Tag Archives: Non-Stop Flight

4–5 February 1929

Frank Hawks with the red and silver Lockheed Air Express, NR7955. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

4–5 February 1929: At 5:37:30 p.m., Pacific Time, Monday, Frank Monroe Hawks took off from Metropolitan Field, Los Angeles, California, (now known as Van Nuys Airport, VNY) in a new Lockheed Model 3 Air Express transport, NR7955, serial number EX-2. Also on board was Oscar Edwin Grubb, the final assembly superintendent for Lockheed. The pair flew non-stop to Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, arriving there at 2:59:29 p.m., Eastern Time, on Tuesday. The duration of the flight was 18 hours, 21 minutes, 59 seconds.

Oscar Edwin Grubb and Frank Monroe Hawks, shortly before departing for New York, 4 February 1929. (Getty Images)

The only previous non-stop West-to-East flight had been flown during August 1928 by Arthur C. Goebel, Jr., and Harry Tucker with their Lockheed Vega, Yankee Doodle, NX4769. Hawks cut 36 minutes off of Goebel’s time.

Lockheed Model 3 Air Express NR7955, photographed 1 February 1929. The Air Express was the first production airplane to use the new NACA cowling design. (Crane/NACA)

Hawks was a technical adviser to The Texas Company (“Texaco”), a manufacturer and distributor of petroleum products which sponsored the flight. On his recommendation, the company purchased the Air Express from Lockheed for use as a company transport.

On 17 January 1930, “Pilot Frank Hawks attempted a takeoff from a soggy field in West Palm Beach, Florida, destroying the aircraft christened ‘Texaco Five’ in a spectacular crash that catapulted it into a row of three parked aircraft. All three occupants were unhurt while the aircraft was destroyed.” —Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives

NC7955’s Department of Commerce registration was cancelled 31 January 1930.

The Lockheed Model 3 Air Express was a single-engine parasol-wing monoplane transport, flown by a single pilot in an open aft cockpit, and capable of carrying 4 to 6 passengers in its enclosed cabin. The airplane was designed by Gerard Freebairn Vultee and John Knudsen Northrop. It used the Lockheed Vega’s molded plywood monocoque fuselage.

The Model 3 received Approved Type Certificate No. 102 from the Aeronautic Branch, U. S. Department of Commerce.

The Lockheed Air Express was the first production airplane to use the “NACA Cowl,” an engine cowling for radial engines which had been designed by a team led by Fred Ernest Weick of the the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. The new cowling design tightly enclosed the engine and used baffles to control air flow around the hottest parts of the engines. The exit slots were designed to allow the air to exit the cowling at a higher speed than it had entered the intake. The new cowling design provided better engine cooling and caused significantly less aerodynamic drag. The addition of the NACA cowling increased the Air Express’s maximum speed from 157 to 177 miles per hour (253 to 285 kilometers per hour).

The day following Hawks’ transcontinental flight, Vultee sent a telegram to NACA:

COOLING CAREFULLY CHECKED AND OK. RECORD IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT NEW COWLING. ALL CREDIT DUE TO NACA FOR PAINSTAKING AND ACCURATE RESEARCH. GERRY VULTEE, LOCKHEED AIRCRAFT CO.

The Lockheed Model 3 Air Express was 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wing span of 42 feet, 6 inches (12.954 meters) and height of 8 feet, 4½ inches (2.553 meters). The wing area was 288 square feet (26.756 square meters). The wing had no dihedral. The airplane had an empty weight of 2,533 pounds (1,149 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,375 pounds (1,984 kilograms).

The Model 3 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level. It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) in diameter, and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The Air Express had a cruising speed of 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour), and maximum speed of 177 miles per hour (285 kilometers per hour). It’s service ceiling was 17,250 feet (5,258 meters).

Frank Hawks, 1930. (San Diego air and Space Museum Archives)

Francis Monroe Hawks was born at Marshalltown, Iowa, 28 March 1897. He was the son of Charles Monroe Hawks, a barber, and Ida Mae Woodruff Hawks. He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, Long Beach, California, graduating in 1916. He then studied at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

Frank Hawks was an Air Service, United States Army, pilot who served during World War I. He rose to the rank of Captain, and at the time of his record-breaking transcontinental flight, he held a commission as a reserve officer in the Army Air Corps. Hawks transferred to the U.S. Naval Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. His date of rank 27 May 1932.

His flying had made him a popular public figure and he starred in a series of Hollywood movies as “The Mysterious Pilot.”

Poster advertising Episode 5 of the movie serial, “The Mysterious Pilot.” (Columbia Pictures)
Amelia Earhart and Frank Hawks. (World History Project)

On 28 December 1920, Miss Amelia Earhart took her first ride in an airplane at Long Beach Airport in California. The ten-minute flight began her life-long involvement in aviation. The airplane’s pilot was Frank Monroe Hawks.

Francis M. Hawks married Miss Newell Lane at Lewiston, Montana, 7 August 1918. They had a daughter, Dolly. They later divorced. He next married Mrs. Edith Bowie Fouts at St. John’s Church, Houston, Texas, 26 October 1926.

Frank Hawks was killed in an aircraft accident at East Aurora, New York, 23 August 1938. He was buried at Redding Ridge Cemetery, Redding, Connecticut.

Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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19–20 November 1945

Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-8061, the Pacusan Dreamboat. (U.S. Air Force)
Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, the Pacusan Dreamboat. (U.S. Air Force)

19–20 November 1945: A Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress, 44-84061, named Pacusan Dreamboat, piloted by Colonel Clarence Shortridge Irvine and Lieutenant Colonel G.R. Stanley, flew non-stop and unrefueled from Guam, the largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Islands of the Western Pacific, to Washington, D.C. The four-engine heavy bomber covered the 8,198 miles (13,193 kilometers) in 35 hours, 5 minutes. It set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) record for Distance in a Straight Line:  12,739.59 kilometers (7,916.01 miles).¹

Bell Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress over Seattle, Washington. (Boeing)
Bell Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, “Pacusan Dreamboat,” over Seattle, Washington. (Boeing)

Pacusan Dreamboat was modified specifically for a series of long-distance flights. A standard production B-29B, a light-weight variant of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, it did not have the four power gun turrets with their .50-caliber machine guns. A radar-directed 20 mm cannon and two .50-caliber machine guns in the tail were the only defensive weapons. Much of the standard armor plate was also deleted. It weighed 69,000 pounds (31,298 kilograms) empty and 137,000 pounds (62,142 kilograms) fully loaded. Pacusan Dreamboat was further lightened. The tail guns were removed and the tail reshaped. It had an empty weight of 66,000 pounds (29,937 kilograms). Its takeoff weight on this flight was 151,000 pounds (68,492 kilograms).

Pacusan Dreamboat carried a 12-man crew and 10,000 gallons (37,854 liters) of gasoline.

Colonel Clarence S. Irvine (standing, left) with the crew of Pacusan Dreamboat: W.J.Benett, G.F.Broughton, Dock West, W.S. O'Hara, F.S. O'Leary, K.L. Royer, F.J.Shannon, J.A. Shinnault, G.R. Stanley. (FAI)
Colonel Clarence S. Irvine (standing, left) with the crew of Pacusan Dreamboat: W.J. Benett, G.F. Broughton, Dock West, W.S. O’Hara, F.S. O’Leary, K.L. Royer, F.J.Shannon, J.A. Shinnault, G.R. Stanley. (FAI)

Pacusan Dreamboat set a number of distance and speed records, including Honolulu, Hawaii to Cairo, Egypt and Burbank to New York in 5 hours, 27 minutes, averaging 451.9 miles per hour (727.26 kilometers per hour).

The Pacusan Dreamboat was stricken from the Air Force inventory 8 August 1954 and reclaimed at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, Pacusan Dreamboat. (FAI)
Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress 44-84061, Pacusan Dreamboat. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 9277

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24–25 October 1928

Harry Tucker’s Lockheed Vega, NX4769. (National Archives)

24–25 October 1928: Captain Charles B.D. Collyer, Air Service, United States Army, and Harry J. Tucker flew Tucker’s Lockheed Vega, NX4769, from New York to Los Angeles, non-stop, in 24 hours, 55 minutes.

A contemporary newspaper article reported the event:

YANKEE DOODLE SETS NEW MARK

Monoplane Flies Across Continent to Los Angeles in 24 Hours, 55 Minutes

Mines Field, Los Angeles, Oct. 25—(AP)—Setting a new record for a trans-continental non-stop airplane flight from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, the monoplane Yankee Doodle arrived here at 2:12 p.m. today from New York.

The unofficial time of the flight as announced by Capt. C.D.B. Collyer, pilot and Harry Tucker, owner and passenger, was 24 hours 55 minutes. The best previous time for the westward flight was 26 hours and 50 minutes, made in 1923 by Lieutenants John MacReady [John A. Macready] and Oakley Gelley [Oakley George Kelly].

530 Gallons Carried

The Yankee Doodle hopped off at Roosevelt Field at 4:16:35 p.m. Eastern Standard Time yesterday. The little cigar-shaped white-winged plane was loaded with 530 gallons of gasoline, just about enough for a 24-hour flight, and a check began shortly after landing to determine how much of the fuel was left.

The westward flight covered approximately the course flown over by Col. Arthur Goebel when he piloted his plane to a new West-East non-stop trans-continental record of 18 hours and 55 minutes several weeks ago.

This was the fourth time Tucker has sent his plane into a coast-to-coast grind. The first West to East attempt was unsuccessful but on the second attempt Goebel piloted the machine through to the record.

The Cornell Daily Sun, Ithaca, New York, Friday, October 26, 1928, Volume XLIX, Number 29 at Page 1, Column 5

Captain Charles B.D. Collyer

Charles Bascum Drury Collyer was born at Nashville, Tennessee, 24 August 1896, the son of Rev. Charles Thomas Collyer. He traveled throughout the world, and lived for a time in Seoul, Korea. Collyer attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute, a military college at Blacksburg, Virginia, as a member of the class of 1919.

Collyer served in the United States Army as a private, first class, being discharged 1 May 1919. He held a commission as a second lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Reserve Corps. He was employed as chief pilot, Liberty Flyers, Inc., at Savannah, Georgia.

From 28 June to 22 July 1928, Collyer had flown around the world with John Henry Mears. Collyer was president of the Aviation Services Corporation of New York, which had been formed “to do unusual things in aviation.”

Harry J. Tucker

Harry J. Tucker was variously described as an “auto tycoon” and a “wealthy Santa Monica, California, businessman.” He was born in 1891.

Charles B.D. Collyer and Harry Tucker were killed 3 November 1928 when Yankee Doodle crashed in fog near Venezia, in Yavapai County, Arizona. Collyer was buried at Arlington, National Cemetery, Virginia.

Yankee Doodle was the seventh Lockheed Vega produced (c/n 7). The Vega was a a single-engine, high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California.

The Vega was very much a state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of strips of vertical-grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and bonded together with cassein glue. These were then attached to former rings. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. They were built of spruce spars and ribs, covered with 3/32-inch (2.4 millimeters) spruce plywood.

Three-view drawing of the Lockheed Vega from a National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics publication. (NASA)

The Lockheed Vega 1 was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could carry up to four passengers in the enclosed cabin. It was 27.5 feet (8.38 meters) long with a wingspan of 41.0 feet (12.50 meters) and height of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.59 meters). The total wing area (including ailerons) was 275 square feet (25.55 square meters). The wing had no dihedral. The leading edges were swept slightly aft, and the trailing edges swept forward. The Vega 1 had an empty weight of 1,650.0 pounds (748.4 kilograms) and a gross weight of 3,200 pounds (1,452 kilograms).

The early Vegas were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright Whirlwind Five (J-5C) nine-cylinder radial engine. This was a direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The J-5C was rated at 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 220 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. It was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long, 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter, and weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).

The Vega had a cruising speed of 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour) with the engine turning 1,500 r.p.m., and a top speed of 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour)—very fast for its time. The airplane had a rate of climb of 925 feet per minute (4.7 meters per second) at Sea Level, decreasing to 405 feet per minute (2.1 meters per second) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its service ceiling was 15,900 feet (4,846 meters), and the absolute ceiling was 17,800 feet (5,425 meters). The airplane had a fuel capacity of 100 gallons (379 liters), giving it a range of 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) at cruise speed.

Twenty-eight Vega 1 airplanes were built by Lockheed Aircraft Company at the factory on Sycamore Street, Hollywood, California, before production of the improved Lockheed Vega 5 began in 1928 and the company moved to its new location at Burbank, California.

The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars and other astronomical objects.

Lockheed Vega NX4769 at NAS North Island, 1928. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lockheed Vega NX4769 at NAS San Diego, 1928. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 July 1935

Laura Ingalls in the cockpit of her Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222, warming up its engine at Floyd Bennett Field, 10 July 1935. (Rudy Arnold Collection, NASM)

11 July 1935: At 5:31 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, (01:31 UTC) Laura Houghtaling Ingalls took off from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, and flew non-stop across the North American continent to the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California. She landed there at 8:51 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time (19:31 UTC). The elapsed time of her non-stop transcontinental flight was 18 hours, 20 minutes, 30 seconds.

After departing Floyd Bennett Field, Ingalls flew along a commercial airway defined by radio beacons. Her route of flight was from Brooklyn, New York, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—Columbus, Ohio—Indianapolis, Indiana—Kansas City, Missouri—Albuquerque, New Mexico—Burbank, California. This was only the third time that a non-stop transcontinental flight had been accomplished.

Laura Houghtaling Ingalls’ Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Her airplane was a single-engine Lockheed Model 9D Orion Special, registration NR14222, which she had named Auto da Fé. ¹ Ingalls had taken delivery of the Orion at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, 1 February 1935. Contemporary newspaper reports said that the “Black Mystery Ship” cost $45,000.

The Lockheed Model 9 Orion was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane, designed in 1931 by Gerard Freebairn Vultee for airline use. It was capable of carrying six passengers in an enclosed cabin. The Orion was the first commercial airliner with retractable landing gear. It was faster than any military airplane in service at the beginning of the decade. Like other Lockheed aircraft of the time, it was constructed of strong, light-weight, molded wood, but the Orion would be Lockheed’s last wooden airplane.

Billy Parker, Laura Ingalls and Wiley Post at the 1935 National Air Races. Ingall's Lockheed Orion 9D, NR14222, Auto da Fé, has its engine cowling removed for maintenance. (Monash University)
Billy Parker, Laura Ingalls and Wiley Post at the 1935 National Air Races. Ingall’s Lockheed Orion, NR14222, Auto da Fé, has its engine cowling removed for maintenance. (Monash University)

The Lockheed Orion 9D was 28 feet, 4 inches (8.64 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9¼ inches (13.04 meters) and height of 9 feet, 8 inches (2.95 meters). It had an empty weight of 3,640 pounds (1,651 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 5,200 pounds (2,359 kilograms).

Lockheed Model 9D Special NR14222. (SDASM)

Auto da Fé was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S1D1 nine-cylinder radial engine. The engine had a compression ratio of 6:1 and was rated 525 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. The S1D1 was a direct-drive engine, which turned a two-bladed Hamilton Standard variable-pitch, constant-speed propeller. The Wasp S1D1 was 4 feet, 3.438 inches (1.307 meters) in diameter, 3 feet, 6.625 inches (1.083 meters) long and weighed 763 pounds (346 kilograms). The engine was enclosed by a N.A.C.A. cowling.

The cruise speed of the Orion was 205 miles per hour (330 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 220 miles per hour (354 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. It had a range of 750 miles (1,159 kilometers) in standard configuration. The service ceiling was 22,000 feet (6,705 meters).

Laura Ingalls shows the Sperry Gyro Pilot equipment to be installed aboard her Lockheed Orion. (Corbis)

Ingall’s airplane had a fuel capacity of 630 gallons (2,385 liters) of gasoline and 40 gallons (151 liters) of engine oil. NR14222 was equipped with a Sperry Gyro Pilot and a Westport radio compass and receiver for navigation.

The Greek lower-case letter zeta (the astronomical symbol for the planet Jupiter) was painted on each side of the airplane under the cockpit rails. Ingalls had the same symbol on several of her airplanes. A source suggests that it was used as a stylized representation of her initials, “L.I.” (Her Lockheed Air Express carried the astronomical symbol for the constellation Sagittarius, which was Ingalls’ astrological sign.)

In 1937, NR14222 was sold to Rudolf Wolf, Inc., a burlap company in New York. It was then transferred to Fuerzas Aéreas de la República Española (FARE), the air arm of the Spanish Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. What happened to the Lockheed Orion after that is not known.

Laura Ingalls stands on the wing of her Lockheed Orion at Alamosa, Colorado, 16 April 1935. Photo by Glen Gants. (SDASM Archives)

Laura Houghtaling Ingalls was born at Brooklyn, New York, 14 December 1893. She was the first of two children of Francis Abbott Ingalls, a cotton goods merchant, and Laura McAlister Houghtaling Ingalls.

Laura Ingalls, 1920

Miss Ingalls lived in France prior to World War I, and returned there as a relief worker following the War. In 1920, she lived with her family in Tuxedo Park, New York, and was employed as a stenographer.

Laura Ingalls began flight training at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, and completed her first solo flight on 23 December 1928.  In June 1929, she began training for a commercial pilot certificate at the Universal Flying School, Lambert Field, St. Louis Missouri.

Woman Pilot Finishes Studies

     Miss Laura Ingalls, who recently received a limited commercial license, has completed her studies at the Universal Flying School and is taking the examination for a transport license under Inspector Fox. Miss Ingalls’ home is in New York, where she is said to have received several offers of work as a pilot.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Vol. 82, No. 212, Sunday, 6 April 1930, Page 6-I, Column 1

Ingalls qualified for her limited transport license, 12 April 1930. (After qualifying for an F.C.C. radio-telephone operator license in 1934, her restricted transport license was upgraded to Scheduled Airline Transport Pilot, 26 January 1935.) Her pilot certificate number was 9330.

Laura Ingalls with her de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, circa 1930. The emblem is the logo of the Moth Aircraft Corporation of Lowell, Massachusetts, the owner of Miss Ingall’s airplane.(Parks Airport)

Laura Ingalls first gained public attention when she performed 344 consecutive loops with a de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth at St. Louis, NR9720 (c/n 885), 4 May 1930. Three weeks later, she increased the number of loops to 980. On August 13, she completed 714 consecutive barrel rolls in the same airplane. (At the time, the airplane was a demonstrator for the Moth Aircraft Corporation, Lowell, Massachusetts, which was licensed by de Havilland to produce the DH.60 in the United States. Kits were built in England, then assembled in Massachusetts. Miss Ingalls later purchased the airplane, 23 June 1930.)

Laura Houghtaling Ingalls rests against the lower wing of her de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth while its engine idles, October 1930. The forward cockpit is covered.

Miss Ingalls was the first woman to fly across the country from East to West. In 5 October 1930, she flew NR9720 from Roosevelt Field to Grand Central Air Terminal at Glendale, California, arriving 9 October. The flight required nine fuel stops, and took 30 hours and 27 minutes over four days.

Between 28 February and 25 April 1934, Laura Ingalls flew a Lockheed Model 3 Air Express, NR974Y, on a 17,000-mile (27,400 kilometers) solo flight around South America and over the Andes mountain range.

Laura Ingalls with her Lockheed Model 3 Air Express, NR974Y. (CTIE/Monash University)

Laura Ingalls was awarded the Harmon Aviatrix Trophy for 1934.

Ingalls flew her Orion in the 1936 Bendix Trophy Race, finishing in second place behind Louise Thaden, with an elapsed time of 15 hours, 39 minutes.

Miss Ingalls bought a Ryan ST-A low-wing monoplane, NC18901 (c/n 179), which was powered by a 125 horsepower Menasco C4 Pirate inverted 4-cylinder engine. The Ryan ST was developed into the Ryan PT-16–22 military trainers of World War II.

In 1939, Laura Ingalls dropped political leaflets during a 2-hour flight over Washington, D.C. On landing, she was met by representatives of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. Her pilot’s license was suspended by the C.A.A. for violating the airspace surrounding The White House. Some sources indicate that the license was later revoked.

After the United States entered World War II, Miss Ingalls was arrested for acting as an unregistered paid agent of Nazi Germany. At trial, she was convicted. She served 1 year, 7 months, 15 days in prison. (Ingalls was initially incarcerated at the federal prison in Washington, D.C., but after having been severely beaten by other prisoners, she was transferred to the womens’ prison in Alderson, West Virginia.)

Laura Houghtaining Ingalls died at her home in Burbank, California, 10 January 1967, at the age of 73 years. Her ashes were interred at Wiltwyck Cemetery, Kingston, New York.

Laura Ingalls with her Ryan ST-A, NC18901, circa 1937. (SDASM)

¹ An auto-da-fé was a public act of penance required of condemned heretics prior to their execution during the Spanish Inquisition. The meaning of the reference on Ingall’s Orion is unknown.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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31 May–1 June 1967

Left to Right: Major Herbert Zehnder, USAF; Igor Sikorsky; Major Donald B. Murras, USAF, at Le Bourget, 1 June 1967.
Major Herbert R. Zehnder, USAF; Igor Sikorsky; Major Donald B. Murras, USAF, at le Bourget, 1 June 1967. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

At 0105 hours, 31 May 1967, two Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters, 66-13280 and 66-13281, from the 48th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, United States Air Force, took off from Floyd Bennett Field, New York, and flew non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean to the Paris Air Show. They arrived at Le Bourget at 1351 hours, 1 June.

“H-211,” one of two 48th ARRS Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters, lands at Le Bourget after a non-stop trans Atlantic flight, 1 June 1967. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

The flight covered 4,271 miles (6873.5 kilometers) and took 30 hours, 46 minutes. Nine in-flight refuelings were required from Lockheed HC-130P Combat King tankers. The aircraft commanders were Major Herbert Zehnder and Major Donald B. Murras. Each helicopter had a crew of five.

Flight crews of the two 48th ARRS Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicoptersat Le Bourget after a non-stop trans Atlantic flight, 1 June 1967. Major Zehnder is in the back row, at left.

Major Zehnder, in H-211, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Recognized Course for helicopters, with an average speed of 189.95 kilometers per hour (118.03 miles per hour). This record still stands.¹

The route of the two 48th ARRS Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters from New York to Paris. (Sikorsky Archives News, July 2017)
Lieutenant Colonel Travis Wofford, United States Air Force.
Lieutenant Colonel Travis Wofford, United States Air Force.

Both Jolly Green Giants, serial numbers 66-13280 and 66-13281, were later assigned to the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron. Both were lost in combat during the Vietnam War.

66-13280, “Jolly Green 27” crashed at Kontum, Republic of South Vietnam, 15 April 1970. The pilot, Captain Travis H. Scott, Jr., was killed, and flight engineer Gerald E. Hartzel later died of wounds. The co-pilot, Major Travis Wofford, was awarded the Air Force Cross and the Cheney Medal for his rescue of the crewmembers from the burning helicopter. Captain Scott was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross.

66-13281, “Jolly Green 28,” was shot down over Laos, 24 October 1969. The crew was rescued and the helicopter destroyed to prevent capture. The pararescueman, Technical Sergeant Donald G. Smith, was awarded the  Air Force Cross for the rescue of the pilot of “Misty 11.” He was also awarded the Airman’s Medal.

Master Sergeant Donald G. Smith, United States Air Force.
Master Sergeant Donald G. Smith, United States Air Force.

Major Herbert Zehnder flew another Sikorsky HH-3E, 65-12785, to intentionally crash land inside the Sơn Tây Prison Camp, 23 miles (37 kilometers) west of Hanoi, North Vietnam. He was awarded the Silver Star.

The SH-3A Sea King (Sikorsky S-61) first flew 11 March 1959, designed as an anti-submarine helicopter for the U.S. Navy. The prototype was designated XHSS-2 Sea King. In 1962, the HSS-2 was redesignated SH-3A Sea King. Many early production aircraft were 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.

A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (66-13290) of the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron, hovering in ground effect at Da Nang, Republic of South Vietnam, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)

The Sikorsky HH-3E (Sikorsky S-61R) earned the nickname Jolly Green Giant during the Vietnam War. It is a dedicated Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter flown by the U.S. Air Force, based on the CH-3C transport helicopter. The aircraft is flown by two pilots and the crew includes a flight mechanic and gunner. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. It has retractable tricycle landing gear and a rear cargo ramp. The rear landing gear retracts into a stub wing on the aft fuselage. The helicopter has an extendable inflight refueling boom.

The HH-3E is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 18 feet, 10 inches (5.740 meters) high with all rotors turning. 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 main rotor turns at 203 r.p.m., counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The tail rotor also has five blades and has a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.150 meters). The blades have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor turns 1,244 r.p.m.

A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant refuels in flight from a Lockheed HC-130 Combat King. (U.S. Air Force)
A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant refuels in flight from a Lockheed HC-130 Combat King. (U.S. Air Force)

The HH-3E has an empty weight of 13,341 pounds (6,051 kilograms). The maximum gross weight is 22,050 pounds (10,002 kilograms).

The Jolly Green Giant is powered by two General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines, which have a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,400 shaft horsepower, each, and Military Power rating of 1,500 shaft horsepower. The main transmission is rated for 2,500 horsepower, maximum.

The HH-3E has a cruise speed of 154 miles per hour (248 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour (285 kilometers per hour), also at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The HH-3E had a maximum range of 779 miles (1,254 kilometers) with external fuel tanks.

The Jolly Green Giant can be armed with two M60 7.62 mm machine guns.

Sikorsky built 14 HH-3Es. Many CH-3Cs and CH-3Es were upgraded to the HH-3E configuration. Sikorsky built a total of 173 of the S-61R series.

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 2092

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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