On October 14, 1947, U.S. Air Force Capt. (now Gen.) Chuck Yeager became the first human being to fly faster than the speed of sound, 1,236 kilometers per hour (768 miles per hour). Yeager flew over Edwards Air Force Base, California, in a specially built plane, the Bell X-1, which had rocket engines and was shaped like a bullet to make it more aerodynamic. Like many experimental aircraft (including prototypes of the space shuttle), the X-1 didn’t “take off” from the ground. It was dropped from a larger plane, a method called a “drop launch.” Yeager landed the plane in a nearby dry lakebed.

Today, military aircraft regularly fly up to three times faster than the speed of sound, and a supersonic commercial airliner, the Concorde, flew between London, Paris, and New York for more than 30 years.

aerodynamics
Noun

the study of how air moves.

aircraft
Noun

vehicle able to travel and operate above the ground.

commercial
Adjective

having to do with the buying and selling of goods and services.

engine
Noun

machine that converts energy into power or motion.

lakebed
Noun

bottom of a lake.

military
Noun

armed forces.

prototype
Noun

early version or model.

rocket
Noun

device that moves through the atmosphere by release of expanding gas.

space shuttle
Noun

vehicle used to transport astronauts and instruments to and from Earth.

supersonic
Adjective

faster than the speed of sound, 343 meters per second (1,125 feet per second).

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