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.
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31 May 1955: Test Pilot Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet Auriol flew the Dassault MD.454 Mystère IV N to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 15/25 Kilometer Straight Course at Brétigny-sur-Orge, France.¹ Her average speed of 1,151 kilometers per hour (715 miles per hour)—0.94 Mach—broke the previous record which had been set two years earlier by her friend, Jacqueline Cochran.
Jacqueline Auriol was awarded the Harmon International Trophy for 1955, the third of four that she would receive.
The Société des Avions Marcel Dassault MD.454 Mystère IVN 01 was the first of two prototype two-place, single-engine, swept-wing interceptors. 01 was first flown 19 July 1954 by test pilot Gérrard Muselli. It had a large air-search radar mounted over the intake and was armed with 52 rockets carried in a retractable tray in the belly, very similar to the North American Aviation F-86D Sabre. The fuselage had been lengthened over the single-seat Mystère IV to provide space for the second cockpit.
The Mystère IVN was 49 feet, 11 inches (15.215 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 6 inches (11.430 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 1 inch (4.597 meters). Its empty weight was 15,741 pounds (7,140 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 22,572 pounds (10,238 kilograms).
The Mystère IV N was powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7R axial flow, afterburning turbojet engine. It used a 12-stage compressor, 8 combustion chambers and 2-stage turbine. It produced 9,500 pounds of thrust (42.258 kilonewtons) at 7,800 r.p.m., with afterburner. The engine was 42.2 inches (1.072 meters) in diameter, 276 inches (7.010 meters) long and weighed 2,960 pounds (1,343 kilograms).
Jacqueline Auriol’s record-setting Dassault Mystère IV N 01 F-ZXRM is on display at the Conservatoire l’Air et l’Espace d’Acquitane, Bordeaux Merignac Airport, France.
31 May 1928: At 8:48 a.m., Captain Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, M.C., late of the Royal Air Force, with his three companions, took off from Oakland Field on the San Francisco Bay, aboard Southern Cross, a Fokker F.VIIb/3m three-engine monoplane, U.S. civil registration NC1985. Their immediate destination was Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, and from there, to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, via Suva, on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji. The airplane’s crew was Kingsford Smith, pilot; Charles Ulm, co-pilot, Harry Lyon, navigator; and James Warren, radio operator.
Southern Cross had been salvaged after a crash in Alaska. It was rebuilt using the wings and fuselage of two different Fokkers—an F.VIIa and an F.VIIb—and was powered by three air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engines, rated at 220 horsepower, each, at 2,000 r.p.m.
The expense of repairing the airplane took most of Kingsford Smith’s money, so he sold the airplane to Allan Hancock, owner of Rancho La Brea Oil Company, and founder of Santa Maria Airport and Allan Hancock College. Hancock loaned Southern Cross back to Kingsford Smith for the Trans-Pacific flight.
The first leg of the flight to Wheeler Field was 2,408 miles (3,875 kilometers). The elapsed time was 27 hours, 27 minutes.
After resting in Hawaii, the crew took off on the second leg to Suva, Fiji, a distance of 3,144 miles (5,060 kilometers). Southern Cross landed at Albert Park. It was the very first airplane to land at Fiji. This was the longest leg and took 34 hours, 33 minutes.
The final leg to Brisbane covered 1,795 miles (2,888 kilometers) and took 21 hours, 35 minutes. They landed at Eagle Farm Airport in Brisbane, at 10:50 a.m., 9 June 1928. 25,000 people were there to see their arrival. This was the first Trans-Pacific flight from the mainland United States to Australia.
Following its arrival in Australia, the Fokker was re-registered G-AUSU, and later changed to VH-USU. After several other historic flights, Kingsford Smith gave Southern Cross to the government of Australia to be placed in a museum. It was stored for many years but is now on display at the Kingsford Smith Memorial at Brisbane Airport.
Kingsford Smith was invested Knight Bachelor in 1932. He continued his adventurous flights. On 8 November 1935, while flying Lady Southern Cross, a Lockheed Altair, from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, Sir Charles and co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge disappeared over the Andaman Sea.
30 May 1958: Douglas Aircraft Company Flight Operations Manager and engineering test pilot Arnold G. Heimerdinger, with co-pilot William M. Magruder and systems engineer Paul H. Patten, were scheduled to take off from Long Beach Airport (LGB) on the coast of southern California, at 10:00 a.m., to make the first flight of the new Douglas DC-8 jet airliner, c/n 45252, FAA registration N8008D.
Crowds of spectators, estimated as many as 50,000 people, were surrounding the airport. For this first test flight, the Federal Aviation Administration required a minimum of five miles visibility. Typical Southern California coastal low clouds and fog caused a ten minute delay.
Taking off at 10:10 a.m., N8008D climbed out to the south over the Pacific Ocean. Escorted by a company-owned Douglas DC-7 engineering and photo plane and a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star chase, the DC-8 climbed to 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) and went through a series of pre-planned flight maneuvers and systems checks. Heimerdinger took the airliner north to Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California, where the full flight test program would be carried out. The total duration of the first flight was 2 hours, 10 minutes.
In an article written the following year, Heimerdinger said that the DC-8 was easy to fly and never presented any difficulties during the test program.
The Douglas DC-8 Jetliner is a commercial airliner, a contemporary of the Boeing 707 and Convair 880. It was operated by a flight crew of three and could carry up to 177 passengers. It was powered by four turbojet engines mounted on pylons suspended below the wings. The wings’ leading edges were swept to 30° as were the vertical fin and horizontal tailplane. The airplane is 150 feet, 6 inches (45.872 meters) long with a wingspan of 142 feet, 5 inches (43.409 meters) and overall height of 42 feet, 4 inches (12.903 meters). N8008D was a Series 10 version. It had an empty weight of 119,767 pounds (54,325 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 273,000 pounds (123,831 kilograms).
N8008D was originally powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6 turbojet engines, the same engines which powered its Boeing rival. It is a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. The JT3C-6 was rated at 11,200 pounds of thrust (49.82 kilonewtons), and 13,500 pounds (60.05 kilonewtons) with water/methanol injection). The JT3C is 11 feet, 6.6 inches (3.520 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.9 inches (0.988 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,235 pounds (1,921 kilograms). The engines were later upgraded to JT3D-1 turbofan engines which produced 17,000 pounds of thrust.
The DC-8-10 series had a cruising speed of 0.82 Mach (542 miles per hour/872 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Its maximum range was 5,092 miles (8,195 kilometers).
On 21 August 1961, a Douglas DC-8-43, N9604Z, c/n 45623, Line Number 130, flown by Chief Test Pilot William Magruder, Paul Patten, Joseph Tomich and Richard Edwards, climbed to 50,090 feet (15,267 meters) near Edwards Air Force Base. Magruder put the DC-8 into a dive, and the airplane reached Mach 1.012 (668 miles per hour/1,075 kilometers per hour) while descending through 41,088 feet (12,524 meters). The airliner maintained this supersonic speed for 16 seconds.
This was the first time that a civil airliner had “broken the Sound Barrier.” An Air Force F-100 Super Sabre and F-104 Starfighter were chase planes for this flight. Reportedly, the F-104 was flown by the legendary test pilot, Colonel Chuck Yeager.
N9604Z was powered by four Rolls-Royce Conway RCo.12 Mk 509 two-shaft axial-flow turbofan engines, rated at 17,500 pounds of thrust (77.844 kilonewtons) at 9,990 r.p.m. The 509 is 11 feet, 3.9 inches (3.452 meters) long, 3 feet, 6.2 inches (1.072 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,542 pounds (2,060 kilograms).
N9604Z was delivered to Canadian Pacific Airlines, 15 November 1961, registered CF-CPG, and named Empress of Montreal. It later flew under CP Air as Empress of Buenos Aires. It was scrapped at Opa Locka Municipal Airport, north of Miami, Florida, in May 1981.
In 1960, N8008D was converted to the DC-8-51 configuration. With a change to the more powerful JT3D-1 turbofan engines, the airliners maximum takeoff weight was increased to 276,000 pounds (125,191 kilograms).
After the flight test and commercial certification program was completed, on 21 June 1961, Douglas leased N8008D to National Airlines, based at Miami, Florida. One year later, 20 June 1961, it was sold to Trans International Airlines. TIA leased the DC-8 to Lufthansa, 11 May 1965, and to Canadian Pacific, 1 October 1966. It was re-registered CF-CPN and named Empress of Santiago.
TIA sold the DC-8 to Delta Airlines, Atlanta, Georgia, 1 October 1967. It reverted to its FAA-assigned registration, N8008D. Delta gave it fleet number 800.
In March 1979, Delta sold N8008D to F.B. Myers and Associates. On 1 April, F.B. Myers leased the it to Aerovias de México, S.A. de C.V. (Aeroméxico). The DC-8 was assigned Mexican registration XA-DOE and named Quintana Roo.
The first Douglas DC-8 was placed in storage at Marana-Pinal Airpark, north of Tucson, Arizona, 7 January 1982. In May 1989, it was sold to Agro Air, a Caribbean regional cargo airline. It remained at Marana and was used as a source of parts. In 2001, c/n 45252 it was scrapped.
Between 1959 and 1972, Douglas produced 556 DC-8s in passenger and freighter configurations.
Arnold George Heimerdinger was born in Manchester Township, Michigan, 7 December 1910. His parents were Charles and Minnie L. Uphaus Heimerdinger. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. Heimerdinger married Miss Mary Aileen Eggert 19 August 1935.
A.G. Heimerdinger was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy, 27 November 1942 and served as a Naval Aviator until he was released from active duty, 14 October 1945.
Heimerdinger worked as an engineering test pilot for the Federal Aviation Administration, and he flew certification tests of the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, Convair 240 and 340 Metroliner, and the Lockheed L-640 and L-1049 Constellation.
He joined the Douglas Aircraft Company at Santa Monica, California, in 1952 and remained with the company until he retired in 1974. He was the project test pilot for the Douglas DC-6B and the DC-7. Transferring to Douglas’ Long Beach Division, a few miles southeast, he was project test pilot for the DC-8 and DC-9 jet airliners.
Arnold G. “Heimie” Heimerdinger died at Santa Monica, California, 17 July 1975.
30 May 1949: While testing a radical “flying wing” aircraft, the Rolls-Royce Nene-powered Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52, TS363, test pilot John Oliver (“Jo”) Lancaster, D.F.C., encountered severe pitch oscillations in a 320 mile per hour (515 kilometer per hour) dive. Lancaster feared the aircraft would disintegrate.
In the very first use of the Martin-Baker Mk1 ejection seat in an actual emergency, Lancaster fired the seat and was safely thrown clear of the aircraft. He parachuted to safety and was uninjured. The aircraft was destroyed.
The Martin-Baker MK1 was developed by Bernard Ignatius (“Benny”) Lynch, B.E.M., a ground fitter for Martin-Baker Aircraft Co., Ltd., who tested it himself, ejecting from a test aircraft at 420 miles per hour (676 kilometers per hour) and 12,000 feet (3,658 meters). He eventually made more than 30 ejections. Lynch was awarded the British Empire Medal in the King’s 1948 New Year Honours.
The seat was launched with a two cartridge ejection gun, with an initial velocity of 60 feet per second (18.3 meters per second). After rising 24 feet (7.3 meters), a static line fired a drogue gun, deploying a 24-inch (0.61 meter) drogue parachute to stabilize the seat. The static line also actuated the seat’s oxygen supply. The pilot manually released himself from the seat, and opened his parachute by pulling the rip cord.
As of 30 May 2020, 7,620 airmen worldwide have been saved by Martin-Baker ejection seats. 69 of these were with the Mk1.
The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52 was an all-metal, experimental two-place, twin engine, tailless “flying wing” airplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. The concept was that of an air mail aircraft. The cockpit was pressurized and offset to the left of the aircraft centerline. The two turbojet engines are in nacelles positioned almost entirely within the wing. The A.W.52 was 37 feet, 4 inches (11.354 meters) long with a wingspan of 90 feet (27.4 meters) and height of 14 feet, 4 inches (4.343 meters).
The wings were swept in two sections. From the fuselage to just outboard of the engines, the leading edges were swept to 17° 34′. From that point, called “the knuckle” in contemporary descriptions, the sweep increased to 34° 6′ to the wing tips. (A line from the ¼-chord points at the wing root and tip gave a sweep of 24¾°.) The inner wing had no dihedral, and the outer wing had 1° dihdreal. The wing incorporated a -5° twist between the root and tip. The total wing area was 1,314 square feet (122.1 square meters). Vertical fins and rudders are attached at the wing tips.
The airplane incorporated boundary layer control to delay the wing stalling in the area of the ailerons. It also used engine heat for deicing,
The A.W.52 had a empty weight of 19,662 pounds (9,055 kilograms) total weight of 32,700 pounds (14,832 kilograms).
The A.W.52 was powered by two Rolls-Royce RB.41 Nene Mk.I engines. The Nene was a single-shaft turbojet developed from the RB.40 Derwent. It had first been run in October 1944. The Nene was considerably larger than the Derwent and produced nearly double the thrust. It had a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor and single-stage axial-flow turbine. It was rated at 5,000 pounds of thrust (22.24 kilonewtons) at 12,400 r.p.m. for takeoff. The second A.W.52 prototype, TS368, used two Derwent engines.
The A.W.52 had a maximum speed at Sea Level of 500 miles per hour (805 kilometers per hour) and 480 miles per hour (772 meters) at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters). Its maximum range was 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers), flying 330 miles per hour (531 kilometers per hour) at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters).
30 May 1942: The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress makes its first flight. B-17F-1-BO 41-24340 was the first of a new series of the famous World War II bomber. While visually similar to the B-17E, it had more than 400 improvements based on early wartime experience with the B-17D and B-17E.
The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 8.90 inches (22.781 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9.375 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1.00 inch (5.187 meters). The wings have 3½° angle of incidence and 4½° dihedral. The leading edge is swept aft 8¾°. The total wing area is 1,426 square feet (132.48 square meters). The horizontal stabilizer has a span of 43 feet (13.106 meters) with 0° incidence and dihedral. Its total area, including elevators, is 331.1 square feet (12.18 square meters).
The B-17F had an approximate empty weight of 36,135 pounds (16,391 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) basic, and the maximum takeoff weight was 65,000 pounds (29,484 kilograms).
The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.70:1. (Early production B-17Fs were equipped with the Wright Cyclone G666A (R-1820-65). Both variants had the same power ratings.) The engines were equipped with remote General Electric B-22 turbochargers capable of 24,000 r.p.m. The R-1820-97 was rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine could produce 1,380 horsepower at War Emergency Power. 100-octane aviation gasoline was required. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) through a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-97 engine is 47.80 inches (1.214 meters) long and 55.10 inches (1.399 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).
The B-17F had a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods. The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters).
With a normal fuel load of 1,725 gallons (6,530 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 3,070 miles (4,941 kilometers). Two “Tokyo tanks” could be installed in the bomb bay, increasing capacity by 820 gallons (3,104 liters). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).
The B-17F Flying Fortress was armed with up to 13 air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions. A pair of machine guns were mounted in the tail, and single guns on flexible mounts were placed in the nose, radio compartment, and right and left waist positions.
The maximum bomb load of the B-17F was 20,800 pounds (9434.7 kilograms) over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) of high explosive bombs were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.
The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The Manufacturer Codes, -BO, -DL and -VE, follow the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.
Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses remain in existence.