Daily Archives: October 14, 2021

14 October 2012

Felix Baumgartner prepares to step off the gondola, 127,852 feet (38,969 meters) over New Mexico. The Mescalero Dunes are directly below. (Red Bull Stratos)

14 October 2012: At 12:08 p.m. MDT (1808 UTC) Felix Baumgartner jumped from the gondola of a helium-filled balloon at 127,852.4 feet (38,969.4 meters) over eastern New Mexico.

At 12:08 p.m. MDT (1808 UTC), Felix Baumgartner steps off the gondola. (Red Bull Stratos)

The free fall distance was 119,431.1 feet (36,402.6 meters). He fell for 4 minutes, 19 seconds before deploying his parachute and touched down after nine minutes, 3 seconds. During the free fall, he reached 843.6 miles per hour (1,357.6 kilometers per hour), Mach 1.25.

Felix Baumgartner in full-pressure suit, prepares to jump during an earlier intermediate test. (Red Bull Stratos)
Felix Baumgartner in full-pressure suit, prepares to jump during an earlier intermediate test. The geological feature running diagonally across the center of the image is the Mescalero Escarpment, western boundary of the Llano Estacado. The light-colored features are sand dunes. (Red Bull Stratos)

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) recognizes three Sub-Class G-2 World Records set by Baumgartner with this jump:

16669: Vertical Speed Without Drogue: 1,357.6 kilometers per hour (843.6 miles per hour miles per hour)

16670: Exit Altitude: 38,969.4 meters (127,852.4 feet)

16671: Freefall Distance: 36,402.6 meters (119,431.1 feet)

Felix Baumgartner wore a custom-made full-pressure suit designed and manufactured by the David Clark Co., Worcester, Massachusetts, based on their S1034 Improved Common Suit.

The helium balloon, with a volume 29,470,000 cubic feet, was manufactured by Raven Aerostar, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Baumgartner’s pressure capsule was designed and built by Sage Cheshire Aerospace, Lancaster, California.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

14 October 2012

Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager, U.S. Air Force (Retired) in the rear cockpit of a McDonnell Douglas F-15D-27-MC Eagle, serial number 80-054,with Captain David Vincent, 65th Aggressor Squadron, at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada, 14 October 2012. (Jessica Elbelhar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Yeager re-enacts historic flight to break sound barrier

Posted: Oct. 13, 2012 | 11:08 p.m.
Updated: Oct. 15, 2012 | 7:31 a.m.

Living up to his “right stuff” reputation as the wise-cracking test pilot and daring World War II hero, the legendary Chuck Yeager returned Sunday to Nellis Air Force Base after re-enacting in a blue-gray F-15D Eagle jet what he did 65 years ago in a mustard-colored X-1 rocket plane: break the sound barrier soaring high over California’s Mojave Desert.

Upon landing, with his escort pilot Capt. David Vincent taxiing the Eagle under plumes of water shot from two firetrucks, the 89-year-old Yeager climbed down a ladder from the cockpit. He did so to the applause of Nellis airmen, their families, his wife, Victoria, and film crews who documented the 65th anniversary of his most cherished feat as the first human to fly faster than sound.

What was going through his mind when Vincent, 30, throttled the aircraft into a blurry descent from 45,000 feet to 30,000 feet and leveled off with a speed of Mach 1.4, or more than 670 mph, sending a sonic boom across Edwards Flight Test Range?

“Nothing,” Yeager deadpanned. “Flying is flying. You just can’t add a lot to it.”

He said he just gazed out the jet’s clear canopy, looking down on the many dry lake beds that he landed on as a test pilot. Like the other times he achieved supersonic flight, the F-15D on Sunday sent a shock wave through the azure sky over the same patch of desert Yeager flew over for decades, at the same time he did it 65 years ago, 10:24 a.m.

Meanwhile, as Yeager was returning to Nellis, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, wearing a pressurized suit, emerged from the capsule of a towering, helium-filled balloon and leaped from a metal platform 128,000 feet over New Mexico near Roswell. In his descent he reached 833.9 mph or Mach 1.24.

Yeager was not impressed.

“Joe Kittinger did that years ago. He’s not doing anything new,” he said.

Yeager was referring to U.S. Air Force Capt. Joseph W. Kittinger, who, on Aug. 16, 1960, stepped from the gondola of a helium balloon at 102,800 feet and sped to 714 mph, breaking the sound barrier in a four-minute free fall through the stratosphere before his parachute opened.

The speed of sound is about 750 mph at sea level and roughly 660 mph at 30,000 feet altitude.

A McDonnell Douglas F-15D-27-MC Eagle, 80-054, flown by Captain David Vincent with Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager, takes off from Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada, 14 October 2012. (Jessica Ebelhar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

About an hour after his anniversary flight, Yeager spoke to U.S. Air Force pilots, airmen and their families gathered in a Nellis auditorium. At the end of his presentation, while fielding questions from the audience, Yeager used the occasion to mock Baumgartner’s supersonic achievement.

“Hey, what are you proving?” he asked, questioning the accuracy of Baumgartner’s reported speed.

“I don’t know where you stick a pitot tube in him,” he said, referring to an instrument that protrudes from the nose of an aircraft to measure its velocity.

Yeager said he loved flying the Bell X-1 rocket plane that vaulted him into aviation history on Oct. 14, 1947, but it’s no comparison to the twin-engine F-15 Eagle, a warplane that is more reliable and economical, he said, than the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, a stealthy air-superiority jet, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter touted as the workhorse warplane of the future.

“If I was going to fight a war, I’d take an F-15 over anything we’ve got,” he said.

He said he chose to fly from Nellis instead of Edwards Air Force Base because the test center at Edwards didn’t have a two-seat, F-15 available and he didn’t want to fly an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

And this ace, who shot down five German Messerschmitt-109 fighter planes in a single day in October 1944, knows airplanes, having flown 180 different ones during his storied career.

He said by far the slowest one he’s flown was a Wright Flyer, like the one Orville and Wilbur Wright flew in their groundbreaking first powered flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903.

“It didn’t go faster than sound. It just sounded faster than it was flying,” Yeager recalled.

His fame soared in 1979, when Chuck Yeager, who was born Charles Elwood Yeager, became a household name with author Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Right Stuff.” The book, which was later made into a movie, recounted the story of the day the bullet-shaped Bell X-1 rocket plane made history when Yeager guided it beyond Mach 1. The plane was strapped to the belly of a B-29 bomber and released at a high altitude before he powered it up for the record-setting feat.

“The most important thing that I did was fly the X-1 through Mach 1,” he told reporters gathered on the Nellis ramp Sunday.

“Up until that time we had never been able to get above the speed of sound. We had problems with controls and stuff like that. Finally, on October 14, ’47 we succeeded in pushing Mach 1 and it opened up space to us,” he said.

Just before he took off Sunday, his wife, Victoria Yeager, shared her excitement and noted the parallel of having Vincent, a young captain, have the honor of being the escort pilot like her husband was in 1947.

“This is so cool,” she said. “This captain is as much of a maverick as General Yeager is. He (Yeager) is in the back seat where the instructor pilot sits because he’s the elder statesman.”

After the flight, Vincent remarked about his role in the re-enactment flight and how Yeager made him feel at ease.

He said Yeager held up “better than I did” during the flight and made the chase plane’s pilot, Col. Pete Ford, jealous because of all the stories that Yeager told him in the cockpit.

“He was talking it up like he was back home,” said Vincent, who flies with the 65th Aggressor Squadron.

“That was the best flight of my life. It was a dream come true. … And to be there with one of the world’s greatest plots was an absolute honor,” he said.

“It was like being there with Christopher Columbus or Orville and Wilbur Wright. He broke the sound barrier, something that everyone was terrified of doing. He had the bravery and skill to be able to do that. It was amazing,” Vincent said.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at [email protected] or 702-383-0308.

General Yeager with personnel of the 65th Aggressor Squadron and their McDonnell Douglas F-15D-27-MC Eagle, 80-054, at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada, 14 October 2012. (Jessica Ebelhar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

14 October 1997

Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager, United States Air Force (Retired), photographed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 14 October 1997, the Fiftieth Anniversary of his historic supersonic flight. (Photograph used with permission. © 2010, Tim Bradley Imaging)

14 October 1997: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of his historic supersonic flight in the Bell X-1 research rocketplane, Brigadier General Charles Elwood (“Chuck”) Yeager, United States Air Force (Retired) once again broke the Sound Barrier when he flew over Edwards Air Force Base in a McDonnell Douglas F-15D-38-MC Eagle, serial number 84-046. Lieutenant Colonel Troy Fontaine flew in the rear seat of the two-place fighter. Glamorous Glennis III was painted on the Eagle’s nose.

The Associated Press reported that an estimated 1,000 spectators were at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert north of Los Angeles, California, to see this historic flight.

My friend, aviation photographer Tim Bradley, and I were there. Tim took the photograph above a few minutes after General Yeager landed. As he concluded his comments to the crowd, he said, “All that I am. . . I owe to the Air Force.”

Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), with Glamorous Glennis III, an F-15D Eagle, 84-046, at Edwards Air Force Base, October 1997. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

14 October 1977

Major General Thomas Stafford with Brigadier General (Retired) Charles E. Yeager, seated in a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter at Edwards AFB, 14 October 1977. (Associated Press)

14 October 1977: On the Thirtieth Anniversary of his historic supersonic flight in the Bell X-1, Brigadier General Charles E. (“Chuck”) Yeager, U.S. Air Force (Retired), returned to Edwards Air Force Base where he flew a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter to Mach 1.5.

Chuck Yeager and Bell X-1 46-062 glide back to Edwards Air Force Base for landing. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

14 October 1964

Prototype Sikorsky YCH-53A Sea Stallion, Bu. No. 151613, 14 october 1964. (Sikorsky Archives)
Prototype Sikorsky YCH-53A Sea Stallion, Bu. No. 151613, 14 October 1964. (Sikorsky Archives)

14 October 1964: The first prototype Sikorsky YCH-53A  Sea Stallion, Bu. No. 151613, made its first flight at the Sikorsky plant at Stratford, Connecticut. (Sikorsky Model S-65, serial number 65001.)

The fuselage of the YCH-53A was similar in configuration to the smaller CH-3C (S-61R). It used the dynamic components from the CH-37 Mojave (S-56) and CH-54A Tarhe (S-64).

U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53A Sea Stallion (Wikimedia)

The Sikorsky CH-53A Sea Stallion is a twin-engine heavy-lift transport helicopter operated by two pilots. It is 88 feet, 2.4 inches (26.883 meters) with rotors turning. The fuselage is 67 feet, 2.4 inches (20.483 meters) long  and 8 feet, 10 inches (2.692 meters) wide. The six-blade fully articulated main rotor is 72 feet, 2.7 inches (22.014 meters) in diameter and turns counterclockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Main rotor speed is 185 r.pm. The four-blade semi-articulated tail rotor has a diameter of 16 feet (4.877 meters) and is placed on the left side of the tail rotor pylon in a pusher configuration. It turns clockwise as seen from the helicopters left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) Overall height (rotors turning) of the Sea Stallion is 24 feet, 10.8 inches (7.599 meters). The tail rotor speed is 792 r.p.m.

The CH-53A is powered by two General Electric T64-GE-6 turboshaft engines rated at 2,850 shaft horsepower, each. Performance of the CH-53D (T64-GE-413, 3,925 s.h.p) has a maximum speed (Vne) of 130 knots (241 kilometers per hour) service ceiling of 16,750 feet (5,105 meters) and range with maximum payload of 540 miles (870 kilometers)

Two YCH-53A prototypes were built, followed by 139 CH-53A Sea Stallion production models.

The CH-53 was developed into the three-engine CH-53E Super Stallion. The current production variant is the CH-53K King Stallion.

Sikorsky HH-53B 66-14428, Super Jolly Green Giant, first flight at Stratford, Connecticut, 15 March 1967. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion at Mojave, California, 9 September 2007. (Alan Redecki/Wikipedia)
This photograph by Alan Radecki of a Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion taking off at Mojave, California, 20 September 2007, is too exciting not to include. (Akradecki/Wikipedia)
Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion at West Palm Beach, Florida, 2 March 2017. (Lance Corporal Molly Hampton, United States Marine Corps)

© 2017 Bryan R. Swopes