Sept. 9, 1923: The Curtiss R2 C-1 made its maiden flight. The aircraft was a racing aircraft designed for the U.S. Navy in 1923 by Curtiss. It was a single-seater biplane with a monocoque fuselage and staggered single-bay wings of unequal span braced with I-struts.
The aircraft’s advanced streamlining featured a top wing mounted directly to the top of the fuselage and surface-mounted radiators for cooling the engine. The aircraft was originally designed and built as a landplane under the Navy designation R2C-1, of which two examples were produced. One was converted into a seaplane version known as the R2C-2 the following year.
Sept. 9, 1944: The United States Army Air Forces Air Technical Service Command Flight Test Training Unit was established at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Maj. Ralph C. Hoewing was named Officer in Charge.
The Army’s test pilots would henceforth receive formal classroom and cockpit instruction in flight testing theory and techniques, instead of informal “on the job” training. The school was modeled after the Royal Air Force’s new Empire Test Pilots’ School at Boscombe Down.
Army Air Forces Flying Training Command’s mission was conducting the flying program for new Army pilot candidates and air cadets. The program was divided in to stages including primary, advanced and specific classification such as pursuit, twin engine and multi-engine. These phases were prelude to Operational or Replacement training or crew training.
Army Air Forces Training Center was created as a result of the merger of the Army Air Forces Flying Training Command and the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command on July 31, 1943, which was constituted and established on Jan. 23, 1942.
Its mission was to train pilots, flying specialists, and combat crews. During its lifetime, the command struggled with the challenge of a massive wartime expansion of the air forces. Throughout 1942, the need for combat crew personnel far exceeded the current and contemplated production of the command’s flying training schools.
The rate of expansion of housing and training facilities, instructors, as well as the procurement of aircraft and other equipment, though at a breakneck pace, constrained the rate of increase of production. Facilities were used to their maximum capacity as quickly as they could be stood up. Some schools were expanded while they were still under construction.
New airfields had to be located in areas with sufficient flying space free of other air traffic, and the West Coast training center faced the extraordinary requirement to avoid sites near the internment camps for Japanese-Americans.
Sept. 9, 1972: Capt. Charles DeBellevue, a Weapons System Officer flying on F-4D and F-4E Phantom II fighters, became the high-scoring American Ace of the Vietnam War when he and his pilot, Capt. John A. Madden, Jr., shot down two MiG 19 fighters of the Vietnam People’s Air Force, west of Hanoi. DeBellevue was assigned to the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base.
With Capt. Richard S. Ritchie, he had previously shot down four MiG 21 fighters using AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles. Then while flying a combat air patrol in support of Operation Linebacker, he and Madden used two AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles to destroy the MiG 19s. These were Madden’s first two aerial victories, but for DeBellevue, they were number five and six.
“We acquired the MiGs on radar and positioned as we picked them up visually,” DeBellevue said. “We used a slicing low-speed yo-yo to position behind the MiG-19s and started turning hard with them. We fired one AIM-9 missile, which detonated 25 feet from one of the MiG-19s. We then switched the attack to the other MiG-19 and one turn later we fired an AIM-9 at him.
“I observed the missile impact the tail of the MiG,” he continued. “The MiG continued normally for the next few seconds, then began a slow roll and spiraled downward, impacting the ground with a large fireball. Our altitude was approximately 1,500 feet at the moment of the MiGs impact.”
After becoming the war’s highest-scoring American ace, DeBellevue was sent to Williams Air Force Base, Ariz. for pilot training. He became an aircraft commander of F-4E Phantom IIs. DeBellevue later went on to command the 6500th Air Base Wing at Edwards AFB, Calif. He retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1998, after 30 years of service.
Sept. 10, 1940: Reflecting the nation’s overall military buildup on the eve of World War II, construction began on temporary housing facilities and an administrative building for the bombing range at Muroc Air Field, now Edwards Air Force Base. Over the next several weeks, work began on barracks, a medical facility, ordnance magazines, a railroad spur and associated utilities. Fourth Air Force also authorized several new target installations, and a hard-surfaced runway adjacent to the lakebed. This marked the beginning of the permanent facilities on the western shore of the Muroc Dry Lake bed, which eventually came to be known as South Base.
The area of the lakebed was first used by the railroads, with a watering station for steam engines located nearby by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.
In 1910, the Corum family had settled on the lakebed; they attempted to create a small community called “Muroc” (their last name reversed), which failed. In 1933, the United States Army arrived, looking to establish a bombing range in the area. The lakebed’s potential use as an airfield was then realized, and in 1937 the United States Army Air Corps set up Muroc Air Field for training and testing, which later became Edwards Air Force Base.
Sept. 10, 1944: The Fairchild C-82 Packet made its first flight. The Packet was a twin-engine, twin-boom cargo aircraft designed and built by Fairchild Aircraft. It was used briefly by the U.S. Army Air Forces and the successor U.S. Air Force following World War II.
Developed by Fairchild, the C-82 was intended as a heavy-lift cargo aircraft to succeed prewar civilian designs like the Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Dakota using non-critical materials in its construction, primarily plywood and steel, so as not to compete with the production of combat aircraft.
However, by early 1943 changes in specifications resulted in plans for an all-metal aircraft. The aircraft was designed for a number of roles, including cargo carrier, troop transport, parachute drop, medical evacuation, and glider towing.
It featured a rear-loading ramp with wide doors and an empennage set 14 feet off the ground that permitted trucks and trailers to back up to the doors without obstruction. Problems surfaced almost immediately, as the aircraft was found to be underpowered and its airframe inadequate for the heavy lifting it was intended to perform. As a result, the Air Force turned to Fairchild for a solution to the C-82’s shortcomings.
A redesign was quickly performed under the designation XC-82B, which would overcome all of the C-82A’s initial problems. During the Berlin Blockade, five C-82 aircraft carried large disassembled earthmoving equipment into the city to enable the construction of Berlin Tegel Airport in the fall of 1948.
Sept. 10, 1956: North American Aviation test pilot Joel Robert “Bob” Baker made the first flight of the F-107A-NA 55-5118, a pre-production tactical fighter bomber, reaching a speed of Mach 1.03. On landing, the drogue parachute did not deploy and due to the high speed on rollout, the nose gear strut collapsed, causing minor damage to the new aircraft. The F-107A was designed as a Mach 2 plus fighter-bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
The plan to carry a Mark 7 bomb in a centerline recess in the aircraft’s belly resulted in the radical appearance of the airplane, with the engine intake mounted above and behind the cockpit. Based on the F-100 Super Sabre, it was originally designated F-100B, but this was changed to F-107A prior to the first flight.
The North American Aviation F-107A was a single-seat, single-engine supersonic fighter-bomber. It was equipped with a very sophisticated stability augmentation system. The F-107A was 61 feet, 10 inches long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 7 inches and height of 19 feet, 8 inches. The F-107A was in competition with Republic’s F-105 Thunderchief, which was selected by the Air Force for production. Only three F-107A test aircraft were built.
Sept. 11, 1946: North American Aviation engineering test pilot Wallace “Wally” Lien made the first flight of the XFJ-1. Lien flew from Mines Field, now better known as LAX, to Muroc Army Air Field (now known as Edwards AFB, in Southern California. The XFJ-1 was a turbojet-powered day fighter designed for operation from the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers.
It was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane’s wings and tail surfaces were very similar to those of North American’s legendary P-51 Mustang. Although intended for carriers, the FJ-1 did not have folding wings to reduce its “footprint” when stored on the hangar deck.
It did have an interesting feature, though: The nose gear assembly was capable of “kneeling,” putting the airplane in a nose-low, tail-high attitude, allowing Furies to be placed very close together when parked nose-to-tail. North American Aviation built three XFJ-1 prototypes and 30 production FJ-1 Fury fighters. The aircraft underwent a major redesign to become the XP-86 Sabre for the U.S. Air Force, and the FJ-2 Fury for the Navy and Marine Corps.
Sept. 11, 1958: A. Scott Crossfield became the first X-15 pilot to test the new MC-2 pressure suit at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Crossfield was fitted for the suit then placed in the altitude chamber for a simulated flight profile.
Sept. 11, 1962: A C-123B made four takeoffs and landings in soft sand as part of Project Rough Road Alpha at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. This was a follow-on of Project Rough Road which included C-123 aircraft and a variety of unpaved runway conditions.
Sept. 11, 1996: The Boeing Bird of Prey made its first flight. The Bird of Prey was a black project aircraft, intended to demonstrate stealth technology. McDonnell Douglas and Boeing developed it in the 1990s. The company provided $67 million of funding for the project. It was a low-cost program compared to many other programs of similar scale.
It developed technology and materials, which would later be used on Boeing’s X-45 unmanned combat air vehicle. As an internal project, this aircraft was not given an X-plane designation. There are no public plans to make this a production aircraft. It is characterized as a technology demonstrator.
Development of the Bird of Prey began in 1992 by McDonnell Douglas’s Phantom Works division for special projects, at Area 51. The aircraft’s name is a reference to the Klingon Bird of Prey warship from the Star Trek television series. Phantom Works later became part of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems after the Boeing–McDonnell Douglas merger in 1997.
Following the first flight, 39 more flights were performed through the program’s conclusion in 1999. The Bird of Prey was designed to prevent shadows and is believed to have been used to test active camouflage, which would involve its surfaces changing color or luminosity to match the surroundings.
The shape is aerodynamically stable enough to be flown without computer correction. Its aerodynamic stability is in part due to lift provided by the chines, as used in other aircraft including the SR-71 Blackbird. This provided lift for the nose in flight.
This configuration, which can be stable without a horizontal tail plane and a conventional vertical rudder, is now a standard in later stealth unmanned aerial vehicles such as the X-45 and X-47, tailless aircraft, which use drag rudders (asymmetrically-used wingtip airbrakes) for yaw control. The aircraft, which had given the designation “YF-118G” as a cover, was made public on Oct. 18, 2002.
Sept. 11, 2002: The CV-22 Osprey resumed flight testing, following a 21-month grounding that followed the crash of a Marine MV-22 in December 2000. The tilt-rotor aircraft, one of two at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., flew three sorties totaling over four hours of flying time.
Sept. 12, 1945: On the first flight of the Northrop XP-79B out of Muroc Army Air Base (now Edwards AFB), Calif., the aircraft behaved normally for about 15 minutes, then at an altitude of 7,000 feet it began a slow roll from which it fails to recover.
Pilot Harry Crosby bails out at 2,000 feet but is struck by revolving aircraft and his chute does not deploy. The largely magnesium airframe is totally consumed by fire after impact on desert floor. The XP-79 was an ambitious design for a flying wing fighter aircraft.
It had several notable design features; among these, the pilot would operate the aircraft from a lying position, permitting the pilot to withstand much greater g-forces in the upward and downward direction with respect to the plane — and welded magnesium monocoque structure instead of riveted aluminum.
Sept. 13, 1950: Accelerated Service Tests began on three F-94 interceptors. The three Starfires were flown continuously by relays of pilots, with maintenance men also working in round-the-clock shifts. The project involved 24 pilots and 100 crewmen. The aircraft were flown 150 hours in six weeks, the equivalent to six months of operational flying.
Sept. 13, 1961: The first sortie was flown on a T-37B spin evaluation program. Air Force Flight Test Center and Air Training Command pilots embarked on a program to analyze the trainer’s flight manual spin procedures and develop a more simplified spin recovery technique for the benefit of student pilots.
Sept. 13, 1985: Then Maj. Wilbert D. “Doug” Pearson zoom-climbed a specially configured F-15A to 80,000 feet and launched a Vought ASM-135A anti-satellite missile against an orbiting Solwind P78-1 satellite. The missile’s miniature kinetic-kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target satellite marking the first time a satellite had been destroyed by an aircraft.
Sept. 14, 1962: Maj. Fitzhugh L. “Fitz” Fulton flew the Convair B-58A Hustler to an altitude of 85,360.8 feet with a 5,000-pound payload, establishing an official world altitude record for a payload of that size.
The record stood for 35 years and was certified by the National Aeronautics Association and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. At an altitude of 35,000 feet, he accelerated to 1,300 mph and made a 35-degree climb to maximum altitude.
Sept. 15, 1942: Contractor personnel were removed from the Materiel Center Flight Test Site prior to the arrival of the secret XP-59, and a group of 11 Bell Aircraft Corp. employees took over the site.
The test missile was fitted with dummy second and third stages and carried only a few second’s fuel in the first stage. This test showed that the Minuteman could be fired directly from an underground silo, prompting the Air Force to fast-track the program in the hopes of having the first Minuteman I on duty by 1962.
The production of the first operational Minuteman I force was approved in March 1960 and consisted of 150 missiles assigned to a single missile wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. The previous month at Cape Canaveral, the first full test of a Minuteman I proved successful—the missile deposited its warhead 4,600 miles from the launch site.
During these tests the missiles did not employ armed atomic warheads. TIME magazine reported that an awed observer murmured “Brother, there goes the missile gap” and described the successful test flight as follows, “Even for sophisticated missile watchers, the men who have marked the flight of so many of Cape Canaveral’s great fire-breathing birds, last week’s show was a dazzling spectacle. The blast-off was swift and sure; there was none of that heart stopping hover of other tests when liquid-fueled monsters seemed to balance in uncertain equilibrium before they picked up the momentum of flight.”
Sept. 15, 1991: The McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III made its first flight. The wide-bodied heavy lifter, designed to use short and unimproved runways, resulted from DOD’s Cargo Experimental (CX) program started in 1979. Douglas test pilot William Casey (pilot) and Lt. Col. George London (co-pilot) flew the new transport from the Douglas facility in Long Beach, Calif., to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif.