Oct Nov. 4, 1990: During the first official demonstration of its supercruise capability, the Northrop-McDonnell Douglas YF-23A No. 1 accelerated to Mach 1.43 at 42,000 feet without afterburners.
Nov. 5, 1959: Following a launch from a B-52 carrier, on its fourth powered flight, an X-15 (s/n 66710) suffered an in-flight explosion and fire during engine ignition. Its pilot, Scott Crossfield, made a successful emergency landing on Rosamond Dry Lake, but the fuselage of the fuel-heavy aircraft buckled just aft of the cockpit following touchdown. Footage of this accident is later incorporated in The Outer Limits episode “The Premonition,” first aired Jan. 9, 1965.
Nov. 5, 1981: The McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II made its first flight. The AV-8B is a single-engine ground-attack aircraft that constitutes the second generation of the Harrier Jump Jet family, capable of vertical or short takeoff and landing. The aircraft is primarily employed on light attack or multi-role missions, ranging from close air support of ground troops to armed reconnaissance.
The AV-8B is used by the U.S. Marine Corps, the Spanish Navy, and the Italian Navy. A variant of the AV-8B, the British Aerospace Harrier II, was developed for the British military, while another, the TAV-8B, is a dedicated two-seat trainer. In this photograph, a U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II taxis the runway before takeoff in August 2018.
Nov. 6, 1958: NASA Research Test Pilot John “Jack” McKay made the final flight of the X-1 rocketplane program, which had begun 12 years earlier. Bell X-1E 46-063 made its 26th and final flight after being dropped from a Boeing B-29 Superfortress over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on a flight to test a new rocket fuel. When the aircraft was inspected after the flight, a crack was found in a structural bulkhead.
A decision was made to retire the X-1E and the flight test program was ended. The X-1E had been modified from the third XS-1, 46-063. It used a thinner wing and had an improved fuel system. The most obvious visible difference is the cockpit, which was changed to provide for an ejection seat. Hundreds of sensors were built into the aircraft’s surfaces to measure air pressure and temperature.
Nov. 6, 1980: The Solar Challenger made its first flight. The Solar Challenger was a solar-powered electric aircraft designed by Paul MacCready’s AeroVironment. The aircraft was designed as an improvement on the Gossamer Penguin, which in turn was a solar-powered variant of the human-powered Gossamer Albatross.
It was powered entirely by the photovoltaic cells on its wing and stabilizer, without even reserve batteries, and was the first such craft capable of long-distance flight. In 1981, it successfully completed a 163-mile demonstration flight from France to England.
Nov. 6, 1986: The first off-range flight test of the B-1B Automatic Terrain Following system took place. The B-1B is designed to fly in an Automatic Terrain Following mode at 200 feet above ground level, in all weather, and at night. The B-1B incorporates several ATF modes.
One mode, known as “hard ride,” closely follows terrain contours and is intended for use in high threat environments. “Soft ride” does not approximate the contour of the ground as closely, providing a smoother flight.
Nov. 7, 1956: The first ejection test of the F-101A ejection seat was conducted on the High Speed Track, at a velocity of Mach 0.78. The ejection seat was designed and built by Weber Aircraft.
Nov. 7, 1963: Limited performance handling and tank jettison evaluations of the UH-1B Huey with 60-gallon external tanks began. This was one of six follow-on qualitative tests being conducted on the attack helicopter for the Army during this period.
Nov. 7, 2000: The X-35A accomplished its first aerial refueling. During its 10th flight, the JSF demonstrator completed four refueling operations from a KC-135 at 23,000 feet and verified its compatibility with the tanker’s flow-field wake and refueling boom.
Nov. 8, 1951: The Air Force completed qualitative handling tests of the Bell X-5 (s/n 838) and delivered it to NACA for its research program. The Bell X-5 was the first aircraft capable of changing the sweep of its wings in flight. It was inspired by the untested wartime P.1101 design of the German Messerschmitt company.
In contrast with the German design, which could only have its wing sweepback angle adjusted on the ground, the Bell engineers devised a system of electric motors to adjust the sweep in flight.
Two X-5s were built (serial numbers 50-1838 and 50-1839). The first was completed Feb. 15, 1951, and the two aircraft made their first flights on June 20, and Dec. 10, 1951 respectively. Almost 200 flights were made at speeds up to Mach 0.9 and altitudes of 40,000 feet. One aircraft was lost on Oct. 14, 1953, when it failed to recover from a spin at 60-degree sweepback.
Air Force Capt. Ray Popson died in the crash at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The X-5 successfully demonstrated the advantage of a swing-wing design for aircraft intended to fly at a wide range of speeds. Despite the X-5’s stability problems, the concept was developed to an outboard rather than inboard hinge and was later successfully implemented in such aircraft as the General Dynamics F-111 and Grumman F-14 Tomcat, the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-23 and MiG-27, the Sukhoi Su-17/20/22 and Su-24, the Tupolev Tu-22M and Tu-160, the Panavia Tornado and the Rockwell B-1 Lancer.
Nov. 9, 1944: Boeing’s senior test pilot, Albert Elliott Merrill, and co-pilot John Bernard Fornasero made the first flight of the Boeing Model 367 prototype, XC-97 43-27470. The airplane was a prototype for a very long-range military transport.
It used the wings, engines and tail of the B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber. The production C-97A first flew in 1949. It used the more powerful engines and taller vertical fin of the B-50 Superfortress. The transport had a flight crew of five and could carry 134 troops or 83 litters.
Boeing built 888 C-97 Stratofreighters and KC-97 Stratotankers between 1947 and 1958. The type was finally retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1978. Additionally, another 56 Model 377 Stratocruiser civil transports were produced.
Nov. 9, 1946: The Lockheed XR60-1 Constitution made its first flight, a 45-minute flight from the Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank, Calif., to Muroc Army Airfield. Joe Towle and Tony LeVier flew the aircraft.
Ordered by the Navy, the XR60-1 was a very large, double-deck transport powered by four 3,000 horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engines.
The Constitution was a joint development of the Lockheed Company, the U.S. Navy, and Pan American Airways. The Navy’s interest in the aircraft stemmed from the type’s potential to carry a large amount of military cargo overseas.Pan Am envisioned utilization of the aircraft as a commercial airliner.
The XR6O-1 was only of marginal use to the Navy. While both aircraft made numerous transcontinental and transoceanic flights, they were underpowered and failed to satisfy performance requirements. As a result, Pan Am’s plans to employ the Constitution as an airliner failed to materialize. The Navy retired both XR6O-1 aircraft in 1953 after unsuccessfully trying to entice commercial airline companies to purchase them.
Lockheed later tried to sell industry on several airliner concepts that were essentially a repackaging of the Constitution’s basic design, but there were no takers.
Nov. 9, 1951: The second Bell X-5 aircraft (s/n 839) arrived at Edwards. For more on the X-5, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2021/07/19/x-5-tests-if-an-aircraft-can-change-wing-sweep-while-in-flight/
Nov. 9, 1961: Maj. Robert M. White capped an eventful year by taking the X-15 to Mach 6.04 (4,093 mph), exceeding its design speed by 93 mph. He thus became the first human to exceed Mach 4, Mach 5 and Mach 6, and to fly above 200,000 feet. During the flight, the heat on the leading edges of the X-15’s wing reached 1,147 degrees Fahrenheit. From left: Col. Chuck Yeager, White and Brig. Gen. Irving Branch.
Nov. 10, 1982: The newly finished Vietnam Veterans Memorial was opened to its first visitors in Washington, D.C., three days before its dedication.
Nov. 10, 1988: The U.S. Air Force publicly unveils the F-117 Nighthawk when Assistant Secretary of Defense J. Daniel Howard displayed a grainy photograph at a Pentagon press conference. After the announcement, pilots could fly the F-117 during daytime. In April 1990, two F-117 aircraft were flown into Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., arriving during daylight and publicly displayed to a crowd of tens of thousands.