The first pilot to break the sound barrier, Gen. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager, was born on this day in 1923 in Myra, West Virginia.
In June 1947, Colonel Albert Boyd chose Yeager, a junior test pilot at the time, as the first person to ever attempt to exceed the speed of sound in the rocket-powered Bell XS-1, according to ChuckYeager.com.
The website read:
He chose Yeager because he considered him the best “instinctive” pilot he had ever seen and he had demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to remain calm and focused in stressful situations. The X-1 program certainly promised to be stressful; many experts believed the so-called “sound barrier” was impenetrable.
Following several intense test flights, the World War II hero finally achieved his goal.
The site continued:
On 14 Oct. he dropped away from the B-29, fired all four chambers of his engine in rapid sequence and bolted away from the launch aircraft. Accelerating upward, he shut down two chambers and tested the moveable tail as his Machmeter registered numbers of 0.83, .88 and 0.92. Moved in small increments, it provided effective control.
He reached an indicated Mach number of 0.92 as he leveled out at 42,000 feet and relit a third chamber of his engine. The X-1 Glamorous Glennis rapidly accelerated to 0.98 Mach and then, at 43,000 feet, the needle on his Machmeter jumped off the scale.
Chuck Yeager had just crossed the invisible threshold to flight faster than the speed of sound. He attained a top speed of Mach 1.06 (700 mph).
Once Yeager’s achievement was declassified in June 1948, he was dubbed “The Fastest Man Alive” and awarded the Collier Trophy, the most prestigious honor in aviation.
Twitter followers offered well wishes to the American hero on Thursday.
Happy Birthday @GenChuckYeager 97 today!
“You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can’t, you do the next best thing. You back up but you don’t give up.” — Chuck Yeagerhttps://t.co/lc6z23GcOe pic.twitter.com/QhqhsJRcgW
— Space Lectures (@Space_Lectures) February 13, 2020
Space Camp USA tweeted a photo of the young pilot leaning against the aircraft which he named Glamorous Glennis as a tribute to his beloved wife:
Happy 97th birthday, Chuck Yeager! A fighter pilot in WWII, he became the first person to break the sound barrier when he flew the Bell X-1 rocket 700 mph in 1947. He also trained many of the Gemini, Mercury and Apollo astronauts at the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilots School. pic.twitter.com/wP5CipCxbo
— SpaceCampUSA (@SpaceCampUSA) February 13, 2020
Today, the rocket that traveled faster than the speed of sound hangs inside the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.