Monthly Archives: February 2017

29 February 1964

Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934, the first of three prototype Mach 3+ interceptors. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934, the first of three prototype Mach 3+ interceptors. (U.S. Air Force)

29 February 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson publicly revealed the existence of the Top Secret Lockheed YF-12A, a Mach 3+ interceptor designed and built by Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson’s “Skunk Works.” President Johnson referred to the interceptor as the “A-11.”

Intended as a replacement for Convair’s F-106 Delta Dart, three pre-production YF-12As were built for testing. On 1 May 1965, a YF-12A set a speed record of 2,070.103 miles per hour (3,331.507 kilometers per hour) and reached an altitude of 80,259 ft (24,463 meters).

Lockheed A-12 Oxcarts and YF-12As at Groom Lake, Nevada. (Central Intelligence Agency)
Lockheed A-12 Oxcarts and YF-12As at Groom Lake, Nevada. (Central Intelligence Agency)

The reason for President Johnson’s announcement of the existence of the YF-12A prototypes was to conceal the existence of the Central Intelligence Agency’s fleet of Lockheed A-12 Oxcart reconnaissance aircraft based at Groom Lake, Nevada. Any sightings of these aircraft could be attributed to test flights of the YF-12As based at Edwards Air Force Base, 160 miles (258 kilometers) to the southwest.

The YF-12A interceptor is very similar to its A-12 Oxcart and SR-71A Blackbird stablemates. It was flown by a pilot and a Weapons System Officer. The airplane is 101 feet, 8 inches (30.988 meters) long with a wingspan of 55 feet, 7 inches (16.942 meters) and overall height of 18 feet, 6 inches (5.639 meters). It has an empty weight of 60,730 pounds (27,547 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 140,000 pounds (63,503 kilograms).

The YF-12A is powered by two Pratt & Whitney J58 (JT11D-20A) high-bypass turbojets which produce 34,000 pounds of thrust (151,240 Newtons), each, with afterburner, burning JP-7 fuel.

Pratt & Whitney J58 test. (Central Intelligence Agency)
Pratt & Whitney J58 test. (Central Intelligence Agency)

The YF-12A has a maximum speed of Mach 3.35 (2,232 miles per hour/3,342 kilometers per hour) at 80,000 feet (24,384 meters). Its service ceiling is 90,000 feet (27,432 meters) and it has a range of 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers).

The United States Air Force ordered 93 production F-12B aircraft, which would have been armed with three Hughes AIM-47A Falcon air-to-air missiles in enclosed bays in the bottom of the fuselage. However, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara refused to release the funds for the purchase for three consecutive years and eventually the project was cancelled.

AIM-47A missile ready for loading into the weapons bay of a Lockheed YF-12A. (U.S. Air Force)
Hughes AIM-47A guided missile ready for loading into the weapons bay of a Lockheed YF-12A. (U.S. Air Force)

The first YF-12A, 60-6934, seen in the top photograph, was extensively damaged by a brake system fire on landing at Edwards AFB, 14 August 1966. It was salvaged and rebuilt as SR-71C 61-7981. The third YF-12A, shown in the photograph below, was lost due to an inflight fire 24 June 1971. The crew safely ejected.

The only existing YF-12A, 60-6935, is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Lockheed YF-12A 60-6936, holder of three World Absolute Speed Records and the World Absolute Altitude Record. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed YF-12A 60-6936, holder of three World Absolute Speed Records and the World Absolute Altitude Record, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 February 1960

Beechcraft Baron
Beechcraft Baron

29 February 1960: Beech Aircraft Corporation test pilot S. Little made the first flight of the Beechcraft 95-55 Baron, serial number TC-1.

One of the most popular light twin airplanes, the original production variant was flown by a single pilot and could carry 3 to 4 passengers. The Baron 55 was 26 feet, 8 inches (8.128 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 10 inches (11.532 meters) and overall height of 9 feet, 7 inches (2.921 meters). It had a maximum takeoff weight of 4,880 pounds (2,214 kilograms).

The airplane was powered by two air-cooled, fuel-injected, 471.24-cubic-inch-displacement (7.72 liter) Continental IO-470-L horizontally-opposed six cylinder engines rated at 260 horsepower at 2,625 r.p.m., each, driving two-bladed constant-speed Hartzell or McCauley propellers with a diameter of 6 feet, 6 inches (1.981 meters).

Beechcraft Baron
Beechcraft Baron

Its cruise speed  was 185 knots (213 miles per hour/343 kilometers per hour), and it had a service ceiling of 19,200 feet (5,852 meters). The maximum range was 1,225 miles (1,971 kilometers).

TC-1, the prototype Beechcraft Baron, N9695R, is on display at the Bonanza Baron Museum, Tullahoma, Tennessee. (The Staggerwing Museum Foundation)
TC-1, the prototype Beechcraft Baron, N9695R, is on display at the Bonanza Baron Museum, Tullahoma, Tennessee. (The Staggerwing Museum Foundation)

TC-1 was retained by the Beech Aircraft Corporation and used for testing until it was sold in 1968. Registered N9695R, the prototype Baron is owned by Frank Kimmel III of Greenwood, Mississippi. It is on loan the Staggerwing Museum Foundation’s Bonanza Baron Museum, Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Sixty-five Model 95-B55 Barons were purchased by the U.S. Army for use as instrument training  aircraft. The military designation was T-42A Cochise.

More than 6,700 Barons have been built since 1961. 2,456 of these were Model 95-55s. The Textron Aviation Beechcraft G58 Baron is still in production.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 February 1966

The Flight Crew of Gemini IX, left to right, Commander Elliot McKay See, Jr., United States Navy, and Captain Charles A. Bassett II, U.S. Air Force.

The primary and back up flight crews of Gemini IX flew from Houston to St. Louis where they planned to visit the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, where the spacecraft was being built. They flew aboard two Northrop T-38A Talon supersonic trainers which NASA used for proficiency training.

The lead aircraft, NASA 901, was flown by Commander Elliot McKay See, Jr., United States Navy Reserve, designated as the Command Pilot for Gemini IX. Captain Charles Arthur (“Charlie”) Bassett II, U.S. Air Force, Pilot, Gemini IX, was in the rear cockpit. NASA 901 was a Northrop T-38A-50-NO Talon 63-8181 (Northrop serial number N.5528).

Northrop T-38A-50-NO Talon 63-8181

The second T-38, NASA 907, was flown by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas P. Stafford, U.S. Air Force, and Lieutenant Commander Euegen A. Cernan, U.S. Navy.

A NASA Northrop T-38A-75-NO Talon, N864NA, similar to NASA 901. (NASA)

Weather at Lambert-St. Louis Municipal Airport was poor with low clouds and limited visibility in rain and snow. Lambert Field weather at 8:25 a.m. was: sky partially obscured, measured ceiling 800 feet (244 meters) broken, 1,500 feet (457 meters) overcast, visibility 1½ miles (2.4 kilometers) in light rain, light snow, and fog.

Elliot See flew an ILS instrument approach and broke out of the clouds properly aligned with the runaway, but was too high to make a landing. He requested a visual, circling approach. The T-38 entered a 360° turn to the southeast at approximately 500 feet (152 meters). During the circling approach, Stafford in NASA 907, lost sight of See’s T-38 and executed a missed approach. As the airplane came around to line up for the runway, See radioed that he had the runway in sight, but, at 8:58 a.m., NASA 901 struck the top of McDonnell’s Building 101 and crashed.

The wreck immediately caught fire and both See and Bassett were killed. 16 people of the ground were injured.

The accident investigation board found that at approximately 3 seconds before the crash, Elliot See had apparently tried to climb away. The T-38’s angle of bank was significantly reduced and afterburner was selected.

Wreckage of NASA 901. (Scott Dine/St. Louis Post Dispatch)
Burned out wreckage of NASA 901 at Lambert Field, 28 February 1966. (Saint Louis Post-Dispatch)

The Northrop T-38A Talon is a two-place, twin-engine jet trainer capable of supersonic speed. It is 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The trainer’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms).

The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).

It has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour, 1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The Talon’s service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) and it has a maximum range of 1,093 miles (1,759 kilometers).

In production from 1961 to 1972, Northrop has produced nearly 1,200 T-38s. As of January 2014, the U.S. Air Force had 546 T-38A Talons in the active inventory. It also remains in service with the U.S. Navy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

© 2017 Bryan R. Swopes

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28 February 1946

Republic XP-84 Thunderjet 45-59475 takes of at Muroc AAF, California. (U.S. Air Force )
Republic XP-84 prototype 45-59475 at landing at Muroc Army Airfield, California, 1946. (U.S. Air Force )

28 February 1946: At Muroc Army Airfield, California, (now, Edwards Air Force Base) the first of three prototype Republic Aviation Corporation  XP-84 Thunderjet fighter bombers, serial number 45-59475, made its first flight with company test pilot Wallace Addison Lien in the cockpit.

The Republic Aviation Corporation began working on the XP-84 during 1944 as a jet-powered successor to the company’s P-47 Thunderbolt fighter bomber. The prototype was completed at the factory in Farmingdale, New York, in December 1945. It was then partially disassembled and loaded aboard Boeing’s prototype XC-97 Stratofreighter and flown west to Muroc Army Airfield in the high desert of southern California. It was reassembled and prepared for its first flight.

The XP-84 was 37 feet, 2 inches (11.328 meters) long, with a wingspan of 36 feet, 5 inches (11.100 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). It had an empty weight of 9,080 pounds (4,119 kilograms) and gross weight of 13,400 pounds (6,078 kilograms).

The XP-84 was powered by a General Electric J35-GE-7 engine. The J35 was a single-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with an 11-stage compressor and single-stage turbine. The J35-GE-7 was rated at 3,750 pounds of thrust (16.68 kilonewtons) (static thrust, Sea Level). The engine was 14 feet, 0.0 inches (4.267 meters) long, 3 feet, 4.0 inches (1.016 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,400 pounds (1,089 kilograms).

The XP-84 had a cruise speed of 440 miles per hour (708 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 592 miles per hour (953 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), which it could reach in approximately 13 minutes. The maximum range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The prototype Republic XP-84, as yet unpainted. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)
Republic XF-84. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The first of three prototypes, Republic XP-84 Thunderjet 45-59475 is parked on the dry lake at Muroc Army Airfield. (U.S. Air Force)
The first of three prototypes, Republic XP-84 Thunderjet 45-59475 is parked on the dry lake at Muroc Army Airfield. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet 45-59475. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet 45-59475. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet 45-59475. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet 45-59475. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet 45-59475 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic XP-84 Thunderjet 45-59475 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)

Wallace Addison Lien was born at Alkabo, in Divide County, at the extreme northwest corner of North Dakota, 13 August 1915. He was the second of six children of Olaf Paulson Lien, a Norwegian immigrant and well contractor, and Elma Laura Richardson Lien.

Wally Lien graduated from the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology, 17 June 1939, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He later studied at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) at Pasadena, California, and earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.

Wallace A. Lien

Lien enlisted in the  the United States Army at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 18 February 1941. He was accepted as an aviation cadet at Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 11 November 1941. 26 years old, Lien was 6 feet, 2 inches (1.88 meters) tall and weighed 174 pounds (79 kilograms). During World War II, Lien remained in the United States, where he served as a test pilot at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. He conducted flight tests of the Bell YP-59A Airacomet and the Lockheed XP-80 Shooting Star. Having reached the rank of Major, he left the Air Corps, 16 February 1946. Lien then worked for the Republic Aviation Corporation, testing the XP-84. A few months later, Lien went to North American Aviation, where he made the first flight of the the XFJ-1 Fury, 11 September 1946

Wallace Addison Lien married Miss Idella Muir at Elizabeth, New Jersey, 26 December 1946. They would have two children.

Wallace Addison Lien died at Colorado Springs, Colorado, 28 October 1994, at the age of 79 years.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 February 1965

Antonov An-22 Antheus CCCP-64459, the first prototype, at the Antonov flight test facility, Gostomel Airport, Kiev Oblast. (Oleg Belyakov)
Antonov An-22 Antheus CCCP-64459, the first prototype, at the Antonov flight test facility, Gostomel Airport, Kiev Oblast. (Oleg Belyakov)

27 February 1965: The first flight of the Antonov Design Bureau An-22 Antheus took place at Sviatoshyn Airfield, Kiev, Ukraine. The An-22 was the world’s largest airplane at the time, and it remains the world’s largest turboprop airplane.

The An-22 is 57.9 meters (190.0 feet) long with a wingspan of 64.40 meters (211.29 feet) and overall height of 12.53 meters (41.11 feet). The heavy-lift strategic transport has an empty weight of 114,000 kilograms (251,327 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight of 250,000 kilograms (551,156 pounds). It is powered by four Kuznetsov NK-12MA turboprop engines producing 15,000 horsepower, each, and which drive eight four-bladed, counter-rotating propellers.

The An-22 is operated by a flight crew of six and can carry 29 passengers, It’s payload capacity is 80,000 kilograms (176,370 pounds). It has a maximum speed of 740 kilometers per hour (460 miles per hour) and a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles) with a maximum payload.

Antonov produced 66 An-22 transports at the Tashkent Aircraft Production Corporation at Tashkent, Uzbekistan, between 1965 and 1976. 28 of these were the AN-22A variant. Several remain in service.

Antonov An-22 Antheus strategic heavy-lift turboprop transport. (Dmitry A. Mottl)
Antonov An-22 Antheus strategic heavy-lift turboprop transport. (Dmitry A. Mottl)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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