To find answers to the numerous questions surrounding supersonic air travel, the U. S. Air?
Pilot putting on flying clothes
YF-12 being towed from hanger
Pilot enters cockpit
2 YF-12s in flight Wild Track
Airmen monitoring computer equipment
2 YF-12s in flight
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Background: To find answers to the numerous questions surrounding supersonic air travel, the U. S. Air Force in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is conducting the YF-12 Test Flight Research Program at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
The YF-12, predecessor of the SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft, is one of the fastest and highest flying winged aircraft in the world. Air Force and NASA test pilots flying the YF-12 must wear special clothing, similar to the spacesuits astronauts use. The spacesuits are necessary due to the altitudes reached during the flights, often more than 15 miles above the earth. The aircraft is also capable of speeds of more than 2,000 miles an hour, over three times the speed of sound.
At supersonic speeds, a small navigation error can take an aircraft miles off course in just a few minutes. So, once airborne, one of the pilot's primary concerns is staying on course.
Instruments in the YF-12 automatically relay flight information to ground stations where airmen, with the help of sophisticated electronic equipment, monitor the flight and record important data. This information is later analyzed to determine the effects of high altitude, supersonic flight on the aircraft and the men who fly it.
Experience and knowledge gained through the YF-12 Test Program will be used in developing new supersonic military and civilian aircraft to meet America's future defense and transportation needs.