Daily Archives: August 4, 2022

4 August 1971

A prototype Agusta A109 Hirundo hovering in ground effect. (Agusta)

4 August 1971: At its Cascina Costa plant, near the Aeroporto di Milano-Malpensa, northwest of Milan, Italy, Agusta test pilot Ottorino Lancia made the first flight of the prototype Agusta A109 Hirundo, serial number 7101. Also on board was one of the helicopter’s designers, Paolo Bellevita.

The Agusta A109 is an 8-place, light, twin-engine helicopter with a four-blade, fully-articulated main rotor and retractable landing gear. It can be flown by one pilot and carry up to seven passengers. The helicopter is certified for flight in visual meteorological conditions. It was certified by Italy’s Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile (ENAC) on 28 May 1975, and by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration the following month. The first production helicopters were delivered in 1976.

The original production variant A109 was 10.71 meters (35 feet, 2 inches) in length. The fuselage had a maximum width of 2.88 meters (9 feet, 5 inches) and the helicopter’s overall height was 3.30 meters (10 feet, 10 inches). The maximum gross weight was 2,450 kilograms, or 5,400 pounds.

The main rotor diameter of the A109 is 11.00 meters (36 feet, 1 inch), and turns counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) In normal operation, the main rotor turns 365–385 r.p.m. (95–100%). In autorotation, the range is 346–424 r.p.m. (90–110%). The two-bladed semi-rigid tail rotor had a diameter of 2.03 meters (6 feet, 8 inches). It is positioned on the left side of the tail boom in pusher configuration. The tail rotor turns clockwise, when seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)

The A109 was powered by two Allison 250-C20B turboshaft engines. They are rated at 346 shaft horsepower (113% torque), each, for takeoff (five minute limit). With one engine inoperative (OEI), the maximum power of the remaining engine is 400 shaft horsepower (five minute limit) and 385 shaft horsepower, maximum continuous power.

The A109’s maximum speed (VNE) is 168 miles per hour (270 kilometers per hour). The maximum operating altitude is 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The helicopter’s total useable fuel capacity is 550.0 liters (145.3 gallons).

A prototype Agusta A109 Hirundo in ground effect hover. (Agusta)

The A109 remains in production in both civil and military variants. It is produced in Italy by Leonardo S.p.A. (formerly, AgustaWestland) and in China by Jiangxi Change Agusta Helicopter Co., Ltd.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

4 August 1960

4 August 1960: NASA research test pilot Joseph Albert Walker set an unofficial world speed record when he flew the number one North American Aviation X-15, 56-6670, to 2,195 miles per hour (3,532.5 kilometers per hour). This was the 18th flight of the X-15 Program. It was 56-6670’s eighth flight and Walker’s fourth X-15 flight. The purpose of this test was to gradually increase the rocket plane’s speed toward its design limit.

Airdropped from the Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress mothership, 52-003, over Silver Lake, near the California-Nevada border, at 08:59:13.0 a.m., PDT, Walker fired the X-15’s two Reaction Motors XLR11-RM-13 rocket engines for 264.2 seconds. The X-15 accelerated to Mach 3.31 and climbed to a peak altitude of 78,112 feet (23,810 meters). [The two XLR11s were used as an interim powerplant until the Reaction Motors XLR99 was ready. The combined thrust of both LR11s was only slightly more than the idle thrust of the XLR99.]

Walker touched down on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight of 10 minutes, 22.6 seconds.

Joe Walker with X-15 56-6670 on Rogers Dry Lake. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

4 August 1950

A U.S. Air Force Sikorsky H-5F lifts off during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force)

4 August 1950: During the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter, wounded soldiers were evacuated from the battlefield by helicopter for the first time when a Sikorsky H-5F of Detachment F, 3rd Emergency Rescue Squadron,¹ Air Rescue Service, United States Air Force, flew Private 1st Class Claude C. Crest, Jr., U.S. Army, from the Sengdang-ni area to an Army hospital. By the end of combat in 1953, 21,212 soldiers had been medevaced by helicopters.

Only the second military helicopter, the H-5 was frequently flown overloaded and outside of its center of gravity limits. The helicopter was not armed, though the pilot normally carried an M1911 .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, and the crewman, a .30-caliber M1 Carbine.

Eleven commercial Sikorsky S-51 helicopters had been purchased by the Air Force in 1947 and designated R-5F. This was later changed to H-5F. It was a four-place, single-engine helicopter, operated by one pilot. The cabin was built of aluminum with Plexiglas windows. The fuselage was built of plastic-impregnated plywood, and the tail boom was wood monocoque construction. The main rotor consisted of three fully-articulated blades built of metal spars and plywood ribs, covered with two layers of fabric. (All metal blades soon became available.) The three bladed semi-articulated tail rotor was built of laminated wood. The main rotor turned counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Its normal operating range was 175–195 r.p.m. The tail rotor was mounted on the helicopter’s left side in a pusher configuration. It turned clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)

Sikorsky S-51 three-view drawing with dimensions. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

The helicopter’s fuselage was 41 feet, 1¾ inches (12.541 meters) long. The main rotor had a diameter of 48 feet, 0 inches (14.630 meters) and the tail rotor diameter was 8 feet, 5 inches (2.565 meters),² giving the helicopter an overall length of 57 feet, ½ inch (17.386 meters) with rotors turning. It was 12 feet, 11–3/8 inches (3.947 meters) high. The tricycle landing gear had a wheel base of 10 feet, 1 inch (3.073 and the tread was 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters). The S-51 had an empty weight of 4,050 pounds (1,837 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 5,300 pounds (2,404 kilograms) below 1,000 feet (305 meters) MSL.³ Fuel capacity was 100 gallons (379 liters).

The H-5F was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 986.749-cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-985 AN-5 (Wasp Jr. T1B4 ) which was placed in the fuselage behind the crew compartment with the crankshaft vertical. The R-985-AN-5 was a direct-drive, nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6:1. It required 91-octane aviation gasoline and was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., Standard Day at Sea Level. The R-985 AN-5 was 48.00 inches (1.219 meters) long, 46.25 inches (1.175 meters) in diameter and weighed 684 pounds (310.3 kilograms) with a magnesium crankcase.

The H-5F had a maximum speed (VNE) of 107 knots (123 miles per hour/198 kilometers per hour). Range was 275 miles (443 kilometers). The service ceiling was 14,800 feet (4,511 meters). The absolute hover ceiling was 3,000 feet (914 meters).

Sikorsky H-5, Korea. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky H-5, Korea. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ Reorganized as the 3rd Air Rescue Squadron 10 August 1950.

² An 8 foot, 9 inch (2.667 meter) all-metal two-blade tail rotor assembly became standard with the H-5G, and was available to retrofit earlier helicopters.

³ The maximum gross weight had to be reduced 150 pounds (68 kilograms) for each additional 1,000 feet of altitude.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

4 August 1908

LZ 4 floating out of its hangar on Lake Constance, 0600, 4 August 1908. (Bain News Service/Library of Congress)

4 August 1908: Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin, to demonstrate the capabilities of his airship, LZ 4, departed from its floating hangar on Lake Constance at 6:22 a.m., 4 August 1908, on a planned 24-hour round trip down the Rhine to Basel, Strasbourg and Mainz, then back to Stuttgart, a distance of approximately 435 miles.

LZ-4 leaves the hangar on Lake Constance, 6:05 a.m., 4 August 1908.
LZ 4 leaves the hangar on Lake Constance, 6:05 a.m., 4 August 1908.
Zeppelin LZ 4 over Lake Constance. (Archiv der Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH)

LZ 4 was 136 meters (446 feet, 2 inches) long and 12.95 meters (42 feet, 6 inches) in diameter. Buoyancy was provided by hydrogen contained in 17 rubberized cotton gas bags inside the dirigible’s rigid structure. The total volume of the airship was 15,008 cubic meters (530,003 cubic feet). It was propelled by two Daimler engines, producing 105 horsepower each, and driving three-bladed propellers. Its maximum speed was 48 kilometers per hour (29.8 miles per hour).

LZ 4 over der Bodensee.
LZ 4 over der Bodensee.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes