This is today’s Aviation History Speed Round, getting you caught up on milestones and important historical events in aviation from June 13 through June 16.
June 14, 2013 – The first flight of the Airbus A350. The world of competitive airliner design is nothing if not reactionary, and the trick is to stay one step ahead of the other company. In 2003, Boeing announced its 7E7 project, which would later enter service as the 787, a brand new wide-body airliner that would take advantage of new efficiencies in aircraft design and materials, including the first widespread use of carbon-fiber composites in the fuselage. At first, Airbus rejected claims that their existing A330 would be threatened by the 787. Nevertheless, they offered refinements to the A330 to compete with the 787, but their customers clamored for an all-new airliner. Airbus responded with a clean-sheet design of a new wide-body, employing a fuselage and wing that were both made primarily of carbon-fiber composites, though to differing degrees than the 787. The new aircraft will seat up to 366 passengers in a typical three-class arrangement, and is positioned to compete with both the 787 and 777. Launch customer Qatar Airways received the first A350s, and completed the first commercial flight of the type in December 2014 on a flight between Doha and Frankfurt. Qatar now operates three A350s, and Airbus has orders for 786 more aircraft. (Photo by John Taggart via Wikimedia Commons)
June 15, 1945 – The first flight of the North American F-82 Twin Mustang. When the US Army Air Corps started flying bombing missions from the Philippines and China agianst the island of Japan, they needed an escort fighter that could acccompany the Boeing B-29 Superfortresses on the long missions, as the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and North American P-51 Mustang did not have sufficient range. The F-82 was designed for this mission, and while it looks like two Mustangs simply joined together, it is actually a completely new design. Starting with the lightweight XP-51F and XP-51H experimental models, the fuselages were joined with a section of wing that housed six .50 caliber machine guns for concentrated fire, and were given a strengthened wing for carrying additional ordnance. Coming too late for service in WWII, the F-82 was the last piston-engined fighter ordered into production by the USAAF, and was among the first aircraft to see action over Korea, downing the first three enemy aircraft of the war. In addition to daylight fighter duties, the F-82 was also used as a night interceptor to replace the Northrop P-61 Black Widow. To demonstrate the extreme range of the new fighter, in 1947 a P-82B named Betty Jo flew from Hawaii to New York without refueling, a record for piston-engined fighters that still stands. The Twin Mustang was retired in 1953 after production of 272 aircraft.
June 15, 1943 – The first flight of the Arado Ar 234. German plans for a high-speed, jet-powered reconnaissance bomber were first begun in 1940, with Arado being the only company to answer the call for designs. While the airframe was ready by the end of 1942, problems in development of the Jukers Jumo engines delayed the first flight until July of 1943. When the Ar 234 entered service in 1944, it was the world’s first operational jet bomber, and with a maximum speed of 459 mph, the Ar 234 easily outpaced all Allied piston-powered fighters of the time. It’s first combat mission was a reconnaissance flight over the Normandy beachheads in August of 1944, and the aircraft flew unmolested over the Allied positions and gained valuable information on the landings. The Ar 234 participated in attacks on the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen, where the Allies secured a crossing of the Rhine, but with only a single bomb to drop on the target the attacks were ineffective, and a number of bombers were lost to antiaircraft fire. In its few bombing missions, the Ar 234 proved nearly impossible to intercept, and in 1945 it was the last Luftwaffe aircraft to fly over England during the war. Fortunately for the Allies, only 210 aircraft were produced, and like the Messerschmitt Me 262, the world’s first operational jet fighter, the Ar 234 came too late in the war to have a significant impact on its outcome.
June 15, 1936 – The first flight of the Vickers Wellington. Designed in the mid-1930s, the Wellington was built in response to a design request for a twin-engined bomber that would significantly improve on aircraft currently in service with the RAF. Built at Brooklands by Vickers’ Chief Designer Rex Pierson, the Wellington made use of the geodesic framework design pioneered by Barnes Wallis and first used on rigid airships and the single-engine Vickers Wellesley light bomber. The construction consisted of a woven framework of W-shaped, aluminum alloy beams formed into a lattice-work that proved to be extremely resilient. Aircraft of this construction could withstand significant damage and remain flyable, and the dope-covered fabric skin would burn off, leaving the framework exposed yet still allow the plane to fly. Over 11,000 Wellingtons were built, and it was the only bomber to remain in continuous production throughout the war. When the Wellington was replaced by newer, heavy bombers such as the Avro Lancaster, the Wellington switched to maritime patrol and anti-submarine duties. The Wellington was eventually retired in 1953.
June 13, 1983 – The Pioneer 10 space probe is the first man-made object to leave the solar system after studying the planet Jupiter.
June 14, 1944 – The first B-29 raid against the Japanese mainland are launched from bases in India and China.
June 15, 1936 – The first flight of the Westland Lysander. Originally designed as a spotter and liaison aircraft, the Lysander’s short takeoff capabilities made it the perfect aircraft for clandestine operations behind enemy lines. (Photo by Paul Maritz via Wikimedia Commons)
June 15, 1916 – The first flight of the Boeing Model 1, William Boeing’s first aircraft. Built in a partnership with Lt. Conrad Westervelt of the US Navy, the plane was also known as the B&W Seaplane. Two were built and ultimately sold to New Zealand.
June 16, 1963 – The launch of Vostok 6, piloted by Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman cosmonaut and the first woman in space.
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All photos are Public Domain or taken by the author unless otherwise credited.