Tag Archives: Boeing Airplane Company

17 June 1986

Boeing B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 is prepared to Depart NAWC China Lake. (U.S. Navy)
B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 is prepared to depart Armitage Field, NAWS China Lake, 17 June 1986. (U.S.  Air Force)

17 June 1986: After being returned to flyable condition, B-47E-25-DT Stratojet serial number 52-166, made the very last flight of a B-47 when it was flown by Major General John D. (“J.D.”) Moore and Lieutenant Colonel Dale E. Wolfe, U.S. Air Force, from the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the high desert of Southern California, to Castle Air Force Base in California’s San Joaquin Valley, to be placed on static display. 52-166 had been built by the Douglas Aircraft Company at Air Force Plant No. 3, Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1952.

52-166 had not been flown in twenty years, having sat in the Mojave Desert serving as a radar target. General Moore and Colonel Wolf were experienced B-47 pilots, though they hadn’t flown one in the same twenty years. Because the B-47 it had not been through a complete overhaul prior to the ferry flight, it was decided to leave the landing gear extended to avoid any potential problems.

During the 43 minute trip, the aircraft had several systems fail, including airspeed sensors, intercom, and partial aileron control. On approach to Castle Air Force Base, a 16 foot (4.9 meters) braking parachute was deployed. This created enough aerodynamic drag to slow the airplane while the early turbojet engines were kept operating at high power settings. These engines took a long time to accelerate from idle, making a go-around a very tricky maneuver. With the braking chute, though, releasing the chute allowed the airplane to climb out as the engines were already operating at high r.p.m.

B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 enroute Castle Air Force Base with a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star chase. California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains are in the distance. (TSGT Michael Hagerty/U.S. Air Force)
Douglas-built B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 enroute Castle Air Force Base with a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star chase, 17 June 1986. California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains are in the distance. (U.S. Air Force)

A strategic bomber, the B-47 could fly higher and faster than jet fighters of the time, and it was also highly maneuverable. B-47E (Boeing Model 450-157-35) was flown by a two-man crew in a tandem cockpit. A navigator/bombardier was at a station in the nose.

The Boeing B-47E Stratojet is 107 feet (32.614 meters) long with a wingspan of 116 feet (35.357 meters), and an overall height of  27 feet, 11 inches (8.509 meters). The wings are shoulder-mounted with the leading edges swept at 35°. It has an empty weight of 79,074 pounds (35,867 kilograms), gross weight of 198,180 pounds (89,893 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 230,000 pounds (104,326 kilograms).

The B-47E was powered by six General Electric J47-GE-25 turbojet engines in four nacelles mounted on pylons below the wings. This engine has a 12-stage axial-flow compressor, eight combustion chambers, and single-stage turbine. The J47-GE-25 is rated at 5,970 pounds of static thrust at Sea Level, at 7,950 r.p.m. and 1,250 °F. (677 °C.) turbine outlet temperature (TOT). (7,200 pounds of thrust with water injection). It has a maximum diameter of 3 feet, 1 inch (0.940 meters) and length of 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters) and weighs 2,653 pounds (1,203 kilograms)

The B-47E Stratojet had a maximum speed of 607 miles per hour (977 kilometers per hour) at 16,300 feet (4,968 meters) and 557 miles per hour (896 kilometers per hour) at 38,500 feet (11,735 meters). The service ceiling was 33,100 feet (10,089 meters) and combat ceiling 40,500 feet (12,344 meters).

The combat radius of the B-47E was 2,013 miles (3,240 kilometers with a 10,845 pound (4,919 kilograms) bomb load. Ferry range with 16,318 gallons (61,770 liters) of fuel was 4,035 miles (6,494 kilometers).

For defense the B-47E was armed with two M24A1 20 mm autocannons in the tail. The co-pilot acted as gunner.

The maximum bomb load of the was 25,000 pounds (11,340 kilograms). The B-47 could carry two 7,600 pound (3,447 kilogram) Mark 15 two-stage radiation implosion thermonuclear bombs, each with an explosive yield of 3.8 megatons, or a single 10,670 pound (4,808 kilogram) B-41 three-stage, 25 megaton bomb.

B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 flies over California's Central Valley farmland as it heads to Castle Air Force Base on the very last B-47 flight, 17 June 1986. (U.S. Air Force)
B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 flies over California’s Central Valley farmland as it heads to Castle Air Force Base on the very last B-47 flight, 17 June 1986. (U.S. Air Force)

Designed by Boeing, the Stratojet was a high-subsonic speed strategic bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, in service from 1951 until 1977. A total of 2,032 B-47s were built by a consortium of aircraft manufacturers: Boeing Airplane Company, Wichita, Kansas; Douglas Aircraft Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Lockheed Aircraft Company, Marietta, Georgia.

The Stratojet is one of the most influential aircraft designs of all time and its legacy can be seen in almost every jet airliner built since the 1950s: the swept wing with engines suspended below and ahead on pylons. The B-47 served the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1977. From the first flight of the Boeing XB-47 Stratojet prototype, 17 December 1947, to the final flight of B-47E 52-166, was 38 years, 6 months, 1 day.

B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 on final approach to land at Castle Air Force Base, 17 June 1986. The braking chute is deployed. This is teh very last time that a B-47 flew.
B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 on final approach to land at Castle Air Force Base, 17 June 1986. The braking chute is deployed. This is the very last time that a B-47 flew.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 June 1943

Memphis Belle over England, heading home, 9 June 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

9 June 1943: After completing 25 combat missions over Western Europe from its base at Air Force Station 121 (RAF Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England), Memphis Belle, a U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 41-24485, assigned to the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), 324th Bomb Squadron (Heavy), was flown home by Captain Robert K. Morgan and Captain James A. Verinis.

The daylight bombing campaign of Nazi-occupied Europe was very dangerous with high losses in both airmen and aircraft. For a bomber crew, 25 combat missions was a complete tour, and they were sent on to other assignments. Memphis Belle was only the second B-17 to survive 25 missions, so it was withdrawn from combat and sent back to the United States for a publicity tour.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-22485, Memphis Belle, in flight over England, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-22485, Memphis Belle, in flight over England, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Miss Margaret Polk
Miss Margaret Polk

The B-17’s name was a reference to Captain Morgan’s girlfriend, Miss Margaret Polk, who lived in Memphis, Tennessee. The artwork painted on the airplane’s nose was a “Petty Girl” based on the work of pin-up artist George Petty of Esquire magazine. (Morgan named his next airplane—a B-29 Superfortress—Dauntless Dotty after his wife, Dorothy Morgan. With it, he led the first B-29 bombing mission against Tokyo, Japan, in 1944. It was also decorated with a Petty Girl.)

Memphis Belle and her crew were the subject of a 45-minute documentary, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress,” directed by William Wyler and released in April 1944. It was filmed in combat aboard Memphis Belle and several other B-17s. The United States Library of Congress named it for preservation as a culturally significant film.

After the war, Memphis Belle was put on display in the city of Memphis. For decades it suffered from time, weather and neglect. The Air Force finally took the bomber back and placed it in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it has been undergoing a total restoration for the last several years.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, the Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Museum staff tried to save the original markings on the bomber.(U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Museum staff have tried to preserve the original markings on the bomber. The “Petty Girl” on the right side of the airplane is in red. (U.S. Air Force)

The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 9 inches (22.784 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9-3/8 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1 inch (5.187 meters). Its empty weight was 34,000 pounds (15,422 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) loaded, and the maximum takeoff weight was 56,500 pounds (25,628 kilograms).

The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) nine-cylinder radial engines with turbochargers, rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. War Emergency Power was 1,380 horsepower. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-97 engine is 47.80 inches (1.214 meters) long and 55.10 inches (1.399 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

The B-17F had a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods. The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters).

With a normal fuel load of 2,520 gallons (9,540 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 2,880 miles (4,635 kilometers). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The forward fuselage of Memphis Belle under restoration at the national Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio. The "Petty Girl" on the right side of the airplane is in red. (U.S. Air Force)
The forward fuselage of Memphis Belle under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio. The pilots’ instrument panel is in the foreground. The “Petty Girl” on the left side of the airplane is in blue. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-17F Flying Fortress was armed with up to 13 air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions. A pair of machine guns were mounted in the tail, and single guns on flexible mounts were placed in the nose, radio compartment, and right and left waist positions.

The maximum bomb load was 20,800 pounds over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.

The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The Manufacturer Codes, -BO, -DL and -VE, follow the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.

Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses remain in existence. Memphis belle is scheduled to go on public display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force on 17 May 2018, 75 years after it flew its final combat mission.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Memphis Belle ® is a Registered Trademark of the United States Air Force.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 June 1942, 1624: First Attack

USAAF Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bomber takes off at Midway Island during the Battle of Midway. (U.S. Air Force)

3 June 1942: After a U.S. Navy PBY patrol bomber sighted a task force of the Japanese fleet approaching Midway Island, nine U.S. Army Air Force Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress heavy bombers launched from the island at 1230 hours.

At 1624 hours, the bomber force located Admiral Raizo Tanaka’s Midway Occupation Group 570 miles (917 kilometers) west of the island. They attacked in three flights of three, at 8,000, 10,000 and 12,000 feet (2,440, 3,050 and 3,660 meters). Although they reported damage to several ships, in fact none were hit.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 May 1942

A Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress takes off from Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, 1942.
A Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress takes off from Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, 1942.

30 May 1942: The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress makes its first flight. B-17F-1-BO 41-24340 was the first of a new series of the famous World War II bomber. While visually similar to the B-17E, it had more than 400 improvements based on early wartime experience with the B-17D and B-17E.

The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 9 inches (22.784 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9-3/8 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1 inch (5.187 meters). Its empty weight was 34,000 pounds (15,422 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) loaded, and the maximum takeoff weight was 56,500 pounds (25,628 kilograms).

Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress
Boeing B-17F-95-BO Flying Fortress 42-30243. Note the underwing bomb racks. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) nine-cylinder radial engines with turbochargers, rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. War Emergency Power was 1,380 horsepower. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-97 engine is 47.80 inches (1.214 meters) long and 55.10 inches (1.399 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

The B-17F had a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods. The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters).

With a normal fuel load of 2,520 gallons (9,540 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 2,880 miles (4,635 kilometers). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

Most of the .50-caliber machine guns arming the B-17F Flying Fortress are visible in this photograph. (U.S. Air Force)
Most of the .50-caliber machine guns arming the B-17F Flying Fortress are visible in this photograph. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-17F Flying Fortress was armed with up to 13 air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions. A pair of machine guns were mounted in the tail, and single guns on flexible mounts were placed in the nose, radio compartment, and right and left waist positions.

The maximum bomb load was 20,800 pounds over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-22485, Memphis Belle, in flight over England, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Probably the best known individual combat airplane, this is Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-22485, Memphis Belle, in flight over England, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The Manufacturer Codes, -BO, -DL and -VE, follow the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.

Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses remain in existence.

This restored Boeing B-17F-70-BO Flying Fortress, 42-29782, is on display at The Museum of Flight at Seattle’s Boeing Field. (Boeing)
This restored Boeing B-17F-70-BO Flying Fortress, 42-29782, (N17W) is on display at The Museum of Flight at Seattle’s Boeing Field. (Boeing)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 May 1963

Cockpit of Boeing VC-137C 62-6000, SAM 26000, at the national Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)
Cockpit of Boeing VC-137C 62-6000, SAM 26000, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

19 May 1963: During a non-stop flight from Andrews Air Force Base, outside Washington, D.C., to Moscow, Russia, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a Boeing VC-137C, 62-6000, under the command of Colonel James B. Swindal, United States Air Force, set 15 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed Over a Recognized Course.¹ Colonel Swindal flew the airplane, commonly known as Air Force One, 5,004 miles (8,053.2 kilometers) in 8 hours, 39 minutes, 2 seconds, averaging 490.96 miles per hour (790.12 kilometers per hour). On the return flight, 15 additional records were set.

The fastest segment of the flight was from to Boston, Massachussetts to Oslo, Norway at an average speed of 952.62 kilometers per hour (591.93 miles per hour).

The New York Times reported:

MOSCOW — President Kennedy’s Air Force jet today set a nonstop speed record between Washington and Moscow and shattered 14 other air records. The $8 million Boeing 707, carrying a ten-man party headed by Atomic Energy Commission chairman Glenn T. Seaborg, touched down eight hours 38 minutes and 42 seconds after takeoff — the fastest flight ever made between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Interred was a Soviet myth that the U.S. lacked a plane able to make a 5,000-mile run nonstop. The black-nosed blue and white jet, piloted by Col. James B. Swindal, 46, of Falls Church, Virginia, made it with fuel for more than two hours of flight remaining, proving that any delays in reaching a commercial agreement are political, not technical.

The New York Times, 19 May 1963

The Washington Post reported that, “. . . On board were a Soviet navigator and a Soviet radio operator, the usual requirements for all international flights over Soviet territory. The two men, both speaking English, flew to Washington to make the flight.”

The Washington Post, 20 May 1963

At the end of its final flight, 20 May 1998, SAM 26000 touches down at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where it was placed in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air force. (U.S. Air Force)
At the end of its final flight, 20 May 1998, SAM 26000 touches down at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where it was placed in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

The Boeing VC-137C was the first of two specially-configured Boeing 707-353B airliners used by the President of the United States, or other senior administration officials. The distinctive white, blue and natural metal livery was created by the famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy.

When the president is aboard, the airplane is designated “Air Force One”. At other times, it uses the Special Air Mission designation, SAM 26000. The airplane entered service in 1962, replacing the three earlier commercial Boeing 707-153 airliners, which were designated VC-137A Stratoliner, USAF serial numbers 58-6970–58-6972.

SAM 26000 was itself replaced by SAM 27000 in 1972, though it remained available as a back-up aircraft. It was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force on 20 May 1998. The distinctive white, blue and natural metal livery was created by the famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy.

James Barney Swindal was born 18 August 1917 in West Blocton, Alabama. He enlisted in the Army in 1942, shortly after the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, bringing the United States into the World War. Trained as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Forces, he flew transports in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of operations. After the War, he participated in the Berlin Airlift.

Swindal became President Kennedy’s personal pilot in 1960. He flew JFK to Berlin for his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, 26 June 1963, and later flew President Kennedy’s casket from Dallas Texas to Washington, D.C.  He retired from the Air Force in 1971. When SAM 26000 arrived at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, he sat in its cockpit for a last time. Colonel Swindal died at Cape Canaveral, Florida, 25 April 2006.

Colonel James B. Swindal, United States Air Force is congrtulated on his promotion by President John F. Kennedy. (Presidential Library)
Colonel James B. Swindal, United States Air Force, is congratulated on his promotion by President John F. Kennedy, 19 March 1962. (Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston JFKWHP-1962-03-19-C)

¹ FAI Record File Number 16472

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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