Chuck Yeager, 1st pilot to break the sound barrier, is dead at 97

Author: Sonic

Chuck Yeager, the U.S. Air Force Pilot who became the first person to break the sound barrier, died  Monday (Dec. 7) at the age of 97.

Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier on Oct. 14, 1947, while flying the Bell X-1 rocket plane 45,000 feet (13,700 meters) over the Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert. During the flight, Yeager reached Mach 1.05, or 1.05 times the speed of sound. The aircraft, which he dubbed Glamorous Glennis after his first wife Glennis Yeager, who died in 1990. The Bell X-1 now hangs on display in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. 

Yeager would go on to fly even faster aircraft, including the Lockheed XF-104, which flew more than twice the speed of sound. His daring test flights were featured in Tom Wolfe's 1979 book "The Right Stuff" as well as the film adaptation and new Disney Plus series by the same name.

Yeager's flying career in the U.S. Air Force began during World War II in 1941, where he served as a private and later an aircraft mechanic. He began pilot training in 1942 and became a test pilot after the war. Yeager flew a variety of experimental aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base. 

In 1960, Yeager served as director of the Space School at Edwards and later would serve as a wing commander in the Vietnam War, where he flew over 130 combat missions, according to a NASA biography. Yeager also served on the Presidential commission that investigated NASA's space shuttle Challenger disaster, which killed seven astronauts, in 1986.

Yeager retired from the Air Force in 1975 at the rank of brigadier general after 33 years of service. He received numerous awards and commendations throughout his career, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star, according to the New York Times. Yeager also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985 from President Ronald Reagan, the Times added.