Tag Archives: Transatlantic Flight

4–15 March 1957

U.S. Navy ZPG-2 Bu. No. 141561, “Snow Bird,” prior to departure at NAS South Weymouth, Boston, Massachusetts, 4 March 1957 (NASM)

4 March 1957: At 6:30 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, a United States Navy non-rigid airship, Goodyear ZPG-2, Bu. No. 141561, departed NAS South Weymouth, Boston, Massachussetts, on a long-dstance flight to demonstrate the capabilities of a modern lighter-than-air military “blimp.” The airship had been involved in cold-weather testing and had been given the name, Snow Bird. During this flight, the blimp used the radio call sign “Planner 12.”

CDR Jack R. Hunt, USNR, briefs the crew of Snow Bird prior to departure, 4 March 1957. (Flying Magazine)

Snow Bird was under the command of Commander Jack Reed Hunt, U.S.N.R., a fifteen-year veteran of airship operations. There were two additional pilots, Commander Ronald W. Hoel, U.S.N., and Lieutenant Commander Robert S. Bowser, U.S.N. The crew also consisted of three navigators, Lieutenant Stanley W. Dunton, Lieutenant Charles J. Eadie, and Lieutenant John R. Fitzpatrick. The remainder of the crew were Chief Aviation Electronicsman (ALC) Lee N. Steffan, crew chief and radio; Aviation Machinist’s Mate 1st Class (AD1) Thomas L. Cox, flight mechanic; Aviation Electricians’s Mate 1st Class (AE1) Carl W. Meyer, electrician; Aerographer’s Mate 1st Class (AG1) William S.Dehn, Jr., aerologist and photographer; Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class (AD2) James R. Burkett, Jr., flight mechanic; Aviation Metalsmith 2nd Class (AM2) George A. Locklear, rigger and cook; and Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class (AT2) Frank J. Maxymillian, radio. Also on board the air ship was a civilian flight engineer, Mr. Edgar L Moore, a Goodyear Aircraft Corporation Field Representative.

Goodyear ZPG-2. (U.S. Navy)

Snow Bird headed east across the Atlantic Ocean, passing north of the Azores on 7 March. At this point, the airship had burned off enough fuel that it was light enough to cruise on one engine. This allowed a much greater range. (A lateral rive shaft between engines allowed both propellers to continue turning.) Late in the third day the flight, the blimp reached the west coast of Portugal, having completed the first Atlantic crossing by a lighter-than-air craft in 12 years.

Snow Bird turned south, heading for Casablanca on the west coast of North Africa, which it reached the morning of 8 March. The airship continued south along the African coast before turning west to re-cross the ocean. The route took the blimp past the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, and then onward to the Virgin Islands. Arriving back in the United States, Snow Bird made landfall at Miami Beach on the afternoon of 14 March.

Admiral Arleigh Burke

A radio message was sent to the crew of Planner 12 by Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations:

HEARTIEST CONGRATULATIONS ON ESTABLISHING A NEW WORLD ENDURANCE RECORD FOR AIRSHIPS X YOUR UNTIRING EFFORTS AND DEVOTION ARE MOST COMMENDABLE X THIS FLIGHT DEMONSTRATES AN INCREASED ASW AND AEW CAPABILITY AND OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS WHICH SERVE TO DEMONSTRATE A CONTINUING SEARCH FOR TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES BY THE U S NAVY X WELL DONE X ARLEIGH BURKE

Not finished with its voyage, the airship next headed to Dry Tortugas at the far western end of the Florida Keys, and then finally landed at NAS Key West, Florida, on 15 March.

ZPG-2 Flight Track (Flying Magazine)

Snow Bird had traveled 9,448 miles (15,205 kilometers) without landing or refueling. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) lists this as “the longest recorded airship flight.” This exceeded the distance record set by Graf Zeppelin, flying from Friedrichshaven, Germany, to Tokyo, Japan, (11,247 kilometers) 15–19 August 1929. From takeoff at NAS South Weymouth to landing at NAS Key West, the total duration of the flight was 264 hours, 14 minutes.

The crew was met by a large group of dignitaries. Commander Reed was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross by Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr., United States Navy, one of the greatest military leaders of World War II.

Commander Hunt was later presented the Harmon International  Trophy by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

An AEW variant U.S. Navy Goodyear ZPG airship. (The Noon Balloon)

Goodyear ZPG-2 Bu. No. 141561 was built by the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation at Akron, Ohio. It was the 11th of 12 “N-class” airships which were used for patrol, anti-submarine warfare ASW), and when equipped with radar, for airborne early warning (AEW).

The ZPG-2 is 343 feet (105 meters) long and the envelope has a maximum diameter of 76 feet (23 meters). A two-deck control car was suspended beneath the envelope. The airship had an overall height of 107 feet (33 meters). Bouyancy was provided by 1,011,000 cubic feet (28,628 cubic meters) of Helium.

There are four fins placed in a X-pattern at the tail of the ZPG-2, called ruddervators. (These were similar to the fins used on the experimental submarine USS Albacore (AGSS-569) several years later.) The ruddervators allowed the airship to be controlled by a single control column, a change from the two controls used previously. Also, the decreased vertical span of the fins allowed greater ground clearance, so that the blimp could takeoff at steeper angles than if it had been equipped with the standard cruciform fins.

N-class blimp N-1. Compare its fins to those of the airship in the background.

The Goodyear ZPG-2 was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,301.868 cubic inch displacement (21.334 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division R-1300-2 (Cyclone 7 865C7BA1) seven-cylinder radial engines mounted outside the control car. The R-1300-2 was a direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 6.2:1. It was rated at 700 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., for takeoff, using 91/96 octane aviation gasoline. The engines turned three-bladed Curtiss Electric variable pitch, reversible propellers. The R-1300-2 was 48.12 inches (1.222 meters) long, 50.45 inches (1.281 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,067 pounds (484 kilograms).

The ZPG-2 had a cruise speed of 57 miles per hour (92 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour). Its normal endurance was three days.

Bu. No. 141561’s cockpit, nose cone and a frame of a ruddervator are displayed at the National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida.

Jack Reed Hunt

Jack Reed Hunt was born at Red Oak, Iowa, 18 May 1918. He was the second of seven children of Smith Reed Hunt, a baker, and Blanche Luise Seefeldt Hunt. The family moved to southern California, where Jack grew up.

Jack R. Hunt joint the United States Navy on 4 April 1942. He was trained as an airship pilot and flight instructor. Hunt was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve, 1 October 1942, and promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade), 1 October 1943. Hunt remained in the Navy following World War II. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander 1 August 1951, and to Commander, 1 July 1956.

From 1963 until 1984, Jack Hunt was the president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a fully-accredited aerospace university.

Hunt was married three times (Bethel, Donna and Lynne) and had seven children. He died 7 January 1984, at the age of 65 years.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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5–6 February 1946

A TWA Lockheed Constellation over Paris. (Unattributed)
A Transcontinental and Western Airlines Lockheed L-049 Constellation over Paris, France. (Unattributed)

5–6 February 1946: Transcontinental and Western Airlines—TWA—”The Trans World Airline,” flew its first revenue international passengers on a scheduled transatlantic flight from La Guardia Field, New York (LGA) to Aéroport de Paris-Orly, Paris (ORY).

The airplane was a Lockheed L-049 Constellation, serial number 2035, NC86511, named Star of Paris, under the command of Captain Harold F.  Blackburn. Captains Jack Hermann and John M. Calder, Navigator M. Chrisman and Flight Engineers Art Ruhanen, Ray McBride and Jack Rouge completed the flight crew. Purser Don Shiemwell and Hostess Ruth Schmidt were in the cabin along with 36 passengers.

Star of Paris departed LaGuardia at 2:21 p.m., EST, 5 February. The flight made brief stops at Gander, Newfoundland (YQX) and Shannon, Ireland (SNN), and arrived at Orly Field, at 3:57 p.m., February 6. The elapsed time was 16 hours, 21 minutes.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 22.48.30
Photograph from TWA Skyliner Magazine, 9 February 1961, at Page 4

Confusion exists over which TWA Constellation made the first scheduled flight from LGA to ORY. This is probably because two days earlier, 3 February, another L-049, Paris Sky Chief, NC86505, s/n 2026, also commanded by Hal Blackburn, flew from Washington National Airport (DCA) to Paris Orly as a trial. On that flight, the Constellation averaged 316 miles per hour (509 kilometers per hour). This non-scheduled trip took 14 hours, 47 minutes, total elapsed time, with 12 hours 57 minutes actual flight time. Paris Sky Chief‘s TWA fleet number was 505, while Star of Paris was number 555.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 19.40.37
Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-049, Paris Sky Chief, NC86505. (www.sedonalegendhelenfrye.com)
Harold F. Blackburn, ca. 1945 (Flying Magazine)
Harold F. Blackburn, ca. 1945 (Flying Magazine)

Harold F. Blackburn was born in 1901 at Urbana, Illinois. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1928, and studied aviation at the University of Southern California. He received his Air Corps pilot’s wings in 1930.

In 1932, Blackburn participated in the relief of the Native American reservations near Winslow, Arizona, which had been cut off by a winter storm. His entire unit, the 11th Bombardment Squadron, based at March Field, Riverside, California, was awarded the Mackay Trophy.

Lieutenant Blackburn married Miss Martha Bondurant in 1932. They would have a son Robert, and daughters Beverly, Bonnie and Betty. Beverly died in infancy 1 December 1943. Blackburn would later marry Helen Jones.

Hal Blackburn began flying with TWA in 1934 and remained with the company for over 25 years. During World War II, he flew Boeing 377s across the South Atlantic for the airline’s Intercontinental Division, of which he would become the manager.  In addition to the New York-Paris flight in 1946, Blackburn flew TWA’s first Boeing 707 from New York to Paris in 1961.

“Blackie,” as he is known to his friends, has been an active pilot since 1919. His air time equals three years spent above the earth’s surface during which he has logged more than six and a half million miles . . . The Washington Post named him the “Ideal Father” in 1946. Capt. Blackburn also assisted with the formation of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and Deutsche-Lufthansa. Viewed by the news media as the ideal model pilot, Capt. Blackburn has been the subject of two lengthy profiles in the New Yorker magazine . . .  In 26,800 hours of flying, Capt. Blackburn never injured a passenger, nor damaged an aircraft, and was never late for a flight. Married for 32 years, he is the father of four children and three times a grandfather. He resides in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. He retired from flying in 1962. His last flight, in command of a TWA SuperJet [the company’s name for the Boeing 707 or Convair 880] from Rome to New York, was the subject of an hour-long television documentary.

The Indiana Gazette, Monday, 14 October 1963, Page 5 at Columns 2–4

Captain Blackburn was the subject of Like a Homesick Angel, a biography by John Bainbridge, Houghton Mifflin, 1964. He died at Oakland, California, 4 August 1989, at the age of 87 years.

A TWA Lockheed L-049 Lockheed L-049 Constellation, NC86517. (Ed Coates Collection)

Star of Paris (serial number 2035), a Lockheed Model L-049-46 Constellation, had been built at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s Burbank, California, plant and delivered to Transcontinental and Western in December 1945. The airliner remained in service with TWA until 1 September 1961. During that time it was also named Star of  Dublin.

The Lockheed Constellation first flew in 1942, and was produced for the U.S. Army Air Corps as the C-69. With the end of World War II, commercial airlines needed new airliners for the post-war boom. The Constellation had transoceanic range and a pressurized cabin for passenger comfort.

The Lockheed L-049 Constellation was operated by a flight crew of four and could carry up to 81 passengers. The airplane was 95 feet, 1 316 inches (28.986 meters) long with a wingspan of 123 feet, 0 inches (37.490 meters), and overall height of 23 feet, 7⅞ inches (7.210 meters). It had an empty weight of 49,392 pounds (22,403.8 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 86,250 pounds (39,122.3 kilograms).

Trans World Airlines’ Lockheed L-049 Constellation NC86515, Star of the Red Sea, at San Francisco, California, 10 June 1948.. (Bill Larkins/Wikimedia)

The L-049 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged and fuel-injected, 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 ¹ 745C18BA3 two-row 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The -BA3 was rated at 2,000 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., or 2,200 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., for takeoff, (five minute limit). The engines drove 15 foot, 2 inch (4.623 meter) diameter, three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The 745C18BA3 was 6 feet, 4.13 inches (1.934 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.78 inches (1.417 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,842 pounds (1,289.11 kilograms).

The L-049 had a cruise speed of 313 miles per hour (503.72 kilometers per hour) and a range of 3,995 miles (6,429.3 kilometers). Its service ceiling was 25,300 feet (7,711 meters).

22 C-69s and 856 Constellations of all types were built. Designed by the famous Kelly Johnson, the Lockheed Constellation was in production from 1943–1958 in both civilian airliner and military transport versions. It is the classic propeller-driven transcontinental and transoceanic airliner.

"TWA Lockheed Constellation at Paris-Orly" by Lucio Perinotto. For more striking paintings by the artist, please visit his web site at http://www.lucioperinotto.com/
“TWA Lockheed Constellation at Paris-Orly” by Lucio Perinotto. For more striking paintings by the artist, please visit his web site at http://www.lucioperinotto.com/

On 18 November 1950, TWA’s Constellation NC86511 suffered failures of the two inboard  engines while taking off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The airliner was diverted to nearby Long Beach Airport (LGB) for an emergency landing. The crew made an instrument approach and could not see the runway until the last moment, touching down at approximately midway. The runway was wet and the airplane could not be stopped before running off the end. The right main landing gear collapsed. The Constellation was damaged but repaired and returned to service. It was later renamed Star of Dublin.

TWA Lockheed Constellation after landing accident at Long Beach, California, 18 November 1950. (Aviation Safety Network)
TWA Lockheed Constellation after landing accident at Long Beach, California, 18 November 1950. (Aviation Safety Network)

On 1 September 1961, NC86511 was operating as TWA Flight 529 from Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) to Los Angeles, California. Shortly after takeoff a mechanical failure caused to airplane to pitch up and stall. The flight crew was unable to regain control of the Constellation and it crashed in a field near Hinsdale, Illinois. All 78 persons on board were killed.

The crash site of Trans World Airlines' Flight 529, Lockheed L-049 Constellation s/n 2035, NC86511, Star of Dublin.
The crash site of Trans World Airlines’ Flight 529, Lockheed L-049 Constellation s/n 2035, NC86511, Star of Dublin.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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31 January 1951

Charles F. Blair, jr. arrives at Heathrow. (Getty Images)

31 January 1951: Pan American World Airways Captain Charles F. Blair, Jr., flew a modified North American Aviation P-51C-10-NT Mustang, NX1202, named Excalibur III, from New York International Airport to London Airport in 7 hours, 48 minutes, with an average speed of 446 miles per hour (718 kilometers per hour). Captain Blair took advantage of the jet stream, flying as high as 37,000 feet (11,278 meters).

“At last, I was riding the jet stream, pushed by a tailwind exceeding 200 miles per hour. . . Above me, the sky was empty and blue; below the wings of my tiny aircraft a winter storm raged. Its upper canopy of white clouds gave it a look of complete innocence.”

The Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday, 3 June 1951, Page 115

This was Blair’s 401st Atlantic crossing.

Blair’s flight did not set an official record. No arrangements had been made to have officials of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) available to observe the flight.

Mrs. Charles Blair Jr. (right) with her two children, Suzanne, 16, and Christopher, 10 months, get the news of Capt. Blair’s aafe arrival. (NEWS foto by Sam Platnik)

Interestingly, Excalibur III was impounded by HM Customs at the London Airport. Blair had not paid the £800 customs duty which would have allowed the Mustang to stay for six months. He would have had to fly the airplane back to the United States to avoid the aircraft being impounded.

The Chicago Daily Tribune reported the event:

LONE PILOT HOPS OCEAN IN LESS THAN 8 HOURS

LONDON, Jan. 31 (AP)— Air Line Capt. Charles Blair landed his scarlet Mustang fighter plane in a blaze of red flares tonight, chalking up a New York to London speed record of 7 hours 48 minutes. He clipped an hour and seven minutes off the old record.

     Blair said his only troubles during the flight were some icing in the early stages and a painfully tight pair of boots.

     As he climbed from the cockpit of the flying gas tank named Excalibur III and waved to a cheering crowd at London airport he winced and declared: “The first thing I do is get these boots off.”

Aided by Tail Winds

     Blair left New York’s Idlewild airport at 3:50 a.m. Chicago time [09:50 UTC] and was clocked in here at 5:38 p.m. British time [11:38 a.m. Chicago time]. [17:38 UTC]

     A Pan American Airways pilot, Blair took the time record from a Pan American Stratocruiser which made the eastward Nov. 22, 1949, with 24 passengers, in 8 hours and 55 minutes. Strong tail winds helped in both cases.

     Blair, tall, dark, married, and 41, brought no luggage, but had a shaving kit and a tooth brush in a small leather bag.

     His plane is powered by a Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and was modified to hold 863 gallons of gasoline inside wings and fuselage without external tanks. He said the plane cost $25,000 to buy and revamp.

Averages 450 M. P. H.

     Blair told newsmen at London airport: “It was a very good crossing. It wasn’t as fast as I expected, but after Gander, N.F., I had a tail wind of 130 miles an hour. But the weather wasn’t too good and there was some ice.”

     Blair’s average speed was about 450 miles an hour and he made much of the jaunt at 37,000 feet.

     He said the trip had a dual purpose, to break the record and to study the effect of high velocity winds on airliners in the lower stratosphere.

     Blair will fly back to New York as a passenger in a Stratocruiser. He has to return by Saturday. On that day he will fly a planeload of passengers from New York to London.

Chicago Daily Tribune, Volume CX—No. 28, Thursday, February 1, 1951, Part 1, at Page 6, Columns 4 and 5.

Blair was presented the Harmon International Trophy by President Harry S. Truman in a ceremony at the White House, 18 November 1952. The Harmon awards are for “the most outstanding international achievements in the art and/or science of aeronautics for the previous year, with the art of flying receiving first consideration.”

Captain Charles F. Blair, Jr., American Overseas Airlines.

Charles Francis Blair, Jr., was born 19 July 1909 at Buffalo, New York, the second child of Charles F. Blair, an attorney, and Grace Ethelyn McGonegal Blair. He entered the University of Vermont, where is father was a member of the Board of Trustees, as a freshman in 1927. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta (ΦΔΘ) fraternity.

Blair was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve, 16 August 1932.

On 6 September 1932, Ensign Blair married Miss Janice Evelyn Davis at Wallingford, Vermont. They would have two children, Suzanne, born in 1934, and Christopher Noel, born in 1950. The Blairs would later divorce.

He was promoted to lieutenant, junior grade, 16 August 1937. During World War II, he served as a transport pilot in the U.S. Navy.

On 18 November 1952, Blair was one of three aviators to be awarded the Harmon Trophy. The presentation was made by President Harry Truman in a ceremony in The White House Rose Garden.

Blair resigned from the Naval Reserve in 1952 and the following year he accepted a commission in the U.S. Air Force Reserve with the rank of colonel. In 1959, Blair was promoted to brigadier general.

While serving as a reserve officer, Charlie Blair continued his civilian career as an airline pilot for United Airlines, American Overseas Airlines, and then with Pan American.

On 12 March 1968, Captain Blair married to actress Maureen O’Hara, whom he had met during one of his 1,575 transatlantic crossings. It was the fourth marriage for both.

Captain Blair made his final flight with Pan American in July 1969. He had flown more than 45,000 hours and traveled more than 10,000,000 miles.

Blair was the author of Thunder Above (Henry Holt & Co., 1956), a novel co-written with A.J. Wallis and filmed as “Beyond the Curtain,” starring Richard Green and Eva Bartok, in 1960. He also wrote Red Ball in the Sky (Random House, 1969), an account of his career in aviation.

Brigadier General Charles Francis Blair, Jr., died 2 September 1978 in an airplane accident. His remains were interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Captain Charles F. Blair, Jr., checks his astrocompass shortly before beginning his transpolar flight, 29 May 1951. (Smithsonian Institution)

Excalibur III is a Dallas, Texas-built North American Aviation P-51C-10-NT Mustang, one of a group of 400 fighters which had been contracted on 5 March 1943. Its North American Aviation serial number is 111-29080, and the U.S. Army Air Force assigned it serial number 44-10947.

After World War II, 44-10947 was transferred to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (a Depression-era agency of the United States government) at Searcy Field (SWO), Stillwater, Oklahoma. It was purchased by Paul Mantz, 19 February 1946, and the Civil Aeronautics Administration registered it as NX1202. Mantz had the Mustang painted red and named it Blaze of Noon. (Mantz was a movie pilot and aerial coordinator for the 1947 Paramount Pictures movie, “Blaze of Noon,” which was based on the Ernest K. Gann novel, Blaze of Noon, published in 1946.)

Paul Mantz flew NX1202 to win the 1946 and 1947 Bendix Trophy Races. Flown by Linton Carney and renamed The Houstonian, NX1202 placed second in the 1948 Bendix race, and with “Fish” salmon in the cockpit, it took third place in 1949.

Paul Mantz in the cockpit of “Blaze of Noon,” P-51C-10-NT Mustang 44-10947, NX1202. (Hans Greehoff Photographic Collection, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, NASM-HGC-1100)
North American Aviation P-51C Mustang NX1202, now named “The Houstonian.” The modified fighter flew in the 1948 Bendix Trophy Race, finishing in second place. (NASM)
Test pilot Herman “Fish” Salmon awaits the starter’s signal at the beginning of the 1949 Bendix Trophy Race on Rosamond Dry Lake, California, in the modified North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, NX1202. Salmon finished in third place. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

Paul Mantz had set several speed records with the Mustang before selling it to Pan American World Airways, Inc., Blair’s employer. Blair named the Mustang Stormy Petrel, but later changed it to Excalibur III.

To increase the Mustang’s range for these long-distance flights, Mantz had removed the standard 90-gallon pressure-molded Firestone self-sealing tanks from each wing and converted the entire wing to a fuel tank (what is known as a “wet wing”).

The P-51B and P-51C Mustang are virtually Identical. The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc, at Inglewood, California. P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas plant. They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5,352 kilograms).

North American Aviation P-51C-10-NT 44-10947, "Excalibur III", at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, National Air and Space Museum.
North American Aviation P-51C-10-NT 44-10947, “Excalibur III,” at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, National Air and Space Museum.

P-51Bs and Cs were powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m at 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3) or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) These were license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

The P-51B/C had a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), slightly faster than the more numerous P-51D Mustang. The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel the combat range was 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

Identical to the Inglewood, California-built North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, this is a Dallas, Texas-built P-51C-1-NT, 42-103023. (North American Aviation, Inc.)
Identical to the Inglewood, California-built North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, this is a Dallas, Texas-built P-51C-1-NT, 42-103023. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

In military service, armament consisted of four Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted two in each wing, with 350 rounds per gun for the inboard guns and 280 rounds per gun for the outboard.

1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant and another 1,750 P-51Cs were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

Though the P-51D with its bubble canopy was built in far greater numbers during World War II, the earlier P-51B and P-51C Mustangs were actually faster, so many surplus airplanes were used for racing and record attempts after the war.

In 1952, Pan American World Airways donated Excalibur III to the Smithsonian Institution. The airplane’s registration was cancelled 4 June 1952. Today, completely restored, it is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Charles F. Blair, Jr.'s North American Aviation P-51C-10-NT Mustang, Excalibur III, at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
North American Aviation P-51C-10-NT Mustang, Excalibur III, at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

A British PATHÉ news film of Blair’s arrival at London can be seen on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdRbIQdnyQo

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 October 1958

Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 707-121, N711PA, Clipper America, at Idlewild Airport, New York, 26 October 1958. (Pan American World Airways)

26 October 1958: Pan American World Airways opened the “Jet Age” with the first commercial flight of an American jet airliner. Pan Am’s Boeing 707-121 Clipper America, N711PA, departed New York Idlewild (IDL) on an 8 hour, 41 minute flight to Paris Le Bourget (LBG), with a fuel stop at Gander, Newfoundland (YQX). (The actual flight time was 7 hours.) The distance was 3,634 miles (5,848 kilometers). Aboard were 111 passengers and 11 crewmembers.

A Pan Am company publication explained the need for the stop at Gander:

The Jet could not be fully loaded with fuel before takeoff because of weight restrictions imposed at Idlewild. Fuel capacity of the jet is 17,398 gallons, allowing a cruising range of 4,400 miles. But with a full pay load of passengers, only 9,731 gallons could be taken aboard in New York.

Pan American Clipper, Vol. XV, No. 11, November 1958, Page 6, Column 5

The Boeing 707 was developed from the earlier Model 367–80, the “Dash Eighty”. It is a four-engine jet transport with swept wings and tail surfaces. The leading edge of the wings are swept at a 35° angle. The airliner had a flight crew of four: pilot, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer. The 707-121 is 145 feet, 1 inch (44.221 meters) long with a wing span of 130 feet, 10 inches (39.878 meters). The top of the vertical fin stands 42 feet, 5 inches (12.929 meters) high. The 707 pre-dated the ”wide-body” airliners, having a fuselage width of 12 feet, 4 inches (3.759 meters).

The first versions were powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3C-6 turbojet engines, producing 11,200 pounds of thrust (49,820 kilonewtons), and 13,500 pounds (60.051 kilonewtons) with water injection. This engine was a civil variant of the military J57 series. It was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 2 stage turbine. The JT3C-6 was 11 feet, 6.6 inches (3.520 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.9 inches (0.988 meters) in diameter, and weighed 4,235 pounds (1,921 kilograms).

The airliner’s empty weight is 122,533 pounds (55,580 kilograms). Maximum take off weight (MTOW) is 257,000 pounds (116,573 kilograms). At MTOW, the 707 required 11,000 feet (3,352.8 meters) of runway to take off. Its maximum speed is 540 knots (1,000 kilometers per hour). It had a range of 2,800 nautical miles (5,185.6 kilometers).

The Boeing 707 was in production from 1958 to 1979. 1,010 were built. As of 2011, 43 707s were still in service.

Boeing delivered N711PA to Pan American on 17 October 1958. The airliner was named Clipper America,  but was later renamed Clipper Mayflower. It was leased to Avianca (Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia S.A.) from 1960 to 1962. In April 1965 the 707 was upgraded to the –121B standard. This included a change from the turbojet engines to quieter, more powerful and efficient Pratt and Whitney JT3D-1 turbofans, producing 17,000 pounds of thrust. The wings were modified to incorporate changes introduced with the Boeing 720, and a longer tailplane installed. Pan Ayer of Panama purchased Clipper Mayflower 21 February 1975. It was later leased to Türk Hava Yolları, the Turkish national airline, and went on to serve with Air Asia Company Limited (an Air America aircraft service unit) and E-Systems. After 26 years of service, in August 1984 Clipper America was scrapped at Taipei.

Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 707-121, N711PA, Clipper America, arriving at Aéroport de Paris – Le Bourget, Paris, France, 27 October 1958. (Photograph © Jon Proctor. Used with permission.)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 September 2003

“David Hempleman-Adams, left, with Saint John resident Jim Rogers on Sept. 26, 2003, just before the balloon launch.” (Kings County Record)

26 September 2003: At 2:38 a.m., Friday, David Kim Hempleman-Adams, O.B.E., lifted off  from the athletic field of Sussex Elementary School, Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada, in his Rozière balloon on a four-day transatlantic flight. Hempleman-Adams was in an open  7 feet × 3 feet (2.1 × 0.9 meters) wicker basket.

Hempleman-Adam’s Cameron R-90 being prepared for takeoff on a previous transatlantic attempt, 27 June 2003, at Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The balloon was built by Cameron Balloons, Ltd., Bristol, in 2000. It was a Cameron R-90, serial number 4751. The balloon was first registered 31 March 2000, as G-BYZX.

The R-90 is a Rozière balloon, which has separate chambers for helium and heated air. This allows the aeronaut to control the balloon’s buoyancy, but the hybrid type uses much less fuel than a hot-air balloon. The type is named after its inventor, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale places the Cameron R-90 in the free balloon sub-class AM-08, for mixed balloons with a volume of 2,200–3,000 cubic meters (77,692–105,944 cubic feet).

G-BYZX had a maximum takeoff weight of 2,654 kilograms (5,851 pounds).

Hempleman Adams had previously flown G-BYZX, then named Britannic Challenge, to the North Pole, on 3 June 2000. Following his transatlantic flight, he would use it to set a FAI World Record for Altitude of 12,557 meters (41,198 feet), 23 March 2004.

During the first day, Hempleman-Adams’ balloon gradually rose to an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) as it drifted eastward. On the second day he was at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and on Day 3 he reached a peak of 14,000 feet (4,267 meters).

The weather was very cold, with rain and snow. Hempleman-Adams said that the average temperature during the flight was -12 °C. (10.4 °F.). Ice built up on the balloon’s envelope, increasing its weight. It became heavy enough that the balloon began to descend. Hempleman-Adams was unable to prevent the descent by using the propane burners to heat the air and increase buoyancy, and was forced to lighten the balloon by jettisoning six propane cylinders.

During the third day, the balloon was hit by the shock waves of a Concorde supersonic airliner as it passed overhead at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Hempleman-Adams felt a very abrupt, but fortunately, brief, descent as a result.

G-BYZX reached the southwestern tip of Ireland at 8:30 a.m., BST, on 29 September, completing the transatlantic phase of his flight. The balloon continued to drift eastward, and at 6 p.m. on 30 September, came to rest near Hambleton, Lancashire, England. The total duration of the flight was 83 hours, 14 minutes, 35 seconds.

Sir David Kim Hempleman-Adams, K.C.V.O., O.B.E., K.St.J., D.L., is an interesting guy. He is the first person to have completed the True Adventurer’s Grand Slam, by reaching the North and South Poles, the North and South Magnetic Poles, and to have climbed the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale online database currently credits him with 49 world aviation records.

David Hempleman-Adams waves at the camera after landing in England, 30 September 2003.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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