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NASA - Dryden History - Historic Aircraft - X-1 Conclusion
October 9, 2008


The X-1 #1 airplane flew for the last time on May 12, 1950. During its career, it made eighty-three flights with ten different pilots. It was formally retired on August 26, 1950 and currently hangs in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

The X-1 #2 airplane flew for the last time on October 23, 1951. It made seventy-four flights with nine different pilots before it was retired to be rebuilt. As the X-1E, it flew twenty-six times with two pilots. It was finally retired on November 6, 1958 and is displayed at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, California. The X-1B airplane flew for the last time on January 23, 1958. It made twenty-seven flights with ten different pilots. It was formally retired on January 27, 1959 and is on display at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

The NACA presence at Muroc led to the development of new procedures for flight testing of experimental and revolutionary aircraft. The growth of the flight programs at Muroc led to a rapid expansion of NACA personnel to handle the new duties. The unit became independent of its parent NACA Langley Laboratory in 1954 and, after several name changes, is currently the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB.

The wealth of aeronautical technical information was the primary result of the X-1 research. For many, it was the only justification of the program. Without the more complete technical understanding of the dynamics of high-speed flight that the X-1 provided, industry and science would have been severely handicapped in their efforts to produce evolutionary aircraft. A total of twenty-three reports were issued on the initial X-1 flights. These included: six on wind tunnel research, seven on stability and control issues, two on loads/buffeting issues, one on instrumentation data questions, one on aerodynamics, one on design issues, and five on multiples of the previous subjects. These reports allowed the development of new production aircraft for the USAF that incorporated the substantial new capabilities that assisted in high-speed flight. In total, over the life of the program, NACA produced sixty research reports and papers on X-1 data. Later, they added one report on the X-1A, two on the X-1B and five on the X-1E.

The success of the X-1 program boosted the prestige of NACA as a research agency after the disappointments and criticisms of the immediate post-war years. It provided increased funding for new and dynamic testing in free-flight and ground-based research endeavors. The research needs in wind tunnel testing allowed the agency to win another Collier Trophy in 1952 for slotted-wall technology. It set the pattern for cooperative interaction between the U.S. aviation community. Although the X-1 program followed separate, and sometimes difficult paths under Air Force and NACA control, the final results justified the dual track.

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