Tag Archives: NAS North Island

6 March 1965

The crew of the record-setting Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Dawdling Dromedary, aboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), 6 March 1965. Left to right, ADJ1 Paul J. Bert, Lieutenant David A. Biel, Commander James R. Williford. (U.S. Navy)
The crew of the record-setting Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Dawdling Dromedary, aboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), 6 March 1965. Left to right, ADJ1 Paul J. Bert, Lieutenant David A. Biel, Commander James R. Williford. (U.S. Navy)

6 March 1965: A U.S. Navy/Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King helicopter named Dawdling Dromedary, piloted by Commander James R. Williford and Lieutenant David A. Beil, with Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class Paul J. Bert, took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CVS-12), alongside NAS North Island, San Diego California, at 4:18 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, (12:18 UTC) and flew non-stop, without refueling, to land aboard another aircraft carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), off Mayport, Florida, at 11:10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (04:10 UTC). The distance flown was 3,388.70 kilometers (2,105.64 miles) with an elapsed time of 16 hours, 52 minutes, and set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Without Landing.¹ This exceeded the previous record distance by more than 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).²

On takeoff, Dawdling Dromedary had a gross weight of 23,000 pounds (10,433 kilograms), about 4,000 pounds (1,814 kilograms over its normal operating weight. Its fuel load was 1,690 gallons (6,397 liters) and it had only 60 gallons (227 liters) remaining on landing.

After clearing Guadalupe Pass between Carlsbad, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, (5,414 feet, 1650 meters) the crew shut down one the the SH-3A’s two turboshaft engines in an effort to reduce fuel consumption. They flew on a single engine for 9½ hours, restarting the second engine as they descended through 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) over Jacksonville, Florida.

The flight crew of the Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Dawdling Dromedary, Bu. No. 14xxxx. (FAI)
The flight crew of the Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Dawdling Dromedary, Bu. No. 14xxxx. Left to right, ADJ1 Paul J. Bert, CDR James R. Williford and LT David A. Beil. (FAI)

Commander Williford, head of the Rotary Wing Branch, Flight Test Division, at the Naval Air Test Center, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, was quoted in Naval Aviation News for the May 1965 issue:

“Since weight counted, the heater had been removed. We therefore wore rubber boots, long underwear, etc., but still were thoroughly chilled upon arrival. The temperature at 15,000 feet [4,572 meters] was -11° [-23.9 °C.] that night.

“The C-131 chase aircraft crew was amazed at our accuracy of navigation with a lone omni. Actually, it was such a clear day it was the old type of piloting, that is, ‘just north of that reservoir’ or ‘one mile south of that city,’ etc. We flew through mountain passes until Guadalupe, thence great circle route to Mayport.

“For the trip, +10 knots [18.5 kilometers per hour] tailwind average was needed, and it appeared we weren’t going to make it for the first 8–9 hours because we were behind in our time vs. distance plot. But as we climbed higher—climbing being limited by retreating blade stall—we gained stronger and more favorable winds. By the time we reached Valdosta, Georgia, we had about 35 knots [64.8 kilometers per hour] pushing us. That was a nice feature because the Okefenokee Swamp at night is no place for an autorotation with empty fuel tanks.”

—Commander James R. Williford, United States Navy, Naval Aviation News, May 1965, NavWeps No. 00-75R-3, at Pages 8–9.

Dawdling Dromedary is the same Sikorsky SH-3A that set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed record for helicopters of 339 kilometers per hour (210.6 miles per hour), 5 February 1962, flown by Lieutenant Robert W. Crafton, USN, and Captain Louis K. Keck, USMC.³

The Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King was the first of the S-61 series of military and civil helicopters, designated as HSS-2 until 1962. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. The fuselage is designed to allow landing on water. The XHSS-2 made its first flight 11 March 1959. The helicopter was originally used as an anti-submarine helicopter.

The SH-3A is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 16 feet, 10 inches (5.131 meters) high with all rotors turning. The main rotors and tail can be folded for more compact storage aboard aircraft carriers, shortening the aircraft to 46 feet, 6 inches (14.173 meters). The main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The tail rotor also has five blades and a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.150 meters). They each have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). At 100% NR, the main rotor turns 203 r.p.m. and the tail rotor, 1,244 r.p.m.

The SH-3A was powered by two General Electric T58-GE-6 turboshaft engines, which had a Normal Power rating of 900 horsepower, and Military Power rating of 1,050 horsepower. The main transmission was rated for 2,300 horsepower, maximum. (Later models were built with more powerful T58-GE-8 engines. Early aircraft were retrofitted.)

The SH-3A has a cruise speed of 125 knots (144 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 135 knots (155 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The design maximum gross weight is 16,237 pounds (7,365 kilograms). The SH-3A had a combat endurance of 4 hours.

In 1962, the HSS-2 was redesignated SH-3A Sea King. Many early production aircraft have remained in service and have been upgraded through SH-3D, SH-3G, etc. In addition to the original ASW role, the Sea Kings have been widely used for Combat Search and Rescue operations. Marine One, the call sign for the helicopters assigned to the President of the United States, are VH-3D Sea Kings.

Sikorsky produced the last S-61 helicopter in 1980, having built 794. Production has been licensed to manufacturers in England, Italy, Canada and Japan. They have produced an additional 679 Sea Kings.

Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Bu. No. 14xxxx, the Dawdling Dromedary. (FAI)
Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Bu. No. 14xxxx, the Dawdling Dromedary. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 2179

² FAI Record File Number 2180: 2,170.70 kilometers (1,348.81 miles), set by Captain Michael N. Antoniou, U.S. Army, flying a Bell YUH-1D Iroquois, 60-6029, from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Rogers, Arkansas, 27 September 1964.

³ FAI Record File Number 13121. (See TDiA, 5 February 1962.)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 September 1912

Lieutenant Lewis Cassidy Rockwell, 10th Infantry, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

28 September 1912: Second Lieutenant Lewis Cassidy Rockwell was flying a Wright Model B, Signal Corps Aeroplane No. 4, at the United States Army training field at College Park, Maryland, where he was being trained as a military aviator. Corporal Frank S. Scott, U.S. Army Signal Corps, a mechanic on these airplanes, rode as a passenger aboard Lieutenant Rockwell’s airplane.

A contemporary newspaper article describes what happened next:

Washington, Sept 28. – Two more lives were sacrificed to aviation at the United States army aviation field, College Park, Md., today when an army aeroplane fell thirty-five feet to the ground instantly killing Corporal Frank S. Scott and so seriously injuring Second Lieutenant Lewis C. Rockwell that he died a few hours later. Hundreds of people, including fellow army officers, breathlessly witnessed the accident.

“Lieutenant Rockwell had started up with Corporal Scott as a passenger to make a test flight in his trial for a military aviator’s license. They had been in the air about eight minutes, ascending to a height of five hundred feet, then gliding down, had gotten within thirty-five of the ground. At this point the aviator turned the machine upward again and something went wrong. Instantly the aeroplane buckled and crashed to the ground.

Corporal Frank S. Scott, Signal Corps, U.S. Army. (U.S. Air Force)

“Scott was hurled several hundred feet from the machine while Rockwell lay a few feet away from him. Brother officers found Scott lifeless. Rockwell, his head buried partly in the earth, still showed signs of life but was unconscious. He was rushed to a hospital. He never regained consciousness. Brother officers who witnessed the accident were at a loss to account for it.”

The Daily Journal and Tribune, Knoxville, Tennessee, 29 September 1912.

According to an article published by the Scott Air Force Base History Office,

“The flight started out in routine fashion of Sept. 28, 1912. Lieutenant Rockwell did a solo. The clumsy aircraft banged and coughed its way into the air, fluttering over College Park at the remarkable speed of 40 miles per hour. Assured that everything was in proper working order, the lieutenant landed and picked up Corporal Scott. The two men took off in the open biplane; and, after reaching an altitude of 150 feet, leveled off and soared for about 10 minutes. Coming in for a landing, the frail craft developed trouble and nosed downward. For tragic seconds, its 30 horsepower, 4-cylinder engine popped at full power, but the biplane continued its long dive, hurtling to earth with a crushing impact.

     “Nothing was left but a heap of splintered wood and torn canvas. Corporal Scott was dead when the running soldiers reached the scene of the crash. Lieutenant Rockwell was rushed to Washington’s Walter Reed hospital, but died on the operating table. More than 300 people witnessed the crash.”

—Air University, NCO and Enlisted Resources, NCO/Enlisted History

Corporal Scott was the first United States enlisted soldier to be killed in an airplane crash. The crash was also the first in which two or more persons were killed.

Both men were buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

When it became customary to name Air Service facilities in honor of military aviation personnel killed during the early experimental days of military aviation, the airfield at Belleville, Illinois, was named Scott Field in honor of Corporal Scott. It is now Scott Air Force Base.

The Air Service training field was later moved from College Park, Maryland, to San Diego, California. The new air field there was named Rockwell Field, after Lt. Lewis Rockwell. It is now NAS North Island.

The Wright Model B, Air Service No. 4, after the crash at College Park, Maryland, 28 September 1912. (U.S. Air Force)

The Wright Model B was a two-place, single-engine biplane. The elevator was at the rear, rather than in canard position as had been the earlier Wright airplanes. (This configuration was known as “headless.”) Roll control was through the Wright Brother’s patented wing-warping system. It was 26 feet (7.925 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet (11.887 meters). It weighed 800 pounds (363 kilograms) empty and had a gross weight of 1,250 pounds (567 kilograms).

Lieutenant Lewis C. Rockwell, 10th United States Infantry Regiment, at controls of a Wright Model B at College Park, Maryland, 1912. (U.S. Air Force)

The Model B was powered by a single water-cooled, fuel-injected, 240.528 cubic-inch-displacement (3.942 liter) Wright vertical overhead-valve inline four-cylinder gasoline engine with 2 valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.165:1. It produced 32 horsepower at 1,310 r.p.m. During three years of production (1908–1911) Wright “4-40” engines were built that operated from 1,325 to 1,500 r.p.m. Power output ranged from 28 to 40 horsepower. These engines weighed from 160 to 180 pounds (72.6–81.6 kilograms).

Two 8½ foot (2.591 meters) diameter, two-bladed, counter-rotating propellers, driven by a chain drive, are mounted behind the wings in pusher configuration. They turned 445 r.p.m.

The Wright Model B had a maximum speed of approximately 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour) and its range was 110 miles (177 kilometers).

Approximately 100 Model B aeroplanes were built by the Wrights and under license by Burgess from 1910 to 1914. Three are known to exist.

A reproduction of a Wright Model B

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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