Aviation History

Some of the Coolest Aircraft Ever Built were Featured at the Only Public Air Show in XB-70 Valkyrie History

Taken at Carswell AFB, Texas, in 1966 the cool photo in this post was taken during Combination Open House which had the honor of being the only public airshow in XB-70 Valkyrie history.

The futuristic XB-70A was originally conceived in the 1950s as a high-altitude, nuclear strike bomber that could fly at Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound) — any potential enemy would have been unable to defend against such a bomber.

By the early 1960s, however, new Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) threatened the survivability of high-speed, high-altitude bombers. Less costly, nuclear-armed ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) were also entering service. As a result, in 1961, the expensive B-70 bomber program was canceled before any Valkyries had been completed or flown.

Even so, the USAF bought two XB-70As to test aerodynamics, propulsion and other characteristics of large supersonic aircraft. The first XB-70A, on display here, flew in September 1964, and it achieved Mach 3 flight in October 1965. The second Valkyrie first flew in July 1965, but in June 1966, it was destroyed following an accidental mid-air collision. The third Valkyrie was not completed.

The first XB-70A airplane continued to fly and generate valuable test data in the research program until it was delivered to the US Air Force Museum in 1969.

Taken at Carswell Air Force Base (AFB), Texas in 1966 the cool photo in this post was taken during Combination Open House which had the honor of being the only public airshow in XB-70 Valkyrie history.

Although the iconic XB-70 was on display at several events at Edwards AFB, actually the Mach 3 bomber was not available to general public at Edwards but just the military according to XB-70 documents in the National Archive.

As this amazing picture shows, some of the coolest aircraft ever built took part in the airshow which was held on Mar. 24-26, 1966 in conjunction with the Air Force Association (AFA) 20th anniversary convention. However, aircraft ID captions need some work- Flight line above the hangar – Aircraft (no tag) between the F-4 and F-102 is an F-106 – Third aircraft from right is an F-106, not an F-102 Lower left – that is a YF–12A, not an SR–71 — on the lower right the aircraft is a B-26K, not an A-37 — the X-15 is a full-scale mockup — The non-captioned rocket is a Thor Able.

The North American XB-70 Valkyrie air vehicle 2 (AV/2) was the star performer at US Air Force (USAF) biggest airshow in years, making not only its first public appearance, but also its first landing away from home base of Edwards AFB, Calif. The 275-ton giant flew from Edwards to Carswell AFB, in fifty-five minutes, piloted by North American’s Al White and USAF Lt. Col. Fitzhugh Fulton. More than 350,00 people saw the 275-ton giant during three-day static display. Carswell AFB was to be the only airfield that AV/2 would fly to and return before being destroyed following an accidental mid-air collision on Jun. 8, 1966. With North American’s Al White and USAF Lt. Col. Fitzhugh Fulton at the controls, the Valkyrie spent only 13 minutes at Mach 2.6 before slowing up, winding up at 6,000 feet over Carswell AFB just 59 minutes after takeoff! For the next half hour, AV/2 thundered around the skies of Texas before landing. The return flight two days later was the only flight during the entire program where performance data was not recorded, as Cotton (in the pilot’s seat) and White flew back at subsonic speeds, taking a little over three hours to return to Edwards.

Here’s the same photo without aircraft labels.

Photo credit: 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.

View Comments

  • Great photo! I had no idea how enormous the Valkyrie was. It makes the B-52 look small. And good catch on the B-26. In this photo, it really does look like an A-37. The wing-mounted engines are easy to miss.

  • I guess I was lucky when our scout troop got to see the XB70 at Edwards AFB in the 60’s…I remember we climbed up to the cockpit to check it out.

  • This isn't quite correct...my very first airshow at Edwards AFB (attended many many following) included BOTH XB-70s-one on display (although not total access) and one flying (of which I have slides of both). I think it was 1965-I was 15...I was in airplane heaven!!! Also on display was the YF-12...which I actually think is what is in thiis photo (it doesn't seem like the leading edge extends all the way to the nose-which also seems rounded like the YF-12...wish the image was sharper...sign of the times...) I'm so envious there was a B-58 on display-one of my favorites also. I have a picture of a famous (at least in my mind) B-58 test vehicle; Snoopy 2 which has a nose from the testing of YF-12 radar apparatus. This same day I also got images of SR-71s (3 of them!) one of which had the nose cone off with the radar visible. All of the images taken outside fences having "no photography allowed" signs. This was when you could drive around Edwards almost unrestricted...OH WHAT A TIME!!!! I have SO MANY MORE stories... Saw XB-70 takeoff from near main Edwards runway (maybe 1000 ft away) and then watched it come in and land over our heads watching from the side of a highway that ran perpendicular to the main runway. Also saw the SR-71 takeoff about 3am from Palmdale facility (Locheed and North American both had hangers, etc.) and I had a view straight down the runway as she did her takeoff...OH MY GOD WHAT A VIEW THAT WAS!!! The SR took off that early because she was going to do some testing before going thru "the gate" to start it's last speed run. Oh what times they were. Would love to tell more...

    • If you have interesting stories please share them with us! We could write some articles about them ;-)

  • Just sent a LONG comment, and I just wanted to add...how nice these people also got to see the RB-57 along with all the other great! diplayed aircraft. Would have loved being an attendee...however I have plenty of my own wonderful airshow times. I was happy to be living near Van Nuys airport in the San Fernando valley, Calif. and lived under the pattern for Van Nuys, and got to watch U'2s fly overheard before they turned on base leg... This wasn't as nice though, as going to the airport- standing by the railroad tracks, and watching the U-2 come at me and go overhead right before landing. The tracks were right outside the start of the main runway-of which Locheed had a facility where they did (among other things) rehab work on the U-2s.

  • In 1966- I was 9 yrs old, my father was stationed at Edward's AFB. Dad was the flight tech, and chief inspector of the B-70 project. My brother Bob Gaston, dated Ginger Fulton, who was Col. Fultons daughter. Col. Fulton, and my dad took me into the hangar and I saw the B-70 before the general public. I was on the flight line during one of her test flights. I have many countless memories of the aircraft and the people who flew them. I'm now 65, and still get teary eyed at Airshow. Wouldn't change a thing.

  • By the way- Col. Fulton was the chief test pilot for the B-70 when we were there.

  • Thank you for correcting the aircraft labels. I was about to comment but was gratified to see that you beat me to it!

  • I attended many airshows as a kid and was a part of others during my Air Force career, but that had to be probably the coolest airshow ever with that many different types of aircraft. I wonder if that is a record for different types of aircraft at one airshow?

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