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Fast mover, high flyer — the X-15 walkaround

22 April 2011

Fast mover, high flyer — the X-15 walkaround North American’s X-15 is famous. Famous for being the fastest aircraft with a record that stands to this day, four decades after the fact. Barely twenty years after the first famed rocket powered aircraft, the subsonic Me 163 Komet*, flew the rocket powered X-15 would break Mach 6.

North American X-15 at the NASM on the National Mall — photo by Joe May

Aft perspective of the NASMs X-15 — photo by Joe May

Opposite aft view perspective of the X-15 — photo by Joe May

So much history was made by the X-15 aircraft in 199 flights it is incredible that just three of them were built. The first of these is suspended in the main gallery of the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall where one can view it from below as well as within tantalizing proximity from the upper balcony.

The X-15s nose section — photo by Joe May

This X-15 flew as fast as  Mach 6.06 (4018 mph/ 6429kph) by USAF pilot Robert Rushworth on one flight and as high as 267,500 feet (81,060m) by NASA pilot William Dana.

NASMs X-15 as viewed from the main gallery floor — photo by Joe May

The view most often seen of a fast mover like this X-15 — photo by Joe May

* posts of the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet have been previously published, please type “Komet” into the search window to easily get to them <><><><><> NASA’s X-15 web site can be found here and in the On Line Publication section is The X-15 Program in Retrospect

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