Bell X-5

From the placard:
The X-5 was the world's first airplane to vary the sweepback of its wings in flight. It was built to prove the theory that a higher maximum speed could be obtained by increasing the sweepback of an airplane's wings after takeoff. With the wings swept forward, relatively low takeoff and landing speeds, and higher rates of climb, would be possible. The X-5 was based upon the design of the Messerschmitt P.1101 airplane discovered in Germany at the end of World War II. The P.1101, however, could vary its sweepback only on the ground.

Two X-5s were built and flown. X-5 number one made its first flight on June 20, 1951. On its ninth flight, the wings were operated through the full sweep range of 20 to 60 degrees. Number one flew a total of 133 test flights, the last being on October 25, 1955, with civilian test pilot Neil A. Armstrong at the controls. The second X-5 built was destroyed during a test flight on October 13, 1953, when it failed torecover from a spin at 60 degrees sweepback.

The number one X-5 was delivered to the U.S. Air Force Museum in March 1958. It was restored by Museum personnel, and placed on display in September 1994.

Previous series Back to main index Next series