Tag Archives: First Flight

9 November 1944

Boeing XC-97 43-27470, the first of three Model 367 prototypes. (Boeing)
Boeing XC-97 43-27470, the first of three Model 367 prototypes. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

9 November 1944: Boeing’s senior test pilot, Albert Elliott Merrill, and co-pilot John Bernard Fornasero make the first flight of the Boeing Model 367 prototype, XC-97 43-27470.

The airplane was a prototype for a very long range military transport.  It used the wings, engines and tail of the B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber.

Boeing built 888 C-97 Stratofreighters and KC-97 Stratotankers between 1947 and 1958. The type was finally retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1978. Another 56 Model 377 Stratocruiser civil transports were produced.

Boeing XC-97 prototype #1, 43-27470. (Boeing)
Boeing XC-97 prototype #1, 43-27470. (Boeing)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 November 1935

K5083, the prototype Hawker Hurricane, photographed prior to its first flight. Photograph ©IWM (MH 5475)
K5083, the prototype Hawker Hurricane, photographed prior to its first flight. Photograph © IWM (MH 5475)

6 November 1935: The prototype Hawker Hurricane, K5083, first flew at the Brooklands airfield, Weybridge, Surrey, with test pilot Flight Lieutenant P.W.S. (“George”) Bulman (later Group Captain Paul Ward Spencer Bulman, CBE, MC, AFC and Bar).

Designed by Sydney Camm to meet a Royal Air Force Specification for a high speed monoplane interceptor, the airplane was designed around the Rolls-Royce PV-12 engine. (“PV” stood for Private Venture.)

Sir Sydney Camm, CBE, FRAeS
Sydney Camm, CBE, FRAeS (1893–1966)

The Hurricane was built in the traditional means of a light but strong framework covered by doped linen fabric. Rather than wood, however, the Hurricane’s framework used high strength steel tubing for the aft fuselage. A girder structure covered in sheet metal made up the forward fuselage. A primary consideration of the fighter’s designer was to provide good visibility for the pilot. The cockpit sits high in the fuselage and gives the airplane its characteristic hump back profile. The cockpit was enclosed by a sliding canopy. The landing gear was retractable.

Right Profile of the prototype Hawker Hurricane, K5083. (© IWM-MH-5190)
Right Profile of the prototype Hawker Hurricane, K5083. © IWM (MH-5190)
Left profile (IWM)
Left profile of K5083. © IWM (ATP 8654D)

The Rolls-Royce PV-12 was a developmental liquid-cooled 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.022 liter) 60° V-12 that would become the legendary Merlin aircraft engine. The PV-12 first ran in 1933 and initially produced 700 horsepower. The engine was progressively improved and by the time the Hurricane prototype first flew, it was equipped with a supercharged Rolls-Royce Merlin C, Air Ministry serial number 111144, which had a Normal Power rating of 1,029 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m, at an altitude of 11,000 feet (3,353 meters), with +6 pounds per square inch boost. The V-12 engine turned a Watts two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller through a gear reduction drive (possibly 0.420:1).

Right profile of the prototype Hawker Hurricane, K5083. Photograph © IWM (MH 5190)
Right quarter view of the prototype Hawker Hurricane, K5083. Photograph © IWM (MH 5190)

In early flight testing, K5083 reached 315 miles per hour (507 kilometers per hour) at 16,200 feet (4,938 meters), with the V-12 turning 2,960 r.p.m. and +6 pounds per square inch (0.414 Bar) of boost. The speed exceeded the RAF’s requirement by 5 miles per hour. The prototype was able to take off in as little as 795 feet (242 meters) and to climb to 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) in just 5 minutes, 42 seconds. It reached 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 8 minutes, 24 seconds. The prototype’s service ceiling was 34,500 feet (10,516 meters). The estimated absolute ceiling was 35,400 feet (10,790 meters)

Test pilot George Bulman in the cockpit of the prototype Hawker Hurricane, K5083, circa 1935.
Test pilot George Bulman in the cockpit of the prototype Hawker Hurricane, K5083, circa 1935.

The Hawker Hurricane Mk.I was ordered into production in the summer of 1936. The first production airplane flew on 12 October 1937. The Hurricane Mk. I retained the wooden fixed-pitch propeller and fabric-covered wings of the prototype, though this would change with subsequent models. It was 31 feet, 5 inches (9.576 meters) long with a wingspan of 40 feet, 0 inches (12.192 meters), and overall height of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). Its empty weight was 5,234 pounds (2,374 kilograms) and maximum gross weight was 6,793 pounds (3,081 kilograms).

The Hurricane Mk.I was powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.II or Mk.III. The Mk.III was rated at 1,030 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 16,250 feet (4,953 meters).

The Mk.I’s best economical cruising speed was 212 miles per hour (341 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters), and its maximum speed was 316 miles per hour (509 kilometers per hour) at 17,750 feet (5,410 meters) and 6,440 pounds (2,921 kilograms). The airplane’s range was 585 miles (941 kilometers). The Hurricane Mk.I could climb to 20,000 feet in 9.7 minutes.

The fighter was armed with eight Browning .303 Mark II machine guns mounted in the wings, with 334 rounds of ammunition per gun.

Pilot Officer A.V. "Taffy" Clowes with his Hawker Hurricane Mk.I, P3395, of No. 1 Squadron, RAF, in a revetment at RAF Wittering, Huntingdonshire, October 1940. (S.A. Devon, Royal Air Force)
Pilot Officer A.V. “Taffy” Clowes with his Hawker Hurricane Mk.I, P3395, of No. 1 Squadron, RAF, in a revetment at RAF Wittering, Huntingdonshire, October 1940. Photograph by S.A. Devon, Royal Air Force. © IWM (CH 17331)

Peter Townsend described the Hurricane in his book, Duel of Eagles:

“. . . By December [1938] we had our full initial equipment of sixteen aircraft. The Fury had been a delightful play-thing; the Hurricane was a thoroughly war-like machine, rock solid as a platform for eight Browning machine-guns, highly manoeuvrable despite its large proportions and with an excellent view from the cockpit. The Hurricane lacked the speed and glamour of the Spitfire and was slower than the Me. 109, whose pilots were to develop contempt for it and a snobbish preference for being shot down by Spitfires. But figures were to prove that during the Battle of Britain, machine for machine, the Hurricane would acquit itself every bit as well as the Spitfire and in the aggregate (there were more than three Hurricanes to two Spitfires) do greater damage among the Luftwaffe.”

Duel of Eagles, Group Captain Peter Wooldridge Townsend, CVO, DSO, DFC and Bar, RAF. Cassell Publishers Limited, London, Chapter 13 at Pages 153–154. 

At the beginning of World War II, 497 Hurricanes had been delivered to the Royal Air Force, enough to equip 18 squadrons. During the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane accounted for 55% of all enemy aircraft destroyed. Continuously upgraded throughout the war, it remained in production until 1944. A total of 14,503 were built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., Gloster Aircraft Company, and the Canadian Car and Foundry Company.

Royal Air Force Hawker Hurricane IIc KF363. This airplane has been in continuous service with the RAF since it was built by Hawker in January 1944. It is currently undergoing major servicing at teh RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, of which it was a founding aircraft in 1959. (Royal Air Force)
Royal Air Force Hawker Hurricane IIc LF363. This airplane has been in continuous service with the RAF since it was built by Hawker in January 1944. It is currently undergoing major servicing at the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, of which it was a founding aircraft in 1959. (Royal Air Force)

NOTE: While researching a question by reader Drew Mercer, I came across some additional photographs of “Taffy” Clowes and his Hawker Hurricane, so I thought I would add them. P3395 has a bee painted on its engine cowling. Each time Taffy shot down an enemy airplane, he added a stripe.

Taffy Clowes' Hawker Hurricane preparred for the next sortie.
Taffy Clowes’ Hawker Hurricane Mk.I, P3395, prepared for the next sortie. As improved Hurricanes entered service, P3395 was relegated to training duties. It was destroyed 24 March 1942. (Unattributed)
Pilot Officer A.V. "Taffy" Clowes, Royal Air Force.
Squadron Leader Arthur Victor Clowes, DFC, DFM, Royal Air Force, with his Hawker Hurricane, October 1940. Officially credited with 11 victories. © IWM (CH 1570)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 November 1947

Nov. 2, 1947: The Hughes Aircraft H-4 Hercules "Spruce Goose" during short flight in the Long Beach-Los Angeles Harbor. This photo was published in the Nov. 3, 1947 LA Times. (Los Angeles Times)
“Nov. 2, 1947: The Hughes Aircraft H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose” during short flight in the Long Beach-Los Angeles Harbor. This photo was published in the Nov. 3, 1947 L.A. Times.” (Los Angeles Times)

2 November 1947: Howard Hughes’ Hughes Aircraft Company H-4 Hercules flying boat, NX37602, made its first and only flight at the harbor of Los Angeles, California. The new media called it “The Spruce Goose” due to its strong but lightweight wooden construction. As with the famous de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito fighter-bomber, the use of wood freed up valuable metal alloys during World War II.

Conceived by Henry J. Kaiser, the airplane was initially called the HK-1. It was designed to carry as many as 750 fully-equipped soldiers on transoceanic flights.

Hughes H-4 Hercules NX37602 in San Pedro Bay, 2 November 1947. Two U.S. Navy heavy cruisers and a fleet oiler are in the background. On the horizon is Santa Catalina Island, "Twenty-six miles across the sea...." (LIFE Magazine)
Hughes H-4 Hercules NX37602 in San Pedro Bay, 2 November 1947. Two U.S. Navy heavy cruisers and a fleet oiler are in the background. On the horizon is Santa Catalina Island. (LIFE Magazine)

The H-4 is 218 feet, 8 inches (66.650 meters) long with a wingspan of 320 feet, 11 inches (97.815 meters). Its height is 79 feet, 4 inches (24.181 meters). The Hercules’ designed loaded weight is 400,000 pounds (181,437 kilograms).

Eight 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.489 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major VSB11-G (R-4360-4A) four-row 28-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 7:1. The R-4360-4A had a Normal Power rating of 2,500 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), 2,200 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. to 14,500 feet (4,420 meters), and a Takeoff rating of 3,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. The Military Power rating was also 3,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., to an altitude of 1,500 feet (457 meters), then decreased to 2,400 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. to 13,500 feet (4,115 meters). The engines turned four-bladed Hamilton Standard propellers with a diameters of 17 feet, 2 inches (5.232 meters) through a 0.425:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-4A was 8 feet, 0.75 inches (2.457 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,390 pounds (1,538 kilograms).

On its only flight, the H-4 Hercules traveled approximately one mile (1.6 kilometers) at 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour), remaining in ground effect. It never flew again, and its estimated performance was never verified through flight testing.

Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., in the cockpit of the H-4 Hercules, 6 November 1947. (J.R. Eyerman/LIFE Magazine)
Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., in the cockpit of the H-4 Hercules, 6 November 1947. (J.R. Eyerman/LIFE Magazine)

The airplane is on display at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 October 1952

Douglas XA3D-1 Skywarrior, Bu. No. 125412. (U.S. Navy)
George R. Jansen, 1921–1991. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

28 October 1952: The prototype Douglas XA3D-1 Skywarrior, Bu. No. 125412, made its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Douglas test pilot George R. Jansen was in the cockpit. The Skywarrior was a carrier-based, twin-engine, swept-wing strategic bomber, designed to carry a 12,000 pound (5,443 kilogram) bomb load. The prototype was equipped with two Westinghouse XJ40-WE-12 turbojet engines producing 7,000 pounds of thrust (31.138 kilonewtons), each.

Designed to be launched from an aircraft carrier, fly 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers), deliver a 3.8 megaton Mark 15 thermonuclear bomb on target, then return to the carrier, the Skywarrior was a considerable challenge for its designers. It was operated by a three man crew: pilot, navigator/bombardier and gunner.

The production A3D-1 was 74 feet, 5 inches (22.682 meters) long with a wingspan of 72 feet, 6 inches (22.098 meters) and overall height of 22 feet, 10 inches (6.960 meters). The shoulder-mounted wings were swept back at a 36° angle and the wings and vertical fin were hinged so that they could be folded for storage aboard the aircraft carrier. The bomber’s empty weight was 35,900 pounds (16,284 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 70,000 pounds (31,752 kilograms).

When the two prototypes’ Westinghouse JX40 engines proved to be underpowered, they were replaced with Pratt & Whitney J57-P-1 turbojets, rated at 9,000 pounds of thrust (40.034 kilonewtons). The J57 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet which had a 16-stage compressor section and a 3-stage turbine. (Both had high- and low-pressure stages.) The engine was 15 feet, 3.5 inches (4.661 meters) long, 3 feet, 5.0 inches (1.041 meters) in diameter, and weighed 4,390 pounds (1,991 kilograms). Production models were equipped with the J57-P-6, rated at 9,700 pounds of thrust (43.148 kilonewtons).

The A3D-1 had a cruise speed of 519 miles per hour (835 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 621 miles per hour (999 kilometers per hour) at 1,000 feet (305 meters). The combat ceiling was 40,500 feet (12,344 meters). It had a range of 2,100 miles (3,380 kilometers). The combat radius was 1,150 miles (1,851 kilometers).

The Skywarrior could carry 12,000 pounds (5,443 kilograms) of conventional or Special Weapons (MK 43 or MK 57 nuclear bombs) in its internal bomb bay. A remotely-operated turret in the tail was armed with two An-M3 20 mm cannon with 500 rounds per gun.

The first A3D-1 production aircraft were painted a glossy sea blue. This was soon changed to a flat light gray for the sides and upper surfaces with gloss white underneath. This provided better camouflage as well as thermal protection from nuclear blast.

A Douglas A3D-2 Skywarrior, Bu. No. 138974, redesignated A-3B after 1962, launches from the angled flight deck of a United States Navy aircraft carrier. (U.S. Navy)
A Douglas A3D-2 Skywarrior, Bu. No. 138974, redesignated A-3B after 1962, launches from the angled flight deck of a United States Navy aircraft carrier. (U.S. Navy)

Douglas built 282 A3D Skywarriors between 1956 and 1961. They remained in service as late as 1991. The U.S. Air Force ordered 294 B-66 Destroyer medium bombers, which were developed from the A3D. The first XA3D-1, Bu. No. 125412, was used as a ground trainer after the test flight program was completed.

George R. Jansen was the Director of Flight Operations for the Douglas Aircraft Company. He had been a bomber pilot flying the B-24 Liberator during World War II. After one mission, his bomber, Margaret Ann, returned to base in England with more than 750 bullet and shrapnel holes, and one crewman dead and another wounded. He twice flew missions from North Africa against the refineries at Ploesti, Romania. At the age of 22, Jansen was a major in command of the 68th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy). He had been awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses and five Air Medals.

Major George R. Jansen, U.S. Army Air Forces. (U.S. Air Force)
Major George R. Jansen, U.S. Army Air Forces. (U.S. Air Force)

After the war, George Jansen went to work for Douglas as a production test pilot. He graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1952. He flew many of Douglas’s new prototype aircraft, and also flew the modified Boeing P2B-1S Superfortress mother ship to carry the D-558-II Skyrocket to altitude. He made many of the first flights for Douglas, both military and civil. He passed away at the age of 70 years.

A Douglas A3D-1 Skywarrior is launched from a steam catapult aboard USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) while a second is readied for launch. (U.S. Navy)
A Douglas A3D-1 Skywarrior is launched from a steam catapult aboard USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) while a second is readied for launch. (U.S. Navy)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 October 2015

Sikorsky's CH-53K King Stallion Engineering Development Model-1 hovers in ground effect, 27 October 2015. (Sikorsky)
Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion Engineering Development Model-1 hovers in ground effect at West Palm Beach, Florida, 27 October 2015. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

27 October 2015: The first flight of the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion Engineering Development Model–1, Bu. No. 169019, at West Palm Beach, Florida. In the cockpit was Stephen McCulley, Chief Experimental Test Pilot for Sikorsky. During the 30 minute flight, the new helicopter demonstrated sideward rearward and forward flight while remaining in in-ground-effect hover.

Up to this point, the helicopter had completed about 200 hours of “turn-time,” or ground testing with engines running..

Three more aircraft will join the test fleet for a planned 2,000 hour flight test program.

The fuselage of the CH-53K King Stallion is 73 feet, 1.5 inches (22.289 meters) long and its width is 9 feet, 10 inches (2.997 meters). The maximum width, across the sponsons, is 17 feet, 6 inches (5.334 meters). The seven-bladed main rotor has a diameter of 79 feet (24.079 meters). The four-blade tail rotor is 20 feet (6.096 meters) in diameter. With rotors turning, the helicopter has an overall height of 28 feet, 4.9 inches (8.659 meters).

Power is supplied by three T408-GE-400 engines which produce 7,500 shaft horsepower, each.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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