Tag Archives: Speed Record

15 August 1962

An American Airlines Boeing 707-023B Astrojet (720B) at Los Angeles International Airport, 26 December 1962. (Photograph courtesy of Jon Proctor)
An American Airlines Boeing 707-023B Astrojet (720B) at Los Angeles International Airport, 26 December 1962. (Photograph courtesy of Jon Proctor)

15 August 1962: American Airlines’ Captain Eugene M. (“Gene”) Kruse set a National Aeronautic Association Class C-1 record for Speed Over a Commercial Air Route, East to West Transcontinental, when he flew a Boeing 720B Astrojet from New York to Los Angeles, 2,474 miles (3,981.5 kilometers), in 4 hours, 19 minutes, 15 seconds, at an average speed of 572.57 miles per hour (921.46 kilometers per hour). 55 years later, this record still stands.

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The National Aeronautic Association has placed Captain Kruse’ record on its “Most Wanted” list: long-standing flight records that it would like to see challenged. Rules require that a new record exceed the old by at least a 1% margin. The performance needed to establish a new record would be 578.30 miles per hour (930.68 kilometers per hour).

The Boeing 720B was a variant of the Model 707, intended for short to medium range flights. It had 100 inches (2.54 meters) removed from the fuselage length and improvements to the wing which decreased aerodynamic drag. The 720B was the first commercial jet airliner to use more efficient turbofan engines, substituting four Pratt & Whitney JT3D for the 707’s JT3C-6 turbojets. Boeing built 154 Model 720 and 720B airliners from 1959 to 1967.

The Boeing 720 was operated by a flight crew of four and could carry up to 149 passengers. It was 136 feet, 2 inches (41.504 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 10 inches (39.878 meters) and overall height of 41 feet, 7 inches (12.675 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 103,145 pounds (46,786 kilograms) and Maximum Takeoff Weight of 220,000 pounds (99,790 kilograms).

The JT3C turbojet engines produced 12,000 pounds of thrust, each, while the more efficient JT3D turbofans used for the 720B produced 17,000 pounds of thrust, each.

The Boeing 720B had a maximum cruise speed was 611 miles per hour (983 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed was 620 miles per hour (998 kilometers per hour). Range at at maximum payload was 4,370 miles (7,033 kilometers).

The last flight of a Boeing 720B took place on 9 May 2012, when an airliner used by Pratt & Whitney Canada as a test aircraft was placed in the National Air Force Museum of Canada at Trenton, Ontario.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 August 1930

Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)
Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)

12 August 1930: Frank Monroe Hawks flew from Los Angeles Municipal Airport in California to Curtiss Airport, Valley Stream, Long Island, New York, in a record-breaking 12 hours, 25 minutes, 3 seconds. His airplane was a Travel Air Type R “Mystery Ship” named Texaco No. 13. It carried civil registration NR1313.

One week earlier, 6 August 1930, Hawks had flown across the continent from east to west, in 14 hours, 50 minutes 3 seconds. More favorable winds allowed the Type R to make a faster west-to-east flight.

Hawks’ Texaco No. 13 was the fourth of five specially designed and constructed racing aircraft produced by Travel Air Manufacturing Company of Wichita, Kansas. The company was founded by Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, and Lloyd Stearman. The “Type R” refers to one of its designers, Herb Rawdon.

The Type R was a low-wing monoplane with a monocoque fuselage built of plywood. The very thin wing was braced by wires. Attempts to streamline the airplane included a raised profile behind the pilot’s head, “wheel pants,” as well as a NACA-designed engine cowling that provided better engine cooling and caused less aerodynamic drag.

The Mystery Ship was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 971.930-cubic-inch-displacement (15.927 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Whirlwind Nine (also known as the J-6-9 or R-975) nine-cylinder radial engine, normally rated at 300 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. Various sources state that Hawks’ R-975 had been modified by increasing its compression ratio and supercharger speed, and that it produced 400 horsepower, or more. The R-975 was built in both direct drive and geared versions.

One of the fastest airplanes of its time, the Type R set over 200 speed records.

Frank Monroe Hawks with the Texaco 13 Travel-Air Mystery Ship at East Boston Airport, 1930. (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)
Frank Monroe Hawks with the Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship, Texaco No. 13, NR1313, at East Boston Airport, 1930. (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)
Frank Hawks, 1930 (SDA&SM)

Newspapers called the Type R airplanes “mystery ships” because Beech was very secretive about them. When two of them were flown to the 1929 National Air Races at Cleveland, Ohio, they taxied directly to a hangar and shut off their engines. They were immediately pushed inside. The hangar was kept locked and under guard.

Frank Hawks was an Air Service, United States Army, pilot who served during World War I. He rose to the rank of Captain, and at the time of his record-breaking transcontinental flight, he held a commission as a reserve officer in the Army Air Corps. His flying had made him a popular public figure and he starred in a series of Hollywood movies as “The Mystery Pilot.”

Frank Hawks’ Type R is in the collection of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois.

Travel Air Type R, NR1313, Mystery Ship, Texaco No. 13, at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois. (MSI)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 August 1986

John Trevor Egginton, Chief Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight test Engineers)
John Trevor Egginton, Chief Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

11 August 1986: A modified factory demonstration Westland Lynx AH.1 helicopter, civil registration G-LYNX, piloted by Chief Test Pilot John Trevor Egginton and Flight Test Engineer Derek J. Clews, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Absolute Record for Speed for helicopters over a straight 15/25 km course with an average speed of 400.87 kilometers per hour (249.09 miles per hour) over a measured 15 kilometer (9.32 miles) course near Glastonbury on the Somerset Levels and Moors, Southwest England.¹ ²

The helicopter was equipped with experimental BERP main rotor blades and two Rolls Royce Gem 60 turboshaft engines with digital electronic fuel control and water-methanol injection, producing 1,345 shaft horsepower, each. The engines’ exhausts were modified to provide 600 pounds of thrust. The horizontal tail plane and vertical fins from a Westland WG.30 were used to increase longitudinal stability and unload the tail rotor. In an effort to reduce aerodynamic drag, items such as steps, antennas and windshield wipers were removed.

Westland WG.13 Lynx G-LYNX, c/n 102.

During the speed runs, the main rotor blade tips reached a speed of 0.97 Mach.

Four passes over the course were made at an altitude of 500 feet (150 meters). The results of the two best successive passes were averaged. This set both a record for helicopters in the 3,000 to 4,500 kilogram weight class, and the absolute record for helicopters in general. Thirty-one years later, these official speed records still stand.

Another Westland AH.1 Lynx, flown by then Westland Chief Pilot Leonard Roy Moxham and Michael Ball, had set two FAI World Records for Speed, 20 and 22 June 1972. Flying over a straight 15/25 kilometer course, the Lynx averaged 321.74 kilometers per hour (199.92 miles per hour).³ Two days later, the Lynx flew a closed 100 kilometer circuit at an average speed of 318.50 kilometers per hour (197.91 miles per hour).⁴ Both of these records were for helicopters in the 3,000–4,500 kilogram weight class.

Westland Lynx AH.1, G-LYNX. This is the World's Fastest Helicopter. (Westland)
Westland Lynx AH.1, G-LYNX. This is the World’s Fastest Helicopter. (Westland)

Westland WG.13 c/n 102 made its first flight in May 1979. After setting the speed record, G-LYNX was used as a demonstrator and as a test platform, before finally being retired in 1992. Beginning in 2007, AgustaWestland restored the Lynx to its speed record configuration, withe more than 25,000 man hours expended on the project. G-LYNX was unveiled on 11 August 2011, the 25th anniversary of the world record flight. Today, it is on display at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, South West England.

In April 2013, Trevor Egginton spoke to members of the Empire Test Pilots School at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare. In this photograph, Mr. egginton is seated in the helicopter's pilot seat. (The Helicopter Museum)
In April 2013, Trevor Egginton spoke to members of the Empire Test Pilots School at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare. In this photograph, Mr. Egginton is seated in the World Record helicopter’s pilot seat. (The Helicopter Museum)

¹ FAI Record File Number 1842 (Helicopters with takeoff weight 3,000–4,000 kg)

² FAI Record File Number 1843 (Helicopters, General) [Absolute Record]

³ FAI Record File Number 1826

⁴ FAI Record File Number 1853

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 August 1963

The first Lockheed YF-12A interceptor, 60-6934, flown by James D. Eastham, lands at Groom Lake, Nevada, after its first flight, 7 August 1963. (U.S. Air Force)
James D. Eastham
James D. Eastham (1918–2016)

7 August 1963: The first Lockheed YF-12A interceptor, 60-6934, took off from a top secret air base at Groom Lake, Nevada, on its first flight. Lockheed test pilot James D. Eastham was at the controls.

Three YF-12A prototypes s were built. They were Mach 3+ interceptors developed from the Central Intelligence Agency “Oxcart” Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance airplane.

The interceptors were equipped with a very effective Hughes fire control system and armed with three Hughes AIM-47 Falcon air-to-air missiles. In 1965 the U.S. Air Force placed an order for 93 F-12B interceptors for the Air Defense Command, but Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara continually refused to release the funds which Congress had appropriated. Eventually the contract was cancelled.

In testing, a YF-12A launched a Falcon missile while flying at Mach 3.2 at 74,000 feet (22,555 meters). It successfully intercepted and destroyed a target drone flying at only 500 feet (152 meters).

Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934 at Groom Lake, Nevada. (Central Intelligence Agency)
Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934 at Groom Lake, Nevada. (Central Intelligence Agency)

On 1 May 1965, YF-12A 60-6936, flown by Colonel Robert L. Stephens and Lieutenant Colonel David Andre, set a world speed record of 2,070.101 miles per hour (3,331.505 kilometers per hour) and a sustained altitude record of 80,257.86 feet (22,677 meters).

Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)

60-6934 was damaged beyond repair in a runway accident at Edwards Air Force Base, 14 August 1966. Part of the airplane was salvaged and used to construct the only SR-71C, 64-17981, a two-seat trainer. The third YF-12A, 60-6936, was destroyed when the crew ejected during an inflight fire near Edwards AFB, 24 June 1971. The only remaining YF-12A, 60-6935, is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934. (U.S. Air Force)
Clarence L. (“Kelly”) Johnson, Director of Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects (“the Skunk Works”) with the first YF-12A interceptor, 60-6934. (Lockheed Martin)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 August 1960

4 August 1960: NASA research test pilot Joseph Albert Walker set an unofficial world speed record when he flew the number one North American Aviation X-15, 56-6670, to 2,195 miles per hour (3,532.5 kilometers per hour). This was the 18th flight of the X-15 Program. It was 56-6670’s eighth flight and Walker’s fourth X-15 flight. The purpose of this test was to gradually increase the rocket plane’s speed toward its design limit.

Airdropped from the Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress mothership, 52-003, over Silver Lake, near the California-Nevada border, at 08:59:13.0 a.m., PDT, Walker fired the X-15’s two Reaction Motors XLR11-RM-13 rocket engines for 264.2 seconds. The X-15 accelerated to Mach 3.31 and climbed to a peak altitude of 78,112 feet (23,810 meters). [The two XLR11s were used as an interim powerplant until the Reaction Motors XLR99 was ready. The combined thrust of both LR11s was only slightly more than the idle thrust of the XLR99.]

Walker touched down on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight of 10 minutes, 22.6 seconds.

Joe Walker with X-15 56-6670 on Rogers Dry Lake. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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