FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 14th through 18th 2017

Friends of FOD

If you recall an event you believe the group might be interested in, drop me a comment and I’ll research it and add it to the blog.

I accomplished some good work on the ’31 Chevy last week: picked up the newly powder coated frame (it’s a grey color), installed 4 bar rear suspension, resealed differential, serviced it with gear oil, installed front and rear shocks, removed transmission from engine, serviced and installed torque converter, installed flywheel, reinstalled transmission and engine and installed on frame, installed gas tank, installed all fuel lines and brake lines, bled brake system, installed drive shaft, began installation of engine electrical harness, filled transmission with fluid, filled engine with oil, installed alternator and air conditioner compression belts, visited the body at the body guy’s shop (it’s coming along), sent the new hood out for primer coating and of course spent a bunch of money on other parts I’ll need in the near future.  It’s beginning to look like a car, well at least a completed chassis.





Russia Launches Operation Zapad in Belarus On Anniversary of Soviet Invasion of Poland

Russia and Belarus launched Operation Zapad, an ongoing joint strategic military exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Belarus (the Union State) that began on 14 September 2017, conducted in Belarus as well as in Russia‘s Kaliningrad Oblast and Russia′s other north-western areas. According to the information made public by the Defense Ministry of Belarus prior to the exercise, fewer than 13,000 personnel of the Union State are to take part in the military maneuvers, a number that does not trigger mandatory formal notification and invitation of observers under the OSCE‘s Vienna Document.  Western analysts, however, believed in July 2017 that the total number of Russian troops, security personnel and civilian officials to be involved in the broader war-games will range from 60,000 to 100,000, which would make them Russia’s largest since the Cold War.  Since 2016, concerns have been voiced in a number of NATO countries over Russia’s suspected ulterior motives and objectives in connection with the exercise.  And on 17 September 2017, the mobilization for combat portion of the exercise will begin and will for the first time include participation by units of the Baltic Fleet.  Generally speaking it will be an opportunity for Russia and Belarus to practice a major exercise in rapidly mobilizing and deploying a combined force close to its Western frontier.  And this sword rattling will have the US and our allies in the region watching closely how and in what strengths Russia is able to move its troops.  Poland, who shares a border with Belarus, is particularly concerned with observing what the Russians will do in particular.  They have reason to be concerned as September 17, 1939 marks the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.  You’ll recall the German invasion of Poland began on September 1, 1939.  On September 3, 1939 Britain and France declared war on Germany, but failed to provide any meaningful support for Polish army outnumbered, and vastly inferior to the German invading forces.  German began to pressure the Soviets to invade Poland from the east, but Stalin waited several days.  Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German ambassador to Moscow Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg exchanged a series of diplomatic messages on the matter but the Soviets nevertheless delayed their invasion of eastern Poland. The Soviets were distracted by crucial events relating to their ongoing border disputes with Japan.

They needed time to mobilize the Red Army and they saw a diplomatic advantage in waiting until Poland had disintegrated before making their move.  The undeclared war between the Soviet Union and the Empire of Japan at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan) in the Far East ended with the MolotovTojo agreement between the USSR and Japan which was signed on 15 September 1939, with a ceasefire taking effect on 16 September 1939.  (Why yes that’s the same Molotov as the Molotov cocktail).  On 17 September 1939, Molotov delivered the following declaration of war to Wacław Grzybowski, the Polish Ambassador in Moscow: On that morning, 16 days after Germany invaded Poland from the west, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. The Red Army entered the eastern regions of Poland with seven field armies, containing between 450,000 and 1,000,000 troops.  The invasion and the battle lasted for the following 20 days and ended on 6 October 1939 with the two-way division and annexation of the entire territory of the Second Polish Republic by both Germany and the Soviet Union.  The photo above shows the German and Russian commanders shaking hands after the defeat of Poland.  The joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland was secretly agreed to in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed on 23 August 1939.  The Red Army, which vastly outnumbered the Polish defenders, achieved its targets by using strategic and tactical deception. Some 230,000 Polish prisoners of war were captured.  The campaign of mass persecution in the newly acquired areas began immediately. In November 1939 the Soviet government ostensibly annexed the entire Polish territory under its control. Some 13.5 million Polish citizens who fell under the military occupation were made into new Soviet subjects following mock elections conducted by the NKVD secret police in the atmosphere of terror, the results of which were used to legitimize the use of force. The Soviet campaign of ethnic cleansing began with the wave of arrests and summary executions of officers, policemen and priests.  Over the next year and a half, the Soviet NKVD sent hundreds of thousands of people from eastern Poland to Siberia and other remote parts of the Soviet Union in four major waves of deportation between 1939 and 1941.  Soviet forces occupied eastern Poland until the summer of 1941, when they were driven out by the invading German army in the course of Operation Barbarossa. The timing I don’t believe is coincidence.


China Conducting Naval Exercises With Russia

In related developments, China and Russia will conduct joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk over the next couple weeks.  A Chinese missile destroyer, missile frigate, supply ship and submarine rescue vessel along with ship-borne helicopters and submersible rescue vehicles set sail from Qingdao on Wednesday, according to a statement on the PLA Navy website and as reported by the South China Morning Post.  As you’ll recall, FOD reported China sent naval vessels to participate in joint exercises with the Russian navy in July.  These exercises will involve submarine rescues and joint anti-submarine drills for the first time.  The would seem incongruous with the Chinese request that the US and its allies, particularly South Korea and Japan disband their joint exercises in the region centered around applying pressure to North Korea.  The PLAN needs to demonstrate its capabilities to conduce “blue-water” operations in and around the Korean peninsula and to demonstrate to other Asian nations China has a viable global capability in the region.  Additionally this shows Russia’s support of Beijing both politically and diplomatically.


Sale of Lattice Semiconductor to China Blocked

On September 13ththe White House announced that the president was rejecting Canyon Bridge’s $1.3 billion acquisition plan of Lattice Semiconductor on the grounds that it might “impair the national security of the United States.” The decision came after the Treasury department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) signaled that it was recommending against the acquisition, which was first announced last November and later agreed to by Lattice’s shareholders.  At the point that the committee sends such a signal, it usually provides the parties a chance to walk away, “and control the public message,” wrote Lawrence Ward, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney who specializes in international business and US national security law, in an email. “It is rather unusual for companies to allow the President to make a determination.”  Earlier in the year, an internal Pentagon report raised concerns that China was acquiring technology that could have military applications. Lattice makes programmable chips that can withstand high temperatures and have been tested to military specifications, according to an FBI statement on 2012 charges against Chinese nationals who allegedly attempted to improperly acquire and export Lattice chips.


USAF Birthday

Happy birthday to the US Air Force.  Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on 18 September 1947 under the National Security Act of 1947.  The National Security Act of 1947 was a major restructuring of the United States government’s military and intelligence agencies following World War II. The majority of the provisions of the Act took effect on September 18, 1947, the day after the Senate confirmed James Forrestal as the first Secretary of Defense.  The Act merged the Department of War (renamed as the Department of the Army) and the Department of the Navy into the National Military Establishment (NME), headed by the Secretary of Defense. It also created the Department of the Air Force and the United States Air Force, which separated the Army Air Forces into its own service. It also protected the Marine Corps as an independent service, under the Department of the Navy.  Aside from the military reorganization, the act established the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S.’s first peacetime non-military intelligence agency.  Back to the US Air Force.  The USAF articulates its core functions as Nuclear Deterrence OperationsSpecial OperationsAir SuperiorityGlobal Integrated ISRSpace SuperiorityCommand and ControlCyberspace SuperiorityPersonnel RecoveryGlobal Precision AttackBuilding PartnershipsRapid Global Mobility and Agile Combat Support.  And this year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the USAF.  This year’s Air, Space and Cyber conference in National Harbor, Maryland, is going to be the biggest in years, and it looks as if the USAF is undertaking the challenge of improving the inventory of aircraft.  As the service increases its F-35 buy rate and more joint strike fighters come online, the question needs to be when will they retire some of their legacy combat aircraft.  Air Force leaders hope to have a better answer to that question later this fall, when Air Combat Command head Gen. Mike Holmes and Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, hash out a fighter recapitalization roadmap as part of initial budget planning meetings for fiscal year 2020, Holmes told Defense News in a Sept. 11 interview with Defense News.  The Air Force knows it could be facing a political battle as it considers how to best phase out three beloved combat aircraft: the F-16, F-15C/D Eagles and the A-10.  Holmes acknowledged that the situation has changed since the start of the F-35 program when the joint strike fighter was considered to be the eventual replacement of the F-16 and A-10.  “Now that Congress has directed us and we’ve decided to keep some number of A-10s, and now that our F-15 service life is showing some wear and some of the margin is gone there, we want to go back and just look at that combination of A-10s, F-16s of the various blocks and F-15Cs and come up with a plan that maintains the best mix of combat capability as we bring on the F-35,” he said. “At the buy rates that Congress has funded for the F-35, we’re going to be a mixed fourth and fifth gen force for a long time.”  Another issue the USAF is addressing is their pilot retention rate, which has been lower than other services.  A new bonus is likely to be a stopgap measure for that one.


North Korea and President Trump’s UN Address in General

President Trump will be on the world stage tomorrow addressing the United Nations for the first time.  We’ll see what happens.  For great theatre you can’t beat Nikita Khrushchev‘s shoe-banging incident that occurred during the 902nd Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York in 1960. During the session on 12 October, Khrushchev pounded his shoe on his delegate-desk in protest at a speech by Philippine delegate Lorenzo Sumulong.  And then there is the flap going on within the State Department between U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as to who is America’s top diplomat.  I think it’s not if Nikki Haley will be named Secretary of State, but when.  It’s widely accepted Tillerson has isolated himself with only a very few top advisers.  Very few of the top positions with State have even been filled.  Some still retain Obama holdovers.  We’ll let this one play itself out for awhile.  The Trump administration escalated its rhetoric against North Korea on Sunday, warning that time is running out for a peaceful solution between Kim Jong Un’s regime and the United States and its allies.  Administration officials said the risk from North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is rising, and they underscored that President Trump will confront the looming crisis at the U.N. General Assembly in his address, according to the Washington Post. Trump, who spoke by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday, referred to Kim on Twitter as “Rocket Man” and asserted that “long gas lines” are forming in the North because of recent U.N. sanctions on oil imports.  If you don’t smile and clap on cue, you don’t get to be in the next photo ’cause you’re dead.  Those sanctions, the strongest passed to date are unlikely to stop Pyongyang from continuing to develop their nuclear weapons programs.  It’s already common knowledge among US and UN experts North Korea evades sanctions to earn hard currency through direct exchanges of coal and other minerals for weapons components and even luxury goods to avoid a money transfer being traced.  Smuggling is also common.  Ships from China turn off their ships’ transponders when entering North Korean waters, onload and offload goods in North Korea and proceed to Russian ports, claiming the goods were made in Russia.  Dah.  We can’t track ship’s without their transponders being on – come on!  North Korea receives over 90% of its crude oil from the Dandong-Sinuiju pipeline from China and the quantities being transferred can easily be falsified.  You’ll recall I recently pointed out in FOD that in response to a nuclear North Korea, other Asian nations might consider developing and/or acquiring their own nuclear weapons.   In a opinion piece this week in the New York Times, it was pointed out, “In the face of these constraints, [Japan’s lack of offensive capabilities Fireball added] some pundits and officials in Washington are arguing that Japan, as well as South Korea, might, and perhaps should, consider acquiring nuclear weapons themselves.”


Some Events From 15 September

A new feature.  Here are some of the other events that occurred on 15 September that I didn’t have time to elaborate on:

1978 Ali defeats Spinks to win world heavyweight championship

1862 Confederates capture Harpers Ferry

1916 Tanks introduced into warfare at the Somme

1940 Tide turns in the Battle of Britain

1954 Famous Marilyn Monroe “skirt” scene filmed

1858 The first transcontinental mail service to San Francisco begins

1935 Nuremberg race laws imposed

F-86 Sets Speed Record

On September 15, 1948, Major Richard L. Johnson, USAF, set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course, flying the sixth production North American Aviation F-86A-1-NA Sabre, serial number 47-611, at Muroc Air Force Base, California (renamed Edwards AFB in 1949).  The F-86A had the same dimensions as the prototype XP-86 which had first flown almost two years earlier.  The F-86 wings’ leading edges were swept to 35° and included leading edge slats, which automatically extended at low speed to provide an increase in lift.  Designed as a day fighter, the F-86 Sabre was armed with six air-cooled Browning AN-M3 .50-caliber aircraft machine guns with 267 rounds of ammunition per gun. These guns had a rate of fire of 1,200 rounds per minute. The F-86A-1-NA had electrically-actuated doors covering the gun ports to maintain the aerodynamically clean surface. Because of their complexity, these doors were deleted beginning with the F-86A-5-NA aircraft.  You can see those doors in the photo above right.  The F-86 was a great airplane to fly.  I am fortunate enough to have flown over 700 hours in several models of the F-86.


Some Events From 16 September

1932 Gandhi begins fast in protest of caste separation

1620 Mayflower departs England

1810 Mexican War of Independence begins

1893 Settlers race to claim land

1940 United States imposes the draft


The Galloping Ghost Crash at Reno Air Races

On September 16, 2011, a heavily modified P-51D Mustang named “The Galloping Ghost,” piloted by Jimmy Leeward, crashed near the stands during the Gold Heat of the race, killing Leeward and ten spectators, and injuring 69.  Race organizers cancelled all remaining 2011 races after the accident.  The competitors for Heat 2A were three North American Aviation P-51D Mustangs, a Goodyear F2G-1 Corsair, a Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, and two Hawker Sea Furies.  The Galloping Ghost, race number 177, was flown by its owner, James Kent Leeward. On lap number three, Leeward was 4.5 seconds behind the second-place P-51, Voodoo, and 8.8 seconds behind the heat leader, Strega, also a radically-modified Mustang. The airplane was at approximately 445 knots (512 miles per hour, or 824 kilometers per hour) as it rounded Pylon 8 in a steep left bank.  The Galloping Ghost‘s angle of bank rapidly increased from 73° to 93° in just 0.83 seconds. (The NTSB refers to this as a “left-roll upset.”) (Wake vortices from the leading air racers may have been a factor in this left-roll upset. Investigators found that they could not exclude the possibility.) The air racer, corrected by its pilot’s aileron input, rolled back to the right, but then violently pitched up. The airplane essentially flew itself into an inside loop, then crashed into the ground directly in front of a seating area.  The Galloping Ghost had been built in 1944 as a P-51D-15-NA Mustang, serial number 44-15651, by North American Aviation, Inc., at its Inglewood, California factory. Following World War II, the very low-time fighter was sold off as surplus equipment. Registered NX79111 and carrying the race number 77, it was flown by Bruce Raymond in the 1946 Thompson Trophy Race, finishing in fourth place.   Jimmy Leeward purchased the fighter in July 1983. After racing it for years, the airplane was placed in storage. Then, beginning in 2007, the airplane underwent a series of radical modifications. Some of these were similar to those made to other Unlimited Division racing planes, however, there was no evidence of engineering before, or flight testing, following these mods.  The most obvious modifications were made to the profile of the P-51D’s fuselage. The standard windshield and bubble canopy were removed and replaced by a much smaller unit. This was smoothly faired into a raised dorsal “razorback” which carried aft from the cockpit to the vertical fin. The lower fuselage, with its Meredith Effect radiator scoop and cooling ducts, was completely removed and a new fuselage belly constructed.  The standard Mustang cooling system was replaced by a “boil off” system in the aft fuselage. Rather than radiators which remove heat from the engine coolant by the passage of air, heat exchangers were immersed in a solution of water and methanol. A 150 gallon supply was in a tank in the left wing.  The Mustang’s wings had been shortened from the standard span of 37 feet, 0 inches to 28 feet, 10 inches.  The ailerons were each shortened from about 7 feet to 3 feet. The horizontal stabilizer span was shortened from 14 feet, 10-5/32 inches to 12 feet, 1 inch, and its angle of incidence increased from +0.5° to +0.91°. The vertical fin was offset to the right of the airplane’s longitudinal axis, instead of to the left, as built by the factory. The ailerons were not properly adjusted, which required the pilot to use constant pressure to the right on the control stick to keep the wings level.  On the standard Mustang, both elevators are equipped with adjustable trim tabs on their trailing edges, which the pilot uses to adjust the flight controls’ neutral positions. On The Galloping Ghost, the right elevator trim tab had been deactivated, placing increased load on the left trim tab. The elevators and rudder used weighted counterbalances. These, too, had been modified. The total weight for both elevator counterweights had been raised to 53.5 pounds, nearly four times the maximum allowable weight of 13.75 pounds.  Similarly, the rudder counterbalance weight was increased to 25 pounds. The maximum allowable weight was 16.6 pounds.  According to its maintenance records, at the time of the accident, N79111 had flown a total of 1,453.6 hours. Its Packard V-1650-9A Merlin V-12 engine had been overhauled to military specifications at 1,428.9 airframe hours. The four-bladed Hamilton Standard 24D50 propeller had just 24.7 hours on it. The modified airplane had an empty weight of 6,474 pounds.  Accident investigators estimated its weight at the time of the upset as 7,760 pounds.  Photographs taken during the first lap showed significant diagonal wrinkles in the fuselage of The Galloping Ghost, just behind the right wing, which were not present before the race started. A photograph taken during the third lap showed similar wrinkles on the left side of the fuselage. It is apparent that the modifications to the Mustang’s fuselage had significantly weakened its structure.  The left and right elevator trim tabs are attached to their hinges by three screws, each. These are secured by locknuts. NTSB investigators found that two of these screws had broken due to overload during the flight. (One screw was found to have had a pre-existing fatigue fracture.) All of the screws were loose in their locknuts and could easily be turned by hand. All six locknuts were worn beyond limits and were incapable of maintaining torque.  The loose trim tab attachment allowed the trim tabs to flutter because of the aerodynamic loads of very high speed flight. This flutter produced loads beyond the strength of the trim system. These loads caused the linkage to the left tab to break. Without the linkage, flutter increased the movement of the tab beyond its limit and the hinge broke. The left tab moved beyond its normal limit, and caused the linkage to bend and then fracture. Without the left tab, (photo left shows trim tab separation) the flutter was transmitted to the right elevator tab which had been fixed in place with a steel rod. The vibrations caused its fixed link assembly to fracture.  The loss of the downward force which the left trim tab applied to its elevator caused the elevator to move upward. This caused the airplane to violently pitch upward. Investigators calculated that Leeward would have been subjected to an acceleration of 17.3 Gs, far beyond human tolerance. He was immediately incapacitated and not visible in photo right just prior to impact.  With its pilot unconscious and the airplane traveling at such high speed, it went completely out of control. It flew inverted into a “helical” pattern and then, with the Merlin engine still at wide-open throttle, crashed into the ground at a very steep angle.  There are reasons we do engineering analysis of aircraft modifications prior to flight and flight test analysis after the modifications have been installed.  This accident and the deaths of many people was preventable.


Battle of Antietam

The Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, was fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland and Antietam Creek as part of the Maryland Campaign. It was the first field army–level engagement in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War to take place on Union soil and is the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with a combined tally of 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing.  After pursuing the Confederate general Robert E. Lee into MarylandMaj. Gen. George B. McClellan of the Union Army launched attacks against Lee’s army, in defensive positions behind Antietam Creek. At dawn on September 17, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker‘s corps mounted a powerful assault on Lee’s left flank. Attacks and counterattacks swept across Miller’s Cornfield, and fighting swirled around the Dunker Church. Union assaults against the Sunken Road eventually pierced the Confederate center, but the Federal advantage was not followed up. In the afternoon, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside‘s corps entered the action, capturing a stone bridge over Antietam Creek and advancing against the Confederate right. At a crucial moment, Confederate Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill‘s division arrived from Harpers Ferry and launched a surprise counterattack, driving back Burnside and ending the battle. Although outnumbered two-to-one, Lee committed his entire force, while McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his army, enabling Lee to fight the Federals to a standstill. During the night, both armies consolidated their lines. In spite of crippling casualties, Lee continued to skirmish with McClellan throughout September 18, while removing his battered army south of the Potomac River.  Despite having superiority of numbers, McClellan’s attacks failed to achieve force concentration, which allowed Lee to counter by shifting forces and moving along interior lines to meet each challenge. Therefore, despite ample reserve forces that could have been deployed to exploit localized successes, McClellan failed to destroy Lee’s army.  McClellan had halted Lee’s invasion of Maryland, but Lee was able to withdraw his army back to Virginia without interference from the cautious McClellan. McClellan’s refusal to pursue Lee’s army led to his removal from command by President Abraham Lincoln in November. Although the battle was tactically inconclusive, the Confederate troops had withdrawn first from the battlefield, making it a Union strategic victory. It was a sufficiently significant victory to give Lincoln the confidence to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, which discouraged the British and French governments from pursuing any potential plans to recognize the Confederacy.


United States Constitution Ratified

Throughout the summer of 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention (United States) met to draft a successive form of government to amend the shortcoming of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.  On September 17, 1787 the delegates ratified the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America.  The Constitution, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first three articles entrench the doctrine of the separation of powers, whereby the federal government is divided into three branches: the legislative, consisting of the bicameral Congress; the executive, consisting of the President; and the judicial, consisting of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Articles FourFive and Six entrench concepts of federalism, describing the rights and responsibilities of state governments and of the states in relationship to the federal government. Article Seven establishes the procedure subsequently used by the thirteen States to ratify it.  Since the Constitution came into force in 1789, it has been amended twenty-seven times to meet the changing needs of a nation now profoundly different from the eighteenth-century world in which its creators lived.  In general, the first ten amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, offer specific protections of individual liberty and justice and place restrictions on the powers of government.  The majority of the seventeen later amendments expand individual civil rights protections. Others address issues related to federal authority or modify government processes and procedures. Amendments to the United States Constitution, unlike ones made to many constitutions worldwide, are appended to the document. All four pages of the original U.S. Constitution are written on parchment.  According to the United States Senate: “The Constitution’s first three words—We the People—affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens. For over two centuries the Constitution has remained in force because its framers wisely separated and balanced governmental powers to safeguard the interests of majority rule and minority rights, of liberty and equality, and of the federal and state governments.”  The first permanent constitution of its kind, adopted by the people’s representatives for an expansive nation, it is interpreted, supplemented, and implemented by a large body of constitutional law, and has influenced the constitutions of other nations.  Several of the delegates were disappointed in the result, a makeshift series of unfortunate compromises. Some delegates left before the ceremony, and three others refused to sign. Of the thirty-nine signers, Benjamin Franklin summed up, addressing the Convention: “There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them.” He would accept the Constitution, “because I expect no better and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”


First Aircraft Fatality

Orville Wright brought his Wright Flyer to Fort Myer, Virginia to demonstrate it to the U.S. Army Signal Corps on 17 September 1908.  A crowd of approximately 2,500 spectators had gathered to watch the flight.  Lieutenant Thomas Etholen Selfridge, U.S. Army Signal Corps, wanted to ride along with Wright and asked to go first. Lieutenant George Sweet, U.S. Navy was scheduled for the first flight, but he and Wright agreed to let Lieutenant Selfridge go. I think he through scissors and Sweet through paper.  The two men aboard the Wright Flyer made four circuits of the field approximately 150 feet above the ground. The starboard propeller broke and struck the guy wires supporting the rudder. As the rudder rotated sideways, it caused the airplane to pitch nose down.  The Wright Flyer struck the ground and both men were seriously injured. Thomas Selfridge suffered a fractured skull. He underwent neurosurgery but died without regaining consciousness. Orville Wright had a broken leg, several broken ribs and an injured hip. He spent seven weeks in the Army hospital.  This was the first fatal accident involving an airplane. Lieutenant Thomas Etholen Selfridge was the first person to die in an airplane accident.


X-15 Makes First Powered Flight

On September 17, 1959, after having completed one glide flight in the X-15, North American Aviation Chief Engineering Test Pilot Albert Scott Crossfield made the first powered flight of an X-15 hypersonic research rocket plane.  The X-15 was designed to use the Reaction Motors XLR-99 rocket engine, but early in the test program that engine was not yet available so two smaller XLR-11 engines were used. This was engine the same type used in the earlier Bell X-1 rocket plane that first broke the sound barrier in 1948. Though producing just one-fourth the thrust of the XLR-99, it allowed the functional testing of the X-15 to proceed.  The X-15 dropped 2,000 feet  while Scott Crossfield ignited the two XLR-11 engines and then started “going uphill.” During the 224.3 seconds burn duration, the X-15 reached Mach 2.11 (1,393 miles per hour, 2,242 kilometers per hour) and climbed to 52,300 feet, both slightly higher than planned.  Problems developed when the rocket engine’s turbo pump case failed, and fire broke out in the hydrogen peroxide compartment, engine compartment and in the ventral fin. Crossfield safely landed on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base. The duration of the flight was 9 minutes, 11.1 seconds. Damage to the rocket plane was extensive but was quickly repaired. 56-6670 flew again 17 October 1959.

Scott Crossfield wrote:

     Two minutes after launch I reached 50,000 feet and pushed over in level flight. Then I dropped the nose slightly for a speed run, meanwhile maneuvering the ship through a series of turns and rolls, conscious of a deep rumbling noise of the rocket and a great rush of wind on the fuselage. It was obvious the black bird was in her element at supersonic speeds. She responded beautifully. I stared in fascination at the Mach meter which climbed from 1.5 Mach to 1.8 Mach and then effortlessly to my top speed for this flight of 2.3 Mach or about 1,500 miles and hour. Then, because I was under orders not to take the X-15 wide open, I shut off three of the rocket barrels. As I slowed down, I recalled the agony at Edwards many years before when we had worked for months pushing, calculating, polishing and who knows what else to achieve Mach 2 in the Skyrocket. Now with the X-15 we had reached that speed in three minutes on our first powered flight and I had to throttle back.

Over the next nine years the three X-15s would make 199 flights, setting speed and altitude records nearly every time they flew, and expanding NASA’s understanding of flight in the hypersonic range. The first two X-15s, 56-6670 and 56-6671, survived the program. 670 is at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space museum and 671 is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.  When I attended my first Society of Experimental Test Pilots Symposium and its Welcome Aboard happy hour, Scott Crossfield was the first person to come up, greet me, welcome me to the organization.  He wanted to know all about what I was doing with the F-14, the F-4 and the F-86 programs I was involved with at the time.  At subsequent symposiums he always remembered my name and always was interested in what I was flying.  He was a special aviator and a special gentleman.


Also on September 17th:

1976 Space Shuttle unveiled

1978 Camp David Accords signed

1996 Oprah launches influential book club

1796 Washington prepares final draft of farewell address

1916 Manfred von Richthofen shoots down his first plane


And on September 18th:

1776 Washington reports to Congress on Battle of Harlem Heights

1793 Capitol cornerstone is laid

1846 The struggling Donner Party sends ahead to California for food

1975 Patty Hearst captured