Cover image for Aces wild : the race for Mach 1
Aces wild : the race for Mach 1
Blackburn, Al, 1923-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Wilmington, Del. : SR Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
xxi, 282 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL551.5 .B58 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
TL551.5 .B58 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



They were in a two-man race to break the sound barrier. It was October 1947, a time before high-speed digital computers, when predictions of what would happen to fighter planes at such speeds were nebulous. Chuck Yeager and George Welch, two great fighter pilots from World War II, were about to explore the unknown in the bright blue sky over the Mojave Desert. Aces Wild: The Race for Mach 1 is the story of these two courageous men who dueled to become the first to fly at supersonic speed, Mach 1, in an aircraft. The book attempts to set the record straight as to who actually broke the sound barrier first. One pilot, the more celebrated of the duo, is still alive today. Aces Wild also tells the story of the other aviator, George Welch, who lost his life in 1954 while once again flying beyond the technological wisdom of his day over the Mojave Desert. Aces Wild traces the story of fighter planes from the start of World War II at Pearl Harbor through the transition to jets in the 1950s. The author reveals the views of supersonic flight before and after 1947 by pilots, scientists, engineers, business interests, the government, and the media. This dramatic tale will appeal to aviation buffs and all readers, especially those who enjoyed Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff.

Author Notes

Al Blackburn is an aeronautical engineer and former test pilot.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Blackburn challenges the conventional wisdom that Chuck Yeager was the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. A test pilot for North American Aviation during the 1950s, Blackburn argues that there is abundant circumstantial evidence to show that George Welch deserves the honor. Two weeks before Yeager flew into history aboard the rocket-powered Bell X-1, he contends, Welch cracked the sound barrier while testing a North American XP-86, prototype of the famed F-86 Sabre jet fighter. High-level political machinations, however, insured that Yeager would get the honor. Blackburn also takes great pains to dispel the popular myth that the sound barrier constituted a dangerous threshold for test pilots. German V-2 rockets, he points out, had routinely exceeded Mach I during WW II, and US aircraft designers were well aware of the German aerodynamic data. The real challenge for experimental pilots comes when demonstrating the "upper right-hand corner" of an aircraft's flight profile--i.e, the point of maximum speed and stress. Welch was killed in 1954 while performing these tests on a F-100. Episodic, disjointed, and filled with reconstructed conversations, Aces Wild nonetheless is a compelling tale, celebrating the skill and courage of test pilots over the Mojave Desert in 1947. All levels. W. M. Leary; University of Georgia