Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake

lockheed have blue  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Image: U.S. Federal Government via Lockheed, public domain)

Often eclipsed by its more famous relative the F-117A Nighthawk (aka Stealth Fighter), for which it served as a proof-of-concept vehicle, Lockheed’s small Have Blue technology demonstrator remains a shadowy aircraft to this day. Relatively few photographs exist in the public domain, and a crashed article that had once been earmarked for display remains buried in an unmarked grave at the Groom Lake test facility in Nevada, popularly known as Area 51.

lockheed have blue xst 1  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake

lockheed have blue xst 2  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Images: DARPA/US Air ForceU.S. Government via Lockheed, public domain)

Designed and built by the famous Skunk Works and test flown in total secrecy from 1977 to 1979, Have Blue demonstrators XST-1 and XST-2 tested the angular, faceted design that gave the F-117A its sinister appearance and low observability.

Despite the loss of both aircraft (with pilots ejecting to safety) the programme was deemed a success and development of the larger Nighthawk went ahead. Meanwhile, both Have Blue wrecks were quietly buried in anonymous graves within the boundaries of the Nellis Test Range.

near have blue resting place  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Image: Google Earth)

One of the demonstrators was reportedly interred at Groom Lake, immediately south of the former A-12 Oxcart hangar complex (above). Years later, when Have Blue’s existence had finally been made public, Lockheed engineers set about trying to unearth the relatively intact wreck for restoration as a static display article.

lockheed have blue in flight  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Image: USAF, public domain)

But their efforts went unrewarded. Some reports say they couldn’t find it, while others assert that the search was cancelled when engineers began unearthing the shattered components of other classified programmes. Whatever the truth may be, it’s thought that the wreck now lies beneath a paved section of recently constructed taxiway. If this is the case, Have Blue is unlikely to see the light of day any time soon – if ever!

Stealth On Ice! Climate Testing an F-117 at McKinley Climatic Laboratory

f 117 fsd ice climate lab  Stealth On Ice! Climate Testing an F-117 at McKinley Climatic Laboratory(Image: via US Federal Government, public domain)

Sightings over the past few years have confirmed that a small number of previously retired F-117 Nighthawks are flying again over the desert ranges of the western United States. Meanwhile, reports point to a bleak fate for the remainder of the mothballed Stealth Fighter fleet – burial near the restricted Tonopah Test Range Airport, perhaps even with their own headstones.

So you could be forgiven for thinking the above picture showed a Nighthawk carcass being placed into cryostasis pending a time when it might be resurrected. In reality, however, the airframe depicted is one of the original five full scale development (FSD) YF-117 aircraft. The picture shows the jet undergoing testing in the refrigeration system at McKinley Climatic Laboratory.

With the exception of some wreckage in Belgrade and a hybrid jet mounted on a pole outside the Skunk Works in Palmdale, the YF-117s are the only ‘Stealth Fighters’ you’re likely to get close to today. The others remain off-limits at Tonopah.

Discovering Sheffield’s Apperknowle Airfield

apperknowle airfield sheffield  Discovering Sheffield’s Apperknowle Airfield(Image: Neil Theasby, cc-sa-3.0)

Being born and brought-up in the UK city of Sheffield, and maintaining an active interest in aviation and local history throughout my life, I was surprised to discover a small airfield on the outskirts of the city that I’d never heard of before.

The small grass airstrip at Apperknowle once belonged to British Steel (Sheffield was once a global leader in steel production) and features several small hangars reportedly built during the 1980s.

apperknowle airfield sheffield 2  Discovering Sheffield’s Apperknowle Airfield

apperknowle airfield sheffield 3  Discovering Sheffield’s Apperknowle Airfield(Images: Google Earth)

But what’s interesting is the older blister hangar, which looks similar to pre-fab wartime constructions that housed fighter aircraft such as Spitfires and Hurricanes. Nearby are what look like old Nissen huts.

Was Apperknowle airfield ever a small miliary base, or were these buildings simply brought to the site after falling into disuse elsewhere? If you have any further information, please leave a comment below.

Historic Photo Shows Wrecked X-15 after 1962 Mud Lake Crash

x 15 crash wreck  Historic Photo Shows Wrecked X-15 after 1962 Mud Lake Crash(Image: NASA, public domain)

On November 9, 1962, during a research flight in the second X-15 airframe, an engine failure forced NASA pilot Jack McKay to make an emergency landing at Mud lake, Nevada. The impact caused the landing gear to collapse, flipping the aircraft onto its back. McKay escaped with his life, but his injuries eventually forced him to retire from NASA.

The X-15 was returned to its manufacturer, North American, and over the next year underwent extensive repairs and a series of modifications. The rocket-powered X-plane was returned to Edwards AFB in February 1964 with an extended fuselage and external fuel tanks.

mud lake nevada  Historic Photo Shows Wrecked X-15 after 1962 Mud Lake Crash(Image: DigitalGlobe via Google Earth)

Renamed the X-15A-2, the aircraft, tail number 56-6671, also received a complete heat-resistant ablative coating. It’s now on permanent display at the Museum of the USAF in Dayton, Ohio. (Check out our brief history of ‘Balls 8’, the B-52 mothership.)

Dramatic Video Shows Stunt Plane Breaking-Up in Mid Air, Pilot Miraculously Survives

stunt plane crash 3  Dramatic Video Shows Stunt Plane Breaking-Up in Mid Air, Pilot Miraculously Survives(All images by Russia Today via YouTube)

Dramatic video footage from Russia Today captured a stunt plane breaking-up in mid air during inverted flight. At 0.12 seconds into the footage the ill-fated aircraft’s port wing is ripped from the fuselage, plunging the it into a spiral dive in full view of horrified spectators at the air show in Argentina, which took place in 2010.

stunt plane crash 41  Dramatic Video Shows Stunt Plane Breaking-Up in Mid Air, Pilot Miraculously Survives

stunt plane crash 5  Dramatic Video Shows Stunt Plane Breaking-Up in Mid Air, Pilot Miraculously Survives

Fortunately, the stunt plane’s recovery chute opens almost immediately, stabilising it as it falls to earth at a rate that allows the pilots to climb from the wreckage relatively unhurt. Suffering only burns to one of his feet, according to the video, the pilot vowed to continue flying. Watch the full video below.

Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?

Boeing F A XX1  Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?(Image: Boeing via YouTube)

For several years black project researchers have debated the possible existence of a classified aircraft called the YF-24, which was referenced in the bio of test pilot Colonel Joseph Lanni. It was later redacted, causing speculation that the plane could be a foreign jet under evaluation by the US Air Force, a one-of-a-kind technology demonstrator or stealth prototype, or simply a typo.

The Pentagon has denied the existence of a YF-24, while some stealth watchers remain similarly unconvinced. But others have speculated that it could be linked to the ill-fated Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) programme or early Joint Strike Fighter studies.

Boeing Model 24F  Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?(Image via Boeing/US Air Force study)

Dave Majumdar recently posted this interesting article on the DEW Line, citing an engineering paper for a Boeing Multirole Fighter concept dating back to the 1990s. The design – known as the Model-24F – shares commonalities with Boeing concepts for the Advanced Tactical Fighter programme, the unsuccessful X-32 demonstrator, and artist impressions of the future F/A-XX programme.

According to Majumdar, the design reflects a more agile aircraft than the current Lockheed Martin F-35 and “has provisions for two-dimensional thrust vectoring and some other interesting features. The design matches the Raptor’s top speed of about Mach 2.2 though it doesn’t cruise supersonically like the F-22.”

Boeing MRF 24X  Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?(Image via Key Publishing Aviation Forum)

Interestingly, a more recent study shows what appears to be a tailless version of the same aircraft, with vertical and horizontal stabilisers removed and a redesigned back-end. The earlier Model-24F design apparently utilises 1998 technology, while the MRF-24X (above) study incorporates 2003 technology and appears to be a step closer to more recent Boeing F/A-XX concepts.

Whether Boeing built and flight tested a full scale demonstrator aircraft based on the Model-24F during the 1990s, and indeed whether it was related to the mysterious YF-24, remains unknown. If nothing else, these intriguing engineering studies may help map the evolution of an aircraft design from early concepts to a future air superiority fighter.

X-47B has Washington, D.C Residents Crying “UFO”

(Image: Screenshot via YouTube, watch full clip here)

With the amount of government workers in and around the Washington, DC metro area, you’d think locals would be among the last to cry “UFO” after witnessing a mysterious aircraft being transported on the back of a flat bed truck. But an X-47B on the Washington Beltway bound for Patuxent River, MD, ignited a lively Twitter debate and found its way onto a number of mainstream news sites.

x 47b1  X-47B has Washington, D.C Residents Crying “UFO”(Image: U.S. Air Force, public domain)

The experimental Northrop Grumman X-47B – the second to arrive at NAS Patuxent River for testing – was at the end of a two week road journey from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA, where it was manufactured. Now a key part of the U.S. Navy’s UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration) programme, the semi-autonomous UCAV is undergoing carrier launch and recovery testing at Patuxent River before sea trials commence next year.

PC-Aero Displays Electric Aircraft at Friedrichshafen Aero-Expo

pc aero  PC-Aero Displays Electric Aircraft at Friedrichshafen Aero-Expo(Images: Copyright: PC-Aero/Neowings)

Last week, PC-Aero displayed several of their electric aircraft at the 2012 Aero-Expo (the global show for general aviation) in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Present at the event were the Elektra One Solar (flying with solar cells on the wing surface), Elektra Two Standard (a twin-seat electric aircraft with solar cells for flight), Elektra Two Record (a lightweight aircraft designed for record flights), and Elektra Observer LT (an unmanned very light electric aircraft with solar cells for civil surveillance).

pc aero 2  PC-Aero Displays Electric Aircraft at Friedrichshafen Aero-Expo

Last year the PC-Aero Elektra One won the Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize during EAA AirVenture 2011 at Oshkosh. For more environmentally friendly electric aircraft, click here.

Space Shuttle Discovery Flies into History – Via Washington, DC

space shuttle discovery washington dc  Space Shuttle Discovery Flies into History – Via Washington, DC(All photos by Storm Climb)

It was an exciting and emotional moment as the Space Shuttle Discovery, the most well known and well travelled of NASA’s orbiters, crossed the Potomac River and flew down the National Mall of Washington, DC, mounted atop the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.  Storm Climb correspondent Camille M was on the scene near Dulles Airport, communicating information about Discovery’s final flight plan to our intrepid reporter in Arlington, VA.

discovery dc  Space Shuttle Discovery Flies into History – Via Washington, DC

For many spectators, this was their first glimpse of the famous shuttle which, along with NASA’s specially modified 747, forms an iconic image that has been reproduced in pictures on the walls of space enthusiasts across the world.  After passing over the Capitol Building, Discovery circled the DC metro area and made several more passes before landing at Dulles Airport at 11am today.

space shuttle discovery washington dc 2  Space Shuttle Discovery Flies into History – Via Washington, DC

This series of images marks the shuttle’s eastern flight path down the National Mall.  In the last image, spectators gather to watch Discovery bank to the north beyond the iconic Washington Monument.  The shuttle was to make one more pass before heading south east towards Maryland and finally back to Dulles – the end of an era, but a fantastic addition to the National Air and Space Museum.

Keep reading – browse these rare and historic images of Space Shuttles Discovery and Endeavour photographed nose to nose for the first time ever at Kennedy Space Center.

Randolph AFB – the World’s Most Symmetrical Military Installation?

randolph air force base symmetry  Randolph AFB – the World’s Most Symmetrical Military Installation?(Image via Google Earth and TerraMetrics)

Part of Joint Base San Antonio, Randolph AFB in Texas is one of the most architecturally appealing and arguably the most symmetrical of all US military installations. Arising soon after the Air Corps Act of 1926, Randolph Air Force Base is bound by two large runways, with a central approach road leading to the Randolph Field Historic District – a National Historic Landmark.

randolph air force base  Randolph AFB – the World’s Most Symmetrical Military Installation?(Image: Shane.torgerson, cc-sa-3.0)

Military facilities are steeped in history, but it’s not often that a serving base is also considered a historic landmark.  In the case of Randolph AFB, the district includes 350 contributing buildings and 47 non-contributing buildings in a 405 acre area.  The majority of the structures – including a historic control tower – date from 1929 to 1932.