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31 October 1964

Captain Theodore Cordy Freeman, United States Air Force. (NASA)

31 October 1964: Captain Theodore Cordy Freeman, United States Air Force, was a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps. He was one of fourteen pilots who had been selected for the third group of candidates in October 1963.

At 10:01 a.m., Saturday morning, Captain Freeman took off at 10:01 a.m. from Ellington Air Force Base, Houston, Texas. He was on the first of two planned training flights, flying a Northrop T-38A-50-NO Talon, 63-8188, Northrop serial number N.5535.  The weather was reported as scattered clouds at 2,000 feet (607 meters), with visibility 7 miles (11.3 kilometers) in haze. He returned to the airfield at 10:38 for touch and goes, but was instructed to exit traffic pattern because of arriving aircraft.

At 10:46, Freeman called Ellington Tower, reporting that he was 5 miles (8 kilometers) southwest, inbound. He received no response and 30 seconds later, reported that he was breaking out to the east. The tower acknowledged this transmission and instructed Freeman to make another approach. At 10:47, Freeman called, “Roger, be about two minutes.” There were no further transmissions.

Ted Freeman’s T-38 struck a Lesser Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) in the vicinity of the airport. These birds weigh between 4½ to 6 pounds (2.1–2.7 kilograms). The impact resulted in damage to the left side of the airplane’s forward canopy. Both engines flamed out.

Lesser Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens). (Gary Swant/Montana Standard)

Unable to reach runway at Ellington, Freeman turned away from the airfield to avoid buildings, lowered the landing gear and headed for an open field. At approximately 100 feet (30 meters), he fired his ejection seat. The altitude was too low to allow his parachute to open and Freeman was killed when he struck the ground.

The T-38 crashed at 10:48 a.m., 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) south of Ellington Air Force Base, between Highway 3 and the Gulf Freeway.)

(The Miami News, Sunday, 1 November 1964, Page 3A, Columns 1–3)
Wings of Lesser Snow Goose and fragments of Freeman’s T-38 canopy. (NASA S64-38117)

Investigators found blood and feathers in the cockpit. Suspecting a bird strike, a search was carried out and on 12 November, the remains of a snow goose along with fragments of the T-38’s canopy were found approximately 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) southeast of Ellington AFB, and about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from the crash site.

At 10:58 a.m., Charles Alden Berry, M.D., Chief of the Manned Space Flight Center Medical Operations Office, declared Captain Freeman dead at the scene. The Chief of the Astronaut Office, Deke Slayton, and Dr. Berry went to the Freeman home and made the formal notification to Mrs. Freeman.

Following an autopsy, Captain Freeman’s remains were transported to the Arlington National Cemetery, at Arlington, Virginia, for burial.

The marker for Captain Freeman’s grave, Section 4, Lot 3148, Grid AA-11. (Heroic Relics)
Midshipman Theodore Cordy Freeman, United States Naval Academy. (1953 Lucky Bag)

Theodore Cordy Freeman was born 18 February 1930 at Haverford, Pennsylvania. He was the fourth child of John T. Freeman, a carpenter, and Catherine Thomas Wilson Freeman. Ted Freeman attended Lewes High School, in Lewes, Delaware. He graduated in 1948, and was ranked academically third in his class. While still in high school, Freeman qualified for a private pilot’s license. He then studied at the University of Delaware at Newark.

While at the University of Delaware, Freeman received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and entered as a midshipman, United States Navy, 17 June 1949. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree on 5 June 1953. Along with 129 of his classmates, Midshipman Freeman elected to be commissioned as a second lieutenant, United States Air Force.

Later that same afternoon, Second Lieutenant Theodore Cordy Freeman, United States Air Force, married Miss Faith Dudley Clark of Orange, Connecticut, at the First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis. They would have a daughter, Faith Huntington Freeman, born at Bryan, Texas, 18 July 1954.

Miss Faith Huntington Freeman and Mrs. Theodore Cordy Freeman (née Faith Dudley Clark), circa 1963. (Larry Clark/Valley Times TODAY)

Second Lieutenant Freeman trained as an Air Force pilot at Hondo and Bryan Air Bases in Texas. He was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant in February 1955 and awarded his pilot’s wings. Freeman was then sent for fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1955, Lieutenant Freeman was stationed in Okinawa. On his return to the United States, he was assigned to George Air Force Base in California.

1st Lieutenant Theodore Cordy Freeman, United States Air Force, with a North American Aviation, Inc., F-100 Super Sabre, circa mid-1950s. (U.S. Air Force)

In 1960, Freeman earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of  Michigan at Ann Arbor. While there, he was promoted to the rank of captain.

Captain Freeman entered the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on 3 January 1962 and graduated 17 August 1962. Next he attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School. After completing that course, Freeman remained at the school as an instructor and served as a flight test engineer at Edwards. By this time, Ted Freeman was an experienced pilot with over 3,300 flight hours.

Astronaut Group Three. Ted Freeman is standing, fourth from left. Front Row, left to right: Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., William A. Anders, Charles A. Bassett II, Alan L. Bean, Eugene A. Cernan and Roger B. Chaffee. Back Row, Michael Collins, R. Walter Cunningham, Donn F. Eisele, Theodore C. Freeman, Richard F. Gordon Jr., Russell L. Schweickart, David R. Scott, and Clifton C. Williams. (NASA)

In October 1963, Captain Freeman was selected as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Group Three. The Group was announced to the public on 18 October. Ted Freeman arrived at the Manned Space Flight Center, Houston, Texas, on 15 January 1964. He and his family resided on Blanchmont Lane in Nassau Bay, southeast of Houston.

Freeman was not assigned to a specific flight, but Group Three was intended for the Apollo Program. Ten of the fourteen astronauts went to The Moon.

Buzz Aldrin and Ted Freeman, Friday, 30 October 1964. (NASA)
Northrop T-38A-35-NO Talon 60-0582 in flight near Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)

The T-38 was the world’s first supersonic flight trainer. The Northrop T-38A Talon is a pressurized, two-place, twin-engine, jet trainer. Its fuselage is very aerodynamically clean and uses the “area-rule” (“coked”) to improve its supersonic capability. It is 46 feet, 4.5 inches (14.135 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10.5 inches (3.924 meters). The one-piece wing has an area of 170 square feet (15.79 square meters). The leading edge is swept 32º. The airplane’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight is approximately 12,700 pounds (5,761 kilograms).

Northrop T-38A-55-NO Talon 64-13302 on takeoff at Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).

The T-38A has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour/1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and Mach 1.3 (882 miles per hour/1,419 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). It has a rate of climb of 33,600 feet per minute (171 meters per second) and a service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters). Its range is 1,140 miles (1,835 kilometers).

Between 1959 and 1972, 1,187 T-38s were built at Northrop’s Hawthorne, California, factory. As of 4 September 2018, 546 T-38s remained in the U.S. Air Force active inventory. The U.S. Navy has 10, and as of 30 October 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration reports 29 T-38s registered to NASA.

Northrop T-38A-35-NO Talon 60-0582 rolls inverted, northeast of Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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15 September 1961

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-25-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards AFB, 1961. (U.S. Air force)
Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1961. (U.S. Air Force)

15 September 1961: As a consultant to Northrop Corporation, Jackie Cochran flew a T-38A-30-NO Talon to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Over a Closed Course of 2,166.77 kilometers (1,346.37 miles).¹ During August and September 1961, she set series of speed, altitude and distance records with the T-38.

Jacqueline Cochran's Diplôme de Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)
Jacqueline Cochran’s Diplôme de Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)

Famed Air Force test pilot Colonel Charles E. (“Chuck”) Yeager kept notes during these record runs:

September 13: Jackie landed at 4:15 am. We flew the T-38 on the closed course distance. Takeoff at 2:15 pm and climbed to 40,500 feet [12,344 meters] for initial cruise. Fuel checked out very good. I was amazed at the way Jackie handled the aircraft at high altitude. Everything looked good on the entire flight. Landed a little short of oil in the left engine. Weather was bad over Kingman, Arizona. Cruise climbed at 96% rpm and .87 IMN to 46,500 [14,173 meters] at the end of run. We were in the air 2 ½ hours.

September 14: We tried cold fuel today. It gave us an additional 170 pounds [77 kilograms] at the end. Was a very good flight. We talked with the NAA [National Aeronautic Association] about tomorrow’s run.

September 15: Flew closed course distance for record today and had a good run. Jackie did an excellent job even with bad weather. I chased her in an F-100 all the way.

Brigadier General Charles Elwood (“Chuck”) Yeager, U.S. Air Force, quoted in Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, Pages 305–306.

Jackie Cochran and Chuck Yeager at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight in the record-setting Northrop T-38A Talon. (U.S. Air Force)
Jackie Cochran and Colonel Chuck Yeager at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight in the record-setting Northrop T-38A Talon. (U.S. Air Force)

The Northrop T-38A Talon is a two-place, twin-engine jet trainer capable of supersonic speed. It is 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The trainer’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms).

The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).

Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)

It has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour, 1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The Talon’s service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) and it has a maximum range of 1,093 miles (1,759 kilometers).

In production from 1961 to 1972, Northrop has produced nearly 1,200 T-38s. As of January 2014, the U.S. Air Force had 546 T-38A Talons in the active inventory. It also remains in service with the U.S. Navy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Jackie Cochran’s record-setting T-38 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.

Northrop T-38A Talon 60-0551, now twenty years old, sits on the ramp at teh Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, 1981. (Photograph by Gary Chambers, used with permission)
Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon 60-0551, now twenty-one years old, sits on the ramp at the Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, 15 May 1982. Jackie Cochran set nine world speed, distance and altitude records while flying this airplane. (© Gary Chambers, used with permission)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12384

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 February 1962

Major Walter F. Daniel, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of Northrop T-38A-40-NO Talon 61-0849 at Edwards AFB after setting four Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) time-to-altitude world records, 18 February 1962. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Walter F. Daniel, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of Northrop T-38A-40-NO Talon 61-0849 at Edwards AFB after setting four Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) time-to-altitude world records, 18 February 1962. (U.S. Air Force)

18 February 1962: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Major Walter Fletcher Daniel set four Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) time-to-altitude records with a Northrop T-38A-40-NO Talon, serial number 61-0849.

The supersonic trainer reached 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 35.624 seconds ¹; 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) in 51.429 seconds ²; 9,000 meters (29,528 feet) in 1 minute, 04.758 seconds ³; and 12,000 meters (39,370 feet) in 1 minute, 35.610 seconds ⁴.

Major Walter F. Daniel flew this Northrop T-38A-40-NO Talon, 61-0849, to four Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) time-to-altitude world records at Edwards AFB, 18 February 1962. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Walter F. Daniel flew this Northrop T-38A-40-NO Talon, 61-0849, to four Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) time-to-altitude world records at Edwards AFB, 18 February 1962. (U.S. Air Force)

The Northrop T-38A Talon is a two-place, twin-engine jet trainer capable of supersonic speed. It is 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The trainer’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms).

The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).

It has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour, 1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The Talon’s service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) and it has a maximum range of 1,093 miles (1,759 kilometers).

In production from 1961 to 1972, Northrop has produced nearly 1,200 T-38s. As of January 2014, the U.S. Air Force had 546 T-38A Talons in the active inventory. It also remains in service with the U.S. Navy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Northrop T-38A-40-NO Talon 61-0849 at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, 1993. (Photograph courtesy of Gary Chambers)
Northrop T-38A-40-NO Talon 61-0849 at Dannelly Field, Montgomery, Alabama, 1993. (Photograph courtesy of Gary Chambers)

The record-setting T-38, 61-0849, was retired to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, in 1993. It was later removed from storage and assigned to the 415th Flight Test Flight, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, where it remained until March 2007. It is now on display at the Air Force Flight Test Museum, Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Northrop T-38A-40-NO Talon 61-0849 being towed to display site at the Air Force Flight Test Museum. (Rebecca Amber/U.S. Air Force)
Northrop T-38A-40-NO Talon 61-0849 being towed from the restoration hangar to display site at the Air Force Flight Test Museum. (Rebecca Amber/U.S. Air Force)

Walter Fletcher Daniel was born in 1925. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 and was trained as a fighter pilot. He was assigned to fly North American P-51 Mustangs and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts in post-war Germany. During the Korean War he served as a reconnaissance pilot of RF-51s and RF-80 Shooting Stars.

Walter Daniel graduated from the U.S. Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School in 1954 and was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and later Edwards Air Force Base, where he was involved in flight testing all of the Century-series fighters. (F-100–F-106) It was while at Edwards that he flew the T-38A to set the time-to-altitude records.

By 1965, Colonel Daniel was the Chief of Flight Test Operations for the Lockheed YF-12A and SR-71A Blackbird Mach 3 aircraft. He set five world speed records and an altitude record and was awarded the Mackay Trophy.

After attending the Air War College, Daniel entered combat crew training in the McDonnell F-4 and RF-4 Phantom II, and was appointed Deputy Commander for Operations of the 432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Udorn RTAFB. He flew 70 combat missions over North Vietnam.

In 1971 Colonel Daniel assumed command of the 75th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (soon redesignated 67th TRW). He was promoted to brigadier general in 1972 and served as Inspector General, Air Force Systems Command.

Walter Fletcher Daniel was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. A command pilot, he had flown over 6,000 hours in more than 75 different aircraft types. General Daniel died 13 September 1974 at the age of 49 years. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

A team of volunteers place Northrop T-38A Talon 61-0849 in position at teh outdorr dsiplay area of the Air Force Flight Test Museum, Edwards Air force Base, California. (Rebecca Amber/U.S. Air Force)
A team of volunteers place Northrop T-38A Talon 61-0849 in position at the outdoor display area of the Air Force Flight Test Museum, Edwards Air Force Base, California. (Rebecca Amber/U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8718

² FAI Record File Number 8604

³ FAI Record File Number 8599

⁴ FAI Record File Number 8719

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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