This Week In AFLCMC History - August 8 - 14, 2022

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  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
8 Aug 1946 (Bombers Directorate) 
The Convair XB-36 Peacemaker strategic bomber made its first flight. Though it became emblematic of the early Cold War (the Jimmy Stewart movie Strategic Air Command features it), it was designed prior to Pearl Harbor as an ultra-long range bomber capable of reaching Europe from the US without refueling. Its development stretched the duration of World War II and was revised as the first truly intercontinental nuclear bomber. It featured six 28-cylinder radial piston engines in a “pusher” configuration with the propellers behind the wing. That contributed to engine cooling problems and necessitated the later addition of four turbojets. Nearly 400 were built and operated throughout the 1950s. 
9 Aug 1976 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Dir.) 
The Boeing YC-14 transport prototype made its first flight. In the 1970s, the Air Force was considering new concepts to improve the short takeoff and landing (STOL) performance of tactical transport aircraft in order to reduce the reliance on large, vulnerable runways. In 1972, the Air Force issued a Request for Proposals for an Advanced Medium STOL Transport (AMST), capable operating from a 2,000-foot field. Contracts went to Boeing for two YC-14s and McDonnell Douglas for two YC-15s. The YC-14’s most notable feature was the upper wing engine mounting that directed engine exhaust over the wing flaps to add lift for STOL operations. While AMST was cancelled after flight testing, some of the concepts influenced the design of the C-17 in the 1980s.  
10 Aug 1970 (Armament Directorate) 
The Aeronautical Systems Division (ASD), headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH, transferred its guided missile programs to the Armament Development Test Center (ADTC), at Eglin AFB, Florida. This action consolidated the research, development, test, and program management of those weapons at one location and also relieved an overburdened ASD. The program portfolio included “air launched, nonnuclear tactical air to ground, tactical air-to-air, and air defense missiles.” Some missiles in development and transferred at the time were the Sparrow, Sidewinder, Shrike, Walleye, and Hellfire. ADTC later became the Air Armament Center from 1998 until it was merged into AFLCMC in 2012 as the Armament Directorate. 

11 Aug 1922 (Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Dir.) 

The Army Air Service announced a contract with Anthony Fokker for the production of 10 PW-5 (Pursuit-Water Cooled [engine]) fighters. This plane had the distinction of being the only foreign designed and built Army fighters during the Interwar Period. Fokker aircraft used by Germany in WWI had an excellent reputation and company president Anthony Fokker, who was actually Dutch, spared no effort in selling his innovative designs in the US after the war. The PW-5, based on the wartime D.VIII, used a parasol mono-plane wing, steel tube fuselage, and Wright engine. One of the two prototypes evaluated by McCook Field had crashed in March 1922 due to structural failure, killing pilot Frederick Niedermeyer. The PW-5’s otherwise impressive performance led to the contract. All 10 were built in the Netherlands and were delivered to Selfridge Field. However, they reportedly suffered from poor workmanship.

12 Aug 1991 (Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Dir.) 

The F-15 Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) Maneuver Technology Demonstrator (S/MTD) made its final Air Force flight at Edwards AFB. The S/MTD program began formally in 1983 as a technology risk-reduction effort for the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) that became the F-22. At this early stage of that program, the ATF System Program Office (SPO) included STOL as one of the critical technologies for increasing “sortie generation” by reducing the need for long runways (see 9 Aug above). In this case, STOL was achieved by using 2-dimensional asymmetric (rectangular) thrust vectoring nozzles that could point their exhaust up or down and by use of thrust reversers. S/MTD was run by the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory (now AFRL) to demonstrate these systems in flight, along with integrated propulsion-flight controls and a low visibility landing system. The nozzles transitioned to the F-22, while difficulties with the thrust reversers led to their deletion from the ATF requirements. The S/MTD F-15 transitioned to NASA for subsequent test programs. (Photo: USAF) 

13 Aug 1962 (Hill AFB) 

The first building (Number 980) in the Missile Assembly and Maintenance Shop (MAMS) complex (at upper right) became operational, meaning capable of testing Minuteman solid rocket-powered intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Beginning 1 August technicians conducted integration and compatibility tests using installed missile check out equipment, special cabling, and a ground-test Minuteman to insure readiness. Three more Buildings (975, 25 September 1962; 970, 23 October 1962 and 965, 6 December 1962) became operational over the course of the year. The remaining one, Building 960, was modified to handle multiple Minuteman missile configurations. Once completed the MAMS facility could process five Minuteman missiles simultaneously. The construction project cost $2.3 million. 

100 Years Ago This Week in AFLCMC History: 14 August 1922 

At 10:14am, McCook Field pilot Lt Louis Patrick “Pat” Moriarty and observer William P. Stonebraker perished in a crash of their Engineering Division CO-2 aircraft at Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, OH (now WPAFB Area A). 

Pat Moriarty was a New Yorker who joined the Air Service shortly after the American entry into World War I in April 1917. He went to France as a fighter pilot with the US 28th Aero Squadron (Pursuit). Moriarty was credited with one kill on 14 September 1918, but was wounded by an enemy bullet two weeks later and convalesced until the end of the war. He spent most of the next 4 years in Dayton at McCook Field, except for a 9 month break to study at MIT. 

The 28-year-old William Stonebraker,  of Hagerstown, Maryland, had worked as a commercial test pilot be-fore WWI, then as a stateside instructor pilot for the Air Service during the war. He had come to McCook Field as a civilian in November 1921. 

Their aircraft that day was one of the two dozen types designed and (mostly) built in-house by the experts in the Engineering Division at McCook Field. At the start of WWI, the Air Service built as many American training planes as possible, procured Allied fighters for immediate operational use, and converted other foreign models for domestic production. Their long term plan called for production of indigenous combat planes. While most of those came from industry, the nascent Engineering Division’s Airplane Design head, Lt Col Virginius Clark put together a team of young engineers, including Jean Roche to develop “America’s first Battle Plane.” While their efforts resulted in just a single prototype, it set the precedent for the Division’s government engineers to continue designing aircraft after the war. 

Roche then headed one of McCook’s three design shops, focusing on trainers, two-seat combat planes, and the “Corps Observation” (CO) types for tactical reconnaissance. The CO-2 was built in 1921 along mostly conventional lines, with a steel-tube fuselage, streamlined cowl, and extendable side radiators. 

For safety, the Engineering Division used the larger spaces at Wilbur Wright Field for much of their flight testing. On this day, the CO-2 was undergoing “speed runs” there as part of its test program. Witnesses say the plane was flying at about 75 feet when it suddenly nosed down, hit the ground at full speed, and exploded in flames. Both men died instantly, though Stonebraker was thrown free from the wreckage, leading to speculation he might have tried to parachute out. Investigators could not determine any specific cause, but Roche assumed some mechanical fault. CO-2 development was discontinued after the accident. 

This crash concluded the deadliest flying year in McCook’s 10-year history, with 9 men total losing their lives, 6 in the Roma airship disaster in February.