Tag Archives: Final Flight

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)

Designed by Boeing, the Stratojet was a high-subsonic speed strategic bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, in service from 1951 until 1977. 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 pilots in a tandem cockpit. A navigator/bombardier was at a station in the nose.

The B-47E Stratojet differed from the earlier B-47B primarily with upgraded engines and strengthened landing gear to handle an increase in maximum weight. The B-47E Stratojet is 107.1 feet (32.644 meters) long with a wingspan of 116.0 feet (35.357 meters), and an overall height of  28.0 feet (8.534 meters). The wings are shoulder-mounted and have a total area of 1,428 square feet (132.67 square meters). The wings’ leading edges are swept aft to 36° 37′. The angle of incidence is 2° 45′ and there is 0° dihdreal (the wings ware very flexible). The B-47E in standard configuration had an empty weight of 78,620 pounds (35,661 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 200,000 pounds (90,718 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 -25 has a continuous power rating of 5,320 pounds of thrust (23.665 kilonewtons) at 7,630 r.p.m., at Sea Level; Military Power, 5,670 pounds (25.221 kilonewtons) at 7,800 r.p.m. (30 minute limit); and Maximum Power, 7,200 pounds (32.027 kilonewtons) at 7,950 r.p.m. with water/alcohol injection (5 minute limit). The J47-GE-25 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 had a maximum speed of 497 knots (572 miles per hour/920 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters), and 485 knots (558 miles per hour/898 kilometers per hour) at 38,600 feet (11,765 meters).

The service ceiling was 31,500 feet (9,601 meters) and combat ceiling 40,800 feet (12,436 meters).

The combat radius of the B-47E was 1,780 nautical miles 2,048 miles (3,297 kilometers with a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilograms) bomb load. Ferry range with 14,720 gallons (55,721 liters) of fuel was 4,095 nautical miles (4,712 miles/7,584 kilometers).

For defense the B-47E was armed with two M24A1 20 mm autocannons with 350 rounds of ammunition per gun. The remotely-operated tail turret was controlled by the co-pilot.

The maximum bomb load of the B-47E was 12,000 pounds (5,443 kilograms). The B-47 could carry up to six 2,000 pound (907 kilogram) bombs, or one 10,670 pound (4,840 kilograms) “Special Store”: a B-41 three-stage radiation-implosion thermonuclear bomb with a yield of 25 megatons).

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)

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.
Douglas-built 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 was the very last time that a B-47 flew.

© 2018, 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 to the Consolidated-Vultee engineers. 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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1 March 2003

Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B, 83-0065, after its last flight, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)
Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, after its last flight, Dyess AFB, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)

1 March 2003: The Star of Abilene, the first operational Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic heavy bomber, serial number 83-0065, made its final flight at Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas. It was delivered to the 96th Bombardment Group, Heavy, Strategic Air Command at Dyess on 7 July 1985, and was retired after 17 years, 7 months, 23 days of service.

83-0065 is preserved at the Dyess Linear Air Park, which displays over 30 airplanes along the main road of the air base, showing a chronological progression of Air Power.

Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, Star of Abilene, flies over Dyess Air Force Base, 7 July 1985. (Reporter-News)
Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, Star of Abilene, flies over Dyess Air Force Base, 7 July 1985. (Reporter-News)

The Rockwell B-1B is 146 feet (44.501 meters) long, with the wing span varying from 79 feet (24.079 meters) to 137 feet (41.758 meters). It is 34 feet (10.363 meters) high at the top of the vertical fin. The bomber’s empty weight is 192,000 pounds (87,090 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 477,000 pounds (216,364 kilograms)

The B-1B is powered by four General Electric F101-GE-102 afterburning turbofan engines. This is an axial-flow engine with a 2-stage fan section, 9-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). It is rated at 17,390 pounds of thrust (77.35 kilonewtons), and 30,780 pounds of thrust (136.92 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The F101-GE-102 is 15 feet, 0.7 inches (4.590 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.2 inches (1.402 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,460 pounds (2,023 kilograms).

The B-1B has a maximum speed of Mach 1.25 (830 miles per hour (1,336 kilometers per hour) at high altitude, or 0.92 Mach (700 miles per hour, 1,127 kilometers per hour) at 200 feet (61 meters). The Lancer has a service ceiling of 60,000 feet (18,288 meters), and an unrefueled range of 7,456 miles (11,999 kilometers).

It can carry up to 84 Mk.82 500-pound bombs, 24 Mk.84 2,000-pound bombs, or other weapons. The B-1B is not equipped for nuclear strike missions.

100 B-1B Lancers were built by Rockwell International’s aircraft division at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, between 1983 and 1988. As of September 2016, 62 B-1B bombers are in the active Air Force inventory, with 2 others in the test fleet.

Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, after its last flight, Dyess AFB, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)
Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, after its last flight, Dyess AFB, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 February 1975

Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager, USAF, made his last flight as an active duty Air Force officer aboard a McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 25 February 1975. (U.S. Air Force)
Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager, USAF, made his last flight as an active duty Air Force officer aboard a McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 25 February 1975. (U.S. Air Force)

25 February 1975: At Edwards Air Force Base, California,  Brigadier General Charles Elwood (“Chuck”) Yeager, United States Air Force, made his final flight as an active duty Air Force pilot, flying this McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II.

During his career, General Yeager flew 180 different aircraft types and accumulated 10,131.6 flight hours.

General Yeager retired 1 March 1975 after 12,222 days of military service.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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