Tag Archives: Edwards AFB

4 June 1954

Major Arthur Warren "Kit" Murray, U.S. Air Force, with the Bell X-1A at Edwards AFB, 20 July 1954. Major Murray is wearing a David Clark Co. T-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit with a K-1 helmet. (NASA)
Major Arthur Warren “Kit” Murray, U.S. Air Force, with the Bell X-1A at Edwards AFB, 20 July 1954. Major Murray is wearing a David Clark Co. T-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit with a K-1 helmet. (NASA)

4 June 1954: at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Major Arthur W. “Kit” Murray flew the experimental Bell X-1A research rocketplane to an altitude of 89,810 feet (27,374 meters). He flew high enough that the sky darkened and he was able to see the curvature of the Earth. Newspapers called him “America’s first space pilot.”

The X-1A reached Mach 1.97. Encountering the same inertial coupling instability as had Chuck Yeager, 20 November 1953, though at a lower speed, the X-1A tumbled out of control. The rocket plane lost over 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) altitude before Murray could regain control. For this accomplishment, Major Murray was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

One week earlier, 28 May 1954, Murray had flown the X-1A to an unofficial world record altitude of 90,440 feet (27,566 meters).

Arthur Murray, 1936. (The Argus)

Arthur Warren Murray was born at Cresson, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, 26 December 1918. He was the first of two children of Charles Chester Murray, a clerk, and Elsie Espy Murray.

Arthur Murray attended Huntingdon High School, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, graduating 4 June 1936, and then studied Juniata College, also in Huntingdon, 1937–1938.

Arthur Murray, 1938. (The Nineteen Thirty-Seven Alfarata)

Kit Murray enlisted in the Field Artillery, Pennsylvania National Guard, 17 November 1939. (Some sources state that he served in the U.S. Cavalry.) Murray had brown hair and blue eyes, was 5 feet, 10 inches (1.78 meters) tall and weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms). Following the United States’ entry into World War II, Sergeant Murray requested to be trained as a pilot. He was appointed a flight officer (a warrant officer rank), Army of the United States, on 5 December 1942. On 15 October 1943 Flight Officer Murray received a battlefield promotion to the commissioned rank of second lieutenant, A.U.S.

Between 6 January  and 22 October 1943, Murray flew over 50 combat missions in the Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk across North Africa. After about ten months in the Mediterranean Theater, he returned to the United States, assigned as an instructor flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter bomber, stationed at Bradley Field, Hartford, Connecticut.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolts at Bradley Field, Connecticut, 9 September 1944. (U.S. Air Force)

Lieutenant Murray married Miss Elizabeth Anne Strelic, who had immigrated from Czechoslovakia with her family as an infant, at Atlantic City, New Jersey, 29 December 1943. They would have six children, and foster a seventh. They later divorced. (Mrs. Murray died in 1980.)

Lieutenant and Mrs. Arthur W. Murray, 1943. (Murray Family Collection)

Murray was promoted to 1st lieutenant, A.U.S., 8 August 1944. His next assignment was as a maintenance officer. He was sent to Maintenance Engineering School at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois, and from there to the Flight Test School at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.

Murray was the first test pilot to be permanently assigned to Muroc Army Air Field (later, Edwards Air Force Base). Other test pilots, such as Captain Chuck Yeager, were assigned to Wright Field and traveled to Muroc as necessary.

Murray’s A.U.S. commission was converted to first lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army, on 19 June 1947, with date of rank retroactive to 15 October 1946. The U.S. Air Force became a separate military service in 1947, and Lieutenant Murray became an officer in the new service.

Major Arthur Warren (“Kit”) Murray, United States Air Force, with a Northrop F-89 Scorpion interceptor, 1954. (The New York Times)

Murray was involved in testing new Air Force fighters such as the Bell P-59 Airacomet, Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, Republic P-84 Thunderjet, McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo; and the Douglas XB-43 Jetmaster and North American Aviation B-45 Tornado jet bombers. He also flew the experimental aircraft such as the X-1A, X-1B, X-4 and X-5. Murray spent six years at Edwards before going on to other assignments.

Colonel Arthur Warren (“Kit”) Murray, U.S. Air Force.

Later, 1958–1960, Major Murray was the U.S. Air Force project officer for the North American Aviation X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane at Wright Field.

Colonel Murray retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1961. He next worked for Boeing in Seattle, Washington, from 1961 to 1969, and then Bell Helicopter in Texas.

On 4 April 1975, Kit Murray married his second wife, Ms. Ann Tackitt Humphreys, an interior decorator, in Tarrant County, Texas.

Colonel Arthur Warren Murray, United States Air Force (Retired), died at West, Texas, 25 July 2011, at the age of 92 years.

NASA 800, a highly modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress, carries the Bell X-1A to altitude over Edwards AFB. (NASA)
A highly modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress carries the Bell X-1A to altitude over Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

The Bell X-1A was a follow-on project to the earlier X-1. It was designed and built by the Bell Aircraft Corporation at Buffalo, New York, to investigate speeds above Mach 2 and altitudes above 90,000 feet (27,432 meters). It was carried to altitude by a modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress, then dropped for the research flight.

The rocketplane was 35 feet, 7 inches (10.846 meters) long with a wingspan of 28 feet (8.534 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 8 inches (3.251 meters). It had an empty weight of 6,880 pounds (3,120.7 kilograms) and gross weight of 16,487 pounds (7,478.3 kilograms).

The X-1A was powered by a Reaction Motors XLR-11-RM-5 four-chamber rocket engine which produced 6,000 pounds of thrust. It had a maximum speed of Mach 2.44 (Yeager) and reached an altitude of 90,440 feet (27,566.1 meters) (Murray).

Bell X-1A 48-1384. (U.S. Air Force)
Bell X-1A 48-1384. (U.S. Air Force)

The X-1A was destroyed by an internal explosion, 20 July 1955.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 February 1975

Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager, USAF, made his last flight as an active duty Air Force officer aboard a McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 25 February 1975. (U.S. Air Force)
Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager, USAF, made his final flight as an active duty Air Force officer aboard a McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 25 February 1975. (U.S. Air Force)

25 February 1975: At Edwards Air Force Base, California,  Brigadier General Charles Elwood (“Chuck”) Yeager, United States Air Force, made his final flight as an active duty Air Force pilot, flying a McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II 65-0713.¹

Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager made his final flight in the U.S Air Force in the prototype McDonnell YF-4E Phantom II 65-0713.

During his career, General Yeager flew 180 different aircraft types and accumulated 10,131.6 flight hours.

General Yeager retired 1 March 1975 after 12,222 days of military service.

McDonnell YF-4E Phantom II 65-0713 was named Glamorous Glennis for General Yeager’s Final Flight.

¹ 65-0713 was a McDonnell F-45D-28-MC Phantom II which had been modified as the prototype YF-4E, armed with an M61 rotary cannon. Later, 65-0713 was used as a test bed for the F-4G Wild Weasel. The airplane is on display at Edwards Air Force Base.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 November 1966

Major William J. Knight, U.S. Air Force, with the modified X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Knight is wearing a David Clark Co. MC-2 full-pressure suit with an MA-3 helmet. (U.S. Air Force)
Major William J. Knight, U.S. Air Force, with the modified X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Knight is wearing a David Clark Co. MC-2 full-pressure suit with an MA-3 helmet. (U.S. Air Force)

18 November 1966: On Flight 175 of the research program, Major William J. (“Pete”) Knight, U.S. Air Force, flew the newly-modified North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, to Mach 6.33 (4,261 miles per hour/6,857 kilometers per hour) at 98,900 feet (30,245 meters). This is just 11 years, to the day, since Pete Everest made the first powered flight in the Bell Aircraft Corporation X-2 rocketplane, with more than 6 times an increase in speed.

On this date, NASA made an attempt to launch two X-15s, -671 and -672, using the NB-52A 52-003 and NB-52B 52-008. However -672, the number three ship, had to abort the mission.

At the left, Boeing NB-52A 52-003 carries X-15 56-6670 while on the right, NB-52B 52-008 carries X-15 56-6671.(NASA)
At the left, Boeing NB-52A 52-003 carries X-15 56-6670 while on the right, NB-52B 52-008 carries X-15 56-6671.(NASA)

Balls 8, the NB-52B, flown by NASA test pilot Fitz Fulton and Colonel Joe Cotton, USAF, carried 56-6671 to the launch point over Mud Lake, Nevada, approximately 200 miles to the north of Edwards AFB. (This was the lake where -671 was severely damaged in an emergency landing, 9 November 1962. It was returned to North American to be rebuilt to the X-15A-2 configuration and returned to flight operation 19 months later.)

At 1:24:07.2 p.m. local time, Pete Knight and the X-15 were dropped from the pylon under the right wing of the B-52. He ignited the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 and began to accelerate with its 57,000 pounds of thrust (253.549 kilonewtons).

Since this was to be a high temperature test flight, it was planned to fly no higher than 100,000 feet (30,480 meters). The denser atmosphere would result in greater aerodynamic heating of the rocketplane.

With the two external propellant tanks carrying an additional 1,800 gallons (6,814 liters) of liquid ammonia and liquid oxygen, the engine ran for 2 minutes, 16.4 seconds. The rocketplane had accelerated to Mach 2. The external tanks emptied in about 60 seconds and were jettisoned. The tanks were equipped with parachutes. They were recovered to be reused on later flights.

The X-15, now about 25,000 pounds (11,340 kilograms) lighter and without the aerodynamic drag of the tanks, continued to accelerate. At its highest speed, the rocketplane was travelling approximately 6,500 feet per second (1,981 meters per second), more than twice as fast as a high-powered rifle bullet. Its surface temperatures exceeded 1,200 °F. (649 °C.)

Knight landed the X-15 on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base. The duration of this flight had been 8 minutes, 26.8 seconds.

The modified North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, with external propellant tanks mounted. (NASA)
The modified North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, with external propellant tanks mounted. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 October 1955

The first of two Republic YF-105A-1-RE Thunderchief prototypes, 54-098, on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1955. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic Aviation test pilot Russell M. "Rusty" Roth. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Republic Aviation Corporation test pilot Russell M. “Rusty” Roth. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

22 October 1955: At Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California, Republic Aviation Corporation test pilot Russell M. (“Rusty”) Roth took the first of two prototype YF-105A-1-REs, serial number 54-098, for its first flight.

Though equipped with an under-powered Pratt & Whitney J57-P-25 interim engine, the new airplane was able to reach Mach 1.2 in level flight.

Aerodynamic improvements to the engine intakes and redesign of the fuselage to incorporate the drag-reducing “area rule,” along with the more powerful J75-P-5 turbojet engine allowed the production model F-105B to reach Mach 2.15.

The Thunderchief is the largest single-place, single-engine aircraft ever built. It was a Mach 2 fighter-bomber, designed for NATO defensive tactical nuclear strikes with a nuclear bomb carried in an internal bomb bay. The YF-105A was 61 feet, 0 inches (18.593 meters) long, with a wing span of 34 feet, 11 inches (10.643 meters) and overall height of 17 feet, 6 inches (5.334 meters). Its empty weight was 20,454 pounds (9,277 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) was 41,500 pounds (18,824 kilograms).

The Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3C (J57-P-25) was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7 high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The J57-P-25 had a Normal Power rating of 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.700 kilonewtons), and at Military Power produced 10,200 pounds of thrust (45.372 kilonewtons) (30-minute limit). The Maximum Power rating was 16,000 pounds of thrust (71.172 kilonewtons) with afterburner (5-minute limit). The J57-P-25 was 22 feet, 3.1 inches (6.784 meters) long, 3 feet, 3.8 inches (1.011 meters) in diameter, and weighed 5,120 pounds (2,322 kilograms).

The YF-105A’s wings were swept 45° at 25% chord. The angle of incidence was 0° and there was no twist. The wings had 3° 30′ anhedral. The total wing area was 385 square feet (35.8 square meters).

During testing, the prototype’s maximum speed was 770 knots (886 miles per hour (1,426 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters)—Mach 1.34—and 676 knots (778 miles per hour/1,252 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level—Mach 1.02. The YF-105A’s service ceiling was 52,050 feet (15,865 meters). It’s combat radius was 950 nautical miles (1,093 statute miles/1,759 kilometers), and the maximum ferry range was 2,321 nautical miles (2,671 statute miles/4,298 kilometers).

Repiblic YF-105A 54-098 landing at Edwards Air Force Base. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Republic YF-105A 54-098 landing at Edwards Air Force Base. (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The Thunderchief was armed with a General Electric T171E2 (M61) 20 mm six-barrel rotary cannon with 1,030 rounds of ammunition. 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms) of bombs could be carried in an internal bomb bay or on external hardpoints. A single free-fall B28IN variable-yield thermonuclear bomb could be carried in the bomb bay.

On 16 December 1955, YF-105A 54-098 made an emergency landing at Edwards AFB after one of its main landing gear assemblies was torn off when it failed to retract during a high speed flight. The pilot, Rusty Roth, was severely injured, but he survived. The prototype was shipped back to Republic for repair, but the cost was determined to be prohibitive.

Though designed for air-to-ground attack missions, F-105s are officially credited with 27.5 victories in air combat.

833 Thunderchiefs were built by Republic between 1955 and 1964. 334 of those were lost to enemy action during the Vietnam War. The F-105 remained in service with the United States Air Force until 1980, and with a few Air National Guard units until 1983.

Republic F-105D-5-RE Thunderchief 58-1173 carrying a bomb load of sixteen 750-pound M117 general purpose bombs. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-105D-5-RE Thunderchief 58-1173 carrying a bomb load of sixteen 750-pound M117 general purpose bombs. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 September 1984

Space Shuttle Discovery landing on Rogers Dry Lake, 0637 PDT, 5 September 1984. (NASA)

5 September 1984: Space Shuttle Discovery, OV-103, completed its first space flight, STS-41-D,  when it landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, at 6:37 a.m. PDT (13:37:54 UTC), 5 September 1984. It had completed 97 orbits of the Earth. The total duration of its flight was 6 days, 56 minutes, 4 seconds.

The purpose of the mission was to place three communications satellites into orbit, and to deploy an experimental solar panel array. Various other experiments were also carried out.

The Mission Commander was Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr., making his second space flight. Shuttle Pilot Michael L. Coats was on his first. Three Mission Specialists, Richard M. Mullane, Steven A. Hawley, Judith A. Resnick, and Payload Specialist Charles D. Walker, were all on their first space flight.

A highlight of this mission was the onboard filming by the crew of footage for the IMAX film, The Dream Is Alive.

Discovery is the space shuttle fleet leader, having made 39 orbital flights, more than any other shuttle.

Mission Specialist Judith Arlene Resnick was a crew member of shuttle mission STS-51-L. She was killed when Challenger was destroyed shortly after launch, 28 January 1986.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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