This Date in Aviation History: November 7 - November 10
ttyymmnn last edited by ttyymmnn
Welcome to This Date in Aviation History, getting you caught up on milestones, important historical events and people in aviation from November 7 through November 10.
|=November 9, 1946 – The first flight of the Lockheed R6V Constitution. Throughout aviation history, there have been numerous double-deck aircraft. Some were just very large aircraft with two decks, but others were so-called “double bubble” aircraft. Since a pressurized aircraft is essentially an aluminum tube, a double bubble aircraft is one in which one tubed is stacked atop another to create more space for passengers or cargo. While some aircraft were modified as double-deckers from existing aircraft, the Lockheed Constitution was designed from the ground up to be a double bubble double decker.=|
|=Development of the R6V began in 1942 with a joint study by the US Navy, Pan Am, and Lockheed to design a large transport aircraft to supplement the Navy’s aging fleet of flying boats. Pan Am signed on to the project in the hopes that any aircraft that came out of the partnership might also have commercial applications. Design specifications stated that the fully pressurized aircraft must be capable of carrying 17,500 pounds of payload at an altitude of 25,000 feet for 5,000 miles. When it was completed, the Constitution was the largest fixed wing aircraft ever flown by the US Navy, but only two were ever built.=|
The Constitution in flight over California in 1948 (SDASM)
|=Ship No. 1 was completed in 1946 and took its maiden flight on November 9 of that year. Flight testing showed the engines to be significantly underpowered, so they were replaced by more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major engines with water injection that offered 3,500 horsepower each. Rockets could also be mounted under the wings to assist in takeoffs with heavier payloads. Ship No. 2 took its maiden flight on June 9, 1948 and had an upper deck sumptuously fitted out for 92 passengers and 12 crew. The lower deck was fitted for cargo, but could also be configured to carry 76 passengers in addition to those on the upper deck. On February 3, 1949, Ship No. 2 flew 74 members of the press from Moffett Field in California to Washington National Airport, setting a record for the most passengers transported on a nonstop transcontinental flight.=|
|=In the end, the Constitution couldn’t live up to its billing. It remained underpowered, even with its engine upgrade, and problems with engine overheating led to a reduced operational range. In 1949, the Navy decided that the aircraft were just too expensive to operate and offered to lease them to the airlines. But there were no takers. Both aircraft were eventually sold for $97,785 in a deal that included 13 engines, which was quite a bargain considering that the contract to build the two aircraft cost the US government $27 million. After the sale, both Constitutions suffered ignominious fates. Ship No. 1 was taken to Las Vegas where it was used as a giant billboard for Alamo Airways. It ended up being scrapped by Howard Hughes when he bought the property. Ship No. 2 was taken to Opa-Locka Airport in Florida and stored in a field. It was eventually moved off the airport to a new storage site, and there were plans to use it as a restaurant and museum. But those plans fell through, and the aircraft was finally scrapped in 1978.=|
(US Air Force)
|=November 9, 1944 – The first flight of the Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter. It is probably safe to say that the Boeing B-29 Superfortress was one of the greatest airplanes to come out of WWII. Not only was the B-29 an exceptional bomber, it proved to be such a versatile aircraft that its descendants continued serving long after the war was over, and they did so in many different guises. After its initial use as a long-range bomber, the B-29 was pressed into service as the KB-29 aerial tanker, which helped the US Air Force develop procedures for reliably refueling aircraft in flight. Later, the B-29 was developed into the B-50, the last piston-engined bomber produced for the US Air Force, as well as the KB-50 aerial tanker variant. Both were eventually replaced by newer jet-powered designs, but a more radical descendant of the venerable B-29 flew for more than 30 years, and served into the 1970s.=|
|=With the end of WWII, what the Air Force really needed was an aircraft that could carry tons of cargo or large numbers of passengers or troops, not just bombs. Starting with the proven B-29 Superfortress, Boeing retained the engines, wings, tail, and half the fuselage, but then added a second, larger tube on top, giving the C-97 a double bubble structure that significantly increased its cargo-carrying capacity. After the construction of the first 10 Stratofreighters, the engines were upgraded to the same 3,500 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major engines used on the B-50. The taller vertical stabilizer was also borrowed from the B-50 to compensate for the larger fuselage. Clamshell doors opened under the tail for loading, and a ramp allowed vehicles or other equipment to be driven directly into the cargo hold. However, these doors could not be opened in flight, so the C-97 was not capable of performing parachute drops of troops.=|
Boeing KC-97L Stratofreighter of the Missouri Air National Guard refuels two US Air Force Vought A-7D Corsair IIs of the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing. Note the nose-up attitude of the Corsairs as they slow to keep pace with the tanker. (US Air Force)
The C-97 was introduced in 1947, and one C-97 took part in the Berlin Airlift, but a landing accident grounded it until after the crisis ended. The Stratofreighter went on to serve in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and was also converted into an early airborne command post for the Strategic Air Command. And, like its B-29 predecessor, the C-97 was developed into the KC-97 aerial tanker, and later the KC-97L was made faster by the addition of a General Electric J47 turbojet engine under each wing to help it keep pace with faster jet fighters. Later, in yet further testament to Boeing’s flexible design, the C-97 was developed into the 377 Stratocruiser, a double decker, pressurized airliner that could accommodate up to 114 passengers on its two decks. But even that wasn’t the end of the lineage that started with the B-29, as the 377 was also developed into the Aero Spacelines Guppy series of super-size cargo aircraft. A total of 888 C-97s were built, with the bulk of them serving in the aerial refueling role. After finishing its service with the National Guard, the C-97 was finally retired in 1978.
November 7, 2001 – The Concorde resumes passenger flights. On July 25, 2000, Air France Flight 4590 (F-BTSC) crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. The official cause of the crash was cited as debris on the runway that damaged a tire and lead to a ruptured fuel tank and catastrophic fire. Though it was the only crash in the history of Concorde, all of the supersonic transports were grounded during the investigation. Remaining aircraft were updated with Kevlar-lined fuel tanks and burst-resistant tires before retuning to service. Despite its return to revenue service, the Concorde could not overcome a downturn in air travel following the Flight 4590 crash and the September 11 terrorist attacks. High maintenance and fuel costs added to the Concorde’s woes, and all of the Concordes were retired in 2003.
November 8, 1935 – The death of Charles Kingsford Smith. Kingsford Smith, known by his nickname “Smithy,” served as a motorcycle dispatch rider during the Gallipoli campaign in WWI before joining the Royal Flying Corps in 1917. Following the war, he worked as a barnstormer in the US and flew airmail in Australia, and initially became famous for completing the first crossing of the Pacific Ocean in 1928 when he flew from California to Australia with copilot Charles Ulm in a Fokker F.VII/3m named Southern Cross. Kingsford Smith followed that with the first flight across Australia and the first flight across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand in the same year, and a westward crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to Newfoundland in 1930. He also made the first eastward crossing of the Pacific in 1934 in a Lockheed Altair named Lady Southern Cross. During an attempt to break the record for flying from England to Australia, Kingsford Smith and copilot John Pethybridge, flying the Lady Southern Cross, disappeared over the Andaman Sea near Burma, and their bodies were never found.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
November 9, 1979 – The death of Louise Thaden, a pioneering aviatrix and the first woman to win the prestigious coast-to-coast Bendix Trophy Race. Thaden (née McPhetridge) was born on November 12, 1905 in Bentonville, Arkansas and entered the world of flying as a sales representative for the Travel Air Corporation owned by Walter Beech. As part of her pay, she received free flying lessons, and became the first woman to earn a pilot license in Ohio and later the fourth woman to earn a rating as a transport pilot. Thaden shocked the world when she and her copilot Blanche Noyes won the Bendix Trophy transcontinental race, setting a new world record time of 14 hours 55 minutes while flying a Beech C17R Staggerwing. But that wasn’t the last of Thaden’s accomplishments. She set an altitude record for woman pilots of 20,260 feet in 1928, a flight endurance record of over 22 hours in 1929, teamed up with another aviatrix, Frances Marsalis, to set a record time of 196 hours in the air, and was a founding member of the Ninety-Nines organization for woman pilots. Thaden retired from racing in 1938 to work for the Bureau of Air Commerce, and flew with the Civil Air Patrol during WWII.
November 9, 1967 – The launch of Apollo 4. The first launch after the Apollo 1 disaster that killed three astronauts, Apollo 4 was the critical first “all up” test for NASA, which meant that all the rocket stages and the spacecraft were operational at launch, though the flight was unmanned. Apollo 4 was also the first launch of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever used operationally. Apollo 4 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39, which had been specifically built for the huge Saturn V, and the flight was the first mission to test all elements of the multi-stage rocket. The flight lasted nine hours before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
November 10, 1949 – First flight of the Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw, a multi-purpose helicopter and the first dedicated transport helicopter to enter service with the US Army and US Air Force. Developed privately by Igor Sikorsky after WWII, the Chickasaw was known by its civilian designation as the S-55, and was also built under license by Westland Aircraft in England where it was known as the Westland Whirlwind. The Chickasaw’s bulbous nose housed a single Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp radial engine that drove the main rotor by means of a driveshaft that passed under and then behind the cockpit. Over 1,700 Chickasaws were built, and they served extensively in Korea and in the early years of the Vietnam War.
This is my first attempt at putting a long form TDIAH post into Opposite Hyphen Lock. I would love to add some sort of separator, and have some sort of titling font for the "Short Takeoff" section. If that's something that can be done, please let me know how. A better way to handle captions would also be awesome.
It took about 30 minutes to assemble this from backed up files. With no way to schedule posts, it's unlikely that I can get these out at regular times of the day. We shall see.
I'm going to hit publish on this and walk away for awhile. Please let me know what you think.=|
3point8isgreat last edited by
I think it looks good. I dont think the formatting needs to be as fancy to make things clear since this site is so clean. Its not competing with weird ads and sidebars for attention.
@ttyymmnn Thanks for posting this here! I think it looked good, but a lack of scheduling is definitely a problem. We're working on something to help with a few of these problems but it's still in the early stages. I'll be in touch when we're ready.
One thing I will miss about St Louis is that we had, Boeing, Scott AFB and a couple ANG posts there so there were always military aircraft around. I'd see and F-18 doing touch-and-goes at lambert, a B2 cruising by every so often and a bunch of tankers.
ttyymmnn last edited by ttyymmnn
@jminer I'm going to fiddle with this some more. I attempted to host a rectangular photo for the FP thumbnail, but I didn't get the size right. I'll mess with that some more today. I also want to go back and make all the photos the same size. Somebody else commented, and I agree, that the text is too wide. I guess that's a function of this being a forum format.
I was thinking that if I'm going to go through the trouble of C/P and formatting here, I might as well be doing it piecemeal on my own blog, which is something I have been wanting to do. No point in doing all this work in multiple places. Then, I could provide a picture and a link that people can click or not click.
When you think about how my posts looked on Oppo, and what we've been talking about as far as formatting, where would be a good place to start? I have ZERO experience with this sort of thing. Thanks.
@ttyymmnn As Brian mentioned briefly on Oppo proper we're working a blog front page of a sorts for oppo for content like yours with the ultimate goal of turning it into a self/author/supporting thing. Can we accomplish that? I have no idea, but that is the goal. Kind of like a 'best of oppo'. If you want to build your own page though I can't do anything but encourage you, that would be awesome and I'd read it regularly. Frontrunners are Ghost or Wordpress both are solid and pretty common blogging platforms. The thought now is to use this as a commenting engine behind it and the rest of the community.
As far as formatting on here now I'll admit I've only started tinkering and can't offer much help at the moment. I'm not a great guy to make thing look visually look good.
Smallbear last edited by
I like the layout of the proposed "FP", but will comments actually work there, or does all the discussion still have to happen here? I couldn't see any commenting system.
@Smallbear Still 100% in dev, we don't have it functional yet - still just an idea in progress
Hooker last edited by
This looks really good! I am happy with the overall layout and the presentation being very familiar. Great write-up!