Friday, January 23, 2009

"Slick" Goodlin

Chalmers "Slick" Goodlin was the second test pilot of the Bell X-1 supersonic rocket plane, and the first to operate the craft in powered flight (the others having been glide tests). He was the pilot of the project's second plane, and nearly broke the sound barrier.

He started flying-lessons at the age of 15, and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941.

The Bell Aircraft Corporation built the X-1 in an attempt to break the sound barrier in the 1940s. Goodlin was second pilot to fly the X-1 and the first to pilot it in powered flights, conducting 26 flights and pushing it near the barrier.

Goodlin's first unpowered flight was on October 11, 1946 at Muroc AFB, California. After a further three glide flights, the first powered flight of the X-1 programme was made on December 9, 1946 in the #2 aircraft. The #1 aircraft was returned to Bell's Buffalo, New York plant for modifications. Goodlin made another 11 flights in the #2 aircraft before flying the newly modified #1 aircraft. The modifications to the #1 aircraft included new wings (8% thickness/chord ratio as opposed to 10% thickness/chord ratio of the #2 aircraft) and a new horizontal stabilizer (6% thickness/chord ratio as opposed to 8% thickness/chord ratio of the #2 aircraft). Goodlin's first flight in the modified #1 aircraft was April 10, 1947.

The X-1 program was taken over by the United States Air Force after Goodlin demanded $150,000 and additionally demanded hazard pay for every minute spent over 0.85 Mach. The Bell program was also needlessly conservative, increasing speed by only 0.02 Mach per flight. Subsequently, the sound barrier was broken by Captain Chuck Yeager (who requested and received only his normal officer's pay) in 1947.

Goodlin volunteered to serve at the newly formed Israeli Air Force in 1948 as a Machal pilot and fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Goodlin died October 20, 2005.