Chuck Yeager has made immense contributions to airpower in over 50 years as an ace, test pilot, commander and aviation advocate. Joining the Army Air Force in 1941, he initially served as a flight mechanic, but soon earned his wings. Holding the rank of flight officer, he was assigned to the 357th Fighter Group, the first units in Eighth Air Force to receive the North American P-51 Mustang. Yeager, a natural fighter pilot, scored his first victory, a Messerschmitt 109, over Berlin on his seventh combat mission. The next day, he was shot down over southern France but evaded for three weeks, returning to Britain by way of Spain.
In 64 combat missions, he scored over 13 aerial victories, including one Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter before returning to the United States. Assigned to Wright Field as a maintenance officer, he was soon flying America's first operational jet fighter, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. Colonel Albert G. Boyd launched Yeager on his legendary career in flight test when he selected him as the pilot to attempt to break the sound barrier. On 14 October 1947, Chuck Yeager boomed into the record books, flying the Bell X(S)-1 to Mach 1.07. Flying the Bell X-1A in 1953, he became the first man to exceed Mach 2. He also conducted tests of the Douglas X-3, and the Bell X-4 and X-5. His achievements included many other "firsts" in various aircraft, earning him the Mackay, Collier, and Harmon trophies.
In the Korean War, Yeager flew evaluations of a MiG-15 flown south by a defecting North Korean pilot. In 1954, Yeager returned to operational flying in the North American F-86 Sabre, and commanded the 417th Fighter-Bomber Squadron in Germany and France. Returning home in 1958 to fly the North American F-100 Super Sabre, he commanded the 1st Tactical Fighter Squadron at George AFB, California. After a tour as Commandant of the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California, he returned to combat. As Commander, 405th Fighter Wing, he flew 127 combat missions over Southeast Asia in a variety of fighters and bombers. Yeager next became Commander of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, and was promoted to brigadier general in 1975.
Amassing over 11,000 flying hours in more than 200 different aircraft, Yeager is the only military man ever inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame while still on active duty and is one of the few to receive a peacetime Medal of Honor. Today, he mixes consultant duties and personal appearances with his passions for hiking, hunting and fishing. He not only continues to fly America's front-line aircraft at Edwards AFB, but frequently returns to the cockpit of a P-51 warbird painted just as his "Glamorous Glen III " was at Leiston, England in 1944 and 1945.
As one of only two military X-3 test pilots, Yeager's flying and analytical skills were instrumental in the success of the X-3. The X-3 was key in finding the cause-and-effect relationship of load distribution and aerodynamics, contributing to the understanding of inertia or roll coupling phenomenon. Pioneering efforts on the short span, low-aspect-ratio wing greatly benefited aviation industry. Using data from this program, Lockheed's Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson completed the design of the F-104 Starfighter, one of the most spectacular of the "century series" fighters.