Northrop P-61/F-15 Black Widow

Aero Enterprises Inc.

Home | Specifications | Prototypes | Development | Production | Operational History | Propulsion | Armament | Private/Museum | Crew | Known Airframes | FAA Registrations | Cockpits/Cabins | Pilots Notes | Nose Art | Tail codes | Multimedia | Drg's/Illust/Diag's | References/Credits | Credits | Disclaimer | Site Upgrades | Contact Me | NORTHROP F-15 REPORTER




The above shot was kindly sent in by Bob Crowe who wrote,
Hi just trawling around and came across your site. Ive had this photo for
many years and always fancied flying a Reporter.

Bob Crowe

Authorised Sales Representative for GECI Aviation
Reims F406 and SK105 Skylander

Bob Crowe Aircraft Sales Ltd
Cranfield Airport Bedford MK43 0JR
Tel: +44 (0)1234 750442
Fax: +44 (0)1234 751944
Mobile: +44 (0)7768 092 694
Celebrating over 50 years in the business
Thanks Bob



The above shots are from the Bill Larkins archive












The above shot is via Fire Bombers at Facebook

Serial #: 45-59300

Construction #: 3201
Civil Registration:


 P-61 Black Widow

EF-15C Reporter 
Name: None
Status: Unknown
Last info: First
production F-15A delivered to the Air Force on Sept. 4, 1946


History: Operated by NACA at Moffett Field from Feb. 6, 1948 until April 11, 1950, Longest serving F-15 with the USAF

1957 Compania Mexicana Aerofoto S. A. of Mexico

Flew with Aero Enterprises for the 64-65 seasons

Cal-Nat flew her again in 1966 and 67 until they sold the aircraft to TBM Inc. of Tulare CA for the 1968 season

The August 68 takeoff accident was in Hollister, CA. The airplane overran the runway on an abort.

There was a post crash fire, but the plane was rebuildable by todays standards. The plane lost both tail booms in the fire.

The only F-15A Reporter to make it on the civil register.

This aircraft was the first off of the production line to be accepted by the USAF and it was the last surviving example when it crashed.

In detail - the first production model Reporter to be built. The aircraft was completed on 15 May, 1946, and served with the Army Air Corps and later the U. S. Air Force until 6 February 1948, when it was reassigned to the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory at Moffett Field in California. There it was reconfigured to serve as a launch vehicle for air dropped scale models of experimental aircraft.

It served in this capacity until 1953, when it was replaced by a mammoth wind tunnel used for the same testing. In April 1955, the F-15 was declared surplus along with a "spare parts" F-61C (s/n 43-8357). The F-15 was sold, along with the parts P-61, to Steward-Davis Incorporated of Gardena, California, and given the civilian registration N5093V. Unable to sell it, the P-61C was scrapped in 1957. Steward-Davis made several modifications to the Reporter to make it suitable for aerial survey work, including switching to a canopy taken from a T-33, and to propellers taken from an older P-61. The aircraft was sold in September, 1956 to Compania Mexicana Aerofoto S. A. of Mexico City and assigned the Mexican registration XB-FUJ. In Mexico, the Reporter was used for aerial survey work, the very role for which it was originally designed. It was bought by Aero Enterprises Inc. of Willets, California and returned to the USA in January 1964 carrying the civilian registration number N9768Z. The fuselage tank and turbosupercharger intercoolers were removed; and the aircraft was fitted with a 1,600 gal (6,056 l) chemical tank for fire-fighting. It was purchased by Cal-Nat of Fresno, California at the end of 1964, which operated it as a firefighting aircraft for the next 3 years. In March 1968, the F-15 was purchased by TBM, Inc. an aerial firefighting company located in Tulare, California (the name of the company standing for the TBM Avenger, the company's primary equipment), who performed additional modifications on the aircraft to improve its performance, including experimenting with several types of propellers before deciding on Curtiss Electric type 34 propellers taken from a late model Lockheed Constellation. On 6 September 1968, Ralph Ponte, one of three civilian pilots to hold a rating for the F-15, was flying a series of routine Phoscheck drops on a fire raging near Hollister, California. In an effort to reduce his return time, Ponte opted to reload at a small airfield nearer the fire. The runway was shorter than the one in Fresno, and despite reducing his load, hot air from the nearby fire reduced the surrounding air pressure and rendered the aircraft overweight. Even at full power the Reporter had not rotated after clearing the 3,500 ft (1,067 m) marker, and Ponte quickly decided to abort his takeoff. Every effort was made to control the hurtling craft, but the Reporter careened off the runway and through a vegetable patch, before striking an embankment which tore off the landing gear. The aircraft then slid sideways, broke up and caught fire.

Ponte scrambled through the shattered canopy unhurt, while a firefighting Avenger dropped its load of Phoscheck on the aircraft's two engines, possibly saving Ponte's life. The F-15, though intact, was deemed too badly damaged to rebuild, and was soon scrapped.

Note: 45-59300 was used by NACA at Moffett Field in California to carry recoverable aerodynamic test bodies to high altitude, then drop them. This program was used to test some early swept-wing designs. This program was later joined by F-61C serial number 43-8330 which was borrowed from the Smithsonian Institution. These drops were carried out over Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert in California. F-61B-15-NO serial number 42-39754 was used by NACA's Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio for tests of airfoil-type ramjets. F-61C 43-8357 was used at Ames as a source for spare parts for other F/RF-61 aircraft. After the tests were completed, the F-61C 43-8330 was returned to the Smithsonian Institution.


45-59300 Testing Ram Jets in 1947