North American Aviation XP (YF)-86 Project
U.S.A.A.F. Flight Testing Facility
Muroc Army Air Field, California
General Carl Spaatz was walking through the hangar and stopped at the shiny, cigar-shaped, aircraft, with the swept back wings and tail assembly. The project manager was extolling the virtues of the design ideas incorporated into the prototype jet, while the General was thinking how much this Buck Rogers plane look so much like those captured German prototype jets, that Truman gave to the Soviets, as spoils of war, at the Potsdam Conference. It's a good thing that our soldiers and scientists made it to the Focke-Wulf factory first, and got a good long gander at the Ta-183 prototype jet, and copied all the research, before turning it over to the Soviets, this time, last year. It's also a damned good thing that the CIA found, and kidnapped, former Focke-Wulf designer and manager, Kurt Tank, hiding in Argentina. There's nothing better than getting the goods straight from the source. “If only Bob were here to see this,” thought Spaatz, reminiscing about his dearest friend, Brigadier General Robert Olds, who passed away from chronic illness 3 years before. Seeing General Olds' son, Robin, a test pilot on this project, is what brought about his melancholia.
“General?” hearing 1st Lieutenant Olds call for him broke his reverie, “I think this fighter will be superior to the Yak-15's and MiG-9's that I've seen the reports on, but consider the fact that Soviet R&D is not as retarded as we once thought it was. Judging by the nasty surprises that they sprang on us in 'Operation Louisville Slugger' and in the Pyrenees, not to mention the embarrassment of losing an A-Bomb on a mission to Leningrad, I'd say that if we're working on this now, they probably have it already, and are working on the next generation of nasty surprises to catch us off-guard.” As much as Spaatz hated to admit it, he knew the kid was right, and to avoid lying to him, having been friends with his father since Robin was a little boy, he simply said, “We'll see.” Olds grunted his acknowledgment and adjusted his new, special, pressurized flight suit, putting on the brand-new aviator's helmet, and getting in the cockpit to roll the jet out.
The whine of the jet engine was so loud, the General produced a pair of rubber ear plugs and stuck them in his ears. He watched as Robin rolled the jet off the tarmac, onto the runway, waiting for the tower to clear him for take off. General Spaatz could see the jet's tailpipe begin to turn red-hot as it waited, then a moment later, it takes off, sprinting down the runway, retracting its tricycle landing gear, as it thundered its way skyward. It pulled up in a power climb, perfomed a split-s maneuver, then buzzed the airfield in a low-level pass, then performing a barrel-roll as it climbed skyward again. The General knew that he really should chew the kid out for hot-dogging, but he let it go, since Olds was charged with putting this jet through its paces. They had to know what it could do, and what its limitations are. The only way to do that was to fly the jet to the edge of its capabilities. Even the General understood that.
All of the sudden, the aerobatics stopped. The General saw the jet level off so high up, that it was barely a visible speck , and it looked like Olds punched it – followed by a visible, semi-circular, disturbance in the cloud formation, and seconds later, a deafening boom. One of the ground technicians, monitoring the test flight by radio instrument, had an equally ecstatic and horrified look on his face. “General, Lieutenant Olds just broke the sound barrier, with a top speed of 683mph, at an altitude of 29,827 feet above mean sea level.” The General looked shocked, and then, pleased “it looks like installing that new General Electric jet engine in the fighter was a better bet than we all expected” he said, while privately thinking “I wonder what that hot-dog, Chuck Yaeger, will think of this” as he chuckled out loud, contemplating Lieutenant Olds' commanding officer's response to the record setting test flight. But for now, it was time for him to write his report to the Secretary of War, Robert P. Patterson...