Daily Archives: May 4, 2024

4 May 1967

Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force, winc Commander, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Ratchitani RTAFB.
Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force, Wing Commander, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Rachitani RTAFB. (U.S. Air Force)

4 May 1967: Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force, commanding the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Ubon RTAFB, shot down his second enemy airplane during the Vietnam War.

Colonel Olds had flown Lockheed P-38 Lightning and North American P-51 Mustang fighters during World War II. He is officially credited with shooting down 12 enemy airplanes over Europe and destroying 11.5 on the ground. On 2 January 1967, he had destroyed a MiG-21 near Hanoi, North Vietnam, while flying a McDonnell F-4C Phantom II. He was the first U.S. Air Force fighter ace to shoot down enemy aircraft during both World War II and the Vietnam War.

Colonel Robin Olds and 1st Lieutenant William D, Lefever (standing, left and center) with other pilots of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter wing, Ubob Rachitani RTAFB, 4 May 1967. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Colonel Robin Olds and 1st Lieutenant William D. Lefever (standing, left and center) with other pilots of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Rachitani RTAFB, 4 May 1967. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)

A description of the air battle follows:

On 4 May, the 8th TFW provided two flights of Phantoms for MiGCAP for five F-105 flights of the 355th TFW which were on a strike mission. Col. Olds, 8th Wing commander, led the rear flight, flying with 1st Lt. William D. Lafever. The other F-4 flight was sandwiched midway in the strike force. MiG warnings crackled on Olds’ radio just before his wingman sighted two MiG-21s at 11 o’clock, attacking the last of the Thunderchief flights. Colonel Olds’ account picks up the encounter at this point:

“The MiGs were at my 10 o’clock position and closing on Drill [the F-105 flight] from their 7:30 position. I broke the rear flight into the MiGs, called the F-105s to break, and maneuvered to obtain a missile firing position on one of the MiG-21s. I obtained a boresight lock-on, interlocks in, went full system, kept the pipper on the MiG, and fired two AIM-7s in a ripple. One AIM-7 went ballistic. The other guided but passed behind the MiG and did not detonate. Knowing I was too close for further AIM-7 firing, I maneuvered to obtain AIM-9 firing parameters. The MiG-21 was maneuvering violently and firing position was difficult to achieve. I snapped two AIM-9s at the MiG and did not observe either missile. The MiG then reversed and presented the best parameter yet. I achieved a loud growl, tracked, and fired one AIM-9. From the moment of launch it was obvious that the missile was locked on. It guided straight for the MiG and exploded about 5–10 feet beneath his tailpipe.

Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21PF in markings of the Vietnam People's Air Force, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21 in markings of the Vietnam People’s Air Force at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

“The MiG then went into a series of frantic turns, some of them so violent that the aircraft snap-rolled in the opposite direction. Fire was coming from the tailpipe, but I was not sure whether it was normal afterburner or damage-induced. I fired the remaining AIM-9 at one point, but the shot was down toward the ground and did not discriminate. I followed the MiG as he turned southeast and headed for Phuc Yen. The aircraft ceased maneuvering and went in a straight slant for the airfield. I stayed 2,500 feet behind him and observed brilliant white fire streaming from the left side of his fuselage. It looked like magnesium burning with particles flaking off. I had to break off to the right as I neared Phuc Yen runway at about 2,000 feet, due to heavy, accurate, 85-mm barrage. I lost sight of the MiG at that point. Our number 3 saw the MiG continue in a straight gentle dive and impact approximately 100 yards south of the runway.”

Colonel Olds then took his flight to the target area and covered the last of the 355th TFW strike aircraft as they came off the target. Leading his flight to Hoa Lac airfield and dodging two SAMs on the way, he found five MiG-17s over that airfield.

“We went around with them at altitudes ranging from 1,500 to 6,000 feet, right over the aerodrome,” Olds reported. The F-4s ran low on fuel before any real engagements occurred, however, and were forced to break off the encounter.

— 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 Pages 51–53.

During this mission, Colonel Olds and Lieutenant Lefever flew McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II serial number 63-7668.

Colonel Robin Olds shot down a MiG-21 with an AIM-9 Sidewinder fired from this McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, 63-7668, 4 May 1967. U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Robin Olds shot down a MiG-21 with this McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, 63-7668, 4 May 1967. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

4 May 1949

Fiat G.212CP I-ELCE. (Wikimedia Commons)

4 May 1949: At 5:04 p.m., Central European Time (16:04 UTC), a chartered Avio Linee Italiane Fiat G.212CP airliner, I-ELCE, was descending in very poor weather conditions for landing at the Aeroporto di Torino-Aeritalia (ICAO: LIMA). The flight crew was using a Non-Directional Beacon (NDB) to align itself with the airport’s Runway 28. This beacon provided no vertical course (“glide slope”) guidance.

The airliner crashed into a wall of the Basilica di Superga, located on a 672 meter (2,205 feet) hill east of Turin, and 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the runway. All 31 persons on board, the 4-man crew, and 27 passengers, were killed.

Most of the passengers were members of the Grande Torino football club (soccer, as it is known in the United States).

Wreckage of Fiat G.212CP I-ELCE at the Basilica di Superga, Turin, Italy. (Wikipedia)

I-ELCE was a Fiat G.212CP, serial number 5. The G.212 is an all-metal, three-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. The crew consists of a pilot and co-pilot, a flight engineer and a radio operator. It could carry up to 34 passengers. Originally a military transport, the G.212A, the G.212CP variant was produced as a commercial airliner. There was also a cargo version, the G.212TP.

The G.212CP is 75 feet, 8 inches (23.063 meters) long with a wing span of 96 feet, 3 inches (29.337 meters) and overall height of 26 feet, 8 inches (8.128 meters). It has an empty weight of 24,742 pounds (11,223 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 38,440 pounds (17,436 kilograms).

The G.212CP is powered by three 1,829.4-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1C3-G two-row, 14-cylinder radial engines. These were rated at 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. at Sea Level for takeoff. The maximum continuous rating for normal operation was 1,050 horsepower at 2,550 r.pm., up to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters). Each engine drives a three-bladed constant-speed propeller through a 16:9 gear reduction. The S1C3-G is 48.19 inches (1.224 meters) long, 61.67 inches (1.566 meters) in diameter, and weighs 1,465 pounds (665 kilograms).

The G.212CP has a cruise speed of 160 knots (184 miles per hour/296 kilometers per hour), and maximum speed of 210 knots (242 miles per hour/389 kilometers per hour) at 12,100 feet (3,688 meters). Its service ceiling is 24,600 feet (7,498 meters), and its maximum range is 1,620 nautical miles (1,864 statute miles/3,000 kilometers).

The G.212 was produced from 1947 to 1950. The total number built is variously reported as 19 to 26.

The Basilica di Superga

Thanks to regular This Day in Aviation reader Paolo Nocilli for suggesting this topic.

© 2024, Bryan R. Swopes

4 May 1943

The crew of The 8 Ball Mk II, a Boeing B-17F-27-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 41-24635, 359th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), following an attack against Antwerp, Belgium, 5 April 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
The 8 Ball MkII #41-24635 (359BS) BN∗O
102nd PBCW Lead.  Aircraft Commander/Pilot Captain William R. Calhoun, Jr. / Co-Pilot Lieutenant Colonel William A. Hatcher, commander, 351st Bombardment Group. Left to Right: Staff Sergeant Willam C. Mulgrew, Ball Turret Gunner; Staff Sergeant Richard C. Fortunak, Left Waist Gunner; Technical Sergeant Roman R. Zaorski, Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner; Staff Sergeant Murel A. Murphy, Right Waist Gunner; Captain Robert J. Yonkman, Bombardier; Lieutenant Colonel William A. Hatcher, Co-Pilot; Captain William R. Calhoun, Aircraft Commander/Pilot; 1st Lieutenant Joseph M. Strickland, Navigator; Technical Sergeant Charles R. Terry, Radio Operator; Staff Sergeant Willard W. Stephen, Tail Gunner; Captain Clark Gable, Top Gunner. (U.S. Air Force)

4 May 1943: VIII Bomber Command Mission No. 54 was an attack on the Ford and General Motors assembly plants at Antwerp, Belgium. 79 B-17s of the 1st Bombardment Wing were assigned, with another 33 bombers staging a diversion off the coast. Each B-17 was loaded with five 1,000-pound (453.6-kilogram) high explosive bombs. Between 1839–1843 hours, 65 B-17s had reached the target and dropped 161.5 tons (146.5 metric tons) of bombs from an altitude of 23,500 feet (7,163 meters). Results were considered very good.

Sixteen B-17s were damaged by anti-aircraft artillery and German fighters, with 3 American airmen wounded. Gunners on board the bombers claimed ten enemy fighters destroyed and one damaged. They expended 21,907 rounds of .50-caliber machine gun ammunition. The total duration of the mission was 4 hours, 30 minutes.

The lead ship of a composite group made up from squadrons from the 91st, 303rd and 305th Bombardment Groups, was Boeing B-17F-27-BO Flying Fortress 41-24635. It had been named The 8 Ball Mk. II by its crew, led by Captain William R. Calhoun, Jr. (Captain Calhoun’s first The 8 Ball, 41-24581, had been damaged beyond repair, 20 December 1942.)

The The 8 Ball Mk. II was assigned to the 359th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), at RAF Polebrook (Air Force Station 110), in Northamptonshire, England.

For Mission No. 54, Captain Calhoun was the aircraft commander while Lieutenant Colonel W.A. Hatcher, the newly-assigned commander of the 351st Bombardment Group (Heavy), flew as co-pilot.

Strike photo, General Motors plant, Antwerp, Belgium. (U.S. Air Force)
Strike photo, General Motors plant, Antwerp, Belgium. (U.S. Air Force)

After the mission, Captain Calhoun said, “It was a good mission as far as I am concerned. My bombardier, Captain Robert Yonkman, told me that the bombing was really something.”

Lieutenant Colonel Hatcher said, “It was my second raid and it was a hell of a lot better than the first one which was Bremen. They tell me that the bombing was perfect. I am learning a lot each time.”

The 8 Ball Mk II was slightly damaged on this mission. Navigator 1st Lieutenant Joseph Strickland reported, “A 20 mm shell cut my flying boot almost in half. . . I believe it was as good bombing as we have done. Never saw so many fighters in my life. Both ours and the Germans.”

Captain William C. Calhoun, Jr. and Captain Glark Gable after the mission to Antwerp, 4 May 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain William R. Calhoun, Jr. and Captain Clark Gable after the mission to Antwerp, 4 May 1943. At the age of 24 years, Captain Calhoun was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. The silver oaks leaves, insignia of his new rank, were pinned on by Captain Gable. (U.S. Air Force)

Also on board The 8 Ball Mk II was Captain William Clark Gable, Air Corps, United States Army. After his wife, Carole Lombard, had been killed in an airliner crash, 16 January 1942, the world-famous movie actor enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, intending to become an aerial gunner on a bomber. Soon after enlisting, though, he was sent to Officer Candidate School and after graduating was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Mr. and Mrs. Clark Gable
Mr. and Mrs. Clark Gable

Lieutenant General Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, U.S. Army Air Forces, assigned Lieutenant Gable to make a recruiting film about gunners in combat. Gable was then sent to aerial gunnery school and following that, to photography training. He was placed in command of a 6-man film unit and assigned to the 351st Bombardment Group (Heavy) as they went through training and were sent on to the 8th Air Force England.

Lieutenant Clark Gable with a belt of linked .50-caliber machine gun cartridges.
Lieutenant Clark Gable with a belt of linked .50-caliber machine gun cartridges.

Clark Gable, now a captain, wanted to film aboard a bomber with a highly experienced combat crew, so both he and his group commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hatcher, flew with Captain Calhoun’s crew.

The mission of 4 May 1943 was Gable’s first combat mission. As a qualified gunner he manned a Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

Gable’s recruiting film was completed several months later. It was titled, “Combat America.”

Captain Clark Gable manning a .50-caliber Browing machine gun in the waist of a B-17 bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Clark Gable manning a Browning Machine Gun, Caliber .50, AN-M2, in the waist of a B-17 bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
Poster for Gable's production, "Combat America."
Poster for Gable’s production, “Combat America.”

Colonel William Rodwell Calhoun, Jr., United States Air Force, was born at Birmingham, Alabama, 10 November 1919. He was the son of William R. Calhoun, a proof reader, and Mabel Lee Ferguson Calhoun.  He graduated from Howard University, Birmingham, Alabama (now, Samford University) in 1941 with an A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) degree.

William Calhoun entered the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet at Montgomery, Alabama, 26 August 1941. At that time, Calhoun was 5 feet, 7 inches (170 centimeters) tall and weighed 136 pounds (61.7 kilograms). He trained as a pilot at Brooks Army Airfield, Texas, as a member of Class 41-I. Calhoun completed flight training and was commissioned a second lieutenant, 12 December 1941. He was promoted to first lieutenant, 1 February 1942.

Lieutenant Calhoun was assigned to the 359th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot. He was promoted to captain, 22 September 1942. He and his crew arrived at Station 107 (RAF Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, England) 20 October 1942 aboard their Boeing B-17F-25-BO Flying Fortress, 41-24581, The 8 Ball.

The 8 Ball, Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress 41-24581 (303rdbg.com)
The 8 Ball, Boeing B-17F-25-BO Flying Fortress 41-24581, BN∗O (U.S. Air Force via 303rdbg.com)

Two months later, 20 December 1942, during a bombing mission to Ronilly-sur-Seine, France, The 8 Ball was heavily damaged. Arriving over England, Captain Calhoun ordered the crew to bail out, then he and co-pilot Major Eugene Romig crash landed the bomber at RAF Bovington, Hertfordshire. The airplane was damaged beyond repair.

Captain Calhoun commanded the 359th Bombardment Squadron from 6 March to 22 November 1943. He was promoted to major, 5 June 1943. He was next assigned as Director of Operations and Executive Officer of the 41st Combat Bombardment Wing (Heavy).

Major Calhoun completed his 25-mission combat tour on 19 August 1943. He then volunteered for a second tour. Calhoun was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, 28 December 1943, at the age of 24 years. The silver oak leaves, insignia of his new rank, were pinned on by Captain Gable. His final combat mission of World War II, his 32nd, took place 28 July 1944. He remained at the 41st Bombardment Wing until 23 December 1944.

Major William R. Calhoun checks a repair on his B-17F bomber, The 8 Ball. (Planet News Ltd.)
Major William R. Calhoun checks a repair on his B-17F bomber, The 8 Ball. (Planet News Ltd.)

Following World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Calhoun commanded the 6th Troop Carrier Squadron and the 374th Troop Carrier Group. On 5 December 1948, while flying a Douglas C-54 Skymaster from Okinawa to Spokane, Washington, Calhoun was forced to ditch the airplane in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) southwest of Hawaii, when two of the airplane’s engines failed. 33 of the 37 on board the transport survived. Colonel Calhoun and his crew spent 40 hours in two life rafts before being rescued by the U.S. Navy escort carrier, USS Rendova (CVE-114).

Colonel Calhoun married Dondena Hardin, 17 November 1950. They had two children, but divorced in 1974. Colonel Calhoun married his second wife, Virginia Ruth Smith, 14 May 1983.

Colonel Calhoun served as deputy commander of the 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and commander, 26th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy). He was then assigned as Director of Operations 19th Air Division; Director of Operations Eighth Air Force; and served in the Directorate of Operations, United States Air Force.

Colonel Calhoun was the base commander of Larson Air Force Base, Moses Lake, Washington, and vice commander of the 4170th Strategic Wing. He next commanded the 4128th Strategic Wing, later redesignated the 461st Bombardment Wing (Heavy), at Amarillo, Texas, followed by the 379th Bombardment Wing (Heavy).

Colonel William R. Calhoun, Jr., U.S. Air Force, commanding the 461st Bombardment Wing, circa 1963. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel William R. Calhoun, Jr., U.S. Air Force, commanding the 461st Bombardment Wing (Heavy), circa 1963. (U.S. Air Force)

During his career with the United States Air Force, Colonel Calhoun was awarded the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster (two awards); the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters (four awards); The Air Medal with four oaks leaf clusters (five awards); The Purple Heart; the Presidential Unit Citation; and the Croix de Guerre.

Colonel William R. Calhoun, Jr., United States Air Force, died at Fort Worth, Texas, 20 March 1991 at the age of 72 years. He was buried at Greenwood Memorial Park in Fort Worth.

The bomber flown by Colonel Calhoun 4 May 1943, Boeing B-17F-27-BO Flying Fortress 41-24635, The 8 Ball Mk. II, was scrapped 8 February 1945.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

4 May 1927

Spirit of St. Louis over San Diego, May 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

4 May 1927: Charles A. Lindbergh completes his last series of flight tests of the Ryan NYP, N-X-211, Spirit of St. Louis. Flying at 50 feet (15.2 meters) over San Diego Bay, he times the Spirit‘s flight from marker to marker with a stop watch. The airspeed indicator jumps past 130 miles per hour (209.2 kilometers per hour). He records indicated air speed and engine r.p.m. at various power settings. At 1,500 r.p.m. the Spirit can fly at 96 miles per hour (154.5 kilometers per hour). He makes three runs in each direction to come up with averages.

After the speed runs, Lindbergh flies back to Camp Kearney for load tests. Take-off distances are measured while increasing the fuel load in 50 gallon (189.3 liter) increments.

“Twilight is thickening. We stake the Spirit of St. Louis down and leave it under guard. . . When I get back to the city, I telegraph my partners that the tests are satisfactorily completed. . . .”

The Spirit of St. Louis, by Charles A. Lindbergh, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953, Chapter 37 at Page 128.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

4 May 1924

Étienne Edmond Oehmichen, France, 1924
Étienne Edmond Oehmichen, France, 1924

4 May 1924: At 7:30 a.m., Étienne Edmond Oehmichen (1884–1955), an engineer for Société Anonyme des Automobiles et Cycles Peugeot, flew his four-rotor L’Hélicoptère Nº2 around a triangular closed circuit of approximately 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) at Valentigney, France. The flight took 7 minutes, 40 seconds. It was observed by the public, members of the press and officials of the Service Technique de l’ Aéronautique (S.T.Aé, the French air ministry). For his accomplishment, Oehmichen was awarded a prize of ₣90,000 by the government of France.

FLIGHT reported:

A Fresh Helicopter Record

     M. Oemichen has been continuing his experiments at Valentigny with his helicopter, and on Sunday, May 4, established a record for helicopters by accomplished a flight of more than one kilometre—1,100 yards—in a closed circuit. The flight lasted 7 mins. 40 secs. and during most of the time the machine maintained a height of about 3 feet, but sometimes rose to 10 feet. The flight was officially observed by a representative of the Department of Military Aeronautics. By this performance M. Oemichen wins an award of 90,000 francs given by the French Government.

FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 802 (No. 19, Vol. XVI.) May 8, 1924, Page 267, Column 1

Helicopter No. 2
Oehmichen’s helicopter. (Collection Phillipe Boulay)

The previous month, Oehmichen had set two FAI world rotorcraft records for distance in a straight line. On 14 April 1924, he flew 360 meters (1,181 feet)¹, and on 17 April, 525 meters (1,722 feet).²

On 14 September 1924, he would set two records for altitude, 1 meter (3.28 feet) with a 100 kilogram (220 pounds) and a 200 kilogram (441 pounds) payload.³

L'hélicoptère No. 2
One of the configurations of Oemichen’s helicopter.

Oehmichen’s helicopter (also referred to by some sources as the Peugeot Nº2) was a cross-shaped structure built of metal tubing. Lift was generated by four two-bladed, counter-rotating, main rotors. Two rotors had a diameter of 6.5 meters (21 feet, 4 inches), and the other two, 7.5 meters (24 feet, 7 inches). They all turned at 145 r.p.m. Blade pitch was controlled by warping.

The helicopter had another five rotors positioned in the horizontal plane. Three had a diameter of 1.45 meters (4 feet, 9 inches), and two, 1.55 meters (5 feet, 1 inch). These had reversible pitch were used to provide lateral control. Two variable-pitch pusher propellers with a diameter of 1.40 meters (4 feet, 7 inches) were positioned on each side of the lateral structure, and were driven by belts. The helicopter was steered by another small rotor at the front.

“Ensemble perspectif sçhématique des sustentateurs, propulseurs et évoluers de l’hélicoptère Oemichen-Peogeot Nº 2.”  (L’Aéronautique, 6me Année. Nº 61, Juin 1924, at Page 138)

With the helicopter having an operating weight of approximately 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds), the rotors had a load factor of 33 kilograms per square meter (6.8 pounds per square foot).

L’hélicoptère Nº2 was powered by a single Société des Moteurs Gnome et Rhône Type R nine-cylinder rotary engine placed vertically near the center of the structure.

The Le Rhône Type R, introduced in 1917, was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 15.892 liter (969.786 cubic inches) nine-cylinder overhead valve rotary engine with two valves per cylinder. The Type R produced 170 cheval vapeur (167.7 horsepower) at 1,360 r.p.m. The engine was 0.990 meters (3 feet, 2.9 inches) long, 0.995 meters (3 feet, 3.2 inches) in diameter, and weighed 166 kilograms (366 pounds).

Étienne Oehmichen's Helicopter No. 2
Étienne Oehmichen’s Helicopter No. 2, 4 May 1924.

¹ FAI Record File Number 13093

² FAI Record File Number 13095

³ FAI Record Files 13091 (100 kilograms) and 13092 (200 kilograms)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes