Edwards Air Force Base, CA X15 rocket plane crash, Nov 1967

Test Pilot Dies In Crash of X15 Rocket Plane

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) - An X15 rocket plane, one of three black darts that have repeatedly probed the heavens helping man learn how to maneuver in space, crashed Wednesday.

The pilot, Air Force Maj. Michael J. Adams, 37, was killed - first victim since the X15s began flying in 1959.

Adams, on his 11th flight, was dropped from a B52 at 10:30 a.m. and shot more than 50 miles high, to about 265,000 feet, on a routine research flight.

Re-entering thicker air from the fringes of space, he apparently encountered some sort of control malfunction as he attempted to pull out of his descent, said a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Adams did not eject.

The plane crashed on the desert near the mining town of Johannesburg 20 miles north.

Thus, on flight No. 191 of a highly hazardous eight years of X15 explorations, came a fatal crash such as had long been feared.

The three tough little birds had survived ground fires and explosions, aerial mishaps and emergency landings, including two hard enough to cause serious damage. But until Wednesday pilots had escaped with injuries.

The tiny planes - just 50 feet long, nearly wingless but powered with mighty engines producing 60,000 pounds of thrust - have amassd [sic] impressive records:

Speed and altitude records for winged craft of 4,534 miles per hour and 354,000 feet; research into problems of re-entering the earth's atmosphere from space, including heating problems and control problems; tests of new propulsion systems; photographs of stars mad from above most of the earth's air.

The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 16 Nov 1967