers. The SA-16A amphibian was 62 feet, 10 inches (19.152 meters) long, with a wingspan (before modification) of 80 feet, 0 inches (24.384 meters) and had an overall height of 25 feet, 11 inches (7.899 meters). The wing had an angle of incidence of 5° and the total wing area was 883 square feet (82.03 square meters).
The SA-16A was modified to the SA-16B standard, increasing the wingspan to 96 feet, 8 inches (29.464 meters) and the wing area to 1,035 square feet (96.15 square meters). The wing’s leading edges were altered and larger tail surfaces were added.
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 maximum weight for landing on water was 32,000 pounds (14,515 kilograms).
The SA-16 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/378 kilometers per hour) at 3,700 feet (1,128 meters). The service ceiling was 23,800 feet (7,254 meters). The SA-16B had a combat radius of 725 nautical miles (834 statute miles/1,343 kilometers), and 1,130 nautical miles (1,300 statute miles/2,093 kilometers) with two 300-gallon (1,136 liters) drop tanks.
24 October 1946: At 12:18 p.m., Mountain Standard Time (17:18 UTC), a captured V-2 rocket was launched from the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range, east of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The rocket, identified as Upper Air Rocket Number 13, carried a 35-millimeter DeVry Corporation cine camera set to expose one frame every second-and-a-half.
The V-2’s engine burned for 59.8 seconds, by which time the rocket had reached an altitude of 17.0 miles (27.4 kilometers) and a velocity of 3,990 feet per second (1,216 meters per second). Continuing upward on a ballistic trajectory, the rocket reached a maximum altitude of 65.0 miles (104.6 kilometers) after 180.0 seconds. This is just above the 100-kilometer Kármán Line which is the arbitrary beginning of Space.
Falling back to Earth, Number 13 impacted approximately 17 miles north-northwest of the White Sands V-2 Launching Site and was completely destroyed. Although debris from the rocket was scattered widely, the film cassette was recovered.
The image above is a still frame from the recovered film. It shows the curvature of the Earth. This was the highest altitude a photograph had been made since Captain Albert W. Stevens photographed the Earth from a balloon, Explorer II, 20 July 1935.
The V2, or Vergeltungswaffen 2 (also known as the A4, or Aggregat 4) was a ballistic missile with an empty weight of approximately 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) and weighing 28,000 pounds (12,700 kilograms), fully loaded. It carried a 738 kilogram (1,627 pound) (sources vary) explosive warhead of amatol, a mixture of ammonium nitrate and TNT. The propellant was a 75/25 mixture of ethanol and water with liquid oxygen as an oxidizer.
The complete rocket was 14.036 meters (46.050 feet) long, and had a maximum diameter of 1.651 meters (5.417 feet). The rocket was stabilized by four large fins, 3.945 meters (12.943 feet) long, with a maximum span of 3.564 meters (11.693 feet). The leading edge of these fins was swept aft 60° to the “shoulder,” and then to 87° (30° and 3°, relative to the rocket’s centerline). A small guide vane was at the outer tip of each fin, and other vanes were placed in the engine’s exhaust plume.
When launched, the rocket engine burned for 65 seconds, accelerating the rocket to 3,580 miles per hour (5,760 kilometers per hour) on a ballistic trajectory. The maximum range of the rocket was 200 miles (320 kilometers) with a peak altitude between 88 and 128 miles, depending on the desired range. On impact, the rocket was falling at 1,790 miles per hour (2,880 kilometers per hour), about Mach 2.35, so its approach would have been completely silent in the target area.
The V-2 could only hit a general area and was not militarily effective. Germany used it against England, France, The Netherlands and Belgium as a terror weapon. More than 3,200 V-2 rockets were launched against these countries.
As World War II came to and end, the Allies captured many partially-completed missiles, as well as components and parts. Sufficient parts and materiel and been transferred from Germany to construct more than one hundred V-2 rockets for testing at White Sands. No missiles were received in flyable condition. Over a five year period, there were 67 successful launches, but it is considered that as much knowledge was gained from failures as successes.
Along with the rockets, many German engineers and scientists surrendered or were captured by the Allies. Under Operation Paperclip, Wernher von Braun and many other scientists, engineers and technicians were brought to the United States to work with the U.S. Army’s ballistic missile program at Fort Bliss, Texas, White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, and the Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.
Tests of the V-2 rockets led to the development of U.S. rockets for the military and NASA’s space program.
¹ V-2 Number 13 had an unfueled weight of, 9,070 pounds (4,114 kilograms); fully fueled, it weighed 28,277 pounds (12,826 kilograms).