Henry Howe, an eighth grader at Episcopal School, was recently named the winner of the San Diego County National History Day 2023 competition. Rancho Santa Fe resident’s project “Frontiers in Aviation: Breaking the Sound Barrier” became a junior champion in solo exhibition, exploring the story of Chuck Yeager’s feat on the experimental Bell X-1 in 1947. Henry will represent San Diego at the California Championship. National History Day competition next month in Sacramento.
National History Day is a science competition, similar to a science fair. After choosing a historical topic, students present their findings in the form of an exhibit, website, podcast, poster, or article. Henry’s project was an exhibition that used photographs from news archives and museums to illustrate his words.
“I chose Yeager as one of the main people because he was the one who broke the sound barrier,” Henry said. “Yaeger became a national hero only a year after the event due to the importance of this breakthrough for military aviation, so it had to be kept secret.”
While carrying out his project, Henry learned that on the “fatal day” of October 14, 1947, Yeager went on this journey with two broken ribs in a horseback accident. “Because of this, he was unable to properly close and lock the Bell X-1 door due to the pain from the injury,” he said. “This led to him using the broom as a way to close the door, allowing the historic flight to take place.”
While Yeager became a national hero, Henry’s design also paid tribute to aeronautical engineer Jack Ridley and Bell Aircraft owner Lawrence Bell.
Henry also explored why supersonic flight was not widely used commercially. As long as the Concorde existed, Henry attributed it to two main problems.
“First, there is the noise pollution that will occur when the plane flies over the ground. This will generate thousands of complaints about noise and property damage due to blast pressure,” Henry said. “Another reason was the cost of flying at supersonic speeds due to fuel consumption. When the Concorde was still flying, it was only used by rich people, because it was much faster than other airliners and could get a person to a business meeting faster.”
Henry learned that the Concorde was the last supersonic airliner to fly due to high maintenance costs and numerous accidents. Concorde last flew in 2003.
Local students from the Solana Beach School District, Canyon Crest Academy, and Pacific Trails High School were also among the National History Day winners.