Monday, 25 May 2015

"Tex" Johnston barrel rolls the B707 Dash 80 prototype - Jet age - Recommended Aviation books #29

Bill Allen; "what did you think you were doing ?!!"
Tex Johnston; "selling airplanes!"

As part of the Dash 80s demonstration program, Bill Allen invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association and International Air Transport Association to the Seattle's 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races held on Lake Washington on August 6, 1955. The Dash-80 was scheduled to perform a simple flyover, but Boeing test pilot Alvin "Tex" Johnston instead performed a barrel roll to show off the jet airliner. The next day, Allen summoned Johnston to his office and told him not to perform such a maneuver again, Johnston's explanations that this was a safe 1G manoeuvre assertion that doing so was completely safe. Boeing Chief Test Pilot John Cashman stated that just before he piloted the maiden flight of the Boeing 777 on June 12, 1994, his last instructions from then Boeing President Phil Condit were "No rolls"
A single click to view here


 Review of the 'Jet Age' by William Holmes

 .. The central narrative about the competition between Britain and America is clear from the subtitle, "The Comet, the 707 and The Race to Shrink the World." The British were the first to test a commercial airliner, the de Havilland Comet, in 1949. British Overseas Airway Corporation (BOAC) assigned the new aircraft to its Empire Service, and it began carrying paying passengers on regularly scheduled flights in May 1952. The American airline industry was satisfied with big, noisy, turbulent, uncomfortable propeller-driven aircraft--Boeing was the only manufacturer willing to bet the company on jet air travel, and its Dash 80 (the prototype of the famous 707) was years behind the Comet. The book is first and foremost about the race between de Havilland and Boeing, told from the perspective of national pride. From there, the story branches out in myriad directions. A second narrative summarizes the life and achievements of Geoffrey de Havilland, who endured personal tragedy (including the deaths of two of his three sons in company aircraft) to lead Britain into the jet age. The Americans in the story include Bill Boeing, who founded the eponymous company but left the airline industry in disgust in 1934 when the Roosevelt Adminstration broke his company into an aircraft manufacturer (Boeing Company), an airline (Boeing Air Transport, now United Airlines), and an engine manufacturer (today's United Technologies); Bill Allen, who bet the company on the 707 and later on the even larger 747; Howard Hughes (TWA), Eddie Rickenbacker (Eastern), and Juan Trippe (Pan Am), the leaders of the airlines who would decide whether the 707, the Douglas DC-8, or the Comet won the race to become the dominant aircraft of the jet age; and Tex Johnston, the Boeing test pilot and salesman-in-chief who famously barrel-rolled the Dash 80--twice--in a demonstration flight above Lake Washington in Seattle. The Comet was first out of the gate but turned out to be an aircraft too far ahead of its time--a fatal structural flaw caused by metal fatigure sometimes without warning caused the jetliner to disentegrate in the upper atmosphere, leading in 1952-53 to three mysterious high-altitude disasters that killed over 100 people. Part of Verhovek's story is about how the British swallowed their considerable national pride, grounded the Comet, and figured out what had gone wrong. Boeing learned from these tragic lessons and designed the 707 with a fuselage able to withstand a "guillotine test" without shredding. To tell the story of the "race to shrink the world," Verhovek disgresses to a number of interesting subtopics, including Boeing's invention of "the stewardess," (who was at first required to be an unmarried registered nurse), the first encounter between a British Mosquito and Germany's Me262 jet fighter near the end of World War II, the establishment of the American air mail industry, and the growth of commercial airlines in the United States in the 1930s. It's clear that Verhovek has a lot of passion for his subject and has taken the time to master its many interesting facets--it's as if Simon Winchester decided that he wanted to write about the aircraft. The result is a very readable book that I highly recommend.

Featured post

Victor B.2 XL513 & XL 512 carrying Blue Steel - ebay photo find #57

An original Ministry of Defence photograph of Handley Page Victor B.2 XL513 equipped with a Blue Steel Missile. Note the four Vulcans on...