Daily Archives: March 26, 2024

26 March 1967

Republic F-105D-6-RE Thunderchief 59-1772, parked in a revetment. Colonel Scott flew this airplane 26 March 1967 when he shot down a MiG-17. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-105D-6-RE Thunderchief 59-1772, parked in a revetment. Colonel Scott flew this airplane 26 March 1967 when he shot down a MiG 17. (U.S. Air Force)

26 March 1967: Colonel Robert Ray Scott, United States Air Force, commanding the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, was leading 20 Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers from Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, on an attack against an enemy military barracks near Hanoi, North Vietnam. Colonel Scott’s airplane was Republic F-105D-6-RE, serial number 59-1772, and his call sign was “Leech 01.” As he came off the target, he shot down an enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 17 fighter with the 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon of his fighter bomber.

Colonel Robert R. Scott, U.S. Air Force
Colonel Robert R. Scott, U.S. Air Force

The third MiG-17 destroyed during the month was credited to the 355th TFW, Colonel Scott, who was leading an F-105 flight on a strike mission not far from Hoa Lac airfield on 26 March. His account follows:

“I had acquired the target and executed a dive-bomb run, while heading approximately 250°, altitude approximately 4,000 feet, I observed a MiG taking off from Hoa Loc airfield. I began a left turn to approximately 150° to follow the MiG for possible engagement. At this time I observed three more MiG-17s orbiting the airfield at approximately 3,000 feet, in single ship trail with 3,000 to 5,000 feet spacing. MiGs were silver with red star. I then concentrated my attention on the nearest MiG-17 and pressed the attack. As I closed in on the MiG it began turning to the right. I followed the MiG, turning inside, and began firing. I observed ordnance impacting on the left wing and pieces of material tearing off. At this time the MiG began a hard left-descending turn. I began to overshoot and pulled off high and to the right. The last time I saw the MiG it was extremely low, approximately 500 feet, and rolling nose down.”

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 II at Page 45.

This former Egyptian Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevivch MiG-17F in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force is painted in the colors of the Vietnam Peoples' Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
This former Egyptian Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevivch MiG 17F in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force is painted in the colors of the Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

The pilot of the MiG 17, Second Lieutenant Vũ Huy Lượng, 923rd Fighter Regiment, Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force, was killed.

As a Northrop P-61 Black Widow pilot with the 426th Night Fighter Squadron during World War II, Colonel Scott had shot down two enemy airplanes. By destroying the MiG-17, he became only the second U.S. Air Force pilot, after Colonel Robin Olds, to achieve aerial victories during World War II and the Vietnam War.

Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17F in Vietnam Peoples' Air Force markings at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force).
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 17F in Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force markings at NMUSAF, Wright-Patterson AFB. (U.S. Air Force).

Robert Ray Scott was born at Des Moines, Iowa, 1 November 1920. He was the first of two children of Ray Scott, a railroad worker, and Elva M. Scott. He graduated from North High School in Des Moines, January 1939. He studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Iowa for two years before he enlisted as an Aviation Cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 15 August 1941. Scott was 5 feet, 7 inches (1.70 meters) tall and weighed 144 pounds (65.3 kilograms). He was trained as a pilot and and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, 16 March 1942. He was assigned as an instructor pilot in California, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant 15 December 1942.

Scott was transferred to the 426th Night Fighter Squadron, 14th Air Force, flying the Northrop P-61 Black Widow in India and China. He was promoted to captain, 3 May 1944, and to major, 16 August 1945. Major Scott was credited with shooting down two enemy aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

Captain Robert Ray Scott (back row, second from left) with the 426th Night Fighter Squadron, 1944. The airplane is a Northrop P-61 Black Widow. (U.S. Air Force)

Following World War II, Major Scott returned to the University of Iowa to complete his bachelor’s degree. He also earned two master’s degrees.

In 1952 he graduated from the Air Force test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base, then served as a project pilot on the North American F-86D all-weather interceptor. Later he was a project officer at Edwards AFB on the Republic F-105 Thunderchief Mach 2 fighter-bomber.

Scott flew the North American Aviation F-86F Sabre during the Korean War. From January to July 1953, he flew 117 combat missions. From 1953 to 1956, Lieutenant Colonel Scott commanded the 405th Fighter Bomber Wing, Tactical Air Command, at Langley Air Force base, Virginia.

Lieutenant Richard Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Robert R. Scott (in cockpit) after their record-breaking transcontinental flight. (Unattributed)

On 9 October 1955, Scott set a transcontinental speed record by flying a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak fighter bomber from Los Angeles International Airport, California, to Floyd Bennett Field, New York, in 3 hours, 46 minutes, 33.6 seconds. Later he was a project officer at Edwards AFB on the Republic F-105 Thunderchief Mach 2 fighter-bomber.

Scott was promoted the rank of Colonel in 1960.

During the Vietnam War, Colonel Scott commanded the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying 134 combat missions in the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.

Colonel Scott’s final commanding was the 832nd Air Division, 12th Air Force, at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. He retired 1 September 1970 after 29 years of military service.

Colonel Robert Ray Scott flew 305 combat missions in three wars. During his Air Force career, Colonel Scott was awarded four Silver Star medals, three Legion of Merit medals, six Distinguished Flying Crosses and 16 Air Medals. He died at Tehachapi, California, 3 October 2006 at the age of 86 years. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Republic F-105D 59-1772 is credited with another air-to-air victory. Just over a month after Colonel Scott’s Mig-17 shoot-down, on 28 April 1967 Major Harry E. Higgins, 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, shot down another MiG-17 with the fighter bomber’s cannon, for which Major Higgins was awarded the Silver Star.

The Thunderchief, though, met its own end when it was shot down by 37 mm anti-aircraft gunfire 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Ko Hinh, Laos, 27 January 1970. The pilot was rescued.

Colonel Robert R. Scott, commander, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, checks the bombs loaded on a multiple ejector rack while preflighting his Republic F-105 Thunderchief. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Robert R. Scott, commander, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, checks the bombs loaded on a multiple ejector rack while preflighting his Republic F-105 Thunderchief. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-105 was the largest single-seat, single-engine combat aircraft in history. It was designed as a Mach 2+ tactical nuclear strike aircraft and fighter-bomber. Republic Aviation Corporation built 833 F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers at its Farmingdale, New York factory. 610 of those were single-seat F-105Ds.

The F-105D Thunderchief is 64 feet, 5.3 inches (19.642 meters) long with a wingspan of 34 feet, 11.2 inches (10.648 meters) and overall height of 19 feet, 8.4 inches (6.005 meters). The total wing area was 385 square feet (35.8 square meters). Its wings were swept 45° at 25% chord. The angle of incidence was 0° and there was no twist. The wings had 3° 30′ anhedral. The F-105D-31 has an empty weight of 26,855 pounds (12,181 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 52,838 pounds (23,967 kilograms).

This Republic F-105D-10-RE Thunderchief, 60-0504, served with the 355th TFW at Takhli AB, Thailand. It shot down two enemy fighters. Similar the the F-105D flown by Colonel Scott, 26 March 1967, it is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

The Thunderchief was powered by one Pratt & Whitney J75-P-19W engine. The J75 is a two-spool axial-flow afterburning turbojet with water injection. It has a 15-stage compressor section (8 low- and and 7 high-pressure stages) and 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages.) The J75-P-19W is rated at 14,300 pounds of thrust (63.61 kilonewtons), continuous power; 16,100 pounds (71.62 kilonewtons), Military Power (30-minute limit); and Maximum Power rating of 24,500 pounds (108.98 kilonewtons) with afterburner (15-minute limit). The engine could produce 26,500 pounds of thrust (117.88 kilonewtons) with water injection, for takeoff. The J75-P-19W is 21 feet, 7.3 inches (6.586 meters) long, 3 feet, 7.0 inches (1.092 meters) in diameter, and weighs 5,960 pounds (2,703 kilograms).

Republic F-105D Thunderchief 60-0504 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

The maximum speed of the F-105D was 726 knots (835 miles per hour/1,345 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level (Mach 1.09) and 1,192 knots (1,372 miles per hour (2,208 kilometers per hour) at 36,089 feet (11,000 meters) (Mach 2.08). The combat ceiling was 51,000 feet (15,545 meters). The F-105D’s combat radius varied with the type of mission from 277 to 776 nautical miles (319–893 statute miles/513–1,437 kilometers). The maximum ferry range was 1,917 nautical miles (2,206 statute miles/3,550 kilometers).

The F-105D was armed with one 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan rotary cannon and 1,028 rounds of ammunition. It has an internal bomb bay and can carry bombs, missiles or fuel tanks on under wing and centerline hardpoints. The maximum bomb load consisted of 16 750-pound (340 kilogram) bombs. For tactical nuclear strikes, the F-105D could carry one B57 or three B61 nuclear bombs.

Two Air Force sergeants load belts of linked 20-millimeter cannon shells for the F-105’s M61 six-barreled Gatling gun. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-105 Thunderchief was a supersonic tactical fighter bomber rather than an air superiority fighter. Still, during the Vietnam War, F-105s shot down 27 enemy MiG fighters. 24 of those were shot down with the Thunderchief’s Vulcan cannon.

Of the 833 F-105s, 395 were lost during the Vietnam War. 334 were shot down, mostly by antiaircraft guns or missiles, and 17 by enemy fighters. Another 61 were lost due to accidents. The 40% combat loss is indicative of the extreme danger of the missions these airplanes were engaged in.

Republic F-105D Thunderchief at Takhli TRAFB. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2021, Bryan R. Swopes

26 March 1966

Allison Engine Co. test pilot Jack l. Schweibold with teh record-setting prototype Hughes YOH-6A, 62-4213, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1966. (FAI)
Allison Engine Co. test pilot Jack Schweibold with the record-setting number three prototype Hughes YOH-6A Light Observation Helicopter, 62-4213, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1966. (FAI)

26 March 1966: Allison Engine Company test pilot Jack Schweibold flew the third prototype Hughes Aircraft Company YOH-6A Light Observation Helicopter, 62-4213, to set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing of 2,800.20 kilometers (1,739.96 miles), including an Absolute Record for Class E (Rotorcraft).¹ Two of these records still stand.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1966. (FAI)
Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1966. (FAI)

One week earlier, 20 March 1966, Hughes Aircraft Company test pilot Jack L. Zimmerman flew the same helicopter to set another distance record of of 1,700.12 kilometers (1,056.41 miles).² One 27 March, Zimmerman would set six more world records with 62-4213.³

Jack Schweibold wrote about the record flight in his autobiography, In the Safety of His Wings (Holy Fire Publishing, DeLand, Florida, 2005). He was one of a group of military and civilian test pilots selected to attempt a series of world record flights at Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California. From 20 March to 7 April 1966, they flew 62-4213 over a series of distances and altitudes.

Edwards Air Force Base, California, circa 1970. The runway complex is at top, center. (U.S. Department of Defense)

Jack Schweibold’s record attempt began at midnight to take advantage of the cold desert air. The cold-soaked YOH-6A had been fueled with pre-cooled JP-5 in order to get the maximum amount of fuel on board. In addition to the standard fuel tank, two auxiliary tanks were placed in the cabin. The helicopter was so heavy from the overload that it could not hover. Jack made a running take-off, sliding the skids across the concrete until the increasing translational lift allowed the aircraft to break free of the ground. He began a very shallow climb.

Schweibold was flying a 60 kilometer (37.28 miles) closed course, but because of the near total darkness, he flew on instruments and was guided from the ground by Air Force test range radar controllers (Spatial Positioning and Orientation Radar Tracking, call sign SPORT). Accuracy was critical. The attempt would be disqualified if the helicopter cut inside of a pylon—which Jack could not see—but if he flew too far outside, the extra distance flown would not be counted and time would be lost. The maximum range would be controlled by the amount of fuel carried in the three tanks, and by the endurance of the pilot.

Throughout the flight, Jack gradually increased the altitude, as the T-63-A-5 turboshaft would be more efficient in thinner, colder air. He was flying a precisely calculated profile, taking into consideration aerodynamic drag, the efficiency of the helicopter’s rotor system, and the performance characteristics of the engine. He had been airborne for four hours before he climbed through 10,000 feet (3,048 meters).

Test pilot Jack Schweibold was featured in an advertising campaign by Allison.

At 14,000 feet (4,267 meters), Schweibold was on oxygen. He continued through 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) but was having trouble staying alert. (It would later be discovered that there was a malfunction in his oxygen mask.)

On the final lap, at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters) Jack had to fly around a towering cumulus cloud and radar contact was lost. He dived to lose altitude and popped out from under the cloud about a half-mile short of the runway.

When he shut down the engine, Jack Schweibold had flown the prototype YOH-6A 2800.20 kilometers (1,739.96 statute miles), non-stop. His record still stands.

Jack set 30 FAI World Records between 1966 and 1986. 26 of these remain current.

Frederick Jack Schweibold was born at Toledo, Ohio, 8 November 1935, the son of Henry E. and Jeanette Schweibold. He attended Ohio State University and majored engineering. He had enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve in 1952 and then joined the United States Air Force as an Aviation Cadet in 1954.

Jack Schweibold with a North American Aviation T-28A Trojan.

Schweibold went through pilot training at Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, flying the T-34 and T-28. He went on to train in the B-25 at Reese Air Force Base, Lubbock, Texas. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and received his pilot’s wings in July 1957. In a momentary decision, he selected helicopter training.

Air Rescue Service Sikorsky H-19A Chicasaw 51-3850. (AR.1999.026)

Frederick Jack Schweibold married Miss Sharon Crouse at Toledo, Ohio, 27 December 1957.

Lieutenant Schweibold flew the Sikorsky H-19B for the U.S.A.F. Air Rescue Service, assigned to Oxnard Air Force Base, California. (The airfield is now Camarillo Airport, CMA, where I first soloed, and is about ten miles away from my desk.)

After leaving the Air Force, Jack flew Sikorsky S-55s for Chicago Helicopter Service, then Bell 47s for Butler Aviation. In 1960, he was hired by the Allison Division of General Motors as a test pilot and engineer for the new 250-series turboshaft engine.

A Chicago Helicopter Airways Sikorsky S-55.
Jack Schweibold

Jack Schweibold is the author of In The Safety Of His Wings: A Test Pilot’s Adventure, published in 2005.

I had the good fortune to have known Jack Schweibold. I first met him through his involvement in the Helicopter Association International’s biennial flight instructor re-certification seminars, held during the HAI’s annual conventions. He kept the seminar classes on track, and in between, was always available for questions. Jack was the authority on Allison’s 250-series turboshaft engines, and over the years I often called him for technical information and operational advice. On top of that, Jack Schweibold was just an all-around nice guy. It was a pleasure to know him.

U.S. Army Hughes YOH-6A prototype 62-4213 at Le Bourget, circa 1965.
U.S. Army Hughes YOH-6A prototype 62-4213 at Le Bourget, circa 1965. (R.A. Scholefield Collection)

The Hughes Model 369 was built in response to a U.S. Army requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (“L.O.H.”). It was designated YOH-6A, and the first aircraft received U.S. Army serial number 62-4211. It competed with prototypes from Bell Helicopter Company (YOH-4) and Fairchild-Hiller (YOH-5). All three aircraft were powered by a lightweight Allison Engine Company turboshaft engine. The YOH-6A won the three-way competition and was ordered into production as the OH-6A Cayuse. It was nicknamed “loach,” an acronym for L.O.H.

The YOH-6A was a two-place light helicopter, flown by a single pilot. It had a four-bladed, articulated main rotor which turned counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Stacks of thin stainless steel “straps” fastened the rotor blades to the mast and also allowed for flapping and feathering. Hydraulic dampers controlled lead-lag. Originally, there were blade cuffs around the main rotor blade roots in an attempt to reduce aerodynamic drag, but these were soon discarded. A two-bladed semi-rigid tail rotor was mounted on the left side of the tail boom. Seen from the left, the tail-rotor rotates counter-clockwise. (The advancing blade is on top.)

Overhead photograph of a Hughes YOH-6. Note the blade cuffs. (U.S. Army)
Overhead photograph of a Hughes YOH-6A. Note the blade cuffs. (U.S. Army)

The YOH-6A was powered by a T63-A-5 turboshaft engine (Allison Model 250-C10) mounted behind the cabin at a 45° angle. The engine was rated at 212 shaft horsepower at 52,142 r.p.m. (102% N1) and 693 °C. turbine outlet temperature for maximum continuous power, and 250 shaft horsepower at 738 °C., 5-minute limit, for takeoff. Production OH-6A helicopters used the slightly more powerful T63-A-5A (250-C10A) engine.

The Hughes Tool Company Aircraft Division built 1,420 OH-6A Cayuse helicopters for the U.S. Army. The helicopter remains in production as AH-6C and MH-6 military helicopters, and the MD500E and MD530F civil aircraft.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 is in the collection of the United States Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama.

The third prototype YOH-6A, 62-4213, testing the XM-7 twin M60 7.62 weapons system. (U.S. Army)
The third prototype YOH-6A, 62-4213, testing the XM-7 twin M60 7.62 weapons system. (U.S. Army)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 786, 787 and 11656

² FAI Record File Number 762

³ FAI Record File Numbers 771, 772, 9920, 9921, 9922, and 9923

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

26 March 1955

Pan American World Airways' Boeing 377-10-26 Stratocruiser serial number 15932, N1032V.
Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Clipper United States, N1032V.

26 March 1955: At 8:15 a.m. Saturday morning, Pan American World Airways Flight 845/26, a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, Clipper United States, N1032V, departed Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SEA, or “SeaTac”) on a flight to Sydney, Australia, with intermediate stops at Portland, Oregon, and Honolulu, Hawaii. The airliner departed Portland (PDX) at 10:21 a.m., with a crew of 8 and 15 passengers on board.

Captain Herman S. Joslyn was in command of N1032V, with First Officer Angus Gustavus Hendrick, Jr.; Second Officer Michael F. Kerwick; Flight Engineer Donald Read Fowler; and Assistant Flight Engineer Stuart Bachman. The cabin crew were Purser Natalie R. Parker, Stewardess Elizabeth M. Thompson, and Steward James D. Peppin.

Clipper United States was cruising at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) when a severe vibration began, lasting 5–8 seconds. The Number 3 engine (inboard, right) was violently torn off of the starboard wing. The damage to the airplane resulted in severe buffeting. The nose pitched down and airspeed increased. Captain Joslyn reduced engine power to limit airspeed. The Stratocruiser quickly lost 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). Because of damage to the engines’ electrical system, the flight engineer was not able to increase power on the remaining three engines. The Boeing 377 was too heavy at this early stage in the flight to maintain its altitude.

At 11:12 a.m. (19:12 UTC) the flight crew ditched the Stratocruiser into the north Pacific Ocean, approximately 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of the Oregon coastline. [N. 43° 48′ 15″, W. 125° 12′ 40″] The conditions were ideal for ditching,¹ but the impact was hard. Seats were torn loose, and several occupants were injured. Evacuation began and all three life rafts were inflated. The water temperature was 47 °F. (8.3  °C.).

A North American Aviation F-86F Sabre flown by Captain W. L. Parks, 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group, Oregon Air National Guard, located the scene of the ditching and observed smoke flares which led to two life rafts tied together. A Lockheed Constellation was also inbound to the scene from the south. After confirming that Air Force rescue aircraft were on the way, Captain Parks returned to Portland, very low on fuel.

Miss Natalie R. Parker (Medford Tribune)

The airliner’s purser, Miss Natalie R. Parker,² had been assisting passengers with their life vests and seat belts when the airliner hit the water. Standing in the aisle, she was thrown forward, knocking down five rows of seats as she hit them. She was badly bruised and suffering from shock.

Along with other crew members, Miss Parker assisted the passengers in abandoning the sinking Stratocruiser. After entering the water, some began to drift away. Miss Parker, despite her injuries, swam after one and towed him back to an inflated raft.

Her actions were particularly mentioned in the Civil Aeronautics Board accident investigation report:

The purser, a woman, although suffering from shock swam and towed the only seriously injured passenger to the nearest raft, some 200 feet [61 meters] distant.

—Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Investigation Report SA-304 File No. 1-0039, 15 November 1955, History of the Flight

The airliner floated for about 20 minutes before sinking. Of the 23 persons on board, four, passengers John Peterson, David Darrow, First Officer Hendrick, and Flight Engineer Fowler, died of injuries and exposure.

The survivors were rescued after two hours by the crew of USS Bayfield (APA-33), a U.S. Navy attack transport.

The U.S. Navy attack transport USS Bayfield (APA-33) during the rescue of the survivors of Pan Am Flight 845/26, 26 March 1955. A Standard Oil Co. tanker, SS Idaho Falls, stands by to assist. Two of the airliner’s life rafts are visible at the right edge of this photograph. One is at the end of the smoke trail crossing the center of the image. The other is a bright object at the right lower corner. (U.S. Coast Guard)

During the Civil Aeronautics Board hearings into the accident, Vice Chairman Joseph P. Adams commended the flight’s purser, Miss Parker:

“. . . all of us feel inspired that a fellow citizen, or just a fellow human being, can rise to such an occasion in the manner in which you did. It is most commendable, Miss Parker.”

—Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Investigation Report SA-304 File No. 1-0039, 15 November 1955, Footnote 3

Because the engine and propeller were not recovered, the exact nature of the failure could not be determined, but the most likely cause was considered to be a fracture of a propeller blade resulting in a severely unbalanced condition, followed by the violent separation of the engine from the wing. This was the fifth time that a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser had lost an engine following the failure of a hollow-steel Hamilton Standard 2J17 propeller blade.

When the flight engineer attempted to increase the propeller r.p.m. on the three engines simultaneously, an electrical overload occurred which opened the master circuit breaker. This prevented any engine power increase.

Airline stewardesses examine a cutaway model of the Boeing Stratocruiser. (Museum of History & Industry, Seattle)

Clipper United States was a Boeing Model 377-10-26, serial number 15932, registered N1032V. It was one of twenty of a specific variant built for Pan American World Airways. The airliner had been delivered to Pan Am on 21 May 1949. At the time of its loss, it had flown a total of 13,655 hours.

The Model 377 was a large, four-engine civil transport which had been developed concurrently with the Boeing B-50A Superfortress. The 377 followed the military C-97 Stratofreighter (Model 367), which used the wings, engines, landing gear and tail of the B-29. The B-50 and 377 shared the improved wings, engines and tail surfaces. The two airplanes made their first flights just 14 days apart. The Stratocruiser was operated by a flight crew of four. It was a double-deck aircraft, with the flight deck, passenger cabin and galley on the upper deck and a lounge and cargo compartments on the lower. The airliner was pressurized and could maintain Sea Level atmospheric pressure while flying at 15,500 feet (4,724 meters). The Model 377 could be configured to carry up to 100 passengers, or 28 in sleeping births.

A color photograph of a Pan American World Airways Boeing 377 Stratocruiser in flight. (Pan Am)
A Pan American World Airways Boeing 377 Stratocruiser in flight. (Boeing)

The Stratocruiser was 110 feet, 4 inches (33.630 meters) long with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.053 meters) and overall height of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters). The airliner had an empty weight of 83,500 pounds (37,875 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 148,000 pounds (67,132 kilograms).

N1032V was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.488 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B6 engines. These were four-row, 28-cylinder, radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1.

The B6 had a Normal Power rating of 2,650 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., at 5,500 feet (1,676 meters), and Maximum Continuous Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 3,500 feet (1,067 meters). The Takeoff Power rating was 3,500 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. with water/alcohol injection. ³

The engines drove four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 24260 constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 17 feet (5.182 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction.

The Wasp Major B6 was 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter and 8 feet, 0.50 inches (2.451 meters) long. It weighed 3,584 pounds (1,626 kilograms), dry. The propeller assembly weighed 761 pounds (345 kilograms).

The 377 had a cruise speed of 301 miles per hour (484 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour). During testing by Boeing, a 377 reached 409 miles per hour (658 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) and the range was 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers).

Boeing built 56 Model 377 Stratocruisers, with Pan American as the primary user, and another 888 military C-97 Stratofreighter and KC-97 Stratotankers.

Clipper America, a Pan American World Airways Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser. (Boeing)

¹ Captain G.B. Cardew, master of the Matson Lines’ S.S. Hawaiian Educator, which had arrived on scene soon after the ditching, said, “The weather was perfect. The sea was calm and the sky warm and clear.”  —Oakland Tribune, Vol. CLXII, No. 86, Sunday, 27 March 1955, Page 2-A, Column 3

Natalie Parker, 1943. (Crater)

² Miss Natalie R. Parker was born 2 June 1925, the first child of Carold J. Parker, a potato chip manufacturer, and Ruth A. Parker, of Portland, Oregon. She attended Medford High School with the Class of 1943, where she was very active in extracurricular activities. Following graduation from high school, Miss Parker attended Reed College at Portland.

In 1945, Miss Parker enlisted in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps, U.S. Public Health Service, and trained as a nurse at the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated 13 June 1948.

Miss Parker joined Pan American World Airways in 1951.

Miss Natalie R. Parker married Rodney Collins Earnest, a building contractor, in Ellsworth, Maine, 21 October 1956. The wedding was officiated by Rev. S. George Bovill of the Congregational Church. They resided in Seattle, Washington. Mrs. Earnest became a founding partner and business manager of the Acorn Academy in Seattle.

³ During a demonstration of the Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major engine (military designation, R-4360) a regular production engine was taken from the assembly line and run for 22 continuous hours at 4,400 horsepower, then checked and run for another hour at 4,850 horsepower. It was then run for 100 hours at 3,000 horsepower, and 50 hours at 3,500 horsepower. When the engine was disassembled for inspection, it remained in serviceable condition.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

26 March 1954

This Convair RB-36H-40-CF Peacemaker Featherweight II, 51-13741, is similar to the B-36H involved in “The Miracle Landing” at Carswell AFB, 26 March 1954. (U.S. Air Force)

Insignia of 7th Bombardment Wing, Heavy26 March 1954: While on a training mission, a Convair B-36H Peacemaker assigned to the 9th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, 7th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, based at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, and under the command of Captain Berry H. Young, suffers a series of failures that endangered the aircraft and its 19-man crew.

All three Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major reciprocating engines on the bomber’s right wing were inoperative. Insufficient electrical power was available to feather the propellers on two of those, increasing the drag on the right wing.

The four GE J47 turbojet engines, placed under the wings in 2-engine pods, could not be started.

With only three of the B-36’s ten engines operating, and all on the left wing, combined with the two unfeathered propellers on the right wing, the giant bomber yawed to the right.

Captain Young declared an emergency and returned to Carswell AFB, setting up a straight-in approach to the runway.

Carswell AFB, Fort Worth, Texas.

Problems with the hydraulic system prevented the airplane’s flaps from being lowered, and required that the landing gear be lowered by hand. Without flaps, the approach speed would have to be higher than normal to prevent the wings from stalling. With only three engines, there was insufficient power to “go around” for another attempt to land.

Following the emergency procedures, the crew was able to lower the landing gear just before the B-36 touched down.

In what has been described as “The Miracle Landing,” Captain Young made a “superior landing” and rolled until it came to a full stop.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported:

Miracle Landing Saves Crewmen, Crippled B-36

     Nimble aircraft maneuvering saved 19 lives and a costly B-36 bomber here Friday.

     While hundreds of anxious airmen looked on, a B-36 landed at Carswell Air Force Base with a squadron of troubles aboard.

     Three engines were out.

     The landing flaps were out of commission.

     But Capt. Berry H. Young, aircraft commander and native Texan, landed the giant bomber safely on Carswell’s runway.

General on Hand

     First to pump Young’s hand was Brig. Gen. John D. Ryan, 19th Air Division commander, who rushed to the airplane as Young stepped to the ground.

     Here are the misfortunes that overtook the plane in sickening quickness just about 1 p.m. Friday:

     The No. 4 engine conked out. Captain Young feathered the prop.

     Seconds later, the No. 5 engine “ran away.” That means the propeller began to revolve at excessive speed.Young was forced to feather that prop, too.

     After a brief breather, the No. 6 engine started cutting out and quit.

     Young tried to start his outboard jets on his right wing. They refused to function.

     He declared an emergency condition and started to return to the base.

     As young neared the field he discovered he couldn’t lower the landing gear. The gear had to be lowered by emergency procedure, which included lowering the wheels by hand.

Superior Landing

     With all this facing him, Young executed what seasoned Carswell observers called a superior landing.

     Captain Young is a native of Dallas. His co-pilot was 1st Lt. Roland J. Reidy of Worcester, Mass. His flight engineer was 1st Lt. William E. Nunnery of San Diego, Cal., second flight engineer was 1st. Lt. John W. Williamson of Cedarville, Ohio.

     General Ryan said the entire crew of the ship behaved in sterling fashion and deserved full credit for saving the lives of those aboard the plane.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Vol. 74, No. 55, Saturday, 27 March 1954, Page 1, Columns 3–5

Captain Young’s crew received the Strategic Air Command’s Crew of the Month Award, and the personal congratulations of General Curtiss E. LeMay.

This Convair RB-36D-5-CF Peacemaker, 49-2686, is similar in appearance to the B-36H involved in “The Miracle Landing,” 26 March 1954.

The Convair B-36H Peacemaker was the definitive version of the ten engine bomber, with 156 B-36H/RB-36H built out of the total production of 383 Peacemakers. It is similar to the previous B-36F variant, though with a second flight engineer’s position, a revised crew compartment, and improved radar controlling the two 20 mm autocannons in the tail turret.

The B-36H was 162 feet, 1 inch (49.403 meters) long with a wingspan of 230 feet (70.104 meters) and overall height of 46 feet, 8 inches (14.224 meters). The total area of its wings was 4,772 square feet (443.3 square meters). The wings’ leading edges were swept aft 15° 5′ 39″. Their angle of incidence was 3°, with -2° twist and 2° dihedral. The empty weight of the B-36H was 165,887pounds (75,245 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 357,500 pounds (162,159 kilograms).

The B-36H has ten engines. There are six air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49 cubic-inch-displacement (71.49 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major C6 (R-4360-53) four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines placed inside the wings in a pusher configuration. These had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and required 115/145 aviation gasoline. The R-4360-53 had a Normal Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. Its Military Power rating was 3,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., and 3,800 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. with water injection—the same for Takeoff. The engines turned three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed, reversible propellers with a diameter of 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-53 is 9 feet, 9.00 inches (2.972 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,040 pounds (1,832.5 kilograms).

Four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines are suspended under the wings in two-engine pods. The J47 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with a 12-stage compressor section, 8 combustion chambers, and single-stage turbine. The J47-GE-19 was modified to run on gasoline and was rated at 5,200 pounds of thrust (23.131 kilonewtons).

The B-36H was the fastest variant of the Peacemaker series, with a cruise speed of 216 knots (249 miles per hour/400 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 382 knots (440 miles per hour/707 kilometers per hour) at 35,500 feet (10,820 meters). The service ceiling was 47,000 feet (14,326 meters) and its combat radius was 3,190 nautical miles (3,671 statute miles/5,908 kilometers). The ferry range was 7,120 nautical miles (8,194 statute miles/13,186 kilometers).

The B-36H has six remotely-controlled retractable gun turrets mounting two M24A1 20 mm autocannon, each, with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun. The tail turret was radar-controlled, and another 2 guns were mounted in the nose.

The B-36 was designed during World War II, when nuclear weapons were unknown to the manufacturer. The bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs in fours bomb bays. It could carry two 43,000 pound ( kilogram) T-12 Cloudmakers, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb, or several Mk.15 thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 25-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

26 March 1940

Curtiss-Wright CW-20T, NX19436, s/n 101.

26 March 1940: At Lambert–St. Louis Municipal Airport, just to the west of the Mississippi River in the state of Missouri, test pilots Edmund Turney Allen and Dean Cullen Smith took the prototype Curtiss-Wright CW-20T, NX19436, for its first flight.


Curtiss-Wright Substratosphere Plane Works Smoothly in Takeoff


Associated Press Aviation Editor.

     ST. LOUIS, March 27.—The world’s first bi-motored transport plane designed and powered to eliminate the hazard attending the failure of one engine on takeoff was made ready for two months or more of flight-testing today before being offered to commercial airlines.

     The 19-ton, 36-passenger Curtiss-Wright substratosphere transport was engineered to permit one engine to go dead at any point on the take-off as a pilot climbs for altitude and still maintain safe flight.

     Each of its engines produces 1700 horsepower. The largest engines ever to be fitted to a transport plane heretofore have been of 1500 horsepower. Either one of the new transport’s engines will carry it to an altitude of 13,000 feet.

     Fastened to the 108-foot wing with rubber cushions to produce what Curtiss-Wright engineers described as “dynamic balance,” the engines transmit only about 50 per cent of the normal vibration to the cabin of the plane.

     C, s/n 101. W. France, vice president and general manager of the St. Louis airplane division of the company, yesterday witnessed the maiden take-off of the transport from the ground. Then he climbed to the control tower of the St. Louis municipal airport for an innovation in airplane testing.

     France called the test pilot, Eddie Allen of Seattle, on the tower radiophone.

     Dean Smith, co-pilot, answered.

     “Dean,” he said, “that looked grand. Congratulations.”

     “O. K.,” replied Smith, “I’ll tell Eddie.”

     A little later Allen brought the huge plane into a smooth landing. He remarked that the plane had flown 190 miles an hour on only 30 per cent of its power. Transports usually cruise at 50 to 55 per cent.

     The additional testing will be for an approved type certificate from the government.

Buffalo Evening News, Vol. CXIX, No. 142, Wednesday, 27 March 1940, Page 18, Column 3

Curtiss-Wright CW-20T NX19436, s/n 101.

The Curtiss-Wright CW-20T, NX19436, (manufacturer’s serial number 101) was a prototype twin-engine commercial airliner designed by George Augustus Page, Jr. Originally built with a twin-tail configuration, flight testing resulted in a change to a single, large vertical fin and rudder. Designed to be pressurized, the fuselage had a Figure 8 cross section, with the cabin floor at the narrowest point for increased strength. In this prototype, the fuselage was faired over to provide a smooth, more cylindrical shape. Considerable wind tunnel testing had been performed by CalTech in Pasadena, California, resulting in a very sleek nose section.

Curtiss-Wright CW-20T NX19436, after modification to a single tail configuration, photographed at Midway Airport, Chicago, 19 May 1941. (Midway Airport)

On 20 June 1941, the United States Army Air Forces ¹ purchased the CW-20T and designated it as the Curtiss C-55, serial number 41-21041. It would become the prototype of the C-46 Commando military transport. The Army Air Forces returned the C-55 to Curtiss-Wright for modifications.

The CW-20T was 76 feet, 4 inches (23.266 meters) long with a wingspan of 108 feet, 0 inches (32.918 meters). It was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 2,603.7-cubic-inch-displacement (42.688 liters) Wright Aeronautical Corporation Cyclone 14 GR2600A5B-5 (R-2600-17A) two-row, 14-cylinder radial  engines, driving three-bladed Curtiss Electric C-533-D controllable-pitch propellers through a 16:9 gear reduction. This engine had a compression ration of 6.9:1 and required 100/130 aviation gasoline. It was rated at 1,500 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 1,700 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. It was 5 feet, 3.1 inches (1.603 meters) long, 4 feet, 6.26 inches (1.378 meters) in diameter and weighed 1,980 pounds (898 kilograms). Only four of these engines were built.

Curtiss-Wright CW-20T NX19346, at right, with a CW-21B prototype, NX19441.

NX14936 was sold to the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in September 1941 and registered in the United Kingdom as G-AGDI. The airline named it St. Louis. It was converted to a 24-passenger configuration with long-range fuel tanks. It frequently flew between Lisbon, Gibraltar and Malta. The airplane was scrapped 29 October 1943.

British Overseas Airways Corporation Curtiss-Wright CW-20T, G-AGDI, “St. Louis,” at Gibraltar, circa 1942. (Imperial War Museum)

After the necessary redesign, which included a large cargo door and strengthened floor, and the substitution of 2,000 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 engines for the Wright Cyclone 14s of the C-55, the Army Air Forces ordered the airplane into production as the C-46A-CU Commando. An order was placed for 200 aircraft. The U.S. Navy placed 160 in service as the R5C-1. Curtiss-Wright built the C-46 at St. Louis and Buffalo, New York. The first, 41-5159, was delivered 13 July 1942. More than 3,000 C-46s were built in nearly 30 variants. Two C-46A-1-HI Commandos were built by Higgins Aircraft at Michoud, Louisiana.

Like the CW-20T, the C-46A/R5C-1 was also 76 feet, 4 inches (23.266 meters) long with a wingspan of 108 feet, 0 inches (32.918 meters) and overall height of 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). The wing area was 1,360 square feet (126.35 square meters). It had an empty weight of 30,241 pounds (13,717 kilograms) and maximum take off weight of 52,000 pounds (23,586 kilograms). The maximum payload was 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms). The maximum package size was 7 feet, 6 inches × 5 feet × 6 feet, 8 inches (2.286 × 1.524 × 2.032 meters).

The C-46A was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter), Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.65:1. They drove three-bladed propellers through a 2:1 gear reduction. These engines had a Normal Power rating of 1,600 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. at 5,700 feet (1,737 meters), or 1,400 horsepower at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). The Military Power rating was 2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. at 1,500 feet (457 meters), or 1,600 horsepower at 13,500 feet (4,115 meters). Takeoff power was 2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. The R-2600-51 was 6 feet, 3.72 inches (1.923  meters) long, 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.335 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms). All R-2600-51s were built by the Ford Motor Company.

The C-46A had a maximum speed of 233 knots (268 miles per hour/432 kilometers per hour) at 16,100 feet (4,907 meters). Its service ceiling was 20,600 feet (6,279 meters). With a fuel capacity of 3,000 gallons (11,356 liters), the maximum range was 1,960 nautical miles (2,256 statute miles/3,630 kilometers) at 121 knots (139 miles per hour/224 kilometers per hour).

During World War II, the C-46 famously flew “The Hump,” from bases in Burma, over the Himalaya Mountains, and into China.

The first Curtiss-Wright C-46A-CU Commando, 41-5159, circa 1942. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) became the United Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes