Flight path reconstruction at end of X-15 flight 51 (3-4-8):
Neil Armstrong's reentry skip

X-15 flight path, flight 51 (3-4-8)

A note on flight path reconstruction...

The actual flight path mapped in red on this web page is reconstructed from information in the map of the planned flight path, the pilot's postflight notes, the radio communications transcript, and additional recent comments offered by the pilot, Neil Armstrong

This author derived the shape of the turn over the San Gabriel Mountains and the northern part of the Los Angeles Basin by graphically rotating and reflecting the ground track from the only surviving radar plot of an X-15 mission. That mission was Bob White's FAI altitude record flight, which also finished with an overshoot of the landing site. White passed Edwards AFB at about 60,000 feet and Mach 3, Armstrong passed at just over 100,000 feet and Mach 3. Both used similar control inputs and aircraft attitudes to produce a 3g turn for the return to Rogers Dry Lake. In both cases this was a windup turn, with radius decreasing as the X-15 descended and slowed.

Accuracy of this reconstructed plot of the flight path cannot be confirmed in the absence of actual radar data, and even the pilot is unable to provide precise visual information because downward visibility from the X-15 cockpit is quite limited. However, the combination of details in the flight log and constraints inherent in the physics of flight provide high confidence that the derived plot has fairly good accuracy.

Thanks for information used to produce this flight path reproduction go to Neil Armstrong, Major General Robert M. White, Ret., and the NASA Dryden History Office.

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