Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Seattle Times reports that exactly 65 years to the minute after becoming the first human to fly faster than the speed of sound, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager flew in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 30,000 feet above California's Mojave Desert — the same area where he first achieved the feat in 1947 while flying an experimental rocket plane. Asked by a young girl if he was scared during Sunday's flight, Yeager joked, "Yeah, I was scared to death." Yeager made the first supersonic flight in a rocket-powered, Bell X-1, known as the XS-1 for "experimental, supersonic," attached to the belly of a B-29 aircraft. Hiding the pain of broken ribs from a midnight horse race after a night of drinking at Pancho Barnes' Happy Bottom Riding Club, Yeager squeezed into the aircraft with no safe way to bail out. Soon after the rocket plane was released, Yeager powered it upward to about 42,000 feet altitude, then leveled off and sped to 650 mph, or Mach 1.07. Some aviation historians contend that American pilot George Welch broke the sound barrier before Yeager, while diving an XP-86 Sabre on October 1, 1947 and there is also a disputed claim by German pilot Hans Guido Mutke that he was the first person to break the sound barrier, on April 9, 1945, in a Messerschmitt Me 262. Yeager's flight was portrayed in the opening scenes of "The Right Stuff," the 1983 movie, based on the book by Tom Wolfe that chronicles America's space race. For his part Yeager said nothing special was going through his mind at the time of the re-enactment. "Flying is flying. You can't add a lot to it.""
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