Tag Archives: Robert George Ferry

6–7 April 1966

Test pilot Bob Ferry in teh cockpit of YOH-61 62-4213, with engineer Dick Lofland, before the non-stop coast-to-coast flight. (Hughes Aircraft)
Test pilot Bob Ferry in the cockpit of Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213, with engineer Dick Lofland, before the non-stop coast-to-coast flight. (Hughes Aircraft)

6–7 April 1966: Chief Test Pilot Robert G. Ferry of Hughes Tool Company’s Aircraft Division flies the number three prototype YOH-6A, 62-4213, from the company airport at Culver City, California, non-stop to Ormond Beach, Florida, a distance of 3,561.55 kilometers (2,213.04 miles). Bob Ferry set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance Without Landing.¹ All three records still stand.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1966. (FAI)
Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1966. (FAI)

Bob Ferry took off at the Hughes Airport at Culver City (just north of LAX) at 2:20 p.m., Pacific Time. The aircraft twas so heavily loaded with fuel that the test pilot exceeded the engine’s torque limit by 21% just to get airborne. When he established a climb he reduced the power to “red line.” During the entire flight he kept the engine at 105% N2 (a 2% overspeed). He landed after 15 hours, 8 minutes of flight.

On 26 March 1966, Allison Engine Company test pilot Jack Schweibold flew the same YOH-6A  to set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing of 2,800.20 kilometers (1,739.96 miles).² One week earlier, 20 March, Jack Zimmerman had set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing of 1,700.12 kilometers (1,056.41 miles).³ Fifty-one years later, these four World Records also still stand.

Robert George Ferry was born 29 November 1923 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, the second child of Lucius M. and Charlotte E. Ferry. He developed an interest in aviation during his teen years. Ferry earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern University. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 and graduated from flight training at Luke Filed, Arizona, in 1945.

Ferry trained as a helicopter pilot at San Marcos Army Air Field, Texas, flying Sikorsky R-5 and R-6 helicopters. After graduation Lieutenant Ferry was assigned to Panama.

In 1947, Robert Ferry married Miss Marti Holt of Austin, Texas. They remained together for 62 years.

Bob Ferry flew 90 combat missions in helicopters during the Korean War. In 1954, he was accepted to the U.S. Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School, Class 54C, at Edwards Air Force Base. (One of Ferry’s classmates was future X-15 pilot, Robert M. White.)

Assigned as a test pilot Bob Ferry flew the McDonnell XV-1 Convertiplane compound helicopter with pressure jet rotor drive and the Bell XV-3, an experimental “tiltrotor.” On 6 January 1959, he completed the conversion from helicopter to airplane mode. He also flew the Hughes XV-9A, an experimental high-speed helicopter, which also used tip jets to drive the rotor. After six years as a test pilot at Edwards, Ferry was assigned to duties in Germany. He retired from the Air Force in 1964 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Robert G. Ferry, Chieft Test Pilot, Hughes helicopters.
Robert G. Ferry, Chief Test Pilot, Hughes Helicopters. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

In 1966, Robert Ferry became chief test pilot at the Hughes Tool Company Aircraft Division at Culver City, California. He tested the OH-6A light observation helicopter and the AH-64 Apache at the Hughes facility at Palomar Airport in north San Diego County. During this time Ferry earned a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of San Diego.

Bob Ferry retired from Hughes Helicopters after 18 years. He had flown approximately 10,800 hours in 125 different aircraft. About 8,000 hours were in helicopters. He had been awarded the Iven C. Kincheloe Award for 1959 by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the Igor I. Sikorsky International Trophy for his transcontinental record flight, and the 1967 Frederick L. Feinberg Award by the American Helicopter Society.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Ferry, United States Air Force (Retired) died at his home in San Marcos, California, 15 January 2009 at the age of 85 years.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4211 in its configuration during the three-way LOH competitive testing. (U.S. Army)
Hughes YOH-6A 62-4211, the first prototype, in its configuration during the three-way LOH competitive testing. (U.S. Army)

The Hughes Model 369 was built in response to a U.S. Army requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (“L.O.H.”). It was designated YOH-6A, and the first aircraft received U.S. Army serial number 62-4211. It competed with prototypes from Bell Helicopter Company (YOH-4) and Fairchild-Hiller (YOH-5). All three aircraft were powered by a lightweight Allison Engine Company turboshaft engine. The YOH-6A won the three-way competition and was ordered into production as the OH-6A Cayuse. It was nicknamed “loach,” an acronym for L.O.H.

The YOH-6A was a two-place light helicopter, flown by a single pilot. It had a four-bladed, articulated main rotor which turned counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Stacks of thin stainless steel “straps” fastened the rotor blades to the hub and were flexible enough to allow for flapping and feathering. Hydraulic dampers controlled lead-lag. Originally, there were blade cuffs around the main rotor blade roots in an attempt to reduce aerodynamic drag, but these were soon discarded. A two-bladed semi-rigid tail rotor was mounted on the left side of the tail boom. Seen from the left, the tail-rotor rotates counter-clockwise. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.)

Overhead photograph of a Hughes YOH-6. Note the blade cuffs. (U.S. Army)
Overhead photograph of a Hughes YOH-6A. Note the blade cuffs. (U.S. Army)

The YOH-6A was powered by a T63-A-5 turboshaft engine (Allison Model 250-C10) mounted behind the cabin at a 45° angle. The engine was rated at 212 shaft horsepower at 52,142 r.p.m. (102% N1) and 693 °C. turbine outlet temperature for maximum continuous power, and 250 shaft horsepower at 738 °C., 5-minute limit, for takeoff. Production OH-6A helicopters used the slightly more powerful T63-A-5A (250-C10A) engine.

The Hughes Tool Company Aircraft Division built 1,420 OH-6A Cayuse helicopters for the U.S. Army. The helicopter remains in production as AH-6C and MH-6 military helicopters, and the MD500E and MD530F civil aircraft.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 is in the collection of the United States Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama.

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 784, 785 and 11655.

² FAI Record File Numbers 786, 787 and 11656.

³ FAI Record File Number 762.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 September 1975

AV-02, the second prototype Hughes YAH-64 Advanced Attack Helicopter makes its first free hover at Palomar Airport, California, 30 September 1975. (Boeing)
AV-02, the second prototype Hughes YAH-64 Advanced Attack Helicopter, 74-22248, makes its first free hover at Palomar Airport, California, 30 September 1975. (Boeing)

30 September 1975: At Palomar Airport (CRQ), Carlsbad, California, Hughes Helicopter Company Chief Test Pilot Robert George (“Bob”) Ferry (LTC, USAF, Ret.) and Raleigh Ellsworth (“Bud”) Fletcher made the first flight of the YAH-64 Advanced Attack Helicopter prototype, U.S. Army serial number 74-22248. This aircraft was the second of three prototypes built by Hughes and was identified by the company as AV-02. AV-01 was a ground test prototype, while AV-02 and AV-03 (74-22249) were used for flight testing. The first flight took place one day before the first flight of the rival Bell YAH-63.

Robert G. Ferry, Chieft Test Pilot, Hughes Helicopters.

The YAH-64 was designed as a two-place, twin-engine ground attack helicopter. The pilots sit in tandem configuration like the earlier Bell AH-1G Huey Cobra. The prototype was 57.50 feet (17.526 meters) long, with rotors turning, and the fuselage had a length of 49.42 feet (15.063 meters). The overall height of 12.07 feet (3.679 meters). The four-blade fully-articulated main rotor turns counter-clockwise, as seen from above (the advancing blade is on the right), and has a diameter of 48.00 feet (14.630 meters). It turns at 289 r.p.m., giving the blades’ a tip speed of 726.36 feet per second (211.70 meters per second). The main rotor uses elastomeric lead/lag dampers and the blades are retained by laminated V-shaped stainless steel “strap packs” which are flexible to allow blade flapping and feathering. The main rotor is mounted to a hollow static mast with a concentric drive shaft inside.

The four-bladed tail rotor is unusual in that, rather than the blades being evenly spaced at 90° intervals, the blades are spaced at 55° and 125° angles. This allows for significant reductions in noise. The tail rotor is mounted on the right side of a pylon above the tail boom in a pusher configuration, and rotates clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left (the advancing blade is below the axis of rotation). It has a diameter of 8.33 feet (2.539 meters) and turns 1,411 r.p.m. (tip speed, 727.09 feet per second/221.62 meters per second).

A stub wing provides additional lift in forward flight and can carry various combinations of guided missiles and rockets. It has a span of 16.33 feet (14.977 meters).

Dimensions diagram for Hughes YAH-64 Advanced Attack Helicopter prototype. (U.S. Army Aviation Engineering Flight Activity)
Dimensions diagram for Hughes YAH-64 Advanced Attack Helicopter prototype, Development Test 1 configuration. (Hughes Helicopter Company)

In the original configuration, the YAH-64 had a “T-tail” with the horizontal stabilizer attached to the top of the tail rotor pylon. This caused undesirable changes in pitch attitude during flight testing and was changed with the follow-on YAH-64A pre-production prototypes.

The YAH-64 was powered by two prototype General Electric YT700-GE-700 turboshaft engines. These were rated at 1,536 shaft horsepower at 20,000 r.p.m., at Sea Level on a Standard Day. The helicopter carried fuel in two internal tanks with a total capacity of 353 gallons (1,336.25 liters). This gave the two prototypes a mission endurance of 2 hours, 42 minutes.

The two flight test aircraft, 74-22248 and its sister ship 74-22249, were the subject of extensive flight testing during the summer of 1976. At that time, the YAH-64 had an empty weight of 10,495 pounds (4,760 kilograms), loaded weight of 12,242 pounds (5,553 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight 17,900 pounds (8,119 kilograms).

The two YAH-64s were tested at Edwards Air Force Base and the nearby Naval Ordnance Test Station Chine Lake. Additional testing was conducted at Bishop, California (elevation 4,120 feet/1,256 meters) and Coyote Flats (9,500 feet/2,896 meters).

A pre-production YAH-64A Apache in flight, circa 1982. (U.S. Army)
A pre-production YAH-64A Apache in flight, circa 1982. (U.S. Army)

The helicopter could hover out of ground effect (HOGE) at its maximum gross weight at and altitude of 5,350 feet (1,631 meters) with an ambient temperature of 95 °F. (35 °C.) From an out of ground effect hover at 4,000 feet, it could climb vertically at 184 feet per second (56.1 meters per second). At maximum continuous power its cruise speed in level flight was 141 knots, slightly less than required by the Army. With one engine inoperative, the helicopter’s ceiling was 4,750 feet (1,448 meters). There was a 100 foot difference in altitude with the left and right engines.

The 30 mm Hughes XM 230 Chain Gun automatic cannon was installed on the YAH-64 with 90 rounds. The gun’s rate of fire was adjustable and it was set to 535 rounds per minute on the prototype.

The AH-64A Apache was approved for full production in 1982. In 1984, the Hughes Helicopter Company was purchased by McDonnell Douglas and renamed McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Company. A facility to produce the Apache attack helicopters, as well as other civil and military helicopters, was opened in Mesa, Arizona. In 1997, MDHC was acquired by Boeing.

937 AH-64A attack helicopters were built between 1984 and 1997, when the improved AH-64D Apache Longbow entered production. Many AH-64As were remanufactured to the AH-64D configuration. More that 2,000 Apaches have been built. While most were for the U.S. Army, they fly for at least 14 other countries.

The Hughes YAH-64, 74-22248, is in the collection of the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, Ozark, Alabama.

An AH-64 Apache Longbow 99-05097 over Iraq, 2005. This aircraft was originally AH-6A A Apache 84-24287, before being remanufactured at Mesa, Arizona to the Longbow configuration, (TSGT Andy Dunaway/U.S. Army)
AH-64D Apache Longbow 99-05097 over Iraq, 2005. This aircraft was originally AH-6A Apache 84-24287, before being remanufactured to the Longbow configuration at Mesa, Arizona. (TSGT Andy Dunaway/U.S. Army)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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