first plane ever to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Its most famous pilot was Chuck Yeager.
photo by Lt. Robert A. Hoover
Wingspan: 8.5 meters
Length: 9.5 meters
(launched): 13,034 pounds / 5,917kilograms
Launch speed: 555
kilometers/hour (345 mph)
Launching altitude: 30,000
feet (9.14 kilometers)
Maximum speed on first flight: Mach
1.06 (700 mph at 42,000 ft)
Absolute ceiling: 87,750
feet / 26 kilometers
Engine specs: 345
lb. four-chamber engine providing 6,000 lbs. of thrust
(at sea level) Fuel capacity limited full-power usage
to about 5 minutes.
oxygen, ethyl alcohol, nitrogen (high-pressure gas
used to force the liquid oxygen and alcohol into the
Bell X-1 was the first piloted plane to fly faster than
the speed of sound. Flown by USAF Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager,
the Bell X-1 rocketed to supersonic speeds for the first
time on October 14, 1947, over Muroc Air Base (now Edwards
Air Force Base) in the Mojave Desert. Prior to this historic
flight, many people thought that any plane trying to
fly faster than the speed of sound would break apart
once it reached the "sound barrier"and
indeed, many planes that hadn't been properly designed
for such high speeds were destroyed as they neared Mach
1. But the unique .50 caliber bullet shape of the Bell
X-1, paired with its strong, super-thin wings and an
adjustible horizontal stabilizer, made it a perfect vehicle
for supersonic travel. As the Bell X-1 flight proved,
the speed of sound isn't a barrier at all.
of Air Force Flight Test Center, History Office,
describing the experience of the first supersonic flight,
Yeager said, "Suddenly the Mach needle began to
fluctuate. It went up to .965 Machthen it 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
total of three X-1s were made, but by far the most
famous was the X-1-1 (#46-062), which was used in the
first supersonic flight. Captain Yeager, who named
the X-1-1 "Glamorous Glennis" after his wife,
piloted it to its top speed, Mach 1.45. Another USAF
pilot, Lt. Col. Frank Everest, Jr., took the X-1-1
to its highest altitude of 71,902 feet. Ten different
pilots flew the Bell X-1-1 on a total of 82 flights
before the plane was retired on May 12, 1950.
Science Center's Bell X-1
Our Bell X-1 is a movie prop made for "The Right
Stuff." It was donated by the United States Air
Force, Castle Air Force Base and Ladd Company. The
original Bell X-1 is in the National Air and Space
Museum in Washington, DC.
This Chuck Yeager fansite features annotated drawings
of the X-1, video of the X-1 in flight, and an amazing
amount of information on Chuck Yeager including a bio,
career timeline, and audio and video interviews.
1.0 and Beyond: Saluting Chuck Yeager and the
Built in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first
supersonic flight, this site tells the story of the
campaign to "break the sound barrier."
NASA offers a collection of black-and-white and color
photos of the X-1 on this site, including one that
shows a diamond pattern that appeared in the exhaust
trail when the X-1 flew faster than sound.
the First Supersonic Aircraft
At this NASA page, read firsthand accounts of a pilot
who participated in early supersonic research flights
in several different high-speed planes, including the