The first B & W, completed in June 1916, was made of wood, linen, and wire. Similar to the Martin trainer that Boeing owned, the B & W had, among other improvements, better pontoons and a more powerful engine.
The two B & Ws were offered to the U.S. Navy. When the Navy did not buy them, they were sold to the New Zealand Flying School and became the company's first international sale. The B & Ws later were used for New Zealand express and airmail deliveries, set a New Zealand altitude record of 6,500 feet on June 25, 1919, and made that country's first official airmail flight on Dec. 16, 1919.
This joint program by NASA, the Air Force, the Navy, and North American operated the most remarkable of all the rocket research aircraft. Composed of an internal structure of titanium and a skin surface of a chrome-nickel alloy known as Inconel X, the X-15 had its first, unpowered glide flight on June 8, 1959, while the first powered flight took place on September 17, 1959. Because of the large fuel consumption of its rocket engine, the X-15 was air launched from a B-52 aircraft at about 45,000 ft and speeds upward of 500 mph. The airplane first set speed records in the Mach 4-6 range with Mach 4.43 on March 7, 1961; Mach 5.27 on June 23, 1961; Mach 6.04 on November 9, 1961; and Mach 6.7 on October 3, 1967. It also set an altitude record of 354,200 feet (67 miles) on August 22, 1963, and provided an enormous wealth of data on hypersonic air flow, aerodynamic heating, control and stability at hypersonic speeds, reaction controls for flight above the atmosphere, piloting techniques for reentry, human factors, and flight instrumentation. The highly successful program contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo piloted spaceflight programs as well as the Space Shuttle program. The program's final flight was performed on October 24, 1968.