Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

This Day In Aviation History: YF-105A Thunderchief First Flight October 22, 1955

By Carmelo Turdo
Today marks the 59th anniversary of the first flight of the Republic YF-105A (s/n 54-098) on October 22, 1955 at Edwards AFB by company test pilot Russell M. Roth.  The aircraft could fly at supersonic speeds, and would later reach Mach 2 with the upgraded J75-P5 engine and aerodynamic refinements made in the F-105B and later models.  This prototype would be damaged beyond repair on December 16, 1955 after an emergency landing in which Roth was severely injured.  The F-105B entered USAF service in 1958.

The aircraft carried an M61 20mm cannon, and could accommodate an 8,000lb. bomb load in its internal bay (this would later be fitted with a fuel tank and the ordinance carried externally).  The original specification was for a nuclear strike aircraft for NATO operations, but the aircraft was transformed into a tactical conventional strike aircraft for its role in the upcoming combat action in Southeast Asia.  In the hands of U.S. Air Force crews, it carried the war to North Vietnam, "Going Downtown" to Hanoi on numerous occasions.  The aircraft was also a formidable fighter, claiming 27.5 air-to-air victories.  Nearly half of F-105s produced in all models were lost in combat.  They were retired from all service by 1984.

Many volumes have been written chronicling the development and combat operations of the F-105 series, but two stand out as riveting, first-hand accounts of F-105 missions over Vietnam - Thud Ridge and Going Downtown - both by Jack Broughton.  Both are highly recommended.

Below is a sample of intriguing black and white prints, provided courtesy of the Gerald Balzer Collection of the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, featuring the F-105 in development, in combat and during a brief assignment to the USAF Thunderbirds April-May, 1964.  The Thunderbirds transitioned back to the F-100 following a fatal accident when F-105B Thunderbird No. 2 flown by Captain Gene Devlin broke apart during a low pass during a performance at Hamilton AFB, CA on May 9, 1964.  A memorial in Captain Devlin's honor was dedicated in November 2013.

Another look at the main combat production model F-105D Thunderchief comes from a memorial to armed service members currently at Fairview Park in Centralia, IL.  The placement of the F-105 was inspired by the service of Clinton County native Ltc. William Pachura, who flew 129 combat missions in Vietnam in the aircraft on display. 



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