Read It / Do It #01: North American X-15


Wasn’t there just a tiny part of you that fantasized a dual flameout at exactly that spot! Your boss would have to buy you a beer at the Happy Bottom!


I’ll have to practice the maneuver in the sim a few times just to make sure I can do it with style :wink: .


You have to do an aileron roll right after you lose both engines for panache too. Crossfield rolled the aircraft on the X-15s first powered flight…


Fascinating read, Chris. Thanks so much for the research, creative, and editorial effort. Your self-indulgence was, and continues to be, to our benefit.

Some thoughts as I was reading the article…

Are there any X-15 pilots living and if so, how they might enjoy reading your article and perhaps taking a spin in your updated version? In VR, no less.

Concerning risk aversion, my mother commented that when she begin dating my father in the early ‘50s, “I felt like I was dating an astronaut.” The reality was the he was just a noob F-84 driver (whom would go on to fly the F-100, F-101, and F-4). They were married in 1956, and would be soon stationed in England, were dad’s wing commander was Robin Olds. Shortly, the wing would transition their lead sleds to the Hun.

Edit: I think my point was meant to be that in the late 50s and early 60s, if your were driving anything that had fire coming out of the tail end, you were thought to be quite daring. The X-15 is obviously the ultimate expression of that era and aeronautical science.

Of that time, Dad said that the wing lost on average 1 pilot per month to accidents. Consequently, there was a general feeling of fatalism in that for the poor devil, at least he was doing what he loved, and that they would never have made the same mistake. Raise a toast in the stag bar, wish them well in the hereafter, and move on. Dad later relayed a couple of times when my mother nearly become the leader of a single parent household.

Then again, it was the height of the Cold War, which gave additional motivation to their mission, not to mention a space race.

Let’s not forget Challenger and Columbia.


I believe Joe Engle is the last remaining X-15 pilot alive.

He also flew the Space Shuttle - and was part of the testing of the glide operations of that same vehicle. It sure would be interesting to see what he would think of VR and computer technology in general…

Agreed. It was the sacrifice of so many (in combat and testing alike) that allowed us to have the luxury of being more methodical and measured in our approach to things today. I like to think the spirit isn’t dead (I think we have lots of things we can point at to prove it isn’t), and that in any modern crisis, the same type of brave men and women would step forward and say “those are risks I’m willing to take for my country”. They already do of course…but the odds of survival for a 50s and 60s test pilot were definitely stacked against them. Remember that scene when Gordo Cooper’s wife was talking about her girlfriends and how their husbands had such a dog-eat-dog life of Madison Avenue:

“I wondered how they would’ve felt if every time their husband went in to make a deal, there was a one in four chance he wouldn’t come out of that meeting.”

Time to rewatch that movie… :smiley:

Apparently Engle is (at least as of 2017) in pretty good health:


Dang…I might have to go visit Spacefest IX in Tucson, AZ…Dennis Jenkins will be one of the speakers…!


I do not subscribe to the belief that people are more risk-adverse today than preceding generations. But to find these people you might need to look in different places than you would have back in the 50’s. The more extreme versions of sky diving come to mind. Mountaineering is still a big killer just as it has always been. The big difference is that now women are welcome to break their necks right along with the boys. If America needed a human flight test program to compete with a global enemy, even if it involved a 10% mortality rate, it would have a thousand men and women knocking on the door for every open slot. Dying at 30 doing mach 5 is arguably as rich a life as living to eighty getting your hair cut by the same barber every other Tuesday since 1975.


Perhaps not, but I get a feeling that a lot of people fail at identifying risks, or judge risks…

Risks are mitigates by rules, and if you break a rule, you become the risk, so you stick with the rules at all costs.

I prefer risk mitigating by knowledge. Know the dangers and know how to deal with them, and use your judgment.


That’s a great article, really well-researched


Fantastic article @BeachAV8R, I really enjoyed reading it! Sure makes you appreciate the X-plane physics engine a lot too when you see these results line up.



Nice mention for you @BeachAV8R in Tim Stones Flare Path today. Well done!


Hi @Troll, I know you were just quoting me efficiently but the quote makes it look as if the gist of my post is the opposite of what I was saying. No big deal because it’s a minor issue and unintentional. But as wanted to clarify anyway.


Ah…that’s a nice mention by Tim - I absolutely love his content over there at RPS. He has a unique way with words that is beyond compare. Thanks for the link…I didn’t know we got a mention… :+1:


I fixed it to give the full context. Hope you don’t mind @Troll :+1:




Hi @smokinhole!
Where’s the fun in misquoting people if you can’t do it out of context? :grin:

I never meant anything by quoting the way I did. I certainly didn’t intended for the quote to be misinterpreted in any way.

In this instance I do believe the quote got cut inadvertently, since I was posting from my phone, or tablet, and have big thumbs. :wink:

Please accept my sincere apologies!


Don’t tell me you have a problem with my quotes too?

Thanks! :smile:


You’re just so angry these days. That Captain gig must be stressful…!! :rofl:


A captain is supposed to be angry all the time. Isn’t he? That’s what’s stressing me! I’m normally easy going and kind to everyone. But now I need to fake anger to make everybody behave…

Maybe I shouldn’t have watched all the episodes of «Black Sails» during my commanders course…?