July 2, 1943: First Lt. Charles Blakesly Hall, a member of the 99th Fighter Squadron became the first Tuskegee Airmen to shoot down an enemy airplane during World War II. At the time the 99th was based at El Haouaria Airfield on the coast of Tunisia and was patrolling the island of Sicily. The squadron’s primary mission was ground attack. the 99th was escorting North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell medium bombers near Castelventrano, in western Sicily. Enemy fighters intercepted the flight.
“It was my eighth mission and the first time I had seen the enemy close enough to shoot him,” Hall said. “I saw two Focke-Wulfs following the bombers just after the bombs were dropped. I headed for the space between the fighters and bombers and managed to turn inside the Jerries. I fired a long burst and saw my tracers penetrate the second aircraft. He was turning to the left, but suddenly fell off and headed straight into the ground. I followed him down and saw him crash. He raised a big cloud of dust.”
Hall was officially credited with destroying a Focke-Wulf Fw 190, the most effective Luftwaffe fighter of World War II. Not only was Hall’s victory the first for the squadron, but it was also the only enemy airplane to have been shot down by the 99th Fighter Squadron during 1943.
Hall was the second child of Franklin Hall, a 30-year-old kiln-burner and Anna Blakesly Hall, 25 years old, both from Mississippi. He was Aug. 25, 1920, in Indiana. After graduating high school in 1938, he attended Eastern Illinois University, majoring in pre-med. On Nov. 12, 1941, after three years of college, Hall enlisted as an Aviation Cadet at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind. Military records indicate that he stood 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighed 150 pounds.
Hall was part of a group of Black airmen that would be known as the Tuskegee Airmen. They were initially trained at the Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Ala., an all-Black college. Initial flight training was conducted at Moton Field, a few miles away, and the cadets transitioned into operational aircraft at Tuskegee Army Air Field. Additional flight trained took place at Cochran Field, near Montgomery, Ala. Following training, Hall was commissioned as a second lieutenant on July 3, 1942.
July 2, 1975: Capt. Jane L. Holley, a Flight Test Engineering student in TPS Class 74B, became the first woman to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
July 3, 1940: Jack Northrop’s N-1M “Jeep” made its first flight, piloted by Vance Breese. According to the Edwards History Office, the N-1M, a wooden twin-pusher aircraft, was another in a series of flying wing concept vehicles built to provide Northrop with flight data for larger aircraft to come. The N-1M was severely underpowered and experienced control difficulties.
July 3, 1942: Lt. Cmdr. James Hallack Hean, U.S. Navy, flew a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina over Goldstone Lake, Calif., to fire the first retrorocket in flight. One of the most recognized aircraft in the world, the Consolidated PBY Catalina not only served in the U.S. Navy, but also with the air arms of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands and the Soviet Union. The PBY was involved in almost every major operation in World War II, and figured significantly in defeating the U-boat menace in the Atlantic.
In response to an October 1933 order from the Navy for a monoplane patrol aircraft, Isaac Laddon of Consolidated Aircraft designed the all-metal Model 28 with a number of unique features, including a parasol-mounted wing incorporating internal bracing to reduce the need for external struts, and retractable stabilizing floats that folded upward to become wingtips in flight.
Goldstone Lake is a dry lake in the Mojave Desert of San Bernardino County, Calif., 35 miles northeast of Barstow. The lake is approximately 3.1 miles long and 1.9 miles at its widest point. Goldstone Lake is on federal lands within the borders of the Fort Irwin Military Reservation, southwest of the Granite Mountains.
July 3, 1948: The North American AJ Savage (later A-2 Savage) made its first flight. It was a carrier-based medium bomber built for the U.S. Navy by North American Aviation. The aircraft was designed shortly after World War II to carry atomic bombs and this meant that the bomber was the heaviest aircraft thus far designed to operate from an aircraft carrier. It was powered by two piston engines and a turbojet buried in the rear fuselage. The AJ-1 first became operational in 1950 and several were based in South Korea during 1953 as a deterrent against the communists. Of the 140 built, plus three prototypes, 30 were reconnaissance aircraft. Inflight-refueling equipment was deployed on the Savage in the mid-1950s. The bomber was replaced by the Douglas A3D Skywarrior beginning in 1957.
July 4, 1927: With Edward “Eddie” Bellande at the controls, the first Lockheed Aircraft Company Vega 1 made its first flight at Rogers Airport, Los Angeles, Calif. The airport was at the present location of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, west of downtown Los Angeles. Bellande was a U.S. Marine Corps flight instructor, and a stunt pilot, test pilot and airline pilot. By the time he had retired in 1943, he was second in seniority among the pilots at Trans World Airways.
The Lockheed Vega was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane designed by Jack Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. Both men would later have their own aircraft companies.
The Vega was very much a state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of strips of vertical-grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and bonded together with casse in glue. These were then attached to former rings. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. They were built of spruce spars and ribs, covered with 3/32-inch spruce plywood.
July 4, 1982: Space Shuttle Columbia landed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in view of President Ronald Reagan, First Lady Nancy Reagan, and some 500,000 visitors. The shuttle’s fourth orbital flight was its first landing on a concrete runway and marked the end of its formal flight test program. Later that same day, while Reagan was addressing the crowd, the nation’s second shuttle, Challenger, left Edwards for Florida atop its 747 carrier aircraft. Challenger was the first of the orbiters to be configured for operational missions in its original design. Columbia was flown by Navy Capt. Thomas K. Mattingly, II (TPS Class 65B) and Col. Henry W. Hartsfield (TPS Class 64C). On this flight (STS-4), Columbia established a U.S. record altitude for spacecraft in a circular orbit (199.589 miles).
July 4, 2006: Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off for mission STS-121. The main purposes of the mission were to test new safety and repair techniques introduced following the Columbia disaster of February 2003 as well as to deliver supplies, equipment, and German European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Reiter to the International Space Station. After two weather-related delays, the shuttle successfully launched on July 4 at 2:37 p.m., EDT. The mission lasted for 13 days before landing at the Kennedy Space Center on July 17. As the mission followed on from STS-114 in carrying out the recommendations made in response to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report, it was considered a Return to Flight test mission. Its successful launch and landing led NASA to fully resume regular Space Shuttle launches in the construction of the ISS.
July 5, 1912: Capt. Charles Chandler, Lt. Thomas Milling and 2nd Lt. Henry Arnold receive the first Military Aviator rating authorized by the War Department, making them the United States’ first “military aviators.” In this photograph, Chandler (with Lewis Gun) and Lt. Roy Kirtland is seated in a Wright Model B Flyer, 1912, after the first successful firing of a machine-gun from an airplane.
July 5, 1950: U.S. Forces enter combat in the Korean War for the first time in the Battle of Osan. The U.S. forces involved at Osan were composed of the 21st Infantry of the 1st Battalion, dubbed “Task Force Smith,” commanded by Lt. Col. Charles Bradford Smith.
July 6, 1819: Sophie Blanchard is the first women to be killed in an aviation accident. During an exhibition in the Tivoli Gardens in Paris, she launched fireworks that ignited the hydrogen gas in her balloon. Her craft crashed on the roof of a house, and she fell to her death.
July 6, 1919: The first person to arrive in the United States by air from Europe is Englishman Flt. Lt. J. E. M. Pritchard. He arrives with the airship R.34, which has entered American skies after leaving Scotland on July 2 to cross the North Atlantic. Upon the airship’s arrival in the United States, Pritchard parachuted from it to give instructions to the ground handling party.
July 6, 1944: In honor of Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), a U.S. Army Air Forces B-17G was christened Rose of York. The ceremony took place at RAF Thurleigh, five miles north of Bedford, England. The aircraft was originally named Princess Elizabeth but that did not meet with any official approval. There were concerns about the propaganda value to the enemy, and the effect on civilian morale, should the bomber named for a member of the Royal Family be lost in combat. The aircraft was renamed Rose of York instead and was christened by the princess on her royal visit to the airfield.
July 7, 1946: At the Hughes Aircraft Company’s private airport in Culver City, Calif., the first of two prototype XF-11 photographic reconnaissance airplanes took off on its first flight. In the cockpit was Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. The Hughes XF-11 was designed to be flown by a pilot and a navigator/photographer. Its configuration was similar to Lockheed’s P-38 Lightning and Northrop P-61 Black Widow, as well as the earlier Hughes D-2.
The aircraft crashed at 7:20 p.m., hitting three houses in Beverly Hills, Calif. Hughes was seriously injured in the crash.
For more on the flight, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2020/07/10/beset-by-gremlins-howard-hughes-and-the-first-flight-of-the-xf-11/
July 7, 1953: The Boeing YB-52 took off from the Rogers Dry Lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for an 11-hour basic radius test mission. The flight confirmed the bomber’s ability to take off with a heavy fuel load, fly more than 2,700 miles at combat altitude, conduct simulated combat maneuvers, and return.
July 7, 1962: The Lockheed XV-4 Hummingbird made its first conventional flight. The XV-4, originally designated VZ-10, was a U.S. Army project to demonstrate the feasibility of using VTOL for a surveillance aircraft carrying target-acquisition and sensory equipment. Vertical take-off lift was obtained by exhausting the engine flow downward through multiple nozzles, augmented by a secondary flow of cold air. But the performance was far below estimates with only a 1.04 thrust-to-weight ratio, and the prototype crashed on June 10, 1964, killing the pilot. The second aircraft was converted to lift jets instead, yet also crashed after several tests.
July 8, 1947: The Boeing Model 337 Stratocruiser, with test pilot John Bernard Fornasero at the controls, made its first flight. The Model 377 was a large, four-engine civil transport which had been developed, along with the military C-97 Stratofreighter, from the World War II B-29 Superfortress long-range heavy bomber. It utilized the wings and engines of the improved B-50 Superfortress. The airplane was operated by a flight crew of four. It was a double-deck aircraft, with the flight deck, passenger cabin and galley on the upper deck and a lounge and cargo compartments on the lower. The airliner was pressurized and could maintain Sea Level atmospheric pressure while flying at 15,500 feet. It could be configured to carry up to 100 passengers, or 28 in sleeping births. Fifty-six Stratocruisers were built, with Pan American as the primary user. Boeing also built 888 military C-97 Stratofreighters and KC-97 Stratotankers.
July 8, 1963: Wet runway braking tests were completed on a Convair B-58 Hustler at Edward Air Force Base, Calif. The tests involved high-speed taxiing, takeoffs, landings and refused landings on wet and dry runways.
July 8, 1983: General Dynamics rolls out the 1,000th F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-16 is a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the U.S. Air Force. Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. More than 4,600 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Although no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, improved versions are being built for export customers. Along with the United States, the F-16 has also been procured to serve in the air forces of 25 other nations. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.