62. Chuck Yeager: Faster than the Speed of Sound

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One of the greatest barriers in existence during the infancy of air travel was the speed of sound. It was considered impossible to build and fly an airplane that could exceed this speed, but that was before the world was introduced to Chuck Yeager. Yeager was already an accomplished fighter pilot in World War II, but his greatest achievement was after the war when he served as a test pilot for the United States Air Force. It was thought impossible to fly faster than sound during that period, and no one knew if a pilot could survive flying at that speed, or how it would affect him if he did survive. That did not deter Yeager, though.

Yeager was born on February 13, 1923 in Myra, West Virginia. He served during World War II as a fighter pilot. He did not start out as a pilot, though. Yeager enlisted as a private who worked as an aircraft mechanic in the old Army Air Forces, where Yeager enrolled into a special program that trained enlisted men to become pilots. Yeager benefited greatly from having superior eyesight. He was considered a natural pilot early in his flight career.

As a fighter pilot in the European Theater, Yeager was shot down in France by German fighter planes. He avoided capture, and helped a fellow pilot to safety after that pilot had lost his leg in the crash. Yeager was awarded a medal for his actions. He demonstrated exceptional talent as a pilot and once shot down five enemy fighters in a single day. After the war, Yeager began a new career as a test pilot, where he flew the experimental aircraft Bell X-1 into aviation history.

On October 14, 1947, Yeager flew his X-1 faster than the speed of sound. He became the first human being to fly faster than sound, and he went on to break more records during his 60-year flight history. Yeager retired from the army with the rank of Brigadier General, and has won many honors for his contributions to aviation.

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