Tag Archives: Commercial Transport

5 October 1930

Rigid Airship R101, G-FAAW, at mooring mast. (The Airship Heritage Trust)
Rigid Airship R.101, G-FAAW, at its mooring mast, RAF Cardington. (The Airship Heritage Trust)
Flight Lieutenant Herbert Carmichael Irwin, AFC, Royal Air Force (1894 –1930)
Flight Lieutenant Herbert Carmichael Irwin, A.F.C., Royal Air Force.

5 October 1930: Two days after receiving its Certificate of Airworthiness from the Air Ministry, the British rigid airship R.101, registration G-FAAW, was on its maiden voyage from Cardington, Bedfordshire, England, to Karachi, India, with 12 passengers and a crew of 42. The new airship was under the command of Flight Lieutenant Herbert Carmichael (“Bird”) Irwin, A.F.C., Royal Air Force, a highly experienced airship commander.

Among the passengers were Lord Thomson, Secretary of State for Air, Sir Sefton Brancker, Director of Civil Aviation, and several senior Royal Air Force officers who had been involved in the planning and development of the airship.

R.101 was the largest aircraft that had been built up to that time. Not until the Hindenburg was built five years later would there be anything bigger. Its teardrop shape and been developed in wind tunnel testing and actual flights with R33, which had been extensively modified to obtain detailed flight data.

R.101 required a minimum flight crew of fifteen: a first officer, two second officers, two helmsmen and ten engineers.

The airship was 777 feet, 2½ inches (236.893 meters) long and 131 feet, 9 inches (40.157 meters) in diameter. The airship had an overall height of 141 feet, 7 inches (43.155 meters). Built of stainless steel girders which were designed and constructed by Boulton & Paul Ltd., and covered with doped fabric, buoyancy was created by hydrogen gas contained in bags spaced throughout the envelope. The airship had an empty weight of 113 tons (114,813 kilograms), and 169.85 tons (380,464 kilograms) of gross lift capacity.

The maximum gas capacity of the airship was 5,508,800 cubic feet (155,992 cubic meters). The hydrogen weighed 71.2 pounds per 1,000 cubic feet (32.3 kilograms/28.3 cubic meters).

The airship’s fuel capacity was 9,408 gallons (42,770 liters) and it carried 215 gallons (977 liters) of lubricating oil.

R.101 was powered by five steam-cooled, 5,131.79-cubic-inch-displacement (84.095 liters) William Beardmore & Company Ltd. Tornado Mark III inline 8-cylinder heavy-oil compression-ignition (diesel) engines. These were developed from railroad engines. Each engine weighed 4,773 pounds (2,165 kilograms). They could produce 650 horsepower, each, at 935 r.p.m., but because of vibrations resulting from the very long crankshaft, engine speed was reduced to 890 r.pm., which decreased power output to 585 horsepower. Two of the engines, designated Mark IIIR, could be stopped then restarted to run in the opposite direction to slow or reverse the airship.

The engines turned 16 foot (4.877 meter) diameter two-bladed wooden propellers, which gave R101 a maximum speed of 71 miles per hour (114.3 kilometers per hour), with a sustained cruising speed of 63 miles per hour (101.4 kilometers per hour).

A  400 man ground handling crew walks R.101 out of its shed at Cardington, Bedfordshire. This photograph shows the immense size of the airship. (The Airship Heritage Trust)

R.101 departed its base at Cardington, Bedfordshire, on 4 October and soon encountered rain and high winds which continually blew it off course. The course was constantly adjusted to compensate and by 2:00 a.m., 5 October, the airship was in the vicinity of Beauvais Ridge in northern France, “which is an area notorious for turbulent wind conditions.”

At 0207 hours, R.101 went into an 18° dive which lasted approximately 90 seconds before the flight crew was able to recover. It then went into a second 18° degree dive and impacted the ground at 13.8 miles per hour (22.2 kilometers per hour). There was a second impact about 60 feet (18 meters) further on and as the airship lost buoyancy from the ruptured hydrogen bags, it settled to the ground. Escaping hydrogen was ignited and the entire airship was engulfed in flames.

Of the 54 persons on board, only 8 escaped, but 2 of those would soon die from injuries in the hospital at Beauvais.

The stainless steel girder structure of R.101 is all that remains after the fire. (Wikipedia)

This was a national disaster. The dead were honored with a state funeral, and all 48 lay in state at the Palace of Westminster.

The cause of the crash of R.101 is uncertain, but it is apparent that for some reason it rapidly lost buoyancy forward. It was considered to have been very well designed and built, but as it was state-of-the-art, some of the design decisions may have led to the disaster.

The wreckage of R.101 on Beauvais Ridge, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. (The Airship Heritage Trust)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 August 1961

Douglas DC-8-43 N9604Z is accopmanied by a U.S. Air Force Lockheed F-104A Starfighter, near Edwards Air Force base, California.
Douglas DC-8-43 N9604Z is accompanied by a U.S. Air Force Lockheed F-104A Starfighter, near Edwards Air Force Base, California. (Douglas Aircraft Co.)

On 21 August 1961, a Douglas DC-8-43, N9604Z, c/n 45623, Line Number 130, flown by Chief Test Pilot William Marshall Magruder, Paul Patten, Joseph Tomich and Richard H. Edwards climbed to 50,090 feet (15,267 meters) near Edwards Air Force Base. Placing the DC-8 into a dive, it 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.

Canadian Pacific Douglas DC-8-43 CF-CPG, Empress of Montreal. (Photograph © Peter Scharkowski. Used with permission)

The Douglas DC-8 is a commercial jet 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. The DC-8 was powered by four turbojet or turbofan engines mounted on pylons suspended below the wings. The wings’ leading edges were swept to 30°, as was the vertical fin and horizontal tailplane.

The DC-8-40 series 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). It had an empty weight of 124,790 pounds (56,604 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 315,000 pounds (142,882 kilograms).

The DC-8-40 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 5,905 nautical miles (6,795 statute miles, 10,936 kilometers).

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, re-registered CF-CPG, and named Empress of Montreal. It later flew under CP Air as Empress of Buenos Aires. The DC-8 was scrapped at Opa Locka Municipal Airport, north of Miami, Florida, in May 1981.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 June 1919

First flight of the Junkers F.13 at Dessau, Germany, 25 June 1919. (Junkers)

25 June 1919: Junkers Flugzeugwerke Aktiengesellschaft test pilot Emil Monz made the first flight of the Junkers F.13 at Dessau, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It was the first airplane to be built of all-metal construction specifically for commercial passenger service. The the first flyable prototype, constructor’s number (c/n) 533, carried the identification mark D 183. Professor Junkers had named the airplane Herta in honor of his oldest daughter.¹

Up to this time, airplanes had been primarily constructed of wood. Wood is susceptible to changes in dimension because of temperature and humidity, and it can warp over time. This effects the flight characteristics of the aircraft. Wood is also vulnerable to termites.

By building the airplane of metal, a much more rigid structure was created. The airplane’s flight characteristics did not change over time. Also, because metal is so much stronger than wood, an all-metal airplane could be significantly lighter than one built of wood.

The cockpit of the Junkers F.13 accommodated two pilots. (Junkers)
The cockpit of the Junkers F.13 accommodated a crew of two. (Junkers)
Otto Reuter (Junkers)

Designed by Chief Engineer Otto Reuter, the F.13 was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane (tiefdecker) with a corrugated duralumin skin over a duralumin structure. It had a flight crew of two and four passengers could be carried in a comfortable enclosed cabin of the same size as automobiles of the time. The single wing was cantilevered and, unusually for the time, used no braces or support wires.

The prototype had a wingspan of 14.47 meters (47 feet, 5.7 inches). The wingspan was increased to 14.82 meters (48 feet, 7.5 inches) in production airplanes. The airplane was 9.59 meters (31 feet, 5.6 inches) long and 4.10 meters (13 feet, 5.4 inches) high. It had a maximum takeoff weight of 1,800 kilograms (3,968 pounds).

The first of three prototypes to fly, Junkers F.13 D 183, Herta, photographed on 19 August 1919. (Junkers)

The first F.13 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 14.778 liter (901.81 cubic inch) Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft Mercedes D.IIIa vertical inline six-cylinder engine. This was a single overhead cam right-hand tractor direct-drive engine. It used two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.64:1. It produced 174 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m., and drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch laminated wood propeller. The D.IIIa weighed 660.0 pounds (299.4 kilograms), including the propeller hub and exhaust manifold.

Production airplanes used BMW and Junkers engines.

The F.13 had a maximum speed of 170 kilometers per hour (106 miles per hour).

The passenger compartment of the Junkers F.13 seated for passengers. (Junkers)
The passenger compartment of the Junkers F.13 seated for passengers. (Junkers)

In production from 1919 to 1932, a total of 332 Junkers F.13s were built. Some remained in service in the late 1930s.

In 1920, D 183 was confiscated by the Inter-Allied Control Commission. Later, the F.13 flew for Lufthansa. The registration mark was changed to D 1 and it was named Nachtigall (Nightingale).

Junkers F.13 D 1, Nachtigall, in Luft Hansa livery at Berlin-Templehoff.
Emil Monz

Emil Monz was born 9 June 1893, in Stuttgart, Germany. He was the son of Karl and Mathilde Monz. He married Fräulein Maline Georgine Erhardt, 24 January 1915, at Weingarten u. Wilhelmsdorf, Württrmberg, Deutschland.

During World War I, Monz was a reconnaissance pilot for the German Empire.

On 13 September 1919, Monz flew the second F.13, with seven passengers on board, to an altitude of 6,750 meters (22,146 feet). This was an unofficial world record.

Emil Monz died 18 February 1921 when the Junkers F.13 that he was flying, D 128, crashed in a snowstorm enroute to Stuttgart.

¹ While it is believed that Professor Junkers named the prototypes after his daughters Herta and Annelise, sources vary over which name was applied to which aircraft. The confusion may be a result of the serial numbers. The first F.13 to fly was c/n 533, while the second had an earlier number, c/n 531.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 June 1926

Ford Tri-Motor 4-AT-1, photographed at Ford Airport, Dearborn, Michigan, 5 June 1926. Note the open cockpit. (The Henry Ford)

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.

Ford Tri-Motor 4-AT-1, photographed at Ford Airport, Dearborn, Michigan, 5 June 1926. (The Henry Ford)

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 photographg shows four of teh first six Ford Trimotoes at dearborn, Michigan, 27 June 1927. Left to right, 4-AT-3, NC3041, the third built; 4-AT-6, NC2492, the sixth Trimotor; U.S. Navy A-7526, the fourth 4-AT; and 4-AT-1, NC2435, the very first Ford Trimotor built. (Vintage Air)
This photograph shows four of the first six Ford Tri-Motors at Ford Airport, Dearborn, Michigan, 27 June 1927. Left to right, 4-AT-3, NC3041, the third built; 4-AT-6, NC2492, the sixth Tri-Motor; U.S. Navy A-7526, the fourth 4-AT; and 4-AT-1, NC2435, the very first Ford Tri-Motor built. (Vintage Air)

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.

Ford 4-AT-B, serial number 4-AT-19, registration NC5092, owned by the Standard Oil Company of California. San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives).
Ford 4-AT-B, serial number 4-AT-19, civil registration NC5092, owned by the Standard Oil Company of California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 May 1958

Douglas DC-8-11 N8008D takes of from Long Beach Airport, 10:10 a.m., 30 May 1958.
Douglas DC-8-11 N8008D takes of from Long Beach Airport, 10:10 a.m., 30 May 1958. The heavy exhaust smoke is a result of water injection. (Los Angeles Public Library)

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.

Douglas DC-8 N8008D accompanied by a Cessna T-37. (Douglas Aircraft Company)
Douglas DC-8 N8008D accompanied by a U.S. Air Force Cessna T-37 chase plane during a test flight near Edwards Air Force Base, California. (Douglas Aircraft Company)

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.

Douglas DC-8-43 N9604Z is accopmanied by a U.S. Air Force Lockheed F-104A Starfighter, near Edwards Air Force base, California.
Douglas DC-8-43 N9604Z, in Canadian Pacific livery, is accompanied by a U.S. Air Force Lockheed F-104A-10-LO Starfighter, 56-0749, near Edwards Air Force Base, California. The dark sky suggests that the airplanes are at a very high altitude. (Unattributed)

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.

Douglas DC-8-51 N8008D, owned by Trans International Airways, was photographed at London Gatwick Airport, 23 July 1966. (RuthAS)
Douglas DC-8-51 N8008D, owned by Trans International Airways, was photographed at London Gatwick Airport, 23 July 1966. (RuthAS)

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.

A.G. Heimerdinger
Arnold George Heimerdinger, Flight Operations Manager, Douglas Aircraft Company. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

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.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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