Daily Archives: March 22, 2023

22 March 1979

Lockheed CP-140 Aurora N64996/140101 photographed during its first flight, 22 March 1979. (Edmonton Journal, 30 March 1979, Page H9, Columns 1–3)

22 March 1979: The Lockheed CP-140 Aurora 140101 (N64996) made its first flight from Hollywood-Burbank Airport at Burbank, California. The pilot in command was Lockheed’s Chief Test Pilot John (“Chris”) Christiansen. The airplane had been initially rolled out of Lockheed’s Building 360 on 25 January 1979.

The CP-140 Aurora is a four-engine turboprop-powered anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance aircraft built by the Lockheed-California Company for the Canadian Armed Forces. It uses the airframe of the Lockheed P-3C Orion combined with the ASW equipment of the Lockheed S-3A Viking. It was intended to replace Canada’s fleet of Canadair CP-107 Argus patrol aircraft. The first of 18 CP-140s was delivered 29 May 1980, and the final one, in July 1981. Another three airframes, without the ASW equipment, were completed as the CP-140A Arcturus.

Lockheed CP-140 Aurora 140101 displayed with Canadair CP-107 Argus Mk 1 10718 at Lockheed-California Company, Hollywood Burbank Airport, California. (Lockheed)

The CP-140 Aurora is flown by two pilots and a flight engineer. During missions it is crewed by 8–10 mission specialists. It is 116 feet, 10 inches (35.611 meters) long with a wingspan of 99 feet, 8 inches (30.378 meters) and height of 33 feet, 8.5 inches (10.274 meters). The total wing area is 1,300.0 square feet (120.77 square meters). The wings use a symmetrical NACA 0014 airfoil at the root and NACA 0012 at the tip. The wings have 6° dihedral with 2° 30′ negative twist. The angle of incidence is 3°. The airplane has an empty weight of 61,491 pounds (27,890 kilograms) and maximum permissible weight of 142,000 pounds (64,410 kilograms).

Three-view illustration of a Lockheed P-3A Orion with dimensions. This aircraft is similar in size and appearance to the CP-140 Aurora. (U.S. Navy)

The CP-140 is powered by four Allison T56-A-14 turboprop engines which produce 4,591 shaft horsepower at 13,820 r.p.m., each. They drive four-bladed Hamilton-Standard 54H60-77 constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 13 feet, 5¾ inches (4.109 meters) at 1,020 r.p.m. The T56-A-14 is a single-shaft axial-flow turboprop engine, with a 14-stage compressor section, six combustors, and a 4-stage turbine. The engine is 12 feet, 2.3 inches (3.716 meters) long, 4 feet, 1.0 inches (1.245 meters) in diameter and weighs 1,885 pounds (855 kilograms).

Lockheed CP-140 Aurora 140101. Note the Number 1 engine is shut down to conserve fuel. (Canada Armed Forces)

The CP-140 has a maximum speed of 395 knots (455 miles per hour/732 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling is 35,100 feet (10,698 meters). The patrol plane has a fuel capacity of 7,661 Imperial gallons (9,200 U.S. gallons/34.828 liters), giving it a maximum range of 5,100 nautical miles (5,869 statute miles/9,445 kilometers). At a mission radius of 1,000 nautical miles (1,151 statute miles/1,852 kilometers), the Aurora can remain on station for 8 hours, 12 minutes.

Lockheed CP-140 Aurora 140109 with open weapons bay. (Canada Armed Forces)

The CP-140 Aurora is armed with eight Mark 46 Mod V homing torpedoes carried in its  weapons bay. There are ten underwing hardpoints. Sonobuoys can be dropped from the belly. A Magnetic Anomaly Detector, the “MAD boom,” is mounted at the tail of the aircraft.

The CP-140 fleet underwent an Aircraft Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP) beginning in 1998. The Aurora Structural Life Extension Program (ASLEP) was completed in 2020. The airplane is expected to remain in service until 2030.

The Auroras are based at Greenwood, Nova Scotia, and Comox, British Columbia.

John Christiansen, 1942. (The 1942 Log)
John Christiansen, 1942. (The 1942 Log)

John Jean (“Chris”) Christiansen was born 1 May 1923, at Oslo, Norway. He was the second of three children of John Christiansen, a painter, and Ruth Floby Christiansen. After the family immigrated to the United States, he grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Christiansen attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Saint Paul, graduating in 1942. He played football and was a member of the W Club.

In June 1942, he was employed by Hayden Motor Service in St. Paul. When he registered for the draft (conscription), he was described as being 5 feet, 10 inches (1.778 meters) tall, 160 pounds (72.6 kilograms), with a ruddy complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes.

Alice Phoebe Zeis, 1942.

John Christiansen married Miss Alice Phoebe Zeis, who had been a fellow student at Woodrow Wilson High School. They had one son. Christiansen was later married to Diane S. Schindler.

Christiansen served in the United States Navy during World War II and the Korean War.

John Christiansen joined the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation as an experimental test pilot in 1953. During his career with Lockheed, he made the first flights of the prototype YP3V-1 (P-3 Orion), 25 November 1958, and the YS-3A Viking, 21 January 1972. He retired from Lockheed in 1983.

The prototype Lockheed YP3V-1 Orion, N1883, U.S. Navy Bu. No 148276. This prototype was constructed from the third L-188 Electra. (Lockheed)
The prototype Lockheed YS-3A Viking, Bu. No. 157992. (Lockheed)
John Christiansen with his family and a Lockheed P-3C Orion, circa 1983.

John Christiansen died at Lake Havasu, Arizona, 6 September 1998, at the age of 75 years.

Full Disclosure: TDiA’s father, Bart Robert Swopes (1925–1995) was Lockheed’s Configuration Manager of both the S-3A Viking and the CP-140 Aurora.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

22 March 1956

Boeing P2B-1S, Bu. No. 84029, at Edwards AFB, 22 March 1956. (NASA)

22 March 1956: While carrying the U.S. Navy’s Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, problems developed aboard both the research rocketplane and the “mothership.” The modified four-engine heavy bomber, a U.S. Air Force Boeing B-29-95-BW Superfortress (which had been transferred to the U.S. Navy and redesignated P2B-1S Superfortress), had a runaway propeller on the Number 4 engine, outboard on the right wing. The propeller broke apart from excessive rotational speed, slicing through the Number 3 engine, the fuselage, and striking the Number 2 engine.

Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, Bu. No., 37974, NACA 144, is dropped from the Boeing P2B-1S Superfortress, Bu. No. 84029, NACA 137. (NASA)

NACA research test pilot John Barron (“Jack”) MacKay, in the cockpit of the Skyrocket, had called “No drop!” because of problems with the rocketplane, but he was jettisoned so that the mothership could maintain flight and make an emergency landing.

McKay dumped the Skyrocket’s propellants and glided to the lake bed.

John Barron McKay, NACA/NASA Research Test Pilot. (NASA)

“Each rocket-plane pilot had worked out, in conjunction with the pilot of the mother ship, a procedure to follow if any emergency developed in either plane. Jack McKay, who had developed into a very able test pilot, and I had agreed with Butchart that if something went wrong after either of us had entered the cockpit of the Skyrocket and had closed the canopy, he would immediately jettison the rocket plane, leaving the rocket-plane pilot to look after his own hide. As a matter of fact, McKay and Butchart later ran into such an emergency. One day something went haywire in a propeller on the B-29 mother plane. As agreed, Butchart instantly cut loose the Skyrocket. A split second later the B-29 prop tore loose and cartwheeled through the space the Skyrocket had just vacated. McKay landed without difficulty; but had Butchart not cut the parasite plane loose, the prop would have ripped into its fuel tanks, causing an explosion that would have killed everyone, including McKay.”

Always Another Dawn: The Story of a Rocket Test Pilot, by A. Scott Crossfield and Clay Blair, Jr., The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, 1960, Chapter 21 at Pages 201–202.

The Superfortress pilots, Stanley Paul Butchart and Neil Alden Armstrong, landed the plane safely on the lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base.

Neil Armstrong would land on The Moon 13 years later.

The P2B1-S is jacked up inside a hangar at Edwards AFB so the the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket can be loaded aboard.
The P2B-1S is jacked up inside a hangar at Edwards AFB so the the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket can be loaded aboard. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

22 March 1948

Tony LeVier in the cockpit of Lockheed TP-80C-1-LO 48-356, the prototype T-33A Shooting Star two-place trainer.
Tony LeVier in the cockpit of Lockheed TP-80C-1-LO 48-356, the prototype T-33A Shooting Star two-place trainer. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

22 March 1948: Just over one year since being injured when the prototype P-80A was cut in half by a disintegrating turbojet engine, Lockheed test pilot Anthony W. (“Tony”) LeVier made the first flight of the prototype TP-80C-1-LO, serial number 48-356, a two-place jet trainer. The airplane was redesignated TF-80C Shooting Star on 11 June 1948 and to T-33A, 5 May 1949.

Adapted from a single-seat P-80C Shooting Star jet fighter, Lockheed engineers added 38.6 inches (0.980 meter) to the fuselage forward of the wing for a second cockpit, instrumentation and flight controls, and another 12 inches (0.305 meter) aft. A more powerful engine, an Allison J33-A-23 with 4,600 pounds of thrust, helped offset the increased weight of the modified airplane. Internal fuel capacity decreased 72 gallons (273 liters) to 353 (1,336 liters).

The Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star is 37.72 feet (11.50 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37.54 feet (11.44 meters), and overall height of 11.67 feet (3.56 meters). The wings a total area of 234.8 square feet (21.8 square meters). They have an angle of incidence of 1° with -1° 30′ of twist and 3° 49.8′ dihedral. The “T-Bird” has a basic weight of 9,637 pounds (4,371 kilograms), and gross weight of 15,280 pounds (6,931 kilograms).

Lockheed TP-80C-1-LO 48-356 prototype, with P-80C-1-LO Shooting Star 47-173, at Van Nuys Airport, California. (Lockheed Martin)

Originally produced with the J33-A-23 engine, the T-33 fleet was later standardized with the J33-A-35 engine. The J33 was a development of an earlier Frank Whittle-designed turbojet. It used a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, eleven combustion chambers and a single-stage axial-flow turbine section. The J33-A-35 had a Normal Power rating of 3,900 pounds of thrust (17.348 kilonewtons) at 11,250 r.p.m. (96%), and 4,600 pounds (20.462 kilonewtons) at 11,750 r.p.m. (100%). It was 107 inches (2.718 meters) long, 50.5 inches (1.283 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,820 pounds (826 kilograms).

Cruise speed for maximum range is 0.68 Mach. The maximum speed is 505 knots (581 miles per hour/935 kilometers per hour), or 0.8 Mach, whichever is lower. Service ceiling 44,700 feet (1,3625 meters). The maximum range is 1,071 nautical miles (1,232 statute miles/1,983 kilometers).¹

While the P-80 fighter was armed with six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose, the trainer was usually unarmed. Two machine guns could be installed for gunnery training.

In production for 11 years, 5,691 T-33As were built by Lockheed, with licensed production of another 656 by Canadair Ltd., and 210 by Kawasaki Kokuki K.K. For over five decades, the “T-Bird” was used to train many tens of thousands of military pilots worldwide.

TF-80C 48-356 was rebuilt as the prototype for Lockheed’s YF-94A interceptor, and then modified further to the F-94B. Sources have reported it as being stored at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Prototype Lockheed YF-94 48-356, first flight, 16 April 1949. (U.S. Air Force)
Prototype Lockheed YF-94 48-356, first flight, 16 April 1949. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ Specifications and performance data from T-33A PERFORMANCE EVALUATION, AFFTC-TR-61-22, May 1961,  Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. The Project Pilot was Captain Thomas P. Stafford, U.S. Air Force. Stafford was next selected for the NASA Gemini Program, and flew Gemini 6A and Gemini 9. He commanded Apollo 10.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes