Daily Archives: December 31, 2020

31 December 1985

Eric Hilliard Nelson (8 May 1940–31 December 1985) (Guy Webster)

31 December 1985: At 5:14 p.m., Central Standard Time, a Douglas DC-3C, N711Y,¹ crash-landed in a field near DeKalb, Texas. The airplane struck a wire and several trees and was extensively damaged. The airplane, already on fire, was completely destroyed.

The pilot and co-pilot escaped through cockpit windows, but all seven passengers, including singer Rick Nelson, died.

N711Y was a Douglas C-47A-25-DK Skytrain twin-engine military transport, serial number 42-108981, built at the Midwest City Douglas Aircraft Company Plant, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, circa 1943–1944. Following U.S. military service, the transport was operated in Brazil. The Skytrain had been converted to a civil DC-3C in 1959, and registered N136H. At one time the airplane had been owned by the DuPont family, and later by singer Jerry Lee Lewis. It was registered to the Century Equipment Co., Los Angeles, California, 13 March 1981.

Rick Nelson's Douglas DC-3C, N711Y. © Thomas P. McManus
Rick Nelson’s Douglas DC-3C, N711Y. (Thomas P. McManus via lostflights)

At 5:08 p.m., the pilot informed Air Traffic Control  that he had a problem and was going to divert from the intended destination of Dallas, Texas, to Texarkana. At 5:11 p.m., ATC received a call from N711Y saying that there was smoke in the cockpit. At 5:12 p.m., it was seen on radar at an altitude of 600 feet (183 meters). The airplane disappeared from radar at 5:14 p.m.

Witnesses reported seeing the airplane descending in a left turn to line up with a farm field. It was trailing smoke. Small pieces of metal fell off which started several small fires. The DC-3 struck two power wires suspended about 30 feet (9 meters) above the ground, then a utility pole and several trees.

The pilot and co-pilot, who were both severely burned, gave differing statements as to what had occurred. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that there had been an in-flight fire in the passenger cabin which had probably started in the on-board cabin heater. The board concluded that the pilot in command did not follow proper procedures or check lists.

Burned-out wreckage of Douglas DC-3C N711Y. (Unattributed)

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain is an all-metal twin-engine, low wing monoplane transport with retractable landing gear. It was operated by a minimum flight crew of two pilots, a navigator and a radio operator. The wing is fully cantilevered and the fuselage is of semi-monocoque construction. Control surfaces are fabric-covered. The C-47A variant used a 24-volt electrical system.

The C-47 is 64 feet, 5½ inches (19.647 meters) long with a wingspan of 95 feet (28.956 meters) and height of 17 feet (5.182 meters). The wing center section is straight, but outboard of the engine nacelles there is 5º dihedral. The wings’ leading edges are swept aft 15.5°. The trailing edges have no sweep. Empty weight of the C-47A is 17,257 pounds (7,828 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 29,300 pounds (13,290 kilograms).

The C-47 is powered by two 1,829.4-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) air-cooled, supercharged R-1830-92 (Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1C3-G) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines. These had a maximum continuous rating for normal operation was 1,060 horsepower at 2,550 r.pm., up to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters), and 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., at Sea Level, for takeoff. Each engine drives a three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed full-feathering propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 6 inches (3.505 meters) through a 16:9 gear reduction. The R-1830-92 is 48.19 inches (1.224 meters) long, 61.67 inches (1.566 meters) in diameter, and weighs 1,465 pounds (665 kilograms). (N711Y had been re-engined with Pratt & Whitney R-1830-75 engines, rated at 1,350 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m.)

The C-47 has a cruising speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and service ceiling of 24,100 feet (7,346 meters).

The C-47 could carry 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms) of cargo, or 28 fully-equipped paratroopers. Alternatively, 14 patients on stretchers could be carried, along with three attendants.

The C-47A served with the United States Air Force until 1971. Hundreds of C-47s and DC-3s are still operational, worldwide.

Crash site of Douglas DC-3C N711Y, near DeKalb, Texas. (Unattributed)
Crash site of Douglas DC-3C N711Y, near DeKalb, Texas. (Unattributed)

¹ N711Y was  registered to Century Equipment, Inc., Los Angeles, California. The airplane was sold to Rick Nelson on 2 May 1985, but was never re-registered.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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31 December 1948

The first production Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 (SV), No. 101003. (Mikoyan Design Bureau)

31 December 1948: One year and one day after the first flight of the MiG I-310 S01 prototype, the first production Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, serial number 101003, made its first flight. The production aircraft were based on the third I-310 prototype, S03. No. 101003 was designated МиГ-15(CB) (MiG-15 SV), and was retained by Mikoyan OKB for testing.

The MiG-15 is a single-seat, single-engine turbojet-powered fighter interceptor, designed to attack heavy bombers. Designed for high-subsonic speed, the leading edges of the wings were swept aft to 35° and had 2° anhedral. The wings were very thin to minimize aerodynamic drag and used “fences” to control air flow. The horizontal stabilizer was swept 40°, and the vertical fin, 55.7°.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 (SV), No. 101003. (Mikoyan Design Bureau)

Rolls-Royce Nene Mk.I and Mk.II turbojet engines had been used in the three I-310 prototypes. The British engine was reverse-engineered by Vladimir Yakovlevich Klimov and manufactured at Factory No. 45 in Moscow as the RD-45F. The engine produced a maximum 22.26 kilonewtons of thrust (5,004 pounds of thrust). It was improved and designated VK-1. Most MiG-15s used this engine.

The production fighter was 10.10 meters (33 feet, 2 inches) long, with a wingspan of 10.08 meters (33 feet, 1 inch) and height of 3.17 meters (10 feet, 5 inches). The total wing area was 20.60 square meters (222 square feet). The interceptor’s empty weight was 3,247 kilograms (7,158 pounds), and its takeoff weight was 4,917 kilograms (10,840 pounds).

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 (SV), No. 101003. (Mikoyan Design Bureau)

The MiG-15 had a cruise speed 974 kilometers per hour (605 miles per hour, 0.79 Mach). Its maximum speed was 1,047 kilometers per hour (565 knots, or 651 miles per hour)—0.99 Mach—at low altitude, and 1,031 kilometers per hour (557 knots, 641 miles per hour, 0.97 Mach) at 5,000 meters (16,404 feet). The maximum rate of climb was 2,520 meters per minute (8,268 feet per minute), and its service ceiling was 15,100 meters (49,541 feet). The fighter had a practical range of 1,335 kilometers (830 miles).

Armament consisted of one Nudelman NS-37 37 mm cannon with 40 rounds of ammunition, and two  Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 23 mm cannon with 80 rounds per gun.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 (SV), No. 101003. (Mikoyan Design Bureau)

The first MiG 15, 101003, was built at Factory No. 1. Full scale production was considered so important that four other aircraft types were discontinued so that their factories could be used to build MiG-15s. They were also license-built in Poland and Czechoslovakia. More than 18,000 MiG-15s have been built. It has served in the air forces of at least 44 countries.

The MiG-15 soon entered combat in the Korean War. It scored its first air-to-air victory, 1 November 1950, when First Lieutenant Fiodor V. Chizh shot down a U.S. Air Force F-51 Mustang.

Soviet technicians service a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis of the 351st Fighter Aviation Regiment at Antung Air Base, China, mid-1952. (Unattributed)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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31 December 1938

Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner with all engines running, Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, circa 1939. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

31 December 1938: Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19901 made its first flight at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington. The test pilot was Eddie Allen, with co-pilot Julius A. Barr.

The Model 307 was a four-engine commercial airliner that used the wings, tail surfaces, engines and landing gear of the production B-17B Flying Fortress heavy bomber. The fuselage was circular in cross section to allow for pressurization. It was the first pressurized airliner and because of its complexity, it was also the first airplane to include a flight engineer as a crew member.

Boeing 307 Stratoliner NX19901 with both propellers on right wing feathered. (Boeing)
Boeing 307 Stratoliner NX19901 with both propellers on right wing feathered. (Boeing)

The Associated Press news agency reported:

Test Of Big Craft Begins

     SEATTLE, Dec. 31—(AP)—The world’s first plane, designed for flying in the sub-stratosphere, the new Boeing “Stratoliner”, performed “admirably” in a 42-minute first test flight in the rain today.

     The big ship, with a wingspread of 107 feet, three inches, climbed to 4,000 feet, the ceiling, and cruised between here, Tacoma and Everett. Speed was held down to 175 miles an hour.

     “The control and stability and the way it handled were very nice,” Edmund T. Allen, pilot, said. “She performed admirably.”

     The 33-passenger ship was built to fly at altitudes of 20,000 feet.

     No more tests are planned until next week. The supercharging equipment for high altitude flights will be installed later.

Arizona Republic, Vol. IL, No. 228, Sunday, 1 January 1939, Page 2, Column 4

Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19901 taking of at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

On March 18, 1939, during its 19th test flight, the Stratoliner went into a spin, then a dive. It suffered structural failure of the wings and horizontal stabilizer when the flight crew attempted to recover. NX19901 was destroyed and all ten persons aboard were killed.

Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19901. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)
Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19901. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, Catalog # 01 00091288)
Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19901. The engine cowlings have been removed. The inboard right engine is running. The arrangement of passenger windows differs on the right and left side of the fuselage. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

The Boeing Model 307 was operated by a crew of five and could carry 33 passengers. It was 74 feet, 4 inches (22.657 meters) long with a wingspan of 107 feet, 3 inches (32.690 meters) and overall height of 20 feet, 9½ inches (6.337 meters). The wings had 4½° dihedral and 3½° angle of incidence. The empty weight was 29,900 pounds (13,562.4 kilograms) and loaded weight was 45,000 pounds (20,411.7 kilograms).

Cutaway illustration of a Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner. (NASM SI-89-4024)

The airliner was powered by four air-cooled, geared and supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) Wright Cyclone 9 GR-1820-G102 9-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1, rated at 900 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., and 1,100 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. for takeoff. These drove three-bladed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers through a 0.6875:1 gear reduction in order to match the engine’s effective power range with the propellers. The GR-1820-G102 was 4 feet, 0.12 inches (1.222 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.10 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,275 pounds (578 kilograms).

Boeing Model 307 Stratoliners under construction. (SDASM Archives Catalog #: 00061653)

The maximum speed of the Model 307 was 241 miles per hour (388 kilometers per hour) at 6,000 feet (1,828.8 meters). Cruise speed was 215 miles per hour (346 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). The service ceiling was 23,300 feet (7,101.8 meters).

Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19901 with all engines running. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, Catalog # 01 00091291)
Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19901 with all engines running. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)
A Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA) Boeing 307 Stratoliner with cabin attendants. (TWA)
A Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA) Boeing 307 Stratoliner with cabin attendants. (Trans World Airlines)

During World War II, TWA sold its Stratoliners to the United States government which designated them C-75 and placed them in transatlantic passenger service.

Boeing C-75 Stratoliner. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, Catalog # 01 00091316)
Boeing C-75 Stratoliner “Comanche,” U.S. Army Air Corps serial number 42-88624, formerly TWA’s NC19905. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

In 1944, the 307s were returned to TWA and they were sent back to Boeing for modification and overhaul. The wings, engines and tail surfaces were replaced with those from the more advanced B-17G Flying Fortress. The last one in service was retired in 1951.

Two TWA stewardesses with a Boeing 307 Stratoliner, circa 1944–1951. (Unattributed)

Of the ten Stratoliners built for Pan Am and TWA, only one remains. Fully restored by Boeing, NC19903 is at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution.

The only existing Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner, NC19903, Clipper Flying Cloud, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. (Photo by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
The only existing Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner, NC19903, Clipper Flying Cloud, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. (Photo by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19903 after upgrade, circa 1945. (Boeing)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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31 December 1908

Wilbur Wright at Camp d'Avours, 1 January 1909. (Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University Libraries)
Wilbur Wright at Camp d’Avours, 1 January 1909. (Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University Libraries)

31 December 1908: At Camp d’Auvours, 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) east of Le Mans, France, Wilbur Wright flew a 1907 Wright Flyer a distance of 124.7 kilometers (77.48 miles) over a triangular course in 2 hours, 20 minutes, 23 seconds, setting a record for duration and distance. He won the first Michelin Trophy and a 20,000 prize.

1908 Michelin Trophy. (Le Mans-Sarthe Wright, 1906–2008)
1908 Michelin Trophy. (Le Mans-Sarthe Wright, 1906–2008)

The International Michelin Trophy was a prize given over eight years by Michelin et Cie, the French  tire company, to the Aéro-Club de France, to award on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. The winner would be the pilot who by sunset, 31 December of each year, held the record which had been established by the Aéro-Club. The actual trophy would be given the aeronautical club whose members had won the most times during the eight year period. 160,000 was to be divided and presented to each winning pilot.

The Wright Model A, produced from 1907 to 1909, was the world’s first series production airplane. It was slightly larger and heavier than the Wright Flyer III which had preceded it. It was a two-place, single-engine canard biplane built of a wooden framework braced with wires and covered with muslin fabric. A new system of flight controls allowed the pilot to sit upright rather than lying prone on the lower wing.

The dual horizontal elevators were placed forward and the dual vertical rudders aft. The biplane was 31 feet (9.449 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters). The wings had a chord of 6.6 feet, and vertical separation of 6 feet. The airplane had an empty weight of approximately 800 pounds (363 kilograms).

The Model A was powered by a single water-cooled, fuel-injected, 240.528 cubic-inch-displacement (3.942 liter) Wright vertical overhead-valve inline four-cylinder gasoline engine with 2 valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.165:1. It produced 32 horsepower at 1,310 r.p.m. During three years of production (1908–1911) Wright “4-40” engines were built that operated from 1,325 to 1,500 r.p.m. Power output ranged from 28 to 40 horsepower. These engines weighed from 160 to 180 pounds (72.6–81.6 kilograms).

Two 8½ foot (2.591 meters) diameter, two-bladed, counter-rotating propellers, driven by a chain drive, are mounted behind the wings in pusher configuration. They turned 445 r.p.m.

The Wright Model A could fly 37 miles per hour (60 kilometers per hour).

Wilber Wright's Model A Flyer in France, 1909. The derrick supporst a weight, which, when dropped, pulls the airplane across the ground until it reaches flying speed. (Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company)
Wilber Wright’s Model A Flyer in France, 1909. The derrick supports a weight, which, when dropped, pulls the airplane across the ground with a cable and puller arrangement until it reaches flying speed. (Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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