Original U.S. Crash Artifact from Bell X-1A Aircraft with Signed Photo of Chuck Yeager Exiting Cockpit
Original Items: One-of-a-kind set. This is a great piece of U.S. "Space Race" Era history! The Bell X-1, (Bell Model 44), was a rocket engine–powered aircraft, designated originally as the XS-1, and was a joint National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics–U.S. Army Air Forces–U.S. Air Force supersonic research project built by Bell Aircraft. Conceived during 1944 and designed and built in 1945, it achieved a speed of nearly 1,000 miles per hour (1,600 km/h; 870 kn) in 1948. A derivative of this same design, the Bell X-1A, having greater fuel capacity and hence longer rocket burning time, exceeded 1,600 miles per hour (2,600 km/h; 1,400 kn) in 1954. The X-1, piloted by Chuck Yeager, was the first crewed airplane to exceed the speed of sound in level flight and was the first of the X-planes, a series of American experimental rocket planes (and non-rocket planes) designed for testing new technologies.
If you have read the book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, or seen the movie made by Philip Kaufman, then you know about this series of planes. The book and movie detail Chuck Yeager's legendary flight in the X-1, where he surpassed the speed of sound. Later variants of the X-1 were built to test different aspects of supersonic flight; one of these, the X-1A, with Yeager at the controls, inadvertently demonstrated a very dangerous characteristic of fast (Mach 2 plus) supersonic flight: inertia coupling. Only Yeager's skills as an aviator prevented disaster; later Mel Apt would lose his life testing the Bell X-2 under similar circumstances.
The X-1A was flown on many test flights, exploring the various aspects of supersonic flight, constantly breaking records. The aircraft was transferred to NACA during September 1954, and subsequently modified. The X-1A was lost on 8 August 1955, when, while being prepared for launch from the RB-50 mothership, an explosion ruptured the plane's liquid oxygen tank. With the help of crewmembers on the RB-50, test pilot Joseph A. Walker successfully extricated himself from the plane, which was then jettisoned. Exploding on impact with the desert floor, the X-1A became the first of many early X-planes that would be lost to explosions
This piece of aircraft aluminum is from that very plane, recovered from the crash sight. It looks to be a piece of reinforcement or strapping. The piece itself is about 2" by 3/4", is mounted inside of the frame. Above the fragment is a glossy copy of a famous publicity photo of Chuck Yeager exiting the cockpit, which has been signed by Yeager himself.
Below the fuselage piece is a short description:
MAKING IT'S FIRST FLIGHT ON FEBRUARY 14, 1953, THE
X-1A WOULD GO ON TO SET WORLD RECORDS IN
SPEED AND ALTITUDE. SADLY ON AUGUST 8, 1955, THE
AIRCRAFT CAUGHT FIRE WHILE BEING CARRIED TO
HEIGHT AND WAS JETTISONED TO DESTRUCTION.
SHOWN HERE ARE TWO REMINDERS OF THIS
PIONEERING X-PLANE. AN AUTHENTIC FRAGMENT AND
THE AUTOGRAPH OF TEST PILOT CHUCK YEAGER
All of this is very nicely mounted under a sheet of glass in a metal frame. It measures about 25 1/4" x 14 1/2" x 1 1/2", and is in wonderful display condition. Included with the piece is some correspondence with the original purchaser and Dan Witkoff, proprietor of Aviation Art by Witkoff, who created this lovely display piece.
A great piece of aerospace and test pilot memorabilia!
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