Tag Archives: Delta Wing

18 September 1948

Lieutenant Ellis Dent Shannon, Air Corps, United States Army

18 September 1948: The first delta-winged aircraft took flight for the first time when Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation test pilot Ellis D. “Sam” Shannon lifted off from Muroc Dry Lake with the prototype delta-wing XF-92A, serial number 46-682. For the next  18 minutes he familiarized himself with the new aircraft type, before landing back on the lake bed.

The Convair XF-92 on Rogers Dry lake. (U.S. Air Force)
The Convair XF-92A on Muroc Dry Lake. (U.S. Air Force)

Later, with Captain Chuck Yeager flying, the XF-92A reached Mach 1.05. Yeager found that the airplane’s delta wing made it nearly impossible to stall, even with a 45° angle of attack. He was able to land the airplane at nearly 100 miles per hour slower than the designers had predicted.

The XF-92A was a difficult airplane to fly. NACA test pilot Scott Crossfield commented, “Nobody wanted to fly the XF-92. There was no lineup of pilots for the airplane. It was a miserable flying beast.” Scotty made 25 flights in the experimental delta-winged aircraft. On its last flight, 14 October 1953, the airplane’s nose gear collapsed after landing. The XF-92A was damaged and never flew again.

Convair XF-92A 46-682 on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair XF-92A 46-682 on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)

The XF-92A (Consolidated-Vultee Model 7-002) was a single-place, single-engine prototype fighter. The airplane was 42 feet, 6 inches (12.954 meters) long with a wingspan of 31 feet, 4 inches (9.550 meters) and overall height of 17 feet, 9 inches (5.410 meters). It had an empty weight of 9,078 pounds (4,118 kilograms) and gross weight of 14,608 pounds (6,626 kilograms).

The prototype was originally powered by It was powered by an Allison J33-A-21 centrifugal-flow turbojet engine with a single-stage compressor and single-stage turbine. It produced 4,250 pounds of thrust at 11,500 r.p.m. at Sea Level. This was later replaced by a more powerful J33-A-29 (7,500 pounds thrust).

The XF-92A touches down on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The XF-92A touches down on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The XF-92A had a maximum speed of 718 miles per hour (1,156 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 50,750 feet (15,469 meters).

The XF-92A was not put into production. It did appear in several motion pictures, including “Toward The Unknown” (one of my favorites). It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This was the first of several Convair delta-winged aircraft, including the F2Y Sea Dart, F-102A Delta Dart and F-106A Delta Dagger supersonic interceptors, and the B-58A Hustler four-engine Mach 2+ strategic bomber.

Consolidated-Vultee XF-92A 46-682 is displayed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The flight test program of the XF-92A came to an ignonimous colclusion
The flight test program of the XF-92A came to an ignominious conclusion on 14 October 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Ellis Dent Shannon was born at Andalusia, Alabama, 7 February 1908. He was the third of five children of John William and Lucy Ellen Barnes Shannon.

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant the Alabama National Guard (Troop C, 55th Machine Gun Squadron, Cavalry) 21 May 1926. He transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1929. In 1930, he was stationed at Brooks Army Airfield, Texas.

In 1932 Shannon was employed was assigned as a flight instructor and an advisor to the government of China.

On 24 December 1932, Shannon married Miss Martha Elizabeth Reid at Shanghai, China. They had son, Ellis Reid Shannon, born at Shanghai, 24 August 1934, and a daughter, Ann N. Shannon, born at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1940.

Shannon and his family returned to the United States in 1935 aboard SS Bremen, arriving at New York.

He was employed by the Glenn L. Martin Co., at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1936 as a test and demonstration pilot. He travel throughout Latin America for the company, demonstrating the company’s aircraft. As a test pilot he flew the Martin Model 187 Baltimore, the B-26 Marauder, PBM Mariner and the Martin JRM Mars.

In February 1943, Shannon started working as a Chief of Flight Research for the Consolidated Aircraft Company at San Diego, California. While there, made the first flights of the Consolidated XB-24K, a variant of the Liberator bomber with a single vertical tail fin; the XR2Y-1, a prototype commercial airliner based on the B-24 Liberator bomber; the XB-46 jet-powered medium bomber; the XP5Y-1 Tradewind, a large flying boat powered by four-turboprop-engines; the Convair 340 Metropolitan airliner; and the XF2Y Sea Dart, a delta-winged seaplane powered by two turbojet engines. Shannon also participated in the flight test program of the YF-102A Delta Dart.

After retiring from Convair in 1956, Ellis and Martha Shannon remained in the San Diego area. Ellis Dent Shannon died at San Diego, California, 8 April 1982 at the age of 74 years.

Ellis Dent Shannon, Convair test pilot (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Ellis Dent Shannon, Convair test pilot, circa 1953. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 June 1962

Jacqueline Auriol climbs out of the cockpit of a Dassault Mirage IIIC. (Joyeux Magazine)

22 June 1962: At Istres, France, Société des Avions Marcel Dassault test pilot Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet Auriol flew a delta-winged Dassault Mirage III C interceptor to set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 100 Kilometers. Her average speed over the course was 1,850.2 kilometers per hour (1,149.7 miles per hour).¹ Mme. Auriol broke the record set 6 October 1961 by Jacqueline Cochran with a Northrop T-38A Talon.²

Dassault Mirage III C. (Dassault Aviation)

The Dassault Mirage III C was the first production variant of the Mirage series. It was a single-place, single-engine tailless-delta-wing interceptor designed for Armée de l’air (the French air force), with variants for export. It was designed as a light-weight fighter capable of Mach 2 speeds.

The Mirage III C was 45 feet, 5 inches (13,843 meters) long with a wingspan of 27 feet, 0 inches (8.230 meters) and height of 14 feet, 9 inches (4.496 meters.) The fuselage had a horizontal ellipse cross section and incorporated the Area Rule, similar to the delta wing Convair F-102A. The Mirage IIIC had an empty weight of 12,350 pounds (5,602 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of  max gross 22,860 pounds (10,369 kilograms).

The interceptor’s low-mounted delta wings used trailing edge flight controls, with ailerons outboard, elevators at the center and small trim tabs inboard. The leading edges were swept aft to 60° 34′ and there was 2° 30′ anhedral. The total wing area was 366 square feet (34.00 square meters).

The Mirage III C was powered by a Société nationale d’études et de construction de moteurs d’aviation (SNECMA) Atar 09C single shaft, axial-flow turbo-réacteur (turbojet engine) with afterburner. The engine used a 9-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. It was rated at 9,430 pounds of thrust (41.947 kilonewtons), and 13,669 pounds (60.803 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The Atar 09C was 5.900 meters (19 feet, 4.28 inches) long, 1.000 meters (3 feet, 3.37 inches) in diameter and weighed 1,456 kilograms (3,210 pounds).

When configured as a high-altitude interceptor, the Mirage could be equipped with a hypergolic liquid fueled Société d’Études pour la Propulsion par Réaction SEPR 841 rocket engine mounted under the rear fuselage. When the booster pack not used, a small additional fuel tank would be mounted in the same position.

The Dassault Mirage III C could climb to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) in 3 minutes, 60,000 feet (18,288 meters) in 6 minutes, 10 seconds, and reach 72,000 feet (21,946 meters) in 9 minutes. It had an economical cruise speed of 0.9 Mach at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters), and maximum speed of Mach 2.3 at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters). The maximum range with external fuel tanks was 1,850 miles (2977 kilometers).

The interceptor was equipped with search radar and a missile targeting computer. Armament consisted of a modular gun pack with two Direction des Études et Fabrications d’Armement (DEFA) 5-52 autocannon with 125 rounds of ammunition per gun (the targeting computer had to be removed for this installation). A Nord AA.20 guided air-to-air missile could be carried under the fuselage on a centerline hardpoint, or a AS.30 air-to-ground missile. Both of these were controlled by the pilot through a cockpit joystick. Alternatively, two Sidewinder infrared-homing air to air missiles were carried on underwing pylons.

95 Mirage IIICs were built. The served with the Armée de l’air from 1961 to 1988.

Dassault Mirage III C No. 92. (Dassault Aviation)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12391.

² FAI Record File Number 13036: 1,262.19 km/h (784.29 miles per hour)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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