Tag Archives: McDonnell Aircraft Corporation

15 April 1959

This McDonnell RF-101C-60-MC Voodoo, 56-055, is the sister ship of the Voodoo flown by Captain Edwards to set a World Speed Record, 15 April 1959. (Unattributed)
This McDonnell RF-101C-60-MC Voodoo, 56-055, is the sister ship of the airplane flown by Captain Edwards to set a World Speed Record, 15 April 1959. (Hervé Cariou)
Captain George A. Edwards, Jr., in teh cockpit of his McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo, after setting an FAI World Record for Speed. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain George A. Edwards, Jr., in the cockpit of his McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo, after setting an FAI World Record for Speed. (U.S. Air Force)

15 April 1959: Captain George A. Edwards, Jr., United States Air Force, assigned to the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 500 Kilometers (310.686 miles) Without Payload at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Captain Edwards flew a McDonnell RF-101C-60-MC Voodoo, serial number 56-054. His speed over the course averaged 1,313.677 kilometers per hour (816.281 miles per hour).¹

Captain Edwards told The Nashville Tennessean, “The flight was routine. The plane ran like a scalded dog.”

Nine days earlier, Colonel Edward H. Taylor flew another McDonnell RF-101C to a World Record for Speed Over a 1000 Kilometer Course of 1,126.62 kilometers per hour (700.05 miles per hour).²

McDonnell RF-101C-65-MC Voodoo 56-068, very similar to the aircraft flown by Captain Edwards. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell RF-101C-65-MC Voodoo 56-068, of the 363rd Tactical Reconniassance Wing, Shaw AFB, is very similar to the Voodoo flown by Captain Edwards. 15 April 1969. (U.S. Air Force)

George Allie Edwards, Jr., was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1929, the son of George Allie Edwards, an automobile agent, and Veriar (“Vera”) Lenier Edwards. When his father died, his mother, younger sister Jane, and George went to live with Mrs. Edwards’ parents at Crossville, Tennessee. He attended Cumberland High School and studied at the University of Tennessee. He took flight lessons at the age of 15 and accumulated more than 2,000 flight hours over the next six years.

In 1951, during the Korean War, Edwards entered the United States Air Force as an aviation cadet. He graduated from flight school at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was assigned to the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Kimpo Air Base, South Korea. As a pilot of North American RF-51D Mustang and Lockheed RF-80 Shooting Star photographic reconnaissance airplanes, he flew 101 combat missions.

His next assignment was as a jet instructor at Bryan Air Force Base, Texas, and then an F-100 pilot with the 354th Tactical fighter Wing, and then served as chief of safety and standardization for the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. It was during this assignment that he set the world record.

Major George A. Edwards climbs to the cockpit of a McDonnell RF-4C Phantom II. (Lake Travis View)
Lieutenant Colonel George A. Edwards climbs to the cockpit of a McDonnell RF-4C Phantom II. (Lake Travis View)

From 1959 to 1962, Edwards was an advisor to the West German Air Force. In recognition for his service, the chief of staff awarded him Luftwaffe pilot’s wings. For the next several years, he rotated through a series of training assignments, education and staff assignments.

During the Vietnam War, Lieutenant Colonel Edwards commanded the 19th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron which was equipped with the McDonnell RF-4C Phantom II reconnaissance variant. He also commanded a detachment of the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, and flew the Martin RB-57 Canberra. Edwards flew another 213 combat missions.

Colonel Edwards went on to command the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, (which he had previously served with during the Korean War), Bergstom Air Force Base, Texas; as a brigadier general, was vice commander of 12th Air Force; commander 314th Air Division, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, and also commanded the Korean Air Defense Sector. Edwards was promoted to Major General 1 August 1976, with an effective date of rank of 1 July 1973.

Major General George A. Edwards, Jr., United States Air Force.

During his career in the United States Air Force, Major General George A. Edwards, Jr., was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with four oak leaf clusters (5 awards), the Bronze Star, Air Medal with 19 oak leaf clusters (20 awards), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation emblem, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon with four oak leaf clusters (5 awards).

General Edwards retired from the Air Force 1 March 1984 after 33 years of service. As of 2015, the General and Mrs. Edwards live near Austin, Texas.

McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo 56-042, 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell RF-101C-60-MC Voodoo 56-042, 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force)

The RF-101C Voodoo was an unarmed reconnaissance variant of the F-101C fighter. It was 69 feet, 4 inches (21.133 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 8 inches (12.090 meters). The height was 18 feet (5.486 meters). Empty weight for the RF-101C was 26,136 pounds (11,855 kilograms), with a maximum takeoff weight of 51,000 pounds (23,133 kilograms).

Two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-13 turbojet engines. The J57 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet which had a 16-stage compressor (9 low- and 7 high-pressure stages), 8 combustors and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The J57-P-13 was rated at 10,200 pounds of thrust (45.37 kilonewtons), and 15,800 pounds (70.28 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

The aircraft had a maximum speed of 1,012 miles per hour (1,629 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The service ceiling was 55,300 feet (16,855 meters). The Voodoo could carry up to three drop tanks, giving a total fuel capacity of 3,150 gallons (11,294 liters) and a maximum range of 2,145 miles (3,452 kilometers).

The RF-101C carried six cameras in its nose. Two Fairchild KA-1s were aimed downward, with four KA-2s facing forward, down and to each side.

Beginning in 1954, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation built 807 F-101 Voodoos. 166 of these were the RF-101C variant. This was the only F-101 Voodoo variant to be used in combat during the Vietnam War. The RF-101C remained in service with the U.S. Air Force until 1979.

This McDonnell RF-101C-45-Voodoo, 56-0183, of the 20th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, is similar in appearance to the Voodoo flown by Captain Edwards, 15 April 1959. (Unattributed.
This McDonnell RF-101C-45-Voodoo, 56-0183, of the 20th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, is similar in appearance to the Voodoo flown by Captain Edwards, 15 April 1959. (Unattributed)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8858

² FAI Record File Number 8928

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 April 1959

COL Edward H. Taylor, USAF, with McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo. (U.S. Air Force via aero-web)

6 April 1959: At Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California, Colonel Edward Hamilton Taylor, United States Air Force, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 1000 Kilometer Course of 1,126.62 kilometers per hour (700.05 miles per hour),¹ flying a McDonnell RF-101C-75-MC Voodoo, serial number 56-0119.

The F-101 Voodoo was the first production airplane capable of speeds over 1,000 miles per hour (1,609.34 kilometers per hour). Colonel Taylor’s RF-101C was an unarmed photographic reconnaissance variant.

Nine days later, Captain George A. Edwards, Jr., flew another RF-101C to a World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 500 Kilometers of 1,313.677 kilometers per hour (816.281 miles per hour).²

Edward Taylor was a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, flying reconnaissance missions over Saipan and Iwo Jima in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, F-80 fighters in Korea and over North Vietnam in both the RF-101C and the RF-4C Phantom II. A Command Pilot with over 5,000 hours of flight experience, he had been twice awarded the Legion of Merit; the Distinguished Flying Cross, also twice, and fifteen Air Medals.

His record-setting Voodoo had been on display at Bergstrom AFB, Austin, Texas, Colonel Taylor’s home town. The airplane’s nose section with its reconnaissance array is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.

Colonel Edward H. Taylor’s record-setting McDonnell RF-101C-75-MC Voodoo, 56-0119, at Edwards AFB, April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)

The RF-101C Voodoo was an unarmed reconnaissance variant of the F-101C fighter. It was 69 feet, 4 inches (21.133 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 8 inches (12.090 meters). The height was 18 feet (5.486 meters). Empty weight for the RF-101C was 26,136 pounds (11,855 kilograms), with a maximum takeoff weight of 51,000 pounds (23,133 kilograms).

The F-101C was powered by two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-13 afterburning turbojet engines. The J57 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet which had a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7 high-pressure stages), and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The J57-P-13 was rated at 10,200 pounds of thrust (45.37 kilonewtons), and 15,800 pounds (70.28 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

The F-101C had a maximum speed of 1,012 miles per hour (1,629 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The service ceiling was 55,300 feet (16,855 meters).

The Voodoo could carry up to three drop tanks, giving a total fuel capacity of 3,150 gallons (11,294 liters) and a maximum range of 2,145 miles (3,452 kilometers).

The RF-101C carried six cameras in its nose. Two Fairchild KA-1s were aimed downward, with four KA-2s facing forward, down and to each side.

Beginning in 1954, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation built 807 F-101 Voodoos. 166 of these were the RF-101C variant. This was the only F-101 Voodoo variant to be used in combat during the Vietnam War. The RF-101C remained in service with the U.S. Air Force until 1979.

McDonnell RF-101C-75-MC Voodoo 56-0119 (NASM)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8928

² FAI Record File Number 8858

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 April 1962

McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II Bu. No. 149449 climbing during Project High Jump. (U.S. Navy)

3 April 1962: At NAS Point Mugu, Ventura County, California, a future NASA astronaut, United States Navy test pilot Commander John Watts Young, set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) time-to-altitude world record by flying his McDonnell Aircraft Corporation F4H-1 Phantom II, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (Bu. No.) 149449, from the surface to 25,000 meters (82,021 feet) in 3 minutes, 50.44 seconds.¹

Commander John W. Young, United States Navy, with a McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II. (U.S. Navy)
Commander John W. Young, United States Navy, with a McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II. (U.S. Navy)

John Young had set another FAI record on 21 February, reaching a height of 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 34.523 seconds with the Phantom II at NAS Brunswick, Maine.² Young set a total of 21 FAI records. Three remain current.

This was one of a series of time-to-altitude record flights flown at with F4H-1 149449 during February, March and April 1962. Flown by four other pilots, 149449 also set time-to-altitude records for 3,000, 6,000, 9,000, 12,000, 15,000, and 20,000 meters.

Point Mugu’s Runway 21 ends on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and the elevation is 9 feet (2.7 meters) above Sea Level. The restricted airspace of the Pacific Missile Test Range assured that these flights could be conducted safely and without interfering with civilian air traffic. The U.S. Air Force had used the same runway when it conducted time-to-altitude record flights with a Lockheed F-104A Starfighter in 1958.

John Young’s McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 149449. (U.S. Navy)

John Young was a test pilot assigned to the Naval Air Test Center, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, where he was a project officer for F4H and F8U armament systems. He was selected as a NASA astronaut and served as Pilot of Gemini III; backup pilot, Gemini IV; Commander for Gemini 10; Command Module Pilot on Apollo 10; back-up commander for Apollo 13; Commander, Apollo 16; and back-up commander for Apollo 17. Later, he was Commander of the maiden flight of the space shuttle Columbia STS-1 and again for STS-9. He was in line to command STS-61J.

Record-setting McDonnell F-4B-11-MC Phantom II, Bu. No. 149449, VF-151, USS Coral Sea (CV-43). (U.S. Navy)
Record-setting McDonnell F-4B-11-MC Phantom II, Bu. No. 149449, VF-151, USS Coral Sea (CV-43). (U.S. Navy)

McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II Bu. No. 149449, redesignated F-4B-11-MC, served with VF-96 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-61), VF-151 aboard USS Coral Sea (CV-43) and was later assigned to Marine Air Group 13, VMFA-323, “Death Rattlers,” based at Chu Lai Air Base, Republic of South Vietnam.

On 2 August 1968, 149449 was hit by small arms fire near An Hoa, 17 miles southeast of Da Nang. On returning the damaged airplane to Chu Lai, the Phantom’s landing gear could not be extended. The pilot, Major DanieI I. Carroll, USMC, and Weapons System Officer, First Lieutenant R.C. Brown, USMC, ejected one mile (1.6 kilometers) off the coast. Both were rescued by a U.S. Army helicopter.

The record-setting Phantom II was lost in the South China Sea.

¹ FAI Record File Number 9092

² FAI Record File Number 9078

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 March 1965

Gemini III lifts off at Launch Complex 19, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 14:24:00 UTC, 23 March 1965. (NASA)
Gemini III lifts off at Launch Complex 19, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 14:24:00 UTC, 23 March 1965. (NASA)

23 March 1965: At 14:24:00 UTC, Gemini III was launched aboard a Titan II GLV  rocket from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Major Virgil I. (“Gus”) Grissom, United States Air Force, a Project Mercury veteran, was the Spacecraft Commander, and Lieutenant Commander John W. Young, United States Navy, was the pilot.

The purpose of the mission was to test spacecraft orbital maneuvering capabilities that would be necessary in later flights of the Gemini and Apollo programs. Gemini III made three orbits of the Earth, and splashed down after 4 hours, 52 minutes, 31 seconds. Miscalculations of the Gemini capsule’s aerodynamics caused the spacecraft to miss the intended splash down point by 50 miles (80 kilometers). Gemini III splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, north east of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The recovery ship was USS Intrepid (CV-11).

Gus Grissom would later command the flight crew of Apollo 1. He was killed with his crew during the tragic fire  during a pre-launch test, 27 January 1967.

John Young served as Spacecraft Commander for Gemini 10, Command Module Pilot on Apollo 10, back-up commander for Apollo 13, commander Apollo 16, and back-up commander for Apollo 17. Later, he was commander of the maiden flight of the space shuttle Columbia STS-1 and again for STS-9 and was in line to command STS-61J.

The flight crew of Gemini III, John W. Young and Virgil I. Grissom. (NASA)
The flight crew of Gemini III, Lieutenant Commander John W. Young, U.S. Navy, and Major Virgil I. Grissom, U.S. Air Force. (NASA)

The two-man Gemini spacecraft was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, the same company that built the earlier Mercury space capsule. The spacecraft consisted of a reentry module and an adapter section. It had an overall length of 19 feet (5.791 meters) and a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters) at the base of the adapter section. The reentry module was 11 feet (3.353 meters) long with a diameter of 7.5 feet (2.347 meters). The weight of the Gemini varied from ship to ship but was approximately 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms)

The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin SM-68B intercontinental ballistic missile. It was assembled at Martin’s Middle River, Maryland plant so as not to interfere with the production of the ICBM at Denver, Colorado. Twelve GLVs were ordered by the Air Force for the Gemini Program.

The Titan II GLV was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket. The first stage was 63 feet (19.202 meters) long with a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters). The second stage was 27 feet (8.230 meters) long, with the same diameter. The 1st stage was powered by an Aerojet Engineering Corporation LR-87-7 engine which combined two combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles with a single turbopump unit. The engine was fueled by a hypergolic combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. Ignition occurred spontaneously as the two components were combined in the combustion chambers. The LR-87-7 produced 430,000 pounds of thrust. It was not throttled and could not be shut down and restarted. The 2nd stage used an Aerojet LR-91 engine which produced 100,000 pounds of thrust.

The Gemini/Titan II GLV combination had a total height of 109 feet (33.223 meters) and weighed approximately 340,000 pounds (154,220 kilograms) when fueled.

The Gemini III spacecraft is displayed at the Grissom Memorial Museum, Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell, Indiana.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 March 1966, 17:41:02 UTC, T minus Zero

Gemini VIII lifts off from Launch Complex 19, Kennedy Space Center, 17:41:02 UTC, 16 March 1966. (NASA)
Gemini VIII lifts off from Launch Complex 19, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, 17:41:02 UTC, 16 March 1966. (NASA)

16 March 1966: At 17:41:02 UTC (12:41:02 p.m. Eastern Standard Time) Gemini VIII, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and David R. Scott, lifted off from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida, aboard a Titan II GLV booster. Their mission was to rendezvous and dock with an Agena Target Vehicle launched earlier aboard an Atlas rocket.

David R. Scott and Neil A. Armstrong, flight crew of Gemini VIII. (NASA)
David R. Scott and Neil A. Armstrong, flight crew of Gemini VIII. (NASA)

The docking, the first ever of two vehicles in Earth orbit, was successful, however after about 30 minutes the combined vehicles begin rolling uncontrollably. The Gemini capsule separated from the Agena, and for a few minutes all seemed normal. But the rolling started again, reaching as high as 60 r.p.m.

The astronauts were in grave danger. Armstrong succeeded in stopping the roll but the Gemini’s attitude control fuel was dangerously low. The cause was determined to be a stuck thruster, probably resulting from an electrical short circuit.

The mission was aborted and the capsule returned to Earth after 10 hours, 41 minutes, landing in the Pacific Ocean. U.S. Air  Force pararescue jumper (“PJs”) parachuted from a C-54 and attached a flotation collar to the Gemini capsule. The astronauts were recovered by the Gearing-class destroyer USS Leonard F. Mason (DD-852).

The Gemini VIII spacecraft is displayed at the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum, Wapakoneta, Ohio.

Gemini VIII with flotation collar. (NASA)

The two-man Gemini spacecraft was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, the same company that built the earlier Mercury space capsule. The spacecraft consisted of a reentry module and an adapter section. It had an overall length of 19 feet (5.791 meters) and a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters) at the base of the adapter section. The reentry module was 11 feet (3.353 meters) long with a diameter of 7.5 feet (2.347 meters). The weight of the Gemini varied from ship to ship but was approximately 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms)

The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin SM-68B intercontinental ballistic missile. It was assembled at Martin’s Middle River, Maryland plant so as not to interfere with the production of the ICBM at Denver, Colorado. Twelve GLVs were ordered by the Air Force for the Gemini Program.

The Titan II GLV was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket. The first stage was 63 feet (19.202 meters) long with a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters). The second stage was 27 feet (8.230 meters) long, with the same diameter. The 1st stage was powered by an Aerojet Engineering Corporation LR-87-7 engine which combined two combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles with a single turbopump unit. The engine was fueled by a hypergolic combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. Ignition occurred spontaneously as the two components were combined in the combustion chambers. The LR-87-7 produced 430,000 pounds of thrust. It was not throttled and could not be shut down and restarted. The 2nd stage used an Aerojet LR-91 engine which produced 100,000 pounds of thrust.

The Gemini/Titan II GLV combination had a total height of 109 feet (33.223 meters) and weighed approximately 340,000 pounds (154,220 kilograms) when fueled.

The Atlas-Agena Target vehicle takes off at Launch Complex 14, 17:00:00 UTC, 16 March 1966. (NASA)
The Atlas-Agena Target Vehicle takes off at Launch Complex 14, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, 15:00:03 UTC, 16 March 1966. (NASA)

The docking, the first ever of two vehicles in Earth orbit, is successful, however after about 30 minutes the combined vehicles begin rolling uncontrollably. The Gemini capsule separates and for a few minutes all seems normal. But the rolling starts again, reaching as high as 60 r.p.m. The astronauts are in grave danger. Armstrong succeeds in stopping the roll but the Gemini’s attitude control fuel is dangerously low. The cause is determined to be a stuck thruster. The mission is aborted and the capsule returns to Earth after 10 hours, 41 minutes, landing in the Pacific Ocean.

Agena Target Vehicle as seen from Gemini VIII. (NASA)
Agena Target Vehicle as seen from Gemini VIII. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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