Tag Archives: Transoceanic Flight

5–6 February 1946

A TWA Lockheed Constellation over Paris. (Unattributed)
A TWA Lockheed Constellation over Paris. (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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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, 3 inches (29.032 meters) long with a wingspan of 123 feet (37.490 meters) and an overall height of 23 feet, 8 inches (7.214 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).

The L-049 was powered by four 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, fuel-injected, Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 745C18BA3 (also known as the Duplex-Cyclone) two-row 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. They were 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) and drove 15 foot, 2 inch (4.623 meter) diameter, three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 43E60 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/home.html
“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/home.html

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.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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31 January 1951

Charles F. Blair, Jr., standing in the cocpit of his North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, N1202, Excalibur III, 1951. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.)
Charles F. Blair, Jr., standing in the cockpit of Pan American World Airways’ North American Aviation P-51C Mustang, Excalibur III, at Bardufoss Norway, 29 May 1951. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.)

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).

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

The Harmon International Trophy at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
The Harmon International Trophy at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

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.”

Charles Francis Blair, Jr., was born 19 July 1909 at Buffalo, New York, the second child of Charles F. Blair, a lawyer, and Grace Ethelyn McGonegal Blair. He was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve in 16 August 1932.

On 6 September 1932, Ensign Blair married Miss Janice Evelyn Davis at Wallingford, Vermont.

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 and rose to the rank of captain.

Blair resigned from the Navy in 1952 and the following year he accepted a commission in the U.S. Air Force Reserve with the rank of colonel. In 1959 he 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.

Captain Blair was married to actress Maureen O’Hara, whom he had met during one of his 1,575 transatlantic crossings.

General Blair died 2 September 1978.

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 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”).

P-51C NX1202
Test pilot Herman “Fish” Salmon awaits the starter’s signal at the beginning of the 1949 Bendix Trophy Race on Rosamond Dry Lake, California. Paul Mantz had won the 1946 and 1947 races with this P-51C, NX1202, “Blaze of Noon.” (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

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 .50-caliber (12.7×99 NATO) AN-M2 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. 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

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 January 1970

Detail from painting of Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Pan American Clipper Young America, by John T. McCoy
Detail from painting of Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Pan American Clipper Young America, by John T. McCoy

22 January 1970: Captain Robert M. Weeks and crew flew the Pan American World Airways  Boeing 747-121, N736PA,  Clipper Young America, New York to London on a 6 hour, 43 minute inaugural passenger-carrying flight of the new wide-body jet. Aboard were a crew of 20 and 335 passengers. This painting showing the arrival at London Heathrow Airport, is by John T. McCoy.

Captain Weeks, at center, with the crew of Clipper Young America, London Heathrow Airport, 22 January 1970. (The Times)
Captain Robert M. Weeks, at center, with the some of the crew members of Clipper Young America, London Heathrow Airport, 22 January 1970. (The Times)

The 747-100 series was the first version of the Boeing 747 to be built. It was operated by a flight crew of three and was designed to carry 366 to 452 passengers. It is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). The interior cabin width is 20 feet (6.096 meters), giving it the name “wide body.” Its empty weight is 370,816 pounds (168,199 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 735,000 pounds (333,390 kilograms).

The 747-100 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A turbofan engines which can produce 47,670 pounds of thrust, each, with water injection (2½ minutes). Its cruise speed is 0.84 Mach (555 miles per hour, 893 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) and it’s maximum speed is 0.89 Mach (594 miles per hour/893 kilometers per hour). The maximum range at MTOW is 6,100 miles (9,817 kilometers).

The 747 has been in production for 48 years. More than 1,500 have been built. 250 of these were the 747-100 series.

N736PA had initially been named Clipper Victor, but the name was changed to Clipper Young America for the inaugural New York to London flight when the 747 scheduled to make that flight—Clipper Young America—suffered mechanical problems. The 747 was hijacked on 2 August 1970 and flown to Cuba. After that incident, N736PA was renamed Clipper Victor — its original name. It was destroyed in a collision with another Boeing 747 at Tenerife, Canary Islands, 27 March, 1977.

Pan American Airways' Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Clipper Young America, at London Heathrow Airport, 22 January 1970. (Getty Images via BBC History)
Pan American Airways’ Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Clipper Young America, at London Heathrow Airport, 22 January 1970. (Getty Images via BBC History)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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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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