Chuck Yeager & M2-F1 Lifting Body

December 3rd, 2017

Chuck Yeager flew the M2-F1  Lifting Body 5 times:

Vehicle              Date               Pilot          Velocity  Altitude    Comments

M2-F1 #18 Dec 3, 1963    Yeager             240 3,650  Duration 00:01:35


M2-F1 #25 Jan 29, 1964 Yeager     240   3,650 1st flight of the day
M2-F1 #26 Jan 29, 1964 Yeager     240 3,650 2nd flight of the day
M2-F1 #27 Jan 30, 1964 Yeager     240 3,650 1st flight of the day
M2-F1 #28 Jan 30, 1964 Yeager     240 3,650 2nd flight of the day

Milt Thompson made the first seventeen flights of the M2-F1 during August, September, October, November and December of 1963 and found it a delight to fly and easy to handle in the dead-stick (unpowered glide) landings. Paul Bikle asked his old friend and commandant of the Aerospace Research Pilot school (ARPS) at Edwards Colonel Chuck Yeager to fly the M2-F1 and give his assessment of the vehicle before any other Air Force pilots were allowed to fly it. Yeager made his first flight in the M2-F1 on December 3rd, 1963 (he made a brief car towed flight to 20ft altitude during the last week of November). Yeager was a very competitive pilot and on this his first flight, expanded the flight envelope by flying the M2-F1 at faster and slower speeds during practice landing manoeuvres at altitude that had Milt Thompson.

Then Yeager dove the M2-F1 toward the lakebed at a steeper angle of descent than Milt had used, levelled out and made a greased-on landing right at the spot he said he would touch down at. Yeager exclaimed, “She handles great!” just after climbing out of the cockpit. Another NASA pilot, Bruce Peterson made his second flight that day just after Yeager. Due to the extreme colds from the high altitude, the M2-F1 had been towed to on its previous two flights, the oil in the landing gears shock absorbers had thickened dramatically. This caused the landing gear to fail on Peterson’s touch down. It would be almost two months before repairs could be effected and flight testing resume. During this time, Yeager had a terrible accident in the NF 104 and was badly burned. Nothing short of miraculous, Yeager had recovered sufficiently enough to be restored to flight status and made two flights on January 29th, 1964 along with Milt Thompson and Bruce Peterson.

Yeager asked Dale Reed for permission to roll the M2-F1 in flight, as he believed that he could make a perfect barrel roll in the little craft. Reed denied that request and Yeager never tried to roll it in his last flight in a lifting body that day. Yeager was now a fan of the lifting body concept and told Bikle that the lifting body handled well and that he would like to have a few jet-powered versions (which at that time had not been built) to use at the ARPS for training future lifting body pilots. Nothing came of this proposal, but subsequent rocket powered variants such as the M2-F2, M2-F3, Northrop’s HL-10, Martin’s X-24A & X-24B were successful and were powered by the same Reaction Motors XLR-11 motor as the X-1.

The M2-F1 is on display at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, California.


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