Famed research test pilot Bill Dana, 83, who flew the X-15 rocket plane and other pioneering aircraft, has died. Word of Mr. Dana's death on Tuesday was announced by NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

Starting in the 1950s, Mr. Dana logged more than 8,000 hours in more than 60 types of aircraft ranging from helicopters and sailplanes to the hypersonic X-15, which he flew to a maximum altitude of nearly 59 miles, reaching a top speed of 3,897 m.p.h.

In 2005, he was awarded civilian astronaut wings for two of those flights to the edge of space - nearly 40 years after his X-15 flights - because at the time, NASA did not confer astronaut wings on its pilots.

He also flew NASA's so-called lifting body aircraft that led to the design of the space shuttle.

Mr. Dana died after a long illness at an assisted living facility in suburban Phoenix. - AP