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Chuck Yeager

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On October 14, 1947, Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound in his Bell X-1, which he named Glamorous Glennis, in tribute to his wife. He reached a speed of 1,127 kilometers (700 miles) per hour, or Mach 1.06, at an altitude of 13,000 meters (43,000 feet).

Chuck Yeager

Charles "Chuck" Yeager with Bell X-1.

Air-launched at an altitude of 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) from the bomb bay of a Boeing B-29, the X-1 used its rocket engine to climb to its test altitude. It flew a total of 78 times, and on March 26, 1948, with Yeager at the controls, it attained a speed of 1,540 kilometers (957 miles) per hour, Mach 1.45, at an altitude of 21,900 meters (71,900 feet). This was the highest velocity and altitude reached by a manned airplane up to that time.

Bell X-1 Cockpit

Cockpit of the Bell X-1

The Glamorous Glennis was donated to the Museum in 1950, and has been suspended from the ceiling in the Milestones of Flight gallery since the building on the National Mall opened in 1976.

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12 thoughts on “Chuck Yeager

  1. It was a boyhood dream come true to visit the museum and see the X-1 suspended high above. Chuck Yeager, like the Wright Brothers and other aviation pioneers fueled many a young persons imagination.May their legacy live on, as we look further and dream higher of travel beyond earth.

  2. Such courage; what an incredible chapter in flight, or should one say early rocket travel?

    We were in the The National Air and Space Museum this January. I was awe struck to see the craft on display. I was surprised to see it is orange in colour. Is there a particular reason for this? Perhaps for search and rescue purposes?

    Thanks for posting the anniversary.
    Regards, Bruce

  3. As a young sailor stationed in Washington D.C. in the early 1970′s, I frequently visited the National Air & Space Museum before the current facility was built. To see both Chuck Yeager’s “Glamourous Glennis” and Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” both hanging from the ceiling was always a special treat and thrill.

    “Lucky Lindy” helped to make commercial aviation and transcontinental air travel possible, and as important as that was, Chuck Yeager did something even greater – he put us on the road to space travel. Way to go Chuck!!!!

  4. Actually, the official history is wrong. Another pilot heard that Chuck was going to be doing this, and before that date, he took an F-86 up to high altitude, went into a dive, and broke the sound barrier. Without help from a bomber, and with no dangerous rocket fuel. It’s documented, but by now the records recorded by this F-86 and personnel on the ground, has probably been “retired”. But the men who knew this are still alive, some of them.

  5. AL (Sept 4 post) in fact is correct. Civilian pilot George Welch is generally known to have broken the sound barrier on 1 October 1947 in an XP-86 Sabre (F-86 prototype), which was two weeks before Yeager’s flight. HOWEVER it was in a dive. Yeager gets the credit for breaking Mach One in level flight (often this level flight distinction is not included in Yeager accounts). What’s more, just 30 minutes before Yeager’s 14 October flight, Welch did it again, in a dive. I’ve read that the AF succeeded in having the Welch flights’ info squelched so that it could claim the record by an AF pilot. The XP-86 officially achieved supersonic speed on 26 April 1948. Welch was one of the few Army Air Force fighter pilots to get airborne at Pearl Harbor on December 7, downing or damaging at least four Japanese planes. He was a 16-kill ace by the end of WWII and in Korea as a civilian instructor he unofficially (of course) shot down several MiG-15s. He died in 1954 when his F-100A Super Sabre came apart during a Mach 1.55 pullout. Chuck Yeager was flying the chase plane.

  6. My Father Vito A. DonVito worked at Bell Aircraft and helped build the X1a and x2. The men that worked on those planes were given beautiful models as a rememberance and I played with dad’s until they were broken. Wish I had them now. Nick

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