4 January 1957: The Brooklyn Dodgers, a major league baseball team owned by Walter O’Malley, became the first professional sports team to own its own airplane when it placed an order for a Convair 440 Metropolitan airliner. The price was $775,000, and the ball club took delivery of serial number 406 in April. The airplane had been added to an existing order for twenty 440s for Eastern Airlines. It varied from Eastern’s only in the installation of an autopilot.
The Dodgers’ pilot was Harry R. “Bump” Holman. He began flying for the team in 1950 as a co-pilot on a Douglas DC-3.
The Dodgers flew the Metroliner until 1961 when it was sold for $700,000 and exported to Spain. The ball club replaced it with a Lockheed L-188A Electra purchased from Western Airlines.
The Convair 440 first flew 6 October 1955. It was an improvement over the earlier CV-240 and CV-340 models. Operated by a flight crew of 2 or 3, it could carry up to 52 passengers in a pressurized cabin.
The airliner was 81 feet, 6 inches (24.841 meters) long with a wingspan of 105 feet, 4 inches (32.106 meters) and height of 28 feet, 2 inches (8.585 meters). The empty weight was 33,314 pounds (15,111 kilograms) and maximum gross weight was 49,700 pounds (22,543 kilograms).
The 440 Metropolitan was powered by two 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter), air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp CB16 two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ration of 6.75:1. Burning 100/130 aviation gasoline, the CB16 had a Normal Power rating of 1,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. to 8,500 feet (2,591 meters) and 1,600 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. to 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). It was rated at 2,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. for Takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 0.450:1 gear reduction. The CB16 was 6 feet, 9.40 inches (2.068 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.80 inches (1.341 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,390 pounds (1,084 kilograms).
The 440 Metropolitan had a maximum cruise speed of 300 miles per hour (483 kilometers per hour), service ceiling of 24,900 feet (7,590 meters) and maximum range of 1,930 miles (3,106 kilometers). Convair built 199 of the 440 variant.
N1R, s/n 406, received its Airworthiness Certificate 21 March 1957. The FAA registration was cancelled 13 February 1961.
On 24 January 1978, the airplane was being operated by the Transporte Aéreo Militar Boliviano, a civil transport airline of the Bolivian Air Force, under registration TAM-45. An engine problem forced the crew to return to San Ramon Airport. On landing, the airplane ran off the runway into a ditch and was damaged beyond repair. No one on board was hurt, but one person on the ground was killed.
3 January 1981: Pan American World Airways retired its last Boeing 707 airliner. Pan Am had been the launch customer for the 707. On 20 October 1955 the airline ordered twenty 707s, and later ordered 130 more. The first one, Clipper America, a 707-121, N707PA, was delivered 15 August 1958. On 26 October 1958, N711PA, also named Clipper America,¹ made the first regularly scheduled transatlantic flight by a jet airliner.
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 41 feet, 8 inches (12.700 meters) high. The 707 pre-dated the ”wide-body” airliners, having a maximum fuselage width of 12 feet, 4.0 inches (3.759 meters). The airliner’s typical operating empty weight is 122,500 pounds (55,565 kilograms). Maximum take off weight is 257,340 pounds (116,727 kilograms).
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 2 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).
At MTOW, the 707 required 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) of runway to take off.
The 707-121 had an economical cruise speed of 550 miles per hour (885 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), and a maximum cruise speed of 593 miles per hour (954 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)—0.87 Mach. It’s 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 707 airframes continued at Renton until the final one was completed in April 1991. As of 2011, 43 707s were still in service.
¹ At least three Pan Am 707s carried the name Clipper America. N709PA was renamed Clipper Tradewind. N710PA, was renamed Clipper Caroline. N711PA was renamed Clipper Mayflower.
31 December 1938: Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19901 made its first flight at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington. The test pilot was Eddie Allen, with co-pilot Julius A. Barr.
The Model 307 was a four-engine commercial airliner that used the wings, tail surfaces, engines and landing gear of the production B-17B Flying Fortress heavy bomber. The fuselage was circular in cross section to allow for pressurization. It was the first pressurized airliner and because of its complexity, it was also the first airplane to include a flight engineer as a crew member.
The Associated Press news agency reported:
Test Of Big Craft Begins
SEATTLE, Dec. 31—(AP)—The world’s first plane, designed for flying in the sub-stratosphere, the new Boeing “Stratoliner”, performed “admirably” in a 42-minute first test flight in the rain today.
The big ship, with a wingspread of 107 feet, three inches, climbed to 4,000 feet, the ceiling, and cruised between here, Tacoma and Everett. Speed was held down to 175 miles an hour.
“The control and stability and the way it handled were very nice,” Edmund T. Allen, pilot, said. “She performed admirably.”
The 33-passenger ship was built to fly at altitudes of 20,000 feet.
No more tests are planned until next week. The supercharging equipment for high altitude flights will be installed later.
—Arizona Republic, Vol. IL, No. 228, Sunday, 1 January 1939, Page 2, Column 4
On March 18, 1939, during its 19th test flight, the Stratoliner went into a spin, then a dive. It suffered structural failure of the wings and horizontal stabilizer when the flight crew attempted to recover. NX19901 was destroyed and all ten persons aboard were killed.
The Boeing Model 307 was operated by a crew of five and could carry 33 passengers. It was 74 feet, 4 inches (22.657 meters) long with a wingspan of 107 feet, 3 inches (32.690 meters) and overall height of 20 feet, 9½ inches (6.337 meters). The wings had 4½° dihedral and 3½° angle of incidence. The empty weight was 29,900 pounds (13,562.4 kilograms) and loaded weight was 45,000 pounds (20,411.7 kilograms).
The airliner was powered by four air-cooled, geared and supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) Wright Cyclone 9 GR-1820-G102 9-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1, rated at 900 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., and 1,100 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. for takeoff. These drove three-bladed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers through a 0.6875:1 gear reduction in order to match the engine’s effective power range with the propellers. The GR-1820-G102 was 4 feet, 0.12 inches (1.222 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.10 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,275 pounds (578 kilograms).
The maximum speed of the Model 307 was 241 miles per hour (388 kilometers per hour) at 6,000 feet (1,828.8 meters). Cruise speed was 215 miles per hour (346 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). The service ceiling was 23,300 feet (7,101.8 meters).
During World War II, TWA sold its Stratoliners to the United States government which designated them C-75 and placed them in transatlantic passenger service.
In 1944, the 307s were returned to TWA and they were sent back to Boeing for modification and overhaul. The wings, engines and tail surfaces were replaced with those from the more advanced B-17G Flying Fortress. The last one in service was retired in 1951.
Of the ten Stratoliners built for Pan Am and TWA, only one remains. Fully restored by Boeing, NC19903 is at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution.
29 December 1972: Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, was en route from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York, to Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida, with a crew of 13 and 163 passengers. The flight was under the command of Captain Robert Albin Loft, a 32-year-veteran of Eastern Air Lines. The co-pilot was First Officer Albert John Stockstill, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who had flown with Eastern as a flight engineer for 12 years before upgrading to first officer the previous year. The Second Officer (flight engineer) was Donald Louis Repo. He was employed as a mechanic by Eastern in 1947, and had qualified as a flight engineer in 1955.
On approach to MIA, the flight crew lowered the landing gear. The indicator light for the nose gear did not illuminate. Captain Loft informed the Miami control tower that he was abandoning the approach and requested a holding pattern. Miami Approach Control placed Flight 401 in a “race track” pattern at 2,000 feet (610 meters), west of MIA.
The flight crew confirmed that the landing gear was operating properly, and confirmed that the incandescent light bulb for the gear position indicator was burned out. Still, all three members of the flight crew, as well as a fourth Eastern Air Lines employee who was in the cockpit, continued to investigate the light’s malfunction. While they did so, the airplane entered a very gradual descent which went unobserved by the crew.
The following partial transcript is from the airplane’s Cockpit Voice Recorder:
Miami Approach Control: “Eastern, ah Four Oh One how are things comin’ out there?” [2341:40]
Eastern Air Lines Flight 401: “Okay, we’d like to turn around and come back in.” [2341:44]
Miami Approach Control: “Eastern Four Oh One turn left heading one eight zero.” [2341:47]
First Officer: “We did something to the altitude.” [2342:05]
Captain: “What?” [2342:05]
First Officer: “We’re still at two thousand, right?” [2342:07]
At 11:42:12 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Flight 401 impacted the surface of an Everglades swamp, 18.7 miles (30.1 kilometers) west-northwest of the end of Runway 9L. The TriStar hit the ground at 227 miles per hour (365 kilometers per hour) in a 28° left bank. Of the 176 persons on board, 99 were killed and 75 were injured. 2 of the injured died later.
The cause of the accident was “pilot error.” In the simplest terms, the flight crew failed in their primary responsibility to FLY THE AIRPLANE while they dealt with an inconsequential technical issue. At the time, this was the highest number of fatalities in an aircraft accident in the United States.
PROBABLE CAUSE: “The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the fight crew to monitor the flight instruments during the final 4 minutes of flight, and to detect an unexpected descent soon enough to prevent impact with the ground. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the nose landing gear position indicating system distracted the crew’s attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed.”
— Aircraft Accident Report, Eastern Air Lines, Inc. L-1011, N310EA, Miami, Florida, December 29, 1972, Report Number NTSB-AAR-73-14, Adopted 14 June 1973, Chapter 2.2 at Pages 23–24
Following the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, and the similar crash of a United Air Lines DC-8, Flight 173, at Portland, Oregon, 28 December 1978, airlines developed a system called Cockpit Resource Management to ensure that the flight crews stayed focused on cockpit priorities while dealing with unexpected issues.
Flight 401 was a Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar, a long-range variant of the “wide body” airliner, FAA registration N310EA, (serial number N193A-1011) which had been delivered to Eastern Air Lines 18 August 1972 had entered service three days later. At the time of the crash it had just 986 hours total flight time (TTAF).
The L-1011 was a very technologically advanced airliner, operated by a flight crew of three, and could carry a maximum of 330 passengers. The –385 was 14 feet shorter than the previous TriStar versions, with a length of 164 feet, 2.5 inches (50.051 meters). It had longer wings, spanning 164 feet, 4 inches (50.089 meters). Its overall height was 55 feet, 4 inches (16.865 meters). Empty, it weighed 245,400 pounds (111,312 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weigh was 510,000 pounds (231,332 kilograms) and maximum landing weight, 368,000 pounds (166,922 kilograms).
N310EA was powered by three Rolls-Royce RB.211-22C turbofan engines, with two suspended on pylons under the wings and one in the rear of the fuselage. They produced 42,000 pounds of thrust (186.83 kilonewtons), each.
The L-1011-385-1 had a maximum speed of 0.95 Mach. Its cruising speed was 604 miles per hour (972 kilometers per hour). Range with maximum passengers was 6,151 miles (9,899 kilometers). The service ceiling was 43,000 feet (13,106 meters).
The Lockheed L-1011 was in production from 1968 to 1984. 250 of the airliners were built at Palmdale, California.
26 December 1975: The Tupolev Tu-144S, 004-1, operated by Aeroflot (OAO Aeroflot-Rossiyskiye avialinii) under civil registration CCCP-77106, was the first supersonic transport to enter commercial service when it flew a regularly-scheduled 2,010 mile (3,240 kilometer) route from Moscow Domodedovo Airport to Almaty, Kazakhstan, carrying mail and freight.
004-1 was the first production Tu-144S delivered to Aeroflot. A prototype and a pre-production Tu-144S had been built first. There were a total of 16 Tu-144s completed, with nine production Tu-144S and five Tu-144D models.
The Tu-144S was built by Tupolev OKB at the Voronezh Aviation Plant (VASO), Pridacha Airport, Voronezh. It is a large delta-winged aircraft with a “droop” nose for improved low speed cockpit visibility and retractable canards mounted high on the fuselage behind the cockpit. It was flown by a flight crew of three and was designed to carry up to 120 passengers.
77106 is 65.50 meters (215 feet, 6.6 inches) long, with a wingspan of 28.00 meters (91 feet, 10.4 inches). The tip of the vertical fin was 11.45 meters (37 feet, 6.8 inches) high. zThe 144S has a total wing are of 503 square meters (5,414 square feet). Its empty weight is 91,800 kilograms (202,384 pounds) and the maximum takeoff weight is 195,000 kilograms (429,901 pounds). (A number of Tu-144S airliners had extended wing tips, increasing the span to 28.80 meters (94 feet, 5.9 inches) and the wing area to 507 square meters (5,457 square feet).
The Tu-144S was powered by four Kuznetsov NK-144A engines. The NK-144 is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine with afterburner. It uses a 2-stage fan section, 14 stage compressor section (11 high- and 3 low-pressure stages), and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). It is rated at 147.0 kilonewtons (33,047 pounds of thrust) for supersonic cruise, and 178.0 kilonewtons (40,016 pounds of thrust) with afterburner for takeoff. The NK-144A is 5.200 meters (17 feet, 0.7 inches) long, 1.500 meters (4 feet, 11.1 inches) in diameter and weighs 2,827 kilograms (6,233 pounds).
The 144S has a cruise speed of Mach 2.07 (2,200 kilometers per hour/1,367 miles per hour) with a maximum speed of Mach 2.35 (2,500 kilometers per hour/1,553 miles per hour). The service ceiling is approximately 20,000 meters (65,617 feet). Its practical range is 3,080 kilometers (1,914 miles).
In actual commercial service, the Tu-144 was extremely unreliable. It was withdrawn from service after a total of just 102 commercial flights, including 55 passenger flights.
004-1 made its first flight 4 March 1975 at Voronezh. On 29 February 1980, it made its 320th and final flight when it was flown to the Central Air Force Museum of Russia at Monino, Russia. The airframe has a total flight time of 582 hours, 36 minutes.