Breaking the barrier
Until about the start of the Second World War the strange phenomena which develop at transonic speeds were academic, since the propeller aircraft of the day did not fly that fast. But starting in 1937 mysterious accidents began to occur at high speeds. An experimental early version of what was to become Germany's most potent fighter of the war, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, disintegrated as its pilot lost control in a fast dive. Pretty soon other new, high performance military airplanes were running into similar difficulties. For these fast, propeller-driven fighters the airflow over the wings could achieve Mach 1 in a dive, making air compressibility a real rather than a theoretical issue.