3 November 1965: Major Robert A. Rushworth made the first flight of the modified X-15A-2 rocketplane, Air Force serial number 56-6671. After a landing accident which caused significant damage to the Number 2 X-15, it was rebuilt by North American Aviation. A 28-inch (0.71 meter) “plug” was installed in the fuselage forward of the wings to create space for a liquid hydrogen fuel tank which would be used for an experimental “scramjet” engine that would be mounted on the the ventral fin. The modified aircraft was also able to carry two external fuel tanks. It was hoped that additional propellant would allow the X-15A-2 to reach much higher speeds.
The first flight with the new configuration was an “envelope expansion” flight, intended to test the handling characteristics of the X-15A-2, and to jettison the tanks (which were empty on this flight) to evaluate the separation and trajectory as they fell away from the rocketplane in supersonic flight.
The X-15A-2 was dropped from the Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress 52-003, over Cuddeback Lake, 37 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert of southern California. This was the only time during the 199-flight X-15 Program that this lake was used as a launch point.
The X-15 was released at 09:09:10.7 a.m., PST. Bob Rushworth ignited the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 rocket engine and it ran for 84.1 seconds before its fuel supply was exhausted. This engine was rated at 57,000 pounds of thrust (253.549 kilonewtons).
The X-15 climbed to 70,600 feet (21,519 meters) and reached Mach 2.31 (1,514 miles per hour/2,437 kilometers per hour.)
The test flight went well. The external tanks jettisoned cleanly and fell away. The recovery parachute for the liquid oxygen tank did not deploy, however, and the tank was damaged beyond repair.
Rushworth and the X-15A-2 touched down on Rogers Dry Lake after a flight of 5 minutes, 1.6 seconds.
3 November 1962: The French fishing trawler F/V Jeanne Gougy with a crew of 18 ran aground during a storm at Armored Knight Rock, Land’s End, Cornwall, England. 15-foot waves rolled the ship over on its port side. The seamen were trapped aboard the wreck.
The waves prevented the life boat from the Royal National Life Boat Institution (RNLI) Sennen Cove Lifeboat Station was unable to approach the wreck because of the heavy weather, but recovered two dead fishermen offshore.
A Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 helicopter from No. 22 Squadron’s Search and Rescue Detachment at RAF Chivenor on the north coast of Devon was assigned to attempt a rescue. The Whirlwind was flown by Flight Lieutenants John Lorimer Neville Canham, D.F.C., and Flight Lieutenant John Trevor Egginton, with winch operator Sergeant Eric Charles Smith.
Sergeant Smith was lowered into the sea to recover another body, which was then hoisted aboard the helicopter. The Sennen Cove lifeboat and the Whirlwind returned to their respective bases.
Later that morning, observers from the shore saw several men inside the Jeanne Gougy‘s pilot house. A helicopter and the Penlee lifeboat, Soloman Brown, hurried to the scene, but conditions were still too extreme for a lifeboat to approach the trawler.
The helicopter hovered over the capsized fishing trawler while Sergeant Smith was lowered to the ship’s pilot house. A rescue line was also rigged to the nearby rocks. Sergeant Smith rigged two men for hoisting to the hovering helicopter and continued searching for additional survivors. Four sailors were rescued by the line to the shore. Twelve of the fishermen did not survive.
For his bravery during the rescue, Sergeant Smith was awarded the George Medal by Queen Elizabeth II. He was also awarded the Silver Medal of the Société des Hospitalers Sauveteurts Bretons.
The Président de la République française, Charles de Gaulle, conferred the honor of Chevalier du Mérite Maritime on Flight Lieutenant Canham, Flight Lieutenant Egginton and Sergeant Smith.
On 13 June 1964, Flight Lieutenant John Trevor Egginton was awarded the Air Force Cross.
The Westland Whirlwind was a license-built variant of the Sikorsky S-55. The HAR.10 was a dedicated search-and-rescue helicopter, powered by a 1,050 shaft horsepower de Havilland Engine Co., Ltd., Gnome H.1000 (Mk.101). The engine was based on the General Electric T58-G-6 turboshaft.
3 November 1957: Laika, a 3-year-old female dog, died in Earth orbit, confined in a small capsule named Sputnik 2. The cause of her death has been variously reported as euthanasia or oxygen starvation, but recent reports state that she died from overheating when the satellite’s cooling system failed.
Laika was a stray dog found on the streets of Moscow. She was trained to accept progressively smaller cages for up to 20 days at a time, and to eat a gelatinous food. She was placed in a centrifuge to expose her to high accelerations. Finally unable to move because of confinement, her normal bodily functions began to deteriorate.
Two days before being launched into orbit, Laika was placed inside her space capsule. The temperatures at the launch site were extremely cold.
Sputnik 2 was launched at 0230 UTC, 3 November 1957. During the launch Laika’s respiration increased to four times normal and her heart rate went up to 240 beats per minute. After reaching orbit, the capsule’s cooling system was unable to control the rising temperature, which soon reached 104 °F. (40 °C.). Telemetry indicated that the dog was under high stress. During the fourth orbit, Laika died.
The Soviet space capsule’s life support system was completely inadequate. The conditions which Laika was exposed to during her training and actual space flight were inhumane. There was no means to return her safely to Earth.
In 2008, Russia unveiled a statue of Laika at Star City.
Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists responsible for her suffering and death said, “The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it. . . We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.”
3 November 1950: Air India Flight 245, a Lockheed L-749A Constellation, VT-CQP, Malabar Princess, was on a flight from Bombay, India, to London, England, with intermediate stops at Cairo, Egypt and Geneva, Switzerland. The aircraft was under the command of Captain Alan R. Saint, with co-pilot Vijay Yeshwant Korgaokar, three navigators and a radio operator.
At 9:43 a.m., Malabar Princess crashed into the Rochers de la Tournette (Tournette Spur) on the west side of Mont Blanc at an approximate elevation of 15,344 feet (4,677 meters). All 48 persons on board were killed.
Air India International was the national airline of India, having been formed from Tata Airlines. On 8 June 1948, Air India’s first scheduled flight departed Bombay for Cairo, Geneva and London. The airliner was Malabar Princess.
On 24 January 1966, Air India Flight 101, a Boeing 707-437, VT-DMN, named Kanchenjunga,¹ crashed at almost the same location on Mount Blanc. All 117 persons on board were killed.
The Lockheed L-749A Constellation was operated by a flight crew of four, with two to four flight attendants. It could carry up to 81 passengers. The airplane was 97 feet, 4 inches (29.667 meters) long with a wingspan of 123 feet (37.490 meters) and an overall height of 22 feet, 5 inches (6.833 meters). It had an empty weight of 56,590 pounds (25,669 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 107,000 pounds (48,534 kilograms).
The L-749A was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged and fuel-injected 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 (also known as the Duplex-Cyclone) 749C18BD1 two-row 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. They had a Normal Power rating of 2,100 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and Takeoff Power rating 2,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. (five minute limit). The engines drove three-bladed Curtiss-Electric propellers through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. This engine featured “jet stacks” which converted the piston engines’ exhaust to usable jet thrust, adding about 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour) to the airplane’s speed. The 749C18BD1 was 6 feet, 6.52 inches (1.994 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.62 inches (1.413 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,915 pounds (1,322 kilograms).
The L-749 had a cruise speed of 345 miles per hour (555 kilometers per hour) and a range of 4,995 miles (8,039 kilometers). Its service ceiling was 24,100 feet (7,346 meters).
The Air India Flight 245 crash was the basis for a novel, La neige en deuil (“The Snow in Mourning”), written by Henri Troyat (née Lev Aslanovic Tarassov), which in turn inspired the 1956 Edward Dymtryk motion picture, “The Mountain.” The film starred Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner and Anna Kashfi.² Tracy was nominated by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for an award for his performance.
¹ Kanchenjunga is the name of the world’s third highest mountain, an “eight thousander” located 125 kilometers (78 miles) east-southeast of Mount Everest in the Himalayas. Its summit is 8,598 meters (28,209 feet) above Sea Level. It is considered to be a sacred mountain. Climbers are not allowed there.
² Anna Kashfi (née Joan O’Callaghan) was the first Mrs. Marlon Brando.
3 November 1932: In the late 1920s through mid-1930s, Miss Ruth Rowland Nichols was one of the best-known American women in aviation. She was the only person to have simultaneously held world records for speed, distance and altitude. She was at Floyd Bennett Airport, Brooklyn, New York, intending to fly across the North American continent to Burbank, California, and break Amelia Earhart’s record for the route. The flight was also intended to generate publicity for the re-election campaign of President Herbert Hoover.
Miss Nichols’ airplane was a 1928 Lockheed Vega 5, s/n 619, NR496M, owned by Powell Crosley, Jr., founder of the Crosley Radio Corp. of Cincinnati, Ohio. This was the same airplane that she had crash-landed at a small airport near St. John, New Brunswick, Dominion of Canada, 22 June 1931. She had been severely injured.
At 2:48 a.m., ( UTC) while taking off, the Vega drifted off of the 3,000-foot ( meters) concrete-surfaced runway and the left wheel sank into the soft grass. The airplane spun around and the left wing hit the ground.
A contemporary newspaper reported:
Miss Nichols had expected to fly at an average speed of 200 miles an hour and be the first woman to cross the continent without a stop. On her way to Burbank, Cal., she was to drop Hoover leaflets.
The plane was loaded with 32 gallons of oil besides 650 gallons of gasoline. With Floyd Bennet [sic] Field lighted by the 4,000,000-candlepower flood light at the south end of the field, she started from the south end of he runway.
After speeding about 700 feet along the concrete runway the plane got out of control and switched off the concrete on to the grass. The girl flier tried desperately to steer it back to the runway, realized that here efforts would be in vain and to avoid an explosion cut off the ignition and pulled the stick.
The plane went into a loop and rolled over on its side, the left wing burying itself in the ground. The wing, running gears and left side of the fuselage were wrecked. Gasoline spurted in great streams from the fuel tank, forming large pools.
The small group of observers rushed in alarm to the wrecked plane. . . An ambulance, posted on the field for a possible emergency, hurried to the side of the plane.
Before they reached it Miss Nichols stepped out, exasperated but smiling and unhurt.
“Can’t hurt an old hand like me,’ she said. She added later that she was ‘through’ with night flying.
The plane was the same in which Miss Nichols had attempted a transatlantic flight when it crashed in New Brunswick, Canada. At that time, she suffered a spine injury.
Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, the Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could be configured to carry four to six passengers.
Designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee, the Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of spiral strips of vertical grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and held together with glue. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.
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.
The Model 5 Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).
Nichols’ airplane was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. The engine drove a two-bladed controllable-pitch Hamilton Standard propeller through direct drive. The Wasp C was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.3-7 meters) in diameter and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).
The standard Vega 5 had a cruising speed of 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). Range with standard fuel tanks was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).