In the heydays of pushing aviation’s boundaries, X-planes were as popular with politicians as they were with the public and aerospace practitioners. They were a highly visible sign the U.S. was ahead of the pack and intent on staying there. From the X-1 breaking the sound barrier in 1947 to the X-15 setting a piloted speed record of Mach 6.7 in 1967, and the X-43 becoming the fastest-ever aircraft at Mach 9.6 in 2004, X-planes became symbolic of U.S. investment to maintain its ...

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