Aviation: Coming In on A Wing & A Pliers

The XB-70 Valkyrie is the world's most sophisticated manned aircraft —and one of the fastest and heaviest.

Sometimes known as "Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent" because of early technical problems and its droopy, attenuated profile, the 2,000-plus-m.p.h., 225-ton plane was originally intended to be an intercontinental bomber but was later rejected for that role. Instead, only two were built, and they have served as an invaluable flying test bed for the myriad technical problems involved in developing a supersonic transport. The second and better-equipped of the two Valkyries also tested to the...

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