1961 Flight Timeline
January 12, 1961 Major H. J. Deutschendorf establishes a world speed record of 808 miles per hour over a 2,000-kilometer closed course in a Convair B-58.
January 14, 1961 Major H. E. Confer sets a 1,000-kilometer closed course speed record of 1,284.73 miles per hour in a Convair B-58.
February 25, 1961 A Schwiezer I-23-E sailplane, piloted by Paul F. Bickle, sets an altitude record of 46,267 feet.
March 8, 1961 Max Conrad sets a lightplane round-the-world record: 8 days, 18 hours, and 35 minutes.
March 17, 1961 The first supersonic pilot trainer, the Northrop T-38, is delivered to Randolph Air Force Base.
March 30, 1961 Joe Walker sets an altitude record of 169,600 feet in a North American X-15.
April 10, 1961 A Navy Lockheed C-130BL makes a winter flight to and from Antarctica to bring out a stricken Soviet scientist.
April 12, 1961 Soviet Yuri Gagarin becomes the first person in space and completes one orbit of the Earth in 108 minutes.
April 21, 1961 The North American X-15, piloted by Major Robert White, reaches 3,074 miles per hour and 105,100 feet altitude in its first flight at full throttle.
April 28, 1961 The Soviet Union reclaims the altitude record with a 118,898-foot flight by a Mikoyan Ye-66A.
May 4, 1961 A world balloon record of 113,739.9 feet is set in a two-place open gondola balloon by Commander Malcolm Ross and Lieutenant Commander V. A. Prather. Unfortunately, Prather was killed when he fell from the sling of a recovery helicopter.
May 5, 1961 Alan B. Shepard, Jr., makes the first U.S. suborbital flight in the Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft.
May 10, 1961 Major Elmer E. Murphy flies a Convair B-58 to 1,302 miles per hour over a closed course of 669.4 miles, earning the United States permanent possession of the Blériot trophy.
May 17, 1961 The Avro "flying saucer," a circular aircraft, has its first test flight.
May 17, 1961 The Sikorsky HSS-2 helicopter sets a world-class speed record of 192.9 miles per hour at Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
May 24, 1961 Lieutenant R. F. Gordon and Lieutenant B. R. Young fly a Phantom F-4H fighter at 870 miles per hour for 2,421.1 miles to win the Bendix Trophy.
May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy commits the United States to placing a person on the moon before 1970.
May 26, 1961 A Convair B-58, flown by Lieutenant Colonel William Payne, sets a New York-to-Paris record of 3 hours, 19 minutes, at 1,089.36 miles per hour. (Payne is subsequently killed in an accident in a B-58 in Paris.)
June 9, 1961 The first Boeing C-135 is delivered.
July 10, 1961 The Republic F-105D flies 1,520 miles nonstop on instruments at 500 feet altitude to test radar navigation.
July 21, 1961 Virgil "Gus" Grissom makes a suborbital flight in the Mercury Liberty Bell 7.
August 6-7, 1961 Soviet Major Gherman S. Titov completes 17 Earth orbits in the Vostok 2.
August 10, 1961 The Republic F-105 lifts a seven-ton armament load, the heaviest load ever lifted by a single-engine aircraft.
August 17, 1961 A Bomarc-B SAM destroys a drone B-47 at 50 miles distance, 5,000 feet altitude.
August 21, 1961 Douglas test pilots take a DC-8 supersonic in a dive.
August 24, 1961 Jacqueline Cochran sets a women's speed record in a Northrop T-38 Talon.
August 28, 1961 Lieutenant Hunt Hardisty (pilot) and Lieutenant Earl H. DeEsch (RIO) set a low-altitude speed record of 902.769 miles per hour in a McDonnell Phantom II.
October 7, 1961 The Soviet Union's Kamov Ka-22 helicopter sets a 221.4 miles per hour speed record for its class.
October 18, 1961 A Kaman H-43B Huskie helicopter sets an altitude record of 32,840 feet for its class.
November 1, 1961 A Sikorsky HSS-2 helicopter sets new speed records for 100, 500, and 1,000 kilometers at 182.8, 179.5, and 175.3 miles per hour, respectively.
November 9, 1961 Robert White takes a North American X-15 to 101,600 feet and 4,093 miles per hour.
November 19-20, 1961 Constance Wolf sets 15 world records for women balloonists with a 40-hour, 13-minute flight, reaching 13,000 feet in altitude.
November 22, 1961 The McDonnell F4H Phantom II, flown by Lieutenant Colonel Robert B. Robinson, USMC, sets a world speed record of 1,605.51 miles per hour.