27.09.

1956: Mach 3 Exceeded For the First Time, Pilot Dies Tragically

1956: Mach 3 Exceeded For the First Time, Pilot Dies Tragically
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 27 September 1956
  • The Bell X-2, nicknamed “Starbuster”, was a rocket-powered research aircraft launched from a B-50 bomber. On this day in 1956, Milburn "Mel" Apt reached a speed of 3,370 kilometers per hour before he died.

On this day a manned aircraft exceeded Mach 3, i.e. the three times higher speed than the speed of sound, for the first time. 

Unfortunately, that flight ended tragically, and pilot Milburn “Mel” Apt died. He piloted the American aircraft (the Bell X-2), powered by a liquid propellant two-chamber XLR25 11 to 67 kN sea level thrust.

The aircraft was launched from a B-50 bomber. Milburn “Mel” Apt reached a 3.2 mach speed, i.e. about 3,370 km/h at an altitude of 20,000 feet.

At first, his flight was flawless, but when he tried to rotate the aircraft at a speed of more than Mach 3, a disaster occurred. The aircraft rotated around its axes, and the pilot could not control it any more. Apt died on this day, at the age of 32.

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