Tag Archives: Packard Motor Car Company

29 December 1949

Jackie Cochran with her Cobalt Blue North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, N5528N, Thunderbird, circa December 1949. (FAI)

29 December 1949: Jackie Cochran (Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force Reserve) flew her North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, Thunderbird, CAA registration N5528N, to two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Class C-1 world speed records of 703.38 kilometers per hour (437.06 miles per hour)¹ and a U.S. National record of 703.275 kilometers per hour (436.995 miles per hour) over the 500 kilometer (310.7 mile) Desert Center–Mt. Wilson course in the Colorado Desert of southern California.

Left profile drawing of Thunderbird, Jackie Cochran’s unlimited class North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, N5528N. (Image courtesy of Tim Bradley, © 2014)
National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive. (Bryan R. Swopes)
National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive. (Bryan R. Swopes)
Jackie Cochran’s North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, N5528N. (FAI)

Thunderbird was Jackie Cochran’s third P-51 Mustang. She had purchased it from Academy Award-winning actor and World War II B-24 wing commander James M. Stewart just ten days earlier, 19 December 1949.

According to Civil Aviation Administration records, the airplane had been “assembled from components of other aircraft of the same type.” It has no U.S. Army Air Corps serial number or North American Aviation manufacturer’s serial number. The C.A.A. designated it as a P-51C and assigned 2925 as its serial number. It was certificated in the Experimental category and registered N5528N.

Thunderbird had won the 1949 Bendix Trophy Race with pilot Joe De Bona, after he had dropped out of the 1948 race. Its engine had been upgraded from a Packard V-1650-3 Merlin to a V-1650-7 for the 1949 race.

Cobalt Blue North American Aviation P-51C Mustang N5528N with Joe De Bona’s race number, 90. (Unattributed).

Jackie Cochran set three world speed records with Thunderbird. In 1953, she sold it back to Jimmy Stewart. After changing ownership twice more, the P-51 crashed near Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska, 22 June 1955.

The P-51B and P-51C Mustangs are virtually identical. The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Inglewood, California, while P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas, plant. They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5,352 kilograms).

P-51Bs and Cs were powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m and 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3) or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning at 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). These were license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic constant speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters).

The P-51B/C had a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel, the combat range was 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

In military service, armament consisted of four Browning AN/M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted two in each wing, with 350 rounds per gun for the inboard guns and 280 rounds per gun for the outboard.

1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant and another 1,750 P-51Cs were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

According to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, “At the time of her death in 1980, Jacqueline Cochran held more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other male or female pilot in aviation history.”

Identical to the Inglewood, California-built North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, this is a Dallas, Texas-built P-51C-1-NT, 42-103023. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 4476 and 12323

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 December 1947

Jackie Cochran with her P-51B Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran with her P-51B Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)

10 December 1947: Near the Santa Rosa Summit in the Coachella Valley of southeastern California, Jackie Cochran flew her green North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, NX28388, over a 100-kilometer (62 miles) closed circuit, averaging 755.668 kilometers per hour (469.549 miles per hour). She set both a U.S. National and a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record.¹

This record still stands.

Jackie Cochran's green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran’s green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)
National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive. (Bryan R. Swopes)
National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record in the San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive. (Bryan R. Swopes)

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 09.58.53

NX28388 was the first of three P-51 Mustangs owned by Jackie Cochran. It was a North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang built at Inglewood, California in 1944. It was assigned NAA internal number 104-25789 and U.S. Army Air Corps serial number 43-24760.

Cochran bought it from North American Aviation, Inc., 6 August 1946. The airplane was registered to Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics, Inc., 142 Miller Street, Newark, New Jersey, but was based at Jackie’s C-O Ranch at Indio, California. The Mustang was painted “Lucky Strike Green” and carried the number 13 on each side of the fuselage, on the upper surface of the left wing and lower surface of the right wing.

NX28388 was powered by Packard V-1650-7 Merlin V-12, serial number V332415.

Jackie Cochran flew NX28388 in the 1946 Bendix Trophy Race and finished second to Paul Mantz in his P-51C Mustang, Blaze of Noon. Cochran asked Bruce Gimbel to fly the Mustang for her in the 1947 Bendix. There was trouble with the propeller governor and he finished in fourth place. In May 1948, Jackie set two more speed records with NX28388. Jackie and her green Mustang finished in third place in the 1948 Bendix race. She asked another pilot, Lockheed test pilot Sampson Held, to ferry the fighter back to California from Cleveland, Ohio after the race, but,

“. . . my plane crashed, carrying my associate, Sam Held, with it to his death.”The Stars At Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1954, Chapter IV at Page 79.

NX28388 had crashed six miles south of Sayre, Oklahoma, 8 September 1948, killing Sam Held. Two witnesses saw a wing come off of the Mustang, followed by an explosion.

Jackie Cochran's North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, NX28388. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Jackie Cochran’s North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, NX28388, on the flight line at the Cleveland National Air Races, 1948. The airplane behind the Mustang is Tex Johnston’s Bell P-39Q, “Cobra II.” (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The P-51B was the first production Mustang to be built with the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, and was virtually identical to the P-51C variant. (The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Inglewood, California. P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas plant.) They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5,352 kilograms).

P-51Bs and Cs were powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m and 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3) or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning at 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). These were license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic constant speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters).

The P-51B/C had a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel, the combat range was 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

In military service, armament consisted of four Browning AN/M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted two in each wing, with 350 rounds per gun for the inboard guns and 280 rounds per gun for the outboard.

1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant and another 1,750 P-51Cs were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

Jackie Cochran and her P-51B Mustang, NX28388. (Unattribued)
Jackie Cochran and her P-51B Mustang, NX28388. (Unattributed)

¹ FAI Record File Number 4478

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 November 1920

Lieutenant Corliss C. Moseley, United States Army Air Service (1894–1974)
1st Lieutenant Corliss Champion Moseley, Air Service, United States Army (Library of Congress)

25 November 1920: Lieutenant Corliss Champion Mosely, Air Service, United States Army, won the first Pulitzer Trophy Race flying an Engineering Division-designed-and-built Verville-Packard R-1, serial number A.S. 40126. The race, the first of a series, started at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. Turning points were at Henry J. Damm Field, near Babylon, and Lufberry Field at Wantagh. The total length of the race was approximately 132 miles (212 kilometers).

Lieutenant C.C. Moseley with the Verville-Packard R-1 at Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York, 25 November 1920. (U.S. Air Force)

Weather was cold and cloudy, with a threat of snow. The New York Times reported that, With the sun for the most part of the time concealed behind snow clouds, it was possible to watch the contest without suffering eye strain. . . .

Still, more than 25,000 spectators watched the race at Mitchell Field, and several thousand more at each of the turns.

The race began at 11:30 a.m. The 34 entrants took off at intervals for spacing. They would race against the timer’s clock. The first to take off was Captain Harold E. Hartney, U.S. Army Air Service, flying a Thomas-Morse biplane.

Verville-Packard R-1, serial number A.S. 40126. (Wiggins-Fitz Collection)
Verville-Packard R-1, serial number A.S. 40126. (Wiggins-Fitz Collection)

Again, from the New York Times:

The interest to the spectators seemed to centre in the much heralded Verville-Packard, which has been undergoing secret tests. . . This machine was the last to start. A cheer went up as the dark gray machine with lightning-like speed mounted into the air, its course being marked by a stream of smoke several hundred feet in length. For a few moments it was lost in the haze and then the powerful craft swooped again into view, crossed over the starting line headed for the Henry J. Damm Field.”

Of the 34 airplanes to start, 11 dropped out from mechanical trouble and 1 was disqualified.

Colonel Harold E. Hartney, USAAS (U.S. War Department General Staff)

Lt. Moseley’s airplane covered the first lap in eleven minutes six and seventy one hundredths seconds.”  The Verville-Packard R-1 won the race with an elapsed time of 44 minutes, 29.57 seconds, for an average speed of 178 miles per hour. Captain Hartney finished second  with an elapsed time of 47:00.03.

The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote: At last the pride of the Army air service, the Verville-Packard chasse biplane, has established its worth by romping ahead of thirty-four starters in the first Pulitzer trophy aeronautical race, held Thanksgiving day at Mitchel field, Mineola. . . Never in the history of official flying in America has a man traveled with such great velocity. . . .”

Albert Victor Verville

The Verville-Packard R-1 was developed from an experimental fighter, the Verville-Clark Pursuit (VCP-1), designed for the U.S. Army by Alfred Victor Verville, and was the first of a series racing airplanes built for the Army. A single-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane, it had a plywood monocoque fuselage with wood wings and control surfaces covered with doped fabric. The ailerons were on the lower wing, only. The R-1 had an upper and lower wingspan of 23 feet, 0 inches (7.010 meters), with a total area of 222.7 square feet (20.7 square meters). Its gross weight was 3,394 pounds (1,539 kilograms).

In the original pursuit configuration, the VCP-1 was powered by a liquid-cooled Wright Hispano-Suiza V-8 engine producing 300 horsepower. The R-1 Racer substituted a Packard Motor Car Company 1A-2025 engine.

Verville-Packard R-1 (VCP-R) A.S. 40126 was damaged 20 August 1920 when it collided with an automobile when landing at Wright Field. (U.S. Air Force)

The 1A-2025 was a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 2,025.444-cubic-inch-displacement (33.191 liter), 60° single overhead cam (SOHC) V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.08:1. The engine was rated at 540 brake horsepower (b.h.p.) at 1,800 r.p.m. at Sea Level, 379 horsepower at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and 299 horsepower at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The total dry weight of the Packard 1A-2025 was 1,142 pounds (518 kilograms).

The Verville-Packard R-1, A.S. 40126, flown by Major Rudolf W. Schroeder in the the Gordon Bennett Cup race, at Etampes, France, September 1920. (Tennessee State Library and Archives)

During tests at Wright Field in 1922, the Verville-Packard R-1 reached a speed of 175 miles per hour (282 kilometers per hour). Two R-1 airplanes were built but the second, A.S. 40127, never flew.

This is the engine from Lt. Moseley's airplane. It is a Packard 1A-2025 60° SOHC V-12, serial number 10. It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
This is the engine from Lt. Moseley’s airplane, a Packard 1A-2025 60° SOHC V-12, serial number 10. It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Corliss Champion Moseley

Corliss Champion Moseley was born at Boise, Idaho, 21 July 1894. He was the first of six children of David Henry Moseley, a farmer, and Clara Leigh Moseley. He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, in Long Beach, California, and the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, from 1914 to 1917.

Moseley enlisted as a private in the Signal Corps, U.S. Army, 20 August 1917. Following his graduation from the School of Military Aeronautics at Berkeley, California, he was commissioned a 1st lieutenant, 29 May 1918.

Lieutenant Moseley was sent to France, and is credited with having shot down one enemy airplane. He was promoted to captain, 12 May 1919. Following World War I, the Air Service was reorganized and Moseley was appointed a 1st lieutenant, 1 July 1920. On 15 September 1924, Moseley was promoted to the rank of major. He was assigned as the first commanding officer of the 115th Observation Squadron based at Clover Field, Santa Monica, California. This was the first aviation unit of the California National Guard.

Moseley left the military and in 1925, he founded Western Air Express at Los Angeles, which would become Western Airlines.

Corliss C. Moseley with the Western Air Express Sikorsky S-38, NC8021, Circa 1928. (Catalina Goose)

Moseley founded several aviation schools, including the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute at Glendale, California. During World War II, his schools trained tens of thousands of pilots and mechanics. Following World War II, Moseley founded the Grand Central Rocket Company, which became the Lockheed Propulsion Company.

Corliss Moseley married Viola Holmes at Dayton, Ohio, in 1923. They had four children, but divorced after 30 years of marriage. He then married Audrienne Langenham Harvey at Bernalillo, New Mexico, in 1953.

Corliss Champion Moseley died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, 17 June 1974, at the age of 79 years. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 October 1922

1st Lieutenant Theodore J. Koenig, Air Service, U.S.  Army, 1924.

13 October 1922: Air races were a extremely popular event in the early days of aviation. An estimated 200,000 spectators watched the opening race at the National Air Races, held at Selfridge Field (now, the Selfridge Air National Guard Base) near Mount Clemens, Michigan, from 8 to 14 October.

First Lieutenant Theodore Joseph Koenig, Air Service, United States Army, won the Liberty Engine Builders’ Trophy Race, a race for observation-type aircraft powered by the Liberty 12 engine. This race was Event No. 4, on Friday, October 13.

Flying a Packard Lepère L USA C.II, Air Service serial number A.S. 40015, Koenig completed ten laps of the triangular racecourse in 2:00:01.54, at an average speed of 128.8 miles per hour (207.3 kilometers per hour).

In addition to a trophy, cash prizes were awarded to the competitors for first, second and third place finishes. First place received $1,200.00 (about $16,747 in 2017); second place, $600.00; third place, $200.00.

The Packard-Lèpere L USA C.II flown by Lieutenant J.T. Koenig to win the Liberty Engine Builders Trophy Race, 13 October 1922. It was also flown by Lieutenant John Macready to set an altitude record of 40,800 feet, 28 September 1921. (U.S. Air Force)

The race course was designated as:

“2. Distance

“Approximately 240 miles [386.2 kilometers]—ten times around a closed course of approximately 24 miles [38.6 kilometers], starting at Selfridge Field, thence to Packard Field, from there to Gaukler Point on Lake St. Charles, and thence back to Selfridge Field.”

Aviation, 9 October 1922, Vol XIII, No. 15, at page 449.

Koenig flew the same Packard Lepère L USA C.II biplane, A.S. 40015, that had been flown by Lieutenant John A. Macready to set altitude record of 40,800 feet (12,192 meters), 28 September 1921.

Lieutenant Koenig varied not more than two miles an hour in any lap from his average speed for the ten laps. The first three laps he made at 130 miles an hour, the next five at 129 miles, the next five at 128 miles and the last lap at 129 miles an hour. On the last leg of his last lap, while he was over Lake St. Clair, his air pressure feed, which forces gasoline to the carburetor from the tanks went wrong and he was compelled to resort to an emergency gas tank for fuel.

Aerial Age, Vol. 15, No. 20, November 1922, at Page 535.

Of the nine racers, six completed the race. Major Follet Bradley placed second in his DH.4B with an average speed of 126.4 miles per hour (203.4 kilometers per hour). Third place went to Lt. William L. Boyd, who also flew a DH-4B. “He flew a perfect race, averaging 122 miles an hour in every one of the ten laps. Army men said this was a remarkable achievement.

Lieutenant Theodore Joseph Koening, Air Corps, United States Army, 1926. (Unattributed)

Theodore Joseph Koenig was born at Elmira, New York, 24 July 1892, the first of two children of John B. Koenig, a blacksmith, and Caroline Linberger Koenig. He attended the University of Michigan, 1913–14. He was a member of the Scalp and Blade club, the members of which were from Buffalo, New York.

Koenig was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry (Officers Reserve Corps), 27 November 1917, and trained at Fort Niagara, New York. In January 1918, Lieutenant Koenig was assigned to Kelly Field, Texas for flight training, and then to the 652nd Aero Squadron (Supply). He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, Air Service, 1 July 1920. On 20 September 1920, Lieutenant Koenig was discharged from the Officers Reserve Corps and received a commission as a second lieutenant, Air Service. He was advanced to first lieutenant, effective the same date.

On 14 December 1920,  Lieutenant Koenig married Miss Laura Helen Smith at Galveston, Texas.

Koening attended the Air Service Bombardment School in 1921.

1st Lieutenant Koenig was was the Air Service officer in charge at NAS Sand Point, Seattle, Washington, 1924. He was promoted to the rank of captain, 4 September 1929.

On 28 September 1931, Captain Koenig was involved in an aircraft accident.

Koening attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, 1931– 1932.

Koening was promoted to the rank of major, 16 June 1936. He was assigned as Assistant Military Attaché to the American Embassy in Berlin, Germany, under Colonel Truman Smith. He was sent to gather information about Germany’s increasing military air power and its technical progress. Colonel Smith had invited Charles A. Lindbergh to visit in Germany, and often sent Major Koenig along with Lindbergh as they toured German airfields and aircraft factories. (Lindbergh was performing a similar function for Colonel Smith.)

Major and Mrs. Koenig returned to the United States aboard the passenger liner, S.S. President Harding, arriving at New York, 27 February 1937.

 

Curtiss Y1A-8A 32-356 (U.S. Air Force)

On 5 September 1937, a Curtiss A-8A, serial number 32-356, crashed on takeoff at Holman Field, St. Paul, Minnesota, with Major Koenig on board. The airplane was written off.

Major Koening then attended the Command and General Staff School, graduating in 1938,

Major Koenig was the first commander of the newly-formed 25th Bombardment Group (Heavy), consisting of the 10th, 12th and 35th Bombardment Squadrons, and based at Langley Field, Virginia, from 1 February 1940 to 1941. The group flew the Northrop A-17A and Douglas B-18A. On 1 March 1941, Koenig was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

From 2 June to 15 October 1941, Lieutenant Colonel Koening was assigned to the General Staff Corps. He was promoted to the rank of colonel, 15 November 1941. He was again assigned to the General Staff, 10 March 1942 until 17 September 1943.

Colonel Koenig remained in the Air Force following World War II. During his military career he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Bronze Star for meritorious service in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States, July 1945–February 1945 (awarded posthumously). He died while on active duty, 18 September 1949, at the age of 57 years, and is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Packard Lepère LUSAC 11 P53, left profile. The turbocharger is mounted above the propeller driveshaft.
Packard Lepère L USA C.II A.S. 40015, Wright Field project number P 53, left profile. The turbocharger’s turbine housing is mounted above the propeller driveshaft. The markings on the rudder, above the project number, P 53, are “LEPERE U.S.—” (U.S. Air Force)

The Packard Lepère L USA C.II was a World War I biplane designed by French aeronautical engineer Captain Georges Lepère and built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan. It was to have been a two-place fighter, light bomber and observation aircraft armed with four machine guns.

The Packard Lepère was 25 feet, 3-1/8 inches (7.699 meters) long. The upper and lower wings had an equal span of 41 feet, 7¼ inches (12.681 meters), and equal chord of 5 feet, 5¾ inches (1.670 meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 5 feet, 5/8-inch (1.527 meters) and the lower wing was staggered 2 feet, 15/16-inch (0.633 meters) behind the upper wing. The wings’ incidence was +1°. Upper and lower wings were equipped with ailerons, and had no sweep or dihedral. The height of the Packard Lepère, sitting on its landing gear, was 9 feet, 7 inches (2.921 meters). The Packard Lepère had an empty weight of 2,561.5 pounds (1,161.9 kilograms) and its gross weight was 3,746.0 pounds (1,699.2 kilograms).

The fuselage was a wooden structure with a rectangular cross section. It was covered with three layers of veneer, (2 mahogany, 1 white wood) with a total thickness of 3/32-inch (2.38 millimeters). The fuselage had a maximum width of 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) and maximum depth of 4 feet, 0 inches (1.219 meters).

The wings were also of wooden construction, with two spruce spars and spruce ribs. Three layers of wood veneer covered the upper surfaces. Heavy bracing wires were used. These had an airfoil cross-section and actually provided additional lift. The interplane struts were unusual in that they were fully-framed units.

P 53 in its original configuration and camouflage. The fuselage is clearly marked A.S. 40015. (U.S. Air Force)
P 53 in its original configuration and camouflage. The fuselage is clearly marked A.S. 40015. (U.S. Air Force)

The Packard Lepère was powered by a Liberty L-12 engine. The Liberty L-12 aircraft engine was designed by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. It was a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine. It turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

Major Henry H. Arnold standing beside the first Liberty 12 aircraft engine turned out for war use. “Hap” Arnold would later hold the 5-star rank of General of the Army and General of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

This engine was produced by Ford Motor Company, as well as the Buick and Cadillac Divisions of General Motors, The Lincoln Motor Company (which was formed by Henry Leland, the former manager of Cadillac, specifically to manufacture these aircraft engines), Marmon Motor Car Company and Packard. Hall-Scott was too small to produce engines in the numbers required.

The engine coolant radiator was positioned horizontally in the center section of the Lepère’s upper wing. Water flowed through the radiator at a rate of 80 gallons (303 liters) per minute.

The Packard Lepère had a maximum speed of 130.4 miles per hour (209.9 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), 127.6 miles per hour (205.4 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), 122.4 miles per hour (197.0 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), 110.0 miles per hour (177.0 kilometers per hours) at 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) and 94.0 miles per hour (151.3 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). Its cruising speed was 112 miles per hour (180 was kilometers per hour). The airplane could climb to 5,000 feet in 4 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 20,000 feet in 36 minutes, 36 seconds. In standard configuration, the Packard Lepère had a service ceiling of 20,200 feet (6,157 meters). Its range was 320 miles (515 kilometers).

The fighter’s armament consisted of two fixed M1918 Marlin .30-caliber aircraft machine guns mounted on the right side of the fuselage, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc, with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and two M1918 Lewis .30-caliber machine guns on a flexible mount with 970 rounds of ammunition.

The Air Service had ordered 3,525 of these airplanes, but when the War ended only 28 had been built. The contract was cancelled.

Six Packard Lepères were used for flight testing at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, assigned project numbers P 44, P 53, P 54, P 65, P 70 and P 80. One of these, flown by Major Rudolph W. Schroeder, set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Altitude at 9,455 meters (31,020 feet), 18 September 1918.¹ On 6 September 1919, Schroeder flew a Packard Lepère to 8,616 meters (28,268 feet) while carrying a passenger. This set two more World Altitude Records.² Flying P 53, A.S. 40015, he set a fifth FAI altitude record of 10,093 meters (33,114 feet), 27 February 1920.³ On 28 September 1921, Captain John A. Macready flew P 53 to an altitude of 40,800 feet (12,436 meters).

The only Packard Lepère in existence, serial number A.S. 42133, is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Packard Lepère L USA C.II, S.C. 42133, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

 

Packard Lepère L USA C.II, P54, S.C. 42138 (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 15463

² FAI Record File Number 15671

³ FAI Record File Number 8229

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 October 1944

1st Lieutenant Chuck Yeager. (American Air Museum in Britain)

12 October 1944: During World War II, First Lieutenant Charles Elwood Yeager, Air Corps, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), was a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot assigned to the 363d Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group, stationed at RAF Leiston (USAAF Station 373), near the village of Theberton, Suffolk, England.

Recently promoted from the warrant rank of Flight Officer, Lieutenant Yeager—as one of the most experienced pilots in the group— was leading the 357th on a bomber escort mission against Bremen, Germany. While the Group’s 362nd and 364th Fighter Squadrons remained with the B-24 bombers, Yeager and the 363d patrolled 50 to 100 miles (80 to 160 kilometers) ahead.

At 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) over Steinhuder Meer, northwest of Hanover, Yeager sighted a group of Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters (also called the Me 109). He was soon able to count 22. Yeager and his squadron of 16 Mustangs circled and attacked out of the sun.

A flight of three Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters, 20 July 1944. (Bundsarchive Bild 101l-676-7975-36)
A flight of three Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters, 20 July 1944. (Bundsarchive Bild 101l-676-7975-36)

As Chuck Yeager maneuvered his P-51D Mustang, named Glamorous Glenn II, to fire at a trailing Bf 109, the German fighter suddenly turned left and collided with his wingman. Both pilots bailed out of their fighters and the two Bf 109s went down.

It was almost comic, scoring two quick victories without firing a shot. . . By now, all the airplanes in the sky had dropped their wing tanks and were spinning and diving in a wild, wide-open dogfight. I blew up a 109 from six hundred yards—my third victory—when I turned to see another angling in behind me. Man I pulled back the throttle so damned hard I nearly stalled, rolled up and over, came in behind and under him, kicking right rudder and simultaneously firing. I was directly underneath the guy, less than fifty feet, and I opened up that 109 as if it were a can of Spam. That made four. A moment later, I waxed a guy’s fanny in a steep dive; I pulled up at about 1,000 feet; he went straight into the ground.

Yeager, An Autobiography, by Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos, Bantam Books, New York, 1985, at Page 57.

1st Lieutenant Charles E. Yeager with “Glamorous Glenn II,” at USAAF Station 157, Raydon, Suffolk, England, 17 October 1944. (American Air Museum in Britain)

Lieutenant Yeager’s official report of the air battle reads (in part):

“H. Five Me. 109s destroyed

“I. I was leading the Group with Cement Squadron and was roving out to the right of the first box of bombers. I was over STEINHUDER LAKE when 22 Me. 109s crossed in front of my Squadron from 11:00 O’Clock to 1:00 O’Clock. I was coming out of the sun and they were about 1½ miles away at the same level of 25,000 feet. I fell in behind the enemy formation and followed them for about 3 minutes, climbing to 30,000 feet. I still had my wing tanks and had close up to around 1,000 yards, coming within firing range and positioning the Squadron behind the entire enemy formation. Two of the Me. 109s were dodging over to the right. One slowed up and before I could start firing, rolled over and bailed out. The other Me. 109, flying his wing, bailed out immediately after as I was ready to line him in my sights. I was the closest to the tail-end of the enemy formation and no one, but myself was in shooting range and no one was firing. I dropped my tanks and then closed up to the last Jerry and opened fire from 600 yards, using the K-14 sight. I observed strikes all over the ship, particularly heavy in the cockpit. He skidded off to the left. I was closing up on another Me. 109 so I did not follow him down. Lt. STERN, flying in Blue Flight reports this E/A on fire as it passed him and went into a spin. I closed up on the next Me. 109 to 100 yards, skidded to the right and took a deflection shot of about 10°. I gave about a 2 second burst and the whole fuselage split open and blew up after we passed. Another Me. 109 to the right had cut his throttle and was trying to get behind. I broke to the right and quickly rolled to the left on his tail. He started pulling it in and I was pulling 6″G”. I got a lead from around 300 yards and gave him a short burst. There were hits on wings and tail section He snapped to the right 3 times and bailed out when he quit snapping at around 18,000 feet. I did not blackout during this engagement due to the efficiency of the “G” suit. Even though I was skidding I hit the second Me. 109 by keeping the bead and range on the E/A. To my estimation the K-14 sight is the biggest improvement to combat equipment for Fighters up to this date. The Me. 109s appeared to have a type of bubble canopy and had purple noses and were a mousey brown all over. I claim five Me 109s destroyed.

“J. Ammunition Expended: 587 rounds .50 cal MG.

“Charles E. Yeager, 1st Lt, AC.”

Lieutenant Yeager had destroyed five enemy fighters during a single battle. He became “an Ace in one day” and was awarded the Silver Star. Of the twenty-two Me 109s, the 363rd had destroyed eight without losing a single Mustang.

Yeager’s Glamorous Glenn II had previously been assigned to Captain Charles K. Peters and named Daddy Rabbit. Flown by another pilot, Second Lieutenant Horace Roycroft, 44-13897 was destroyed six days later when it crashed in bad weather. Lieutenant Roycroft was killed.

North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA 44-13366 on a test flight near the North American plant at Inglewood, California. This is from the same production block as Yeager's Glamorous Glenn II.
North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA 44-13366 on a test flight near the North American plant at Inglewood, California. This fighter is from the same production block as Yeager’s Glamorous Glenn II.

The P-51D was the predominant version of the North American Aviation World War II fighter. It was a single-seat, single-engine fighter, initially designed for the Royal Air Force. The P-51D was 32 feet, 3.5 inches (9.843 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet (11.278 meters). It was 13 feet, 4.5 inches (4.077 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 7,635 pounds (3,463 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 12,100 pounds (5,489 kilograms).

The P-51D was powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with Military Power ratings of 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m with 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3), or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). These engines were versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66, built under license by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)
A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)

The P-51D with a V-1650-7 Merlin had maximum speed at Sea Level of 323 miles per hour (520 kilometers per hour) at the Normal Power setting of 2,700 r.p.m. and 46 inches of manifold pressure, and 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour) at War Emergency Power, 3,000 r.p.m with 67 inches of manifold pressure (5 minute limit). At altitude, using the Military Power setting of 3,000 r.p.m. and 61 inches of manifold pressure (15 minute limit), it had a maximum speed of 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 28,000 feet (8,534 meters). With War Emergency Power the P-51D could reach 442 miles per hour (711 kilometers per hour) at 26,000 feet (7,925 meters).

The P-51D could climb to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 6.4 minutes, and to its service ceiling, 41,600 feet (12,680 meters), in 28 minutes. The airplane’s absolute ceiling was 42,400 feet (12,924 meters).

With 180 gallons (681 liters) internal fuel, the maximum range of the P-51D was 1,108 miles (1,783 kilometers).

Armorers carry AN/M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns and belts of linked ammunition to a P-51 Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)
Armorers carry Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns and belts of linked .50-caliber ammunition to a P-51 Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-51D was armed with six electrically-heated Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with three mounted in each wing. 400 rounds of ammunition were provided for the inner pair of guns, and 270 rounds for each of the other four guns, for a total of 1,880 rounds of ammunition. This was armor piercing, incendiary, and tracer ammunition. The fighter could also carry a 1,000 pound (453.6 kilogram) bomb under each wing in place of drop tanks, or up to ten rockets.

North American Aviation P-51D Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation P-51D Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)

A total of 8,156 P-51Ds were produced by North American at Inglewood, California, and Dallas, Texas, and another 200 by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Melbourne, Australia.

The North American Aviation P-51D Mustang remained in service with the United States Air Force until 27 January 1957, when the last aircraft were retired from the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia National Guard.

North American Aviation P-51D-25-NT Mustang 44-84900 at NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, circa 1945–1952. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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