Daily Archives: June 4, 2024

4 June 1996, 12:34:38 UTC, T + 00:00:39

Liftoff of Ariane 5 L501, 4 June 1996. (ESA)

4 June 1996: The first Ariane 5 heavy launch vehicle, L501, was launched from the Ensemble de Lancement Ariane 3 (Ariane Launch Area 3) at the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG), northwest of Kourou, French Guiana, at 12:33:59 UTC, (9:33:59 a.m., local time).

Everything proceeded normally until T + 00:00:36.7. At that time, the backup Inertial Reference System computer failed. 0.05 seconds later, the primary IRS computer also failed.

Having lost its spatial reference, the guidance system began swiveling the engines to correct a perceived attitude change, which, in fact, had not occurred. This caused the rocket to veer off course.

Once the Ariane 5’s angle of attack reached 20°, at T plus 39 seconds, aerodynamic forces caused a structural failure. The two solid rocket boosters broke away. As the rocket began to break apart, the automatic destruct system was activated. L501 exploded at approximately 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the launch pad. Debris fell, covering an area of approximately 5 × 2.5 kilometers (12.5 square kilometers/4.8 square miles).

Explosion of Ariane 5 L501, 4 June 1996 (ESA)


. . . The internal SRI software exception was caused during execution of a data conversion from 64-bit floating point to 16-bit signed integer value. The floating point number which was converted had a value greater than what could be represented by a 16-bit signed integer. This resulted in an Operand Error. The data conversion instructions (in Ada code) were not protected from causing an Operand Error, although other conversions of comparable variables in the same place in the code were protected. . .


The failure of the Ariane 501 was caused by the complete loss of guidance and attitude information 37 seconds after start of the main engine ignition sequence (30 seconds after lift- off). This loss of information was due to specification and design errors in the software of the inertial reference system.

The extensive reviews and tests carried out during the Ariane 5 Development Programme did not include adequate analysis and testing of the inertial reference system or of the complete flight control system, which could have detected the potential failure.

ARIANE 5, Flight 501 Failure, Report of the Inquiry Board, Paris 19 July 1996

When designing the Ariane 5, the same software used in the the Ariane 4 guidance system was used. But the Ariane 5 accelerates in a way that causes horizontal velocity to increase at a rate 5 times that of the Ariane 4. This excessive value could not be processed and the computers shut down.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

4 June 1983

Republic F-105 Thunderchief flyover, 419th TFW, Hill AFB, 4 June 1983
Republic F-105 Thunderchief flyover, 419th TFW, Hill AFB, 4 June 1983. (U.S. Air Force)

4 June 1983: At Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the 419th Tactical Fighter Wing, the last U.S. Air Force unit flying the Republic F-105 Thunderchief supersonic fighter bomber, flew a Diamond of Diamonds 24-ship formation as the “Thud” was was withdrawn from service after 25 years to be replaced by the General Dynamics F-16.

Of 833 Thunderchiefs built by Republic Aviation Corporation, 334 were lost to enemy action during the Vietnam War. Though designed for air-to-ground attack missions, F-105s are officially credited with 27.5 victories in air combat.

Republic F-105D-30-RE Thunderchief 62-4242, 419th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hill AFB, Utah.
Republic F-105D-30-RE Thunderchief 62-4242, 419th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hill AFB, Utah.
Republic F-105F-1-RE Thunderchief 63-8287 at Hill AFB, Utah.
Republic F-105F-1-RE Thunderchief 63-8287, 419th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hill AFB, Utah.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

4 June 1974

(Original Caption) 8/9/1974-New York, NY- Sally D. Murphy, 25, shown here at the controls of the UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, is recognized in the U.S. Army at its first woman aviator and also its first military helicopter pilot. However, she didn’t set out deliberately to pull down barriers against women and their careers or to be a first.

4 June 1974: Second Lieutenant Sally D. Woolfolk, United States Army, graduated from the Rotary Wing Flight School at the Army Aviation School, Fort Rucker, Alabama. She was the first woman to be designated a U.S. Army Aviator.

Sally D. Stonecipher was born January 1949 at Wichita, Kansas. She was the second of two daughters of Major Joseph Dale Stoncipher, U.S. Army, and Margaret Louise Douglass Stonecipher. The family lived in Garmisch, Germany until late 1953.

Sally Stonecipher (Kanza ’69)

Miss Stonecipher attended Shawnee Mission West High School, Overland Park, Kansas, graduating in 1967. She was head cheerleader. She then studied at Kansas State College, Pittsburg, Kansas (now, Pittsburg State University). She was a member of the Alpha Sigma Alpha (ΑΣΑ) sorority, the Panehellenic League, and was also a cheerleader. Sally Stonecipher graduated with a master’s degree in history in December 1972.

She was married to Richard Woolfolk, but soon divorced.

Mrs. Woolfolk joined the United States Army in January 1973. She attended an 11-week course officer’s candidate course at Fort McClellan, Anniston, Alabama, and was commissioned a second lieutenant. Lieutenant Woolfolk was then assigned to a military intelligence course at Fort Huachuca, near Sierra Vista, Arizona, close to the U.S.–Mexico border.

At the suggestion of another student in the intelligence course, Lieutenant Woolfolk applied for helicopter flight training. She was the only woman in her class at Fort Rucker.

Colonel Sally Murphy, U.S. Army.

On 8 June 1974, the Saturday following her graduation, Ms. Woolfolk married Captain Dan Murphy, also an army aviator, at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. They would have a son, Sean Ryan Murphy, who would also become an officer in the United States Army.

Colonel Sally Murphy retired from the United States Army, 1 July 1999, after 27 years of service.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

4 June 1954

Major Arthur Warren "Kit" Murray, U.S. Air Force, with the Bell X-1A at Edwards AFB, 20 July 1954. Major Murray is wearing a David Clark Co. T-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit with a K-1 helmet. (NASA)
Major Arthur Warren “Kit” Murray, U.S. Air Force, with the Bell X-1A at Edwards AFB, 20 July 1954. Major Murray is wearing a David Clark Co. T-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit with a K-1 helmet. (NASA)

4 June 1954: at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Major Arthur W. “Kit” Murray flew the experimental Bell X-1A research rocketplane to an altitude of 89,810 feet (27,374 meters). He flew high enough that the sky darkened and he was able to see the curvature of the Earth. Newspapers called him “America’s first space pilot.”

The X-1A reached Mach 1.97. Encountering the same inertial coupling instability as had Chuck Yeager, 20 November 1953, though at a lower speed, the X-1A tumbled out of control. The rocket plane lost over 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) altitude before Murray could regain control. For this accomplishment, Major Murray was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

One week earlier, 28 May 1954, Murray had flown the X-1A to an unofficial world record altitude of 90,440 feet (27,566 meters).

Arthur Murray, 1936. (The Argus)

Arthur Warren Murray was born at Cresson, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, 26 December 1918. He was the first of two children of Charles Chester Murray, a clerk, and Elsie Espy Murray.

Arthur Murray attended Huntingdon High School, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, graduating 4 June 1936, and then studied Juniata College, also in Huntingdon, 1937–1938.

Arthur Murray, 1938. (The Nineteen Thirty-Seven Alfarata)

Kit Murray enlisted in the Field Artillery, Pennsylvania National Guard, 17 November 1939. (Some sources state that he served in the U.S. Cavalry.) Murray had brown hair and blue eyes, was 5 feet, 10 inches (1.78 meters) tall and weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms). Following the United States’ entry into World War II, Sergeant Murray requested to be trained as a pilot. He was appointed a flight officer (a warrant officer rank), Army of the United States, on 5 December 1942. On 15 October 1943 Flight Officer Murray received a battlefield promotion to the commissioned rank of second lieutenant, A.U.S.

Between 6 January  and 22 October 1943, Murray flew over 50 combat missions in the Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk across North Africa. After about ten months in the Mediterranean Theater, he returned to the United States, assigned as an instructor flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter bomber, stationed at Bradley Field, Hartford, Connecticut.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolts at Bradley Field, Connecticut, 9 September 1944. (U.S. Air Force)

Lieutenant Murray married Miss Elizabeth Anne Strelic, who had immigrated from Czechoslovakia with her family as an infant, at Atlantic City, New Jersey, 29 December 1943. They would have six children, and foster a seventh. They later divorced. (Mrs. Murray died in 1980.)

Lieutenant and Mrs. Arthur W. Murray, 1943. (Murray Family Collection)

Murray was promoted to 1st lieutenant, A.U.S., 8 August 1944. His next assignment was as a maintenance officer. He was sent to Maintenance Engineering School at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois, and from there to the Flight Test School at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.

Murray was the first test pilot to be permanently assigned to Muroc Army Air Field (later, Edwards Air Force Base). Other test pilots, such as Captain Chuck Yeager, were assigned to Wright Field and traveled to Muroc as necessary.

Murray’s A.U.S. commission was converted to first lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army, on 19 June 1947, with date of rank retroactive to 15 October 1946. The U.S. Air Force became a separate military service in 1947, and Lieutenant Murray became an officer in the new service.

Major Arthur Warren (“Kit”) Murray, United States Air Force, with a Northrop F-89 Scorpion interceptor, 1954. (The New York Times)

Murray was involved in testing new Air Force fighters such as the Bell P-59 Airacomet, Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, Republic P-84 Thunderjet, McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo; and the Douglas XB-43 Jetmaster and North American Aviation B-45 Tornado jet bombers. He also flew the experimental aircraft such as the X-1A, X-1B, X-4 and X-5. Murray spent six years at Edwards before going on to other assignments.

Colonel Arthur Warren (“Kit”) Murray, U.S. Air Force.

Later, 1958–1960, Major Murray was the U.S. Air Force project officer for the North American Aviation X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane at Wright Field.

Colonel Murray retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1961. He next worked for Boeing in Seattle, Washington, from 1961 to 1969, and then Bell Helicopter in Texas.

On 4 April 1975, Kit Murray married his second wife, Ms. Ann Tackitt Humphreys, an interior decorator, in Tarrant County, Texas.

Colonel Arthur Warren Murray, United States Air Force (Retired), died at West, Texas, 25 July 2011, at the age of 92 years.

NASA 800, a highly modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress, carries the Bell X-1A to altitude over Edwards AFB. (NASA)
A highly modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress carries the Bell X-1A to altitude over Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

The Bell X-1A was a follow-on project to the earlier X-1. It was designed and built by the Bell Aircraft Corporation at Buffalo, New York, to investigate speeds above Mach 2 and altitudes above 90,000 feet (27,432 meters). It was carried to altitude by a modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress, then dropped for the research flight.

The rocketplane was 35 feet, 7 inches (10.846 meters) long with a wingspan of 28 feet (8.534 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 8 inches (3.251 meters). It had an empty weight of 6,880 pounds (3,120.7 kilograms) and gross weight of 16,487 pounds (7,478.3 kilograms).

The X-1A was powered by a Reaction Motors XLR-11-RM-5 four-chamber rocket engine which produced 6,000 pounds of thrust. It had a maximum speed of Mach 2.44 (Yeager) and reached an altitude of 90,440 feet (27,566.1 meters) (Murray).

Bell X-1A 48-1384. (U.S. Air Force)
Bell X-1A 48-1384. (U.S. Air Force)

The X-1A was destroyed by an internal explosion, 20 July 1955.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

4 June 1942: Carrier vs. Carrier

USS Yorktown (CV-5) immediately after aerial torpedo hit, 4 June 1942. (U.S. Navy)

4 June 1942: The Battle of Midway: By the afternoon American planes had heavily damaged three Japanese Aircraft carriers. They would later sink. Planes from the fourth carrier, IJN Hiryu, were launched to attack the American aircraft carriers.

USS Yorktown (CV-5) was hit by two aerial torpedoes from Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers. She listed sharply, lost power and was out of action. She would later be sunk by the Japanese submarine I-168. Hiryu was attacked by U.S. Navy SBD Dauntless dive bombers and was badly damaged, set on fire, and sank later in the day.

The Battle of Midway was not over. It would go on until 7 June. However, the outcome was clear. Midway was a decisive American victory.

The Americans lost 1 aircraft carrier and 1 destroyer, about 150 aircraft, with 307 soldiers, sailors and airmen killed. The island outpost was saved and would never again be seriously threatened.

The Imperial Japanese Navy lost 4 aircraft carriers and one cruiser, with other warships, including battleships, so heavily damaged that they were out of the war for some time. Also lost were 248 aircraft and 3,057 sailors and airmen killed.

For the rest of the War, the Japanese Navy suffered from the loss of these highly experienced naval aviators. Though they could replace the men, they could not replace their years of combat experience. From this point forward, the Empire of Japan was on the defensive with its defeat inevitable.

The Battle of Midway was the most decisive naval battle in history. It was fought almost entirely by aircraft.

IJN Hiryu heavily damaged and on fire, shortly before sinking, 4 June 1942 (IJN photograph)
USS Yorktown (CV-5) listing after being torpedoed, 4 June 1942. (U.S. Navy)

Very Highly Recommended: History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume IV, Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, May 1942—August 1942, by Samuel Eliot Morison, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, September 1949. The entire 15-volume series has TDiA’s highest possible recommendation.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes