Tag Archives: aircraft

Swinging with the X-5 in 1951

Swinging with the X-5 in 1951


A composite photograph showing the Bell X-5’s variable-sweep wing.

A few days ago I wrote a post about the first test flight in 1951 of the Lockheed X-7, one of a series of experimental United States aircraft and rockets, used to test and evaluate new technologies and aerodynamic concepts. The first of this series was the Bell X-1 in which Chuck Yeager became the first pilot to break the sound barrier in 1947.


The Bell X-5 was the first aircraft capable of changing the sweep of its wings in flight. It was inspired by the untested wartime P.1101 design of the German Messerschmitt company. In contrast with the German design which could only have its wing sweepback angle adjusted on the ground, the Bell engineers devised a system of electric motors to adjust the sweep in flight.

Two X-5s were built (serial numbers 50-1838 and 50-1839). The first was completed 15 February 1951, and the two aircraft made their first flights on 20 June and 10 December 1951. Almost 200 flights were made at speeds up to Mach 0.9 and altitudes of 40,000 ft (12,000 m). One aircraft was lost on 14 October 1953, when it failed to recover from a spin at 60° sweepback. Air Force Captain Ray Popson died in the crash at Edwards Air Force Base. The other X-5 remained at Edwards and continued active testing until 1955, and remained in service as a chase plane until 1958.



de Havilland Sea Vixen … 1951

The de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen is a twin boom, twin-engined 1950s–1960s British two-seat jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm designed by de Havilland. Developed from an earlier first generation jet fighter, the Sea Vixen was a capable carrier-based fleet defence fighter that served into the 1970s.

Pictured above is WG236, the Sea Vixen DH. 110 prototype. This took to the skies for the first time on 26 September 1951 piloted by John Cunningham and proved to be a highly successful flight.
However, tragedy struck while WG236  was being demonstrated at the Farnborough Airshow on 6 September 1952. Following a demonstration of its ability to break the sound barrier,the aircraft disintegrated killing 31 people, including the crew of two: test pilot and record breaker John Derry and Tony Richards. Please follow this link for a British Pathe newsreel of this terrible accident.
There was an incident (pictured below) which actually took place in 2012 during which the world’s only remaining air-worthy Sea Vixen crashed at Bournemouth Airport after the undercarriage collapsed. Fortunately it should be flying again in 2013.

April 2012 … The world’s only remaining air-worthy Sea Vixen crashes at Bournemouth Airport.

1951 … Year of the Spitfire’s Final Conflict

The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. It is certainly one of the most famous and popular aircraft ever produced.
The aircraft pictured above is a Mark 18. The last RAF Spitfire offensive sorties anywhere were flown by the FR.18s of No 60 Squadron on 1 January 1951 during the Malayan Emergency.