Category Archives: Aviation

21 January 1987

Rockwell B-1B Lancer 85-0073, Wings of Freedom, lands at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, 21 January 1987. (U.S. Air Force)
General John T. Chain, Jr., U.S. Air Force
General John T. Chain, Jr., U.S. Air Force

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 International B-1B Lancer is a supersonic intercontinental bomber capable of performing strategic or tactical missions. It is operated by a flight crew of four.

The B-1B is 147 feet, 2.61 inches (44.8719 meters) long, with the wing span varying from 86 feet, 8.00 inches (26.4160 meters) at 67.5° sweep to 136 feet, 8.17 inches (41.6603 meters) at when fully extended to 15° sweep. It is 33 feet, 7.26 inches (10.2428 meters) high to the top of the vertical fin. The bomber’s empty weight is approximately 180,500 pounds (81,873 kilograms). Its maximum weight in flight is 477,000 pounds (216,634 kilograms). The internal payload is up to 75,000 pounds (34,019 kilograms).

The bomber is powered by four General Electric F101-GE-102 turbofan engines, mounted in two-engine nacelles under the wing roots. These are rated at 17,390 pounds of thrust (17.355 kilonewtons) and produce 30,780 pounds (136.916 kilonewtons) with “augmentation.” The engine has two fan stages, a 9-stage axial-flow compressor and a 3-stage turbine. The F101-GE-102 is 15 feet, 0.7 inches (4.590 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.2 inches (1.402 meters) in diameter and weighs 4,460 pounds (2,023 kilograms).

“The Bone” has a maximum speed of Mach 1.2 at Sea Level (913 miles per hour, or 1,470 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is “over 30,000 feet” (9,144 meters). The Lancer’s maximum range is “intercontinental, unrefueled.”

A Rockwell B-1B drops Mk. 82 bombs from its three weapons bays. (U.S. Air Force)

It can carry up to 84 Mk.82 500-pound (226.8 kilogram) bombs, 24 Mk.84 2,000-pound (907.2 kilogram) bombs or other weapons in three weapons bays. The B-1B was built with the capability to carry 24 B61 thermonuclear bombs, though, since 2007, the fleet no longer has this capability.

100 B-1B Lancers were built between 1983 and 1988. As of May 2018, 62 B-1B bombers are in the active Air Force inventory. The Air Force plans upgrades to the aircraft and plans to keep it in service until 2036.

After 21 years of service, 85-0073 was retired to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, 24 March 2008.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer, 85-0073, Wings of Freedom, at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, 21 January 1987. (U.S. Air Force)
Rockwell B-1B Lancer, 85-0073, Wings of Freedom, at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, 21 January 1987. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 January 1985

McDonnell Douglas F-15A-17-MC Eagle 76-0086 carrying an LTV ASM-135 anti-satellite missile on a centerline hardpoint. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell Douglas F-15A-17-MC Eagle 76-0086 carrying an LTV ASM-135 anti-satellite missile on a centerline hardpoint. (U.S. Air Force)

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-135A anti-satellite missile to a point in space.

The ASM-135 was a three-stage guided missile using a solid-fueled 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.

McDonnell Douglas F-15A-17 Eagle 76-0086 with ASM-135 Anti-Satellite Missile. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 January 1976

British Airways' Concorde G-BOAA departing Heathrow, 11:40 a.m., 21 January 1976. (Adrian Meredith/British Airways)
British Airways’ Concorde G-BOAA departing Heathrow, 11:40 a.m., 21 January 1976. (Adrian Meredith/British Airways)

21 January 1976: The first scheduled supersonic passenger airliners, Air France’s Concorde F-BVFA, and British Airways’ Concorde G-BOAA, took off simultaneously at 11:40 a.m. F-BVFA departed Paris en route Rio de Janero, with a stop at Dakar, and G-BOAA departed London Heathrow en route Bahrain.

Air France Flight AF 085 was flown by Commandant de bord, Captain Pierre Jean Louis Chanoine-Martiel, with Captain Pierre Dudal, Chief Pilot, Concorde Division, as co-pilot; and Officier Mécanicien Navigant (Flight Engineer) André Blanc.

Flight crew of F-BVFA, 21 January 1976. Left to right: Co-pilot, Captain Pierre Dudal, Chief Pilot, Concorde Division; Second Officer André Blanc, Officier Mécanicien Navigant; and Captain Pierre Chanoine-Martiel, Commandant du bord. (Air France/Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, Aéroport de Paris – Le Bourget)

The British Airways’ flight, BA 300, using the call sign “Speedbird Concorde,” was crewed by Captain Norman Victor Todd, Captain Brian James Calvert and Flight Engineer John Lidiard. The British Aircraft Corporation’s Chief Test Pilot, Ernest Brian Trubshaw, C.B.E., M.V.O., was also aboard.

British Airways flight crew, Left to Right: Senior Engineer Officer John Lidiard; Captain Brian James Calvert; Senior Test Pilot Brian Trubshaw; and Captain Norman Victor Todd. (British Airways)
Concorde inaugural flights, 21 January 1976. (Heritage Concorde)

G-BOAA arrived on time at 15:20. F-BVFA, after a delay at Dakar, arrived at Rio de Janeiro at 19:00.

Air France Concorde F-BVFA. (Aérospatiale/Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, Aéroport de Paris – Le Bourget)

In 1977, the Royal Aero Club awarded its Britannia Trophy to Captain Todd for “the most meritorious performance in aviation during 1976.”

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 January 1968

Boeing B-52G-75-BW Stratofortress 57-6471, similar to 58-0188. The numeral "3" on the vertical fin and the white cross-in-back square on the top of the fuselage identify this B-52 as a Boeing flight test aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52G-75-BW Stratofortress 57-6471, similar to 58-0188. The numeral “3” on the vertical fin and the white cross-in-black square on the top of the fuselage identify this B-52 as a Boeing flight test aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)

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.

Boeing B-52G-100-BW Stratofortress 58-0190, the same type as Hobo 28. (U.S. Air Force)

At 12:22 p.m., Atlantic Standard Time (16:22 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 at 16:37 UTC.

Hobo 28 passed directly over the air base and six of the seven crewmen ejected. The co-pilot, Captain Leonard Svitenko, who was temporarily in a jump seat on the lower deck 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, gunner Staff Sergeant Calvin Snapp was 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) south on an ice floe, and was rescued 21 hours later.

Concentric cracks in the sea ice at the upper center of this photographic mosaic show the impact point of Hobo 28. The aircraft burned for several hours, covering the ice downwind with soot. (U.S. Air Force)

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.

Hobo 28’s gunner, Staff Sergeant Calvin Waldrep Snapp, was rescued 21 hours later. (U.S. Air Force)

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 B-52s in the air 24 hours a day since 1961, was ended.

Thule Air Base, Greenland. Mount Dundas is the flat-topped mountain just right of the center of the image. Saunders Island is in the distance. Hobo 28 crashed into North Star Bay, covered with sea ice in this photograph.
Thule Air Base, Greenland. Mount Dundas is the flat-topped mountain just right of the center of the image. Saunders Island is at the upper left. Hobo 28 crashed into North Star Bay, covered with sea ice in this photograph.

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 B28. 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.

Three airmen position a B28Y1 1.1 megaton thermonuclear bomb for loading aboard a B-52 Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 January 1932

Imperial Airways' Handley Page H.P. 42E, G-AAXF, Helena, in flight. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Imperial Airways’ Handley Page HP.42, G-AAXF, Helena, in flight. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)
Imperial Airways "Speedbird" logo,from a baggage lable, ca. 1933
Imperial Airways’ “Speedbird” logo by Theyre Lee-Elliott, from a baggage label, 1933.

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.

‘ON Wednesday, Jan. 20, the first load of mails left Croydon for Cape town and intermediate stations by Imperial Airways service. Our two maps show the route which will be followed, the stages for each day and the types of aircraft used on each section.” —FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 1204, Vol. XXIV. No. 4, 22 January 1932 at Page 74

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.

Imperial Airways' Handley Page H.P. 42 G-AAXF, Helena, at Gaza. (Library of Congress)
Imperial Airways’ Handley Page HP.42 G-AAXF, Helena, at Gaza. (Library of Congress)

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 of all-metal construction, covered in duralumin sheet. It was 89 feet, 9 inches (27.356 meters) long. The upper wing had a span of 130 feet, 0 inches (39.624 meters), and the lower, 94 feet, 0 inches (28.651 meters). The overall height of the airplane was 27 feet (8.230 meters). The lower wing had an unusual configuration with the section inboard of the engine angled upward so that its spars crossed over the passenger cabin, rather than through. The empty weight was 17,740 pounds (8,047 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 28,000 pounds (12,701 kilograms.)

Cutaway Illustration of a Handley Page HP.42, by George Horace Davis, 1930.

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 throttles were arranged so that the upper engines could go to full throttle only after the lower engines, rather than simultaneously.

The HP.42 had a cruise speed of 96 miles per hour (155 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed was 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour). The airliner’s range was 500 miles (805 kilometers).

Imperial Airways' Handley Page H.P. 45, G-AAXF, Helena, being moved by a ground crew. (State Library of New South Wales)
Imperial Airways’ Handley Page HP.42, G-AAXF, Helena, being moved by a ground crew. (State Library of New South Wales)

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 HP.42s had been destroyed.

Imperial Airways poster by Theyre Lee-Elliott (David Lee Theyre Elliott), 1932. Elliott created the “Speedbird” logo. (1stdibs)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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