Today in History – October 15, 1985 – First flight of the short-lived T-46.

15 October 1985 – The first flight of the Fairchild T-46. “The United States Air Force (USAF) launched its Next Generation Trainer (NGT) program to replace the Cessna T-37 Tweet primary trainer in 1981.

Fairchild-Republic submitted a shoulder-winged monoplane with a twin tail, powered by two Garrett F109 turbofans and with pilot and instructor sitting side by side. Part of the rationale was an expectation of increasing levels of general aviation traffic. A pressurized trainer would permit training at higher altitude, leading to fewer restrictions on the new pilots.

In order to validate the proposed aircraft’s design, and to explore its flight handling characteristics, Fairchild Republic contracted with Ames Industries of Bohemia, New York to build a flyable 62% scale version. Burt Rutan’s Rutan Aircraft Factory (RAF) in Mojave, California was contracted to perform the flight test evaluations, with test pilot Dick Rutan doing the flying. The scale version was known at RAF as the Model 73 NGT and flew on 10 September 1981. One requirement was for the aircraft to be able to go into a spin, but to also have easy recovery from the spin. This was demonstrated using the Model 73 NGT.

Fairchild’s design, to be designated T-46, was announced the winner of the NGT competition on 2 July 1982, with the USAF placing an order for two prototypes and options for 54 production aircraft.  It was planned to build 650 T-46s for the USAF by 1991.

The project was canceled a little more than a year later, in 1986, for reasons that largely remain controversial [though some sources cite the performance of the airplane]. The T-46 was the last project of the Fairchild Republic Corporation, and after the program terminated, Fairchild had no more income. Without any new contracts and the NGT program canceled, the company closed the Republic factory in Farmingdale, New York, bringing 60 years of Fairchild aircraft manufacturing to an end [at that facility].

Sources: Wikipedia (T-46), Wikipedia (Fairchild Aircraft)

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