Tag Archives: Mackay Trophy

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

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:

#0000ff;">The Air Corps Newsletter of November 1, 1936 reports his passing and summarizes his flying career:

#0000ff;">“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.

#0000ff;">“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.

#0000ff;">“. . . 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. . .

#0000ff;">“During the next four years, Captain Howard’s duties related mainly to radio communications. . . 

#0000ff;">“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.

#0000ff;">“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.”

#0000ff;">It was during this time that he and his crew won the Mackay Trophy.

#0000ff;">“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. . .

#0000ff;">“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

15 January 1915

Lieutenant Byron Quimby Jones, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

15 January 1915: At San Diego, California, Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, set a flight endurance record of 8 hours, 53 minutes, flying a Glenn L. Martin Company Martin T Army Tractor. The flight consumed 30 gallons (114 liters) of gasoline. Lieutenant Jones estimated that he had sufficient fuel remaining for another two hours in the air, but approaching darkness forced him to land.

For this and other flights at San Diego, Lieutenant Jones was awarded the Mackay Trophy.

Martin T Army Tractor. (U.S. Air Force)
Martin T Army Tractor. (U.S. Air Force)
Clarence H. Mackay

The Mackay Army Aviation Cup was established in 1911 by Clarence Hungerford Mackay, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Postal Telegraph and Cable Corporation. Now known as the Mackay Trophy, it is awarded yearly for “the most meritorious flight of the year” by U.S. Air Force personnel.

Lieutenant Jones was the sixth aviator to be awarded the trophy. The trophy is kept at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. It was appraised in the 1960s at a value of $65,000, though it was also estimated that it would cost $650,000 to duplicate it.

The Mackay Trophy. (NASM)
Lieutenant Byron Quimby Jones, United States Army (1888–1959)
Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, 14th Cavalry Regiment, United States Army

Byron Quinby Jones was born at Henrietta, New York, 9 April 1888. He was one of four children of Samuel Titus Jones and Sarah Minerva Quinby Jones. He attended School 24 and East High School, Rochester, New York.

Jones entered the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, 15 June 1907, and graduated 12 June 1912 with a bachelor of science degree. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 14th Cavalry Regiment, United States Army.

Lieutenant Jones volunteered for pilot training and was sent to the Signal Corps Aviation School at North Field, San Diego, California. After earning a rating as one of the earliest U.S. military pilots and serving for a year with an active squadron, Jones was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, 23 November 1914. He was then sent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the very first post-graduate course in aeronautical engineering.

In addition to he endurance records, “B.Q.” Jones was also the first Army pilot to perform a loop, an intentional stall and recovery, and a “tail spin.”

During World War I, Jones rose to the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel.

Jones married Mrs. Evelyn Clark Chadwick (née Evelyn Kennerly Clark, grand daughter of William Clark, co-leader with Meriwether Lewis of the 1804–1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition), 4 June 1917.

For the next twenty-four years, Jones steadily rose in rank and was an important figure in Army aviation. Assigned to the newly established Air Service, Jones was promoted to the rank of major, 1 July 1920, and lieutenant colonel, 1 August 1935.

In 1939, because of a disagreement with senior Air Corps officers over military aviation doctrine, Lieutenant Colonel Jones requested a return to the Cavalry. He was promoted to the rank of colonel, Army of the United States, 16 November 1940, and colonel, United States Army, 1 February 1942.

Byron Jones graduated from the Army Industrial College in 1926, Command and General Staff School, 1927, and the Army War College, 1929.

Colonel Byron Q. Jones, United States Army

Colonel Jones was a leader in forming a mechanized cavalry and combined arms service. During World War II, he served in the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in Australia. He then held several assignments within the continental United States. He was hospitalized for lengthy periods several  times, and finally was discharged from the Army, 31 January 1944.

Colonel Byron Quinby Jones, United States Army (Retired), died at Walter Reed Army Hospital, 30 March 1959, at the age of 70 years. His remains were interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Martin T Army Tractor in flight at San Diego. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Martin T Army Tractor in flight at San Diego. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

The Martin T was a two-place, single-engine biplane ordered as a trainer for the Signal Corps. Three were built and given serial numbers S.C.31–33. The airplane was a tractor configuration, with an engine and propeller at the front of the fuselage, rather than behind in a pusher configuration. The Martin T also had a wheeled tricycle undercarriage. Both of these features were relatively new and would become standard.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

John Arthur Macready (14 October 1887–15 September 1979) [TDiA No. 1,500]

Lieutenant John A. Macready dressed for high altitude flight. (U.S. Air Force)

John Arthur Macready was born at San Diego, California, 14 October, 1887.¹ He was the second of three sons of Benjamin Macready, a miner, and Mattie Delahunt Beck Macready.

John A. Macready, 1912. (The Quad)

John Macready graduated from Los Angeles High School at Los Angles California, then attended Leland Stanford, Jr., University, near San Francisco, California. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree (A.B.) in economics in 1913.

Following graduation, and while visiting his family, then living near Searchlight, Nevada—where his father had founded the Quartette Mine and Mill, a $7,000,000 ² per year operation—Macready was elected justice of the peace.

The United States entered World War I on 6 April 1917. John Macready enlisted in the U.S. Cavalry, but,

“. . . while on a train, en route to Reno to get his final papers, he picked up the Magazine Section of the The Times and read a story about Rockwell Field.

     “Being a native of San Diego—he first saw the light there forty-three years ago—he was particularly interested and made up his mind to learn to fly one of those things everyone was talking about.

     “His education, grammar school and high school graduation here—the latter from Los Angeles High School on top of Bunker Hill—and four years at Stanford as a student of economics, came in handy and he was able to switch his enlistment to the United States Army Air Corps [sic] as a private.”

Los Angeles Times, Vol. XLIX, Sunday, 2 November 1930, Part VI, Page 4 Column 2

On 16 July 1917, Macready was assigned to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, as a Private 1st Class. His draft registration card descibed him as medium height and build, with brown hair and blue eyes. On 27 December 1917, Macready was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps. Macready was assigned as a flight instructor at Brooks Field, Texas, where he wrote the standard instructional text, The “All Thru” System of Flying Instruction as Taught at Brooks Field.

On 11 October 1918, Lieutenant Macready was promoted to the rank of captain, Air Service, U.S. Army. After World War I, he became an engineering test pilot at McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio. His reserve commission was vacated 18 September 1920, and he was commissioned a first lieutenant, Air Service, 18 September 1920.

Lieutenant John A. Macready demonstrates the aerial application of chemical pesticides over a tree farm near Troy, Ohio, 3 August 1921. The airplane is a Curtiss JN-6. (Photographed by Captain Albert W. Stevens)

On 3 August 1921, near Troy, Ohio, Lieutenant Macready flew a Curtiss JN-6 to perform the first aerial application (“crop dusting”) of pesticides by airplane. Macready flew at an altitude of 20-35 feet (6–11 meters), upwind of a grove of tall catalpa trees. Released 53 yards (48 meters) from the edge of the grove, an 8–11 mile per hour (3.5–5 meters/second) wind carried the arsenate of lead powder and every leaf in the grove was covered.

Lieutenant John A Macready flew this Packard Lepère L USA C. II to an altitude record of 40,800 feet (12,436 meters), 28 September 1921. (U.S. Air Force)

On 28 September 1921, Lieutenant Macready flew a turbo-supercharged Packard Lepère L USA C. II biplane, serial number S.C. 40015, to a world record altitude of 40,800 feet (12,436 meters). He won his first of three Mackay Trophies for this flight.

Macready and Oakley planned to fly a Fokker T-2 across the North American continent, non-stop, from San Diego, California, to New York. The starting point at Rockwell Field was chosen to take advantage of favorable westerly winds, and to use the higher-octane gasoline which was available in California.

Fokker T-2 A.S. 64223 in flight over Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (This is now NAS North Island.) (San Diego Air & Space Museum)

When they encountered fog in the mountains east of San Diego, the two fliers were forced to turn back. They remained airborne over San Diego to measure the airplane’s performance and fuel consumption for another attempt. They remained airborne for 35 hours, 18 minutes. They were awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year. This was Macready’s second Mackay. He and Kelly would win it again the following year.

Lieutenants John A. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly with their Fokker T-2. (NASM)

Over 2–3 May 1923, Macready and Kelly flew the T-2 on the first non-stop transcontinental flight. The two aviators took off from Roosevelt-Hazelhurst Field, Long Island, New York, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time and landed at Rockwell Field (now, NAS North Island), San Diego, California, the next day at 12:26 p.m., Pacific Time. They had flown 2,470 miles (3,975 kilometers) in 26 hours, 50 minutes, 38.8 seconds, for an average speed of 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour). Macready won his third Mackay Trophy for this flight. He is the only person to have won the award three times.

Lieutenant and Mrs John A. Macready (Los Angeles Daily Times)

In the late afternoon of 9 May 1923, Lieutenant Macready married Miss Nelliejay Turner of Columbus, Ohio, at the Los Angeles, California, home of Macready’s parents. The ceremony was conducted by Rev. Charles Thompson of Springfield, Ohio. Lieutenant Oakley Kelly was best man. Miss Turner, then a student at Ohio State University (Kappa Alpha Theta sorority), had been introduced to Lieutenant Macready at the family home the previous year. They would have two daughters, Jo-Ann and Sally Jean Macready.

In 1923, Macready graduated from the Aeronautical Engineer Course, Air Service Engineering School.

On 13 June 1924, Macready was the first pilot to parachute from an airplane at night, when on a flight between Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, the engine of his airplane failed. The Los Angeles Times quoted an Air Service report:

“There being no moonlight, he guided his plane toward an area showing the fewest number of lights. The two flares he released failed to ignite, and he decided to trust to his parachute. Shortly after he launched himself into space his plane crashed and burst into flames. Capt. Macready’s parachute caught in the branches of a tree and he was hanging by the shroud lines over a ravine some ninety feet deep. His shouts brought several persons to his assistance and he was pulled up to safety by means of the parachute cords.”

Los Angeles Times, Vol. LIV, 2 June 1935 “Times Sunday Magazine,” Page 15, Column 3

Mrs. Macready with her husband, Lieutenant John Arthur Macready, shortly before his altitude record flight, 29 January 1926. (George Rinhart via Daedalians)

On 29 January 1926, Macready took off from McCook Field in an experimental airplane, the Engineering Division XCO-5. Macready was attempting to exceed the existing Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world altitude record of 12,066 meters (39,587 feet), which had been set by Jean Callizo at Villacoublay, France, 21 October 1924.

When the sealed barograph was sent to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., for calibration, it indicated a peak altitude of 38,704 feet (11,797 meters). This was 269 meters (883 feet) lower than the existing world record, but it did establish a new United States national altitude record.

Lieutenant John A. Macready, USAAS, stands in front of the Engineering Division-built XCO-5. (U.S. Air Force)

For six years John Macready was responsible for testing turbosuperchargers, which enabled aircraft engines to produce continuous power at increasing altitudes. It was while testing these that he established his altitude record.

John Macready resigned from Air Corps in 1926. He worked as an engineer for Frigidaire until 1929, then became head of Shell oil’s aviation division based in San Francisco, California. He flew a Lockheed Vega. He bought a horse ranch in Mariposa County.

Macready crash (Sid Bradd Collection/airrace.com

On 30 August 1930, Macready crashed in a Menasco-engined Keith Rider B-1, NR10216,  while practicing for the Thompson Trophy pylon race the National Air Races at Curtiss-Wright Airport in Chicago, Illinois.. A wing strut failed at approximately 162 miles per hour/261 kilometers per hour). Initial news reports were that he had been killed. He suffered a broken nose, fractured shoulder and bruises.

“A wing strut folded as Macready turned the course in the first lap of the free-for-all speed event, according to witnesses. The ship spiraled about drunkenly for an instant, but by skillful maneuvering the former army flier brought it to earth right side up. The plane struck with terrific force, bounded high into the air and was demolished on the rebound.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Vol. XC. No. 144, Sunday, 31 August 1930, Page 1, Column 5

In September 1931, Macready was commissioned as a major in the Air Corps Reserve. He was assigned to the 316th Observation Squadron at Crissy Field, Presidio of San Francisco, California.

The New York Times reported that John Macready collaborated with the Bausch & Lomb optical company to to develop the iconic Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses, which debuted in 1938 and remain in production today.

Ray-Ban Aviator Classic sunglasses. (Ray-Ban)

On June 19 1934, Macready involved in a fatal traffic accident when a motocyclist collided with his car on a blind turn near Yosemite. Macready was not injured.

Colonel John A. Macready, 1940. (Los Angeles Times)

Major Macready was recalled to active duty with the Air Corps on 10 October 1939 and assigned to duty at Hamilton Field, California. He later commanded 9th Air Base Group, and on 1 December 1941, took command of the Air Corps basic flying school at Moffett Field, California. The school operated the Vultee BT-13 trainer and taught formation flying, navigation and cross-country flying.

During World War II, Colonel Macready served as inspector general of Twelfth Air Force during Operation TORCH, the Allied invasion of North Africa. He also commanded the Mediterranean Air Transport Service. Following the war, Macready commanded Merced Army Airfield in California, and in 1946, was acting commanding office of  Walla Walla Army Airfield in Washington state. Colonel Macready was transferred to the Air Force retired list in 1948.

In October 1954, an authorized controlled burn on Macready’s thoroughbred horse ranch spread into the surrounding Sierra National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service sued Macready for the cost of fighting the 1,830-acre fire, estimated at $72,662. An Act of Congress attempted to prevent this action, but after many delays, the case went to trial in June 1964. The two-day trial resulted in a “hung jury” and the judge declared a mistrial. A new trial date was set.

On Nov 8, 1958, John A. Macready was awarded the Croix de Guerre by President Andre Pleven of France for his service in North Africa during World War II.

John Arthur Macready died in Mariposa County, California, 15 September 1979, at the age of 90 years.

“Honor is its own reward. There is plenty of glory in connection with flights of this nature, and considerable satisfaction in doing one’s duty as a soldier and accomplishing a feat considered by many to be impossible.”

—John A. Macready, Aviator

¹ Some sources state 1888.

² Equivalent to $177,550,404.04 in 2018

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

12 October 1925

Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis and his Curtiss R3C-1 cross the finish line at the 1925 Pulitzer Trophy Race. (NASM)
The Pulitzer Trophy

12 October 1925: At Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, Air Service, United States Army, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 100 kilometers (62.14 miles), flying a Curtiss R3C-1 racing plane, #43. His average speed was 401.28 kilometers per hour (249.34 miles per hour).¹ Lieutenant Bettis was awarded the Pulitzer Trophy.

Bettis also won the Mackay Trophy for 1925.

Cyrus Bettis had previously won the 1924 Mitchell Trophy Race, sponsored by Brigadier General Billy Mitchell in honor of his brother, John L. Mitchell, who was killed during World War I.

Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, USAAS, with the Curtiss R3C-1 racer at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, 12 October 1925. The surface radiators on the wings can be seen. (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co.)
Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, USAAS, with the Curtiss R3C-1 racer at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, 12 October 1925. The surface radiators on the wings can be seen. (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co.)

The Curtiss R3C-1 was a single-place, single-engine, single-bay  biplane built for especially for air racing.  Two were built for the United States Navy and one for the Army. (The Army aircraft is identified by a Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (“Bu. No.”) A-7054. It does not seem to have been assigned an Air Service serial number.) The airplane and its V-1400 engine were built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, which had been founded by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. It was converted to a seaplane configuration with two single-step pontoons, the R3C-2, for the Schneider Trophy Race, two weeks later, 25 October.

The R3C is 19 feet, 8½ inches (6.007 meters) long. The upper wing span is 22 feet (6.706 meters), with a chord of 4 feet, 8¼ inches (1.429 meters). The lower wing span is 20 feet (6.096 meters) with a chord of 3 feet, 3¾ inches (1.010 meters). The R3C-1 had an empty of 2,135 pounds (968 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 2,738 pounds (1,242 kilograms).

Curtiss R3C-1 (FAI)
Lieutenant Bettis’ record-setting Curtiss R3C-1 biplane. (FAI)

Constructed of wood, the fuselage had four ash longerons and seven birch vertical bulkheads. The framework was covered with two layers of 2-inch (51 millimeter) wide, 3/32-inch (2.38 millimeter) thick spruce strips. These were placed on a 45° diagonal from the fuselage horizontal centerline, with the second layer at 90° to the first. These veneer strips were glued and tacked to the frame. The fuselage was then covered with doped fabric. The wings and tail surfaces were also of wood, with spruce ribs and a covering of spruce strips.

The single-bay wings were wire braced and contained surface radiators made of thin brass sheeting. The radiators contained 12 gallons (45.4 liters) of water, circulating at a rate of 75 gallons (283.9 liters) per minute. By using surface radiators to cool the engine, aerodynamic drag was reduced.

The Curtiss V-1400 engine was developed from the earlier Curtiss D-12. It was a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 1,399.91-cubic-inch-displacement (22.940 liter), dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12, with a compression ratio of 5.5:1. The V-1400 was rated at 510 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and could produce 619 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. It was a direct-drive engine and turned a two-bladed duralumin fixed-pitch propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters). The propeller was designed by Sylvanus Albert Reed, Ph.D. The V-1400 engine weighed 660 pounds (299 kilograms).

The R3C-1 had a fuel capacity of 27 gallons (102 liters). Its range was 290 miles (467 kilometers).

After the Pullitzer race, the R3C-1 was reconfigured as a seaplane for the Schneider Trophy Race. The fixed landing gear was replaced by two single-step pontoons and the airplane was redesignated R3C-2. Additional fuel was carried in the pontoons. On 26 October 1925, 1st Lieutenant James H. Doolittle flew the airplane to win the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider at Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

The R3C-2 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Lt. James H. Doolittle and Lt. Cyrus Bettis with the Curtiss R3C-2 (NARA 31758AC)
Lt. James H. Doolittle (left) and Lt. Cyrus Bettis with the Curtiss R3C-2 (NARA 31758AC)

Cyrus Bettis was born 2 January 1893, at Carsonville, Michigan, the first of three children of John Bettis, a farm worker, and Mattie McCrory Bettis.

Bettis enlisted as a private, first class, in the Aviation Section, Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, at Detroit, Michigan, 23 January 1918. The Bell Telephone News reported:

     Cyrus Bettis has gone to Detroit and enlisted in the Aviation Corps of Uncle Sam’s service.

     He expects to be called to service at any time and will probably go East for training. Cyrus has been the efficient and genial manager of the Michigan State Telephone exchange in Fenton for several years. He has made an excellent manager and entrenched himself in the good graces of his patrons and Fenton People in General. —Fenton Independent.

#000000;">—Bell Telephone News, Volume 7, Number 6, January 1918, at Page 4, Column 1

On 11 September 1918, Cyrus Bettis was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army. This commission was vacated 16 September 1920 and he was appointed a second lieutenant, Air Service, with date of rank to 1 July 1920. On 21 March 1921, Bettis was advanced to the rank of first lieutenant, retroactive to 1 July 1920.

On 23 August 1926, flying from Philadelphia to Selfridge Field in Michigan, Bettis flew into terrain in fog in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania. With a fractured skull and broken left leg, Bettis crawled several miles to a roadway where he was found, 43 hours after the crash.

Bettis was taken by air ambulance to Walter Reed Army Hospital, but died of spinal meningitis resulting from his injuries, 1 September. He was buried at the Lakeside Cemetery, Port Huron, Michigan.

1st Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, Air Service, United States Army. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 9684

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes