The RACE to MACH 1

On 14 October 1947, the Bell XS-1 became the first aircraft in the world to achieve supersonic flight. In March 1946 the Miles M52 — also designed specifically for that purpose — had been cancelled before the first example was ready. Was the British aircraft really a serious contender for what became America’s crown? The latest research casts serious doubts

M52 VERSUS X-1

A splendid artist’s impression of Miles M52 RT136 — the second of two serials provisionally allocated — accompanied by a Meteor chase aircraft. DANIEL UHR

May 1943: A Supersonic Committee was formed by Ben Lockspeiser, director of scientific research at the UK’s Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP). This move was prompted by a captured German engineer who declared that Germany had looked at an aircraft capable of well over 1,000mph (1,609km/h). It was subsequently established that no supersonic aircraft existed in Germany.

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