On this day: American Starfighter aircraft breaks record flying twice the speed of sound

On this day: American Starfighter aircraft breaks record flying twice the speed of sound

May 18, 1958: The world airspeed record was smashed on this day in 1958 after a U.S. Starfighter aircraft hit an astonishing 1,404mph – marking a golden age in aircraft feats.

The supersonic jet stunned the world – and especially America’s Cold War rivals – by becoming the first combat aircraft to travel at twice the speed of sound.

It flew 196mph quicker than the previous fastest airspeed, set by a McDonnell F-101A Voodoo just six months earlier.

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The plane – the newest in the U.S. fleet at the time – simultaneously held the altitude record after flying to 91,243ft just 11 days earlier.

A British Pathé newsreel shows the Lockheed F-104C Starfighter being revealed for the first time in 1955 at Edwards Air Force base near Palmdale, California.

The aircraft, with a unique T-shaped tail, stirred up a dust cloud as it sped up for take-off and was so fast it required a parachute when landing.



The American reporter also pointed out that its 7ft wings were so sharp- to improve aerodynamics - they had to be covered with felt while on the ground.

The Starfighter represented a new type of military jet that became the basis for future combat aircraft around the world.

It also marked a golden age for high-speed flight, with new designs constantly achieving ever more awe-inspiring feats.


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The current airspeed record of 2,193mph, set by the Lockheed Blackbird in 1976, signified the zenith of the era’s achievement as well as its end.

The Starfighter served with the USAF until 1969.

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