Why The First Manned Mach 3 Plane Crashed
YouTube / Real Engineering
An Unfortunate Accident
The Bell X-2 was created to fly between Mach 2-3 and to address the difficulties encountered by its predecessor, the Bell X-1.
The jet featured swept wings angled backward to reduce the shockwave that forms when the plane transitions from subsonic to supersonic speeds.
It pushed the US’ understanding of rocket engines – while also setting speed and altitude records, but not without difficulty.
Shortly after the first ever pilot reached Mach 3 on September 27, 1956, his Bell X-2 lost control. The pilot, Captain Milburn G. “Mel” Apt, set a speed record of 2,094 mph.
He managed to eject in the plane’s escape capsule but was likely knocked out in the process and wasn’t able to deploy his parachute in time. As a result, the Captain and his aircraft crashed in the desert near Edwards Air Force Base.
Thankfully, we’re not in the 1950s anymore and personal parachutes are self-deploying these days.