Daily Archives: November 3, 2021

William Harvey Dana (3 November 1930-6 May 2014)

William Harvey Dana, NASA Research Pilot

William Harvey Dana, (Oracle 1948)

William Harvey Dana was born 3 November 1930 at Pasadena, California, the first of two children of Harvey Drexler Dana, a geologist, and Rose Frances Jourdan Dana. (Sister, Antoinette). Dana grew up in Bakersfield, California. He graduated from Bakersfield High School in 1948.

Bill Dana received an appointment as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York,. He graduated 1952 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Lieutenant Dana served until 1956.

In 1958, Dana earned a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, California.

On 1 October 1958, Dana began as 40-year career at the NASA High-Speed Flight Station, Edwards Air Force Base, California, as an Aeronautical Research Engineer. (This was the day that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was established, making Dana the first new employee to be hired by NASA). He was assigned to work on an X-15 performance simulator, and also to the North American XF-107 stability research program.

In September 1959, Bill Dana transferred to the Flight Operations Branch. One of his early projects was the North American Aviation JF-100C variable stability research aircraft.

NASA JF-100C Variable Stability Research Aircraft

IN 1962 Bill Dana married Miss Judi Miller. They would have four children, Sidney, Matt, Janet, and Leslie.

Dana made his first flight in the North American Aviation X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane on 4 November 1965. he reached a maximum speed of Mach 4.22, and a peak altitude of 80,200 feet (24,445 meters). He made a total of sixteen flights in the X-15s. Dana’s highest speed was Mach 5.34, 4 August 1966, and his highest altitude, 306,900 feet, (93,543 meters), on 1 November 1966. On 24 October 1968, Dana flew the final X-15 flight of the NASA X-15 Hypersonic Research program.

NASA Research Pilot William H. Dana with North American X-15A 56-6672 on Rogers Dry Lake. (NASA)

Bill Dana also flew NASA’s experimental “lifting body” aircraft. On 27 February 1970, he flew the Northrop HL-10 lifting body to 90,030 feet (27,441 meters), the highest altitude reached during its flight test program.

Bill Dana with the HL-10 lifting body, NASA 804. (NASA E-20168)
Dana watches the NB-52B fly over Rogers Dry Lake after HL-10 lifting-body flight, 30 November 1968. (NASA ECN-2203)

He made the first flight of the Northrop M2-F3, 2 June 1970. The M2-F3 was built from the M2-F2, which had been heavily damaged in a dramatic landing accident, 10 May 1967, resulting in severe injuries to the pilot, Bruce Peterson.

Wreck of NASA 803, 10 May 1967. (NASA E-16731)

On 23 September 1975, Bill Dana made the final powered flight of the Martin Marietta X-24B lifting body aircraft.

NASA Research Pilot William H. Dana with the X-24B lifting body, 1975. (NASA)

Bill Dana was assigned as the Chief Pilot of the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, and in 1986, became the Assistant Chief Flight Operations Division at Dryden.

Bill Dana was the project pilot for NASA 835, the experimental F-15 HIDEC (Highly Integrated Digital Electronic Control) and NASA 840, the F/A-18 Hornet HARV (High Alpha Research Vehicle).

Bill Dana was the project pilot for NASA 835, the experimental F-15 HIDEC (Highly Integrated Digital Electronic Control), and NASA 840, the F/A-18 Hornet HARV (High Alpha Research Vehicle). (NASA)

Dana stopped test flying after 1993, when he was appointed Chief Engineer, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. In 1997, he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. He retired from NASA in 1998.

Bill Dana flew more than 8,000 hours in over 60 different aircraft types.

In 2000, NASA awarded Dana its Milton O. Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award, and on 23 August 2005, he was presented NASA’s Civilian Astronaut wings for his two X-15 flights above 50 miles.

William Harvey Dana died at Phoenix, Arizona, 6 May 2014, at the age of 83 years. He was buried at the Joshua Memorial Park in Lancaster, California.

William Henry (“Bill”) Dana, 2005. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 November 1926

Chief Pilot Charles A. Lindbergh in the cockpit of Robertson Aircraft Corporation’s modified De Havilland DH-4, Number 109, 15 May 1926. (Swenson Studio)
Charles A. Lindbergh, circe 1926. (SDA&SM)
Charles A. Lindbergh, circa 1926. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)

3 November 1926: Charles Augustus Lindbergh, chief pilot of the Robertson Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri, was flying a night air mail route between St. Louis and Chicago, Illinois. His airplane was a modified De Havilland DH-4B, U.S. Postal Service Airmail Plane Number 109.

Lindbergh was flying Contract Air Mail Route 2, or “C.A.M. No. 2.” He departed St. Louis at 4:20 p.m. and made his first stop at Springfield, Illinois, at 5:15 p.m. He then continued on the second stage, Springfield to Peoria, Illinois.

Visibility was poor, about a half-mile (800 meters) in fog. Lindbergh flew at 600 feet (183 meters) but was unable to see the ground. Near the air field at Peoria, he could see lights from 200 feet (61 meters) altitude, but was unable to land.

After circling for 30 minutes, he continued toward Chicago. Lindbergh occasionally saw lights on the ground through the fog, but with his fuel running low, he decided that he was going to have to abandon his airplane. He headed out over more open country and climbed to 14,000 feet (4,267 meters).

Robertson Aircraft Corporation Dh-4 No. 109. The airplane's fuselage is painted "Tuscan Red" and the wings and tail surafces are silver. The lettering on the side is white. (Minnesota Historical Society)
Robertson Aircraft Corporation DH-4 No. 109, 15 May 1926. (Swenson Studio/Minnesota Historical Society)

At 8:10 p.m., the de Havilland’s fuel supply was exhausted and the engine stopped. Lindbergh switched off the battery and magnetos, then stepped over the side. He immediately pulled the ripcord of his parachute and safely descended to the ground.

Airmail Plane Number 109 crashed on the farm of Charles and Lillie Thompson, near Covell, a small town southwest of Bloomington, Illinois. Lindbergh had been unable to find the wreck in the darkness, but in daylight, it was clearly visible just 500 feet (152 meters) from the Thompson’s house.

This was the fourth time that Charles Lindbergh has used a parachute to escape from an airplane. The last time was just six weeks earlier.

Charles A. Lindbergh (fourth from left) with the wreckage of Robertson Aircraft Corporation DH-4 No. 112, 16 September 1926. (Yale University Library)

He resigned from Robertson Aircraft and formed a group to finance and build the Spirit of St. Louis. Charles Augustus Lindbergh flew his new airplane across the Atlantic Ocean, non-stop, solo, 20–21 May 1927.

Robertson Aircraft Corporation's four de Havilland DH-4s, numbers 109, 110, 111, and 112.
Robertson Aircraft Corporation’s four de Havilland DH-4s, numbers 109, 110, 111, and 112. The airplanes’ fuselages are painted “Tuscan Red” and their wings and tail surfaces are silver. The lettering on their sides is white. No. 112 is the last airplane in this group. “Lucky Lindy” bailed out of it on the night of 16 September 1926.

The Airco DH.4 was a very successful airplane of World War I, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. The DH.4 (DH-4 in American service) was a two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane with fixed landing gear. The fuselage and wings were constructed of wood and covered with doped fabric. The airplane was produced by several manufacturers in Europe and the United States.

The DH-4 was 30 feet, 5 inches (9.271 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 8 inches (13.005 meters) and height of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,391 pounds, (1,085 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,297 pounds (1,949 kilograms). Fuel capacity was 67 gallons (254 liters).

Army Air Service DH-4s were powered by Liberty 12 aircraft engines in place of the Rolls-Royce Eagle VII V-12 of the British-built DH.4 version. The L-12 was water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter), single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine. It produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine and it turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 67.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 27.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 41.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

The Liberty 12 aircraft engine was designed by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. This engine was produced by Ford Motor Company, as well as the Buick and Cadillac Divisions of General Motors, The Lincoln Motor Company (which was formed by Henry Leland, the former manager of Cadillac, specifically to manufacture these aircraft engines), Marmon Motor Car Company and the Packard Motor Car Company. Hall-Scott was too small to produce engines in the numbers required.

The DH-4 had a maximum speed of 124 miles per hour (200 kilometers per hour), service ceiling of 19,600 feet (5,974 meters) and range of 400 miles (644 kilometers).

Many DH-4s were rebuilt as DH-4Bs. These can be identified by the relocated pilot’s cockpit, which was moved aft, closer to the observer’s position. The an enlarged fuel tank was place ahead of the pilot’s cockpit. Following World War II, many were rebuilt with tubular metal frames for the fuselage, replacing the original wooden structure. These aircraft were redesignated DH-4M.

The prototype American DH-4, Dayton-Wright-built airplane, is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Aviation and Space Museum.

Wreck of Robertson Aircraft Corporation's de Havilland DH-4, Number 109. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Wreck of Robertson Aircraft Corporation’s de Havilland DH-4, Number 109. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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