11 June 1926: The first production Ford 4-AT-A Tri-Motor, serial number 4-AT-1, flew for the first time at Ford Airport, Dearborn, Michigan. It was registered NC2435.
Designed and built by the Stout Metal Airplane Division of the Ford Motor Company as a commercial passenger transport, the Ford Tri-Motor was a high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear, similar to the Fokker F.VII/3m. One engine was mounted at the nose, and two more were suspended under the wings. It had a crew of three and could carry up to eight passengers in a completely enclosed cabin.
A distinctive feature of the Tri-Motor’s construction was the corrugated metal skin which was used to provide strength and rigidity. Corrugated skin panels had been used on the Junkers F.13 in 1919. When Ford began marketing the Tri-Motor in Europe, Junkers sued for patent infringement and won. Ford counter-sued in a different court, and Junkers won again.)
Changes to production airplanes came quickly and no two of the early Tri-Motors were exactly alike.
The Ford 4-AT-A was 49 feet, 10 inches (15.189 meters) long with a wingspan of 74 feet, 00 inches (22.555 meters) and height of 11 feet, 9 inches (3.581 meters). It had an empty weight of 5,937 pounds (2,693 kilograms) and gross weight of 9,300 pounds (4,218 kilograms).
The 4-AT-A was powered by three air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.90 liter), Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-4 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engines. The J-4 Whirlwind had a compressionn ration of 5.3″1 producing 215 h.p. at 1,800 r.p.m., each, and turning two-bladed propellers. The J-4 Whirlwind was 34.0 inches (0.864 meters) long, 44.0 inches (1.118 meters) in diameter, and weighed 475 pounds (215 kilograms).
The Tri-Motor 4-AT-A could cruise at 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 114 miles per hour (184 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and it had a range of 500 miles (805 kilometers).
This airplane was very popular at the time and was the foundation for many commercial airlines. Several were also in military service. Between 1926 and 1933, Ford built 199 Tri-Motors. Though advances in aeronautics quickly made the Tri-Motor obsolete, its ruggedness and simplicity kept it in service around the world for decades.
The very first production Ford Tri-Motor was operated by Ford’s airline, Ford Air Transport Service. It was re-registered NC1492. At 8:45 a.m., 12 May 1928, 4-AT-1 stalled on takeoff at Dearborn. The airliner crashed and caught fire. Pilots William Alexander Munn, 32, and Earl Kenneth Parker, 31, were killed.
30 May 1958: Douglas Aircraft Company Flight Operations Manager and engineering test pilot Arnold G. Heimerdinger, with co-pilot William M. Magruder and systems engineer Paul H. Patten, were scheduled to take off from Long Beach Airport (LGB) on the coast of southern California, at 10:00 a.m., to make the first flight of the new Douglas DC-8 jet airliner, c/n 45252, FAA registration N8008D.
Crowds of spectators, estimated as many as 50,000 people, were surrounding the airport. For this first test flight, the Federal Aviation Administration required a minimum of five miles visibility. Typical Southern California coastal low clouds and fog caused a ten minute delay.
Taking off at 10:10 a.m., N8008D climbed out to the south over the Pacific Ocean. Escorted by a company-owned Douglas DC-7 engineering and photo plane and a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star chase, the DC-8 climbed to 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) and went through a series of pre-planned flight maneuvers and systems checks. Heimerdinger took the airliner north to Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California, where the full flight test program would be carried out. The total duration of the first flight was 2 hours, 10 minutes.
In an article written the following year, Heimerdinger said that the DC-8 was easy to fly and never presented any difficulties during the test program.
The Douglas DC-8 Jetliner is a commercial airliner, a contemporary of the Boeing 707 and Convair 880. It was operated by a flight crew of three and could carry up to 177 passengers. It was powered by four turbojet engines mounted on pylons suspended below the wings. The wings’ leading edges were swept to 30° as were the vertical fin and horizontal tailplane. The airplane is 150 feet, 6 inches (45.872 meters) long with a wingspan of 142 feet, 5 inches (43.409 meters) and overall height of 42 feet, 4 inches (12.903 meters). N8008D was a Series 10 version. It had an empty weight of 119,767 pounds (54,325 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 273,000 pounds (123,831 kilograms).
N8008D was originally powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6 turbojet engines, the same engines which powered its Boeing rival. It is a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. The JT3C-6 was rated at 11,200 pounds of thrust (49.82 kilonewtons), and 13,500 pounds (60.05 kilonewtons) with water/methanol injection). The JT3C is 11 feet, 6.6 inches (3.520 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.9 inches (0.988 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,235 pounds (1,921 kilograms). The engines were later upgraded to JT3D-1 turbofan engines which produced 17,000 pounds of thrust.
The DC-8-10 series had a cruising speed of 0.82 Mach (542 miles per hour/872 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Its maximum range was 5,092 miles (8,195 kilometers).
On 21 August 1961, a Douglas DC-8-43, N9604Z, c/n 45623, Line Number 130, flown by Chief Test Pilot William Magruder, Paul Patten, Joseph Tomich and Richard Edwards, climbed to 50,090 feet (15,267 meters) near Edwards Air Force Base. Magruder put the DC-8 into a dive, and the airplane reached Mach 1.012 (668 miles per hour/1,075 kilometers per hour) while descending through 41,088 feet (12,524 meters). The airliner maintained this supersonic speed for 16 seconds.
This was the first time that a civil airliner had “broken the Sound Barrier.” An Air Force F-100 Super Sabre and F-104 Starfighter were chase planes for this flight. Reportedly, the F-104 was flown by the legendary test pilot, Colonel Chuck Yeager.
N9604Z was powered by four Rolls-Royce Conway RCo.12 Mk 509 two-shaft axial-flow turbofan engines, rated at 17,500 pounds of thrust (77.844 kilonewtons) at 9,990 r.p.m. The 509 is 11 feet, 3.9 inches (3.452 meters) long, 3 feet, 6.2 inches (1.072 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,542 pounds (2,060 kilograms).
N9604Z was delivered to Canadian Pacific Airlines, 15 November 1961, registered CF-CPG, and named Empress of Montreal. It later flew under CP Air as Empress of Buenos Aires. It was scrapped at Opa Locka Municipal Airport, north of Miami, Florida, in May 1981.
In 1960, N8008D was converted to the DC-8-51 configuration. With a change to the more powerful JT3D-1 turbofan engines, the airliners maximum takeoff weight was increased to 276,000 pounds (125,191 kilograms).
After the flight test and commercial certification program was completed, on 21 June 1961, Douglas leased N8008D to National Airlines, based at Miami, Florida. One year later, 20 June 1961, it was sold to Trans International Airlines. TIA leased the DC-8 to Lufthansa, 11 May 1965, and to Canadian Pacific, 1 October 1966. It was re-registered CF-CPN and named Empress of Santiago.
TIA sold the DC-8 to Delta Airlines, Atlanta, Georgia, 1 October 1967. It reverted to its FAA-assigned registration, N8008D. Delta gave it fleet number 800.
In March 1979, Delta sold N8008D to F.B. Myers and Associates. On 1 April, F.B. Myers leased the it to Aerovias de México, S.A. de C.V. (Aeroméxico). The DC-8 was assigned Mexican registration XA-DOE and named Quintana Roo.
The first Douglas DC-8 was placed in storage at Marana-Pinal Airpark, north of Tucson, Arizona, 7 January 1982. In May 1989, it was sold to Agro Air, a Caribbean regional cargo airline. It remained at Marana and was used as a source of parts. In 2001, c/n 45252 it was scrapped.
Between 1959 and 1972, Douglas produced 556 DC-8s in passenger and freighter configurations.
Arnold George Heimerdinger was born in Manchester Township, Michigan, 7 December 1910. His parents were Charles and Minnie L. Uphaus Heimerdinger. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. Heimerdinger married Miss Mary Aileen Eggert 19 August 1935.
A.G. Heimerdinger was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy, 27 November 1942 and served as a Naval Aviator until he was released from active duty, 14 October 1945.
Heimerdinger worked as an engineering test pilot for the Federal Aviation Administration, and he flew certification tests of the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, Convair 240 and 340 Metroliner, and the Lockheed L-640 and L-1049 Constellation.
He joined the Douglas Aircraft Company at Santa Monica, California, in 1952 and remained with the company until he retired in 1974. He was the project test pilot for the Douglas DC-6B and the DC-7. Transferring to Douglas’ Long Beach Division, a few miles southeast, he was project test pilot for the DC-8 and DC-9 jet airliners.
Arnold G. “Heimie” Heimerdinger died at Santa Monica, California, 17 July 1975.
28 April 1937: The first transpacific flight by a commercial passenger airliner is completed when Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130, China Clipper, arrived at Hong Kong. The flight had departed San Francisco Bay, California, on 21 April with 7 revenue passengers and then proceeded across the Pacific Ocean by way of Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam, Manila, Macau, and finally Hong Kong. The Reuters news agency briefly reported the event:
AIR LINK AROUND WORLD FORGED.
China Clipper Lands At Hong Kong.
Hong Kong, April 28.
The Pan-American Airways flying boat China Clipper landed at 11:55 this morning from Manila and Macao. This links the Pan-American and Imperial Airways, completing the commercial air link round the world. —Reuter.
—The Straits Times, 28 April 1937, Page 1, Column 4.
The China Clipper, NC14716, was the first of three Martin M-130 four-engine flying boats built for Pan American Airways and was used to inaugurate the first commercial transpacific air service from San Francisco to Manila in November, 1935. Built at a cost of $417,000 by the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, Maryland, it first flew on 20 December 1934, and was delivered to Pan Am on October 9, 1935.
The airplane was operated by a flight crew of 6 to 9, depending on the length of the flight, plus cabin staff, and could carry 18 passengers on overnight flights or a maximum 36 passengers.
The Martin M-130 was 90 feet, 10.5 inches (27.699 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 0 inches (39.624 meters). It was 24 feet, 7 inches (7.493 meters) high. Its maximum takeoff weight was 52,252 pounds (23,701 kilograms).
The flying boat was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.389-cubic-inch displacement (29.978 liters) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S2A5-G engines. These were two-row, 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The S2A5-G was rated at 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. for takeoff, burning 87-octane gasoline. They drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The engine was 3 feet, 11.88 inches (1.216 meters) in diameter and 4 feet, 8.75 inches (1.441 meters) long. It weighed 1,235 pounds (560 kilograms).
The airplane had a maximum speed of 180 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour), and a cruise speed of 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and its range was 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers).
1 March 1962: Los Angeles Airways inaugurated scheduled passenger service utilizing twin-engine, turbine-powered helicopters.
Shown in the photograph above is LAA’s Sikorsky S-61L, FAA registration N300Y, at the Disneyland Heliport, Anaheim, California. LAA was the first civil operator of the S-61, purchasing them at a cost of $650,000, each. N300Y was the prototype S-61L, serial number 61031. On 14 August 1968, N300Y suffered a catastrophic main rotor spindle failure and crashed at Leuders Park, Compton, California. All 21 persons aboard were killed.
Los Angeles Airways began operations in 1947 and continued until 1971. It flew Sikorsky S-51, S-55 and S-61L helicopters.
The Sikorsky S-61L was a civil variant of the United States Navy HSS-2 Sea King and was the first helicopter specifically built for airline use. The prototype, N300Y, first flew 2 November 1961. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. Although HSS-2 fuselage is designed to allow landing on water, the S-61L is not amphibious, having standard landing gear rather than the sponsons of the HSS-2 (and civil S-61N).
The S-61L fuselage is 4 feet, 2 inches (1.270 meters) longer than that of the HSS-2. The S-61L is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 16 feet, 10 inches (5.131 meters) high, with rotors turning. The fully-articulated main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The tail rotor also has five blades and a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.149 meters). They each have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). At 100% NR, the main rotor turns 203 r.p.m. and the tail rotor, 1,244 r.p.m.
The S-61L was powered by two General Electric CT58-110 turboshaft engines, each of which had a continuous power rating of 1,050 shaft horsepower and maximum power of 1,250 shaft horsepower. The main transmission was rated for 2,300 horsepower, maximum.
The S-61 has a cruise speed of 166 miles per hour (267 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 12,500 feet (3,810 meters). Its maximum takeoff weight is 20,500 pounds (9,298.6 kilograms).
Between 1958 and 1980, Sikorsky built 794 S-61-series helicopters. 13 were S-61Ls.
5–6 February 1946: Transcontinental and Western Airlines—TWA—”The Trans World Airline,” flew its first revenue international passengers on a scheduled transatlantic flight from La Guardia Field, New York (LGA) to Aéroport de Paris-Orly, Paris (ORY).
The airplane was a Lockheed L-049 Constellation, serial number 2035, NC86511, named Star of Paris, under the command of Captain Harold F. Blackburn. Captains Jack Hermann and John M. Calder, Navigator M. Chrisman and Flight Engineers Art Ruhanen, Ray McBride and Jack Rouge completed the flight crew. Purser Don Shiemwell and Hostess Ruth Schmidt were in the cabin along with 36 passengers.
Star of Paris departed LaGuardia at 2:21 p.m., EST, 5 February. The flight made brief stops at Gander, Newfoundland (YQX) and Shannon, Ireland (SNN), and arrived at Orly Field, at 3:57 p.m., February 6. The elapsed time was 16 hours, 21 minutes.
Confusion exists over which TWA Constellation made the first scheduled flight from LGA to ORY. This is probably because two days earlier, 3 February, another L-049, Paris Sky Chief, NC86505, s/n 2026, also commanded by Hal Blackburn, flew from Washington National Airport (DCA) to Paris Orly as a trial. On that flight, the Constellation averaged 316 miles per hour (509 kilometers per hour). This non-scheduled trip took 14 hours, 47 minutes, total elapsed time, with 12 hours 57 minutes actual flight time. Paris Sky Chief‘s TWA fleet number was 505, while Star of Paris was number 555.
Harold F. Blackburn was born in 1901 at Urbana, Illinois. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1928, and studied aviation at the University of Southern California. He received his Air Corps pilot’s wings in 1930.
In 1932, Blackburn participated in the relief of the Native American reservations near Winslow, Arizona, which had been cut off by a winter storm. His entire unit, the 11th Bombardment Squadron, based at March Field, Riverside, California, was awarded the Mackay Trophy.
Lieutenant Blackburn married Miss Martha Bondurant in 1932. They would have a son Robert, and daughters Beverly, Bonnie and Betty. Beverly died in infancy 1 December 1943. Blackburn would later marry Helen Jones.
Hal Blackburn began flying with TWA in 1934 and remained with the company for over 25 years. During World War II, he flew Boeing 377s across the South Atlantic for the airline’s Intercontinental Division, of which he would become the manager. In addition to the New York-Paris flight in 1946, Blackburn flew TWA’s first Boeing 707 from New York to Paris in 1961.
“Blackie,” as he is known to his friends, has been an active pilot since 1919. His air time equals three years spent above the earth’s surface during which he has logged more than six and a half million miles . . . The Washington Post named him the “Ideal Father” in 1946. Capt. Blackburn also assisted with the formation of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and Deutsche-Lufthansa. Viewed by the news media as the ideal model pilot, Capt. Blackburn has been the subject of two lengthy profiles in the New Yorker magazine . . . In 26,800 hours of flying, Capt. Blackburn never injured a passenger, nor damaged an aircraft, and was never late for a flight. Married for 32 years, he is the father of four children and three times a grandfather. He resides in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. He retired from flying in 1962. His last flight, in command of a TWA SuperJet [the company’s name for the Boeing 707 or Convair 880] from Rome to New York, was the subject of an hour-long television documentary.
—The Indiana Gazette, Monday, 14 October 1963, Page 5 at Columns 2–4
Captain Blackburn was the subject of Like a Homesick Angel, a biography by John Bainbridge, Houghton Mifflin, 1964. He died at Oakland, California, 4 August 1989, at the age of 87 years.
Star of Paris (serial number 2035), a Lockheed Model L-049-46 Constellation, had been built at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s Burbank, California, plant and delivered to Transcontinental and Western in December 1945. The airliner remained in service with TWA until 1 September 1961. During that time it was also named Star of Dublin.
The Lockheed Constellation first flew in 1942, and was produced for the U.S. Army Air Corps as the C-69. With the end of World War II, commercial airlines needed new airliners for the post-war boom. The Constellation had transoceanic range and a pressurized cabin for passenger comfort.
The Lockheed L-049 Constellation was operated by a flight crew of four and could carry up to 81 passengers. The airplane was 95 feet, 1 3⁄16 inches (28.986 meters) long with a wingspan of 123 feet, 0 inches (37.490 meters), and overall height of 23 feet, 7⅞ inches (7.210 meters). It had an empty weight of 49,392 pounds (22,403.8 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 86,250 pounds (39,122.3 kilograms).
The L-049 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged and fuel-injected, 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 ¹ 745C18BA3 two-row 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The -BA3 was rated at 2,000 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., or 2,200 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., for takeoff, (five minute limit). The engines drove 15 foot, 2 inch (4.623 meter) diameter, three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The 745C18BA3 was 6 feet, 4.13 inches (1.934 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.78 inches (1.417 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,842 pounds (1,289.11 kilograms).
The L-049 had a cruise speed of 313 miles per hour (503.72 kilometers per hour) and a range of 3,995 miles (6,429.3 kilometers). Its service ceiling was 25,300 feet (7,711 meters).
22 C-69s and 856 Constellations of all types were built. Designed by the famous Kelly Johnson, the Lockheed Constellation was in production from 1943–1958 in both civilian airliner and military transport versions. It is the classic propeller-driven transcontinental and transoceanic airliner.
On 18 November 1950, TWA’s Constellation NC86511 suffered failures of the two inboard engines while taking off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The airliner was diverted to nearby Long Beach Airport (LGB) for an emergency landing. The crew made an instrument approach and could not see the runway until the last moment, touching down at approximately midway. The runway was wet and the airplane could not be stopped before running off the end. The right main landing gear collapsed. The Constellation was damaged but repaired and returned to service. It was later renamed Star of Dublin.
On 1 September 1961, NC86511 was operating as TWA Flight 529 from Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) to Los Angeles, California. Shortly after takeoff a mechanical failure caused to airplane to pitch up and stall. The flight crew was unable to regain control of the Constellation and it crashed in a field near Hinsdale, Illinois. All 78 persons on board were killed.