On This Date

July 16, 1965: The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco, an American twin-turboprop light attack and observation aircraft, made its first flight. The aircraft was developed in the 1960s as a special aircraft for counter-insurgency combat, and one of its primary missions was to be a forward air control aircraft. It could carry up to 3,200 pounds of external munitions, internal loads such as paratroopers or stretchers, and loiter for three or more hours. The OV-10 served in the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy, as well as in the service other countries. A total of 81 OV-10 Broncos were ultimately lost to all causes during the Vietnam War, with the Air Force losing 64, the Navy 7, and the Marines 10.





July 16, 1969: The Apollo 11/Saturn V launch vehicle launched from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla. On board were Neil Alden Armstrong, Mission Commander; Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., Lunar Module Pilot. Their destination was Mare Tranquillitatis, the Moon.

For more on the Apollo 11 mission, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/07/21/moon-landing-culmination-of-years-of-work/





July 16, 2004: An F/A-22 Raptor completed 10 days of electromagnetic compatibility assessments at the Benefield Anechoic Facility, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The test measured the amount of electromagnetic interference on the aircraft’s communications system.





July 17, 1962: The number three X-15 was airdropped from a NB-52A Stratofortress over Delamar Dry Lake, Nev., with Maj. Robert M. “Bob” White in the cockpit. This was the 62nd flight of the program, and White was making his 15th flight in an X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane. The purpose of this flight was to verify the performance of the Honeywell MH-96 flight control system which had been installed in the Number 3 ship. Just one minute before drop, the MH-96 failed, but White reset his circuit breakers and it came back online.

After dropping from the B-52’s wing, White fired the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 rocket engine and began to accelerate and climb. The planned burn time for the 57,000-pound-thrust engine was 80 seconds. It shut down two seconds late, driving the X-15 well beyond the planned peak altitude for this flight. Instead of reaching 280,000 feet, White reached 314,750 feet. The plane reached Mach 5.45.

Because of the increased speed and altitude, White was in danger of overshooting his landing at Edwards Air Force Base. He passed over the north end of Rogers Dry Lake and crossed the “high key” — the point where the X-15 landing maneuver begins — too high and too fast at Mach 3.5 at 80,000 feet. Without power, White made a wide 360-degree turn over Rosamond Dry Lake then came back over the high key at a more normal 28,000 feet and subsonic speed. He glided to a perfect touch down, 10 minutes, 20.7 seconds after being dropped from the B-52. This was the first time that a manned aircraft had gone higher than 300,000 feet. It was also the first flight above 50 miles so, for that achievement, White became the first X-15 pilot to be awarded U.S. Air Force astronaut wings.





July 17, 1965: The second North American XB-70 Valkyrie 2 (62-0207) arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., following its maiden flight from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. The Valkyrie was designed as a Mach 3+ strategic bomber, capable of flight above 70,000 feet, with intercontinental range. Its altitude allowed it to avoid interceptors of the time, but improvements in radar-guided surface-to-air missiles increased its vulnerability.

Ultimately, though, political decisions ended the B-70 program. This aircraft flew just 46 times, for a total of 92 hours, 22 minutes of flight. Changes to the aircraft corrected the deficiencies discovered in testing the Number 1 XB-70A, 62-201. The most visible change was 5-degree dihedral added to the wings for improved stability. On April 16, 1966, 62-0207 reached its maximum design speed, Mach 3.08, which it sustained for 20 minutes.

Less than one year after its first flight, on June 8, 1966, the Valkyrie was involved in a mid-air collision with a Lockheed F-104N and crashed just north of Barstow, Calif.  North American’s B-70 test pilot, Al White, was seriously injured and co-pilot, Air Force Maj. Carl Cross, and NASA test pilot Joe Walker, flying the F-104, were killed.





July 17, 1989: The Northrop B-2A Spirit stealth bomber made its first flight at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale Calif. The crew was Northrop Chief Test Pilot Bruce J. Hinds and Air Force Col. Richard Couch. The top secret “stealth bomber” prototype landed at Edwards Air Force Base one hour, 52 minutes later. After completing the flight test program, the aircraft was placed in storage until 1993, awaiting upgrade to the Block 10 operational configuration. In 2000 it was again upgraded to the Block 30 standard. It is now named Spirit of America and assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. This marked the first time that a flying wing aircraft had flown over the Mojave Desert in nearly four decades.





July 18, 1942: In the late 1930s, Nazi Germany began developing a fighter powered by a turbojet engine. In early 1942 the first two prototypes of the Messerschmitt Me 262 began flight testing. They had two BMW 003 jet engines mounted on the wings, but for safety, a piston engine and propeller were mounted in the nose. At 8:40 a.m., on Juiliy 18, 1942, V3, the third prototype made the first pure-jet flight when it took off from Leipheim, Bavaria, with Messerschmitt’s Chief Test Pilot, Flugkapitän Fritz Wendel. This prototype was powered by two Junkers Jumo 004 turbojet engines.





July 18, 1966: Gemini 10 launched from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Fla. The two astronauts aboard were John W. Young, on his second space flight, and Michael Collins. The objective of the Gemini 10 mission was to demonstrate orbital rendezvous and docking with another spacecraft, as well as “EVA”—Extra Vehicular Activity.

The Gemini capsule docked with an Agena target vehicle which had been launched one hour before. The flight crew opened the hatches and Michael Collins stood in the opening, taking photographs. After undocking, the Gemini located and docked with another Agena from the earlier Gemini 8 flight. Collins this time left the capsule and retrieved some experiments from the dormant target vehicle before returning to Gemini. After nearly three days in space, they landed in the Pacific Ocean, 3.86 miles from the primary recovery ship, USS Guadalcanal.

Both astronauts went on to the Apollo program, with Collins serving as Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, and John Young as CMP for Apollo 10. Young commanded Apollo 16, and the first space shuttle flight, Columbia STS-1 and Columbia STS-9. He was scheduled to command STS-61J to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, but that flight was put off by the Challenger disaster. Collins went on to head the National Air and Space Museum and LTV Aerospace.





Curtiss XP-55 Ascender in flight (S/N 42-78846). (U.S. Air Force photo)

July 19, 1943: The Curtiss-Wright XP-55 Ascender made its first flight. The Ascender was a 1940s U.S. prototype fighter built by Curtiss-Wright. Along with the Vultee XP-54 and Northrop XP-56, it resulted from United States Army Air Corps proposal R-40C issued on Nov. 27, 1939, for aircraft with improved performance, armament and pilot visibility over existing fighters; it specifically allowed for unconventional aircraft designs. An unusual design for its time, it had a canard configuration, a rear-mounted engine, swept wings, and two vertical tails.

Because of its pusher design, it was sarcastically referred to as the “Ass-ender.” Like the XP-54, the Ascender was designed for the Pratt & Whitney X-1800 engine but was re-designed after that engine project was canceled. It was also the first Curtiss fighter aircraft to use tricycle landing gear. The performance of the XP-55 was inferior to conventional fighter aircraft, sealing its fate, and by 1944 jet-powered fighters were in development, causing the termination of the XP-55.





July 19, 1963: Joseph A. Walker flew North American X-15 No. 3 serial number 55-6672 to records of 347,800 feet 3,710-miles per hour. This was Walker’s 24th flight of 25, the 21st flight for the Number 3 X-15 aircraft, and the 90th of the X-15 program overall. At 10:20 a.m., Walker and the X-15 were airdropped from the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress, 53-008, Balls 8, over Smith Ranch Dry Lake, Nev.

Walker fired the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 rocket engine and over the next 84.6 seconds the engine’s 60,000 pounds of thrust drove the X-15 upward. The engine’s thrust on this flight was higher than expected, shutdown was 1.6 seconds late, and Walker’s climb angle was 1.5-degrees too high, so the X-15 overshot the predicted maximum altitude and its ballistic arc peaked at 347,800 feet. The maximum speed was Mach 5.50 or 3,714 miles per hour. Walker glided to a touch down at Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., after flying 311 miles in 11 minutes, 24.1 seconds of flight. On this flight, Walker became the first American civilian to fly into space.





July 20, 1925: The Boeing Model 40 made its first flight. The Model 40 was a United States mail plane of the 1920s. It was a single-engine biplane that was widely used for airmail services in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, especially by airlines that later became part of United Airlines. It became the first aircraft built by the Boeing company to carry passengers.





July 20, 1939: A third condemnation suit was filed for the balance of the 60,000 acres needed to complete the Muroc bombing facility. In the meantime, many of the defendants in the previous two suits were reportedly settling out of court for their land holdings. A Condemnation suit is a judicial proceeding for the purpose of taking property by eminent domain for public use upon the payment of just compensation for such taking. It is also known as a condemnation proceeding. “Eminent Domain” refers to the inherent right of the government to take private property for a public use. “Condemnation” is the legal process and procedure used by public or private entities with the power of eminent domain for the taking of a landowner’s land.





July 20, 1955: At Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, the Convair NB-36H Nuclear Test Aircraft, serial number 51-5712, made its first flight. In the late 1940s engineers began working on an aircraft that could be powered by a nuclear reactor. The reactor would heat air to provide jet thrust, rather than burning fuel and air to do so. A 60-megawatt reactor was envisioned. The NB-36 was built to test the shielding requirements of an airborne nuclear reactor and to determine the effects of radiation on aircraft systems.

The Nuclear Test Aircraft was built from a Convair B-36H-20-CF Peacemaker strategic bomber, one of 61 that had been destroyed or damaged by a tornado that struck Carswell AFB in 1952. 51-5712 was so heavily damaged that the airframe was written off, but it was rebuilt with a completely new nose section with a shielded cockpit and was otherwise very heavily modified by Convair.

A one-megawatt Aircraft Shield Test Reactor developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, weighing approximately 35,000 pounds, was installed in the bomber’s aft bomb bay. Though the reactor was fully operational, it did not power the airplane. During the test program, the NB-36 made 47 flights with a total of 215 hours flight time.





July 20, 1969: At 10:56 p.m., EDT, exactly 109 hours, 24 minutes and 15 seconds since Apollo 11 had launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., the Lunar Module landed on the Moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board. After Aldrin completed the post-landing checklist, Armstrong contacted Mission Control with the words “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

For more on the Apollo 11 mission, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/07/21/moon-landing-culmination-of-years-of-work/





July 20, 1978: B-1 Bomber #3 completed the B-1 program’s first round-trip transcontinental mission and its longest duration flight-10.9 hours. The primary objective of the flight was an overland test of the Doppler inertial mode on the inertial navigation system.





July 20, 1982: The first flight of the F-16XL took place. General Dynamics modified a FSD F-16 to answer a U.S. Air Force requirement for a dual-role, longer-range fighter to support future air combat requirements. The F-16XL featured a cambered, cranked-delta wing with a sharp leading-edge sweep with twice the area of the original wing.




July 20, 1999: During a two-hour flight, Col C.D. Moore flew F-22 Raptor #1 at a sustained speed of over Mach 1.5 without the use of afterburners. The successful “supercruise” test was a major milestone in the development of the new fighter.





July 20, 2007: The Boeing X-48B made its first flight at NASA’s Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. The X-48 is an American experimental, unmanned aerial vehicle built to investigate the characteristics of blended wing body aircraft. Boeing Phantom Works developed the blended wing body aircraft concept in cooperation with the NASA’s Langley Research Center.

In an initial effort to study the flight characteristics of the BWB design, a remote-controlled propeller-driven blended wing body model with a 17 feet wingspan was flown in 1997. The next step was to fly the 35 feet wide X-48A in 2004, but the program was canceled before manufacturing. Research at Phantom Works then focused on a new model, designated X-48B, and two examples were built by Cranfield Aerospace in the United Kingdom. Boeing began flight testing the X-48B version for NASA in 2007. The X-48B was later modified into the X-48C version, which was flight tested from August 2012 to April 2013.





Curtiss XP-62 side view (S/N 41-35873). (U.S. Air Force photo)

July 21, 1943: The Curtiss XP-62 made its first flight. The XP-62 was a prototype single-engine interceptor aircraft that was built at the request of the United States Army Air Forces, by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. Relatively unusual objectives of the design, for its time, included superior high-altitude performance, which was to be assisted by a pressurized cockpit, heavier armament than contemporary Army Air Force fighter aircraft, in the form of four 20 mm autocannons, and higher speeds, at all altitudes, than other contemporary fighters.

A key physical feature of the XP-62, in terms of the above objectives, was its relatively large and powerful engine, an 18-cylinder Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone. The initial contract, awarded on May 25, 1942, called for 100 P-62 fighters to be produced, but before construction could begin, the contract was terminated on July 27, July 1942, as it would affect deliveries of urgently needed Curtiss-built P-47 Thunderbolts.





July 21, 1946: The McDonnell FH Phantom made four successful takeoffs and landings from the USS Franklin Roosevelt, near Norfolk, Va., becoming the first purely jet-powered aircraft to do so from a U.S. aircraft carrier. At the time, the Roosevelt was the largest carrier serving with the U.S. Navy, allowing the aircraft to takeoff without catapult assistance. The McDonnell FH Phantom was a twinjet fighter aircraft designed and first flown during World War II for the Navy. The aircraft was the first jet deployed by the U.S. Marine Corps. Although only 62 FH-1s had been built by the end of the war it helped prove the viability of carrier-based jet fighters. As McDonnell’s first successful fighter, it led to the development of the follow-on F2H Banshee, which was one of the two most important naval jet fighters of the Korean War. Combined, the two jets established McDonnell as an important supplier of navy aircraft. McDonnell chose to bring the Phantom name back with the Mach 2–class McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.





July 21, 1952: Edwards Air Force Base in California was shaken by an earthquake that severely damaged the nearby mountain town of Tehachapi. Although damage was light on the base, 11 people were killed in the mountain community. Edwards sent food and water, Air Policemen, as well as medical and maintenance assistance to the stricken area.





July 21, 1969: At 2:30 a.m., the hatch of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module was opened in preparation for astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to become the first humans on the Moon. At 2:56 a.m., Armstrong became the first human on the Moon with the words, ““That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

For more on the Apollo 11 mission, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/07/21/moon-landing-culmination-of-years-of-work/




July 21, 1969: At 5:54 p.m., EST, after spending a total of 21 hours, 36 minutes, 21 seconds on the surface of the Moon, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fired the rocket engine of the Lunar Module’s Ascent Stage. In addition to the scientific instruments, the astronauts left behind: an Apollo 1 mission patch in memory of astronauts Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Edward White, who died when their command module caught fire during a test in January 1967; two memorial medals of Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin, who died in 1967 and 1968 respectively; a memorial bag containing a gold replica of an olive branch as a traditional symbol of peace; and a silicon message disk carrying the goodwill statements by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon along with messages from leaders of 73 countries around the world.

The disk also carries a listing of the leadership of the U.S. Congress, a listing of members of the four committees of the House and Senate responsible for the NASA legislation, and the names of NASA’s past and then-current top management. Three hours and 40 minutes after leaving the lunar surface, the Eagle ascent stage docked with Columbia, the Command/Service Module, in lunar orbit. This photograph shows the Eagle approaching Columbia.

For more on the Apollo 11 mission, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2019/07/21/moon-landing-culmination-of-years-of-work/





July 21, 2001: The XCOR EZ-Rocket, flown by Dick Rutan, made its first flight. The EX-Rocket was a test platform for the XCOR XR-4A3 rocket propulsion system. The airplane was a modified Rutan Long-EZ, with the propeller replaced by first one, then later a pair of pressure-fed regeneratively cooled liquid-fueled rocket engines and an underslung fuel tank. The engines were re-startable in flight and were contained within Kevlar armor shielding. The EZ-Rocket was registered as an experimental aircraft.

On a typical flight, the EZ-Rocket took off on rockets, gained altitude for a minute or so, then switched off the rockets and glided to a dead stick landing. The vehicle actually flew better during dead stick landings than a standard Long-EZ due to lack of drag from a stationary pusher propeller — the vehicle’s aerodynamics were cleaner in spite of its belly tank. It was also lighter due to the lack of a piston engine (the rocket propulsion system was significantly lighter), so enjoyed significantly lower wing loading than a standard Long-EZ.

When XCOR began flying its EZ-Rocket in 2001, the company decided to have it FAA certified as an experimental aircraft, avoiding the additional time required to seek a launch vehicle license from the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. XCOR was formed in 1999 by former members of the Rotary Rocket  engine development team and ceased operations in 2017.





July 22, 1955: The Republic XF-84H “Thunderscreech” made its first flight. The Thunderscreech was an experimental turboprop aircraft derived from the F-84F Thunderstreak. Powered by a turbine engine mated to a supersonic propeller, the XF-84H had the potential of setting the unofficial air speed record for propeller-driven aircraft but was unable to overcome aerodynamic deficiencies and engine reliability problems, resulting in the program’s cancellation.

Republic manufactured two prototypes at its Long Island, N.Y., plant and then shipped them to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The prototypes flew a total of 12 test flights from Edwards, accumulating only six hours and 40 minutes of flight time. The XF-84F had incredible acceleration, but soon its impracticality was discovered. It was unsuited to combat due to the engine’s 30-minute warm-up time, but the most serious concerns were vibration generated from the 12-foot propeller diameter and mechanical failures of the prop pitch gearing.





July 22, 1986: The F-16 flew for the first time with the Digital Flight Control System at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The DFLCS was part of the MSIP upgrade for Block 40 aircraft that replaced the analog flight control system in existing F-16s.





July 22, 2005: Five F-16 Vipers from the 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to join two F-16s from the 416th Flight Test Squadron to evaluate the M4.2+ core avionics suite upgrade. This complex effort involved both Block 40 and Block 50 capabilities and combined elements of both developmental and operational test and evaluation. Additionally, the M4.2+ upgrade equipped the F-16 for the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) missions as well as the air-to-surface attack role.





Space shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) touches down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), completing its 13-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, early Thursday morning, July 21, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Overall, Atlantis spent 307 days in space and traveled nearly 126 million miles during its 33 flights. Atlantis, the fourth orbiter built, launched on its first mission on Oct. 3, 1985. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

July 22, 2011: Space Shuttle Atlantis returns to Earth at the end of STS-135, the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program. Only four astronauts were assigned to this mission, versus the normal six or seven, because there were no other shuttles available for a rescue following the retirement of Discovery and Endeavour. If the shuttle was seriously damaged in orbit, the crew would have moved into the International Space Station and returned in Russian Soyuz capsules, one at a time, over the course of a year. All STS-135 crew members were custom-fitted for a Russian Sokol space suit and molded Soyuz seat liner for this possibility. The reduced crew size also allowed the mission to maximize the payload carried to the station.


More Stories