The X-3 Stiletto

In 1953 the Douglas Aircraft Company of Long Beach, California, produced a single copy of a needle-nose jet design, which pioneered the use of titanium for light weight and strength, and introduced new technology for aircraft tires. But the X-3 was underpowered with its Westinghouse J-34 engine, and the model never reached its planned speeds. During a test flight on October 27, 1954, pilot Joseph A. Walker performed two rudder-fixed aileron rolls at speeds of Mach .92 and 1.05, which led to a phenomenon called inertial coupling, where the heavy, high-density fuselage cannot be stabilized by the narrow wings and fuselage. Walker was able to recover control. Air Force testing lasted through 1956 at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) high-speed flight station, which was later known as the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. In this silent, color footage, the X-3 instruments are calibrated during a preflight check, the aircraft takes off, lands with the aid of a parachute, and is trucked away across the California desert. Video: NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (0:39)

Latest Videos

Preview thumbnail for video'Space Panorama
Space Panorama (5:09)
Preview thumbnail for video'Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser
Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser (4:01)
Preview thumbnail for video'STS-1: The First Shuttle Landing
STS-1: The First Shuttle Landing (5:55)
Preview thumbnail for video'CIMON the Space Station Robot
CIMON the Space Station Robot (0:46)
Preview thumbnail for video'The moon landing was the television event of the decade.
The moon landing was the television event of the decade. (2:41)
Preview thumbnail for video'“Determination of Azimuth”
“Determination of Azimuth” (1:34)
Preview thumbnail for video'New Shepard’s First Flight
New Shepard’s First Flight (2:29)
Preview thumbnail for video'STS-31: Launching Hubble
STS-31: Launching Hubble (4:57)
Preview thumbnail for video'Triple Transit
Triple Transit (0:05)