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, shackled to the EB-50A (47-006A), with the first glide flight being successfully completed by Bell pilot, Jean "Skip" Ziegler.
The airplane 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 inertia 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 (including aborts) flights.