26 January 1975

McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC 72-0119 Streak Eagle, Aquila Maxima, world record holder. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC 72-0119 Streak Eagle, Aquila Maxima, world record holder. (U.S. Air Force)
Major David W. Peterson, U.S. Air Force.
Major David W. Peterson, U.S. Air Force.

26 January 1975: In a continuing series of time-to-altitude records, Major David W. Peterson, U.S. Air Force, a test pilot assigned to the F-15 Joint Test Force at Edwards AFB, California, ran the engines of the McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC, 72-0119, Streak Eagle to full afterburner while it was attached to a hold-back device on the runway at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. The fighter was released and 161.025 seconds later it climbed through 82,020.997 feet (25,000 meters), setting another Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record. This was the seventh time-to-altitude record set by the modified F-15 in just ten days.

FAI Record File Num #9070 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Time to climb to a height of 25 000 m
Performance: 2 min 41.025s
Date: 1975-01-26
Course/Location: Grand Forks, ND (USA)
Claimant David W. Peterson (USA)
Aeroplane: McDonnell Douglas F-15
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney F-100

Streak Eagle, the modified McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC, 72-0119, on the runway at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, being prepared for a flight record attempt. (U.S. Air Force)

Streak Eagle is a very early production F-15A-6-MC Eagle, a single-seat, twin-engine air superiority fighter. It is 63 feet, 9.0 inches (19.431 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9.7 inches (13.048 meters) and overall height of 18 feet, 5.4 inches (5.624 meters). The F-15A has an empty weight of 25,870 pounds (11,734 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 44,497 pounds (20,184 kilograms).

The F-15A is powered by two Pratt & Whitney JTF22A-25A (F100-PW-100) afterburning turbofan engines. The F100 is a two-spool, axial-flow turbine engine with a 3-stage fan section; 10-stage compressor; single chamber combustion section; and 4-stage turbine (2 low- and 2 high-pressure stages). The engine has a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 12,410 pounds of thrust (55.202 kilonewtons); 14,690 pounds (65.344 kilonewtons, 30-minute limit; and a maximum 23,840 pounds (106.046 kilonewtons), 5-minute limit. The F100-PW-100 is 191 inches (4.851 meters) long, 46.5 inches (1.181 meters) in diameter, and weighs 3,035 pounds (1,376.7 kilograms).

The cruise speed of the F-15A Eagle is 502 knots (578 miles per hour/930 kilometers per hour). It has a maximum speed of 893 knots (1,028 miles per hour/1,654 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 1,434 knots (1,650 miles per hour/2,656 kilometers per hour) at 45,000 feet (13,716 meters). The ceiling is 63,050 feet (19,218 meters) at maximum power. It can climb at an initial 67,250 feet per minute (342 meters per second) from Sea Level, and with a thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.15:1, The F-15 can climb straight up. The Eagle’s combat radius is 638 nautical miles (734 statute miles/1,182kilometers).

The F-15A is armed with one General Electric M61A1 Vulcan 20mm rotary cannon with 938 rounds of ammunition, four AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles and four AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.

384 F-15A Eagles were built before production shifted to the improved F-15C version. As F-15Cs became operation, the F-15As were transferred to Air National Guard units assigned to defend continental U.S. airspace. The last F-15A was retired from service in 2009.

Streak Eagle over St. Louis. (McDonnell Douglas Corporation)

Streak Eagle was specially modified for the record attempts. Various equipment that would not be needed for these flights was eliminated: The flap and speed brake actuators, the M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm cannon and its ammunition handling equipment, the radar and fire control systems, unneeded cockpit displays and radios, and one generator.

Other equipment was added: A long pitot boom was mounted at the nose with alpha and beta vanes, equipment for the pilot’s David Clark Company A/P-225-6 full pressure suit, extremely sensitive accelerometers and other instrumentation, extra batteries, an in-cockpit video camera aimed over the pilot’s shoulder, and perhaps most important, a special hold-down device was installed in place of the fighter’s standard arresting hook.

These changes resulted in an airplane that was approximately 1,800 pounds (817 kilograms) lighter than the standard production F-15A. This gave it a thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.4:1.

The flight profiles for the record attempts were developed by McDonnell Douglas Chief Experimental Test Pilot, Charles P. “Pete” Garrison (Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired).

McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC Streak Eagle 72-0119. (U.S. Air Force)

Streak Eagle carried only enough fuel for each specific flight, and weighed 36,709 pounds (16.650.9 kilograms). It was secured to the hold-back device on the runway and the engines were run up to full afterburner. It was released from the hold-back and was airborne in just three seconds.

When the F-15 reached 428 knots (793.4 kilometers per hour), the pilot pulled up into an Immelman turn, holding 2.5 Gs. Streak Eagle would arrive back over the air base, in level flight at about 32,000 feet (9,754 meters), but upside down. Rolling up right, Streak Eagle continued accelerating to Mach 1.8 and the pilot would pull the fighter up at 4.0 Gs until it reached a 55° climb angle. He held 55° until he had reached 25,000 meters, then pushed over. Streak Eagle returned to land at Grand Forks.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 5.46.11 PMBecause Streak Eagle was a very early production airplane, its internal structure was weaker than the final production F-15A standard. It was considered too expensive to modify it to the new standard. It was transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in December 1980.

Streak Eagle, the record-setting McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC, 72-0119, in "Compass Ghost" two-tone blue camouflage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Streak Eagle, the record-setting McDonnell Douglas F-15A-6-MC, 72-0119, in “Compass Ghost” two-tone gray camouflage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 thoughts on “26 January 1975

  1. Vividly remember the day, a cold and clear Sunday. Impressive. Watched the event out the window of my room on the second floor of Barracks 229 (which, like a lot of things at/on/about GFAFB, no longer exists). The engine runup caught my attention because the sound was dissimilar to the aircraft there at the time (B-52s and KC-135s), and it was a weekend.

    Just one of the many memories while stationed at GFAFB from 1974-1978 as an evaluator with the 321 SPG. Others include frequent travels throughout the ICBM field (e.g., launch site A-8, the furthest site from GFAFB and closest to the Canadian border, J-46 near Devil’s Lake and westernmost site, and M-24, the southernmost site down by Interstate 94 and Valley City), the activation then inactivation of this country’s only ABM site located near Lakota, and the “100-year” flood of 1978 which was followed a year later in 1979 by another “100-year” flood.

    DW

      1. Brian: Douglas Westfall, national historian here — we’ve communicated a few time. I’ve been working (& published) a new story on Earhart — and they’ve found a plane on her flight path.
        Interested? Just email me.

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