2019 – The Year in Review


It was a year of anniversaries – the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings; the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and the 30th anniversary of the first flight of the B-2 Spirit bomber; a year of losses – Aida O’Connor, founder of the Edwards Civ-Mil Support Group; aerospace legend Johnny Armstrong, and World War II veteran Henry L. Ochsner; and a year of firsts – NASA’s X-57 Maxwell all-electric aircraft, the first combat deployment of the F-35 Lightning II, and delivery of the first active duty KC-46 Pegasus tanker.
In this special issue of Aerotech News and Review, we will be taking a look back at the major news stories of 2019!

Lancaster High School student Enrique Arjona sits down for a talk with Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander, at 412th TW Headquarters Jan. 2, 2018. Arjona was congratulated on his acceptance to the U.S. Air Force Academy. (Air Force photograph by Kenji Thuloweit)

January 2019

Jan. 2 — Enrique Arjona of Lancaster High School was selected to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Arjona, along with his mother, Monica Mancera, was invited to the 412th Wing headquarters building at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where he was congratulated on his Academy Appointment by Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, the 412th Test Wing commander.

Maj. Nick Cenci, U.S. Air Force Chief of Flight Operations DCMA–Seattle (left); and Maj. Anthony Mariapain, Air Force KC-46 Chief Pilot DCMA—Seattle, stand in front of the KC-46A Pegasus at Boeing Field in advance of the U.S. Air Force acceptance of Boeing’s first tanker. Cenci and Mariapain led flight acceptance testing on the jet. (Boeing photograph)

Jan. 10 — The U.S. Air Force accepted the first Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft, setting the stage for the aircraft’s delivery to its home base of McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The Air Force has identified, and Boeing has agreed to fix at its expense, deficiencies discovered in developmental testing of the remote vision system. The Air Force has mechanisms in place to ensure Boeing meets its contractual obligations while initial operational testing and evaluation continues.

Jan. 10 — More than 60 people from around the Antelope Valley converged on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to start the New Year off fresh with a meeting at the Airman and Family Readiness Center. Following introductions, small group discussions were conducted to come up with different ways Edwards AFB can help local business, hospitals, municipalities and non-profits, and vice versa. Topics of discussion included medical care, housing and construction. All of the topics were focused on immediate and long-term steps, including coming up with different forum ideas to continue these partnership meetings.

Jan. 11 — SpaceX announced it will lay off 10 percent of its roughly 6,000 workers, saying it needs to become leaner to accomplish ambitious projects such as creating a spaceship that can carry astronauts to Mars.

Jan. 13 — The SpaceX Dragon returned to Earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The spacecraft was loaded with critical space research and International Space Station hardware.

Jan. 15 — Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander, toured Edwards Air Force Base as he discussed the next step in the Wing’s innovation campaign. He began the tour at the test wing headquarters building where he showed his “Manifesto for Innovation” video and introduced the Innovation Culture Wall to dozens of attendees. The wall features thought-provoking illustrations with messages such as, “We must not hide behind rules and regulations” and “‘No’ is just an excuse.”

Jan. 16 — SpaceX said it will build test versions of its Mars spaceship in south Texas instead of the Port of Los Angeles, in another blow to the local economy that comes days after the company announced massive layoffs. The decision was made to streamline operations, the Hawthorne, Calif.,-based company said in a statement.

Boeing photograph

Jan. 22 — Boeing successfully completed the first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle prototype in Manassas, Va. Boeing NeXt, which leads the company’s urban air mobility efforts, utilized Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to design and develop the electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and will continue testing to advance the safety and reliability of on-demand autonomous air transportation.

Jan. 22 — A KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker from the 418th Flight Test Squadron connects with an F-35 Lightning II from the 461st Flight Test Squadron Jan. 22 during a test sortie over California. It is the first time the new aerial tanker connected with a fifth-generation fighter.
The 418th FLTS at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is overseeing Phase III testing of the Pegasus, which is a 15-month period where the Air Force will certify fleet aircraft to refuel or be refueled by the KC-46.

Blue Origin demonstrated the versatility of the New Shepard system by taking 8 NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads into space.  (Blue Origin photograph)

Jan. 23 — Blue Origin demonstrated the versatility of the New Shepard system by taking 8 NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads into space.  
This flight was dedicated to NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, an essential program for researchers providing access to microgravity for technology development. Blue supports NASA’s Flight Opportunities program and its role in perfecting technology for a future human presence in space. New Shepard’s reusability is lowering launch costs and creating routine access to space. Lowering the cost of microgravity research increases the opportunities for universities, government researchers and entrepreneurs to test payloads and technologies in space. 

An artist’s concept portrays a NASA Mars Exploration Rover on the surface of Mars. Two rovers were launched in 2003 and arrived at sites on Mars in January 2004. Each rover was built to have the mobility and toolkit for functioning as a robotic geologist. (NASA/JPL/Cornell University image)

Jan.24 — NASA’s Opportunity rover began its 16th year on the surface of Mars. The rover landed in a region of the Red Planet called Meridiani Planum on Jan. 24, 2004, sending its first signal back to Earth from the surface at 9:05 p.m., PST. The golf-cart-sized rover was designed to travel 1,100 yards and operate on the Red Planet for 90 Martian days (sols). It has traveled over 28 miles and logged its 5,000th Martian day (or sol) back in February of 2018.

From Nov. 19, 2018 when Northrop Grumman’s “S.S. John Young” Cygnus spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station to deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of cargo to astronauts on board. The spacecraft successfully departed from the station on Feb. 8 to begin the second phase of its mission. (NASA photograph)

February 2019

Feb. 3 — The Pentagon says it will send 3,750 more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to put up another 150 miles of concertina wire and provide other support for Customs and Border Protection.
The additions will bring the total number of active-duty troops on the border to 4,350.
The announcement is in line with what Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan had said on Jan. 29 when he provided estimates for the next phase of a military mission that critics have derided as a political ploy by the White House.
Shanahan said several thousand more troops would be sent mainly to install additional wire barriers and provide a large new system of mobile surveillance and monitoring of the border area. The Feb. 3 announcement said the mobile surveillance mission would last through Sept. 30.

Feb. 5 — Boeing announced a partnership with Aerion, a Reno, Nev.,-based company pioneering next-generation supersonic aircraft. As part of the agreement, Boeing made a significant investment in Aerion to accelerate technology development and aircraft design, and unlock supersonic air travel for new markets. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Feb. 6 — France and Germany have awarded the first-ever contract — a Joint Concept Study — to Dassault Aviation and Airbus for the Future Combat Air System program. The launch of the JCS was announced by the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and her German counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen, at a meeting in Paris.
The decision by both countries represents a milestone to secure European sovereignty and technological leadership in the military aviation sector for the coming decades. Starting date for the two-year study is Feb. 20, 2019.

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky and ‘CJ’ Sturckow, were awarded Commercial Astronaut Wings by the U.S. Department of Transportation in recognition of the company’s ground-breaking first spaceflight from Mojave Air and Space Port, Calif. Calif. (Virgin Galactic photograph)

Feb. 7 — In another historic moment for the commercial spaceflight industry, Virgin Galactic pilots Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky and ‘CJ’ Sturckow, were awarded Commercial Astronaut Wings by the U.S. Department of Transportation in recognition of the company’s ground-breaking first spaceflight from Mojave Air and Space Port, Calif., Dec. 13, on Dec. 13, 2018.

Feb. 10 — Important work remains to be done in Afghanistan, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan told reporters traveling with him while en route on his first trip to the country. As Shanahan traveled to Afghanistan, negotiations between the United States and the Taliban for peace in Afghanistan were underway. Efforts to make that happen, he said, rest primarily on Khalilzad’s shoulders. Shanahan likened Khalilzad’s role in the effort to that of a quarterback on a football team.

Feb. 14 — European plane maker Airbus said Feb. 14 it will stop making its superjumbo A380 in 2021 for lack of customers, abandoning the world’s biggest passenger jet and one of the aviation industry’s most ambitious and most troubled endeavors. Barely a decade after the double-deck, 500-plus-seat plane started carrying passengers, Airbus said that key client Emirates is cutting back its orders, and as a result, “we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production.”

Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, Co-Pilot Michael “Sooch” Masucci, and Beth Moses earn their Astronaut Wings during the Feb. 21 VSS Unity flight. (Virgin Galactic photograph)

VSS Unity lands at the Mojave Air and Space Port following a successful flight Feb. 21. (Virgin Galactic photograph)

Feb. 21 — In its fifth supersonic rocket powered test flight, Virgin Galactic reached space for the second time in 10 weeks in the skies above Mojave, Calif.. Spaceship VSS Unity reached its highest speed and altitude to date and, for the first time, carried a third crew member on board along with research payloads from the NASA Flight Opportunities program.
This space flight means Chief Pilot Dave Mackay and co-pilot Michael “Sooch” Masucci become commercial astronauts and the 569th and 570th humans in space. Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor, flew as the third crew member in a first, live evaluation of cabin dynamics. She is the 571st person to fly to space and the first woman to fly on board a commercial spaceship.
In addition to this element of envelope expansion, VSS Unity flew higher and faster than ever before, as its world record-holding hybrid rocket motor propelled the spaceship at Mach 3.04 to an apogee of 295,007feet.

Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft attached to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, the “Rough Raiders” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 and the “Grim Reapers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, all attached to Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, complete a flight over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (Navy photograph by POC Shannon E. Renfroe)

Feb. 25 — Northrop Grumman completed the 500th center fuselage for the F-35 Lightning II at the Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence. — ahead of schedule. Designated AU-18, the 500th F-35 center fuselage is for a conventional takeoff and landing variant for the Royal Australian Air Force.

Feb. 28 — The commander, Naval Air Forces and the U.S. Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation jointly announced that the aircraft carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C Lightning II, met all requirements and achieved Initial Operational Capability. 
The announcement comes shortly after the Department of the Navy’s first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, completed aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and received Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.

Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence was awarded the 2019 Quality Plant of the Year by Quality Magazine. (Northrop Grumman photograph)

March 2019

March 1 — Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence has been named the Quality Plant of the Year by Quality Magazine. Each year the publication awards this recognition to a manufacturing plant in the United States.
According to Quality Magazine, the award recognizes a manufacturing facility that uses world-class technology, equipment, services and techniques to reduce scrap, rework, warranty or manufacturing costs; improve productivity or cycle time; increase capacity; or improve adherence to quality standards.

An MQ- Reaper remotely piloted aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 25, 2015. The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)

March 1 — The MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft reached a historic flight hour milestone March 1.
The Predator and Reaper have now been flown more than 4 million hours in support of a 24-hour mission around the world conducting persistent attack and reconnaissance; search and rescue and strike and support to civil authority missions in support of multiple combatant commands.
The MQ-1B entered the Air Force fleet in 1996 and retired in 2018, and the MQ-9 mission began in 2007.

March 1 — Singapore announces plans to buy four F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. with the option of purchasing eight more to replace its fleet of F-16s.

Expedition 58 crew members enter the SpaceX Crew Dragon for the first time. They are wearing protective gear to avoid breathing particulate matter that may shaken loose during launch. (NASA photograph)

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on its historic inaugural flight to the International Space Station lifts off. (NASA photograph)

March 3 — A sleek new American-built capsule with just a test dummy aboard docked smoothly with the International Space Station in a big step toward putting the U.S. back in the business of launching astronauts. The white, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule, developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company under contract to NASA, closed in on the orbiting station nearly 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean and, flying autonomously, linked up on its own, without the help of the robotic arm normally used to guide spacecraft into position.
Dragon is the first American-made spacecraft capable of carrying a crew to pull up to the space station in eight years.

March 4 — President Vladimir Putin suspended Russia’s participation in a key nuclear arms treaty, in response to Washington’s decision to withdraw.
In a decree, Putin suspended Russia’s obligations under the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty and said it will continue to do so “until the U.S. ends its violations of the treaty or until it terminates.”

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz. (Air Force photograph)

March 5 — The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.
This joint effort falls within the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, which has the objective to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft. The objectives of the LCAAT initiative include designing and building UAS faster by developing better design tools, and maturing and leveraging commercial manufacturing processes to reduce build time and cost.
Developed for runway independence, the aircraft behaved as expected and completed 76 minutes of flight time. The time to first flight took a little over 2.5 years from contract award. The XQ-58A has a total of five planned test flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.

Senior Airman Mutia Graham, Air Force Test Center, walks through a formation of sabers during Air Force Materiel Command’s Annual Excellence Awards Banquet March 6, 2019, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (Air Force photograph by Michelle Gigante)

March 6 — Senior Airman Mutia M. Graham of the 412th Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is one of Air Force Materiel Command’s top Airmen for 2018.
The Annual Excellence Awards Banquet for the command was held March 6 in the Modern Flight Gallery of the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Renowned aviation artist Mike Machat officially endorsed his latest work for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School March 7 when he applied his signature to the school’s NF-16D VISTA in-flight simulator. (Air Force photograph by Joe Jones)

March 7 — Renowned aviation artist Mike Machat officially endorsed his latest work for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School March 7 when he applied his signature to the school’s NF-16D VISTA in-flight simulator.
The VISTA is sporting a new paint scheme designed by Machat. The one-of-a-kind aircraft is a staple of the school. VISTA is an acronym that stands for Variable stability In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft. The modified F-16 can be configured to fly like almost any aircraft type.

March 7 — The Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division, in partnership with Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc., is developing the X-60A vehicle. It is an air-dropped liquid rocket specifically designed for hypersonic flight research.   
The X-60A program completed its Critical Design Review, a major milestone in the program. The program now moves into the fabrication phase.  The initial flight of the vehicle, scheduled in about a year, is based out of Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, Fla.
For more on the X-60A, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/03/08/x-60a-hypersonic-flight-research-vehicle-program-completes-critical-design-review/

March 13 — Boeing’s newest version of its best-selling airliner ever was supposed to boost its fortunes for years to come.
Instead it has turned into the company’s biggest headache, with more than 40 countries — including the U.S., which had been one of the last holdouts — grounding the 737 Max 8 after a second fatal crash proved one too many.
On March 13, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order keeping the planes on the tarmac after refusing to do so in the days immediately following the crash of a Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines that left 157 people dead.
The agency said what made the difference was new, enhanced satellite tracking data and physical evidence on the ground that linked the Ethiopian jet’s movements to those of an Indonesian Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea in October and killed 189 people.

March 14 — Three crew members have arrived safely at the International Space Station, following a successful launch and docking of their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft March 14. The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos launched at 3:14 p.m., EDT, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Hague, Koch and Ovchinin docked to the space station’s Rassvet module at 9:01 p.m. after a four-orbit, six-hour journey.

An F-35 technician measures the gaps between the frames and the ducts on the forward left inlet duct for the F-35 center fuselage. A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is produced on Northrop Grumman’s integrated assembly line at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence. (Northrop Grumman photograph)

March 20 — Northrop Grumman has been recognized by the National Association of Manufacturers with Manufacturing Leadership Awards for three of its aircraft manufacturing capabilities. The cutting-edge capabilities harness metadata, analytics, and virtual and augmented reality in multiple Northrop Grumman manufacturing programs.
The company was recognized for the following technologies:
• The assembly metadata integration project extracts quality data from automated systems on Northrop Grumman’s F-35 Integrated Assembly Line. It uses advanced analytics to mine data and automate an otherwise tedious manual effort for identifying discrepancies, generating reports, evaluating and documenting the quality data, and defining and directing corrective action. 
• The analytics-enabled complex assemblies (ACA) capability leverages analytics to assemble complex airplane parts of diverse material types. It enables Northrop Grumman to machine complex parts on divergent machines and then drill precision hole-bores. This project reduces complexity, cost, facility requirements and risk while improving throughput and design change sensitivity. Northrop Grumman uses this capability on both its manned and autonomous aircraft systems, including the High Altitude Long Endurance family of systems that comprise programs like the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton and U.S. Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk.
• Northrop Grumman leverages augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and 3D analytics to improve airframe manufacturing processes. This enables the company to capture and analyze data to gain meaningful insights into manufacturing challenges experienced by human tasks. By combining airframe manufacturing data with artificial intelligence/machine learning, AR and VR, Northrop Grumman captures human variability and work content that reduces rework, disruption and downtime. Similar to the ACA capability, this can be used across the spectrum of Northrop Grumman aircraft programs.

March 27 — The Air Force announced Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., has been selected as the preferred location for the first operational B-21 Raider bomber and the formal training unit. Whiteman AFB, Mo., and Dyess AFB, Texas, will receive B-21s as they become available.

March 27 — The Federal Aviation Administration plans to revamp oversight of airplane development after the two deadly crashes of Boeing’s new 737 Max raised questions of whether the FAA has gone too far in letting companies regulate themselves, a Transportation Department official said.

Civ-Mil member and past president Aida O’Connor talks with 412th Test Wing Commander Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert during the annual Civ-Mil mixer at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., April 25. O’Connor created the Edwards Civ-Mil support group more than two decades ago and remains active in the organization as a board member. Base leaders and members of the Antelope Valley community came together to raise funds for various support projects on base. The Civ-Mil Group board of directors host a collaborative monthly meeting along with Edwards AFB military leaders to discuss ways the Aerospace Valley military and civilian communities can best serve one another. (Air Force photograph by Michelle Thomas)

April 2019

April 1 — Boeing and U.S. aviation regulators say the company needs more time to finish changes in a flight-control system suspected of playing a role in two deadly crashes.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it anticipates Boeing’s final software improvements for 737 Max airliners “in the coming weeks.”
Boeing was expected to complete the work last week, but FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the company needs more time to make sure it has identified and addressed all issues.
Chicago-based Boeing offered the same timetable as it works to convince regulators that it can fix software on the planes.

April 1 — After months of warnings, the United States has stopped delivery of F-35 fighter jet parts to Turkey in retaliation for Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of a Russian surface-to-air missile system, the Pentagon said.
Top U.S. government leaders have repeatedly threatened to shut down Turkey’s plan to buy the F-35 advanced fighter aircraft if Turkey didn’t abandon efforts to buy the S-400 Russian system. Halting the delivery of parts and manuals needed to prepare for the aircraft’s planned delivery this summer is the first step toward ending the actual aircraft sale.

April 5 — Boeing is cutting production of its grounded Max airliner this month to focus on fixing flight-control software and getting the planes back in the air. The company said that starting in mid-April it will cut production of the 737 Max from 52 to 42 planes per month.
The move is not that surprising. Boeing had already suspended deliveries of the Max after regulators around the world grounded the jet following deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

April 9 — A Japanese air force F-35 stealth fighter crashed in the Pacific Ocean during a night training flight and parts of the jet were recovered, the defense ministry said.

The Stratolaunch aircraft lands at the Mojave Air and Space Port following a successful first flight. (Stratolaunch photograph)

Crowds at the Mojave Air and Space Port watch as the Stratolaunch aircraft made3 its maiden flight April 13. (Stratolaunch photograph)

April 13 — A giant six-engine aircraft with the world’s longest wingspan completed what company officials called a superb initial flight over California’s Mojave Desert, bringing to life a dream held by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.
Stratolaunch Systems Corp. chief executive Jean Floyd said April 13 the aircraft made a “spectacular” landing that was on the mark. Stratolaunch, which was founded by Allen, is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites. He died in October.
The behemoth, twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port shortly before 7 a.m., April 13, and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles north of Los Angeles. The jet flew 2 1/2 hours, achieving a maximum speed of 189 mph and altitudes up to 17,000 feet, the company said.
For more on the Stratolaunch first flight, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/04/15/in-california-giant-stratolaunch-jet-flies-for-first-time/

Three F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxi after landing at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, April 15, 2019. The F-35A Lightning II is deployed to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility for the first time in U.S. Air Force history. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

April 15 — The U.S. Air Force’s fifth generation multi-role aircraft arrived for its first deployment to the Middle East on April 15. The F-35A Lightning IIs are from active duty 388th and reserve 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. As the first deployment to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility, crews are prepared and trained for the AFCENT mission. The F-35A, the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, provides greater operational capability by combining advanced stealth capabilities with the latest weapons technology.

The Northrop N9MB flying wing performs at the first Los Angeles County Air Show in Lancaster, Calif. The plane crashed in Norco April 22, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Rebecca Amber)

April 22 — One person was killed when an historic Northrop N9MB flying wing crashed on the grounds of a state prison in Norco, Calif., April 22.
No one on the ground was reported injured.
The aircraft was owned and operated by the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, about 10 miles from the prison.
“Today [April 22], at approximately 12 p.m., one of our museum pilots and our N9MB Northrop Flying Wing were lost in an accident in Norco, Calif.,” said the museum in a statement. “The flight was being conducted in preparation for the upcoming Planes of Fame Air Show where it was scheduled to fly.
“At this time details are not known as to the cause of the accident,” and the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident to determine the cause.
The identification of the pilot, the sole occupant, is being withheld pending notification of family.  
Officials say the planes disintegrated and burst into flames.
According to the museum’s website, the plane was 75 years old and is the grandfather of today’s B-2 Spirit bomber.
The aircraft was built in 1944 as the fourth and final in a series of 1/3 scale test models for the Northrop XB-35flying Wing bombers. Each of the N9Ms was painted in a different color scheme.
The primary mission of the N9Ms was to provide flight test information from which the maneuverability, controllability and performance of the XB-35 could be predicted. It was flown at Muroc Army Airfield (later Edwards Air Force Base) by well-known pilots including Robert Cardenas, Russ Schleeh, John Myers and Bob Hoover.
The final configuration of the N9MB featured leading edge slots, flaps, elevons and split rudders. These were used on the XB-35, the YB-49, and many years later, with some modifications, on the B-2 Stealth Bomber.
The N9MB was obtained from the U. S. Air Force by Ed Maloney of Planes of Fame Air Museum in the 1950s. Restoration was begun by Museum staff in 1981 and was completed 13 years later. It was painted in its original yellow-over-blue scheme. Flight testing was completed in 1996.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

April 30 — Two F-35As, deployed to the Middle East from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, conducted an air strike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of Combined Joint Task Force—Operation Inherent Resolve on April 30.
This strike marked the F-35A Lightning II’s first combat mission.
The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched Daesh tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces.

During the mission’s fourth spacewalk, Michael Good and Michael Massimino faced a curious challenge: a stripped screw delayed the removal of a handrail (pictured inside the telescope to the upper right of Good’s helmet in this photo) on the outside of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). After nearly four hours of troubleshooting, Good, Massimino, the rest of the crew and a team back on Earth found a way to remove the handrail and continue the mission. (NASA photograph)

May 2019

May 1 — A T-6 Texan II from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, crashed just before 2 p.m., May 1, southwest of Hastings, Okla.
Both crew members ejected safely and have returned to base. The aircraft was performing a pilot instructor training mission at the time of the accident.
An investigation is underway. Officials have asked that anyone who may find debris in the area that may be related to the accident to contact Sheppard AFB Command Post at 940-676-2616. For safety reasons, please do not touch or move the material.

May 10 — At a press conference at the New Mexico State Capitol Building in Santa Fe, hosted by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic’s development and testing program had advanced sufficiently to move the spaceline staff and space vehicles from Mojave, Calif., to their commercial operations headquarters at Spaceport America, N.M.
The move, which involves more than 100 staff, will commence immediately and continue through the summer, to minimize schooling disruption for families.

May 11 — Ten years ago, May 11, the Hubble final servicing mission made it better than ever. Astronauts Mike Massimino and Mike Good were tasked with replacing the power supply of one of Hubble’s critical instruments: the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. The instrument provides scientists with information about the temperature, chemical composition, density and motion of celestial objects. Its power supply wasn’t initially designed to be replaced, so the team had practiced for months with hundreds of carefully crafted tools to perfect the maneuvers.

May 16 — An F-16 fighter jet crashed into a building at the end of the runway at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, Calif., March 16. The crash was reported at approximately 3:30 p.m.
Early reports indicate the pilot ejected and, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, is being medical evaluated. There is no word on the pilot’s condition. It also appears that those inside the building when the plane crashed are all safe and accounted for.
The 215 Freeway near the base was closed in both directions, along with surface streets in the area.
The F-16 was on a training mission under the direction of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The pilot is from the 144th Fighter Wing, an Air National Guard unit based in Fresno, and the F-16 belongs to the South Dakota Air National Guard in Sioux Falls.

May 16 — Boeing says it has finished with its updates to the flight-control software implicated in two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max, moving a step closer to getting the plane back in the sky.
Aviation regulators still have more questions about how pilots interact with the plane’s controls under different circumstances, and Boeing says it is providing that information.
The Federal Aviation Administration, foreign regulators and airlines are reviewing Boeing’s plans for additional pilot training, the company said.

May 16 — NASA has selected 11 companies, including Masten Space Systems in Mojave, Calif., to conduct studies and produce prototypes of human landers for its Artemis lunar exploration program. This effort will help put American astronauts — the first woman and next man — on the Moon’s south pole by 2024 and establish sustainable missions by 2028.

Expedition 59 NASA astronaut Anne McClain is helped out of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft just minutes after she, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on June 25, 2019 Kazakh time. McClain, Saint-Jacques, and Kononenko are returning after 204 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 58 and 59 crews onboard the International Space Station. (NASA photograph by Bill Ingalls)

June 2019

June 4 — People around the world marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings on June 4, 1944.
On that day, more than 160,000 Allied forces landed in Nazi-occupied France as part of the biggest air, land and sea invasion ever executed. It ended with heavy casualties — more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in those first 24 hours — but D-Day is largely considered the successful beginning of the end of Hitler’s tyrannical regime.
The bravery by the paratroopers and soldiers who stormed Normandy that day is well-known, but there are a lot of things you may not know about D-Day.
For our complete D-Day coverage, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/06/10/aerotech-news-digital-edition-june-7-2019/

A B-52 from the 419th Flight Test Squadron out of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., carries a prototype of the AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, for its first captive carry flight, June 12, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Christopher Okula)

June 12 — In a scene reminiscent of the old days of a B-52 mothership carrying an X-15 underneath a wing, the 419th Flight Test Squadron successfully conducted the first flight test of the AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Much like the historic “Balls 8” B-52, a current generation of the historic aircraft is once again contributing to the base’s test mission, this time in the realm of hypersonic weapons.
A prototype of the ARRW was attached to a B-52 to gather test data including environmental and aircraft handling characteristics. The test gathered data on drag and vibration impacts on the weapon itself and on the external carriage equipment of the aircraft. The prototype did not have explosives, instead it was outfitted with sensors and was not released from the B-52 during the flight test.
The ARRW is one of two Air Force hypersonic weapon rapid prototyping efforts. Development of these air-launched hypersonic weapon concepts shows the Air Force is staying at the forefront of this cutting edge technology and is set to reach early operational capability by fiscal year 2022.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs, center, Israeli Air Force F-35I, right, and Royal Air Force F-35B, left, begin combat training drills during Exercise Tri-Lightning June 25, 2019, over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Tri-Lightning is a defensive counter air exercise involving the U.S., U.K. and Israel. The exercise is designed to improve interoperability and coordination in air operations among the U.S. and its partners. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Keifer Bowes)

June 25 — F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft from the United States, United Kingdom and Israel participated in Exercise Tri-Lightning over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Tri-Lightning was a one-day defensive counter air exercise involving friendly and adversary aircraft from the three participating countries, and consisted of active and passive air defense operations.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying 24 satellites as part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission launches from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, June 25, 2019. The satellites include four NASA technology and science payloads that will study non-toxic spacecraft fuel, deep space navigation, “bubbles” in the electrically-charged layers of Earth’s upper atmosphere, and radiation protection for satellites. (NASA photograph by Joel Kowsky)

June 25 — SpaceX launched its heftiest rocket with 24 research satellites, a middle-of-the-night rideshare featuring a deep space atomic clock, solar sail, a clean and green rocket fuel testbed, and even human ashes. It was the third flight of a Falcon Heavy rocket, but the first ordered by the military.

State Sen. Scott Wilk, representing the 21st District, Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, recognizes U.S. Army veteran Tom Hilzendeger as the Veteran of the Year on the Senate Floor in Sacramento.   (Courtesy photograph)

June 26 — Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, recognized U.S. Army veteran Tom Hilzendeger as the Veteran of the Year on the Senate Floor in Sacramento.
Hilzendeger served in the U.S. Army from 1968-1970. During his service, he earned the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. After returning from Vietnam, he worked at the Los Angeles County Sanitation District until his retirement. After retirement, Tom participated in a PTSD group at his local Veterans Center, where he was inspired to begin his ‘second career’ and passion — serving our veteran community.
Hilzendeger started Vets4Veterans after sponsoring a car show to raise money for veterans in need. Vets4Veterans, a nonprofit organization based in the Antelope Valley, assists any veteran who needs help — whether it is medical, dental, pursuing an education, or assistance with a living situation. Vets4Veterans is dedicated to providing support to those readjusting to civilian life. Last fall, the organization broke ground on Operation Restart, a transitional housing program. Hizendeger’s dream for Operation Restart is to have multiple homes where veterans and their families can live rent free for up to a year while they look for housing that is more permanent.

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors arrive at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 27, 2019. These aircraft are deployed to Qatar for the first time in order to defend American forces and interests in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (Air Force photograph by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)

June 27 — U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors deployed to Qatar for the first time in order to defend American forces and interests in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

June 28 — The U.S. Navy declared initial operational capability of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, clearing the way for fleet operations and training. 

The critical launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft was put to its hardest test July 2, and it demonstrated its capability to pull the crew module and future astronauts to safety during a launch if there is an emergency. Lockheed Martin) designed and built the launch abort system for the test and is also the prime contractor building the Orion spacecraft for NASA.   (Lockheed Martin photograph)

July 2019

July 2 — The critical launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft was put to its hardest test July 2, and it demonstrated its capability to pull the crew module and future astronauts to safety during a launch if there is an emergency. Lockheed Martin) designed and built the launch abort system for the test and is also the prime contractor building the Orion spacecraft for NASA.   
The Ascent Abort-2 flight test is a major test milestone that is enabling the safe passage of astronauts aboard Orion on the Artemis missions to the Moon and then Mars.

July 4 — Robert J. “Bob” Gilliland, former Lockheed test pilot and the first man to fly the iconic SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, the world’s fastest aircraft, died July 4, 2019 at the Rancho Mirage, Calif., retirement facility where he had been living for several years. He was 93.
For more on the life and career of Gilliland, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/07/05/aviation-legend-bob-gilliland-passes/.

A portion of Highway 178 near Ridgecrest is damaged following two earthquakes July 4 and 5, as seen from a Blackhawk helicopter. (USGS photograph)

A portion of Highway 178 near Ridgecrest, California, is closed due to crevices on the road following two earthquakes July 4 and 5. (USGS photograph)

5, as seen from a Blackhawk helicopter. (USGS photograph)[/caption]
Sen. Shannon Grove and Capt. Paul Dale, commander of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, observe damaged base facilities on July 9 after multiple earthquakes occurred July 4 and 5 in Kern County, Calif. (Navy photograph by PO1 Arthurgwain L. Marquez)

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake was undergoing recovery efforts on July 7 following a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, which occurred near NAWSCL and the city of Ridgecrest, Calif., July 5 after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake one day prior. (Navy photograph by John Scorza)

July 4 & 5 — Strong earthquakes rattled a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada, rattling nerves on the Independence Day holiday and causing some damage in the town of Ridgecrest near the epicenter amid a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. The epicenters were located within the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake.

July 11 — The executive who manages the Boeing 737 Max program and the Seattle-area factory where the now-grounded plane is built is retiring. Eric Lindblad has been in the job less than a year, taking over as Boeing struggled with shortages of engines and fuselages from suppliers. Lindblad will be replaced by Mark Jenks, a vice president overseeing possible development of a new mid-size plane. Jenks previously managed the Boeing 787 program.

July 17 — Thirty years ago, on July 17, 1989, an oddly-shaped and dark-colored new plane took to the sky for the first time at the legendary Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.
That plane, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, went on to join the U.S. Air Force’s fleet and has been a staple of the nation’s global air power dominance ever since.
For more on the B-2, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/07/17/northrop-grumman-b-2-spirit-20-years/.

July 17 — The White House says Turkey can no longer be part of the American F-35 fighter jet program.
In a written statement, the White House said July 17 that Turkey’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system “renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible.”

On July 16, 1969, the huge, 363-feet tall Saturn V rocket launches on the Apollo 11 mission from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, at 9:32 a.m., EDT. Onboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft are astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Apollo 11 was the United States’ first lunar landing mission. While astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the Lunar Module “Eagle” to explore the Sea of Tranquility region of the moon, astronaut Collins remained with the Command and Service Modules “Columbia” in lunar orbit. (NASA photograph)

Astronaut and Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin is pictured during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity on the moon. He had just deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package. In the foreground is the Passive Seismic Experiment Package; beyond it is the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector. (NASA photograph)

July 20 — Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, the world watched in wonder as the first humans landed on the Moon.
Five days earlier, a giant Saturn V rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the Apollo 11 space vehicle and its three astronauts — Neil Armstrong, commander, Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, and Michael Collins, command module pilot — on board.
And at 4:17 p.m., EDT, Armstrong transmitted the message “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” indicating to the waiting world that the lunar module had safely landed on the Moon.
Collins remained in lunar orbit onboard the command module.
Six hours later, Armstrong became the first human to walk on the Moon, telling the world “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Aldrin joined him on the lunar surface 19 mintutes later.
All told, the two spent 21.5 hours on the lunar surface, and about two and a quarter hours together outside the spacecraft, and collected 47.5 pounds of lunar material to bring back to Earth.
For more coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/07/23/aerotech-news-digital-edition-july-19-2019/.

Lt. Johnny Armstrong (left) stands with his B-58 crewmates Maj. Fitz Fulton, Maj. Cliff Garrington and Everett Dunlap in front of the aircraft in 1957. Armstrong flew in this test and support aircraft making him the first non-rated U.S. Air Force officer to fly at Mach 2. (Courtesy photograph)

July 31 — Johnny G. Armstrong, a hypersonics pioneer and retired flight test engineer at what was then known as the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., died in Lancaster, Calif. He was 86.
Armstrong spent most of his nearly 55-year career at Edwards expanding the envelope of speed. His first assignment as a civilian in 1962 was as a flight planner on the joint U.S. Navy/NASA/U.S. Air Force X-15 flight test program. He also worked on the F-104, lifting bodies such as HL-10, M2-F3, X-24A and X-24B.
For more on the life and work of Armstrong, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/08/02/team-edwards-loses-one-of-its-own-as-hypersonics-pioneer-johnny-g-armstrong-dies/

A B-2 Spirit is displayed in front of a hangar at Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., Aug. 20, 2019. The plane was on display in support of the B-2 Spirit’s 30th anniversary celebration. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)

August 2019

Aug. 14 — The U.S. Navy says two Blue Angels jets touched midair during a practice run in the Florida Panhandle.
Navy spokeswoman Lt. Michelle Tucker tells the Pensacola News Journal a jet made momentary contact with the underside of a second jet’s outer wing Aug. 14 as the pilots practiced over the Naval Air Station Pensacola. She says no one was injured.
Tucker says the team held a debriefing after landing. An initial damage assessment found a minimal scratch on one aircraft.
The incident won’t affect the team’s performance in a Chicago air show over the weekend. But the two jets involved in the incident have been swapped out and won’t fly in Chicago. However Tucker says the pilots of those jets will fly in the air show.

Aug. 15 — Most people know about the D-Day Normandy landings of June 6, 1944, associated with Operation Overlord.
Lesser known are the allied landings on France’s Mediterranean coast that took place Aug. 15 to Sept. 14, 1944, dubbed Operation Dragoon.
The Normandy coastline simply did not have the port capacity for the enormous amount of materiel needed to keep the momentum going as the Germans got pushed back after D-Day. And forcing the Germans to defend a second front would dilute their effectiveness.
Troops of the U.S. VI Corps landed on the beaches of the French Riviera beginning Aug. 15. Several French divisions landed with them, as well as soldiers from Canada, Poland and the United Kingdom.
The bulk of the German army had been moved to active fronts in northern France, Italy and elsewhere, leaving behind a much weakened Group G.
The other advantages the Allies had were air superiority and help from a large uprising by new French resistance fighters.
In August, the Allies took the ports of Marseille and Toulon, immediately putting them into use to land supplies and equipment. By October, more than a third of Allied cargo shipped through those ports.
The Germans were pushed back to the Rhone Valley, where they set up defensive positions. In Dijon, France, the Germans put up a fight, but they were pushed out of most of southern France by Sept. 14. 
Germany’s Group G set up defensive positions in the Vosges Mountains on the French-German border, and no further fighting on a large scale occurred in the area.
The Allies considered the operation a success, as the ports were captured and the Germans pushed out of southern France. However, the main elements of Group G were not captured, and that was a disappointment. It is widely agreed that they got away because the Allies had moved more quickly than anticipated, and their fuel trucks and the rest of their supply line didn’t have a chance to catch up to the frontline troops.
The choice of the landings’ locations was criticized by some military and political leaders at the time. 

Aug. 16 — Aida O’Connor, founder of the Edwards AFB Civilian-Military Support Group, passed away. O’Connor founded the group in 1989. One of the first projects spearheaded by the group was to provide the flags, flag pole, picnic tables and benches for Flag Park.
For more on Aida O’Connor, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/08/21/aida-oconnor-iconic-leader-of-aerospace-valley/.

Maj. Gen. James Dawkins, 8th Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations commander, addresses local government officials, Airmen and Northrop Grumman employees during the B-2 Spirit’s 30th anniversary celebration at Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., Aug. 20, 2019. Dawkins flew a B-2 Spirit nicknamed “The Spirit of Pennsylvania” into combat bombing missions during Operation Enduring Freedom. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)

Aug. 20 — Northrop Grumman hosted an event at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., to mark the 30th anniversary of the B-2 Spirit bombers’ first flight, July 17, 1989.
For more on the B-2 anniversary event, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/08/21/b-2-spirit-marks-30th-anniversary-of-first-flight/.

From left: Chuck Berry and Carl Sagan at a Voyager 2 Neptune flyby celebration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in August 1989. Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” is the only rock-and-roll song on the Golden Records currently traveling in interstellar space aboard Voyagers 1 and 2. (NASA/JPL-Caltech photograph)

Aug. 25 — NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft made a close flyby of Neptune, giving humanity its first close-up of our solar system’s eighth planet.
Marking the end of the Voyager mission’s Grand Tour of the solar system’s four giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — that first was also a last: No other spacecraft has visited Neptune since.

Aug. 28 — Laser-guided bomb units, commonly referred to as LGBs, were dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time in nearly a decade during an operational test performed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

Aug. 28 — The 412th Test Wing, along with Air Force Global Strike Command and industry partners, held an expanded carriage demonstration with the B-1B Lancer bomber at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The demonstration showcased the feasibility of increasing the B-1B weapons capacity to integrate future advanced weapons.  
The two potential programs — external carriage and long bay options — would allow the B-1B to carry weapons externally, significantly increasing its magazine capacity for munitions, as well as adding larger, heavier munitions, such as hypersonic weapons.

The Silver Spitfire sits in front of a hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Courtesy photograph)

Volunteers help push the Silver Spitfire to the ramp in front of the Virgin Galactic Hangar. (Courtesy photograph)

September 2019

Sept. 1 — The Silver Spitfire, a restored MK IX Spitfire manufactured in 1943, arrived at the Mojave Air and Space Port as part of its round-the-world trip.
After landing, the aircraft started to overheat which made a planned taxi down to the Voyager Restaurant impossible. Instead, the aircraft taxied as close to the Virgin Galactic FAITH hangar as possible, then shut down to protect the engine.
A crew of volunteers pushed her to the ramp in front of the Virgin Galactic hangar.
For more on the Silver Spitfire’s visit to Mojave, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/09/06/blast-from-the-past-in-mojave/.

Sept. 7 — World War II veteran Henry L. Ochsner, who served with the 101st Airborne Division from the D-Day invasion at Normandy through the capture of Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” alpine redoubt, has died. He was 96 years old.
Ochsner, who died Sept. 7, was known to many friends and family as “Len.”
In recent years in the Antelope Valley, he emerged as a living symbol of the spirit of “The Greatest Generation” of World War II veterans, named by author Tom Brokaw from his book of the same name.
For more on Ochsner, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/09/09/wwii-screaming-eagle-vet-ochsner-of-california-city-dies-96/.

Sept. 9 — Seventy-five years ago, in 1944, the U.S. Air Force established what would eventually become the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. The school was established on Sept. 9, 1944, as the Flight Test Training Unit at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base , Ohio. To take advantage of the uncongested skies, usually superb flying weather, and the lack of developed zones in the event of crashing, the test pilot school was officially moved to its present location at Edwards on Feb. 4, 1951.
For more on the history of the school, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/10/04/u-s-air-force-test-pilot-school-history/. For more on the anniversary celebration, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/10/04/air-forces-test-pilot-school-celebrates-semi-sesquicentennial-anniversary/.

Sept. 10 — Staff Sgt. Adam Erickson, 29, was killed during a routine military proficiency jump,. At Edwards Air Force Base. Erickson, of Ojai, Calif., joined the U.S. Air Force in November 2011, having served almost 8 years.  Erickson served in Qatar in 2016 as part of the Joint Personnel Recovery Center and in 2019 in Romania as the Jumpmaster and Operations liaison.
 “We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Adam touched many lives during his time here and our hearts and prayers go out to his family, friends and coworkers,” said Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, commander, 412th Test Wing. A memorial service was held at the base Sept. 20.

Sept. 11 — Ceremonies at Antelope Valley College and the Antelope Valley Mall marked the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The B-21 Raider will be built at the Northrop Grumman facility in Palmdale, Calif., and test at Edwards Air Force Base. (Air Force image)

Sept. 16 — Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan announced Sept. 16, 2019, that the B-21 Raider is being produced in Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif., facility — the same location as the B-2 Spirit.
In addition, the 420th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., will be reactivated to support testing of the B-21 Raider, as it did for the B-2.

Sept. 17 — Shortly after the invasion of Normandy and the liberation of Paris during World War II, Allied forces in Europe wanted to create an invasion route into northern Germany from the Netherlands. Operation Market Garden, meant to achieve that objective, kicked off 75 years ago, on Sept. 17, 1944.
For more on the commemoration events, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/09/18/u-s-allies-remember-operation-market-garden/.

Boeing and the U.S. Navy successfully completed the first test flight of the MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler Sept. 19, 2019. The MQ-25 test asset, known as T1, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the direction of Boeing test pilots operating from a ground control station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Ill., where the test program is based. (Boeing photograph)

Sept. 19 — Boeing and the U.S. Navy successfully completed the first test flight of the MQ-25™ unmanned aerial refueler. The MQ-25 test asset, known as T1, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the direction of Boeing test pilots operating from a ground control station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Ill., where the test program is based. The aircraft completed an autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-determined route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station.

NASA’s X-57 Maxwell, the agency’s first all-electric X-plane and first crewed X-planed in two decades, is delivered to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., in its Mod II configuration. The first of three primary modifications for the project, Mod II involves testing of the aircraft’s cruise electric propulsion system. Delivery to NASA from prime contractor Empirical Systems Aerospace of San Luis Obispo, California, marks a major milestone for the project, at which point the vehicle is reintegrated for ground tests, to be followed by taxi tests, and eventually, flight tests. X-57’s goal is to further advance the design and airworthiness process for distributed electric propulsion technology for general aviation aircraft, which can provide multiple benefits to efficiency, emissions and noise. (NASA photograph)

October 2019

Oct. 2 — The first all-electric configuration of NASA’s X-57 Maxwell now is at the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.
The X-57, NASA’s first all-electric experimental aircraft, or X-plane — and the first crewed X-plane in two decades — was delivered by Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) of San Luis Obispo, Calif., Oct. 2, in the first of three configurations as an all-electric aircraft, known as Modification II, or Mod II.

Oct. 4 — The 420th Flight Test Squadron was reactivated following an assumption of command ceremony at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The squadron will plan, test, analyze and report on all flight and ground testing of the B-21 Raider.

Oct. 8 — Boeing plans to invest $20 million in Virgin Galactic as the space tourism company nears its goal of launching passengers on suborbital flights.

Oct. 9 — The XQ-58A Valkyrie completed the third flight of the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program Oct. 9, 2019, at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.

Oct. 11 — Raytheon and United Technologies Corp. announced that, at their respective special meetings of shareowners held Oct. 11, Raytheon and United Technologies shareowners voted overwhelmingly to approve all of the proposals necessary to complete the merger of equals transaction combining United Technologies’ aerospace businesses, comprised of Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney, with Raytheon.
The merger would create Raytheon Technologies Corporation, a premier systems provider with advanced technologies to address rapidly growing segments within aerospace and defense.

Oct. 11 — Boeing announced Oct. 11 that its Board of Directors has separated the roles of chairman and chief executive officer.
Dennis A. Muilenburg continues as CEO, president and a director. The board elected David L. Calhoun, current independent lead director, to serve as non-executive chairman.  

Oct. 11 — Stratolaunch announced it has “transitioned ownership and is continuing regular operations.” At the same time, Scaled Composites issued a statement announcing the transfer of the Stratolaunch aircraft to Stratolaunch Corporation.
Few details about the change in ownership were available, including who the new owners are.

Oct. 16 — The Senate confirmed Barbara Barrett to be the 25th Secretary of the Air Force, clearing the way for the experienced pilot and former ambassador to lead the service as it faces new threats globally and in space. Barrett replaces Heather Wilson who resigned in May.

During the 2019 Gathering of Eagles, the Eagle honorees took part in a panel discussion about the B-2 Spirit program. From left: “Flaps” Flanagan, Tony Imondi, Thomas LeBeau, Robert Meyers, Otto Waniczek and Richard Couch. (Photograph courtesy of William J. Simone)

Oct. 19 — The Flight Test Historical Foundation hosted their annual Gathering of Eagles fundraiser. The theme of this year’s celebration was “From First Flight to First Fight,” and marked the 30th anniversary of the first flight of the B-2 Spirit bomber.
This year’s Eagle honorees are:
• Col. Frank T. Birk, U.S. Air Force — B-2 Combined Test Force Director
• Lt. Col. William “Flaps” Flanagan, Ret. — Northrop Grumman Flight Test Weapon System Operator
• Lt. Col. Anthony A. ‘Tony’ Imondi, Ret. — Former B-2 instructor pilot
• Lt. Col. Thomas J. LeBeau, Ret. — Operational Test & Evaluation Pilot; B-2 Test Pilot
• Robert G. “Bob” Myers — Northrop Grumman Vice President B-2 Flight Test
• Otto J. Waniczek — Northrop Grumman Air Vehicle Manager

Oct. 23 — Boeing’s third-quarter earnings fell 51 percent as it added another $900 million in costs for the troubled 737 Max and deliveries of new planes tumbled from a year ago. The Chicago company said it has developed flight-control software and a pilot-training program for the Max, and it expects regulatory review of those fixes to begin in the fourth quarter.

The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Oct. 27, 2019. The X-37B OTV is an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force. (Courtesy photograph)

Oct. 27 — The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. The spaceplane conducted on-orbit experiments for 780 days during its mission, recently breaking its own record by being in orbit for more than two years. As of today, the total number of days spent on-orbit for the entire test vehicle program is 2,865 days.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 production line in Fort Worth, Texas. (Lockheed Martin photograph)

Oct. 28 — The Pentagon reached a final agreement with Lockheed Martin for procurement of the F-35 Lightning II. The announcement was made as a contract modification, and the initial release of funds is more than $7 billion. The contract is expected to be worth about $34 billion — and lowers the cost per aircraft to around $80 million. The agreement concludes years of negotiations between DOD and the company, and also guarantees production stability.

Oct. 29 — Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg faced tough questioning from senators Oct. 29 about two crashes of 737 Max jets and whether the company concealed information about a critical flight system from regulators.
For more on this story, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/10/30/senators-grill-boeing-ceo-over-plane-involved-in-2-crashes/.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner lands in the New Mexico desert in the company’s Pad Abort Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (NASA photograph)

November 2019

Nov. 4 — Boeing cleared a crucial test on the way to returning the United States to human spaceflight launch capabilities by completing a successful pad abort test of the CST-100 Starliner.
During the two-minute test designed to simulate a launch pad emergency, an uncrewed Starliner spacecraft lifted off under its own power from a test stand at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The vehicle was able to demonstrate the proper performance of numerous integrated systems that would be needed to successfully propel the capsule away from its Atlas V launch vehicle at any point during the ascent.

Nov. 8 — The new officers and board of the Edwards Civilian-Military Support Group were installed by Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander.

Inside the Research Aircraft Integration Facility at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, technicians prepare the X-57 for ground testing. The all-electric-powered aircraft is the first manned NASA X-plane in more than two decades. (Photograph by Peter Merlin)

Nov. 8 — NASA unveiled the agency’s X-57 electric-powered research airplane for the first time in its initial all-electric configuration.
The aircraft is being prepared for ground testing that will pave the way for flight tests in 2020. The primary purpose of the X-57 is to validate and demonstrate the benefits of distributed electric propulsion for future aviation applications.
NASA aeronautics researchers are hoping to demonstrate how electric propulsion can make airplanes quieter, more energy efficient, and environmentally friendly.

In Memorium – An assortment of flowers, letters and mementos are placed along the base of the Mobile Vietnam Memorial Wall during the Nov. 2019 exhibit. Non-perishable items that have not been retrieved by the time the display ends are picked up by volunteers and often preserved in the Wall’s display of memorabilia. (Photograph by Lisa Kinison)

Nov. 9 — The AV Wall marked its 10th anniversary at Marie Kerr Park in Palmdale, Calif.
For more on the AV Wall, and the celebrations marking the 10th anniversary, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/11/05/av-wall-10th-anniversary-program-november-1-2019/.

Nov. 18 — Boeing and Embraer announced their joint venture to promote and develop new markets for the C-390 Millennium multi-mission airlift and air mobility aircraft will be called Boeing Embraer–Defense. The organization will only be operational after the companies’ joint venture receives regulatory approvals and meets closing conditions.

Nov. 19 — Detachment 1, 47th Cyberspace Test Squadron, 96th Cyberspace Test Group, 96th Test Wing, was officially activated during a ceremony at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The detachment provides the Air Force Test Center with a secure avionics cyber test laboratory and fields cyber test capabilities to evaluate the Air Force’s premiere weapons systems.

The first NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft lands in Sigonella, Italy, on Nov. 21, following a 22-hour, non-stop transatlantic ferry flight from Palmdale, Calif. (NATO photograph)

Nov. 20 — Northrop Grumman has successfully ferried the first of five NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft, via a non-stop, 22-hour transatlantic flight. The aircraft took off on Nov. 20, from Palmdale, Calif., and landed approximately 22 hours later on Nov. 21 at Sigonella Air Base in Sigonella, Italy.

This Nov. 1, 2019 photo provided by Boeing shows Rosie the astronaut test dummy positioned in the space capsule at Kennedy Space Center. The test dummy will be riding to the space station on Boeing’s new Starliner capsule next month, in the first test flight. (Boeing photograph)

Nov. 21 — As Boeing moved its Starliner crew capsule to its Florida pad for a mid-December launch, the company revealed the name of the test dummy on board. Rosie the Astronaut is named after World War II’s Rosie the Riveter. The dummy has hundreds of sensors for the first Starliner test flight to the International Space Station. And it’s wearing Rosie the Riveter’s trademark red polka-dot head scarf, along with a Boeing blue spacesuit.

Nov. 22 — Boeing marked a key milestone as thousands of employees gathered for the debut of the first 737 MAX 10 at the company’s Renton, Wash., factory. During a ceremony, Boeing leaders highlighted the team’s accomplishments and recognized their efforts in completing production of the newest member of the 737 MAX family. The 737 MAX 10, the largest variant of the MAX family, can seat up to 230 passengers and offers the lowest seat-mile cost of any single-aisle airplane ever produced. The airplane will now undergo system checks and engine runs prior to first flight next year.

Nov. 22 — Boeing has settled about half of the lawsuits filed in federal court over the October 2018 crash of a 737 Max jet off the coast of Indonesia. A Boeing spokesman said the company has settled 63 cases tied to the crash of a plane flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air. The company did not disclose terms of the settlements.

Nov. 26 — The Artemis I Orion spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, for in-space environmental testing in preparation for Artemis I. This four-month test campaign will subject the spacecraft, consisting of its crew module and European-built service module, to the vacuum, extreme temperatures and electromagnetic environment it will experience during the three-week journey around the Moon and back. The goal of testing is to confirm the spacecraft’s components and systems work properly under in-space conditions, while gathering data to ensure the spacecraft is fit for all subsequent Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.

Nov. 28 — President Donald J. Trump highlighted the sacrifices and grit of U.S. service members fighting against extremism by visiting Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, for Thanksgiving. The president also met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the U.S. Air Force headquarters on the base. He then spoke to more than a thousand service members at a hangar on the flight line.
For more on the president’s trip, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/12/02/trump-highlights-progress-during-thanksgiving-visit-to-troops-in-afghanistan/.

New Shepard Crew Capsule lands under parachutes during NS-12. (Blue Origin photograph)

December 2019

Dec. 5 — A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station after launching. Dragon will deliver more than 5,700 pounds of NASA cargo and science investigations, including studies of malting barley in microgravity, the spread of fire, and bone and muscle loss.
The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is scheduled to arrive at the orbital outpost on Dec. 8.

Dec. 6 — Safety regulators with the Federal Aviation Administration want to fine Boeing nearly $4 million, saying that the company installed critical wing parts on 133 planes, even though it knew the parts were faulty.
The FAA action covers parts on Boeing 737s known as slat tracks, which sit at the front edge of a plane’s wings and guide the movement of panels called slats. The slats help give planes more lift during takeoffs and landings.
The FAA said the tracks were made brittle during a process in which they received a coating of cadmium and titanium, and that suppliers notified Boeing of the problem. Boeing still submitted the planes for FAA flight approval even after deciding that the slat tracks “could not be used due to a failed strength test,” according to an FAA statement.

The F-117 Nighthawk has officially landed at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held during the Reagan National Defense Forum. From left: Retired Lt. Col. Scott Stimpert, F-117 pilot; Reagan Foundation Board Chairman Fred Ryan; Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett: Air Force Chief-of-Staff Gen. David Goldfein, Vice President and General Manager of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Jeff Babione, and F-117 pilot Rick Wright were on hand for the ceremony. (Courtesy photograph)

Dec. 8 — An exhibit displaying the first operational stealth fighter opened at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
The F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter was unveiled during the Reagan National Defense Forum at the museum in Simi Valley.
The stealth fighter joins an F-14 fighter as part of a permanent display about Reagan’s efforts to strengthen the nation’s defenses.
On hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony were Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. David L. Goldfein.
The aircraft, given tail number 803 and nicknamed “Unexpected Guest,” entered service in May 1984 and flew 78 missions, more than all other F-117s combined, officials said.

Dec. 16 — Boeing is suspending production of the 737 Max as hopes of getting its marquee aircraft back in the air quickly fade. The ramifications are likely to ripple beyond the factory floor of Boeing’s plant in Renton, Wash., across both the aviation and manufacturing sectors. It could ultimately alter the country’s trade balance.

The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload. (Air Force photograph by Samuel King Jr.)

Dec. 19 — Air Force Global Strike Command named the MH-139A helicopter “Grey Wolf” during a naming ceremony at Duke Field, Fla. The Grey Wolf is the command’s first major acquisition in its 10-year history. The name Grey Wolf is derived from the wild species that roams the northern tier of North America, which also encompasses the intercontinental ballistic missile bases in AFGSC.

Dec. 20 — President Trump signed into law the sprawling, $738 billion defense bill, making history by creating the Space Force as a stand-alone, sixth branch of the U.S. military and guaranteeing for the first time 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers.
In addition to Space Force and paid parental leave, the law calls for a 3.1 percent pay raise for active-duty personnel and it prohibits Turkey from participating in the F-35 program as long as it continues to possess a Russian-made missile system. It prescribes active-duty strength for all the services while also carrying provisions to improve military housing and health care, purchasing 60 F-35s for the Air Force and thousands of other directives and recommendations.

Boeing, NASA, and U.S. Army personnel work around the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft shortly after it landed in White Sands, N.M., Dec. 22, 2019. The Starliner spacecraft launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 6:36 a.m., Dec. 20 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (NASA photograph by Bill Ingalls)

Dec. 22 — Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed the first land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history Dec. 22 at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, wrapping up the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Dec. 23 — Boeing’s CEO is resigning amid ongoing problems at the company over the troubled Max 737 aircraft. The company said that Dennis Muilenburg is stepping down immediately. The board’s current chairman David Calhoun will officially take over on Jan. 13. Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith will serve as interim CEO during the brief transition period, while Calhoun exits his non-Boeing commitments.
The board said a change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company as it works to repair relationships with regulators and stakeholders.

Virgin Galactic has placed the Main Oxidizer Tank into the fuselage — moving this vehicle a step closer to beginning its flight test program, a major milestone in the build of the next spaceship in its fleet. (Virgin Galactic photograph)