This Date in Aviation History: March 27 - March 30
ttyymmnn last edited by ttyymmnn
A commemorative Luftwaffe Typhoon performs at Royal International Air Tattoo in 2016 (Tim Felce)
March 27, 1994 – The first flight of the Eurofighter Typhoon. Beginning with the first jet-powered fighters of WWII, jet fighter development has been broken down into generations, with each generation seeing successive improvements in speed and capability, as well as refinements to basic aircraft design and improved aerodynamics. The most technologically advanced fighters in service today belong to the 5th-generation, those that feature advances such as stealth, thrust vectoring, and networked battle management. But by far, most jet fighters in service today are 4th-generation fighters, or somewhat more advanced aircraft that are considered generation 4.5. Most were conceived in the 1970s and entered service in the 1980s, and were developed as significant improvements over their 3rd-generation ancestors.
British Aerospace EAP, the predecessor to the Typhoon (Mean as custard)
Development of the Typhoon began 1971, when both the United Kingdom and Germany sought to replace the US-designed 3rd-generation McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and Lockheed F-104 Starfighter currently in service. Engineers in the UK had been working on a fighter that would have been similar to the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, while German designers were working on a delta-wing design with forward canards. Through a rather tangled web of shifting European partnerships that at one time or another included England, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, an aircraft known as the British Aerospace EAP (Experimental Fighter Program) finally emerged in 1986 which set the basic layout for the Typhoon design. But there were some notable differences between the EAP and the Typhoon that grew out of it. Where the EAP used a cranked delta wing, tall vertical stabilizer and box air intake, the Typhoon employs a straight delta, shortened stabilizer, and more aerodynamic curved air intake.
A Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoon F2 from Number XI Squadron at RAF Coningsby escorts a Russian Tupolev Tu-95 Bear-H aircraft over the North Atlantic Ocean (Royal Air Force)
The Typhoon is powered by a pair of Eurojet EJ2000 afterburning turbofans that produce up to 20,230 pounds of thrust each and offer a maximum speed of Mach 2 at altitude, with supercruise capabilities at Mach 1.25. It is armed with a single Mauser BK-27 revolver cannon, and can carry a full complement of up to 16,500 pounds of bombs or missiles. In order to make the Typhoon an agile dogfighter, the aircraft is built with relaxed stability, meaning that the design is inherently unstable and would be unflyable without the aid of flight control computers and fly-by-wire technology. Following a successful maiden flight, the first production contract was signed on January 30, 1998. The Typhoon is built on four separate assembly lines, with each partner nation producing parts for all the aircraft but then building fighters unique to their own special needs.
A Eurofighter belonging to the Royal Saudi Air Force photographed in Malta during a delivery flight (Gordon Zammit)
The Typhoon entered service in 2003, and is currently flying for Austria, Italy, Germany, Spain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. Eleven other nations are also considering placing orders. British Typhoons first saw action in 2011 enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, but limitations in its ground attack capabilities required it to work alongside the older Panavia Tornado in the ground attack role in Libya and the Syrian Civil War. Saudi Typhoons have also flown combat missions in Syria. Though the Typhoon is still under development, with improvements to radar and weapons systems taking place throughout production, European nations are hesitant to make significant future investments into the program, instead choosing to await the Typhoon’s replacement. England is currently developing the 5th generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, and expects to see it enter service by 2030.
Dazed survivors tend to the injured as flames consume the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 1736 (Author unknown)
March 27, 1977 – Two Boeing 747s collide at Tenerife Airport. Effective communication between pilots and ground controllers is critical to the safe operation of any flight, from the smallest civilian prop plane to the largest commercial airliner. For that reason, English was designated as the standard language of international air traffic in 2008 to eliminate misunderstandings. Ground controllers give verbal commands to keep airports running safely, and air traffic controllers communicate with airborne aircraft to help keep planes separated in the air. In the cockpit, good communication skills are critical for a flight crew to work together and not contradict each other, or for crew members to feel free to speak up if they sense a problem. But any breakdown in this process of communication can have disastrous effects. When two fully loaded Boeing 747s collided on a foggy runway on the small island of Tenerife, it marked the worst accident in the history of commercial aviation, and the devastating accident had everything to do with poor communications, and the hubris of one pilot in command.
Top: KLM Boeing 747 (PH-BUF), the aircraft that struck the Pan Am 747 taxiing on the runway. Bottom: A Pan Am 747 similar to the one that was destroyed at Tenerife (clipper arctic, Michel Gilliand)
On the day of the disaster, a terrorist bombing at the Gran Canaria Airport caused numerous airliners to divert to the small Los Rodeos Airport on the nearby island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. With limited apace and only a single runway, controllers at Los Rodeos were forced to position aircraft on taxiways, and departing aircraft were required to taxi up the runway to get into takeoff position. Adding to the difficulties was a dense fog that had descended on the airport that significantly reduced visibility and made it impossible for the tower personnel to see the entire runway. Los Rodeos also did not have ground radar. With no way to know where the planes were positioned on the ground, controllers never knew that KLM Flight 4805, with 248 passengers and crew, had started its takeoff roll while Pan Am Flight 1736, with 335 passengers and crew, was still on the runway, taxiing to its takeoff position.
Captan van Zanten was featured in this advertisement for KLM, which appeared in the onboard magazine on Flight 4805 (KLM)
The captain of the KLM airliner was Veldhuyzen van Zanten, one of KLM’s most famous pilots and the airline’s chief flight instructor on the 747. He carried a commanding presence in the cockpit, so much so that it would have been difficult for any junior member of the crew to question his decisions. As van Zanten commenced his takeoff roll, first officer Klaas Meurs was not convinced that the runway was clear. However, he was hesitant to question his senior captain. Van Zanten continued his takeoff without asking for clearance confirmation from the tower and heedless of the concerns of his first officer. When the Pan Am pilot saw the rapidly approaching KLM jumbo jet, he desperately tried to clear the runway via a runway exit, but just as the KLM 747 was leaving the ground it struck the Pan Am 747 just behind the cockpit at approximately 160 mph. The KLM jumbo remained airborne briefly before crashing to the ground in a massive fireball. Both aircraft were destroyed, and 560 passengers and crew on the two airliners were killed. Sixty-four passengers on the Pan Am airliner survived, while all onboard the KLM 747 perished. The crash remains the single worst accident in commercial aviation history.
An illustration showing how the Pan Am 747 attempted to exit the runway, only to be struck by the KLM 747 as it attempted to take off (SafetyCard)
As a result of the tragedy, international regulators made major changes to takeoff and flight crew procedures. Standard communications phrases were adopted in English, and air traffic controllers were required to read back pilot responses rather than reply with a simple “Roger” or “Okay.” But even more far reaching, the crash helped lead to the development of Crew Resource Management, a system of crew communication that allows even the most junior pilot or cabin crew member to question the decisions made by the commanding pilot without fear of reprisal. CRM has now become an industry standard, and has also been adopted by many other non-flying professions around the world.
The Boeing X-32B Joint Strike Fighter takes off on its maiden flight with Boeing JSF lead STOVL test pilot Dennis O’Donoghue at the controls (US Air Force)
March 29, 2001 – The first flight of the X-32B Joint Strike Fighter. In 1960, both the US Air Force and US Navy were looking to develop a new large tactical fighter/bomber and, in an effort to dave money, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara dictated that the two services must work together to find one aircraft that could serve both branches. The result of that directive was the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) program that led to the development of the General Dynamics F-111. But it soon became clear that the two services had very different missions in mind for the aircraft, and the Navy eventually dropped out of the program to develop the Grumman F-14 Tomcat instead. The moral of that story is that, no matter how hard you try, it is extraordinarily difficult to make a single aircraft that can fulfill such different and specific roles. But that didn’t stop the US Department of Defense from trying the same thing again, but this time, with a fighter for all three fixed-wing services (the last to do that successfully was the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II).
The X-32A with its weapons bay open (Global Security)
Through the merger of various ongoing aircraft procurement programs, the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program was launched in 1993 to develop a single basic airframe that could fulfill the strike, fighter, and ground attack roles. It would also have to be capable of short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL), and employ stealth technology. Boeing and Lockheed Martin were chosen to build prototypes, which became the X-32 and X-35 respectively. Though both aircraft shared the same mission parameters, the two companies chose to solve the design challenges in very different ways, and they were only permitted to use the money provided by the DOD. Boeing’s goal was to create three different versions of the same fighter with as many common parts as possible. Unlike Lockheed Martin, which designed a complex, shaft-driven fan for the STOVL variant of the X-35, Boeing opted for using vectored thrust coming from an engine placed well forward in the fuselage. This engine placement, along with its pronounced chin intake, is what gave the X-32 its ungainly appearance. But this large intake, with the engine almost directly behind it, had the negative impact of exposing the turbine blades to radar detection, a problem that Boeing planned to mitigate but never fully developed. Boeing also chose a single piece, carbon fiber composite delta wing that was capable of holding 20,000 pounds of fuel.
The proposed configuration for the production version of the X-32 (Global Security)
However, eight months into the construction of the prototype, the Navy changed their requirements, and Boeing was forced to redesign the tail of the aircraft. Since there was no time to work those changes into the prototypes before testing began, Boeing was forced to use two different configurations to prove their technology. The X-32A was the conventional takeoff aircraft for the Air Force and Navy (CTOL), while the X-32B was the STOVL demonstrator for the Marine Corps. The first flight of the X-32A took place on September 18, 2000, followed six months later by the X-32B. The X-32B was powered by a Pratt & Whitney F119 afterburning turbofan which gave the fighter a top speed Mach 1.6 in level flight. To transition to vertical landing, a butterfly valve redirected the jet output to vectoring nozzles, and attitude was controlled by ducted nozzles on the wingtips, with others fore and aft on the fuselage. This configuration meant that the X-32B was powered by a direct lift engine, similar to the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II. While this arrangement was significantly less complex than the system derived by Lockheed Martin, it had the drawback of being less powerful, and not capable of carrying the same loads. In fact, Boeing had to remove panels to reduce weight for the STOVL test flights.
The X-32B performing vertical landing tests
After the flyoff competition, the X-35 was chosen over the X-32 on October 26, 2001, and that aircraft went on to become the F-35 Lightning II, an aircraft that saw significant problems and cost overruns in its development. We will never know if the Boeing aircraft would have been any easier or cheaper to develop. Though Boeing lost the billions of dollars they stood to gain had they won the contract, the X-32 still provided invaluable research data and experience with advanced designs and materials. Both the X-32A and X-32B have been preserved, with the former awaiting restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, and the latter on display at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum.
An illustration of what the production F-32 might have looked like. Note the redesigned tail section. (Author unknown)
March 27, 2004 – NASA’s X-43 flies nearly seven times the speed of sound. The X-43 was an unmanned experimental hypersonic research aircraft built to test flight flight at extreme speed. Just 12 feet in length, the X-43 was mounted atop a modified Pegasus air-launched rocket and then both were dropped from a Boeing B-52B mothership and the rocket was fired. After the rocket fuel was exhausted, the X-43 flew on its own powered by a supersonic-combustion “scramjet” engine fueled primarily by hydrogen. On its second test in March 2004, the X-43 reached Mach 6.83 (4,600 mph), and the upgraded X-43 reached Mach 9.68 at 110,000 feet on November 16, 2004. The program was suspended in June 2013.
(Serbian Air Force)
March 27, 1999 – A US Air Force Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is shot down over Serbia. During the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia dubbed Operation Allied Force and Operation Noble Anvil, a unit of the Yugoslav Army brought down the Nighthawk with an S-125 Neva/Pechora guided missile. Though the Nighthawk is mostly undetectable by standard radar, Yugoslav forces discovered a way to track the F-117 by modifying their older radar systems to detect the fighter with long wavelengths that spotted the aircraft when landing gear or bomb bay doors were opened. The pilot ejected and was rescued by a US Air Force combat search and rescue team, and the wreckage of the F-117, the only Nighthawk ever lost in combat, now resides in a Serbian museum.
(Swedish government; KGG1551)
March 27, 1968 – The death of Yuri Gagarin. Gagarin made history on April 12, 1961 when he became the first man to orbit the Earth, launching into space atop a Vostok spacecraft and beating the United States into space by less than two months. For his feat, Gagarin was named a Hero of the Soviet Union, Russia’s highest honor. Though he never went to space again, Gagarin was named the deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow, but was killed in the crash of his Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15UTI training jet along with instructor Vladimir Seryogin. The cause of the crash remains a matter of dispute.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
March 28, 1931 – United Air Lines is formed by the combination of Boeing Air Transport (previously merged with Pratt & Whitney to create United Aircraft and Transport Corporation), National Air Transport, Varney Airlines, and Pacific Air Transport. United began transcontinental flights in 1933 flying the Boeing Model 247, the first all-metal airliner. Today, United is one of the world’s largest airlines with approximately 83,000 employees, and the third largest when measured by scheduled passenger-miles flown and fleet size, with service to 342 destinations in 60 countries. In 2010, United merged with Continental, and the company changed its name to United Continental Holdings to reflect the merger.
March 28, 1931 – The first flight of the Mitsubishi 2MR, a parasol wing reconnaissance monoplane designed for the Imperial Japanese Army and the first Japanese military aircraft to be both designed and built in Japan. All four prototypes took their maiden flight on the same date, and Mitsubishi eventually produced 230 aircraft. The 2MR8 saw service in Manchuria beginning in 1933, and were also used by the Chinese Air Force during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The 2MR was used primarily as a trainer into the late 1930s, but was retired before the outbreak of WWII.
March 28, 1910 – French aviator and inventor Henri Fabre performs the first flight to take off from the water. The son of a shipbuilding family, Fabre joined his interests in aviation with his family’s knowledge of boatbuilding to create the Fabre Hydravion, a canard aircraft of Fabre’s own design with a pusher propeller turned by a Gnome Omega radial engine. Though Fabre had no flying experience, he successfully piloted the maiden flight, plus two others that day. By week’s end, he had managed flights of 3.5 miles before the aircraft was heavily damaged in a crash. Though Fabre built no more aircraft, his design influenced French aviation pioneers Charles and Gabriel Voisin, and Gaston and René Caudron, and he also provided floats for Caudron’s and Voisin’s early attempts at seaplane development.
March 29, 1960 – The first flight of the Tupolev Tu-124, a twin engine airliner developed from the Tupolev Tu-104 and designed to meet Aeroflot’s requirement for a new regional airliner to replace the Ilyushin Il-14. The Tu-124 was powered by a pair of Soloviev D-20P turbofans mounted in the wing roots that were more efficient than the turbojets of the Tu-104, and it could carry up to 56 passengers at a cruising speed of 540 mph with a range of 1,3oo miles. The Tu-124 was introduced in 1962, and was exported to numerous Eastern Bloc countries along with India and Iraq. A total of 164 were produced, and it was finally withdrawn from Russian military service in 1992.
March 30, 2006 – Marcos Pontes becomes the first Brazilian astronaut to travel to space. Pontes was both the first Brazilian and the first Portugese-speaking astronaut when he flew to the International Space Station (ISS) on board the Russian Soyuz TMA-8. Trained by NASA and originally slated to go to space on board the Space Shuttle, Pontes transferred to the Russian space program due to delays with the Shuttle program. He spent seven days aboard the ISS conducting experiments before returning to Earth with the departing crew of Expedition 12 on board Soyuz TMA-7. Pontes’ flight coincided with celebrations around the 100th anniversary of the first flight by Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1906.
March 30, 1982 – Space Shuttle Columbia lands at White Sands, New Mexico. Following STS-3, the third mission of the Space Shuttle Program, Columbia landed on Northrop Strip at White Sands (now called White Sands Space Harbor) after an eight-day mission to test Shuttle endurance and to perform scientific experiments. Columbia was originally slated to land at Edwards Air Force Base in California, but heavy rains had flooded the landing site and forced the switch to White Sands. The landing site at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida was also available, but the Shuttle pilots opted for White Sands since they had trained there and were more familiar with the location. It was the only time in the Shuttle Program that a Shuttle landed at a site other than Edwards or KSC.
March 30, 1934 – The first flight of the Sikorsky S-42. While Igor Sikorsky is perhaps best known for his pioneering work with helicopters, he got his start in aviation by building large fixed-wing aircraft, particularly flying boats. The S-42 was developed to meet a requirement by Pan Am for a long-range flying boat, and included many innovative features such as wing flaps and variable-pitch propellers. The S-42 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet radial engines and set numerous payload records during testing. In service, the S-42 accommodated up to 37 passengers or 14 sleeper berths, and a total of 10 were produced.
@ttyymmnn Is the Eurofighter a millennial or a zoomer?
ttyymmnn last edited by
Roadkilled last edited by
@ttyymmnn The development of CRM has been in the news lately related to the Ever Given situation. There are some efforts to use crew resource management techniques on the bridge of ships, as in Bridge Resource Management (BRM). BRM apparently hasn't reached anywhere near the adoption that CRM has. The theory is that there were junior officers on the Ever Given that knew that trouble was coming, but they either were too scared of challenging the captain or the captain just didn't listen to them. From what I've read, it's not even clear if the captain overrode the canal pilot's judgement.
ttyymmnn last edited by
gmporschenut also a fan of hondas last edited by
@roadkilled should hear about operating rooms.