On This Date

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Feb. 19, 1944: At the request of the Bombardment Branch of the Wright Test Center, flight testing began on a Consolidated Vultee XB-32 Dominator. The XB-32 was twin-tail heavy bombardment aircraft.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Feb. 20, 1962: Less than a year after Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth, John Glenn became the first American to do so, completing three orbits around the planet aboard the Friendship 7 capsule. Glenn was already a military hero by the time he was chosen to be an astronaut for Project Mercury. After he completed his mission, he went on to a successful political career as senator from Ohio. He made history again at the age of 77 in 1998 by becoming the oldest person to fly into space when he flew on the space shuttle.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 20, 2006: The Number 3 pre-production RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV touched down on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., following a 23-hour autonomous flight from Australia. The RQ-4 was returning from four years of operational duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. All told, it had acquired tens of thousands of high-resolution target images, while logging 4,245 flying hours in all-weather conditions during 191 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Combined Task Force Horn of Africa.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 21, 1953: A variant of the Bell X-1, the Bell X-1A made its first powered flight, flown by Jean “Skip” Ziegler.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 22, 1935: Famed American aviator Wiley Post belly-landed his famed Lockheed Vega, the Winnie Mae, on the dry lakebed near the Muroc settlement, shortly after takeoff from Los Angeles on a transcontinental high-altitude flight attempt. Post emerged from the aircraft wearing a full pressure suit of his own design.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 23, 1945: U.S. Marines raised the U.S. Flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during World War II. The Marines all served with the 5th Marine Division. Three of the six Marines in the photograph – Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon Block, and Private 1st Class Franklin Sousley — were killed in action during the battle. The other three Marines in the photograph were Corporals (then Privates First Class) Ira Hayes, Harold Schultz, and Harold Keller. The iconic AP photograph of the flag raising was later used for the construction of the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1954.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 23, 1989: A two-seat F-16B Air Defense Fighter test aircraft, from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., successfully launched an AIM-7 Sparrow missile that destroyed a target drone off the California coast. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 24, 1949: The U.S. Air Force unveiled the Republic XF-91 Thunderceptor jet rocket aircraft. The aircraft was a mixed-propulsion prototype interceptor aircraft, developed by Republic Aviation. The aircraft would use a jet engine for most flight, and a cluster of four small rocket engines for added thrust during climb and interception. The design was largely obsolete by the time it was completed due to the rapidly increasing performance of contemporary jet engines, and only two prototypes were built. A unique feature of the Thunderceptor was its unusual inverse tapered wing, in which the chord length increased along the wing span from the root to the tip, the opposite of conventional swept wing designs. This was an attempt to address the problem of pitch-up, a potentially deadly phenomenon that plagued early high-speed models. The Thunderceptor’s design meant the entire wing stalled smoothly, more like a straight-wing design.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 25, 1929: The world’s first major air evacuation comes to an end when Britain’s Royal Air Force flies out the last of 586 civilians from Kabul to the safety to India. The airlift involves nationals of about 20 countries. The Kabul Airlift is notable as the first large-scale air evacuation in history. Considering the limitations of aircraft at the time, operating amidst a civil war, bitter cold, and mountainous terrain, the Kabul Airlift was a remarkable feat of endurance for both the airmen and the civilians involved.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 25, 1949: A Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket made a successful rocket-assisted takeoff from the lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 25, 1975: Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager flew his final Air Force sortie at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in an F-4C Phantom II (s/n 63-7264) before retiring from the service on March 1. Yeager was conducting a safety inspection of Edwards at the time.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 26, 1942: The first United States aircraft carrier, USS Langley, CV-1, is attacked by Japanese bombers. The Langley was converted in 1920 from the collier USS Jupiter (Navy Fleet Collier No. 3), and was also the U.S. Navy’s first turbo-electric-powered ship. While ferrying a cargo of U.S. Army Air Force P-40s to Java, she was attacked by nine twin-engine Japanese bombers of the Japanese 21st and 23rd Naval Air Flotillas and so badly damaged that she had to be scuttled by her escorts.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Feb. 26, 1955: The first supersonic ejection takes place when North American test pilot George F. Smith ejects himself from his diving North American F-100 “Super Sabre” off Laguna Beach, Calif. Smith ejected at 777 mph (Mach 1.05) as the crippled aircraft passed through 6,500 feet in a near-vertical dive. He is unconscious for five days but recovers.
 
 
 

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