Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Boom Day

Twenty-six months previous, a similar aircraft had dropped a world-changing single bomb on, and obliterated, a Japanese city--on this date, sixty-two years ago, a B-29 Super Fortress bomber dropped a winged rocket over a dry-lake bed in Southern California and obliterated a barrier to manned flight.

On board that winged rocket, test-pilot Chuck Yeager felt the gut-wrenching lurch as his craft fell away from the B-29 mother ship. With a flip of a switch, the X-1's rocket engine roared to life and sent the craft zooming to 40, 000 feet and into the record books. Several other test-pilots had timidly approached the speed of sound in similar experimental aircraft, but had backed off as the shock waves at the transonic zone buffeted them and reinforced the belief that an aircraft would be torn apart attempting to pass through the so-called "sound barrier." Yeager, who had conquered fear and 13 Luftwaffe pilots at the controls of a P-51 fighter over World War Two-torn Europe, fearlessly pushed the X-1 up to and past the speed of sound. A sonic boom announced his achievement to those monitoring his flight from the ground.

Yeager's war-time combat heroism and post-war flight test achievements were largely forgotten and eclipsed by the space race that began in earnest a decade later. Although arguably one of the most qualified test pilots in the country, he was not chosen for the budding astronaut program. He completed his career as an Air Force officer in 1975, retiring as a brigadier general.

Chuck Yeager is one, on a short list, of the Colonel's personal heroes. The Colonel, sole arbiter and exclusive authority in such matters here aboard Eegeebeegee, capital of the Tallahatchie Free State, situated at the northern end of southern nowhere, does hereby declare this day, the 14th of October, Yeager Day.

Now, let's go see about setting some land-speed records on a tractor...
Post a Comment