If you’re into fast machines, 1947 was by no means a slow year. Enzo Ferrari produced his first Cavallino-badged car, the racing 125S, the U.S. Army Air Force separated from the Army to become the United States Air Force, and a small team of engineers and test pilots finally succeeded in breaking the sound barrier with the Bell X-1.
Last Saturday, October 14, exactly 70 years to the day after the first sonic boom echoed over Rogers Dry Lake in the high desert north of Los Angeles, a gathering of about 90 Ferraris and other fine cars, a group of planes and uniformed personnel from the Air Force, and a few of the members of the original X-1 team assembled on the apron at Edwards Air Force Base to celebrate their shared anniversary to the whoop of expensive engines and the thud of even more expensive sonic booms.
Celebrated attendees included Brigadier General Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager, now 94, the pilot of the barrier-busting Bell X-1 nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis,” as well as Robert L. “Bob” Cardenas, 97, a Mexican immigrant who piloted the B-29 mothership on Yeager’s flight. Cardenas said it had been “a lot of years and a busted leg,” but he recounted how he once had to land the B-29 with the underslung X-1 still attached after the drop mechanism failed, an impressive feat considering the clearance between the X-1 and the ground was a mere 12 inches. “It was the best landing I ever did,” he told the crowd.
To further mark the occasion, flyovers of the B-1 bomber and the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter rattled the windows, while four jets, including the F-15, F-16, and F-22, performed an aerial tour around Los Angeles.
This unlikely meeting of jets and precious assets was the work of one Jim Bindman, a longtime member of the Ferrari Club of America’s Southwest Region, who, back in 2012, started organizing car shows at California military installations to support the troops. Bindman’s second annual show at Edwards, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, coincided with the Air Force’s anniversary and a celebratory ball held in one of Edwards’ giant hangars where a retired SR-71 Blackbird served as the backdrop.