Our X-planes scribbler, Max Cue, has just returned from a NASA experimental aircraft conference with the following report:

X-1. When is an X-plane really an X-plane? As L Overdee of Dryden says: "Why should JSF concepts be classed X-aircraft when the solar-powered Helios is not? I think any aircraft with 72 elevators and 14 engines qualifies as an experimental aircraft!"

X-2. Flight test results. Showing a video of the Helios undulating unexpectedly like an inflatable lilo after take off from the Hawaiian island of Kuaui, programme manager John Del Frate says: "It really got our attention when it started to do the 'Hula'."

X-3. Computer animations. Everyone is asked to spot the deliberate mistake as a computer-generated graphic shows a landing signals officer talking down the hot-line to a UCAV-N on approach to the carrier. "The question is… who is he speaking to? I guess if I was watching an unmanned vehicle hurtle towards me on the pitching deck with several thousand pounds of unused weapons on board I may be getting religious."

"Perhaps it's God," suggests someone helpfully.

X-4. Forecasts. Aram Mike on the future of space systems: "'Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future." When I first saw that quote I thought it was from Yogi Berra. Turns out it was from Niels Bohr - one of the most eminent scientists of our day! It was only later I discovered Yogi's quote on the subject - 'The future ain't what it used to be!'"

X-5. Flight test preparation. General Strike on the delay to the first flight of the X-45 due to high winds at Edwards AFB: "The winds are so bad that one of local farmers reported his chicken laid the same egg three times."

X-6. Flight test experiences. Major Gen Joe Engle, legendary X-15 test pilot, recalls the bizarre sight of the barometric altimeter winding up as his rocket-powered aircraft blasted towards the edge of space: "I'd just look at that sucker go. When it did that you'd just have to pick the slowest moving needle and try and figure out what was happening!"

The final words on the X-planes goes to Engle. "Although I'm very proud of anyone associated with X-planes I have to tell you something. Unfortunately society at large has put a negative connotation on 'X'. 'X'-boyfriend, 'X'-wife, 'X-employee, 'X'-ballplayer… you see what I mean?"

Source: Flight International