X-15 Flight 3-65-97 - Investigation


NASA and the Air Force convened an accident board. Chaired by NASA's Donald R. Bellman, the board took two months to prepare its report. Ground parties scoured the countryside looking for wreckage, specifically the film from the cockpit camera. The weekend after the accident, an unofficial FRC (NASA Dryden Flight Research Center) search party found the camera, but could not find the film cartridge. FRC engineer Victor W. Horton organized a search and on November 29, during the first pass over the area, Willard E. Dives found the cassette.

The accident board found that the cockpit instrumentation had been functioning properly, and concluded that Adams had lost control of the X-15 as a result of a combination of distraction, misinterpretation of his instrumentation display, and possible vertigo. The electrical disturbance early in the flight degraded the overall effectiveness of the aircraft's control system and further added to pilot workload.

The board made two major recommendations: install a telemetered heading indicator in the control room, visible to the flight controller; and medically screen X-15 pilot candidates for labyrinth (vertigo) sensitivity. As a result of the X-15's crash, the FRC added a ground-based "8 ball" attitude indicator (Horton's idea) in the control room to furnish mission controllers with real time pitch, roll, yaw, heading, angle of attack, and sideslip information.

2nd 100 km Flight:
X-15 Flight 91
X-15 Program End of X-15 Program:

X-15 Flight 199

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