The F-15 Eagle turns 50

Congratulations to all of you who flew and worked on the F-15 Eagle and to the Might Mighty’s 50th anniversary.

50 years ago today, 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.

(McDonnell Douglas photo)

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.”

Irving L. Burrows (McDonnell Douglas photo)

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.


Prototype F-15 71-0284

Celebrating 50 years of the Mighty Mighty this month. Today a closer look on the fifth prototype built. F-15A 71-0284. 0284 made its first flight on 7 March 1973, and was used as the trials aircraft for armament development. It was the first Eagle with the internal M61 cannon fitted. It was also used for external fuel tank jettison testing. Used by the combined McDonnell Douglas/USAF F-15 Joint Test Force at Edwards between 1973 and nov75 (noted with code ‘5’ on latter date). Early in 1974 the Air Force initiated Operation ‘Streak Eagle’, the time to climb record. One aircraft would have had to be modified, and the choice was between 71-0284 and 72-0119. The latter was chosen and 71-0284 continued its testing career.

71-0284 was retired and re designated a GF-15A; it became an instructional aircraft at the Sheppard TTC by April 1977. Remained in use until October 1991 at least; and although it arrived in its former test colors, it later was repainted in grey camo and carried an ‘HO’ code on one side of the aircraft and ‘FF’ on the other. Last noted as instructional aircraft in October 1990, it was noted with the name ‘City of Iowa Park’ during much of this instructional period. 71-0284 was noted on the dump at Sheppard in July 1992, but ended up as an instructional airframe at Goodfellow AFB (TX). First noted there in April 1995, last in May 2008, the aircraft carried the ‘GD’ tail code during this entire period.


The 1st F-15 Eagle (71-0281)

As we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first flight this month, and the start of the Eagle test program. I would like to highlight some of the prototypes who laid the foundation of 50 years air supremacy. Today 71-0280, this was the first prototype of the F-15 Eagle. It was rolled out at McDonnell Douglas’s factory in St Louis during a ceremony on June 26 1972. Following the aircraft’s roll-out, it was dismantled, loaded aboard a C-5 and fl own to Edwards AFB on July 11th 1972.

On July 27th 1972 Irv Burrows made the first test flight of the F-15. The flight lasted for 50-minutes

71-0280 would become the trials aircraft for flight envelope exploration, general handling and external stores carriage tests. Although it had been rolled out in a grey color scheme, for the first flight the aircraft had received day-glo tail and wing markings. Within a week, the aircraft had reached Mach 1.5 and 45,000 ft! It was used by the combined McDonnell Douglas/USAF F-15 Joint Test Force at Edwards AFB between July 1972 and November 1975,

Following its testing career, 71-0280 was retired and used by the Air Force Orientation Group at Gentile AFS (OH) between 1979 and June 1991. It was later preserved at the History and Traditions Museum. 71-280 was repainted and remarked as ’85-114/EG’ ( Cesar “Rico” Rodriguez’s MiG Killer from Desert Storm) were it is still on display.


F-15 71-0281

Celebrating 50 years of the Mighty Mighty this month. Today a closer look to the second prototype built. McDonnell Douglas F-15A-1-MC –. Better know as 71-0281, made its first flight onSeptember 26th 1972 and was the F100 engine test aircraft. Like the other prototypes, 71-0281 was used by the F-15 Joint Test Force at Edwards AFB, The aircraft was officially transferred to NASA on 17 December 1975. It retained its USAF tail number throughout its time with NASA. Not much glory for this Eagle but a silent work horse within the Eagle flight test program providing valuable flight data.

71-0281 was also used to test thermal protection tiles for the Space Shuttle. 0281 was returned to the USAF in 1983 shortly after which she was retired and put on display at Langley AFB unit present day.

Have a look at the other Eagle histories at


F-15A 71-0282

Celebrating 50 years of the Mighty Mighty this month. Today a closer look on the third prototype built. McDonnell Douglas F-15A 71-0282 made its first flight on 4 November 1972 and was the test aircraft for the Eagle’s APG-63 radar and avionics. 0282 was also used for air speed trials. Used by the combined McDD/USAF F-15 Joint Test Force at Edwards AFB between July 1973 and November 1977 (coded ‘3’ in July 1973). 71-0282 was also used by the AFFSL (Air Force Flight Systems Laboratory) for a short time between August and December 1977. The AFFSL adorned the aircraft with a sharkmouth

on 16 December 1977. The aircraft departed storage again on 14 August 1979 and was transferred to the 2955th CLSS at Robins AFB. It was noted in a WFU condition (possibly used for some kind of instructional purpose) at Robins AFB (GA) in January 1986, and was reportedly preserved at Robins at a later date, but it has not been seen since 1986.

Have a look at the other Eagle histories at