Brigadier General Charles Elwood Yeager, more commonly just Chuck Yeager (born February 13, 1923 in Myra, West Virginia) is a former World War II ace and test pilot. He is most famous for being the first to travel faster than sound in level flight.
Yeager was born into a poor family in West Virginia and joined the army in 1939, serving as an aircraft mechanic. He was selected for flight training in 1942 and soon showed outstanding natural talent as a flyer. Posted to the United Kingdom in 1944, Yeager flew Mustangs in combat, gaining one victory before he was himself shot down over France. He escaped to Spain without being captured and was soon flying with the 363rd Fighter Squadron once more—despite a strict policy that no escaped pilot should fly over enemy territory again.
Yeager demonstrated outstanding eyesight, flying skills, and combat leadership potential; he distinguished himself by becoming the first American pilot to make "ace in a day"—he shot down no less than five enemy aircraft in one mission, finishing the war with 12.5 recognised victories.
Yeager remained in the Air Force after the war, becoming a test pilot and eventually being selected to fly the rocket-powered Bell X-1 in a NACA program to research high-speed flight. Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet. Yeager's X-1, which like all of the aircraft assigned to him he named Glamorous Glennis after his wife, is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.
Yeager later went on to break many other records for speed and altitude. He remained in the Air Force through the Vietnam War era. He never attended college and often was modest about his background but is considered to be one of the great pilots of all time.
Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia was named after him.
Yeager was a primary subject of Tom Wolfe's book, The Right Stuff, and of the movie made from it. He has a short cameo appearance in the film in a scene as bartender who - as an injoke because NASA didn't recruit him as an astronaut because he lacked a college education - wants to serve the NASA recruiters some Scotch and is puzzled when they only want a Coke. He was the prototype flier with the "right stuff."