Providing more details about yesterday’s milestone X-47B flight, Janis Pamiljans, Northrop Grumman vice president and UCAS-D program manager, Northrop Grumman, says the air vehicle 1 (AV1) took off at 2.09pm PST at a speed of 180 kt, and reached a maximum speed of 240 kt during its 29-minute flight over Edwards AFB. On landing, the aircraft touched down around 60-ft ahead of where it was expected to hit, but “right on the centerline”, he adds. The touchdown was the equivalent of catching the ‘number one wire’ in Navy parlance, and gives the flight test team a good starting point from where to fine tune flight control software says Pamiljans.
The aircraft was originally targeted to fly before the end of December, but was delayed while Northrop Grumman worked to correct an asymmetric braking issue uncovered during taxi tests. A last-minute maintenance issue with an auxiliary power generation system forced the aircraft to miss its narrow flight test window on Thursday, leading to the flight attempt being made on Friday instead.
The second aircraft, AV2, has meanwhile completed its design limit load tests up to 130% with “no test anomalies” says Pamiljans. The test indicates the airframe is able to withstand the 2.4g loads it may see during air-to-air refueling maneuvers. “This aircraft is clearly carrier-capable,” he adds. AV2 is being prepared for the start of fuel testing before being transferred to Edwards around March. First flight is expected in August.
Thanks to Graham Warwick here is a newly uploaded, high-definition X-47B first flight video.
Video Northrop Grumman
The first flight of the X-47B comes as the Navy embarks on celebrations of the first century of Naval aviation and, as commented on by UCAS-D program manager Capt. Jaime Engdahl, comes almost exactly 100 years after Eugene Ely made the initial carrier landing on 18 January 1911. More specifically, Ely became the first pilot to land on a stationary ship. He landed on a similar temporary structure on the aft of the USS Pennsylvania which was anchored in San Francicso Bay. To arrest the landing an improvised braking system of sandbags and ropes was set up which led directly to the arrestor hook and wires. Following the landing Ely was able to take off again.
Ely's first landing