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.
¹ FAI Record File Numbers 1045, 1046, 1047 and 1048
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
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 inJackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, Pages 306.
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).
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.
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 ¹ and World Record for Speed Over a Recognized Course.²
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).
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:
City of Canberra, VH-OJA, remained in Qantas service until 8 March 2015. The airliner was withdrawn from service and donated to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Museum at Illawara Regional Airport (YWOL), New South Wales. 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.
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).
¹ FAI Record File Number 2201: Distance, 17 039.00 km
² FAI Record File Number 2202: Speed over a recognised course, 845.58 km/h
6 July 1939: Ольга Васильевна Клепикова(Olga Vasil’yevna Klepikova) flew an Antonov RF-7 glider from Tushino airport, Moscow, to Mikhaylovka, in the Stalingrad region of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. She set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance at 749.203 kilometers (465.533 statute miles).¹
Klepikova’s glider was towed aloft by a Polikarpov P-5 biplane, and then released at an altitude of 1,000 meters (3,281 feet). She circled overhead for approximately an hour, gaining altitude, before heading toward Stalingrad. The total duration of the flight was 8 hours, 25 minutes.
Once she landed near Mikhaylovka, Tovarisch (Comrade) Klepikova was captured by “vigilant farmers” who presumed that she was a German spy. They turned her over to the NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del), the infamous predecessor to the KGB.
Olga Vasil’yevna Klepikova was born at Tula, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) south of Moscow, on 10 October 1915.
Gospohzha Klepikova studied at the Tula FZU (Fabrichno-Zavodskoe Uchilishe), an industrial technical school, and she then worked as a lathe operator in an armaments factory.
Comrade Klepikova joined the Tula Aero Club in 1930, where she was taught to fly. In 1933, she was sent to Moscow as an instructor for the Central Aero Club at Tushino.
During the Great Patriotic War, Comrade Klepikova served as a flight instructor at Stalingrad. She worked as a test pilot at Kazan and then Rostov on Don from the end of the War until 1953.
Gospohzha Klepikova married a fellow test pilot, and they had two daughters. The family relocated to the area of Kiev, Ukraine. As of 2002, she lived in Vasiljena, Kiev, Ukraine, with a pension equivalent to $20 per month.
Olga Vasil’yevna Klepikova, an Honored Master of Sports of the USSR, died at Kiev, 27 July 2010, at the age of 95 years. Her remains were interred at the Baikove Cemetery in Kiev.
Gospohzha Klepikova’s glider was a Рот-Фронт-7 (Rot-, or Roth-Front 7), designed by Oleg Konstantinovich Antonov. It was one of five built at the Moscow Glider Factory. The Rot-Front 7 was a single-place, high wing monoplane glider, constructed primarily of wood. It was covered with 1.5–3.5 millimeter thick plywood. Wing flaps allowed the glider to land in fairly small areas. The RF-7 was 5.00 meters (16 feet, 4.9 inches) long, with a wingspan of 16.24 meters (53 feet, 3.4 inches), and height of 1.55 meters (5 feet, 1.0 inches). The wings had a total area of 12.5 square meters (134.6 square feet), with an aspect ratio of 22.5. As much as 120 liters (31.7 gallons) of water ballast was carried in a tank behind the pilot. There was a single, retractable wheel under the ballast tank, which was enclosed by two aluminum doors.
The RF-7 had a best cruise speed of 85 kilometers per hour (52.8 miles per hour), and it had a maximum speed of 88 kilometers per hour (54.6 miles per hour).
The Rot-Front 7 was considered to be the best aerobatic glider of its time, and was designed to withstand a load factor of 8 gs.
¹ FAI Record File Number 4386: World Record for Distance, Class D, Feminine: 749.20 kilometers (465.53 statute miles); and FAI Record File Number 13606: World Record for Distance, Class D, General: 749.203 kilometers (465.533 statute miles).