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X-15: The World's Fastest Rocket Plane and the Pilots Who Ushered in the Space Age (Smithsonian Series)

15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0760344453
ISBN-10: 0760344450
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"... this book provides new insight into one of the most important, and fascinating, 'X-planes' of the 20th century." - Aviation Week



"This book offers a very thorough history of the X-15 program...a concise, yet detailed, introduction to the X-15. As rocket-powered aircraft take to the skies again this year above the Mojave Desert, this book reminds us of another era of such vehiclesâ??and, perhaps, what might have been." - TheSpaceReview.com



"The authors have crafted an excellent introductory story for this aircraft. This book is a good read and I can highly recommend it to anyone who wants to start to learn about this most remarkable airplane." - International Plastic Modelers Society



"Like the X-15 itself, this book is spectacular. John Anderson and Richard Passman treat readers to an insightful and accessible description of the famous rocket plane from its inception. Fabulous photographs punctuate the text. This handsome volume excels in telling the story from start to finish. Anyone interested in the glory years of research flight will want a copy." - Aviation History



"Authors John Anderson and Richard Passman's X-15: The World's Fastest Rocket Plane and the Pilots Who Ushered in the Space Age lays out the case for why the X-15 was and continues to be such an important aircraft. This book makes the reader want to visit the National Air and Space Museum and view the X-15 up-close in a whole new light, in which its aerospace accomplishments rank alongside other distinguished aircraft on display at the museum." - DefenseMediaNetwork.com

About the Author

John Anderson (Washington, D.C.) is the curator of aerodynamics at the National Air and Space Museum and a former professor of aerodynamics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of many books about aviation and aerodynamics, both trade titles and textbooks.www.si.edu/ofg/Staffhp/andersonj.htm

Mr. Passman was the chief aerodynamicist for the Bell X-2, the first airplane to fly faster than Mach 3. He shared and contributed to the heady research airplane environment that pervaded the 1950s and ’60s, and much of this book reflects his experience in that environment.

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Product Details

  • Series: Smithsonian Series
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Zenith Press (February 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760344450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760344453
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By N H Tanner on September 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book arrived from the seller so adequately packaged that it took some effort to unpack. I'll mark that commendable. Despite a good review in Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine, it impressed me as being in need of good editing. Some of the sections seem like they were written by different people at different times and stitched together in some chronological order. There are numerous photos of the X-15 attached to its B-52 mother-ship, and on the ground at its home base; way too many if you ask me. Also, in the various sections the writers--or editors--have defined and re-defined terms that do not require such re-defining as one reads on in any publication, which is what gave me the impression that it was written by different people at different times and not thoroughly reviewed editorially. When factual information is presented, despite several grammatical and type-set defects, it is indeed informative, giving an acceptable--though not totally absorbing--overview of the X-15 program. I heartily support the Smithsonian for its fine educational work and wonderful museums; also their Air & Space Magazine for its top-notch content and editorial excellence. Would that it translated more in the publication of this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Val T. Howard on August 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
More of a coffee table picture book and not nearly as informative as other books on the X-15.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By donald on March 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent description of the history of supersonic flight and the technical achievements of a few individuals and private companies contracted with the U. S. government. The writing is fantastic, the photographs are amazing, and the way the text and photographs are combined utilizing the descripive "boxes" make this an enjoyable way to understand what transpired during the golden age on the cusp of the space race. I would highly recommend this Smithsonian publication.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joseph May on June 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is, in the authors’ words, a biography of the North American X-15 and the program’s 199 flights. Yes, there are technical aspects as there are descriptions of the records obtained in the X-15 but there is so much more in this colorful book which has it differ from previous books on this aircraft. Anderson (Curator of Aerodynamics NASM) and Passman (also with the NASM and was influential in the X-2 and X-16 programs) have written the X-15′s bio so that we can understand the unique niche these three aircraft (X-15-1, X-15-2 and X-15-3) created and still solely occupy.

The X-15 was built to burn and to burn through the atmosphere into near space — to explore a performance envelope no other aircraft had experienced. Though missiles briefly travel hypersonically they do not return in the same piece as which they were launched so the rocket powered X-15 would be a pioneering aircraft design. The X-15 design proposal request called for an aircraft which could fly in the hypersonic flight regime to gather data for future aircraft designs but also fly transonically as well as subsonically. Anderson and Passman write well how challenging this request was given the lack of wind tunnel data for flying at hypersonic speeds as well as developing materials to survive in the high temperature environments above Mach 2.

Anderson and Passman provide short bios of each of the twelve pilots who flew the X-15 as well as describe mission planning (including staff required for up to five alternate airfields), Iconel X (an alloy required for the surface of each X-15 which could maintain its strength up to Mach 7) as well as the aircraft’s design.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Overall a good summary of the X-15 program, with chapters specifically dedicated to the aircraft, its pilots, and their flights. I would have liked to see some greater detail on the aircraft design, engineering challenges, and other technical aspects of the program, but as the authors state in the beginning, their intent was to provide a "biography" of the X-15. My other main criticism is that the writing could use a bit more polish. In places it read more like a draft than a finished product, with content occasionally recycled - particularly regarding pilot histories. On a high note, the archival photography included is fantastic.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Simon E. Darnell on November 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A poor book really. How many shots of the x15 mounted under a b52 do you need in one book? I also got mighty tired of reading how the data gained on the x15 fed thru to the Shuttle...twice on some pages....

Nowhere does the text give you the slightest impression of what the flight experience was actually like for the pilots....I mean these guys went Mach 5 and had to use the rocket thrusters when they ran out of atmosphere....
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By space1966 on March 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Probably not the definitive history of the X-15 but for those who are interested in an overview/introduction to this plane and pilots, this will definitively do the trick with lots of photos on glossy paper!. Overall a beautifully produced book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tim Richardson on March 30, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My grandpa designed the pressure suits and worked with all the pilots to keep them alive during these extreme situations. I loved that he photo-bombed images on pages 89, 90, 97, 99, and he is not even mentioned by name, or credits. On page 97 you can even read his name on his jumpsuit. Ironically, the editor did not even mention who this guy is that is taking center picture, or walking with everybody else that is mentioned. Funny. He died 15 years ago so this book, even without credits (which is what he would have wanted anyway), is a testament to the true grit that these pioneers faced. Heroes all around...
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