Tag Archives: Fighter

1 October 1947

North American Aviation test pilot George S. Welch, flying the first of three XP-86 prototypes, serial number 45-59597. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

1 October 1947: After three years development in which 801,386 engineering hours and 340,594 drafting hours had been expended, the first prototype North American Aviation XP-86 (company designation NA-140), serial number 45-59597, was ready for its first flight at Muroc Dry Lake in the high desert, north of Los Angeles, California.

Completed at North American’s Inglewood plant on 8 August 1947, it was trucked to Muroc in mid-September. It was reassembled, everything was checked out, and after a few taxi tests, company test pilot George S. Welch took off for a initial familiarization flight. Chief Test Pilot Bob Chilton flew chase in an XP-82 Twin Mustang with a company photographer on board. The duration of the first flight was 1 hour, 18 minutes.

Recently completed, the first prototype XP-86, 45-59597, waits inside the North American Aviation plant at Inglewood, California, 14 August 1947. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

During this first flight, George Welch climbed to 35,000 feet (10,668 meters):

“In a little more than ten minutes he had reached 35,000 feet. Leveling out, the test pilot smiled as he watched the indicated airspeed accelerate to 320 knots. He estimated that should be 0.90 Mach number. . . Rolling into a 40 degree dive, he turned west. . . The airspeed indicator seemed to be stuck at about 350 knots. The Sabre was behaving just fine. Then at 29,000 feet, there was a little wing roll. Correcting the roll, George pushed into a steeper dive. The airspeed indicator suddenly jumped to 410 knots and continued to rise. At 25,000 feet, he pulled the Sabre into level flight and reduced power. The wing rocked again and the airspeed jumped back to 390.”

Aces Wild: The Race for Mach 1, by Al Blackburn, Scholarly Resources Inc., Wilmington, Delaware, 1998, at Chapter 5, Pages 144–145.

George Welch was the first to report instrument readings that would be referred to as “Mach jump.” It has been argued that George Welch flew the XP-86 beyond Mach 1 during this flight, breaking the “sound barrier” two weeks before Chuck Yeager did with the Bell X-1 rocketplane. During flight testing, it was firmly established that the XP-86 could reach Mach 1.02–1.04 in a dive, so it is certainly possible that he did so on the Sabre’s first flight.

North American Aviation Model NA-140, the first XP-86 prototype, 45-59597, at Muroc AAF, 1947. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation Model NA-140, the first XP-86 prototype, 45-59597, at Muroc AAF, 1947. (U.S. Air Force)

The XP-86 was unlike any airplane before it. It was the first airplane with a swept wing. After analyzing test data from the Messerschmitt Me 262, North American’s engineers designed a wing with a 35° degree sweepback to its leading edge. The wing tapered toward the tips, and its thickness also decreased from the root to the tip. In order to create a very strong but very thin wing, it was built with a two-layered aluminum skin, instead of ribs and spars, with each layer separated by “hat” sections. The wing sweep allowed high speed shock waves to form without stalling the entire wing.

Cutaway illustration of the XP-86. The speed brake configuation was not used for production aircraft. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

The wing also incorporated leading edge “slats” which were airfoil sections that automatically extended below 290 knots, smoothing the air flow over the wing’s upper surface and creating more lift at slow speeds. Above that speed, aerodynamic forces closed the slats, decreasing drag and allowing for higher speeds. Effectively, the wing could change its shape in flight.

Test pilot George S. Welch, wearing his distinctive orange helmet, in the cockpit of the prototype XP-86. This photograph was taken 14 October 1947. (U.S. Air Force)
This photograph of the XP-86 shows the 35° wing sweep. Test pilot George S. Welch, wearing his distinctive orange helmet, in the cockpit of the prototype XP-86. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

The XP-86 prototypes were 37 feet, 6½ inches (11.443 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 1–7/16 inches (11.314 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 9 inches (4.496 meters). The empty weight was 9,730 pounds (4,413.5 kilograms), gross weight, 13,395 pounds (6,075.9 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 16,438 pounds (7,456.2 kilograms).

North American Aviation XP-86 45-59597. (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 16_002950)

The XP-86 was initially powered by a General Electric-designed, Chevrolet-built J35-C-3 turbojet which produced 4,000 pounds of thrust. This was soon changed to an Allison J35-A-5. Performance testing was conducted with the Allison engine installed. The J35 was a single-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with an 11-stage compressor and single-stage turbine. The J35-A-5 was rated at 4,000 pounds of thrust (17.79 kilonewtons) at 7,700 r.p.m. (static thrust, Sea Level). The engine was 14 feet, 0.0 inches (4.267 meters) long, 3 feet, 4.0 inches (1.016 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,400 pounds (1,089 kilograms).

The three North American Aviation XP-86 prototypes. Front to back, 45-59598, 45-59597 and 45-59599. (National Archives and Records Administration)

The maximum speed of the XP-86 at Sea Level was 0.787 Mach (599 miles per hour, 964 kilometers per hour), 0.854 Mach (618 miles per hour, 995 kilometers per hour) at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) and 575 miles per hour (925 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters)—0.875 Mach.

The prototype fighter was able to take off at 125 miles per hour (201 kilometers per hour) in just 3,020 feet (920.5 meters) of runway. It could climb to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) in 12.1 minutes and had a service ceiling of 41,300 feet (12,588 meters).

The end of XP-86 45-59597 at Frenchman Flats, 1953.

XP-86 45-59597 was expended as a target during nuclear weapons tests. On 25 May 1953, it was 1,850 feet from ground zero of Upshot Knothole Grable. The only part still intact was the engine, which was thrown 500 feet.

Upshot Knothole Grable (National (Nuclear Security Administration CIC 0315864)
George S. Welch, North American Aviation test pilot, wearing his orange flight helmet. An F-86 Sabre is in the background. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Photo Archives)

George Welch was born George Lewis Schwartz, in Wilmington, Delaware, 10 May 1918. His parents changed his surname to Welch, his mother’s maiden name, so that he would not be effected by the anti-German prejudice that was widespread in America following World War I. He studied mechanical engineering at Purdue, and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939.

George S. Welch is best remembered as one of the heroes of Pearl Harbor. He was one of only two fighter pilots to get airborne during the Japanese surprise attack on Hawaii, 7 December 1941. Flying a Curtiss P-40B Warhawk, he shot down three Aichi D3A “Val” dive bombers and one Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter. For this action, Lieutenant General H.H. “Hap” Arnold recommended the Medal of Honor, but because Lieutenant Welch had taken off without orders, an officer in his chain of command refused to endorse the nomination. He received the Distinguished Service Cross.

During World War II, George Welch flew the Bell P-39 Airacobra and Lockheed P-38 Lightning on 348 combat missions. He had 16 confirmed aerial victories over Japanese airplanes and rose to the rank of Major.

Suffering from malaria, George Welch was out of combat, and when North American Aviation approached him to test the new P-51H Mustang, General Arnold authorized his resignation. Welch test flew the P-51, FJ-1 Fury, F-86 Sabre and F-100 Super Sabre. He was killed 12 October 1954 when his F-100A Super Sabre came apart in a 7 G pull up from a Mach 1.5 dive.

North American Aviation F-86-A-NA Sabre 47-630. (North American Aviation, Inc./Chicago Tribune)
An early production aircraft, North American Aviation P-86A-1-NA Sabre 47-630 (s/n 151-38457). (North American Aviation, Inc./Chicago Tribune)

After testing, the North American Aviation XP-86 was approved for production as the F-86A. It became operational in 1949. The first squadron to fly the F-86 held a naming contest and from 78 suggestions, the name “Sabre” was chosen. The F-86 Sabre was in production until 1955 at North American’s Inglewood, California, and Columbus, Ohio, plants. It was also built under license by Canadair, Ltd., Sain-Laurent, Quebec, Canada; the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; and Mitsubishi Heavy  Industries at Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. A total of 9,860 Sabres were built. They served with the United States Air Force until 1970.

XP-86 45-59597 was expended in nuclear weapons tests, Operation Snapper Easy and Snapper Fox, at the Nevada Test Site, Frenchman’s Flat, Nevada, in May 1952. The second and third prototypes, 45-59598 and 45-59599, met similar fates.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 September 1943

North American P-51B Mustang in teh full-scale NACA wind tunnel, Langley, Virginia, 23 September 1945. (NASA)
North American Aviation P-51B Mustang fighter in the Full-Scale Tunnel, NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Hampton, Virginia, 23 September 1943. (NASA)
Drag test of North American Aviation P-51B-1-NA Mustang 43-12105 in the NACA Full-Scale Tunnel. (NASA)
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23 September 1917

Leutnant Werner Voss
Leutnant Werner Voss, Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte. Lieutenant Voss is wearing “The Blue Max,” the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the House of Hohenzollern, the Iron Cross and the Pilot’s Badge. (Gustav Liersch & Co.)

23 September 1917: Leutnant Werner Voss, commanding officer of Jagdstaffel 10 of the Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte (German Air Force), a leading fighter ace with 48 confirmed victories, was shot down during a battle which lasted at least eight minutes and involved seven British pilots, themselves aces.

Though Voss’ machine gun fire damaged most of his opponents’ airplanes, his own was hit by fire from at least two of the British airplanes. Voss was struck by three bullets.

His airplane, a prototype Fokker F.I triplane, serial number 103/17, went into a steep dive and crashed north of Frezenberg, Belgium. Voss was killed.

Major James Thomas Byford McCudden, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Bar, M.M., one of the British pilots involved in the dogfight, later said of Voss,

“As long as I live I shall never forget my admiration for that German pilot, who single-handed fought seven of us for ten minutes and also put some bullets through all our machines. His flying was wonderful, his courage magnificent, and in my opinion he was the bravest German airman whom it has been my privilege to see fight.”

Werner Voss in the cockpit of his Fokker F.I fighter, 103/17. (Unattributed)
Werner Voss in the cockpit of his Fokker F.I fighter, 103/17, autographed by Voss. (Unattributed)

The Fokker F.I was a prototype single-engine, single-seat triplane fighter, designed and built by Fokker Flugzeugwerke GmbH, Schwerin, Germany. After very slight changes, the production version would be designated Fokker Dr.I. The fuselage was constructed of steel tubing braced with wire and covered with fabric. The wings used plywood ribs and a boxed plywood spar.

The F.I was 5.770 meters (18 feet, 11.2 inches) long. The upper wing had a span of 7.190 meters (23 feet, 7.1 inches); the middle wing, 6.225 meters (20 feet, 5 inches); and the lower wing, 5.725 meters (18 feet, 9.4 inches). All three wings had a chord of 1.000 meters (3 feet, 3.4 inches). The airplane had an overall height of 2.950 meters (9 feet, 8.1 inches). Its empty weight was 405 kilograms (893 pounds), and the gross weight was 587 kilograms (1,294 pounds).

Leutnant Werner Voss' Fokker F.I triplane, 103/17. (Unattributed)
Leutnant Werner Voss’ Fokker F.I triplane, 103/17. (Unattributed)

Originally built with a Motorentfabrik Oberursel Ur.II nine-cylinder rotary engine rated at 110 horsepower (a license-built copy of the French Le Rhône 9J engine), Werner Voss had an actual Le Rhône 9J, serial number J6247, installed to replace the Ur.II.

The Le Rhône 9J, produced by Société des Moteurs Le Rhône, was an air-cooled, normally aspirated, 15.074 liter (919.85 cubic inches) nine-cylinder rotary engine, capable of producing 113 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m., and a maximum 135 horsepower at 1,350 r.p.m. As the engine rotated, it turned a two-bladed Axial Proppellerwerk AG fixed-pitch, laminated wood propeller with a diameter of 2.660 meters (8 feet, 8.7 inches). The Le Rhône 9J was 850 millimeters (2 feet, 9.47 inches) long and 970 millimeters (3 feet, 2.19 inches) in diameter. It weighed 137 kilograms (302 pounds).

The Fokker F.I had a maximum speed of 185 kilometers per hour (115 miles per hour) at Sea Level and 166 kilometers per hour (103 miles per hour) at 4,000 meters (13,123 feet ). The service ceiling was 7,000 meters (22,966 feet). It carried fuel for approximately 1½ hours of flight.

The F.I was armed with two fixed 8mm Spandau LMG 08/15 machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. The fighter carried 550 rounds of ammunition per gun.

Werner Voss’ triplane, 103/17 (Wn. 1730), was a prototype, Versuch 5, or V5, ordered on 14 July 1917 and accepted by the German Air Force on 16 August. It was sent to Jagdstafell 10 on 21 August.

A British intelligence officer who examined the wreckage of Voss’ Fokker F.I described it as having camouflaged green upper surfaces and blue lower surfaces. Photographs of 103/17 show painted eyes and a mustache on the engine cowling, which are believed to have been inspired by Japanese kites that Voss had flown as a child.

Leutnant Werner Voss had been awarded the famous Pour le Mérite (the “Blue Max”), Germany’s highest award; the Hausorden von Hohenzollern (the Cross of the Order of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Crown and Swords); and the Eisernes Kreuz (Iron Cross), 1st and 2nd Class.

Leutnant Werner Voss with his Fokker F.I triplane, 103/17. (This photograph may have been taken by Anthony Fokker)
Leutnant Werner Voss with his Fokker F.I triplane, 103/17. (This photograph may have been taken by Anthony Fokker)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 September 1943

Geoffrey de Havilland, Jr., exits the cockpit of one of the company's jet aircraft. (Photograph Courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Geoffrey de Havilland, Jr., exits the cockpit of one of the company’s jet aircraft. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

20 September 1943: Geoffrey Raoul de Havilland, Jr., chief test pilot of the de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., made the first flight in the prototype DH.100, LZ548/G, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire. (The “/G” in the identification indicated that the aircraft was to be guarded at all times.) Assigned the code name Spider Crab,  the production DH.100 would be better known as the de Havilland Vampire.

The flight lasted approximately 30 minutes and the airplane exceeded 400 miles per hour (644 kilometers per hour). De Havilland reported that the prototype was trimmed with the left wing down, had overly sensitive ailerons and demonstrated instability in yaw with rudder applications.

This oscillation in the yaw axis—called “snaking”—was determined to be a result of the overly effective vertical fins. After wind tunnel and flight testing, it was decided to reduce the fins’ area, resulting in the flat top configuration seen in bottom photograph.

Right front view of the first prototype de Havilland DH.100, LZ548/G.
Right front view of the first prototype de Havilland DH.100, LZ548/G, prior to its first flight. The letter “P” in a circle next to the RAF insignia identifies the airplane as a prototype. The “/G” in the identification number indicates that a guard is required at all times. (De Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd.)

The DH.100 was a single-seat, single-engine fighter powered by a turbojet engine. The twin tail boom configuration of the airplane was intended to allow a short exhaust tract for the engine, reducing power loss in the early jet engines available at the time.

Right side view of the de Havilland DH.100 Spider Crab LZ548/G.
Right side view of the de Havilland DH.100 Spider Crab LZ548/G.

LZ548/G was originally powered by a Halford H.1 turbojet which produced 2,300 pounds of thrust (10.231 kilonewtons) at 9,300 r.p.m. This engine was produced by de Havilland and named Goblin.

av_gb_4603_jet-history_goblin_p080_wThe Goblin is a linear descendant of the early Whittle units. It comprises a single-sided centrifugal compressor delivering air to sixteen combustion chambers grouped symmetrically around the axis of the unit and leading to the nozzle of the single-stage axial turbine which drives the compressor. Compressor impeller and turbine rotor are coupled by a tubular shaft to form a single rotating assembly which is mounted on only two ball bearings. The maximum diameters of the engine, around the compressor casing, is 50in., [1.27 meters] and with a jet pipe of minimum length fitted the overall length is about 8ft. [2.438 meters] Equipped with a jet pipe and all the necessary engine auxiliaries the dry weight of the complete unit is 1,500 lb. [680 kilograms] Fuel consumption is at the rate of 1.23 lb. / hr. per lb. thrust.

FLIGHT and AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 1923. Vol. XLVIII. Thursday, 1 November 1945 at Page 472, Column 2

The Vampire entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1945 and remained a front-line fighter until 1953. 3,268 DH.100s were built.

Right rear quarter view of the prototype de Havilland DH.100, LZ548/G.
Right rear quarter view of the prototype de Havilland DH.100, LZ548/G. In this photograph, the airplane’s vertical fins have been squared off. This would be a feature of the production Vampire F.1.

The first of the three prototype Vampires, LZ548, crashed after takeoff from Hatfield, 23 July 1945, due to a fuel pump failure. Geoffrey Pike, the pilot, was not injured.

© 2016, 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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