Tag Archives: First Flight

16 September 1958

North American Aviation NA-246 Sabreliner prototype, N4060K, during its first flight, 16 September 1958. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

16 September 1958: At Palmdale, in the high desert of southern California, the prototype North American Aviation, Inc., Model NA-246 Sabreliner, N4060K, took off on its first flight.

The Sabreliner had been designed and built at North American’s expense to meet the U.S. Air Force specification for the UTX, a twin-engine jet that would be primarily used as a trainer for Air Force pilots in non-flying assignments but who needed to remain proficient. It could also be used as a passenger and cargo transport.

The NA-246 was flown by two pilots and could carry up to four passengers in “club seating.”

In October 1958, the Air Force ordered the Model 265 Sabreliner into production, designated T-39A-1-NA (Serial numbers 59-2868 to -2871). This aircraft could carry up to 7 passengers. In 1962, a commercial variant of the T-39A, the Model 265 Sabreliner, was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The T-39A was 44 feet (13.411 meters) long, with a wingspan of 44 feet, 6 inches (13.564 meters) and overall height of 16 feet (14.874 meters). The wings were swept at 28°. It had an empty weight of approximately 9,250 pounds (4,196 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 17,760 pounds (8,056 kilograms).

The Model 246 prototype was powered by General Electric J85 turbojet engines which produced about 2,000 pounds of thrust (8.90 kilonewtons). The the production T-39A used Pratt & Whitney J60-P-3 engines, rated at 3,000 pounds (13.34 kilonewtons) for takeoff.

The T-39A had a maximum allowable airspeed (VMO) of 350 knots, indicated (KIAS) (403 miles per hour/648 kilometers per hour) from Sea Level to 21,100 feet (6,431 meters). Above that altitude, speed was restricted to 0.77 Mach.

North American Aviation T-39A-1-NA, 62-4478, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.. (U.S. Air Force)

The prototype was issued an Airworthiness Certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration 25 April 1958. The registration was cancelled 30 June 1970.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 September 1939

The prototype VS-300 helicopter clears the ground for the first time, 14 September 1939. Igor Sikorsky is at the controls. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
The prototype VS-300 helicopter clears the ground for the first time, 14 September 1939. Igor Sikorsky is at the controls. His right foot rests on the anti-torque pedal. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

14 September 1939: At Stratford, Connecticut, Igor Sikorsky made the first tethered flight of the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 prototype helicopter. The duration of the flight was just 10 seconds but demonstrated that the helicopter could be controlled.

The Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 was the first successful single main rotor, single tail rotor helicopter.

The three-bladed main rotor had a diameter of 28 feet (8.534 meters) and turned approximately 255 r.p.m. The rotor turned clockwise as seen from above (the advancing blade is on the left). This would later be reversed. A counter-weighted single blade anti-torque rotor with a length of 3 feet, 4 inches (1.016 meters) is mounted on the left side of the monocoque beam tail boom in a pusher configuration and turns counter-clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left (the advancing blade is above the axis of rotation).

Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 under construction, 8 September 1939. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 under construction, 8 September 1939. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

In the initial configuration, the VS-300 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 144.489-cubic-inch-displacement (2.368 liter) Lycoming O-145-C3 horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder, direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. It was rated at 75 horsepower at 3,100 r.p.m., using 73-octane gasoline. It was equipped with a single Stromberg carburetor and dual Scintilla magnetos. The dry weight of the O-145-C3 was 167 pounds (75.75 kilograms). Later in the VS-300’s development, the Lycoming was replaced by a 90-horsepower Franklin 4AC-199 engine.

On 19 December 1939, the VS-300 was rolled over by a gust of wind and damaged. It was rebuilt, however, and developed through a series of configurations. It made its first free (untethered) flight 13 May 1940.

Test flights continued for several years. After 102 hours, 32 minutes, 26 seconds of flight, the VS-300 was donated to the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan.

Igor Sikorsky adjusts is fedora while at teh controls of the VS-300. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky adjusts his fedora while at the controls of the VS-300. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 September 1934

Gloster SS.37 G7, prototype Gloster Gladiator
The Gloster G.37, prototype of the Gloster Gladiator Mk.I (Gloster Aircraft Co., Ltd.)

12 September 1934: Hawker Aircraft Company test pilot Flying Officer Phillip Edward Gerald Sayer made the first flight of the Gloster G.37, a prototype fighter for the Royal Air Force, designed to reach a speed of 250 miles per hour (402 kilometers per hour) while armed with four machine guns. The flight took place at Gloster’s private airfield at Brockworth, Gloucestershire.

The Gladiator was a single-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane, with fixed landing gear. The airplane was primarily of metal construction, though the aft fuselage, wings and control surfaces were fabric covered.

The production Gladiator Mk.I was 27 feet, 5 inches (8.357 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 3 inches (9.830 meters) and overall height of 11 feet, 9 inches (3.581 meters). It had an empty weight of 3,217 pounds (1,459 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,594 pounds (2,084 kilograms).

Gloster SS.37 prototype, right profile
Gloster G.37 prototype, right profile

The G.37 was equipped with a left-hand tractor, air-cooled, supercharged, 1,519.083 cubic-inch-displacement (24.893 liters) Bristol Mercury IV-S2 nine cylinder radial engine. With a compression ratio of 5.3:1, the IV-S2 was rated at  505 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m., and 540 h.p. at 2,600 r.p.m., both at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). It developed a maximum 560 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). The engine had a take-off power rating of 530 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m., at Sea Level (3-minute limit). The IV-S2 drove a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller through a 0.655:1 gear reduction. This engine weighed 920 pounds (417 kilograms).

The G.37 was repowered with a Bristol Mercury VI-S engine, which had a 6:0:1 compression ratio and a 0.5:1 gear reduction ratio. This engine produced a maximum of 636 horsepower at 2,750 r.p.m. at 15,500 feet.

The prototype was armed with two synchronized, air-cooled Vickers .303-caliber machine guns, firing forward through the propeller arc, and two .303-caliber Lewis guns mounted under the bottom wing.

With the upgraded engine and armament, the G.37 reached 242 miles per hour (389 kilometers per hour).

The Gloster Gladiator Mk.I with an enclosed cockpit and a Bristol Mercury IX engine had a maximum speed of 257 miles per hour (414 kilometers) per hour) at 14,600 feet (4,450 meters).

This production Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, K6131, shows the cockpit enclosure. (This airplane, the second production Gladiator Mk.I, was damaged beyond repair when it ran out of fuel near RAF Church Fenton, 26 March 1938.) (Royal Air Force)
Gloster Gladiator Mk.I L8032. (SDASM)

The Gladiator Mk.I entered service with the Royal Air Force in February 1937. It was the last biplane fighter to do so, and was the first fighter with an enclosed cockpit. Beginning with No. 72 Squadron, eight fighter squadrons were equipped with the type, though by the beginning of World War II, these were being phased out by more modern airplanes like the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire.

A total of 737 Gloster Gladiators, Mk.I and Mk.II, were built. In addition to the Royal Air Force, there were operated by several other countries in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Prototype Gloster Gladiator in flight, now marked K5200.
Prototype Gloster Gladiator G.37 in flight, now marked K5200. A .303-caliber Lewis machine gun is visible under the right wing. (Royal Air Force)
Phillip E.G. Sayer, O.B.E. (Flight)

Phillip Edward Gerald Sayer was born at Colchester, England, 2 February 1905. He was the second of three children of Edward James Sayer, a retired British Army officer and Ethel Jane Hellyar Sayer.

Sayer was granted a short service commission in the Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer on probation, 30 June 1924. His rank was confirmed 23 May 1925. He was promoted to Flying Officer 30 March 1926. Flying Officer Sayer was transferred to the R.A.F. Reserve, 2 March 1929.

In 1930, Gerry Sayer joined Hawker Aircraft Company as a test pilot. When Hawker took over Gloster Aircraft Co., Ltd. in November 1934, he was appointed Chief Test Pilot of Gloster.

Flight Lieutenant Sayer completed his service and relinquished his commission, 2 March 1937. He was permitted to retain his rank.

On 15 May 1941, Sayer made the first flight of the Gloster-Whittle E.28/39, a prototype jet fighter.

Chief Test Pilot Phillip Edward Gerald Sayer, Esq., was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Years Honours list, 30 December 1941.

Gerry Sayer was flying a Hawker Typhoon from RAF Acklington, 22 October 1942, to the Druridge Bay gunnery range. He never returned.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 September 1946

North American Aviation XFJ-1 Fury. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

11 September 1946:¹ North American Aviation engineering test pilot Wallace Addison (“Wally”) Lien made the first flight of the North American Aviation XFJ-1, Bu. No. 39053. He flew from Mines Field (now, better known as LAX), to Muroc Army Airfield in the high desert of southern California.

Wallace A. Lien

Six months, fifteen days earlier, Lien had made the first flight of the prototype Republic XP-84.)

The XFJ-1 was a turbojet-powered day fighter designed for operation from the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane’s wings and tail surfaces were very similar to those of North American’s legendary P-51 Mustang.

Although intended for carriers, the FJ-1 did not have folding wings to reduce its “footprint” when stored on the hangar deck. It did have an interesting feature, though: The nose gear assembly was capable of “kneeling,” putting the airplane in a nose-low, tail-high attitude, allowing Furies to be placed very close together when parked nose-to-tail.

North American Aviation XFJ-1 (North American Aviation, Inc./Curtiss Aldrich Collection, 1000aircraftphotos.com)

The XFJ-1 Fury was 34 feet, 6–3/16 inches (10.520 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 2–9/32 inches (11.640 meters), and overall height of 14 feet, 10½ inches (4.534 meters). With the jettisonable wingtip fuel tanks installed, the wingspan was 40 feet, 11-3/8 inches 12.481( meters). The leading edge of each wing was swept aft 3° 40′. The total wing area was 274.88 square feet (25.54 square meters). The wings had an angle of incidence of 1° with 2° 30′ of negative twist. There was 3° dihedral. The horizontal stabilizer had a span of 17 feet, 7 inches (5.539 meters), with an angle of incidence of –1° and 10° dihedral. The vertical fin had 0° offset from the fuselage centerline.

The XFJ-1 had an empty weight of 9,009 pounds (4,086 kilograms) and gross weight of 12,288 pounds (5,574 kilograms).

The XFJ-1 was powered by a prototype General Electric TG-180 (J35-GE-2) axial-flow turbojet engine. The J35-GE-2 used an 11-stage compressor, 8 combustion chambers, and a single-stage turbine. It was rated at 3,750 pounds of thrust (16.68 kilonewtons) at 7,700 r.p.m. The engine was 14 feet, 0 inches (4.267 meters) long, 40 inches (1.016 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,455 pounds (1,114 kilograms). Production engines were built by Allison (J35-A-5 and -A-7) and by Chevrolet (J35-C-3).

General Electric TG-180 axial-flow turbojet engine. (General Electric)

The production FJ-1 Fury was limited to a maximum speed of 415 knots (478 miles per hour/769 kilometers per hour), and when above 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), to 0.75 Mach. The service ceiling was 32,000 feet (9,754 meters).

The FJ-1 Fury had three self-sealing fuel tanks in the fuselage totaling 465 gallons (1,760 liters). The wingtip tanks had a capacity of 170 gallons (644 liters), each. The total capacity was 805 U.S. gallons (3,047 liters) of JF-1 kerosene.

North American Aviation XFJ-1 with wingtip tanks. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

The XFJ-1 Fury was armed with six air-cooled Browning .50-caliber machine guns, with 250 rounds of ammunition per gun.

North American Aviation built three XFJ-1 prototypes and thirty production FJ-1 Fury fighters. The aircraft underwent a major redesign to become the XP-86 Sabre for the U.S. Air Force, and the FJ-2 Fury for the Navy and Marine Corps.

North American Aviation XFJ-2B Fury prototype Bu. No. 133756 climbs out after takeoff from Los Angeles International Airport, 27 December 1951. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

Wallace Addison Lien was born 13 August 1915, at Alkabo, North Dakota. He was the second of six children of Olaf Paulson Lien, a Norwegian immigrant and well contractor, and Elma Laura Richardson Lien.

Wallace A. Lien (The 1939 Gopher)

Wally Lien graduated from the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology 17 June 1939 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.M.E.). He was a president of the Pi Tau Sigma (ΠΤΣ) fraternity, a member of the university’s cooperative book store board, and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (A.S.M.E.). He later studied at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) at Pasadena, California, and earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.

Lien worked as a an engineer at a steel sheet mill in Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the the United States Army at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 18 February 1941. He was accepted as an aviation cadet at Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 11 November 1941. 26 years old, Lien was 6 feet, 2 inches (1.88 meters) tall and weighed 174 pounds (79 kilograms).

During World War II, Lien remained in the United States, where he served as a test pilot at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. He conducted flight tests of the Bell YP-59A Airacomet and the Lockheed XP-80 Shooting Star. Having reached the rank of Major, he left the Air Corps, 16 February 1946. He then went to work for the Republic Aviation Corporation as a test pilot, and North American Aviation.

Wallace Addison Lien married Miss Idella Muir at Elizabeth, New Jersey, 26 December 1946. They would have two sons, Robert and Steven.

Wallace Addison Lien died 28 October 1994 at Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the age of 79 years. He was buried at the Shrine of Remembrance Veterans Honor Court, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

¹ Sources very, with some stating 12 September or 27 November 1946.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes


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10 September 1956

North American Aviation North American Aviation F-107A S/N 55-5118 rolling out at Edwards Air Force base. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation F-107A S/N 55-5118 rolling out at Edwards Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force)
Joel Robert Baker (1920–2011). (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett)
Joel Robert Baker (1920–2011). (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett)

10 September 1956: North American Aviation test pilot Joel Robert (“Bob”) Baker made the first flight of the F-107A-NA 55-5118, a pre-production tactical fighter bomber, reaching a speed of Mach 1.03. On landing the drogue parachute did not deploy and due to the high speed on rollout, the nose gear strut collapsed, causing minor damage to the new aircraft.

The F-107A was designed as a Mach 2+ fighter bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The plan to carry a Mark 7 bomb in a centerline recess in the aircraft’s belly resulted in the radical appearance of the airplane, with the engine intake mounted above and behind the cockpit.

Based on the F-100 Super Sabre, it was originally designated F-100B, but this was changed to F-107A prior to the first flight.

The North American Aviation F-107A was a single-seat, single-engine supersonic fighter bomber. It was equipped with a very sophisticated stability augmentation system. The F-107A was 61 feet, 10 inches  (18.847 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 7 inches (11.151 meters) and height of 19 feet, 8 inches (5.994 meters). Its empty weight was 22,696 pounds (10.295 kilograms) and had a maximum takeoff weight of 41,537 pounds (18,841 kilograms).

The airplane was powered by a Pratt & Whitney YJ75-P-11 afterburning turbojet which produced a maximum 24,500 pounds of thrust (108.98 kilonewtons).

This gave the F-107A a maximum speed of 890 miles per hour (1,432 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 1,295 miles per hour (2,084 kilometers per hour) at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters). It could climb at an initial rate of 39,900 feet per minute (202.7 meters per second) and had a service ceiling of 53,200 feet (16,215 meters).

North American Aviation F-107A 55-5118 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation F-107A 55-5118 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)

The Mark 7 was a variable-yield fission bomb that could be pre-set to detonate with ranges between 8 and 61 kilotons. It weighed approximately 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms).

The second F-107A, 55-5119, was the weapons test aircraft and was armed with four 20mm M39 cannon with 200 rounds per gun.

The F-107A was in competition with Republic’s F-105 Thunderchief, which was selected by the Air Force for production. Only three F-107A test aircraft were built.

After Air Force testing, two F-107s, 55-5118 and 55-5120, were turned over to the NACA High-Speed Flight Station for use as research aircraft. John Barron (“Jack”) McKay was assigned as the project pilot. 55-5118 made only 4 flights for NACA before being grounded. 55-5120 made 42 flights.

Today, 55-5118 is at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. Its sister ship, 55-5119, is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The third airplane, 55-5120, was damaged on takeoff with test pilot Scott Crossfield in the cockpit, 1 September 1959. It was not repaired.

The second F-107A, 55-5119, turns from downwind to base leg for landing on Runway 4, Edwards Air Force Base. This was the only one of the three prototypes to be equipped with 20 mm M39 cannon.(U.S. Air Force)
The first XF-107, 118 arrives at HSFS, 6 November 1957. (NASA E-57-3192)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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