Tag Archives: Prototype

9 October 1987

PP1, the first prototype of the EH101, ZF 641. (Paul Thallon)
PP1, the first prototype of the EH101, ZF 641. (Paul Thallon)

9 October 1987: Westland Helicopters Ltd. Chief Test Pilot John Trevor Eggington and Deputy Chief Test Pilot Colin W. Hague take PP1, the first EH 101 prototype, for its first flight at Yeovil, Somerset, United Kingdom. The helicopter had been completed 7 April 1987 and underwent months of ground testing.

A medium-lift helicopter, the EH 101 was a joint venture of Westland and Costruzioni Aeronautiche Giovanni Agusta S.p.A. of Italy, known then as European Helicopter Industries, or EHI, to produce a replacement for the Sikorsky S-61 Sea King, which both companies built under license. The Italian and British companies merged in July 2000 and are now known as AgustaWestland NV, with corporate headquarters in the Netherlands. After the merger of the two helicopter manufacturers, the EH 101 was redesignated AW101. It is also known as the Merlin.

Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorant, a search and rescue variant of the AgustaWestland AW101. (Korona4Reaal via Wikipedia)
Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorant 149902, a search and rescue variant of the AgustaWestland AW101. (Korona4Reel via Wikipedia)

Nine prototypes were built, four by Agusta at Vergiate, Italy, and five by Westland at Yeovil. During testing, Agusta-built PP2 and Westland’s PP4 were destroyed.

PP1, the first prototype, was powered by three General Electric CT7-2A turboshaft engines which were rated at 1,625 shaft horsepower, each. In production, Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM322 engines are optional, as are the more powerful CT7-8s. Produced in both military and civil variants, the Merlin is used in search-and-rescue, anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, airborne early warning and utility configurations. Production began in 1995 and continues today.

The AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin is a single main rotor/tail rotor medium helicopter powered by three turboshaft engines. It is equipped with retractable tricycle landing gear. The helicopter may be flown by a single pilot and uses a digital flight control system. The actual flight crew is dependent on aircraft configuration and mission.

The five blade composite main rotor has a diameter of 61 feet, 0 inches (18.593 meters) and turns counterclockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) The blades use a BERP feature that was pioneered on the Westland Lynx AH.1 Lynx, G-LYNX, which Trevor Eddington flew to a world speed record, 11 August 1986. This allows higher speeds, greater gross weight and is quieter than a standard blade. A four blade tail rotor with a diameter of 13 feet, 1 inch (3.962 meters) is positioned on the left side of the tail boom in pusher configuration. It rotates clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. The tail rotor pylon is inclined to the left.

PP.5 parked aboard HMS iron Duke. (Royal Navy)
PP5, the prototype  ASW variant parked aboard HMS Iron Duke (F234). (Royal Navy)

Overall length of the AW101 is 74 feet, 10 inches (22.809 meters) with rotors turning. The fuselage is 64 feet, 1 inch (19.533 meters) long. Overall height of the helicopter is 18 feet, 7 inches (5.664 meters). Its empty weight is 20,018 pounds (9,080 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 34,392 pounds (15,600 kilograms).

The RTM322 engine was developed as a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Turboméca, but is now a Safran Helicopter Engines product. The RTM322 02/8 is a modular reverse-flow turboshaft engine with a 3-stage axial-flow, 1 stage centrifugal-flow compressor and 2-stage high-pressure, 2-stage power turbine. The output drive shaft turns 20,900 r.p.m. The RTM322 02/08 is rated at 2,000 shaft horsepower, and 2,270 shaft horsepower for takeoff. It has a One Engine Inoperative (OEI) rating of 2,472 shaft horsepower (30 minute limit). The engine is 3 feet, 10.1 inches (1.171 meters) long, 2 feet, 1.5 inches (0.648 meters) in diameter and weighs 503 pounds (228.2 kilograms).

The AW101’s cruise speed is 278 kilometers per hour (150 knots). The hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) is 3,307 meters (10,850 feet). In utility configuration, the Merlin carries fuel for 6 hours, 30 minutes of flight and has a maximum range of 1,363 kilometers (735 nautical miles).

John Trevor Egginton, Chief Test Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
John Trevor Eggington, Chief Test Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Trevor Eggington retired from Westland in 1988 and Colin Hague became the company’s chief test pilot. In 2003, Hague was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent (OBE) Order of the British Empire for his contributions to aviation.

Deputy Chief Test Pilot Colin W.Hague, with the first prototype EH101, PP1. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Deputy Chief Test Pilot Colin W. Hague, with the first prototype EH101, PP1. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Since 2010, PP1 has been used as an instructional airframe for maintenance personnel at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, UK.

ZF641, the first prototype of the EH101 (AW101) Merlin, at RNAS Culdrose, 2010. (dyvroeth)
ZF 641, the first prototype of the EH 101 (AW101) Merlin, at RNAS Culdrose, 2010. (dyvroeth)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

7 October 1963

Prototype Learjet 23 N801L, first flight, 7 October 1963. (Lear)
Prototype Learjet 23, N801L, first flight, 7 October 1963. (Lear Jet Corporation)

7 October 1963: The first of two Learjet 23 prototypes, N801L, makes its first flight at Wichita, Kansas, with test pilots Henry Grady (“Hank”) Beaird, Jr., and Robert S. Hagan. A light twin-engine business jet, the Learjet 23 is considered a “first” because it was designed from the start as a civil aircraft.

The Learjet 23 is operated by two pilots and can carry six passengers. It is 43 feet, 3 inches (13.183 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 7 inches (10.846 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters). It has an empty weight of 6,150 pounds (2,790 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 12,499 pounds (5,670 kilograms).

A characteristic of all Learjets is the 13° sweep of their wings’ leading edges, and the straight trailing edge.

Learjet 23 N802L was the second prototype. This airplane is in the collection of the Smithsonian Instititution National Air and Space museum. (NASM 9A11735)

The airplane was powered by two General Electric CJ610-4 turbojet engines. The CJ610 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet with an 8-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. The CJ610-4 has a maximum continuous power rating of 2,700 pounds (12.010 kilonewtons) at 16,500 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 2,850 pounds of thrust (12.677 kilonewtons) at 16,700 r.p.m., for takeoff (5 minute limit). The engine is 3 feet, 4.50 inches (1.029 meters) long, 1 foot, 5.56 inches (0.446 meters) in diameter, and weighs 403 pounds (183 kilograms).

The Learjet 23 has a cruise speed of 518 miles per hour (834 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) and a maximum speed of 561 miles per hour (903 kilometers per hour), 0.82 Mach, at 24,000 feet (7,315 meters). The service ceiling is 45,000 feet (13,716 meters) and its maximum range is 1,830 miles (2,945 kilometers).

Lear Jet Corporation built approximately 100 Learjet 23s.

The first prototype was damaged beyond economical repair while simulating an engine failure on takeoff during flight testing, 4 June 1964. The accident was attributed to pilot error. N801L had accumulated just 194 flight hours.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

6 October 1977

The first prototype Mikoyan MiG 29A, 9-01, ("01 Blue") on display at the Central Air Force Museum, Monino. (Detail from image by AVIA BavARia/Wikipedia)
The first prototype Mikoyan MiG 29A, 9-01, (“01 Blue”) on display at the Central Air Force Museum, Monino. (Detail from image by AVIA BavARia/Wikipedia)
Alexander Vasilyevich Fedotov (1932–1982)
Alexander Vasilievich Fedotov

6 October 1977: The first of eleven prototypes of the Mikoyan MiG 29A fighter, 9-01, made its first flight at Ramenskoye Airfield with Chief Test Pilot Alexander Vasilievich Fedotov, Hero of the Soviet Union, in the cockpit. Fedotov had been a test pilot at A.I. Mikoyan EDB since 1958 and set eighteen speed and altitude world records flying high performance aircraft. He was killed while testing the MiG 31 in 1984.

The MiG 29A is a fourth generation, single-seat, twin-engine, Mach 2+ air superiority fighter built by the Mikoyan Design Bureau. It entered service with the Soviet Union in 1983 and has been widely exported to many other nations. The MiG 29A is 13.37 meters (57 feet) long and has a wing span of 11.4 meters (37 feet, 3 inches). Its empty weight is 11,000 kilograms (24,250 pounds) and the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 20,000 kilograms (44,100 pounds). The fighter is powered by two Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines which produce 11,240 pounds of thrust, or 18,277 pounds of thrust with afterburner. It has a maximum speed of Mach 2.25 (1,490 miles per hour/2,400 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 59,100 feet (18,013 meters). Maximum range with internal fuel is 1,430 kilometers (888 miles).

Armament consists of one Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-301 30mm autocannon with 150 rounds of ammunition and a combination of air-to-air missiles, rockets or bombs carried on underwing pylons or fuselage hard points.

More than 1,600 MiG 29s have been built.

Mikoyan MiG 29SMT RF-92934 ("22 Red"),Russian Air Force. (Alex Beltyukov/Wikipedia)
Mikoyan MiG 29SMT RF-92934 (“22 Red”), Russian Air Force. (Alex Beltyukov/Wikipedia)

Alexander Vasilievich Fedotov born 23 June 1932 at Stalingrad, Russia (renamed Volgograd in 1961). He graduated from the Air Force Special School at Stalingrad,  and in 1950, entered the Soviet Army. Fedotov attended the Armavir Military Aviation School of Pilots at Amravir, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, graduating in 1952, and then became a flight instructor. In 1958 he attended the Ministry of Indutrial Aviation Test Pilot School at Zhukovsky. He was a test pilot for the Mikoyan Experimental Design Bureau from 1958 to 1984. In 1983, Alexander Fedotov was promoted to the rank of Major General in the Soviet Air Force.

On 22 July 1966, Fedotov was honored as a Hero of the Soviet Union. He was named an Honored Test Pilot of the Soviet Union, 21 February 1969. He was qualified as a Military Pilot 1st Class. Fedotov was twice awarded the order of Lenin, and also held the Order of the Red Banner and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.

During his career as a test pilot, Major General Fedotov had been forced to eject from an airplane three times. He had also set 15 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for speed, altitude and time to altitude. One of these, FAI Record File Number 2825, in which he flew a Mikoyan E-266M to 37,650 meters (123,534 feet), 31 August 1977, remains the current record. The FAI has also honored him three times (1961, 1973 and 1977) with The De la Vaulx Medal, and in 1976 awarded him the FAI’s Gold Air Medal.

Major General Alexander Vasilyevich Fedotov and his navigator, Valerie Sergeyvich Zaytevym, were killed when the second MiG 31 prototype, number 83/2, crashed during a test flight. Neither airman was able to eject.

Major General Federov
Major General Alexander Vasilyevich Federov, Hero of the Soviet Union

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

5 October 1954

Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter 083-1002, serial number 53-7787, the second prototype, in flight near Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

5 October 1954: Chief Engineering Test Pilot Tony LeVier made the first flight in the second prototype Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter, 53-7787, at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California. This was the armament test aircraft and was equipped with a General Electric T171 Vulcan 20mm Gatling gun. This six-barreled gun was capable of firing at a rate of 6,000 rounds per minute.

The XF-104 was 49 feet, 2 inches (14.986 meters) long with a wingspan of 21 feet, 11 inches (6.680 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters). The prototypes had an empty weight of 11,500 pounds (5,216 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 15,700 pounds (7,121 kilograms).

While the first prototype, 53-7776, was equipped with a Buick J65-B-3 turbojet engine, the second used a Wright Aeronautical Division J65-W-6 with afterburner. Both were improved derivatives of the Armstrong Siddely Sa.6 Sapphire, built under license. The J65 was a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet with a 13-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. The J65-B-3 was rated at 7,330 pounds of thrust, and the J65-W-6, rated at 7,800 pounds (34.70 kilonewtons), and 10,500 pounds (46.71 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

The XF-104 had a maximum speed of 1,324 miles per hour (2,131 kilometers per hour), a range of 800 miles (1,287 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 50,500 feet (15,392 meters).

53-7787 was lost 19 April 1955 when it suffered explosive decompression at 47,000 feet (14,326 meters) during a test of the T171 Vulcan gun system. The lower escape hatch had come loose due to an inadequate latching mechanism. Lockheed test pilot Herman R. (“Fish”) Salmon was unable to find a suitable landing area and ejected at 250 knots (288 miles per hour/463 kilometers per hour) and 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The XF-104 crashed 72 miles (117 kilometers) east-northeast of Edwards Air Force Base. Salmon was found two hours later, uninjured, about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the crash site.

Tony LeVier with the XF-104 armament test prototype, 53-7787, at Edwards AFB, 1954. LeVier is wearing a David Clark Co. T-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit with K-1 helmet. (U.S. Air Force)

The YF-104A pre-production aircraft and subsequent F-104A production aircraft had many improvements over the two XF-104 prototypes. The fuselage was lengthened 5 feet, 6 inches (1.68 meters). The J65 engine was replaced with a more powerful General Electric J79-GE-3 turbojet. There were fixed inlet cones added to control airflow into the engines. A ventral fin was added to improve stability.

Lockheed F-104A-15-LO Starfighters 56-0769 and 56-0781. (Lockheed Martin)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

3 October 1953

Lieutenant Commander James B. Verdin, United States Navy, in the cockpit of the record-setting Douglas XF4D-1. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Lieutenant Commander James B. Verdin, United States Navy. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

3 October 1953: Lieutenant Commander James B. Verdin, United States Navy, a test pilot assigned to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, flew the second prototype of the Douglas Aircraft Company’s XF4D-1 Skyray, Bu. No. 124587, over a three kilometer course at the Salton Sea, California. Flying at approximately 150 feet (46 meters), Commander Verdin made four passes, with two in each direction. He set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed over a 3-kilometer course, averaging 1,211.75 kilometers per hour (752.95 miles per hour).¹

The runs were measured at 746.075, 761.414, 746.053 and 759.498 miles per hour (1,200.691, 1,225.377, 1,200.656, and 1,222.294 kilometers per hour). The total elapsed time for the flight, from take off to landing at NAS El Centro, was 20 minutes, 25 seconds. The XF4D-1 burned 575 gallons (2,177 liters) of fuel.

Verdin had broken the record set 25 September 1953 by Michael J. Lithgow, chief test pilot for Vickers Supermarine, flying a Supermarine Swift F. Mk.4, WK198, at Castel Idris, Libya.²

In an interview with famed writer Bob Considine for his newspaper column, Verdin said,

“Douglas had its high priced help there at the course, and they iced my fuel for the Skyray while I took a look at the course from a Grumman Cougar,” he remembered. “They ice the fuel because that shrinks it and you can pack more in.

“We towed her out to the starting line to save the stuff. Didn’t even use blocks on the wheels after the engine was started. Just started rolling. I was in the air a little over a minute after the engine started, and headed for the measured course, 40 miles away.

“It was marked for me by smudge pots and burning tires, and orange-red markers to tell me when to turn off my afterburner, which eats fuel like crazy. About five miles short of the line I was doing 620 and turned on the afterburner. It gave me another hundred miles an hour right away, and I held her steady and low over the course. It doesn’t take long. . . about nine seconds for the just under two miles.”

—Bob Considine, On the Line—By Considine, International News Service, published in The Daily Review, Hayward, California, Vol. 62, No. 21, 20 October 1953, Page 14 at Columns 1–3

Douglas XF4D-1 Skyray Bu.No. (U.S. Navy)
Douglas XF4D-1 Skyray Bu.No. 124587. (U.S. Navy)

The Douglas XF4D-1 Skyray was a single-place, single-engine delta-winged fighter powered by a turbojet engine. It had retractable tricycle landing gear and was to operate off of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers as a high altitude interceptor. The Skyray was designed by the legendary Ed Heinemann, for which he was awarded the Collier Trophy in 1954. Two prototypes were built (Bu.Nos. 124586, 124587). It was a delta-winged aircraft, though the wingtips were significantly rounded.

The Douglas F4D-1 Skyray was 45 feet, 4¾ inches (13.837 meters) long, with a wingspan of 33 feet, 6 inches (10.211 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 8 inches (4.166 meters). The empty weight was 16,024 pounds (7,268 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 27,116 pounds (12,300 kilograms).

Originally built with Allison J35-A-17 turbojet engines, both prototypes later had a Westinghouse J40-WE-8 afterburning turbojet installed. The Skyray was equipped with the Westinghouse engine when it set the speed record. Production Skyrays used a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-8 afterburning turbojet.

The Westinghouse J40-W-8 was a single-shaft, axial-flow, afterburning turbojet engine with an 11-stage compressor and two-stage turbine. It produced 10,500 pounds of thrust (46.706 kilonewtons) at 7,600 r.p.m. The engine was 25 feet, 0 inches (7.620 meters) long, 3 feet, 4 inches (1.016 meters) in diameter and weighed 3,500 pounds (1,588 kilograms).

Douglas XF4D-1 Skyray Bu.No. 124587. (U.S. Navy)
Douglas XF4D-1 Skyray, Bu.No. 124587. (U.S. Navy)

The F4D-1 was the first U.S. Navy fighter able to reach supersonic speeds in level flight. The production aircraft had a maximum speed of 722 miles per hour (1,162 kilometers per hour), and service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16.764 meters). Its rate of climb was 18,300 feet per minute (92.97 meters per second) and the maximum range was 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers).

The Skyray was armed with four 20 mm Colt Mk 12 autocannon, with 65 rounds of ammunition per gun. It could also carry 2.75-inch FFAR rockets, four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, or two 2,000 pound (1,588 kilogram) bombs.

The Douglas Aircraft Company built 420 F4D-1 Skyrays. They were in service with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps from 1956 until 1964.

Douglas XF4D-1 124587 as a test aircraft for General Electric.
Douglas XF4D-1 Bu.No. 124587 as a flight test aircraft for General Electric, at Edwards Air Force Base, circa 1955. (U.S. Navy)

The record-setting XF4D-1 was transferred to General Electric in July 1955 and used to test GE’s J79 afterburning turbojet engine and the commercial CJ805.

XF4D-1 Bu. No. 124587 was returned to the Navy in May 1960. It is on display at the U.S. Navy Museum of Armament and Technology, NAWS China Lake, California.

Lieutenant Commander James B. Verdin, USN (1918–1955)
Lieutenant Commander James B. Verdin, USN (1918–1955)

James Bernard Verdin was born in Montana, 23 February 1918, the son of James Harris Verdin, a farmer, and Nellie Cambron Verdin. He entered the United States Navy as a Seaman, 2nd Class, 11 July 1941. His enlistment was terminated 7 January 1942 and he was accepted as an Aviation Cadet. He was assigned to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, for flight training. Verdin was commissioned as an Ensign, 18 June 1942. He was promoted to Lieutenant (Junior Grade), 1 May 1943, and then promoted to Lieutenant, 1 July 1944.

During World War II, Lieutenant James Bernard Verdin, U.S.N., was a fighter pilot flying the Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, assigned to VF-20 aboard USS Enterprise (CV-6). He was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 25 October 1944:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant James Bernard Verdin, United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while service as a Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron TWENTY (VF-20), attached to the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE (CV-6), on a strike against the Japanese Fleet during the Battle for Leyte Gulf on 25 October 1944, in the Philippine Islands. With complete disregard for his own personal safety and in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire, Lieutenant Verdin attacked and scored a direct bomb hit on an enemy battleship. His outstanding courage and determined skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander 1st Carrier Task Force Pacific: Serial 046. 31 January 1945

Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats on teh flight deck of USS Enterprise (CV-6), 30 october 1944. The aircraft carrier USS belleau Wood (CVL-24) is burning on the horizon, after being struck by a kamikaze. (U.S. navy)
Grumman F6F Hellcats on the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CV-6), 30 October 1944. The aircraft carrier USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) is burning on the horizon. (U.S. Navy)

Lieutenant Verdin flew more than 100 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War. In addition to the Navy Cross, Lieutenant Commander Verdin was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one gold star, and the Air Medal with five gold stars.

Verdin left the Navy in 1954 and joined Douglas as a test pilot, June 1954.

He married Miss Kathryn    and they lived in Coronado, California, near NAS North Island. They had one child. They divorced in 1948. Later, he married his second wife, Miss Muriel Carolyn Larson. They had three children and lived in Brentwood, California.

While testing a Douglas YA4D-1 Skyhawk, Bu. No. 137815, 13 January 1955, Lieutenant Commander Verdin encountered violent vibrations during a high speed run near Victorville, California. He was forced to eject, but his parachute failed to open and he was killed. His body was not found until the following day, located 2½ miles from the crash site. Verdin was 37 years old. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.

Douglas Aircraft Company YA4D-1 Skyhawk, Bu. No. 137820, sister shop of Verdin's Skyhawk. (Navy Pilot Overseas)
Douglas Aircraft Company YA4D-1 Skyhawk, Bu. No. 137820, sister shop of Verdin’s Skyhawk. (Navy Pilot Overseas)

¹ FAI Record File Number 9871

² FAI Record File Number 9870

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather