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Bell X-1

Bell X-1 in flight


Bell X-1

Bell X-1

By Joni Ang


The Bell X-1, originally designated XS-1, was the result of a cooperative program initiated in 1944 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the United States Army Air Forces (later the US Air Force). On March 16, 1945, Bell Aircraft Corporation was awarded a contract to develop three transonic and supersonic research aircraft, and the company built three rocket-powered XS-1s. The XS-1 was the first high-speed aircraft built purely for aviation research purposes and was never intended for production. It was also the first of the X-planes, a series of experimental US aircraft used for testing of new technologies and usually kept highly secret during development. But the X-1 is best known for being the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound in controlled, level flight.

Many important structural and aerodynamic advances were first employed in the X-1, including extremely thin yet strong wing sections and a horizontal stabilizer or tailplane that could be adjusted to improve control, especially at transonic speeds. The stabilizer was a success and became a standard design for all subsequent transonic military aircraft. The X-1's shape closely resembles that of a Browning .50 caliber machine gun bullet.

On October 14, 1947, the first manned supersonic flight took place. General (then Captain) Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager flew X-1 aircraft #46-062, christened "Glamorous Glennis" after his wife, past the speed of sound. The plane was launched from the belly of a specially modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress and reached a speed of 700 miles per hour, Mach 1.06, at an altitude of 13,000 meters. Consequently, the National Aeronautic Association awarded the prestigious Collier Trophy for the year 1947 to the three main participants in the program. Lawrence Dale "Larry" Bell of Bell Aircraft, John Stack of NACA and General Yeager were honored by President Harry S. Truman at the White House. General Yeager also received the MacKay and Harmon International Trophies in 1947 and 1954, respectively

Currently, the historic X-1 aircraft flown by General Yeager is on display at the Milestones of Flight gallery of the National Air and Space Museum, located at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. While the aircraft is for viewing only, you can bring home a Bell X-1 scale model, made from the finest quality of mahogany. All parts are hand-carved by master craftsmen before undergoing several phases of priming and sanding. Details are carefully duplicated by skilled artists, then sealed in with clear lacquer. The replica is a faithful reproduction of the original X-1. Even better, it is personally signed by none other than General Chuck Yeager.

Bell X-1 [https://www.warplanes.com/store/item.asp?department_id=92&item_id=1009]


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Joni Ang

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