History of Mach 1: 70 Years Ago — Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier

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Captain Chuck Yaeger and the Bell X-1

Background

But it was on October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager, now 94 and a Brigadier General (retired), actually broke the sound barrier for the first time. I met him on his fiftieth anniversary of that earlier date in Washington DC, on October 14, 1997 — when he retired as a military consultant and once again broke the sound barrier, this time in an F-15. It was on this occasion that he was speaking at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. He told us about how he did it, in the room right next to the gallery where the Bell X-1 rocket plane is hung. This is a man with “The Right Stuff.” Indeed you saw his exploits in the movie by that name. This is his story.

Mach 1:

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Bell X-1

Mach 2:

“The X-1A used hydrogen peroxide for steam to drive the LOX. It weighed not 12K lbs. loaded/6K lbs. empty, but 15K lbs. loaded/5K lbs. empty and could go 4 minutes [not 2.5 minutes].

Q&A afterward

Q: What’s your favorite plane and your least favorite?
A: “My favorite plane is always the latest plane I’ve flown. They’re like luxury cars. I’m flying the F-22 and F-23. I flew some Harrier’s I didn’t like.”

Chuck Yeager:

  • Born in 1923 in West Virginia.
  • Started as a mechanic.
  • Flew P39 fighters.
  • Served in the 357th in the UK.
  • Later became a test pilot for X(perimental) planes.
  • Then flew as a research pilot.
  • He flew 127 combat in Viet Nam.
  • Was later stationed at Norton Air Force Base.
  • He has 15,000 hours in a plane: if you were to fly that many hours, you’d be in a plane from 1997 thru February 2014.
  • He received the Medal of Honor from President Ford.
  • This is usually awarded after you died, but in Chuck’s case, they made an exception.

Silicon Valley Tech Exec: Cloud, Data Storage, Automation. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, andpop culture. Blog: http://billpetro.com

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