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Chalmers Goodlin

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Chalmers H. "Slick" Goodlin (January 2, 1923, ] - October 20, 2005) 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 [1] on his eighteenth birthday, inspired by the tremendous air battles over the English Channel in early World War II, but was unable to participate as part of the American military since the U.S. had not yet entered the war. He became the youngest commissioned officer in the RCAF and entered the European theater in 1942. By December of that year, the U.S. Naval Air Force had requested that Goodlin transfer back to the states, where he underwent training to become a Navy test pilot. He was released from active duty and found employment with Bell Aircraft as a test pilot in December 1943.

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.[1][2] 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. He later became the chief test pilot for the IAF. Later, when hostilities ceased, he flew DC-4’s for Near East Air Transport on humanitarian missions, carrying thousands of Jewish refugees to Israel from Aden, Arabia and Germany.

He lead joint ventures with ex-Le Mans and F1 driver, decorated Battle of Britain Wg Cdr Roger "Denis" Poore to whom he was known as "Chal" as he was to his friends and family, in internationally leasing/chartering used aircraft and creating first Dutch air charters company Transavia at Schipohl Airport, Amsterdam, Holland, in the mid-1960s

He was portrayed in the 1983 film The Right Stuff by actor William Russ.

One of the very first jet licensed pilots in the US. He joined the “Caterpillar Club” two times when bailing out of aircraft during test flights. In 1946, at the first post war Air Races in Cleveland, he was the co owner and test pilot of a Bell Cobra II. He then went on to further his spectacular career in aviation owning the Seychelles-Kilimanjaro Air Transport, and other companies supplying parts and aircraft to various airline and other concerns. What he considered the pinnacle of his career, however, was becoming involved with, and ultimately Chairman and CEO of, the Burnelli Company. Goodlin was a proponent of "lifting fuselage" (also known as Burnelli) aircraft designs[3], whose proponents argue create far safer airliners. Amongst his other numerous achievements, Goodlin was a nominee for the National Aviation Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame, the American Rocket Society (Honorary Member 1946), received a Commendation from the American Red Cross for Humanitarian Efforts in Nigerian Relief Operations & Biafra (1969), elected into the Niagara Frontier Aviation Hall of Fame (1987), Society for Experimental Test Pilots (Honorary Fellow 1991) and received the Wright Brothers Memorial Award from the Greater Miami Aviation Association (1992). He enjoyed memberships in the Royal Aero Club, the Quiet Birdmen, the Caterpillar Club, the OX-5 Club, The Greater Miami Aviation Association as a Senior Member and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Goodlin died on October 20, 2005.

See also

United States Navy portal


  1. ^ Yeager, Chuck and Janos, Leo. Yeager: An Autobiography. Page 121 (paperback). New York: Bantam Books, 1986. ISBN 0-553-25674-2.
  2. ^ Wolfe, Tom, The Right Stuff. Pages 52-53 (hardcover). Farrar-Straus-Giroux, New York. 1979. ISBN 0374250332.
  3. ^ Thompson, Lance. "The Burnelli Controversy." Air & Space, November 1985, ISSN 0886-2257. Retrieved: 23 January 2010.

External links


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