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October 14, 1947
October 14, 2007 10:34 AM   Subscribe

There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate. The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier.
posted by fandango_matt (29 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Was that demon related to that little sonofabitch who tormented Bugs Bunny, the gremlin?
posted by John of Michigan at 10:46 AM on October 14, 2007 [5 favorites]


Last link should be this.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:47 AM on October 14, 2007


Chuck Yeager was punk rock before punk rock.
posted by photoslob at 10:47 AM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Very nice post. Unfortunately The Right Stuff movie blew the sound effect of the sonic boom, as it's always a double boom.
posted by Tube at 10:52 AM on October 14, 2007


btw - Yeager's autobiography is a must read. It gives you a much better idea of the part he played leading up to sending men into space. Not to mention - he's damned funny.
posted by photoslob at 11:03 AM on October 14, 2007


Did a big report on Yeager way back when I was a wee lad, and since I lived near Edwards AFB I got to go meet some pilots who had flown with him. Made me a lifelong fan. I recommend his autobiography to anyone, regardless of their interest in his career; it's just fascinating. Thanks for this.

(I just wish he wasn't a big Hunter supporter. Oh, well.)

On preview: Photoslob beat me to it!
posted by dgbellak at 11:04 AM on October 14, 2007


Chuck Yeager never replied to the fan letter I mailed him in elementary school. Boo.
posted by anthill at 11:33 AM on October 14, 2007


Great post.

Did anyone keep trying to read the first two sentences of the FPP as a limerick? They sound like one, except without rhymes.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:39 AM on October 14, 2007


Third generation Yeager fan here. My grandpa really admired the guy and he flew the first SR-71 sortie doing, oh, Mach 3 or so, so I think it's evident that the speed of sound feat itself was not what made Yeager cool. He's just rock. If I ever get enough scratch to buy myself a little cessna I might just dub it the Yeagermeister.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:40 AM on October 14, 2007


Wow, 60 years ago. Time flies too, huh?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:41 AM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Those guys had not just steely eyes but steely balls, too.

"Here's a new plane to fly. There's a good chance it will kill you. Wanna take a ride?"
posted by Camofrog at 12:23 PM on October 14, 2007


Not to take anything away from Yeager's ongoing casual heroism, but he might not have been the first man to go supersonic and live to tell about it...

At the same time that the X-1 program was going on, they were flight testing the F-86 (then the XP-86, probably). One of them (on googling, piloted by George Welch) reportedly went supersonic in a dive before Yeager's flight. But since they weren't officially trying to go supersonic, they didn't have the right equipment to verifiably measure it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:46 PM on October 14, 2007


They hedged around that in the newsreel narration, they seemed pretty careful to put in "in level flight" and things like that when talking about what the plane had done.
posted by Arturus at 1:56 PM on October 14, 2007


MeTa
posted by ZachsMind at 2:50 PM on October 14, 2007


That's one of the most elegantly written posts I've ever seen here. Thank you.
posted by MrMerlot at 3:39 PM on October 14, 2007


Yes, Phillip Kaufman's a good writer. (Levon Helm did a nice job with the narration, too.)

I've had Beemans gum. It did not make me as macho as Chuck Yeager.

"Elevator effectiveness regained." Badass.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:01 PM on October 14, 2007


i am almost incapable of *not* watching this movie if i happen to channel surf past it

i read the book when i was in high school and it rocked my world.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:24 PM on October 14, 2007


roll truck roll:

There once was a demon, nay epiphyte;
His goal: to brake man's ever-hast'ning flight.
If a hotshot neared Mach 1,
He'd thwart that son of a gun.
'Twas Chuck who made mince of the speed of Wright.
posted by rob511 at 5:42 PM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


There were a few years in my early adolescence where I watched The Right Stuff and read Yeager obsessively. I still have a good portion of The Right Stuff dialog memorized.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 6:34 PM on October 14, 2007


Great post; they mentioned him quite a bit at the Miramar Air Show today. The absolute coolest part of the show was the vapor bursts produced by a low level F-18 doing just under mach 1. It definitely looked a lot like the Prandtl-Glauert singularity. It was well worth the 45 minute walk to the flight line from the parking lot.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:33 PM on October 14, 2007


When it comes to shear cojones in assaulting the sound barrier, Yeagar's got nothing ol' Herb Fisher, his 3 year old grandson Herb Fisher Jr. and a WWII era sub-sonic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter, which combination was reputededly good enough for .8 Mach in a dive, with no support team, and no bubble gum...
posted by paulsc at 2:08 AM on October 15, 2007


Not to take anything away from Yeager's ongoing casual heroism, but he might not have been the first man to go supersonic and live to tell about it...

Wasn't there a German pilot who claimed to have broken the sound barrier in a dive towards the end of the war, too?
posted by COBRA! at 7:09 AM on October 15, 2007


Got any Beeman's? Lend me a stick willya. I'll pay you back later.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:50 AM on October 15, 2007


It ain’t about breaking the sound barrier. It’s about breaking the limit. Then again. Then again. And again - every time you go and going over that limt knowing you might not make it back. That’s not just setting a record. That’s something else entirely.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:54 AM on October 15, 2007


Hans Guido Mutke made the unlikely claim that he broke the sound barrier in an ME 262. ("The sound barrier is similar to virginity - also a barrier.")
posted by kirkaracha at 12:01 PM on October 15, 2007


Does anyone know who the "they" are who said that one couldn't pass the sound barrier? I hear this claim a lot (especially re: faster-than-light travel): that it was generally believed to be impossible to break the sound barrier. But was this something that most researchers and engineers in the field themselves believed, or was it more a kind of an urban legend among the general popsci public?

I suspect the latter, but I can't find any definitive evidence either way.
posted by moonbiter at 2:22 AM on October 16, 2007


I recognized that quote in the first four words. Yeager may not have been entirely happy with Sam Shepard's depiction, but damn that was a good movie. Just thinking about the intercutting of the Mercury astronauts at that function with the fan dancer with Yeager's altitude record attempt and crash puts a big smile on my face. (Also the cut from John Glenn's re-entry to the ticker tape parade is one of the most cathartic moments in movie history, but this is Yeager's thread so I won't go on about Goldblum and Shearer nor will I even so much as mention Dennis Quaid.)
posted by whuppy at 6:42 AM on October 16, 2007


Oh yeah, great book too.
posted by whuppy at 6:43 AM on October 16, 2007


Does anyone know who the "they" are who said that one couldn't pass the sound barrier? I hear this claim a lot (especially re: faster-than-light travel): that it was generally believed to be impossible to break the sound barrier. But was this something that most researchers and engineers in the field themselves believed, or was it more a kind of an urban legend among the general popsci public?

I suspect the latter, but I can't find any definitive evidence either way.
posted by moonbiter


It was different from faster-than-light; everyone with any science knowledge knew it was possible for objects to break the sound barrier (bullets, for instance, and the X-1 was designed with bullets in mind). The question was whether a piloted aircraft could do it without getting buffeted so badly (the business about the air not being able to get out of the way) that it would get torn apart or lose control or whatever. So it was more of an engineering problem than a hard-science problem.
posted by COBRA! at 8:50 AM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


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