DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Bell X-1A in flight. Aeroplane used in early supersonic aircraft research. This rocket-powered aircraft was a development of the first ever supersonic aircraft, the X-1. Launched from beneath a flying bomber, it was used to study stability and control characteristics at high altitudes and at velocities of greater than twice the speed of sound (Mach 2). Piloted by Charles 'Chuck' Yeager, on 12 December 1953, it became the second aircraft to fly faster than Mach 2. On 26 August 1954, Arthur Murray flew it to a new altitude record of 30,147 metres. It was destroyed in 1955 when it was jettisoned after an explosion aboard its launch aircraft.
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