On This Date

June 25, 1928: The Boeing P-12 made its maiden flight. It was developed as a private venture to replace the Boeing F2B and F3B with the United States Navy, the Boeing Model 99. The new aircraft was smaller, lighter, and more agile than the ones it replaced but still used the Wasp engine of the F3B. This resulted in a higher top speed and overall better performance. As result of Navy evaluation, 27 were ordered as the F4B-1; later evaluation by the United States Army Air Corps resulted in orders designated the  P-12. Boeing supplied the USAAC with 366 P-12s between 1929 and 1932. Production of all variants totaled 586.




June 25, 1944: The Ryan FR Fireball made its first flight. The Fireball was an American mixed-power (piston and jet-powered) fighter aircraft designed by Ryan Aeronautical for the U.S. Navy during World War II. It was the Navy’s first aircraft with a jet engine. Only 66 aircraft were built before Japan surrendered in August 1945. The FR-1 Fireball equipped a single squadron before the war’s end but did not see combat. The aircraft ultimately lacked the structural strength required for operations aboard aircraft carriers and was withdrawn in mid-1947. An FR-1 Fireball is currently on display at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, Calif.




June 25, 1946: The Northrop YB-35 Flying Wing made its first flight with company pilot Max Stanley flying the giant aircraft from Hawthorne, Calif., to Muroc Dry Lake. The new bomber was powered by four large air-cooled radial engines, each driving a pair of coaxial counter-rotating pusher propellers. The initial flight lasted 55 minutes. The XB-35 was designed as an aerodynamically efficient heavy bomber. It had a very unusual configuration for an aircraft of that time. There were no fuselage or tail control surfaces. The crew compartment, engines, fuel, landing gear and armament was contained within the wing. It was 53 feet, 1 inch long, with a wingspan of 172 feet and overall height of 20 feet, one inch. The prototype weighed 89,560 pounds empty, with a gross weight of 180,000 pounds.




June 25 1947: The Boeing B-50A Superfortress made its first flight. This was also the first production B-50A as there were no prototypes. The Superfortress was an American strategic bomber. A post–World War II revision of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, it was fitted with more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial engines, stronger structure, a taller tail fin, and other improvements. It was the last piston-engine bomber built by Boeing for the U.S. Air Force, and was further refined into Boeing’s final such design, the B-54. Though not as well-known as its direct predecessor, the B-50 was in service for nearly 20 years. The first B-50As were delivered to the Strategic Air Command’s 43rd Bombardment Wing based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. After its primary service with Strategic Air Command ended, B-50 airframes were modified into aerial tankers for Tactical Air Command (KB-50) and as weather reconnaissance aircraft (WB-50) for the Air Weather Service. Both the tanker and hurricane-hunter versions were retired in March 1965. The B-50 was also used in the Bell X-1 test program. In this photograph, the Bell X-1 Number 3 is being mated with the B-50 motherplane.




June 25, 1950: The Korean War breaks out as North Korea invades South Korea. North Korea had military support from China and the Soviet Union, while South Korea was backed by UN personnel (principally the US). While the fighting ended on July 27, 1953, when the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, no peace treaty was ever signed, and the two Koreas are technically still at war. The agreement did create the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate North and South Korea, and allowed the return of prisoners.




June 25, 1964: At Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the X-15A-2 made its first post-modification free flight, piloted by Robert Rushworth. The X-15A-2 reached its maximum speed of 4,520 miles per hour in October 1967 with pilot William “Pete” Knight of the U.S. Air Force in control.




June 26, 1942: The Grumman XF6F-1, a prototype for the Navy and Marine Corps F6F Hellcat, made its first flight at the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation plant in Bethpage, N.Y. Grumman’s chief engineer and test pilot, Robert Leicester, was at the controls.




June 26, 1948: Thirty-two U.S. Air Force Douglas C-47 Skytrain transports flew 80 tons of supplies to Berlin, the first day of the Berlin Airlift. At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union, occupying eastern Germany following World War II, blockaded the Allied portions of the city of Berlin, cutting off all transportation by land and water. This was followed by the building of the Berlin Wall. The western part of the city was now completely isolated. Josef Stalin hoped to force Britain, France, and the United States to abandon Berlin, giving the communists complete control of the devastated country.




June 26, 1954: Personnel of the NACA High Speed Flight Station at Edwards AFB, in Calif. moved from their old South Base site into their new and much larger facility on Main Base at the north end of “Contractor’s Row.” This subsequently evolved into the present NASA Armstrong complex. The vacated hangar space (Bldg. 182) was taken over by Convair Aircraft.




June 26, 1962: crew escape capsule for the XB-70 was successfully ejected from a modified pod carried by a B-58 at 20,000 feet. This marked the first time an escape capsule was flight tested before the plane for which it was intended was flown. The rocket-powered capsule was ejected downward from an inverted position.




Capt. Lowell Smith and Lt. John P. Richter, made first mid-air refueling, June 1923, at Rockwell Field.

June 27, 1923: The world’s first successful aerial refueling took place at Rockwell Field, San Diego when a DH-4B, carrying Lieutenants Virgil S. Hine and Frank W. Seifert, passed gasoline through a hose to another DH-4B, flying beneath them with Lieutenants Lowell H. Smith and John P. Richter in the aircraft. Hine and Smith piloted the two planes, while Seifert and Richter handled the refueling using a 50-foot hose. The hose had manually operated valves at each end. During the refueling, 75 gallons of fuel were transferred. The second DH-4B developed engine trouble after the refueling and had to land after 6 hours and 38 minutes. The flight demonstrated the feasibility of the procedure which has since gone on to be used by most aircraft worldwide. All four officers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their accomplishment.




June 27, 1941: 27 June 1941: Taking off from Clover Field, Santa Monica, Calif., the Douglas XB-19 long range heavy bomber made its first flight. Originally designated the XBLR-2 the four-engine aircraft was under the command of Maj. Stanley M. Ulmstead, and included 7 other crewmembers. Ulmstead flew the XB-19 from Santa Monica to March Field, Calif. The duration of the flight was 55 minutes.




June 27, 1944: A final test of the Fat Man’s internal parachute system completed the Project A aerodynamic test series of atomic weapons ballistic shapes. Fat Man was the code name for the nuclear bomb that was detonated over the Japanese city of Nagasaki by the United States on Aug. 9, 1945. It was the second of the only two nuclear weapons ever used in warfare, the first being Little Boy, and its detonation marked the third nuclear explosion in history. It was built by scientists and engineers at Los Alamos Laboratory using plutonium from the Hanford Site, and it was dropped from the Boeing B-29 piloted by Maj. Charles Sweeney.




June 27, 1952: With Bell test pilot Jean “Skip” Ziegler at the controls, the X-2 research rocketplane was airdropped from the B-50 Superfortress “mothership” over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. This was the first flight of the X-2 Program, and was an unpowered glide flight for pilot familiarization. On touch down, the nose wheel collapsed and the aircraft slid across the dry lake bed, but was not seriously damaged. The X-2 was a joint project of the U.S. Air Force and NACA (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA). The rocketplane was designed and built by Bell to explore supersonic flight at speeds beyond the capabilities of the earlier Bell X-1 and Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. In addition to the aerodynamic effects of speeds in the Mach 2–Mach 3 range, engineers knew that the high temperatures created by aerodynamic friction would be a problem, so the aircraft was built from Stainless Steel and K-Monel, a copper-nickel alloy.




June 27, 1963: Maj. Robert A. Rushworth took the number three North American X-15 was airdropped from the NB-52B Stratofortress mothership, Balls 8, over Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada. This was the 87th flight of the X-15 program, and Rushworth’s 14th. Rushworth piloted the plane to an altitude of 285,000 feet (nearly 54 miles), becoming the second X-15 pilot to earn his astronaut wings. After 10 minutes and 28 seconds of flight, the aircraft landed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.




June 28, 1954: The first flight of the Douglas RB-66A Destroyer took place, flown by Douglas test pilot George Jansen from Long Beach, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base. The B-66 was the Air Force version of a Navy twin-jet attack bomber, at A3D Skywarrior.




June 28, 1976: The first class to include women entered the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. President Gerald R. Ford signed legislation Oct. 7, 1975, permitting women to enter the military academies. The first class including women graduated in 1980 and included the Academy’s first woman to be superintendent, now retired Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson.




June 29, 1955: The first operational B-52 Stratofortress – the B-52B – was delivered to the 93rd Bombardment Wing, Heavy, at Castle Air Force Base in Merced, Calif. The new bomber would replace the 93rd’s Boeing B-47 Stratojets.




June 29, 1965: Capt. Joseph Engle reached 280,600 feet (53 miles) in the No. 3 X-15, becoming the third Air Force winged astronaut, the youngest pilot, and the first civilian to receive astronaut wings. He went on to fly two other X-15 flights that would have qualified him for this honor. The North American X-15 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft. The X-15 set speed and altitude records in the 1960s, reaching the edge of outer space and returning with valuable data used in aircraft and spacecraft design. Engle went on to become a NASA astronaut, commanding two space shuttle missions including STS-2, the program’s second orbital flight. Engle is one of 12 pilots who flew the X-15.




June 30, 1961: The Directorate of Rocket Propulsion began a 90-day feasibility study of its Mojave Concept. The concept grew out of an internal proposal to develop a lightweight, unguided, missile of intercontinental range to be launched into a ballistic trajectory from a large launching tube — essentially a giant mortar. Both the Mojave Concept and Project Joshua were efforts to demonstrate that the Air Force was capable of developing its own inexpensive “barrage-type” ICBM system to supplement the existing Atlas, Titan, and Minuteman types.




June 30, 1968: The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy made its first flight in Marietta, Ga. Chief Engineering Test Pilot Leo J. Sullivan and test pilot Walter E. Hensleigh, flight engineer Jerome H. Edwards, and E. Mittendorf, flight test engineer, made up the flight crew. U.S. Air Force test pilot Lt. Col. Joseph S. Schiele was also on board.




A right underside view of a B-1 bomber aircraft on its first flight since April, 1981.

June 30, 1977: President Jimmy Carter cancels the B-1 Lancer program. The program was restarted in 1981mm and became the B-1B Lancer.




June 30, 1978: The Rutan Model 40 Defiant, a four-seat, twin-engine homebuilt aircraft with the engines in a push-pull configuration, makes its first flight. It was designed by aerospace engineer Burt Rutan for the Rutan Aircraft Factory. The prototype Defiant, N78RA was intended as a proof-of-concept of a very safe light twin design, requiring little trim change and no pilot action in case of engine failure, and with good single engine performance. A comparison of the Defiant single engine climb rate with a Gulfstream Cougar had shown about 390 feet vs 280 feet (85 m) per minute at low altitude with both aircraft cleaned up. In 1979 the Rutan Aircraft Factory announced they would proceed with certification of a Defiant-based light twin. Adequate financing was not secured for this project, and the design was modified for homebuilt construction as the Model 74, with the second aircraft built appearing at Oshkosh 1983. Plans were offered in mid-1984, and 176 sets of plans were purchased before RAF discontinued selling plans in 1985. The Defiant is built using fiberglass layup over Styrofoam core shapes in the same manner as the Rutan VariEze. The main gear is fixed, and there are no flaps. The propellers are fixed-pitch non-feathering, which is unusual in a twin-engine design. Cockpit entry is through a side-hinged canopy. The winglets provide yaw stability. Unusually, the Defiant has a ventral, port offset, forward mounted rudder, as can be seen in pictures of the plane taxiing.




July 1, 1933: The Douglas DC-1 made its first flight, flown by Carl Cover. The DC-1 was the first model of the famous American DC (Douglas Commercial) commercial transport aircraft series. Development of the DC-1 can be traced back to the 1931 crash of a TWA airliner, a Fokker F.10 Trimotor in which a wing failed, probably because water had seeped between the layers of the wood laminate and dissolved the glue holding the layers together. Following the accident, the Aeronautics Branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce placed stringent restrictions on the use of wooden wings on passenger airliners. Boeing developed an answer, the 247, a twin-engine all-metal monoplane with a retractable undercarriage, but their production capacity was reserved to meet the needs of United Airlines, part of United Aircraft and Transport Corporation which also owned Boeing. TWA needed a similar aircraft to respond to competition from the Boeing 247 and they asked five manufacturers to bid for construction of a three-engine, 12-seat aircraft of all-metal construction, capable of flying 1,080 miles at 150 mph. The most demanding part of the specification was that the airliner would have to be capable of safely taking off from any airport on TWA’s main routes (particularly Albuquerque, N.M., at high altitude and with severe summer temperatures) with one engine non-functioning. Donald Douglas was initially reluctant to participate in the invitation from TWA. He doubted the market for 100 aircraft, the number of sales necessary to cover development costs. Nevertheless, he submitted a design consisting of an all-metal, low-wing, twin-engine aircraft seating 12 passengers, a crew of two and a flight attendant. The aircraft exceeded the specifications of TWA even with only two engines, principally using controllable pitch propellers. It was insulated against noise, heated, and fully capable of both flying and performing a controlled takeoff or landing on one engine. Douglas stated in a 1935 article on the DC-2 that the first DC-1 cost $325,000 to design and build. Although only one example of the DC-1 was produced, the design was the basis for the DC-2 and DC-3, the latter of which being one of the most successful aircraft in the history of aviation. During a half-year of testing, it performed more than 200 test flights and demonstrated its superiority over the most-used airliners at that time, the Ford Trimotor and Fokker Trimotor. It was flown across the United States on Feb. 19, 1934, making the journey in the record time of 13 hours 5 minutes. TWA accepted the aircraft on Sept. 15, 1933, with a few modifications (increasing seating to 14 passengers and adding more powerful engines) and subsequently ordered 20 examples of the developed production model which was named the Douglas DC-2.




July 1, 1935: The Flying Keys set endurance record by flying a Curtiss Robin non-stop for 653 hours, 34 minutes. Fred and Al Key were brothers who performed barnstorming events and other activities during the early 20th century. They are best known for their flight endurance record, which they cemented at 27 days. They also invented a valve for aerial refueling that became the industry standard for the United States military.

The brothers became interested in aviation after World War I, and started doing some barnstorming in the 1920s and continued their interest as the managers of the Meridian Municipal Airport, in Meridian, Miss. With the onset of the Great Depression, the city of Meridian began doing whatever it could to save money. The airport was considered unnecessary, given the economic conditions, and was slated to be closed. The Key brothers had no desire to see this happen, so they came up with a plan to draw attention to Meridian and its airport by breaking the standing flight endurance record of 23 days. At that time, air-to-air refueling was a dangerous affair. If gasoline was spilled, which often happened, it could be ignited by the hot engine exhaust.

To solve this problem, the Key brothers, along with local inventor and mechanic A. D. Hunter, invented a spill-free fueling system that consisted of a valve on the end of the fuel nozzle which was opened by a probe in the neck of the fuel tank. The valve would not allow fuel to flow unless it was inserted into the fuel tank. During fueling, if the nozzle was removed from the tank, the fuel would automatically stop flowing. This nozzle was later adopted by the US Army Air Corps and is still in use today with some modifications.

Refueling the plane wasn’t their only concern. The engine needed regular maintenance during the flight to stay in good running order. To facilitate this, a catwalk was built so that Fred could walk out and work on the plane while it was airborne.

On June 4, 1935, The Flying Keys, as the brothers later became known, lifted off in a borrowed Curtiss Robin monoplane named “Ole Miss” from Meridian, Mississippi’s airport. For the next 27 days, they flew over the Meridian vicinity. Several times each day, the crew of a similar plane would lower food and supplies to the brothers on the end of a rope, as well as supply fuel via a long flexible tube. They landed on July 1 after traveling an estimated 52,320 miles and used more than 6,000 gallons of gasoline. The Ole Miss is permanently displayed in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. After this historic flight, Meridian’s public airport was renamed Key Field in the brothers’ honor.




July 1, 1966: The Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., received the first two of four CV-7 Buffalo twin-engine transports from the U.S. Army. The Army had used the Buffalo to transport artillery, trucks, troops and supplies into airstrips that were short and created from unprepared land.


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