March 2009



Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum - Washington D.C.




(All pictures by  EAF51_Bear)







Wright Flyer 1




The 1903 Wright Flyer, the world's first successful airplane of the Wright brothers' historic flights. Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the airplane.





Ryan NYP "Spirit of St.Louis"





"Our messenger of peace and goodwill has broken down another barrier of time and space." So spoke President Calvin Coolidge about Charles A. Lindbergh’s extraordinary solo transatlantic flight in 1927. Not until the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 was the entire world again as enthusiastic about an aviation event as it was when Lindbergh landed his little Ryan monoplane in Paris.  In 1922, after a year and a half at the University of Wisconsin, Lindbergh left to study aeronautics with the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation. He was a ‘barnstormer" until 1924, when he enrolled as a flying cadet in the Army Air Service. He won his reserve commission and began serving as a civilian airmail pilot, flying the route between St. Louis and Chicago. Early in 1927 he obtained the backing of several St. Louis men to compete for the $25,000 prize offered by Raymond Orteig in 1919 for the first nonstop flight between New York City and Paris. In February of that year Lindbergh placed an order with Ryan Airlines in San Diego for an aircraft with specifications necessary to make the flight. Development began based on a standard Ryan M-2, with Donald A. Hall as principal designer. Certain modifications to the basic high-wing, strut-braced monoplane design had to be made because of the nature of the flight. The wingspan was increased by 10 feet and the structural members of the fuselage and wing cellule were redesigned to accommodate the greater fuel load. Plywood was fitted along the leading edge of the wings. The fuselage design followed that of a standard M-2 except that it was lengthened 2 feet. The cockpit was moved further to the rear for safety and the engine was moved forward for balance, thus permitting the fuel tank to be installed at the center of gravity. The pilot could see forward only by means of a periscope or by turning the aircraft to look out of a side window. A Wright Whirlwind J-5C engine supplied the power. Late in April 1927 the work on the aircraft was completed. It was painted silver and carried registration number N-X-21 1, which, with all other lettering on the plane, was painted in black. Lindbergh made several test flights, and then flew the aircraft from San Diego to New York on May 10—12, making only one stop, at St. Louis. His flight time of 21 hours, 40 minutes set a new transcontinental record. After waiting several days in New York for favorable weather, Lindbergh took off for Paris alone, on the morning of May 20, 1927. Thirty-three hours, 30 minutes, and 3,610 miles later he landed safely at Le Bourget Field, near Paris, where he was greeted by a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 100,000. Lindbergh and the Spirit of St Louis returned to the United States aboard the U.S.S. Memphis on June 11. He received tumultuous welcomes in Washington, D.C. and New York City. From July 20 until October 23 of that year he took the famous plane on a tour of the United States. Then, on December 13, he and the Spirit of St. Louis flew nonstop from Washington to Mexico City; through Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico; and nonstop from Havana to St. Louis. Beginning in Mexico City, flags of the countries he visited were painted on both sides of the cowling. On April 30, 1928, the Spirit of St. Louis made its final flight—from St. Louis to Washington, D.C where Lindbergh presented the aircraft to the Smithsonian Institution.






Lockeed 8 Sirius "Tingmissartoq"




A vacation flight with "no start or finish, no diplomatic or commercial significance, and no records to be sought." So Charles A. Lindbergh described the flight that he and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, were planning to make to the Orient in 1931. Their choice of route, however, showed the feasibility of using the great circle to reach the Far East.
The Lindberghs flew in a Lockheed Sirius low-wing monoplane, powered by a 680-hp Wright Cyclone. The Sirius had been designed in 1929 by John K. Northrop and Gerard Vultee, and this model was specially fitted with Edo floats, since most of the Lindberghs flight was to be over water. Their route took them from North Haven, Maine, to Ottawa, Moose Factory, Churchill, Baker Lake, and Aklavik, all in Canada; Point Barrow, Shismaref, and Nome, Alaska; Petropavlosk. Siberia; and on over the Kurile Islands to Japan. After receiving an enthusiastic welcome in Tokyo, they flew to China. They landed on Lotus Lake near Nanking on September 19, thus completing the first flight from the West to the East by way of the North. At Hankow, the Sirius, with the Lindberghs aboard, was being lowered into the Yangtze River from the British aircraft carrier Hermes, when the aircraft accidentally capsized. One of the wings was damaged when it hit a ship’s cable, and the aircraft had to be returned to the United States for repairs. Their next venture in the Sirius came as a result of the five countries’ interest in the development of commercial air transport. In 1933 Pan American Airways, Imperial Airways of Great Britain, Lufthansa of Germany, KLM of Holland, and Air France undertook a cooperative study of possible Atlantic routes. Each was assigned the responsibility for one of the following areas: New Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland; Newfoundland via the great circle route to Ireland; Newfoundland southeast to the Azores and Lisbon; Miami, Bermuda, the Azores, and Lisbon; and across the South Atlantic from Natal, Brazil, to Cape Verde, Africa.
Pan American was to survey the Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland route. Ground survey and weather crews in Greenland were already hard at work when Lindbergh, Pan Am’s technical advisor, took off from New York on July 9 in the rebuilt Lockheed Sirius, again accompanied by his wife, who would serve as copilot and radio operator. A Sperry artificial horizon and a directional gyro had been added to the instrument panel since the previous flight, and a new Wright Cyclone SR1820-F2 engine of 710 horsepower was installed. Lindbergh’s plan was not to set up a particular route but to gather as much information as possible on the area to be covered. The Jellinge, a Danish ship, was chartered by Pan Am to maintain radio contact with the Lindberghs in the Labrador-Greenland-Iceland area. The ship also delivered advance supplies for them to Halifax, Saint John’s, Cartwright, Greenland, and Iceland. Every possible space in the aircraft was utilized, including the wings and floats, which contained the gasoline tanks. There was plenty of emergency equipment in case the Lindberghs had to make a forced landing in the frozen wilderness. From New York, the Lindberghs flew up the eastern border of Canada to Hopedale, Labrador. From Hopedale they made the first major overwater hop, 650 miles to Godthaab, Greenland, where the Sirius acquired its name—Tingmissartoq, which in Eskimo means "one who flies like a big bird." After crisscrossing Greenland to Baffin Island and back, and then on to Iceland, the Lindberghs proceeded to the major cities of Europe and as far east as Moscow, down the west coast of Africa, and across the South Atlantic to South America. where they flew down the Amazon, and then north through Trinidad and Barbados and back to the United States. They returned to New York on December 19, having traveled 30,000 miles to four continents and twenty-one countries. The information gained from the trip proved invaluable in planning commercial air transport routes for the North and South Atlantic. The aircraft was in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City until 1955. The AirForce Museum in Dayton, Ohio, then acquired it and transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1959.






Bell XP-59 Airacomet




The XP-59A is the first American jet aircraft. It did not see combat but it did give the U. S. Army Air Forces (AAF) and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology and helped pave the way to more advanced designs. The United States was slow to enter the field of jet propulsion. Political and military leaders wisely chose to forego rushing jet airplanes into service and concentrated instead on mass-producing and fielding more conventional designs that could contribute more quickly to the war effort. Britain's Gloster Meteor fighter served briefly at war's end and the Japanese flew the Nakajima Kikka twice (see NASM collection).  The Germans lead the world in jet-propelled airplanes and the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter and the Arado Ar 234 jet bomber (see NASM collection for these aircraft) both reached operational status. Other types also flew but the technology was so new that it had no measurable effect on the war.  America's first XP-59A, AAF serial number 42-108784, is preserved at the National Air and Space Museum. Shortly the jet's first flight, the Army recognized the need to have an observer on board to record flight test data. They converted the gun bays forward of the pilot to accommodate the observer, cutting a 20-inch hole in the upper skin and mounting a seat, small windscreen, and instrument panel in this rather cramped, open cavity. Flight tests resumed on October 30, 1942, and for the remainder of its AAF career, the aircraft flew in that configuration.  In February 1944, an AAF engineer assigned to the Airacomet project originated the idea of saving America's first jet aircraft for museum display. In August, the Army Air Forces notified Bell that they planned to store the airframe at Muroc and the original engines at Wright Field, Ohio, until they could determine final disposition. The airplane had amassed only 59 hours and 55 minutes of flying time. On April 18, 1945, the Smithsonian asked for the aircraft. Before opening the new National Air and Space Museum in 1976, the staff restored the plane to its original configuration and removed the observer's open cockpit. Befitting its history, the first Airacomet now hangs in the Milestones of Flight gallery.






Bell X-15 "Glamorous Glennis"


and SpaceShipOne





The Bell X-1, originally designated XS-1, was a joint NACA-U.S. Army Air Forces/US Air Force supersonic research project and the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound in controlled, level flight. This resulted in the first of the so-called X-planes, an American series of experimental aircraft designated for testing of new technologies and usually kept highly secret.


Launched from its White Knight mothership, the rocket-powered SpaceShipOne and its pilot ascended just beyond the atmosphere, arced through space (but not into orbit), then glided safely back to Earth. The flight lasted 24 minutes, with 3 minutes of weightlessness. Its three record-setting flights were: 100 kilometers (62 miles) altitude (Mike Melvill, June 21, 2004) - 102 kilometers (64 miles) altitude (Mike Melvill September 29, 2004); 112 kilometers (70 miles) altitude (Brian Binnie October 4, 2004). With SpaceShipOne, private enterprise crossed the threshold into human spaceflight, previously the domain of government programs. The SpaceShipOne team aimed for a simple, robust, and reliable vehicle design that could make affordable space travel and tourism possible. SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for repeated flights in a privately developed reusable spacecraft, the Collier Trophy for greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in 2004, and the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement.






North American X-15





The North American X-15 rocket-powered aircraft was part of the X-series of experimental aircraft, initiated with the Bell X-1, that were made for the USAF, NASA, and the USN. The X-15 set speed and altitude records in the early 1960s, reaching the edge of outer space and returning with valuable data used in aircraft and spacecraft design. It currently holds the world record for the fastest speed ever reached by a manned aircraft. During the X-15 program, 13 of the flights (by eight pilots) met the USAF spaceflight criteria by exceeding the altitude of 50 miles (80.47 km. 264,000ft.), thus qualifying the pilots for astronaut status; some pilots also qualified for NASA astronaut wings. Of all the X-15 missions, two flights (by the same pilot) qualified as space flights, per the international FAI definition of a spaceflight by exceeding a 100 kilometer (62.137 mi, 328,084 ft) altitude.



Lockeed F-104



The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was an American single-engined, high-performance, supersonic interceptor aircraft that served with the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1958 until 1967. One of the Century Series of aircraft, it continued in service with Air National Guard units until it was phased out in 1975. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) flew a small mixed fleet of F-104 types in supersonic flight tests and spaceflight programs until they were retired in 1994.[2] Several two-seat trainer versions were produced, the most numerous being the TF-104G. USAAF F-104Cs saw service during the Vietnam War, and F-104A aircraft were deployed by Pakistan briefly during the Indo-Pakistani wars. Republic of China Air Force F-104s also engaged the People's Liberation Army Air Force over the disputed island of Kinmen. A set of modifications produced the F-104G model, which won a NATO competition for a new fighter-bomber and saw widespread service with many European air forces into the late 1980s.Lockheed developed the final and most advanced version for use by the Italian Air Force, the F-104S, which was designed to carry AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. The Italian Air Force was the last remaining Starfighter operator, retiring the last of its fleet in 2004. A projected, highly-modified version of the F-104, known as the CL-1200 Lancer, did not proceed; the project was cancelled at the mock-up stage.The poor safety record of the Starfighter brought the aircraft into the public eye, especially in Luftwaffe service; the subsequent Lockheed bribery scandals surrounding the original purchase contracts caused considerable political controversy in Europe and Japan. However, a USAF study of other Century Series fighters revealed that the F-100 Super Sabre had a statistically higher accident rate than that of the F-104.





Grumman X-29




This is a full-scale, non-flight model of the X-29 experimental aircraft. It was built by Grumman for promotional purposes.  The X-29 was an experimental aircraft built in the 1980s to test a number of concepts for a new-generation air force fighter. Chief among these was the use of a forward swept wing and the use of fly-by-wire (computer) controls. The aircraft is unflyable by a human pilot unassisted; a set of three redundant computers ensures that at least one computer will be available.   Two flight X-29s were built, with test flights commencing in 1984 and continuing on into the 1990s. Although the U.S. Air Force did not select Grumman, or the forward swept design, for its next-generation fighter, the fly-by wire concept proved to be successful and influential.






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