Tag Archives: Fédération Aéronautique Internationale

28–30 November 1938

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 D-ACON

28–30 November 1938: The first prototype Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, D-ACON, flew from Berlin, Germany, to Tokyo, Japan, to demonstrate the long-distance capabilities of the new civil airliner.

The Condor’s flight crew was the same as that which had made a previous Berlin–New York transatlantic flight, 10–11 August 1938. Deutsche Luft Hansa Kapitän Alfred Henke, Hauptmann Rudolf Freiherr von Moreau, of the Luftwaffe, co-pilot; Paul Dierberg, flight engineer; Walter Kober, radio operator. Senior radio operator Georg Khone was an additional crew member. (He had originally been scheduled to make the transatlantic flight.) For this flight there  was a single passenger, verkaufsdirecktor (sales director) Heinz Junge.¹

The Condor took off from Flugplatz Berlin-Staaken at 3:53 p.m., on 28 November, and flew to Basra, Kingdom of  Iraq. The Great Circle distance between the two cities is 2,305 miles (3,710 kilometers)

The Lounge, Basra Airport. (The Builder, February 1935)

After refueling, the Fw 200 took off for its next destination, Karachi Air Port in the Sindh province of the British India (now, Pakistan). The distance for the second leg of the journey was 1,238 miles (1,993 kilometers).

From Karachi, Captain Henke and his crew flew on to the city of Hà Nội, in the Protectorate of Tonkin, Indochine française. The Great Circle distance for the third leg is 2,480 miles (3,991 kilometers).

The final segment was from Hanoi to Tokyo, Japan, a distance of 2,281 miles (3,671 kilometers). The Condor arrived at Tachikawa Airfield in the western part of Tokyo at 10:40 p.m., 30 November.

The total elapsed time for the journey was 46 hours, 18 minutes, 19 seconds. The actual flight time was 42 hours, 00 minutes. The Condor’s average speed from Berlin to Tokyo was 198.308 kilometers per hour (123.223 miles per hour).

Captain Henke and his crew established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over Courses for the journey from Berlin to Hanoi, with an average speed of 243.01 kilometers per hour (150.999 miles per hour).² The total elapsed time, Berlin–Hanoi, was 34 hours, 17 minutes, 27 seconds.

D-ACON arrival Tokyo 30 Nov 22:34:24 (Arawasi)

The Condor’s crew was received by Emperor Hirohito.

The Japanese airline Nihon Koku Yuso Kabushiki Kaisha (NYKK) agreed to buy five Focke-Wulf Fw 200 airliners. The Imperial Japanese navy expressed interest in a maritime patrol version.

The Associated Press news agency reported:

Nazi Airmen Start Berlin to Tokyo Hop

     Berlin, Nov. 28—(AP)—A fast four-motored Focke-Wulf Condor plane took off today for Tokyo with a crew of five and one passenger, to show the orient, especially Japan, Germany’s latest achievements in airplane building.

     With only three stops scheduled en route—at Basra, Iraq; Karachi, India, and Hanoi, French Indo-China—it was expected that the entire distance of 9,300 miles would be covered in from 50 to 55 hours.

     Lufthansa officials, however, declared no record would be sought. They said the flight was intended to return the visit of Japan’s “Divine Wind,” which flew here in April, 1937.

     But no secret was made of the fact that Japan has been negotiating for purchase of German commercial planes, for which reason the big Condor was chosen to show its paces.

     Officials said it would return by way of Batavia, capital of the Netherlands East Indies, and Amsterdam in order to show the Royal Dutch air line that its time of six days between those points can be lowered to four.

     The Germans may make a side -trip to Manchoukuo, where purchase of German planes is also being negotiated.

     It was expected they would be back in Berlin by December 17.

Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Vol. XXV, No. 7790, Monday, 28 November 1938, Page 3, Column 1

The flight crew of Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 D-ACON at Berlin, 1 August 1938, after their return from New York City. Left to right, Walter Kober, radio operator; Paul Dierberg, flight engineer; Kapitän Alfred Henke, the aircraft commander; and Hauptmann Rudolf Freiherr von Moreau, co-pilot. Foto: Deutsche Lufthansa AG / 14.08.1938

The United Press reported:

Nazi Plane Ends Berlin-Tokyo Hop

(United Press by Radio)

     TOKYO, Nov. 30.—A German Focke-Wulf “Condor” type plane arrived here today after a two-day hop from Berlin. The plane made the trip to survey possibilities of regular passenger service between Berlin and Tokyo.

The Honolulu Advertiser, Vol. 83, 1 December 1938, Page 8, Column 8

The Chicago Tribune reported:


(Chicago Tribune Press Service.)

     TOKIO, Nov. 30.—Completing an 8,375 mile flight from Berlin to Tokio in 46 hours and 41 minutes, five German airmen and one passenger landed their plane at 10:35 o’clock tonight on Tachikawa army airfield on the outskirts of Tokio. The plane, a four-motor Focke-Wulf Condor capable of carrying twenty-six passengers, left Berlin on Monday.

     The silver colored monoplane made only three stops en route, at Basra, Iraq; Karachi, India, and Hanoi, French Indo-China. It averaged 180 miles and hour, including stopovers. Capt. Alfred Henke said the crew encountered little difficulty. They were in constant radio contact with Japanese stations.

Chicago Tribune, Vol. XCVII., No. 287, Thursday 30 December 1938. Page 22, Column 5

Fw 200 S-1 D-ACON (Bernhard D.F. Klein Collection/1000 Aircraft Photos)

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, Germany, 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.

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.

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, 3-view drawing with dimensions. (FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, Vol. XXXII, No. 1513, Thursday, 23 December 1937, at Page 628.)

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).

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 BMW 132 had a displacement of 27,72 liters and a gear reduction ratio of 0,62:1, and turned a two-bladed Zweiblatt-Versstellpropeller constant-speed propeller, based on Hamilton-Standard design,  with a diameter of 3,35 m

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).

Fw 200 S-1 D-ACON

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.

D-ACON 6 Dec 1938

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

D-ACON recovery

¹ Following World War II, Heinz Junge, also known as Heinz Junger, was arrested and prosecuted for mistreatment of Allied prisoners of war. He was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment.

² FAI Record File Number 8984

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

27 November 1954

Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation.
Lockheed L-1049E Super Constellation EC-AIN, Iberia’s first Super Constellation. This is the same type as the FAI record-setting airliner, EC-AIO.

27 November 1964: Cecilio Imaz Batida of Spain, flying a Lockheed L-1049E-55 Super Constellation, EC-AIO, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Commercial Airline Route from New York City, New York, United States of America, to Madrid, Spain. The average speed over the course was 610,90 kilometers per hour (379.596 miles per hour).¹

The Lockheed L-1049E Super Constellation was an improved L-1049C with a strengthened fuselage and wings to accommodate a takeoff weight of up to 150,000 pounds (68,039 kilograms), anticipating retrofitting the airplane to turboprop engines. It was used primarily on long overwater routes. Only 23 of this model were sold before Lockheed changed production to the L-1049G variant.

Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation three-view illustration with dimensions. (Lockheed Aircraft Corporation)

The L-1049E was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged and fuel-injected 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 972TC18DA1 two-row, 18-cylinder turbo-compound radial engines. The engine’s high-velocity exhaust gases drove three “blow down” turbines which were geared to the engine’s crankshaft. (Gear reduction is 6.52:1.) Energy that would otherwise be wasted added as much as 600 horsepower to each engine. The Turbo Compound used the same nose section, power section and rear section as the standard Cyclone 18CB. The 972TC18DA1 (R-3350-34) was rated at 2,600 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and 3,250 hp at 2,900 r.p.m. for takeoff. It had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and required 115/145-octane aviation gasoline. The Turbo Compound engine was 7 feet, 5.53 inches (2.274 meters) long, 4 feet, 8.59 inches (1.437 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,581 pounds (1,624 kilograms). The engines turned three bladed propellers through a gear reduction ratio of 0.4375:1.

Iberia Líneas Aéreas de España purchased three L-1049Es. The first, EC-AIN (s/n 4550), was delivered to Iberia in June 1954. The other two were EC-AIO (4551) and EC-AIP (4552). EC-AIO was later converted to the L-1049G configuration. In 1964, it was converted to a freighter.

Iberia’s EC-AIO after conversion to the L-1049G configuration. (R.A. Scholefield Collection)

In 1967, EC-AIO was sold to International Aerodyne, Inc., of Miami, Florida, and re-registered N8023. This registration was cancelled 1 March 1968 when the airplane was exported to Panama, where it was operated by Rutas Aereas Panamenas SA, registered HP-475. In 1970 the Super Constellation was flown in Biafra Air Lift, based at São Tomé International Airport (TMS), off the western coast of Africa. It was impounded at Felix Hophouet Boigny International Airport (ABJ), Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in March 1970, and scrapped there in January 1971.

¹ FAI Record File Number 5065

The Great Circle Route distance from New York City to Madrid is 5,775 kilometers (3,589 statute miles). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2023 Bryan R. Swopes

22 November 1961

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps, with the McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, with which he set a world absolute speed record, 22 November 1961. Colonel Robinson is wearing a Goodrich Mark IV full-pressure suit for protection at high altitudes. (U.S. Navy)

22 November 1961: In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of Naval Aviation, a number of speed and altitude record attempts were planned, using the U.S. Navy’s new McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II fighter. On the morning of 22 November, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., United States Marine Corps, took off from Edwards Air Force Base on Operation Skyburner, an attempt to set a new World Absolute Speed Record. He was flying the second Phantom II built, Bu. No. 142260.

The Phantom carried three external fuel tanks for this flight. It had a 600-gallon (2,271.25 liter) centerline tank and two 370-gallon (1,400.6 liter) wing tanks. Robinson flew southeast toward NAS El Centro, then turned back to the northwest. Over the Salton Sea, he began to accelerate the YF4H-1 to build up speed for the record run over a measured twenty-mile course back at Edwards AFB. The Phantom’s two General Electric J79-GE-3A afterburning turbojets used a tremendous amount of fuel at full throttle and the centerline fuel tank was quickly emptied. Robinson jettisoned the empty tank over the Chocolate Mountain gunnery range. Continuing to accelerate, the two wing tanks were next jettisoned as they ran dry, this time at Bristol Dry Lake.

McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, during Operation Skyburner, 22 November 1961. (U.S. Navy)

The Phantom entered the east end of the speed course in full afterburner. Having burned off more than 1,300 gallons of fuel, 142260 was much lighter now, and aerodynamically cleaner after dropping the external tanks. Robinson exited the west end of the 20-mile (32.2 kilometer) course in less than one minute.

Fédération Aéronautique Internationale rules require that a speed record must be made with two passes in opposite directions. The average speed of the two runs is the record speed. The Phantom was flying so fast that it covered another 105 miles (169 kilometers) before it could turn around. During the turn, it was still traveling at 0.9 Mach.

Robinson again put the engines in afterburner as he approached the course from the west. On the second run, the fighter was even lighter and its recorded speed was more than 1,700 miles per hour (2,736 kilometers per hour). The average of the two runs was calculated at 2,585.425 kilometers per hour (1,606.509 miles per hour.) This was the new FAI Absolute World Speed Record.¹

For his accomplishment, Lieutenant Colonel Robinson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally. The presentation took place on 25 November 1961 at Newport News, Virginia, during the commissioning of USS Enterprise CVA(N)-65.

McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II Bu. No. 142260 during Operation Skyburner, 1961. (U.S. Navy via FFRC Photo Collection)

In the next few weeks, the same YF4H-1 would establish a world record for sustained altitude—20,252 meters (66,444 feet).² Two years earlier, 6 December 1959, in Operation Top Flight, 142260 had established a world record for absolute altitude when it zoom-climbed to 98,557 feet (30,040 meters).³

Lieutenant Colonel Robert B. Robinson, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps, with the McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II Bu. No. 142260, with which he set a world absolute speed record, 22 November 1961. (U.S. Navy)

Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., was born at Orange, California, 22 October 1923. He was the second of four children of Robert Bradford Robinson, a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, and Golda Leutha Nordeen Robinson.

Robert B. Robinson. (Orange and White 1941)

Bob Robinson attended Orange Union High School, graduating in 1941. He participated in all varsity sports, and was selected to attend the Boys’ State leadership program. He earned a bachelor of science degree at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.

Robinson entered the United States Marine Corps on 26 August 1942. He received the wings of a Naval Aviator and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 1 December 1943.

2nd Lieutenant Robinson married Miss Lavonne Jean David at Nueces, Texas, 23 December 1943. They would later have a son, Robert Bradford Robinson III (and a grandson, Robert Bradford Robinson IV)

During the Battle of Okinawa, Lieutenant Robinson flew the radar-equipped Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat night fighter with VMF(N)-543.

A Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat night fighter of VMF(N)-543, circa 1944. The radome is at the far end of the airplane’s right wing. (U.S. Navy)

Lieutenant Robinson was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, 31 March 1945. Following World War II, Lieutenant Robinson was assigned to VMF-311, and became one of the first Naval Aviators to qualify in turbojet-powered aircraft. The squadron initially flew the Lockheed TO-1 Shooting Star (P-80), and later transitioned to the Grumman F9F Panther.

A Lockheed TO-1 Shooting Star  Bu. No. 33822 (P-80C 47-219) of VMF-311, circa 1948. (NNAM.1996.488.163.012)

Lieutenant Robinson was promoted to the rank of captain 1 April 1950. VMF-311 was sent to the Korean war zone in November 1950, initially operating from Yokosuka Air Base in Japan. The squadron flew close air support missions in support of the amphibious assault of Inchon, and at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Captain Robinson returned to night fighter operations when he joined Marine All-Weather Squadron 513 (VMF(N)-513) on 13 January 1951. The unit which was equipped with Grumman F7F-3N Tigercats and Chance Vought F4U-5N Corsairs.

Two Grumman F9F-2 Panthers of VMF-311 being refueled at K-3, Republic of South Korea, circa 1951. The aircraft closest to the camera is an F9F-2B, Bu. No. 123602. (Department of Defense HD-SN-99-03071)

Captain Robinson was promoted to the rank of major, 31 December 1954. He completed the six-month course at the Naval Test Pilot School, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, graduating in March 1959 (Class 21).

In 1963, Lieutenant Colonel Robinson retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years’ service. He was then employed as a test pilot for the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation at St. Louis, Missouri. He remained with the company for 30 years.

Mrs. Robinson died 7 February 1997, after 53 years of marriage. Bob Robinson later married Mrs. Julian Brady (née Elizabeth Catchings), the widow of a long-time friend.

Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., died 28 September 2005 at McComb, Mississippi. He was buried at the Hollywood Cemetery in McComb.

¹ FAI Record File Number 9060

² FAI Record File Number 8535

³ FAI Record File Number 10352

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

22 November 1913

C.A.H. Longcroft, circa 1913 (R.A.F.)

22 November 1913: Captain Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, Welsh Regiment, British Army, attached to No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, as a flight commander, flies a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a from Montrose, Scotland, non-stop to Farnborough, Hampshire, England. The distance covered was approximately 630 miles (1,014 kilometers).¹

Captain Longcroft, accompanied by Colonel Frederick Hugh Sykes, Commandant of the Military Wing, departed Montrose Aerodrome at 8:55 a.m., flying B.E.2.a number 218. He passed York at 11:55 a.m., then continued on to Portsmouth, and next to Farnborough, where he landed at 4:10 p.m. The total duration of the flight was 7 hours, 15 minutes, at an average speed of approximately 86.9 miles per hour (139.9 kilometers per hour).

At the time, British newspapers speculated as to whether Captain Longcroft had established a new world record (or at least, a British national record), but the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale does not recognize any records attributed to Longcroft. On 13 October 1913, Auguste Seguin of France had established an FAI world record for distance of 1021,20 kilometers (634.54 statute miles) at Korobcheevo, Russia.²

For this flight, Captain Longcroft was awarded the first Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom. (RAeC)

Number 2 Squadron is the most senior of all Royal Air Force squadrons, having been founded at Farnborough, Hampshire, England, 13 May 1912. At the time the squadron was also known as No. II (Army Co-operation) Squadron.

Montrose Aerodrome, now known as RAF Montrose, was the first of twelve planned stations for the Royal Flying Corps. It was originally located at Upper Dysart Farm in Forfarshire, on the eastern shoreline of Scotland.

Captain Longcroft’s Bristol & Colonial Aeroplane Company B.E.2.a, number 218. (Montrose Air Station Heritage Cenre)

Captain Longcroft’s B.E.2.a., number 218, was built by British & Colonial Aeroplane Company (later, Bristol) at Filton, South Goucestershire, under order number A1147. It was delivered to the R.F.C. on 2 November 2013.

The B.E.2.a was slightly modified with the addition of a windscreen and a fuel tank with a capacity of 54 Imperial gallons (245 liters), “and special oiling arrangements.”

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a (which stands for Blériot Experimental, meaning that it was a tractor-type airplane, which had been developed by Louis Blériot) was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. It was a two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane which was used as a trainer, reconnaissance aircraft, artillery spotter or bomber. An observer occupied the forward cockpit and the pilot was aft.

The fuselage was constructed of a wooden framework, cross-braced with wires. The wings had wood spars and ribs. The airframe was covered in doped fabric. The B.E.2.a used wing-warping for roll control.This would be changed to ailerons for the B.E.2.b.

The wings of the 2.a and 2.b were straight with no dihedral. Both upper and lower wings had the same span and chord, and were not staggered. (The B.E.2.c added both dihedral and stagger.) The lower wing spars were connected through the fuselage with steel tubing. The landing gear had both wheels and tires, but also wood-covered steel tube skids extending forward to protect the propeller from contacting the ground.

The B.E.2.a–2.b was 29 feet, 6½ inches (9.004 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 7½ inches (11.773 meters). The wings’ chord was 6 feet, 4 inches (1.930 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,274 pounds (578 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,600 pounds (726 kilograms).

The B.E.2, B.E.2.a and B.E.2.b were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 6.949 liter (424.036 cubic inch) Renault Type WB side-valve 90° V-8 engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.12:1. The WB was rated at 70 horsepower at 1,750 r.p.m. The engine drove a four-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller at one-half crankshaft speed. The Renault WB was 3 feet, 9.5 inches (1.556 meters) long, 2 feet, 8.8 inches (0.833 meters) high and 2 feet, 5.8 inches (0.757 meters) wide. It weighed 396 pounds (180 kilograms).

The airplane had a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour) at 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). It could climb to 3,000 feet (914 meters) in 9 minutes and to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) in 35 minutes. The service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Maximum endurance was 3 hours.

Although designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, only 6 B.E.2s were built there. The remainder were built by Armstong Whitworth, British and Colonial Airplane Co., Coventry Ordnance Works, Handley Page, Hewlett and Blondeau, and Vickers.

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force,1930. (Walter Stoneman/National Portrait Gallery NPG x186018)

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, was born Llanarth, Cardiganshire, Wales, 13 May 1883. He was the third of four children of Charles Edward Longcroft and Catherine Alicia Holcombe Longcroft. Charles was educated at Charterhouse, a private boarding school (for some incomprehensible reason, known in England as a “public school”) in Goldalming, Surrey, England. He then attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

C.A.H. Longcroft was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Welsh Regiment of the British Army, 2 May 1903. From 1904 to 1906, he served in India. Returning to the United Kingdom, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, 13 December 1906. He then deployed to South Africa until 1909.

On 5 March 1912, Lieutenant Longcroft was issued an aviator’s certificate (H192) by the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom.

After volunteering, on 10 April 1912 Lieutenant Longcroft was assigned to the Air Battalion, Royal Engineers. The unit operated lighter-than-air craft. The following month, 13 May 1912, he was “seconded” (temporarily transferred for duties outside of his normal unit) to the newly established Royal Flying Corps. On 1 July 1912, Lieutenant Longcroft was appointed a Flying Officer, R.F.C. On 20 November 1912, he was assigned as a flight commander, No. 2 Squadron, at Farnborough and Montrose. On that same day, he was promoted to the temporary rank of captain. That rank became permanent 13 August 1913.

Captain Longcroft was promoted to the temporary rank of major, 1 May 1914, and assigned as the commanding officer No. 1 Squadron at Farnborough, which, after the start of World War I, served on the Western Front. His new rank became permanent two months later (22 June). On 19 October 1914, Longcroft was Mentioned in Dispatches.

Major Longcroft became the commanding officer of No. 4 Squadron 29 January 1915. On 18 August 1915 he was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel. He was reassigned to command the Training Wing.

The Imperial House of Romanov (the reigning house of Imperial Russia) awarded Major Longcroft the Order of St. Staninslas (Орденъ Св. Станислава), 3rd Class with Swords, 25 August 1915.

Brigadier-General Charles A. H. Longcroft, Royal Flying Corps, ca. 1917 (Wikipedia)

On 28 August 1916, Colonel Longcourt was promoted to the temporary rank of brigadier-general. He was placed in command of 2nd (Corps) Wing, R.F.C. (His permanent rank of lieutenant-colonel was effective 1 January 1917.) Next, on 18 October 1917, Longcroft was promoted to temporary major-general. He was next assigned as General Officer Commanding, Training Division.

France appointed him an Officier de la Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur in 1917.

On 1 April 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were combined to form the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.). Major-General Longcroft was transferred from the British Army to the R.A.F. and attached to III Brigade. While retaining that temporary rank, his permanent rank of lieutenant-colonel was confirmed and he was immediately promoted to the permanent rank of colonel. On 29 April, he was advanced once again to the temporary rank of brigadier-general, and assigned as General Officer Commanding, III Brigade.

In the New Year’s Honours List, 1 January 1918, Brigadier-General Longcroft was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) for service under fire.

For his service during World War I, Brigadier-General Longcroft was awarded the Distinguished Service Order; the Air Force Cross; the 1914 Star with Clasp; the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. He was also appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (C.M.G.) by King George V.

On 1 May 1919, Temporary Brigadier-General Longcroft was promoted to the rank of acting brigadier-general.

The new R.A.F. changed to a new system of officer ranks. On 1 August 1919, Longcroft resigned his commission in the Welsh Brigade to accept a commission in the R.A.F. Acting Brigadier-General Longcroft became Group Captain Longcroft. Four days later, 5 August, he was promoted to Air Commodore.

The first class of cadets at RAF Cranwell, 1920. (Royal Air Force)

Air Commodore Longroft became the first commandant of the newly established R.A.F. College at Cranwell. The first cadets arrived 5 February 1920. His command consisted of 56 officers, 516 airmen, 200 cadets, 1 headmaster and 8 schoolmasters.

Air Commodore Longcroft married Mrs. William Duncan Hepburn (née Marjory McKerrell-Brown) at St. Paul’s Church, Portman Square, London, 27 April 1921. The ceremony was officiated by Squadron Leader the Reverend Bernard William Keymer, O.B.E., R.A.F. Mrs. Hepburn was the widow of Captain W. D. Hepburn, Seaforth Highlanders, British Army. The Longcrofts would have a son, Charles McKerrell Longcroft, born in 1926. (Squadron Leader Keymer was one of the first chaplains at RAF Cranwell, and is credited with creating the school’s motto, Superna Petimus—”We seek things that are above.”)

King George V appointed Air Commodore Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, to be an Ordinary Member of the Military Division of the Third Class, of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.), 2 June 1923.³

On 9 October 1923, Air-Commodore Longcroft was placed on the Half-Pay List. Shortly after, 10 December, he was appointed Director of Personal Services.

Air Commodore Longcroft was advanced to the rank of air vice-marshal, 1 July 1925.

On 1 November 1926, Air Vice-Marshal Longcroft became Air Officer Commanding, Inland Area.

Longcroft retired from the Royal Air Force at his own request, 2 November 1929.

On 15 November 1932, King George V appointed Air Vice-Marshal Longcroft, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C. (retired) to be Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.³ In 1948, he became Secretary and Registrar of the Order.⁴

On 9 June 1938, King George VI invested him Knight Commander of the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.).

Air Vice Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, died 20 February 1958 at London. He was 74 years of age.

Air Vice Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force.

¹ Lincolnshire Echo, No. 6431, Monday, 24 November 1913, Page 3, Column 5. Some sources state the distance was 445 miles (716 kilometers) in 7 hours, 20 minutes.

² FAI Record File Number 15378

³ Supplement 32830 to the London Gazette, 2 June 1923, Page 3945

⁴ Supplement 33883 of the London Gazette, 15 November 1932 at Page 7260.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

19–20 November 1945

Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-8061, the Pacusan Dreamboat. (U.S. Air Force)
Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, the Pacusan Dreamboat. (U.S. Air Force)

19–20 November 1945: A Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress, 44-84061, named Pacusan Dreamboat, piloted by Colonel Clarence Shortridge Irvine and Lieutenant Colonel G.R. Stanley, flew non-stop and unrefueled from Guam, the largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Islands of the Western Pacific, to Washington, D.C. The four-engine heavy bomber covered the 8,198 miles (13,193 kilometers) in 35 hours, 5 minutes. It set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) record for Distance in a Straight Line:  12,739.59 kilometers (7,916.01 miles).¹

Bell Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress over Seattle, Washington. (Boeing)
Bell Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, “Pacusan Dreamboat,” over Seattle, Washington. (Boeing)

Pacusan Dreamboat was modified specifically for a series of long-distance flights. A standard production B-29B, a light-weight variant of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, it did not have the four power gun turrets with their .50-caliber machine guns. A radar-directed 20 mm cannon and two .50-caliber machine guns in the tail were the only defensive weapons. Much of the standard armor plate was also deleted. It weighed 69,000 pounds (31,298 kilograms) empty and 137,000 pounds (62,142 kilograms) fully loaded. Pacusan Dreamboat was further lightened. The tail guns were removed and the tail reshaped. It had an empty weight of 66,000 pounds (29,937 kilograms). Its takeoff weight on this flight was 151,000 pounds (68,492 kilograms).

Pacusan Dreamboat carried a 12-man crew and 10,000 gallons (37,854 liters) of gasoline.

Colonel Clarence S. Irvine (standing, left) with the crew of Pacusan Dreamboat: W.J.Benett, G.F.Broughton, Dock West, W.S. O'Hara, F.S. O'Leary, K.L. Royer, F.J.Shannon, J.A. Shinnault, G.R. Stanley. (FAI)
Colonel Clarence S. Irvine (standing, left) with the crew of Pacusan Dreamboat: W.J. Benett, G.F. Broughton, Dock West, W.S. O’Hara, F.S. O’Leary, K.L. Royer, F.J.Shannon, J.A. Shinnault, G.R. Stanley. (FAI)

Pacusan Dreamboat set a number of distance and speed records, including Honolulu, Hawaii to Cairo, Egypt and Burbank to New York in 5 hours, 27 minutes, averaging 451.9 miles per hour (727.26 kilometers per hour).

The Pacusan Dreamboat was stricken from the Air Force inventory 8 August 1954 and reclaimed at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, Pacusan Dreamboat. (FAI)
Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, Pacusan Dreamboat. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 9277

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes