We, at the Flightglobal Hyperbola blog, give our heartfelt congratulations to the very brave 43-year-old Austrian ”jumpanaut” Felix Baumgartner who forgot the old RAF adage “never jump out of a serviceable aircraft” (or balloon for that matter) when he broke the sound barrier in a freefall dive made from 128,100 feet on 14 October over Roswell, New Mexico. Baumgartner subsequently made a successful parachute landing after the record breaking ”flight” which occured exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager’s first Mach 1 flight in the Bell X-1.
So can this aircraftless velocity record ever be broken? Actually, we think another pressure-suited ’jumpanaut’ could fly even faster. Our very basic knowledge of transonic aerodynamics and ”area ruling” (the trick of making airflow-facing cross-sectional areas change smoothly e.g. without a sudden change of frontal area) suggests that, under this, a small shouldered big-hipped pear-shaped lady (she needs small shoulders to account for her arms) would have done even better than Barmgartner’s 833.9mph (Mach 1.24) velocity. And if she had a pointy head with a thick bull neck even better!
Sorry to be sexist at this time ladies and gentlemen, but as Scottie might have said on Star Trek: “Ye cannae change the laws of physics Cap’n…or aerodynamics for that matter.”
Of course, finding such a woman with the right attributes who is actually willing to do such a dangerous activity will be difficult. Somewhat ungallantly, your correspondent briefly thought of suggesting his wife for the job, though, of course, he rejected this on several counts: she is scared of heights, her head is not pointy enough, and, finally, because your correspondent actually wants to carry on living. She, no doubt, would have insisted he left the capsule first…and without a parachute. J