Museum's Bell X-1, Aircraft Used to Break...

Museum's Bell X-1, Aircraft Used to Break Sound Barrier, to be Hung in Rotunda Tomorrow Morning

The Museum?s reproduction was built by over a dozen volunteers over a two-year timespan

San Diego, 11.26.2013

San Diego, CA – November 26, 2013 – The San Diego Air & Space Museum’s Bell X-1 reproduction, the aircraft used to break the sound barrier in 1947, is scheduled to be hung in their Rotunda tomorrow morning. The aircraft was a two-year restoration project that involved over a dozen volunteers from both the Museum and their Gillespie Field Annex in El Cajon. The Bell X-1 is painted exactly like the original flown by Capt. Chuck Yeager in 1947 when he broke the sound barrier.


The Bell X-1, (originally the XS-1) was a joint NACA-U.S. Army Air Forces, secret supersonic research project built by Bell Aircraft. Conceived in 1944 and designed and built in 1945, it was the first aircraft to intentionally exceed the speed of sound in controlled, level flight. The aircraft conceptually was a “bullet with wings,” shaped to resemble a .50 caliber machine gun bullet (a projectile known to be stable at supersonic speeds). The aircraft was powered by a liquid-propellant rocket system featuring a four-chamber motor burning liquid oxygen and ethyl alcohol diluted with water, delivered from separate tanks pressurized with nitrogen. The rocket thrust was activated by the pilot incrementally by firing one or more chambers at a time.


Following a series of administrative issues with Bell, the Army Air Force took over the flight test program naming then Capt. Chuck Yeager as pilot and he would go on and ultimately succeed in breaking the sound barrier. Launched from the bomb-bay of a modified B-29 flown by Gen. Robert Cardenas ret., it was on October 14, 1947, flight number 50, when the X-1 the first flew supersonic reaching Mach 1.06 (807.2 mph). The huge supersonic boom over Muroc Lake announced the beginning of a new era of flight.


Brig. Gen. Charles "Chuck" Yeager joined the Army Air Forces in 1941, receiving his wings in 1943. During his World War II service Yeager shot down 13 German aircraft, becoming a double ace. In 1945 he was assigned to the Air Forces Flight Test Center, and, in October 1947, at Edwards Air Force Base, Yeager became the first pilot to break the sound barrier, flying the Bell X-1. During the Vietnam War, Yeager flew 127 combat missions. He retired from Air Force active duty in 1975. In 1997 on the 50th anniversary of his historic flight he once again broke the sound barrier, this time in an F-15.


Brig. Gen. Robert Cardenas joined the Army Air Corps before WW II, receiving his commission in July 1941. General Cardenas flew over 60 different aircraft during his career as a test pilot, combat leader and Commander of the Air Force Special Operations Force. He flew B-24 Liberators over Germany during WW II. Shot down on his 20th mission, he was able to evade capture, eventually escaping. General Cardenas served as the pilot of the B-29 that launched then Captain Charles Yeager into supersonic flight. General Cardenas ended his highly distinguished Air Force career in 1973.


Robert A. “Bob” Hoover is known as “The Pilot’s Pilot,” and was described by Jimmy Doolittle as “the greatest stick and rudder man who ever lived.” During WW II, among several roles, he served as a test pilot, flying every aircraft in our arsenal. He also flew Spitfires with the 52nd Fighter Group, was shot down in 1944, but eventually managed to escape by “stealing” a FW 190 and flying it to Holland. Chuck Yeager specifically asked that Bob Hoover be part of the X-1 team, where he served as back-up pilot, and piloted the chase plane during Yeager’s historic flight. Bob Hoover’s later fame as an aerobatic pilot and air race participant is without parallel, having flown at more than 2,500 air shows.

The San Diego Air & Space Museum is California's official air and space museum and education center. The Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and it was the first aero-themed Museum to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. Now showing: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! a special exhibition exploring the weird and wacky world of Robert Ripley. Visit for more information. The Museum is located at 2001 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101. The Museum and gift store are open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with admissions until 4:00 p.m. (winter hours) and 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (summer hours). Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

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