Tag Archives: McDonnell Aircraft Corporation

5 December 1961

Commander George W. Ellis, United States Navy, with his World Record-holding McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260. (U.S. Navy)
Commander George W. Ellis, United States Navy, with his World Record-holding McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260. Commander Ellis is wearing B.F. Goodrich Mark IV full-pressure suit. (U.S. Navy)

5 December 1961: Commander George William Ellis, United States Navy, established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude in Horizontal Flight when he flew the McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, to 20,252 meters (66,444 feet) ¹ over Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California. The Phantom II maintained this altitude while traveling at Mach 2.2 (1,452 miles per hour, or 2,236 kilometers per hour).

For this flight, Commander Ellis was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Admiral George Whelen Anderson, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations.

McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, during Operation Skyburner, 22 November 1961. (U.S. Navy)
McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, during Operation Skyburner, 22 November 1961. (U.S. Navy)

This was the same Phantom II which set a world speed record only 13 days earlier, when Lieutenant Colonel Robert B. Robinson, U.S. Marine Corps, flew it to 2,585.425 kilometers per hour (1,606.509 miles per hour) in Operation Skyburner, 22 November 1961.²

Two years earlier, 6 December 1959, 142260 almost made it into space when Commander Lawrence E. Flint, Jr., U.S. Navy, used a zoom climb maneuver to fly it to 98,557 feet (30,040 meters) in Operation Top Flight.³

McDonnell YF4H-1 Bu. No. 142260 was the second prototype of the Phantom II. The world record-holding aircraft is reported to be in storage at the San Diego Air and Space Museum’s Gillespie Field Annex restoration facility, El Cajon, California.

Commander George William Ellis, United States Navy
Commander George William Ellis, United States Navy
George W. Ellis as a senior at Ardmore High School, circa 1941. (The Criterion)
George W. Ellis as a senior at Ardmore High School, circa 1941. (The Criterion)

George William Ellis was born at Ardmore, Oklahoma, 22 June 1924. He was the second of three children of Fred Roscoe Ellis, a corporate attorney, and Jeannette Manning Moore Ellis.

He attended Ardmore High School, participated in oratory and was a member of the honor society. After graduating from high school in 1941, Ellis attended the Marion Military Institute, Marion, Alabama. He entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, 11 July 1942, as a midshipman in the Class of 1945. (Because of the war, classes at Annapolis were accelerated.) George Ellis graduated and was commissioned as an Ensign, United States Navy, 6 June 1945. (Signal No. 25000)

On the same day, Ensign Ellis married Miss Elizabeth Adelheid Schlack at Annapolis. They had one son, John Manning Ellis, who died in infancy. They divorced in 1970. Mrs. Ellis died in 1985.

Ensign and Mrs. George W. Ellis, 6 June 1945.
Ensign and Mrs. George W. Ellis, 6 June 1945.

Ensign Ellis served aboard USS Bataan (CVL-29), an Independence-class light aircraft carrier, which was part of Operation Magic Carpet, returning American soldiers home from Europe after the end of World War II, and then repatriating Italian prisoners of war from the United States to Italy. Ellis was then assigned to USS Duluth (CL-87), a Cleveland-class light cruiser, on a cruise to the Far East.

Ensign Ellis was promoted to the rank lieutenant, junior grade, effective 6 June 1948. He was trained as a pilot, and was designated as a Naval Aviator in January 1949. He was assigned to Anti-Submarine Squadron 22 (VS-22, “Checkmates”) at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, flying the TBF/TBM Avenger. Lieutenant (j.g.) Ellis also was assigned to the staff of a carrier division commander, and the went the Advanced Training Command as a flight instructor.

Ellis was promoted to lieutenant, 1 August 1951. He attended the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, 1954–55. His next operational assignment was to VF-211 (“Checkmates”) aboard USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31). The fighter squadron was transitioning from the North American Aviation FJ-3 Fury to the Chance Vought F8U-1 Crusader. Ellis was promoted to lieutenant commander, 1 June 1957. He was assigned to VF-124 (“Gunfighters”) at NAS Moffett Field, California, as an instructor and maintenance officer for the F8U.

In June 1959, Lieutenant Commander Ellis attended the United States Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. After graduating, he was assigned as project pilot on the new McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II. He was promoted to Commander with date of rank 1 July 1961.

McDonnell F-4B Phantom II Bu. No. 148381 of VF-74, assigned to USS Forrestal (CV-59). (United States Navy)
McDonnell F-4B-6-MC Phantom II Bu. No. 148381 of VF-74, assigned to USS Forrestal (CV-59). (United States Navy)

In August 1962, Commander Ellis was assigned as executive officer of Fighter Squadron 74 (VF-74, “Be-Devilers”) aboard USS Forrestal (CVA-59), for the first operational deployment of the Phantom II (the F4H-1 was redesignated F-4B in 1962). He took command of VF-211 in May 1963, then in May 1964, took over VF-101 (“Grim Reapers”) at NAS Key West, Florida.

In 1965, Commander Ellis served as the Operations Officer of USS Forrestal, and became the aircraft carrier’s executive officer in 1966. Ellis was promoted to the rank of Captain, 1 October 1966. He was then assigned to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Thomas Hinman Moorer. After his tour at the Pentagon, Captain Ellis went to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at NAS Patuxent River as project manager for the F-8 Crusader Service Life Extension Program.

From 10 December 1968 to 21 January 1970, Captain Ellis commanded USS Arcturus (AF-52), an Alstede-class stores ship. (A “deep-draft command,” that is, command of a large naval ship, is generally considered a prerequisite to being selected for command of an aircraft carrier.)

USS Arcturus (AF-52)
USS Arcturus (AF-52) (BMCS Richard Miller, United States Navy)

After assignment as the head of the Fleet Operations Branch in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Captain Ellis retired from the Navy in 28 February 1973 after 31 years of service.

On 30 November 1974, Captain Ellis married Mrs. Barbara Young Clayton at Fort Myer, Virginia.

Captain Ellis died at Harrisonburg, Virginia, 6 July 2010, at the age of 86 years.

¹ FAI Record File Number 8535

² FAI Record File Number 9060

³ FAI Record File Number 10352

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 December 1965, 19:30:03.702 UTC

Gemini 7 lifts off from Launch Complex 19, 1430 EST, 4 December 1965. (NASA)
Gemini VII/Titan II GLV-7 lifts off from Launch Complex 19, 1430 EST, 4 December 1965. (NASA)

4 December 1965, 19:30:03.702 UTC: At 2:30 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Gemini VII/Titan II GLV-7 lifted of from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida. On board were Major Frank F. Borman II, United States Air Force, the mission command pilot, and Lieutenant Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., United States Navy, pilot. During the climb to Earth orbit, the maximum acceleration reached was 7.3 Gs.

Gemini VII was placed into Earth orbit at an initial maximum altitude (apogee) of 177.1 nautical miles (327.8 kilometers) and a minimum (perigee) of 87.2 nautical miles (161.5 kilometers), at a velocity of 16,654.1 miles per hour (26,802.2 kilometers per hour), relative to Earth.

This mission was a planned 14-day flight which would involve an orbital rendezvous with another manned spacecraft, Gemini VI-A. The actual total duration of the flight was 330 hours, 35 minutes, 1 second.

Artist’s concept of Gemini spacecraft, 3 January 1962. (NASA-S-65-893)

The two-man Gemini spacecraft was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri, the same company that built the earlier Mercury space capsule. The spacecraft consisted of a series of cone-shaped segments forming a reentry module and an adapter section. It had an overall length of 18 feet, 9.84 inches (5.736 meters) and a maximum diameter of 10 feet, 0.00 inches (3.048 meters) at the base of the equipment section. The reentry module was 11 feet (3.353 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 6.00 inches (2.347 meters). The Gemini re-entry heat shield was a spherical section with a radius of 12 feet, 0.00 inches (3.658 meters). The weight of the Gemini spacecraft varied from ship to ship. Gemini VII had a gross weight of 8,076.10 pounds (3,663.26 kilograms) at launch. It was shipped from St. Louis to Cape Kennedy in early October 1965.

Gemini 7, photographed in Earth orbit from Gemini 6, December 1965. (NASA)
Gemini VII, photographed in Earth orbit from Gemini VI-A, 15–16 December 1965. (NASA)

The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin SM-68B intercontinental ballistic missile. It was assembled at Martin Marietta’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 GLV-7 first and second stages were shipped from Middle River to Cape Kennedy on 9 October 1965.

The Titan II GLV was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket. The first stage was 70 feet, 2.31 inches (21.395 meters) long with a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters). It was powered by an Aerojet Engineering Corporation LR87-7 engine which combined two combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles with a single turbopump unit. The engine was fueled by Aerozine 50, a hypergolic 51/47/2 blend of hydrazine, unsymetrical-dimethyl hydrazine, and water. Ignition occurred spontaneously as the components were combined in the combustion chambers. The LR87-7 produced approximately 430,000 pounds of thrust (1,912.74 kilonewtons). It was not throttled and could not be shut down and restarted. Post flight analysis indicated that the first stage engine of GLV-7 had produced an average of 462,433 pounds of thrust (2,057.0 kilonewtons). The second stage was 25 feet, 6.375 inches (7.031 meters) long, with the same diameter, and used an Aerojet LR91 engine which produced approximately 100,000 pounds of thrust (444.82 kilonewtons), also burning Aerozine 50. GLV-7’s LR91 produced an average of 102,584 pounds of thrust (456.3 kilonewtons).

The Gemini/Titan II GLV-7 combination had a total height of 107 feet, 7.33 inches (32.795 meters) and weighed 346,228 pounds (157,046 kilograms) at ignition.

Lieutenant Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., U.S. Navy, and Major Frank F. Borman II, U.S. Air Force, with a scale model of a Gemini spacecraft. (NASA)
Lieutenant Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., U.S. Navy, and Major Frank F. Borman II, U.S. Air Force, with a scale model of a Gemini spacecraft. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 November 1957

Captain Ray C. Schrecengost with "Cin-Min," McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo 56-0156 (Boeing)
Captain Ray W. Schrecengost with “Cin-Min,” McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo 56-0166 (Boeing)
Operation Sun Run #2, McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo 56-164. (Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum via Ron Downey Aviation Archives)
Operation Sun Run #2, McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo 56-164. This airplane was written off in South Carolina, 10 October 1960. (Photograph courtesy of Ron Downey via Aviation Archives)
McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo 56-0165, Sun-Run, flown for Operation Sun Run, 27 November 1957. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo 56-165, Operation Sun-Run #3. This airplane was shot down over North Vietnam, 5 December 1966. The pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Leonard Warren, 20th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, safely ejected and was in radio contact for two hours after parachuting to the ground. He reported that he was taking fire, and contact was lost. He was listed as Missing in Action. His remains were recovered 17 September 1986 and were buried at the Arlington National Cemetery. (U.S. Air Force)
Operation Sun Run #4, McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo 56-166, flown by Captain Ray C. Schrecengost, U.S. Air Force. (Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum via Ron Downey)
Operation Sun Run #4, McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo 56-166, flown by Captain Ray C. Schrecengost, U.S. Air Force. This airplane is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.  (Photograph courtesy of Ron Downey via Aviation Archives)
Operation Sun-Run #5
Operation Sun-Run #5, McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo 56-167. This airplane was written off 24 July 1964. (Photograph courtesy of Ron Downey via Aviation Archives)

27 November 1957: Four U.S. Air Force pilots of the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing successfully completed Operation Sun Run by establishing three new transcontinental speed records in a McDonnell RF-101C aircraft. The record-breaking mission showcased the speed and range of the RF-101C, an improved version of the first supersonic photo reconnaissance aircraft, the RF-101A.

“Operation Sun Run called for six RF-101C aircraft — two to fly round-trip from Los Angeles to New York and back again, two for the one-way flight from Los Angeles to New York, and two for backups if problems arose with the four primary aircraft. The undertaking required massive coordination of aircraft crews and radar and weather stations from coast to coast.

“Operation Sun Run participants, L–R: Capt. Ray W. Schrecengost, Capt. Robert J. Kilpatrick, Capt. Donald D. Hawkins, Maj. Stanley R. Sebring (18th TRS commanding officer, Operation Sun Run operations officer), Lt. Col. William H. Nelson (9th AF, Operation Sun Run programs officer), Capt. Robert E. Burkhart, Capt. Robert M. Sweet, Lt. Gustav B. Klatt. (U.S. Air Force)”

Six pilots of the 17th and 18th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons of the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing were chosen for Operation Sun Run. Each prepared for the round-trip flight, since they would not know which flight they were assigned until a few days before the operation. All six pilots had extensive experience in photo reconnaissance aircraft, although the RF-101 was relatively new to Tactical Air Command.

“The success of Operation Sun Run also depended on the performance of the newly available KC-135 Stratotanker, the USAF’s first jet tanker. The KC-135’s speed allowed the RF-101s to refuel at an altitude of 35,000 feet and a speed of Mach 0.8. Crews from Strategic Air Command and Air Force Research and Development Command prepared for the 26 refuelings the Operation Sun Run RF-101Cs would require.

“At 6:59 a.m., 27 November 1957, Capt. Ray Schrecengost took off from Ontario International Airport near Los Angeles on the first RF-101C round-trip flight of Operation Sun Run. Next into the air were Capt. Robert Kilpatrick on his one-way flight and Capt. Donald Hawkins, flying back-up. Capt. Hawkins followed until the first refueling was complete, and then flew to March Air Force Base, Calif. At 7:50 a.m., Capt. Robert Sweet took off on the second round-trip flight. Lt. Gustav Klatt followed, beginning his one-way trip. Their backup, Capt. Robert Burkhart, also flew to March Air Force Base after the first successful refueling.

“All four RF-101C pilots easily surpassed the previous speed records and established new ones. The new Los Angeles to New York record was established by Lt. Klatt, at 3 hours, 7 minutes and 43.63 seconds. Capt. Sweet set the round-trip record, at a time of 6 hours, 46 minutes and 36.21 seconds, and the New York to Los Angeles record, at a time of 3 hours, 36 minutes and 32.33 seconds.”

Fact Sheets: Operation Sun Run, National Museum of the United States Air Force

McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo 56-166. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo 56-166. (U.S. Air Force)

The McDonnell 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 RF-101C was powered by 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), and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The J57-P-13 maximum continuous power rating of 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.70 kilonewtons); military power, 10,200 pounds (45.37 kilonewtons) (30-minute limit); and 15,000 pounds (66.72 kilonewtons) with afterburner (5 minute limit). The -P-13 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 aircraft had a maximum speed of  879 knots (1,012 miles per hour/1,629 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters)—Mach 1.53. The service ceiling was 49,600 feet (15,118 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 1,864 nautical miles (2,145 statute miles/3,452 kilometers).

The RF-101C was unarmed. It 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.

Colonel Ray W. Schrecengost's McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo, 56-166, was named Cin-Min for his daughters, Cindy and Mindy. The Voodoo is painted in camouflage as it appeared when assigned to the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Tan Son Nhut AB, South Vietnam. It was one of the first aircraft camouflaged for combat in SEA. It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Ray W. Schrecengost’s McDonnell RF-101C-40-MC Voodoo, 56-166, was named “Cin-Min” for his daughters, Cindy and Mindy. The Voodoo is painted in camouflage as it appeared when assigned to the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Tan Son Nhut AB, South Vietnam. It was one of the first aircraft camouflaged for combat in Southeast Asia. 56-166 is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Schrek's Cin-Min on the Sun Run" by William S. Phillips at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, depicts Colonel Schre 's McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo. (U.S. Air Force)
“Schrek’s Cin-Min on the Sun Run” by William S. Phillips, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, depicts Colonel Schrecengost’s McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo. (U.S. Air Force)

A McDonnell Aircraft Corporation film about Operations Sun Run and Fire Wall is available on YouTube:

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 November 1961

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps, with the McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, with which he set a world absolute speed record, 22 November 1961. Colonel Robinson is wearing a Goodrich Mark IV full-pressure suit for protection at high altitudes. (U.S. Navy)

22 November 1961: In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of Naval Aviation, a number of speed and altitude record attempts were planned, using the U.S. Navy’s new McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II fighter. On the morning of 22 November, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., United States Marine Corps, took off from Edwards Air Force Base on Operation Skyburner, an attempt to set a new World Absolute Speed Record. He was flying the second Phantom II built, Bu. No. 142260.

The Phantom carried three external fuel tanks for this flight. It had a 600-gallon (2,271.25 liter) centerline tank and two 370-gallon (1,400.6 liter) wing tanks. Robinson flew southeast toward NAS El Centro, then turned back to the northwest. Over the Salton Sea, he began to accelerate the YF4H-1 to build up speed for the record run over a measured twenty-mile course back at Edwards AFB. The Phantom’s two General Electric J79-GE-3A afterburning turbojets used a tremendous amount of fuel at full throttle and the centerline fuel tank was quickly emptied. Robinson jettisoned the empty tank over the Chocolate Mountain gunnery range. Continuing to accelerate, the two wing tanks were next jettisoned as they ran dry, this time at Bristol Dry Lake.

McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, during Operation Skyburner, 22 November 1961. (U.S. Navy)

The Phantom entered the east end of the speed course in full afterburner. Having burned off more than 1,300 gallons of fuel, 142260 was much lighter now, and aerodynamically cleaner after dropping the external tanks. Robinson exited the west end of the 20-mile (32.2 kilometer) course in less than one minute.

Fédération Aéronautique Internationale rules require that a speed record must be made with two passes in opposite directions. The average speed of the two runs is the record speed. The Phantom was flying so fast that it covered another 105 miles (169 kilometers) before it could turn around. During the turn, it was still traveling at 0.9 Mach.

Robinson again put the engines in afterburner as he approached the course from the west. On the second run, the fighter was even lighter and its recorded speed was more than 1,700 miles per hour (2,736 kilometers per hour). The average of the two runs was calculated at 2,585.425 kilometers per hour (1,606.509 miles per hour.) This was the new FAI Absolute World Speed Record.¹

For his accomplishment, Lieutenant Colonel Robinson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally. The presentation took place on 25 November 1961 at Newport News, Virginia, during the commissioning of USS Enterprise CVA(N)-65.

McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II Bu. No. 142260 during Operation Skyburner, 1961. (U.S. Navy via FFRC Photo Collection)

In the next few weeks, the same YF4H-1 would establish a world record for sustained altitude—20,252 meters (66,444 feet).² Two years earlier, 6 December 1959, in Operation Top Flight, 142260 had established a world record for absolute altitude when it zoom-climbed to 98,557 feet (30,040 meters).³

Lieutenant Colonel Robert B. Robinson, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps, with the McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II Bu. No. 142260, with which he set a world absolute speed record, 22 November 1961. (U.S. Navy)

Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., was born at Orange, California, 22 October 1923. He was the second of four children of Robert Bradford Robinson, a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, and Golda Leutha Nordeen Robinson.

Robert B. Robinson. (Orange and White 1941)

Bob Robinson attended Orange Union High School, graduating in 1941. He participated in all varsity sports, and was selected to attend the Boys’ State leadership program. He earned a bachelor of science degree at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.

Robinson entered the United States Marine Corps on 26 August 1942. He received the wings of a Naval Aviator and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 1 December 1943.

2nd Lieutenant Robinson married Miss Lavonne Jean David at Nueces, Texas, 23 December 1943. They would later have a son, Robert Bradford Robinson III (and a grandson, Robert Bradford Robinson IV)

During the Battle of Okinawa, Lieutenant Robinson flew the radar-equipped Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat night fighter with VMF(N)-543.

A Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat night fighter of VMF(N)-543, circa 1944. The radome is at the far end of the airplane’s right wing. (U.S. Navy)

Lieutenant Robinson was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, 31 March 1945. Following World War II, Lieutenant Robinson was assigned to VMF-311, and became one of the first Naval Aviators to qualify in turbojet-powered aircraft. The squadron initially flew the Lockheed TO-1 Shooting Star (P-80), and later transitioned to the Grumman F9F Panther.

A Lockheed TO-1 Shooting Star  Bu. No. 33822 (P-80C 47-219) of VMF-311, circa 1948. (NNAM.1996.488.163.012)

Lieutenant Robinson was promoted to the rank of captain 1 April 1950. VMF-311 was sent to the Korean war zone in November 1950, initially operating from Yokosuka Air Base in Japan. The squadron flew close air support missions in support of the amphibious assault of Inchon, and at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Captain Robinson returned to night fighter operations when he joined Marine All-Weather Squadron 513 (VMF(N)-513) on 13 January 1951. The unit which was equipped with Grumman F7F-3N Tigercats and Chance Vought F4U-5N Corsairs.

Two Grumman F9F-2 Panthers of VMF-311 being refueled at K-3, Republic of South Korea, circa 1951. The aircraft closest to the camera is an F9F-2B, Bu. No. 123602. (Department of Defense HD-SN-99-03071)

Captain Robinson was promoted to the rank of major, 31 December 1954. He completed the six-month course at the Naval Test Pilot School, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, graduating in March 1959 (Class 21).

In 1963, lieutenant Colonel Robinson retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years’ service. He was then employed as a test pilot for the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation at St. Louis, Missouri. He remained with the company for 30 years.

Mrs. Robinson died 7 February 1997, after 53 years of marriage. Bob Robinson later married Mrs. Julian Brady (née Elizabeth Catchings), the widow of a long-time friend.

Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., died 28 September 2005 at McComb, Mississippi. He was buried at the Hollywood Cemetery in McComb.

¹ FAI Record File Number 9060

² FAI Record File Number 8535

³ FAI Record File Number 10352

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 November 1963

Brigadier General Gilbert L. Meyers and Colonel Frank K. Everest delivered the first production McDonnell F-4C Phantom IIs to the Tactical Air Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force)

20 November 1963: The U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Command accepted its first two production McDonnell F-4C Phantom II jet fighters, F-4C-15-MC 63-7415 ¹ and F-4C-15-MC 63-7416. These aircraft were the ninth and tenth production F-4Cs. They were flown to MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida, by Brigadier General Gilbert Louis Meyers, commanding the 836th Air Division, and Colonel Frank Kendall (“Pete”) Everest, a world-famous test pilot, commanding the 4453rd Combat Crew Training Squadron. Lieutenant General Charles B. Westover, Vice Commander, Tactical Air Command, formally accepted the new fighters on behalf of TAC.

Up until this time, the 4453rd had been training crews with McDonnell F-4B Phantom IIs on loan from the United States Navy.

McDonnell F-4C15-MC 63-7415 at Gila Bend AAF, 1967. (Stephen Miller)
McDonnell F-4C-15-MC Phantom II 63-7415, 4453rd Combat Crew Training Wing, at Gila Bend Auxiliary Air Field, Arizona, 1967. (Stephen Miller)

The McDonnell F-4C Phantom II (originally designated F-110A Spectre) was produced for the U.S. Air Force, based on the U.S. Navy McDonnell F4H-1 (F-4B after 1962) fleet defense interceptor. Evaluation testing had shown the the Navy’s F4H was superior to the Air Force Convair F-106 Delta Dart. It was faster, could fly higher, had a longer range and greater payload. It was also better suited as a tactical fighter.

The Navy operated its Phantom IIs with a pilot and a radar systems operator. The Air Force’s F-4C variant was equipped with dual flight controls and was flown by two rated pilots. The F-4C was externally the same as the F-4B, but otherwise differed by the addition of a ground attack capability. Also, while the F-4B used a hose-and-drogue system for air-to-air refueling, the F-4C was equipped with a boom refueling system. It retained the folding wings and arresting hook of the Navy variant, but deleted catapult provisions.

McDonnell F-4C-15-MC 63-7415 in SEA camouflage in service with the Hawaii Air National Guard.
McDonnell F-4C-15-MC 63-7415 in four-color South East Asia camouflage scheme, in service with the Hawaii Air National Guard.

The F-4C was 58 feet, 3¾ inches (17.774 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 5 inches (11.709 meters) and height of 16 feet, 3 inches (4.953 meters). Its empty weight was 28,496 pounds (12,926 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 58,000 pounds (26,308 kilograms).

The F-4C-15-MC was powered by two General Electric J79-GE-15 engines. The J79 is a single-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine, with a 17-stage compressor section and 3-stage turbine. The J79-GE-15 is rated at 10,900 pounds of thrust (48.49 kilonewtons) and 17,000 pounds (75.62 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 17 feet, 4.7 inches (5.301 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.3 inches (0.973 meters) in diameter and weighs 3,699 pounds (1,677.8 kilograms).

F-4C 63-7415 in two-color gray air superiority camouflage, 199th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard.
McDonnell F-4C-15-MC 63-7415 in three-color gray air superiority camouflage, 199th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard.

The F-4C had a maximum speed of 826 miles per hour (1,329 kilometers per hour)—Mach 1.09—at Sea Level, and 1,433 miles per hour (2,306 kilometers per hour)—Mach 2.17— at 48,000 feet (14,630 meters). The fighter’s service ceiling was 56,100 feet (17,099 meters). Its maximum unrefueled range, with external fuel tanks, was 1,926 miles (3,100 kilometers).

Awaiting restoration, McDonnell F-4C-15-MC Phantom II 63-7415 at San Antonio, Texas. (ABC Pic)
Awaiting restoration, McDonnell F-4C-15-MC Phantom II 63-7415 at San Antonio, Texas. (Air-Britain Photographic Images Collection)

The standard armament for the F-4C were four AIM-7 Sparrow radar-homing missiles carried in recessed in the bottom of the fuselage. Four AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles could be carried on underwing pylons. A maximum of 16,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms) of bombs on five hardpoints.

This McDonnell F-4 Phantom II is armed with a centerline gun pod, four AIM-7 Sparrow radar-homing guided missiles and four AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared-homing missiles. (Tommy Wu/McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom Phanatics)

During the Vietnam War, the missile armament of the Phantom II was found unsatisfactory in dogfights with enemy aircraft. The violent maneuvers of Air Combat Maneuvering (“ACM”) made it difficult for the missiles to align and track the intended target. Of 612 AIM-7 Sparrows fired by F-4s, only 56 enemy aircraft were destroyed, while 187 AIM-9 Sidewinders brought down 29 enemy aircraft. This was a kill ratio of 9% and 16%, respectively.

A SUU-16/A gun pod is test fired on McDonnell YRF-4C-14 MC Phantom II 62-12201 (YRF-110A Spectre). (U.S. Air Force)

Forward-thinking planners had assumed that an all-missile armament was all that was required in the modern era, so F-4s were built without any machine guns or cannon. The Air Force used an SUU-16/A pod containing a General Electric M61A1 20 mm rotary cannon with 1,200 rounds of ammunition mounted to the F-4’s centerline hardpoint. (Two additional SUU-16/A pods could be mounted on the outboard underwing hardpoints.) This was useful in close-in combat, but the airplane was not equipped with a suitable gun sight. It was not until the F-4E variant that a gun was incorporated into the airplane.

McDonnell F-4C-15-MC Phantom II 63-7416. This fighter crashed 22 May 1964, killing both pilots. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-4C-15-MC Phantom II 63-7416. Note the FJ-416 “buzz number” on the fuselage. This fighter crashed at the Avon Park Bombing Range, Florida, 22 May 1964, killing both pilots, Captain Joseph P. Onate and Captain William F. Buhrman. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-4C first flew 27 May 1963. 583 of this variant before production shifted to the F-4D in 1966. The F-4C remained in service until the last was retired from the Oregon Air National Guard in 1989.

Recommended reading: Engineering the F-4 Phantom II: Parts Into Systems by Glenn E. Bugos, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1996

The first McDonnell F-4C Phantom II, 63-7407. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ Source: UNITED STATES AIR FORCE STATISTICAL DIGEST FISCAL YEAR 1964 (19th Edition), Directorate of Data Automation (AFADA), Comptroller of the Air Force, Headquarters, USAF, Washington, D.C.: Chronology of United States Air Force Major Events— FY 1964, at Page XXXVIII

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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