Tag Archives: First Flight

19 January 1946

Boeing B-29-96-BW Superfortress 45-21800 carries a Bell XS-1 rocketplane. (Bell Aircraft Museum)
Boeing B-29-96-BW Superfortress 45-21800 carries a Bell XS-1 rocketplane. (Bell Aircraft Museum)
Jack Valentine Williams, Senior Experimental Test Pilot, Bell Aircraft Corporation.
Jack Valentine Williams, Senior Experimental Test Pilot, Bell Aircraft Corporation.

19 January 1946: Near Pinecastle Army Airfield, Bell Aircraft Corporation Senior Experimental Test Pilot Jack Woolams made the first unpowered flight of the XS-1 supersonic research rocketplane, 46-062.

46-062 was the first of three XS-1 rocketplanes built by Bell for the U.S. Army Air Corps to explore flight at speeds at and beyond Mach 1, the speed of sound. It had rolled out of Bell’s plant at Buffalo, New York on 27 December 1945. The rocket engine, which was being developed by the Reaction Motors Co., was not ready, so the experimental aircraft was carrying ballast in its place.

The XS-1 was to be air-dropped from altitude by a modified heavy bomber, so that its fuel could be used for acceleration to high speeds at altitude, rather than expended climbing from the surface. Bell manufactured B-29 Superfortresses at its Atlanta, Georgia plant and was therefore very familiar with its capabilities. A B-29 was selected as the drop ship and modified to carry the rocketplane in its bomb bay.

Pinecastle Army Airfield was chosen as the site of the first flight tests because it had a 10,000 foot (3,048 meter) runway and was fairly remote. There was an adjacent bombing range and the base was a proving ground for such aircraft as the Consolidated B-32 Dominator. (Today, Pinecastle A.A.F. is known as Orlando International Airport, MCO.)

Bell XS-1 46-062 was placed in a pit at Pinecastle A.A.F. so that the B-29 drop ship in the background could be positioned over it. (NASA)
Bell XS-1 46-062 was placed in a pit at Pinecastle A.A.F. so that the B-29 drop ship in the background could be positioned over it. (NASA)

Jack Woolams made ten glide flights with 46-062, evaluating its handling characteristics and stability. The aircraft was returned to Bell to have the rocket engine installed, and it was then sent to Muroc Army Airfield in the high desert of southern California for powered flight tests. (Muroc was renamed Edwards Air Force Base in 1949.)

Bell X-1 46-062 was later named Glamorous Glennis by its military test pilot, Captain Charles E. Yeager, U.S. Army Air Corps. On 14 October 1947, Chuck Yeager flew it to Mach 1.06 at 13,115 meters (43,030 feet). Today it is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Jack Woolams was killed 30 August 1946 when his red Thompson Trophy racer, Cobra I, a modified 2,000-horsepower Bell P-39Q Airacobra, crashed into Lake Ontario at over 400 miles per hour.

The Bell XS-1, later re-designated X-1, was the first of a series of rocket-powered research airplanes which included the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, the Bell X-2, and the North American Aviation X-15, which were flown by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, NACA and its successor, NASA, at Edwards Air Force Base to explore supersonic and hypersonic flight and at altitudes to and beyond the limits of Earth’s atmosphere.

An X-1 under construction at teh Bell Aircraft Corporation plant, Buffalo, New York. (Bell Aircraft Corporation)
An X-1 under construction at the Bell Aircraft Corporation plant, Buffalo, New York. (Bell Aircraft Corporation)

The X-1 has an ogive nose, similar to the shape of a .50-caliber machine gun bullet, and has straight wings and tail surfaces. It is 30 feet, 10.98 inches (9.423 meters) long with a wing span of 28.00 feet (8.534 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 10.20 inches (3.307 meters). Total wing area is 102.5 square feet (9.5 square meters). 46-062 was built with a very thin 8% aspect ratio wing, while 46-063 had a 10% thick wing.

The fuselage cross section is circular. At its widest point, the diameter of the X-1 fuselage is 4 feet, 7 inches (1.397 meters). The empty weight is 6,784.9 pounds (3,077.6 kilograms), but loaded with propellant, oxidizer and its pilot with his equipment, the weight increased to 13,034 pounds (5,912 kilograms).

The X-1 is powered by a four-chamber Reaction Motors, Inc., XLR11-RM-3 rocket engine which produced 6,000 pounds of thrust (26,689 Newtons). This engine burns a mixture of ethyl alcohol and water with liquid oxygen. Fuel capacity is 293 gallons (1,109 liters) of water/alcohol and 311 gallons (1,177 liters) of liquid oxygen. The fuel system is pressurized by nitrogen at 1,500 pounds per square inch (10,342 kilopascals).

A pair of Bell X-1 rocketplanes with the B-29 Superfortress at Muroc Army Airfield, June 1947. (U.S. Air Force)
A pair of Bell XS-1 rocketplanes with Boeing Wichita-built B-29-96-BW Superfortress drop ship, 45-21800, at Muroc Army Airfield, 18 June 1947. (U.S. Air Force)

The X-1 was usually dropped from a B-29 flying at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) and 345 miles per hour (555 kilometers per hour). It fell as much as 1,000 feet (305 meters) before beginning to climb under its own power.

The X-1’s performance was limited by its fuel capacity. Flying at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), it could reach 916 miles per hour (1,474 kilometers per hour), but at 70,000 feet (21,336 meters) the maximum speed that could be reached was 898 miles per hour (1,445 kilometers per hour). During a maximum climb, fuel would be exhausted as the X-1 reached 74,800 feet (2,799 meters). The absolute ceiling is 87,750 feet (26,746 meters).

The X-1 had a minimum landing speed of 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour) using 60% flaps.

The X-1 was designed to withstand an ultimate structural load of 18g.

Front view of a Bell XS-1 supersonic research rocketplane at the Bell Aircraft plant, Buffalo, New York. A North American P-51D Mustang fighter is in the background. (Bell Aircraft Museum)
Front view of a Bell XS-1 supersonic research rocketplane. (Bell Aircraft Museum)
Bell XS-1 46-063 at Buffalo, New York. (Bell Aircraft Museum)
Bell XS-1 46-063. (Bell Aircraft Museum)

There were 157 flights with the three X-1 rocket planes. The number one ship, 46-062, Glamorous Glennis, made 78 flights. On 26 March 1948, with Chuck Yeager again in the cockpit, it reached reached Mach 1.45 (957 miles per hour/1,540 kilometers per hour) at 71,900 feet (21,915 meters).

The third X-1, 46-064, made just one glide flight before it was destroyed 9 November 1951 in an accidental explosion.

The second X-1, 46-063, was later modified to the X-1E. It is on display at the NASA Dryden Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. Glamorous Glennis is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, next to Charles A. Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.

Bell X-1, 46-062, Glamorous Glennis, on display at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. (NASM)
Bell X-1 46-062, Glamorous Glennis, on display at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. (NASM)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 January 1906

Graf von Zeppelin's LZ 2 at Lake Constance, 1906. (RAF Museum)
Graf von Zeppelin’s LZ 2 at Lake Constance, 1906. (RAF Museum)

17 January 1906: Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin’s second airship, LZ 2, designed by Ludwig Dürr, made its first—and only—flight at Lake Constance.

Ludwig Dürr (1878–1956)
Ludwig Dürr (1878–1956)

LZ 2 was 414 feet (126.19 meters) long and 38 feet, 6 inches (11.75 meters) in diameter. It had a volume of 366,200 cubic feet (10,370 cubic meters). The rigid structure was provided by triangular-section girders that provided light weight and strength. Buoyancy was provided by hydrogen gas contained in bags inside the airship’s envelope.

The airship was powered by two 85 horsepower Daimler engines. It was capable of reaching 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers per hour). The airship’s ceiling was 2,800 feet (850 meters).

An engine failure forced the ship to make an emergency landing close to a small town named Sommersried, Allgäu, in southern Germany, and was so badly damaged by a storm during the night that it had to be scrapped.

Wreckage of LZ 2.
Wreckage of LZ 2.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 January 1950

This is the second Mikoyan Gurevich I 330 prototype, SI 02.
This is the second Mikoyan Gurevich I 330 prototype, SI 02.

14 January 1950: The Mikoyan Gurevich prototype fighter I 330 SI made its first flight with test pilot Ivan Ivashchenko. It would be developed into the MiG 17.

The MiG 17 was an improved version of the earlier MiG 15. It was a single-seat, single engine fighter armed with cannon, and capable of high subsonic and transonic speed.

Mikoyan Gurevich MiG 17.
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG 17.

The prototype’s wings were very thin and this allowed them to flex. The aircraft suffered from “aileron reversal,” in that the forces created by applying aileron to roll the aircraft about its longitudinal axis were sufficient to bend the wings and that caused the airplane to roll in the opposite direction.

The first prototype I 330 SI developed “flutter” while on a test flight, 17 March 1950. This was a common problem during the era, as designers and engineers learned how to build an airplane that could smoothly transition through the “sound barrier.” The rapidly changing aerodynamic forces caused the structure to fail and the horizontal tail surfaces were torn off. The prototype went into an unrecoverable spin. Test pilot Ivashchenko was killed.

Two more prototypes, SI 02 and SI 03, were built. The aircraft was approved for production in 1951.

More than 10,000 MiG 17 fighters were built in the Soviet Union, Poland and China. The type remains in service with North Korea.

A MiG 17 in flight.
A MiG 17 in flight.
Иван Т. Иващенко летчик-испытатель
Иван Т. Иващенко летчик-испытатель

Ива́н Тимофе́евич Ива́щенко (Ivan T. Ivashchenko) was born at Ust-Labinsk, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, 16 October 1905. He served in the Red Army from 1927 to 1930. He graduated from the Kuban State University in 1932.

Ivashchenko was trained as a pilot at the Lugansk Military Aviation School at Voroshilovgrad, and a year later graduated from the Kachin Military Aviation College at Volgograd.

In 1939, he fought in The Winter War. During the Great Patriotic War, Ivan Ivashchenko flew with a fighter squadron in the defense of Moscow.

From 1940 to 1945, Ivan Ivashchenko was a test pilot. He trained at the M.M. Gromov Flight Research Institute at Zhokovsky, southeast of Moscow, in 1941. He was assigned to Aircraft Factory No. 18 at Kuibyshev (Samara) from 1941 to 1943. Ivashchenko flew the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik fighter bomber extensively. From 1943 to 1945 he was a test pilot for Lavochkin OKB at Factory 301 in Khimki, northwest of Moscow.

In 1945 Ivashchenko was reassigned to OKB Mikoyan, where he worked on the development of the MiG 15 and MiG 17 fighters. He participated in testing ejection seat systems and in supersonic flight.

Ivan T. Ivashchenko was a Hero of the Soviet Union, and was awarded the Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Banner (two awards) and Order of the Patriotic War. Killed in the MiG 17 crash at the age of 44 years, he was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 January 1942

Les Morris at the controls of the Vought-Sikorsky VS-316A (XR-4, serial number 41-18874) on its first flight at Stratford, Connecticut, 13 January 1942. (SikorskyHistorical Archives)
Les Morris at the controls of the Vought-Sikorsky VS-316A (XR-4, serial number 41-18874) on its first flight at Stratford, Connecticut, 14 January 1942. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

14 January 1942: Chief Test Pilot Charles Lester (“Les”) Morris (1908–1991) made the first flight of the Vought-Sikorsky VS-316A at Stratford, Connecticut. The first flight lasted approximately 3 minutes, and by the end of the day, Morris had made 6 flights totaling 25 minutes duration.

The VS-316A (which was designated XR-4 by the U.S. Army Air Corps and assigned serial number 41-18874), established the single main rotor/anti-torque tail rotor configuration. It was a two-place helicopter with side-by-side seating and dual flight controls.

The fabric-covered three-blade main rotor was 38 feet (11.582 meters) in diameter and turned counter-clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) The tail rotor was mounted to the aft end of the tail boom in a tractor configuration, and rotated counter-clockwise when seen from the helicopter’s right side.

The VS-316A was 33 feet, 11.5 inches (10.351 meters) long and 12 feet, 5 inches (3.785 meters) high. It weighed 2,010 pounds (911.7 kilograms) empty and the maximum gross weight was 2,540 pounds (1,152.1 kilograms).

The original engine was an air-cooled, 499-cubic-inch-displacement (8.18 liter) Warner Aircraft Corporation R-500-1 Scarab 7-cylinder radial engine, rated at 175 horsepower.

gor Ivanovich Sikorsky and Charles Lester Morris with the XR-4 at Wright Field, Ohio, May 1942. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
gor Ivanovich Sikorsky and Charles Lester Morris with the XR-4 at Wright Field, Ohio, May 1942. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

Numerous modifications were made, including lengthening the main rotor blades, covering them with metal, and upgrading the engine to a 200 horsepower Warner R-550-1 Super Scarab. The XR-4 was redesignated XR-4C. This would be the world’s first production helicopter. It is at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Sikorsky XR-4C 41-18874 at the National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
Sikorsky XR-4C 41-18874 at the National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 January 1966

The prototype Bell Model 206A JetRanger, serial number 1, civil registration N8560F, hovering out of ground effect. (Bell Helicopter Company)
The prototype Bell Model 206A JetRanger, serial number 1, civil registration N8560F, hovering out of ground effect. (Bell Helicopter Company)

10 January 1966: The prototype Bell Model 206A JetRanger serial number 1, N8560F, made its first flight at at the Bell Helicopter Company plant at Hurst, Texas. This aircraft would be in production for almost 45 years. The final JetRanger to be built, Bell 206B-3 serial number 4690, was delivered in December 2010 and production came to an end.

The  Bell JetRanger is a 5-place, single-engine light civil helicopter based on the Bell Helicopter’s unsuccessful OH-4 entrant for the U.S. Army’s Light Observation Helicopter (LOH, or “loach”) contract. The industrial design firm of Charles Wilfred Butler “. . . was responsible for the complete redesign of the Bell OH4A prototype army helicopter (1961) into the Bell Jet Ranger (1965). He and his designers restyled the machine inside and out in the manner of automotive design, creating in the process one of the world’s most successful and beautiful helicopters.”Encyclopedia Britannica. It is flown by a single pilot in the right front seat. Dual flight controls can be installed for a second pilot.

The JetRanger is 38 feet, 9.5 inches (11.824 meters) long, overall. On standard skid landing gear the overall height is 9 feet, 4 inches (2.845 meters). The Bell 206A has an empty weight of approximately 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms), depending on installed equipment. The maximum gross weight is 3,200 pounds (1,451.5 kilograms). With an external load suspended from the cargo hook, the maximum gross weight is increased to 3,350 pounds (1,519.5 kilograms).

The two-bladed main rotor is semi-rigid and under-slung, a common feature of Bell’s main rotor design. It has a diameter of 33 feet, 4.0 inches (10.160 meters) and turns counter-clockwise (seen from above) at 394 r.p.m. (100% NR). (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) The rotor blade has a chord of 1 foot, 1.0 inches (0.330 meter) and 10° negative twist. The airfoil is symmetrical.

The first Bell 206B JetRanger (Bell Helicopter Co.)
The first Bell 206A JetRanger, N8560F. (Bell Helicopter Co.)

The two-bladed tail rotor assembly is also semi-rigid and is positioned on the left side of the tail boom in a pusher configuration. It turns at 2,550 r.p.m., clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor diameter is 5 feet, 6.0 inches (1.676 meters).

The turboshaft engine is mounted above the roof of the fuselage, to the rear of the main transmission. Output shafts lead forward to the transmission and aft to the tail rotor 90° gear box. The transmission and rotor mast are mounted angled slightly forward and to the left. This assists in the helicopter’s lift off to a hover, helps to offset its translating tendency, and keeps the passenger cabin in a near-level attitude during cruise flight.

A vertical fin is attached at the aft end of the tail boom. The fin is offset 4° to the right to unload the tail rotor in cruise flight. Fixed horizontal stabilizers with an inverted asymmetric airfoil are attached to the tail boom. In cruise flight, these provide a downward force that keeps the passenger cabin in a near-level attitude.

The 206A was powered by an Allison 250-C18 turboshaft engine (T63-A-700) which produced a maximum of 370 shaft horsepower at 100% N1, 51,120 r.pm. (The improved Model 206B JetRanger and 206B-2 JetRanger II used a 400 horsepower 250–C20 engine, and the Model 206B-3 JetRanger III had 250-C20B, -C20J or -C20R engines installed, which produced 420 shaft horsepower at 53,000 r.p.m.) Many 206As were upgraded to 206Bs and they are sometimes referred to as a “206A/B.” The Allison 250-C20B has a 6-stage axial-flow, 1-stage centrifugal-flow, compressor section, and a 4-stage axial-flow turbine (2-stage gas producer, and 2-stage power turbine). These were very light weight engines, ranging from just 141 to 173 pounds (64.0 to 78.5 kilograms).

The helicopter’s main transmission is limited to a maximum input of 317 shaft horsepower (100% Torque, 5-minute limit). The engine’s accessory gear unit reduces the output shaft speed to 6,016 r.p.m., which is further reduced by the transmission’s planetary gears, and the tail rotor 90° gear box.

The JetRanger has a maximum speed, Vne, of 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour) up to 3,000 feet (914 meters). Its best rate of climb is at 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) and best glide speed is at 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 13,500 feet (4,145 meters) with the helicopter’s gross weight above 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms), and 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) when below 3,000 pounds. The helicopter has a maximum range of 430 miles (692 kilometers).

After being used as a factory demonstrator and development aircraft, N8560F was retired from flight status and used as a maintenance ground training device at Bell’s training school at Hurst.

Note: The Model 206A-1 was adopted by the U.S. Army as the OH-58A Kiowa. Though very similar in appearance to the Model 206A and 206B, the OH-58A differs significantly. Few of the parts are interchangeable between the types.

Three view drawing of the Bell Model 206A/B JetRanger with dimensions. (Bell Helicopter TEXTRON)
Three view drawing of the Bell Model 206A/B JetRanger with dimensions. (Bell Helicopter TEXTRON)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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