24 February 2011, 21:53:24 UTC: Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) is launched on its final mission, STS-133. The mission was to dock the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module at the International Space Station, as well as to transport other sensors, materials and supplies. The launch had been “scrubbed” five times since 29 October 2010.
Mission STS-133 was commanded by Colonel Steven Wayne Lindsey, United States Air Force. This was Colonel Lindsey’s fifth space shuttle flight. The shuttle pilot was Colonel Eric Allen Boe, U.S. Air Force. There were four Mission Specialists aboard: Nicole Marie Passonno Stott, a structural engineer; Colonel Benjamin Alvin Drew, U.S. Air Force; Michael Reed Barratt, M.D., a NASA Aviation Medical Examiner (“flight surgeon”); and Captain Stephen Gerard Bowen, U.S. Navy.
Captain Bowen, a nuclear attack submarine officer, had replaced Mission Specialist Colonel Timothy Lennart Kopra, U.S. Army, who was injured in a bicycle accident. Bowen is the only NASA astronaut to have flown two consecutive missions. (STS-132 and STS-133)
Discovery docked at the International Space Station at 19:14 UTC, 26 February. Equipment and supplies were transferred.
Leonardo, which had previously been docked at the space station from March 2001 until April 2010, when it was returned to Earth to be modified and upgraded, was installed on the ISS on 1 March. Discovery remained docked at ISS for 8 days, 16 hours, 46 minutes.
The space shuttle returned to Earth on 9 March, landing at the Kennedy Shuttle Landing Facility at 16:58:14 UTC. The total duration of the mission was 12 days, 19 hours, 4 minutes, 50 seconds.
Discovery is the space shuttle fleet leader, having made 39 orbital flights, more than any other shuttle. It has spent 365 days, 22 hours, 39 minutes, 33 seconds in space flight, traveling 148,221,675 miles (238,539,663 kilometers).
On 19 April 2012, Discovery was placed on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
24 February 1989: At 01:52:49 HST, United Airlines Flight 811 was cleared for takeoff from Honolulu International Airport (HNL), enroute to Auckland International Airport (AKL) and onward to Sydney, Australia (SYD). On board were 337 passengers and 18 crew members. The airliner was under the command of Captain David Cronin, with First Officer Gregory Slader and Second Officer Randal Thomas. The airliner was a Boeing 747-122, serial number 19875, registered N4713U.
16 minutes after takeoff, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Honolulu, the 747 was climbing through an altitude of 22,000 feet (6,705 meters) at 300 knots (345 miles per hour/556 kilometers per hour) when, at 02:09:09 HST, the cargo door on the lower right side of the fuselage, just forward of the wing, failed, blowing outward. Explosive decompression blew a huge hole in the fuselage. Ten passenger seats were carried away along with nine passengers. A flight attendant was nearly lost, but was dragged back inside by passengers and crew.
Debris damaged the two engines on the right wing, causing them to lose power. Flames were visible. Both engines had to be shut down. Flight 811 declared an emergency, began descending and dumping fuel to reduce the airliner’s weight for an emergency landing. The 747 turned back toward Honolulu.
Because the wing had also been damaged, the flaps could not be fully extended and this required a much higher than normal approach speed. The 747 touched down at approximately 200 knots (230 miles per hour/370 kilometers per hour). After coming to a stop, Flight 811 was completely evacuated within 45 seconds. Every flight attendant suffered some injury.
The cause of the cargo door failure was determined to be a faulty design, combined with a short in the 747’s electrical system. The door was recovered by a U.S. Navy deep sea submersible from a depth of 14,100 feet (4,298 meters).
N4713U made its first flight 20 October 1970 and had accumulated 58,814:24 flight hours and 15,027 cycles prior to takeoff from Honolulu. It was repaired at a cost of $14,000,000 and then returned to service, re-registered N4724U. In 1997, 19875 was sold to Air Dabia and assigned registration C5-FBS. It has since been scrapped.
The 747-100 series was the first version of the Boeing 747 to be built. It was operated by a flight crew of three and was designed to carry 366 to 452 passengers. 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). The interior cabin width is 20 feet (6.096 meters), giving it the name “wide body.” Its empty weight is 370,816 pounds (168,199 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 735,000 pounds (333,390 kilograms).
The 747-100 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A high-bypass ratio turbofan engines. The JT9D is a two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a single-stage fan section, 14-stage compressor (11 high- and 3 low-pressure stages) and 6-stage turbine (2 high- and 4 low-pressure stages). The engine is rated at 46,950 pounds of thrust (208.844 kilonewtons), or 48,570 pounds (216.050 kilonewtons) with water injection (2½-minute limit). 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).
The 747-100 has a cruise speed of 0.84 Mach (555 miles per hour, 893 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The maximum certificated operating speed is 0.92 Mach. The airliner’s maximum range is 6,100 miles (9,817 kilometers).
The Boeing 747 has been in production for 48 years. More than 1,520 have been delivered to date. 205 of these were the 747-100 series. The U.S. Air Force has selected the Boeing 747-8 as the next presidential transport aircraft.
Captain David M. Cronin died 6 October 2010 at the age of 81 years.
Place / Date: Long Binh Army post, Republic of Vietnam, 24 February 1969
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Levitow (then A1c.), U.S. Air Force, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while assigned as a loadmaster aboard an AC-47 aircraft flying a night mission in support of Long Binh Army post. Sgt. Levitow’s aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round. The resulting explosion ripped a hole 2 feet in diameter through the wing and fragments made over 3,500 holes in the fuselage. All occupants of the cargo compartment were wounded and helplessly slammed against the floor and fuselage. The explosion tore an activated flare from the grasp of a crewmember who had been launching flares to provide illumination for Army ground troops engaged in combat. Sgt. Levitow, though stunned by the concussion of the blast and suffering from over 40 fragment wounds in the back and legs, staggered to his feet and turned to assist the man nearest to him who had been knocked down and was bleeding heavily. As he was moving his wounded comrade forward and away from the opened cargo compartment door, he saw the smoking flare ahead of him in the aisle. Realizing the danger involved and completely disregarding his own wounds, Sgt. Levitow started toward the burning flare. The aircraft was partially out of control and the flare was rolling wildly from side to side. Sgt. Levitow struggled forward despite the loss of blood from his many wounds and the partial loss of feeling in his right leg. Unable to grasp the rolling flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging the deadly device to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled the flare through the open cargo door. At that instant the flare separated and ignited in the air, but clear of the aircraft. Sgt. Levitow, by his selfless and heroic actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death and destruction. Sgt. Levitow’s gallantry, his profound concern for his fellowmen, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
John Lee Levitow was born 1 November 1945 at Hartford, Connecticut. He was the the first of two children of Lee Tobias Levitow and Marion V. Winialski Levitow.
Levitow attended Glastonbury High School, in Hartford, graduating in 1965. He then studied at the Porter School of Engineering and Design, Hartford.
John Lee Levitow enlisted in the United States Air Force on 6 June 1966. He went through basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He was initially trained as a power line specialist, but cross-trained as an aircraft loadmaster. Airman Levitow was then assigned to the 3d Special Operations Squadron.
The flight on the night of 24 February 1969 was Levitow’s 181st combat mission.
A1C Levitow married Miss Barbara Ann Corbeil, at St. Augustine’s Church, Glastonbury, Connecticut, 19 July 1969. They resided near Norton AFB in Southern California. They would have two children. They later divorced.
President Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Levitow in a ceremony at The White house, 14 May 1970.
In January 1998, a McDonnell Douglas C-17A Globemaster III, 96-0005, was named The Spirit of Sgt. John L. Levitow in his honor.
John Lee Levitow died of cancer at his home in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, 8 November 2000. He was buried with full honors at the Arlington National Cemetery.
The Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs named its skilled nursing facility at Rocky Hill The Sgt. John L. Levitow Healthcare Center.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1896, in the name of Congress, has awarded in the name of The Congress, the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to CAPTAIN HILLIARD A. WILBANKS, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
As a forward air controller near Dalat, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 February 1967, Captain Wilbanks was pilot of an unarmed, light aircraft flying visual reconnaissance ahead of a South Vietnam Army Ranger Battalion. His intensive search revealed a well-concealed and numerically superior hostile force poised to ambush the advancing rangers. The Viet Cong, realizing that Captain Wilbanks’ discovery had compromised their position and ability to launch a surprise attack, immediately fired on the small aircraft with all available firepower. The enemy then began advancing against the exposed forward elements of the Ranger force which were pinned down by devastating fire. Captain Wilbanks recognized that close support aircraft could not arrive in time to enable the Rangers to withstand the advancing enemy onslaught. With full knowledge of the limitations of his unarmed, unarmored, light reconnaissance aircraft, and the great danger imposed by the enemy’s vast firepower, he unhesitatingly assumed a covering, close support role. Flying through a hail of withering fire at treetop level, Captain Wilbanks passed directly over the advancing enemy and inflicted many casualties by firing his rifle out of the side window of his aircraft. Despite increasingly intense anti-aircraft fire, Captain Wilbanks continued to completely disregard his own safety and made repeated low passes over the enemy to divert their fire away from the Rangers. His daring tactics successfully interrupted the enemy advance, allowing the Rangers to withdraw to safety from their perilous position. During his final courageous attack to protect the withdrawing forces, Captain Wilbanks was mortally wounded and his bullet-riddled aircraft crashed between the opposing forces. Captain Wilbanks’ magnificent action saved numerous friendly personnel from certain injury or death. His unparalleled concern for his fellowman and his extraordinary heroism were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
General Orders: GB-50, February 8, 1968
Action Date: 24-Feb-67
Service: Air Force Reserve
Company: 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron
Regiment: 21st Tactical Air Support Group
Division: Nha Trang Air Force Base, Vietnam
Hilliard Almond Wilbanks was born at Cornelia, Georgia, 26 July 1933. He was the first of four children of Travis O’Neal Wilbanks, a farm equipment salesman, and Ruby Lea Wilkinson Wilbanks. He attended Cornelia High School, graduating in 1950
On 8 August 1950, Wilbanks enlisted in the United States Air Force. He served as an air policeman. In 1954, Airman 1st Class Wilbanks was selected for Air Cadet–Officer Candidate School. He was a Distinguished Graduate, and on 15 June 1955, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and awarded his pilot’s wings.
He was then assigned as a flight instructor in the Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star. Wilbanks was promoted to first lieutenant, 15 December 1956.
Also in 1956, Lieutenant Wilbanks married Miss Rosemary Arnold at Greenville, Mississippi. They would have four children.
Lieutenant Wilbanks attended the Maintenance Officer School at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, and was then assigned as a maintenance test pilot for the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre at Eielson Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska. He was promoted the rank of captain in 1961.
Captain Wilbanks was next assigned to Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was a maintenance officer for the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.
In 1966, Captain Wilbanks attended the Forward Air Controller school at Hurlburt Field, Florida. He deployed to the Republic of South Vietnam in March 1966. He was assigned to the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron. He used the call sign, “Walt 51,” and flew 487 combat missions before his final flight, 24 February 1967.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Captain Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, United States Air Force Reserve, had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal with nineteen oak leaf clusters (twenty awards), the Air Force Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star (for service during the Korean War and Vietnam War), the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Air Force Reserve Medal. The Republic of Vietnam awarded him its Anh Dũng Bội Tinh (the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross) with silver star, and Chiến Dịch Bội Tinh (Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal).
Captain Wilbanks’ remains were recovered and returned to the United States. He was buried at the Fayette Cemetery, Fayette, Mississippi.
Captain Wilbank’s airplane was an O-1G Bird Dog, serial number 51-5078 (c/n 21983). It was manufactured as an L-19A by the Cessna Aircraft Company, Inc., at Wichita, Kansas, in 1951. The airplane was later upgraded to the O-1G configuration. It is a single-engine, tandem-seat light airplane which was developed from the company’s 4-place Model 170. The prototype, Cessna Model 305, N41694, made its first flight on 14 December 1949.
The O-1G is 25 feet, 9.5 inches (7.861 meters) long, with a wingspan of 36 feet, 0 inches (10.973 meters), overall height in 3-point position of 9.1 feet (2.8 feet). The airplane has typical empty weight of 1,716 pounds (778 kilograms), depending on installed equipment, and a maximum gross weight of 2,800 pounds (1,270 kilograms).
The O-1G Bird Dog was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 471.239-cubic-inch-displacement (7.772 liter) Continental O-470-11 six-cylinder horizontally-opposed direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 7:1. The O-470-11 was rated at 190 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., at Sea Level, and 213 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off (5 minute limit). 80/87 octane aviation gasoline was required. The engine had a dry weight of 391 pounds (177 kilograms). The airplane was equipped with a fixed pitch two-blade McCauley propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 6 inches (2.286 meters).
The O-1G had a maximum cruise speed of 85 knots (98 miles per hour/157 kilometers per hour), and never exceed speed (VNE ) of 165 knots (190 miles per hour/306 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 20,300 feet (6,187 meters).
Cessna built 3,431 Bird Dogs between 1949 and 1959. Only about 300 are believed to remain airworthy today.
24–25 February 1957: Scandinavian Airlines System began flying regularly scheduled passenger flights from Copenhagen to Tokyo, via the North Pole, with the new Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas airliner, LN-MOD, named Guttorm Viking. The route of flight was Copenhagen, Denmark to Anchorage, Alaska, and onward to Tokyo, Japan. The airliner took of at 11:35 a.m. local time (11:35 UTC). The flight crew included Captain Hedell Hansen and Captain Kare Herfjord.
Simultaneously (8:35 p.m., 24 February), Reidar Viking, LN-MOE, took off from Tokyo, en route Copenhagen. The two airliners rendezvoused over the North Pole at 21:37, 24 February, UTC. ¹
The polar route cut 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers) and took a total of 32 hours, rather than the previous 50 hour flight. The airliner returned on February 28, after 71 hours, 6 minutes.
Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) had invited hundreds of media representatives and more than a thousand others to attend the send off fromKøbenhavns Lufthavn, Kastrup. To ensure that there were no problems to delay the departure, a second fully-fueled and serviced DC-7C was standing by.
There were 47 passengers aboard the Guttorm Viking, including Prince Axel of Denmark, and Thor Heyerdahl (Kon-Tiki). Reidar Viking carried 45, with the Prince and Princess Mikasa of Japan.
Guttorm Viking made a refueling stop at Anchorage, Alaska, landing at 2:22 a.m. (07:22 UTC, and departing on schedule at 9:00 a.m. (14:00 UTC). It landed at Tokyo at 8:15 a.m., 26 February, Japan Standard Time (23:15, 25 February, UTC), 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The elapsed time of the flight was 32 hours, 31 minutes.
Reidar Viking landed at Copenhagen at 8:45 a.m. local time, Monday 24 February (08:45, 24 February, UTC), 35 hours, 40 minutes after departing Tokyo. The airliner had to make an additional fuel stop at Oslo, Norway, because of unexpected headwinds.
The DC-7C Seven Seas was the last piston-engine airliner built by Douglas Aircraft Company, intended for non-stop transcontinental and transatlantic flights. The DC-7 combined the fuselage of a DC-6 with the wings of a DC-4. The DC-7C version had 5 feet (1.524 meters) added to the wing roots for increased fuel capacity. By moving the engines further away from the fuselage, aerodynamic drag was reduced and the passenger cabin was quieter. The DC-7 had an extra 40-inch (1.016 meters) “plug” added to the fuselage just behind the wing. The DC-7C added another 40-inch plug ahead of the wing. The engine nacelles were also lengthened to provide room for additional fuel tanks.
The DC-7C was operated by two pilots, a navigator and a flight engineer. It had a maximum capacity of 105 passengers, requiring 4 flight attendants.
The airliner was 112 feet, 3 inches (34.214 meters) long with a wingspan of 127 feet, 6 inches (38.862 meters) and an overall height of 31 feet, 10 inches (9.703 meters). The empty weight was 72,763 pounds (33,005 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weight was 143,000 pounds (64,864 kilograms).
The Seven Seas was powered by four 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, fuel-injected, turbocompound Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 988TC18EA1 or -EA3 two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines (also known as the Duplex-Cyclone), with a Normal Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and 3,700 horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m for takeoff. (A turbocompound engine uses exhaust-driven power recovery turbines to increase power to the crankshaft through a fluid coupling. This increased the engine’s total power output by approximately 20%.) The Cyclone 18 engines drove 13 foot, 11 inch (4.242 meters) diameter, four-bladed, Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 34E60 full-feathering, reversible-pitch, constant-speed propellers through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The 988TC18EA1 was 7 feet, 5.53 inches (2.274 meters) in long, 4 feet, 10.59 inches (1.437 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,645 pounds (1,653 kilograms).
These engines gave the airliner a cruise speed of 308 knots (354 miles per hour/570 kilometers per hour) at 23,500 feet (7,163 meters). The service ceiling was 28,400 feet (8,656 meters) and maximum range was 4,900 nautical miles (5,639 statute miles/9,075 kilometers).
Douglas built 122 DC-7C airliners from 1956 to 1958. Scandinavian Airlines System bought 14 of them. The arrival of the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 turbojet-powered airliners soon made these piston-driven propeller airliners obsolete. Many were converted to freighters, but most were scrapped after only a few years service. Guttorn Viking and Reidar Viking were both scrapped in 1968.
¹ SAS announced that the Guttorm Viking passed the North Pole at 21:37 G.M.T. and the Reidar Viking at 21:43 G.M.T. The planes met at 21:40 G.M.T.