Into the Unknown: The X-1 Story

Overview

For more than forty years, the story of the record-breaking flights of the world's first supersonic aircraft - the Bell X-1 - has fueled the American imagination and has been embellished by myths and faulty recollections. Challenging the accepted story of the X-1, Into the Unknown describes the complete history of the X-1 program - from the origins of high-speed research in the 1930s to Chuck Yeager's pioneering flight through the sound barrier on October 14, 1947. Rotundo examines the complex factors that shaped...
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Overview

For more than forty years, the story of the record-breaking flights of the world's first supersonic aircraft - the Bell X-1 - has fueled the American imagination and has been embellished by myths and faulty recollections. Challenging the accepted story of the X-1, Into the Unknown describes the complete history of the X-1 program - from the origins of high-speed research in the 1930s to Chuck Yeager's pioneering flight through the sound barrier on October 14, 1947. Rotundo examines the complex factors that shaped the process of breaking new ground in aviation research, as well as the inner decision making of the three major participants: Bell Aircraft, the Air Force, and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). He reveals the divergent views and the competing objectives of the NACA and the Air Force on policy decisions, aircraft design and capability, and program direction. The first airplane constructed solely for high-speed research, the X-1 not only broke the sound barrier, but also was distinct as one of the few aircraft to complete its test program without a significant aerodynamic or structural alteration. Rotundo details each of the fifty test flights of the X-1 and each new test procedure, many of which became standard for research on the later X-series aircraft and provided the foundation for the techniques later used by the space program. The final chapters of Into the Unknown analyze the veil of secrecy and correct the factual errors surrounding Yeager's supersonic flight. Rotundo details how the Air Force tried to control the release of the story for national security purposes, and how many of the resulting news accounts contained inaccuracies. The book includes previously unpublished material, rare photographs, interviews with the participants, and original NACA, Air Force, and Bell Aircraft archival files.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rotundo relates the saga of the conquest of the supposedly impenetrable ``sound barrier'' by an American team that featured intensive cooperation among industry, government and science. It is the story of the experimental X-1 program and the 50 glider and jet-powered flights in 1946-1947, each of which was a learning experience for the pilots and technicians. The overall effort culminated in the spectacular moment on October 14, 1947, when Air Force Captain Charles ``Chuck'' Yeager breached the Mach 1 barrier far above the Mojave Desert and opened a new era in aviation. His supersonic flight, recounted here in thrilling detail, confirmed American aviation supremacy and laid the foundation for the subsequent Mercury/Apollo space explorations. The X-1 research craft now hangs in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Rotundo editor of Battle for Stalingrad displays an impressive knack for making complex technical material comprehensible to the lay reader. Photos. Apr.
Booknews
Rotundo describes the complete history of the world's first supersonic aircraft--the Bell X-1--from the origins of high speed research in the 1930s to Chuck Yeager's pioneering flight through the sound barrier on October 14, 1947. With 14 pages of photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560983057
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1994
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface and Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
1 In the Beginning 5
2 The Pinecastle Tests 53
3 The Program Takes a Pause 90
4 The Goodlin Era 127
5 The Changing of the Guard 179
6 The Air Force Takes Over the Program 234
Epilogue 285
Appendix 289
Notes 291
Index 319
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