Tag Archives: Fighter Pilot

23 September 1913

Roland Garros' Morane-Saulnier G monoplane.
Roland Garros’ Morane-Saulnier G monoplane.

23 September 1913: Pioneering aviator Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros (6 October 1888–5 October 1918) was the first pilot to fly across the Mediterranean Sea.

At 5:47 a.m., he departed Fréjus, Côte d’Azur, France, in a Morane-Saulnier G and flew to Bizerte, Tunisia, 470 miles (756 kilometers) to the south-southeast. He arrived at 1:40 p.m., having been airborne 7 hours, 53 minutes.

PR 90364 ©musée de l’Air et de l’espace – Le Bourget
PR 90364 © musée de l’Air et de l’espace – Le Bourget

Reportedly, the airplane carried sufficient fuel for just 8 hours of flight. According to a contemporary report, only 5 liters (1.32 U.S. gallons) of fuel remained when he landed.

Roland Garros’ flight. (Lycée Roland Garros)

Garros flew on to Kassar Said Aerodrome the following day. His airplane was then dismantled and shipped back to France.

On 15 October 1913, Roland Garros was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

Roland G. Garros standing in the cockpit of his Morane-Saulnier G at Bizerte, Tunisia, 23 September 1913. (Sheila Terry/Science Source)

The Aéroplanes Morane-Saulnier Type G was a two-place, single-engine monoplane, which had first flown in 1912. The airplane used wing-warping for roll control. It’s landing gear consisted of two wheels and a tail skid. The wooden framework was primarily ash and was covered in fabric. The airplane was 21 feet, 6 inches (6.553 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet, 6 inches (9.296 meters). The wing had a chord of 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters), no dihedral, and the wingtips were swept. The airplane had an empty weight of 680 pounds ( 308 kilograms) and a maximum weight of 1,166 pounds (529 kilograms).

The pilot’s instrument panel had a revolution indicator (tachometer), a barograph, and a compass.

—FLIGHT, No. 230 (No. 21, Vol. V., 24 May 1913 at Page 562
—FLIGHT, No. 230, No. 21, Vol. V., 24 May 1913 at Page 562

The Morane-Saulnier G was powered by an air-cooled 11.835 liter (722.22 cubic inches) Société des Moteurs Gnome Lamda seven-cylinder rotary engine with a single Bosch magneto, with a nominal rating of 80 horsepower (one source indicates that the engine actually produced 67.5 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m.), and driving a laminated walnut Chauvière Hélice Intégrale fixed-pitch propeller which had a diameter of 7 feet, 10 inches (2.570meters).

The airplane had a 14 gallon ¹ (63.65 liters) main fuel tank near the engine, and a second 8 gallon (36.37 liters) tank in the cockpit. Fuel had to be transferred forward by using a hand-operated pump. A 5 gallon (22.73 liters) tank for lubricating oil was adjacent to the main fuel tank.

Garros’ airplane maintained an average speed of 59.5 miles per hour (96 kilometers per hour) for this flight. The Morane-Saulnier G had a maximum speed of 76 miles per hour (122 kilometers per hour).

The Morane-Saulnier G was produced under license by Grahame-White Aviation Company, Hendon Aerodrome, London, England, and by Dux at Moscow, Russia. More than 150 Type Gs were built.

Roland Garros was born 6 October 1988 at Saint-Denis, Réunion (an island in the Indian Ocean). He was the son of Antoine Georges Garros and Maria Clara Emma Faure Garros. Garros was a racer and test pilot who had set many aviation records, including a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Altitude Record of 5,610 meters (18,406 feet), set 11 September 1912 at Saint-Brieuc, France. ²

Roland Garros
Sergent Roland Garros, l’escadrille 23, Aéronautique Militaire (Collection Ronan Furic)

Garros flew in World War I as a fighter pilot for France and shot down a total four enemy airplanes. Garros’ airplane went down behind enemy lines and he was captured, 18 April 1915. He escaped nearly three years later and returned to France. For his military service, he was promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur, 6 March 1917. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Lieutenant d’infantrie Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros, Officier de la Légion d’honneur, Aéronautique Militaire, flying a SPAD S.XIII C.1, Nº. 15403, was shot down by the German ace, Leutnant Hermann Habich, near Vouziers, France, 5 October 1918. He was killed one day before his 30th birthday.

Stade Roland Garros in Paris, the tennis stadium where the French Open is held, was named in honor the pioneering aviator.

Garros in Tunisia, 1913. (The New York Times/Agence France-Presse—Getty Images)

¹ Fuel and oil capacities from a British publication, so quantities are presumably Imperial gallons.

² FAI Record File Number 15888

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 September 1918

Lieutenant (j.g.) David S. Ingalls, USN, France, 1918. (U.S. Navy)
Lieutenant (j.g.) David S. Ingalls, USN, France, 1918. (U.S. Navy)

20 September 1918: While assigned to No. 213 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Lieutenant (junior grade) David Sinton Ingalls, United States Navy, shot down a Fokker D.VII reconnaissance airplane near Vlissegham, Belgium, while flying a Sopwith Camel, serial number D8177. This was Ingalls’ fifth confirmed aerial victory, making him the U.S. Navy’s only fighter ace of World War I.

Lieutenant Ingalls was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions of 15 September 1918, when “he led a flight of five machines on a low bombing raid of an enemy aerodrome. On the homeward journey he shot down a two-seater enemy aeroplane in flames. He further participated in two other low bombing raids and upon still another occasion shot down an enemy kite balloon in flames near Ostend.”  He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service. The Royal Air Force awarded him its Distinguished Flying Cross for the 15 September mission against Uytkerke Aerodrome, and he was Mentioned in Dispatches. France appointed him Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

Sopwith Camel F.1. (Royal Air Force)

The Sopwith Camel F.1 was a British single-place, single-engine biplane fighter, produced by the Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Canbury Park Road, Kingston-on-Thames. The airplane was constructed of a wooden framework, with the forward fuselage being covered with aluminum panels and plywood, while the aft fuselage, wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric.

The length of the Camel F.I varied from 18 feet, 6 inches (5.639 meters) to 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters), depending on which engine was installed. Both upper and lower wings had a span of 28 feet, 0 inches (8.534 meters) and chord of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.372 meters). They were separated vertically by 5 feet (1.524 meters) at the fuselage. The upper wing had 0° dihedral, while the lower wing had 5° dihedral and was staggered 1 foot, 6 inches (0.457 meters) behind the upper wing. The single-bay wings were braced with airfoil-shaped streamline wires. The overall height of the Camel also varied with the engine, from 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) to 8 feet, 9 inches (2.667 meters).

The heaviest Camel F.I variant used the Le Rhône 180 h.p. engine. It had an empty weight of 1,048 pounds (475 kilograms). Its gross weight of 1,567 pounds (711 kilograms). The lightest was equipped with the Gnôme Monosoupape 100 horsepower engine, with weights of 882 pounds (400 kilograms) and 1,387 pounds (629 kilograms), respectively.

Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I
Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I

The first Camel was powered by an air-cooled 15.268 liter (931.72 cubic inches) Société Clerget-Blin et Cie Clerget Type 9 nine-cylinder rotary engine which produced 110 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. and drove a wooden two-bladed propeller. Eight different rotary engines ¹ from four manufacturers, ranging from 100 to 180 horsepower, were used in the type.

The best performance came with the Bentley B.R.1 engine (5.7:1 compression ratio). This variant had a maximum speed of 121 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 114.5 miles per hour (184 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). It could climb to 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) in 4 minutes, 35 seconds; to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in 8 minutes, 10 seconds; and 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) in 15 minutes, 55 seconds. It had a service ceiling of 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Two other Camel variants could reach 24,000 feet (7,315 meters).

Sopwith Camel F.1 N6254, right profile. (NASA)
Lt. W.O. Bentley R.N.A.S.
Lieutenant Walter Owen Bentley, R.N.A.S.

The Bentley B.R.1 rotary engine was designed by Lieutenant Walter Owen Bentley, Royal Naval Air Service (later, Captain, Royal Air Force), based on the Clerget Type 9, but with major improvements. It used aluminum cylinders shrunk on to steel liners, with aluminum pistons. The Bentley B.R.1 (originally named the Admiralty Rotary, A.R.1, as it was intended for use by the Royal Navy) was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 17.304 liter (1,055.9 cubic inches) nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was rated at 150 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m. The B.R.1 was 1.110 meters (3 feet, 7.7 inches) long, 1.070 meters (feet, 6.125 inches) in diameter and weighted 184 kilograms (406 pounds.) The engine was manufactured by Humber, Ltd., Coventry, England.

For his work developing this engine, Captain Bentley was appointed a Member of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) in the New Years Honours List, 1 January 1919. He would later found Bentley Motors, Ltd.

Sopwith Camel F.1 FG394, left rear quarter. © IWM (Q 63822)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394, left rear quarter. © IWM (Q 63822)

The Camel was armed with two fixed, forward-firing .303 Vickers machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller. These guns were modified for air cooling. Some night fighter variants substituted Lewis machine guns mounted above the upper wing for the Vickers guns. Four 25 pound (11.3 kilogram) bombs could be carried on racks under the fuselage.

The instruments and armament of a Sopwith Camel from No. 4 Squadron, AFC. (Australian War Memorial)
The instruments and armament of a Sopwith Camel from No. 4 Squadron, AFC. (Australian War Memorial)

The Sopwith Camel was a difficult airplane to fly. Most of its weight was concentrated far forward, making it unstable, but, at the same time making the fighter highly maneuverable. The rotary engine, with so much of its mass in rotation, caused a torque effect that rolled the airplane to the right to a much greater degree than in airplanes equipped with radial or V-type engines. A skilled pilot could use this to his advantage, but many Camels ended upside down while taking off.

Twelve manufacturers ² produced 5,490 Sopwith Camels between 1916 and 1920. By the end of World War I, it was becoming outclassed by newer aircraft, however it was the single most successful fighter of the war, shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft. One single fighter, flown by Major William Barker, shot down 46 enemy aircraft, more than any other fighter in history.

It is believed that only seven Sopwith Camels still exist.

Lieutenant David Sinton Ingalls, Naval Reserve Flying Corps, circa 1919. (U.S. Naval Institute)

David Sinton Ingalls was born 28 January 1899 at Cleveland, Ohio. He was the son of Albert Stimson Ingalls, a vice president of the New York Central Railroad, and Jane Ellison Taft Ingalls, niece of President William Howard Taft. He  was educated at the University School, a private school for boys in Cleveland. He entered Yale University at New Haven, Connecticut, in 1916. Ingalls was a member of The First Yale Unit, which would become the U.S. Navy’s first aviation unit.

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, David Sinton Ingalls enlisted as a Machinist’s Mate 1st Class, United States Naval Reserve Force, at New London, Connecticut, 26 March 1917. He was sent to the Naval Aviation Detachment at West Palm Beach, Florida, for initial flight training, and then to the Naval Aviation Detachment, Huntington, New York. MM1c Ingalls was discharged 1 September 1917 and appointed an Ensign, 4 September 1917. He was Naval Aviator Number 85.

Ensign Ingalls was sent to France for duty, 12 September 1917. In December 1917, he was detached and sent to the Royal Flying Corps air station at Turnberry, South Ayrshire, Scotland, for training in aerial gunnery. He then underwent squadron formation training at nearby Ayr, Scotland. Following training, Ensign Ingalls was assigned to the Naval Air Detachment at Paris, France, 12 March 1918. On 23 March 1918, Ingalls was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade).

On 21 May 1918, Lieutenant (j.g.) Ingalls was assigned to the U.S. Army Bombing School at Clermont-Ferrand, France. On 27 June 1918, Lieutenant (j.g.) Ingalls was assigned to the Naval Air Station Dunkerque. He flew combat missions with No. 213 Squadron, and No. 218 Squadron, both of the Royal Air Force. (While flying with the 218th, he was reported to have shot down an observation balloon and a biplane. The records were lost and these claims are considered unconfirmed.)

While flying with No. 213 Squadron, on 11 August 1918, Lieutenant (j.g.) Ingalls shot down an Albatros C northeast of Diksmuide, West Flanders—his first confirmed victory. His second confirmed victory was a two-place Luftverkehrsgesellschaft m.b.H. (L.V.G.) biplane south of Zevecote, Belgium, on 21 August. He shot down a Rumpler C over Ostend, 15 September. His fourth confirmed victory took place on 18 September when he destroyed an observation balloon at La Barrière. The Fokker D.VII that he shot down on 20 September was his fifth. He shot down his sixth,a Rumpler, on 24 September 1918, over Saint-Pierre-Cappelle, Belgium. Other than the Fokker D.VII, Ingalls shared credit with other pilots for the shoot-downs.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Ingalls flew his final combat mission, his sixty-third, on 3 October 1918.

On 24 September 1919, he was given the provisional rank of Lieutenant, Naval Reserve Flying Corps, with date of rank, 1 April 1919. He was released from active duty 23 December 1919.

Returning to Yale University, he graduated in 1920 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and in 1923, received a Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He practiced law for several years before being elected to the state legislature of Ohio in 1926. Later, he ran for governor and United States senator.

David Sinton Ingalls married Miss Louise Hale Harkness at Locust Valley, New York, 27 June 1922. They would have five children: Edith, Jane, Anne, Louise, and David.

Flag of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics

Ingalls was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics by President Herbert Hoover, serving from 16 March 1929 until 1 June 1932, reporting to Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams III.

Secretary Ingalls’ photograph was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine, 2 March 1931.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics David Sinton Ingalls was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine, 2 March 1931. Photograph by Underwood & Underwood. (TIME Magazine)

On 24 December 1931, Ingalls was appointed a Lieutenant Commander, United States Naval Reserve.

Going to work in the business sector, Ingalls became vice president and general manager of Pan American Air Ferries, a commercial transport service from the United States to Egypt, and which also transported newly-built military aircraft from the United States via South America, across the South Atlantic Ocean to Africa, and then on to the Middle East.

Lieutenant Commander Ingalls was promoted to Commander, U.S.N.R., 1 July 1941, and following the United States entry into World War II, he was recalled to active duty, 23 November 1942. Commander Ingalls served as Assistant Operations Officer on the staff of the Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific, (COMNAVAIRPAC), for which he was awarded the Legion of Merit. He was promoted to Captain, 10 June 1943. He then served as chief of staff to the Commander Aircraft South Pacific Force, Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch, USN.

Captain Ingalls took command of U.S. Naval Air Station 29 (now, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport—HNL—Honolulu, Hawaii) on 1 April 1944.

Captain Ingalls was released from active duty 8 November 1945, but he remained an officer in the Naval Reserve. Ingalls returned to Pan American World Airways as vice president, and remained in that position until 1949. Later, he was president and publisher of the Cincinnati Times-Star newspaper, and a vice president of Taft Broadcasting Company.

David Sinton Ingalls, April 1952. (Nina Leen/LIFE Magazine)

By 1951, Ingalls held the rank of Commodore. On 1 July 1955, Commodore Ingalls was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral. From 1945 until 1959, Ingalls was Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command (COMNAVRESFORCOM). He retired from the Naval Reserve in February 1959.

During his Naval career, Rear Admiral Ingalls had been awarded the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four service stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Naval Reserve Medal, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with hourglass device.

Miss Louise Hale Harkness Ingalls with her father, David S. Ingalls, 1980. (Historic Images)

Louise Harkness Ingalls died in 1978. David Ingalls married his second wife, Frances W. Wragg, 16 February 1979.

Ingalls is the author of Hero of the Angry Sky: The World War I Diary and Letters of David S. Ingalls, America’s First Naval Ace, Ohio University Press, 2013 (Edited by Geoffrey L.  Rossano).

Rear Admiral David Sinton Ingalls died 26 April 1985 at the age of 86 years. He is buried at the Warm Springs Cemetery, Warm Springs, Virginia.

¹ Humber, Ltd., Bentley B.R.1 150 h.p., B.R.1 (5.7:1 c.r.); Clerget 9B, 130 h.p., Clerget 9Bf, 130 h.p. (long stroke): Gnôme Monosoupape,  100 h.p., Gnôme Monosoupape, 150 h.p.; Le Rhône, 110 h.p., and Le Rhône 180 h.p.

² Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Kingston-on-Thames; Boulton and Paul, Ltd., Norwich; British Caudron Co., London; Clayton and Shuttleworth, Ltd., Lincoln; Hooper and Co., Ltd., London; March, Jones and Cribb, Ltd., Leeds; Nieuport and General Aircraft Co., Ltd., London; Ruston, Proctor and Co., Ltd., Lincoln; Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd.; Portholme Aerodrome Ltd., Huntingdon; Wm. Beardmore & Co., Ltd., Glasgow; Pegler & Co., Ltd., Doncaster.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14–18 September 1984

Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., after setting an FAI World Record for Distance, Montenette, Italy, 18 September 1984. (Joe Kittinger collection)
Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., after setting an FAI World Record for Distance, Montenette, Italy, 18 September 1984. His deflated Yost GB55 helium balloon lies on the ground. (Joseph W. Kittinger Collection)
Yost Mfg. Co. GB55 helium balloon, N53NY, being prepared at Caribou, Maine, 14 September 1984 (Orlando Sentinel)
Yost Mfg. Co. GB55 helium balloon, N53NY, being prepared at Caribou, Maine, 14 September 1984 (Orlando Sentinel)

14–18 September 1984: Colonel Joseph W. Kittinger II, United States Air Force (Retired), lifted of from Caribou, Maine, at the extreme northeast corner of the United States, aboard Rosie O’Grady’s Balloon of Peace, a 3,000-cubic-meter Yost GB55 helium-filled balloon, registered N53NY. 86 hours later, he came rest at Montenotte, Italy, having completed the very first solo transatlantic balloon flight.

Kittinger established four Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance, having travelled 5,703.03 kilometers (3,543.70 miles).¹ These records still stand.

This was not the first time Joe Kittinger had ascended in a balloon. The previous year he had set two FAI distance records, covering 3,221.23 kilometers (2,001.58 miles) from Las Vegas, Nevada to Farmersville, New York.² But he is best known for his historic high-altitude balloon flights. On 2 June 1957, Joe Kittinger rode the Project MAN-HIGH I balloon to an altitude of 97,760 feet (29,490 meters). One 16 August 1960, aboard Excelsior III, Kittinger reached 102,800 feet (31,333 meters). He then stepped out of the gondola and began the longest free-fall parachute descent attempted.

During the Vietnam War, Joe Kittinger flew 483 combat missions during three tours. He shot down one enemy MiG-21 fighter, and was later himself shot down. He was captured and held at the infamous Hanoi Hilton for 11 months.

Joseph William Kittinger II
Joseph William Kittinger II, 1999. (MSGT Dave Nolan, United States Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 1045, 1046, 1047 and 1048

² FAI Record File Numbers 1013, 1014

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 September 1944

LT William H. Allen in the cockpit of his P-51D Mustang, Pretty Patty II, along with his ground crew, TSGT F.S. Westbrook, SGT W.G. Holmes and CPL F.W. Bandy. (F. Birtciel)

5 September 1944: Lieutenant William H. Allen, U.S. Army Air Corps, was a fighter pilot assigned to the 343rd Fighter Squadron, 55th Fighter Group, based at RAF Wormingford, Essex, England. After escorting a bombing mission to Stuttgart, Lt. Allen, flying his North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA Mustang, 44-14049, Pretty Patty II, (identification markings CY J) and his flight, which included Lieutenant William H. Lewis, attacked an airfield north of Göppingen, Germany.

Lieutenant Allen became an Ace in one day when he shot down five Heinkel He 111 twin-engine bombers as they took off at two-minute intervals.

The flight of Mustangs shot down a total of 16 enemy aircraft.

LT William H. Allen and his ground crew pose with their P-51D Mustang, Pretty Patty II. (F. Birtciel)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 September 1954

Major John L. Armstrong, U.S. Air Force, standing on the wing of his record-setting F-86H-1-NH  Sabre. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

3 September 1954: At the Dayton Air Show, being held for the first time at the James M. Cox Municipal Airport, Major John L. (“Jack”) Armstrong, U.S. Air Force, flew his North American Aviation F-86H-1-NH Sabre, 52-1998, to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 500 Kilometers Without Payload, averaging 1,045.206 kilometers per hour (649.461 miles per hour). ¹

Similar to the F-86H-1-NA Sabre flown by Captain Armstrong, this is F-86H-10-NH 53-1298. (U.S. Air Force)
Similar to the F-86H-1-NH Sabre flown by Captain Armstrong, this is F-86H-10-NH 53-1298. (U.S. Air Force)

The North American Aviation F-86H was a fighter-bomber variant of the famous Sabre Jet day fighter. It was equipped with a much more powerful General Electric J73-GE-3 turbojet engine. The engine was larger that the J47 used in previous F-86 models, and this required a much larger air intake and airframe modifications. The fuselage was 6 inches deeper and two feet longer than the F-86F. This accommodated the new engine and an increase in fuel load. The tail surfaces were changed with an increase in the height of the vertical fin and the elevators were changed to an “all-flying” horizontal stabilizer. The first F-86Hs built retained the six Browning AN-M3 .50 caliber machine guns of the F-86F, but this was quickly changed to four Pontiac M39 20 millimeter revolver cannon.

Another view of North American Aviation F-86-10-NH Sabre 53-1298. This fighter bomber i similar to the airplane flown by Colonel Armstrong to set a world speed record. (U.S. Air Force)
Another view of North American Aviation F-86-10-NH Sabre 53-1298. This fighter bomber is similar to the airplane flown by Major Armstrong to set a world speed record. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-86H Sabre was 38 feet, 10 inches (11.836 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 1 inch (11.913 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 11 inches (4.547 meters). Empty weight was 13,836 pounds (6,276 kilograms) and gross weight was 24,296 pounds (11,021 kilograms).

The F-86H was powered by a General Electric J73-GE-3D or -3E engine, a single-spool, axial-flow, turbojet engine, which used a 12-stage compressor section with variable inlet vanes, 10 combustion chambers and 2-stage turbine section. It produced 8,920 pounds of thrust (39.68 kilonewtons) at 7,950 r.p.m. (%-minute limit). The J73 was 12 feet, 3.2 inches (3.739 meters) long, 3 feet, 0.8 inches (0.935 meters) in diameter and weighed 3,650 pounds (1,656 kilograms).

The F-86H had a maximum speed of 601 knots (692 miles per hour/1,113 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 536 knots (617 miles per hour (993 kilometers) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The fighter bomber had an initial rate of climb of 12,900 feet per minute (65.53 meters per second) and it could reach 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) in 5.7 minutes. The service ceiling was 50,800 feet (15,484 meters). With a full load ofbombs, the F-86H had a combat radius of 350 nautical miles (402 statute miles/648 kilometers) at 470 knots (541 miles per hour (870 kilometers per hour). The maximum ferry range was 1,573 nautical miles (1,810 statute miles/2,913 kilometers).

F-86H Sabres (after the first ten production airplanes) were armed with four Pontiac M39 20 mm autocannon with 150 rounds of ammunition per gun. In ground attack configuration, it could carry a maximum bomb load of 2,310 pounds (1,048 kilograms), or one 12–24 kiloton Mark 12 “Special Store” that would be delivered by “toss bombing.”

The F-86H Sabre became operational in 1954. 473 F-86H Sabres were built before production ended. By 1958 all that remained in the U.S. Air Force Inventory were reassigned to the Air National Guard. The last one was retired in 1972.

North American Aviation F-86H Sabre. (U.S. Air Force)

John Leroy Armstrong was born in Orange County, California, 19 July 1922. He was the fourth child of Milton Williams Armstrong, an engineer, and Olive M. Meyer Armstrong. As a child, he was called “Jake.”

Major Armstrong had been a fighter pilot during World War II, flying Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, initially with the 554 Fighter Training Squadron, 496th Fighter Training Group.

On 13 March 1944, Armstrong made a forced landing at North Killingholme when his fighter ran out of fuel.

2nd Lieutenant Armstrong was assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group based at RAF Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire, England, 26 March 1944. He flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.

Lt. John L. Armstrong, 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, with a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, 1944. (The 20th Fighter Group Project)

The 79th transitioned to the P-51 Mustang. Armstrong was promoted to first lieutenant 26 June 1944. He was officially credited with having destroyed one enemy Focke-Wulf Fw 190. On 28 August 1944, while flying his 30th combat mission, his North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA Mustang, 44-13791, Guardian Angel, was shot down by anti-aircraft gunfire while he was attacking a railway roundhouse at Bad Greuznach, Germany. Armstrong bailed out but was captured. He was held as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft I at Barth, Western Pomerania. Armstrong was returned to U.S. military control in June 1945.

Major Armstrong had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters (six awards), the Purple Heart, the Prisoner of War Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.

Two days after setting the speed record, Jack Armstrong was attempting to increase his record speed. The Sabre broke up in flight and Major Armstrong was killed.

John Leroy Armstrong’s remains were buried at the Loma Vista Memorial Park, Fullerton, California, 11 September 1954.

This exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, ohio, commemorates Major Armstrong's record-setting flight. His flight helmet is included in the display. (U.S. Air Force)
This exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, commemorates Major Armstrong’s record-setting flight. His flight helmet is included in the display. Visible behind the display case is North American Aviation F-86H-10-NH Sabre 53-1352.  (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8860

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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