BREAKING THE SOUND
BARRIER: THE INTELLECTUAL BREAKTHROUGHS IN AERODYNAMICS THAT MADE IT POSSIBLE
John D. Anderson, Jr.
Curator for Aerodynamics
National Air and Space
Professor Emeritus, Aerospace Engineering
University of Maryland
On October 14, 1947, the small but
beautiful Bell X-1 became the first piloted airplane to fly faster than sound,
with Captain Chuck Yeager at the controls. This flight was a breakthrough in
the history of the airplane; Yeager and the X-1 had broken the “sound barrier”.
But this flight was made possible by a century of breakthroughs in the
understanding of high-speed aerodynamics. This presentation deals with these
breakthroughs. We will see how our understanding of shock waves evolved, and
how the mysteries of high-speed aerodynamics were slowly revealed, allowing men
and flying machines to finally achieve what was considered by some to be
impossible – flying faster than the speed of sound. This presentation is for a
general audience as well as for engineers. It tells one of the most exciting stories
in the history of aerodynamics.