9 April 1969: Concorde 002, G-BSST, the first British-built prototype of the supersonic airliner, made its first flight from Filton Airport, Fairfield, England, with British Aerospace Corporation’s Chief Test Pilot, Ernest Brian Trubshaw CBO MVO, as pilot, John Cochrane as co-pilot and Flight Engineer Brian Watts. Also on board, monitoring a range of instruments in the forward cabin, were three other Test Flight Engineers, Mike Addley, John Allan and Peter Holding.
After a preliminary test flight, they landed the new prototype at RAF Fairford, 50 miles northeast, where the flight test program would continue. This flight was just five weeks after the French-built Concorde 001 had made its first flight.
The two prototypes were used to establish the airliner’s flight characteristics and performance envelope, and to develop flight procedures. Follow-on pre-production Concordes were constructed to go through government certification as a commercial airliner.
G-BSST’s career ended with 836 hours, 9 minutes total flight time, of which 173 hours, 26 minutes were supersonic. Concorde 002 is preserved at Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton, Somerset, England.
At 1:15 p.m., 9 April 1967, the prototype Boeing 737-130, N73700, (internal number PA-099) took off from Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, with test pilots Brien Singleton Wygle and Samuel Lewis (“Lew”) Wallick, Jr., in the cockpit. After a 2 hour, 30 minute flight, the new airliner landed at Paine Field, Everett, Washington.
When asked by a reporter what he thought about the new airplane, Boeing’s president, Bill Allen, replied, “I think they’ll be building this airplane when Bill Allen is in an old man’s home.”
He was right. In production since 1968, the Boeing 737 is the most popular airliner ever made and it is still in production. On 13 March 2018, the 10,000th 737 was delivered.
Boeing 737-130 N73700 was a twin engine, medium-range airliner, operated by a pilot and co-pilot. It was designed to carry up to 124 passengers. The airplane is 97 feet (28.57 meters) long with a wingspan of 87 feet (26.52 meters) and overall height of 37 feet (11.3 meters). It has an empty weight of 56,893 pounds (25,807 kilograms) and gross weight of 111,000 pounds (50,350 kilograms).
N73700 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7 turbofan engines rated at 14,000 pounds of thrust, each. The JT8D is a two-spool engine with a 2-stage fan section, 13-stage compressor (6 low- and 7 high-pressure stages), nine combustion chambers and a 4-stage turbine (1 high- and 3 low-pressure stages). The JT8D-7 is 42.5 inches (1.080 meters) in diameter, 123.5 inches (3.137 meters) long, and weighs 3,096 pounds (1,404 kilograms).
The airliner’s cruise speed is 575 miles per hour (925 kilometers per hour) and its range is 1,150 miles (1,850 kilometers).
After the flight test and certification program was complete, Boeing handed N73700 over to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Langley Field, Virginia, 12 June 1973, where it became NASA 515 (N515NA). The airliner was used for research in cockpit design, engine controls, high lift devices, etc. Because of it’s short and stubby appearance, NASA named it “Fat Albert.”
The prototype Boeing 737 ended its NASA career and was returned to Boeing, landing for the last time at Boeing Field’s Runway 31L, 3:11 p.m., PDT, 21 September 2003. Today, PA-099 is on display at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington.
9 April 1951: Jackie Cochran set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record and National Aeronautic Association U.S. National Record on 9 April 1951, flying her North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, N5528N, to an average speed of 464.374 miles per hour (747.338 kilometers per hour) over a straight 16 kilometer (9.942 miles) high-altitude course at Indio, California.¹
Thunderbird was Jackie Cochran’s third P-51 Mustang. She had purchased it from Academy Award-winning actor and World War II B-24 wing commander James M. Stewart, 19 December 1949. It was painted cobalt blue with gold lettering and trim.
That same day, Jackie Cochran flew her new airplane to two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed Over a 500 kilometer Closed Circuit Without Payload, and a U.S. National Aeronautic Association record, with an average speed of 703.275 kilometers per hour (436.995 miles per hour).
Thunderbird had won the 1949 Bendix Trophy Race from Rosamond Dry Lake, California, to Cleveland Municipal Airport, Ohio, with pilot Joe De Bona in the cockpit.
According to Civil Aviation Administration records, N5528N had been “assembled from components of other aircraft of the same type.” It has no USAAC serial number or North American Aviation serial number. The CAA designated it as a P-51C and assigned 2925 as its serial number. It was certificated in the Experimental category and registered N5528N.
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is a single-place, single-engine long range fighter. It is a low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear and is of all-metal construction. The fighter is powered by a liquid-cooled V-12 engine. It was originally produced for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force as the Mustang Mk.I. Two examples were provided to the U.S. Army Air Corps, designated XP-51. This resulted in orders for the P-51A and A-36 Apache dive bomber variant. These early Mustangs were powered by the Allison V-1750 engine driving a three-bladed propeller, which also powered the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.
In 1942, soon after the first production Mustang Mk.I arrived in England, Rolls-Royce began experimenting with a borrowed airplane, AM121, in which they installed the Supermarine Spitfire’s Merlin 61 engine. This resulted in an airplane of superior performance.
In the United States, the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, had begun building Merlin engines under license from Rolls-Royce. These American engines were designated V-1650. North American modified two P-51s from the production line to install the Packard V-1650-3. These were designated XP-51B. Testing revealed that the new variant was so good that the Army Air Corps limited its order for P-51As to 310 airplanes and production was changed to the P-51B.
The P-51B and P-51C are virtually Identical. The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Inglewood, California. P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas plant. They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5,352 kilograms).
P-51Bs and Cs were powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m at 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3) or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) These were license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.
The P-51B/C had a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel, the combat range was 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).
In military service, armament consisted of four air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted two in each wing, with 350 rounds per gun for the inboard guns and 280 rounds per gun for the outboard.
1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant and another 1,750 P-51Cs were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.
5–9 April 1937: Kamikaze-gō, a prototype of the Mitsubishi Ki-15 Karigane single-engine reconnaissance airplane, was flown by Masaaki Iinuma and Kenji Tsukagoshi from Tokyo to London in 94 hours, 17 minutes, 56 seconds total elapsed time. The actual flight time in flight was 51 hours, 17 minutes, 23 seconds. The two pilots covered a distance of 15,357 kilometers (9,542.4 miles).¹
Kamikaze-gō was the second prototype Ki-15. It had been purchased by the Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, and was registered J-BAAI. The airplane was painted silver with medium blue trim. The airplane was flown to London for the coronation of George VI.
Iinuma and Tsukagoshi departed Tachikawa Airfield at 5:12:04 p.m., 5 April 1937. The route of the flight was Tokyo to Taipei and on to Hanoi, Vientiane, Calcutta, Karachi, Basra, Baghdad, Athens, Rome, Paris, and finally, London. The Mitsubishi prototype arrived at Croydon Aerodrome, London, at 3:30 p.m., 9 April.
JAPAN MAKES HER MARK
Mr. Iinuma, Mr. Tsukagoshi and their Honourable Mitsubishi Monoplane
AT 3.30 p.m. on Friday a large welcoming crowd, largely consisting of the Japanese residents in London, who had been waiting since mid-day, saw a characteristically “over-nosed” monoplane coming in from the direction of Paris. Mr. Iinuma, the pilot, made two complete circuits of the aerodrome while two Leopards, bulging with Press photographers, made an abortive attempt to keep up with the machine, both by diving and by cutting off corners. Then he brought it in slowly and carefully to land neatly, with a burst of engine and straight off the glide, in the centre of the available landing area—which was restricted by flagged-off areas populated by various working parties.
Thus was the “goodwill” flight of Mr. Iinuma and Mr. Tsukagoshi from Tokio to London completed in 94 hours. The effort is of rather unusual interest in that the aircraft and engine were of Japanese manufacture.
The first section of the flight which was sponsored by the Tokyo Asahi Press commenced from Tokio at 5.12 p.m. on Monday, April 5, and covered 1,400 odd miles to Taihoku, Formosa. In spite of the weather conditions, which were the worst experienced on the whole trip, and average speed of almost 200 m.p.h. was maintained. After leaving Hanoi (French Indo-China), the next stop, bad visibility to Vientiane lowered the average a little and it was not until the Baghdad to Athens stage was covered that the average speed for a section exceeded 100 m.p.h.; in this case 1,280 miles was covered in 6 hours 17 mins., a speed of 202 m.p.h. Strong head-winds were encountered while crossing India.
Last Friday the final European stages were commenced; leaving Athens at 5.40 a.m., Rome was reached at 8.46 a.m.—710 miles at 219 m.p.h. After only 50 minutes the Divine Wind took the air again for Paris, arriving there at 1.33 after having put up an average of 230 m.p.h. for the 730 miles. Finally, at 2.15 on Friday, April 9, Mr. Iinuma took off for Croydon and had terminated his flight within 75 minutes.
Without fuss or bother the two members of the crew smiled gravely at their compatriots and disappeared into the seething crowd. They managed to obtain a good rest at Rome and did not appear to be particularly exhausted. In due course, mechanics wheeled the Divine Wind into the Rollason hangar and the inner doors slid in front of the eyes of the curious.
Contrary to expectations, this Mitsubishi monoplane (which, incidentally was completed toward the end of March) and its engine do not appear to have built under direct licence from any American firms. Its type name is Karigane, or Wild Goose. It is reminiscent of the well-known Northrop series of single-engined mailplanes, but the resemblance is largely superficial and might apply to any machine built on the same lines and for the same purpose. The radial engine—a Nakajima Kotobuki III giving 550 h.p. (normal) at sea level and designed for a fixed-pitch airscrew, has points of similarity with the P. and W. Wasp and earlier Wright Cyclones, but is obviously of Japanese design. Superior people would not find it difficult to discover similarities—and to talk of “copying”—in the case of such a machine built anywhere. Two additional aircraft of similar type, but with various improvements are being built for Asahi.
Except for the control surfaces, the machine is entirely of metal skin covering and the thin-section wing appears to be of cellular construction and a very nice piece of work, too, with flush rivets and little sign of irregularities.
The wing area is given as 215 sq. ft. and the span is 39 ft. A range of under 1,500 miles is claimed by the manufacturers.
The only noticeable British item of equipment was a “Demec” navigation light.
The centre part of the long, roofed cabin is devoted to the accommodation of the extra tanks, which give the machine a range of 1,500 miles, with the pilot’s seat ahead and the radio operator’s cabin at the rear. There does not appear to be any fairlead for a trailing aerial, but the fixed aerial is mounted well away from the fuselage. Presumably the “radio operator” was more navigator; certainly, a new and interesting type of combined slide-rule and calculator could be seen in one of the pockets, and he had both a compass and a selection of essential instruments for his own use. The pilot’s instruments were of standard type, with an artificial horizon, a turn indicator, a rate-of-climb and so on. He used two compasses, one of the direct-reading bowl type and the other the verge-ring type—the latter being on the floor of the cockpit. The maximum speed of this Mitsubishi monoplane is given officially as 310 m.p.h. This seems to be on the high side, but the machine had certainly been cruising at somewhere over 200 m.p.h.
At Croydon, Mr J.C. Galpin, of the Air Ministry, gave the two airman a message of welcome from Sir Philip Sassoon.
—Flight, The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 1477, Vol. XXXI, 15 April 1937 at Page 374 and 376.
After returning to Japan, Kamikaze-gō continued in service to its owners, until returning from China, it encountered bad weather and crash landed on Taiwan. The airplane was recovered then placed on display at the Asahi Shimbun headquarters in Tokyo. During a bombing raid in 1944, the building was hit and the airplane was destroyed.
Following the Tokyo-to-London flight, Masaaki Iinuma and Kenji Tsukagoshi became national heroes. Iinuma was killed when he accidentally walked into a turning airplane propeller at Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 11 December 1941. Tsukagoshi disappeared while on a flight over the Indian Ocean in 1943.
Asahi Shimbun bought a second Ki-15, registered J-BAAL. Several of the production airplanes were used by Japanese companies as courier or mail planes.
Kamikaze-gō‘s Nakajima Kotobuki III was a licensed development of the Bristol Jupiter. It was an air-cooled, supercharged, 24.108 liter (1,471.150 cubic inch), nine cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.1:1, rated at 540 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level and 610 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m for takeoff. The engine drove a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller through a 0.6875:1 gear reduction. It was 1.170 meters (3 feet, 10.1 inches) long, 1.280 meters (4 feet, 2.4 inches) in diameter, and weighed 424 kilograms (935 pounds).
The initial production version of the Karigane, the Ki-15-I (Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Airplane Model 1) also had a crew of two. It was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was 8.7 meters (28 feet, 6.5 inches) long with a wingspan of 12.0 meters (39 feet, 4.5 inches) and overall height of 3.35 meters (11 feet). Its empty weight was 1,400 kilograms (3,086 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight was 2,300 kilograms (5,071 pounds). The Ki-15-I was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged Nakajima Ha.8 nine-cylinder radial engine which produced 640 horsepower. This gave the Ki-15 a maximum speed of 480 kilometers per hour (298 miles per hour) at 4,000 meters (13,125 feet), and a cruise speed of 320 kilometers per hour (199 miles per hour) at 5,000 meters (16,404 feet). Its range was 2,400 kilometers (1,491 miles) and the service ceiling was 11,400 meters (37,400 feet). The Mitsubishi Ki-15 was produced from 1936 to 1945. Approximately 500 of all types were built.
¹ Numerous sources report that this flight established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record, and that it was the first to be set by fliers from Japan. The FAI data base, however, does not list such a record, either by names of the crew, nationality, aircraft type, aircraft registration, date of the flight, nor is a record included in the list of all records for the year 1937.