The call sign of the X-1 that crashes before Yeager's flight is "Whiskey Kilo Two." "Whiskey" and "Kilo" represent W and K in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, which the U.S. Armed Forces adopted in 1956. Yeager's flight took place in 1947, when the armed forces used the Joint Army-Navy Phonetic Alphabet, in which "William" and "King" represent W and K.
When the footage of Gagarin in space is shown, the soundtrack is of another Russian cosmonaut, Alexei Leonov, saying that the Soyuz spacecraft is ready for the merging with Apollo (which took place in 1975).
When Alan Shepard walks between the cheering crowd upon landing on the aircraft carrier, some sailors have beards, something the Navy allowed for a few years in the late 1970s and early-'80s (when the film was being shot) but unheard of in the early-'60s.
When the astronauts are introduced to the media for the first time, in one reverse-shot where the reporters are snapping pictures and hollering, we can see in the window in the upper right hand area a modern-day Alameda County Transit bus (despite the fact that this is supposed to be Washington, D.C., in 1959).
When Yeager is taxiing the NF-104 out for the flight that ended in his flat spin and crash, the control tower operator cannot identify the aircraft type, despite the fact that the F-104 had been first flown at Edwards AFB in 1954, and had been in Air Force service since 1958. It was commonly used as a chase plane for test flights by December 10, 1963, and were also used at Edwards for high speed chase planes from mid 1963 on. It is highly improbable that any control tower personnel would have been unfamiliar with the type.
When the B-29 is taxiing out with the X-1 carried underneath, there is a sweep of the flight line showing several vehicles parked on the ramp. One of the vehicles is a 1950 Studebaker, which is out of place for an event that occurred on October 14, 1947.
When Mrs. Cooper looks out the window at a crash, the sound of an electronic siren can be heard. This scene takes place in the early 1950s, yet electronic sirens only came into use in the late 1950s to early 1960s.
Among the pictures on the wall in Pancho's in 1947 is a pilot standing by later-model X-1 (or possibly an X-2, the whole aircraft is not shown) painted white and with the Bell Aircraft logo. The X-1 in 1947 was not painted white nor did it have the Bell logo. The photo was obviously taken several years later. Also, Pancho's Club appeared in several subsequent scenes in the movie after it actually burned in November 1953, namely 1956 when Gordon Cooper first arrived at Edwards (not 1953 as the movie states), 1957 at the time of Sputnik, and at the time of Grissom's flight in 1962.
Bill Dana's "Jose Jimenez" character appeared on Ed Sullivan's show in June 1962, not at the time that NASA was screening for Mercury astronauts in 1958-1959. He did, however, first appear on Steve Allen's show in 1959.
As the B-29 carrying Yeager and the X-1 taxis as it prepares to take off and launch the X-1, a Beech T-34 can be seen in the background. The scene takes place on October 14th, 1947, but the first flight of the T-34 wasn't until December 2nd, 1948.
Near the beginning of film, after the civilian pilot demands $150k to try to break the sound barrier, the group that asked him approach Yeager to see if he will do it. They get his attention by calling "Major" to him, but Yeager is wearing a Captains insignia at the time.
Commenting on the launch and recovery of Ham the chimpanzee,
Chuck Yeager is seen wearing his flight suit with the insignia of a Colonel (eagles). Immediately subsequent to this, Yeager is seen at a party at his home where he wanders outside to look up at the moon; on the collar of his class B uniform is the insignia of a Major (gold oak leaf).
When Shepard is landing on the aircraft carrier in his first scene the view from his POV shows a level approach, but when we cut to Shepard himself we can see by the ocean outside that the aircraft is in a steep turn.
When Yeager takes up the NF-104, the actual pilot seen in the plane as it's taxiing is wearing a standard HGU-2A/P helmet and oxygen mask of the era, while in the later close-ups Sam Shepard has on (correctly) the A/P22S-3 Type I full pressure helmet.
In the sequences of spectacular rocket failures there is one sequence that shows an Atlas missile launching, but a Juno missile, spliced in to represent the continuation of the missile that was launched, veers horizontally and explodes.
When Yeager agrees to fly the X-1, he rides up to the bar at twilight. When he enters, the sky through the windows is bright blue, and all throughout that scene behind every character. When he leaves, he rides off after his wife in the twilight again.
When the Bell X-1 is released from the B-29 for its supersonic flight, there's a shot of the X-1 through the canopy of another plane, flying right underneath in close proximity (presumably real stock footage). However in a reverse shot out of the bomb bay directly before then, there is no such plane escorting.
After the awards ceremony, the Grissoms return to their motel on the beach in Florida. Certainly this is near Cape Canaveral on the East Coast. But when the newsmen swarm outside their window, we can see the sun just above the ocean horizon behind them. On the east coast, this would mean it's just now dawn.
During the second funeral sequence, Gordo Cooper is wearing decorations on his service dress uniform denoting service in the Korean War. In reality, Cooper was the only member of the "Original Seven" who was not a combat veteran.
The Air Force did not ask Chuck Yeager on October 13, 1947, to break the sound barrier the next day. He had been flying the Bell X-1 (which he had named the "Glamorous Glennis") since August and had made 8 previous powered flights. When he actually broke the sound barrier on October 14, it was by accident. The target speed was Mach .97, but at speeds just under Mach 1, a shock wave made the Machmeter read low.
Yeager's NF-104 flight was portrayed as an unplanned, spur of the moment thing. Both his autobiography and the book this movie is based on imply that the flight was well-planned and the control tower would have known about it.
In the press conference scene introducing the Mercury astronauts, the astronauts all raise their hands (Glenn raises both hands) to the question "Which one of you will be the first into space"? In reality, the question raised was whether they were confident they would return from space.
The flight of Friendship 7 was always planned for 3 orbits. While the ground did tell him he was go for 7 orbits, this was simply to inform him that he was in a stable orbit. It was no surprise to Glenn that he would land after 3 orbits.
The separation of Alan Shepard's Mercury capsule and his Redstone rocket is actually footage of an Atlas first stage dropping away from the main stage. The main stage of the Atlas went on with one engine, the center engine. The Redstone was one stage only.
When the seven astronauts are at a bar that has an underwater view of the pool outside, Deke Slayton can be seen being chased by several girls while waving at the astronauts inside the bar. Deke Slayton couldn't swim.
When Glenn is about to start his re-entry, the dialog makes quite clear that Glenn must line up his capsule exactly right before he fires his retros, yet the shot right after firing shows the capsule is clearly "tumbling" as it starts its re-entry. Such tumbling, in actuality, would lead to a burn up.
In the end scene where Col. Yeager is ejecting from the NF-104, the Koch fasteners on his parachute harness are not attached to the risers on the ejection seat. This would be fatal when he separated from the seat post-ejection as he would not be attached to the parachute.
When told that he must keep from the Russians the news of the breaking of the sound barrier, a reporter wonders why that is necessary, especially since Russia is our ally. By October 1947 events in Eastern Europe (Soviet-backed government take-overs by Communists in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Albania) and agitation in Czechoslovakia and Berlin, it was apparent to all except the most naive that Russia was no longer our ally.
When the Mercury 7 astronauts are walking down the hallway in their space suits, they aren't hooked up to their personal oxygen/environmental packs and their visors are down, making the suit airtight. The would have quickly run out of oxygen.
The moon shown in the film for October 14, 1947 (Yeager's Bell X-1 flight) was three-quarters waning. The actual phase for that day was a new moon. The image shown would have been correct eight days earlier, on October 6, 1947. (The full moons shown on the dates of Ham's flight, January 31, 1961, and Glenn's flight, February 20, 1962, were correct.)
At the end of the film the narrator states the "on this glorious day in May 1963" Gordo Cooper "was the last American to go into space alone". In fact Joe Walker flew into space twice after Cooper, in the X-15 (flights 90 & 91 July and August 1963).
On the flight of Friendship 7 Glenn announces that he is traveling at 17,500 miles per hour. While it is true that this is approximately orbital velocity, the Mercury spacecraft did not have a guidance system that permitted it to measure its velocity.
The D-558-2 Douglas Skyrocket, both when flying over the backyard cookout, and in the recreated newsreel footage is actually a Hawker Hunter, painted in white as the skyrocket was. The actual aircraft was both rocket and jet-powered; however, its inlets were on the bottom half of the fuselage, not the wing roots as depicted in the movie.
When the reporters are interviewing Gordo Cooper in the Astrodome, one asks how it feels being the only astronaut that hasn't flown a mission. Deke Slayton never flew a Mercury mission due to a heart condition, therefore Gordo, at the time, was one of two that hadn't flown.
When Chuck Yeager's flight in the NF-104 ends in an uncontrolled flat spin, he is shown attempting to restart the jet engine. While doing so, a shot of the instrument panel is shown as he feverishly tries to manipulate the controls. The shot centers on what are actually the landing gear indicator lamps flashing on and off, which would have nothing to do with the operation of the engine.
When the astronauts are being tested for lung capacity by blowing into tubes for as long as they can, they should have nose clips on to ensure they're not cheating by circular breathing (pushing air out of the mouth while inhaling through the nose, the way many musical instruments are played).
Near the beginning of the movie (and at a later funeral in mid-1950s) the "Minister" (Royal Dano) sings the Air Force Hymn, however he uses the melody of the Navy Hymn. Although the hymns sound somewhat similar, they are indeed different.
At the ceremony awarding Gus Grissom the Distinguished Service Medal and U.S. Coast Guard C-130 is shown in the background. The C-130 did not enter USCG service until 3 years after his flight. The C-130 also displays the "racing" stripe. This graphic was designed in 1964 but not used by the USCG until 1967.
When Alan Shepard is shown landing on the carrier before being asked to join the program, there is an S-3 Viking and an A-7 Corsair II shown on the flight deck. The S-3 wasn't in service until 1974 and the Corsair II in 1965. Additionally, Shepard is flying a A-4M. The M variant did not enter service until 1971, more than 10 years after Shepard became an astronaut.
Durings Glenn's Flight, he reports seeing "Fireflies" around his capsule directly to mission Control. In reality Glenn was over the Pacific and out of radio contact with mission control at the time of this observation. The information was relayed to Mission control by teletype from Conton island control station in the south pacific.
When Gus Grissom receives his medal by order of the President of the United States, the military guards on each side of the podium are at the position of Parade Rest. However, whenever medals are awarded, military personnel are brought to the position of Attention.
When John Glenn communicates with the Mission Control beeps can be heard at the beginning and end of his transmissions as well as those from the ground to him. These 'Quindar tones' are used to activate and squelch the capsule radio so the crew isn't bothered by noise or static when not in use and only the ground to pilot transmissions would carry these tones.
After the first manned Mercury flight on 5 May 1961, Alan Shepard is seen stepping from an SH-3 Sea King helicopter onto the recovery aircraft carrier. The SH-3 would not become part of the Navy's operational inventory for another month (June 1961; albeit either in gloss gray or midnight blue colors) and the white over gray color scheme on the SH-3 seen in the movie would not become standard on Navy helos until approximately 1967, six years later. In reality, Shepard stepped from a UH-34 Seahorse (Marine variant of the Sikorsky S-58), number 44, painted in field green with white Marine lettering and numbers.
When Alan Shepard meets with president Kennedy after his first flight astronaut Scott Carpenter (played by actor Charles Frank) is seen in the background to the left. When Kennedy in the real life footage bends down to pick up Shepard's decoration from the ground Carpenter can also be seen among the people behind the president.
In the press conference scene introducing the Mercury astronauts, for dramatic effect, the astronauts are not seated as they actually were. Gus Grissom sat in the center, not John Glenn. Glenn actually sat to Grissom's left, and was between Grissom and Gordon Cooper. It would have been impossible for Cooper to have stage whispered to Grissom as seen in the movie.
Alan Shepard was wearing a helmet from VA-122, a flight training squadron at NAS Lemoore, but when his A-4 was shown landing onboard the USS Lexington, it had the bright green XE painted on the rudder of a VX-5 (Air Test and Evaluation Squadron-Five) jet of NWC China Lake, Ca.
When arriving at Edwards Air Force Base in 1953 Dennis Quaid, playing Gordon Cooper, asks if that is Gus Grissom from Langley Field. The Air Force had renamed all of its installations as "Air Force Bases" in 1947-1948. Gordon Cooper entered the Air Force in 1949, well after Langley was designated an Air Force Base (January 13, 1948), so he would not have said "Langley Field" in 1953.
The hymn "Lord Guard and Guide the Men Who Fly" is known as the Hymn of the US Air Force and as such is sung to the melody of "Quebec" by Henry Baker. While the US Navy does sing the same lyrics to the tune of "Eternal Father, Strong to Save " (the Navy Hymn), that melody would not have been used at a funeral at Muroc Lake AIR FORCE Base.
When Gordo first encounters Gus at Pancho's, he asks if "that's Gus Grissom from Langley Field." Neither Gus, nor Gordo had ever been stationed at Langley. Where they first would have encountered one another, would have been in 1955, when both were students at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
When Yeager is riding his horse and comes upon the X-1 undergoing engine tests, there are no chocks under the wheels, nor are there any other visible restraints on the aircraft. With the rocket engine ignited, the X-1 would have moved forward (and crashed) with some velocity.
When Yeager flies the X-1 on its record-setting flight, he wears a WWII-type soft flying helmet. In fact, Yeager wore a football-like hard helmet. Also, Yeager is shown flying the X-1 with a control yoke. Actually, the X-1 was equipped with a stick.
Yeager had 11.5 victories in World War II, making him a double-ace. However, he was never referred to as "Ace of Aces." That term was applied to Americans Eddie Rickenbacker in World War I (26 victories), Richard I. "Dick" Bong in World War II (40 victories), and Joseph C. McConnell in Korea (16 victories).
In the film, Yeager agrees to fly the Bell X-1 the next morning in an attempt to break the sound barrier and then on the way home falls off his horse and breaks at least two ribs. In reality Yeager agreed to fly the X1 days, if not weeks in advance and in fact broke his ribs several days before flying it.
Yeager is attempting to re-start his NF-104 after it stalls and drops to earth. He begins to toggle switches for 1 & 2. The F-104 has only a single engine. Also a set of 3 lights alarm when the engine fails. These are actually landing gear extension lamps, only lit when the gear sets are fully extended.
During the barbecue scene early in the morning, the new test pilots see and discuss the D-558-2 Douglas Skyrocket the see in flight. The Skyrocket was a combination jet and rocket-powered aircraft, which flew for the final time in 1956. The aircraft used for the film, was a Hawker Hunter, dressed up to appear as the Skyrocket. A noticeable difference in the aircraft is the position of the aircraft's intakes.
At the end of the movie an ambulance is racing to get Chuck Yeager after bailing out of the NF-104. The ambulance is seen racing through the desert of a restricted Air Force Base, and there is no other traffic for miles, but the driver still has siren activated (A siren, as pointed out by previous readers, that was not available at the time.) Who was he trying to warn?
When Yeager makes the first supersonic flight, we see the plane's Machmeter going offscale because it only reads up to Mach 1. Although this seems completely silly because the plane was always intended to fly supersonically, it is in fact what happened.
According to the serial number seen on the canopy of Yeager's F-104, that particular aircraft was built as a G model, in Germany by Fokker Aircraft, for the Luftwaffe in 1963. It flew in USAF colors at Luke Air Force Base (near Glendale, Arizona) from 1964-1966. (Interestingly, this exact same aircraft was totally destroyed in a crash 5 miles west of Aguila, Arizona on 3 March 1966. The German pilot successfully bailed out.)
The shot of the B-29 starting its engine shows a small air intake immediately behind the propeller, and is clearly painted black along the bottom half of the engine cowling and underside of the wing. However, the shot of the B-29/X-1 combination taking off for the sound barrier flight is archival footage of a B-50 carrying an X-1. The B-50 was an updated model of the B-29 with improved engines. The updated engines have larger air intakes set much farther behind the propellers. Also, the B-50 shows no black coloring, instead it's unpainted aluminum.
Yeager talks to Ridley, just before taking up the NF-104A. Ridley is wearing sunglasses that reflect the hangar entrance where Yeager should be standing, but isn't. There is however a crew member holding up a light visible in the reflection.
When Grissom lands, clearly just one helicopter is sent to pick him up. However, the film of his pickup shown on TV later shows shots of THE helicopter and other angles that could not have come from the helicopter. Who took such shots?
During some of the failed rocket launches at Cape Canaveral, what the ground crew are watching is clearly footage of the real events and not an actual explosion. The picture quality is noticeably different and grainier.