Tag Archives: Pratt & Whitney Wasp C

13 April 1931

Ruth Nichols with her Lockheed Vega. Her records are painted on the engine cowling. (FAI)
Ruth Nichols with the Lockheed Vega. Her records are painted on the engine cowling. (FAI)

13 April 1931: Ruth Rowland Nichols set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record of 338.99 kilometers per hour (210.64 miles per hour) over a 3 kilometer course at Carlton, Minnesota.¹

Nichols’ airplane was a 1928 Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, serial number 619, registered NR496M, and owned by Powell Crosley, Jr. He had named the airplane The New Cincinnati.

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, the Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could be configured to carry four to six passengers.

The Lockheed Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. The fuselage was molded laminated plywood monocoque construction and the wing was cantilevered wood.

The Model 5 Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).

Nichols’ airplane was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. The engine drove a two-bladed controllable-pitch Hamilton Standard propeller through direct drive. The Wasp C was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.3-7 meters) in diameter and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

“Ruth Nichols was the only woman to hold simultaneously the women’s world speed, altitude, and distance records for heavy landplanes. She soloed in a flying boat and received her pilot’s license after graduating from Wellesley College in 1924, becoming the first woman in New York to do so. Defying her parents wishes to follow the proper life of a young woman, in January 1928 she flew nonstop from New York City to Miami with Harry Rogers in a Fairchild FC-2. The publicity stunt brought Nichols fame as “The Flying Debutante” and provided headlines for Rogers’ airline too. Sherman Fairchild took note and hired Nichols as a northeast sales manager for Fairchild Aircraft and Engine Corporation. She helped to found the Long Island Aviation Country Club, an exclusive flying club and participated in the 19,312-meter (12,000-mile) Sportsman Air Tour to promote the establishment of clubs around the country. She was also a founder of Sportsman Pilot magazine. Nichols set several women’s records in 1931, among them a speed record of 339.0952 kph (210.704 mph), an altitude record of 8,760 meters (28,743 feet), and a nonstop distance record of 3182.638 kilometers (1,977.6 miles). Her hopes to become the first woman to fly the Atlantic Ocean were dashed by two crashes of a Lockheed Vega in 1931, in which she was severely injured, and again in 1932. In 1940, Nichols founded Relief Wings, a humanitarian air service for disaster relief that quickly became an adjunct relief service of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) during World War II. Nichols became a lieutenant colonel in the CAP. After the war she organized a mission in support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and became an advisor to the CAP on air ambulance missions. In 1958, she flew a Delta Dagger at 1,609 kph (1,000 mph) at an altitude of 15,544 meters (51,000 feet). A Hamilton variable pitch propeller (which allowed a pilot to select a climb or cruise position for the blades), from her Lockheed Vega is displayed in the Golden Age of Flight gallery. Nichols’ autobiography is titled Wings for Life.”

— Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Women In Aviation and Space History, The Golden Age of Flight.

Ruth Nichols' records are painted on the engine cowling of her Lockheed Vega. (FAI)
Ruth Nichols’ records are painted on the engine cowling of her Lockheed Vega. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12282

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 March 1931

Ruth Nichols (1901–1960)
Ruth Rowland Nichols (1901–1960)

6 March 1931: Ruth Rowland Nichols set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Altitude Record of 8,761 meters (28,743 feet) at Jersey City Airport, New Jersey.

Nichols’ airplane was a 1928 Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, serial number 619, registered NR496M, and owned by Powell Crosley, Jr. He had named the airplane The New Cincinnati.

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, the Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot and could be configured to carry four to six passengers.

The Lockheed Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. The fuselage was molded laminated plywood monocoque construction and the wing was cantilevered wood.

The Model 5 Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).

Nichols’ airplane was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C, a nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level. The engine drove a two-bladed controllable-pitch Hamilton Standard propeller through direct drive. The Wasp C 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).

FAI Record File Num #12228 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Feminine
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 8 761 m
Date: 1931-03-06
Course/Location: Jersey City Airport, NJ (USA)
Claimant Ruth Nichols (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed Vega
Engine: 1 Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp
Images:

Ruth Nichols with man holding barograph after setting FAI World Altitude Record. (FAI)
Ruth Nichols with man holding barograph after setting FAI World Altitude Record. (FAI)

Flying the Vega, Ruth Nichols also set records for speed between New York and Los Angeles. NR496M was damaged beyond repair at Floyd Bennett Field, 11 April 1931.

“Ruth Nichols was the only woman to hold simultaneously the women’s world speed, altitude, and distance records for heavy landplanes. She soloed in a flying boat and received her pilot’s license after graduating from Wellesley College in 1924, becoming the first woman in New York to do so. Defying her parents wishes to follow the proper life of a young woman, in January 1928 she flew nonstop from New York City to Miami with Harry Rogers in a Fairchild FC-2. The publicity stunt brought Nichols fame as “The Flying Debutante” and provided headlines for Rogers’ airline too. Sherman Fairchild took note and hired Nichols as a northeast sales manager for Fairchild Aircraft and Engine Corporation. She helped to found the Long Island Aviation Country Club, an exclusive flying club and participated in the 19,312-meter (12,000-mile) Sportsman Air Tour to promote the establishment of clubs around the country. She was also a founder of Sportsman Pilot magazine. Nichols set several women’s records in 1931, among them a speed record of 339.0952 kph (210.704 mph), an altitude record of 8,760 meters (28,743 feet), and a nonstop distance record of 3182.638 kilometers (1,977.6 miles). Her hopes to become the first woman to fly the Atlantic Ocean were dashed by two crashes of a Lockheed Vega in 1931, in which she was severely injured, and again in 1932. In 1940, Nichols founded Relief Wings, a humanitarian air service for disaster relief that quickly became an adjunct relief service of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) during World War II. Nichols became a lieutenant colonel in the CAP. After the war she organized a mission in support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and became an advisor to the CAP on air ambulance missions. In 1958, she flew a Delta Dagger at 1,609 kph (1,000 mph) at an altitude of 15,544 meters (51,000 feet). A Hamilton variable pitch propeller (which allowed a pilot to select a climb or cruise position for the blades), from her Lockheed Vega is displayed in the Golden Age of Flight gallery. Nichols’ autobiography is titled Wings for Life.”

Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Women In Aviation and Space History, The Golden Age of Flight.

Ruth Nichols with her Lockheed Model 5a Vega.
Ruth Nichols with the Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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11–12 January 1935

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Hawaii, 11 January 1935. (Getty Images/Underwood Archives)
Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 11 January 1935. On the left is 2nd Lieutenant Curtiss LeMay, U.S. Army Air Corps. 16 years later, LeMay would be promoted to the rank of general. He served as Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force 1961–1965. (Hawaii Aviation)

11 January 1935: At 4:40 p.m., local time, Amelia Earhart departed Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, for Oakland Municipal Airport at Oakland, California, in her Lockheed Vega 5C Special, NR965Y. She arrived 18 hours, 15 minutes later. Earhart was the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the Mainland.

(This Vega was not the same aircraft which she used to fly the Atlantic, Vega 5B NR7952, and which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.)

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Model 5 Vega is a single-engine high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. It was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of spiral strips of vertical grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and held together with glue. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

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 or other astronomical objects.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5c, NR965Y, being run up at Wheeler Field, 11 January 1935. Amelia is sitting on the running board of the Standard Oil truck parked in front of the hangar. (Hawaii Aviation)

Lockheed Model 5C Vega serial number 171 was completed in March 1931, painted red with silver trim, and registered NX965Y. The airplane had been ordered by John Henry Mears. Mears did not take delivery of the new airplane and it was then sold to Elinor Smith. It was resold twice before being purchased by Amelia Earhart in December 1934.

The Lockheed Model 5C Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).

Earhart’s Vega 5C was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C, serial number 2849, a single-row, nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Model 5C had a cruise speed of 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) and range in standard configuration was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

“Before parting with her ‘little red bus’ (as she affectionately called it), Amelia removed the upgraded Wasp engine and substituted an obsolete model; she wanted her well-tried engine for the new airplane, also a Lockheed Vega. It was a later model, in which Elinor Smith had been preparing to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic, a plan abandoned after Amelia successfully took that record. It was originally built to exacting specifications for Henry Mears of New York, who had a round-the-world flight in mind. Called the Vega, Hi-speed Special, it carried the registration 965Y and was equipped with special fuel tanks, radio, and streamlined landing gear and cowling. These latter appointments, together with a Hamilton Standard Controllable-Pitch Propeller, gave the plane a speed of 200 mph and Amelia had her eye on further records as well as her constant journeys across the continent.”

The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1989, Chapter 17 at Page 206.

Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)
Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland, California, from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)

“. . . At Oakland Airport a good ten thousand had been waiting for several hours, yet when she came in she surprised them. They had been craning their necks looking for a lone aircraft flying high and obviously seeking a place to land. But Amelia did not even circle the field; she brought the Vega in straight as an arrow at a scant two hundred feet, landing at 1:31 p.m. Pacific time. The crowd set up a roar, broke through the police lines, and could be halted only when dangerously near the still-whirling propeller. From the road circling the airport, a chorus of automobile horns honked happily.”

Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer by Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, Brassey’s, Washington and London, 1997, Chapter 13 at Page 132.

Amelia Earhart stands in the cockpit of her Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR965Y, on arrival at Oakland Municipal Airport, 12 January 1935. (National Geographic/Corbis)

Amelia Earhart sold the Vega in 1936. It appeared in “Border Flight,” (Paramount Pictures, 1936) which starred Frances Farmer, John Howard and Robert Cummings. It changed hands twice more before being destroyed in a hangar fire 26 August 1943.

Lockheed Model 5C Vega NR965Y, on the set of a motion picture production, “Wings in the Dark,” (Paramount Pictures, 1935) or “Border Flight,” (Paramount, 1936). The woman to left of center may be Frances Farmer. Roscoe Karns, who performed in both movies, is at center. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6–8 January 1928

President Coolidge awards the Medal of Honor to 1st Lieutenant Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps, during a ceremony held on the lawn of the White House, Washington, D.C., 9 June 1928. (NARA Ref# 80-G-460270)

MEDAL OF HONOR

CHRISTIAN F. SCHILT

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps.
Place and Date of Action: Quilali, Nicaragua, 6, 7 and 8 January 1928.
Entered Service At: Illinois.
Birth Date and Place of Birth: 1 March 1895, Richland County, Ill.
Other Navy Awards: Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 gold star.

Citation:
During the progress of an insurrection at Quilali, Nicaragua, 6, 7, and 8 January 1928, Lieutenant Schilt, then a member of a Marine Expedition which had suffered severe losses in killed and wounded, volunteered under almost impossible conditions to evacuate the wounded by air, and transport a relief commanding officer to assume charge of a very serious situation. First Lieutenant Schilt bravely undertook this dangerous and important task and, by taking off a total of 10 times in the rough, rolling street of a partially burning village, under hostile infantry fire on each occasion, succeeded in accomplishing his mission, thereby actually saving three lives and bringing supplies and aid to others in desperate need.

Medal of Honor, United States Navy and Marine Corps, 1919–1942. This version is called the "Tiffany Cross". (U.S. Navy)
Medal of Honor, United States Navy and Marine Corps, 1919–1942. This version is called the “Tiffany Cross.” (U.S. Navy)

In 1926, civil war broke out in Nicaragua. United States Marines were sent in to establish a protected sector for American citizens who were in the country (this is known as the Second Nicaraguan Campaign). First Lieutenant Schilt, a Naval Aviator since 1919, was assigned to an observation squadron at Managua in November 1927. On 6 January 1928, rebel soldiers ambushed to U.S. Marine patrols at the village of Quilali. The Marines were cut off, unable to be re-supplied or to have the wounded men evacuated. Lieutenant Schilt volunteered to fly into the village and land on a road, carrying supplies and flying the wounded men out. Conditions were difficult, with low clouds, surrounding mountains and hostile gunfire on landing and takeoff.

First Lieutenant Christian F. Schilt, United States Marine Corps, with his Vought O2U-1 Corsair. (U.S. Navy)
First Lieutenant Christian F. Schilt, United States Marine Corps, with his Chance Vought O2U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. A7529. (U.S. Navy)

Over three days, Schilt made ten flights, bringing out 18 wounded Marines and flying in a replacement commander and badly-needed medical supplies. To make a landing strip on the village’s rough, rolling, main street, the Marines on the ground had to burn and level part of the town, and since the plane had no brakes they had to stop it by dragging from its wings as soon as it touched down.

Chance Vought O2U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. A7575

The Chance Vought O2U-1 Corsair was a two-seat, single-engine biplane used for reconnaissance. It was 24 feet, 8 inches (7.519 meters) long with a wingspan of 34 feet, 6 inches (10.516 meters) and height of 10 feet, ½ inch (3.060 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,342 pounds (1,062.3 kilograms) and gross weight of 3,635 pounds (1,648.8 kilograms).

The 02U-1 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C (R-1340-88) 9-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. This was a direct drive engine, rated at 450 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m, at Sea Level.

The O2U-1 had a maximum speed of 151 miles per hour (243 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 22,500 feet (6,858 meters) and the maximum range was 880 miles (1,416 kilometers) at cruise speed.

Armament consisted of two fixed .30-caliber Browning machine guns, and one or two .30-caliber Lewis machine guns on a flexible mount in the aft cockpit.

Vought produced 291 O2U Corsairs between 1926 and 1930.

1st Lieutenant Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps. (United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command NH 45855)

Christian Frank Schilt had a long career in the United States Marine Corps, beginning as an enlisted man with the first American military aviation unit sent overseas during World War I. After becoming a Naval Aviator and commissioned officer, he served for several years in the Carribean and Central American campaigns, before being assigned as chief test pilot at the Naval Aircraft Factory.

Captain Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps, at Quantico, Virginia, 19 July 1937. (Smithsonian Institution)

During World War II, Schilt served as chief of staff of the 1st Marine Air Wing at Guadalcanal, then commanded Marine Aircraft Group 11, commanding all Marine Corps aviation units during the Guadalcanal and Solomon Islands campaigns. He returned to the United States as commander MCAS Cherry Point.

General Schilt commanded the 9th and 2nd Marine Aviation Wings in the Pacific, and during the Korean War, he commanded the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

He next served as Commanding General, Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and then as Director of Aviation at Headquarters Marine Corps.

Lieutenant General Schilt retired 1 April 1957 after forty years of service. Because of his distinguished combat career, he was promoted to the rank of General.

General Shilt was awarded the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with Gold Stars (five awards), the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with Bronze Star (two awards).

General Schilt died 8 January 1987 at the age of 91 years.

Lieutenant General Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps (19xx–1987)
Lieutenant General Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps (1895–1987)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24–25 August 1932

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega after her record-setting solo nonstop flight across North America, 25 August 1932. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

24–25 August 1932: Amelia Earhart flew her Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, from Los Angeles, California to Newark, New Jersey, a distance of 3,939.25 kilometers (2,447.74 miles), in 19 hours, 5 minutes. She had departed Los Angeles Municipal Airport (now known as LAX) at 7:26:54 p.m. Pacific Time, 24 August, and landed at Newark Municipal Airport at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time the following day. This set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) women’s World Record for Distance in a Straight Line Without Landing. He average speed for the flight was 206.42 kilometers per hour (128.27 miles per hour). She was the first woman to fly solo coast-to-coast. Less than a year later, she would break her own record by almost two hours.

FAI Record File Num #12342 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Feminine
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Distance in a straight line without landing
Performance: 3 939.25 km
Date: 1932-08-25
Course/Location: Los Angeles, CA (USA) – New York, NY (USA)
Claimant Amelia Earhart (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed Vega
Engine: 1 Pratt & Whitney Wasp C

A small crowd gather's around Amelia Earhart an dher Lockheed Model 5B Vega at Newark Municpal Airport, 25 August 1932. (AP)
A small crowd gathers around Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Model 5B Vega at Newark Municipal Airport, 25 August 1932. (AP)

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Model 5 Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane. The fuselage was molded wood monocoque construction and the wing was cantilevered wood. The Vega 5B is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 1,650 pounds (748.4 kilograms) and gross weight is 3,200 pounds (1,451.5 kilograms).

Earhart’s modified Vega 5B is powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.80-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine cylinder radial engine. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level.¹ It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms). It drove a two-bladed Hamilton Standard controllable-pitch propeller through direct drive.

Just three months earlier, Earhart had flown solo across the Atlantic Ocean in this same airplane, which she called her “Little Red Bus.” Today, Lockheed Vega NR7952 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

¹ The Pratt & Whitney Wasp C was also used by the U.S. Army and Navy, designated R-1340-7. It was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. at Sea Level.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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