Category Archives: Aviation

25 May 1953

George S. Welch with North American YF-100A 52-5754. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

25 May 1953: North American Aviation Chief Test Pilot George S. Welch took the YF-100A Super Sabre, U.S. Air Force serial number 52-5754, for its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base. The airplane reached Mach 1.03.

Development of the Super Sabre began with an effort to increase the speed of the F-86D and F-86E Sabre fighters. The wings had more sweep and the airfoil sections were thinner. A much more powerful engine would be needed to achieve supersonic speed in level flight. As design work on the “Sabre 45” proceeded, the airplane evolved to a completely new design. Initially designated XF-100, continued refinements resulted in the first two aircraft being redesignated YF-100A.

North American Aviation Chief Test Pilot George S. Welch in the cockpit of the YF-100A, 52-5754, at Los Angeles International Airport. (North American Aviation, Inc.)
North American Aviation Chief Test Pilot George S. Welch in the cockpit of YF-100A 52-5754 at Los Angeles International Airport. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

The two YF-100As, 52-5754 and 52-5755, were 47 feet, 11¼ inches (14.611 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 7 inches (11.151 meters) and height of 16 feet, 3 inches (4.953 meters). The wings were swept to 45° at 25% chord, and had 0° angle of incidence and 0° dihedral. The ailerons were placed inboard on the wings to eliminate their twisting effects at high speed. The airplane had no flaps. The pre-production prototypes weighed 18,135 pounds (8,226 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 24,789 pounds (11,244 kilograms).

The new air superiority fighter was powered by a Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp J57-P-7 engine. 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 (2 high- and 1 low-pressure stages). The J57-P-7 had a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 8,000 pounds of thrust (35.586 kilonewtons) at 5,875 r.p.m., N1, and 9550 r.p.m., N2. The engine’s Military Power rating was 9,700 pounds thrust (43.148 kilonewtons) at 6,275 r.p.m./9,900 r.p.m., for 30 minutes; and 14,800 pounds thrust (65.834 kilonewtons) at 6,275 r.p.m./9,900 r.p.m. with afterburner, limited to five minutes. The engine was 20 feet, 9.7 inches (6.342 meters) long, 3 feet, 3.9 inches (1.014 meters) in diameter, and weighed 5,075 pounds (2,303 kilograms). Later production aircraft used a J57-P-39 engine, which had the same ratings.

Cutaway illustration ofa North American Aviation F-100A Super Sabre. (Boeing)
Cutaway illustration of a North American Aviation F-100A Super Sabre. (Boeing)
North American Aviation YF-100 Super Sabre 52-5754. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation YF-100 Super Sabre 52-5754, 19 May 1953. (North American Aviation, Inc.)
The prototype North American Aviation YF-100A Super Sabre, 52-5754, with the North American F-100 team. Chief Test Pilot George S. Welch is in the center of the front row, seated. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

The YF-100A had a maximum speed of 660 miles per hour (1,062 kilometers per hour) at 43,350 feet (13,213 meters). The service ceiling was 52,600 feet (16,033 meters). Range with internal fuel was 422 miles (679 kilometers).

During testing, 52-5754 reached Mach 1.44 in a dive. On 29 October 1953, Colonel Frank K. Everest set a world speed record of 1,215.298 kilometers per hour (755.151 miles per hour) with 754.¹

In service with the United States Air Force, the Super Sabre’s mission changed from air superiority fighter to fighter bomber. It was used extensively during the Vietnam War. North American Aviation, Inc., built 2,294 single and tandem-seat Super Sabres between 1954 and 1959.

North American Aviation YF-100A Super Sabre 52-5754. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation YF-100A Super Sabre 52-5754 over Edwards Air Force Base, California, 25 May 1953. (North American Aviation, Inc.)
North American Aviation YF-100A Super Sabre 52-5754 lands on the dry lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

George Welch was born George Lewis Schwartz, in Wilmington, Delaware, 10 May 1918. His parents changed his surname to Welch, his mother’s maiden name, so that he would not be effected by the anti-German prejudice that was widespread in America following World War I. He studied mechanical engineering at Purdue, and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939.

North American Aviation YF-100A Super Sabre 52-5754 banks away from a chase plane during a flight test. (U.S. Air Force)

George S. Welch is best remembered as one of the heroes of Pearl Harbor. He was one of only two fighter pilots to get airborne during the Japanese surprise attack on Hawaii, 7 December 1941. Flying a Curtiss P-40B Warhawk, he shot down three Aichi D3A “Val” dive bombers and one Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter. For this action, Lieutenant General H.H. “Hap” Arnold recommended the Medal of Honor, but because Lieutenant Welch had taken off without orders, an officer in his chain of command refused to endorse the nomination. He received the Distinguished Service Cross. During the War, Welch flew the Bell P-39 Airacobra and Lockheed P-38 Lightning on 348 combat missions. He had 16 confirmed aerial victories over Japanese airplanes and rose to the rank of Major.

Suffering from malaria, George Welch was out of combat, and when North American Aviation approached him to test the new P-51H Mustang, General Arnold authorized his resignation. Welch test flew the P-51, FJ-1 Fury, F-86 Sabre and F-100 Super Sabre. He was killed 12 October 1954 when his F-100A Super Sabre came apart in a 7 G pull up from a Mach 1.5 dive.

North American Aviation pre-production prototype YF-100A Super Sabre 52-5754 with drag chute deployed on landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation pre-production prototype YF-100A Super Sabre 52-5754 with drag chute deployed on landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The extended pitot boom is used to calibrate instruments early in the flight test program. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation YF-100 Super Sabre 52-5754 with external fuel tanks, parked on the dry lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8868

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 May 1927

1st Lieutenant James H. Doolittle, United States Army Air Corps, at the 1929 Cleveland National Air Races. Jimmy Doolittle is seen in this photograph sitting on the turtle deck of the Curtiss P-1C Hawk. (National Air and Space Museum)

25 May 1927: At Wright Field, now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, First Lieutenant James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, United States Army Air Corps, was the first pilot to successfully perform an outside loop.

Flying a Curtiss P-1B Hawk pursuit, he began the maneuver in level flight at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), then pushed the nose down into a dive. When he reached 280 miles per hour (450 kilometers per hour), Doolittle continued to pitch the nose “down” and the airplane flew through a complete vertical circle, with the pilot’s head to the outside of the loop.

Lt. Jimmy Doolittle with a Curtiss P-1 Hawk, 4 February 1928. (NASM)
Lt. Jimmy Doolittle with a Curtiss P-1 Hawk, 4 February 1928. (National Museum of the United States Air Force)

Jimmy Doolittle attempted to repeat the outside loop at the 1929 Cleveland National Air Races, with a Curtiss P-1C Hawk, serial number 29-227. The airplane’s wings came off but Doolittle parachuted to safety. (The Curtiss P-1C used wing radiators instead of the large radiator under the nose of the P-1B. This substantially reduced the aerodynamic drag which allowed the airplane to accelerate to too high an airspeed during Doolittle’s maneuver.)

A crowd surrounds the wreckage of Jimmy Doolittle's Curtiss P-1C Hawk after it crashed during a demonstration at the 1929 Cleveland National Air Races. (Cleveland Press)
A crowd surrounds the wreckage of Jimmy Doolittle’s Curtiss P-1C Hawk after it crashed during an aerobatic demonstration at the 1929 Cleveland National Air Races. (Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections, Cleveland Press Collection)

Jimmy Doolittle was one of America’s foremost pioneering aviators. He set many records, won air races, tested and developed new flying equipment and techniques. He was a highly-educated military officer, having earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California Berkeley School of Mines, and M.S and D.Sc. degrees in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a pioneer aviator, he won every international air race, and had been awarded every international aviation trophy. He was also the first pilot to fly completely by reference to instruments.

During the early days of America’s involvement in World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle planned and led the Halsey-Doolittle B-25 raid on Japan. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to brigadier general, and then placed in command of the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa. As a major general, he commanded the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Lieutenant General Doolittle commanded the Eighth Air Force in England from January 1944 to September 1945. He supervised the transition of the 8th to the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and its eventual transfer to bases on Okinawa to continue the war against Japan. World War II came to an end before any of the 8th’s B-29s actually moved west.

Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Force (U.S. Army Photo C-2102)
Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Force (U.S. Army Photo C-2102)

After the war, Lieutenant General Doolittle was placed on the inactive list. On 4 April 1985, by Act of Congress, James H. Doolittle was promoted to General, United States Air Force, Retired.

General James Harold Doolittle is the only person to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Medal of Freedom. He died 27 September 1993 at the age of 96 years. He was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Curtiss P-1B Hawk, A.C. 27-75. (U.S. Air Force)

The Curtiss P-1B Hawk was a single-engine, single-seat, single-bay biplane pursuit, an aircraft type now known as a fighter. The airplane and its D-12 Conqueror engine were both built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co., Garden City, New York.

The P-1B was 22 feet, 10 inches (6.960 meters) long with an upper wingspan of 31 feet, 6 inches (9.601 meters). The lower wing had a span of 26 feet, 0 inches (7.925 meters), a narrower chord, and was staggered 3 feet, 2½ inches (0.978 meters) behind the upper. Both wings had significant taper with rounded tips. Their angle of incidence was 0°. The upper wing had no dihedral, while the inboard lower wing had 1°, and the outer, 5°. The total wing area was 252 square feet (23.4 square meters). The horizontal stabilizer span was 10 feet, 6.0 inches (3.200 meters) and its incidence could be adjusted from +3° to -1.5°. The vertical fin was offset 2° left of the airplane’s centerline. The overall height of the airplane was 8 feet, 10 inches (2.712 meters).

The P-1B had an empty weight of 2,105 pounds (955 kilograms), gross weight of 2,932 pounds (1,330 kilograms), and maximum weight of 3,562 pounds ( kilograms).

The P-1B was powered by a liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,145.1-cubic-inch-displacement (18.8 liter) Curtiss D-12D (V-1150-3) dual overhead cam (DOHC) 4-valve 60° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was a direct-drive engine, rated at 415 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 460 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. The D-12 was 58¾ inches (1.492 meters) long, 34¾ inches (0.883 meters) high and 28¼ inches (0.718 meters) wide. It weighed 680 pounds (308 kilograms). The P-1B was equipped with an aluminum Curtiss-Reed propeller with a diameter of 8 feet, 9 inches (2.667 meters).

The pursuit had a cruise speed of 127 miles per hour (204 kilometers per hour). Its maximum speed was 159.6 miles per hour (256.9 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 157 miles per hour (253 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). It had a service ceiling of 21,400 feet (6,523 meters) and absolute ceiling of 22,900 feet (6,980 meters). Its range was 342 miles (550 kilometers).

The P-1B was armed with two fixed air-cooled Browning machine guns, one .50-caliber and one .30-caliber.

The Air Corps ordered 93 Curtiss P-1 Hawks between 1925 and 1929.

Doolittle flew a Curtiss Curtiss P-1A Hawk, 25-410, similar to the P-1B that Doolittle flew into an outside loop. (U.S. Air Force)
Curtiss P-1A Hawk, 25-410, similar in appearance to the P-1B that Doolittle flew into an outside loop. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky (25 May 1889–26 October 1972)

Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky, 1914. (Karl Karlovich Bulla)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky, 1914. Sikorsky is wearing the cross of the Imperial Order of St. Vladimir. (Karl Karlovich Bulla)

25 May 1889: Ігор Іванович Сікорський (Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky) was born at Kiev, Ukraine, Russian Empire, the fifth of five children of Professor Ivan Alexeevich Sikorsky and Doctor Mariya Stefanovich Sikorskaya.

15 year-old Midshipman Igor Ivanovich Sikorksky, at lower right, with his sisters Olga, Lydia and Elena, and brother Sergei, 1904. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
15 year-old Midshipman Igor Ivanovich Sikorksky, Imperial Naval Academy, at lower right, with his sisters Olga, Lydia and Elena, and brother Sergei, 1904. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

He studied at the Imperial Naval Academy, St. Petersburg, from 1903 until 1906, when he left to study engineering, first in Paris, and then at the Kiev Polytechnic Institute.

Airplane pilot Igor Sikorsky with a passenger. (RIA Novosti)
Pilot Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky with a passenger, circa 1914. (RIA Novosti)

Flying an airplane of his own design, the S-5, on 18 April 1911, he received a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale pilot’s license from L’Aéro-Club Imperial de Russie (Imperial Russian Aero Club).

Igor I. Sikorsky's FAI pilot's license. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor I. Sikorsky’s FAI pilot’s license. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

He was chief aircraft engineer for Russko-Baltiisky Vagonny Zavod at St. Petersburg and continued to develop airplanes. In 1913, he flew the twin engine S-21 Le Grand, to which he added two more engines, and it became the Russky Vityaz.

Igor Sikorsky with one of his early biplanes.
Igor Sikorsky with one of his early biplanes.
Sikorsky S-21 in flight
Sikorsky’s S-21 in flight, 1913

Igor Sikorsky married Olga Fyodorovna Simkovich. They had a daughter, Tania. The couple soon divorced, however.

Compagnie Générale Transatlantique liner, SS La Lorraine, 11,146 gross tons.
Compagnie Générale Transatlantique liner, S.S. La Lorraine, 11,146 gross tons.

Following the October Revolution, Sikorsky emigrated to the United States. Departing Le Havre, France, aboard S.S. La Lorraine, he arrived at New York on 31 March 1919. With financial backing from composer and conductor Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff, he founded the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Company at Long Island, New York, in 1924, and continued designing and building airplanes.

In 1924, Sikorsky married Elisabeth Semion, who was also born in Russia, in 1903. They would have four children. In 1928, he became a citizen of the United States of America.

Sikorsky S-39 amphibian NC54V (Civil Air Patrol)
Sikorsky S-39 amphibian NC54V (Civil Air Patrol)

Beginning in 1934, Sikorsky Aircraft produced the S-42 flying boat for Pan American Airways at a new plant at Stratford, Connecticut.

U.S. Navy RS-1 (Sikorsky S-41) (National Museum of Naval Aviation)
U.S. Navy RS-1 (Sikorsky S-41) (National Museum of Naval Aviation)
A Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42, NC16742, moored at Honolulu, Territory of the Hawaiian Islands. (hawaii.gov/hawaiiaviation)
Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42, NC16734, moored at Honolulu, Territory of the Hawaiian Islands. (hawaii.gov/hawaiiaviation)

Interested in helicopters since the age of 9, he directed his creative effort toward the development of a practical “direct-lift” aircraft. The first successful design was the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300. Using a single main rotor, the VS-300 went through a series of configurations before arriving at the single anti-torque tail rotor design, the VS-316A. This was put into production for the U.S. military as the Sikorsky R-4.

The prototype VS-300 helicopter clears the ground for the first time, 14 September 1939. Igor Sikorsky is at the controls. His right foot rests on the anti-torque pedal. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
The prototype VS-300 helicopter clears the ground for the first time, 14 September 1939. Igor Sikorsky is at the controls. His right foot rests on the anti-torque pedal. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky hovers the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
Igor Sikorsky hovers the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300A. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
On behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the National Aeronautic Association of the United States issued Helicopter Pilot Certificate No. 1 to Igor I. Sikorsky, 10 December 1940. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
On behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the National Aeronautic Association of the United States issued Helicopter Pilot Certificate No. 1 to Igor I. Sikorsky, 10 December 1940. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky in the cockpit of a production R-5 helicopter. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
Igor Sikorsky in the cockpit of a Sikorsky S-48 (R-5) helicopter. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

The company which Igor Sikorsky founded has continued as one of the world’s biggest helicopter manufacturers. Recently acquired by Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky continues to produce the UH-60-series of Blackhawk medium helicopters, the large CH-53K King Stallion, and the civil S-76D and S-92. A variant of the S-92 has been selected as the next helicopter for the U.S. presidential air fleet, the VH-92A. This helicopter is planned to be operational by 2020.

Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky died at Easton, Connecticut, 26 October 1972 at the age of 83 years.

Igor Sikorsky piloting his pontoon-equipped VS-300, 17 April 1941. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky piloting his pontoon-equipped VS-300, 17 April 1941. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
s-47-4
Les Morris at the controls of the Vought-Sikorsky XR-4, 41-18874 (VS-316A), on its first flight at Stratford, Connecticut, 14 January 1942. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Lt. Carter Harman hovering in ground effect with Sikorsky YR-4B Hoverfly 43-28247 at Lalaghat, India, March 1944. This is the helicopter with which he made the first combat rescue, 21-25 April 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
Lt. Carter Harman hovering in ground effect with Sikorsky YR-4B Hoverfly 43-28247 at Lalaghat, India, March 1944. This is the helicopter with which he made the first combat rescue, 21-25 April 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
A Sikorsky R-5 flown by Jimmy Viner with Captain Jack Beighle, lifts a crewman from Texaco Barge No. 397, aground on Penfield Reef, 29 November 1945. (Sikorsky Historical Archive)
U.S. Army R-5 (Sikorsky S-48) flown by Jimmy Viner with Captain Jack Beighle, lifts a crewman from Texaco Barge No. 397, aground on Penfield Reef, 29 November 1945. (Sikorsky Historical Archive)
Sikorsky R-5 medevac, Korean War
U.S. Air Force H-5 (Sikorsky S-51) lifts off during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Coast Guard HOS-1 (Sikorsky S-49), with Igor Sikorsky as a passenger, over the Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, 17 December 1947—the 44th annivesary of teh Wright Brothers first controlled, powered airplane flight. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
U.S. Coast Guard HOS-1 (Sikorsky S-49), with Igor Sikorsky as a passenger, over the Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, 17 December 1947—the 44th annivesary of the Wright Brothers first controlled, powered airplane flight. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
U.S. Army YH-18A 49-2889 (Sikorsky S-52-2) (Ed Coates Collection)
U.S. Army YH-18A 49-2889 (Sikorsky S-52-2) (Ed Coates Collection)
SH-19A Air Rescue Sqd. AR.1999.026
U.S. Air Force SH-19A Chickasaw 51-3850 (Sikorsky S-55), Air Rescue Service. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky H-34A-SI Choctaw (S-58) 57-1743 hovers in ground effect. Later registered as a civilian aircraft, N47246). (U.S. Army)
U.S. Army H-34A-SI Choctaw (Sikorsky S-58) 57-1743 hovers in ground effect. Later registered as a civilian aircraft, N47246). (U.S. Army)
Sikorsky CH-37 Mojave heavy-lift helicopter
U.S. Marine Corps CH-37 Mojave (Sikorsky S-56) heavy-lift helicopter
A U.S. Navy Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King (S-61), Bu. No. 149867, near Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, 5 April 1976. (PH2 (AC) Westhusing, U.S. Navy)
U.S. Navy SH-3A Sea King (Sikorsky S-61), Bu. No. 149867, near Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, 5 April 1976. (PH2 (AC) Westhusing, U.S. Navy)
A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (66-13290) ot the 37th ARRS, hovering in ground effect at Da Nang, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (Sikorsky S-61R), 66-13290, of the 37th ARRS, hovering in ground effect at Da Nang, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)
A U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant hovers to hoist a pararescueman with one downed pilot, while a second waits on the ground, 16 June 1967. The blade tip vortices are visible because of the high humidity. (National Archives at College Park)
Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe 68-18448, Nevada National Guard, 16 Nober 1989. (Mike Freer/Wikipedia)
U.S. Army CH-54A Tarhe 68-18448 (Sikorsky S-64) heavy-lift helicopter, Nevada National Guard, 16 November 1989. (Mike Freer/Wikipedia)
Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Low IV, 68-8424, prepares for its last combat mission, Iraq, 27 September 2008. (A1C Jason Epley, U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force MH-53M Pave Low IV 68-8424 (Sikorsky S-65), prepares for its last combat mission, Iraq, 27 September 2008. (A1C Jason Epley, U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers dismount a Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, 21 January 2010. (Detail from photograph by Staff Sergeant Aubree Clute, U.S. Army)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 89-26212. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk (Sikorsky S-70) 89-26212, Kunar Province, Afghanistan. (Captain Erick Saks, U.S. Air Force)
British Airways' Sikorsky S-61N G-BEON, 1982. ( )
British Airways’ Sikorsky S-61N Sea King G-BEON, 1982.
An Erickson Air-Crane, Inc. Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane drops water on a forest fire. (Sikorsky Archives)
An Erickson Air-Crane, Inc., Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane drops water on a forest fire. (Sikorsky Archives)
1280px-040327-pb-firehawk-17-16
A Los Angeles County Fire Department Sikorsky S-70A Firehawk, N160LA, during a rescue near Palmdale, California, 27 March 2004. (Alan Radecki/Wikipedia)
A Queen's Helicopter Flight Sikorsky S-76C, s/n 760753, G-XXEB (Russell Lee/Wikipedia)
A Queen’s Helicopter Flight Sikorsky S-76C, s/n 760753, G-XXEB (Russell Lee/Wikipedia)
Cougar Helicopters' Sikorsky S-92A C-GKKN landing at Ilulissat Airport, Greenland, 5 August 2010. (Algkalv/Wikipedia)
Cougar Helicopters’ Sikorsky S-92A C-GKKN landing at Ilulissat Airport, Greenland, 5 August 2010. (Algkalv/Wikipedia)
Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion (Sikorsky, A Lockheed Martin Company)
The prototype Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion (Sikorsky, A Lockheed Martin Company)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 May 1978

James S. McDonnell, Founder and Chairman of the Board, McDonnell Douglas Corporation, with the 5,000th Phantom. (Boeing)
James S. McDonnell, Founder and Chairman of the Board, McDonnell Douglas Corporation, with the 5,000th Phantom. (Boeing)

24 May 1978: McDonnell Douglas delivered the 5,000th F-4 Phantom II, F-4E-65-MC 77-0290, to the United States Air Force in a ceremony at the McDonnell Aircraft Company division at St. Louis, Missouri.

The Mach 2 fighter bomber was developed in the early 1950s as a long range, missile-armed interceptor for the U.S. Navy. The first Phantom II, XF4H-1 Bu. No. 142259, made its maiden flight at St. Louis with future McDonnell Douglas president Robert C. Little at the controls. During flight testing, the U.S. Air Force was impressed by the new interceptor and soon ordered its own version, the F-110A Spectre. Under the Department of Defense redesignation, both Navy and Air Force versions became the F-4. Its name, “Phantom II,” was chosen by James S. McDonnell, and was in keeping with his naming the company’s fighters after supernatural beings.

McDonnell Douglas F-4E-65-MC Phantom II, 77-0290, at St. Louis, 9 May 1978. (Boeing)
McDonnell Douglas F-4E-65-MC Phantom II, 77-0290, at St. Louis, 9 May 1978. (Boeing)

The Phantom was a very powerful aircraft and set several speed, altitude and time-to-altitude records. The second aircraft, YF4H-1 Bu. No. 142260, flew to 98,557 feet (30,040 meters) on 6 December 1959. On 22 November 1961, the same Phantom set a World Absolute Speed Record of 1,606.509 miles per hour (2,585.425 kilometers per hour). 142260 was entered in the record books again when it established a World Record for Altitude in Horizontal Flight of 66,443.57 feet (20,252 meters), 5 December 1961. Future astronaut Commander John W. Young, United States Navy, flew another Phantom II, Bu. No. 149449, from the runway at NAS Point Mugu on the southern California coast to an altitude of 30,000 meters (82,020.997 feet) in 3 minutes, 50.440 seconds.

The 5,000th Phantom II, McDonnell Douglas F-4E-65-MC 77-0290, climbing. (Boeing photo)
The 5,000th Phantom II, McDonnell Douglas F-4E-65-MC 77-0290, climbing. (Boeing photo)

The Phantom II first entered combat  during the Vietnam War. It became apparent that the all-missile armament was insufficient for the subsonic dogfights that it found itself in, and a 20 mm Gatling gun was added. Designed as an interceptor, it evolved into a fighter bomber and carried a bomb load heavier that a World War II B-17 bomber. The last American “aces” scored their victories while flying the Phantom over Vietnam.

The F-4 served with the U.S. Air Force until April 1996. The last operational flight was flown by an F-4G Wild Weasel assigned to the Idaho Air National Guard. A total of 5,195 Phantom IIs were built, most by McDonnell Douglas at St. Louis, but 138 were built in Japan by Mitsubishi. The Phantom is still in service with several air forces around the world.

McDonnell Douglas F-4E-65-MC 77-0290 going vertical. (Boeing)

McDonnell Douglas F-4E-65-MC Phantom II 77-0290 was transferred to the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri  (Turkish Air Force), where it retained the U.S. Air Force serial number. It was written off 30 May 1989, however, it was later modernized by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to the F-4E-2020 Terminator standard and as of August 2018, remained in service.

The 5,000th Phantom II, McDonnell Douglas/Israeli Aerospace Industries F-4E-2020 Terminator 77-0290 in service with the Turkish Air Force, 19 June 2013. (Iglu One One)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 May 1961

Lieutenants Gordon and Young. (U.S. Navy)

24 May 1961: Lieutenant Richard Francis Gordon, Jr., United States Navy, with Radar Intercept Officer Lieutenant (j.g.) Bobbie R. Young, flew from Ontario International Airport, east of Los Angeles, California, to Floyd Bennett Field, New York, with their McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 148270. The duration of their flight was 2 hours, 47 minutes, 0.01 seconds, for an average speed of 1,399.66 kilometers per hour ( miles per hour). For their accomplishment, they won the Bendix Trophy.

The Associated Press reported:

NAVY PLANE SETS NEW U.S. SPEED MARK

Jet Crosses Country in Two Hours And 48 Minutes

     New York, May 24 (AP)—A Navy jet fighter plane flashed from coast to coast today in two hours 48 minutes, to eclipse a record that had stood since 1957.

     Said Lt. Richard F. Gordon, 31, of Seattle, who piloted the fastest plane across the nation at an average speed of 871.38 m.p.h.:

      “It was a wonderful trip. The weather was fine all along the route. I feel great, but I’m real tired.”

     As the three F4H-1 Phantoms zoomed down from 50,000 feet for a landing at Floyd Bennet Field [sic], shock waves exploded ahead of them with a thunder-like clap that startled metropolitan residents on the ground below.

Five Phantoms Start

     The transcontinental flight from Ontario at 7.59 A.M. (P.D.T.) on the 2,445.9 mile hop to New York in the twentieth renewal of the Bendix Trophy races. Tanker planes waited to refuel them over Albuquerque (N.M.), St. Louis, and between Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Douglas A3D-2 Skywarrior Bu. No. 142650, Heavy Attack Squadron NINE (VAH-9), refuels McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II Bu. No. 148261 of VF-101 Detachment A during the 1961 Bendix Trophy Race. (NMNA # 1996.253.3678)

     One of the five planes encountered trouble over Albuquerque and dropped out of the race. A second was held up by refueling problems over Albuquerque and St. Louis and straggled into Floyd Bennet and [sic] hour and twenty minutes behind the pacesetters.

     Sharing the Bendix Trophy with Lieutenant was his radio-intercept officer, Lt. (J.G.) Bobbie R. Young, 34, of Modesto, Cal. Their average speed was the highest ever in the trophy races, that began in 1931 with James H. Doolittle setting an average mark of 223 m.p.h. between Los Angeles and Cleveland.

Time Certified

Lieutenants Gordon and Young with the Bendix Trophy. Both Naval Aviators are wearing B.F. Goodrich Mark IV full-pressure suits for protection at high altitude.

The two other craft that accompanied Lieutenant Gordon’s finished in the unofficial time of 2 hours and 57 minutes, and 3 hours and 3 minutes. Lieutenant Gordon’s time was certified as official by the Navy, subject to approval of international aviation authorities.

     Rear Admiral Frank A Brandley, assistant chief of naval operations for air, greeting the fliers here, pointed out that had Gordon flown in the opposite direction, he would have landed in California earlier than he took off from New York—because of the time differential.

     The supersonic Phantoms are carrier-based Navy fighter planes built by McDonnell Aircraft, of St. Louis.

     The Bendix races were organized to test pilot training, equipment and technical skills of American aviation. The last previous race was held in 1957, between Chicago and Washington. The 1957 record was not set in a Bendix race.

The Sun, Vol. 249, No. 8, Baltimore, Thursday, 25 May 1961, Page 9, Column 1

The following is the U.S. Navy’s official biography of Richard Gordon:

Department of the Navy
Office of Information

CAPTAIN RICHARD F. GORDON, JR., UNITED STATES NAVY

Richard Francis Gordon, Jr., was born in Seattle, Washington, on October 5, 1929, son of Richard F. and Angela Frances (Sullivan) Gordon.  He attended North Kitsap High School, Poulsbo, Washington, and the University of Washington at Seattle, from which he received the degree of Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 1951.  He enlisted in the U. S. Naval Reserve, served as an Airman at the Naval Air Station, Sand Point, Washington.  Appointed Aviation Cadet in August 1951, he had flight training at the Naval Air Basic Training Command, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, and at the Naval Air Advanced Training Command, Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas.  Designated Naval Aviator and commissioned Ensign, U. S. Naval Reserve, on March 25, 1953, he subsequently advanced in rank to that of Captain, to date from December 11, 1969, having transferred to the Regular Navy on August 3, 1955.

After receiving his “Wings” in March 1953, he had instruction for two months at the naval School, All Weather Flight, Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, and for one month at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Kingsville, Texas.  In June of that year he joined Fighter Squadron ELEVEN to serve as Navigation Officer, Communications Officer and Naval Aviator until January 1957, when he reported for instruction at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland.  In August that year, he transferred to the Flight Test Division, Naval Air Test Center, where he had duty as a Project Pilot, Project Officer, and First Lieutenant until March 1960.

He next joined Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE, where served as Fleet Replacement Pilot, Fleet Air Detachment Duty Officer, and Flight Instructor.  In November 1961, he was assigned for a month to Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED FORTY-TWO as Operations Officer, then transferred to Fighter Squadron NINETY-SIX, for duty as Naval Aviator, Naval Aviation Training Operations Officer and Assistant Operations Officer.  While in that assignment he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “…extraordinary achievement in aerial flight on May 24, 1961, while participating in the Bendix Trophy Race as Pilot of an F4H Phantom Aircraft…” The citation continues…

“…Exercising outstanding airmanship and resourcefulness, (he) succeeded in winning the Bendix Trophy Race and in establishing a new transcontinental speed record for the jet aircraft from Los Angeles, California to New York, New York, with an elapsed time of two hours and forty-seven minutes, which is twenty-one minutes under the previous record time for this event…”

From July to December 1963 he had instruction at the U. S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.  Selected as one of the third group of astronauts by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in October 1963, he began training at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas, in December 1963.  He has served as backup pilot for the Gemini VII flight.

On September 12, 1966, he served as pilot for the 44 orbit Gemini XI mission.  He executed docking maneuvers with the previously launched Agena and performed two periods of extravehicular activity which involved attaching a tether to the Agena and retrieving a nuclear emulsion experiment package.  Other highlights of the flight included the successful completion of the first tethered station-keeping exercise, establishment of a new record-setting altitude of 850 miles, and the first closed-loop controlled reentry.  The flight was concluded on September 15, 1966, with the spacecraft landing in the Atlantic, two and one-half miles from the prime recovery ship USS Guam (LPH-9).  He was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Distinguished Flying Cross with the following citation:

“For heroism and extraordinary achievement…as an Astronaut with NASA from September 12 to 15, 1966 aboard Gemini XI.  While serving as Pilot, Commander (then Lieutenant Commander) Gordon completed a space flight of seventy-one hours and sixteen minutes.  A rendezvous in the first revolution, docking, two periods of extravehicular activity, an exercise in the dynamics of two spacecraft linked together by a one hundred-foot strap and full-automatic reentry highlighted the Gemini XI mission.  During this period, Commander Gordon carried out the re-docking maneuver, the first docking by a ‘right-seater.’  During the umbilical extravehicular activity, he left the spacecraft to retrieve the S-9 Nuclear Emulsion Experiment package from the Agena…”

In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star, Captain Gordon has received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the Navy Astronaut Wings.  He is also entitled to the Navy Occupation Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star.

He is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.  His hobbies include water skiing, sailing and golf.

He has logged more than 3,300 hours flying time, 2,800 hours in jet aircraft.

[END]

Published: Fri Mar 04 13:52:55 EST 2016

 

The Bendix Trophy-winning Phantom II, redesignated F-4A-4-MC in 1962, crashed near San Clement Island, off the Pacific coast of southern California, 4 May 1964.

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