Daily Archives: December 27, 2020

John Leonard Swigert, Jr. (30 August 1931–27 December 1982)

John L. Swigert, Jr., Astronaut
John L. Swigert, Jr., Astronaut, Command Module Pilot, Apollo XIII. (NASA)

John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr., was born at Denver, Colorado, 30 August 1931, the first of three children of John Leonard Swigert, a physician, and Virginia Seep Swigert. Interested in aviation from an early age, he was a licensed Private Pilot at age 16. He graduated from Denver’s East High School in 1949.

Jack Swigert, 1952.

Jack Swigert attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. He was a member of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC), played on the varsity football team, and was a member of the C Club. He graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Following his graduation, Swigert was commissioned as a second lieutenant, United States Air Force Reserve.

Lieutenant Swigert flew fighters from bases in Japan and Korea, then after completing his active duty requirement, 2 October 1956, he  transferred to the Air National Guard. He served with the Massachusetts ANG and Connecticut ANG.

Swigert earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, in 1965, as well as a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Hartford at Hartford, Connecticut.

Captain John L. Swigert, Jr., United States Air Force, F-100 Super Sabre pilot, 118th Fighter Squadron, Connecticut Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Captain John L. Swigert, Jr., United States Air Force, F-100A Super Sabre pilot, 118th Fighter Squadron, Connecticut Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)

While flying with the Air Guard, Swigert also worked for North American Aviation, Inc., as an engineering test pilot, and then for Pratt & Whitney.

He became one of 19 men selected as crewmembers of NASA’s Apollo Program 1965. He requested an assignment as pilot of the Apollo Command and Service Module.

Swigert was a member of the support team for the Apollo 7 mission, and was then selected as Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 13 backup crew, along with John Watts Young and Charles M. Duke, Jr.  When the primary crew CMP, Ken Mattingly, was thought to have been exposed to measles, he was withdrawn from Apollo 13 and Jack Swigert took his place in the primary crew.

Apollo 13 was planned as the third lunar landing mission. The circumstances of its flight are well known. When disaster struck, all three astronauts performed an amazing feat as they had to improvise their safe return to Earth.

Swigert left NASA in 1977 and entered politics. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, representing the the 6th District of Colorado.

On the night of 27 December 1982, before he could be sworn into office, John Leonard Swigert, Jr., aerospace engineer, fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut and congressman, died from complications of cancer.

John L. Swigert, Jr. Memorial, bronze sculpture by Mark and George Lundeen, in the National Statuary Hall Collection, United States Capitol. Gift of the State of Colorado, 1997. (Architect of the Capitol)
John L. Swigert, Jr. Memorial, bronze sculpture by Mark and George Lundeen, in the National Statuary Hall Collection, United States Capitol. Gift of the State of Colorado, 1997. (Architect of the Capitol)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 December 1968 15:51:42 UTC, T plus 147:00:42.0

A Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King of HS-4 hovers nearby during recovery operations after Apollo 8 lands in the Pacific Ocean, 27 December 1968. (Otis Imboden/National Geographic)
A Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King of HS-4 hovers nearby during recovery operations after Apollo 8 lands in the Pacific Ocean, 27 December 1968. (Otis Imboden/National Geographic)

27 December 1968 15:51:42 UTC, T plus 147:00:42.0: Apollo 8 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean south of the Hawaiian Islands, within 5,000 yards (4,572 meters) of the recovery ship USS Yorktown (CVS-10). The spacecraft arrived before sunrise, landing in 10-foot (3-meter) swells. The parachutes dragged the capsule and left it floating upside down. The inflatable pontoons righted it after about six minutes.

The three astronauts, Frank F. Borman II, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders, were hoisted aboard a Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King helicopter, Bu. No. 152711, and flown to the aircraft carrier.

Apollo 8 was the first manned space mission to leave Earth orbit and to travel to another planetary body. It proved all of the space flight techniques that would be required for the upcoming Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King 66, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number 152711, assigned to HS-4 (“Black Knights”) was the primary recovery helicopter for Apollo 8, Apollo 10, Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 13. It was lost at sea off NALF Imperial Beach, California, 4 June 1975. One crewman was killed.

U.S. Navy swimmers prepare the Apollo 8 command capsule to be hoisted aboard USS Yorktown (CVS-10) in the Pacific Ocean, 27 December 1968. (U.S. Navy)
U.S. Navy swimmers prepare the Apollo 8 command capsule to be hoisted aboard USS Yorktown (CVS-10) in the Pacific Ocean, 27 December 1968. (U.S. Navy)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 December 1951

The first prototype North American Aviation XFJ-2B Fury, Bu. No. 133756, lifts off the runway at Los Angeles International Airport, 27 December 1951. (north American Aviation)
The first prototype North American Aviation XFJ-2B Fury, Bu. No. 133756, lifts off the runway at Los Angeles International Airport, 27 December 1951. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
North American Aviation XFJ-2B Fury prototype Bu. No. 133756 climbs out after takeoff from Los Angeles International Airport, 27 December 1951. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
North American Aviation XFJ-2B Fury prototype Bu. No. 133756 climbs out after takeoff from Los Angeles International Airport, 27 December 1951. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

27 December 1951: The North American Aviation XFJ-2B Fury, Bu. No. 133756, made its first flight at Los Angeles International Airport with test pilot Robert Anderson Hoover at the controls.

The XFJ-2B was a prototype aircraft carrier-based fighter for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. It was modified from a standard production U.S. Air Force F-86E-10-NA Sabre day fighter. The primary difference was the substitution of four 20 mm Colt Mark 12 autocannon for the six .50-caliber Browning M-3 machine guns of the F-86E. 150 rounds per gun were carried. The aircraft was flown to the Naval Ordnance Test Station, Armitage Field, China Lake, California, for armament testing.

The second and third prototypes were unarmed but fitted with an arrestor hook, catapult points, folding wings and a lengthened nose gear strut to increase the fighter’s static angle of attack for takeoff and landings. These two prototypes were used for aircraft carrier trials.

Production FJ-2 Fury fighters were built at North American’s Columbus, Ohio plant, along with F-86F Sabres for the Air Force.

Prototype North American Aviation XFJ-2B Fury, Bu. No. 133756, in flight, eastbound, just southwest of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Santa Monica Bay and the Santa Monica Mountains are in the background. (North American Aviation, Inc./Boeing)
Prototype North American Aviation XFJ-2B Fury Bu. No. 133756 in flight, eastbound, just southwest of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Santa Monica Bay and the Santa Monica Mountains are in the background. (North American Aviation, Inc./Boeing)
North American Aviation test pilot Robert A. ("Bob") Hoover with XFJ-2 Fury, Bu. No. 133754, the second prototype. (North American Aviation, Inc.)
North American Aviation test pilot Robert A. (“Bob”) Hoover with XFJ-2 Fury Bu. No. 133754, the second prototype. Note the extended landing gear strut. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

Robert A. Hoover was one of the world’s best known exhibition pilots. He was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. While flying a British Supermarine Spitfire with the 52nd Fighter Group based at Sicily, he was shot down, captured, and held as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft I in Germany.

After 16 months in captivity, Hoover escaped, stole a Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and flew it to The Netherlands.

After the war, Bob Hoover trained as a test pilot at Wright Field, Ohio, and remained in the Air Force until 1948. He worked as a test pilot for the Allison Division of General Motors, and then went on to North American Aviation.

Bob Hoover was famous  for flying aerobatic demonstrations around the world in his yellow P-51D Mustang and a twin-engine Shrike Commander, both built by North American Aviation.

Robert Anderson Hoover died 25 October 2016 at the age of 94 years.

Robert Anderson Hoover, Test Pilot, with North American Aviation F-100D-30-NA Super Sabre 55-3702A. (The Washington Post)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 December 1935

Mauna Loa viewed from Hilo, Hawaii. (Donnie MacGowan, Lovingthebigisland’s Weblog)
Advancing lava flow, December 1935. (USGS)

27 December 1935: When an eruption of Mauna Loa, a volcano on the Island of Hawaii (ongoing since late November) threatened the town of Hilo on the island’s northeastern coast, a decision was made to try to divert the flow of lava by aerial bombing. (The population of Hilo in 1935 was 15,633.)

Until recently, Mauna Loa was thought to be the largest volcano on Earth, but has been downgraded to second-place status by the Tamu Massif in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. It is a shield volcano, meaning that it was built up of fluid lava flows, as opposed to a stratovolcano, such as Vesuvius, which is created by the build up of solids like ash and pumice. The summit of Mauna Loa is 13,679 feet (4,169 meters) above Sea Level, but the volcano actually rises 30,085 feet (9,170 meters) from the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

“Lava flows from Pu’u ‘O’o Crater on Kilauea,” one of five active volcanoes on the Island of Hawaii in the Hawaiian Islands. (USGS)

The mission was planned by Lieutenant Colonel George S. PattonThe U.S. Army Air Corps’ 23d Bombardment Squadron, 5th Composite Group, based at Luke Field on Ford Island, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, sent three Keystone B-3A and two Keystone B-6A bombers. The five airplanes dropped twenty 600-pound (272.2 kilogram) Mark I demolition bombs, each containing 355 pounds (161 kilograms) of TNT, with 0.1-second delay fuses.

A Keystone bomber flying over the Ko’olau Range on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. (U.S. Air Force)

Five of the twenty bombs struck molten lava directly; most of the others impacted solidified lava along the flow channel margins. . . Colonel William C. Capp (USAF, ret.), a pilot who bombed the lower target, reported direct hits on the channel, observing a sheet of red, molten rock that was thrown up to about 200′ elevation and that flying debris made small holes in his lower wing. Bombs that impacted on solidified, vesicular pahoehoe along the flow margin produced craters averaging 6.7 m diameters and 2.0 m depth. . .

Pilots observed that several bombs collapsed thin lava tube roofs, although in no case was sufficient roof material imploded into the tube to cause blockage. The extrusion of lava ceased within a week, however, and Jaggar wrote that the bombing caused the fluid pahoehoe to thicken and block the vent by the process of gas release. . . .

Diversion of Lava Flows by Aerial Bombing — Lessons from Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawaii, by J.P. Lockwood, USGS, and F.A. Torgerson, USAF, abstract.

A flight of three Keystone B-3A bombers of the 23d Bombardment Squadron take off at Luke Field, Territory of Hawaii. Diamond Head is visible in the background. (U.S. Air Force)
A flight of three Keystone B-3A bombers of the 23d Bombardment Squadron take off at Luke Field on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. Diamond Head is visible in the background. (U.S. Air Force)

Eventually the lava turned to follow the natural drainage toward Hilo, instigating a crisis. On December 26, the flow was moving 1.6 km per day (1 mile per day), and at that rate scientists calculated the flows would reach Kaumana Road by January 9 (disrupting mochi-pounding parties). A suggestion to bomb the eruption was made. The U.S. Army Officer who planned the bombing operation was then Lt. Colonel George S. Patton, who would go on to WWII fame.

Three Keystone B-6As of 20th Bombardment Squadron, 2d Bomb Group, release their bombs on a practice mission. (U.S. Air Force)

On December 27, U.S. Army planes dropped bombs, targeting the lava channels and tubes just below the vents at 2,600 m (8,600 ft). The object was to divert the flow near its source. The results of the bombing was declared a success by Thomas A. Jaggar, Director of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Jagger wrote that ‘the violent release of lava, of gas and of hydrostatic pressures at the source robbed the lower flow of its substance, and of its heat.’ The lava stopped flowing on January 2, 1936.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Volcano Watch Archive, November 27, 1997: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/archive/1997/97_11_28.html

“Aerial view of a bomb detonating on Mauna Loa near the 8,500-foot elevation source of the 1935 lava flow on the morning of Dec. 27, 1935. This was one of twenty 600-pound bombs dropped on the lava flow that morning by the Army Bombing Squadron from Luke Field, O’ahu. Photo by Army Air Corps, 11th Photo Section.” (Big Island Now)

The Keystone B-3A was a twin-engine two-bay biplane bomber, among the last biplanes used by the United States Army. It was operated by a crew of five. The B-3A was 48 feet, 10 inches (14.884 meters) long with a wingspan of 74 feet, 8 inches (22.758 meters). The maximum gross weight was 12,952 pounds (5,875 kilograms).

The B-3A was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,690.537-cubic-inch-displacement (27.703 liters) Pratt & Whitney Hornet A1 (R-1690-3) single-row 9-cylinder radial engines  with a compression ratio of 5:1. The engine was rated at 525 horsepower at 1,900 r.p.m., and turned two-bladed propellers through direct drive. The R-1690-3 was 3 feet, 8.88 Inches (1.140 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.44 inches (1.408 meters) in diameter and weighed 800 pounds (363 kilograms).

The B-3A had a maximum speed of 114 miles per hour (184 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Cruising speed was 98 miles per hour (158 kilometers per hour) and the service ceiling was 12,700 feet (3,871 meters) —nearly 1,000 feet (305 meters) lower than Mauna Loa’s summit.

Armament consisted of three .30-caliber machine guns and 2,500 pounds (1,133.9 kilograms) of bombs. With a full bomb load, the Keystone B-3A had a range of 860 miles (1,384 kilometers).

63 Keystone B-3As were built for the Air Corps and they were in service until 1940. The 2nd Observation Squadron at Nichols Field, Philippines, was the last unit equipped with the B-3A.

Keystone B-3A, Air Corps serial number 30-281, the first B-3A built. (U.S. Air Force)
Keystone B-3A, Air Corps serial number 30-281, the first B-3A built. (U.S. Air Force)

The Keystone B-6A was a re-engined B-3A. There was a change to two 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 R-1820E single row 9-cylinder radial engines turning three-bladed propellers. The R-1820E was rated at 575 horsepower at 1,900 r.p.m. The engine weighed 850 pounds (386 kilograms).

Maximum speed increased to 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level with a cruising speed of 103 miles per hour (166 kilometers per hour). Armament and bomb load remained the same but the service ceiling increased to 14,100 feet (4,298 meters). The range decreased to 350 miles (563 kilometers) with a full bomb load.

39 Keystone B-6As were built and they remained in service until the early 1940s.

A U.S. Army Air Corps Keystone B-6A bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
A U.S. Army Air Corps Keystone B-6A bomber. (U.S. Air Force)

Newsreel footage of the bombing is available at Critical Past:

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675069574_bomb-Mauna-Loa_divert-lava_Keystone-B-3A_Keystone-LB-6A_United-States-fliers

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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