October 14, 1947:
... Bob Cardenas, the B-29 driver, asked if I was ready.
"Hell, yes," I said. "Let's get it over with."
He dropped the X-1 at 20,000 feet, but his dive speed was once again too slow and the X-1 started to stall. I fought it with the control wheel for about five hundred feet, and finally got her nose down. The moment we picked up speed I fired all four rocket chambers in rapid sequence. We climbed at .88 Mach and began to buffet, so I flipped the stabilizer switch and changed the setting two degrees. We smoothed right out, and at 36,000 feet, I turned off two rocket chambers. At 40,000 feet, we were still climbing at a speed of .92 Mach. Leveling off at 42,000 feet, I had thirty percent of my fuel, so I turned on rocket chamber three and immediately reached .96 Mach. I noticed the faster I got, the smoother the ride.
Suddenly the Mach needle began to fluctuate. It went up to .965 Mach - then tipped right off the scale. I thought I was seeing things! We were flying supersonic! And it was as smooth as a baby's bottom: Grandma could be sitting up there sipping lemonade. I kept the speed off the scale for about twenty seconds, and raised the nose to slow down.
I was thunderstruck. After all the anxiety, breaking the sound barrier turned out to be a perfectly paved speedway. I radioed Jack in the B-29, "Hey, Ridley, that Machmeter is acting screwy. It just went off the scale on me."
"Yeah, at point nine-six-five."
"Son, you is imagining things."
"Must be. I'm still wearing my ears and nothing else fell off, neither."
. . .
And so I was a hero this day. As usual, the fire trucks raced out to where the ship had rolled to a stop on the lakebed. As usual, I hitched a ride back to the hangar with the fire chief. That warm desert sun really felt wonderful. My ribs ached.The flight didn't hurt his ribs. He cracked two of them in a horseback riding accident a day and a half earlier.
|Capt. Chuck Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, "Glamorous Glennis," 1947|
Aerospace pioneer, General Chuck Yeager, is 92 years old. He lives in Penn Valley, California, and continues to lead a very active life flying, fishing, and managing the General Chuck Yeager Foundation.
N.B. The book, Yeager: An Autobiography, is an outstanding read for anyone interested in the early years of the nation's aviation and aerospace history. The cover photo by Anthony Loew opens this post.
Yeager with Bell X-1, U.S. Air Force, www.af.mil
quotation, Yeager: An Autobiography, General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janus, Bantam, 1985.