Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.
An event of significance to the aviation industry came late in the year when Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson announced a rise of $500,000,000 in the estimate of Defense Department expenditures for the fiscal year 1956. This gave a total Defense budget of $34,500,000,000. The action followed a thorough study by top Pentagon officials in the Air Force of the possible effects of various economy moves on the defense program. Although the Administration has made determined efforts to reduce expenditures in order to balance the budget, it appears unlikely at this time that President or Congress can risk the political implications of a sharply curtailed defense program, and it must be remembered that the recommendations of the Congressional Air Policy Board for a minimum peacetime air-strength have not yet been achieved.
Naval Aeronautical Turbine Test Station.
A $30,000,000, 65-acre, flight propulsion laboratory was opened by the Navy at West Trenton, N.J. Called the Naval Aeronautical Turbine Test Station, it is probably the most complete facility of its kind in the world. Altitudes from sea level to 65,000 ft., air speeds from subsonic at sea level to supersonic at high altitudes, and temperature conditions ranging from -67° to 150°F. may be simulated there.
One of the five test cells recently finished is the only test rig known to the Navy that is capable of subjecting complete turboprop engines to wide extremes of altitude and temperature. It contains an inlet throat with a variable orifice which can be adjusted to a wide range of propeller diameters. Large-capacity refrigeration equipment and a separate heater system make it possible to cold-soak powerplants to -67°F. to test cold starting of engines and to subject them to Arctic operating conditions. With all the machinery in operation, the test facility has a connected working load of almost 100,000 hp.
In the supervisory control room, built on the front of the test wing, a 35-ft. central control panel enables engineers to supervise the functioning of every part of the laboratory, give permission to operate equipment, and direct air flow. More than 23 mi. of copper tubing and 26 mi. of thermocouple wiring focus vital information from all parts of the laboratory on the panel. Controls are of the 'permissive' type — manual on-off interlocks which prevent any machinery from being started until all operating requirements have been satisfied. Any emergency can be spotted immediately in the supervisory control room and pushing a single button can shut down the entire laboratory. The engineers at the control panel act as co-ordinators to assure that all parts of the complex laboratory function in unison. They give permission to operators on the spot to set machinery in motion.
Flight faster than the speed of sound has been recorded repeatedly since 1947. In level flight, however, it always has been accomplished by the use of enormous amounts of costly, excess power produced by afterburners or rockets, and these flights were limited to a few minutes' duration at or above Mach 1 (the speed of sound).
An interesting advance in aeronautics was released in September of 1955 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Called the area rule, it is a key to practical supersonic flight and many qualified observers see in it the advent of a new era in aviation.
The area rule was discovered by Richard T. Whitcomb, a young aeronautical research scientist at the NACA Langley Aeronautical Laboratory. It is a simple, rational way to reduce the large wing drag at transonic speed. It offers three prime advantages: supersonic speed with significantly less power than formerly was required; a useful range at supersonic speed; rapid, smooth, and economical acceleration through the transonic speed range. Finally, it permits supersonic speed in planes which otherwise would be limited to subsonic speed. For his discovery of the area rule, Whitcomb was awarded the Collier Trophy for the 'greatest achievement in aviation in 1954.'
With the use of the area rule in original design, the transonic airplane becomes a practical, economic possibility. Application of the concept in the Navy's Grumann F11F-1 and the Air Force Convair F-102A added handsomely to their top speeds without any significant increase in power or weight of structure. The speed of the F-102A was increased by 150 mph over that of the previous model. That speed gain gave supersonic performance to a hitherto subsonic airplane and saved for the Air Force a multimillion-dollar airplane procurement program.
Discovery of area rule is one of the first fruits of the new transonic wind tunnels, of which the NACA now has several. These tunnels simulate free-air conditions in the laboratory. It is pertinent to mention here that another Langley research scientist, John Stack, won the 1951 Collier Trophy for concept and design of the transonic wind tunnel slotted throat.
A whole family of new wind tunnels, authorized under the Unitary Wind Tunnel Plan Act of 1949, are coming into use for development testing of aircraft and engines of very high speed. They will permit laboratory investigations under large-scale conditions at speeds ranging from Mach 0.7 to 5.0.
Somewhat more forward-looking are the researches in aerodynamic heating. An example of this effort is the Bell X-2, built to probe the so-called 'thermal barrier.' With much stainless steel in its structure, with windshield glass tempered to withstand temperatures as high as 1,000°F., and with a heavily insulated cockpit, this rocket-powered plane will provide new information about aerodynamic heating.
Flying Aircraft Carrier.
Feasibility of a flying aircraft carrier was indicated in a report of studies made by Grover Loening, aircraft consultant of long experience. The proposal embodies a jet-powered, 20-engine, flying boat with a gross weight of 2,200,000 lb. and costing $110,000,000. Complement of the carrier would be 20 supersonic fighters or their equivalent launched from a 300-ft. deck while the carrier cruised at 400 mph. An arrangement providing an 80-ft. span between the twin rudders would offer a clear approach to the stern. The wings, enhanced by both low-drag and high-lift boundary layer control, would have a total span of 360 ft. with a chord of 80 ft. at base and 40 ft. at the tips. The range would be 4,000 mi. based on an 800,000 lb. fuel load, 400-mph cruising speed, and 0.85 specific fuel consumption.
Circular-wing aircraft, which could be called flying saucers, may be seen in the future, although their existence in the past has been denied by the Air Force. For many years circular-wing configurations have been known to have certain attractive aerodynamic advantages. Some work has been done in this field. Now the Air Research and Development Command, U.S.A.F., has taken over a Canadian project started by Avro Aircraft Ltd. to build a circular-wing aircraft at a prototype cost of about $100,000.
The Canadian project is based on model studies of a true disc configuration. Initial investigations established that flight control of the disc could be achieved through directional control of the jet exhaust issuing from a gap between the upper and lower disc surfaces, inboard of the saucer perimeter. Directing this exhaust up, down, or laterally from the perimeter by control of the exhaust gap dimensions would produce bending of the jet stream. With one fixed gap dimension, the flow would be straight out to produce lateral (horizontal) thrust for transitional flight. With the gap precisely altered to another dimensional value, the exhaust stream bends down or up for vertical thrust effect. For vertical takeoff, the top portion of the gap would be closed and alteration of the gap opening accomplished for downward direction of exhaust flow to lift the saucer vertically. For transitional flight, the gap, altered for straight-out jet flow and closed on a perimeter portion of the saucer, applies jet thrust on the opposite side of the perimeter. The powerplant for this saucer configuration might be a substantial refinement of an elementary engine scheme associated with an edge-on takeoff plane design.
Air Force Secretary Donald A. Quarles indicated that his announcement of the above-mentioned project was made to offset any possible public concern if a disc-shaped aircraft should be spotted.
Following President Eisenhower's announcement that small, unmanned satellites would be placed in orbits around the earth during the period between July 1957 and December 1958, delegates from 20 nations, including Soviet Russia, gathered at Copenhagen for the Sixth International Astronautical Congress. The result of the Congress was the coining of a new term, 'satelloid' — and newspaper pictures of a Hollywood beauty holding a metal cylinder, about the size of the conventional kitchen garbage can, which is claimed to be a typical satelloid.
Quite different from the Hollywood version was the proposal of Mr. Krafft Ehricks of Convair at the Copenhagen conference. His satelloid is a manned vehicle — half airplane, half satellite. Small rocket motors boost the orbit lifetime to a matter of days; in a true, unpowered satellite this would last only hours at the low, 80-mi. altitude proposed. Unlike the first true satellites, the satelloid is not only to be manned and powered but also reusable and able to glide safely back to earth with its occupants when the propellants are exhausted. Resembling an engineless airplane, it would rely on a mere 3,400 lb. of propellants used in small bursts to maintain a very high average speed for about six days. The higher orbit (200-300 mi.) required for unpowered satellites of the same lifetime demands very large rocket stages.
With a crew, observation capabilities of vastly greater range and complexity would be provided and a large step would be made in the direction of manned space flight.
Atomic Powered Aircraft.
The Shielding Problem.
During the year a special Convair B-36 was used to begin tests on the shielding problems of the first atomic aircraft engine. In the application of nuclear power to aircraft, the major problem is shielding the very small pile or reactor with heavy material to protect the crew and others against radioactivity. Because of the extreme weight of the shielding, atomic power must be confined, for the immediate future, to very large aircraft; the shielded reactor must be located close to the center of gravity of the aircraft. The shielding might be split, with part of it around the reactor and part around the crew, whose quarters will be removed as far as possible from the powerplant.
Land-based, nuclear-powered aircraft will need special runways because of the dangerous powerplant, for even when the plane is not operating, the reactor is radiating deadly rays. Because of the plane's unlimited range, however, there need be only a few of these special landing areas.
A proposal for a tandem plane arrangement has been advanced. An atomic-powered craft would be a drone, operating as a tug and pulling a second plane which would contain the crew and payload. The manned plane, having its own powerplant, could cut loose for landing at a conventional airport or, if it were brought onto the remotely-located runways likely to be needed for nuclear-powered planes, it could cut its towline connection and taxi to the regular hangar area for unloading.
Another proposal calls for a detachable nose section. It would house the crew and have its own taxiing gear and powerplant. After landing on the appropriate atomic runway, the crew would cast off from the powerplant section and taxi to the hangar.
Although the first nuclear-powered aircraft probably will look a good deal like today's designs (but with a greatly elongated nose to get the crew as far from the reactor as possible), the landing gear will have to be much larger and stronger. This is dictated by the fact that, on landing, the plane will have about the same weight as when it took off. Practically no fuel is consumed during flight, so that no fuel weight reduction occurs.
Biggest news of the year in the field of long-range scheduled airline operation was the multimillion-dollar program of re-equipment and conversion to jet transport announced by several major airlines. In the fall, Pan American World Airways announced an order for 45 jet-powered airliners costing $269,000,000. Of these, 25 are the Douglas DC-8, and 20 are the Boeing 707. These aircraft will begin to go into service in 1958 and will cut flying time approximately by half between major world cities. Passengers leaving London, for example, at noon will fly 7 hr. and 15 min. and arrive in New York at 2:15 p.m., due to the 5-hour time difference as the plane flies westward; flying time between New York and Paris will be cut from 11 hr. to 6 ¾ hr.
Following the Pan American announcement came one from United Airlines, confirming an order for 30 Douglas DC-8 aircraft, costing $175,000,000. Soon after, word of a $135,000,000 order for 30 Boeing 707 Jetliners came from American Airlines.
The DC-8 has a span of 138.6 ft., a length of 140.6 ft., and a height overall of 40.2 ft. It will carry 130 or more passengers at a gross weight of 257,000 lb., cruising at 575 mph for a nonstop distance of 5,000 mi. The Boeing 707 is somewhat smaller, but has the same performance. Since these planes will normally operate at altitudes above 30,000 ft., they will be above most of the bad weather. This condition, added to the greatly reduced vibration of jets as compared with piston engines, will assure greater comfort during air travel.
The announcement of orders for jet transports does not, however, solve the problem of transition to the jet age. The effect of such expenditures upon the financial structures of the airlines can be far-reaching. Operating techniques and, in fact, the existing world airline map must be changed to conform with the higher speeds and altitudes of operation of the jets. By no means the least of the problems will be those of traffic control at the international airports from which these jet transports will operate. Most of these terminals already are overcrowded and, in bad weather, stacking to await turn for landing is the practice. The fuel consumption of jet engines is so much higher at low speeds than it is in cruising that stacking can be prohibitive in terms of reserve fuel supply. A solution to the problems of landing delay must be found before jet-powered transports can operate economically in and out of existing terminal facilities.
Air Coach Service.
Competition among the scheduled airline operators in the field of second-class air coach service has disclosed a vast volume of untapped air traffic and has reduced the differential between first- and second-class service. There is at least one long-range schedule in which first- and second-class service is provided in different positions in the cabin of the same airliner.
The attitude of the industry toward coach service ranges from the aggressive approach of Eastern and Trans World Airlines in particular, to the slower approach of United Air Lines and American Airlines. Eastern Air Lines has a coach traffic goal of 65 per cent of its total business, and the prospect is that in a few years this will be the coach percentage throughout the industry. Coach service now amounts to about 44 per cent of Eastern's total business.
The three areas of greatest competition in trunkline service are also the areas in which the growth of air coach has been particularly notable. The competition is primarily between Eastern and National Airlines for the New York-Miami traffic. The number of coach passengers carried by Eastern for the year ended June 30 was over one million more than for the previous year. The number of National coach passengers increased by 122,000. But more indicative, 57 per cent of National's total domestic business in revenue passenger-miles was in coach service for the last year. More than 43 per cent of the nation's revenue passengers flew coach.
United Air Lines, despite the theoretical opposition of its president W. A. Patterson to coach travel, operates six coach flights daily over the Los Angeles-San Francisco-Seattle route — even using luxury DC-6B airliners in off-hours. This is United's answer to the aggressive policy of Western Air Lines and the additional competition of nonscheduled and intrastate carriers in the area.
TWA is emphasizing low-cost coach service. A current comparison is between TWA's coach flights and the luxury service of the DC-7's of United and American Airlines. So far, the DC-7's appear to be holding a substantial part of the transcontinental business. A reduced fare has been initiated by TWA to lure passengers to coach service with very little difference in passenger comfort and convenience.
In the field of air navigation, the controversy between DME (Distance-Measuring Equipment) and Tacan, a new system sponsored by International Telephone & Telegraph Co., has tended to obscure their many basic similarities, especially in the case of the present civil VOR (Very High Frequency Omnirange)-DME. Both operate on the same basic principle. A set in an aircraft transmits an interrogation pulse. This is received by a ground station, causing a pulsed reply to be transmitted back. In interrogation and reply, pairs of pulses are sent to avoid confusion with spurious noises or with other DME pulses, in the case of civil DME.
The differences which are claimed to give Tacan its superiority and growth potential include:
1. Clear-channel DME, in which individual channels are provided solely by frequency separation between stations in place of the pulse-coding (multiplexing) required by civil DME to provide sufficient channels. This Tacan characteristic makes multiplexing available for additional functions, such as bearing, instrument landing, data link, and, possibly at some future date, voice communication via pulse-code modulation.
2. UHF-band (1,000 megacycles) operation of both bearing and distance functions, so that Tacan's omnirange bearing service is much less affected by terrain and obstructions near the antenna than is VOR, which operates in the range of 112-118 megacycles. For the same reason, Tacan can use a much smaller ground-station antenna, an important consideration on shipboard and in various USAF mobile installations. A combined 'coarse'- and 'fine'-bearing indicating system utilized in Tacan enables it to provide greater accuracy than VOR.
3. In civil DME, pulses 2.5 microseconds wide are given one of ten different possible spacings which are 14 to 77 microseconds apart, to provide ten discrete channels at one operating frequency. In Tacan, the DME pulses are 3.2 microseconds wide and always spaced 12 microseconds apart, since each channel operates at a different frequency. Both the ground and airborne DME receivers contain twin-pulse decoders set to pass only pulse pairs having the prescribed spacing and to reject all others.
During the 'search' phase of the operation, when either type is looking for replies from ground stations, approximately 150 pulse-pairs are transmitted per sec. When contact has been established with the ground station, this rate is lowered to approximately 30 pulse-pairs per sec. So that an airborne receiver will not mistake ground replies intended for other aircraft as the answer to its own interrogation, the repetition rate of each airborne transmitter is 'wobbled' or varied slightly to give it an instantaneous repetition rate which differs from that of other aircraft in the area.
In Europe, where conditions of greater air transport congestion exist, it is natural that more thought has been given to reduction in runway length, to helicopters, and to vertical take-off aircraft.
Although still an experimental craft, the jet flap, developed by the National Gas Turbine Establishment in England, is a potential solution to the problem of airplane operation from within the center of cities. It is, in effect, a device in which the principles of jet deflection are combined with those of super-circulation. The entire engine jet stream is ejected through a slot along the whole wing trailing edge to integrate propulsion with lift.
Compared with other short take-off devices, the jet flap has the advantages of not carrying dead weight (e.g., the two sets of engines in the Rolls-Royce 'Flying Bedstead' concept and the various convertiplanes) and of not requiring any awkward attitudes or special ground equipment. It has been under development since 1952 and, in one of those coincidences so common to inventions, Poisson-Quinton and Jousserandot of France's Office National d' É tudes et de Recherches Aéronautiques (ONERA) have been working along similar lines.
Long-range aircraft and mainliners requiring runways of only 3,000 ft. may well be designed in the future. Another approach was indicated by Georges Hereil, President of the French Société Nationale des Compagnies Aéronautiques du Sud-Est. Hereil outlined the various attempts to substitute skis, trolleys, catapults, or ramps for wheels and concrete, emphasizing the independence of the Baroudeur attack fighter, with its use of skis or trolley from any terrain.
July 2, 1900.
The first zeppelin was successfully flown at a speed of 8½ mph at Lake Constance, Germany. Development of the airship was the result of years of experimentation.
Dec. 17, 1903.
The first successful flight by man in a powered heavier-than-air machine occurred at Kitty Hawk, N.C., when Orville Wright covered a distance of 120 ft. in 12 sec. Later, on the same day, Wilbur Wright flew the machine 852 ft. in 59 sec.
July 25, 1909.
Louis Blériot made the first airplane crossing of the English Channel. Flying a monoplane of his own design, Blériot crossed from Les Baraques, Fr., to Dover, Eng. His 37-min. flight covered 31 mi. and won for Blériot a prize of £1,000.
June 10, 1910.
Scheduled passenger service by air started with the zeppelin Deutschland over a 300-mi. route from Friedrichshafen to Düsseldorf, Ger.
Several demonstrations were carried out to show the potential of the airplane in naval applications. On Nov. 14, 1910, an airplane piloted by Eugene Ely took off from the deck of the cruiser U.S.S. Birmingham at Hampton Roads, Va., and flew to Norfolk. On Jan. 18, 1911, Ely landed his plane on the deck of the U.S.S. Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay. On June 26, the first flying boat was successfully demonstrated in San Diego Bay. Named Flying Fish, the plane was built especially for overwater flying by Glenn H. Curtiss. On Nov. 12, 1912, Lt. T. F. Ellyson, USN, made the first successful power-catapult takeoff from a barge at the Washington Navy Yard.
Jan. 1, 1914.
Regularly scheduled passenger service in heavier-than-air craft began. A Benoist flying boat, carrying pilot and one passenger, operated over a 22-mi. route between Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla. The undertaking failed after a few weeks' operation.
Jan. 19, 1915.
Four British cities were bombed by German zeppelins. This first air raid served more to frighten the populace than to inflict much physical damage.
May 15, 1918.
With a $100,000 grant from the Post Office Department, the U.S. Army started regular commercial airmail service between Washington, D.C., and Long Island, N.Y.
Scheduled passenger and airmail service was begun between London and Paris. Two British companies — Aircraft Transport and Travel, Ltd. and Handley-Page Transport, Ltd. — and one French, the Farman Co., ran the service with modified warplanes.
May 16-17, 1919.
The first transatlantic crossing by air was completed by Lt. Albert C. Read commanding a U.S. Navy flying boat, the NC-4. Flying time from New York to Southampton, Eng., via Newfoundland, the Azores, and Portugal — a distance of 3,936 nautical mi. — was 52 hr., 31 min.
June 14-15, 1919.
The first nonstop transatlantic flight was made by Capt. John Alcock and Lieut. A. Whitten Brown. The 1,936-mi. flight from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Ireland, took 16 hr., 12 min. in a twin-engined Vickers bomber.
July 2-13, 1919.
The first round-trip Atlantic crossing was made by an airship. The British R-34, commanded by Maj. George Herbert Scott, made the westbound crossing from East Fortune in Scotland to Hazelhurst Field, L.I., in 108 hr.; eastbound, the flight from Hazelhurst Field to Pulham, Eng., took 75 hr.
Oct. 15, 1920.
U.S. International airmail service was inaugurated by Edward Hubbard. Under a government contract, he operated between Seattle, Wash., and Vancouver in Canada in a Boeing flying boat.
Nov. 1, 1920.
Regularly scheduled international passenger service in the United States was inaugurated by Aeromarine West Indies Airways between Key West, Fla., and Havana, Cuba.
Feb. 22-23, 1921.
To demonstrate night flying on airmail routes, the first through transcontinental flight was made from San Francisco to New York.
Mar. 22-April 19, 1922.
The first airplane crossing of the South Atlantic was flown on a route from Lisbon, Port. to Rio de Janiero, Braz., via Cape Verde Islands and Natal, Braz. This 4,293-mi. flight was made by two Portuguese aviators, Adm. Cago Coutinho and Cmdr. Saccadura Cabral.
May 2-3, 1923.
A nonstop, transcontinental U.S. flight of 2,520 mi., from Roosevelt Field, N.Y., to San Diego, Calif., was made by Lt. Oakley Kelley and Lt. John A. Macready in a Fokker monoplane T-2. Their time was 26 hr., 50 min.
With modified DeHavilland DH-4BMs, mid-air refueling was accomplished by Lt. L. H. Smith and Lt. J. P. Richter over San Diego, Calif. They thus set a world endurance record of four days in the air.
Sept. 4, 1923.
U.S. Navy's first rigid airship, the U.S.S. Shenandoah, was commissioned at Lakehurst, N.J.
April 6-Sept. 28, 1924.
U.S. Army biplanes made the first round-the-world flight from Seattle, Wash. Of the four planes taking off, two completed the 26,345-mi. flight. One was the Chicago, commanded by Lt. Lowell Smith; the other was the New Orleans, commanded by Lt. Erik H. Nelson. Their actual flying time was 363 hr.
July 1, 1924.
Scheduled, transcontinental airmail service was inaugurated between New York and San Francisco by way of Chicago, Omaha, and Salt Lake City.
March 16, 1926.
Dr. Robert H. Goddard launched a liquid-fuel rocket near Auburn, Mass. Flight lasted 2.5 sec. during which the rocket reached a speed of 60 mph.
May 20-21, 1927.
Charles Lindbergh made the first successful solo transatlantic flight in a Wright-powered Ryan monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis. The flight from Roosevelt Field, L.I., to Le Bourget Field, near Paris, covered 3,610 mi. in 33 hr., 39 min.
Sept. 18, 1928.
Juan de la Cierva flew the English Channel from Croydon airport, outside London, to Le Bourget Field, near Paris, in an autogiro. On Dec. 19, at Willow Grove, Philadelphia, Pa., Harold F. Pitcairn made the first successful autogiro flight in the United States.
Sept. 30, 1929.
A rocket plane flight was made by Fritz von Opel, in Frankfurt, Ger. It lasted 1¼ min., the rocket plane reaching a height of 50 ft.
Oct. 4-5, 1931.
Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon made the first nonstop flight over the Pacific Ocean. Their route was from Sabishiro Beach, Japan, to Wenatchee, Wash., a distance of 4,860 mi. Their time was 41 hr., 13 min.
Nov. 11, 1935.
Near the Black Hills, S.D., Capt. Orvil Anderson and Capt. Albert Stevens reached a record altitude of 72,395 ft. in a sealed gondola slung under a balloon.
Nov. 22-29, 1935.
Pan American Airways inaugurated trans-pacific airmail service between San Francisco and Manila via Honolulu and Midway, Wake, and Guam Islands. A Martin China Clipper was used.
Autogiro airmail delivery began when L. Levy in a Kellett craft and J. Ray in a Pitcairn delivered a load of airmail each, landing on the roof of the post office at Philadelphia, Pa.
Oct. 21, 1936.
Weekly passenger service over the 8,200-mi. route from San Francisco to Manila was begun by Pan American Airways.
May 6, 1937.
The German rigid airship Hindenburg burst into flames while mooring at Lakehurst, N.J. The airship was completely destroyed and many lives were lost.
July 4, 1937.
First successful flight of a practical man-carrying helicopter, designed by Dr. Heinrich Focks, was accomplished by Hanna Reitsch in Bremen, Germany.
May 20, 1939.
Scheduled transatlantic airline service between New York and Southampton, Eng., was inaugurated by Pan American Airways and Imperial Airways.
Aug. 27, 1939.
The first turbojet aircraft, a Heinkel He-178 powered by a HeS-3 engine with 1,000 lb. thrust, was flown at Rostock, Ger.
June 24, 1943.
A parachute jump of 40,200 ft., the highest undertaken, was made by Lt. Col. W. R. Lovelace.
June 12-13, 1944.
German V-1 attacks on London began. These robots, launched from bases on the Channel, killed 5,817, wounded 17,036, and destroyed 870,000 English homes in the first 80 days of their use. These explosive-filled, crewless aircraft were propelled by pulse jet engines.
Sept. 8, 1944.
German attacks with a long-range, wingless rocket — the V-2 — began on London. The V-2 had a takeoff weight of 12 tons, including a one-ton warhead, and a range of 200 mi. Maximum height of trajectory was 50-60 mi.
Jet-powered air warfare began. In the summer of 1944, Germans used the rocket-driven Messerschmitt Me-163 against Allied B-17 formations. The Me-163 was launched from a catapult; it was armed with four 3-mm. cannon and was capable of a speed of 560 mph.
Maj. Charles Yeager made the first piloted supersonic flight in a Bell X-1. At 60,000 ft. he reached a speed of 968 mph — this is Mach 1.45 (Mach 1 is the speed of sound).
March 2, 1949.
A nonstop, round-the-world flight was completed by a USAF Boeing B-50 bomber. The 23,452-mi. flight was made in 94 hr., with four mid-air refuelings, by Capt. James Gallagher and crew of 13.
Aug. 7, 1951.
William Bridgeman reached a height of 79,494 ft. in a D-558-II after it was air launched from a B-29 bomber. Although the altitude record set by Anderson and Stevens in 1935 was thus exceeded, Bridgeman's flight did not set a new record because it did not follow rules established by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (F.A.I.).
British Overseas Airways Corporation began turbojet airliner services using DeHavilland Comets on the London-Johannesburg route.
April 18, 1953.
British European Airways began turboprop airline services, using Vickers-Armstrong Viscounts, on the London-Cyprus route.
Maj. Charles Yeager set an unofficial world speed record in the Bell X-1A. Launched from a B-29 at 30,000 ft. and climbing to 70,000 ft., the craft attained a speed of 1,650 mph (Mach 2.5).
May 24, 1954.
A Viking 11 rocket reached an altitude of 158 mi., the highest to date, at White Sands Proving Grounds, N. Mex.
Aug. 20, 1955.
Col. Horace A. Hanes, flying a North American F-100C, the Super Sabre, averaged a speed of 822.135 mph (Mach 1.23) at 40,000 ft. over Muroc Desert. This was the first time the speed of sound had been exceeded in level flight. Even more important, it was done with an operational fighter, not with a research airplane.
WORLD SPEED RECORDS
Competitions for world speed records in aviation are conducted according to very explicit international rules set up and administered by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. For 50 years, the F.A.I. has been working with member aero clubs of different countries to assure scientifically accurate records, competent judges, and an equal chance for all contestants. Usually, the national aero club (in the U.S., the National Aeronautic Association) provides the judges for events in its country. After the event, the records are certified by the national club, and sent to F.A.I. headquarters in Paris, where they are carefully studied to be sure that the rules have been faithfully followed before being officially confirmed, perhaps as a world record.
One F.A.I. rule is that speed records must be made in straight and level flight. For this reason, the official world speed record of 822.135 mph (Mach 1.23) achieved by Col. Horace A. Hanes is far less than the absolute but 'unofficial' record set in December 1953 by Maj. Charles Yeager. Yeager's Bell X-1A was launched from a B-29 at 30,000 ft. and climbed to 70,000 ft. From this altitude, his plane reached a speed of 1,650 mph (Mach 2.5).
F.A.I. speed records are divided according to the type of aircraft (seaplane or landplane), as well as the course over which the record was made — straight line or closed circuit. The records listed in the table were made over a straight-line course. In most cases, only the fastest record in any calendar year is listed.