Tag Archives: World Record for Altitude

18 August 1932

Auguste Piccard loads supplies aboard the gondola of his balloon, 18 August 1932. Aktuelle-Bilder-Centrale, Georg Pahl (Bild 102)
Auguste Piccard loads supplies aboard the gondola of his balloon, 18 August 1932. Aktuelle-Bilder-Centrale, Georg Pahl (Bild 102)

18 August 1932: At 5:04 a.m., Professor Auguste Antoine Piccard and his assistant, Max Cosyns, used a hydrogen-filled balloon to lift their pressurized gondola from Dübendorf Airfield, Zürich, Switzerland, into the stratosphere on an expedition to investigate the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere and to study cosmic radiation. During the 12 hour flight, Piccard and Cosyns reached an altitude of 16,201 meters (53,153 feet), setting a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude.¹

The expedition was funded by Belgium’s Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS).

Auguste Piccard's balloon being inflated with hydrogen at Dübendorf Flughafen, Zurich, Switzerland, during the night of 17–18 August 1932. (Unattributed)
Auguste Piccard’s balloon being inflated with hydrogen at Dübendorf Flughafen, Zürich, Switzerland, during the night of 17–18 August 1932. (Unattributed)

Piccard’s balloon was made of rubberized cotton fabric. It had a maximum volume of 500,000 cubic feet (14,158 cubic meters) and weighed, by itself, approximately 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms). When it expanded to its maximum size in the upper atmosphere, the diameter was 99 feet (30.2 meters). The gondola was constructed of aluminum and was 7 feet (2.14 meters) in diameter. There were to hatches for entry and exit, and seven port holes.

The outer surface of the spherical gondola was painted half white and half black. This was intended to control interior heat by turning the lighter side toward or away from the sun by means of a small propeller mounted to a horizontal stanchion. Unfortunately for the two aeronauts, this did not work. The hermetically sealed hatches allowed the gondola to maintain the surface atmospheric pressure as it rose into the stratosphere. The air contained inside the aluminum sphere was recycled through a Draeger system of the type used in submarines. This added oxygen to replace that consumed and extracted the carbon dioxide that was exhaled.

The balloon reached the peak altitude at 12:12 p.m. During the ascent, the temperature inside the gondola dropped to 5 °F. (-15 °C.). It landed near Lake Garda in Northern Italy, a little after 3:15 p.m.

This was Piccard’s second ascent into the stratosphere. On 27 May 1931 he and Paul Kipfer lifted off from Augsburg, Germany and rose to a record altitude of 15,781 meters (51,775 feet).  (FAI Record File Number 10634) They landed at the Großer Gurgler Ferner galcier near Obergurgl in the Tyrolian Alps.

Professor Piccard was made Commandeur de l’Ordre de Léopold and Max Cosyns, Chevalier de l’Ordre de Léopold by Albert I, King of the Belgians. Professor made nearly 30 ascents into the upper atmosphere before turning to the exploration of the very deep oceans with his bathyscaphe, Trieste.

Commander of the Order of Leopold, Civil Division.
Commander of the Order of Leopold, Civil Division.

¹ FAI Record File Number 6590

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 July 1959

Major General Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin, Hero of the Soviet Union

14 July 1959: At Podmoskovnoe, USSR, famed Soviet test pilot Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin flew the Sukhoi T-43-1, a prototype of the Su-9 interceptor, to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude of 28,852 meters (94,659 feet).¹

Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin was the son of Sergey Ilyushin, the Soviet aircraft designer. He made the first flights of many Sukhoi fighters. A Hero of the Soviet Union, he retired with the rank of major general.

Sukhoi T-43-1
Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin, wearing flight suit and helmet, with a Sukhoi Su-9 in the background.
Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin, wearing flight suit and helmet, with a Sukhoi Su-9 in the background.

The Sukhoi T-43-1 was the prototype for the Su-9 all-weather interceptor, a single-place, single-engine Mach 2+ fighter. It was built from the first pre-production Sukhoi T-3, with a new nose section and enlarged rear fuselage to accommodate a larger engine.

The production Su-9 is similar in appearance to the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21, but is much larger and heavier. It is 17.37 meters (56.99 feet) long with a wingspan of 8.43 meters (27.66 feet) and overall height of 4.88 meters (16.01 feet). The interceptor’s empty weight is 8,620 kilograms (19,004 pounds), and the maximum takeoff weight is 13,500 kilograms (29,762 pounds).

Sukhoi T-43-12 prototype.
Sukhoi T-43-12 prototype.

Both the T-43-1 prototype and the production Su-9 are powered by a Lyulka AL-7 nine-stage axial flow turbojet engine which produces 22,050 pounds of thrust with afterburner.

The Su-9 has a maximum speed of Mach 2.0 (2,135 kilometers per hour, 1,327 miles per hour). The service ceiling is 16,760 meters (54,987 feet) and range is 1,125 kilometers (699 miles).

The T-43-1 later set FAI records for sustained altitude and speed over a measured course.

Sukhoi Su-9
Sukhoi Su-9, right front quarter
Sukhoi Su-9
Sukhoi Su-9, right profile

¹ FAI Record File Number 10351

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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Joseph Sadi-Lecointe (11 July 1891–15 July 1944)

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, 1924

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was born 11 July 1891 at Saint-Germain-sur-Bresle, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.

Sadi-Lecointe was employed as an aircraft welder. On 30 January 1910, without any instruction, he took off from Issy-les-Moulineaux in a monoplane designed by George and Gendre Zénith. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1911.

Adjutant Joseph Sadi-Lecointe with a Morane-Saulnier, circa 1915. (Musée de l’air et de l’espace)

He joined the Service Aéronautique (the original form of the French Air Force) as a mechanic in October 1912, and was designated pilote militaire nº375, 20 September 1913.

Sadi-Lecointe was promoted to sergeant 6 July 1914. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2 with l’escadrille BL 10 from 1 August 1914 to 6 March 1915. After serving five weeks with the RGA, Sergent Sadi-Lecointe was transferred to N 48, flying the Nieuport X. He was promoted to Adjutant, a warrant officer rank, 17 April 1915. On 23 November 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord. Sadi-Lacointe was promoted to sous-lieutenant in October 1916. On 17 September 1917 he was assigned as a test pilot at BlériotSociété Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, where he worked on the development of the famous SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was a test pilot for the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.VII C.1 and S.XIII C.1 fighters. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

After the War, he was a test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge, and participated in numerous races and set a series of speed and altitude records with the company’s airplanes. He won the Coupe Deutsche de la Meurthe, 3 August 1920, and the Gordon Bennett Aviation Trophy Race, 28 September 1920, flying a Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V. He also won the Coupe Beaumont, 23 June 1924, flying the Nieuport-Delâge Type 42. Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1924.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe with the Blériot-SPAD S.26 during trials for the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider races, 1919. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe in the cockpit of his Nieuport-Delâge NiD-29 V racer during te eGordon Bennett races. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
Nieuport-Delâge NiD-42 S. (FAI)
Sadi-Lecointe’s record-setting Nieuport-Delâge NiD-40 R. (FAI)

Sadi-Lecointe returned to military service in 1925 and participated in the Second Moroccan War. Then in 1927, he returned to his position as chief test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge. From 1936 to 1940, he served as Inspecteur général de l’aviation civile (Inspector General of Aviation) for the French Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Lieutenant Colonel Sadi-Lecointe was again recalled to military service as Inspector of Flying Schools.

With the Fall of France, Sadi-Lacointe was dismissed by the Vichy government. He joined La Résistance française, and operated with the group, Rafale Andromède. He was arrested 21 March 1944 and held at the Fresnes prison in Paris, where he was interrogated and tortured. He was released to l’hôpital Saint-Louis, Paris, and died there, 15 July 1944.

Centre pénitentiaire de Fresnes

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, was awarded the Croix de Guerre in three wars. He was posthumously awarded the Médaille de la Résistance. The Aéro-Club de France awarded him its Grande Médaille d’Or. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set six World Records for Speed,¹ and two World Records for Altitude.²

MORT POUR LA FRANCE

The Cross of Lorraine was the symbol of La Résistance française during World War II. (© Ray Rivera)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers: 15489, Speed over 100 km, 279,50 km/h (173.67 m.p.h.), 25 September 1920; 15494, Speed over 200 km, 274,60 km/h (170.63 m.p.h.), 28 September 1920; 15498, Speed over a straight 1 km course, 296,69 km/h (184.36 m.p.h.), 10 October 1920; 15499, Speed over a straight 1 km course, 302,53 km (187.98 m.p.h.), 20 October 1920; 15279, Speed, 375 km/h (233 m.p.h.), 15 October 1923; and Speed over a given distance of 500 km, 306,70 km/h (190.58 m.p.h.), 23 June 1924.

² FAI Record File Numbers: 8246, 10 741 m (35,240 ft.), 5 September 1923; 11750, 8 980 m (29,462 ft.), 11 March 1924.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 July 1927

The Honorable Mary Bailey D.B.E. (1890–1960) (Monash University)

5 July 1927: Less than one year after learning to fly an airplane, Lady Bailey, with Mrs. Geoffrey de Havilland (the former Miss Louise Thomas) as a passenger, took off from the de Havilland airfield at Stag Lane, Edgeware, London, England, and climbed to an altitude of 5,268 meters (17,283 feet) setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for multi-place light aircraft.¹ (Mrs. de Havilland is listed as “crew” in the FAI record.)

Lady Bailey was flying Captain Geoffrey de Havilland’s personal airplane, a DH.60X Moth, construction number 276, registration G-EBQH.

de havilland DH.60X Hermes Moth G-EBWD, the same type airplane flown by Lady Bailey. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
de havilland DH.60X Hermes Moth G-EBWD, the same type airplane flown by Lady Bailey. (This is the same airplane shown in the photograph below.) (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Lady Bailey was born Mary Westenra, daughter of the 5th Baron Rossmore. She married Sir Abe Bailey at the age of 20. Soon after becoming a licensed pilot in early 1927 (Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate 8067), she flew across the Irish Sea, the first woman to do so. After her World Record altitude flight, she set several long distance solo flight records, including an 8,000-mile  (12,875 kilometers)flight from Croydon, South London to Cape Town, South Africa with a DH.60 Cirrus II Moth, G-EBSF, and an 10,000-mile (16,093 kilometers) return flight made with another DH.60 (after G-EBSF was damaged). These were the longest solo flight and the longest flight by a woman to that time.

Lady Bailey was twice awarded the Harmon Trophy (1927, 1928). In 1930, she was invested Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. During World War II, The Hon. Dame Mary Bailey, D.B.E., served with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force with the rank of Section Officer, equivalent to a Royal Air Force sergeant.

Lady Mary died 29 July 1960 at the age of 70.

The de Havilland DH.60 was a light-weight, two-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane. The fuselage was covered with plywood and the wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric. It was 23 feet, 5½ inches (7.150 meters) long with a wingspan of 29 feet, 0 inches (8.839 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 9½ inches (2.680 meters). The airplane was designed so that the wings could be folded parallel to the fuselage, giving it an approximate width of 9 feet (2.7 meters). The wings had a chord of 4 feet, 3 inches (1.295 meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 4 feet, 10 inches (1.473 meters) and lower wing was staggered 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) behind the upper. Both wings had 3.5° angle of incidence and 3.5° dihedral. There was no sweep. Empty, the DH.60 had a weight of 764 pounds (346.6 kilograms) and loaded weight of 1,650 pounds (748 kilograms).

G-EBQH was a prototype for the de Havilland DH.60 Cirrus II Moth, and was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 304.66-cubic-inch-displacement (4.993 liter) A.D.C. Cirrus Mark II four-cylinder vertical inline engine. This was a right-hand tractor, direct-drive, overhead-valve engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.9:1. It had a normal power rating of 75 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. and a maximum power rating of 80 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The Cirrus Mk.II was 3 feet, 9.3 inches (1.151 meters) long, 1 foot, 7 inches wide (0.483 meters) and 2 feet, 11.6 inches (0.904 meters) high. It weighed 280 pounds (127 kilograms).

G-EBQH was used as a factory demonstrator and test aircraft. The DH.60X crashed in February 1928 but was rebuilt and later sold. It was flown in the King’s Cup Air Races of 1927, 1928 and 1929 by Alan S. Butler, the chairman of de Havilland. The prototype was modified to a single-place configuration with a Cirrus Mark III engine, and was known as the Moth Special. In the 1929 race, it set the fastest time for a light aircraft.

Records indicate that G-EBQH changed ownership a number of times. Its Certificate of Airworthiness expired in 1937 and its status is not known.

A de Havilland DH.60X Moth G-EBWD at Naval Air Day at Shuttleworth, 2 June 2002. This airplane is similar to the DH.60X that Lady Bailey flew to her FAI altitude record. (This is the same airplane shown in the photograph above).

¹ FAI Record File Number 8221

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 July 1973

Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Manning, Major Paul M. Schaefer and Technical Sergeant Emund K. Schindler, the record-setting crew of Chuck’s Challenge. (FAI)

4 July 1973: One of the last Grumman Albatross flying boats in service with the United States Air Force, HU-16B 51-5282, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) altitude record for amphibians (Class C-3) when, at 12:33 p.m. EDT, it reached 10,022 meters (32,881 feet).¹ This exceeded the previous record set 37 years earlier by 2,417 meters (7,930 feet).²

Flown by Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Manning, Major Paul M. Schaeffer and Technical Sergeant Emund K. Schindler, 51-5282 was assigned to the 301st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Homestead AFB, Florida. After the flight, Manning said, “It wasn’t very comfortable. The outside temperature was 25 below zero.” The Air Force Times reported that the cold caused the lens of Sergeant Schindler’s watch to pop out.

Originally built as an SA-16A, 51-5282 was modified to the SA-16B standard, increasing the wingspan to 96 feet, 8 inches (29.464 meters) and altering the leading edges. Larger tail surfaces were added. In 1962 the designation was changed from SA-16B to HU-16B.

The Albatross was operated by a crew of 4 to 6 airmen, and could carry up to 10 passengers. The amphibian was 62 feet, 10 inches (19.152 meters) long and had an overall height of 25 feet, 11 inches (7.899 meters). The airplane’s total wing area was 1,035 square feet (96.15 square meters). The HU-16B had an empty weight of 23,025 pounds (10,444 kilograms), and maximum takeoff weight of 37,500 pounds (17,010 kilograms). For takeoff from water, the airplane’s weight was limited to 34,000 pound (15,422 kilograms), using rocket assist.

Grumman SA-16B Albatross (designated HU-16B in 1962). (U.S. Air Force)

The SA-16A was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 826C9HD3 and -D5 (R-1820-76A and -76B) nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.80:1. 115/145 octane aviation gasoline was required. These engines were rated at 1,275 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m., and 1,425 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m for takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic full-feathering, reversible-pitch propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 0 inches (3.353 meters) through a 0.666:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-76A and -76B were 3 feet, 11.69 inches (1.211 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.95 inches (1.396 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,380 pounds (626 kilograms).

The Albatross could be equipped with two or four Aerojet 14AS1000 RATO units, which produced 1,000 pounds of thrust (4.49 kilonewtons), each, for 15 seconds.

The flying boat had a cruise speed of 134 knots (154 miles per hour/248 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 204 knots (235 miles per hour/379 kilometers per hour) at 3,700 feet (1,128 meters). The service ceiling was 23,800 feet (7,254 meters) and its maximum range was 2,410 nautical miles (2,773 statute miles/4,463 kilometers) with external fuel tanks.

Two weeks after the record-setting flight, 51-5282 was flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, making the very last USAF HU-16 flight.

FAI record-setting Grumman HU-16B Albatross 51-5282 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 3208

² FAI Record File Number 11649, 11650: 7,605 meters (24,951 feet), 14 April 1936,  by Boris Vasilievich Sergievsky, Chief Pilot, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, flying a Sikorsky S-43, with Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky and Michael Pravikov.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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