This Week In AFLCMC History – June 17 - 23, 2024

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  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
17 Jun 1964 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)
Sixty years ago today, the squat, stubby Chance-Vought/LTV XC-142A vertical and short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) aircraft had its rollout ceremony at the Ling-Temco-Vought plant in Dallas, Texas. Lauded for its ability to lift off and land like a helicopter before transforming into an airplane that could—as papers at the time described it—“fly at speeds faster than World War II fighters” (maximum speed was 400 mph, and cruising speed was about 235 mph), the experimental aircraft was heavily tested by the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA, but never entered into production. The only surviving XC-142A—a forerunner of the V-22 Osprey—can today be seen at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. 
18 Jun 1924 (Agile Combat Support Directorate)
At 8:30pm, McCook Field chief test pilot John Macready departed Dayton, heading for Columbus, in a 2-seat biplane to test out nighttime navigation beacons. On the return around 10:15pm, his engine died as he was nearing Dayton. Luckily for him, he had turned down his wife’s request to join him on the flight, a privilege pilots were only recently afforded. The darkness prevented him from finding a safe emergency landing spot, leaving little choice but to “hit the silk.” Fortunately, the engineers at McCook had developed the Air Service’s first standardized parachutes and its commander mandated that every pilot wear one. His colleague Harold Harris had become the first “save” of those the previous fall. Macready bailed out, landed in some trees, and became the latest member of the “Caterpillar Club.” He lived to continue his distinguished career, which had already included being the first to fly cross-country non-stop in 1923, taking 26 hours.
19 Jun 1979 (Hanscom AFB/Cyber & Networks Directorate)
Today in 1979, forty-five years ago, Air Force Systems Command commander Gen Alton D. Slay told Hanscom AFB’s Electronic Systems Division and the Rome Air Development Center in New York to accelerate the timeline on the SEEK TALK program by at least two years. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were multiple instances of enemy forces jamming or interfering with U.S. aircraft communications. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and Egypt (and its coalition allies), Egypt was able to completely degrade the voice radio capabilities of the Israeli Air Force. As a result of these lessons in vulnerability, the Department of Defense began funding jam-resistant communication programs, such as the Army’s “SINCGARS” program, and the Air Force’s “SEEK TALK” program—which allowed for jam-resistant voice radio communication between aircraft and with ground elements. The Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS, also initially dreamt up by a Hanscom/ESD study) was the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s response to the problem of secure comms in the arena of command and control, and also came out of this era.
20 Jun 1974 (Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate)
Fifty years ago today, Deputy Defense Secretary William P. Clements Jr. wrote a two-page letter to the chairman of the Senate’s Tactical Air Power subcommittee, Senator Howard W. Cannon of Nevada, to inform him that the A-10 had won its fly-off against the LTV A-7D (as described in the 15 Apr 2024 Heritage Hangar feature piece), and that funding was requested for the fiscal year starting on 1 July. The A-10 program was managed by Brig Gen Thomas H. McMullen and his office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. It was the first aircraft designed specifically for a close air support mission.
21 Jun 1954 (Hill AFB/Agile Combat Support Directorate)
On this date seventy years ago, Hill AFB’s Instrument Repair Branch began working on optical instruments. This was made possible thanks to the timely arrival of lens-coating equipment and other necessary supplies, which allowed the office to start its work fixing sextants, drift meters, and bubble chambers. These precision instruments were important for the safe and accurate navigation of aircraft. The Instrument Repair Branch’s first major project consisted of 5,077 items, and was assigned to the branch in December 1953. With the arrival of this equipment, the project was successfully completed by October 1954.
22 Jun 2002 (Robins AFB/Bombers Directorate)
Today in 2002, the Air National Guard’s (ANG’s) 116th Bomb Wing at Robins AFB flew their last B-1B on a training flight. Although there was a live band and champagne after the flight to mark the occasion, for many who’d worked on or flew the Lancer at Robins it was a bittersweet occasion. The six B-1s then still stationed at Robins AFB were flown out over the next several weeks by aircrews from Dyess AFB, Texas, which is where the aircraft were heading. On 1 Oct 2022, the ANG’s 116th Bomb Wing merged with the active-duty 93rd Air Control Wing—becoming the Air Force’s first “blended” wing—to become the 116th Air Control Wing. They then began to fly the E-8C Joint STARS (Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) aircraft.

100 Years Ago This Week in AFLCMC History:
23 Jun 1924 - Coast-to-Coast, Dawn-to-Dusk Flight
“The third time’s the charm” was likely not much comfort to Army Air Service test pilot Lt Russell Maughan, flying 2000 feet above Wyoming in July 1923, as bucketfuls of hot oil sprayed from his plane’s engine, choking him with nauseating fumes. He was loosely following the east-to-west route his grandparents took to his future hometown of Logan, Utah (not far from the current Hill AFB) in the previous century. For settlers like them, the journey from coast to coast took just under a year in a wagon; now, their grandson was watching his second attempt to make the same trip in under a day go up in smoke.
Maughan served in World War I as an Army Air Service pursuit (fighter) pilot , earning four aerial victory credits and a Distinguished Service Cross. Afterwards, he joined the McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, Engineering Division—AFLCMC’s predecessor—as a test pilot and air racer, setting world speed records, before contemplating being the first to make a transcontinental flight from “Dawn to Dusk”—taking off at sunrise on the East Coast and landing before sunset on the West Coast.
Given the potential hazards and expense of this feat, why would the Air Service leadership support it? For the Engineering Division, it was an opportunity to wring out their latest advancements under rigorous conditions, and it was effective training. But, even more than this, the event was part of the on-going chess match among the Air Service, the Army, the War Department, and Congress over the roles, missions, and doctrine of military aviation. Publicity swayed public opinion in its favor—and, more importantly, a successful flight added concrete evidence that the Air Service could do what it was claiming it should: be the lynchpin of national defense. If an enemy attacked American shores, the Army could mobilize its air fleet from any point in the country to defend any other within a day. It was a more effective defense than the Navy because, as independent air force advocate Gen Billy Mitchell put it, we could buy “1,000 airplanes for the price of one battleship.”
On 9 July 1923, Lt Maughan departed Mitchel Field, New York, in the same Curtiss PW-8 racer that he used to set his speed records, but engine trouble brought him to a hard landing outside St. Joseph, Missouri, splintering his landing gear and ending the trip. Air Service Chief Gen Mason Patrick quickly approved a second attempt, which kicked off just 10 days later. The first legs went smoothly, until his troublesome oil cooler that had already been repaired in Cheyenne, Wyoming, finally gave out, choking the plane and pilot and leaving Maughan contemplating whether or not he’d get a third shot at it. The shortening daylight hours and worsening weather put any such hope off for another year.
The following June, Gen Patrick gave Maughan his approval in person at McCook for a third attempt. The pair met up again at Mitchel Field, New York, on the 20th for the flight’s start, but were stymied by heavy fog. Finally, at 3am on the 23rd, Maughan sped westward in a Curtiss PW-8. His first stop, home at McCook Field, nearly turned disastrous when a fuel valve repair delayed him for over an hour. Back in the air, Maughan avoided further drama and landed at Crissy Field in San Francisco at 9:45pm, nearly 22 hours after he left. He received congratulations from President Coolidge and headlines across the country as the first to fly “dawn-to-dusk, coast-to-coast.”