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Part of the Charles A. Lindbergh Lecture at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution by lifting-body pilot Bill Dana.

Dryden engineer Dale Reed (slide) was intrigued by the concept of an airplane with no wings. He built a tissue paper and balsa model of the M2 and hand-glided it into tall grass. The model had stability, and Dale was soon hand-launching the M2 model from the rooftops of buildings. Dale enlisted his wife to take movies of the M2 in flight, and then plotted to find a way to show the movies to the Dryden center Director. His goal was to build a manned version of the M2 lifting body.

Dale Reed holding Lifting Body model
Dale Reed
Dryden Research Pilot Milt Thompson
Milt Thompson
Reed felt that if he had a test pilot on his team that he would have a better chance of selling the program. He approached Milt Thompson (slide), a young but visionary Dryden Research Pilot. Thompson agreed to join Reed in the advocacy of a manned lifting body. They obtained an audience with the center director, showed him the movies of the M2 model, and persuaded him to approve a manned M2 shape.

M2-F1 in tow over Dryden
M2-F1
M2-F1 in tow by C-47
M2-F1 in Tow by C-47
The M2-F1 (slide), the first flight version of the M2 shape, was built out of plywood by a glider-maker, and it was towed, like a glider, behind a C-47 cargo plane (slide)10. (Pause, then slide.)11 As you can see, it was a half-cone shape, with a rounded nose and stabilizing fins on the aft end. It was towed to an altitude of about 10,000 feet, at which point it released from the towline and glided back to a landing on the dry lakebed at Edwards. It was designed to demonstrate the flyability and landability of the M2 shape, and it did this quite well, with about 80 flights to its credit.

On the strength of a successful lightweight lifting body program, Dryden contracted for the construction of two so-called "heavyweight" lifting bodies, made aluminum and stressed for supersonic flight. Originally it was planned that both heavyweight lifting bodies would be M2 shapes, but the NASA Langley Research center asked that its candidate lifting body shape, the HL-10, be flight tested along with the Ames-designed M2. That's the way the NASA heavyweight lifting body program was finally structured - with one M2 and one HL-10.

M2-F1 in flight over Rogers Dry Lake
M2-F1
M2-F1 and M2-F2 on runway
M2-F1 and M2-F2
On of these heavyweight shapes was an M2 shape known as the M2-F2 (slide). The M2-F2 was dimensionally identical to the M2-F1, but was built of aluminum and had a hydraulic-powered flight control system to provide controllability at supersonic speeds.

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