Tag Archives: McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II

5 September 1960

LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC with the record setting McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II. (McDonnell)
LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC with the record-setting McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II. (McDonnell Aircraft Corporation)

5 September 1960: Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Miller, United States Marine Corps, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 500 Kilometer Closed Course Without Payload with a McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu.No. 145311. The fighter averaged 1,216.78 miles per hour (1,958.2 kilometers per hour)¹ over the triangular course in the California and Nevada desert.

Diagram of course flown by LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC, 15 September 1960. (McDonnell)
Diagram of course flown by LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC, 15 September 1960. (McDonnell)

Lieutenant Colonel Miller took off from Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California. The McDonnell F4H-1F carried three external fuel tanks. Miller climbed in full Military Power to 38,000 feet (11,582 meters), then dropped the two wing tanks over the Salton Sea. The Phantom II continued to accelerate with both engines in afterburner while climbing to 48,000 feet (14,630 meters). At Mach 1.6, 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) from the starting gate over Edwards, Miller dropped the empty 600 gallon (2,271 liters) centerline tank. He crossed the gate at 42,200 feet (12,863 meters) at Mach 1.76 and continued to accelerate.

Miller entered the first turn near Lone Pine, California (just east of Mount Whitney) at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) at Mach 2.04. The second turn was over Beatty, Nevada, the location of a radar and telemetry facility that was operated as part of the NASA High Speed Flight Station’s High Range. The F4H had descended slightly to 49,000 feet (14,935 meters) while accelerating to Mach 2.05.

Colonel Miller was now headed back toward Edwards and the gate on the longest leg of the triangular course. He crossed the finish line at 46,000 feet (14,021 meters) and Mach 2.10.

The total time on the course, gate to gate, was 15 minutes, 19.2 seconds. The Phantoms’ two engines were in afterburner for 25 minutes, 30 seconds. The duration of the flight, from takeoff to landing, was one hour.

When the airplane crossed the gate over Edwards, only 900 pounds (408 kilograms) of fuel remained. Later, Colonel Miller said, “The only way to get on the ground with the engines running was a split-S maneuver with a near-vertical dive, speed brakes out and engines at idle power. This provided positioning for a straight-in approach to the runway at Edwards AFB. Flaps and wheels were lowered at the last minute when I knew I had the runway made, even if the engines quit. Fortunately, they didn’t flame out until I touched down.”

While the FAI credited Tom Miller with a World Record speed of 1,958.2 kilometers per hour (1,216.769 miles per hour) for the 500 kilometer course, a McDonnell Aircraft Corporation publication points out that as the F4H actually flew outside the course lines to make the high-speed turns, it flew 23 miles (37 kilometers) farther than required, and therefore the actual average speed was 1,305 miles per hour (2,100.2 kilometers per hour).

McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 145311. This probably the Phantom flown by Jeff Davis for the 100-kilometer record. (U.S. Navy)
McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 145311. This is the Phantom flown by LCOL Thomas H. Miller for the 500-kilometer world record, 5 September 1960. (U.S. Navy)
LGEN Thomas H. Miller, USMC
LGEN Thomas H. Miller, USMC

Lieutenant General Thomas H. Mitchell flew combat missions in the Pacific with VMO-155, flying the Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, and missions during the Korean War with VMFA-323 (Death Rattlers”), flying the Vought F4U-4 Corsair. During the Vietnam War, he commanded VMFA-513, flying the McDonnell F-4B Phantom II. Promoted to Brigadier General, he was Chief of Staff, III Amphibious Group, then Commander, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. In 1975, he took command of the Fleet Marine Force Pacific. After serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation, Headquarters, Marine Corps, Miller retired from active duty in 1979.

Lieutenant General Miller died in 2007 at the age of 84 years.

John H. Glenn, Jr., General David M. Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Miller Jr., at Marine Corps Headquarters, 15 September 1960. General Shoup holds a scale model of the McDonnell F4H Phantom II. (Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections)
John H. Glenn, Jr., General David M. Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Miller Jr., at Marine Corps Headquarters, 15 September 1960. General Shoup holds a scale model of the McDonnell F4H Phantom II. (Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8857

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 August 1961

McDonnell F4H-1F, Bu. No. 145307, flying at extremely low altitude, 28 August 1961. (U.S. Navy)

28 August 1961: Operation SAGEBURNER: To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Naval Aviation, Lieutenants Huntington Hardisty and Earl De Esch, United States Navy, flew a McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record of 1,452.777 kilometers per hour (902.714 miles per hour) over a 3 kilometer (1.864 mile) course at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. They flew BELOW 125 feet (38.1 meters) above the ground.¹

McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145307. (U.S. Navy)
McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145307, SAGEBURNER. (U.S. Navy)

An earlier speed record attempt, 18 May 1961, ended tragically when Commander Jack L. Felsman, and Ensign Raymond M. Hite, Jr., were killed and their F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145316, destroyed when a pitch damper failed which resulted in Pilot Induced Oscillation. This became so severe that the Phantom’s airframe was subjected to 12 Gs, causing it to break apart in flight. Both engines were torn from the airframe.

F4H-1
McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II Bu. No. 145316, SAGE BURNER. The object on the centerline hardpoint appears to be a Mark 43 weapon. (U.S. Navy)

The world-record-setting airplane, McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bureau of Aeronautics Serial Number (Bu. No.) 145307, SAGEBURNER, is at the Paul Garber Restoration Facility of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

The record-setting McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145307, in storage at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photograph courtesy of Robert Vandervord)
The record-setting McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145307, in storage at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photograph courtesy of Robert Vandervord)

Huntington Hardisty rose to the rank of admiral and served as Vice Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Command. He retired from the Navy in 1991 and died in 2003 at the age of 74.

Admiral Huntington Hardisty, United States Navy
Admiral Huntington Hardisty, United States Navy

¹ FAI Record File Number 8516

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Please see Tommy H. Thomason’s article on Raymond Hite at:

http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2016_01_01_archive.html

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18 May 1961

Commander Jack L. Felsman and Ensign Raymond F. Hite, Jr., in the cockpit of their McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II.
Commander Jack L. Felsman and Ensign Raymond M. Hite, Jr., in the cockpit of their McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II. (United States Navy)

18 May 1961: Operation SAGE BURNER, one of a series of record-setting flights intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of United States Naval Aviation, ended tragically when a McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 145316, crashed during a low-altitude supersonic speed run at the White Sands Missile Range near Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Commander Jack Lee Felsman and Ensign Raymond Maxwell Hite, Jr., were killed and their Phantom was destroyed when a pitch damper failed, which resulted in Pilot Induced Oscillation. The uncontrolled oscillations became so severe that the Phantom’s airframe was subjected to 12 gs, causing it to break apart in flight. Both engines were torn from the airframe.

This was the first fatal accident involving the Phantom II.

SAGE BURNER, McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145316
SAGE BURNER, McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145316. The object on the centerline hardpoint appears to be a Mark 43 weapon.
Sage Burner, McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145316
McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145316

A video clip showing the inflight break up can be seen on YouTube at

Jack Lee Felsman was born 4 April 1923, the second of two children Charles Edward Felsman, a farmer, and Vera McKay Felsman.

Jack Felsman entered the United States Navy 12 December 1942. He was trained as a pilot and commissioned an Ensign, United States Navy 4 September 1943. He was promoted to Lieutenant (j.g.), 1 February 1945. He was promoted to Lieutenant, 15 July 1951, and to Lieutenant Commander, 1 August 1956. Felsman was married to Miss Hallie May McKay.

Commander Felsman’s remains were buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery, Rock Island, Illinois.

Raymond Maxwell Hite, Jr., was born 3 December 1927 in Los Angeles County, California, the son of Raymond Maxwell Hite and Elizabeth Ball Hite. Ensign Hite’s remains were interred at the Roselawn Burial Park, Martinsville, Virginia.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 September 1960

Commander John F. Davis, United States Navy, with a McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II. Note the F6F-5K drone “kill” mark under the windshield. (U.S. Navy)
Commander John F. Davis, United States Navy, with a McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II. Note the F6F-5K drone “kill” mark under the windshield. (U.S. Navy)

25 September 1960: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Commander John F. Davis, United States Navy, flew a McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 100 Kilometers Without Payload, averaging 2,237.37 kilometers per hour (1390.237 miles per hour). Commander Davis flew the 62-mile circular course at an altitude of 45,000 feet (13,716 meters).

FAI Record File Num #8898 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 100 km without payload
Performance: 2 237.37 km/h
Date: 1960-09-25
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant John F. Davis (USA)
Aeroplane: McDonnell Douglas F-4H-1
Engines: 2 G E J79

Diagram of the 100-kilometer closed circuit. (McDonnell)
Diagram of the 100-kilometer closed circuit. (McDonnell Aircraft Corporation)

“On 25 September 1960 Davis flew the shorter, 100-kilometer course at 1,390.24 miles per hour, roughly Mach 2.2. He went around the course in a continuous circle, at 70° of bank and three g’s. The heavy bank put the honeycomb structure of the right stabilator directly in the engine exhaust the entire way around, but it held on. These two flights demonstrated the brute strength of the airframe and the sophistication of the F4H navigation system around the curves.”

Engineering the F-4 Phantom II: parts into systems, by Glenn E. Bugos, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1996, Chapter 5 at Page 104.

McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 145311. This probably the Phantom flown by Jeff Davis for the 100-kilometer record. (U.S. Navy)
McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145311 (after 1962, redesignated as F-4A-2-MC). This is probably the Phantom flown by Jeff Davis for the 100-kilometer record. This airplane was damaged when the nose gear collapsed during an emergency landing at MCAS Cherry Point, 9 April 1964. (U.S. Navy)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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