Magazine Articles and Publications
X-2 Sets Altitude Record at 126,000 Ft.|
Volume 65, p. 29
September 24, 1956
Washington—Accumulation of flight data from successfully controlled flight at altitudes of up to 126,000 ft. has begun at Edwards AFB, Calif.
Early this month, the Bell X-2 piloted by Capt. Iven Kincheloe, Jr., is known to have reached approximately 126,000 ft., a record for manned aircraft. Both the USAF and Department of Defense have refused to confirm the record figure.
However, Defense Secretary Charles Wilson admitted late last week that the rocket-powered X-2 had exceeded the previous record of 90,000 ft. established Aug. 26, 1954, in the Bell X-1A by Maj. Arthur Murray. Late in July, the X-2, then flown by Lt. Col. F. P. Everest established a speed record in excess of 1,900 mph. (AW Aug. 6, p. 454). The design speed of the X-2 is 2,500 mph.
The altitude record is in excess of the 120,000 ft. which the USAF originally hoped the X-2 research plane would be able to attain. Primary significance of the flight is the successful control of the X-2 at an altitude of nearly 24 mi. "It was so easy," one report said "everyone was amazed."
In addition the collection of other important high-altitude data has begun in earnest.
Unfortunately, later flights since the record run have aborted just prior to the drop from a modified B-50 mother plane. Although the primary purpose of the research aircraft is the accumulation of high altitude and high speed flight data—none of which is revealed in the altitude and speed records—the Pentagon made a strenuous effort last week to prevent publication of the altitude record. It has never officially confirmed the speed record. This effort was directed from a high military level and not from the civilian aids usually held responsible for withholding information. The decision apparently had the backing of the White House. For more than a week, press and Pentagon public relations officers attempted to convince top military officials that the facts were too widely known to be kept secret.
Nevertheless, by the time Secretary Wilson held his press conference, the decision had not been changed.
The X-2 is powered by a 15,000-lb. thrust, double barreled Curtiss-Wright rocket engine.
In its speed run in July, the X-2 did not reach its design speed of 2,500 mph, because of heat problems with the turbo-fuel pump. The ease with which the X-2 passed its 120,000 ft. target indicates that on this flight there were no deficiencies.
Photo 1 caption—ROCKET-POWERED X-2 was built as part of USAF, Navy, and National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics cooperative effort for flight research. (This photo shows the X-2 on its wheeled dolly as it is towed, tail first, from a hangar and includes project personnel.)
Photo 2 caption—BELL X-2 powered by 15,000-lb. thrust Curtiss-Wright double barreled rocket engine, now holds both altitude and speed records—126,000 ft. and 1,900 mph. (This photo is a full-view of the X-2 on Rogers Lake bed, taken from an elevated position, showing the left side-front of the airplane with the canopy closed.)