sound barrier noun
: a sudden large increase in aerodynamic drag that occurs as the speed of an aircraft approaches the speed of sound
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sound barrier noun (Concise Encyclopedia)
Sharp rise in aerodynamic drag that occurs as an aircraft approaches the speed of sound. At sea level the speed of sound is about 750 miles (1,200 km) per hour, and at 36,000 feet (11,000 metres) it is about 650 miles (1,050 km) per hour. The sound barrier was formerly an obstacle to supersonic flight. If an aircraft flies at somewhat less than sonic speed, the pressure waves (sound waves) it creates outspeed their sources and spread out ahead of it. Once the aircraft reaches sonic speed the waves are unable to get out of its way. Strong local shock waves form on the wings and body; airflow around the craft becomes unsteady, and severe buffeting may result, with serious stability difficulties and loss of control over flight characteristics. Generally, aircraft properly designed for supersonic flight have little difficulty in passing through the sound barrier, but the effect on those designed for efficient operation at subsonic speeds may become extremely dangerous. The first pilot to break the sound barrier was Chuck Yeager (1947), in the experimental X-1 aircraft.
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