Skystreak, Skyrocket, & Stiletto


Scott Libis


Specialty Press


$24.95 from Specialty Press


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 144 pages, 9 x 9 inches, hardbound
ISBN: 1-58007-084-1

I have to admit to being an X-planes junkie. I love reading about them and for the most part, the aircraft were just cool. No thoughts about military applications on these, just pure research. Often folks will comment that these aircraft were really not needed as technology advances soon resulted in production aircraft that could best the performance of these experimental types. While that has some truth in it, it is equally true that the development of X-planes provided valuable data that manufacturers used while developing their production aircraft.

This book covers three of the Douglas experimental types.

The first is the Skystreak. It was to be stage 1 of three aircraft, each to be developed to test certain areas of the flight envelope. The Skystreak was to explore the transonic range of flight. As such, it didn't have to be fast, just able to reach the sound barrier and to perhaps break it in a dive. This it was able to do and three aircraft were built to accomplish this. To make sure there were no airframe surprises, a straight wing design was chosen.

The second is the Skyrocket. This was stage 2 and developed to be a combination turbo-jet/rocket aircraft. The idea was that the turbojet would propel the aircraft to near supersonic speeds and the rocket would then take over to give high speed data. This would be a swept wing aircraft, something that was yet unproven in US aviation. Unfortunately, the turbojet was the J-34 and not exactly a world beater. Though it was thought to save time and money by having the aircraft take off from the ground, the additional weight of the turbojet and systems proved to be too much and so an all-rocket air-dropped version was developed and airframes so modified. It was in this guise that Mach 2 was eventually surpassed. This was a most successful x-craft and the program resulted in no loss of life or airframe. There was no stage 3 as the program was cancelled in preference for the X-15.

The third aircraft in the book is the X-3 Stiletto. It was to be powered by twin J-46s and designed for Mach 2 performance. Unfortunately, the J-46 never reached fruition and the Stiletto was forced to use a pair of much lower powered J-34 engines. The result was that the aircraft was woefully underpowered and could only break mach in a dive. However, the design of the aircraft was extremely useful in providing data that was used by Lockheed in the development of the F-104. The X-3 also tested the effects of small wings with a large fuselage and was later to provide data into a rather nasty effect called intertial coupling. Eventually the aircraft was retired as technology had simply surpassed its usefulness.

Like all the Specialty Press books on X-craft, this one has a complete development history of each aircraft with all the important flights and interesting experiences fully documented. At the end of the book is a complete flight history as well as a short history of Edwards AFB.

Once again Specialty Press has produced an excellent book that I have to give my highest recommendation. Don't just think about getting this book, buy it. You'll be very glad that you did.

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