1997 First Supersonic Flight
- Honors the 50th anniversary of the first supersonic flight
32¢, First Class Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:
October 14, 1997
First Day City:
Edwards Air Force Base, California
Banknote Corporation of America
Panes of 20 (Horizontal 4 across, 5 down)
11.4 x 11.5 (die-cut simulated perforations)
Why the stamp was issued:
To commemorate the 50th
anniversary of the first supersonic flight by Air Force Captain Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager on October 14, 1947.
About the stamp design:
Pictures the rocket-powered Bell X-1 experimental aircraft Yeager piloted to become the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound. Artwork created by Paul Salmon of Burke, Virginia.
Special design details:
Includes lighter coloration on the sky to indicate the aircraft’s breaking of the sound barrier. Microprinting on the nose of the aircraft was supposed to read “Glamorous Glennis” (named after the pilot’s wife) but was misspelled “Glamorous Glenna.” Other microprinting on the plane includes “X-1” on the horizontal stabilizer of the plane as well as a horizontal row of three “USPS” letters representing the plane’s pitot tube.
First Day City:
The First Day Ceremony was held at Edwards Air Force Base and included a re-enactment of Yeager’s flight by the man himself (although this time he flew an F-15). There were First Day Covers aboard the plane (some signed by Yeager), which the Flight Test Historical Foundation later sold.
History the stamp represents:
In the early 1940s, aviation turned its attention toward supersonic flight (flight at speeds faster than the speed of sound). To achieve this goal, scientists had to solve the problem of breaking the “sound barrier” – the sharp increase in aerodynamic drag that aircraft experience as they approach the speed of sound.
When an aircraft moves slower than the speed of sound, the sound waves it generates are able to outspeed it, and thus move away from it. However, as the aircraft approaches the speed of sound, these waves can no longer move away from the aircraft. As a result, strong pressure waves build upon its wings and body.
To break the sound barrier, the Bell Aircraft Company and the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics built the rocket-powered X-1. This bullet-shaped aircraft was 31 feet long, 10 feet high, and had a wingspan of 29 feet. Weighing 4,900 pounds, it carried 8,200 pounds of ethyl alcohol/liquid oxygen to fuel its four-chambered rocket engines.
On October 14, 1947, the X-1, piloted by Air Force Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager, was air-launched from under the bomb bay of a B-29 bomber. Using the X-1’s 6,000 pounds of thrust, Yeager broke the sound barrier and attained the supersonic speed of 700 miles per hour.