Tag Archives: Mackay Trophy

30–31 March 1979

Sikorsky HH-3E 67-14709 at NMUSAF. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

30–31 March 1979: That Others May Live. On a dark and stormy night in the Yellow Sea, between China and the Korean Peninsula, the 160 foot (49 meter), 3,000 ton (2,722 Metric tons) Taiwanese freighter Ta Lai ran aground. As 20 foot (6 meters) waves battered the stranded ship, rocks punched through the hull. It was taking on water and sinking. Her crew of twenty-eight men were in danger.

Major James E. McArdle, Jr., U.S. Air Force.
Major James E. McArdle, Jr., U.S. Air Force. (Airman Magazine)

Detachment 13, 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, at Osan Air Base, 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Seoul, the capital of the Republic of South Korea, answered the distress call.

Major James E. McArdle, Jr., United States Air Force, and his crew of four, flew their helicopter, “Rescue 709,” a Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, serial number 67-14709, through the darkness and gale-force winds to the stranded vessel. These men were just completing there regular 12-hour duty schedule when the distress call came in, but no other crews or helicopters were available.

In addition to Major McArdle, the aircraft commander, the crew consisted of 1st Lieutenant Van J. Leffler, pilot; Sergeant James E. Coker, flight engineer; Staff Sergeant Tony Carlo and Sergeant Mark Zitzow, pararescue jumpers (“PJs”).

Rescue 709 arrived on scene just before midnight, 30 March. While McArdle and Leffler tried to hold a steady hover over the Ta Lai as it pitched and rolled in the storm, Sergeant Zitzow was lowered 80 feet (24 meters) to the deck. Once there, he assisted the ship’s crew, two at a time, onto the rescue hoist’s jungle penetrator, and after strapping them on, all three were hoisted back to the helicopter. Sergeant Coker, who was controlling the hoist, moved the sailors into the passenger/cargo area of the Jolly Green Giant, and Zitzow was once again lowered to the Ta Lai.

With ten survivors aboard Rescue 709, the helicopter was at its maximum load. Sergeant Zitzow remained aboard Ta Lai. The crew then flew to Kwang-Ju Air Base, 150 miles (241 kilometers) south of Seoul—more than 30 minutes away—to offload the men.

After returning to the rescue scene, Sergeant Zitzow was joined on deck by Sergeant Carlo. While lifting three sailors, the helicopter’s hoist motor overheated and stopped. The sailors were still hanging 50 feet (15 meters) underneath the Jolly Green Giant. The only thing that could be done was to fly to a small island about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away and lower them to the ground. 709 then returned to the ship, by which time the hoist was working again. They picked up several more sailors and with Carlo once again on board, made the flight to Kwang-Ju.

On the third trip, the winds, though still high, were blowing from a more advantageous direction, and the final twelve men, including Zitzow, were quickly picked up. Rescue 709 returned to Kwang-Ju and landed at 0415 hours, 31 March 1979.

For this rescue, Major McArdle was awarded the Mackay Trophy by the National Aeronautic Association, for  the most “meritorious flight of the year” by an Air Force member, members, or organization. He was also awarded another Distinguished Flying Cross. Lieutenant Leffler and Sergeant Coker were awarded the Air Medal, while both Sergeants Zitzow and Coker received the Airman’s Medal.

Sikorsky HH-3E 67-14709 under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, 2010. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-3E 67-14709 under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, 2010. (U.S. Air Force)

67-14709 was built by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation at Straford, Connecticut as a CH-3E transport helicopter and was later converted to the HH-3E configuration. It served the United States Air Force from 3 July 1968 to 19 February 1991.

During the Vietnam War, 709 operated with the 37th ARRS at Da Nang in the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) role. Flying with the call sign “Jolly Green 22,” at least 27 airmen were rescued by this helicopter and its crews.

Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 undergoing restoration at NMUSAF, 2010. (NMUSAF)
Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 undergoing restoration at NMUSAF, 2010. (NMUSAF)

During that period, crewmen assigned to 709 were awarded one Air Force Cross,¹ fourteen Silver Stars (three of these had been nominated for the Air Force Cross) and an unknown number of Purple Hearts. On one mission alone, 709 took hits from at least 68 machine gun bullets.

After Operation Desert Storm, 709 was sent to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona. After 19 years in the desert, in August 2010, she was pulled from storage and sent to the National Museum of the United States Air Force for a 6-month restoration by Museum staff, as well as technical experts from the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlbert Field, Florida.

67-14709 was repainted in the Southeast Asia camouflage pattern. (NMUSAF)
67-14709 was repainted in the Southeast Asia camouflage pattern. (NMUSAF)

Sikorsky HH-3E 67-14709 is on display in the Southeast Asia War Gallery of the Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Colonel McArdle, her pilot during the 1979 rescue mission, was present at 709’s Museum debut, 14 December 2010.

Mackay Trophy winner Colonel James E. McCardle, U.S. Air Force (Retired) speaks at the NMUSAF. His Jolly Green Giant, 67-14709, is behind him. (U.S. Air Force)
Mackay Trophy winner Colonel James E. McCardle, U.S. Air Force (Retired) speaks at the NMUSAF. His Jolly Green Giant, 67-14709, is behind him. (U.S. Air Force)

Colonel James E. McArdle, Jr., was born at LaCrosse, Wisconsin, 2 March 1943. He attended Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, where he competed on the Swimming Team and worked on the student newspaper. He entered the United States Air Force Academy as a cadet in 1961, majoring in engineering management.  Upon graduating from the Academy, 9 June 1965, he was presented the Secretary of the Air Force Award for Behavorial Sciences. McArdle was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, United States Air Force.

2nd Lieutenant McArdle trained as a helicopter pilot at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, finishing at the top of his class. After finishing advanced helicopter training at Sheppard AFB, Texas, McArdle was assigned to the 20th Helicopter Squadron, 14th Air Commando Wing, operating in Southeast Asia, where he flew the Sikorsky CH-3C transport helicopter. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, four Air Medals and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

U.S. Air Force Sikorsky CH-3C, 20th Special Operations Squadron, 14th Air commando Wing. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force Sikorsky CH-3C, 20th Special Operations Squadron, 14th Air Commando Wing. This aircraft is not equipped with a rescue hoist or refueling boom. (U.S. Air Force)

In 1970, McArdle was retrained as a Northrop T-38A Talon pilot and spent the next four years as an instructor and check pilot at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona.

Major McArdle was assigned to the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps from 1974 to 1978. Next, he became the operations officer for Detachment 13, 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Osan Air Base, Korea. During a 12-month period, the detachment saved 80 lives, including those rescued from the Ta Lai.

From 1979 to 1981 Lieutenant Colonel McArdle served at headquarters, Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. While there he developed combat rescue tactics and helped develop the MH-53J Pave Low and MH-60G Pave Hawk special operations helicopters.

Compare this HH-3E to the CH-3C in the photograph above. (U.S. Air Force)
Compare this Sikorsky HH-3E to the CH-3C in the photograph above. The HH-3E has a rescue hoist and spotlight over the door, a refueling boom and external fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force)

As operations officer of the 67th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, McArdle supervised three detachments. Next, Lieutenant Colonel McArdle assumed command of the 41st ARRS at McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, 7 August 1984. At that time, unit’s primary assignment was special operations support, the only helicopter squadron so assigned in the U.S. Air Force.

Colonel McArdle’s final assignment was as Inspector General at McLellan Air Force Base. He retired from the U.S. Air Force on 1 August 1991 after thirty years of service.

An HH-3E of the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group, California Air National Guard hoists two PJs from the Pacific Ocean, 13 April 1977. (TSgt. Richard M. Diaz, U.S. Air Force)
An HH-3E of the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group, California Air National Guard, hoists two PJs from the Pacific Ocean, 13 April 1977. (TSgt. Richard M. Diaz, U.S. Air Force)

The SH-3A Sea King (Sikorsky S-61) first flew 11 March 1959, designed as an anti-submarine helicopter for the U.S. Navy. The prototype was designated XHSS-2 Sea King. In 1962, the HSS-2 was redesignated SH-3A Sea King. Many early production aircraft were upgraded through SH-3D, SH-3G, etc. In addition to the original ASW role, the Sea Kings have been widely used for Combat Search and Rescue operations. Marine One, the call sign for the helicopters assigned to the President of the United States, are VH-3D Sea Kings.

The Sikorsky HH-3E (Sikorsky S-61R) is a development of the SH-3A. It earned the nickname Jolly Green Giant during the Vietnam War. It is a dedicated Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter flown by the U.S. Air Force, based on the CH-3C transport helicopter. The aircraft is flown by two pilots and the crew includes a flight mechanic and gunner. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. It has retractable tricycle landing gear and a rear cargo ramp. The rear landing gear retracts into a stub wing on the aft fuselage. The helicopter has an extendable inflight refueling boom.

A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant refuels in flight from a Lockheed MC-130 Combat Talon. (U.S. Air Force)
A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant refuels in flight from a Lockheed HC-130P Combat King. (U.S. Air Force)

The HH-3E is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 18 feet, 10 inches (5.740 meters) high with all rotors turning. The main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The main rotor turns at 203 r.p.m., counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The tail rotor also has five blades and has a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.150 meters). The blades have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor turns 1,244 r.p.m.

HH-3E three-view illustration (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Beginning in 1928, an American food company began using a cartoon figure to advertise its "Green Giant" brand of canned peas. Eventually the mascot represented The Green Giant Company's other canned and frozen vegetables. The character is now owned by General Mills.
Beginning in 1928, an American food company began using a cartoon figure to advertise its “Green Giant” brand of canned peas. Eventually the mascot represented The Green Giant Company’s other canned and frozen vegetables. The character is now owned by General Mills.

The HH-3E has an empty weight of 13,341 pounds (6,051 kilograms). The maximum gross weight is 22,050 pounds (10,002 kilograms).

The Jolly Green Giant is powered by two General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines, which have a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,400 shaft horsepower, each, and Military Power rating of 1,500 shaft horsepower. The main transmission is rated for 2,500 horsepower, maximum.

The HH-3E has a cruise speed of 154 miles per hour (248 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour (285 kilometers per hour), also at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The HH-3E had a maximum range of 779 miles (1,254 kilometers) with external fuel tanks.

The Jolly Green Giant can be armed with two M60 7.62 mm machine guns.

Sikorsky built 14 HH-3Es. Many CH-3Cs and CH-3Es were upgraded to the HH-3E configuration. Sikorsky built a total of 173 of the S-61R series.

The restored Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, 67-14706, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)
The restored Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, 67-14709, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)

¹ Sergeant Dennis Martin Richardson, United States Air Force

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 March 1962

Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2458, Cowtown Hustler, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2458, Cowtown Hustler, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

5 March 1962: Operation Heat Rise. Two Convair B-58 Hustler supersonic bombers from the 65th Bombardment Squadron, 43rd Bombardment Wing, Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, took off at sunrise and headed west to Los Angeles, California. Off the Pacific coast they refueled from a Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker, then headed east at maximum speed. They were to enter a radar starting gate at Los Angeles, but the radar did not pick them up so they returned to the tanker, topped off the fuel tanks again, then proceeded east once again. This time their entry was visually confirmed.

The crew of Cowtown Hustler checks the weather and files their flight plan at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, before taking off on Operation Heat Rise, 5 March 1962. (U.S. Air Force)
The crew of Cowtown Hustler checks the weather and files their flight plan at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, before taking off on Operation Heat Rise, 5 March 1962. From center, right, 1st Lieutenant John T. Walton, Captain Robert G. Sowers and Captain Robert MacDonald. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)

Both B-58s had been assigned a block altitude of Flight Level 250 to Flight Level 500 (between 25,000 and 50,000 feet, or 7,620 to 15,240 meters) by the Federal Aviation Administration, and all other aircraft were cleared from those altitudes along the course. The flight outbound from Los Angeles was at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) at speeds above Mach 2.

Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2485 in flight. (General Dynamics)
Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2458 in flight. (General Dynamics)

Under normal conditions, the maximum speed of the B-58 was limited to a skin temperature of 115 °C. (239 °F.) to prevent the aluminum honeycomb skin panels from delaminating. For this speed run, Convair engineers had authorized a temperature of 125 °C. (257 °F.), which would allow the two bombers to exceed 1,400 miles per hour (2,253 kilometers per hour). Sensors were placed in the skin to monitor the temperature rise (which gave the operation its name: “Heat Rise”).

The first B-58, call sign “Tall Man Five-Five,” had a problem with the navigation radar and had some difficulty locating their tanker, but finally were able to. The B-58s descended to 25,000 feet over Kansas for the third refueling and over a 21-minute period, took on 85,000 gallons (321,760 liters) of fuel, climbed back to 45,000 feet (13,716 meters) and then continued on to New York.

One of the two B-58 bombers refuels from a Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker over Kansas during Operation Heat Rise, 5 March 1962. (U.S. Air Force)
One of the two B-58 bombers refuels from a Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker over Kansas during Operation Heat Rise, 5 March 1962. (U.S. Air Force)

The Cowtown Hustler ¹ crossed the radar gate at New York with an elapsed time of 2:00:58.71 for the West-to-East flight, averaging 1,214.65 miles per hour (1,954.79 kilometers per hour). The second B-58, Tall Man Five-Six, was one minute behind.

Passing New York, the two B-58 Hustlers proceeded over the Atlantic Ocean and rendezvoused with tankers for a fourth aerial refueling, then headed back west to Los Angeles. Shortly after passing New York, Tall Man Five-Six developed mechanical troubles and had to withdraw from the round-trip record attempt.

Once again over Kansas, Cowtown Hustler refueled for a fifth time then continued back to Los Angeles. The East-to-West leg from New York to Los Angeles was completed in an elapsed time of 2:15:50.08, averaging 1,081.81 miles per hour (1,741.00 kilometers per hour).

General Thomas Power, Chief of Staff, Strategic Air Command, congratulates Captain Rober G. Swoers and his crew after Operation Heat Rise.
General Thomas S. Power, Chief of Staff, Strategic Air Command, congratulates Captain Robert G. Sowers and his crew at Los Angeles Airport after Operation Heat Rise. The three airmen were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by General Power. John T. Walton is wearing his new captain’s bars.

The total elapsed time, Los Angeles–New York–Los Angeles, was 4 hours, 41 minutes, 14.98 seconds (4:41:14.98), for an average speed of 1,044.97 miles per hour (1,681.71 kilometers per hour). The crew and the airplane established three National Aeronautic Association U.S. national records for Speed Over A Recognized Course.

At Los Angeles, the flight crew, Captain Robert G. Sowers, Pilot, Captain Robert MacDonald, Navigator, and Captain John T. Walton, were congratulated by General Thomas S. Power, Chief of Staff, Strategic Air Command, and each airman was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

For the eastbound transcontinental flight, the crew won the Bendix Trophy, and for “the most meritorious flight of the year,” they were also awarded the Mackay Trophy. Their records still stand.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 10.33.18Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 10.34.10Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 10.34.37Reportedly, the U.S. Air Force received more than 10,000 damage claims for windows that were broken by the sonic booms created by the two B-58 Hustlers as they flew across the country.

Today, the record-setting, trophy-winning airplane, Convair B-58A-10-CF 59-2458, the Cowtown Hustler, is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The Bendix and macKay Trophy-winning flight crew of Operation Heat Rise, left to right, Captain Robert G. Sower, pilot; Captain Robert MacDonald, navigator; First Lieutenent John Walton, Defense Systems. behind them is another B-58A, 59-2447.(U.S. Air Force)
The Bendix and Mackay Trophy-winning flight crew of Operation Heat Rise, left to right, Captain Robert G. Sowers, Pilot; Captain Robert MacDonald, Navigator; First Lieutenent John Walton, Defense Systems Operator. Behind them is another B-58A, 59-2447. Rapid Rabbit, flown by another crew, was destroyed 15 February 1962, three weeks before Operation Heat Rise. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)

The Convair B-58A Hustler was a high-altitude Mach 2 strategic bomber which served with the United States Air Force from 1960 to 1970. It was crewed by a pilot, navigator/bombardier and a defensive systems operator, located in individual cockpits. The aircraft is a delta-winged configuration similar to the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart supersonic interceptors.

The Hustler is 96 feet, 10 inches (29.515 meters) long, with a wing span of 56 feet, 10 inches (17.323 meters) and an overall height of 31 feet 5 inches (9.576 meters). The fuselage incorporates the “area rule” which resulted in a “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape for a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag. The airplane’s only control surfaces are two “elevons” and a rudder, and there are no flaps.

The B-58’s delta wing has a total area of 1,542.5 square feet (143.3 square meters) and the leading edges are swept back at a 60° angle. The wing has an angle of incidence of 3° and 2° 14′ dihedral (outboard of Sta. 56.5).

The B-58A had an empty weight of 51,061 pounds (23161 kilograms), or 53,581 pounds (24,304 kilograms) with the MB-1 pod. The maximum takeoff weight was 158,000 pounds (71,668 kilograms).

The B-58A was powered by four General Electric J79-GE-5 axial-flow afterburning turbojet engines, suspended under the wings from pylons. This was a single-shaft engine with a 17-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine. It had a Normal Power rating of 9,700 pounds of thrust (43.148 kilonewtons). The Military Power rating was 10,000 pounds (44.482 kilonewtons), and it produced a maximum 15,600 pounds (69.392 kilonewtons) at 7,460 r.p.m., with afterburner. The J79-GE-5 was 16 feet, 10.0 inches (5.131 meters) long and 2 feet, 11.2 inches (0.894 meters) in diameter. It weighed 3,570 pounds (1,619 kilograms).

The bomber had a cruise speed of 544 knots (626 miles per hour/1,007 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 1,147 knots (1,320 miles per hour/2,124 kilometers per hour) at 67,000 feet (20,422 meters). The B-58A had a combat radius of 4,225 nautical miles (4,862 statute miles/7,825 kilometers). Its maximum ferry range was 8,416 nautical miles (9,685 statute miles/15,586 kilometers).

The B-58 weapons load was a combination of Mark 39, B43 or B61 thermonuclear bombs. The weapons could be carried in a jettisonable centerline pod, which also carried fuel. The four of the smaller bombs could be carried on underwing hardpoints. There was a General Electric M61 20 mm rotary cannon mounted in the tail, with 1,200 rounds of ammunition, and controlled by the Defensive Systems Officer.

116 were built and they served the Strategic Air Command until January 1970 when they were sent to Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona for long-term storage.

The crew of Cowtown Hustler is presented the Bendix Trophy by A.P. Fontaine of the Bendix Corporation. Left to right, Sowers, MacDonald, Walton, Fontaine and Crew Chief, Master Sergeant Cockrell.
The crew of Cowtown Hustler is presented the Bendix Trophy by A.P. Fontaine, Director of Engineering, and later CEO, of the Bendix Corporation. Left to right, Captain Robert MacDonald, Captain John T. Walton, Captain Robert G. Sowers, Mr. Fontaine and 59-2458’s Crew Chief, Master Sergeant Cockrell.

The 19 minute, 38 second video below is a General Dynamics informational film about Operation Heat Rise. This video clip is longer than the time it took Cowtown Hustler to fly from Los Angeles, California, to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

¹ “Cowtown” is a nickname for Fort Worth, Texas, where the B-58s were based, as well as several other American cities.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 February–2 March 1949: B-50 Lucky Lady II

Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, Lucky Lady II, lands at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth Texas, at 10:31 a.m., 2 March 1949. (LIFE Magazine)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, Lucky Lady II, lands at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth Texas, at 10:31 a.m., 2 March 1949. (LIFE Magazine)

26 February–2 March 1949: A Boeing B-50A Superfortress, Air Force serial number 46-010, named Lucky Lady II, flew from Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas, and with inflight refueling, circumnavigated the Earth non-stop, landing back at Carswell after 94 hours, 1 minute. The bomber had traveled 23,452 miles (37,742 kilometers).

Lucky Lady II was the backup aircraft for this flight, but became primary when the first B-50, Global Queen, had to abort with engine problems. It was a standard production B-50A-5-BO (originally designated B-29D) with the exception of an additional fuel tank mounted in its bomb bay.

The aircraft commander was Captain James G. Gallagher, with 1st Lieutenant  Arthur M. Neal as second pilot. Captain James H. Morris was the copilot. In addition to the three pilots, the flight was double-crewed, with each man being relieved at 4-to-6 hour intervals. The navigators were  Captain Glenn E. Hacker and 1st Lieutenant Earl L. Rigor, and the radar operators were 1st Lieutenant Ronald B. Bonner and 1st Lieutenant William F. Caffrey. Captain David B. Parmalee was project officer for this flight and flew as chief flight engineer, with flight engineers Technical Sergeant Virgil L. Young and Staff Sergeant Robert G. Davis. Technical Sergeant Burgess C. Cantrell and Staff Sergeant Robert R. McLeroy were the radio operators. Gunners were Technical Sergeant Melvin G. Davis and Staff Sergeant Donald G. Traugh Jr.

Four inflight refuelings were required using the looped hose method. Two KB-29M tankers of the 43d Air Refueling Squadron were placed at air bases along the Lucky Lady II‘s route, at the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Philippine Islands and Hawaiian Islands. The KB-29 flew above the B-50 and lowered a cable and drogue. This was captured by equipment on the bomber and then reeled in, bringing along with it a refueling hose. The hose was attached to the B-50’s refueling manifold and then fuel was transferred from the tanker to the bomber’s tanks by gravity flow.

Each refueling occurred during daylight, but weather made several transfers difficult. One of the two tankers from Clark Field in The Philippines, 45-21705, crashed in bad weather when returning to base, killing the entire 9-man crew.

A Boeing KB-29M tanker refuels B-50A Superfortress Lucky Lady II during its around-the-world-flight, February–March 1949. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing KB-29M tanker, possibly 45-21702, refuels B-50A Superfortress Lucky Lady II during its around-the-world-flight, February–March 1949. (U.S. Air Force)

On their arrival at Carswell, the crew of Lucky Lady II was met by Secretary of the Air Force W. Stuart Symington, Jr., General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Roger M. Ramey, commanding 8th Air Force, and Lieutenant General Curtis E. LeMay, Strategic Air Command. Each member of the crew was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They also were awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.

The arrival of Lucky Lady II and its crew was met by the Secretary of the Air Force. (LIFE Magazine)
The arrival of Lucky Lady II and its crew at Carswell AFB, Fort Worth, Texas, was observed by the senior civilian and military members of the United States Air Force.. (LIFE Magazine)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, now named "KENSMEN," circa 1950. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, circa 1950. (U.S. Air Force)

At 11:25 a.m., 13 August 1950, B-50A 46-010, under the command of  Captain Warren E. Griffin, was on a maintenance test flight and returning to its base, Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona  when all four engines failed. Unable to reach the runways, Captain Griffin landed in the desert approximately two miles southeast. Though the landing gear were down, the bomber was severely damaged with all four propellers bent, the belly dented and its tail breaking off. The 11-man crew were uninjured except for the bombardier, 1st Lieutenant Theodore Hastings, who was scratched by cactus which entered the cockpit through the broken Plexiglas nose.

The Superfortress was damaged beyond economical repair and was stricken from the Air Force inventory (“written off”). The unrestored fuselage of Lucky Lady II is at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, California.

The unrestored fuselage of Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010 at Planes of Fame, Chino, California. (Stefan Semerdjiev)
The unrestored fuselage of Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010 at Planes of Fame, Chino, California, 2002. (Stefan Semerdjiev)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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16–18 January 1957

The three Boeing B-52B Stratofortresses at March AFB, 18 January 1957. (U.S. Air Force)
The three Boeing B-52B Stratofortresses at March AFB, 18 January 1957. (U.S. Air Force)

16 January 1957: Operation POWER FLITE. At 1:00 p.m. PST, five Boeing B-52B Stratofortress eight-engine jet bombers of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command, 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy), departed Castle Air Force Base, near Merced, California, on a non-stop around-the-world flight. 45 hours, 19 minutes later, three B-52s landed at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California, completing the 24,325 miles (39,147 kilometer) flight at an average speed of 534 miles per hour (859 kilometers per hour).

The lead Stratofortress, B-52B-35-BO 53-0394, Lucky Lady III, was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Morris. Morris had been co-pilot aboard Lucky Lady II, a Boeing B-50A Superfortress that flew around the world in 1949. Also aboard Morris’ bomber was Major General Archie J. Old, Jr., commanding 15th Air Force.

Major General Archie J. Old, Jr., U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of B-52B 53-0394. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

Three of the  bombers were considered primary, with two “spares.” Each B-52 carried a flight crew of nine men, including three pilots and two navigators.

A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress refuels in flight from a Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker. The KC-97 had to enter a shallow dive to increase its speed, while teh B-52 flew in landing configuration to fly slow enough to stay with the tanker. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress refuels in flight from a Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker. The KC-97 had to enter a shallow dive to increase its speed, while the B-52 flew in landing configuration to stay with the tanker. (U.S. Air Force)

Four inflight refuelings from piston-engine Boeing KC-97 Stratotankers were required. More than 100 KC-97s participated in Operation POWER FLITE.

One of the primary B-52s, La Victoria, 53-0397, commanded by Major George Kalebaug, was unable to refuel in flight because of ice build-up in its refueling receptacle. The bomber diverted to Goose Bay, Labrador. A second B-52, a spare, as planned, left the flight over North Africa, diverting to an air base in England.

All 27 crewmembers of the three bombers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by General Curtis LeMay. The Mackay Trophy for “the most meritorious flight of the year” was awarded to the 93rd Bombardment Wing.

Lucky Lady III was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It was scrapped in 1984. 53-0397 went to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1966, preceded by 53-0398 in 1965.

Flight helmets of the crew of Lucky Lady III, March AFB, 18 January 1957. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.)
Flight helmets of the crew of Lucky Lady III, March AFB, 18 January 1957. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.)

This record-breaking around the world flight was dramatized in the 1957 Warner Bros. movie “Bombers B-52,” which starred Natalie Wood, Karl Malden and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Poster for the 1957 motion picture, "Bombers B-52".
Poster for the 1957 motion picture “Bombers B-52” (Warner Bros.)

The 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was the first operational Air Force unit to receive the B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B 52-8711, on 29 June 1955.

Fifty B-52Bs were built by Boeing at its Plant 2, Seattle, Washington. The B-52B/RB-52B was operated by a six-man flight crew for the bombing mission, and eight for reconnaissance. These were the aircraft commander/pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radar navigator/bombardier, electronic warfare officer and gunner, plus two reconnaissance technicians when required.

The airplane was 156.6 feet, (47.73 meters) long with a wingspan of 185.0 feet (56.39 meters) and overall height of 48.3 feet, (14.72 meters). The wings were mounted high on the fuselage (“shoulder-mounted”) to provide clearance for the engines which were suspended on pylons. The wings had a 6° angle of incidence and 2° 30′ anhedral. The wings’ leading edges were swept aft 36° 54′. The bomber’s empty weight was 164,081 pounds (74,226 kilograms), with a combat weight of 272,000 pounds (123,377 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 420,000 pounds (190,509 kilograms).

Early production B-52Bs were powered by eight Pratt & Whitney J57-P-1WA turbojet engines, while later aircraft were equipped with J57-P-19W and J57-P-29W or WA turbojets. The engines were grouped in two-engine pods on four under-wing pylons. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). These engines were rated at 8,250 pounds of thrust (36.700 kilonewtons), each, Maximum Continuous Power; 9,500 pounds (42.258 kilonewtons), Military Power (30 minute limit); or 11,400 pounds (50.710 kilonewtons) with water injection (5 minute limit). The J57-P-1WA was 3 feet, 4.5 inches (1.029 meters) in diameter, 13 feet, 1.7 inches (4.006 meters) long, and weighed 4,210 pounds (1,910 kilograms).

The B-52B had a cruise speed of 453 knots (521 miles per hour/839 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), and a maximum speed of 547 knots (630 miles per hour/1,013 kilometers per hour) at 19,900 feet (6,065 meters). The service ceiling with the maximum bomb load was 48,650 feet (14,829 meters), and 55,350 feet (16,855 meters) for a ferry mission.

Tail gun turret of an early B-52 Stratofortress

Maximum ferry range was 6,460 nautical miles (7,434 statute miles/11,964 kilometers). With the maximum bomb load, the B-52B had a combat radius of 2,620 nautical miles (3,015 statute miles/4,852 kilometers), or 3,135 nautical miles (3,608 statute miles/5,806 kilometers) with the design load. With inflight refueling, though, the bomber’s range was essentially world-wide.

Defensive armament consisted of four Browning Aircraft Machine Guns, Caliber .50, AN-M3, mounted in a tail turret with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun. These guns had a combined rate of fire in excess of 4,000 rounds per minute. (Some B-52s were armed with four M24A1 20 mm autocannons with 400 rounds per gun.)

The B-52B’s maximum bomb load was 43,000 pounds (19,505 kilograms). It could carry a maximum of 27 1,000-pound conventional explosive bombs. For strategic missions, the bomber carried one Mark 6 nuclear bomb, which had a yield ranging from 8 to 160 kilotons, depending on Mod, or two Mark 21 thermonuclear bombs, each with a yield of 4–5 megatons.

Boeing manufactured 744 B-52 Stratofortress bombers, with the final one rolled out at Wichita, Kansas, 22 June 1962. As of 27 September 2016, 77 B-52H bombers remain in service with the United States Air Force.

Boeing B-52B-35-BO Stratofortress 53-0394, Lucky Lady III. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 January 1932

At the lower left corner of this image, the shadow of a Curtiss B-2 Condor can be seen as it prepares to drop supplies at the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona, 17 January 1932. (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)
At the lower left corner of this image, the shadow of a Curtiss B-2 Condor can be seen as it prepares to drop supplies at the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona, 17 January 1932. (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)

17 January 1932: The 11th Bombardment Squadron, U.S. Army Air Corps, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Charles H. Howard and based at March Field, Riverside, California, flew six Curtiss B-2 Condor bombers to drop food and supplies to the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona. A severe winter storm had isolated the community and caused the deaths of thousands of livestock.

More than 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) of food was dropped to support the 20,000 people of the Navajo and Hopi nations effected by the winter storms.

Lieutenant Howard and the 11th Bombardment Squadron won the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year. This was the first time that the Mackay was awarded to a group.

First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)

Charles Harold Howard was born at Ashland, Oregon, 29 December 1892. He was the first of two children of Charles B. Howard, a telegraph operator, and Mary Ann Kincaid Howard.

Howard enlisted as a private in the Signal Corps, United States Army, 23 November 1917. He served with Company C, 322nd Field Signal Battalion, and the Aviation Section, Signal Corps. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Service, 7 November 1918.

In 1920, Lieutenant Howard was an instructor at the Air Service Flying School at Love Field, Dallas, Texas. In a reorganization of the Air Service, his commission was vacated 15 September 1920 and he was appointed a second lieutenant, Air Service, with date of rank retroactive to 1 July 1920. Howard was promoted to first lieutenant, 30 August 1924.

Captain Howard was killed in an aircraft accident near Bryan Mill, Texas, 25 October 1936. His remains were buried at the Mountain View Cemetery, Ashland, Oregon. Howard Air Force Base, Panama, was named in his honor.

The following is excerpted from the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register web site:

The Air Corps Newsletter of November 1, 1936 reports his passing and summarizes his flying career:

“An airplane accident on the night of October 25th, near Bryan’s Mill, Texas, cost the lives of Captain Charles H. Howard and Corporal Edward N. Gibson, Air Corps, both of whom were stationed at Langley Field, VA.

“Captain Howard, who enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, during the World War, was an efficient and capable officer, an expert pilot, and was particularly well versed in the field of radio communications.

“. . . after serving for a brief period with Company C, 322nd Field Signal Battalion, Fort Lewis, Washington, he was transferred to Kelly Field, Texas, where he served with the 84th Aero Squadron. . .

“During the next four years, Captain Howard’s duties related mainly to radio communications. . . 

“In January 1926, Captain Howard was transferred to the Panama Canal Department, where he served for three years, being on duty with the 7th Observation Squadron at France Field for two years, and with the 25th Bombardment Squadron in the remaining year.

“From Panama, Captain Howard was transferred to Rockwell Field, Calif., when he was assigned to the 11th Bombardment Squadron. He also served as Communications Officer of the 7th Bombardment Group. Later, when the Squadron was transferred to March Field, Calif., he was placed in command thereof.”

It was during this time that he and his crew won the Mackay Trophy.

“During the summer of 1934, Captain Howard piloted one of the B-10 Bombardment planes in the Army Alaskan Flight, from Washington, D.C., to Fairbanks, Alaska, and return. This aerial expedition of ten B-10 airplanes was commanded by Brigadier General Henry H. Arnold. The flight was completed according to a prearranged schedule in exactly one month. In addition to his duties as pilot, Captain Howard served as Assistant Communications Officer of the expedition. . .

“Captain Howard had to his credit over 4,000 hours flying time. He was the author of various articles dealing most interestingly and convincingly with subjects in which he particularly specialized – Bombardment Aviation and Radio Communications.”

Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register http://www.dmairfield.com/index.php

Curtiss B-2 Condor 28-399 of the 11th Bomb Squadron, in flight near San Diego, California, 1930. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Curtiss B-2 Condor was a large (by contemporary standards) twin-engine biplane bomber, operated by a crew of five. It was 47 feet, 4.5 inches (14.440 meters) long with a 90 foot (27.432 meter) wingspan and overall height of 16 feet, 6 inches (5.029 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 9,300 pounds (4,218.4 kilograms) and loaded weight of 16,591 pounds (7,525.6 kilograms).

The B-2 was powered by two liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,570.381-cubic-inch-displacement (25.734 liter) Curtiss Conqueror V-1570-7 DOHC 60° V-12 engines producing 633 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m., each, driving three-bladed propellers.

The bomber had a maximum speed of 132 miles per hour (212 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and a range of 805 miles (1,296 kilometers).

Although the Condor’s service ceiling was 16,140 feet (4,920 meters), Lieutenant Howard flew one to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) while conducting an experiment in cosmic ray research for Dr. Robert Andrews Millikan of Caltech, Pasadena, California. (“Service ceiling” is the altitude above which an aircraft can no longer maintain at least a 100 feet per minute/0.5 meters per second rate of climb.)

First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, Air Corps, United States Army, and Dr. Robert A. Millikan of CalTech, with a Curtiss B-2 Condor bomber at March Field, 27 October 1932. (© Bettman/CORBIS)

Defensive armament consisted of six .30-caliber Lewis machine guns, with gunners’ positions at the nose and behind each engine. The B-2 could carry 2,500 pounds (1,134 kilograms) of bombs.

Including the XB-2 prototype, 13 B-2s were built, and a single B-2A. They were removed from service by 1934 as more modern designs became available.

A Curtiss B-2 Condor, serial number 28-399, in flight near Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (U.S. Air Force)
A Curtiss B-2 Condor, serial number 28-399, 11th Bombardment Squadron, in flight near Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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