U.S. Air Force Sets Last Hypersonic Aircraft trial for 2013

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The U.S. Air Force announced that it will push through of the test flight for the X-51A on late spring or early summer of 2013. It will fly the last of the four hypersonic aircraft built by Boeing.

The testing program was threatened to be aborted after the failed third testing last August. On August 14, the third Waverider veered off course shortly after being dropped by a B-52 Bomber, then crashed into the Pacific Ocean. According to Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager, investigators think that one of the aircraft’s control fins inadvertently came unlocked, but they are still figuring why it happened. Conclusive investigation will be completed by December.

The Waverider is designed to achieved hypersonic speed which starts from Mach 5 or five times the speed of sound. It runs on the power of a supersonic combustion ramjet engine, also known as scramjet built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

During a test flight, the X-51A Waverider is carried by a B-52. Then, it uses solid-rocket booster to reach speed near Mach 5, after the launching from B-52. A solid-rocket is jettisoned, then the scramjet engine takes over.

Of the three previous test flights, only the first X-51A completed the transition to scramjet powered flight. The second X-51A test ignited the scramjet, but failed shortly after.

Charlie Brink expects the U.S. military to conducts follow-up program for the X-51 in order to mature scramjet engine technology.

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News source: www.newsspace.com

U.S. Military Conducts Hypersonic Test Flight

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Hypersonic speed starts at Mach 5, or being five times faster than the speed of sound. On Tuesday, over the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. military tested an aircraft designed to fly at six times the speed of sound.

The Hypersonic Waverider aircraft, officially known as X-51A, was launched from a B-52 Bomber and flew north over the Pacific. It is an irretrievable experimental aircraft which means it will likely end up in the ocean.

The Waverider is designed to fly from New York to Los Angeles in less than an hour. It uses a technology that bridges the gap between airplanes and rocket ships. But instead of commercial air travel, the military is aiming to use it to develop high-speed cruise missiles.

The hypersonic aircraft is called the Waverider because it partially stay airborne due to the lift coming from its own shock waves during its flight.

According to the military description of the project, the X-51A uses a “screamject” engine, which uses the forward motion of the craft to compress air for fuel combustion. The “screamject” engine was developed by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

The X-51A is expected to fly for five minutes of powered flight. Test results will be known on Wednesday.

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News source: in.reuters.com

Annual Cajun Fly-In Planes at Houma Airport this Saturday

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Houma, LA — You can get an up-close look at area aircrafts and get better acquainted with the local airport Saturday at the annual Cajun Fly-In.

The Experimental Aircraft Association’s event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Houma-Terrebonne Airport. To enter the airport, take Aviation Road, off East Main Street.

Newton Boudreaux, 78, a member of the local association, said the annual event, started about 10 years ago, showcases the airport and its role on the community and economy.

“Most folks have seen an airplane or helicopter fly overhead, but they have no idea what the thing looks like on the ground,” he said.

The event, sponsored by Houma’s Bill Fornof EAA Chapter 513, will also feature military, emergency and rescue vehicle displays from Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Houma Police and Fire departments. There is no charge to attend.

Tim Rochel, president of the local aircraft association, said residents don’t realize the airport’s significance.

“There’s more commerce that goes on there than one would begin to realize unless they can appreciate it firsthand,” he said.

Thibodaux residents Chris Aysen and Scott Thibodaux, both members of the local chapter, will display their home-built planes, and could take to the skies for a demonstration, Boudreaux said.

Aysen, a machine-tool instructor at L.E. Fletcher Community College in Houma, built a two-seat Zenith CH701 over about five years.

Thibodaux, a safety engineer for Schlumberger, built a fabric-covered Christavia MK-1 over 13 years. Both planes recently passed FAA inspections.

Twenty-five pilots showed off their home- and factory-built aircrafts at last year’s fly-in.

Boudreaux said the association will also register 8- to 17-year-olds for its Young Eagles program. The program gives local youth a chance to take a free airplane ride.

The program is a part of an international one started two years ago that has given plane rides to 1.6 million children, including about 90 in Houma.

“In most cases, this is the first exposure that these kids will have with aircrafts and actually flying in an airplane,” he said. Rides will be available Saturday on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The local aviation group is named after the late Bill Fornof, a Navy pilot from Houma who flew in aviation shows with his son, Corkey Fornof, in their F8F Bearcats. The son is now a movie pilot in California.

Helicopters from the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, State Police, Air Logistics, PHI, Acadian Ambulance and ERA will be displayed.

Boudreaux said there also is a possibility of seeing a B-52 fly-by.

Local pilot Charlie Hammonds will display his T-28 Trojan — a training plane for the U.S. Navy — and local attorney Darryl Christen will display his L-39 National Air Jet Racer 99 — a former Soviet Union training jet.

The Regional Military Museum, based on Barrow Street in Houma, will display several World War II uniforms, vehicles and weapons.

Rochel, a Houma resident, said locals should take advantage of Saturday’s fly-in, which he compares to a car show for airplanes, because not all state aircraft associations conduct fly-ins for their respective communities.


Crowds flocked to Wings Over Houston Airshow

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Planes from all generations and of all types took to the sky Saturday, Oct. 15, at Ellington Field for the 27th annual Wings Over Houston Airshow.

The tarmac was packed with people taking pictures of World War II-era fighter planes, current military and civilian planes and helicopters. The show provided the public with an opportunity to tour planes and meet pilots.

Air Force First Lt. Paul Yeagly was showing off the B-52 bomber he flew for the show from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Yeagly, 29, grew up in Pasadena and worked at Ellington Field as an aircraft fueler before joining the Air Force. He flew his first plane when he was 16. His family watched with pride as he answered visitors’ questions about his plane on Saturday.

“For me to fly the biggest bomber of all time back home to all my friends and family is a dream come true,” he said. “Of all the air shows we can go to, I love this one the most.”

The show drew hundreds of military veterans. WWII and Korean War Marine veteran Col. Joe McPhil, 90, was signing autographs and talking about the Corsair fighter plane he flew during both wars. McPhil flew 240 combats missions and shot down two Japanese planes. He said he’s proud to see the new generation of pilots.

“I admire them, I really do,” he said. “I’m very supportive of them.”

Scott Miller, 41, brought his two sons Alex, 11, and Sam, 13, to WOH to see the old fighter planes.

“I love it,” he said. I love watching the planes and the WWII planes more than anything else.”

The Canadian Snowbirds, comprised of members of the Canadian forces, flew in seven- to nine-ship formations and head-on solo passes that left the crowd in awe. Old WWII fighter planes and modern fighter jets flew loops.

Aerobatic pilot Kirby Chambliss has been with team Red Bull for eight years. This was the San Antonio resident’s first time in WOH. Chambliss specializes in aggressive aerobatics.

“My goal here is when people leave here to say ‘God, I never seen that before,’ ” he said. “That means I’ve done my job.”

The act that garnered the most attention from the crowd was the Tora! Tora! Tora! WWII Air Power Demo team. The team re-enacts the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor with a narration and explosions with smoke and fire from a pyrotechnics team. The crowd quickly rose to take pictures and view the “bombs.”

First-year Tora! pilot Bill Fier was an Air Force pilot and flew for Delta Airlines for 14 years, but loves the excitement of performing in front of a crowd.

“It feels great,” he said. “It’s like no flying I’ve ever done.”

The team received the Lloyd P. Nolen Lifetime Achievement Award for promotion and dedication to the advancement of aviation.

After the re-enactment, the team took time to honor a fallen member, Craig Salerno, with a missing-man formation and dedicated this weekend’s performances to him and his family. Salerno, 50, died last month in Reno, Nev., when a WWII-era fighter plane crashed into the stands, killing 11 at the show.


Minot B-52 co-pilot continues family tradition

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MINOT AIR FORCE BASE — When 1st Lt. Daniel Welch arrived at Minot Air Force Base in January, he became part of the same squadron his grandfather commanded in the 1970s.

That squadron is the 23rd Bomb Squadron, a unit of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB.

Welch, a B-52 co-pilot, is keeping up his family’s tradition as a B-52 Stratofortress flight officer.

Both his grandfather, retired Col. Don Sprague, of Sacramento, Calif., and his father, retired Lt. Col. Don Welch, of Las Vegas, were B-52 aviators.

Welch was one of the speakers Aug. 19 when the base held “Peace Persuader Day” to celebrate the arrival of the first B-52 bomber at the base 50 years ago. The day was named for that first plane. The first B-52 arrived July 16, 1961, but the ceremony was postponed until August because of the flood in Minot.

When he was asked to speak at the 50th anniversary celebration, Welch said he asked himself, “What have I done to be given this opportunity besides being born into a B-52 family of aviators?”

Since he has just begun his career as a B-52 aviator, he chose to honor his grandfather and his father by telling a few of their experiences as well as about his grandmother and mother.

Welch said his grandfather grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was commissioned by ROTC. He went to Maxwell AFB, Ala., for additional training, where he met Daniel’s grandmother, Marion.

“At the time that they met, my grandmother was an Air Force nurse. She outranked him and he had to salute her. To this day, we still give him a hard time for that,” Welch said.

Daniel’s grandfather attended pilot training in Texas. After graduation he went on to fly the F-86 Saber, the B-47 and then “the mighty B-52,” his grandson said. “He’s flown every model from the A model up to the H model.”

Sprague flew combat missions in Vietnam. As a result of one of those missions over North Vietnam, he became a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, his grandson said.

Sprague returned from Vietnam and was assigned to Minot AFB in the early 1970s “where he became the squadron commander of my current squadron, the 23rd Bomber Barons,” Welch said.

Welch said he felt it was pretty amazing when he looked through squadron history books and came across a picture of his grandfather and some of the news articles he was in while his grandfather was at the Minot base.

Sprague then was assigned to Mather AFB, Calif., where he became the wing commander. “That’s where my father walked into the picture,” Welch said.

The senior Welch had just been commissioned by ROTC. “My mother (Diane) was working at the base pool as a lifeguard. I’ve got to give my dad some credit for having the guts to date the wing commander’s daughter,” the lieutenant said.

Shortly after his parents got married, they were assigned to Guam in the early 1980s. “Sitting nuclear alert was part of the B-52 crews’ lifestyle,” Welch said. He said his father tells about the crews being at the base exchange with their families when suddenly they were notified. They would leave their families and run out the door to respond to their aircraft, not knowing if it was the real thing or a drill, Welch said. His father retired from the Air Force after 22 years.

“Growing up with my grandfather and father as role models made it pretty easy to decide that I wanted to pursue a career in aviation,” Welch said.

“I was able to realize that dream after I attended pilot training after my graduation from the Air Force Academy in 2008,” he said.

Welch was commissioned in 2008 and graduated from pilot training in December 2009. He started flying the B-52 in March 2010 at Barksdale AFB, La., and arrived at Minot AFB in January of this year.

Welch said he looks forward to the challenges and experiences that are sure to present themselves just as they presented themselves to generations before him.

But he pointed out that he would be remiss if he didn’t mention “the glue” that has held the three generations of bomber crews together: his mother.

“As a daughter she endured Christmases and holidays away with her father being deployed; as a wife she endured time without her husband,” he said.

Welch said it appears he will be deployed over the holiday season. “She’s a proud B-52 mother,” he added.

If he has a youngster someday, Welch said maybe there will be a fourth generation B-52 aircrew member.


Castle Museum opens for tribute

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ATWATER — With the 100th anniversary of U.S. naval aviation at the center of attention for those at Castle Air Museum, caretakers are celebrating the milestone the only way they know how — by showing off a naval addition to the museum’s fleet.

A Vought RF-8 Crusader, which was flown during the Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam War, was dedicated in May and will be part of Sunday’s Open Cockpit Day lineup.

Plane interiors and other artifacts will be on display during the event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 5050 Santa Fe Drive in Atwater.

The RF-8 Crusader will be the newest bird on display for Sunday’s event, but it won’t be long before another historic airship will join the others.

Over the past few months, restoration volunteers have been working feverishly to complete another Navy plane from the same era, said Joe Pruzzo, chief executive officer of the museum.

Like the Crusader, the museum’s Douglas RA-3B Skywarrior was flown during the Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam War, and was the largest plane to be flown off an aircraft carrier, said Don Harris, one of the restoration volunteers.

From size to design, there are several differences in how Navy planes are designed today.

The airships, which were often retrofitted in their later years into reconnaissance and refueling planes, had no ejector seats.

Most recently, the restoration team has been working on reattaching the wings, which requires removing 1,200 bolts on both wings and replacing them with 1,200 new bolts, Pruzzo said. The work is tedious, but once it’s done, the Skywarrior will be an excellent addition to the museum’s growing Navy aircraft population, he said. It’s expected to be finished next year.

As for Sunday, 30 aircraft interiors will be on display, including a B-52 bomber, SR-71 Blackbird, Navy A-4 Skyhawk and an F-14 Tomcat, Pruzzo noted.

Admission Sunday is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors 60 and older and $5 for 6- to 17-year-olds. Active-duty military personnel and children 5 and younger get in free. There’s a family rate of $30 for four people.


B-52 squadron completes deployment to Guam

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“The Devil’s Own” 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron has concluded another successful deployment to Andersen Air Force Base in support of Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence. It operates B-52 Stratofortress aircraft providing strategic bombing capability.

Crews flew nonstop from Andersen to multiple areas throughout the Pacific, training on ranges in Australia, East Asia and Hawaii, honing their ability to put bombs on target, on time. This exemplified Air Force Global Strike Command’s ability to rapidly strike anywhere in the vast Asian Pacific region with its Guam based B-52 aircraft.

All B-52s are equipped with an electro-optical viewing system that uses platinum silicide forward-looking infrared and high resolution low-light-level television sensors to augment the targeting, battle assessment, flight safety and terrain-avoidance system, thus further improving its combat ability and low-level flight capability.

Flying these 18-hour sorties can be exhausting,” said Capt. Allen Agnes, 96 EBS plans and programs. “Long endurance training flights teach a crew how to cope with realistic conditions and what can be an incredibly fatiguing experience.”

According to the Northern Edge 2011 factsheet, the exercise is designed to sharpen skills of participants by practicing operations, techniques, and procedures. The event provides forces ready for deployment worldwide and enables real world proficiency in detection and tracking of units at sea, in the air and on land, and response to multiple crises.

The success of these training opportunities reflects the closeness of our alliance and the strength of the ongoing military-military relationship,” Captain Agnes said. “During our time here, we were able to meet 218 percent of our higher headquarters directed missions, totaling 190 sorties and nearly 1,500 flying hours-the highest ops tempo in three years.”

Between flying missions, the 96 EBS found time to attend the 36 Wing Dining Out, and was the largest unit in attendance alongside 7th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Remington and the Lieutenant Governor of Guam, the Hon. Ray Tenorio.

In the end, we achieved our mission to help maintain stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region, thus supporting Pacific Command’s objectives and goals,” Col. John Edwards, 96 EBS commander.


Modified X-51A Waverider Ready for Next Hypersonic Test

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On Mar. 15, Air Force engineers currently plan to fly the second X-51A Waverider hypersonic flight test demonstrator as early as March 22 according to program officials.

“We are proud of the first flight results, and at the same time we understand the inherent risk in a high-technology demonstrator like the X-51A,” said Curtis Berger, the director of the hypersonics programs at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the company that built the X-51A’s fuel-cooled supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet engine. “We can’t wait to get this second vehicle in the air and show what we can do.”

Four X-51As were built for the Air Force by teams at Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. The X-51A made history on its inaugural hypersonic flight test on May 26, 2010, when it was launched from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., tucked under the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress. After release, it ultimately accelerated to Mach 5 under scramjet power. The flight was about 10 times longer than any previous hypersonic scramjet flight and “80 to 90 percent” of flight test objectives were achieved, program officials said.

Underscoring the complexity and uncertainty of hypersonic flight testing, Charlie Brink, the Air Force Research Laboratory X-51A program manager, noted that not everything went perfectly on the first flight test. The vehicle failed to accelerate as quickly as anticipated and the flight test had to be terminated after 143 seconds under scramjet power. A perfect flight would have lasted another 100 seconds and accelerated the X-51A cruiser to Mach 6.

After the flight, members of the flight test team independently scoured over telemetry data for a month. Then they conducted a comprehensive “fault tree analysis” to identify every piece of anomalous data to determine the root cause.

According to Mr. Brink, two separate fault trees were identified: The vehicle failed to accelerate as rapidly as expected and unexpected temperatures and pressures were observed in internal sections of the cruiser. Engineers examined and walked through 156 different nodes in excruciating detail in search of a cause.

“In a demonstrator you learn things,” Mr. Brink said.

Program officials already knew from wind tunnel engine tests about the intense heat the scramjet engine and hypersonic flight creates. During flight, the scramjet engine actually grows about three-fourths of an inch. The effect complicates design for such things as interface seals.

The Boeing “Phantom Works” and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne teams pulled the engines from the three remaining flight test vehicles and focused on the interface between the rear of the fuel-cooled engine and its vehicle mounted nozzle. Mr. Brink said the effort identified an “apparent thermal seal breach” at the interface which was not as tight as it needed to be. This caused some of the hot gases that should have provided thrust to leak into the rear of the cruiser.

“We went through a complete critical design review of the interface,” Mr. Brink said.

In the end, the team made design changes to make it a “much more robust” interface. All of the remaining X-51As have been modified with the new beefed up design.

Mission and weather permitting, a B-52 test crew will take off March 16 from the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB and the flight test team will run through a dress rehearsal for the entire flight profile for the next hypersonic mission, albeit without the X-51A attached.

The second X-51 is waiting in a hangar at Edwards AFB and is ready to fly, Mr. Brink said. He added the next flight is scheduled for March 22 over the Navy’s Point Mugu Sea Range but a number of factors with the flight-test vehicle, weather, range availability, and supporting test assets could slip the flight date to the right.

Mr. Brink said officials at the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency and at NASA have been critical to the X-51A’s development. Those at DARPA provided substantial funding and NASA officials provided strong support via access to their wind tunnels at Langley Research Center and to the supercomputer at NASA Ames Research Center where computational fluid dynamics calculations of drag and other aerodynamic forces were performed.

Mr. Brink said the computations were validated during the first hypersonic test, coming in within 2 percent of actual data observed during the first flight. NASA Dryden aircrews also provide photo and safety chase during the flight tests.

He noted the X-51A was not designed to be a weapon, but its success as a technology demonstrator soon may enable the transition of technologies to a new class of hypersonic weapon systems. He added that there are a number of initiatives in the works, but none had been decided upon and there currently is no program of record for a hypersonic strike or ISR aircraft based upon the Waverider.

“Right now we are just focused on the X-51′s next flight,” Mr. Brink said. “We definitely hope it will go longer…and faster than the first.”

Luke AFB celebrates 70 years, displays more than 80 aircraft

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A biplane and the Air Force Thunderbirds fly over Luke Air Force Base

The largest F-16 pilot training base in the world, Luke will welcome around 200,000 civilians Saturday and Sunday during the Luke Days 70 Years of Thunder open house and air show.

“This is a chance for taxpayers to see what they’re paying for,” said Col. Robert McCutchen, the open house director. “And it’s our opportunity to showcase the world’s greatest air force. The public can see the hardware that fought in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, all the way back to World War II.”

Since the early 1980s, retired C-141 Air Force pilot Jim Flonacher has taken his family and his camera to the base to watch dozens of fighter jets soar, and to see dozens of bombers and cargo aircraft on display.

Flonacher, 62, of Peoria, said it was at a Luke open house that his son, Michael, fell in love with military aircraft while sitting in the cockpit of an F-15. Now, Michael is a third-generation pilot and an instructor at the Air Force Weapons School at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

“I love the sounds of the aircraft, and the smells of the fuel,” Flonacher said. “To me, it’s the sound of freedom.”
This weekend, Flonacher will take his young grandchildren to see a C-17, the aircraft their uncle flies. They’ll also be able to see the B-25, a twin-engine bomber similar to the B-26 Marauder that Flonacher’s dad flew during World War II.

In all, more than 80 aircraft representing the last 70 years of Air Force innovation will fly in the shows or be on display.

Both days, flights start at 11 a.m., immediately following the singing of the national anthem. Static displays include a B-52, F-16, C-130 and MIG-17.

Guests will see the evolution of warplanes during the Air Force Heritage Flight Program demonstration, which features aircraft used in the 1940s flying alongside modern-day jets.

“It’s a kind of time warp in space,” McCutchen said.

The Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s tight-flying demonstration team that first launched at Luke in 1953, will perform its signature diamond formation, fast rolls and inverted flight, all synchronized to music. The famous squadron will perform around 2:45 p.m. each day.

Other highlights include the Army’s Golden Knights, an acrobatic parachute team, and the F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team, which will show the precise maneuvering and acrobatic capabilities of the advanced stealth warplanes.

- azcentral.com

Historic First Flight of the X-51A Waverider

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The X-51A WaveRider hypersonic vehicle, powered by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s scramjet engine, successfully made an aviation history May 26 by making the longest-ever supersonic combustion ramjet-powered flight.

The more than 200 second burn by the X-51‘s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne-built air breathing scramjet engine accelerated the vehicle to Mach 6. The previous longest scramjet burn in a flight test was 12 seconds in a NASA X-43.

During its first flight, the unmanned WaveRider vehicle was carried beneath a U.S. Air Force B-52 and dropped from an altitude of about 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean off southern California.  A solid rocket booster fired and propelled the cruiser to greater than Mach 4.5, creating the supersonic environment necessary to operate the engine.

The booster was then jettisoned and the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne SJY61 scramjet engine ignited, initially on gaseous ethylene fuel. Next the engine transitioned to JP-7 jet fuel, the same fuel once carried by the SR-71 Blackbird before its retirement.

“This first flight was the culmination of a six-year effort by a small, but very talented AFRL, DARPA and industry development team,” said Mr. Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He believes the X-51A program will provide knowledge required to develop the game changing technologies needed for future access to space and hypersonic weapon applications.

- Defensetalk.com

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