Aviation History

HERE’S AN INTERESTING PHOTO OF THE FIRST CAPTIVE-CARRY FLIGHT OF THE X-15 HYPERSONIC ROCKET-POWERED AIRCRAFT

The X-15’s official world record for the highest speed has remained unchallenged as of March 2017

Taken on Mar. 10, 1959 at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) the interesting photo in this article features the first of four captive-carry flights of the X-15 mated to its Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress “mother ship” (s/n 52-003A).

North American Aviation test pilot A. Scott Crossfield was in the cockpit of the X-15.

The North American X-15 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft. The X-15 set speed and altitude records in the 1960s, reaching the edge of outer space and returning with valuable data used in aircraft and spacecraft design.

The X-15’s official world record for the highest speed ever recorded by a manned, powered aircraft, set in October 1967 when William J. “Pete” Knight flew Mach 6.72 at 102,100 feet (31,120 m), a speed of 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h), has remained unchallenged as of March 2017.

During the X-15 program, 13 flights by eight pilots met the Air Force spaceflight criterion by exceeding the altitude of 50 miles (80 km), thus qualifying these pilots as being astronauts. The Air Force pilots qualified for astronaut wings immediately, while the civilian pilots were eventually awarded NASA astronaut wings in 2005, 35 years after the last X-15 flight.

Of the 199 X-15 missions, two flights (both by Joseph A. Walker) qualified as true space flights per the international (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) definition of a spaceflight by exceeding 100 kilometers (62.1 mi) in altitude.

Photo credit: Edwards History Office file photo / U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Recent Posts

Oregon Air National Guard 142nd Wing unveils first two operational USAF F-15EX Eagle II fighter jets

Oregon Air National Guard 142nd Wing first two F-15EX Eagle IIs On Jul. 12, 2024… Read More

8 mins ago

F-104 Starfighter Pilot recalls when he and his Wingman scored five Simulated Kills against an F-15B Eagle in a Single Training Mission

The F-104 Starfighter Designed by Lockheed’s ace engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson to surpass the MiG-15… Read More

14 mins ago

USAF A-10 pilot recalls his job as “Snacko” (Snack Officer) when he got to his first operational squadron

The Snacko In US Air Force (USAF) flying squadrons are busy places. According to BogiDope.com,… Read More

22 hours ago

From damaged neck discs to being momentarily incapacitated during a dogfight: US Navy fighter pilot tells how high Gs over many years damaged his body

G-LOC G-induced Loss Of Consciousness (abbreviated as G-LOC) is a term generally used in aerospace physiology to… Read More

22 hours ago

The story of the Iraqi MiG-23 that crashed while trying to escape from two AIM-54 Phoenix missiles fired by US Navy F-14 Tomcats

The F-14 Tomcat Following Grumman's tradition of naming its aircraft after cats, the new F-14… Read More

2 days ago

Did you know the Tu-95V that released the Tsar Bomba it dropped 621 ft when it was hit by the shock wave of the bomb?

The Tu-95V: a special Bear to drop the Tsar Bomba The Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber… Read More

2 days ago