X-2 Sightings

by Robert W. Kempel with Richard E. Day

About the Authors

Mr. Robert W. Kempel, Senior Aerospace Engineer

Mr. Kempel has over 40 years of experience as an aerospace engineer and as a technical team leader in the conduct of Experimental Aerospace Vehicle Flight Research with NASA and the USAF at Edwards AFB, California. He has written over 26 formal NASA and USAF technical publications, some with prominent test pilots and test pilot/astronauts as co-authors. In addition, Mr. Kempel has written several historical documents and articles, of national and international interest.

Bob KempelSome highlights of Mr. Kempel's career include the responsibility as the principal stability and control, flight controls, handling qualities, and flight simulation engineer on the experimental rocket powered HL-10 and M2-F3 lifting body vehicle flight research programs (1966 - 70s). (These vehicles were the precursors to the Space Shuttle, and future reusable launch vehicles.) He served as the remotely piloted vehicle systems manager/integrator on such programs as the Highly Maneuverable Advanced Technology (HiMAT) remotely piloted vehicle and the Boeing 720 Controlled Impact Demonstration program (remotely controlled crash). In these positions he was responsible for the development and flight qualification of all flight control systems, flight control laws, and remotely piloted systems. He was also responsible for the development of the flight control laws for the proposed NASA Oblique Wing Research Airplane.

Mr. Kempel is a native of Detroit, Michigan and received his Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Aeronautical Engineering from California State Polytechnic University (San Luis Obispo) in 1960 and has done advanced work at the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Mr. Kempel is a lifetime member of the Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE).

Mr. Richard E. Day, Senior Aerospace Engineering Consultant

Mr. Day has over 50 years of experience as an aeronautical research engineer. Mr. Day's engineering career began in 1951, when he joined the NACA High Speed Flight Station at Edwards AFB, California. Mr. Day's first assignment was as a member of the Bell X-1 test team. In 1953, he was assigned to the Bell X-2 program and was instrumental in developing the first piloted simulation used in support of a flight test program.

Mr. Day was able to specifically identify, analytically, the exact cause of the X-2's stability and controllability problem using the analog computer. As a result of this work, Mr. Day was assigned to the X-3 and F-100A programs as a consultant. Each of these airplanes experienced unexpected in-flight loss of control by exceeding a mysterious and unknown stability boundary.

A highlight of Mr. Day's career, at Edwards, was his role in the X-15 program. Dick was again deeply involved in simulation and was asked to interface with the program's test pilots as they trained for their challenging missions. Dick's background as a pilot and engineer was well suited for this task. He played a key role in making the X-15 one of the most successful experimental rocket programs at Edwards.

Mr. Day left Edwards in 1962, for NASA Houston to train Project Mercury astronauts. He devised and developed astronaut training programs, wrote astronaut tests, and served on the astronaut selection board. Mr. Day has contributed to almost every manned space program conducted by NASA. As a result of this work, Dick has many personal friends within the country's astronaut community.

Mr. Day is a native of Indiana and received his Bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from Indiana University in 1951. Before World War II, Mr. Day served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a flight instructor. After December 7, 1941, he served the United States as a B-17 pilot, completing 24 missions over Europe. Mr. Day returned home as a USAAF flight instructor. After the War Mr. Day returned home to Indiana and begin his college career. Mr. Day is the author of numerous technical papers and reports and is the recipient of many awards. Mr. Day has been sought by industry and government agencies as a consultant for his expert opinion.

Dick published his last NASA report, under contract, titled Energy Management of Manned Boost-Glide Vehicles: A Historical Perspective (TP-2004-212037) dated May 2004. On 4 July 2004, Dick passed from this life. Dick was a bonafied American hero, outstanding human being, gentleman of integrity, and good friend. Richard, we salute you!

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee, Jr.
421 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force
Pilot Officer Magee died December 11, 1941

Per Ardua Ad Astra

About the Author, Robert W. Kempel

I have over 40 years of experience as an aerospace engineer with both NASA Dryden and the USAF AFFTC at Edwards AFB. I was a technical team leader in the conduct of Experimental Flight Research related to Aerospace Vehicle Control Law Design, Analysis and Modification (analog and digital systems), Aircraft Stability and Control, Handling Qualities, and Simulation Modeling and Development. In some cases I was responsible for all aerodynamic data from wind-tunnel tests (including subsonic, transonic, and supersonic data) to the development of the mission/engineering simulations as well as all time and frequency domain prediction of all vehicle dynamic characteristics excluding structural modes. In addition, I was responsible for selecting the aerodynamic modification for one vehicle that enabled it to successfully complete its flight test program that included achieving Mach numbers approaching 2 and altitudes over 90,000 feet (27,432 meters).

I joined the hypersonic X-15 program flight research team at Edwards Air Force Base in the summer of 1960. My experience ranges from piloted hypersonic vehicles, such as the X-15 and the proposed X-24C, to vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) airplanes and include unmanned remotely piloted vehicles (AKA UAVs). I have extensive experience in real-time computer simulation, dynamic modeling, aerodynamic parameter identification (PID), and analysis of flight data. I have participated in over eighteen experimental research vehicle programs as a key member of the test team. Some of these programs were highly classified and some completely unclassified.

At least three of the airplanes I worked on are currently on display in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. I have written, as first author, 26 formal technical publications, some with prominent test pilots and test pilot/astronauts as co-authors. In addition, I have written historical documents and articles, of national and international interest, concerning the development and flight testing of experimental Lifting Bodies in supersonic and subsonic atmospheric flight.

Being a real "nut" about airplanes and aviation history, I thought I would try my hand at writing about some of my work.

I am a lifetime member of the Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE).

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