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Chuck Yeager: First pilot to fly supersonic dies aged 97


media captionWatch Chuck Yeager’s historic flight in 1947

US test pilot Chuck Yeager, the first person to break the sound barrier, has died aged 97, his wife says.

Yeager went into the history books after his flight in the Bell X-1 experimental rocket plane in 1947.

He later broke several other speed and altitude records, helping to pave the way for the US space programme.

“An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever,” his wife wrote on Monday.

She provided no further details.

How the sound barrier was broken?

On 14 October 1947, Yeager’s plane – nicknamed Glamorous Glennis, in honour of his first wife – was dropped from the bomb bay of a B-29 aircraft above the Mojave Desert in the south-western US.

Yeager, who was at the time just 24, reached the speed of more than Mach 1 (1,225km/h; 767mph) at 45,000ft (13,700m).

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionChuck Yeager was America’s most decorated pilot

image copyrightReuters

image captionChuck Yeager – who was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973 – kept flying in his later years

It was a feat of considerable courage, as nobody was certain at the time whether an aircraft could survive the shockwaves of a sonic boom.

The public was only told about the mission in June 1948.

Yeager’s success was later immortalised in the Tom Wolfe book The Right Stuff, and a subsequent film of the same name.

From his early years as a fighter ace in World War II to the last time he broke the sound barrier in 2012 – at the age of 89 – Chuck Yeager became the most decorated US pilot ever.

The airport that serves Charleston, West Virginia, is named after Chuck Yeager.

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