Daily Archives: April 7, 2024

7 April 1967

SA 340 F-WOFH (Airbus Helicopters)
Jean Boulet hovers the prototype Sud-Aviation SA 340 Gazelle, 340.001, F-WOFH, at Marignane, France, 7 April 1967. (Airbus Helicopters)

7 April 1967: The prototype Sud-Aviation SA 340 Gazelle, c/n 340.001, F-WOFH, made its first flight at Marseille–Marignane Airport with test pilot Jean Boulet. The SA 340 was a five-place, light turboshaft-powered helicopter, flown by a single pilot. It was intended as a replacement for the SA 313B/318C Alouette II and SA 316/319 Alouette III.

The prototype used the engine, drive train, tail rotor and landing skids of an Alouette II, and a new three-bladed, composite, semi-rigid main rotor, based on the four-bladed rigid rotor of the Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB) Bo-105.

Sud-Aviation test pilot Jean Boulet in the cockpit of the SA 349, an experimental variant of the SA 340 Gazelle.
Sud-Aviation test pilot Jean Boulet in the cockpit of the SA 349, an experimental modification of the prototype SA 340 Gazelle, 340.001. (Airbus Helicopters)

Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du sud-ouest (Sud-Aviation) was a French government-owned aircraft manufacturer, resulting from the merger of Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du sud-est (SNCASE) and Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du sud-ouest (SNCASO) in 1957. In 1970, following another merger, the company would become Société nationale industrielle aérospatiale, or SNIAS, better known as Aérospatiale. This company combined several other manufacturers such as Matra and Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm to become Eurocopter, then EADS. It is now Airbus Helicopters.

The SA 340 was powered by a Turboméca Astazou IIN turboshaft which turns 42,500 r.p.m. (± 200 r.p.m.). The output shaft speed is reduced through a 7.34728:1 gear reduction.  The engine rated at 353 kW (473 shaft horsepower) continuous, or 390 kW (523 shaft horsepower) for takeoff. It is temperature-limited to 500 °C. for continuous operation, or 525 °C. for takeoff.

The main rotor assembly, mast, transmission and Turbomeca Astazou engine of the prototype SA 340 Gazelle. (Airbus Helicopters)
The main rotor assembly, mast, swash plate and pitch control links, transmission, main driveshaft and Turboméca Astazou turboshaft engine of the prototype Sud-Aviation SA 340 Gazelle, F-WOFH. (Airbus Helicopters)

F-WOFH was used to test the new fenestron anti-torque system. The conventional tail rotor was replaced with a smaller 13-bladed ducted fan contained within a large vertical fin. The fenestron had several advantages: It was safer, as it was protected from ground strikes or from ground personnel walking into it. It was more effective in producing thrust for anti-torque, though it required more engine power at a hover. It reduced the aerodynamic drag of the helicopter in forward flight, and was not subject to large displacements resulting from dissymmetry of lift. The large fin was cambered and relieved the anti-torque system during forward flight. This meant that the  helicopter could be flown following an anti-torque failure, rather than requiring an immediate emergency autorotation.

Sud-Aviation fenestron on an early production SA 341 Gazelle, c/n 1006, F-WTNV
Sud-Aviation fenestron on an early production SA 341 Gazelle, c/n 1006, F-WTNV. (Airbus Helicopters)

The Aérospatiale SA 341 Gazelle entered production in 1971, as both a military and civil helicopter. The aircraft was also produced in England by Westland.

The Gazelle the first helicopter to be certified for instrument flight with a single pilot.

The SA 341 had an overall length, with rotors turning, of 11.972 meters (39 feet, 3.34 inches). The fuselage was 9.533 meters (31 feet, 3.31 inches) long and the top of its fin was 3.192 meters (10 feet, 5.67 inches) high. The three-bladed main rotor was 10,500 meters (34 feet, 5.39 inches) in diameter, and turned clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the left.) The rotor has a normal operating speed of  378 r.p.m., ± 12 r.p.m. (310–430 r.p.m. in autorotation. The 13-blade fenestron is enclosed in a duct in the vertical fin. The rotor has a diameter of 0.695 meters (2 feet, 3. 36 inches) and turns counter-clockwise as seen from the left. (The advancing blades are above the axis of rotation.)

The helicopter’s certified maximum gross weight is 1,800 kilograms, or 3,970 pounds.

Aérospatiale SA 341 Gazelle three-view illustration with dimensions. (Aérospatiale)

The Gazelle is powered by a Turboméca Astazou III.

Teh SA 341 has a maximum speed (Vne ) of 310 kilometers per hour (168 knots ) at Sea Level, making it the fastest light helicopter produced at the time. The helicopter is limited to a pressure altitude of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). It can operate in temperatures from -50  to +45 °C. (-58 to 113 °F.)

Approximately 1,775 Gazelles were built between 1967 and 1996, when production ended.

Sud-Aviation SA 340.001, F-WOFH. (Airbus Helicopters)
Sud-Aviation SA 340.001, F-WOFH. (Airbus Helicopters)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

6–7 April 1966

Test pilot Bob Ferry in teh cockpit of YOH-61 62-4213, with engineer Dick Lofland, before the non-stop coast-to-coast flight. (Hughes Aircraft)
Test pilot Bob Ferry in the cockpit of Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213, with engineer Dick Lofland, before the non-stop coast-to-coast flight. (Hughes Aircraft)

6–7 April 1966: Chief Test Pilot Robert G. Ferry of Hughes Tool Company’s Aircraft Division flies the number three prototype YOH-6A, 62-4213, from the company airport at Culver City, California, non-stop to Ormond Beach, Florida, a distance of 3,561.55 kilometers (2,213.04 miles). Bob Ferry set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance Without Landing.¹ All three 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)

Bob Ferry took off at the Hughes Airport at Culver City (just north of LAX) at 2:20 p.m., Pacific Time. The aircraft twas so heavily loaded with fuel that the test pilot exceeded the engine’s torque limit by 21% just to get airborne. When he established a climb he reduced the power to “red line.” During the entire flight he kept the engine at 105% N2 (a 2% overspeed). He landed after 15 hours, 8 minutes of flight.

On 26 March 1966, Allison Engine Company test pilot Jack Schweibold flew the same YOH-6A  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).² One week earlier, 20 March, Jack Zimmerman had set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing of 1,700.12 kilometers (1,056.41 miles).³ Fifty-one years later, these four World Records also still stand.

Robert George Ferry was born 29 November 1923 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, the second child of Lucius M. and Charlotte E. Ferry. He developed an interest in aviation during his teen years. Ferry earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern University. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 and graduated from flight training at Luke Filed, Arizona, in 1945.

Ferry trained as a helicopter pilot at San Marcos Army Air Field, Texas, flying Sikorsky R-5 and R-6 helicopters. After graduation Lieutenant Ferry was assigned to Panama.

In 1947, Robert Ferry married Miss Marti Holt of Austin, Texas. They remained together for 62 years.

Bob Ferry flew 90 combat missions in helicopters during the Korean War. In 1954, he was accepted to the U.S. Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School, Class 54C, at Edwards Air Force Base. (One of Ferry’s classmates was future X-15 pilot, Robert M. White.)

Assigned as a test pilot Bob Ferry flew the McDonnell XV-1 Convertiplane compound helicopter with pressure jet rotor drive and the Bell XV-3, an experimental “tiltrotor.” On 6 January 1959, he completed the conversion from helicopter to airplane mode. He also flew the Hughes XV-9A, an experimental high-speed helicopter, which also used tip jets to drive the rotor. After six years as a test pilot at Edwards, Ferry was assigned to duties in Germany. He retired from the Air Force in 1964 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Robert G. Ferry, Chieft Test Pilot, Hughes helicopters.
Robert G. Ferry, Chief Test Pilot, Hughes Helicopters. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

In 1966, Robert Ferry became chief test pilot at the Hughes Tool Company Aircraft Division at Culver City, California. He tested the OH-6A light observation helicopter and the AH-64 Apache at the Hughes facility at Palomar Airport in north San Diego County. During this time Ferry earned a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of San Diego.

Bob Ferry retired from Hughes Helicopters after 18 years. He had flown approximately 10,800 hours in 125 different aircraft. About 8,000 hours were in helicopters. He had been awarded the Iven C. Kincheloe Award for 1959 by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the Igor I. Sikorsky International Trophy for his transcontinental record flight, and the 1967 Frederick L. Feinberg Award by the American Helicopter Society.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Ferry, United States Air Force (Retired) died at his home in San Marcos, California, 15 January 2009 at the age of 85 years.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4211 in its configuration during the three-way LOH competitive testing. (U.S. Army)
Hughes YOH-6A 62-4211, the first prototype, in its configuration during the three-way LOH competitive testing. (U.S. Army)

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 hub and were flexible enough to allow 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 above the axis of rotation.)

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.

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 784, 785 and 11655.

² FAI Record File Numbers 786, 787 and 11656.

³ FAI Record File Number 762.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

7 April 1961

Boeing B-52B-30-BO Stratofortress 53-380. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52B-30-BO Stratofortress 53-380. (U.S. Air Force)

7 April 1961: Boeing B-52B-30-BO Stratofortress 53-380, assigned to the 95th Bombardment Wing and named Ciudad Juarez, departed Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, Texas on a training mission. The aircraft commander was Captain Donald C. Blodgett.

The flight took Ciudad Juarez over New Mexico where they were intercepted by a flight of two North American F-100A Super Sabres of the New Mexico Air National Guard, also on a training flight.

A North American Aviation F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre, 52-5756, assigned to the New Mexico Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)

Captain Dale Dodd and 1st Lieutenant James W. van Scyoc had departed Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Each of their Super Sabres were armed with two GAR-8 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (later redesignated AIM-9B Sidewinder). Their assignment was to practice ground-controlled intercepts of the B-52.

Each F-100 made five passes at the B-52, flying at 34,000 feet (10,363 meters) over central New Mexico. Their Sidewinder infrared-seeking sensors would lock on to the heat of the B-52’s engines and give an audible signal to the fighter pilot that the target had been acquired. Safety precautions required that a circuit breaker be pulled and a firing switch be left in the off position. Before each pass, ground controllers had the pilots verify that the missiles were safed.

Flight of four North American F-100A Super Sabres of the 188th FIS, NMANG. (New Mexico Air National Guard)
Flight of four North American F-100A Super Sabres of the 188th FIS, NMANG. (New Mexico Air National Guard)

As the training session came to an end, Lieutenant van Scyoc, flying F-100A-20-NA Super Sabre 53-1662, announced, “OK, Wing, one more run then we’ll go home.” The seeker heads of his Sidewinders locked on to the B-52, but then one of the missiles fired.

Van Scyoc radioed, “Look out! One of my missiles is loose!” Captain Blodgett heard the warning, but before he could begin evasive maneuvering, the Sidewinder impacted the inboard engine nacelle under the bomber’s left wing, blowing the wing completely off. The B-52 immediately rolled over and went into a spin. 52-380 disappeared into the clouds 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) below.

The co-pilot of Ciudad Juarez, Captain Ray C. Obel, immediately ejected. His ejection seat was thrown through a hatch opening in the cockpit ceiling. Because of the high altitude, this sudden opening in the fuselage resulted in explosive decompression. The crew chief, Staff Sergeant Manuel A. Mieras, had been standing on a crew ladder behind the pilots which led to the lower deck where the navigator and bombardier were located. Sergeant Mieras was sucked up through the hatch. His left leg was so badly injured that it later had to amputated.

When 53-380 was assigned to the 95th Bombardment Wing, it was named Ciudad Juarez. (Unattributed)
When 53-380 was assigned to the 95th Bombardment Wing, it was named Ciudad Juarez. (Unattributed)

Captain Blodgett was pinned against the cockpit side by the g forces of the rapidly spinning bomber. He later reported:

I heard van Scyoc call “Look out! My missile’s fired.” We were on autopilot and I grabbed the controls just as the missile hit. There was a tremendous shudder and the aircraft banked left steeply. Electrical equipment in the right side of the cockpit caught fire. My copilot ejected with the aircraft in a 90° bank and in all the confusion I didn’t realize he had gone. I tried to reach the alarm bell control between the two seats to order the crew to bail out, while holding the controls with my left hand to maintain full right aileron and rudder. I didn’t realize the wing had gone and the aircraft wasn’t responding at all; it began to spin down into the clouds and I still wasn’t sure that I had hit the alarm. Later, my crew chief said he had seen the red light flashing as he sat on the steps to the lower cabin. With g-forces building up tremendously, pinning me to my seat I could not raise my right hand from its position near the bail-out alarm but could move it sideways to the ejection handle. The hatch fired and the seat threw me up fifty feet with the B-52 at 600 knots. The slipstream tore off my helmet as I left the aircraft. There was another explosion and I went through a ball of fire — it felt like being in an oven. Immediately after that I went through a “bath” of JP-4 fuel as the fuel tanks had broken up in this second explosion. At least this put out the fire but now I was soaking wet with fuel and still on the ejection seat. Assuming a seat malfunction (they told me afterwards I was holding on to it) I reached out to unfasten the lap belt when suddenly I flew out of the seat. However, the inter-phone cord wrapped around my leg so now I was going down through the clouds with a 650 pound seat hooked to my leg. I thought it would rip my leg off and I managed to claw the cord free. By now I was falling in a cloud of debris — and a blizzard. I released my survival gear pack, which also automatically released the survival raft. This was suspended about 40 feet below me and, with all the updrafts in the clouds due to the bad weather it acted like a sail, pulling me round in a 180° arc. I thought, ‘If I hit the ground sideways, this is it!’ I couldn’t get to my knife to cut it free but I soon got out of the turbulence and began to fall straight. 

When I ejected, my left arm hit the hatch putting a big gash in it. The blood was pouring out of this and I was holding this with my right hand, trying to stop the bleeding. Suddenly I saw something white and I hit the ground in a downswing of the parachute and a 30 knot wind. It felt like jumping off a two-story building. I hit so hard that everything in my survival kit: the radio, mirrors, etc., was broken apart from the survival rifle. My original intentions were to get the radio going and tell that fighter pilot what I thought of him. . . .

Aviation Safety Network, https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=48341

Ciudad Juarez impacted on Mount Taylor, an 11,305 foot (3,446 meter) stratovolcano northeast of Grants, New Mexico, and left a crater 75 feet (23 meters) deep. Captain Peter J. Gineris, navigator, Captain Stephen C. Carter, bombardier, and 1st Lieutenant Glenn V. Blair, electronic countermeasures, did not escape.

Captain Blodgett suffered a fractured pelvis, Captain Obel, a broken back. The tail gunner, Staff Sergeant Ray A. Singleton, was badly burned.

Sergeant Singleton located Captain Blodgett and they were both rescued by helicopter later that day. It would be two days before Captain Obel and Sergeant Mieras were located.

An investigation determined that moisture condensation inside a worn electrical plug had caused a short circuit which fired the Sidewinder. Lieutenant van Scyoc was completely exonerated of any blame for the accident.

AIM-9B Sidewinder infrared-seeking air-to-air missile. (Petey21)
AIM-9B Sidewinder infrared-seeking air-to-air missile. (Petey21)

The AIM-9B Sidewinder was the first production version of the Raytheon Sidewinder 1A. It was 9 feet, 3.5 inches (2.832 meters) long with a diameter of 5 inches (12.7 centimeters). The span of the fins was 1 foot, 10 inches (55.9 centimeters). The AIM-9B weighed 155 pounds (70.3 kilograms). The missile was powered by a Thiokol Mk. 17 rocket engine which produced 4,000 pounds of thrust for 2.2 seconds. It could achieve a speed of Mach 1.7 over its launch speed, or about Mach 2.5. The maximum range was 2.9 miles (4.82 kilometers). It carried a 10 pound (4.54 kilogram) blast fragmentation warhead with an infrared detonator. The lethal range was approximately 30 feet (9.1 meters).

The Sidewinder is named after a species of rattlesnake, Crotalus cerastes, a pit viper common in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The snake uses a heat-sensing organ on top of its head to hunt.

Mount Taylor, near Grants, New Mexico. 11,305 feet (3,664 meters).
Mount Taylor, near Grants, New Mexico. 11,305 feet (3,664 meters).

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Medal of Honor, First Lieutenant James Elms Swett, United States Marine Corps Reserve

First Lieutenant James Elms Swett, United States Marine Corps Reserve. (U.S. Naval Institute)

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as a division leader in Marine Fighting Squadron TWO TWENTY-ONE in action against enemy Japanese aerial forces in the Solomon Islands Area, April 7, 1943. In a daring flight to intercept a wave of 150 Japanese planes, First Lieutenant Swett unhesitatingly hurled his four-plane division into action against a formation of fifteen enemy bombers and during his dive personally exploded three hostile planes in mid-air with accurate and deadly fire. Although separated from his division while clearing the heavy concentration of anti-aircraft fire, he boldly attacked six enemy bombers, engaged the first four in turn, and unaided, shot them down in flames. Exhausting his ammunition as he closed the fifth Japanese bomber, he relentlessly drove his attack against terrific opposition which partially disabled his engine, shattered the windscreen and slashed his face. In spite of this, he brought his battered plane down with skillful precision in the water off Tulagi without further injury. The superb airmanship and tenacious fighting spirit which enabled First Lieutenant Swett to destroy eight enemy bombers in a single flight were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


James Elms Swett was born at Seattle, Washington, 15 June 1920, the first of three children of George Elms Swett, an electrical engineer and U.S. Marine Corps reservist, and Nellie Emily Burns Swett. He grew up in San Mateo, California, where he attended San Mateo High School and the College of San Mateo. While in college, Swett learned to fly through the Civilian Pilot Training Program.

Swett enlisted in the United States Navy as a Seaman 2nd Class, 26 August 1941. He had brown hair and blue eyes, was 5 feet, 11 inches (1.803 meters) tall and weighed 154 pounds (69.9 kilograms). Seaman Swett was assigned to flight training as an Aviation Cadet at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. While in training, Sweet elected to serve as a U.S. Marine Corps officer. On completion of flight training, James Swett was awarded the gold wings of a Naval Aviator and commissioned a Second Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps Reserve, 1 April 1942. He was then sent to MCAS Quantico at Quantico, Virginia, for advanced training.

In July 1942, 2nd Lieutenant Swett was placed under arrest for a period of ten days for “diving and zooming over traffic” below 500 feet (152 meters), along U.S. Route 1. He was then transferred to an air station in Florida.

Swett was next assigned to Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221), Marine Air Group 21 (MAG-21), 1st Marine Air Wing, Fleet Marine Force. In March 1943, the squadron deployed from Hawaii to the South Pacific aboard the Bogue-class escort carrier USS Nassau (CVE-16), arriving at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, in late March. VMF-221 then flew on to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands.

Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, 1943.

On the morning of 7 April 1943, Lieutenant Swett led a four-plane flight of Wildcats on a patrol, then returned to refuel at Henderson Field. While his fighter, Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, Bu. No. 12084, was being serviced, word came of a large group of enemy aircraft approaching from the north. Swett and his flight joined a number of other fighters to intercept the attacking enemy aircraft.

Near the Russell Islands, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Guadalcanal, the American fighters came in contact with an estimated 150 enemy aircraft. Swett, in combat for the first time, quickly engaged three Aichi D3A Type 99 (American reporting name, “Val”) dive bombers. He shot them down. Becoming separated from his flight, he continued to engage the enemy, shooting down several more. His right wing was damaged by American anti-aircraft guns, but he continued. Having shot down seven Vals, he engaged an eighth. The Val’s gunner fired his two 7.7 mm machine guns in defense. By this time, Swett was running out of ammunition, but his final bullets killed the enemy gunner and set the Aichi on fire. Machine gun bullets fired from the Val damaged his windshield, punctured an engine oil cooler and set the Wildcat on fire.

Aichi D3A Type 99 dive bomber, Allied reporting name, “Val”. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Photo Archives)

Unable to make it back to Henderson, Swett ditched in the ocean near Tulagi. The airplane quickly sank. It was about 25 feet (7 meters) down before Swett was able to escape from the Wildcat’s cockpit. He was picked up by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat. Lieutenant Swett was listed as wounded in action.

During only fifteen minutes, 2nd Lieutenant Swett destroyed seven enemy aircraft and damaged an eighth.¹ He had become an “Ace in One Day.”

This Grumman F4F Wildcat on the sea floor near Tulagi may be Lieutenant Swett’s F4F-4, Bu. No. 12084. (Dive PlanIt)

Swett was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and transitioned to the Chance Vought F4U-1 Corsair. He shot down four Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” twin-engine medium bombers and an A6M Zero, before being shot down again near New Georgia, 10 July 1943. He returned to combat in October, shot down two more Val dive bombers and a Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien Type 3 fighter, known to Allied forces as “Tony.”

During a ceremony held at Espiritu Santo, 10 October 1943, Major General Ralph Johnson Mitchell, commanding the 1st Marine Air Wing, presented First Lieutenant James Elms Swett, United States Marine Corps Reserve, the Medal of Honor.

In 1944, Captain Swett was returned to the United States, and was training with VMF-221 at MCAS Santa Barbara, California. He would meet President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House during the Spring.

Oakland Tribune, Vol. CXL, No. 20, Thursday, 20 January 1944, Page 14, Columns 5–7

Captain Swett married Miss Lois Aileen Anderson 22 January 1944 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Burlingame, California. They would later have two sons, both of whom would go on to become Marine Corps officers.

After retraining in Southern California, VMF-221 returned to the War, assigned to the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) in the western Pacific.

Chance Vought F4U-1D Corsair aboard USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), 6 May 1945. (U.S. Navy)

On the morning of 11 May 1945, Captain Swett was flying a combat air patrol in an F4U-1D Corsair, when the fleet was attacked by kamikaze suicide aircraft. Swett shot down a Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (“Judy”) dive bomber.

During this attack, Bunker Hill was hit by two successive kamikazes and suffered catastrophic damage. 346 men were killed in action, 43 missing in action and 264 wounded. The carrier would survive, but was out of action for the remainder of the war.

Unable to land aboard their carrier, Captain Swett organized the airplanes still airborne and led them to USS Enterprise (CV-6).

30 seconds after the first, a second Mitsubishi A6M Zero crashes into USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), 1005 hours, 11 May 1945. (U.S. Navy)

During World War II, Major Swett flew 103 combat missions. He is officially credited with 15.5 aerial victories.

Following World War II, Major Swett remained in the Marine Corps Reserve. In 1949, he took command of Marine Fighting Squadron 141 (VMF-141) at NAS Oakland. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War, but was not sent to the war zone.

James Swett rose to the rank of Colonel. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1970.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, during his career in the Marine Corps, Colonel Swett was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with gold star (2 awards); Purple Heart with gold star (2 awards); Air Medal with 4 gold stars (5 awards); Navy Combat Action Ribbon; Presidential Unit Citation with 2 bronze stars (3 awards); Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 gold star and 1 silver star (6 campaigns); World War II Victory medal; and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with silver hourglass device (20 years of service).

Colonel James Elms Swett, United States Marine Corps Reserve (Retired), died at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, 18 January 2009, at the age of 88 years. He was buried at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery, Igo, California.

Major James E. Swett, United States Marine Corps Reserve

The Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat was a single-engine, single place mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear, designed for operations from United States Navy aircraft carriers. The wings could be fold alongside the fuselage for storage.

The F4F-4 was 28 feet, 10-5/8 inches (8.804 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.582 meters) and height of 12 feet, 1-3/8 inches (3.693 meters). The Wildcat’s wing had 0° angle of incidence. The fixed, inner wing has 0° dihedral, while the outer wing panels have 5° dihedral. There is no sweep. The width of the airplane with its wings folded was 14 feet, 6 inches (4.420 meters). The fighter’s empty weight was 5,895 pounds (2,674 kilograms), and the gross weight, 7,975 pounds (3,618 kilograms).

Grumman F4F Wildcat, circa 1942-1943. (U.S. Navy)

The F4F-4 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.399-cubic-inch-displacement (29.98 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin WaspSSC7-G (R-1830-86) two-row, fourteen cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-86 was rated at 1,100 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 3,500 feet (1,067 meters), 1,000 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 19,000 feet (5,791 meters), and 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff, burning 100-octane gasoline. The engine drove a three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller with a diameter of 9 feet, 9 inches (2.972 meters) through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-86 was 5 feet, 7.44 inches (1.713 meters) long, 44 feet, 0.19 inches (1.224 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,560 pounds (708 kilograms).

The F4F-4 Wildcat had a maximum speed 275.0 miles per hour (442.6 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 318.0 miles per hour (511.8 kilometers per hour) at 19,400 feet (5,913 meters). Its service ceiling was 34,800 feet (10,607 meters), and it had a maximum range of 765 miles (1,231 kilometers).

The F4F-4 was armed with six air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted in the wings with 1,440 rounds of ammunition.

Between February 1940 and August 1945, 7,898 Wildcats were produced by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, New York, and General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division at Linden, New Jersey.

Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat. (U.S. Navy)

¹ Various reliable sources give different values for the number of enemy aircraft shot down by 2nd Lieutenant Swett on 7 May 1943, with the most common being five. Swett claimed eight destroyed, and this is reflected in his Medal of Honor citation. The intelligence officer who investigated determined that his claims were valid. The USMC History Division credits seven enemy aircraft destroyed: “Colonel James Elms Swett, of San Mateo, California, earned the Medal of Honor in World War II for shooting down seven Japanese bombers within 15 minutes.”

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

7 April 1924

Major de Infanteria aviador António Jacinto da Silva Brito Pais and tenente de Engenharia José Manuel Sarmento de Beires, Serviço Aeronáutico Militar.

7 April 1924: At 6:02 a.m., local time, Major de Infanteria aviador António Jacinto da Silva Brito Pais and tenente de Engenharia José Manuel Sarmento de Beires departed Vila Nova Milfontes on the western coast of Portugal, enroute to Macau, the Portuguese colony on the southeast coast of China. This was intended as a step toward an eventual around-the-world flight, a reminder of the Portuguese voyages of discovery of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Bréguet Type 16 Bn. 2, Pátria.

Their route of flight was:

Stage 1: 7 April, Vila Nova Milfontes, Portugal, to Málaga, Andalusia, Spain. 4 hours, 30 minutes (4:30).

Stage 2: 9 April, Málaga to Oran, French Algeria. 2:45.

Stage 3: 12 April, Oran to Tunis, French Tunisia. 6:50.

Stage 4: 14 April, Tunis to Tripoli, Italian Libya. 6:50.

Stage 5: 16 April, Tripoli to Al-Khums, Italian Libya. 4:00.

Stage 6: 18 April, Al-Khums to Benghazi, Italian Libya. 6:18.

Stage 7: 20 April, Benghazi to Cairo, Kingdom of Egypt. 9:15.

Stage 8: 23 April, Cairo to Riyaq, Greater Lebanon. 5:10.

Stage 9: 26 April, Riyaq to Baghdad, Kingdom of Iraq. 6:00.

Stage 10: 27 April, Baghdad to Bushehr, Persia. 6:05.

Stage 11: 2 May, Bushehr to Bandar Abbas, Persia. 4:31.

Stage 12: 3 May, Bandar Abbas to Chabahar, Persia. 3:30.

Stage 13: 4 May, Chabahar to Karachi, Sindh. 6:29.

Stage 14: 7 May, Karachi to N. 26° 13′, E. 72° 58″ (near Pipar Road, Jodhpur, Rajputana). 5:20.

Route of the Lisboa–Macau Raid 1924

On 7 May, Pátria departed Karachi (in what is now Pakistan) at 6:18 a.m., enroute to Agra, British India. During the flight, water used as engine coolant began leaking from the radiator and the engine temperature started to rise, requiring a reduction in power. Eventually, the airplane was unable to maintain altitude and the crew began a gradual descent. Near the village of Pipar Road, they sighted an open field that seemed suitable for landing. Just before touchdown the airplane was caught by a gust of wind and crashed. The crew received only minor injuries, but their airplane was heavily damaged. It was impractical to repair so far from a major city, so it was abandoned.

Brito Pais, Sarmento de Beires and Gouveia walked back to Karachi, where they continued their journey by train.

The wreck of Pátria was eventually shipped back to Portugal. Its Renault 12 Fe V-12 engine is in the collection of the Museo do Ar at Base Aérea de Sintra, Sintra, Portugal.

De Havilland DH.9A Pátria II.

Several weeks later, they acquired another airplane, a 1920 de Havilland DH.9A powered by a Liberty L-12 engine, which they named Pátria II.

Pátria II could carry only two, so Gouveia had to continue by train. In 10 additional stages, Brito Pais and Sarmento de Beires finally arrived at Macau, 20 June 1924, but after overflying the city, crashed inside Chinese territory. The two aviators, again not seriously hurt, had to walk until they reached the British colony of Hong Kong. Their journey covered 16,760 kilometers (10,414 miles) in 117 hours, 41 minutes flight time.

Bréguet Br 16 Bn2 Pátria photographed in Iraq, 26 or 27 April 1924. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The airplane used for the first half of this journey was an Avion Bréguet Type 16 Bn. 2 (also designated Bre. 16 Bn. 2), a military aircraft produced by France. The airplane had been purchased by the government of Portugal for a series of long-range flights based on the recommendation of Brito Pais and Sarmento de Beres, both officers in the Serviço Aeronáutico Militar, Portugal’s military air service. It was built in France by the Société Anonyme des Ateliers d’Aviation Louis Bréguet and shipped, knocked down, to Amadora, near Lisbon, where it was assembled. It made its first flight 22 September 1921.

Brito Pais named the airplane Pátria. The phrase, ESTA É A DITOSA PÁTRIA MINHA AMADA, was painted on both sides of the fuselage. This is a line from a poem, Os Luisíades, written by Luís Vaz de Camõs and published in 1572. Translated, it means, “This is my beloved Homeland.”

In November, the new airplane was seriously damaged in a storm. Repairs were not begun until June 1922. On 28 June 1923, the Bre. 16 crashed, but was again repaired and made its next flight 26 October 1923.

The Bréguet Type 16 Bn. 2 is a single-engine, two-place, three-bay biplane, designed toward the end of World War I as a night bomber. It had fixed, two-wheel landing gear with a tail skid. The Bre. 16 Bn. 2 was 9.550 meters (31 feet, 4 inches) long, with a wingspan of 17.000 meters (55 feet, 9.3 inches), and chord of  2.350 meters (7 feet, 8.5 inches). The wings were of equal span. The upper wing was staggered slightly behind lower wing. Both upper and lower wings are equipped with ailerons. The wings are swept aft approximately 3°. The lower wing has no dihedral, while the upper wing has approximately 3° dihedral.  Wing area is variously reported as 72, 73.5 or 75.50 square meters (775, 791.1 or 812.68 square feet). The bomber had an empty weight of 1,268 kilograms (2,862 pounds) and gross weight of 2,398 kilograms (5,287 pounds). Bréguet informed Brito Pais and Sarmento de Beires that the Type 16’s structure was capable of safely supporting 2,719.5 kilograms (5,995.5 pounds) total weight.

A Renault 12 Fe SOHC V-12 engine in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

The Type 16 was powered by a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 22.089 liter (1,347.973 cubic inch Renault 12 Fe, a 50° single-overhead-cam, direct-drive V-12 engine with 2 valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.0:1. The 12 Fe produced 305 chavel vapeur (301 horsepower) at 1,550 r.p.m., and 312 chavel vapeur (308 horsepower) at 1,600 r.p.m. The engine was 2.057 meters (6 feet, 9 inches) long, 1.124 meters (3 feet, 8.25 inches) wide and 1.372 meters (3 feet, 8.8 inches) high. It weighed 369 kilograms (813.5 pounds).

The Bre. 16 Bn. 2 had a cruise speed of 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour) and maximum speed of 160 kilometers per hour (99 miles per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 4,600 meters (15,092 feet), and normal range was 900 kilometers (559 miles).

Approximately 200 Type 16 airplanes were built.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes