Tag Archives: World Record for Distance

22 April 1961

Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of The Scarlett O'Hara, a record-setting Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, N172L. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of The Scarlett O’Hara, a record-setting Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, N172L. (FAI)

22 April 1961: Jackie Cochran set 18 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) records in one day flying a Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, construction number 5003, FAA registration N172L, and named The Scarlett O’Hara. The route of her flight was New Orleans–Boston–Gander–Shannon–London–Paris–Bonn, with refueling stops at Gander and Shannon.

According to the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, Jackie Cochran “…set more speed and altitude records than any other pilot.”

The following are the FAI records that she set on 22 April 1961:

4609, 4615: Speed over a recognized course, Gander, NF (Canada)–Shannon (Ireland): 829.69 kilometers per hour (515.546 miles per hour)

4611, 4616: Speed over a recognized course, Gander, NF (Canada)–London (UK): 749.11 kilometers per hour (465.475 miles per hour)

4612, 4617: Speed over a recognized course, Gander, NF (Canada)–Paris (France): 746.22 kilometers per hour (463.680 miles per hour)

4613, 4618: Speed over a recognized course, Gander, NF (Canada)–Bonn (FRG): 728.26 kilometers per hour (452.520 miles per hour)

4638: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–Gander, NF (Canada): 816.32 kilometers per hour (507.238 miles per hour)

4639, 4640: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–Shannon (Ireland): 565.45 kilometers per hour (351.354 miles per hour)

4641, 4642: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–London (UK): 558.50 kilometers per hour (347.036 miles per hour)

4643, 4644: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–Paris (France): 564.88 kilometers per hour (351.000 miles per hour)

4645, 4646: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–Bonn (FRG): 562.56 kilometers per hour (349.559 miles per hour)

12322: Distance, New Orleans, LA (USA)–Gander, NF (Canada): 3,661.33 kilometers (2,275.045 miles)

Lockheed L-1329 JetStar (FAI)
Lockheed L-1329 JetStar (FAI)

The Lockheed L-1329 JetStar was the first in a category of small-to-medium-sized jet transports that would become known as the “business jet.” Like many Lockheed airplanes, it was designed by a team led by Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson, and he retained the first prototype as his personal transport.

The JetStar is operated by two pilots and can be configured for 8 to 10 passengers. The airplane is 60 feet, 5 inches (18.41 meters) long with a wingspan of 54 feet, 5 inches (16.59 meters) and overall height of 20 feet, 5 inches (6.22 meters). The leading edge of the wings are swept to 30°. The JetStar has an empty weight of 24,750 pounds (11,226 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 44,500 pounds.

The two prototype JetStars were powered by two Bristol Siddeley Orpheus engines, but the production models were powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 turbojets engines which produced 3,300 pounds of thrust, each. The JetStar 731 was a modification program to replace the turbojet engines with quieter, more efficient and more powerful Garrett AiResearch TFE731 turbofan engines which increased thrust to 3,700 pounds per engine. New production JetStar II airplanes were equipped with these turbofans.

The JetStar’s cruise speed is 504 miles per hour (811 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed is 547 miles per hour (883 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,145 meters). The service ceiling is 43,000 feet (13,105 meters) and range is 2,995 miles (4,820 kilometers).

The Lockheed JetStar was in production from 1957 to 1978. 204 were built as civil JetStars and military C-140A Flight Check and C-140B and VC-140B JetStar transports.

The JetStar flown by Jackie Cochran on her record setting flight from New Orleans to Bonn, construction number 5003, eventually was acquired by NASA and assigned to the Dryden Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California. It was reregistered as N814NA, and used the call sign NASA 4. No longer in service, NASA 4 is on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California.

Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, N814NA, NASA 4, on static display at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (NASA)
Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, N814NA, NASA 4, on static display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark, Palmdale, California. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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16–17 April 1923

Lieutenants Oakland G. Kelly and John A. MacReady with the fuel drums for their duration flight in front of the Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenants Oakland G. Kelly and John A. Macready with the fuel drums for their duration flight in front of the Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233. (U.S. Air Force)

16–17 April 1923: At Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, U.S. Army Air Service pilots Lieutenant Oakland George Kelly and Lieutenant John Arthur Macready set four six Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for speed, distance and duration, flying the Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek Fokker T-2, serial number A.S. 64233, which they planned to fly non-stop across the United States of America.

They flew 2,500 kilometers (1,553.428 miles) at an average speed of 115.60 kilometers per hour (51.83 miles per hour); 3,000 kilometers (1,864.114 miles) at 115.27 kilometers per hour (71.63 miles per hour); 3,500 kilometers (2,174.799 miles) at 114.82 kilometers per hour (71.35 miles per hour); 4,000 kilometers (2,485.485 miles) at 113.93 kilometers per hour (70.79 miles per hour); flew a total distance of 4,050 kilometers (2,517 miles); and stayed aloft for 36 hours, 4 minutes, 34 seconds. Their overall average speed was 112.26 kilometers per hour (69.76 miles per hour).

Lieutenant Oakley G. Kelly (FAI)
Lieutenant Oakley George Kelly, U.S. Army Air Service. (FAI)
Lt. John A. Macready, Air Service, U.S. Army Signal Corps
Lieutenant John A. Macready, U.S. Army Air Service

FAI Record File Num #9312 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 2 500 km without payload
Performance: 115.60 km/h
Date: 1923-04-17
Course/Location: Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, OH (USA)
Claimant Oakley G. Kelly (USA)
Crew John A. Macready
Aeroplane: U.S. Army T-2
Engine: 1 Hall- Scott Liberty

FAI Record File Num #9313 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 3 000 km without payload
Performance: 115.27 km/h
Date: 1923-04-17
Course/Location: Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, OH (USA)
Claimant Oakley G. Kelly (USA)
Crew John A. Macready
Aeroplane: U.S. Army T-2
Engine: 1 Hall- Scott Liberty

FAI Record File Num #9314 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 3 500 km without payload
Performance: 114.82 km/h
Date: 1923-04-17
Course/Location: Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, OH (USA)
Claimant Oakley G. Kelly (USA)
Crew John A. Macready
Aeroplane: U.S. Army T-2
Engine: 1 Hall- Scott Liberty

FAI Record File Num #9315 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 4 000 km without payload
Performance: 113.93 km/h
Date: 1923-04-17
Course/Location: Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, OH (USA)
Claimant Oakley G. Kelly (USA)
Crew John A. Macready
Aeroplane: U.S. Army T-2

FAI Record File Num #9316 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Distance
Performance: 4 050 km
Date: 1923-04-17
Course/Location: Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, OH (USA)
Claimant Oakley G. Kelly (USA)
Crew John A. Macready
Aeroplane: U.S. Army T-2

FAI Record File Num #9317 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Duration
Performance: 36 hours 4 min 34 sec
Date: 1923-04-17
Course/Location: Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, OH (USA)
Claimant Oakley G. Kelly (USA)
Crew John A. Macready
Aeroplane: U.S. Army T-2
Engine: 1 Hall- Scott Liberty

The Fokker F.IV was built by Anthony Fokker’s Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek at Veere, Netherlands in 1921. The Air Service purchased two and designated the type T-2, with serial numbers A.S. 64233 and A.S. 64234.

Several modifications were made to prepare for the transcontinental flight. Normally flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit, a second set of controls was installed so that the airplane could be controlled from inside while the two pilots changed positions. On this flight, it carried 735 gallons (2,782 liters) of gasoline in three fuel tanks.

The second Fokker T-2, A.S. 64234, also designated A-2 (ambulance). (U.S. Air Force)
The second Fokker T-2, A.S. 64234, also designated A-2 (ambulance). (U.S. Air Force)

For its time, the Fokker was a large airplane: 49 feet (14.9 meters) long, with a wing span of 82 feet (25 meters). The high-wing monoplane was powered by a 1,649.3-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) liquid-cooled Liberty L12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine producing 420 horsepower. The airplane was designed to carry 8–10 passengers in an enclosed cabin.

From 2–3 May 1923, MacReady and Kelly succeeded in their non-stop transcontinental flight, flying from Roosevelt-Hazelhurst Field, Long Island, New York, to Rockwell Field (now, NAS North Island), San Diego, California,  2,470 miles (3,975 kilometers) in 26 hours, 50 minutes, 38.8 seconds, for an average speed of 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour).

The U.S. Army Air Service transferred A.S. 64223 to the Smithsonian Institution in January 1924. It is on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233 at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 1923. (FAI)
Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233 at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 1923. (FAI)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 January 1962

Colonel Clyde P. Evely, USAF with the crew of the record-setting B-52H Stratofortress 60-0040. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Clyde P. Evely, USAF with the crew of the record-setting B-52H Stratofortress 60-0040. (U.S. Air Force)

11 January 1962: Colonel Clyde P. Evely, United States Air Force, and his crew flew their Boeing B-52H-150-BW Stratofortress, 60-0040, of the 4136th Strategic Wing, from Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa to Torrejon Air Base, Spain. Called Operation Persian Rug, this was an unrefueled 21 hour, 52 minute flight that covered 12,532.30 miles (20,168.78 kilometers) at an average 604.44 miles per hour (972.75 kilometers per hour) and set 11 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), several of which still stand. Seven National Aeronautic Association records for speed over a recognized course also are current.

Others on the flight were Major Robert Carson and Captain Henry V. Sienkiewicz, second pilot and co-pilot; Major Edmund Bible, navigator; Major Dwight Baker, radar navigator; Captain Edward McLaughlin, electronics warfare officer; 1st Lieutenant William Telford, second navigator; and Master Sergeant Richard Posten, gunner.

FAI Record File Num #8647 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Distance
Performance: 20 168.78 km
Date: 1962-01-11
Course/Location: Okinawa (Japan) – Madrid (Spain)
Claimant Clyde P. Evely (USA)
Aeroplane: Boeing B-52H
Engines: 8 Pratt & Whitney TF-33(military desig.for JT-3D)

FAI Record File Num #16481 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a recognised course
Performance: 929.30 km/h
Date: 1962-01-11
Course/Location: Okinawa (Japan) – Madrid (Spain)
Claimant Clyde P. Evely (USA)
Aeroplane: Boeing B-52H
Engines: 8 Pratt & Whitney TF-33(military desig.for JT-3D)

FAI Record File Num #16483 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a recognised course
Performance: 972.75 km/h
Date: 1962-01-11
Course/Location: Okinawa (Japan) – Madrid (Spain)
Claimant Clyde P. Evely (USA)
Aeroplane: Boeing B-52H (60040)
Engines: 8 Pratt & Whitney TF-33(military desig.for JT-3D)

The flight crew of 60-0040 received awards for their world record flight, at Torrejon Air Base, Spain, 11 January 1962. (U.S. Air force)
President John F. Kennedy congratulates the crew of 60-0040. This photograph shows the crew and President Kennedy with a different airplane, B-52G 57-6486. (U.S. Air Force)
President John F. Kennedy congratulates the crew of 60-0040. This photograph shows the crew and President Kennedy with a different airplane, B-52G 57-6486. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-52H is a sub-sonic, swept wing, long-range strategic bomber. It has a crew of five. The airplane is 159 feet, 4 inches (48.6 meters) long, with a wing span of 185 feet (56.4 meters). It is 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters) high to the top of the vertical fin. Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 488,000 pounds (221,353 kilograms).

There are eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-3 turbofan engines mounted in two-engine pods suspended under the wings on four pylons. Each engine produces a maximum of 17,000 pounds of thrust (75.620 kilonewtons). The TF-33 is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine with 2 fan stages, 14-stage compressor stages (7 stage intermediate pressure, 7 stage high-pressure) and and 4-stage turbine (1 stage high-pressure, 3-stage low-pressure). The engine is 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters) long, 4 feet, 5.0 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter and weighs 3,900 pounds (15,377 kilograms).

The B-52H can carry approximately 70,000 pounds (31,750 kilograms) of ordnance, including free-fall bombs, precision-guided bombs, thermonuclear bombs and cruise missiles, naval mines and anti-ship missiles.

The bomber’s cruise speed is 520 miles per hour (837 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed is 650 miles per hour (1,046 kilometers per hour) at 23,800 feet (7,254 meters) at a combat weight of 306,350 pounds. Its service ceiling is 47,700 feet (14,539 meters) at the same combat weight. The unrefueled range is 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers).

With inflight refueling, the Stratofortress’s range is limited only by the endurance of its five-man crew.

The B-52H is the only version still in service. 102 were built and as of 27 September 2016, 76 are still in service. Beginning in 2013, the Air Force began a fleet-wide technological upgrade for the B-52H, including a digital avionics and communications system, as well as an internal weapons bay upgrade. The bomber is expected to remain in service until 2040.

The record-setting B-52, 60-0040, named The Black Widow, had been on a 7-hour training flight with an eight-man crew, 5–6 December 1988. They were practicing “touch and go” landings and takeoffs at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, near Marquette, Michigan. After the third landing, the bomber just became airborne, when at 0115 EST, “. . . At about 75 ft airborne the #30 fuel boost pump overheated due to lack of fuel to cool it down, and, because, the spark arrester was missing from the shaft of the boost pump allowing sparks into the empty tank. The fumes then combusted and exploded inflight causing the tail section to separate from the fuselage. We went crashing to the ground over the runway. Upon hitting the ground the wing section separated from the cockpit. Both went skidding down the runway and came to rest just 3400 ft from impact. The cockpit was blocking the alert ramp for the tankers. All 8 crewmembers survived, each with varying degrees of injury. The Pilot, copilot and IP sustained the more serious injuries, while the rest of us had multiple broken bones and burns but nothing terribly serious.” — Captain Anthony D. Phillips, Radar Navigator.

Colonel Clyde P. Evely retired from the Air Force after thirty years service. He died 7 April 2010 at 88 years of age.

The remains of "Balls 40", B-52H-150-BW 60-0040, The Black Widow, at K.I. Sawyer AFB, Gwinn, Michigan, 6 December 1988. (U.S. Air Force)
The remains of  B-52H-150-BW 60-0040, The Black Widow, at K.I. Sawyer AFB, Gwinn, Michigan, 6 December 1988. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 November 1995

Boeing lead test pilot for the 777, Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman, in the right seat of a Boeing 777-200LR. (Boeing)
Boeing lead test pilot for the 777, Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman, in the right seat of a Boeing 777-200LR. (Boeing)

10 November 1995: Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record for distance flown by a commercial aircraft when she and a crew of 7 additional pilots flew a Boeing 777-200LR Worldliner, N6066Z, non-stop from Hong Kong (HKG) to London Heathrow (LHR), a distance of 21,601.33 kilometers (13422.44 miles), in 22 hours, 22 minutes. During the flight, Captain Darcy-Henneman also set two speed records. The 777 averaged 981.57 kilometers per hour (609.92 miles per hour) from Los Angeles to New York, and 910.54 kilometers per hour (565.78 miles per hour) from New York to London.

Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman, Boeing's lead test pilot for the 777, on the flight deck of N6066Z during the World Record flight. (Boeing)
Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman, right, Boeing’s lead test pilot for the Model 777, on the flight deck of N6066Z during the World Record flight. (Geoff Thomas/Boeing)

FAI Record File Num #12181
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1t (Landplanes: take off weight 300 000 kg to 400 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Distance
Performance: 21 601.33 km
Date: 2005-11-10
Course/Location: Hong Kong (China) – London (UK) via Intl Date Line (N35°), Los Angeles and New York
Claimant Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann (USA)
Crew Randy AUSTIN (USA), John CASHMAN (USA), Mathew MATHEW (SIN), Frank SANTONI (USA), Philip W. SCHULTZ (USA), Rodney M. SKAAR (USA).
Aeroplane: Boeing 777-200LR (N6066Z)
Engines: 2 G E GE90

FAI Record File Num #12182 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1t (Landplanes: take off weight 300 000 kg to 400 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a recognised course
Performance: 981.57 km/h
Date: 2005-11-10
Course/Location: Los Angeles, CA (USA) – New York, NY (USA)
Claimant Suzanna Darcy-hennemann (USA)
Crew Randy AUSTIN (USA), John CASHMAN (USA), Mathew MATHEW (SIN), Frank SANTONI (USA), Philip W. SCHULTZ (USA), Rodney M. SKAAR (USA).
Aeroplane: Boeing 777-200LR (N6066Z)
Engines: 2 G E GE90

FAI Record File Num #12183 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1t (Landplanes: take off weight 300 000 kg to 400 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a recognised course
Performance: 910.54 km/h
Date: 2005-11-10
Course/Location: New York, NY (USA) – London (United Kingdom)
Claimant Suzanna Darcy-hennemann (USA)
Crew Randy AUSTIN (USA), John CASHMAN (USA), Mathew MATHEW (SIN), Frank SANTONI (USA), Philip W. SCHULTZ (USA), Rodney M. SKAAR (USA).
Aeroplane: Boeing 777-200LR (N6066Z)
Engines: 2 G E GE90

Boeing 777-200LR N6066Z. (Unattributed)
Boeing 777-200LR N6066Z. (Unattributed)

Suzanna Darcy joined Boeing’s engineering department in 1974. She learned to fly with the Boeing Employees Flying Association. Darcy graduated from the University of Washington in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics and Aeronautical Engineering. She then became a ground school instructor for Boeing’s Model 757 and 767 airliners.

In 1985, Boeing assigned Darcy-Hanneman as a production test pilot, the first woman to hold that position with the company. She was also the first woman to earn a captain’s rating on the 747-400, and is also rated on the 737, 757, 767 and 777.  She performed flight testing on the 737-300 and was the project test pilot for the 777-200LR.

In 2008, Captain Darcy-Hanneman became Chief Pilot, Boeing Commercial Airplane Services. She is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and was inducted into the Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2010.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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14–18 September 1984

Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., after setting an FAI World Record for Distance, Montenette, Italy, 18 September 1984. (Joe Kittinger collection)
Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., after setting an FAI World Record for Distance, Montenette, Italy, 18 September 1984. His deflated Yost GB55 helium balloon lies on the ground. (Joseph W. Kittinger Collection)
Yost Mfg. Co. GB55 helium balloon, N53NY, being prepared at Caribou, Maine, 14 September 1984 (Orlando Sentinel)
Yost Mfg. Co. GB55 helium balloon, N53NY, being prepared at Caribou, Maine, 14 September 1984 (Orlando Sentinel)

14–18 September 1984: Colonel Joseph W. Kittinger II, United States Air Force (Retired), lifted of from Caribou, Maine, at the extreme northeast corner of the United States, aboard Rosie O’Grady’s Balloon of Peace, a 3,000-cubic-meter Yost GB55 helium-filled balloon, registered N53NY. 86 hours later, he came rest at Montenotte, Italy, having completed the very first solo transatlantic balloon flight.

Kittinger established four Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance, having travelled 5,703.03 kilometers (3,543.70 miles). (FAI Record File Numbers 1045, 1046, 1047 and 1048) These records still stand.

This was not the first time Joe Kittinger had ascended in a balloon. The previous year he had set two FAI distance records, covering 3,221.23 kilometers (2,001.58 miles) from Las Vegas, Nevada to Farmersville, New York. (FAI Record File Numbers 1013, 1014) But he is best known for his historic high-altitude balloon flights. On 2 June 1957, Joe Kittinger rode the Project MAN-HIGH I balloon to an altitude of 97,760 feet (29,490 meters). One 16 August 1960, aboard Excelsior III, Kittinger reached 102,800 feet (31,333 meters). He then stepped out of the gondola and began the longest free-fall parachute descent attempted.

During the Vietnam War, Joe Kittinger flew 483 combat missions during three tours. He shot down one enemy MiG-21 fighter, and was later himself shot down. He was captured and held at the infamous Hanoi Hilton for 11 months.

Joseph William Kittinger II
Joseph William Kittinger II, 1999. (MSGT Dave Nolan, United States Air Force)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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