AVweb Rewind: 75th Anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s Mach 1 Flight


Today, Oct. 14, is the 75th anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s landmark supersonic flight in the Bell X-1. The flight occurred over what is now Edwards Air Force Base but what was a windblown and desolate Lake Muroc, California. In this video, AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli takes a deep dive into the aircraft, its systems and operation.

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  1. The Bell X-1 and Yeager proved that the sound “barrier” actually was NOT the limit…….and with this video, Bertorelli has exceeded what we all thought was the “best possible” video presentation.

    Congratulations, Paul, on a well researched, well documented, well conducted presentation. To borrow a line from “Wayne’s World”–“WE ARE NOT WORTHY–WE ARE NOT WORTHY…….”


  2. My father knew Yeager, and flew with him. The Happy Bottom Riding Club was one of my parent’s haunts, and Pancho Barnes was good friends with them (She sure didn’t like us kids. That woman had a mouth like an 86’d biker) Those pilots who flew rocket powered aircraft were definitely a special breed. I would say Yeager and Crossfield shared the top spot in that field.

  3. I wrote the text and designed an aviation museum in Owatonna, MN. It featured 3 T-38s jets in Thunderbird colors performing a “vertical bomb-burst”–their signature maneuver. One day, while working in the main entrance, an elderly gentleman walked in, and was viewing the displays. I asked him if he was going to enter–he asked the cost of admission. I replied “Nothing, if you will sign your photograph on display.” He retorted “Recognized me, didja?”

    We walked through the museum for nearly 2 hours–and he commented on many (most) of the displays–lots of good stories. Perhaps the best Yeager comment was for the ultralight I had on display–“I got me an airplane–an ultralight! Only one I’ve ever owned–some damn fool would always let me fly THEIR airplane!” Here is the first guy to fly supersonic–a test pilot–flying “hot rock” airplanes–and he was flying an ultralight for fun! THAT’S an AVIATOR!

    • You know the T-38s were not the Thunderbirds’ cup of tea? That airplane was a measure to reduce fuel costs, which was a ‘feature’ of the Carter Administration. I worked at a USAF training base in Arizona, where the Thunderbird T-38s arrived to perform during our Open House. The Commander was in our Crew lounge trying to call on the Autovon line, and when his third attempt failed, he slammed the phone down in frustration. I asked him how his team liked the T-38s, and he shot back with: “You got any more questions?” I got the impression they were not happy. Not long afterward, they lost four T-38s during a training sortie. One other amusing incident occurred: Their maintenance team came into our operations office, opened a case of beer, and set up a projector to show dirty movies!

      • Yep–it’s old–1950s design–but it was not only the FIRST supersonic jet trainer, but the biggest seller in the world–and Air Forces all over the world still operate them. Even NASA trains its astronauts in them.

        Yes, I know that it isn’t a “Real” fighter (even the F-5 version)–but what other supersonic jet trainer has been used for this many decades? Yes, the Thunderbirds didn’t like them because they weren’t “combat” aircraft–but when the choice was made to utilize them in 1974, they kept the Thunderbirds going.

        The airplane is relatively easy to fly, yet just demanding enough to condition pilots for the “real” jets. The fact that the Air Force hasn’t found a worthy successor in 63 years speaks volumes. I’ve flown a number of business jets, but the T-38 (by virtue of its having two seats) is as close as I have ever come to flying a fighter–and my only supersonic “ride.”

        I’ll take that performance (along with safety record for student pilots) any day. Got anything better?

  4. Yesterday, I attended the first airshow held at Edwards AFB within the past 13 years. Blame the dry spell on budget cutbacks and Covid, Anyway, the airshow officially opened with a sonic boom; that’s always been their tradition, this year with an F-22. Later in the show, NASA demonstrated two additional sonic booms, one standard and very loud by an F-18, but the second barely audible by an F-15 that has been developed to provide a much lower footprint. You could had have missed it if you weren’t paying attention, like with you head buried in your phone. I’d say that means that about 99% of the people in the world today would have missed it.

  5. What the history books fail to record is that Yeager only got the supersonic ride because the first choice fluffed his chance because of an impromptu aerobatic display in a P-80. That guy? Bob Hoover. A pity, because Bob was a real gentleman, unlike the arrogant Yeager, who’s ego led to his NF-104 crash.

    • Agree-Hoover was not only a thoughtful test pilot, (carefully considering the tests to be made) but a well-mannered gentleman–the consummate professional–and the perfect spokesman for North American and Rockwell–and one of the most pleasant interviews I’ve ever done.

      Yeager was “military from the ground up” (as you would expect from a pilot that rose to the rank of General). Hoover–also military–emphasized planning, control, and smooth operation over “tweaking the envelope” maneuvering, like Yeager. Yet, despite their differences in demeanor, both were General Aviation pilots.