Tag Archives: Seversky Aircraft Corporation

1 September 1938

Seversky AP-7 NX1384, seen from below. In this configuration, the landing gear folds rearward. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

1 September 1938: Jackie Cochran departed the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, at 3:00 a.m., flying her Seversky AP-7, NX1384, c/n 145. Her destination was Cleveland, Ohio, the finish line for the Bendix Trophy Race, 2,042 miles (3,286 kilometers) away.

“Major Alexander de Seversky poses with Jacqueline Cochran beside the Seversky in which she flew from Burbank, Cal., to Cleveland in 8 hrs. and 10 min. to win the Bendix Trophy.” (Contemporary newspaper photograph)

NX1384 was built by the Seversky Aircraft Corporation of Farmingdale, Long Island, New York, especially for Jackie Cochran. It had been flown from the factory to Burbank by Major Alexander Nikolaievich Prokofiev de Seversky just two days earlier. His flight set an East-to-West Transcontinental Speed Record of 10 hours, 2 minutes, 55.7 seconds.

Seversky AP-7 NX1384 (c/n 145). (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

The AP-7 racer was an improved version of Major de Seversky’s P-35A fighter, which was the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first all-metal single-engine airplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear.

Seversky AP-7 NX1384 (c/n 145). (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

Cochran’s AP-7 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1B3-G (R-1830-11) two-row 14-cylinder radial engine rated at 850 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off. The engine turned a three-bladed Hamilton-Standard controllable-pitch propeller through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-11 was 4 feet, 8.66 inches (1.439 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 0.00 inches (1.219 meters), and weighed 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).

Seversky AP-7 NX1384, c/n 145. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

“Finally the P-35 arrived. I decided that I didn’t want to take it into the air for a test even if I could. The racing officials impounded it because it was a prototype and there was some kind of rule about untested planes. I would test it en route. . . Finally, I got to sit in the cockpit. I began to study all the instruments by the hour. I can almost see them still. 

Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7. (Unattributed)
Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7 at the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California. The airplane’s passenger compartment hatch and window is behind Ms. Cochran. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

“There are about a hundred or more buttons, levers, and other gadgets to push, pull or twirl. . .  I close my eyes and reach for everything in the dark. And I keep at this until I can get to them blindfolded and with no false moves. . . 

“I finally see Cleveland. . . (a)nd am going so fast that I pass the airport and come in from the wrong side. . . Have I won? The crowds are cheering. It’s a standing ovation. . . I have won the Bendix.”

— Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York 1987, Pages 160–165.

Seversky AP-7 NX1384, c/n 145. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

“I often wonder what is meant exactly by a considered risk. . . In my case I never could ponder over the risks too much because I had to take a fast plane whenever it became available to me and make the best of it. I won the 1938 Bendix Race in a Seversky pursuit plane which I had never flown until that night, when, with a heavy overload of gas, I took off in the race. The plane was delivered from the factory to me just two days before the race and under the rules it had to be immediately impounded. It was a prototype that had not yest been tested. I tested it en route during the race. Its feature was that it had wings that were in effect integrated tanks so that most of the wings could be filled with fuel, thus adding range. It developed in flight that the fuel from the right wing would not properly feed the engine. By force on the stick I had to hold that wing much higher than the other from time to time in order to drain the fuel from that right wing into the left wing and from the left wing into the engine. When I got the plane back to the factory after the race a large wad of wrapping paper was discovered near the outlet of the right-wing tank. No wonder the drainage had been bad. How, for example, could that risk be properly considered i advance? The paper in the tank could have been sabotage. Some thought so at the time. More likely it was paper pasted on the inside of the wing during manufacture which had not been removed and which worked loose from the action of the gasoline and the vibration of the plane.”

The Stars at Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran. Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1954, at Pages 65–66

Jackie Cochran was the third pilot to leave Burbank, but the first to arrive at Cleveland. Her elapsed time for the flight from California to Ohio was 8 hours, 10 minutes, 31.4 seconds, for an average speed of 249.774 miles per hour (401.895 kilometers per hour). For her first place finish, Ms. Cochran won a prize of $12,500.

Vincent Bendix congratulates Jackie Cochran on her winning of the Bendix Trophy Race, 1 September 1938. (NASM)

After being congratulated on her win by Vincent Bendix and other race officials, Cochran had her Seversky monoplane refueled. She then got back in to its cockpit and took off for Floyd Bennett Field, new York. She landed there 10 hours, 12 minutes, 55 seconds after leaving Burbank. This was a new West-to East Transcontinental Speed Record.

Jackie Cochran’s Vincent Bendix Trophy in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 August 1938

Major Alexander P. de Seversky in his Seversky AP-7, NX1384, at Floyd Bennett Field, 1938. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

29 August 1938: At 7:37 a.m., Alexander Nikolaevich Prokofiev-Seversky departed Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, flying a Seversky AP-7 Pursuit, NX1384, an all-metal monocoque monoplane of his own design and manufacture, enroute to the Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California, a distance of 2,457 miles (3,954 kilometers). He completed the flight in 10 hours, 2 minutes, 55.7 seconds, setting a new speed record for an East-to-West Transcontinental Flight. Major Seversky refueled during a 30-minute stop at Kansas City.

Larry Therkelson of the National Aeronautic Association was the official timer for the record attempt.

Sversky AP-7 NX1384, seen from below. In this configuration, the landing gear folds rearward.
Seversky AP-7 NX1384, seen from below. In this configuration, the landing gear retracts rearward. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

The Los Angeles Times reported:

SEVERSKY SETS RECORD

Flies across Country in Few Minutes More than Ten Hours

     Maj. Alexander P. (Sascha) de Seversky, who flew fighting planes for the Czar of Russia and now builds pursuit ships for the American Army, yesterday notched another hour off the already incredibly narrow time-space separating the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

     In a “civilianized” fighter made at his Long Island factory, de Seversky thrashed along the 2600-mile airway from Floyd Bennett Field, N.Y., to Union Air Terminal, Burbank, in ten hours, three minutes, seven seconds, better than 260 miles per hour.

START AND FINISH

     He had gobbled a husky breakfast of oatmeal, orange juice and toast in Manhattan as dawn arose over the skyscrapers (at 3:37 a.m. P.S.T.)

     Under a blazing Southland sun that shot the mercury to 100 deg. at Burbank, he toyed with a chicken sandwich fifteen minutes after he set his pursuiter’s trim wheels down at exactly 1:40:07 p.m.

     De Seversky was greeted—warmly—by Jacqueline Cochran, America’s No. 1 woman speed flyer for whom he was ferrying the all-metal monoplane to Los Angeles. She will retrace his course in the small hours of Saturday, seeking the lion’s share of the $30,000 Bendix Trophy purse.

     It was, he said, “Practically nothing.”

TIME WASTED

     In a new age of aeronautics, when pilots break records just in the day’s work during routine assignments, de Seversky stands with the best of ’em.

      His time and speed would have been materially bettered if he’d been “trying,” he admitted. At Kansas City, plopping down into TWA’s hangars for refueling, he wasted a precious twenty-nine minutes while mechanics tinkered with his tricky gasoline system.

      “Once I was traveling more than 300 miles an hour,” De Seversky admitted.

MERELY A WARM-UP

     How much faster he could have flown, the esrtwhile White Russian declined to say—”Wait until ‘Jacky’ starts for Cleveland in the Bendix race,” he interposed.

      “I used oxygen part of the way, especially when I climbed to 16,000 over the Kansas prairies during a hailstorm,” he said. “This whole flight was nothing but a warm-up. I could have flown nonstop. Instead, I tried different wing loadings and paused at Kansas City. Sometimes I throttled down to less than 240 miles an hour.”

     Two hundred and forty!

     Between bites of chicken sandwich, De Seversky pointed out that his 1200-horsepower plane can soar 3000 miles without refilling its wing-to-wing tanks that carry 540 gallons of high octane fuel. That, he observed, carries huge military significance.

     “We are learning in the Army,” this builder of the nation’s fastest pursuit ships declared, “that bombardment craft are vulnerable to attack from the air unless properly convoyed.

Turn to Page 5, Column 2

Record Upset by Seversky

Continued from First Page

So—the ‘flying fortress’ that cruises 5000 miles must be accompanied by pursuit ships that can go equally as far nonstop. To Europe from America, for example.

THREE UNDER WAY

     “In the United States at least three such planes are underway today. I am building one. Others may be twin-engined—such as the ship being readied at the Lockheed plant—and capable of terrific speeds.”

     By Christmas of this year, de Seversky promised, a standard military fighter, soon to be released to Air Corps testers, will crack the long-sought-after 400-miles-an-hour mark.

BENDIX MARK SEEN

     De Seversky was cool as he braked his craft to a halt under the gaze of Larry Therkelson, official National Aeronautic Association timer. He removed his earphones, slipped out of his jumper and asked, “When’s lunch?” To statements that he had knocked Roscoe Turner’s five-year-old record of 11h. 30m. silly, he only shrugged.

OTHERS IN RACE

     Others in the Bendix race will be Frank Fuller and Miss Cochran in Seversky planes, Robert Perlick, Glendale, in a Beechcraft; Robert Hinschey and Charles LaJotte, Glendale, in a Sparton; Ross Hadley, Burbank, in a Beechcraft; George Armistead, Los Angeles, in a Q.E.D. Special; Bernarr Macfadden, New York publisher, and Ralph Francis, former TWA pilot, in a Northrop Gamma; Paul Mantz, Burbank, in a Lockheed Orion; Frank Cordova, New York, in a Bellanca; Lee Gehlbach, New York, in a Wedell-Williams, and Max Constant, Burbank, in a Beechcraft.

Los Angeles Times, Vol. LVII, Tuesday Morning, 30 August 1938, Page 1, Column 5, and Page 5, Column 2

Jackie Cochran with the Seversky AP-7A, NX1384. Her racing number, 13, has not yet been painted on the fuselage. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Jackie Cochran with the Seversky AP-7A, NX1384, at Burbank, California. The landing gear has been modified. Her racing number, 13, has not yet been painted on the fuselage. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

NX1384 was built especially for Jackie Cochran. The AP-7 racer was an improved version of Seversky’s P-35A fighter, which was the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first all-metal single-engine airplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear.

Cochran’s AP-7 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1B3-G (R-1830-11) two-row 14-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. It was rated at 850 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off. The engine turned a three-bladed Hamilton-Standard controllable-pitch propeller through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-11 was 4 feet, 8.66 inches (1.439 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 0.00 inches (1.219 meters), and weighed 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).

Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7. (Unattributed)
Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

Two days later, 1 September 1938, Jackie Cochran flew this same airplane to win the Bendix Trophy Race from Burbank to Cleveland, Ohio, a distance of 2,042 miles (3,286 kilometers). Her winning time was 8 hours, 10 minutes, 31.4 seconds, for an average speed of 249.774 miles per hour (401.895 kilometers per hour). After a 40 minute refueling stop, and being congratulated for her Bendix win, she flew on to Bendix, New Jersey, setting a West-to-East Transcontinental Speed Record with a total elapsed time of 10 hours, 7 minutes, 1 second.

The Seversky AP-7 and its military version, the P-35, would be developed over the next few years to become the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

Seversky AP-7 NX1384, c/n 145. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Seversky AP-7 NX1384, c/n 145, with Jackie Cochran’s race number, 13, at Cleveland, Ohio. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 April 1940

Jackie Cochran with her Seversky AP-7A, NX1384, prior to her speed record flight, 6 April 1940. )San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Jackie Cochran with her Seversky AP-7A, NX1384, prior to her speed record attempt. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

6 April 1940: Flying her Seversky AP-7A, NX1384, Jackie Cochran set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and National Aeronautic Association speed record over a 2,000 kilometer (1,242.742 miles) course from Mount Wilson, California (northeast of Los Angeles) to Mesa Giganta, New Mexico (west of Albuquerque) with an average speed of 533.845 kilometers per hour (331.716 miles per hour).¹

National Aeronautic Asscoication Certificate of Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, (Bryan R. Swopes)
National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive. (Bryan R. Swopes)

The Seversky AP-7 was an improved civil version of the Seversky P-35 fighter, which was the first U.S. Army Air Corps single engine airplane to feature all-metal construction, an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear. It was designed by Major Alexander Nikolaievich Prokofiev de Seversky, a World War I Russian fighter ace.

Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7. (Unattributed)
Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Cochran’s AP-7A was a specially-built racer, modified from the original AP-7 with a new, thinner, wing and different landing gear arrangement. It was powered by a an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1B3-G (R-1830-11) two-row 14-cylinder radial engine rated at 850 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off. The engine turned a three-bladed Hamilton-Standard controllable-pitch propeller through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-11 was 4 feet, 8.66 inches (1.439 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 0.00 inches (1.219 meters), and weighed 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).

This is the same airplane in which Jackie Cochran won the 1938 Bendix Trophy Race.

Jackie Cochran's Seversky AP-7, NX1384, at the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, September 1938.
Jackie Cochran’s Seversky AP-7A, NX1384, at the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, 1940. (Bill Larkins/Wikipedia)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12025.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 December 1937

Jackie Cochran (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)
Jackie Cochran (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

3 December 1937: Jackie Cochran flew a Seversky SEV-S1, NR18Y, a variant of the AP-7, from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, to Miami, Florida, in 4 hours, 12 minutes, 27.2 seconds.

On the same day, Александр Николаевич Прокофьев-Северский (Alexander Nikolaievich Prokofiev de Seversky), the airplane’s designer, flew a second AP-7-type airplane from New York to Havana, Cuba, in 5 hours, 3 minutes, 5 seconds.

The Miami Daily News reported:

. . . Jaqueline Cochran, 26-year-old New York woman flier, set a speed record of four hours and 12 minutes in a flight from New York City which ended at 3:21 p.m. yesterday at municipal airport. Averaging 278.13 miles an hour on her trip south, Miss Cochran beat the fastest time ever recorded either way between the two cities by eight minutes. That mark was set northbound by Howard Hughes. . .

. . . A New York-Havana non-stop flight record also was set yesterday when Maj. Alexander de Seversky flew the 1,350 miles in five hours and two minutes—two hours and one minute faster than Lieut. Commander Frank hawks’ record of 1931. The new record-holder is expected to fly to Miami today.

Miami Daily News, Vol. XLII, No. 358, Saturday, 4 December 1937, Page 1, Column 8, and Page 2, Column 5

Jackie Cochran sits in the cockpit of the Seversky SEV-2S, N18Y. (Charles F. Daniels Collection)
Jackie Cochran sits in the cockpit of the Seversky SEV-S1, NR18Y. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

“. . . Sasha [de Seversky] became convinced that I could win the big New York-to-Miami air race coming up. What better rebuttal could he have than to have his plane flown 300 miles per hour [483 kilometers per hour] over a measured, timed course and to have it all done by a woman? The Army Air Forces were canceling further orders because they saw the airplane as dangerously faulty and not up to the specifications they had ordered.

“Sasha installed an extra gas tank in place of a seat for me. It wasn’t very comfortable, but what was worse was that the plane had never been test-flown with a full load of gas. I took off and discovered that the center of gravity was somewhere in the nose. God, I nearly put that plane into the bay just south of what is now Kennedy Airport. It porpoised terribly for over an hour. . .

“I did get the nose up in time to avoid a swim, but until I burned out most of the fuel in the seat tank, I really had to hold on for a rough ride—up and down the sky. From Washington  D.C., on, the situation straightened out and I got the record Sasha wanted so badly. . . .

Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, Pages 150–151.

Alexander P. de Seversky and Jackie Cochran with a Seversky AP-7. (Unattributed)
Alexander P. de Seversky and Jackie Cochran with a Seversky AP-7. (Unattributed)

On five different occasions I have landed after a speed flight with less than two minutes of fuel remaining and once—on a record flight from New York to Miami—my engine went dead just as my wheels touched the runway. This was because of a risk I had not considered. When I reached the destination, a squadron of Navy planes was in formation flight over the airport and I had to circle before landing.

The Stars At Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1954, Chapter IV at Page 72.

Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Seversky SEV-2S Executive, NR18Y. Note the passenger windows below and behind the cockpit. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Jackie Cochran sits in the cockpit of the Seversky SEV-S1, NR18Y, September 1937. Note how the landing gear retracts straight to the rear in this early version. It would be modified to retract inward to the airplane’s centerline, and more effectively streamlined in the future. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The AP-7 was an improved version of Major de Seversky’s P-35A fighter, which was the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first all-metal, single-engine airplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear.

The airplane had been built as the SEV-2XP, a two-place monoplane with fixed landing gear, and powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,666.860-cubic-inch-displacement (27.315 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division GR1670 two-row, 14-cylinder radial engine.

The SEV-2XP was to be a second entry, along with the SEV-1XP, to enter a fly-off against the Curtiss 75 Hawk for the Air Corps fighter contract in 1935. It was damaged, though, while en route Wright Field. The prototype was rebuilt as a single-place airplane with retractable landing gear and a 1,000-horsepower Wright Cyclone GR-1820G4 nine-cylinder engine. In this configuration, the airplane was designated SEV-1XP.

After the Air Corps demonstrations, which resulted in an order for 100 Seversky P-35s, NX18Y was again repowered, this time with an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1B3-G (R-1830-11) two-row 14-cylinder radial engine. The R-1830-11 had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and was rated at 850 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off. 87-octane aviation gasoline was required. The engine turned a three-bladed Hamilton-Standard controllable-pitch propeller through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-11 was 4 feet, 8.66 inches (1.439 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 0.00 inches (1.219 meters), and weighed 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).

With the Twin Wasp, NR18Y’s designation was changed to SEV-S1. Frank Sinclair, Seversky’s chief test pilot, flew it in the 1937 Bendix Trophy Race and the Thompson Trophy Race. (Jackie Cochran flew a Beech Staggerwing in the ’37 Bendix, beating Sinclair and NX18Y by 33 minutes.) Sinclair went on to place fourth in the Thompson pylon race. The Seversky averaged 252.360 miles per hour (406.134 kilometers per hour).

 The Seversky's passenger compartment was accessed through a hatch on the right side of the fuselage. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives) Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Seversky SEV-2S Executive, NR18Y. Note the passenger windows below and behind the cockpit. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The Seversky’s passenger compartment was accessed through a hatch on the right side of the fuselage. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 September 1937

Jackie Cochran sits in the cockpit of the Seversky SEV-1XP, R18Y, circa September 1937. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

21 September 1937: Jackie Cochran flew the Seversky Aircraft Corporation SEV-1XP, restricted registration R18Y, over a 3 kilometer (1.864 statute miles) course at Detroit Wayne County Airport, Romulus, Michigan. The average speed for six passes was 470.40 kilometers per hour (292.29 miles per hour). This was a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed record.¹

The Lansing, Michigan, State Journal reported:

New York Aviatrix Smashes the Feminine World’s Speed Record at Detroit

BETTERS MARK SET BY FRENCH WOMAN

Jacqueline Cochran Averages Speed of 293.05 M.P.H. In 3-Kilometer Flight

     DETROIT, Sept. 21 (AP)—Jacqueline Cochran, New York aviatrix, averaged 293.05 miles an hour in four flights over a three-kilometer course Tuesday, bettering the women’s land plane speed record of 276.527 miles an hour established in 1934 by the late Helene Boucher of France.

     Miss Cochran made six flights, three east and three west, over the course, but only four of the flights were included in the official computation. She was timed at 304.62 miles an hour in her fastest dash, an eastward flight. Her speed on the slowest flight was 282.06 miles an hour.

     All of the flights were at altitudes of between 100 and 150 feet, thus complying with a National Aeronautics association [sic] rule that flights for records must be made below 250 feet.

     Miss Cochran flew a Seversky military pursuit demonstrator, with a 1,200 horsepower engine. The plane is of a type similar to a fleet soon to be put in use at Selfridge field, Mt. Clemens, Mich.

     “Ever since I started flying, five years ago, I’ve dreamed of doing this,” Miss Cochran said when she was notified of her record speed.

     Her record attempt, made at the Wayne county airport, was postponed four times by adverse winds. She had perfect weather conditions Tuesday.

     Airport officials said Miss Cochran’s flights were the fastest ever flown at the airport, by either a man or a woman.

The State Journal, Vol. 83, Tuesday, 21 September 1937, Page 8, Column 1

For this and her other accomplishments, Ms. Cochran was awarded the Harmon International Aviatrix Trophy by Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt in a ceremony in New York City, 4 April 1938.

Jackie Cochran is presented the Harmon International Aviatrix Trophy by Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Acme)

The Seversky SEV-1XP (also called the “SEV-S1 Executive”) was the original prototype for a fly-off against the Curtiss-Wright Model 75 Hawk and Northrop 3A improved version of the P-35 fighter, which was designed by Alexander Kartveli. The P-35 was the first U.S. Army Air Corps single-engine airplane to feature all-metal construction, an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear.

The airplane had originally been built as a single-place, open cockpit monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was designated the Seversky II X, s/n 2, and given the experimental registration mark X18Y. In order to compete for the Army Air Corps pursuit contract of 1935, X18Y was modified into a two-place fighter with an enclosed canopy. It was armed with two machine guns mounted in the engine cowling, while a gunner sat behind the pilot with a third machine gun on a flexible mount. Still officially the Seversky II X, the company called it the SEV-2XP.

The Seversky SEV-2XP X18Y in the two-place, fixed landing gear configuration with fixed landin. (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 16_006753)

In this configuration, X18Y was powered by an experimental air-cooled, supercharged, Wright Aeronautical Division GR1670A1 Whirlwind. This was a two-row, 14-cylinder radial engine with a displacement of 1,666.860 cubic inches (27.315 liters). It had a compression ratio of 6.75:1 and required 87-octane gasoline. The GR1670A1 had a normal power rating of 775 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. for takeoff. It drove an experimental three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propeller through a 16:11 gear reduction. The GR1670A1 was 45 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter, 52-25/32 inches (1.341 meters) long, and weighed 1,160 pounds (526 kilograms).

In mid-May 1935, Major de Seversky flew the prototype from the factory at Farmingdale, New York, toward Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. The engine overheated, then seized, and Seversky made a forced landing on a small hilltop airfield near St. Clairsville, Ohio. X18Y suffered slight damage. A local pilot flew Seversky on to the meeting at Wright. Once there, he saw the Curtiss-Wright and Northrop competition, both single-place pursuits with retractable landing gear. The SEV-2XP was outclassed.

After repairs, on 20 June Seversky flew X18Y out of the small field and returned it to Farmingdale. It was extensively reconfigured as a single-place airplane. A new wing with retractable landing gear was installed, as were new tail surfaces. A Wright Cyclone R-1820G4 9-cylinder radial engine replaced the experimental GR1670A1. The G4 had a normal power rating of 810 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and 1,000 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., using 87-octane gasoline. Seversky redesignated X18Y as the SEV-1XP. After a fly off with the modified prototype, the Air Corps placed an order for 100 Seversky P-35s.

Major Alexander de Seversky with SEV-1XP X18Y. (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #16_006759)

Seversky continued to experiment with new engines, installing a GR-1820G5. In January 1937, a change was made to the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-13, the same engine being installed in production Curtiss-Wright P-36 Hawks. This was a two-row, supercharged 14-cylinder radial engine with a normal power rating of 900 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. to an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 1,050 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff. The airplane retained the same three-bladed constant -speed Hamilton Standard propeller which had been used with the Wright Cyclone engine. It was driven through a 3:2 gear reduction.

X18Y was reconfigured as a two-place civilian transport, with a small passenger cabin below and behind the cockpit. There were two fixed windows on the left side of the fuselage, and the passenger entered through a hatch on the right side, over the wing. A Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp SB-G was fitted. This engine was very slight smaller and weighed lest than the R-1830-13, and had a normal rating of 900 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. to 6,500 feet (1,981 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for takeoff.

The Seversky’s passenger compartment was accessed through a hatch on the right side of the fuselage. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

In this new configuration the SEV-1XP was called the “SEV-S1 Executive.” The experimental registration was changed to restricted: R18Y.

On 4 September 1937, R18Y was flown by Seversky’s chief test pilot, Frank Sinclair, in the cross-country Bendix Trophy Race. It carried the race number 63 on the vertical fin. Sinclair finished in fourth place, 33 minutes behind Jackie Cochran in her green Beechcraft D17W Staggerwing. He then flew R18Y in the Thompson Trophy pylon race, again finishing fourth with an average of 252.360 miles per hour (406.134 kilometers per hour).

On 27 October the SEV-1XP reverted to its experimental license number, X18Y.

Ms. Cochran continued to fly the Seversky in speed record attempts. On 3 December she flew it from Floyd Bennett Field in New York to Miami, Florida, in an elapsed time of 4:12:27.2, averaging 278.13 miles per hour (447.61 kilometers per hour).

Jackie Cochran with the Seversky “SEV-S1 Executive,” X18Y, 1937. (Cliff Henderson Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: CF_09-0043)

On 9 December Jackie flew X18Y to a new U.S. national record speed of 252.875 miles per hour (406.963 kilometers per hour) over a 100-kilometer course. She was attempting to increase the her speed on 13 December, reaching an average 255.973 miles per hour (411.949 kilometers per hour).

When she landed at Miami after the record runs, the Seversky’s tail wheel began rapidly swinging from side to side. This was something that the P-35s were experiencing and a number of the fighters had been wrecked. Jackie said, “One wing was pulled off altogether and the landing gear was torn off,” she said. “The tail [wheel] had jumped its lock throwing the plane to one side.”

The SEV-1XP was damaged beyond economical repair. In less than three years it had served its purpose. Seversky would build a new airplane. X18Y’s registration was suspended 4 January 1938 and the airplane was scrapped.

Seversky SEV-1XP X18Y after a landing accident, Miami, Florida, 13 December 1937. (Los Angeles Times, Vol. LVII, Tuesday, 14 December 1937, Page 20)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12026

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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