Tag Archives: World Record for Distance

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).¹ 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.² 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)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 1045, 1046, 1047 and 1048

² FAI Record File Numbers 1013, 1014

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 September 1961

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards Air Force Base, 1961. (U.S. Air Force)
Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1961. (U.S. Air Force)

18 September 1961: Jackie Cochran, acting as a test pilot and consultant for Northrop Corporation, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance when she flew the Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, from Palmdale, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota, a distance of 2,401.780 kilometers (1,492.397 miles).¹

Jacqueline Cochran's Diplôme de Record in teh San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)
Jacqueline Cochran’s Diplôme de Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)

Jackie’s friend, famed Air Force test pilot Colonel Chuck Yeager, kept notes during the series of record attempts:

September 18: Jackie took off from Palmdale at 10:00 am for attempt to set records from points to points. I took off from Edwards with 275-gallon [1,041 liter] drop tanks. During climb Jackie reported rough engine and poor performance. Also the fuel flow was inoperative. Jackie returned to the field where I finally found her takeoff flaps were still down. Also her navigation lights and beacon were on. I was rather disappointed. She’s a little cocky in the airplane. She landed back there at Palmdale with 1500 pounds [680 kilograms] of fuel in each side and made a good heavy-weight landing. The aircraft refueled and another takeoff was made at 12:30 pm. Everything went smooth this flight. We ran into clouds at the edge of Utah which lasted until Cheyenne, Wyo. Clear the rest of the way. Jackie landed with 250 pounds of fuel in each side. Made a beautiful landing and turned off after a 4000 foot [1,220 meters] ground roll. Bob White returned the F-100 to Edwards.

—  Brigadier General Charles Elwood (“Chuck”) Yeager, U.S. Air Force, quoted in Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, Pages 306.

Jackie Cochran and Chuck Yeager at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight in the record-setting Northrop T-38A Talon. (U.S. Air Force)
Jackie Cochran and Chuck Yeager at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight in the record-setting Northrop T-38A Talon. (U.S. Air Force) 

The Northrop T-38A Talon is a two-place, twin-engine jet trainer capable of supersonic speed. It is 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The trainer’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms).

The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).

Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)

It has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour, 1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The Talon’s service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) and it has a maximum range of 1,093 miles (1,759 kilometers).

In production from 1961 to 1972, Northrop has produced nearly 1,200 T-38s. As of January 2014, the U.S. Air Force had 546 T-38A Talons in the active inventory. It also remains in service with the U.S. Navy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Jackie Cochran’s record-setting T-38 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.

Northrop T-38A Talon 60-0551, now twenty-one years old, sits on the ramp at the Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, 1981. (Photograph by Gary Chambers, used with permission)
Northrop T-38A Talon 60-0551, now twenty-one years old, sits on the ramp at the Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, 1981. (Photograph by Gary Chambers, used with permission)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12383

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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16–17 August 1989

Qantas' Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, Spirit of Australia. (Aero Icarus)
Qantas’ Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra. (Aero Icarus)

16–17 August 1989: On its delivery flight, Qantas’ first Boeing 747-438 Longreach airliner, VH-OJA, City of Canberra, was flown by Captain David Massey-Green from London Heathrow Airport, England (IATA: LHR, ICAO: EGLL) to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, Australia (IATA: SYD, ICAO: YSSY), non-stop. Three other senior Qantas captains, Ray Heiniger, George Lindeman and Rob Greenop completed the flight deck crew. Boeing Training Captain Chet Chester was also aboard.

The distance flown by the new 747 was 17,039.00 kilometers (10,587.54 miles) at an average speed of 845.58 kilometers per hour (525.42 miles per hour). The flight’s duration was 20 hours, 9 minutes, 5 seconds. This set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance and World Record for Speed Over a Recognized Course.

The crew of Qantas Flight 741. Front row, left to right: FSD David Cohen, FSD Mal Callender. Back row, left to right: Captain Ray Heiniger, Captain David Massey-Greene, Captain George Lindeman, Captain Rob Greenop.
The crew of Qantas Flight 7741. Front row, left to right: FSD David Cohen, FSD Mal Callender. Back row, left to right: Captain Ray Heiniger, Captain David Massey-Greene, Captain George Lindeman, Captain Rob Greenop. (Unattributed)

FAI Record File Num #2201 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
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: 17 039.00 km
Date: 1989-08-17
Course/Location: London (United Kingdom) – Sydney, NSW (Australia)
Claimant David Massy-greene (AUS)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747-400 (VH-OJA)
Engines: 4 Rolls Royce RB 211

FAI Record File Num #2202 [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: 845.58 km/h
Date: 1989-08-17
Course/Location: London (United Kingdom) – Sydney, NSW (Australia)
Claimant David Massy-greene (AUS)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747-400 (VH-OJA)
Engines: 4 Rolls Royce RB 211

Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra at Sydney, Australia, August 1989. The motto, WE FLY FURTHER has been painted on the fuselage in recognition of the new airliner's distance record. (John McHarg)
Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra, at Sydney, Australia, August 1989. The motto, WE GO FURTHER has been painted on the fuselage in recognition of the new airliner’s distance record. (John McHarg)

VH-OJA was the first of four Boeing 747-400 airliners ordered by Qantas more than two years earlier. The company named these “Longreach” both to emphasize their very long range capabilities, but also as a commemoration of the first scheduled passenger flight of the Queensland and Northern Territories Aerial Services Ltd. at Longreach, Queensland, 2 November 1922. Qantas named the new airliner City of Canberra. The new 747, the twelfth -400 built, with U.S. registration N6064P, it made its first flight at Seattle with Boeing’s test pilots on 3 July 1989. It was turned over to Qantas on 9 August.

Planning for the record setting flight began almost as soon as the airplane had been ordered. Although the airplane was complete and ready to enter passenger service on arrival at Sydney, certain special arrangements were made. Shell Germany refined 60,000 gallons (227,000 liters) of a special high-density jet fuel and delivered it to Heathrow. Rolls-Royce, manufacturer of the RB211-524G high-bypass turbofan engines, had agreed to specially select four engines to be installed on VH-OJA at the Boeing plant at Everett, Washington.

On the morning of the flight, City of Canberra was towed to the Hold Short position for Runway 28 Right (28R) so as not to use any of the precious fuel while taxiing from the terminal. Once there, its fuel tanks were filled to overflow. The airport fire department stood by as the excess fuel ran out of the tank vents. In the passenger cabin were two Flight Service Directors, FSD David Cohen and FSD Mal Callender, and eighteen passengers including senior executives from Qantas, Boeing, Shell as well as representatives of the Australian news media. The flight crew planned the engine start to allow for the mandatory three-minute warm-up and at approximately 0840 local, called the Tower, using the call sign Qantas 7441, and said that they were ready for takeoff.

After climbing to altitude they began the cruise portion of the flight at Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet or 10,058 meters). As fuel was burned off the airliner gradually climbed higher for more efficiency, eventually reaching a maximum altitude of 45,100 feet (13,746.5 meters) by the time they had reached the west coast of Australia.

QF7441 touched down at Sydney Airport at 2:19 p.m, local time (0419 UTC) in—well, let’s just call it rain and leave it at that. (There is more to the story. . . .)

City of Canberra, Qantas' first Boeing 747-400-series airliner, touches down at Sydney Airport, 2:19 p.m., local, 17 August 1989. (Qantas Heritage Collection)
City of Canberra, Qantas’ first Boeing 747-400-series airliner, registered VH-OJA, touches down at Sydney Airport, 2:19 p.m., local, 17 August 1989. (Qantas Heritage Collection) 

For a more detailed description of this flight and its planning, see John McHarg’s article, “The Delivery Flight of Qantas Boeing 747-438 VH-OJA” at:

http://www.aussieairliners.org/b-747/vh-oja/vhoja%20article/vhojastory.html

City of Canberra, VH-OJA, remains in Qantas service twenty-four years later. Its distance record stood until 10 November 1995 when another Boeing airliner, a 777-200LR with Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman in command, set a new distance record.

Qantas' Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra, on takeoff, 2011. (Aero icarus)
Qantas’ Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra, on takeoff from Sydney, 1999. (Aero Icarus)

The Boeing 747-400 airliner can carry between 416 and 660 passengers, depending on configuration. It is 231 feet, 10 inches (70.6 meters) long with a wingspan of 211 feet, 5 inches (64.4 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 8 inches (19.4 meters). Empty weight is 394,100 pounds (178,800 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 875,000 pounds (396,890 kilograms). While the prototype was powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW4056 turbofan engines, production airplanes could be ordered with PW4062, General Electric CF6 or Rolls-Royce RB211 engines, providing thrust ranging from 59,500 to 63,300 pounds. The –400 has a cruise speed of 0.85 Mach (567 miles per hour, 912 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 0.92 Mach (614 miles per hour, 988 kilometers hour). Maximum range at maximum payload weight is 7,260 nautical miles (13,450 kilometers).

A Qantas Boeing 747-438 Longreach, VH-OJU, Lord Howe Island, leaves contrails across the sky. (Unattributed)
A Qantas Boeing 747-438 Longreach, VH-OJU, Lord Howe Island, leaves contrails across the sky. (Unattributed)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 June 1986

Looking southeast across the Columbia Valley toward Mount 7, Golden, British Columbia, Canada. The 1,942-meter peak is in a cloud shadow, just to the right of the center of the image. (Golden Flying Site)

2 June 1986: Randy Haney, of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, launched his Airwave Magic IV 166 hang glider from the lower launch site on Mount 7, at an elevation of 1,560 meters (5,118 feet) above Sea Level.

Mount 7 is a 1,942-meter (6,371 feet) peak on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountain Trench, a 1,600 kilometer (1,000 miles) geologic feature crossing British Columbia and the Yukon. The peak is located just southeast of the town of Golden, B.C., which marks the beginning of a southwestern segment of the trench, known as the Columbia Valley.

Haney flew along the Columbia Valley until he crossed the international boundary between Canada and the United States. He landed at Trego, Montana. The flight covered 321.5 kilometers (199.8 miles). This set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance.¹

The Airwave Magic IV 166 has a wingspan of 33 feet, 8 inches (10.26 meters). The leading edge of each wing is 19 feet, 8 inches (5.99 meters) long. The chord at the wing root is 7 feet, 10 inches (2.388 meters) at the root. The hang glider weighs 62 pounds (28 kilograms).

Haney later founded Winds Italia and designed its Raven and Orbiter powered hang gliders.

¹ FAI Record File Number 1670

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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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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