Daily Archives: June 29, 2020

29 June 1965

Captain Joe Henry Engle, United States Air Force
Captain Joe Henry Engle, United States Air Force

29 June 1965: At 10:21:17.6 PDT, Captain Joe H. Engle, United States Air Force, flying the Number Three North American Aviation X-15A-3 research rocketplane, 56-6672, was air-dropped from the NB-52B Stratofortress mothership, Balls 8, over Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada. This was the 138th flight of the X-15 Program, and Joe Engle’s 12th. He fired the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 engine for 81.0 seconds and accelerated to Mach 4.94 (3,432 miles per hour, 5,523 kilometers per hour). The X-15 climbed to an altitude of 280,600 feet (85,527 meters, 53.14 miles). He touched down at Edwards Air Force Base after 10 minutes, 34.2 seconds of flight. His parents were at Edwards to witness his flight.

Captain Engle qualified for Astronaut wings on this flight, the third and youngest Air Force pilot to do so.

Command Pilot Astronaut insignia, United States Air Force
Command Pilot Astronaut insignia, United States Air Force

From 1963 and 1965, Joe Engle made 14 flights in the three X-15s. After leaving the X-15 Program, he was assigned to the Apollo Program, the only NASA astronaut with prior spaceflight experience. He was the back-up Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 14 and he was the designated LM pilot for Apollo 17 but was replaced by Harrison Schmidt when Apollo 18 was cancelled. Next he went on to the Space Shuttle Program. He was a Mission Commander for the Enterprise flight tests and for Columbia‘s second orbital flight, during which he became the only pilot to manually fly a Mach 25 approach and landing. Finally, he commanded the Discovery STS 51-1 mission.

Joe Engle retired from the Air Force in 1986. He was then promoted to the rank of Major General and assigned to the Kansas Air National Guard. He has flown at least 185 aircraft types and accumulated 14,700 flight hours, with 224 hours in space.

Captain Joe H. Engle, U.S. Air Force, with the North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1965. (NASA)
Captain Joe H. Engle, U.S. Air Force, with the North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1965. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 June 1955

The first operational Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B-15-BO 52-8711. (U.S. Air Force)
The first operational Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B-15-BO 52-8711. (U.S. Air Force)

29 June 1955: The first operational Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B-15-BO 52-8711, was delivered to the 93rd Bombardment Wing, Heavy, at Castle Air Force Base, Merced, California. The new long-range heavy bomber would replace the 93rd’s Boeing B-47 Stratojets.

Fifty B-52Bs were built by Boeing at its Plant 2, Seattle, Washington. Twenty-seven of these were RB-52B reconnaissance bombers. They were designed to accept a pressurized electronic intelligence and photographic reconnaissance capsule with a two-man crew that completely filled the bomb bay. Without the capsule aboard, the RB-52s were capable of the same bombing missions as their sister B-52Bs. The change could be made within a few hours.

Pressurized two-man RB-52 reconnaissance pod.
Pressurized two-man RB-52 reconnaissance pod. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-52B/RB-52B was operated by a six-man flight crew for the bombing mission, and eight for reconnaissance. These were the aircraft commander/pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radar navigator/bombardier, electronic warfare officer, and gunner, plus two reconnaissance technicians when required.

The airplane was 156.6 feet, (47.7 meters) long with a wingspan of 185.0 feet (56.4 meters) and overall height of 48.3 feet (14.7 meters). The wings were mounted high on the fuselage (“shoulder-mounted”) to provide clearance for the engines which were suspended on pylons. The wings’ leading edges were swept aft to 36° 54′. Their angle of incidence was 6° and there was 2° 30′ dihedral. The RB-52B’s empty weight was 162,969 pounds (73,921 kilograms), with a combat weight of 257,900 pounds (116,981 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 390,000 pounds (176,901 kilograms). (MTOW was later increased to 420,000 pounds.)

The bomb bay of this RB-52B-10-BO Stratofortress, 52-012, is open, revealing the reconnaissance pod. (U.S. Air Force)

Early production B-52Bs were powered by eight Pratt & Whitney J57-P-1W turbojet engines, while later aircraft were equipped with J57-P-19W and J57-P-29W or WA turbojets. The engines were grouped in two-engine pods on four under-wing pylons. 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-PW-1 engines had a Normal Power rating of 8,250 pounds of thrust (32.698 kilonewtons) at 9,720 r.p.m., N1, continuous; Military Power, 9,500 pounds thrust (42.258 kilonewtons) at 9,950 r.p.m., N1, for 30 minutes; and Maximum Power, 11,100 pounds of thrust (49.375 kilonewtons) with water injection, at 9,950 r.p.m., N1, 5 minute limit. The J57-PW-1 was 3 feet. 4.5 inches (1.029 meters) in diameter, 13 feet, 1.2 inches (3.993 meters) long, and weighed 4,210 pounds (1,910 kilograms).

Boeing RB-52B-10-BO Stratofortress 52-013. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-52B/RB-52B had a cruise speed of 517 knots (595 miles per hour/957 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The maximum speed was 542 knots (624 miles per hour/1,004 kilometers per hour) at 19,500 feet (5,944 meters). The service ceiling at combat weight was 47,600 feet (14,508 meters).

The RB-52B had a maximum fuel capacity of 37,385 gallons (141,518 liters). Its maximum ferry range was 6,460 nautical miles (7,434 statute miles/11,964 kilometers). With a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) bomb load, the RB-52B had a combat radius of 3,110 nautical miles (3,579 miles/5,760 kilometers). With inflight refueling, the bomber’s range was world-wide.

Tail gun turret of an early B-52 Stratofortress
B-52 tail gun turret

Defensive armament consisted of four Browning Aircraft Machine Guns, Caliber .50, AN-M3, mounted in a tail turret with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun. These guns had a combined rate of fire of 4,800 rounds per minute.

The B-52B could carry twenty-seven 750 pound (340 kilogram) bombs, or two 25,000 pound (11,340 kilogram) Special Weapons (thermonuclear bombs).

Boeing manufactured 744 B-52 Stratofortress bombers, with the final one rolled out at Wichita, Kansas, 22 June 1962. As of June 2016, 75 B-52H bombers remain in service with the United States Air Force.

RB-52B 52-8711 remained in active service until 29 September 1965. Today it is on display at the Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland, Nebraska.

A Strategic Air Command alert crew runs to man their bomber, Boeing RB-52B-15-BO Stratofortress 52-8711, 22 Bombardment Wing (Heavy), the first operational B-52, at March Air Force Base, California, 1965. (U.S. Air Force)
A Strategic Air Command alert crew runs to man their bomber, Boeing RB-52B-15-BO Stratofortress 52-8711, 22 Bombardment Wing (Heavy), the first operational B-52, at March Air Force Base, California, 1965. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 June 1937

Photo of a replica of Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10E, flown by Linda Finch. (Tony Bacewicz / The Hartford Courant)
This is a photograph of Linda Finch’s Lockheed Electra over the Arafura Sea at sunset, 8 May 1997, as she recreated the flight of Amelia Earhart. (Tony Bacewicz /The Hartford Courant)

29 June 1937: Leg 28.  Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan fly the Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, to Lae, Territory of New Guinea.

“Lae, New Guinea, June 30th. After a flight of seven hours and forty-three minutes from Port Darwin, Australia, against head winds as usual, my Electra now rests on the shores of the Pacific. Beyond the Gulf of Huon the waters stretch into the distance. Somewhere beyond the horizon lies California. Twenty-two thousand miles have been covered so far. There are 7,000 to go.

“From Darwin we held a little north of east, cutting across the Wellington Hills on the northern coast of Arnhem Land, which is the topmost region of Australia’s Northern Territory. The distance to Lae was about 1,200 miles. Perhaps two-thirds of it was over water, the Arafura Sea, Torres Strait and the Gulf of Papua.

“Midway to New Guinea the sea is spotted with freakish islands, stony fingers pointing towards the sky sometimes for hundreds of feet. We had been told the clouds often hang low over this region and it was better to climb above its hazardous minarets than to run the risks of dodging them should we lay our course close to the surface. Then, too, a high mountain range stretches the length of New Guinea from northwest to southeast. Port Moresby was on the nearer side, but it was necessary to clamber over the divide to reach Lae situated on the low land of the eastern shore. As the journey progressed we gradually increased our altitude to more than 11,000 feet to surmount the lower clouds encountered. Even at that, above us towered cumulus turrets, mushrooming miraculously and cast into endless designs by the lights and shadows of the lowering sun. It was a fairy-story sky country, peopled with grotesque cloud creatures who eyed us with ancient wisdom as we threaded our way through its shining white valleys. But the mountains of cloud were only dank gray mist when we barged into them, that was healthier than playing hide-and-seek with unknown mountains of terra firma below. Finally, when dead reckoning indicated we had traveled far enough, we let down gingerly. The thinning clouds obligingly withdrew and we found ourselves where we should be, on the western flanks of the range with the coastline soon blow us. Working along it, we found Lae and sat down. We were thankful we had been able to make our way successfully over those remote regions of sea and jungle – strangers in a strange land.” —Amelia Earhart

Great Circle route from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, and Lae, Territory of New Guinea, 1,002 nautical miles (1,153 statute miles/1,856 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (29 June 1900–31 July 1944)

Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry, Officier de la Légion d’honneur. (Galerie Gallimard)

29 June 1900: Famed French aviator, poet and author, Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint Exupéry, was born at No. 8 rue Payrat,¹ Lyon, Departement du Rhône, Rhône-Alpes, France. He was the third of five children of Jean Marc Martin comte de Saint-Exupéry and Andrée Louise Marie de Boyer de Fonscolombe de la Mole, comtesse de Saint-Exupéry. As the oldest son, Antoine inherited his father’s title of nobility.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. (Succession de Saint-Exupéry d’Agay via www.antoinedesaintexupery.com)

While serving in the French cavalry, Saint-Exupéry took private flying lessons. He made his first solo flight 9 July 1921, and soon earned a civil pilot’s certificate. Now eligible for military flight training, he was transferred to the Aéronautique Militaire in Morocco, where he was awarded his military aviator’s certificate, No. 19398, 23 December 1921.

Saint-Exupéry was promoted to caporal 5 February 1922. He underwent further training as an officer cadet and received a commission as a sous-lieutenant 10 October 1922.

On 1 May 1923, Sous-lieutenant Saint-Exupéry crashed a Hanriot HD-14 trainer on takeoff. A passenger was severely injured. Saint-Exupery was grounded. The accident was caused by pilot error, and he released from military service, 5 June 1923.

In 1922, Caporal Saint-Exupéry was appointed élèveofficier de réserve (a reserve officer cadet). In this image, Saint-Exupéry is wearing the badge of a military pilot. (Succession de Saint-Exupéry d’Agay via www.antoinedesaintexupery.com)

Saint-Exupéry was engaged to marry Mlle. Louise de Vilmorin. Because of the crash, he promised that he would give up aviation and found employment as an office worker. The engagement ended and he went back to flying.

In 1926, he joined la Compagnie Générale d’Entreprise Aéronautique (C.G.E.A.), which in 1927 would become Compagnie générale aéropostale, (C.G.A.)— Aéropostale,—the predecessor of Air France, in North Africa and South America.

“Transport of the mails, transport of the human voice, transport of the flickering pictures—in this century as in others our highest accomplishments still have the single aim of bring men together.”Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939

Mme. Consuelo Saint-Exupéry

Comte de Saint-Exupéry married Sra. Consuelo Suncin-Sandoval Zeceña, 22 April 1932, at Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France.

During this time, Saint-Exupéry also began his career as an author. His first book, Courrier Sud, was published in 1929. Vol de Nuit (English edition: Night Flight), was published in 1931. His autobiographical Wind, Sand and Stars, published in 1939, is very highly recommended.

When his friend, Henri Guillamet, went down in the Cordillera de los Andes, about 123 miles (198 kilometers) west of Mendoza, Argentina, and then walked out over the next five days, Saint-Exupéry wrote:

“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Terre des hommes (English edition: Wind, Sand and Stars), translated from the French by Lewis Galantière, Harcourt Brace & Company, New York, Chapter II at Page 37

Antonine de Saint-Exupery and Andre Prevost with the Caudron C.630 Simoun, F-ANRY, before the flight to Saigon.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (center) and André Prévost with the Caudron C.630 Simoun, F-ANRY, before the flight to Saigon. (Succession de Saint-Exupéry d’Agay via Le Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace)

On 7 April 1930, Saint-Exupéry was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur.

On 29 December 1935, while flying his red and white Caudron C.630 Simoun, F-ANRY, in a race from Paris, France, to Sài Gòn, French Indo-China, Saint-Exupéry crashed in the Sahara desert. He and his mechanic, André Prévost, were marooned without food or water. They wandered aimlessly for four days and were near death when they were rescued by a Bedouin tribesman. Saint-Exupéry wrote about the experience in Wind, Sand and Stars, and it was the inspiration for his classic novel, The Little Prince.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry stands next to th ewreck of his Caudron C.630 Simoun, F-ANRY, in the Sahara
“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry stands next to the wreck of his Caudron C.630 Simoun, F-ANRY, in the Sahara, 1935. (Unattributed)

Saint-Exupéry traveled to Spain in 1937 to observe the Spanish Revolution. He was horrified by what he experienced. “War is not an adventure,” he wrote. “It is a disease.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur in 1939.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Saint-Exupéry returned to service with the Armée del’Air, flying in a reconnaissance squadron. With the surrender of France to the German invaders, he fled to Portugal. Saint-Exupéry sailed from Lisbon 20 December 1940 aboard S.S. Siboney, arriving at the Port of New York, 31 December.

In April 1943, he returned to the war flying with the Free French Air Force, the Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres.

He flew a twin-engine Lockheed F-5B, an unarmed photographic reconnaissance variant of the P-38J Lightning fighter. His squadron, 31e escadre, Groupe 2/33, operated from Borgo, an airfield on the northeast coast of Corsica.

Antoine de Saint Exupery in hi sLockheed F-5B Lightning reconnaissance airplane, circa 1944. (John e Annamaria Phillips Foundation)
Commandant Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Groupe de Chasse 11/33, Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres, in a Lockheed F-5B Lightning photo reconnaissance airplane, circa 1944. “War is not an adventure. It is a disease.” (John e Annamaria Phillips Foundation) 
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry flying his Lockheed F-5B-1-LO Lightning near Alghero on the coast of Sardinia, 1944.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry flying a Lockheed F-5B-1-LO Lightning near Alghero on the coast of Sardinia, 1944. (John e Annamaria Phillips Foundation)

Commandant Saint-Exupéry disappeared with his Lockheed F-5B-1-LO Lightning photo reconnaissance airplane (serial number 42-68223) while on a mission to Grenoble and Annecy, at the base of the French Alps, 31 July 1944.

His identity bracelet was found in 1998 by a fisherman, off the southern coastline of France. Wreckage of the F-5B was located on the sea floor in May 2000.

Commandant Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“Life has meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself.” Commandant Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Free French Air Force, in the cockpit of a Lockheed F-5B Lightning, 1944. (Photograph by John Phillips, LIFE Magazine)
Courrier sud, nrf, Paris, 1929, first edition. (Edition-Originale.com)
Night Flight, first edition in English, 1932 (Rulon-Miller Books)
Night Flight, first edition in English, 1932 (Rulon-Miller Books)
Terre des Hommes, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Nrf, Paris, 1939. Signed First Edition, 7 000 €. Réf: 59758. (Edition-Originale.com)
Wind, Sand and Stars, by Antoine de Saint Exupery, 1939 (Bauman Rare Books)
Wind, Sand and Stars, first edition, 1939 (Bauman Rare Books)
Flight to Arras, first edition, 1942 (Bauman Rare Books)
Flight to Arras, first edition, 1942 (Bauman Rare Books)
Le Petit Prince, first edition, 1943. (Bauman's Rare Books)
Le Petit Prince, first edition, 1943. (Bauman Rare Books) 
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and the Little Prince Statue by Christiane Guillaumet, Place Bellecour in Lyon
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and the Little Prince,
statue by Christiane Guillaumet, Place Bellecour in Lyon

¹ Later renamed Rue de Saint-Exupéry.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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