Tag Archives: Floyd Bennett Field

14–15 January 1935

Jimmy Doolittle in the cockpit of American Airlines’ Vultee V-1A Special NC13770, January 1935. (NASM)

14–15 January 1935: James Harold Doolittle set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Recognised Course of 329.98 kilometers per hour (205.04 miles per hour).¹

Doolittle took off from Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, at 5:27 p.m., Pacific Standard Time, 14 January (8:27 p.m., Eastern Standard Time). Also on board were Mrs. Doolittle and Robert Adamson (1871–1935), an executive with the Shell Oil Company.

Robert Adomson, Mrs. Doolittle and James H. Doolittle ready to board the Vutee V-1A at Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, 14 January 1935. (Getty Images/Bettman)

The airplane was an Airplane Development Corporation V-1A Special, NC13770, owned by American Airlines and leased to Shell.

Doolittle crossed overhead Floyd Bennett Field at 8:26 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, 15 January. He then landed at Newark Airport, New Jersey, at 8:34½ a.m. The flight from Burbank to Brooklyn had a duration of 11 hours, 59 minutes, and broke a record set two months earlier by Eddie Rickenbacker.

Vultee V-1A Special NC13770 at Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, California. (NASM)

The Airplane Development Corporation Model V-1A (commonly known as the “Vultee V-1A”) was a large, all-metal, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. The V-1A was designed as a high-speed airliner and was of full monocoque construction. It could be flown by one or two pilots and carry up to eight passengers.

The V-1A was designed by Gerard Freebairn Vultee and Richard Palmer,² based on an earlier design by Vultee and Vance Breese, who were working for the Airplane Development Corporation, which they had founded in 1932, but which had been acquired by the Cord Corporation. The prototype made its first flight 19 February 1933 with test pilot Marshall Headle at the controls.

NC13770, serial number 24073, was the eighth V-1A built, and was one of the original ten ordered by American Airlines. The V-1A was 37 feet, 0 inches (11.278 meters) long with a wingspan of 50 feet, 0 inches (15.240 meters) and height of 10 feet, 2 inches (3.099 meters). The wings had root chord of 11 feet, 3 inches (3.429 meters) and tip chord of 5 feet, 0 inches (1.524 meters). Total wing area was 384.0 square feet (35.675 square meters). There was 3° dihedral. The V-1A had an empty weight of 5,212 pounds (2,364 kilograms) and gross weight of 8,500 pounds (3,856 kilograms).

Vultee V-1A Special NC13770 at Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, California. (NASM)

The Vultee V-1A was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129 cubic-inch displacement (29.785 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 R-1820-F2 (R-1820-20 or R-1820-102), a nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.4:1. This was a direct-drive engine with a Normal Power rating of 691 horsepower at 1,950 r.p.m., at Sea Level. It required 87-octane gasoline. The engine turned a three-blade propeller with a diameter of 10 feet, 0 inches (3.048 meters). The R-1820-F2 was 3 feet, 7-3/8 inches (1.102 meters) long, 4 feet, 5-3/4 inches (1.365 meters) in diameter, and weighed 937 pounds (425 kilograms).

The V-1A had a cruise speed of 215 miles per hour (346 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 235 miles per hour (378 kilometers per hour). The airplane’s service ceiling was 23,000 feet (7,010 meters). In standard configuration, it had a range of 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers).

Vultee V-1A Special NR13770 taking off from Glendale, California, 17 August 1936. (Wide World Photos)

NC13770 was later sold to Harry Richman of Miami Beach, Florida, who christened the airplane Lady Peace. During the Spanish Civil War, the airplane was captured by the Nationalists. It was used as a transport for the Aviación Nacional Grupo 43, identified as 43-14, and named Capitán Haya. Its U.S. registration was cancelled 8 October 1937. It is believed that the airplane was scrapped in the early 1950s.

Vultee V-1A s/n 24703 (ex-NC13770), Lady Peace, was captured by the Nationalists and assigned the identification number 43-14. (AERONETGCE via Pedro Luz Cunha)
Vultee V-1A s/n 24703 (ex-NC13770) 43-14 in mottled camouflaged. (AERONETGCE via Pedro Luz Cunha)

¹ FAI Record File Number 13232

² Richard Palmer was the designer of Howard Hughes’ record setting H-1.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

3 November 1932

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 3 Nov 1932, Page 1, Columns 2–4, Vol. 92, Number 306

3 November 1932: In the late 1920s through mid-1930s, Miss Ruth Rowland Nichols was one of the best-known American women in aviation. She was the only person to have simultaneously held world records for speed, distance and altitude. She was at Floyd Bennett Airport, Brooklyn, New York, intending to fly across the North American continent to Burbank, California, and break Amelia Earhart’s record for the route. The flight was also intended to generate publicity for the re-election campaign of President Herbert Hoover.

Ruth Rowland Nichols

Miss Nichols’ airplane was a 1928 Lockheed Vega 5, s/n 619, NR496M, owned by Powell Crosley, Jr., founder of the Crosley Radio Corp. of Cincinnati, Ohio. This was the same airplane that she had crash-landed at a small airport near St. John, New Brunswick, Dominion of Canada, 22 June 1931. She had been severely injured.

At 2:48 a.m., (06:48 UTC) while taking off, the Vega drifted off of the 3,000-foot (914 meters) concrete-surfaced runway and the left wheel sank into the soft grass. The airplane spun around and the left wing  hit the ground.

A contemporary newspaper reported:

   Miss Nichols had expected to fly at an average speed of 200 miles an hour and be the first woman to cross the continent without a stop. On her way to Burbank, Cal., she was to drop Hoover leaflets.

     The plane was loaded with 32 gallons of oil besides 650 gallons of gasoline. With Floyd Bennet [sic] Field lighted by the 4,000,000-candlepower flood light at the south end of the field, she started from the south end of he runway.

     After speeding about 700 feet along the concrete runway the plane got out of control and switched off the concrete on to the grass. The girl flier tried desperately to steer it back to the runway, realized that here efforts would be in vain and to avoid an explosion cut off the ignition and pulled the stick.

     The plane went into a loop and rolled over on its side, the left wing burying itself in the ground. The wing, running gears and left side of the fuselage were wrecked. Gasoline spurted in great streams from the fuel tank, forming large pools.

     The small group of observers rushed in alarm to the wrecked plane. . . An ambulance, posted on the field for a possible emergency, hurried to the side of the plane.

     Before they reached it Miss Nichols stepped out, exasperated but smiling and unhurt.

     “Can’t hurt an old hand like me,’ she said. She added later that she was ‘through’ with night flying.

     The plane was the same in which Miss Nichols had attempted a transatlantic flight when it crashed in New Brunswick, Canada. At that time, she suffered a spine injury.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Vol. XCII, No. 306, Thursday, 3 November 1932, Page 2, column 7

Ruth Nichols’ Lockheed Vega. (FAI)

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, the Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could be configured to carry four to six passengers.

Designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee, the Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of spiral strips of vertical grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and held together with glue. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars and other astronomical objects.

The Model 5 Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).

Nichols’ airplane was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. The engine drove a two-bladed controllable-pitch Hamilton Standard propeller through direct drive. The Wasp C was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.3-7 meters) in diameter and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Vega 5 had a cruising speed of 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). Range with standard fuel tanks was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

1 September 1938

Seversky AP-7 NX1384, seen from below. In this configuration, the landing gear folds rearward. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

1 September 1938: Jackie Cochran departed the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, at 3:00 a.m., flying her Seversky AP-7, NX1384, c/n 145. Her destination was Cleveland, Ohio, the finish line for the Bendix Trophy Race, 2,042 miles (3,286 kilometers) away.

“Major Alexander de Seversky poses with Jacqueline Cochran beside the Seversky in which she flew from Burbank, Cal., to Cleveland in 8 hrs. and 10 min. to win the Bendix Trophy.” (Contemporary newspaper photograph)

NX1384 was built by the Seversky Aircraft Corporation of Farmingdale, Long Island, New York, especially for Jackie Cochran. It had been flown from the factory to Burbank by Major Alexander Nikolaievich Prokofiev de Seversky just two days earlier. His flight set an East-to-West Transcontinental Speed Record of 10 hours, 2 minutes, 55.7 seconds.

Seversky AP-7 NX1384 (c/n 145). (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

The AP-7 racer was an improved version of Major de Seversky’s P-35A fighter, which was the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first all-metal single-engine airplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear.

Seversky AP-7 NX1384 (c/n 145). (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

Cochran’s AP-7 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1B3-G (R-1830-11) two-row 14-cylinder radial engine rated at 850 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off. The engine turned a three-bladed Hamilton-Standard controllable-pitch propeller through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-11 was 4 feet, 8.66 inches (1.439 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 0.00 inches (1.219 meters), and weighed 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).

Seversky AP-7 NX1384, c/n 145. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

“Finally the P-35 arrived. I decided that I didn’t want to take it into the air for a test even if I could. The racing officials impounded it because it was a prototype and there was some kind of rule about untested planes. I would test it en route. . . Finally, I got to sit in the cockpit. I began to study all the instruments by the hour. I can almost see them still. 

Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7. (Unattributed)
Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7 at the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California. The airplane’s passenger compartment hatch and window is behind Ms. Cochran. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

“There are about a hundred or more buttons, levers, and other gadgets to push, pull or twirl. . .  I close my eyes and reach for everything in the dark. And I keep at this until I can get to them blindfolded and with no false moves. . . 

“I finally see Cleveland. . . (a)nd am going so fast that I pass the airport and come in from the wrong side. . . Have I won? The crowds are cheering. It’s a standing ovation. . . I have won the Bendix.”

— Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York 1987, Pages 160–165.

Seversky AP-7 NX1384, c/n 145. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

“I often wonder what is meant exactly by a considered risk. . . In my case I never could ponder over the risks too much because I had to take a fast plane whenever it became available to me and make the best of it. I won the 1938 Bendix Race in a Seversky pursuit plane which I had never flown until that night, when, with a heavy overload of gas, I took off in the race. The plane was delivered from the factory to me just two days before the race and under the rules it had to be immediately impounded. It was a prototype that had not yest been tested. I tested it en route during the race. Its feature was that it had wings that were in effect integrated tanks so that most of the wings could be filled with fuel, thus adding range. It developed in flight that the fuel from the right wing would not properly feed the engine. By force on the stick I had to hold that wing much higher than the other from time to time in order to drain the fuel from that right wing into the left wing and from the left wing into the engine. When I got the plane back to the factory after the race a large wad of wrapping paper was discovered near the outlet of the right-wing tank. No wonder the drainage had been bad. How, for example, could that risk be properly considered i advance? The paper in the tank could have been sabotage. Some thought so at the time. More likely it was paper pasted on the inside of the wing during manufacture which had not been removed and which worked loose from the action of the gasoline and the vibration of the plane.”

The Stars at Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran. Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1954, at Pages 65–66

Jackie Cochran was the third pilot to leave Burbank, but the first to arrive at Cleveland. Her elapsed time for the flight from California to Ohio was 8 hours, 10 minutes, 31.4 seconds, for an average speed of 249.774 miles per hour (401.895 kilometers per hour). For her first place finish, Ms. Cochran won a prize of $12,500.

Vincent Bendix congratulates Jackie Cochran on her winning of the Bendix Trophy Race, 1 September 1938. (NASM)

After being congratulated on her win by Vincent Bendix and other race officials, Cochran had her Seversky monoplane refueled. She then got back in to its cockpit and took off for Floyd Bennett Field, new York. She landed there 10 hours, 12 minutes, 55 seconds after leaving Burbank. This was a new West-to East Transcontinental Speed Record.

Jackie Cochran’s Vincent Bendix Trophy in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

10–11 August 1938

The Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor, D-ACON, arrives at Floyd Bennett Field, New York, 11 August 1938. (Klassiker fer Luftfahrt)

10–11 August 1938: Under the command of Deutsche Luft Hansa Kapitän Alfred Henke, Brandenburg, a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor, D-ACON, departed Flugplatz Berlin-Staaken, 6 kilometers west of Spandau, at about 7:30 p.m., on Wednesday, 10 August 1938.

The other members of the crew were Hauptmann Rudolf Freiherr von Moreau, of the Luftwaffe, co-pilot; Paul Dierberg, flight engineer; and Walter Kober, radio operator. There were no passengers on board.

Brandenburg flew a Great Circle course across the North Atlantic Ocean and landed at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York at 1:50 p.m., local time, Thursday, 11 August. The distance flown was 6371.302 kilometers (3,958.944 miles). The total duration of the flight was 24 hours, 56 minutes, 12 seconds. The Condor averaged 255.499 kilometers per hour (158.760 miles per hour).

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor D-ACON at Floyd Bennett Field, New York, 11 August 1938. (Deutsche Lufthansa AG)

Although they encountered severe weather, the flight was relatively uneventful. Upon landing, it was discovered that the prototype airliner had suffered some damage to an engine cowling and that one engine lubricating oil tube had cracked, causing a leak.

Focke-Wulf Fw 200S-1 Kondor (Condor) D-ACON on the ground in front of Hangar 4 at Floyd Bennett Field, Long Island, New York. (Rudy Arnold Collection/National Air and Space Museum)

The problems were repaired while Hauptman von Moreau made an unexplained trip to Washington, D.C. Brandenburg was ready for a return flight to Germany the following day.

Manifest for Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor D-ACON.

Taking off from Floyd Bennett Field before 9:30 a.m., on Saturday, 13 August, Brandenburg was flown to Flughafen Berlin-Templehof. With more favorable winds on the eastbound flight, the 6,392 kilometer distance (3,972 miles) was covered in 19 hours, 56 minutes, with an average speed of 321 kilometers per hour (199 miles per hour).


14. August 1938. Deutschlands Ozeanflieger nach Ihrem Rekordflug Berlin-New York-Berlin auf dem Flughafen Tempelhof. V.l.: Kober, Dierberg, Henke und von Moreau. Foto: Deutsche Lufthansa AG 14.08.1938 DLHD5054-1-35

Following their return to Germany, Captain Henke (who was also an Oberleutnant in the Luftwaffe) and Hauptman von Moreau were congratulated by Adolph Hitler. In photographs, Henke is easily identifiable by the prominent “dueling scar” on the left side of his face.

Kurt Waldemar Tank, March 1941. (Bundesarchiv)

D-ACON was the prototype Condor, designated Fw 200 V1, Werk-Nr. 2000. It had first flown at Neulander Feld, site of the Focke-Wulf plant in Bremen, 27 July 1937. The test pilot was Kurt Waldemar Tank, an aeronautical engineer and the airplane’s designer.

Tank had proposed the airplane to Deutsche Luft Hansa as a long-range commercial transport for routes from Europe to South America. While British and American airlines were using large four-engine flying boats for transoceanic flight, their heavy weight and aerodynamic drag reduced the practical passenger and cargo loadings. A lighter-weight, streamlined land plane would be faster and could carry more passengers, increasing its desirability and practicality. Also, while the flying boats had to make an emergency water landing if one engine failed during the flight, the Focke-Wulf Condor was designed to be able to remain airborne with just two engines.

Prototype Focke-Wulf Fw 200 V1 Condor, Werk-Nr. 2000, D-ACON (Klassiker fer Luftfahrt)

The Fw 200 V1 was an all-metal low-wing monoplane powered by four engines, with retractable landing gear. It had a flight crew of four, and was designed to carry a maximum of 26 passengers. It was 78 feet, 0 inches (27.774 meters) long with a wingspan of 108 feet, 0 inches (32.918 meters) and overall height of 20 feet, 0 inches (6.096 meters). The airliner had an empty weight of 24,030 pounds (10,900 kilograms) and gross weight of 37,479 pounds (17,000 kilograms). This increased to 39,683 pounds (18,000 kilograms) after modification to the Fw 200 S-1 configuration.

As originally built, the prototype Condor was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged 1,690.537-cubic-inch-displacement (27.703 liters) Pratt & Whitney Hornet S1E-G single-row 9-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1 and gear reduction ratio of 3:2. The S1E-G was rated at 750 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), and 875 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. for takeoff. It was 4 feet, 1.38 inches (1.254 meters) in diameter, 4 feet, 6.44 inches (1.383 meters) long, and weighed 1,064 pounds (483 kilograms).

Prototype Focke-Wulf Fw 200 V1 Condor, Werk-Nr. 2000, D-ACON. (Bernhard D.F. Klein Collection/1000 Aircraft Photos)

Brandenburg‘s Pratt & Whitney engines were later replaced by Bayerische Motorenwerke AG BMW 132 L engines. BMW had been producing licensed variants of the Pratt & Whitney Hornet since 1933, and had incorporated their own developments during that time.

The Fw 200 V1 had a maximum speed of 233 miles per hour (375 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its cruising speed was 205 miles per hour (330 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). The airliner’s service ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). It could maintain level flight at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) with 3 engines, and 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) with just two engines running. Its range at cruise speed with a 7,000 pound (3,175 kilogram) payload was 775 miles (1,247 kilometers).

For the Berlin-to-New York flight, the Fw 200’s fuel capacity was increased to 2,400 gallons (9,084 liters).

D-ACON made a series of long distance flights to demonstrate its potential. On 20 November 1938, Brandenburg flew from Berlin to Hanoi in French Indo-China (now, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam). The crew was the same as the Berlin-New York flight, with the addition of G. Khone. This flight set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over Courses of 243.01 kilometers per hour (151.00 miles per hour).¹

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor, D-ACON. (Klassiker fer Luftfahrt)

On 6 December 1938, while on approach to Manila, capital city of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, all four of D-ACON’s engines stopped. Unable to reach the airfield, the Condor was ditched in Manila Bay. All aboard were quickly rescued. The cause of the engines failing was fuel starvation. One source states that the crew had selected the wrong tanks. Another source says that a fuel line had broken. A third cites a fuel pump failure.

Focke-Wulf Condor D-ACON after ditching near Manila, 6 Dec 1938 (Bureau d’Archives des Accidents d’Avions)

The wreck of the first Condor was recovered, however, the airplane was damaged beyond repair.

Recovery of Focke-Wulf Fw 200 S-1 Condor D-ACON. (Bureau d’Archives des Accidents d’Avions)

While the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 had been designed as a civilian airliner, it soon found use as a long-range maritime patrol bomber. The Fw 200 V10 was a military variant requested by the Imperial Japanese Navy. With the outbreak of World War II, Condors were produced as both bombers and transports. They saw extensive service searching for and attacking the Allies’ transatlantic convoys.

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C-3 Condor, SG+KS, Werk-Nr. 0043. (World War Photos)
A Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C-3 Condor reconnaissance bomber, SG+KS, Werk-Nr. 0043, circa 1941. (Photograph by Walter Frentz. Bundsarchiv, Bild 146-1987-043-02)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8984

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

24 May 1961

Lieutenants Gordon and Young. (U.S. Navy)

24 May 1961: Lieutenant Richard Francis Gordon, Jr., United States Navy, with Radar Intercept Officer Lieutenant (j.g.) Bobbie R. Young, flew from Ontario International Airport, east of Los Angeles, California, to Floyd Bennett Field, New York, with their McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 148270. The duration of their flight was 2 hours, 47 minutes, 0.01 seconds, for an average speed of 1,399.66 kilometers per hour (869.71 miles per hour). For their accomplishment, they won the Bendix Trophy.

The Associated Press reported:


Jet Crosses Country in Two Hours And 48 Minutes

     New York, May 24 (AP)—A Navy jet fighter plane flashed from coast to coast today in two hours 48 minutes, to eclipse a record that had stood since 1957.

     Said Lt. Richard F. Gordon, 31, of Seattle, who piloted the fastest plane across the nation at an average speed of 871.38 m.p.h.:

      “It was a wonderful trip. The weather was fine all along the route. I feel great, but I’m real tired.”

     As the three F4H-1 Phantoms zoomed down from 50,000 feet for a landing at Floyd Bennet Field [sic], shock waves exploded ahead of them with a thunder-like clap that startled metropolitan residents on the ground below.

Five Phantoms Start

     The transcontinental flight from Ontario at 7.59 A.M. (P.D.T.) on the 2,445.9 mile hop to New York in the twentieth renewal of the Bendix Trophy races. Tanker planes waited to refuel them over Albuquerque (N.M.), St. Louis, and between Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Douglas A3D-2 Skywarrior Bu. No. 142650, Heavy Attack Squadron NINE (VAH-9), refuels McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II Bu. No. 148261 of VF-101 Detachment A during the 1961 Bendix Trophy Race. (NMNA # 1996.253.3678)

   One of the five planes encountered trouble over Albuquerque and dropped out of the race. A second was held up by refueling problems over Albuquerque and St. Louis and straggled into Floyd Bennet and [sic] hour and twenty minutes behind the pacesetters.

     Sharing the Bendix Trophy with Lieutenant was his radio-intercept officer, Lt. (J.G.) Bobbie R. Young, 34, of Modesto, Cal. Their average speed was the highest ever in the trophy races, that began in 1931 with James H. Doolittle setting an average mark of 223 m.p.h. between Los Angeles and Cleveland.

Time Certified

Lieutenants Gordon and Young with the Bendix Trophy. Both Naval Aviators are wearing B.F. Goodrich Mark IV full-pressure suits for protection at high altitude.

The two other craft that accompanied Lieutenant Gordon’s finished in the unofficial time of 2 hours and 57 minutes, and 3 hours and 3 minutes. Lieutenant Gordon’s time was certified as official by the Navy, subject to approval of international aviation authorities.

     Rear Admiral Frank A Brandley, assistant chief of naval operations for air, greeting the fliers here, pointed out that had Gordon flown in the opposite direction, he would have landed in California earlier than he took off from New York—because of the time differential.

     The supersonic Phantoms are carrier-based Navy fighter planes built by McDonnell Aircraft, of St. Louis.

     The Bendix races were organized to test pilot training, equipment and technical skills of American aviation. The last previous race was held in 1957, between Chicago and Washington. The 1957 record was not set in a Bendix race.

The Sun, Vol. 249, No. 8, Baltimore, Thursday, 25 May 1961, Page 9, Column 1

The following is the U.S. Navy’s official biography of Richard Gordon:

Department of the Navy
Office of Information


Richard Francis Gordon, Jr., was born in Seattle, Washington, on October 5, 1929, son of Richard F. and Angela Frances (Sullivan) Gordon.  He attended North Kitsap High School, Poulsbo, Washington, and the University of Washington at Seattle, from which he received the degree of Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 1951.  He enlisted in the U. S. Naval Reserve, served as an Airman at the Naval Air Station, Sand Point, Washington.  Appointed Aviation Cadet in August 1951, he had flight training at the Naval Air Basic Training Command, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, and at the Naval Air Advanced Training Command, Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas.  Designated Naval Aviator and commissioned Ensign, U. S. Naval Reserve, on March 25, 1953, he subsequently advanced in rank to that of Captain, to date from December 11, 1969, having transferred to the Regular Navy on August 3, 1955.

After receiving his “Wings” in March 1953, he had instruction for two months at the naval School, All Weather Flight, Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, and for one month at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Kingsville, Texas.  In June of that year he joined Fighter Squadron ELEVEN to serve as Navigation Officer, Communications Officer and Naval Aviator until January 1957, when he reported for instruction at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland.  In August that year, he transferred to the Flight Test Division, Naval Air Test Center, where he had duty as a Project Pilot, Project Officer, and First Lieutenant until March 1960.

He next joined Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE, where served as Fleet Replacement Pilot, Fleet Air Detachment Duty Officer, and Flight Instructor.  In November 1961, he was assigned for a month to Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED FORTY-TWO as Operations Officer, then transferred to Fighter Squadron NINETY-SIX, for duty as Naval Aviator, Naval Aviation Training Operations Officer and Assistant Operations Officer.  While in that assignment he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “…extraordinary achievement in aerial flight on May 24, 1961, while participating in the Bendix Trophy Race as Pilot of an F4H Phantom Aircraft…” The citation continues…

“…Exercising outstanding airmanship and resourcefulness, (he) succeeded in winning the Bendix Trophy Race and in establishing a new transcontinental speed record for the jet aircraft from Los Angeles, California to New York, New York, with an elapsed time of two hours and forty-seven minutes, which is twenty-one minutes under the previous record time for this event…”

From July to December 1963 he had instruction at the U. S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.  Selected as one of the third group of astronauts by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in October 1963, he began training at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas, in December 1963.  He has served as backup pilot for the Gemini VII flight.

On September 12, 1966, he served as pilot for the 44 orbit Gemini XI mission.  He executed docking maneuvers with the previously launched Agena and performed two periods of extravehicular activity which involved attaching a tether to the Agena and retrieving a nuclear emulsion experiment package.  Other highlights of the flight included the successful completion of the first tethered station-keeping exercise, establishment of a new record-setting altitude of 850 miles, and the first closed-loop controlled reentry.  The flight was concluded on September 15, 1966, with the spacecraft landing in the Atlantic, two and one-half miles from the prime recovery ship USS Guam (LPH-9).  He was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Distinguished Flying Cross with the following citation:

“For heroism and extraordinary achievement…as an Astronaut with NASA from September 12 to 15, 1966 aboard Gemini XI.  While serving as Pilot, Commander (then Lieutenant Commander) Gordon completed a space flight of seventy-one hours and sixteen minutes.  A rendezvous in the first revolution, docking, two periods of extravehicular activity, an exercise in the dynamics of two spacecraft linked together by a one hundred-foot strap and full-automatic reentry highlighted the Gemini XI mission.  During this period, Commander Gordon carried out the re-docking maneuver, the first docking by a ‘right-seater.’  During the umbilical extravehicular activity, he left the spacecraft to retrieve the S-9 Nuclear Emulsion Experiment package from the Agena…”

In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star, Captain Gordon has received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the Navy Astronaut Wings.  He is also entitled to the Navy Occupation Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star.

He is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.  His hobbies include water skiing, sailing and golf.

He has logged more than 3,300 hours flying time, 2,800 hours in jet aircraft.


Published: Fri Mar 04 13:52:55 EST 2016


The Bendix Trophy-winning Phantom II, redesignated F-4A-4-MC in 1962, crashed near San Clemente Island, off the Pacific coast of southern California, 4 May 1964.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes