Tag Archives: Aircraft Accident

12 February 1935

USS Macon (ZRS-5) recovering two Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk scout biplanes. (U.S. Navy)
USS Macon (ZRS-5) recovering two Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk scout biplanes. (U.S. Navy)

12 February 1935: The United States Navy rigid airship USS Macon (ZRS-5), under the command of Lieutenant Commander Herbert Victor Wiley, crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Monterey Bay, on the central California coastline. The airship soon sank to the sea floor, approximately 1,500 feet (457 meters) below. Of the crew of 76 men, 74 survived.

During an earlier transcontinental flight, USS Macon had encountered severe turbulence while crossing mountains in Arizona. A diagonal girder in one of the ring frames failed. Temporary repairs were made, but permanent repairs were deferred until the next scheduled overhaul.

On 12 February 1935, the airship flew into a storm near Point Sur, California. The ring frame failed and the upper vertical fin was lost. Pieces of broken girders punctured several of the aft helium cells.

USS Macon (ZRS-5) is seen from directly below as it passes over San Diego, California, 9 February 1934. (U.S. Navy)

With the loss of helium, Macon lost rear buoyancy and began to settle. To compensate, all engines were run at full power and ballast was released. The airship began to climb with a nose-up pitch angle. When it passed 2,800 feet (853.4 meters) altitude, it reached its Pressure Altitude Limit (“Pressure Height”). At this point, expanding helium began to vent from the gas cells. Macon continued rising until reaching 4,850 feet (1,478.3 meters), by which time it had lost so much helium that the engines could no longer keep it airborne and it again began to settle toward the ocean’s surface. The descent took twenty minutes.

One sailor jumped from the airship, but did not survive the fall. Another swam back to the sinking ship to collect personal belongings and drowned.

Survivors were rescued by three U.S. Navy Omaha-class light cruisers, USS Cincinnati (CL-6), USS Richmond (CL-9), and USS Concord (CL-10), which had responded to Macon‘s distress signal. Lieutenant Commander Wiley was commended by Claude A. Swandon, Secretary of the Navy, for his handling of the accident, and he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for personally rescuing a member of the crew at the risk of his own life.

USS Macon was the U.S. Navy’s last rigid airship. For the next twenty years, all lighter-than-air craft were non-rigid “blimps”.

USS Macon (ZRS-5) under construction at the Goodyear Airdock, Akron, Ohio, 1933. (U.S. Navy)

USS Macon was built by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation at Akron, Ohio. It was launched 21 April 1933, and commissioned 23 June 1933. Macon was constructed of duralumin ring frames and girders, covered with a fabric envelope. The rigid airship was 785 feet (239.3 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 132 feet, 10 inches (40.488 meters). The overall height was 146 feet, 2 inches (44.552 meters). The airship displaced 7,401,260 cubic feet of air (209,580 cubic meters). Lift was provided by 6,500,000 cubic feet (184,060 cubic meters) of non-flammable helium gas contained in 12 rubberized fabric gas cells.

Macon had a dead weight of 108.2 tons (98,157 kilograms) and a useful lift of 160,644 pounds (72,867 kilograms).

Maybach VL-2 60° V-12 in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

Propulsion was provided by eight water-cooled, fuel-injected, 33.251 liter (2,029.077-cubic-inch-displacement) Maybach Motorenbau GmbH VL-2 overhead valve 60° V-12 gasoline engines producing a maximum 570 horsepower at 1,600 r.p.m., each, or 450 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. for cruise. In addition to gasoline, the VL-2 could also use blau gas (similar to propane) as fuel. The engines were reversible and drove Allison Engineering Co. out-drives, which turned three-bladed, fixed-pitch, rotatable propellers. The VL-2 is 6 feet, 5 inches (1.96 meters) long, 3 feet, 0 inches (0.91 meters) wide and 3 feet, 2 inches (0.97 meters) high. It weighs 2,530 pounds (1,148 kilograms).

The airship had a maximum speed of 75.6 knots (87.0 miles per hour/140.0 kilometers per hour).

USS Macon was armed with eight Browning .30-caliber machine guns for defense. It also carried five Curtiss-Wright Airplane Division F9C-2 Sparrowhawk reconnaissance airplanes in an internal hangar bay. These were small single-place, single-engine biplanes, with a length of 20 feet, 7 inches (6.274 meters) and wingspan of 25 feet, 5 inches (7.747 meters). The Sparrowhawk had an empty weight of 2,114 pounds (959 kilograms) and loaded weight of 2,776 pounds (1,259 kilograms).

The F9C-2 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 971.930-cubic-inch displacement (15.927 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Whirlwind R-975E-3 (R-975-11, -24 or -26) nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.3:1. The R-975E-3 had a normal power rating of 420 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., and 440 to 450 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. for takeoff, depending on variant. These were direct drive engines which turned two-bladed propellers. They were 3 feet, 7.00 inches to 3 feet, 7.47 inches (1.092–1.104 meters) long, 3 feet, 11 inches to 3 feet, 11.25 inches (1.143–1.149 meters) in diameter, and weighed from 660 to 700 pounds (299–317.5 kilograms).

The Sparrowhawk had a maximum speed of 176 miles per hour (283 kilometers per hour), a range of 297 miles (478 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 19,200 feet (5,852 meters).

The airplane was armed with two fixed Browning .30-caliber machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.

Four of Macon‘s fighters, Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers A9058–A9061, were lost when the airship went down.

Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk, Bu. No. 9056. (U.S. Navy)
Curtiss-Wright F9C-2 Sparrowhawk, Bu. No. A9056. (U.S. Navy)
Midshipman Wiley, 1915 (The Lucky Bag)

Herbert Victor Wiley was born at Wheeling, Missouri, 16 May 1891. He was the second of three children of Joel Augustine Wiley, a dry goods merchant, and Minnie Alice Carey Wiley.

Herbert Victor Wiley entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, as a midshipman, 10 May 1911. During his third year, Midshipman Wiley served aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-9). “Doc” Wiley graduated 5 June 1915 and was commissioned an ensign, United States Navy.

Ensign Wiley was assigned to the Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser USS San Diego (ACR-6), then the flagship of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Ensign Wiley was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade), effective 15 October 1917. On this same date, Wiley was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant. This rank became permanent 1 July 1920.

Lieutenant Wiley married Miss Marie Frances Scroggie, circa 1919. They would have two sons, Gordon Scroggie Wiley and David Carey Wiley. Mrs Wiley died 17 September 1930 in Los Angeles County, California.

On 11 April 1923, Lieutenant Wiley was assigned to the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey. He served aboard the U.S. Navy’s first rigid airship, USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), and was aboard on its first flight, 4 September 1923. A year later, as Shenandoah‘s mooring officer, Wiley was standing by at Lakehurst, New Jersey, when, on 3 September 1925, the airship was destroyed during a violent storm. Of its 40-man crew, 14 were killed.

USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), circa 1929. (Wikipedia)

Lieutenant Wiley was then assigned to the dirigible USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), 19 January 1925. (Los Angeles was built by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH, and designated LZ-126. It was commissioned in the U.S. Navy in 1924.) Wiley was promoted to lieutenant commander 17 December 1925 and transferred to NAS Pensacola, Florida. In 1928, Lieutenant Commander Wiley served as the executive officer of Los Angeles. He commanded the airship, April 1929–April 1930.

USS Akron (ZRS-4), 13 May 1932. (United States Navy)

Lieutenant Commander Wiley was the executive officer of USS Akron (ZRS-4) when it was destroyed in a storm off the coast of New Jersey, 4 April 1933. Of the crew of 76 men, only 3, including Wiley, survived.

The three survivors of the USS Akron disaster: Aviation Metalsmith 2nd class (AM2c) Moody E. Erwin, Lieutenant Commander Herbert V. Wiley, and Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class (BM2c) Richard E. Deal. (U.S. Navy)

Wiley took command of USS Macon 11 July 1934.

On 23 September 1935, Lieutenant Commander Wiley married Mrs. Charlotte Mayfield Weeden (née Charlotte May Mayfield) in Los Angeles County, California.

Lieutenant Commander Wiley was promoted to the rank of commander 1 November 1935. He was assigned to the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41). In 1938, he transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Commander Wiley was promoted to the rank of captain, with date of rank from 1 July 1941.

USS Paul Jones (DD-230), 1942. (U.S. Navy)

During World War II, Captain Wiley commanded Destroyer Squadron 29 (consisting of thirteen Clemson-class “flush-deck” destroyers) with the Asiatic Fleet. His flagship was USS Paul Jones (DD-230).

Captain Herbert V. Wiley on the bridge of USS West Virginia (BB-48). (U.S. Navy)

Captain Wiley took command of the Colorado-class battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48), 15 January 1944. The battleship had been sunk at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 7 December 1941. It was refloated and returned to a shipyard on the West Coast of the United States, where it was completely rebuilt and modernized. Wiley was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism at the Battle of the Surigao Strait, 25 October 1944.¹

During the Battle of Okinawa, Captain Wiley remained on the bridge of his battleship for thirty consecutive days. During this period, West Virginia was hit by a kamikaze suicide attack.

Captain Wiley served as West Virginia‘s commanding officer until 2 May 1945.

Colorado-class battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48), 2 June 1944. (U.S. Navy)

Captain Wiley was promoted to the rank of rear admiral, and commanded a naval aviation facility on the island of Trinidad. While there, he suffered a heart attack. He retired from the U.S. Navy on 1 January 1947, after nearly 36 years of service.

Following his naval career, Admiral Wiley was the dean of the School of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

Rear Admiral Herbert Victor Wiley, United States Navy, died at Pasadena, California, 28 April 1954. He was buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery.

Captain Wiley’s USS West Virginia (BB-48) fires its eight 16-inch (408 milimeter) guns on the advancing Imperial Japanese Navy task force, 25 October 1944. (U.S. Navy)

¹ The Battle of the Surigao Strait was a major naval engagement between surface forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States Navy, a part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf. It was the last battleship vs. battleship naval battle.

Highly Recommended:

History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume XII, Leyte, June 1944–January 1945, by Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, United States Navy. Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1958.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf 23–26 October 1944, by Lieutenant Commander Thomas Joshua Cutler, United States Navy. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, 1994.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

11 February 1939

Wreck of the Lockheed XP-38 at Cold Stream, New York. (Associated Press)
Wreck of the Lockheed XP-38 at Cold Stream Golf Course, Hempstead, New York, 11 February 1939. (Associated Press)
Benjamin Scovill Kelsey, circa 1937

11 February 1939: Barely two weeks after its first flight, First Lieutenant Benjamin Scovill (“Ben”) Kelsey, U.S. Army Air Corps, took the prototype Lockheed XP-38, 37-457, on a record-breaking transcontinental flight from March Field, Riverside, California, to Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York.

Lieutenant Kelsey departed March Field at 6:32 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, (9:32 a.m., Eastern) and flew to Amarillo, Texas for the first of two refueling stops. He arrived there at 12:22 p.m., EST, and remained on the ground for 22 minutes. The XP-38 took off at 12:44 p.m., EST, and Kelsey flew on to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. He landed there at 3:10 p.m. EST.

Kelsey was met by Major General H.H. Arnold, and it was decided to continue to New York. The XP-38 was airborne again at 3:28 p.m., EST, on the final leg of his transcontinental flight.

The prototype Lockheed XP-38 37-457, being refueled at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, during the transcontinental speed record flight, 11 February 1939. (Unattributed)
The prototype Lockheed XP-38, 37-457, being refueled at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, during the transcontinental speed record attempt, 11 February 1939. (Unattributed)

Kelsey was overhead Mitchel Field, New York at 4:55 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, but his landing was delayed by other airplanes in the traffic pattern.

On approach, the XP-38 was behind several slower training planes, so Lieutenant Kelsey throttled back the engines. When he tried to throttle up, the carburetor venturis iced and the engines would not accelerate, remaining at idle. The airplane crashed on a golf course short of the airport.

Wreckage of the prototype Lockheed XP-38 37-457 at Cold Stream Golf Course, Hempstead, New York, 11 February 1939. (Unattributed)
Wreckage of the prototype Lockheed XP-38, 37-457, at Cold Stream Golf Course, Hempstead, New York, 11 February 1939. (Unattributed)

The total elapsed time was 7 hours, 45 minutes, 36 seconds but Kelsey’s actual flight time was 7 hours, 36 seconds. The prototype had averaged 340 miles per hour (547 kilometers per hour) and had reached 420 miles per hour (676 kilometers per hour) during the Wright Field-to-Mitchel Field segment.

Kelsey’s transcontinental flight failed to break the transcontinental speed record set two years earlier by Howard R. Hughes by 17 minutes, 11 seconds. It should be noted, however, that Hughes H-1 Racer flew non-stop from coast to coast, while the XP-38 required two time-consuming fuel stops.

Wreck of the prototype Lockheed XP-38 37-457 on the Cold Stream Golf Course, Hempstead, New York, 11 February 1939. (Unattributed)
Wreck of the prototype Lockheed XP-38, 37-457, on the Cold Stream Golf Course, Hempstead, New York, 11 February 1939. (Unattributed)

The XP-38 was damaged beyond repair, but its performance on the transcontinental flight was so impressive that 13 YP-38s were ordered from Lockheed by the Air Corps.

Overhead view of the wrecked prototype Lockheed XP-38 37-457 at Cold Stream Golf Course, Hempstead, New York, 11 February 1939. (U.S. Army)
Overhead view of the wrecked prototype Lockheed XP-38, 37-457, at Cold Stream Golf Course, Hempstead, New York, 11 February 1939. (U.S. Army)

Designed by an engineering team led by Hall L. Hibbard, which included the legendary Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson, the XP-38 was a single-place, twin-engine fighter designed for very high speed and long range. It was an unusual configuration with the cockpit and armament in a center nacelle, with two longitudinal booms containing the engines and propellers, turbochargers, radiators and coolers. The Lightning was equipped with tricycle landing gear. The nose strut retracted into the center nacelle and the two main gear struts retracted into bays in the booms. To reduce drag, the sheet metal used butt joints with flush rivets.

The prototype had been built built at Lockheed’s factory in Burbank, California. On the night of 31 December 1938/1 January 1939, it was transported to March Field aboard a convoy of three trucks. Once there, the components were assembled by Lockheed technicians working under tight security.

The XP-38 was 37 feet, 10 inches (11.532 meters) long with a wingspan of 52 feet (15.850 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.952 meters). Its empty weight was 11,507 pounds (5,219.5 kilograms). The gross weight was 13,904 pounds (6,306.75 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 15,416 pounds (6,992.6 kilograms).

Lockheed XP-38 37-457. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

The Lightning was the first production airplane to use the Harold Caminez-designed, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,710.60-cubic-inch-displacement (28.032 liter) Allison Engineering Company V-1710 single overhead cam 60° V-12 engines. When installed on the P-38, these engines rotated in opposite directions. The XP-38 used a pair of experimental C-series Allisons, with the port V-1710-C8 (V-1710-11) engine being a normal right-hand tractor configuration, while the starboard engine, the V-1710-C9 (V-1710-15), was a left-hand tractor. Through a 2:1 gear reduction, these engines drove the 11-foot (3.353 meters) diameter, three-bladed Curtiss Electric variable-pitch propellers inward to counteract the torque effect of the engines and propellers. (Viewed from the front of the airplane, the XP-38’s starboard propeller turned clockwise, the port propeller turned counter-clockwise. The direction of rotation was reversed in the YP-38 service test prototypes and production P-38 models.) The engines have long propeller gear drive sections to aid in streamlining aircraft, and are sometimes referred to as “long-nose Allisons.”

The V-1710-11 and -15 had a compression ratio of 6.65:1. They had a continuous power rating of 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,150 horsepower at 2,950 r.p.m. for takeoff. The combination of a gear-driven supercharger and an exhaust-driven General Electric B-1 turbosupercharger allowed these engines to maintain their rated power levels to an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,620 meters).

The -11 and -15 were 7 feet, 10.46 inches (2.399 meters) long. The -11 was 3 feet, 6.59 inches (1.082 meters) high and 2 feet, 4.93 inches (0.7348 meters) wide. It weighed 1,300 pounds (589.7 kilograms). The -15 was 3 feet, 4.71 inches (1.034 meters) high, 2 feet, 4.94 inches (0.7351 meters) wide, and weighed 1,305 pounds (591.9 kilograms).

The XP-38 had a maximum speed of 413 miles per hour (664.66 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) and a service ceiling of 38,000 feet (11,582.4 meters).

The XP-38 was unarmed, but almost all production Lightnings carried a 20 mm auto cannon and four Browning .50-caliber machine guns grouped together in the nose. They could also carry bombs or rockets and jettisonable external fuel tanks.

Testing continued with thirteen YP-38A pre-production aircraft and was quickly placed in full production. The P-38 Lightning was one of the most successful combat aircraft of World War II. By the end of the war, Lockheed had built 10,037 Lightnings.

Lockheed P-38L Lightning.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

9 February 1914

Second Lieutenant Henry Burnet Post, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Second Lieutenant Henry Burnet Post, 25th Infantry Regiment, United States Army. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

9 February 1914: Second Lieutenant Henry Burnet Post, 25th Infantry Regiment, United States Army, was “Killed in hydroplane No. 10 accident at Signal Corps Aviation School, San Diego, Calif., at 9.35 a.m. Feb. 9, 1914. (in line of duty)”

Lieutenant Post had just returned from 15 days’ compassionate leave (22 January–5 February 1914). His father, Henry Albertson Van Zo Post, had died at the family home in Manhattan, New York City, 25 January 1914.

North Island, looking west, 1914. Coronado is to the left. The body of water between is Spanish Bight. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

ARMY FLIER KILLED AS MACHINE BREAKS
Lieutenant Post Plunges To Death In San Diego Bay
Beachley Blames The Government

SAN DIEGO, California – February 9, 1914 – Lieutenant Henry B. Post of the First Aero Corps, considered one of the most skillful United States Army aviators, plunged to his death in San Diego Bay today, when the right wing of his hydro-aeroplane crumpled. Lieutenant Post died after establishing an American altitude record of 12,120 feet. He fell 600 feet into shallow water and was dead when Francis Wildman, another aviator, reached the spot in a flying boat.

Lieutenant Post left the North Island hangars at 8:50 o’clock this morning after having declared his intention of breaking the American altitude record for hydro-aeroplanes. Within an hour he had attained a height of 12,120 feet, the barograph showing this figure when recovered from the wreckage.

A series of wide spirals was a feature of the descent, the machine appearing to be under perfect control. When within 600 feet of the water the plane was seen to collapse, then careen. The next instant the pilot was hurled from his seat and the machine dropped like a bullet. Post fell into five feet of water, the wrecked craft disappearing from sight a few feet away.

Captain Arthur S. Cowen, head of the First Corps, said the machine which Lieutenant Post was piloting was responsible for the accident.

“The man has the natural ability of a born flyer, and it had to take the breakage of his machine to cause his death.,” said Captain Cowen.

“The death of Lieutenant Post only substantiates the charge that I made against the policy of the United State Government last November,” said Lincoln Beachley, aviator, in a telegram received here tonight.

“At that time I blamed Congress for the deaths of the Army and Navy aviators. I do not believe Government aviation would be much better off if the $2,000,000 or $3,000,000 appropriation for the supposed betterment of the flying branch of the services were made. They simply would have a little more machines with which to kill off more officers.

“Within a week that old machine will probably be patched up with a few new wires and some cloth and another aviator will be sent out in it.”

Some time ago Beachley told Secretary Garrison that Army aviators were losing their lives because the equipment supplied to them was old.

Lieutenant Post was 28 years of age. He came here June 28, 1913 from Honolulu where he was attached to the Twenty-fifth Infantry, and became a military aviator November 11. He is survived by his widow and his sister, who came here recently to visit him from their home in Babylon, New York, where his mother also resides. His brother, V. Z. Post, is a novelist. His father died two weeks ago.

The body will be sent to Washington for interment in the Arlington National Cemetery.

The death of Lieutenant Post was the fourteenth aviation fatality to occur in the United States Army and Navy service. Beside the fourteen officers killed, two civilian instructors, Al Welch and Paul Beck, lost their lives while experimenting with Army machines. The first officer killed was Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge on September 17, 1908. He was flying as a passenger with Orville Wright at Fort Myer. Lieutenant Selfridge was the first man to lose his life in an aeroplane accident.

The other officers who lost their lives were: Lieutenant G. E. M. Kelly, on May 10, 1911, at San Antonio; Lieutenant L. W. Hazelhurst, jr., on June 11, 1912, at College Point, Maryland; Lieutenant L. C. Rockwell and Corporal Frank Scott at College Point on September 28, 1912; Lieutenants Rex Chandler and Lewis H. Brereton at North Island on April 8, 1913 [Note: Brereton survived the accident and rose to the rank of lieutenant general.—TDiA]; Lieutenant Joseph D. Park on May 9, 1913 at Los Angeles; Ensign William B. Billingsley on June 30, 1913 while flying over Chesapeake Bay; Lieutenant Loren H. Call on July 8, 1913 at Texas City; Lieutenant Moss L. Love on September 4, 1913 at San Diego; Lieutenant C. Perry Rich on November 14, 1913 when he fell into Manila Bay; and Lieutenant Kelly at San Diego on November 24, 1913.

The New York Times, 10 February 1914, Page 1.

A Wright Model CH hydro-aeroplane, circa 1913. (Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co.)

Henry Burnet Post was born at Brooklyn, New York, 15 June 1885. He was the last of seven children of Colonel Henry Albertson Van Zo Post, a Civil War veteran, engineer and railroad equipment financier, and Caroline Burnet McLean Post.

Henry Post entered the School of Applied Science at Columbia University as a member of the Class of 1906. He studied mechanical engineering. While at the University, he was a member of the Alpha Chapter of the Delta Psi (ΔΨ) fraternity, and in 1905, was president of the sophomore class. Post was also a member of the Deutscher Verien (the German club). He participated in varsity athletics, playing the position of Left End on the University football team and the Stroke of the Varsity Eight  Crew.

Henry Burnet Post married Miss Grace Woodman Phillips at St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church, Manhattan, New York City, New York, 25 January 1907. (Mrs. Post later married Captain Francis Cogswell, U.S. Navy. She was a Foreign Service Officer for the United States government during World War I. During World War II, she served with the Office of Strategic Service (O.S.S.) and later, the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.). She died 21 December 1971.)

On 28 January 1910, Henry Post enlisted as a private in Troop 4, Squadron A, of the New York National Guard. He served with the Guard’s 1st Aero Squadron. On 11 February 1911, Post was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 25th Infantry Regiment, United States Army. Lieutenant Post then attended the School of Musketry at the Presidio of San Francisco in San Francisco, California. He completed the course 6 January 1912.

Lieutenant Post joined Company E, 2nd Battalion, 25th Infantry, at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 22 March 1912.

During 1913, Schofield Barracks suffered an epidemic of typhoid fever as a result of a “gross pollution of the water supply.” Lieutenant Post was “sick in quarters (line of duty)”and quarantined from 27 January to 12 February 1913. He then returned to duty with Company E.

On 5 July 1913, Lieutenant Post was detached from Company E to attend the Signal Corps Aviation School, San Diego, on North Island, for training as an airplane pilot.

On 18 December 1913, he flew an airplane to 10,500 feet (3,200 meters). 10 days later, 28 December 1913, Georges Lagagenaux of France set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude at 6,120 meters (20,079 feet).¹

Second Lieutenant Henry Burnet Post, 25th Infantry Regiment, United States Army, died in the line of duty at San Diego, California, 9 February 1914. He was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Post Field, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, (now, Henry Post Army Airfield) was named in his honor.

A Wright Model C sits on the factory floor at Dayton, Ohio. (Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co.)

The airplane flown by Lieutenant Post during his record-setting flight, and subsequent fatal accident, was a Wright Model CH hydro-aeroplane, Signal Corps serial number S.C. 10. (This was the second S.C. 10. The first, also a Wright Model C, had been destroyed in a crash during acceptance trials at College Park, Maryland, 11 June 1912. Arthur L. Welsh, a Wright Flying School instructor, and 2nd Lieutenant Leighton Wilson Hazelhurst, Jr., were killed.) The U.S.  Army Signal Corps had purchased six of these airplanes. The Model C was similar to the earlier Model B, though it had dual flight controls. The wings were shorter and the rudder taller.

Three-view illustration of the Wright Model C.H. Hydro-Aeroplane. (FLIGHT, No. 245 (Vol. V., No. 36), 6 September 1913, Page 979)

The Wright Model CH was 28 feet, 6 inches (8.687 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.582 meters). The upper and lower wings had 5 feet, 0 inches (1.524 meters) vertical separation. The airplane weighed 1,160 pounds (526 kilograms), including the 240 pound (109 kilogram) float.

Three-view illustration of the Wright Model C.H. Hydro-Aeroplane. (FLIGHT, No. 245 (Vol. V., No. 36), 6 September 1913, Page 979)The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 405.891-cubic-inch-displacement (6.651 liters) Wright inline 6-cylinder overhead-valve engine which produced 50–75 horsepower between 1,400–1,560 r.p.m. The Wright “6-60” weighed 305 pounds (138 kilograms).

Two 8 foot, 6 inch (2.591 meter) diameter, two-bladed, fixed-pitch, counter-rotating propellers, driven by a chain drive and turning 525–575 r.p.m., are mounted behind the wings in pusher configuration.

The Model C had a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour (89 kilometers per hour).

A Wright hydro-aeroplane at Texas City, Texas, 1913. (U. S. Air Force)

All six of Signal Corps’ Wright Model C airplanes had crashed and been rebuilt at least once. The airplanes were prone to aerodynamic stall because of the pusher propeller configuration. As the pilot raised the nose, the propellers’ thrust vector accelerated the rate of pitch change. The wings stalled and the nose pitched down. There was insufficient elevator authority to bring the airplane out of the dive.

By the end of 1913, eleven Army pilots had been killed while flying Wright Brothers’ airplanes, five of them were flying the Wright Model C. Lieutenant Henry Burnet Post was the sixth pilot to die while flying the type.

Within a week of Lieutenant Post’s death, the Army grounded all pusher-type airplanes and prohibited their future use. This ended the Wright Brothers’ business with the United States Army.

¹ FAI Record File Number 15442

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

3 February 1959: “The Day the Music Died”

Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly

3 February 1959: In the late 1950s, “rock and roll” music was becoming increasingly popular in America. Buddy Holly (Charles Hardin Holley) was among the most famous rock and roll singers.

While on a concert tour, Holly, formerly of the band The Crickets, chartered a small airplane from Dwyer Flying Service to fly himself and two other performers to Fargo, North Dakota, for the following night’s event.

After the performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, ended, Holly, Ritchie Valens (Richard Steven Valenzuela) and “The Big Bopper,” (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.) were driven to the nearby Mason City Municipal Airport (MCW), arriving at 12:40 a.m., Central Standard Time (0640 UTC). They were met by their assigned pilot, Roger Arthur Peterson, and boarded the chartered airplane. They took off at 12:55 a.m. CST (0655 UTC).

Richard Steven Valenzuela. (Unattributed)
Richard Steven Valenzuela. (Unattributed)

During the previous eight hours, Roger Peterson had telephoned the Air Traffic Communications Service three times for the weather forecast along his planned route. He was informed that weather was VFR, with ceilings of 4,200 feet (1,280 meters) or higher and visibility 10 miles (16 kilometers) or more.

ATCS did NOT inform Peterson of a “Flash Advisory” of a 100-mile-wide (160 kilometers) band of snow moving into the area at 25 knots (13 meters per second). Moderate to heavy icing conditions were present along with winds of 30 to 50 knots (15 to 26 feet per second).

"The Big Bopper," Jiles P. Richardson, Jr. (Unattributed)
“The Big Bopper,” Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr. (Unattributed)

While taxiing to the runway, the pilot once again radioed ATCS for the weather. It was now reported as: ceiling 3,000 feet (914 meters), sky obscured, visibility 6 miles (10 kilometers) in light snow, and wind gusting 20 to 30 knots (10 to 15 meters per second).

After a normal takeoff, the airplane climbed to approximately 800 feet (244 meters) and made a left 180° turn. It passed the airport heading northwest.

The charter service’s owner, Hubert Dwyer, watched the departure from the airport’s tower. He was able to see the airplane’s navigation lights until it was about five miles (8 kilometers) away, then it slowly descended out of sight.

When Peterson activated his flight plan by radio after taking off, as was expected, Dwyer asked the ATCS to try to contact him. No contact was established. The airplane and its passengers never arrived at the destination.

After sunrise, Dwyer began an air search for the missing airplane. At 09:35 a.m., he located the crashed airplane in a farm field approximately 5 miles northwest of the airport. The airplane was destroyed and all four occupants were dead. There was about 4 inches (10 centimeters) of snow on the ground.

Roger Arthur Peterson

The pilot, Roger A. Peterson, was 21 years old and had been issued a commercial pilot’s certificate with an airplane–single-engine land rating, in April 1958. He was also a certified flight instructor. He had flown 711 flight hours during the nearly five years he had been flying. He had worked for Dwyer for a year.

Peterson had acquired 52 hours of instrument flight training and had passed the written test for the rating, but had failed an instrument flight check the previous year. He had 128 hours in the airplane type, but none of his instrument flight training had been in this aircraft.

Peterson was born at Alta, Iowa, 24 May 1937. He was the first of four children of Arthur Erland Peterson, a farmer, and Pearl I. Kraemer Peterson. He attended Fairview Consolidated School and graduated in 1954. Peterson married Miss DeAnn Lenz, a former classmate, at the Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Alta, 14 September 1958.

Roger Arthur Peterson is buried at the Buena Vista Memorial Cemetery, Storm Lake, Iowa.

N3794N was well-equipped for instrument flight. The attitude indicator, a Sperry Gyroscope Company, Inc., F-3 Attitude Gyro, however, displayed pitch attitude in a way that was different than the indicators used in the airplanes in which Peterson had taken instrument flight instruction.

This magazine advertisement depicts the Sperry F-3 Attitude Gyro. (Vintage Ad Service)
This contemporary magazine advertisement depicts the Sperry F-3 Attitude Gyro. (Vintage Ad Service)

The Civil Aeronautics Board (predecessor of the Federal Aviation Administration) investigated the accident. There was no indication of an engine malfunction or of structural failure of the aircraft.

Investigators concluded that as Peterson flew away from the airport he entered an area of total darkness, unable to see anything which would give him a visual cue of the airplane’s flight attitude. The unfamiliar attitude indicator may have confused him. He quickly became spatially disoriented and lost control of the Bonanza.

N3794N impacted the ground in a 90° right bank with a nose down pitch angle, on a heading of 315°. The right wing broke off and parts of the airplane were scattered as far as 540 feet (165 meters). The three passengers were thrown from the wreckage.

The airspeed indicator needle was stuck between 165 and 170 knots (190–196 miles per hour/306–315 kilometers per hour) and the rate of climb indicator was stuck showing a 3,000 foot-per-minute (15 meters per second) rate of descent. The tachometer was stuck at 2,200 r.p.m.

This Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza, N3851N, is the same type aircraft in which Buddy Hooly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were killed, 3 February 1959. (Unattributed)
This 1947 Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza, serial number D-1089, N3851N, is the same type aircraft in which Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were killed, 3 February 1959. (Unattributed)

The airplane was a 1947 Beechcraft 35 Bonanza, civil registration N3794N, serial number D-1019. It was a single-engine, four-place, all-metal light airplane with retractable landing gear. The Model 35 had the distinctive V-tail which combined the functions of a conventional vertical fin and rudder, and horizontal tail plane and elevators.

N3794N was completed at Wichita, Kansas, 17 October 1947 and it had accumulated 2,154 flight hours over the previous twelve years. The airplane’s engine had been overhauled 40 hours before the accident.

The Model 35 was 25 feet, 2 inches (7.671 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 10 inches (10.008 meters) and height of 6 feet, 7 inches (2.007 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,458 pounds (661 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,550 pounds (1,157 kilograms).

N3794N was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 471.24-cubic-inch-displacement (7.72 liter) Continental Motors, Inc., E185-8 horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 7:1. This was a direct-drive engine which turned a two-bladed, electrically-controlled, Beechcraft R-203-100 variable-pitch propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 4 inches (2.235 meters), constructed of laminated birch. The engine had a maximum continuous power rating of 185 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., at Sea Level, and  205 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. (five minute limit) for takeoff. It required 80/87-octane aviation gasoline and had an expected overhaul interval of 1,500 hours. The E-185-8 had a dry weight of 344 pounds (156 kilograms).

The “V-tail Bonanza” had a maximum speed of 184 miles per hour (296 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a cruise speed of 175 miles per hour ( 282 kilometers per hour)at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its service ceiling was 18,000 feet (5,486 meters).

With full fuel, 40 gallons (151.4 liters), the airplane had a range of 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

The Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza was in production from 1947 to 1982. More than 17,000 Model 35s and the similar Model 36 were built.

Destroyed Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza, N3794N, 3 February 1959.
Wreck of Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza N3794N, 3 February 1959.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

2 February 1970

Convair F-106A Delta Dart of the 71st Fighter Interceptor Squadron, with a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, circa 1970. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair F-106A-100-CO Delta Dart 58-0775 of the 71st Fighter Interceptor Squadron with a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, circa 1970. This is the same type aircraft flown by Lieutenant Gary Foust, 2 February 1970. (U.S. Air Force)
1st Lt. Gary E. Foust

2 February 1970: At approximately 9:50 a.m., three Convair F-106A Delta Dart supersonic interceptors of the 71st Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 24th Air Division, based at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, were engaged in an air combat training mission.

1st Lieutenant Gary Eugene Foust was flying F-106A-100-CO 58-0787, an airplane usually flown by the squadron’s maintenance officer, Major Wolford.

During the simulated combat, Lt. Foust entered into a vertical climb with his “opponent,” Captain Tom Curtis, who was also flying an F-106, and they both climbed to about 38,000 feet (11,600 meters) while using a “vertical rolling scissors” maneuver as each tried to get into a position of advantage.

Diagram of Vertical Rolling Scissors Maneuver, (Predrag Pavlovic, dipl. ing. and Nenad Pavlovic, dipl. ing.)
Diagram of Vertical Rolling Scissors Maneuver. (Predrag Pavlovic, dipl. ing. and Nenad Pavlovic, dipl. ing.)

Lt. Foust’s interceptor stalled and went in to a flat spin. Captain Curtiss described it: “The aircraft looked like the pitot tube was stationary with the aircraft rotating around it. Very flat and rotating quite slowly.”

Foust tried all the recovery procedures but could not regain control of the Delta Dart. With no options remaining, at about 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), Foust ejected from the apparently doomed airplane.

This F-106A (S/N 58-0787) was involved in an unusual incident. During a training mission, it entered an flat spin forcing the pilot to eject. Unpiloted, the aircraft recovered on its own and miraculously made a gentle belly landing in a snow-covered field. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Convair F-106A Delta Dart 58-0787 made an un-piloted belly landing onto a snow-covered farm field near Big Sandy, Montana, 2 February 1970. (U.S. Air Force)

After the pilot ejected, the F-106 came out of the spin and leveled off.  With its engine still running, -787 continued flying, gradually descending, until it slid in to a landing in a wheat field near Big Sandy, Montana. Eventually the airplane ran out of fuel and the engine stopped at about 12:15 p.m.

Lieutenant Foust safely parachuted into the mountains and was soon rescued.

58-0787 was partially disassembled by a maintenance team from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and loaded on to a rail car. It was then transported to the Sacramento Air Logistics Center at McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, where it was repaired and eventually returned to flight status with the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 21st Air Division, at Griffiss Air Force Base, New York.

After the Convair Delta Dart was retired from active service, 58-0787 was sent to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

This F-106A (S/N 58-0787) was involved in an unusual incident. During a training mission, it entered an flat spin forcing the pilot to eject. Unpiloted, the aircraft recovered on its own and miraculously made a gentle belly landing in a snow-covered field. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Convair F-106A Delta Dart 58-0787 sits in a snow-covered Montana farm field, February 1970. (U.S. Air Force)

The Convair F-106A Delta Dart was the primary all-weather interceptor of the United States Air Force from 1959 to 1988, when it was withdrawn from service with the Air National Guard. It was a single-seat, single-engine delta-winged aircraft capable of speeds above Mach 2.

The airplane was a development of the earlier F-102A Delta Dagger, and was initially designated F-102B. However, so many changes were made that it was considered to be a new aircraft.

The F-106A is 70 feet, 8.78 inches (21.559 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 3.5 inches (11.671 meters). The total area of the delta wing is 697.83 square feet (64.83 square meters). The angle of incidence was 0° and there was no dihedral. The leading edges were swept aft 60°. The top of the vertical fin was 20 feet, 3.3 inches (6.180 meters) high. The Delta Dart weighs 23,646 pounds (10,726 kilograms) empty, and has a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 38,729 pounds (17,567 kilograms).

Convair F-106A Delta Dart three-view illustration with dimensions. (SDASM)

The F-106 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney J75-P-17 afterburning turbojet engine. The J75-P-17 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet engine with afterburner. It used a 15-stage compressor section (8 high- and 7 low-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2-low pressure stages). The J75-P-17 had a maximum continuous power rating of 14,100 pounds of thrust (62.72 kilonewtons), and military power rating of 16,100 pounds (71.62 kilonewtons) (30-minute limit). It produced a maximum of 24,500 pounds (108.98 kilonewtons) with afterburner (5-minute limit). The engine was 3 feet, 8.25 inches (1.124 meters) in diameter, 19 feet, 9.6 inches long (6.035 meters), and weighed 5,875 pounds (2,665 kilograms).

Convair F-106A Delta Dart 58-0787 sits in a snow-covered Montana farm field, February 1970. (U.S. Air Force)

The interceptor has a cruise speed of 530 knots (610 miles per hour/982 kilometers per hour). and a maximum speed of 1,153 knots 1,327 miles per hour/2,135 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The F-106A had a service ceiling is 53,800 feet (16,398 meters) and a rate of climb of 48,900 feet per minute (248 meters per second). Its combat radius was 530 nautical miles (610 statute miles/982 kilometers) and the maximum ferry range was 1,843 nautical miles (2,121 statute miles/3,413 kilometers).

A Convair F-106A Delta Dart launches a Genie air-to-air rocket. (U.S. Air Force)
A Convair F-106A-135-CO Delta Dart, 59-0146, of the 194th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, California Air National Guard, launches an AIM-2 Genie air-to-air rocket. (U.S. Air Force)

The Delta Dart was armed with four GAR-3A radar-homing, or -4A (AIM-4F, -4G) infrared-homing Falcon air-to-air guided missiles, and one MB-1 (AIM-2A) Genie unguided rocket with a 1.5 kiloton W-25 nuclear warhead. The missiles were carried in an internal weapons bay. In 1972, the General Electric M61A1 Vulcan 20mm cannon was added to the rear weapons bay with 650 rounds of ammunition. (The number of gun-equipped Delta Darts is uncertain.)

Convair built 342 F-106 interceptors. 277 were F-106As and the remainder were F-106B two-seat trainers.

Convair F-106A-100-CO Delta Dart 58-0787 in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair F-106A-100-CO Delta Dart 58-0787 in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather