16 July 1957: At 6:04 a.m., Major John Herschel Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, took off from NAS Los Alamitos, on the coast of southern California, in a single-engine Vought F8U-1P Crusader, Bureau Number 144608. 3 hours, 23 minutes, 8.4 seconds later, he landed at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York. Over the 2,360 mile (3,798 kilometer) route, he averaged 725.25 miles per hour (1,167.18 kilometers per hour). This was the first supersonic transcontinental flight.
The purpose of “Project Bullet” was “. . . to test the sustained capability of the F8U at near maximum power over a long distance.” The Crusader’s average speed was faster than the muzzle velocity of a .45-caliber bullet, hence the project name.
Glenn’s aircraft was a photo-reconnaissance variant of the Navy’s F8U-1E carrier-based supersonic fighter. Rather than guns and missiles, it was equipped with six cameras that took panoramic images over the entire route. Though it carried more fuel than the fighter version, the Crusader still required three aerial refuelings to cover the distance. To rendezvous with the North American AJ-1 Savage air tankers, he had to slow and descend by deploying an air brake. After tanking, Glenn accelerated with afterburner and climbed back to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). As fuel burned off, he gradually rose to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters).
After the completion of the flight, Pratt & Whitney, the engine manufacturer, tore down the J57-P-4A turbojet for an engineering inspection. As a result, all previous power limitations were lifted.
Bu. No. 144608 continued in active service with the Navy and was flown in combat with VFP-63 during the Vietnam War. On 13 December 1972, while landing aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), the Crusader struck the ramp of the flight deck and damaged its landing gear. It slid across the deck, severed the arresting cables and went over the side. The pilot, Lieutenant T. B. Scott, ejected safely but the record-setting fighter was lost in the South China Sea.
John Glenn was the Navy/Marine Corps project officer for the Crusader. According to information recently discovered by The Museum of Flight, Glenn made his first flight in a Crusader when he flew the prototype XF8U-1, Bu. No. 138899, on 4 May 1956. According to Glenn’s logbook, he made two flights in the prototype on that date, totaling 2 hours of flight time. (Many thanks to Mike Martinez, a docent for the Museum, for providing this information.)
Soon after Project Bullet, John H. Glenn was selected for Project Mercury. On the third manned flight of the program, he became the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. He was later elected a United States Senator from his home state of Ohio. At the age of 77, John Glenn flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-95, 29 October–7 November 1998, becoming the oldest person to fly in space.
11 July 1935: At 5:31 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, (01:31 UTC) Laura Houghtaling Ingalls took off from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, and flew non-stop across the North American continent to the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California. She landed there at 8:51 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time (19:31 UTC). The elapsed time of her non-stop transcontinental flight was 18 hours, 20 minutes, 30 seconds.
After departing Floyd Bennett Field, Ingalls flew along a commercial airway defined by radio beacons. Her route of flight was from Brooklyn, New York, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—Columbus, Ohio—Indianapolis, Indiana—Kansas City, Missouri—Albuquerque, New Mexico—Burbank, California. This was only the third time that a non-stop transcontinental flight had been accomplished.
Her airplane was a single-engine Lockheed Model 9D Orion Special, registration NR14222, which she had named Auto da Fé. ¹ Ingalls had taken delivery of the Orion at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, 1 February 1935. Contemporary newspaper reports said that the “Black Mystery Ship” cost $45,000.
The Lockheed Model 9 Orion was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane, designed in 1931 by Gerard Freebairn Vultee for airline use. It was capable of carrying six passengers in an enclosed cabin. The Orion was the first commercial airliner with retractable landing gear. It was faster than any military airplane in service at the beginning of the decade. Like other Lockheed aircraft of the time, it was constructed of strong, light-weight, molded wood, but the Orion would be Lockheed’s last wooden airplane.
The Lockheed Orion 9D was 28 feet, 4 inches (8.64 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9¼ inches (13.04 meters) and height of 9 feet, 8 inches (2.95 meters). It had an empty weight of 3,640 pounds (1,651 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 5,200 pounds (2,359 kilograms).
Auto da Fé was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S1D1 nine-cylinder radial engine. The engine had a compression ratio of 6:1 and was rated 525 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. The S1D1 was a direct-drive engine, which turned a two-bladed Hamilton Standard variable-pitch, constant-speed propeller. The Wasp S1D1 was 4 feet, 3.438 inches (1.307 meters) in diameter, 3 feet, 6.625 inches (1.083 meters) long and weighed 763 pounds (346 kilograms). The engine was enclosed by a N.A.C.A. cowling.
The cruise speed of the Orion was 205 miles per hour (330 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 220 miles per hour (354 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. It had a range of 750 miles (1,159 kilometers) in standard configuration. The service ceiling was 22,000 feet (6,705 meters).
Ingall’s airplane had a fuel capacity of 630 gallons (2,385 liters) of gasoline and 40 gallons (151 liters) of engine oil. NR14222 was equipped with a Sperry Gyro Pilot and a Westport radio compass and receiver for navigation.
The Greek lower-case letter zeta (the astronomical symbol for the planet Jupiter) was painted on each side of the airplane under the cockpit rails. Ingalls had the same symbol on several of her airplanes. A source suggests that it was used as a stylized representation of her initials, “L.I.” (Her Lockheed Air Express carried the astronomical symbol for the constellation Sagittarius, which was Ingalls’ astrological sign.)
In 1937, NR14222 was sold to Rudolf Wolf, Inc., a burlap company in New York. It was then transferred to Fuerzas Aéreas de la República Española (FARE), the air arm of the Spanish Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. What happened to the Lockheed Orion after that is not known.
Laura Houghtaling Ingalls was born at Brooklyn, New York, 14 December 1893. She was the first of two children of Francis Abbott Ingalls, a cotton goods merchant, and Laura McAlister Houghtaling Ingalls.
Miss Ingalls lived in France prior to World War I, and returned there as a relief worker following the War. In 1920, she lived with her family in Tuxedo Park, New York, and was employed as a stenographer.
Laura Ingalls began flight training at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, and completed her first solo flight on 23 December 1928. In June 1929, she began training for a commercial pilot certificate at the Universal Flying School, Lambert Field, St. Louis Missouri.
Woman Pilot Finishes Studies
Miss Laura Ingalls, who recently received a limited commercial license, has completed her studies at the Universal Flying School and is taking the examination for a transport license under Inspector Fox. Miss Ingalls’ home is in New York, where she is said to have received several offers of work as a pilot.
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Vol. 82, No. 212, Sunday, 6 April 1930, Page 6-I, Column 1
Ingalls qualified for her limited transport license, 12 April 1930. (After qualifying for an F.C.C. radio-telephone operator license in 1934, her restricted transport license was upgraded to Scheduled Airline Transport Pilot, 26 January 1935.) Her pilot certificate number was 9330.
Laura Ingalls first gained public attention when she performed 344 consecutive loops with a de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth at St. Louis, NR9720 (c/n 885), 4 May 1930. Three weeks later, she increased the number of loops to 980. On August 13, she completed 714 consecutive barrel rolls in the same airplane. (At the time, the airplane was a demonstrator for the Moth Aircraft Corporation, Lowell, Massachusetts, which was licensed by de Havilland to produce the DH.60 in the United States. Kits were built in England, then assembled in Massachusetts. Miss Ingalls later purchased the airplane, 23 June 1930.)
Miss Ingalls was the first woman to fly across the country from East to West. In 5 October 1930, she flew NR9720 from Roosevelt Field to Grand Central Air Terminal at Glendale, California, arriving 9 October. The flight required nine fuel stops, and took 30 hours and 27 minutes over four days.
Between 28 February and 25 April 1934, Laura Ingalls flew a Lockheed Model 3 Air Express, NR974Y, on a 17,000-mile (27,400 kilometers) solo flight around South America and over the Andes mountain range.
Laura Ingalls was awarded the Harmon Aviatrix Trophy for 1934.
Ingalls flew her Orion in the 1936 Bendix Trophy Race, finishing in second place behind Louise Thaden, with an elapsed time of 15 hours, 39 minutes.
Miss Ingalls bought a Ryan ST-A low-wing monoplane, NC18901 (c/n 179), which was powered by a 125 horsepower Menasco C4 Pirate inverted 4-cylinder engine. The Ryan ST was developed into the Ryan PT-16–22 military trainers of World War II.
In 1939, Laura Ingalls dropped political leaflets during a 2-hour flight over Washington, D.C. On landing, she was met by representatives of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. Her pilot’s license was suspended by the C.A.A. for violating the airspace surrounding The White House. Some sources indicate that the license was later revoked.
After the United States entered World War II, Miss Ingalls was arrested for acting as an unregistered paid agent of Nazi Germany. At trial, she was convicted. She served 1 year, 7 months, 15 days in prison. (Ingalls was initially incarcerated at the federal prison in Washington, D.C., but after having been severely beaten by other prisoners, she was transferred to the womens’ prison in Alderson, West Virginia.)
Laura Houghtaining Ingalls died at her home in Burbank, California, 10 January 1967, at the age of 73 years. Her ashes were interred at Wiltwyck Cemetery, Kingston, New York.
¹ An auto-da-fé was a public act of penance required of condemned heretics prior to their execution during the Spanish Inquisition. The meaning of the reference on Ingall’s Orion is unknown.
23 June 1924: Lieutenant Russell Lowell Maughan, Air Service, United States Army, took off from Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, at 3:58 a.m., Eastern Time, and flew across the country to land at Crissy Field, at the Presidio of San Francisco, California at 9:46 p.m., Pacific Time. He covered a distance of 2,670 miles (4,297 kilometers) in 21 hours, 47 minutes. Maughan’s actual flight time was 20 hours, 48 minutes. He averaged 128.37 miles per hour (206.59 kilometers per hour).
His Dawn-To-Dusk transcontinental flight took place on a mid-summer day in order to take advantage of the longer hours of daylight, and he flew from East to West, to follow the advancing Sun across the sky.
Lieutenant Maughan made stops at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio; St. Joseph, Missouri; North Platte, Nebraska; Cheyenne, Wyoming and Salduro Siding, Utah. The stop at Dayton took 1 hour, 20 minutes when a mechanic over-tightened a fuel line fitting and damaged it. When he arrived at “Saint Joe,” the grass field was wet from rains, restricting his takeoff weight. Unable to carry a full load of fuel, he took off with a reduced load and then made a previously unplanned stop at North Platte, Nebraska, where he topped off his fuel tank.
Russell Maughan was an experienced combat pilot and test pilot. He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during World War I, and he had competed in numerous air races and had set several speed records.
The airplane flown by Lieutenant Maughan was the fourth production Curtiss PW-8 Hawk, a single-place, single-engine biplane fighter, serial number A.S. 24-204. It was modified by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company at its Long Island, New York, factory. Curtiss removed the fighters’s two .30-caliber machine guns and added 100 gallons (378.5 liters) to the airplane’s standard fuel capacity of 77 gallons (291.5 liters).
The Curtiss PW-8 Hawk was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,145.111-cubic-inch-displacement (18.765 liter) Curtiss D-12 dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12 engine, which was developed by Arthur Nutt, based on the earlier Curtiss K-12 which had been designed by Charles B. Kirkham. The D-12 had four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was rated at 415 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., and 460 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. During testing, it produced a 475 horsepower at 2,320 r.p.m. using a 50/50 mixture of 95-octane gasoline and benzol. The D-12 was a right-hand tractor direct-drive engine. It turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, forged aluminum propeller designed by Dr. Sylvanus A. Reed. The Curtiss D-12 was 56¾ inches (1.441 meters) long, 28¼ inches (0.718 meters) wide and 34¾ inches (0.882 meters) high. It weighed 678.25 pounds (307.65 kilograms).
The PW-8 had a cruise speed of 136 miles per hour (219 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 171 miles per hour (275 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The airplane’s service ceiling was 20,350 feet (6,203 meters) and its range was 544 miles (875 kilometers).
In the early years of military aviation, pilots undertook various dramatic flights to create public awareness of the capabilities military aircraft. Of this transcontinental flight, Maughan said, “The real reason for my flight across the United States in the sunlight hours of one day was that the chief of the Air Service wanted to show Congress just how unprotected are the people of the Pacific Coast.”
Curtiss PW-8 Hawk A.S. 24-204 was damaged beyond repair at Selfridge Field, Michigan, 11 May 1926.
29 May 1963: Lockheed Test Pilot Anthony W. “Tony” LeVier and his 18-year-old daughter, Toniann LeVier, flew the company’s two-place TF-104G Starfighter demonstrator, FAA registration N104L, from Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. They made fuel stops at Kirkland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio.
The Oxnard Press Courier reported:
PALMDALE, Calif. — Toni Ann LeVier, 18, recently earned the title of World’s Fastest Teen-ager after a scorching Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) flight in the front cockpit of a Talley Corporation equipped TF-104G Super Starfighter.
The back-seat driver of the Lockheed aircraft A.W. (Tony) LeVier, her father.
Director of flying operations for Lockheed-California Company, Tony took Toni for a double crack at the sound barrier in the supersonic corridor near Edwards Air Force Base…
The teen-age fledgling flier handled the TF-104G controls during the Mach 2 dash.
Flying the stub-wing fighter was a giant step for Toni, who holds a student pilot’s license.
She started flying lessons in January and has 35 hours in a Beechcraft Musketeer light plane, whose docile 140-m.p.h. speed is about one-tenth that of the TF-104G.
A student at John Muir High School in Pasadena, the pert Mach 2 Miss offered this reaction to the flight:
“I’m still tingling. That sudden surge of power made me feel like we were taking off for outer space, but it’s just as easy to fly as a light plane.”
The company-owned TF-104G they flew is being assigned to Andrews AFB near Washington for a series of demonstrations to U.S. Air Force officials.
Toni volunteered to help Pop ferry the airplane on the cross-country hop.
They plan to leave Friday morning. Stops are scheduled at USAF bases at Albuquerque, Oklahoma City (where they will remain overnight after a noon arrival), and at Dayton, Ohio.
Toni is no stranger to military bases.
She was named “Miss Starfighter” by F-104 pilots of the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing, George AFB, Calif., for Armed Forces Week.
at Andrews AFB Saturday the LeViers will turn the 1500-m.p.h Super Starfighter over to a Lockheed Demonstration team.
Then — for Toni — it’s back to flying a school desk.
Toniann LeVier was born 21 September 1944 in Los Angeles County, California. She was the first of two daughters of Anthony W. (“Tony”) Levier, a test pilot for Lockheed in Burbank, California, and Neva Jean Ralph LeVier. Miss LeVier attended John Muir High School in Pasadena, California, where she participated in the Adelphians, the Civil Affairs Council, Fine Arts Council and the Senior Class Council. She graduated in 1963. Later, she studied at Cabrillo College, Aptos, California.
Miss LeVier married David M. Logan, a real estate agent from La Cañada, California, on 11 July 1964. On 24 June 1978, she married her second husband, Theodore E. Posch, in Orange, California. On 21 June 2003, she married Richard Samuel Almaz, a chef, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Today, Mrs. LeVier-Almaz works as a massage therapist. She and her husband live in Aptos.
N104L is the same aircraft in which Jackie Cochran set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record of 1,273.12 miles per hour (2,048.88 kilometers per hour) over a 15/25 kilometer straight course, 12 April 1963.¹ 1,203.94 miles per hour over a 100 kilometer closed circuit on 1 May 1963.²
N104L, originally registered N90500, was retained by Lockheed for use as a customer demonstrator to various foreign governments. In 1965 Lockheed sold N104L to the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (the Royal Netherlands Air Force), where it served as D-5702 until 1980. It next went to the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (Turkish Air Force), identified as 4-702. The record-setting Starfighter was retired in 1989 and after several years in storage, was scrapped.
21 May 1955: At 05:59:45 Pacific Standard Time (13:59:45 UTC) 1st Lieutenant John M. (“Jack”) Conroy, U.S. Air Force, a World War II B-17 pilot and former Prisoner of War, took off from the California Air National Guard Base at the San Fernando Valley Airport (re-named Van Nuys Airport in 1957). His airplane was a specially-prepared North American Aviation F-86A-5-NA Sabre, USAF serial number 49-1046. His Destination? Van Nuys, California—by way of Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. His plan was to return to the ANG base in “The Valley” before sunset.
Several weeks of planning and preparation were involved in “Operation Boomerang”. Five refueling stops would be required and Air National Guard personnel across the United States would handle that. A deviation from peacetime standards would allow the Sabre to be refueled with the engine running to minimize time spent on the ground. (The F-86 was not capable of inflight refueling.) The six-year-old F-86A was polished to ensure that all rivet heads were smooth, seams in the fuselage and wing skin panels were adjusted for precise fit, then were sealed. The gun ports for the six .50-caliber Browning machine guns in the fighter’s nose were filled then covered with doped fabric and painted. This was to reduce aerodynamic drag as much as possible. The General Electric J47-GE-13 turbojet was overhauled, then tested and adjusted for maximum efficiency.
Arrangements for official timing of the West to East and Back Again speed run were paid for by North American Aviation, Inc., whose personnel also provided technical support to the Air National Guard.
Jack Conroy’s F-86A was nicknamed California Boomerang, and had a map of the United States and a boomerang painted on the fuselage. The Sabre remained in its overall natural aluminum finish but had green stripes on the fuselage, vertical fin and wings.
After takeoff, Lieutenant Conroy climbed to approximately 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) and headed to his first refueling stop at Denver, Colorado. He landed at 7:48 a.m. PST and the Sabre was refueled and off again in just 6 minutes. From Denver he continued eastward to Springfield, Illinois, arriving at 9:32 a.m. PST. Refueling there took 5 minutes. The next stop was Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. He touched down at 11:19 a.m., PST and remained on the ground for 39 minutes.
Conroy departed Mitchel Field on the westbound leg at 11:58 a.m. PST and arrived at Lockburne Air Force Base, Ohio at 12:58 p.m., PST. This refueling stop required 7 minutes. Next on the flight plan was Tulsa, Oklahoma. The airplane landed there at 2:26 p.m. PST, and was refueled and airborne again in 6 minutes. The last refueling took place at Albuquerque, New Mexico. Lieutenant Conroy landed at 3:58 p.m., PST. After another 7 minute stopover, California Boomerang took off on the final leg of the round-trip journey, finally landing back at Van Nuys, California at 5:26:18 p.m., PST.
John Conroy’s Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast “dawn to dusk” flight covered 5,058 miles (8,140.1 kilometers). The total elapsed time was 11 hours, 26 minutes, 33 seconds. His average speed was 445 miles per hour (716.2 kilometers per hour). Weather across the country caused some delays as Jack Conroy had to make instrument approaches to three of the airports.
California Boomerang, North American Aviation F-86A-5-NA Sabre 49-1046, is on display as a “gate guard” at the entrance to the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, adjacent to Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California.