3 March 1969, 15:00:00 UTC, T minus Zero

Apollo 9 launches from Pad 39A, at 11:00:00 a.m., EST, 3 March 1969. (NASA)
Apollo 9 Saturn V (SA-504) launches from Pad 39A, at 11:00:00 a.m., EST, 3 March 1969. (NASA)

3 March 1969: At 11:00:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (15:00:00 UTC), Apollo 9 Saturn V (SA-504), the second manned Saturn V rocket, is launched from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Aboard are astronauts James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott and Russell L. Schweickart. The 10-day Earth orbital mission is used to test docking-undocking with the lunar module, and to certify the LM as flight-worthy. This was necessary before the program could proceed to the next phase: The Moon.

The flight crew of Apollo 9, James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott and Russell L. Schweickart. SA-504 is in the background. (NASA)
The flight crew of Apollo 9, James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott and Russell L. Schweickart. SA-504 is in the background. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

2 March 1978

Republic F-105F-1-RE Thunderchief (converted to F-105G Wild Weasel III) 63-8321, 561st TFS, 35th TFW, at George AFB, Victorville, California. (Image from Michael Klaver Collection at www.thexhunters.com)
Republic F-105F-1-RE Thunderchief (converted to F-105G Wild Weasel III) 63-8321, 561st TFS, 35th TFW, at George AFB, Victorville, California. (Image from Michael Klaver Collection at www.thexhunters.com)

2 March 1978: Major Charles T. Fulop and First Lieutenant William A. Stone departed George Air Force Base, Victorville, California in a Republic F-105G Thunderchief, call sign THUD 71. Their mission was a routine instrument training flight, making instrument approaches and departures at NAS Point Mugu on the California coast, then return to George AFB. Their airplane, F-105G 63-8321, was built as an F-105F-1-RE, but converted to an F-105G Wild Weasel III, designed to locate and attack anti-aircraft missile sites.

The weather surrounding Point Mugu was actual IFR, with heavy clouds, rain and fog. THUD 71 made an instrument approach to the airfield and then initiated a missed approach, a normal procedure for a training flight. However, while climbing out, the pilot, Major Fulop, radioed Mugu Approach Control that he had a problem and requested an immediate return to George AFB. His request was approved.

Approach Control then lost the fighter bomber’s radar transponder signals. Fulop declared an emergency, and requested an immediate return to Point Mugu for landing. He stated that the altimeter had failed and that he was trying to climb above the clouds.

Moments later, witnesses in Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park saw the F-105 diving out of the overcast. Major Fulop initiated the ejection sequence for the Electronics Warfare Officer, Lieutenant Stone, in the back seat. Stone was ejected and parachuted to safety.

The witnesses said that the pilot was obviously steering the Thunderchief away from homes surrounding the Wildwood Regional Park open space. THUD 71 crashed on the side of Hill Canyon. The airplane exploded on impact and Major Fulop was killed.

The crash site is less than two miles from where I am now sitting.

Major Charles T. Fulop, United States Air Force, with his Republic F-105G Thunderchief at George Air Force Base, california.
Major Charles T. Fulop, United States Air Force, 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, with his Republic F-105G Thunderchief at George Air Force Base, California. (www.thexhunters.com)

The Republic F-105 Thunderchief was a Mach 2+ tactical fighter bomber. The F-105F is a two-place variant, flown by a pilot and a weapons system operator. Its high speed, low radar cross-section and heavy bomb load capacity made it a good candidate for the “Wild Weasel” mission. The F-105F/G was 67 feet (20.422 meters) long with a wingspan of 34 feet, 11 inches (10.643 meters) and overall height of 20 feet, 2 inches (6.147 meters). It had a maximum weight of 54,580 pounds (24,757 kilograms). The Thunderchief  was powered by one Pratt and Whitney J75-P-19W turbojet engine, producing 24,500 pounds of thrust with afterburner and 26,400 pounds of thrust with water injection. The F-105G has a cruising speed of 596 miles per hour (959.2 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 1,386 miles per hour (2,230.6 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling is 52,000 feet (15,849.6 meters) and range, with external fuel tanks, is 2,070 miles (3,331 kilometers). The Thunderchief is armed with one M61 Vulcan 20 mm six-barrel rotary cannon with 1,028 rounds of ammunition, and it can carry up to 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms) of ordnance.

65 F-105Fs were converted to the F-105G Wild Weasel III configuration. Republic Aviation Corporation built 833 F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers at its Farmingdale, New York, factory. 334 of them were lost in combat during the Vietnam War.  THUD 71’s sister ship, Republic F-105G Thunderchief 63-8320, shot down three enemy MiG fighters. It is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Republic F-105F-1-RE Thunderchief (converted to F-105G Wild Weasel III) 63-8320 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-105F-1-RE Thunderchief (converted to F-105G Wild Weasel III) 63-8320 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

2 March 1969

Aérospatiale Concorde 001 first flight, at Toulouse, 2 March 1969, test pilot André Edouard Turcat.
Aérospatiale Concorde 001 first flight, at Toulouse, 2 March 1969, test pilot André Edouard Turcat.

2 March 1969: At Aéroport de Toulouse – Blagnac, Toulouse, France, the first supersonic airliner prototype, Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde Aircraft 001, registration F-WTSS, made its first flight. On the flight deck were Major André Edouard Turcat, Henri Perrier, Michel Retif and Jacques Guinard. The flight lasted 29 minutes.

During its testing, 001 flew a total of 812 hours, 19 minutes, including 254 hours 49 minutes supersonic.

The flight test crew of Concorde 001. Left to right, Andre Edouard Turcat, Henri Perrier, Michel Retif and Jacques Guinard. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
The flight test crew of Concorde 001. Left to right, André Edouard Turcat, Henri Perrier, Michel Retif and Jacques Guinard. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Aircraft 001 is 51.80 meters (169 feet, 11.5 inches) long, with a wingspan of 23.80 meters (78 feet, 1 inch). It is powered by four Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 turbojet engines. Today, this airplane is displayed at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, Aéroport de Paris – Le Bourget.

Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde 001, F-WTSS. (Aérospatiale)
Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde 001, F-WTSS. (Aérospatiale)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

26 February–2 March 1949: B-50 Lucky Lady II

Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, Lucky Lady II, lands at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth Texas, at 10:31 a.m., 2 March 1949. (LIFE Magazine)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, Lucky Lady II, lands at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth Texas, at 10:31 a.m., 2 March 1949. (LIFE Magazine)

26 February–2 March 1949: A Boeing B-50A Superfortress, serial number 46-010, Lucky Lady II, flew from Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas, and with inflight refueling, circumnavigated the Earth, non-stop, landing back at Carswell after 94 hours, 1 minute. The bomber had traveled 23,452 miles (37,742 kilometers).

Lucky Lady II was the backup aircraft for this flight, but became primary when the first B-50, Global Queen, had to abort with engine problems. It was a standard production B-50A-5-BO (originally designated B-29D) with the exception of an additional fuel tank mounted in its bomb bay.

The aircraft commander was Captain James G. Gallagher, with 1st Lieutenant  Arthur M. Neal as second pilot. Captain James H. Morris was the copilot. In addition to the three pilots, the flight was double-crewed, with each man being relieved at 4-to-6 hour intervals. The navigators were  Captain Glenn E. Hacker and 1st Lieutenant Earl L. Rigor, and the radar operators were 1st Lieutenant Ronald B. Bonner and 1st Lieutenant William F. Caffrey. Captain David B. Parmalee was project officer for this flight and flew as chief flight engineer, with flight engineers Technical Sergeant Virgil L. Young and Staff Sergeant Robert G. Davis. Technical Sergeant Burgess C. Cantrell and Staff Sergeant Robert R. McLeroy were the radio operators. Gunners were Technical Sergeant Melvin G. Davis and Staff Sergeant Donald G. Traugh Jr.

Four inflight refuelings were required using the looped hose method. Two KB-29M tankers of the 43d Air Refueling Squadron were placed at air bases along the Lucky Lady II‘s route, at the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Philippine Islands and Hawaiian Islands. The KB-29 flew above the B-50 and lowered a cable and drogue. This was captured by equipment on the bomber and then reeled in, bringing along with it a refueling hose. The hose was attached to the B-50’s refueling manifold and then fuel was transferred from the tanker to the bomber’s tanks by gravity flow. Each refueling occurred during daylight, but weather made several transfers difficult. One of the two tankers from Clark Field in The Philippines, 45-21705, crashed in bad weather when returning to base, killing the entire 9-man crew.

A Boeing KB-29M tanker refuels B-50A Superfortress Lucky Lady II during its around-the-world-flight, February–March 1949. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing KB-29M tanker, possibly 45-21702, refuels B-50A Superfortress Lucky Lady II during its around-the-world-flight, February–March 1949. (U.S. Air Force)

On their arrival at Carswell, the crew of Lucky Lady II was met by Secretary of the Air Force W. Stuart Symington, Jr., General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Roger M. Ramey, commanding 8th Air Force, and Lieutenant General Curtis E. LeMay. Strategic Air Command. Each member of the crew was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They also were awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.

Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, now named "KENSMEN," circa 1950. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, now named “KENSMEN,” circa 1950. (U.S. Air Force)

At 11:25 a.m., 13 August 1950, B-50A 46-010, under the command of  Captain Warren E. Griffin, was on a maintenance test flight and returning to its base, Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona  when all four engines failed. Unable to reach the runways, Captain Griffin landed in the desert approximately two miles southeast. Though the landing gear were down, the bomber was severely damaged with all four propellers bent, the belly dented and its tail breaking off. The 11-man crew were uninjured except for the bombardier, 1st Lieutenant Theodore Hastings, who was scratched by cactus which entered the cockpit through the broken Plexiglas nose.  The Superfortress was damaged beyond economical repair and was stricken from the Air Force inventory (“written off”). The unrestored fuselage of Lucky Lady II is at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, California.

The unrestored fuselage of Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010 at Planes of Fame, Chino, California. (Stefan Semerdjiev)
The unrestored fuselage of Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010 at Planes of Fame, Chino, California. (Stefan Semerdjiev)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

1 March 2003

Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B, 83-0065, after its last flight, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)
Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, after its last flight, Dyess AFB, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)

1 March 2003: The Star of Abilene, the first operational Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic heavy bomber, serial number 83-0065, made its last flight at Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas. It was delivered to the 96th Bombardment Group, Heavy, Strategic Air Command at Dyess on 7 July 1985, and was retired after 17 years, 7 months, 23 days of service. 83-0065 is preserved at the Dyess Linear Air Park, which displays over 30 airplanes along the main road of the air base, showing a chronological progression of Air Power.

Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, Star of Abilene, flies over Dyess Air Force Base, 7 July 1985. (Reporter-News)
Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, Star of Abilene, flies over Dyess Air Force Base, 7 July 1985. (Reporter-News)

The bomber is 146 feet (44.501 meters) long, with the wing span varying from 79 feet (24.079 meters) to 137 feet (41.758 meters). It is 34 feet (10.363 meters) high at the top of the vertical fin. Four General Electric F-101-GE-102 afterburning turbofan engines produce 30,000 pounds of thrust, each. It has a maximum speed of 900+ miles per hour (1,448.4 kilometers per hour), Mach 1.2, and an unrefueled range of 7,500 miles (12,070 kilometers). The bomber’s empty weight is approximately 190,000 pounds (86,183 kilograms) Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 477,000 pounds (216,634 kilograms). The payload is up to 75,000 pounds (34,019 kilograms). It can carry up to 84 Mk.82 500-pound (226.8 kilogram) bombs, 24 Mk.84 2,000-pound (907.2 kilogram) bombs or other weapons.

Currently 66 B-1B bombers are in the active Air Force inventory, with 2 others in the test fleet.

Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, after its last flight, Dyess AFB, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)
Star of Abilene, Rockwell B-1B 83-0065, after its last flight, Dyess AFB, 1 March 2003. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes