Tag Archives: First Flight

25 November 1940

The first Martin Marauder, B-26-MA 40-1361, takes off for the first time at Middle River, Maryland, 25 November 1940. (U.S. Air Force)
The first Martin Marauder, B-26-MA 40-1361, takes off for the first time at Middle River, Maryland, 25 November 1940. (U.S. Air Force)

25 November 1940: Glenn L. Martin Company’s engineer and test pilot William Kenneth Ebel, co-pilot Ed Fenimore and flight engineer Al Malewski made the first flight of the first B-26 Marauder, Army Air Corps serial number 40-1361.

The B-26 was a twin-engine medium bomber designed with high speed as a primary objective. Production of the new airplane was considered so urgent that there were no prototypes. All aircraft were production models.

Martin B-26-MA Marauder 40-1361, right profile, with bomb bay doors open. (U.S. Air Force)
Martin B-26-MA Marauder 40-1361, right profile, with engines idling. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-26 Marauder was 58 feet, 2.5 inches (17.742 meters) long with a wingspan of 65 feet, 0 inches (19.812 meters) ¹ and overall height of 19 feet, 10.3 inches (6.053 meters). At the root, the wings’ chord was 12 feet, 10.5 inches (3.924 meters), with an angle of incidence of 3° 30′. The wing center section had no dihedral, while the the outer panels had +1° 17′. The total wing area was 602 square feet (56 square meters). The bomber had an empty weight of 21,375 pounds (9,696 kilograms) and gross weight of 32,025 pounds (14,526 kilograms).

The prototype was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter), Pratt & Whitney R-2800-5 two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The R-2800-5 had a Normal Power rating of 1,500 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) and a Takeoff/Military Power rating of 1,850 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. to 2,700 feet (823 meters). They turned 13 foot, 6 inch (4.115 meter) diameter four-bladed, constant-speed Curtiss Electric propellers through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-5 was 6 feet, 3.72 inches (1.923 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.06 inches (1.322 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,270 pounds (1,030 kilograms).

40-1361 had a maximum speed of 326 miles per hour (525 kilometers per hour) at 14,250 feet (4,343 meters) with the engines turning 2,400 r.p.m. Its service ceiling was 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), and the absolute ceiling was 26,200 feet (7,986 meters).

Martin B-26-MA Marauder 40-1361, the first production airplane, 25 November 1940. (U.S. Air Force)
Martin B-26-MA Marauder 40-1361, the first production airplane, 25 November 1940. (U.S. Air Force)

When the B-26 entered service, it quickly gained a reputation as a dangerous airplane and was called the “widowmaker,” and also had several less polite nicknames. The airplane had relatively short wings with a small area for its size. This required that landing approaches be flown at much higher speeds than was normal practice. With one engine out, airspeed was even more critical. Some changes were made, such as a slight increase of the wingspan and the size of the vertical fin and rudder. At the same time, an emphasis was made on airspeed control during training. During World War II, the Marauder had the lowest rate of combat losses of any American bomber.

Prototype Martin B-26 40-1361 taxiing. (U.S. Air Force)
Prototype Martin B-26 40-1361 taxiing. (U.S. Air Force)

201 B-26s were built before production switched to the B-26A. Glenn L. Martin Co. produced 5,288 Marauders between 1941 and 1945, with manufacturing taking place at Middle River, Maryland, and Omaha, Nebraska. The Marauder served in the Pacific, Mediterranean and European combat areas, with both the United States and several Allied nations. When it was removed from service at the end of World War II, the “B-26” designation was reassigned to the Douglas A-26 Invader, a twin-engine light bomber.

The first Martin Marauder, B-26-MA 40-1361, was written off after a belly landing at Patterson Field, Ohio, 8 August 1941.

Martin B-26 40-1361 with engines turning, 28 November 1940. (U.S. Air Force)
Martin B-26 40-1361 with engines turning, 28 November 1940. (U.S. Air Force)

William Kenneth Ebel was born at Orangeville, Illinois, 2 January 1899. He was the first of two sons of Willam Henry Ebel, a farmer, and Nora Agnes Rubendall Ebel.

Ken Ebel attended Heidelberg College at Tiffin, Ohio. While at Heidelberg, on 1 October 1918, he enlisted as a private in the Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.). With World War I coming to an end in November, Private Ebel was discharged 20 December 1918. Ebel graduated from Heidelberg in 1921 with a bachelor of arts degree.

Ebel returned to military service, enlisting as a private in the 104th Squadron (Observation), Maryland National Guard, based at Baltimore, Maryland.

Ebel continued his college education at the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1923, he earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering (B.S.M.E.)

Ken Ebel, 104th Observation Squadron.

On 11 September 1923, Private Ebel was appointed an aviation cadet, graduating from primary flying school on 3 June 1924. He received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant, Officers Reserve Corps (O.R.C.), United States Army, on 12 June 1925.

Continuing to serve as a reserve officer, in 1926 Ebel went to work as an engineer for the Glenn L. Martin Company, then located in Cleveland, Ohio. As a test pilot and engineer, Ebel flew the Martin M-130 four-engine flying boar

2nd Lieutenant Ebel,still with the 104th Squadron, Maryland National Guard, was promoted to the rank of 1st lieutenant on 21 December 1928. The U.S. Army advanced his rank to 1st lieutenant, Air Corps, 15 February 1929.

On 21 October 1929, William K. Ebel married Miss Florence E. Sherck at Seneca, Ohio. They would have two children, William Kenneth, Jr., and Lydia Lynn Ebel.

While testing a Martin BM-2 dive bomber, on 11 August 1932, W.K. Ebel “leaped to safety in a parachute Friday when a bombing plane he was testing failed to come out of a spin and crashed at Dahlgren, Virginia. The plane was going through its final tests before being delivered to the navy. It was wrecked in the crash.” Ebel became Member No. 495 of The Caterpillar Club.

Martin M-130 NX14714 during engine testing. (Glenn L. Martin Co.)

On Thursday, 20 December 1934, Chief Pilot Ken Ebel took the new four-engine Martin M-130 flying boat, Pan American Airways System’s Hawaii Clipper, for its first flight from Middle River, Maryland. He also made the first flight of the M-156 “Russian Clipper” in 1935.

Ebel was promoted to captain, Air Corps, on 5 January 1935. On 21 August, he delivered the new Martin Model 146 “mystery bomber” to Wright Field for evaluation by the Bombardment Board.

The Martin Model 146 medium bomber prototype at Wright Field for evaluation, 1935. (Ray Wagner Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

In 1942, Ken Ebel earned a doctorate (Ph.D.) in engineering from the Case School of Applied Science.

On 3 July 1942, Ken Ebel took the Martin XPB2M-1 Mars flying boat prototype for its first flight.

Martin XPB2M-1 Mars taxi test, 1942. (Charles M. Daniels Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

In 1948, Ken Ebel became director of the Airplane Division of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in Columbus, Ohio. Soon after, Curtiss-Wright sold its airplane division to North American Aviation. In 1950, the U.S. Navy’s primary submarine builder, the Electric Boat Company, appointed Ebel as Vice Pressident of Engineering for its Canadair Ltd., aircraft manufacturing subsidiary in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (In 1952, after acquiring Convair, the corporation reorganized as General Dynamics.

William K. Ebel

Ebel returned to the United States in 1961 and served as a consultant for General Dynamics in Washington, D.C. Ebel retired in 1963, purchasing teh Mount Pleasant Orchards near Baltimore.

Mrs. Ebel died in 1968. He later married Helene H. Topping.

William Kenneth Ebel, Ph.D., died at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, 12 July 1972.

¹ The wing span was increased to 71 feet, 0 inches (21.641 meters) with the B-26B-10-MA.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 November 1940

The prototype de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito, W4050, takes off on its first flight at Hatfield, 25 November 1940. (BAE Systems)

25 November 1940: De Havilland Aircraft Company’s Chief Test Pilot, Geoffrey Raoul de Havilland, Jr., and engineer John Walker, made the first flight of the DH.98 Mosquito prototype, E0234, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. The prototype’s Royal Air Force identification was W4050. The multi-role combat aircraft was constructed primarily of layers of balsa covered with layers of birch, then a layer of doped cotton fabric. It was powered by two Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engines.

Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, Jr, with a DH.98 Mosquito, 14 October 1943. (Photo by Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images 3320005)

The construction materials took advantage of plentiful supplies of wood, and also made workers who were not in the standard metal aircraft industry able to take part.

The prototype was rolled out 19 November 1040, painted overall yellow.

The prototype de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito, E0234, outside the Assembly Building, 19 November 1940. (BAE Systems)

The prototype had a wingspan of 54 feet, 2 inches (16.510 meters), and its gross weight was 19,670 pounds (8,922 kilograms). W4050 was powered by two liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,648.96-cubic-inch-displacement (27.01 liter) Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.21 single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines, producing 1,460 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 10,000 feet (3028 meters), with 10 pounds (0.69 Bar) of boost, and driving three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic propellers through a gear reduction.

The prototype DH.98 Mosquito,now marked W4050, in the field behind Salisbury Hall (where it was designed and built) just before its first flight, 25 November 1940. (HistoryNet)

The DH.98 had been predicted to be 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) faster than the Supermarine Spitfire, but was actually much faster. In testing, the prototype reached 392 miles per hour (631 kilometers per hour) at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Improvements were continuously made, and with 2-stage superchargers, W4050 reached a maximum 437 miles per hour (703 kilometers per hour). The DH.98 prototype had a service ceiling of 34,000 feet (10,363 meters) and range of 2,180 miles (3,500 kilometers).

The production fighter variant, the Mosquito F. Mk.II, was 41 feet, 2 inches (12.548 meters) long with a wingspan of 54 feet, 2 inches (16.510 meters) and height of 15 feet, 3 inches (4.648 meters) in 3-point position. The wings had 1½° incidence with approxmatey 2½° dihedral. The leading edges were swept aft 2½°. The total wing area was 436.7 square feet (40.6 square meters). The fighter’s empty weight was 13,356 pounds (6,058 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 18,649 pounds (8,459 kilograms). The Mk.II had a total fuel capacity of 553 gallons.

The Mk.II had a cruise speed of 265 miles per hour (426 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and maximum speed of 380 miles per hour (612 kilometers per hour) at 21,400 feet (6,523 meters).

Mosquito bomber variants could carry four 500 pound bombs, or two 2,000 pound bombs, but were otherwise unarmed. Fighters were equipped with four Hispano Mk.II 20 mm autocannon and four Browning .303-caliber Mk.II machine guns in the nose.

6,411 DH.98 Mosquitoes were built in England, 1,134 in Canada and 212 in Australia. It was produced in bomber, fighter, night fighter, fighter bomber and photo reconnaissance versions.

The prototype DH.98 Mosquito, W4050, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire. (Royal Air Force)

W4050’s (the prototype’s Royal Air Force identification) fuselage was damaged while taxiing at Boscombe Down, 24 February 1941, and had to be replaced with one intended for a second prototype, W4051. It remained at de Havilland and was used to test different engines, armaments and versions. After a series of tests conducted in December 1943, the prototype Mosquito was permanently grounded. It was used as an instructional airframe and later placed in storage.

In September 1958, W4050 was turned over to the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre. Today, the restored prototype DH.98 Mosquito is at the museum at London Colney, Hertfordshire, England.

The Mosquito prototype with camouflauged upper surfaces as it appeared at Boscombe Down, (de Havilland Aircraft Museum)
The Mosquito prototype with camouflaged upper surfaces as it appeared at Boscombe Down, 1941. (de Havilland Aircraft Museum)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 November 1959

Boeing 720-022 c/n 17907, N7201U. (Boeing)
Boeing 720-022 c/n 17907, N7201U, parked on the taxiway at the south shore of Lake Washington. (Boeing)

23 November 1959: The first Boeing 720 airliner, a 720-022, registered as N7201U, made its first flight at Renton, Washington. The 720 was a development of the 707 and no prototype was built. N7201U was used by Boeing for flight testing and was then delivered to United Airlines, 1 October 1960. The airline named the new 720 Jet Mainliner Capt. F. M. Crismore. Over the next two years, United acquired 29 Boeing 720s.

N7201U was sold to Contemporary Entertainment, owned by singer Bobby Sherman and his manager, Ward Sylvester, in January 1973. It was repainted in a gold and black livery and christened The Starship. As a VIP transport, it was used by such rock bands as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper and Elton John. It was last chartered by Peter Frampton.

N7201U was withdrawn from service in 1977 and after being stored for several years, was broken up at Luton Airport near London, England, in 1982.

The Boeing 720 was a variant of the Model 707, intended for short to medium range flights. It had 100 inches (2.54 meters) removed from the fuselage length and improvements to the wing, decreasing aerodynamic drag.

Boeing built 154 720 and 720B airliners from 1959 to 1967.

The Boeing 720 was operated by a flight crew of four and could carry up to 149 passengers. It was 136 feet, 2 inches (41.25 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 10 inches (39.90 meters) and overall height of 41 feet, 7 inches (12.65 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 103,145 pounds (46,785 kilograms) and Maximum Takeoff Weight of 220,000 pounds (100,800 kilograms).

The Boeing 720 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3C-7 turbojet engines, a civil variant of the military J57 series. The 720B was equipped with the more efficient P&W JT3D-1 turbofan engines. The JT3C-7 was a “two-spool” axial-flow engine with a 16-stage compressor (9 low- and 7 high-pressure stages), 8 combustion tubes, and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). It was rated at 12,030 pounds of thrust (53.512 kilonewtons) for takeoff.

The JT3D-1 was a dual axial-flow turbofan engine, with a 2-stage fan section 13-stage compressor (6 low- and 7 high pressure stages), 8 combustion chambers and a 4-stage turbine (1 high- and 3 low-pressure stages). This engine was rated at 14,500 pounds of static thrust (64.499 kilonewtons) at Sea Level, and 17,000 pounds (75.620 kilonewtons), with water injection, for takeoff (2½ minute limit). Almost half of the engine’s thrust was produced by the fans. Maximum engine speed was 6,800 r.p.m. (N1) and 10,200 r.p.m. (N2). It was 11 feet, 4.64 inches (3.471 meters) long, 4 feet, 5.00 inches (1.346 meters) wide and 4 feet, 10.00 inches (1.422 meters) high. It weighed 4,165 pounds (1,889 kilograms). The JT3C could be converted to the JT3D configuration during overhaul.

The maximum cruise speed was 611 miles per hour (983 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed was 620 miles per hour (1,009 kilometers per hour). Range at at maximum payload was 4,370 miles (7,033 kilometers).

The last flight of a Boeing 720 was on 9 May 2012, when a 720B aircraft used by Pratt and Whitney Canada as a test aircraft was placed in the National Air Force Museum of Canada at Trenton, Ontario.

United Airlines' Boeing 720-022, N7201U. (Unattributed)
United Airlines’ Boeing 720-022, N7201U. The airliner’s name, “Jet Mainliner Capt. F. M. Crismore,” is visible under the cockpit windows. (Bill Larkins via Wikipedia)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 November 1952

Test Pilot Russell Morgan Roth with the first production Republic F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak, 51-1346. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

22 November 1952: At Farmingdale, Long Island, New York, Republic Aviation Corporation test pilot Russell Morgan (“Rusty”) Roth took the first production F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak, 51-1346, for its first flight.

The swept-wing F-84F fighter bomber was an improved version of Republic’s straight-wing F-84 Thunderjet series, designed to operate at high sub-sonic speeds. Originally designated XF-96A, the prototype used the fuselage of the F-84E Thunderjet and was powered by an Allison J33 turbojet engine.

Republic F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak 51-1346. (U.S. Air Force)

Redesignated XF-84F, the prototype was followed by two YF-84F pre-production airplanes which were powered by a more powerful Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire turbojet engine.

The first production Republic F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak, 51-1346, with its predecessor, a F-84G Thunderjet. (Unattributed)

The F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak was 43.4 feet (13.23 meters) long, with a wingspan of 33.6 feet (10.24 meters) and overall height of 15.0 feet (4.6 meters). The wings were swept aft 40° at 25% chord. They had an angle of incidence of 1° 30′, and 3° 30′ anhedral. The total wing area was 324.7 square feet (30.17 square meters), a 25% increase over the straight-winged F-84E. The F-84F-1 had an empty weight of 13,645 pounds (6,189 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 27,000 pounds (12,247 kilograms).

The early variants used a horizontal stabilizer with elevators. This was soon changed to an “all-flying” stabilator.

 

Republic F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak 51-1346, the first production airplane, at Farmingdale, New York, 1952. (Republic Aviation Corporation)

The first ten aircraft were powered by the Wright J65-W-1 engine, a licensed variant of the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire. These were later upgraded to the Buick-built J65-W-3. The J65 was a single-shaft axial flow turbojet with a 13-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. It was 10 feet, 8.6 inches (3.266 meters) long, 3 feet, 1.7 inches (0.958 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,785 pounds (1,263 kilograms). The J65-W-3 had a normal power rating of 6,350 pounds of thrust (28.25 kilonewtons) at 8,000 r.p.m., and a maximum 7,220 pounds (32.12 kN) at 8,300 r.p.m. (5 minute limit). Additionally, the Thunderstreak was equipped with four Aerojet 14AS-1000 solid-fuel rocket engines for takeoff. These produced 1,000 pounds of thrust (4.45 kilonewtons), each, for 14 seconds.

Overhead view of one of the two YF-84F pre-production prototypes shows the airplane’s swept wings. This variant has the sliding canopy of the straight-wing Thunderjet. (Republic Aviation Corporation)

The F-84F-1 Thunderstreak had a maximum speed of 595 knots (685 miles per hour/1,102 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level (0.900 Mach). It could climb to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) in 13.8 minutes, and had a service ceiling of 36,150 feet (11,019 meters). The fighter-bomber had a maximum ferry range of 2,150 nautical miles (2,474 statute miles/3,982 kilometers).

The Thunderstreak was armed with six M3 .50-caliber aircraft machine guns, with four mounted in the nose above the intake, and two in each wing root. Each gun was supplied with 300 rounds of ammunition.

The fighter bomber had a maximum bomb load of 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms). It could also carry eight 5-inch HVAR rockets, or twenty-four 2.75-inch FFARs. For tactical nuclear strike, the F-84F could carry one variable yield Mark 7 nuclear bomb.

Republic built 2,112 Thunderstreaks at Farmingdale, and 559 were built by General Motors in Kansas City, Kansas. The F-84F served with the United States Air Force and Air National Guard until 1972. It also served with a number of NATO countries.

NACA Research Test Pilot George E. Cooper with 51-1346 at NASA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, circa 1954. (NASA)

In 1954, 51-1346 was assigned to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Moffett Field, California. It returned to Edwards Air Force Base where it was used to test rocket-assisted takeoffs and zero-length launches (ZELL). It was then assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard.

Republic F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak 51-1346 displayed at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio, circa 1995.

The first production Thunderstreak is on display at Columbus-Rickenbacker International Airport, Columbus, Ohio.

The first production airplane, Republic F-84F-1-RE Thunderstreak 51-1346 is on display at Columbus-Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. (Photograph courtesy of Dave Peel. Used with permission.)
Russell Roth, 1937. (The Re Echo)

Russell Morgan Roth was born at Emporia, Kansas, 7 October 1919. He was the youngest of three sons of Thaddeus Roth, a farm laborer, and Dorothy Amy Shipley Roth. Mrs. Roth died 25 November 1932. “Rusty” attended Emporia High School, Emporia, Kansas, graduating in 1937.

When Roth registered for the draft (Selective Service, or conscription), 16 October 1940, he was described as having a dark brown complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes. He was 5 feet, 6 inches (1.68 meters) tall and weighed 140 pounds. (63.5 kilograms)

Roth enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, 30 October 1941. He was trained as a fighter pilot at Luke Field, Arizona, and was commissioned a second lieutenant 22 June 1943. Serving with the 80th Fighter Squadron (“Headhunters”), Fifth Air Force, in New Guinea and the Philippine Islands, he flew 132 combat missions with the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. He was credited with shooting down two enemy airplanes and another two “probables.” Captain Roth was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters (five awards).

Rusty Roth with his Lockheed P-38 Lightning, “Half Pint.”

Following World War II, Captain Roth was assigned as assistant chief of the Flight Development Branch at Muroc Army Airfield in the high desert of southern California.He was involved in testing the Douglas XB-43 Jetmaster, the experimental Northrop N-9M flying wing, and the North American XP-86 Sabre.

Captain Roth graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1949. He then returned to Muroc, now renamed Edwards Air Force Base. On 11 January 1951, Captain Roth located the wreck of a B-50 Superfortress which had disappeared after departing March Air Force Base, near Riverside, California, the previous day.

Roth was released from active duty 1 October 1951, and joined Republic as a test pilot in 1952. On 9 December 1952 he flew the company’s XF-91 Thunderceptor, a turbojet/rocket-propelled fighter, to Mach 1.07 at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). This was the first time that a U.S. fighter aircraft had exceeded Mach 1 in level flight. Republic’s president, Mundy I. Peale, described the XF-91 as “a combat-ready airplane.”

A Republic XF-91 at the NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station, Edwards Air Force Base, California, circa 1951. (NASA E-475)

On 7 May 1954, Roth made the first flight of the XF-84J, a re-engined variant of the Thunderstreak. The fighter bomber was equipped with a General Electric XJ73 engine.

In 1955, Roth wrote a three-page article, “Flying the F,” for Flying Safety, a U.S. Air Force publication. He described pre-flight checks, takeoff technique and airspeed and power management. He wrote, “I still say that you really have to try to make a bad landing.” ¹

On April 23 1955, Roth was promoted to chief experimental test pilot of the Republic Aviation Corporation.

On 22 October 1955, Rusty Roth made the first flight of Republic’s YF-105A Thunderchief. He described the 45-minute flight as “a very fine ride.” 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. Roth was severely injured, but he survived.

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

Russell Morgan Roth died at Lancaster, California, 10 November 1972, at the age of 53 years. He was buried at Joshua Memorial Park in Lancaster.

¹ Flying Safety, Vol XI, No. 1, January 1955, at Pages 8–10. Directorate of Flight Safety Research, Norton Air Force Base, California.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 November 1947

Corky Meyer in the cockpit of the first Grumman XF9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 122475, during the first flight, 21 November 1947. (U.S. Navy)
Corky Meyer in the cockpit of the first Grumman XF9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 122475, during the first flight, 21 November 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Corwin H. ("Corky") Meyer
Corwin Henry Meyer, 1920–2011. (Grumman)

21 November 1947: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation engineering test pilot Corwin Henry (“Corky”) Meyer took off from the company’s  airfield at Bethpage, Long Island, New York, in the first prototype XF9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 122475. After the preliminary flight evaluation, Meyer landed the new jet fighter on a longer runway at Idlewild Airport. The Bethpage runway was only 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) long. As the first jet aircraft built by Grumman, it wasn’t known if the XF9F-2 could land on that short a runway.

Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine quoted Meyer as saying that the weather was “the foulest of any first flight in my experience.” He described the prototype’s handling qualities: “It handled like a J-3 Cub.” In an article for Flight Journal, Corky Meyer wrote: “I conducted a very satisfactory first flight of the 5,000-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce Nene-powered fighter on November 21, 1947.”

Grumman XF9F-2 prototype, photographed 20 November 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

The XF9F-2 Panther was the first jet-powered aircraft to be built by Grumman, a major supplier of aircraft for the United States Navy. It was a single-seat, single-engine, day fighter, designed for operation on the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was developed from a proposed four-engine XF9F-1 night fighter. Grumman planned to use the Rolls-Royce RB.41 Nene centrifugal-flow turbojet engine. With 5,000 pounds rated thrust at 12,400 r.p.m., the Nene was more powerful (and more reliable) than any engine manufactured by an American company.

The first prototype Grumman XF9F-2 Panther at Grumman's Plant 4, 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
The first prototype Grumman XF9F-2 Panther at Grumman’s Plant 4, 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

Originally it was planned that the Nene would be licensed for production to the Taylor Turbine Corporation as the J42-TT-2. No J42s were ready, so Taylor supplied Grumman with imported Rolls-Royce engines. The Navy had concerns about Taylor’s capability to produce engine in sufficient quantities and arranged for the J42 license to be sold to Pratt & Whitney.

Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, as wingman to Lieutenant (j.g.) Ernie Moore, is flying the second Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 125122 (marked S 116), assigned to VF-51, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951. (Naval Aviation Museum)
Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, as wingman to Lieutenant (j.g.) George Russell, is flying the second Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 125122 (marked S 116), assigned to VF-51, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951. (John Moore/Naval Museum of Naval Aviation)

The Panther was placed into production as the F9F-2. The F9F-2 was 37 feet, 5-3/8 inches (11.414 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 5⅜ inches (11.719 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.528 meters)—not including wing tanks. Its overall height was 11 feet, 4 inches (3.454 meters). The wings could be hydraulically folded to reduce the span for storage aboard ship. The Panther weighed 9,303 pounds (4,220 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 19,494 pounds (8,842 kilograms.

Grumman F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 126034, of VF-781, catches an arresting cable when landing aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 1952. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 126034, of VF-781, catches an arresting cable when landing aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 15 November 1952. (U.S. Navy)

The F9F-2 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT6 (J42-P-8) turbojet engine which produced 5,000 pounds of thrust (22.241 kilonewtons) at Sea Level, and 5,750 pounds (25.577 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The J42 was a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Nene. The engine used a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, 9 combustion chambers and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The J42-P-8 weighed 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms).

The Panther had a maximum speed of 575 miles per hour (925 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 44,600 feet (13,594 meters), and the range was 1,353 miles (2,177 kilometers).

The Panther was armed with four M3 20 mm autocannon placed in the nose with 760 rounds of ammunition. It could carry up to 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of bombs or eight 5-inch (12.7 centimeters) rockets on four hardpoints under each wing.

Lt. Royce Williams, USN, points out battle damage to his Grumman F9F-5 Panther, aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 18 November 1952. (U.S. Navy)
Lt. Royce Williams, USN, points out battle damage to his Grumman F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 125459, aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 18 November 1952. (U.S. Navy via Flight Journal)

It was a very successful air-to-air and air-to-ground fighter during the Korean War. On 18 November 1952, Lieutenant Elmer Royce Williams, USN, flying an F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 125459, of VF-781 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34), shot down four of seven Soviet Air Force MiG 15 fighters which had launched from Vladivostok toward Task Force 77. His Panther sustained significant damage from enemy cannon shells. Though he safely returned to his carrier, the fighter, Number 106, was so badly damaged that it was pushed over the side. Lieutenant Williams was awarded the Silver Star for this action. No other pilot has ever shot down four MiG fighters during a single combat action.

This Grumman F9F-5 Panther aboard the USS Midway Museum, San Diego, California, is painted to represent Royce Williams' fighter. (USS Midway Museum)
This Grumman F9F-5 Panther aboard the USS Midway Museum, San Diego, California, is painted to represent Royce Williams’ fighter. (USS Midway Museum)

The F9F Panther was flown during the Korean War by such famed naval aviators as Ted Williams, and future astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

Grumman built 1,358 F9F-2,-3,-4 and -5 Panthers and another 1,392 swept wing F9F-6, -7 and -8 Cougars. Panthers remained in service with the United States Navy until 1958, and Cougars until 1974.

The combat survivability of Grumman's fighters earne dteh factory the nickname of "The Grumman Iron Works". In this photograph, future NASA astronaut John H. Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, examines some of the 714 holes in his F9F Panther. (U.S. Navy)
The combat survivability of Grumman’s fighters earned the factory the nickname of “The Grumman Iron Works.” In this photograph, future NASA astronaut Major John H. Glenn, U.S. Marine Corps, the first American to orbit the Earth, examines some of the 714 holes in his F9F Panther. (U.S. Navy)

Corwin Henry (“Corky”) Meyer ¹ was born 14 April 1920 at Springfield, Illinois. He was the second of three children of Dr. John Gerhard Meyer, a physician and surgeon, and Betsy Arenia Corwin Meyer.

Corwin H. Meyer, 1938. (Capitoline)

At the age of 17 years, Corky Meyer learned to fly in the Civilian Pilot Training Program. (This was a federal government-funded program which provided 72 hours of ground school and 35–50 hours of flight training, intended to increase the number of pilots available for civilian aviation.)

Meyer attended Springfield High School, in Springfield. He was a member of the Senior Boys’ Council and the National Honor Society. Meyer graduated from high school in May 1938, then entered the University of Illinois. He studied at the at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1942–43.

Meyer was a pilot trainee for Pan American Airways before being employed as an engineering test pilot at the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation at Bethpage, New York.

A flight crew boards a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, circa early 1942. (Rudy Arnold Collection, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum NASM-XRA-0780)

Meyer’s first project was testing newly-built TBF Avenger torpedo bombers. Later he was was a project test pilot for the F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat and F7F Tigercat. (Robert Leicester Hall made the first flights of these airplanes, but Corky Meyer was involved in flight testing of each of them early on.)

Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Bu. No. 26108, Long Island, New York, circa 1942. The pilot standing by the airplane may be Corky Meyer. (Rudy Arnold Collection, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum NASM-XRA-0648)

Corwin H. Meyer married Miss Dorothy Marjorie Fyfield, 7 April 1945, at Huntington, New York. They would have a daughter, Sandra Louise Meyer, born in 1950, and two sons, John Fyfield Meyer and Peter Meyer.

Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, Bu. No. 121718. The pilot may be Corky Meyer. (Grumman)

On 19 May 1952, Corky Meyer took the prototype variable-wing-sweep XF10F-1 Jaguar for its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Grumman XF10F-1 Jaguar, 1952.

From 1952 to 1954, Meyer was head of Grumman’s flight operations at Edwards Air Force Base in California. In 1954, he became the first civilian airplane pilot to qualify for flight operations aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, when he flew an F9F-6 Cougar to USS Lake Champlain (CVA-39). ²

Grumman XF9F-9 prototype, Bu. No. 138604. (Grumman)

Corky Meyer made the first flight of the XF9F-9 prototype, Bu. No. 138604, on 30 July 1954, and was able to approach mach 1 in level flight. The XF9F-9 was a completely redesigned F9F Cougar, which incorporated the “wasp-waist” in its area-ruled fuselage. The following year, this type would be redesignated the F11F Tiger.

In 1967, Meyer was appointed  vice president of Grumman, and in 1968, he was elected to the board of directors of the Grumman Aerospace Corporation. He became the senior  vice president of Grumman Aerospace in 1972. In 1974, Meyer became President of Grumman American Aviation Corp., Savannah, Georgia, a subsidiary which produced light civil airplanes, the Grumman AgCat, and the Gulfstream line of executive jets. Corwin Meyer retired from Grumman in 1978. He later served as chief executive officer of the Enstrom Helicopter Corporation and the Falcon Jet Corporation.

A Grumman C-20B Gulfstream III, 86-0200, in service with the 89th Airlift Wing, U.S. Air Force.
Corwin Henry Meyer

Meyer was an early member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. In 1971, he was awarded SETP’s James H Doolittle Award for excellence in technical management or engineering achievement in aerospace technology. In 1999 the National Aeronautic Association selected him for its Elder Statesman Award.

Meyer was the author of Corky Meyer’s Flight Journal, an autobiography published in 2005, by Specialty Press, North Branch, Minnesota.

Corwin Henry Meyer died in Naples, Florida, 1 June 2011, at the age of 91 years.

¹ Lutheran Church birth and baptismal records give Meyer’s name as “Henry Corwin Meyer.”

² On 3 April 1991, TDiA’s author became the only civilian helicopter pilot (at that time, and who was not a former military pilot) to qualify to fly from U.S. Navy warships at sea. The Deck Landing Qualification (DLQ) flights were evaluated by instructors from Helicopter Antisubmarine (Light) Squadron (HSL-31) aboard USS Kincaide (DDG-965), a Spruance-class guided missile destroyer.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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