Bryan R. Swopes grew up in Southern California in the 1950s–60s, near the center of America's aerospace industry. He has had a life-long interest in aviation and space flight. Bryan is a retired commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor.
View all posts by Bryan Swopes →
21 January 1987: The first Rockwell International B-1B Lancer was delivered to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. The airplane, serial number 85-0073, was named Wings of Freedom. It was flown to Ellsworth by General John T. Chain, Jr., Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command.
100 B-1B Lancers were built by Rockwell International’s aircraft division at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, between 1983 and 1988
The Rockwell B-1B is 146 feet (44.501 meters) long, with the wing span varying from 79 feet (24.079 meters) to 137 feet (41.758 meters). It is 34 feet (10.363 meters) high at the top of the vertical fin. The bomber’s empty weight is 192,000 pounds (87,090 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 477,000 pounds (216,364 kilograms)
The bomber is powered by four General Electric F101-GE-102 afterburning turbofan engines, producing 30,780 pounds of thrust, each.
The B-1B has a maximum speed of Mach 1.25 (830 miles per hour (1,336 kilometers per hour) at high altitude, or 0.92 Mach (700 miles per hour, 1,127 kilometers per hour) at 200 feet (61 meters). The Lancer has a service ceiling of 60,000 feet (18,288 meters), and an unrefueled range of 7,456 miles (11,999 kilometers).
It can carry up to 84 Mk.82 500-pound bombs, 24 Mk.84 2,000-pound bombs, or other weapons. The B-1B is not equipped for nuclear strike missions.
Currently 62 B-1B bombers are in the active Air Force inventory, with 2 others in the test fleet.
After 21 years of service, 85-0073 was retired to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, 24 March 2008.
21 January 1985: Major Ralph B. Filburn, U.S. Air Force, flying a McDonnell Douglas F-15A-17-MC Eagle, serial number 76-0086, successfully launched a Ling-Temco-Vought ASM-135 anti-satellite missile to a point in space.
The ASM-135 was a three-stage guided missile using a Boeing AGM-69 Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) as its first stage and an LTV Aerospace Altair 3 rocket as the second stage. The third stage was the homing vehicle, which used an infrared seeker to intercept the targeted satellite. This was not an explosive warhead. The satellite was destroyed by the kinetic energy of the very high speed impact. The ASM-135 is 18 feet (5.48 meters) long, 20 inches (50.8 centimeters) in diameter and weighs 2,600 pounds (1,180 kilograms).
There were five test launches of the ASM-135, including one in which an orbiting satellite was intercepted and destroyed. The missile was not placed in production, however, and the program was cancelled.
76-0086 was retired 18 May 1995 to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona.
21 January 1976: The first scheduled supersonic passenger airliners, British Airways’ Concorde G-BOAA and Air France’ Concorde F-BVFA, took off simultaneously at 11:40 a.m. G-BOAA departed London Heathrow enroute Bahrain, and F-BVFA departed Paris enroute Rio de Janero, with a stop at Dakar.
The British Airways’ flight, using call sign “Speedbird Concorde,” was crewed by Captain Norman Victor Todd, Captain Brian James Calvert and Flight Engineer John Lidiard. Chief Test Pilot Ernest Brian Trubshaw, CBE, MVO, was also aboard.
G-BOAA arrived on time at 15:20. F-BVFA, after a delay at Dakar, arrived at Rio de Janeiro at 19:00.
21 January 1968: A United States Air Force Boeing B-52G-100-BW Stratofortress, serial number 58-0188, assigned to the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing, was flying an Airborne Nuclear Alert mission as part of Operation Chrome Dome. The bomber, call sign Hobo 28, had a crew of seven and was armed with four B28FI nuclear bombs carried in its bomb bay.
Prior to takeoff, the third pilot, Major Alfred D’Mario, had placed three foam cushions under the navigator’s seat on the lower deck of the B-52. During the flight the crew cabin became very cold and additional heat was directed into the heating ducts from an engine’s bleed air system. Due to a malfunction, the bleed air was not cooled before entering the heating system and this very hot air ignited the cushions. Very quickly a fire developed.
At 3:22 p.m. EST (1622 UTC) the aircraft commander, Captain John Haug, declared an emergency and requested an immediate landing at Thule Air Base, Greenland, which was about 90 miles (140 kilometers) to the north. The crew’s fire extinguishers were quickly depleted and the fire continued to spread. The bomber’s electrical system failed and the cabin filled with smoke. Captain Haug ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft.
Hobo 28 passed directly over the air base and six of the crew ejected. The co-pilot, who was temporarily in a jump seat behind the pilots rather than in an ejection seat, tried to jump from an open hatch on the lower deck. He struck his head and was killed.
Captain Haug and Major D’Mario landed on the air base, and three others were very close by. The sixth was 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) south on an ice floe, and was rescued 21 hours later.
The B-52, now unmanned, continued north and then began a 180° turn to the left. It crashed onto the sea ice of North Star Bay, about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) west of Thule.
The conventional explosives inside the four B28 bombs detonated on impact. No nuclear detonation occurred but radioactive plutonium, uranium and tritium was scattered over a wide area.
A massive cleanup effort was required. Under the circumstances, this was much more difficult than at Palomares, Spain, two years earlier.
As a result of these two nuclear accidents, referred to by the code words “Broken Arrow,” Operation Chrome Dome, which had kept armed formations of B-52s in the air 24 hours a day since 1961, was ended.
The Mark 28 was a two-stage radiation-implosion thermonuclear bomb which was designed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and produced from January 1958 to May 1966. In 1968, it was redesignated B-28. More than 4,500 were manufactured in as many as 20 variants. Explosive yield varied between 70 kilotons and 1.45 megatons. The bomb remained in service until 1991.
20 January 1932: Imperial Airways’ Handley Page HP.42, G-AAXF, named Helena, departed Croydon Aerodrome, South London, England, on the first leg of the airline’s new transcontinental mail service to South Africa. The flights would leave Croydon at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday and arrive at Cape Town on Friday, ten days later.
The route was London, Cairo, Khartoum, Juba, Nairobi, Mbeya, Salisbury, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The initial flights carried mail only, but scheduled passenger service was soon added. The cost of the flight from London to Cape Town was £130.
The HP.42 was a large four-engine biplane built by Handley Page Limited, Hertfordshire, for Imperial Airlines’ long-distance routes. There were two models, the HP.42, for the eastern routes to India and Africa, and the HP.45 for the western flight. (Imperial Airways designated them as “H.P. 42E” and “H.P. 45W.”) The HP.42 could carry 20 passengers and a large amount of baggage. The HP. 45 could carry up to 38 passengers, but less baggage. The variants used different engines. Two of the HP.45 variant, of which Helena was one, were converted to the HP.42 configuration.
The HP.42 was operated by a flight crew of four and could carry six passengers in a forward compartment and twelve aft. The airliner was 89 feet, 9 inches (27.356 meters) long. The upper wing had a span of 130 feet (39.624 meters). The overall height of the airplane was 27 feet (8.230 meters). The empty weight was 17,740 pounds (8,047 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 28,000 pounds (12,701 kilograms.)
The HP.42 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged 1,752.788-cubic-inch-displacement (28.723 liter) Bristol Jupiter XI F 9-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 5:1, which had a normal power rating of 460 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., and produced a maximum of 510 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m., each. Two engines were mounted in nacelles between the upper and lower wings, and two were mounted on the lower wing. All four engines were left-hand tractors, driving four-bladed propellers through a 2:1 gear reduction. The Jupiter XI weighed 880 pounds (399 kilograms).
The HP.42 had a cruise speed of 96 miles per hour (155 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed was 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour). Its range was 500 miles (805 kilometers).
During ten years of operation, no lives had been lost on an H.P. 42, a record believed unique in civil aviation. Several aircraft were placed in service with the Royal Air Force at the beginning of World War II. Helena was damaged in a hard landing, and after inspection, was scrapped. By 1941, all H.P. 42s had been destroyed.