July 1, 1933: The Douglas DC-1 made its first flight, flown by Carl Cover. The DC-1 was the first model of the famous American DC (Douglas Commercial) commercial transport aircraft series. Development of the DC-1 can be traced back to the 1931 crash of a TWA airliner, a Fokker F.10 Trimotor in which a wing failed, probably because water had seeped between the layers of the wood laminate and dissolved the glue holding the layers together.
Following the accident, the Aeronautics Branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce placed stringent restrictions on the use of wooden wings on passenger airliners. Boeing developed an answer, the 247, a twin-engine all-metal monoplane with a retractable undercarriage, but their production capacity was reserved to meet the needs of United Airlines, part of United Aircraft and Transport Corporation which also owned Boeing.
TWA needed a similar aircraft to respond to competition from the Boeing 247 and they asked five manufacturers to bid for construction of a three-engine, 12-seat aircraft of all-metal construction, capable of flying 1,080 miles at 150 mph. The most demanding part of the specification was that the airliner would have to be capable of safely taking off from any airport on TWA’s main routes (particularly Albuquerque, N.M., at high altitude and with severe summer temperatures) with one engine non-functioning.
Donald Douglas was initially reluctant to participate in the invitation from TWA. He doubted the market for 100 aircraft, the number of sales necessary to cover development costs. Nevertheless, he submitted a design consisting of an all-metal, low-wing, twin-engine aircraft seating 12 passengers, a crew of two and a flight attendant. The aircraft exceeded the specifications of TWA even with only two engines, principally using controllable pitch propellers.
It was insulated against noise, heated, and fully capable of both flying and performing a controlled takeoff or landing on one engine. Douglas stated in a 1935 article on the DC-2 that the first DC-1 cost $325,000 to design and build. Although only one example of the DC-1 was produced, the design was the basis for the DC-2 and DC-3, the latter of which being one of the most successful aircraft in the history of aviation. During a half-year of testing, it performed more than 200 test flights and demonstrated its superiority over the most-used airliners at that time, the Ford Trimotor and Fokker Trimotor.
It was flown across the United States on Feb. 19, 1934, making the journey in the record time of 13 hours five minutes. TWA accepted the aircraft on Sept. 15, 1933, with a few modifications (increasing seating to 14 passengers and adding more powerful engines) and subsequently ordered 20 examples of the developed production model which was named the Douglas DC-2.
July 1, 1935: The Flying Keys set endurance record by flying a Curtiss Robin non-stop for 653 hours, 34 minutes. Fred and Al Key were brothers who performed barnstorming events and other activities during the early 20th century. They are best known for their flight endurance record, which they cemented at 27 days. They also invented a valve for aerial refueling that became the industry standard for the United States military.
The brothers became interested in aviation after World War I, and started doing some barnstorming in the 1920s and continued their interest as the managers of the Meridian Municipal Airport, in Meridian, Miss. With the onset of the Great Depression, the city of Meridian began doing whatever it could to save money. The airport was considered unnecessary, given the economic conditions, and was slated to be closed.
The Key brothers had no desire to see this happen, so they came up with a plan to draw attention to Meridian and its airport by breaking the standing flight endurance record of 23 days. At that time, air-to-air refueling was a dangerous affair. If gasoline was spilled, which often happened, it could be ignited by the hot engine exhaust.
To solve this problem, the Key brothers, along with local inventor and mechanic A. D. Hunter, invented a spill-free fueling system that consisted of a valve on the end of the fuel nozzle which was opened by a probe in the neck of the fuel tank. The valve would not allow fuel to flow unless it was inserted into the fuel tank. During fueling, if the nozzle was removed from the tank, the fuel would automatically stop flowing. This nozzle was later adopted by the US Army Air Corps and is still in use today with some modifications.
Refueling the plane wasn’t their only concern. The engine needed regular maintenance during the flight to stay in good running order. To facilitate this, a catwalk was built so that Fred could walk out and work on the plane while it was airborne.
On June 4, 1935, The Flying Keys, as the brothers later became known, lifted off in a borrowed Curtiss Robin monoplane named “Ole Miss” from Meridian, Mississippi’s airport. For the next 27 days, they flew over the Meridian vicinity. Several times each day, the crew of a similar plane would lower food and supplies to the brothers on the end of a rope, as well as supply fuel via a long flexible tube. They landed on July 1 after traveling an estimated 52,320 miles and used more than 6,000 gallons of gasoline. The Ole Miss is permanently displayed in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. After this historic flight, Meridian’s public airport was renamed Key Field in the brothers’ honor.
July 1, 1966: The Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., received the first two of four CV-7 Buffalo twin-engine transports from the U.S. Army. The Army had used the Buffalo to transport artillery, trucks, troops, and supplies into airstrips that were short and created from unprepared land.
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 five feet, seven 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 several 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 casein 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 woman 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 The Princess Elizabeth (now the late 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.