If you head into the Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, you may spot a large, white aircraft that seems like something out of a science fiction novel.
If you do come across her, take it all in- that is one of the largest, fastest, most exotic and rarest Mach 3+ bombers ever built- the XB-70 Valkyrie.
Built by North American Aviation in the 1960s, the Valkyrie was a unique bomber that could go so fast that one model even saw her paint come off in flight.
The gigantic aircraft had six ultra-powerful engines that not only required special fuel but could send the aircraft screaming through the sky at Mach 3, faster than many fighter interceptors at the time. In fact, the Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat was designed specifically to intercept the XB-70 once word got out that there was an American bomber that could outrun Soviet fighter jets. In addition, the Sukhoi T-4 was an attempted ripoff of the Valkyrie, though it was cancelled after only one of four prototypes passed test flights.
Unfortunately for the XB-70, tragedy would cut her promising career short. During a test flight of one of the two prototypes in June of 1966, an F-104 Starfighter flying in formation with XB-70 #2 would collide with the bomber, shearing off the tail of the bomber and turning the fighter get into scrap metal in the process. The big white bird spun out of control, pancaking into the ground near Barstow, California. While one crew member escaped, his copilot -who was on his first XB-70 flight- was killed, along with the F-104 pilot.
After the incident, the XB-70 was doomed for cancellation. The #1 prototype took her final flight in February of 1969 to her final resting place in Ohio’s Wright-Patterson AFB and has not left the surly bonds of earth since.
For a long time, the XB-70 has been the signature aircraft of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In fact, she is so popular with museum-goers that the museum’s restaurant is named after her and she serves as the signature aircraft of the museum itself.
With the restructuring of the museum, the plane was moved into the 4th hangar in 2015, showcasing the XB-70 with all of her fellow experimental aircraft, some rather exotic, some, not so much. However, no matter where you go in the museum, the XB-70 will stand out.
While she had a very short lifespan and hasn’t touched the clouds in nearly fifty years, the XB-70 is an iconic symbol of American air supremacy, engineering and industrial might. So if you ever find yourself in Ohio, go pay her a visit- she’ll be happy to see you.
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