Trivia Testers : That Famous Boom

Question: In what airplane was the sound barrier first broken on October 14, 1947?

  1. a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star
  2. Glamorous Glennis
  3. the Bell X-1
  4. the ninth powered flight of the Bell XS-1

Answer: B, C, and D—strictly speaking, really just D. Although most sources refer to the faster edition of Yeager’s ‘Glamorous Glennis’ as the Bell X-1, it was actually called the XS-1, at the time. (This is how it was referred to in his actual flight transcript.) At 10:29 AM on October 14, 1947, over the parched and desolate lake beds of California’s western Mojave Desert, Yeager, then a captain, flew the Bell XS-1. And exactly 50 years later, he re-enacted his milestone flight in an F-15 (at the time, his last flight piloting an Air Force plane) with Bob Hoover flying an F-16 chase plane. (Hoover had flown chase for Yeager during the original flight.)

Note: There is some anecdotal (though not hard) evidence that North American Aviation test pilot George Welch actually broke the sound barrier first. On that same October morning over Muroc Field (now Edwards AFB), flying an XP-86 Sabre, Welch reportedly dove the jet from 37,000 feet and exceeded Mach 1 a scant 15 minutes before Yeager did. Actually, that was supposedly the second time. He is said to have also done it on October 1, 1947. For the full story, see this link. (For that matter, the Germans may have had something still earlier, as captured research data helped contribute to swept-wing designs, such as that of the XP-86. It’s all conjecture however; almost all of those involved are either in their dotage, or no longer living.)

Subject: First Pilot’s License

Question: Who was the first to receive a US pilot’s license?

  1. Orville Wright
  2. Wilbur Wright
  3. Glenn Curtis
  4. Bert Lahr

Answer: C. The year was 1910. The recipient of license #1 was Glenn Curtiss. The others (just four more) were: Frank Lahm (number two); Louis Paulhan (#3); followed by Orville and Wilbur Wright (numbers four and five, respectively). Do you see a pattern here? Glen Curtiss was number one, and the Wrights were numbers four and five because, with so few recipients when the system of licensing began, they were assigned alphabetically!

Subject: Differential Flight Dynamics? Vy/Vx

Question: True or false: Vy decreases with altitude.

Answer: FALSE. (This is a ‘trick’ question.) The true airspeeds for both Vy and Vx actually increase with altitude. However, because Vy increases only slightly, the indicated best Vy speed usually does decrease with altitude. The indicated Vx speed however actually increases.