Book Review
Bell X-2
Bell X-2 X-Planes 6
  • move

by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Bell X-2 is the 6th title in Osprey Publishing LTD's series X-Planes. Modelers and enthusiasts of America's post-war aerospace research - and perhaps the book or movie The Right Stuff - will be thrilled with the amount of technical and other data and information presented by author Peter E. Davies. Adam Tooby provides original artwork. This 80-page book is catalogued with Osprey's short code XPL 6 and as ISBN 97814728195. The book is available in three formats: paperback; PDF; ePUB.
    Even before the spectacular success of its X-1 rocket-powered aircraft in breaking the ‘sound barrier', the adventurous Bell Aircraft Corporation was already pushing ahead with a parallel project to build a second aircraft capable of far higher speeds. The X-2 (or Model 52) explored the equally uncertain technology of swept-back wings. Now common in modern conventional fighter aircraft, the Bell X-2 was revolutionary in using this type of airframe to probe Mach 3 and research the effects of extreme aerodynamic friction heat on airframes.

    Although both X-2s were destroyed in crashes after only 20 flights, killing two test pilots, the knowledge gained from the programme was invaluable in developing aircraft that could safely fly at such speeds. Using stunning artwork and historical photographs, this is the story of the plane that ultimately made the Lockheed Blackbird and Concorde possible.
    - Osprey

Many of America's classic X-Plane programs began and ended before I was born. This X-2 history looks at this significant aircraft of an era of flight test both golden yet severe (almost a quarter of the initial cadre died in the first year) including Conceptual Design, Preliminary Design, and Detail Design.

Author Davies brings the Bell X-2 to us through 80 pages of seven chapters:
Further Reading

Author Davies presents the story of this triple-sonic research craft in a comprehensive, well organized and easy to follow text. Technical descriptions and first-hand accounts enrich the content. General Frank Everest described a mission:
    You flew very, very gently and did the best you could while flying like a bat out of hell. Things happened so darn fast. If you got up to an altitude where you wanted to push over to get maximum speed your altimeter indication was lagging behind, so you started your push over at about an indicated 5,000ft below where you r real altitude was to compensate. You didn't want to push over too suddenly because you could 'unport' the [propellant] tanks where they fed into the rocket engine.

Two X-2s only managed 20 powered flights. This book narrates the long, exciting, but low intensity life of this aircraft.

Introduction preflights the purpose of the X-2. During World War II the United States became abundantly aware that Germany and Britain were far ahead of them with high speed flight. When most of the fastest aircraft in the world were well below 500mph, USAAF was planning for Mach 3 flight.

Sweeping Change details Allied and Nazi Germany research projects, and their influence - direct and coincidental - on the X-2. Preliminary contracts for the X-2 and conferences about the X-2 are detailed. Sub-chapters include:
    XS-2 Begins
    Structure and Control
    Frozen Flying
    Hitching A Ride

Power and Protection describes a host of technical issues of the X-2. Six pages describe the rocket engines which took years of development before the first powered flight. Sub-chapters include:
    The NACA Pack
    Loading and unloading fuel

Flight suites and other physiological equipment is discussed. The background of German liquid-fuel rocket aircraft and hypergolic fuels is included.

Aloft At Last narrates the unpowered flight ops of the X-2. It also recounts the catastrophe of an X-2 exploding in the bomb bay of its EB-50A mother ship. Why the X-2 exploded was a mystery for years and the text presents the eventual discovery of the reason, and the steps taken to correct the flaw.

Things That Are Dangerous recounts exploration of the thermal barrier through the demise of the program.

Afterthoughts sums up the problems and successes of the X-2 and yet how X-2 data helped further research aircraft programs.

Photographs, Art, Graphics
An amazing gallery of photographs support the text. Color photography was prevalent during the X-2 era and composes a large ratio of images in this book. A few photos that are particularly notable to me are:
    1. Multi-color stripes on the wing to indicate aerodynamic heating
    2. Over-the-shoulder view of the plane gliding back to landing
    3. Crash-landing scenes
    4. Close-ups of heat blistered and burned paint
    5. Mating X-2s to mother ships by jacking the carrier up with 20-ton rams

This selection of photos should be interesting to modelers, especially those interested in aircraft weathering.

a. Bell X-2 Cockpit: keyed to 51 components.

b. Inside the Bell X-2: cutaway profile keyed to 42 components.

c. Apt's Last Flight: two-page centerfold of X-2's last flight.

d. Bell X-2 46-674, Edwards AFB, California, June 1956: three-view with Tempilaq temperature-sensitive paint and markings for heat research.

e. Bell X-2 46-675, Edwards AFB, California, October 19, 1952: two profiles of 6675 demonstrating the attitude of the aircraft in flight and upon landing.

i. Shaded callout box presenting a biography of test pilot Iven Carl Kincheloe.

ii. Shaded callout box presenting a biography of test pilot Frank Kendall Everest Jr.

iii. Shaded callout box presenting a biography of test pilot Jean Leroy Ziegler.

Bell X-2 from Osprey should be popular with modelers and enthusiasts of America's post-war aerospace research. The book contains a great deal of technical and other data and information about this important X-plane. The text is supported by an amazing gallery of photographs and color artwork.

I have nothing meaningful to criticism about this book, and recommend it.

Please remember to mention to Osprey and retailers that you saw this book here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: The book contains a great deal of technical and other data and information. The text is supported by an amazing gallery of photographs and color artwork.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: Bell X-2 should be popular with modelers and enthusiasts of America's post-war aerospace research.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: XPL 6, 97814728195
  Related Link: Osprey Series X-Planes
  PUBLISHED: Nov 18, 2018
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

View This Item  |  View Vendor Homepage  |  More Reviews  

About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move