17 November 1926: At Hampton Roads, Virginia, Major Mario de Bernardi, Regia Aeronautica, broke his own record, set just four days earlier, when he flew the Aeronautica Macchi M.39, number MM.76, to a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course with an average speed of 416.62 kilometers per hour (258.88 miles per hour).¹
The Macchi M.39 racing float plane was designed by Mario Castoldi. It was a single-place, single engine monoplane with two pontoons, or floats. The wing is externally braced, has 0° dihedral, and incorporates surface radiators. The M.39 was 6.473 meters (22 feet, 2.8 inches) long with a wingspan of 9.26 meters (30 feet, 4.6 inches) and height of 3.06 meters (10 feet, 0.5 inches). The empty weight of the Schneider Trophy racer was 1,300 kilograms (2,866 pounds) and its maximum gross weight was 1,615 kilograms (3,560 pounds).
The M.39 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 31.403 liter (1,916.329 cubic inch) Fiat AS.2 60° DOHC V-12 direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 6:1. It used three carburetors and two magnetos, and produced 882 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. The engine drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch metal propeller designed by Dr. Sylvanus A. Reed. The AS.2 engine was designed by Tranquillo Zerbi, based on the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company’s D-12 engine. The engine was 1.864 meters (6 feet, 1.4 inches) long, 0.720 meters (2 feet, 4.4 inches) wide and 0.948 meters (3 feet, 1.3 inches) high. It weighed 412 kilograms (908 pounds).
The Macchi M.39 could reach 420 kilometers per hour (261 miles per hour).
Macchi M.39 MM.76 is in the collection of the Aeronautica Militare museum.
11 November 1937: At Augsburg, Germany, Dr.-Ing. Hermann Wurster set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course when he flew a prototype Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG Bf 109, D-IPKY, to an average speed of 610.95 kilometers per hour (379.63 miles per hour) in four passes over a 3-kilometer course.¹ This broke the speed record set two years earlier by Howard Hughes with his Hughes H-1 Special, NR258Y, by 43.83 kilometers per hour (27.23 miles per hour).²
Versuchsflugzeug 13, the BFW Bf 109 V13, Werk-Nr. 1050 (FAI records describe it as a Messerchmitt BF113, and contemporary news reports referred to it as the Messerschmitt BF 113R), was one of four prototypes built from production Junkers Jumo 210-powered Bf 109B airframes to test the Daimler-Benz AG DB 600 engine. It was given a civil registration, D-IPKY. Along with two Bf 109B fighters, V13 was part of an aerial demonstration team which was sent to the International Flying Meeting at Dübendorf, Switzerland, during the last week of July 1937. It was equipped with a Daimler-Benz DB 600 rated at 960 horsepower.
On its return from Switzerland, V13 was prepared for a speed record attempt. It was given a standard drag reduction for racing airplanes, with all its seams filled and sanded smooth, and a coat of paint.
A modified version of the DB 601 engine was installed, reportedly capable of producing 1,660 horsepower for five minutes, with its maximum r.p.m increased from 2,500 to 2,800. It used special Bosch spark plugs. A three-bladed variable-pitch propeller was driven through gear reduction, although the gear ratio is unknown.
Like the Jumo 210, the Daimler-Benz 601 was a liquid-cooled, supercharged, single overhead cam, inverted 60° V-12, though with a much larger displacement. The DB 601 had a displacement of 33.929 liters (2,070.475 cubic inches). An improvement of the DB 600, the 601 series used direct fuel injection rather than a carburetor, and a hydraulically-driven two-speed supercharger.
A production Daimler-Benz DB 601 A had a compression ratio of 6.9:1 and was rated at 1,050 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. at 5.2 inches of pounds per square inch (0.36 Bar) of boost, for take-off (1 minute limit). It could produce 970 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. with 2.4 pounds per square inch (0.17 Bar) of boost at 12,000 feet (3,658 meters). Its propeller gear reduction ratio was 14:9. The DB 601 A was 67.5 inches (1.715 meters) long, 29.1 inches (0.739 meters) wide, and 40.5 inches (1.029 meters) high. It weighed 1,610 pounds (730.3 kilograms).
The Bf 109E production variant was developed from V13.
In 1938, BFW became Messerschmitt AG. The Bf 109 (also commonly called the Me 109) was produced from 1937 to 1945. Total production was 33,894 aircraft, which amounted to 57% of total fighter production for Germany. Seven plants produced the 109 during World War II. After the war ended, Czechoslovakia produced a variant until 1948. Another Spanish-built variant, the Hispano Aviación HA-1112, remained in production until 1958.
Herman Wurster was born at Stuttgart, Germany, 25 September 1907. In 1926, he began studying aircraft at Königlich Bayerische Technische Hochschule München (TH Munich) and at TH Stuttgart (the Stuttgart Technology Institute of Applied Sciences). He earned a doctorate in engineering (Dr.-Ing.) in 1933. He then became the chief designer for the German Research Institute for Aviation (Deutschen Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt) in Berlin.
In 1935 and 1936, Dr.-Ing. Wurster was a test pilot for the Luftwaffe‘s testing site at Rechlin, Mecklenburg, Germany. From 1936 until 1943, he was the chief test pilot for Bayerische Flugzeugwerk and Messerschmitt at Augsburg. From 1943 until the end of the war, Wurster was responsible for the development of Messerschmitt’s rocket-powered surface-to-air guided missile, the Enzian E.1 and its variants.
After the war, Dr.-Ing. Wurster founded a building materials company at Nördlingen, Bavaria. He died in Augsburg 17 October 1985 at the age of 78 years.
9–11 November 1956: Over a three-day period at Windsor Locks, Connecticut, a Sikorsky HR2S-1 heavy-lift helicopter, flown by Major Roy Lee Anderson, United States Marine Corps, and Sikorsky test pilot Robert Stewart Decker, set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for payload and speed.
On 9 November 1956, the HR2S-1 carried a payload of 5,000 kilograms (11,023 pounds) payload to an altitude of 3,722 meters (12,211 feet). ¹
The following day, 10 November, it set a record for the Greatest Mass Carried to a Height of 2,000 Meters (6562 feet), with a payload of 6,010 kilograms (13,250 pounds). ²
On 11 November, the third day, Anderson and Decker flew the helicopter to a speed of 261,91 kilometers per hour (162.74 miles per hour) over a 3-kilometer (1.86 statute miles) course .³
For these flights, Major Anderson was awarded a third gold star in lieu of a fourth award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.
United Press reported:
US Helicopter Sets Altitude, Speed Records
STRATFORD, Conn.—UP—A twin-engine Marine helicopter has established two international records for speed and altitude.
The Sikorsky division of United Aircraft Corporation said one of its S56 helicopters reached 162.7 miles per hour during a recent trial. The old record, set two years ago by another Sikorsky model, was 156 miles per hour.
Tops Russian Craft
The S56 flew more than 12,000 feet high while carrying 11,050 pounds. With the payload increased to 13,250 pounds it reached 7,000 feet, far outstripping the previous mark set by a Russian craft of 8,820 pounds to 6,560 feet.
The altitude trials were conducted from Sikorsky’s field in Stratford. Major Roy L. Anderson was pilot and Robert S. Decker copilot.
The records are subject to confirmation by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. The trials were conducted under the auspices of the National Aeronautics [sic] Association.
The Sikorsky HR2S-1 was an assault and heavy-lift helicopter produced for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. It was later adopted by the U.S. Army as the H-37 Mohave.
The S-56 was a large twin-engine helicopter, following the single main rotor/tail (anti-torque) rotor configuration pioneered by Sikorsky with the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 in 1939. The helicopter was designed to be flown by two pilots in a cockpit located above the main cabin. The two engines were placed in nacelles outboard of the stub wings which also housed the helicopter’s retractable main landing gear. Two large clam shell cargo doors and loading ramp were placed in the nose. The HR2S-1 incorporated a stability system and an automatic torque compensating tail rotor.
The S-56 series was the largest and fastest helicopter built up to that time, and remains the largest reciprocating engine helicopter ever built.
The S-56 was equipped with a five blade articulated main rotor. This allowed increased lift and higher forward air speed before encountering retreating blade stall than earlier three and four blade systems. A six blade rotor system was tested, which showed further improvements, but was not adopted. The main rotor diameter was initially 68 feet (20.726 meters), but later increased to 72 feet (21.946 meters). The main rotor blades had a chord of 1 foot, 9.5 inches (0.546 meters) and used the symmetrical NACA 0012 airfoil, which was standard with American helicopters up to that time. Later in the program, the blades were lengthened and the chord increased to 1 foot, 11.65 inches (0.601 meters). The airfoil was changed to the NACA 0010.9 airfoil. These changes resulted in increased lift and higher speed. The four blade tail rotor had a diameter of 15 feet (4.572 meters). The individual blades had a chord of 1 foot, 1.5 inches (0.343 meters). As is common with American helicopters, the main rotor system turned counter-clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The tail rotor turned counter-clockwise when viewed from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.)
With the longer blades installed, the helicopter’s length with rotors turning was 88 feet (26.822 meters). The fuselage had a length of 64 feet, 10.69 inches (19.779 meters), and the height was 17 feet, 2 inches (5.232 meters). The HR2S-1 had an empty weight of 21,502 pounds (9,753 kilograms), and maximum weight (overload) of 31,000 pounds (14,061 kilograms). Its fuel capacity was 1,000 U.S. gallons (3,785 liters) carried in 6 tanks located in the nacelles, wings and fuselage. It could carry 20 fully-equipped troops, or 16 litters. Its maximum cargo capacity was 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms).
The HR2S-1 had an automatic main rotor blade folding system, and its tail rotor pylon could be folded alongside the fuselage, reducing the length to 55 feet, 8 inches (16.967 meters) and width to 27 feet, 4 inches (8.331 meters). This allowed the helicopter to use aircraft carrier elevators and reduced storage space on the hangar deck.
Early S-56 models were powered by two air-cooled, supercharged 2,804.461 cubic inch displacement (45.957 liters) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp R-2800-50 two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines rated at 1,900 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. These were upgraded in later models to R-2800-54s. These were direct drive engines with a compression ratio of 6.75:1. The R-2800-54 was rated at 2,100 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) for takeoff; with a normal power rating of 1,900 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters). It required 115/145 octane aviation gasoline. Each engine was supplied with 13.3 gallons (50.35 liters) of lubricating oil. The R-2800-54 was 6 feet, 9.00 inches long (2.057 meters), 4 feet, 5.00 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms).
The helicopter’s engines were installed at an 80° angle to the aircraft center line, with a 12.5° upward angle to align with the main transmission input. The front of the engines faced inboard. According to Sikorsky, this unusual installation resulted in high oil consumption, and because the engines were operated at continuous high r.p.m., the time interval between engine overhauls was reduced from the normal 2,000 hours to just 350 hours.
The production HR2S-1 had a cruise speed of 100 knots (115 miles per hour/185 kilometers per hour), and a maximum speed of 121 knots (139 miles per hour/224 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The helicopter’s service ceiling was 13,800 feet (4,206 meters), and its absolute hover ceiling was 5,400 feet (1,646 meters). It had a maximum rate of climb of 1,580 feet per minute (8.03 meters per second) at Sea Level, and a vertical rate of climb 950 feet per minute (4.83 meters per second), also at Sea Level. The combat radius of the HR2S-1 was 100 nautical miles (115 statute miles/185 kilometers) at 100 knots (115 miles per hour/185 kilometers per hour.)
55 HR2S-1s were delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps. The U.S. Army purchased 94 S-56s in the H-37A Mohave configuration. 90 of these were later returned to Sikorsky to be upgraded to H-37Bs. This added the automatic stabilization system of the HR2S-1, changed the variable incidence horizontal stabilizers on both side of the fuselage to a single stabilizer on top of the tail rotor pylon. Engine oil capacity was increased to 30 gallons (113.6 liters) per engine.
A total of 154 S-56s were built between 1953 and 1960.
7 November 1945: Wing Commander Hugh Joseph Wilson, A.F.C. and Two Bars, Royal Air Force, Commandant of the Empire Test Pilots’ School at RAF Cranfield, set the first world speed record with a jet-propelled airplane, and the first speed record by an airplane in excess of 600 miles per hour (965.606 kilometers per hour), when he flew the Gloster Meteor F Mk.IV, EE454, to 975.68 kilometers per hour (606.26 miles per hour)—0.80 Mach—at an altitude of 75 meters (246) above Sea Level.
The course was an 8 mile (12.9 kilometers) straight away from the Herne Bay Pier to Reculver Point, along the south coast of the Thames Estuary. This was a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) record for speed over a 3 kilometer course. ¹
Months of preparation by both the Royal Air Force, which formed a special “flight,” and Gloster Aviation Co., Ltd., went into the speed record effort. Two Meteor F Mk.III fighters, EE454 and EE455, were modified to the new Mk.IV version to attempt the speed record.
The standard B.37 Rolls-Royce Derwent Series I turbojet engines were replaced with Derwent Series V turbojets and lengthened jet nacelles. The wings were shortened, the tips reshaped and the canopy was cut down and strengthened. All trim tabs on flight control surfaces were disabled and their edges sealed. Landing gear and gear door up-latches were strengthened to prevent them from being sucked open at high speed. The airplanes were lightened and all armament deleted. The surfaces were smoothed and painted in a gloss finish. EE454 retained the standard camouflage pattern, while EE455 was painted in a distinctive yellow-gold color.
Many hours of flight testing were performed to ensure that the airplanes would be stable enough at high speeds while flying at the very low altitude required by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale‘s rules. The slightest deviation from smooth flight could have disastrous results.
EE454 was flown by Wing Commander Hugh Joseph Wilson, A.F.C. and Two Bars (three awards), and EE455 by Gloster Chief Test Pilot Eric Stanley Greenwood. Each airplane was required to make four passes over the 3 kilometer (1.8641 statute miles) course, with two runs in each direction. The airplanes were required to remain at or below 75 meters (246 feet) during the runs over the course, and during the turns at the end of each run, below 400 meters (1,312 feet).
On the day of the speed runs, the weather was marginal. It was cold and overcast, and visibility varied from 7 to 12 miles 11–19 kilometers) along the course. The wind was 8–12 miles per hour (3.6–5.4 meters per second) from the northwest.
Wilson made four passes over the course. His speeds for each run were 604, 608, 602 and 611 miles per hour (972, 978, 969, and 983 kilometers per hour). Greenwood made his speed runs an hour later. His runs were 599, 608, 598 and 607 miles per hour (964, 978, 962 and 977 kilometers per hour).
Wilson’s average speed was the higher of the two. His official FAI-homologated record speed is 975.68 kilometers per hour (606.26 miles per hour). Greenwood’s average speed was 970.63 kilometers per hour (603.122 miles per hour.).² Both pilots are credited with official FAI world speed records.
Post-flight inspections revealed that the sheet metal of the Meteors’ engine intakes had significantly distorted by the intense pressure differentials experienced during the speed runs.
The B.37 Rolls-Royce Derwent Series V, interestingly, was not a direct development of the preceding Derwent Series I–IV engines. Instead, it was a scaled-down version of the RB.41 Nene, which was in turn, a scaled-up and improved Derwent I. The Derwent V had a single-stage, two-sided, centrifugal-flow compressor and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The compressor impeller and turbine rotor were mounted on a single shaft which was supported on each end by roller bearings, and in the center by a ball bearing. The Derwent V used nine combustion chambers, and burned aviation kerosene. Engine lubricating oil was added to the fuel at a 1:100 ratio, by volume. The Series V had a Normal Power rating of 3,000 pounds of thrust (13.345 kilonewtons) at 14,000 r.p.m., and a Take-off or Military Power rating of 3,500 pounds of thrust (15.569 kilonewtons) at 14,600 r.p.m. (There was no time limit for this power setting.) The engine produced a maximum 4,000 pounds of thrust (17.793 kilonewtons) at 15,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level. During the speed runs, thrust was restricted to 3,600 pounds (16.014 kilonewtons) on both Meteors. The Derwent V engine was 7 feet, 4.5 inches (2.248 meters) long, 3 feet, 7 inches (1.092 meters) in diameter and weighed 1,280 pounds (581 kilograms).
(Rolls-Royce named its piston aircraft engines after predatory birds, e.g., Kestrel, Merlin, but its turbine engines were named after rivers.)
British Pathé news film of the speed runs can be seen at:
Group Captain Wilson was born at Westminster, London, England, 28 May 1908, the only son of Alfred Wilson and Jessie Wood Young Wilson. He was educated at the University School, Hastings, and the Merchant Taylors’ School, London.
Wilson received a short service commission as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Air Force, 13 September 1929 and was assigned to the No. 5 Flight Training School, at RAF Sealand, Flintshire, Wales. Pilot Officer Wilson was then assigned to 111 Squadron at Hornchurch, Essex, 1930–1932. He was promoted to Flying Officer, 13 March 1931. From 1932 to to 1934, “Willie” Wilson was assigned to the School of Naval Co-operation and Air Navigation at Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire.
On the completion of his five-year short service, Wilson was transferred to the Reserve Air Force Officers list. He qualified in flying boats and acted as a flight instructor for the RAF Reserve School. Wilson was promoted to Flight Lieutenant 1 April 1937, with seniority retroactive to 1 April 1936.
While a reserve officer, Wilson was a test pilot for Blackburn Aircraft Ltd., and made the first flight of the Blackburn Roc. He then became a civil test pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough.
In 1939 Flight Lieutenant Wilson was recalled to active duty. He was assigned as Commanding Officer, Aerodynamic Flight, RAE Farnborough, and also flew with No. 74 Fighter Squadron at Biggin Hill. On 1 September 1940, Wilson was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader. In 1941, Wilson was appointed chief test pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment and was responsible for testing all captured enemy aircraft. He was promoted to Wing Commander, 20 August 1945.
Wing Commander Hugh Joseph Wilson, A.F.C. and Two Bars, Royal Air Force, was named Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in the King’s Birthday Honours List, 13 June 1946.
On 22 February 1947, Wing Commander Wilson married the former Thom Isobel Moira Sergeant (Mrs. Moira Garnham). They had one son. On 4 December 1959, he married Miss Patricia Frances Stanley Warren. They had two children.
Wing Commander Hugh J. Wilson retired from the Royal Air Force at his request 20 June 1948, with the rank of Group Captain. He died at Westminster, London 5 September 1990 at the age of 82 years.
Gloster Chief Test Pilot Eric Stanley “Terry” Greenwood (29 November 1908–February 1979) was the first pilot to exceed 600 miles per hour, while test flying the Meteors. He was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in the King’s Birthday Honours List, 13 June 1946.
4 November 1927: At Venezia, Mario de Bernardi flew a Macchi M.52 seaplane to a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course of 479.29 kilometers per hour (297.82 miles per hour).¹
Aeronautica Macchi built three M.52 seaplanes for the Regia Aeronautica (the Italian Air Force) for use in the 1927 Schneider Trophy Races. The M.52 was designed by Mario Castoldi. Like the earlier M.39, it was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane float plane constructed of wood and metal.
The three racers were each powered by a 2,116.14-cubic-inch-displacement (34.677 liter) liquid-cooled 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.