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Bell X-1A ejection seat test setup

Photo Number: E55-01765
Photo Date: May 12, 1955
Formats: 640x614 JPEG Image (152 KBytes)
1280x1228 JPEG Image (488 KBytes)
3000x2879 JPEG Image (2384 KBytes)
Bell X-1A ejection seat test setup
Three second generation Bell Aircraft Corporations X-1s were built, though four were requested. They were the X-1A (48-1384); X-1B (48-1385); X-1C (canceled and never built); X-1D (48-1386). These aircraft were similar to the X-1s, except they were five feet longer, had conventional canopies, and were powered by Reaction Motors, Inc. XLR11-RM-5 rocket engines. The RM-5, like the previous engines, had no throttle and was controlled by igniting one or more of the four thrust chambers at will.

The original program outline called for the X-1A and X-1B to be used for dynamic stability and air loads investigations. The X-1D was to be used for heat transfer research while the X-1C was intended as a high-speed armament systems test bed. All of these aircraft like the original X-1s, were launched from a Boeing B-29 or Boeing B-50 “mothership" to take maximum advantage of their limited flying time with a rocket engine.

The Bell X-1A was similar to the Bell X-1, except for having turbo-driven fuel pumps (instead of a system using nitrogen under pressure), a new cockpit canopy, longer fuselage and increased fuel capacity. The X-1A arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, California on January 7, 1953, with the first glide flight being successfully completed by Bell pilot, Jean 'Skip' Ziegler. The airplane also made five powered flights with Ziegler at the controls. The USAF was attempting a Mach 2 flight and USAF test pilot Charles “Chuck” Yeager was eager. He reached speed of Mach 2.435, at a altitude of 75,000 feet on December 12, 1953, a speed record at the time. But all was not well, the aircraft encountered an inertial coupling phenomenon and went out of control. Once the X-1A had entered the denser atmosphere (35,000 feet) it slowly stabilized and Yeager was able to return to Edwards. The aircraft had experienced high-speed roll-coupling, something aerodynamicists had predicted, but this was the first actual encounter.

On August 26, 1954, Major Arthur Murray, USAF test pilot flew the X-1A to an altitude record of 90,440 feet. NACA High-Speed Flight Station received the aircraft in September 1954 and returned it to Bell for the installation of an ejection seat.

NACA test pilot Joseph Walker made a familiarization flight on July 20, 1955 followed by another scheduled flight on August 8, 1955. Shortly before launch the X-1A suffered an explosion. The extent of the damage prohibited landing the crippled aircraft. The X-1A was jettisoned into the desert, exploding and burning on impact. Walker and the B-29 crew returned to base in satisfactory condition. Four pilots had completed 29 flights (including aborts).

NASA Photo by: NACA
Keywords: X-1; X-1A, ejection seat test setup; Muroc Army Air Field; Muroc Air Force Base; Edwards Air Force Base; NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory; NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station; Pinecastle Army Air Field; Bell Aircraft Corporation; Reaction Motors; Inc.; Army Air Forces; Boeing B-29; Boeing B-50

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