At 45,000 feet the B-52 Bomber releases a very special test platform from its right side wing as the engines begin a start sequence. The X-15 drops for only a few seconds before the rocket engines kick in and in less than a minute the incredible manned rocket plane is at Mach 3 before reaching its higher end acceleration. Seconds later at 60,000 feet, the very edge of the Earth’s atmosphere and space, the X-15 rocket plane is at over Mach 4 and over 4,000 miles per hour! Since 1955 when this X plane rolled off out of the North American Aviation hangar, the program has gone well without accident or fatality, but this is 1962.
Going as planned but ……
Major White, the astronaut at the controls, is satisfied with the drop launch and the performance of the Reaction Motors built engines. All seems normal as radio communications transmit perfectly and the flight path has no complications, but something strange occurs! As Major White pilots his incredible space plane he sees something through the windscreen that he cannot identify. Unknown objects that appear no larger than a fist are just outside his craft keeping up with the 4,000 mph. plus speed of the X-15! He cannot account for either the appearance of this anomaly nor its origin. The Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon look similar to molecular structures that are giving off their own source of light! What could this be?
At more than 60,000 foot altitude there is no atmospheric friction left to heat up the objects as they hover inches from the windscreen of the pilot compartment suspended in the icy vacuum of the thinnest remaining barrier the racing rocket plane and space. Still, after the Major reports his observations to NASA the image persists. What is he looking at? NASA scientists begin the process of elimination. Not a meteorite, not another spacecraft or satellite, and it’s not ours! The control center is puzzled. However, the flight continues as planned and soon the Major is piloting back of the dry lake bed for a landing approach. He has just flown higher and faster than any manned rocket or jet powered atmosphere to space vehicle! Only one enigmatic problem to figure out. What were those strange objects?
In 1960, veteran test pilot, Joe Walker, was piloting an earlier X-15 flight when he too reported dazzling objects seemingly flying alongside his fuselage and wind screen as well. Walker, was a somewhat arrogant and self-assured pilot, who didn’t like taking advice from anyone according to Chuck Yeager in his biography, who stated that it was always the accomplished fighter pilots who thought they were invincible who usually ended by “Plowing the Field” as the aviators used to describe fatal crashes! NASA was not happy with Astronaut, test pilot, Joe Walker announcing to the press corps that he had spotted unknown aerial objects flying alongside his rocket plane as NASA scientists scratched their heads in astonishment!
Major Robert Michael White has been a fighter pilot in 3 wars and along with being an electrical engineer, has been piloting the X-15 for the US Air Force and NASA. His experience is much respected and little is his powers of observation. Still, the known casts a shadow of doubt. Contrary to any sound explanation or definitive findings NASA’s official position is that in the vacuum of the thin upper atmosphere and space, crystals of frozen water or fuel have been drawn along with the jet stream created by the X-15. Major White isn’t buying the official announcement though. He simply refuses to contradict the public explanation.
Earlier similar sighting
In 1960, during Joe Walker’s test flight in the X-15, much the same phenomenon was observed with Walker vaguely pointing to the UFO hypothesis. Although not flying quite as fast and high as Major White, Walker is there under the same conditions, and he was there first. He will go on to die tragically in 1966 during a side by side formation photo shoot along with the XB-70 high altitude bomber, the F-4 Phantom Fighter Jet, the Northrop T-38, and an F-48. On 8th June, as all planes flew along serenely with military photographers filming, Captain Walker’s F-104 Starfighter is caught in the jet wash of the huge XB-70, collides with, disintegrates, but also damages the huge bomber badly enough that it too tragically crashes! Killing its co-pilot.
Dead pool of former pilots
In 1967, Test Pilot Michael J. Adams died when his X-15 suffered an in-flight malfunction the electrical failure caused his craft to lose control. 22nd March 1967, the wreckage was recovered at Cuddeback, Lake California after just taking his rocket plane to a record 50 miles in altitude. That fatal incident marked the end of the X-15 program. The very sad legacy of the X-15 saga is that 3 American test pilots, who were also military aviators, and flight technicians died after flying the X-15. Joe Walker also a WWII fighter pilot in the P-38 Lighting and the distinguished Scott Crossfield who had previously set speed records in the Bell X-2 died while in retirement flying his Cessna 210-A over Alabama in the 1990’s long after the X-15 program has passed into history paving the way for the shuttle spacecraft and how it would be flown from space to re-entry.
There does seem to be quite a mysterious alumni of deceased pilots and astronauts who have reported seeing UFO’s. After the Apollo program NASA opted for using scientists and no longer asking for fighter pilots as a requirement as they felt fighter jocks could be unnecessary risk takers that would cost lives and hardware, yet the deaths of less risk prone astronauts continued!