WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE —Joe Engle hadn’t climbed into the cockpit of a hypersonic X-15 rocket plane that cruised to the edge of space for half a century.
But the 83-year-old retired Air Force test pilot and the record-setting aircraft were brought together Friday when the X-15 became the first plane towed into a new, privately funded $40.8 million gallery expansion at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Engle, the sole survivor of a dozen military and NASA test pilots who flew the X-15 in the 1960s, knocked on its metallic side and talked about how he practiced launch control procedures from memory Friday morning.
“It was so good to be back in it,” he said. “Just like an old friend.”
The X-15 will lead a parade of more than 70 presidential, research and experimental, and cargo planes, spacecraft and rockets into the new hangar set for a public debut next June.