Sunday, May 8, 2011

USAF History - 1949

January 5:  Captain Yeager makes a ground takeoff in an X-1, in the process unofficially breaking all time to climb records during the 13,000 feet per minute ascent. This flight, which will be the only such attempt, is made only with a partial fuel load, as there are concerns over the strength of the X-1's landing gear.

January 7:  A pair of F-80s from the Florida ANG cover the 711 miles between Chicago and New York in 1 hour and 21 minutes.

January 10:   A B-26 Invader crashes into a factory in the Japanese town of Nishinomiya, killing two of the crew and three Japanese civilians.

January 14: 
  A group of Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division are forced to jump at low altitude from their stricken C-82 Packet over South Carolina. The jumpmaster, Sgt. Robert Hodgkiss manages to get thirty-six men out before the aircraft crashes, passing up the opportunity to jump himself. Hodgkiss survives the wreck, but three others aboard perish.

January 17:   In the isolated highlands of Scotland, near the town of Strachur, a B-29 on a flight from Scampton to Iceland crashes, killing all twenty aboard.

January 20:   Five B-36s from the 7th Bomb Wing carry out a low-level mock attack on the White House as part of the Air Force's contribution to the festivities for inaguaration of President Harry S. Truman.

January 20:  The USAF's first surface-to-surface missile, the Martin TM-61 Matador, is launched for the first time. The swept-winged Matador is boosted from a launch trailer by a solid rocket, with cruise propulsion coming from a J33 turbojet. Speed is in the high subsonic regime, and range is almost 700 miles. The warhead is either a heavy conventional bomb or a W5 nuclear device.

January 27:   A B-29 on a flight from Dakar in French West Africa to RAF Marham in the UK is lost in bad weather over the Atlantic.

January 28:  First flight of the production C-97A Stratofreighter, a transport version of the B-50 with a new fuselage. The Stratofreighter will see most use as SAC's KC-97 tanker, equipped with the Boeing Flying Boom refueling system. This method uses a rigid, steerable boom attached to the underside of a tanker, the tip of the boom being flown into contact with a receptacle on a receiver aircraft. KC-97s will be best compatible with B-29s and B-50s, but will also service jet bombers until the KC-135 comes into service. Refitted with jet booster pods late in life, Air Guard KC-97s are to survive in service till the late 1970s.

January 29:  A B-36 carrying forty-eight tons of inert training bombs breaks all previous aircraft payload records.

February 8:  An unofficial transcontinental speed record is set by an XB-47, which flies from Moses Lake, Washington to Washington, DC in less than four hours.

February 11:  Major Frank Everest sets an unofficial Wright-Patterson to Andrews AFB speed record, covering 390 miles in 33 minutes, flying an F-86.

March:  During a flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska an unofficial speed record for bomber aircraft of 675mph is claimed by a crew of an XB-45.

March 10:  The B-36D, the first operational Peacemaker to have two underwing jet pods (each with two J47s) is test flown on piston power only. All subsequent B-36s will have these auxiliary powerplants for additional takeoff power and increased speed over enemy airspace.

March 12:   A B-36 crew sets a new distance record for the type, landing at Carswell AFB after covering 9,600 miles in forty-three hours of flight. During this time, the bomber covered a great deal of the country, having flown north to Minneapolis, then turned westward to Montana before heading southeast to the Gulf of Mexico, where five tons of bombs were dropped. Almost a day's worth of flying still lay ahead at that point, with the bomber turning inland to overfly its home base, Denver, and Great Falls once again before turning westward to Spokane. This was to be the final city visited, and on the return trip two of the bomber's R4360 engines had to be shut down, although with four remaining this was not a major hindrance to safely recovering the aircraft.

March 18:  A quartet of F-80s fly from Okinawa to Yokota AB near Tokyo, marking the longest overwater mission yet flown by Shooting Stars.

April:  The final F-82G Twin Mustangs are delivered. These are the last piston-powered fighters bought by the USAF. Started as a B-29 escort late in World War II, the Twin Mustang was too late for wartime service, but will prove an effective interim night fighter and ground-attack machine.

April 15:
  The XC-99 sets a payload record, lifting a design capacity payload of 100,0001bs during a test flight.

April 18: 
Boeing's B-54 contract is terminated, as the superior B-47 is nearly ready for production. The ultimate evolution of the 1942-vintage Superfortress design, the B-54 was to have been a uprated version of the already-revised B-50, with a new mark of R4360 engine, a stretched fuselage, and slightly better performance.

April 26: 
The second XF-88 flies.

May 3:  North American's B-45C Tornado, a tactical version with extra fuel, starts flight tests. Only ten examples of this model will be built, but the variant will form the basis for the later RB-45C.

May 9: Republic begins flight testing the XF-91 Thunderceptor fighter. An attempt to combine a J47 turbojet sustainer engine and an XLR-11 rocket motor for boost within an interceptor airframe armed with four 20-mm cannon, the XF-91 is the only USAF fighter design to use such a powerplant arrangement. Other radical design features include variable-incidence swept wings with inverse taper. The XF-91 is not found to offer any operational advantages over pure-jet types, and is not ordered into production.

May 12:  The Berlin Blockade is lifted.

May 18:  First flight of the E-model Thunderjet. The F-84E is slightly longer than its predecessors, has the new J35-A-17 engine in place of the -13 used on the F-84C/D, and is fitted with a beefed-up wing.

June:  Luke Field is renamed Luke AFB.

June 1:  Pacific Air Command is deactivated.

June 3:  Lockheed flies the XF-90. Like the competing XF-88, Lockheed's penetration fighter prototype has twin J34 engines and swept wings. Severely underpowered, the XF-90 will not be evolved into a production design.

July 1:  The Lockheed F-94 Starfire interceptor is flown. The last USAF combat variant of the Shooting Star series, the Starfire is a two-seat night fighter converted from a TF-80C/T-33A. The original F-94A model differs from from the T-33 primarily in that the fighter has an afterburning engine and intercept radar in the nose, with the backseater serving to operate the avionics.

August:  Lockheed begins building production Starfires. This extremely rapid transition from testing to production is both a testimony to the basic soundness of the design and of dire need for radar-equipped jet interceptors. The Starfire will serve until 1959 when supersonic interceptors become availible in numbers.

F-94 Model Kits

September 1:  Aerospace Defense Command is merged into the Continental Air Command, a short-lived experiment in consolidating US-based air defense and tactical units. TAC will also become part of this command for a time.

September 2:  During trials at Cleveland for the National Air Races, a trio of F-86s from March AFB set an unofficial pylon course speed record, averaging 605mph.

September 3:  Major Vernon Ford places first in the jet division of the Bendix Race, reaching 529mph in an F-84.

September 3:  Airborne fallout from the first test of a Soviet nuclear weapon is picked up by a B-29 fitted for air sampling. The "nuclear club" now has two members, and Cold War tensions increase further, heightened by the fact that the Soviets have managed to reverse-engineer the B-29 and build copies under the designation Tu-4, creating at least a nominal long-range strike capability.

September 15:  The USAF experiences its first B-36 crash, when a Peacemaker attempting to take off from Fort Worth, Texas crashes into Lake Worth. Eight men manage to escape before the broken pieces of the bomber sink, but five others are killed.

September 30:  Last supply flight to Berlin; Operation Vittles terminated. US transports have delivered over 1.7 million tons of supplies. Although over thirty US servicemen have died in the operation, Berlin remains a Western bastion in Communist territory. Also the USAF has learned significant lessons on how to efficiently run a large scale airlift, which will be valuable in the years to come in Korea and Vietnam. MATS, and later its Military Airlift Command successor will keep contingency plans in hand for a resumption of flights to Berlin if necessary, until the reunification of East and West Germany.

October:  Even as the F-94 is beginning its production run, the USAF contracts with North American for production versions of yet another interim interceptor, this time based on the Sabre. Rolled out in September, the F-95A (later F-86D) like the Starfire has an afterburning engine, requiring a redesign of the rear fuselage. The inlet is also revised to accept the installation of a large radar set in the nose. All gun armament will be removed, and an extendable launcher holding two dozen 2.75" "Mighty Mouse" unguided rockets will be installed under the toward fuselage. Like nearly all of the interceptor designs of the time, the "Sabre Dog" will be plagued by unreliable vacuum-tube avionics and inacurrate rocket armament. Nevertheless, some 2,504 examples will come off North American's lines.

October 13:   A 43rd Bomb Group B-50 operating from RAF Sculthorpe, England crashes near the town of Isleham. The twelve 500lb bombs being carried detonate, with the explosion being felt for miles. All eleven USAF personnel and an RAF observer onboard are killed.

October 14:  Chase flies the XC-123 Avitruc, a development of its XCG-20 assault glider given two R-2800 piston engines for use as a tactical transport. This design will be evolved into the production C-123B Provider built by Fairchild.

October 23:  Testing begins of Martin's radical XB-51. An attack aircraft despite the "B" designation, the XB-51 has two J47 turbo jets on pods underneath the toward fuselage, with an additional engine in the tail. Other features include a variable-incidence wing, "T" tail, and a rotary bomb bay.

October 27:  The Douglas YC-124 Globemaster II, the first postwar-designed heavy-lift transport to be bought by the USAF, is flown for the first time. Combining the wings, tail surfaces, and powerplants of the C-74 Globemaster I, the C-124 introduces a larger double deck fuselage fitted with clamshell doors under the nose to allow the transport of outsized cargo. Douglas will produce 243, and a few will still be flying in the early 1970s.

November: A Sabre begins flight tests with an uprated Allison-built J35. No further Sabres will be fitted with this powerplant.

November: With the Northrop Flying Wing program effectively terminated, all work on converting B-35 airframes into jet-powered YB-49s is stopped.

November 10:  While on approach to the National Airport, a B-17 carrying Vice President Alben Barkley nearly collides with an advertising blimp.

November 11:  A B-29 explodes in the air near Brownsburg, Indiana killing two.

November 13:   The two-man crew of an Air National Guard B-25 perishes when their Mitchell crashes near the Duluth Airport. In Columbia, Missouri another B-25 crash also takes place, this time without loss of life.

November 15:  First flight of the second Northrop Scorpion prototype, the XF-89A.

November 16:   While on a flight from March AFB, California to the UK, a B-29 of the 22nd BG ditches in the Atlantic off Bermuda. The Superfortress had been making for the island to make a refueling stop, and carried a crew of 11, as well as nine ground crew personnel. A massive search for the missing men is launched from Bermuda, as well as from air bases stretching from Massachusetts to Florida.
   While hope remains for the 22nd crew, less fortunate are the crews of two Superforts that collide over Stockton, California during night training. Three men manage to bail out, but nine others are found dead in the wreckage, and there is little chance that additional survivors will be found.

November 18:   There is yet another B-29 crash, in this case involving an aircraft taking part in the hunt for the Superfortress lost off Bermuda. The latest loss takes place in Tampa Bay, shortly after the bomber launches from MacDill AFB, Florida. Five men die in the crash, with four others that were in the rear of the aircraft surviving.
   Shortly afterwards, USAF Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg orders a portion of the B-29 fleet to be grounded; the exact number of aircraft involved is not released, but affected are Superfortresses that have been under heavy stress, or do not have uprated engines fitted.

November 19:   After having been adrift in a raft for over three days, 18 crewmen from the B-29 ditched in the Atlantic are located by a B-17 search aircraft operating from Bermuda, and are picked up by the Canadian destroyer Haida. Two other crewmen died in the crash.

December:  Muroc AFB is renamed Edwards AFB.

December 22:  The YF-95A/YF-86D prototype flies.
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