Tag Archives: Final Flight

8 September 2001

Special Air Mission 27000, a Boeing VC-137C, 72-7000, on final approach for landing.

8 September 2001: Special Air Mission 27000, a Boeing VC-137C, serial number 72-7000, served as an airborne office and transport for seven United States presidents over 29 years. It made its last flight from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland to San Bernardino International Airport, California, where technicians from Boeing disassembled the aircraft and transported it in sections to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum at Simi Valley, California. It was reassembled and is on display inside the Air Force One Pavilion.

Aboard for its final flight were Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche, Vice Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Lance W. Lord, U.S. Air Force, and former First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan.

The VC-137C was a specially built Model 707-353B four-engine jet airliner. Known by the call sign Air Force One when the President is aboard, it otherwise is referred to as Special Air Mission 27000. Its sister ship, 72-6000, is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, where it recently was returned to display after renovation.

Boeing VC-137C 72-7000 on display at the Air Force One Pavilion, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, California. (Wikipedia)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 July 2011, 15:29:03 UTC, T minus Zero

The flight crew of Atlantis, STS-135. Left to right: COL Rex J. Waldheim, USAF, LCOL Douglas G. Hurley, USMC, CAPT Christopher J. Ferguson, USN, and Sandra Hall Magnus, Ph.D. (NASA)

8 July 2011: At 11:29:03 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, the Space Shuttle Atlantis (OV-104) was launched on Mission STS-135 from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the very last of 135 flights for the United States space shuttle program. The mission was to carry assembly modules and supplies to the International Space Station in Low Earth Orbit. The mission had a total elapsed time of 12 days, 18 hours, 28 minutes, 50 seconds. Atlantis arrived at the Shuttle Landing Facility 21 July 2011 at 09-57 UTC.

The mission commander was Captain Christopher J. Ferguson, U.S. Navy, on his third space flight. Atlantis‘ pilot for STS-135 was Lieutenant Colonel Douglas G. Hurley, United States Marine Corps, on his second shuttle flight. Mission specialists were Sandra Hall Magnus, Ph.D. and Colonel Rex J. Waldheim, U.S. Air Force. This was Dr. Magnus’ third space flight. She spent a total of 157 days, 8 hours, 42 minutes in space. Colonel Waldheim, the mission flight engineer, was on his third shuttle mission.

Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis first flew 3 October 1985 and made 33 space flights. It spent 306 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes, 43 seconds in space flight. Atlantis orbited the Earth 4,848 times and traveled miles 125,935,769 (202,673,974 kilometers) When it was retired at the end of STS-135, Atlantis had flown just one-third of its designed operational life. The space ship is on display at the Kennedy Space Center.

Since the space shuttle fleet was retired, the United States of America has had no manned spaceflight capability.

Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) launch from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 15:29:03 UTC, 8 July 2011. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 June 1986

Boeing B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 is prepared to Depart NAWC China Lake. (U.S. Navy)
B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 is prepared to depart Armitage Field, NAWS China Lake, 17 June 1986. (U.S.  Air Force)

17 June 1986: After being returned to flyable condition, B-47E-25-DT Stratojet serial number 52-166, made the very last flight of a B-47 when it was flown by Major General John D. (“J.D.”) Moore and Lieutenant Colonel Dale E. Wolfe, U.S. Air Force, from the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the high desert of Southern California, to Castle Air Force Base in California’s San Joaquin Valley, to be placed on static display. 52-166 had been built by the Douglas Aircraft Company at Air Force Plant No. 3, Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1952.

52-166 had not been flown in twenty years, having sat in the Mojave Desert serving as a radar target. General Moore and Colonel Wolf were experienced B-47 pilots, though they hadn’t flown one in the same twenty years. Because the B-47 it had not been through a complete overhaul prior to the ferry flight, it was decided to leave the landing gear extended to avoid any potential problems.

During the 43 minute trip, the aircraft had several systems fail, including airspeed sensors, intercom, and partial aileron control. On approach to Castle Air Force Base, a 16 foot (4.9 meters) braking parachute was deployed. This created enough aerodynamic drag to slow the airplane while the early turbojet engines were kept operating at high power settings. These engines took a long time to accelerate from idle, making a go-around a very tricky maneuver. With the braking chute, though, releasing the chute allowed the airplane to climb out as the engines were already operating at high r.p.m.

B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 enroute Castle Air Force Base with a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star chase. California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains are in the distance. (TSGT Michael Hagerty/U.S. Air Force)
Douglas-built B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 enroute Castle Air Force Base with a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star chase, 17 June 1986. California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains are in the distance. (U.S. Air Force)

A strategic bomber, the B-47 could fly higher and faster than jet fighters of the time, and it was also highly maneuverable. B-47E (Boeing Model 450-157-35) was flown by a two-man crew in a tandem cockpit. A navigator/bombardier was at a station in the nose.

The Boeing B-47E Stratojet is 107 feet (32.614 meters) long with a wingspan of 116 feet (35.357 meters), and an overall height of  27 feet, 11 inches (8.509 meters). The wings are shoulder-mounted with the leading edges swept at 35°. It has an empty weight of 79,074 pounds (35,867 kilograms), gross weight of 198,180 pounds (89,893 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 230,000 pounds (104,326 kilograms).

The B-47E was powered by six General Electric J47-GE-25 turbojet engines in four nacelles mounted on pylons below the wings. This engine has a 12-stage axial-flow compressor, eight combustion chambers, and single-stage turbine. The J47-GE-25 is rated at 5,970 pounds of static thrust at Sea Level, at 7,950 r.p.m. and 1,250 °F. (677 °C.) turbine outlet temperature (TOT). (7,200 pounds of thrust with water injection). It has a maximum diameter of 3 feet, 1 inch (0.940 meters) and length of 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters) and weighs 2,653 pounds (1,203 kilograms)

The B-47E Stratojet had a maximum speed of 607 miles per hour (977 kilometers per hour) at 16,300 feet (4,968 meters) and 557 miles per hour (896 kilometers per hour) at 38,500 feet (11,735 meters). The service ceiling was 33,100 feet (10,089 meters) and combat ceiling 40,500 feet (12,344 meters).

The combat radius of the B-47E was 2,013 miles (3,240 kilometers with a 10,845 pound (4,919 kilograms) bomb load. Ferry range with 16,318 gallons (61,770 liters) of fuel was 4,035 miles (6,494 kilometers).

For defense the B-47E was armed with two M24A1 20 mm autocannons in the tail. The co-pilot acted as gunner.

The maximum bomb load of the was 25,000 pounds (11,340 kilograms). The B-47 could carry two 7,600 pound (3,447 kilogram) Mark 15 two-stage radiation implosion thermonuclear bombs, each with an explosive yield of 3.8 megatons, or a single 10,670 pound (4,808 kilogram) B-41 three-stage, 25 megaton bomb.

B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 flies over California's Central Valley farmland as it heads to Castle Air Force Base on the very last B-47 flight, 17 June 1986. (U.S. Air Force)
B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 flies over California’s Central Valley farmland as it heads to Castle Air Force Base on the very last B-47 flight, 17 June 1986. (U.S. Air Force)

Designed by Boeing, the Stratojet was a high-subsonic speed strategic bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, in service from 1951 until 1977. A total of 2,032 B-47s were built by a consortium of aircraft manufacturers: Boeing Airplane Company, Wichita, Kansas; Douglas Aircraft Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Lockheed Aircraft Company, Marietta, Georgia.

The Stratojet is one of the most influential aircraft designs of all time and its legacy can be seen in almost every jet airliner built since the 1950s: the swept wing with engines suspended below and ahead on pylons. The B-47 served the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1977. From the first flight of the Boeing XB-47 Stratojet prototype, 17 December 1947, to the final flight of B-47E 52-166, was 38 years, 6 months, 1 day.

B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 on final approach to land at Castle Air Force Base, 17 June 1986. The braking chute is deployed. This is teh very last time that a B-47 flew.
B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 on final approach to land at Castle Air Force Base, 17 June 1986. The braking chute is deployed. This is the very last time that a B-47 flew.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 April 1959

Convair B-36J-1-CF 52-2220 at NMUSAF, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

30 April 1959: Convair B-36J-1-CF Peacemaker, serial number 52-2220, landed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, completing the very last flight ever made by one of the giant  Cold War-era bombers. It is on the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Convair B-36J 52-2220 was among the last group of 33 B-36 bombers built. It was operated by an aircraft commander/pilot, co-pilot, two navigators, bombardier, two flight engineers, two radio operators, two electronic countermeasures operators and five gunners, a total 16 crewmembers. Frequently a third pilot and other additional personnel were carried.

Crewmebers pose in front of a B-36F, wearing capstan-type partial pressure suites for protection at high altitude. Front (L-R): G.L. Whiting, B.L. Woods, I.G. Hanten, and R.L. D’Abadie. Back (L-R):A.S. Witchell, J.D. McEachern, J.G. Parker and R. D. Norvell. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Crew members pose in front of a Convair B-36F-1-CF Peacemaker, 49-2669, wearing David Clark Co. S-2 capstan-type partial pressure suits and early K-1 “split shell” 2-piece helmets for protection at high altitude. Front (L-R): G.L. Whiting, B.L. Woods, I.G. Hanten, and R.L. D’Abadie. Back (L-R):A.S. Witchell, J.D. McEachern, J.G. Parker and R. D. Norvell. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

The bomber is 162 feet, 1 inch (49.403 meters) long with a wingspan of 230 feet (70.104 meters) and overall height of 46 feet, 9 inches (14.249 meters). The empty weight is 171,035 pounds (77,580 kilograms) and combat weight is 266,100 pounds (120,700 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight is 410,000 pounds (185,973 kilograms).

The B-36J has ten engines. There are six air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49 cubic-inch-displacement (71.49 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major C6 (R-4360-53) four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines placed inside the wings in a pusher configuration. These had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and required 115/145 aviation gasoline. The R-4360-53 had a Normal Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. Its Military Power rating was 3,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., and 3,800 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. with water injection—the same for Takeoff. The engines turned three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed, reversible propellers with a diameter of 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-53 is 9 feet, 9.00 inches (2.972 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,040 pounds (1,832.5 kilograms).

Four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines are suspended under the wings in two-engine pods. The J47 is a  single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with a 12-stage compressor section, 8 combustion chambers, and single-stage turbine. The J47-GE-19 was modified to run on gasoline and was rated at 5,200 pounds of thrust (23.131 kilonewtons).

The B-36J had a cruise speed of 203 miles per hour (327 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 411 miles per hour (661 kilometers per hour) at 36,400 feet (11,905 meters) . The service ceiling was 39,900 feet (12,162 meters) and its range was 6,800 miles (10,944 kilometers) with a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) bomb load. The maximum range was 10,000 miles (16,093 kilometers).

Convair B-36J-1-CF Peacemaker 52-2220. (San Diego air and Space Museum Archives)

Designed during World War II, nuclear weapons were unknown. The bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs in two bomb bays. It could carry the 43,600 pound (19,776.6 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmaker, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb, or several Mk.15 thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 25-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

For defense, the B-36J had six retractable defensive gun turrets and gun turrets in the nose and tail. All 16 guns were remotely operated. Each position mounted two M24A1 20 mm autocannons. 9,200 rounds of ammunition were carried.

Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built. They were never used in combat. Only five still exist.

Convair B-36J-1-CF 52-2220 being moved from Building 1 to Building 3 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, October 2002. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 March 1990

Completing its final flight, Lockheed SR-71A 61-7972, flown by Lieutenant Colonel Raymond E. Yeilding and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph T. Vida, arrives at Washington Dulles International Airport, 6 March 1990, where it was turned over to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
Completing its final flight, Lockheed SR-71A 61-7972, flown by Lieutenant Colonel Raymond E. Yeilding and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph T. Vida, arrives at Washington Dulles International Airport, 6 March 1990, where it was turned over to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

6 March 1990: On its final flight, Lieutenant Colonel Raymond E. (“Ed”) Yeilding and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph T. (“J.T.”) Vida established four National Aeronautic Association and three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale speed records with a Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird, U.S. Air Force serial number 61-7972.

Departing Air Force Plant 42 (PMD) at Palmdale, California, Yeilding and Vida headed offshore to refuel from a Boeing KC-135Q Stratotanker so that the Blackbird’s fuel tanks would be full before beginning their speed run. 972 entered the “west gate,” a radar reference point over Oxnard on the southern California coast, then headed east to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) at Washington, D.C.

The transcontinental flight, a distance of 2,404.05 statute miles (3,868.94 kilometers), took 1 hour, 7 minutes, 53.69 seconds, for an average of 2,124.51 miles per hour (3,419.07 kilometers per hour).

Ben Rich, director of Lockheed's Advanced Development Projects ("Skunk Works") congratulates LCOL Ed Yeilding and LCOL J.T. Vida on their record-setting flight. (Unattributed)
Ben Rich, director of Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects (“Skunk Works”), congratulates LCOL Ed Yeilding  (center) and LCOL J.T. Vida on their record-setting flight. (© Tony Landis)

Intermediate closed-course records were also established: Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., 2,299.67 miles (3,700.96 kilometers), 1:04:19.89, averaging 2,144.83 m.p.h  (3,451.77 km/h).; Kansas City to Washington, D.C., 942.08 miles (1,516.13 km), 25:58.53, 2,176.08 m.p.h. (3,502.06 km/h); and St. Louis to Cincinnati, 311.44 miles (501.21 km), 8:31.97, 2,189.94 m.p.h. (3,524.37 km/h).

Flight record data for 972's record-setting transcontinental flight, prepared by V.A. Wright, ADP, LASC.
Flight record data for 972’s record-setting transcontinental flight, prepared by V.A. Wright, Advanced Development Projects, Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.20.01Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.21.35Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.22.43Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.23.55This same SR-71 had previously set a speed record from New York to London of 1:54:56.4, averaging 1,806.957 m.p.h. (2,908.015 km/h). (It had to slow for inflight refueling.) Next, 972 set a record flying London to Los Angeles, 5,446.87 miles (8765.89 km), in 3 hours, 47 minutes, 39 seconds, averaging 1,435.49 m.p.h. (2,310.19 km/h). It also established an altitude record of 85,069 feet (25,929 meters).

This was 61-7972’s final flight. The total time on its airframe was 2,801.1 hours.

61-7972 is on display at the Steven V. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 at the Steven V. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian NASM
Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 at the Steven V. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian NASM

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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