Tag Archives: Mines Field

9 September 1940

North American Aviation NA-73X prototype, NX19998, at Mines Field, California, 9 September 1940. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

9 September 1940: North American Aviation completed assembly of the NA-73X, the first prototype of the new Mustang Mk.I fighter for the Royal Air Force. This was just 117 days after the British Purchasing Commission had authorized the construction of the prototype. The airplane was designed by a team led by Edgar Schmued. The 1,150-horsepower Allison V-12 engine had not yet arrived, so the NA-73X was photographed with dummy exhaust stacks. The prototype’s company serial number was 73-3097. It had been assigned a civil experimental registration number, NX19998.

The NA-73X was a single-seat, single-engine, low wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was primarily of metal construction, though the flight control surfaces were fabric covered. The airplane was designed for the maximum reduction in aerodynamic drag.  The Mustang was the first airplane to use a laminar-flow wing. The fuselage panels were precisely designed and very smooth. Flush riveting was used. The coolant radiator with its intake and exhaust ducts was located behind and below the cockpit. As cooling air passed through the radiator it was heated and expanded, so that as it exited, it actually produced some thrust.

The prototype was 32 feet, 2⅝ inches (9.820 meters) long, with a wing span of 37 feet, 5/16 inch (11.286 meters). Empty weight of the NA-73X was 6,278 pounds (2,848 kilograms) and normal takeoff weight was 7,965 pounds (3,613 kilograms).

Aeronautical Engineer Edgar Schmued with a North American P-51-2-NA (Mustang Mk.IA), 41-37322. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The NA-73X was powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,710.60-cubic-inch-displacement (28.032 liter) Allison Engineering Company V-1710-F3R (V-1710-39) single overhead cam 60° V-12 engine, with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.65:1. It used a single-stage, single-speed supercharger. This was a right-hand tractor engine (the V-1710 was built in both right-hand and left-hand configurations) which drove a 10 foot, 6 inch (3.200 meter) diameter, three-bladed, Curtiss Electric constant-speed propeller through a 2.00:1 gear reduction.

The V-1710-39 had a Normal Power rating of 880 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at Sea Level; Take Off Power rating of 1,150 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, with 44.5 inches of manifold pressure (1.51 Bar), 5 minute limit; and a War Emergency Power rating of 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m., with 56 inches of manifold pressure (1.90 Bar). The V-1710-F3R was 7 feet, 4.38 inches (2.245 meters) long, 3 feet, 0.64 inches (0.931 meters) high, and 2 feet, 5.29 inches (0.744 meters) wide. It had a dry weight of 1,310 pounds (594 kilograms).

U.S. Army Air Corps flight tests of the fully-armed production Mustang Mk.I (XP-51 41-038), equipped with the V-1710-39 and a 10 foot, 9-inch (3.277 meters) diameter Curtiss Electric propeller, resulted in a maximum speed of 382.0 miles per hour (614.8 kilometers per hour) at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). The service ceiling was 30,800 feet (9,388 meters) and the absolute ceiling was 31,900 feet (9,723 meters).

The Curtiss P-40D Warhawk used the same Allison V-1710-39 engine as the XP-51, as well as a three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller. During performance testing at Wright Field, a P-40D, Air Corps serial number 40-362, weighing 7,740 pounds (3,511 kilograms), reached a maximum speed of 354 miles per hour (570 kilometers per hour) at 15,175 feet (4,625 meters). Although the Mustang’s test weight was 194 pounds (88 kilograms) heavier, at 7,934 pounds (3,599 kilograms), the Mustang was 28 miles per hour (45 kilometers per hour) faster than the Warhawk. This demonstrates the effectiveness of the Mustang’s exceptionally clean design.

Only one NA-73X was built. It made its first flight 26 October 1940 with test pilot Vance Breese. The prototype suffered significant damage when it overturned during a forced landing, 20 November 1941. NX19998 was repaired and flight testing resumed. The prototype’s final disposition is not known.

Originally ordered by Great Britain, the Mustang became the legendary U.S. Army Air Corps P-51 Mustang. A total of 15,486 Mustangs were built by North American Aviation at Inglewood, California and Dallas, Texas. Another 200 were built in Australia by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.

The P-51 remained in service with the U.S. Air Force until 27 January 1957 when the last one, F-51D-30-NA 44-74936, was retired from the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard. It was then transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it is on display.

North American Aviation NA-73X prototype, left front quarter view. (North American Aviation, Inc.)
North American Aviation NA-73X prototype, NX19998, left front quarter view. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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23–26 August 1929

Graf Zeppelin, LZ 127, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, 26 August 1929. (M.J. Ford)
Dr. Hugo Eckener (18xx—1954)
Dr. Hugo Eckener (1868—1954)

The rigid airship Graf Zeppelin, LZ 127, under the command of Dr. Hugo Eckener, departed Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, 8 August 1929, heading east across the Atlantic Ocean on the first aerial circumnavigation by air. The flight was sponsored by publisher William Randolph Hearst, who had placed several correspondents aboard.

Graf Zeppelin was named after Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin, a German general and count, the founder of the Zeppelin Airship Company. The airship was constructed of a lightweight metal structure covered by a fabric envelope. It was 776 feet (236.6 meters) long. Contained inside were 12 hydrogen-filled buoyancy tanks, fuel tanks, work spaces and crew quarters.

A gondola mounted underneath contained the flight deck, a sitting and dining room and ten passenger cabins. The LZ-127 was manned by a 36 person crew and could carry 24 passengers.

LZ-127was powered by five water-cooled, fuel injected 33.251 liter (2,029.1 cubic inches) Maybach VL-2 60° V-12 engines producing 570 horsepower at 1,600 r.p.m., each. Fuel was either gasoline or blau gas, a gaseous fuel similar to propane. The zeppelin’s maximum speed was 80 miles per hour (128 kilometers per hour).

A dining room aboard Graf Zeppelin.
A dining room aboard Graf Zeppelin.

After refueling at the Kasumigaura Naval Air Station, Tokyo, Japan, Graf Zeppelin started east across the Pacific Ocean on 23 August, enroute to Los Angeles, California. This leg crossed 5,998 miles (9,653 kilometers) in 79 hours, 3 minutes. This was the first ever non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean.

LZ 127 arrived at Mines Field (now, LAX) at 1:50 a.m., 26 August 1929. There were an estimated 50,000 spectators.

Airship Graf Zeppelin, D-LZ127, at Los Angeles, 1929. A Goodyear blimp is alongside.
Airship Graf Zeppelin, D-LZ127, at Los Angeles, 1929. A Goodyear blimp is alongside. (M.J. Ford)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 August 1940

Vance Breese (SDA&SM)

19 August 1940: At Mines Field (now known as Los Angeles International Airport), the first North American Aviation B-25 twin-engine medium bomber, serial number 40-2165, took off on its first flight with test pilot Vance Breese at the controls and engineer Roy Ferren in the co-pilot’s position.

The airplane, North American model NA-62, serial number 62-2834, was developed from two earlier designs which had been evaluated by the U.S. Air Corps but rejected, and it was ordered into production without a prototype being built.

The first few B-25s built—sources vary, but 8–10 airplanes—were built with a constant dihedral wing. Testing at Wright Field showed that the airplane had a slight tendency to “Dutch roll” so all B-25s after those were built with a “cranked” wing, giving it the bomber’s characteristic “gull wing” appearance. The two vertical stabilizers were also increased in size.

40-2165 was retained by North American for testing while the next several aircraft were sent to Wright Field.

Roy Ferren (SDA&SM)

The B-25 was named Mitchell in honor of early air power advocate Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. A total of 9,984 B-25s, F-10 reconnaissance variants and U.S. Navy and Marine Corps PBJ-1 patrol bombers were built by North American Aviation at Inglewood, California and Kansas City, Kansas. The last one, a TB-25J, remained in service with the U.S. Air Force until 1960.

Twenty-three B-25s were built before the B-25A Mitchell went into production. The B-25 was operated by a crew of five. It was 54 feet, 1 inch (16.485 meters) long with a wingspan of 67 feet, 6.7 inches (20.592 meters) and overall height of 16 feet, 4 inches (4.978 meters). The empty weight was 17,258 pounds (7,828 kilograms) and the maximum gross weight was 28,557 pounds (12,953 kilograms).

Scale model of a North American Aviation B-25 medium bomber being tested in a wind tunnel. (4″ × 5″ Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer)

The B-25 was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 2,603.737-cubic-inch-displacement (42.688 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 14 GR2600B665 (R-2600-9) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines which were rated at 1,500 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for takeoff. These engines (also commonly called “Twin Cyclone”) drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic variable-pitch propellers through 16:9 gear reduction. The R-2600-9 was 5 feet, 3.1 inches (1.603 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.26 inches (1.378 meters) in diameter. It weighed 1,980 pounds (898 kilograms).

The medium bomber had a maximum speed of 322 miles per hour (518 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and a service ceiling of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). It could carry a 3,000 pound bomb load 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers).

Defensive armament consisted of three air-cooled Browning M2 .30-caliber aircraft machine guns and one Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

After testing was completed, B-25 40-2165 was retained by North American and modified as a company transport. During a flight on 8 January 1945, it crash-landed. The airplane was damaged beyond repair.

Front view of the first North American B-25 Mitchell, 40-2165. The constant dihedral wing was used on the first nine airplanes built. (U.S. Air Force)
Front view of the first North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, 40-2165, at Mines Field, August 1940. The constant dihedral wing was used on the first nine airplanes built. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation NA-62, B-25 Mitchell 40-2165, left front. (U.S. Air Force)
North American B-25 Mitchell 40-2165, left rear. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell 40-2165, left rear. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation B-25A Mitchell medium bomber of the 34th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 17th Bombardment Group (Medium), based at McChord Field, south of Tacoma, Washington, and Pendleton Army Airfiled, northwest of Pendleton, Oregon, circa 1941. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation B-25A Mitchell medium bomber of the 34th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 17th Bombardment Group (Medium), based at McChord Field, south of Tacoma, Washington, circa 1941. (U.S. Army Air Corps 10822 AC)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 April 1941

Test pilot Robert C. Chilton with the North American Aviation prototype NA-73X, NX19998. (North American Aviation, Inc.)
Test pilot Robert C. Chilton with the North American Aviation prototype NA-73X, NX19998. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

3 April 1941: North American Aviation test pilot Robert Creed Chilton takes his first flight—a one hour familiarization—in the company’s prototype of a new fighter for the Royal Air Force, the NA-73X, NX19998, at Mines Field. (Mines would later become Los Angeles International Airport, LAX.)

The airplane’s had first been flown by free-lance test pilot Vance Breese, 26 October 1940,  and he had flown it several times. North American’s Chief Test Pilot, Paul Baird Balfour, on his first flight in NX19998, ran out of fuel and crash landed in a plowed field 150 yards (137 meters) west of the airfield, 20 November 1940. The prototype had flown just 3 hours, 20 minutes.

The NA-73X was repaired and Bob Chilton was assigned to complete the testing program. The airplane would become the legendary P-51 Mustang, and Chilton would continue to conduct the majority of flight testing on its improvements and modifications.

Test pilot Robert C. Chilton stand on the wing of a North American Aviation P-51B Mustang. (North American Aviation)
Test pilot Robert C. Chilton stands on the wing of a North American Aviation P-51B Mustang. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

Robert Creed Chilton was born 6 February 1912 at Eugene, Oregon, the third of five children of Leo Wesley Chilton, a physician, and Edith Gertrude Gray. He attended Boise High School in Idaho, graduating in 1931. Chilton participated in football, track and basketball, and also competed in the state music contest. After high school, Chilton attended the University of Oregon where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity (ΣΧ). He was also a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).

Bob Chilton enlisted as an Aviation Cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 25 June 1937. He was trained as a fighter pilot at Randolph Field and Kelly Field in Texas, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1938. Lieutenant Chilton was assigned to fly the Curtiss P-36 Hawk with the 79th Pursuit Squadron, 20th Pursuit Group, at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. Because of a medical condition, he was released from active duty, 1 April 1939.

At some time prior to 1940, Bob Chilton, married his first wife, Catherine. They lived in Santa Maria, California, where he worked as a pilot at the local airport.

In January 1941, Chilton went to work as a production test pilot for North American Aviation, Inc., Inglewood, California. After just a few months, he was assigned to the NA-73X.

Chilton married his second wife, Betty W. Shoemaker, 15 November 1951.

On 10 April 1952, Bob Chilton returned to active duty with the U.S. Air Force, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served as Chief of the Repulic F-84 and F-105 Weapons System Project Office, Air Material Command, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, until 9 March 1957.

From 1958, Chilton was a vice president for Horkey-Moore Associates, an engineering research and development company in Torrance, California, founded by former North American aerodynamacist Edward J. Horkey. In 1961, he followed Horkey to the Space Equipment Corporation, parent company of Thompson Industries and Kerr Products, also located in Torrance. Chilton served as corporate secretary and contracts administrator.

Chilton married his third wife, Wilhelmina E. Redding (Billie E. Johnson) at Los Angeles, 26 July 1964. They divorced in 1972.

In 1965, Bob Chilton returned to North American Aviation as a flight test program manager. He retired in 1977.

Robert Creed Chilton died at Eugene, Oregon, 31 December 1994, at the age of 82 years.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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10–11 February 1929

“Feb. 11, 1929: Evelyn “Bobbie” Trout, 23, standing beside her Golden Eagle airplane at Mines Field after setting women’s solo endurance flying record.” (Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)
“Feb. 11, 1929: Evelyn “Bobbie” Trout, 23, standing beside her Golden Eagle airplane at Mines Field after setting women’s solo endurance flying record.” (Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)

10–11 February 1929: At Mines Field, Los Angeles, California (now, Los Angeles International Airport—better known simply as LAX), Evelyn (“Bobbie”) Trout set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Duration with an overnight endurance record of 17 hours, 5 minutes, while flying the prototype R.O. Bone Co. Golden Eagle monoplane.

This was Bobbie Trout’s second duration record. Her first, set at Metropolitan Field, Van Nuys, California, 2 January 1929, had been broken by Elinor Smith, four weeks later.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Evelyn Trout – a wisp of a woman in a wisp of an airplane – landed at Mines Field yesterday after having flown alone more hours and more miles continuously than any other woman in the world ever did before. Also, she is the first woman ever to fly through an entire night. She may have taken up the heaviest loaded sixty-horse-power plane that ever left the ground.

Miss Trout, Bobbie, as she is more generally known, took off at Mines Field Sunday at 5:10:15 p.m. She landed at the same place yesterday at 10:16:22 a.m. She was in the air 17 hours, 5 minutes and 37 seconds, Joe Nikrent, chief timekeeper, announced.

The flight, Dudley Steele, contest chairman of the National Aeronautical Association, said, was three hours and forty-eight minutes longer than the previous woman’s endurance record.

She flew, he said, approximately 860 miles. This, he pointed out, is not far under the world record hung up in Europe some time ago by a man who flew a plane in that class 932 miles over a charted course. Steele said her average speed was 50.292 miles per hours…

Miss Trout got out of the plane with but little more evidence of fatigue than if she had been up only a few hours.

“Hello mother,” she cried to Mrs. George E. Trout, who ran to embrace her.

“We’re awfully proud of you,” Mrs. Trout said.

“Thanks mother, dear,” Bobbie replied.

The young woman, who is 23 years of age, stretched herself and danced on first one foot and then the other.

“I need exercise,” she said, straightening out her cramped limbs.

She posed patiently for newspaper photographers and laughingly talked with any of the crowd of several hundred that was on the field to see her land. . . .

Los Angeles Times, 12 February 1929

Having saved $2,500.00 for training, at the age of 22 Bobbie Trout began her flight lessons at the Burdett Air Lines School of Aviation at Los Angeles. She soloed four weeks later. On 21 January 1929, trout was awarded a pilot certificate by the National Aeronautic Association of the U.S.A, on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Her license was carried by space shuttle pilot Lieutenant Colonel Eileen Marie Collins aboard Discovery (STS-63) in February 1995.

National Aeronautic Association Pilot’s Certificate No. 7027, signed by Orville Wright. (The Ninety-Nines)
National Aeronautic Association Pilot’s Certificate No. 7027, signed by Orville Wright. (The Ninety-Nines)

FAI Record File Num #12220 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Duration
Performance: 17 h 5 min
Date: 1929-02-11
Course/Location: Los Angeles, CA (USA)
Claimant Evelyn Trout (USA)
Aeroplane: R.O. Bone Co Golden Eagle
Engine: 1 _other LeBlond 5 cyl.

Official timer Joseph A. Nikrent consults with Evelyn Trout, while Will Rogers looks on, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California, 11 February 1929. (Unattibuted)
Official timer Joseph A. Nikrent consults with Evelyn Trout, while Will Rogers looks on, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California, 11 February 1929. (Unattibuted)
Evelyn Trout with the prototype Golden Eagle monoplane, NX522, 1929. (Unattributed)
Evelyn Trout with the prototype Golden Eagle monoplane, NX522, 1929. (Unattributed)

Evelyn Trout later wrote about her record flight:

Shortly after my First Solo Endurance Record on January 2, 1929 of 12 Hours–11 Minutes, it was bettered by 1 hour. My Boss, Mr. Bone had promised me that any time my record was broken he would help me better it.

His factory went to work making a larger gasoline tank. On February 9th the plane was standing on the south side of Mines Field (now LAX) while last preparations were in progress and Joe Nikrent (official timer) was standing on his head in my Golden Eagle putting the barograph in the fuselage. Of course plenty of mechanics, pilots, press writers, photographers, my family and public were there to watch Mr. Bone and me prepare for my 2nd Solo Endurance Flight Take-Off. This was about 4PM when I crawled up into the cockpit wearing my beautiful red sheep-wool lined coat with a huge Golden Eagle on the front, and my woolen breeches and boots to keep me warm. After I was in the seat, good luck items, food, and liquid were given to me to place where ever I could find room and get to them, which took some figuring. All seemed ready for the night.

Switch on and the prop was turned, after a few kisses from family and Mr. Bone I turned into position for take-off which soon saw me lift-off for a long grueling flight. The first half of the night was simple flying around the field and watching the cars disappear. As night grew longer and all below was quiet except for the Klieg lights that shone brightly and I would fly through the beams, then I became very sleepy “as I later learned that my system was lacking in protein,” I would sing, rub my neck, wiggle in the seat, rub around my helmet, pat my cheeks, peel tangerines and eat them, this continues on and on, sometimes I would find myself drifting off to sleep only to be awakened by the engine revving faster from a downward flying position which would frighten me enough to stay awake for a longer time. These actions were repeated over and over until the sun finally started to climb up and over the horizon. This seemed to give me a good lift to continue on my route which was around and around the field and sometimes over Inglewood, where I later found out that I had been keeping the residents awake. I would gain altitude when I wandered away from the field too far as to make a Record, the plane must return to the take-off field. After several hours planes were coming up with congratulations and all sorts of expressions because I had made a new record. I landed about 10AM. Little did I know or the press, or the factory and Mr. Bone, at this point, that I had made 6 records. We did know that I was the first Woman to fly all night and stay up 17 hours and 5 Minutes which did set a record for miles flown too, but it took time for the engineers to check that I with the 60 HP LeBlound [sic] engine had lifted off with a greater load for that 60 HP engine and later the sq. Feet of the wing, and another technicality.

A bed & home was all that I wanted now! — Evelyn Trout

Evelyn Trout’s airplane, the prototype of the Bone Golden Eagle, serial number C-801, was designed by R.O. Bone and Mark Mitchell Campbell. It was a single-place, single-engine strut-braced high-wing monoplane (“parasol”) with fixed landing gear.

The Golden Eagle was 21 feet, 10 inches (6.655 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet, 5 inches (9.271 meters). Its empty weight was 800 pounds (363 kilograms) and gross weight was 1,350 pounds (612 kilograms).

The airplane was powered by an air-cooled, normally aspirated 250.576-cubic-inch-displacement (4.106 liter), LeBlond Aircraft Engine Corporation 60-5D five-cylinder radial engine, which had a compression ratio of 5.42:1. It was rated at 65 horsepower at 1,950 r.p.m., at Sea Level. The 60-5D was a direct-drive engine which turned a two-bladed propeller. The engine weighed 228 pounds (103 kilograms).

The Golden Eagle had a cruise speed of 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour). The standard production model had a fuel capacity of 25 gallons (95 liters).

The prototype was assigned Experimental registration NX522, 3 May 1929. While being flown by Eddie Martin, NX522 was damaged beyond repair in an accident, 8 July 1929, at Los Angeles, California. The registration was cancelled 25 July 1929.

Astronaut Eileen Collins holds Bobbie Trout’s pilot certificate, 1995. (Unattributed)
Astronaut Eileen Collins holds Bobbie Trout’s pilot certificate, 1995. (Unattributed)

The production Golden Eagle was advertised as a very stable, “hands off” airplane. The asking price for the basic model was $2,790.00.

The R.O. Bone Company reorganized as the Golden Eagle Corporation but The Great Depression doomed the company. Only one Golden Eagle is believed to exist.

Evelyn Trout set several other flight records. Along with Amelia Earhart and several others she co-founded The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women aviators. At the age of 97 years, she died at San Diego, California, 27 January 2003.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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