Tag Archives: FAI

11 August 1986: The World’s Fastest Helicopter

Westland Lynx AH.1 G-LYNX.

11 August 1986: A modified factory demonstration Westland Lynx AH.1 helicopter, civil registration G-LYNX, piloted by Chief Test Pilot John Trevor Egginton and Flight Test Engineer Derek J. Clews, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Absolute Record for Speed for helicopters over a straight 15/25 km course with an average speed of 400.87 kilometers per hour (249.09 miles per hour) over a measured 15 kilometer (9.32 miles) course near Glastonbury on the Somerset Levels and Moors, Southwest England.¹ ² ³

Westland WG.13 Lynx G-LYNX, c/n 102. (Vertipedia)

The helicopter was equipped with experimental BERP main rotor blades and two Rolls Royce Gem 60 turboshaft engines with digital electronic fuel control and water-methanol injection, producing 1,345 shaft horsepower, each. The engines’ exhausts were modified to provide 600 pounds of thrust (2,669 Newtons). The horizontal tail plane and vertical fins from a Westland WG.30 were used to increase longitudinal stability and to unload the tail rotor in forward flight. In an effort to reduce aerodynamic drag, items such as steps, antennas and windshield wipers were removed.

During the speed runs, the main rotor blade tips reached a speed of 0.97 Mach.

Four passes over the course were made at an altitude of 500 feet (150 meters). The results of the two best successive passes were averaged. This set records for helicopters; helicopters in the 3,000–4,500 kilogram weight class; and an Absolute World Record for Rotorcraft. Thirty-two years later, these official speed records still stand.

Westland Lynx AH.1, G-LYNX. This is the World's Fastest Helicopter. (Westland)
Westland Lynx AH.1, G-LYNX. This is the World’s Fastest Helicopter. (Westland)

Another Westland AH.1 Lynx, flown by then Westland Chief Pilot Leonard Roy Moxham and Michael Ball, had set two FAI World Records for Speed, 20 and 22 June 1972. Flying over a straight 15/25 kilometer course, the Lynx averaged 321.74 kilometers per hour (199.92 miles per hour).⁴ Two days later, the Lynx flew a closed 100 kilometer circuit at an average speed of 318.50 kilometers per hour (197.91 miles per hour).⁵ Both of these records were for helicopters in the 3,000–4,500 kilogram weight class.

Westland WG.13 c/n 102 made its first flight in May 1979. After setting the speed record, G-LYNX was used as a demonstrator and as a test platform, before finally being retired in 1992. Beginning in 2007, AgustaWestland restored the Lynx to its speed record configuration, withe more than 25,000 man hours expended on the project.

G-LYNX was unveiled on 11 August 2011, the 25th anniversary of the world record flight. Today, it is on display at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, South West England.

On 25 September 2014, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers bestowed its Engineering Heritage Award on G-LYNX. John Wood, chairman of the Institution said,

“The G-Lynx helicopter is a remarkable example of British engineering and vision. It is a testament to the cutting-edge modifications made to the helicopter, that the world speed record still stands 28 years later.

“This award is in recognition of all the people in making the 1986 record possible, but also to the AgustaWestland apprentices who restored the helicopter in 2011 and the Helicopter Museum who continue to maintain the craft in such excellent condition.”

The Engineering Heritage Award was accepted by Elfan Ap Rees, founder of the Helicopter Museum, and John Trevor Egginton, pilot of the world record helicopter.

John Trevor Egginton, O.B.E., A.F.C., FRAeS. Chief Test Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight test Engineers)

John Trevor Egginton was born in Birmingham, England, 14 March 1933. He was the second child of Alfred T. Egginton and Emma Hammond Egginton. John attended the George Dixon Grammar School at Edgbaston, a suburb of Birmingham.

In 1951, Egginton joined the Royal Air Force. On 7 May 1952, he was appointed a cadet pilot, with date of service from 2 January 1952. He was sent to the United States for flight training, and returned to England aboard RMS Queen Elizabeth, arriving at Southampton, 17 November 1953. He flew the Canadair CL-13 Sabre Mk.4 with No. 67 Squadron and the Hawker Hunter with Nos. 222 and 63 Squadrons.

In December 1956, Pilot Officer Egginton married Miss Joan Mary Wheeler at Bromsgrove, near Birmingham. They would have three children, Jane, Michael and Frazer.

Pilot Officer Egginton was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, 2 October 1957. His commission was made permanent, 31 August 1961.

Following an overseas tour of duty in the Colony of Aden, Flight Lieutenant Egginton transitioned to helicopters, training in the Bristol Sycamore. He was then assigned to No. 22 Squadron at RAF Chivenor, on the north coast of Devon, as a search and rescue pilot. The squadron was equipped with the Westland Whirlwind HAR.2, a licensed variant of the Sikorsky S-55. In August 1962, the unit upgraded to the turboshaft-powered Whirlwind HAR.10.

On the night of 2–3 November 1962, the French fishing trawler Jeanne Gougy, with a crew of 18 men, went aground at Land’s End, Cornwall. A Royal Air Force helicopter from RAF Chivenor and a lifeboat from the Sennen Cove life boat station went to the scene. The lifeboat was unable to approach the wreck because of the heavy weather, but recovered two dead fishermen offshore. The helicopter also recovered a body. No other sailors were seen, the the two rescue craft returned to there bases with the remains.

Later that morning, observers from the shore saw several men inside the Jeanne Gougy‘s pilot house. A helicopter and the Penlee lifeboat, Soloman Brown, hurried to the scene, but conditions were still too extreme for the lifeboat to approach the trawler.

The Westland Whirlwind, flown by Flight Lieutenants John Lorimer Neville Canham, D.F.C., and John Trevor Egginton, hovered over the capsized fishing trawler while the winch operator, Sergeant Eric Charles Smith, was lowered to the ship’s pilot house. A rescue line was also rigged to the nearby rocks. Sergeant Smith rigged two men for hoisting to the hovering helicopter and continued searching for additional survivors. Four sailors were rescued by the line to the shore. 12 of the fishermen did not survive.

Westland Whirlwind HAR.10, No. 22 Squadron, hoists a man from the fishing trawler Jeanne Gougy at Armoured Knight Rock, Land’s End, Cornwall, England, 3 November 1962. (RNLI Penlee Lifeboat Station)
Sergeant Eric Smith, RAF, is lowered to the wreck of Jeanne Gougy, 3 November 1962. (BFI)

For his bravery during the rescue, Sergeant Smith was awarded the George Medal by Queen Elizabeth II. He was also awarded the Silver Medal of the Société des Hospitalers Sauveteurts Bretons.

The President of the French Republic, Charles de Gaulle, conferred the honor of Chevalier du Mérite Maritime on Flight Lieutenant Canham, Flight Lieutenant Egginton, and Sergeant Smith. On 13 June 1964, Egginton was awarded the Air Force Cross.

In 1965, Flight Lieutenant Egginton attended the Empire Test Pilots’ School at RAF Boscombe Down. On graduation, he was assigned as a helicopter test pilot with D Squadron (now the Rotary Wing Test and Evaluation Squadron, or RWTES). In 1969, Egginton returned to the Test Pilots’ School as a helicopter flight instructor.

Squadron Leader Egginton retired from the Royal Air Force in 1973. He was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, 2 June 1973. (London Gazette No. 45984 at Page 6463)

Egginton joined Westland Helicopters at Yeovil as deputy chief test pilot, and later became the company’s chief test pilot. He from Westland retired after 15 years.

In the 1989 New Year’s Honours List, Squadron Leader Egginton was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.):

Squadron Leader John Trevor Egginton, O.B.E., A.F.C., F.R.Ae.S., Q.C.V.S.A., Chevalier du Mérite Maritime, died at his home in Yeovil, 23 November 2014. He was 81 years of age.

In April 2013, Trevor Egginton spoke to members of the Empire Test Pilots’ School at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare. In this photograph, Mr. Egginton is seated in the World Record Helicopter’s pilot seat. (The Helicopter Museum)

¹ FAI Record File Number 11659: Rotorcraft, Absolute Record for Speed Over a 15–25 Kilometer Straight Course

² FAI Record File Number 1842: Rotorcraft, Helicopters, Subclass E-1e, 3,000–4,500 kilograms (6,613.9–9,920.8 pounds), takeoff weight

³ FAI Record File Number 1843: Rotorcraft, Helicopters, Subclass E-1

⁴ FAI Record File Number 1826: Rotorcraft, Helicopters, Subclass E-1e

⁵ FAI Record File Number 1853: Rotorcraft, Helicopters, Subclass E-1e

Westland Lynx G-LYNX.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

10–11 August 1938

The Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor, D-ACON, arrives at Floyd Bennett Field, New York, 11 August 1938. (Klassiker fer Luftfahrt)

10–11 August 1938: The first non-stop flight between Berlin and New York by a heavier-than-air aircraft was flown by a prototype four-engine airliner. Under the command of Deutsche Luft Hansa Kapitän Alfred Henke, Brandenburg, a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor, D-ACON, departed Flugplatz Berlin-Staaken, 6 kilometers west of Spandau, at about 7:30 p.m., on Wednesday, 10 August 1938.

The other members of the crew were Hauptmann Rudolf Freiherr von Moreau, of the Luftwaffe, co-pilot; Paul Dierberg, flight engineer; and Walter Kober, radio operator. There were no passengers on board.

Brandenburg flew a Great Circle course across the North Atlantic Ocean and landed at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York at 1:50 p.m., local time, Thursday, 11 August. The distance flown was 6371.302 kilometers (3,958.944 miles). The total duration of the flight was 24 hours, 56 minutes, 12 seconds. The Condor averaged 255.499 kilometers per hour (158.760 miles per hour).

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor D-ACON at Floyd Bennett Field, New York, 11 August 1938. (Deutsche Lufthansa AG)

Although they encountered severe weather, the flight was relatively uneventful. Upon landing, it was discovered that the prototype airliner had suffered some damage to an engine cowling and that one engine lubricating oil tube had cracked, causing a leak.

Focke-Wulf Fw 200S-1 Kondor (Condor) D-ACON on the ground in front of Hangar 4 at Floyd Bennett Field, Long Island, New York. (Rudy Arnold Collection/National Air and Space Museum)

The problems were repaired while Hauptman von Moreau made an unexplained trip to Washington, D.C. Brandenburg was ready for a return flight to Germany the following day.

Manifest for Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor D-ACON.

Taking off from Floyd Bennett Field before 9:30 a.m., on Saturday, 13 August, Brandenburg was flown to Flughafen Berlin-Templehof. With more favorable winds on the eastbound flight, the 6,392 kilometer distance (3,972 miles) was covered in 19 hours, 56 minutes, with an average speed of 321 kilometers per hour (199 miles per hour).

 

14. August 1938. Deutschlands Ozeanflieger nach Ihrem Rekordflug Berlin-New York-Berlin auf dem Flughafen Tempelhof. V.l.: Kober, Dierberg, Henke und von Moreau. Foto: Deutsche Lufthansa AG 14.08.1938 DLHD5054-1-35

Following their return to Germany, Captain Henke (who was also an Oberleutnant in the Luftwaffe) and Hauptman von Moreau were congratulated by Adolph Hitler. In photographs, Henke is easily identifiable by the prominent “dueling scar” on the left side of his face.

Kurt Waldemar Tank, March 1941. (Bundesarchiv)

D-ACON was the prototype Condor, designated Fw 200 V1, Werk-Nr. 2000. It had first flown at Neulander Feld, site of the Focke-Wulf plant in Bremen, 27 July 1937. The test pilot was Kurt Waldemar Tank, an aeronautical engineer and the airplane’s designer.

Tank had proposed the airplane to Deutsche Luft Hansa as a long-range commercial transport for routes from Europe to South America. While British and American airlines were using large four-engine flying boats for transoceanic flight, their heavy weight and aerodynamic drag reduced the practical passenger and cargo loadings. A lighter-weight, streamlined land plane would be faster and could carry more passengers, increasing its desirability and practicality. Also, while the flying boats had to make an emergency water landing if one engine failed during the flight, the Focke-Wulf Condor was designed to be able to remain airborne with just two engines.

Prototype Focke-Wulf Fw 200 V1 Condor, Werk-Nr. 2000, D-ACON (Klassiker fer Luftfahrt)

The Fw 200 V1 was an all-metal low-wing monoplane powered by four engines, with retractable landing gear. It had a flight crew of four, and was designed to carry a maximum of 26 passengers. It was 78 feet, 0 inches (27.774 meters) long with a wingspan of 108 feet, 0 inches (32.918 meters) and overall height of 20 feet, 0 inches (6.096 meters). The airliner had an empty weight of 24,030 pounds (10,900 kilograms) and gross weight of 37,479 pounds (17,000 kilograms). This increased to 39,683 pounds (18,000 kilograms) after modification to the Fw 200 S-1 configuration.

As originally built, the prototype Condor was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged 1,690.537-cubic-inch-displacement (27.703 liters) Pratt & Whitney Hornet S1E-G single-row 9-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1 and gear reduction ratio of 3:2. The S1E-G was rated at 750 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), and 875 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. for takeoff. It was 4 feet, 1.38 inches (1.254 meters) in diameter, 4 feet, 6.44 inches (1.383 meters) long, and weighed 1,064 pounds (483 kilograms).

Prototype Focke-Wulf Fw 200 V1 Condor, Werk-Nr. 2000, D-ACON. (Bernhard D.F. Klein Collection/1000 Aircraft Photos)

Brandenburg‘s Pratt & Whitney engines were later replaced by Bayerische Motorenwerke AG BMW 132 L engines. BMW had been producing licensed variants of the Pratt & Whitney Hornet since 1933, and had incorporated their own developments during that time.

The Fw 200 V1 had a maximum speed of 233 miles per hour (375 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its cruising speed was 205 miles per hour (330 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). The airliner’s service ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). It could maintain level flight at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) with 3 engines, and 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) with just two engines running. Its range at cruise speed with a 7,000 pound (3,175 kilogram) payload was 775 miles (1,247 kilometers).

For the Berlin-to-New York flight, the Fw 200’s fuel capacity was increased to 2,400 gallons (9,084 liters).

D-ACON made a series of long distance flights to demonstrate its potential. On 20 November 1938, Brandenburg flew from Berlin to Hanoi in French Indo-China (now, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam). The crew was the same as the Berlin-New York flight, with the addition of G. Khone. This flight set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over Courses of 243.01 kilometers per hour (151.00 miles per hour).¹

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor, D-ACON. (Klassiker fer Luftfahrt)

On 6 December 1938, while on approach to Manila, capital city of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, all four of D-ACON’s engines stopped. Unable to reach the airfield, the Condor was ditched in Manila Bay. All aboard were quickly rescued. The cause of the engines failing was fuel starvation. One source states that the crew had selected the wrong tanks. Another source says that a fuel line had broken. A third cites a fuel pump failure.

Focke-Wulf Condor D-ACON after ditching near Manila, 6 Dec 1938 (Bureau d’Archives des Accidents d’Avions)

The wreck of the first Condor was recovered, however, the airplane was damaged beyond repair.

Recovery of Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor D-ACON. (Bureau d’Archives des Accidents d’Avions)

While the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 had been designed as a civilian airliner, it soon found use as a long-range maritime patrol bomber. The Fw 200 V10 was a military variant requested by the Imperial Japanese Navy. With the outbreak of World War II, Condors were produced as both bombers and transports. They saw extensive service searching for and attacking the Allies’ transatlantic convoys.

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C-3 Condor, SG+KS, Werk-Nr. 0043. (World War Photos)
A Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C-3 Condor reconnaissance bomber, SG+KS, Werk-Nr. 0043, circa 1941. (Photograph by Walter Frentz. Bundsarchiv, Bild 146-1987-043-02)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8984

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

6 August 1969

One of the two Mil Design Bureau V-12 heavy lift helicopter prototypes, 1971. (Groningen Airport-Eelde)

6 August 1969: The largest helicopter ever built, the four-engine, transverse tandem rotor Mil V-12, registration CCCP-21142, lifted a payload of 88,636 pounds (44,205 kilograms) to an altitude of 7,400 feet (2,255 meters). This weight record has never been broken by any helicopter.

FAI Record File Num #9916 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: E (Rotorcraft)
Sub-Class: E-1 (Helicopters)
Category: General
Group: 2 : turbine
Type of record: Altitude with 35 000 kg payload
Performance: 2 255 m
Date: 1969-08-06
Course/Location: Podmoskovnoe (USSR)
Claimant Vasily Kolochenko (URS)
Crew L.V. VLASSOV, V.V. JURAVLEV, V.P. BARTCHENKOV, S.G. RIBALKO, A.I. KRUTCHKOV
Rotorcraft: MIL M-12 (V-12)
Engines: 4 Soloviev D-25 VF

FAI Record File Num #9917 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: E (Rotorcraft)
Sub-Class: E-1 (Helicopters)
Category: General
Group: 2 : turbine
Type of record: Altitude with 40 000 kg payload
Performance: 2 255 m
Date: 1969-08-06
Course/Location: Podmoskovnoe (USSR)
Claimant Vasily Kolochenko (URS)
Crew L.V. VLASSOV, V.V. JURAVLEV, V.P. BARTCHENKOV, S.G. RIBALKO, A.I. KRUTCHKOV
Rotorcraft: MIL M-12 (V-12)
Engines: 4 Soloviev D-25 VF

FAI Record File Num #9937 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: E (Rotorcraft)
Sub-Class: E-1e (Helicopters: take off weight 3000 to 4500 kg)
Category: General
Group: 2 : turbine
Type of record: Greatest mass carried to height of 2 000 m
Performance: 40 204.5 kg
Date: 1969-08-06
Course/Location: Podmoskovnoe (USSR)
Claimant Vasily Kolochenko (URS)
Crew L.V. VLASSOV, V.V. JURAVLEV,V.P. BARTCHENKO,S.G. RIBALKO,A.I. KRUTCHKOV
Rotorcraft: MIL M-12 (V-12)
Engines: 4 Soloviev D-25 VF

This was the first of two prototypes built by the Mil Design Bureau. (Both had the same registration number: 21142.) It was intended to transport intercontinental ballistic missiles and load them directly into underground silos where there were no existing roads. The V-12 used two main rotor, transmission and twin engine systems from the single rotor Mil-6 helicopter. With counter-rotating main rotors, the torque created by each rotor system is cancelled out, eliminating the need for a tail, or anti-torque, rotor. This makes the total power produced available for lift. Each rotor had a diameter of 114 feet, 10 inches (35 meters). The four Soloviev D-25VF turboshaft engines combined to produce 26,000 horsepower. The aircraft was operated by a six-man crew. It’s maximum takeoff weight was 231,500 pounds (105,000 kilograms). It had a range of 310 miles (500 kilometers). Maximum speed of the V-12 was 140 knots (260 kilometers per hour) and the service ceiling was 11,500 feet (3,500 meters).

The helicopter was not put into series production. The record-setting first prototype is at the Mikhail Leontyevich Mil helicopter factory at Panki-Tomilino, near Moscow.

World Record Mil Mi-12 at Tomolino.
World Record holding Mil Mi-12 at Tomolino. (Yuriy Lapitskyi)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

2 August 1939

Major Caleb V. Haynes, U.S. Army Air Corps, with Captain William D. Old; Walter G. Bryte, Jr.; A.C. Brandt; Master Sergeant Adolph Catarius; Technical Sergeant Daniel L. spice; Staff Sergeant James E. Sands, the distance record-setting crew of the Boeing XB-15 35-277. (FAI)
The speed-distance record-setting crew of the Boeing XB-15 experimental long range bomber, left to right: Major Caleb V. Haynes, U.S. Army Air Corps, with Captain William D. Old; Walter G. Bryte, Jr.; A.C. Brandt; Master Sergeant Adolph Cattarius; Technical Sergeant Daniel L. Spicer; Staff Sergeant James E. Sands. (FAI)

2 August 1939: The Boeing Model 294, designated by the U.S. Army Air Corps as the XB-15, serial number 35-277, flown by a crew led by Major Caleb Vance Haynes, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 5000 Kilometers With 2000 Kilogram Payload, when they flew the experimental long range heavy bomber a distance of 3,109 miles at an average speed of 267.67 kilometers per hour (166.32 miles per hour) while carrying a payload of 2,000 kilograms (4,409.25 pounds).¹

The other members of the XB-15 crew were Captain William D. Old, Walter G. Bryte, Jr., A.C. Brandt, Master Sergeant Adolph Cattarius, Staff Sergeant William J. Heldt, Technical Sergeant Daniel L. Spicer and Staff Sergeant James E. Sands.

The Boeing XB-15, 35-277, flies past teh Wright Brothers memorial at the kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force)
The Boeing XB-15, 35-277, flies past the Wright Brothers National Memorial at the Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force)

The Boeing Model 294, designated XB-15 by the Air Corps, was an experimental airplane designed to determine if a bomber with a 5,000 mile range was possible. It was designed at the same time as the Model 299 (XB-17), which had the advantage of lessons learned by the XB-15 design team. The XB-15 was larger and more complex than the XB-17 and took longer to complete. It first flew more than two years after the prototype B-17.

The Boeing Model 294 (XB-15) at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, circa 1937. (The Boeing Company)

Designers had planned to use an experimental 3,421.194-cubic-inch-displacement (56.063 liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged and turbosupercharged Allison V-3420 twenty-four cylinder, four-bank “double V” engine. It produced a maximum of  2,885 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. The engine was not available in time, however, and four air-cooled Pratt & Whitney R-1830 (Twin Wasp) engines were used instead. With one-third the horsepower, this substitution left the experimental bomber hopelessly underpowered as a combat aircraft. (The Douglas XB-19 was retrofitted with V-3420s in 1942, and re-designated XB-19A.)

Boeing XB-15 at NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, 13 September 1938. (NASA)

The XB-15 was a very large four-engine mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was of aluminum monocoque construction with fabric-covered flight control surfaces. The XB-15 had a ten-man crew which worked in shifts on long duration flights.

The prototype bomber was 87 feet, 7 inches (26.695 meters) long with a wingspan of 149 feet (45.415 meters) and overall height of 18 feet, 1 inch (5.512 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 37,709 pounds (17,105 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 70,706 pounds (32,072 kilograms)—later increased to 92,000 pounds (41,730 kilograms).

The XB-15’s wings used a symmetrical airfoil and were very highly tapered (4:1 from root to tip). They had an angle of incidence of 4½° and 4½° dihedral. The total area was 2,780 square feet (258.271 square meters). A contemporary aeronautical publication wrote, “The airfoil provides constant center of pressure, minimum profile drag with flaps up and high maximum lift with flaps down.” The XB-15’s wings were adapted by Boeing for the Model 314 Clipper flying boat.

Boeing XB-15 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)050406-F-1234P-053

As built, the XB-15 was equipped with four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-11 (Twin Wasp S1B3-G) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-11 was rated at 850 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. and 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off. They turned three-bladed controllable-pitch propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-11 was 4 feet, 8.66 inches (1.439 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 0.00 inches (1.219 meters), and weighed 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).

The experimental airplane had a cruise speed of 152 miles per hour (245 kilometers per hour) at 6,000 feet (1,829 meters), and a maximum speed of 200 miles per hour ( kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). The service ceiling was 18,900 feet (5,761 meters) and maximum range was 5,130 miles (8,256 kilometers).

The bomber could carry a maximum of 12,000 pounds (5,443 kilograms) of bombs in its internal bomb bay, and was armed with three .30-caliber and three .50-caliber machine guns for defense .

Only one XB-15 was built. During World War II it was converted to a transport and re-designated XC-105. In 1945 35-277 was stripped and abandoned at Albrook Field, Territory of the Canal Zone, Panama.

The Boeing XB-15 experimental long-range heavy bomber flies in formation with a Boeing YP-29 pursuit. (U.S. Air Force)
The Boeing XB-15 experimental long-range heavy bomber flies in formation with a Boeing YP-29 pursuit. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 10865

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

1 August 1939

The flight crew of the FAI World Altitude Record-setting Boeing Y1B-17A. Left to right: Captain Pearl H. Robey, Captain Clarence S. Irvine and R. Swofford. (FAI)

1 August 1939: Captains Clarence S. Irvine and Pearl H. Robey, United States Army Air Corps, used the Boeing Y1B-17A Flying Fortress (Model 299F), serial number 37-369, to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude with a 5,000 Kilogram Payload. The bomber climbed to 10,371 meters (34,026 feet) with a payload of 11,023 pounds.¹ ²

On the same day, Irvine and Robey flew the Y1B-17 from Dayton, Ohio to St. Jacob, Illinois, setting an FAI World Record for Speed Over 1,000 Kilometers with a 5,000 Kilogram Payload, averaging 417.46 kilometers per hour (259.40 miles per hour).³

The flight crew of the FAI World Speed Record-setting Boeing Y1B-17A. Left to Right: Capatain C.J. Crane, P.G. Miller, Captain Clarence S. Irvine and Captain pearl H. Robey. (FAI)
The flight crew of the FAI World Speed Record-setting Boeing Y1B-17A. Left to Right: Captain Carl J. Crane, P.G. Miller, Captain Clarence S. Irvine and Captain Pearl H. Robey. (FAI)

The single Y1B-17A (Boeing Model 299F) was originally ordered as a static test article, but when that was determined to be unnecessary, it was used as an engine test aircraft. It was equipped with four 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Wright R-1820-51 (Cyclone G59) single-row nine-cylinder radial engines. Moss/General Electric turbo-superchargers were installed, initially on top of the wings, but were moved to the bottom of the engine nacelles.

Boeing Y1B-17A 37-369. (FAI)

The supercharged Wright R-1820-39 (Cyclone R-1820-G5) engines of the YB-17s were rated at 805 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., at Sea Level, 775 horsepower at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters), and 930 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., for take off. By contrast, the YB-17A’s R-1820-51 engines were rated at 800 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,000 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. for take off. But the turbochargers allowed the engines to maintain their Sea Level power rating all the way to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). Both the -39 and -51 engine had a 16:11 propeller gear reduction ratio. The R-1820-51 was 3 feet, 9.06 inches (1.145 meters) long, 4 feet, 6.12 inches (1.375 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,200.50 pounds (544.54 kilograms). 259 were produced by Wright between September 1937 and February 1940.

Boeing Y1B-17A 37-369. (U.S. Air Force)

The turbo-superchargers installed on the YB-17A greatly improved the performance of the bomber, giving it a 55 mile per hour (89 kilometer per hour) increase in speed over the supercharged YB-17s, and increasing the bomber’s service ceiling by 7,000 feet (2,132 meters). The turbo-superchargers worked so well that they were standard on all following B-17 production models.

Boeing Y1B-17A 37-369. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Boeing Y1B-17A was 68 feet, 9 inches (20.955 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9–3/8 inches (31.633 meters) and height of 14 feet, 11–5/16 inches (4.363 meters). Its empty weight was 26,520 pounds (12,029 kilograms). The maximum gross weight was 45,650 pounds (20,707 kilograms)

The Model 299F had a cruise speed of 230 miles per hour (370 kilometers per hour), a maximum speed of 271 miles per hour (436 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 295 miles per hour (475 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 38,000 feet (11,582 meters). The maximum range was 3,600 miles (5,794 kilometers). Carrying a 4,000 pound (1,814 kilogram) load of bombs, the range was 2,400 miles (3,862 kilometers).

The Y1B-17A could carry eight 600 pound (272 kilogram) bombs in an internal bomb bay. Defensive armament consisted of five .30-caliber machine guns.

Following the engine tests, 37-369 was re-designated B-17A.

The Boeing Y1B-17A in flight near Mt. Rainier on 28 February 1938. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8318

² This record-setting flight was dramatized in the motion picture “Test Pilot,” (1938, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) with Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy. This movie is now 80 years old and has a melodramatic plot, but is well worth seeing for aviation history enthusiasts.

³ FAI Record File Number 10443

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes