BUFFALO, N.Y. - We learned in school how Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, but did you know that there was a Western New Yorker who pioneered, developed and test-piloted the X-1 until it was ready to make history?
It began just after World War II, Chalmers "Slick" Goodlin, a Navy test pilot who flew every aircraft the Navy had to offer during the war, was hired by Bell Aviation and made a home in Kenmore.
Goodlin was the company's top test pilot and soon became the nation's first jet test pilot. As all this was happening, Bell was working with the U.S. Army Air Corp on a top secret mission to build a plane that could go faster than the speed of sound.
The X-1 was the plane to do it. Taking on this type of project took guts and nerves of steel. The first test pilot was Jack Woolams of the Town of Tonawanda, who sacrificed his life. After the crash that took Woolams, Goodlin became the primary test pilot. He worked through the glitches, had several close calls and helped develop the plane to the point it was ready to go supersonic.
Before the historic flight was to happen though, Goodlin pressed Bell to pay him $150,000 hazard pay. As the negotiations dragged on, the program slowed. As this happened, the Army Air Corps made the decision that they wanted one of their own men to make the historic flight.
Out goes Slick Goodlin, in goes Chuck Yeager. The rest, as they say, is history, and one of WNY's Unknown Stories.