Tag Archives: Jacqueline Cochran

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

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24 August 1961

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1961.

24 August 1961: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Jacqueline Cochran flew a Northrop/Ryan Aeronautical T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, to an average speed of 1,358.6 kilometers per hour (844.2 miles per hour) over a straight 15-to-25 kilometer course, setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed record for women.¹

Jackie Cochran's FAI record certificate in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)
Jackie Cochran’s FAI record certificate in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)

August 24  Big day! First solo in production. Jackie took off in Northrop T-38 for 15–25 record attempt at 9:00 am. I chased in F-100. Flew good pattern and lit afterburners 50 miles from west outer marker. Jackie held good altitude through trap and made a good procedure turn. Lit afterburner 40 miles out on return run and nailed the altitude down perfect. Average speed was 844 mph. All the officials were pleased and the record was confirmed. One down and nine to go.

— 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 301–302.

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, 11 inches (3.937 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.

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

Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon 60-0551 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1961. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12937

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 August 1932

Jacqueline Cochran at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, 1932. The airplane is a Fleet Model 2. (Cradle of Aviation Museum)

17 August 1932: For just over three weeks in the summer of 1932—23 July to 17 August—Jackie Cochran, a beautician who worked for Antoine’s salons at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City and Miami Florida, took flying lessons from Lester Travis (“Husky”) Flewellin, chief instructor at the Roosevelt Flying School at Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York.

She made her first solo flight on 1 August, and that flight came to an abrupt end when the airplane’s engine stopped. Jackie successfully completed her first forced landing. After passing written and flight tests for the Department of Commerce, Jaqueline Cochran was issued a private pilot’s license, No. 1498.

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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Jacqueline Cochran (11 May 1906–9 August 1980)

Jackie Cochran (State Archives of Florida)

9 August 1980: Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran, Colonel, United States Air Force Reserve, passed away at her home in Indio, CA, at the age of 74. Jackie was truly a giant of aviation. She earned her pilot’s license in 1932 and was best of friends with Amelia Earhart. She helped found the WASPs in World War II. She was a friend and advisor to generals and presidents. Jackie was highly respected by such legendary test pilots as Fred Ascani and Chuck Yeager.

During her aviation career, Colonel Cochran won the Harmon Trophy 14 times. She set many speed, distance and altitude records. Just a few are:  Piloting a Canadair CL13 Sabre Mk 3, serial number 19200 (a license-built F-86E variant), she was the first woman to exceed the speed of sound, flying 652.337 mph on 18 May 1953. She flew the same Sabre to a world record 47,169 feet (14,377 meters). She was also the first woman to fly Mach 2, flying a record 1,400.30 miles per hour (2,300.23 kilometers per hour) in a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, 11 May 1964.

The following is the official U.S. Air Force biography:

“Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Cochran was a leading aviatrix who promoted an independent Air Force and was the director of women’s flying training for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots program during World War II. She held more speed, altitude and distance records than any other male or female pilot in aviation history at the time of her death.

“She was born between 1905 and 1908 in Florida. Orphaned at early age, she spent her childhood moving from one town to another with her foster family. At 13, she became a beauty operator in the salon she first cleaned. Eventually she rose to the top of her profession, owning a prestigious salon, and establishing her own cosmetics company. She learned to fly at the suggestion of her future husband, millionaire Floyd Odlum, to travel more efficiently. In 1932, she received her license after only three weeks of lessons and immediately pursued advanced instruction. Cochran set three major flying records in 1937 and won the prestigious Bendix Race in 1938.

“As a test pilot, she flew and tested the first turbo-supercharger ever installed on an aircraft engine in 1934. During the following two years, she became the first person to fly and test the forerunner to the Pratt & Whitney 1340 and 1535 engines. In 1938, she flew and tested the first wet wing ever installed on an aircraft. With Dr. Randolph Lovelace, she helped design the first oxygen mask, and then became the first person to fly above 20,000 feet wearing one.

“In 1940, she made the first flight on the Republic P-43, and recommended a longer tail wheel installation, which was later installed on all P-47 aircraft. Between 1935 and 1942, she flew many experimental flights for Sperry Corp., testing gyro instruments.

“Cochran was hooked on flying. She set three speed records, won the Clifford Burke Harmon trophy three times and set a world altitude record of 33,000 feet – all before 1940. In the year 1941, Cochran captured an aviation first when she became the first woman pilot to pilot a military bomber across the Atlantic Ocean.

“With World War II on the horizon, Cochran talked Eleanor Roosevelt into the necessity of women pilots in the coming war effort. Cochran was soon recruiting women pilots to ferry planes for the British Ferry Command, and became the first female trans-Atlantic bomber pilot. While Cochran was in Britain, another renowned female pilot, Nancy Harkness Love, suggested the establishment of a small ferrying squadron of trained female pilots. The proposal was ultimately approved. Almost simultaneously, Gen. H.H. Arnold asked Cochran to return to the U.S. to establish a program to train women to fly. In August of 1943, the two schemes merged under Cochran’s leadership. They became the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots.

“She recruited more than 1,000 Women’s Airforce Service Pilots and supervised their training and service until they were disbanded in 1944. More than 25,000 applied for training, 1,830 were accepted and 1,074 made it through a very tough program to graduation. These women flew approximately 60 million miles for the Army Air Force with only 38 fatalities, or about 1 for every 16,000 hours flown. Cochran was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for services to her country during World War II.

“She went on to be a press correspondent and was present at the surrender of Japanese General Yamashita, was the first U.S. woman to set foot in Japan after the war, and then went on to China, Russia, Germany and the Nuremburg trials. In 1948 she became a member of the independent Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in the Reserve. She had various assignments which included working on sensitive projects important to defense.

“Flying was still her passion, and with the onset of the jet age, there were new planes to fly. Access to jet aircraft was mainly restricted to military personnel, but Cochran, with the assistance of her friend Gen. Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre Jet owned by the company in 1953, and went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 mph in 1964.

“Cochran retired from the Reserve in 1970 as a colonel. After heart problems and a pacemaker stopped her fast-flying activities at the age of 70, Cochran took up soaring. In 1971, she was named Honorary Fellow, Society of Experimental Test Pilots and inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame.

“She wrote her autobiography, The Autobiography of the Greatest Woman Pilot in Aviation History with Maryann B. Brinley (Bantam Books). After her husband died in 1976, her health deteriorated rapidly and she died Aug. 9, 1980.”

The above biography is from the web site of the United States Air Force:

http://www.af.mil/information/heritage/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006481

Jackie Cochran in a Stearman C3, May 1933. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)
Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Beechcraft D17W “Staggerwing,” NR18562. (FAI)
Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Cochran (Mrs. Floyd Bostwick Odlum), with her Northrop Gamma 2G, NC13761, circa 1936. The airplane had been modified from its original configuration with the installation of a Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp Jr. air-cooled radial engine. (Photographed for Vogue by Toni Frissell)
Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7. (Unattributed)
Jackie Cochran arriving at Cleveland, Ohio, 1 September 1938. (Eisenhower Archives)
Jackie Cochran is presented the Harmon International Aviatrix Trophy by Mrs. Franklin D.  Roosevelt. (Acme)
Jackie Cochran with her Seversky AP-7A, NX1384, prior to her speed record flight, 6 April 1940. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)
Jackie Cochran owned a successful cosmetics company. (Makeup Museum)
Jackie Cochran served with the British Air Transport Auxiliary, circa 1942. (U.S. Air Force)
Jacqueline Cochran, Director, Women Airforce Service Pilots. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, WEB13644-2013)
Miss Jackie Cochran, Director, Women Airforce Service Pilots. (NARA)
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of a Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk, circa 1943. (Wikipedia)
P-51B NX28388
Jackie Cochran and her “Lucky Strike Green” North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, NX28388, circa 1948. (Library of Congress)
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of her North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang NX28388, #13, at Cleveland Municipal Airport. (Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum)
Jackie Cochran with her cobalt blue North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, N5528N, 1949. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran in cockpit of Sabre Mk.3 No. 19200 at Edwards AFB. (LIFE Magazine)
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Canadair CL-13 Sabre Mk.3, No. 19200, on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California, May 1953. (J. R. Eyerman/LIFE Magazine)
Jackie Cochran is sworn in as a consultant to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by NASA Administrator James Edwin Webb, 1961. (NASA)
Jackie Cochran and Chuck Yeager are presented with the Harmon International Trophies by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (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)
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of The Scarlett O’Hara, a record-setting Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, N172L, at Hanover-Langenhagen Airport, 22 April 1962. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran and Lockheed F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 at Edwards AFB, 1964. (FAI)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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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:

WOMAN MAKES SPEED FLIGHT

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:

199 M.P.H. RECORD SET BY AVIATRIX

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

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