Daily Archives: June 23, 2023

23 June 1961

Bob White exits the cockpit of an X-15 on Rogers Dry Lake. (NASA)

23 June 1961: Major Robert Michael White, United States Air Force, became the first pilot to exceed Mach 5 in an aircraft. This was the 38th flight of the X-15 Program. Flights during this phase incrementally increased the speed and altitude of the X-15 up to its design limits of Mach 6 and 250,000 feet (76,200 meters).

The second North American Aviation X-15A, 56-6671, was air-dropped from the NB-52A Stratofortress mothership, 52-003, over Mud Lake, Nevada at 2:00:05.0 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time (21:00 UTC). White fired the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 engine for 78.7 seconds, reaching Mach 5.27 (3,603 miles per hour, 5,799 kilometers per hour) and climbed to 107,700 feet (32,827 meters). 10 minutes, 5.7 seconds after being dropped from the B-52, White touched down on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base.

Bob White was the first pilot to exceed Mach 4, Mach 5 and Mach 6. He also flew an X-15 to an altitude of 314,750 feet (95,936 meters), qualifying for U.S. Air Force astronaut wings.

After leaving the X-15 program, Major White flew 70 combat missions in the Republic F-105D Thunderchief fighter bomber during the Vietnam War. He lead the attack against the heavily-defended Paul Doumer Bridge in Hanoi, 11 August 1967, for which he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Major General White retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1981. He died 10 March 2010.

56-6671 is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The mothership, 52-003, is on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.

North American Aviation X-15A 56-6671. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

23 June 1951

Grumman F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228 explodes after striking the flight deck of USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. (U.S. Navy)

23 June 1951: Operating in the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia Capes, the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Midway (CVB-41) was conducting suitability trials of the Grumman F9F-5 Panther. Commander George Chamberlain Duncan, commanding Fighter Squadron 51 (VF-51) was in the cockpit of Bu. No. 125228. Having made a successful landing aboard Midway, Duncan took off to make another approach and landing.

Just short of the flight deck, the Panther dropped below the correct approach. Duncan tried to pull up, but the fighter struck the ramp and broke in half. The aircraft exploded in flames. The forward section slid down the deck. Duncan, though burned, was quickly rescued.

The nose section of Grumman F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228 slides down the flight deck of USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. Commander Duncan is still in the cockpit. (U.S. Navy)
Flight deck crew members try to contain the fire after the crash of F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228, while others rescue Commander Duncan from the forward fuselage, aboard USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. (U.S. Navy)
The forward fuselage of Grumman F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228 following the crash aboard USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. (U.S. Navy)

The Grumman F9F-5 Panther was a single-seat, single-engine turbojet powered fighter designed for operation from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was 38 feet, 10½ inches (11.849 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.528 meters)— not including wing tanks. Its overall height was 12 feet, 4 inches (3.759 meters). The wings could be hydraulically folded to reduce the span for storage aboard ship. The F9F-5 weighed 10,147 pounds (4,603 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 17,766 pounds (8,059 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) was 18,721 pounds (8,492 kilograms).

The F9F-5 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT7 (J48-P-6 or -6A) engine, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Tay. It was a single-shaft turbojet with a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, 9 combustion chambers and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The J48-P-6 was rated at 6,250 pounds of thrust (27.80 kilonewtons), and 7,000 pounds (31.14 kilonewtons) with water injection.

The  F9F-5 Panther had a cruise speed 481 miles per hour (774 kilometers per hour). Its maximum speed was 604 miles per hour (972 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 42,800 feet (13,045 meters), and the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The Panther was armed with four M3 20 mm autocannon placed in the nose. It could carry up to 3,465 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of bombs or eight 5-inch (12.7 centimeters) rockets on four hardpoints under each wing.

The XF9F-2 prototype first flew 21 November 1947. 1,382 F9F Panthers were produced and they remained in service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps until 1958. 619 of these were the F9F-5 variant. A swept wing version, the F9F-6 through F9F-9J Cougar, was also produced.

Captain George Chamberlain Duncan, United States Navy

George Chamberlain Duncan was born at Tacoma, Washington, 11 Feb 1917. He was the first of three children of of George W. Duncan, a mining camp supplier, and Frances Delarsh Chamberlain Duncan. Duncan attended Stadium High School in Tacoma. He played on the football and swim teams. He was also a member of the glee club, and during his senior year, portrayed “Oliver le Dain” in the comic opera, “The Vagabond King.” He was a member of the school’s glider and architecture clubs. Duncan graduated in 1934.

Midshipman George C. Duncan, U.S. Navy

George Duncan entered the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, as a midshipman, 18 July 1935. He graduated 1 June 1939 and was commissioned an Ensign, United States Navy. Ensign Duncan served aboard the Colorado-class battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) from June 1939 to August 1941.

Ensign Duncan married Miss Agnes Wirt Tawresey at Washington, D.C., 30 August 1941. They would have four children, three sons, George, Jr., Richmond, Alfred, and a daughter, Agnes.

Ensign Duncan was next assigned to the Northampton-class heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA-28), serving aboard in 1942 and 1943.

Duncan was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade), 1 June 1942. Two weeks later, 15 June 1942, he was promoted to lieutenant (temporary).

Lieutenant Duncan underwent flight training at NAS Pensacola. Following graduation he was assigned to Fighting Squadron Fifteen (VF-15) aboard USS Essex (CV-9). Duncan was promoted to lieutenant commander (temporary) 15 March 1944.

On 13 September 1944, Lieutenant Commander Duncan was engaged in aerial combat over the central Philippine Islands. He was credited with destroying an enemy medium bomber and two fighters, shared credit for a second bomber shot down, and damaged a third fighter. He followed this by strafing an airfield and destroying three aircraft on the ground. For these actions, Duncan was awarded the Silver Star.

During the Battle off Cape Engaño on the morning of 25 October 1944, Lieutenant Commander Duncan led VF-15 in an attack against Imperial Japanese Navy warships in the Sibuyan Sea. He scored a direct hit with a bomb on the light carrier IJN Chitose, which, along with a number of other hits, resulted in its sinking at 0937 hours. Duncan was awarded the Navy Cross.

Japanese aircraft carriers IJN Zuikaku (left) and IJN Zuiho under attack by U.S. Navy aircraft during the Battle off Cape Engaño, 25 October 1944. (U.S. Navy)

Duncan is officially credited with 13½ enemy aircraft destroyed.

In March 1945, Lieutenant Commander Duncan was assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School at Annapolis, Maryland. In 1949, he graduated from the 48-week Test Pilot Division course at NATC Patuxent River. On 1 June 1949, his rank of lieutenant commander became permanent. On the same day, Duncan was promoted to commander. This was also a permanent rank.

Commander Duncan served as the commander of VF-51 aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CVA-45) during the Korean War. He later commanded  VF-101, and was Commander Air Group (“CAG”), Carrier Air Group 5 (CVG-5). He was next assigned as the Head, Fighter Design Branch, Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAir), then, Assistant Director, Aircraft Division, Bureau of Weapons (BuWeps). Returning to sea, Commander Duncan was executive officer of the “supercarrier” USS Forrestal (CV-59). Duncan was promoted to the rank of captain, 1 April 1958.

For a Naval Aviator to be given command of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, they generally have to have had command of a “deep-draft” ship. Captain Duncan was given command of the 13,900-ton aircraft stores ship USS Jupiter (AVS-8) from July 1961 to 24 March 1962. Jupiter had a draft of 25 feet, 10 inches (7.874 meters). During this time, Jupiter operated with the 7th Fleet, and was homeported at Yokosuka, Japan.

Captain Duncan assumed command of the Forrestal-class aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-61), 7 May 1962, and remained in that assignment until 20 May 1963.

USS Ranger (CVA-61), 1963. United States Navy)

Captain Duncan retired from the United States Navy in December 1967. During his naval career, he had been awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one silver star and one gold star (seven awards), and the Bronze Star with Combat “V.”

Following his retirement, Duncan attended George Washington University, Washington, D.C., where he earned a degree in law. He was a practicing attorney in Alexandria, Virginia.

Agnes Duncan died in 1972. In 1974, Captain Duncan married Margaret Handy. She died in 1980.

Captain Duncan suffered a fatal heart attack while in a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, 15 December 1995, at the age of 77 years. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, alongside his first wife.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Medal of Honor, Second Lieutenant David Richard Kingsley, United States Army Air Corps

Second Lieutenant David R. Kinsley, United States Army Air Forces
Second Lieutenant David Richard Kingsley, United States Army Air Corps, photographed as an aviation cadet.


KINGSLEY, DAVID R. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force.

Place and date: Ploesti Raid, Rumania, 23 June 1944.

Entered service at: Portland, Oregon. Birth: Oregon.

G.O. No.: 26, 9 April 1945.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, 23 June 1944 near Ploesti, Rumania, while flying as bombardier of a B17 type aircraft.

On the bomb run 2d Lt. Kingsley’s aircraft was severely damaged by intense flak and forced to drop out of formation but the pilot proceeded over the target and 2d Lt. Kingsley successfully dropped his bombs, causing severe damage to vital installations. The damaged aircraft, forced to lose altitude and to lag behind the formation, was aggressively attacked by 3 ME-109 aircraft, causing more damage to the aircraft and severely wounding the tail gunner in the upper arm. The radio operator and engineer notified 2d Lt. Kingsley that the tail gunner had been wounded and that assistance was needed to check the bleeding. 2d Lt. Kingsley made his way back to the radio room, skillfully applied first aid to the wound, and succeeded in checking the bleeding. The tail gunner’s parachute harness and heavy clothes were removed and he was covered with blankets, making him as comfortable as possible. Eight ME-109 aircraft again aggressively attacked 2d Lt. Kingsley’s aircraft and the ball turret gunner was wounded by 20mm. shell fragments. He went forward to the radio room to have 2d Lt. Kingsley administer first aid. A few minutes later when the pilot gave the order to prepare to bail out, 2d Lt. Kingsley immediately began to assist the wounded gunners in putting on their parachute harness. In the confusion the tail gunner’s harness, believed to have been damaged, could not be located in the bundle of blankets and flying clothes which had been removed from the wounded men. With utter disregard for his own means of escape, 2d Lt. Kingsley unhesitatingly removed his parachute harness and adjusted it to the wounded tail gunner. Due to the extensive damage caused by the accurate and concentrated 20mm. fire by the enemy aircraft the pilot gave the order to bail out, as it appeared that the aircraft would disintegrate at any moment. 2d Lt. Kingsley aided the wounded men in bailing out and when last seen by the crewmembers he was standing on the bomb bay catwalk. The aircraft continued to fly on automatic pilot for a short distance, then crashed and burned. His body was later found in the wreckage. 2d Lt. Kingsley by his gallant heroic action was directly responsible for saving the life of the wounded gunner.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor

David Richard Kingsley was born 27 June 1918 at Portland, Oregon. He was the second of nine children of David Ross Kingsley, a machinist, and Angelina Marie Rutto Kingsley. He attended St. Michael’s School in Portland.

With both of their parents dead and their oldest brother in the Navy, Dave Kingsley cared for his younger siblings. He worked as a firefighter, and was engaged to Miss Harriet Zalabak.

Aviation Cadet David R. Kingsley, U.S. Army Air Corps, circa 1942.

Kingsley enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces at Portland Army Air Base, 14 April 1942. He had brown hair, blue eyes, was 5 feet, 10 inches (1.78 meters) tall and weighed 165 pounds (75 kilograms). Kingsley was trained as a bombardier and commissioned a second lieutenant in July 1943.

The gunner saved by Kingsley later said, “David then took me in his arms and struggled to the bomb bay, where he told me to keep my hand on the rip cord and said to pull it when I was clear of the ship. . . Then he told me to bail out. I watched the ground go by for a few seconds and then I jumped. I looked at Dave the look he had on his face was firm and solemn. He must have known what was coming because there was no fear in his eyes at all. That was the last time I saw. . . Dave standing in the bomb bay.”

Kingsley’s bomber, a Vega-built B-17F-35-VE, 42-5951, crashed near the village of Suhozem, in central Bulgaria. In addition of Kingsley, seven people on the ground were killed.

Major General Ralph P. Cousins presented Lieutenant Kingley’s Medal of Honor to his older brother, Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Thomas Kingsley, U.S. Navy, in a ceremony held at St. Michael the Archangel Church, Portland, Oregon, 4 May 1945.

Following the war, Lieutenant Kingley’s remains were exhumed and returned to the United States. They were then buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Kingsley Air National Guard Base, Klamath Falls, Oregon, is named in his honor.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

23 June 1924

Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)
Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)

23 June 1924: Lieutenant Russell Lowell Maughan, Air Service, United States Army, took off from Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, at 3:58 a.m., Eastern Time, and flew across the country to land at Crissy Field, at the Presidio of San Francisco, California at 9:46 p.m., Pacific Time. He covered a distance of 2,670 miles (4,297 kilometers) in 21 hours, 47 minutes. Maughan’s actual flight time was 20 hours, 48 minutes. He averaged 128.37 miles per hour (206.59 kilometers per hour).

His Dawn-To-Dusk transcontinental flight took place on a mid-summer day in order to take advantage of the longer hours of daylight, and he flew from East to West, to follow the advancing Sun across the sky.

Major General Mason Patrick, Chief o fteh Air Service, with Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, 8 July 1924. (Library of Congress)
Major General Mason Matthews Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, with Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, 8 July 1924. (Library of Congress)

Lieutenant Maughan made stops at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio; St. Joseph, Missouri; North Platte, Nebraska; Cheyenne, Wyoming and Salduro Siding, Utah. The stop at Dayton took 1 hour, 20 minutes when a mechanic over-tightened a fuel line fitting and damaged it. When he arrived at “Saint Joe,” the grass field was wet from rains, restricting his takeoff weight. Unable to carry a full load of fuel, he took off with a reduced load and then made a previously unplanned stop at North Platte, Nebraska, where he topped off his fuel tank.

Planned route of Maughan’s Dawn-to-Dusk transcontinental flight. (U.S. Air Force)

Russell Maughan was an experienced combat pilot and test pilot. He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during World War I, and he had competed in numerous air races and had set several speed records.

The airplane flown by Lieutenant Maughan was the fourth production Curtiss PW-8 Hawk, a single-place, single-engine biplane fighter, serial number A.S. 24-204. It was modified by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company at its Long Island, New York, factory. Curtiss removed the fighters’s two .30-caliber machine guns and added 100 gallons (378.5 liters) to the airplane’s standard fuel capacity of 77 gallons (291.5 liters).

The Curtiss PW-8 Hawk was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,145.111-cubic-inch-displacement (18.765 liter) Curtiss D-12 dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12 engine, which was developed by Arthur Nutt, based on the earlier Curtiss K-12 which had been designed by Charles B. Kirkham. The D-12 had four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was rated at 415 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., and 460 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. During testing, it produced a 475 horsepower at 2,320 r.p.m. using a 50/50 mixture of 95-octane gasoline and benzol. The D-12 was a right-hand tractor direct-drive engine. It turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, forged aluminum propeller designed by Dr. Sylvanus A. Reed. The Curtiss D-12 was 56¾ inches (1.441 meters) long, 28¼ inches (0.718 meters) wide and 34¾ inches (0.882 meters) high. It weighed 678.25 pounds (307.65 kilograms).

The PW-8 had a cruise speed of 136 miles per hour (219 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 171 miles per hour (275 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The airplane’s service ceiling was 20,350 feet (6,203 meters) and its range was 544 miles (875 kilometers).

In the early years of military aviation, pilots undertook various dramatic flights to create public awareness of the capabilities military aircraft. Of this transcontinental flight, Maughan said, “The real reason for my flight across the United States in the sunlight hours of one day was that the chief of the Air Service wanted to show Congress just how unprotected are the people of the Pacific Coast.”

Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan with Curtiss PW-8 Hawk A.S. 24-204, 10 June 1924. (National Air and Space Museum)

Curtiss PW-8 Hawk A.S. 24-204 was damaged beyond repair at Selfridge Field, Michigan, 11 May 1926.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes