XB-70A Valkyrie Artefacts

The XB-70A aircraft was years ahead of its time and stemmed from designs started in 1954. The aircraft was the first jet aircraft to achieve a speed of Mach 3. It was also the largest and heaviest aircraft at the time it was built (five times heavier than the SR-71 Blackbird) It was the first to use a honeycomb structure in its skin with a titanium plate to combat excess heat at high speed.

The aircraft was designed as a nuclear-armed bomber capable of penetrating deep into Russia with a supersonic dash at over 70,000 feet that would prevent intercepting fighters and missiles from shooting it down. It was planned that the XB-70A would replace the B-52 in the mid-1960’s. During construction in 1961 however, several developments occurred that resulted in the XB-70A programme being reduced to just two test aircraft (these were known as Air Vehicle 1 and Air Vehicle 2 - or AV1 and AV2 for short). These developments included Russia developing a successful anti-aircraft missile (one of which shot down a U-2 spy aircraft flown by Gary Powers), and the fact that the USA developed ICBMs that could deliver a nuclear warhead with risking the destruction of an aircraft or the pilots flying it. The huge cost of the project was another factor.

AV2 in flight. The serial number of the second aircraft was 20207.

The first XB-70A made its maiden flight on 21 September 1964. On the third test flight, the Valkyrie reached supersonic speeds. AV2 first flew on 17 July 1965 and it attained a speed of Mach 3.05 while flying at 72,000 feet on 3 January 1966. On 19 May 1966, it flew at Mach 3 for 32 minutes, covering 2400 miles in 91 minutes of flight. AV2 was also selected for the National Sonic Boom Program (NSBP) to measure the response to sonic booms. It did the first sonic boom test on 6 June 1966.

On 8 June 1966, AV2 was flown in formation with four smaller aircraft as part of a photo shoot for General Electric who had built the engines for all five aircraft. During the flight, an F-104 Starfighter aircraft flown by Joe Walker got caught in the wing tip vortices from the XB-70A’s right wing tip, probably as a result of Walker flying closer than he intended due to a lack of suitable reference marks. The F-104 rolled inverted and across the top of the rear of the Valkyrie hitting the tops of both fins and the left wing tip. The Starfighter exploded and Walker was killed. The XB-70A continued for a short distance but then the pilot, Al White, and co-pilot, Major Carl Cross, lost control as the aircraft entered a spin. White successfully ejected but Cross failed to eject and was killed when the aircraft crashed into the desert. One of the reasons Cross failed to eject was that the sequence differed from other aircraft (each pilot was enclosed in a capsule prior to ejecting) and Cross never used the ejection seat simulator, instead just signing the form to say he had done so.

AV1 last flew in 4 February 1969 when it was flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

This photo was taken moments before the F-104 collided with AV2
Immeidately after the collision, the F-104 burst into flame. The Valkyrie has lost its vertical stabilsers.
Photographed from the Learjet photoship, AV2 enters an uncontolled spin.
The aircraft crashes into the Californian desert.
An interior photo of AV2. The layout and panels differed slightly from AV1. Above the throttle quadrant can be seen the panel that included the undercarriage indicator lights and wingtip indicators.
I created this illustration to show how the panel would have looked if complete but, in part, what it would also have looked like if the black cover was in place. Interestingly, the grey instrument panel has some words and outlines, including the work "Flaps" in grey were "Flap pos" is shown above. Also, the Valkyrie's shape is also included in a lighter grey on the panel. As can be seen below, the wing tip fold switch is still in place and the wing tip fold position selector is present but minus the knob attached to the shaft. All three landing gear lights are in position and all have their lightbulbs present, although one is broken internally. The landing gear cutout button is also present, as are one of the wing-tip fold indicators and the flap indicator, although the latter two are not fitted to the panel and are shown to the left of the photo below still attached by their wires.

Ref. No. 1143. INSTRUMENT PANEL FROM NORTH AMERICAN XB-70 VALKYRIE AIR VEHICLE #2 (SERIAL 62-0207). This unique panel is from one of only two XB-70 Valkyrie aircraft built. Vehicle #1 is preserved at the United States Air Force Museum at Dayton, Ohio. Air Vehicle #2 (AV2), from which this panel comes from, crashed in the Californian desert following a mid-air collision with an F-104 Starfighter on 8 June 1966. The panel is from the central console and included the landing gear position lights and wing-tip position control. On one of the wing tip indicators is written: Indicator 4 Position. Type 1. NA5-72184-1. Serial No. 3734. Pen Keystone Corp. Derby. Conn. US Pat No. 2655647. Mfg. No. 14-10-1. Date of Mfg. 12/62. 115 volts .. O CPS COILS . . OLTS LAMPS. On the rear of the panel are various white labels that have been attached with clear tape. These include the following: 1S6, 2DS2, 2DS4, 2P21, 1S163, 1DS4, 1S79. On the casing of the wingtip selector dial is written: “Janco Corp, Burbank, Cal, Part No. 2-1947. Serial No. 3 Amp Ind. 115 V.A.C. 400 Cycle”. It has been signed by Walter Spivak, who directed the XB-70 programme and was Vice President of North American Aviation at the time.

Ref. Nos 1144-1146. PARTS OF XB-70A AV2. From top to bottom can be seen a piece of stainless steel skin, still with the original white paint, a stainless steel hydralic tube, a support member from the undercarriage indicator panel and the honeycomb structure that helped reduce heat build up. The XB-70A was the first aircraft in the world to use honeycomb and it has been used in thousands of aircraft since.

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