Tag Archives: Pratt and Whitney

1 September 1938: Jacqueline Cochran

Jackie Cochran’s Seversky AP-7A, NX1384, with her racing number “13″ painted on its sides and wings, lined up with other airplanes at Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California, the evening before before the start of the Bendix Air Race, 31 August 1938. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Jackie Cochran’s Seversky AP-7A, NX1384, with her racing number “13″ painted on its sides and wings, lined up with other airplanes at Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California, the evening before before the start of the Bendix Air Race, 31 August 1938. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

1 September 1938: Jackie Cochran departed the Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank California, at 3:00 a.m., flying her Seversky AP-7A, NX1384. Her destination was Cleveland, Ohio, the finish line for the Bendix Trophy Race,  2,042 miles (3,286 kilometers) away.

Jackie Cochran steps out of her Seversky AP-7A at Cleveland, Ohio, after winning the 1938 Bendix Trophy Race.
Jackie Cochran steps out of her Seversky AP-7A at Cleveland, Ohio, after winning the 1938 Bendix Trophy Race.

The specially built AP-7A racer was an improved version of Major Alexander Nikolaievich Prokofiev de Seversky’s P-35A fighter, which was the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first all-metal single-engine airplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear. Cochran’s AP-7A was powered by 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.97 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt and Whitney R-1830-11 Twin Wasp two-row 14-cylinder radial engine producing 800 horsepower. It turned a three-bladed Hamilton-Standard controllable-pitch propeller.

NX1384 was built especially for Jackie Cochran, and had been flown from the factory to Burbank by Major de Seversky just two days earlier. His flight set an East-to-West Transcontinental Speed Record of 10 hours, 2 minutes, 55.7 seconds.The specially built AP-7A racer was an improved version of Major Alexander Nikolaievich Prokofiev de Seversky’s P-35A fighter, which was the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first all-metal single-engine airplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear. Cochran’s AP-7A was powered by 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.97 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt and Whitney R-1830-11 Twin Wasp two-row 14-cylinder radial engine producing 800 horsepower. It turned a three-bladed Hamilton-Standard controllable-pitch propeller.

“Finally the P-35 arrived. I decided that I didn’t want to take it into the air for a test even if I could. The racing officials impounded it because it was a prototype and there was some kind of rule about untested planes. I would test it en route. . . Finally, I got to sit in the cockpit. I began to study all the instruments by the hour. I can almost see them still.

 “There are about a hundred or more buttons, levers, and other gadgets to push, pull or twirl. .  I close my eyes and reach for everything in the dark. And I keep at this until I can get to them blindfolded and with no false moves. . . 

“I finally see Cleveland. . . (a)nd am going so fast that I pass the airport and come in from the wrong side. . . Have I won? The crowds are cheering. It’s a standing ovation. . . I have won the Bendix.”

Vincent Bendix congratulates Jackie Cochran on winning the 1938 Bendix Trophy Race.
Vincent Bendix congratulates Jackie Cochran on winning the 1938 Bendix Trophy Race.

— Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam books, New York 1987, Pages 160–165.

Jackie Cochran was the third pilot to leave Burbank, but the first to arrive at Cleveland. Her elapsed time for the flight from California to Ohio was 8 hours, 10 minutes, 31.4 seconds, for an average speed of 249.774 miles per hour (401.895 kilometers per hour).

After being congratulated on her win by Vincent Bendix and other race officials, Cochran had her Seversky monoplane refueled. She then got back in to its cockpit and took off for Bendix, New Jersey. She landed there 10 hours, 7 minutes, 1 second after leaving Burbank at 3:00 a.m. This was a new West-to East Transcontinental Speed Record.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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24–25 August 1932: Amelia Mary Earhart

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega after her record-setting solo nonstop flight across North America, 25 August 1932. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega after her record-setting solo nonstop flight across North America, 25 August 1932. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

24–25 August 1932: Amelia Earhart flew her Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, from Los Angeles, California to Newark, New Jersey, a distance of 3,939.25 kilometers (2,447.74 miles), in 19 hours, 5 minutes. She had departed Los Angeles Municipal Airport (now known as LAX) at 7:26:54 p.m. Pacific Time, 24 August, and landed at Newark Municipal Airport at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time the following day. This set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) women’s World Record for Distance in a Straight Line Without Landing. He average speed for the flight was 206.42 kilometers per hour (128.27 miles per hour). She was the first woman to fly solo coast-to-coast. Less than a year later, she would break her own record by almost two hours.

FAI Record File Num #12342 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Feminine
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Distance in a straight line without landing
Performance: 3 939.25 km
Date: 1932-08-25
Course/Location: Los Angeles, CA (USA) – New York, NY (USA)
Claimant Amelia Earhart (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed Vega
Engine: 1 Pratt & Whitney Wasp C

A small crowd gathers around Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Model 5B Vega at Newark Municipal Airport, 25 August 1932. (AP)
A small crowd gathers around Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Model 5B Vega at Newark Municipal Airport, 25 August 1932. (AP)

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Model 5 Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane. The fuselage was molded wood monocoque construction and the wing was cantilevered wood. The Vega 5B is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 1,650 pounds (748.4 kilograms) and gross weight is 3,200 pounds (1,451.5 kilograms). The airplane is powered by a 1,344-cubic-inch-displacement (22 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt and Whitney R-1340C Wasp 9-cylinder radial engine producing 500 horsepower.

Just three months earlier, Earhart had flown solo across the Atlantic Ocean in this same airplane, which she called her “Little Red Bus.” Today, Lockheed Vega NR7952 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 July 1937: Jacqueline Cochran

ackie Cochran with her second Beechcraft D17W Staggerwing, NR18562, c/n 164. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran with her second Beechcraft D17W Staggerwing, NR18562, c/n 164. (FAI)

26 July 1937: Jackie Cochran set a United States Women’s National Speed Record of 203.895 miles per hour (328.137 kilometers per hour) over a 1,000 kilometer (621.4 mile) course, flying a Beechcraft D17W Staggerwing, NX17081, serial number 136.

“A woman in the air, therefore, had a choice of flying around in a light plane for pleasure or of obtaining for herself new fast and experimental equipment and determining the maximum that could be obtained from its use. I followed the second course. The objective of each flight was to go faster through the atmosphere or higher into it than anyone else and to bring back some new information about plane, engine, fuel, instruments, air or pilot that would be helpful in the conquest of the atmosphere.”

The Stars at Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1954, Chapter IV at Page 58

Beechcraft D17W Staggerwing, NC17081, c/n 136, National Speed Record holder, 203.895 mph (328.137 kph). This airplane is painted “Merrimac Diana Cream” with “Stearman Vermillion” striping outlined in black. (Unattributed)
Beechcraft D17W Staggerwing, NC17081, c/n 136, National Speed Record holder, 203.895 mph (328.137 kph). This airplane is painted “Merrimac Diana Cream” with “Stearman Vermillion” striping outlined in black. (Unattributed)

NC17081 was one of two special D17W biplanes that were built by Beechcraft based on the D17S. Jackie Cochran set aviation records with both. The first was originally sold to famous aviator Frank Hawks, but that purchase was not completed. Cochran was given use of the airplane.

The Beechcraft D17S 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 D17S 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). It was powered by a 986.75-cubic-inch-displacement (16.17 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt and Whitney R-985-AN-1 Wasp single row 9-cylinder radial engine which produced 450 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. This gave the D17S Staggerwing a cruise speed of 202 miles per hour (325 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 212 miles per hour (341 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) and range was 670 miles (1,078 kilometers).

The special D17W used a 986.75 cubic-inch-displacement (16.17 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt and Whitney R-985-SC-G Wasp single row 9-cylinder radial engine with propeller gear reduction, which produced 600 horsepower at 2,850 r.p.m. for takeoff, and 525 horsepower at 2,700 horsepower up to 9,500 feet (2,895.6 meters) altitude. The additional 150 horsepower greatly increased the D17W performance over the standard production airplane.

After Jackie Cochran’s speed record, c/n 136 was registered NC17081, re-engined with a 420 horsepower Wright R-975 and redesignated D17R. After several owners, the Wright engine was replaced with a Pratt and Whitney R-985 and once again redesignated, this time as a D17S.

Early in World War II, the former speed record holder was impressed into military service. Assigned to the United States Navy, c/n 136 was once again redesignated, this time as a GB-1 Traveller, and assigned Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (“Bu. No.”) 09776.

Beechcraft GB-1 Traveller Bu. No. 09776 was stricken off at NAS Glenview, Illinois, 30 June 1945.

Beechcraft GB-1 Traveller in U.S. Navy service. (U.S. Air Force)
Beechcraft GB-1 Traveller in U.S. Navy service. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 July 1935: Laura Houghtaling Ingalls

Laura Ingalls in the cockpit of her Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222, warming up its engine at Floyd Bennett Field, 10 July 1935. (Rudy Arnold)
Laura Ingalls in the cockpit of her Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222, warming up its engine at Floyd Bennett Field, 10 July 1935. (Rudy Arnold)

11 July 1935: At 4:31 a.m., Laura Houghtaling Ingalls (1901–1967) took off from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, and flew non-stop across the continent to to Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California. Her airplane was a single-engine Lockheed Model 9D Orion, registration NR14222, which she had named Auto da Fé (“act of faith” or “act of penance”). Ingalls was the first woman to fly across the country from East to West. The elapsed time of the flight was 18 hours, 19 minutes, 30 seconds.

Laura Ingalls had taken delivery of the Orion 9D Special at Lockheed, Burbank, California, five months earlier. Contemporary newspaper reports said that the “Black Mystery Ship” cost $45,000. The Model 9 Orion was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane, designed in 1931 for airline use and was capable of carrying six passengers in an enclosed cabin. The Orion was the first commercial airliner with retractable landing gear and was faster than any military airplane in service at the beginning of the decade. Like other Lockheed aircraft of the time, it was constructed of strong, light-weight, molded plywood, but the Orion was Lockheed’s last wooden airplane.

Billy Parker, Laura Ingalls and Wiley Post at the 1935 National Air Races. Ingall’s Lockheed Orion, NR14222, Auto da Fé, has its engine cowling removed for maintenance. (Monash University)
Billy Parker, Laura Ingalls and Wiley Post at the 1935 National Air Races. Ingall’s Lockheed Orion, NR14222, Auto da Fé, has its engine cowling removed for maintenance. (Monash University)

The Lockheed Orion 9D was 28 feet, 4 inches (8.64 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9¼ inches (13.04 meters) and height of 9 feet, 8 inches (2.95 meters). It had an empty weight of 3,640 pounds (1,651 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 5,200 pounds (2,359 kilograms).  Auto da Fé was powered by a 1,343.8-cubic-inch-displacement (22.01 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt and Whitney Wasp R-1340-S1D1 9-cylinder radial engine producing 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. and 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), driving a two-bladed Hamilton propeller. The cruise speed was 205 miles per hour (330 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 220 miles per hour (354 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. It had a range of 750 miles (1,159 kilometers) in standard configuration. The service ceiling was 22,000 feet (6,705 meters). Ingall’s airplane carried 630 gallons (2,384.8 liters) of gasoline and 40 gallons (151.4 liters) of engine oil. NR14222 was equipped with a Sperry Gyro Pilot and a Westport radio compass and receiver for navigation.

After departing Floyd Bennett Field, Ingalls flew along a commercial airway marked with radio beacons. Her route of flight was from Brooklyn, New York to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—Columbus, Ohio—Indianapolis, Indiana—Kansas City, Missouri—Albuquerque, New Mexico—Burbank, California. This was only the third time that a non-stop transcontinental flight had been accomplished.

Laura H. Ingalls stands in front of her Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222, in this personally inscribed photograph. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Laura H. Ingalls stands in front of her Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222, in this personally inscribed photograph. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 May 1937: Amelia Mary Earhart

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020

22 May 1937: After her Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, was repaired at Tucson, Arizona after its left engine, a Pratt and Whitney R-1430-S3H1 air-cooled 9-cylinder radial, caught fire while restarting after a fuel stop, Amelia Earhart and her Navigator, Fred Noonan, arrive at New Orleans, Louisiana. Although she is on the third leg of her second around-the-world-flight attempt, no public announcement has yet been made.

“The next morning at Tucson a dense sandstorm blocked our way. but despite it we took off, leap-frogging at 8,000 feet over El Paso with a seemingly solid mass of sand billowing below us like a turbulent yellow sea. That night we reached New Orleans. . . .” — Amelia Earhart

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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