[This Day in History] October 14, 1947: Yeager breaks sound barrier
October 14, 1947: Yeager breaks sound barrier
U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to
fly faster than the speed of sound.
Yeager, born in Myra, West Virginia, in 1923, was a combat
fighter during World War II and flew 64 missions over Europe. He
shot down 13 German planes and was himself shot down over France,
but he escaped capture with the assistance of the French
Underground. After the war, he was among several volunteers chosen
to test-fly the experimental X-1 rocket plane, built by the Bell
Aircraft Company to explore the possibility of supersonic flight.
For years, many aviators believed that man was not meant to fly
faster than the speed of sound, theorizing that transonic drag
rise would tear any aircraft apart. All that changed on October
14, 1947, when Yeager flew the X-1 over Rogers Dry Lake in
Southern California. The X-1 was lifted to an altitude of 25,000
feet by a B-29 aircraft and then released through the bomb bay,
rocketing to 40,000 feet and exceeding 662 miles per hour (the
sound barrier at that altitude). The rocket plane, nicknamed
?8220;Glamorous Glennis,?8221; was designed with thin, unswept
wings and a streamlined fuselage modeled after a .50-caliber
Because of the secrecy of the project, Bell and Yeager?8217;s
achievement was not announced until June 1948. Yeager continued to
serve as a test pilot, and in 1953 he flew 1,650 miles per hour in
an X-1A rocket plane. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975
with the rank of brigadier general.
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