Daily Archives: March 17, 2024

Robert Michael White (6 July 1924–17 March 2010)

Major Robert Michael White, United States Air Force, with a North American Aviation, Inc., X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 19 November 1959. (Arnold Newman)

Robert Michael White was born 6 July 1924, in Manhattan, New York City. He was the first of two sons of Michael White, a baker, and Helen (Karoline) Butz White, an immigrant from Austria. He attended a vocational high school in The Bronx where he studied to be an electrician. After school and on weekends, White worked as a telegram messenger for Western Union.

White enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces as an Aviation Cadet in November 1942. When he completed flight training in February 1944, White was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He had been trained as a fighter pilot and was sent to England to join the 354th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group, at RAF Steeple Morden in Hertfordshire. He first entered combat during July 1944 flying the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang.

In this photograph, Lieutenant Robert M. White is on the right, with Lieutenant F. Mark Johnson (left) and Major Lee G. Mendenhall (center), all of the 354th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group. Lieutenant Johnson’s fighter, “Sweet Dosey II,” is a North American Aviation P-51D-10-NA Mustang, 44-14089. (Little Friends)
North American Aviation P-51B/C Mustangs of the 354th Fighter Squadron. Lieutenant White’s fighter was coded WR-V. (U.S. Air Force)

On his 52nd combat mission, 23 February 1945, White, call sign “Falcon Green One,” was strafing Neuberg Airfield in Germany, when his North American Aviation P-51C-10-NT Mustang 42-103795, WR-V, Dutchess of Manhattan, was hit by ground fire. Too low to bail out, he crash landed in a forest clearing near Boehnfeld. (MACR 12398)

MACR 12398, statement of Falcon Green Two.

White was captured and held as a prisoner of war. He was moved around to various POW camps in Germany before being taken to Stalag III-D in Berlin. A railroad train on which he was being moved was strafed by American P-51 fighters. Many passengers were wounded or killed, but White was unhurt. As the Allies advanced, this camp was evacuated and the prisoners were marched 110 miles (177 kilometers) to Stalag VII-A in southern Bavaria. Stalag VII-A was the largest POW camp in Germany, with more than 130,000 Allied prisoners.

“Aerial view of German prison of war camp Stalag 7A near Moosburg, Bavaria, Germany, where thousands of USAAF prisoners of war were imprisoned along with thousands of allied prisoners of various nationalities. Most AF prisoners arrived here from Stalag Luft III, Sagen Germany about 4th Feb 45. This photo was taken 20 days before the camp was liberated by US ground forces. The German guard garrison was housed in the group of long barrack buildings in the right centre of the photo. Parked in the parade ground are 22 white GI trucks which delivered thousands of red cross food parcels to the hungry POW’s. 9th April 1945.” (American Air Museum in Britain UPL 36313)

Stalag VII-A was liberated by Combat Command A, 14th Armored Division, Seventh  Army, on 29 April 1945. White was taken to a relocation center in France, then eventually returned to America aboard a Liberty ship. Lieutenant White was released from active duty at Fort Dix, New Jersey, but retained an officer’s commission in the USAAF Reserve.

While attending New York University (NYU), he made regular currency flights at Mitchel Field, flying a North American Aviation AT-6 Texan.

Identical to the Inglewood, California-built North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, this is a Dallas, Texas-built P-51C-1-NT, 42-103023. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

On 7 February 1948, Bob White married Miss Doris M. Allen at the Holy Name Church in New York. They would have four children.

Bob White graduated from NYU in May 1951 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering (BSEE).

During the Korean War, White was recalled to active duty, assigned as a pilot and engineering officer, 514th Troop Carrier Wing, Mitchel AFB, New York. In February 1952 he was sent to the 40th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, at Johnson Air Base near Tokyo, Japan, flying F-51 Mustangs. As the unit transitioned to jet fighters, Lieutenant White received 50 hours of training in the Lockheed T-33, and was then assigned to fly F-80 Shooting Stars. He applied for a commission as a regular officer in the U.S. Air Force, which was approved, and he was promoted to the rank of captain. After 18 months overseas, he returned to the United States to attend the Squadron Officer’s School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. He finished first in his class.

While at Maxwell, Captain White applied to the Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB in California. He was accepted and in June 1954 began 6 months of training at Edwards. On completion of the school, he was assigned to Edwards under Lieutenant Colonel Frank Kendall (“Pete”) Everest, chief of flight test operations. He flew “chase” in the F-86 and F-100, made test flights in the Convair F-102, North American F-86K Sabre, Northrop F-89H Scorpion, the Ryan X-13, and the Republic YF-105A and F-105B Thunderchief.

Republic F-105B-1-RE Thunderchief 54-102. Captain Bob White test flew the YF-105A and F-105B Thunderchief when he was at Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

When the Air Force’s selection to test the North American Aviation X-15, Captain Iven Kincheloe, was killed, White was assigned to the X-15 hypersonic research program.

The X-15 is dropped from the NB-52 at an altitude of 45,000–50,000 feet, at Mach 0.82. (NASA)

Major White flew 16 flights in the X-15 rocket plane over a 32 month period. He was the third pilot to fly the X-15, and he was the first pilot to exceed Mach 4, Mach 5 and Mach 6. His maximum speed during the program was Mach 6.04 (4,093 miles per hour/6,589 kilometers per hour), 9 November 1961. On 17 July 1962, he flew the X-15 to an altitude of 314,750 feet (95,936 meters). He set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world record for altitude gain (aircraft launched from a carrier aircraft), of 82,190 meters (269,652 feet),¹ and qualified as an Air Force astronaut.

A. Scott Crossfield, Major Bob White and NASA test pilot Neil Armstrong, at the X-15-2 delivery ceremony 7 February 1961, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB,California. (AFFTC/HO/Jet Pilot Overseas)

On 28 November 1961, President John F. Kennedy presented Major White with the Harmon Trophy.

President John F. Kennedy presents the 1961 Harmon International Trophy for Aviators to A. Scott Crossfield, Joseph A. Walker, and Major Robert M. White. (L-R) Harrison A. Storms; Thomas Scott Crossfield and Paul Scott Crossfield (sons of A. Scott Crossfield); Joseph V. Charyk, Under Secretary of the Air Force; President Kennedy; Joseph A. Walker; Major Alexander P. de Seversky; Major Robert M. White; Colonel Ansel E. Talbert; Colonel Bernt Balchen; William E. Schramek; unidentified man. Fish Room, White House, Washington, D.C.

In 1962, President Kennedy present him with the Collier Trophy.

Major Robert M. White, May 1962. (TPFLTE)
FAI # 9604-1 (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)
Robert M. White and the X-15 (USAF 071203-F-9999J-130)
FAI Record File Number 9604 (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

Major White was featured on the cover of LIFE Magazine, the most widely read magazine in America, 3 August 1962.

Major Robert M. White, U.S. Air Force, is greeted by his son after his record-setting flight into space. “Boy, what a ride.” (Lawrence Schiller/LIFE Magazine)

After almost nine years as a test pilot at Edwards, Major White returned to operational duties, first being assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and then in October 1963, to the 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, 36th Tactical Fighter Wing, at Bitburg Air Base, Germany, as operations officer. The squadron was equipped with the F-105, which White had tested at Edwards.

After five months at Bitburg, he was given command of the 53rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, which also flew the F-105.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert M. White with a Republic F-105 Thunderchief, Bitburg AB, Germany.

After his tour in Germany, White returned to the United States, and from August 1965 to 1966, attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C. He also attended George Washington University where he earned a master’s degree in business administration. He was then assigned to the Air Force Systems Command at White-Patterson AFB in Ohio as the chief tactical systems officer in the F-111 Systems Program Office.

Republic F-105F-10-RE Thunderchief 60-0464, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli RTAFB. (U.S. Air Force)

In May 1967, Colonel White deployed to Southeast Asia as deputy commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Takhli Royal Thai AFB. He flew 70 combat missions in the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.

Colonel Robert M. White, United States Air Force, Deputy Commander for Operations, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli RTAFB, 1967, with other Republic F-105 Thunderchief pilots. Colonel White is the third from the left. (U.S. Air Force)

For his actions during an attack against the Paul Doumer Bridge near Hanoi, 11 August 1967, Colonel White was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Doumer Bridge, by Keith Ferris, oil on panel, depicts Col. Robert M. White leading the strike against the Paul Doumer Bridge, 11 August 1967. (United States Air Force art collection)
Air Force Cross

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Colonel Robert M. White (AFSN: 0-24589A), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105 Mission Commander and Pilot of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action near Hanoi, North Vietnam, on 11 August 1967. On that date, Colonel White led the entire combat force against a key railroad and highway bridge in the vicinity of Hanoi. In spite of 14 surface-to-air missile launches, MiG interceptor attacks, and intense anti-aircraft artillery fire, he gallantly led the attack. By being the first aircraft to dive through the dark clouds of bursting flak, Colonel White set an example that inspired the remaining attacking force to destroy the bridge without a single aircraft being lost to the hostile gunners. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Colonel White reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Action Date: 11-Aug-67

Service: Air Force

Rank: Colonel

Company: Deputy Commander for Operations

Regiment: 355th Tactical Fighter Wing

Division: Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand

The AFC was presented to Colonel White by President Lyndon B. Johnson at a ceremony held at Cam Ranh Bay, December 1967.

In October 1967, Colonel White was assigned as chief, attack division, Directorate of Combat Operations, Seventh Air Force, at Tan San Nhut Air Base.

In June 1968, Colonel White returned to White-Patterson Air Base AFSC, Aero Systems Division, as director of the F-15 systems program.

F-15 Eagles from the 44th Fighter Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, fly over the Pacific Ocean Aug. 9 during Exercise Valiant Shield. During the exercise, Air Force aircraft and personnel will participate in integrated joint training with Navy and Coast Guard forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miranda Moorer)

In August 1970, Colonel White returned to Edwards Air Force Base where he took command of the Air Force Flight Test Center.

In October 1971, he attended the U.S. Navy parachute test pilot school. In November 1972, Brigadier General White took command of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC) at Maxwell AFB.

Major General Robert M. White, U.S. Air Force

On 12 February 1975, White was promoted to the rank of major general, with his date of rank retroactive to 1 July 1972. The following month, he took command of the Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force, based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

In 1980, Major General White and his wife, Doris, divorced. She returned to the United States.

In December 1980, White married his second wife, Ms. Christa Katherina Kasper (née  ScChrista Katherina Shmenger) (b. 3 Dec. ’42, Pirmasens, Germany. Daughter: Judith Kasper)

In 1981, Major General White retired from the U.S. Air Force after 39 years of service. During his military career, he had been awarded the Air Force Cross, the Distinguished Service medal with oak leaf cluster (two awards); the Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters (four awards); the Legion of Merit with four oak leaf clusters (five awards); the Bronze Star; and the Air Medal with sixteen oak leaf clusters (seventeen awards). He wore the wings of a command pilot astronaut.

He had also been awarded the Harmon and Collier Trophies, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

At Edwards Air Force Base, a street is named Bob White Drive in his honor.

In 2006, White was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Mrs. Christa White died 9 January 2007.

Major Robert M. White, U.S. Air Force, with a North American Aviation X-15 on Rogers Dry Lake, 7 Feb 1961. (NASA) Flight 33. Mach 3.50, 78,150′, last XLR-11 flight. major White is wearing a David Clark Company MC-2 full-pressure suit with an MA-3 helmet.
28 Nov 1961 JFKWHP-KN-C19570
18 July 1962 JFKWHP-AR7365-D
18 July 1962 JFKWHP-AR7365-D

Major General Robert Michael White, United States Air Force (Retired), died at 11:55p.m., 17 March 2010 at an assisted living facility in Orlando, Florida. His remains were interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, described  General White as “the eternally correct and reserved Air Force blue suiter.” In The Right Stuff he wrote:

“He didn’t drink. He exercised like a college athlete in training. He was an usher in the Roman Catholic chapel of the base and never, but never, missed Mass. He was slender, black-haired, handsome, intelligent—even cultivated, if the truth were known. And he was terribly serious.”

“White had not unbent as much as one inch for the occasion. You could see them straining to manufacture on of those ‘personality profiles’ about White, and all he would give them was the Blue Suit and a straight arrow. That was Bob White.”

RMW Arlington (Anne Cady)

Recommended: Higher and Faster: Memoir of a Pioneering Air Force Test Pilot, by Robert M. White and Jack L. Summers. McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2010

¹ FAI Record File Number 9604

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

17 March 1969

SNCASE SA 315A 001 (Airbus Helicopters)

17 March 1969: First flight, Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est test pilot Roland Coffignot and flight engineer Gérard Boutin made the first flight of the prototype SA 315A Lama, serial number 315-001. The new helicopter combined the airframe of the SNCASE Alouette II with the drive train and rotors of the Alouette III.

The helicopter was built to meet the specific needs of the Indian Air Force for operations in the Himalayan Mountains. It was required to take off and land at an altitude of 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) while carrying a pilot, one passenger and 200 kilograms (441 pounds) of cargo. The SA 315A was able to exceed this, landing and taking off in the Karakoram Mountains at 6,858 meters (22,500 feet).

315-001 was later upgraded to the SA 315 B configuration. It was registered F-BPXS. On 19 June 1972, Aérospatiale Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet with Gérard Boutin set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude Without Payload at 10,836 meters (35,551 feet).¹ Three days later, 21 June, Boulet set another three World Records by flying 315-001 to an altitude of 12,442 meters (40,820 feet).²

SNCASE SA 315 B 001. (Airbus Helicopters)

The SA 315 B Lama is a 5-place light helicopter powered by a turboshaft engine. It is operated by a single pilot. The fuselage is 10.236 meters (33 feet, 7.0 inches) long. With rotors turning, the helicopter has an overall length of 12.919 meters (42 feet, 4.6 inches) and height of 3.090 meters (10 feet, 1.7 inches). The SA 315 B has an empty weight of 1,021 kilograms (2,251 pounds) and a maximum gross weight of 1,950 kilograms (4,300 pounds). With an external load carried on its cargo hook, the allowable maximum gross weight is 2,300 kilograms (5,070 pounds).

Aérospatiale SA 315 B Lama three-view illustration with dimensions. (Aérospatiale Hélicoptères)

The three-bladed, fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 11.020 meters (36 feet, 1.9 inches). It turns clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the left side of the helicopter.) Normal main rotor speed, NR, is 350–360 r.p.m. The range in autorotation ins 270–420 r.p.m. The three-bladed anti-torque tail rotor is mounted on the left side of the tail boom in pusher configuration. It is 1.912 meters (6 feet, 3.3 inches) in diameter and turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) It turns at 2,020 r.p.m.

Aérospatiale SA 315 B Lama F-BPXS, s/n 315-001, lifting an external load on its cargo hook, 1980. (Kenneth Swartz)

The Lama was initially powered by a Societé Anonyme Turboméca Artouste III B (later aircraft, Artouste III B1) turboshaft engine. This is a single-shaft engine with a single-stage axial-flow, single-stage centrifugal flow, compressor section and a three-stage turbine. The engine turns 33,500 r.p.m. and the output drive shaft turns 5,773 r.p.m. The Artouste III B1 produces a maximum 870 horsepower, but is derated to 570 horsepower for installation in the Lama. The engine is 1.815 meters (5 feet, 11.5 inches) long, 0.667 meters (2 feet, 2.3 inches) high and 0.520 meters (1 foot, 8.5 inches) wide. It weighs 178 kilograms (392 pounds).

The helicopter has a cruise speed 98 knots (113 miles per hour/181 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed (VNE) of 113 knots (130 miles per hour/209 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Sideward or rearward flight (or operations in crosswinds or tailwinds) are restricted to 18 knots. The maximum operating altitude is 7,000 meters (22,966 feet). At 1,950 kilograms (4,299 pounds), the Lama has a hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of 5,050 meters (16,568 feet), and out of ground effect (HOGE), 4,600 meters (15,092 feet).

Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est became Societe nationale industrielle aérospatiale (SNIAS) in 1970. The company produced the SA 315 B Lama beginning in 1971. It was also built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics in India and Helibras in Brazil.

The total number of SA 315 Bs and its variants built is uncertain. In 2010, Eurocopter, the successor to Aérospatiale, announced that it will withdraw the Lama’s Type Certificate in 2020.

An Aérospatiale SA 315 B Lama “On Top of the World” ( © Phillipe Fragnol)

¹ FAI Record File Number 788.

² FAI Record File Numbers 753, 754 and 11657.

© 2019 Bryan R. Swopes

17 March 1947

North American Aviation XB-45 45-59479 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)

17 March 1947: The prototype of the United States’ first jet-powered bomber, the North American Aviation XB-45 Tornado, 45-59479, made a one-hour first flight at Muroc Army Air Field (later known as Edwards Air Force Base) with company test pilot George William Krebs at the controls.

The photographs below show the XB-45 parked on Muroc Dry Lake. Notice that the windows over the bombardier’s compartment in the nose are painted on.

The North American Aviation XB-45 Tornado was a four-engine prototype bomber. It had a high-mounted straight wing and tricycle landing gear. It was 74 feet, 0 inches (22.555 meters) long with a wingspan of 89 feet, 6 inches (27.279 meters) and overall height of 25 feet, 2 inches (7.671 meters). It had an empty weight of 41,876 pounds (18,995kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 82,600 pounds (37,467 kilograms).

North American Aviation XB-45 Tornado 45-59479 parked on the dry lake bed at Muroc Army Airfield, California. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation XB-45 Tornado 45-59479 parked on Muroc Dry Lake. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation XB-45 45-59479 makes a low pass over the runway. (U.S. Air Force)

The three prototypes were powered by four Allison-built General Electric J35-A-4 turbojet engines, installed in nacelles which were flush with the bottom of the wings. The J35 was a single-shaft engine with an 11-stage axial-flow compressor section and a single-stage turbine. The J35-A-4 was rated at 4,000 pounds of thrust (14.79 kilonewtons). The engine’s maximum speed was 8,000 r.p.m. The J35 was 14 feet, 0 inches (4.267 meters) long, 3 feet, 4.0 inches (1.016 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,400 pounds (1,089 kilograms).

The maximum speed of the XB-45 was 494 miles per hour (795 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 516 miles per hour (830 kilometers per hour) at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The service ceiling was 37,600 feet (11,461 meters).

North American Aviation XB-45 45-59479 as a test bed for rocket assisted take-off, 24 September 1958. (U.S. Air Force)

The production B-45A Tornado was heavier and had better performance. It was operated by two pilots and carried a bombardier/navigator and a tail gunner. It was 75 feet, 4 inches (22.962 meters) long with a wingspan of 89 feet, 0 inches (27.127 meters) and overall height of 25 feet, 2 inches (7.671 meters).

The B-45A had a total wing area of 1,175 square feet (109.2 square meters). The leading edges were swept aft 3° 30′. Their angle of incidence was 3° with -3° 30′ twist and 1° dihedral.

The bomber’s empty weight was 45,694 pounds (20,726 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 91,775 pounds (41,628 kilograms).

Cutaway illustration of the North American Aviation B-45 Tornado showing internal structure and arrangement. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-45A was powered by four General Electric J47-GE-13 turbojet engines. The J47 was an axial-flow turbojet with a 12-stage compressor and single stage turbine. It had a normal power rating of 4,320 pounds of thrust (19.216 kilonewtons) at 7,370 r.p.m.; military power, 5,200 pounds (23.131 kilonewtons) at 7,950 r.p.m. (30-minute limit); and maximum power rating of 6,000 pounds(26.689 kilonewtons) at 7,950 r.p.m., with water/alcohol injection (5-minute limit). The engine was 12 feet, 0.0 inches (3.658 meters) long, 3 feet, 3.0 inches (0.991 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,525 pounds (1,145 kilograms).

The B-45A Tornado had a cruise speed of 393 knots (452 miles per hour/728 kilometers per hour), and maximum speed of 492 knots (566 miles per hour (911 kilometers per hour) at 4,000 feet (1,219 meters). Its service ceiling was 46,800 feet (14,265 meters) and it had a maximum range of 1,886 nautical miles (2,170 statute miles/3,493 kilometers).

The bomb load was 22,000 pounds (9,979 kilograms). (It was capable of carrying the Grand Slam bomb.) Two Browning .50-caliber AN-M3  machine guns were mounted in the tail for defense, with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun.

41 B-45As were modified the the “Back Breaker” configuration, which enabled them to be armed with nuclear weapons.

The B-45 served with both the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force. 143 were built, including the three XB-45 prototypes.

On 20 September 1948, the first production B-45A-1-NA Tornado, 47-001, was put into a dive to test the airplane’s design load factor. During the dive, an engine exploded, which tore off several cowling panels. These hit the horizontal stabilizer, damaging it. The B-45 pitched up, and both wings failed due to the g load. The prototype had no ejection seats and test pilots George Krebs and Nicholas Gibbs Pickard, unable to escape, were both killed.

George William Krebs

George William Krebs was born in Kansas City, Missouri, 5 March 1918. He was the first of three children of William J. Krebs, an advertising executive, and Betty Schmitz Krebs. He attended Southwest High School, graduating in 1935.

Krebs studied at the Massachussetts Instititute of Technology (M.I.T.) at Cambridge, Massachussetts. He was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

In 1940, Krebs was the owner of a Luscombe airplane distributorship in Kansas City. He had brown hair, blue eyes and a ruddy complexion. He was 5 feet, 9 inches tall (1.75 meters) and weighed 135 pounds (61 kilograms).

George Krebs married Miss Alice Bodman Neal at Kansas City, Missouri, 26 December 1942. They had one son, William John Krebs II, born 1944.

During World War II, Krebs was employed as a test pilot at the North American Aviation, Inc., B-25 Mitchell medium bomber assembly plant at Kansas City, Kansas. Prior to taking over the XB-45 project, he was the chief test pilot at K.C.

North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell medium bombers near completion at the Kansas City, Kansas, bomber plant. (Alfred T. Palmer)
Nicholas Gibbs Pickard

Nicholas Gibbs Pickard was born at Brooklyn, New York, 5 November 1916. He was the second of three children of Ward Wilson Pickard, a lawyer, and Alice Rossington Pickard.

During World War II, Pickard served as a ferry pilot for the Royal Air Force Transport Command.

On 21 January 1944, Captain Pickard married Miss Kathleen Baranovsky at Montreal, Quebec, Canada. They had two daughters, Sandra and Manya.

Following the war, Pickard was employed as a test pilot by North American Aviation.

Nicholas Gibbs Pickard was buried at the Pacific Crest Cemetery, Redondo Beach, California.

The tenth production North American Aviation B-45A-1-NA Tornado, 47-011, in flight. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

17 March 1937

Another camera angle shows Amelia Earhart taking off from Oakland Municipal Airport, 17 March 1937. (© Bettman/CORBIS)
This photograph shows Amelia Earhart taking off from Oakland Municipal Airport,  4:37 p.m., 17 March 1937. (© Bettman/CORBIS)

17 March 1937, 4:37 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (23:37, UTC): Amelia Mary Earhart departed Oakland Municipal Airport, located on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, beginning the first leg of her around-the-world flight. Also aboard were her friend and adviser, Albert Paul Mantz, navigator Frederick J. Noonan and radio operator/navigator Harry Manning. The airplane was Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020.

Great Circle course from Oakland, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii. (Great Circle Mapper)

Flying a Great Circle course, the distance from Oakland to Wheeler Field on the Island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, was 2,093 nautical miles (2,408 statute miles/3,876 kilometers).

Amelia Earhart and her crew pose in front of the Electra. Left to right, Paul Mantz, co-pilot; Amelia Earhart, pilot; Captain Harry V. Manning, radio operator/navigator; and Captain Frederick J. Noonan, also a navigator, at Oakland Municipal Airport, California, 17 March 1937.
Amelia Earhart and her crew pose in front of the Electra. Left to right, Paul Mantz, co-pilot; Amelia Earhart, pilot; Captain Harry Manning, radio operator/navigator; and Captain Frederick J. Noonan, also a navigator, at Oakland Municipal Airport, California, 17 March 1937.

Captain Frederick J. Noonan was formerly the Chief Navigator of Pan American Airways, and had extensive experience in transoceanic flight. Captain Harry Manning was a Master Mariner, commanding ocean liners for United States Lines. (He would later serve as captain of SS United States, the flagship of America’s Merchant Marine, and as the Commodore of United States Lines.)

Checking weight and balance and fuel quantity calibration at Lockheed, Burbank, California. (Purdue)
Checking weight and balance and fuel quantity calibration at Lockheed, Burbank, California. (Purdue University Library)

Amelia Earhart’s 1936 Electra 10E Special, serial number 1055, was the fifth of fifteen built by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation at Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California (now, Hollywood Burbank Airport, BUR). Designed to carry as many as ten passengers, NR16020 had been modified to carry fuel for 20 hours of flight. Amelia first flew the Electra with a Lockheed test pilot, Elmer C. McLeod, 21 July 1936, and took delivery on her 39th birthday, 24 July. The airplane cost $80,000.

Kelly Johnson with a wind tunnel model of a version of the Lockheed Electra. Based on testing, numerous changes were made before the airplane was placed in production.
Kelly Johnson with a wind tunnel model of a version of the Lockheed Electra. Based on testing, numerous changes were made before the airplane was placed in production. (Lockheed)

The Lockheed Electra 10 was designed by Hall Hibbard, and was Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson’s first assignment when he went to work at Lockheed. It was 38 feet, 7 inches (11.760 meters) long with a wingspan of 55 feet, 0 inches (16.764 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 1 inch (3.073 meters).

While the basic Model 10 had an empty weight of 6,454 pounds (2,927.5 kilograms), Amelia Earhart’s modified Electra 10E Special had an empty weight of 7,265 pounds (3,295.4 kilograms), partly as a result of the additional fuel tanks which had been installed. Fully fueled, NR16020 carried 1,151 gallons (4,357 liters) of gasoline.

NR19020 was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S3H1 single-row nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6:1. These engines used a single-stage supercharger. The S3H1 had a Normal Power rating of 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m for Takeoff, using 80/87 aviation gasoline. The direct-drive engines turned two-bladed Hamilton Standard variable-pitch, constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 9 feet, 7/8-inch (2.675 meters). The Wasp S3H1 was 3 feet, 7.01 inches (1.092 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.60 inches (1.311 meters) in diameter, and weighed 865 pounds (392 kilograms).

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10-E, taking off from Oakland Airport, 1637 hours, 17 March 1937. The tail wheel has just lifted off the runway.
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, taking off from Oakland Airport, 1637 hours, 17 March 1937. The tail wheel has just lifted off the runway.
Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, departs Oakland, 4:37 p.m., 17 March 1937. (Purdue University Library)
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, departs Oakland, 4:37 p.m., 17 March 1937. The landing gear is retracting. (Purdue University Library)
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, over San Francisco Bay. (Photographed by Clyde Herwood Sunderland, Jr.)
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, passing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. (Detail from photograph by Clyde Herwood Sunderland, Jr.)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

17 March 1929

Louise Thaden at Oakland Municipal Airport with a Beech Travel Air, 1929. (NASM-SI-83-2145)

17 March 1929: Louise Thaden, flying a Beech Travel Air 3000, NC5426, over Oakland, California, set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Duration, staying aloft for 22 hours, 3 minutes.¹ This flight broke the previous record which had been set five weeks earlier, 10–11 February, by Evelyn (“Bobbie”) Trout—which had broken the record set 2 January 1929 by Elinor Smith.

The Oakland Chapter of the National Aeronautic Association wanted to have all new U.S. records set at Oakland, and Mrs. Thaden’s duration flight was a part of that campaign. Officials from the Oakland NAA group observed her flight in order to certify the record for the international body, the FAI.

Douglas C. Warren’s Travel Air 3000, NC5426, flown by Louise Thaden to set a World Record for Duration, (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 00072288)

The airplane flown by Mrs. Thaden for her duration record was a Travel Air 3000, registration NC5426, serial number 51?. The airplane was modified with an auxiliary fuel tank in the forward cockpit.

The Travel Air 3000 was a single-engine, three-place, single-bay biplane with fixed landing gear. The airplane was 24 feet, 3 inches (7.391 meters) long, with an upper wing span of 34 feet, 8 inches (10.566 meters), and lower span of 28 feet, 8 inches (8.738 meters). The airplane had an overall height of 9 feet, 0 inches (2.743 meters). The 3000 had an empty weight of 1,664 pounds (755 kilograms), and gross weight of 2,590 pounds (1,175 kilograms).

Louise Thaden flying the Travel Air 3000, NC5426, during her duration record attempt, 17 March 1929. The auxiliary fuel tank fills the airplane’s forward cockpit. (San Diego Air & Space Museum, Catalog #: 00072287)

Travel Air biplanes could be ordered with several different air-cooled or water-cooled engines, such as the Curtiss OX-5, the 120 h.p. Fairchild Caminez 4-cylinder radial, or the Wright Whirlwind. The 3000 was equipped with a liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated Hispano-Suiza 8Ac V-8 (according to FAI records). For the record flight the engine was replaced with a “souped-up” engine.

The Travel Air 3000 had a cruise speed of 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour), and a maximum speed of 119 miles per hour (192 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 17,000 feet (5,182 meters), and the maximum range was 400 miles (644 kilometers).

The Travel Air Manufacturing Company built approximately 50 of the “Hisso-powered” Travel Air 3000 variant.

Louise Thaden waves from the cockpit of the Travel Air 3000, NC5426. The forward cockpit has been modified to accept a large auxiliary fuel tank. (San Diego Air & Space Museum, Catalog #: WOF_00343)

The Oakland Tribune reported:


Oakland Aviatrix Sets World Mark for Endurance Flight

     Mrs. Louise McPhetridge Thaden wants to break more aviation records, she declared at Oakland airport today. Already holder of the altitude record for women and having brought her biplane to earth here yesterday with a new women’s endurance flight record, she now is thinking about establishing new altitude and speed marks for women.

     For 22 hours, 3 minutes and 25 seconds, Mrs. Thaden kept her plane in teh air over Oakland airport yesterday, fighting against drowsiness and night cold to beat the former women’s sustained flight record of 17 hours, 5 minutes, 37 seconds, recently established by Miss Bobby Trout of Los Angeles.

      It was at noon yesterday that Mrs. Thaden signalled to planes flying close to her that her gasoline supply was getting low.. Still she kept circling over the airport while thousands waited on the ground below, eager to see her and greet her when she landed.


     Mrs. Thaden made one last great circle of the flying field and brought her plane to earth at 1:55 p.m. She taxied her plane to a hangar, where officials of the Oakland chapter, National Aeronautic association, newspaper men and friends waited to welcome her. Examination of the plane showed that only 12 gallons of 196 gallons of gasoline were left.

     As friends helped her out of the cockpit where she had sat in a cramped position without sleep, she smiled and said: “Well, I made it. But, gosh, I’m tired.”

     Thousands who had waited at the Oakland airport since early morning cheered Mrs. Thaden, and police were busy keeping them from crushing her in their desire to see the flier and her record plane.

     Mrs. Thaden was greeted first with a hug and a kiss from Mrs. Hattie V. Thaden, her mother-in-law, who had waited through the long night at the airport, confident that her son’s wife would succeed in her record-seeking attempt.

Oakland Tribune, Vol. CX, No. 77, Monday, 18 March 1929, Page 1, Column 5, and Page 2, Column 2

Iris Louise McPhetridge was born 12 November 1905 at Bentonville, Arkansas. She was the first of three daughters of Roy Fry McPhetridge, owner of a foundry, and Edna Hobbs McPhetridge. She was educated at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a member of the Class of 1927. She was president of the Delta Delta Delta (ΔΔΔ) Sorority, Delta Iota (ΔΙ) Chapter, head sports for basketball and president of The Panhellenic.

Iris Louise McPhetridge Thaden (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

Louise McPhetridge had been employed by Walter Beech as a sales representative for his Travel Air Manufacturing Company at Wichita, Kansas, and he included flying lessons with her employment. Beech asked her to go to Oakland as an employee of Douglas C. Warren, the new Travel Air dealer for the western region of the United States. He included flying lessons with her employment. (Warren owned the airplanes used by Mrs. Thaden to set her altitude and endurance records.) She received her pilot’s license from the National Aeronautic Association, signed by Orville Wright, 16 May 1928.

Louise Thaden’s original pilot license, No. 6850, issued by the National Aeronautic Association and signed by Orville Wright. (The Central Arkansas Library System)

Miss McPhetridge married Mr. Herbert von Thaden at San Francisco, California, 21 July 1928. Thaden was a former military pilot and an engineer. They would have two children, William and Patricia.²

In 1929, Mrs. Thaden was issued Transport Pilot License number 1943 by the Department of Commerce. She was the fourth woman to receive an Airline Transport Pilot rating.

Mrs Thaden set an FAI World Record for Altitude of 6,178 meters (20,269 feet) over Oakland, California, 7 December 1928.¹  On 17 March 1929, she set an FAI record for duration of 22 hours, 3 minutes.²

Louise Thaden served as secretary of the National Aeronautic Association, and was a co-founder of The Ninety-Nines. She served as that organization’s vice president and treasurer. She set several world and national records and was awarded the national Harmon Trophy as Champion Aviatrix of the United States in 1936.

Louise Thaden stopped flying in 1938. She died at High Point, North Carolina, 9 November 1979.

Louise Thaden with her 1936 Vincent Bendix Trophy, circa 1975. (NASM-00196777)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12223

² Thaden had founded the Thaden Metal Aircraft Company, builder of the all-metal Thaden T-1, T-2, and T-4 Argonaut. He went on to design molded plywood furniture for the Thaden-Jordan Furniture Corporation. His designs are considered to be works of art, and individual pieces sell for as much as $30,000 today.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes