North American X-15: The Plane That Left SR-71 Blackbird In The Dust
The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is considered the world’s fastest aircraft. The SR-71 is a long-range, high-altitude Mach 3+ Strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed by the Lockheed Corporation. Pratt & Whitney J58 engine powered this aircraft has a top speed of 2,200 km/h. Did you know that there is an aircraft faster?
North American X-15 went twice as fast as the Blackbird and much higher. The X-15 is a rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It was a part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft. It could fly at a top speed of 4,500 mph and fly as high as 354,200 feet or 67 miles above the earth.
This plane needed the help of a B-52 Bomber to achieve that high speed and altitude. So the X-15 didn’t take off from the ground. NASA used NB-52A and NB-52B aircraft for these flights. The B-52 released the X-15 at an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour. Then the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 would activate and provide this plane a thrust of 70,400 pounds according to NASA.
Major Michael Adams received the rating of an astronaut flying the X-15. He received the honor posthumously after he was killed in a crash of his X-15A on Nov. 15, 1967. He reached an altitude of 266,000 feet and a top speed of 3,617 mph on his final flight breaking the 50-mile barrier that the Air Force and NASA defined as entering space.