16 October 1963: Operation Greased Lightning. Major Sidney J. Kubesch, Major John Barrett and Captain Gerard Williamson flew from Tokyo, Japan, to London England, non-stop, in 8 hours, 35 minutes, 20.4 seconds. Their airplane was a Convair B-58A-20-CF Hustler, serial number 61-2059, named Greased Lightning. It was assigned to the 305th Bombardment Wing, 19th Air Division, at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Indiana.
Five inflight refuelings were required to complete the flight. The bomber had to slow from its supersonic cruise to rendezvous with the tankers. The B-58’s average speed was 692.71 miles per hour (1,114.81 kilometers per hour). The time from Tokyo to Anchorage, Alaska was 3 hours, 9 minutes, 42 seconds at an average speed of 1,093.4 miles per hour (1,759.7 kilometers per hour); and Anchorage to London, 5 hours, 24 minutes, 54 seconds at 826.9 miles per hour (1.330.8 kilometers per hour).
Greased Lightning‘s speed record still stands.
The three crewmen were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The B-58 Hustler was a high-altitude Mach 2 strategic bomber which served with the United States Air Force from 1960 to 1970. It was crewed by a pilot, navigator/bombardier and a defensive systems operator located in individual cockpits. The aircraft is a delta-winged configuration similar to the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart supersonic interceptors.
The Hustler is 96 feet, 10 inches (29.515 meters) long, with a wing span of 56 feet, 10 inches (17.323 meters) and an overall height of 31 feet 5 inches (9.576 meters). The wing’s leading edge is swept back at a 60° angle and the fuselage incorporates the “area rule” which resulted in a “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape for a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag. The airplane’s only control surfaces are two “elevons” and a rudder, and there are no flaps.
The B-58A was powered by four General Electric J79-GE-5 axial-flow afterburning turbojet engines, suspended under the wings from pylons. This was a single-shaft engine with a 17-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine, rated at 10,300 pounds of thrust (45.82 kilonewtons), and 15,600 pounds (69.39 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The J79-GE-5 was 16 feet, 10.2 inches (5.136 meters) long and 3 feet, 2.0 inches (0.965 meters) in diameter.
The bomber had a cruise speed of 610 miles per hour (981.7 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 1,325 miles per hour (2,132.4 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 64,800 feet (19,751 meters). Unrefueled range is 4,400 miles (7,081 kilometers). Maximum weight is 168,000 pounds (76,203.5 kilograms).
The B-58 weapons load was a combination of a W-39 warhead, and/or Mk.43 or B61 nuclear bombs. The W-39 warhead, the same used with the Redstone IRBM or Snark cruise missile, was carried in a jettisonable centerline pod, which also carried fuel for the aircraft. The smaller bombs were carried on underwing hardpoints. For defense, there was a General Electric M61 Vulcan 20×102 mm six-barreled rotary cannon mounted in the tail, with 1,200 rounds of linked ammunition, controlled by the Defensive Systems Officer.
Convair B-58A-20 CF 61-2059 is in the collection of the Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland, Nebraska.
16 October 1956: Pan American World Airways’ Flight 6 was a scheduled around-the-world passenger flight. The final leg, Honolulu to San Francisco, was flown by a Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser with civil registration N90943, and named Sovereign of the Skies.
The airplane had a flight crew of 7 and carried 24 passengers. The aircraft commander was Captain Richard N. Ogg, a veteran pilot with more than 13,000 flight hours accumulated over twenty years. First Officer George L. Haaker, Flight Engineer Frank Garcia, Jr., and Navigator Richard L. Brown completed the flight crew. The cabin crew were Purser Patricia Reynolds, who had been with Pan Am for over ten years, and Stewardesses Katherine S. Araki and Mary Ellen Daniel.
The flight from Honolulu to San Francisco was estimated to take 8 hours, 54 minutes. Captain Ogg had the airplane fueled for a total flight time of 12 hours, 18 minutes.
Flight 6 departed Honolulu at 8:24 p.m., Hawaii Standard Time, 15 October (06:24, 16 October, GMT), and climbed to 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) on course.
4 hours, 38 minutes after takeoff, Flight 6 requested a pre-planned climb to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters), at a point about half-way—in terms of flight time—between the departure point and destination, what is dramatically called “The Point of No Return” in suspense movies. (Actually, this is called the Equal Time Point: Taking into consideration forecast winds, the time to fly back to the departing point is the same as the time to continue toward the destination.)
On leveling at the new cruise altitude at 1:19 a.m. (HST), First Officer Haaker reduced engine power. The propeller for the Number 1 engine, the outside engine on the left wing, suffered a prop governor failure and began to overspeed, with engine r.p.m. actually exceeding the limits of its tachometer. This created a very dangerous condition: If the propeller turned fast enough, it could be torn apart by centrifugal force. (See This Day In Aviation, 22 March 1956, for an example.)
The crew was unable to feather the propeller, which would cause its four blades to turn parallel to the slip stream, and increasing the load on the engine while reducing aerodynamic drag. The engine and propeller continued to turn at dangerously high speed so Captain Ogg decided to force the engine to stop by cutting off its lubricating oil supply. This caused the engine to seize but the propeller continued to “windmill.”
The drag caused by the propeller slowed the airplane considerably and the three remaining engines had to run at high power for the Boeing 377 to maintain its altitude. The Number 4 engine (the outer engine on the right wing) was developing only partial power at full throttle. At 2:45 a.m., it began to backfire and had to be shut down.
The airplane began to descend toward the ocean’s surface.
With the drag of the windmilling Number 1 propeller and only two engines running, Sovereign of the Skies could fly at just 140 knots (161 miles per hour/259 kilometers per hour), not fast enough to reach San Francisco or to return to Honolulu before running out of fuel. The navigator estimated that they would run out of fuel 250 miles (402 kilometers) from land.
The United States Coast Guard kept a high endurance cutter on station between Hawaii and California, at a point known as Ocean Station November. This ship provided assistance with weather information, radio communications and was available to assist should an emergency arise aboard trans-Pacific airplanes.
On 16 October 1956, this cutter was USCGC Pontchartrain (WHEC 70), under the command of Commander William K. Earle, USCG. Pontchartrain was a 255-foot (77.7 meter) Lake-class patrol gunboat built by the U.S. Coast Guard ship yard at Curtiss Bay, Maryland, and commissioned 28 July 1945. The ship was redesignated as a high endurance cutter in 1948. Pontchartrain had a complement of 143 men.
The ship was 254 feet (77.42 meters) long, overall, with a beam of 43 feet, 1 inch (13.13 meters) and draft of 17 feet, 3 inches (5.25 meters). Its full load displacement was 1,978 tons (1,794 Metric tons). It was powered by a Westinghouse turbo-electric drive of 4,000 shaft horsepower and was capable on making 17.5 knots (20.41 miles per hour, or 32.41 kilometers per hour). Its maximum range was 10,376 miles (19,216 kilometers).
Pontchartrain was armed with a single 5-inch/38-caliber naval gun forward. It carried Hedgehog anti-submarine mortars and Mk 23 acoustic-homing antisubmarine torpedoes.
Captain Ogg notified Ponchartrain that he intended to ditch the airliner near the ship. The Coast Guard provided Captain Ogg with wind and wave information—five-foot (1.5 meter) swells, wind at eight knots (4 meters per second) from the northwest—and advised the best heading for ditching. The ship laid a trail of foam to mark this course.
At 6:15 a.m., at approximately 90 knots airspeed (104 miles per hour/167 kilometers per hour), the Boeing 377 landed on the water. A wing hit a swell, spinning the airplane to the left. The tail broke off and the airplane began to settle.
Injuries were minor and all passengers and crew evacuated the airliner. They were immediately picked up by Pontchartrain.
Captain Ogg and Purser Reynolds were the last to leave the airplane.
Twenty minutes after touching down, at 6:35 a.m., Sovereign of the Skies sank beneath the ocean’s surface.
Pan American’s Sovereign of the Skies was a Boeing Model 377-10-29, construction number 15959, originally operated by American Overseas Airlines as Flagship Holland, and later, Flagship Europe. Pan Am acquired the airliner during a merger. On 16 October 1956, the airplane had accumulated 19,820:51 total time on the airframe (TTAF) since it was built.
The Boeing 377 was a large, four-engine civil transport which had been developed, along with the military C-97 Stratofreighter, from the World War II B-29 Superfortress long-range heavy bomber. It utilized the wings and engines of the improved B-50 Superfortress. The airplane was operated by a flight crew of four. It was a double-deck aircraft, with the flight deck, passenger cabin and galley on the upper deck and a lounge and cargo compartments on the lower. The airliner was pressurized, and could maintain Sea Level atmospheric pressure while flying at 15,500 feet (4,724 meters). The Model 377 could be configured to carry up to 100 passengers, or 28 in sleeping births.
The Stratocruiser was 110 feet, 4 inches (33.630 meters) long with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.053 meters) and overall height of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters). Empty weight was 83,500 pounds (37,875 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 148,000 pounds (67,132 kilograms). Sovereign of the Skies had a gross weight of 138,903 pounds (63,005 kilograms) when it took off from Honolulu.
The airliner was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.489 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B6 four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines which had a Normal Power rating of 2,650 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., and 2,800 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. Maximum Continuous. It produced 3,250 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff (3,500 horsepower with water injection). The engines drove four-bladed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic, 24260 constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 17 feet, 0 inches (5.182 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The Wasp Major B6 was 8 feet, 0.50 inches (2.451 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,584 pounds (1,626 kilograms).
The 377 had a cruise speed of 301 miles per hour (484 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour). During testing by Boeing, a 377 reached 409 miles per hour (658 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) and the range was 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers).
Boeing built 56 Model 377 Stratocruisers, with Pan American as the primary user, and another 888 military C-97 Stratofreighter and KC-97 Stratotankers.
A U.S. Coast Guard film of the incident can be seen at:
16 October 1910: Maurice Clément-Bayard flew the dirigible, Clément-Bayard No. 2, from the Astra Clément-Bayard airship hangar at La Motte-Breuil, France, to Wormwood Scrubs, England, with six passengers. This was the first crossing of the English Channel by airship. The 244 mile (393 kilometer) distance was covered in less than six hours.
The Chronicle Annual Register reported,
The airship Clément-Bayard No. 2 travelled from near Paris to Wormwood Scrubbs between 6.55 a.m. and 1.25 p.m. Her average altitude was 200–300 metres, her average speed about 60 kil. hourly.
—CHRONICLE OF EVENTS IN 1910, Part II, at Page 33
A contemporary newspaper article described the event:
LONDON, October 16.
The airship Clement Bayard II., carrying seven passengers, has made a remarkable journey from Compiegne, 52 miles to the north-east of Paris, to London, alighting at Shepherd’s Bush, five miles to the west of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in 6 hours, 11 minutes. The distance travelled was approximately 150 miles.
The Clement Bayard left Compiegne at 7.15 a.m. yesterday, the weather conditions being perfect at the time. Boulogne, about 75 miles distant, was reached three hours later, and then the trip across the Channel was made in three quarters of an hour.
French torpedo-boat destroyers were echelonned across the English Channel, and acted as guides to the airship as far as Folkestone, on the coast of Kent, and 71½ miles east south-east of London.
The Clement Bayard, however, outdistanced each torpedo-boat destroyer in turn. Tunbridge, 42 miles beyond Folkestone, was reached at a quarter past 12, and three-quarters of an hour later St. Paul’s Cathedral, 29½ miles from Tunbridge, was passed, the Clement Bayard on this part of the journey going faster than motor-cars following the airship. The remaining distance to Shepherd’s Bush was accomplished shortly afterwards.
M. Clement Bayard was on board his airship, and the passengers also included Mr. William Harvey De Cros, the Unionist member for Hastings, who represented the British Parliamentary Aerial Committee.
The Clement Bayard I. was completed in April last, and was on the eve of making its departure for London, when the French Government exercised its right, and acquired the airship. In August M. Clement Bayard made several successful flights in the Clement Bayard II., the building of which was started immediately after the French Government acquired the Clement Bayard I. In September, 1909, the “Daily Mail” completed, at a cost of £5,000, a garage for an airship on land belonging to the War office. It was constructed to accommodate the Clement Bayard airship, which was to make the journey through the air from Paris to London. The British Government has the option of purchasing the vessel.
Maurice Clément-Bayard was the son of the company’s founder, Gustave Adolphe Clément-Bayard, and would succeed him after his father’s death.
The airship had been built for the Armée de Terre (the French Army), but because of the very high price, ₣200,000, it was not accepted. It was then sold to the British War Office for ₤18,000, more than twice the price the builders had offered to the French government. The British newspaper, The Daily Mail, contributed the cost of building an airship hangar.
After arriving in England, Clément-Bayard No. 2 was deflated for transport to another location. The airship was damaged in transit and was never repaired.
Clément-Bayard No. 2 was 76.5 meters (251 feet) long, with a diameter of 13.2 meters (43 feet). The dirigible had a volume of 6,500 cubic meters (229,545 cubic feet). It was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,590.75-cubic-inch-dispalcement (26.068 liters) Clément-Bayard four-cylinder overhead cam engines, which produced 120 horsepower, each. These turned two, two-bladed, fixed-pitch laminated wood propellers with a diameter of 6 meters (19 feet, 8 inches) at 350 r.p.m.
According to an article in American Machinist,
. . . This engine is a four-cylinder, vertical, water-cooled motor, of the latest Clement racing type. The cylinders are cast separately and are copper jacketed; have a bore of 7.48 inches and a stroke of 9.05 inches[1,590.75 cubic inches, 26.07 liters], giving a horsepower estimated at over 200. The valves are mechanically operated and placed in the cylinder head. A magneto is used for ignition. The weight is 1100 pounds [499 kilograms].
There will be two of these motors used in the new Clement-Bayard airship being constructed for the British government; each motor having a propeller of its own, although when desired, both motors can run one propeller, or one motor can run two propellers.
—American Machinist, Volume 33, Part I, 7 April 1910, at Page 645
The airship was debated in the British Parliament, with a question asked by Mr. Herbert Pike-Pease, M.P. (later, 1st Baron Daryngton): “May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he thinks the action of the War Office in regard to this airship was justified? If the airship was fit for service, why was it not used, and if it was not fit for service, why was it purchased?“
Colonel John Edward Bernard Seely, D.S.O., (Later, 1st Baron Mottistone, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., T.D., P.C., J.O., D.L.), the Secretary of State for War, replied, “I think part of the last two supplementary questions is answered in some of the replies I have just given. Of course, it is the fact that the envelope of this balloon leaked so badly that it would have been very costly to have inflated it. No doubt mistakes were made on both sides, by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, as well as by my Department, but we have not made half as many mistakes in this matter as our neighbours.“
Mr. Pike Pease then asked, “Was not the leakage known to the War Office before the ship was purchased?“
Colonel Seely answered, “It was before my time. There was a strong Committee of this House engaged in those transactions, and I understand they thought the airship was serviceable, and I suppose we thought it was when it was taken over. Mistakes must be made in a new matter of this kind. We have not made very many mistakes of a large kind in the matter of airships. We have been signally successful.“
Earlier in the debate, Colonel Seely stated that, “The engines are still available and are at the aircraft factory.“
—The Parliamentary Debates, 30 April 1913, at Page 1161.