JANUARY 13 At White Sands, New Mexico, a V-2 rocket equipped with onboard telemetry equipment is launched into low Earth altitude as part of Project
HERMES. This is the first time that a rocket’s performance and flight has been electronically monitored by a ground station.
FEBRUARY 5 In Washington, D. C., President Harry S. Truman agrees with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the secretaries of the Army and Navy that nuclear weapons testing and production should continue.
FEBRUARY 10 Over Dayton, Ohio, a Sikorsky R-5A helicopter piloted by Major E. M. Cassell reaches an unofficial world’s altitude record of 19,167 feet.
FEBRUARY 17 At the White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, a WAC Corporal missile reaches an altitude of
February 20 At White Sands, New Mexico, the Blossom Project begins as V-2 No. 20 ejects a canister after it reaches its apogee.
FEBRUARY 27 At LaGuardia, New York, an F-82 flown by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Thacker and John M. Ard flies
5.0 miles nonstop from Hickam Field, Hawaii. This is the longest nonstop unrefueled flight by a propellor – driven aircraft, and it lasts 14 hours and 33 minutes.
MARCH 16 At San Diego, California, the twin-engine Convair 240 transport prototype flies for the first time. It eventually enters into Air Force service as the T-29 navigator training aircraft.
MARCH 17 Over Muroc Field, California, the North American XB-45 four-jet bomber flies for the first time with George Krebs at the controls. In two years it enters Air Force service as the B-45 Tornado, which is America’s first jet bomber.
April 30 In Washington, D. C., the Army and the Navy standardize their guided missile nomenclature as A for air, S for surface, and U for underwater. The first letter regards the weapon’s origin and the latter its target.
May 21 At Langley, Virginia, NACA
engineers fit a small aircraft with a special five-bladed propellor and muffled exhausts; the result is a near-silent flying machine.
May 27 The Corporal E, the Army’s first guided surface-to-surface missile, is successfully test fired for the first time, meeting or exceeding all technical specifications.
June 5 At Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, the first AAF research balloon, which was designed and built by New York University and the Air Materiel Command, is launched.
June 19 Over Muroc Dry Lake, California, a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star piloted by Colonel Albert Boyd, the Army’s chief test pilot, reaches a new world speed record of 623.8 miles per hour.
June 25 In Seattle, Washington, the first Boeing B-50 makes its initial flight. This is an updated version of the B-29 with more powerful engines and a taller tail.
June 30 At Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, a meeting of Army Air Forces officials and NACA representatives convenes to iron out their differences regarding the X-1 testing program. They agree to divide responsibilities, with the Army being tasked with breaking the sound barrier, while NACA will acquire technical details from research associated with the program.
July 1 In light of budgetary restrictions, the Army Air Forces cancels its MX-774 program. However, it is revived the following decade and emerges as the Atlas ICBM.
July 3 At Holloman Air Force Base,
New Mexico, New York University scientists release a cluster of balloons with a 50-pound instrument panel to measure atmospheric conditions at 18,550 feet.
July 18 In Washington, D. C., President Harry S. Truman assigns a five-man working group under chairman Thomas K. Finletter to originate a broad-based plan to endow the United States with the greatest possible benefits from aviation, civil and military alike.
July 26 President Harry S. Truman signs the National Defense Act of 1947 into law, which makes provisions for a new, independent United States Air Force, which will enjoy equal status with the Departments of the Army and Navy. The Air National Guard also comes into being as a reserve component of the new force.
AUGUST 28 Over Texas, the first of 22 Convair B-36A Peacekeepers performs its maiden flight. This giant craft is assigned to training future B-36 aircrews as formal production gets underway.
September 18 As of this date, the U. S. Air Force is officially a separate entity in the American military establishment. Stuart A. Symington, a hard-nosed business executive, also gains appointment as the first secretary of the Air Force.
SEPTEMBER 22 At Brize Norton, England, a robot-controlled Douglas C-54 becomes the first autoguided aircraft to cross the Atlantic from Stephenville, Newfoundland. The flight lasted 2,400 miles.
September 25 At the White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, the first liquid-propelled Aerobee sounding rocket is successfully launched. Variations of this device will be used constantly until 1985.
September 26 In Washington, D. C., General Carl A. Spaatz gains appointment as the first Air Force chief of staff. The official transfer of officers, bases, and equipment is also authorized by the James V. Forrestal, the new Secretary of Defense.
Major General William E. Kepner, formerly head of the VIII Fighter Command in World War II, is installed as the head of the Atomic Energy Division within the Air Force.
OCTOBER 1 Over Muroc Dry Lake, California, the North American XP-86 prototype flies for the first time with Major George Welch at the controls. This swept-wing design enters service as the F – 86 Sabrejet, a legendary fighter aircraft.
At Bethpage, Long Island, the Grum – man XJR2F-1 flying boat flies for the first time. It enters Air Force service as the SA – 16 and HU-16 Albatross, which serves as a standard rescue aircraft for two decades.
October 6 The Ryan Firebird XAAM – A-1, the Air Force’s first guided air-to-air missile, is successfully test launched for the first time.
OCTOBER 14 Over Muroc Dry Lake,
California, a Bell X-1 piloted by Captain Charles Yeager makes aviation history by flying through the sound barrier for the first time. Although several propellor – driven aircraft have also broken the sound barrier while diving, Yeager is the first achieve Mach 1.06 in sustained level flight.
OCTOBER 21 Over California, the North
rop XB-49, a tailless, four-jet design, flies for the first time. This radical craft is an outgrowth of the propellor-driven XB-35 which flew in 1946. While impressive to
Yeager, Chuck (1923-
Air Force pilot. Charles Elwood (“Chuck”) Yeager was born in Myra, West Virginia, on February 13,1923. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1940, and he earned his pilot’s wings at Luke Field, Arizona, in July 1942. Yeager subsequently flew P-51 Mustangs with the 363rd Fighter Squadron in England, where he shot down thirteen German aircraft, including five in one day. His most notable kill happened on November 6, 1944, when he downed a futuristic Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighter. After the war, Yeager was selected to fly the top secret Bell XS-1 rocket research aircraft. On October 14,1947, he broke the sound barrier at Mach 1 for the first time, winning a prestigious Mackay Trophy for the year’s most outstanding flight. Yeager continued flying at Edwards Air Force Base, California, where, in December 1953, he piloted a new Bell X-1A to 1,650 miles per hour, three times the speed of sound.
In 1954 Yeager left flight-testing to command an F-100 Suber Sabre squadron in Germany, and he returned home three years later, a lieutenant colonel. In 1969 he resumed combat operations by commanding the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing, and performed 127 missions over Vietnam in B-57s. Yeager retired from active duty in 1975 as a brigadier general and, on October 14, 1997, the 50th anniversary of his record-breaking flight, he again broke the sound barrier for a final time in his F-15 Eagle jet at an Edwards Air Force Base air show;he has since retired and resides in Cedar Ridge, California. In an active career spanning 50 years, Yeager flew and tested no less that 330 different types of aircraft.
behold, the aircraft is intrinsically unstable and does not enter production.
NOVEMBER 4 At the White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, an Aerobee rocket is successfully launched and reaches 190,000 feet above sea level.
NOVEMBER 15 The Air Force announces that it has been experimenting with ramjet helicopter technology in the form of the McDonnell XH-20 Little Henry, operated by one man.
NOVEMBER 23 Over San Diego, Califor
nia, the giant XC-99 transport aircraft flies for the first time. This is a transport version of the B-36 bomber then in production, although it does not enter production.
NOVEMBER 26 At Langley, Virginia, scientists successfully demonstrate the world’s first hypersonic-flow wind tunnel.
December 10 A high-speed rocket sled carrying Lieutenant Colonel John P. Stapp is launched to examine the effect of high acceleration rates on the human body. Much useful information is derived and Stapp, while bruised, is not harmed by the 2,000-foot journey.
December 17 At Seattle, Washington, the futuristic Boeing XB-47 six-engine jet bomber flies for the first time. This is the first postwar American bomber to incorporate German swept-wing information in its design, and it enters service as the B-47 Stratojet.
JANUARY 2 At Patterson, Ohio, the Air JANUARY 4 At the University of California,
Force Technical Museum is organized. scientists complete a pilot model for the
world’s first supersonic wind tunnel, a tremendous boon for the design of modern jet aircraft.
FEBRUARY 6 At the White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, V-2 rocket No. 36 blasts off under the aegis of a Hermes A-1 flight control system. This is an important step in the development of guided missiles.
FEBRUARY 16 Over Germany, B-29 bombers of the Strategic Air Command arrive as part of a long-distance exercise. En route they are “intercepted” by RAF fighters as they traverse southern England.
FEBRUARY 20 The Boeing B-50, a more powerful version of the venerable B-29, is accepted into Air Force service. In addition to higher range and performance, it is also capable of being refueled in the air.
MARCH 10 Over Muroc Dry Lake, California, the Air Force declares that a B-29 bomber recently dropped an explosive device weighing 42,000 pounds.
MARCH 11—14 By terms of the so-called Key West Agreement, military and aeronautical rocket research is not to be monopolized by any one branch of the armed forces, but rather split equally amongst them.
MARCH 22 Over Van Nuys, California, the Lockheed TP-80C, the prototype of the T-33 jet trainer, flies for the first time. This machine enjoys widespread service in the Air Force.
MARCH 28 A series of new aerial tanker aircraft, the KB-29M, completes final testing at the behest of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). This B-29 variant can carry 2,300 gallons of fuel aloft and dispense it through a hose and reel system mounted in the bomb bay.
April 21 In Washington, D. C., Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal assigns the U. S. Air Force a primary responsibility for defending the country.
APRIL 26 In concert with President Harry S. Truman’s order to desegregate the military, the U. S. Air Force announces a policy to fully integrate African Americans into whatever sphere or technicality they are qualified for.
April 30 In Washington, D. C., General Hoyt S. Vandenberg becomes the second Air Force chief of staff, to replace retiring General Carl A. Spaatz.
MAY 20 Over Inglewood, California, the first production F-86A Sabrejet fighter flies for the first time. Over 6,000 of these peerless dogfighters will be constructed over the next few years.
May 24 A new world speed record for flying over a 1,000-kilometer course is established by noted aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran, who reaches 432 miles per hour.
MAY 26 In Washington, D. C., President
Harry S. Truman signs legislation creating the new Civil Air Patrol (CAP); this organization functions as an auxiliary of the U. S. Air Force in peace and war.
JUNE 1 Air Force and Navy transport commands are brought together in a new, unified entity, the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), which remains under Air Force purview.
JUNE 10 The Air Force announces that the Bell X-1 rocket plane has exceeded
the speed of sound several times since its first successful attempt the previous March.
June 11 In Washington, the Department of the Air Force releases its new Air Force Regulations 65-60 which updates aircraft designations. Henceforth, “P” for “Pursuit” is replaced by “F” for “Fighter”; “F” for “Fotographic” is replaced by “R” for “Reconnaissance”; and “R” for “Rotary wing” is replaced by “H” for “Helicopter.” “B” for “Bomber” is unchanged. The Office of Air Force Chaplains is also created.
June 16 In Washington, D. C., Colonel Geraldine P. May gains appointment as the first director of Women in the Air Force. She is also the first woman in the Air Force to reach colonel.
June 18 At Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and Roswell AFB, New Mexico, the first two aerial refueling squadrons are equipped and organized to use KB-29Ms.
June 26 In response to the provocative Soviet blockade of Berlin, East Germany, the first Air Force C-47 transports bring in 80 tons of supplies. General Curtis E. LeMay, the head of U. S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), begins organizing men and equipment for what becomes renowned as the Berlin Airlift.
At Fort Worth, Texas, the 7th Bombardment Wing accepts delivery of the first production B-36 intercontinental bombers. This is currently the world’s largest airplane.
July 13 In California, the Convair MX – 774 rocket is successfully test flown for the first time. This is the first device to employ movable (gimballed) engine nozzles that come to characterize all intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the Atlas ICBM of the late 1950s.
July 17 In England, several B-29s of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) arrive and deploy for the first time since World War II. Ostensibly there for training purposes, they are known to be capable of
dropping nuclear weapons on Eastern Europe in the event of war.
July 20 At Selfridge Field, Michigan, Colonel David Schilling leads the first flight of 16 F-80 Shooting Stars on the first transatlantic deployment to FUrsten – feldbruck, West Germany, via Scotland. The mission takes them 9 hours and 20 minutes.
July 30 The Air Force accepts delivery of its first North American B-45A Tornado jet bomber. Though plagued with teething problems, it becomes the first jet bomber fitted to drop nuclear weapons.
AUGUST 6 B-29s Gas Gobbler and Lucky
Lady, from the 43rd Bomb Group, fly a 20,000-mile flight around the globe in 15 days.
AUGUST 8 In Hawaii, a Convair B-36B Peacemaker flies nonstop from Fort Worth, Texas, completing a 9,400-mile flight without refueling.
AUGUST 16 Over Muroc Dry Lake, California, the Northrop XF-89 prototype flies for the first time. It enters service as the F-89 Scorpion, and is the Air Force’s first all-weather interceptor jet.
August 23 The ongoing program to develop a “parasite fighter” carried in the bellies of intercontinental bombers, a McDonnell XF-85 Goblin is dropped from a B-36, but collides with the hookup trapeze while returning and shatters its canopy. Test pilot Ed Schoch manages to land safely and the experiment is run again, successfully, on September 16.
SEPTEMBER 3 Over England, Operation dagger unfolds as Air Force B-29s and RAF fighters take part in a joint air defense exercise.
SEPTEMBER 15 Over Muroc Dry Lake, California, an F-86A Sabrejet flown by Major Richard L. Johnson establishes a world’s speed record of 671 mile per hour.
September 18 At Edwards Air Force Base, California, the Convair XF – 92 makes its maiden flight. This is the world’s first jet-powered delta-wing aircraft based on the designs of Germany engineer Alexander Lippisch.
OCTOBER 15 In West Germany, Major
General William H. Tunner takes charge of the Berlin Airlift, which consists of both American and British aircraft. During World War II, Tunner was also responsible for organizing the successful India-China airlift over “The Hump.”
OCTOBER 19 General Curtis E. LeMay replaces General George Kenney as commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). This turns out to be one of the most significant appointments in aviation history.
OCTOBER 31 The Air Force announces that an F-80 fighter had been flown at high altitude using only two wingtip ramjet engines for propulsion. This is the first known application of ramjet technology on manned aircraft.
NOVEMBER 4 In Santa Monica, California, the RAND Corporation, an outgrowth of the earlier Air Force-Douglas RAND Project, is organized to bring scientific, industrial, and military expertise into a think-tank for Air Force decision-making.
NOVEMBER 5 The government announces that all Air Force warplanes will bear the markings “USAF,” save for those operated by the Military Air Transport Service, which are marked MATS.
November 10—12 The first symposium to ponder the theoretical problems associated with spaceflight is sponsored by the School ofAviation Medicine.
November 30 A Douglas C-54 Skymas – ter equipped with Curtiss-Wright reversible-pitch propellers descends from 15,000 feet to 1,000 feet in only 1 minute and 22 seconds.
December 1 The Continental Air Command (CAC) is activated for operations.
December 2 The Beech Model 45 prototype makes its maiden flight; it enters the service as the T-34A Mentor, which remains in service as a primary trainer until 1961.
December 9 In another stunning display of strategic air power, a B-36 and a B-50 fly nonstop from Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, to Hawaii. The gigantic B-36 flies nonstop while the B-50 refuels three times from a KB-29M over a 35-hour period.
DECEMBER 16 Over Muroc Dry Lake, California, the Northrop X-4 Bantam flies for the first time. This is a semi-tailless, swept-wing jet design and flies as part of a joint NACA-Air Force research program.
DECEMBER 28 Over Greenland, a ski – equipped C-47 flown by Lieutenant Colonel Emil Beaudry lands and rescues 12 men of a C-47 and a B-17 that had crashed at the same site on December 9. The flight also wins the Mackay Trophy.
December 29 In Washington, D. C., Defense Secretary James V. Forrestal declares that the United States will endeavor to initiate an “earth satellite program” to study the viability of placing objects into an Earth orbit.
DECEMBER 31 Over Berlin, the airlift completes its 100,000th flight as part of Operation vittles. All told, the Soviet blockade ofBerlin has been a propaganda disaster for Premier Josef Stalin.