Tag Archives: Albert William Stevens

10 October 1928

Captains Albert Wiliam Stevens (left) and St. Clair Streett, with the Engineering Division XCO-5, Steven’s camera, and two pressurized oxygen flasks. (National Air and Space Museum)

10 October 1928: Flying the Engineering Division-built XCO-5, serial number A.S. 23-1204, Captain St. Clair Streett and Captain Albert William Stevens, Air Service, United States Army, climbed toward the stratosphere.

Captain Stevens was experimenting with the use of photographs of the ground to determine the exact altitude of a high-flying aircraft. He asked Captain Streett to take him as high as possible. “Billy” Streett was Chief of the Flight Branch at Wright Field.

Dressed for the very cold temperatures, Streett and Stevens carried 6 quarts of liquid oxygen in two pressure flasks to breath as it “boiled off.” They started breathing oxygen as they passed 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). Steven’s Fairchild camera was electrically heated. Streett had taken the precaution of drilling two holes in the lenses of his goggles, should they frost over in the extreme cold they would encounter.

It took 1 hour, 40 minutes for the XCO-5 to reach its maximum altitude, which was indicated by the airplane’s altimeter as 40,200 feet (12,253 meters).  The air temperature was -76 °F. (-60 °C.).

After Stevens finished his photography, the pair started their descent. Streett later said,

“Then a strange thing happened. As we coasted down on an easy glide, I started to slow down the motor so that we could keep on descending—and the motor wouldn’t slow! My controls seemed to be stuck, By diving I managed to get down a few thousand feet, but the plane, with its propeller whirring away full tilt, wanted to climb right back up again.

“I didn’t do any more diving. In a frail ship of this special type, the uprush of air in a forced dive would tear off the wings—and I didn’t want to lose them up there! There I was, trying to shut the motor off, and I couldn’t do it!”

Popular Science Monthly, May 1929, Vol. 114, No. 5, Page 23 at Columns 2 and 3

After about twenty minutes, the airplane’s fuel ran low and the engine lost power. It didn’t stop completely, but unable to deliver sufficient power for the XCO-5 to maintain altitude, Streett and Stevens were no longer trapped in the stratosphere.

During the descent, frost formed on Streett’s goggles and he was almost completely blinded, but he was able to something of the ground through the holes in his goggles.

Captain Albert William Stevens (left), and Captain St. Clair Streett, dressed for high-altitude flight. The airplane is the prototype Engineering Division XCO-5, A.S. 23-1204. Captain Stevens’ camera and the pressurized oxygen flask are in the foreground. (National Air and Space Museum/U.S. Air Force)

Streett landed in an open field near Rushville, Indiana. They borrowed some gasoline and flew back to Wright Field.

When flight data was analyzed using the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale‘s Standard Atmosphere Method, Streett and Stevens’ maximum altitude was calculated at 37,854 feet (11,538 meters). Steven’s photographic method gave a value of 39,250 feet (11,963 meters). The United States’ National Bureau of Standards used a National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) formula to analyze data from two barographs which were on board the XCO-5. This method included temperature and pressure of the atmosphere throughout the climb. The altitude was calculated at 39,606 feet (12,072 meters). This is probably the most accurate determination.

This flight did not set an FAI record. It was approximately 1,000 feet (305 meters) lower than the existing record, and the airplane did not return to the point of departure, a record requirement.

Engineering Division XCO-5, A.S. 23-1204. (U.S. Air Force)

The XCO-5 was a prototype two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane, a reconnaissance and observation variant of the prototype TP-1 fighter. It was built by the Engineering Division at McCook Field. The airplane carried project number P305 painted on its rudder.

The XCO-5’s wings were built specifically for flight at very high altitude, using an airfoil (Joukowsky StAe-27A) designed by Professor Nikolay Yegorovich Zhukovsky (Николай Егорович Жуковский), head of the Central AeroHydroDynamics Institute (TsAGI) at Kachino, Russia. The two-bay biplane wings had a significant vertical gap and longitudinal stagger. The lifting surface was 600 square feet (55.742 square meters). The upper wing had dihedral while the lower wing did not.

The XCO-5 was 25 feet, 1 inch long (7.645 meters) with a wingspan of 36 feet (10.973 meters) and height of 10 feet (3.048 meters). The empty weight was 2,748 pounds (1,246 kilograms) and the gross weight was 4,363 pounds (1,979 kilograms).

The XCO-5 was powered by a water-cooled, 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty 12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine. It produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 is a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine. As installed on A.S. 23-1204, the engine turned a specially-designed, two-bladed, ground-adjustable, forged aluminum propeller with a diameter of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). The Liberty 12 was 67.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 27.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 41.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms). Also installed on A.S. 23-1204 was an experimental supercharger.

The XCO-5 has a maximum of 129 miles per hour (208 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a cruise speed of 117 miles per hour (188 kilometers per hour).

Liuetenant John A. Macready, USAAS, stands in front of the Engineering Division-built XCO-5. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant John A. Macready, U.S. Army Air Corps, stands in front of the Engineering Division-built XCO-5, A.S. 23-1204. (U.S. Air Force)
Major General St. Clair Streett, United States Air Force.

St. Clair Streett was born at Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, 6 October 1893. He was one of two children of Shadrach Watkins Streett, an owner of race horses, and Lydia Ann Coggins Streett.

Bill Streett enlisted as a sergeant, Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, 8 December 1916. On completion of flight training, Sergeant Streett was commissioned as a first lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 27 September 1917

Lieutenant Streett was assigned to active duty and sent to Issoudun, France, where he took charge of flight training, before joining the Fifth Pursuit Group at St. Remy, France. He was awarded the the Army Wound Ribbon and the Purple Heart. Following occupation duty in Germany, Lieutenant Streett returned to the United States in August 1919.

Streett was promoted to captain, Air Service, United States Army, 6 November 1918. He commanded the Alaskan Flying Expedition, 15 July to 20 October 1920. He flew one of four DH-4 biplanes from New York to Nome, Alaska, and return, covering a distance of 9,000 miles (14,484 kilometers). Streett and the other officers and enlisted men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Mackay Trophy.

Officers of the 1920 Alaska Flying Expedition. Left to right, Captain St. Clair Streett, commanding the expedition; 1st Lieutenant Clifford C. Nutt; 2nd Lt. Eric C. Nelson; 2nd Lt. C.H. Crumrine; and 2nd Lt. Ross C. Kirkpatrick. (U.S. Air Force)

Captain Streett’s commission was vacated 28 October 1920, and he received a commission as a first lieutenant, Air Service, retroactive to 1 July 1920.

First Lieutenant St. Clair Streett married Miss Mary Lois Williams at Washington, D.C., 17 January 1922. They would have a son, St. Clair Streett, Jr. (United States Military Academy, Class of 1949).

He was again promoted to captain, 28 January 1921. Captain Streett was then discharged and appointed first lieutenant, 18 November 1922. Lieutenant Streett attended the Air Service Tactical School, Langley, Virginia, in 1926. On 31 August 1927, Streett was promoted to captain, Air Corps, United States Army.

Captain Streett was appointed chief of the Flying Branch, Wright Field, Ohio, in March 1928.

Captain Streett attended the Chemical Warfare School Field Officers’ Course and the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from August 1932 to June 1934, and then went to the two-month Chemical Warfare School Field Officers’ Course, completed in August 1934. Captain Streett next was assigned to the Army War College, graduating in June 1935.

Streett was assigned to the War Plans Division of the General Staff, War Department, from 20 August 1935 to 26 June 1939. On 16 June 1936 Streett was promoted to (temporary) major. This rank was made permanent 1 December 1936.

Major Streett was promoted to (temporary) lieutenant colonel 1 March 1940. This rank became permanent 9 October 1940. He attended the Naval War College Senior Course at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1940.

Lieutenant Colonel Streett took command of the 11th Bombardment Group, Hickham Field, Hawaii in July 1940.

He was promoted to colonel 15 July 1941. He served in the War Plans Division of the War Department under Major General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Brigadier General Streett was assistant to Lieutenant General Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, U.S. Army Air Corps.

Major General Streett commanded Third Air Force at Tampa, Florida, 12 December 1942  to 11 September 1943, then assumed command of the Second Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Major General Streett commanded Thirteenth Air Force in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Philippine Islands, from 15 June 1944 to 19 February 1945.

In 1946, Major General Streett became deputy commander, Continental Air Forces, Bolling Field. This soon became the Strategic Air Command.

Streett served in several staff positions before being assigned as deputy commander, Air Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in October 1949. He retired from the United States Air Force in February 1952.

During his military career, Major General St. Clair Streett had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters (three awards); Legion of Merit; Distinguished Flying Cross; Purple Heart; Air Medal (one of the first to be awarded); World War I Victory Medal with three campaign stars; Army of Occupation of Germany Medal; American Defense Service Medal with one service star; American Campaign Medal with one service star; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three campaign stars; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Air Force Longevity Service Award with one silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters (seven awards); and the Army Wound Ribbon.

Major General Streett died at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, 28 September 1970, at the age of 76 years. He was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Albert William Stevens (Belfast Historical Society and Museum)

Albert William Stevens (née Whitten) was born at Belfast, Maine, 13 March 1886, the third child of Nathan Whitten, a blacksmith and wagon builder, and Alice C. Anderson Whitten. His mother died of “consumption” (tuberculosis) when Albert was five months old. He was adopted by Albert J. Stevens and Nancy M. Trimble Stevens, and his name became Albert William Stevens.

Stevens attended the University of Maine at Orono, Maine. He graduated in 1907 with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. He earned a Masters degree in electrical engineering  from the university in 1909. He then worked as a mining engineer in Alaska, California, Idaho and Montana.

Stevens enlisted in the U.S. Air Service in Idaho, January 1918. Because of his experience in photography, which began while he was in college, Stevens was assigned to the Aerial Photography School at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 18 February 1918. Sent to Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, Stevens commanded the 6th Photo Section, 88th Aero Squadron. He flew in the major campaigns of the final months of the War.

He was an acknowledged expert in the field of aerial photography. Lieutenant Stevens was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. Following the War, he was promoted to Captain, Air Service, 21 February 1919. His commission was vacated 18 September 1920, and he was appointed a Captain, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920. On 18 November 1922, Stevens was discharged as a Captain, then re-appointed a First Lieutenant.

1st Lieutenant Albert William Stevens, Air Service, United States Army, circa 1921. Lieutenant Williams is wearing the badge of an aerial observer. The decoration beneath is the Victory Medal with four campaign stars. (Albert W. Stevens Collection)

He returned to the rank of Captain, Air Service, 10 February 1925. On 16 June 1936, he was promoted to the temporary rank of Major, Air Corps, United States Army. This rank became permanent 12 June 1939. In 1940, Major Stevens took command of the Photographer’s School, Air Corps Technical School, Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado. He advanced to the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel, 30 December 1940. This rank became permanent 15 October 1941. He was retired from the Air Corps for medical reasons, 30 April 1942.

Stevens married Ruth E. Fischer at Rockville, Maryland, 8 August 1938.

Captain Stevens was a pioneering aviator, balloonist and aerial photographer. Using infrared film, he made the first photograph that showed the curvature of the Earth. He also took the first photograph of the Moon’s shadow on the surface of the Earth during an eclipse.

Stevens made a series of high-altitude balloon flights, and on 11 November 1935 he and Captain Orvil A. Anderson ascended to 22,066 meters (72,395 feet) aboard Explorer II, establishing a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record.¹

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew William Stevens, United States Army Air Forces (Retired), died at Redwood City, California, 26 March 1949, at the age of 63 years. He is buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

Major Albert W. Stevens, U.S. Army Air Corps, circa 1936.

¹ FAI Record File Number 10654

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 June 1922

Albert William Stevens (Belfast Historical Society and Museum)

12 June 1922: Captain Albert William Stevens, Air Service, United States Army, made a high altitude parachute jump from a twin-engine Martin GMB bomber flying at 24,206 feet (7,378 meters) over McCook Field, Ohio.

A contemporary magazine article described the jump:

The greatest recorded parachute jump made from an airplane was accomplished by Capt. Albert W. Stevens a year or more ago. He fell 24,200 feet—almost five miles—landing 25 miles away from the point above which he jumped and suffering no injury in his descent, beyond a couple of dislocated toes.

Popular Science Monthly, November 1924, Vol. 105, No. 5, at Page 152, Column 2.

The Army and Navy Register published this very informative report:

PARACHUTING FROM 24,206 FEET

     Hurtling four and one-half miles through space was the recent experience of Capt. A. W. Stevens, Air Service, stationed at McCook Field, Dayton Ohio, in a parachute jump on June 12 last from the high altitude of 24,206 feet from a supercharged Martin bomber, piloted by Lieut. Leigh Wade, with Sergeant Roy Lanham as the other passenger. Capt. Stevens’ fall lasted approximately 20 minutes, and the oscillations of the chute, due to the prevailing winds, made him thoroughly seasick by the time half of the descent was over. In his official report to the chief of the Air Service, Capt. Stevens says:

    “The pack-cord was ripped about ten feet below the fuselage of the bomber. The parachute opened instantly and was fully open in less than 100 feet below the plane (estimated). The writer has made several jumps before, viz., from 1,500 feet, at 85 miles per hour; 1,500 feet at 65 miles per hour, and 5,600 feet at 65 miles per hour. Although the plane speed is estimated by the pilot at 110 miles per hour, the shock of opening was less, if anything, than on the previous jumps by the writer at lower altitudes and speed—due very likely to the lower density of the atmosphere.

     “The writer had complete confidence that the parachute would open fully—sooner or later. The only question with him was whether the passage of the silk fabric through the cold, rarefied upper air might generate enough static electricity to hold the folds of the ‘chute tight together for a time, until when it did open the shock might result in a rupture, either of the operator’s body, or of the shroud lines. This fear was groundless as the ‘chute opened instantly—or practically so. The ‘chute used had the vents sewed right; it had been tested with both 100 and 200-pound weights in the usual manner over McCook Field from about 600 feet altitude.

     “The time of descent was not over 20 minutes, from the writer’s estimate. It may have been less than 20 minutes, but was over 15 minutes. The writer would like to make another jump from still higher altitude, 40,000 feet or more, when he recovers from a few broken foot bones, and if this is done, a recording barograph will be carried as part of the jumper’s equipment. Needless to say, a comparatively windless day is best to choose for a thing of this kind, as the ‘chute may get caught in a down current on a windy day and land twice as hard as usual. Also, the jumper from high altitudes is burdened with heavy flying clothing, which increases his weight considerably.

     “Attention is called to the fact that the parachute averaged a ground speed of one and one-half miles a minute, based on a travel of 30 miles and a time of descent of less than 20 minutes. The ordinary time of descent is about 1,000 feet per minute at ordinary altitudes; for instance, in the 5,600-foot jump previously referred to, the time was six minutes. In the thin upper air the ‘chute undoubtedly falls faster, especially when it is oscillating and spilling air, as was the case all the way down on the recent jump.

     “Ten minutes of such oscillation will upset anything but a cast-iron stomach. In the writer’s case, he was thoroughly seasick by the time half of the descent was over. He could get little relief by closing his eyes, and if his eyes were open the landscape below heaved and tipped in all directions. It is of interest to note that temporary relief was experienced by fixing the eyes for a few seconds on the center of the parachute, this being the only point in space reasonably at rest with respect to the body of the jumper.

     “It is inadvisable to open the second ‘chute for the purpose of checking oscillation, as one then loses control of movement. With a single ‘chute it is possible to change the direction of one’s flight very considerably, even on a windy day. On a calm day one can do much better, even to the extent of picking out a particular field in which to land. On a windy day the air currents carry you irresistibly ahead, and the best that can be done is to side-slip to the right or to the left of the line of flight.

     “About the land: if one imagines that he has just jumped from a twelve-foot wall and crouches in a jumping position, he will be in the best position for landing. Too great a tension of the leg muscles may result in ruptured tendons or broken foot bones. You are sure to collapse in a pile on the ground; it is better to relax with that in view, and thereby get a more even distribution of bruises. The jumper should face the way he is traveling; to accomplish this it is possible to make the ‘chute revolve, earlier in the drop, by taking a few of the shroud lines and pulling diagonally, with the idea of working a “propeller” surface into one point of the ‘chute circumference. The second ‘chute may be pulled about 50 to 75 feet before landing, chiefly to get rid of the extra weight. If pulled earlier, the two ‘chutes will soon stand well apart, at 60 degrees or more, and will spill air between them, so that the jumper will fall nearly as fast as ever, and with practically no control.

     “The bomber carried four recording barographs, as well as indicating altimeters. The result of McCook Field laboratory measurements showed that the elevation was 24,206 feet.

     “It was the intention of Lieut. Wade to take the plane, relieved of 250 pounds of weight, still higher, but one of the superchargers developed trouble and it was necessary to cut the flight short.”

ARMY AND NAVY REGISTER, The U.S. Military Gazette, Vol. LXIII, No. 2195, 12 August 1922 at Page 162

1st Lieutenant Albert William Stevens, Air Service, United States Army, circa 1921. Lieutenant Williams is wearing the badge of an aerial observer. The decoration beneath is the Victory Medal with four campaign stars. (Albert W. Stevens Collection)

Albert William Stevens (née Whitten) was born at Belfast, Maine, 13 March 1886, the third child of Nathan Whitten, a blacksmith and wagon builder, and Alice C. Anderson Whitten. His mother died of “consumption” (tuberculosis) when Albert was five months old. He was adopted by Albert J. Stevens and Nancy M. Trimble Stevens, and his name became Albert William Stevens.

Stevens attended the University of Maine at Orono, Maine. He graduated in 1907 with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. He earned a Masters degree in electrical engineering  from the university in 1909. He then worked as a mining engineer in Alaska, California, Idaho and Montana.

Stevens enlisted in the U.S. Air Service in Idaho, January 1918. Because of his experience in photography, which began while he was in college, Stevens was assigned to the Aerial Photography School at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 18 February 1918. Sent to Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, Stevens commanded the 6th Photo Section, 88th Aero Squadron. He flew in the major campaigns of the final months of the War.

In this photograph of officers of the 88th Aero Squadron in France, 1918, Lieutenant Stevens is in the front row, fifth from right. The airplane is an Avion Salmson Type 2 A.2. (United States Air Force)

He was an acknowledged expert in the field of aerial photography. Lieutenant Stevens was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. Following the War, he was promoted to Captain, Air Service, 21 February 1919. His commission was vacated 18 September 1920, and he was appointed a Captain, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920. On 18 November 1922, Stevens was discharged as a Captain, then re-appointed a First Lieutenant. He returned to the rank of Captain, Air Service, 10 February 1925. On 16 June 1936, he was promoted to the temporary rank of Major, United States Army Air Corps. This rank became permanent 12 June 1939. In 1940, Major Stevens took command of the Photographer’s School, Air Corps Technical School, Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado. He advanced to the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel, 30 December 1940. This rank became permanent 15 October 1941. He was retired from the Air Corps for medical reasons, 30 April 1942.

Stevens married Ruth E. Fischer at Rockville, Maryland, 8 August 1938.

Captain Stevens was a pioneering aviator, balloonist and aerial photographer. Using infrared film, he made the first photograph that showed the curvature of the Earth. He also took the first photograph of the Moon’s shadow on the surface of the Earth during an eclipse.

Stevens made a series of high-altitude balloon flights, and on 11 November 1935 he and Captain Orvil A. Anderson ascended to 22,066 meters (72,395 feet) aboard Explorer II, establishing a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record. ¹

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew William Stevens, United States Army Air Forces (Retired), died at Redwood City, California, 26 March 1949, at the age of 63 years. He is buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

Major Albert W. Stevens, U.S. Army Air Corps, circa 1936. Major Stevens is wearing the wings of an aerial observer. The ribbons beneath represent the Purple Heart, the World War I Victory Medal with four campaign stars, and the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (a second award).
1st Lieutenant Leigh Wade, Air Service, U.S. Army

1st Lieutenant Leigh Wade, Captain Stevens’ pilot, flew the Douglas World Cruiser Boston in the U.S. Army’s around the world flight, April–September 1924, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He reached the rank of Major General and remained in the United States Air Force until retiring, 1 November 1955.

The Martin GMB (also referred to as the Martin MB-1) was a twin-engine biplane designed as a reconnaissance airplane with a secondary role as a bomber. It had a crew of three. The bomber entered service in 1918 and was the first U.S.-built bomber to enter production.

The GMB was 44 feet, 10 inches (13.665 meters) long with a wingspan of 71 feet, 5 inches (21.768 meters) and height of 14 feet, 7 inches (4.445 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 6,702 pounds (3,040 kilograms) and a gross weight of 10,225 pounds (4,638 kilograms).

A Martin MB-1 bomber, A.S. 39059, (P-104) at Wright Field. (U.S. Air Force)
A Martin GMB bomber, A.S. 39059 (P-104). (U.S. Air Force)

The bomber was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine. It turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms). The engines on Stevens’ airplane were supercharged to increase its altitude capability.

The GMB had a cruise speed of 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 10,300 feet (3,140 meters). Range for the standard airplane was 390 miles (628 kilometers).

Twenty-two GMBs were built by the Glenn L. Martin Company.

Martin MB-1 A.S. , P=106. (U.S. Air Force)
Martin GMB bomber A.S. 62950 (P-106). (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 10654

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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