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Relive The First Ever Flight of the F-15 and Hear from the Pilot Who Flew It

The first F-15 on final approach for landing at Edwards AFB, CA. Photo: USAF

On July 27, 1972, under the control of McDonnell Douglas chief test pilot Irving L. Burrows, the F-15 Eagle first took to the skies over Edwards AFB, CA.

Burrows took the Air Force’s new twin-engine dedicated air superiority fighter on a 50 minute cruise, which topped out at 12,000 feet and 250 knots, before returning to base. The flight was uneventful other than a minor issue with a landing gear door.

“It was just like the simulator,” said Burrows upon departing the aircraft, S/N 71-0280, the first YF-15A prototype (F-15A). It was painted in “Air Superiority Blue” with orange flight test markings, and had square wingtips and an unnotched stabilator.

“This aircraft performed well from the first minute,” said Burrows later. “We knew we had a winner from the start.”

Several more flights occurred in the week that followed. They included milestones such as achieving Mach 1.5 speed and reaching an altitude of 45,000 feet.

Above, watch Burrows give a presentation on the design, testing, and legacy of the F-15 at the Missouri Aviation Historical Society’s July 2012 meeting.

A total of 12 pre-production F-15s were made, serial numbers 71-0280–71-0291, and the twin-engine fighter jet was approved by the USAF for full-rate production just 6 months after its first flight test.

The single seat A model jet evolved quite a bit in the years that followed. The two-seat B model came not long after, followed by the F-15C, -D, and -E models. They additional models fulfilled the need for a dual-role fighter that can engage both ground and air targets.

McDonnell Douglas F-15A (S/N 71-0280, the first F-15A prototype). Note the square wingtips and unnotched stabilator. Photo: USAF

The jet has broken many records, shot down numerous adversaries, and even shot down a satellite in 1985 as the culmination of a six year development and test program for the anti-satellite (or ASAT) missile (another mission out of Edwards AFB too).

The historic 71-0280 which flew the first flight is on display at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

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Follow Mike Killian on Instagram and Facebook, @MikeKillianPhotography 

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Written by Mike Killian

Mike Killian

Killian is an aerospace photographer and writer, with a primary focus on spaceflight and military and civilian aviation. Over the years his assignments have brought him onboard NASA's space shuttles, in clean rooms with spacecraft destined for other worlds, front row for launches of historic missions and on numerous civilian and military flight assignments.

When not working the California-native enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, storm chasing, producing time-lapses and shooting landscape and night sky imagery, as well as watching planes of course.

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