Monday, October 15, 2012

Baumgartner, Kittenger, and the Golden Age of Aviation Pioneers

As well as being the day of Felix Baumgartner's momentous leap from the stratosphere, yesterday was also the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager becoming the first person to break the sound barrier in a manned flight. Yeager, every inch the old-school bad ass, managed to accomplish his feat with two broken ribs - which he broke by falling off a horse while hammered the night before.

Yeager, unsurprisingly in some discomfort the morning of the record-breaking flight, found that he was unable to close the hatch of the plane properly. Luckily, his mechanic supplied him a length of broomstick, which allowed Yeager, hungover and broken-ribbed as he was, to climb down from the B-29 bomber that was carrying the test plane (8,000 feet in the air), climb into the X-1 rocket plane, and close the hatch without use of the arm on his injured side. The flight went off without a hitch, and Yeager was back on terra firma in plenty of time to get sloshed once again, and crash a motorcycle in the desert in the middle of the night.

So, in honour of when men were men, and test pilots didn't allow little niggling concerns such as broken bones prevent them from entering the history books, here's a video of Joseph Kittenger's jump from a balloon at 102,800 feet on 16 August, 1960. If Kittenger's voice sounds familiar, it is because he advised on, and acted as Capsule Communicator for Baumgartner's jump.


Buy The Right Stuff (the source of my Yeager anecdata) on Amazon

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