NASA currently operates a pair of WB-57F high-altitude research aircraft based out of Ellington Field in Texas, but very soon a third airframe will join the fleet. Paul Filmer reports on NASA 927’s first flight.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

N927NA, more commonly referred to as NASA 927, started life as a B-57B with the 13th Bomber Squadron and with a serial of 53-3918.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

The B-57 is a licence-built English Electric Canberra, manufactured and modified extensively by the Glenn L. Martin Company, or simply Martin.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

In 1964 this airframe was one of 21 that were rebuilt as RB-57Fs by General Dynamics, and was re-serialled as 63-13295.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

The RB- 57F had almost double the wingspan of the original B-57B at 122 feet, and the Wright J65 turbojets were replaced with Pratt & Whitney TF33 turbofans, which were double the thrust of the original engines.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

63-13295 was retired to the then MASDC (Military Aircraft Storage and Disposal Center) on 26 June 1972.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

She was displayed on Celebrity Row at the facility, now called AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group), for a number of years, and was pulled from storage and dismantled in May 2011.

© Glenn Beasley - globalaviationresource.com

© Glenn Beasley – globalaviationresource.com

She was trucked to Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) at Centennial Airport, Colorado, in order to be stripped and rebuilt back to flying condition.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

Following her restoration, the aircraft is now known as a WB-57F, which is simply a re-designation paper exercise when these aircraft are transferred to NASA.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

N927NA came out of major rebuild on 30 July 2013 to perform engine and system runs for the first time.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

On 8 August 2013 taxi runs were performed at Centennial and deemed to be a success, with departure slated for the following day.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

Interestingly, because of the lengthy wings and the way they droop, the airport took the step of replacing all the runway side-lights with examples that were half the height, to allow the aircraft to depart safely.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

On 9 August 2013 NASA 927 took to the runway for its first flight in 41 years.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

The aircraft was airborne very quickly and performed a left-hand pattern in order to do a flyby of the runway for all the SNC, NASA and US Air Force personnel who were on hand to see her off.

© Paul Filmer - globalaviationresource.com

© Paul Filmer – globalaviationresource.com

There’ll be further test flights from Colorado Springs before the aircraft is handed over to NASA to join the other two WB-57Fs in the fleet at Ellington Field in Texas.

Like this feature? Check these out too...

Pin It on Pinterest

Google+