The National Aerospace Library has released its second batch of classic interviews and this time it concentrates on two Americans who worked in the early years of the X series of advanced aircraft that broke the sound barrier and brought man into space – Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield. We also have an interview with one of Hawker’s World War II test pilots, Bill Humble.

The Test Pilot Interviewees

Chuck Yeager and Duke.jpg

Chuck Yeager, one of the most famous test pilots in US aviation history, takes listeners though the development of the rocket-propelled Bell XS-1 / X-1 in which he became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound in level flight, including taking us through the test flights and politics of the X-1 flight programme. Yeager also discusses the flight tests of the X-1a, Northrop X-4 Bantam and McDonnell F-4 Phantom, then discusses some of his contemporaries in the test pilot seat, including working with Neville Duke on the Hawker Hunter.  Yeager finishes off by talking about the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter altitude record and training astronauts to fly the machine.

Scott Crossfield.jpg

North American test pilot Scott Crossfield, the first man to fly at twice the speed of sound in the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket, describes the achievements of the flying characteristics of the X series and gives listeners the benefit of his thorough understanding of the engineering and aerodynamic aspects of the project, including the development of the North American Aviation X-15 rocket plane which brought man to the edge of space.

The last interview is with Bill Humble takes us through his time as one of Hawker’s World War II test pilots. After he describes how he talked his way into flight testing at Hawkers, he provides an insider’s chronology of the firm’s aeroplanes including insights to the Fury, the Tempest and the problems caused by tail flutter in the Typhoon. He also talks of his fellow test pilots and other figures in the company, including Sir Sydney Camm.

These three interviews were conducted by Rodney Giesler and were edited by the National Aerospace Library volunteer Mike Stanberry.

Want to hear more?

More of Rodney Giesler’s interview can be found on the RAeS Soundcloud. Those who want to hear more about the XB-70 Valkyrie Mach 3 bomber can listen to his discussions with their principal pilot, Al White, and you can hear more about flying rocket planes by listening to Gielser’s discussions with Col Pete Knight. Giesler also found out more about the early days of flying faster than the speed of sound by interviewing North American’s test pilot Dick Johnson.


Tony Pilmer
4 May 2017