10 December 1919: Captain Sir Ross Macpherson Smith K.B.E., M.C. and Bar, D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., and his brother, Lieutenant Sir Keith Macpherson Smith K.B.E., arrived at Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, aboard a Vickers Vimy. Also aboard were Sergeant Jim Bennett and Sergeant Wally Shiers. The four had departed Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, London, England, on 12 November, in response to the offer of a £10,000 prize offered by the government of Australia to the first Australian airmen to fly from England to Australia aboard a British airplane.
The Smith’s airplane, a Vickers F.B.27A Vimy IV, registration G-EAOU, was built for the Royal Air Force, and given serial number F8630. It was too late to serve in combat and was not delivered to the RAF. Vickers modified it for the flight to Australia, adding additional fuel tanks. Total duration of the flight was 28 days, 17 hours, 40 minutes. The journey required 135 hours, 55 minutes of flying time. The distance flown was estimated to be 11,123 miles (17,901 kilometers). The Vimy averaged 81.84 miles per hour (131.71 kilometers per hour).
The route of the flight was London, England to Lyon, France; Rome, Italy; Cairo, Egypt; Damascus, French Mandate of Syria; Basra, Kingdom of Iraq; Karachi, Delhi, and Calcutta, British India; Akyab, and Rangoon, Burma; Singora, Siam; Singapore, Straits Settlements; Batavia and Surabaya, Dutch East Indies; arriving at Darwin at 4:10 p.m. local time, 10 December 1919 (0140, 11 December, GMT).
The Smith brothers were both invested Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by George V. The four airmen divided the £10,000 prize money. (This would be equivalent to £486,460.36, or $651,175.84, in 2017.)
The Vickers Vimy (named after the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge) was a twin-engine biplane heavy bomber built for the Royal Air Force. The airplane was 43 feet, 7 inches (13.284 meters) long with a wingspan of 68 feet, 1 inch (20.752 meters). It was 15 feet, 8 inches (4.775 meters) high. The bomber weighed 7,104 pounds (3,222 kilograms) empty, and had a maximum takeoff weight of 10,884 pounds (4,937 kilograms), though on the intercontinental flight, G-EAOU was routinely operated at a gross weight of 13,000 pounds (5,897 kilograms).
The Vimy was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,240.536-cubic-inch-displacement (20.329 liter) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines, rated at 350 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., each, turning four-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propellers through a 0.60:1 gear reduction. The engine could be operated at 2,000 r.p.m. for five minutes. It used four Rolls-Royce/Claudel Hobson carburetors and four Watford magnetos. Fuel consumption at normal power at Sea Level was 23 gallons (87 liters) per hour. The engine weighed 847 pounds (384 kilograms).
The Vimy had a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour), and in standard configuration, a range of 900 miles (1,448 kilometers). The service ceiling was 7,000 feet (2,134 meters). This is the same type airplane flown across the North Atlantic ocean by Alcock and Brown six months earlier.
Vickers gave the Vimy IV bomber to the Australian government. G-EAOU is on display at Adelaide Airport, Adelaide, South Australia.
6 December 1963: Air Force test pilot Major Robert W. Smith takes the Lockheed NF-104A Aerospace Trainer, 56-0756, out for a little spin. . .
Starting at 0.85 Mach and 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) over the Pacific Ocean west of Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, Bob Smith turned toward Edwards Air Force Base and accelerated to Military Power and then lit the afterburner, which increased the General Electric J79-GE-3B turbojet engine’s 9,800 pounds of thrust (43.59 kilonewtons) to 15,000 pounds (66.72 kilonewtons). The modified Starfighter accelerated in level flight. At Mach 2.2, Smith ignited the Rocketdyne LR121 rocket engine, which burned a mixture of JP-4 and hydrogen peroxide. The LR121 was throttleable and could produce from 3,000 to 6,000 pounds of thrust (13.35–26.69 kilonewtons).
When the AST reached Mach 2.5, Smith began a steady 3.5G pull-up until the interceptor was in a 70° climb. At 75,000 feet (22,860 meters), the test pilot shut off the afterburner to avoid exceeding the turbojet’s exhaust temperature (EGT) limits. He gradually reduced the jet engine power to idle by 85,000 feet (25,908 meters), then shut it off. Without the engine running, cabin pressurization was lost and the pilot’s A/P22S-2 full-pressure suit inflated.
The NF-104A continued to zoom to an altitude where its aerodynamic control surfaces were no longer functional. It had to be controlled by the reaction jets in the nose and wing tips. 756 reached a peak altitude of 120,800 feet (36,820 meters), before reentering the atmosphere in a 70° dive. Major Smith used the windmill effect of air rushing into the intakes to restart the jet engine.
Major Smith had set an unofficial record for altitude. Although Lockheed had paid the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) license fee, the Air Force had not requested certification in advance so no FAI or National Aeronautic Association personnel were on site to certify the flight.
For this flight, Robert Smith was nominated for the Octave Chanute Award “for an outstanding contribution made by a pilot or test personnel to the advancement of the art, science, and technology of aeronautics.”
Robert Wilson Smith was born at Washington, D.C., 11 December 1928. He was the son of Robert Henry Smith, a clerk (and eventually treasurer) for the Southern Railway Company, and Jeanette Blanche Albaugh Smith, a registered nurse. He graduated from high school in Oakland, California, in 1947. Smith studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and George Washington University.
Robert W. Smith joined the United States Air Force as an aviation cadet in 1949. He trained as a pilot at Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo, Texas, and Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, United States Air Force, 23 June 1950.
Second Lieutenant Robert Wilson Smith married Ms. Martha Yacko, 24 June 1950, at Phoenix, Arizona.
He flew the F-86 Sabre on more than 100 combat missions with the 334th and 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadrons of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing during the Korean War. he named one of his airplanes Lady Lane in honor of his daughter. Smith was credited with two enemy aircraft destroyed, one probably destroyed and three more damaged.
Smith graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School in 1952 and flew more than fifty aircraft types during testing at Edwards Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. He was later assigned to the Aerospace Research Test Pilots School at Edwards Air Force Base for training as an astronaut candidate for Project Gemini.
After the NF-104A project was canceled, Lieutenant Colonel Smith volunteered for combat duty in the Vietnam War. He commanded the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, flying the Republic F-105D Thunderchief. Bob Smith was awarded the Air Force Cross for “extraordinary heroism” while leading an attack at Thuy Phoung, north of Hanoi, 19 November 1967.
He had previously been awarded the Silver Star, and five times was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Lieutenant Colonel Smith retired from the Air Force on 1 August 1969 after twenty years of service.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Wilson Smith died at Monteverde, Florida, 19 August 2010. He was 81 years old.
56-756 was a Lockheed F-104A-10-LO Starfighter. Flown by future astronaut James A. McDivitt, it had been damaged in a landing accident at Edwards following a hydraulic system failure, 21 November 1961. It was one of three taken from storage at The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, and sent to Lockheed for modification to Aerospace Trainers (ASTs). These utilized a system of thrusters for pitch, roll and yaw control at altitudes where the standard aerodynamic control surfaces could no longer control the aircraft. This was needed to give pilots some experience with the control system for flight outside Earth’s atmosphere.
The F-104A vertical fin was replaced with the larger fin and rudder from the two-place F-104B for increased stability. The wingspan was increased to 25 feet, 11.3 inches (7.907 meters) for installation of the hydrogen peroxide Reaction Control System thrusters. The fiberglass nosecone was replaced by an aluminum skin for the same reason. The interceptor’s radar and M61 Vulcan cannon were removed and tanks for rocket fuel and oxidizers, nitrogen, etc., installed in their place. The standard afterburning General Electric J79-GE-3B turbojet engine remained, and was supplemented by a Rocketdyne LR121 liquid-fueled rocket engine which produced 3,000 to 6,000 pounds of thrust (13.35–26.69 kilonewtons) with a burn time of 105 seconds. The fuselage “buzz number” was changed from FG-756 to NF-756.
56-756 was damaged by inflight explosions in 1965 and 1971, after which it was retired. It is mounted for static display at the Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base, California, marked as 56-760.
3 December 1945: The first landing and takeoff aboard an aircraft carrier by a jet-powered aircraft were made by Lieutenant-Commander Eric Melrose Brown, MBE, DSC, RNVR, Chief Naval Test Pilot at RAE Farnborough, while flying a de Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk.10, LZ551/G. The ship was the Royal Navy Colossus-class light aircraft carrier, HMS Ocean (R68), under the command of Captain Casper John, RN.
For his actions in these tests, Lieutenant-Commander Brown was invested an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), 19 February 1946.
LZ551 was the second of three prototype DH.100 Vampires, which first flew 17 March 1944. The airplane was used for flight testing and then in 1945, was modified for operation for carriers. It was named “Sea Vampire” and reclassified as Mk.10.
The DH.100 was a single-seat, single-engine fighter powered by a turbojet engine. The twin tail boom configuration of the airplane was intended to allow a short exhaust tract for the engine, reducing power loss in the early jet engines available at the time.
LZ551/G was originally powered by a Halford H.1 turbojet which produced 2,300 pounds of thrust (10.231 kilonewtons) at 9,300 r.p.m. This engine was produced by de Havilland and named Goblin.
The Vampire entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1945 and remained a front-line fighter until 1953. 3,268 DH.100s were built. There were two prototype Sea Vampires (including LZ551) followed by 18 production Sea Vampire FB.5 fighter bombers and 73 Sea Vampire T.22 two-place trainers.
LZ551 is in the collection of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset.
HMS Ocean was built at the Alexander Stephen and Sons yard on the Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland. The ship was launched in 1944 and commissioned 8 August 1945. Classed as a light fleet carrier, HMS Ocean was 630 feet (192 meters) long at the water line, with a beam of 80 feet, 1 inch (24.41 meters) and standard draft of 18 feet, 6 inches (5.64 meters) at 13,190 tons displacement; 23 feet, 3 inches (7.09 meters), at full load displacement (18,000 tons). The aircraft carrier’s flight deck was 695 feet, 6 inches (212.0 meters) long. Ocean was driven by four Parsons geared steam turbines producing 40,000 shaft horsepower, and had a maximum speed of 25 knots (28.8 miles per hour/46.3 kilometers per hour). HMS Ocean had a crew of 1,050 sailors, and could carry 52 aircraft.
HMS Ocean served for twelve years before being placed in reserve. Five years later, she was scrapped at Faslane, Scotland.
Captain Eric Melrose Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, KCVSA, PhD Hon FRAeS, RN, is one of aviation’s greatest test pilots. He was born at Leith, Scotland, 21 January 1918, the son of Robert John Brown and Euphemia Melrose Brown. His father, a Royal Air Force officer, took him for his first flight at the age of 8. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, Scotland, Fettes College, and at the University of Edinburgh. He received a Master of Arts degree from the university in 1947.
Eric Brown volunteered for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, 4 December 1939. Having previously learned to fly at the University Air Squadron, Brown was sent to a Flying Refresher Course at RNAS Sydenham, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Brown received a commission as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant, Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, 26 November 1940. He briefly served with No. 801 Squadron before being transferred to No. 802 Squadron. He flew the Grumman G-36A Martlet Mk.I (the export version of the U.S. Navy F4F-3 Wildcat fighter) from the escort carrier HMS Audacity (D10) on Gibraltar convoys. Having shot down several enemy aircraft, including two Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor four-engine patrol bombers, Brown was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. HMS Audacity was sunk by enemy submarines in the Atlantic, 21 December 1941. Brown was one of only 24 to escape from the sinking ship, but only he and one other survived long enough in the frigid water to be rescued.
Sub-Lieutenant Brown met Miss Evelyn Jean Margaret Macrory on 7 April 1940. They married in 1942 and would have one son.
Brown was promoted to lieutenant, 1 April 1943. After a number of operational assignments, Brown was assigned to the Naval Test Squadron at Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down, in December 1943. The following month Brown was named Chief Naval Test Pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough. He held that post until 1949.
In July 1945, Eric Brown was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-commander (temporary), and then, following the war, he was transferred from the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve to the Royal Navy, and appointed a lieutenant with date of rank to 1 April 1943.
Lieutenant Brown was awarded the King’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air in the New Year’s Honours List, 1949.Brown returned to No. 802 Squadron during the Korean War, flying from the aircraft carriers HMS Vengeance (R71) and HMS Indomitable (92). He was promoted to lieutenant-commander, 1 April 1951. In September 1951, Brown resumed flight testing as an exchange officer at the U.S. Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland.
In 1953, Lieutenant-Commander Brown was a ship’s officer aboard HMS Rocket (H92), an anti-submarine frigate. He was promoted to commander, 31 December 1953. After a helicopter refresher course, Brown commanded a Search-and-Rescue (SAR) helicopter flight aboard HMS Illustrious. He next commanded No. 804 Squadron based at RNAS Lossiemouth, then went on to command RNAS Brawdy at Pembrokeshire, Wales.
From 1958 to 1960, Commander Brown was the head of the British Naval Air Mission to Germany. He then held several senior positions in air defense within the Ministry of Defence. He was promoted to captain 31 December 1960.
From 1964 to 1967, Brown was the Naval Attache at Bonn, Germany. He next commanded RNAS Lossiemouth, 1967–1970.
Captain Brown’s final military assignment was as Aide-de-camp to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.
Eric M. Brown was invested a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), 3 July 1945, for landings of a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito aboard HMS Indefatigable, 2 May 1944. On 1 January 1970, Captain Brown was named a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s New Years Honours List.
Captain Eric Melrose Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, KCVSA, PhD Hon FRAeS, RN, retired from active duty 12 March 1970. He later served as president of the Royal Aero Club.
At that time, he had accumulated more than 18,000 flight hours, with over 8,000 hours as a test pilot. Captain Brown had flown 487 different aircraft types (not variants), a record which is unlikely to ever be broken. Brown made more landings on aircraft carriers than any other pilot, with 2407 landings, fixed wing, and 212 landings, helicopter. He made 2,721 catapult launches, both at sea and on land.
Eric “Winkle” Brown died at Redhill, Surrey, England, 21 February 2016, at the age of 97 years.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Major Leonard A. Gonzales (AFSN: 2227075), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as Aircraft Commander of a UH-1F gunship helicopter of the 20th Special Operations Squadron, Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam, in action near Duc Co, Republic of Vietnam, on the night of 26 – 27 November 1968. On that date, Major Gonzales went to the aid of a six-man Special Forces Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol that was in danger of being overrun by a large, well-armed hostile force. Major Gonzales made continued minigun and rocket passes at treetop level, even after his wingman had been hit. His aggressive attacks sufficiently quelled the hostile fire to allow a transport helicopter to pick up the beleaguered patrol. Through his superb airmanship, aggressiveness, and extraordinary heroism, Major Gonzales reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Awarded posthumously for actions during the Vietnam War
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Sergeant Larry Wayne Maysey (AFSN: 12751422), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an HH-3E Rescue Specialist (Pararescueman) of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, 3d Air Rescue and Recovery Group, DaNang Air Base, Vietnam, in Southeast Asia on 9 November 1967. On that date, Sergeant Maysey attempted the night extraction of a ground reconnaissance team after his helicopter had been severely damaged. Two other helicopters had been shot down and a third extensively damaged in previous attempts. During the rescue attempt, Sergeant Maysey unhesitatingly exposed himself to the hail of hostile fire to assist wounded survivors into the helicopter. The hostile forces closed in quickly, and as the damaged helicopter departed, it was shot down. Though his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Sergeant Maysey reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Action Date: 9-Nov-67
Service: Air Force
Company: 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron
Regiment: 3d Air Rescue and Recovery Group
Division: DaNang Air Base, Vietnam
Larry Wayne Maysey was born 18 November 1946 in the Borough of Chester, new jersey. he was the son of Charles and Charlotte Maysey. He attended West Morris High School, graduating in 1965.
After graduating from high school, Larry Maysey enlisted in the United States Air Force, and was selected for training as a Pararescue Jumper at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The “PJs” of the U.S. Air Force are graduates of an two-year training course, known as “the Pipeline,” which is one of the most intense training programs of any military service. The failure rate is about 80%.
Sergeant Maysey arrived in Vietnam in mid-October 1967, assigned to the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On 9 November 1967, he was one of the crew of “Jolly Green 26,” A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter.
Sergeant Maysey’s remains were not recovered. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing, at the Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.