Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Military Technology

Chuck Yeager Re-Enacts the Historic Flight That Broke the Sound Barrier 122

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-to-fly dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Seattle Times reports that exactly 65 years to the minute after becoming the first human to fly faster than the speed of sound, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager flew in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 30,000 feet above California's Mojave Desert — the same area where he first achieved the feat in 1947 while flying an experimental rocket plane. Asked by a young girl if he was scared during Sunday's flight, Yeager joked, 'Yeah, I was scared to death.' Yeager made the first supersonic flight in a rocket-powered, Bell X-1, known as the XS-1 for 'experimental, supersonic,' attached to the belly of a B-29 aircraft. Hiding the pain of broken ribs from a midnight horse race after a night of drinking at Pancho Barnes' Happy Bottom Riding Club, Yeager squeezed into the aircraft with no safe way to bail out. Soon after the rocket plane was released, Yeager powered it upward to about 42,000 feet altitude, then leveled off and sped to 650 mph, or Mach 1.07. Some aviation historians contend that American pilot George Welch broke the sound barrier before Yeager, while diving an XP-86 Sabre on October 1, 1947 and there is also a disputed claim by German pilot Hans Guido Mutke that he was the first person to break the sound barrier, on April 9, 1945, in a Messerschmitt Me 262. Yeager's flight was portrayed in the opening scenes of The Right Stuff, the 1983 movie, based on the book by Tom Wolfe that chronicles America's space race. For his part Yeager said nothing special was going through his mind at the time of the re-enactment. 'Flying is flying. You can't add a lot to it.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Chuck Yeager Re-Enacts the Historic Flight That Broke the Sound Barrier

Comments Filter:
  • Hey Ridley, (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @08:52AM (#41656535)

    ...got a stick of Beemans?

  • Re-enacts? (Score:4, Informative)

    by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@aol.LISPcom minus language> on Monday October 15, 2012 @08:56AM (#41656563) Journal

    Really?

    No, sorry, it is not a re-enactment. He just went for a supersonic flight as a passenger.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:08AM (#41656671)

      I'd like to see you re-enact anything besides shitting your pants when you're 89. Show the man a little respect, jackass.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:44AM (#41656979)

      I know, right? It's like those Civil War 're-enactors'; those pansies don't even use real bullets!

    • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:45AM (#41656989) Homepage
      Those civil-war "re-enactors" don't even use the same people.
    • Hah, I'd bet you a stick of Beemans that the person in the back seat was flying it. Maybe just not for the take-off and landing (due to decreased visibility from the back seat)...
    • I think "commemorates is a better choice of word.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      No, sorry, it is not a re-enactment. He just went for a supersonic flight as a passenger.

      You could argue that he was a passenger on his first attempt as well. After all, for the supersonic part, he really couldn't do much than sit on his hands.

      It's actually a facinating look at human history - between rockets and missiles and the early space missions. How much should the human be involved (or even should they?). During the early days it was a serious question of just how much should the human be involved an

      • Re:Re-enacts? (Score:4, Informative)

        by dywolf (2673597) on Monday October 15, 2012 @12:31PM (#41659359)

        The X-1 was fully controlled by the pilot. Yeager, and more importantly his friend Jack Ridley, and the X-1 were the source of the all-moving tailplane that became essential to maintianing control of aircraft through the transonic and supersonic realms of flight. Prior to that invention the shockwave would overpower the controls leading to loss of control and crash.

    • Re:Re-enacts? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dywolf (2673597) on Monday October 15, 2012 @12:15PM (#41659073)

      Uninformed troll. He was not a passenger. He flew second seat, which is customary when you are in a two-seater that isn't your plane.

      Still has full flight controls and he was flying the aircraft. Yeager has flown the F15 for many years. He is more than qualified in the type. He is one hte most naturally gifted pilots ever to exist. The aircraft hasnt been made that he cant fly (this includes the Space Shuttle and the Mercury capsule, both of which he qualified for on the simulators). The only reason the plane commander was even there is because of Yeagar's advanced years and recent health problems, even though he had been flying F15s solo even up until a couple years ago.

      One of the perks of being a retired General who still maintains his flight quals, and also partly cause hey, its Yeager, a man who in his 70s could still outfly men 40 years younger than he.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yeah, but Yeager couldn't have so easily used this modern F15 plane with modern, easy controls to exceed the sound barrier if it hadn't been for many brave pioneers who went before him and developed and bravely tested supersonic trav...

        Wait. Nevermind.

  • Scared (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon (149926) on Monday October 15, 2012 @08:58AM (#41656579)

    'Yeah, I was scared to death.'

    Joking or not, once you have been Pilot in Command, when you fly with someone else, you do get kind of twitchy. Kind of like riding in a car with a newly licensed 16 year old. When YOU are not in control, things seem different and possibly scary.

    • Re:
      >I want to start a business. Where do I find these people who do it for me?

      Just give your startup capital to me, I'll take total control, it won't be scary at all.

  • by Lord Lode (1290856) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:00AM (#41656587)

    Interesting, if that's so then exactly 65 years minus 1 day after the first human to cross the sound barrier in an airplane, we have the first human to cross the sound barrier without airplane (yesterday)!

    • I thought he hasn't managed to cross it? Anyway, I suspect Chuck just wanted to prove to himself that he's still faster than a parachuter. :-)
    • by srmalloy (263556)

      Interesting, if that's so then exactly 65 years minus 1 day after the first human to cross the sound barrier in an airplane, we have the first human to cross the sound barrier without airplane (yesterday)!

      That depends on your definition of the term. On 25 January 1966, Bill Weaver was flying SR-71A 61-7952 / 2003 at a speed of Mach 3.2 when he experienced a severe case of engine unstart. Before he could tell his RSO, Jim Zwayer, not to eject until he regained control of the aircraft, the SR-71 disintegrated around him, leaving him in free fall at a speed in excess of Mach 3. His drogue chute deployed, stabilizing his fall, and his main chute deployed automatically. Weaver spotted his RSO's chute during his p

      • Those are 2 of the coolest air accident stories I have ever heard.... and I now have a mental picture of the SR-71 Blackbird disintegrating like in a cartoon, leaving the guy upright in his ejector seat looking round confused like Wile E Coyote after running off the edge of a cliff just before gravity kicks in.

  • by thrich81 (1357561) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:14AM (#41656715)

    There is a well established legend (story, rumor?) that Yeager's supersonic flight was beaten by a couple of weeks by the F-86 prototype doing flight testing. The pilot, George Welch, was a test pilot for North American aviation and was doing tests including high speed dives before the X-1's supersonic flight. The aircraft was not instrumented to prove it at the time, but later it was conclusively shown that the F-86 would go supersonic in dives. Supposedly the Air Force hushed it all up at the time. Fascinating note in aviation history -- http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/history/q0113.shtml [aerospaceweb.org].

    • Yeager did it in level flight - a huge difference
    • The Wiki makes it sound VERY debatable. There's been an issue with air speed indicators showing false readings as you approach the sound barrier. I've heard stories of prop plane pilots thinking they broke the sound barrier in that era (which is supposed to be impossible).

      • by thrich81 (1357561)

        You are right, you cannot trust airspeed indicators which were not designed for trans or supersonic flight. However, there is no debate that the F-86 could go supersonic (in a dive) so this story is plausible. There a several accounts in a quick Google search of F-86 pilots claiming supersonic flight. One account states that ,"One entire training flight in the F-86L was devoted to supersonic flight." (http://sabre-pilots.org/classics/v83mach.htm). So the aircraft was easily capable, just depends on whet

        • I thought the big secret of going supersonic learned during the X-1 program (thanks to Jack Ridley's improvisation) was having a flying tail.

          F-86 didn't get a flying tail until the E model. Welch was supposed to have broken the sound barrier in a steep dive with hinged elevators? Wouldn't the elevator lose all effectiveness due to the shockwaves slamming against the elevator hinge? Which, since he was in a steep dive, meant he couldn't pull out and thus crash into the ground or the plane disintegrating from

          • by Yo_mama (72429)

            Shockwaves form differently based on airfoil (and fuselage) shape. A flying tail certainly HELPS, but you don't necessarily lose all function.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        There's been an issue with air speed indicators showing false readings as you approach the sound barrier. I've heard stories of prop plane pilots thinking they broke the sound barrier in that era (which is supposed to be impossible).

        Well, the entire plane may not have broken the sound barrier, but in modern days, the sound barrier does pose lots of technical challenges for parts of the plane. Propellers are often speed limited to prevent the tips from going supersonic (and helicopters have it worse - thanks

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      The sound barrier was actually broken during WWII by German pilot Hans Guido Mutke in an ME-262. The XS-1 was actually based on Germany technology derived from that aircraft, and research done by the British.

      WWII generated a lot of advanced tech that was kept secret and not recognized until years, often decades later. The first computer, Colossus, is another prominent example.

      • by Yo_mama (72429)

        Pardon my raised eyebrows; really?
        That straight-winged, .50 cal bullet shaped airframe that was developed starting in 1944 before the allies had their hands on a Me-262 was ACTUALLY BASED on the Me-262? I'm not stating that the XS-1 didn't incorporate lessons learned, but if you look at the two airframes objectively you'd be hard pressed to find any similarities.

    • by k6mfw (1182893)

      The aircraft was not instrumented to prove it at the time, but later it was conclusively shown that the F-86 would go supersonic in dives.

      If it ain't documented, it didn't happen. Sorry but those are the breaks. Sometimes it ain't nice (Watson and Crick vs Franklin). Sometimes it who gets to the printer first (Newton vs Leibniz).

      Other times it comes to splitting hairs... Kittinger's 1960 jump was not a freefall (he used a drogue) and Gagarin did not make the first human spaceflight (he didn't land in the spacecraft but parachuted from it). Cmon, stop arguing, Joe made the first skydive above 100K and Yuri was the first spaceman.

      • by thrich81 (1357561)

        You are totally correct on your statements. I relayed the story in my first post because I had read it a long time ago in an Air and Space Smithsonian magazine and it seemed plausible ("probably", as I posted, is too strong). To an aviation buff, it is interesting whether it is likely that XF-86 really did exceed Mach 1 that day, even if it did, it was not going to go any faster as the X-1 did. The record, of course, goes to Yeager and the X-1. Whichever aircraft did exceed Mach 1 first is immaterial to

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)

      However, Yeager is the first _confirmed_ person to go over Mach 1--mostly because during the XS-1's test flight, there was a large number of tracking cameras and other recording instruments that proved he DID exceed the speed of sound. Welch may have exceeded Mach 1, but the XP-86 prototype's dive was not tracked by cameras and other recording instruments, so it was NOT an official record.

  • There were a few pilots during and shortly WWII who claimed to have gone more than Mach 1.0. Some said the P-51 was capable of it in a power dive. Of course it was often fatal which makes Yeager's willingness to make the flight all the more impressive.
    • Re:Disputed claims (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hagaric (2591241) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:23AM (#41656807)
      Highest speed ever recorded in a piston-engined aircraft was mach 0.92 in a spitfire.. the pilot only survived because the propeller and reduction gear got ripped off the aircraft and the resulting shift in the center of gravity caused an 11g pullout of an otherwise fatal dive. apparently the wings were distinctly "swept" after the event.
    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      The difference is that the WWII planes could only do it in a near-suicidal dive. The X-1 could do it intentionally, under normal powered flight.

      • by jmsp (1987118)

        The difference is that the WWII planes could only do it in a near-suicidal dive. The X-1 could do it intentionally, under normal powered flight.

        2 things you may not know:

        - The Me262 was a jet fighter/bomber. WWII plane. As cited in a post above, some claim it broke the sound barrier in levelled flight.

        - The Me163 was a rocket fighter. Some claim it broke the sound barrier in 1944. The Bell X-1 is almost a copy of its design.

        No official world records, I'm afraid. Well, there was this war going on, that made quite difficult for international records bodies to arrange for a convenient validation spot...

        Of course, these planes were on the wrong

        • Re:Disputed claims (Score:4, Informative)

          by osu-neko (2604) on Monday October 15, 2012 @11:00AM (#41657947)

          - The Me262 was a jet fighter/bomber. WWII plane. As cited in a post above, some claim it broke the sound barrier in levelled flight.

          No. No one (who knows anything) claims the Me 262 broke the sound barrier in level flight. It was a jet, but not a very fast one; it's not even remotely possible it could achieve that speed in level flight. One German pilot claimed to have done it in a 90 degree nosedive, but he was doubtless fooled by erroneous elevated readings from his pitot-based airspeed indicator that can often occur at high speeds. If he'd actually made it to trans-sonic speeds in an Me 262 airframe, he'd have ripped the wings off.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          - The Me163 was a rocket fighter. ... The Bell X-1 is almost a copy of its design.

          You're kidding, right?

    • Re:Disputed claims (Score:4, Informative)

      by Deadstick (535032) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:51AM (#41657049)

      Most of those claims were based on what the pilot saw on the airspeed indicator. Trouble is, the reading on an ordinary ASI is meaningless from about Mach 0.9 up. A standard ASI senses the difference between the pitot and static air pressures; a Machmeter senses their ratio.

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        Not only that, but as the shockwave develops, it screws with the pressures sensed by the instruments causing erroneous readings, depending on where the Pitot tube and static inlets are installed.

  • by Hagaric (2591241) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:15AM (#41656729)
    Calling it a reenactment is just journalistic hyperbole.. As for the first to break the sound barrier, there are several contenders according to criteria.. Yaeger was the first to do it deliberately, measurably, in level flight, and survive. Geoffrey DeHavilland broke it in the DH108 but died in the process. The xf-86 prototype with George Welch almost certainly did it before him, but once again, in a barely-controlled dive. The same with all the other claims, they were not in control and they were lucky to survive, if they did.
    • by Deadstick (535032)

      Actually, I hate the expression "sound barrier". It is not, and never has been, a barrier; it's a hurdle.

      • It is not, and never has been, a barrier; it's a hurdle.

        I... er... uh... what?

        And what is a hurdle if not a low barrier?

        It was a barrier, for several reasons. One is that on entering the transonic regime, drag increases massively. The other is that aircraft tended to go out of control and crash unpleasantly, or get low enough that they were no longer supersonic, with a return of control.

        The problems were mostly solved by a better understangind of aerodynamics. For instance, increasing the critical mach numb

      • by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:37AM (#41657633)

        It is not, and never has been, a barrier; it's a hurdle.

        You're mistaken. Back then, approaching the speed of sound, every plane went into a phase of uncontrollable buffeting. The theory back then was any faster and any plane would break apart. Yeager's X-1 flight proved it wasn't true. Past the speed of sound, you fly faster than the turbulence and it's as smooth as silk.

        I'm glad to hear Chuck's still flying, and not in a liquid fueled bomb.

        • by Deadstick (535032)

          A barrier is something you can't get past. A hurdle is something you can't get past unless you go about it properly.

          The theory back then was any faster and any plane would break apart.

          Pre-1947 cite, please? Calling something unsolved is not calling it unsolvable. The Grand Slam bomb may or may not have gone supersonic, but it definitely got into the transonic range where shocks occur on parts of the object, and it remained stable. And the X-1 was deliberately shaped like the .50 BMG bullet, a shape known to have an acceptable amount of supersonic drag (though it did have th

      • by vmaxxxed (734128)

        Ok, well I wish you take a steep dive with a WII propeller fighter and you will see why it is called a barrier ...

        -Alejandro

      • by Hagaric (2591241)
        As I understand it, the term "sound barrier" came about because hitting "compressibility limits" in ww2-era thick-winged aircraqft "felt like flying into a brick wall"...
      • by sjames (1099)

        Until it was broken, it FELT like a barrier. It is literally broken through when flying as well.

    • Yaeger was the first to do it deliberately, measurably, in level flight,

      Actually X-1 was designed to break the sound barrier while going up. The designers knew from previous attempts by others that as you get very close to Mach 1, the elevator stops working. All the previous attempts were done while in a dive, and they all lost the use of their elevators, and they all died as their planes disintegrated because they couldn't pull out.

      Bell's solution was that they would attempt Mach 1 while going UP, not diving. This would ensure that even if they lost the elevator, since the pla

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      There never been any proof that any of those planes actually achieved Mach 1+. None. The single biggest source of all speculation is the fact the USAF kept Yeager's flight secret for over a year, and only said something after the Brits finally did it successfully.

  • Hiding the pain of broken ribs from a midnight horse race after a night of drinking at Pancho Barnes' Happy Bottom Riding Club, Yeager squeezed into the aircraft with no safe way to bail out.

    If that isn't proof he's sporting a huge pair and was one tough son of a bitch, I don't know what is.

    These guys were awesome.

  • Surely you mean a Miles M52? ;-)
  • This would have been a lot better if he just made jet noises, and a plane shape out of his hand, and after going.. boom and thrusting his hand forward exclaimed.. "And that's how I broke the sound barrier!"
  • Two nights before the scheduled date for the flight, he broke two ribs while riding a horse. He was so afraid of being removed from the mission that he went to a veterinarian in a nearby town for treatment and told only his wife, as well as friend and fellow project pilot Jack Ridley about it. Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, which, as with all of the aircraft assigned to him, he named Glamorous Glennis (or some variation thereof), after his wife. Yeager in the Bell X-1 cockpit. On the day of the flight, Yeager was in such pain that he could not seal the airplane's hatch by himself. Ridley rigged up a device, using the end of a broom handle as an extra lever, to allow Yeager to seal the hatch of the X-1.

    [ Citation Provided [wikipedia.org] ]

    Chuck Yeager was actually nursing an injury on that day. And that he hid the fact that he was medically unfit to test that plane from his commanding officers. Because that flight was successful, everyone forgave Chuck. But he could have crashed the plane and set the program back by an year. In my eyes he is just a glory seeker, who put his personal ambition ahead of the interests of his mission.

  • And a hundred or so other Air Cadet pilots, at our graduation ceremony. To celebrate to 50th anniversary of the RCAF, special guests were brought in to pin the wings on the graduating pilots at ceremonies around Canada. Ontario got the Prince of Wales, the Maritimes got Chuck Yeager. Usually Ontario gets the special treatment in Canada, but as newly minted pilots, having the first (official) man to break the sound barrier and decorated WWII fighter pilot decorate us, I think we all agreed that we won out

"Gotcha, you snot-necked weenies!" -- Post Bros. Comics

Working...