SP-4220 Wingless Flight: The Lifting Body Story




[v] When Dale Reed asked me to write the foreword to his book, Wingless Flight: The Lifting Body Story, I had to think back a long ways to remember the day that Paul Bikle asked me to fly the M2-F1 lifting body. It was a very interesting program that would give a space vehicle similar to the present day space shuttle the ability to maneuver. During the time that the lifting body program was being flown, space capsules were re-entering the Earth's atmosphere in a ballistic path and had very little ability to maneuver.
The concept behind the lifting body program was to investigate the ability of the pilot to land in a horizontal mode which required an excessive angle of attack to flare. I enjoyed flying the lifting body and probably found it easier to fly than most pilots because of my experience with the XF-92 airplane which landed with extremely high angles of attack similar to those later experienced with lifting bodies.
Dale's book covers the warm things that go on during the test programs at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Dale has emphasized the cooperative effort that must take place between the people he calls the Real Stuff (people who create and service the flying machines) and the Right Stuff (pilots who fly the machines). Most of the NASA lifting body crews (about 90 percent) were made up of ex-military mechanics and technicians, mostly Air Force and of excellent caliber. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to many an aircraft crew chief in my career. These crew chiefs provided me with aircraft in first-class condition to fly by working themselves and their people long hours to stay on schedule.
Test pilots, on the other hand, were a different story. Dale, being a pilot himself could see the undercurrent that flows in the macho world of test pilots. Competition has always existed between pilots. There was a special kind of competition between Air Force and NASA test pilots, and Dale has covered it very well in this book.
The lifting body story covers a little known period at Edwards Air Force Base, and it fills a gap during the transition from space capsules to maneuvering space vehicles.
Chuck Yeager B/Gen., USAF, Ret.