Chuck Yeager BioCharles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager is a noted test pilot who served as a major general in the United States Air Force. In 1947, Yeager became the first pilot to break the sound barrier.
Born February 13, 1923 in Myra, West Virginia, Yeager was first introduced to the military at Fort Benjamin Harrison as a member of the Citizens Military Training Camp in 1939 and 1940. During the Second World War, he began military service in the United States Army Air Forces as an aircraft mechanic. He was promoted to flight officer in 1942 after completing pilot training flying Bell P-39 Airacobras and later graduated onto North American P-51 Mustang fighters. During training, Yeager was identified as a natural talent with exceptionally sharp 20/20 vision.
Following the war, Yeager worked as a test pilot at what is now Edwards Air Force Base, working with an array of aircraft that included rocket-powered experimental aircraft. On October 14, 1947, he became the first human to fly faster than the speed of sound in the Bell X-1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet. Two days before the flight, Yeager fell from a horse and fractured two ribs. He was terrified of being removed from the mission so only told his wife, a veterinarian and his fellow project pilot about the accident. The excruciating pain prohibited Yeager from sealing the aircraft’s hatch alone, so his copilot rigged a device with a broom handle acting as an extra lever. Using the makeshift device, Yeager was able to seal the hatch and break the sound barrier.
In 1953, Yeager set another record for flying at Mach 2.44.
During the Vietnam War, Yeager commanded fighter squadrons throughout Southeast Asia. His outstanding performance led to a promotion to Brigadier General.
Throughout his more than 60-year career as a pilot, Yeager flew in nearly every corner of the globe.
The pilot become enormously popular in the 1980s thanks to the book “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe and the subsequent movie adaptation, in which Sam Shepard starred as Yeager.