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Answering the Call of God (1 of 12)
*In the world of aviation, the sound barrier was once considered the unbreakable barrier. Many engineers believed that Mach 1 represented an impenetrable wall of air, and the dozens of pilots who died trying to break the barrier solidified that belief. At low speeds, shock waves are a non-factor, but as an aircraft reaches higher speeds, new aerodynamics are introduced. When a plane approaches the speed of sound, shock waves increase and cause pilots to lose control. The buildup of air pressure in front of the aircraft causes a wave drag. And because the air on top of the wing is traveling faster than air on the bottom, due to Bernoulli's principle, it typically results in a catastrophic nosedive. The British, among others, put on hold their attempt to break the sound barrier when their prototype, the Swallow, self-destructed at Mach .94. But that didn't keep a young American pilot named Chuck Yeager from attempting the impossible. On October 14, 1947, a four-engine B-29 took off from Muro Field high up in the California desert. Attached to the belly of the bomber was the Bell X-1 experimental plane. At 25,000 feet, the X-1 dropped from the fuselage, its rocket engine fired into life, and then it ascended to 42,000 feet. As the plane approached Mach 1, it began to shake violently. The challenge of controlling the plane was compounded by the fact that Yeager had broken two ribs while horseback riding two days before. He didn't tell his colleagues because he didn't want to delay history and his chance to make it. As his plane his Mach .9675, the speed indicator went haywire. At Mach .995, the g-force blurred his vision and turned his stomach. Then, just as it seemed as if the plane would disintegrate, there was a loud sonic boom followed by an almost instantaneous and eerie silence. As the plane crossed the sound barrier, 761 miles per hour, the air pressure sh ...
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