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October in Edwards History

  • Published
  • By History Office
  • Air Force Flight Test Center
This Month in History at Edwards

October 22, 1935 - Brigadier General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, commander of the 1st Wing at March Field, outlined to the House Military Committee the additional land and resources needed to complete the Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range. In addition to the 38,720 acres of land presently owned by the federal government, 30,000 acres of Southern Pacific Railroad land and 12,526 acres of privately owned land were necessary for full use and safety of the range facility. Total cost of the additional land would be $130,000. A further $50,000 of physical improvements were also required, including a railroad siding, gasoline storage facilities, permanent quarters for range personnel, and triangulation stations to measure bombing accuracy.
October 1, 1942 - As Bell test pilot Bob Stanley was completing the final series of high-speed taxi tests with the XP-59A, the craft's wheels lifted off from the surface of Rogers Dry Lake and, for the first time, an American turbojet-powered airplane became airborne. The "official" first flight of the airplane actually occurred the next day when high-ranking program officials were finally on hand to witness it.

October 2, 1946 - The Chance Vought test pilot Ted Owens completed the first flight of the XF6U-1 Pirate. The airplane was a single-engine, straight-winged Navy fighter constructed with an experimental Metalite (laminated aluminum and balsa sheet) skin.

October 14, 1947 - Air Force Capt Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager piloted the rocket-powered Bell X-1 to a speed of Mach 1.06 (approximately 700 mph at 42,000 feet) and thereby became the first man to penetrate the so-called "sound barrier." Though few people could comprehend its full implications at the time, his supersonic flight that morning marked the first step in a chain of events that would ultimately vault man beyond the atmosphere...and into space.

October 21, 1947 - Northrop's Max Stanley completed the first flight of the all-jet powered version YB-49 Flying Wing bomber prototype. During the short, 34-minute flight from Northrop Field in Hawthorne, California, the Northrop P-61C chase airplane caught fire and crashed near Palmdale. All of its crew members successfully bailed out.

October 20, 1952 - Douglas test pilot Bill Bridgeman made the first flight of the X-3 Stiletto. A rakish-looking, twin-jet airplane with extremely short-span wings and a long, narrow fuselage, the X-3 was designed to explore the potential for sustained Mach 2 flight. During the extremely long takeoff roll that day, Bridgeman's words were prophetic: "this thing doesn't seem to want to get off the ground." Unfortunately, the X-3's engines were so underpowered that they limited it to transonic performance.

October 22, 1955 - Piloted by Russell M. "Rusty" Roth, the prototype Republic
YF-105A Thunderchief exceeded Mach 1 on its first flight. A rugged fighter-bomber, the "Thud" went on to provide major front-line service in Vietnam
October 11, 1961 - The rocket-powered X-15 became the first aircraft to climb above 200,000 feet when Major Robert M. "Bob" White took it to an altitude of 217,000 feet. During the flight, the outer panel of the left windshield cracked.

October 14, 1962 - Well before dawn, Maj Richard S. "Steve" Heyer took off from North Base in a U-2C, flew to the Gulf of Mexico, and made a photo-reconnaissance run over western Cuba. The photos unequivocally confirmed the presence of medium-range ballistic missiles and launchers. On 22 October, President Kennedy made the Cuban missile crisis public when he announced that the U.S. had "unmistakable evidence" of the Soviet missile buildup and he declared a naval blockade to prevent the shipment of offensive weapons to the island.

October 23, 1963 - The first F-4C Phantom II was ferried to the Center for Category II performance tests. The F-4C was the Air Force version of the Navy F-4B interceptor. Among other things, it was modified with a cartridge-pneumatic starter system, receptacle aerial refueling system, and larger wheels to make it into an all-weather fighter and attack bomber for the Tactical Air Command.

October 30, 1964 - Piloted by NASA's Joe Walker, the Bell Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) made its first flight. The LLRV, nicknamed the "Flying Bedstead," was developed to simulate a lunar landing profile for research and lunar pilot training for NASA's Apollo program. The angular structure was equipped with a small jet engine, two lift rocket motors, and 16 smaller rockets to provide flight control.

October 14, 1965 - With North American's Al White and copilot Col Joe Cotton at the controls, the No. 1 XB-70 Valkyrie accelerated to a speed of Mach 3.02 (approximately 2,000 mph) at 70,000 feet and thereby achieved the design speed for the mammoth, 500,000-pound prototype long-range bomber for the first time. In doing so, it became the first--and, so far, only--bomber-type aircraft to ever come even close to triple-sonic speeds.

October 24, 1968 - The rocket-powered X-15 made its final flight, piloted by NASA's Bill Dana. In 199 flights, the hypersonic aircraft completed what most historians consider to be the most successful aerospace flight research programs to date.

October 14, 1969 - On the concluding flight of Category II heavyweight takeoff tests, a
C 5A Galaxy took off at a weight of 798,200 pounds for an unofficial world record.

October 10, 1972 - The A-X Joint Test Force began the 60-day Northrop YA-9/Fairchild Republic YA-10 fly off for the contract to build the first Air Force dedicated close air support aircraft since World War II. The effort compared the actual performance of the competing designs with JTF test pilots flying profiles in each of the airplanes. The Fairchild A-10 emerged from the competition as the winning design.

October 24, 1974 - AFFTC test pilot Maj Bruce Hinds and a crew from the 6512th Test Squadron successfully air-launched a modified Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missile from a C-5A at 20,000 feet over the Pacific Test Range. The large missile was extracted by parachute, stabilized by drogues into a vertical position, ignited for a 20-second test firing, and subsequently fell into the ocean. The AF Space and Missile Systems Organization conducted the project to determine the feasibility of developing an air-launched basing mode for the new M-X advanced ICBM.

October 25, 1990 - The YF-22A, Lockheed Martin's entry in the Advanced Tactical Fighter demonstration and validation program, accelerated to Mach 1.24 at 40,000 ft for its first supersonic flight.

October 20, 1993 - The Pathfinder remotely-piloted, solar-powered aircraft made its first flight at Edwards AFB. Pathfinder was a lightweight rectangular flying wing powered by six electric motors; solar cells covered the entire 98 ft wingspan to drive the motors and other onboard systems. It was designed and built by AeroVironment for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and transferred to NASA in 1994 to support its Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) program. The spindly aircraft flew for 41 minutes and reached an altitude of 200 feet. Ultimately, the ERAST program demonstrated that a high AR, solar-powered lightweight craft could take off and land at an airport and fly at extremely high altitudes of 50,000 to 80,000 feet.

October 24, 2000 - Lockheed Martin test pilot Tom Morgenfeld completed the first flight of the X-35A, the company's concept demonstrator of the Air Force variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The X-35A was developed in competition with Boeing's X-32A demonstrator, although the test programs for the two aircraft were technically not a competitive fly-off.

October 24, 2000 - The F-22 Combined Test Force achieved a significant milestone when a Raptor successfully released the first of a planned sixty unarmed Raytheon AIM-120C Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles over the Naval Air Warfare Center's test range at China Lake, CA. The AIM-120C featured clipped wings and fins, and was planned as one of the Raptor's two primary air-to-air weapons.

October 11, 2001 - The F-15 Combined Test Force at achieved a major milestone when it surpassed a remarkable 40,000 flight hours without incurring a single serious (Class A or B) mishap since the onset of the F-15 program more than 29 years earlier. No other fighter-type aircraft had ever come close to this extraordinary safety record.

October 6, 2004 - At the end of a four-hour sortie from the Northrop Grumman production facility in Palmdale, the RQ-4A(N-1) unmanned air vehicle demonstrator completed its first flight. The U.S. Navy version of the Global Hawk was designed to support maritime surveillance missions.

October 14, 2005 - Edwards Air Force Base became the first base in the Department of Defense (DoD) to offer base-specific news updates via podcasts on the Air Force's public website. Podcasts were a method of publishing audio broadcasts via the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed of MP3 files.

October 1, 2008 - The first F-35 test aircraft, AA-1, arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, following its first cross-country flight from the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics production facility in Fort Worth, TX. The aircraft was scheduled to remain several weeks at Edwards to conduct flight tests, before returning to Texas.

October 31, 2008 - Edwards AFB hosted a special ribbon cutting ceremony to officially re-open the main runway, 04/22, for normal operations, some two months earlier than the runway's expected completion date. Construction on the main runway had been completed on 19 September. AFFTC commander Maj Gen David J. Eichhorn and 412th Test Wing commander Col William J. Thornton took off in two Edwards F-16 aircraft from the new base runway at about 1045L, marking the new runway's first operational use.

Air Force Flight Test Center History Office