Tag Archives: Circumnavigation

11 June 1971–4 August 1971

Sheila Scott on the wing of her Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D, Mythre, G-AYTO, 1971. (NASA)
Sheila Scott on the wing of her Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D, Mythre, G-AYTO, 1971. (NASA)

11 June 1971: Sheila Scott O.B.E. (née Sheila Christine Hopkins) departed Nairobi, Kenya, on her third solo around-the-world flight. On this flight she used a new airplane, a twin-engine Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D which she named Mythre. It carried United Kingdom registration G-AYTO. Scott used a NASA navigation and locator communication system to constantly relay her position to a Nimbus weather satellite, and from there to a ground station.

Sheila Scott's Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D, G-ATYO. Mythre.
Sheila Scott’s Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D, G-ATYO, Mythre, at Kidlington Airport, Oxfordshire, England, 1971. (Tim R. Badham)

Sheila Scott planned to not only fly around the world, but to fly from the Equator, over the North Pole, and back to the Equator again. She flew her Aztec from London, England, to Nairobi, Kenya, where she began the Equator–North Pole–Equator portion of the flight.

Scott took off from Nairobi on 11 June 1971 and headed northward to Khartoum, Sudan; Bengazi, Libya; Malta; arriving back at London on 21 June. From there she continued to Bodø, Norway; Andøya, Norway; Station Nord, Greenland; across the North Pole on 28 June; then southward to Barrow, Alaska; arriving at Anchorage, Alaska, on 3 July; San Francisco, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, on 11 July. She recrossed the Equator heading south to Canton Island. On 23 July, Mythre arrived at Nadi, Viti Levu, Fiji, and then flew on to Noumea, New Caledonia. After a stop at Townsville, Queensland, Scott arrived at Darwin, Northern Teritory, Australia, 1 August. From there she continued to Singapore; Madras, India; Karachi, Pakistan; Bahrain; Athens, Greece; and finally completed her journey at London on 4 August. The trip took 55 days.

During the circumnavigation, Sheila Scott set seven Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed Over a Recognized Course: Andøya, Norway, to Station Nord, Greenland, 213.61 kilometers per hour (132.73 miles per hour) ¹; Nord to Barrow, Alaska, 183.73 km/h (114.16 mph) ²; San Francisco, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, 236.56 km/h (146.99 mph) ³; Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, to London, England, 160.19 km/h (99.54mph). ⁴ Three of these records remain current. ⁵

Ms. Scott’s airplane was a 1971 Piper 23-250 Aztec (“Aztec D”), serial number 27-4568. The airplane was assigned the United Kingdom registration G-AYTO on 3 March 1971. The Aztec D was a six-place twin-engine light airplane based on the earlier PA-23-235 Apache, with a larger cabin and more powerful engines. It was of all-metal construction and had retractable tricycle landing gear. The Aztec D is 31 feet, 2.625 inches (9.516 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 1.750 inches (11.322 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 3.875 inches (3.146 meters). The wing has 5° dihedral. It has an empty weight of 3,042 pounds (1,380 kilograms) and a gross weight of 5,200 pounds (2,359 kilograms).

The Aztec D is powered by two air-cooled, fuel-injected, 541.511-cubic-inch-displacement (8.874 liter) AVCO Lycoming IO-540-C4B5 6-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, direct-drive engines. The -C4B5 has a compression ratio of 8.5:1 and a Maximum Continuous Power/Takeoff rating of 250 horsepower at 2,575 r.p.m. It weighs 374 pounds (170 kilograms). The engines drive two-bladed Hartzell constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 6 feet, 2 inches (1.880 meters).

The PA-23-250 Aztec D has a maximum structural cruising speed (VNO) of 172 knots (198 miles per hour/319 kilometers per hour) at 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) and maximum speed (VNE) of 216 knots 249 miles per hour (400 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 19,800 feet (6,035 meters). With standard fuel capacity of 144 gallons (545 liters) the airplane’s range is 1,055 miles (1,698 kilometers). Mythre carried an auxiliary fuel tank in the passenger cabin.

After the around-the-world flight, Scott returned Mythre to the Piper Aircraft Company at Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, for overhaul. Following Tropical Storm Agnes in June 1972, the Piper factory was flooded to a depth of 16 feet (4.9 meters) and Scott’s airplane, along with many others and much of the tooling for aircraft manufacture, was destroyed.

Sheila Scott's Piper Aztec, Mythre, over the North Pole, by Paul Couper, 2008
“Sheila Scott over the Top—Piper Aztec,” by Paul Couper, Guild of Aviation Artists, 2008. 62 × 52 centimeters, oil/acrylic.

This painting is available from the Guild of Aviation Artists at:

http://www.gava.org.uk/index.php?option=com_phocagallery&searchterm=Paul%20Couper&view=category&id=12&Itemid=534&picsearch=simple

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 4622, 4623

² FAI Record File Number 14203

³ FAI Record File Numbers 4626, 4627

⁴ FAI Record File Numbers 4624, 4625

⁵ FAI Record File Numbers 4622, 4626, 14203

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 June 1937

Reception for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at Dakar, French West Africa. (Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections)

8 June 1937: Leg 11. After landing at Saint-Louis, French West Africa, the previous evening, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan reposition the Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, to Dakar, their intended destination. They lay over until 10 June for rest and maintenance on the airplane.

“On the morning of June 8 we flew the 163 miles from St. Louis. The chief reason I decided to lay over a day at Dakar instead of proceeding east was because my fuelmeter gave out two hours after we left Natal. The very efficient chief mechanic at Dakar discovered that a piece of the shaft was broken. While he worked on that – a difficult job to manage from a blueprint printed in English, which he did not understand, in an aeroplane he did not know – I had a forty-hour check of the engines, probably all they would need until we reached Karachi.” —Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E NR16020 being serviced at Dakar, French West Africa. (Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections)
Straight line distance Saint-Louis to Dakar, French West Africa: 112.16 miles (180.5 kilometers). (Google Maps)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 May 1937

Amelia Earhart prepares to leave Burbank, California, 21 May 1937.
Amelia Earhart prepares to leave Burbank, California, 21 May 1937.

21 May 1937: Day 2 of Amelia Earhart’s second attempt to fly around the world aboard her Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, fly from Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, to Tucson, Arizona, where they stopped to refuel. Earhart’s husband, George Palmer Putnam, and aircraft mechanic Ruckins D. “Bo” McKneely were also aboard.¹

When Earhart attempted to restart the left engine at Tucson, it caught fire. An unplanned overnight stay was required while the damage was repaired.

“Accompanying me on this hop across the continent was Fred Noonan. “Bo” McKneely my mechanic, and Mr. Putnam. A leisurely afternoon’s flight ended at Tucson, Arizona. The weather was sailing hot as Arizona can be in summertime. After landing and checking in, when I started my motors again to taxi to the filling pit the left one back-fired and burst into flames. For a few seconds it was nip-and-tuck whether the fire would get away from us. There weren’t adequate extinguishers ready on the ground but fortunately the Lux apparatus built in the engine killed the fire. The damage was trivial, mostly some pungently cooked rubber fittings a deal of dirty grime. The engine required a good cleaning and the ship a face-washing.” —Amelia Earhart

¹ Although the standard Lockheed Electra 10E was certified to carry up to 10 passengers, the Restricted certification of NR16020 limited it to, “Only bona fide members of the crew to be carried.” The presence of Putnam and McKneely violated this restriction.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 May 1937

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020.

After her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, was repaired by Lockheed following a takeoff accident at Wheeler Field, Oahu, in March, Amelia Earhart repositioned it to Oakland Municipal Airport to begin her second attempt to fly around the world. Because of changing weather patterns since the earlier attempt, this time her route will be eastward.

On 20 May 1937, without any public notice, Earhart and her navigator, Captain Frederick J. Noonan, left Oakland, California, on the first leg of the trip: 325 miles (523 kilometers) to Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California (now, Hollywood Burbank Airport—BUR), where the airplane was manufactured and repaired. They arrived at about 6:00 p.m. and remained there over night.

“The rebuilt Electra came out of the Lockheed plant on May 19. Two days later we flew it to Oakland. . .  As that time we had made no announcement of my decision to reverse the direction of the flight. It seemed sensible to slip away as quietly as we could. While I was actually heading for Miami, with hope of keeping on from there eastward, technically the journey from Burbank across the country was a shake-down flight. If difficulties developed we would bring the ship back to the Lockheed plant for further adjustments.” —Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart in the cockpit of her Electra. (Rudy Arnold Collection)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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1–3 May 1976

Pan American World Airways' record-setting Boeing 747SP Clipper Liberty Bell, (View Liner)
Pan American World Airways’ record-setting Boeing 747SP-21 Clipper Liberty Bell. (ViewLiner Ltd.)

1–3 May 1976: Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 747SP-21 Clipper Liberty Bell, N533PA, departed New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, on a record-setting around the world flight. Under the command of Captain Walter H. Mullikan, the airline’s chief pilot, the flight crew included co-pilots Albert A. Frink, Lyman G. Watt, and flight engineers Frank Cassaniti and Edwards Shields. The airliner carried 98 passengers. The flight set a new speed record for a flight around the world, eastbound, and three speed records for commercial airline routes.

Clipper Liberty Bell flew eastward from New York JFK to Indira Ghandi International Airport (DEL), New Delhi, India, a distance of 8,081 miles (13,005.1 kilometers), at an average speed of 869.63 kilometers per hour (540.363 miles per hour). After servicing the 747, it continued on its journey. The next destination was Tokyo International Airport (HND), Tokyo, Japan. This stage covered 7,539 miles (12,132.8 kilometers). The airliner’s average speed was 421.20 kilometers per hour (261.722 miles per hour). After refueling, the Pan American flight continued on to its starting point, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, New York. This final leg was 7,517 miles (12,097.4 kilometers). The average speed was 912.50 kilometers per hour (567.001 miles per hour).

The total duration of the flight was 46 hours, 1 second. The actual flight time was 39 hours, 25 minutes, 53 seconds. Total distance flown was 23,137 miles (37,235.4 kilometers). The average speed for the entire flight was 809.24 kilometers per hour (502.838 miles per hour).

FAI Record File Num #5670 [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 around the world. Eastbound
Performance: 809.24 km/h
Date: 1976-05-03
Course/Location: New York, NY (USA) and return (via New Delhi, Tokyo)
Claimant Walter H. Mullikin (USA)
Crew Albert A. FRINK & Lyman G. WATT (co-pilots), Frank CASSANITI & Edwards SHIELDS (Flight engineer)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747SP-21 (N533PA)
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D

FAI Record File Num #5671 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a Commercial Airline Route
Performance: 869.63 km/h
Date: 1976-05-02
Course/Location: New York, NY (USA) – New Delhi (India)
Claimant Walter H. Mullikin (USA)
Crew Albert A. FRINK & Lyman G. WATT (co-pilots), Frank CASSANITI & Edwards SHIELDS (Flight engineer)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747SP-21 (N533PA)
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D

FAI Record File Num #5669 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a Commercial Airline Route
Performance: 421.20 km/h
Date: 1976-05-03
Course/Location: New Delhi (India) – Tokyo (Japan)
Claimant Walter H. Mullikin (USA)
Crew Albert A. FRINK & Lyman G. WATT (co-pilots), Frank CASSANITI & Edwards SHIELDS (Flight engineer)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747SP-21 (N533PA)
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D

FAI Record File Num #1338 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a Commercial Airline Route
Performance: 912.50 km/h
Date: 1976-05-03
Course/Location: Tokyo (Japan) – New York, NY (USA)
Claimant Walter H. Mullikin (USA)
Crew Albert A FRINK, Lyman G. WATT, Frank CASSANITI, Edward SCHIELDS
Aeroplane: Boeing 747 SP
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D

The Boeing 747SP (“Special Performance”) is a very long range variant of the 747-100 series airliners. It has a shorter fuselage and larger tail surface than the standard model. The weight savings allows it to carry more fuel for longer flights, and it is also faster. Boeing built 45 747SPs.

The 747SP is 184 feet, 9 inches (56.312 meters) long, with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters). It has an overall height of 65 feet, 10 inches (20.066 meters). It has a maximum takeoff weight of 670,000 pounds.

The airliner has a cruising speed of 0.88 Mach (616 miles per hour, or 991 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 0.92 Mach (680 knots, 1,094 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 45,100 feet (13,746 meters) and the range is 7,650 miles (12,311 kilometers), carrying 276 passengers and baggage. The fuel capacity is 47,210 gallons. (178,709 liters).

Boeing 747SP-21 N40135, c/n 21025, 1 January 1975. (747SP.com)

The record-setting Boeing 747SP-21, serial number 21025, was the fourth Special Performance 747 built, and one of 10 that had been ordered by Pan American World Airways. It first flew 8 October 1975, in Boeing’s corporate paint scheme. It was retained for use in the test fleet. When testing was completed the airliner was refurbished and repainted in the Pan Am livery. It was delivered to the airline 5 March 1976 and registered N533PA.

In 1977, Captain Mullikin flew the same 747SP on another circumnavigation, but this time it crossed both the North and South Poles. Renamed Clipper New Horizons, 21025 set a record on that flight as well, with a total flight time of 54 hours, 7 minutes, 12 seconds. While in the Pan Am fleet, N533PA also carried the names Clipper Young America and Clipper San Francisco.

Pan Am Boeing 747SP-21, Clipper Young America, N533PA, c/n 21025, circa 1985. (747SP.com)

Pan American sold its fleet of Boeing 747SPs to United Airlines in 1986. 21025 was re-registered N143UA to reflect its new ownership. After twenty years, 21025 was removed from service in 1995 and placed in storage at Ardmore, Oklahoma. It was scrapped in December 1997. The airliner had accumulated 78,941 total flight hours on its airframe (TTAF) with 10,733 cycles.

United Air Lines’ Boeing 747SP-21 N143UA, c/n 21025. (747SP.com)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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