Space News
space history and artifacts articles

Messages
space history discussion forums

Sightings
worldwide astronaut appearances

Resources
selected space history documents

Websites
related space history websites

  collectSPACE: Messages
  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Mercury-Redstone 4: Card File 23 (aircraft)

Post New Topic  Post A Reply
profile | register | preferences | faq | search

next newest topic | next oldest topic
Author Topic:   Mercury-Redstone 4: Card File 23 (aircraft)
ColinBurgess
Member

Posts: 1567
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 07-01-2013 07:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can anyone tell me what aircraft type was Card File 23, whose pilot was in radio contact with Gus Grissom during the descent phase to splashdown of Liberty Bell 7?

I have an idea it may have been a P2V from Patrol Squadron 5 (VP-5) under the command of Cmdr. Lester Boutte, but I may be way off the mark here. Any information greatly appreciated.

Ross
Member

Posts: 373
From: Australia
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 07-01-2013 09:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Colin, Card File 23 was one of the rescue helicopters for Grissom's mission. There were two other rescue helicopters involved in the mission, Card File 9 and Hunt Club 1 (the Prime). They were US Marine helicopters from MAG-13 (in several sources MAG-26 is mentioned. However, it appears that the helicopter squadron involved was Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMM-161) which was part of MAG-13 at the time). They may have been flying Sikorsky H-34 Seahorses, although this is not certain.

I don't know who the pilot was. However, as mentioned above, the Prime Recovery helicopter was Hunt Club 1 which was also in contact with Grissom. Its pilot was Phillip Upschutte and co-pilot George F. Cox. Also known is that a helicopter piloted by Jim Lewis and John Rinehart unsuccessfully attempted to recovery the capsule. I don't know if this was Card File 23 or Card File 9.

onesmallstep
Member

Posts: 508
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 07-01-2013 10:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Colin, if it's any help, I see that in This New Ocean (NASA SP-4201), it mentions under the header 'Final Preparations for MR-3' that: "The AIR FORCE (bold letters mine) assigned a communications aircraft, code-named Cardfile 23, to the mission."

Under 'Second Suborbital Trail' (i.e., MR-4) in the same document, footnote #49 states: "The recovery forces were deployed in the same manner as for Ham and Shepard... Five P2V aircraft, supplemented by Air Rescue Service planes, provided contingency recovery support." So it appears that it was a USAF plane designated as Cardfile 23, and the P2Vs were in a support role.

As to the type of plane Cardfile 23 was, I would guess it was a modified Hercules, a JC-130A, operated by the 6550th Operations Sqdn. out of Patrick AFB, which in turn were replaced by the ARIA (Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft) EC-135s used until the end of Apollo. This is taken from a Patrick AFB Fact Sheet and an ARIA aircraft history, also available online. Hope all this helps, and good luck with your book!

Ross
Member

Posts: 373
From: Australia
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 07-02-2013 09:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There does seem to be some question over Card File 23. I've done some more research and the following are definitely Marine helicopters for MR-4; Hunt Club 1, Hunt Club 3 and Card File 9. Card File 23 is less clear, although David Shayler's book 'Disasters and Accidents in Manned Spaceflight' clearly says it is a helicopter.

It's possible that Cardfile 23 for MR-3 was the designation of an Air Force P2V while Card File 23 for MR-4 was the designation of a Marine helicopter.

onesmallstep
Member

Posts: 508
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 07-02-2013 12:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The identity of Card File 23 for MR-4 could still up in the air, but consider two facts: as mentioned in my previous post, the Card File 23 a/c for MR-3 was Air Force, but not a P2V. P2V Neptunes only served, briefly, with the USAF as RB-69A recon bombers so the only P2Vs in the vicinity were US Navy.

And, if you take what I posted in my second paragraph, "...recovery forces were deployed IN THE SAME MANNER as for Ham and Shepard..." the same type of Air Force communications relay aircraft was used for both MR-3 and -4. Stay tuned as this mystery unravels.

ColinBurgess
Member

Posts: 1567
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 07-02-2013 07:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you both for your endeavours on my behalf and for your research on this topic. There were four helicopters involved in the MR-4 recovery effort: Hunt Club 1 (Jim Lewis and John Reinhard) and Hunt Club 2 (Phil Upschulte and George Cox), as well as a support Navy helicopter and another Navy helicopter which was basically a platform for some photographers, and which was told to keep well back from the recovery efforts.

In regard to the P2V aircraft, the JAX AIR NEWS (NAS Jacksonville) dated 20 July 1961 reports that three P2V aircraft from Patrol Squadron 5, based at NAS Jax, were on the scene off Grand Bahama Island for the scrubbed launch of Grissom on 19 July to do their part as lookouts in tracking and assisting in the recovery operation and "the aircraft will take off at staggered intervals beginning at 0200 on Friday morning to reassume their lookout stations. The three aircraft will again take up positions in the expected impact area, two in the immediate area and a third in the general vicinity to await the shot Friday."

Of course Grissom was successfully launched that Friday. The three Navy pilots were named in the article as CMDR Lester Boute (sic: should be Boutte), LCDR Edward J. McCarthy and LCDR Anthony Routi.

One small side story is that Lester Boutte was involved in the rescue at sea in 1942 of air ace Eddie Rickenbacker.

So it would seem those three P2V aircraft would have taken to the skies around GBI again on launch day, but I'll certainly be interested to know if anything further is found on the mysterious Cardfile 23.

ColinBurgess
Member

Posts: 1567
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 07-02-2013 10:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The plot thickens: I managed to find a copy of the JAX NEWS for the following week and it confirms those three pilots from VP-5 were indeed flying P2V aircraft across the recovery zone for Grissom's flight. Interestingly, the article cites the following information: "Comdr. Boutte also spoke with Astronaut Virgil Grissom briefly when the space traveller asked for acknowledgement by radio." The only such acknowledgement I can see in the transmission transcripts is the one made by the aircraft identified as Cardfile 23. One P2V was said in the article to be over the expected splashdown site; another was near the launch area in case of a malfunction; and the third was downrange from the planned recovery site in case of an overshoot.

Off-forum, I have also received some vital information from a collectSPACE reader who has furnished me with reliable information from an impeccable source as to what aircraft were in the launch/recovery operation that day. Mentioned were Cardfile 5 and 9 as P2V Neptune aircraft, Cardfile 21 and Cardfile 22 as C-54 Douglas Skymasters. Dumbo 1 and 2 were SA-16 Grumman Albatross aircraft. Curiously enough, Cardfile 23 is not mentioned, but that was presumably the third P2V flown by CMDR Boutte. So there seems to be some reasonable evidence that his P2V was Cardfile 23. And of course as mentioned earlier, Hunt Club 1 and 2 were Marine Sikorsky HUS-1 Seahorse helicopters from the Marine Medium Transport Squadron.

Once again, collectSPACE proves what a fantastic resource it can be in finding information.

onesmallstep
Member

Posts: 508
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 07-03-2013 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great that this topic is finally getting resolved. Colin, if C-54 Skymasters and not JC-130 Hercules were part of the recovery force, they are clearly from that USAF squadron I mentioned in my post, so the Hercules did not replace the C-54s in time for Shepard's and Grissom's flights.

Ross
Member

Posts: 373
From: Australia
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 07-03-2013 09:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've just found the Mission Report which has a diagram of the Main Recovery Forces, although it doesn't name them. There was a Carrier and two destroyers plus four aircraft close to the splashdown point. Further toward Cape Canaveral were two destroyers and three aircraft.

The Report also contains a full transcript of the communications. The Recovery helicopters were designated "Hunt Club" with Hunt Club 1 (the Prime) and Hunt Club 3 communicating with Grissom or each other. Hunt Club 2 is not mentioned. The Card File was a radio-relay aircraft with only Card File 9 participating in the communications. Card File 23 is not mentioned and certainly did not communicate with Grissom during the splashdown (the Mission Report contains a complete transcript of communications).

Of the four aircraft, two were close to the splashdown point and thus must have been two of the Hunt Clubs, possibly 1 & 2. That leaves two others. At least one was a recovery helicopter, Hunt Club 3. The other may have been the photographic helicopter. If so, Card File 9 must have been the next closest aircraft NW of the recovery zone

Card File 23 must have been one of the other two radio-relay aircraft which were too far from the splashdown to communicate with Grissom during splashdown. It seems David Shayler's book is incorrect which is unusual for his books.

onesmallstep
Member

Posts: 508
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 07-03-2013 10:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On the transcript at spacelog.org, at the 10 min. 47 sec. point in MR-4's mission, Grissom calls out, "Ah, roger, is anyone reading Liberty Bell 7? Over." A second later the reply is, "Roger, Liberty Bell 7, reading you loud and clear. This is C 23. Over." So it appears Card File 23 was in communications range of Grissom.

Ross
Member

Posts: 373
From: Australia
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 07-03-2013 11:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
oops. Just checked the Mission Report and it is missing page 44 which is from 8:50 to 13:17.5 minutes. I'll look for another copy.

Edit:I found a copy with page 44 and Card File 23 makes two appearances. Later on, Card File 9 offers to escort the Hunt Clubs back to the Carrier so I think we can assume it is the closest. Therefore my above analysis seems the most likely with Card File 23 being further NW of the splashdown point compared to Card File 9.

JBoe
Member

Posts: 30
From: Edgewater, MD, USA
Registered: Oct 2012

posted 07-05-2013 04:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JBoe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some initial searches suggest the Card File 23 could have been a P2V-5F Neptune from VP-44 that was deployed to Ben Guerir SAC Base in Morocco as discovered from Dr. James Stevenson's, Ph.D., P.E. photos.

ColinBurgess
Member

Posts: 1567
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 07-05-2013 06:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Many thanks for your efforts on my behalf - much appreciated. However I know for sure that the three P2V aircraft were attached to VP-5 operating out of NAS Jacksonville, Florida. I am currently trying to contact Milt Windler, a later NASA MOCR flight controller, as he was a NASA observer aboard Capt. Lester Boutte's P2V that day, and can probably confirm their codename.

JBoe
Member

Posts: 30
From: Edgewater, MD, USA
Registered: Oct 2012

posted 07-05-2013 09:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JBoe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Speaking of maritime patrol aircraft, was the P-3 ORION ever used as a communications "bridge" or participated in the recovery of spacecraft?

All times are CT (US)

next newest topic | next oldest topic

Administrative Options: Close Topic | Archive/Move | Delete Topic
Post New Topic  Post A Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | The Source for Space History & Artifacts

Copyright 1999-2012 collectSPACE.com All rights reserved.


Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.47a





advertisement