Tag Archives: Floyd Bennett Field

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 ( miles per hour). For their accomplishment, they won the Bendix Trophy.

The Associated Press reported:

NAVY PLANE SETS NEW U.S. SPEED MARK

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

CAPTAIN RICHARD F. GORDON, JR., UNITED STATES NAVY

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.

[END]

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 Clement Island, off the Pacific coast of southern California, 4 May 1964.

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9 March 1955

Col. Robert R. Scott waves from the cockpit of his Republic F-84F Thunderstreak after completing a record-breaking transcontinental flight, 9 March 1955. (AP Photo)
Lieutenant Richard Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Robert R. Scott (in cockpit) after their record-breaking transcontinental flight. (Unattributed)

9 October 1955: Lieutenant Colonel Robert Ray Scott, United States Air Force, commanding officer, 510th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 405th Fighter Bomber Wing, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, with Major Robert C. Ruby and Captain Charles T. Hudson, flew their Republic F-84F Thunderstreaks non-stop from Los Angeles Airport (LAX), on the southern California coastline, to overhead Floyd Bennett Field, New York. Two in-flight refuelings from Boeing KB-29 tankers were required.

Colonel Scott’s flight set a new National Aeronautic Association speed record with an elapsed time of 3 hours, 44 minutes, 53.88 seconds.

A newspaper article from the following day describes the event:

2 Des Moines Pilots Break Speed Record

NEW YORK (AP) — Two air force pilots from Des Moines broke the speed record from Los Angeles to New York Wednesday, making a nonstop flight in less than four hours.

Lt. Col. Robert R. Scott, 34, flying a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak jet fighter, turned in the fastest time — 3 hours 46 minutes and 33 seconds. He averaged 649 miles an hour.

Just one minute behind was another Des Moines pilot, Maj. Robert C. Ruby, 32. His time was 3:47:33.

The old mark for the 2,445-mile route was 4:06:16, set Jan 2, 1954, by an air national guard pilot.

Refueling Slow

The pilots said they could have made faster time except for slow and obsolete in-flight refueling tanker planes.

A third pilot who shattered the old mark is Capt. Charles T. Hudson, 33, of Gulfport, Miss., who made the flight in 3:49:53.

Eight air force Thunderstreaks left Los Angeles in a mass assault on the record. Five dropped out through failure to make contact with refueling planes or other reasons. All reportedly landed safely.

While setting a Los Angeles–New York record, Scott failed to beat the navy’s time from San Diego, Calif., to New York — 2,438 miles, or seven miles shorter than Wednesday’s flight.

Flew Cougar Jet

Lt. Comdr. Francis X. Brady, 33, of Virginia Beach, Va., flew from San Diego in 3:45:30 on April 1, 1954, flying a Grumman F9F Cougar.

The air force planes flew at about 40,000 feet.

“The tankers used for refueling are much too obsolete and too old,” Scott commented on landing.

The jets had to slow to 200 m.p.h. from almost 650 to take on fuel.

Scott said he refueled twice — once near La Junta, Colo., and once near Rantoul, Ill.

Others Agree

Ruby and Hudson also said they could have made faster time if the tank planes were more modern.

Hudson and Ruby carried extra gas tanks and made one in-flight refueling each. Scott carried no extra gas and had two in-flight refuelings.

1st Lt. James E. Colson of Middleboro, Ky., tried to make it with no refueling. He got as far as Pittsburgh, Pa.

Of the other four unable to complete the flight, one dropped out in California, two in Kansas and one at Sedalia, Mo.

The Daily Iowan, Thursday, March 10, 1955, Page 1, Column 1

Cockpit of Republic F-84F-10-RE Thunderstreak 51-1405. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Colonel Robert R. Scott, U.S. Air Force, 5 March 1955. (U.S. Air Force photograph)
Lieutenant Colonel Robert R. Scott, U.S. Air Force, 5 March 1955. (U.S. Air Force photograph)

Robert Ray Scott was born at Des Moines, Iowa, 1 November 1920. He was the first of two children of Ray Scott, a railroad worker, and Elva M. Scott. He graduated from North High School in Des Moines, January 1939. He studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Iowa for two years before he enlisted as an Aviation Cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 15 August 1941. Scott was 5 feet, 7 inches (1.70 meters) tall and weighed 144 pounds (65.3 kilograms). He was trained as a pilot and and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, 16 March 1942. He was assigned as an instructor pilot in California, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant 15 December 1942.

Scott was transferred to the 426th Night Fighter Squadron, 14th Air Force, flying the Northrop P-61 Black Widow in India and China. He was promoted to captain, 3 May 1944, and to major, 16 August 1945. Major Scott was credited with shooting down two enemy aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

Captain Robert Ray Scott (back row, second from left) with the 426th Night Fighter Squadron, 14th Air Force, Chengdu, China 1944. The airplane is a Northrop P-61 Black Widow. (U.S. Air Force)

Following World War II, Major Scott returned to the University of Iowa to complete his bachelor’s degree. He also earned two master’s degrees.

In 1952 he graduated from the Air Force test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base, then served as a project pilot on the North American F-86D all-weather interceptor. Later he was a project officer at Edwards AFB on the Republic F-105 Thunderchief Mach 2 fighter-bomber.

Scott flew the North American Aviation F-86F Sabre during the Korean War. From January to July 1953, he flew 117 combat missions. From 1953 to 1956, Lieutenant Colonel Scott commanded the 405th Fighter Bomber Wing, Tactical Air Command, at Langley Air force base, Virginia.

Scott was promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1960.

Colonel Robert R. Scott, commander, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, checks the bombs loaded on a multiple ejector rack while preflighting his Republic F-105 Thunderchief. (U.S. Air Force)

During the Vietnam War, Colonel Scott commanded the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying 134 combat missions in the Republic F-105 Thunderchief. On 26 March 1967 he shot down an enemy MiG-17 fighter near Hanoi with the 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon of his F-105D-6-RE, 59-1772, making him only the second Air Force pilot with air combat victories in both World War II and Vietnam.

Colonel Scott’s final command was the 832nd Air Division, 12th Air Force, at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. He retired 1 September 1970 after 29 years of military service.

Colonel Robert Ray Scott flew 305 combat missions in three wars.During his Air Force career, Colonel Scott was awarded four Silver Star medals, three Legion of Merit medals, six Distinguished Flying Crosses and 16 Air Medals. He died at Tehachapi, California, 3 October 2006 at the age of 86 years. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Republic F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak 51-1346. (U.S. Air Force)

The Republic F-84F Thunderstreak was an improved, swept-wing version of the straight-wing F-84 Thunderjet fighter bomber. The first production Thunderstreak, 51-1346, flew for the first time, 22 May 1952, with company test pilot Russell M. (Rusty”) Roth in the cockpit.

The F-84F was 43 feet, 4¾ inches (13.227 meters) long with a wingspan of 33 feet, 7¼ inches (10.243 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 4¾ inches (4.388 meters). The wings were swept aft 40° at 25% chord. Their angle of incidence was 1° 30′ and there was no twist. The F-84F had 3° 30′ anhedral. The Thunderstreak had an empty weight if 13,645 pounds (6,189 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 27,000 pounds (12,247 kilograms).

The initial F-84F-1-RE aircraft were powered by a Wright J65-W-1 turbojet, a license-built variant of the British Armstrong Siddely Sapphire. Later versions used Wright J65-W-3 and J65-W-7, or Buick J65-B-3 or J65-B-7 engines. The J65-B-3 was a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet with a 13-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The W-3/B-3 had a continuous power rating of 6,350 pounds of thrust (28.25 kilonewtons) at 8,000 r.p.m. It produced 7,220 pounds of thrust (32.12 kilonewtons) at 8,300 r.p.m. (5-minute limit). The J65-B-3 was 10 feet, 8.6 inches (3.266 meters) long, 3 feet, 1.7 inches (0.958 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,785 pounds (1,263 kilograms).

Republic F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak 51-1346, the first production airplane, at Farmingdale, New York, 1952. (Republic Aviation Corporation)

The F-84F had a maximum speed of 595 knots (685 miles per hour/1,102 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level (0.900 Mach). The fighter bomber could climb at 7,000 feet per minute (36 meters per second). Its service ceiling was 44,450 feet (13,548 meters). The fighter bomber’s maximum ferry range was 2,010 nautical miles (2,313 statute miles/3,723 kilometers).

Armament consisted of six Browning .50-caliber (12.7 × 99 NATO) AN-M3 aircraft machine guns, with two mounted in the wing roots and four in the nose. The were 300 rounds of ammunition per gun. Up to 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms) of bombs and rockets could be carried under the wings. A variable-yield Mark 7 tactical nuclear weapon could also be carried.

Between 1952 and 1957, 2,112 F-84F Thunderstreaks were built by Republic at Farmingdale, New York, and by General Motors at Kansas City, Kansas. The Thunderstreak served with the United States Air Force and Air National Guard until 1971.

Republic F-84F-5-RE Thunderstreak 51-1366. (Republic Aviation Corporation)
First Lieutenant Richard Bach, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of a Republic F-84F-35-RE Thunderstreak, 52-6490, at Chaumont Air Base, France, 1962. Richard Bach is the author of the classic aviation novel, “Stranger to the Ground.” (Jet Pilot Overseas)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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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

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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., ( UTC) while taking off, the Vega drifted off of the 3,000-foot ( 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

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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 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 Alexander Nikolaievich Prokofiev 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

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