Today in Aviation History

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The orbiter entered Venus orbit on October 20, 1975. Its mission was to act as a relay for the lander and explore cloud layers and atmospheric parameters with a few instruments and experiments. From October 26, 1975 to December 25, 1975, he performed 17 research missions.
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Sorry for the delay. Been a rough and tiring week. Time to catch up...

October 30, 1991

United States Air Force Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, 88-26110, call sign "Jolly 110," assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard, headed out into a hurricane that would become known as "The Perfect Storm." Aboard were Major C. David Ruvola, pilot; Captain Graham Buschor, co-pilot; Staff Sergeant James R. Mioli, flight engineer; and pararescue jumpers Technical Sergeant John Spillane and Technical Sergeant Arden Rick Smith. Their mission was to attempt a rescue 250 miles (400 kilometers) out to sea.

Due to the severity of the storm—a weather buoy located 264 miles (425 kilometers) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, reported a wave height of 100.7 feet (30.7 meters) on 30 October, the highest ever recorded in that part of the Atlantic Ocean—the Pave Hawk crew was unable to make the rescue and had to return to their base.

Having already refueled from the Lockheed HC-130 Hercules tanker three times during the mission, and with low fuel, a fourth refueling was needed for the helicopter to make it back to the mainland. Because of the the extreme turbulence and lack of visibility, Jolly 110 could not make contact with the refueling drogue trailing behind the airplane.

Major Ruvola made more than 30 attempts, but finally both drogues had been damaged by the severe conditions. With just twenty minutes of fuel remaining, Jolly 110 would have to ditch in the middle of "The Perfect Storm."

Unable to refuel, Major Ruvola made the decision to ditch the helicopter into the sea while the engines were still running. At 9:30 p.m., the Sikorsky's number one engine flamed out from fuel starvation. With one engine still operating, Ruvola held the Pave Hawk in a hover over the raging ocean while Buschor, Mioli, Spillane and Smith jumped.

When the number two engine flamed out, Ruvola put the Pave Hawk into a hovering autorotation. Its blades came to a sudden stop when they hit the face of an oncoming wave. Ruvola was about 15 feet (4.6 meters) under water by the time he was able to escape from the sinking helicopter.

The Pave Hawk had gone down 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Montauk Point in 100-knot (185 kilometers per hour) winds and 80-foot (25 meter) waves. After five hours in the water, four airmen were rescued by USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166), a 48-year-old former U.S. Navy fleet tug, operated by the Coast Guard since the end of World War II as a medium endurance cutter.

The search for Rick Smith continued for a week. He was never found.
October 30, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26109, a sistership of "Jolly 110," ready for refueling from a Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow, 69-5828. This helicopter was destroyed 7 January 2014, when it crashed off the coast of England following multiple bird strikes at 130 knots. The four-man crew was killed. (TSGT Justin D. Pyle, U.S. Air Force)


Technical Sergeant Arden R. Smith, Pararescue Jumper, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)
Octover 30, 1961

At 9:30 a.m., specially modified Tupolev Tu-95V "Bear A" bomber, No. 5800302, under the command of Major Andrey Ergorovich Durnovtsev of the 409th Heavy Bomber Air Regiment, departed Olenegorsk Air Base, 92 kilometers (57 miles) south of Murmansk, at 9:30 a.m. The bomber carried a nine-man crew, including navigator Major Ivan Nikoforovich Mite.

The Tu-95 was accompanied by a Tupolev Tu-16 instrumentation ship (No. 3709), under the command of Colonel Vladimir Fedorovich Martynenko. Some sources say that the two bombers were escorted by a flight of fully-armed fighters.

Major Durnovtsev's mission was to carry out the Soviet Union's 130th nuclear weapons test. The Tu-95 carried a single RDS-220, a three-stage radiation-implosion thermonuclear bomb. It was 8 meters (26.25 feet) long, with a diameter of 2.1 meters (6.89 feet), and weighed approximately 27,000 kilograms (59,525 pounds). The bomb was variously known as "Big Ivan" or "Tsar Bomba" (King of Bombs).

The Tu-95 dropped the RDS-220 from an altitude of 10,500 meters (34,449 feet) over the D-II test range, 15 kilometers (9 miles) north of the Mityushikha Strait on Novaya Zemlya. The bomb was retarded by parachute to allow the Bear time to escape the blast effects. After falling for 3 minutes, 8 seconds, at 11:33 a.m., the bomb detonated 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above the surface of Novaya Zemlya. A bright flash of light lasted for 30 seconds and finally faded away after 70 seconds.

45 seconds after detonation, the nuclear cloud reached a height of 30 kilometers (19 miles), then spread outward, reaching a maximum diameter of 95 kilometers (59 miles).

Major Durnovtsev's Tu-95 was approximately 39 kilometers (24 miles) away for "ground zero" at the time of the explosion. As it continued to fly away from the blast, the shock waves finally caught up to bomber at a distance of 115 kilometers (71 miles), 8 minutes, 20 seconds after they had released the bomb.

At the same time, a secret United States Air Force Boeing JKC-135A Stratotanker instrumentation aircraft, Speed Light Bravo, 55-3127, had flown closer to ground zero to gather data about the air burst. It was so close that its special anti-radiation paint was scorched. (55-3127 was later converted to the NKC-135A airborne laboratory configuration to support the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963. It was returned to tanker configuration in the 1980s. Later, 55-3127 served as a test bed aircraft for the Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright-Patterson It was retired to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in 1992.)

After the nuclear explosion data was analyzed by the Foreign Weapons Evaluation Panel (the "Bethe Panel") the RDS-220 yield was estimated at 57 megatons. This was the largest nuclear weapon detonation in history. It was also the "cleanest," with 97% of the energy yield produced by fusion. Relative to the size of the explosion, very little fallout was produced.

All buildings in the town of Severny, 55 kilometers (34.2 miles) from Ground Zero, were destroyed. Wooden buildings as far as 200 kilometers (124 miles) were destroyed or heavily damaged.

A visible shock wave in the air was seen at a distance of 700 kilometers (435 miles). The shock wave from the explosion traveled around the world three times.
October 30, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


Tupolev Tu-95V No. 5800302 carrying the RDS-220 bomb.


Fully assembled RDS-220 three-stage radiation implosion thermonuclear bomb, with retarding parachute in place, at Arzamas-16


Major Durnovtsev's Tupolev Tu-95V "Bear A," carrying the RDS-220 bomb to the target. A Tu-16 instrumentation aircraft is just behind, on the bomber's left quarter.


The RDS-220 bomb just after drop. The retarding parachute is beginning to deploy.


Tsar Bomba fireball over Novaya Zemlya, 11:32 a.m., 30 October 1961. The fireball has reached a diameter of 5 miles (8 kilometers). Shock waves reflecting off of the ground caused the slight flattening of the bottom of the fireball.


The mushroom cloud of Tsar Bomba climbs into the stratosphere.


The crater created by the Tsar Bomba test, 30 October 1961.


Майор Андрей Дурновцев
October 30, 1935

While undergoing evaluation by the U.S. Army Air Corps at Wright Field, northeast of Dayton, Ohio, the Boeing Model 299 Flying Fortress, NX13372—the most technologically sophisticated airplane of its time—took off with Major Ployer P. Hill as pilot.

The largest land airplane built up to that time, the XB-17 "seemed to have defensive machine guns aimed in every direction." A Seattle Times newspaper reporter, Roland Smith, wrote that it was a "flying fortress." Boeing copyrighted the name.

Major Hill was the Chief of the Flying Branch, Material Division, at Wright Field. This was his first flight in the airplane. The co-pilot was the Air Corps' project pilot, Lieutenant Donald Leander Putt. Boeing's Chief Test Pilot Leslie R. Tower and company mechanic C.W. Benton were also on board, as was Henry Igo of the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company.

Immediately after takeoff, the 299 suddenly pitched up, stalled and crashed, then caught fire. Three men, Igo, Benton and Putt, were able to escape from the wreck despite injuries.

The official investigation of the crash determined that the prototype bomber's flight crew had neglected to release the flight control gust locks which are intended to prevent damage to the control surfaces while on the ground. Test Pilot Tower recognized the mistake and tried to release the control locks, but could not reach them from his position in the cockpit.

Experts wondered if the Flying Fortress was too complex an airplane to fly safely. As a direct result of this accident, the "check list" was developed, now required in all aircraft.

After several years of testing, the Model 299 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.
October 30, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


The Boeing Model 299 NX 13372 (XB-17), prototype four-engine heavy bomber. (U.S. Air Force)


The wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, burns after the fatal crash at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)


On October 30, 1935, a Boeing plane known as the "flying fortress" crashed during a military demonstration in Ohio — shocking the aviation industry and prompting questions about the future of flight


Major Ployer P. Hill, U.S. Army Air Corps (1894–1935)
October 30, 1909

ohn Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon, (later, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara, G.B.E., M.C., P.C.) won a £1,000 prize sponsored by the Daily Mail when he flew his Short Biplane No. 2 on a circular flight of one mile (1.609 kilometers).

At the Royal Aero Club flying field at Shellbeach, Isle of Sheppey (on the northern coast of Kent, in the Thames Estuary), Moore-Brabazon took off, turned around a post that had been set at a distance of one-half mile (0.804 kilometers), and returned to land next to the airplane's launching rail. The duration of Brabazon's flight was 2 minutes, 36½ seconds.
October 30, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


"Mr. Moore-Brabazon flying at Shellbeach on the short biplane on which he won the "Daily Mail" £1,000 Prize on Saturday last." (Flight, Vol. I, No. 45, 6 November 1909, at Page 703)
October 31, 1964

Captain Theodore Cordy Freeman, United States Air Force, was a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps. He was one of fourteen pilots who had been selected for the third group of candidates in October 1963.

At 10:01 a.m., Saturday morning, Captain Freeman took off at 10:01 a.m. from Ellington Air Force Base, Houston, Texas. He was on the first of two planned training flights, flying a Northrop T-38A-50-NO Talon, 63-8188, Northrop serial number N.5535. The weather was reported as scattered clouds at 2,000 feet (607 meters), with visibility 7 miles (11.3 kilometers) in haze. He returned to the airfield at 10:38 for touch and goes, but was instructed to exit traffic pattern because of arriving aircraft.

At 10:46, Freeman called Ellington Tower, reporting that he was 5 miles (8 kilometers) southwest, inbound. He received no response and 30 seconds later, reported that he was breaking out to the east. The tower acknowledged this transmission and instructed Freeman to make another approach. At 10:47, Freeman called, "Roger, be about two minutes." There were no further transmissions.

Ted Freeman's T-38 struck a Lesser Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) in the vicinity of the airport. These birds weigh between 4½ to 6 pounds (2.1–2.7 kilograms). The impact resulted in damage to the left side of the airplane's forward canopy. Both engines flamed out.

Unable to reach runway at Ellington, Freeman turned away from the airfield to avoid buildings, lowered the landing gear and headed for an open field. At approximately 100 feet (30 meters), he fired his ejection seat. The altitude was too low to allow his parachute to open and Freeman was killed when he struck the ground.

The T-38 crashed at 10:48 a.m., 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) south of Ellington Air Force Base, between Highway 3 and the Gulf Freeway.
October 31, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


Captain Theodore Cordy Freeman, United States Air Force. (NASA)


(The Miami News, Sunday, 1 November 1964, Page 3A, Columns 1–3)


Wings of Lesser Snow Goose and fragments of Freeman's T-38 canopy. (NASA S64-38117)


Astronaut Group Three. Ted Freeman is standing, fourth from left. Front Row, left to right: Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., William A. Anders, Charles A. Bassett II, Alan L. Bean, Eugene A. Cernan and Roger B. Chaffee. Back Row, Michael Collins, R. Walter Cunningham, Donn F. Eisele, Theodore C. Freeman, Richard F. Gordon Jr., Russell L. Schweickart, David R. Scott, and Clifton C. Williams. (NASA)


Buzz Aldrin and Ted Freeman, Friday, 30 October 1964. (NASA)
October 31, 1959

At Joukovski-Petrovskoe, U.S.S.R., Гео́ргий Константи́нович Мосоло́в (Georgy Konstantinovich Mosolov), chief test pilot for Mikoyan-Gurevich, flew a prototype of the MiG-21 interceptor identified as the E-66, to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 15/25 Kilometer Straight Course. His speed averaged 2,388 kilometers per hour (1,483.8 miles per hour).

The МиГ-21 prototype identified by the symbol E-66 is known at the Mikoyan Design Bureau as the E-6\3. Its first flight took place in December 1958. It is powered by a Tumansky 11F-300 afterburning turbojet engine. (A Wikipedia article suggests that this airplane was rebuilt to different configurations several times, with designations changed accordingly.)

Mosolov's FAI altitude record of 28 April 1961 was also flown in a MiG-21 prototype called E-66. (FAI Record File # 8661) Photographs and motion picture film of that airplane show it marked with red numerals "31" on the forward fuselage.

Colonel Mosolov was interviewed for an article in Air & Space Smithsonian Magazine. He told writer Tony Reichhardt that after completing the speed record course, he was 125 miles (201 kilometers) from base at 44,000 feet (13,411 meters). Low on fuel, he shut down the turbojet engine and began a long glide. He twice unsuccessfully attempted to restart the engine for the landing, but was forced to glide all the way to the runway. After landing, the fuel system was drained. Only 8 liters (2.1 gallons) remained.
October 31, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


Colonel Georgy Konstantinovich Mosolov


Colonel Georgy Konstantinovich Mosolov, Soviet Air Forces. Hero of the Soviet Union.


The airplane in this photograph from the web site "Wings of Russia" is described as showing the Mikoyan-Gurevich E-6T\1 prototype, "31 Red," flown to a world record altitude by Colonel Mosolov, 28 April 1961.
October 31, 1940

"All Clear." The Battle of Britain, which began on 10 July 1940, came to an end. It was a decisive victory for the Royal Air Force.
October 31, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


A British civilian air observer searches the sky over London for enemy bombers. (National Archives and Records Administration)

Contrails over London during the Battle of Britain, 10 July–31 October 1940. (Imperial War Museum)
November 1, 1918

At 2:20 p.m., Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck, Escadrille 103, Aéronautique Militaire, shot down a Luftstreitkräfte Halberstadt C, east of Vouziers, France. Its pilot, Gefreiter W. Schmidt of Flieger-Abteilung 297b, was killed.

This was the 75th confirmed enemy aircraft which Fonck had destroyed. (As many as 52 aircraft claimed by Fonck, including another Halberstadt C over Semuy, fifteen minutes later, were not confirmed.) Lieutenant Fonck was the highest-scoring Allied fighter pilot of World War I.

The chasseur flown by René Fonck on this date was a Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XVII, Nº. 682. The S.XVII was an improved S.XIII, with stronger wings and fuselage, additional bracing wires and a more powerful engine. Its more closely-spaced longerons gave the fuselage a more circular cross-section and a bulkier appearance.
November 1, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


Lieutenant René Fonck with a SPAD S.XVII, 1918. (Photo SHD section Air de Vincennes transmise par Jon Guttman)


Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (


Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (aviafrance)


René Fonck with a SPAD S.XII Canon fighter. The stork painted on the fuselage is the insignia of Escadrille 103, "Les Cignones." (Historic Wings)
November 2, 1953

The Convair YF-102 prototype, 52-7994 was severely damaged when its Pratt & Whitney J57-P-11 engine flamed out during a test flight. The cause was traced to the engine's Bendix fuel control. Dick Johnson was unable to restart the engine and was forced to make a gear-up landing in the desert, not far from Edwards Air Force Base. Johnson was seriously injured. The prototype was written off.
November 2, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


Air Force officers examine the wreck of the prototype Convair YF-102, 52-7994, near Edwards AFB, 2 November 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)


Wreck of Convair YF-102 52-7994 near Edwards Air Force Base, 2 November 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
November 2, 1950

In a ceremony at The White House, Washington, D.C., President Harry S. Truman presented the Harmon International Trophies for the period 1940–1949. The Harmon aviator's trophy was awarded to Lieutenant General James Harold ("Jimmy") Doolittle, United States Air Force (Retired), the wartime commanding general of the Eighth Air Force. General Doolittle had previously been awarded the Harmon U.S. national aviator's trophy in 1929, for his work on instrument flying.

The international aviatrix trophy went to Colonel Jacqueline ("Jackie") Cochran, U.S. Air Force Reserve, for her service as Director of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), 1942–1944. She would eventually win fourteen Harmon trophies.

The international aeronaut trophy was presented to Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl, commanding the U.S. Navy's lighter-than-aircraft during World War II. This was Admiral Rosendahl's fourth Harmon Trophy.
November 2, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


Lieutenant General James H. ("Jimmy") Dooliitel, commanding Eighth Air Force, with a scale model Boeing B-29 Superfortress. (U.S. Air Force)


Jacqueline Cochran with ribbon representing the Distinguished Service Medal.
November 2, 1947

Howard Hughes' Hughes Aircraft Company H-4 Hercules flying boat, NX37602, made its first and only flight at the harbor of Los Angeles, California. The new media called it "The Spruce Goose" due to its strong but lightweight wooden construction. As with the famous de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito fighter-bomber, the use of wood freed up valuable metal alloys during World War II.

Conceived by Henry J. Kaiser, the airplane was initially called the HK-1. It was designed to carry as many as 750 fully-equipped soldiers on transoceanic flights.

The H-4 is 218 feet, 8 inches (66.650 meters) long with a wingspan of 320 feet, 11 inches (97.815 meters). Its height is 79 feet, 4 inches (24.181 meters). The Hercules' designed loaded weight is 400,000 pounds (181,437 kilograms).

The flying boat was powered by eight air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.489 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major VSB11-G (R-4360-4A) four-row 28-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 7:1. The R-4360-4A had a Normal Power rating of 2,500 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), 2,200 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. to 14,500 feet (4,420 meters), and a Takeoff rating of 3,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. The Military Power rating was also 3,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., to an altitude of 1,500 feet (457 meters), then decreased to 2,400 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. to 13,500 feet (4,115 meters). The engines turned four-bladed Hamilton Standard propellers with a diameters of 17 feet, 2 inches (5.232 meters) through a 0.425:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-4A was 8 feet, 0.75 inches (2.457 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,390 pounds (1,538 kilograms).

On its only flight, the H-4 Hercules traveled approximately one mile (1.6 kilometers) at 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour), remaining in ground effect. It never flew again, and its estimated performance was never verified through flight testing.
November 2, 2020 - This Day in Aviation


"Nov. 2, 1947: The Hughes Aircraft H-4 Hercules "Spruce Goose" during short flight in the Long Beach-Los Angeles Harbor. This photo was published in the Nov. 3, 1947 L.A. Times." (Los Angeles Times)


Hughes H-4 Hercules NX37602 in San Pedro Bay, 2 November 1947. Two U.S. Navy heavy cruisers and a fleet oiler are in the background. On the horizon is Santa Catalina Island. (LIFE Magazine)


Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., in the cockpit of the H-4 Hercules, 6 November 1947. (J.R. Eyerman/LIFE Magazine)
November 2, 1953

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Air Force officers examine the wreck of the prototype Convair YF-102, 52-7994, near Edwards AFB, 2 November 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

View attachment 601000
Wreck of Convair YF-102 52-7994 near Edwards Air Force Base, 2 November 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
I imagine that "landing" took quite a bit of skill to accomplish. Was the problem able to be determined because the aircraft was so intact? Rhetorical question.

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