My recent conversation with uhoh reminded me of something which stays kind of unmentioned in history of air and space flight, namely the altitude record prior to Gagarin's Vostok 1 mission. I wonder what the highest human flight had been before the first spaceflight occured. There's a Wikipedia list on (airplane, helicopter and balloon) flight altitude records: Flight altitude record, which but is quite muddled up. From the list I conclude that Iven Kincheloe's Bell X-2 flight on Sept 7, 1956 was the altitude record until Vostok 1, Kincheloe having reached an altitude of ~126,300 ft (~ 38,5 km). Am I right and why does it remain so unmentioned, somehow? I mean like it was the highest flight until Vostok 1 and the highest airplane flight until the ones of the X-15.

  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Well, it's about the atmosphere kind of. Kincheloe's flight was into the upper stratosphere and close to the triple point of water, already beyond where liquid water could exist outside. $\endgroup$
    – user30007
    Mar 26, 2020 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ @user30007, Gagarin's flight was into space, everything else before was atmospheric, aviation.SE is likely to give better answers. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Mar 26, 2020 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD I don't want my account to be changed again. Please don't delete the question because everyone can see a possible answer (Kincheloe with Bell X-2 at about 126,000 ft). $\endgroup$
    – user30007
    Mar 26, 2020 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ Why would your account change @user30007? You just go to Aviation.SE and join it. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Mar 26, 2020 at 18:13
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because aviation altitude records are not related to space exploration. I suggest you ask on aviation stack exchange after searching that site for pertinent questions that have already been asked and determining that it's on-topic there. $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2020 at 19:06

1 Answer 1


Joe Walker flew X-15 #2 to 169,600 ft (51.7 km) on 1961-03-30, thirteen days before Vostok-1.

Source: X-15 flight log

  • $\begingroup$ Also an X-15 flight to 136,500 ft on 8-12-60. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Sep 17, 2020 at 5:21

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