Tag Archives: Around-The-World-Flight

16–18 January 1957

The three Boeing B-52B Stratofortresses at March AFB, 18 January 1957. (U.S. Air Force)
The three Boeing B-52B Stratofortresses at March AFB, 18 January 1957. (U.S. Air Force)
Major General Archie J. Old, Jr., U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of B-52B 53-0394. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

16 January 1957: Operation Powerflite. At 1:00p.m. PST, five Boeing B-52B Stratofortress eight-engine jet bombers of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command, 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy), departed Castle Air Force Base, near Merced, California, on a non-stop around-the-world flight. 45 hours, 19 minutes later, three B-52s landed at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California, completing the 24,325 miles (39,147 kilometer) flight at an average speed of 534 miles per hour (859 kilometers per hour). Two of the bombers had mechanical problems. One returned to the United States and one landed in England.

The lead Stratofortress, B-52B-35-BO 53-0394, Lucky Lady III, was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Morris. Morris had been co-pilot aboard Lucky Lady II, a Boeing B-50A Superfortress that flew around the world in 1949. Also aboard Morris’ bomber was Major General Archie J. Old, Jr., commanding 15th Air Force. The other two B-52s were 53-0397, La Victoria, commanded by Major George Kalebaugh, and 53-0398, Lonesome George, commanded by Captain Charles W. Fink.

Each B-52 carried a flight crew of nine men, including three pilots and two navigators.

Four inflight refuelings from piston-engine Boeing KC-97 Stratotankers were required.

All 27 crewmembers of the three bombers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by General Curtis LeMay. The Mackay Trophy for “the most meritorious flight of the year” was awarded to the 93rd Bombardment Wing.

A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress refuels in flight from a Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker. The KC-97 had to enter a shallow dive to increase its speed, while teh B-52 flew in landing configuration to fly slow enough to stay with the tanker. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress refuels in flight from a Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker. The KC-97 had to enter a shallow dive to increase its speed, while the B-52 flew in landing configuration to stay with the tanker. (U.S. Air Force)

Lucky Lady III was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It was scrapped in 1984. 53-0397 went to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1966, preceded by 53-0398 in 1965.

Flight helmets of the crew of Lucky Lady III, March AFB, 18 January 1957. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.)
Flight helmets of the crew of Lucky Lady III, March AFB, 18 January 1957. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.)

This record-breaking around the world flight was dramatized in the 1957 Warner Bros. movie “Bombers B-52,” which starred Natalie Wood, Karl Malden and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Poster for the 1957 motion picture, "Bombers B-52".
Poster for the 1957 motion picture “Bombers B-52” (Warner Bros.)

The 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was the first operational Air Force unit to receive the B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B 52-8711, on 29 June 1955. Fifty B-52Bs were built by Boeing at its Plant 2, Seattle, Washington. The B-52B/RB-52B was operated by a six-man flight crew for the bombing mission, and eight for reconnaissance. These were the aircraft commander/pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radar navigator/bombardier, electronic warfare officer and gunner, plus two reconnaissance technicians when required.

The airplane was 156 feet, 6.9 inches (47.724 meters) long with a wingspan of 185 feet, 0 inches (56.388 meters) and overall height of 48 feet, 3.6 inches (14.722 meters). The wings were mounted high on the fuselage (“shoulder-mounted”) to provide clearance for the engines which were suspended on pylons. The wings’ leading edges were swept 35°. The bomber’s empty weight was 164,081 pounds (74,226 kilograms), with a combat weight of 272,000 pounds (123,377 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 420,000 pounds (190,509 kilograms).

Early production B-52Bs were powered by eight Pratt & Whitney J57-P-1W turbojet engines, while later aircraft were equipped with J57-P-19W and J57-P-29W or WA turbojets. The engines were grouped in two-engine pods on four under-wing pylons. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). These engines were rated at 10,500 pounds of thrust (46.71 kilonewtons), each, or 12,100 pounds (53.82 kilonewtons) with water injection.

The B-52B had a cruise speed of 523 miles per hour (842 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed varied with altitude: 630 miles per hour (1,014 kilometers per hour) at 19,800 feet (6,035 meters), 598 miles per hour (962 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) and 571 miles per hour (919 kilometers per hour) at 45,750 feet (13,945 meters). The service ceiling at combat weight was 47,300 feet (14,417 meters).

Tail gun turret of an early B-52 Stratofortress

Maximum ferry range was 7,343 miles (11,817 kilometers). With a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) bomb load, the B-52B had a combat radius of 3,590 miles (5,778 kilometers). With inflight refueling, the range was essentially world-wide.

Defensive armament consisted of four Browning Aircraft Machine Guns, Caliber .50, AN-M3, mounted in a tail turret with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun. These guns had a combined rate of fire in excess of 4,000 rounds per minute.

The B-52B’s maximum bomb load was 43,000 pounds (19,505 kilograms). It could carry a 15-megaton Mark 17 thermonuclear bomb, or two Mark 15s, each with a maximum yield of 3.8 megatons.

Boeing manufactured 744 B-52 Stratofortress bombers, with the final one rolled out at Wichita, Kansas, 22 June 1962. As of 27 September 2016, 77 B-52H bombers remain in service with the United States Air Force.

Boeing B-52B-35-BO Stratofortress 53-0394 (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 January 1939

Amelia Mary Earhart (Harris & Ewing)
Judge Clarence Elliot Craig

5 January 1939: After she had been missing for 18 months, Judge Clarence Elliot Craig of the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles County declared Amelia Mary Earhart legally dead in absentia,¹ at the request of her husband, George Palmer Putnam II. She and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared while enroute from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Central Pacific, 2 July 1937.

George Palmer Putnam and Amelia Earhart had met in 1928 while he was interviewing prospects for a transatlantic flight to be sponsored by Mrs. Amy Phipps Guest. She was selected to make the flight and became the first woman to fly the Atlantic Ocean, aboard Donald Woodward’s Fokker F.VIIb/3m, Friendship, which was flown by Wilmer Stutz and Louis Gordon. (See This Day in Aviation, 17–18 June 1928) They were married 7 February 1931 at his parents’ home in Noank, Connecticut.

Judge Craig appointed Mr. Putnam as the executor of Earhart’s estate, which contemporary news reports said was “estimated at more than $10,000.”

Less than five months later, Putnam married the former Mrs. Jean-Marie Cosigney James, at Boulder City, Nevada.

George Palmer Putnam leaves the Los Angeles Superior Court after missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart was declared dead in absentia, 5 January 1939. (Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive , UCLA Library.)

¹ Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles, Probate Case File 181709

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 December–28 December 1955

De Havilland DH.106 Comet 3 G-ANLO ay the Farnborough air show, September 1954. (RuthAS via Wikipedia)
De Havilland DH.106 Comet 3 G-ANLO at the Farnborough Airshow, September 1954. (RuthAS via Wikipedia)

2 December 1955: The prototype de Havilland DH-106 Comet 3, G-ANLO, departed Hatfield Aerodrome, Hertfordshire, England, with Chief Test Pilot John Cunningham and Per Buggé in the cockpit. R.W. Chandler was the navigator/radio operator. Other crew members included Chief Flight Engineer E. Brackstone Brown, and flight engineers R.V. Ablett and J. Hamilton.

Several de Havilland executives and engineers were among the passengers. Captain A.P.W. Cane of British Overseas Airways Corporation and Captain I.D.V. Ralfe of Qantas were aboard to observe to new airliner in operation.

De Havilland DH.106 Comet 3 G-ANLO was delayed by heavy fog at Hatfield, 2 December 1955. (De Havilland)
De Havilland DH.106 Comet 3 G-ANLO was delayed by heavy fog at Hatfield, 2 December 1955. (De Havilland)

Departure had been scheduled for 5:30 a.m., local time, but heavy fog delayed the flight. 5 hours, 3 minutes later, the Comet 3 landed at Cairo, Egypt, after flying 2,076 nautical miles (2,389 statute miles, 3,845 kilometers). Rather than continuing on as had originally been planned, the crew remained over night at Cairo.

G-ANLO left Cairo the following morning and with refueling stops at Bombay, Maharashtra India; Singapore, Colony of Singapore; and Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia; the airliner arrived at Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on 4 December, after a total of 19 hours, 5 minutes of flight. The distance traveled was 8,728 nautical miles (10,044 statute miles, 16,164 kilometers). During the Singapore-Darwin leg, the Comet 3 cruised at 44,000 feet (13,411 meters). More than 20,000 people were waiting at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport to see the new jetliner arrive.

De Havilland DH-106 Comet 3 G-ANLO arrived at Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 4 December 1955. (Unattributed)
De Havilland DH-106 Comet 3 G-ANLO arrived at Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 4 December 1955. (Unattributed)

Group Captain Cunningham made demonstration flights from Sydney to Melbourne, Canberra and Perth.

G-ANLO then continued to Auckland, New Zealand, flying the 1,166 nautical miles (1,342 miles, 2,159 kilometers) in 2 hours, 43 minutes. From Auckland to Nadi Airport, Fiji, 1,153 nautical miles (1,326 miles, 2,135 kilometers), took 2 hours, 52 minutes.

The next leg of the around the world tour, Fiji to Honolulu, in the Hawaiian Islands, was completed on 13 December. The Comet 3 covered the 2,791 nautical miles (3,212 statute miles, 5,169 kilometers) in 6 hours, 44 minutes. G-ANLO remained at Honolulu for the next two days.

DH.106 Comet 3 G-ANLO is decorated with a flower lei on its arrival at Honolulu International Airport, 13 December 1955. (Zoggavia)
DH.106 Comet 3 G-ANLO is decorated with a flower lei on its arrival at Honolulu International Airport, 13 December 1955. (Zoggavia)

On 15 December, the Comet 3 left Honolulu for Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 2,408 nautical miles (2,771 statute miles, 4,460 kilometers). The duration of this flight was 5 hours, 40 minutes. The Comet 3 flew across Canada to Toronto, Ontario, 1,898 nautical miles (2,184 statute miles, 3,515 kilometers) in 3 hours, 56 minutes, then on to Montreal, Quebec, arriving there on 20 December.

The final leg of the flight, Montreal to London Heathrow Airport, 2,907 nautical miles (3,345 statute miles, 5,384 kilometers) was completed in 6 hours, 9 minutes, on 27 December 1955.

This was the first around-the-world flight by a jet-powered aircraft. The total distance flown by the Comet 3 was 24,324 nautical miles (27,991.6 statute miles/45,048.1 kilometers) The total flight time was 56 hours, 17 minutes.

The de Havilland DH.106 Comet 3 was a further development of the Comet 2 series. It was 15 feet (4.572 meters) longer with a length of 111 feet, 6 inches (33.985 meters), a wingspan of 115 feet (35.052 meters) and overall height of 29 feet, 6 inches (8.992. The area of the wings and tail surfaces had been increased. It was powered by four Rolls Royce Avon 521 turbojet engines, rated at 10,000 pounds of thrust (44.48 kilonewtons), each.

De Havilland DH.106 Comet 3 G-ANLO, left quarter, at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, 1955. (Dphne Seager)
De Havilland DH.106 Comet 3 G-ANLO, left quarter, at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, 1955. (Daphne Seager)

The airliner was designed to carry 58–76 passengers on flights ranging to 2,600 miles (4,184 kilometers). In addition to the increased length, visual differences from the previous Comets were the circular passenger windows, and wing tanks extending forward from the wings’ leading edges.

Only two Comet 3s were built and one was used as a static test article. Production continued with the Comet 4, which had even greater improvements. G-ANLO remained a development prototype and was modified several times. In 1958 the wings were shortened and the external wing tanks removed. The airplane was redesignated Comet 3B. It was turned over to the Ministry of Supply and re-registered XP915, 20 June 1961. The airplane was used in instrument landing tests and later converted to a mockup of the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR1 maritime patrol aircraft. It was taken out of service in 1966 and scrapped.

Group Captain John Cunningham, Royal Air Force. (Daily Mail)
Group Captain John Cunningham, Royal Air Force. (Daily Mail)

Group Captain John Cunningham CBE, DSO and Two Bars, DFC and Bar, AE, was born 1917 and educated at Croydon. In 1935 he became an apprentice at De Havilland’s and also joined the Auxiliary Air Force, where he trained as a pilot. Cunningham was called to active duty in August 1939, just before World War II began.

Promoted to Group Captain in 1944, Cunningham was the highest scoring Royal Air Force night fighter pilot of World War II, credited with shooting down 20 enemy airplanes. He was responsible for the myth that eating carrots would improve night vision.

Following the War, John Cunningham returned to de Havilland as a test pilot. Following the death of Geoffrey Raoul de Havilland, Jr., in 1946, Cunningham became the de Havilland’s chief test pilot. He remained with the firm through a series of mergers, finally retiring in 1980.

He set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed and altitude record with the company’s DH.100 Vampire jet fighter, TG278: 496.876 miles per hour (799.644 kilometers per hour) over a 100 kilometer course at Lympne Airport, 31 August 1947 (FAI record file number 8884); 59,446 feet/18,119 meters over Hatfield Aerodrome, 23March 1948 (FAI record file number 9844). On 24 April 1950, Cunningham flew a DH.104 Dove light transport from London to Cairo at an average speed of 426.61 miles per hour (686.56 kilometers per hour), setting a record for speed over a recognized course (FAI record file number 6378).

Group Captain Cunningham died 21 July 2002 at the age of 84 years.

Per Olivarius Buggé (also known as Peter Bugge) was born at Kristiansund, Norway in 1918. He joined the Royal Norwegian Air Force in 1938. After Germany invaded the country, Buggé escaped to Sweden, April 1940, and in February 1941 arrived in Great Britain. He served with the Royal Air Force for the remainder of the War, flying Bristol Beaufighters and de Havilland Mosquitos with No. 604 Squadron and No. 85 Squadron (while it was under the command of Squadron Leader John Cunningham).

After the War Buggé flew for British Overseas Airways Corporation and Swedish Airlines. In 1949, he joined de Havilland as a test pilot, and stayed with the company after it was absorbed by Hawker Siddeley. He died in 1998.

John Cunningham (left) and Per Bugge in the cockpit of a DH.106 Comet. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
John Cunningham (left) and Per Buggé in the cockpit of a DH.106 Comet. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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25–29 November 1945

Colonel Joseph Randall Holzapple, USAAF, commanding officer, 319th Bombardment Group, Light, at Okinawa, 1945.

25–29 November 1945: Colonel Joseph Randall (“Randy”) Holzapple, U.S. Army Air Force, commanding officer of the 319th Bombardment Group, Light, departed Savannah, Georgia, as the pilot of a Douglas A-26C Invader twin-engine light attack bomber. His co-pilot on this flight was Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Meyers. The navigator was Lieutenant Otto H. Schumaker and Corporal Howard J. Walden was the airplane’s radio operator.

The A-26 headed west, and kept heading west. 90 hours, 54 minutes later, Colonel Holzapple and his crew arrived at Washington, D.C. They had flown completely around the world, covering 24,859 miles (40,007 kilometers).

The A-26C Invader was built by Douglas Aircraft Company at its Long Beach, California and Tulsa, Oklahoma plants. It was 51 feet, 3 inches (15.621 meters) long with a wingspan of 70 feet, 0 inches (21.336 meters) and overall height of 18 feet, 6 inches (5.639 meters). It was designed to be flown by a single pilot, with a navigator/bombardier and a gunner. The Invader weighed 22,850 pounds (10,365 kilograms) empty an had a maximum takeoff weight of 35,000 pounds (15,876 kilograms).

Power was supplied by two air-cooled, supercharged 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SB-G (R-2800-27) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The R-2800-27 had a Normal Power rating of 1,600 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. at 5,700 feet (1,737 meters), 1,450 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters), and 2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m for takeoff. The engines turned three-bladed propellers through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-27 was 75.72 inches (1.923 meters) long, 52.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,300 pounds (1.043 kilograms).

The A-26 was a fast airplane for its time. It had a cruise speed of 284 miles per hour (457 kilometers per hour), and maximum speed of 355 miles per hour (571 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 22,000 feet (6,706 meters) and its range was 1,400 miles (2,253 kilometers).

Armament varied. The attack bomber could carry as much as 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms) of bombs in the bomb bay and underwing hardpoints. Two .50-caliber Browning AN/M2 machine guns were mounted in upper and lower remotely-operated power turrets for defense, and as many as 14 forward-facing fixed .50-caliber machine guns were installed, with eight in the nose and three in each wing.

This Douglas A-26C-20-DT Invader, 43-22494, at the Pima Air And Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona, is marked as an aircraft of the 319th Bombardment Group, Light, at Okinawa, 1945. (Pima Air and Space Museum)
This Douglas A-26C-20-DT Invader, 43-22494, at the Pima Air And Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona, is marked as an aircraft of the 319th Bombardment Group, Light, at Okinawa, 1945. (Pima Air and Space Museum)

Joseph Randall Holzapple flew combat missions in the Mediterranean and Pacific operating areas during World War II, flying the Martin B-26 Marauder, North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell and the Douglas A-26 Invader. His unit, the 319th Bombardment Group, Light, was the first unit to be transferred from Europe to the Pacific as a complete unit.

After the war, Holzapple commanded the 47th Bombardment Wing at RAF Sculthorpe, and then served in a series of increasingly responsible positions. He attended both the Armed Forces Staff College and the National War College. From 1969–1971, General Holzapple was Commander in Chief, United States Air Forces Europe, based at Wiesbaden, Germany. He retired in 1971. General Holzapple died in 1973.

General Joseph R. Holzapple, U.S. Air Force (1914–1973)
General Joseph R. Holzapple, U.S. Air Force (1914–1973)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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14–17 November 1965

Flying Tiger Lines’ Boeing 707-320C N322F. (Unattributed)
Flying Tiger Line’s Boeing 707-349C N322F. (Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association)

14–17 November 1965: Captains Fred Lester Austin, Jr., and Harrison Finch, two retired Trans World Airlines pilots, took off from Honolulu on a 26,230-mile (42,213 kilometer), 57 hour, 27 minute flight around the world—from Pole to Pole!

The pair leased a brand new Boeing 707-349C, c/n 18975, registered N322F, from Flying Tiger Line. Nick-named Pole Cat, the airplane was crewed by a total of five pilots, all rated captains. In addition to Austin and Finch, there were Captain Jack Martin, Chief Pilot of Flying Tigers Line, Captain Robert N. Buck, TWA, and Boeing Senior Engineering Test Pilot James R. Gannett. Three navigators and three flight engineers completed the flight crew. John Larsen, TWA’s chief navigator, did most of the planning and the other two navigators and all three flight engineers were Flying Tiger Line employees.

COL Willard F. Rockwell, Sr.
COL Willard F. Rockwell, Sr.

Most of the cost of the flight was paid for by Colonel Willard F. Rockwell, Sr., founder of the Rockwell Corporation, who was one of 27 passengers aboard. The airliner was equipped with an experimental Litton Systems Inertial Navigation System (INS) and the very latest Single Side Band (SSB) communications equipment from Collins Radio.

The flight departed HNL and flew north to the North Pole, then south to London Heathrow, where they stopped for fuel. Unexpected runway restrictions limited the 707’s takeoff weight, so they had to make an extra fuel stop at Lisbon, Portugal before flying to Buenos Aires, Argentina. After another fuel stop there, they continued south, circled the South Pole four times, then headed north to Christchurch, New Zealand. From there, they continued on to Honolulu.

Total elapsed time for the flight was 62 hours, 27 minutes, 35 seconds with just under 5 hours on the ground.

Flying Tiger Line’s Boeing 707-349C (an airline-specific variant of the 707-320C) was a “combi” that could be configured to carry passengers and/or cargo. The –320 series was a stretched version of the original 707-120 airliner, with longer, redesigned wings and tail plane, as well as a taller vertical fin for increased stability during low-speed flight. It was operated by a flight crew of four on international flights.

The 707-320 series was 152 feet, 11 inches (46.609 meters) long with a wingspan of 145 feet, 9 inches (44.425 meters) and overall height of 42 feet, 5 inches (12.929 meters). It had an empty weight of 146,400 pounds (66,406 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 333,600 pounds (151,318 kilograms).

The –320 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3D-3 or JT3D-7 turbofan engines which produced 18,000 and 19,000 pounds of thrust, each, respectively. This engine was a civil variant of the military TF33 series. The JT3D-7 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet engine with a 2-stage fan, 14-stage compressor (7 intermediate-, 7 high-pressure stages) and 4-stage turbine (1 high- and 3 low-pressure stages). The JT3D-7 had a maximum power rating of 19,285 pounds of thrust at 10,300 r.p.m. N2, (five-minute limit). The engine was 136.64 inches ( meters) long, 53.00 inches ( meters) wide and 56.00 inches ( meters) high, and weighed 4,340 pounds ( kilograms).

At MTOW, the 707-320 required 10,840 feet (3,304 meters) of runway for takeoff. 15 knots slower than a 707-120, the –320 had a maximum speed of 480 knots (552 statute miles per hour/889 kilometers per hour). The airliner’s range with maximum fuel was 5,750 nautical miles (6,617 statute miles/10,649 kilometers).

Boeing built a total of 1,010 707s. Of these, 337 were –320Cs. N322F was delivered to Flying Tiger Line 27 September 1965. It was sold to Caledonian Airways in 1968 and registered as G-AWTK. In 1970, Caledonian merged with British United and became British Caledonian. 18975 was then registered as G-BDCN, and named County of Renfrew. It was sold to TAAG Angola Airlines in 1977. The African cargo line registered 18975 as D2-TAC, D2-TOB and D2-TOI. Internet records list it as “written off” 15 February 1988.

Flying Tiger Line Boeing 707-349C N322F. (Flying Tigers Mechanics)
Flying Tiger Line Boeing 707-349C N322F. (Flying Tigers Mechanics)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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