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YEAGER AND THE SOUND BARRIER


Chuck Yeager was the first man to ever break the sound barrier in an aircraft. Planes like the British Meteor jets that approached the speed of sound (760MPH at sea level, 660 MPH at 40,000 feet) had encountered severe buffeting of the controls. At that time, no one knew for sure whether an airplane could exceed "Mach 1", the speed of sound. The U.S. Army was determined to find out first.


The Army had developed a small, bullet-shaped aircraft, the Bell X-1, to challenge the sound barrier. A civilian pilot, Slick Goodlin, had taken the Bell X-1 to .7 Mach, when Yeager started to fly it. He pushed the small plane up to .8, .85, and then to .9 Mach, but backed off when the plane began to shake uncontrollably. The date of Oct. 14, 1947 was set for the attempt to do Mach 1.


As he approached Mach 1, that plane began to shake and rattle and be buffeted from side to side, so much so that he was not sure that he would not explode in mid-air.


But on this day Chuck said, “I refuse to turn back now! If I die, I die trying but I am not going to back down! I’ve been close before, but no matter what happens today, I am going for it!”


And with that he shoved the controls forward and headed for the sonic wall!


In the account of this momentous event recorded in the book “The Right Stuff” the author records: The X-1 went through "the sonic wall" without so much as a bump. As the speed topped out at Mach 1.05, Yeager had the sensation of shooting straight through the top of the sky. The sky turned a deep purple and all at once the stars and the moon came out - the sun shone at the same time. ... He was simply looking out into space. ... He was master of the sky. His was a king.


(From a sermon by Richard Cook, The Battle Before The Breakthrough, 7/30/2010)

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