Science: Speed Run

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High above Muroc, Calif, last week, almost 50 years to the day since the Wright Brothers twirled their first pusher propeller, the Air Force's Major Charles E. ("Chuck") Yeager, 30, attained the highest known speed ever to be reached by pilot and plane. His rocket-powered aircraft (released from a B-29 bomber at 30,000 ft. for the run): the experimental Bell XIA, a new relative of the XI, with which Chuck Yeager first cracked the sound barrier in level flight (TIME, April 18, 1949). His speed: more than 1,600 m.p.h., 2½ times the speed of sound.