Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

9 September 1940

North American Aviation NA-73X prototype, NX19998, at Mines Field, California, 9 September 1940. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

9 September 1940: North American Aviation completed assembly of the NA-73X, the first prototype of the new Mustang Mk.I fighter for the Royal Air Force. This was just 117 days after the British Purchasing Commission had authorized the construction of the prototype. The airplane was designed by a team led by Edgar Schmued. The 1,150-horsepower Allison V-12 engine had not yet arrived, so the NA-73X was photographed with dummy exhaust stacks. The prototype’s company serial number was 73-3097. It had been assigned a civil experimental registration number, NX19998.

The NA-73X was a single-seat, single-engine, low wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was primarily of metal construction, though the flight control surfaces were fabric covered. The airplane was designed for the maximum reduction in aerodynamic drag.  The Mustang was the first airplane to use a laminar-flow wing. The fuselage panels were precisely designed and very smooth. Flush riveting was used. The coolant radiator with its intake and exhaust ducts was located behind and below the cockpit. As cooling air passed through the radiator it was heated and expanded, so that as it exited, it actually produced some thrust.

The prototype was 32 feet, 2⅝ inches (9.820 meters) long, with a wing span of 37 feet, 5/16 inch (11.286 meters). Empty weight of the NA-73X was 6,278 pounds (2,848 kilograms) and normal takeoff weight was 7,965 pounds (3,613 kilograms).

Aeronautical Engineer Edgar Schmued with a North American P-51-2-NA (Mustang Mk.IA), 41-37322. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The NA-73X was powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,710.60-cubic-inch-displacement (28.032 liter) Allison Engineering Company V-1710-F3R (V-1710-39) single overhead cam 60° V-12 engine, with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.65:1. It used a single-stage, single-speed supercharger. This was a right-hand tractor engine (the V-1710 was built in both right-hand and left-hand configurations) which drove a 10 foot, 6 inch (3.200 meter) diameter, three-bladed, Curtiss Electric constant-speed propeller through a 2.00:1 gear reduction.

The V-1710-39 had a Normal Power rating of 880 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at Sea Level; Take Off Power rating of 1,150 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, with 44.5 inches of manifold pressure (1.51 Bar), 5 minute limit; and a War Emergency Power rating of 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m., with 56 inches of manifold pressure (1.90 Bar). The V-1710-F3R was 7 feet, 4.38 inches (2.245 meters) long, 3 feet, 0.64 inches (0.931 meters) high, and 2 feet, 5.29 inches (0.744 meters) wide. It had a dry weight of 1,310 pounds (594 kilograms).

U.S. Army Air Corps flight tests of the fully-armed production Mustang Mk.I (XP-51 41-038), equipped with the V-1710-39 and a 10 foot, 9-inch (3.277 meters) diameter Curtiss Electric propeller, resulted in a maximum speed of 382.0 miles per hour (614.8 kilometers per hour) at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). The service ceiling was 30,800 feet (9,388 meters) and the absolute ceiling was 31,900 feet (9,723 meters).

The Curtiss P-40D Warhawk used the same Allison V-1710-39 engine as the XP-51, as well as a three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller. During performance testing at Wright Field, a P-40D, Air Corps serial number 40-362, weighing 7,740 pounds (3,511 kilograms), reached a maximum speed of 354 miles per hour (570 kilometers per hour) at 15,175 feet (4,625 meters). Although the Mustang’s test weight was 194 pounds (88 kilograms) heavier, at 7,934 pounds (3,599 kilograms), the Mustang was 28 miles per hour (45 kilometers per hour) faster than the Warhawk. This demonstrates the effectiveness of the Mustang’s exceptionally clean design.

Only one NA-73X was built. It made its first flight 26 October 1940 with test pilot Vance Breese. The prototype suffered significant damage when it overturned during a forced landing, 20 November 1941. NX19998 was repaired and flight testing resumed. The prototype’s final disposition is not known.

Originally ordered by Great Britain, the Mustang became the legendary U.S. Army Air Corps P-51 Mustang. A total of 15,486 Mustangs were built by North American Aviation at Inglewood, California and Dallas, Texas. Another 200 were built in Australia by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.

The P-51 remained in service with the U.S. Air Force until 27 January 1957 when the last one, F-51D-30-NA 44-74936, was retired from the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard. It was then transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it is on display.

North American Aviation NA-73X prototype, left front quarter view. (North American Aviation, Inc.)
North American Aviation NA-73X prototype, NX19998, left front quarter view. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

7 September 1940

A twin-engine Heinkel He 111 medium bomber over “the U-bend in the Thames, the heart of London’s dockland, and a landmark known to every Luftwaffe bomber crew” at 1748 hours GMT, 7 September 1940. (Luftwaffe photograph)

7 September 1940: at about 4:00 p.m., the Blitz of London began with the German Luftwaffe attacking the city with 348 bombers escorted by 617 fighters. After dark, a second wave of 247 bombers attacked using the fires from the earlier attack to guide them.

Hauptman Hajo Hermann reported:

“A very clear night. . . everywhere, the German bombers were swarming in. . . Everything was lit up by fires, like a huge torch in the night.” Until 7 September, orders were very strict to not bomb indiscriminately, “But now, for the first time, we were allowed to bomb regardless.”

Duel of Eagles, Group Captain Peter Wooldridge Townsend, CVO, DSO, DFC and Bar, RAF. Cassell Publishers Limited, London, Chapter 27 at Pages 393–394.

Approximately 1,000 Londoners were killed that first night. During the Blitz, London was bombed for 76 consecutive nights.

Smoke rises over the City of London, during the first air raid, 7 September 1940. (NARA)

German military leaders believed that England could only be defeated by invasion. Before Germany could stage a cross-channel invasion, it had to gain air superiority. After weeks of relentless devastating attacks against British airfields, Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Göring made a fatal mistake. He shifted to attacking population centers.

A crater at the  Elephant and Castle, London, 8 September 1940.

The primary purpose of the Blitz was to force the Royal Air Force to defend the City. Luftwaffe commanders believed that they could destroy the RAF in battle. And the RAF had to be destroyed for an invasion of England to go forward. By the end, however, losses in airplanes and crews to both sides were about even, but the RAF survived, thus Germany failed in its goal. There was no invasion.

The crew of this Heinkel He 111 on its way to London is easily visible. (Luftwaffe photograph)

The Heinkel He 111 was the primary Luftwaffe bomber. It had a crew of 5 or 6. It was powered by two liquid-cooled Junkers Jumo 211 inverted V-12 engines, producing 1,200 horsepower each, giving the He 111 a maximum speed of 254 miles per hour (409 kilometers per hour). The bomber was 59 feet (17.98 meters) long with a wingspan of 77 feet (23.4 meters) and could carry up to 4,400 pounds (2,000 kilograms) of bombs with a maximum range of 1,420 miles (2,285 kilometers).

Fires burning at the Surrey commercial Docks, 7 September 1940.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

22 August 1922

Second Lieutenant Stanley Cockerell, Royal Flying Corps

22 August 1922: Captain Stanley Cockerell, A.F.C., a test pilot for Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department), made the first flight of the prototype Type 56 Victoria Mk.I, J6869, at Brooklands, Surrey, England.

The Victoria was a twin-engine biplane military transport, developed from the earlier Vickers Vernon and Virginia. It was operated by a crew of two in an open cockpit and could carry up to 22 troops.

A Vickers Victoria (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives Catalog # Iraq_00831)
A Royal Air Force Vickers Victoria transport. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives Catalog # Iraq_00831)

The prototype Vickers Victoria was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated,  1,461.135 cubic-inch-displacement (23.944 liters) D. Napier and Son Ltd. Lion I, a 60° “triple Four” or “broad-arrow” 12-cylinder engine (also known as a W-12), rated at 450 horsepower at 1,925 r.p.m., each. This was a very complex engine, using individually machined steel cylinders surrounded by welded stamped-steel water jackets. The cylinders were closed at the upper end, rather than having a separate cylinder head. Four valve ports were machined into the “crown.” Each cylinder had two intake and two exhaust valves, which were operated by a dual overhead camshaft arrangement. The cylinders were screwed into a aluminum “head block” which provided stiffening to the assembly, and contained intake and exhaust runners and cooling passages. The three individual banks of four cylinders were attached to the crankcase by studs. The engine’s crankshaft used large roller main bearings for support. The engine used a dry sump lubrication system with an oil pick up at each end. The propeller was driven through a 2:1 reduction gear unit. Cast aluminum alloy pistons were fitted to a master rod with two side rods. The Napier Lion was was compact, very light for the power it produced, and also very efficient. The Napier Lion I weighed approximately 860 pounds (390 kilograms).

The Vickers Victoria had a maximum speed of 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour), and a service ceiling of 16,200 feet (4,940 meters). Its range was 770 miles (1,240 kilometers).

97 Victoria transports were built by Vickers. The type remained in service with the Royal Air Force until 1935 and saw extensive use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stanley Cockerell, 1933
Stanley Cockerell, 1933. (A Fleeting Peace)

Stanley Cockerell had been an aircraft mechanic before becoming a fighter pilot. On 27 October 1916, Serjt. Cockerell was assigned to the Royal Flying Corps. He was credited with seven aerial victories during World War I, while flying the Airco DH.2, DH.5 and the Sopwith Camel.

Albert I, King of the Belgians, conferred the Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Couronne to Temporary 2nd Lieutenant Cockerell, 21 September 1917. On 25 October 1917, Cockerell was promoted to the temporary rank of Captain. He was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre 11 March 1918.

For a flight from England to South Africa in a Vickers Vimy, 24 January–26 February 1920, (“The Times Flight”) Captain Cockerell was awarded the Air Force Cross by George V.

On 4 June 1921, Flight Lieutenant Stanley Cockerell, A.F.C., Royal Air Force, was transferred to the unemployed list.

In 1921, Cockerell married Miss Lorna Lockyer. They would have seven children.

In 1922, Cockerell competed in the King’s Cup, a cross country air race, flying a Vicker’s Type 61 Vulcan, G-EBEM. He finished in 7th place. In the 1923 race, he flew a Type 74 Vulcan, but that airplane did not finish.

Stanley Cockerell and his six-year-old daughter, Kathleen, were killed during the Battle of Britain, when the Luftwaffe bombed Sunbury-on-Thames, 29 November 1940. Mrs. Cockerell was also killed during The Blitz.

A Royal Air Force Vickers Victoria transport, J7924, photographed in flight over Iraq. (RAF)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

20 August 1944

North American Aviation Mustang Mk.I AG346 at Speke Aerodrome, Liverpool, England, November 1941. © IWM (ATP 10608C)

20 August 1944: Mustang Mk.I AG346, while flying with No. 168 Squadron, Second Tactical Air Force, Royal Air Force, from a forward airfield at Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes, Normandy, France, was shot down near Gacé by antiaircraft fire.

The very first operational North American Mustang, AG346 (North American serial number 73-3099) was the second airplane to come off the assembly line at Inglewood, California.

After flight testing by North American’s test pilots and Royal Air Force fighter pilots Chris Clarkson and Michael “Red Knight” Crossley, AG346 was crated and then shipped to England, arriving at Liverpool, 24 October 1941. It was taken to the Lockheed facility at Speke Aerodrome (now, Liverpool John Lennon Airport) where it was reassembled and put through additional performance and flight tests.

AG346 was then assigned to an operational RAF fighter squadron. AG346 served with Nos. 225, 63 and 26 Squadrons before being assigned to No. 41 Operations Training Unit. It was returned to operations with No 16 Squadron, and finally, No. 168 Squadron.

A North American Aviation Mustang Mk.I of No. 168 Squadron banking over Pierrefitte-en-Cinglais in Normandy on a tactical reconnaissance sortie, August 1944. Allied tanks can be seen on the road below. © IWM (C 4559)

The Mustang Mk.I was a new fighter built by North American for the Royal Air Force. The Royal Air Force had contracted with NAA to design and build a new fighter with an Allison V-1710 supercharged 12-cylinder engine producing 1,200 horsepower. The first order from the British Purchasing Commission was for 320 airplanes, and a second order for another 300 soon followed.

The Mustang Mk.I (NAA Model NA-73) was a single-place, single engine fighter primarily of metal construction with fabric control surfaces. It was 32 feet, 3 inches (9.830 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 5/16-inches (11.373 meters) and height of 12 feet, 2½ inches (3.721 meters). The airplane’s empty weight was 6,280 pounds (2,849 kilograms) and loaded weight was 8,400 pounds (3,810 kilograms).

North American Aviation Inc. Mustang Mk.I fighter built for the Royal Air Force.

The Mustang Mk.I was powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged 1,710.597-cubic-inch-displacement (28.032 liter) Allison Engineering Company V-1710-F3R (V-1710-39) single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The engine had a takeoff rating of 1,150 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level with 45.5 inches of manifold pressure (1.51 Bar), and a war emergency rating of 1,490 horsepower with 56 inches of manifold pressure (1.90 Bar). The Allison drove a 10 foot, 9 inch (3.277 meter) diameter, three-bladed, Curtiss Electric constant-speed propeller through a 2.00:1 gear reduction. The V-1710-39 was 7 feet, 4.38 inches (2.245 meters) long, 3 feet, 0.54 inches (0.928 meters) high, and 2 feet, 5.29 inches (0.744 meters) wide. It weighed 1,310 pounds (594 kilograms).

This gave the Mustang Mk.I a maximum speed of 382 miles per hour (615 kilometers per hour) and cruise speed of 300 miles per hour (483 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 30,800 feet (9,388 meters) and range was 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

North American Aviation Mustang Mk.I AG365 of the Air Fighting Development Unit at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, February 1942. © IWM (CH17966)

The Mustang Mk.I was equipped with four Browning .303 Mk.II machine guns, two in each wing, and four Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with one in each wing and two mounted in the nose under the engine.

The British would recommend that the Allison be replaced by the Rolls Royce Merlin V-12. This became the Mustang Mk.III and the U.S.A.A.F. P-51B. Eventually, over 15,000 Mustangs were built, and it was a highly successful combat aircraft. Today, after 70 years, the Mustang is one of the most recognizeable of all airplanes.

AG346 was the first one to go to war.

No. 168 Squadron was a reconnaissance unit. Its motto was Rerum cognoscere causas (“To know the cause of things”)

Mustang Mk.1 of No. 168 Squadron, Royal Air Force. (RAF)
Mustang Mk.I of No. 168 Squadron, Royal Air Force. (RAF)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

20 August 1940

The Few. RAF fighter pilots run for their Hawker Hurricanes. © IWM (HU 49253)
The Few. RAF fighter pilots run toward their Hawker Hurricanes. © IWM (HU 49253)

20 August 1940: During World War II, at the height of the Batle of Britain, Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke to the House of Commons on the state of the war. As he talked about the role of the Royal Air Force in the defense of England, he said,

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

(Printed for H.M. Stationery Office by Lowe & Brydon Printers, Ltd.)

To this day, the RAF is known as The Few.

A full transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech can be found at:

http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/113-the-few

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather