In the news...and selected stories
Remembering Atomic's International
"Atomics International was a division of the North American Aviation company (later acquired by the Rockwell International company) which engaged principally in the early development of nuclear technology and nuclear reactors for both commercial and government applications. Atomics International was responsible for a number of accomplishments relating to nuclear energy: design, construction and operation of the first nuclear reactor in California (1952), the first nuclear reactor to produce power for a commercial power grid in the United States (1957) and the first nuclear reactor launched into outer space by the United States (1965).
Atomics International undertook the development of nuclear reactors soon after being established: a series of commercial nuclear power reactors beginning with the Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) and a range of compact nuclear reactors culminating with the Systems for Auxiliary Nuclear Power SNAP-10A system. Both efforts were successful, despite nuclear accidents at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, but overall interest in nuclear power steadily declined. The division transitioned to non-nuclear energy-related projects such as coal gasification and gradually ceased designing and testing nuclear reactors. Atomics International was eventually merged with another division of the same parent company. As of 2010, All of the Atomics International facilities, except for the few remaining facilities located in the Area IV test area at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), have been demolished, cleaned and reused, or awaiting final cleanup." Wiki
"At Edwards, in fact, it was every bit as spirited – and far more immediate – between many of the Air Force and NACA pilots. Everest assigned Maj. Chuck Yeager to take over the X-1A envelope expansion program and Yeager and his long-time sidekick and flight test engineer, Maj. Jack Ridley, devised a flight program they dubbed “Operation NACA Weep”to steal the NACA and Navy’s thunder before the 17 December anniversary." More here...
"The Bell X-1 was a rocket engine–powered aircraft, designated originally as the XS-1, and was a joint National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics–U.S. Army Air Forces–U.S. Air Force supersonic research project built by Bell Aircraft. Conceived during 1944 and designed and built in 1945, it achieved a speed of nearly 1,000 miles per hour (1,600 km/h; 870 kn) in 1948. A derivative of this same design, the Bell X-1A, having greater fuel capacity and hence longer rocket burning time, exceeded 1,600 miles per hour (2,600 km/h; 1,400 kn) in 1954.The X-1, piloted by Chuck Yeager, was the first manned airplane to exceed the speed of sound in level flight and was the first of the X-planes, a series of American experimental rocket planes (and non-rocket planes) designated for testing of new technologies and often kept secret." Wiki
From Here to Eternity- The Northrop Flying Wing (s)
The XB-35, the Flying Wing
"Like many smaller aviation firms, Northrop found his company contributing to the war effort by building components of other companies’ aircraft while only managing a handful of its own projects. But that changed on November 22, 1941, when the US Army Air Force (AAF) initiated Project MX-140. The idea was to develop a high altitude, long range, heavy bombardment aircraft. Northrop won the contract, and it was exactly the project Jack Northrop needed to get his flying wing off the drawing board.
The aircraft was called the XB-35, and it was a flying wing; it was designed without the familiar central fuselage and rear tail. It was also massive, its 172-foot wing span promised to dwarf the wildly popular B-17 Flying Fortress, which was just over 104 feet across. And it included a host of new technical developments. Northrop’s flying wing boasted power operated elevons and rudders, which necessitated attaching springs to the control wheels and under the rudder pedal to give the pilot a “feel” for his control surfaces. Ram air pressure in a bellows attached to the control columns gave the pilot the same "feeling" of his elevator control. On the plane’s exterior, trim flaps, elevons, landing flaps, and split flaps for rudders were arranged along the trailing edge, the rear width of the wing. It also used wing tip slots with automatically controlled covers for increased longitudinal stability at high angles of attack." Popular Science Article here...
"The original 1941 contract had called for one XB-35, but it was amended before long to include a second aircraft as a backup. In late 1942, thirteen service test models designated YB-35s were added to the contract, and by June, the final number of production XB-35 bombers was raised to 200. But Northrop couldn’t meet this demand, even when the Army Air Force brought the Glenn L. Martin Company in to help with the program. The partnership proved more of a hindrance than a help. There was confusion over the “X” and “Y” designations, a marked lack of coordination with other ongoing programs by both companies, and an overall loss of engineers to the draft. When the AAF reviewed the program in May of 1944, the decision was to cancel it." Popular Science
"While the XB-35 program moved forward, the AAF decided to pursue an experimental jet-powered version of the flying wing. And in an attempt to keep production costs down, the decision was made to convert existing aircraft to their jet-powered versions rather than build completely new aircraft. And so two B-35s then under construction were converted to YB-49s. Eight jet engines replaced the four propellor engines, vertical fences and fins were added for stability, and two of the bomb bays were converted to fuel tanks.
It was far from a perfect aircraft. Though sleek and manoeuvrable, the YB-49s range was far less than the original flying wing contract specifications. Another problem was its relatively small bomb bays. The XB-35 had been designed to hold WWII era bombs, not larger post-war versions. The larger bombs demanded the bay doors remain partially open in flight, adding significant drag, the very thing Northrop had been keen to eliminate with the flying wing design.
In spite of these issues, production moved forward and the first YB-49 was rolled out in Hawthorn on September 29, 1947. A month later on October 20, Max Stanley was again at the controls for the first taxi test. The very next day, the pilot took the jet-powered wing on its maiden flight, another run from Hawthorn to Muroc. It was an uneventful 34 minutes in the air." Read the entire article
"The YB-49 and its modern counterpart, the B-2 Spirit, both built by Northrop Grumman, have the same wingspan: 172.0 ft (52.4 m). Flight test data collected from the original YB-49 test flights was used in the development of the B-2 bomber.
Thirty years later, in April 1980, Jack Northrop, then quite elderly and wheelchair bound, was taken back to the company he founded. There, he was ushered into a classified area and shown a scale model of the Air Force's forthcoming but still highly classified Advanced Technology Bomber, which would eventually become known as the B-2; it was a sleek, all-wing design. Looking over its familiar lines, Northrop, unable to speak due to various illnesses, was reported to have written on a pad: "I know why God has kept me alive for the past 25 years." Jack Northrop died 10 months later, in February 1981, eight years before the first B-2 entered Air Force service." Wikipedia
Southern California Aerospace History
Rockwell/North American Aviation Retirees
People Who Make A Difference
"In the 1950's, the United States was locked in a race with the Soviet Union for dominance in space. The competition grew out of the Cold War. On Jan. 2, 1959, the Soviet Luna 1 spacecraft made the first lunar flyby at a distance of 3,725 miles (5,994 kilometers) from the moon's surface. The Russians were also the first to impact the moon on Sept. 12, 1959, with the second Luna mission.
But on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge in his speech to Congress: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth" [source: NASA]. American astronauts accepted the challenge, and on March 3, 1959, the Pioneer 4 probe became the first American spacecraft to fly by the moon." Courtesy- How Stuff Works
Downey's Aerospace History
Aviation/Aerospace Retirees- Tell Your Story
Oral History Project- Pioneers of Aviation
Remembering the Blackbird...
"The original Blackbird was designated the A-12 and made its first flight on April 30, 1962. The single-seat A-12 soon evolved into the larger SR-71, which added a second seat for a Reconnaissance Systems Officer and carried more fuel than the A-12. The SR-71's first flight was on December 22, 1964". More
"The SR-71 was designed for flight at over Mach 3 with a flight crew of two in tandem cockpits, with the pilot in the forward cockpit and the Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO) operating the surveillance systems and equipment from the rear cockpit, and directing navigation on the mission flight path. The SR-71 was designed to minimize its radar cross-section, an early attempt at stealth design. Finished aircraft were painted a dark blue, almost black, to increase the emission of internal heat and to act as camouflage against the night sky. The dark color led to the aircraft's nickname "Blackbird". More here...
"The records set are many: The Blackbird was and remains the world’s fastest and highest-flying manned aircraft. On its retirement flight from Los Angeles to Washington in 1990, to its final resting place in the Smithsonian Air & Space collection, the plane flew coast to coast in 67 minutes.
Most importantly, the aircraft delivered on its strategic responsibilities, providing the United States detailed, mission-critical reconnaissance for more than two decades. Only a select few know the true extent of the role the Blackbird’s intelligence played in the Cold War. But its legacy as a game-changer will be admired for generations". Lockheed Martin
Hypersonic SR-72 Demonstrator
Reportedly Spotted at Skunk Works
Hypersonic Research and Development
"SR-72 is not the first hypersonic Skunk Works® aircraft. In partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, engineers developed the rocket-launched Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2). The HTV-2 research and development project was designed to collect data on three technical challenges of hypersonic flight: aerodynamics; aerothermal effects; and guidance, navigation and control.
The SR-72’s design incorporates lessons learned from the HTV-2, which flew to a top speed of Mach 20, or 13,000 mph, with a surface temperature of 3500°F.
A hypersonic aircraft will be a game changer." Lockheed- More here
"Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development Programs, better known as Skunk Works, might be further along in the development process for the SR-72 than it has let on. A proposed hypersonic reconnaissance and strike aircraft, the SR-72 would serve as a replacement for the famed SR-71 Blackbird, which was retired by the Air Force back in 1998. In June, Lockheed announced early progress on the program, and now a source told Aviation Week that they spotted a small demonstrator aircraft landing at Skunk Works facilities in Palmdale, California, possibly associated with early tests for the unmanned SR-72 program." Popular Mechanics
More on the SR-72...
"In fact, an SR-72 could be operational by 2030. For the past several years, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® has been working withAerojet Rocketdyne to develop a method to integrate an off-the-shelf turbine with a supersonic combustion ramjet air breathing jet engine to power the aircraft from standstill to Mach 6. The result is the SR-72 that Aviation Week has dubbed “son of Blackbird,” and integrated engine and airframe that is optimized at the system level for high performance and affordability." More here...
Stranger Than Fiction?
Independent Press Telegram September, 1953.
Last Bald Eagles Luncheon 2017
James Kindelberger Graham
... spoke at the North American Bald Eagles Retiree luncheon Saturday April, 29.
Jim is the grandson James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger,
American aviation pioneer who led North American Aviation from 1934-1960.
"James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger was born in Wheeling, W.Va., on May 8, 1895, the son of steelworker Charles Frederick Kindelberger. Kindelberger started working in the steel industry with his father but, in 1916, when he was 21 years old, went to study at the Carnegie Institute of Technology.
The United States entered World War I in 1917, and Dutch Kindelberger joined the Army to serve in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. He was a pilot instructor based at Park Field in Memphis, Tenn.
After the war, Kindelberger looked for work in aviation. In 1919, he married Thelma Knarr and, in 1920, became chief draftsman and assistant chief engineer with the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company in Cleveland, Ohio. Five years later, he joined Douglas Aircraft in California as chief engineer. Kindelberger remained with Douglas for nine years, leading development of the DC-1 and the DC-2.
In 1934, Kindelberger became president and general manager of General Aviation, later renamed North American Aviation Inc., and served as general manager until 1948, when he became chairman and chief executive officer. Under his guidance, North American Aviation broke technological barriers; produced propeller- and jet-powered fighters and bombers, military trainers, rocket engines, and rocket-powered aircraft; and began its role as the prime contractor for the country's space program.
Kindelberger retired in 1960 as chief executive officer at the age of 65 and was succeeded by Lee Atwood. Kindelberger remained chairman of the board until his death two years later." Source- Boeing
Early Southern California Aviation
Hover over image for caption
by Denham S. Scott
Aviation Pioneers- Southern California
James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger and Donald Douglas Sr.
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Remembering the Fallen
"My 71 Year Affair with Aviation - Charles B Livergood. For the last 71 years I have owned 7 general aviation airplanes. I progressed from private pilot up the ladder to Airplane Transport Pilot (ATP). I also obtained an FAA mechanic certificate (A&E) and an FAA IA certificate. I worked for North American Aviation for 34 years and did some test flying in the Sabreliner Business Jet and became manager of technical publications for the B-1B Bomber with 160 people reporting to me. In February 2002, the FAA awarded me the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic award. Charles Taylor was the mechanic who designed and built the 12 HP engine that powered the Wright Brothers' plane. This award was presented to me for 50 years of dedicated service in aviation safety. Since my retirement in 1985, Stacy and I have flown our 1963 Beechcraft Debonair all over the western part of the United States and we have the fondest memories of all of our adventures."
NAA retiree (1985), Chuck Livergood, passed away 29 August 2017 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He retired in 1985 as Manager of Technical Publications, B-1B Program".
Courtesy- Stacey Livergood
Aerospace Legacy Foundation
Preserving Our Past, Focusing On The Future
Southern California / America's Aviation and Aerospace History