. 24/7 Space News .
A Super Sonic Sixty Years

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON : This file photo taken at Edwards AFB in California in1995, shows Brig. Gen. Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager in the cockpit of an F-15 . AFP PHOTO/HO
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 11, 2007
Former World War II flying ace Chuck Yeager's stellar career has included dogfights over Nazi Europe and a sympathetic big screen portrayal in the Hollywood film "The Right Stuff."

Nothing quite matches the achievement that clinched his fame 60 years ago this week, however, when he smashed through the sound barrier, in the process forever changing the face of aviation.

Yeager, who epitomized the hotshot fly-boys of the postwar era, broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental rocket powered Bell X-1 aircraft.

At the time, young air force captain with the chiseled features and charismatic aura was assigned as a test pilot with the X-1 program -- then the hottest aviation project in the world.

Yeager was just 24 when he made his groundbreaking flight during a program with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) which was conducting research on high-speed flight.

Soaring at an altitude of 45,000 feet (13,700 meters) he reached the speed of sound -- some 1,100 kilometers per hour -- after he and several other pilots in the same program came frustratingly close, without quite managing to breach the barrier.

The significance of the flight was enormous: Supersonic speed, Yeager told AFP, allowed the US military to fly "faster than the enemy," but just as importantly, "it opened up space: Star Wars, satellites," he said.

Ten years after Yeager broke through the sound barrier, the United States was able to launch its groundbreaking Mercury space program, the template for the Apollo space program which succeeded it and which eventually landed the first human on the moon.

He offers a colorful retelling of that day, including the sage advice given him by his mentor at the time, Colonel Albert Boyd, head of NACA's Aeronautical Systems Flight Test Division.

"Get above MACH 1 as soon as you can, don't bust your butt, and don't embarrass the Air Force," he says Boyd told him just before the flight.

Yeager eventually attained the rank of brigadier general in his flying career, spanning more than six decades, which has taken him to every corner of the globe.

Sixty years on, later he acknowledges breaking the sound barrier as perhaps his crowning achievement, saying it still gives him "a sense of accomplishment."

"I had done what the old man had sent us out to do," he said in written comments to AFP, referring again to Boyd.

The aircraft in which he made his historic flight was nicknamed the "Glamorous Glennis" in honor of his wife.

His colleague "Slick" Goodlin, another test pilot for Bell Laboratories, once famously described the X-1 as a "bullet with wings.

It was in fact, modeled after a 50-millimeter bullet, with short wings and a pointed tip, allowing it to pierce more efficiently through the air.

Since that historic day, breaching the sound barrier has become an almost routine act, including by Yeager, who told AFP that the number of times he has flown faster than the speed of sound is "too many to count"

"Just flew an F-16 on September 21, 2007, and broke the sound barrier again to commemorate the 60th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier," he recounted, in his typically laconic style.

He added that he also exceeded the sound barrier when taking part in recent commemorations marking "the 60th anniversary of the United States Air Force on Sept 18, 2007, and 65 years of my flying military cockpits."

While supersonic flight is no longer the singular event it was six decades ago, Yeager predicts it will never become a daily occurrence, at least not as far as commercial aviation is concerned.

"Not economical," he said.

Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Space Analysis and Space OpEds

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

NASA's Troubled Future
Washington DC (SPX) Aug 30, 2007
Some in the aerospace community believe that unless NASA sends astronauts back to the Moon and conducts extensive exploration, it is in danger of disappearing as a government agency. What is the basis for this fear? The last time astronauts began a mission to the Moon was December 7, 1972. Until the Clementine lunar mission in 1994, a leftover spacecraft from a DOD program, robotic exploration of the Moon ended in 1968 with Surveyor 7.

  • Malaysian PM Keen To Accept Russia's Offer For Second Astronaut
  • Malaysia to launch second space mission: reports
  • Malaysians over the moon at its first astronaut
  • Having a blast: tourists take first steps into historic cosmodrome

  • Opportunity Begins Sustained Exploration Inside Crater
  • HiRISE Releases Color Images, Movie Of Prospective Landing Sites On Mars
  • Spirit Arrives At Stratigraphic Wonderland In Columbia Hills On Mars
  • Duck Bay, Victoria Crater, Planet Mars

  • Proton Rocket To Launch Three Glonass Satellites Oct 25
  • Boeing Ships Third Thuraya Communications Satellite To Sea Launch Home Port
  • SSTL Satellites Sign-Up For 2008 Launch
  • Arianespace Boosts Intelsat 11 And Optus D2 Into Orbit

  • Successful Image Taking By The High Definition Television
  • Boeing Launches WorldView-1 Earth-Imaging Satellite
  • New Faraway Sensors Warn Of Emerging Hurricane's Strength
  • Key Sensor For Northrop Grumman NPOESS Program Passes Critical Structural Test

  • Pluto-Bound New Horizons Sees Changes In Jupiter System
  • Maneuver Puts New Horizons On A Straight Path To Pluto
  • Outbound To The Outerplanets At 7 AU
  • Charon: An Ice Machine In The Ultimate Deep Freeze

  • Major Step Toward Knowing Origin Of Cosmic Rays
  • The Dark Matter Of The Universe Has A Long Lifetime
  • A New Reduction Of The Hipparcos Catalogues
  • Into The Chrysalis

  • Japan's lunar probe enters orbit as space race heats up
  • Goddard Lunar Science On A Roll
  • Lunar Outpost Plans Taking Shape
  • A New Lunar Impact Observatory

  • Penske Truck Leasing Releases Fleet IQ V4.0
  • InSync Software Releases GREENTrace Food Safety Management Solution For The Fresh Food Industry
  • Aeris Communications And GPSPursuit Enable Unique Tracking Solutions
  • Zipcar Meets Mobile

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement