Category Archives: Aviation

12 October 1944

1st Lieutenant Chuck Yeager. (American Air Museum in Britain)

12 October 1944: During World War II, First Lieutenant Charles Elwood Yeager, Air Corps, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), was a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot assigned to the 363d Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group, stationed at RAF Leiston (USAAF Station 373), near the village of Theberton, Suffolk, England.

Recently promoted from the warrant rank of Flight Officer, Lieutenant Yeager—as one of the most experienced pilots in the group— was leading the 357th on a bomber escort mission against Bremen, Germany. While the Group’s 362nd and 364th Fighter Squadrons remained with the B-24 bombers, Yeager and the 363d patrolled 50 to 100 miles (80 to 160 kilometers) ahead.

At 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) over Steinhuder Meer, northwest of Hanover, Yeager sighted a group of Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters (also called the Me 109). He was soon able to count 22. Yeager and his squadron of 16 Mustangs circled and attacked out of the sun.

A flight of three Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters, 20 July 1944. (Bundsarchive Bild 101l-676-7975-36)
A flight of three Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters, 20 July 1944. (Bundsarchive Bild 101l-676-7975-36)

As Chuck Yeager maneuvered his P-51D Mustang, named Glamorous Glenn II, to fire at a trailing Bf 109, the German fighter suddenly turned left and collided with his wingman. Both pilots bailed out of their fighters and the two Bf 109s went down.

It was almost comic, scoring two quick victories without firing a shot. . . By now, all the airplanes in the sky had dropped their wing tanks and were spinning and diving in a wild, wide-open dogfight. I blew up a 109 from six hundred yards—my third victory—when I turned to see another angling in behind me. Man I pulled back the throttle so damned hard I nearly stalled, rolled up and over, came in behind and under him, kicking right rudder and simultaneously firing. I was directly underneath the guy, less than fifty feet, and I opened up that 109 as if it were a can of Spam. That made four. A moment later, I waxed a guy’s fanny in a steep dive; I pulled up at about 1,000 feet; he went straight into the ground.

Yeager, An Autobiography, by Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos, Bantam Books, New York, 1985, at Page 57.

1st Lieutenant Charles E. Yeager with “Glamorous Glenn II,” at USAAF Station 157, Raydon, Suffolk, England, 17 October 1944. (American Air Museum in Britain)

Lieutenant Yeager’s official report of the air battle reads (in part):

“H. Five Me. 109s destroyed

“I. I was leading the Group with Cement Squadron and was roving out to the right of the first box of bombers. I was over STEINHUDER LAKE when 22 Me. 109s crossed in front of my Squadron from 11:00 O’Clock to 1:00 O’Clock. I was coming out of the sun and they were about 1½ miles away at the same level of 25,000 feet. I fell in behind the enemy formation and followed them for about 3 minutes, climbing to 30,000 feet. I still had my wing tanks and had close up to around 1,000 yards, coming within firing range and positioning the Squadron behind the entire enemy formation. Two of the Me. 109s were dodging over to the right. One slowed up and before I could start firing, rolled over and bailed out. The other Me. 109, flying his wing, bailed out immediately after as I was ready to line him in my sights. I was the closest to the tail-end of the enemy formation and no one, but myself was in shooting range and no one was firing. I dropped my tanks and then closed up to the last Jerry and opened fire from 600 yards, using the K-14 sight. I observed strikes all over the ship, particularly heavy in the cockpit. He skidded off to the left. I was closing up on another Me. 109 so I did not follow him down. Lt. STERN, flying in Blue Flight reports this E/A on fire as it passed him and went into a spin. I closed up on the next Me. 109 to 100 yards, skidded to the right and took a deflection shot of about 10°. I gave about a 2 second burst and the whole fuselage split open and blew up after we passed. Another Me. 109 to the right had cut his throttle and was trying to get behind. I broke to the right and quickly rolled to the left on his tail. He started pulling it in and I was pulling 6″G”. I got a lead from around 300 yards and gave him a short burst. There were hits on wings and tail section He snapped to the right 3 times and bailed out when he quit snapping at around 18,000 feet. I did not blackout during this engagement due to the efficiency of the “G” suit. Even though I was skidding I hit the second Me. 109 by keeping the bead and range on the E/A. To my estimation the K-14 sight is the biggest improvement to combat equipment for Fighters up to this date. The Me. 109s appeared to have a type of bubble canopy and had purple noses and were a mousey brown all over. I claim five Me 109s destroyed.

“J. Ammunition Expended: 587 rounds .50 cal MG.

“Charles E. Yeager, 1st Lt, AC.”

Lieutenant Yeager had destroyed five enemy fighters during a single battle. He became “an Ace in one day” and was awarded the Silver Star. Of the twenty-two Me 109s, the 363rd had destroyed eight without losing a single Mustang.

Yeager’s Glamorous Glenn II had previously been assigned to Captain Charles K. Peters and named Daddy Rabbit. Flown by another pilot, Second Lieutenant Horace Roycroft, 44-13897 was destroyed six days later when it crashed in bad weather. Lieutenant Roycroft was killed.

North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA 44-13366 on a test flight near the North American plant at Inglewood, California. This is from the same production block as Yeager's Glamorous Glenn II.
North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA 44-13366 on a test flight near the North American plant at Inglewood, California. This fighter is from the same production block as Yeager’s Glamorous Glenn II.

The P-51D was the predominant version of the North American Aviation World War II fighter. It was a single-seat, single-engine fighter, initially designed for the Royal Air Force. The P-51D was 32 feet, 3.5 inches (9.843 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet (11.278 meters). It was 13 feet, 4.5 inches (4.077 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 7,635 pounds (3,463 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 12,100 pounds (5,489 kilograms).

The P-51D was powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with Military Power ratings of 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m with 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3), or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). These engines were versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66, built under license by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)
A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)

The P-51D with a V-1650-7 Merlin had maximum speed at Sea Level of 323 miles per hour (520 kilometers per hour) at the Normal Power setting of 2,700 r.p.m. and 46 inches of manifold pressure, and 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour) at War Emergency Power, 3,000 r.p.m with 67 inches of manifold pressure (5 minute limit). At altitude, using the Military Power setting of 3,000 r.p.m. and 61 inches of manifold pressure (15 minute limit), it had a maximum speed of 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 28,000 feet (8,534 meters). With War Emergency Power the P-51D could reach 442 miles per hour (711 kilometers per hour) at 26,000 feet (7,925 meters).

The P-51D could climb to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 6.4 minutes, and to its service ceiling, 41,600 feet (12,680 meters), in 28 minutes. The airplane’s absolute ceiling was 42,400 feet (12,924 meters).

With 180 gallons (681 liters) internal fuel, the maximum range of the P-51D was 1,108 miles (1,783 kilometers).

Armorers carry AN/M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns and belts of linked ammunition to a P-51 Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)
Armorers carry Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns and belts of linked .50-caliber ammunition to a P-51 Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-51D was armed with six electrically-heated Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with three mounted in each wing. 400 rounds of ammunition were provided for the inner pair of guns, and 270 rounds for each of the other four guns, for a total of 1,880 rounds of ammunition. This was armor piercing, incendiary, and tracer ammunition. The fighter could also carry a 1,000 pound (453.6 kilogram) bomb under each wing in place of drop tanks, or up to ten rockets.

North American Aviation P-51D Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation P-51D Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)

A total of 8,156 P-51Ds were produced by North American at Inglewood, California, and Dallas, Texas, and another 200 by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Melbourne, Australia.

The North American Aviation P-51D Mustang remained in service with the United States Air Force until 27 January 1957, when the last aircraft were retired from the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia National Guard.

North American Aviation P-51D-25-NT Mustang 44-84900 at NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, circa 1945–1952. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 October 1925

Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis and his Curtiss R3C-1 cross the finish line at the 1925 Pulitzer Trophy Race. (NASM)
The Pulitzer Trophy

12 October 1925: At Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, Air Service, United States Army, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 100 kilometers (62.14 miles), flying a Curtiss R3C-1 racing plane, #43. His average speed was 401.28 kilometers per hour (249.34 miles per hour).¹ Lieutenant Bettis was awarded the Pulitzer Trophy.

Bettis also won the Mackay Trophy for 1925.

Cyrus Bettis had previously won the 1924 Mitchell Trophy Race, sponsored by Brigadier General Billy Mitchell in honor of his brother, John L. Mitchell, who was killed during World War I.

Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, USAAS, with the Curtiss R3C-1 racer at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, 12 October 1925. The surface radiators on the wings can be seen. (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co.)
Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, USAAS, with the Curtiss R3C-1 racer at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, 12 October 1925. The surface radiators on the wings can be seen. (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co.)

The Curtiss R3C-1 was a single-place, single-engine, single-bay  biplane built for especially for air racing.  Two were built for the United States Navy and one for the Army. (The Army aircraft is identified by a Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (“Bu. No.”) A-7054. It does not seem to have been assigned an Air Service serial number.) The airplane and its V-1400 engine were built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, which had been founded by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. It was converted to a seaplane configuration with two single-step pontoons, the R3C-2, for the Schneider Trophy Race, two weeks later, 25 October.

The R3C is 19 feet, 8½ inches (6.007 meters) long. The upper wing span is 22 feet (6.706 meters), with a chord of 4 feet, 8¼ inches (1.429 meters). The lower wing span is 20 feet (6.096 meters) with a chord of 3 feet, 3¾ inches (1.010 meters). The R3C-1 had an empty of 2,135 pounds (968 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 2,738 pounds (1,242 kilograms).

Curtiss R3C-1 (FAI)
Lieutenant Bettis’ record-setting Curtiss R3C-1 biplane. (FAI)

Constructed of wood, the fuselage had four ash longerons and seven birch vertical bulkheads. The framework was covered with two layers of 2-inch (51 millimeter) wide, 3/32-inch (2.38 millimeter) thick spruce strips. These were placed on a 45° diagonal from the fuselage horizontal centerline, with the second layer at 90° to the first. These veneer strips were glued and tacked to the frame. The fuselage was then covered with doped fabric. The wings and tail surfaces were also of wood, with spruce ribs and a covering of spruce strips.

The single-bay wings were wire braced and contained surface radiators made of thin brass sheeting. The radiators contained 12 gallons (45.4 liters) of water, circulating at a rate of 75 gallons (283.9 liters) per minute. By using surface radiators to cool the engine, aerodynamic drag was reduced.

The Curtiss V-1400 engine was developed from the earlier Curtiss D-12. It was a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 1,399.91-cubic-inch-displacement (22.940 liter), dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12, with a compression ratio of 5.5:1. The V-1400 was rated at 510 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and could produce 619 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. It was a direct-drive engine and turned a two-bladed duralumin fixed-pitch propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters). The propeller was designed by Sylvanus Albert Reed, Ph.D. The V-1400 engine weighed 660 pounds (299 kilograms).

The R3C-1 had a fuel capacity of 27 gallons (102 liters). Its range was 290 miles (467 kilometers).

After the Pullitzer race, the R3C-1 was reconfigured as a seaplane for the Schneider Trophy Race. The fixed landing gear was replaced by two single-step pontoons and the airplane was redesignated R3C-2. Additional fuel was carried in the pontoons. On 26 October 1925, 1st Lieutenant James H. Doolittle flew the airplane to win the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider at Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

The R3C-2 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Lt. James H. Doolittle and Lt. Cyrus Bettis with the Curtiss R3C-2 (NARA 31758AC)
Lt. James H. Doolittle (left) and Lt. Cyrus Bettis with the Curtiss R3C-2 (NARA 31758AC)

Cyrus Bettis was born 2 January 1893, at Carsonville, Michigan, the first of three children of John Bettis, a farm worker, and Mattie McCrory Bettis.

Bettis enlisted as a private, first class, in the Aviation Section, Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, at Detroit, Michigan, 23 January 1918. The Bell Telephone News reported:

     Cyrus Bettis has gone to Detroit and enlisted in the Aviation Corps of Uncle Sam’s service.

     He expects to be called to service at any time and will probably go East for training. Cyrus has been the efficient and genial manager of the Michigan State Telephone exchange in Fenton for several years. He has made an excellent manager and entrenched himself in the good graces of his patrons and Fenton People in General. —Fenton Independent.

Bell Telephone News, Volume 7, Number 6, January 1918, at Page 4, Column 1

On 11 September 1918, Cyrus Bettis was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army. This commission was vacated 16 September 1920 and he was appointed a second lieutenant, Air Service, with date of rank to 1 July 1920. On 21 March 1921, Bettis was advanced to the rank of first lieutenant, retroactive to 1 July 1920.

On 23 August 1926, flying from Philadelphia to Selfridge Field in Michigan, Bettis flew into terrain in fog in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania. With a fractured skull and broken left leg, Bettis crawled several miles to a roadway where he was found, 43 hours after the crash.

Bettis was taken by air ambulance to Walter Reed Army Hospital, but died of spinal meningitis resulting from his injuries, 1 September. He was buried at the Lakeside Cemetery, Port Huron, Michigan.

1st Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, Air Service, United States Army. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 9684

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 October 1968, 15:02:45 UTC, T plus 000:00:00.36

Apollo 7 Saturn 1B (AS-205) lifts off from Launch Complex 34 at the Kennedy Space Center, 15:02:45 UTC, 11 October 1968. (NASA)
Apollo 7 Saturn 1B (AS-205) lifts off from Launch Complex 34, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, 15:02:45 UTC, 11 October 1968. (NASA)

11 October 1968: at 15:02:45 UTC, Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo spacecraft, was launched aboard a Saturn IB rocket from Launch Complex 34, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida.

The flight crew were Captain Walter M. (“Wally”) Schirra, United States Navy, the mission commander, on his third space flight; Major Donn F. Eisele, U.S. Air Force, the Command Module Pilot, on his first space flight; and Major R. Walter Cunningham, U.S. Marine Corps, Lunar Module Pilot, also on his first space flight.

The flight crew of Apollo 7, left to right: Donn Eisele, USAF, Capain Walter M. ("Wally") Schirra, USN, and Major R. Walter Cunningham, USMC. (NASA)
The flight crew of Apollo 7, left to right: Major Donn F. Eisele, USAF, Captain Walter M. (“Wally”) Schirra, USN, and Major R. Walter Cunningham, USMCR. (NASA) 

The mission was designed to test the Apollo spacecraft and its systems. A primary goal was the test of the Service Propulsion System (SPS), which included a restartable Aerojet AJ10-137 rocket engine which would place an Apollo Command and Service Module into and out of lunar orbit on upcoming missions.

The SPS engine was built by Aerojet General Corporation, Azusa, California. It burned a hypergolic fuel combination of Aerozine 50 (a variant of hydrazine) and nitrogen tetraoxide, producing 20,500 pounds of thrust. It was designed for a 750 second duration, or 50 restarts during a flight. This engine was fired eight times and operated perfectly.

The duration of the flight of Apollo 7 was 10 days, 20 hours, 9 minutes, 3 seconds, during which it orbited the Earth 163 times. The spacecraft splashed down 22 October 1968, approximately 230 miles (370 kilometers) south south west of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean, 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Essex (CVS-9).

The Apollo command module was a conical space capsule designed and built by North American Aviation to carry a crew of three on space missions of two weeks or longer. Apollo 7 (CSM-101) was the first Block II capsule, which had been extensively redesigned following the Apollo 1 fire which had resulted in the deaths of three astronauts. The Block II capsule was 10 feet, 7 inches (3.226 meters) tall and 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters) in diameter. It weighed 12,250 pounds (5,557 kilograms). There was 218 cubic feet (6.17 cubic meters) of livable space inside.

Apollo 7/Saturn IB AS-205.at Launch Complex 34.(NASA)

The Saturn IB consisted of an S-IB first stage and an S-IVB second stage. The S-IB was built by Chrysler. It was powered by eight Rocketdyne H-1 engines, burning RP-1 and liquid oxygen. Eight Redstone rocket fuel tanks containing the RP-1 fuel surrounded a Jupiter rocket tank containing the liquid oxygen. Total thrust of the S-IB stage was 1,600,000 pounds and it carried sufficient propellant for 150 seconds of burn. This would lift the vehicle to an altitude of 37 nautical miles (69 kilometers).

The Douglas-built S-IVB stage was powered by one Rocketdyne J-2 engine, fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The single engine produced 200,000 pounds of thrust and had enough fuel for 480 seconds of burn.

The Saturn IB rocket stood 141 feet, 6 inches (43.13 meters) without payload. It was capable of launching a 46,000 pound (20,865 kilogram) payload to Earth orbit.

Apollo 7 Saturn 1B AS-205 in flight above Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, 11 October 1968. (NASA)
Apollo 7 Saturn 1B AS-205 in flight above Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, 11 October 1968. (NASA)
Apollo 7 at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). (NASA)
Staging. Apollo 7 Saturn IB first stage separation. (NASA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 October 1956, 05:57 GMT

The Blue Danube Mar 1 bomb drops away from Vickers Valiant B.1 WZ366 over the Kite test site, Maralinga, South Australia. (Crown Copyright)
A Blue Danube Mark 1 bomb drops away from a Vickers Valiant B.1 bomber. (Ministry of Defense)

11 October 1956: At 3:27 p.m., local time, (05:57 GMT) a Mk.1 Atom Bomb, code-named Blue Danube, detonated at approximately 490 feet (150 meters) over the Kite Site on the Maralinga Test Range, South Australia. The bomb had been dropped from a Royal Air Force Vickers Valiant B.1 bomber, WZ366, flying at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). The aircraft commander was Squadron Leader E.J.G. (“Ted”) Flavell, RAF.

The Kite air burst was the third detonation of Operation Buffalo, but this was the first British atomic bomb which had been dropped from an airplane.

For their performance during this test, Squadron Leader Ted Flavell and bomb aimer Flight Lieutenant Eric Stacey were awarded the Air Force Cross.

Operation Buffalo, Test Kite detonation, Maralinga Test Range, South Australia, 0557 GMT, 11 October 1956. Explosive yield was 3 kilotons. (Nuclear Weapons Archive)
Operation Buffalo, Round 3 detonation, Kite Site, Maralinga Test Range, South Australia, 0557 GMT, 11 October 1956. Explosive yield was 3 kilotons. (Nuclear Weapons Archive)

Blue Danube was an implosion-type fission bomb using plutonium and uranium as fuel. Designed as a 40-kiloton weapon, for this test, the yield was reduced to 3 kilotons. The bomb was 24 feet, 2 inches (7.366 meters) long and had a diameter of 5 feet, 2 inches (1.575 meters). The spherical 32-lens plutonium/uranium implosion system was 5 feet (1.524 meters) in diameter. The bomb weighed 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms). Four retractable guide fins would extend to span 9 feet, 0.8 inches (2.764 meters) after leaving the aircraft’s bomb bay.

The length of the bomb casing (more than twice that of a similar type U.S. weapon) and the large guide fins made the Blue Danube very aerodynamically stable.

Twenty Blue Danube Mark 1 bombs were produced and were in service until 1962.

[Thanks to Brian Burnell at Nuclear Weapons: A Guide to British Nuclear Weapon Projects  www.nuclear-weapons.info  for the information.]

A technician gives a size reference to a Blue Danube bomb case. The same casing was used for the much more powerful Violet Club. (imgkid.com)
A technician gives a size reference to a Blue Danube bomb case. The same casing was used for the much more powerful Violet Club. (imgkid.com)

The Vickers-Armstrong Valiant B.1 was designed and built under the direction of Vickers’ chief designer, George R. Edwards. It was a high-wing, four-engine turbojet-powered strategic bomber, operated by a flight crew of five. The leading edges of the wings featured a compound sweep with the inner one-third swept to 37° and the outer two-thirds swept to 21°. It was 108 feet, 3 inches (32.995 meters) long with a wingspan of 114 feet, 4 inches (34.849 meters) and overall height of 32 feet, 2 inches (9.804 meters). Its empty weight was 75,581 pounds (34,283 kilograms) and Maximum Takeoff weight was 140,000 pounds (63,503 kilograms).

The bomber was powered by four Rolls-Royce Avon RA.28 Mk.204 or Mk.205 turbojet engines placed inside the wings adjacent to the fuselage.  The RA.28 was a single-shaft axial-flow engine with a 15-stage compressor and 2 stage turbine. They produced 10,050 pounds of thrust (44.705 kilonewtons). The RA.28 Mk.204 was 10 feet, 3.0 inches (3.124 meters) long and 3 feet, 11.5 inches (1.054 meters) in diameter.

The Valiant B.1 had a maximum speed of 567 miles per hour (912.5 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Its service ceiling was 54,000 feet (16,459 meters) and range with external fuel tanks was 4,500 miles (7,242 kilometers).

After 1962 the Valiant B.1 was used as a low-level tactical bomber. This resulted in the wing spar suffering from stress-induced fatigue cracks. A replacement spar was developed but due to the cost, the Valiant bomber fleet was quickly retired.

Vickers-Armstrong Type 706 Valiant B.1 WZ.366.
Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Type 706 Valiant B.1 WZ.366. (Unattributed)

WZ366 was one of the first thirty-four Type 706 full-production Valiant B.1 bombers. It made its first flight 18 August 1955 and was delivered to the RAF on 7 October 1955, assigned to No. 49 Squadron. It was one of three Valiant B.1s of No. 1321 Flight, RAF Wittering, selected for use in the Operation Buffalo nuclear weapons tests. Later it served with No. 7 and No. 49 Squadrons, but was withdrawn from service 6 March 1964. WZ366 was sold for scrap 16 June 1965.

Sqn. Ldr. E.J.G. Flavell, RAF. (The Telegraph)
Squadron Leader Edwin J.G. Flavell, RAF. (The Telegraph)

Squadron Leader Edwin James George (“Ted”) Flavell, A.F.C., Royal Air Force, was born at Battersea, England, 25 April 1922. He entered the Royal Air Force as an aircraft mechanic in 1938, then underwent pilot training in Canada. During World War II, he flew many secret missions over Europe and Scandinavia, inserting agents and dropping supplies in occupied territories.

Ted Flavell also flew airplanes which were towing glider transports for the D-Day invasion and Operation Market Garden.

After the war, he flew English Electric Canberra bombers and was in the first group of pilots trained for the Vickers Valiant.

Squadron Leader Flavell served in the Royal Air Force for thirty years, retiring in 1968. He died 24 February 2014 at the age of 91 years.

The flight crew of Valiant B.1 WZ366. Sqn. Ldr. E.J.G. Flavell is at the far left. (The Telegraph)
The flight crew of Valiant B.1 WZ366. Squadron Leader E.J.G. Flavell is at the far left. (The Telegraph)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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4–11 October 1933

Kingsford Smith’s Percival Gull, G-ACJV. after taking off from Lympne, 4 October 1933.
Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, M.C., A.F.C. (Monash University Library)

After a positioning flight from Heston on 3 October 1933, at 5:28 a.m. British Summer Time (B.S.T.), on Wednesday, 4 October, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, M.C., A.F.C., took off from Lympne Aerodrome, Kent en route Wyndham, Western Australia. He had said that he wanted to arrive there as soon as possible, but breaking a record was not his stated purpose. Kingsford Smith’s airplane was a Percival D.2 Gull IV, which he had named Miss Southern Cross.

On the first day, “Smitty” flew to Brindisi, Italy, arriving at 4:30 p.m. He departed for Baghdad, Kingdom of Iraq, at 3:30 a.m., the following morning after a 1,600 mile (2,575 kilometer) non-stop flight.

Departing Baghdad at 4:00 a.m. local (2:00 a.m. B.S.T.), 6 October, Kingsford Smith intended to fly on to Karachi in the Bombay Presidency, but feeling unwell, he landed at Gwadar, on the coast of the Gulf of Oman. He rested over night and departed early the next morning, finally arriving at Karachi at about 10:00 a.m., 7 October.

Five hours later, Kingsford Smith took off for Calcutta, British India, and arrived there at 1:40 p.m. on 8 October. He refueled and after about 30 minutes was airborne once again, flying to Akyab, British Burma. He remained there overnight, but departed at dawn the following morning, 9 October.

From Akyab, on 10 October Smitty flew to Alor Star, Kingdom of Siam. He landed at 5:15 p.m., local time. Once again airborne at dawn the following day, Kingsford Smith’s next destination was Sourabya, Java, in the Dutch East Indies. He landed at 6:23 p.m., local time.

The final leg of the journey began at 4:55 a.m., local, 11 October. Flying across the Timor Sea, Charles Kingsford Smith landed at Wyndham, Western Australia, at 5:12 p.m., local (9:12 a.m., G.M.T.).

The total elapsed time, from Lympne to Wyndham, was 7 days, 4 hours, 44 minutes. (The previous record for a solo flight was 8 days, 20 hours, 47 minutes, set by Charles William Anderson Scott in 1932.)

Charles Kingsford Smith’s Percival D.2 Gull IV, s/n D39, G-ACJV, Melbourne, 1933. (Neil Follett Collection via Geoff Goodall’s Aviation History)

Miss Southern Cross was Percival D.2 Gull Four, serial number D39, built by George Parnell & Co., at Yate Aerodrome, Gloucestershire, for the Percival Aircraft Co. It was a single-engine, three-place light airplane with fixed landing gear. Charles Kingsford Smith had the two passenger seats removed to provide space for an auxiliary fuel tank, increasing the airplane’s total fuel capacity to 120 gallons ( liters). The Percival Gull was 24 feet, 8 inches (7.518 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 0 inches (10.973 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 1,170 pounds (531 kilograms), and gross weight of 2,050 pounds (930 kilograms).

In 1933, the advertised price of a Percival Cull, “fully equipped, including compass,” was £1,275.

The Gull’s fuselage was constructed of spruce stringers and struts, covered with a three-ply skin. The wings were designed to be able to fold back alongside the fuselage. The resulting width of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters) required considerably less storage space.

The Percival D.2 Gull IV was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 373.71-cubic-inch-displacement (6,124 cubic centimeters) de Havilland Gipsy Major I, an inverted, inline four-cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It produced 120 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m and 130 horsepower at 2,350 r.p.m. The engine weighed 306 pounds (138.8 kilograms). The engine turned a two-bladed adjustable pitch Fairey metal propeller.

The D.2 Gull IV had a cruise speed of 125 miles per hour (201 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 145 miles per hour (233 kilometers per hour). The standard airplane had a range of 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometers). With Smitty’s auxiliary fuel tank installed, it had an estimated range of 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers) in still air.

On arrival in Australia, Miss Southern Cross was re-registered VH-CKS. This letter combination was out of the normal sequence, but was authorized for Charles Kingsford Smith.

Over the next 11 months, VH-CKS was operated for charter flights and demonstrations. It was damaged several times, but repaired and returned to service. On the night of 28 November 1934, flown by Oliver Blythe (“Pat”) Hall, a pilot employed by Kingsford Smith Air Service Ltd., crashed while descending through clouds at Square Rock, near Yerranderie, New South Wales. Hall was injured, but survived. A passenger, L. Hinks, died of injuries several hours later. Miss Southern Cross was destroyed.

Percival D.2 Gull IV D39, G-ACJV, Miss Southern Cross, November 1933. (Kevin O’Reilly Collection via Geoff Goodall’s Aviation History)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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