Until October 14, 1947, no human had piloted an aircraft faster than the speed of sound in level flight. At the time, some believed that it was a true barrier, hence the name, making it technically impossible. Others thought it might be possible, but aerodynamic forces would quickly break up the aircraft. And then, Chuck Yeager proved them wrong in the rocket propelled Bell X-1 on that glorious October day. (Jet engines were not yet powerful enough.) We learned a lot about supersonic flight in the coming years: the “area rule” concept, the advantages of a swept wing, and the all-flying tail. Here’s a very cool story of how it all happened by Popular Mechanics, a reprint from a 40th anniversary article. (Image credit: NASA)

Check It Out: The Story of Breaking the Sound Barrier, First Time

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