Jack Woolams and Bell X-1, 1949


5 responses

  1. Brian Nicklas

    That’s Bell pilot Jack Woolams, NOT Chuck Yeager in the flight helmet.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm

  2. Pops Dunsall

    Jack Woolams, chief prototype test pilot for Bell is on the left and “Slick” Goodlin on the right. Woolams might have been the first man to break the sound barrier had he not been killed flying the P-63 Kingcobra. Goodlin was also up to fly the x-1 but he wanted $150,000 to break the sound barrier. They went with Yeager instead, who just got his regular pay check.
    Word is that Woolams wore a gorilla suit and a derby hat while flight testing the Bell P-59. (First American jet fighter) Other pilots were heard speaking in hushed tones about the strange plane without a propeller that was flown by a gorilla.

    July 15, 2011 at 3:42 am

    • Roy Lindberg

      Woolams was killed while flying the P-39 AIRACOBRA “Cobra 1” .
      Chalmers “Slick” Goodlin and Bob Stanely, Vice President Engineering Bell Aircraft had a verbal “handshake” agreement on a five (5) $150,000 payment months BEFORE the contract negotiations were completed on phase three (3) i.e. breaking the sound barrier were completed. Goodlin’s initial test flights were for the transonic flights only. Bell Aircraft / Goodlin completed the first portion of the test program flying the XS-1 to 0.82 Mach. Goodlin was never part of the contract negotiations between the Bell Aircraft and the Army Air Force (AAF). Further Bell attorneys never reviewed or agreed to the verbal “handshake” agreement. The overall cost of the proposal for the supersonic flight program was too expensive. The proposed Goodlin pay arrangement was just a part of the reason Bell Aircraft lost the contract and the Army Air Force took over the program. The cost of the entire proposal was too expensive. Politics also played a role in the AAF taking over the program. Obviously breaking the sound barrier was a very prestigious accomplishment.
      Walter J. Boyne, director of the National Air and Space Museum wrote in the AOPA Pilot magazine, December 1983; “The characterization of Slick Goodlin seems to me to be actionable; the character {i.e. Goodlin in the movie The Right Stuff} is seen to be happy at the prospect of Yeager’s death, sad at his success.”
      Unfortunately for whatever reason Goodlin’s good name was smeared.

      January 26, 2018 at 2:40 am

  3. Why do people believe such silly stories? Woolams almost certainly did fly the P-59 wearing either a gorilla mask (most probable) or possibly an entire gorilla suit (unlikely). But to think that AAF fighter pilots–by definition college graduates, after all–would think they had seen an airplane “flown by a gorilla” beggars belief. I’m sure they came back to the bar at Rosamond and said they’d seen an airplane being flown by some wiseass wearing a gorilla mask/suit.

    November 23, 2012 at 11:54 pm

  4. Michael Weber

    You can be certain he wasn’t in the military at the time of this photo. A-2 jacket, tanker helmet, and RAF pattern 1936 boots. He certainly marched to his own drummer.

    January 2, 2014 at 2:50 am

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