Bell X-2: Bittersweet, to say the least.

60 years ago, the morning of 27 September of 1956, Milburn G. Apt was launched in his X-2 (46-674) from the B-50 mothership in search of Mach 3. Curious the choice of Apt for such an important and dangerous task: this would be Apt’s first rocket flight. Told to avoid any hasty control movement beyond Mach 2.7, Apt flew a superbly precise flight and became the first man to exceed Mach 3 (Mach 3.2, in fact). Having reached the goal he inexplicably performed a turn still above Mach 3 and lost control due to inertia coupling. After some futile tries to recover from the spin, Apt had to abandon the X-2 via ejection capsule. Something went wrong and he was killed.

The X-2 in happier times. 46-674 in flight over Southern California (1955). Look at those gorgeous shock diamonds in the exhaust plumes of the X-2’s two-chamber Curtiss-Wright XLR25 rocket engine.

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