Tag Archives: First Flight

22 August 1922

Second Lieutenant Stanley Cockerell, Royal Flying Corps

22 August 1922: Captain Stanley Cockerell, A.F.C., a test pilot for Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department), made the first flight of the prototype Type 56 Victoria Mk.I, J6869, at Brooklands, Surrey, England.

The Victoria was a twin-engine biplane military transport, developed from the earlier Vickers Vernon and Virginia. It was operated by a crew of two in an open cockpit and could carry up to 22 troops.

A Vickers Victoria (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives Catalog # Iraq_00831)
A Royal Air Force Vickers Victoria transport. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives Catalog # Iraq_00831)

The prototype Vickers Victoria was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated,  1,461.135 cubic-inch-displacement (23.944 liters) D. Napier and Son Ltd. Lion I, a 60° “triple Four” or “broad-arrow” 12-cylinder engine (also known as a W-12), rated at 450 horsepower at 1,925 r.p.m., each. This was a very complex engine, using individually machined steel cylinders surrounded by welded stamped-steel water jackets. The cylinders were closed at the upper end, rather than having a separate cylinder head. Four valve ports were machined into the “crown.” Each cylinder had two intake and two exhaust valves, which were operated by a dual overhead camshaft arrangement. The cylinders were screwed into a aluminum “head block” which provided stiffening to the assembly, and contained intake and exhaust runners and cooling passages. The three individual banks of four cylinders were attached to the crankcase by studs. The engine’s crankshaft used large roller main bearings for support. The engine used a dry sump lubrication system with an oil pick up at each end. The propeller was driven through a 2:1 reduction gear unit. Cast aluminum alloy pistons were fitted to a master rod with two side rods. The Napier Lion was was compact, very light for the power it produced, and also very efficient. The Napier Lion I weighed approximately 860 pounds (390 kilograms).

The Vickers Victoria had a maximum speed of 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour), and a service ceiling of 16,200 feet (4,940 meters). Its range was 770 miles (1,240 kilometers).

97 Victoria transports were built by Vickers. The type remained in service with the Royal Air Force until 1935 and saw extensive use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stanley Cockerell, 1933
Stanley Cockerell, 1933. (A Fleeting Peace)

Stanley Cockerell had been an aircraft mechanic before becoming a fighter pilot. On 27 October 1916, Serjt. Cockerell was assigned to the Royal Flying Corps. He was credited with seven aerial victories during World War I, while flying the Airco DH.2, DH.5 and the Sopwith Camel.

Albert I, King of the Belgians, conferred the Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Couronne to Temporary 2nd Lieutenant Cockerell, 21 September 1917. On 25 October 1917, Cockerell was promoted to the temporary rank of Captain. He was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre 11 March 1918.

For a flight from England to South Africa in a Vickers Vimy, 24 January–26 February 1920, (“The Times Flight”) Captain Cockerell was awarded the Air Force Cross by George V.

On 4 June 1921, Flight Lieutenant Stanley Cockerell, A.F.C., Royal Air Force, was transferred to the unemployed list.

In 1921, Cockerell married Miss Lorna Lockyer. They would have seven children.

In 1922, Cockerell competed in the King’s Cup, a cross country air race, flying a Vicker’s Type 61 Vulcan, G-EBEM. He finished in 7th place. In the 1923 race, he flew a Type 74 Vulcan, but that airplane did not finish.

Stanley Cockerell and his six-year-old daughter, Kathleen, were killed during the Battle of Britain, when the Luftwaffe bombed Sunbury-on-Thames, 29 November 1940. Mrs. Cockerell was also killed during The Blitz.

A Royal Air Force Vickers Victoria transport, J7924, photographed in flight over Iraq. (RAF)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 August 1944

21 August 1944: The first of two Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat prototypes, Bu. No. 90460, made its first flight at Bethpage, New York, with Grumman’s Chief Engineer and lead test pilot Robert L. Hall at the controls. This was a light-weight high performance interceptor, designed to operate from the U.S. Navy’s smaller aircraft carriers. It used an air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SC13-G (R-2800-22) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engine, an uprated version of the engine used in its predecessor, the Grumman F6F Hellcat.

The R-2800-22 engine was rated at 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 2,100 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., for takeoff and Military Power. In order to use the engine’s power more effectively, the prototype Bearcat used a 12-foot, 4-inch (3.759 meter) diameter, four-bladed Aeroproducts, Inc., propeller, driven through a 0.45:1 gear reduction.

Because the Bearcat was 20% lighter than the Hellcat, it was 50 miles per hour faster and had a much higher rate of climb.

For aircraft carrier operations, the new fighter could not sacrifice structural strength. In order to limit the weight, armament was reduced to four .50-caliber machine guns, and fuel capacity was also less than that of the Hellcat, giving it reduced range.

Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat with wings folded. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat with wings folded, 20 March 1945. (Grumman)

The production F8F-1 Bearcat was 27 feet, 8 inches (8.432 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 6 inches (10.820 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 5 inches (4.089 meters). Its empty weight was 7,070 pounds (3,206.9 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 12,947 pounds (5,872.7 kilograms).

The production F8F-1 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SC14-G (R-2800-34W) engine which had the same Sea Level power ratings as the R-2800-22. It produced 1,500 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 18,500 feet (5,639 meters) and had a Military Power rating of 1,700 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). The gear reduction drive ratio was also 0.45:1. A slightly larger Aeroproducts propeller with a diameter of 12 feet, 7 inches (5.835 meters) was installed. The R-2800-34W was 6 feet, 2.134 inches (1.883 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.80 inches (1.341 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,358.5 pounds (1,069.8 kilograms).

The Bearcat had a top speed of 421 miles per hour (678 kilometers per hour). It could climb at 4,570 feet per minute (23.2 meters per second) and had a service ceiling of 38,700 feet (11,796 meters). Its range was 1,105 miles (1,778 kilometers).

Grumman F8F bearcat fighters aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Tarawa (CV-40) circa 1948. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F8F Bearcat fighters ready for takeoff aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Tarawa (CV-40) circa 1948. (U.S. Navy)

The first prototype Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat, Bu. No. 90460, was destroyed when it crashed during gunnery tests at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, 18 March 1945. Its pilot was killed.

Between 1945 and 1949, Grumman produced 1,265 F8F Bearcats, including a civilian G-58A and a G-58B. A number of American test pilots and astronauts flew the Bearcat in naval service, and several, including Neil Armstong, described it as their all-time favorite airplane.

Robert Leicester Hall was born at Taunton, Massachussetts, 22 August 1905. He was the son of Bicknell Hall, a mechanical engineer, and Estella Beatrice Lane Hall.

Robert L. Hall (Michiganesian of 1927)

Hall attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1927 with Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.). He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta (ΦΓΔ) fraternity and the glee club. While at the University, Hall became a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

In 1929 he went to work for the Fairchild Airplane Manufacturing Company at Farmingdale, New York. While there, Hall met his first wife, Eugenie Therese Zeller, a 1928 graduate of Cornell University, and a secretary at the plant. They were married in 1930, and lived in a rented home on St. James Avenue, Chicopee City, Massachusetts. Their son, Robert Jr., was born 5 November 1931. They later divorced.

Granville Brothers Gee Bee Z

Also in 1931, Hall began working for Granville Brothers Aircraft at Springfield, Massachusetts. He designed the Gee Bee Model Z Super Sportster air racer. He left Granville Brothers in 1933 to go to work for the Stinson Aircraft Company in Dayton, Ohio. There he designed the Stinson Reliant.

Stinson Reliant (NASA)

In 1936, Bob Hall became the Chief Engineer for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, Long Island, New York. He designed the F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, and F8F Bearcat fighters, and the TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. As corporate vice president, he supervised the design of the F9F Panther and Cougar jet fighters.

A U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in non-specular blue-gray over light-gray scheme in early 1942. (U.S. Navy)
Two Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat fighters, Summer 1943. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. (U.S. Navy)
Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, as wingman to Lieutenant (j.g.) Ernie Moore, is flying the second Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 125122 (marked S 116), assigned to VF-51, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951. (Naval Aviation Museum)

Hall married his second wife, Rhoda C. Halvorsen, 18 January 1939, at New York City, New York.

Robert Hall retired from Grumman in 1970. Two of his sons, Eric and Ben Hall, founded Hall Spars and Rigging of Bristol, Rhode Island.

Robert Leicester Hall died at Newport, Rhode Island, 25 February 1991 at the age of 85 years.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 August 1940

Vance Breese (SDA&SM)

19 August 1940: At Mines Field (now known as Los Angeles International Airport), the first North American Aviation B-25 twin-engine medium bomber, serial number 40-2165, took off on its first flight with test pilot Vance Breese at the controls and engineer Roy Ferren in the co-pilot’s position.

The airplane, North American model NA-62, serial number 62-2834, was developed from two earlier designs which had been evaluated by the U.S. Air Corps but rejected, and it was ordered into production without a prototype being built.

The first few B-25s built—sources vary, but 8–10 airplanes—were built with a constant dihedral wing. Testing at Wright Field showed that the airplane had a slight tendency to “Dutch roll” so all B-25s after those were built with a “cranked” wing, giving it the bomber’s characteristic “gull wing” appearance. The two vertical stabilizers were also increased in size.

40-2165 was retained by North American for testing while the next several aircraft were sent to Wright Field.

Roy Ferren (SDA&SM)

The B-25 was named Mitchell in honor of early air power advocate Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. A total of 9,984 B-25s, F-10 reconnaissance variants and U.S. Navy and Marine Corps PBJ-1 patrol bombers were built by North American Aviation at Inglewood, California and Kansas City, Kansas. The last one, a TB-25J, remained in service with the U.S. Air Force until 1960.

Twenty-three B-25s were built before the B-25A Mitchell went into production. The B-25 was operated by a crew of five. It was 54 feet, 1 inch (16.485 meters) long with a wingspan of 67 feet, 6.7 inches (20.592 meters) and overall height of 16 feet, 4 inches (4.978 meters). The empty weight was 17,258 pounds (7,828 kilograms) and the maximum gross weight was 28,557 pounds (12,953 kilograms).

Scale model of a North American Aviation B-25 medium bomber being tested in a wind tunnel. (4″ × 5″ Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer)

The B-25 was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 2,603.737-cubic-inch-displacement (42.688 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 14 GR2600B665 (R-2600-9) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines which were rated at 1,500 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for takeoff. These engines (also commonly called “Twin Cyclone”) drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic variable-pitch propellers through 16:9 gear reduction. The R-2600-9 was 5 feet, 3.1 inches (1.603 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.26 inches (1.378 meters) in diameter. It weighed 1,980 pounds (898 kilograms).

The medium bomber had a maximum speed of 322 miles per hour (518 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and a service ceiling of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). It could carry a 3,000 pound bomb load 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers).

Defensive armament consisted of three air-cooled Browning M2 .30-caliber aircraft machine guns and one Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

After testing was completed, B-25 40-2165 was retained by North American and modified as a company transport. During a flight on 8 January 1945, it crash-landed. The airplane was damaged beyond repair.

Front view of the first North American B-25 Mitchell, 40-2165. The constant dihedral wing was used on the first nine airplanes built. (U.S. Air Force)
Front view of the first North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, 40-2165, at Mines Field, August 1940. The constant dihedral wing was used on the first nine airplanes built. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation NA-62, B-25 Mitchell 40-2165, left front. (U.S. Air Force)
North American B-25 Mitchell 40-2165, left rear. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell 40-2165, left rear. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation B-25A Mitchell medium bomber of the 34th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 17th Bombardment Group (Medium), based at McChord Field, south of Tacoma, Washington, and Pendleton Army Airfiled, northwest of Pendleton, Oregon, circa 1941. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation B-25A Mitchell medium bomber of the 34th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 17th Bombardment Group (Medium), based at McChord Field, south of Tacoma, Washington, circa 1941. (U.S. Army Air Corps 10822 AC)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 August 1943

The second Sikorsky XR-5, 43-28237 (c/n 34). (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

18 August 1943: At Bridgeport, Connecticut, Sikorsky chief test pilot Charles Lester (“Les”) Morris made the first flight of the Vought-Sikorsky VS-327, c/n 33. Also known as the Sikorsky Model S-48, the U.S. Army Air Corps designated the helicopter XR-5 and assigned the serial number 43-28236.

The XR-5 was a significant improvement over the earlier R-4. Its narrow fuselage was streamlined and the cockpit had excellent visibility. The R-4’s box-like fuselage interfered with the downward flow of air from the main rotor, and this was a consideration in the shape of the new helicopter.

The Sikorsky XR-5 (Model S-48) was a single-engine, two-place helicopter. The cabin was built of aluminum with plexiglas windows. The fuselage was built of plastic-impregnated plywood and the tail boom was wood monocoque construction. The main rotor consisted of three fully-articulated blades built of wood spars and ribs and covered with fabric. The three bladed semi-articulated tail rotor was built of laminated wood. The main rotor turned counter-clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) The tail rotor was mounted on the helicopter’s left side in a pusher configuration. It turned clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left.

There were five XR-5 helicopters, followed by twenty-six YR-5A service test helicopters built between November 1944 and July 1945. There were slight changes from the earlier five XR-5A prototypes. The R-5A went into production in July 1945 and more than 300 had been built by the time production ended in 1951.

The helicopter’s fuselage was 41 feet, 7½ inches (12.687 meters) long. The main rotor had a diameter of 48 feet (14.630 meters) and tail rotor diameter was 8 feet, 5 inches (2.2.565 meters), giving the helicopter an overall length of 57 feet, 1 inch (17.399 meters) with rotors turning. It was 13 feet, 1½ inches (4.001 meters) high. The landing gear tread was 12 feet (3.7 meters). The R-5A had an empty weight of 3,780 pounds (1,714.6 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 4,900 pounds (2,222.6 kilograms). Fuel capacity was 100 gallons (378.5 liters).

Chief Test Pilot Les Morris with Captain Jackson E. Beighle, U.S. Army Air Corps, hovers a Sikorsky YR-5A, 43-46603, at Bridgeport, with ten additional passengers, 29 November 1945. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

The helicopter was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 986.749-cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr. T1B4 (R-985 AN-5) direct-drive, nine-cylinder radial engine which was placed vertically in the fuselage behind the crew compartment. This engine was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., Standard Day at Sea Level. The R-985 AN-5 was 48.00 inches (1.219 meters) long, 46.25 inches (1.175 meters) in diameter and weighed 684 pounds (310.3 kilograms) with a magnesium crankcase.

The R-5 had a maximum speed (Vne) of 107 knots (123.1 miles per hour/198.2 kilometers per hour). Range was 275 miles (442.6 kilometers). The service ceiling was 14,800 feet (4,511 meters). The absolute hover ceiling was 3,000 feet (914.4 meters).

On 13 September 1943, Dimitry D. (“Jimmy”) Viner was hovering out of ground effect at 75 feet (23 meters) when 43-28236 suffered a tail rotor failure. The helicopter made a hard landing and was dignificantly damaged. Neither Viner nor his passenger were injured.

In 1944, while flying to a war bond rally in Nebraska, XR-5 43-28236 suffered an engine failure and crash landed. The helicopter was damaged beyond repair and was stripped for parts.

Thanks to regular This Day in Aviation reader Mike for suggesting this subject.

Igor Sikorsky in the cockpit of a production R-5 helicopter. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 August 1911

Geoffrey de Havilland (RAF Museum)

18 August 1911: At 6:30 a.m., the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E. 2 prototype took off with its designer, Geoffrey de Havilland, at the controls. He made the short flight from Farnborough to Laffan’s Plain where he made a series of takeoffs and landings. The biplane was powered by a 50 horsepower Gnome rotary engine with a pusher propeller.

The Royal Flying Corps initially used the F.E.2 (“F.E.” stood for “Farnham Experimental”) as a scouting and reconnaissance airplane but soon armed it with Maxim or Lewis machine guns. At the opening of World War I, the F.E.2 met with success, however newer aircraft types soon made it obsolete.

Geoffrey de Havilland soon founded his own aircraft design and manufacturing company, de Havilland Aircraft Company. He would later be known as Captain Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, OM, CBE, AFC, RDI, FRAeS.

Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 with Maxim gun (RAF Museum)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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