Tag Archives: Aerobatics

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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13 October 1931

Godfrey Webster Dean with a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro, CF-ARO, (s/n B-15), circa 1931. [“British Consols” were bonds issued by the UK Government to finance the war. The last of these were paid off in 2015.] (CAVM 11043)
13 October 1932: Godfrey Webster Dean, pilot for Fairchild Aircraft Co. of Longueuil, Quebec, Canada, became the first pilot to loop a rotorcraft when he performed the maneuver in a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro over the Pitcairn Aircraft, Inc., air field near Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.

The Gazette reported:


G.W. Dean, Flying “British Consols,” First to Loop the Loop in Autogiro

     Fresh from new aerial triumphs, The “British Consols” autogiro, with Pilot Godfrey W. Dean at the controls, dropped from the clouds at the Fairchild Field at Longueuil yesterday afternoon. Pilot Dean and his machine have made a new all-time record for aviation in North America at least, for twice this week they have performed the hitherto impossible. They have “looped the loop” in an autogiro.

     Three months ago, when the “British Consols,” sponsored by the Macdonald Tobacco Company of Montreal, first appeared locally, it created a sensation. Now it has another sensation to its credit, for it has done what the aviation world held to be impossible for any machine of the autogiro type. Never before on this side of the Atlantic has any machine with the rotar blades above been put into a loop. At the test field of the Pitcairn Company, makers of the queer “windmill” craft, Pilot Dean turned the “British Consols” into the evolutions of the loop. The machine was at the Pitcairn factory for a complete overhaul, after its strenuous aerial voyages above Canada, and on completion of the repairs and checking, its pilot demonstrated that with the proper care the loop is as possible to this type of aircraft as to the ordinary airplane. Twice the machine “looped,” first in what is known as a “loose” loop to the air-minded, and then in a “tight” loop. The daring of the local flier and the perfect co-ordination of his machine surprised the most experienced of the Pitcairn staff. Even the test pilots were aghast as the evolutions were completed.

     According to Captain Dean’s own description of the feat, the autogiro behaved very much as any other airplane would have done. The sensational feature of the stunt is that there are no wings to support the ‘giro in its upsidedown manoeuvre. The machine is kept in the air by the action of the rotar blades above it. With the machine reversed it has always been supposed that the rotar blades would stop and therefore drop the machine. This was not the case.

     Pilot Godfrey W. Dean, who was loaned by the Canadian Airways to fly the “British Consols,” has hung up more than one autogiro record since he took over the controls of the machine last July. Before he returned to the Pitcairn factory at Willow Grove, Pa., for his overhaul, he had crossed the continent twice. No other autogiro had ever established such a record. He had flown the machine 212 hours, according to the official log. At an average speed of 90 miles per hour, this means that the “British Consols” covered more than 20,000 miles of territory before it went back to the factory. The average flight of previous autogiros has been around the 100-hour mark in the air.

     To hundreds of thousands of Canadians, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific coast, the “British Consols” was the first autogiro they had ever seen It is the only machine of its kind under Canadian registration. From now on, the machine will be seen locally in some of its peculiar flight manoeuvres.

The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Vol. CLX, No. 250, Thursday, October 15, 1931 at Page 2, Column 2

Pitcairn PCA-2 CF-ARO, serial number B-15, had previously been registered to Hubert M. Pasmore, with United States Department of Commerce, Aeronautics Branch, registration NC10786.

An autogyro is a rotary wing aircraft that derives lift from a turning rotor system which is driven by air flow (autorotation). Unlike a helicopter, thrust is provided by an engine-driven propeller. The engine does not drive the rotor.

The Pitcairn Autogyro Company’s PCA-2 was the first autogyro certified in the United States. Operated by a single pilot, it could carry two passengers. The fuselage was constructed of welded steel tubing, covered with doped fabric and aluminum sheet.

The PCA-2 was 23 feet, 1 inch (7.036 meters) long, excluding the rotor. The low-mounted wing had a span of 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters), and the horizontal stabilizer and elevators had a span of 11 feet, 0 inches. (3.353 meters). The overall height of the autogyro was 13 feet, 7 inches (4.140 meters). The PCA-2 had an empty weight of 2,233 pounds (1,013 kilograms) and gross weight of 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms).

Pitcairn Aircraft, Inc., advertisement, 1932

The four-bladed rotor was semi-articulated with horizontal and vertical hinges to allow for blade flapping and the lead-lag effects of Coriolis force. Unlike the main rotor of a helicopter, there was no cyclic- or collective-pitch motion. The rotor system was mounted at the top of a pylon and rotated counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The rotor had a diameter of 45 feet, 0 inches (13.716 meters). The blades were approximately 22 feet (6.7 meters) long, with a maximum chord of 1 foot, 10 inches (0.559 meters). Each blade was constructed with a tubular steel spar with mahogany/birch plywood ribs, a formed plywood leading edge and a stainless steel sheet trailing edge. They were covered with a layer of very thin plywood. A steel cable joined the blades to limit their lead-lag travel.

The aircraft was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 971.930-cubic-inch-displacement (15.927 liter) Wright R-975E Whirlwind 330 nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The R-975E produced a maximum 330 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 73-octane gasoline. The engine turned a two-bladed Hamilton Standard variable-pitch propeller through direct drive. The engine weighed 635 pounds (288 kilograms).

The PCA-2 had two fuel tanks with a total capacity of 52 gallons (197 liters). It also had a 6½ gallon (24.6 liter) oil tank to supply the radial engine.

The PCA-2 had a maximum speed of 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour). It had a service ceiling of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and a range of 290 miles (467 kilometers).

Godfrey Webster Dean
Hallmark, Deans (1910) Ltd.

Godfrey Webster Dean was born at Burslem (Stoke-on-Trent), Staffordshire, England, 6 April 1897. He was the third of three children of Samuel Webster Dean, chairman of Edge, Malkin & Co., and a manufacturer of pottery (S.W. Dean, and, later, Deans (1910) Ltd. His mother was Mary Edna Edge Dean.

From 1914, Dean served as an officer in the British Indian Army (Indian Reserve of Officers, I.A.R.O.). He was with the 1/1 Gurkhas in Iraq and Kurdistan. Lieutenant Dean received a  commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Royal Field Artillery, 8 October 1917. He was deployed to France, from 5 June 1917.

For his service during World War I, Lieutenant Dean was awarded the British War Medal 1914–1916 with Kurdistan and Iraq clasps, and the Victory Medal 1914–1918.

From 1920 to 1921, Lieutenant Dean was an artillery instructor assigned to te Persian Army.

Following the War to End All Wars, Lieutenant Dean transferred to the Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer on probation. His rank was confirmed 1 November 1922. He was next promoted to Flying Officer on 1 November 1923.

Flying Officer Dean was transferred to the Reserve, Class A, 1 May 1926, and to Class C, 25 June 1926.

Godfrey Webster Dean

On 1 May 1930, Flying Officer Godfrey Webster Dean relinquished his commission on completion of service.

Dean was employed as a pilot for Fairchild Aviation Company in April 1927. That company was absorbed by Canadian Airways Ltd. On 12 March 1932, he was flying a ski-equipped Junkers W33fi, CF-ASI, with a load of cargo from Tashota, Ontario, Canada, to a trading post at Kagainagami Lake. The airplane crashed and burned. (Some sources say that it caught fire in flight, then went out of control. Others say it went down in a snowstorm.) A contemporary report described the actions of a witness:

“Mr. Bates was watching the machine approach, but lost sight of it just prior to landing behind an island. In seeing smoke arising from behind the island, Mr. Bates ran to the machine and pulled pilot Dean’s body from the wreckage. While he was doing so, the machine was burning, the flames having just reached the pilot’s cockpit. Mr. Bates displayed courage of no mean order, as the flames were then close to the gas tanks, which might have caught fire and exploded at any minute . . . The courage shown was a of a very high order, particularly as Mr. Bates probably could see from the wreck that the pilot was already beyond assistance.”

According to contemporary newspaper articles, Dean’s body had no burns.

Godfrey Webster Dean was buried at Cimetière Mont-Royal, Outremont, Quebec, Canada.

Dean’s Junkers W33 was the sister ship of this Canadian Airways Ltd. W33, CF-AQW.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes


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9 September 1913 (27 August 1913, Old Style)

Цветная фотография Петра Николаевича Нестерова. Колоризация выполнена Ольгой (Colorization performed by Ol’goy Klimbim) Staff-Captain Pyotr Nikolayevich Nesterov, Imperial Russian Army, is wearing the Order of St. Anna, Order of St. Stanislav, and the Commemorative Medal for the Tercentenary of the Romanov Dynasty

9 September 1913 (27 August 1913, Old Style¹): At the Syretsky military airfield west of Kiev, Ukraine, Imperial Russia, Пётр Николаевич Нестеров (Pyotr Nikolayevich Nesterov), a military officer, flew a Nieuport IV.G into an inside loop, the first time this aerobatic maneuver had ever been performed.

Nesterov’s Loop

Also known as “Nesterov’s Loop,” or a “dead loop,” the inside loop was completed by entering from a dive, pulling the nose up and flying in a closed curve in the vertical plane (with the top of the airplane toward the center of the loop at all times), and then returning to a dive.

This maneuver is now performed beginning and ending in straight and level flight, but airplanes of the time had insufficient power.

Staff-Captain P.N. Nesterov (left) with his aircraft mechanic and the Nieuport IV. (Energy News)

The airplane flown by Lieutenant Nesterov was a Nieuport IV, designed by the French aircraft company, Société Anonyme des Éstablissements Nieuport, and built in Russia by several manufacturers. The variant flown by the Imperial Russian Air Service was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 10.292 liter (628.048 cubic inch displacement Société des Moteurs Gnome Gamma seven-cylinder rotary engine, which produced 70 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m.

“. . . I sat head down for a few moments and did not feel rush of blood to the head, I was sitting tightly, and legs pressed on the pedal … Tools in the open boxes remained in their places. Gasoline and oil also keeps the centrifugal force at the bottom of the tank, ie, at the top, and normally fed to the engine, which worked perfectly the entire upper half of the loop. In general, all this proves that the airplane made ​​regular rotation, only in the vertical plane, as all the time there was a dynamic equilibrium. With this only turning the air is defeated by man. . . . Man mistakenly forgot that in the air the support is everywhere, and he should cease to determine the direction in relation to the earth. “

The pilot innovator Peter Nesterov, National Technical University of Ukraine, Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute

P.N. Nesterov with the Nieuport IV in which he performed an inside loop.

One year later, 8 September 1914 (25 August 1914, Old Style), Nesterov became the first pilot to destroy an enemy aircraft in aerial combat. Flying a Morane Saulnier Type G near Zhovkva, Ukraine, Nesterov rammed an Albatros B.II. Both aircraft were so badly damaged that they crashed. The Austrian pilot, Franz Malina, and observer, Baron Friederich von Rosenthal, were both killed. Nesterov died of injuries the following day.

Monument commemorating P.N. Nesterov and his inside loop at  Kiev, Ukraine. (Unattributed)

¹ Imperial Russia used the Julian Calendar until the October Revolution when the Gregorian calendar was adopted.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 August 1955

Looking out across the right wing of the Boeing 367–80, inverted, at the city of Seattle, 6 August 1955. (Bill Whitehead/Boeing)

6 August 1955: Boeing’s Chief of Flight Test, Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston, barrel-rolled the Model 367-80, prototype of the KC-135 Stratotanker and 707 Stratoliner, over Lake Washington.


This photograph was taken by the flight test engineer, Bill Whitehead.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 July 1915

Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

3 July 1915: At San Diego, California, Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, Signal Corps, United States Army, intentionally executed a loop and a stall from which he successfully recovered, the first Army pilot to do so.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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