Make Your Career Soar

Fifty-seven years ago this month, the USAF/Convair XB-58A supersonic bomber exceeded twice the speed of sound for the first time. Convair test pilot Beryl A. Erickson was at the controls of the famed delta-winged beauty.

The B-58A Hustler was the United States first supersonic-capable bomber and was originally designed for the strategic mission. The aircraft was powered by four (4) General Electric J79-GE-5A turbojets generating 62,400 lbs of sea level thrust in afterburner. Maximum take-off weight was nearly 177,000 lbs.

Convair’s stunning delta-winged bomber was 97 feet in length with a wing span of 57 feet. Wing area was roughly 1,550 square feet. Aircraft maximum height was 30 feet as measured from the ground to the top of the vertical tail.

Flight crew for the B-58A consisted of the pilot, bombadier/navigator, and defensive systems operator. The crew was arranged in tandem with each crew member seated in a separate cockpit. The type carried thermonuclear ordnance. A total of 116 B-58A aircraft were manufactured.

The B-58A performance was impressive then and now. It had a maximum speed of 1,400 mph and a service ceiling of 63,400 feet. The aircraft could climb in excess of 17,000 feet per minute at gross take-off weight and up to 46,000 feet per minute near minimum weight.

On Saturday, 29 June 1957, USAF/Convair XB-58A (S/N 55-660) first attained its double-sonic design airspeed when it flew to Mach 2.03 at an altitude of 43,250 feet. This historic achievement took place on the type’s 24th flight. Mission total elapsed time was 1 hour and 55 minutes.

The Hustler had a difficult gestation due to its advanced design and demanding performance requirements. A number of aircraft and flight crews were lost due to a variety of baffling flight control and structural problems. First flight took place on 11 November 1956 with the type finally entering service on 15 March 1960.

The USAF/Convair B-58A Hustler was operational for just 10 years and was retired from the USAF inventory on 31 January 1970. The aircraft was never used in anger.

Posted in Aerospace, History