Tag Archives: Bomber

17 January 1932

At the lower left corner of this image, the shadow of a Curtiss B-2 Condor can be seen as it prepares to drop supplies at the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona, 17 January 1932. (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)
At the lower left corner of this image, the shadow of a Curtiss B-2 Condor can be seen as it prepares to drop supplies at the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona, 17 January 1932. (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)

17 January 1932: The 11th Bombardment Squadron, U.S. Army Air Corps, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Charles H. Howard and based at March Field, Riverside, California, flew six Curtiss B-2 Condor bombers to drop food and supplies to the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona. A severe winter storm had isolated the community and caused the deaths of thousands of livestock.

More than 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) of food was dropped to support the 20,000 people of the Navajo and Hopi nations effected by the winter storms.

Lieutenant Howard and the 11th Bombardment Squadron won the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year. This was the first time that the Mackay was awarded to a group.

First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)

Charles Harold Howard was born at Ashland, Oregon, 29 December 1892. He was the first of two children of Charles B. Howard, a telegraph operator, and Mary Ann Kincaid Howard.

Howard enlisted as a private in the Signal Corps, United States Army, 23 November 1917. He served with Company C, 322nd Field Signal Battalion, and the Aviation Section, Signal Corps. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Service, 7 November 1918.

In 1920, Lieutenant Howard was an instructor at the Air Service Flying School at Love Field, Dallas, Texas. In a reorganization of the Air Service, his commission was vacated 15 September 1920 and he was appointed a second lieutenant, Air Service, with date of rank retroactive to 1 July 1920. Howard was promoted to first lieutenant, 30 August 1924.

Captain Howard was killed in an aircraft accident near Bryan Mill, Texas, 25 October 1936. His remains were buried at the Mountain View Cemetery, Ashland, Oregon. Howard Air Force Base, Panama, was named in his honor.

The following is excerpted from the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register web site:

The Air Corps Newsletter of November 1, 1936 reports his passing and summarizes his flying career:

“An airplane accident on the night of October 25th, near Bryan’s Mill, Texas, cost the lives of Captain Charles H. Howard and Corporal Edward N. Gibson, Air Corps, both of whom were stationed at Langley Field, VA.

“Captain Howard, who enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, during the World War, was an efficient and capable officer, an expert pilot, and was particularly well versed in the field of radio communications.

“. . . after serving for a brief period with Company C, 322nd Field Signal Battalion, Fort Lewis, Washington, he was transferred to Kelly Field, Texas, where he served with the 84th Aero Squadron. . .

“During the next four years, Captain Howard’s duties related mainly to radio communications. . . 

“In January 1926, Captain Howard was transferred to the Panama Canal Department, where he served for three years, being on duty with the 7th Observation Squadron at France Field for two years, and with the 25th Bombardment Squadron in the remaining year.

“From Panama, Captain Howard was transferred to Rockwell Field, Calif., when he was assigned to the 11th Bombardment Squadron. He also served as Communications Officer of the 7th Bombardment Group. Later, when the Squadron was transferred to March Field, Calif., he was placed in command thereof.”

It was during this time that he and his crew won the Mackay Trophy.

“During the summer of 1934, Captain Howard piloted one of the B-10 Bombardment planes in the Army Alaskan Flight, from Washington, D.C., to Fairbanks, Alaska, and return. This aerial expedition of ten B-10 airplanes was commanded by Brigadier General Henry H. Arnold. The flight was completed according to a prearranged schedule in exactly one month. In addition to his duties as pilot, Captain Howard served as Assistant Communications Officer of the expedition. . .

“Captain Howard had to his credit over 4,000 hours flying time. He was the author of various articles dealing most interestingly and convincingly with subjects in which he particularly specialized – Bombardment Aviation and Radio Communications.”

Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register http://www.dmairfield.com/index.php

Curtiss B-2 Condor 28-399 of the 11th Bomb Squadron, in flight near San Diego, California, 1930. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Curtiss B-2 Condor was a large (by contemporary standards) twin-engine biplane bomber, operated by a crew of five. It was 47 feet, 4.5 inches (14.440 meters) long with a 90 foot (27.432 meter) wingspan and overall height of 16 feet, 6 inches (5.029 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 9,300 pounds (4,218.4 kilograms) and loaded weight of 16,591 pounds (7,525.6 kilograms).

The B-2 was powered by two liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,570.381-cubic-inch-displacement (25.734 liter) Curtiss Conqueror V-1570-7 DOHC 60° V-12 engines producing 633 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m., each, driving three-bladed propellers.

The bomber had a maximum speed of 132 miles per hour (212 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and a range of 805 miles (1,296 kilometers).

Although the Condor’s service ceiling was 16,140 feet (4,920 meters), Lieutenant Howard flew one to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) while conducting an experiment in cosmic ray research for Dr. Robert Andrews Millikan of Caltech, Pasadena, California. (“Service ceiling” is the altitude above which an aircraft can no longer maintain at least a 100 feet per minute/0.5 meters per second rate of climb.)

First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, Air Corps, United States Army, and Dr. Robert A. Millikan of CalTech, with a Curtiss B-2 Condor bomber at March Field, 27 October 1932. (© Bettman/CORBIS)

Defensive armament consisted of six .30-caliber Lewis machine guns, with gunners’ positions at the nose and behind each engine. The B-2 could carry 2,500 pounds (1,134 kilograms) of bombs.

Including the XB-2 prototype, 13 B-2s were built, and a single B-2A. They were removed from service by 1934 as more modern designs became available.

A Curtiss B-2 Condor, serial number 28-399, in flight near Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (U.S. Air Force)
A Curtiss B-2 Condor, serial number 28-399, 11th Bombardment Squadron, in flight near Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

14 January 1962

Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2441, Thompson Trophy winner. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2441, Thompson Trophy winner. (U.S. Air Force)

14 January 1961: Lt. Col. Harold E. Confer, Lt. Col. Richard Weir and Major Howard Bialas, flying Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2441, Roadrunner, obliterated the FAI closed-course speed records established only two days earlier by another B-58 crew flying 59-2442. They averaged 2,067.58 kilometers per hour (1,284.73 miles per hour) over a 1,000 kilometer closed circuit, more than 200 miles per hour faster, and set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale records. They were awarded the Thompson Trophy.

59-2441 was sent to The Boneyard in 1970, and along with its sister, 59-2442, scrapped in 1977.

Colonel Harold E. Confer, U.S. Air Force
Colonel Harold E. Confer, U.S. Air Force

FAI Record File Num #4565 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km without payload
Performance: 2 067.58 km/h
Date: 1961-01-14
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant Harold E. Confer (USA)
Aeroplane: Convair B-58A Hustler (USAF 92-441)
Engines: 4 G E J79

FAI Record File Num #4566 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km with 1 000 kg payload
Performance: 2 067.58 km/h
Date: 1961-01-14
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant Harold E. Confer (USA)
Aeroplane: Convair B-58A Hustler (USAF 92-441)
Engines: 4 G E J79

FAI Record File Num #4567 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km with 2 000 kg payload
Performance: 2 067.58 km/h
Date: 1961-01-14
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant Harold E. Confer (USA)
Aeroplane: Convair B-58A Hustler (USAF 92-441)
Engines: 4 G E J79

Thompson Trophy at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
Thompson Trophy at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

The B-58 Hustler was a high-altitude Mach 2 strategic bomber which served with the United States Air Force from 1960 to 1970. It was crewed by a pilot, navigator/bombardier and a defensive systems operator located in individual cockpits. The aircraft is a delta-winged configuration similar to the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart supersonic interceptors.

The Hustler is 96 feet, 10 inches (29.515 meters) long, with a wing span of 56 feet, 10 inches (17.323 meters) and an overall height of 31 feet 5 inches (9.576 meters). The wing’s leading edge is swept back at a 60° angle and the fuselage incorporates the “area rule” which resulted in a “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape for a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag. The airplane’s only control surfaces are two “elevons” and a rudder, and there are no flaps. Four General Electric J79-GE-5 afterburning turbojet engines, producing 15,000 pounds of thrust, each, are suspended under the wings from pylons. The bomber had a cruise speed of 610 miles per hour (981.7 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 1,325 miles per hour (2,132.4 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 64,800 feet (19,751 meters). Unrefueled range is 4,400 miles (7,081 kilometers). Maximum weight is 168,000 pounds (76,203.5 kilograms).

The B-58 weapons load was a combination of W-39,  B43 or B61 nuclear bombs. The weapons could be carried in a jettisonable centerline pod, which also carried fuel. The smaller bombs could be carried on underwing hardpoints. There was a defensive 20 mm M61 rotary cannon mounted in the tail, with 1,200 rounds of ammunition and controlled by the Defensive Systems Officer.

Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2441, Thompson Trophy winner, at Davis-Monthan AFB. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2441, Thompson Trophy winner, at Davis-Monthan AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

11 January 1962

Colonel Clyde P. Evely, USAF with the crew of the record-setting B-52H Stratofortress 60-0040. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Clyde P. Evely, USAF with the crew of the record-setting B-52H Stratofortress 60-0040. (U.S. Air Force)

11 January 1962: Colonel Clyde P. Evely, United States Air Force, and his crew flew their Boeing B-52H-150-BW Stratofortress, 60-0040, of the 4136th Strategic Wing, from Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa to Torrejon Air Base, Spain. Called Operation Persian Rug, this was an unrefueled 21 hour, 52 minute flight that covered 12,532.30 miles (20,168.78 kilometers) at an average 604.44 miles per hour (972.75 kilometers per hour) and set 11 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), several of which still stand. Seven National Aeronautic Association records for speed over a recognized course also are current.

Others on the flight were Major Robert Carson and Captain Henry V. Sienkiewicz, second pilot and co-pilot; Major Edmund Bible, navigator; Major Dwight Baker, radar navigator; Captain Edward McLaughlin, electronics warfare officer; 1st Lieutenant William Telford, second navigator; and Master Sergeant Richard Posten, gunner.

FAI Record File Num #8647 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Distance
Performance: 20 168.78 km
Date: 1962-01-11
Course/Location: Okinawa (Japan) – Madrid (Spain)
Claimant Clyde P. Evely (USA)
Aeroplane: Boeing B-52H
Engines: 8 Pratt & Whitney TF-33(military desig.for JT-3D)

FAI Record File Num #16481 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a recognised course
Performance: 929.30 km/h
Date: 1962-01-11
Course/Location: Okinawa (Japan) – Madrid (Spain)
Claimant Clyde P. Evely (USA)
Aeroplane: Boeing B-52H
Engines: 8 Pratt & Whitney TF-33(military desig.for JT-3D)

FAI Record File Num #16483 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a recognised course
Performance: 972.75 km/h
Date: 1962-01-11
Course/Location: Okinawa (Japan) – Madrid (Spain)
Claimant Clyde P. Evely (USA)
Aeroplane: Boeing B-52H (60040)
Engines: 8 Pratt & Whitney TF-33(military desig.for JT-3D)

The flight crew of 60-0040 received awards for their world record flight, at Torrejon Air Base, Spain, 11 January 1962. (U.S. Air Force)
President John F. Kennedy congratulates the crew of 60-0040. This photograph shows the crew and President Kennedy with a different airplane, B-52G 57-6486. (U.S. Air Force)
President John F. Kennedy congratulates the crew of 60-0040. This photograph shows the crew and President Kennedy with a different airplane, B-52G 57-6486. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-52H is a sub-sonic, swept wing, long-range strategic bomber. It has a crew of five. The airplane is 159 feet, 4 inches (48.6 meters) long, with a wing span of 185 feet (56.4 meters). It is 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters) high to the top of the vertical fin. Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 488,000 pounds (221,353 kilograms).

There are eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-3 turbofan engines mounted in two-engine pods suspended under the wings on four pylons. Each engine produces a maximum of 17,000 pounds of thrust (75.620 kilonewtons). The TF-33 is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine with 2 fan stages, 14-stage compressor stages (7 stage intermediate pressure, 7 stage high-pressure) and and 4-stage turbine (1 stage high-pressure, 3-stage low-pressure). The engine is 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters) long, 4 feet, 5.0 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter and weighs 3,900 pounds (15,377 kilograms).

The B-52H can carry approximately 70,000 pounds (31,750 kilograms) of ordnance, including free-fall bombs, precision-guided bombs, thermonuclear bombs and cruise missiles, naval mines and anti-ship missiles.

The bomber’s cruise speed is 520 miles per hour (837 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed is 650 miles per hour (1,046 kilometers per hour) at 23,800 feet (7,254 meters) at a combat weight of 306,350 pounds. Its service ceiling is 47,700 feet (14,539 meters) at the same combat weight. The unrefueled range is 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers).

With inflight refueling, the Stratofortress’s range is limited only by the endurance of its five-man crew.

The B-52H is the only version still in service. 102 were built and as of 27 September 2016, 76 are still in service. Beginning in 2013, the Air Force began a fleet-wide technological upgrade for the B-52H, including a digital avionics and communications system, as well as an internal weapons bay upgrade. The bomber is expected to remain in service until 2040.

The record-setting B-52, 60-0040, named The Black Widow, had been on a 7-hour training flight with an eight-man crew, 5–6 December 1988. They were practicing “touch and go” landings and takeoffs at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, near Marquette, Michigan.

After the third landing, the bomber just became airborne, when at 0115 EST,

“. . . At about 75 ft airborne the #30 fuel boost pump overheated due to lack of fuel to cool it down, and, because, the spark arrester was missing from the shaft of the boost pump allowing sparks into the empty tank. The fumes then combusted and exploded inflight causing the tail section to separate from the fuselage. We went crashing to the ground over the runway. Upon hitting the ground the wing section separated from the cockpit. Both went skidding down the runway and came to rest just 3400 ft from impact. The cockpit was blocking the alert ramp for the tankers. All 8 crewmembers survived, each with varying degrees of injury. The Pilot, copilot and IP sustained the more serious injuries, while the rest of us had multiple broken bones and burns but nothing terribly serious.

— Captain Anthony D. Phillips, Radar Navigator.

Colonel Clyde P. Evely retired from the Air Force after thirty years service. He died 7 April 2010 at 88 years of age.

The remains of "Balls 40", B-52H-150-BW 60-0040, The Black Widow, at K.I. Sawyer AFB, Gwinn, Michigan, 6 December 1988. (U.S. Air Force)
The remains of  B-52H-150-BW 60-0040, The Black Widow, at K.I. Sawyer AFB, Gwinn, Michigan, 6 December 1988. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

10 January 1964

Boeing B-52H-170-BW 61-023
Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023. (U.S. Air Force)

10 January 1964: This Boeing B-52H Stratofortress, serial number 61-023, flown by Boeing test pilot Charles F. (“Chuck”) Fisher, was conducting structural testing in turbulence near East Spanish Peak, Colorado. The other crew members were pilots Richard V. Curry and Leo Coer, and navigator James Pittman. Dick Curry was flying the airplane and Chuck Fisher, the aircraft commander, was in the co-pilot’s position. Pittman was on the lower deck.

The bomber was carrying two North American Aviation GAM-77 Hound Dog cruise missiles on pylons under its wings.

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress had been designed as a very high altitude penetration bomber, but changes in Soviet defensive systems led the Strategic Air Command to change to very low altitude flight as a means of evading radar. This was subjecting the airframes to unexpected stresses. “Ten-Twenty-Three” (its serial number was 61-023, shortened on the vertical fin to “1023”) had been returned to Boeing Wichita by the Air Force to be instrumented to investigate the effects of high-speed, low-altitude flight on the 245-ton bomber.

Flying at 14,300 feet (4,359 meters) and 345 knots (397 miles per hour, 639 kilometers per hour), indicated air speed, the airplane encountered severe clear air turbulence and lost the vertical stabilizer. Several B-52s had been lost under similar circumstances. (Another, a B-52D, was lost just three days later at Savage Mountain, Maryland.)

East Spanish Peak (left), 12,688 feet (3,867 meters) and West Spanish Peak, 13,626 feet (4,153 meters), Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado. (Footwarrior)
East Spanish Peak (left), 12,688 feet (3,867 meters) and West Spanish Peak, 13,626 feet (4,153 meters), Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado. (Footwarrior)
Charles F. Fisher. (Argenta Images)
Charles F. Fisher. (Argenta Images)

Chuck Fisher immediately took control of the B-52. He later reported,

“As the encounter progressed, a very sharp-edged blow which was followed by many more. We developed an almost instantaneous rate of roll at fairly high rate. The roll was to the far left and the nose was swinging up and to the right at a rapid rate. During the second portion of the encounter, the airplane motions actually seemed to be negating my control inputs. I had the rudder to the firewall, the column in my lap, and full wheel, and I wasn’t having any luck righting the airplane. In the short period after the turbulence I gave the order to prepare to abandon the airplane because I didn’t think we were going to keep it together.”

A Boeing report on the incident, based on installed sensors and instrumentation aboard -023, said that the bomber had

“. . . flown through an area containing the combined effects of a (wind) rotor associated with a mountain wave and lateral shear due to airflow around a mountain peak. . . Gust initially built up from the right to a maximum of about 45 feet per second [13.7 meters per second] (TAS), then reversed to a maximum of 36 feet per second [11 meters per second] from the left, before swinging to a maximum of about 147 feet per second [44.8 meters per second] from the left followed by a return to 31 feet per second [9.5 meters per second].”

Fisher flew the bomber back to Wichita and was met by a F-100 Super Sabre chase plane. When the extent of the damage was seen, the B-52 was diverted due to the gusty winds in Kansas. Six hours after the damage occurred, Chuck Fisher safely landed the airplane at Eaker Air Force Base, Blythville, Arkansas. He said it was, “the finest airplane I’ve ever flown.”

Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023, "Ten-Twenty-Three", after losing the vertical fin, 10 January 1964. (Boeing)
Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023, “Ten-Twenty-Three”, after losing the vertical fin, 10 January 1964. (Boeing)

61-023 was repaired and returned to service. It remained active with the United States Air Force until it was placed in storage at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, 24 July 2008.

Charles F. Fisher and the Boeing test crew with B-52H Stratofortress 61-023. (Boeing)
Charles F. Fisher at left,  and the Boeing test crew with B-52H Stratofortress 61-023. (Boeing)

The B-52H is a sub-sonic, swept wing, long-range strategic bomber. It has a crew of five. The airplane is 159 feet, 4 inches (48.6 meters) long, with a wing span of 185 feet (56.4 meters). It is 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters) high to the top of the vertical fin. Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 488,000 pounds (221,353 kilograms).

There are eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-3 turbofan engines mounted in two-engine pods suspended under the wings on four pylons. Each engine produces a maximum of 17,000 pounds of thrust (75.620 kilonewtons). The TF-33 is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine with 2 fan stages, 14-stage compressor stages (7 stage intermediate pressure, 7 stage high-pressure) and and 4-stage turbine (1 stage high-pressure, 3-stage low-pressure). The engine is 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters) long, 4 feet, 5.0 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter and weighs 3,900 pounds (15,377 kilograms).

The B-52H can carry approximately 70,000 pounds (31,750 kilograms) of ordnance, including free-fall bombs, precision-guided bombs, thermonuclear bombs and cruise missiles, naval mines and anti-ship missiles.

The bomber’s cruise speed is 520 miles per hour (837 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed is 650 miles per hour (1,046 kilometers per hour) at 23,800 feet (7,254 meters) at a combat weight of 306,350 pounds. Its service ceiling is 47,700 feet (14,539 meters) at the same combat weight. The unrefueled range is 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers).

With inflight refueling, the Stratofortress’s range is limited only by the endurance of its five-man crew.

The B-52H is the only version still in service. 102 were built and as of 27 September 2016, 76 are still in service. Beginning in 2013, the Air Force began a fleet-wide technological upgrade for the B-52H, including a digital avionics and communications system, as well as an internal weapons bay upgrade. The bomber is expected to remain in service until 2040.

Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023 taxiing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. (Senior Airman Cassandra Jones, U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023 taxiing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. (Senior Airman Cassandra Jones, U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

9 January 1941

BT308, the Avro Lancaster prototype, at RAF Ringway, 9 January 1941. (Avro Heritage Museum)
Captain Harry Albert (“Sam”) Brown, O.B.E. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

9 January 1941: Test pilot Captain Harry Albert (“Sam”) Brown, O.B.E., (1896–1953) makes the first flight of the Avro Lancaster prototype, BT308, at RAF Ringway, Cheshire, England, south of Manchester.

Throughout World War II, 7,377 of these long range heavy bombers were produced for the Royal Air Force. The majority were powered by Rolls-Royce or Packard Merlin V-12 engines—the same engines that powered the Supermarine Spitfire and North American P-51 Mustang fighters.

The bomber was designed by Roy Chadwick, F.R.S.A., F.R.Ae.S., the Chief Designer and Engineer of A. V. Roe & Company Limited, based on the earlier twin-engine Avro Manchester Mk.I. Because of this, it was originally designated as the Manchester Mk.III, before being re-named Lancaster. Chadwick was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, 2 June 1943, for his work.

The first prototype, BT308, was unarmed and had three small vertical fins.

Avro 683 Lancaster prototype BT308, shortly after the first flight at Manchester, 9 January 1941. (A.V.Roe via R.A.Scholefield) Photograph used with permission.
Avro 683 Lancaster prototype BT308, shortly after the first flight at RAF Ringway, Manchester, England, 9 January 1941. (A.V.Roe via R.A.Scholefield) Photograph is from The R.A. Scholefield Collection and is used with permission.

With the second prototype, DG595, the small center vertical fin was deleted and two larger fins were used at the outboard ends of a longer horizontal tailplane. DG595 was also equipped with power gun turrets at the nose, dorsal and ventral positions, and at the tail.

Avro Lancaster DG595, the second protoype of the Royal Air Force four-engine heavy bomber. This armed prototype has the twin-tail arrangement of the production aircraft. (Unattributed)
Avro Lancaster DG595, the second protoype of the Royal Air Force four-engine long range heavy bomber. This armed prototype has the twin-tail arrangement of the production aircraft. (Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Air Ministry clearance form for Avro 638 Lancaster BT308. Shown on page 1 are the aircraft's engine type and serial numbers.
Air Ministry clearance form for Avro 683 Lancaster BT308. Shown on page 1 are the aircraft’s engine type and serial numbers.
Air Ministry test flight clearance form, Page 2.
Air Ministry test flight clearance form, Page 2. This form is signed by the airplane’s designer, Roy Chadwick, 5 January 1941.

The first production model, Lancaster Mk.I, was operated by a crew of seven: pilot, flight engineer, navigator/bombardier, radio operator and three gunners. It was a large, all-metal, mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was 68 feet, 11 inches (21.001 meters) long with a wingspan of 102 feet, 0 inches (31.090) meters and an overall height of 19 feet, 6 inches (5.944 meters). The Mk.I had an empty weight of 36,900 pounds (16,738 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 68,000 pounds (30,909 kilograms).

BT308 and early production Lancasters were equipped with four liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,648.96-cubic-inch-displacement (27.01 liter), Roll-Royce Merlin XX single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines, which were rated at 1,480 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. to 6,000 feet (1,829 meters). The Merlins drove three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic quick-feathering, constant-speed airscrews (propellers), which had a diameter of 13 feet, 0 inches (3.962 meters), through a 0.420:1 gear reduction.

DG595 was used for performance testing at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down. The Mark I had a maximum economic cruise speed of 267 miles per hour (430 kilometers per hour) at 20,800 feet (6,340 meters), and a maximum speed of 286 miles per hour (460 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) at a gross weight of 45,300 pounds (20,548 kilograms).¹ Its service ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) at 64,500 pounds (29,257 kilograms). It had a range of  2,530 miles (4,072 kilometers) with a 7,000 pound (3,175 kilogram) bomb load.

The Lancaster was designed to carry a 14,000 pound (6,350 kilogram) bomb load, but modified bombers carried the 22,000 pound (9,979 kilogram) Grand Slam bomb. For defense, the standard Lancaster had eight Browning .303-caliber Mark II machine guns in three power-operated turrets, with a total of 14,000 rounds of ammunition.

According to the Royal Air Force, “Almost half all Lancasters delivered during the war (3,345 of 7,373) were lost on operations with the loss of over 21,000 crew members.”

Only two airworthy Avro Lancasters are in existence.

The Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster Mk.I, PA474. This airplane was built in 1945 by Vickers Armstongs Ltd. at Broughton, Wales, United Kingdom. (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight)
The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Avro Lancaster Mk.X FM213, flies formation with an Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornet. The bomber is marked VR A and nicknamed “Vera.” FM213 was built by Victory Aircraft Ltd., Malton, Ontario, Canada. (Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum)

¹ Speeds shown are True Air Speed (T.A.S.)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather