Tag Archives: Prototype

22 December 1945

Experimental Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040, circa 1946. (Roger Bilstein Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

22 December 1945: Test pilot Vern Louis Carstens made the first flight of Beech Aircraft Corporation’s new Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza. Five prototypes were built. The first two were used as static test articles. The third prototype, NX80150, serial number 3, was the first to fly.

“. . . Wichita residents and Beech employees “lined the runway” to watch the first flight of the Beechcraft Bonanza. “The town turned out and the plant all but shut down for the occasion,” said Vern L. Carstens, retired Beech Aircraft chief test pilot who made the historic flight. From the day of its first flight, the Beechcraft V-tailed Bonanza has set industry standards for high performance single engine aircraft. The Bonanza received its type certificate on March 25, 1947. . . .”

The Salina Journal, Salina, Kansas, Sunday, 27 December 1970, at Page 25, Columns 1–7.

The first Bonanza to fly was the number three prototype, NX80150. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

On 26 October 1946, one of the Model 35 prototypes, possibly s/n 3, was destroyed:

During a dive test to determine the maximum dive velocity, a landing gear door buckled under the air loads, causing the door to be forced open. Air was then forced into the landing gear recess on the underside of the wing, and internal pressure built up to the point where the wing failed.

Department of Transportation, Transportation Systems Center Beech V-Tail Bonanza Task Force Report, 1985.

Harry Lawrence Reiter Jr.

Harry Lawrence Reiter, Jr., Chief Flight Research Pilot for Beechcraft, was killed when the airplane broke up and crashed 15 miles east of Wichita. An observer, Robert King, was able to escape.

The registration for NX80150 was cancelled 18 May 1948.

The Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza is a single-engine, four-place all-metal light civil airplane with retractable landing gear. The Bonanza has the distinctive V-tail with a 30° dihedral which combined the functions of a conventional vertical fin and rudder, and horizontal tail plane and elevators.

The Model 35 was 25 feet, 2 inches (7.671 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 10 inches (10.008 meters) and height of 6 feet, 6½ inches (1.994 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,458 pounds (661 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,550 pounds (1,157 kilograms.)

An early production Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza, NC2703V, c/n D-79. (Beech Aircraft Corporation via Larry Westin)
An early production Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza, NC2703V, c/n D-79. (Beech Aircraft Corporation via Larry Westin)

The first flyable prototype, NX80150, was equipped with an air-cooled, normally aspirated 289.31-cubic-inch-displacement (4.741 liter) Lycoming O-290-A horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine, rated at 125 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and 130 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m (five minute limit).

Prototype number four, s/n 4, NX80040, and the following production models used a more powerful air-cooled, 471.24-cubic-inch-displacement (7.72 liter) Continental Motors, Inc., E185 horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder engine. This engine was rated at 165 horsepower at 2,050 r.p.m. The Bonanza used a two-bladed electrically-controlled variable-pitch R-100 propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 4 inches (2.235 meters), made of laminated wood.

The “V-tail Bonanza” had a maximum speed of 184 miles per hour (296 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a cruise speed of 175 miles per hour (282 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its service ceiling was 18,000 feet (5,486 meters). With full fuel, 40 gallons (151.4 liters), the airplane had a range of 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

The Beechcraft 35 was in production from 1947 to 1982. More than 17,000 Model 35s and the similar Model 36 were built.

Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040. (Hans Groenhoff Photographic Collection, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum NASM-HGC-201)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 December 1970

Grumman F-14A-1-GR Tomcat Bu. No. 157980, just before its first flight, Calverton, Long Island, New York, 21 December 1970. (Grumman)
Grumman F-14A-1-GR Tomcat Bu. No. 157980, just before its first flight, Calverton, Long Island, New York, 21 December 1970. (Northrop Grumman Corporation)

21 December 1970: At the Grumman Aerospace Corporation plant, Calverton, Long Island, New York, Chief Test Pilot Robert Kenneth Smyth and Project Test Pilot William Howard Miller took off on the very first flight of the F-14A-1-GR Tomcat, Bu. No. 157980.

The F-14 is a long-range fleet defense interceptor designed to operate from the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers. It is a two-place, twin-engine Mach 2+ fighter. The most notable feature are its variable geometry wings (“swing wings”), similar to those of the General Dynamics F-111.

Grumman F-14A Tomcat during flight test.
A Grumman F-14A Tomcat during test flight. (U.S. Navy)

The Grumman F-14A Tomcat (Grumman has a long history of naming its fighter aircraft after various cats, e.g., Wildcat, Hellcat, Tigercat, Panther, Cougar, Tiger) is 62 feet, 8 inches (19.101 meters) long with its wingspan varying from 33 feet, 3 inches (10.135 meters) when swept fully aft (overswept), and 64 feet, 1 inches (19.510 meters) when fully extended. The airplane has an overall height of 16 feet, 0 inches (4.879 meters). It has an empty weight of 38,188 pounds (17,322 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 72,566 pounds (32,915 kilograms).

The fighter was initially powered by two Pratt & Whitney JTF10A (TF30-P-412A) afterburning turbofan engines. The JTF10A is a two-spool axial-flow engine.  It has a 3-stage fan section, 13-stage compressor section (6 low- and 7 high-pressure stages) and 4-stage turbine (1 high- and 3 low-pressure stages). The engine has a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 10,800 pounds of thrust (48.041 kilonewtons) at 14,300 r.p.m. (N2); Intermediate Power, 12,350 pounds (54.936 kilonewtons) at 14,800 r.p.m. (45-minute limit); and a Maximum Power of 20,900 pounds (92.968 kilonewtons) at 14,780 r.p.m., with afterburner (45-minute limit). The engine is 18 feet, 7.59 inches (5.679 meters) long, 4 feet, 2.5 inches (1.283 meters) in diameter, and weighs 3,971 pounds (1,801 kilograms).

Grumman F-14 A Tomcat, 21 December 1970. (U.S. Naval Institute)
The first Grumman F-14A Tomcat, 21 December 1970. (U.S. Naval Institute)

Cruise speed for the F-14A is 497 knots (572 miles per hour/920 kilometers per hour). It has a maximum speed of 805 knots (926 miles per hour (1,491 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level (Mach 1.22) and 1,314 knots (1,512 miles per hour/2,434 kilometers per hour) at 38,000 feet (11,582 meters) (Mach 2.29). The airplane’s service ceiling is 41,000 feet (12,497 meters), and its combat ceiling is 57,600 feet (17,556 meters) at 1,030 knots (1,185 miles per hour/1,907 kilometers per hour), Mach 1.80. The Tomcat has a combat radius of 741 nautical miles (853 statute miles/1,372 kilometers), and its maximum ferry range is 1,840 nautical miles (2,117 miles/3,407 kilometers).

The Tomcat is armed with one 20 mm General Electric M61A1 Vulcan six-barrel Gatling gun with 676 rounds of ammunition. It can carry a combination of Hughes AIM-54A Phoenix long range air-to-air missiles, as well as AIM 7E Sparrow and AIM 9H Sidewinders. The F-14 has the capability of simultaneously engaging six independent targets with the Phoenix missile. The AIM-54A is a radar-guided Mach 5 missile with a range of 115 statute miles (185 kilometers). It has a 135 pound (61.2 kilograms) proximity-fused blast fragmentation warhead.

The Grumman F-14 was in production from 1970 until 1991, in three variants, the F-14A, F-14B and F-14D. A total of 712 Tomcats were built. The fighter remained in service with the United States Navy until 2006. 79 F-14As were provided to the Imperial Iranian Air Force, prior to the Islamic revolt. An unknown number of these remain in service with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force.

Grumman test pilot Robert K. Smyth.
Grumman Chief Test Pilot Robert Kenneth Smyth. (Northrop Grumman Corporation)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 December 1916

Sopwith Camel. (Royal Air Force)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394. (Royal Air Force)

21 December 1916: Harry George Hawker, M.B.E., A.F.C., made the first flight of the Sopwith Camel at Brooklands Aerodrome, Surrey, England. This airplane would become the Royal Air Force’s most successful fighter of World War I.

The Sopwith Camel F.1 was a British single-place, single-engine biplane fighter, produced by the Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Canbury Park Road, Kingston-on-Thames. The airplane was constructed of a wooden framework, with the forward fuselage being covered with aluminum panels and plywood, while the aft fuselage, wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric.

The length of the Camel F.1 varied from 18 feet, 6 inches (5.639 meters) to 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters), depending on which engine was installed. Both upper and lower wings had a span of 28 feet, 0 inches (8.534 meters) and chord of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.372 meters). They were separated vertically by 5 feet (1.524 meters) at the fuselage. The upper wing had 0° dihedral, while the lower wing had 5° dihedral and was staggered 1 foot, 6 inches (0.457 meters) behind the upper wing. The single-bay wings were braced with airfoil-shaped streamline wires. The overall height of the Camel also varied with the engine, from 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) to 8 feet, 9 inches (2.667 meters).

The heaviest Camel F.1 variant used the Le Rhône 180 h.p. engine. It had an empty weight of 1,048 pounds (475 kilograms). Its gross weight of 1,567 pounds (711 kilograms). The lightest was equipped with the Gnôme Monosoupape 100 horsepower engine, with weights of 882 pounds (400 kilograms) and 1,387 pounds (629 kilograms), respectively.

Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I (Unattributed)

The first Camel was powered by an air-cooled 15.268 liter (931.72 cubic inches) Société Clerget-Blin et Cie Clerget Type 9 nine-cylinder rotary engine which produced 110 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. and drove a wooden two-bladed propeller. Eight different rotary engines ¹ from four manufacturers, ranging from 100 to 180 horsepower, were used in the type.

The best performance came with the Bentley B.R.1 engine (5.7:1 compression ratio). This variant had a maximum speed of 121 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 114.5 miles per hour (184 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). It could climb to 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) in 4 minutes, 35 seconds; to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in 8 minutes, 10 seconds; and 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) in 15 minutes, 55 seconds. It had a service ceiling of 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Two other Camel variants could reach 24,000 feet (7,315 meters).

Sopwith Camel F.1 FG394, left rear quarter. © IWM (Q 63822)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394, left rear quarter. © IWM (Q 63822)

The Bentley B.R.1 rotary engine was designed by Lieutenant Walter Owen Bentley, Royal Naval Air Service (later, Captain, Royal Air Force), based on the Clerget Type 9, but with major improvements. It used aluminum cylinders shrunk on to steel liners, with aluminum pistons. The Bentley B.R.1 (originally named the Admiralty Rotary, A.R.1, as it was intended for use by the Royal Navy) was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 17.304 liter (1,055.948 cubic inches) right-hand tractor, nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was rated at 150 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m. The B.R.1 was 1.110 meters (3 feet, 7.7 inches) long, 1.070 meters (3 feet, 6.125 inches) in diameter and weighed 184 kilograms (406 pounds.) The engine was manufactured by Humber, Ltd., Coventry, England, and Vickers, Ltd., Crayford.

The instruments and armament of a Sopwith Camel from No. 4 Squadron, AFC. (Australian War Memorial)
The instruments and armament of a Sopwith Camel from No. 4 Squadron, AFC. (Australian War Memorial)

The Camel was armed with two fixed, forward-firing .303-caliber (7.7×56mmR) Vickers machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller. These guns were modified for air cooling. Some night fighter variants substituted Lewis machine guns mounted above the upper wing for the Vickers guns. Four 25 pound (11.3 kilogram) bombs could be carried on racks under the fuselage.

The Sopwith Camel was a difficult airplane to fly. Most of its weight was concentrated far forward, making it unstable, but, at the same time making the fighter highly maneuverable. The rotary engine, with so much of its mass in rotation, caused a torque effect that rolled the airplane to the right to a much greater degree than in airplanes equipped with radial or V-type engines. A skilled pilot could use this to his advantage, but many Camels ended upside down while taking off.

Major William G. Barker, RAF, with an upside-down Sopwith Camel F.1 of No. 28 Squadron, Italy, 1918. (Library and Archives Canada)
Major William G. Barker, RAF, with an upside-down Sopwith Camel F.1 of No. 28 Squadron, Italy, 1918. (Library and Archives Canada)

Twelve manufacturers ² produced 5,490 Sopwith Camels between 1916 and 1920. By the end of World War I, it was becoming outclassed by newer aircraft, however it was the single most successful fighter of the war, shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft.

One single fighter, Major William Barker’s Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Camel F.1 B.6313 shot down 46 enemy aircraft, more than any other fighter in history.

It is believed that only seven Sopwith Camels still exist.

Wing Commander William George Barker, VC, DSO with Bar, MC with 2 Bars, Croix de Guerre (Library and Archives Canada)
Wing Commander William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. with Bar, M.C. with 2 Bars, Croix de Guerre, with his Sopwith Camel F.1. (Library and Archives Canada)

¹ Humber, Ltd., Bentley B.R.1 150 h.p., B.R.1 (5.7:1 c.r.); Clerget 9B, 130 h.p.; Clerget 9Bf, 130 h.p. (long stroke); Gnôme Monosoupape, 100 h.p.; Gnôme Monosoupape, 150 h.p.; Le Rhône, 110 h.p.; and Le Rhône 180 h.p.

² Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Kingston-on-Thames; Boulton and Paul, Ltd., Norwich; British Caudron Co., London; Clayton and Shuttleworth, Ltd., Lincoln; Hooper and Co., Ltd., London; March, Jones and Cribb, Ltd., Leeds; Nieuport and General Aircraft Co., Ltd., London; Ruston, Proctor and Co., Ltd., Lincoln; Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd.; Portholme Aerodrome Ltd., Huntingdon; Wm. Beardmore & Co., Ltd., Glasgow; Pegler & Co., Ltd., Doncaster.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 December 1934

“This photograph of the Clipper, aloft at the mouth of the Middle River, was taken from another plane by Robert F. Kniesche, Sun staff photographer.” (The Sun (Baltimore), Vol. 196–D, Friday 21 December 1934, Page 30, Columns 3–5 )

20 December 1934: William K. (“Ken”) Ebel lifted off from Middle River, Maryland, taking the Martin M-130 “Clipper” for its first flight. The M-130 was airborne for approximately 1 hours. Flying at 1,200 feet (366 meters), it reached 160 miles per hour (257 kilometers per hour).

Three-view illustration of the Martin M-130. (Flight, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, Vol. XXVII, No. 1361, 24 January 1935, Page 99)

NC14716, named China Clipper, was the first of three Martin M-130 four-engine flying boats built for Pan American Airways. It was used to inaugurate the first commercial transpacific air service from San Francisco to Manila in November, 1935. Built at a cost of $417,000 by the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, Maryland, it was delivered to Pan Am on October 9, 1935.

The airplane was operated by a flight crew of 6 to 9, depending on the length of the flight, plus cabin staff, and could carry 18 passengers on overnight flights or a maximum 36 passengers.

Cutaway illustration of Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130 China Clipper. (Detail from larger image. NASM SI-89-1216-A. Full image at: https://airandspace.si.edu/multimedia-gallery/7135hjpg)

The Martin M-130 was 90 feet, 10.5 inches (27.699 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 0 inches (39.624 meters). It was 24 feet, 7 inches (7.493 meters) high. The total wing area was 2,315 square feet (215 square meters), including the “sea wings”. Its maximum takeoff weight was 52,252 pounds (23,701 kilograms).

The flying boat was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S2A5-G two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. They had a normal power rating 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. for takeoff. They drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The S2A5-G was 3 feet, 11.88 inches (1.216 meters) in diameter, 4 feet, 8.75 inches (1.441 meters) long, and weighed 1,235 pounds (560 kilograms).

The airplane had a cruise speed of 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 180 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour). The M-130’s service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its range was 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers).

The first Martin M-130, NC14716, undergoing ground testing at the Glenn L. Martin Co. plant at Middle River, Maryland, 30 November 1934. (Lockheed Martin)

William Kenneth Ebel was born at Orangeville, Illinois, 2 January 1899. He was the first of two sons of Willam Henry Ebel, a farmer, and Nora Agnes Rubendall Ebel.

Ken Ebel attended Heidelberg College at Tiffin, Ohio. While at Heidelberg, on 1 October 1918, he enlisted as a private in the Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.). With World War I coming to an end in November, Private Ebel was discharged 20 December 1918. Ebel graduated from Heidelberg in 1921 with a bachelor of arts degree.

Ebel returned to military service, enlisting as a private in the 104th Squadron (Observation), Maryland National Guard, based at Baltimore, Maryland.

Ebel continued his college education at the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1923, he earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering (B.S.M.E.)

On 11 September 1923, Private Ebel was appointed an aviation cadet, graduating from primary flying school on 3 June 1924. He received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant, Officers Reserve Corps (O.R.C.), United States Army, on 12 June 1925.

Continuing to serve as a reserve officer, in 1926 Ebel went to work as an engineer for the Glenn L. Martin Company, then located in Cleveland, Ohio. As a test pilot and engineer, Ebel flew the Martin M-130 four-engine flying boar

2nd Lieutenant Ebel,still with the 104th Squadron, Maryland National Guard, was promoted to the rank of 1st lieutenant on 21 December 1928. The U.S. Army advanced his rank to 1st lieutenant, Air Corps, 15 February 1929.

On 21 October 1929, William K. Ebel married Miss Florence E. Sherck at Seneca, Ohio. They would have two children, William Kenneth, Jr., and Lydia Lynn Ebel.

While testing a Martin BM-2 dive bomber, on 11 August 1932, W.K. Ebel “leaped to safety in a parachute Friday when a bombing plane he was testing failed to come out of a spin and crashed at Dahlgren, Virginia. The plane was going through its final tests before being delivered to the navy. It was wrecked in the crash.” Ebel became Member No. 495 of The Caterpillar Club.

On Thursday, 20 December 1934, Chief Pilot Ken Ebel took the new four-engine Martin M-130 flying boat, Pan American Airways System’s Hawaii Clipper, for its first flight from Middle River, Maryland. He also made the first flight of the M-156 “Russian Clipper” in 1935.

Ebel was promoted to captain, Air Corps, on 5 January 1935. On 21 August, he delivered the new Martin Model 146 “mystery bomber” to Wright Field for evaluation by the Bombardment Board.

On Thursday, 20 December 1934, Chief Pilot Ken Ebel took the new four-engine Martin M-130 flying boat, Pan American Airways System’s Hawaii Clipper, for its first flight from Middle River, Maryland. He also made the first flight of the M-156 “Russian Clipper” in 1935.

Ebel was promoted to captain, Air Corps, on 5 January 1935. On 21 August, he delivered the new Martin Model 146 “mystery bomber” to Wright Field for evaluation by the Bombardment Board.

In 1948, Ken Ebel became director of the Airplane Division of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in Columbus, Ohio. Soon after, Curtiss-Wright sold its airplane division to North American Aviation. In 1950, the U.S. Navy’s primary submarine builder, the Electric Boat Company, appointed Ebel as Vice Pressident of Engineering for its Canadair Ltd., aircraft manufacturing subsidiary in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (In 1952, after acquiring Convair, the corporation reorganized as General Dynamics.

William K. Ebel

Ebel returned to the United States in 1961 and served as a consultant for General Dynamics in Washington, D.C. Ebel retired in 1963, purchasing teh Mount Pleasant Orchards near Baltimore.

Mrs. Ebel died in 1968. He later married Helene H. Topping.

William Kenneth Ebel, Ph.D., died at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, 12 July 1972.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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Captain Sir John William Alcock, K.B.E., D.S.C. (5 November 1892 – 18 December 1919)

Sir John William Alcock, by Sir John Lavery, R.A., 1919
Sir John William Alcock, oil on canvas, by Sir John Lavery, R.A., 1919

18 December 1919: Captain Sir John William Alcock, K.B.E., D.S.C., a test pilot for Vickers Ltd., was flying the prototype Vickers Viking seaplane, G-EAOV, to the Paris Air Show–1919, at the Grand Palais, Champs Elysees. After crossing the English Channel, he attempted to land north of Rouen, in foggy conditions. A contemporary news article described the event:

THE DEATH OF SIR JOHN ALCOCK

It is with the most profound regret that we have to record the fatal accident of Sir John Alcock, which occurred on the afternoon of December 18, while he was engaged in taking a new Vickers machine to Paris in connection with the Salon. It appears that the machine when nearing Rouen had great difficulty in negotiating a strong wind. A farmer at Côte d’Evrard, about 25 miles north of Rouen, saw the machine come out of the fog, commence to fly unsteadily, and—it was then about 1 o’clock—it suddenly crashed into the ground. Sir John Alcock was taken from the wreck, but unfortunately there was considerable delay in getting medical assistance as the farmhouse near where the crash occurred is out of the way. As soon as the accident was reported, doctors rushed from No. 6 British General Hospital, Rouen, but they were too late. It is probable that an enquiry will be held by French authorities, at which  the Air Ministry and Messrs. Vickers will be represented. Arrangements are being made for the conveyance of the body of Sir John Alcock to England for burial in Manchester, his native city.

The death of Sir John Alcock is an irreparable loss to aviation. His great flight across the Atlantic is too fresh in the mind of readers of FLIGHT for further reference here, while his previous work is recorded in the pages of past volumes of this paper.

FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships,  No. 574 (No. 52, Vol. XI.), 25 December 25 1919, at Page 1646.

John William Alcock was born 6 November 1892, at Seymour Grove, Old Trafford, Stretford, a town near Manchester, England. He was the son of John Alcock, a coachman, and Mary Alice Whitelegg Alcock, a domestic servant.

John William Alcock with a Farman monoplane at the London-Manchester Air Race, 1912.

He took an early interest in flying. Work as a mechanic at the Ducrocq School, Brooklands Aerodrome, Surrey, led to flight training. He was awarded pilot’s certificate No. 368 by the Royal Aero Club, 26 November 1912.

Alcock competed in various air races, winning the Easter Aeroplane Handicap at Brooklands with a Farman B, 24 March 1913. The prize for first place was 50 guineas.

Captain John W. Alcock, D.S.C. (Science Museum Image Ref. 10300351)

With the onset of World War I, Alcock entered the Royal Naval Air Service, 12 November 1914, as a Warrant Officer, Second Grade (temporary). Alcock was assigned as a flight instructor at the Naval Flying School, Eastchurch, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England. He was commissioned a Flight Sub-Lieutenant (tempy) 29 December 1915 and was sent to a squadron based on an island in the Aegean Sea.

Flight Sub-Lieutenant Alcock was flying a Sopwith Camel, 17 September 1917, when he shot down an enemy airplane and forced two others into the sea. For this action he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

After Alcock returned to base, he took a Handley Page O/100 bomber on a mission against Constantinople. When one engine failed, he turned back, but then the second failed and the airplane went down in the Gulf of Xeros. He and his two crewmen then swam to the enemy-held Gallipoli shoreline. They were captured and held as prisoners of war.

While held as a prisoner, Alcock was promoted to Flight Lieutenant (tempy), R.N.A.S., 31 December 1917. On 1 April 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were combined to establish the Royal Air Force. Flight Lieutenant Alcock, R.N.A.S., became Captain Alcock, R.A.F.

When The War to End All Wars came to an end in November 1918, Captain Alcock was repatriated to the United Kingdom, arriving at Dover 16 December 1918. He left military service in March 1919 and joined Vickers Ltd. (Aviation Department) as a test pilot.

John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown, 14 June 1919. (Vickers PLC)

After the war, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown flew a Vickers Vimy from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Ireland, becoming the very first aviators to make a non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

Forever known as “Alcock and Brown,” the two pilots were invested as Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by King George V.

His remains were interred at the Southern Cemetery, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Greater Manchester, England.

The airplane which Sir John Alcock was flying was the prototype Vickers Viking, registration G-EAOV. This was an amphibious 5-place single-engine, two-bay biplane. The “amphibian” was 32 feet (9.75 meters) long with a wing span of 46 feet (14.02 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,740 pounds ( kilograms), and gross weight of 4,545 pounds ( kilograms).

The initial Viking model was powered by a water-cooled 897.1-cubic-inch-displacement  (14.2 liter) Rolls-Royce Falcon 60° SOHC V-12 engine which produced 288 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m at Sea Level. It was mounted just below the airplane’s upper wing and turned a four-bladed propeller in pusher configuration.

The Viking had cruise speed of 90 miles per hour (145 kilometers per hour). Its maximum speed was 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour) at 6,000 feet (1,829 meters). The Viking had a maximum range of 440 miles (708 kilometers). It could climb to 6,000 feet in 11 minutes.

Vickers Viking G-EAOV. (Imperial War Museum)
Vickers Viking G-EAOV. © IWM (Q 73276)
Vickers Viking G-EAOV. © IWM (Q 73377
Vickers Viking prototype. © IWM (Q 73377)
Vickers Viking G-EAOV at Brooklands, 1919. © IWM (Q 73286)
Vickers Viking G-EAOV at Brooklands, 1919. © IWM (Q 73286)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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