Saturday, September 26, 2015

Retro Saturday: XS-1 Transsonic Research Airplane

Click the arrow to watch the film. Video source: The Digital Implosion YouTube channel.

This week's Retro Saturday is the first of three films about Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert north of Los Angeles.

The base began in the 1930s around a giant dry lake bed near a town called Muroc, which was “Corum” spelled backwards. The Corums were the family that settled the area. According to the history page on the Edwards AFB web site:

In 1910, the Corum family settled at the edge of this lakebed. In addition to raising alfalfa and turkeys, they located other homesteaders in the area for a fee of $1 per acre. As those settlers moved in, the Corum brothers earned contracts for drilling water wells and clearing land. They also opened a general store and post office.

Their request to have the post office stop named “Corum” was disallowed because there was already a Coram, Calif. So they simply reversed the spelling of their name and named it “Muroc.” Small, isolated homesteads dotted the land over the next 20 years.

The Army Air Corps established the Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range at the dry lake in September 1933. During World War II, the remote site was a natural place for testing experiment aircraft.

The book and subsequent film The Right Stuff made the base famous for the site of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier on October 14, 1947. This 18-minute 1950 Air Material Command film is about the XS-1, also known as the X-1, developed by Bell Aircraft Company as a joint project between the U.S. Air Force (which became a separate branch from the Army on September 18, 1947) and NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

You'll see lots of Yeager, but if you look closely you'll see two X-1 aircraft, with tail numbers 6062 and 6063. 6062 was the Army/Air Force craft — which is why Yeager flew it — while 6063 was the NACA craft.

Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier on October 14, 1947 in the Bell X-1 6062. Image source: Wikimedia.

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