2 May 1957

McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, first production aircraft, parked on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

2 May 1957: The United States Air Force accepted the first production McDonnell Aircraft Corporation F-101A Voodoo supersonic fighter.

The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo was originally designed as a single-seat, twin-engine long range bomber escort, or “penetration fighter,” for the Strategic Air Command, but was developed as a fighter bomber and reconnaissance airplane. 53-2418 first flew 29 September 1954, and it was the first production F-101A to be delivered to the Air Force.

mcDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right front quarter view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right front quarter view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418 (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right profile. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right rear view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2418, right rear view. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-101A was 67 feet, 5 inches (20.549 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 8 inches (12.090 meters). It was 18 feet (5.486 meters) high. The total wing area was 368 square feet (34.2 square meters). The wings were swept 36° 36′ at 25% chord. The angle of incidence was 1°, with no twist or dihedral. The Voodoo weighed 25,374 pounds (11,509 kilograms) empty and had a maximum takeoff weight of 51,000 pounds (23,133 kilograms).

The standard F-101A was equipped with two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-13 turbojet engines. The J57 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet which had a 16-stage compressor (9 low- and 7 high-pressure stages), 8 combustors and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The J57-P-13 was rated at 10,200 pounds of thrust (45.37 kilonewtons), and 15,800 pounds (70.28 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The engine was 3 feet, 4.3 inches (1.024 meters) in diameter, 17 feet, 7.0 inches (5.359 meters) long, and weighed 5,025 pounds (2,279 kilograms).

The Voodoo had a maximum speed of 876 knots (1,008 miles per hour (1,622 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Service ceiling was 45,700 feet (13,929 meters). It carried a maximum of 2,305 gallons (8,725 liters) of fuel internally. With external tanks, the fighter bomber had a maximum ferry range of 1,898 nautical miles (2,184 statute miles/3,515 kilometers).

McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2416 in flight, bottom view. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell F-101A-1-MC Voodoo 53-2416 in flight, bottom view. (U.S. Air Force)

The F-101A was armed with four 20mm Pontiac M39 single-barreled revolver cannon, with 200 rounds per gun. It could carry a Mark 7, Mark 28, or Mark 43 “Special Store” on a centerline mount.

McDonnell built 77 F-101As for the Air Force. 29 were later converted to RF-101G photo reconnaissance airplanes by Lockheed Aircraft Services.

F-101A 53-2418 was transferred to General Electric for testing of the J79 afterburning turbojet engine which would later power the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II.

General Electric returned the Voodoo to the Air Force in 1959. Now obsolete, it was used as a maintenance trainer at Shepard Air Force Base, Texas. It was next turned over to a civilian aviation maintenance school and assigned a civil registration number, N9250Z, by the Federal Aviation Administration. The airplane was sold as scrap, but was purchased by Mr. Dennis Kelsey.

In 2009, Mrs. Kelsey had the airplane placed in the care of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon. After being partially restored by the Evergreen Air Center, Marana, Arizona, 53-2418 was placed on display at the Evergreen Museum.

McDonnell JF-101A 53-2418 with General Electric J79 engines, circa 1957
McDonnell JF-101A 53-2418 with General Electric J79 engines, circa 1957
The first production Voodoo, McDonnell F-101-1-MC 53-2418 on display at the Evergeen Aviation Museum (flickriver)
The first production Voodoo, McDonnell F-101-1-MC 53-2418 on display at the Evergreen Aviation Museum (flickriver)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 thoughts on “2 May 1957

  1. 2 May, 1957
    F-101

    The F-101 is one of my favorites. Such a gigantic brute of an aircraft.

    Proof that anything will fly if the engines are big enough. 🙂

    I have a soft spot for the Voodoo, the 101-B was being flown by the North Dakota ANG when our family moved to Fargo in 1971. My Dad’s cousin flew them and it was a considerable source of pride for the family. While in high school I could always be found at the airport, parked right at the end of the main runway, shooting pictures as these guys landed. You can’t get away with doing that today, no way, no how! Good times.

  2. I went to work on the 9th production F101A on January 31, 1955 & all the 500+ F101 versions. I wonder if the tail number 53-2418 was really the 1st production aircraft, because usually the 1st aircraft were used for Flight Test. I wonder if there is a list of Tail numbers vs production numbers. At the time I went to work on production # 9, the tail number had not been attached. I do know that the “53” in the first 2 numbers of the 53-2418 was the year the contract for this version of the cintract was signed.

    1. Hi, Frank. From my research, there was no XF-101. According to Joe Baugher’s aircraft serial number lists, 53-2418 is McDonnell serial number 1.

      Ron Downey’s “Aviation Archives” (http://aviationarchives.blogspot.com/) is an excellent resource for everything McDonnell. You could check there for further information.

      53-2418 was completed in August 1954. It was shipped to Edwards and made its first flight 29 September 1954. It was joined by three more Voodoos for flight testing at Edwards, and on successful completion, 53-2418 was accepted by USAF. The first operational F-101 was delivered to the 27th Strategic Fighter Wing on 2 May 1957.

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