February 25, 1969: Edwards T-29 Aids Locals in Distress After Mudslide

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

Heavy winter rains caused floods and landslides that blocked roads into the Antelope Valley and left the Red Cross unable to deliver blood shipments to hospitals in the area. An Air Force Flight Test Center T‑29 picked up the blood at the Hollywood-Burbank Airport, which was then delivered to the 6510th United States Air Force hospital and to other medical facilities in the valley.  Edwards Air Force Base Civil Engineering personnel utilized two bulldozers and a mobile radio vehicle and cleared the landslide-blocked mountain roads in the Wrightwood area of San Bernardino County.  An Edwards UH-1 helicopter and rescue crew located a Navy A-1E Skyraider that made a forced landing in the snow at the 12,500 foot level of Mt. Whitney.  MSgt Guy Roberts jumped from the helicopter, provided assistance to a crewman who was too severely injured to be airlifted out, and remained on the scene until additional help arrived the following day.

The low-wing monoplane design started with a Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone radial engine which was later upgraded several times. Its distinctive feature was large straight wings with seven hard points apiece. The Skyraider possessed excellent low-speed maneuverability and carried a large amount of ordnance over a considerable combat radius. Further, it had a long loiter time for its size, compared to much heavier subsonic or supersonic jets. The aircraft was optimized for the ground-attack mission and was armored against ground fire in key locations, unlike faster fighters adapted to carry bombs, such as the Vought F4U Corsair or North American P-51 Mustang, which were retired by U.S. forces before the 1960s.  Shortly after Heinemann began designing the XBT2D-1, a study was issued that showed for every 100 pounds of weight reduction, the takeoff run was decreased by 8 feet, the combat radius increased by 22 miles and the rate-of-climb increased by 18 fee per minute. Heinemann immediately had his design engineers begin a program for finding weight-saving on the XBT2D-1 design, no matter how small. Simplifying the fuel system resulted in a reduction of 270 pounds; 200 pounds by eliminating an internal bomb bay and hanging external stores from the wings or fuselage; 70 pounds by using a fuselage dive brake; and 100 pounds by using an older tailwheel design. In the end, Heinemann and his design engineers achieved more than 1,800 pounds of weight reduction on the original XBT2D-1 design.  The Navy AD series was initially painted in ANA 623 Glossy Sea Blue, but during the 1950s following the Korean War, the color scheme was changed to light gull grey and white. Initially using the gray and white Navy scheme, by 1967 the USAF began to paint its Skyraiders in a camouflaged pattern using two shades of green, and one of tan.  Used by the US Navy over Korea and Vietnam, the A-1 was a primary close air support aircraft for the USAF and RVNAF during the Vietnam War. The A-1 was famous for being able to take hits and keep flying thanks to armor plating around the cockpit area for pilot protection. It was replaced beginning in the mid-1960s by the Grumman A-6 Intruder as the Navy's primary medium-attack plane in supercarrier-based air wings; however Skyraiders continued to operate from the smaller Essex-class aircraft carriers.

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