Daily Archives: February 1, 2024

1 February 2003, 14:00:25 UTC


1 February 2003, 09:00:18 a.m., Eastern Standard Time: Space Shuttle Columbia, nearing the end of Mission STS-107, traveling Mach 19.5 (13,434 miles per hour, 21,620 kilometers per hour) at 209,800 feet (63,950 meters) over Texas, suffered catastrophic structural failure and disintegrated. All seven members of the crew were killed.

81.7 seconds after liftoff on 16 January, Columbia was at approximately 66,000 feet (20,100 meters) altitude and 12.5 miles (20.1 kilometers) down range, accelerating through Mach 2.46 (1,623 miles per hour, 2,612 kilometers per hour). Several pieces of insulating foam broke off of the external fuel tank (what NASA referred to as “foam shedding”) and struck the leading edge and underside of Columbia‘s left wing. It is believed that at least one of these pieces of foam punctured a hole in the wing’s surface, estimated to be 6 inches × 10 inches (15 × 25 centimeters).

Columbia was scanned as it passed overhead the Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, at approximately 7:57 a.m., CST, (13:57 UTC) 1 February 2003. Debris can be seen coming from the shuttle’s left wing. (NASA Johnson Space Flight Center)

During reentry, the internal structure of the wing was no longer protected by the heat resistant material of the leading edge. The extreme heat caused structural failure.

Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) launches on Mission STS-107, 16 January 2003. (NASA)

Columbia (OV-102) was America’s first space shuttle. It flew into space for the first time 11 April 1981. STS-107 was its 28th flight. During those missions, Columbia orbited the Earth 4,808 times and spent 300 days, 17 hours, 40 minutes, 22 seconds in space flight. 160 astronauts served aboard her. She traveled 125,204,911 miles (201,497,722 kilometers).

The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over North America during reentry, 1 February 2003. (AP)
The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over North America during reentry, 1 February 2003. (AP)


Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 flight crew. Front row, left to right: Colonel Rick Douglas Husband, U.S. Air Force, Mission Commander; Kalpana Chawla, Ph.D., Mission Specialist; Commander William Cameron McCool, U.S. Navy, Pilot. Back row, left to right: Captain David McDowell Brown, M.D., U.S. Navy, Mission Specialist; Captain Laurel Blair Salton Clark, M.D., U.S. Navy, Mission Specialist; Lieutenant Colonel Michael Phillip Anderson, U.S. Air Force, Mission Specialist; Colonel Ilan Ramon, Israeli Air Force, Payload Specialist. (NASA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

1 February 1975

Streak Eagle over St. Louis
Major Roger J. Smith, U.S. Air Force

1 February 1975: Major Roger J. Smith, United States Air Force, a test pilot assigned to the F-15 Joint Test Force at Edwards AFB, California, flew the  McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC 72-0119, Streak Eagle, to its eighth Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and U.S. National Aeronautic Association time-to-altitude record.

From brake release at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, at 913 feet (278 meters) above Sea Level, the F-15 reached 30,000 meters (98,425 feet) in 3 minutes, 27.799 seconds.

This was the eighth time-to-altitude record set by Streak Eagle in 17 days.

FAI Record File Num [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Time to climb to a height of 30 000 m
Performance: 3 min 27.799s
Date: 1975-02-01
Course/Location: Grand Forks, ND (USA)
Claimant Roger J. Smith (USA)
Aeroplane: McDonnell Douglas F-15
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney F-100

Streak Eagle, the modified McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC, 72-0119, on the runway at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, being prepared for a flight record attempt. (U.S. Air Force)

The flight profiles for the record attempts were developed by McDonnell Douglas Chief Developmental Test Pilot, Charles P. “Pete” Garrison (Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired).

Streak Eagle carried only enough fuel for each specific flight. It was secured to the hold-back device on the runway and the engines were run up to full afterburner. It was released from the hold-back and was airborne in just three seconds.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 21.10.22When the F-15 reached 428 knots (793.4 kilometers per hour), the pilot pulled up into an Immelmann turn, holding 2.5 Gs. Streak Eagle would arrive back over the air base in level flight at about 32,000 feet (9,754 meters), but upside down. Rolling right side up, Streak Eagle continued accelerating to Mach 1.5 while climbing through 36,000 feet (10,973 meters). It would then accelerate to Mach 2.2 and the pilot would pull the fighter up at 4.0 Gs until it reached a 60° climb angle. He held 60° until he had to shut down the engines to prevent them from overheating in the thin high-altitude atmosphere.

After reaching a peak altitude and slowing to just 55 knots (63 miles per hour, 102 kilometers per hour), the airplane was pushed over into a 55° dive. Once it was below 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) the engines would be restarted and Streak Eagle returned to land at Grand Forks.

McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC 72-0119 Streak Eagle, Aquila Maxima, world record holder. (U.S. Air Force)

Streak Eagle is a very early production F-15A-6-MC Eagle, a single-seat, twin-engine air superiority fighter. It is 63 feet, 9.0 inches (19.431 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9.7 inches (13.048 meters) and overall height of 18 feet, 5.4 inches (5.624 meters). The F-15A has an empty weight of 25,870 pounds (11,734 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 44,497 pounds (20,184 kilograms).

The F-15A is powered by two Pratt & Whitney JTF22A-25A (F100-PW-100) afterburning turbofan engines. The F100 is a two-spool, axial-flow turbine engine with a 3-stage fan section; 10-stage compressor; single chamber combustion section; and 4-stage turbine (2 low- and 2 high-pressure stages). The engine has a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 12,410 pounds of thrust (55.202 kilonewtons); 14,690 pounds (65.344 kilonewtons, 30-minute limit; and a maximum 23,840 pounds (106.046 kilonewtons), 5-minute limit. The F100-PW-100 is 191 inches (4.851 meters) long, 46.5 inches (1.181 meters) in diameter, and weighs 3,035 pounds (1,376.7 kilograms).

The cruise speed of the F-15A Eagle is 502 knots (578 miles per hour/930 kilometers per hour). It has a maximum speed of 893 knots (1,028 miles per hour/1,654 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 1,434 knots (1,650 miles per hour/2,656 kilometers per hour) at 45,000 feet (13,716 meters). The ceiling is 63,050 feet (19,218 meters) at maximum power. It can climb at an initial 67,250 feet per minute (342 meters per second) from Sea Level, and with a thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.15:1, The F-15 can climb straight up. The Eagle’s combat radius is 638 nautical miles (734 statute miles/1,182kilometers).

The F-15A is armed with one General Electric M61A1 Vulcan 20mm rotary cannon with 938 rounds of ammunition, four AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles and four AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.

384 F-15A Eagles were built before production shifted to the improved F-15C version. As F-15Cs became operation, the F-15As were transferred to Air National Guard units assigned to defend continental U.S. airspace. The last F-15A was retired from service in 2009.

McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC Streak Eagle 72-0119. (U.S. Air Force)

Streak Eagle was specially modified for the record attempts. Various equipment that would not be needed for these flights was eliminated: The flap and speed brake actuators, the M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm cannon and its ammunition handling equipment, the radar and fire control systems, unneeded cockpit displays and radios, and one generator.

Other equipment was added: A long pitot boom was mounted at the nose with alpha and beta vanes, equipment for the pilot’s David Clark Company A/P-225-6 full pressure suit, extremely sensitive accelerometers and other instrumentation, extra batteries, an in-cockpit video camera aimed over the pilot’s shoulder, and perhaps most important, a special hold-down device was installed in place of the fighter’s standard arresting hook.

These changes resulted in an airplane that was approximately 1,800 pounds (817 kilograms) lighter than the standard production F-15A. This gave it a thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.4:1.

Because Streak Eagle was a very early production airplane its internal structure was weaker than the final production F-15A standard. It was considered too expensive to modify it to the new standard, so it was transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in December 1980.

Streak Eagle, the record-setting McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC, 72-0119, in “Compass Ghost” two-tone gray camouflage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

1 February 1971

McDonnell Douglas F-4E-44-MC Phantom II 69-7294 retracting its landing gear after takeoff from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, St. Louis, Missouri. (McDonnell Douglas)
McDonnell Douglas F-4E-44-MC Phantom II 69-7294 retracting its landing gear after takeoff from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, St. Louis, Missouri. (McDonnell Douglas)

1 February 1971: The 4,000th McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, F-4E-44-MC serial number 69-7294, was delivered to the United States Air Force.

McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II 69-7294. Eglin AFB, 2 June 1971. (aircraftslides.com)

In 1989, 69-7294 was converted to the F-4G Wild Weasel V configuration. The Wild Weasel was an aircraft equipped to attack surface-to-air missile sites and targeting radars, using a variety of high-speed radar-homing missiles. The F-4G had its M-61 Vulcan rotary cannon removed and replaced with a radar homing and warning radar, as well as improvements to the rear cockpit for management of electronic warfare systems. 134 F-4E Phantom II fighters were converted to F-4G Wild Weasels.

McDonnell Douglas F-4G Wild Weasel 69-7263, a converted F-4E Phantom II, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell Douglas F-4G Advanced Wild Weasel 69-7263, a modified F-4E-44-MC Phantom II, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It is carrying a variety of ground-attack missiles on its underwing hardpoints. On the left wing, closest to the camera is an AGM-88 HARM, and inboard, an AGM-65 Maverick. Under the fuselage is an ALQ-119 Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) pod. Under the right wing is an AGM-78 Standard ARM, and then an AGM-45 Shrike. The Phantom is painted in the European I camouflage pattern. This airplane is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
mcDonnell Douglas F-4G-44-MC Phantom II. (Photograph courtesy of Marc Portengen)
McDonnell Douglas F-4G Wild Weasel V 69-7294, the 4,000th Phantom II, painted in a two-tone high- and low-reflectance gray camouflage pattern, assigned to the 190th Fighter Squadron, Idaho Air National Guard. (Photograph courtesy of Marc Portengen)

69-7294 served with the U.S. Air Force 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War as part of the “Philippine Expeditionary Force” and later in Operation Southern Watch with the 190th Fighter Squadron, Idaho Air National Guard. After twenty-five years, 7294 was retired to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona in 1996.

Left rear quarter view of McDonnell Douglas F-4G-44-MC Phantom II 69-7294. (Photograph courtesy of Bas Stubert)
Left rear quarter view of McDonnell Douglas F-4G Wild Weasel V 69-7294, the 4,000th Phantom II. (Photograph courtesy of Bas Stubert)

The Wild Weasel was next converted to a QF-4G drone. Removed from long term storage and returned to airworthy condition by the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center, 7294 was flown to Mojave Airport, California, where the drone conversion was completed by Tracor, Inc. Launched from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, 69-7294 was “expended” as a remote-controlled aerial target, 4 November 1998.

The 4,000th Phantom II, now a QF-4G drone, 69-7294 taxxis at Dobbins Air Force Base, Georgia, 30 September 1998, just a few weeks before it was destroyed as an aerial target. (Copyrighted photograph courtesy of Frank J. Mirande)
The 4,000th Phantom II, now a QF-4G drone, 69-7294 taxis at Dobbins Air Force Base, Georgia, 30 September 1998, just a few weeks before it was destroyed as an aerial target. (Photograph courtesy of Frank J. Mirande)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

1 February 1943

A badly damaged Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress, 41-24406, All American III, after collision with an Me 109 over Tunis, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
A badly damaged Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress, 41-24406, All American III, after collision with a Messerschmitt Bf 109 over Tunis, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

1 February 1943: During World War II, the 414th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 12th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces, was on a mission to attack the docks at the port of Tunis in order to cut the supply chain to the German and Italian armies operating in Tunisia.

A single-engine Messerschmitt Bf 109G fighter defending the city collided with All American III, a Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 41-24406, which was under the command of Lieutenant Kendrick R. Bragg, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps. The fighter cut diagonally through the bomber’s fuselage, carried away the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator, and damaged the flight control cables.

The rugged design and construction that made the Flying Fortress a legend allowed the airplane to fly another 90 minutes to its home base at Biskra Airfield, Algeria. Lieutenant Bragg made a careful landing, holding the tail off the runway as long as possible. None of the ten men aboard were injured.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO 41-24406, All American III, 414th BS, 97th BG, after landing at Biskra Airfield, Algeria, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

All American III was repaired and was returned to service. It was reassigned to the 352nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 301st Bombardment Group (Heavy) at St. Donat, Tunisia, and flew till nearly the end of the war. It was dismantled for salvage at Lucera Airfield, Italy, 6 March 1945.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress 41-24406, All American III, 414th BS, 97th BG, after landing at Biksra Airfield, Algeria, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

41-24406 was assigned to the 92nd Bombardment Group at Bangor, Maine, 13 July 1942. It was flown across the Atlantic Ocean to RAF Polebrook, and reassigned to the 414th. The B-17 arrived at Maison Blanche, Algeria, 13 November 1942. It then traveled to Tafaroufi, Algeria, and then to Biskra, arriving there on Christmas Day.

Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress. (Note the external bomb racks.) (Boeing Airplane Company)
The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 8.90 inches (22.781 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9.38 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1.00 inch (5.187 meters). The wings have 3½° angle of incidence and 4½° dihedral. The leading edge is swept aft 8¾°. The total wing area is 1,426 square feet (132.48 square meters). The horizontal stabilizer has a span of 43 feet (13.106 meters) with 0° incidence and dihedral. Its total area, including elevators, is 331.1 square feet (12.18 square meters).

The B-17F had an approximate empty weight of 36,135 pounds (16,391 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) basic, and the maximum takeoff weight was 65,000 pounds (29,484 kilograms).

Aircraft mechanics work to change a Wright Cyclone engine on the left wing of a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber, circa 1944. (United States Air Force)

The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone G666A (R-1820-65)¹ nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.70:1. The engines were equipped with remote General Electric turbochargers capable of 24,000 r.p.m. The R-1820-65 was rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine could produce 1,380 horsepower at War Emergency Power. 100-octane aviation gasoline was required. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-65 engine is 3 feet, 11.59 inches (1.209 meters) long and 4 feet, 7.12 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

The B-17F had a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods. The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters).

With a normal fuel load of 1,725 gallons (6,530 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 3,070 miles (4,941 kilometers). Two “Tokyo tanks” could be installed in the bomb bay, increasing capacity by 820 gallons (3,104 liters). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The B-17F Flying Fortress was armed with up to 13 Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions.

A waist gunner of a B-17 with a Browning .50-caliber machine gun. Note the flight control cables, overhead, and expended cartridge casings. “Body armor saved lives. An 8th Air Force study found that body armor prevented approximately 74 percent of wounds in protected areas. Once adopted in World War II, body armor reduced the rate of wounds sustained by aircrews on missions by 60 percent. Besides saving lives, body armor boosted aircrew morale during stressful missions over enemy territory.” (U.S. Air Force)

The maximum bomb load was 20,800 pounds (9,435 kilograms) over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) of bombs were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.

The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The manufacturer codes -BO, -DL and -VE follows the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.

Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses remain in existence.

Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ Later production B-17F and B-17G bombers were equipped with Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) engines.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes