I was invited to come to the Pima Air & Space Museum to give my talk on "The X-15 Rocket Plane" on 11 February 2017. Pima is one of the great aerospace museums and I was honored to do my presentation there.


While there I also had the opportunity to get an up-close look at NB-52A no. 003. This B-52 was one of two motherships used during the X-15 program, and served as the launch platform for 93 out of the 199 missions accomplished by the X-15 between 1959 and 1968. It was the mothership for both the first and last X-15 flights.


"Balls 3" as it is known, has been on display at Pima for many decades, and I have had the pleasure to visit her on several occasions in the past. In 2016 it was moved from display to the restoration area in order to do a full preservation restoration. Unfortunately, the damage to the airframe over time was much worse than expected, so the process is much more extensive than previously believed. The team at Pima truly has their hearts in the job of preserving this historical aviation artifact for future generations, and I look forward to the day it returns to regular public display.


It was very exciting to be able to climb up the forward hatch and literally step into history.

Condensation cloud forms around the X-15 nestled under the wing of B-52 no. 003.

courtesy U.S. Air Force

X-15 No. 1 drops away from the B-52 mothership 003 on its first flight. 8 June 1959.

courtesy North American Aviation

NB-52A no. 003, "The High and Mighty One," on display at the Pima Air & Space Museum

courtesy Robert Lanktree

NB-52A no. 003 in Restoration at Pima Air & Space Museum, 11 February 2017

photos by Michelle Evans

"The X-15 Rocket Plane, Flying the First Wings into Space" at Pima

Various views of the Ballistic Control System thrusters recovered from X-15 no. 3.

photos by Michelle Evans

Checking out the books prior to the talk.

photo by Michelle Evans

Mina Stafford of the museum with the X-15 display.

photo by Michelle Evans

About 20 minutes prior to the talk, the seats were filling. They added more chairs soon after this photo was taken for a total crowd of approximately 100 people.

photo by Michelle Evans

Explaining the X-15 David Clark MC-2 pressure suit, and signing books after the talk.

photos by Penny Leonhardt

X-15 model and Inconel X on display at the museum.

photo by Michelle Evans

Francis French with Michelle, ready to take flight in an A-10.

courtesy Francis French

Cherie and Michelle with Penny and Beverly Leonhardt.

courtesy Penny Leonhardt

Cherie, Michelle, Beverly, and Penny standing on the Moon.

courtesy Penny Leonhardt

Cherie and Michelle spin up the Earth.

courtesy Penny Leonhardt

Two views of the full-scale X-15 mockup at Pima. Definitely getting a bit dusty. I was informed that this mockup is the one used for the filming of the 1961 classic movie, "X-15."

photos by Michelle Evans

A beautiful sky above the Pima Air & Space Museum as we were leaving.

photo by Michelle Evans

Sunset on a long, but wonderful and exciting day.

photo by Michelle Evans

Young Belle loves to read. She made her display debut at Pima.

courtesy Robert Kline