Tag Archives: George Jansen

7 August 1951

William Barton Bridgeman. (Boris Artzybasheff/TIME Magazine)

7 August 1951: Douglas Aircraft Company test pilot William Barton Bridgeman flew the rocket-powered U.S. Navy/NACA/Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket, Bu. No. 37974 (NACA 144), to a record speed of Mach 1.88 (1,245 miles per hour/2,034 kilometers per hour) at Muroc Dry Lake (later Edwards Air Force Base) in the high desert of southern California.

The D-558-2 was airdropped at 34,000 feet (10,363 meters) from a Navy P2B-1S Superfortress, Bu. No. 84029 (a U.S. Air Force Boeing B-29-95-BW Superfortress, 45-21787, transferred to the Navy and heavily modified as a drop ship) flown by another Douglas test pilot, George Jansen.

Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, Bu. No., 37974, NACA 144, is dropped from the Boeing P2B-1S Superfortress, Bu. No. 84029, NACA 137. (NASA)

In his autobiography, Bridgeman described the flight:

We are at 34,000 feet. My cue. Ten cold minutes preparing the ship for flight. The trap door springs and releases the captive Skyrocket swollen with explosive propellants. She blasts into flight.

Thirty seconds and I am supersonic. Sixty-eight thousand feet and this is it. Over the rim. Easy. The electrically controlled stabilizer flies her now. It takes over for me. At .6 G I push over just enough to get my speed. I am on the ragged edge between .6 G and .8 G. It is working! Everything is going according to my plan. It is so easy this time. Surely I cannot be breaking my last record without having to pay for it. The Machmeter is moving up, fluttering toward the Number 2. . . the rockets sputter and the fuel is gone. That’s all she wrote.

Late that afternoon the official speed attained by the Skyrocket reduced from data and film came out  of the aerodynamicists’ office. Mach 1.88.

The Lonely Sky, William Bridgeman, Castle and Company LTD, London, 1956, Chapter XXII at Page 260.

NACA 144, a Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, Bu. No. 37974, parked on Muroc Dry Lake. (NACA E-1441)

Bill Bridgeman had been a Naval Aviator during World War II, flying the Consolidated PBY Catalina and PB4Y (B-24) Liberator long range bombers with Bombing Squadron 109 (VB-109), “The Reluctant Raiders.” Bridgeman stayed in the Navy for two years after the end of the war, then he flew for Trans-Pacific Air Lines in the Hawaiian Islands and Southwest Airlines in San Francisco, before joining the Douglas Aircraft Company as a production test pilot. He flew new AD Skyraiders as they came off the assembly line at El Segundo, California. Bridgeman soon was asked to take over test flying the D-558-2 Skyrocket test program at Muroc Air Force Base.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.13.14

The D-558-II Skyrocket was Phase II of a planned three phase experimental flight program. It was designed to investigate flight in the transonic and supersonic range. It was 46 feet, 9 inches (14.249 meters) long with a 25 foot (7.62 meter) wing span. The wings were swept back to a 35° angle. The Skyrocket was powered by a Westinghouse J34-WE-40 11-stage axial-flow turbojet engine, producing 3,000 pounds of thrust, and a Reaction Motors LR8-RM-6 four-chamber rocket engine, which produced 6,000 pounds of thrust. The rocket engine burned alcohol and liquid oxygen.

There were three D-558-2 Skyrockets. Between 4 February 1948 and 28 August 1956, they made a total of 313 flights. The Skyrocket flown by Bill Bridgeman to Mach 1.88 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

NACA 144, a Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, on display at the National Mall Building, Smithsonian Institution. (NASM)
NACA 144, a Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, on display at the National Mall Building, Smithsonian Institution. (NASM)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

12 July 1980

The first McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender, 79-0433, in flight. The airplane is carrying civil registration N110KC rather than its U.S. Air Force serial number. (Boeing)

12 July 1980: The first McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender, serial number 79-0433, made its first flight at Long Beach, California with company test pilots Walt Smith and George Jansen, flight engineer Leo Hazell, and flight test engineer Guy Lowery.

Based on the DC-10-30CF commercial transport, this aerial tanker can carry 356,000 pounds of fuel (161,479 kilograms). Using a “flying boom” to refuel Air Force aircraft in flight, it also is equipped with “hose and drogue” system to refuel U.S. Navy and Marine airplanes. Both systems can be used simultaneously. The KC-10A can also carry cargo pallets, or combination of personnel and cargo.

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433 (N110KC) seen from above. (McDonnell Douglas)
McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433 (N110KC) seen from above. (McDonnell Douglas)

The McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender is operated by a flight crew of four. It is 181 feet, 7 inches (54.347 meters) long with a wingspan of 165 feet, 4 inches (50.394 meters) and height of 58 feet, 7 inches (17.856 meters). The tanker has an empty weight of 241,027 pounds (109,328 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 590,000 pounds (267,620 kilograms).

The KC-10A is powered by three commercial General Electric CF6-50C2 turbofan engines, flat-rated at 52,500 pounds of thrust (233.532 kilonewtons), each. The CF6-50C2 is a two-spool, high-bypass-ratio axial-flow turbofan engine. It has a single-stage fan, 17-stage compressor section (3 low- and 14 high-pressure stages), and a  6-stage turbine (2 high- and 4 low-pressure stages). The fan has a diameter of 86.0 inches (2.184 meters) and produces 73% of the engine’s total power at full rated thrust. The CF6-50C2 has a diameter of 105.0 inches (2.667 meters), a length of 183.0 inches (4.648 meters), and weighs 8,731 pounds (3,960.3 kilograms).

The KC-10A has a maximum speed of 0.89 Mach (619 miles per hour, 996 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling is 42,000 feet (12,802 meters). Range is 4,400 miles (7,081 kilometers).

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-04333. (Mike Freer via Wikipedia)

Though over 400 of the original 732 Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers remain in service (the last one was accepted by the Air Force in 1964), the fleet of KC-10s provide greater fuel capacity and much longer range. Boeing had submitted a tanker version of its 747 commercial transport, however the KC-10 was selected primarily because it could operate from shorter runways. McDonnell Douglas built 60 KC-10s for the U.S. Air Force and 2 similar KDC-10s for The Netherlands.

On 26 April 2022, McDonnell Douglas KC-10A 79-0433 was withdrawn from service after 42 years and flown to the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433. (Unattributed)
McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433. (31st Aviano Tail Spotters Group)

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes