The Douglas F5D-1, a single-place high-performance fighter interceptor developed from the F4D-I, is a tailless configuration with a modified delta wing. The Douglas F5D-1 Skylancer was built by the Navy as an all-weather fighter interceptor that never made the jump to production. Four test aircraft were developed with the same basic airframe as the Douglas F4D Skyray. With increasing modifications the four aircraft were re-designated F5D-1s before their first flights. An improved version of the F4D Skyray, the "Super-Skyray," never went into production.
The F5D-1 is not the F-6A, a designation applied to the F4D (F-6A) Skyray. The F5D-1 Skylancer is not the Skyshark, a designation applied to the Douglas A2D-1.
On 21 April 1956, the F5D-1 Skylancer also made its first flight. This new fighter was essentially a redesign of the F4D ("Ford") Skyray, an outstanding Navy day fighter. Intended as a missile-armed all-weather interceptor, the F5D-1 underwent its Phase I testing at the Flight Test Center. During its first flight in 1956, it exceeded sound speed easily. The F5D-1 was judged an outstanding interceptor but lost production contract to the Vought F8U-1 Crusader.
The four prototype Skylancers were delivered to NASA, where they contributed to the development of a variety of products, including the Gemini escape system and the space shuttle. Two prototype F5D-1s were obtained by NASA Flight Research Center in 1961. The F5D-1 Skylancer (Bu. No. 142350) had a red and white paint pattern with a NASA identification number of 213 which later became NASA 708.
Support for the warfighters sometimes can lead to completely new and unexpected directions, and in this case the club-wing delta provided useful service for a number of years. Because its wing planform was similar to the Air Force's Dyna-Soar "spaceplane," the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) at Edwards used an F5D to establish approach glide slopes for dead stick landings and to develop abort procedures.
Future Astronaut Neil Armstrong was one of the NASA research pilots assigned to support duties for the Dyna-Soar program. In addition to working at the Boeing facility in Washington state, Armstrong also tested the Dyna-Soar launch abort profile using an F5D-1, which had a similar wing shape to the Dyna-Soar. The aircraft arrived at the Flight Research Center on June 15, 1961.
After the Dyna-Soar program was cancelled in December 1963, this F5D-1 continued to be used, serving as a flying simulator for the M2-F2 and as a chase plane for lifting-body flights (providing the lifting-body pilot with an extra set of eyes to assist in emergencies and avert potential crashes). Armstrong's F5D-1 left the Flight Research Center (later designated the Dryden Flight Research Center) on May 19, 1970, and was donated to the Neil A. Armstrong Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. An ogee wing version has leading edge extensions to achieve the desired planform and inlet ducts relocated approximately five feet forward.
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