Tag Archives: McDonnell Aircraft Corporation

15 May 1963, 13:04:13.106 UTC, T plus 00:00:00.106

Mercury Atlas 9 (MA-9), consisting of  Faith 7 and Atlas 130-D, lifts off from Launch Complex 14 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 13:04:13 UTC, 15 May 1963. (NASA)

15 May 1963: At 8:04:13.106 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, Mercury-Atlas 9, carrying NASA astronaut, L. Gordon Cooper aboard Faith 7, lifted off from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, Florida. Cooper reported, “The liftoff was smooth, but very definite, the acceleration was very pleasant. The booster had a very good feel to it and it felt like we were real on the go, there.” The maximum acceleration experienced during launch was 7.6 gs.

Faith 7 separated from the Atlas booster at T+00:05:05.5.3 and entered low Earth orbit with an apogee of 165.9 statute miles (267.0 kilometers) and perigee of 100.3 statute miles (161.4 kilometers). The orbital period was 88 minutes, 45 seconds. The spacecraft’s velocity was 25,714.0 feet per second (7,837.6 meters per second), or 17,532.3 miles per hour (28,215.5 kilometers per hour).

Major L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., United States Air Force. NASA Astronaut. (March 6, 1927 – October 4, 2004). Major Cooper is wearing a modified U.S. Navy Mark IV full-pressure suit produced by B.F. Goodrich. (NASA)

MA-9 was the final flight of Project Mercury. Gordon Cooper flew 22.5 orbits. Due to electrical system problems that began on the 21st orbit, he had to fly a manual reentry which resulted in the most accurate landing of the Mercury program.

The spacecraft’s three retrorockets fired 5 second intervals beginning at T+33:59:30. 34 hours, 19 minutes, 49 seconds after lift off, Faith 7 “splashed down” approximately 70 miles (112.7 kilometers) southeast of Midway Atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, just 4.4 miles (7.1 kilometers) from the primary recovery ship, the United States Navy Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge (CV-33).

Mercury spacecraft profile with dimensions. (NASA)

The Mercury spacecraft, which Cooper named Faith 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri, which would also build the follow-on, two-place Gemini spacecraft. It was the 20th and final Mercury capsule to be built, and was one of four which were modified to support a day-long mission. Some items considered unnecessary were deleted and extra oxygen and battery capacity was added.

Designed to carry one pilot, the Mercury space craft could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by thrusters. The space capsule was truncated cone with sides angled 20° from the longitudinal axis. It was 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters) long and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.892 meters). The total height of the spacecraft, from the tip of the aero spike to the booster adapter, was 26 feet, 1.26 inches (7.957 meters). Faith 7 weighed 4,330.82 pounds (1,964.43 kilograms) at liftoff.

During flight outside the atmosphere, the Mercury spacecraft could be controlled in its pitch, roll and yaw axes by hydrogen peroxide-fueled reaction control thrusters. Both manual and automatic attitude control were available. It could not accelerate or decelerate (except for reentry) so it could not change its orbit.

The spacecraft cabin was pressurized to 5.5 psi with 100% oxygen. Gordon Cooper wore a modified  B.F. Goodrich Mark IV full-pressure suit and flight helmet for protection in the event that cabin pressure was lost. Cooper’s suit varied considerably from those worn by previous Mercury astronauts.

Mercury-Atlas 9 at Laucnh Complex 14. The gantry has been pulled back, but the rocket has not been filled with propellants. (NASA)
Mercury-Atlas 9 at Launch Complex 14. The gantry has been pulled back, but the rocket has not been filled with propellants. Two men at the lower right of the image provide scale.(NASA)

The rocket, a “1-½ stage” liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 109-D, was built by the  Convair Division of General Dynamics at San Diego, California. It was developed from a U.S. Air Force SM-65 Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile, modified for use as a “man-rated” orbital launch vehicle.

The LV-3B was 65 feet (19.812 meters) long from the base to the Mercury adapter section, and the tank section is 10 feet (3.038 meters) in diameter. The complete Mercury-Atlas orbital launch vehicle is 93 feet (28.436 meters) tall, including the escape tower. When ready for launch it weighed approximately 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms).

Diagram of Atlas LV-3B with Metric dimensions. (Space Launch Report)

The Atlas’ three engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. Two Rocketdyne LR89-NA-5 engines and one LR105-NA-5 produced 341,140 pounds (1,517.466 kilonewtons) of thrust. The rocket was fueled by a highly-refined kerosene, RP-1, with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

Faith 7 is displayed at the Space Center Houston, the visitor center for the Johnson Space Flight Center, Houston, Texas.

Mercury-Atlas 9 at Launch Complex 14. (NASA GPN-2000-000609)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

5 May 1961, 13:34:13.48 UTC, T plus 00:00:00.48

Mercury-Redstone 3 lifts off from LC-5, 09:34:13 EST, 5 May 1961. (NASA)
Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., astronaut. (NASA)
Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., Astronaut. (NASA)

At 09:34:13.48 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, 5 May 1961, Mercury-Redstone 3 lifted off from Launch Complex 5 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. On board was a NASA Astronaut, Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., United States Navy. Shepard had named his spacecraft Freedom 7.

This was the very first time that an American astronaut had been carried into space aboard a rocket and came 23 days after Soviet Union Cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin had completed one orbit of the Earth.

During the launch, acceleration reached 6.3 gs. The Redstone’s engine shut down at T+02:21.3, with the rocket having reached a velocity of 7,388 feet per second (2,251.9 meters per second). 10 seconds later, the Mercury spacecraft separated from the Redstone booster. The spacecraft’s maximum speed was 5,134 miles per hour (8,262.4 kilometers per hour). For the next 5 minutes, 4 seconds, Alan Shepard was “weightless.” Freedom 7 reached a peak altitude of 101.2 nautical miles (116.46 statute miles/187.42 kilometers), 0.9 nautical miles (1.7 kilometers) higher than planned.

Alan B. Shepard, Jr., seated in the cockpit of Freedom 7 before launch, 5 May 1961. (NASA)

Alan Shepard’s flight was suborbital. The rocket launched the capsule on a ballistic trajectory. During the flight, Shepard demonstrated the use of manually controlled thrusters to orient the Mercury capsule in three axes.

Freedom 7 began reentry to the atmosphere at T+07:38. Deceleration forces reached 11.0 gs. Shepard manually controlled the vehicle’s attitude, and once correctly oriented for reentry, reverted to automatic control. With the blunt (bottom) end of the spacecraft forward, aerodynamic drag slowed the capsule. A spherical-segment ablative Beryllium heat shield protected the space ship and its passenger.

On reaching the lower atmosphere, the capsule’s speed was reduced by a 63-foot (19.2 meter) diameter ring-sail parachute, and a “landing bag” deployed from the base of the spacecraft to provide an impact cushion. The landing, or “splash down,” took place in the Atlantic Ocean, 263.1 nautical miles (302.8 statute miles/487.3 kilometers) down range, 6.8 nautical miles (7.8 miles/12.6 kilometers) farther than planned. (N. 75° 53′, W. 27° 13.7′)

The total duration of Alan Shepard’s flight was 15 minutes, 28 seconds. All mission objectives were accomplished and no malfunctions occurred.

Alan B. Shepard, Jr., being hoisted aboard the Sikorsky HUS-1 Seahorse helicopter, N. 75° 53′, W. 27° 13.7′, in the Atlantic Ocean, 5 May 1961. (NASA)

Eleven minutes after splash down, Commander Shepard was hoisted from the capsule to a hovering U.S. Marine Corps HUS-1 Sea Horse (Sikorsky S-58) helicopter of Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (Light) 262 (HMR(L)-262).¹ The helicopter then lifted the Mercury capsule and flew to the nearby U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class anti-submarine aircraft carrier, USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39). The Mercury capsule was returned to Cape Canaveral for inspection and found to be in excellent condition.

U.S. Marine Corps HUS-1 Seahorse (Sikorsky S-58) Bu. No. 148767 of HMR(L)-262 hovers while hoisting Alan Shepard from Freedom 7 after his sub-orbital flight, 5 May 1961. The Mercury capsule will also be lifted from the ocean by the helicopter and carried to USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39). (NASA)
USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39), 1 July 1960. (U.S. Navy)

Freedom 7 was the seventh of twenty Mercury capsules built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation at St. Louis, Missouri, which would also build the follow-on, two-place Gemini spacecraft. It was delivered to Cape Canaveral 9 December 1960.

The space capsule was truncated cone with sides angled 20° from the longitudinal axis. It was 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters) long and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.892 meters). The total height of the spacecraft, from the tip of the aero spike to the booster adapter, was 26 feet, 1.26 inches (7.957 meters). At launch, Freedom 7 weighed 4,040.28 pounds (1,832.64 kilograms).

Project Mercury spacecraft under construction at McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. (NASA)

During flight outside the atmosphere, the Mercury spacecraft could be controlled in its pitch, roll and yaw axes by hydrogen peroxide-fueled reaction control thrusters. Both manual and automatic attitude control were available. It could not accelerate or decelerate (except for reentry), so it could not change its orbit.

The spacecraft cabin was pressurized to 5.5 psi (0.38 Bar) with 100% oxygen. The astronaut wore a B.F. Goodrich Mark IV Model 3 Type I full-pressure suit and flight helmet for protection in the event that cabin pressure was lost.

Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle with dimensions. (NASA)

The Redstone MRLV rocket was a redesigned, “man rated” version of the Chrysler Corporation Missile Division-built United States Army M8 Redstone nuclear-armed medium range ballistic missile (MRBM). It was lengthened to provide greater fuel capacity, a pressurized instrumentation section was added, the control systems were simplified for greater reliability, and an inflight abort sensing system was installed. The rocket fuel was changed from hydrazine to ethyl alcohol.

The cylindrical booster was  59.00 feet (17.983 meters) long and 5 feet, 10 inches (1.778 meters) in diameter. The rocket had four guidance fins with rudders mounted at the tail section. (Interestingly, the Redstone stood freely on the launch pad. No hold-downs were used. The guidance fins supported the entire weight of the vehicle.)

Compare the U.S. Army M8 Redstone medium-range ballistic missile in this photograph to the Mercury-Redstone launch vehicle in the photograph above. This rocket, CC-1002, was the first Block 1 tactical rocket, photographed at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, 16 May 1958. (NASA)

The Redstone MRLV was powered by a single liquid-fueled NAA 75-110-A7 rocket engine built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. The MR-3 A7 produced 78,860 pounds of thrust (350.79 kilonewtons) at Sea Level, and approximately 89,000 pounds (395.89 kilonewtons) in vacuum, burning ethyl alcohol with liquid oxygen.

The total vehicle height of Mercury-Redstone 3, including the booster, adapter, capsule and escape tower, was 83.38 feet (25.414 meters). The total MR-3 vehicle launch weight was 66,098 pounds (29,982 kilograms).

Alan B. Shepard, Jr. is credited with two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for this flight:

FAI Record File Num #9519 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: K (Space records)
Sub-Class: K-1 (Suborbital missions)
Category: Spacecraft with one astronaut
Group: General category
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 186.307 km
Date: 1961-05-05
Course/Location: Cape Canaveral, FL (USA)
Claimant Alan B. Shepard, Jr (USA)
Spacecraft: NASA Mercury Redstone MR-7 / Capsule Mercury Spacecraft n°7

FAI Record File Num #9520 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: K (Space records)
Sub-Class: K-1 (Suborbital missions)
Category: Spacecraft with one astronaut
Group: General category
Type of record: Greatest mass lifted to altitude
Performance: 1 832.51 kg
Date: 1961-05-05
Course/Location: Cape Canaveral, FL (USA)
Claimant Alan B. Shepard, Jr (USA)
Spacecraft: NASA Mercury Redstone MR-7 / Capsule Mercury Spacecraft n°7

The flight of Freedom 7 was the first manned spaceflight in the 50-year history of the NASA program.¹ Alan Shepard would later command Apollo 14, the third successful manned lunar landing mission, in 1971.

Alan Shepard’s Mercury spacecraft, Freedom 7, is on display at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts.

Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 on display at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts.

¹ Sikorsky HUS-1 Sea Horse, Bu. No. 148767, modex ET-44. Sikorsky serial number 581318.

²  From the liftoff of Mercury-Redstone 3 until wheel stop of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-135), the era of NASA’s Manned Spaceflight Programs lasted 50 years, 2 months, 15 days, 20 hours, 23 minutes, 41 seconds.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

4 May 1967

Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force, winc Commander, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Ratchitani RTAFB.
Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force, Wing Commander, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Rachitani RTAFB. (U.S. Air Force)

4 May 1967: Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force, commanding the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Ubon RTAFB, shot down his second enemy airplane during the Vietnam War.

Colonel Olds had flown Lockheed P-38 Lightning and North American P-51 Mustang fighters during World War II. He is officially credited with shooting down 12 enemy airplanes over Europe and destroying 11.5 on the ground. On 2 January 1967, he had destroyed a MiG-21 near Hanoi, North Vietnam, while flying a McDonnell F-4C Phantom II. He was the first U.S. Air Force fighter ace to shoot down enemy aircraft during both World War II and the Vietnam War.

Colonel Robin Olds and 1st Lieutenant William D, Lefever (standing, left and center) with other pilots of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter wing, Ubob Rachitani RTAFB, 4 May 1967. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Colonel Robin Olds and 1st Lieutenant William D. Lefever (standing, left and center) with other pilots of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Rachitani RTAFB, 4 May 1967. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)

A description of the air battle follows:

On 4 May, the 8th TFW provided two flights of Phantoms for MiGCAP for five F-105 flights of the 355th TFW which were on a strike mission. Col. Olds, 8th Wing commander, led the rear flight, flying with 1st Lt. William D. Lafever. The other F-4 flight was sandwiched midway in the strike force. MiG warnings crackled on Olds’ radio just before his wingman sighted two MiG-21s at 11 o’clock, attacking the last of the Thunderchief flights. Colonel Olds’ account picks up the encounter at this point:

“The MiGs were at my 10 o’clock position and closing on Drill [the F-105 flight] from their 7:30 position. I broke the rear flight into the MiGs, called the F-105s to break, and maneuvered to obtain a missile firing position on one of the MiG-21s. I obtained a boresight lock-on, interlocks in, went full system, kept the pipper on the MiG, and fired two AIM-7s in a ripple. One AIM-7 went ballistic. The other guided but passed behind the MiG and did not detonate. Knowing I was too close for further AIM-7 firing, I maneuvered to obtain AIM-9 firing parameters. The MiG-21 was maneuvering violently and firing position was difficult to achieve. I snapped two AIM-9s at the MiG and did not observe either missile. The MiG then reversed and presented the best parameter yet. I achieved a loud growl, tracked, and fired one AIM-9. From the moment of launch it was obvious that the missile was locked on. It guided straight for the MiG and exploded about 5–10 feet beneath his tailpipe.

Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21PF in markings of the Vietnam People's Air Force, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21 in markings of the Vietnam People’s Air Force at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

“The MiG then went into a series of frantic turns, some of them so violent that the aircraft snap-rolled in the opposite direction. Fire was coming from the tailpipe, but I was not sure whether it was normal afterburner or damage-induced. I fired the remaining AIM-9 at one point, but the shot was down toward the ground and did not discriminate. I followed the MiG as he turned southeast and headed for Phuc Yen. The aircraft ceased maneuvering and went in a straight slant for the airfield. I stayed 2,500 feet behind him and observed brilliant white fire streaming from the left side of his fuselage. It looked like magnesium burning with particles flaking off. I had to break off to the right as I neared Phuc Yen runway at about 2,000 feet, due to heavy, accurate, 85-mm barrage. I lost sight of the MiG at that point. Our number 3 saw the MiG continue in a straight gentle dive and impact approximately 100 yards south of the runway.”

Colonel Olds then took his flight to the target area and covered the last of the 355th TFW strike aircraft as they came off the target. Leading his flight to Hoa Lac airfield and dodging two SAMs on the way, he found five MiG-17s over that airfield.

“We went around with them at altitudes ranging from 1,500 to 6,000 feet, right over the aerodrome,” Olds reported. The F-4s ran low on fuel before any real engagements occurred, however, and were forced to break off the encounter.

— Aces and Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1965–1973, by R. Frank Futrell, William H. Greenhalgh, Carl Grubb, Gerard E. Hasselwander, Robert F. Jakob and Charles A. Ravenstein, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1976, Chapter II at Pages 51–53.

During this mission, Colonel Olds and Lieutenant Lefever flew McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II serial number 63-7668.

Colonel Robin Olds shot down a MiG-21 with an AIM-9 Sidewinder fired from this McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, 63-7668, 4 May 1967. U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Robin Olds shot down a MiG-21 with this McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, 63-7668, 4 May 1967. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

2 May 1957

McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, first production aircraft, parked on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

2 May 1957: The United States Air Force accepted the first production McDonnell Aircraft Corporation F-101A Voodoo supersonic fighter.

The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo was originally designed as a single-seat, twin-engine long range bomber escort, or “penetration fighter,” for the Strategic Air Command, but was developed as a fighter bomber and reconnaissance airplane. 53-2418 first flew 29 September 1954, and it was the first production F-101A to be delivered to the Air Force.

mcDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right front quarter view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right front quarter view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418 (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right profile. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right rear view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right rear view. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-101A was 67 feet, 5 inches (20.549 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 8 inches (12.090 meters). It was 18 feet (5.486 meters) high. The total wing area was 368 square feet (34.2 square meters). The wings were swept 36° 36′ at 25% chord. The angle of incidence was 1°, with no twist or dihedral. The Voodoo weighed 25,374 pounds (11,509 kilograms) empty and had a maximum takeoff weight of 51,000 pounds (23,133 kilograms).

The standard F-101A was equipped with 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 engine was 3 feet, 4.3 inches (1.024 meters) in diameter, 17 feet, 7.0 inches (5.359 meters) long, and weighed 5,025 pounds (2,279 kilograms).

The Voodoo had a maximum speed of 876 knots (1,008 miles per hour (1,622 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Service ceiling was 45,700 feet (13,929 meters). It carried a maximum of 2,305 gallons (8,725 liters) of fuel internally. With external tanks, the fighter bomber had a maximum ferry range of 1,898 nautical miles (2,184 statute miles/3,515 kilometers).

McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2416 in flight, bottom view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2416 in flight, bottom view. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-101A was armed with four 20mm Pontiac M39 single-barreled revolver cannon, with 200 rounds per gun. It could carry a Mark 7, Mark 28, or Mark 43 “Special Store” on a centerline mount.

McDonnell built 77 F-101As for the Air Force. 29 were later converted to RF-101G photo reconnaissance airplanes by Lockheed Aircraft Services.

F-101A 53-2418 was transferred to General Electric for testing of the J79 afterburning turbojet engine which would later power the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II.

General Electric returned the Voodoo to the Air Force in 1959. Now obsolete, it was used as a maintenance trainer at Shepard Air Force Base, Texas. It was next turned over to a civilian aviation maintenance school and assigned a civil registration number, N9250Z, by the Federal Aviation Administration. The airplane was sold as scrap, but was purchased by Mr. Dennis Kelsey.

In 2009, Mrs. Kelsey had the airplane placed in the care of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon. After being partially restored by the Evergreen Air Center, Marana, Arizona, 53-2418 was placed on display at the Evergreen Museum.

McDonnell JF-101A 53-2418 with General Electric J79 engines, circa 1957
McDonnell JF-101A 53-2418 with General Electric J79 engines, circa 1957
The first production Voodoo, McDonnell F-101-1-MC 53-2418 on display at the Evergeen Aviation Museum (flickriver)
The first production Voodoo, McDonnell F-101-1-MC 53-2418 on display at the Evergreen Aviation Museum (flickriver)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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)

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 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).

RF-101 on ramp with cameras. (United States Air Force 140114-F-DW547-001)

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)
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)

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 at Knoxville. 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. he next served as chief of safety and standardization for the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. It was during this assignment that he set the world record.

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.

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

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.

¹ FAI Record File Number 8858

² FAI Record File Number 8928

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes