18 June 1981: At 6:05 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time (1305 UTC), the first Full Scale Development Lockheed YF-117A Nighthawk, 79-10780, made its first flight at Groom Lake, Nevada with Skunk Works test pilot Harold “Hal” Farley, Jr. at the controls. The super-secret airplane was made of materials that absorbed radar waves, and built with the surfaces angled so that radar signals are deflected away from the source.
Hal Farley is a former U.S. Naval Aviator, who spent eight years testing F-14 Tomcat fighters for Grumman before going to work at Lockheed’s “Skunk Works” on the Have Blue proof-of-concept prototype and the Senior Trend F-117 program. When he retired from Lockheed, he had more that 600 flight hours in the F-117s. His call sign is “Bandit 117.”
Commonly called the “Stealth Fighter,” the Nighthawk is actually a tactical bomber. Five developmental aircraft and 59 operational F-117As were built. They were in service from 1983 until 2008, when the Lockheed F-22 Raptor was planned to assume their mission. They are mothballed and could be returned to service if needed.
The Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk is a single-seat, twin-engine tactical bomber with swept wings and tail surfaces. It is 65 feet, 11 inches (20.091 meters) long with a wingspan of 43 feet, 4 inches (13.208 meters) and height of 12 feet, 9½ inches (3.899 meters). It has an empty weight of 29,500 pounds (13,380.9 kilograms) and a loaded weight of 52,500 pounds (23,813.6 kilograms).
The F-117 is powered by two General Electric F404-F1D2 turbofan engines which produce 10,600 pounds of thrust, each. These give it a maximum speed of 0.92 Mach (617 miles per hour, 993 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 45,000 feet (13,716 meters) and range is 930 nautical miles (1,070.2 miles, 1,722.4 kilometers), though inflight refueling capability gives it world-wide range.
The Nighthawk has no defensive armament. It can carry two 2,000 pound (907.2 kilogram) bombs in an internal bomb bay.
Scorpion One, 79-10780, is now mounted on a pylon as a “gate guard” at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
12 June 1994: At 11:45 a.m., Boeing test pilots John E. Cashman and Kenny Higgins took the first Boeing 777-200 airliner, line number WA001, FAA registration N7771, on its first flight. Before taking off from Paine Field, Boeing’s president, Phil Condit, told Cashman, “Good luck, John. And no rolls!”, referring to the famous incident when Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston rolled the Model 367–80 prototype of the 707 airliner over Lake Washington, 6 August 1955.
The 777’s first test flight lasted 3 hours, 48 minutes. This was the longest first flight of any of Boeing’s airliners. It reached a maximum altitude of 19,000 feet (5,791 meters) and accomplished all tests on the flight plan, including shutting down and restarting an engine in flight.
The Boeing 777-200 is operated by two pilots and, depending on its configuration can carry 314 to 440 passengers. It is 209 feet, 1 inch (63.729 meters) long with a wingspan of 199 feet, 11 inches (60.935 meters) and overall height of 60 feet, 9 inches (18.517 meters). The fuselage has a diameter of 20 feet, 4 inches (6.198 meters). The airliner has an empty weight of 297,300 pounds (134,853 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 545,000 pounds (247,208 kilograms).
WA001 was originally powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4074 two-spool high-bypass-ratio turbofan engines which produce 77,000 pounds of thrust, each. Production airliners were equipped with PW4077 engines with the same thrust. General Electric and Rolls-Royce turbofans could also be ordered.
Boeing 777s have a cruise speed of 0.84 Mach (560 miles per hour, 901 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 0.89 Mach (590 miles per hour, 950 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 43,100 feet (13,137 meters). The 777-200 has a maximum range of 6,027 miles (9,700 kilometers) with maximum payload aboard.
The 777 series was the most comprehensively tested airplane in history. Nine aircraft were used in the test program. WA001 was in testing until April 1997, by which time it had accumulated 1,729 flight hours and another 1,033 hours of ground testing.
Purchased by Cathay Pacific, the first “Triple Seven” was completely refurbished and equipped for passenger service, configured as a 777-267. The engines were replaced by two Rolls-Royce RB211 Trent 884B-17 high-bypass turbofan engines. These engines are rated at 85,430 pounds of thrust for takeoff (5 minutes limit). Because of their lighter weight, the empty weight of the airliner was reduced approximately 7,500 pounds (3,400 kilograms). The airliner was rolled out of the factory for the second time 31 October 2000, and was delivered to the Cathay Pacific on 6 December. It is registered B-HNL, and remains in service.
The 777 was produced in the 777-200 configuration, followed the 777-200ER (“extended range”) and 777-200LR (“longer range”) variants, a longer 777-300ER and a 777F freighter. A tanker version has been proposed. Eighty-eight 777-200 airliners were built before production halted in favor of the -200ER and -200LR models.
More than 1,400 777s of all models have been delivered by Boeing. As of January 2016, there were 176 777-300ER and 42 777F freighters on order. Recently, Boeing cut the production rate from 100 “Triple-Sevens” per year to 84 airplanes. The next version is the 777-9X, planned for production in 2021.
11 June 1926: The first production Ford 4-AT-A Trimotor, serial number 4-AT-1, flew for the first time at Dearborn, Michigan. It was registered NC2435.
Designed as a commercial passenger transport, the Ford Trimotor was a high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. One engine was mounted at the nose, and two more were suspended under the wings. It had a crew of three and could carry up to eight passengers in a completely enclosed cabin. The airplane was designed and built by the Stout Metal Airplane Division of the Ford Motor Company, based on its unsuccessful Stout At-3.
A distinctive feature of the Trimotor’s construction was the corrugated metal skin which was used to provide strength and rigidity. (Corrugated skin panels had been used on the Junkers F.13 in 1919.)
Changes to production airplanes came quickly and no two of the early Trimotors were exactly alike.
The Ford 4-AT-A was 49 feet, 10 inches (15.189 meters) long with a wingspan of 74 feet (22.555 meters) and height of 11 feet, 9 inches (3.581 meters). It had an empty weight of 5,937 pounds (2,693 kilograms) and gross weight of 9,300 pounds (4,218 kilograms).
The 4-AT-A was powered by three air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.90 liter), Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-4 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engines, producing 215 h.p. at 1,800 r.p.m., each, and turning two-bladed propellers. The J-4 Whirlwind was 34.0 inches (0.864 meters) long, 44.0 inches (1.118 meters) in diameter, and weighed 475 pounds (215 kilograms).
The Trimotor 4-AT-A could cruise at 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour) and it’s maximum speed was 114 miles per hour (184 kilometers per hour). It’s service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and it had a range of 500 miles (805 kilometers).
This airplane was very popular at the time and was the foundation for many commercial airlines. Several were also in military service. Between 1926 and 1933, Ford built 199 Trimotors. Though advances in aeronautics quickly made the Trimotor obsolete, its ruggedness and simplicity kept it in service around the world for decades.
The very first production Ford Trimotor was operated by Ford’s airline, Ford Air Transport Service. It was re-registered NC1492. At 8:45 a.m., 12 May 1928, 4-AT-1 stalled on takeoff at Dearborn. The airliner crashed and caught fire. Pilots William Munn and E.K. Parker were killed.
8 June 1959: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, North American Aviation’s Chief Engineering Test Pilot, A. Scott Crossfield, made the first flight of the X-15A hypersonic research rocketplane.
56-6670 was the first of three X-15s built for the U.S. Air Force and NASA. It was airdropped from a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, NB-52A-1-BO 52-003, at 37,550 feet (11,445 meters) over Rosamond Dry Lake at 08:38:40 a.m, Pacific Time.
This was an unpowered glide flight to check the flying characteristics and aircraft systems, so there were no propellants or oxidizers aboard other than hydrogen peroxide which powered the pumps and generators.
The aircraft reached 0.79 Mach (522 miles per hour, 840 kilometers per hour) during the 4 minute, 56.6 second flight.
In his autobiography, Scott Crossfield described the first flight:
“Three” . . . “Two” . . . “One” . . .
Inside the streamlined pylon, a hydraulic ram disengaged the three heavy shackles from the upper fuselage of the X-15. They were so arranged that all released simultaneously, and if one failed they all failed. The impact of the release was clearly audible in the X-15 cockpit. I heard a loud “kerchunk.”
The X-15 hung in its familiar place beneath the pylon for a split second. Then the nose dipped sharply down and to the right more rapidly than I had anticipated. The B-52, so long my constant companion, was gone. The X-15 and I were alone in the air and flying 500 miles an hour. In less than five minutes I would be on the ground. . . .
There was much to do in the first hundred seconds of flight. First I had to get the “feel” of the airplane, to make certain it was trimmed out for landing just as any pilot trims an airplane after take-off or . . . when dwindling fuel shifts the center of gravity. Then I had to pull the nose up, with and without flaps, to feel out the stall characteristics, so that I would know how she might behave at touchdown speeds . . . My altimeter unwound dizzily: from 24,000 to 13,000 feet in less than forty seconds. . . .
The desert was coming up fast. At 600 feet altitude I flared out. . . .
In the next second without warning the nose of the X-15 pitched up sharply. It was a maneuver that had not been predicted by the computers, an uncharted area which the X-15 was designed to explore. I was frankly caught off guard. Quickly I applied corrective elevator control.
The nose went down sharply. But instead of leveling out, it tucked down. I applied reverse control. The nose came up but much too far. Now the nose was rising and falling like a skiff in a heavy sea. Although I was putting in maximum control I could not subdue the motions. The X-15 was porpoising wildly, sinking toward the desert at 200 miles an hour. I would have to land at the bottom of an oscillation, timed perfectly; otherwise, I knew, I would break the bird. I lowered the flaps and the gear. . . .
. . . With the next dip I had one last chance and flared again to ease the descent. At that moment the rear skids caught on the desert floor and the nose slammed over, cushioned by the nose wheel. The X-15 skidded 5,000 feet across the lake, throwing up an enormous rooster tail of dust. . . .
—Always Another Dawn: The Story of a Rocket Test Pilot, by A. Scott Crossfield and Clay Blair, Jr., The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, 1960, Chapter 37 at Pages 338–342.
Before the drop, it was discovered that the aircraft’s Stability Augmentation System was inoperative in pitch mode. During the flight it was found that the hydraulic-assisted flight control system was responding too slowly to Crossfield’s inputs. Engineers analyzed the problem and increased the hydraulic system pressure. The problem never recurred.
Scott Crossfield was the most experienced rocketplane pilot with 82 rocketplane flights before the X-15 program. “. . . he was intimately involved in the design of the aircraft and contributed immensely to the success of the design.”
—At The Edge Of Space, by Milton O. Thompson, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992, Introduction, at Page 3.
North American Aviation X-15A 56-6670 made the first glide flight and the first and last powered flights of the X-15 Program. It made a total of 82 of the 199 X-15 flights. It is in the collection of National Air and Space Museum at Washington, D.C.
1 June 1939: At Bremen, Germany, Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG chief test pilot Hans Sander took the first prototype of a new fighter, Fw 190 V1, W.Nr. 0001, registration D-OPZE, for its first flight.
The Fw 190 was designed as a fast, light-weight fighter with a powerful engine, easy to maintain under field conditions and able to absorb a reasonable amount of combat damage. The landing gear had a wide track which improved ground handling and was an advantage when operating on unimproved airfields. The mechanism used the gear’s own weight to lower it into place. Another interesting feature was to use of pushrods and bearings in place of the common cables and pulleys used to operate the flight controls. This gave a more precise, responsive operation. Also, the recent introduction of vacuum forming allowed a large one-piece “bubble” canopy to be used rather than the acrylic plastic/metal framework which was used in other fighters, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109.
Focke-Wulf frequently named its airplanes after birds. The Fw 190 was known as the Würger, or Shrike.
Fw 190 V1 (Versuchsflugzeug 1) was 8.730 meters (28 feet, 7¾ inches) long with a wingspan of 9.500 meters (31 feet, 2 inches). It weighed approximately 3,000 kilograms (6,615 pounds).
D-OPZE was powered by an experimental air-cooled, supercharged 55.4-liter (3,380.4 cubic inch) BMW 139 two-row, 18-cylinder, radial engine which produced 1,529 horsepower. This engine had been developed from the nine-cylinder Pratt & Whitney Hornet (R-1690) which Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) built under license. (A redesign of the BMW 139 engine resulted in the 14-cylinder BMW 801 which was used in the production Fw 190.)
To minimize aerodynamic drag, the large radial engine was tightly cowled and a large propeller spinner used. Cooling air entered through an opening at the center of the spinner and a fan between the propeller and the front of the engine circulated air. This was unsatisfactory and was significantly changed with the second prototype.
The propeller was a three-bladed Vereingite Deutsche Metallwerke (VDM) variable-pitch unit with a diameter of 3.460 meters (11 feet, 4¼ inches). It was driven at 54% of engine speed through a gear reduction unit.
After testing by Focke-Wulf at Bremen, Fw 190 V1 was flown to the Luftwaffe test site at Rechlin-Lärz Airfield. Its identification markings were changed to FO+LY. Later, they were changed again, to RM+CA. V1 continued to be used for testing until 29 March 1943.
The Fw 190 was the most effective of Germany’s world War II fighters. More than 20,000 were built in 16 variants. The Focke-Wulf factory at Marienburg and the AGO Flugzeugwerke at Oschersleben were frequently attacked by Allied bombers.
A Focke-Wulf Fw 190 G-3 fighter bomber, W.Nr. 160016, which had been captured in Italy, was flight tested by the U.S. Army Air Force at Wright Field, Ohio, from 25 March to 15 April 1944, flown by Major Gustav Edward Lundquist, U.S. Army Air Force. In a report dated 26 May 1944, it was described as having a length of 29.1 feet (8.87 meters) and wingspan of 34.5 feet (10.52 meters), and was tested with maximum gross weight of 8,535 pounds (3,871 kilograms).
This aircraft was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged and fuel-injected 41.744 liter (2,547.4 cubic inch) BMW 801-D two-row, fourteen-cylinder radial engine which produced 1,750 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. with 41.1 inches of manifold pressure (1.39 bar). It could climb at 4,000 feet per minute (20.32 meters per second) and reach 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 7.3 minutes. 160016 had a maximum airspeed of 415 miles per hour (668 kilometers per hour) at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). The service ceiling was 36,100 feet (11,003 meters).
The fighter was described to have performance “definitely weaker than standard AAF fighters at altitudes above 28,000 feet.” [8,534 meters]
The Fw 190 G-3 was armed with two Waffenfabrik Mauser AG MG151/20 20 mm autocannon with 550 rounds of ammunition.
(Two months later, Major Lundquist was in Europe, flying with the 486th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group. On 29 July 1944, his North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA Mustang, 44-13395, was shot down by a Messerschmiit Bf 109 G-6 near Merseberg, Germany. Lundquist was captured and remained a Prisoner of War until the end of World War II. He was officially credited with 2 enemy aircraft destroyed. After the war, he returned to Wright Field and flight test. On 2 September 1946, Major Lundquist won the Thompson Trophy Race (J Division) while flying a Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star. Remaining in the Air Force for 29 years, he rose to the rank of brigadier general.)