Jeremy Clarkson and Chuck Yeager Are in a Twitter Fight Over Airplanes

the AVIs in question
the AVIs in question

Jeremy Clarkson, old man who once had a travel show about stereotyping Dutch people and other European nationalities, just actually’d the guy who broke the sound barrier. This is the amazingly dumb Twitter fight I needed today.


This all began with Chuck Yeager, the guy who strapped in to an orange bullet with a rocket on the back and said what the hell let’s see what happens, chimed in on Twitter to be his usual self. Basically, here’s some cool supersonic history stuff all of you might enjoy. Thanks, Chuck.

This was not taken well by Clarkson, and he could not let Chuck Yeager have this one.

So the old man back and forth continued...


... and remains unresolved.


I can’t say that I’m an expert on any of this, but I did get a degree in history studying the history of technology. It’s a fascinating field, and going over it is always illuminating and interesting. But I know from experience that the one thing you do not want to do is try to argue who or which individual is responsible for what first, as everyone disagrees and misunderstands and everything gets extraordinarily messy.

Perfect for Twitter, at least.

(Hat tip to Rob!)

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.



Nah, Clarkson is in the wrong here.

This bit:

Plus, it was Brit tech that got you past Mach 1 remember

is flat wrong. And it ties into this bit:

Actually, all the pioneering work done in the U.K by Miles Aircraft Corp was handed over to the US after the war.

which is highly misleading.

Bell and Miles were both working on supersonic plane design concurrently. They both agreed to work together, sharing a lot of their research with each other. Then, when the plug was pulled on the Miles M.52, Miles sent all their research to Bell.

So yes, “all the pioneering work” done by Miles was sent to Bell. And “all the pioneering work” that had been done by Bell had been sent to Miles as well, and both were working off the same shared foundation.

Did “Brit tech” help speed up Bell’s R&D? Absolutely. But the same thing applies to “’Merican tech” helping speed up Miles’ R&D. And both would likely have gotten there without the help of the other, though it would have taken longer and cost more.

PS: The reason the US never developed a supersonic transport plane is that the SST was late, and by the time Concorde was flying it was clear that SST was an economically tenuous position, doubly so since high-bypass engines made flying at low-transsonic speeds much more fuel-efficient. Add to the mix that the sonic boom problem meant domestic US flights (except perhaps New York to Miami, and West Coast to Hawaii) were out, it made no financial sense and they stopped throwing good money after bad. But that point remains true.