Maj. Alex “Brick” Shuler, F-22 Test Pilot became the first pilot to break the sound barrier in the newly named “Bell X-1 Supersonic Corridor”.
75 years to the day after the Bell X-1 proved that the Sound Barrier was only an engineering challenge, the 412th Test Wing hosted a ceremony to honor the contributions of the team behind that remarkable aircraft. The small team of engineers, pilots, and maintenance personnel came to the Mojave Desert to overcome the so-called Sound Barrier in 1947. On the ninth powered flight, the Bell X-1 surpassed the speed of sound (Mach 1) in level, controlled flight. The ceremony served to celebrate that accomplishment and mark the beginning of the Edwards Air Force Base STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Expo, Open House, and Air Show that ran over the weekend.
According to James A. Tucker, Air Force Test Center History Office, in the article Edwards Air Force Base celebrates 75 years of Supersonic Flight, with the families of several team members in the audience, Brigadier General Matthew Higer, Commander of the 412th Test Wing, renamed the High Altitude Supersonic Corridor to the Bell X-1 Supersonic Corridor.
The new supersonic corridor was unveiled at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) during the 75th Anniversary of Supersonic Flight Ceremony at the 2022 Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show & STEM Expo.
As told by Adam Bowles, 412th Test Wing Public Affairs, in the article Breaking Tomorrow’s Barriers Today: A new corridor to Supersonic Flight, this supersonic corridor was renamed to pay tribute to the courageous team that together drove the world to new feats of human achievement. Maj. Alex “Brick” Shuler, F-22 Test Pilot became the first pilot to break the sound barrier in the newly named “Bell X-1 Supersonic Corridor”.
“What I wanted to do, was work on airplanes for basically my whole life,” Maj. Shuler explained. “I remember a NASA who was a Super Hornet pilot came to our school and basically talked about his career. That was sort of the day that I realized that I needed to change paths on my life and no kidding, signed up for the Air Force the next week. My dream the whole time going through Test Pilot School was to fly an F-22.”
Now a F-22 Test Pilot at Edwards AFB, Maj. Shuler would have the extraordinary distinction of making history as the first pilot to break the sound barrier in a new era of supersonic flight.
“This is the only base where I have been stationed where you can go out and do a supersonic test and then come home and have your wife complain that you sonic boomed the house,” Maj. Shuler jokingly explained. “When I request instead of the High Altitude Supersonic Corridor, I will request the Bell X-1 Supersonic Corridor. I think it will be cool to say on the radio.”
“The High Altitude Supersonic Corridor is officially dead,” Higer said. “We rename that chunk of airspace, that critical piece of our infrastructure in the test and training environment in honor of the team of Big A Airmen whose collective individual contributions join into something much powerful than they could have ever imagined.”
“We are going to use the supersonic corridor every week to go out and do envelope expansion missions, we got new hardware we are putting on the F-22. This jet is our air dominance fighter that we will be using for the next decade. There is a lot of work left to do. Hopefully we can inspire the next generation to study hard and build the next thing.”
Less than one month after the Air Force stood up as an independent service, a team of Airmen proved the sound barrier was not impenetrable. Their success marked the beginning of a new age of aviation that would break Machs 2 through 6 above Edwards AFB over the next 15 years through an ongoing partnership among the Air Force, NASA, and many contractors.
Shortly after the first sonic boom in the renamed Bell X-1 Supersonic Corridor sounded above Edwards, thousands of young students got the chance to see that the innovative spirit of pioneers like Charles Yeager, Jack Ridley, Robert Cardenas, and Jack Russell still fill the remote corner of the Mojave Desert where they left their mark on history.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force, NASA and Lt. Robert A. Hoover, user:Juloml via Wikipedia