On this day in Aviation History - The X-15 first flight

13 April 1960: Major Robert M. White, USAF, made the first flight of an X-15 by an Air Force test pilot.

Carried aloft by a Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress, serial number 52-003, the first of three X-15 hypersonic research aircraft, 56-6670, was airdropped at 0915 above Rosamond Dry Lake. Major White ignited the two Reaction Motors XLR-11 rocket engines and with a burn time of 4 minutes, 13.7 seconds, the X-15 accelerated to Mach 1.9 (1,254 miles per hour/2,018 kilometers per hour) and reached 48,000 feet (14,630 meters). Both numbers were slightly short of the planned Mach 2.0 (1,320 miles per hour/2,124 kilometers per hour) and 50,000 feet (15,240 meters).

After 8 minutes, 52.7 seconds, Bob White and the X-15 touched down at Edwards Air Force Base.


Over the next 32 months Bob White made 16 flights in the X-15. He was the first pilot to fly faster than Mach 4, Mach 5 and Mach 6. He flew it to Mach 6.04, 4,093 miles per hour (6,587 kilometers per hour) and set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) altitude record of 314,750 feet (95,936 meters), for an altitude gain of 82,190 meters (269,652 feet).¹

White was one of three pilots awarded astronaut wings for his flights in the X-15.


Great topic as always!

Keep them up!

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Interestingly enough, this made him an astronaut because he cleared the 50 mile altitude requirement set by NASA and USAF. This is despite the fact that he never went into what we traditionally consider to be space.

That is correct, he is one of three pilots awarded the astronaut wings for his flights in the X-15!

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Who were the other two?

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Joe Engle and… someone else. Right?


Joe Engle, Michael J. Adams. Michael was killed when the X-15 entered a spin at Mach 5 breaking up in flight.

Ah, you mean this black tube with the rocket slapped on the back and the midget wings?

(sorry for the XP11 photo but I didn’t want to google an image of it)
It’s a pretty cool plane and the fact that this was flown 60 years ago is even more impressive.

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I’d like to point the three photos of the X-15 in my post Lol

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