Space Cover #268: X-15 First Glide Flight
So, you are probably asking yourself why a non-descript airmail cover postmarked in Los Angeles has a Scott Crossfield autograph on it and is being featured in Space Cover of the Week!
Well, 55 years ago today the X-15 performed its first and only-planned glide flight to test its landing characteristics. It was carried aloft under the wing of its B-52 mother plane at 8:03 am Pacific, on June 8, 1959, at Edwards AFB. At 8:40 am, the X-15 was released from the mother plane for the first time ever, and pilot Scott Crossfield glided the unpowered rocketplane to a landing at Edwards. And it wasn't all smooth – Crossfield's control stick was set to be too sensitive, and as he flared for landing he got into a pilot-induced-oscillation, where his nose was pitching up and down. Fortunately, he set the rocketplane down on a pitchup, and landed safely. A minor adjustment to the control stick fixed the problem for future flights.
Now, how many of you have a cover postmarked at Edwards on June 8, 1959? If you do, please post it!!! I've never seen nor heard of one in over 30 years of space cover collecting. And nobody else that I know of has seen one either.
So, above is what I consider next best. Also on June 8, 1959 the first jet airmail service was inaugurated between Los Angeles and Chicago. This cover was hand cancelled at the Los Angeles airport that morning at 8:30 am, about 10 minutes prior to the drop of the X-15 about 80 miles away. And the North American Aviation plant that manufactured the X-15 was located at the Los Angeles airport. So, this cover is probably as close as any of us will get. And the good news is that these can still be found in stamp dealers' airmail cover boxes for about a dollar each!
There was also a machine cancelled version (above), postmarked at the Los Angeles airport at 8:00 am, right about the time that the B-52 took off with the X-15 under its wing. Second closest, and also easy to find for a dollar.
All of the machine cancelled versions that I have seen carry the purple cachet and all of the hand-cancelled versions seem to carry the green cachet.