Tag Archives: Engineering Division XCO-5

John Arthur Macready (14 October 1887–15 September 1979) [TDiA No. 1,500]

Lieutenant John A. Macready dressed for high altitude flight. (U.S. Air Force)

John Arthur Macready was born at San Diego, California, 14 October, 1887.¹ He was the second of three sons of Benjamin Macready, a miner, and Mattie Delahunt Beck Macready.

John A. Macready, 1912. (The Quad)

John Macready graduated from Los Angeles High School at Los Angles California, then attended Leland Stanford, Jr., University, near San Francisco, California. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree (A.B.) in economics in 1913.

Following graduation, and while visiting his family, then living near Searchlight, Nevada—where his father had founded the Quartette Mine and Mill, a $7,000,000 ² per year operation—Macready was elected justice of the peace.

The United States entered World War I on 6 April 1917. John Macready enlisted in the U.S. Cavalry, but,

“. . . while on a train, en route to Reno to get his final papers, he picked up the Magazine Section of the The Times and read a story about Rockwell Field.

     “Being a native of San Diego—he first saw the light there forty-three years ago—he was particularly interested and made up his mind to learn to fly one of those things everyone was talking about.

     “His education, grammar school and high school graduation here—the latter from Los Angeles High School on top of Bunker Hill—and four years at Stanford as a student of economics, came in handy and he was able to switch his enlistment to the United States Army Air Corps [sic] as a private.”

Los Angeles Times, Vol. XLIX, Sunday, 2 November 1930, Part VI, Page 4 Column 2

On 16 July 1917, Macready was assigned to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, as a Private 1st Class. His draft registration card descibed him as medium height and build, with brown hair and blue eyes. On 27 December 1917, Macready was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps. Macready was assigned as a flight instructor at Brooks Field, Texas, where he wrote the standard instructional text, The “All Thru” System of Flying Instruction as Taught at Brooks Field.

On 11 October 1918, Lieutenant Macready was promoted to the rank of captain, Air Service, U.S. Army. After World War I, he became an engineering test pilot at McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio. His reserve commission was vacated 18 September 1920, and he was commissioned a first lieutenant, Air Service, 18 September 1920.

Lieutenant John A. Macready demonstrates the aerial application of chemical pesticides over a tree farm near Troy, Ohio, 3 August 1921. The airplane is a Curtiss JN-6. (Photographed by Captain Albert W. Stevens)

On 3 August 1921, near Troy, Ohio, Lieutenant Macready flew a Curtiss JN-6 to perform the first aerial application (“crop dusting”) of pesticides by airplane. Macready flew at an altitude of 20-35 feet (6–11 meters), upwind of a grove of tall catalpa trees. Released 53 yards (48 meters) from the edge of the grove, an 8–11 mile per hour (3.5–5 meters/second) wind carried the arsenate of lead powder and every leaf in the grove was covered.

Lieutenant John A Macready flew this Packard Lepère L USA C. II to an altitude record of 40,800 feet (12,436 meters), 28 September 1921. (U.S. Air Force)

On 28 September 1921, Lieutenant Macready flew a turbo-supercharged Packard Lepère L USA C. II biplane, serial number S.C. 40015, to a world record altitude of 40,800 feet (12,436 meters). He won his first of three Mackay Trophies for this flight.

Macready and Oakley planned to fly a Fokker T-2 across the North American continent, non-stop, from San Diego, California, to New York. 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 & 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. They remained airborne for 35 hours, 18 minutes. 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.

Lieutenants John A. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly with their Fokker T-2. (NASM)

Over 2–3 May 1923, Macready and Kelly flew the T-2 on the first non-stop transcontinental flight. The two aviators took off from Roosevelt-Hazelhurst Field, Long Island, New York, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time and landed at Rockwell Field (now, NAS North Island), San Diego, California, the next day at 12:26 p.m., Pacific Time. They had flown 2,470 miles (3,975 kilometers) in 26 hours, 50 minutes, 38.8 seconds, for an average speed of 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour). Macready won his third Mackay Trophy for this flight. He is the only person to have won the award three times.

Lieutenant and Mrs John A. Macready (Los Angeles Daily Times)

In the late afternoon of 9 May 1923, Lieutenant Macready married Miss Nelliejay Turner of Columbus, Ohio, at the Los Angeles, California, home of Macready’s parents. The ceremony was conducted by Rev. Charles Thompson of Springfield, Ohio. Lieutenant Oakley Kelly was best man. Miss Turner, then a student at Ohio State University (Kappa Alpha Theta sorority), had been introduced to Lieutenant Macready at the family home the previous year. They would have two daughters, Jo-Ann and Sally Jean Macready.

In 1923, Macready graduated from the Aeronautical Engineer Course, Air Service Engineering School.

On 13 June 1924, Macready was the first pilot to parachute from an airplane at night, when on a flight between Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, the engine of his airplane failed. The Los Angeles Times quoted an Air Service report:

“There being no moonlight, he guided his plane toward an area showing the fewest number of lights. The two flares he released failed to ignite, and he decided to trust to his parachute. Shortly after he launched himself into space his plane crashed and burst into flames. Capt. Macready’s parachute caught in the branches of a tree and he was hanging by the shroud lines over a ravine some ninety feet deep. His shouts brought several persons to his assistance and he was pulled up to safety by means of the parachute cords.”

Los Angeles Times, Vol. LIV, 2 June 1935 “Times Sunday Magazine,” Page 15, Column 3

Mrs. Macready with her husband, Lieutenant John Arthur Macready, shortly before his altitude record flight, 29 January 1926. (George Rinhart via Daedalians)

On 29 January 1926, Macready took off from McCook Field in an experimental airplane, the Engineering Division XCO-5. Macready was attempting to exceed the existing Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world altitude record of 12,066 meters (39,587 feet), which had been set by Jean Callizo at Villacoublay, France, 21 October 1924.

When the sealed barograph was sent to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., for calibration, it indicated a peak altitude of 38,704 feet (11,797 meters). This was 269 meters (883 feet) lower than the existing world record, but it did establish a new United States national altitude record.

Lieutenant John A. Macready, USAAS, stands in front of the Engineering Division-built XCO-5. (U.S. Air Force)

For six years John Macready was responsible for testing turbosuperchargers, which enabled aircraft engines to produce continuous power at increasing altitudes. It was while testing these that he established his altitude record.

John Macready resigned from Air Corps in 1926. He worked as an engineer for Frigidaire until 1929, then became head of Shell oil’s aviation division based in San Francisco, California. He flew a Lockheed Vega. He bought a horse ranch in Mariposa County.

Macready crash (Sid Bradd Collection/airrace.com

On 30 August 1930, Macready crashed in a Menasco-engined Keith Rider B-1, NR10216,  while practicing for the Thompson Trophy pylon race the National Air Races at Curtiss-Wright Airport in Chicago, Illinois.. A wing strut failed at approximately 162 miles per hour/261 kilometers per hour). Initial news reports were that he had been killed. He suffered a broken nose, fractured shoulder and bruises.

“A wing strut folded as Macready turned the course in the first lap of the free-for-all speed event, according to witnesses. The ship spiraled about drunkenly for an instant, but by skillful maneuvering the former army flier brought it to earth right side up. The plane struck with terrific force, bounded high into the air and was demolished on the rebound.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Vol. XC. No. 144, Sunday, 31 August 1930, Page 1, Column 5

In September 1931, Macready was commissioned as a major in the Air Corps Reserve. He was assigned to the 316th Observation Squadron at Crissy Field, Presidio of San Francisco, California.

The New York Times reported that John Macready collaborated with the Bausch & Lomb optical company to to develop the iconic Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses, which debuted in 1938 and remain in production today.

Ray-Ban Aviator Classic sunglasses. (Ray-Ban)

On June 19 1934, Macready involved in a fatal traffic accident when a motocyclist collided with his car on a blind turn near Yosemite. Macready was not injured.

Colonel John A. Macready, 1940. (Los Angeles Times)

Major Macready was recalled to active duty with the Air Corps on 10 October 1939 and assigned to duty at Hamilton Field, Caalifornia. He later commanded 9th Air Base Group, and on 1 December 1941, took command of the Air Corps basic flying school at Moffett Field, California. The school operated the Vultee BT-13 trainer and taught formation flying, navigation and cross-country flying.

During World War II, Colonel Macready served as inspector general of Twelfth Air Force during Operation TORCH, the Allied invasion of North Africa. He also commanded the Mediterranean Air Transport Service. Following the war, Macready commanded Merced Army Airfield in California, and in 1946, was acting commanding office of  Walla Walla Army Airfield in Washington state. Colonel Macready was transferred to the Air Force retired list in 1948.

In October 1954, an authorized controlled burn on Macready’s thoroughbred horse ranch spread into the surrounding Sierra National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service sued Macready for the cost of fighting the 1,830-acre fire, estimated at $72,662. An Act of Congress attempted to prevent this action, but after many delays, the case went to trial in June 1964. The two-day trial resulted in a “hung jury” and the judge declared a mistrial. A new trial date was set.

On Nov 8, 1958, John A. Macready was awarded the Croix de Guerre by President Andre Pleven of France for his service in North Africa during World War II.

John Arthur Macready died in Mariposa County, California, 15 September 1979, at the age of 90 years.

“Honor is its own reward. There is plenty of glory in connection with flights of this nature, and considerable satisfaction in doing one’s duty as a soldier and accomplishing a feat considered by many to be impossible.”

—John A. Macready, Aviator

¹ Some sources state 1888.

² Equivalent to $177,550,404.04 in 2018

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 October 1928

Captains Albert Wiliam Stevens (left) and St. Clair Streett, with the Engineering Division XCO-5, Steven’s camera, and two pressurized oxygen flasks. (National Air and Space Museum)

10 October 1928: Flying the Engineering Division-built XCO-5, serial number A.S. 23-1204, Captain St. Clair Streett and Captain Albert William Stevens, Air Service, United States Army, climbed toward the stratosphere.

Captain Stevens was experimenting with the use of photographs of the ground to determine the exact altitude of a high-flying aircraft. He asked Captain Streett to take him as high as possible. “Billy” Streett was Chief of the Flight Branch at Wright Field.

Dressed for the very cold temperatures, Streett and Stevens carried 6 quarts of liquid oxygen in two pressure flasks to breath as it “boiled off.” They started breathing oxygen as they passed 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). Steven’s Fairchild camera was electrically heated. Streett had taken the precaution of drilling two holes in the lenses of his goggles, should they frost over in the extreme cold they would encounter.

It took 1 hour, 40 minutes for the XCO-5 to reach its maximum altitude, which was indicated by the airplane’s altimeter as 40,200 feet (12,253 meters).  The air temperature was -76 °F. (-60 °C.).

After Stevens finished his photography, the pair started their descent. Streett later said,

“Then a strange thing happened. As we coasted down on an easy glide, I started to slow down the motor so that we could keep on descending—and the motor wouldn’t slow! My controls seemed to be stuck, By diving I managed to get down a few thousand feet, but the plane, with its propeller whirring away full tilt, wanted to climb right back up again.

“I didn’t do any more diving. In a frail ship of this special type, the uprush of air in a forced dive would tear off the wings—and I didn’t want to lose them up there! There I was, trying to shut the motor off, and I couldn’t do it!”

Popular Science Monthly, May 1929, Vol. 114, No. 5, Page 23 at Columns 2 and 3

After about twenty minutes, the airplane’s fuel ran low and the engine lost power. It didn’t stop completely, but unable to deliver sufficient power for the XCO-5 to maintain altitude, Streett and Stevens were no longer trapped in the stratosphere.

During the descent, frost formed on Streett’s goggles and he was almost completely blinded, but he was able to something of the ground through the holes in his goggles.

Captain Albert William Stevens (left), and Captain St. Clair Streett, dressed for high-altitude flight. The airplane is the prototype Engineering Division XCO-5, A.S. 23-1204. Captain Stevens’ camera and the pressurized oxygen flask are in the foreground. (National Air and Space Museum/U.S. Air Force)

Streett landed in an open field near Rushville, Indiana. They borrowed some gasoline and flew back to Wright Field.

When flight data was analyzed using the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale‘s Standard Atmosphere Method, Streett and Stevens’ maximum altitude was calculated at 37,854 feet (11,538 meters). Steven’s photographic method gave a value of 39,250 feet (11,963 meters). The United States’ National Bureau of Standards used a National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) formula to analyze data from two barographs which were on board the XCO-5. This method included temperature and pressure of the atmosphere throughout the climb. The altitude was calculated at 39,606 feet (12,072 meters). This is probably the most accurate determination.

This flight did not set an FAI record. It was approximately 1,000 feet (305 meters) lower than the existing record, and the airplane did not return to the point of departure, a record requirement.

Engineering Division XCO-5, A.S. 23-1204. (U.S. Air Force)

The XCO-5 was a prototype two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane, a reconnaissance and observation variant of the prototype TP-1 fighter. It was built by the Engineering Division at McCook Field. The airplane carried project number P305 painted on its rudder.

The XCO-5’s wings were built specifically for flight at very high altitude, using an airfoil (Joukowsky StAe-27A) designed by Professor Nikolay Yegorovich Zhukovsky (Николай Егорович Жуковский), head of the Central AeroHydroDynamics Institute (TsAGI) at Kachino, Russia. The two-bay biplane wings had a significant vertical gap and longitudinal stagger. The lifting surface was 600 square feet (55.742 square meters). The upper wing had dihedral while the lower wing did not.

The XCO-5 was 25 feet, 1 inch long (7.645 meters) with a wingspan of 36 feet (10.973 meters) and height of 10 feet (3.048 meters). The empty weight was 2,748 pounds (1,246 kilograms) and the gross weight was 4,363 pounds (1,979 kilograms).

The XCO-5 was powered by a water-cooled, 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty 12 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. As installed on A.S. 23-1204, the engine turned a specially-designed, two-bladed, ground-adjustable, forged aluminum propeller with a diameter of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). 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). Also installed on A.S. 23-1204 was an experimental supercharger.

The XCO-5 has a maximum of 129 miles per hour (208 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a cruise speed of 117 miles per hour (188 kilometers per hour).

Liuetenant John A. Macready, USAAS, stands in front of the Engineering Division-built XCO-5. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant John A. Macready, U.S. Army Air Corps, stands in front of the Engineering Division-built XCO-5, A.S. 23-1204. (U.S. Air Force)
Major General St. Clair Streett, United States Air Force.

St. Clair Streett was born at Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, 6 October 1893. He was one of two children of Shadrach Watkins Streett, an owner of race horses, and Lydia Ann Coggins Streett.

Bill Streett enlisted as a sergeant, Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, 8 December 1916. On completion of flight training, Sergeant Streett was commissioned as a first lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 27 September 1917

Lieutenant Streett was assigned to active duty and sent to Issoudun, France, where he took charge of flight training, before joining the Fifth Pursuit Group at St. Remy, France. He was awarded the the Army Wound Ribbon and the Purple Heart. Following occupation duty in Germany, Lieutenant Streett returned to the United States in August 1919.

Streett was promoted to captain, Air Service, United States Army, 6 November 1918. He commanded the Alaskan Flying Expedition, 15 July to 20 October 1920. He flew one of four DH-4 biplanes from New York to Nome, Alaska, and return, covering a distance of 9,000 miles (14,484 kilometers). Streett and the other officers and enlisted men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Mackay Trophy.

Officers of the 1920 Alaska Flying Expedition. Left to right, Captain St. Clair Streett, commanding the expedition; 1st Lieutenant Clifford C. Nutt; 2nd Lt. Eric C. Nelson; 2nd Lt. C.H. Crumrine; and 2nd Lt. Ross C. Kirkpatrick. (U.S. Air Force)

Captain Streett’s commission was vacated 28 October 1920, and he received a commission as a first lieutenant, Air Service, retroactive to 1 July 1920.

First Lieutenant St. Clair Streett married Miss Mary Lois Williams at Washington, D.C., 17 January 1922. They would have a son, St. Clair Streett, Jr. (United States Military Academy, Class of 1949).

He was again promoted to captain, 28 January 1921. Captain Streett was then discharged and appointed first lieutenant, 18 November 1922. Lieutenant Streett attended the Air Service Tactical School, Langley, Virginia, in 1926. On 31 August 1927, Streett was promoted to captain, Air Corps, United States Army.

Captain Streett was appointed chief of the Flying Branch, Wright Field, Ohio, in March 1928.

Captain Streett attended the Chemical Warfare School Field Officers’ Course and the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from August 1932 to June 1934, and then went to the two-month Chemical Warfare School Field Officers’ Course, completed in August 1934. Captain Streett next was assigned to the Army War College, graduating in June 1935.

Streett was assigned to the War Plans Division of the General Staff, War Department, from 20 August 1935 to 26 June 1939. On 16 June 1936 Streett was promoted to (temporary) major. This rank was made permanent 1 December 1936.

Major Streett was promoted to (temporary) lieutenant colonel 1 March 1940. This rank became permanent 9 October 1940. He attended the Naval War College Senior Course at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1940.

Lieutenant Colonel Streett took command of the 11th Bombardment Group, Hickham Field, Hawaii in July 1940.

He was promoted to colonel 15 July 1941. He served in the War Plans Division of the War Department under Major General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Brigadier General Streett was assistant to Lieutenant General Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, U.S. Army Air Corps.

Major General Streett commanded Third Air Force at Tampa, Florida, 12 December 1942  to 11 September 1943, then assumed command of the Second Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Major General Streett commanded Thirteenth Air Force in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Philippine Islands, from 15 June 1944 to 19 February 1945.

In 1946, Major General Streett became deputy commander, Continental Air Forces, Bolling Field. This soon became the Strategic Air Command.

Streett served in several staff positions before being assigned as deputy commander, Air Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in October 1949. He retired from the United States Air Force in February 1952.

During his military career, Major General St. Clair Streett had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters (three awards); Legion of Merit; Distinguished Flying Cross; Purple Heart; Air Medal (one of the first to be awarded); World War I Victory Medal with three campaign stars; Army of Occupation of Germany Medal; American Defense Service Medal with one service star; American Campaign Medal with one service star; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three campaign stars; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Air Force Longevity Service Award with one silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters (seven awards); and the Army Wound Ribbon.

Major General Streett died at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, 28 September 1970, at the age of 76 years. He was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Albert William Stevens (Belfast Historical Society and Museum)

Albert William Stevens (née Whitten) was born at Belfast, Maine, 13 March 1886, the third child of Nathan Whitten, a blacksmith and wagon builder, and Alice C. Anderson Whitten. His mother died of “consumption” (tuberculosis) when Albert was five months old. He was adopted by Albert J. Stevens and Nancy M. Trimble Stevens, and his name became Albert William Stevens.

Stevens attended the University of Maine at Orono, Maine. He graduated in 1907 with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. He earned a Masters degree in electrical engineering  from the university in 1909. He then worked as a mining engineer in Alaska, California, Idaho and Montana.

Stevens enlisted in the U.S. Air Service in Idaho, January 1918. Because of his experience in photography, which began while he was in college, Stevens was assigned to the Aerial Photography School at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 18 February 1918. Sent to Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, Stevens commanded the 6th Photo Section, 88th Aero Squadron. He flew in the major campaigns of the final months of the War.

He was an acknowledged expert in the field of aerial photography. Lieutenant Stevens was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. Following the War, he was promoted to Captain, Air Service, 21 February 1919. His commission was vacated 18 September 1920, and he was appointed a Captain, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920. On 18 November 1922, Stevens was discharged as a Captain, then re-appointed a First Lieutenant.

1st Lieutenant Albert William Stevens, Air Service, United States Army, circa 1921. Lieutenant Williams is wearing the badge of an aerial observer. The decoration beneath is the Victory Medal with four campaign stars. (Albert W. Stevens Collection)

He returned to the rank of Captain, Air Service, 10 February 1925. On 16 June 1936, he was promoted to the temporary rank of Major, Air Corps, United States Army. This rank became permanent 12 June 1939. In 1940, Major Stevens took command of the Photographer’s School, Air Corps Technical School, Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado. He advanced to the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel, 30 December 1940. This rank became permanent 15 October 1941. He was retired from the Air Corps for medical reasons, 30 April 1942.

Stevens married Ruth E. Fischer at Rockville, Maryland, 8 August 1938.

Captain Stevens was a pioneering aviator, balloonist and aerial photographer. Using infrared film, he made the first photograph that showed the curvature of the Earth. He also took the first photograph of the Moon’s shadow on the surface of the Earth during an eclipse.

Stevens made a series of high-altitude balloon flights, and on 11 November 1935 he and Captain Orvil A. Anderson ascended to 22,066 meters (72,395 feet) aboard Explorer II, establishing a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record.¹

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew William Stevens, United States Army Air Forces (Retired), died at Redwood City, California, 26 March 1949, at the age of 63 years. He is buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

Major Albert W. Stevens, U.S. Army Air Corps, circa 1936.

¹ FAI Record File Number 10654

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 January 1926

Mrs. Macready with her husband, Lieutenant John Arthur Macready, shortly before his altitude record flight, 29 January 1926. (George Rinhart via Daedalians)

29 January 1926: At McCook Field, near Dayton, Ohio, First Lieutenant John Arthur Macready, Air Service, United States Army, took off in an experimental airplane, the Engineering Division XCO-5. Macready was attempting to exceed the existing Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world altitude record of 12,066 meters (39,587 feet), which had been set by Jean Callizo at Villacoublay, France, 21 October 1924.¹

The official observers of the National Aeronautic Association were Orville Wright (co-inventor with his brother Wilbur, of the airplane); George B. Smith of Dayton; and Levitt Luzurne Custer (inventor of the statoscope, the original barometric altimeter).

The Dayton Daily News reported:

     Every part of the plane functioned perfectly. . . with the exception of the supercharging apparatus. The plane climbed to 25,000 feet in less than 45 minutes. The remainder of the flight was a fight against the dropping pressure in the motor.

     In taking off, the altitude plane required approximately 50 feet and immediately began a steep ascent. Throughout the test the several hundred people who had congregated to see the flight start could find the plane by a long line of white vapor, which trailed in the wake of the ship in the rare atmosphere.

     On other tests the plane has shown sea level pressure at approximately 32,000 feet. The super-charger showed a steadily declining pressure after 25,000 feet, indicating its lack of sufficient capacity for the motor. . .

Dayton Daily News, Vol. XL, No. 162, January 29, 1926, Page 1, Column 7, and Page 2, Column 2

Lieutenant John A. Macready, 28 September 1921. “The cold, though a severe drain on the system with the best protection possible, is more easily met. To prepare for it, Lieutenant Macready wears over his uniform, a heavy suit of woollen underwear and over that a thick heavily padded, leather-covered suit of down and feathers. Then, fur-lined gloves, fleece-lined moccasins over the boots, and a leather head mask lined with fur, which, with the oxygen mask, completely covers the face, completes the costume. The goggles are coated on the inside with anti-freezing gelatine supposed to function to 60 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit.” (NASM)

Lieutenant Macready reported, “My watch stopped at 30,000 feet and I believe it was frozen, because just before landing it started again.” He observed a temperature of -62 °C. (-79.6 °F.) at 34,600 feet (10,546 meters), which he said then increased to -56 °C. (-68.8 °F.) at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters).

When the airplane was inspected after landing at McCook Field, it was found that a crack had developed in the supercharger intercooler, allowing the supercharged air to escape. This resulted in a significant loss of power, and prevented Macready from passing Callizo’s record.

Lieutenant Macready reported that the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale altimeter (one of two altimeters in the airplane’s cockpit) had indicated that he had reached a maximum of 36,200 feet (11,034 meters). When the sealed barograph was sent to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., for calibration, it indicated a peak altitude of 38,704 feet (11,797 meters). This was 269 meters (883 feet) lower than the existing world record, but it did establish a new United States national altitude record.

Letter from Orville Wright to the National Aeronautic Association, 11 March 1926.
Engineering Division XCO-5, A.S. 23-1204. (U.S. Air Force)

The XCO-5 was a prototype two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane, a reconnaissance and observation variant of the TP-1 fighter. It was built by the Engineering Division at McCook Field. The airplane carried project number P305 painted on its rudder.

The XCO-5’s wings were built specifically for flight at very high altitude, using an airfoil (Joukowsky StAe-27A) designed by Professor Nikolay Yegorovich Zhukovsky (Николай Егорович Жуковский), head of the Central AeroHydroDynamics Institute (TsAGI) at Kachino, Russia. The two-bay biplane wings had a significant vertical gap and longitudinal stagger. The lifting surface was 600 square feet (55.742 square meters). The upper wing had dihedral while the lower wing did not.

The XCO-5 was 25 feet, 1 inch long (7.645 meters) with a wingspan of 36 feet (10.973 meters) and height of 10 feet (3.048 meters). The empty weight was 2,748 pounds (1,246 kilograms) and the gross weight was 4,363 pounds (1,979 kilograms).

The XCO-5 was powered by a water-cooled, 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty 12 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. As installed on A.S. 23-1204, the engine turned a specially-designed, two-bladed, ground-adjustable, forged aluminum propeller with a diameter of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). 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).

Also installed on A.S. 23-1204 was an experimental supercharger. FLIGHT explained:

     Since the Liberty engine, which delivers 400 h.p. at sea level, has an output of but 50 h.p. at 35,000 feet unsupercharged, a supercharger is a prime requisite of altitude work. The General Electric Form F, 20,000-ft. side type supercharger used in previous tests, with certain modifications, has been installed. The supercharger is an air compressor which keeps the air pressure in the carburettor at sea level pressure at heights where, owing to the natural decrease in the air pressure, the horsepower gradually falls away but to a fraction of its original output. In former supercharger installations, much difficulty was experienced with pre-ignition of the engine. This often became so pronounced that the plane had to be brought to earth. It was suspected that a richer mixture with the supercharger at altitude was necessary. This was found to be true but the principal difficulty was the overheating of the mixture due to the heat generated in the supercharger itself. Due to the increase in temperature created by the compression in the supercharger, it was necessary to interpose an intercooler between the supercharger outlet and the carburettor in order to obtain satisfactory engine performance. The intercooler, in the form of a honeycomb radiator, was placed on the side of the aeroplane. It was also found that the poor conductivity of the air at high altitudes, additional radiating surface for engine cooling was required. This, with the correction of mixture, put an end to pre-ignition.

FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 893. (No. 5, Vol. XVIII.), 4 February 1926, Page 69, Column 1

The XCO-5 has a maximum of 129 miles per hour (208 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a cruise speed of 117 miles per hour (188 kilometers per hour).

Lieutenant John A. Macready, USAAS, stands in front of the Engineering Division-built XCO-5. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8384, Gourdou-Leseurre GL.40, 300 c.v. Hispano Suiza

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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