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The Flight Of The XS-1

"The Flight of The XS-1"

  The year was 1947 and the introduction to supersonic flight. Her configuration was like nothing ever built before. She was sleek, slightly plump in the middle but overall, an orange and silver dream for the test pilot. The commissioned rocket plane was truly aerodynamically perfect or so the designers thought. Every safety feature had been incorporated into the interior configuration, from its’ jet propelled ejection seat to the metal fatigue monitors. Unfortunately, for test pilot Captain Hank Straunach, one unknown factor was about to lift its’ head as a terrifying reminder of human fallibility. 

  Hank watched with considerable awe as the XS-1 was moved to a position directly below a modified RB-50 Superfortress in preparation for their mating. The huge four engined bomber had been raised twenty feet into the air by powerful hydraulic jacks allowing for a perfect joining. When all was ready, Hank donned his one of a kind flight suit and entered the cockpit of his futuristic craft. To Hank, getting into this cockpit was more like slipping into a nylon stocking. The seat and instruments allowed him zero clearance on all sides. The discomfort would be short as the flight duration was only four minutes.

  The Muroc Army Air Base was alive with excitement. This was the first supersonic flight ever taken by man. Confidence was high as were expectations.

"RB-50, this is Muroc Tower. You are cleared for start up. Proceed to runway two-six. You are cleared for take-off at your discretion. Wind at 9 knots, visibility unlimited, all aircraft have been rerouted, Your flight path has been declared a ‘No Fly Zone’. Chase aircraft to follow at your ten o’clock upon your command. XS-1 and RB-50, God speed. Muroc Tower over and out."

"Roger that Muroc Tower. Over and out. Hank, how the hell are doing down there?"

  Hank Straunach was still adjusting to his perfectly contoured cockpit when the RB-50 pilot broke through his headset with the question. A second or two later, Hank answered with a higher voice than usual reassuring the bombers’ pilot that everything was normal. For Hank, much work was required testing and retesting the ships gauges and dials confirming normal operating parameters before his deployment.

"Captain, everything is green down here. Please confirm your status and time for launch. The firing of my rockets are critical to your safety. I don’t want you to have a scorched belly when you land. I’ll have to pay for the new paint job if I do."

  Humor to the end thought the RB-50 pilot. This will be a walk in the park.

  Now on external communications, Muroc Tower, Command Central and the N.S.C.A. were all on the seat of their pants listening to the final countdown.

"XS-1, altitude thirty-nine triple zero, airspeed, five twenty knots, visibility still unlimited. Safe flight Hank. Bring the bird home in one piece. XS-1, you’re in command. Deploy at your discretion. Over."

  The rocket plane broke its’ bonds with the mother ship and fell in slow motion into the surrounding shrieking air. After a freefall of five seconds, Hank ignited the five RM-5 rocket motors and soared upwards at an ever increasing rate. Small balls of ignited fuel stretching aft of the rocket for what seemed several hundred feet. Observers aboard the mothership were astounded. The chase planes accelerated beyond the RB-50 and tried to keep up with Hank. It was a useless exercise. The XS-1 shot forward at an incredible speed never before witnessed. The support aircraft continued their flight as long as they were in sight of Hanks’ vapor trail and then some.

"This is Bell XS-1 to Muroc Base, over"

"Muroc base. Go ahead Hank."

"I’ve passed Mach 1 Muroc." Hanks voice was calm and collected. "The craft is smooth now and functioning normally. I’m very impressed. Slight bump when I went supersonic but that was expected. Several minor recommendations when I return. Permission to go for Mach 1.5. Over.

"Permission granted Hank. Beyond that, at your discretion. Over."

"Roger Muroc. Going Mach 1.5. Over."

  Hank throttled up and saw his speed gauge jump to Mach 1.9 then 2.0 and 2.1. The craft was now over twice the speed of sound or fifteen hundred miles per hour. Unexpectedly and without warning, the ship started to roll and pitch. Gently at first and then more violently. A phenomenon, to be known as "inertia coupling" was taking place. The XS-1 became uncontrollable. She was going to disintegrate and Hank knew there was nothing he could do. The craft refused to respond to powering down. All communication was lost. The needles inside the information dials were going in circles. Completely useless.

  Then, the uncomprehensible happened. Hank was so happy to see the exhausts of the chase planes catch up with him. He thanked his lucky stars.

"Those can’t be chase planes." Hank thought to himself. "Nothing can go as fast as I’m going right now."

  The sight he saw was a round ball of sorts with nine bright engine portals blazing blue and yellow flames. Surrounding this ball was a glow of aqua translucence slowly descending toward the rocket plane. As the needle plane was gyrating to and fro so badly, Hank was sure he was experiencing an hallucination. Not so. The light beam surrounded the craft and slowly created a pocket of calm. The XS-1 decelerated, the pitch and roll subsided and the controls came back on line as if nothing ever happened.

  But it did happen. Hank watched as the blue beam was lifted back to the object that was matching his speed. What ever it was, he was happy to be alive and again under full control of not only the plane but his senses. The object slowly left Hanks’ airspace and with a slight, almost unrecognizable flutter, sped into the stratosphere and into the dark void of space. The objects speed left a path of air folding in upon itself creating a shock wave similar to thunder heard even by Hank inside the XS-1.

"Muroc to XS-1. Muroc to XS-1. Come in Hank. Please come in. Over."

"XS-1 to Muroc. I hear you four by four , over."

"Hank, what the hell happened up there? We lost all communications with you. Mothership saw what they thought was you and another craft. What’s going on Hank?"

"Muroc, I’ll explain later. My wings and emmendage were aerodynamically unstable causing me to violently gyrate. The ship is in one piece. Can’t say the same about myself. Will clarify during debriefing. Boy, you won’t believe this one. It’s a doozy!"

  XS-1 landed safely on terra firma with little damage. Upon debriefing, Hanks flight was recorded and filed under "Classified-Eyes Only". The XS-1 flew several more times before being mothballed in a Military Museum. What went unnoticed, was a small, almost undiscernable mar, on the external fuselage of the rocket plane just below the cockpit. The mar was about one eighth of an inch long. In a form resembling hieroglyphics, it would translate into "Till we meet again."