On This Date

Aug. 6, 1945: U.S. Army Air Corps Maj. Richard Bong was the acceptance test pilot for the new Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star based at the Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank, Calif. Bong had served three combat tours flying the P-3 in the Southwest Pacific. The Shooting Star was a brand-new jet fighter, and Bong had flown four hours and 15 minutes in the aircraft over 12 flights.

Shortly after takeoff, the primary fuel pump for the turbojet engine failed. However, a back-up fuel pump was not turned on. The Shooting Star rolled upside down and Bong bailed out, but he was too low for his parachute to open and he was killed. The jet crashed at the intersection of Oxnard Street and Satsuma Avenue in North Hollywood, Calif., where it exploded.

Bong was known as the “Ace of Aces” for scoring 40 aerial victories over Japanese airplanes between Dec. 27, 1942, and Dec. 17, 1944, while flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, which was presented by Gen. Douglas MacArthur on Dec. 12, 1944. This photograph shows another Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star, like the one Bong was flying when it crashed.




Aug. 6, 1945: The United States dropped the atomic bomb named “Little Boy” on the Japanese City of Hiroshima during World War II. Little Boy was a uranium gun-type fission bomb. It was the first nuclear weapon used in warfare. The bomb was dropped by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay piloted by Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., commander of the 509th Composite Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces and Capt. Robert A. Lewis. It exploded with the energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT.

The Hiroshima bombing was the second man-made nuclear explosion in history, after the Trinity nuclear test. Little Boy was developed by Lt. Cmdr. Francis Birch’s group at the Manhattan Project’s Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II, a reworking of their unsuccessful Thin Man nuclear bomb. Like Thin Man, it was a gun-type fission weapon, but it derived its explosive power from the nuclear fission of uranium-235, whereas Thin Man was based on fission of plutonium-239. Fission was accomplished by shooting a hollow cylinder (the “bullet”) onto a solid cylinder of the same material (the “target”) by means of a charge of nitrocellulose propellant powder.

It contained 141 pounds of highly enriched uranium, although less than a kilogram underwent nuclear fission. Its components were fabricated at three different plants so that no one would have a copy of the complete design.

After the war ended, it was not expected that the inefficient Little Boy design would ever again be required, and many plans and diagrams were destroyed. However, by mid-1946, the Hanford Site reactors began suffering badly from the Wigner effect, the dislocation of atoms in a solid caused by neutron radiation, and plutonium became scarce, so six Little Boy assemblies were produced at Sandia Base. The Navy Bureau of Ordnance built another 25 Little Boy assemblies in 1947 for use by the Lockheed P2V Neptune nuclear strike aircraft which could be launched from the Midway-class aircraft carriers. All the Little Boy units were withdrawn from service by the end of January 1951.



Aug. 6, 1947: Capt. Chuck Yeager completed the Air Force’s first unpowered glide flight in the Bell X-1.




Aug. 6, 1977: The evaluation of the Boeing YC-14 AMST transport was completed and the two test aircraft were placed in flyable storage.




Aug. 6, 1980: A B-1 CTF crew completed an 11-hour sortie in B-1 Number 4. This was the longest non-stop flight ever logged by a B-1.




Aug. 6, 1998: The solar-powered Pathfinder-Plus, an upgraded version of the original Pathfinder vehicle, reached a peak altitude of approximately 80,300 feet during a 15-hour flight in Hawaii. This was the highest altitude ever reached by a propeller-driven aircraft. The vehicle carried a simulated payload of 68 pounds.

The Pathfinder solar-powered aircraft was designed and fabricated by AeroVironment in the early 1980’s to support a classified program. After its initial flight series, it was determined that the technology required had not reached a level where ultra-long duration flight (many days) under solar power could be achieved. At that point the aircraft was placed in storage.  In 1993, the aircraft was brought back to flight status by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and in 1994, transferred to NASA to develop science platform aircraft technology as part of the NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) Program.

A series of flights were planned to demonstrate that an extremely light and fragile aircraft structure with a very high aspect ratio (the ratio between the wingspan and the wing chord) can successfully take-off and land from an airport and can be flown to extremely high altitudes (between 50,000 and 80,000 feet) propelled by the power of the sun. In addition, the ERAST Project also wanted to determine the feasibility of such a UAV for carrying instruments used in a variety of scientific studies.




Aug. 6, 2001: Following a final sortie at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., by the Lockheed Martin X-35B, the Joint Strike Fighter X-32/X-35 concept demonstration flight test program ended.




Aug. 6, 2003: At Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., a B-2 Bomber conducted an airborne release of 80 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) as part of a weapon separations test. The test program objective was to integrate the Smart Bomb Release Assembly (SBRA) into the B-2.




Aug. 7, 1941: The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation XTBF-1, a prototype torpedo bomber, made its first flight. Grumman chief engineer and test pilot Robert L. Hall was in the cockpit. The airplane was seriously over-weight, its center of gravity was too far aft, and it was unstable in the yaw axis, and Hall quickly returned to the airfield. The aircraft was modified to correct these faults. The engine mount was revised, moving the engine farther forward. A triangular fillet was added to the top of the fuselage in front of the vertical fin, and the weight was reduced.

On June 28, 1942, the aircraft caught fire during a test flight and while the crew successfully bailed out, the aircraft was destroyed. The second prototype XTBF-1 was sent to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory at Hampton, Va., for testing in the 30- × 60-foot Full Scale Tunnel. Before the airplane’s first flight, the U.S. Navy had ordered 286 production aircraft. In October 1941, the type was officially named “Avenger.” The first production airplane made its first flight on Dec. 15, 1941.




Aug. 7, 1951: The McDonnell F3H Demon made its first flight. The Demon was a subsonic swept-wing U.S. Navy carrier-based jet fighter aircraft. The successor to the F2H Banshee, the Demon was originally designed to use the Westinghouse J40 engine but had to be redesigned to accept the Allison J71 after the J40 suffered severe problems and was ultimately abandoned. Though it lacked sufficient power for supersonic performance, it complemented daylight dogfighters such as the Vought F8U Crusader and Grumman F11F Tiger as an all-weather, missile-armed interceptor until 1964.

It was withdrawn before it could serve in Vietnam when both it and the Crusader were replaced on Forrestal-class and similar supercarriers by the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. McDonnell’s Phantom, which was equally capable against ground, fighter, and bomber targets, bears a strong family resemblance, as it was conceived as an advanced development of the Demon. The supersonic United States Air Force F-101 Voodoo was similar in layout but was derived from the earlier XF-88 Voodoo, which also influenced the Demon’s layout.




Aug. 7, 1951: The rocket powered Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket, with Douglas Aircraft Company test pilot William B. Bridgeman at the controls flew to a record speed of Mach 1.88 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The D-558-2 was airdropped at 34,000 feet from a Navy P2B-1S Superfortress that had been transferred to the Navy and heavily modified as a drop ship) flown by another Douglas test pilot, George Jansen.

“We are at 34,000 feet. My cue. Ten cold minutes preparing the ship for flight. The trap door springs and releases the captive Skyrocket swollen with explosive propellants. She blasts into flight,” said Bridgeman in this autobiography. “Thirty seconds and I am supersonic. Sixty-eight thousand feet and this is it. Over the rim. Easy. The electrically controlled stabilizer flies her now. It takes over for me. At .6 G I push over just enough to get my speed. I am on the ragged edge between .6 G and .8 G. It is working! Everything is going according to my plan. It is so easy this time. Surely, I cannot be breaking my last record without having to pay for it. The Machmeter is moving up, fluttering toward the Number 2 … the rockets sputter and the fuel is gone. That’s all she wrote.”




Aug. 7, 1963: The Lockheed YF-12 interceptor, with Lockheed test pilot James D. Eastham in the cockpit, made its first flight. Three YF-12A prototypes s were built. They were Mach 3-plus interceptors developed from the CIA “Oxcart” Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance airplane. The interceptors were equipped with a very effective Hughes fire control system and armed with three Hughes AIM-47 Falcon air-to-air missiles. In 1965 the U.S. Air Force placed an order for 93 F-12B interceptors for the Air Defense Command, but Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara continually refused to release the funds which Congress had appropriated. Eventually the contract was cancelled.

In testing, a YF-12A launched a Falcon missile while flying at Mach 3.2 at 74,000 feet (22,555 meters). It successfully intercepted and destroyed a target drone flying at only 500 feet (152 meters).




Aug. 7, 2003: The Air Force’s Automatic Air Collision Avoidance System put two F-16s into automated maneuvers to avoid collision during a test flight. Maj. James Less, and Swedish Air Force Maj. Richard Ljungberg flew the Variable Stability In-Flight Simulator Test Aircraft (VISTA/F-16) while Maj. Scott Wierzbankowski flew a standard F-16 during the test.




Aug. 8, 1946: The Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation XB-36 prototype made its first flight in Fort Worth, Texas. Convair test pilots Beryl Arthur Erickson and G.S. “Gus” Green, along with Chief Flight Test Engineer James D. “J.D.” McEachern, were in the cockpit. Six other crew members were aboard. In a 1992 interview published in Code One Magazine, Erickson said that he and his crew had been ready to take off at 5 a.m., but they didn’t get their release until noon. The Texas summer temperature was 100 degrees, but inside the cockpit, the temperature was 140 degrees. The engines were overheating, and the oil pressure was low. When they pushed the throttles forward, the XB-36 accelerated smoothly and lifted off at 110 knots.

The retired test pilot said, “The XB-36 controlled nicely in the takeoff run and in the transition to steady climb. We flew conservatively with the gear down. The flight was uneventful and lasted thirty-eight minutes.” The B-36 was the largest and heaviest airplane built up to that time. It was designed as a long-range heavy bomber, able to reach targets on the European continent from the United States and return, should England fall to Nazi Germany during World War II. With the end of the war, its purpose was changed to that of a long-range strategic bomber, carrying large nuclear weapons that weren’t even imagined when the design process had begun.




Aug. 8, 1949: Air Force Maj. Frank K. “Pete” Everest flew the Bell X-1 to a peak altitude of 71,902 feet. This was the highest altitude achieved by the first generation of X-1 research aircraft.



Aug. 8, 1955: The X-1A was lost after an explosion took place while still mated to its mother ship at an altitude of 30,000 feet, just 70 seconds before launch. NACA pilot Joe Walker escaped unharmed from the cockpit, whereupon the research plane was jettisoned over the bombing range. The accident, which took place on its second mission with NACA, was caused by the reaction of an Ulmer leather gasket with liquid oxygen.




DAYTON, Ohio — Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Bockscar” on display in the Air Power Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Aug. 9, 1945: The United States dropped “Fat Man,” a plutonium implosion-type fission bomb nicknamed over the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Fat Man was the second of the only two nuclear weapons ever used in warfare. 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 Superfortress Bockscar piloted by Maj. Charles Sweeney.

The name Fat Man refers to the early design of the bomb because it had a wide, round shape. Fat Man was an implosion-type nuclear weapon with a solid plutonium core. The first of that type to be detonated was the Gadget in the Trinity nuclear test less than a month earlier on July 16 at the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico. Two more were detonated during the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946, and some 120 were produced between 1947 and 1949, when it was superseded by the Mark 4 nuclear bomb. The Fat Man was retired in 1950.



Aug. 9, 1964: High-speed auto racer Marion Lee “Mickey” Thompson lost control of his 2,000-horsepower vehicle and survived a 170 mile per hour spin during tire trials on the south lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. His car, powered by four Packard engines, hit a bump at 178 mile per hour and went airborne. All four special Goodyear tires shredded but did not blow.

Thompson was an American auto racing builder and promoter. A hot-rodder since his youth, Thompson increasingly pursued land speed records in his late 20s and early 30s. He achieved international fame in 1960, when he became the first American to break the 400 miles per hour barrier, driving his Challenger 1 to a one-way top speed of 406.60 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats and surpassing John Cobb’s one-way world record mark of 402 mph.

Thompson then turned to racing, winning many track and dragster championships. In the 1960s, he also entered cars at the Indianapolis 500. Later, he formed off-road racing sanctioning bodies SCORE International and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group   In 1988, Thompson and his wife Trudy were mysteriously gunned down at their home in Bradbury, Calif. The crime remained unsolved until 2007, when a former business partner was convicted of having orchestrated the murders.




Aug. 9, 1976:  The Boeing YC-14 — a twinjet short take-off and landing tactical military transport aircraft — made its first flight. It was Boeing’s entry into the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Medium STOL Transport completion, which aimed to replace the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The YC-14 was competing against the McDonnell Douglas YC-15. Head-to-head testing began at Edwards Air Force Base in November 1976. Testing ended in later summer, 1977. Two YC-14s were built and, after completion of testing, both were returned to Boeing: one is stored at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and the other is on display at the nearby Pima Air & Space Museum.




Aug. 10, 1917: Personnel from the California Aeroplane & Motor Company successfully tested a prototype two-seat scout aeroplane. The 190-horsepower aircraft, modeled after a French fighter, was transported by truck from Los Angeles and assembled on the site. This was the first recorded use of the dry lakebed for flight test purposes.

The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was created on Jan. 13, 1916, from the Curtiss Aeroplane Company of Hammondsport, N.Y., and Curtiss Motor Company of Bath, N.Y. Burgess Company of Marblehead, Mass., became a subsidiary in February 1916.  With the onset of World War I, military orders rose sharply, and Curtiss needed to expand quickly.

In 1916, the company moved its headquarters and most manufacturing activities to Buffalo, N.Y., where there was far greater access to transportation, manpower, manufacturing expertise, and much needed capital. The company housed an aircraft engine factory in the former Taylor Signal Company-General Railway Signal Company.  An ancillary operation was begun in Toronto, Ontario, that was involved in production and training, setting up the first flying school in Canada in 1915.

Flight testing is a branch of aeronautical engineering that develops and gathers data during flight of an aircraft, or atmospheric testing of launch vehicles and reusable spacecraft, spacecraft, and then analyzes the data to evaluate the aerodynamic flight characteristics of the vehicle to validate the design, including safety aspects.  The flight test phase accomplishes two major tasks: 1) finding and fixing any design problems and then 2) verifying and documenting the vehicle capabilities for government certification or customer acceptance. The flight test phase can range from the test of a single new system for an existing vehicle to the complete development and certification of a new aircraft, launch vehicle, or reusable spacecraft. Therefore, the duration of a particular flight test program can vary from a few weeks to many years.

In 1917, the two major aircraft patent holders, the Wright Company and the Curtiss Company, had effectively blocked the building of new airplanes, which were desperately needed as the United States was entering World War I. The U.S. government, after the recommendation of a committee formed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, pressured the industry to form a cross-licensing organization (in other terms a patent pool), the Manufacturer’s Aircraft Association.




Aug. 10, 1951: North American Aviation announced that a second Air Force jet, the F-86 Sabre, had successfully completed a KB-29F mid-air refueling certification at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.




Republic F-105D-5-RE (S/N 58-1173) in flight with full bomb load. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Aug. 10, 1961: A Republic F-105 Thunderchief lifted the largest load ever carried aloft by a single-engine aircraft when it carried a payload of over 14,000 pounds during a test. In this photograph, F-105D-5-RE Thunderchief 58-1173 is loaded with sixteen 750-pound M117 general purpose bombs, which weigh approximately 820 pounds each. The Thunderchief is the largest single seat, single engine aircraft ever built. It was a Mach 2 fighter-bomber, designed for NATO defensive tactical nuclear strikes with a nuclear bomb carried in an internal bomb bay. It is best known, though, as a fighter bomber used in the Vietnam War. Because of its very high speed it was employed as a “Wild Weasel”, attacking surface-to-air missile sites.




Aug. 10, 1961: U.S. Navy Cmdr. Forrest S. Peterson took X-15 No. 1 on its first flight with the XLR99 engine, reaching Mach 4.1 in the skies over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.




Aug. 11, 1955: The Bell XV-3, an American tilt rotor aircraft, made its first flight. Bell developed the XV-3 for a joint research program between the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army to explore convertiplane technologies. The XV-3 featured an engine mounted in the fuselage with driveshafts transferring power to two-bladed rotor assemblies mounted on the wingtips. The wingtip rotor assemblies were mounted to tilt 90 degrees from vertical to horizontal, designed to allow the XV-3 to take off and land like a helicopter but fly at faster airspeeds, like a conventional fixed-wing aircraft.

Although it was limited in performance, the aircraft successfully demonstrated the tiltrotor concept, accomplishing 110 transitions from helicopter to airplane mode between December 1958 and July 1962. The XV-3 program ended when the remaining aircraft was severely damaged in a wind tunnel accident on May 20, 1966. The data and experience from the XV-3 program were key elements used to successfully develop the Bell XV-15, which later paved the way for the V-22 Osprey.




Aug. 11, 1956: Capt. Robert M. White made the initial flight test of a side-stick controller in an F-102A. This unique control arrangement accommodated the radar displays planned for the upcoming F-106 interceptor. It later became standard in the F‑16 Fighting Falcon of the 1980s.

A side-stick or sidestick controller is an aircraft control column located on the side console of the pilot’s instruments. Typically, this is found in aircraft that are equipped with fly-by-wire control systems.  The throttle controls are typically located to the left of a single pilot or centrally on a two-seat flightdeck. Only one hand is required to operate it; two-hand operation is neither possible nor necessary.

The side-stick is used in many modern military fighter aircraft, such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mitsubishi F-2, Dassault Rafale, and F-22 Raptor, and also on civil aircraft, such as the Sukhoi Superjet 100, Airbus A320 and all subs Airbus aircraft including the largest passenger jet in service, the Airbus A380.

It is also used in very new helicopter models like the 525 by Bell.

This arrangement contrasts with the more conventional design where the stick is located in the center of the cockpit between the pilot’s legs, called a “center stick.”  In the center stick design, like traditional airplane yokes, both the pilot’s and co-pilot’s controls are mechanically connected so each pilot has a sense of the control inputs of the other. In typical Airbus side-stick implementations, the sticks are independent, the so-called “passive” side-stick. The plane’s computer either aggregates multiple inputs or a pilot can press a “priority button” to lock out inputs from the other side-stick.  However, if both side-sticks are moved in different directions then both inputs are cancelled out and an aural “dual input” warning sounds.

A later, significant, development is the “active” side-stick.  In this system, movements in one side-stick produce the same actions in the other side-stick and therefore provides valuable feedback to the other pilot. This addresses the earlier criticisms of the “passive” side-stick. The active side-stick also provides tactile feedback to the pilot during manual flight and many believe it will become the standard for all new fly-by-wire aircraft.

Such an active side-stick can also be used to increase pilots’ adherence to a safe flight envelope by applying a force feedback when the pilot makes a control input that would bring the aircraft closer to the borders of the safe flight envelope. This reduces the risk of pilots entering dangerous states of flights outside the operational borders while maintaining the pilots’ final authority and increasing their situation awareness.




Aug. 11, 1972: The F-5E Tiger II made its first flight, flown by Northrop’s chief test pilot Hank Chouteau. In 1970, Northrop won the International Fighter Aircraft competition to replace the F-5A, with better air-to-air performance against aircraft like the Soviet MiG-21. The resultant aircraft, initially known as F-5A-21, subsequently became the F-5E. It had more powerful General Electric J85-21 engines, and had a lengthened and enlarged fuselage, accommodating more fuel.

Its wings were fitted with enlarged leading edge extensions, giving an increased wing area and improved maneuverability. The aircraft’s avionics were more sophisticated; crucially including a radar (initially the Emerson Electric AN/APQ-153) (the F-5A and B had no radar). It retained the gun armament of two M39 cannons, one on either side of the nose of the F-5A. Various specific avionics fits could be accommodated at a customer’s request, including an inertial navigation system, TACAN and ECM equipment.

On April 6, 1973, the 425th TFS at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz., received the first F-5E Tiger II. The F-5E proved to be a successful combat aircraft in service with U.S. allies but had no combat service with the U.S. Air Force, though the F-5A with modifications, designated F-5C, was flown by the U.S. in Vietnam. The F-5E evolved into the single-engine F-5G, which was rebranded the F-20 Tigershark. It lost out on export sales to the F-16 in the 1980s. The F-5 was also adopted as an opposing forces (OPFOR) “aggressor” for dissimilar training role because of its small size and performance similarities to the Soviet MiG-21. The F-5E served with the U.S. Air Force from 1975 until 1990, in the 64th Aggressor Squadron and 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.




Aug. 12, 1908: With Thomas Baldwin as pilot and Glenn Curtiss as flight engineer, test flights began for Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1 at Fort Myers, Va. On its maiden flight, the dirigible demonstrated the required endurance of two hours, averaging 14 mph, but the speed was short of the published requirement. Despite the speed deficit, the Army bought it from Baldwin for $5,737.59.

Sources at the time say the airship’s dimensions were 96 feet long with a maximum diameter of 19 feet, 6 inches. The envelope was made of two layers of silk fabric separated by a layer of vulcanized rubber and supported by 30 wooden frames. Buoyancy was provided by hydrogen gas. The envelope’s volume was approximately 20,000 cubic feet. The first all-Army flight was on Aug. 26 with Lieutenants Benjamin D. Fulois, Thomas Etholen Selfridge and Frank P. Lahm on board.

Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1 was assigned to the Signal Corps Post at Fort Omaha, Neb., where the Army had a balloon factory. It was operated there until 1912. However, the airships’ envelope needed to be replaced, The Army was unwilling to spend the money and the airship was sold.




Aug. 12, 1960: Maj.  Robert M. White flew the North American X-15 to an altitude of 136,500 feet, exceeding the previous unofficial record of 126,200 feet set by the late Capt. Iven C. Kincheloe, Jr., with the Bell X-2 on Sept. 7, 1956. Kincheloe had been assigned as the Air Force’s project pilot for the X-15. When he was killed on a routine flight, Bob White was designated to replace him.

This was White’s fourth flight in an X-15, and the 19th flight of the X-15 Program. The Number 1 rocketplane, serial number 56-6670, was carried aloft under the right wing of the “mothership,” Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress 52-003. At 08:48:43.0 a.m., PDT, 56-6670 was dropped over Silver Lake, near the Nevada-California border.

White fired the two Reaction Motors XLR11-RM-13 rocket engines and they burned for 256.2 seconds. The X-15 accelerated to Mach 2.52, 1,773 miles per hour while climbing at nearly a 70-degree angle and reached a peak altitude of 136,500 feet. After engine shutdown, White glided to a landing on Rogers Dry Lake and touched down.

The duration of the flight was 11 minutes, 39.1 seconds. Neither Kincheloe’s or White’s altitudes are recognized as records by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Over the next few years, the X-15 would reach to nearly three times higher.




Aug. 12, 1972: The F-15A successfully passed its first flight performance milestone six weeks ahead of schedule. This milestone consisted of Mach 2 flight, and altitude and g-load targets.




Aug. 12, 1977: With Gordon Fullerton and Fred Haise at the controls, Rockwell’s OV-101 Space Shuttle Enterprise was released from a specially-configured Boeing 747 Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and made its first unpowered free flight to the Rogers Dry Lake bed. The Enterprise was a prototype, non-orbiting model of the spacecraft, built for Approach and Landing Tests. The crew of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft were Fitz Fulton and Tom McMurty, and Vic Horton and Skip Guidry were on board as flight engineers. With approximately 65,000 people at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to watch the test, at 8 a.m., Fulton began the takeoff roll down Runway 22. For the next 38 minutes the spacecraft/aircraft combination climbed together into the desert sky. After reaching an altitude of 24,100 feet, Fulton put the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft into a shallow dive. At 8:48 a.m., Haise fired the seven explosive bolts holding the two craft together. The 747 entered a descending left turn while Haise banked Enterprise away to the right. As Enterprise made its gliding descent, Haise and Fullerton experimented with the prototype’s flight characteristics and handling. The Shuttle Orbiter touched down on Rogers Dry Lake at 185 miles per hour, and rolled for two miles before coming to a complete stop. The first free flight of Enterprise lasted 5 minutes, 21 seconds.


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