Test Pilot Major Arthur W. “Kit” Murray with Bell X-1A, Edwards AFB, May 1954

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  1. 4 June 1954: at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Major Arthur W. “Kit” Murray flew the experimental Bell X-1A research rocketplane to an altitude of 89,809.7 feet (27,374 meters). He flew high enough that the sky darkened and he was able to see the curvature of the Earth. Newspapers called him “America’s first space pilot.”

    Kit Murray enlisted in the United States Cavalry in 1939. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, he requested to be trained as a pilot. Murray flew the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk in combat in North Africa. After a year, he was sent back to the United States to be an instructor flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter. His next assignment was as a maintenance officer. He was sent to Maintenance Engineering School, and from there to the Flight Test School at Wright Field.

    Murray was the first test pilot permanently assigned to Muroc Army Air Field (later, Edwards Air Force Base). Other test pilots, such as Captain Chuck Yeager, were assigned to Wright Field and traveled to Muroc as necessary. Murray was involved in testing new Air Force fighters and also the experimental aircraft such as the X-1A, X-1B, X-4 and X-5. He spent six years at Edwards before going on to other assignments. Later he was the U.S. Air Force project officer for the North American Aviation X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane.

    June 20, 2014 at 7:20 am

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