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15th of October 1985

It was on this day in aviation history the Fairchild T-46 made its first flight.


In 1981 the United States Air Force started the replacement program for a next-generation training aircraft, a replacement for the Cessna T-37. Known as the NGT competition, the Next Generation Trainer Competition. Fairchild submitted its T-46 concept. A dual-engine trainer with a side by side pressurised cockpit. Pressurising the aircraft would allow for training flights to be conducted above the ever increasing flow of general aviation at the lower altitudes.

To proof the concept and the design of the aircarftFairchild had a 62% scale version built by Ames Industries. The Rutan Aircraft Factory was contracted to perform the test flights, test pilot for these flights Burt Rutan. The scaled version was known as the Model 73 NGT, The Model 73 NGT 60% scale demonstrator which flew on the 10th of September

1981. It would fly for about 20 hours to prove the concept. One of the requirements for the Model 73 NGT to proof was the spin recovery which was successfully proven.


On the second of July 1982 the US Air Force announced that the Fairchild T-46 had "won" the competition.. This led to an order for 2 prototypes and options for 54 production aircraft. The US Air Force planned to have 650 T-46s on its strength in 1991. The first full scale proto type finally flew, 6 months later then planned, on this day in aviation history in 1985. The price for a T46 had allready increased from $1.500.000 to $3.000.000 by the beginning of 1985. This caused problems in Washington and let to the cancellation of the options the US Air Force had, however limited development was allowed to continue.


After more political interference sadly the program got cancelled in 1988, although the exact reason remain shrouded in mystery. With the T-46 program collapsing this also meant the end for the Fairchild factory in Farmingdale New York, 3500 people lost their jobs when the factory closed.

Two T-46's in formation over Edwards Air Force Base, California

What remains of the program are the four aircraft built;

  1. The 60% scale Model 73 NGT Demonstrator at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, New York

  2. 84-0492 at the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

  3. 84-0493 under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton Ohio.

  4. 85-1596 on display at the Pima Air Museum, Arizona

Some specifications for the T-46 (performance figures are estimates); General characteristics

  • Crew: 2

  • Length: 29 ft 6 in (8.99 m)

  • Wingspan: 38 ft 7+3⁄4 in (11.779 m)

  • Height: 9 ft 11+3⁄4 in (3.042 m)

  • Wing area: 160.9 sq ft (14.95 m2)

  • Aspect ratio: 9.28:1

  • Empty weight: 5,725 lb (2,597 kg)

  • Max takeoff weight: 6,962 lb (3,158 kg)

  • Fuel capacity: 200 US gal (170 imp gal; 760 L)

  • Powerplant: 2 × Garrett F109-GA-100 turbofans, 1,330 lbf (5.9 kN) thrust each

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 397 kn (457 mph, 735 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,600 m)

  • Cruise speed: 333 kn (383 mph, 617 km/h) at 45,000 ft (14,000 m)

  • Range: 1,190 nmi (1,370 mi, 2,200 km)

  • Service ceiling: 46,500 ft (14,200 m)

  • Take-off distance to 50 ft (15 m): 1,520 ft (460 m)

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