Because Neil was Inverted...


April 20th, 1962; Test pilot Neil Armstrong was testing a self-adjusting control system on the hypersonic experimental rocket plane called the X-15.  Utilizing the incredible performance of his X-15, and its climb rate of over 60,000 feet per minute, Armstrong managed to reach an altitude of over 207,000 feet above the surface of our planet, but unfortunately for poor Neil, during the test flight descent, the X-15's nose was held up for too long and the hypersonic rocket plane bounced off the atmosphere like a skipping stone, sending Neil and his experimental aircraft back up to 140,000 feet.



At that extreme altitude, the air is so thin that aerodynamic surfaces have almost no Armstrong and his X-15 tore inverted past his landing field at three times the speed of sound Mach 3.0 (2,000 mph) at over 100,000 feet in altitude, and before he knew it, ended up somewhere over the hills of Hollywood.

After waiting for the control inputs to bite, and a sufficient descent rate to accumulate, Armstrong nursed his hypersonic thoroughbred
 back towards the East, now far exceeding the glide distance of his 15 thousand pound experimental lawn dart, Armstrong, by the skin of his teeth, managed to stretch his glide just enough to clear the Joshua trees at the south end of Edwards dry Lake bed. According to his chase pilots, Neil cleared the trees by as little as 100 feet.

That particular flight set the all time record for the longest X-15 flight in both time flown, as well as total distance on the ground track... and poor Neil wasn't proud of either one.





  • David Sperry

    Amazing Aviator Neil

  • Tom Harrison

    Armstrong was known as Mr. Cool as they said he had ice water in his veins. He survived this. He flew 86 combat missions in Korea. He barely survived a lunar landing simulator crash by ejecting at a perfectly timed moment. He somehow regained control of Gemini 8 and undocked from the Agena after the vehicle went into a violent spin, performing EDL with virtually no RCS prop. Not only an outstanding test pilot, he was an engineer, able to communicate with the Apollo aeronautical designers in a way no other astronaut could. He was the absolutely ideal choice to command the first landing.

  • Alfred Hitchcock

    From my experience in naval aviation in the mid 1960s any flight and landing you were able to walk away from was considered a good thing!

  • Glenn girona

    It only broke those records because he made a big mistake that was almost deadly and were it not for his skill, would have destroyed the aircraft. That’s why he was proud of it.

  • Jeffrey Beardsley

    “That particular flight set the all time record for the longest X-15 flight in both time flown, as well as total distance on the ground track… and poor Neil wasn’t proud of either one.”
    Question I have is “Why not?”. He was after all a test pilot.
    Or did I miss something in the telling of the story?

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