Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Twelve Angry Men and their X Planes

OK, show of hands.  Does anybody NOT have a visualization of Sarge playing Henry Fonda's role in "Twelve Angry Men" running through their head?  I mean, he even looks like Fonda!  Well, except he's older.  And has less hair.  Oh and wears glasses, but other than that...He's a dead ringer.  

Just in case any of you whippersnappers didn't see the classic version, here it is. (Sarge is on the left). Hope you've got 1+15 available.



In any case, in lieu of content regarding the circus that occurred recently in Cleveland and is ongoing in Philadelphia (P'tui!), we'll show the class some pictures of experimental aircraft at the National Museum of the US Air Force.

The last building in the museum also is divided into two sections.  The right section is dominated by the sole surviving XB-70, but is surrounded by experimental aircraft never intended for development (denoted by an X), experimental aircraft built for testing new configurations/technologies (denoted by an X and another letter F for Fighter, B for Bomber etc) as well as some prototype aircraft (denoted by a Y).

Given that a lot of these aircraft were built in the '50s and '60s, they had very exotic looks to them, and flew in flight envelopes that would be difficult to achieve even today.  

Needless to say, I was enthused! So let's get started, shall we?

The X-15
Only 3 X-15s were built, and one was destroyed in a crash along with its pilot, Major Michael Adams.  This was #2 and was the fastest, achieving Mach 6.7.  The two pontoons are actually fuel tanks.

It wasn't until I prepped the pictures for this post that I noticed something very unusual about the aircraft, and I don't know why the aircraft is configured this way.

Here's another picture.  See if you notice the difference.

See it? *
A very cool plane and definitely was "one of the models I made when I was a kid".

Right beside it was this X-bird.  If you ever watched "The 6 Million Dollar Man" , you saw this aircraft, albeit not at its best, in the opening credits.  The footage was from a crash on landing of the X-24
X-24A -Actually this was a trainer and never flew.  The X-24A that did fly was converted to the X-24B in the background.

Here's that video (I spent a lot of time watching that show).

The X-24B was a much more aesthetically pleasing aircraft.  That having been said, it still looks like it got a significant beating with the ugly stick.

Perhaps it's the paint job
Bell X-1B
Similar in design to Glamorous Glennis, Chuck Yeager's Mach 1 buster (less the orange paint of course), the X-1B had the bigger engine that the X-1A tested while incorporating into the design a more efficient wing.  It also looks like it has a canopy instead of the low visibility windows in the original.

I read a book when I was a kid about Scott Crossfield and this next aircraft, and always thought it was a cool airplane.  Couldn't find the title on Amazon though.

The Douglas X-3
Built in 1952, it's older than even Sarge, and was flown by Crossfield, a Naval Aviator.  Which might explain the yoke.  Designed to test flying characteristics at Mach 2 and above, engine problems kept it from achieving that and led to its retirement to the museum in 1956.

Cool as it looked in the book, it was even cooler close up.

X-29A
The X-29 is the only experimental aircraft I have seen in flight.  I had flown a cross country into Edwards and on leaving, got an "expedite takeoff for recovering test flight" (i.e. "hey, you!  Get out of here right now or wait quite a while!"  We blasted off).  In our climbing departure turn, I looked down at the runway to see this one on short final.  It was good for a "Hmmmph's" worth of interest.  I liked the looks of the thing though.

The forward swept wings kept the airflow on the control surfaces longer, so the aircraft remained controllable at very high Angles of Attack, where other aircraft might depart controlled flight (AKA a bad thing).


X-10, if you like it's looks, you'll have to visit.  This is the only one remaining.
Knew nothing about this aircraft until visiting the museum.  The X-10 was built in 1953 as a Mach 2 capable cruise missile.  13 were built with one reaching Mach 2.05.  The program was shut down in 1957 in lieu of the ICBM.

X-13 (Yes, that is the tail of an F-107 in the background.  Good Eyes)
The X-13, two of which were built, was designed to satisfy a more relaxed USAF life style.  The aircraft and it's trailer could be towed behind a Corvette, so a fighter pilot would never have to be without his ride(s). There was even room for golf clubs. This aircraft was the reason other services think the USAF builds golf courses first then runways.  If this aircraft had been successful, they'd have been right.

Egregious attempt to elicit comments!

X-4 Bantam
The X-4 was built to test a different configuration than available in 1948 for near supersonic speeds.  conventional tailed aircraft experienced difficulty with control the closer the aircraft got to Mach 1.  The near tailless configuration of this test aircraft was used to test a German theory that the configuration would eliminate the turbulence.  Unfortunately, aviation technology in 1948 was not up to the task.

XF-82A XF-92A  (220, 221!)
Readers of this blog and aficionados of Convair products in general (Dave!), will certainly recognize the characteristics of this aircraft seen in its descendants.  This aircraft was used to develop and test the delta wing, which, of course, featured prominently in the Delta Dagger, Delta Dart  and the Hustler.



UFO's are REAL! and in Dayton, not Area 51
The Avro VZ-9AV was built to try and satisfy the Army's need for a Subsonic transport vehicle as well as the Air Force's requirement for a vehicle that could hover and hide then dash to supersonic speed to smite the enemy.  If failed at both.

X-36

The X-36 was designed to test the capabilities of Tailless aircraft.  Evidently, aviation technology has improved since 1948 as this program was a success.


YF-23
The YF-23 was Northrop's entry into the 5th generation fighter competition against what would be the F-22.  It borrowed heavily from the X-36s experience with tailless technology, but lost out of the competition by not using thrust vectoring.  Cool looking jet though, and with a proposed name of Black Widow II, what's not to like?















* The right side of the cockpit is oval while the left is covered with a rectangular shielding.





26 comments:

  1. And I'm not as tall as Mr. Fonda. Other than that though, yup, spittin' image o' the man.

    Great post, I'm just glad you didn't title it "X Rated" or something along those lines. Heh.

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    1. Yeah, we'd be over a million hits today alone. Shoulda thought of that one.

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  2. Special kind of pilot to fly those experimental aircraft.

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    1. Indeed! I was always sure the airplanes I got in to could fly. Whether or not they'd stay flying was something else though. Test pilots weren't always sure the airplane was actually capable of flight in the envelopes/environments they were attempting.

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  3. Fun post! I've always loved their experimental hangar, been visiting it since I was just a kid.

    Never noticed the asymmetric windows before but you inspired me to do a little sleuthing. From what I can tell the different windows come from A) needing to move to an oval shape instead of trapezoidal to deal with high speed stresses, B) deciding that only one window was needed at high speed anyways, and then C) realizing that shielding one window could also protect against vision loss due to fouling by the ablative coating.

    I'm getting all of this from here: http://history.nasa.gov/x15conf/pilots.html It's a pretty interesting read!

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    1. Well, as Sarge is wont to say....I had no ideer! Thanks.

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  4. Great post!

    I watched the same program but here in the sticks we only got the $600,000 man with Lee Marvin.

    That flying saucer was made by AVRO Canada, I feel compelled to note. I can't see the guys who built the Lanc and the Blue Steel coming up with that thing. Not without having OD'd on Molsons, eh?

    IIRC Crossfield blew one of those X-15's up testing the big motor. Apparently he panicked when he couldn't find a yoke in the cockpit and just started pushing buttons. I think I remember seeing an interview where he said he was an inch shorter when he got out of the cockpit following the explosion which put 50+ g's on the front end.

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    1. Yeah, the link in bmq215's comment above includes discussion of that incident. Apparently that happened on the Mach 6.7 mission. He was going for an "even" 7.

      Was that show on before or after the palimony case?

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    2. Must have been after, given the budget. "Better, stronger, faster, within the limits of used parts."

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    3. As long as Lindsay Wagner was still in it.

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  5. Hey! You didn't talk about Blackhawk birds. They flew F5Fs and then F-90s as I recall.

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    1. I'm missing something here. Not getting the connection.

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  6. One more thing re: the Sarge and Mr Fonda...
    The Sarge's kids are better behaved.

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    1. Well...That kinda went without saying. I mean 3 kids in the Navy vs a Traitor? Sarge (and crew) win hands down.

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  7. I see that Alibris has several books by Crossfieldl. This link may work:
    http://www.alibris.com/booksearch?keyword=scott+crossfield&mtype=B&hs.x=22&hs.y=29&hs=Submit

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    1. "Always another Dawn" doesn't ring a bell, but might have been it.

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  8. You do realize the stencil on the XF-82A doesn't agree with your label don't you?

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    1. Doh! Sometimes the signals to the fingers get twisted around in the various synapses. Fixed, thanks.

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  9. Looks like a very interesting and unique museum. Quite a few aircraft that most others don't have- test birds, prototypes, and such.

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    1. Yeah, on one of the Museum pages I linked to, I noticed that they said they had 390 different airplanes on display. As you can see from some of my pictures, it's difficult to get a really cool shot because other airplanes are crowding it. Now a museum with that problem is a great one to visit!

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  10. Great post, great pictures. Thanks.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  11. I saw an X-3 Stiletto at the Wright Paterson AFB museum. You could touch the wing and look in the cockpit. The seat was metal tubed frame with plywood seat and back. It all looked primitive and sort of cobbed together behing the glass. One got the felling that the pilot must have trusted God in a big way to fly this needle.

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    1. Well, they don't want you to touch the aircraft any more (except a few they'll let you climb into), so I couldn't see well enough into the X-3 to see the seat. Since they were trying to reach Mach 2 and had faulty engines, I suspect they may have been trying to reduce as much weight as possible. Since that would have made getting out of the aircraft in an emergency difficult, maybe even impossible, I suspect your statement in trusting God is correct.

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  12. I was fascinated by the "lifting body" aircraft as a kid. Read about it in Air Progress magazine. Never saw the $6M man.

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    1. Yeah, not sure why they felt the need to build a whole new airplane to test the lifting body aerodynamics. I think they could have just used a rock. Or an F-4. Get it to altitude, shut off the engines, look out below!

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