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This week in AFLCMC history - May 23 - May 29, 2022

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
23 May 2000 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Dir.) 

Randolph AFB, Texas, received the first production-model Beechcraft (Raytheon) T-6A Texan II. The plane was the product of the Air Force and Navy teaming to acquire a new training aircraft to replace their T-37 and T-34C, respectively, in the early 1990s. They established the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) program to manage the acquisition process. Of the seven contractor submissions, Beechcraft was awarded the contract on 22 June 1995 for its modified Pilatus PC-9 Mark II, a plane jointly developed by Beech and the Swiss Pilatus company. The Air Force named it for the original North American T-6 Texan, the World War II-era advanced trainer that was used by nearly every American military pilot of that period. 

 24 May 1917 (AFLCMC) 

The US Army Signal Corps established an Aircraft Engineering Division (AED). Pre-World War I aviation was modest enough for the Signal Corps to handle relative to its other responsibilities, but the massive wartime expansion of airplane production quickly overwhelmed the organization. The Signal Corps established the AED for engineering, development, and testing of aircraft, engines, and related equipment, with Maj Henry Souther, an automobile executive, as its first head. The AED was the nucleus of the new McCook Field in Dayton and was the predecessor for the current AFLCMC. 
25 May 1927 (Fighters & Adv. Aircraft Dir.) 

Lieutenant Jimmy Doolittle became the first person to perform an “outside” loop, flying a Curtiss P-1B Hawk pursuit plane at Wright Field in Dayton. Doolittle had been a test pilot for McCook Field, written a masters thesis on aircraft G-loads during maneuvers (which he flew himself), and earned a PhD in aeronautical engineering from MIT. In a traditional loop maneuver, the pilot’s head points toward the inside of the circle, while an outside loop places the underside of the plane to the inside. Two years later, Doolittle ripped the wings off his plane while doing the same maneuver, but was saved by his parachute. 
27 May 1958 (Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Dir.) 
The first flight of the McDonnell YF4H-1, the prototype for the F-4 Phantom II. Like many aircraft of the period, the Phantom began as a company-initiated program to fulfill a perceived need for a Navy fighter-bomber. The Navy instead contracted for its development as a fleet-defense interceptor in 1955. Company test pilot Robert Little made the first flight at the McDonnell factory in St. Louis. In 1961, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara pushed the Air Force to evaluate the F-4 (renamed that in 1962) as an air superiority and tactical fighter, as part of his emphasis on commonality between the services. The Phantom went on to serve as a mainstay of the Navy, Marines, and Air Force into the 1990s and even longer as a target drone. 

28 May 1995 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Dir.) 

A McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) C-17 Globemaster III flew the “Burma Hump” of World War II fame. Part of the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of war, the “Hump” referred to the range of Himalayan mountains over which American cargo pilots flew supplies from allied bases in India to friendly Chinese bases on the other side. These missions supported the American and Chinese efforts to fight the Japanese during the war. From 1942 onwards, hundreds of cargo planes like the C-46 and C-47 flew over 600,000 tons of supplies across the highly dangerous path, facing weather, altitude, navigation, and other difficulties. It was the most significant airlift operation in history to that point. The C-17 replicated the route in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII. It carried 20 American WWII Hump veterans on the flight. 

29 May 1959 (AFLCMC/EN-EZ) 

Lieutenant General Samuel E. Anderson was appointed the head of the Weapons System Management Study Group (WSMSG). Anderson was the recently-promoted commander of Air Materiel Command (AMC). Previously he had headed Air Research and Development Command (ARDC). In 1961 AMC became Air Force Logistics Command and ARDC became AF Systems Command, both of which combined in 1992 to form the modern Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC). The WSMSG was established a few months earlier to advise on the reorganization of the Air Force’s acquisition structure, resulting in the creation of the Wright Air Development Division (WADD), Electronic Systems Division, and Ballistic Missile Division. It also created the Directorate of Systems Engineering at WADD, the first formal such organization that was the predecessor for AFLCMC’s EN-EZ. 

118 Years Ago This Week in AFLCMC History: 26 May 1904 

Orville Wright made the first airplane flight outside of North Carolina—at Huffman Prairie, on the present site of Wright-Patterson AFB, east of Dayton, Ohio. 

Wilbur and Orville Wright had spent the preceding years investigating the problems associated with controlled, powered flight. By late 1899, they decided they had learned as much as they could from calculations and experimentation and it was time to get into the air. They wrote to the National Weather Service for data on places that combined seclusion, soft sandy beaches, gentle hills, and (most importantly) steady winds. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, met all the criteria and became the Wright’s flight test range for the next several fall seasons, culminating in the historic December 17, 1903 first flight with Orville at the controls. 

The Wrights needed a location closer to home where they could attempt flight tests year-round. Orville knew of a place a few miles to the east of their home that he had visited years earlier on a school field trip and happened to be off the interurban trolley railway connecting Dayton to Springfield. The area was little more than a few farmhouses, crops, trees, barbed wire fences, and pastureland. They secured permission from owner Torrence Huffman to use the property as a flying field. 

In the spring of 1904, the Wrights made frequent trips to Huffman Prairie, where they hand-cut the tall prairie grass and built a small shed to store and repair their Flyer. The machine itself was newly-built along the lines of the 1903 plane, but with a few experimental changes that actually hindered its performance. 

In an attempt to control the press about their accomplishments, the Wrights invited local newsmen to witness their first flight attempt at Huffman Prairie on 23 May 1904. A poorly running engine, lack of ocean breezes, and bad weather kept them grounded. Finally, on the 26th, in front of a few remaining reporters, Orville guided Flyer II down its launch rail and managed to get aloft for all of 25 feet. That fell well short of the 832 feet they managed at Kitty Hawk. It wasn't until later that summer that they exceeded that record. 

Huffman Prairie became the Wright’s regular airfield and then the location for their flying school where they taught their customers and others (like Hap Arnold) to fly. That weighed in its favor when the US Army scouted for locations to establish new military pilot schools for World War I. The area surrounding Huffman Prairie became Wilbur Wright Field in 1917, the original antecedent for the modern Wright-Patterson AFB (Area A). 

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