Skyfire77 last edited by
Three hypersonic test planes, three lifting bodies, three fighters and a Gooney Bird; only in the Sixties.
The Douglas F5D Skylancer was a derivation of the F4D Skyray (it was, in fact, was initially designated the F4D-2N), designed to turn the earlier aircraft into an all-weather interceptor. Although the Skylancer retained the basic shape of the Skyray, it was very much a different aircraft. The fuselage was redesigned to add an improved radar and avionics suite, as well as being area-ruled to reduce transonic drag. The wing retained the same planform, but the skin was reinforced while the overall wing thickness was reduced. The resulting aircraft was faster than its cousin, even with the lower-powered J57-P-8 engine shared with the F4D, and was able to hit Mach 1.48. Production F5Ds would be equipped with an uprated J57-P-14, and there were even plans to re-engine some planes with GE J79 engines and variable-geometry inlets, allowing speeds up to Mach 2.
F5D-1 Skylancer NASA 213 at Dryden FRC, painted white and day-glo orange
First flight was on 21 April 1956, and the Skylancer proved to be every bit the quick, stable interceptor the Navy wanted. Production F5Ds would be armed with four 20mm cannon in the wings, along with AIM-7 and AIM-9 guided missiles or a battery of unguided 51mm rockets. Four pre-production airframes were completed when the Navy canceled the order. The stated reason was that the F5D was too similar in performance to the Vought F8U Crusader, though it’s been alleged that politics played a larger roll in the cancellation, as it was believed that Douglas held too much of a monopoly in Navy aircraft.
One of the F5D-1s in flight
Whatever the reasons, the four completed Skylancers were retained for flight testing. Two of them were grounded in 1961, though Bu. No. 139208 and 142350 were later transferred to NASA, being designated NASA 708 and 213 (later 802). NASA 708 was refitted with ogival wings as part of the American SST program, and the data was later shared with BAC and Sud Aviation for use on Concorde. It was retired in 1968 and is now part of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum’s collection.NASA 708 on display at Ontario Municipal Airport in 2004. In 2013 it was moved to Evergreen Air & Space Museum
The Skylancer registered as NASA 213/802 was used to develop abort procedures for the X-20 Dyna-Soar, as the two aircraft shared similar planforms:
*"NASA Flight Research pilot Neil Armstrong recognized that the Skylancer could be used to study Dyna-Soar abort procedures. How to save the pilot and space craft in the event of a launch-pad booster explosion was a problem of great concern to the Dyna-Soar team. In those days rockets weren’t very dependable, commented a NASA pilot.
Near the Dyna-Soar launch pad was a 10,400-foot landing strip. The Dyna-Soar had a small escape rocket to kick it away from its booster, climb, do a half-roll, then glide to a landing. Armstrong went to Cape Canaveral, Florida, measured distances and drew a sketch of the layout. He brought back the sketch and laid out the course on Rogers Dry Lake.
Milton Thompson, test pilot had been selected as the only NASA pilot to fly the Dyna-Soar. Milt and William Dana began to fly the escape test maneuver in the F5D-1 Skylancer that Neil had developed to escape the launch pad in event of an emergency. The maneuver: Armstrong would fly the F5D-1 Skylancer about 200 feet above the desert floor at a speed of 500 knots, then pull the airplane into a vertical climb (5g climb to 7,000-8000 feet altitude), where he would pull the plane over on its back, roll the craft upright (Immelman maneuver) and then setting up a low lift-to-drag-ratio approach, touched down on a part of Rogers Dry Lake that was marked like the landing strip at Cape Canaveral. The pilots agreed, it was a fun program; everybody was doing Dyna-Soar abort maneuvers. They even used it at the Air Force Test Pilot School."*
XF5D-1 NACA 213 at Moffett Field
After the X-20 was canceled, 802 stayed at DFRC, acting as an in-flight simulator for the M2-F2 as well as serving as a chase plane for other lifting bodies. In May of 1970 the Skylancer was retired and donated to the Neil Armstrong Museum in Ohio, where it remains.
NASA 802, the F5D-1 flown by Neil Armstrong, at the eponymous museum in Wapakoneta, OH
For anyone suffering from deja vu, this is article was recovered and revised from one originally posted to Oppo That Was.
ttyymmnn last edited by
@skyfire77 Love the Skyray. One of my all-time favorites.