Tag Archives: Edwards Air Force Base

10 April 1959

Prototype Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191 takes off for the first time at Edwards AFB, 10 April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)
Prototype Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191 at Edwards AFB, 10 April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)

10 April 1959: Northrop test pilot Lewis A. Nelson made the first takeoff of the prototype YT-38-5-NO Talon, serial number 58-1191, at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

A private venture by Northrop, the Talon was designed by a team led by Edgar Schmued, famous for his work on the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre and the F-100 Super Sabre. The Talon is a twin-engine advanced trainer capable of supersonic speeds. More than 5,500 hours of wind tunnel testing was performed before the airplane’s final configuration was determined.

After testing, the two YT-38s were modified to the YT-38A configuration. The modified aircraft was accepted by the United States Air Force and ordered into production as the T-38A Talon.

The T-38 was the world’s first supersonic flight trainer. The Northrop T-38A Talon is a pressurized, two-place, twin-engine, jet trainer. Its fuselage is very aerodynamically clean and uses the “area-rule” (“coked”) to improve its supersonic capability. It is 46 feet, 4.5 inches (14.135 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10.5 inches (3.924 meters). The one-piece wing has an area of 170 square feet (15.79 square meters). The leading edge is swept 32º. The airplane’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight is approximately 12,700 pounds (5,761 kilograms).

Northrop YT-38-5-NO 58-1191 in flight over Edwards AFB, 10 April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)
Northrop YT-38-5-NO 58-1191 in flight over Edwards AFB, 10 April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)

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).

The T-38A has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour/1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and Mach 1.3 (882 miles per hour/1,419 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). It has a rate of climb of 33,600 feet per minute (171 meters per second) and a service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters). Its range is 1,140 miles (1,835 kilometers).

Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191. (Northrop)
Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191. (Northrop)

Between 1959 and 1972, 1,187 T-38s were built at Northrop’s Hawthorne, California factory. As of 2014, 546 T-38s remained in the U.S. Air Force active inventory. The U.S. Navy has 10, and NASA operates 15.

Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191. (Northrop)
Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191. (Northrop)
58-1191 and sister ship 58-1192 were converted to YT-38As. (Northrop)
Lewis A. Nelson. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Lewis Albert Nelson was born 13 September 1920 at San Diego, California, the second of three children of George Walter Nelson, an electrician, and Edith Clarissa Merrill Nelson. He grew up in Santa Cruz, California.

Nelson first flew in a Piper J-3 Cub as a teenager. While attending a junior college in 1939, he was accepted into the Civilian Pilot Training Program and continued while at San Jose State College, San Jose, California.

Nelson enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Moffett Field, California, 12 January 1942. He was 5 feet, 7 inches (1.702 meters) tall and weighed 154 pounds (69.9 kilograms). He served until 1947. He was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After leaving the Air Corps, Nelson studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, graduating in 1949. He later earned a master’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Lew Nelson worked as an aeronautical engineer for the National Advisory Commission on Aeronautics (NACA), and joined the Northrop Corporation as a test pilot in 1950. In 1952 he was promoted to Chief Experimental Test Pilot. Nelson made the first flights of a number of Northrop aircraft, such as the F-89 Scorpion, N-156 and F-5. Nelson retired from Northrop in 1986.

He married Elaine M. Miller, Clark County, Nevada, 28 April 1979.

Lewis Albert Nelson died at Menifee, California, 15 January 2015, at the age of 94 years. His remains were buried at sea.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 April 1959

Colonel Edward H. Taylor’s record-setting McDonnell RF-101C-75-MC Voodoo, 56-0119, at Edwards AFB, April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Edward H. Taylor, USAF, with McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo. (U.S. Air Force via aeroweb)

6 April 1959: At Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California, Colonel Edward Hamilton Taylor, United States Air Force, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 1000 Kilometer Course of 1,126.62 kilometers per hour (700.05 miles per hour),¹ flying a McDonnell RF-101C-75-MC Voodoo, serial number 56-0119.

The F-101 Voodoo was the first production airplane capable of speeds over 1,000 miles per hour (1,609.34 kilometers per hour). Colonel Taylor’s RF-101C was an unarmed photographic reconnaissance variant.

Nine days later, Captain George A. Edwards, Jr., flew another RF-101C to a World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 500 Kilometers of 1,313.677 kilometers per hour (816.281 miles per hour).²

Ed Taylor, 1940 (The Cactus)

Edward Hamilton Taylor was born 8 October 1920 at Lone Oak, Texas. He was the son of Dr. Edward and Mrs. Viola Taylor. He graduated from Austin High School, Austin, Texas, and attended the University of Texas in Austin.

Taylor enlisted in the Texas National Guard on his eighteenth birthday, 8 October 1938. He was appointed an aviation cadet, Air Corps, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), 7 February 1942, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, 10 November 1942. He was promoted to first lieutenant, 9 September 1943, and captain, 6 April 1944. On 6 April 1945, Taylor was promoted to major, A.U.S. Following World War II, Taylor reverted to his permanent rank of first lieutenant, Air Reserve.

Miss Cordelia Brown Harwood, (Holbrook Studio/Valley Morning Star)

Edward Hamilton Taylor married Miss Cordelia Brown Harwood at St. Albin’s Church in Austin, 31 August 1946. They would have four sons.

Edward Taylor was a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, flying reconnaissance missions over Saipan and Iwo Jima in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, F-80 fighters in Korea and over North Vietnam in both the RF-101C and the RF-4C Phantom II.

His final Air Force assignment was as Director of Aerospace Vehicles Training, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Colonel Taylor retired from the Air Force 1 January 1968 after 29 years of military service.

A Command Pilot with over 5,000 hours of flight experience, he had been twice awarded the Legion of Merit; the Distinguished Flying Cross, also twice, and fifteen Air Medals.

Colonel Edward Hamiton Taylor, United States Air Force (Retired) died  at Austin, Texas 17 June 2007. He was buried at the Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, Austin, Texas.

His record-setting Voodoo had been on display at Bergstrom AFB, Austin, Texas, Colonel Taylor’s home town. The airplane’s nose section with its reconnaissance array is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.

The world record setting McDonnell RF-101C-75-MC Voodoo 56-0119 at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Austin, Texas, 1978. (Ron Downey/Aviation Archives)

The RF-101C Voodoo was an unarmed reconnaissance variant of the F-101C fighter. It was 69 feet, 4 inches (21.133 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 8 inches (12.090 meters). The height was 18 feet (5.486 meters). Empty weight for the RF-101C was 26,136 pounds (11,855 kilograms), with a maximum takeoff weight of 51,000 pounds (23,133 kilograms).

McDonnell RF-101C-75-MC Voodoo 56-0119 (NASM)

The F-101C was powered by two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-13 afterburning turbojet engines. The J57 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet which had 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-13 was rated at 10,200 pounds of thrust (45.37 kilonewtons), and 15,800 pounds (70.28 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It was 17 feet, 7.0 inches (5.359 meters) long, 3 feet, 4.3 inches (1.024 meters) in diameter, and weighed 5,25 pounds (2,279 kilograms).

The F-101C had a maximum speed of 1,012 miles per hour (1,629 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The service ceiling was 55,300 feet (16,855 meters).

The Voodoo could carry up to three drop tanks, giving a total fuel capacity of 3,150 gallons (11,294 liters) and a maximum range of 2,145 miles (3,452 kilometers).

The RF-101C carried six cameras in its nose. Two Fairchild KA-1s were aimed downward, with four KA-2s facing forward, down and to each side.

Beginning in 1954, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation built 807 F-101 Voodoos. 166 of these were the RF-101C variant. This was the only F-101 Voodoo variant to be used in combat during the Vietnam War. The RF-101C remained in service with the U.S. Air Force until 1979.

¹ FAI Record File Number 8928

² FAI Record File Number 8858

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 March 1966

Test pilot Jack L. Zimmerman with the record-setting Hughes YOH-6A Light Observation Helicopter, 62-4213. (FAI)

27 March 1966: At Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California, Hughes Aircraft Company test pilot Jack Louis Zimmerman flew the third prototype YOH-6A Light Observation Helicopter, 62-4213, to set six Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude and Time-to-Climb. The records were set in two sub-classes, based on the helicopter’s take-off weight. Fifty-three years later, one of these records still stands.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1966. (FAI)

Zimmerman took the YOH-6A from the surface to a height of 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 4 minutes, 1.5 seconds ;¹ and to 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) in 7 minutes, 12 seconds.² The helicopter reached an altitude in level flight of 8,061 meters (26,447 feet).³  9921 remains the current record for helicopters in Sub-Class E-1b, with a takeoff weight of 500–1,000 kilograms (1,102–2,205pounds).

Beginning with a takeoff weight between 1,000–1,750 kilograms (2,205–3,858 pounds) (Sub-Class E-1c), Zimmerman took the “loach” to a height 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 5 minutes, 37 seconds.⁴ The helicopter reached an altitude of 5,503 meters (16,578 feet), without payload.⁵

[The field elevation of Edwards Air Force Base (EDW) is 2,210 feet (704 meters) above Sea Level. If the time-to-altitude flights had been made at nearby NAS Point Mugu (NTD) on the southern California coast, which has a field elevation 13 feet (4 meters), the times might have been significantly reduced. The air temperature at Edwards, though, was much colder.]

One day earlier, 26 March, Allison Engine Company test pilot Jack Schweibold flew the same YOH-6A  to set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing of 2,800.20 kilometers (1,739.96 miles).⁶ One week earlier, 20 March, Jack Zimmerman had set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing of 1,700.12 kilometers (1,056.41 miles).⁷ Fifty-three years later, these four World Records still stand.

The Hughes Model 369 was built in response to a U.S. Army requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (“L.O.H.”). It was designated YOH-6A, and the first aircraft received U.S. Army serial number 62-4211. It competed with prototypes from Bell Helicopter Company (YOH-4) and Fairchild-Hiller (YOH-5). All three aircraft were powered by a lightweight Allison Engine Company turboshaft engine. The YOH-6A won the three-way competition and was ordered into production as the OH-6A Cayuse. It was nicknamed “loach,” an acronym for L.O.H.

The third prototype YOH-6A, 62-4213, testing the XM-7 twin M60 7.62 weapons system. (U.S. Army)

The YOH-6A was a two-place light helicopter, flown by a single pilot. It had a four-bladed, articulated main rotor which turned counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Stacks of thin stainless steel “straps” fastened the rotor blades to the hub and were flexible enough to allow for flapping and feathering. Hydraulic dampers controlled lead-lag. Originally, there were blade cuffs around the main rotor blade roots in an attempt to reduce aerodynamic drag, but these were soon discarded. A two-bladed semi-rigid tail rotor was mounted on the left side of the tail boom. Seen from the left, the tail-rotor rotates counter-clockwise. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.)

The YOH-6A was powered by a T63-A-5 turboshaft engine (Allison Model 250-C10) mounted behind the cabin at a 45° angle. The engine was rated at 212 shaft horsepower at 52,142 r.p.m. (102% N1) and 693 °C. turbine outlet temperature for maximum continuous power, and 250 shaft horsepower at 738 °C., 5-minute limit, for takeoff. Production OH-6A helicopters used the slightly more powerful T63-A-5A (250-C10A) engine.

The Hughes Tool Company Aircraft Division built 1,420 OH-6A Cayuse helicopters for the U.S. Army. The helicopter remains in production as AH-6C and MH-6 military helicopters, and the MD500E and MD530F civil aircraft.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 is in the collection of the United States Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama.

U.S. Army Hughes YOH-6A prototype 62-4213 at Le Bourget, circa 1965.

¹ FAI Record File Number 9922

² FAI Record File Number 9923

³ FAI Record File Numbers 9920 and 9921

⁴ FAI Record File Number 771

⁵ FAI Record File Number 772

⁶ FAI Record File Numbers 786, 787 and 11656.

⁷ FAI Record File Number 762.

© 2017 Bryan R. Swopes

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26 March 1966

Allison Engine Co. test pilot Jack l. Schweibold with teh record-setting prototype Hughes YOH-6A, 62-4213, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1966. (FAI)
Allison Engine Co. test pilot Jack Schweibold with the record-setting number three prototype Hughes YOH-6A Light Observation Helicopter, 62-4213, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1966. (FAI)

26 March 1966: Allison Engine Company test pilot Jack Schweibold flew the third prototype Hughes Aircraft Company YOH-6A Light Observation Helicopter, 62-4213, to set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing of 2,800.20 kilometers (1,739.96 miles), including an Absolute Record for Class E (Rotorcraft).¹ These records still stand.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1966. (FAI)
Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1966. (FAI)

One week earlier, 20 March 1966, Hughes Aircraft Company test pilot Jack L. Zimmerman flew the same helicopter to set another distance record of of 1,700.12 kilometers (1,056.41 miles).² One 27 March, Zimmerman would set six more world records with 62-4213.³

Jack Schweibold wrote about the record flight in his autobiography, In the Safety of His Wings (Holy Fire Publishing, DeLand, Florida, 2005). He was one of a group of military and civilian test pilots selected to attempt a series of world record flights at Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California. From 20 March to 7 April 1966, they flew 62-4213 over a series of distances and altitudes.

Edwards Air Force Base, California, circa 1970. The runway complex is at top, center. (U.S. Department of Defense)

Jack Schweibold’s record attempt began at midnight to take advantage of the cold desert air. The cold-soaked YOH-6A had been fueled with pre-cooled JP-5 in order to get the maximum amount of fuel on board. In addition to the standard fuel tank, two auxiliary tanks were placed in the cabin. The helicopter was so heavy from the overload that it could not hover. Jack made a running take-off, sliding the skids across the concrete until the increasing translational lift allowed the aircraft to break free of the ground. He began a very shallow climb.

Schweibold was flying a 60 kilometer (37.28 miles) closed course, but because of the near total darkness, he flew on instruments and was guided from the ground by Air Force test range radar controllers (Spatial Positioning and Orientation Radar Tracking, call sign SPORT). Accuracy was critical. The attempt would be disqualified if the helicopter cut inside of a pylon—which Jack could not see—but if he flew too far outside, the extra distance flown would not be counted and time would be lost. The maximum range would be controlled by the amount of fuel carried in the three tanks, and by the endurance of the pilot.

Throughout the flight, Jack gradually increased the altitude, as the T-63-A-5 turboshaft would be more efficient in thinner, colder air. He was flying a precisely calculated profile, taking into consideration aerodynamic drag, the efficiency of the helicopter’s rotor system, and the performance characteristics of the engine. He had been airborne for four hours before he climbed through 10,000 feet (3,048 meters).

At 14,000 feet (4,267 meters), Schweibold was on oxygen. He continued through 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) but was having trouble staying alert. (It would later be discovered that there was a malfunction in his oxygen mask.)

On the final lap, at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters) Jack had to fly around a towering cumulus cloud and radar contact was lost. He dived to lose altitude and popped out from under the cloud about a half-mile short of the runway.

When he shut down the engine, Jack Schweibold had flown the prototype YOH-6A 2800.20 kilometers (1,739.96 statute miles), non-stop. His record still stands.

Jack set 30 FAI World Records between 1966 and 1986. 26 of these remain current.

Frederick Jack Schweibold was born at Toledo, Ohio, 8 November 1935, the son of Henry E. and Jeanette Schweibold. He attended Ohio State University and majored engineering. He had enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve in 1952 and then joined the United States Air Force as an Aviation Cadet in 1954.

Schweibold went through pilot training at Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, flying the T-34 and T-28. He went on to train in the B-25 at Reese Air Force Base, Lubbock, Texas. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and received his pilot’s wings in July 1957. In a momentary decision, he selected helicopter training.

Air Rescue Service Sikorsky H-19A Chicasaw 51-3850. (AR.1999.026)

Lieutenant Schweibold flew the Sikorsky H-19B for the U.S.A.F. Air Rescue Service, assigned to Oxnard Air Force Base, California. (The airfield is now Camarillo Airport, CMA, where I first soloed, and is about ten miles away from my desk.)

After leaving the Air Force, Jack flew Sikorsky S-55s for Chicago Helicopter Service, then Bell 47s for Butler Aviation. In 1960, he was hired by the Allison Division of General Motors as a test pilot and engineer for the new 250-series turboshaft engine.

A Chicago Helicopter Airways Sikorsky S-55.

I had the good fortune to have known Jack Schweibold. I first met him through his involvement in the Helicopter Association International’s biennial flight instructor re-certification seminars, held during the HAI’s annual conventions. He kept the seminar classes on track, and in between, was always available for questions. Jack was the authority on Allison’s 250-series turboshaft engines, and over the years I often called him for technical information and operational advice. On top of that, Jack Schweibold was just an all-around nice guy. It was a pleasure to know him.

U.S. Army Hughes YOH-6A prototype 62-4213 at Le Bourget, circa 1965.
U.S. Army Hughes YOH-6A prototype 62-4213 at Le Bourget, circa 1965. (R.A. Scholefield Collection)

The Hughes Model 369 was built in response to a U.S. Army requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (“L.O.H.”). It was designated YOH-6A, and the first aircraft received U.S. Army serial number 62-4211. It competed with prototypes from Bell Helicopter Company (YOH-4) and Fairchild-Hiller (YOH-5). All three aircraft were powered by a lightweight Allison Engine Company turboshaft engine. The YOH-6A won the three-way competition and was ordered into production as the OH-6A Cayuse. It was nicknamed “loach,” an acronym for L.O.H.

The YOH-6A was a two-place light helicopter, flown by a single pilot. It had a four-bladed, articulated main rotor which turned counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Stacks of thin stainless steel “straps” fastened the rotor blades to the mast and also allowed for flapping and feathering. Hydraulic dampers controlled lead-lag. Originally, there were blade cuffs around the main rotor blade roots in an attempt to reduce aerodynamic drag, but these were soon discarded. A two-bladed semi-rigid tail rotor was mounted on the left side of the tail boom. Seen from the left, the tail-rotor rotates counter-clockwise. (The advancing blade is on top.)

Overhead photograph of a Hughes YOH-6. Note the blade cuffs. (U.S. Army)
Overhead photograph of a Hughes YOH-6A. Note the blade cuffs. (U.S. Army)

The YOH-6A was powered by a T63-A-5 turboshaft engine (Allison Model 250-C10) mounted behind the cabin at a 45° angle. The engine was rated at 212 shaft horsepower at 52,142 r.p.m. (102% N1) and 693 °C. turbine outlet temperature for maximum continuous power, and 250 shaft horsepower at 738 °C., 5-minute limit, for takeoff. Production OH-6A helicopters used the slightly more powerful T63-A-5A (250-C10A) engine.

The Hughes Tool Company Aircraft Division built 1,420 OH-6A Cayuse helicopters for the U.S. Army. The helicopter remains in production as AH-6C and MH-6 military helicopters, and the MD500E and MD530F civil aircraft.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 is in the collection of the United States Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama.

The third prototype YOH-6A, 62-4213, testing the XM-7 twin M60 7.62 weapons system. (U.S. Army)
The third prototype YOH-6A, 62-4213, testing the XM-7 twin M60 7.62 weapons system. (U.S. Army)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 786, 787 and 11656

² FAI Record File Number 762

³ FAI Record File Numbers 771, 772, 9920, 9921, 9922, and 9923

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 March 1955

John W. Konrad in the cockpit of the prototype Vought XF8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 138899. (Vought Heritage)
John W. Konrad in the cockpit of the prototype Vought XF8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 138899. (Vought Heritage)

25 March 1955: Chance Vought Aircraft Corporation experimental test pilot John William Konrad took the first prototype XF8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 138899, for its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California.

The new fighter had been transported from the factory at Dallas, Texas, aboard a Douglas C-124C Globemaster II, on 3 March 1955. It was reassembled and all systems were checked. Taxi tests began on 14 March.

During the first flight on 25 March, the Crusader went supersonic in level flight. It was able to maintain supersonic speeds (not only for short periods in a dive) and was the first fighter aircraft to exceed 1,000 miles per hour in level flight (1,609 kilometers per hour).

Chance Vought test pilot John W. Konrad talks with engineers following the first test flight. (Chance Vought Aircraft Corporation photograph via Bill Spidle’s “Voughtworks” http://voughtworks.blogspot.com)

The F8U Crusader has a unique variable-incidence wing which can be raised to increase the angle of attack. This created more lift at low speeds for takeoff and landing aboard aircraft carriers, but allows the fuselage to remain fairly level for better forward visibility.

The test program went so well that the first production airplane, F8U-1 Crusader Bu. No. 140444, made its first flight just over six months after the prototype’s.

Prototype Vought XF8U-1 Crusader during a test flight, 25 March 1955. (Vought)
Prototype Vought XF8U-1 Crusader Bu. No. 138899 during a test flight, 25 March 1955. (Vought Heritage)

The Chance Vought F8U-1 was nearly identical to the prototype XF8U-1. It was a single-place, single-engine swept-wing fighter designed to operate from the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers. The F8U-1 was 54 feet, 2.75 inches (16.529 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 8 inches (10.871 meters) and height of 15 feet, 9.1 inches (4.803 meters). With wings folded, the airplane’s width was reduced to 22 feet, 6 inches (6.858 meters).

The Crusader’s wing angle of incidence was adjustable in flight. It had a total area of 375 square feet (34.8 square meters). The leading edges were swept aft to 47°, and the outer panels had a 1 foot, 0.7 inch “dog tooth.” The wings had 5° anhedral, while the horizontal stabilator had 5° 25′ dihedral. The stabilator’s leading edges were swept 50°.

Its empty weight was 15,513 pounds (7,037 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 27,500 pounds (12,474 kilograms).

Prototype Chance Vought XF8U-1 Crusader in landing configuration. (Vought Heritage)

Early production aircraft were powered by a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-4 engine. This was a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine. The J57-P-4 had a normal power rating of 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.70 kilonewtons); military power, 10,200 pounds (45.37 kilonewtons), and a maximum rating of 16,000 pounds (71.17 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The engine was 20 feet, 10 inches (6.350 meters) long and 3 feet, 5 inches (1.041 meters) in diameter.

The F8U-1 had a cruising speed of 494 knots (569 miles per hour/915 kilometers per hour). Its maximum speed was 637 knots (733 miles per hour/1,180 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level—0.95 Mach—and 860 knots (990 miles per hour/1,180 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters)—Mach 1.50.  It had a service ceiling of 42,300 feet (12,893 meters) and combat range of 1,280 nautical miles miles (1,473 statute miles/2,371 kilometers).

The F8U Crusader was known as “The Last of the Gunfighters” because it was the last American fighter aircraft to be designed with guns as the primary armament. It carried four Colt Mark 12 20-mm autocannon with 500 rounds of ammunition. It could also carry two AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared-homing air-to-air missiles.

Because of a high accident rate, the Crusader has also been called “The Ensign Killer.”

Vought XF8U-1 Crusader parked on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base. (Vought)
Vought XF8U-1 Crusader Bu. No. 138899 parked on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base. (Vought Heritage)

The Vought F8U Crusader was in production from 1955 through 1964 with a total of 1,261 built in both fighter and photo reconnaissance versions.

Vought XF8U-1 Crusader Bu. No. 138899 parked on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base. (Vought Heritage)

During five years of testing, Bu. No. 138899 made 508 flights. It was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1960. The restored prototype is now at The Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington.

According to information recently discovered by The Museum of Flight, fighter pilot, test pilot and future astronaut John Herschel Glenn, Jr., made his first flight in a Crusader when he flew Bu. No. 138899 on 4 May 1956. According to Glenn’s logbook, he made two flights in the prototype on that date, totaling 2 hours of flight time. Many thanks to Mike Martinez, a docent for the museum for providing this information.

The Vought XF8U-1 has been restored by The Museum of Flight at Paine Field, Stattle, Washington. (The Museum of Flight)
The first of two prototypes, Chance Vought XF8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 138899, has been restored by The Museum of Flight at Paine Field, Seattle, Washington. The Crusader’s variable incidence wing is in the raised take-off/landing position. (The Museum of Flight)

John William Konrad was born 25 November 1923 at San Diego, California. He was the second of three children of  William Konrad, a salesman, and Emma Louise Stensrud Konrad.

Konrad became interested in aviation at an early age, learning to fly in a Piper Cub at the age of 15. After graduating from high school, he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps at San Diego, 26 February 1943. Konrad was 5 feet, 3 inches (1.60 meters) tall and weighed 118 pounds (53.5 kilograms). He trained as a pilot and flew Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers with the 305th Bombardment Group (Heavy), stationed at RAF Chelveston, during World War II. He later flew Douglas C-47 Skytrains during the Berlin Airlift.

Konrad married Miss Harriet Marilyn Hastings at Clearwater, Florida, 11 February 1945. They would have two children.

Following the War, Konrad was selected for the first test pilot training class at Wright Field, then was assigned to Muroc Army Airfield (Edwards Air Force Base) in California, where he graduated from the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School, Class 51-C, 19 May 1952.

Konrad resigned from the Air Force in 1953 and joined the Chance Vought Aircraft Corporation in Dallas, Texas, as a test pilot. In addition the the XF8U-1 Crusader, he also made the first flight of the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II, and the experimental LTV XC-142 tiltwing V/STOL transport in 1964. He was appointed Director Test Operations in 1965. Konrad retired from Vought in 1988 after 25 years with the company.

After retiring, John Konrad continued to fly a Goodyear FG-1D Corsair with Commemorative Air Force.

John William Konrad, Sr., Captain, United States Air Force, died 20 September 2006 at Dallas, Texas. He is buried at the Dallas–Fort Worth National Cemetery.

John William Konrad. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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