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Who made the first supersonic flight?

Learn about Chuck Yeager, the pilot who first traveled faster than the speed of sound.

A modern supersonic jet aircraft in mid-flight. [©Jupiter Images 2008]
©Jupiter Images 2008
A modern supersonic jet aircraft in mid-flight.

Supersonic flight is flight at or above the speed of sound. The speed of sound is 760 miles (1,223 kilometers) per hour in warm air at sea level. At a height of about 37,000 feet (11,278 kilometers), its speed is only 660 miles (1,062 kilometers) per hour.

The first person credited with reaching the speed of sound (Mach 1) was Major Charles E. (Chuck) Yeager (b. 1923), of the United States Air Force. In 1947, he attained Mach 1.45 at 60,000 feet (18,288 meters) while flying the Bell X-1 rocket research plane. This plane had been carried aloft by a B-29 and released at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters).

In 1949, the Douglas Skyrocket became the first supersonic jet-powered aircraft to reach Mach 1 when Gene May flew at Mach 1.03 at 26,000 feet (7,925 meters).

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