10 November 1995: Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record for distance flown by a commercial aircraft when she and a crew of 7 additional pilots flew a Boeing 777-200LR Worldliner, N6066Z, non-stop from Hong Kong (HKG) to London Heathrow (LHR), a distance of 21,601.33 kilometers (13422.44 miles), in 22 hours, 22 minutes.¹ During the flight, Captain Darcy-Henneman also set two speed records. The 777 averaged 981.57 kilometers per hour (609.92 miles per hour) from Los Angeles to New York,² and 910.54 kilometers per hour (565.78 miles per hour) from New York to London.³
Suzanna Darcy joined Boeing’s engineering department in 1974. She learned to fly with the Boeing Employees Flying Association. Darcy graduated from the University of Washington in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics and Aeronautical Engineering. She then became a ground school instructor for Boeing’s Model 757 and 767 airliners.
In 1985, Boeing assigned Darcy-Hanneman as a production test pilot, the first woman to hold that position with the company. She was also the first woman to earn a captain’s rating on the 747-400, and is also rated on the 737, 757, 767 and 777. She performed flight testing on the 737-300 and was the project test pilot for the 777-200LR.
In 2008, Captain Darcy-Hanneman became Chief Pilot, Boeing Commercial Airplane Services. She is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and was inducted into the Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2010.
28 October 1957: The first production Boeing 707 jet-powered commercial airliner, serial number 17586 (Line Number 1), was rolled out at the Boeing aircraft assembly plant at Renton, Washington. The Model 707 was developed from the earlier Model 367–80, the “Dash Eighty,” prototype for an air-refueling tanker which would become the KC-135 Stratotanker.
17586 was a Model 707-121. The new airliner had been sold to Pan American World Airways, the launch customer, as part of an order for twenty 707s in October 1955. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) assigned N708PA as its registration mark.
N708PA made its first flight 20 December 1957 with Boeing’s Chief of Flight Test, Alvin M. (“Tex”) Johnston. The airplane was initially used for flight and certification testing. Once this was completed, the new jet airliner was prepared for commercial service and delivered to Pan American at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), 30 November 1958. It was named Clipper Constitution.
In February 1965, the airliner was upgraded to 707-121B standards, which replaced the original turbojet engines with quieter, more efficient Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3D-1 turbofan engines which produced 17,000 pounds of thrust. The wing inboard leading edges were modified to the design of the Model 720 and there was a longer horizontal tail plane.
Clipper Constitution flew for Pan Am for nearly 8 years, until 17 September 1965, when it crashed into Chances Peak, a 3,002 foot (915 meters) active stratovolcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. The point impact was 242 feet (74 meters) below the summit. All aboard, a crew of 9 and 21 passengers, were killed.
The Boeing Model 707-121 was a four-engine jet transport with swept wings and tail surfaces. The leading edge of the wings were swept at a 35° angle. The airliner had a flight crew of four: pilot, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer.
The 707-121 was 145 feet, 1 inch (44.221 meters) long with a wing span of 130 feet, 10 inches (39.878 meters). The top of the vertical fin stood 42 feet, 5 inches (12.929 meters) high. The 707 pre-dated the ”wide-body” airliners, having a fuselage width of 12 feet, 4 inches (3.759 meters).
The first versions were powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3C-6 turbojet engines, producing 11,200 pounds of thrust (49,820 kilonewtons), and 13,500 pounds (60.051 kilonewtons) with water injection. This engine was a civil variant of the military J57 series. It was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 3 stage turbine. The JT3C-6 was 11 feet, 6.6 inches (3.520 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.9 inches (0.988 meters) in diameter, and weighed 4,235 pounds (1,921 kilograms).
The airliner’s empty weight is 122,533 pounds (55,580 kilograms). Maximum take off weight is 257,000 pounds (116,573 kilograms). At MTOW, the 707 required 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) of runway to take off.
The 707-121 had a maximum speed is 540 knots (1,000 kilometers per hour). Its range was 2,800 nautical miles (5,186 kilometers).
The Boeing 707 was in production from 1958 to 1979. 1,010 were built. Production of military variants continued until 1994.
16 October 1956: Pan American World Airways’ Flight 6 was a scheduled around-the-world passenger flight. The final leg, Honolulu to San Francisco, was flown by a Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser with civil registration N90943, and named Sovereign of the Skies.
The airplane had a flight crew of 7 and carried 24 passengers. The aircraft commander was Captain Richard N. Ogg, a veteran pilot with more than 13,000 flight hours accumulated over twenty years. First Officer George L. Haaker, Flight Engineer Frank Garcia, Jr., and Navigator Richard L. Brown completed the flight crew. The cabin crew were Purser Patricia Reynolds, who had been with Pan Am for over ten years, and Stewardesses Katherine S. Araki and Mary Ellen Daniel.
The flight from Honolulu to San Francisco was estimated to take 8 hours, 54 minutes. Captain Ogg had the airplane fueled for a total flight time of 12 hours, 18 minutes.
Flight 6 departed Honolulu at 8:24 p.m., Hawaii Standard Time, 15 October (06:24, 16 October, GMT), and climbed to 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) on course.
4 hours, 38 minutes after takeoff, Flight 6 requested a pre-planned climb to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters), at a point about half-way—in terms of flight time—between the departure point and destination, what is dramatically called “The Point of No Return” in suspense movies. (Actually, this is called the Equal Time Point: Taking into consideration forecast winds, the time to fly back to the departing point is the same as the time to continue toward the destination.)
On leveling at the new cruise altitude at 1:19 a.m. (HST), First Officer Haaker reduced engine power. The propeller for the Number 1 engine, the outside engine on the left wing, suffered a prop governor failure and began to overspeed, with engine r.p.m. actually exceeding the limits of its tachometer. This created a very dangerous condition: If the propeller turned fast enough, it could be torn apart by centrifugal force. (See This Day In Aviation, 22 March 1956, for an example.)
The crew was unable to feather the propeller, which would cause its four blades to turn parallel to the slip stream, and increasing the load on the engine while reducing aerodynamic drag. The engine and propeller continued to turn at dangerously high speed so Captain Ogg decided to force the engine to stop by cutting off its lubricating oil supply. This caused the engine to seize but the propeller continued to “windmill.”
The drag caused by the propeller slowed the airplane considerably and the three remaining engines had to run at high power for the Boeing 377 to maintain its altitude. The Number 4 engine (the outer engine on the right wing) was developing only partial power at full throttle. At 2:45 a.m., it began to backfire and had to be shut down.
The airplane began to descend toward the ocean’s surface.
With the drag of the windmilling Number 1 propeller and only two engines running, Sovereign of the Skies could fly at just 140 knots (161 miles per hour/259 kilometers per hour), not fast enough to reach San Francisco or to return to Honolulu before running out of fuel. The navigator estimated that they would run out of fuel 250 miles (402 kilometers) from land.
The United States Coast Guard kept a high endurance cutter on station between Hawaii and California, at a point known as Ocean Station November. This ship provided assistance with weather information, radio communications and was available to assist should an emergency arise aboard trans-Pacific airplanes.
On 16 October 1956, this cutter was USCGC Pontchartrain (WHEC 70), under the command of Commander William K. Earle, USCG. Pontchartrain was a 255-foot (77.7 meter) Lake-class patrol gunboat built by the U.S. Coast Guard ship yard at Curtiss Bay, Maryland, and commissioned 28 July 1945. The ship was redesignated as a high endurance cutter in 1948. Pontchartrain had a complement of 143 men.
The ship was 254 feet (77.42 meters) long, overall, with a beam of 43 feet, 1 inch (13.13 meters) and draft of 17 feet, 3 inches (5.25 meters). Its full load displacement was 1,978 tons (1,794 Metric tons). It was powered by a Westinghouse turbo-electric drive of 4,000 shaft horsepower and was capable on making 17.5 knots (20.41 miles per hour, or 32.41 kilometers per hour). Its maximum range was 10,376 miles (19,216 kilometers).
Pontchartrain was armed with a single 5-inch/38-caliber naval gun forward. It carried Hedgehog anti-submarine mortars and Mk 23 acoustic-homing antisubmarine torpedoes.
Captain Ogg notified Ponchartrain that he intended to ditch the airliner near the ship. The Coast Guard provided Captain Ogg with wind and wave information—five-foot (1.5 meter) swells, wind at eight knots (4 meters per second) from the northwest—and advised the best heading for ditching. The ship laid a trail of foam to mark this course.
At 6:15 a.m., at approximately 90 knots airspeed (104 miles per hour/167 kilometers per hour), the Boeing 377 landed on the water. A wing hit a swell, spinning the airplane to the left. The tail broke off and the airplane began to settle.
Injuries were minor and all passengers and crew evacuated the airliner. They were immediately picked up by Pontchartrain.
Captain Ogg and Purser Reynolds were the last to leave the airplane.
Twenty minutes after touching down, at 6:35 a.m., Sovereign of the Skies sank beneath the ocean’s surface.
Pan American’s Sovereign of the Skies was a Boeing Model 377-10-29, construction number 15959, originally operated by American Overseas Airlines as Flagship Holland, and later, Flagship Europe. Pan Am acquired the airliner during a merger. On 16 October 1956, the airplane had accumulated 19,820:51 total time on the airframe (TTAF) since it was built.
The Boeing 377 was a large, four-engine civil transport which had been developed, along with the military C-97 Stratofreighter, from the World War II B-29 Superfortress long-range heavy bomber. It utilized the wings and engines of the improved B-50 Superfortress. The airplane was operated by a flight crew of four. It was a double-deck aircraft, with the flight deck, passenger cabin and galley on the upper deck and a lounge and cargo compartments on the lower. The airliner was pressurized, and could maintain Sea Level atmospheric pressure while flying at 15,500 feet (4,724 meters). The Model 377 could be configured to carry up to 100 passengers, or 28 in sleeping births.
The Stratocruiser was 110 feet, 4 inches (33.630 meters) long with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.053 meters) and overall height of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters). Empty weight was 83,500 pounds (37,875 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 148,000 pounds (67,132 kilograms). Sovereign of the Skies had a gross weight of 138,903 pounds (63,005 kilograms) when it took off from Honolulu.
The airliner was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.489 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B6 four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines which had a Normal Power rating of 2,650 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., and 2,800 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. Maximum Continuous. It produced 3,250 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff (3,500 horsepower with water injection). The engines drove four-bladed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic, 24260 constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 17 feet, 0 inches (5.182 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The Wasp Major B6 was 8 feet, 0.50 inches (2.451 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,584 pounds (1,626 kilograms).
The 377 had a cruise speed of 301 miles per hour (484 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour). During testing by Boeing, a 377 reached 409 miles per hour (658 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) and the range was 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers).
Boeing built 56 Model 377 Stratocruisers, with Pan American as the primary user, and another 888 military C-97 Stratofreighter and KC-97 Stratotankers.
A U.S. Coast Guard film of the incident can be seen at:
10 October 1933: A United Air Lines Boeing 247, civil registration NC13304, was on Trip 23, a scheduled transcontinental flight from Newark, New Jersey to Oakland, California, with intermediate stops at Cleveland, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois. The airliner, which had been in service only six months, was carrying a crew of three with four passengers.
While enroute from Cleveland to Chicago, NC13304 exploded in mid-air. It crashed near Jackson Township, approximately five miles southeast of Chesterton, Indiana. There was a second explosion after the crash. All seven persons aboard were killed.
NC13304, serial number 1685, was the fourth Model 247 to be built. The Boeing 247 is considered to be the first modern airliner because of its all-metal, semi-monocoque construction, cantilevered wing and retractable landing gear. It was 50 mph faster than its contemporaries, and could climb on one engine with a full load. It carried a pilot, co-pilot, flight attendant and up to ten passengers.
The Boeing 247 was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.80-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S1H1 nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6:1. The S1H1 was a direct-drive engine. It had a Normal Power rating of 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m for takeoff. The engine was 3 feet, 6.94 inches (1.091 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.75 inches (1.314 meters) in diameter, and weighed 864 pounds (392 kilograms).
The Boeing 247 had a maximum speed of 200 miles per hour (320 kilometers per hour) with a cruising speed of 188 miles per hour (304 kilometers per hour). It had a range of 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 25,400 feet (7,260 meters).
The investigation determined that the airliner’s tail had been blown off by a nitroglycerin bomb which had been placed in the baggage compartment.
The pilots had closed both throttles, turned off the magneto switches and pulled the master switch prior to impact.
This was the first proven case of a commercial aircraft destroyed by sabotage. No suspects or motive for the crime were ever discovered.
4 October 1958: The first regularly scheduled transatlantic passenger service with jet powered aircraft began when two British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) de Havilland DH.106 Comet 4 airliners, civil registrations G-APDB and G-APDC, left nearly simultaneously from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Idlewild Airport (IDL), New York, and from New York to London.
The west-to-east flight, (G-APDB) commanded by Captain Thomas Butler (Tom) Stoney, D.F.C., departed New York at 7:01 a.m., local time, with Basil Smallpiece and Aubrey Burke, managing directors of BOAC and de Havilland, respectively, on board. Benefiting from more favorable winds, the eastbound flight took just 6 hours, 12 minutes, averaging 565 miles per hour (909 kilometers per hour).
The east-to-west airliner, G-APDC, departed Heathrow at 8:45 a.m., London time, under the command of Captain R.E. Millichap, with Sir Gerard d’Erlanger, chairman of BOAC, and 31 passengers aboard. The westbound flight took 10 hours, 20 minutes, including a 1 hour, 10 minute fuel stop at Gander Airport (YQX), Newfoundland.
These two airliners had been delivered to BOAC on 30 September 1958. They were both configured to carry 48 passengers.
The DH.106 Comet 4 was operated by a flight crew of four: pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and navigator/radio operator. It could carry up to 81 passengers. The airliner was 111 feet, 6 inches (33.985 meters) long with a wingspan of 115 feet (35.052 meters) and 29 feet, 6 inches (8.992 meters) to the top of the vertical fin. Maximum takeoff weight of 156,000 pounds (70,760 kilograms).
Power was supplied by four Rolls-Royce Avon 524 (RA.29) turbojet engines, rated at 10,500 pounds of thrust (46.71 kilonewtons) at 8,000 r.p.m., each. The RA.29 was Rolls-Royce’s first commercial turbojet engine. It was a single-spool, axial-flow jet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine. The Mk.524 variant was 10 feet, 4.8 inches (3.170 meters) long, 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,226 pounds (1,463 kilograms).
The Comet 4 had a maximum speed of 520 miles per hour (837 kilometers per hour), a range of 3,225 miles (5,190 kilometers) and a ceiling of 45,000 feet (13,716 meters).
De Havilland DH-106 Comet 4 G-APDB (“Delta Bravo”) made it’s final flight on 12 February 1974, having flown 36,269 hours, with 15,733 landings. It is part of the Duxford Aviation Society’s British Air Liner Collection at RAF Duxford, Cambridgeshire, England.
G-APDC did not fare as well. It was scrapped in April 1975.
Captain Stoney had served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during World War II. In 1942, as a Pilot Officer assigned to No. 58 Squadron, Bomber Command, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and promoted to Flying Officer. Ten years later, Captain Stoney was in command of BOAC’s Canadair DC-4M-4 Argonaut, Atalanta, G-ALHK, when it brought Queen Elizabeth II home from Kenya to accede to the throne.¹ Captain R.E. Millichap was also a member of the flight crew. Later that year, Stoney flew the new Queen back to Africa aboard a DH.106 Comet 1. T.B. Stoney was appointed Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1960.