Once the Starburster was actually in the air and flying under its own power, it proved to be absurdly fast. By April 1956, it could fly at a speed of Mach 1.4, according to NASA. Shortly afterward, that speed climbed dramatically to Mach 2.53. Then, on July 23rd, 1956, pilot Frank Everest hit an astonishing speed of Mach 2.87, which is about 1,895 miles per hour. But that wasn’t the end of the X-2’s records. In September of the same year, Captain Iven C. Kincheloe took the X-2 to new heights, literally, He piloted the rocket plane to an altitude of 126,200 feet, almost halfway to space.

As earth-shattering as the Bell X-2 was, its testing would end in tragedy. During its final flight, Captain Milburn G. Apt took the X-2 even faster than before, becoming the first person to reach Mach 3, topping out at Mach 3.196 or about 2,094 miles per hour. Unfortunately, after reaching that monumental speed, the X-2 lost all control and plummeted to the ground near Edwards Air Force Base in California on September 27th, 1956. Apt did not survive the crash.

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By mrtrv