Mailbag is a new feature here at FlightBlogger that will periodically share the unique experiences around aviation from readers all over the globe.
On Thursday, morning I came across a classic newsreel of President Lyndon Johnson announcing the existence of the A-11 (he meant to say A-12) interceptor on March 2, 1964. The 2,000 mph, FL700 aircraft was the predecessor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Johnson discussed the advancements the the A-11 would bring to both the development of both military and civil aircraft, including the Supersonic Transport (SST) being developed in the US by Boeing and Lockheed: (click the image above for the video)
One of the most important technical achievement of this project has been the mastery of the metallurgy and fabrication of titanium metal which is required for the high temperatures experienced by aircraft traveling at more than three times the speed of sound. Arrangements are being made to make this another important technical developments available under proper safeguards to those directly engaged in the Supersonic Transport program.
Early in the week, I received an email from Bob Bolam, a three-decade veteran of The Boeing Company. Bob retired in 1999 as an Operation Manager for Boeing Video Teleconferencing and now lives in Northern Idaho. In 1966, he worked on the SST program and recounted his experience working with the computers that analyzed the SST's titanium structure.
We had a two Control Data 6600 computers running stress analysis (they were 64-bit computers in 1966, PCs have just gotten there this year). Our stress engineers would tell us what the computer told them. Wing flex just from heat. The fuselage would snake through the air, like an S wave. So Boeing put partitions along the interior walls so the passengers couldn't tell that at different points in time, the front of the airplane may be 1.5' higher or lower then the rear of the plane as it snaked through the air.
The wings would flex up 11" just from heat expansion (which is why Boeing went to more titanium, aluminum couldn't handle the heat.
The SST program was eventually cancelled in 1971, but Bob Bolan's computers would go on to add another major achievement.
Those same two CDC 6600 were taken off Boeing line and dedicated to Apollo 13 incident. We stopped everything we were doing and worked a day and a half to help them determine air and electrical consumables. I was told the computers determined they had approximately 11 min of oxygen let when they landed. It was a proud moment for us at Boeing to be able to helpQuite fittingly, next week celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission that saw Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert fly their crippled spacecraft around the Moon and back to Earth, while using the Lunar Module as a lifeboat.