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X-1B on Lakebed X-1B on Lakebed

Photo Number: E-2547
Photo Date: 1956

Formats: 539x480 JPEG Image (76 KBytes)
1150x1024 JPEG Image (414 KBytes)
3000x2670 JPEG Image (3,297 KBytes)

The Bell Aircraft Corporation X-1B, seen here on the lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, was first flown for 10 flights in a three-month period by eight Edwards Air Force pilots. After being turned over to the NACA High-Speed Flight Station, it was sent to Langley Aeronautical Laboratory for instrumentation to measure structural temperatures. It was returned to the NACA High-Speed Flight Station in June 1956 for an aerodynamic heating research program at speeds near Mach 2. In January 1957 NACA test pilot Jack McKay extended the investigation to Mach 1.94. Project aeronautical engineers believed the data to be representative of heating conditions that could be expected on future Mach 2 military aircraft.

The Bell X-1B was a second-generation X-1 used by the U.S. Air Force for pilot familiarization before being turned over to NACA in December 1954. The X-1B had a modified fuselage with greater capacity for fuel tanks, an improved cockpit, and a turbopump fuel system as compared with the X-1. The NACA used the X-1B primarily for aerodynamic heating and reaction-control research from 1956 to 1958.

The aircraft was fitted with special instrumentation for exploratory aerodynamic heating tests. It had over 300 thermocouples installed on it. The X-1B was the first aircraft to fly with a reaction-control system; a prototype of the reaction-control system used on the X-15 and other piloted test aircraft.

The X-1B was given to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Dayton, Ohio, on January 27, 1959, for preservation and display. This aircraft completed a total of 27 glide and powered flights by eight U.S. Air Force and two NACA test pilots. Second-generation X-1 aircraft were 35.8 feet long and had a wingspan of approximately 28 feet.


Keywords: Bell Aircraft Corporation X-1B; Edwards Air Force; NACA High-Speed Flight Station; Langely Aeronautical Laboratory; John B. McKay

Last Modified: February 6, 2002
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