16 June 1943: The Boeing B-17E, F and G Flying Fortress heavy bomber was produced by a consortium of three aircraft manufacturers: Boeing in Seattle, Washington; the Douglas Aircraft Company at Long Beach, California; and the Vega Aircraft Corporation (a subsidiary of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation) at Burbank, California. Exemplars of production B-17s were provided to Douglas and Vega.
The Flying Fortress that was sent to Vega was the ninth production B-17E, serial number 41-2401.
The U.S. Army Air Corps asked Vega convert 41-2401 by installing liquid-cooled Allison V-12 engines. By replacing the air-cooled Wright Cyclone R-1820-65 nine-cylinder radial engines it was hoped that more streamlined configuration would produce better performance in the same way as had modifying the Curtiss P-36 to the Allison-powered P-40.
Engine coolant radiators were placed in the leading edge of each wing between the inboard and outboard engines. The engines were the same variant as used for the starboard engine of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
The Vega XB-38 was powered by four liquid-cooled, turbosupercharged 1,710.597-cubic-inch displacement (28.032 liter) Allison Engineering Company V-1710-F-17R (V-1710-89) single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines. These had a continuous power rating of 1,100 horsepower at 2,600 r,p.m., to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), and a takeoff/military power rating of 1,425 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. The engines drove three-bladed full-feathering constant-speed propellers through a 2.00:1 gear reduction. The engines were 7 feet, 1.34 inches (2.168 meters) long, 3 feet, 0.75 inches (0.933 meters) high, 2 feet, 5.28 inches (0.744 meters) wide, and weighed 1,350 pounds (612 kilograms).
The converted airplane was designated Vega XB-38. It made its first flight in the new configuration on 19 May 1943 with Vega’s Chief Pilot Bud Martin in the cockpit.
The XB-38 made its ninth test flight on 16 June 1943, with Bud Martin and former Naval Aviator George Archibald MacDonald on board. Flying over California’s San Joaquin Valley, the experimental bomber’s number three engine (inboard, starboard wing) caught fire.
When they were unable to extinguish the fire, Martin and MacDonald bailed out. MacDonald’s parachute failed to open and he was killed. Martin’s parachute opened improperly and he was severely injured when he hit the ground.
The Vega XB-38 crashed near Tipton, California, a small farming community on the valley floor, west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The bomber was destroyed.
Although the complete flight test program of the XB-38 was not completed, it was found that its performance increased only slightly over the B-17E. The project was cancelled.
George Archibald MacDonald was born 7 August 1901 at Anaconda, Montana. He was the second son of Erwin H. MacDonald, a mining engineer, and Shuberta M. Swan MacDonald.
MacDonald served as an ensign in the United States Navy. In 1926, Ensign MacDonald was designated Naval Aviator #4331.
George Archibald MacDonald was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.
Bud Martin recovered from his injures and remained with Lockheed. On 3 December 1943, he took the PV-2 Harpoon for its first flight. He flew the first production C-130A Hercules at Marietta, Georgia, 7 April 1955.
12 June 1994: At 11:45 a.m., Boeing test pilots John E. Cashman and Kenny Higgins took the first Boeing 777-200 airliner, line number WA001, FAA registration N7771, on its first flight. Before taking off from Paine Field, Boeing’s president, Phil Condit, told Cashman, “Good luck, John. And no rolls!”, referring to the famous incident when Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston rolled the Model 367–80 prototype of the 707 airliner over Lake Washington, 6 August 1955.
The 777’s first test flight lasted 3 hours, 48 minutes. This was the longest first flight of any of Boeing’s airliners. It reached a maximum altitude of 19,000 feet (5,791 meters) and accomplished all tests on the flight plan, including shutting down and restarting an engine in flight.
The Boeing 777-200 is operated by two pilots and, depending on its configuration can carry 314 to 440 passengers. It is 209 feet, 1 inch (63.729 meters) long with a wingspan of 199 feet, 11 inches (60.935 meters) and overall height of 60 feet, 9 inches (18.517 meters). The fuselage has a diameter of 20 feet, 4 inches (6.198 meters). The airliner has an empty weight of 297,300 pounds (134,853 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 545,000 pounds (247,208 kilograms).
WA001 was originally powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4074 two-spool high-bypass-ratio turbofan engines which produce 77,000 pounds of thrust, each. Production airliners were equipped with PW4077 engines with the same thrust. General Electric and Rolls-Royce turbofans could also be ordered.
Boeing 777s have a cruise speed of 0.84 Mach (560 miles per hour, 901 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 0.89 Mach (590 miles per hour, 950 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 43,100 feet (13,137 meters). The 777-200 has a maximum range of 6,027 miles (9,700 kilometers) with maximum payload aboard.
The 777 series was the most comprehensively tested airplane in history. Nine aircraft were used in the test program. WA001 was in testing until April 1997, by which time it had accumulated 1,729 flight hours and another 1,033 hours of ground testing.
Purchased by Cathay Pacific, the first “Triple Seven” was completely refurbished and equipped for passenger service, configured as a 777-267. The engines were replaced by two Rolls-Royce RB211 Trent 884B-17 high-bypass turbofan engines. These engines are rated at 85,430 pounds of thrust for takeoff (5 minutes limit). Because of their lighter weight, the empty weight of the airliner was reduced approximately 7,500 pounds (3,400 kilograms). The airliner was rolled out of the factory for the second time 31 October 2000, and was delivered to the Cathay Pacific on 6 December, registered B-HNL. WA001 was retired 1 June 2018 and placed in storage at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport (XMN), Xiamen, Fujian Province, People’s Republic of China. Reportedly, the first Triple-Seven will become part of the collection of the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington.
The 777 was produced in the 777-200 configuration, followed the 777-200ER (“extended range”) and 777-200LR (“longer range”) variants, a longer 777-300ER and a 777F freighter. A tanker version has been proposed. Eighty-eight 777-200 airliners were built before production halted in favor of the -200ER and -200LR models.
As of April 2018, 1,547 Boeing 777s of all models have been delivered. At that time, there were 60 777-300ER, 42 777F freighters, and 326 777Xs on order.
8 June 1966: During a publicity photo formation flight, a Lockheed F-104N Starfighter, N813NA, flown by NASA Chief Research Test Pilot Joseph A. Walker, was caught in the wingtip vortices of the North American Aviation XB-70A-2 Valkyrie, 62-0207, the second prototype Mach 3+ strategic bomber. The Starfighter rolled up and across the Valkyrie. The two airplanes collided, with the F-104 taking off the Valkyrie’s vertical fins, then exploding.
The Valkyrie continued to fly straight and level for 16 seconds before it began to roll inverted. The B-70’s pilot, Alvin S. White, was able to eject, though he was severely injured. Joe Walker and B-70 co-pilot Major Carl S. Cross, United States Air Force, were killed.
Still photographs and motion picture film of the formation were being taken from Clay Lacy’s Gates Lear Jet. The photos were for a General Electric publicity campaign showing U.S. military aircraft that were powered by GE engines. Air Force procedures for requesting and approval of publicity flights were not properly followed and it is likely this flight would not have been approved had they been.
Reportedly, just prior to the collision, Walker radioed, “I’m opposing this mission. It is too turbulent and it has no scientific value.”
8 June 1959: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, North American Aviation’s Chief Engineering Test Pilot, A. Scott Crossfield, made the first flight of the X-15A hypersonic research rocketplane.
56-6670 was the first of three X-15s built for the U.S. Air Force and NASA. It was airdropped from a Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress, 52-003, at 37,550 feet (11,445 meters) over Rosamond Dry Lake at 08:38:40 a.m, Pacific Daylight Time.
This was an unpowered glide flight to check the flying characteristics and aircraft systems, so there were no propellants or oxidizers aboard, other than hydrogen peroxide which powered the pumps and generators.
The aircraft reached 0.79 Mach (522 miles per hour, 840 kilometers per hour) during the 4 minute, 56.6 second flight.
In his autobiography, Scott Crossfield described the first flight:
“Three” . . . “Two” . . . “One” . . .
Inside the streamlined pylon, a hydraulic ram disengaged the three heavy shackles from the upper fuselage of the X-15. They were so arranged that all released simultaneously, and if one failed they all failed. The impact of the release was clearly audible in the X-15 cockpit. I heard a loud “kerchunk.”
The X-15 hung in its familiar place beneath the pylon for a split second. Then the nose dipped sharply down and to the right more rapidly than I had anticipated. The B-52, so long my constant companion, was gone. The X-15 and I were alone in the air and flying 500 miles an hour. In less than five minutes I would be on the ground. . . .
There was much to do in the first hundred seconds of flight. First I had to get the “feel” of the airplane, to make certain it was trimmed out for landing just as any pilot trims an airplane after take-off or . . . when dwindling fuel shifts the center of gravity. Then I had to pull the nose up, with and without flaps, to feel out the stall characteristics, so that I would know how she might behave at touchdown speeds . . . My altimeter unwound dizzily: from 24,000 to 13,000 feet in less than forty seconds. . . .
The desert was coming up fast. At 600 feet altitude I flared out. . . .
In the next second without warning the nose of the X-15 pitched up sharply. It was a maneuver that had not been predicted by the computers, an uncharted area which the X-15 was designed to explore. I was frankly caught off guard. Quickly I applied corrective elevator control.
The nose went down sharply. But instead of leveling out, it tucked down. I applied reverse control. The nose came up but much too far. Now the nose was rising and falling like a skiff in a heavy sea. Although I was putting in maximum control I could not subdue the motions. The X-15 was porpoising wildly, sinking toward the desert at 200 miles an hour. I would have to land at the bottom of an oscillation, timed perfectly; otherwise, I knew, I would break the bird. I lowered the flaps and the gear. . . .
. . . With the next dip I had one last chance and flared again to ease the descent. At that moment the rear skids caught on the desert floor and the nose slammed over, cushioned by the nose wheel. The X-15 skidded 5,000 feet across the lake, throwing up an enormous rooster tail of dust. . . .
—Always Another Dawn: The Story of a Rocket Test Pilot, by A. Scott Crossfield and Clay Blair, Jr., The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, 1960, Chapter 37 at Pages 338–342.
Before the drop, it was discovered that the aircraft’s Stability Augmentation System was inoperative in pitch mode. During the flight it was found that the hydraulic-assisted flight control system was responding too slowly to Crossfield’s inputs. Engineers analyzed the problem and increased the hydraulic system pressure. The problem never recurred.
Scott Crossfield was the world’s most experienced rocketplane pilot with 82 rocketplane flights before the X-15 program. “. . . he was intimately involved in the design of the aircraft and contributed immensely to the success of the design.”
—At The Edge Of Space, by Milton O. Thompson, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992, Introduction, at Page 3.
North American Aviation X-15A 56-6670 made the first glide flight and the first and last powered flights of the X-15 Program. It made a total of 82 of the 199 X-15 flights. 56-6670 is in the collection of National Air and Space Museum at Washington, D.C.
5 June 1948: Flying at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters), north of Muroc Air Force Base, California, the second Northrop YB-49 “flying wing,” serial number 42-102368, was undergoing stall recovery performance testing with a crew of five aboard. The pilot was Major Daniel A. Forbes, Jr., United States Air Force, and the co-pilot was Captain Glen W. Edwards.
The aircraft suffered a catastrophic structural failure with the outer wing panels tearing off. The experimental airplane crashed approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of the small desert town of Mojave. The entire crew, which included 1st Lieutenant Edward L. Swindell, flight engineer, and civilian engineers Charles H. LaFountain and Clare C. Lesser, were killed.
The YB-49 was an experimental jet engine-powered bomber, modified from a propeller-driven Northrop XB-35. It was hoped that the all-wing design would result in a highly efficient airplane because of its very low drag characteristics. However, the design could be unstable under various flight conditions.
A few months after the crash, the first YB-49 was destroyed in a taxiing accident and the project cancelled. It would be 41 years before the concept would be successful with the Northrop B-2 Spirit.
42-102367 had been converted from the second YB-35 pre-production test aircraft. The original Flying Wing’s four Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major (R-4360-21) radial engines were replaced by eight Allison J35-A-15 turbojet engines and several aerodynamic improvements were made. The change to jet power increased the airplane’s speed by about 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour) and significantly reduced the vibrations caused by the reciprocating engines, drive shafts and counter-rotating propellers.
The YB-49 was a very unusual configuration for an aircraft of that time. There was no fuselage or tail control surfaces. The crew compartment, engines, fuel, landing gear and armament was contained within the wing. Air intakes for the turbojet engines were placed in the leading edge of the wing. The exhaust nozzles were at the trailing edge. Four small vertical fins for improved yaw stability were also at the trailing edge.
The fins were likely too small. Test pilots complained about the airplane’s instability, which made it difficult to maintain course or altitude. A stability augmentation system was required.
The YB-49 had a length of 53 feet, 1 inch (16.180 meters), wingspan of 172 feet, 0 inches (52.426 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 2 inches (4.623 meters). It weighed 88,442 pounds (40,117 kilograms) empty, and its maximum takeoff weight was 193,938 pounds (87,969 kilograms).
The Wing defined the airplane. It had an aspect ratio of 7.4:1. The wing’s root chord was 37 feet, 6 inches (11.430 meters). The wing was 7 feet, 1.5 inches (2.172 meters) thick at the root. The tip chord was 9 feet, 4 inches (2.844 meters). There was 0° angle of incidence at the root, -4° at the wing tips, and 0° 53′ dihedral. The leading edge was swept aft 26° 57′ 48″, and the trailing edge, 10° 15′ 22″. The wing’s total area was 4,000 square feet (371.6 square meters).
The YB-49 was powered by eight General Electric-designed, Allison Engine Company-built J35-A-15 engines. The J35 was a single-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with an 11-stage compressor section and single-stage turbine. The J35-A-15 was rated at 3,270 pounds of thrust (14.55 kilonewtons) at 7,400 r.p.m., Normal Power, and a Maximum (Military Power) rating of 3,750 pounds of thrust (16.68 kilonewtons) at 7,700 r.p.m. 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).
Cruise speed for the YB-49 was 429 miles per hour (690 kilometers per hour). Its maximum speed 499 miles per hour (802 kilometers per hour) at 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) was restricted by Mach number. The airplane could climb from Sea Level to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) in 21.0 minutes. It had a service ceiling of 49,700 feet (15,149 meters). The YB-49 had a combat radius of 1,611 miles (2,593 kilometers) at 420 miles per hour (676 kilometers per hour), carrying a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) bomb load.
The YB-49 had no defensive armament. It could carry a maximum bomb load of 16,000 pounds (7,257 kilogram) in its internal bomb bay. (Turbulence resulting from open bomb bays significantly decreased bombing accuracy.)
Only two Northrop YB-49s were built. They were tested by Northrop and the Air Force for nearly two years. Although an additional nine YB-35s were ordered converted, the B-49 was not placed into production.
Daniel Hugh Forbes, Jr., was born at Carbondale, Kansas, 20 June 1920. He was the son of Daniel Hugh Forbes, a farmer, and Hattie Rundle Forbes. He attended North High School in Wichita Kansas, and then the Kansas State College at Manhattan, Kansas,
Daniel Forbes enlisted in the United States Army as an aviation cadet at Fort Riley, Kansas, 23 May 1941. On 9 January 1942, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Reserve. Forbes was promoted to the rank of 1st lieutenant, Army of the United States, 25 August 1942, and to captain, A.U.S., 15 August 1944. On 4 October 1945, he was promoted to major, A.U.S.
Major Forbes married Mrs. Edward C. Winkle (née Hazel Marie Moog), 11 March 1948. Her first husband, a 1st lieutenant assigned to the 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, was killed in action in France, 1 October 1944. Less than three months later, Mrs. Hughes was a widow again.
Glen Walter Edwards was born at Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, 5 March 1916, the second son of Claude Gustin Edwards, a real estate salesman, and Mary Elizabeth Briggeman Edwards. The family immigrated to the United States in August 1923 and settled near Lincoln, California. He attended Lincoln High School, where he was a member of the Spanish Club and worked on the school newspaper, “El Eco.” He graduated in 1936.
Edwards attended Placer Junior College, Auburn, California, before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. He graduated in 1941 with a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree, and then enlisted in the United States Army as an aviation cadet, 16 July 1941.
Following pilot training, Edwards was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Reserve, 6 February 1942. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant, Army of the United States, 16 September 1942. Lieutenant Edwards flew 50 combat missions in the Douglas A-20 Havoc light bomber with the 86th Bombardment Squadron (Light), 47th Bomb Group, in North Africa and fought at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, 19–24 February 1943. He was next promoted to captain, 28 April 1943. He also flew during the invasion of Sicily, in late 1943.
Edwards returned to the United States and was assigned to the Pilot Standardization Board, but was then sent to train as a test pilot at Wright Field. Captain Edwards was assigned as a test pilot in 1944 and tested the Northrop XB-35 and Convair XB-36.After World War II came to an end the U.S. Army and Air Corps were demobilized to 1/16 of their peak levels (from 8,200,000 to 554,000). Edwards was retained but reverted to the rank of 1st lieutenant. He had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters (four awards). He was transferred to the United States Air Force after it was established as a separate service, 18 September 1947.
Glen Edwards was recommended to fly the Bell X-1 rocket plane, but when that assignment went to Chuck Yeager, Edwards was sent to Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, to study aeronautical engineering. He earned a masters degree in engineering (M.S.E.) in 1947.
Following the crash of the YB-49, Topeka Air Force Base in Kansas was renamed Forbes Air Force Base. Muroc Air Force Base was renamed Edwards Air Force Base in honor of Captain Edwards.
Captains Edwards’ remains were buried at the Lincoln Cemetery, Lincoln, California.
Edward Lee Swindell was born at Currituck, North Carolina, 22 April 1916. He was the sun of Rudolph Bridgman Swindell, a machinist’s helper at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, and Eula Belle Williams Swindell.
Edward L. Swindell married Miss Edna Irene Hayman, 2 January 1942 at South Mills, North Carolina.
Swindell enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Lee, Virginia, 17 March 1942. He was 5 feet, 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall and weighed 156 pounds (70.7 kilograms).
Lieutenant Swindell’s remains were buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia.
Charles H. LaFountain was born 12 June 1925 in New York. He was the son of Leo L. LaFountain and Gladys Ethel Taylor LaFountain. He had served in the United States Navy and was a civilian employee of the Air Force. His remains were buried at the Lake Luzerne Cemetery, Lake Luzerne, New York.
Clare C. Lesser was born 27 June 1925 at Joliet, Illinois. He was the fifth of five children of Henry J. Leser, a worker at a wire mile, and Alvina Leser. Leser served as an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve. Like LaFountain, he was also a civilian employee of the Air Force. His remains were buried at St. John’s Cemetery, Joliet, Illinois.