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Bell X1

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Bell X1

Bell X1: An Aircraft that Traveled Faster than the Sound

The Bell X1 was the very first airplane to fly faster than the speed of the sound. The pilot who controlled the aircraft on October 14, 1947, was US Air Force Capt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager. The Bell X1 recorded a speed of 1,127 kilometers per hour, Mach 1.06, at an altitude of 13,000 meters. Capt. Yeager nicknamed the airplane “Glamorous Glennis” in tribute to his wife.

The BellX-1 is a bullet-shaped aircraft, which was modeled after. 50 caliber bullet, known to be stable when it surpasses the speed of sound. There are 4 rocket engines that power the X-1, and it was made to absorb 18 times the force of gravity. Not like many aircraft, it doesn’t take off from the ground, instead, is dropped from a B-29 Superfortress, quickly speeding in the air for only a few minutes’ worth of fuel before it glides into the dry lakes beneath. This remarkable aircraft gradually reached the speed of sound over the course of nine flights.

The Pilot

The man who would later be known as the famous test pilot in the United States of America was born on February 13, 1923in West Virginia. Charles Elwood Yeager nicknames “Chuck” enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp as a private at an early age of 18 and served during the Second World War, where he underwent 64 combat missions.

Col. Albert Boyd, who was in-charge for the test program of the US Air Force, invited Yeager to be a test pilot, and he accepted and got reassigned to Muroc to sign up in the Flight Performance School. It was during this time that Yeager was chosen to be the first pilot to try exceeding the speed of sound.

The Flight

On August 29, 1947, aboard at Glamorous Glennis, Yeager attempted to first test launch with successive attempts increasing the speed by two hundredths of a Mach number. Mach is the unit used to measure the speed of sound in a given standard; an aircraft that travels at .2 Mach is moving at about two-tenths the speed of sound, although Mach 1 is its equivalent. (The speed of sound is around 1,220 kilometers/hour at sea level and slows down with altitude)

During his 6th flight, he reached .86 Mach, but the X-1 started to experience turbulence because of the shockwave created by the compression of the air. He reached Mach .94 on the 7th flight, Yeager lost control on the elevator of the aircraft, and he turned off the engines, cast off the fuel and safely landed in the desert.

Yeager was again dropped from the belly of a B-29 on October 14, 1947, and rapidly accelerated away. At that time, the controls locked up, but he successfully made use of the horizontal stabilizers to maintain the plane’s stability. As the plane reached Mach 1.06, controllers heard the first sonic boom.

After exceeding the speed of sound; the buffeting decreased, creating a short smooth flight. The plane remained supersonic for roughly 20 seconds before Yeager turned off two of the four engines and slowly decelerated.

You may be wondering why commercial planes are not made this fast so that travel time would be short. Well, according to Mark Drela, an Aeronautics and Astronautics professor, the specified speeds of commercial planes today only range from 480 to 510 knots due to fuel economy. Going faster will consume more fuel per-passenger-mile especially with the new high-bypass engines with huge-diameter front fans. Also, airplanes that surpass the speed of the sound create a shock wave that generates a loud booming sound as it passes through the air.

For the moment, just enjoy your commercial flight and bring along a good book to kill the time. However; if you are not a fan of commercial flights, you always have the option to rent a private jet. At Charter Flight group, we offer an array of air charter services, and we have a wide fleet of aircraft that you can rent. For your inquiries, we highly suggest that you contact us now!