June 24, 1947: The Air Materiel Command commander at Wright Field, Ohio, was officially directed by HQ U.S. Army Air Forces to take over responsibility for conduct of the X-1 transonic flight research program. This meant that, instead of a Bell test pilot, it would be an AMC test pilot who would make the initial assault on Mach 1. Capt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager had already been selected as project officer for this effort.
June 24, 1948: The Soviet Union begins the Berlin Blockade. This was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. During the multinational occupation of post–World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control. The Soviets offered to drop the blockade if the Western Allies withdrew the newly introduced Deutsche Mark from West Berlin. The Western Allies organized the Berlin Airlift from June 26, 1948, to Sept. 30, 1949, to carry supplies to the people of West Berlin, a difficult feat given the size of the city’s population American and British air forces flew over Berlin more than 250,000 times, dropping necessities such as fuel and food, with the original plan being to lift 3,475 tons of supplies daily. By the spring of 1949, that number was often met twofold, with the peak daily delivery totaling 12,941 tons.
June 24, 1961: A Sud Caravelle jet airliner, manufactured by the French company Sud Aviation, returned to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., following a visit to the Paris Air Show. Nicknamed “Santa Maria,” the short-to-medium-haul aircraft had spent a year at Edwards undergoing installation and flight testing of two GE CJ805-23C aft-fan engines.
June 24, 1968: A joint test team from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and the Naval Air Test Center began the first phase of the A-7D Stability and Control Military Preliminary Evaluation. The evaluations were conducted at the Vought Aeronautics Division of LTM at Naval Air Station Dallas and at Carswell AFB, Texas.
June 24, 1968: A test team conducted the first limited performance evaluation flight with a C-130A fitted with four-blade Hamilton Standard propellers at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
June 24, 1993: Air Force officials authorized destruction of 365 B-52s at AMARC, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., in compliance with START signed July 31, 1991. U.S. President George H. W. Bush and Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on July 31, 1991, to limit each nation’s the number of nuclear weapons systems.
Destruction of the 365b bombers began in August 1993. The bombers were stripped of all usable parts, then chopped into five pieces by a 13,000-pound steel blade dropped from a 120-foot-tall crane. The “guillotine” sliced four times on each plane, severing the wings and leaving the fuselage in three pieces. The cut-up B-52s remained in place for three months so Russian satellites could confirm that the bombers had been destroyed, after which they were sold for scrap.
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, Edwards, Calif. 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 United States). 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, 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.
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 six 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: 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 seven 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, New Mexico 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 No. 3 North American X-15 and 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.
June 30, 1977: President Jimmy Carter cancels the B-1 Lancer program. The program was restarted in 1981 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.