8 February 2012: End of an era. NASA 911, the Boeing 747-146 that has been used as a space shuttle carrier, made its last flight on Wednesday, 8 February 2012, a 20-minute hop from Edwards Air Force Base to Palmdale Plant 42. In 38 years, this airplane accumulated 33,004.1 flight hours, which is relatively low time for an airliner. It will be cannibalized for parts to keep another NASA 747 flying.
NASA 911 (Boeing serial number 20781) made its first flight 31 August 1973, registered as JA8817, and flew in commercial service with Japan Air Lines for fifteen years. It was obtained by NASA in 1989 and turned over to Boeing for modification as the second Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
The 747-146 SR is a short-range, high-capacity airliner variant produced by Boeing for Japan Air Lines. It was strengthened to handle the additional takeoffs and landings of short-duration flights. Additional structural support was built into the fuselage, wings and landing gear, while the fuel capacity was reduced 20% from that of the standard 747-100. Seven were built between 1973 and 1975.
It is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). Its empty weight is 323,034 pounds (146,526 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight 710,000 pounds (322,050 kilograms).
NASA 911 was equipped with more powerful JT9D-7J engines in place of the standard airplane’s JT9D-7A engines. This increased thrust from 46,950 pounds to 50,000 pounds (222.41 kilonewtons) each. The JT9D-7J is a two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a single stage fan section, 14-stage compressor section and 4-stage turbine. This engine has a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 11.6 inches (2.428 meters), is 12 feet, 10.2 inches (3.917 meters) long and weighs 8,850 pounds (4,014 kilograms).
While carrying a space shuttle, the SCA maximum speed is 0.6 Mach (432 miles per hour, or 695 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and its range is 1,150 miles (1,850.75 kilometers).
NASA 911 is on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark, Palmdale, California.
8 February 1973: At 02:33:12 UTC, the Skylab 4/Apollo command module undocked from the Skylab space station in Earth orbit, after 83 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes, 12 seconds. After several orbits, the Apollo capsule reentered the atmosphere and landed in the Pacific Ocean southwest of San Diego California, at 15:16:53 UTC. The crew was recovered by USS Okinawa (LPH-3), a helicopter carrier. Today, the Apollo capsule is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
Skylab was an orbital laboratory built from a Saturn S-IVB third stage. It was launched from Cape Canaveral 14 May 1973 as part of a modified Saturn V rocket. The Skylab 4 crew was the third and final group of astronauts to live and the space station. (The mission insignia incorporates the numeral 3.)
Skylab’s orbit gradually decayed and it re-entered the atmosphere near Perth, Australia, 11 July 1979.
21 January–8 February 1971: A Lockheed P-3C Orion antisubmarine warfare patrol bomber, Bu. No. 156512, under the command of Commander Donald H. Lilienthal, United States Navy, took off from Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan, at 23:30 UTC, Thursday, 21 January (8:30 a.m., 22 January, Japan Time), and flew 11,036.47 kilometers (6,857.75 statute miles), non-stop, to NATC Patuxent River, Maryland. The airplane landed at 8:51 a.m., Eastern Standard Time (13:51 UTC), Friday, 22 January. The duration of the flight was 15 hours, 21 minutes.
This was a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world distance record for turboprop airplanes.¹ The Orion’s course deviated around foreign airspace so the actual distance flown was 7,010 miles (11,218.5 kilometers).
For the long distance flight the Orion carried a flight crew of seven: Commander Donald H. Lilienthal, Aircraft Commander; Captain R.H. Ross, Pilot; Lieutenant Commander F. Howard Stoodley, Pilot; Lieutenant R.T. Myers, Navigator; Commander J.E. Koehr, Meteorologist; Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate K.D. Frantz, Flight Engineer; and Chief Aviation Electrician’s Mate H.A. Statti, Flight Engineer.
On Wednesday, 27 January 1971, the same airplane set both FAI and National Aeronautic Association records for Speed Over a Straight Course of 15/25 Kilometers of 806.10 kilometers per hour (500.89 miles per hour) at NAS Patuxent River.²
The U.S. National Record still stands:
On February 4, at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California, Commander Lilienthal flew 156512 to a World Record for Altitude in Horizontal Flight of 13,721.5 meters (45,018.1 feet).³
On 8 February 1971, while till at Edwards AFB, Commander Lilienthal and 156512 set five more world records for heavy turboprop airplanes. The P-3C climbed to a height of 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 2 minutes, 52 seconds ⁴ ; to 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) in 5 minutes, 46 seconds ⁵ ; to 9,000 meters (29, 528 feet) in 10 minutes, 26 seconds ⁶ ; and 12,000 meters (39,370 feet) in 19 minutes, 42 seconds.⁷ The Orion continued climbing until it reached a world record altitude of 14,086.1 meters (46,214.2 feet). ⁸
For his record-setting flights, Commander Lilienthal was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The record-setting airplane was a Lockheed Model 285A P-3C-110-LO Orion, Bu. No. 156512, LAC serial number 5506, built by the Lockheed-California Company at Burbank, California. The Orion was completed 14 August 1969. It was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The Orion was a standard production P-3C with no engine or fuel system modifications.
The Lockheed P-3 Orion was developed from the Model 188 Electra—a four-engine turboprop airliner which first flew in 1957—primarily as a long-range anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance aircraft. The P-3 has been adapted to many other missions. The P-3C variant in U.S. Navy service is usually operated by a crew of 11.
The bomber is 116 feet, 10 inches (35.611 meters) long with a wingspan of 99 feet, 8 inches (30.378 meters) and overall height of 34 feet, 3 inches (10.439 meters). It has a zero-fuel weight of 77,200 pounds (35,017 kilograms) and a normal maximum takeoff weight of 135,000 pounds (61,235 kilograms) (Overload Takeoff: 139,780 pounds/63,403 kilograms).
The P-3C is powered by four Allison T56-A-14 turboprop engines which produce 4,591 shaft horsepower at 13,820 r.p.m., each. They drive four-bladed Hamilton-Standard 54H60-77 constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 13 feet, 5¾ inches (4.109 meters) at 1,020 r.p.m. The T56-A-14 is a single-shaft axial-flow turboprop engine, with a 14-stage compressor section, six combustors, and a 4-stage turbine. The engine is 12 feet, 2.3 inches (3.716 meters) long, 4 feet, 1.0 inches (1.245 meters) in diameter and weighs 1,885 pounds (855 kilograms).
The P-3C can remain airborne for 16 hours.
There is a wide variety of sensors board the P-3. Sonobuoys can be dropped from the belly. A Magnetic Anomaly Detector, the “MAD boom” is mounted at the tail of the aircraft.
The Orion caries no defensive weapons. It can carry bombs, depth charges, torpedoes, mines, air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles, and nuclear weapons.
More than 750 P-3 Orions and its variants were built by Lockheed and licensee Kawasaki Heavy Industries between 1961 and 1996. In addition to the U.S. Navy and various Federal government agencies, the Lockheed P-3 Orion remains in service worldwide with more than twenty countries.
Lockheed P-3C-110-LO Orion Bu. No. 156512 served as a test aircraft at Patuxent River until 15 July 1974. It was then assigned to VP-31 where it remained for over nine years, carrying the squadron identification marking RP and the numeral 9. It later served with VP-9, VP-46, VP-65, VP-16 and finally, VP-45. 156512 was placed in long-term storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, in 1995, and was scrapped in 2004.
Donald Herman Lilienthal was born 6 February 1931 at Pope, Minnesota. He was the fourth child of Frederick R. Lilienthal, a steam railway worker, and Bertha Camille Metlie Lilienthal. He attended Glenwood High School, Glenwood, Minnesota, graduating in 1949. He then studied mathematics at the University of Minnesota, before accepting an appointment as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1951.
Midshipman Lilienthal graduated from Annapolis and was commissioned an ensign, United States Navy, 3 June 1955. He was then trained as a pilot. Later, he graduated from the United States Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.
In June 1958, Lieutenant (j.g.) Lilienthal married Miss Jeanne L. Murphy, in Duval County, Florida. They had three children, Karen, John and Donald, Jr. They divorced in March 1975.
Lieutenant (j.g.) Lilienthal was promoted to the rank of lieutenant 1 July 1959, and to lieutenant commander, 1 July 1964. He advanced to commander on 1 July 1969.
Commander Lilenthal retired from the United States Navy in December 1975 after 20 years of service as an antisubmarine warfare pilot and test pilot. He later worked as a consultant to the aviation industry.
Commander Lilienthal married Mrs. Jimena Rosa Goich Recavrren, a widow, in Arlington, Virginia, 17 September 1982. They divorced 3 December 1993 in Fairfax, Virginia.
Commander Donald Herman Lilienthal, United States Navy (Retired) passed away at Loudon, Virginia, 21 August 2014 at the age of 83 years. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
8 February 1933: Boeing test pilot Leslie R. (“Les”) Tower and United Air Lines Captain Louis C. Goldsmith made the first flight of the Boeing Model 247, NX13300, a twin-engine airline transport, at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington. The first flight lasted 40 minutes and Tower was quite pleased with the airplane. He took it up a second time later in the day.
The 247 is considered to be the first modern airliner because of its all-metal semi-monocoque construction, cantilevered wing and retractable landing gear. It was 50 miles per hour (80.5 kilometers per hour) faster than its contemporaries, and could climb on one engine with a full load.
The airplane was built at Boeing’s Oxbow factory on the Duwamish River, then barged to Boeing Field where it was assembled and tested. The 247 was originally named “Skymaster,” but this was soon dropped.
Two months after the first flight, the first production 247, NC13301, was placed in service with United Air Lines. It was the first of ten 247s bought by United.
The Model 247 was operated by a pilot, co-pilot and a flight attendant and carried up to ten passengers. The airplane was 51 feet, 5 inches (15.672 meters) long, with a wingspan of 74 feet, 1 inch (22.581 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 5 inches (3.785 meters). The empty weight was 8,921 pounds (4,046.5 kilograms) with a maximum takeoff weight of 16,805 pounds (7,622.6 kilograms).
The Duralamin skin panels were anodized, rather than painted, for corrosion protection. This saved weight, and resulted in the 247’s characteristic gray-green color.
The airliner was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liters) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S1H1-G nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.03:1. The S1H1-G had a Normal power rating of 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., to 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. for Takeoff. They drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The Wasp S1H1-G was 3 feet, 11.80 inches (1.214 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.61 inches (1.311 meters) in diameter, and weighed 930 pounds (422 kilograms).
The Boeing 247 had a maximum speed of 200 miles per hour (321.9 kilometers per hour) with a cruising speed of 188 miles per hour (302.6 kilometers per hour. It had a range of 745 miles (1,199 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 25,400 feet (7,742 meters).
75 Model 247s were built. 60 were bought by Boeing Air Transport.
[Note: the windshield was canted forward to prevent instrument panel lighting from reflecting into the cockpit at night. Unfortunately, ground lighting was reflected instead. This was soon changed to a rearward slant and resulted in a slight increase in speed.]
8 February 1918: General Order 299 specified that all U.S. Army Air Service airplanes assigned to the AEF would be marked with a roundel (or cocarde) of three concentric circles. The outer circle was to be painted red and have a diameter approximately equal to the chord of the wing. A blue circle had a diameter two-thirds the length of the chord, and an inner white circle was one-third the chord in diameter. Two roundels were painted on the upper surface of the airplane’s top wing, just inside the aileron. Two more roundels were painted on the lower surface of the bottom wing.
In addition the airplane’s rudder was painted with three red, white and blue vertical stripes, with the red stripe adjacent to the rudder post and the blue stripe on the rudder’s trailing edge.
This national insignia was similar to the roundels used by France and England, though the order of the colors varied.
The red, blue and white roundel replaced the previous national insignia, which was a white 5-pointed star surrounded by a blue circle, with a red circle in the center. The star insignia had also been place in the same position on the wings, and the rudder also had three vertical stripes, but the order had been blue, white and red.
The new roundel was short-lived. It was replaced in 1919.