If you have a Blu-ray player, I’d recommend picking up a copy of The Right Stuff, which came out this month. The picture and sound are probably better than you’ve ever seen, even on the big screen. It also comes with a second disk of extras. I watched my favorite scenes – I need to watch as a whole movie! Now if we could only get Toward the Unknown on Blu-ray. In the meantime, watch the below clip for some behind the scenes notes on production of the film.
The Sound of The Right Stuff: 30th Anniversary Edition
Mike Machat was kind enough to share a new panting he completed for a client:
“Starbuster Returns” depicts the first powered flight of the X-2 flown by Lt. Col. Pete Everest on November 18, 1955. Passing through 10,000 feet, Everest deployed the landing gear on approach for a right-hand pattern to lakebed Runway 27 (known as “The Navaho Trail” for its role in the X-10 Program). When chase pilots reported the right wing skid failed to extend, Everest banked left setting up for a landing to the north, giving him much more room on the lakebed in case the X-2 entered a ground loop with the hung wing skid. There had also been a small engine fire that damaged the base of the vertical fin.
Edwards South Base is shown below, during construction of the new Main Base which exists today. Concrete had been poured for Runway 22/04 and several taxiways, but the iconic shape of Edwards AFB hadn’t been fully established. Roadways were laid out, but there were no buildings on the flight line yet. The first of two large hangars at the west end of South Base being moved by truck over to the new flight line is visible halfway on its journey. The original railroad line crossed Rogers Dry Lake, and tire tracks on the lakebed were from all the construction equipment being used to move concrete and other supplies.
Neat-o – the only thing missing here is Lincoln Bond.
One last update from Dave on his X-2 model – success! The rocket flew on September 21 in Blackrock, Nevada. Telemetry from the X-2 showed a maximum speed of 166 mph and a altitude of 1,142 feet. Video is below and I’ve added more photos to the album.
Launch and landing
Forward cockpit cam
X-2 cockpit cam. Over the pilot’s right shoulder view.
Glide & landing
Complete X-2 flight
If you’ve been following along, Dave Schaefer is building a 1/5 th scale flying X-2 rocket model. Check out older posts in the blog for more details.
Dave just sent over some updates on progress, which I’ve placed in a new photo album just for the model. Check it out!
Back in April, Dave Schaefer emailed me about 1/5 scale flying X-2 he’s building. Well, just got an update – the model is progressing and he plans to fly it at Blackrock, Nevada on September 20 or 21.
Dave also shared a link to his ME-163 Komet that he flew last year:
Now you can have both! Billy sent me an email recently noting that a 1/33 scale paper X-2 model is now available for purchase/download.
More details and photos are available at ECardModels.com. If anyone puts one of these together, send me a note!
The Ryan X-13 Vertijet and a 1958 Pontiac. What a combination.
Pontiac and the Ryan X-13
Via Paul Malon’s Flickr
I received an email from Rick, who was kind enough to send along some additional details on the Life Magazine issue (June 18, 1956) that features photos from the previous blog post:
The article related to Edwards AFB and the X-2 is Robert Wallace’s “10,000 Men to a Plane: Vast Technological Force Supports Today’s Test Pilots” pp. 67, 71-72, 75, 78, 81-82. The photos related to the X-2 program are:
1. B/W photo of the ground crew filling the X-2 # 1 with propellants.
2. B/W head shot of Robert Lapp (Bell Aircraft’s X-2 project engineer) wearing sunglasses.
3. B/W photo of the contrails of the X-2 and a F-100 chase plane crossing in an “X” pattern.
1. B/W photo of Lt. Col. Frank Everest dressing into his T-1 partial pressure suit.
2. B/W photo of Lt. Col. Everest wearing a flight suit over his T-1 partial pressure suit. He is also wearing a K-1 helmet.
3. B/W photo of Lt. Col. Everest sitting in the X-2 cockpit just after a flight without the K-1 helmet on.
4. B/W photo of Lt. Col. Everest standing besides two ground personnel just after a flight.
1. B/W photo of William Smith (Bell Aircraft’s chief of rocket engine development) inspecting the XLR-25 engine via an open X-2 cowling access hatch.
1. B/W head shot of Capt. Iven Kincheloe with a cigar.
2. B/W head shot of Maj. Stuart Childs (chief of Fighter Test Ops.).
3. B/W head shot of Capt. Milburn Apt.
1. B/W photo of Lt. Col. Everest inside his Model A Ford.
I suspect the article’s X-2 photos are related to the May 22, 1956 flight. I believe this is correct because the article also shows a B/W photo of the Douglas X-3 on the Rodgers Dry Lake (p. 67). It’s final flight occurred on May 23, 1956 by Joseph Walker. By the way, photographer Allan Grant took some photos of Lt. Col. Everest for the article as well.
It seems the “Flight # 1-56″ on the chalkboard photo refers to the March 24, 1956 flight. A “1-56″ reference can be found in the “Bell X-2 Chronology” section of Henry Matthews’ The Saga of the Bell X-2, 1st ed p. 126. If I’m correct, it means the actual takeoff time was late since it occurred at about 07:40 hours.
And more on the mysterious chalkboard:
I could not find any USAF or NACA papers that used the “1-56″ type of flight reference. However, I found that type of reference in a Bell paper. Therefore, I suspect the person who wrote on the chalkboard was from the Bell team. If my assumption is correct, the author was probably one of the Bell engineers like Robert Lapp, James Powell, or Leonard Clarck.
Thanks for sharing, Rick!!
A few years back, Google began scanning the collection of Life Magazine images and posting them online. As long as the photos are not used for commercial use, download and print is free game. While I have not tried, rumor has it the images are such that you can print to 8×10 (but with a “Life” watermark in the lower right corner). For free, I won’t complain!
For this particular post, I’m going to write a bit about trying to find X-2 photos in the Life collection – there are actually a ton of them.
The challenge is Google’s search for Life images isn’t good and I believe it is because the images are poorly labelled and categorized – many times there is no data and when there is, it is unusably generic.
The set of X-2 images were taken by photographer Loomis Dean for what would be the June 18, 1956 “Air Age” issue of Life. And… I just realized I don’t have a copy of the particular issue to see what is in the article!
The X-2 images are searchable by “X-2 Air Age”, so that helps. There are two sets of images: color and black and white. From what I’ve been able to tell, you can’t get to the color from the black and white search and vice versa.
To make things a bit easier, use the below searches to get started:
To navigate from photo to photo, click on “Related Images” on the right.
I show around 300 unique images from my downloads, but I know there are some duplicates. Some images are also color and black and white. I’ve skipped saving images that are blurry or “what is that?” quality (they must scan everything!). Some of the more well known names spotted in the images include Pete Everest, Iven Kincheloe, Mel Apt, Bell engineer R.G. Lapp, and Fitz Fulton.
As far as when the photos were taken, there’s two clues:
- Getty Images website – March 1, 1956 noted for Dean’s R.G. Lapp image, also seen in the Google Life series. In my notes, March 1956 included nine test stand runs.
- Chalkboard image noting “Flight # 1_56.” I’m unable to find anything that matches that group of numbers, just “56.” There is TSR-56, April 27, “checkout of relocated fuel sense line.” Ideas? (See image below)
If anyone finds an easier way to navigate through the collection, please let me know! I’ve learned that if you go back to the search over time, more photos appear. I can only guess that as they’re scanned, they appear online.
Below are some of the more unique images that I’ve found so far: