On this Date

Nov. 6, 1980: The Solar Challenger made its first flight. The Solar Challenger was a solar-powered electric aircraft designed by Paul MacCready’s AeroVironment. The aircraft was designed as an improvement on the Gossamer Penguin, which in turn was a solar-powered variant of the human-powered Gossamer Albatross. It was powered entirely by the photovoltaic cells on its wing and stabilizer, without even reserve batteries, and was the first such craft capable of long-distance flight. In 1981, it successfully completed a 163-mile demonstration flight from France to England.




Nov. 6, 1986: The first off-range flight test of the B-1B Automatic Terrain Following system took place. The B-1B is designed to fly in an Automatic Terrain Following mode at 200 feet above ground level, in all weather, and at night. The B-1B incorporates several ATF modes. One mode, known as “hard ride,” closely follows terrain contours and is intended for use in high threat environments. “Soft ride” does not approximate the contour of the ground as closely, providing a smoother flight.




Nov. 7, 1956: The first ejection test of the F-101A ejection seat was conducted on the High-Speed Track, at a velocity of Mach 0.78. The ejection seat was designed and built by Weber Aircraft.




Nov. 7, 1963: Limited performance handling and tank jettison evaluations of the UH-1B Huey with 60-gallon external tanks began. This was one of six follow-on qualitative tests being conducted on the attack helicopter for the Army during this period.




Nov. 7, 2000: The X-35A accomplished its first aerial refueling. During its 10th flight, the JSF demonstrator completed four refueling operations from a KC-135 at 23,000 feet and verified its compatibility with the tanker’s flow-field wake and refueling boom.




Nov. 8, 1951: The Air Force completed qualitative handling tests of the Bell X-5 (s/n 838) and delivered it to NACA for its research program. The Bell X-5 was the first aircraft capable of changing the sweep of its wings in flight. It was inspired by the untested wartime P.1101 design of the German Messerschmitt company. In contrast with the German design, which could only have its wing sweepback angle adjusted on the ground, the Bell engineers devised a system of electric motors to adjust the sweep in flight. Two X-5s were built (serial numbers 50-1838 and 50-1839). The first was completed Feb. 15, 1951, and the two aircraft made their first flights on June 20, and Dec. 10, 1951 respectively. Almost 200 flights were made at speeds up to Mach 0.9 and altitudes of 40,000 feet. One aircraft was lost on Oct. 14, 1953, when it failed to recover from a spin at 60-degree sweepback. Air Force Capt. Ray Popson died in the crash at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The X-5 successfully demonstrated the advantage of a swing-wing design for aircraft intended to fly at a wide range of speeds. Despite the X-5’s stability problems, the concept was developed to an outboard rather than inboard hinge, and was later successfully implemented in such aircraft as the General Dynamics F-111 and Grumman F-14 Tomcat, the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-23 and MiG-27, the Sukhoi Su-17/20/22 and Su-24, the Tupolev Tu-22M and Tu-160, the Panavia Tornado and the Rockwell B-1 Lancer.




Nov. 9, 1946: The Lockheed XR60-1 Constitution made its first flight, a 45-minute flight from the Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank, Calif., to Muroc Army Airfield. Joe Towle and Tony LeVier flew the aircraft. Ordered by the Navy, the XR60-1 was a very large, double-deck transport powered by four 3,000 horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engines. The Constitution was a joint development of the Lockheed Company, the U.S. Navy, and Pan American Airways. The Navy’s interest in the aircraft stemmed from the type’s potential to carry a large amount of military cargo overseas. Pan Am envisioned utilization of the aircraft as a commercial airliner. The XR6O-1 was only of marginal use to the Navy. While both aircraft made numerous transcontinental and transoceanic flights, they were underpowered and failed to satisfy performance requirements. As a result, Pan Am’s plans to employ the Constitution as an airliner failed to materialize. The Navy retired both XR6O-1 aircraft in 1953 after unsuccessfully trying to entice commercial airline companies to purchase them. Lockheed later tried to sell industry on several airliner concepts that were essentially a repackaging of the Constitution’s basic design, but there were no takers.



Nov. 9, 1951: The second Bell X-5 aircraft (s/n 839) arrived at Edwards. For more on the X-5, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2021/07/19/x-5-tests-if-an-aircraft-can-change-wing-sweep-while-in-flight/




Nov. 9, 1961: Maj. Robert M. White capped an eventful year by taking the X-15 to Mach 6.04 (4,093 mph), exceeding its design speed by 93 mph. He thus became the first human to exceed Mach 4, Mach 5, and Mach 6, and to fly above 200,000 feet. During the flight, the heat on the leading edges of the X-15’s wing reached 1,147 degrees Fahrenheit. From left: Col. Chuck Yeager, White, and Brig. Gen. Irving Branch.




Some of the 58,307 names etched into “The Wall” of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. seem to disappear into a vanishing point looking toward the Washington Monument as the sun rises July 22, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

Nov. 10, 1982: The newly finished Vietnam Veterans Memorial was opened to its first visitors in Washington, D.C., three days before its dedication.




Nov. 10, 1988: The U.S. Air Force publicly unveils the F-117 Nighthawk when Assistant Secretary of Defense J. Daniel Howard displayed a grainy photograph at a Pentagon press conference. After the announcement, pilots could fly the F-117 during daytime. In April 1990, two F-117 aircraft were flown into Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., arriving during daylight and publicly displayed to a crowd of tens of thousands.




Nov. 11, 1918: Fighting in World War I ended as the Allies and Germany signed an armistice in the Forest of Compiegne. The day later became known as Armistice Day, and is now known in the United States as Veterans Day.




Nov. 11, 1921: The remains of an unidentified American service member were interred in a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in a ceremony presided over by President Warren G. Harding.




Nov. 11, 1947: Capt. Chuck Yeager became the first man to exceed 900 mph as he piloted the Bell X-1 to Mach 1.35. While this is an undated photo of Capt. Yeager, the Edwards History Office stated that it is known that he was briefing a news conference in Los Angeles, Calif. at the time.




Nov. 11, 1956: The Convair B-58 Hustler made its first flight. The Hustler, designed and produced by American aircraft manufacturer Convair, was the first operational bomber capable of Mach 2 flight. The B-58 was developed during the 1950s for the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command. To achieve the high speeds desired, Convair adapted the delta wing used by contemporary fighters such as the Convair F-102. The bomber was powered by four General Electric J79 engines in underwing pods. It had no bomb bay: it carried a single nuclear weapon plus fuel in a combination bomb/fuel pod underneath the fuselage. Later, four external hardpoints were added, enabling it to carry up to five weapons. The B-58 entered service in March 1960, and flew for a decade with two SAC bomb wings: the 43rd Bombardment Wing and the 305th Bombardment Wing. It was considered difficult to fly, imposing a high workload upon its three-man crews. Designed to replace the subsonic Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber, the B-58 became notorious for its sonic boom heard on the ground by the public as it passed overhead in supersonic flight.




Nov. 11, 1964: A crew flew a Lockheed C-141A nonstop from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to the East Coast and back. The sortie, covering 6,535 miles, was conducted to evaluate the APN-151 Loran C radio navigation system.




Nov. 11, 1966: Gemini 12 blasted off on a four-day mission with astronauts James A. Lovell and Edwin ìBuzzî Aldrin Jr. aboard; it was the 10th and final flight of NASA’s Gemini program.




Nov. 11, 1972: The U.S. Army turned over its base at Long Binh to the South Vietnamese, symbolizing the end of direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War.




Nov. 12, 1942: The World War II naval Battle of Guadalcanal began. The Allies ended up winning a major victory over Japanese forces.




Nov. 12, 1981: The Space Shuttle Columbia launches on mission STS-2, the first reuse of a manned orbital space vehicle. Joe H. Engle was the commander, and Richard H. Truly was the pilot. During the flight, the astronauts tested the shuttle robotic arm, commonly known as Canadarm. In the early planning stages of the Space Shuttle program, STS-2 was intended to be a reboost mission for the aging Skylab space station. However, such a mission was impeded by delays with the shuttle’s development and the deteriorating orbit of Skylab. Skylab ultimately de-orbited on July 11, 1979, two years before the launch of STS-2. The mission was originally scheduled to last five days, but the flight was cut short when one of the three fuel cells that produced electricity and drinking water failed. Columbia landed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Nov. 14.

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