7 September 1956: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, test pilot Captain Iven Carl Kincheloe, Jr., U.S. Air Force, flew the Bell X-2 rocketplane, serial number 46-674, to a speed of Mach 1.7 and an altitude of 126,200 feet (38,465 meters). He was the first pilot to fly above 100,000 feet (30,480 meters) and is called “The First of the Spacemen”.
The X-2 was a joint project of the U.S. Air Force and NACA (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA). The rocketplane was designed and built by Bell Aircraft Corporation of Buffalo, New York, to explore supersonic flight at speeds beyond the capabilities of the earlier Bell X-1 and Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. In addition to the aerodynamic effects of speeds in the Mach 2.0–Mach 3.0 range, engineers knew that the high temperatures created by aerodynamic friction would be a problem, so the aircraft was built from Stainless Steel and K-Monel, a copper-nickel alloy.
The Bell Aircraft Corporation X-2 was 37 feet, 10 inches (11.532 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 3 inches (9.830 meters) and height of 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters). Its empty weight was 12,375 pounds (5,613 kilograms) and loaded weight was 24,910 pounds (11,299 kilograms).
The X-2 was powered by a throttleable Curtiss-Wright XLR25-CW-1 rocket engine that produced 2,500–15,000 pounds of thrust (11.12–66.72 kilonewtons) burning alcohol and liquid oxygen. The engine used two rocket chambers and had pneumatic, electrical and mechanical controls. The smaller chamber could produce a maximum 5,000 pounds of thrust, and the larger, 10,000 pounds (22.24 and 44.48 likonewtons, respectively). Professor Robert H. Goddard, “The Father of Modern Rocketry,” authorized Curtiss-Wright to use his patents, and his rocketry team went to work for the Curtiss-Wright Rocket Department. Royalties for use of the patents were paid to the Guggenheim Foundation and Clark university. Professor Goddard died before he could also make the move.
Rather than use its limited fuel capacity to take off and climb to altitude, the X-2 was dropped from a modified heavy bomber as had been the earlier rocketplanes. A four-engine Boeing B-50A Superfortress bomber, serial number 46-011, was modified as the ”mothership.” A second Superfortress, B-50D-95-BO 48-096, was also modified to carry the X-2, and was redesignated EB-50D
The launch altitude was 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). After the fuel was exhausted, the X-2 glided to a touchdown on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base.
Iven Kincheloe was awarded the Mackay Trophy for this flight. His altitude record remained unbeaten until the X-15 Project.
5 September 1983: A Strategic Air Command Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker of the 42nd Air Refueling Squadron, Loring AFB, Maine, was sent to rendezvous with a flight of McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II fighter bombers crossing the Atlantic Ocean enroute to Europe. As they began to refuel the fighters, one F-4E began to lose power in one of its engines, and also lost part of its hydraulic system. The Phantom’s pilot had difficulty maintaining speed and altitude as he tried to hook up with the tanker, and the second engine began to overheat. The two aircraft flew at just above the Stratotanker’s landing speed so that the Phantom could keep up, but as it slowed further, the Phantom’s angle of attack had to increase to maintain lift. This exceeded the mechanical limits of the refueling boom and the two airplanes separated without the fighter having received a full fuel load.
The crew of the F-4E was in serious danger. It was unlikely that the airplane could remain in the air for much longer. It was decided to head for Gander, Newfoundland, the closest place to land, 500 miles (806 kilometers) away. Captain Robert J. Goodman, U.S. Air Force, aircraft commander of the Stratotanker, decided to escort the crippled fighter which continued to lose altitude. It was necessary to try to refuel it three more times, and on occasion, the tanker actually towed the fighter back to altitude.
With the help of the tanker, the Phantom II finally arrived at Gander and landed safely.
For their efforts to save the lives of the crew of the F-4E, Captain Goodman and his crew, Captain Michael F. Clover, 1st Lieutenant Karol F. Wojcikowski and Staff Sergeant Douglas D. Simmons, Crew E113, were awarded the Mackay Trophy “For outstanding achievement while on a routine refueling mission involving F-4E aircraft, saving a valuable aircraft from destruction and its crew from possible death.”
The Mackay Trophy which is awarded annually for “the most meritorious flight of the year by an Air Force person, persons, or organization.” It is kept at the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.
20 August 1955: Colonel Horace A. Hanes, United States Air Force, flew the first North American Aviation F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre, 53-1709, to Mach 1.246 at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters), setting a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record of 1,323.312 kilometers per hour (822.268 miles per hour) over a measured 15/25-kilometer course at Edwards Air Force Base, California.¹
This was the first supersonic world speed record. It was also the first speed record set at high altitude. Previously, all speed records were set very close to the ground for measurement purposes, but with ever increasing speeds this practice was becoming too dangerous.
For his accomplishment, Colonel Hanes was awarded the Mackay Trophy.
After being used in Air Force testing at Edwards AFB, 53-1709 was transferred to the NASA High Speed Test Station, also at Edwards AFB. It was identified as NASA 703, and assigned civil registration N703NA. At some point its tail surfaces were upgraded to those of the F-100D series.
Today, the FAI record setting F-100C is displayed at the Castle Air Museum, marked as F-100D 55-2879.
Horace Albert Hanes was born at Fayette, Illinois, 1 March 1916, the first of two children of Albert Lee Hanes, a farmer, and Martha Elizabeth Jones Hanes. Hanes grew up in Bellflower, Illinois. He attended Normal Community High School at Normal, Illinois, graduating in 1933, and then Illinois State Normal University, also located in Normal. He participated in basketball and track and field. He graduated in 1938 with a bachelor of arts degree in education. He worked as a teacher and athletic coach.
Hanes married Miss Virginia Kumber, a school teacher, in Covington, Indiana, 9 October 1937. The ceremony was officiated by Rev. Lawrence P. Green.
Horace Hanes entered the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, 8 October 1938. He graduated from flight training 25 August 1939 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Reserve. Lieutenant Hanes was assigned to the 18th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, which was equipped with Curtiss-Wright P-36 Hawk and P-40 Warhawk “pursuits.”
Hanes was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army, 1 July 1940. While retaining his permanent rank of second lieutenant, Hanes advanced to the rank of first lieutenant, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), 10 October 1941. He returned to the United States and served with the Air Training Command.
Lieutenant Hanes was promoted to captain, A.U.S. (A.C.), 1 March 1942, and placed in command of a P-47 Thunderbolt squadron based in Florida, the 312th Fighter Squadron, 338 Fighter Group. On 26 November 1942, Hanes was promoted to the rank of major, A.U.S. On 1 July 1943, Hanes was promoted to the permanent rank of first lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army. He retained this permanent rank until after the war.
Major Hanes was deployed to Europe in August 1943, commanding the 71st Fighter Squadron (Twin Engine), 1st Fighter Group, at Mateur Airfield, Tunisia. The 71st had been the first operational P-38 squadron. After flying 30 combat missions, Major Hanes’ P-38 went down over Yugoslavia in January 1944. For the next three months he evaded capture. Hanes returned to the United States in April 1944 and was assigned to command Punta Gorda Army Airfield, a fighter training base on the western coast of Florida.
Hanes was promoted to lieutenant colonel, A.U.S., 1 August 1944, and to colonel, A.U.S., 23 October 1945. In January 1946, Colonel Hanes assumed command of the 31st Fighter Group, which deployed to Giebelstadt Army Airfield in southwest Germany. The group operated P-51D Mustangs and the new Lockheed P-80B Shooting Star jet fighter. In 1947, Colonel Hanes took command of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California. The 67th was equipped with the Douglas RB-26 Invader and the Lockheed RF-80 Shooting Star.
From January to July 1949, Colonel Hanes attended the Armed Forces Staff College, and then was assigned as Chief of the Air Defense Division within the Directorate of Research and Development, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force. From July 1952 to June 1953, he attended the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, and then became Director of Flight Test at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base. It was while at Edwards that Colonel Hanes set the world speed record. He remained at the AFFTC for four years.
Hanes took command of the 58th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Osan Air Base, Republic of South Korea, July 1957. The 58th flew the North American Aviation F-86F Sabre. He then spent three years in Japan as Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Fifth Air Force.
In July 1964, Brigadier General Hanes took command of the 9th Aerospace Defense Division at Ent Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado. On 24 September 1964, Hanes was promoted to the rank of major general, with his date of rank retroactive to 1 April 1960. After two years, Hanes returned to Europe as Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe.
Major General Hanes’ final assignment was as Vice Commander, Aerospace Defense Command. He retired from the United States Air Force in 1973.
During his military Career, Major General Horace Albert Hanes, United States Air Force, was awarded the Distinguished Service medal, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster (two awards), the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters (six awards), the Air Force Commendation medal and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon.
Major General Hanes died at his home in Bloomington, Indiana, 3 December 2002. He was buried alongside his wife, Virginia (who died in 1996) at the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
17 August 1951: In order to demonstrate the capabilities of the United States Air Force’s new day fighter, Colonel Fred J. Ascani, Vice Commander, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, had been assigned to take two new North American Aviation F-86E Sabres from the production line at El Segundo, California, to the National Air Races at Detroit, Michigan. He was to attempt a new world speed record.
Colonel Ascani selected F-86E-10-NA 51-2721 and 51-2724. They received bright orange paint to the forward fuselage and the top of the vertical fin. Bold numbers 2 and 4 were painted on their sides.
Flying Number 2, F-86E 51-2721, Fred Ascani flew a 100-kilometer closed circuit at an average speed of 1,023.04 kilometers per hour (635.69 miles per hour), and set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 100 Kilometers.¹
For his accomplishment, Colonel Ascani was awarded both the Thompson Trophy and the MacKay Trophy.
The North American Aviation F-86 was a single-seat, single-engine day fighter designed by Edgar Schmued and the same team at North American that designed the World War II P-51 Mustang fighter. The Sabre was the first fighter to incorporate swept wings, which improved flight at high subsonic speed by reducing aerodynamic drag and delaying the onset of compressibility effects. The leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces were swept 35° based on captured German technical data and extensive wind tunnel testing.
The F-86E Sabre was an improved F-86A. The most significant change was the incorporation of an “all flying tailplane” in which the entire horizontal tail moved to control the airplane’s pitch. The tailplane pivoted around its rear spar, allowing the leading edge to move up or down 8°. The elevators were mechanically linked to the tailplane and their movement was proportional to the tailplane’s movement. Control was hydraulic, and this provided improved handling at high speeds where compressibility could “freeze” control surfaces. There were systems improvements as well, with “artificial feel” to the hydraulic controls to improve feedback to the pilot and prevent over-controlling. Beginning with Block 10 aircraft, the “V”-shaped windscreen of the earlier models was replaced with an optically flat laminated glass windshield.
The F-86E was 37 feet, 6.5 inches (11.443 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 1.4 inches (11.313 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 1 inch (4.293 meters). Its empty weight was 10,555 pounds (4,787.7 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 16,436 pounds (7,455.2 kilograms).
The F-86E was powered by a General Electric J47-GE-13 turbojet engine. The J47 was an axial-flow turbojet with a 12-stage compressor and single stage turbine. The J47-GE-13 was rated at 5,200 pounds of thrust and 6,000 pounds (“wet”). The engine was 12 feet, 0.0 inches (3.658 meters) long, 3 feet, 3.0 inches (0.991 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,525 pounds ( kilograms).
The F-86E Sabre had a maximum speed of 679 miles per hour (1,092.7 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 601 miles per hour (967.2 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Its service ceiling was 47,200 feet (14,386.7 meters).
The F-86E carried 437 gallons (1,654.2 liters) of fuel internally and could carry two 200-gallon (757.1 liter) drop tanks under the wings. Maximum range was 1,022 miles (1,645 kilometers).
The F-86A, E and F Sabres were armed with six Browning AN-M3 .50-caliber aircraft machine guns with 1,602 rounds of ammunition.
6,233 F-86 Sabres were built by North American at Inglewood, California and Columbus Ohio. Another 521 were assembled by Fiat and Mitsubishi. 1,815 CL-13 Sabres were built by Canadair, and 115 CA-26 and CA-27 Sabres by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Australia. Total production for all types and manufacturers was 8,684. North American Aviation built 336 F-86Es and 60 more were built by Canadair (F-86E-6-CAN).
In order to emphasize that Colonel Ascani’s record-setting Sabre was a standard production airplane, it was immediately sent into combat with the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, at Suwon Air Base, Korea. There, it was christened THIS’LL KILL YA. On 3 May 1953, 51-2721 was damaged during a landing accident at Kimpo Air Base, but it was repaired and returned to service.
26 July 1958: U.S. Air Force test pilot Captain Iven Carl Kincheloe, Jr., took off from Edwards Air Force Base in Lockheed F-104A-15-LO Starfighter 56-0772, acting as a chase plane for another F-104A which was flown by a Lockheed test pilot, Lou Schalk.
As the two supersonic interceptors began their climb out from the runway, a small control cable deep inside Kincheloe’s fighter failed, allowing the inlet guide vane of the F-104’s General Electric J79-GE-3 turbojet engine to close. With the suddenly decreased airflow the engine lost power and the airplane started to descend rapidly.
The early F-104 Starfighters had a Stanley Aviation Corporation Type B ejection seat that was catapulted or dropped by gravity from the bottom of the cockpit. 56-0772 was equipped with an improved Stanley Type C ejection seat. With the Starfighter well below 2,000 feet (610 meters), Kincheloe apparently thought that he needed to roll the airplane inverted before ejecting. This was actually not necessary and delayed his escape.
By the time he had separated from the seat and could open his parachute, he was below 500 feet (152 meters). The parachute did open, but too late. Iven Kincheloe was killed on impact. His airplane crashed into the desert floor just over 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) from the west end of Runway 22 and was totally destroyed. Today, a large crater scattered with fragments of Kincheloe’s F-104 is still clearly visible.
Iven Kincheloe was just 30 years old.
Iven Carl Kincheloe, Jr., was a legendary test pilot. He was born in Wayne County, Michigan, the son of Iven Carl Kincheloe, a farmer, and Francis Emma Wilde. He started flying lessons when he was 14 years old, and by the time he was legally allowed to solo—on his 16th birthday—he had already accumulated over 200 flight hours. He entered the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC) at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, where he was an engineering student. While there, he met Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager and decided that test flying was the career area that he wanted to pursue.
At Purdue, Kincheloe was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon (ΣΦΕ) fraternity, played football and managed the track team. He was a member of a military honor society, the Scabbard and Blade, and the Gimlet Club, a booster organization supporting varsity sports at the university. Iven Kincheloe graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, United States Air Force Reserve, 17 June 1949.
On graduation, Kincheloe was sent to Arizona to begin his Air Force pilot training. After graduating, Second Lieutenant Kincheloe was sent to Edwards Air Force Base in southern California to work on the new North American Aviation F-86E Sabre.
He deployed to Korea as a fighter pilot with the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing in August 1951, flying the F-86E Sabre as an escort for bomber formations. He was transferred to the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter Interceptor Group, and immediately began to shoot down enemy MiG-15 fighters. He was soon an with five kills.
After his combat tour (131 missions) in Korea, Iven Kincheloe was assigned as an exchange student to the Empire Test Pilots’ School at RAE Farnborough, England, for the ten-month British training program, and was sent back to Edwards Air Force Base in 1955.
One of the most skilled test pilots at Edwards, Iven Kincheloe flew every type of fighter, as well as the Bell X-2 rocketplane, which he flew to 126,200 feet (38,465 meters), 7 September 1956. He was the first pilot to climb higher than 100,000 feet (30,480 meters) and was considered to be “the first man in space.” For this flight, Kincheloe was awarded the Mackay Trophy, “For outstanding contributions to the science of aviation by flying the Bell X-2 to an altitude considerably higher than had ever been reached before by a piloted aircraft.”
Kincheloe was scheduled to become the primary Air Force pilot on the upcoming North American Aviation X-15 Program. That would have been followed by the Man In Space Soonest project, which would have launched Kincheloe into orbit with an X-15B second stage launched by an Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile.
Captain Kincheloe was married to the former Miss Dorothy Heining. They had two children, Iven Carl Kincheloe III and Jeanine Kincheloe, who was born several months after her father’s death.
Captain Iven Carl Kincheloe, Jr., was awarded the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit (posthumous), the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters (three awards), and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters (four awards), Presidential Unit Citation with oak leaf cluster (two awards), National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with three service stars, Air Force Longevity Service Award, the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, United Nations Korean Service Medal, and the Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal. In 1959, Kincheloe Air Force Base, Michigan, was named in his honor.
Captain Kincheloe is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.