Chuck Yeager proved there was no barrier in the sky, but just a lack of knowledge and experience of supersonic flight! Born in 1923, he grew up in the hills of West Virginia, and in 1941 enlisted in the Army Air Corps to be an aircraft mechanic. On his first ride in an aircraft, he threw up and was miserable, but the lure of becoming a sergeant drew him into pilot training. Flight Officer Yeager soon reported to the 363rd Fighter Squadron at Tonopah, Nevada, and trained in the Bell P-39 Airacobra. The unit shipped out to England in late 1943. Yeager and others in the 357th Fighter Group (FG) settled down at Leiston, in East Anglia, and checked out in the North American P-51 Mustang. Yeager scored his first aerial victory on his seventh combat mission, but on the next, his P-51 was downed. Yeager evaded, spent time with French partisans, and then walked over the mountains into Spain.
He returned to the 357th FG tanned and healthy. Certain to be sent home, Yeager personally appealed to General Eisenhower to let him continue to fly combat. He went home in 1945 with at least 13 aerial victories, including 5 on one day. He was assigned to Wright Field, Ohio, in maintenance, but Yeager was a born test pilot. Colonel Albert Boyd recognized this and picked him to be the first military pilot to fly the countrys most secret aircraft, the Bell X(S)-1. Yeager soon broke the sound barrier! He was later awarded the MacKay Trophy, the Collier Trophy and the Harmon International Trophy. For 6 years, he flew everything, and averaged 100 flying hours per month. After a near fatal flight in the Bell X-1A, in which he set another record exceeding Mach 2.5, Yeager left Edwards AFB to fly the North American F-86 Sabre and command a squadron in Germany.
Later, he flew the North American F-100 Super Sabre and led the 1st Fighter Squadron in California. After Air War College, he returned to Edwards AFB as Commandant of the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. Next he led a tactical fighter wing in the Philippines, and flew 127 combat missions over Southeast Asia from deployed locations. As a wing commander in North Carolina, he received a star, and then returned to Germany as Vice Commander, Seventeenth Air Force. During the 1971 Pakistan-India War, he was military advisor to the Pakistani Air Force. Brigadier General Yeager retired in 1975 as Air Force Safety Director. For a career filled with accomplishments, he became the first active-duty military member to be inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and received a special peacetime Medal of Honor for contributions to aviation research. Yeager is spokesman for a program to fly 1,000,000 Young Eagles by the year 2000.
On 14 October 1947, Captain Chuck Yeager painfully locked the door handle of the Bell X(S)-1 as it hung in the belly of an airborne Boeing B-29 launch platform. He felt he was in the driver's seat. The X(S)-1 fell free, he got the nose down, and fired all four rockets in rapid sequence. There was a little buffet, but he adjusted the flying tail two degrees and climbed smoothly. On only three rockets, suddenly the Mach needle fluctuated and then went off the scale. Yeager and the aircraft were supersonic, and below there was a sudden sound like thunder!