It was 60 years ago today that test pilot Milt Thompson piloted the world's first lifting body aircraft, the M2-F1 on its first flight.
Since the M2-F1 had to be very light weight it was constructed of plywood by sailplane maker Gus Briegleb.
So, on August 16, 1963 the M2-F1 was flying on its own. Although the steep "dive bomber" approach caught the observers on the ground, including Dale Reed, by surprise, Milt Thompson was fully in control. He did a simulated landing flair at 9,000 feet and then went right back into the descent profile. Landing exactly on his planned touchdown point he let the bird roll to a near stop before turning to roll clear of the desert runway.
When I was in high school in 1976 I designed my own lifting body "shape." It was a part of my 11th grade drafting class final project. While I was working on it- along with a model rocket booster and launch service tower with a retracting service structure (that I'm sure NASA stole from me), my drafting teacher the late Dan Craig came up and looked at the project.
"What's that wedge thing?" he asked.
"It's a lifting body," I replied as if he should know what I meant, "it's a wingless aircraft."
He simply shook his head and walked away. I go a "C" on the project mostly due to assorted tiny drafting errors, and on the lifting body he scrolled a message,
"Aircraft can't fly without wings- you should know that!"
Mine flew. Many years later my college roommate saw one of my lifting body balsa wood models and was so fascinated I gave him one. He went on to work as a NASA contractor at then Dryden, and Dale Reed's deck was just a short distance from his. So, he showed Mr. Reed my lifting body. The father of lifting bodies was impressed and said, "That would also make a great hypersonic shape."
But not constructed of balsa wood... of course