Daily Archives: March 1, 2024

1 March 2003

Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B, 83-0065, after its last flight, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)
Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, after its last flight, Dyess AFB, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)

1 March 2003: The Star of Abilene, the first operational Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic heavy bomber, serial number 83-0065, made its final flight at Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas. It was delivered to the 96th Bombardment Group, Heavy, Strategic Air Command at Dyess on 7 July 1985, and was retired after 17 years, 7 months, 23 days of service.

83-0065 is preserved at the Dyess Linear Air Park, which displays over 30 airplanes along the main road of the air base, showing a chronological progression of Air Power.

The B-1B is 147 feet, 2.61 inches (44.8719 meters) long, with the wing span varying from 86 feet, 8.00 inches (26.4160 meters) at 67.5° sweep to 136 feet, 8.17 inches (41.6603 meters) at when fully extended to 15° sweep. It is 33 feet, 7.26 inches (10.2428 meters) high to the top of the vertical fin. The bomber’s empty weight is approximately 180,500 pounds (81,873 kilograms). Its maximum weight in flight is 477,000 pounds (216,634 kilograms). The internal payload is up to 75,000 pounds (34,019 kilograms).

Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, Star of Abilene, flies over Dyess Air Force Base, 7 July 1985. (Reporter-News)

The bomber is powered by four General Electric F101-GE-102 turbofan engines, mounted in two-engine nacelles under the wing roots. These are rated at 17,390 pounds of thrust (23.578 kilonewtons) and produce 30,780 pounds (41.732 kilonewtons) with “augmentation.” The engine has two fan stages, a 9-stage axial-flow compressor and a 3-stage turbine. The F101-GE-102 is 15 feet, 0.7 inches (4.590 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.2 inches (1.402 meters) in diameter and weighs 4,460 pounds (2,023 kilograms).

“The Bone” has a maximum speed of Mach 1.2 at Sea Level (913 miles per hour, or 1,470 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is “over 30,000 feet” (9,144 meters). The Lancer’s maximum range is “intercontinental, unrefueled.”

It can carry up to 84 Mk.82 500-pound (226.8 kilogram) bombs, 24 Mk.84 2,000-pound (907.2 kilogram) bombs or other weapons in three weapons bays. The B-1B was built with the capability to carry 24 B61 thermonuclear bombs, though, since 2007, the fleet no longer has this capability.

100 B-1B Lancers were built between 1983 and 1988. As of May 2018, 62 B-1B bombers are in the active Air Force inventory. The Air Force plans upgrades to the aircraft and plans to keep it in service until 2036.

Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, after its last flight, Dyess AFB, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)
Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, after its last flight, Dyess AFB, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

1 March 1972

Lieutenat Colonel Joseph W. Kittinger II, 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, in the cockpit of a McDonnell F-4 Phantom II, Udorn RTAFB, 1972. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph W. Kittinger II, 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, in the cockpit of a McDonnell F-4 Phantom II, Udorn RTAFB, 1972. (U.S. Air Force)

1 March 1972: Lieutenant Colonel Joseph W. Kittinger II, United States Air Force, and 1st Lieutenant Leigh A. Hodgdon, were flying McDonnell F-4D-29-MC  Phantom II serial number 66-7463, call sign Falcon 54. Along with a second F-4, they were assigned to a combat air patrol (MiGCAP) mission over northern Laos.

At approximately 2000 hours, Disco, a Lockheed EC-121T Warning Star airborne early warning aircraft, alerted Kittinger to the presence of several Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 21 interceptors and gave him radar vectors toward the enemy aircraft.

Lockheed EC-121T Warning Star. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed EC-121T Warning Star. (U.S. Air Force)

Colonel Kittinger reported:

At approximately 18 miles the system broke lock but it was quickly reacquired. A slow left turn ensued to keep the dot centered. Altitudes were slowly increased from 8,200 feet to 11,500 feet. The Vc on the scope was extremely difficult to interpret; however, it appeared that we were not really overtaking the target, so the outboard tanks were dropped. Heading of the aircraft changed to approximately 360° at time of firing. At approximately 6 miles the “in-range” light illuminated, followed by an increase in the ASE circle. Trigger was squeezed and crew felt a thump as the missile was ejected; however, missile motor did not ignite. The trigger was squeezed again and held for approximately 3 seconds; however missile did not fire. Trigger was squeezed again and missile fired. The missile made a small correction to the left then back to the right and guided straight away. Pilot maintained the dot centered.

Approximately 5 to 6 seconds after launch, detonation was observed. Almost simultaneously, two enemy missiles were observed coming from the vicinity of the detonation. Evasive action prevented more thorough observations of detonation. The flight turned to a heading of 210°, maintained 9,000 feet, airspeed 500 knots, and egressed the area.

— Aces and Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1965–1973, by R. Frank Futrell, William H. Greenhalgh, Carl Grubb, Gerard E. Hasselwander, Robert F. Jakob and Charles A. Ravenstein, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1976, Chapter III at Page 87.

Joe Kittinger is officially credited with the destruction of the MiG 21.

McDonnell F-4D-29-MC Phantom II 66-7463, flown by Captains Richie and DeBellevue, 28 August 1972. (U.S. Air Force)
This McDonnell F-4D-29-MC Phantom II, 66-7463, was flown by LCOL Joe Kittinger and 1LT Hodgdon when they shot down a MiG-21, 1 March 1972. Flown by several different crews, this airplane is officially credited with shooting down 6 enemy fighters. It is on display at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force)

Joseph W. Kittinger II is best known for his participation in experimental high-altitude balloon flights. On 2 June 1957, he ascended to 97,760 feet (29,490 meters) aboard the Project MAN-HIGH 1. On 16 August 1960, he reached 102,800 feet (31,333 meters) and then stepped off for the longest free-fall parachute jump—a record that would stand for 52 years.

Joe Kittinger flew 483 combat missions in three tours during the Vietnam War. He was shot down 11 May 1972, when his F-4D, 66-0230, was struck by a missile fired by a MiG 21. (Kittinger’s wingman shot down the MiG.) He and Weapons System Officer 1st Lieutenant William J. Reich were captured and held at the infamous Hanoi Hilton for the next 11 months.

Captain Kittinger steps off the Excelsior gondola, 102,800 feet above the Earth, 16 August 1960. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Kittinger steps off the Excelsior gondola, 102,800 feet above the Earth, 16 August 1960. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

1 March 1962

Sikorsky S-61L N300Y, Los Angeles Airways, at Disneyland Heliport, Anaheim, California. (Robert Boser)
Sikorsky S-61L N300Y, Los Angeles Airways, at Disneyland Heliport, Anaheim, California. (Robert Boser)

1 March 1962: Los Angeles Airways inaugurated scheduled passenger service utilizing twin-engine, turbine-powered helicopters.

Shown in the photograph above is LAA’s Sikorsky S-61L, FAA registration N300Y, at the Disneyland Heliport, Anaheim, California. LAA was the first civil operator of the S-61, purchasing them at a cost of $650,000, each. N300Y was the prototype S-61L, serial number 61031. On 14 August 1968, N300Y suffered a catastrophic main rotor spindle failure and crashed at Leuders Park, Compton, California. All 21 persons aboard were killed.

Los Angeles Airways began operations in 1947 and continued until 1971. It flew Sikorsky S-51, S-55 and S-61L helicopters.

The Sikorsky S-61L was a civil variant of the United States Navy HSS-2 Sea King and was the first helicopter specifically built for airline use. The prototype, N300Y, first flew 2 November 1961. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. Although HSS-2 fuselage is designed to allow landing on water, the S-61L is not amphibious, having standard landing gear rather than the sponsons of the HSS-2 (and civil S-61N).

The S-61L fuselage is 4 feet, 2 inches (1.270 meters) longer than that of the HSS-2. The S-61L is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 16 feet, 10 inches (5.131 meters) high, with rotors turning. The fully-articulated main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The tail rotor also has five blades and a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.149 meters). They each have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). At 100% NR, the main rotor turns 203 r.p.m. and the tail rotor, 1,244 r.p.m.

The S-61L was powered by two General Electric CT58-110 turboshaft engines, each of which had a continuous power rating of 1,050 shaft horsepower and maximum power of 1,250 shaft horsepower. The main transmission was rated for 2,300 horsepower, maximum.

The S-61 has a cruise speed of  166 miles per hour (267 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 12,500 feet (3,810 meters). Its maximum takeoff weight is 20,500 pounds (9,298.6 kilograms).

Between 1958 and 1980, Sikorsky built 794 S-61-series helicopters. 13 were S-61Ls.

Los Angeles Airways’ Sikorsky S-61L N302Y at LAX, 1962. (Mel Lawrence)
Los Angeles Airways’ Sikorsky S-61L N302Y at LAX, 1962. (Mel Lawrence)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

1 March 1950

The first Boeing B-47A Stratojet, 49-1900. (U.S. Air Force)

1 March 1950: The first production Boeing B-47 Stratojet, B-47A 49-1900 (Boeing serial number 450001), was rolled off the assembly line at Boeing’s Wichita, Kansas, Plant II.

The Wichita Eagle reported:

“FIRST B-47A PRODUCTION MODEL SHOWN—First production model of the B-47A Stratojet bomber is shown above, surrounded by Boeing-Wichita officials as it rolled from the assembly line at the local plant Wednesday. (Other pictures on Page 4.)”

First Stratojet Rolls Off B-47 Assembly Line Here

Boeing-Wichita Puts New Model Into Production

Six-Jet Speed Bomber Even More Powerful Than Its Predecessor

     Boeing-Wichita’s first B-47 Stratojet bomber rolled off final assembly Wednesday at the local plant, less than 18 months after the Air Force gave the go-ahead signal to build the big, six-jet, swept-wing bomber here.

     The airplane was given to an Air Force aircraft engineering inspection board. The board will examine it for a week, alterations will be made in the shops, if any are needed, and it will be ready to fly.

     The first production model of the already-famous bomber has been designated the B-47A. It is almost identical in appearance to the experimental XB-47s, which were built in the Seattle, Wash., plant of the Boeing Aircraft Company, but the resemblance ends there.

More Powerful than XB-47

     This is a more powerful airplane, Boeing officials say. Instead of the six jet engines of 4,000 pounds thrust each which powered the first experimental Stratojet, this first production model is powered by six jet engines of 5,200 pounds thrust each.

     Additional internal improvements have been made based on experience gained in the XB-47 flight test program, which was moved from Moses Lake, Wash., with the arrival here of the first XB-47. The second “X” came here in October.

     Recently one of the experimental models got a test of rocket assisted takeoff at Municipal Airport where an expansion program costing nearly $1,000,000 has been started to accommodate the B-47 flight testing program.

Holds Speed Record

     The first production model climaxes more than six years of jet bomber design study and development by Boeing. The first experimental flight was made at Moses Lake Dec. 17, 1947, more than 26 months ago.

     In February, 1949, an XB-47 was piloted to an unofficial, all-time, all-type transcontinental speed record. It flew 2,289 miles from Moses lake to Andrews Air Force Base, in three hours, 46 minutes. The average speed was 607.8 miles per hour. The record-breaking airplane was equipped with the smaller jet engines.

     At Boeing-Wichita, closed down following World War II when 1,644 B-29 Superforts were built there, the first production model climaxes a reactivation begun in March, 1948.

     Six months later came the Air Force “letter of intent” and B-47 Stratojet production got underway in Wichita.

“ASSEMBLY LINE IS SHOWN—Part of the assembly line which produced Boeing-Wichita’s first Stratojet six engine bomber is shown above. Three more Stratojets, designated B-47A, are shown being assembled.”
“CLOSE-UP OF B-47A SHOWN—Here’s a close-up of the first production model of the B-47A Stratojet bomber which rolled from the Boeing-Wichita assembly line Wednesday. In the center of the crowd, above, J. Earl Schaefer, vice president and general manager of Boeing, happily makes the rounds congratulating workers and officials who built the bomber.”

The Wichita Eagle, Vol. 24, Number 50, Wednesday 1 March 1950, Page 1, Column 7, and Page 4, Columns 5–8

Boeing B-47A Stratojet 49-1900. (U.S. Air Force 061024-F-1234S-007)

B-47A 49-1900 made its first flight 25 June 1950.

Designed by Boeing, the Stratojet was a high-subsonic-speed strategic bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, in service from 1951 until 1977. The B-47 could fly higher and faster than jet fighters of the early 1950s, and it was also highly maneuverable. The B-47 was flown by a two pilots in a tandem cockpit. A navigator/bombardier was at a station in the nose. The crew area was pressurized.

This photograph shows Boeing B-47A Stratojet 49-1905. The single-piece plexiglas nose of 49-1900 has been replaced by four separate windows. (U.S. Air Force)

The Boeing B-47A Stratojet was the first production model of the B-47 series. The B-47A was 106 feet, 10 inches (32.563 meters) long with a wingspan of 116 feet, 0 inches (35.357 meters), and an overall height of 27 feet, 11 inches (8.509 meters). The wings were shoulder-mounted with the leading edges swept aft to 36° 37′. Their angle of incidence was 2° 45′ and there was no dihedral. (The wings were very flexible, showing marked anhedral on the ground and flexing upward when in flight.) The B-47A had an empty weight of 73,240 pounds (33,221 kilograms), and a maximum takeoff weight of 157,000 pounds (71,214 kilograms).

The B-47A was powered by six General Electric J47-GE-11 turbojet engines in four nacelles mounted on pylons below the wings. This engine had a 12-stage axial-flow compressor, eight combustion chambers, and single-stage turbine. The J47-GE-11 had a maximum power rating of 5,610 pounds of thrust (24.95 kilonewtons) at 8,030 r.p.m. (30-minute limit), and continuous power rating of 4,860 pounds (21.62 kilonewtons) at 7,450 r.p.m.  It had a maximum diameter of 3 feet, 3.0 inches (0.991 meters), length of 12 feet, 0.0 inches (3.658 meters), and weighed 2,475 pounds (1,123 kilograms).

The B-47A was also equipped with 18 Aerojet 14AS1000 solid-fuel rocket engines (ATO) located in the aft fuselage. These produced a maximum 18,000 pounds of thrust (80.07 kilonewtons) for 14 seconds. (49-1901 did not have provisions for ATO.)

A Boeing B-47A Stratojet demonstrates a rocket-assisted takeoff (ATO) The configuration of windows in the nose differs from that of 49-1905, in the image above. (McMahan Photo Archive)

The B-47A Stratojet had maximum speed of 474 knots (545 statute miles per hour/878 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The bomber’s speed was limited to 0.815 Mach due to buffeting. The service ceiling was 46,200 feet (14,082 meters) and the combat ceiling, 44,300 feet (13,503 meters).

The B-47A had a maximum ferry range of 2,856 nautical miles (3,287 statute miles/5,289 kilometers) at 424 knots, and a combat radius with a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilograms) bomb load of 1,350 nautical miles (1,554 statute miles/2,500 kilometers). The maximum fuel load was 9,518 gallons (36,030 liters) carried in four fuselage tanks.

The B-47A had space and provisions to mount two Browning AN-M3 .50-caliber machine guns in a remotely-operated tail turret.

Boeing B-47A Stratojet 49-1900 with its bomb bay doors open. (Mary Evans Picture Library)

The B-47A could carry a single T-14 22,000 pound (9,979 kilogram) or T-10 12,000 pound (5,443 kilogram) general purpose bomb (both were U.S. versions of the British World War II Grand Slam and Tallboy bombs); up to 16 1,000 pound (454 kilogram) general purpose bombs; or one 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) nuclear bomb.

The B-47As were considered as training aircraft and most were assigned to the 306th Bomb Wing (Medium) at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

NACA 150, the first Boeing B-47A Stratojet,49-1900, decelerates after landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, circa 1953. (NASA Photo E-1004)

The first B-47A, 49-1900, was tested by the U.S. Air Force at Wright Field, Ohio, and then at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory at Hampton, Virginia, where it was identified as NACA 150. It was later transferred to the NACA High Speed Flight Research Station at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California. It flew there from 1953 to 1957. 49-1900 was placed in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, 28 February 1958.

Boeing B-47A Stratojet 49-1900 as NACA 150, at Edwards AFB, California. Note the reconfigured nose. (NASA)

B-47A production ended in June 1951, as production shifted to the B-47B. Just ten B-47As were built.

A total of 2,032 B-47s were built by a consortium of three aircraft manufacturers: Boeing Airplane Company, Wichita, Kansas; Douglas Aircraft Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Lockheed Aircraft Company, Marietta, Georgia.

Seven Boeing B-47A Stratojets at the Boeing Airplane Co. Plant II, Wichita, Kansas, 26 June 1951. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

1 March 1945

Jacqueline Cochran with ribbon representing the Distinguished Service Medal.

1 March 1945:

General of the Army Henry H. Arnold, United States Army Air Forces, presents the Distinguished Service Medal to Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Cochran, at The Pentagon, 21 May 1945. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 02c-00866)
Distinguished Service Medal. (NASM)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes