Oct. 15, 1937: The Boeing XB-15 made its first flight. The Boeing XB-15 was a U.S. bomber aircraft designed in 1934 as a test for the United States Army Air Corps to see if it would be possible to build a heavy bomber with a 5,000-mile range. For a year, beginning in mid-1935 it was designated the XBLR-1.
When it first flew in 1937, it was the most massive and voluminous airplane ever built in the United States. It set a number of load-to-altitude records for land-based aircraft, including carrying a 31,205-pound payload to 8,200 feet on July 30, 1939. The aircraft’s immense size allowed flight engineers to enter the wing through a crawlway and make minor repairs in flight. A 5,000-mile flight took 33 hours at its 152-mph cruising speed; the crew was made up of several shifts, and bunks allowed them to sleep when off duty.
On May 6, 1943, the AAF converted the only prototype into a transport, redesignating the aircraft the XC-105. During its 18 months of transport service, the XC-105 carried more than 5,200 passengers, 440,000 pounds of cargo and 94,000 pounds of mail. It flew 70 cargo trips and 60 missions including anti-submarine patrol. Unusually, the aircraft was consistently referred to as “he” by its crew.
Oct. 15, 1952: The Douglas X-3 Stiletto made its maiden flight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Its primary mission was to investigate the design features of an aircraft suitable for sustained supersonic speeds, which included the first use of titanium in major airframe components. Douglas designed the X-3 with the goal of a maximum speed of approximately 2,000 mph, but it was seriously underpowered for this purpose and could not even exceed Mach 1 in level flight.
Although the research aircraft was a disappointment, Lockheed designers used data from the X-3 tests for the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter which used a similar trapezoidal wing design in a successful Mach 2 fighter. For more on the X-3, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2021/07/18/douglas-x-3-stiletto-accomplished-much-but-not-what-was-originally-planned/
Oct. 15, 1968: The first flight of a limited Category II AC-119G test program was conducted. The AC-119G was the gunship version of the venerable Flying Boxcar.
Oct. 15, 1985: The Fairchild T-46 made its first flight. The Fairchild T-46 was an American light jet trainer aircraft of the 1980s. The U.S. Air Force launched its Next Generation Trainer program to replace the Cessna T-37 Tweet primary trainer in 1981. Fairchild-Republic submitted a shoulder-winged monoplane with a twin tail, powered by two Garrett F109 turbofans and with pilot and instructor sitting side by side. Part of the rationale was an expectation of increasing levels of general aviation traffic. A pressurized trainer would permit training at higher altitude, leading to fewer restrictions on the new pilots.
In order to validate the proposed aircraft’s design, and to explore its flight handling characteristics, Fairchild Republic contracted with Ames Industries of Bohemia, N.Y., to build a flyable 62-percent scale version. Burt Rutan’s Rutan Aircraft Factory in Mojave, Calif., was contracted to perform the flight test evaluations, with test pilot Dick Rutan doing the flying. The scale version was known at RAF as the Model 73 NGT, this flying on Sept. 10, 1981. One requirement was for the aircraft to be able to go into a spin, but to also have easy recovery from the spin. This was demonstrated using the Model 73 NTG.
Fairchild’s design, to be designated T-46, was announced winner of the NGT competition on July 2, July 1982, with the Air Force placing an order for two prototypes and options for 54 production aircraft. It was planned to build 650 T-46s for the Air Force by 1991.
The first flight was six months later than the originally programmed date. Costs had increased significantly during the development process, with the predicted unit cost rising from $1.5 million in 1982 to $3 million in February 1985. The 1985 Gramm–Rudman–Hollings Balanced Budget Act mandated spending cuts for the U.S. government in an attempt to limit the national debt, and while testing did not reveal any major problems, Secretary of the Air Force Russell A. Rourke cancelled procurement of the T-46, while allowing limited development to continue.
While attempts were made in Congress to reinstate the program, which resulted in the fiscal year 1987 budget being delayed, an amendment was passed to the 1987 Appropriations Bill to forbid any spending on the T-46 until further evaluation of the T-46 against the T-37 and other trainers took place. The project was cancelled a little more than a year later, for reasons that largely remain controversial. The T-46 was the last project of the Fairchild Republic Corporation, and after the program termination Fairchild had no more income.
Without any new contracts and the NGT program cancelled, the company closed the Republic factory in Farmingdale, N.Y., bringing 60 years of Fairchild aircraft manufacturing to an end. The aircraft itself featured a side-by-side configuration, a twin (or “H”) tail (similar to the company’s A-10), ejection seats, pressurization, and two turbofan engines. In this photograph, two T-4 aircraft are seen flying over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Oct. 16, 1953: Heavy gross weight takeoff tests were completed on the Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber, extending the capability of this weapon system.
Oct. 16, 1975: The Air Force Rocket Propulsion Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., conducted a successful first firing of the large Super Hippo reusable solid propellant rocket test motor on Leuhman Ridge.
Oct. 17, 1967: Maj. William J. “Pete” Knight flew X-15 No.Two to an altitude of 280,500 feet, winning his U.S. Air Force Astronaut Wings.
Oct. 18, 1933: The Grumman F2F, the company’s first single-seat, enclosed cockpit aircraft, made its first flight. The F2F was a biplane fighter aircraft with retractable undercarriage, serving as the standard fighter for the U.S. Navy between 1936 and 1940. It was designed for both carrier and land-based operations.
Oct. 18, 1984: The first production B-1B Spirit bomber, serial number 82-0001, made its first flight, from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.
Rockwell test pilot Mervyn Leroy Evenson (retired Air Force colonel), was the aircraft commander, with co-pilot Lt. Col. Leroy Benjamin Schroeder; Maj. S.A. Henry, Offensive Systems Officer; Capt. D.E. Hamilton, Defensive Systems Officer on board. After 3 hours and 20 minutes, the B-1B landed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where it would enter a flight test program.
Oct. 19, 1967: Air Force test pilot Maj. William “Pete” Knight won the Harmon International Aviator’s trophy for “exceptional individual piloting performance.” In winning the award, Knight joined an illustrious list of prior winners including Howard Hughes, Lt. Gen. James Doolittle, Capt. Chuck Yeager, Gen. Curtis LeMay, Scott Crossfield, Joe Walker, Fitz Fulton and many others.
Knight was a test pilot, Vietnam War combat pilot and astronaut. Starting in 1958, following his graduation from both U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology and the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School (Class 58C), Knight served as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. He was a project test pilot for the F-100 Super Sabre, F-101 Voodoo, F-104 Starfighter and later, T-38 Talon and F-5 Freedom Fighter test programs.
In 1960, he was one of six test pilots selected to fly the X-20 Dyna-Soar, which was slated to become the first winged orbital space vehicle capable of lifting reentries and conventional landings. After the X-20 program was canceled in 1963, he completed the astronaut training curriculum through the Aerospace Research Pilot School (Class 63A) at Edwards AFB and was selected to fly the North American X-15.
Oct. 20, 1948: The XF-88 Voodoo made its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., flown by McDonnell test pilot Robert M. Edholm. The high-tailed, twin-engine aircraft won the Air Force’s long-range Penetration Fighter competition but never went into production. The basic design later resurfaced in the company’s highly successful F-101 program. McDonnell also proposed a naval version of the XF-88, a two-seat operational trainer, and a reconnaissance variant but none were built. Both prototypes were scrapped by 1958.
Oct. 20, 1952: Douglas Aircraft Company test pilot William Barton “Bill” Bridgeman made the first test flight of the X-3 twin-engine supersonic research airplane. During a high-speed taxi test five days earlier, Bridgeman and the X-3 had briefly been airborne for approximately one mile over the dry lakebed, but on this flight he spent approximately 20 minutes familiarizing himself with the new airplane. For more on the X-3, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2021/07/18/douglas-x-3-stiletto-accomplished-much-but-not-what-was-originally-planned/
Oct. 21, 1947: The YB-49, tail number 42-102367, took off from Northrop Field in Hawthorne, Calif., with Northrop Chief Test Pilot Max R. Stanley at the controls. The aircraft flew to Muroc Air Force Base (now Edwards), Calif., for flight testing. The YB-49 had been converted from the second YB-35 pre-production test aircraft. The original Flying Wing’s four Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major radial engines were replaced by turbojet engines and several aerodynamic improvements were made.
The YB-49 had a length of 53 feet, 1 inch, wingspan of 172 feet and overall height of 15 feet, 2 inches. It weighed 88,442 pounds empty, and its Maximum Takeoff Weight was 193,938 pounds. During testing the YB-49 reached a maximum speed of 493 mph at 20,800 feet, and cruise speed was 429 mph. Its combat radius was 1,403 nautical miles. Only two Northrop YB-49s were built and they were tested by Northrop and the Air Force for nearly two years.
Though an additional nine YB-35s were ordered converted, the B-49 was not placed into production. The second ship, YB-49 42-102368, disintegrated in flight during a test flight north of Muroc Air Force Base, June 5, 1948, killing the entire crew, which included Capt. Glen Edwards. The name of Muroc was changed to Edwards Air Force Base in his honor. YB-49 42-102367 was destroyed by fire following a taxiing accident at Edwards, March 15, March 1950. The program was cancelled on the same day.
Oct. 21, 1955: Republic Aviation Corporation conducted a cross-country flight of an F-84G equipped with a Bausch & Lomb periscope system. The flight, from Edwards to Farmingdale, N.Y., was to evaluate the feasibility of a flush-mounted cockpit for the XF-103 program which was canceled in August 1957.
Oct. 21, 1956: Actor William Holden and other Hollywood personalities attended the opening of the new Base Theater at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and viewed a screening of “Toward the Unknown,” which had been filmed on the base. This marked the official opening of the new base theater.
Oct. 21, 1959: McDonnell Aircraft Corporation test pilot Gerald “Zeke” Huelsbeck was killed while test flying the first prototype YF4H-1 Phantom II. The U.S. Navy was trying for a world record with the F4H, and Huelsbeck, flying near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., was testing various flight plans for a high-altitude zoom, looking for one to recommend to the Navy test pilot who would fly the record attempt. During the flight, an engine access door blew loose, flames shot through the engine compartment, and the F4H crashed. Huelsbeck did eject but was too low, and his parachute did not open. The prototype crashed in an open area near Mount Pinos in the Los Padres National Forest, about 70 miles southwest of Edwards.