Tag Archives: World Record for Altitude with a 5000 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

9–11 November 1956

Major Roy Lee Anderson, USMC (left), and Sikorsky test pilot Robert Stewart Decker. (FAI)

9–11 November 1956: Over a three-day period at Windsor Locks, Connecticut, a Sikorsky HR2S-1 heavy-lift helicopter, flown by Major Roy Lee Anderson, United States Marine Corps, and Sikorsky test pilot Robert Stewart Decker, set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for payload and speed.

On 9 November 1956, the HR2S-1 carried a payload of  5,000 kilograms (11,023 pounds) payload to an altitude of 3,722 meters (12,211 feet). ¹

The following day, 10 November, it set a record for the Greatest Mass Carried to a Height of 2,000 Meters (6562 feet), with a payload of 6,010 kilograms (13,250 pounds). ²

On 11 November, the third day, Anderson and Decker flew the helicopter to a speed of 261,91 kilometers per hour (162.74 miles per hour) over a  3-kilometer (1.86 statute miles) course .³

For these flights, Major Anderson was awarded a third gold star in lieu of a fourth award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The world-record-setting Sikorsky HR2S-1. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

United Press reported:

US Helicopter Sets Altitude, Speed Records

     STRATFORD, Conn.—UP—A twin-engine Marine helicopter has established two international records for speed and altitude.

     The Sikorsky division of United Aircraft Corporation said one of its S56 helicopters reached 162.7 miles per hour during a recent trial. The old record, set two years ago by another Sikorsky model, was 156 miles per hour.

Tops Russian Craft

     The S56 flew more than 12,000 feet high while carrying 11,050 pounds. With the payload increased to 13,250 pounds it reached 7,000 feet, far outstripping the previous mark set by a Russian craft of 8,820 pounds to 6,560 feet.

     The altitude trials were conducted from Sikorsky’s field in Stratford. Major Roy L. Anderson was pilot and Robert S. Decker copilot.

     The records are subject to confirmation by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. The trials were conducted under the auspices of the National Aeronautics [sic] Association.

The Modesto Bee, Vol 79, No. 272, Tuesday, 13 November 1956, Page 12, Column 2

The Sikorsky HR2S-1 was an assault and heavy-lift helicopter produced for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. It was later adopted by the U.S. Army as the H-37 Mohave.

The S-56 was a large twin-engine helicopter, following the single main rotor/tail (anti-torque) rotor configuration pioneered by Sikorsky with the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 in 1939. The helicopter was designed to be flown by two pilots in a cockpit located above the main cabin. The two engines were placed in nacelles outboard of the stub wings which also housed the helicopter’s retractable main landing gear. Two large clam shell cargo doors and loading ramp were placed in the nose. The HR2S-1 incorporated a stability system and an automatic torque compensating tail rotor.

The S-56 series was the largest and fastest helicopter built up to that time, and remains the largest reciprocating engine helicopter ever built.

The S-56 was equipped with a five blade articulated main rotor. This allowed increased lift and higher forward air speed before encountering retreating blade stall than earlier three and four blade systems. A six blade rotor system was tested, which showed further improvements, but was not adopted. The main rotor diameter was initially 68 feet (20.726 meters), but later increased to 72 feet (21.946 meters). The main rotor blades had a chord of 1 foot, 9.5 inches (0.546 meters) and used the symmetrical NACA 0012 airfoil, which was standard with American helicopters up to that time. Later in the program, the blades were lengthened and the chord increased to 1 foot, 11.65 inches (0.601 meters). The airfoil was changed to the NACA 0010.9 airfoil. These changes resulted in increased lift and higher speed. The four blade tail rotor had a diameter of 15 feet (4.572 meters). The individual blades had a chord of 1 foot, 1.5 inches (0.343 meters). As is common with American helicopters, the main rotor system turned counter-clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The tail rotor turned counter-clockwise when viewed from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.)

Sikorsky S-56 three-view illustration with dimensions. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

With the longer blades installed, the helicopter’s length with rotors turning was 88 feet (26.822 meters). The fuselage had a length of 64 feet, 10.69 inches (19.779 meters), and the height was 17 feet, 2 inches (5.232 meters). The HR2S-1 had an empty weight of 21,502 pounds (9,753 kilograms), and maximum weight (overload) of 31,000 pounds (14,061 kilograms). Its fuel capacity was 1,000 U.S. gallons (3,785 liters) carried in 6 tanks located in the nacelles, wings and fuselage. It could carry 20 fully-equipped troops, or 16 litters. Its maximum cargo capacity was 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms).

The HR2S-1 had an automatic main rotor blade folding system, and its tail rotor pylon could be folded alongside the fuselage, reducing the length to 55 feet, 8 inches (16.967 meters) and width to 27 feet, 4 inches (8.331 meters). This allowed the helicopter to use aircraft carrier elevators and reduced storage space on the hangar deck.

Early S-56 models were powered by two air-cooled, supercharged 2,804.461 cubic inch displacement (45.957 liters) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp R-2800-50 two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines rated at 1,900 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. These were upgraded in later models to R-2800-54s. These were direct drive engines with a compression ratio of 6.75:1. The R-2800-54 was rated at 2,100 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) for takeoff; with a normal power rating of 1,900 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters). It required 115/145 octane aviation gasoline. Each engine was supplied with 13.3 gallons (50.35 liters) of lubricating oil. The R-2800-54 was 6 feet, 9.00 inches long (2.057 meters), 4 feet, 5.00 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms).

The helicopter’s engines were installed at an 80° angle to the aircraft center line, with a 12.5° upward angle to align with the main transmission input. The front of the engines faced inboard. According to Sikorsky, this unusual installation resulted in high oil consumption, and because the engines were operated at continuous high r.p.m., the time interval between engine overhauls was reduced from the normal 2,000 hours to just 350 hours.

Two U.S. Marine Corps HR2S-1 Mohave assault helicopters of Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (HMR) 462 at Camp Pendelton, California, late 1950s. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

The production HR2S-1 had a cruise speed of 100 knots (115 miles per hour/185 kilometers per hour), and a maximum speed of 121 knots (139 miles per hour/224 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The helicopter’s service ceiling was 13,800 feet (4,206 meters), and its absolute hover ceiling was 5,400 feet (1,646 meters). It had a maximum rate of climb of 1,580 feet per minute (8.03 meters per second) at Sea Level, and a vertical rate of climb 950 feet per minute (4.83 meters per second), also at Sea Level. The combat radius of the HR2S-1 was 100 nautical miles (115 statute miles/185 kilometers) at 100 knots (115 miles per hour/185 kilometers per hour.)

55 HR2S-1s were delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps. The U.S. Army purchased 94 S-56s in the H-37A Mohave configuration. 90 of these were later returned to Sikorsky to be upgraded to H-37Bs. This added the automatic stabilization system of the HR2S-1, changed the variable incidence horizontal stabilizers on both side of the fuselage to a single stabilizer on top of the tail rotor pylon. Engine oil capacity was increased to 30 gallons (113.6 liters) per engine.

A total of 154 S-56s were built between 1953 and 1960.

U.S. Marines exit the front cargo doors of a Sikorsky XHR2S-1 helicopter during a training exercise. (NAID 74241875

¹ FAI Record File Number 13129

² FAI Record File Number 13124

³ FAI Record File Number 13098

© 2023, 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, Bryan 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

1 August 1939

The flight crew of the FAI World Altitude Record-setting Boeing Y1B-17A. Left to right: Captain Pearl H. Robey, Captain Clarence S. Irvine and R. Swofford. (FAI)

1 August 1939: Captains Clarence S. Irvine and Pearl H. Robey, United States Army Air Corps, used the Boeing Y1B-17A Flying Fortress (Model 299F), serial number 37-369, to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude with a 5,000 Kilogram Payload. The bomber climbed to 10,371 meters (34,026 feet) with a payload of 11,023 pounds.¹ ²

On the same day, Irvine and Robey flew the Y1B-17 from Dayton, Ohio to St. Jacob, Illinois, setting an FAI World Record for Speed Over 1,000 Kilometers with a 5,000 Kilogram Payload, averaging 417.46 kilometers per hour (259.40 miles per hour).³

The flight crew of the FAI World Speed Record-setting Boeing Y1B-17A. Left to Right: Capatain C.J. Crane, P.G. Miller, Captain Clarence S. Irvine and Captain pearl H. Robey. (FAI)
The flight crew of the FAI World Speed Record-setting Boeing Y1B-17A. Left to Right: Captain Carl J. Crane, P.G. Miller, Captain Clarence S. Irvine and Captain Pearl H. Robey. (FAI)

The single Y1B-17A (Boeing Model 299F) was originally ordered as a static test article, but when that was determined to be unnecessary, it was used as an engine test aircraft. It was equipped with four 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Wright R-1820-51 (Cyclone G59) single-row nine-cylinder radial engines. Moss/General Electric turbo-superchargers were installed, initially on top of the wings, but were moved to the bottom of the engine nacelles.

Boeing Y1B-17A 37-369. (FAI)

The supercharged Wright R-1820-39 (Cyclone R-1820-G5) engines of the YB-17s were rated at 805 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., at Sea Level, 775 horsepower at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters), and 930 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., for take off. By contrast, the YB-17A’s R-1820-51 engines were rated at 800 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,000 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. for take off. But the turbochargers allowed the engines to maintain their Sea Level power rating all the way to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). Both the -39 and -51 engine had a 16:11 propeller gear reduction ratio. The R-1820-51 was 3 feet, 9.06 inches (1.145 meters) long, 4 feet, 6.12 inches (1.375 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,200.50 pounds (544.54 kilograms). 259 were produced by Wright between September 1937 and February 1940.

Boeing Y1B-17A 37-369. (U.S. Air Force)

The turbo-superchargers installed on the YB-17A greatly improved the performance of the bomber, giving it a 55 mile per hour (89 kilometer per hour) increase in speed over the supercharged YB-17s, and increasing the bomber’s service ceiling by 7,000 feet (2,132 meters). The turbo-superchargers worked so well that they were standard on all following B-17 production models.

Boeing Y1B-17A 37-369. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Boeing Y1B-17A was 68 feet, 9 inches (20.955 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9–3/8 inches (31.633 meters) and height of 14 feet, 11–5/16 inches (4.363 meters). Its empty weight was 26,520 pounds (12,029 kilograms). The maximum gross weight was 45,650 pounds (20,707 kilograms)

The Model 299F had a cruise speed of 230 miles per hour (370 kilometers per hour), a maximum speed of 271 miles per hour (436 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 295 miles per hour (475 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 38,000 feet (11,582 meters). The maximum range was 3,600 miles (5,794 kilometers). Carrying a 4,000 pound (1,814 kilogram) load of bombs, the range was 2,400 miles (3,862 kilometers).

The Y1B-17A could carry eight 600 pound (272 kilogram) bombs in an internal bomb bay. Defensive armament consisted of five .30-caliber machine guns.

Following the engine tests, 37-369 was re-designated B-17A.

The Boeing Y1B-17A in flight near Mt. Rainier on 28 February 1938. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8318

² This record-setting flight was dramatized in the motion picture “Test Pilot,” (1938, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) with Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy. This movie is now 80 years old and has a melodramatic plot, but is well worth seeing for aviation history enthusiasts.

³ FAI Record File Number 10443

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes