Tag Archives: Fighter Pilot

29 September 1918

Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., Air Service, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)
Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., Air Service, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)

The President of the United States
in the name of
The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor

to

FRANK LUKE, JR.

Rank and Organization: Second Lieutenant, 27th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, Air Service.

Place and Date: Near Murvaux, France, 29 September 1918.

Entered Service At: Phoenix, Ariz. Born: 19 May 1897, Phoenix, Ariz.

G. O. No.: 59, W.D., 1919.

Citation:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Murvaux, France, September 29, 1918. After having previously destroyed a number of enemy aircraft within 17 days he voluntarily started on a patrol after German observation balloons. Though pursued by eight German planes which were protecting the enemy balloon line, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down in flames three German balloons, being himself under heavy fire from ground batteries and the hostile planes. Severely wounded, he descended to within 50 meters of the ground, and flying at this low altitude near the town of Murvaux opened fire upon enemy troops, killing six and wounding as many more. Forced to make a landing and surrounded on all sides by the enemy, who called upon him to surrender, he drew his automatic pistol and defended himself gallantly until he fell dead from a wound in the chest.”

2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr, 18 September 1918. (Photograph by Sergeant C. E. Dunn, Signal Corps, United States Army)
2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., late in the afternoon of 18 September 1918. (Photograph by Sergeant C. E. Dunn, Signal Corps, United States Army)

Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. shot down three enemy observation balloons along the Meuse front, on Sunday, 29 September 1918. He was apparently wounded by rifle or machine gun fire from the ground and made an emergency landing near the village of Murvaux.

Trying to evade capture, Luke walked away from his airplane toward a nearby creek. He exchanged gunfire with several German soldiers that were near, and was killed in the brief fire fight. The event was witnessed by at least thirteen of the local French villagers.

Luke’s body was buried near a village church, and was not located by graves registration personnel until several months later.

Lieutenant Frank Luke's grave at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France. (Brooks D. Simpson)
Lieutenant Frank Luke’s grave at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France. (Brooks D. Simpson)

Luke’s commander, Major Harold E. Hartney, said of him, “No one had the sheer contemptuous courage that boy possessed. He was an excellent pilot and probably the best flying marksman on the Western Front. We had any number of expert pilots and there was no shortage of good shots, but the perfect combination, like the perfect specimen of anything in the world, was scarce. Frank Luke was the perfect combination.”

Leading American ace Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker said of Luke: “He was the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life is one of the brightest glories of our Air Service. He went on a rampage and shot down fourteen enemy aircraft, including ten balloons, in eight days. No other ace, even the dreaded Richthofen, had ever come close to that.”

Luke is officially credited with destroying 14 observation balloons and 4 enemy airplanes during a 17 day period, 12–29 September 1918. It is probable that he shot down several more.

2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., 27th Aero Squadron, with his Blériot-built SPAD XIII C.1 fighter, Number 26 (serial number unknown), 19 September 1918. (Photograph by Lt. Harry S. Drucker, Signal Corps, United States Army)
2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., 27th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, with his Blériot-built SPAD XIII C.I fighter, Number 26 (serial number unknown), at La Ferme de Rattentout, southeast of Verdun, France, 19 September 1918. (Photograph by Lt. Harry S. Drucker, Signal Corps, United States Army)

The airplane flown by Lieutenant Luke on the day he was killed was a new Société des Avions Bernard-built SPAD S.XIII C.I, serial number 7984. It had been assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron the previous day and had not yet been painted with any squadron markings.

The Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XIII C.I was a single-seat, single-engine two-bay biplane designed by Louis Béchéreau. It was first flown by Sous-Lieutenant René Pierre Marie Dorme of the Aéronautique Militaire (French Air Service), on 4 April 1917.

The S.XIII was 20 feet, 4 inches (6.198 meters) long.¹ The upper and lower wings had equal span and chord. The span was 26 feet, 3¾ inches (8.020 meters) and chord, 4 feet, 7-1/8 inches (1.400 meters). The vertical spacing between the wings was 3 feet, 10½ inches (1.181 meters), and the lower wing was staggered 1¼° behind the upper. Interplane struts and wire bracing was used to reinforce the wings. The wings had no sweep or dihedral. The angle of incidence of the upper wing was 1½° and of the lower, 1°. Only the upper wing was equipped with ailerons. Their span was 7 feet, 3½ inches (2.222 meters), and their chord, 1 foot, 7½ inches (0.495 meters). The total wing area was 227 square feet (21.089 square meters).

The horizontal stabilizer had a span of 10 feet, 2 inches (3.099 meters) with a maximum chord of 1 foot, 8¾ inches (0.527 meters). The height of the vertical fin was 2 feet, 7/8-inch (0.876 meters) and it had a maximum length of 3 feet, 11¼ inches (1.200 meters). The rudder was 3 feet, 10-5/8 inches high (1.184 meters) with a maximum chord of 2 feet, 2 inches (0.660 meters).

The SPAD S.XIII C.I had fixed landing gear with two pneumatic tires. Rubber cords (bungie cords) were used for shock absorption. The wheel track was 4 feet, 10¾ inches (1.492 meters). At the tail was a fixed skid.

The airplane had an empty weight of 1,464 pounds (664 kilograms), and gross weight 2,036 pounds (924 kilograms).

This SPAD S.XIII C.1, on display at Terminal 3, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Phoenix, Arizona, is painted to represent a fighter flown by Frank Luke. It was assembled from components of several different airplanes and restored by GossHawk Unlimited, Casa Grande, Arizona. (Wikipedia)
This SPAD S.XIII C.I, on display at Terminal 3, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Phoenix, Arizona, is painted to represent a fighter flown by Frank Luke. It was assembled from components of several different airplanes and restored by GossHawk Unlimited, Casa Grande, Arizona. (Wikipedia)

Initial production SPAD XIIIs were powered by a water-cooled 11.762 liter (717.769-cubic-inch displacement), La Société Hispano-Suiza 8Ba single overhead cam (SOHC) left-hand-tractor 90° V-8 engine. It was equipped with two Zenith down-draft carburetors and had a compression ratio of 5.3:1. The 8Ba was rated at 150 cheval vapeur (148 horsepower) at 1,700 r.p.m., and 200 cheval vapeur (197 horsepower) at 2,300 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propeller with a diameter of 2.50 meters (8 feet, 2.43 inches) through a 0.585:1 gear reduction. (The 8Be engine had a 0.75:1 reduction gear ratio and used both 2.50 meter and 2.55 meter (8 feet, 4.40 inches) propellers.) The Hispano-Suiza 8Ba was 1.36 meters (4 feet, 5.5 inches) long, 0.86 meters (2 feet, 9.9 inches) wide and 0.90 meters (2 feet, 11.4 inches) high. It weighed 236 kilograms (520 pounds).

The airplane had a main fuel tank behind the engine, with a gravity tank located in the upper wing. The total fuel capacity was 183 pounds (83 kilograms), sufficient for 2 hours, 30 minutes endurance at full throttle at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), including climb. There was also a 4.5 gallon (17 liters) lubricating oil tank.

During flight testing at McCook Field, Ohio, following the war, a SPAD S.XIII C.I demonstrated a maximum Sea Level speed of 131.5 mph (211.6 kilometers per hour) at 2,300 rpm, and 105 mph (169 kilometers per hour) at 2,060 r.p.m., at 18,400 feet (5,608 meters). Its service ceiling was 18,400 feet (5,608 meters), and the absolute ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters).

The chasseur was armed with two fixed, water-cooled, .303-caliber (7.7 mm) Vickers Mk.I machine guns with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. Because of the cold temperatures at altitude, the guns’ water jackets were not filled, thereby saving considerable weight.

The SPAD S.XIII C.I was produced by nine manufacturers. 8,472 were built in 1917 and 1918. Only four are still in existence.

Recommended: The Stand: The Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., by Stephen Skinner, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, Pennsylvania, 2008.

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¹ Dimensions, weights, capacities and performance data cited above refer to SPAD S.XIII C.I serial number 17956 (A.S. 94101), which was tested at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio (Project Number P-154), 1921.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 September 1920

Test pilot Joseph Sadi-Lecointe with a Nieuport Delâge Ni-D 40R World record-setting biplane.
Test pilot Joseph Sadi-Lecointe with a Nieuport Delâge Ni-D 40R World Altitude Record-setting biplane, circa 1923. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

25 September 1920: At Villesauvage-La Marmogne, France, Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew a Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers. His average speed was 279.50 kilometers per hour (173.67 miles per hour).¹

Three days later, 28 September 1920, Sadi-Lacointe won the Gordon Bennett Aviation Trophy Race with a Ni-D 29V. He set four FAI world speed records with these airplanes, reaching a maximum 302.53 kilometers per hour (187.98 miles per hour) on 20 October 1920.²

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V
One of three Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V racers. Sadi-Lecointe flew this airplane, #10, to win the Gordon Bennett Aviation Trophy. (Unattributed)

Sadi-Lecointe’s Ni-D 29V was one of three racing variants of the highly successful single-engine, single-seat Ni-D 29C.1 biplane fighter, which was the fastest in the world at the time. The Ni-D 29V was 21 feet, 3.5 inches (6.489 meters) long, with a wing span of just 6.00 meters (19 feet, 8¼ inches), shortened from the 31 feet, 10 inch (9.703 meters) wingspan of the standard production chasseur.

This right rear-quarter view of a Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V shows the shortned single-bay wing configuration. (United States Air Force)
This right rear-quarter view of one of the three Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V racers shows the shortened single-bay wing configuration. (United States Air Force)

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 1,127.29-cubic-inch displacement (18.47 liter) right-hand tractor Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single overhead cam (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine, modified to increase its output to 320 horsepower. This was a direct-drive engine, and turned a two-bladed-fixed pitch propeller.

The standard airplane had a top speed of 235 kilometers per hour (146 miles per hour), a range of 580 kilometers (360 miles) and a service ceiling of 8,500 meters (27,887 feet).

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29C.1, s/n 12002, right front quarter view.
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29 C.1, s/n 12002, right front quarter view. (worldmilitary.net)
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29C.1, s/n 12002, right profile.
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29 C.1, s/n 12002, right profile. A well-known landmark can be seen at the left edge of the photograph. (worldmilitary.net)
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29C.1, s/n 12002, right rear three-quarter view.
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29 C.1, s/n 12002, right rear three-quarter view. (worldmilitary.net)

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe learned to fly in 1910. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1910.

He joined the Service Aéronautique (the original form of the French Air Force) as a mechanic in October 1912, and was designated pilote militaire nº375, 20 September 1913. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2, Morane LA and Nieuport X, then in December 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord. Sadi-Lacointe was promoted from the enlisted ranks to sous-lieutenant, 17 September 1917, and was assigned as a test pilot at BlériotSociété Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, where he worked on the development of the famous SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was a test pilot for the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter
Sous-Lieutenant Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was a test pilot for the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

After the War, he was a test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge, and participated in numerous races and set a series of speed and altitude records with the company’s airplanes.

Sadi-Lecointe returned to military service in 1925 and participated in the Second Moroccan War. Then in 1927, he returned to his position as chief test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge. From 1936 to 1940, he served as Inspector General of Aviation for the French Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Lieutenant Colonel Sadi-Lecointe was again recalled to military service as Inspector of Flying Schools.

With the Fall of France, Sadi-Lacointe joined La Résistance française, and operated with the group, Rafale Andromède. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo at Paris, and died as a result, 15 July 1944.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, was awarded the Croix de Guerre in three wars. He was posthumously awarded the Médaille de la Résistance. The Aéro-Club de France awarded him its Grande Médaille d’Or de l’Aéro-Club de France. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set seven World Records for Speed, and three World Records for Altitude.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe. (FAI)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe.  (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 15489

² FAI Record File Number 15499

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 September 1918

Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, Air Service, American Expeditionary Force.

The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the

Medal of Honor

to

EDWARD V. RICKENBACKER 

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service.

Place and date: Near Billy, France, 25 September 1918.

Entered service at: Columbus, Ohio. Born: 8 October 1890, Columbus, Ohio.

G.O. No.: 2, W.D., 1931.

Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, 25 September 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines, 1st Lt. Rickenbacker attacked seven enemy planes (five type Fokker, protecting two type Halberstadt). Disregarding the odds against him, he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.

Eddie Rickenbacker’s Medal of Honor at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Edward Reichenbacher was born 8 October 1890 at Columbus, Ohio. He was the third of seven children of Wilham and Elizabeth Reichenbacher, both immigrants to America from Switzerland. His formal education ended with the 7th grade, when he had to find work to help support the family after the death of his father in 1904. He worked in the automobile industry and studied engineering through correspondence courses. Reichenbacher was a well known race car driver and competed in the Indianapolis 500 race four times. He was known as “Fast Eddie.”

"Fast Eddie" Rickenbacker raced this Deusenberg in the 1914 Indianapolis 500 mile race. He finished in 10th place. (Coburg)
“Fast Eddie” Rickenbacker raced this red, white and blue Deusenberg in the 1914 Indianapolis 500-mile race. He finished in 10th place with an average speed of 70.8 miles per hour (113.9 kilometers per hour), and won $1,500 in prize money. (Coburg)

With the anti-German sentiment that was prevalent in the United States during World War I, Reichenbacher felt that his Swiss surname sounded too German, so he changed his name to “Rickenbacker.” He thought that a middle name would sound interesting and selected “Vernon.”

The United States declared war against Germany in 1917. Edward Vernon Rickenbacker enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, at New York City, 28 May 1917. He was appointed a sergeant, 1st class, on that date. After arriving in France, Sergeant Rickenbacker served as a driver for General John Pershing.

On 10 October 1917, Sergeant Rickenbacker was honorably discharged to accept a commission as a 1st lieutenant. Two weeks later, Lieutenant Rickenbacker was promoted to the rank of captain. He was assigned to 3rd Aviation Instruction Center, Issoudun, France, until 9 April 1918, and then transferred to the 94th Aero Squadron as a pilot.

Identity card for Captain E. V. Rickenbacker (National Museum of the United States Air Force)

Captain Rickenbacker served with the American Expeditionary Forces in France, and served during the following campaigns: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne. Between 29 April and 30 October 1918, Rickenbacker was officially credited with 26 victories in aerial combat, consisting of 20 airplanes and 6 balloons. He shot down the first six airplanes while flying a Nieuport 28 C.1, and the remainder with a SPAD S.XIII C.1., serial number S4253.

1st Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker in the cockpit of a Nieuport 28 C.1 fighter, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)

Rickenbacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with seven bronze oak leaf clusters (eight awards). France named him a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur and twice  awarded him the Croix de Guerre with Palm.

Eddie Rickenbacker is quoted as saying, “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”

First Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker with his SPAD S.XIII C.1, 94th Aero Squadron, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)
First Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, in the cockpit of his SPAD XIII C.1, 18 October 1918. (U.S. Army Signal Corps)
First Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, in the cockpit of his SPAD XIII C.1, 18 October 1918. (U.S. Army Signal Corps)

In 1930, after Charles A. Lindbergh, Commander Richard E. Byrd, Jr., and Warrant Officer Floyd Bennett had each been awarded the Medal of Honor for valorous acts during peacetime, the 71st Congress of the United States passed a Bill (H.R. 325): “Authorizing the President of the United States to present in the name of Congress a congressional medal of honor to Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker.”

In a ceremony at Bolling Field, the headquarters of the U.S. Army Air Corps, 6 November 1930, the Medal of Honor was presented to Captain Rickenbacker by President Herbert Hoover. President Hoover remarked,

“Captain Rickenbacker, in the name of the Congress of the United States, I take great pleasure in awarding you the Congressional Medal of Honor, our country’s highest decoration for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above an beyond the call of duty in action. At a stage in the development of aviation when you were achieving victories which made you the universally recognized ‘Ace of Aces’ of the American forces. Your record is an outstanding one for skill and bravery, and is a source of pride to your comrades and your countrymen.

“I hope that your gratification in receiving the Medal of Honor will be as keen as mine in bestowing it. May you wear it during many years of happiness and continued service to your country.”

In 1920, Rickenbacker founded the Rickenbacker Motor Company, which produced the first automobile with four wheel brakes.

Adelaide Frost Durant (Auburn University Libraries)
Adelaide Frost Durant (Auburn University Libraries)

Eddie Rickenbacker married Adelaide Pearl Frost (formerly, the second Mrs. Russell Durant) at Greenwich, Connecticut, 16 September 1922. They would later adopt two children.

From 1927 to 1945, he owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1938, he bought Eastern Air Lines, which he had operated for General Motors since 1935. He was the chief executive officer (CEO) until 1959, and remained chairman of the board of directors until 1963.

In 1941, Rickenbacker was gravely injured in the crash of an Eastern Air Lines DC-3 aboard which he was a passenger. He barely survived.

During World War II, Rickenbacker was requested by Secretary of War Henry Stimson to undertake several inspection tours in the United States, England, the Pacific and the Soviet Union. While enroute to Canton Island from Hawaii, 21 October 1942, the B-17D Flying Fortress that he was traveling aboard missed its destination due to a navigation error. The bomber ran out of fuel and ditched at sea. The survivors drifted in two small life rafts for 21 days before being rescued. All credited the leadership of Rickenbacker for their survival.

Rickenbacker was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA.

Edward Vernon Rickenbacker died of heart failure at Neumünster Spital, Zollikerberg, Zürich, Switzerland, at 4:20 a.m., 23 July 1973. He was 82 years, 10 months of age.

SPAD S.XIII C.1, s/n 16594, built October 1918 by Kellner et ses Fils, Paris (U.S. Air Force)
This restored SPAD S.XIII C.1, s/n 16594, built October 1918 by Kellner et ses Fils, Paris, is in the the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. It is painted in the markings of Captain Edward Vernon Rickenbacker’s fighter. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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John Watts Young (24 September 1930–5 January 2018)

John Watts Young (NASA)
John Watts Young (NASA)

JOHN W. YOUNG (CAPTAIN, USN RET.)
NASA ASTRONAUT (FORMER)

PERSONAL DATA: Born September 24, 1930, in San Francisco, California. Married to the former Susy Feldman of St. Louis, Missouri. Two children, three grandchildren. Enjoys wind surfing, bicycling, reading, and gardening.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Orlando High School, Orlando, Florida; received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering with highest honors from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952.

ORGANIZATIONS: Fellow of the American Astronautical Society (AAS), the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP), and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

SPECIAL HONORS: Awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor (1981), 4 NASA Distinguished Service Medals, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (1992), NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (1987), NASA Outstanding Achievement Medal (1994), Navy Astronaut Wings (1965), 2 Navy Distinguished Service Medals, 3 Navy Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Georgia Tech Distinguished Young Alumni Award (1965), Distinguished Service Alumni Award (1972), the Exceptional Engineering Achievement Award (1985), the Academy of Distinguished Engineering Alumni (1994), and the American Astronautical Society Space Flight Award (1993), Distinguished Executive Award (1998), Rotary National Space Achievement Award (2000). Inducted into 6 Aviation and Astronaut Halls of Fame. Recipient of more than 80 other major awards, including 6 honorary doctorate degrees.

NAVY EXPERIENCE: Upon graduation from Georgia Tech, Young entered the United States Navy. After serving on the west coast destroyer USS LAWS (DD-558) in the Korean War, he was sent to flight training. He was then assigned to Fighter Squadron 103 for 4 years, flying Cougars and Crusaders.

After test pilot training at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in 1959, he was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center for 3 years. His test projects included evaluations of the Crusader and Phantom fighter weapons systems. In 1962, he set world time-to-climb records to 3,000-meter and 25,000-meter altitudes in the Phantom. Prior to reporting to NASA, he was maintenance officer of Phantom Fighter Squadron 143. Young retired from the Navy as a Captain in September 1976, after completing 25 years of active military service.

NASA EXPERIENCE: In September 1962, Young was selected as an astronaut. He is the first person to fly in space six times from earth, and seven times counting his lunar liftoff. The first flight was with Gus Grissom in Gemini 3, the first manned Gemini mission, on March 23, 1965. This was a complete end-to-end test of the Gemini spacecraft, during which Gus accomplished the first manual change of orbit altitude and plane and the first lifting reentry, and Young operated the first computer on a manned spacecraft. On Gemini 10, July 18-21, 1966, Young, as Commander, and Mike Collins, as Pilot, completed a dual rendezvous with two separate Agena target vehicles. While Young flew close formation on the second Agena, Mike Collins did an extravehicular transfer to retrieve a micro meteorite detector from that Agena. On his third flight, May 18-26, 1969, Young was Command Module Pilot of Apollo 10. Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan were also on this mission which orbited the Moon, completed a lunar rendezvous, and tracked proposed lunar landing sites. His fourth space flight, Apollo 16, April 16-27, 1972, was a lunar exploration mission, with Young as Spacecraft Commander, and Ken Mattingly and Charlie Duke. Young and Duke set up scientific equipment and explored the lunar highlands at Descartes. They collected 200 pounds of rocks and drove over 16 miles in the lunar rover on three separate geology traverses.

Young’s fifth flight was as Spacecraft Commander of STS-1, the first flight of the Space Shuttle, April 12-14, 1981, with Bob Crippen as Pilot. The 54-1/2 hour, 36-orbit mission verified Space Shuttle systems performance during launch, on orbit, and entry. Tests of the Orbiter Columbia included evaluation of mechanical systems including the payload bay doors, the attitude and maneuvering rocket thrusters, guidance and navigation systems, and Orbiter/crew compatibility. One hundred and thirty three of the mission’s flight test objectives were accomplished. The Orbiter Columbia was the first manned spaceship tested during ascent, on orbit, and entry without benefit of previous unmanned missions. Columbia was also the first winged reentry vehicle to return from space to a runway landing. It weighed about 98 tons as Young landed it on the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Young’s sixth flight was as Spacecraft Commander of STS-9, the first Spacelab mission, November 28-December 8, 1983, with Pilot Brewster Shaw, Mission Specialists Bob Parker and Owen Garriott, and Payload Specialists Byron Lichtenberg of the USA and Ulf Merbold of West Germany. The mission successfully completed all 94 of its flight test objectives. For ten days the 6-man crew worked 12-hour shifts around-the-clock, performing more than 70 experiments in the fields of atmospheric physics, Earth observations, space plasma physics, astronomy and solar physics, materials processing and life sciences. The mission returned more scientific and technical data than all the previous Apollo and Skylab missions put together. The Spacelab was brought back for re-use, so that Columbia weighed over 110 tons as Young landed the spaceship at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Young was also on five backup space flight crews: backup pilot in Gemini 6, backup command module pilot for the second Apollo mission (before the Apollo Program fire) and Apollo 7, and backup spacecraft commander for Apollo 13 and 17. In preparation for prime and backup crew positions on eleven space flights, Young has put more than 15,000 hours into training so far, mostly in simulators and simulations.

He has logged more than 15,275 hours flying time in props, jets, helicopters, rocket jets, more than 9,200 hours in T-38s, and six space flights of 835 hours.

In January 1973, Young was made Chief of the Space Shuttle Branch of the Astronaut Office, providing operational and engineering astronaut support for the design and development of the Space Shuttle. In January 1974, he was selected to be Chief of the Astronaut Office, with responsibility for the coordination, scheduling, and control of activities of the astronauts. Young served as Chief of the Astronaut Office until May 1987. During his tenure, astronaut flight crews participated in the Apollo-Soyuz joint American-Russian docking mission, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Approach and Landing Test Program, and 25 Space Shuttle missions. From May 1987 to February 1996, Young served as Special Assistant to the Director of JSC for Engineering, Operations, and Safety. In that position, he had direct access to the Center Director and other senior managers in defining and resolving issues affecting the continued safe operation of the Space Shuttle. Additionally, he assisted the Center Director in providing advice and counsel on engineering, operational, and safety matters related to the Space Station, Shuttle upgrades, and advanced human Space Exploration Programs, back to the Moon and on to Mars.

In February 1996 Young was assigned as Associate Director (Technical), responsible for technical, operational and safety oversight of all Agency Programs and activities assigned to the Johnson Space Center. On December 31, 2004 Young retired from NASA. He continues to advocate the development of the technologies that will allow us to live and work on the Moon and Mars. Those technologies over the long (or short) haul will save civilization on Earth.

— The official biography of John W. Young from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas 77058 .

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23 September 1967

Colonel Robin Olds, USAF, in the cockpit of McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, 63-7668, on his last flight out of Ubon-Rachitani RTAFB as Wing Commander, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, 23 September 1967. This was his 152nd combat mission of the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force)

23 September 1967: Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force, the Wing Commander, of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Ubon-Rachitani Royal Thai Air Force Base, flew the final combat mission of his military career.

On this last mission, Colonel Olds flew a McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, serial number 63-7668. Olds had flown this Phantom when he and Lieutenant William D. Lefever shot down a MiG-21 near Hanoi, 4 May 1967.

23 September 1967: Colonel Robin Olds' last flight as Wing Commander, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon-Rachitani RTAFB, Thailand. The airplane is McDonnell F-4D-31-MC Phantom II 66-7668. (U.S. Air Force)
23 September 1967: Colonel Robin Olds’ last flight as Wing Commander, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon-Rachitani RTAFB, Thailand. The airplane is McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II 63-7668. (U.S. Air Force)

63-7668 had been delivered to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing from the factory on 18 January 1965. It was lost in the South China Sea, 27 January 1968.

Thanks to reader Raymond Shaw for correcting a significant error in the previous version of this post.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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