28 February 1946: At Muroc Army Airfield, California, (now, Edwards Air Force Base) the first of three prototype Republic Aviation Corporation XP-84 Thunderjet fighter bombers, serial number 45-59475, made its first flight with company test pilot Wallace Addison Lien in the cockpit.
Alexander Kartveli, Chief Engineer of the Republic Aviation Corporation, began working on the XP-84 during 1944 as a jet-powered successor to the company’s P-47 Thunderbolt fighter bomber. The prototype was completed at the factory in Farmingdale, New York, in December 1945. It was then partially disassembled and loaded aboard Boeing’s prototype XC-97 Stratofreighter and flown west to Muroc Army Airfield in the high desert of southern California. It was reassembled and prepared for its first flight.
The XP-84 was 37 feet, 2 inches (11.328 meters) long, with a wingspan of 36 feet, 5 inches (11.100 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The wings had a total area of 260 square feet ( square meters). The leading edges were swept aft to 6° 15′. The angle of incidence was 0° with -2° of twist and 4° dihedral. The airplane had an empty weight of 9,080 pounds (4,119 kilograms) and gross weight of 13,400 pounds (6,078 kilograms).
The XP-84 was powered by a General Electric J35-GE-7 engine. The J35 was a single-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with an 11-stage compressor and single-stage turbine. The J35-GE-7 was rated at 3,750 pounds of thrust (16.68 kilonewtons) at 7,700 r.p.m. (5-minute limit). The engine was 14 feet, 0.0 inches (4.267 meters) long, 3 feet, 4.0 inches (1.016 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,400 pounds (1,089 kilograms).
The XP-84 had a cruise speed of 440 miles per hour (708 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 592 miles per hour (953 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), which it could reach in approximately 13 minutes. The maximum range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).
Wallace Addison Lien was born at Alkabo, in Divide County, at the extreme northwest corner of North Dakota, 13 August 1915. He was the second of six children of Olaf Paulson Lien, a Norwegian immigrant and well contractor, and Elma Laura Richardson Lien.
Wally Lien graduated from the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology 17 June 1939 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.M.E.). He was a president of the Pi Tau Sigma (ΠΤΣ) fraternity, a member of the university’s cooperative book store board, and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (A.S.M.E.). He later studied at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) at Pasadena, California, and earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.
Lien worked as a an engineer at a steel sheet mill in Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the the United States Army at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 18 February 1941. He was accepted as an aviation cadet at Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 11 November 1941. 26 years old, Lien was 6 feet, 2 inches (1.88 meters) tall and weighed 174 pounds (79 kilograms). During World War II, Lien remained in the United States, where he served as a test pilot at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. He conducted flight tests of the Bell YP-59A Airacomet and the Lockheed XP-80 Shooting Star. Having reached the rank of Major, he left the Air Corps, 16 February 1946. Lien then worked for the Republic Aviation Corporation, testing the XP-84. A few months later, Lien went to North American Aviation, where he made the first flight of the the XFJ-1 Fury, 11 September 1946
Wally Lien married Miss Idella Muir at Elizabeth, New Jersey, 26 December 1946. They would have two children.
Wallace Addison Lien died at Colorado Springs, Colorado, 28 October 1994, at the age of 79 years. He was buried at the Shrine of Remembrance Veterans Honor Court, Colorado Springs, Colorado
9 January 1943: At the insistence of the United States Army Air Forces, Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot, Eddie Allen, made the first flight of the Lockheed L-049 Constellation prototype, NX25600, from Lockheed Air Terminal at Burbank, California, to Muroc Army Airfield (today known as Edwards Air Force Base). Lockheed’s Chief Test Pilot, Milo G. Burcham, was the co-pilot.
When the flight ended after 58 minutes, Allen said, “This machine works so well that you don’t need me anymore!” With that, Allen returned to Seattle.
When the flight ended after 58 minutes, Allen said, “This machine works so well that you don’t need me anymore!” With that, Allen returned to Seattle.
The Los Angeles Times reported:
SUPER TRANSPORT PLANE IN DEBUT
Lockheed’s Air Marvel Makes First Flight; Believed to Be World’s Largest and Fastest; Built Like Fighter, Can Outspeed Jap Zero
BY MARVIN MILES
Into the winter sky yesterday swept a brilliant new star—Lockheed super-transport Constellation.
First of a galaxy to come, the four-engine colossus sped down the long east-west runway at Lockheed Air Terminal, skipped nimbly off the concrete and boomed upward with the surging roar of 8000 unleashed horses.
A few breath-taking seconds’ full throttle had written a matter-of-fact climax to two years of secret development that evolved a 60-passenger transport faster than a Jap Zero fighter.
There were no fanfares, no speeches—simply an unvarnished war production takeoff, emphasizing as nothing else could the grim driving need for huge work planes to carry the battle swiftly to the ends of the earth.
Yet it was the first significant aviation event of 1943.
Built along the slim, graceful lines of a fighter the craft is faster than any four-engine bomber now in service. It can cross the continent in less than 9 hours,fly to Honolulu in 12. Even at half power its cruising speed is approximately 100 miles per hour faster than that of a standard airliner!
Within its supercharged cabin, air-density will remain at the 8000-foot level when the Constellation is cruising at “over-the-weather” altitudes up to 35,000 feet. So great is its power that the monster can maintain 25,000 feet on three engines, 16,500 on two.
As for economy of operation, the new sky queen can fly her full load hour after hour using but one gallon of gasoline per mile.
ONE TAXI TEST
At the controls when the super-transport lifted its tricycle gear in flight were Eddie Allen, Army pilot and veteran four-engine flyer, and Milo Burcham, Lockheed test pilot noted for his substratosphere testing of the P-38. Also in the ship were C.L. (Kelly) Johnson, chief research engineer for the aircraft company; Rudy Thoren, Johnson’s assistant, and Dick Stanton, chief mechanic.
There was but one taxi test yesterday, highlighted by a brief blaze in one of the four engines following a backfire as the ship turned to roll back to the head of the runway.
The fire was doused quickly and the Constellation stood ready for her maiden flight, he nose into a gentle breeze, the focal point of hundreds of eyes of workers, Army guards and officials watched expectantly.
Each engine “revved up”in turn, sending deep-throated echoes over the sun-drenched terminal.
Then the four black propellers whirled as one.
The Constellation shot forward, the wind in her teeth, a hurtling, bellowing land monster—until her propellers plucked her from the earth in an incredibly short span of runway and sent her thundering triumphantly toward the sun.
GLIDES BACK EASILY
In a moment she had almost vanished, only to bank in a wide turn and drone back over the terminal twice before leading her covey of lesser following craft off toward the desert to the Army airport at Muroc Dry Lake where she landed gracefully an hour later.
Shortly before dusk the giant craft returned to the Burbank terminal, slipped down the long “landing groove” of air and settled easily to the runway.
Her debut was over.
Today she will begin the exhaustive test flights to determine her performance before she is turned over to T.W.A. and the Army for the grueling business of war. . . .
—Los Angeles Times, Vol. LXII, Sunday morning, 10 January 1943, Page 1, Columns 1 and 2; Page 2, Columns 2 and 3. The article continues in Column 4. (The photographs are not a part of the original article.)
The Lockheed Model 49-46-10, company serial number 049-1961, was designated XC-69 by the U.S. Army Air Forces and assigned serial number 43-10309.
The Constellation was operated by a flight crew of four: two pilots, a navigator and a flight engineer. It could carry up to 81 passengers. The airplane was 95 feet, 1 3⁄16 inches (28.986 meters) long with a wingspan of 123 feet, 0 inches (37.490 meters), and overall height of 23 feet, 7⅞ inches (7.210 meters). It had an empty weight of 49,392 pounds (22,403.8 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 86,250 pounds (39,122.3 kilograms).
The prototype was powered by four 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, fuel-injected, Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 745C18BA3 (also referred to as the Duplex Cyclone), a two-row, 18-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. They were rated at 2,000 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., or 2,200 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. for takeoff, (five minute limit) burning 100/130 aviation gasoline, and drove 15 foot, 2 inch (4.623 meter) diameter, three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 43E60 constant-speed propellers through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The 745C18BA3 was 6 feet, 4.13 inches (1.934 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.78 inches (1.417 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,842 pounds (1,289 kilograms). 41 of these engines were built by Wright.
The L-049 had a cruise speed of 313 miles per hour (504 kilometers per hour) and a range of 3,995 miles (6,429 kilometers). Its service ceiling was 25,300 feet (7,711 meters).
The prototype XC-69 was later re-engined with Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SC14-G (R-2800-83) engines and designated XC-69E. These had a Normal rating of 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., to 7,300 feet (2,225 meters), 1,500 horsepower at 17,500 feet (5,334 meters), and 2,100 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. for Takeoff.
After the war, the Constellation prototype was sold to Howard Hughes’ Hughes Aircraft Company for $20,000 and registered as NX67900. In May 1950, Lockheed bought the prototype back from Hughes for $100,000 and it was again registered as NC25600. It had accumulated just 404 flight hours up to this time.
1 October 1942: At Muroc Dry Lake, in the high desert north of Los Angeles, California, Bell Aircraft Corporation’s Chief Test Pilot, Robert Morris Stanley, made the first flight of the top secret prototype turbojet-powered fighter, the Bell XP-59A Airacomet, serial number 42-108784. Weather was “C.A.V.U.” (Ceiling and Visibility Unrestricted) and wind was from the west at 20 miles per hour (9 meters per second).
In his report, Stanley wrote:
“4. All take-offs were made using 15,000 r.p.m. on both engines with flaps fully up and with the airplane pulled off the ground at about 80 to 90 m.p.h. Throttle was applied promptly and acceleration during take-off appeared quite satisfactory. The run was estimated to be in the vicinity of 2,000 feet, possibly more. The first flight reached an altitude of approximately 25 feet, and landing was made using partial power without flaps. This take-off had the wind approximately 60° on the right bow and must be considered a cross-wind take-off.
“5. Aileron and elevator action appear satisfactory, although the rudder force appears undesirably light causing the airplane to yaw somewhat for very light pedal pressures. Left rudder was needed for take-off due to cross wind.”
—Bell Aircraft Corp. Pilot’s Report 27-923-001, at Page 1-12, by Robert M. Stanley, 1 October 1942
Stanley made three more flights that day, as high as 100 feet (30.5 meters). The following day, Army Air Corps test pilot Colonel Laurence C. Craigie conducted the “official” first flight, reaching an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters).
Three XP-59A prototypes were built. The number one ship, 42-108784, was affectionately nicknamed Miss Fire, because of the initial difficulty in getting the engines to start.
The Bell XP-59A was conventional single-place airplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. It was primarily of metal construction, though the control surfaces were fabric-covered. The prototype was 38 feet, 10 inches (11.836 meters) long with a wingspan of 49 feet, 0 inches (14.935 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 3¾ inches (3.753 meters), at rest. The leading edge of the wings were swept aft 7°. The angle of incidence was +2° with -2° twist and 2½° dihedral. The horizontal stabilizer had a span of 16 feet, 8 inches (5.080 meters). Its angle of incidence was +1½° with no dihedral. The vertical fin had 0° offset. The empty weight of the XP-59A was 7,319 pounds (3,320 kilograms) and its maximum gross weight was 10,089 pounds (4,576 kilograms).
The experimental fighter was initially powered by two General Electric Type I-A centrifugal reverse-flow turbojet engines, serial numbers 170121 (left) and 170131 (right), each producing 1,250 pounds of thrust (5.561 kilonewtons) at 15,000 r.p.m. These were copies of the British Whittle W.2B engines. They were heavy, underpowered and unreliable.
Performance of the XP-59A was disappointing with a maximum speed of 350 miles per hour (563 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 389 miles per hour (626 kilometers per hour) at 35,160 feet (10,717 meters), significantly slower than many piston-engined fighters.
Three XP-59A prototypes and thirteen YP-59A preproduction airplanes were built. The P-59 was ordered into production and Bell Aircraft Corporation built thirty P-59A and twenty P-59B fighters. These were armed with one M4 37mm autocannon with 44 rounds of ammunition and three Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns with 200 rounds per gun.
Although a YP-59A had set an unofficial altitude record of 47,600 feet (14,508 meters), the Airacomet was so outclassed by standard production fighters that no more were ordered.
The race for a jet engine-powered fighter had been ongoing for several years, and the United States’ XP-59A was trailing behind. The first jet airplane, the Heinkel He 178, had made its first flight in Germany three years earlier, on 27 August 1939, though it was a proof-of-concept article, not an operational military aircraft. In the United Kingdom, the Gloster E/28.39, also a proof-of-concept aircraft, though more advanced than the Heinkel, made its first flight, 15 May 1941. The world’s first operational jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262, made its first flight on 18 July 1942. It was nearly two years before production Me 262s entered combat, but they were devastating against bomber formations. The Gloster Meteor, the Allies’ first jet fighter, first flew 5 March 1943, and deliveries to fighter squadrons began in July 1944. The de Havilland DH.100 Vampire made its first flight 20 September 1943, but it did not become operational until after the end of World War II.
The XP-59A flew nearly five months before its British cousin, but would not be assigned to an operational squadron, the 445th Fighter Squadron, 412th Fighter Group, until June 1945.
The first American military jet aircraft, Bell XP-59A Airacomet 42-108784, was preserved by the Army at Muroc, and the engines at Wright Field, Ohio. In 1978, these were given to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum where the prototype was later restored and placed on display.g9