Daily Archives: March 8, 2024

8 March 1954

U.S. Navy Sikorsky XHSS-1 Seabat, Bu. No. 134668. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

8 March 1954: A prototype for a new anti-submarine helicopter for the United States Navy, the Sikorsky XSSH-1, made its first flight at the Sikorsky factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The helicopter, the Model S-58, had been developed as an internal project by Sikorsky, using the company’s own money. It was a major improvement of the earlier Model S-55 (H-19 Chickasaw/HO4S).

The S-58 followed the single main rotor/tail (anti-torque) rotor configuration pioneered by Sikorsky with the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 in 1939. The helicopter was designed to be flown by two pilots in a cockpit above the main cabin. Like the S-55, the engine was placed in the nose, installed at a 35° angle, and driving the transmission located behind the cockpit. For maintenance the engine could be accessed through two large clam shell doors in the nose. The wheeled landing gear was conventional, with two main wheels forward, and a tail wheel.

The S-58 fuselage had been designed using wind tunnel testing. The helicopter was built primarily of aluminum but the fuselage incorporated magnesium skin panels. The helicopter would be equipped with Automatic Stabilization Equipment (ASE), an autopilot system specifically for helicopters.

The S-58 has and overall length of 65.7 feet (20.03 meters) with rotors turning. The fully articulated four-blade main rotor diameter is 56.0 feet (17.07 meters), and the tail rotor, also with four blades, is 9.5 feet (2.90 meters) in diameter. The fuselage is 46.6 feet (14.20 meters) long. The helicopter has an overall height of 15.9 feet (4.85 meters). To minimize storage space on ships, the main rotor blades and the tail rotor pylon can be folded.

The four-blade main rotor allows the helicopter to reach higher speeds before encountering retreating-blade stall than the three-blade system used on previous Sikorsky models.

Sikorsky S-58 three-view illustration with dimensions. (Sikorsky)

The production HSS-1 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, Wright R-1820-84 nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.80:1. It was rated at 1,525 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. for takeoff; 1,425 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., 30-minute limit; and 1,275 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m., continuous. The R-1820-84 was 4 feet, 4.00 inches (1.321 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.74 inches (1.416 meters) in diameter and weighed 1,405 pounds (627 kilograms). The engine required 115/145 octane aviation gasoline.

The R-1820-84 drove the transmission through a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The transmission had a gear reduction ratio of 11.293:1. Maximum main rotor speed was 258 r.p.m. (2,914 engine r.p.m.)

The HSS-1 had an empty weight of 8,400 pounds (3,810 kilograms), and maximum takeoff weight of 13,300 pounds (6,032 kilograms). Its fuel capacity was 307 U.S. gallons (1,162 liters).

The helicopter had a cruise speed of 84 knots (97 miles per hour/156 kilometers per hour), and a maximum speed of 126 knots (145 miles per hour/233 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 17,600 feet (5,364 meters), and the hovering ceiling, out of ground effect, was 9,900 feet (3,018 meters) at takeoff power. The range was 227 nautical miles (261 statute miles/420 kilometers).

In an anti-submarine warfare configuration, the helicopter was equipped with a dipping sonar system and armed with two Mark 43 torpedoes. The Mark 43 was an electrically driven homing torpedo, 91.5 inches (2.324 meters) long, 10 inches in diameter (0.254 meters), weighing 265 pounds (120 kilograms). It had a 54 pound (25 kilogram) explosive warhead. In transport configuration (HUS-1 Seahorse and UH-34 Choctaw) the S-58 could carry 16 troops or 6 litters and medical attendant.

U.S. Army Sikorsky H-34A Chocktaw, 56-4303. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

Starting at 5:29 a.m., 12 July 1956, a Sikorsky H-34 Chocktaw, the U.S. Army variant of the S-58, flown by Captains Claude E. Hargett and Ellis D. Hill, near Milford, Connecticut, set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for speed: over a 1,000 kilometer (621.4 statute miles) circuit without payload, 213,45 kilometers per hour (132.63 miles per hour/115.3 knots);¹ 500 kilometers (310.7 statute miles) without payload, 218,89 kilometers per hour (136.01 miles per hour/118.19 knots);² and 100 kilometers (62.1 statute miles) without payload, 228,39 kilometers per hour (141.92 miles per hour/123.32 knots).³ Captain Hargett was awarded a bronze oak leak cluster in lieu of a second award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. Captain Hill was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Captains Claude E. Hargett and Ellis D. Hill, U.S. Army. (FAI)

The S-58 was built in a number of military and civil variants. Sikorsky built more than 1,800 S-58 series helicopters. Another 600 were produced by licensed manufacturers.

¹ FAI Record File Number 2154

² FAI Record File Number 2155

³ FAI Record File Number 13068

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

6–8 March 1949

Beechcraft 35 Bonanza N80040, Waikiki Beech, at NASM.

6–8 March 1949: William Paul Odom, a former captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps who had flown “The Hump” during World War II, departed Honolulu Airport on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, flying the fourth prototype Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza, N80040, which he had named Waikiki Beech, enroute to Teterboro, New Jersey, non-stop. He arrived there after 36 hours, 1 minute, setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance in a Straight Line of 7,977.92 kilometers (4,957.24 miles),¹ averaging 137.64 miles per hour (221.5 kilometers per hour). The Bonanza had 12 gallons (45.4 liters) of gasoline remaining, having consumed 272.25 gallons (1,030.6 liters).

The Hawaii Aeronautics Commission Annual Report mentioned the flight:

March 1949

     4—Bill Odom returns for second attempt of Honolulu-New York non-stop flight.

     6—Bill Odom leaves on second Honolulu-New Jersey non-stop flight and lands at Teterboro, New Jersey on March 8, exactly 36 hours and 1 minute after leaving Honolulu Airport, setting a new distance record of 4,957.24 miles for light airplane and longest non-stop solo flight in his converted Beech Bonanza plane which was appropriately christened “Waikiki Beech.” Flight was made with only $75 worth of gasoline.

Bill Odom flew Waikiki Beech on a national publicity tour for the Beech Aircraft Corporation.
Bill Odom flew “Waikiki Beech” on a national publicity tour for the Beech Aircraft Corporation.

N80040 was the fourth prototype Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza. (The first two were static test articles.)

The Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza is an all-metal, single-engine, four-place light civil airplane with retractable landing gear. The Bonanza has the distinctive V-tail with a 30° dihedral which combined the functions of a conventional vertical fin and rudder, and horizontal tail plane and elevators.

The Model 35 was 25 feet, 2 inches (7.671 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 10 inches (10.008 meters) and height of 6 feet, 6½ inches (1.994 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,458 pounds (661 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,550 pounds (1,157 kilograms.)

Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040. This is the fourth prototype. It is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Beech Aircraft Corporation)
Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040. This is the fourth prototype. It is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Beech Aircraft Corporation)

NX80040, s/n 4, and the following production models were powered by an air-cooled, 471.24-cubic-inch-displacement (7.72 liter) Continental Motors, Inc., E185 horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder engine. This engine was rated at 165 horsepower at 2,050 r.p.m. (NX80150, s/n 3, had been equipped with a 125-horsepower Lycoming O-290-A.) The Bonanza had a two-bladed electrically-controlled variable pitch Beechcraft R-100 propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 4 inches (2.235 meters) made of laminated wood.

The “V-tail Bonanza” had a maximum speed of 184 miles per hour (296 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a cruise speed of 175 miles per hour (282 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its service ceiling was 18,000 feet (5,486 meters). With full fuel, 40 gallons (151.4 liters), the airplane had a range of 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

The Beechcraft 35 was in production from 1947 to 1982. More than 17,000 Model 35s and the similar Model 36 were built.

Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040. (Hans Groenhoff Photographic Collection, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum NASM-HGC-201)
William Paul Odom. (FAI)

William Paul Odom was born at Raymore, Missouri, 21 October 1919, He was the first of three children of Dennis Paul Odom, a farmer, and Ethel E. Powers Odom.

Odom, then an airport radio operator, married Miss Dorothy Mae Wroe at Brentwood, Pennsylvania, 3 December 1939.

Odom flew for the Chinese National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) from 1944 to 1945, flying “The Hump,” the air route over the Himalayas from India to China.

William P. Odom had flown a Douglas A-26B Invader, NX67834, named Reynolds Bombshell, around the world in 3 days, 6 hours 55 minutes, 56 seconds, 12–16 April 1947. He made a second around the world flight, 7–11 August 1947, again flying the A-26. The duration of this second trip was 3 days, 1 hour, 5 minutes, 11 seconds. (Neither flight was recognized as a record by the FAI.)

In April 1948, Odom flew a Consolidated C-87A-CF Liberator Express transport for the Reynolds Boston Museum China Expedition.

Odom had made another FAI World Record flight with Waikiki Beech, from from Honolulu, to Oakland, California, an official distance of 3,873.48 kilometers (2,406.87 miles).²

With these records and record attempts, Bill Odom persuaded Jackie Cochran to buy a radically-modified P-51C Mustang named Beguine (NX4845N) for him to fly at the 1949 National Air Races at Cleveland Municipal Airport, Ohio.

Beguine, a radically-modified North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, NX4845N. (Torino Dave)

Though he had never flown in a pylon race, Odom had qualified the P-51 Beguine for the 105 mile Sohio Trophy Race, held 3 September 1949. He won the race, averaging 388.393 miles per hour (625.058 kilometers per hour. He had also entered the Thompson Trophy Race, qualifying with a speed of 405.565 miles per hour (652.694 kilometers per hour.)

The Thompson Trophy Race was held on 5 September. On the second lap, Odom’s P-51 went out of control and crashed into a house near the airport. Bill Odom, along with a woman and child on the ground, were killed.

William Paul Odom’s remains were buried at the Friendship Cemetery, Columbus, Mississippi.

William Paul Odom in the cockpit of the radically-modified P-51C air racer Beguine at the Cleveland National Air Races, 3 September 1949. (NASM)

¹ FAI Record File Number 9112

² FAI Record File Number 14512

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

8 March 1936

Boeing P-26 32-414 at Barksdale Field, 23 January 1934. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Robert K. Giavannoli

8 March 1936: First Lieutenant Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli, United States Army Air Corps, a test pilot assigned to the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio, was killed when the right wing of his Boeing P-26 pursuit, serial number 32-414, came off in flight over Logan Field, near Baltimore, Maryland.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported:


Air Crash Victim.

Robert Giovannoli Dies At Baltimore Field

When Wing Of Plane Falls Off—Lexington, Ky., Man An Army Lieutenant.

     Baltimore, March 8—(AP)—Lieutenant Robert K. Giovannoli, 31 years old of Lexington, Ky., hero of the spectacular bombing plane crash during army tests at Dayton, Ohio, last October, was killed today in the crack-up of his army plane at Logan Field, here.

     Giovannoli’s single-seated pursuit plane lost its right wing coming out of a glide and hurtled down in a crazy spin from an altitude of less than 500 feet [ meters]. It rolled over after hitting the landing field and was demolished.

     Lieutenant Giovannoli received a medal for his heroism in rescuing two men from the flaming wreckage of the Boeing “flying fortress” after it crashed in the army bomber tests at Wright Field, Dayton.

     The Wright Field hero was taking off for the Middletown, Penn., air station when his plane plunged him to death at Logan Field.


     The flier had arrived here yesterday.

     Lieutenant Colonel H.C.K. Nuhlenberg, air officer of the Third Corps Area and in command of Logan Field, said an Army Board of Inquiry would be summoned promptly to investigate the fatal crash.

     Nuhlenberg, who had just landed at the field himself, said Giovannoli had gotten his craft under way and turned back to fly over the field at a low altitude.

     The wing of Giovannoli’s plane wrenched off, Nuhlenberg said, just as the craft was coming out of the glide and starting a zoom to regain altitude.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Vol. XCV, No. 334, Monday, 9 March 1936,  at Page 7, Column 1

Lt. Robert K. Giovannoli

Lieutenant Giovannoli had been awarded the Soldier’s Medal and the Cheney Award for his heroic rescue of two men from the burning wreck of the Boeing Model 299, which had crashed on takeoff at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. His citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Soldier’s Medal to First Lieutenant Robert K. Giovannoli, United States Army Air Corps, for heroism, not involving actual conflict with an enemy, displayed at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 30 October 1935. When a Boeing experimental bomber crashed and burst into flames, Lieutenant Giovannoli, who was an onlooker, forced his way upon the fuselage and into the front cockpit of the burning plane and extricated one of the passengers. Then upon learning that the pilot was still in the cockpit, Lieutenant Giovannoli, realizing that his own life was in constant peril from fire, smoke, and fuel explosions, rushed back into the flames and after repeated and determined efforts, being badly burned in the attempt, succeeded in extricating the pilot from an entrapped position and assisted him to a place of safety.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 4 (1936)

The wreck of the Boeing Model 299, X13372, burns after the fatal crash at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)

Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli was born at Washington, D.C., 13 March 1904, the second of two sons of Harry Giovannoli, a newspaper editor, and Carrie Kinnaird Giovanolli. His mother died when he was six years old.

Robert Giovannoli, 1925. (The Kentuckian)

Giovannoli graduated from Lexington High School at Lexington, Kentucky, in 1920 and then attended the University of Kentucky, where, in 1925, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.). He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta (ΦΔΘ) and Tau Beta Phi (ΤΒΦ) fraternities, treasurer of the sophomore class, and president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. He was employed by the General Electric Company at Schenectady, New York.

Giovannoli enlisted in the United States Army in 1927. After completing the Air Corps Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, and the Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, both in San Antonio, Texas, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve, 20 October 1928. Lieutenant Giovannoli was called to active duty 8 May 1930. In 1933, he was assigned to a one year Engineering School at Wright Field. He then was sent to observe naval aircraft operations aboard USS Ranger (CV-4) in the Pacific Ocean. He had returned just a few days prior to the accident.

At the time of his death, Lieutenant Giovannoli had not yet been presented his medals.

First Lieutenant Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli was buried at the Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky. In 1985, the Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli Scholarship was established to provide scholarships for students in mechanical engineering at the University of Kentucky College of Engineering.

Boeing XP-936 No. 3 in flight. This airplane would be designated P-26, serial number 32-414. It is the airplane flown by Lieutenant Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli, 8 March 1936. (Boeing)

The P-26, Air Corps serial number 32-414, was the last of three prototype XP-936 pursuits built by Boeing in 1932. Boeing’s chief test pilot, Leslie R. Tower, conducted the first flight of the type on 20 March 1932. Leslie Tower was one of the two men that Lieutenant Giovannoli had pulled from the burning Boeing 299.

The Boeing P-26 was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane. It was the first all-metal U.S. Army pursuit, but retained an open cockpit, fixed landing gear and its wings were braced with wire. The airplane was 23 feet, 7 inches (7.188 meters) long with a wingspan of 28 feet (8.534 meters). The empty weight of the prototype was 2,119 pounds (961.2 kilograms) and gross weight was 2,789 pounds (1,265.1 kilograms).

The first of three Boeing Model 248 prototypes, XP-26 32-412. (Boeing)

The Y1P-26 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-1340-21 (Wasp S2E), a single-row, nine-cylinder radial engine. The P-26A and P-26C were powered the Pratt & Whitney R-1340-27 (Wasp SE), while the P-26B used a more powerful, fuel-injected R-1340-33 (Wasp D2). Each of these engines were direct drive and had a compression ratio of 6:1. The engine was surrounded by a Townend Ring which reduced aerodynamic drag and improved engine cooling.

The R-1340-21 had a Normal Power rating of 600 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. at 6,000 feet (1,829 meters); 500 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. at 11,000 feet (3,353 meters); and 500 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. for takeoff. It required 87-octane gasoline. The –21 had a diameter of 3 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) and weighed 715 pounds (324 kilograms).

The R-1340-27 had a Normal Power and Takeoff power rating of 570 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., to 7,500 feet (1,524 meters), using 92-octane gasoline. The –27 was 3 feet, 7.25 inches (1.099 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.50 inches (1.308 meters) in diameter and also weighed 715 pounds (324 kilograms).

The R-1340-33 was rated at 575 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,120 r.p.m. for Takeoff, with 87-octane gasoline. It was 3 feet, 10.75 inches (1.187 meters) long, with the same diameter as the –27. It weighed 792 pounds (359 kilograms).

The engines drove a two-bladed, Hamilton Standard adjustable-pitch propeller.

19th Pursuit Squadron commanding officer’s Boeing P-26 in flight over Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 6 March 1939. (NASM)

The pursuit had a maximum speed of 227 miles per hour (365 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and a service ceiling of 28,900 feet (8,809 meters).

As a pursuit, the P-26 was armed with two air-cooled Browning M1919 .30-caliber machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.

Boeing built 136 production P-26s for the Air Corp and another 12 for export. Nine P-26s remained in service with the Air Corps at the beginning of World War II.

A Boeing P-26, A.C. 33-56, in the Full-Scale Wind Tunnel at the  National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, 1934. This “Peashooter,” while assigned to the 6th pursuit Squadron, ditched north of Kaluku, Oahu, Hawaii, 14 December 1938. (NASA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

8 March 1910

Royal Aero club license issued to J.T.C. Moor-Brabazon, 8 March 1910. (RAF Museum)
Royal Aero Club License No. 1, issued to J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon, 8 March 1910. (RAF Museum)

8 March 1910: John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon (later, the 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara, G.B.E., M.C., P.C.) was the first airplane pilot to be issued an aviator’s certificate by the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom. He had previously been assigned certificate number 40 of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. He was issued Certificate Number 1 in England.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

8 March 1910

Elise Raymonde Deroche
Elise Raymonde Deroche

8 March 1910: The Aéro-Club de France issued Pilote-Aviateur license # 36 to Mme. de Laroche (née Elise Raymonde Deroche, but also known as Raymonde de Laroche, and Baroness de Laroche) making her the first woman to become licensed as a airplane pilot.

Pilot Certificate number 36 of the FAI was issued to Mme. de LAROCHE. (Musee de l'Air at l'Espace
Pilot Certificate number 36 of the Aéro-Club de France was issued to Mme. de Laroche. (Musee de l’Air at l’Espace)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes