Proceedings of the X-15 First Flight 30th Anniversary Celebration

X-15 Pilot's Panel
June 8, 1989

Complementing the X-15 technical symposium, an X-15 pilots' panel session was held following the celebration dinner. Speakers were introduced by Ralph B. Jackson, former chief, Dryden Public Affairs Office. The panel included the X-15-era Center Director as well. Members were:

A. Scott Crossfield Robert M. White Forrest S. Petersen
Robert A. Rushworth Joe H. Engle William H. Dana
Milton O. Thompson William J. Knight Paul F. Bikle

Although a suggested topic was provided each panelist, they were allowed to discourse on any related subject for "5 minutes." The first speaker, William H. Dana, chose to show and narrate a film of X-15 flight activities. For archival purposes, the entire session was videotaped. A transcript of each panelist's statements and remarks was made and, with minor editing to enhance readability, is presented in this section.

Photo of pilots' panel participants
Pilots' panel participants (l. to r.):
A. Scott Crossfield, Robert M. White, Forrest S. Petersen,
Robert A. Rushworth, Paul F. Bikle, Joe H. Engle,
Milton O.Ihompson, William J. Knight, and William H. Dana.

Ralph B. Jackson

Ralph B. Jackson served as chief of the Dryden Public Affairs Office during the X- 15 era. He was the choice of the celebration organizing committee to perform the master of ceremonies duties for the X-15 pilots' panel which followed the celebration dinner. Now retired from NASA, Ralph provided major support which was essential to the success of the entire celebration.

Well, tonight has been nice. I would like to thank everybody who came, both guests and participants. We had some of our participants come from Germany, from local communities, and one of them even came from the local golf course. When I first came here, which was a hundred years ago I think, one of the first things we ever did was to write a story for the Saturday Evening Post. It got me into more trouble with NASA Headquarters than you can believe, because the lead said, "While the Mercury astronauts are taking ticker tape parades, it's the X-15 pilots that are doing the work."

Now, Milt said I can't introduce everybody, and, boy, everybody out there ought to be introduced for their contribution to the X- 15 program because, as you know, it surely was a joint program. We really worked hard. But lie let me have two. So I thought, and Milt agreed, that probably the one guy we ought to introduce as representative of the entire team was the X-15 program manager, Jim Love.

Then for the other he said, "Well, let's get somebody from Flight Ops who was, you know, really neat and helped the program, was cooperative, easy to get along with, and, you know, genial." We thought about it and couldn't find anyone, so we went to Chuck Yeager, and I'd like to introduce Ron Waite.

I'd now like to ask Mr. Paul Bikle to come up and give me a little hand with something, and I hope I can get through with this. Among everybody who came are three lovely ladies who contributed. I would like to introduce Miss Frieda (and I'm not saying that right, Frieda). Well, let me use their maiden names, Mrs. Michael J. Adams, Shirley McKay, and Mrs. Grace Walker. And if your husbands will bear with me, can I ask you to come forward, please. [Paul Bikle presented commemorative plaques to widows of the three deceased X-15 pilots.]

We have almost all of the pilots here. I was talking to Joe Engle today and he said, "You know, this is the first time we ever did this, the first time we ever had all the pilots together." I think Joe is probably right, but I'm missing Nell, who sent a letter. I'll try to get through reading this without getting misty; bear with me, please.

Dear Friends,

I am depressed, dejected, despondent, downcast and disheartened to miss the fun of the X-15 gathering this week. As frequently is the case, NASA Headquarters had a different idea for the working folks and shanghaied me off to another assignment. All of us have warm memories of the X- 15 project. When we're having trouble keeping airplanes flying front forward at Mach numbers around 2, the idea of building a Mach 7, 1400 degree aircraft seemed audacious. It was! A big research project by the standards of the time, it had the charm of everybody knowing everybody else involved-a far cry from Apollo.

During the World's Fair in Seattle in 1962, a special program honored a handful of folks who exceeded 100,000 ft in altitude (some of us from the X-15 project were there of course). We were properly humbled when we were outnumbered by the balloonists.

Like any effort at the frontiers of knowledge, the X-15 collected both triumphs and tragedies, but few programs come to mind that enjoyed success and esteem over such a long period of time.

All of us take a great deal of pride in our respective roles in the effort. Good luck to all of you. I miss being there, but hope we will run into each other at Smith's Ranch or downtown Beatty.

[Signed] Neil

If you have to ask who Neil is, you're in the wrong room.

Okay, what we're going to do-I made it, I got through without crying-is we're going to bring the pilots up. [As each pilot was called to the stage, he was given a commemorative plaque and then took his place at the table.] Scotty, can you come up please? Bob White. Incidentally, Bob White did come all the way from Germany to attend this event. Forrest Petersen. Robert Rushworth, who came from the golf course. Joe Engle, who told me today that he'd been a selectee for a major general. I'll tell you I was going to throttle this guy before it was over: Milt Thompson. His Honor, Pete Knight, and Uncle Bill Dana. Oh, I've got another plaque here. He didn't fly the X-15, but what he did was make sure it flew and did the right things it was supposed to do [presentation to Paul Bikle. Bill, are you about ready?

William H. Dana

Those of you who were in the Program could probably narrate this film more aptly than I can, so I'm not even going to attempt to talk to you. I'm going to try and talk in terms with the folks that didn't grow up with the program, including all the young people we are fortunate to have in the audience tonight.

This was in the service area the morning of the flight. The pilot wore a silver pressure suit because the silverized cloth reflected sunlight and helped keep the heat loads down in the cockpit. The pilot climbed into the airplane about 45 min before B-52 takeoff and spent 15 min strapping in and going through all the switches with the inspectors that were there with him.

Then it took another 15 min to start all engines on the B-52 and do the pre-taxi checks, and yet another 15 min to taxi the 3 mi out to the takeoff end of the runway.

It looks like with that little tiny window you wouldn't be able to see much out of it. In fact, the pilot's helmet was very close to those two windshields. And even though the windows were small, the field of view was excellent because the window glass was planar-flat so you didn't have the distortion of curved windshields.

After takeoff, it was about 45 min or an hour to the launch site in Nevada, usually about 200 to 250 nmi uprange. Part of that time was just to allow the B-52 to climb to altitude, and then we did a check of our pressure suits and started the countdown to launch. Right here we can see the steam rockets being tested. Those were the ballistic rockets that kept the airplane upright when it was ballistic. We used to check each steam rocket or attitude rocket prior to launch to make sure the water in the steam lines hadn't frozen. Here you can see a little bit of jettison; we jettisoned a little bit of the cryogenic propellant prior to launch to cool the propellent lines and reduce the chance of vapor lock once the engine was started.

After launch, of course, the airplane had about a 2-g acceleration and left the bomber and the chase airplanes very quickly, as you can see in this footage. There's a photograph from the mother ship of the departing X-15.

Now we're looking down the left side of the X-15 fuselage at the left hand horizontal tail, and the X-15 is climbing at about a 35' angle on a flight to 250,000 ft. Maybe, just occasionally, we can see the upper rudder moving up here, and the reflection you see there is just sunlight being reflected off a bevel on the auxiliary power unit exhaust. Down on the desert floor we can see the shadow of the X-15's contrail.

This is a photograph looking over the pilot's right shoulder at the instrument panel. We can see the center stick moving with no hand on it because the pilot was flying with the right hand controller which was mechanically linked to the center stick. Here the airplane is approaching peak altitude. This was X-15 No. 3, which had an autopilot in it and blended controls so the tail blended with the ballistic rockets and the tail was deflected high up in the thin air trying to hold the nose up and help the rockets.

In this scene, the X- 15 reentered, and shortly we'll see it start a left turn here back to the landing lake at Edwards, and shortly we'll see the upper speed brake being deflected. Here comes the upper speed brake, the pilot put that upper speed brake out to get his speed down to enter the landing traffic pattern at the right energy. Here the X- 15 is in the traffic pattern, about 300 knots, you can see just a little bit of the propellant jettisoning. We always tried to get rid of whatever fuel might have been trapped in the tanks at shutdown. Here the airplane is on final approach, about a 15' glide angle. The landing gear was left retracted for drag reduction until the airplane was in level flight and then extended. The main gear were skids rather than wheels as a weight-saving device. The skids were very far back on the aft end, so once they touched down you couldn't hold the nose off the lakebed; it slammed down fairly hard. The X-15 slid about 9,000 to 10,000 ft on the desert floor on the skids, no brakes.

In November of 1962, the X- 15 No. 2 launched at Tonopah, Nevada, and the engine failed to light. The X- 15 landed at nearby Mud Lake. The landing flaps failed to extend, so the landing was faster than usual. Because of the extra speed, the down load on the main gear after nose gear touchdown was excessive, and there was a faulty weld in the left main gear.

Due to the high speed and the faulty weld, the left gear collapsed and the aircraft veered sideways and rolled over damaging the wings, destroying the tail surfaces, and injuring the pilot, Jack McKay, who suffered several cracked vertebrae. Jack, of course, shortly thereafter, got back on flying status and soon was back in the X-15. When the X- 15 No. 2 was rebuilt, it was rebuilt as a test-bed for a ramjet engine, which was to be mounted on the ventral fin. The plan called for the ramjet to be tested out to Mach numbers of 8, which meant that external fuel tanks had to be added to be carried for the first minute of flight and then the tanks were dropped. The X-15 then had a full load of internal fuel with which to accelerate from the first minute.

Because the X-15 was to fly faster than the Mach 6.6 design speed, its skin had to be protected with an ablative thermal protection system. The flight we're going to see next was one flown to Mach number 6.7, the highest speed reached during the program. The X-15 carried a dummy ramjet mounted on the ventral fin. This dummy ramjet was put on prior to us having a working ramjet so that we could collect performance and stability data with the ramjet on the airplane. We also got heating data. The heating of the ventral fin in the wake of the dummy ramjet was much more severe than was predicted. Portions of the skin of the ventral fin were burned through, and there was substantial damage to the substructure and the subsystems enclosed in the ventral fin. X-15 No. 2 was sent back to the North American factory for repair. Before the repair of the damaged structure was complete, the entire X-15 program had been cancelled. X-15 No. 2 never flew again and the actual working ramjet was never flight tested. If we can have the lights down and the remainder of the film, I'm ready.

This is the X-15 just coming out of the paint shop after it had the ablative sprayed on it and here it is with the external tanks mounted on it. This pilot was handsomer than the last one you saw but not as tall. It was Pete Knight and he was the project pilot on X-15 No. 2 during its entire high-speed envelope expansion ... well, not entirely all of the expansion. Bob Rushworth flew it out to about Mach 2 prior to leaving the program.

This is the dummy ramjet and that's the ventral fin. We'll notice that now instead of the trapezoidal window we have an elliptical window for better distribution of the heat loads.

The left window was actually covered at launch with a couple of eyelid doors, and the reason for this was that the engineers were worried that at the high temperature portion of the flight, the ablative protective coating would emit some gases that deposit on the windshields and render them useless for vision. So the compromise was made that Pete had the tight window to look out during the boost, and then after he had slowed down from the high temperature portion of the flight, he could open the eyelid doors on the left windshield and have a clear window with which to accomplish the landing. Whereas the last movies, the movies we saw of the black X- 15, were a composite of many X-15 flights, with one exception, all this footage was taken during the high-speed flight to Mach 6.7. That was the only time we ever flew the airplane with the ablative on it and the drop tanks.

I think this is remarkable footage here. That is an X-15 launching at 45,000 ft and climbing to 70,000 ft and Mach 2. These films were taken from a ground camera.

The next footage will be of the ramjet being jettisoned-those are the tanks being jettisoned there-the next footage we see will be of the ramjet being jettisoned and this is the portion that didn't happen on the actual high- speed flight. There's the dummy ramjet being jettisoned prior to landing. On the high-speed flight, Pete didn't have to jettison the rarnjet-it fell off. You can see why here-the ventral fin is very black-the dummy ramjet was so weakened by the ventral being in the wake of the ramjet that the ramjet fell off the airplane in the traffic pattern. I've never gotten around to asking Pete whether this was a one-time good deal or whether he did this after every flight he flew in every airplane-whether he got out and inspected the airplane for damage. You can see the upper speed brake is fairly well charred there, but Pete isn't looking up there. He's looking down at the ventral fin which we are going to see was fairly well mistreated. This shows that the engineers' judgment was very good about the ablative outgasing and causing deposits on the windshields. These are some of the cracks we got and some of the heat damage on the-this is the telemetry antenna, that's the left strake, and we'll see a closeup of the left strake. This is the leading edge of the right wing, the leading edge of the right hand horizontal tail, and now we're looking up at the ventral fin, a big hole in the left side, a smaller hole in the right-there's the big hole in the left. Here you can see a smaller hole, but it's cut all the way through the corrugation on the right side, just like a cutting torch.

After all this terror, I thought we'd close out on a little lighter note. The next footage we see is looking over the pilot's right shoulder. This was on a flight of mine at 300,000 ft, and when I shut the engine down, I hit the latch on my check list and released 27 pages of checklist into the morning air. And now Ralph Jackson, can I go home now?

Ralph B. Jackson

Thank you, Bill, that was super. Now why don't we just start with Scott and go right down the table. You can talk as much or as little as you like and then we can go to questions and answers.

A. Scott Crossfield

When you step into that voting booth tomorrow and the curtain drops behind you and you're in there with your conscience, God, and country-hell, that's Clyde Bailey's speech, isn't it? That's really Pete Knight's speech.

Never have so many museum pieces collected under one roof, However, seeing all of you people, the nostalgia of it and the pleasantry of it is just overwhelming. To celebrate this 30 years ago, and 40 lb ago, I made a record and that record was-well, I'll tell you: The Southern California Soaring Society gave me a trophy which was a streamlined brick mounted on a beautiful piece of mahogany with a brass plate and I held the record then, and I believe I still hold it, for the shortest time from 38,000 ft to the ground as a glider. In an evening like this we all do miss Jack and Mike and Joe and I'm very glad to see back together again, a team that will never be matched, and that is Walt Williams who probably has had more to do with aerospace in the latter half of the 20th century than any one man alive or any 10 men alive, and we honor you and respect you, Walt. Certainly Stormy, who kept me in line and saved my bacon a few times while he was trying to design airplanes. Talking about human factors today, I want to tell you, they never got my pulse rate or my rectal temperature. I was well aware of both and it wasn't for publication. Those were the days of Captain Graybill, who was a psychologist and spent many, many years seeking what was unique about test pilots, and he failed miserably. But Randy Lovelace, who was a surgeon, he knew all the time because he said when you opened up a test pilot, you found only two operable parts, one at each end and totally interchangeable.

This is a tough audience. I'm glad I get to go first. I can get a headstart getting out of here. I hope that 30 years from now instead of looking back at the X-15 we're looking back at the X-30. For Edwards-with a high-speed flight station at Edwards Air Force Base at Muroc, California, if you please-the phoenix will rise again and we're going to make it work. We have to realize one thing and that's all I'm going to say tonight because to ask a pilot to talk only 5 min is a very difficult task you lay on him. The world has changed and we can no longer think that logic is going to prevail, that we're going to have Hartley Soul6 in Washington fighting our battles. I think every single man, woman, and child in this room has to become politically active in pursuit of what we think this nation ought to do. We can afford to be the United States of America and we only will if we exert our own pressures and make it go our way. We do know that there is a lot of thought in Washington today, but we're trying to make it prevail that the United States aerospace program-which is really born with and progressed only in systematically with a research aircraft program-has two elements. In spite of all of NASA's spectaculars, those two elements are (1) we must have a U.S.-manned presence in orbit to do all of the good things that are to be found out there and to do there, and (2) we must have a facile way to get to that space station, which the X-30 would be, and all reaches of the Earth's atmosphere and near orbital space. In other words, in this century I want to see us close the circle that the Wright Brothers started and exhaust everything that an airplane can do in that one century. Well, I hope that we will be flying that airplane in the next 5 to 8 years but, if we don't, I've still got 30 years left to fight it out. Thank you very kindly.

Maj. Gen. Robert M. White

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I leave the humor to my good friend Scott and good it was, too. Over the years of this century since man first powered his way into flight, there have been aviation controversies. In earlier years, Billy Mitchell raged for the airplane as a necessary adjunct for successful military operations, and then there was the tragedy of requiring the Army to fly the airmail. Later and to the present day we have seen, thanks largely to an inquisitive media, the controversy of the F- 111, C-5, B- 1, and now, even before its first flight, it will be recorded as the controversial B-2. But rocket research airplanes, in my view, were never controversial. The earlier X-models were often shrouded in secrecy, their significant accomplishments heralded at almost the same time the aviation community was putting the new knowledge to work.

The X-15, however, was in the public eye from its inception and grew almost asymptotically from the day of its manufacture. Witness the presence of the Vice President of the United States at the X-15 rollout ceremony. The X-15 was not controversial, it was audacious. It literally vibrated the imagination that this aircraft would double the fastest speed by more than 3 whole Mach numbers and, oh my gosh, fly out of the atmosphere, into space, and back again to an on-Earth landing. The X- 15 did these things and many more as you've either heard this afternoon in meetings or in the remarks you'll hear this evening.

I had the rare privilege, and it was just that, to make one of those flights to beyond Earth's atmosphere. To go high was easy, merely point the airplane to the sky and the power of the rocket engine sent you on its way. It was the coming back that was more difficult and demanding on both the pilot and the X-15. The plunge back through the atmosphere had to be precise; you literally had to fly through a corridor. The corridor boundaries-well, on one side approach at too high an angle of attack would cause (in the event of a flight control augmentation system failure) loss of control of the airplane, and the other boundary (too low an angle of attack) would bring you against the forces of pressure and heat that could destroy the aircraft. Well, so far, and all in all, not too bad but then there were the g-forces. During reentry, forces would build that at the same time drive you to the bottom of your seat and try to throw you forward into the instrument panel. Even that was not too bad as the anti-g suit kept all the blood from leaving your head so you would not black out and restraint devices kept you from smashing your head into those nice instruments on the panel before you.

But there were other disconcerting factors, some things that you could not rehearse or train for. Sometimes something you don't expect. The nose of the aircraft hunted back and forth, left and right, left and right, at a frequency a pilot does not enjoy, as I recall about a cycle/sec. Even that I understood, as the flight control system was working for me to keep me on track, and I thought, "Keep working, baby." Then the sounds, bangs, and booms through the aircraft, loud, often. "What the hcll," I wondered, "are we coming apart?" I pictured an Asian bell about 20 ft in diameter with some strong guy with a hammer about 6 ft long, beating that bell to death. The answer, simple enough: the flight control system working at its maximum potential was banging against its stops. The noises from this action reverberated through the large, now empty, fuel tanks and were amplified in sound to the pilot's cockpit. I thought later that I was glad I was not hearing the bells of St. Marys. I have had many exciting flying experiences, but I believe that I have never maintained such an intense level of concentration as I did during those several minutes of reentry. Following the flight, I noted a large red splotching across my right upper chest and arm with an uncomfortable tingling sensation through the right arm. The forces during reentry had overloaded and broken many of the small blood vessels in that area. That was merely a physiological aberration and those symptoms disappeared in about a week.

Now, whenever I thought back to this program, there's been a kaleidoscope of photos parading across the mind's eye--events and people. One picture always stands out. Imagine yourself out there towards Las Vegas, roughly over the California-Nevada border at over 300,000 ft. I looked down just to my right and it appeared I could spit in San Francisco Bay. Just to my left, I thought I could toss a coin in the Gulf of California. To use the superlative "fantastic," as I did that day, I still consider a fitting description.

Finally, let me thank all of those who contributed to a marvelous piece of aviation history. Those of you on this panel and those of you out there that are here tonight, I have always held you in the highest esteem. Thank you.

Vice Adm. Forrest S. Petersen

This is an incredible crowd, and 30 incredible short years have passed since Scott made that first glide flight in the X-15. The X-15 research objectives at that time to me seemed extremely incredible-250,000 ft, Mach 6, 1200 'R Anyone who had studied metallurgy as I had was not sure he wanted to have his fanny strapped to something that was going to have 1200' temperature on it. Now the fact that we had such a program that took us into areas that we didn't know a great deal about was not particularly surprising. History clearly tells us that whenever man has accumulated enough proof and theory to answer some of the questions and enough of the data to answer some of the others, that he has moved further ahead in flight, frequently well past his understanding of why he was successful in the lesser regimes. I think that has frequently been the case. Many of my experiences since I left the X- 15 program, in areas of aircraft and missile procurement, have proven to me that our industrial team-those teammates that always have to be a part, and a very extremely important part, of any weapons system procurement and who are aided and abetted by the programmers and plamers-are more interested in pushing ahead with high-rate production when they're successful than attempting to understand why they were successful. When they're unsuccessful, they cut and try repeatedly (sometimes simultaneously) rather than take the time to understand why they were unsuccessful. I don't say this with malice and recrimination about our industrial partners. You will find those who will tell you that there was a considerable period of time when I might have been part of the problem. That's just the way it is and therefore made sense to me, and it makes sense to me now to have a NACA and a NASA that was funded and manned to ferret out the answers. Our country needs the answers, we need the answers of why some programs are successes and others are disasters. I'm not sure I understood all this as well 30 years ago as I think I do today, but the X-15 program was in any measurement whatsoever an important, ambitious undertaking and certainly I was most proud to have been associated with it. It was a very diverse, extensive team of people doing a very important job.

We've heard today some of the usages to which the answers provided have been and perhaps will be applied. And it's pretty impressive. From my perspective, the X- 15 program was executed extremely well under the tutelage first of Walt Williams and later Paul Bikle. It wasn't easy for these guys to keep everybody pointed in the same direction at the same time. But under their leadership that's what happened. My own limited experiences of flying the X-15 are all right here in my kidney [pointed to head] and they'll probably stay there because I sort of lack the ability to accurately portray them. However, they are characterized by preparation, by priming, and by execution. In execution I found very few surprises and those that did occur proved our training concepts and were handleable. I think this says that our preparation and planning were pretty damn good. I read someplace that 13 out of the first 44 flights would have been failures if we hadn't had a pilot aboard and I don't mind those kind of statistics. And the X- 15 team, it consisted of people all over the country, not just here. Although the focus was here and the intense interest was here, there were people at Wright-Patterson, there were people at David Clark, there were even a couple of people in the Navy that were interested in our program. They did an incredible job, and I remember the team and their combined efforts and successes more than I remember my own experiences as a pilot. However, there are a great many vignettes that remain indelibly inscribed in my memory. I'd like just briefly to mention a couple of them. One of them was called the Beta-Dot technique and I think Dick Day was probably responsible for this. He had more time in the simulator than all of us put together, I think. This was a technique for handling oscillations that may occur at high angles of attack if You lost both the yaw and roll dampers and got into a divergent oscillation. You were supposed to watch the yaw meter, and as it went through center, you were supposed to kick it this way, and if it went the other way you were supposed to kick it that way. We didn't have a great many disagreements with the engineers, but we certainly did about the Beta-Dot thing.

Scott Crossfield has told you that nobody got his heart rate, breathing rate, and rectal temperature; they didn't get ours either, rectal anyway. Joe Walker and Bob White had preceded me, and I think that as a result of their heart rates, there was already a suspicion that they had a bunch of substandard people out here involved in this program. They got my heart rate and it fell right on top of theirs and they couldn't understand it.

I used to watch Burt Roland up on the telemetry data and one day Bob White opened the face plate on his helmet to clear his nose. I think he might have had a little cold or something and I saw Burt Roland see the differential temperature between the cockpit and the helmet go to zero, and I would like to have seen what would have happened if he'd been connected back to that thing. But our physiological people were certainly all great, and I seem to remember with great fondness Roger Bamicki, Norm Foster, and Ralph Richardson and the many hours of great care they took pouring us into our suits and making sure we didn't forget to hook something up when we got into the cockpit. Many days were spent at the David Clark Brassiere and Girdle Company getting our suits fitted.

I remember Bob Rushworth having a terrible time getting his x-rated tapes that he made, trying to simulate an X-15 reentry in a T-33 simulator. I remember the many ways we figured out to waste time when we had delays in the flight program, and I remember a guy named Rebel Harwell who could do miracles with things and was a master machin~ist. During those days we had a lot of coin collectors. Everybody would get their money out to see if they had anything rare that was worth something. Rebel was looking one day and said, "Look at that, I've got a nickel with only three legs on the buffalo." He had very expertly ground off one of the legs and he sold it for 50 bucks on the spot!

As I was the Navy pilot on this big Air Force base out here, I had a physical with the Air Force and they told me that in order to stay on flying status that I'd have to have a hemorrhoidectomy, and over a period of time they convinced me that I wasn't going to fly unless I did. So I scheduled such an operation at the hospital, a very fine hospital, and I was up there all prepared for this operation, you know, with a saddle block and my rear end's jacked way up in the air. Scott Crossfield was flying the X- 15 that day and he dropped the ventral through the power line and the lights all went out. And that young doctor said to me in the darkness before the emergency generator took hold, "You thought we got you up here to operate, didn't you?"

Well, these and a million other wonderful experiences were mine and they just add up to a fantastic part of my life, but I'm reminded tonight particularly of a close relationship I had with a guy named Joe Walker and a guy named Jack McKay. My life was tremendously enriched by my association with those two fellows. They were both super guys, each was his own man, and I miss them. My lovely wife Jean and I are delighted to be here tonight. I think she'll forgive me if I say that my first wife June, who lived with me here during this time of the program, also felt that she was a part of the program and unfortunately she is with Jack and Joe. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet Mike, Mrs. Adams. But what a tremendous program-I'm awful proud to be here and thank you for inviting me.

Maj. Gen. Robert A. Rushworth

Thank you. I'm extremely pleased to be back here with old friends and associates, and when I first heard about this from you know who-it was obviously going to be a small fun affair. We were all going to sit around and chit-chat and really enjoy the whole evening. It wasn't going to be a whole day affair as he said, but you know how he lies. And then I got a call from Milt Thompson, I think it was Milt, it was either Milt or Bill. I'm sure it was Milt, he's the one who doesn't have any hair, isn't he? He suggested that it was going to be a little bit more formal than I'd been led to believe. They would serve drinks but the pilots couldn't have any because he wanted the pilots to talk and I figured that's fine. Three weeks later I got a call from Milt and he said, "Plans have changed," and I said, "Okay, Milt, what's gone wrong now?" He said, "All the pilots are going to talk about their experiences in a particular area," and I said, "Okay, what do you want me to talk about?" He said, "Would you talk about the heat flights?" and I said, "Yeah, but I don't remember anything about the heat flights," and I said, "Can't I talk -?" "No, Bob White's going to do that." Then I said, "Well, how about-T' "No, Pete Knight's going to do that." I said, "Did you wait and call me last?" which I think he did. Anyway, I've been relegated, since Pete talked so long, to about 3 min to talk about heat flights and I'd like to start out in the context of talking about heat flights, but I'll probably divert from that because there's a little message I want to give.

Anyway, I started one of the heat flights early in 1962 and it was supposed to be a relatively simple flight. I don't remember now whether Bob Hoey was there or not at the time, but I kinda hope he was gone so I can't blame him. We flight planned this very simple: it was a Mach 5 flight to go to about 70,000 ft, and it was straight-a-way and just get the data point along the way as we traversed through the speed range. After we finished the flight, got on the ground, and got talking about it, one of the engineers came into the conference room and said, "Boy, we were over 2,000 lb q on that flight." Bikle got up and said, "Well, we ain't gonna do that again." That's about the first time I heard from Bikle but not the last. At that point it was Mr. Bikle, and Mr. Biklc called me into the office and he said, "How could you let those flight planners talk you into getting to that kind of a condition?" I said, "I don't know," so we went out of there. About 6 months later we were scheduling another flight planning meeting so all the people could get enriched on what we were going to do. This particular plan called for a launch that was similar to the one Bob talked about this afternoon, but instead of heading towards Edwards, we were going to head towards George and make a big sweeping turn and come back to Edwards. When it got to that point in the flight plan and I was describing what we were going to do, get to the data point and everything, Bikle says, "Hold there, what's this heading off towards George bit?" An engineerjumped up and said, "Well, we wanted to get a high angle of attack and a high Mach number and get this point." Oh, no. So I had to convince Mr. Bikle, took him down to the simulator, and showed him how simple a flight plan it was: we're just going to launch off, go down, make this big turn, and come back to Edwards. What Paul didn't know was that in that turn I was going to be pulling 15' angle of attack at Mach 5 and modulate the engine to hold it, and at the same time I was going to get about 5 g's and, you know, I'm gonna hold the airplane there for about 10 sec. At that time about all I could stand was 5 g's for 10 sec. Well, we got through that particular profile and after it was all over, Mr. Bikle came up and said, "You know, those are about the highest points we need to get in angle of attack and the strangest patterns." He said, "I don't think we need to go any further in that direction." So we didn't. Which leads me into the three successive flights that I had worked which really weren't heat flights in the No. 2 airplane when it was first rebuilt. We only had to explore some of the aerodynamics because the airplane had been made longer so we were up at about 100,000 ft and Mach 5 and looking at the aerodynamics of the airplane. It called for me to shut off all of the stability augmentation systems and give the airplane a little pulse and jerk the nose back and forth a little bit and then another little pulse, and the second time I did the little pulse, I got a loud explosion in the airplane. The airplane just jumped all over the place, and by that time I'm hiding in the cockpit looking for switches to turn everything back on, and I really didn't know what had happened but the explosion was so great and we were still flying and I knew something came off but we were still flying. And about that time I got down in the profile where the controller in the control room, who happened to be Jack McKay that day, realized that I was at a geographical point where I had to put out the speed brakes. Jack called me and says, "Okay," he says, "that's fine, full-speed brakes out now." I called Jack back and I said, "Jack, there's something wrong with the airplane and I think the nose gear is out." Jack says, "That's fine, put out full-speed brakes." I said, "No, Jack, I got too much drag now, I'm not going to put speed brakes out ... .. Put the speed brakes out," Jack says. Finally I just gave up trying to convince him that I had a problem. Pretty soon it became apparent that I had a problem because I was coming down in speed and altitude a lot faster than I should have been and the chase people began to realize that. Fortunately, Joe Engle caught up with me, somewhere north of

Edwards-probably 20, 30 mi-and he said, "Yeah, you're right, the nose gear's down but everything looks fine." That gave me a lot of confidence. The unfortunate thing was I was about 15,000 ft too low and a Mach number short of entering a normal traffic pattern. 1, as we all had, practiced landing out of adverse conditions like this, so I just made a big 360' sweeping turn which Joe later told me he couldn't keep up with in the F-104 and put it on the ground. The worst thing about the whole flight started right there when the tires hit the ground; they started to shred. The airplane started to vibrate so bad I decided to pull my feet away from the rudder pedals, because if the nose was going to break, it was going to cut my legs off. But the vibration was so bad I couldn't stay in the seat, so I had to put my feet back on the rudder pedals and suffer that. About that time the tires all shredded, and it just smoothed out and rolled along and I could hardly tell any difference at that point in time.

That led to another flight in which we had a similar incident. The right main skid came down at the same point I was doing the same thing; the skid lock broke off and gave us all this drag. When I got back home, I got out of the airplane (it was a little less trying this time), got on the ground, and walked back to the airplane and symbolically gave it a boot. I didn't realize anyone was watching; usually there's no one out there at that point in time. After I'd changed clothes and got back into NASA buildings, I got a call from Mr. Bikle. So I went up to his office-we hadn't even started the debriefing yet-and he looked at me very seriously, and he said, "What's this business about you kicking the side of the airplane?" Well, I knew that right then it was about time I could start calling Mr. Bikle "Paul," and from there on I had that special relationship with Paul. It says one thing about the leadership on both sides, the Air Force and the NASA people who run those kind of programs. We had a camaraderie thatjust wouldn't quit, the people worked together and the leadership worked together. Thank you very much.

Paul F. Bikle

We took a vote from the pilots further down the table and decided we'd rather speak from the local microphone rather than follow Scott's precedent.

I really doubt that a front office-type like me has very much of an input into a pilots' discussion panel and I'd rather go on to the other pilots at this point. And if anything comes up in the question and answer part or anything that I disagree with, why I'll-I think that any remarks that I might have would come at a more appropriate time if there happens to be anything that touches on areas of this type.

Brig. Gen. Joe H. Engle

Mr. Bikle, I think that's a hell of an idea, by God. Well, first of all, let me just say that I want to thank the people whose idea it was. I think in asking around and snooping around it appears that Milty, it's kinda your brain child to get this thing started. I know you had a heck of a lot of help and a lot of people put a lot of real time, serious work, into making this happen. I think this is the neatest thing I've seen happen in a long time. It's not a good idea, it's a great idea, Milt. I remember once making a trip with the guys that were on the pilot team down to North American at Los Angeles. Milt had some good ideas on that trip, too, but they were different kinds of ideas than what we've got here tonight ....

Bob touched on a thing that I guess, in thinking back, just stands head and shoulders above everything else in my memories of the X- 15 program, The X- 15 was the greatest airplane I've ever strapped my butt into and I just say that fight up front, it is the neatest machine to fly, the most professionally rewarding airplane to fly and climb out of that I've ever been in. The thing that I guess that really strikes me, though, is the thing that Bob Rushworth touched on, and that was the people that were involved in the program and the cooperation, just the magnificent, motivated cooperation that existed between two real major agencies-the Air Force and NASA at Edwards-and I guess in thinking back that was the thing, you know, that always stuck out in my mind as being the neatest thing about this program.

Notwithstanding all of the technical contributions that the program made to us, in the lineup of stuff that Ralph kinda indicated that he'd like for us to talk about, Bob was gonna talk about heating flights, I was gonna talk some thing about the contributions to the shuttle, or the relationship of the X-15 flights or the technology to the shuttle. And I guess to me it's so doggone apparent and obvious that the things that we learned in the X-15 were so directly applicable to designing and building and having confidence in the shuttle. Confidence of knowing that we could fly out of the atmosphere, get above where the flaps and the ailerons and the rudders, all those things that go flopping around on the wings and stuff, don't do you any good anymore 'cause there isn't any wind going over them and-let me know if I'm getting too technical for you-but you gotta use a different kind of a control system and how to blend that control system back to the floppy things again when you come back to the atmosphere. Yeah, we really didn't know how to do that, so we figured out how to make that work real smooth so the pilot didn't have to think about what was going on. And we used that in the X-15, Pete, the Beta-dot technique in the early shuttle simulation before we really had all the flight control systems really tailored-we were using Beta-dot, by God, we were using the same technique. It was distasteful as hell, but it was Beta-dot we were using and the same technique. I think that the idea, the confidence to press on with a low L over D unpowered vehicle and bring it back in and land it-the fact that we had done that, not just with the X- 15 granted, but the X- 15 was probably the most visible program-it gave us something to relate back to and say, "Yeah, it's okay to do that, we've done it, we know we can handle that without any problem, let us press on with a concept to bring the shuttle back in a manner that was simple." I mean you don't need to worry about cranking up any engines again, you can bring it back in and you can land it.

I think that one of the neatest feelings that I had was coming back on the first flight in Columbia and, God, from Mach 6 on down it was the same as the X- 15, 1 swear to God. You know, the entry lasted over a longer period of time-the reentry on the X-15 only lasted a few seconds-the shuttle is spread out over 20-30 min, but once you got down to Mach 6 and you saw the field, like Pete was saying, you could spit down on the field there underneath you and you set up the pattern and you rolled in. The L over D was about the same, the final approach speed was the same, the touchdown speed was about the same, wasn't more than 10 knots' difference in all those things. It was the most comfortable feeling, and when I rolled out on final-I'll admit to you I thought about this ahead of time and I practiced it, geezus, I practiced it like hell-when I rolled out on final with Columbia I was gonna call the tower. Now we weren't supposed to call-all the transmissions were supposed to go to Houston. You know, Houston, this is Columbia; Houston, the Eagle has landed. You know, everything is Houston.

Paul will appreciate this. There's some real healthful rivalry that goes on between the various Centers around and-but I love Edwards, Goddammit, I love that lakebed. I love Edwards, I love the people! So when I rolled out on final it was such a neat feeling, it was-you talk about d6jA vu-now I don't know French at all, I don't know what that word means, but I heard somebody say that once. Looking down at the lakebed, it was just the neatest 44 goddang here- we-are-again" sort of thing, and I called the tower and I said, "Eddie, this is Columbia rolling on final and I'll get the gear on the flare." The guy in the tower-I'd been out a lot practicing approaches and stuff and visiting with the guys in the tower and knew the guy in the tower-he was a staff sergeant and he called back and he said, "Roger, Columbia, you're number one cleared to land." When I got back to the debriefings at Houston, they asked about that transmission and they said, "Did you hear anything on the Comm-loop?" We weren't supposed to have any other stuff on the Comm-loop, and I said, "No, what?" They said they heard there was some conversation with Eddie Tower, and I said I was busy, I didn't hear anything. But it was a fun thing to do.

Somebody said earlier today, I don't know if it was in this panel or earlier, they said that the X- 15 was a tailored airplane. Bob, I think you said that earlier in one of the interviews out there and I think it really was, it was tailored in a lot of ways. It was sized to a standard MilSpec Crossfield. Most of these guys are standard MilSize Crossfield, I mean they can reach everything. Pete and I are about the two extremes; Pete was the shortest guy that ever flew it and I was the tallest guy that ever flew it. Pete had some unique problems. He had to have blocks on the rudder pedals and the throttle (I'm not lying, am I?), you had to have an extension welded back or bolted onto the throttle so you could reach it-I had a different problem; everything was back in here for me and my knees were. up in niv chin. But nobody complained about it because it was such a great machine to fly.

Milt said something like, "Don't worry about what Jackson told you to talk about, talk about the most interesting or exciting flight that you ever had or the scariest flight or you know all that stuff that those guys say." I think getting to fly that machine actually into space-there's something magic about 50 mi, I never did figure out what was magic about 50 mi, but there was-that was not the one that I remember the most or the one that scared me. One flight that scared me the most was my first flight. It didn't scare me the day I flew it; it scared me about 3 or 4 days after I flew it. It was a get-acquainted-with-the-airplane flight, you know-you launched, you flcw it at a reduced power setting, and you were coming back over the field and you felt the airplane out, and you pulled and you got different angles of attack. I looked down, it was the first time I'd ever seen Edwards from that high an altitude, and I looked down and it looked like it was right below me and I thought, "Well, I've never seen anything about negative angle of attack or pushing over anything, so I've got to get the nose down and get down into some higher q-bar." I had done some roll maneuvers, you know, left and right, and it just felt like a dream, so I rolled it over and let the nose dish out and dropped down so the nose was pointed down as that was the easiest way to get the nose down. And I really honestly felt that way and I really didn't think a thing about it and I landed, got on the ground.

I think it was the next day-I was still high-and the next day somebody said, "Hey, did you roll that airplane?" and I said, "Who me?" and he said, "Naw, I didn't think you did." I didn't think anything about it, and two days later Bob Rushworth came to me and said, "Come here, I want to talk to you." I didn't ever get to talk to Mr. Bikle. I was a captain and I never-between me and Mr. Bikle there was this white sheet of cheesecloth and a bunch of beads that held it down-and I never got to cross through there to speak to Mr. Bikle. But Rushworth would go in and talk to Mr. Bikle and Rushworth would talk to me. It was kind of an intermediary. And so he said, "Joe, I want to talk to you a minute." And we got into a room and he said, "Did you roll the X-15?" I honestly had to think about it and I said, "Yeah." He said, "We don't do that on this airplane." And I said, "Okay, I didn't realize that," and I forget what else you said to me. Bob was a major and I was a - a - everything he said was okay with me. I don't know if you ever knew about this or not, Mr. Bikle, but I sorta wanted to square this away, but anyhow it was a way that the program was run. It was an aggressive program, people were really seriously going after flight test data but doing it in a very professional manner, and I was never so impressed to work with a bunch of guys. And I didn't even know what that meant at the time but I do know in retrospect. It was a really professional group of people and I was so proud to get to be a part of it.

One of the things that I see today, and I kinda saw the same thing in the X-15, was that research airplanes are so hard to justify. People ask today on the X-30 and the national aero-space plane, and they say, what do you want to build that for, what are you gonna use it for, what are you gonna use that data for, really. I remember hearing the same thing about the X-15 30 years ago. As a matter of fact, I can remember really the politicians are the ones-the politicians, that's a bad word, but the people, the congressmen and the senators, are the people-that really need to be convinced that it is a,good deal to do. John, you know when you have VIP's come out to Edwards, you line the airplanes up and you have the new guys stand by the airplane and explain what the airplane does.

I remember one time when Hubert Humphrey came to Edwards and I was the new guy on the program, and Bob said, "You're going to go down to the hangar and stand by the X- 15 and explain to the Vice President (or whatever he was at the time); just stand there, you won't have to say anything." God bless his soul, the old liberal soul, he was a neat guy. You couldn't help but like the guy, he was so friendly and had that smile on his face all the time, you know. He came up and he said, "Well, what have we here?" It scared the hell out of me because I didn't know how to talk to a guy like that, and I said, "It's the X-15, sir," and he said, "Oh yes, yes, and how many squadrons of these do we have?" I said, "Not very many, sir." I didn't know what the hell-I didn't want to tell him we didn't have any squadrons 'cause I figured-and he said, "Well, we need more of these. I'll fix that when I get back to Washington," and I said, "Well, thank you very much, sir." I didn't even know how many we needed at the time. So we've got the same problem in justifying research airplanes and, doggone it, it's gonna take us all just really seriously convincing folks that we do need this research-we don't know what we're gonna-we can't identify an airplane we're gonna use this information for, but we need research airplanes to follow along in the X-15's footsteps. By God I'm convinced of that! And I guess in wrapping it up I would just like to echo what has already been said, that I feel so grateful that this whole thing happened tonight, not just all of us at the table together, but all of the people who worked on the X- 15 program. Boy, I've just seen people that just warmed my heart-God, I hate gooey emotional folks-but, God, it makes goosebumps go up and down me to see you guys out here, guys and gals out here. I appreciate your coming and thank you for coming and being a part, and letting me be a part, of this program here.

Milton O. Thompson

You'll have to excuse me-I had to write mine down-I've been so dam busy, you know; I was afraid I'd forget. I'd like to tell you a little story about one of my flights. It was for Ed Saltzman. He was trying to collect some data for the SST, if you remember, and he wanted to fly a flight just below Mach 3. Well, that was kind of tough to do, you know. We didn't have an ideal launch lake to make a flight at Mach 3 and stay under Mach 3, but it turned out Silverlake was probably the best. So we did a lot of simulation, but we still found out that to stay at Mach 3 or below, we had to pull the throttle before we had enough energy to get home, and we knew there was a ground rule against that. So Ed and I went to see Joe Vencil to see if we could change his mind, you know, and said, "Joe, you know, we'd like to do this flight and we'd have to pull the throttle back a little early, but we're sure everything will be all right." Joe says, "Not only No, but Hell No!" Saltzman was smart enough, he gave up. I didn't, so I argued with Vencil for a couple of weeks and finally, I guess, he just gave up and said, "Okay, go ahead."

So the big day came, I launched, climbed up to 70,000 ft, accelerated up to Mach 3. 1 pulled the throttle back to stabilize at Mach 3; sure enough, the engine quit. So I tried a couple of restarts and didn't get it. I'd had a small explosion in the engine when I tried the restart, and so I got the call to go to Cuddeback. Well, that was a long, slow flight starting at Mach 3, and I had about 70 mi to go, and by the time I got there I had all five chase planes on my wing. Bob Rushworth finally said, "Hey, three of you get the hell out of here!"

So, when I got to Cuddeback, I started my approach into the landing and I was going to make a landing on the north-south runway heading north. I had quite a bit of altitude, so I thought I'd make a nice lazy turn, and all of a sudden I get a call from Jack McKay and he says, "Wrap it up, tighten up your turn." I thought, well geezus, it looks good to me but they kept on insisting on tighten up your turn, so, you know, in an emergency you figure maybe they know something I don't know. They kept this up around the pattern and finally when I turned final I had so much energy, you know, I could have made another 360. Instead I put the speed brakes out and shoved it on over and, God, I must have been doing 400 on final. I finally got the thing on the ground and this was one time when I left the speed brakes open during the flare and after the flare and it's directionally unstable, so I'm wallowing all over trying to get in on the ground. I finally get it on the ground and I'm landing way long and there's a road that goes across the lakebed about 3 mi up the lakebed. I hit that road doing about 100 mph, just plowed through the banks that they had up on either side, and bounced over the road and finally came to a stop about 500 ft beyond the road. There was a fire truck that had pulled in behind me when I landed there, and they came roaring across there and hit that road about the same speed. Somebody told me later that fire truck was 10 ft in the air.

Well, I survived the flight, but I was sure sorry I had because now I had to go back and face Joe Vencil. Anyway, after that landing I borrowed a line from Jack McKay who had made a similar emergency landing up at Delamar; he landed a little long and it turned out he ran off the edge of the lakebed and up in the boondocks. Somebody asked Jack after that landing, "How long was the runway on Delamar?" He said, "Oh, it's 3 mi long with a 500-ft overrun." Well, it turns out that Cuddeback is the same thing-it's 3 mi long to the road and a 500-ft overrun. Thank you.

Col. William J. (Pete) Knight

You're not going to catch me sitting down when I can stand up and everybody can say, "Stand up, Pete!" It's my honor to be a part of this presentation this evening and to be a member of this distinguished group, and you can see by what has happened this evening that it is a distinguished group. You know, some of the stories that have been told have been true, some of the stories have been left out, some of the stories about various flights have been left out, and some of them have talked about recovering the airplane purely on pilot's skill. Well, Scotty left one out, I think it was the first flight. Scotty had a little pitch problem, called a PIO I think, and that's where the airplane comes down and it goes like this. Scotty got it on the ground and said: "Yeah, I got it just fight so it was right there." Bob White had a few also; he didn't tell all either, you know. The ventral wouldn't come off one day and I happened to be chasing him. I asked him about it and he said, "No sweat." He says, "when I dropped the gear, the ventral was going to come off." I said, "Well, what were you going to do if it wasn't going to come of[T' "Well," he said, "you know I had 25 sec to figure that out."

Rushworth and his stories about the gear coming down-hmmmm-Joe Engle rolling the airplane. He didn't have the slightest idea about the inertial coupling of the airplane, just thought it would be nice if we could roll the airplane. Milt Thompson-uh huh, the engine won't quit-hmmmmm. Well, we all had our experiences and I think everyone here has landed at an emergency lakebed at one time or another during the X-15 program, which only points to the fact that, yes, pilot skill did play an important part in this program because it did save the airplane on numerous occasions. I think I could probably count on one hand the number of flights that we had that there wasn't some sort of an emergency of one kind or another that caused concern to the pilot, to the control room, and to everybody who was concerned with the X-15 program.

When we started out with the program, you know, Crossfield said, "We need windows in the airplane and we need these nice rectangular windows so we get good visibility out of the airplane." Well, as time went on, Bob flew the airplane to some high speeds and the windows began to crack, so they said we'd better make them oval because there's too many sharp comers on these things. By the time I got there and wasn't too bright about this whole thing, they said, "Well, you really don't need all those windows, we're going to cover one up." Being the new guy on the block I said, "Well, okay, if that's what you guys say-you know."

Development of the X-15 continued over the years and there were a number of those kinds of developments that took place after the old guys did their thing and left. They said, "Well, we're going to make it go faster, so we're going to hang tanks on the airplane and we're going to increase the weight from 35,000 to about 53,000 lb and we're not going to increase the wing area or anything else. Besides that, those tanks aren't going to weigh the same, so that means it's going to be asymmetric. And besides that, it's going to go fast for a longer period of time and it's going to get hot, so we'd better do something about that. We'd better cover it with ablative material so you can stand the temperature, but that material is going to come back over the window and it's going to cover up the window, so we'd better block that off and besides that, it's going to come through the pitot tube, so we'd better get another pitot tube-uhhhh." I went back and talked to people who had flown the airplane and they said, "Boy, it sure has changed over the years, hasn't it?" I said, "Well, yeah."

People talk about Mr. Bikle and I had a few occasions to talk to Mr. Bikle. He looked at the program and he said, "I think you're all crazy," and I happened to agree with him. But I happened to be the one who was supposed to fly this thing, and he said, "What do you think about this, Pete?" And-well, I knew I had to come up with a good story-1 said, "Well, it's not too bad, you just have to take it one step at a time. It's just like flying the basic X-15. You drop, you light the engine, if the engine lights you're in good shape, if it doesn't light, you have to jettison everything and land." I said, "If it lights and the tanks feed, you're in good shape. If the tanks don't feed, there are other things that you got to do, so just one thing at a time. So when you get up there and the tanks feed, the tanks go dry, you jettison the tanks, now you press on with the internal fuel, it's just another step in the program. You get up to a high Mach number, you shut it down, just another step in the program." Mr. Bikle looked at me. "Well, that sounds simple; I guess we'll try it one time."

You know when we did that and I came back-Bill so expertly narrated what happened on that flight-and non-nally when you come back on an X-15 flight and you land on the lakebed, there are all kinds of people there to get you out. They come up to the front of the airplane, they've got ladders, and they're, you know, opening the canopy, unstrapping you, and congratulating you and asking you how the flight was and giving you a drink of this and that and so forth. I got down on this flight and there wasn't anybody on the front end of the airplane. I opened the canopy myself, opened it up and looked around and there isn't anybody around. The people who are coming to the aitplane are all going to the back end of the airplane. So, I finally get somebody to help me out of the airplane, and I walk back to the back end of the airplane and I said, "Oh Boy! Now I know why they are all going to the back end of the plane." Well, we burned it up pretty badly, and I've always said I'm glad I didn't know that was the last flight on the airplane because I would have probably gone to Mach 7 anyway, just to get an even number on this thing, you know. If we had, we would have probably busted up the airplane pretty badly, because things were really going to hell in a hand basket rather rapidly, which I didn't know.

Well, a lot of people have talked extensively about the X-15 program, and the people who are on the stage here and have contributed and made the program a success are great people. And the people who are out here in the audience and made it work, made it successful, I think, are even greater people and I'm certainly glad to have been a part. I think, to echo what Scotty says, the country has got to be committed to the continuation of the kind of development that we have started with the X series, the flying laboratory-type aircraft. Those kinds of aircraft contribute more to the progress in technological development of this country than any other programs, technologies, any other experimental research that I know of, and it's REAL data. It's flight TEST data, it's something that is there that you can't dispute. It's not wind tunnel data, it's not theoretical data, it's REAL data. We have to continue that effort, and I think we have to continue with the X-30 program in order to continue that kind of development. We did the X-15 program in front of the world, we did the Apollo program in front of the world, and I think the United States has to make a commitment to do an X-30-type program in front of the world and demonstrate once again that this country-the United States of America-is a leader in the technology, in the development of all technologies associated with the betterment of human mankind. I thank you for letting me be a part of this celebration and I thank you for being here.

Group photo of Knight,Bikle,Thompson,Petersen,Crossfield,Dana,Engle,White,and Rushworth
Front row (l. to r.):
William J. (Pete) Knight, Paul F. Bikle (former Center Director),
Milton O. Thompson, and Forrest S. Petersen.
Rear (l. to r.): A. Scott Crossfield, William H. Dana,
Joe H. Engle, Robert M. White, and Robert A. Rushworth.

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