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Remembering Capt. Apt

While many of us remember Capt. Mel Apt for his final flight on September 27, 1956, another flight was equally important two years earlier.  Capt. Apt was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for helping save a fellow pilot. The story of flight was told in a 1956 Life Magazine article, available online.

Capt. Mep Apt

Capt. Mel Apt & X-2 Remembered in New Museum Display

On September 17, the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB opened a new display remembering Capt. Mel Apt and the Bell X-2. I had the honor of attending the opening, meeting Lorrie Epling (Capt. Apt’s daughter) as well as attend other X-2 events that day (which I will write more about later!). Aviation artist Mike Machat was also

Interesting fact: The flight suit on display for Capt. Apt was once owned and worn by Pete Everest. His name is on the inside of the flight suit.

Mel Apt Flight Books

Mel Apt Flight Suit

Mel Apt Flight Suit
Air Force Flight Test Museum X-2 Exhibit

machat-x-2-display

Mike Machat talking about Capt. Apt’s final flight and his newest painting, “Perfect Profile,” honoring Apt.

 

Lorrie Epling (center), daughter of test pilot Milburn G. "Mel" Apt, and her family, daughters Rachel (left) and Brisley and husband Michael, pose with museum specialist Tony Moore in front of the newly-unveiled display of Apt and Bell X-2 at the Air Force Flight Test Museum Sept. 16. Apt was a US test pilot, and the first man to attain speeds faster than Mach 3. He was killed in the destruction of the Bell X-2 during the record-setting flight that exceeded Mach 3 on September 27, 1956. Moore designed and constructed the X-2 display. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Ball)

Lorrie Epling (center), daughter of test pilot Milburn G. “Mel” Apt, and her family, daughters Rachel (left) and Brisley and husband Michael, pose with museum specialist Tony Moore in front of the newly-unveiled display of Apt and Bell X-2 at the Air Force Flight Test Museum Sept. 16. Apt was a US test pilot, and the first man to attain speeds faster than Mach 3. He was killed in the destruction of the Bell X-2 during the record-setting flight that exceeded Mach 3 on September 27, 1956. Moore designed and constructed the X-2 display. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Ball)

Sixty Years of the Bell X-2

It’s hard to imagine that it was 60 years since the Bell X-2 last flew. In September 1956, the Bell X-2 program flew higher and faster than anyone had ever gone before:

September 7: Capt. Iven Kincheloe rockets to a record altitude of 126,200 feet.

September 27: Capt. Milburn “Mel” Apt flys the perfect profile to reach Mach 3.196, becoming the fastest man alive. Sadly, Captain Apt lost his life in this flight.

On September 17, a small group of X-2 fans got together at Edwards AFB to remember the people and the program. I’ll be posting a number of photos and details from the event to the website over the next few weeks.

Team X-2

Toward The Unknown Playing @ Edwards October 20

If you can get on Edwards for this showing, go! Would love any photos/reports from the fans out there!

October 20, 2016

Strategic Air Command Reminder!

Coming to Blu-Ray and DVD October 18. Preorder at Amazon!

Visiting the Stratobowl

Mt. Rushmore, Needles Highway, Custer State Park, the Stratobowl. The what?

Yep, the Stratobowl. A trip to South Dakota’s Black Hills is not complete without a trip to the Stratobowl – at least for me. This is where my husband’s eyes roll and he goes, “oh, that place again.” Located right off of US-16 as you enter Black Hills National Forest, most tourists drive right by, not knowing the historic spot they’ve just missed (just past Putz & Glow Indoor Mini Golf – I had to add that…).

The Stratobowl was home to a dozen manned research balloon launches from 1934 through 1959. The large depression was selected to help with the launches, shielding the balloon from wind gusts as it was prepared for lift-off. If you look at a Google Map of the area, you’ll know when you’re near: Strato Bowl Drive, Stratosphere Lane, Gondola Road. The bowl itself is private property, but there is a gravel public road that will take you to the bottom.

Stratobowl Road
The best view of the Stratobowl isn’t in the bowl itself, but from the ridge above. There is a national forest gravel trail that will take you to the same overlook constructed in the 1930s for balloon launch viewers. If you go, there isn’t a parking lot. Look for a gate and possibly some vehicles parked off of the side of the road (we had 2-3 dog walkers and other hikers when we visited). It’s a beautiful view and you’ll also see a National Geographic plaque and granite stones for each of the launches from the bowl. From the lookout, you’ll also see the trout stream that pilot Maj. William Kepner noted would be ideal for a launch site.

On your way there, visit the South Dakota Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City. In addition to having a great museum, check out their Stratobowl exhibit.

Stratobowl AboveView from the trail

Stratobowl ViewA view of the Black Hills

StratobowlView of the bowl

Stratobowl MonumentThere is a series of granite slabs, each with the story behind each launch at the Stratobowl.
Sadly, they’re all behind a fence, making them hard to read.

National Geographic PlackNational Geographic Society Plack for 1935 Explorer II launch

Iven Kincheloe Mackay Trophy – Airman Magazine

Airman Magazine has an extensive collection of photography on Flickr.com for download. Recently, they posted an issue from August 1957, including a blub on Iven Kincheloe being awarded the Mackay Trophy. Kinch earned the trophy for his altitude breaking flight in the X-2 in September 1956 :

Iven Kincheloe Mackay Trophy

Full Page/Issue – Airman Magazine

Strategic Air Command Coming to BluRay and DVD

Finally, Jimmy Stewart’s “Strategic Air Command” is coming to BluRay and DVD on October 18.  More information on Olive Films’ website. It’s been a pretty good year for aviation movie releases to DVD!

Strategic Air Command DVD Cover

Painting Aviation’s Legends: The Art of Mike Machat

My favorite artist (and interior decorator, lol) is Mike Machat. He recently released a book with stories behind his paintings – including many of his X Plane/Edwards AFB pieces…and more. I just finished reading the book and highly recommend you pick up a copy (available at SpecialtyPress.com).

For the Toward The Unknown fans out there, Mike talks about all of the hidden TTU scenes in the “The Golden Age of Flight Test” mural at the AFFTC Museum.

Mike Machat Cover

X-2 “Flight To The Future” Movie

“Flight to the Future” was just posted to YouTube from the San Diego Air & Space Museum archives. 21 minutes of vintage X-2.  Thanks to Chris for letting me know about this!