Tag Archives: World Record for Altitude with a 2000 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

28 October 1936

“Portrait of a Hero of the Soviet Union, Pilot A.B. Yumashev,” by Pyotr Konchalovsky, 1941. 140 x 111 cm., Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
“Portrait of a Hero of the Soviet Union, Pilot A.B. Yumashev,” by Pyotr Konchalovsky, 1941. Oil on canvas, 140 x 111 cm. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
A.B. Yumashev, 1939. (Central Archive of Cinema, Photographic and Phonographic Documents in St, Petersburg)
A.B. Yumashev, 1939. (Central Archive of Cinema, Photographic and Phonographic Documents in St, Petersburg)

28 October 1936: Flying a four-engine Tupolev TB-3 bomber near Tchelcovo, U.S.S.R., Юмашев Андрей Борисович (Andrey Borisovich Yumashev, A.B. Yumashev, A. Youmachev, André Youmacheff), with a crewman named Kalachnikov, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude With a 5,000 Kilogram (11,023 pounds) Payload, reaching 8,980 meters (29,462 feet).¹ This was the fourth world altitude record set by Yumashev with the TB-3.

The transport variant of the Tupolev TB-3 is identified as the ANT-6.

For the 28 October flight, Yumashev’s airplane was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 30.104 liter (1,837 cubic inches) Shvetsov ASh-62 nine-cylinder radial engines, rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., each. This engine was developed from the  earlier Shvetsov M-25, which was a license-built version of the Wright Aeronautical Corporation R-1820 Cyclone.

The previous month, Andrey Yumashev had set three similar world records. At that time the TB-3 had been powered by four liquid-cooled, supercharged, 46.928 liter (2,863.7 cubic inches) displacement, Mikulin AM-34FRN 60° V-12 engines with gear reduction, rated at 1,200 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. Interestingly, this engine had a different piston stroke length for the left and right cylinder banks, resulting in different displacement for each bank. On 11 September, Yumashev had flown the TB-3 to an altitude of 8,116 meters (26,627 feet) with a 5,000 kilogram payload.² On 16 September, he reached 6,605 meters (21,670 feet) while carrying 10,000 kilograms (22,046.23 pounds).³ Finally, on 20 September the Andrey Yumashev and the TB-3, this time with crewman Cheverdinsky, reached 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) with a 12,000 kilogram (26,455.47 pounds) payload.⁴

Soviet Air Force Tupolev TB-3 heavy bombers.
Soviet Air Force Tupolev TB-3 heavy bombers.

The Tupolev TB-3 was a four-engine heavy bomber built of a steel framework with corrugated steel skin panels. It had fixed landing gear. Initially, each main gear supported two wheels in a bicycle configuration. This was later changed to a single wheel and tire. While most were powered by liquid-cooled V-12 engines, various combinations of propellers were used. Some airplanes used wooden two-bladed propellers, while some used four-bladed propellers on the inner two engines. Later bombers used four-bladed propellers on all engines, while some ANT-6 transports used metal three-bladed variable-pitch propellers.

The first prototype had flown in 1930 and the TB-3 was in service until 1939, by which time it was obsolete. There were still more than 500 when the Great Patriotic War began in 1941. In addition to service as a heavy bomber, it also flew cargo and was a paratroop transport.

ANT-6-4M34 "Aviaarktika" modified for a 1937 polar expedition.
Tupolev ANT-6-4AM-34RVN, No. 209, “Aviaarktika,” modified for an August 1937 polar expedition. The airplane and its six-man crew disappeared.

Major General Andrey Borisovich Yumashev was born at St. Petersburg, Russian Empire, in March 1902. He entered the army in 1918, serving with artillery units. In 1924 he trained as a pilot, serving as a combat pilot until 1927 when he became a test pilot at the Research and Testing Institute of the Air Force. Over the next ten years he tested fighters, bombers, and transports, and was appointed Test Pilot First Class.

In addition to the four payload-to-altitude world records above, from 12–14 July 1937 he was copilot of a Tupolev ANT-25 which flew from Moscow to San Jacinto, California, across the North Pole.⁵

Yumashev flew the Ilyushin DB-3 long-range bomber during the Soviet Finnish War of 1940 (“The Winter War.”) During the Great Patriotic War, he commanded the 2nd Independent Fighter Aviation Squadron in defense of Moscow, then the 237th Fighter Regiment at the Kalinin Front. He served as deputy commander of the 3rd Air Force at the Kalinin Front and then the 1st Air Army on the Western Front. By the spring of 1943, he was in command of the 6th Fighter Air Corps at the Central front. By 1944, General Yumashev commanded the Eastern Front Air Defense and the Southern Front Air Defense. He participated in the attacks against Königsberg and Berlin at the end of World War II.

A. B. Yumashev retired from the Soviet military in 1946. He then went on to become an accomplished artist.

During his military service, General Yumashev was named Hero of the Soviet Union, twice was awarded the Order of Lenin, and five times the Order of the Red Banner. He was also awarded the Order of the Red Star.

Major General Andrey Borisovich Yumashev died at Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R., 20 May 1988.

General Andrey Borisovich Yumashev, Soviet Air Force (1902–1988)
Major General Andrey Borisovich Yumashev, Soviet Air Force (1902–1988)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8291

² FAI Record File Number 8209

³ FAI Record File Number 10412

⁴ FAI Record File Number 8730

⁵ FAI Record File Number 9300

© 2017, Brryan R. Swopes

14 September 1962

Major Fitzhugh L. Fulton, Jr., U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of a Convair B-58A Hustler Mach 2+ strategic bomber. (U.S. Air Force)

14 September 1962: At Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California, Major Fitzhugh L. Fulton, Jr., United States Air Force, with Captain William R. Payne, USAF, and civilian flight test engineer C.R. Haines, flew a Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler, serial number 59-2456, to a record 26,017.93 meters (85,360.66 feet) while carrying a 5,000 kilogram payload. This set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude in both the 2,000 kilogram (4,409.25 pounds) ¹ and 5,000 kilogram (11,023.11 pounds) ² classes.

Left to right, Major Fitzhugh L. Fulton, Jr., USAF, Captain William R. Payne, USAF, and civilian flight test engineer C.R. Haines. (FAI)
Left to right, Major Fitzhugh L. Fulton, Jr., USAF, Captain William R. Payne, USAF, and civilian flight test engineer C.R. Haines. (FAI)
Fitzhugh L. Fulton, Jr., 1942.

Fitzhugh Lee Fulton, Jr., was born 6 June 1925 at Blakeley, Georgia. He was the son of Fitzhugh Lee Fulton and Manila T. Fulton. He graduated from Columbus High School, Columbus, Georgia, in 1942. He later studied at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma (just south of Oklahoma City). he graduated from Golden Gate University, San Francisco, California.

Fitz Fulton married Miss Erma I. Beck at Tucson, Arizona, 16 December 1945.

He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943. He flew the Douglas C-54 Skymaster transport during the Berlin Airlift and Douglas B-26 Invaders during the Korean War. Fulton graduated from the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School in 1952. He served as project test pilot for the Convair B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber. At Edwards AFB, he flew the B-52 “motherships” for the X-15 Program. He flew the North American XB-70A Valkyrie to more than Mach 3. When Fulton retired from the Air Force in 1966, he was a lieutenant colonel assigned as Chief of Bomber and Transport Test Operations.

Fitz Fulton continued as a test pilot for NASA, flying as project pilot for the YF-12A and YF-12C research program. He flew all the early test flights of the NASA/Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and carried the space shuttle prototype, Enterprise. By the time he had retired from NASA, Fulton had flown more than 16,000 hours in 235 aircraft types.

Fitzhugh Lee Fulton, Jr., died at Thousand Oaks, California, 4 February 2015, at the age of 89 years.

Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2456 with a full weapons load. Major Fitzhugh L. Fulton, U.S. Air Force, flew this Mach 2+ strategic bomber to an altitude of 16.2 miles (26 kilometers) over Edwards Air Force Base, California, 14 September 1962. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-58 Hustler was a high-altitude Mach 2 strategic bomber which served with the United States Air Force from 1960 to 1970. It was crewed by a pilot, navigator/bombardier and a defensive systems operator located in individual cockpits. The aircraft is a delta-winged configuration similar to the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart supersonic interceptors.

The Hustler is 96 feet, 10 inches (29.515 meters) long, with a wing span of 56 feet, 10 inches (17.323 meters) and an overall height of 31 feet 5 inches (9.576 meters). The wing’s leading edge is swept back at a 60° angle and the fuselage incorporates the “area rule” which resulted in a “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape for a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag. The airplane’s only control surfaces are two “elevons” and a rudder, and there are no flaps.

The B-58A was powered by four General Electric J79-GE-5 axial-flow afterburning turbojet engines, suspended under the wings from pylons. This was a single-shaft engine with a 17-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine, rated at 10,300 pounds of thrust (45.82 kilonewtons), and 15,600 pounds (69.39 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The J79-GE-5 was 16 feet, 10.2 inches (5.136 meters) long and 3 feet, 2.0 inches (0.965 meters) in diameter.

The bomber had a cruise speed of 610 miles per hour (981.7 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 1,325 miles per hour (2,132.4 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 64,800 feet (19,751 meters). Unrefueled range is 4,400 miles (7,081 kilometers). Maximum weight is 168,000 pounds (76,203.5 kilograms).

The B-58 weapons load was a combination of a W-39 warhead, and/or Mk.43 or B61 nuclear bombs. The W-39 warhead, the same used with the Redstone IRBM or Snark cruise missile, was carried in a jettisonable centerline pod, which also carried fuel for the aircraft. The smaller bombs were carried on underwing hardpoints. For defense, there was a General Electric M61 Vulcan 20×102 mm six-barreled rotary cannon mounted in the tail, with 1,200 rounds of linked ammunition, controlled by the Defensive Systems Officer.

Convair B-58A-10-CF 59-2456 was assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Wing at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas until 1969 when it was placed in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, 9 December 1969. The record-setting strategic bomber was scrapped 1 June 1977.

FAI altitiude record setting Convair B-58A-10-CF 59-2456, showing the bomber's weapons capability. (U.S. Air Force)
FAI altitude record setting Convair B-58A-10-CF 59-2456, showing the bomber’s weapons capability. Major Fitzhugh L. Fulton, U.S. Air Force, flew this Mach 2+ strategic bomber to an altitude of 16.2 miles (26 kilometers) over Edwards Air Force Base, California, 14 September 1962. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 14656

² FAI Record File Number 14652

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes