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X-1A  Photo Gallery Contact Sheet

X-1A Photo Gallery Contact Sheet

Photo Date: October 24, 2006
Formats: Low Resolution Image Contact Sheet (27003 KBytes)
Medium Resolution Image Contact Sheet (27050 KBytes)
High Resolution Image Contact Sheet (26994 KBytes)

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. Most launches were made from the JTB-29A (45-21800). The other launch aircraft was EB-50A (46-006).


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).


The Bell Aircraft Corporation X-1B was similar to the Bell X-1A except for the installation of wingtips extensions for its last three flight. The NACA portion of the X-1B flight test program was for the purpose of aerodynamic heating research, accumulating data during 1956-1958. The X-1B was fitted with special instrumentation for exploratory aerodynamic heating tests. It had over 300 thermocouples installed on it. It was the first aircraft to fly with a reaction control system, a prototype of the control system used on the X-15 and other piloted aircraft. Midway through its flight test program, the X-1B was equipped with an Reaction Motors, Inc. XLR-11-RM-9 engine which differed, from the other XLR-11s, only in having an electric spark, low-tension interrupter type ignition in place of the older high-tension type.

On January 27, 1959 the X-1B was given to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, for preservation and public display. This aircraft completed a total of 27 glide and powered flights made by eight USAF test pilots and two NACA test pilots.


Following the X-1B was the projected X-1C, which was canceled while still in the moc

Keywords: X-1; 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; Chalmers "Slick"Goodlin; USAF Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager; sound barrier; all-moving horizontal stabilizer; XLR-8-RM-5; X-1A; X-1B; X-1D; X-1E; ulmer leather gasket

Last Modified: October 24, 2006
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