Chuck Yeager has just about done it all in the field of aviation. Born in 1923, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps at age 18. Initially a mechanic, he began flying training just months into World War II. He reported to the 363rd Fighter Squadron in Tonopah, Nevada, as a flight officer and trained in the Bell P-39 Aerocobra. His unit deployed to Leiston, England in early 1944 and flew North American P-51 Mustangs . Yeager scored his first aerial victory on only his seventh mission. The next mission his own plane was shot down in a fight with a Focke Wulf Fw 190. Yeager avoided capture by walking over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain.
He returned to his unit, sun tanned and a little heavier. Yeager was certain to be shipped back to the States, but he personally convinced Eisenhower to let him stay. He went home a commissioned officer with 64 combat missions and officially credited with 13 aerial victories, including 5 in one day. He was assigned as a maintenance officer to Wright Field, Ohio, but Yeager was a born test pilot. Colonel Albert Boyd picked him to fly the country's most secret aircraft, the Bell X(S)-1. On 14 October 1947, Yeager did what no one else had been able to; he broke the sound barrier! The shy young ace from West Virginia was later awarded the MacKay Trophy, the Collier Trophy and the Harmon International Trophy.
In 6 years of test work, Yeager flew everything, averaging 3 flights per day and 100 flying hours per month. After a near fatal flight in the X-1A, in which he set another speed record by exceeding Mach 2.5, Yeager left testing to fly the North American F-86 Sabre and command a fighter squadron at Hahn AB, Germany. He later commanded the 1st Fighter Squadron and flew the North American F-100 Super Sabre in California. After Air War College, he was made Commandant of the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California. Next he commanded the 405th Fighter Wing in the Philippines. He flew 127 combat missions over Southeast Asia, in the Martin B-57 Canberra, the North American F-100 Super Sabre, the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, and the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II.
Later, Yeager received a star, then served as the Vice-Commander, Seventeenth Air Force. During the Pakistan-Indian War, he was the US Defense Representative to Pakistan. He retired in 1975 as the Air Force Safety Director. Yeager was the first active duty military member to be inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and has a special peacetime Medal of Honor for his contributions to aviation research. He remains active on the airshow circuit by giving rides to "young eagles." He recently turned over the keys to the fast jets after years of consulting with the Air Force on a wide range of projects at Edwards AFB.
On the 50th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier Chuck Yeager repeated the feat at Edwards AFB. Flying an F-15E specially marked as "Glamorous Glennis" Yeager flew the same flight path in the same airspace at the same altitude as he had on 14 October 1947. In his characteristic nonchalance Yeager later told a waiting crowd that "what I am I owe to the Air Force." Yeager used this occasion to turn over the keys of the fast jets to the U.S. Air Force ending more that a half-century as an active test pilot and consultant.