Tag Archives: First Flight

15 July 1954

Boeing test pilot Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston in the cockpit of of the 367–80. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

15 July 1954: At 2:14 p.m., Boeing test pilots Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston and Richard L. “Dix” Loesch lifted off from Renton Field, south of Seattle, Washington, on the first flight of the Boeing 367–80, FAA registration N70700, a prototype military air tanker and commercial airliner. For the next 2 hours, 24 minutes they performed high- and low-speed handling tests before landing at Boeing Field, Seattle. When Johnston was asked how the “Dash 80” flew, he replied, “She flew like a bird, only faster.”

The prototype Boeing 367-80, N70700, takes off from Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington,15 July 1954. (Boeing)
The prototype Boeing 367-80, N70700, takes off from Renton Field, Seattle, Washington, 15 July 1954. (Boeing)

Boeing had risked $16,000,000 in a private venture to build the Dash 80 in order to demonstrate its capabilities to potential civilian and military customers, while rivals Douglas and Lockheed were marketing their own un-built jet airliners. Put into production as the U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling tanker and C-135 Stratolifter transport, a civil variant was also produced as the Boeing 707 Stratoliner, the first successful jet airliner. Though they look very similar, the 707 is structurally different than the KC-135 and has a wider fuselage.

The Boeing 707-320B Stratoliner airframe was used for the military E-3A Sentry AWACS command-and-control aircraft, the E-6 Mercury airborne command post, and other versions for reconnaissance, weather, and communications.

820 of the C-135 series and 1,010 Model 707 aircraft were built from 1957–1979.

Boeing 367-80 N70700. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Boeing 367-80 N70700, the “Dash 80”. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

The prototype Boeing Model 367-80 was operated by a pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. The airplane’s wing was mounted low on the fuselage and the engine nacelles were mounted on pylons under the wing, as they were on Boeing’s B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress. The wings and tail surfaces were swept to 35°. The Dash 80 was 127 feet 10 inches (38.964 meters) long with a wingspan of 129 feet, 8 inches (39.522 meters) and overall height of 38 feet (11.582 meters). Its empty weight was 92,100 pounds (41,775.9 kilograms) and loaded weight was 190,000 pounds (86,182.6 kilograms).

In tanker configuration, the Boeing 367-80 refuels a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. The chase plane is a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star. (U.S. Air Force)
In tanker configuration, the Boeing 367-80 refuels a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. The chase plane is a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker refuels a Boeing B-52E Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker refuels a Boeing B-52E Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force)

N70700 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3C engines. This engine is a civil variant of the military J57 series. It is a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. The JT3C-6 (used in the first production 707s) was rated at 11,200 pounds of thrust (49.82 kilonewtons), and 13,500 pounds (60.05 kilonewtons) with water/methanol injection). The JT3C is 11 feet, 6.6 inches (3.520 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.9 inches (0.988 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,235 pounds (1,921 kilograms).

These gave the 367-80 a cruise speed of 550 miles per hour (885 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 0.84 Mach (582 miles per hour, 937 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 43,000 feet (13,106 meters). Its range was 3,530 miles (5,681 kilometers).

American Airlines Boeing 707-123 Astrojet, N7501A, Flagship Michigan. (American Airlines)
American Airlines’ Boeing 707-123 Astrojet N7501A, Flagship Michigan. (American Airlines)

Boeing continued to use the 367–80 for testing, finally retiring it 22 January 1970. At that time, its logbook showed 2,346 hours, 46 minutes of flight time (TTAF). It was flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, and placed in storage. In 1990, Boeing returned it to flyable condition and flew it back it to Renton where a total restoration was completed. Many of those who had worked on the Dash 80, Including Tex Johnston, were aboard.

The Dash 80 sat in the Arizona desert for twenty years. (Goleta Air and Space Museum)
The Dash 80 sat in the Arizona desert for twenty years. (Goleta Air and Space Museum)

The pioneering airplane was presented to the Smithsonian Institution and is on display at the National Air and Space Museum, Steven V. Udvar-Hazy Center. The Boeing 367-80 was designated an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

820 of the C-135 series and 1,010 Model 707 aircraft were built from 1957–1979.

(The Boeing Model 367-80 is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
The Boeing Model 367-80 is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia. (Photo by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution) 
Boeing 367–80 N70700 in flight. (Boeing)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 July 1968

General Dynamics FB-111A 67-0159, the first production aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)

13 July 1968: The first production General Dynamics FB-111A supersonic strategic bomber successfully completed a 30-minute maiden flight at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas. The FB-111A differed from the F-111A fighter bomber with the substitution of a larger wing, originally designed for the F-111B, giving the bomber a 7 foot (2.134 meter) increase in wingspan. The landing gear was strengthened, the bomb bay enlarged, and it had more powerful engines.

Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)

The airplane’s very long nose earned the nickname “Aardvark,” but this did not become official until 1996.

67-0159 was delivered to the U.S. Air Force 4 September 1968 and assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. (The first six production airplanes were used for flight testing.)

67-0159 was later converted to the F-111G configuration. In 1980 it was sent to the Sacramento Air Logistics Center to test weapons modifications and received a spectacular white and orange paint scheme. It was retired in 1990. 67-0159 is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It is on loan and now on display at the Aerospace Museum of California, Sacramento, California.

General Dynamics FB-111A-CF (F-111G) 67-159

The General Dynamics FB-111A is a two-place, twin-engine, strategic bomber with variable-sweep wings, assigned to the Strategic Air Command. It is 73.54 feet (22.415 meters) long. The wingspan varies from a maximum 70.0 feet (21.336 meters) when fully extended, and a minimum 33.96 feet (10.351 meters) when swept fully aft. Overall height is 17.04 feet (5.194 meters).

The wings of the FB-111A have a total area of 550 square feet (51.10 square meters). When fully extended, the wings’ leading edges are swept aft to 16.0°. The angle of incidence at the root is +1° and -3° at the tip. There is 1.0° dihedral.

The Aardvark’s empty weight is 47,481 pounds (21,537 kilograms). Normal maximum takeoff weight is 116,115 pounds (52,669 kilograms), and the maximum overload takeoff weight is or 119,243 pounds (54,088 kilograms).

The aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-107 engines. This is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine with afterburner. It has a 3-stage fan section, 13-stage compressor section (6 low- and 7 high-pressure stages) and 4-stage turbine (1 high- and 3 low-pressure stages). The -107 has a maximum continuous power rating of 10,800 pounds of thrust (48.041 kilonewtons) at 14,150 r.p.m., N2 (static thrust, at Sea Level), and a maximum power rating of 20,350 pounds (90.521 kilonewtons) at 14,550 r.p.m., N2 (45 minute limit) The T30-P-107 is 3 feet, 2.12 inches (0.968 meters) in diameter, 20 feet, 1.4 inches (6.132 meters) long,  and weighs 4,121 pounds (1,869 kilograms).

The FB-111A has an average cruise speed of 415–442 knots (478–509 miles per hour/769-819 kilometers per hour), depending on the mission profile. It’s maximum speed at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) is 1,262 knots (1,452 miles per hour/2,337 kilometers per hour)—Mach 2.20. The bomber’s service ceiling varies from 50,390 feet to 56,380 feet (15,359–17,185 meters), again, depending on the mission profile. The maximum combat range is 4,920 nautical miles (5,662 statute miles/9,112 kilometers). The airplane can carry as many as six 600 gallon (2,271 liter) external tanks on underwing pylons. This gives the Aardvark a maximum ferry range of 4,313 nautical miles (4,963 statute miles/7,988 kilometers).

General Dynamics FB-111A 67-163, the fifth production airplane, loaded with four AGM-69 SRAM missiles. The dots on the missiles and airplane are for precise tracking from ground stations. (U.S. Air Force)

The FB-111A could carry weapons in an internal bomb bay or on underwing hardpoints. It could be armed with up to 37,500 pounds (17,010 kilograms) of conventional bombs; or six AGM-69A Short Range Attack Missiles (SRAM). The Aardvark could carry maximum of six nuclear weapons (B-43, B-57 or B-61).

General Dynamics YFB-111A 63-9783, the prototype strategic bomber variant. (U.S. Air Force)

In addition to a prototype (63-9783, which was converted from the last production F-111A) General Dynamics built 76 FB-111A strategic bombers. With the introduction of the Rockwell B-1B Lancer, the FB-111As remaining in service were converted to F-111G tactical fighter bombers. They were retired by 2003.

The Royal Australian Air Force bought 15 of the F-111Gs. By 2007, these had also been taken out of service.

Two General Dynamics FB-111As in formation, 1 December 1983. (MSGT Buster Kellum, U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 July 1980

The first McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender, 79-0433, in flight. The airplane is carrying civil registration N110KC rather than its U.S. Air Force serial number. (Boeing)

12 July 1980: The first McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender, serial number 79-0433, made its first flight at Long Beach, California with company test pilots Walt Smith and George Jansen, flight engineer Leo Hazell, and flight test engineer Guy Lowery.

Based on the DC-10-30CF commercial transport, this aerial tanker can carry 356,000 pounds of fuel (161,479 kilograms). Using a “flying boom” to refuel Air Force aircraft in flight, it also is equipped with “hose and drogue” system to refuel U.S. Navy and Marine airplanes. Both systems can be used simultaneously. The KC-10A can also carry cargo pallets, or combination of personnel and cargo.

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433 (N110KC) seen from above. (McDonnell Douglas)
McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433 (N110KC) seen from above. (McDonnell Douglas)

The McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender is operated by a flight crew of four. It is 181 feet, 7 inches (54.347 meters) long with a wingspan of 165 feet, 4 inches (50.394 meters) and height of 58 feet, 7 inches (17.856 meters). The tanker has an empty weight of 241,027 pounds (109,328 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 590,000 pounds (267,620 kilograms).

The KC-10A is powered by three commercial General Electric CF6-50C2 turbofan engines, flat-rated at 52,500 pounds of thrust (233.532 kilonewtons), each. The CF6-50C2 is a two-spool, high-bypass-ratio axial-flow turbofan engine. It has a single-stage fan, 17-stage compressor section (3 low- and 14 high-pressure stages), and a  6-stage turbine (2 high- and 4 low-pressure stages). The fan has a diameter of 86.0 inches (2.184 meters) and produces 73% of the engine’s total power at full rated thrust. The CF6-50C2 has a diameter of 105.0 inches (2.667 meters), a length of 183.0 inches (4.648 meters), and weighs 8,731 pounds (3,960.3 kilograms).

The KC-10A has a maximum speed of 0.89 Mach (619 miles per hour, 996 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling is 42,000 feet (12,802 meters). Range is 4,400 miles (7,081 kilometers).

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-04333. (Mike Freer via Wikipedia)

Though over 400 of the original 732 Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers remain in service (the last one was accepted by the Air Force in 1964), the fleet of KC-10s provide greater fuel capacity and much longer range. Boeing had submitted a tanker version of its 747 commercial transport, however the KC-10 was selected primarily because it could operate from shorter runways. McDonnell Douglas built 60 KC-10s for the U.S. Air Force and 2 similar KDC-10s for The Netherlands.

Thirty-eight years later, McDonnell Douglas KC-10A 79-0433 is still in service.

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433. (Unattributed)
McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-0433. (31st Aviano Tail Spotters Group)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 July 1980

The prototype Strike Eagle, a modified F-15B-4-MC, 71-0291, banks away to show a full load of bombs and its conformal fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force)

8 July 1980: The prototype McDonnell Douglas F-15 Strike Eagle, a fighter-bomber variant converted from the second two-seat F-15B Eagle trainer, F-15B-4-MC 71-0291, made its first flight. Originally designated TF-15A, -0291 first flew nearly seven years earlier, 18 October 1973.

The Strike Eagle was begun as a private venture by McDonnell Douglas. Designed to be operated by a pilot and a weapons system officer (WSO), the airplane can carry bombs, missiles and guns for a ground attack role, while maintaining its capability as an air superiority fighter. It’s airframe was a strengthened and its service life doubled to 16,000 flight hours. The Strike Eagle became an Air Force project in March 1981, and  went into production as the F-15E. The first production model, 86-0183, made its first flight 11 December 1986.

The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is a two-place twin-engine multi-role fighter. It is 63 feet, 9 inches (19.431 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9¾ inches (13.049 meters) and height of 18 feet, 5½ inches (5.626 meters). It weighs 31,700 pounds (14,379 kilograms) empty and has a maximum takeoff weight of 81,000 pounds (36,741 kilograms). The F-15E is powered by two Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan engines which produce 17,800 pounds of thrust (79.178 kilonewtons) each, or 29,100 pounds (129.443 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

This McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is carrying AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM 9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, 2,000-pound laser guided bombs, targeting designators and jettisonable fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force)
This McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is carrying AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM 9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, 2,000-pound laser-guided bombs, targeting designators and jettisonable fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force)

The Strike Eagle has a maximum speed of Mach 2.54 (1,676 miles per hour, (2,697 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) and is capable of sustained speed at Mach 2.3 (1,520 miles per hour, 2,446 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling is 60,000 feet (18,288 meters). The fighter-bomber has a combat radius of 790 miles (1,271 kilometers) and a maximum ferry range of 2,765 miles (4,450 kilometers).

Though optimized as a fighter-bomber, the F-15E Strike Eagle retains an air-to-air combat capability. The F-15E is armed with one 20mm M61A1 Vulcan 6-barrel rotary cannon with 512 rounds of ammunition, and can carry four AIM-9M Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles and four AIM-7M Sparrow radar-guided missiles, or a combination of Sidewinders, Sparrows and AIM-120 AMRAAM long range missiles. It can carry a maximum load of 24,500 pounds (11,113 kilograms) of bombs and missiles for ground attack.

71-0291 remained at McDonnell Douglas as a dedicated test aircraft. During that time it was painted in many different camouflage schemes. In these photographs, it is painted in the “European 1” camouflage.

71-0291 was retired from the active inventory in the early 1990s and was used for battle damage repair training at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. It is reported to be on display at the Royal Saudi Air Force Museum at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in RSAF colors and markings.

The prototype McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle (modified from F-15B-4-MC 71-0291) is parked on the ramp at the McDonnell Douglas facility at St. Louis. (U.S. Air Force)
The prototype McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle (modified from F-15B-4-MC 71-0291) is parked on the ramp at the McDonnell Douglas facility at St. Louis. This camouflage scheme is called European 1. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 July 1947

First flight, Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser
First flight, Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser NX90700, c/n 15922. After the flight test program was completed, this airplane was upgraded to the 377-10-26 standard and placed in service with Pan American World Airways as Clipper Nightingale, N1022V

8 July 1947: First flight, Boeing Model 377-10-19 Stratocruiser, Project Test Pilot John Bernard Fornasero. (Fornasero had been the co-pilot on the first flight of the XC-97 Stratofreighter, nearly three years earlier.)

Flight deck of the Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser. (Boeing)
Flight deck of the Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser. (Boeing)

The Model 377 was a large, four-engine civil transport which had been developed, along with the military C-97 Stratofreighter, from the World War II B-29 Superfortress long-range heavy bomber. It utilized the wings and engines of the improved B-50 Superfortress. The airplane was operated by a flight crew of four. It was a double-deck aircraft, with the flight deck, passenger cabin and galley on the upper deck and a lounge and cargo compartments on the lower. The airliner was pressurized, and could maintain Sea Level atmospheric pressure while flying at 15,500 feet (4,724 meters). The Model 377 could be configured to carry up to 100 passengers, or 28 in sleeping births.

Airline stewardesses examine a cutaway model of the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. (Museum of History & Industry, Seattle)

The Stratocruiser was 110 feet, 4 inches (33.630 meters) long with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.053 meters) and overall height of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters). The airliner had an empty weight of 83,500 pounds (37,875 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 148,000 pounds (67,132 kilograms).

Boeing Model 377-10-19 Stratocruiser NX90700. (Boeing)
Boeing Model 377-10-19 Stratocruiser NX90700. (Boeing)

The 377-10-19 prototype was powered by four 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.49 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B5 four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines. This engine had a compression ratio of 6.375:1 and required 100/130 aviation gasoline. It had a Normal and Maximum Continuous Power rating of 2,650 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., and Take Off Power rating of 3,250 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. with water/alcohol injection. The Wasp Major B5 was 4 feet, 6.00 inches in diameter and 8 feet, 0.75 inches long. The engine weighed 3,490 pounds (1,583 kilograms).

The following production Stratocruisers were equipped with Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B6 engines rated at 3,500 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. (with water/alcohol injection) for takeoff, and a Normal Power of 2,650 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., at 5,500 feet (1,676 meters). The Maximum Continuous Power rating for the B6 was 2,800 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 3,500 feet (1,067 meters). The Wasp Major B6 was 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter and 8 feet, 0.50 inches (2.451 meters) long. It weighed 3,584 pounds (1,626 kilograms), dry.

Pan American World Airways Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser. (Boeing)
Pan American World Airways’ Boeing Model 377-10-26 Stratocruiser, Clipper Nightingale, N1022V, c/n 15922. (Boeing)

The engines drove four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 17 feet (5.182 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The propeller assembly weighed 761 pounds (345 kilograms).

The 377 had a cruise speed of 301 miles per hour (484 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour). During testing by Boeing, a 377 reached 409 miles per hour (658 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) and the range was 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers).

Lower deck passenger lounge of a Boeing 377 Stratoliner. (Boeing)
Lower deck passenger lounge of a Boeing 377 Stratoliner. (Boeing)

Boeing built 56 Model 377 Stratocruisers, with Pan American as the primary user, and another 888 military C-97 Stratofreighter and KC-97 Stratotankers.

Following the flight testing program, NX90700 was brought up to the 377-10-26 standard and placed in service with Pan American World Airways, 24 October 1950. It was named Clipper Nightingale and registered N1022V. The airliner remained in Pan Am service until 1960, when it was sold back to Boeing.

N1022V was next sold to Rutas Aéreas Nacionales, S.A. (RANSA) and converted to a freighter. The new owners named it Carlos. It was re-registered YV-C-ERI. The Stratocruiser was finally retired in 1969 and scrapped.

The prototype Boeing 377 Stratocruiser was sold to RANSA and converted to a freighter. It was named "Carlos" and registered YV-C-ERI.
The prototype Boeing 377 Stratocruiser was sold to RANSA and converted to a freighter. It was named “Carlos” and registered YV-C-ERI.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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