Tag Archives: Airliner

15 August 1962

An American Airlines Boeing 707-023B Astrojet (720B) at Los Angeles International Airport, 26 December 1962. (Photograph courtesy of Jon Proctor)
An American Airlines Boeing 707-023B Astrojet (720B) at Los Angeles International Airport, 26 December 1962. (Photograph courtesy of Jon Proctor)

15 August 1962: American Airlines’ Captain Eugene M. (“Gene”) Kruse set a National Aeronautic Association Class C-1 record for Speed Over a Commercial Air Route, East to West Transcontinental, when he flew a Boeing 720B Astrojet from New York to Los Angeles, 2,474 miles (3,981.5 kilometers), in 4 hours, 19 minutes, 15 seconds, at an average speed of 572.57 miles per hour (921.46 kilometers per hour). 55 years later, this record still stands.

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The National Aeronautic Association has placed Captain Kruse’ record on its “Most Wanted” list: long-standing flight records that it would like to see challenged. Rules require that a new record exceed the old by at least a 1% margin. The performance needed to establish a new record would be 578.30 miles per hour (930.68 kilometers per hour).

The Boeing 720B was a variant of the Model 707, intended for short to medium range flights. It had 100 inches (2.54 meters) removed from the fuselage length and improvements to the wing which decreased aerodynamic drag. The 720B was the first commercial jet airliner to use more efficient turbofan engines, substituting four Pratt & Whitney JT3D for the 707’s JT3C-6 turbojets. Boeing built 154 Model 720 and 720B airliners from 1959 to 1967.

The Boeing 720 was operated by a flight crew of four and could carry up to 149 passengers. It was 136 feet, 2 inches (41.504 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 10 inches (39.878 meters) and overall height of 41 feet, 7 inches (12.675 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 103,145 pounds (46,786 kilograms) and Maximum Takeoff Weight of 220,000 pounds (99,790 kilograms).

The JT3C turbojet engines produced 12,000 pounds of thrust, each, while the more efficient JT3D turbofans used for the 720B produced 17,000 pounds of thrust, each.

The Boeing 720B had a maximum cruise speed was 611 miles per hour (983 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed was 620 miles per hour (998 kilometers per hour). Range at at maximum payload was 4,370 miles (7,033 kilometers).

The last flight of a Boeing 720B took place on 9 May 2012, when an airliner used by Pratt & Whitney Canada as a test aircraft was placed in the National Air Force Museum of Canada at Trenton, Ontario.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 August 1947

British South American Airways’ Avro Lancastrian Mk.III, G-AGWH, Star Dust.
British South American Airways’ Avro Lancastrian Mk.III, G-AGWH, R.M.A. Star Dust.
Captain Reginald J. Cook, DSO, DFC, DFM
Flight Lieutenant Reginald James Cook, DSO, DFC, DFM, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, during World War II service.

2 August 1947: At 1:46 p.m., British South American Airways Flight CS59 departed Buenos Aires, Argentina enroute Santiago, Chile. The airliner was an Avro Lancastrian Mk.III, registration G-AGWH, named R.M.A. Star Dust. The flight was under the command of Captain Reginald J. Cook, DSO, DFC, DFM, with First Officer Norman Hilton Cook, Second Officer Donald S. Checklin, Radio Operator Dennis B. Harmer and “Stargirl” Iris Morcen Evans. On this flight, in addition to the five-person airline crew, there were just six passengers.

At 5:41 p.m., Santiago airport received a routine Morse code signal from G-AGWH indicating the flight would arrive in four minutes: “ETA SANTIAGO 17.45 HRS STENDEC”.  The radio operator at Santiago did not understand “STENDEC” and asked the airliner’s radio operator to repeat it, which he did, twice. The airliner never arrived. A five-day search was unsuccessful. The meaning of the last word in the message has never been determined.

The fate of Star Dust remained a mystery until 1998, when two mountain climbers on Mount Tupungato—at 21,555 feet (6,570 meters), one of the highest mountains in South America—50 miles east of Santiago, found a wrecked Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engine in the ice of a glacier at the 15,000 foot level (4,572 meters). A search of the glacier in 2000 located additional wreckage and it was confirmed that this was the missing Lancastrian.

Investigators determined that the airliner had flown into the glacier at high speed and the crash caused an avalanche which buried the wreckage.

In 2002 the remains of eight persons were recovered from the glacier, five of which were identified through DNA.

Mount Tupungato, a 21,555-foot stratovolcano in the Andes mountains of South America.  (Gerard Prins)

The Avro 691 Lancastrian Mk.III was a four-engine civil transport based on the World War II very long range heavy bomber, the Avro Lancaster. The Mk.III variant was built specifically for the British South American Airways Corporation by A.V. Roe & Co. Ltd, at Woodford, Cheshire, England, and was an improved version of the British Overseas Airways Corporation Lancastrian Mk.I. Eighteen Mk.IIIs were built for BSAAC. G-AGWH, serial number 1280, was the second of this series. It first flew on 11 November 1945 and was registered to BSAAC 16 January 1946.

The airliner was operated by a flight crew of four and carried one flight attendant. It could carry up to thirteen passengers. The Lancastrian Mk.III was 76 feet, 10 inches (23.419 meters) long with a wingspan of 102 feet (31.090 meters) and overall height of 19 feet, 6 inches (5.944 meters). The empty weight was 30,220 pounds (13,707.6 kilograms) and gross weight was 65,000 pounds (29,483.5 kilograms).

The Lancastrian Mk.III was powered by four 1,648.9-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04 liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged, Rolls-Royce Merlin T24/2¹ single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines producing 1,650 horsepower and turning three bladed propellers.

These gave the airplane a cruise speed of 245 miles per hour (394.3 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 315 miles per hour (506.9 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 25,500 feet (7,772 meters) and the range was 4,150 miles (6,679 kilometers).

¹ Two of G-AGWH’s Merlin T24/2 engines had been completely overhauled and converted to the Merlin 500-2 configuration. One engine was converted to a Merlin 502. The fourth engine remained as a T24/2. All engines had less than 1,200 hours total time since new (TTSN) and the converted engines were approximately 500 hours since overhaul (TSOH).

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 July 1983

Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767-200, C-GAUN, after emergency landing at Gimli, Manitoba, 23 July 1983. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767-200, C-GAUN, after emergency landing at Gimli, Manitoba, 23 July 1983. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Captain Robert Pearson
Captain Robert Pearson

23 July 1983: Air Canada Flight 143 was a Boeing 767-200, registration C-GAUN, enroute from Montreal to Edmonton, with a stop at Ottawa. On board were 61 passengers and a crew of eight. On the flight deck were Captain Robert Pearson and First Officer Maurice Quintal.

At 1:21 p.m., over Red Lake, Ontario, the 767 ran out of fuel and both engines stopped. This caused a loss of electrical and hydraulic power to the aircraft. The 767 was equipped with a “glass cockpit” and the pilots lost most of their instrumentation. The airliner became very difficult to fly without the hydraulic system functioning, and flaps and landing gear were inoperative.

Unable to reach Winnipeg for an emergency landing, Captain Pearson turned toward a closed airport, the former RCAF Station Gimli. First Officer Quintal had been stationed there during his military service.

Pearson had extensive experience flying gliders and used this knowledge to extend the glide of the 767. The airliner touched down on a closed runway that was being used as a race track. The nose gear, which had not locked when dropped by gravity, collapsed, and the airliner suffered some damage as it slid to a stop.

Of those aboard, there were ten people injured. The airliner was forever after known as “The Gimli Glider.”

The investigation of the accident faulted the airline for not reassigning the responsibility for calculating the fuel load when use of a flight engineer became unnecessary with the new Boeing 767, which was designed to be flown by a two-pilot crew. Also, the recent change from the Imperial measurement system to metric resulted in a series of miscalculations as to how much fuel was actually aboard the aircraft before the flight.

In 2008, C-GAUN was retired to The Boneyard at Mojave, California. Captains Pearson and Quintal and several of the Flight 143 flight attendants were aboard on her last flight.

Air Canada’s Boeing 767-200, C-GAUN, “The Gimli Glider,” in storage at Mojave. (Akradecki via Wikipedia)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 July 1970

McDonnell Douglas DC-10 rollout at Long Beach, 23 July 1970. (Boeing)

23 July 1970: At Long Beach, California, the first McDonnell Douglas DC-10 airliner was rolled out. A DC-10-10, serial number 46500 with FAA registration N10DC, this aircraft was used for flight testing and Federal Aviation Administration certification. It made 989 test flights, accumulating 1,551 flight hours. It was put into commercial service with American Airlines 12 August 1972, re-registered as N101AA.

The DC-10 was a wide-body commercial airliner designed for medium to long range flights. It was flown by a crew of three and depending on the cabin arrangement, carried between 202 and 390 passengers. The DC-10-10 was 170 feet, 6 inches (51.968 meters) long with a wingspan of 155 feet, 4 inches (47.346 meters) and overall height of 58 feet, 1 inch (17.704 meters). The airliner had an empty weight of 240,171 pounds (108,940 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 430,000 pounds (195,045 kilograms). It was powered by three General Electric CF6-6D turbofan engines, producing 40,000 pounds of thrust, each. These gave the DC-10 a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.88 (610 miles per hour, 982 kilometers per hour). Its range is 3,800 miles (6,116 kilometers) and the service ceiling is 42,000 feet (12,802 meters).

In production from 1970 to 1988, a total of 386 DC-10s were built in passenger and freighter versions. 122 were the DC-10-10 variant. Another 60 KC-10A Extender air refueling tankers were built for the U.S. Air Force and 2 KDC-10 tankers for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The first McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was in service with American Airlines from 12 August 1972 to 15 November 1994 when it was withdrawn from service and placed in storage at Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 24-year-old airliner had accumulated 63,325 flight hours.

After three years in storage, the first DC-10 returned to service flying for Federal Express. In 1998 it was modernized as an MD-10 and re-registered again, this time as N530FE. It was finally retired from service and scrapped at Goodyear, Arizona in 2002.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 July 1989

United Airlines’ DC-10 N1819U, Flight 232, on final approach to Sioux City Gateway Airport, 19 July 1989. In this image, damage to the right horizontal stabilizer is visible, and the aircraft tail cone is missing. (Wikipedia)

19 July 1989: United Airlines Flight 232 was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10, registration N1819U, enroute from Stapleton International Airport, Denver, Colorado to O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois. There were 296 persons aboard the airliner: 285 passengers and 11 crewmembers. The flight crew consisted of Captain Alfred C. Haynes, First Officer William Record and Second Officer Dudley Dvorak. Also aboard, riding in the passenger cabin, was off-duty United Airlines DC-10 Check Airman, Captain Dennis E. Fitch.

At 3:16:10 p.m., the fan disk of the airliner’s tail-mounted General Electric CF6-6 turbofan engine (Number Two) failed catastrophically. Shrapnel from the exploding engine chopped through the DC-10’s tail section and severed the three independent hydraulic systems that powered the flight control surfaces. The crew immediately lost their ability to control the airliner with rudder, elevators and ailerons. Flaps and wing leading edge slats were inoperative. Controls to the damaged engine also failed and only by cutting off fuel flow were they able to shut if down and prevention further damage or a fire. Landing gear could only be lowered by use of an emergency procedure.

The uncontrolled airliner immediately started to roll and dive. The pilots’ cockpit flight controls were completely useless to stop the roll. Only by varying the thrust on the two remaining wing mounted engines could some degree of control be maintained. Realizing there was a problem with the DC-10, Captain Fitch told a flight attendant to inform Captain Haynes that he was aboard and ask if he could assist. Haynes immediately asked Fitch to come forward, and once there to take over the throttle controls while the crew dealt with all the other problems that were occurring.

The simultaneous loss of all three hydraulic systems was considered to be “impossible” and there were no emergency procedures to deal with the problem. The crew did the best they could with varying power on the two remaining engines to turn the airplane and to descend. They were heading for an emergency landing at Sioux City Gateway Airport, Iowa.

The DC-10 touched down at teh threshold of Runway 22, just left of the centerline.
The DC-10 touched down at the threshold of Runway 22, just left of the centerline.

At 4:00:16 p.m., the DC-10 touched down on Runway 22 at an estimated at 215 knots (247.4 miles per hour, 398.2 kilometers per hour) and a rate of descent of 1,620 feet per minute (8.23 meters per second). At about 100 feet (30.5 meters) above the ground, the airliner’s nose began to pitch downward and the airliner started to roll to the right. Touchdown was at the runway threshold, just left of the centerline. The force of the impact caused the airframe break apart and the wreck rolled over to the right side of the runway. Fuel exploded and fire spread. 110 passengers and 1 flight attendant were killed in the crash and fire. There were 185 survivors of the crash, including the four pilots who were trapped in the crushed nose section of the airplane which had broken away from the main wreckage.

The NTSB investigation determined that the the center engine fan disk failed due to a crack which had formed when the original titanium ingot from which it was made had been cast 18 years before. The official report said that a landing under these conditions was stated to be “a highly random event“. The NTSB further noted that “under the circumstances the UAL flight crew performance was highly commendable and greatly exceeded reasonable expectations.”

This was one of the finest displays of airmanship during an inflight emergency since the beginning of aviation.

An iowa National Guard UH-1 medevac helicopter hovers over the wreckage of the United DC-10.
An Iowa National Guard UH-1 medevac helicopter hovers over the wreckage of the United Airlines DC-10, 19 July 1989.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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