On this Day in Aviation History: March 1

On this Day in Aviation History: March 1

1 March 2003

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The first operational B-1B Lancer in the Air Force, also known as the Star of Abilene, sits on the flightline here after flying its last mission in 2003. The base celebrated the bomber's 20th anniversary June 29. (U.S. Air Force photo)

1 March 2003: The Star of Abilene, the first operational Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic heavy bomber, serial number 83-0065, made its final flight at Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas. It was delivered to the 96th Bombardment Group, Heavy, Strategic Air Command at Dyess on 7 July 1985, and was retired after 17 years, 7 months, 23 days of service.


1 March 1972


1 March 1972: Lieutenant Colonel Joseph W. Kittinger II, United States Air Force, and 1st Lieutenant Leigh A. Hodgdon, were flying McDonnell F-4D-29-MC  Phantom II serial number 66-7463, call sign Falcon 54. Along with a second F-4, they were assigned to a combat air patrol (MiGCAP) mission over northern Laos. At approximately 2000 hours, Disco, a Lockheed EC-121T Warning Star airborne early warning aircraft, alerted Kittinger to the presence of several Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 21 interceptors and gave him radar vectors toward the enemy aircraft.

Colonel Kittinger reported:

“At approximately 18 miles the system broke lock but it was quickly reacquired. A slow left turn ensued to keep the dot centered. Altitudes were slowly increased from 8,200 feet to 11,500 feet. The Vc on the scope was extremely difficult to interpret; however, it appeared that we were not really overtaking the target, so the outboard tanks were dropped. Heading of the aircraft changed to approximately 360° at time of firing. At approximately 6 miles the “in-range” light illuminated, followed by an increase in the ASE circle. Trigger was squeezed and crew felt a thump as the missile was ejected; however, missile motor did not ignite. The trigger was squeezed again and held for approximately 3 seconds; however missile did not fire. Trigger was squeezed again and missile #3 fired. The missile made a small correction to the left then back to the right and guided straight away. Pilot maintained the dot centered.

Approximately 5 to 6 seconds after launch, detonation was observed. Almost simultaneously, two enemy missiles were observed coming from the vicinity of the detonation. Evasive action prevented more thorough observations of detonation. The flight turned to a heading of 210°, maintained 9,000 feet, airspeed 500 knots, and egressed the area.”

— Aces and Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1965–1973, by R. Frank Futrell, William H. Greenhalgh, Carl Grubb, Gerard E. Hasselwander, Robert F. Jakob and Charles A. Ravenstein, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1976, Chapter III at Page 87.

Joe Kittinger is officially credited with the destruction of the MiG 21.

Joseph W. Kittinger II is best known for his participation in experimental high-altitude balloon flights. On 2 June 1957, he ascended to 97,760 feet (29,490 meters) aboard the Project MAN-HIGH 1. On 16 August 1960, he reached 102,800 feet (31,333 meters) and then stepped off for the longest free-fall parachute jump—a record that would stand for 52 years.


1 March 1962


1 March 1962: Los Angeles Airways inaugurated scheduled passenger service utilizing twin-engine, turbine-powered helicopters.

Shown in the photograph above is LAA’s Sikorsky S-61L, FAA registration N300Y, at the Disneyland Heliport, Anaheim, California. LAA was the first civil operator of the S-61, purchasing them at a cost of $650,000, each. N300Y was the prototype S-61L, serial number 61031. On 14 August 1968, N300Y suffered a catastrophic main rotor spindle failure and crashed at Leuders Park, Compton, California. All 21 persons aboard were killed.

Los Angeles Airways began operations in 1947 and continued until 1971. It flew Sikorsky S-51, S-55 and S-61L helicopters.

The Sikorsky S-61L was a civil variant of the United States Navy HSS-2 Sea King and was the first helicopter specifically built for airline use. The prototype, N300Y, first flew 2 November 1961.


1 March 1925


1 March 1925: Ryan Airlines Incorporated, founded by T. Claude Ryan, began a regularly-scheduled passenger airline service, the Los Angeles–San Diego Air Line. The airline connected San Diego and Los Angeles, the two largest cities in southern California.

The airplane used the Douglas Aircraft Company’s first airplane, the Douglas Cloudster, which was modified to carry as many as ten passengers, and three modified Standard Aero Corporation J-1 trainers modified to carry four passengers.

Scheduled flights departed Los Angeles for San Diego at 9:00 a.m., daily, and from San Diego to Los Angeles at 4:00 p.m., daily. The fare for a one-way flight was $14.50, and a round trip was $22.50.


1 March 1912


1 March 1912: At Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, Captain Albert Berry, United States Army, made the first parachute jump from an airplane.

Pilot Antony H. Jannus and Captain Berry took off from Kinloch Field, a balloon-launching field in Kinloch Park, (now, Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, STL) and flew aboard a 1911 Benoist Type XII School Plane, 18 miles (29 kilometers) to the drop zone at Jefferson Barracks. The airplane was a pusher biplane which was based on a Curtiss pusher, and is also called the Benoist Headless.

Barry had his parachute packed inside a conical container mounted beneath the airplane’s lower wing. They climbed to an altitude of 1,500 feet (457.2 meters).


When they reached the desired altitude and were over the barracks’ parade grounds, Berry attached the parachute to a harness that he was wearing, then lowered himself on a trapeze-like bar suspended in front of the wings. He pulled a lanyard which released him. The parachute was opened by a static line.

Updated: May 1, 2018 — 2:16 PM
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