Welcome to This Date in Aviation History, getting you caught up on milestones and important historical events in aviation from November 14 through November 17.


November 16, 1970 – The first flight of the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. As passenger jet aviation progressed through the 1960s, it became clear that larger airliners were necessary in order to carry more and more passengers ever greater distances. Aircraft such and the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 set the standard for single-aisle aircraft, but with Boeing’s development of the Boeing 747, Lockheed, long a producer of military aircraft, felt they needed their own wide-body airliner to stay relevant in the area of civilian transport. In the 1960s, American Airlines approached both Boeing and Lockheed in their search for a large airliner capable of transatlantic operations from their hubs in Dallas and New York. Lockheed originally proposed a twin-jet design, but that was later augmented by a third engine mounted in the tail, fed by an air intake in front of the vertical stabilizer through an S-duct, an arrangement that reduced drag and simplified maintenance. Rolls-Royce would provide the engines, supplying their RB.211 high-bypass turbofans. Capable of carrying 400 passengers, more than its McDonnell Douglas DC-10 competitor, the L-1011 entered service with Eastern Air Lines in 1972 after American Airlines chose to purchase the DC-10 instead, using the L-1011 as leverage to force McDonnell Douglas to lower their prices. But the problems facing the TriStar program weren’t over. A delay in engine production put the TriStar a year behind schedule, allowing the DC-10 to enter the market first, and the original L-1011 came in overweight, limiting its range and carrying power. And to add yet another strike against the TriStar, a major scandal broke when it was found that Lockheed had bribed Japanese gevernment officials to purchase the new airliner, leading to the arrest of the Japanese prime minister, and sales to Russia were blocked by the Carter Administration over Soviet human rights issues. Despite variants meant to make the L-1011 more marketable, Lockheed ended production in 1984 after building only 250 aircraft, needing sales of at least 500 just to break even. After their experience with the L-1011, Lockheed left the civilian airliner market for good, and only eleven TriStars remain in service today. (Photo by Eduard Marmet via Wikimedia Commons)


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November 17, 1956 – The first flight of the Dassault Mirage III. In the early years of the Cold War, and before the advent of the ballistic missile, national defense against nuclear-armed bombers centered around the fighter interceptor. This was an aircraft that was built for speed, with high maneuverability sacrificed in favor of straight line speed and high climb rates so the fighter could intercept high-flying bombers before they could loose their nuclear weapons. Beginning in 1952, the French government initiated the procurement of a supersonic interceptor, one that would be capable of all-weather operations and be able to climb to 59,000 feet in six minutes. This led to the Dassault Mirage I, an all-delta configuration that was powered by a single jet engine augmented with rockets to achieve the highest speed possible. However, due to the small size of the fighter, its armament was restricted to a single air-to-air missile and the project was eventually scrapped. Dassault considered a larger version of this hybrid powered fighter, but that program was also abandoned in favor of the still larger Mirage III. This aircraft was powered by a single SNECMA Atar 09C afterburning turbojet engine, and while provisions were also made for a rocket engine, this configuration was never put into production. The Mirage III, enlarged and redesigned to take advantage of the area rule, reached Mach 1.52 on its tenth test flight, and following variants attained speeds exceeding Mach 2, making it the first European aircraft to surpass Mach 2. This aircraft was designated Mirage IIIA and led to an initial order for ten aircraft. The Mirage IIIC, armed with two 30mm cannons became the first production model, and had five external hardpoints for weapons and an aerodynamic centerline fuel tank that could also carry a bomb. This version was also developed into the Mirage IIIE, specialized for ground attack, and the Mirage IIIR, specialized for reconnaissance. The Mirage III turned out to be an excellent second generation fighter, and was exported widely, seeing service with the Israeli Air Force (IAF) during the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, with the South African Air Force in the South African Border War, and with devastating effectiveness by the Argentine Air Force against British shipping in the Falklands War. Numerous variants have also been produced, including the Mirage 5, which was eventually developed into the Kfir by the IAF. (Photo by Mike Freer via Wikimedia Commons)


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November 17, 1947 – The first flight of the Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar. The vast reaches of WWII showed that aerial resupply of troops was capable on a scale that was never imagined before, and the cargo aircraft came into its own as one of the most important elements of tactical and strategic warfare. But one of the drawbacks of early cargo plane design was the difficulty of loading and unloading cargo with a traditional aircraft. To address that problem, Fairchild Aircraft developed the C-82 Packet, which featured a cargo-carrying fuselage centered between a twin-boom tail. This allowed vehicles to be driven directly into the cargo hold, and greatly simplified and sped up loading and unloading. The Packet came too late to serve in any great numbers during WWII, but it also had some serious shortcomings, particularly underpowered engines and a relatively flimsy airframe. To address those problems, the Air Force again turned to Fairchild and asked them to develop a larger and more robust version of the Packet. This new aircraft would be called the Flying Boxcar because of its large, boxy fuselage, as well as its mission as a transport and supply plane. Starting with the C-89 as a basis, Fairchild enlarged the fuselage, and moved the cockpit fully forward rather than on top of the fuselage to make better use of the cargo space. They also gave the C-119 more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major radial engines, the same engines that were used on the Boeing B-50 Superfortress. In order to provide C-119s in the numbers needed by the Air Force, Henry Kaiser was awarded a contract in 1951 to produce the Flying Boxcar in the factory at Willow Run Airport in Michigan where Consolidated B-24 Liberators were built during the war. The only difference between the Kaiser C-119s and Fairchild’s was the use of the Wright R-3350 Duplex Cyclone engine, which had previously been used on the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Kaiser built 71 of the almost 2000 Flying Boxcars built, with the limited number most likely owing to political pressure from Fairchild over the loss of revenue. The Flying Boxcar served with great distinction in Korea and Vietnam, and a number of aircraft were converted to flying gunships as the AC-119G Shadow and the AC-119K Stinger. After their removal from wartime duties, C-119s continued flying cargo and supply missions into the 1970s, and was flown as late as 1995 by the Republic of China Air Force. (US Air Force photo)


Short Take Off


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November 14, 1974 – The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle enters service with the US Air Force. Designed from the outset as a fighter to gain air superiority over its Soviet counterparts, the Eagle has become one of the most successful modern fighter designs, with over 100 kills to its credit, most while serving with the Israeli Air Force. No Eagle has ever been lost in combat. The first Eagles entered service with the USAF 555th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, and nearly 2000 Eagles have been built. The more advanced two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle remains in production. (US Air Force photo)


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November 14, 1969 – The launch of Apollo 12, the second manned mission to the surface of the Moon. Launched only four months after Apollo 11, Mission Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean spent thirty-one hours on the surface of the Moon, while Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon remained in orbit. Bean was able to land the Module exactly at the site of the Surveyor 3 unmanned probe, and, during two moonwalks, he and Conrad retrieved parts of the probe and returned them to Earth. They also carried the first color TV camera to the Moon, but Bean ruined it when he accidentally pointed the camera at the sun. Apollo 2 returned to Earth on November 24. (Photo of Conrad with Surveyor 3 via NASA)


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November 14, 1930 – The first flight of the Handley Page H.P.42, a four-engine biplane passenger airliner that was built for Imperial Airways. The H.P.42 had an all-metal fuselage with fabric covered wings and tail, and was designed for long-range eastern routes, while the H.P.45, which carried more passengers but less baggage, was designed for European routes. Four of each type were constructed, and flew long enough to be pressed into service in the early days of WWII. (Library of Congress photo)


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November 14, 1910 – Eugene Ely becomes the first person to take off from a ship. In 1910, the Secretary of the Navy appointed Ely, along with aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss, to investigate the operation of aircraft from ships. The appointment led to two experiments, the first with Ely piloting a Curtiss Pusher from a temporary runway constructed on the deck of the light cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-2) anchored in Hampton Roads near Norfolk, Virginia, then, two months later, Ely landed on the USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4) anchored in San Francisco Bay. While neither ship was a true aircraft carrier, Ely’s achievements helped prove the feasibility of naval aviation. (US Navy photo)


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November 15, 1957 – The first flight of the Tupolev Tu-114 Rossiya, a turboprop-powered long-range airliner with swept wings and truly jet-like performance. Developed from the Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” bomber, the Rossiya was the fastest airliner of its day, and still holds the record as the fastest propeller-driven aircraft since 1960. Capable of carrying up to 224 passengers, the Tu-114 more commonly carried 170 passengers in sleeping berths, and also included a dining lounge. The Rossiya transported over six million passengers in its fourteen years of civilian service, with thirty-two aircraft produced from 1958 to 1963. (Photo by Aviation Photography of Miami via Wikimedia Commons)


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November 16, 1947 – The first flight of the Saab 90 Scandia. As WWII drew to a close, Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (SAAB) decided that the company needed to turn from producing military aircraft to creating civilian airliners in order to survive (the same diversification also led to the Ursaab, the first Saab automobile, ). The Scandia was developed as a domestically produced replacement for the Douglas DC-3, and it bears a striking resemblance to its American counterpart, though the Saab aircraft featured a tricycle landing gear. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) received the first production aircraft in 1950, and eighteen Scandias were built from 1946 to 1954. (Photo by RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons)


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