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USAF YF-16 First Flight

Forty-five years ago this month, the USAF/General Dynamics YF-16 Lightweight Fighter (LWF) took to the air on its official first flight with General Dynamics test pilot Phil Oestricher at the controls. The YF-16 would go on to win the high stakes Air Combat Fighter competition following a head-to-head fly-off against… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

America in Orbit

Sixty-one years ago today, the United States successfully orbited the country’s first space satellite. Known as Explorer I, the artificial moon went on to discover the Van Allen Radiation Belts, the extensive system of charged particles trapped in the magnetosphere that surrounds the Earth. The Explorer I satellite was designed… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

HAM Into Space

Fifty-eight years ago this month, NASA successfully conducted a critical flight test of the space agency’s Mercury-Redstone launch vehicle which helped clear the way for the United States’ first manned suborbital spaceflight. Riding the Mercury spacecraft into space and back was a diminutive 44-month old male chimpanzee by the name… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Skyray Debut

Sixty-six years ago this month, the USN/Douglas XF4D-1 Skyray fighter flew for the first time at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Douglas test pilot Robert O. Rahn was at the controls of the single-engine, carrier-based, supersonic-capable aircraft. The Douglas XF4D-1 was the prototype version of the United States Navy’s… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Incredible Tale

Fifty-five years ago today, a USAF/Boeing B-52H Stratofortress landed safely following structural failure of its vertical tail during an encounter with unusually severe clear air turbulence. The harrowing incident occurred as the aircraft was undergoing structural flight testing in the skies over East Spanish Peak, Colorado. Turbulence is the unsteady,… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

X-Aircraft One-Upmanship

Seventy years ago this week, the USAF/Bell XS-1 became the first aircraft of any type to achieve supersonic flight during a climb from a ground take-off. The daring feat took place at Muroc Air Force Base with USAF Captain Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager at the controls of the rocket-powered XS-1.… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Travail in the Thin Air

Sixty-five years ago this month, USAF Major Charles E. Yeager set an unofficial world speed record of 1,650 mph (Mach 2.44) in the Bell X-1A flight research aircraft. In the process, the legendary test pilot very nearly lost his life when the aircraft departed controlled flight shortly after rocket motor… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

To the Moon and Back

Fifty years ago today, three American astronauts departed Earth to become the first men to orbit the Moon during the flight of Apollo 8. This epic mission also featured the first manned flight of the mighty Saturn V launch vehicle as well as history’s first super-orbital entry of a manned… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Final Flight: USAF NF-104A

Fifty-five years ago today, USAF NF-104A (S/N 56-762) crashed to destruction following a rocket-powered zoom to 101,600 feet above mean sea level (AMSL). The pilot, USAF Colonel Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager, was seriously injured, but survived when he successfully ejected from the stricken aircraft approximately 5,000 feet above ground level… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, Final Flight, History

NF-104A Zoom Climb Record

Fifty-five years ago today, USAF Major Robert W. Smith zoomed the rocket-powered USAF/Lockheed NF-104A to an unofficial world record altitude of 120,800 feet. This mark still stands as the highest altitude ever achieved by a United States aircraft from a runway take-off. A zoom maneuver is one in which aircraft… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History