Welcome to This Date in Aviation History, getting you caught up on milestones and important historical events in aviation from September 26 through September 29.


September 26, 1965 – The first flight of the LTV A-7 Corsair II. Throughout the history of military aircraft design, there have been a handful of aircraft that were named after mighty predecessors, such as the Fairchild Republic Thunderbolt II and the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. And while the jury is still out on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the others have more than lived up to the fame of their namesakes. One other that has done so is the LTV (Ling-Temco-Vought) A-7 Corsair II, named after the rugged, effective and deadly Vought F4U Corsair of WWII and Korea. Beginning in 1962, the US Navy began looking for a new attack aircraft to replace the venerable Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, specifically one with greater range and payload. By 1963, they finalized their requirements and announced the VAL (heavier-than-air, attack, light) competition, and to save money, the new aircraft was to be based on an existing design. Vought already had the F-8 Crusader, a supersonic air superiority fighter produced for the Navy, so they based the new plane on that, shortening and broadening the fuselage, and removing the variable incidence wing and afterburner, since the new attack aircraft was not intended to be supersonic. Selected the winner of the competition in 1964, the Corsair II was deployed only three years later and immediately saw action in the skies over Vietnam. Later versions would see increases in engine performance as the original turbojet was replaced with a turbofan. Though originally a Navy design, the Corsair II was also pressed into service with the US Air Force, when they found they, too, needed a powerful and sturdy subsonic ground attack aircraft. Reluctant at first to take the Navy airplane, the Air Force relented under pressure from Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, with the stipulation that their version would have a still more powerful engine and an M61A1 rotary cannon rather than the two single-barreled 20mm cannons on the Navy version. This aircraft would be designated the A-7D, and was later adopted by the Navy as the A-7E. By the end of the Vietnam War, the Air Force began passing the Corsair II over to the Air National Guard in favor of the F-4 Phantom II, but the Navy continued flying theirs, seeing action over Grenada, Libya, and even limited use in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The ANG finally retired their Corsair IIs in 1993, but the Greek Hellenic Air Force flew the A-7 until 2014. (US Navy photo)


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September 27, 1964 – The first flight of the BAC TSR-2. Following WWII, the general doctrine of aerial bombardment, either nuclear or conventional, was to fly as high as possible to avoid enemy fighters. But the surface-to-air missile changed all that, and a new breed of attack aircraft would come the fore, known as “interdictors,” designed to fly deep into enemy territory at low level and high speed to harass enemy logistics or strike specific targets such as airfields. To that end, the British government issued Operational Requirement 399 (GOR.399) in 1956 that called for an all-weather aircraft that could deliver tactical nuclear weapons, provide reconnaissance in all weather and also deliver conventional bombs and rockets. In January 1959, the Ministry of Supply announced that a consortium of Vickers and Armstrong, along with English Electric, would produce what would be called the TRS-2 (Tactical Strike Reconnaissance, Mach 2). The new aircraft would be designed around the strengths of each company, with Vickers building the front half of the aircraft and wings while English Electric built the rear. The TSR-2 was powered by two Bristol-Siddeley Olympus turbojets developed from those used on the Avro Vulcan, and which would eventually power the Concorde. It was capable of a sustained cruise of Mach 2.05, with a dash speed of Mach 2.35, and a theoretical top speed of Mach 3. With the completion of the first prototype, testing commenced, and despite some early difficulties, test pilots reported that the TSR-2 flew well, and would clearly be capable of performing the tasks for which it was designed. However, spiraling costs made a political issue out of the aircraft, and the cancellation of the project was announced on April 6, 1965, the day scheduled for the maiden flight of the second prototype. Rather than develop their own interdictor, even considering all the development money already spent, the British would buy the General Dynamics F-111 instead. Within six months of cancellation, all uncompleted aircraft, plus all tooling, were scrapped, and only two aircraft survived, neither of which is complete. The two finished aircraft, including the one that took part in testing, were used as targets to test for weaknesses in the airframe to gunfire and shrapnel. (Photo by Mike Freer via Wikimedia Commons)

September 29, 1954 – The first flight of the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo. Following the US Air Force’s experience with tactical bombing in WWII and Korea, it became clear that the Air Force needed a fighter that could protect strategic, and later tactical, bombers on long-range missions. In February 1951, the USAF issued an operational requirement for a fighter that could accompany the Convair B-36, and McDonnell was chosen to provide an aircraft for the mission. Based on the earlier XF-88 Voodoo, a penetration fighter that never entered production, the F-101 would serve as an interim escort for Cold War bombers, mainly because it had only one-fifth the range of the giant bomber it was meant to accompany, and by 1952 its designation of penetration fighter was changed to strategic fighter, with a greater emphasis placed on delivery of a single nuclear weapon in addition to its escort role. After entering production, the first aircraft were delivered to the Strategic Air Command in 1957, before being transferred to the Tactical Air Command later in the year in a nod to its changed role. But despite its range shortcomings, the Voodoo was still nearly twice as powerful as other fighters of its day (in December 1957 the F-101 set a speed record of 1,207.6 mph), and its range could be augmented with three external fuel tanks. Though the Voodoo’s career as a tactical fighter was relatively brief, the reconnaissance version, the RF-101, saw extensive service in the Vietnam War, and also took part in reconnaissance missions over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Voodoo would be retired by frontline USAF units by 1972, but would go on to serve the Air National Guard for ten more years. The F-101 also flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force as the CF-101, replacing the Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck. The RCAF finally replaced their Voodoos in 1984 on the arrival of the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet. (US Air Force photo)

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September 26, 2011 – All Nippon Airways takes delivery of the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner. ANA was the launch customer for the first 787, Boeing’s latest and most advanced, composite-construction widebody airliner. The first 787 entered service with ANA on October 26, 2011, and 318 aircraft have been built as of July 2015. (Photo by Spaceaero2 via Wikimedia Commons)


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September 26, 1986 – The first flight of the Piaggio P.180 Avanti, an Italian-made executive aircraft that features two turboprop engines in a pusher configuration, and is notable for its triple control surfaces: forward canard, main wing, and traditional T-tail. The Avanti seats up to nine passengers and can be flown with a crew of either one or two pilots. (Photo by Tibboh via Wikimedia Commons)


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September 26, 1951 – The first flight of the de Havilland Sea Vixen. Following the success of the de Havilland Vampire, Venom and Sea Venom, all twin-boom, single engine jet fighters, the Sea Vixen was a carrier-based fleet defense fighter that featured two engines, a two-man crew, and was the first British two-seater capable of supersonic speed. 145 aircraft were produced, and they served the Royal Navy until 1972. (Photo by Lmgaylard via Wikimedia Commons)


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September 28, 2007 – The first flight of the Kawasaki P-1. A domestically produced maritime patrol aircraft designed to replace the Lockheed P-3C Orion, the P-1 entered service with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2013. Outfitted with a magnetic anomaly detection boom, sonobuoys, bombs and missiles, thirty-three aircraft have been produced to date, and Kawasaki are in talks to sell the P-1 to the RAF to replace their aging fleet of Hawker Siddeley Nimrods. (Photo by Toshiro Aoki via Wikimedia Commons)


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September 28, 1988 – The first flight of the Ilyushin Il-96. A long-haul, widebody, four-engine airliner, the Il-96 entered service with Aeroflot in 1992. Twenty-nine aircraft have been produced, and the largest variant, the Il-96-400, can accommodate up to 436 passengers in a single-class configuration. (Photo by E233renmei via Wikimedia Commons)


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September 28, 1952 – The first flight of the Dassault Mystère IV. The first transonic fighter to enter service with the French Air Force, the Mystère IV was an evolutionary development of the earlier Mystère II and served from 1953 until the mid-1980s. The Mystère IV saw action in the Suez Crisis of 1956, and also served in the air forces of Israel and India. (Photo author unknown)


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September 29, 1988 – The launch of Space Shuttle Discovery, the first Shuttle mission following the the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger. After the loss of the Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, STS-26 was declared the “Return to Flight” mission after an almost three-year hiatus of Shuttle missions. It was the first flight to have all crew members wear pressure suits and with a crew bailout contingency since STS-4, as well as the first mission since Apollo 11 where all crew members had been on at least one previous space mission. (NASA photo)


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September 29, 1948 – The first fight of the Vought XF7U-1 Cutlass. Allegedly based on design concepts captured from the German Arado Flugzeugwerke during WWII, the Cutlass had a short, checkered career with the US Navy, with serious handling problems, underpowered engines and difficulty with carrier landings leading to numerous crashes and pilot fatalities. Introduced in 1951, the Cutlass served for only eight years before being replaced by the extremely successful Vought F8U Crusader. (US Navy photo)


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