Tag Archives: World Record for Altitude with a 15000 Kilogram Payload

8–19 May 1946

A 20th Air Force Boeing B-29 Superfortress. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

8–19 May 1946: Over an 11-day period, 20th Air Force Boeing B-29 Superfortresses based in the Marianas Islands set a series of twelve payload, altitude and speed records. These records were certified for the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and National Aeronautic Association (NAA) by Charles S. Logsden, the association’s official timer and records keeper. All of the record flights originated from Harmon Field on the Island of Guam.

Harmon Field, 24 January 1945. (NARA/U.S.Navy 80-G-346042)

On 8 May, a B-29 flown by Arthur A. Pearson carried a 10 000 kilogram (22,046 pounds) payload to an altitude of 12 668 meters (41,562 feet). [FAI Record File Number 10415] Other members of the flight crew were Vernon L. Dalbey, R.S. Strasburg, I. F. Bork, J.T Collins, and J. Friedberg.

Pearson’s flight crew. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

Three days later, 11 May 1946, a B-29 under the command of Colonel Beverly Howard Warren took off from Harmon Field with a payload of 15 166 kilograms (33,435 pounds) and climbed to a height of 2 000 meters (6,562 feet). [FAI Record File Number 8738] The bomber then continued to climb until it reached an altitude of 12 046 meters (39,521 feet). [FAI Record File Number 8736] Colonel Warren (later, Brigadier General) was chief of special projects, headquarters, Pacific Air Command, United States Army (PACUSA). Other members of his crew were J.R. Dale, W.D. Collier, G.S. Fish, and T.H. Hall.

Colonel Warren’s flight crew consisted of J.R. Dale, W.D. Collier, G.S. Fish and T.H. Hall. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

On 13 May, Elbert D. Reynolds, Brian P. Robson, John G. Barnes, T. Madden, K. H. Morehouse, W. C. Flynn,and  L. Lentowski flew their Superfortress with a payload of 2 000 kilograms (4,409 pounds) to an altitude 14 180 meters (46,522 feet). [FAI File Number 8738]

Elbert D. Reynolds’ flight crew, Brian P. Robson, John G. Barnes, T. Madden, K. H. Morehouse, W. C. Flynn,and  L. Lentowski. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

The following day, 14 May, John B. Tobison’s B-29 carried a  5 000 kilogram (11,023 pounds) payload to an altitude of 13 793 meters (45,253 feet). [FAI Record File Number  8243] The members of his crew were A.W. Armistead, R.M. Beattie, E.J. Joyce, R.F. Johnson and M.R. Genta.

On 15 May, Finlay Ross and his crew, which included Dougall M. Davis, flew their B-29 to an altitude of 14 603 meters (47,910 feet) with a payload of 1 000 kilograms (2,205 pounds). [FAI Record File Number 8194]

Finlay Ross’s crew (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

17 May: E.M Graboski flew his B-29 around a closed circuit for a distance of 1 000 kilometers (621.37 miles) with a 5 000 kilogram (11,023.1 pounds) payload, with an average speed of 594,97 km/h (369.697 m.p.h.). [FAI Record File Number 10424] Continuing around the closed circuit for a total of 2 000 km (1,242.74 mi.), Grabowski and his crew set records for an average speed of 588.46 km/h (365.652 m.p.h.) with a 1 000 kg (2,204.6 lbs.) payload [FAI File #13329]; 2 000 kg (4,409.3 lbs.) [FAI # 13330]; and 5 000 kg (11,023.1 lbs.). [FAI # 10425] Grabowski’s crew members were J.J. Liset, D.P. Kelly, O.W. Lambert, F.M. Polmotier.

E.M. Grabowski’s crew (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

Finally. on 19 May 1946, J.D. Bartlett, with his crewmen, William Murray, C.M. Youngblood, Don J. Shrader, and R.F. Wilson, flew their Superfortress around a closed circuit if 1 000 km (621.37 mi.) with a payload of 10 000 kg (22,046 lbs.) at an average speed of 575,71 km/h (357.730 m.p.h.); [FAI # 10408]; and 2 000 km (1,243.74 mi.) at 574,59 km/h (357.034 m.p.h.) (FAI # 10409]

Boeing B-29-1-BN Superfortress 42-93843, the final Block 1 Superfortress, circa 1944.

The B-29 Superfortress was the most technologically advanced—and complex—aircraft of World War II. It required the manufacturing capabilities of the entire nation to produce. Over 1,400,000 engineering man-hours had been required to design the prototypes.

The Superfortress was manufactured by Boeing at Seattle and Renton, Washington, and Wichita, Kansas; by the Glenn L. Martin Company at Omaha, Nebraska; and by Bell Aircraft Corporation, Marietta, Georgia.

There were three XB-29 prototypes, 14 YB-29 pre-production test aircraft, 2,513 B-29 Superfortresses, 1,119 B-29A, and 311 B-29B aircraft. The bomber served during World War II and the Korean War and continued in active U.S. service until 1960. In addition to its primary mission as a long range heavy bomber, the Superfortress also served as a photographic reconnaissance airplane, designated F-13, a weather recon airplane (WB-29), and a tanker (KB-29).

The B-29 was operated by a crew of 11 to 13 men. It was 99 feet, 0 inches (30.175 meters) long with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.068 meters). The vertical fin was 27 feet, 9 inches (8.305 meters) high. The airplane’s empty weight was 71,500 pounds (32,432 kilograms). Its maximum takeoff weight of 140,000 pounds (63,503 kilograms).

The B-29’s wings had a total area of 1,720 square feet (159.8 square meters). They had an angle of incidence of 4° and 4° 29′ 23″ dihedral. The leading edges were swept aft to 7° 1′ 26″.

The B-29 was powered by four air-cooled, turbocharged and supercharged, 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 (also known as the Duplex-Cyclone) 670C18BA4 (R-3350-23A) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines. These had a Normal Power rating of 2,000 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 2,200 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., for takeoff. They drove 16 foot, 7 inch (5.055 meter) diameter, four-bladed, Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 0.35:1 gear reduction. The R-3350-23A was 6 feet, 4.26 inches (1.937 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.78 inches (1.417 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,646 pounds (1,200 kilograms).

The maximum speed of the B-29 was 353 knots (406 miles per hour/654 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), though its normal cruising speed was 216 knots (249 miles per hour/400 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The bomber’s service ceiling was 40,600 feet (12,375 meters) and the maximum ferry range was 4,492 nautical miles (5,169 statute miles/8,319 kilometers).

The Superfortress could carry a maximum of 20,000 pounds (9,072 kilograms) of bombs in two bomb bays. For defense, it was armed 12 Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns in four remote, computer-controlled gun turrets and a manned tail position. The bomber carried 500 rounds of ammunition per gun. (Some B-29s were also armed with an M2 20 mm autocannon at the tail.)

A number of B-29 Superfortresses are on display at locations around the world, but only two, the Commemorative Air Force’s B-29A-60-BN 44-62070, Fifi, and B-29-70-BW 44-69972, Doc, are airworthy. (After a lengthy restoration, Doc received its Federal Aviation Administration Special Airworthiness Certificate, 19 May 2016.)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 February 1982

An Aeroflot Mil Mi-26 at Farnborough, 1984.
An Aeroflot Mil Mi-26 at Farnborough, 1984.

2–4 February 1982: Over a three-day period, several flight crews set a series of Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) payload-to-altitude world records at Podmoskovnoe. They flew an OKB Mil Design Bureau Mi-26 heavy lift helicopter.

On 4 February, Colonel Sergey V. Petrov and A. Chetverik lifted 15,000 kilograms (33,069.4 pounds) to 5,600 meters (18,373 feet).¹ On the same day, A. Kholoupov flew the helicopter to 4,600 meters (15,092 feet) with a payload of 20,000 kilograms(44,092.5 pounds).²

The Mil Mi-26 (NATO code name: Halo) first flew on 25 October 1977. It is a twin-engine heavy-lift helicopter, normally operated by a flight crew of five, and can carry up to 90 passengers.

The Mi-26 is 40.025 meters (131 feet, 3¾ inches) long, with all rotors turning, and has a height of 8.145 meters (26 feet, 8¾ inches). The eight-bladed main rotor has a diameter of 32.00 meters (105 feet) and turns clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the left.) A five-bladed tail rotor is mounted on a pylon, to the right side of the aircraft, in a tractor configuration. It turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left.

The helicopter has an empty weight of 28,200 kilograms (62,170 pounds), gross weight of 49,600 kilograms (109,350 pounds) and maximum weight of 56,000 kilograms (123,450 pounds). The fuel capacity is 12,000 liters (3,200 gallons).

The Mi-26 is powered by two Lotarev D-136 turboshaft engines which are rated at 8,500 kW (11,299 shaft horsepower), each. It’s cruise speed is 255 kilometers per hour (158 miles per hour) and the maximum speed is 296 kilometers per hour (183 miles per hour). Range is 620 kilometers (385 miles). The service ceiling is 4,500 meters (14,765 feet).

320 Mil Mi-26 helicopters have been built.

Sergey Petrov
Colonel Sergey V. Petrov

Colonel Sergey V. Petrov, Ph.D., was born at Tsaritsin (now, Volgograd), 15 October 1923. He graduated from the Air Force Special School at Stalingrad in 1941. In 1942, 7th VASHPOL, and 1943, Krasnodar WOW. From 1943to 1946, Petrov was a flight instructor for the 6th Aviation Regiment and then an instructor at Stalingrad Military Aviation College. In 1954, Petrov graduated from the N.E. Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy.

From 1953 to 1984, Colonel Petrov was a test pilot at the Gosudarstvenny Krasnoznamyonnyy Air Force Scientific Research Institute. He flew the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-19SU rocket-boosted high-altitude interceptor and the MiG 21F, the L-29 Delfin jet trainer, as well as gliders and competition sail planes. Switching to helicopters, he tested the Mil Mi-6 PZh fire-fighting helicopter, Mi-24 “Hind” attack helicopter and the Mi-26. He investigated Vortex Ring State in the Mi-8 and low-altitude autorotations in the Mi-2, Mi-4 and Mi-8. He also flew the aerobatic Yakovlev Yak-18P, the Yak-25 interceptor, the Antonov Ant-2, An-12, An-26 and Ilyushin Il-76 transports.

In 1976, Sergey Petrov was awarded the Lenin Prize, one of the the Soviet Union’s most prestigious honors.

Retiring from flight status in 1984, Colonel Petrov continued to work as an engineer at OKB Mil Design.

Sergey V. Petrov died 14 December 1998 at the age of 75 years. He had been awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, and twice the Order of the Red Star. He was an Honored Test Pilot of the Soviet Union.

¹ FAI Record File Number 9904

² FAI Record File Number 9906

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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