Chuck Yeager and the "Speed of Sound" (Part 3)

William Pitzer Illustrations Infographics

Part 3, "Bell's Mach Buster," includes a lot of details about the tiny, rocket-propelled aircraft that Yeager rode into history. Patterned after a .50 caliber bullet, the X-1 was sleek and unique, designed for a single purpose, to break the sound barrier.

As I worked on the print graphics, I also started working on an online interactive graphic for the newly formed digital interactive group at National Geographic. Mark Holmes, a long-time friend who I worked with on most of the freelance work I was doing for the magazine, had moved over to the interactive group from art director for the magazine and suggested we do something on the Bell X-1 for the new NGS website.

I created a 3D interior of the X-1, complete with moving gauges and switches. The idea was to let viewers get a feel for actually sitting inside the cockpit and going through the sound barrier, just like Yeager had. 

The online module was constructed and programmed by a 3rd party vendor. This was 1997, and few things could be done without raw coding, skills that I had yet to learn. The module interface included the cockpit, an external view of the X-1, complete with shaking and shimmying, and sound effects, including the sonic boom. After completing your flight, a certificate with your name could be downloaded as well.

As with many such projects from the early days of web media, the module is long lost, probably junked on some old servers. If I can locate some of the images and the mockups, I'll post about them later.

Image of informational graphic: Bell's Mach Buster

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