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  Bell X-2 research aircraft lost over Lake Ontario

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Author Topic:   Bell X-2 research aircraft lost over Lake Ontario
alanh_7
Member

Posts: 971
From: Ajax, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 09-14-2013 06:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone know if there was ever a serious attempt to recover the Bell X-2 number 46-675 that was lost over Lake Ontario on 12 May 1953?

The aircraft was being tested while mated to the belly of EB-50 Mothership when an explosion killed test pilot Skip Ziegler. The aircraft had to be jettisoned into Lake Ontario.

The only thing I could ever find out about the recovery was this. If anyone could shed further light I would appreciate it.

wcowdin
New Member

Posts: 4
From: Burbank, CA, USA
Registered: Jan 2014

posted 01-18-2014 03:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wcowdin   Click Here to Email wcowdin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I worked at Bell at the Rocket Test Facility the day the B-29 Mother ship took off with the X-2. The Rocket Test facility faced the runway. The B-29 returned with only hoses dangling.It was later in the afternoon when I saw it.

We were told that Skip had entered the X-2 to run Liquid Oxygen Jettison tests. When the Jettison switch was hit there was an explosion and the X-2 with Skip dropped.It was not viewed again.

A search of Lake Ontario was made for a long period of time and nothing found. Later I viewed a regular wash pail filled to the top with broken balsa wood pieces painted silver on one side which had washed to shore at the lake.

From what I saw and was told I believe that nothing larger remained after the explosion. The B-29 crew described the explosion as mammoth.

cspg
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Posts: 4402
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 01-18-2014 03:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
B-29 or B-50?

wcowdin
New Member

Posts: 4
From: Burbank, CA, USA
Registered: Jan 2014

posted 01-18-2014 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wcowdin   Click Here to Email wcowdin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To add to the reply I just made.

The broken pieces of balsa wood painted with silver was used to insulate the liquid oxygen tank on the X-2.

The water pail of broken balsa wood was the only debris ever found to my knowledge.

I was a Rocket Test Engineer on the Rascal project at that time. The Rascal missile was an operator guided missile to be dropped from a B-52 and fly 100 miles to target. It was notoriously inaccurate. So much so that the photographers at the target test site in NM moved to the target to photograph impact since it never hit a target. Of course it was cancelled.

Skip Ziegler, the Bell X-2 Test Pilot, would drop by the test cells occasionally to watch one of my rocket tests and I feel fortunate to have known him.

alanh_7
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Posts: 971
From: Ajax, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 01-18-2014 07:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am a little surprised the explosion that big did not take down the mother aircraft.
With respects to Skip Ziegler, I would have thought there would something of the aircraft left.

wcowdin
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Posts: 4
From: Burbank, CA, USA
Registered: Jan 2014

posted 01-18-2014 07:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wcowdin   Click Here to Email wcowdin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe the B-29 had two bomb bays.

I was told the separation between the bays had been removed to allow the X-2 to be cradled in the two former bays.

This would have naturally weakened the fuselage. It was stated that large steel plates were bolted in some manner on the inside of the fuselage to greatly strengthen the airframe.

The pilots later stated the huge explosion rocked the B-29 and they felt lucky to survive and return to the Bell factory.

It was believed that some type of contamination was in the jettison system and the contact with the liquid oxygen triggered the explosion blowing the X-2 off of the attachments.

However, you may be correct and something may be at the bottom of Lake Ontario.

micropooz
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Posts: 1273
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 01-18-2014 08:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for ringing in, wcowdin! Any more recollections on the X-2 accident?

wcowdin
New Member

Posts: 4
From: Burbank, CA, USA
Registered: Jan 2014

posted 01-18-2014 08:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wcowdin   Click Here to Email wcowdin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No other memories.Thanks to the original posting for helping the ones listed.

Bell was my first job after graduating Purdue U. in September 1952. Later in 1955, moved to Aerojet General in Sacramento as a Progam Mgr.on rocket engines for the Titan ICBM and Gemini. Later to Lockheed on the Agena.

I was lucky to have worked with the original astronauts, Test Pilot Tex Johnson and Neil Armstrong.

mikej
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Posts: 390
From: Germantown, WI USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 01-19-2014 05:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cspg:
B-29 or B-50?

While I can't answer your question specifically, the B-50 was an uprated B-29, with more powerful engines and related structural improvements.

If not for the end of WWII, it would have been called the B-29D. With the end of the war, it was thought that a WWII-era plane had less chance of being funded than a "new" plane.

Some Air Force base or another has a B-50 at its front gate. Since I'd be travelling past it, I emailed to inquire as to whether the B-50 was inside or outside the gate and could be visited. The fellow who replied told me that he didn't know about any B-50, but their B-29 was accessible.

So, it would seem that at least some people make no distinction between the types.

The Air Force Museum has a factsheet on the B-50 which includes several photos.

cspg
Member

Posts: 4402
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 01-20-2014 07:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the clarification.

It didn't occur to me (oh well...brain cells are dying) to check what kind of plane the B-50 was...Because of its number I thought it was a completely different airplane rather than an upgraded B-29!

alanh_7
Member

Posts: 971
From: Ajax, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 01-20-2014 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The biggest visible difference between the B-50 and the B-29 was the engine nacelles. The B-50 has very narrow cowling but large scoop beneath the engine cowl and a taller tail fin. Both types of aircraft were used as mother aircraft for the early X program.

By the time the Korean War came about, it was obvious through B-29 loses over North Korea that the B-29 was becoming antiquated and could not cope when put against modern jet fighters even with fighter escort. Many B-50s were modified to KB-50 tankers and WB-50 Hurricane Hunter aircraft with TAC.

All times are CT (US)

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