Daily Archives: September 26, 2023

26 September 2008

Yves Rossy over the English Channel, 26 September 2008. (Times Online)

26 September 2008: Yves Rossy flew across the English Channel, 22 miles (35 kilometers) in 13 minutes, using his jet-powered wing. At 8,000 feet (2,440 meters) over Calais he jumped from an airplane and aimed for the cliffs of Dover. His only means of steering was by moving his head. After flying at speeds of 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour), he parachuted to the ground at Dover.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

26 September 2003

“David Hempleman-Adams, left, with Saint John resident Jim Rogers on Sept. 26, 2003, just before the balloon launch.” (Kings County Record)

26 September 2003: At 2:38 a.m., Friday, David Kim Hempleman-Adams, O.B.E., lifted off  from the athletic field of Sussex Elementary School, Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada, in his Rozière balloon on a four-day transatlantic flight. Hempleman-Adams was in an open  7 feet × 3 feet (2.1 × 0.9 meters) wicker basket.

Hempleman-Adam’s Cameron R-90 being prepared for takeoff on a previous transatlantic attempt, 27 June 2003, at Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The balloon was built by Cameron Balloons, Ltd., Bristol, in 2000. It was a Cameron R-90, serial number 4751. The balloon was first registered 31 March 2000, as G-BYZX.

The R-90 is a Rozière balloon, which has separate chambers for helium and heated air. This allows the aeronaut to control the balloon’s buoyancy, but the hybrid type uses much less fuel than a hot-air balloon. The type is named after its inventor, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale places the Cameron R-90 in the free balloon sub-class AM-08, for mixed balloons with a volume of 2,200–3,000 cubic meters (77,692–105,944 cubic feet).

G-BYZX had a maximum takeoff weight of 2,654 kilograms (5,851 pounds).

Hempleman Adams had previously flown G-BYZX, then named Britannic Challenge, to the North Pole, on 3 June 2000. Following his transatlantic flight, he would use it to set a FAI World Record for Altitude of 12,557 meters (41,198 feet), 23 March 2004.

During the first day, Hempleman-Adams’ balloon gradually rose to an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) as it drifted eastward. On the second day he was at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and on Day 3 he reached a peak of 14,000 feet (4,267 meters).

The weather was very cold, with rain and snow. Hempleman-Adams said that the average temperature during the flight was -12 °C. (10.4 °F.). Ice built up on the balloon’s envelope, increasing its weight. It became heavy enough that the balloon began to descend. Hempleman-Adams was unable to prevent the descent by using the propane burners to heat the air and increase buoyancy, and was forced to lighten the balloon by jettisoning six propane cylinders.

During the third day, the balloon was hit by the shock waves of a Concorde supersonic airliner as it passed overhead at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Hempleman-Adams felt a very abrupt, but fortunately, brief, descent as a result.

G-BYZX reached the southwestern tip of Ireland at 8:30 a.m., BST, on 29 September, completing the transatlantic phase of his flight. The balloon continued to drift eastward, and at 6 p.m. on 30 September, came to rest near Hambleton, Lancashire, England. The total duration of the flight was 83 hours, 14 minutes, 35 seconds.

Sir David Kim Hempleman-Adams, K.C.V.O., O.B.E., K.St.J., D.L., is an interesting guy. He is the first person to have completed the True Adventurer’s Grand Slam, by reaching the North and South Poles, the North and South Magnetic Poles, and to have climbed the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale online database currently credits him with 49 world aviation records.

David Hempleman-Adams waves at the camera after landing in England, 30 September 2003.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

26 September 1971: This Day in Coast Guard Aviation History

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

During the Vietnam conflict 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.

A U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant. (National Archives at College Park)

26 September 1971: A Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant, crewed by Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Joseph Lawrence (“Jay”) Crowe, Jr., CGA ‘62 (Pilot), Xxxxxx Hampton (Copilot), William Simm (Flight Engineer), Daniel G. Manion (Pararescue Jumper) and Richard L. Steed (Pararescue Jumper), rescued the crew of a North American Aviation OV-10A Bronco (call sign “RUSTIC 07″), Lieutenant Lansford Elmer Trapp, Jr., and Cambodian observer, Sergeant Chap Khorn, after they ejected from their 12.7mm-damaged aircraft, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northwest of Kampong Cham, Cambodia.

Lieutenant General Lansford E. Trapp bio: https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/Display/Article/105437/lieutenant-general-lansford-e-trapp-jr/

Cambodia (Encyclopedia Britannica)

A little more…(much of this content was slightly modified from the book Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue by George Galdorisi and Thomas Phillips, pages 393 and 394)

To better cover the southern portion of South Vietnam and be closer to the increasing levels of operations in Cambodia, the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS) had for some time maintained a pair of HH-53Cs at Bien Hoa Air Base, about fifteen miles northeast of Saigon.  On September 26, 1971, it was Coast Guard exchange pilot Lieutenant Commander Joseph “Jay” Crowe’s turn to stage at the forward operating location (FOL). Standing the alert with his crew, Hampton, Simm, Manion, and Steed, they were scrambled to rescue of the crew of an OV-10A from the 19th TASS who shared the ramp at Bien Hoa.

A U.S. Air Force North American Aviation OV-10A-5-NH Bronco, 67-14605, fires a white phosphorous rocket. (TSGT Bill Thompson, United States Air Force DFST8505744)

The Rustic FAC, the call sign that any FAC [Forward Air Controller] operating in Cambodia used, regardless of squadron, had fallen victim to a “.50-caliber trap” when it was hit at 3,500 feet (1,067 meters) by converging fire from four 12.7mm AA machine guns ringing the perimeter of a small village about ten miles (16 kilometers) northwest of the Mekong River town of Kampong Cham. When grouped as a battery, the 12.7 mm guns, “heavy guns” of the southern air war (where the heavy AA weapons of Laos and North Vietnam had not yet appeared in large numbers), were still quite deadly. The Bronco pilot, 1st Lieutenant Lansford Trapp, and his observer, Cambodian Sgt. Chap Khom, had parachuted down into the apex of the gun formation, and the hostile forces accompanying the AAA gunners were in no rush to go get them.

In an interview with his grandson recorded in 2018, retired General Lansford E. Trapp described the incident:

“When I was a lieutenant, and this would have been in 1971, I was flying an observation aircraft over in Vietnam. I was on a mission over in Cambodia and we were helping ground forces who were fighting against bad guys over there. That ensuing battle that went on as I was flying over head in my airplane, we actually got hit by ground fire and the left wing of the airplane caught on fire.

“I had a Cambodian interpreter sitting in my back seat, a Sergeant Chung (Khorn), and it was his seventh ride in an airplane. I didn’t even know that the wing was on fire until one of the other airplanes came by and said “hey your left wing is on fire”. So, I looked out, my wing was on fire, and we decided that I was gonna be able to land at one of the airports that was right there. So, we came in and tried to land, but I lost control of the airplane. So, I pushed the power back in and climbed up over the airfield. Then the left wing burned off, and so we started in a pretty good spiral into the wing that had burned off. We ejected from the airplane.

“Sergeant Corn (Khorn) went out first, and then I went out. The craziest thing was that we used to fly with about 250 to 300 big maps, so we could look at the country as we were trying to figure out where we were. Those all came flying out of the cockpit as we ejected. It looked like confetti outside. As we came down sergeant Corn he got burned pretty bad from the wing fire, and I banged my ankle up pretty badly, but we were OK. We got picked up by friendly forces and I got a nice helicopter ride back to home base that night.”

A gunner looks over a General Electric GAU2/A minigun, while his aircraft flies formation with a Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant over Southeast Asia. (U.S. Air Force)

Crowe’s Jolly approached at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), safely above the range of the still-active hostile guns, while the A-1H Sandys of the 1st Special Operations Squadron (SOS) went in low to begin their routine of locating the survivors and the hostile guns. In the flat and relatively open terrain of central Cambodia, penetrating the ring of guns was going to be dicey, there not being the ridges, karsts, and dense vegetation of the 37th’s regular operating area to provide a modicum of masking for the helicopter. By this stage of the war, a low, treetop-hugging approach by the rescue helicopter was a well-known procedure, and the enemy gunners would be waiting for it, scanning the low horizon for the rescue helicopter sure to follow on the heels of the tough Skyraiders. Each gun guarded its quadrant of the circle around the downed airmen, waiting.

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

Crowe decided to use a variation of the diving spiral approach he had used June 4th with success, rescuing a Covey FAC crew up in southern Laos. Rather than descending some distance away prior to a low-level run-in, he entered an autorotation from directly overhead, copilot Hampton pulling the throttles of the twin engines back, and Crowe lowering the collective stick. Down the helicopter fell, with the rush of air up through the rotors keeping the blades spinning, while the engines idled (relatively quietly). The blades are unloaded in an autorotative descent, so the characteristic whop-whop is virtually eliminated, and with the engines at idle, there is significantly less of the distinctive noises that normally come from the helicopter.

With the Sandys rumbling around, strafing and bombing and attracting the eye of the gunners, the diminished but still telltale sounds made by the falling Jolly were masked.  Crowe kept the helicopter in a steep turn, spiraling down inside the perimeter of the four guns around the downed aircrew, literally behind their backs, careful not to swing out too wide, where he might catch a gunner’s eye. The Jolly would be easily seen should anyone glance straight up, luckily the last place a sane gunner would be looking for a helicopter.  They were falling out of the sky at more than five thousand feet per minute. As the Jolly approached the ground, Crowe began to level off, converting vertical speed to speed across the ground, still spiraling, and then raised the nose to decelerate.

HH-53C (VIRIN: DF-ST-83-02388)

At the same time, Hampton slowly and smoothly pushed the engine throttles forward, to accelerate them back into normal speed and gently engage their drive wheels with the spinning gears of the main rotors. The accelerating engines and the rotors digging into the air as Crowe pulled up on the collective and flared into a quick-stop created loud rotor beats, accenting the whine of jet turbines accelerating to maximum power, announcing their arrival to all. But the helicopter was safely down beneath the trees in a hover, and the telltale was too late to help the gunners acquire their target. This tight spiral autorotative descent and recovery to a hover requires a superior feel for the helicopter, and exquisite coordination with the copilot to return the rotors to engine-driven flight smoothly at just the right instant. Done right, the procedure is a dramatic and breathtaking maneuver and a grand entrance. But the room for error is very small, and a botched maneuver is perilous and very unforgiving.

It was not a gambit to be repeated very often; if the gunners had detected the helicopter, Crowe and company would have found themselves in a deadly crossfire. But this day it was brilliant: a tactical surprise, completely unexpected, and therefore completely effective. The Jolly crew snatched the two men quickly and escaped out of the circle with a low-level departure. A climbing spiral back up from the center of the guns, with the gunners now alerted, was clearly out of the question. The helicopter received only sporadic fire as it left the scene in the typical low-level escape, while taking no casualties.


Lieutenant Commander Joseph Lawrence Crowe, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard. (Sean M. Cross Collection)

After graduation from high school in Weston, Massachusetts in 1958, Jay received an appointment to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut. Commissioned an Ensign in 1962, he served a tour at sea and then was assigned to naval flight training. Receiving his wings in 1965, he served at Coast Guard Air Stations San Francisco, California, Barbers Point, Hawaii; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Port Angeles, Washington; Annette Island Alaska, and Sitka, Alaska.

He served during the Vietnam War on an exchange tour with the U.S. Air Force as a Combat Rescue Crew commander with the 37th ARRS Jolly Green Giants in Da Nang AB, RVN.

Jay was a 1981 graduate of the Air War College. He served as Commanding Officer Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, Washington, and Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts. His final assignment before retirement was as Chief, Operations Division, 11th Coast Guard District, Long Beach, California.

During Jay’s distinguished career he was awarded a Legion of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Cross Medals, nine Air Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals. Three Coast Guard Commendation Medals, a Coast Guard Achievement Medal, and a Meritorious Unit Commendation. Hangar 3172 at Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts, was named in his honor.

Captain Crowe flew west crossing the bar February 22, 2003. His family was at his side.


Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant three-view illustration with dimensions. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

The MH-53M Pave Low IV is a variant of Sikorsky’s S-65 heavy-lift military transport helicopter series.  The MH-53M is a single main rotor, single tail rotor, twin-engine helicopter. It has a crew of six: 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers and 2 gunners. The Pave Low IV is equipped with Terrain-Following Radar and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) for low-level operations in darkness and low visibility.

The MH-53M fuselage is 67 feet, 2.4 inches (20.483 meters) long, and the helicopter has a maximum length of 91 feet, 11.34 inches (28.025 meters) with rotors turning and the refueling boom extended. The height to the top of the main rotor pylon is 17 feet, 1.68 inches (5.224 meters). The maximum height (rotors turning) is 24 feet, 10.88 inches (7.592 meters).

The fully-articulated 6-blade main rotor has a diameter of 72 feet, 2.7 inches (22.014 meters). The main rotor turns counter-clockwise at 185 r.p.m. (100% Nr), as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) The main rotor blades are built with titanium spars and have -16° of twist. The semi-articulated four-blade tail rotor has a diameter of 16 feet, 0 inches (4.877 meters) and is positioned on the left side of the tail pylon. It turns clockwise at 792 r.p.m., as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The gap between rotor arcs is just 4.437 inches (11.270 centimeters).

Empty, the MH-53M weighs 32,000 pounds (14,515 kilograms). Its maximum takeoff weight is 46,000 pounds (20,865 kilograms).

Its two General Electric T64-GE-100 axial-flow turboshaft engines have a Normal Continuous Power rating of 3,810 shaft horsepower at 85 °F. (30 °C.), Military Power rating of 4,090 shaft horsepower, and a Maximum Power rating of 4,330 shaft horsepower. The T64-GE-100 is 79 inches (2.007 meters) long, 20 inches (0.508 meters) in diameter and weighs 720 pounds (327 kilograms). Output (100% N2) is 13,600 r.p.m.

The MH-53M has a maximum speed of 196 miles per hour (315 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 16,000 feet (4877 meters). It carries two 450-gallon (1,703 liter) jettisonable fuel tanks under each sponson.

The MH-53M is armed with two M134 7.62mm miniguns and a GAU-18/A .50 caliber machine gun.

© 2020, Sean M. Cross

For additional reading, see:

Coast Guard Aviation in Vietnam

26 September 1958

Boeing B-52D-1-BW Stratofortress 55-0049 (the first Wichita-built B-52) in flight. This is the same type bomber that set two world records, 26 September 1958. (U.S. Air Force)
COL Victor L. Sandacz USAF

26 September 1958: Lieutenant Colonel Victor Leonard Sandacz, with Captain Kenneth G. Wolf, flew a Boeing B-52D Stratofortress of the 28th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, twice around a triangular circuit from Ellsworth Air Force Base, Rapid City, South Dakota, to Douglas, Arizona, Newberg, Oregon, and back to Rapid City. He established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 10,000 Kilometers Without Payload with an average speed of 902.369 kilometers per hour (560.706 miles per hour).¹ Sandacz’s B-52 made two circuits in 11 hours, 9 minutes. The actual distance covered was 10,032 kilometers (6,233.6 statute miles),

Other members of the flight crew were Major James A. Hentschel, navigator; Major Joseph T. Sulkowski, radar navigator; Major James E. Kimble, electronic countermeasures; and master Sergeant Phillip B. McCaffree, tail gunner.

Lieutenant Colonel Victor L. Sandacz, USAF, at left, with the crew of Boeing B-52D-40-BW Stratofortress 56-694. (Sandacz Family Collection)

A second B-52D, flown by Captain Cholett Griswold and Captain Edward V. Godfrey, made a single circuit, setting an FAI World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 5,000 Kilometers Without Payload, averaging 961.867 kilometers per hour (597.676 miles per hour).² Griswold’s B-52 competed the course in 5 hours, 11 minutes, 49 seconds.

Additional members of Captain Griswold’s crew were 1st Lieutenant Leo M. Molland, navigator; Captain William T. Dugard, radar navigator; Captain Emmanuel C. Hallenbeck, ECM; and Technical Sergeant Matthew Scopelitis, gunner.

Observers from the National Aeronautic Association were aboard each bomber.

Boeing B-52D Stratofortress three-view illustration with dimensions. (U.S. Air Force)

The Boeing B-52D Stratofortress differed from earlier production models primarily in that it did not have the capability of carrying a reconnaissance capsule in its bomb bay. It is an a long-range high-subsonic heavy bomber powered by eight turbojet engines. It is flown by two pilots, a navigator and bombardier, an electronics countermeasures operator and a tail gunner.

The airplane was 156.6 feet, (47.73 meters) long with a wingspan of 185.0 feet (56.39 meters) and overall height of 48.3 feet, (14.72 meters). The wings were mounted high on the fuselage (“shoulder-mounted”) to provide clearance for the engines which were suspended on pylons. The wings had a 6° angle of incidence and 2° 30′ anhedral. The wings’ leading edges were swept aft 36° 58′. The bomber’s empty weight was 165,110 pounds (74,893 kilograms), with a combat weight of 279,900 pounds (126,961 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 450,000 pounds (204,117 kilograms).

The B-52D is powered by eight Pratt & Whitney J57-P-19W turbojet engines grouped in two-engine pods on four under-wing pylons. The J57 is 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 -19W engine had a normal power rating of 9,000 pounds of thrust (40,034 kilonewtons) at 5,900 r.p.m., N1 and 9,650 r.p.m., N2, continuous; military power rating, 10,500 pounds of thrust (46,706 kilonewtons) at 6,150 r.p.m., N1, and 9,900 r.p.m., N2, and maximum power rating of 12,100 pounds of thrust (53,823 kilonewtons) at 6,450 r.p.m., N1, and 9,900 r.p.m., N2, with water/alcohol injection, five minute limit. The J57-P-19W was 3 feet, 4.5 inches (1.029 meters) in diameter, 157.7″ 13 feet, 1.7 inches (4.006 meters) long, and weighed 4,035 pounds (1,830 kilograms).

The B-52D had an average cruise speed of 457 knots (526 miles per hour/846 kilometers per hour), and a maximum speed of 546 knots (628 miles per hour/1,011 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) (0.77 Mach). The service ceiling with the maximum bomb load was 49,400 feet (15,057 meters), or 55,300 feet (16,855 meters) for a ferry mission.

The maximum ferry range of the B-52D was 7,260 nautical miles (8,350 statute miles/13,446 kilometers). With the maximum bomb load, it had a combat radius of 3,115 nautical miles (3,585 statute miles/5,769 kilometers). With inflight refueling, though, the bomber’s range was essentially world-wide.

Boeing B-52D-40-BW Stratofortress 56-695. Note the McDonnell GAM-72 Quail decoy missile and trailer near the nose of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-52D could carry 27 1,000 pound (454 kilogram) bombs; one 30,000 pound (13,608 kilogram) “special weapon,” or two 8,600 pound (3,901 kilogram) “special weapons.” During the Vietnam War, many B-52Ds were modified to the “Big Belly” configuration. This allowed them to carry 42 750 pound (340 kilogram) bombs in the internal bomb bay and 24 750 pound (340 kilogram) bombs on external underwing pylons.

Boeing B-52D-40-BW Stratofortress 56-695 launches a McDonnell GAM-72 Quail. (U.S. Air Force)

Defensive armament consisted of four Browning Aircraft Machine Guns, Caliber .50, AN-M3, mounted in a tail turret with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun. These guns had a combined rate of fire in excess of 4,000 rounds per minute.

Tail gun turret of an early B-52 Stratofortress

Between 1956 and 1958, Boeing produced 101 B-52Ds at Seattle, Washington, and 69 at Wichita, Kansas.

Victor Sandacz, 1938. (The 1938 Colophon)

Victor Leonard Sandacz was born 13 September 1920 at Youngstown, Ohio. He was the first of four children of Sylvester Simon Sandacz, a waiter, and Veronika M. Porembka Sandacz. He attended Mount Pleasant Township High School, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, graduating 26 May 1938.

In 1942, Sandacz was employed by the American Cyanimid and Chemical Corporation at Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He registered for Selective Service (conscription) on 16 February 1942, and was described as having a ruddy complexion, brown hair and eyes. He was 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 meters) tall and weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms).

Sandacz entered the United States Army as an aviation cadet at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 23 May 1942.

Lieutenant Sandacz married Betty Grace Johnson, a stenographer, at the United Brethren Church, Winchester, Virginia, 24 December 1942. The ceremony was officiated by L. G. Bridgers. They would have four children.

2 Lt. Victor L. Sandacz

Sandacz graduated from flight training at Marfa, Texas, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant 3 November 1943. He trained in four-engine bombers at Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico, qualifying as a B-17 first pilot 15 August 1945.

Lieutenant Sandacz was promoted to the rank of captain in January 1951.

Sandacz went on to the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and Convair B-36 Peacemaker. He transitioned to the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress at Castle Air Force Base in California, April 1956.

On 16 April 1962, Lieutenant Colonel Sandacz became the first Strategic Air Command pilot to accumulate 4,000 flight hours in the B-52.

Colonel Sandacz retired from the United States Air Force 1 August 1971 after 27 years, 9 months of service.

Colonel Victor Leonard Sandacz, United States Air Force (Retired), died at Arlington, Texas, 16 December 2017 at the age of 97 years. His remains are interred at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

Thanks to TDiA reader James Koenig for suggesting this topic.

¹ FAI Record File Number 8498

Lieutenant Colonel Sandacz’s FAI Diplôme de Record (Sandacz Family Collection)

² FAI Record File Number 8499

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

26 September 1927

Flight Lieutenant Sidney N. Webster, RAF, leads the Schneider Trophy Race with his Supermarine S.5 N220. (Unattributed)
Flight Lieutenant Sidney N. Webster, RAF, leads the Schneider Trophy Race with the blue and silver Supermarine S.5 racer, N220. (Unattributed)
Flight Lieutenant Sidney Norman Webster, Royal Air Force.
Flying Officer Sidney Norman Webster, Royal Air Force, circa 1919. (Unattributed)

26 September 1927: Flight Lieutenant Sidney Norman Webster, A.F.C., of the Royal Air Force High-Speed Flight, won the 1927 Schneider Trophy Race, flying a Supermarine S.5 float plane, number N220.

The course consisted of seven laps of a 50-kilometer course at Venice, Italy. Webster completed the race in 46 minutes, 20.3 seconds, averaging 281.656 miles per hour (453.281 kilometers per hour). He established a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers.¹

Webster’s teammate, Flight Lieutenant Oswald Worsley, flying S.5 N219, placed second with a time of 47:46.7 and average speed of 272.91 miles per hour (439.21 kilometers per hour).

With its engine running, this Supermarine S.5 shows off its very clean lines.

The Supermarine S.5 was designed by Reginald Mitchell, who would later design the famous Supermarine Spitfire fighter. N220 was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane equipped with pontoons for landing and taking off on water. The airplane was of all metal construction, primarily duralumin (a hardened alloy of aluminum and copper). The airplane used surface radiators in the skin of the wings for engine cooling.

The S.5 had a length of 24 feet, 3½ inches (7.404 meters), wingspan of 26 feet, 9 inches (8.153 meters) and height of 11 feet, 1 inch (3.378 meters). The S.5’s empty weight was 2,680 pounds (1,216 kilograms) and gross weight was 3,242 pounds (1,471 kiograms).

Supermarine S.5 N220 at Venice, Italy, September 1927. (FlightGlobal)
Supermarine S.5 N220 at Venice, Italy, September 1927. (FlightGlobal)

Webster’s Supermarine S.5 was powered by a water-cooled, naturally-aspirated 1,461.135-cubic-inch-displacement (23.943 liter) D. Napier and Son, Ltd., Lion Mk.VIIB, serial number 63106, a double-overhead camshaft (DOHC) twelve-cylinder engine with three banks of four cylinders. This was called a “Triple-Four,” “W-12,” or “broad arrow” configuration. The Napier Lion had an included angle of 60° between each cylinder bank.

D. Napier and Son, Ltd., Lion VII “broad arrow” 12-cylinder aircraft engine.

The Mk.VIIB had four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 10:1. It produced 875 horsepower at 3,300 r.p.m. The Lion VIIB drove a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller through a gear reduction unit with a ratio of 0.765:1. (Worsley’s Supermarine S.5, N219, was equipped with a 900 horsepower direct-drive Mk.VIIA.) The engine used a mixture of 75% gasoline, 25% benzol, and 0.22% “T.E.L. dope” (tetraethyl lead) additive. The Napier Lion Mk.VII was 5 feet, 6¼ inches (1.683 meters) long, 3 feet, 2½ inches (0.978 meters) wide and 2 feet, 10½ inches (0.876 meters) high. The geared Mk.VIIB was heavier than the direct drive Mk.VIIA, and weighed 920 pounds (417 kilograms).

The Supermarine S.5 had a maximum speed of 319.57 miles per hour (514.3 kilometers per hour).

“Webbie” Webster had been awarded the Air Force Cross on 2 January 1922. He received a second award, signified by a “bar” added the the ribbon of his medal, 11 October 1927:

Air Ministry.

11th October, 1927.

     The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of a Bar to the Air Force Cross held by Flight Lieutenant Sidney Norman Webster, A.F.C., in recognition of his achievement winning the recent “Schneider Cup” Air Race.

Flight Lieutenant Sidney N. Webster, RAF, stands with his winning Supermarine S.5, N220, at the Woolston factory. Designer Reginald Mitchel is in the front row at center.
Flight Lieutenant Sidney N. Webster, RAF, stands with his winning Supermarine S.5, N220, at the Woolston factory. Designer Reginald Mitchell is in the front row at center.

In January 1946, Air Commodore Webster was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He was promoted to Air Vice Marshal in 1949 and retired from the Royal Air Force 12 August 1950.

Air Vice Marshal Sidney Norman Webster, C.B.E., A.F.C. and Bar, Royal Air Force, died 5 April 1984 at the age of 83 years.

Schneider trophy at the Science Museum, London. (Wikipedia)
Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider (the Schneider Cup) at the Science Museum, London. (Wikipedia)

¹ FAI Record File Number 11070

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes