June 5, 1948: Northrop’s YB-49 Number Two, a prototype flying wing jet bomber, went out of control during its 25th flight and crashed about 10 miles northwest of Muroc Air Force Base, Calif. Three officers and two civilian aircrew were killed. The pilot was Maj. Daniel Forbes Jr., and the co-pilot was Capt. Glen Edwards. The aircraft was testing stall recovery performance when it suffered catastrophic structural failure with the outer wing panels tearing off. In December 1949, Muroc was renamed Edwards Air Force Base in honor of Captain Edwards.
June 5, 1961: The first class of the Aerospace Research Pilot School began on this day. The class consisted of four permanent members of the Test Pilot School and one from the Air Force Flight Test Center’s Directorate of Flight Test. The initial class offered the instructors’ valuable teaching experience, as the Aerospace Research Pilot Course transitioned to the task of training aerospace research pilots.
Inspired by the Royal Air Force’s Empire Test Pilots’ School, Col. Ernest K. Warburton, chief of the Flight Test Section at Wright Field, Ohio, set about changing the role and status of flight testing in the U.S. Army Air Forces. His goals for the flight test community included standardization and independence, which became realized with the establishment of the Air Technical Command Flight Test Training unit on Sept. 9, 1944, and the independent Flight Test Division in 1945. The AAF possessed a formal program of study to train young pilots to become flight test professionals. Shortly after the first class graduated, officials changed the name of the school to the Flight Section School Branch, incorporating an increased focus on academic theory. In 1945, the school moved to James M. Cox Dayton International Airport, Vandalia, Ohio. The school once again changed its name to the Flight Performance School and fell under the responsibility of Lt. Col. John R. Muehlberg, the first official school commandant. On Feb. 4, 1951, the school transferred to Edwards Air Force Base. The enormous dry lake bed, extremely long runways and clear weather served the U.S. Air Force and the school well, as aircraft performance continued to increase. The schoolhouse took residence in an old weather-beaten wooden hangar along the flight line of what became known as South Base. Although the quarters were spartan, the weather was superb with only two flying days lost due to weather in the first seven months of operation. Taking advantage of the calm morning air, students started the day flying missions to collect test data. Afternoons were spent in the lecture hall, and evenings were devoted to reducing data from the day’s flights. Once reduced, the data were woven into a report that summarized the test and the student’s conclusions. Student enrollment issues improved in 1953, when the school was moved out of Air Research and Development Command, thus allowing for the selection boards to draw from a much larger, Air Force-wide pool of applicants, rather than just the local test squadrons.
June 5, 1981: A McDonnell Douglas KC-10 completed a rigorous 28-day air refueling qualification program at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The qualification program was for Strategic Air Command.
June 6, 1944: The United States and allied troops invaded at Normandy. This was the largest air, land, and sea invasion in history, and was the beginning of the end of World War II.
June 6, 1944: The Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning made its first flight, from the Lockheed facility at Burbank, Calif., (pictured) to Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards AFB), with company test pilot Joe Towle at the controls. The aircraft was an upgraded version of the company’s legendary P-38 Lightning, designed for a variety of roles.
June 6, 1959: The first ground test of Thiokol’s XLR-99 liquid fuel rocket engine for the X-15 took place at the Static Test Stand at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Delivery 50,000 pounds of thrust at ground level, it was the most powerful and complex throttleable rocket propulsion system in the world.
June 6, 1966: The National Sonic Boom Test project began. This was a joint Air Force, NASA and FAA study of jet noise and sonic boom effects on structures and people. Two dedicated houses were built and instrumented near Bldg. P-1, and a third in Lancaster to catch sonic spillover effects. Repeated supersonic passes by a variety of aircraft recorded data and the effects upon the buildings and some 100 test personnel. The objective of the program was to apply the data to supersonic transport (SST) development.
Shock waves develop simultaneously with supersonic flight in the atmosphere, and the passage of these shock waves over people, animals and structures on the ground cannot be completely eliminated. However, the real concern is for civil supersonic overland flight operations that cause repeated sonic booms over very large areas. The feasibility of routine civil supersonic flight operations and particularly their acceptance by the general public for overland routes may be largely a function of the severity of the sonic boom, but also encompasses a plethora of sociological as well as technological considerations.
A sonic boom does not occur only at the moment an object crosses the speed of sound and neither is it heard in all directions emanating from the supersonic object. Rather, the boom is a continuous effect that occurs while the object is travelling at supersonic speeds, but it affects only observers that are positioned at a point that intersects a region in the shape of a geometrical cone behind the object. As the object moves, this conical region also moves behind it and when the cone passes over the observer, they briefly experience the boom.
June 7, 1960: The supersonic tow target was flown on its first sortie, at subsonic speeds at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The 16-foot missile-shaped device, built by Norair, was designed to be deployed from a tow aircraft and be flown at supersonic speeds at the end of a seven-and-a-half mile long stepped steel cable.
June 7, 1966: The Ryan XV-8A test vehicle arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for Test and Evaluation by the Army Aviation Test Activity. It was tested for suitability as a “flying Jeep.”
June 7, 1979: A C-141B, the “stretched” version of the Starlifter, arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, calif., for Category III (final evaluation) before release to the Military Airlift Command. Two fuselage plugs added 23-and-a-half feet to the cargo carrier’s length, and an aerial refueling receptacle was added to the upper surface of the fuselage. Ultimately all of MAC’s C-141As would be modified into the new configuration.
June 7, 2002: A multi-role, remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) (MQ-1) Predator launched a mini-UAV while in flight over Edwards Air Force Base. This became the first time an operational UAV demonstrated the capability to carry and launch another such aerial vehicle. The mini-UAV, a 57-pound Navy Flight Inserted Detector Expendable for Reconnaissance (FINDER) was carried on a wing pylon and released at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Following launch, it successfully conducted a 25-minute pre-programmed mission before a flight technician took control and landed it on the lakebed.
The MQ-1B Predator operates as 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. Given its ability to loiter in an area for a significant amount of time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons, it provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination and reconnaissance sorties against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets. Predators can also perform the following missions and tasks: intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, close air support, combat search and rescue, precision strike, buddy-lase, convoy/raid overwatch, route clearance, target development, and terminal air guidance. The MQ-1’s capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct irregular warfare operations in support of combatant commander objectives.
June 8, 1959: The North American X-15 rocket research vehicle was airdropped from an altitude of 38,000 feet above Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and made its first glide flight, flown by North American Aviation’s X-15 project pilot Scott Crossfield.
June 8, 1966: XB-70A Valkyrie Number Two was flying in close formation with four other aircraft – an F-4 Phantom, an F-5, a T-38 Talon and an F-104 Starfighter. During the flight, the F-104 drifted into the XB-70s right wing, flipped and rolled inverted over the top of the Valkyrie, destroying the bomber’s vertical stabilizers. The F-104 then exploded, destroying the Valkyrie’s rudders and damaging its left wing. With the loss of both rudders and damage to the wings, the Valkyrie entered an uncontrollable spin and crashed north of Barstow, Calif. NASA Chief Test Pilot Joe Walker (F-104 pilot) and Carl Cross (XB-70 co-pilot) were killed. Al White (XB-70 pilot) ejected, sustaining serious injuries. Following an investigation into the incident, the XB-70 program returned to flight Nov. 3, 1966.
June 8, 1967: Israeli planes and one or more torpedo boats mistakenly attacked the U.S. Navy research ship, the USS Liberty, in the Mediterranean Sea near the Sinai Peninsula. The combined air and sea attack killed 34 crew members, wounded 171 crew members, and severely damaged the ship.
June 8, 1988: At Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the X-29 Advanced Technology Demonstrator Aircraft flew its 200th flight, becoming the first X-plane ever to reach that number.
June 8, 1998: Space Shuttle Discovery undocked from Russian Space Station Mir and pulled away, signaling an end to the first phase of cooperation in space between the U.S. and Russia. The second phase of the experiment involved the construction of the International Space Station.
June 9, 1951: The first X-5 variable-sweep wing jet research aircraft arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., from Bell Aircraft Corporation. This was a NACA project to determine the usefulness of a variable-geometry wing.
June 9, 1974: The Northrop YF-17 Cobra made its first flight, piloted by Hank Chouteau. The aircraft, powered by two afterburning YF101-GE-100 turbojet engines, marked Northrop’s entry into the Lightweight Fighter competition. Although, it lost out to General Dynamics F-16 and the project was terminated on Jan. 13, 1975, the aircraft reappeared as a combined fighter and light attack plane for the U.S. Navy as the F/A-18 Hornet.
The Lightweight Fighter program was initiated because many in the fighter community believed that aircraft like the F-15 Eagle were too large and expensive for many combat roles. The Cobra stood as the culmination of a long line of Northrop designs, beginning with the N-102 Fang in 1956 and continuing through the F-5 family.
June 10, 1944: The XP-80A made its first flight, with Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier at the controls. In this photograph, legendary engineer Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson congratulates LeVier after the flight.
June 10, 1989: Capt. Jacquelyn S. Parker became the first female pilot to graduate from the U.S.A.F. Test Pilot School (Class 88B).
June 11, 1951: The U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics announced that a D 558-II Skyrocket piloted by Douglas test pilot William “Bill” Bridgeman had established unofficial world altitude and speed records at Edwards AFB.