Tag Archives: Transoceanic Flight

13 January 1949

Bill Odom's record-setting Beechcraft 35 Bonanza, N80040. (FAI)
Bill Odom’s record-setting Beechcraft 35 Bonanza, N80040. (FAI)

13 January 1949: William P. Odom set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance in a Straight Line when he flew a Beechcraft 35 Bonanza, N80040, named Waikiki Beech, from Honolulu, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, to Oakland, California, an official distance of 3,873.48 kilometers (2,406.87 miles).

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The Chicago Daily Tribune reported the event:

Odom Flight from Hawaii Sets Light Plane Record

Hops Pacific to Oakland in 22 Hours

Oakland, Cal., Jan. 13 (Special)—Flyer Bill Odom set a new light plane record today in a flight across the Pacific from Hawaii, but dwindling gasoline supplies forced him to cut short his eastward flight and he landed here at 6:38 p.m. (8:38 Chicago time).

Odom, who had planned to continue on to Teterboro, N.J., 5,285 miles from his starting place in Hawaii had been in the air 22 hours and six minutes. He left Honolulu at 6:32 p.m. Wednesday (10:32 p.m. Wednesday Chicago time).

The flight over the Pacific, more than 2,300 miles, broke the light plane record of 2,061 miles set by two Russian flyers, A. Goussarov and V. Glebov Sept. 23, 1937, from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk. The record is recognized by the International Aeronautical federation for light planes, first category, 397–549 cubic inches engine displacement.

Uses Most of Fuel

William P. Odom. (FAI)
William P. Odom. (FAI)

Odom was two hours behind schedule and had only about 80 out of his 260 gallons of gasoline when he passed over the Golden Gate at 4:27 p.m. (6:27 p.m. Chicago time.) Head winds had taken a heavy toll of his gasoline load.

He radioed that he intended to add as much mileage as possible to his record before landing. He kept on, reaching Reno, Nev. where ice on his wings and a snowstorm on the airport forced him to turn back.

He then headed for Sacramento airport but no civil aeronautics administration officials were there and he landed at Oakland. There, the plane and its instruments were sealed.

“Boy, am I tired,” Odom said.

He covered more than 2,500 miles from Honolulu to Reno, but as he did not land at Reno the record will remain about 2,300 miles, the distance from Honolulu to Oakland.

Odom had bucked headwinds since he switched his single engined Beechcraft’s course south to fly over San Francisco instead of Seattle. He said he changed his course by mistake this morning. Somehow, he said, he lost his PBY escort from Honolulu and veered to the right.

He first had hunted out and ridden winds that took him northeast toward Seattle, but 1,800 miles out of Hawaii he hit a high pressure area that gave him for a time, tailwinds that enabled him to conserve gasoline.

Late Model Plane

Beechcraft 35 Bonanza N80040. (FAI)
Beechcraft 35 Bonanza N80040. (FAI)

Odom’s plane is a post-war model with a V-type tail, a tricycle landing gear that tucks up into the wings, a tiny little 185 horsepower, six cylinder unsupercharged engine. Its total weight with fuel, pilot, emergency gear, radio, and full equipment at take-off was only 3,750 pounds. It is an all-metal, low-wing monoplane which in its standard form can carry four passengers including pilot.

For his flight Odom had extra radio and a 100 gallon fuel tank installed in the cabin. Each wing tip also has a specially made fuel tank carrying 60 gallons, making 120 gallons total in those two containers. The normal tankage for the Bonanza is 40 gallons.

Odom holds the around the world flight record of 73 hours, 5 minutes and 11 seconds, set Aug. 11, 1947, from Chicago to Chicago in a converted A-20 bomber.

Chicago Daily Tribune, Vol. CVIII, No. 12, Friday, January 14, 1949, Page 1, Column 7.

Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040. This is the fourth prototype. It is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Beech Aircraft Corporation)
Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040. This is the fourth prototype. (Beech Aircraft Corporation)

N80040 was the fourth prototype Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza. (The first two were static test articles.)

The Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza is a single-engine, four-place all-metal light civil airplane with retractable landing gear. The Bonanza has the distinctive V-tail with a 30° dihedral which combined the functions of a conventional vertical fin and rudder, and horizontal tail plane and elevators.

The Model 35 was 25 feet, 2 inches (7.671 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 10 inches (10.008 meters) and height of 6 feet, 6½ inches (1.994 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,458 pounds (661 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,550 pounds (1,157 kilograms.)

NX80040, s/n 4, and the following production models were powered by an air-cooled, 471.24-cubic-inch-displacement (7.72 liter) Continental Motors, Inc., E185 horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder engine. This engine was rated at 165 horsepower at 2,050 r.p.m. (NX80150, s/n 3, had been equipped with a 125-horsepower Lycoming O-290-A.) The Bonanza had a two-bladed electrically-controlled variable pitch R-100 propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 4 inches (2.235 meters) made of laminated wood.

The “V-tail Bonanza” had a maximum speed of 184 miles per hour (296 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a cruise speed of 175 miles per hour ( 282 kilometers per hour)at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its service ceiling was 18,000 feet (5,486 meters). With full fuel, 40 gallons (151.4 liters), the airplane had a range of 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

The Beechcraft 35 was in production from 1947 to 1982. More than 17,000 Model 35s and the similar Model 36 were built.

Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza N80040, s/n 4, "Waikiki Beech, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza N80040, s/n 4, “Waikiki Beech,” at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

William P. Odom had flown a Douglas A-26 Invader named Reynolds Bombshell around the world in 3 days, 6 hours 55 minutes, 56 seconds, 12–16 April 1947. He made a second around the world flight, 7–11 August 1947, again flying the A-26. The duration of this second trip was 3 days, 1 hour, 5 minutes, 11 seconds. (Neither flight was recognized as a record by the FAI.)

On 8 March 1949, Odom made another FAI World Record flight with Waikiki Beech, from Honolulu to Teterboro, New Jersey, 7,977.92 kilometers (4,957.25 miles). (FAI Record File Number 9112)

With these records and record attempts, Bill Odom persuaded Jackie Cochran to buy a radically-modified P-51C Mustang named Beguine (NX4845N) for him to fly at the 1949 National Air Races at Cleveland Municipal Airport, Ohio.

Though he had never flown in a pylon race, Odom had qualified the P-51 Beguine for the 105 mile Sohio Trophy Race, held 3 September 1949. He won the race, averaging 388.393 miles per hour (625.058 kilometers per hour. He had also entered the Thompson Trophy Race, qualifying with a speed of 405.565 miles per hour (652.694 kilometers per hour.)

The Thompson Trophy Race was held on 5 September. On the second lap, Odom’s P-51 went out of control and crashed into a house near the airport. Bill Odom, along with a woman and child on the ground, were killed.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 January 1938

A Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42.
A Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42.

11 January 1938: Pan American Airways’ Sikorsky S-42B NC16734, Samoan Clipper, took off from Pago Pago, American Samoa, enroute Auckland, New Zealand. The airplane had a crew of seven, commanded by Captain Edwin C. Musick, the airline’s senior pilot, and a cargo of mail.

About two hours out, the number four engine began leaking oil. Captain Musick ordered the engine shut down. The flight radioed that they were returning to Pago Pago. They never arrived. Wreckage, a large oil slick, various documents and articles of the crew’s clothing were found by the U.S. Navy seaplane tender USS Avocet (AVP-4), 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) west of the island. It was apparent that the S-42 had exploded in mid-air.

The cause of the explosion is not known with certainty but based on Captain Musick’s handling of a similar problem with Samoan Clipper‘s number four engine on an earlier flight, a possible cause can be suggested.

Pan American Airways’ Samoan Clipper. (Hawaii Aviation)

On the earlier flight, the engine had begun seriously overheating and Musick ordered the flight engineer to shut it down. Because of the decreased power with only three engines, Captain Musick ordered the crew to begin dumping fuel to decrease the weight of the airplane before landing.

Pan American had tested the fuel dumping characteristics of the Sikorsky S-42 using dye, and learned that because of the air flow patterns around the wings, the fluid tended to accumulate around the trailing edge of the wings, and that it could actually be sucked into the wings themselves.

On the previous flight as fuel was being dumped, fuel vapors were present in the cabin, which required that all electrical systems to be shut off, even though it was night. Liquid gasoline was dripping into the cockpit from the wing above.

Pan American Airways’ Sikorsky S-42B NC16734 at Pago Pago, 24 December 1937. (Unattributed)

Samoan Clipper had been very heavy with fuel when it departed for the long transoceanic flight to Auckland. Presuming that Captain Musick once again ordered fuel to be dumped prior to landing back at Pago Pago, and that the vapors collected around the wings, the fuel could have been detonated by the electrical motors which were used to lower the flaps for flight at slower speed, or by coming into contact with the hot exhaust of the engines.

Two independent investigations were carried out by Pan American and by the United States Navy, and both came to this conclusion.

Captain Edwin Charles Musick, Chief Pilot, Pan American Airways. (1894–1938)

There were no survivors of the explosion. Killed along with Captain Musick were Captain Cecil G. Sellers, Second Officer P.S. Brunk, Navigator F.J. MacLean, Flight Engineer J.W. Stickrod, Flight Mechanic J.A. Brooks and Radio Operator T.D. Findley.

The Sikorsky S-42B was a four-engine long-range flying boat built for Pan American Airways by the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division of United Technologies at Stratford, Connecticut. It was 68 feet (20.726 meters) long with a wingspan of 118 feet, 2 inches (36.017 meters). The flying boat had a useful load of 16,800 pounds (7,620 kilograms) and seats for 37 passengers.

The S-42B was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,690.537-cubic-inch-displacement (27.703 liters) Pratt & Whitney Hornet S1E-G nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The S1E-G had a Normal Power rating of 750 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m., to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), and 875 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., for Takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The S1E-G was 4 feet, 1.38 inches (1.254 meters) long, 4 feet, 6.44 inches (1.383 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,064 pounds (483 kilograms).

The S-42B has a cruise speed 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 188 miles per hour (303 kilometers per hour). Its range was 1,930 miles (3,106 kilometers).

Ten Sikorsky S-42, S-42A and S-42B flying boats were built for Pan Am. None remain in existence.

Pan American Airways' Sikorsky S-42B NC16734, Samoan Clipper, moored at mechanic's Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, December 1937. The flying boat in the background is a Short S.23 Empire, G-ADUT, named Centaurus. (Turnbull Library)
Pan American Airways’ Sikorsky S-42B NC16734, Samoan Clipper, moored at Mechanic’s Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, December 1937. The flying boat in the background is a Short S.23 Empire, G-ADUT, named Centaurus. (Turnbull Library)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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11–12 January 1935

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Hawaii, 11 January 1935. (Getty Images/Underwood Archives)
Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 11 January 1935. On the left is 2nd Lieutenant Curtiss LeMay, U.S. Army Air Corps. 16 years later, LeMay would be promoted to the rank of general. He served as Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force 1961–1965. (Hawaii Aviation)

11 January 1935: At 4:40 p.m., local time, Amelia Earhart departed Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, for Oakland Municipal Airport at Oakland, California, in her Lockheed Vega 5C Special, NR965Y. She arrived 18 hours, 15 minutes later. Earhart was the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the Mainland.

(This Vega was not the same aircraft which she used to fly the Atlantic, Vega 5B NR7952, and which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.)

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Model 5 Vega is a single-engine high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. It was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of spiral strips of vertical grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and held together with glue. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars or other astronomical objects.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5c, NR965Y, being run up at Wheeler Field, 11 January 1935. Amelia is sitting on the running board of the Standard Oil truck parked in front of the hangar. (Hawaii Aviation)

Lockheed Model 5C Vega serial number 171 was completed in March 1931, painted red with silver trim, and registered NX965Y. The airplane had been ordered by John Henry Mears. Mears did not take delivery of the new airplane and it was then sold to Elinor Smith. It was resold twice before being purchased by Amelia Earhart in December 1934.

The Lockheed Model 5C Vega 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 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).

Earhart’s Vega 5C was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C, serial number 2849, a single-row, nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Model 5C had a cruise speed of 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) and range in standard configuration was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

“Before parting with her ‘little red bus’ (as she affectionately called it), Amelia removed the upgraded Wasp engine and substituted an obsolete model; she wanted her well-tried engine for the new airplane, also a Lockheed Vega. It was a later model, in which Elinor Smith had been preparing to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic, a plan abandoned after Amelia successfully took that record. It was originally built to exacting specifications for Henry Mears of New York, who had a round-the-world flight in mind. Called the Vega, Hi-speed Special, it carried the registration 965Y and was equipped with special fuel tanks, radio, and streamlined landing gear and cowling. These latter appointments, together with a Hamilton Standard Controllable-Pitch Propeller, gave the plane a speed of 200 mph and Amelia had her eye on further records as well as her constant journeys across the continent.”

The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1989, Chapter 17 at Page 206.

Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)
Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland, California, from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)

“. . . At Oakland Airport a good ten thousand had been waiting for several hours, yet when she came in she surprised them. They had been craning their necks looking for a lone aircraft flying high and obviously seeking a place to land. But Amelia did not even circle the field; she brought the Vega in straight as an arrow at a scant two hundred feet, landing at 1:31 p.m. Pacific time. The crowd set up a roar, broke through the police lines, and could be halted only when dangerously near the still-whirling propeller. From the road circling the airport, a chorus of automobile horns honked happily.”

Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer by Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, Brassey’s, Washington and London, 1997, Chapter 13 at Page 132.

Amelia Earhart stands in the cockpit of her Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR965Y, on arrival at Oakland Municipal Airport, 12 January 1935. (National Geographic/Corbis)

Amelia Earhart sold the Vega in 1936. It appeared in “Border Flight,” (Paramount Pictures, 1936) which starred Frances Farmer, John Howard and Robert Cummings. It changed hands twice more before being destroyed in a hangar fire 26 August 1943.

Lockheed Model 5C Vega NR965Y, on the set of a motion picture production, “Wings in the Dark,” (Paramount Pictures, 1935) or “Border Flight,” (Paramount, 1936). The woman to left of center may be Frances Farmer. Roscoe Karns, who performed in both movies, is at center. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 January 1931

Photograph of Guy Menzies and two other men standing beside his Avro Avian biplane "Southern Cross Junior" at an unidentified aerodrome (probably Wellington), taken in 1931 by Sydney Charles Smith.
Photograph of Guy Menzies and two other men standing beside his Avro Avian biplane “Southern Cross Junior” at an unidentified aerodrome (probably Wellington), taken in 1931 by Sydney Charles Smith. National Library of New Zealand, Reference Number: PAColl-0224-23

7 January 1931: Guy Lambton Menzies (1909–1940) flew an Avro 616 Sports Avian, G-ABCF, Southern Cross Junior, solo across the Tasman Sea from Mascot Aerodrome, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia to New Zealand.

Concerned that aviation authorities would prevent his flight, he had said that his destination was Perth, Western Australia.

While enroute, severe weather blew the Avian off course. Seeing an area that appeared to be level ground, he landed at the La Fontaine Swamp, Hari Hari, Westland, on New Zealand’s South Island. The airplane flipped over.

Guy Menzies was unhurt. His flight had taken 11 hours, 45 minutes.

Hokitika postmaster Ralph Cox with pioneer aviator Guy Menzies, notifying Menzies' parents of his arrival in New Zealand. (Photograph from The Auckland Weekly News, 14 January 1931, via West Coast New Zealand History)
“Hokitika postmaster Ralph Cox with pioneer aviator Guy Menzies, notifying Menzies’ parents of his arrival in New Zealand.” (Photograph from The Auckland Weekly News, 14 January 1931, via West Coast New Zealand History)

According to Terry Mace’s website, A Fleeting Peace: Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire (afleetingpeace.org), G-ABCF was repaired, but crashed again 21 April 1931 at Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Guy Menzies "Southern Cross Junior," an Avro Avian aircraft, upside down in a swamp at Harihari on the West Coast of New Zealand. Photographed by L A Inkster on the 7th of January 1931.
Inkster, Lawrence Andrew, 1897-1955. Guy Menzies Avro Avian aeroplane in a swamp at Hari Hari – Photograph taken by L A Inkster.. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP-Transport-Aviation-Aircraft-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22751222

The Avro 616 Sports Avian was a two-place, single-engine biplane, produced by A.V. Roe from 1926 to 1928. 405 were built. Guy Menzies’ airplane was a specially constructed variant, the Avro 616 Sports Avian IV-A, ordered by Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, MC, AFC, and named Southern Cross Junior. (Sir Charles had flown across the Pacific in 1928 with a Fokker F.VIIb/3m three-engine monoplane named Southern Cross). The airplane was registered to Sir Charles, 20 June 1930.

G-ABCF was 24 feet, 3 inches (7.391 meters) long. Its wingspan had been extended to 30 feet (9.144 meters). It weighed 1,005 pounds (456 kilograms) empty and had a maximum weight of 1,523 pounds (691 kilograms).

The Avian’s standard 105 horsepower A.D.C. Cirrus Hermes engine was replaced with an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 349.89-cubic-inch-displacement (5.734 liter) de Havilland Gipsy II inline 4-cylinder direct-drive engine, rated at 120 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m.

The standard airplane had a maximum speed of 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 12,500 feet (3,810 meters).

Guy Menzies with his wrecked Avro Avian, G-ABCF, at the La Fontaine Swamp. (Archives New Zealand)
Guy Menzies with his wrecked Avro 616 Avian IVA, G-ABCF, at the La Fontaine Swamp. (Archives New Zealand)

While flying a Short Sunderland Mk.I four-engine flying boat from RAF Kalafrana, Malta, Squadron Leader Guy Lambton Menzies, No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force, was killed when his airplane was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea, 1 November 1940. Menzies had previously flown Haile Salassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, from England to Alexandria, Egypt, and was reportedly on a special mission when he was reported missing.

A Short Sunderland Mk.I, W3989, of No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
A Short Sunderland Mk.I, W3989, of No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Squadron Leader Menzies’ younger brother, Flying Officer Ian Lambton Menzies, No. 24 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, was also killed in an airplane crash, 18 April 1941, near Ravenswood, North Queensland, Australia. The airplane, a Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Wirraway, A20-117, a development of North American Aviation’s NA-16 trainer, stalled during a steep turn.

Their mother, Mrs. G.P. Menzies of Drummoyne, New South Wales (a suburb of Sydney), said, “I have given my two sons to the Empire.” —The Daily Telegraph, 19 April 1941.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 January 1939

Amelia Mary Earhart (Harris & Ewing)
Judge Clarence Elliot Craig

5 January 1939: After she had been missing for 18 months, Judge Clarence Elliot Craig of the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles County declared Amelia Mary Earhart legally dead in absentia,¹ at the request of her husband, George Palmer Putnam II. She and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared while enroute from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Central Pacific, 2 July 1937.

George Palmer Putnam and Amelia Earhart had met in 1928 while he was interviewing prospects for a transatlantic flight to be sponsored by Mrs. Amy Phipps Guest. She was selected to make the flight and became the first woman to fly the Atlantic Ocean, aboard Donald Woodward’s Fokker F.VIIb/3m, Friendship, which was flown by Wilmer Stutz and Louis Gordon. (See This Day in Aviation, 17–18 June 1928) They were married 7 February 1931 at his parents’ home in Noank, Connecticut.

Judge Craig appointed Mr. Putnam as the executor of Earhart’s estate, which contemporary news reports said was “estimated at more than $10,000.”

Less than five months later, Putnam married the former Mrs. Jean-Marie Cosigney James, at Boulder City, Nevada.

George Palmer Putnam leaves the Los Angeles Superior Court after missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart was declared dead in absentia, 5 January 1939. (Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive , UCLA Library.)

¹ Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles, Probate Case File 181709

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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