3 December 1937

Alexander de Seversky and Jackie Cochran with the SEV-S1, 1937. (Cliff Henderson Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: CF_09-0044)

3 December 1937: Jackie Cochran flew a Seversky SEV-S1, R18Y,¹ a variant of the P-35 fighter, from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, to Miami, Florida, in 4 hours, 12 minutes, 27.2 seconds.

On the same day, Александр Николаевич Прокофьев-Северский (Alexander Nikolaievich Prokofiev de Seversky), the airplane’s designer, flew a second P-35-type airplane from New York to Havana, Cuba, in 5 hours, 3 minutes, 5 seconds.

The Miami Daily News reported:

. . . Jaqueline Cochran, 26-year-old New York woman flier, set a speed record of four hours and 12 minutes in a flight from New York City which ended at 3:21 p.m. yesterday at municipal airport. Averaging 278.13 miles an hour on her trip south, Miss Cochran beat the fastest time ever recorded either way between the two cities by eight minutes. That mark was set northbound by Howard Hughes. . .

. . . A New York-Havana non-stop flight record also was set yesterday when Maj. Alexander de Seversky flew the 1,350 miles in five hours and two minutes—two hours and one minute faster than Lieut. Commander Frank Hawks’ record of 1931. The new record-holder is expected to fly to Miami today.

Miami Daily News, Vol. XLII, No. 358, Saturday, 4 December 1937, Page 1, Column 8, and Page 2, Column 5

Jackie Cochran with the Seversky “SEV-S1 Executive,” X18Y, 1937. (Cliff Henderson Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: CF_09-0043)

“. . . Sasha [de Seversky] became convinced that I could win the big New York-to-Miami air race coming up. What better rebuttal could he have than to have his plane flown 300 miles per hour [483 kilometers per hour] over a measured, timed course and to have it all done by a woman? The Army Air Forces were canceling further orders because they saw the airplane as dangerously faulty and not up to the specifications they had ordered.

“Sasha installed an extra gas tank in place of a seat for me. It wasn’t very comfortable, but what was worse was that the plane had never been test-flown with a full load of gas. I took off and discovered that the center of gravity was somewhere in the nose. God, I nearly put that plane into the bay just south of what is now Kennedy Airport. It porpoised terribly for over an hour. . .

“I did get the nose up in time to avoid a swim, but until I burned out most of the fuel in the seat tank, I really had to hold on for a rough ride—up and down the sky. From Washington  D.C., on, the situation straightened out and I got the record Sasha wanted so badly. . . .”

Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, Pages 150–151.

“On five different occasions I have landed after a speed flight with less than two minutes of fuel remaining and once—on a record flight from New York to Miami—my engine went dead just as my wheels touched the runway. This was because of a risk I had not considered. When I reached the destination, a squadron of Navy planes was in formation flight over the airport and I had to circle before landing.”

The Stars At Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1954, Chapter IV at Page 72.

Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Seversky SEV-2S Executive, NR18Y. Note the passenger windows below and behind the cockpit. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Seversky SEV-S1, R18Y, with Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran in the cockpit. Note the passenger cabin, behind and below the cockpit. The airplane carries Frank Sinclair’s Bendix and Thompson Trophy race number 63 on the vertical fin. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog # 15_002036)

The SEV-S1 was a civil variant of Major de Seversky’s P-35A fighter, which was the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first all-metal, single-engine airplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear.

Designed by Alexander Kartvelishvili, the airplane had originally been built as the Seversky II X, a single-place open cockpit monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was powered by an  air-cooled, supercharged 1,666.860-cubic-inch-displacement (27.315 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division GR1670A1 Whirlwind, a two-row, 14-cylinder radial engine. The GR1670A1 had a compression ratio of 6.75:1 and was rated at 775 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. for takeoff, using 87-octane aviation gasoline. It drove an experimental three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propeller through a 16:11 gear reduction. The GR1670A1 was 45 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter, 52-25/32 inches (1.341 meters) long, and weighed 1,160 pounds (526 kilograms).

The Seversky II X was reconfigured as two-place monoplane fighter to compete in a fly-off at Wright Field against the Curtiss-Wright Model 75 Hawk and the Northrop 3A for the Air Corps fighter contract in 1935. The airplane was redesignated SEV-2XP and carried the registration mark X18Y.

The Seversky SEV-2XP X18Y in the two-place, fixed landing gear configuration. (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 16_006753)

In mid May 1935, de Seversky was flying the prototype from the company’s Farmingdale, New York factory toward Wright Field, located near Dayton, Ohio. The airplane’s engine overheated and stopped. He made a forced landing at a small hilltop landing field near St. Clairsville, Ohio, during which the airplane was damaged. Several weeks were required to make repairs.

In the meantime, de Seversky had seen his competitors’ entries. Both were single place pursuits with retractable landing gear. He realized that his -2XP was completely outclassed.

The Curtiss-Wright Model 75, X17Y. This prototype would be developed into the P-36 Hawk and later, the P-40 Warhawk. (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 16_008032)
The Northrop 3A, photographed 30 July 1935, the day it disappeared off the coast of southern California. No trace was found of it or the pilot, 1st Lieutenant Arthur Henry Skaer, Jr. (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 16_005638)

The prototype was once again rebuilt. It was now also a single-place airplane with retractable landing gear. Designated SEV-1XP, X18Y was initially powered by a 1,823.129 cubic inch displacement (29.876 liters) 860-horsepower Wright Cyclone, which was quickly upgraded to a Wright GR-1820G4. This was also a single-row, nine-cylinder radial engine. The G4 had a compression ratio of 6.45:1 and required 87-octane aviation gasoline. It was rated at 810 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and 1,000 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m.for takeoff. The engine was 47¾ inches (1.213 meters) long, 54¼ inches in diameter, and weighed 1,210 pounds (549 kilograms). The SEV-1XP had a fuel capacity of 160 U.S. gallons (606 liters) and carried 15 gallons (57 liters) of lubricating oil.

Seversky SEV-1XP X18Y. (Seversky Aircraft Company)
Seversky SEV-1XP X18Y (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 16_006757)

In April 1936, X18Y’s engine was once again upgraded, this time to a Wright GR-1820G5, s/n 23233.

Major Alexander de Seversky with SEV-1XP X18Y. (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #16_006759)

Another engine change came in January 1937. The Wright Cyclone was replaced by a Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-13, s/n 312. With the Twin Wasp, NR18Y’s designation was changed to SEV-S1. (Department of Commerce records continued to refer to it as SEV-1XP.) The -13 was a supercharged, two row, fourteen cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1, requiring 91/93-octane aviation gasoline. It had a normal power rating of 900 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., to an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 1,050 horsepower at 2,700 r,p,m for takeoff. The airplane retained the same Hamilton Standard propeller that had been used with the R-1820G5, which it drove through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-13 was 48.06 inches (1.221 meters) long, 59.25 inches (1.505 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,370 pounds (621 kilograms).

In August 1937, the R-1830-13 was replaced by a R-1830 SB-G, s/n 112. Again, the same propeller was used. The SB-G had a normal rating of 900 horsepower at  2,450 r.p.m., to 6,500 feet (1,981 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for takeoff. 87-octane fuel was required. The SB-G had the same gear reduction ratio as the -13. It was 48.00 inches (1.219 meters) long, 55.48 inches (1.409 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,284 pounds (582 kilograms).

On 30 August 1937, the Seversky SEV-1XP was issued a restricted registration, R18Y. As it was then configured, it had an actual empty weight of 4,390 pounds (1,991 kilograms) and gross weight of 6,290 pounds (2,853 kilograms).

Frank Sinclair, Seversky’s chief test pilot, flew R18Y in the 1937 National Air Races, held at Columbus, Ohio. Sinclair’s race number, 63, was painted on the vertical fin. On 4 September, he finished the Bendix Trophy Race from Burbank, California, to Columbus, in fourth place with a time of 11 hours, 2 minutes, winning a $2,000 prize. (Jackie Cochran flew a Beech Staggerwing in the Bendix, beating Sinclair and R18Y by 33 minutes.) Two days later, 6 September, Sinclair placed fourth in the Thompson Trophy pylon race. The Seversky averaged 252.360 miles per hour (406.134 kilometers per hour).

 The Seversky's passenger compartment was accessed through a hatch on the right side of the fuselage. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives) Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Seversky SEV-2S Executive, NR18Y. Note the passenger windows below and behind the cockpit. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The Seversky’s passenger compartment was accessed through a hatch on the right side of the fuselage. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

On 27 October 1937, the Seversky’s registration reverted to X18Y.

Following an accident at Miami, 13 December 1937, the Department of Commerce suspended X18Y’s registration, noting “AIRCRAFT NOT APPROVED FOR RELICENSING”

It is believed that the prototype was scrapped.

¹ At that time, experimental and restricted category aircraft were prohibited from displaying the letter “N” at the beginning of their registration mark.

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

2 December 1993, 09:27:00 UTC, T minus Zero

Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-61) lifts off from LC-39B, 09:27:00 UTC, 2 December 1993. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-61) lifts off from LC-39B, 09:27:00 UTC, 2 December 1993. (NASA)

2 December 1993, 09:27:00 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-61) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission was to service the Hubble Space Telescope in Earth orbit. This was Endeavour‘s fifth flight.

The flight crew were Mission Commander Colonel Richard O. Covey, United States Air Force, on his fourth space flight, with shuttle pilot Captain Kenneth D. Bowersox, U.S. Navy, on his second flight. Mission Specialist Kathryn C. Thornton, Ph.D., on her third space flight; Professor Claude Nicollier, Captain, Schweizer Luftwaffe, (Swiss Air Force) and European Space Agency, on his second space flight; Jeffrey A. Hoffman, fourth flight, F. Story Musgrave, M.D., fifth space flight; and Thomas D. Akers, third space flight.

Flight crew of Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-61). Seated, left to right: Kenneth D. Bowersox, Kathryn C. Thornton, F. Story Musgrave, and Claude Nicollier, ESA. Rear: Richard O. Covey, Jeffrey A. Hoffman, and Thomas D. Akers. (NASA)
Flight crew of Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-61). Seated, left to right: CAPT Kenneth D. Bowersox, USN; Kathryn C. Thornton, Ph.D.,  F. Story Musgrave, M.D.; and Professor Claude Nicollier, ESA. Rear: COL Richard O. Covey, USAF, Jeffrey A. Hoffman, and Thomas D. Akers. (NASA)

During this flight there were five EVAs (“space walks”) conducted to service and upgrade Hubble. EVAs 1, 3 and 5 were performed by Musgrave and Hoffman, while 2 and 4 were carried out by Thornton and Akers. The duration of these EVAs were between 6 hours, 36 minutes and 7 hours, 54 minutes.

Endeavour landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), Kennedy Space Center, at 05:25:33 UTC, 13 December 1993. The duration of the mission was 10 days, 19 hours, 58 minutes, 37 seconds.

Mission Specialists Jeffrey A. Hoffman (bottom, right of center) and Story Musgrave, on the manipulator arm, with the Hubble Space telescope during EVA 5. (NASA)
Mission Specialists Jeffrey A. Hoffman (bottom, right of center) and Story Musgrave, on the manipulator arm, with the Hubble Space Telescope during EVA 5. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

2 December 1992, 13:24:00 UTC

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) launches from LC-39A, 13:24:00 UTC, 2 December 1992. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) launches from LC-39A, 13:24:00 UTC, 2 December 1992. (NASA)

2 December 1992, 13:24:00 UTC: Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying a classified Satellite Data System-2 military communications satellite, USA-89. This satellite also included the Heritage (Radiant Agate) infrared early warning system for detection of ballistic missile launches. Several other satellites and scientific experiments were also carried.

This was Discovery‘s 15th flight.

The Mission Commander was Captain David M. Walker, United States Navy, on his third space flight, with shuttle pilot Colonel Robert D. Cabana, U. S. Marine Corps, on his second. Three Mission Specialists were aboard: Colonel Guion S. Bluford, Ph.D., U.S. Air Force on his fourth and final space flight; Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Clifford, U.S. Army, first flight; Colonel James S. Voss, U.S. Army, second flight.

Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California at 20:43:17 UTC, 9 December 1992. The duration of the mission was 7 days, 7 hours, 19 minutes, 17 seconds.

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) flight crew. Front row, left to right: Guion S. Bluford and James S. Voss. Back row, David M. Walker, Robert D. Cabana and Micael R. Clifford. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) flight crew. Front row, left to right: COL Guion S. Bluford, PH.D., USAF, and COL James S. Voss, USA. Back row, CAPT David M. Walker, USN, COL Robert D. Cabana, USMC, and LCOL Michael R. Clifford, USA. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

2 December 1990, 06:49:01 UTC, T minus Zero

Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-35) lifts of from LC-39B, Kennedy Space Center, 06:49:00 UTC, 2 December 1990. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-35) lifts off from LC-39B, Kennedy Space Center, 06:49:00 UTC, 2 December 1990. (NASA)

2 December 1990, 06:49:01 UTC: At 1:49:01 a.m. EST, Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-35) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was Columbia‘s 10th flight. STS-35 was a scientific mission, with the ASTRO-1 observatory.

The flight crew consisted of Mission Commander Vance D. Brand on his fourth and final space flight, and shuttle pilot Colonel Guy S. Gardner, U.S. Air Force, on his second. There were three Mission Specialists and two Payload Specialists: Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Ph.D., second space flight; John M. Lounge, third flight; Robert A.R. Parker, Ph.D., second flight; Samuel T. Durance, Ph.D., and Ronald A. Parise, Ph.D., were both on their first flights.

Flight crew of Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-35), left to right: Robert A.Parker, Guy S. Gardner, Ronald A. Parise, Vance D. Brand, Jeffrey A. Hoffman, John M. Lounge and Samuel T. Durrance. (NASA)
Flight crew of Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-35), left to right: Robert A.Parker, Guy S. Gardner, Ronald A. Parise, Vance D. Brand, Jeffrey A. Hoffman, John M. Lounge and Samuel T. Durrance. (NASA)

Columbia landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California at 05:54:08 UTC, 11 December 1990. The duration of the mission was 8 days, 23 hours, 5 minutes, 8 seconds.

Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-35) lands at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 9:54 p.m. PST, 11 December 1990. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

2 December 1988, 14:30:34 UTC

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off at LC-39B, 2 December 1998. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-27) lifts off at LC-39B, 2 December 1998. (NASA)

2 December 1988, 14:30:34 UTC: At 9:30 a.m., EST, Space Shuttle  Atlantis (OV-104) launched from Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on mission STS-27. This was the deployment of the first of five Lockheed Martin Lacrosse I reconnaissance satellites, USA-34, for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Space Shuttle Atlantis climbs from LC-39 on Mission STS-27, 2 December 1988. (NASA STS027-S-006)

STS-27 was the third flight for Atlantis. It would eventually be flown 33 times.

Seated, left to right, are Guy S. Gardner, pilot; Robert L. Gibson, commander and Jerry L. Ross, mission specialist. On the back row, left to right, are mission specialists William M. Shepherd and Richard M. Mullane.
SFlight crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-27): seated, left to right, are Colonel Guy S. Gardner, USAF, pilot; Captain Robert L. Gibson, USN, mission commander, and Colonel Jerry L. Ross, USAF, mission specialist. Standing, left to right, are mission specialists Captain William M. Shepherd, USN, and Colonel Richard M. Mullane, USAF. (NASA)

Space Transport System Flight STS-27 was commanded by Captain Robert Lee Gibson, United States Navy, with Colonel Guy S. Gardner, United States Air Force, as the shuttle pilot. Three mission specialists were aboard for the mission: Colonel Richard M. Mullane, USAF; Colonel Jerry L. Ross, USAF; and Captain William B. Shepherd, a United States Navy SEAL.

Atlantis STS-27 lands at Edwards Air Force Base. The damage to heat-protective tiles is clearly visible. (NASA)
Atlantis STS-27 accelerates toward orbit. (NASA)

Approximately 1 minute, 25 seconds after liftoff, insulating material from the right solid rocket booster (SRB) came off and struck the orbiter. The damage to the thermal tiles on the shuttle’s right side was extensive. More than 700 tiles were damaged and one was completely missing.

This image is believed to be of a Lockheed Martin Lacrosse reconnaissance satellite. Two technicians give scale to the Lacrosse.

Atlantis completed 68 orbits during this mission. It landed on Runway 17, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 6 December 1988, at 23:36:11 UTC (4:36 p.m., PST). The duration of the flight was 4 days, 9 hours, 5 minutes, 37 seconds.

Sts-27_Landing
Atlantis touches down on Rogers Dry Lake, on the afternoon of 6 December 1988. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes