This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet?

Chuck_Yeager_X-1_(color)

October 14, 1947: Yeager Breaks Sound Barrier

U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. Yeager was among several volunteers chosen to test-fly the experimental X-1 rocket plane, built by the Bell Aircraft Company to explore the possibility of supersonic flight.

X-1 in flight

X-1 in flight

For years, many aviators believed that man was not meant to fly faster than the speed of sound. All that changed on October 14, 1947, when Yeager flew the X-1 over Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California. The X-1 was lifted to an altitude of 25,000 feet by a B-29 aircraft and then released through the bomb bay, rocketing to 40,000 feet and exceeding 662 miles per hour (the sound barrier at that altitude).

Bell_X-1-3_being_mated_with_the_motherplanex-1_and_b-29

The rocket plane, Yeager nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis” (for his wife), was designed with thin, unswept wings and a streamlined fuselage modeled after a .50-caliber bullet.

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50 cal. bullet

50 cal. bullet

The X-1 was in principle a “bullet with wings”, its shape closely resembling a Browning .50-caliber machine gun bullet, known to be stable in supersonic flight. The pattern shape was followed to the point of seating its pilot behind a sloped, framed window inside a confined cockpit in the nose . . . with no ejection seat.

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X-1A

X-1A

Yeager continued to serve as a test pilot, and in 1953 he flew 1,650 miles per hour in an X-1A rocket plane. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975 with the rank of brigadier general.

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The speed of sound is 768 mph or a mile in five seconds. Or 662 mph at 40,000 ft.

Bullets from rifles and handguns can travel up to several thousand feet per second, so just as an example, a bullet traveling at 2000 FPS is traveling 1467.81 MPH.

Although there are huge variables, pistol bullets travel pretty fast;  at about 900 MPH, depending on the gun. For instance, a 9MM bullet travels at about 820 MPH. A rifle bullet travels faster, at 400 to 3,300 miles per hour depending on the rife. A Winchester .270 Rifle Bullet travels about 1,924 miles per hour. But that’s not fast enough to shoot down the fastest jet, the SR-71 Blackbird, which travels at 2,193 mph!

SR-&1 Blackbird

SR-&1 Blackbird

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