11 June 1971: Sheila Scott O.B.E. (née Sheila Christine Hopkins) departed Nairobi, Kenya, on her third solo around-the-world flight. On this flight she used a new airplane, a twin-engine Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D which she named Mythre. It carried United Kingdom registration G-AYTO. Scott used a NASA navigation and locator communication system to constantly relay her position to a Nimbus weather satellite, and from there to a ground station.
Sheila Scott planned to not only fly around the world, but to fly from the Equator, over the North Pole, and back to the Equator again. She flew her Aztec from London, England, to Nairobi, Kenya, where she began the Equator–North Pole–Equator portion of the flight.
Scott took off from Nairobi on 11 June 1971 and headed northward to Khartoum, Sudan; Bengazi, Libya; Malta; arriving back at London on 21 June. From there she continued to Bodø, Norway; Andøya, Norway; Station Nord, Greenland; across the North Pole on 28 June; then southward to Barrow, Alaska; arriving at Anchorage, Alaska, on 3 July; San Francisco, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, on 11 July. She recrossed the Equator heading south to Canton Island. On 23 July, Mythre arrived at Nadi, Viti Levu, Fiji, and then flew on to Noumea, New Caledonia. After a stop at Townsville, Queensland, Scott arrived at Darwin, Northern Teritory, Australia, 1 August. From there she continued to Singapore; Madras, India; Karachi, Pakistan; Bahrain; Athens, Greece; and finally completed her journey at London on 4 August. The trip took 55 days.
During the circumnavigation, Sheila Scott set seven Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed Over a Recognized Course: Andøya, Norway, to Station Nord, Greenland, 213.61 kilometers per hour (132.73 miles per hour) ¹; Nord to Barrow, Alaska, 183.73 km/h (114.16 mph) ²; San Francisco, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, 236.56 km/h (146.99 mph) ³; Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, to London, England, 160.19 km/h (99.54mph). ⁴ Three of these records remain current. ⁵
Ms. Scott’s airplane was a 1971 Piper 23-250 Aztec (“Aztec D”), serial number 27-4568. The airplane was assigned the United Kingdom registration G-AYTO on 3 March 1971. The Aztec D was a six-place twin-engine light airplane based on the earlier PA-23-235 Apache, with a larger cabin and more powerful engines. It was of all-metal construction and had retractable tricycle landing gear. The Aztec D is 31 feet, 2.625 inches (9.516 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 1.750 inches (11.322 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 3.875 inches (3.146 meters). The wing has 5° dihedral. It has an empty weight of 3,042 pounds (1,380 kilograms) and a gross weight of 5,200 pounds (2,359 kilograms).
The Aztec D is powered by two air-cooled, fuel-injected, 541.511-cubic-inch-displacement (8.874 liter) AVCO Lycoming IO-540-C4B5 6-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, direct-drive engines. The -C4B5 has a compression ratio of 8.5:1 and a Maximum Continuous Power/Takeoff rating of 250 horsepower at 2,575 r.p.m. It weighs 374 pounds (170 kilograms). The engines drive two-bladed Hartzell constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 6 feet, 2 inches (1.880 meters).
The PA-23-250 Aztec D has a maximum structural cruising speed (VNO) of 172 knots (198 miles per hour/319 kilometers per hour) at 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) and maximum speed (VNE) of 216 knots 249 miles per hour (400 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 19,800 feet (6,035 meters). With standard fuel capacity of 144 gallons (545 liters) the airplane’s range is 1,055 miles (1,698 kilometers). Mythre carried an auxiliary fuel tank in the passenger cabin.
After the around-the-world flight, Scott returned Mythre to the Piper Aircraft Company at Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, for overhaul. Following Tropical Storm Agnes in June 1972, the Piper factory was flooded to a depth of 16 feet (4.9 meters) and Scott’s airplane, along with many others and much of the tooling for aircraft manufacture, was destroyed.
This painting is available from the Guild of Aviation Artists at:
24 May 1956: At Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, Piper Aircraft Corporation test pilot Jay Myer took the prototype Piper PA-24 Comanche, s/n 24-1, N2024P, for its first flight. The airplane was intended to compete with the Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza which had been in production for nine years. (At least one reliable source says the first flight took place one day earlier, 23 May.)
The PA-24 was developed by Piper’s engineers from a preliminary design by Al Mooney. It is a single-engine, 4-place, low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, with retractable tricycle landing gear. It is operated by a single pilot and is certified for VFR and IFR flight. Two prototypes were built.
The first production PA-24 Comanche made its first flight on 27 September 1957. There were some changes from the prototypes, most noticeable the trailing-link nose gear strut had been replaced with simpler oleo strut.
The PA-24 (later designated PA-24-180, reflecting its horsepower rating) is 24 feet, 9 inches (7,544 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet (10.973 meters) and overall height of 7 feet, 4 inches (2.235 meters). Empty weight, depending on installed optional equipment, is 1,530 pounds (694 kilograms) and maximum gross weight is 2,550 pounds (1,157 kilograms).
Early production Comanches were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 361.007-cubic-inch-displacement (5.916 liter) AVCO Lycoming O-360-A1A horizontally-opposed overhead valve (OHV) four-cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 8.5:1. The O-360-A1A is rated at 180 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. at Sea Level. The direct-drive engine turned a two-bladed Hartzell constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters). The O-360-A1A weighs 258 pounds (117 kilograms).
The PA-24-180 has a cruise speed of 139 knots (160 miles per hour/257 kilometers per hour) at 75% power, at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters). Its maximum speed is 145 knots (167 miles per hour/269 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. With a fuel capacity of 60 gallons (227 liters), the PA-24 has a range of 782 nautical miles (900 miles/1,448 kilometers. Its service ceiling is 18,800 feet (5,730 meters).
The Piper PA-24 Comanche was produced in several variants from 1957 until 1972, when the Lock Haven factory was destroyed by flooding. A total of 4,857 PA-24s were built. Of these, 1,143 were 180-horsepower PA-24-180 Comanches.
The prototype PA-24, N2024P, has been registered to John C. Codman, Medway, New York, since 24 October 1978. The FAA registration and airworthiness certificate are current.
The first production PA-24, N5000P, with its original Lycoming engine, was exported to Canada. Its U.S. registration was cancelled 3 June 2003.
18 May 1966: Sheila Scott O.B.E., (née Sheila Christine Hopkins) departed London Heathrow Airport, London, England, on the first solo around-the-world flight by a British subject, the longest-distance solo flight, and only the third around-the-world flight by a woman. Her airplane was a 1966 Piper PA-24-260B Comanche, registration G-ATOY, which she had named Myth Too.
Sheila Scott had been a nurse at Haslar Naval Hospital during World War II. She was an actress on the stage, in films and on television. In 1959 she followed a lifetime ambition and learned to fly. She owned or leased several airplanes which she entered in races or used to establish flight records.
Scott was a commercial pilot, rated in single and multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes and helicopters. She was a member of The Ninety-Nines, founding and serving as governor of the British branch. She was also a member of the Whirly-Girls and the International Association of Licensed Women Pilots.
Sheila Scott was the author of I Must Fly and On Top of the World (Barefoot With Wings in the United States).
Departed London, England 18 May 1966
Mount Isa, Australia
Auckland, New Zealand
Pago Pago, Samoa
San Francisco, CA
El Paso, TX
Oklahoma City, OK
New York, NY
Arrived London, England 20 June 1966
The flight covered approximately 31,000 miles (49,890 kilometers) and took 189 actual flight hours over 34 days.
During her around-the-world flight, Shiela Scott set ten Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed Over a Recognised Course: London to Rome, 258.13 kilometers per hour(160.40 miles per hour) (FAI Record File Numbers 4679, 4680); London to Auckland, 41.42 km/h (25.74 mph) #4660, 4661; London to Darwin, 45.67 km/h (28.38 mph) #4666, 4670; London to Fiji Islands, 34.60 km/h (21.50 mph) #4672; 4673; Lisbon to London, 244.00 km/h (151.62 mph) #4956, 4657. During her flying career, she set a total of 76 FAI World Records.
For her accomplishments, Ms. Scott was awarded the Silver Medal of the Guild of Pilots; the Brabazon of Tara Award for 1965, 1966 and 1967; the Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, 1968; and the Harmon International Trophy for 1966. Italy gave her the title, Isabella d’Este. Sheila Scott was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the New Years Honours List, 1 January 1968.
Sheila Scott flew around the world twice in Myth Too, and a third time in a twin-engine Piper Aztec, Mythre. She died of cancer, 20 October 1988, at the age of 61 years.
Myth Too was built by the Piper Aircraft Corporation in 1966 and was registered N8893P. It was a PA-24-260B Comanche, an all-metal 4–6 place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. It is flown by a single pilot and can carry three passengers, though an additional two seats can be mounted at the rear of the passenger cabin.
The airplane is 25 feet, 6 inches (7.772 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet (10.973 meters). Empty weight is 1,728 pounds (783.8 kilograms) and maximum gross weight is 3,100 pounds (1,406.1 kilograms).
The Comanche B is powered by an air-cooled, fuel-injected 541.511-cubic-inch-displacement (8.874 liter) Lycoming IO-540-D4A5 6-cylinder overhead valve (OHV) horizontally-opposed engine with a compression ration of 8.5:1, rated at 260 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., driving a two-bladed Hartzell constant speed propeller through direct drive. The IO-540-D4A5 weighs 384 pounds (174 kilograms).
Cruise speed is 185 miles per hour (297.7 kilometers per hour). The range is 1,225 miles (1,971.5 kilometers) and the service ceiling is 19,500 feet (5,943.6 meters).
Sheila Scott sold G-ATOY in 1975. It was substantially damaged 6 March 1979 when the engine lost oil pressure then seized after taking off from Elstree Aerodrome, Hertfordshire (EGTR). There were no injuries. The wreck is in the collection of the Scottish National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, East Lothian, Scotland.
30 April–13 May 1963: Betty Miller, a 37-year-old flight instructor from Santa Monica, California, became the first woman to complete a solo Trans-Pacific flight. She was also the first pilot to make a Trans-Pacific flight without a navigator.
Betty Miller was delivering a twin-engine Piper PA-23-160 Apache H, N4315Y, from the United States to its owner in Australia, Fred Margison. An auxiliary fuel tank was placed in the passenger compartment.
Mrs. Miller began her flight from Oakland, California, at 6:35 a.m., Pacific Standard Time. The first leg was approximately 2,400 miles (3,682 kilometers) to Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, flown in 17 hours, 3 minutes. She was delayed there for 4 days while a radio was repaired.
The next stop was Canton Island, a small island in the Phoenix Islands, just south of the Equator and approximately half-way between Hawaii and Fiji. The elapsed time for this 1,700-mile (2,736 kilkometers) flight was 13 hours, 6 minutes. From Canton to Fiji was 1,250 miles (2,012 kilometers). The elapsed time was 8 hours, 27 minutes. On the fourth leg, intended to be the final stage, she was forced to divert to Noumea, New Caledonia, because of severe weather.
With delays for rest and waiting for good weather, Miller’s flight took nearly two weeks. She took off from Nadi Airport, Viti Levu, Fiji, at 4:47 a.m., local, and finally arrived at Eagle Farm Airport, Brisbane, Queensland, at 10:20 p.m., Australian Eastern Standard Time, after crossing 7,400 miles (11,909 kilometers) of ocean, in a total of 51 hours, 38 minutes in the air.
Contemporary newspapers called Miller “the flying housewife,” which demeaned her actual qualifications. At the time of her Trans-Pacific flight, she was a commercial pilot and flight instructor, rated in single- and multi-engine airplanes and helicopters. She owned and operated a flight school and charter company based at Santa Monica Airport on the Southern California coast. In fourteen years as a pilot, Betty Miller had logged more than 6,500 hours of flight time.
President John F. Kennedy awarded Mrs. Miller the Federal Aviation Administration Gold Medal for Exceptional Service. On 14 September 1964, President Lyndon Johnson presented her with the Harmon International Trophy. (Also receiving the Harmon at the ceremony were Astronaut Gordon Cooper and test pilot Fitzhugh Fulton.)
Two years later, Mrs. Miller flew across the Atlantic Ocean.
Finally, in another first, the photograph of Betty Miller arriving at Brisbane was the very first to be transmitted by a new wire-photo process.
Betty Jean Verret was born 6 April 1926 at Venice, California. She was the second of three daughters of Earday Verret, a street car conductor, and Bertha DeLay Verret. She graduated from Venice High School in 1942.
Miss Verret was employed by the Civil Aeronautics Administration as an Aircraft Communicator. While working at Wendover, Utah, she met Chuck Miller. They married and lived in Santa Monica, California, where they operated a flight school.
Mrs. Miller was a member of the Ninety-Nines, the Whirly-Girls, and was chair of the FAA Women’s Advisory Committee.
Betty Jean Verret Miller died 21 February 2108 at Bountiful, Utah, at the age of 91 years.
The airplane flown by Betty Miller was a Piper PA-23-160 Apache H, serial number 23-2039, manufactured in December 1961 by the Piper Aircraft Corporation at Vero Beach, Florida. It was assigned U.S. registration N4315Y and was painted white and “El Paso Brown” (a dark metallic brown color). In January 1962 the new Apache was delivered to Brown Flying Services, San Antonio, Texas.¹
The Piper PA-23-160 Apache H was a 4-place, twin-engine light airplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. It was 27 feet, 2 inches (8.280 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0 inches (11.278 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 1 inch (3.073 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 2,230 pounds (1,011.5 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 3,800 pounds (1,723.7 kilograms).
The Apache H was powered by two air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 319.749-cubic-inch-displacement (5.240 liter) Lycoming O-320-B2B horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder overhead valve (OHV) engines with a compression ratio of 8.5:1. The O-320-B2B is a direct-drive, right-hand tractor engine, rated at 160 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. The O-320-B2B is 2 feet, 5.56 inches (0.751 meters) long, 2 feet, 8.24 inches (0.819 meters) wide and 1 foot, 10.99 inches (0.584 meters) high. It weighs 278 pounds (126.1 kilograms). The engines turned two-bladed Hartzell constant-speed propellers.
The PA-23-160 had a cruise speed of 150 knots (173 miles per hour/278 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed was 159 knots (183 miles per hour/295 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 17,000 feet (5,182 meters).
N4315Y was re-registered VH-IMB, 22 May 1963, after its arrival in Australia. The airplane remains operational.
¹ Thanks to Roger Peperell, Company Historian, Piper Aircraft, Inc., for researching the history of Betty Miller’s Apache.
31 August 1986: At approximately 11:41 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time, William Kenneth Kramer departed Zamperini Field (TOA) at Torrance, California, flying a Piper PA-28-181 Archer II, FAA registration N4891F.
The PA-28-181 was a single-engine, four-place, light airplane with fixed tricycle landing gear, built by the Piper Aircraft Corporation in 1976. It carried the manufacturer’s serial number 77-90070. It was owned by William Kramer. In addition to the pilot, there were two passengers on board, Kramer’s wife of 30 years, and their 26-year-old daughter. The family’s destination was Big Bear City Airport (L35), high in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.
Three major airports in the immediate area reported that the sky was clear and visibility was 14–15 miles (22.5–24.1 kilometers).
As Kramer climbed toward his cruise altitude, he deviated from the VFR Flight Plan which he had filed prior to takeoff. Without authorization from Air Traffic Control, the pilot entered a segment of the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area.
Aeroméxico Flight 498 was a regularly-scheduled flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles, with intermediate stops at Guadalajara, Loreto and Tijuana. The airliner was a 1969 McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32, serial number 47356, registered in Mexico as XA-JED. Aeroméxico had named it Hermosillo. The pilot in command was Captain Antonio Valdez-Prom, with First Officer Jose Hector Valencia. There were four flight attendants and 58 passengers. The DC-9 was descending from 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) for an instrument approach and landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Flight 498 was descending in northwesterly direction, while the Archer was climbing, eastbound.
At 11:52:09 a.m., as the DC-9 descended through an altitude of approximately 6,660 feet (2,030 meters),¹ the Piper collided with the left side of the DC-9’s vertical fin, just below the horizontal stabilizer. The angle of collision was approximately 90°. The airliner’s entire horizontal stabilizer and rudder were torn from the aircraft.
All three persons aboard the light airplane were decapitated.² The Archer was heavily damaged, and with no one alive to fly it, it crashed on the playground of Cerritos Elementary School.
The DC-9’s cockpit voice recorder picked up Captain Prom’s exclamation, “Oh [deleted], this can’t be!” The Aeroméxico pilots had no way to control their damaged DC-9. It rolled inverted and crashed into a residential neighborhood.
All 64 persons on the DC-9, and another 15 on the ground, were killed. Eight persons on the ground were injured. Five homes were destroyed and another seven were damaged.
William Kenneth Kramer held a Federal Aviation Administration Airman’s Certificate with Private Pilot privileges. He was rated for Airplane–Single Engine Land. His medical certificate required that he wear corrective lenses while flying. Kramer had been licensed for six years , and at the time of the accident, he had flown a total of 231 hours.
Kramer had moved to the Los Angeles area from Spokane, Washington, less than a year earlier. He had made just seven flights, totaling 5.5 hours, in one of the most complex and congested Terminal Control Areas in the United States.
Captain Antonio Valdez-Prom had been employed by Aeroméxico for fourteen years. He held Airline Transport Pilot certificates in both Mexico and the United States. He had flown a total of 10,641 hours, with 4,632 hours in the McDonnell Douglas DC-9.
First Officer Jose Hector Valencia had been employed by Aeroméxico for just over two years. He was a licensed Commercial Pilot in both Mexico and the United States. He had flown a total of 1,463 hours, with 1,245 hours in the DC-9. Like Kramer, Valencia was required to wear corrective lenses.
The NTSB placed the blame for the accident on the air traffic control system:
3.2 Probable cause
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the limitations of the air traffic control system to provide collision protection, through both air traffic control procedures and automated redundancy. Factors contributing to the accident were (1) the inadvertent and unauthorized entry of the PA-28 into the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area and (2) the limitations of the “see and avoid” concept to insure traffic separation under the conditions of the conflict.
—NTSB/AAR-87/07Aircraft Accident Report—Midair Collision of Aeronaves de México, S.A., McDonnell Douglas DC-8-32, XA-JED and Piper PA-28-181, N4891F, Cerritos, California August 31, 1986 Chapter 3 at Page 52
♦♦♦ OPINION ♦♦♦
It is the opinion of This Day in Aviation that the Probable Cause of this accident as determined by the National Transportation Safety Board was a political statement. As far back as 1956, with the mid-air collision of a United Air Lines Douglas DC-7 and a Trans World Airlines Lockheed Super Constellation over the Grand Canyon of Arizona, the Civil Aeronautics Board and its successor, the NTSB, had repeatedly placed emphasis on the role of air traffic control (or, the lack thereof) in a number of mid-air collisions, and had been recommending numerous improvements.
TDiA believes that these recommendations were valid.
However, coming to a political conclusion hides the actual cause of the accident. When investigators look for a cause, they evaluate each individual factor. That single factor, which, if it had not occurred, results in no accident occurring—all other factors being the same—is the cause.
In this case, the pilot of the light airplane had filed a Visual Flight Rules flight plane that would have taken him initially to the southwest from Torrance Airport toward Long Beach Airport, and around the controlled airspace of Los Angeles International Airport. If he had followed his planned route, no collision would have occurred. However, he flew directly east and as he climbed, he entered the Los Angeles TCA without ATC clearance. This was a significant violation of FAA regulations.
If the crew of Aeroméxico Flight 498 had performed in exactly the same way, flew the same path and descent, but the Piper Archer had remained clear of the TCA as required, there would have been no collision.
If air traffic controllers involved with the airliner and the private airplane had performed in exactly the same way as they had, but the Archer had not violated the TCA, there would have been no collision.
The inescapable conclusion is that William Kramer, by flying into the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area, caused the mid-air collision between his airplane and the Aeroméxico DC-9.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
¹ The Piper Archer’s altimeter was recovered and examined. Although the three pointers were missing, traces of paint from the pointers, called “slap marks,” were found on the dial face at positions corresponding to an altitude of 6,560 feet (1,999 meters).
² On 1 September 1986, The New York Times reported, “Bill Gold, a spokesman for the coroner’s office, said an autopsy showed that the pilot suffered the heart attack ‘within minutes before the fatal injuries.’ Mr. Gold said that the cause of death was ‘multiple traumatic injuries received in the crash.’ He said in an interview tonight that it had not been determined whether the heart attack led to the collision. ‘We can’t say whether it caused the collision,’ he said, ‘How severe it was we can’t say because he lived long enough to get the fatal injuries.’ “ In its 2 September 1986 edition, the Los Angeles Times reported, “An autopsy late Monday on the body of the man believed to be the pilot of the archer showed that he had suffered a heart attack just before the collision, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.” In its accident report, the NTSB quotes from the autopsy report, “. . . complete proximal occlusion of the right coronary artery.”