15 August 1935: Two of the most famous men of their time, Wiley Hardeman Post and William Penn Adair (“Will”) Rogers, were killed in an airplane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska.
Post, a pioneering aviator who had twice flown around the world—once, solo—and helped develop the pressure suit for high altitude flight, was exploring a possible air mail route from the United States to Russia. His friend, world famous humorist Will Rogers, was along for the trip.
Post’s airplane was a hybrid, built from the fuselage of a former Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc., Lockheed Model 9E Orion Special, NC12283, combined with a wing from a Lockheed Model 7 Explorer. T&WA operated the Orion for two years before selling it to Charles Babb, Glendale, California. Babb installed the salvaged wing from a modified Lockheed Model 7 Explorer, Blue Flash, NR101W, which had crashed in Panama in 1930.
The Orion’s standard 450 horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp SC1 engine was replaced with an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.8-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S3H1 nine-cylinder radial engine (serial number 5778), rated at 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. for takeoff. A three-bladed Hamilton Standard variable-pitch propeller was used. Both the SC1 and S3H1 were direct drive engines. The S3H1 was 3 feet, 7.01 inches (1.093 meters) long and 4 feet, 3.60 inches (1.311 meters) in diameter. It weighed 865 pounds (392 kilograms).
Post also wanted to replace the retractable landing gear with pontoons for water landings.
Lockheed engineers were of the opinion that the hybrid aircraft and the other modifications which were requested by Post were dangerous and refused to do the work. Pacific Airmotive, also located in Burbank, California, however, agreed to modify the airplane. Several names were used to describe the hybrid airplane, such as “Lockheed Aurora,” as well as others perhaps less polite. It was given the restricted registration NR12283.
NR12283 was 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 48 feet, 6 inches (14.783 meters). The wing area was 313 square feet (29.079 square meters).
Post had the pontoons installed at Renton, Washington. The floats that he had ordered did not arrive on time so he installed a larger set intended for another aircraft.
After several days of flying from Seattle and through Alaska, Post and Rogers were nearing Point Barrow on the northern coast of the continent. They encountered dense fog and landed on Walakpa Bay, about 13 miles (21 kilometers) southwest of the village of Barrow.
After talking with a local resident, Clair Okpheah, they taxied back on the lagoon and took off to the north. Post banked to the right, but at about 50 feet (15 meters) the engine stopped. NR12283 pitched down, rolled to the right, and then its right wing struck the mud. The right wing and pontoon were torn off and the airplane crashed upside down. Post and Rogers died.
Clair Okpheah ran to Barrow for help. When a rescue party arrived 16 hours after the crash, the men recovered the bodies of Post and Rogers. It was noted that Wiley Post’s wristwatch had stopped at 8:18 p.m.
10 August 1912: Frank McLean (later, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Kennedy McLean, A.F.C.) flew his modified Short S.33 float plane, and, according to his obituary in the London Times, 12 August 1955, “. . . created a record by flying up the Thames in a seaplane, passing between the upper and lower parts of Tower Bridge and under London Bridge without touching the water.”
The vertical distance between the upper walkways and the deck of the draw bridge is 141 feet, 0 inches (42.977 meters).
Flight reported the event:
By Hydro-aeroplane up the Thames
ALTHOUGH London was deprived by the appalling weather of the sight of M. Beaumont piloting his hydro-aeroplane up the Thames, the visit of Mr. F.K. McClean more than compensated for the loss. Remembering an appointment in town on Saturday morning, Mr. McClean thought it would be a good idea to come up on his Short machine, and so at 6 a.m. he had it out of its shed at Harty Ferry, in the Isle of Sheppey, and after seeing everything in order he started off. Following the coast round Leysdown, Warden Point to Sheerness, he continued over the Thames. At Gravesend the smoke of various factories rather troubled the aviator but he made good progress. Approaching London Mr. McClean brought his machine lower down and negotiated the Tower Bridge between the lower and upper spans, but the remaining bridges to Westminster he flew underneath, the water just being touched at Blackfriars and Waterloo bridges. He reached Westminster about 8.30 and was taken ashore to Westminster Pier on a Port of London Launch.
The return journey on Sunday afternoon was not so successful—owing to restrictions as to rising from the water which had been imposed by the police. The bridges had all been safely negotiated, and when near Shadwell Basin Mr. McClean started to manœuver to get into the air at the point designated by the river authorities. He had made one circuit when the machine side-slipped, and either through hitting a barge or by sudden contact with the water one of the floats was damaged. The machine was then towed into Shadwell Dock, this operation being superintended by Mr. McClean from the driving seat, and dismantled for its return by road to Eastchurch.
—FLIGHT, No. 190. (No 33, Vol. IV.) 17 August 17 1912 at Page759, Column 1
The Short S.33 was a variant of the S.27 biplane, built specifically for McLean. It is a two-place, single-engine four-bay biplane with the engine in a pusher configuration. An elevator is forward. Although it had been fitted with two floats for operating from the water, McLean had it converted to a land plane by installing two wheels on a tube axle attached to the lower wing with four struts. Two wooden skids are also installed. The fuselage is an open rectangular framework. At the aft end is a horizontal stabilizer and elevator, and two rudders. There were two tail skids.
The Short S.33 was 36 feet, 0 inches (10.973 meters) long (following conversion) with an upper wingspan of 70 feet, 6 inches (21.488 meters). The upper wing had a maximum chord of 6 feet, 7 inches. The outer 16 feet (4.877 meters) of the upper wing was swept aft and had a slight dihedral, as did the outer panels of the lower wings. The lower wing had a shorter wingspan and narrower chord—5 feet, 9 inches (1.753 meters)—than the upper wing. The biplane had a gross weight of 1,600 pounds (725.75 kilograms)
The S.33 was powered by an air-cooled 10.292 liter (628.048-cubic-inch-displacement) Société des Moteurs Gnome Gamma 7-cylinder rotary engine producing 70 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. It turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller with a diameter of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) through direct drive.
Sir Francis was a civil engineer, astronomer, pioneering photographer and aviator. He received the Royal Aero Club’s Aviator Certificate Number 21 on 20 September 1910.
McLean served in the Royal Naval Air Service during World War I and became an officer of the Royal Air Force when RNAS and the Royal Flying Corps were combined in 1918. He is considered to be the founder of the Fleet Air Arm. McLean was decorated with the Air Force Cross in 1919.
For his services to aviation, McLean was knighted by George V, 3 July 1926 and later appointed High Sheriff of Oxfordshire.
Sir Francis McLean died 11 August 1955 at London, England, after a lengthy illness. He was 79 years old.
23 April 1915: Lieutenant Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger, United States Navy, flew a Burgess-Dunne hydroaeroplane to an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) over Pensacola Bay, Florida.
The Aero Club of America certified Lieutenant Bellinger’s record:
Homolgation of the altitude record made by Lieut. P. N. L. Bellinger at Pensacola Bay, Fla., on April 23rd last has been officially recognized and awarded as follows: American altitude record, aviator alone, hydroaeroplane, 10,000 feet. This height was reached in one hour, nineteen minutes. It is interesting to note the climbing record in connection with this flight, 6,000 feet being attained in 24 minutes and 8,000 feet in 41 minutes.
—Flying, Vol. IV, No. 5, June, 1915, The Aero Club of America, Club News, Page 554 at Column 1
The Burgess-Dunne Model BD-5, U.S. Navy serial number AH-10, was a licensed variant of the British Short Brothers-built Dunne D.5. The configuration was designed by Lieutenant John William Dunne, F.R.Ae.S., and was based on his observations of the Roemer’s Alsomitra macrocarpa seeds, although his design essentially reversed the aerodynamic features of the seed.
According to Wikipedia:
The seed or samara of this species is unusual in having two flat bracts extending either side of the seed to form a wing-like shape with the seed embedded along one long edge and the wings angled slightly back from it. As the seed ripens the wings dry and the long edge furthest from the seed curls slightly upwards. When ripe, the seed drops off and its aerodynamic form allows it to glide away from the tree. The wing spans some 13 cm and can glide for great distances. The seed moves through the air like a butterfly in flight — it gains height, stalls, dips and accelerates, once again producing lift, a process termed phugoid oscillation. In the past it was often found on the decks of ships at sea.
The seed’s relative stability in pitch and roll inspired Igo Etrich, a pioneer of early aviation. The contemporary pioneer J.W. Dunne also studied the seed but discarded it as inspiration because it was not directionally stable.
The BD-5 was a two-place, single-engine, four-bay biplane with a single pontoon and wingtip-mounted floats. The wings were swept 30° and the lower wing was staggered significantly behind the upper. Both wings had anhedral, and the upper wing had slightly more area and a negative twist. There was no tail, rudder or elevators. The ailerons also acted as elevators. The design was very stable and it could not be forced into a stall.
The Burgess-Dunne was 24 feet, 8 inches (7.518 meters) long, with a wingspan of 46 feet, 0 inches (14.021 meters). The wings have a chord of 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters) vertical gap between the wings was 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters). The total wing area is 545 square feet (50.63 square meters). The airplane’s empty weight was 1,450 pounds (658 kilograms), and it had a gross weight of 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms).
The pontoon had a single hydrodynamic step. It was 17 feet, 8 inches (5.385 meters) long, 3 feet, 1 inch (0.940 meters) wide and had a maximum depth of 1 foot, 2 inches (0.356 meters).
The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 567.450-cubic-inch-displacement (9.299 liter) Curtiss OXX-2 overhead valve 90° V-8 engine with dual ignition. It had two valves per cylinder, a compression ratio of 4.92:1, and produced 100 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. The OXX-2 was a direct-drive engine and turned a two-bladed, 8 foot (2.4 meter) diameter propeller in a pusher configuration.
The Burgess-Dunne had a fuel capacity of 22 Imperial gallons (100 liters) and carried 4 gallons (18 liters) of lubricating oil.
During flight testing, the Burgess-Dunne Hydroaeroplane averaged 58.75 miles per hour (94.55 kilometers per hour) ground speed over a triangular course with a 10 knot wind (11.5 miles per hour, or 5.4 meters per second).
One Burgess-Dunne had been ordered by the Navy on 5 December 1914. The cost was $5,000.00, less engine. It was delivered in April, 1915. After being flown to the altitude record, AH-10 was used for artillery spotting at Fort Monroe, Virginia. It was the first U.S. Navy aircraft to be armed with a machine gun, a .30-caliber Benét-Mercié machine rifle, and bomb racks.
On 7 March 1916, AH-10 was damaged in a collision with a sailing vessel off Mobile, Alabama. The pilot, Lieutenant Edward Orrick McDonnell, U.S. Navy, was not hurt. After repair, the airplane was returned to service. (Lieutenant McDonnell had been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Veracruz, 21–22 April 1914. He rose to the rank of Vice Admiral.)
Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger was born 8 October 1885 at Cheraw, South Carolina. He was the son of Carnot Ambrose Bellinger and Eleanor Lynch Bellinger.
A 1907 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, he served at sea aboard the battleship USS South Carolina (BB-26) before being assigned as captain of the C-class submarine, C-4 (SS-14). He was then assigned to aviation. Lieutenant Bellinger was Naval Air Pilot No. 4.
During the Veracruz campaign, 1914, Lieutenant Bellinger flew reconnaissance over enemy lines. It was here that a United States military airplane first came under enemy fire. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions there.
In 1919 he was awarded the Navy Cross, “For distinguished service in the line of his profession as commanding officer of the seaplane NC-1 which made a long overseas flight from Newfoundland to the vicinity of the Azores in May 1919.”
Lieutenant Commander Bellinger married Elsie McKeown of Pennsylvania, 24 July 1915. She died at Washington, D.C., 9 February 1920. He married his second wife, Miriam Georgia Benoist, 14 April 1921.
Bellinger progressively rose in rank and responsibility. As rear admiral, he commanded Patrol Wing 2 at Pearl Harbor at the time of the surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy. During World War II, he was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral and served as Commander Air Force, Atlantic Fleet. Vice Admiral Bellinger retired from the Navy in 1947.
Vice Admiral Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger, United States Navy (Retired), died 29 May 1962 at the Chesapeake & Ohio Hospital, Clifton Forge, Virginia. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.
28 March 1910: Henri Marie Léonce Fabre (29 November 1882 – 30 June 1984) flew his Hydroavian, the first seaplane, at Étang de Berre, a lagoon about 25 kilometers (15½ miles) west of Marseille, on the Mediterranean coast of France. The airplane, named Le Canard, flew 457 meters (1,499 feet).
The Hydroavian is 8.45 meters (27 feet, 8.67 inches) long with a wingspan of 14 meters (45 feet, 11.18 inches) and height of 3.70 meters (12 feet, 1.67 inches). It has an empty weight of 380 kilograms (838 pounds) and the gross weight is 475 kilograms (1,047 pounds).
Fabre’s airplane was powered by a normally-aspirated, air-cooled, 7.983 liter (487.140-cubic-inch-displacement) Société des Moteurs Gnome Omega 7-cylinder rotary engine which produced 50 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. The direct-drive engine turned a two-bladed wooden propeller in a left-hand, pusher configuration. The Omega 7 is 79.2 centimeters (2 feet, 7.2 inches) long, 83.8 centimeters (2 feet, 9.0 inches) in diameter, and weighs 75.6 kilograms (166.7 pounds). The prototype of this engine is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum.
Though it was damaged in a crash in 1911, Le Canard was restored and is in the collection of Musée de l’air et de l’espace.
23 October 1934: At Lago di Garda, Brescia, Italy, Warrant Officer Francesco Agello, Regia Aeronautica, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course when he flew the Macchi Aeronautica M.C. 72 float plane, serial number MM 181, to an average speed of 709.21 kilometers per hour (440.68 miles per hour).¹
A contemporary news article described the event:
FLYING the Machi-Castoldi 72 seaplane (3,000 h.p. special 24-cyl. Fiat) at Lake Garda on Tuesday of last week, Warrant-Officer Francesco Agello, of the Italian Royal Air Force, raised his own world’s air speed record by putting up a mean speed (subject to homologation) of 709.202 km./hr. (440.677 m.p.h.) for the usual four flights. His previous record stood at 682.403 km./hr. (423.76 m.p.h.)
The weather conditions under which the attempts were made were ideal, there being just sufficient breeze to take the glassiness off the water, so assisting the takeoff. Temperature was suitable, and the air was free from bumps.
Just before 3 p.m. Agello took off and made four runs over the three-kilometre course, clocking as follows:—
After the successful attempt a banquet was held in the Officers’ Mess at Desenzano in Agello’s honour. The speeds were announced, and Col. Bernasconi, who is in command of the High-speed Flight, stated that Signor Mussolini had honoured Warrant-Officer Agello by promoting him to a full lieutenant.
Only a few modifications had been made to the Macchi-Castoldi since the previous attempt, chief among them being the substitution of wooden floats for the metal ones previously used.
As is well known. the most interesting feature of the machine is the extremely unconventional power-unit, the Fiat A.S.6. The problem of frontal area for such a powerful unit as was specified was solved by placing the twenty-four cylinders (totalling in capacity over fifty litres) in two rows, forming a 60 deg. “vee,” and further, arranging them in two mechanically independent groups.
Each group has its own crank shaft, but a single crank case is used for both. The crank shafts, which rotate in opposite directions, are coupled in the centre by spur-gear reduction units, which drive two airscrew shafts. One of these shafts is hollow, and the other operates within it. The two shafts run forward through the “vee” of the front unit, and each carries an airscrew; so that there are two of the latter, close together, but revolving in opposite directions.
Each engine unit has independent camshafts (two per engine), water pump and dual Marelli magnetos, but a common induction system is used, an eight-jet carburetter being mounted behind the rear unit and mixture being drawn from it passed to the cylinders by a supercharger geared up to 20,000 r.p.m. An interesting point is that this supercharger absorbs 200 h.p., and, since it is driven by the rear engine, the blades of the front airscrew (which the rear engine drives) are given different inclination to correct for the slight difference in power.
The power units develop 3,000 h.p. at 3,200 r.p.m., and weighs 2,045lb., giving a weight per h.p. of 0.706lb. The all-up weight of the machine, with pilot and full tanks, is 6,670lb.
British equipment figured in the success, for Castrol oil and K.L.G. plugs were used.
— FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 1349, Vol. XXVI, November 1, 1934, at Page 1152.
The Macchi-Castoldi M.C.72 was designed by Mario Castoldi for Aeronautica Macchi. It was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane float plane constructed of wood and metal. It was 8.32 meters (27 feet, 3.5 inches) long with a wingspan of 9.48 meters (31 feet, 1.25 inches) and height of 3.30 meters (10.83 feet). The M.C.72 had an empty weight of 2,505 kilograms (5,512 pounds), loaded weight of 2,907 kilograms (6,409 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight of 3,031 kilograms (6,669 pounds).
It was powered by a 50.256 liter (3,067 cubic inch) liquid-cooled, supercharged Fiat S.p.A. AS.6 24-cylinder 60° dual overhead cam (DOHC) V-24 engine with 4 valves per cylinder. The engine produced 3,100 horsepower at 3,300 r.p.m. and drove two counter-rotating metal two-bladed fixed pitch propellers with a diameter of 8 feet (2.56 meters). The counter-rotating blades cancelled the torque effect of the engine.
Surface radiators were placed on top of each wing and surface oil coolers on the floats.
Five Macchi M.C.72 float planes had been built for the 1931 Schneider Trophy race, but problems with the Fiat AS.6 engine, which was essentially two AS.5 V-12s assembled back-to-back, prevented them from competing.
Four test pilots, including Francesco Agello, had been selected to fly the airplanes for speed record attempts. Two were killed while testing the M.C.72, and the third died when another airplane crashed. The cause of the accidents were explosions within the engines’ intake tract. Though they ran perfectly on test stands, in flight, they began to backfire, then explode.
It was discovered by Rod Banks, a British engineer who had been called in to develop a special high-octane fuel, that the Fiat engineers had overlooked the ram effect of the 400 mile per hour slipstream. This caused the fuel mixture to become too lean, resulting in predetonation and backfiring. A modification was made to the intake and the problem was resolved.
Francesco Agello was twice awarded the Henry De La Vaulx Medal by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, and also awarded the Medaglia d’oro al valore aeronautico. In part, his citation read, “A high speed pilot of exceptional courage and, after competition in difficult and dangerous test flights during the development of the fastest seaplane in the world, twice he conquered the absolute world speed record.”
Captain Agello was killed in a mid-air collision, 26 November 1942, while testing a Macchi C.202 Fogore fighter.