21 September 1937: Jackie Cochran flew a Seversky Aircraft Corporation SEV-S1, civil registration NR18Y, over a 3 kilometer course at Detroit Wayne County Airport, Romulus, Michigan, averaging 470.40 kilometers per hour (292.29 miles per hour). This was a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record.¹
The Seversky SEV-S1 Executive was an improved version of the 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 P. de Seversky. The airplane had been built as the SEV-2XP, a two-place monoplane with fixed landing gear, 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 GR1670A1 had a compression ratio of 6.75:1 and was rated at 775 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. for takeoff. The GR1670B2C had a compression ratio of 7.0:1 and was rated at 750 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m., and 850 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., for takeoff. These were developmental engines. Both variants had a propeller gear reduction ratio of 16:11. The SEV-2XP was to be a second entry, along with the SEV-1XP, to enter a fly-off at Wright Field. When it was damaged, though, it was rebuilt as a single place airplane with retractable landing gear and a 1,000-horsepower Wright Cyclone GR-1820G4 nine-cylinder engine, and designated SEV-1XP.
After the Air Corps demonstrations, which resulted in an order for 100 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 with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-11 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, burning 87-octane gasoline. 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 R-1830, NR18Y was again redesignated SEV-S1. It was flown by Seversky’s chief test pilot, Frank Sinclair, at the 1937 National Air Races and the Bendix Trophy Race.
3 September 1954: At the Dayton Air Show, being held for the first time at the James M. Cox Municipal Airport, Major John L. (“Jack”) Armstrong, U.S. Air Force, flew his North American Aviation F-86H-1-NH Sabre, 52-1998, to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 500 Kilometers Without Payload, averaging 1,045.206 kilometers per hour (649.461 miles per hour).¹
The F-86H was a fighter-bomber variant of the famous Sabre Jet day fighter. It was equipped with a much more powerful General Electric J73-GE-3 turbojet engine. The engine was larger that the J47 used in previous F-86 models, and this required a much larger air intake and airframe modifications. The fuselage was 6 inches deeper and two feet longer than the F-86F. This accommodated the new engine and an increase in fuel load. The tail surfaces were changed with an increase in the height of the vertical fin and the elevators were changed to an “all-flying” horizontal stabilizer. The first F-86Hs built retained the six Browning AN-M3 .50 caliber machine guns of the F-86F, but this was quickly changed to four Pontiac M39 20 millimeter revolver cannon.
The North American Aviation F-86H Sabre was 38 feet, 10 inches (11.836 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 1 inch (11.913 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 11 inches (4.547 meters). Empty weight was 13,836 pounds (6,276 kilograms) and gross weight was 24,296 pounds (11,021 kilograms).
The F-86H was powered by a General Electric J73-GE-3D or -3E engine, a single-spool, axial-flow, turbojet engine, which used a 12-stage compressor section with variable inlet vanes, 10 combustion chambers and 2-stage turbine section. It produced 8,920 pounds of thrust (39.68 kilonewtons) at 7,950 r.p.m. The J73 was 16 feet, 8 inches (5.08 meters) long, 3 feet, 3.5 inches (1.03 meters) in diameter and weighed 3,650 pounds (1,656 kilograms).
The F-86H had a maximum speed of 692 miles per hour (1,114 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 617 miles per hour (993 kilometers) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). The fighter bomber had an initial rate of climb of 12,900 feet per minute (65.53 meters per second) and it could reach 30,000 feet in 5.7 minutes. The service ceiling was 50,800 feet (15,484 meters). With bombs, the F-86H had a combat radius of 403 miles (649 kilometers) at 552 miles per hour (888 kilometers per hour). The maximum ferry range was 1,810 miles (2,913 kilometers).
F-86H Sabres (after the first ten production airplanes) were armed with four Pontiac M39 20 mm autocannon with 600 rounds of ammunition. In ground attack configuration, they could carry rockets and bombs or “Special Store” that would be delivered by “toss bombing.” 473 F-86H Sabres were built before production ended.
The F-86H Sabre became operational in 1954, but by 1958 all that remained in the U.S. Air Force Inventory were reassigned to the Air National Guard. The last one was retired in 1972.
John L. Armstrong was born in Orange County, California, 19 July 1922. He was the fourth child of Milton Williams Armstrong, an engineer, and Olive M. Meyer Armstrong. As a child, he was called “Jake.”
Major Armstrong had been a fighter pilot during World War II, flying Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, initially with the 554 Fighter Training Squadron, 496th Fighter Training Group.
On 13 March 1944, Armstrong made a forced landing at North Killingholme when his fighter ran out of fuel.
2nd Lieutenant Armstrong was assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group based at RAF Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire, England, 26 March 1944. He flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
The 79th transitioned to the P-51 Mustang. Armstrong was promoted to first lieutenant 26 June 1944. He was officially credited with having destroyed one enemy Focke-Wulf Fw 190. On 28 August 1944, while flying his 30th combat mission, his North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA Mustang, 44-13791, Guardian Angel, was shot down by anti-aircraft gunfire while he was attacking a railway roundhouse at Bad Greuznach, Germany. Armstrong bailed out but was captured and held at Stalag Luft I at Barth, Western Pomerania. He was returned to U.S. military control in June 1945.
Major Armstrong had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters (six awards), the Purple Heart, the Prisoner of War Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
Two days after setting the speed record, Jack Armstrong was attempting to increase it. His Sabre broke up in flight and Major Armstrong was killed. His remains were buried at the Loma Vista Memorial Park, Fullerton, California, 11 September 1954.
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.
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.”
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
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 ration 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).
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.
28 August 1961: Operation SAGEBURNER: To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Naval Aviation, Lieutenants Huntington Hardisty and Earl De Esch, United States Navy, flew a McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record of 1,452.777 kilometers per hour (902.714 miles per hour) over a 3 kilometer (1.864 mile) course at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. They flew BELOW 125 feet (38.1 meters) above the ground.¹
An earlier speed record attempt, 18 May 1961, ended tragically when Commander Jack L. Felsman, and Ensign Raymond M. Hite, Jr., were killed and their F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu. No. 145316, destroyed when a pitch damper failed which resulted in Pilot Induced Oscillation. This became so severe that the Phantom’s airframe was subjected to 12 Gs, causing it to break apart in flight. Both engines were torn from the airframe.
The world-record-setting airplane, McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bureau of Aeronautics Serial Number (Bu. No.) 145307, SAGEBURNER, is at the Paul Garber Restoration Facility of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
Huntington Hardisty rose to the rank of admiral and served as Vice Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Command. He retired from the Navy in 1991 and died in 2003 at the age of 74.
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.¹ Her average speed for the flight was 206.42 kilometers per hour (128.27 miles per hour).
Amelia Earhart 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.
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 4,375 pounds (1,985 kilograms).
Earhart’s modified Vega 5B is powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-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.² It 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). 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.
¹ FAI Record File Number 12342
² The Pratt & Whitney Wasp C was also used by the U.S. Army and Navy, designated R-1340-7. In military service, it was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. at Sea Level.