8 April 1931: Amelia Earhart, flying a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro, reached an altitude of 5,613 meters (18,415 feet) over Warrington, Pennsylvania. The duration of the flight, her second of the day, was 1 hour, 49 minutes. She landed at 6:04 p.m.
A sealed barograph was carried aboard to record the altitude for an official record. Following the flight, the barograph was sent to the National Aeronautic Association headquarters in Washington, D.C., for certification.
An autogyro is a rotary wing aircraft that derives lift from a turning rotor system which is driven by air flow (autorotation). Unlike a helicopter, thrust is provided by an engine-driven propeller. The engine does not drive the rotor.
The Pitcairn Autogyro Company’s PCA-2 was the first autogyro certified in the United States. Operated by a single pilot, it could carry two passengers. The fuselage was constructed as were airplanes of the period.
The PCA-2 was 23 feet, 1 inch (7.036 meters) long. A single low wing, which provided some of the aircraft’s lift, had a span of 30 feet (9.144 meters). The four-bladed rotor had a diameter of 45 feet (13.716 meters). The PCA-2 had an empty weight of 2,233 pounds (1,013 kilograms) and gross weight of 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms).
The aircraft was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 971.93-cubic-inch-displacement (15.93 liter) Wright R-975E Whirlwind 330 nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The R-975E produced a maximum 330 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 73-octane gasoline. The engine turned a two-bladed Hamilton Standard variable-pitch propeller through direct drive. The engine weighed 635 pounds (288 kilograms).
The PCA-2 had a maximum speed of 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour). It had a service ceiling of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and a range of 290 miles (467 kilometers).
17 December 1935: Douglas Aircraft Company vice president and chief test pilot Carl A. Cover made the first flight of the Douglas DST, NX14988, at Clover Field, Santa Monica, California. Also aboard were engineers Fred Stineman and Frank Coleman.
Designed over a two year period by chief engineer Arthur Emmons Raymond and built for American Airlines, the DST, or Douglas Sleeper Transport, was the original variant of the DC-3 commercial airliner. It had 14 sleeping berths for passengers on overnight transcontinental journeys and could fly across the United States with three refueling stops. There were no prototypes built. NX14988 was a production airplane and went to American Airlines where it flew more than 17,000 hours.
At the beginning of World War II, NC14988 was placed in military service, designated C-49E Skytrooper with the serial number 42-43619. On 15 October 1942, it crashed 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from its destination at Chicago, Illinois, killing the 2-man crew and all 7 passengers. The airplane was damaged beyond repair.
The DST and the DC-3 were an improved version of the Douglas DC-2 commercial transport. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. The airplane was operated by a pilot and co-pilot.
The DC-3 was 64 feet, 8 inches (19.710 meters) long with a wingspan of 95 feet, 2 inches (29.007 meters). It was 16 feet, 11 inches (5.156 meters) high. The airplane weighed 16,865 pounds (7,650 kilograms) empty and had a gross weight of 25,199 pounds (11,430 kilograms).
DSTs and initial production DC-3s were powered by two 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 GR-1820G2 9-cylinder radial engines, rated at 700 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and 800 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m for takeoff. and turning 3-bladed Hamilton-Standard constant-speed propellers through a 16:11 gear reduction. (The engines were soon changed to more powerful 1,829.389-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp SC3-G 14-cylinder radials, with a normal power rating of 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., and takeoff power rating of 1,050 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m.). The SC3-G had a 16:9 propeller gear reduction ratio. It was 5 feet, 1.50 inches (1.562 meters) long, 4 feet, 0.19 inches (1.224 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,457 pounds (661 kilograms).
Maximum speed was 230 miles per hour (370 kilometers per hour) at 8,500 feet (2,591 meters). The service ceiling was 23,200 feet (7,071 meters).
The DC-3 was in production for 11 years. Douglas Aircraft Company built 10,655 DC-3s and military C-47s. There were another 5,000 license-built copies. Over 400 DC-3s are still in commercial service. The oldest surviving example is the sixth DST built, originally registered NC16005.
2 December 1936: The first Boeing YB-17, U.S. Army Air Corps serial number 36-149, made its first flight.
Although the prototype Boeing Model 299, NX13372, had crashed at Wright Field, Ohio, 30 October 1935, the Army had ordered thirteen Y1B-17 service test aircraft, serials 36-149–36-161. Prior to the model’s first flight, this designation was changed to YB-17.
The YB-17 had several improvements over the Model 299, which was retroactively designated XB-17. There was a long carburetor intake on top of the engine nacelles which visually distinguishes the YB-17 from the follow-on YB-17A. The main landing gear has one strut rather than the two of the Model 299.
The Boeing Model 299B, designated YB-17 by the Army Air Corps, was 68 feet, 4 inches (20.828 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9⅜ inches (31.633 meters) and the overall height was 18 feet, 4 inches (5.588 meters). It had an empty weight of 24,465 pounds (11,097 kilograms), gross weight of 34,880 pounds (15,821 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 42,600 pounds (19,323 kilograms).
Instead of the Pratt & Whitney engines installed on the 299, the YB-17 had four air-cooled, supercharged 1,823.1-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 R-1820G5 (R-1820-39) nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.45:1. They turned three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 16:11 gear reduction drive, in order to match the engines’ effective power range with the propellers. The R-1820-39 was rated at 805 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., at Sea Level, and 930 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., at Sea Level, for takeoff. The R-1820-39 was 45-7/16 inches (1.154 meters) long and 54¼ inches (1.378 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,198 pounds (543.4 kilograms).
The cruise speed was 217 miles per hour (349 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 256 miles per hour (412 kilometers per hour) at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). Its service ceiling was 30,600 feet (9,327 meters) and the maximum range was 3,320 miles (5,343 kilometers). The YB-17 could carry 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms) of bombs. Defensive armament consisted of five .30-caliber air-cooled Browning machine guns.
36-149 was damaged in a landing accident 7 December 1936. It was repaired and then flown to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 11 January 1937. After testing at Wright Field, 36-149 was delivered to the 2nd Bombardment Group, Langley Field, Virginia. By 1938 the bomber was back at Wright Field for additional tests.
“In the summer of 1938, Bill [Captain William C. Bentley, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps, a B-17 test pilot at Langley Field] and his aircrew flew back to Seattle to pick up an additional aircraft, YB-17 tail number 36-149 from Boeing. This aircraft was different from the original thirteen. During its assembly phase at Boeing, it was packed with additional instruments for recording purposes. Once delivered to Langley, the plane was going to be subjected to a variety of stress tests in order to determine how much damage the plane could take and still operate. During its flight to Langley, Bill arrived over the field in a thunderstorm. The strength of the storm flipped the plane upside down, a stress never envisioned by the designers for such a large aircraft, much less one loaded to capacity with measuring instrumentation and a full crew. Using his fighter pilot training, Bill flew the aircraft at its maximum altitude then performed a slow roll to bring the airplane into its proper attitude. After recovering from a harrowing spin, Bill got control of the plane and landed successfully.
“Much to the crew’s amazement, the wings were slightly bent and some rivets were missing. But the measuring instrumentation had recorded all of the stress placed on the plane. . . .”
—The Touch of Greatness: Colonel William C. Bentley, Jr., USAAC/USAF, by Stewart W. Bentley, Jr., Ph.D. , AuthorHouse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2010, Chapter 2 at Page 45.
(This meant that a fourteenth YB-17, which had been built specifically as a static test article, could be completed as a Y1B-17A, 37-369.)
In October 1940 36-149 was transferred to the 19th Bombardment Group at March Field, California. Finally, on 11 February 1942, it was transferred to the Air Park at Amarillo Army Air Field, a B-17 training base in Texas. It was written off 11 December 1942.
After several years of testing, the YB-17 went into production as the B-17 Flying Fortress. By the end of World War II, 12,731 B-17s had been built by Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed Vega.
4 September 1936: Iris Louise McPhetridge Thaden (1905–1979) was the first woman to win the Bendix Trophy Race when she and her co-pilot, Blanche Noyes, flew a Beechcraft C17R “Staggerwing,” NR15835, from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York to Mines Field, Los Angeles, California, in 14 hours, 55 minutes, 1.0 seconds. With one fuel stop at Wichita, Kansas, Thaden and Noyes had averaged 165.35 miles per hour (266.11 kilometers per hour).
Louise Thaden had been employed by Walter Beech as a sales representative and he included flying lessons with her employment. She received her pilot’s license in 1928 and soon set several air speed and altitude records. She was the fourth woman to receive an Airline Transport Pilot rating. Blanche Wilcox Noyes (1900–1981) was also a very prominent pilot.
The Beechcraft Staggerwing got its name because its lower wing was placed ahead of the upper wing. It was a fast airplane for its time and set several speed and altitude records. The C17R was powered by a 971.93-cubic-inch-displacement (15.920 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Wright R-975E-2 Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial engine producing 450 horsepower for takeoff.
The Beechcraft C17R was single engine biplane operated by one pilot and could carry up to three passengers. The airplane got its nickname, “Staggerwing” from the lower wing being placed forward of the upper wing for improved pilot visibility. The basic structure was a welded tubular steel frame with wood formers and stringers. The wings and tail surfaces were built of wood spars and ribs. The airplane was covered with doped fabric, except the cabin and engine which were covered in sheet metal. It was equipped with retractable landing gear. The Beech 17 was 26 feet, 10 inches (8.179 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet (9.75 meters) and overall height of 8 feet (2.438 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,540 pounds (1,152.1 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,250 pounds (1,927.8 kilograms). The Staggerwing was offered with a selection of engines of different size and horsepower ratings. The C17R was powered by a a 971.93-cubic-inch-displacement (15.920 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Wright R-975E-2 Whirlwind single row 9-cylinder radial engine producing 420 horsepower continuous, and 450 horsepower for takeoff. This gave the C17R Staggerwing a cruise speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 211 miles per hour (340 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) and range was 800 miles (1,287.5 kilometers).
The airplane flown by Louise Thaden to win the Bendix Trophy had previously been sold, but Walter Beech let Thaden use it before delivering to the owner. The rear passengers’ seats were removed and a 56 gallon (212 liter) auxiliary fuel tank installed in their place. After the race, the owner took his airplane to South America. Its status is not known.
4 July 1973: One of the last Grumman Albatross flying boats in service with the United States Air Force, HU-16B 51-5282, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) altitude record for amphibians (Class C-3) when, at 12:33 p.m. EDT, it reached 10,022 meters (32,881 feet), breaking the previous record which had been set 37 years earlier by more than 4,000 feet (1,219 meters).
Flown by Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Manning, Major Paul M. Schaeffer and Technical Sergeant Emund K. Schindler, 51-5282 was assigned to the 301st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Homestead AFB, Florida. After the flight, Manning said, “It wasn’t very comfortable. The outside temperature was 25 below zero.” The Air Force Times reported that the cold caused the lens of Sergeant Schindler’s watch to pop out.
FAI Record File Num #3208 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-3 (Amphibians)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 1 : internal combustion engine
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 10 022 m
Course/Location: Homestead AFB, FL (USA)
Claimant Charles H. Manning (USA)
Aeroplane: Grumman UH-16B “Albatross” (O-15282)
Originally built as an SA-16A, 51-5282 was modified to the SA-16B standard which increased the wingspan to 96 feet, 8 inches (29.464 meters). In 1962 its designation was changed from SA-16B to HU-16B. The Albatross was operated by a crew of 4 to 6 airmen, and could carry up to 10 passengers. The amphibian was 62 feet, 10 inches (19.152 meters) long and had an overall height of 25 feet, 10 inches (7.874 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 22,883 pounds (10,380 kilograms), loaded weight of 30,353 pounds (13,768kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 37,500 pounds (17,010 kilograms).
The SA-16A was powered by two 1,823.1-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 826C9HD2 (R-1820-76) nine-cylinder radial engines rated at 1,275 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m., and 1,425 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m for takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed propellers through a 0.666:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-76 was 3 feet, 11.69 inches (1.211 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.95 inches (1.396 meters) in diameter. It weighed 1,360 pounds (617 kilograms).
The flying boat had a cruise speed of 124 miles per hour (200 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 236 miles per hour (380 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 21,500 feet (6,553 meters) and its maximum range was 2,850 miles (4,587 kilometers).
Two weeks after the record-setting flight, 51-5282 was flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, making the very last USAF HU-16 flight.