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October 16, 2013

The flight seen around the world

Miami County man still holds record for longest supersonic flight in history 50 years later

PERU — A Miami County Air Force pilot became an overnight celebrity 50 years ago today after he flew a supersonic bomber jet on a record-shattering flight from Tokyo to London that captured the attention of the world.

Sidney J. Kubesch, a Texas native who ended up moving to Miami County after marrying a Peru woman, completed the 8,028-mile trip in a B-58 Hustler nicknamed “Greased Lightning” in 8 hours, 35 minutes at an average speed of 938 miles an hour.

It was the longest supersonic flight in history. It still holds that record.

Although the bomber had to slow down five times for in-flight refueling during its dash halfway around the world, it still managed to halve the previous west-to-east record of 17 hours, 42 minutes set by a British Canberra jet in 1955.

Kubesch, who’s now 83 years old and farmed in the county for decades after retiring from the Air Force, made the flight with two other crew members on Oct. 16, 1963.

The crew and the B-58 bomber were stationed at then-Bunker Hill Air Force Base, and the achievement brought international media attention to the area.

It also turned Kubesch, who was a major in the Air Force at the time, into a worldwide celebrity.

President John F. Kennedy announced the record flight from Washington after the Hustler touched down on the airfield at Greenham Common, England, at 10:34 p.m. Japan time.

“I congratulate the Air Force crew which flew this operation and the men who supported it on the ground,” Kennedy said in an issued statement. “I know that the success of this flight is due to the high competence and dedication of all involved.”

A year later at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, President Lyndon B. Johnson vigorously shook hands with Kubesch during a tour of the base.

Newspapers and other media outlets covered the story for months. One article even discussed what Kubesch and the crew ate during the flight.

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