On This Date

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Oct. 9, 1946: Boeing began a B-29 High Altitude Test program to study the effects of using heated fuel to reach high altitudes, and the dropping of photoflash bombs from 40,000 feet.
 
 
 
 

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Oct. 9, 1999: The final flight of an SR-71 Blackbird took place during the course of the Edwards AFB Open House and Air Show. NASA Dryden Flight Research Center pilot Rogers Smith and flight engineer Marta Bohn-Meyer flew the aircraft to a speed of Mach 3.21 at an altitude of 80,100 feet.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 10, 1998: After more than a year of flight testing, Lockheed Martin test pilot Jon Beesley flew the F-22 Raptor beyond Mach 1.0 for the first time. The first production F-22 (s/n 4001), in non-afterburning level flight at 29,000 feet, passed through Mach 1.1 several times.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 11, 1961: The North American X-15 passed 200,000 feet for the first time, when Maj. Robert M. White took it to an altitude of 217,000 feet. During his descent, the outer panel of the left windshield cracked, but White was unharmed.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 11, 1984: Astronaut Kathy Sullivan performed the first extra-vehicular activity by an American woman during Space Shuttle Challenger mission STS-41-G. Sullivan and mission specialist David Leestma performed a 3.5-hour space-walk in which they operated a system designed to show that a satellite could be refueled in orbit.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 11, 2004: The Airborne Laser program reached an important milestone when the flight turret assembly was delivered to the YAL-1A ABL at South Base, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The large nose turret was the main component in the beam control and tracking system, designed to point and focus the high-energy laser weapon on ballistic targets hundreds of miles away.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 12, 1954: The new 15,000-foot runway at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., was dedicated during an ARDC Commander’s Conference. The longest concrete runway in the United States, it also included a 1,800 overrun leading to Rogers Dry Lake, giving it an additional five miles of lakebed runway. The new runway was 300 feet wide with concrete from 17 to 19 inches deep. Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Power, Commander, ARDC and Brig. Gen. Holtoner cut the ribbon. Lt. Col. Frank K. “Pete” Everest, Jr., made the first takeoff and landing, flying an F-100 which was waiting behind the ribbon cutting event.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 12, 1954: North American test pilot George “Wheaties” Welch died when the F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre, serial number 52-5764 and the ninth production aircraft, crashed. Welch, flying the ninth production F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre, serial number 52-5764, made a planned 7.3 G pullout from a Mach 1.55 dive to verify the aircraft’s design limits. A Boeing B-47 Stratojet crew flying at 25,000 feet reported that Welch’s F-100 winged over and began a rapid descent, passing within four miles of their position and diving at a very high speed. The aircraft appeared to be under control but then suddenly disintegrated. The Super Sabre had encountered Inertial Roll Coupling. It went out of control and then disintegrated. Its nose folded over the windshield, crushing Welch in his seat. The vertical fin broke away. The ejection seat fired but because of the supersonic speeds the parachute was shredded. Welch was still alive when rescue teams arrived. He died while being flown to a hospital by helicopter.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 12, 1964: The North American Valkyrie reached supersonic speed (Mach 1.11 at 35,080 feet) for the first time during its third flight. North American test pilot Al White reported a smooth transition from subsonic to supersonic flight.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 13, 2000: The F-22 No. 1 completed its final test flight. On Nov. 1, it was ferried to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, where it would complete its career as a live-fire testbed.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 14, 1947: Capt. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. At approximately 45,000 feet above the desert, Yeager fired the rocket engines on the Bell X-1, nicknamed Glamorous Glennis after his wife, he was piloting. The aircraft was carried aloft beneath a modified B-29 Superfortess, where it was air launched. Accelerating to 700 mph, he became the first human to official travel faster than the speed of sound in level flight. The data form this and subsequent flights helped pave the way for many more firsts in the supersonic era.
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Yeager was awarded a cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross; the Mackay Trophy, given annually by the National Aeronautic Association for the outstanding flight of the year; and the Collier Trophy given annually for achievement in aeronautics. In its successful conduct of the XS-1 program, from Ezra Kotcher’s original conceptualization through Yeager’s milestone flight, the U.S. Air Force had demonstrated that the military could play a very meaningful role in experimental flight research.
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Oct. 15, 1968: The first flight of a limited Category II AC-119G test program was conducted. The AC-119G was the gunship version of the venerable Flying Boxcar.
 
 
 
 
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Oct. 15, 1985: The Fairchild Republic T-46A made its first flight, flown by company test pilot James Martinez. The compact Next Generation Trainer prototype, featuring side-by-side seating, was powered by two Garrett F109-GA-100 jet engines, and was designed as a possible replacement for the Air Force’s venerable T-37. The aircraft never went into production. The aircraft in this photo is among the collection of the Edwards Air Force Flight Test Museum and is awaiting restoration.
 
 
 

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