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"On This Day" In Engineering History

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June 26, 1957 – The X-14 Experimental Aircraft

Posted June 26, 2008 9:41 AM by Steve Melito

On this day in engineering history, Bell Aircraft Corporation and the United States Air Force (USAF) released pictures of the X-14, Bell's latest vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) airplane. Powered by two British-built Armstrong-Siddely jet engines, the X-14 differed from other VTOL aircraft in that it did not require ground-handling equipment for positioning during takeoff. Even more importantly, the X-14 did not require a runway. Designed to take-off vertically from a horizontal position, the X-14 hovered and then shifted to forward flight, achieving a maximum speed of 172 mph and reaching a service ceiling of 20,000 feet. The X-14's main competitor, Ryan Aeronautical Company's X-13, could reach speeds of 350 mph, but took-off from a vertical position and required special ground-handling equipment.

From the Model 65 to the X-14

Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) development began in earnest after World War II, when companies such as Rolls Royce and Fairchild began designing jet engines with large thrust-to-weight (T/W) ratios. During the 1950s, Bell Aircraft studied the feasibility of VTOL jet-fighters, building an air test vehicle (ATV) with titling jet pods. Designated as the Model 65, this ATV enabled Bell engineers to collect data for the company's next VTOL project – the X-14. Although the X-14 also used a vertical reaction-control system, this open-cockpit monoplane differed from the Model 65 in that it used moveable exhaust ducts to vector from powerful fuselage-mounted engines. As Time magazine explained to its readers, the X-14's "two jet engines blow their gas through diverters rather like Venetian blinds. The gas, deflected downwards, pushes the airplane up."

Built by Beechcraft - Well, Not Quite

The Bell X-14 was built with parts from planes made by Beech Aircraft (Beechcraft), a Kansas-based company which is best known for its contributions to general aviation. The Beech Bonanza, a popular personal aircraft, provided metal wings, a retractable landing gear, and ailerons – moveable, hinged panels along the rear of each wing. The Beach T-34 Mentor, a military trainer modeled after the Beech Bonanza, supplied the empennage – a tail assembly that provides stability and controls both pitch and yaw. Powered by two Armstrong-Siddley engines, the X-14 used jets of compressed air to maintain its position during hovering. Once the X-14 got off the ground, however, the thrust-diverter could be adjusted so that the engines pushed the airplane forward.

Beyond the Wild Blue Yonder

Although Time magazine opined that Bell Aircraft's latest VTOL "probably wastes thrust, reducing the weight that the X-14 can carry", the experimental airplane had a bit part to play in the drama of the Space Race. Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, would pilot the X-14 as a lunar-landing trainer.

Resources:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/x-14.htm

http://pdf.aiaa.org/preview/1983/PV1983_2491.pdf

http://collections.nasm.si.edu/code/emuseum.asp?profile=objects&newstyle=single&quicksearch=A19571019000

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-13_Vertijet

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VTOL

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: June 26, 1957 – The X-14 Experimental Aircraft

06/26/2008 10:19 AM

YOU MUST SEE "PROJECT CAMELOT" ON YOU TUBE!!!!!

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Guru
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#2
In reply to #1

Re: June 26, 1957 – The X-14 Experimental Aircraft

06/26/2008 10:40 AM

I'm not sure I understand why, Guest, but I do thank you for reading my story. A quick search of Project Camelot on the Web brought me to a page that contained this description: "Project Camelot's purpose is to provide a vehicle for researchers and 'whistleblowers' to get their stories out." Is this the same Project Camelot you're referring to?

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Guru

Join Date: Feb 2008
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#3

Re: June 26, 1957 – The X-14 Experimental Aircraft

06/26/2008 8:40 PM

Well Moose,

I don't know about guest but I thought that was a great little piece of the X-Plane chronicles.

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Guru
United States - Member - New Member Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - Organizer Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Engineering Fields - Nuclear Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 3464
Good Answers: 32
#4
In reply to #3

Re: June 26, 1957 – The X-14 Experimental Aircraft

06/27/2008 8:19 AM

Thanks, Shadetree! Glad to have you here. - Moose

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