Tag Archives: McCook Field

12 June 1922

Albert William Stevens (Belfast Historical Society and Museum)

12 June 1922: Captain Albert William Stevens, Air Service, United States Army, made a high altitude parachute jump from a twin-engine Martin GMB bomber flying at 24,206 feet (7,378 meters) over McCook Field, Ohio.

A contemporary magazine article described the jump:

The greatest recorded parachute jump made from an airplane was accomplished by Capt. Albert W. Stevens a year or more ago. He fell 24,200 feet—almost five miles—landing 25 miles away from the point above which he jumped and suffering no injury in his descent, beyond a couple of dislocated toes.

Popular Science Monthly, November 1924, Vol. 105, No. 5, at Page 152, Column 2.

The Army and Navy Register published this very informative report:

PARACHUTING FROM 24,206 FEET

     Hurtling four and one-half miles through space was the recent experience of Capt. A. W. Stevens, Air Service, stationed at McCook Field, Dayton Ohio, in a parachute jump on June 12 last from the high altitude of 24,206 feet from a supercharged Martin bomber, piloted by Lieut. Leigh Wade, with Sergeant Roy Lanham as the other passenger. Capt. Stevens’ fall lasted approximately 20 minutes, and the oscillations of the chute, due to the prevailing winds, made him thoroughly seasick by the time half of the descent was over. In his official report to the chief of the Air Service, Capt. Stevens says:

    “The pack-cord was ripped about ten feet below the fuselage of the bomber. The parachute opened instantly and was fully open in less than 100 feet below the plane (estimated). The writer has made several jumps before, viz., from 1,500 feet, at 85 miles per hour; 1,500 feet at 65 miles per hour, and 5,600 feet at 65 miles per hour. Although the plane speed is estimated by the pilot at 110 miles per hour, the shock of opening was less, if anything, than on the previous jumps by the writer at lower altitudes and speed—due very likely to the lower density of the atmosphere.

     “The writer had complete confidence that the parachute would open fully—sooner or later. The only question with him was whether the passage of the silk fabric through the cold, rarefied upper air might generate enough static electricity to hold the folds of the ‘chute tight together for a time, until when it did open the shock might result in a rupture, either of the operator’s body, or of the shroud lines. This fear was groundless as the ‘chute opened instantly—or practically so. The ‘chute used had the vents sewed right; it had been tested with both 100 and 200-pound weights in the usual manner over McCook Field from about 600 feet altitude.

     “The time of descent was not over 20 minutes, from the writer’s estimate. It may have been less than 20 minutes, but was over 15 minutes. The writer would like to make another jump from still higher altitude, 40,000 feet or more, when he recovers from a few broken foot bones, and if this is done, a recording barograph will be carried as part of the jumper’s equipment. Needless to say, a comparatively windless day is best to choose for a thing of this kind, as the ‘chute may get caught in a down current on a windy day and land twice as hard as usual. Also, the jumper from high altitudes is burdened with heavy flying clothing, which increases his weight considerably.

     “Attention is called to the fact that the parachute averaged a ground speed of one and one-half miles a minute, based on a travel of 30 miles and a time of descent of less than 20 minutes. The ordinary time of descent is about 1,000 feet per minute at ordinary altitudes; for instance, in the 5,600-foot jump previously referred to, the time was six minutes. In the thin upper air the ‘chute undoubtedly falls faster, especially when it is oscillating and spilling air, as was the case all the way down on the recent jump.

     “Ten minutes of such oscillation will upset anything but a cast-iron stomach. In the writer’s case, he was thoroughly seasick by the time half of the descent was over. He could get little relief by closing his eyes, and if his eyes were open the landscape below heaved and tipped in all directions. It is of interest to note that temporary relief was experienced by fixing the eyes for a few seconds on the center of the parachute, this being the only point in space reasonably at rest with respect to the body of the jumper.

     “It is inadvisable to open the second ‘chute for the purpose of checking oscillation, as one then loses control of movement. With a single ‘chute it is possible to change the direction of one’s flight very considerably, even on a windy day. On a calm day one can do much better, even to the extent of picking out a particular field in which to land. On a windy day the air currents carry you irresistibly ahead, and the best that can be done is to side-slip to the right or to the left of the line of flight.

     “About the land: if one imagines that he has just jumped from a twelve-foot wall and crouches in a jumping position, he will be in the best position for landing. Too great a tension of the leg muscles may result in ruptured tendons or broken foot bones. You are sure to collapse in a pile on the ground; it is better to relax with that in view, and thereby get a more even distribution of bruises. The jumper should face the way he is traveling; to accomplish this it is possible to make the ‘chute revolve, earlier in the drop, by taking a few of the shroud lines and pulling diagonally, with the idea of working a “propeller” surface into one point of the ‘chute circumference. The second ‘chute may be pulled about 50 to 75 feet before landing, chiefly to get rid of the extra weight. If pulled earlier, the two ‘chutes will soon stand well apart, at 60 degrees or more, and will spill air between them, so that the jumper will fall nearly as fast as ever, and with practically no control.

     “The bomber carried four recording barographs, as well as indicating altimeters. The result of McCook Field laboratory measurements showed that the elevation was 24,206 feet.

     “It was the intention of Lieut. Wade to take the plane, relieved of 250 pounds of weight, still higher, but one of the superchargers developed trouble and it was necessary to cut the flight short.”

ARMY AND NAVY REGISTER, The U.S. Military Gazette, Vol. LXIII, No. 2195, 12 August 1922 at Page 162

1st Lieutenant Albert William Stevens, Air Service, United States Army, circa 1921. Lieutenant Williams is wearing the badge of an aerial observer. The decoration beneath is the Victory Medal with four campaign stars. (Albert W. Stevens Collection)

Albert William Stevens (née Whitten) was born at Belfast, Maine, 13 March 1886, the third child of Nathan Whitten, a blacksmith and wagon builder, and Alice C. Anderson Whitten. His mother died of “consumption” (tuberculosis) when Albert was five months old. He was adopted by Albert J. Stevens and Nancy M. Trimble Stevens, and his name became Albert William Stevens.

Stevens attended the University of Maine at Orono, Maine. He graduated in 1907 with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. He earned a Masters degree in electrical engineering  from the university in 1909. He then worked as a mining engineer in Alaska, California, Idaho and Montana.

Stevens enlisted in the U.S. Air Service in Idaho, January 1918. Because of his experience in photography, which began while he was in college, Stevens was assigned to the Aerial Photography School at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 18 February 1918. Sent to Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, Stevens commanded the 6th Photo Section, 88th Aero Squadron. He flew in the major campaigns of the final months of the War.

In this photograph of officers of the 88th Aero Squadron in France, 1918, Lieutenant Stevens is in the front row, fifth from right. The airplane is an Avion Salmson Type 2 A.2. (United States Air Force)

He was an acknowledged expert in the field of aerial photography. Lieutenant Stevens was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. Following the War, he was promoted to Captain, Air Service, 21 February 1919. His commission was vacated 18 September 1920, and he was appointed a Captain, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920. On 18 November 1922, Stevens was discharged as a Captain, then re-appointed a First Lieutenant. He returned to the rank of Captain, Air Service, 10 February 1925. On 16 June 1936, he was promoted to the temporary rank of Major, United States Army Air Corps. This rank became permanent 12 June 1939. In 1940, Major Stevens took command of the Photographer’s School, Air Corps Technical School, Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado. He advanced to the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel, 30 December 1940. This rank became permanent 15 October 1941. He was retired from the Air Corps for medical reasons, 30 April 1942.

Stevens married Ruth E. Fischer at Rockville, Maryland, 8 August 1938.

Captain Stevens was a pioneering aviator, balloonist and aerial photographer. Using infrared film, he made the first photograph that showed the curvature of the Earth. He also took the first photograph of the Moon’s shadow on the surface of the Earth during an eclipse.

Stevens made a series of high-altitude balloon flights, and on 11 November 1935 he and Captain Orvil A. Anderson ascended to 22,066 meters (72,395 feet) aboard Explorer II, establishing a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record. ¹

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew William Stevens, United States Army Air Forces (Retired), died at Redwood City, California, 26 March 1949, at the age of 63 years. He is buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

Major Albert W. Stevens, U.S. Army Air Corps, circa 1936. Major Stevens is wearing the wings of an aerial observer. The ribbons beneath represent the Purple Heart, the World War I Victory Medal with four campaign stars, and the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (a second award).
1st Lieutenant Leigh Wade, Air Service, U.S. Army

1st Lieutenant Leigh Wade, Captain Stevens’ pilot, flew the Douglas World Cruiser Boston in the U.S. Army’s around the world flight, April–September 1924, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He reached the rank of Major General and remained in the United States Air Force until retiring, 1 November 1955.

The Martin GMB (also referred to as the Martin MB-1) was a twin-engine biplane designed as a reconnaissance airplane with a secondary role as a bomber. It had a crew of three. The bomber entered service in 1918 and was the first U.S.-built bomber to enter production.

The GMB was 44 feet, 10 inches (13.665 meters) long with a wingspan of 71 feet, 5 inches (21.768 meters) and height of 14 feet, 7 inches (4.445 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 6,702 pounds (3,040 kilograms) and a gross weight of 10,225 pounds (4,638 kilograms).

A Martin MB-1 bomber, A.S. 39059, (P-104) at Wright Field. (U.S. Air Force)
A Martin GMB bomber, A.S. 39059 (P-104). (U.S. Air Force)

The bomber was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine. It turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms). The engines on Stevens’ airplane were supercharged to increase its altitude capability.

The GMB had a cruise speed of 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 10,300 feet (3,140 meters). Range for the standard airplane was 390 miles (628 kilometers).

Twenty-two GMBs were built by the Glenn L. Martin Company.

Martin MB-1 A.S. , P=106. (U.S. Air Force)
Martin GMB bomber A.S. 62950 (P-106). (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 10654

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 May 1932

Captain Albert Francis Hegenberger, Air Corps, United States Army. (NASM)

9 May 1932: At McCook Field, Ohio, Captain Albert Francis Hegenberger, Air Corps, United States Army, flew the very first solo instrument approach and landing, using a system which he had developed. The Hegenberger system, which was adopted by both civil and military aviation authorities, used a series of non-directional radio beacons (NDB) and marker beacons on the ground, along with a radio-compass and other gyroscopic instruments and radio receivers aboard the aircraft, a Consolidated NY-2 biplane.

Hegenberger had located one NDB 1,500 feet (457 meters) from the airfield boundary, and another at 1½ miles (2.4 kilometers). They were aligned with the runway centerline. Both had marker beacons which would signal that the airplane was directly overhead. The radio compass aboard the airplane would indicate the direction of the NDB relative to the airplane and lights would illuminate when it passed over the marker beacons. When the airplane was heading directly toward the NDB, the needle pointed to zero.

A Consolidated NY-2 in flight. A hood covers the rear cockpit, preventing the pilot from seeing outside. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Captain Hegenberger turned toward the inner NDB from a distance of 50 miles (80 kilometers). He passed over it at a pre-planned altitude. When the lights on the instrument panel came on indicating that he was directly over the inner marker beacon, he turned toward the outer NDB. Crossing the outer marker, Hegenberger made a 180° turn back toward the inner NDB and began his descent. As he passed over the inner NDB again, he reduced engine power and placed the airplane in a landing attitude and waited for it to touch down on the runway.

This flight was the first solo blind instrument flight, approach and landing. (Lt. James H. Doolittle had made a blind instrument flight in 1929, but he carried a safety pilot aboard.) For his accomplishment, Captain Hegenberger was awarded an oak leaf cluster (a second award) for his Distinguished Flying Cross, and received the Collier Trophy, an annual award for the greatest achievement in aeronautics in America.

Captain Albert F. Hegenberger, Air Corps, United States Army, was presented the Collier Trophy by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 22 July 1935.

Within one week, the Civil Aeronautics Board created a new pilot rating and required that all commercial pilots demonstrate proficiency in instrument flight. In 1935, the CAB adopted Hegenberger’s system and ordered equipment installed at all major airports between New York and Los Angeles.

Albert Francis Hegenberger was born 30 September 1895 at Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America. He was the second of five children of Alphonse Frederick Hegenberger, a clerk and immigrant from Bavaria, and Emma Amanda Buegler Hegenberger, of Switzerland.

In 1913 Hegenberger entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a student of aeronautical engineering.

Following the United States’ entry into World War I, Albert F. Hegenberger enlisted as a private in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, 14 September 1917. He was assigned to the School of Military Aeronautics at M.I.T., graduating in December 1917. After flight training at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, Hegenberger was commissioned a second lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 6 April 1918. This commission was vacated 19 September 1920, and he was appointed a second lieutenant, Air Service, retroactive to 20 July 1920. He was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, effective that  that same date.

In October 1918, Second Lieutenant Hegenberger returned to M.I.T., and entered the School of Aeronautical Engineering. He graduated in February 1919.

Lieutenant Hegenberger married Miss Louise B. Berchtold in 1919. They would have two sons, Albert F., Jr., born in 1920, and Robert F., born in 1924.

In October 1923, 1st Lieutenant Hegenberger was assigned to the 72nd Bombardment Squadron, 5th Composite Squadron, at Luke Field on the Island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. The squadron was equipped with the DH-4 and the twin-engine Martin NBS-1 bomber. In March 1925, Lieutenant Hegenberger was transferred to the 23rd Bombardment Squadron, 5th Composite Group.

Lieutenant Hegenberger was next assigned as chief of the Equipment Branch, Material Division, at McCook Field, Dayton Ohio. He served in that position from October 1926 until June 1927, when became chief of the Instrument and Navigation Unit.

At 7:09 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time, 28 June 1927, 1st Lieutenant Lester J. Maitland and 1st Lieutenant Albert F. Hegenberger, Air Service, United States Army, took off from Oakland Municipal Airport, California, aboard an Atlantic-Fokker C-2, serial  number A.S. 26-202, Bird of Paradise. Their destination was Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, 2,407 miles (3,874 kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean.

“Bird of Paradise”, Atlantic-Fokker C-2 serial number 26-202, arrives at Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii after a non-stop flight from Oakland, California, 6:29 a.m., 29 June 1927. (U.S. Air Force)

After 25 hours, 50 minutes of flight, Bird of Paradise landed at Wheeler Field, 6:29 a.m., local time, 29 June 1927. It had completed the first Transpacific Flight.

For their achievement, both officers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They were also awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.

Secretary of War George Henry Dern presents Captain Albert F. Hegenberger the Distinguished Flying Cross, 18 May 1934. (Harris & Ewing)

1st Lieutenant Hegenberger continued in his technical assignments at McCook and Wright Fields. On 3 January 1932, he was promoted to the rank of captain.

Mrs. Hegenberger died 7 August 1933.

In August 1935, Captain Hegenberger was assigned to the 30th Bombardment  Squadron at Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. The squadron moved to March Field, near Riverside, California, and transitioned to the Martin B-10. Captain Hegenberger was advanced to the rank of major (temporary), 2 October 1935.

On 22 July 1937, Major Hegenberger married Ms. Jewel Lilly Van Houten (née Jewel Lilly Baker) at Detroit, Michigan.

From August 1937 to June 1939, Major Hegenberger was assigned to the Air Corps Tactical School, Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the 5th Bombardment Group at Hickam Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. The 5th was equipped with Keystone B-3 and B-4 bombers.

Major Hegenberger was appointed operations officer of the 18th Wing at Hickam, and then in November 1940, became assistant chief of staff for operations of the Hawaiian Air Force, headquartered at Fort Shafter, near Honolulu. Hegenberger was promoted to lieutenant colonel (temporary), on 30 December 1940. This rank became permanent 18 December 1941.

In April 1941, Lieutenant Colonel Hegenberger took command of the 11th Bombardment Group. The group was equipped with Douglas B-18 Bolo, but began receiving Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses the following month.

Hegenberger was promoted to colonel (temporary), 5 January 1942. He took command of 18th Bombardment Group and Seventh Bomber Command. He was appointed Colonel, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), 8 June 1942. Returning to the continental United States, Colonel Hegenberger became assistant chief of staff for operations, Second Air Force, and commanding officer, II Bomber Command, at Fort George Wright, Spokane, Washington. In October 1942, Colonel Hegenberger took command of the 21st Bombardment Wing, based at Smoky Hill Army Air Field, Salina, Kansas, and later, Topeka Army Air Field, Topeka, Kansas.

Colonel Hegenberger was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, A.U.S., 18 September 1943. In January 1944, he was appointed Chief of Staff, Second Air Force, at Colorado Springs Army Air Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The following year, January 1945, Brigadier General Hegenberger became Chief of Staff, Fourteenth Air Force, based at Chunking, China.

“Major General C. J. Chow, Director of the Commission on Aeronautical Affairs in Chungking, China, and Brig. General Albert F. Hegenberger, Chief of Staff of the 14th Air Force.” (U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China)

Hegenberger became commanding general, Tenth Air Force, also based in China, in August 1945. He was promoted to major general, A.U.S., 7 September 1945. From December 1945 to July 1946, Major General Hegenberger served at Headquarters Army Air Forces. He was then assigned to Pacific Air Command, United States Army (PACUSA), in Japan. He assumed command of the 1st Air Division, Kadena Army Air Base, Okinawa, in July 1946.

In December 1947, Hegenberger was assigned to the Weapons Group, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force. He then served on the staff of the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, for Atomic Energy. On 19 February 1948, Hegenberger’s previous rank of brigadier general, United States Air Force, became permanent, with date of rank retroactive to 19 September 1943. (He continued in the temporary rank of major general.)

Major General Hegenberger retired from the U.S. Air Force on 31 August 1949 after nearly 32 years of military service. During his career, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (two awards), World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; Order of the Cloud and Banner (Republic of China); and Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine della Corona d’Italia (Grand Officer, Order of the Crown of Italy).

Major General Albert Francis Hegenberger, United States Air Force (Retired) died at Goldenrod, Florida, 31 August 1983, at the age 87 years. He was buried at All Faiths Memorial Park, Casselbury, Florida.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 April 1919

Dayton-Wright DH-4, A.S. 30130, at South Field, Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, 1918. (Dayton-Wright Airplane Company/Wright State University Libraries)
Dayton-Wright DH-4, A.S. 30130, at South Field, Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, 1918. (Wright State University Libraries)

19 April 1919: Captain Earl French White, Air Service, United States Army, and H.M. Schaffer, “his mechanician,” took off from Ashburn Aviation Field, Chicago, Illinois, at 9:50 a.m, Central Standard Time, in the Dayton-Wright DH-4, Air Service serial number A.S. 30130. At 5:40 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, the airplane and its two-man crew landed at Hazelhurst Field, Mineola, Long Island, New York. They flew 738.6 miles (1,188.7 kilometers) in 6 hours, 50 minutes at an average speed of approximately 106 miles per hour (170.6 kilometers per hour).

The New York Times reported the event on its front page on the following day:

. . . Captain White had great difficulty in taking to the air in the soft ground of Ashburn Field, the take-off grounds approved by the Aero Club of Illinois. The ground there was soft and the heavy army plane, with her load of more than 190 gallons [719.2 liters] of gasoline, cut into it deeply, but after the aviator had had his plane dragged to a drier and harder spot in the field he managed to take to the air.

Circling over Chicago, Captain White ascended to a height of more than 10,000 feet [3,048 meters] and throughout his flight he did not go below this level until he was ready to land, and at intervals he flew as high as 12,000 feet [3,658 meters] He followed the route of the New York Central Railroad for the greater part of the distance, and cities along the route reported seeing him flying at great height and at high speed.

About 5 o’clock yesterday persons visiting on the ships of the Atlantic Fleet in the Hudson River and pedestrians on Riverside Drive saw a dark blue airplane come down from the north at high speed, turn sharply to the east when it was about opposite Fiftieth Street and then gradually came to a lower level as it circled about over the city.

All thought it was only one of the many airplanes and seaplanes that take their daily practice flights over the Hudson River and Manhattan Island, but it was Captain White and the first Chicago-New York non-stop airplane, bearing the army number 30,130.

Plane a Standard Army Machine.

After sailing over the city for about ten minutes, Captain White turned his machine toward the army aviation field at Mineola, where he landed at about 5:40 o’clock. Colonel Archibald Miller, Director of Aviation in the Department of the East and one of the commanders of the Hazelhurst Field, was waiting there to meet captain White and his mechanician, H.M. Schaefer, and they were taken to the field headquarters where an informal reception was held.

Officers at the Hazelhurst Field said that the biplane used by Captain White in his flight was one of the standard De Havilland Four machines constructed for the use of the army in France, and that it was equipped with a twelve-cylinder Liberty motor of about 400 horsepower.

The New York Times, 20 April 1919, Page 1, Column 4, and continued on Page 9.   

Captain White’s flight was observed by members of the Aero Club of America. The time of White’s departure from Chicago was telegraphed to New York. The flight was certified by the Aero Club, which represented the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) within the United States. This was the first non-stop flight between Chicago and New York, and was the longest non-stop flight that had been made anywhere in the world up to that time.

The Dayton-Wright Airplane Company DH-4 was a variant of the British Airco DH.4, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland (and commonly known as the de Havilland DH.4). It was a two-place, single-engine biplane intended as a bomber, but served in virtually every capacity during World War I and the years following.

American-built DH.4 airplanes were produced by the Boeing Airplane Company, Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, Fisher Body Corporation, and Standard Aircraft Corporation. Most were powered by the Liberty L12 engine. Following World War I, many DH-4s were rebuilt by Boeing and Atlantic Aircraft. An improved version, the DH-4M, used a tubular steel framework instead of the usual wood construction. DH-4s remained in service with the United States Army as late as 1932. At McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, the U.S. Army’s aviation engineering center, DH-4s were commonly used as test beds for engines and other aeronautical equipment.

The Airco DH.4 had a crew of two. It was 30 feet, 8 inches (9.347 meters) long with a wingspan of 43 feet, 4 inches (13.208 meters) and height of 11 feet (3.353 meters). Empty weight was 2,387 pounds (1,085 kilograms) and loaded weight was 3,472 pounds (1,578 kilograms). British-built DH.4s were powered by a 1,239-cubic-inch-displacement (20.32 liter) liquid-cooled Rolls-Royce Eagle overhead cam 60° V-12 engine which produced 375 horsepower. A gear-reduction system kept propeller r.p.m. below engine speed for greater efficiency.

The Liberty L12 aircraft engine was designed by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. It was a  water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine and it turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms). This engine was produced by Ford Motor Company, as well as the Buick and Cadillac Divisions of General Motors, The Lincoln Motor Company (which was formed by Henry Leland, the former manager of Cadillac, specifically to manufacture these aircraft engines), Marmon Motor Car Company and Packard. Hall-Scott was too small to produce engines in the numbers required.

Dayton-Wright DH-4, U.S. Army Air Service serial number A.S. 30130, was built at the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company factory in 1918. It was used for engineering tests at McCook Field, and carried project number P78 painted on its rudder. What became of the airplane after Captain White left it at Hazelhurst Field is not known.

Hazelhurst Field was renamed Roosevelt Field in 1920, in honor of Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, 95th Aero Squadron, son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, who was killed in aerial combat during World War I.

Earl French White was born at Minneapolis, Minnesota, 12 July 1888. He was the son of Clarence Otis White, a manufacturing engineer, and Harriet (“Hattie”) Isabel French White. He enlisted in the United States Army, 8 October 1910, and was assigned to the 11th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Myer, Virginia. In 1915 he transferred to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps. He completed flight training 27 March 1917.

Earl French White, U.S. Air Mail pilot. (Smithsonian National Postal Museum)

Earl French White was commissioned as a Captain, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, on 8 November 1917, and qualified as a Reserve Military Aviator in January 1918. In August 1918, Captain White was assigned to Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, and later, the Technical Flying Field in Dayton.

On 1 July 1919, Captain White was one of three pilots who flew the inaugural U.S Air Mail Service route from New York City, New York, to Chicago, Illinois. Captain White flew a DH-4 on the route segment from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, to Cleveland, Ohio. He carried 6 pouches containing 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of mail, and arrived at Cleveland at 9:30 a.m.

Earl French White married Miss Mary Esther Edmondson at Sarasota, Florida, 26 February 1923. Miss Edmondson had served in France during World War I as a civilian aide with the American Red Cross. They would have a daughter, Patricia.

From 14 April 1923 to 30 June 1925, White flew for the U.S. Air Mail Service at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, North Platte and Omaha, Nebraska, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. He flew scheduled night air mail from July 1924 to July 1925.

From 1928 to 1931, Earl White was a pilot for Pan American Airways in the Caribbean area.

Pilot Earl French White (left) and flight engineer/mechanic Henry Gerstung with Vanderbilt’s Sikorsky S-43, circa 1937. (Vanderbilt Museum)

In 1935, White was employed by William Kissam Vanderbilt II to fly his Sikorsky S-43 amphibian, NC-16825. Vanderbilt described White as “one of the most reliable and resourceful aviators in the game.”

William K. Vanderbilt II’s Sikorsky S-43 amphibian, NC-16925, serial number 4314. This airplane was impressed by the U.S. Army Air Corps 14 September 1941 and designated OA-11, 42-001. It was destroyed in a crash landing at Corcorite Bay, Trinidad, 5 November 1941. All five persons on board were killed.

As of 11 February 1937, White had logged a total of 5,370 hours, 50 minutes, of flight time.

During World War II, White was employed as a delivery pilot for the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 February 1920

Major Rudolph William Schroeder, Air Service, United States Army

27 February 1920: Major Rudolph William Schroeder, Chief Test Pilot of the Engineering Division, McCook Field, Ohio, flew a Packard Lepère LUSAC 11 biplane to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record Altitude of 10,093 meters (33,114 feet).¹ The biplane was powered by a turbosupercharged Liberty L-12 aircraft engine producing 443 horsepower.

There are differing accounts of what occurred during the flight. One report is that the LUSAC 11 created the very first contrail as it flew at altitudes and temperatures never before reached. Also, there are differences in explanations of some type of problem with Major Schroeder’s oxygen supply. A valve may have frozen, the regulator did not operate correctly, or one of his tanks was empty. Another source says that he ran out of fuel. But he apparently suffered hypoxia and began to lose consciousness. He may have lost control, or intentionally dived for lower altitude. The airplane dived nearly 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) before Schroeder pulled out and safely landed. He was in immediate need of medical attention, however. Recording instruments indicated that he had been exposed to a temperature of -67 °F. (-55 °C.). His goggles had iced over, and when he raised them, his eyes were injured by the severe cold.

Schroeder’s barograph recorded a peak altitude of 37,000 feet (11,277.6 meters). When the device was calibrated after landing, it indicated that his actual maximum altitude was 36,020 feet (10,979 meters). The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) delegated responsibility for certifying the record to the Aero Club of America, whose representatives apparently felt that procedures for setting the record had not been correctly followed, and declined to accept the altitude record. The National Bureau of Standards next evaluated the data and credited Rudolph Schroeder with having reached 33,180 feet (10,113 meters). Regardless, the current official record altitude, according to FAI, remains 10,093 meters (33,114 feet).

Major Rudolph W. Schroeder, USAAC, flying a Packard Lepère LUSAC 11 over McCook Filed, Ohio, 24 September 1919. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Rudolph W. Schroeder flying a Packard Lepère LUSAC 11, A.S. 40015,  over McCook Field, Ohio, 24 September 1919. (U.S. Air Force)

The Packard Lepère LUSAC 11 was a single-engine, two-place biplane fighter which was designed by the French aeronautical engineer, Capitaine Georges Lepère, who had previously designed the Section Technique de l’Aeronautique Dorand AR.1 reconnaissance airplane for France’s military air service. The new airplane was built in the United States by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan. It was a two-place fighter, or chasseur, light bomber, and observation aircraft, and was armed with four machine guns.

The LUSAC 11 was 25 feet, 3-1/8 inches (7.699 meters) long. The upper and lower wings had an equal span of 41 feet, 7¼ inches (12.681 meters), and equal chord of 5 feet, 5¾ inches (1.670 meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 5 feet, 1/8-inch (1.527 meters) and the lower wing was staggered 2 feet, 15/16-inch (0.633 meters) behind the upper wing. The wings’ incidence was +1°. Upper and lower wings were equipped with ailerons, and had no sweep or dihedral. The height of the Packard Lepère, sitting on its landing gear, was 9 feet, 7 inches (2.921 meters).

Packard Lepère LUSAC 11 P53, A.S. 40015, left profile. The turbocharger is mounted above the propeller driveshaft. (U.S.. Air Force)

The fuselage was a wooden structure with a rectangular cross section. It was covered with three layers of veneer, (2 mahogany, 1 white wood) with a total thickness of 3/32-inch (2.38 millimeters). The fuselage had a maximum width of 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) and maximum depth of 4 feet, 0 inches (1.219 meters).

The wings were also of wooden construction, with two spruce spars and spruce ribs. Three layers of wood veneer covered the upper surfaces.

The Packard Lepère had an empty weight of 2,561.5 pounds (1,161.9 kilograms) and its gross weight was 3,746.0 pounds (1,699.2 kilograms).

The Packard Lepère was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Packard-built Liberty 12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine, which produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller with a diameter of 9 feet, 10 inches (2.997 meters). The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

The engine coolant radiator was positioned horizontally in the center section of the airplane’s upper wing. Water flowed through the radiator at a rate of 80 gallons (303 liters) per minute.

Packard-Lèpere LUSAC-11 P53, A.S. 40015. (U.S. Air Force)

The LUSAC 11 had a maximum speed of 130.4 miles per hour (209.9 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), 127.6 miles per hour (205.4 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), 122.4 miles per hour (197.0 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), 110.0 miles per hour (177.0 kilometers per hours) at 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) and 94.0 miles per hour (151.3 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). Its cruising speed was 112 miles per hour (180 was kilometers per hour). The airplane could climb to 5,000 feet in 4 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 20,000 feet in 36 minutes, 36 seconds. In standard configuration, the LUSAC 11 had a service ceiling of 20,200 feet (6,157 meters). Its range was 320 miles (515 kilometers).

Packard Lepère LUSAC 11, P54, S.C. 42138 (U.S. Air Force)

Armament consisted of two fixed M1918 Marlin .30-caliber machine guns mounted on the right side of the fuselage, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc, with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and two M1918 Lewis .30-caliber machine guns on a flexible mount with 970 rounds of ammunition.

The Air Service had ordered 3,525 of these airplanes, but when the War ended only 28 had been built. The contract was cancelled.

The only Packard Lepère LUSAC 11 in existence, serial number A.S. 42133, is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

 Packard Lepère LUSAC 11, S.C. 42133, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Packard Lepère LUSAC 11, A.S 42133, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8229: 10 093 m (33,114 feet)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 October 1922

1st Lieutenant Harold Ross Harris, Air Service United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

20 October 1922: 1st Lieutenant Harold Ross Harris, Air Service, United States Army, the Chief, Flight Test Branch, Engineering Division, at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, was test flying a Loening Aeronautical Engineering Company PW-2A monoplane, a single-engine, single-seat fighter. The PW-2A, serial number A.S. 64388, had experimental balance-type ailerons. During this flight, Lieutenant Harris engaged in simulated air combat with Lieutenant Muir Fairchild (future Vice Chief of Staff, United States Air Force) who was flying a Thomas-Morse MB-3.

While banking the PW-2A into a right turn, Harris’ control stick began to vibrate violently from side to side and the airplane’s wings were “torn apart.” With the Loening diving uncontrollably, Harris jumped from the cockpit at approximately 2,500 feet (762 meters). After free-falling about 2,000 feet (610 meters), he pulled the lanyard on his parachute which immediately deployed. Harris then descended with his parachute providing aerodynamic deceleration, coming safely to earth in the back yard of a home at 335 Troy Street. He suffered minor bruises when he landed on a trellis in the garden.

Loening Aeronautical Engineering Company PW-2A, A.S. 64388. This is the airplane from which Lieutenant Harold R. Harris “bailed out” over Dayton, Ohio, 20 October 1922. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Harris’ PW-2A crashed into a yard at 403 Valley Street, three blocks away. It was completely destroyed.

This was the very first time a free-fall parachute had been used in an actual inflight emergency. Lieutenant Harris became the first member of the Irvin Air Chute Company’s “Caterpillar Club.”

Crash scene at 403 Valley Street, Dayton, Ohio, 20 October 1922. (U.S. Air Force)

The Pittsburgh Post reported:

Flyer Quits Plane in Parachute, Saves Life; Unique Case

     Dayton, O., Oct. 20.—Leaping from his Loenig [sic] monoplace in a parachute when the plane became uncontrollable over North Dayton today, Lieutenant Harold R. Harris, chief of the flying section of McCook Field, escaped death when his plane crashed to earth.

     Technical data, officials at McCook Field said, show that Lieutenant Harris’ escape is the first time an air pilot has ever actually saved himself by use of a parachute. A mail plane flyer leaped in a parachute over Chicago several years ago, but the necessity of his leaving the plane was questioned.

     Harris won the commercial plane event in the Pulitzer races in Detroit last week, flying the “Honeymoon Express” plane.

The Pittsburgh Post, Saturday, 21 October 1922, Vol. 80, No. 303, Page 1, Column 1

Harold R. Harris was born at Chicago, Illinois, 20 December 1895, the first of four children of Ross Allen Harris, M.D., and Mae Ermine Plumb Harris. He enlisted as a private in the Aviation Section, Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps (E.R.C.), 2 May 1917. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps (O.R.C.) on 15 December 1917. Harris was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant on 19 January 1918. His commission was vacated 18 September 1920 and commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920.

Married Grace C. Harris, circa 1920. They had two children.

Ross attended the Air Service Engineering School, graduating in 1922. He also earned a Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California (“Caltech”).

Harris left the Air Service in 1926. He founded the world’s first aerial crop dusting business, the Huff Daland Company. Next he became a vice president and chief of operations for Grace Airways, a joint venture of Grace Shipping and Pan American World Airways, providing passenger service between South America and the West Coast of the United States.

During World War II, Harris, using his airline experience, helped to establish the Air Transport Command. In 1942, he was commissioned as a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps. By 1945, he was Chief, Air Transport Command, with the rank of Brigadier General.

Following World War II, Harris joined American Overseas Airlines, which soon was absorbed by Pan American. Harris was once again a vice president for Pan Am.

In 1955, Harris became president of Northwest Airlines.

Brigadier General Harold Ross Harris, United States Army Air Corps (Retired) died 28 July 1988 at the age of 92 years.

Harold Ross Harris, circa 1950. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Harold Ross Harris, circa 1950. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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