Tag Archives: World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course

19 June 1947

P-80R speed run
Colonel Boyd flies the Lockheed XP-80R over the 3 kilometer course at Muroc Army Air Field, 19 June 1947. (U.S. Air Force)

19 June 1947: At Muroc Army Airfield (now, Edwards Air Force Base) Colonel Albert Boyd, United States Army Air Forces, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course, with an average speed of 1,003.81 kilometers per hour (623.74 miles per hour).¹ This was not just a class record, but an absolute world speed record.

Col. Boyd flew the Lockheed P-80R Shooting Star, serial number 44-85200, four times over the course, twice in each direction. The record speed was the average of the two fastest consecutive runs. As can be seen in the above photograph, these runs were flown at an altitude of approximately 70 feet (21 meters).

Originally a production P-80A-1-LO Shooting Star, 44-85200 had been converted to the XP-80B, a single prototype for the improved P-80B fighter.

Lockheed P-80A-1-LO shooting Star 44-85004, similar to the fighter being test flown by Richard I. Bong, 6 August 1945. (U.S. Air Force)
A very early production Lockheed P-80A-1-LO Shooting Star, 44-85004. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-80A-1-LO was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane powered by a turbojet engine. It was a day fighter, not equipped for night or all-weather combat operations. The P-80A was 34 feet, 6 inches (10.516 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 10½ inches (11.849 meters) and overall height of 11 feet, 4 inches (3.454 meters). The fighter had an empty weight of 7,920 pounds (3,592 kilograms) and a gross weight of 11,700 pounds (5,307 kilograms).

The P-80A-1 was powered by an Allison J33-A-9 or -11 turbojet, rated at 3,850 pounds of thrust. It had a maximum speed of 558 miles per hour (898 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and had a service ceiling of 45,000 feet (13,716 meters).

The P-80A was armed with six Browning .50-caliber machine guns placed together in the nose.

Lockheed P-80B-1-LO Shooting Star 45-8554, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed P-80B-1-LO Shooting Star 45-8554, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)

After modification to the XP-80B configuration, 44-85200 was powered by an Allison J33-A-17 with water/alcohol injection. It was rated at 4,000 pounds of thrust. Fuel capacity was reduced by 45 gallons (170 liters) to allow for the water/alcohol tank. It was also the first American-built fighter to be equipped with an ejection seat. The XP-80B had a maximum speed of 577 miles per hour (929 kilometers) per hour at 6,000 feet (1,829 meters), a 19 mile per hour (31 kilometers per hour) increase. The service ceiling increased to 45,500 feet (13,868 meters). The P-80B was heavier than the P-80A, with an empty weight of 8,176 pounds (3,709 kilograms) and gross weight of 12,200 pounds (5,534 kilograms). Visually, the two variants are almost identical.

This photograph of XP-80R shows the cut-down windscreen an canopy, recontoured leading edges and the NACA-designed engine intakes. (U.S. Air Force)
This photograph of XP-80R shows the cut-down windscreen and canopy, re-contoured wing leading edges and the low-drag, NACA-designed engine intakes. (U.S. Air Force)

44-85200 was next modified to the XP-80R high-speed configuration. The canopy was smaller, the wing tips were shorter and the leading edges were re-contoured. In its initial configuration, the XP-80R retained the J33-A-17 engine, and incorporated new intakes designed by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

The initial performance of the XP-80R was disappointing. The intakes were returned to the standard shape and the J33-A-17 was replaced by a J33-A-35 engine. This improved J33 would be the first turbojet engine to be certified for commercial transport use (Allison Model 400). It was rated at 5,200 pounds of thrust at 11,750 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 5,400 pounds of thrust with water/methanol injection. The J33 had a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, 14 combustion chambers, and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The J33-A-35 had a maximum diameter of 4 feet, 1.2 inches (1.250 meters) and was 8 feet, 8.5 inches (2.654 meters) long. It weighed 1,795 pounds (814 kilograms).

Lockheed P-80R 44-85200 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force
Lockheed P-80R 44-85200 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force

Technicians who modified the XP-80R at Lockheed Plant B-9 Production Flight Test Center, Metropolitan Airport, Van Nuys (just a few miles west of the main plant in Burbank). nicknamed the modified Shooting Star “Racey.”

Lockheed XP-80R 44-85200 is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

DAYTON, Ohio -- Lockheed P-80R at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
DAYTON, Ohio — Lockheed P-80R at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

At the time of the speed record flight, Colonel Boyd was chief of the Flight Test Divison at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.

Albert Boyd was born 22 November 1906 at Rankin, Tennessee, the first of three sons of Kester S. Boyd a school night watchman, and Mary Beaver Boyd. Inn 1924, Boyd graduated from high school in Asheville, North Carolina, then attended Biltmore College.

Albert Boyd married Miss Anna Lu Oheim of Texas, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada (1907–1981).

Boyd was one of the most influential officers to have served in the United States Air Force. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet 27 October 1927. After completion of flight training Boyd was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve, 28 February 1929, and as a second lieutenant, Air Corps, 2 May 1929. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant 1 October 1934. On 24 July 1936, Boyd was promoted to the temporary rank of captain. This rank became permanent 2 May 1939. For the next five years, Lieutenant Boyd served as a flight instructor at Maxwell Field, Alabama, an then Brooks, Kelly and Randolph Fields in Texas.

In 1934, 1st Lieutenant Boyd was assigned as engineering and operations officer at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois. He completed the Air Corps technical School and the Engineer Armament Course. On 24 July 1936, Boyd was promoted to the temporary rank of captain. This rank became permanent 2 May 1939. In 1939 he was assigned to the Hawaiian Air Depot as assistant engineering officer, and was promoted to major (temporary), 15 March 1941. He and Mrs. Boyd lived in Honolulu. His Army salary was $3,375 per year. In December 1941, he became the chief engineering officer.

On 5 January 1942, Major Boyd was promoted to lieutenant colonel (temporary) and rated a command pilot. Following the end of World War II, Boyd reverted to his permanent rank of major, 2 May 1946.

In October 1945, Major Boyd was appointed acting chief of the Flight Test Division at Wright Field. He became chief of the division, October 1945, and also flew as an experimental test pilot. Boyd believed that it was not enough for Air Force test pilots to be superior pilots. They needed to be trained engineers and scientists in order to properly evaluate new aircraft. He developed the Air Force Test Pilot School and recommended that flight testing operations be centered at Muroc Field in the high desert of southern California, where vast open spaces and excellent flying conditions were available. He was the first  commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center.

Colonel Albert G. Boyd with XP-80R 44-85200 (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Albert G. Boyd with the Lockheed XP-80R, 44-85200. (U.S. Air Force)

When Brigadier General Boyd took command of Muroc Air Force Base in September 1949, he recommended that its name be changed to honor the late test pilot, Glen Edwards, who had been killed while testing a Northrop YB-49 near there, 5 June 1948. Since that time the airfield has been known as Edwards Air Force Base.

Major General Albert Boyd, United States Air Force
Major General Albert Boyd, United States Air Force

In February 1952, General Boyd was assigned as vice commander of the Wright Air Development Center, and commander, June 1952. His final assignment on active duty was as deputy commander of the Air Research and Development Command at Baltimore, Maryland, from 1 August 1955.

From 1947 until he retired in 1957 as a major general, Albert Boyd flew and approved every aircraft in use by the U.S. Air Force. By the time he retired, he had logged over 21,120 flight hours in more than 700 different aircraft. He had been awarded the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Major General Albert Boyd retired from the Air Force 30 October 1957 following 30 years of service. During his military career, he had been awarded the legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross. General Boyd died  at Saint Augustine, Florida, 18 September 1976 at the age of 69 years. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

¹ FAI Record File Number 9863

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 April 1931

Ruth Nichols with her Lockheed Vega. Her records are painted on the engine cowling. (FAI)
Ruth Nichols with the Lockheed Vega. Her records are painted on the engine cowling. (FAI)

13 April 1931: Ruth Rowland Nichols set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record of 338.99 kilometers per hour (210.64 miles per hour) over a 3 kilometer course at Carlton, Minnesota.¹

Nichols’ airplane was a 1928 Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, serial number 619, registered NR496M, and owned by Powell Crosley, Jr. He had named the airplane The New Cincinnati.

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, the Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could be configured to carry four to six passengers.

The Lockheed Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. The fuselage was molded laminated plywood monocoque construction and the wing was cantilevered wood.

The Model 5 Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).

Nichols’ airplane was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. The engine drove a two-bladed controllable-pitch Hamilton Standard propeller through direct drive. The Wasp C was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.3-7 meters) in diameter and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

“Ruth Nichols was the only woman to hold simultaneously the women’s world speed, altitude, and distance records for heavy landplanes. She soloed in a flying boat and received her pilot’s license after graduating from Wellesley College in 1924, becoming the first woman in New York to do so. Defying her parents wishes to follow the proper life of a young woman, in January 1928 she flew nonstop from New York City to Miami with Harry Rogers in a Fairchild FC-2. The publicity stunt brought Nichols fame as “The Flying Debutante” and provided headlines for Rogers’ airline too. Sherman Fairchild took note and hired Nichols as a northeast sales manager for Fairchild Aircraft and Engine Corporation. She helped to found the Long Island Aviation Country Club, an exclusive flying club and participated in the 19,312-meter (12,000-mile) Sportsman Air Tour to promote the establishment of clubs around the country. She was also a founder of Sportsman Pilot magazine. Nichols set several women’s records in 1931, among them a speed record of 339.0952 kph (210.704 mph), an altitude record of 8,760 meters (28,743 feet), and a nonstop distance record of 3182.638 kilometers (1,977.6 miles). Her hopes to become the first woman to fly the Atlantic Ocean were dashed by two crashes of a Lockheed Vega in 1931, in which she was severely injured, and again in 1932. In 1940, Nichols founded Relief Wings, a humanitarian air service for disaster relief that quickly became an adjunct relief service of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) during World War II. Nichols became a lieutenant colonel in the CAP. After the war she organized a mission in support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and became an advisor to the CAP on air ambulance missions. In 1958, she flew a Delta Dagger at 1,609 kph (1,000 mph) at an altitude of 15,544 meters (51,000 feet). A Hamilton variable pitch propeller (which allowed a pilot to select a climb or cruise position for the blades), from her Lockheed Vega is displayed in the Golden Age of Flight gallery. Nichols’ autobiography is titled Wings for Life.”

— Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Women In Aviation and Space History, The Golden Age of Flight.

Ruth Nichols' records are painted on the engine cowling of her Lockheed Vega. (FAI)
Ruth Nichols’ records are painted on the engine cowling of her Lockheed Vega. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12282

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 April 1933

M.C. 72 (FAI)
Macchi-Castoldi M.C.72 MM 177 (FAI)

10 April 1933: At Lago di Garda, Brescia, Italy, Warrant Officer Francesco Agello, Regia Aeronautica, flew the Macchi-Castoldi M.C. 72, MM 177, the first of five float planes in the series, over a 3-kilometer course to set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record of 682.08 kilometers per hour (423.83 miles per hour).¹

Warrant Officer Francesco Agello, Regia Aeronautica
Warrant Officer Francesco Agello, Regia Aeronautica
Francesco Agello
Francesco Agello

The following year, 23 October 1934, Agello would fly the fifth M.C. 72, MM 181, to 709.21 kilometers per hour (440.68 miles per hour) over a 3 kilometer course, breaking his own record by almost 30 kilometers per hour. ²

The Macchi-Castoldi M.C.72 was designed by Mario Castoldi for Aeronautica Macchi. It was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane float plane constructed of wood and metal. It was 8.32 meters (27 feet, 3½ inches) long with a wingspan of 9.48 meters (31 feet, 1¼ inches) and height of 3.30 meters (10 feet, 10 inches). The M.C.72 had an empty weight of 2,505 kilograms (5,523 pounds), loaded weight of 2,907 kilograms (6,409 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight of 3,031 kilograms (6,682 pounds).

The M.C. 72 was powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 50.256 liter (3,066.805 cubic inch), Fiat S.p.A. AS.6 24-cylinder dual overhead cam 60° V-24 engine with 4 valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 7:1. The engine produced 3,100 horsepower at 3,300 r.p.m. with 11.5 pounds of boost, and drove two counter-rotating two-bladed fixed pitch propellers with a diameter of 2.59 meters (8 feet, 6 inches) through a 0.60:1 gear reduction. Each counter-rotating blade cancelled the torque effect of the other. Surface radiators were placed on top of each wing and surface oil coolers on the floats. The Fiat AS.6 was 3.365 meters (132.48 inches) long, 0.702 meters ( (27.638 inches ) wide, and 0.976 meters (27.64 inches) high. It weighed 930 kilograms ( pounds).

In this photograph of teh M.C. 72 during an engine test, the surface mounted oil coolers on the pontoon are visible.
In this photograph of an M.C. 72 during an engine test, the surface oil coolers on the pontoons are visible. (Old Machine Press)

Five Macchi M.C.72 float planes had been built for the 1931 Schneider Trophy race, but problems with the Fiat AS.6 engine, which was essentially two AS.5 V-12s assembled back-to-back, prevented them from competing. Four test pilots, including Francesco Agello, had been selected to fly the airplanes for speed record attempts. Two pilots, Captain Giovanni Monti and Lieutenant Stanislao Bellini, were killed while testing the M.C.72, and the third died in the crash of another type. The cause of the accidents were explosions within the engines’ intake tract. Though they ran perfectly on test stands, in flight, they began to backfire, then explode.

It was discovered by Francis Rodwell (“Rod”) Banks,² a British engineer who had been called in to develop a special high-octane fuel, that the Fiat engineers had overlooked the ram effect of the 400 mile per hour (644kilometers per hour) slipstream. This caused the fuel mixture to become too lean, resulting in predetonation and backfiring. A modification was made to the intake and the problem was resolved.

Francesco Agello was twice awarded the Henry De La Vaulx Medal by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, and also awarded the Medaglia d’oro al valore aeronautico. In part, his citation read, “A high speed pilot of exceptional courage and, after competition in difficult and dangerous test flights during the development of the fastest seaplane in the world, twice he conquered the absolute world speed record.”

Captain Agello was killed in a mid-air collision, 26 November 1942, while testing a Macchi C.202 Fogore fighter.

Macchi M.C.72 at Aeronautica Militare
The world record setting Macchi-Costoldi M.C.72, MM 181, at the Museo Storico dell’Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force Museum) in Vigna di Valle, Italy.

¹ FAI Record File Number 11836

² FAI Record File Number 4497

² Air Commodore Francis Rodwell Banks, CB, OBE, Hon. CGIA, Hon. FRAeS, Hon. FAIAA, FIMechE., Finst. Pet., FRSA, CEng., MSAE; Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur; Commander, Legion of Merit; Орденъ Св. Станислава (Military Order of St. Stanislaus (Imperial Russia) (22 March 1898–12 May 1985)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 March 1939

Test pilot Hans Dieterle in the cockpit of the Heinkel He 100 V8 prototype. The airplane is unpainted and the surface seams are puttied and smoothed to reduce aerodynamic drag. (Heinkel-Flugzeugwerke)

30 March 1939: At 5:25 p.m., Ernst Heinkel Flugzeugwerke GmbH test pilot Hans Dieterle, flying a high-performance prototype fighter, the Heinkel He 100 V8, D-IDGH, entered a measured 3 kilometer course near the factory’s airfield at Oranienberg, Germany. He would attempt to set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course.¹

FLIGHT described the record flight in its 20 April 1939 edition:

The F.A.I. regulations stipulate that for speed record purposes the flight must be made over a course 3 km. (1.86 miles) long. This is the distance over which the machine is timed, and while traversing it the aircraft must not exceed a height of 75 m. (264ft.). Before entering the 3,000 m. course the machine must pass through an approach 500 m. (1,640ft.) long, on which also the height must not exceed 75 m. The timing is done in two flights in each direction and the average speed of the four runs taken.

While turning at the end of of each run the pilot may fly as wide as he likes, i.e., any radius of turn may be used, but the machine must not at any time during the turn exceed a height of 400 m. (1,312ft.) Other aircraft flying at exactly 400 m. are used for checking that this stipulation is observed.

Illustration from FLIGHT article, "THE NEW SPEED RECORD," 20 April 1939 at Page 395.
Illustration of the Askania Werke AG timing system from FLIGHT article, “THE NEW SPEED RECORD,” 20 April 1939 at Page 395.
Heinkel He 100 V8 passes checkpoint B during the speed trial, 30 March 1939. (Askania Werke/FAI)
Heinkel He 100 V8 passes checkpoint B during the speed trial, 30 March 1939. (Askania Werke/FAI)

On the day of the record flight the preparations were completed at 5.15 p.m. and the aeroplanes carrying the official observers went up. Dieterle took off at 5.23 p.m. After completing his two runs in each direction he made a perfect landing 14 minutes after the start. Although the official speed of the runs could obviously not have been known to him, he must have been certain that he had beaten the record, for on leaving the machine he turned three handsprings in the exuberance of his youth (he is only 24). When the speeds had been worked out it was found that the average was 746.66 km./h (463.953 m.p.h.) The machine took only 14.464 sec. to cover the timed section.

Field Marshal Göring immediately promoted Herr Dieterle to Flight Captain: he is the youngest pilot to hold that rank in the German Luftwaffe.

FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer, No. 1582. Vol. XXXV., Thursday, 20 April 1939, at Pages 395–396.

Dieterle’s officially-recognized World Record for Speed is 746.60 kilometers per hour (463.91 miles per hour). This exceeded the previous record which had been set by Dr.-Ing. Hermann Wurster on 11 November 1937,² flying a prototype Messerschmitt Bf 113R (Bf 109 V13), D-IPKY, by 135.65 kilometers per hour (84.29 miles per hour).

Test pilot Hans Dieterle with his wife, following the speed record flight. (Bundsarchive Bild 183-Z0414-509)
Test pilot Hans Dieterle with his wife, following the speed record flight, 30 March 1939. (Bundsarchive Bild 183-Z0414-509)

Dieterle’s new record would last less than one month, however. On 26 April 1939, Fritz Wendel flew another Messerschmitt prototype, Me 209 V1 (D-INJR) to 755.14 kilometers per hour (469.22 miles per hour).³

Heinkel He 100 V8 D-IDGH, world record-setting prototype, in overall light gray. (Heinkel Flugzeuwerke)
Right profile of Heinkel He 100 V8 D-IDGH, world record-setting prototype, in overall light gray. (Heinkel-Flugzeugwerke)

D-IDGH was the eighth He 100 prototype, V8 (Versuch 8). Two prototypes, V3 and V8, were modified for the speed record attempt. Their wingspan was shortened from the 30 feet, 10 inches (9.398 meters) of the earlier prototypes to 24 feet, 11½ inches (7.607 meters), with the wing area being reduced by about 25%. V3, D-ISVR, had a streamlined canopy, while V8 had a cut down windshield and canopy. V3 crashed during testing.

The eighth prototype,Heinkel He 100 V8, was modified for the speed record trial. It is also referred to as he 112U.
The eighth prototype, Heinkel He 100 V8, was modified for the speed record trial. It is also referred to as the  He 112U. (Heinkel-Flugzeugwerke)

He 100 V8 was equipped with a highly-modified version of the Daimler-Benz DB 601A, a liquid-cooled, direct-injected and supercharged 33.929 liter (2,075.497-cubic-inches), inverted single-“underhead”-camshaft 60° V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.9:1. The supercharger was driven hydraulically. The standard production engine was rated at 970 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at 12,000 feet (3,658 meters), and 1,050 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. for takeoff (limited by a clockwork mechanism to 1 minute), using 87-octane gasoline. The propeller reduction gear ratio was 14:9. The DB 601A was 67.5 inches (1.715 meters) long, 40.5 inches (1.029 meters) high and 29.1 inches (0.739 meters) wide. It weighed 1,610 pounds (730.3 kilograms).

Front view of Heinkel He 100 V8. Luftwaffe crosses and the identification 42C 11 are visible on the bottom of its wings. (Heinkel-Flugzeugwerke)
Front view of Heinkel He 100 V8. Luftwaffe Balkenkreuz crosses and the identification 42C 11 are visible on the bottom of its wings. (Heinkel-Flugzeugwerke)

The modified DB 601A engine installed in D-IDGH used methyl alcohol injection and produced 1,800 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m., although its service life was just 30 minutes. It drove a three-bladed Vereinigte Deutsche Metallwerke (V.D.M.) electrically-controlled, variable-pitch propeller through a 14:9 gear reduction.

He 100 V8 was painted overall gray and carried both its civil registration, as well as Balkenkreuz markings with identification 42C+11. It was later painted dark blue with gray undersides and Luftwaffe markings. D-IDGH was displayed at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany.

Henkel He 100 V8 displayed at the Deutsches Museum, München, Germany.
Heinkel He 100 V8 D-IDGH displayed at the Deutsches Museum, München, Germany. (LuftArchive.de)

The Heinkel He 100 was a single-place, single-engine fighter which was produced in very small numbers. It was a more complex aircraft than the Messerschmitt Bf 109, which was already in production. For example, it used a system of surface-mounted evaporative coolers in the wings, rather than radiators, in an effort to reduce drag.

The production He 100D-1 was 26 feet, 11 inches (8.204 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet, 10 inches (9.398 meters) and overall height of 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters). It was armed with one 20 mm autocannon and two 7.92 mm machine guns.

Speed Record Poster
Speed Record Poster

¹ FAI Record File Number 8744

² FAI Record File Number 8747

³ FAI Record File Number 8743

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 March 1928

With its cowlings removed, the Fiat Aviazione AS.3 V-12 engine of a Macchi M.52 is visible. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

30 March 1928: At Venice, Italy, Regia Aeronautica Major Mario de Bernardi, flying a Macchi M.52bis, established a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course of 512.78 kilometers per hour (318.63 miles per hour).¹

Major de Bernardi was the first pilot to fly faster than 300 miles per hour (482.8 kilometers per hour).

The Macchi M.52bis was a specially-constructed single-place, single-engine float plane designed to compete in the Schneider Trophy Races. The airplane was 23 feet, 4¾ inches (7.131 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 9 inches (7.849 meters). It had a gross weight of 3,263 pounds (1,480 kilograms).

The M.52bis was powered by a water-cooled 34.677 liter (2,116.138-cubic-inch-displacement) Fiat Aviazone AS.3 dual overhead camshaft, four-valve, 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,000 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. The design of the AS.3 was based on the Curtiss D-12, although it used individual cylinders and water jackets instead of the American engine’s monoblock castings.

Only one M.52bis was built.

Colonel Mario de Bernardi, Regia Aeronautica
Colonel Mario de Bernardi, Regia Aeronautica

¹ FAI Record File Number 11827

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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