Tag Archives: Jacqueline Cochran

26–29 July 1937

Beechcraft D17W “Staggerwing”, NC17081. (Westin’sClassic General Aviation Aircraft)

26 July 1937: Jackie Cochran set a United States Women’s National Speed Record ¹ of 203.895 miles per hour (328.137 kilometers per hour) over a 1,000 kilometer (621.4 mile) course between the Union Air Terminal at Burbank, California, and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and return, flying a Beechcraft D17W “Staggerwing,” NX17081, serial number 136. ²

A woman in the air, therefore, had a choice of flying around in a light plane for pleasure or of obtaining for herself new fast and experimental equipment and determining the maximum that could be obtained from its use. I followed the second course. The objective of each flight was to go faster through the atmosphere or higher into it than anyone else and to bring back some new information about plane, engine, fuel, instruments, air or pilot that would be helpful in the conquest of the atmosphere.

The Stars at Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1954, Chapter IV at Page 58

The Oakland Tribune reported:


Coast Record May have been Set on Oakland-L.A. Hop

     Jacqueline Cochrane[sic]Odlum, wife of a wealthy New York investment broker, today claimed a non-stop speed record for women fliers between Los Angeles and Oakland.

     The 27-year-old aviatrix made the round trip between Union Air terminal and Oakland yesterday in 3 hours 2 minutes and 51 seconds, averaging 203.89 miles per hour.

     While no official record now exists for a women’s flight over the 621.37 mile distance, Mrs. Odlum said she will seek recognition of her mark by the National Aeronautic Association and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

     Mrs. Odlum probably will enter her cabin racing plane, equipped with a 600-horsepower engine, in the Bendix races in September. She has been in the Bendix races before, and, in 1934, was in the London-to-Australia air derby but abandoned her hop in Bucharest.

     Floyd Odlum, to whom the aviatrix was married last year, is eminent in the world of finance and is known as the man who built the Atlas Corporation into one of the most successful investment trusts.

Oakland Tribune, Vol. CXXVII, No. 27, Tuesday, 27 July 1937, Page 1, Column 3

On 29 July, the International News Service reported:


Jacqueline Odlum Establishes Second Flying Mark

     BURBANK, Calif., July 29—(I.N.S.)—Another women’s flying record—her second in a week—was hung up by Jacqueline Cochran Odlum, pretty aviatrix, timekeepers at the Los Angeles airport here announced today.

     Mrs. Odlum flew to Garden Grove, Cal., and back to set a new 100-kilometer speed record for women of 199 miles an hour. The previous record was held by Mrs. Louise Thaden, who did it at 196 miles and hour.

     A week ago [sic] Mrs. Odlum flew to San Francisco and back at 203.89 miles an hour to set an average speed record for 1,000 kilometers.

Lancaster New Era, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Thursday, 29 July 1937Page 15, Column 7

Beechcraft D17W Staggerwing, NC17081, c/n 136, National Speed Record holder, 203.895 mph (328.137 kph). This airplane is painted "Merrimac Diana Cream" with "Stearman Vermillion" striping outlined in black. (Beech Aircraft Corporation)
Beechcraft D17W Staggerwing, NC17081, c/n 136. This airplane is painted “Merrimac Diana Cream” with “Stearman Vermillion” striping outlined in black. (Beech Aircraft Corporation via www.beech17.net)

NC17081 was one of two special D17W biplanes that were built by the Beech Aircraft Corporation, based on the production D17S “Staggerwing.” Jackie Cochran set aviation records with both of the D17Ws. The first, c/n 136, was originally sold to famous aviator Frank Monroe Hawks, but that purchase was not completed. Cochran was given the use of the airplane by the Beechcraft.

The Beechcraft Model 17 was single-engine, single-bay biplane operated by a single pilot, and which could carry up to three passengers in an enclosed cabin. The airplane got its nickname, “Staggerwing,” from the lower wing being placed forward of the upper wing for improved pilot visibility. The airplane’s basic structure was a welded tubular steel framework with wood formers and stringers. The wings and tail surfaces were built of wood spars and ribs, with the leading edges and wing tips covered with plywood. The airplane was covered with doped fabric, except the cabin and engine which were covered in sheet metal. It was equipped with electrically-operated retractable landing gear and wing flaps.

Beech Aircraft Corporation Model 17 “Staggerwings” under construction. (Beech B-111/U.S. Air Force)

The D17-series differed from earlier Beech Model 17 variants by having the fuselage lengthened to improve elevator effectiveness, and the ailerons were on the upper wing.

The D17S was  26 feet, 10.7 inches (8.197 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 0 inches (9.754 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 3 inches (3.124 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,540 pounds (1,152 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,250 pounds (1,928 kilograms).

While most biplanes had staggered wings, the Staggerwing was unusual in having negative stagger. This not only increased the pilot’s field of vision, but improved the airplane’s stability in a stall. The leading edge of the Model 17 upper wing was 2 feet, 1–19/32 inches (0.65008 meters) aft of the lower wing. The leading edges had 0° 0′ sweep. Both wings had an angle of incidence of 5° 5′. The upper wing had no dihedral, but the lower wing had +1°. The mean vertical gap between the wings was 5 feet (1.52 meters), and the chord of both wings was 5 feet, 0 inches (1.524 meters). The total wing area was 269.5 square feet (25.04 square meters). The horizontal stabilizer had 0° incidence, while the vertical fin was offset 0° 43′ to the left of the airplane’s centerline.

The Beechcraft D17S was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 986.749-cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1, ³ a single-row 9-cylinder direct-drive radial engine with a compression ratio of 6:1. This engine was rated at 400 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), maximum continuous power, and 450 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. for take off, using 91-octane gasoline. The R-985-AN-1 was 3 feet, 7.05 inches (1.093 meters) long, 3 feet, 10.25 inches (1.175 meters) in diameter and weighed 682 pounds (309 kilograms) when constructed of aluminum, or 674 pounds (306 kilograms), built of magnesium. The engine drove a Hamilton Standard propeller with a diameter 8 feet, 3 inches (2.515 meters).

The production D17S Staggerwing had a cruise speed of 202 miles per hour (325 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 212 miles per hour (341 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 23,000 feet (7,010 meters) and range was 840 miles (1,352 kilometers).

Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)
Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)

Beechcraft D17W NX17081 was built for Frank Hawks with an air-cooled, supercharged, 986.749 cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr. SC-G single-row nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. (Engine serial number 531.) This was the only geared variant of the Wasp Jr., and had a reduction ratio of 3:2. This engine was rated at 525 horsepower at 2,700 horsepower up to an altitude of 9,500 feet (2,896 meters) with 87-octane gasoline, and 600 horsepower at 2,850 r.p.m. for takeoff (when using 100-octane aviation gasoline). The additional 150 horsepower greatly increased the D17W’s performance over the standard production airplane. The Wasp Jr. SC-G was 3 feet, 10.469 inches (1.180 meters) long, 3 feet, 10.75 inches (1.187 meters) in diameter and weighed 864 pounds (392 kilograms).

After Jackie Cochran’s speed record, c/n 136 was registered NC17081, re-engined with a 971.930 cubic inch (15.927 liters), 420 horsepower Wright Whirlwind R-975 and re-designated D17R. After changing ownership several times, the Wright engine was replaced with a Pratt & Whitney R-985 and once again re-designated, this time as a D17S.

Early in World War II, the former speed record holder was impressed into military service. It was registered to the Defense Supplies Corporation, Washington, D.C., 14 April 1942, but the registration was cancelled four months later, 11 August 1942. Assigned to the United States Navy, c/n 136 was once again re-designated, this time as a GB-1 Traveler, and assigned Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (“Bu. No.”) 09776.

Beechcraft GB-1 Traveler Bu. No. 09776 was stricken off at NAS Glenview, Illinois, 30 June 1945.

Beechcraft GB-1 Traveller in U.S. Navy service. (U.S. Air Force)
A Beechcraft GB-1 Traveler in U.S. Navy service. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ A check with the National Aeronautics Association this afternoon (25 February 2016) was unable to verify this record. —TDiA

² At least one source states that this record was flown in the second Beechcraft D17W, NR18562, c/n 164.

³ This is a different engine than the R-985-1, which was military variant of the 300-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr. A.

A row of eleven U.S. Navy Beech GB-1 Travelers. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

17–19 June 1941

Flight Captain Jackie Cochran, R.A.F. Air Transport Auxiliary. (Indian Palms Historical Society)

17–19 June 1941: Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Cochran was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean when she ferried a Lockheed Hudson from Canada to Scotland. The airplane was a twin-engine Lockheed Model 414 Hudson Mk.V (LR), Royal Air Force identification AM790 (Lockheed serial number 414-2872).

Recognizing that the War would require all available pilots, the United Kingdom’s Lord Beaverbrook and the United States Army Air Forces Chief of Staff, Major General Henry Harley (“Hap”) Arnold, felt the need to demonstrate that civilian women could serve as pilots of military aircraft in non-combat situations. Jackie Cochran, a famous record-setting pilot, was selected for the assignment.

Cochran had previously served as a Flight Captain ¹ with the Royal Air Force Air Transport Auxiliary. After a period of six months, she had returned to the United States at the request of General Arnold, where she served on his staff.

For this ferry flight, Captain Edgar Grafton Carlisle, O.B.E., was assigned as her navigator. The Hudson also carried a radio operator, today only remembered as Coates. Royal Canadian Air Force authorities felt that Miss Cochran was not strong enough to operate the Hudson’s hand brakes. The arrangement between her and the R.C.A.F. was that she would be allowed to fly the bomber as First Officer, but that Captain Carlisle would make all takeoffs and landings.²

Cochran, Carlisle and Coates departed Montréal, Québec, at 1920 G.M.T., 17 June, en route to Gander, Newfoundland. They flew 931 statute miles (1498 kilometers) in 5 hours, 4 minutes before landing at 0024 G.M.T., 18 June, and remained there overnight.

Page from Form 68 Watch Log, dated 18 June 1941. (Courtesy of Diana Trafford, Flights of History.)

The following evening, 18 June, at 1857 G.M.T., they took off to fly across the North Atlantic Ocean, a distance of 2,122 statute miles (3,415 kilometers).

Great Circle Route from Montreal to Gander, and on to Prestwick. (Great Circle Mapper)

In her autobiography, Cochran wrote:

     Flying the ocean at night didn’t mean much. We were above an overcast and hardly saw water. But just before daylight, we were heard or spotted by radar and suddenly through the darkness tracer bullets came up in front and around us. There was sudden consternation on board. Carlisle rushed up to me and the radio operator came running out of his compartment with his Very pistol. He opened a hatch and by firing a certain colored bullet gave the signal of the day but this really served no purpose because the light could not have been seen from the surface of the water anyway and the firing at us was probably coming from a German submarine or one of our own friendly ships. I thought maybe the pilots in the mass meeting in Montreal were right after all and the Germans were going to make a test case of me. Anyway, the tracer bullets stopped almost as soon as they started and no noticeable damage was done to the plane. After daylight, a hole opened up in the overcast and we saw a ship burning at sea, but could do nothing about it except to make a report by radio because we had no fuel to spare to enable us to go down and cruise around. Then we caught sight of the coast of Ireland in the distance and it kept creeping up on us and growing larger and larger and more friendly. From off the coast of Ireland to Prestwick, Scotland, was a tortuous air route. The route went one way and then another—without any real pattern—and the route was changed daily to make it difficult for enemy planes or submarines to intercept. At the end of twelve hours, we came to a stop on the runway. Carlisle, under the regulation, made the landing.

The Stars at Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, Boston and Toronto, 1954. Chapter VI, Pages 102–103

They arrived at Prestwick, Scotland, at 0605 G.M.T., 19 June, after a flight of 11 hours, 8 minutes.

Page from Form 68 Watch Log, dated 19 June 1941. (Courtesy of Diana Trafford, Flights of History.)

Jackie Cochran would go on to form the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

The image below shows the Hudson ferried by Jackie Cochran in service later in the War. It is painted in the Coastal Command camouflage scheme.

“Hudson Mark V, AM790 ‘E’, running up its engines at Bo Rizzo.” ³ (“No. 608 Squadron, Royal Air Force, 1942–1943.” Flight Lieutenant J.E. Garrett Collection, Imperial War Museum) © IWM HU 66682

The Lockheed Hudson was a twin engine light bomber developed by Lockheed from its Model 14 Super Electra civil transport. Both types were designed by the legendary Clarence L. (“Kelly”) Johnson. The B-14L prototype made its first flight 10 December 1938 from the Union Air Terminal at Burbank, California. It was flown by two Royal Air Force officers, Squadron Leader James Addams and Squadron Leader Randle. The prototype (also identified as Model 214-40-01) was purchased by Great Britain and assigned the R.A.F. identification N7205.

The Hudson flown by Cochran, AM790, was an improved Model 414, Hudson Mk.V. This was identical to the earlier Mk.III, with the substitution of Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G Twin Wasp engines. The bomber was flown by a single pilot, with a navigator/bombardier, radio operator and gunner.

“Hudson Mark V, AM753/G, on the ground at Eastleigh, Hampshire, following erection by Cunliffe Owen Aircraft Ltd. After trials with the Coastal Command Development Unit, the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment and the Royal Aircraft Establishment, AM753 was passed to No. 5 Operational Training Unit.” (Imperial War Museum, Royal Air Force Aircraft 1941–1959: ATP Collection (GSA 325). © IWM ATP 11116C )
Hudson Mark V, AM863 ‘OY-E’, of No. 48 Squadron RAF based at Wick, Caithness, flying south over Loch Hempriggs. (F/L John Henry Bertrand Daventry, RAF official photographer. © IWM CH 17908 )

The Hudson Mk.V was 44 feet 3⅞ inches (13.513 meters) long with a wingspan of 65 feet, 6 inches (19.964 meters) and height of 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters). It had a maximum gross weight of 20,000 pounds.

The Mk.V was equipped with two air-cooled, supercharged 1,829.4-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S3C4-G (R-1830-61) two-row fourteen-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. These had a normal power rating of 1,100 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. to 6,200 feet (1,890 meters) and 1,000 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m at 12,500 feet (3,810 meters). The takeoff/military power rating was 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. to 4,900 feet (1,494 meters) and 1,050 horsepower at 13,100 feet (3,993 meters). The engines turned three-bladed propellers though a 16:9 gear reduction. They were 5 feet, 3.48 inches (1.612 meters) long, 4 feet, 0.19 inches (1.224 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,495 pounds (678 kilograms).

The Hudson had a cruise speed of 220 miles per hour (354 kilometers per hour, and maximum speed of 246 miles per hour (396 kilometers per hour) at 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). Its service ceiling was 25,000 feet (7,620 meters).

The Hudson was designed to carry four 250 pound ( klogram) or six 100 pound ( kilogram) bombs. It was armed with two forward-firing .303 Browning Machine Gun Mk.II mounted in the nose and operated by the pilot, with another two .303s on flexible mounts at the waist position, and 2 additional Mk.IIs in a power-operated Bolton Paul dorsal turret. Eight rockets could be carried under the wings.

409 Hudson Mark Vs were built. 207 of these were a long range variant, the Hudson Mk.V(LR).

During World War II, Hudson Mk.V(LR) AM790 served with No. 500 and No. 608 Squadrons, both units of the Coastal Command, Royal Air Force.

Hudson Mark III, V8977: cabin interior with pilot’s position on the left. Photograph taken at Eastleigh, Hampshire. Photographed 24 July 1942. (Imperial War Museum, Royal Air Force Aircraft 1941–1959: ATP Collection (GSA 325). © IWM ATP 10925F )

¹ An ATA Flight Captain was an equivalent rank to a Royal Air Force Squadron Leader.

² Jackie wrote: “The moment the plane became airborne Carlisle, having complied with instructions as to take-off, turned the single set of controls over to me.” —The Stars at Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, Boston and Toronto, 1954 Chapter VI at Page 102

³ Bo Rizzo was  an Allied airfield in Sicily.

© 2021, Bryan R. Swopes

16 June 1970

Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Canadair CL-13 Sabre Mk.3, No. 19200, parked on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base. (J. R. Eyerman/LIFE Magazine)
Secretary Robert C. Seamans, Jr.

16 June 1970: Secretary of the Air Force Robert Channing Seamans, Jr., presented the Legion of Merit to Colonel Jacqueline Cochran, United States Air Force Reserve. The citation reads:

“Colonel Jacqueline Cochran distinguished herself by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service to the United States while assigned to the Office of Legislative Liaison, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, from 3 September 1957 to 10 May 1970.

“By her diligence, devotion to duty and marked professional competence she has made notable contributions on matters of great national significance. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Colonel Cochran culminate a long and distinguished career in the service of her country and reflect the highest credit upon herself and the United States Air Force.”

Immediately afterward, retirement orders were read and Colonel Cochran’s 20 years of service in the Air Force Reserve came to an end.

During her service in the United States Air Force Reserve, Colonel Cochran had also been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters (three awards).

Jacqueline Cochran with ribbon representing the Distinguished Service Medal.

© 2021, Bryan R. Swopes


15 June 1939

Jackie Cochran arriving at Cleveland, Ohio, 1 September 1938. (Eisenhower Archives)

Miss Cochran Again Gets Harmon Trophy

     NEW YORK, June 15. (AP)—Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt today presented the Harmon Aviatrix Trophy to Jacqueline Cochran for the second year in succession as “the world’s outstanding woman flyer.”

      In addition, Miss Cochran, who in private life is Mrs. Floyd Odlum, was awarded a medal stamped in memory of the late King Albert of Belgium—the first American to receive it.

Los Angeles Times, Vol. LVIII, Friday, 16 June 1939, Part I, Page 13, Column 1

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

Ms. Cochran was awarded the trophy by Mrs. Roosevelt at an Advertising Club luncheon in New York City. It was the second time she had won the Harmon International Aviatrix Trophy. The 1939 trophy was in honor of Cochran’s winning the Bendix Trophy Race, 1 September 1938.

Jackie Cochran is presented the Harmon International Aviatrix Trophy by Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Acme)

Jackie Cochran departed the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, at 3:00 a.m., 1 September 1939, 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.

Ms. 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-155034)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

3 June 1964

Jackie Cochran set a third FAI speed record with a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, 3 June 1964. (FAI)

3 June 1964: At Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California, Jackie Cochran set a third Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record with the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, 62-12222. She flew over a 500 kilometer (310.686 miles) closed course, without payload, averaging 1,814.37 kilometers per hour (1,127.397 miles per hour). ¹ She broke her own record, set over the same course in 1953 with an Orenda-powered Canadair Sabre Mk.3. ²

Jackie Cochran taxiing F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 at Edwards AFB. (Lockheed)
Jackie Cochran taxiing F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 at Edwards AFB. (Lockheed)

Designed by the legendary Kelly Johnson as a Mach 2 interceptor, the Starfighter was used as a fighter bomber by Germany. The F-104G was most-produced version of the Lockheed Starfighter. It had a strengthened fuselage and wings, with hardpoints for carrying bombs, missiles and additional fuel tanks. Built by Lockheed, they were also licensed for production by Canadair, Dornier, Fiat, Fokker, Messerschmitt and SABCA.

The F-104G is a single-seat, single engine fighter bomber, 54 feet 8 inches (16.662 meters) long with a wingspan of just 21 feet, 9 inches (6.629 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters). The empty weight is 14,000 pounds (6,350.3 kilograms) and loaded weight is 20,640 pounds (9,362.2 kilograms).

The F-104G was powered by a General Electric J79-GE-11A engine, a single-spool, axial-flow, afterburning turbojet, which used a 17-stage compressor section and 3-stage turbine. The J79-GE-11A is rated at 10,000 pounds of thrust (44.48 kilonewtons), and 15,800 pounds (70.28 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The engine is 17 feet, 4.0 inches (5.283 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.3 inches (0.973 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,560 pounds (1,615 kilograms).

The maximum speed is 1,328 miles per hour (2,137.2 kilometers per hour). It has a combat radius of 420 miles (675.9 kilometers) or a ferry range of 1,630 miles (2,623.2 kilometers). The service ceiling is 50,000 feet (15,240 meters).

The Starfighter’s standard armament consists of a 20 mm General Electric M61A1 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling gun, with 725 rounds of ammunition, and up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air heat seeking missiles could be carried on the wingtips or under wing pylons. In place of missiles two wingtip fuel tanks and another two underwing tanks could be carried.

On NATO alert, the F-104G was armed with a B43 variable-yield nuclear bomb on the fuselage centerline hardpoint. The B43 could be set for explosive force between 170 kilotons and 1 megaton and was designed for high-speed, low-altitude, laydown delivery.

Cochran set three speed records with this F-104 in May and June 1964.³ Under the Military Assistance Program, the U.S. Air Force transferred it to the Republic of China Air Force, where it was assigned number 4322. It crashed 17 July 1981. The pilot, Yan Shau-kuen, ejected.

Lockheed F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 in ROCAF service as 4322.

¹ FAI Record File Number 13037

² FAI Record File Number 8870

³ FAI Record File Numbers 12389, 13037, 13041

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes