Daily Archives: October 24, 2021

24 October 2003

Concorde G-BOAG lands at LHR
Concorde G-BOAG lands at LHR. (www.concordest.com)

24 October 2003: At 4:05 p.m. BST, the final commercial flight of the British Airways Concorde came to an end with the landing of G-BOAG at London Heathrow Airport. It landed third in sequence with G-BOAE and G-BOAF after all three supersonic airliners had made a low pass over London.

G-BOAG had flown from New York under the command of Captain Mike Bannister, with First Officer Jonathan Napier and Engineer Officer David Hoyle. There were 100 celebrity passengers on board.

“Alpha Golf,” British Aerospace serial number 100-214, was the final Concorde built in Britain, and, at its retirement, was the lowest-time Concorde in British Airway’s fleet. It first flew at Filton, 21 April 1978, registered G-BFKW. It was delivered to British Airways 6 February 1980. In 1981, 100-214 was re-registered as G-BOAG. During the early 1980s, it was taken out of service and used as a source for parts for the other Concordes, but returned to airworthy status in 1985.

After a series of farewell flights, G-BOAG was retired to The Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington. It had flown 16,239 hours, made 5,066 takeoffs and landings and had gone supersonic 5,633 times.

Captain Bannister with Concorde, London Heathrow Airport, 2016. (British Airways)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

24 October 1969: The Rescue of MISTY 11

by Captain Sean M. Cross, United States Coast Guard (Retired)

24 October 1969: During the Vietnam War from 1967–1972, eleven U.S. Coast Guard Aviators voluntarily served with high honor and distinction with the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery forces in Southeast Asia in the dual role of aircraft commanders and instructor pilots. They regularly risked their lives flying into harm’s way to save airmen in peril of death or capture. Their significant contributions and exceptional performance were highly commended by the Air Force with the award of four Silver Stars, sixteen Distinguished Flying Crosses, and eighty-six Air Medals, in addition to many other recognitions. The previous accolades did not come without cost —designated Coast Guard Aviator #997, Lieutenant Jack Columbus Rittichier was killed in action while attempting to rescue a downed Marine airman in hostile territory on June 9th, 1968. These Aviators carried out their noble mission with heroism and a focus on duty, honor, country and the Coast Guard. Their actions brought honor on themselves, the United States of America, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Interesting fact – of the roughly 200 Air Force Cross recipients, only 24 are enlisted rank, of which 12 are Pararescuemen (PJ). Nine PJs were awarded Air Force Crosses for Combat SAR missions in Vietnam…of those nine missions – two had Coast Guard Aviators as Aircraft Commanders – this is one (the other was the SCOTCH 3 mission involving LT Lance Eagan, USCG (CGA ’62) on 02 July 1968).

The goal of the combat rescue and recovery units was to get to those in peril before the enemy could capture of kill them. Whether the mission was an extraction or the pickup of a downed airman, each time they were successful it was a win. When it came to official Air Force data, this was labeled a “save,” but a “save” was much more than a statistic to these men. A “save” was a person, and they took it personally.

At Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS) was coming up on their 500th “save” in mid-October 1969. Everyone was looking forward to it. They arrived at number 497, then hit a dry spell for about a week. On 24 October, MISTY 11 went down and through a connected series of events, Coast Guard exchange pilots Lieutenant Richard Victor Butchka retrieved numbers 498, 499, and 500, and Lieutenant (j.g.) Robert T. Ritchie claimed numbers 501 and 502.

Similar to MISTY 11, this North American Aviation F-100F-10-NA Super Sabre, 56-3837, was also a FastFAC. It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Northeast of Saravane, Laos, MISTY 11, a U.S. Air Force North American Aviation F-100F Super Sabre “Fast FAC”—a jet Forward Air Controller) was designating targets along the Ho Chi Min Trail for ground interdiction strikes when it experienced engine failure due to antiaircraft fire. The stricken aircraft quickly descended to less than 1,000 feet (305 meters) above the terrain. The approximate time was 8:00 a.m. A MAYDAY was broadcast and the two crewmen ejected at low altitude. They parachuted into the jungle-covered mountainous terrain. MISTY 11 Alpha, 1st Lieutenant Alvin Donald Muller, and MISTY 11 Bravo, Captain Jack K. Clapper, were separated by about 800 yards (732 meters) due to the programmed delay in the ejection sequence between the front and rear ejection seats.

The survivors’ position was in a small valley formed by two ridges about 100 meters long oriented north and south. At the north end where the ridges joined, a road was cut 20 meters from the top of the hill. MISTY 11A was on the east side of the valley and MISTY 11B was on the west side.

Area of operation.

Each was equipped with a battery-powered radio and was contacted by an airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC), a North American Aviation OV-10A Bronco, NAIL 07, who had heard their pre-ejection call and was working in the area. The FAC said that he would notify Search and Rescue. MISTY 11A (Muller) informed MISTY 11B and the FAC that his leg was badly broken. MISTY 11B (Clapper) was unhurt.

Less than two hours from notification, two Douglas A-1 Skyraiders—call signs SANDY 11 and 12—and two Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters—JOLLY 28 and 04—from strip alert in Quang Tri were on scene.

JOLLY 28 (HH-3E #66-13280) crew members: Captain Charles D. Langham, USAF (Pilot); Major Charles W. Bond (Co-Pilot); Staff Sergeant James E. Smith (Flight Engineer); and Technical Sergeant Donald G. Smith (Pararescueman)

JOLLY 04 (HH-3E #66-13290) crew members: Lieutenant Richard Victor Butchka, USCG (Pilot); Captain John K. Coder, USAF (Co-Pilot); Sergeant Joseph J. Vai (Flight Engineer); and Airman 1st Class George P. Hoffman III (Pararescueman)

The helicopters went into orbit. One Jolly Green, referred to as the “low bird,” would make the rescue attempt while the second, the “high bird,” would remain in a 3,000-foot (914 meters) orbit as backup. Before sending in JOLLY 28, the two A-1s trolled the area, but their repeated passes brought no response from enemy ground-fire. It was determined that Muller should be rescued first because of his broken leg and at about 11:00 a.m., JOLLY 28 descended toward MISTY 11A.

A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, 66-13290, of the 37th ARRS, hovering in ground effect at Da Nang, circa 1968. This helicopter was JOLLY 04, flown by Lt. R. V. Butchka, USCG, on 24 October 1969.(U.S. Air Force)

The terrain in the SAR area was rolling foothills with elevations varying from 1,500 feet MSL (Mean Sea Level: describes height above standard Sea Level) in the ravines, to 2,500 feet MSL on the hilltops (500 to 833 meters). The vegetation on these hills varied from dense triple-layered canopy jungles to open areas with tall jungle grass. The entire immediate area around MISTY 11A and B was defended by heavy small arms and automatic weapons as close as 50 feet to the survivors. The proximity of hostile forces to the survivors severely restricted the type of ordnance which could be delivered to protect them. There were scattered variable broken cumulus build-ups in the area with tops to 9,500 feet MSL and bases varying from 2,000 to 3,000 feet AGL (Above Ground Level: describes height above the ground). Visibility below the clouds was excellent.

Lieutenant Butchka, in the “high bird,” JOLLY 04, watched his good friend, Captain Charles Langham, descend for the recovery. JOLLY 28 entered a hover over MISTY 11A and lowered the “PJ,” Don Smith, by hoist. The PJ immediately had the downed airman on the canopy penetrator and gave the cable-up signal. Less than a minute had elapsed. When the penetrator was approximately 10 feet off the ground, the helicopter came under attack.

Butchka saw three sides of the blind canyon twinkling. It appeared that enemy forces had used the downed F-100F crewman as bait for a “flak trap.” The Skyraiders rushed in to suppress the fire, but the opening enemy volley had shot the hoist assembly off its mounts, sending it crashing into the flight engineer’s chest and dumping the PJ and MISTY 11A back on the ground. Realizing the hoist was inoperative, the flight engineer, SSGT James Smith, hit the switch shearing the hoist cable and yelled to Captain Langham to transition JOLLY 28 to forward flight.

Lieutenant Richard Victor Butchka, United States Coast Guard, in the cockpit of a Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant. (Butchka Collection)

Above, Butchka punched off his auxiliary fuel tanks and went into a plunging autorotative descent. Seeing Langham’s aircraft smoking and streaming fluid (was hit in the main gearbox and was losing oil pressure), Butchka told him to put the helicopter on the ground. Langham searched for a clear spot and put the aircraft into a small punch bowl-shaped valley. Langham and crew jumped out of the helicopter into the elephant grass, looking up for high bird. They did not have far to look. Butchka’s helicopter was in a 25-foot hover on the left side of Langham’s helicopter with its hoist cable waiting. Butchka expected ground fire from the enemy at any moment. During the swift pick up, the helicopter shuddered with a jolt to the right side. The aircraft’s skin was holed with a gash eight inches long by two inches wide.

Major Charles W. Bond had the honor of being the 500th save.

With the men safely on board, the next problem was getting out of there. Butchka did not want to go back out the way he came because of heavy enemy fire. Weather was hot and humid, pressure altitude was high, and the only other way out presented him with a vertical face rising about 130 feet. It was decision time. Butchka said; “I headed for the face, pulled every bit of power I could (‘pulled the collective to my arm pit’ was the description in another interview), and with a little bit of airspeed drooped the rotor to 94-percent — and just cleared the top.” As he eased over the ridgeline, the JOLLY immediately came under heavy ground fire from a different direction. SANDY lead hadn’t reported anything because he didn’t know where Butchka was. Miraculously they were not hit. However, JOLLY 04 “caught his blades in some trees and is requesting escort out of the area.” A forward air controller, COVEY 297, escorted JOLLY 04 to Lima Site 61, an Air Force TACAN navigation site at Muang Phalan, Laos.

There were still two MISTY crewmembers and Langham’s PJ on the ground at the initial recovery spot. The PJ, Technical Sergeant Donald G. Smith, using his handheld radio, reported “contact with bad guys 35 meters to my west” and directed air strikes bracketing their position. JOLLY 76, a Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant from the 40th ARRS at Udorn, Thailand, made three recovery attempts but each time received intense ground fire resulting in extensive battle damage to the helicopter. JOLLY 76 sustained severe battle damage, loss of hydraulic systems and associated tail rotor control problems that forced the aircraft to withdraw. JOLLY 76 was escorted out of the area by JOLLY 72 and A-1s SANDY 01 and  04, and successfully recovered at Lima Site 44, an unimproved covert landing strip near Saravane, Laos.

LT Richard Butchka, USCG is congratulated by CPT Charles Langham, USAF following the recovery of his JOLLY 28 aircrew during the MISTY 11 combat rescue. (Butchka Collection)

JOLLY 76 (Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant) crewmembers: Captain Donald R. Almanzar (Pilot); Captain Peter L. Fekke (Co-Pilot); Staff Sergeant Harold R. Hailey (Flight Engineer); Sergeant Anthony J. McFarr (Pararescueman); Sgt. Douglas W. Crowder (Pararescueman); and Sergeant Gregory Lee Anderson (Aerial Photographer).

JOLLY 15 (Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant) crew members: Coast Guard Lieutenant (j.g.) Robert T. Ritchie, USCG (Pilot); Lieutenant Colonel Sidney S. Sosnow , USAF (Co-Pilot); Technical Sergeant Frank Gaydos, Jr. (Flight Engineer); Staff Sergeant Jon K. Hoberg (Pararescueman); and Sgt. Edward K. Rendle (Pararescueman).

A Douglas A-1H Skyraider dive bombing a target during a close air support mission. (U.S. Air Force)

Later that afternoon the JOLLIES tried again. After multiple A-1 passes dropping CBU-19s ( a 130-pound modified dispenser containing 528 canisters with an incapacitating chemical CS—”tear gas”) SANDY 06 and 05 escorted “low bird” JOLLY 15 with Coast Guard Lieutenant (j.g.) Rob Ritchie into the rescue area.

Rob said; “The previous attempts that day were all into the wind approaches. I chose a downwind approach because all indications were the ‘bad guys’ were set up for us to come into the wind and were waiting.” The SANDYs made suppression runs and laid smoke as had been requested – then they joined in a daisy chain of passes that provided protective fire. Ritchie used the smoke for cover, swooped in fast and quickly put the aircraft into a hover over Smith and MISTY 11A. TSgt. Gaydos fearlessly operated the rescue hoist while completely exposed to the hostile fire impacting about him. His reassuringly calm hover instructions to the pilots, ensured Smith and MISTY 11A were quickly brought on board with only slight damage to the aircraft. During Ritchie’s next approach to pick up MISTY 11B they began taking very heavy ground fire on the way in. The element of surprise was no longer there and the North Vietnamese had repositioned. SANDY Lead called the approach off and both A-1s made several suppression runs.

Ritchie commenced his third approach immediately after the suppression runs. He said it was much quieter this time and he came to a hover over MISTY 11B. As the penetrator went down the ground fire became much heavier and the helicopter was taking numerous hits. The utility hydraulics to the hoist was disabled due to ground fire damage to a pressure line and fluid flow was lost. Unable to complete the pickup Ritchie exited the area. JOLLY 15 notified SANDY 03 that he would be unable to remain in the area and commenced a rendezvous for air refueling with KING 03, a Lockheed C-130 Combat King. JOLLY 15 landed at Lima Site 61  at 3:35 p.m.

1LT Don Muller, USAF, MISTY 11A, is assisted down from LTJG Ritchie’s HH-3E, JOLLY 15. (Rotor Review Magazine, Spring ’19)

Two additional tries to pick up MISTY 11B were made to no avail. A tropical thunderstorm moved in and heavy rain fell for the next 30 minutes. A third attempt was made while the squall was passing through and as the storm began to subside, the winds became relatively calm and the previously laid smoke screen began to envelope the area – adversely impacting the rescue helicopters’ visibility and making it more difficult to locate MISTY 11B.

Fortunately, the survivor’s emergency radio was operational and the pilot knew how to use it. By coordinating voice guidance from MISTY 11B on the ground and SPAD 09 (circling overhead), JOLLY 19, another HH-3E, flew over Clapper and lowered a canopy penetrator to him. He climbed onto the device and the helicopter quickly exited the area as soon as Clapper was clear of the trees. The gunner on the rescue helicopter pulled him in the door and the MISTY 11 rescue was successfully concluded at around 6:00 p.m.

JOLLY 19 (Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant) from Detachment 1, 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. Crewmembers: Major Ted L. Smith (Pilot); Major Edward B. Robbins (Co-Pilot); Staff Sergeant Robert E. Hunt (Flight Engineer); Master Sergeant Paul L. Jenkins (Pararescueman); and Sergeant Leland H. Sorensen (Pararescueman).

The following A-1 SANDY forces participated in the event:

SANDY 01 1st Lieutenant Rex V. Huntsman
SANDY 04 Lieutenant Colonel Dick Michaud
SANDY 03 Major Nelson Moffatt
SANDY 07 1st Lieutenant Noel Frisbie
SANDY 05 Captain Bob Crowder
SANDY 06 Captain Glenn C. Dyer
SANDY 11 Captain Jack L. Hudson
SANDY 12 Lieutenant Colonel George D. Miller

Epilogue: For their efforts during this combat rescue the following medals were awarded:

Master Sergeant Donald G. Smith, United States Air Force.

Technical Sergeant Donald G. Smith, USAF, Pararescueman from JOLLY 28 was awarded  the Air Force Cross:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Technical Sergeant Donald G. Smith for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Pararescueman on a HH-3E Rescue Helicopter in Southeast Asia on 24 October 1969. On that date, Sergeant Smith voluntarily descended to the surface on a forest penetrator to assist a downed pilot. As he and the pilot were being raised, hostile fire rendered the hoist inoperative and the cable was sheared, dropping them fifteen feet to the ground. Sergeant Smith’s position was surrounded by hostile forces, and his helicopter was downed by hostile fire. Remaining exceptionally calm, his resolute and decisive presence encouraged other survivors, while his resourcefulness in controlling and directing the aircraft providing suppressive fire, resulted in the safe recovery of all downed personnel. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Sergeant Smith reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Lieutenant Robert T. Ritchie, USCG, was awarded the Silver Star.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star (Air Force Award) to Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Robert T. Ritchie, United States Coast Guard, for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while attached to the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (USAF). Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Ritchie distinguished himself as Aircraft Commander of an HH-3E rescue helicopter in Southeast Asia on 24 October 1969. On that date, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Ritchie repeatedly penetrated an area of intense hostile fire in an effort to rescue three downed airmen before battle damage rendered his aircraft incapable of further rescue operations. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Ritchie has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

CPT Charles D. Langham Silver Star medal ceremony

Captain Charles D. Langham, USAF, earned the Silver Star:

Captain Charles D. Langham distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as Aircraft Commander of an HH-3E helicopter in Southeast Asia on 24 October 1969. On that date, while attempting to recover two downed Air Force pilots., Captain Langham’s aircraft was subjected to intense hostile fire. Displaying superb airmanship, Captain Langham nursed his critically damaged aircraft way from the immediate hostile area and effected an emergency landing in a confined, remote area which saved his crew from probable serious injury or possible death. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Captain Langham has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

LT Richard V. Butchka, USCG, earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat V.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat “V” (Air Force Award) to Lieutenant Richard V. Butchka, United States Coast Guard, for heroism while participating in aerial flight as aircraft Commander of an HH-3E helicopter, attached to the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, United States Air Force, in Southeast Asia on 24 October 1969. On that date, in the face of known hostile forces, who had just shot down another rescue helicopter, Lieutenant Butchka, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, skillfully and expeditiously effected the rescue of three crewmen from the downed helicopter. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Butchka reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Coast Guard.

The following Distinguished Flying Cross recipients were also confirmed for this mission: Major Charles W. Bond; Captain John K. Coder; Technical Sergeant Frank Gaydosl Jr.; Sergaeant Joseph J. Vai; Airman 1st Class George P. Hoffman III; Staff Sergeant Jon K. Hoberg; and Lieutenant Colonel. Sidney S. Sosnow.

Misty #132 Jack K. Clapper left the USAF in 1974, went to law school and is a trial lawyer in Novato, California.  Donald G. Smith passed away on 12 March 2016 at the age of 80. Richard V. Butchka passed away 28 July 2007 at the age of 66. Misty #119 Alvin Donald (“Devil”) Muller passed away on 16 November 2010 at the age of 67.

SSGT Gregory Lee Anderson, USAF

Aerial Photographer Staff Sergeant Gregory Lee Anderson, crewman on JOLLY 76, was aboard Jolly Green 71, an HH-53B, when it was shot down over Laos, 28 January 1970. SSGT Anderson is listed as Missing in Action. (Active Pursuit)

HH-3E 66-13280 caught fire in flight, 15 April 1970, and crashed near Kontum, Republic of Vietnam. Two of the five crewmen died.

HH-3E 66-13290 was retired to Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, 18 March 1991. It was withdrawn from storage and placed on display with the New York Air National Guard at Westhampton Beach, New York.

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green

The Sikorsky HH-3E (Sikorsky S-61R) earned the nickname Jolly Green Giant during the Vietnam War. It is a dedicated Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter flown by the U.S. Air Force, based on the CH-3C transport helicopter. The aircraft is flown by two pilots and the crew includes a flight mechanic and gunner. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. It has retractable tricycle landing gear and a rear cargo ramp. The rear landing gear retracts into a stub wing on the aft fuselage. The helicopter has an extendable inflight refueling boom.

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

The HH-3E is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 18 feet, 10 inches (5.740 meters) high with all rotors turning. The main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The main rotor turns at 203 rpm., counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The tail rotor also has five blades and has a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.150 meters). The blades have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left (the advancing blade is below the axis of rotation). The tail rotor turns 1,244 rpm.

The HH-3E has an empty weight of 13,341 pounds (6,051 kilograms). The maximum gross weight is 22,050 pounds (10,002 kilograms).

HH-3E three-view illustration (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

The Jolly Green Giant is powered by two General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines, which have a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,400 shaft horsepower, each, and Military Power rating of 1,500 shaft horsepower. The main transmission is rated for 2,500 horsepower, maximum.

The HH-3E has a cruise speed of 154 miles per hour (248 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour (285 kilometers per hour), also at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The HH-3E had a maximum range of 779 miles (1,254 kilometers) with external fuel tanks.

The Jolly Green Giant can be armed with two M60 7.62 mm machine guns.

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

© 2020, Sean M. Cross

24 October 1953

Convair YF-102 52-7994 on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Convair YF-102 52-7994 on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

24 October 1953: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Richard Lowe Johnson, Chief Test Pilot for the Convair Division of the General Dynamics Corporation, took the first prototype YF-102 Delta Dagger, serial number 52-7994, for its first flight.

The YF-102 was a single-seat, single-engine, delta wing fighter designed as an all-weather, missile-armed, Mach 2 interceptor. It was developed from the earlier, experimental, Convair XF-92 Dart. The F-102 was planned for a Westinghouse XJ67-W-1 engine, but when that was not ready in time, a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-11 afterburning turbojet engine was substituted. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The J57-P-11 was rated at 10,000 pounds of thrust (44.482 kilonewtons), and 16,000 pounds (71.172 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, was completed at the Convair plant in San Diego, 2 October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, was completed at the Convair plant in San Diego, 2 October 1953. (Convair Division of General Dynamics)

The prototype had finished assembly at the Convair plant in San Diego, California, on 2 October 1953. It was then shipped by truck to Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California where final preparations and testing was carried out.

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) had tested scale models of the YF-102 in the 8-foot HST wind tunnel at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical laboratory and found that significant shock waves were produced at near-sonic speeds. Surprisingly, shock waves were created at the trailing edge of the delta wing. The shock waves caused very high drag that would keep the aircraft from reaching Mach 1, even with the more powerful engine planned for production models.

Convair YF-102 with the original fuselage. (NASA)
Convair YF-102 53-1785 with the original fuselage, photographed 31 December 1954. (NASA)

The Republic YF-105 fighter bomber had similar problems, though it did pass the speed of sound. Both aircraft were significantly redesigned to incorporate the “Area Rule,” developed by NACA aerodynamicist Richard T. Whitcomb. Rather than considering the aerodynamics of the fuselage independently, the frontal area of the wings and tail surfaces had to be included to reduce drag. This produced the “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape that the production models of these two fighters were known for.

Convair built two YF-102s before the design was changed, resulting in the YF-102A prototypes and the production F-102A Delta Dagger.

The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, on Rogers Dry Lake, October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, on Rogers Dry Lake, October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)

Several problems showed up on the YF-102’s first flight. Severe buffeting was encountered at high sub-sonic speed. As predicted by NACA, aerodynamic drag prevented the YF-102 from reaching Mach 1 in level flight. There were also problems with the landing gear, the fuel system, and the J57 engine did not produce the rated power.

The production F-102A was considerably larger than the YF-102. The fuselage was lengthened, the wing area and span were increased, and the vertical fin was taller. A more powerful J57-P-23 engine was used. These and other changes increased the F-102A’s gross weight by nearly 1,800 pounds (815 kilograms).

Convair YF-102 52-7994 parked on the dry lake bed, Edwards AFB, California. (U.S. Air Force)

On 2 November 1953, just nine days after the first flight, the Pratt & Whitney J57-P-11 engine flamed out during a test flight. Dick Johnson was unable to restart it and made a forced landing in the desert. The  YF-102 was severely damaged and Dick Johnson badly hurt. The flameout was traced to a problem with the the fuel control system. The prototype was written off.

Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger 52-7994. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger 52-7994 just before touchdown on Rogers Dry Lake. (U.S. Air Force)
Wreck o fConvair YF-102 52-994 near Edwards Air focre Base, 2 Novemnber 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
Wreck of Convair YF-102 52-7994 near Edwards Air Force Base, 2 November 1953. (U.S. Air Force)

Richard Lowe Johnson ¹ was born at Cooperstown, North Dakota, 21 September 1917. He was the eighth of nine children of Swedish immigrants, John N. Johnson, a farmer, and Elna Kristina Helgesten Johnson, a seamstress.

Dick Johnson attended Oregon State College at Corvallis, Oregon, as a member of the Class of 1943. He was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (ΣΑΕ) fraternity.

Dick Johnson was a pitcher for the college baseball team, and later, played for the Boston Red Sox “farm” (minor league) system.

On 18 June 1942, Johnson enlisted as a private in the Air Corps, United States Army. On 5 November, he was appointed an aviation cadet and assigned to flight training.

Aviation Cadet Johnson married Miss Juanita Blanche Carter, 17 April 1943, at Ocala, Florida. The civil ceremony was officiated by Judge D. R. Smith.

After completing flight training, on 1 October 1943, Richard L. Johnson was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Army of the United States (A.U.S.).

Lieutenant Johnson was assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group, Twelfth Air Force, in North Africa, Corsica, and Italy, flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. He was promoted to first lieutenant, A.U.S., 9 August 1944, and just over three months later, 26 November 1944, to the rank of captain, A.U.S. On 14 May 1945, Captain Johnson was promoted to the rank of major, A.U.S. (Major Johnson was assigned a permanent rank of first lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army, on 5 July 1946, with a date of rank retroactive to 21 September 1945.)

Republic P-47D-25-RE Thunderbolt 42-26421, assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter group, Twelfth Air Force. This airplane was purchased by the employees of Republic Aviation. (American Air Museum in Britain UPL 25505)

During World War II, Major Johnson flew 180 combat missions with the 66th Fighter Squadron. He is officially credited with one air-to-air victory, 1 July 1944. Johnson was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters (3 awards), and the Air Medal with twelve oak leaf clusters (thirteen awards).

In 1946, was assigned to the Air Materiel Command Engineering Test Pilot School at the Army Air Forces Technical Base, Dayton, Ohio (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base). He was the second U.S. Air Force pilot to be publicly acknowledged for breaking the “sound barrier.”

A few weeks after arriving at Dayton, Major Johnson met Miss Alvina Conway Huester, the daughter of an officer in the U.S. Navy. Dick Johnson and his wife Juanita were divorced 8 January 1947, and he married Miss Huester in a ceremony in Henry County, Indiana, 10 January 1947. They would have three children, Kristie, Lisa and Richard.

Richard L. Johnson waves from the cockpit of the record-setting North American Aviation F-86A-1-NA Sabre, 47-611.

Dick Johnson set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course,² flying the sixth production North American Aviation F-86A-1-NA Sabre, serial number 47-611, at Muroc Air Force Base, California (renamed Edwards AFB in 1949).

During the Korean War, Major Johnson was sent to the war zone to supervise field installations of improvements to the F-86 Sabre. He was “caught” flying “unauthorized” combat missions and was sent home.

Convair Chief Test Pilot Richard Lowe Johnson. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Lieutenant Colonel Johnson resigned from the Air Force in 1953 to become the Chief Test Pilot for the Convair Division of General Dynamics. He made the first flights of the YF-102 and the F-106A Delta Dart, 26 December 1956. He also made the first flight of the F-111 on 21 December 1964.

In 1955, Johnson was one of the six founding members of the Society of Experimental test Pilots.

Dick Johnson was Chief Engineering Test Pilot for the General Dynamics F-111 “Aardvark.” In 1967, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots awarded Johnson its Iven C. Kincheloe Award for his work on the F-111 program. In 1977, Dick Johnson, then the Director of Flight and Quality Assurance at General Dynamics, retired.

In 1998, Dick Johnson was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor at Lancaster, California. His commemorative monument is located in front of the Lancaster Public Library on W. Lancaster Boulevard, just West of Cedar Avenue. ³

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Lowe Johnson, United States Air Force, (Retired), died 9 November 2002 at Fort Worth, Texas. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, on 7 January 2003.

Chief Test Pilot Dick Johnson in the cockpit of a Convair B-58A Hustler. (Courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

¹ Several sources spell Johnson’s middle name as “Loe.”

² FAI Record File Number 9866

³ Various Internet sources repeat the statement that “Richard Johnson has been honored with. . . the Thompson Trophy, Mackay Trophy, Flying Tiger Trophy, Federation Aeronautique Internationale Gold Medal and Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. . . .” TDiA has checked the lists of awardees of each of the appropriate organizations and has not found any support for the statement.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

24 October 1947

Grumman Model G-64, XJR2F-1 Pelican. (Уголок неба)

24 October 1947: First flight, prototype Grumman Model G-64, the XJR2F-1 Pelican. This amphibian would become the Grumman UF-1 Albatross. (In U.S. Air Force service, the Albatross was designated SA-16A. In 1962, this was changed to HU-16A for Navy, Coast Guard and USAF.)

Interestingly, several months earlier, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) conducted landing tests using a 1:7-scale model XJ2RF-1 in a test tank at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. Wave heights of 4.4 and 8.0 inches (11.2 and 20.3 centimeters) were used, with wave lengths between 10 feet and 50 feet (3–15 meters). Tests indicated that the amphibian could be expected to experience a maximum of 8.5 gs.

Grumman G-64, XJ2RF-1 Pelican (U.S. Coast Guard)

The Albatross was operated by a crew of 4 to 6 airmen, and could carry up to 10 passengers. The SA-16A amphibian was 62 feet, 10 inches (19.152 meters) long, with a wingspan (before modification) of 80 feet, 0 inches (24.384 meters) and had an overall height of 25 feet, 11 inches (7.899 meters). The wing had an angle of incidence of 5° and the total wing area was 883 square feet (82.03 square meters).

The SA-16A was modified to the SA-16B standard, increasing the wingspan to 96 feet, 8 inches (29.464 meters) and the wing area to 1,035 square feet (96.15 square meters). The wing’s leading edges were altered and larger tail surfaces were added.

The HU-16B had an empty weight of 23,025 pounds (10,444 kilograms), and maximum takeoff weight of 37,500 pounds (17,010 kilograms). For takeoff from water, the airplane’s weight was limited to 34,000 pound (15,422 kilograms), using rocket assist. The maximum weight for landing on water was 32,000 pounds (14,515 kilograms).

The SA-16 was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 826C9HD3 and -D5 (R-1820-76A and -76B) nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.80:1. 115/145 octane aviation gasoline was required. These engines were rated at 1,275 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m., and 1,425 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m for takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic full-feathering, reversible-pitch propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 0 inches (3.353 meters) through a 0.666:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-76A and -76B were 3 feet, 11.69 inches (1.211 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.95 inches (1.396 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,380 pounds (626 kilograms).

The Albatross could be equipped with two or four Aerojet 14AS1000 RATO units, which produced 1,000 pounds of thrust (4.49 kilonewtons), each, for 15 seconds.

The flying boat had a cruise speed of 134 knots (154 miles per hour/248 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 204 knots (235 miles per hour/378 kilometers per hour) at 3,700 feet (1,128 meters). The service ceiling was 23,800 feet (7,254 meters). The SA-16B had a combat radius of 725 nautical miles (834 statute miles/1,343 kilometers), and 1,130 nautical miles (1,300 statute miles/2,093 kilometers) with two 300-gallon (1,136 liters) drop tanks.

This former U.S. Coast Guard UF-1G (HU-16E) Albatross is now privately owned. (paxdaus)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

24 October 1946

First photograph of the Earth taken from an altitude of 65 miles (105 kilometers). (White Sands Missile Range/Applied Physics Laboratory)

24 October 1946: At 12:18 p.m., Mountain Standard Time (17:18 UTC), a captured V-2 rocket was launched from the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range, east of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The rocket, identified as Upper Air  Rocket Number 13, carried a 35-millimeter DeVry Corporation cine camera set to expose one frame every second-and-a-half.

The V-2’s engine burned for 59.8 seconds, by which time the rocket had reached an altitude of 17.0 miles (27.4 kilometers) and a velocity of 3,990 feet per second (1,216 meters per second). Continuing upward on a ballistic trajectory, the rocket reached a maximum altitude of 65.0 miles (104.6 kilometers) after 180.0 seconds. This is just above the 100-kilometer Kármán Line which is the arbitrary beginning of Space.

Falling back to Earth, Number 13 impacted approximately 17 miles north-northwest of the White Sands V-2 Launching Site and was completely destroyed. Although debris from the rocket was scattered widely, the film cassette was recovered.

The image above is a still frame from the recovered film. It shows the curvature of the Earth. This was the highest altitude a photograph had been made since Captain Albert W. Stevens photographed the Earth from a balloon, Explorer II, 20 July 1935.

A captured German V-2 rocket is launched from the White Sand Proving Grounds, 10 May 1946. (Popular Science)

The V2, or Vergeltungswaffen 2 (also known as the A4, or Aggregat 4) was a ballistic missile with an empty weight of approximately 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) and weighing 28,000 pounds (12,700 kilograms), fully loaded. It carried a 738 kilogram (1,627 pound) (sources vary) explosive warhead of amatol, a mixture of ammonium nitrate and TNT. The propellant was a 75/25 mixture of ethanol and water with liquid oxygen as an oxidizer.

The complete rocket was 14.036 meters (46.050 feet) long, and had a maximum diameter of 1.651 meters (5.417 feet). The rocket was stabilized by four large fins, 3.945 meters (12.943 feet) long, with a maximum span of 3.564 meters (11.693 feet). The leading edge of these fins was swept aft 60° to the “shoulder,” and then to 87° (30° and 3°, relative to the rocket’s centerline). A small guide vane was at the outer tip of each fin, and other vanes were placed in the engine’s exhaust plume.

Cutaway illustration of a V-2 rocket. (U.S. Army)

When launched, the rocket engine burned for 65 seconds, accelerating the rocket to 3,580 miles per hour (5,760 kilometers per hour) on a ballistic trajectory. The maximum range of the rocket was 200 miles (320 kilometers) with a peak altitude between 88 and 128 miles, depending on the desired range. On impact, the rocket was falling at 1,790 miles per hour (2,880 kilometers per hour), about Mach 2.35, so its approach would have been completely silent in the target area.

The V-2 could only hit a general area and was not militarily effective. Germany used it against England, France, The Netherlands and Belgium as a terror weapon. More than 3,200 V-2 rockets were launched against these countries.

U.S. soldiers examine an incomplete V-2 rocket at Kleinbodungen, Germany, 1945.

As World War II came to and end, the Allies captured many partially-completed missiles, as well as components and parts. Sufficient parts and materiel and been transferred from Germany to construct more than one hundred V-2 rockets for testing at White Sands. No missiles were received in flyable condition. Over a five year period, there were 67 successful launches, but it is considered that as much knowledge was gained from failures as successes.

V-2 rocket body at White Sands.

Along with the rockets, many German engineers and scientists surrendered or were captured by the Allies. Under Operation Paperclip, Wernher von Braun and many other scientists, engineers and technicians were brought to the United States to work with the U.S. Army’s ballistic missile program at Fort Bliss, Texas, White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, and the Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.

Tests of the V-2 rockets led to the development of U.S. rockets for the military and NASA’s space program.

V-2 Number 3 is prepared for launch at White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, 10 May 1946. With a burn time of 59 seconds, the rocket reached an altitude of 70.9 miles (114.1 kilometers) and traveled 31 miles (49.9 kilometers) down range. (The Space Race – Rockets)

¹ V-2 Number 13 had an unfueled weight of, 9,070 pounds (4,114 kilograms); fully fueled, it weighed 28,277 pounds (12,826 kilograms).

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes