Tag Archives: Aviatrix

10–11 February 1929

“Feb. 11, 1929: Evelyn “Bobbie” Trout, 23, standing beside her Golden Eagle airplane at Mines Field after setting women’s solo endurance flying record.” (Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)
“Feb. 11, 1929: Evelyn “Bobbie” Trout, 23, standing beside her Golden Eagle airplane at Mines Field after setting women’s solo endurance flying record.” (Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)

10–11 February 1929: At Mines Field, Los Angeles, California (now, Los Angeles International Airport—better known simply as LAX), Evelyn (“Bobbie”) Trout set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Duration with an overnight endurance record of 17 hours, 5 minutes, while flying the prototype R.O. Bone Co. Golden Eagle monoplane.

This was Bobbie Trout’s second duration record. Her first, set at Metropolitan Field, Van Nuys, California, 2 January 1929, had been broken by Elinor Smith, four weeks later.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Evelyn Trout – a wisp of a woman in a wisp of an airplane – landed at Mines Field yesterday after having flown alone more hours and more miles continuously than any other woman in the world ever did before. Also, she is the first woman ever to fly through an entire night. She may have taken up the heaviest loaded sixty-horse-power plane that ever left the ground.

Miss Trout, Bobbie, as she is more generally known, took off at Mines Field Sunday at 5:10:15 p.m. She landed at the same place yesterday at 10:16:22 a.m. She was in the air 17 hours, 5 minutes and 37 seconds, Joe Nikrent, chief timekeeper, announced.

The flight, Dudley Steele, contest chairman of the National Aeronautical Association, said, was three hours and forty-eight minutes longer than the previous woman’s endurance record.

She flew, he said, approximately 860 miles. This, he pointed out, is not far under the world record hung up in Europe some time ago by a man who flew a plane in that class 932 miles over a charted course. Steele said her average speed was 50.292 miles per hours…

Miss Trout got out of the plane with but little more evidence of fatigue than if she had been up only a few hours.

“Hello mother,” she cried to Mrs. George E. Trout, who ran to embrace her.

“We’re awfully proud of you,” Mrs. Trout said.

“Thanks mother, dear,” Bobbie replied.

The young woman, who is 23 years of age, stretched herself and danced on first one foot and then the other.

“I need exercise,” she said, straightening out her cramped limbs.

She posed patiently for newspaper photographers and laughingly talked with any of the crowd of several hundred that was on the field to see her land. . . .

Los Angeles Times, 12 February 1929

Having saved $2,500.00 for training, at the age of 22 Bobbie Trout began her flight lessons at the Burdett Air Lines School of Aviation at Los Angeles. She soloed four weeks later. On 21 January 1929, trout was awarded a pilot certificate by the National Aeronautic Association of the U.S.A, on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Her license was carried by space shuttle pilot Lieutenant Colonel Eileen Marie Collins aboard Discovery (STS-63) in February 1995.

National Aeronautic Association Pilot’s Certificate No. 7027, signed by Orville Wright. (The Ninety-Nines)
National Aeronautic Association Pilot’s Certificate No. 7027, signed by Orville Wright. (The Ninety-Nines)

FAI Record File Num #12220 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Duration
Performance: 17 h 5 min
Date: 1929-02-11
Course/Location: Los Angeles, CA (USA)
Claimant Evelyn Trout (USA)
Aeroplane: R.O. Bone Co Golden Eagle
Engine: 1 _other LeBlond 5 cyl.

Official timer Joseph A. Nikrent consults with Evelyn Trout, while Will Rogers looks on, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California, 11 February 1929. (Unattibuted)
Official timer Joseph A. Nikrent consults with Evelyn Trout, while Will Rogers looks on, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California, 11 February 1929. (Unattibuted)
Evelyn Trout with the prototype Golden Eagle monoplane, NX522, 1929. (Unattributed)
Evelyn Trout with the prototype Golden Eagle monoplane, NX522, 1929. (Unattributed)

Evelyn Trout later wrote about her record flight:

Shortly after my First Solo Endurance Record on January 2, 1929 of 12 Hours–11 Minutes, it was bettered by 1 hour. My Boss, Mr. Bone had promised me that any time my record was broken he would help me better it.

His factory went to work making a larger gasoline tank. On February 9th the plane was standing on the south side of Mines Field (now LAX) while last preparations were in progress and Joe Nikrent (official timer) was standing on his head in my Golden Eagle putting the barograph in the fuselage. Of course plenty of mechanics, pilots, press writers, photographers, my family and public were there to watch Mr. Bone and me prepare for my 2nd Solo Endurance Flight Take-Off. This was about 4PM when I crawled up into the cockpit wearing my beautiful red sheep-wool lined coat with a huge Golden Eagle on the front, and my woolen breeches and boots to keep me warm. After I was in the seat, good luck items, food, and liquid were given to me to place where ever I could find room and get to them, which took some figuring. All seemed ready for the night.

Switch on and the prop was turned, after a few kisses from family and Mr. Bone I turned into position for take-off which soon saw me lift-off for a long grueling flight. The first half of the night was simple flying around the field and watching the cars disappear. As night grew longer and all below was quiet except for the Klieg lights that shone brightly and I would fly through the beams, then I became very sleepy “as I later learned that my system was lacking in protein,” I would sing, rub my neck, wiggle in the seat, rub around my helmet, pat my cheeks, peel tangerines and eat them, this continues on and on, sometimes I would find myself drifting off to sleep only to be awakened by the engine revving faster from a downward flying position which would frighten me enough to stay awake for a longer time. These actions were repeated over and over until the sun finally started to climb up and over the horizon. This seemed to give me a good lift to continue on my route which was around and around the field and sometimes over Inglewood, where I later found out that I had been keeping the residents awake. I would gain altitude when I wandered away from the field too far as to make a Record, the plane must return to the take-off field. After several hours planes were coming up with congratulations and all sorts of expressions because I had made a new record. I landed about 10AM. Little did I know or the press, or the factory and Mr. Bone, at this point, that I had made 6 records. We did know that I was the first Woman to fly all night and stay up 17 hours and 5 Minutes which did set a record for miles flown too, but it took time for the engineers to check that I with the 60 HP LeBlound [sic] engine had lifted off with a greater load for that 60 HP engine and later the sq. Feet of the wing, and another technicality.

A bed & home was all that I wanted now! — Evelyn Trout

Evelyn Trout’s airplane, the prototype of the Bone Golden Eagle, serial number C-801, was designed by R.O. Bone and Mark Mitchell Campbell. It was a single-place, single-engine strut-braced high-wing monoplane (“parasol”) with fixed landing gear.

The Golden Eagle was 21 feet, 10 inches (6.655 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet, 5 inches (9.271 meters). Its empty weight was 800 pounds (363 kilograms) and gross weight was 1,350 pounds (612 kilograms).

The airplane was powered by an air-cooled, normally aspirated 250.576-cubic-inch-displacement (4.106 liter), LeBlond Aircraft Engine Corporation 60-5D five-cylinder radial engine, which had a compression ratio of 5.42:1. It was rated at 65 horsepower at 1,950 r.p.m., at Sea Level. The 60-5D was a direct-drive engine which turned a two-bladed propeller. The engine weighed 228 pounds (103 kilograms).

The Golden Eagle had a cruise speed of 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour). The standard production model had a fuel capacity of 25 gallons (95 liters).

The prototype was assigned Experimental registration NX522, 3 May 1929. While being flown by Eddie Martin, NX522 was damaged beyond repair in an accident, 8 July 1929, at Los Angeles, California. The registration was cancelled 25 July 1929.

Astronaut Eileen Collins holds Bobbie Trout’s pilot certificate, 1995. (Unattributed)
Astronaut Eileen Collins holds Bobbie Trout’s pilot certificate, 1995. (Unattributed)

The production Golden Eagle was advertised as a very stable, “hands off” airplane. The asking price for the basic model was $2,790.00.

The R.O. Bone Company reorganized as the Golden Eagle Corporation but The Great Depression doomed the company. Only one Golden Eagle is believed to exist.

Evelyn Trout set several other flight records. Along with Amelia Earhart and several others she co-founded The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women aviators. At the age of 97 years, she died at San Diego, California, 27 January 2003.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 January 1929

The Honorable Mary Bailey DBE (1890–1960) (Monash University)
The Honorable Mary Bailey DBE (1890–1960) (Monash University)

16 January 1929: After a 10-month, 18,000-mile (29,000-kilometer) solo flight from Croydon Aerodrome, London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa, Mary, Lady Bailey, arrived back at the Stag Lane Aerodrome at Edgeware, London, flying a de Havilland DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBTG.

A contemporary newspaper reported the event:

LADY BAILEY’S FLIGHT.

(British Official Wireless.)

LONDON, Jan. 16.

     Lady Bailey landed at Croydon this afternoon in her De Havilland Moth aeroplane, thus completing a flight from London to Capetown and back. She was greeted at Croydon by a large and cheering crowd.

Lady Bailey is the first woman to fly from London to Capetown and back. She has made the longest flight ever accomplished by a woman, and her 18,000 miles journey is the longest solo flight by either a man or a woman. She is the first woman to have flown over the Congo and the Sahara.

The Royal Aeronautical Society, in congratulating Lady Bailey, pays tribute to her as one of the gallant pioneers of Aeronautics.

— The Sydney Morning Herald, No. 28,405. Friday, 18 January 1929, Page 13, Column 1.

A contemporary cigarette card with an illustration of Lady Bailey’s DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBTG. (Monash University)
A contemporary cigarette card with an illustration of Lady Bailey’s DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBTG. (Monash University)

Flight offered the following commentary:

A Great Little Lady

Exactly how many miles she has covered during her long flight is difficult to estimate; nor is this necessary for a full appreciation of the merits of Lady Bailey’s flight from London through Africa to the Cape, around Africa and home again. The general press has made much of the fact that Lady Bailey’s flight is the longest ever accomplished by a woman, and the longest solo flight ever undertaken, thus establishing two “records.” To us that is of very minor importance. What matters is that an Englishwoman should have chosen to see Africa from the air, and should have been prepared to rely entirely on her own resourcefulness in making the tour. Everyone who knows Lady Bailey at all well realises that personal “advertisement” is the last thing she would desire; she is the most modest and unassuming of women. But her great achievement must unavoidably bring her into the “limelight.” From her point of view the whole thing resolved itself into this: She wanted to tour Africa; she was already a private owner-pilot. What more natural, then, than that she should make the tour by air? Only those who have a fairly good knowledge of Africa, with its variety of country and climate, can realise the sort of task Lady Bailey set herself. That she should have completed the tour, as far as Paris, there to be held up by fogs, is but the irony of fate, and is an experience which has befallen many air travelers. Her great flight was in any case a tour and not a spectacular “stunt” flight intended to break records, so we should not let the delay on the final stage be regarded as other than one of many incidents on a tour that must have been full of surprises and disappointments. Through tropical heat, in rain or snow, across mountains, deserts and seas, Lady Bailey carried on with a quiet determination which is, we like to think, a characteristic of our race, and her de Havilland “Moth” and “Cirrus” engine did not let her down. England is proud of the trio and its achievements.

— FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 1046. (No. 2. Vol. XXI.) 10 January 1929, at Page 20.

The Royal Aero Club (RAeC) awarded its Britannia Trophy for 1929 to Lady Bailey for the “most meritorious flight of the year.”

Mary (née Westenra), Lady Bailey, 1 September 1911. (Bassano Ltd., Royal Photographers. © National Portrait Gallery, London)
Mary (née Westenra), Lady Bailey, 1 September 1911. (Bassano Ltd., Royal Photographers. © National Portrait Gallery, London)

Lady Bailey was born the Hon. Mary Westenra, 1 December 1890, the daughter of the 5th Baron Rossmore. She married Colonel Sir Abe Bailey, 1st Bt., 5 September 1911 at the age of 20.

The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.
The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

Soon after becoming a licensed pilot in early 1927 (Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate 8067), she flew across the Irish Sea, the first woman to do so. She set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude, 5,268 meters (17,283 feet), 5 July 1927.¹ She set several long distance solo flight records, including an 8,000-mile flight from Croydon, South London to Cape Town, South Africa with a DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBSF, and an 10,000-mile return flight made with another DH.60 (after G-EBSF was damaged). These were the longest solo flight and the longest flight by a woman to that time.

Harmon Aviatrix Trophy
Harmon Aviatrix Trophy

Lady Bailey was twice awarded the Harmon Trophy (1927, 1928). In 1930, she was invested Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. During World War II, The Hon. Dame Mary Bailey, DBE, served with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force with the rank Section Officer, equivalent to a Royal Air Force sergeant.

Lady Mary died 29 July 1960 at the age of 70.

G-EBTG (s/n 469) was a de Havilland DH.60X Cirrus II Moth which had been sold to Lady Bailey by Commander Lionel Mansfield Robinson of Nairobi, Kenya, as a replacement for her own Moth, G-EBSF (s/n 415), which had been damaged at Tabora, Tanganyika, 4 October 1928.

G-EBTG was reconditioned by de Havilland’s and a more powerful engine was installed. The airplane changed ownership several times, and was finally written off as damaged beyond repair after a collision with a furniture van in 1938.

De Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth G-EBLV at Stag Lane Aerodrome. (BAE Systems)
De Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth G-EBLV at Stag Lane Aerodrome. (BAE Systems)

The de Havilland DH.60X Cirrus II Moth was a two-place, single-engine light biplane with a wooden airframe which was covered with plywood, with sheet metal panels around the engine. The wings and tail surfaces were fabric-covered, and the wings could be folded to fit inside a small hangar. The “X” in the type designation indicates that the airplane has a split-axle main landing gear, which forms an X when seen from the front of the airplane.

The DH.60X Cirrus II Moth was 23 feet, 11 inches (7.290 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet (9.144 meters). Its height was 8 feet, 9½ inches (2.680 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 920 pounds (417 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,750 pounds (794 kilograms).

An A.D.C. Cirrus aircraft engine at the Science Museum, London. (Wikipedia)
An A.D.C. Cirrus aircraft engine at the Science Museum, London. (Wikipedia)

The Cirrus II Moth was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 304.66-cubic-inch-displacement (4.993 liter) A.D.C. Cirrus Mark II four-cylinder vertical inline engine. This was a right-hand tractor, direct-drive, overhead-valve engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.9:1. It had a normal power rating of 75 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. and a maximum power rating of 80 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The engine drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The Cirrus Mk.II was 3 feet, 9.3 inches (1.151 meters) long, 1 foot, 7 inches wide (0.483 meters) and 2 feet, 11.6 inches (0.904 meters) high. It weighed 280 pounds (127 kilograms).

The DH.60X Cirrus II Moth had a cruise speed of 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 98 miles per hour (158 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 14,500 feet (4,420 meters). The maximum range was 290 miles (467 kilometers).

The de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., built 32 of the DH.60 Cirrus II Moth variant. Nearly 900 off all DH.60 Moth models were built at the company’s factory at Stag Lane, and another 90 were built under license in Australia, France and the United States.

This de Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth, G-EBLV, in The Shuttleworth Collection, is similar to the airplanes flown by Lady Bailey, from London to Cape Town and return, 1928. It is the only flying example of the Cirrus Moth.
This de Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth, G-EBLV, in The Shuttleworth Collection, is the same airplane shown in the photograph above. It is similar to the airplanes flown by Lady Bailey, from London to Cape Town and return, 1928. It is the only flying example of the Cirrus Moth. (www.airmuseumsuk.org)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8221

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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11–12 January 1935

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Hawaii, 11 January 1935. (Getty Images/Underwood Archives)
Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 11 January 1935. On the left is 2nd Lieutenant Curtiss LeMay, U.S. Army Air Corps. 16 years later, LeMay would be promoted to the rank of general. He served as Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force 1961–1965. (Hawaii Aviation)

11 January 1935: At 4:40 p.m., local time, Amelia Earhart departed Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, for Oakland Municipal Airport at Oakland, California, in her Lockheed Vega 5C Special, NR965Y. She arrived 18 hours, 15 minutes later. Earhart was the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the Mainland.

(This Vega was not the same aircraft which she used to fly the Atlantic, Vega 5B NR7952, and which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.)

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Model 5 Vega is a single-engine high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. It was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of spiral strips of vertical grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and held together with glue. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars or other astronomical objects.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5c, NR965Y, being run up at Wheeler Field, 11 January 1935. Amelia is sitting on the running board of the Standard Oil truck parked in front of the hangar. (Hawaii Aviation)

Lockheed Model 5C Vega serial number 171 was completed in March 1931, painted red with silver trim, and registered NX965Y. The airplane had been ordered by John Henry Mears. Mears did not take delivery of the new airplane and it was then sold to Elinor Smith. It was resold twice before being purchased by Amelia Earhart in December 1934.

The Lockheed Model 5C Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).

Earhart’s Vega 5C was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C, serial number 2849, a single-row, nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Model 5C had a cruise speed of 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) and range in standard configuration was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

“Before parting with her ‘little red bus’ (as she affectionately called it), Amelia removed the upgraded Wasp engine and substituted an obsolete model; she wanted her well-tried engine for the new airplane, also a Lockheed Vega. It was a later model, in which Elinor Smith had been preparing to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic, a plan abandoned after Amelia successfully took that record. It was originally built to exacting specifications for Henry Mears of New York, who had a round-the-world flight in mind. Called the Vega, Hi-speed Special, it carried the registration 965Y and was equipped with special fuel tanks, radio, and streamlined landing gear and cowling. These latter appointments, together with a Hamilton Standard Controllable-Pitch Propeller, gave the plane a speed of 200 mph and Amelia had her eye on further records as well as her constant journeys across the continent.”

The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1989, Chapter 17 at Page 206.

Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)
Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland, California, from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)

“. . . At Oakland Airport a good ten thousand had been waiting for several hours, yet when she came in she surprised them. They had been craning their necks looking for a lone aircraft flying high and obviously seeking a place to land. But Amelia did not even circle the field; she brought the Vega in straight as an arrow at a scant two hundred feet, landing at 1:31 p.m. Pacific time. The crowd set up a roar, broke through the police lines, and could be halted only when dangerously near the still-whirling propeller. From the road circling the airport, a chorus of automobile horns honked happily.”

Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer by Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, Brassey’s, Washington and London, 1997, Chapter 13 at Page 132.

Amelia Earhart stands in the cockpit of her Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR965Y, on arrival at Oakland Municipal Airport, 12 January 1935. (National Geographic/Corbis)

Amelia Earhart sold the Vega in 1936. It appeared in “Border Flight,” (Paramount Pictures, 1936) which starred Frances Farmer, John Howard and Robert Cummings. It changed hands twice more before being destroyed in a hangar fire 26 August 1943.

Lockheed Model 5C Vega NR965Y, on the set of a motion picture production, “Wings in the Dark,” (Paramount Pictures, 1935) or “Border Flight,” (Paramount, 1936). The woman to left of center may be Frances Farmer. Roscoe Karns, who performed in both movies, is at center. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 January 1931

Amy Johnson at the Stag Lane Aerodrome, 1 January 1931. (Unattributed)
Amy Johnson, CBE, 1930. (National Portrait Gallery, London)

MISS AMY JOHNSON.

FLIGHT TO PEKING.

Departure From London.

LONDON, Jan. 1.

Miss Amy Johnson, who flew alone to Australia several months ago, arrived at the Stag Lane aerodrome this morning in readiness for a flight to Peking by way of Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow, and Omsk. From Omsk she will follow the Trans-Siberian railway.

Owing to fog she was unable to start on her journey immediately. But she left at 20 minutes to 11 o’clock.

Miss Johnson wore a green leather flying suit and parachute, strapped to her back. As she entered the cockpit of the Gipsy Moth aeroplane, with which she was presented after her trip to Australia, she carried a parcel of biscuits, chocolate, and tea. Only two dozen persons saw her start. She does not intend to hurry.

The Argus, Melbourne, Friday, January 2, 1931. No. 26,329. Page 5, Column 5.

Amy Mollison’s de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth G-ABDV, “Jason III”.
Amy Mollison’s de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth G-ABDV, “Jason III”. (Unattributed)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 December 1949

Jackie Cochran with her Cobalt Blue North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, N5528N, Thunderbird, circa December 1949. (FAI)

29 December 1949: Jackie Cochran (Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force Reserve) flew her North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, Thunderbird, CAA registration N5528N, to two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Class C-1 world speed records of 703.38 kilometers per hour (437.06 miles per hour)¹ and a U.S. National record of 703.275 kilometers per hour (436.995 miles per hour) over the 500 kilometer (310.7 mile) Desert Center–Mt. Wilson course in the Colorado Desert of southern California.

Left profile drawing of Thunderbird, Jackie Cochran’s unlimited class North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, N5528N. (Image courtesy of Tim Bradley, © 2014)
National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive. (Bryan R. Swopes)
National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive. (Bryan R. Swopes)
Jackie Cochran’s North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, N5528N. (FAI)

Thunderbird was Jackie Cochran’s third P-51 Mustang. She had purchased it from Academy Award-winning actor and World War II B-24 wing commander James M. Stewart just ten days earlier, 19 December 1949.

According to Civil Aviation Administration records, the airplane had been “assembled from components of other aircraft of the same type.” It has no U.S. Army Air Corps serial number or North American Aviation manufacturer’s serial number. The C.A.A. designated it as a P-51C and assigned 2925 as its serial number. It was certificated in the Experimental category and registered N5528N.

Thunderbird had won the 1949 Bendix Trophy Race with pilot Joe De Bona, after he had dropped out of the 1948 race. Its engine had been upgraded from a Packard V-1650-3 Merlin to a V-1650-7 for the 1949 race.

Cobalt Blue North American Aviation P-51C Mustang N5528N with Joe De Bona’s race number, 90. (Unattributed).

Jackie Cochran set three world speed records with Thunderbird. In 1953, she sold it back to Jimmy Stewart. After changing ownership twice more, the P-51 crashed near Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska, 22 June 1955.

The P-51B and P-51C Mustangs are virtually identical. The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Inglewood, California, while P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas, plant. They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5,352 kilograms).

P-51Bs and Cs were powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m and 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3) or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning at 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). These were license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic constant speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters).

The P-51B/C had a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel, the combat range was 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

In military service, armament consisted of four Browning AN/M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted two in each wing, with 350 rounds per gun for the inboard guns and 280 rounds per gun for the outboard.

1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant and another 1,750 P-51Cs were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

According to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, “At the time of her death in 1980, Jacqueline Cochran held more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other male or female pilot in aviation history.”

Identical to the Inglewood, California-built North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, this is a Dallas, Texas-built P-51C-1-NT, 42-103023. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 4476 and 12323

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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