Capt. Milburn G. “Mel” Apt, X-2 Test Pilot, Edwards AFB, 1956

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  1. On 27 September 1956, Apt made his first X-2 flight. Apt raced away from the B-50 under full power, quickly outdistancing the F-100 chase planes. At high altitude, he nosed over, accelerating rapidly. At 65,000 feet, the X-2 reached Mach 3.2 (2,094 mph), making Apt the first man to fly more than three times the speed of sound. Upon rocket burnout, Apt found himself further from home than anticipated. The planned flight profile called for slowing to Mach 2.4 before turning back to base. The additional time to slow before turning may have put him beyond safe gliding range of his planned runway. Still above Mach 3, he began a turn back to Edwards. The X-2 began a series of diverging rolls and tumbled out of control. Apt tried to regain control of the aircraft. Unable to do so, Apt separated the escape capsule. Too late, he attempted to bail out and was killed when the capsule hit the Edwards bombing range. The rest of the X-2 crashed five miles away. This ended the program. 55 years later, a memorial is in the works.

    December 27, 2011 at 8:14 pm

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