Schlagwort-Archive: Chuck Yeager

Jackie Cochran was the First Woman to break the Sound Barrier

On May 18, 1953, Jackie Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier and set a women’s absolute speed record of 652.337 mph. On Aug. 24, 1961, a jet streaked over the desert near Edwards Air Force Base (AFB). Fast planes were not unusual in that stretch of the sky over Southern California, but women pilots were. In the cockpit of Northrop’s new two-seat, twin-engine supersonic trainer, the T-38 Talon, was Jacqueline Cochran. And, according to the Smithsonian Magazine, the 55-year-old pilot was on a mission: reclaim her status as the fastest woman alive.

From 1906 through 1980, Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran was an aviator in the US. She learned to fly in 1932, partly to promote her cosmetics company. She had begun after being orphaned as a youngster and reared in poverty. She set a new speed record for female pilots crossing North America in 1938. She trained female transport pilots in the British and then the US Air Force auxiliary during World War II. Cochran was the first commander of the Women’s Flying Training Detachment during World War II, and she played a key part in the Army Air Forces’ development of female positions. In 1953, she achieved the world speed record for both men and women in a jet.

According to a post that appeared on Edwards Air Force Base Facebook Page, on May 18, 1953, she became the first woman to break the sound barrier and set a women’s absolute speed record of 652.337 mph, both in the same Canadian F-86, with Maj. Chuck Yeager flying the chase plane. But the French test pilot Jacqueline Auriol soon bested her record, by 63 miles per hour.

Could the T-38 help the seasoned racer get it back?
The T-38, created to train a new generation of pilots, was brand-new when Cochran persuaded Northrop to lend her one. Yeager trained her on it for several weeks before she began her record attempts and was flying as her wingman that day in August 1961, when she averaged 844.20 miles per hour over a straightaway, besting Auriol’s record by 129 miles per hour. Over the next seven weeks, Cochran set seven more records in the Talon, including one for absolute altitude at 56,071 feet and another for speed over a 100-kilometre closed course. “She flew one of the most perfect runs that have ever been flown,” Yeager later wrote of that feat.

She went on to set a slew of female flying records, including many at Edwards AFB, where she was awarded the women’s Harmon Trophy in 1953. On May 11, 1964, at Edwards AFB, California, Jacqueline Cochran flew a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, 62-12222, to 2,300.23 kilometres per hour (1,429.30 miles per hour)—Mach 2.16—over a straight 15 to 25-kilometre course. She was the first woman to fly faster than Mach 2 and she set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record.

Jackie Cochran wrote about flying the 15/25 kilometre straight course in her autobiography: Picture in your mind a rectangular tunnel, 300 feet high, a quarter of a mile wide, and extending 20 miles long through the air at an altitude of 35,000 feet. I had to fly through that tunnel at top speed without touching a side. There were no walls to see but radar and ground instruments let me know my mistakes immediately. Up there at 35,000 feet the temperature would be about 45 degrees below zero. Not pleasant but perfect for what I was doing. Inside the plane, you are hot because of the friction of speeding through the air like that. The cockpit was air-conditioned, but when you descend, things happen so fast that the plane’s air-cooling system can’t keep up with it. I was always hot and perspiring back on the ground.

Cochran set three-speed records with this F-104G in May and June 1964. According to This Day in Aviation, under the Military Assistance Program, the US Air Force transferred it to the Republic of China Air Force, where it was assigned number 4322. It crashed on Jul. 17, 1981. At the time of her death, she held more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other pilot, male and female. Source: ‚The Aviation Geek Club‚. Photo credit: ‚U.S. Air Force‘.

How the Bell X-1 Ushered in the Supersonic Age

It was arguably the most important flight since Kitty Hawk, and the plane was a perfection of form and function. Thirty feet 9 inches long, 10 feet 8½ inches high and 28 feet from wingtip to straight-razor wingtip, the Bell X-1 looked exactly like what had inspired its designers: a .50 calibre bullet. Square-jawed, slender and handsome, with a reassuringly laconic West Virginia drawl, U.S. Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager sat in the cockpit as the ur-pilot, the epitome of the Right Stuff. On this bright, brisk morning near Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California, October 14, 1947, he was preparing to fly faster than the speed of sound for the first time in recorded history.

Chuck Yeager with the Bell X-1 in 1947. U.S. Air Force

Yeager, a 24-year-old ace fighter pilot turned pathbreaking test pilot, was operating the most sophisticated aeronautical science package ever built. Everything that wasn’t Yeager in his tiny cockpit was fuel or wiring or instrumentation. Thousands of pounds of it, all propelled forward in a deafening rush by a rocket engine producing 6,000 pounds of thrust. The program had made dozens of preparatory flights before Yeager eased his throttle forward into history. Larry Bell, head of Bell Aircraft, his chief design engineer Robert Woods, Ezra Kotcher, then an Army major, and John Stack, a research scientist at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), had been working for years on the supersonic flight; one particular challenge was determining how to fly through the buffeting of the transonic zone, the liminal space between subsonic and supersonic speed, where the very air was the enemy, compressing itself against the plane’s skin, and where the “sound barrier” was said to be. A joint project of NACA and the U.S. Army Air Forces, built by Bell Aircraft of Buffalo, New York, the X-1 reached a speed of 700 miles per hour that bright day, Mach 1.06 at an altitude of 43,000 feet.

Inside the cockpit of the Bell X-1. Eric Long / NASM

This was no headline-grabbing joy ride; it was top-secret research. Still, by December 1947, newspapers and magazines had the story—and the National Aeronautic Association awarded Bell, Stack and Yeager with that year’s Collier Trophy, one of the highest prizes in aviation. Once the X-1 made headlines, Hollywood was keen to give audiences a front-row seat to the supersonic frontier. Indeed, the X-1’s final flight, in 1950, was a cameo in Howard Hughes’ Jet Pilot starring John Wayne and Janet Leigh, which hit theatres (with a thud) in 1957.

The X-1 landed at the Smithsonian in 1950. In presenting the aircraft to Alexander Wetmore, then the Smithsonian Secretary, Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg said Yeager’s flight that day in 1947 had “marked the end of the first great period of the air age and the beginning of the second. In a few moments, the subsonic period became history, and the supersonic period was born.” Yeager retired from the armed forces in 1975 as a general and visited his old ship at the Smithsonian when he could on the anniversary of their signature flight. After Tom Wolfe published The Right Stuff in 1979, and the big-budget film adaptation arrived in 1983, those visits became rock-star Q and A events. Crowds would fill the National Air and Space Museum’s Samuel P. Langley Theater and spill out into the planetarium, and then 400 or 500 or 600 fans would line up for autographs. To the amazement of the curators, Yeager, who always had to be the fastest, could sign 500 autographs in less than 30 minutes. Today, visitors can see the X-1 at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. Despite early hopes, supersonic civilian aircraft like the Concorde proved economically unsustainable: high fuel and maintenance costs and too much noise compared with subsonic flight. Yet today several start-ups are trying again.

There was always a powerful appeal in postwar notions of supersonic flight, when a machine like the X-1 promised something like freedom or escape: an imagined life so fast and so high and so clean that nothing bad could ever catch us again. But the unspoken promise of every technology is the one it can’t deliver: transcendence.

The nonmilitary flight eventually became commercial tedium, a series of shoeless corrals leading to a subsonic middle seat, a subpar romantic comedy and a lost suitcase. Global air travel is a miracle when you stop to think about it. But no one does. Instead, we’ve made the very angels ordinary. And when there are no more firsts, we’re left with nothing but our contempt for the familiar. Faster even than a rocket is how quickly the future becomes the past.

But once, long ago, on a blue October morning under the impossible vaults of heaven, one of us rose and flew faster than the roar of our own hopes, and for a moment, everything seemed possible. Source: ‚Smithsonian Magazine‚. Photo-Illustration: Cade Martin.

US-Fliegerlegende Chuck Yeager ist tot

Der US-Fliegerveteran und ehemalige Testpilot Charles Elwood „Chuck“ Yeager, der 1947 als erster Mensch mit einem Flugzeug die Schallmauer durchbrach, ist tot. Er starb am Montag im Alter von 97 Jahren, wie seine Frau Victoria auf dem offiziellen Twitteraccount Yeagers mitteilte. „Amerikas größter Pilot“ sei gestorben, schrieb Yeagers Gattin. Er hinterlasse ein unvergessliches Erbe von „Stärke, Abenteuer und Patriotismus“. Yeager war im Zweiten Weltkrieg Flieger und blieb nach dem Kriegsende als Testpilot in der US Air Force. Am 14. Oktober 1947 unternahm er mit dem raketengetriebenen Flugzeug Bell Aircraft X-1 den Rekordflug. Er erreichte eine Geschwindigkeit von 1125 km/h und durchbrach damit die Schallmauer. Auch später erreichte Yeager als Flieger noch weitere Bestmarken. Der Schriftsteller Tom Wolfe setzte Yeager sowie anderen Piloten und US-Raumfahrern mit dem Roman „The Right Stuff“ (deutscher Titel „Die Helden der Nation“) 1979 ein literarisches Denkmal. Das Buch wurde vier Jahre später verfilmt, wobei Sam Shepard die Rolle von Chuck Yeager spielte. Quelle: ‚Tagesspiegel‚.