Seventy-five years ago the sound barrier was broken by Chuck Yeager. It is October 14, 1947, over Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California. A former WW2 flight officer named Chuck Yeager (1923-2020), a test pilot with the US Air Force sitting at the controls of a Bell X-1 rocket plane drops from the modified bomb bay of a large Boeing B-29 Superfortress and changes aviation forever after.
Prior to this, scientists and aviators initially believed that flying faster than the speed of sound would cause the aircraft to break up due to the shockwaves or become uncontrollable by a pilot at that speed.
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 “Glamorous Glennis” (after Yeager’s wife), was designed with thin, unswept wings and a streamlined fuselage modelled after a .50-caliber bullet.
Yeager continued to make test flights for the Air Force, and he set a world speed record of 1,650 miles (2,655 kilometres) per hour on December 12, 1953, in an X-1A rocket plane.
Development of supersonic aircraft continued with military jets such as the F-100 Super Sabre (the first jet powered military aircraft to exceed the sound barrier), the Concorde that could carry 100 passengers at Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound), the legendary Lockheed SR-71 (could fly at Mach 3!) and on to today’s modern military aircraft such as the F-35.