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Published on Oct 3, 2008
This 45 second movie clip shows X-1E launch from a B-29 and landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The first of the rocket-powered research aircraft, the X-1 (originally designated the XS-1), was a bullet-shaped airplane that was built by the Bell Aircraft Company for the US Air Force and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The mission of the X-1 was to investigate the transonic speed range (speeds from just below to just above the speed of sound) and, if possible, to break the "sound barrier".
The first of the three X-1s was glide-tested at Pinecastle Field, FL, in early 1946. The first powered flight of the X-1 was made on Dec. 9, 1946, at Muroc Army Air Field (later redesignated Edwards Air Force Base) with Chalmers Goodlin, a Bell test pilot,at the controls.
On Oct. 14, 1947, with USAF Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager as pilot, the aircraft flew faster than the speed of sound for the first time. Captain Yeager ignited the four-chambered XLR-11 rocket engines after being air-launched from under the bomb bay of a B-29 at 21,000 ft. The 6,000-lb thrust ethyl alcohol/liquid oxygen burning rockets, built by Reaction Motors, Inc., pushed him up to a speed of 700 mph in level flight.
Captain Yeager was also the pilot when the X-1 reached its maximum speed of 957 mph. Another USAF pilot. Lt. Col. Frank Everest, Jr., was credited with taking the X-1 to its maximum altitude of 71,902 ft. Eighteen pilots in all flew the X-1s. The number three plane was destroyed in a fire before evermaking any powered flights.
A single-place monoplane, the X-1 was 31 ft long, 10 ft high, and had a wingspan of 29 ft. It weighed 4,900 lb and carried 8,200 lb of fuel. It had a flush cockpit with a side entrance and no ejection seat.