6 April 1959: At Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California, Colonel Edward Hamilton Taylor, United States Air Force, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 1000 Kilometer Course of 1,126.62 kilometers per hour (700.05 miles per hour),¹ flying a McDonnell RF-101C-75-MC Voodoo, serial number 56-0119.
The F-101 Voodoo was the first production airplane capable of speeds over 1,000 miles per hour (1,609.34 kilometers per hour). Colonel Taylor’s RF-101C was an unarmed photographic reconnaissance variant.
Nine days later, Captain George A. Edwards, Jr., flew another RF-101C to a World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 500 Kilometers of 1,313.677 kilometers per hour (816.281 miles per hour).²
Edward Taylor was a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, flying reconnaissance missions over Saipan and Iwo Jima in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, F-80 fighters in Korea and over North Vietnam in both the RF-101C and the RF-4C Phantom II. A Command Pilot with over 5,000 hours of flight experience, he had been twice awarded the Legion of Merit; the Distinguished Flying Cross, also twice, and fifteen Air Medals.
His record-setting Voodoo had been on display at Bergstrom AFB, Austin, Texas, Colonel Taylor’s home town. The airplane’s nose section with its reconnaissance array is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.
The RF-101C Voodoo was an unarmed reconnaissance variant of the F-101C fighter. It was 69 feet, 4 inches (21.133 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 8 inches (12.090 meters). The height was 18 feet (5.486 meters). Empty weight for the RF-101C was 26,136 pounds (11,855 kilograms), with a maximum takeoff weight of 51,000 pounds (23,133 kilograms).
The F-101C was powered by two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-13 afterburning turbojet engines. The J57 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet which had a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7 high-pressure stages), and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The J57-P-13 was rated at 10,200 pounds of thrust (45.37 kilonewtons), and 15,800 pounds (70.28 kilonewtons) with afterburner.
The F-101C had a maximum speed of 1,012 miles per hour (1,629 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The service ceiling was 55,300 feet (16,855 meters).
The Voodoo could carry up to three drop tanks, giving a total fuel capacity of 3,150 gallons (11,294 liters) and a maximum range of 2,145 miles (3,452 kilometers).
The RF-101C carried six cameras in its nose. Two Fairchild KA-1s were aimed downward, with four KA-2s facing forward, down and to each side.
Beginning in 1954, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation built 807 F-101 Voodoos. 166 of these were the RF-101C variant. This was the only F-101 Voodoo variant to be used in combat during the Vietnam War. The RF-101C remained in service with the U.S. Air Force until 1979.
¹ FAI Record File Number 8928
² FAI Record File Number 8858
© 2017, Bryan R. Swopesby