17 July 1989: The first Northrop B-2A Spirit, 82-1066, took off from Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, on its first flight. The crew was Northrop Chief Test Pilot Bruce J. Hinds and Colonel Richard Couch, U.S. Air Force. The top secret “stealth bomber” prototype landed at Edwards Air Force Base 1 hour, 52 minutes later.
After completing the flight test program, -1066 was placed in storage until 1993, awaiting upgrade to the Block 10 operational configuration. In 2000 it was again upgraded to the Block 30 standard. It is now named Spirit of America and assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
17 July 1965: At Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, the second North American Aviation B-70 Valkyrie prototype, XB-70A-2-NA 62-0207, took off on its maiden flight enroute Edwards Air Force Base where it would continue the flight test program with its sister ship.
The Valkyrie was designed as a Mach 3+ strategic bomber, capable of flight above 70,000 feet (21,336 meters), with intercontinental range. It’s altitude allowed it to avoid interceptors of the time, but improvements in radar-guided surface-to-air missiles increased its vulnerability. Ultimately, though, political decisions ended the B-70 program.
62-0207 was flown just 46 times, for a total of 92 hours, 22 minutes of flight. Changes to the aircraft corrected the deficiencies discovered in testing the Number 1 XB-70A, 62,-201. The most visible change was 5° dihedral added to the wings for improved stability. On 16 April 1966, 62-0207 reached its maximum design speed, Mach 3.08, which it sustained for 20 minutes.
Less than one year after its first flight, 8 June 1966, the Valkyrie was involved in a mid-air collision with a Lockheed F-104N and crashed just north of Barstow, California. North American’s B-70 test pilot, Al White, was seriously injured and co-pilot, Major Carl Cross, USAF, was killed. NASA test pilot Joe Walker, flying the F-104, was also killed.
11 May 1964: At Air Force Plant 42 near Palmdale, a small city in the high desert of southern California, the first prototype North American Aviation XB-70A-1-NA Valkyrie, 62-0001, was rolled out. More than 5,000 people were there to watch.
In August 1960, the U.S. Air Force had contracted for one XB-70 prototype and 11 pre-production YB-70 development aircraft. By 1964, however, the program had been scaled back to two XB-70As and one XB-70B. Only two were actually completed.
The B-70 was designed as a Mach 3+ strategic bomber capable of flying higher than 70,000 feet (21,336 meters). Like its contemporaries, the Lockheed Blackbirds, the Valkerie was so advanced that it was beyond the state of the art. New materials and processes had to be developed, and new industrial machinery designed and built.
The XB-70A is a very large aircraft with a canard-delta configuration, built primarily of stainless steel and titanium. It has twin vertical fins combining the functions of stabilizers and rudders. The XB-70A Valkyrie prototype is 193 feet, 5 inches (58.953 meters) long, including the pitot boom, with a wingspan of 105 feet, 0 inches (32.004 meters) and overall height of 30 feet, 9 inches (9.373 meters). The canard span is 28 feet, 10 inches (8.788 meters). The canard has flaps, while the delta wing used multiple separate elevons for pitch and roll control.
The delta wing has an angle of incidence of 0° and its leading edges are swept to 65.57°, with 0° sweep at the trailing edge. The wings have a maximum of -2.60° of twist. The wings of 62-001 have no dihedral, but the second B-70, 62-0207, had 5° dihedral. The total wing area is 6,297.8 square feet (585.1 square meters).
The canard also has 0° of incidence and dihedral. Its leading edge is swept aft 31.70°, while the trailing edge sweeps forward 14.91°. The canard has a total area of 415.59 square feet (38.61 square meters). The canard flaps can be lowered to 20°.
The vertical fins have a height of 15 feet (4.572 meters). The leading edges are swept 51.77° and the trailing edges, 10.89°.
The B-70 was designed to “surf” on its own supersonic shock wave (this was called “compression lift”). The outer 20 feet (6.096 meters) of each wing could be lowered to a 25° or 65° angle for high speed flight. Although this did provide additional directional stability, it actually helped increase the compression lift, which supported up to 35% of the airplane’s weight in flight.
The first prototype, 62-001, had an empty weight of 231,215 pounds (104,877 kilograms), an its maximum takeoff weight was 521,056 pounds (236,347 kilograms).
The XB-70A is powered by six General Electric YJ93-GE-3 engines, grouped together in the tail. These are single-spool, axial-flow, afterburning turbojet engines, which have an 11-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The YJ93-GE-3 has a normal power rating of 17,700 pounds of thrust (78.734 kilonewtons); military power, 19,900 pounds (88.520 kilonewtons); and maximum power, 28,000 pounds (124.550 kilonewtons). All ratings are at 6,825 r.p.m. and are continuous. A special high-temperature fuel, JP-6, is required. The engine is 19 feet, 8.3 inches (6.002 meters) long, 4 feet, 6.15 inches (1.375 meters) in diameter, and weighs 5,220 pounds (2,368 kilograms).
62-0001 had a cruise speed of 1,089 knots (1,253 miles per hour/2,016 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,688 meters), and maximum speed of 1,721 knots (1,980 miles per hour/3,187 kilometers per hour) at 79,050 feet (24,094 meters)—Mach 2.97. During flight testing, the XB-70A reached a maximum of Mach 3.08 (1,777 knots) with a sustained altitude of 74,000 feet (22,555 meters).
Fuel was carried in 11 internal tanks in the wings and fuselage and the maximum capacity was 43,646 gallons (165,218 liters), giving the bomber a combat range of 3,786 nautical miles (4,357 statute miles/7,012 kilometers).
The B-70 was designed to carry two B-53 two-stage radiation-implosion thermonuclear bombs in its internal bomb bay. A maximum of fourteen smaller weapons could be carried.
XB-70A-1 62-0001 first flew 21 September 1964, and exceeded Mach 3 for the first time on its 17th flight, 14 October 1965. Its final flight was 4 February 1969.
The second prototype, XB-70A-2-NA 62-0207, was destroyed in a midair collision. The third Valkyrie, XB-70B-NA 62-0208, was cancelled before completion.
62-0001 is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It has made 83 flights with just 160 hours, 16 minutes, total flight time.
17 April 1956: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation rolled out the very first production F-104A Starfighter, 55-2956, at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. This airplane, one of the original seventeen pre-production YF-104As, incorporated many improvements over the XF-104 prototype, the most visible being a longer fuselage.
Once the configuration was finalized, 55-2956 was the first YF-104A converted to the F-104A production standard. In this photograph, the F-104’s secret engine intakes are covered by false fairings.
The Lockheed F-104A Starfighter was a single-place, single-engine supersonic interceptor. It was designed by a team lead by the legendary Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson. The F-104A was 54 feet, 8 inches (16.662 meters) long with a wingspan of 21 feet, 9 inches (6.629 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 5 inches (4.089 meters). It had an empty weight of 13,184 pounds (5,980.2 kilograms), combat weight of 17,988 pounds (8,159.2 kilograms), gross weight of 22,614 pounds (10,257.5 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 25,840 pounds (11,720.8 kilograms). Internal fuel capacity was 897 gallons (3,395.5 liters).
The F-104A was powered by a single General Electric J79-GE-3A engine, a single-spool axial-flow afterburning turbojet, which used a 17-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine. The J79-GE-3A is rated at 9,600 pounds of thrust (42.70 kilonewtons), and 15,000 pounds (66.72 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The engine is 17 feet, 3.5 inches (5.271 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.3 inches (0.973 meters) in diameter, and weighs 3,325 pounds (1,508 kilograms).
The F-104A had a maximum speed of 1,037 miles per hour (1,669 kilometers per hour) at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters). Its stall speed was 198 miles per hour (319 kilometers per hour). The Starfighter’s initial rate of climb was 60,395 feet per minute (306.8 meters per second) and its service ceiling was 64,795 feet (19,750 meters).
Armament was one General Electric M61 Vulcan six-barreled revolving cannon with 725 rounds of 20 mm ammunition. An AIM-9B Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile could be carried on each wing tip, or a jettisonable fuel tank with a capacity of 141.5 gallons (535.6 liters).
Lockheed built 153 of the F-104A Starfighter initial production version. A total of 2,578 F-104s of all variants were produced by Lockheed and its licensees, Canadair, Fiat, Fokker, MBB, Messerschmitt, Mitsubishi and SABCA. By 1969, the F-104A had been retired from service. The last Starfighter, an Aeritalia-built F-104S ASA/M of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana, was retired in October 2004.
This Starfighter, 55-2956, was converted to a JF-104A with specialized instrumentation. It was transferred to the U.S. Navy to test AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles at Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) China Lake, approximately 55 miles (88 kilometers) north-northeast of Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California. 55-2956 was damaged beyond repair when it lost power on takeoff and ran off the runway at Armitage Field, 15 June 1959.
6 March 1990: On its final flight, Lieutenant Colonel Raymond E. (“Ed”) Yeilding and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph T. (“J.T.”) Vida established four National Aeronautic Association and three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale speed records with a Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird, U.S. Air Force serial number 61-7972.
Departing Air Force Plant 42 (PMD) at Palmdale, California, Yeilding and Vida headed offshore to refuel from a Boeing KC-135Q Stratotanker so that the Blackbird’s fuel tanks would be full before beginning their speed run. 972 entered the “west gate,” a radar reference point over Oxnard on the southern California coast, then headed east to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) at Washington, D.C.
The transcontinental flight, a distance of 2,404.05 statute miles (3,868.94 kilometers), took 1 hour, 7 minutes, 53.69 seconds, for an average of 2,124.51 miles per hour (3,419.07 kilometers per hour).
Intermediate closed-course records were also established: Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., 2,299.67 miles (3,700.96 kilometers), 1:04:19.89, averaging 2,144.83 m.p.h (3,451.77 km/h).; Kansas City to Washington, D.C., 942.08 miles (1,516.13 km), 25:58.53, 2,176.08 m.p.h. (3,502.06 km/h); and St. Louis to Cincinnati, 311.44 miles (501.21 km), 8:31.97, 2,189.94 m.p.h. (3,524.37 km/h).
This same SR-71 had previously set a speed record from New York to London of 1:54:56.4, averaging 1,806.957 m.p.h. (2,908.015 km/h). (It had to slow for inflight refueling.) Next, 972 set a record flying London to Los Angeles, 5,446.87 miles (8765.89 km), in 3 hours, 47 minutes, 39 seconds, averaging 1,435.49 m.p.h. (2,310.19 km/h). It also established an altitude record of 85,069 feet (25,929 meters).
This was 61-7972’s final flight. The total time on its airframe was 2,801.1 hours.
61-7972 is on display at the Steven V. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.