Mach 2.44 Flight in the X-1A – Dec. 12 1953

This Month in Aviation History:Dec. 12, 1953: Maj. Chuck Yeager flies his Bell X-1A to March 2.435, approximately 1,650 miles per hour, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

At Mach 2.4 at 80,000 feet the aircraft spun out of control, spinning on all 3 axes. G-forces sent Yeager’s head into the canopy, cracking it and bending the control stick. The aircraft spun down 51,000 feet in 51 seconds before he regained control at 25,000 feet.

His speed record that day stood for the next 3 years.

Follow along with the original cockpit audio and transcript of that flight.

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This photo of the X-1A included graphs of the flight data from Maj. Charles E. Yeager’s Mach 2.44 flight on December 12, 1953. (This was only a few days short of the 50th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight.) After reaching Mach 2.44, then the highest speed ever reached by a piloted aircraft, the X-1A tumbled completely out of control. The motions were so violent that Yeager cracked the plastic canopy with his helmet. He finally recovered from a inverted spin and landed on Rogers Dry Lakebed.

Among the data shown were Mach number and altitude (the two top graphs). The speed and altitude changes due to the tumble were visible as jagged lines. The third graph from the bottom showed the G-forces on the airplane. During the tumble, these twice reached 8 Gs or 8 times the normal pull of gravity at sea level. (At these G forces, a 200-pound human would, in effect, weigh 1,600 pounds if a scale were placed under him in the direction of the force vector.) Producing these graphs was a slow, difficult process. The raw data from on-board instrumentation recorded on oscillograph film. Human computers then reduced the data and recorded it on data sheets, correcting for such factors as temperature and instrument errors. They used adding machines or slide rules for their calculations, pocket calculators being 20 years in the future.

12 Dec 1953
NASA Photo

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