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Jets and Rocket Flight Timeline

1959 Flight Timeline

The Fairey Rotodyne used a power-driven rotor for vertical flight, propellers for forward propulsion, and an auto-rotating rotor for cruising flight.
The Fairey Rotodyne used a power-driven rotor for vertical flight, propellers for forward propulsion, and an auto-rotating rotor for cruising flight.
Peter M. Bowers Collection

January 5, 1959 The Fairey Rotodyne sets a closed-course record (100 kilometers) for convertiplanes.

January 25, 1959 American Airlines starts 707 transcontinental service.


February 12, 1959 The last Convair B-36 is withdrawn from service.

March 10, 1959 The first captive flight of an X-15 is made with Scott Crossfield in the cockpit.

April 2, 1959 Seven astronauts are selected for Project Mercury: L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.; Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom; Donald K. "Deke" Slayton; Scott Carpenter; Alan B. Shepard, Jr.; Walter M. Schirra, Jr.; and John H. Glenn, Jr.

April 23, 1959 The Hound Dog missile makes its first flight with B-52s.

May 27, 1959 The Bomarc undergoes its first test flight.

May 28, 1959 Two monkeys, Able and Baker, are launched in the Jupiter nose cone; both will be recovered safely.

June 4, 1959 Max Conrad sets a lightplane distance record of 7,683 miles in a Piper Comanche.

June 8, 1959 Scott Crossfield makes the first glide flight in a North American X-15.

June 16, 1959 Soviet MiGs attack a Martin P4M Mercator, shooting out both starboard engines and wounding two crew members.

June 17, 1959 The Dassault Mirage IV-A bomber makes its first flight.

July 14, 1959 The Sukhoi T-431 sets a world altitude record of 94,659 feet.

July 30, 1959 The prototype of the Northrop F-5, the N-156, makes its first flight and goes supersonic.

September 12, 1959 The Soviets launch the Lunik 2, the first artificial object to make impact on the moon.

September 18, 1959 The Douglas DC-8 begins commercial service.

October 4, 1959 Soviets send Lunik 3 to photograph the far side of the moon.

October 10, 1959 The Clipper Windward, Pan Am 707-321, makes the first round-the-world passenger flight for jet airliners.

October 31, 1959 Another world record for the Soviets: Mikoyan Type Ye-66 flies at 1,665 miles per hour.

November 9, 1959 Contracts for Dyna-Soar are placed with Boeing and Martin; Dyna-Soar would have put the USAF in space years before the Space Shuttle.

November 16, 1959 Joe Kittinger parachutes from a balloon at 76,400 feet; he free falls 64,000 feet.

November 24, 1959 The Hiller Tilt-Wing X-18 makes its first flight.

December 6, 1959 A McDonnell F-4 Phantom, piloted by Commander L. E. Flint, sets an altitude record of 98,556 feet.

December 11, 1959 Brigadier General J. H. Moore, flying a Republic F-105B, sets a 100-kilometer closed-course speed record of 1,216.48 miles per hour.

December 14, 1959 Captain J. B. Jordan, in a Lockheed F-104C, sets an altitude record of 103,389 feet.

December 15, 1959 Major Joseph W. Rogers, in a Convair F-106A Delta Dart, sets a straightaway course record of 1,525.9 miles per hour.