One of the nice touches on top is a head brace that folds downward in front of you.That makes deceleration at reentry a fair bit easier to handle. Another necessary nicety is that the windows are double glazed. In early flights the X-15 pumped Heated gaseous nitrogen between the panels keeps them from icing over. This wasn't entirely trouble-free, so it wasn't long before the nitrogen gap was replaced by a transparent electrical heating element.
The cockpit is unpressurized below 35,000 feet, but it's air conditioned. Above 35K it's pressurized to 3.5 psi by nitrogen. Your pressure suit gets another nitrogen feed to keep it at 3.6 psi.
The ejection seat is almost an airplane itself. If you need it,
fins, put you in a nice attitude, escort you to low
altitude, then blow pieces of itself away and deploy your chute.
According to the manual, it will "permit safe pilot ejection up to Mach
4.0, in any attitude, and at any altitude up to 120,000 feet". You get
your choice about how much to trust those limits, such an ejection has
never been done.
Seat diagram: medium
First, there's a conventional center stick and rudder pedals.
a console stick at your right hand for use when G loads make it
difficult to use the center stick. Both are mechanically coupled
together and to a system of bell cranks that sum their inputs with
those from the Stability Augmentation System (SAS).
A horizontal stabilizer position indicator is located on the cockpit wall next to the console stick. This is a must-check item before dropping from the B-52 carrier aircraft and before beginning reentry.
Flight control diagram
A third stick, for the ballistic control system, is at your left hand. When the ballistic control rockets are armed, you can:
The same left-side panel houses the speed brake lever and the throttle. The throttle allows a choice of "off" or any thrust setting between 50% and 100%. In the early days it could go down to 30%, but the XLR-99 rocket motor was prone to flickering out when it was developing only a measly 4 1/2 tons of thrust.
The main instrument panel is divided into three sections: Engine instruments on the lower left, APU's on the lower right, and flight instruments at top center. Both engine and APU sections are mainly an assortment of pressure gages, temperature gages, fire warning lights, and sundry switches.
Scanning clockwise around the attitude indicator, starting just below it, the flight instruments are...
This pilot report is split into these four parts:
1. X-15 General
Description & Walkaround
2. X-15 Cockpit Check
3. X-15 Flight: Heading Out to Launch
4. X-15 Flight: Flying the Mission and Returning
Related to all four sections:
and pointers to related resources