The Bell X-14 was produced as a vertical take-off prototype and achieved its first hovering flight on 17 February l957. The X-14 was originally created to explore the feasibility of operating a VTOL aircraft from a normal pilot station using standard flight instruments and references. Of equal importance, the X-14 was to demonstrate various VTOL systems and engine technologies, the aircraft was the first to demonstrate the concept of using vectored jet thrust as the only power system.
The airframe was as simple and light as possible, and was characterized by an open cockpit and fixed tailwheel landing gear. In its original form the aeroplane was powered by a pair of Bristol Siddeley Viper turbojets located side-by-side in the extreme nose of the aeroplane exhausting via nozzles on the sides of the aeroplane on the centre of gravity. For vertical take-off the nozzles were vectored directly downward, and for transition into forward flight were vectored gradually aft. The first successful transition was accomplished in May 1958, and the aeroplane was later re-engined with General Electric J85 turbojets. The X-14 made its last flight on 29 May 1981.
The X-14 successfully demonstrated that the concept of vectored jet thrust was viable, as subsequently used on the BAe/McDonnell Douglas Harrier. Flight tests using the X-14’s variable stability control system resulted in major contributions to the understanding of V/STOL handling characteristics. The X-14 also proved useful as a testbed for various unique V/STOL concepts, such as NASA’s direct side-force maneuvering system.
Over 25 pilots from around the world “previewed” V/STOL handling qualities in the X-14 prior to making test flights in other V/STOL designs. The single X-14 continued flying for nearly a quarter century before being retired to the Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama. It is currently in storage at a private collection in Indiana.
Fastest Flight: 172 mph
Highest Flight: 18,000 feet (approx)