Tag Archives: Endurance Record

6 May 1941

Igor Sikorsky with his VS-300A, Stratford, Connecticut, 6 May 1941. (Sikorsky Archives)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky 1888–1970. Sikorsky Archives)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky 1889–1972. (Sikorsky Archives)

6 May 1941: At Stratford, Connecticut, Igor Sikorsky piloted his Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 helicopter to a new world’s record for endurance. He flew for 1 hour, 32 minutes, 26 seconds.¹ The previous record—1 hour, 20 minutes, 49 seconds—had been set by Ewald Rohlfs with the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 tandem-rotor helicopter, 25 June 1937.²

During its development, the VS-300 went through at least 18 changes in its rotor configuration. This photograph, taken after the record-setting flight, shows an intermediate version, with one main rotor for lift and three auxiliary rotors for anti-torque and directional control.

In the final configuration, Sikorsky arrived at what we now recognize as a helicopter, with the main rotor providing lift, thrust and roll control through variable collective and cyclic pitch, and a single tail rotor for anti-torque and yaw control.

The VS-300 had a welded tubular steel airframe and used a 28-foot (5.34 meters) diameter, fully-articulated, three-bladed main rotor, which turned clockwise (as seen from above) at 260 r.p.m. (The advancing blade was on the left. This would later be reversed.) The main rotor had collective pitch control for vertical control, but cyclic pitch (Sikorsky referred to this as “sectional control”) for directional control would not be developed for another several months.

The tail “propellers” (what we now consider to be rotors—one vertical and two horizontal) each had two blades with a diameter of 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters) and turned approximately 1,300 r.p.m. The vertical rotor provided “torque compensation” (anti-torque) and the blade pitch was fully reversible. The horizontal rotors were mounted on 10-foot (3.048 meters) outriggers at the aft end of the fuselage. For lateral control, the pitch on one rotor was increased and the other decreased. For longitudinal control, the pitch of both rotors was increased or decreased together.

The VS-300 was originally equipped with an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 144.489-cubic-inch-displacement (2.368 liter) Lycoming O-145C-3 four-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine which was rated at 75 horsepower at 3,100 r.p.m. According to Mr. Sikorsky, “early in 1941,” the Lycoming engine was replaced by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 198.608 cubic inch (3.255 liter) Franklin 4AC-199-E, a four-cylinder horizontally-opposed overhead valve (OHV) direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 7:1, rated at 90 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. It is not known if this change was made prior to 6 May.

¹ During World War II, only a very few ballooning and gliding world records were certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Although Sikorsky’s flight duration exceeded that of Rohlfs, it is not listed as an official world record.

² FAI Record File Number 13147

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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15 January 1915

Lieutenant Byron Quimby Jones, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

15 January 1915: At San Diego, California, Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, set a flight endurance record of 8 hours, 53 minutes, flying a Glenn L. Martin Company Martin T Army Tractor. The flight consumed 30 gallons (114 liters) of gasoline. Lieutenant Jones estimated that he had sufficient fuel remaining for another two hours in the air, but approaching darkness forced him to land.

For this and other flights at San Diego, Lieutenant Jones was awarded the Mackay Trophy.

Martin T Army Tractor. (U.S. Air Force)
Martin T Army Tractor. (U.S. Air Force)
Clarence H. Mackay

The Mackay Army Aviation Cup was established in 1911 by Clarence Hungerford Mackay, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Postal Telegraph and Cable Corporation. Now known as the Mackay Trophy, it is awarded yearly for “the most meritorious flight of the year” by U.S. Air Force personnel.

Lieutenant Jones was the sixth aviator to be awarded the trophy. The trophy is kept at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. It was appraised in the 1960s at a value of $65,000, though it was also estimated that it would cost $650,000 to duplicate it.

The Mackay Trophy. (NASM)
Lieutenant Byron Quimby Jones, United States Army (1888–1959)
Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, 14th Cavalry Regiment, United States Army

Byron Quinby Jones was born at Henrietta, New York, 9 April 1988. He was one of four children of Samuel Titus Jones and Sarah Minerva Quinby Jones. He attended School 24 and East High School, Rochester, New York. Jones entered the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, 15 June 1907, and graduated 12 June 1912 with a bachelor of science degree. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 14th Cavalry Regiment, United States Army.

Lieutenant Jones volunteered for pilot training and was sent to the Signal Corps Aviation School at North Field, San Diego, California. After earning a rating as one of the earliest U.S. military pilots and serving for a year with an active squadron, Jones was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, 23 November 1914. He was then sent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the very first post-graduate course in aeronautical engineering.

In addition to he endurance records, “B.Q.” Jones was also the first Army pilot to perform a loop, an intentional stall and recovery, and a “tail spin.”

During World War I, Jones rose to the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel.

Jones married Mrs. Evelyn Clark Chadwick (née Evelyn Kennerly Clark, grandaughter of William Clark, co-leader with Meriwether Lewis of the 1804–1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition), 4 June 1917.

Colonel Byron Q. Jones, United States Army
Colonel Byron Q. Jones, United States Army

For the next twenty-four years, Jones steadily rose in rank and was an important figure in Army aviation. Assigned to the newly established Air Service, Jones was promoted to the rank of major, 1 July 1920, and lieutenant colonel, 1 August 1935.

In 1939, because of a disagreement with senior Air Corps officers over military aviation doctrine, he requested a return to the Cavalry. He was promoted to the rank of colonel, Army of the United States, 16 November 1940, and colonel, United States Army, 1 February 1942.

Byron Jones graduated from the Army Industrial College in 1926, Command and General Staff School, 1927, and the Army War College, 1929.

Colonel Jones was a leader in forming a mechanized cavalry and combined arms service. During World War II, he served in the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in Australia. He then held several assignments within the continental United States. He was hospitalized for lengthy periods several  times, and finally was discharged from the Army, 31 January 1944.

Colonel Byron Quinby Jones, United States Army (Retired), died at Walter Reed Army Hospital, 30 March 1959, at the age of 70 years. His remains were interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

The Martin T was a two-place, single-engine biplane ordered as a trainer for the Signal Corps. Three were built and given serial numbers S.C.31–33. The airplane was a tractor configuration, with an engine and propeller at the front of the fuselage, rather than behind in a pusher configuration. The Martin T also had a wheeled tricycle undercarriage. Both of these features were relatively new and would become standard.

Martin T Army Tractor in flight at San Diego. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Martin T Army Tractor in flight at San Diego. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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5–6 October 1922

Lieutenants John a. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly with the Fokker T-2. (National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)
Lieutenants John A. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly with the Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233. (National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution) 

5–6 October 1922: Lieutenants John Arthur Macready and Oakley George Kelly, Air Service, United States Army, set an unofficial world endurance record for an unrefueled airplane when they flew a Fokker T-2, Air Service serial number A.S. 64233, for 35 hours, 18 minutes, 30 seconds at San Diego, California.

The U.S Army Air Service had purchased two Fokker F.IV airplanes for evaluation, designating them T-2. This was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear, built by Anthony Fokker’s Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek, near Amesterdam, The Netherlands. It was designed to be flown by one pilot in an open cockpit, and could carry 8 to 10 passengers in an enclosed cabin.

The T-2 was 49 feet, 10 inches (15.189 meters) long, with a wingspan of 80 feet, 5 inches (24.511 meters) and height of 12 feet, 2 inches (3.708 meters). The airplane had a gross weight of 10,850 pounds (4,921 kilograms) at takeoff for this flight.

A.S. 64233 was powered by a Ford Motor Company-built Liberty 12 aircraft engine, serial number A.S. No. 5142. The L-12 was water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter), single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine. It produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 is a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine and, as installed on 64233, it turned turned a two-bladed Curtiss fixed-pitch walnut propeller. The Liberty 12 was 67.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 27.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 41.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

The airplane had a maximum speed of 93 miles per hour (150 kilometers per hour), a range of 2,550 miles (4,104 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 10,500 feet (3,200 meters).

Lieutenants John Macready and Oakley Kelly with Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233. The fuel barrels and containers represent the fuel required for the airplane to cross the content non-stop. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Lieutenants John Macready and Oakley Kelly with Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233. The fuel barrels and containers represent the fuel required for the airplane to cross the continent non-stop. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

Macready and Oakley planned to fly the T-2 across the North American continent, non-stop, from San Diego, California to New York. The airplane was modified to increase its fuel load, as well as to allow the two test pilots to change places during flight. The standard airplane had a 130 gallon (492 liter) fuel tank in the wing. The Army added a 410 gallon (1,552 liter) tank to the wing center section, and a 185 gallon (700 liter) tank in the passenger cabin. The starting point at Rockwell Field was chosen to take advantage of favorable westerly winds, and to use the higher-octane gasoline which was available in California.

Fokker T-2 A.S. 64223 in flight over Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (This is now NAS North Island.) (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Fokker T-2 A.S. 64233 in flight over Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

When they encountered fog in the mountains east of San Diego, the two fliers were forced to turn back. They remained airborne over San Diego to measure the airplane’s performance and fuel consumption for another attempt. Because the airplane was not equipped with a barograph to record air pressure on a paper chart, the record endurance flight could not be officially recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). They were awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year. This was Macready’s second Mackay. He and Kelly would win it again the following year.

Macready and Oakley made a second unsuccessful attempt to cross the continent from west-to-east, and were finally successful on an east-to-west flight in 1923.

Fokker T-2 A.S. 64233 is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233, in flight, from above, left front quarter view, circa 1922–23. (Dutch Aviation)
Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233, in flight, from above, left front quarter view, circa 1922–23. (Dutch Aviation)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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