Chuck Yeager and the "Speed of Sound" (Part 4)

William Pitzer Illustrations Infographics

It's fitting in some ways, even though Yeager fought in the European Theater in WWII, that Chuck Yeager passed away on Pearl Harbor Day. Another interesting tidbit is that it was a Tuesday when Yeager took the X-1 into the history books. Altogether fitting that I should be posting about it on a Tuesday long removed.

Yeager's broken ribs, from falling from a horse while riding with his wife Glennis the night before the flight, and Ridley's fix (a broom handle) that allowed Yeager to latch the X-1's hatch, were featured moments in the film, The Right Stuff.

For Part 4, "High Desert Hero" of the graphic serial, that incident was an inset graphic. A reproduction of an oscillograph and a view of the X-1 from below (although at 40,000+ feet, no one could actually see the aircraft in detail) were the key elements. That chart of pressure and time recorded the "mach jump" at the moment a sonic boom resonated across the desert floor.

Such metrics make it "official" that Chuck Yeager first passed through what turned out to be a "mythical" wall in the sky. Not much juice these days with all that has transpired in the skies and in space since, but at the time, it was monumental. On Tuesday, Oct. 14th, 1947, during a flight that lasted 14 minutes from drop to landing, Yeager zoomed into history.

As each of the brave men and women from that era pass away, so too does a part of our collective experience of wondering about and exploring the unknown. RIP Gen. Chuck Yeager, it's unlikely that we'll see another like you again.

Image of informational graphic: High Desert Hero.

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