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Gene Fowler Jr.
At the height of the Cold War during the 1960s the U.S. Air Force and NASA tested an experimental rocket-powered research aircraft code-named X-15.The X-15 experiments were conducted at Edwards Air Force Base.The X-15 aircraft set altitude and speed records by reaching the edge of outer space.The project is managed by U.S. Air Force Colonel Craig Brewster and scientist Tom Deparma. The main test pilots are Matt Powell, Colonel Lee Brandon and Major Ernest Wilde.During the test flights the X-15 aircraft is dropped from a B-52 Stratofortress mother ship before starting its engine.The whole test team is enthusiastic about the project but the project is plagued by setbacks and near disasters right from the start. Written by
At the beginning of the movie in a close-up side shot of the X-15 hanging under the B-52's wing, you can see that the cockpit cover on the X-15 is not fully seated in the closed position even though they are in a countdown to in-flight launch. A launch in that condition would have ripped the cockpit cover off of the aircraft and killed the pilot. See more »
If you are an aviation junkie than X-15 is the film for you. You will understand and grasp more readily than any of us ordinary film fans what's going on. I had to consult Wikipedia about the X-15 so I was sure of what I was writing.
The narrator of the film was well known Hollywood aviator James Stewart whose love of flying and flight was deep and sincere. He was in fact a general in the Air Force Reserve from his wartime experiences. Stewart always took a reverential approach to flight, possibly too reverential to make his projects entertaining enough. It was the biggest flaw with Strategic Air Command.
Perhaps had X-15 been done as a straight documentary it would have been better. We never really get involved with any of the characters of the test pilots and their homes and families. It was true that one test pilot of the X-15 was killed during the experiments and one of the pilots is killed in the film.
The X-15 was kind of a not missing link between airplanes and rocket travel. It had rocket power that boosted it straight into the highest altitudes yet known and it sure was faster than anything yet known. The experiments would provide a lot of data for NASA to design the space capsules that our Mercury and later Gemini astronauts used.
It would have made a great documentary the X-15 story. For aviation buffs this film's a 10. It's something less for the rest of us.
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