Bell X-2

Published: December 10th, 2017     
Product Image
Front cover
Author: Peter E. Davies
Reviewed by: Frank Landrus - IPMS# 35035
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-1958-1
E-Book ISBN #: 1472819586
Other Publication Information: Illustrator: Adam Tooby, Soft Bound ; 7.3” x 9.8”, 80 pages
Price: $20.00
Product / Stock #: X-Planes 6
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

This is the third book in this new Osprey series authored by Peter E. Davies. The previous tomes include the Bell X-1 (1), North American X-15 (3), and the future book on the North American XB-170 Valkyrie (7). Peter lives in Bristol, U.K. and as authored or co-authored at least nineteen book on modern American combat aircraft, many with Osprey Publishing. He was published by the Naval Institute Press in 1997 with his hardcover book, The Harrier Story, co-authored with Anthony M. Thornborough. His Schiffer Military History hard cover on the Gray Ghosts, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps F-4 Phantoms published in 2000 is considered a must have. Peter published a hardcover book with Crowood Press, North American F-100 Suber Sabre, in 2003. He has also covered many aircraft in Osprey's Combat Aircraft series, Osprey's Air Vanguard series, and Osprey's Duel series.

Adam Tooby is a rising star in the field of aviation art, creating groundbreaking photo-realistic work. Moving away from traditional approaches to the subject matter, he uses computer technology to produce both technically accurate and visually dynamic images of some of the greatest military aircraft in history. Warbirds features stunning images of aircraft in action, from the First World War to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and from around the world, including the iconic Spitfire, the popular P-51 Mustang and the unusual Javelin. Some of the images have been produced exclusively for the book, while others have previously featured in aviation history publications and on the covers of Airfix boxes. With step-by-step sections, close-ups showing the incredible accuracy and detail of the art - down to rivets and bolts - as well as historical context, aviation enthusiasts, military historians and artists will be blown away. Check him out at

This is the sixth in this new Osprey series that follows the format of the previous four titles (Bell X-1, Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika Bomber, the North American X-15, and the Luftwaffe Emergency Fighters, TSR2) and focuses on the technology involved in their development, test flights, and effect on future designs. This 80 glossy page book features a color cover painting by Adam Tooby depicting Lt. Col. Frank 'Pete' Everest's final flight in the Bell X-2 on July 23, 1956. Adam Tooby also contributes a two page painting on Captain Milburn Apt's last flight. I counted 42 black and white photographs, 26 color photographs, and five color illustrations.

The Bell X-1 had not broken the sound barrier when the design process for the Bell X-2 project began. Designed to explore flight at Mach 3 and the issues of kinetic heating to the airframe, the Bell X-2 would focus on the uncertain value of swept wings. The X-2 program did not last long due to the tragic destruction of both airframes within twenty flights, but did achieve some 'transitional' goals from the Bell X-1 to the North American X-15. This did include an introduction to fly-by-wire concepts and additional data to high speed airframe stability. Of course if the X-2 program could have survived longer without killing two of its pilots, its contributions could have been much greater.

Peter E. Davies explores the thought process that began during World War II, and the impact that Germany's advances had in influencing design research with the flights of the German rockets and jets. Of course, the influence of politics sneaks its nose into the process, managing to disrupt the facile advancement of airframe and engine design. In the case of the X-2, the USAF, NACA, and Bell arguments did nothing but cause delays. This book could be a textbook on how to many chefs spoil the stew as opposed to the free hand that Kelly Johnson had. Peter takes the reader roughly chronologically while still addressing the major issues the Bell X-2 faced in its development process. The chapters include:

  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • Chapter Two: Sweeping Change
    • XS-2 Begins
    • Bell X-2 Cockpit [Color Illustration]
    • Structure and Control [Page 12]
    • Frozen Flying
    • Hitching A Ride
  • Chapter Three: Power and Pilot Protection [Page 27]
    • Inside The Bell X-2 [Color Cutaway]
    • Escape
    • The NACA Pack
    • Loading and Fueling
  • Chapter Four: Aloft At Last
    • Supersonic Sim [Page 39]
    • Gliding To Disaster
    • Jean Leroy Ziegler
  • Chapter Five: Triumph Before Tragedy
    • Frank Kendall Everest Jr
    • Power On
    • Iven Carl Kincheloe
  • Chapter Six: Things That Are Dangerous [Page 63]
    • The Cost Of Mach 3 [Page 74]
  • Chapter Seven: Afterthoughts
  • Further Reading
  • Index

One of the sections I found fascinating was on the use of the Templiaq paint stripes that are covered well in Chapter Six. Applied to the nose and wing surfaces, they documented the temperatures that are difficult, if not impossible, to identify by other means. They have a calibrated melting point to provide instant recognition of when a specific temperature has been reached and how it progressed down the wing. Color photographs illustrate these stripes to good effect for the reader.

Peter E. Davies provides a good introduction to the Bell X-2 with an easy to read style. I especially appreciated his use of first person accounts throughout the book as it puts the reader in the driver's seat. I went through the 80 pages over two nights. If you own one of the previous releases in the X-Planes series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

  • Rear cover
    Rear cover
  • Page 12
    Page 12
  • Page 27
    Page 27
  • Page 39
    Page 39
  • Page 63
    Page 63
  • Page 74
    Page 74

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